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2019-’20 Michigan Wolverines Basketball Season Preview

BTPowerhouse previews the upcoming season for the Michigan Wolverines and what fans should expect from the program heading into the 2019-’20 season.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Media Day Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-’20 ‘BTPowerhouse Season Preview’ series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2019-’20 ‘season with analysis on each program’s previous season, offseason departures, new additions, strengths, weakness, top player, and top storylines. Each post will also include predictions on each team’s starting lineup, season performance and commentary from a local “insider” who covers said team.

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“Everything good must come to an end”

It’s a quote we see all the time, but predominantly at graduations and retirements. It underscores the fact that the status quo can’t go on forever. Whether we like it or not, the only constant in the world is change. And college basketball fans might know that better than anyone, in a sport that drastically changes each year.

There’s no program in America more disappointed in its offseason coaching change than Michigan. And that has nothing to do with Juwan Howard. During his 12-year run with the program, John Beilein reinvigorated a downtrodden Michigan program and took it to unseen heights. By the time he left, Beilein had more wins of any coach in Michigan basketball history and took the Wolverines to two Final Fours and five Sweet 16s.

But unlike most coaching changes, Beilein wasn’t forced out and he didn’t retire. He opted to leave Ann Arbor to take the head coaching position with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

Fans didn’t want him to leave.

After all, Michigan had three straight Sweet 16 appearances in his final three seasons with the Wolverines, including an incredible 63-15 overall record in his final two years. By any reasonable evaluation, things were absolutely rolling.

So, what happens now?

As mentioned above, Michigan opted to hire Howard to take over for the program moving forward. There’s no denying that Howard is a bit of a wildcard. He was a member of Michigan’s legendary Fab Five and has been universally praised as a rising star among NBA assistant coaches. That alone will get some folks exist.

However, Howard's never been a head coach and has never coached at the collegiate level either. Whether the administration and/or fans want to admit it, this is a calculated risk. Michigan might very well have hired a young coach on the rise, or someone woefully underqualified for the job. It’s anybody’s guess at this point. And Howard also has the challenge of replacing the program’s all-time winningest coach. Not exactly an easy task.

The good news for Howard and Wolverine fans is that he inherits a program with stability, a talented roster, and a winning culture. This isn’t a rebuild. Zavier Simpson returns in the backcourt, Isaiah Livers returns on the wing, and Jon Teske is back upfront. Michigan also has a handful of young bench contributors returning, who were buried behind NBA prospects like Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole. It’s easy to see some of those guys hitting the ground running out of the gate this year.

But on the other hand, there are some challenges as well. The team lost three starters to the NBA last offseason, which were (unsurprising) also the team’s leading scorers. Michigan has to find some offensive production and do it without Beilein directing the ship.

So, can Michigan get it done and deliver in Howard’s first year? Let’s take a look.

BTPowerhouse Season Preview Podcast

Along with reading BTPowerhouse’s season preview post for the Michigan Wolverines, make sure to check out the site’s podcast preview of the Wolverines, featuring BTPowerhouse Manager Thomas Beindit and former Michigan basketball player Anthony Wright breaking down Michigan’s roster, incoming recruits, schedule, and season outlook.

1. 2018-’19 Season Performance

  • Record: 30-7 (15-5)
  • KenPom Team Rating: #6
  • NET Rating: #10
  • Postseason Appearance: NCAA (S16)

While Michigan might not get to raise any banners after last season, the Wolverines were still a fantastic team. Not only did Michigan jump out to a 17-0 start to the season, but the finished the regular season at 26-5 overall, made the Big Ten Tournament final, and made it to the Sweet 16 before falling to a really good Texas Tech team. Given that the team won 30 games, it’s hard to criticize this group without it feeling like nitpicking.

With that said, if we are going to nitpick, we have to focus on how how Michigan finished against Michigan State and Texas Tech down the stretch. Michigan didn’t “decline” as the season went on, but the Wolverines did lose to the Spartans three times and had a horrible offensive performance against the Red Raiders in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan’s defense held up well, but the team’s underwhelming shooting showed up in all four of those losses. Four of the team’s seven total losses came against these teams.

