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Posted on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 1:30 p.m.

Five reasons to be optimistic about Michigan basketball next year and five reasons to worry

By Michael Rothstein


Michigan head coach John Beilein looks up at a free throw shot during the second half of Michigan's 57-56 loss on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at Crisler Arena.

Melanie Maxwell I

As the off-season begins its third official day, it's time to look at what the biggest concerns and reasons for hope are for Michigan's 2010-11 basketball team.

The Wolverines will return at least three starters in guards Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Darius Morris. If Manny Harris chooses to come back for his senior year, that gives the Wolverines four starters back. But is that enough?

Five reasons to be optimistic:

1) Law of averages. There’s no way Michigan can shoot as poorly as it did this past season again. Too many shots rimmed out and fell just short. Michigan also saw opponents hit last second shots to beat the Wolverines three times (at home against Michigan State and Penn State, against Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament). That’ll flip, right?

2) Tim Hardaway Jr. The son of the former NBA All-Star is committed to come to Michigan and is, by many accounts, an extremely good shooter with a lot of range. Despite freshmen often struggling with inconsistency in John Beilein’s system, it’s likely both he and commit Evan Smotrycz will contribute early.

3) Darius Morris’ emergence. By season’s end, Morris became one of the better point guard defenders in the league. His offense is still suspect and he had issues finishing at points this year but now that his freshman year is over, look for him to take more of an active leadership role with this team. On a team that was desperately searching for leadership this year, that’s a positive.

4) Manny Harris returns. This is far from a certainty, but if the junior wing comes back, he gives the Wolverines a legitimate star and No. 1 scoring option looking to prove this year was an anomaly for NBA scouts. Teams will focus on him more, but e could end up as the most versatile player in the league if Evan Turner leaves Ohio State.

5) Faith in John Beilein. The Michigan coach enters his fourth year and he’s won everywhere he’s been. Why should Ann Arbor be any different? His team will be more experienced and he’ll have a bunch of upperclassmen (even if Harris leaves) he can rely on. There would still be youth and a lack of depth, but there’d be reason to believe they’ll grasp the offense and defense better.

Five reasons to be worried:

1) Height. Michigan will have very little of it next year. The Wolverines’ top returning rotation players are 6-foot-5 guards Zack Novak and Manny Harris - more on Harris later - and there will only be one returning player taller than 6-foot-8. Blake McLimans, at 6-foot-10, is raw. Jordan Morgan, a big-bodied 6-foot-8, hasn’t been healthy all year. Other than that, the Wolverines will have no inside players with even scout team college experience.

2) Shooting woes stay. Was this season an aberration or a sign of the type of shooters Stu Douglass, Zack Novak and Laval Lucas-Perry really are? Michigan will need those three to produce points next season or it’ll be a long year without the consistent production of Sims.

3) The rest of the Big Ten is going to be better. The league, pre-NBA defections, looks like it could be even tougher next year. Purdue returns Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. Ohio State has the best recruiting class in the conference and could return everybody, although it’d surprise no one if Evan Turner leaves for the NBA. If Talor Battle stays, Penn State is dangerous. Wisconsin always seems to win. Illinois might be the second-most talented team in the league next year, especially if Demetri McCamey returns. Indiana should be better with the return of Maurice Creek and another strong recruiting class. Northwestern will be better next year with the return of star Kevin Coble and could finally break its NCAA curse. Meanwhile, Michigan loses DeShawn Sims and if Manny Harris goes, will see more than half of their scoring disappear (34.9 ppg. of a 64.3 ppg. average).

4) Scheduling. The full schedule won’t be out for months, but here’s what is known: Michigan is playing in the Legends Classic with three 2010 NCAA tournament teams. Kansas is coming to Crisler Arena. And the Big Ten isn’t going to be easy.

5) Recruiting. Right now, Michigan is in on a bunch of top-rated guys, including 2010 wing Trey Zeigler, 2011 big men Amir Williams and Marshall Plumlee are still considering Michigan. But will this season change who will come to Ann Arbor?

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.


Rob Kirkbride

Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 8:06 a.m.

I'm not here to hate on Michigan. I just want a little balanced reporting. I guess you want your information FOX News style -- ignore what you don't want to report. I expect better reporting, that's all. All the columnist had to say was: "MSU is expected to make a strong run at the Big Ten title as well." To leave MSU out is simply shoddy reporting.


Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 8:23 a.m.

you'll see michigan take a dip by losing sims alone. if you lose harris as well....there is no telling low they can sink. another tough year next year.


Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 6:01 a.m.

Manny will go pro and Michigan will be better. Despite all his talent, Manny was inconsistent and never provided the leadership this team needed. Some days he'd play 100%, others he wouldn't show up. Look for better chemistry and big contributions from the sophomore class. Mid big ten finish and NCAA berth next year. Beilein is good coach and runs a very clean program. Next year he gets credit he deserves.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 9:42 p.m.

That Kansas game can really get momuntem going.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 8:48 p.m.

I agree with AceDeuce and blueiniowa. I'm sure that the people in Ann Arbor who actually want to hear about MSU are few and far between. MSU fans spend too much of their time hating on U of M instead of actually cheering for their own teams. I'm glad that being in Ann Arbor, I hear more "Go Blue" than "MSU sucks" or some other version of that. It's pathetic that the State fans are spending their time talking about U of M when they could be supporting their own teams...


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 6:34 p.m.

Great summary Michael. Including shooting on both sides of the ledger underscores how important it is. The single biggest and easiest way to raise their percentage is to reduce the number of 3-point attempts. They should cut by half or more.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 3:16 p.m.

At least Michigan does not play in that dump, Madison Square Garden.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 2:04 p.m.

Recruiting...Recruiting...Recruiting. Beilein better learn how to recruit. He's been here 3 years and his best players were Amaker's recruits. No offense to Novak & Douglass but we need to up the talent level like yesterday!


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 1:57 p.m.

THANK YOU for NOT mentioning MSU, why would I want to hear how good they are when I'm visiting a website called And everyone knows thanks to Tom Izzo MSU always has a squad that could make it to the Final Four. Mentioning MSU wouldn't be news. And don't be so quick to doubt UofM, we can die by the three, but we can also live by it and beat anyone, the real question is what is Beilein going to do about his 1-3-1 defense.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 1:45 p.m.

I'm sorry-- is this or It's like an Indians fan telling the freep they need to do more reporting on Cleveland baseball.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 1:19 p.m.

No mention of MSU's return players or TOP 5 RECRUITING CLASS?? Great reporting!

Rob Kirkbride

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 12:48 p.m.

Michael, You pathetic homer. No mention of Michigan State in the "Big Ten is going to be better" part of your column? MSU is returning all but two players from our co-Big Ten Championship team. Michigan will lose Harris. And it will occupy the basement of the Big Ten next year. Next time you write a column, you might include Michigan State as part of a balanced article, don't you think?


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 12:47 p.m.

Michigan won't win 10 games next year if Manny leaves.