Wolverines striving to put a trophy in their case
Michigan head coach John Beilein worked his first game as a college head coach in 1978. That's 14 years before his point guard, Trey Burke, was born. Beilein has been at the job non-stop since '78, and as he starts a fifth season in Ann Arbor, Beilein likely comes to a career crossroads.
It is probably time for him to put a trophy in the case at Michigan. With four years to recruit and build and sculpt the program into the vehicle he imagined when he took the post in 2007 after leading West Virginia to an NIT championship, it is trophy time.
The Wolverines have put together a couple 21-14 seasons over the past three years, but have yet to post a winning record in Big Ten play. The team is still young, by comparison to most of the rest of the Big Ten, but not lacking in experience.
"We've had a very good preseason and over the summer we have worked very hard on both our bodies and our game to improve," Beilein said as the Wolverines opened practice for the 2011-12 season.
"I think that one of the signs of a very good team is how they develop in the summertime. We're excited about it. We think we have a team that, with a lot of players coming back, is good to have."
Senior guard Stu Douglass, who along with senior guard/forward Zack Novak are the sole remaining members of Beilein's first Michigan recruiting class, said the onus is on him and Novak to get the Wolverines into contention for some kind of title.
"It would mean a lot to keep taking the program to the next level. From year one to year two we experienced everything from top to bottom," Douglass said. "Last year was a great year, unexpected by a lot of people, but I think we want to take it to a whole other level again in this next year. It would mean a lot to us."
After losing sophomore point guard Darius Morris to the NBA draft two years early, the Wolverines likely will have to rely on freshman Trey Burke to take over, or test a combination of players from other positions. How that situation gets resolved will go a long ways toward determining how close the Wolverines get to giving Beilein that first trophy at UM.
--G/F Zack Novak will be a rare three-year captain for the Wolverines in this, his senior season. In 2009-10, he became only the second sophomore to serve as a captain at Michigan.
--The Wolverines go to work in the preseason with the challenge of making this a better defensive team, and speeding the development of the incoming freshmen. "I think having a better defense collectively is very important," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "It's impossible when you have that many freshmen to be all on the same page. But I loved our progress last year. It's never enough, but if we can keep it up at that rate, then we can do some special things."
--Michigan's new Player Development Center will provide the Wolverines with many more practice options once it opens. The facility, being constructed adjacent to Crisler Arena, has Beilein excited. "It's amazing the practice sessions we'll be able to have over there," he said. "The type of competitive drills we'll be able to do will be amazing. It's really going to help us. Just having everything in one place."
LAST YEAR: 21-14 overall, 9-9 in the Big Ten
HEAD COACH: John Beilein, 33rd year as head coach (67-67 in 4 seasons at Michigan, 618-385 career)
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This summer we had a lot of team workouts, a lot of open gyms, showing the young guys the offense, shooting drills, all sorts of stuff just getting everybody acclimated. It's been good. We'll just continue to team-build, teaching the young guys stuff and getting everybody together." -Michigan G Stu Douglass
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP: PG Trey Burke, SG Stu Douglass, SG Tim Hardaway Jr., PF Evan Smotrycz, C Jordan Morgan.
LINEUP BREAKDOWN: This is still a very young team, with nine of the 16 players on the roster either freshmen or sophomores. The Wolverines will likely start a freshman and two sophomores, along with seniors G Stu Douglass and G/F Zack Novak. Replacing PG Darius Morris, who left two seasons early for the NBA, is the biggest task ahead. G Tim Hardaway Jr. is a blossoming star who will be one of the toughest matchups in the Big Ten this season. Freshman PG Trey Burke is the likely heir to the position Morris played, but the jump from high school to directing an offense in the Big Ten is a huge one. The Wolverines need big years from C/F Jordan Morgan and F Evan Smotrycz, while the seniors Douglass and Novak will have to be on their game every night.
SCOUTING THE NEWCOMERS: The greatest heist in college basketball last year was when Michigan was able to swipe PG Trey Burke from right under Ohio State's nose. The state player of the year from Ohio was coached by Satch Sullinger, the father of Ohio State All-American C Jared Sullinger. Burke went 57-0 in the Columbus City League while running the Columbus Northland offense. G Carlton Brundidge should also see a lot of action as another true freshman. Freshman F Max Bielfeldt should add some muscle and toughness inside, where the Wolverines need the help.
--G Jordan Dumars, the son of the former Detroit Pistons star, has left the Michigan program after two frustrating seasons. The younger Dumars has been slowed by injuries, since his transfer to Michigan from South Florida. He has been hampered by knee and shoulder injuries.
--PG Darius Morris left Michigan two years early to enter the NBA draft. Morris was the team MVP last season, finishing with 235 assists and averaging 15 points per game.
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