It’s also important to reiterate how significant those losses were as well. Had Michigan been able to beat Michigan State, even two times out of three, Michigan would have won a Big Ten regular season title and the Big Ten Tournament. Moreover, a win over Texas Tech would have sent the Wolverines to the Elite Eight with a shot at a second straight Final Four. Both the Spartans and Red Raiders finished above Michigan on KenPom, so it’s hard to feel like Michigan underachieved in those games, but it warrants mention here. If the Wolverines could have figured out two teams, it would have been a truly remarkable season.

Those losses also reiterate how tough college basketball can be sometimes. Michigan went 30-7, finished 6th nationally on KenPom, recorded six wins over top 30 opponents, and made the Sweet 16. Most programs would kill for a season like that, but the close losses made things feel a bit empty. After all, it’s pretty rare to see a team win 30 games and not raise a banner. But that’s exactly what happened for Michigan.

Highlights of the season included the non-conference wins over North Carolina and Villanova, wins over Maryland, Purdue, and Wisconsin in Big Ten play, and postseason wins over Iowa, Minnesota, and Florida.

Individual statistical leaders were Ignas Brazdeikis, Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske. Brazdeikis led the team in points and usage among contributors. Simpson led the team in minutes, assists, and steals. Teske led the team in blocks and overall win shares.

2. Offseason Exits

Perhaps no Big Ten team got hit harder by offseason attrition this year than the Wolverines. Fans can take that in a variety of different ways, but Michigan lost a massive amount from the team’s roster since the season ended. While the team only lost three starters, they were all substantial contributors in Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Matthews, and Jordan Poole.

Generally in this section, I like to highlight the player or players who stood out from the departures, but that’s really hard to do here. All three were substantial contributors for the Wolverines last season. All three played more than 72 percent of the team’s minutes last season and were the team’s three leading scorers. To put it in perspective, they combined to average about 40 points per game last season. Michigan averaged about 70 as a team.

So yeah, these three were pretty good.

And all three also contributed in different ways for the Wolverines. Brazdeikis was a guy who could stretch the defense and get to the rim, Matthews was a lockdown defender, and Poole was someone who could be deadly from deep when he got hot. Brazdeikis and Matthews were also pretty good rebounders as well. These three were all in the team’s starting lineup and could be the team’s best player on any given night.

It’s also important to reiterate that these three played on a really good Michigan team. These weren’t three guys getting minutes on a Big Ten bottom dweller. Brazdeikis was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Matthews and Poole both got serious All-Big Ten consideration. The Wolverines went 30-7 last season and there’s little debating that these three played a huge part in that run.

Any reasonable evaluation of this situation leads one to the conclusion that Michigan was about one or two departures short of people saying this roster got “gutted” this offseason. There’s always turnover in college basketball, but these were some of the best players in the Big Ten leaving at the same time.

Michigan certainly isn’t the first team that will try and overcome departures of this magnitude, but there’s no sugarcoating the situation here. Although the Wolverines have more than enough pieces to get the job done this year (as will be addressed below), replacing these three isn’t going to be easy.

3. New Additions

This season, the Wolverines will be adding two new recruits to its roster in Cole Bajema and Franz Wagner. Both are listed as small forwards and rated as four-star prospects by 247Sports. The class was rated as the ninth-best in the Big Ten overall, but was fourth in the league in terms of average recruit rating.

The prospect attracting the most attention is Wagner. He’s the brother of former Michigan star Moritz Wagner and will be coming overseas from Germany. He’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 190 pounds and has some of the same skills as his older brother. He has a nice handle and can shoot from deep. However, unlike his brother, Franz is projected by most to be a two or three. He’s actually rated lower than Bajema by 247Sports, but few agree with this rating. As an international prospect, he’s more of a wildcard. Many consider him to have the talent of a traditional five-star recruit.

The other addition is Bajema. He originally committed to Beilein before the coaching transition and opted to stay in the class after Howard was hired. Bajema is also listed at 6-foot-7 and is poised to provide depth in the backcourt and on the wing in the coming years. Most think he could be a bench contributor this season.

It’s also worth mentioning that Jardon Faulds will be eligible after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. He played for Columbia and transferred to Ann Arbor and walked on to the team. He played in 26 games at Columbia and averaged 4.5 points per game, with two double-digit scoring performances. He is listed at 6-foot-10 and should be a backup in the frontcourt.

