On Monday afternoon, BTPowerhouse got the opportunity to attend Michigan’s annual Media Day and was able to speak with the coaching staff, players, and take in an open practice to the media. It was an exciting event that signals the start of the season.
Although it's sometimes difficult to get through the coach speak and general excitement for the season, there were a few impressions to take from the event. As such, here are a few of my thoughts coming out of Michigan’s Media Day.
1. The Frontcourt Remains A Question.
Concerns about Michigan’s frontcourt weren’t going to be alleviated with one day of press conferences, but the comments and play demonstrated by Michigan’s big men definitely left some questions. In particular, John Beilein noted that there’s still an ongoing battle between Mark Donnal and Moritz Wagner for the starting role, which may concern some fans hoping that Wagner would seize the spot.
The backup picture also remains murky. Both incoming freshmen (Austin Davis and Jon Teske) received some positive feedback, but neither seemed like a clear cut third option. Davis continues to try and fine tune his game and Teske still looks a bit raw. Expect at least one of these two to see time this year.
2. Defense, Defense, Defense.
If there was one theme of Monday’s Media Day, it was that Michigan’s made a dedicated effort to improving its defense. Beilein hired former Wright State head coach Billy Donlon last spring and many hoped that Donlon could improve the team’s defense. So far, it looks that way.
Robinson says Donlon brings a ton of energy to the floor. He's been trying to transition a lot of Donlon's concepts into his defensive game.— Thomas Beindit (@tbeindit) October 3, 2016
During the practice, there was a noticeable increase in the team’s focus on defense and Donlon spent quite a bit of time directing the team as a whole. It’s clear that Beilein’s deferring to him significantly on that side of the floor. Fans will have to wait and see whether that yields results once the season starts.
3. Newcomers To Watch.
Michigan added four recruits and one transfer to its roster this offseason and their newfound presence was felt significantly on Monday. At least three incoming freshmen figure to see time this season and Charles Matthews (the lone transfer) projects as a starter for the 2017-’18 season.
Two things that are worth noting though. First, Ibi Watson looks like he added some serious weight this season. Maybe he’s not ready for major minutes yet, but he does look good enough to at least see some time this year. He also displayed a nice shooting stroke and quick feet on defense during the open practice.
Matthews also looks like he could do some damage for Michigan. He has a really nice handle and his athleticism looks elite. There’s still room for Matthews to grow, but those are some major skills to work with into the future.