Coming off Michigan’s first Big 10 title in 26 years, the expectations are high for the 2012 Men’s Basketball team. Michigan is ranked #5 in the preseaon poll and even picked to make it to the Final Four by one analyst. The Wolverines join Indiana and Ohio St in the top 10 preseason rankings, officially making the Big 10 a basketball conference now.
It should be an exciting season and there is a lot of hype around this team. But be cautious Michigan fans. As we all know from football season, preseason rankings don’t mean shit.
After winning a share of the Big 10 title, Michigan was bounced from the NCAA tourney in the first round by Ohio. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise successful season. Michigan lost captains Novak and Douglas to graduation. They also lost part-time starter Evan Smotrycz when he decided to transfer to Maryland. In return, Michigan is bringing in a top 10 recruiting class that should get some valuable playing time if not occupy some of the starting spots on this squad.
Michigan will start the season in a newly renovated and updated Crisler Center. They will also sport new Adizero ultra lightweight uniforms. Along with new facilities and uniforms, Michigan will be relying on two new captains, having to replace Novak and Douglas. Michigan will definitely miss their leadership and work ethic, but the question is if Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway can fill the void.
Burke was Big 10 co-freshman of the year last season. This year he is ranked #9 on CBS Sports’ preseason list of top 100 players and named to AP’s preseason All-America first team. Burke will have to continue his success from last year and be a leader for this team. Opponents will focus on him and try to shut him down so he can’t afford a sophomore slump. He is Michigan’s best overall player, but he should also have a strong supporting cast.
Hardaway Jr. had an inconsistent sophomore season and often looked to struggle mentally. He will need to have a bounce back season. Hardaway will have to get back to driving to the hoop and taking the open jumpers when available. His 3 point shooting needs to improve over last year. By all accounts, Hardaway has taken the next step to improving his game. He’s looked good during summer camps and should be more comfortable playing alongside Burke for a second season. CBS Sports believes he has improved enough to put him at #35 on their list of top 100 players.
Michigan also brings in a strong recruiting class this season which should make an important contribution to this team. Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III should challenge for a starting spot. Nik Stauskas probably won’t start but will definitely get a lot of minutes as a sharp shooter. And Spike Albrecht, although not a highly ranked recruit, will be valuable in giving Burke 5 to 10 minutes rest per game, which he did not see last year.
Michigan should contend for the Big 10 title and should be able to make a nice run in the tourney, but it will depend on if the Wolverines can fill the leadership void and if the freshman can be counted onto contribute right away.