This is basically the epitome of a transition class for Howard this season. He kept one of Beilein’s recruits in the fold and was able to add one of his own this offseason. Both are good prospects and could turn into really nice players down the line. With that said, this isn’t an elite class. Michigan lost three top-tier players and brought in two true freshman. Wagner has fantastic upside, but that’s far from a dream scenario for Howard. Fans will have to hope he can start making his impact on the recruiting trail next cycle.

4. Points of Optimism

This preview probably hasn’t read as all that optimistic so far. However, Michigan fans have some great reasons to be excited about this group heading into this season. A lot of it has to do with the team’s returning cast, potential star power, and likely growth at some positions of need.

Let’s start with the most significant thing Wolverine fans should be thankful for this offseason. Admittedly, this was something more pertinent a few months ago, but it warrants mention here. Michigan was extremely fortunate with regard to roster attrition this year. In today’s college basketball world, most teams get railed in a coaching transition. Transfers are more common in this era than at any point in the past. These grow even more common during a coaching change.

There’s still a chance some of Michigan’s returners transfer this season and/or next offseason, but based on what we have seen so far, Michigan avoided most of the negatives of a major coaching transition. The only demonstrable roster loss Michigan had with Howard taking over was a decommitment in the 2019 recruiting class. And while three players left for the NBA, they all declared when Beilein was still around. It seems reasonable to think most, if not all, were already heading to the next level.

Losing one guy (and a recruit at that) in a coaching transition is really, really fortunate. And if you don’t believe me, look no further than Nebraska, who will be replacing essentially its entire roster this year. Keeping the group together is a major win.

And those returners? Well, it’s a pretty good group.

Michigan brings back two starters in Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske and a quasi-starter in Isaiah Livers as well. Simpson was arguably the league’s best defensive player last year, Teske led the team in win shares, and Livers has a ton of experience. You’re not going to win a Big Ten title with those three alone, but there aren’t many teams out there that return a better three-man group than that.

There’s also a good deal behind those three returning as well. Michigan had a really nice 2018 recruiting class and is returning the entire group, with the exception of Brazdeikis. David DeJulius and Adrien Nunez return in the backcourt, Brandon Johns returns on the wing, and Colin Castleton returns upfront. Eli Brooks also returns after playing some solid backup minutes last season. That’s a valuable bench piece and four rising sophomores. Given Michigan’s history of player development, it’s easy to see a lot of these guys filling in for the team’s departures.

The additions are also pretty important as well. Bajema and Wagner are top 125 prospects that can reasonably be expected to contribute early. This is especially true with regard to Wagner, who could be in contention for Big Ten Freshman of the Year this season. And with the three starters already returning, Wagner locking down one of the two opening starting spots would go a long way.

The overall takeaway here should be pretty obvious: This is a good returning core for Michigan. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Wolverines have arguably been the Big Ten’s best program over the last six or seven seasons. Beilein had the program humming and Howard should be able to benefit from that for at least one year.

5. Points of Concern

New coaches always arrive on campus with a certain level of excitement. Even if the last guy was pretty good, shaking things up can be nice. You might love the Rolling Stones, but it can be nice to work in Pearl Jam now and again, even if you actually like the Stones better. It’s just human nature.

There’s no debating that Wolverine fans are generally excited about Howard and what he can do for the program in the years to come. With that said, few (if any) fans think Michigan upgraded its coach this offseason. That isn’t meant to criticize Howard, it’s just reality. Beilein was arguably the best x’s and o’s coach in the nation. He was Michigan’s all-time winningest coach. He brought the program back from the dead. It’s a high bar.

This has gotten some discussion elsewhere, but it’s the elephant in the room. Beilein has consistently taken teams with an array of pieces and overachieved in comparison to expectations. He took a Division III player in Duncan Robinson and turned him into an NBA guard. He took a former Penn State commit in Trey Burke and turned him into the Wooden Award winner. And he shared a Big Ten title with Jared Sullinger’s Buckeyes while playing Stu Douglass and Zack Novak for major minutes. It was an incredible run for Beilein and the Wolverines.

But with Beilein now gone, one has to wonder how things will look. Again, this isn’t meant to rip on Howard’s potential. We just need to acknowledge the difficult task ahead. He’s taking over for a legend. Fans have become accustomed to elite coaching. Perhaps Howard can continue that in Ann Arbor. It’s possible. He arrives with a great pedigree and has an impressive track record. It’s also a lofty challenge. And Howard isn’t walking into a terrible situation. He won’t get the “luxury” of a few years. Fans are going to expect big things early on.

