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Analyzing Michigan’s 2016-17 Roster

Five returning starters, a German center, and three unknown entities make up this likely lineup for Michigan in 2016-17.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

With the addition of Charles Matthews, Michigan's roster is seemingly complete for next season. While Matthews won't suit up for the Wolverines until the following season, Michigan has a solid group of returners and a few newcomers that will hope to crack the rotation as well. We guess at what Michigan's rotation will look like:

Point Guard: Derrick Walton Jr./Xavier Simpson

When Derrick Walton Jr. committed to Michigan, his presumed role the first year was to sit behind junior Trey Burke, develop for a year while coming off the bench, and then become a starter his sophomore year. Burke won National Player of the Year, Michigan made the championship game, and Walton was given the keys to start as a freshman. While Walton has been very solid in his three years at Michigan, he's never had a breakout season. Last season was his best, averaging nearly 12 points, five rebounds and five assists per game, but Walton was mediocre in two NCAA Tournament games. As a senior, look for him to not increase his overall production, but rather his leadership skills and ability to get everyone involved.

Behind Walton, Xavier Simpson is waiting in line to become the next great Michigan point guard. A top-50 recruit according to ESPN, the diminutive Simpson is generously listed at 6'0" but plays a tough, downhill style. Like Walton, he'll look to control the floor, but could find problems in his first year with the jump from high school to Division I basketball. Even if he can spell Walton for 10 or 15 minutes a game, he should be a great asset this season and even better in an increased role next season.

Shooting Guard: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman/Ibi Watson

Abdur-Rahkman was forced into extended minutes as a freshman, and this has been monumental to his development in his last two seasons at Michigan. MAAR has gotten better at shooting, defense and his ability to distribute, but his calling card since day 1 at Michigan is his ability to drive to the basket. When Michigan was struggling mightily on offense, MAAR would attack the basket with reckless abandon, often finishing with an acrobatic layup or drawing a foul. Michigan is going to need more of that next season from Abdur-Rahkman, who increased his point production up to almost nine points per game. If he can consistently give Michigan 10-12 points and solid defense, it could have a huge impact on Michigan's season.

Behind MAAR is Ibi Watson, a 6'5" shooter/wing from Pickerington, Ohio, the same hometown as Caris LeVert. While Michigan fans shouldn't expect the same level of production as LeVert over the four years, Watson is long, athletic, and runs the floor extremely well. He has the potential to be a knockdown shooter, but still has a hitch in his shot. Watson's production isn't going to be monumental next season, but if he can be the same type of player that Zak Irvin was his freshman season, Michigan fans will be pleased with that.

Small Forward: Zak Irvin

While every other position has at least one backup sure to play a role next season, the small forward position is awfully thin. This is in no small part due to the departures of Kam Chatman and Aubrey Dawkins, as both were expected to compete and earn minutes at either wing position. But Irvin now stands alone, looking for a successful final campaign in Ann Arbor. His freshman year was the team's most successful, and I'm not sure that Michigan is going to be a great team if Irvin is the best player next season. If he can settle into the second or third option and just focus on his role, it'll help alleviate the pressure on Irvin and allow him to score and rebound better.

Power Forward: Duncan Robinson/D.J. Wilson

As mentioned above, the departures of Chatman and Dawkins make this a very thin unit as well. Robinson leads this group, and his production will be expected to have an upward trend and he settles into his second season of Division I college basketball. After transferring from Division III and sitting out a year, his first season at Michigan can be considered nothing short of a rousing success. Robinson was one of the best 3-point shooters in the country last year, and every week seemed to add a new wrinkle to his game. I've had friends tell me they think Robinson can make the "freshman-to-sophomore-year-Stauskas" jump, but I think Robinson isn't quite athletic enough for that to happen. However, if Walton, Irvin and MAAR can make shots, it completely opens up the floor for Robinson.

While Robinson proved himself last season, D.J. Wilson has not. Year three of the Wilson experiment could ultimately be the most important, as D.J.'s redshirt year and lackluster freshman season have made Michigan fans question while Wilson is still in a Michigan uniform. John Beilein raves about the 6'10" forward in practice, and has insisted that Wilson will not only play power forward, but will definitely see the floor next year. I've always believed Wilson has immense potential with his shooting, athleticism and length on the defensive end, but he hasn't been able to put it all together yet. If Robinson slides down and plays with Wilson, a frontline of 6'8", 6'10, and 6'11" could prove formidable, especially against some of the taller teams in the Big Ten.

Center: Moritz Wagner/Mark Donnal

Another season, another center battle. John Beilein continues to add players to this position, including two in this recruiting class. However, I don't think Austin Davis or Jon Teske will make an impact this season, and I'm almost positive one will redshirt without enough minutes to go around. Which brings us to Wagner, the most intriguing player on this roster. At the end of last season, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better traditional center competing on both ends of the floor. The 6'11" kid from Berlin competes on every play, has an excellent feel around the basket, and has a few offensive moves that very few other college players his size have. If Wagner can stay out of foul trouble and become a menace on the defensive end, he could become one of the best players in the Big Ten.

While Donnal was brilliant in stretches last season, Wagner's skill set and production make him a more viable option to start. Having a senior like Donnal off the bench will be great when Wagner is in foul trouble, but Donnal wasn't consistent enough to warrant being a starter this season. There's a reason John Beilein didn't reclassify Donnal back to a redshirt junior, and if Donnal has a decent but less than stellar senior year, don't be surprised if Donnal is playing his fifth year elsewhere.


Michigan has one of the most intriguing rosters in the Big Ten. They return all five starters, have a proven entity in Wagner, and have three complete question marks as backups in three positions. There isn't anywhere else to look for help besides for a third center, so these nine players will be counted on all season to lead Michigan. If they can run and score the way they were able to at times last season, they could be one of the best teams in the Big Ten. But if their defense and rebounding is leaving something to be desired, it could be a long season in Ann Arbor.