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Posted on Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 8:13 p.m.

Finding frontcourt depth is a key for Michigan basketball team

By Michael Rothstein

Michigan basketball coach John Beilein is realistic about how the Wolverines won and lost games last season - and it had everything to do with height.

Michigan was a small team last season, leaving it with mismatches and often lacking a post presence and extra rebounding.

Considering not much has changed from the roster, how Michigan will deal with a shorter-than-average team is a valid question entering the 2009-10 season.

“We won cause of small ball last year many times and we lost cause of small ball,” Beilein said. “In the next two weeks, we’ll be able to see what Ben (Cronin) does, what Blake (McLimans) does, what Anthony (Wright) does, where they all fit in to the whole thing.

“Can Zack (Gibson) or DeShawn (Sims) multi-task at different positions? But we’re still going to put the five best guys out there.”

Beilein, though, is looking for one of those players to take some of the load off of Sims.

Cronin missed last season due to a hip injury. McLimans is a freshman from Hamburg, N.Y., and Wright, a junior, is just 6-foot-6.

“All those guys, somebody’s going to step up,” Beilein said. “But I don’t suspect playing 11 or 12 guys. We’d like to get a nice nine- or 10-man rotation going.”

A potential prospect is Cronin, who is working on shooting three-pointers lately even as a 7-footer.

Do that, and he could end up reminding a lot of people of former West Virginia forward Kevin Pittsnogle, a big man who also shot the three-pointer in Beilein’s system.

Cronin recently passed a test making 50 three-pointers in five minutes and ran a 5-minute, 53-second mile.

“Not too surprised,” Cronin said. “I’ve been working on it.”

The exempt tournament debate and scheduling

In November, Michigan will head to Orlando for the Old Spice Classic, an eight-team tournament with three games in four days that has emerged as one of the top preseason tournaments in the country along with the Preseason NIT and the Maui Invitational.

Don’t, though, expect a high-profile, one-site tournament every season.

“We’ll mix and match,” Beilein said. “We have opportunities to go to Maui down the road so those are really attractive ones, the Old Spice, the Mauis, the three games in three days tournaments.

“The four are good if you are at a place like Michigan and you get two home games to start.”

Beilein also recognized the difficulty of his team’s schedule. Beyond the Big Ten and the Old Spice, Michigan travels to No. 1 Kansas and out to Utah along with playing host to Boston College and Connecticut, a Final Four team last year.

“It has to go up and down,” Beilein said.

This year was clearly an up, as Beilein said the late addition of Kansas also adds a Saturday night game at Crisler Arena next season against the Jayhawks for the Michigan fans.

Morgan close to practicing

Jordan Morgan, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Detroit, could be close to being cleared to practice.

Morgan had surgery on his left knee and could be ready this week. He has not participated in any individual drills as he awaits his medical clearance.

“It’ll be interesting,” Beilein said. “We haven’t seen him play in a long, long time, way back to his high school season. It’s important to see where he is.

“I expect him to come out of this type of, he’s been dormant for a long time now, so I don’t expect him to come flying out of this thing.”

This and that

Beilein said he’s pretty pleased with the amount of student tickets sold and said “we don’t ever want to lose this,” in regard to the student fan support. … Beilein would also like to see former Michigan point guard Kelvin Grady have someone kick off to him so teams can see his speed and for him to “get some space to run.” … Before media day, Beilein had the media run through seven drills that the players had to complete in order to practice. At each station, two or three players would be the instructors of the media, who ranged from capable to downright awful. … Michigan Madness, the Michigan version of Midnight Madness, begins at 8 p.m. on Friday at Crisler Arena. It is free and open to the public. … In Michigan Madness, DeShawn Sims, Manny Harris, Zack Novak and Darius Morris will compete in a slam dunk contest at 10 p.m.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.