Michigan’s roster also has some clear holes heading into this season and this gets back to the points made above. In a lot of ways, Beilein was the duct tape of Michigan basketball. Even if there was a void in a spot or a clear roster issue, he found a way to solve it. Now, that duct tape is gone. Howard is going to have to figure it out.

The biggest deficit for the Wolverines entering this season is from outside the arc. Michigan finished 176th nationally in three-point percentage last year and the team lost its most productive shooters in Brazdeikis and Poole, and another three-point threat in Matthews. The Wolverines should be able to get by in most games off the team’s defense alone, but it’s going to need shooting to beat the better teams. Fans will hope Wagner can help here, despite being a true freshman.

And the shooting woes feed into another likely issue for this Michigan team. The Wolverines have a clear void in the lineup at shooting guard. Players like Brooks and Wagner will fight for minutes at the two and three spots, but neither is a guarantee. Plus, if Howard wants to use Wagner more on the wing and in the frontcourt, Michigan will have to lean on players like Brooks to carry the day. Brooks has shown signs in the past. He just hasn’t been consistent enough to warrant massive praise.

Michigan has potential solutions on its roster for these issues. The main question will be about how Howard and his staff perform in addressing these challenges. That will likely tell even more for this program moving forward than just about this season.

6. Top Player

Heading into last season, there were a few potential choices for the team’s best player. The Wolverines had some great pieces coming back in players like Matthews and Poole and were also adding some talented newcomers. Here’s what our site wrote in its season preview:

There are two logical choices here - Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole. And while I was a regular attendee at last year’s “Poole parties,” I’m not yet convinced that he can handle a primary playmaking role or even muster up good enough defense to stay on the floor.

Matthews has experience playing in the starting lineup and managing a major scoring role on the team. He has weathered shooting and turnover slumps, and is a reliable athlete that plays great defense and finishes in transition.

Last year, he managed to regularly finish on back cuts and residual action, knock down 30.5 percent of his threes, and improve his work in the ball screen game. He averaged 14.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in Michigan’s NCAA run and was not fazed by the bright lights.

If Matthews can up his three-point percentage to 35+ and inch up to 65 or 70 percent from the foul line, he will be Michigan’s best player. He has a mid-range jumper that reminds Michigan fans of Zak Irvin at his best and could showcase an improved ability to drive to both his left and right to get to the basket.

A more complete Charles Matthews will take Michigan far while an inconsistent 2017-’18 version of Matthews could signal a very low ceiling for this year’s team.

That prediction wasn’t too far off. However, it was hard to separate any one player in Michigan’s lineup last season. There were a handful of players that contributed substantially for the team. Simpson led the backcourt, Brazdeikis and Matthews dominated the wing, and Teske did work upfront.

But with so many of those players gone, it seems like the battle will be between Livers, Simpson, and Teske for this spot this season. And barring an offensive explosion from Teske, expect it to come down to Livers and Simpson. The only potential wildcard here is Franz Wagnger, who arrives as a freshman with major expectations.

At this point, my pick would probably be Simpson. He’s a fantastic defender and I am expecting he will really pick up his offensive production with so many more shot opportunities this season. With that said, Michigan will probably be a better team if Livers or Wagner can be the team’s primary offensive weapon.

7. 2019-’20 Schedule Breakdown

  • 11/1 - Saginaw Valley State (Ex.)
  • 11/5 - Appalachian State
  • 11/12 - Creighton
  • 11/15 - Elon
  • 11/22 - Houston Baptist
  • 11/27 - Iowa State (Paradise Island, Bahamas)
  • 11/28 - Alabama/North Carolina (Paradise Island, Bahamas)
  • 11/29 - Battle 4 Atlantis (Paradise Island, Bahamas)
  • 12/3 - at Louisville
  • 12/6 - Iowa
  • 12/11 - at Illinois
  • 12/14 - Oregon
  • 12/21 - Presbyterian
  • 12/29 - UMass Lowell
  • 1/5 - at Michigan State
  • 1/9 - Purdue
  • 1/12 - at Minnesota
  • 1/17 - at Iowa
  • 1/22 - Penn State
  • 1/25 - Illinois
  • 1/28 - at Nebraska
  • 2/1 - Rutgers (New York, NY)
  • 2/4 - Ohio State
  • 2/8 - Michigan State
  • 2/12 - at Northwestern
  • 2/16 - Indiana
  • 2/19 - at Rutgers
  • 2/22 - at Purdue
  • 2/27 - Wisconsin
  • 3/1 - at Ohio State
  • 3/5 - Nebraska
  • 3/8 - at Maryland

