The 2016-17 basketball season is officially underway for Michigan as it took on Armstrong State in an exhibition contest Friday night.
Though the Wolverines showed signs of sloppiness, the talent deficit was too wide for ASU to overcome as the Wolverines cruised to a 77-49 victory. Armstrong State isn't exactly a school where one could pinpoint it on a map, but an assistant coach in particular can be recognized from the sidelines.
In one of the more special moments of the game, U-M legend Cazzie Russell, an assistant coach for ASU, spoke to the Crisler Center crowd pregame. His message? He will always be a Michigan Man at heart, however, he will have to make an exception for just one game.
Here are the major takeaways from the Wolverines' victory:
1. Moe Wagner gets the start at center
It was up in the air earlier this week who would start at center, Moe Wagner was the one who got the call to start the game. With the opportunities he had, he certainly didn't disappoint. One of the more promising signs from Wagner's night is that he scored 15 points before committing his first foul. Whether Wagner remains the starting center after this game remains to be seen, but he did show more on the floor compared to his counterpart Mark Donnal.
Wagner finished the game with 15 points and two rebounds.
2. Defense came to play
The main reason assistant coach Billy Donlon was brought in to the program was because of his defensive prowess. The players and coaches themselves have admitted that defense is something that they needed to work on throughout the offseason. The early returns say that U-M is making progress on the defensive front, forcing ASU into xx turnovers. Competition level aside, it's an encouraging sign seeing the Wolverines add pressure and force its opponents into mistakes.
Again, this is another wait and see situation to see if there are any permanent breakthroughs.
3. D.J. Wilson had a good performance
It hasn't been the best start to D.J. Wilson's career at U-M. With the opportunity for extra minutes wide open, Wilson showed some signs of getting over the hump. Though he didn't deliver any jaw-dropping statistics, he passed the eye test early on and someone who has made strides over the offseason. Late in the second half, Wilson really found himself involved which included a monster block. It's still early in the season, but one has to be encouraged with his performance on Friday night. Wilson finished the game 10 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and forced Armstrong State into a handful of turnovers.
4. Ibi Watson consistently the first freshman off the bench
True freshman Ibi Watson appeared to be the first freshman off the bench consistently on Friday. Of course, with Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman unable to play due to an ankle sprain, it might change things up a little bit. Watson didn't take the game over by any means but he took advantage of his minutes and took some nice shots. He also saw the floor very well and was a distributor to a handful of baskets. Xavier Simpson is the back up point guard and will be relied upon to see the floor as a freshman which means the Watson-Simpson dynamic could be an interesting one to watch this season.
Watson finished the game with seven points, two rebounds and four assists.