On Friday night, the Michigan Wolverines opened up the season with an exhibition matchup against the Northwood Timberwolves. It was the first chance for the public to see this year’s Wolverines against an opponent. Michigan won by a final score of 90-58.
While Northwood was physically overmatched from the start, there were a few interesting things that fans can take away from the game. Here are the top three things we learned:
1. Watch out for Ignas Brazdeikis this season.
Although Michigan got a decent hunk of players back from last year’s Final Four squad, there were some key holes in the lineup that John Beilein would need to fill. This was particularly true in the frontcourt, where Michigan lost star forward Moritz Wagner.
Replacing Wagner won’t be easy, but one player who stood out on Friday night for the Wolverines was Ignas Brazdeikis. He arrived on campus with his fair share of hype and fans were hoping that he would make a splash early on this season.
So far, so good.
During the course of Friday night’s matchup, Brazdeikis looked smooth and displayed an impressive handle. He also displayed an impressive amount of speed when he was able to get out in the open court and run. It was only an exhibition, but Wolverine fans have to be excited about what he can offer this season.
2. This Brandon Johns experiment will be something to watch.
With a plethora of options on the wing, Beilein has made the interesting decision to try his luck with Brandon Johns at the five. This is likely a byproduct of Johns being a bit raw and the depth at the five underwhelming a tad. It’s a roll of the dice to see whether Beilein can spread out his talent a bit more evenly on the roster. And with the depth at the wing, there isn’t a lot of downside for this season to Beilein’s decision.
However, it was clear on Friday night that Johns still has a ways to go before he can be a productive option at the five. Who knows if he can improve his post game enough to demand minutes behind Jon Teske and Austin Davis.
But Johns at the five is wildcard that could drastically change Michigan’s season outlook. If Johns can hold his own there, Michigan’s offense could become lethal in the months to come. It will certainly be something to watch in the weeks ahead.
3. Shooting is going to be an issue.
This probably isn’t going to come as a surprise to a lot of fans, but Michigan had some serious trouble shooting the rock on Friday night. With the departures of players like Duncan Robinson and Moritz Wagner, many expected this would happen. However, I’m not sure fans expected those issues to start surfacing this early.
All told, Michigan shot 5-for-11 from three-point range and 11-for-15 from the free throw line. However, many of these came in a late onslaught, including some shots from unlikely characters. Maybe it was just an off night, or maybe it’s something that will improve in the weeks to come. But there’s no denying that it’s not good enough right now. Just take a look at how things went in the first half:
Michigan only made one 3-pointer, but perfect at the rim in the first half. pic.twitter.com/GtD2RsIDkg— Dylan Burkhardt (@umhoops) November 2, 2018
This will likely be Beilein’s biggest challenge as the season continues. He needs to figure out how to get Michigan shooting a bit better as more challenging opponents approach.