If you were one who thought Michigan might reel back its schedule this year and give Howard and his staff a chance to settle in, you would be dead wrong. The Wolverines have a really tough non-conference slate this season, which will be followed by a loaded Big Ten slate that features double-plays against Michigan State and Ohio State and a trip to Maryland.

Non-conference play will be highlighted by the home games against Creighton and Oregon, the road trip to Louisville in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, and the trip to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis. KenPom projects the Cards as a top five unit entering this season and both the Bluejays and Ducks are ranked in the top 40. And with teams like North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis, it’s easy to see why this slate will be challenging.

The good news for non-conference play is that games against Creighton and Oregon do look winnable, especially with the Ducks going through some roster issues currently. And the Louisville game is a classic “nothing to lose” opportunity. Michigan won’t get punished for losing there, but could gain quite a bit if the team can steal a win in a hostile environment. And nobody knows what to expect in the Bahamas.

League play is largely what one would expect with the extended 20-game slate. The most notable thing here is the double-play against rival Michigan State. The Big Ten recently protected a handful of rivalry games, guaranteeing they would play at least twice a year and Michigan vs Michigan State was one of them. It’s good for both programs long-term, but this could be a tough year for the Wolverines in that regard. The Spartans are widely projected to be one of the nation’s best teams.

If there’s one stretch of Big Ten play I am watching for Michigan entering this season, it’s the following:

  • 1/9 - Purdue
  • 1/12 - at Minnesota
  • 1/17 - at Iowa
  • 1/22 - Penn State
  • 1/25 - Illinois
  • 1/28 - at Nebraska
  • 2/1 - Rutgers (New York, NY)
  • 2/4 - Ohio State
  • 2/8 - Michigan State

Admittedly, picking nine games out is probably too large of a sample for a “stretch,” but so much is going to ride on this line of games. Just three of the games will come in a true road environments and KenPom gives Michigan nice odds in every game, except the game with Michigan State. However, that game comes in Ann Arbor. If there’s a chance for an upset, that seems like it.

The point here is that if Michigan is going to compile a nice Big Ten record and push for the NCAA Tournament, it’s going to need to do major damage in this stretch. Not a single one of those games project as a guaranteed loss at this point. However, you blow those opportunities and the back half of the Big Ten slate becomes really difficult.

Overall, Michigan will have more than its fair share of marquee opportunities this season. The Wolverines have a chance to put together a really impressive resume and play a multitude of top 10 opponents. The key will be getting off on the right front with some really challenging games right out of the gate.

8. Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG: Zavier Simpson (Sr.) - 95%
  • SG: Eli Brooks (Jr.) - 60%
  • SF: Franz Wagner (Fr.) - 85%
  • PF: Isaiah Livers (Jr.) - 95%
  • C: Jon Teske (Sr.) - 95%

(Percentage likelihood of starting at season tip-off.)

This is generally what happens when a great team loses a handful of its starters coming into a new season. The returners are virtual locks for the lineup and there are a few other spots where major questions abound. The Wolverines are absolutely in that position heading into this season. Three guys are nearly guaranteed starting spots. The main question will be who else works into the lineup and when.

At the point, Simpson is a lock to secure the starting position. He emerged into the starter two years ago, helping to lead the team to the national championship game, and now enters his senior season trying to finish as one of the program’s all-time winningest players. Expect David DeJulius to come off the bench when Simpson needs a break.

Alongside Simpson is where things will get interesting. My guess is that Eli Brooks will grab the starting role initially. Brooks has received plenty of offseason attention and it seems likely his game will improve this season. He’s shown spark and an outside shot. His issue is consistency and carrying it over against quality competition. As an upperclassman, one would hope that those issues begin to resolve.

