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Posted on Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 4 p.m.

Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas have high expectations for Michigan basketball

By Michael Rothstein

The Big Ten may be one of the deepest leagues in the country, but at least two of ESPN’s top college basketball announcers believe Michigan will find itself among the leagues elite.

Dick Vitale said with junior guard Manny Harris returning to lead the No. 15 Wolverines, he figures they’ll be in the top tier of the league. His colleague, Jay Bilas, took it a step further.


Michigan's Manny Harris, left, and DeShawn Sims look to lead the Wolverines back to the NCAA Tournament once again this year.

Lon Horwedel |

“Michigan will be Top 20 to start and Top 10 at points throughout the season,” Bilas said Wednesday.

Bilas should know. He coached both Harris and DeShawn Sims the past two summers at the Nike Skills Academy and thinks very highly of them. So, too, does Vitale.

Why Bilas believes in Michigan is more than Sims and Harris. It goes to Michigan coach John Beilein’s system, which can be built around the Wolverines’ top two players.

While Harris and Sims are key to Michigan, the guy who stands out as another difference maker is freshman point guard Darius Morris, who has essentially won the point guard battle and started Friday’s exhibition against Wayne State.

“He’s the type of guy that can beat you off the dribble, handles the ball well,” Bilas said. “Pretty good passer, not a great shooter but he can create. That’ll free some people up.”

When Morris does that, it’ll allow Michigan to use some of its other players to make shots, something Bilas deemed critical for the Wolverines’ success.

As Vitale described Michigan’s potential success, he also praised a lot of the league.

“I just rated the Big Ten, I felt and could be wrong, it’s a debatable issue, that it is the best conference this year in basketball,” Vitale said. “You look at Michigan, you look at Purdue. I think Purdue will be dynamite this year if they have a healthy (Robbie) Hummel and you can throw in the fact of teams like Ohio State with (Evan) Turner and Minnesota and never count Wisconsin out as long as Bo Ryan is on that sideline. And you know they are going to be very good. Michigan State, we know, is going to be sensational with (Tom) Izzo.

“I think it’s going to be a real big year and they are right in the mix.”

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.



Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 11:58 p.m.

Was there a team Dickee V did not think was awesome? Seemed all were super fantastic. Must be why they play the games.


Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 8:52 p.m.

"They're flying high in Ann Arbor, it's AWESOME, baby!"