It's not often a big-time college basketball program can go 16-16 in one season, to a fringe top-25 program in the span of one season. The Michigan Wolverines return just about everybody from last season's team, but will be without star junior Zak Irvin, who was injured earlier this offseason with a back injury.
With head coach John Beilein at the helm for another season, a 180-degree turnaround is expected with these Wolverines, but will need to find some new contributors along the frontcourt in order to reap the benefits of returning many key contributors.
With guards Derrick Walton Jr., Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and others locking down the guard spots, it's fair to argue the strength of the 2015 program will be the backcourt. With new opportunities in the frontcourt on the horizon, freshman forward Moritz Wagner could be a name to keep an eye on as the season goes along.
The 6'9 Alba Berlin (Germany) product has an impressive shooting stroke, which will be relied up in Ann Arbor right away. Wagner will help spread the floor and give Walton Jr. a chance to create off the dribble for himself or others.
Wagner also has the skill to put the ball on the hardwood and drive to the basket where he can finish above the rim if needed. The four-star prospect according to 247sports.com can also be dangerous in a pick and roll or pick and pop settings due to his impressive shooting mechanics.
With a bevy of guards, coach Beilein will have the potential to craft multiple matchup problems with Walton Jr, LeVert, Irvin - once he comes back from injury, Abdur-Rahkman, Aubrey Dawkins, etc along the perimeter. With Wagner's perimeter skills, rebounding will be increasingly difficult, as an opposing big man will have to be taken away from the basket to respect Wagner's jump shot.
Areas for Improvement
ESPN lists Wagner as a 210-pound forward. If he is expected to compete on the glass with Big Ten forwards and centers, the freshman will have to bulk up. There are signs of progression, as he weighed less than 200 pounds when he verbally committed to the Wolverines.
Foot speed isn't a strong suit of Wagner, as his footwork can be a bit choppy on the defensive end. Keeping his feet in good position and maintaining a solid base will be vital, as the Wolverines will be in need of productive power forwards on the offensive and defensive glass. Wagner averaged less than six rebounds per game in the U18 championships in 2014-'15 season, so there will need to be more of a desire to rebound once his freshman campaign begins.
Wagner is intriguing, and Michigan fans should be excited about this addition. Offensive versatility will be the most beneficial facet of Wagner's game with emphasis on shooting. It's to be determined if he'll start right away, but even in a reserve role, Wagner has the opportunity to shine right way under Beilein's tutelage.