There should be a handful of others competing with Brooks for minutes at the two. DeJulius as also played at this spot before and young players like Cole Bajema and Adrien Nunez also warrant mention. Expect all three to see some time here. Howard and his staff will just have to narrow down the best option. Wagner is also a potential option here, depending on how things sort out elsewhere.

The wing group seems pretty locked in, at least on paper. Livers returns after two productive seasons for the Wolverines and Wagner arrives with more than his fair share of hype. It would be utterly shocking if both of these two didn’t start. Livers seems like a sleeper for some type of All-Big Ten status and Wagner is going to be a Big Ten Freshman of the Year contender.

The only real question is whether they will start at the three and four spots, or slide over to the two and three. As mentioned above, this will depend on whether the reserve options at the four are better than Brooks and the other guards. The reserves at the four will be Brandon Johns, Colin Castleton, and Austin Davis. All three had solid recruiting profiles. Castleton and Johns both had solid playing time last season. However, Castleton will probably get more minutes at the five, so Johns seems like the wildcard here.

At the five, Teske returns after a really impressive junior season. Like some of the other players noted above, he’s a lock for this spot. He is one of the better defenders in the league and could be primed for offensive growth with the arrival of Howard. As noted above, Castleton should provide reserve minutes behind him. Davis will be foul insurance.

Despite the offseason departures, Michigan has one of the better starting lineups in the Big Ten heading into this season. The team has at least three proven starters, an incoming freshman with major hype arriving for another spot, and a few options for the last starting role. The biggest challenge will be figuring out the team’s starter at the two. Fans have to be hoping Brooks can grow from last season.

9. Team Perspective From Anthony Broome of Maize N’ Brew

”This in a lot of ways might be the most interesting lead up to a basketball season we have seen with Michigan in quite some time, and that includes the John Beilein era. It’s been awhile since a new basketball coach in Ann Arbor has taken over a program that has been consistently competitive over the last decade or so, but that is where Juwan Howard finds himself in his first year at the helm of his alma mater.

We do not know a ton about what this team is going to look like and how they will play, but Howard himself has said that a more NBA-style of basketball is coming to Ann Arbor that will focus on the positionless aspects of the game. The Wolverines lost a lot off the wing from last year’s team, but still has a nice mixture of veterans and young players looking to come into their own. Zavier Simpson, Isaiah Livers and Jon Teske as good of a top three as most teams in the conference and should be able to keep this team in the mix for a tournament bid on their own, but this group will be defined by the contributions it gets from young and up-and-comers in true freshman Franz Wagner, sophomore Brandon Johns and junior Eli Brooks, among others.

If everything clicks, this could be a team that peaks around being the 3rd or 4th-best team in the Big Ten with a floor that might be around 7th or 8th. After Michigan State, there’s parity all over this conference. Howard has huge shoes to fill replacing Beilein, but he seems to have the right pieces around him on his coaching staff and a roster that still has some moldable pieces that should give him a chance to set a foundation for what he wants this program to be moving forward.” - Anthony Broome.

10. Overall Season Outlook

Comparing different eras is always a tricky task. It’s hard to evaluate things with changing expectations, competition levels, and a variety of other circumstances. This is even harder in college basketball, considering the expansion of the NCAA Tournament, conference tournaments, and national exposure.

But even with all that said, let’s make this clear. John Beilein’s recent run at Michigan is likely the best run in school history. He didn’t win the national championship like the program did in 1989 or make back-to-back Final Fours like the Fab Five, but his success was more than impressive. He rebuilt a program from the depths of college basketball.

I hate to spend so much of a preview talking about someone who won’t even be coaching this team, but it’s necessary here. Beilein is going to be like a shadow hanging over this program, at least until Howard and his staff start winning some games. It also makes this season tricky to predict. Beilein got the most out of his teams and one has to wonder how things will look now that he’s no longer around.

The good news is that the cupboards aren’t bare. Howard inherits a roster with a handful of proven starters and more than enough capable backups, hoping for their chance. If he can navigate a tough schedule early on, this team has more than enough pieces to do damage in Big Ten play and beyond. And heading into a season, that’s about all one can hope for.

My guess is that Michigan keeps its NCAA Tournament streak alive, but can’t quite keep up with league powers like Michigan State and Purdue this time around. All told, it should be an interesting season in Ann Arbor.

Big Ten Prediction: 6th Place