#36 Michigan Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Michigan Wolverines

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #36
Conference Rank: #7 Big Ten

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The expectations were pretty high for Michigan last season. Perhaps it was a year too early. The Wolverines struggled to a 16-16 overall record and ended up 8-10 in Big Ten play. There were some memorable losses to teams like NJIT and Eastern Michigan, but there were some decent wins against the likes of Syracuse and Ohio State too. But that win against the Buckeyes was the only game Michigan won against one of the seven Big Ten teams who finished with 20 or more wins. Some credit is deserved for beating the bottom dwellers of the Big Ten on a regularly consistent basis, but this team lacked the experience to beat any of the top teams in the Big Ten.

2014-15 Record: 16-16, 8-10
2014-15 Postseason: none
Coach: John Beilein
Coach Record: 166-110 at Michigan, 642-385 overall

Who’s Out:
Experience is no longer a valid excuse for mediocrity since Michigan returns everybody except Max Bielfeldt. The 6-7 forward saw his playing time increase during his senior season and he averaged 5.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. On a team that often went ten deep, Bielfeldt will not be missed too much.

Who’s In:
Coach John Beilein did go out and pick up a few players who can help with the frontcourt depth. Duncan Robinson is a transfer from Division III Williams College. That may not sound like a great pickup for Michigan, but he is a big guy who can shoot lights out from long range. There is a spot for Robinson in the regular rotation as a shooter off of the bench. Mortiz Wagner and Brent Hibbitts are the incoming freshmen. Wagner is a versatile 6-10 forward from Germany who can battle in the paint and step out and knock down jumpers with ease.

Who to Watch:
Injuries to backcourt stars Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. LeVert played in just 18 games last year, averaging 14.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.8 steals. LeVert could have left early for the NBA, but the 6-7 guard opted to return to Ann Arbor for his senior season and that is a huge deal for the Wolverines. LeVert can knock down shots and shoot over most opposing defenders. He can also use his size to attack the basket and finish in the paint with ease. Walton is the leader on the floor and a huge reason why Michigan ranked eighth in the nation in turnovers per game. Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht deserve a lot of credit for their play when LeVert and Walton were out…and even when they weren’t out. Irvin ended the year averaging 14.3 points and is one of the more prolific three-point shooters in the Big Ten. Albrecht is a gritty point guard who dished out 3.9 assists per game last season. An offseason injury could get him off to a slow start, but Michigan has a great backcourt that can score points and, more importantly, take care of the ball. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman showed promise as a freshman, especially on the defensive end. Big wings Aubrey Dawkins and Kameron Chatman were also in the regular rotation last season and both provide Coach Beilein with some options at the small forward spot when they need to remain big on the wing. Dawkins and Chatman saw a lot more playing time than expected last year because of the injuries and that experience will start paying off now.

Final Projection:
Dawkins and Chatman can certainly spend plenty of time at the power forward spot in this offense, but the key to Michigan’s success could come down to the center spot. Ricky Doyle took the starting job over from Mark Donnal after ten games last year. Both are back to contribute again. Doyle is just a sophomore, but he averaged 6.1 points and 3.2 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game. Donnal averaged fewer than 11 minutes per game, but he is also a big guy that can shoot the ball. It is possible that Coach Beilein will spend more time with both of his big sophomores on the floor at the same time. With Wagner looking ready to back up Doyle at the five, that is a good way to at least start off the season with the possibility of playing big. Barring major injury issues again, this will be an NCAA Tournament team. If the backcourt comes together with LeVert and Walton back in the lineup and the young frontcourt is more productive, this is a team that can do more than just make the NCAA Tournament.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Derrick Walton, Junior, Guard, 10.7 points per game
Caris LeVert, Senior, Guard, 14.9 points per game
Zak Irvin, Junior, Guard, 14.3 points per game
Mark Donnal, Sophomore, Forward, 3.4 points per game
Ricky Doyle, Sophomore, Forward, 6.1 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 64.7 (238th in nation, 11th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.9 (100, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.6 (218, 10)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.9 (274, 13)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.8 (45, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.9 (95, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 75.4 (15, 4)
Rebound Margin: -3.9 (308, 14)
Assists Per Game: 11.9 (224, 9)
Turnovers Per Game: 9.6 (8, 2)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#5 Caris LeVert
#53 Zak Irvin

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#135 Moritz Wagner


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