In the weeks leading up to the 2017-’18 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.
Today’s edition of the ‘BTPowerhouse Preview Series’ will focus on the wings for Michigan. Following the departure of D.J. Wilson and Zak Irvin, Michigan’s front court has a different identity. Three of the four Wolverines have played, including two transfers, a sophomore looking to shake out of a slump and a freshman ready to step in.
‘BTPowerhouse Preview’- Michigan Frontcourt
- 2016-’17 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: Zak Irvin (Honorable Mention)
- Key Departures: Zak Irvin, D.J. Wilson
- Additions: Isaiah Livers
- Top Player: Charles Matthews
While Michigan’s starters depart, the influx of shooting, rebounding and defense make this starter duo quite a unique pairing. Both ideally would prefer to play shooting guard, but given Michigan’s lack of size and unique offensive scheme, both project to be starting at the forward positions this season.
The Kentucky transfer is undoubtedly the most intriguing player on Michigan’s roster. Full of athleticism and energy, Matthews was the odd man out at Kentucky and never quite found his footing. He believed he was good enough to be “one-and-done”, and while that never quite materialized, Michigan seems as good a spot as any to refine his offense game and become a more complete player.
The knock on him at Kentucky is that his outside shooting was sub-par, as was his ability to consistently scoring against high-major Division I athletes. Matthews jumps out as the most NBA-looking player on the roster, and I think after a redshirt year under John Beilein, the junior should be primed for a monster year for Michigan.
With Irvin and Wilson gone, Robinson slides back into the starting role. He’s a major shooting threat at all times on the floor, and has continued to add wrinkles to his game like shooting off the dribble and becoming an excellent cutter to the basket. Can he add more passing and rebounding to his offensive game to allow Beilein to keep him out on the floor even longer?
The biggest knock on the Williams transfer remains defense. Oregon picked him apart last year in their Sweet 16 matchup, isolating Robinson whenever he was on the floor to help to allow their offensive player a 1-on-1 opportunity. If he can get marginally better, this Michigan team get much better.
While the Wolverines have enough experience starting, the bench will be quite the experience. Previously mentioned Jordan Poole has a chance to play minutes at one of the forward positions, but he’s really a guard. Beyond that, who will the Wolverines slot in to play behind Matthews and Robinson?
With Wilson’s departure, Michigan was in desperate need of a “4” man who can stretch the defense but provide rebounding and toughness inside. Livers is only a freshman, but some believe he’s ready for 15-20 minutes per game alongside either Robinson or Matthews. If he can alleviate some of the frontcourt pressure and knock down a few shots this season, he could become a star for the Wolverines in the future.
Watson was caught behind the logjam of Michigan forwards and never quite panned out his freshman year. Is this his D.J. Wilson out-of-nowhere season? Or does Watson ultimately not move off the pine and remain firmly a late-game replacement. Watson’s minutes could be the difference between staying in Ann Arbor or taking a serious look at transfer options for next season.