ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It’s been a rough stretch for the Michigan basketball team through 12 non-conference games.
Finishing just 7-5 including a stretch of four straight losses, two of which came to NJIT and Eastern Michigan at home, as well as a string of minor injuries that continue to linger.
But the Wolverines did wrap-up their final non-conference test with a 72-56 win over Coppin State heading into the holiday break, a break that John Beilein knew would be very valuable for his young, worn down team.
“We’ve had three really good days of practice since we returned from our Christmas break,” Beilein said. “Obviously it was good to get the win on the 22nd but it was also good for these guys to get home.
“Now they’ve had a couple lifts in, they’ve had three practices, three o’clock start (tomorrow) in front of a sellout so we’re excited to get into the Big Ten season. I know we continue to improve everyday in practice, the carry over into games is the thing we have to accomplish.”
And Michigan will have the chance to translate positive practice vibes onto the Crisler Center floor when they open up Big Ten play this afternoon against Illinois at 3 p.m.
But the Wolverines will do so with a handful of injuries including a toe issue for Derrick Walton Jr., a lower body injury Spike Albrecht will fight through the entire season, and a minor thumb jam for Caris LeVert.
Perhaps the biggest problem for Michigan thus far though? The fact that including Zak Irvin, those four veterans are playing heavy minutes already, forcing a bit of an adjustment for the Wolverines in practice to stay fresh.
“You just, you’re worried in practice about fatigue and worried about re-injury so what we tried to do, especially today, was Aubrey (Dawkins), Muhammad (Ali Abdur-Rahkman) and Kam (Chatman), don’t come off the court,” Beilein said.
“Let Caris and Zak and Derrick rotate, and Spike. Usually they’re out there and the rookies come in.
“We need these guys two fold, to develop those guys and prevent those guys from further injury and also they can coach those guys and that helps as well.”
The injuries are what Beilein termed as “playable” ones, noting this is all a part of college basketball.
Michigan freshman forward D.J. Wilson has been out since spraining his knee at the end of November.
After appearing in spot duty for the Wolverines, mostly at the center spot, it appears Wilson is making improvements physically but a return to the court this season will be determined by the type of impact he could have.
“He’s been cleared for half court, non-contact,” Beilein said. “So it looks like it’s going to take him another two or three weeks to be cleared. So now you’re talking the middle of January.
“I would think it would have to be pretty important for him now, he would have to be a difference maker; it’s not fair to him.”
Either way, Wilson is a gym rat and is spending added time not only working to improve his game while rehabbing but also hitting the weight room.
“He’s had some really good times shooting the ball, he loves the gym, he was here last night,” Beilein said. “He’s with (Jon) Sanderson, Sanderson told me today, ‘D.J. can’t do much today,’ and I said, ‘why’s that?’ He said, ‘because I wore him out yesterday.’ Good things are happening and there’s a reason for everything.”