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Posted on Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 5:59 a.m.

With a young squad and no expectations, Michigan basketball team rebuilds

By Michael Rothstein


Juniors Zack Novak and Stu Douglass are among the most experienced players on the Michigan basketball team's roster.

Melanie Maxwell |

At Big Ten basketball media day in Chicago last month, Michigan juniors Stu Douglass and Zack Novak sat together at a round table, visitors stopping by only occasionally.

A year ago at the same event, the Michigan basketball players in Chicago drew a crowd.

Those two players, DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris, are gone. With them went most expectations of success for the Wolverines.

Those expectations, in some ways, crushed Michigan last year. The Wolverines were coming off an NCAA tournament berth and had Sims and Harris, two of the top scorers in Michigan history returning. They were picked as high as the top 10 in the country by some publications.

And under the weight of those expectations, Michigan collapsed. It never found a rhythm, too often relied on Harris and finished 15-17.

“We were missing some intangibles that you have to have to win close games, that you have to win close games,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “There were four or five games that we lost last year, and all of them with less than two minutes to play we took the lead or tied. The year before, we won those games.”

Much of that went to team chemistry and leadership. Michigan lacked some of that a season ago. Now, though, the Wolverines have those two things back.

But will Michigan be better when it opens the season Saturday with a 7 p.m. home game against South Carolina Upstate?

Probably not. Michigan has no seniors on its roster. It has just two juniors - Novak and Douglass - and the rest of the Wolverines have played college basketball for a year or less.

The Wolverines started three freshmen or redshirt freshmen, a sophomore and a junior in its exhibition win Friday over Saginaw Valley State.

They may have more height, but also have a ton of inexperience. And without that experience, Michigan is going to need to play smarter than a season ago.

“We’re going to have to play pretty efficient games to be successful,” Beilein said. “Very efficient.”

Simply, for Michigan to be good this season, it can’t shoot like it did against Saginaw Valley State - 14.3 percent from the 3-point line - and it needs to have consistent production from Novak and freshmen Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz, who will be Michigan’s starters to open the season with forward Jordan Morgan and point guard Darius Morris.

“We’re coming in with no expectations for the season, so we’re just playing loose,” Douglass said after Michigan best Saginaw Valley State 68-59 on Friday. … There’s a lot of stuff we have to work on, but it’s early and we’re a young team.”

To help with that, Michigan went to Europe before the season. The four-game trip allowed a new coaching staff - the Wolverines replaced all three assistant coaches who were at the school at the start of last season - meld with a young team. It allowed younger players the chance to learn the offense and defense against older, professional competition.

Michigan lost three of four games in Europe, playing against some of the better teams in Belgium.

“I’m impressed with how we maintained what we built in Europe and we keep getting better every day,” Douglass said. “It’s what we did freshman year and a little bit last year, just not enough.”

Michigan’s success or failure this season, though, will likely depend on how fast its youth picks up what Beilein wants them to do and learn how to be college players.

“There’s a new beginning,” Beilein said. “We accomplished a heck of a goal in two years in getting to the NCAA tournament and winning a game. We had great expectations going into the season and there were five close games that really changed our season.

“Now we are a team that really is a young team. If this team matures over the next three years, we will be developing this program where it’s not coming down.”

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 11, 2010 : 4:07 p.m.

never know we might surprise people this year.. we could very well win the n.i.t. on a side note, i dont agree much with tater, but he has a couple points about who used to be the better team with the recruiting and all that, but the key word is "used" too, so i understand that, but ed martin did start michigan on a downward spiral that we cant seem to recover from, izzo is getting all the good recruits and i dont see no end to it in the future..oh its tuff right now for the bb team..


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 12:35 p.m.

Wow, college's a great cure for insomnia! Especially Big 10 basketball!


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 10:59 a.m.

tater tater tater..... izzo says recruiting is getting easier...but you say it will be harder...who should i believe? btw...izzo is done with 2011, and finishing up's michigan coming along?


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

Rebuild and no expectations. I think that we need to set some goals. Bee-Line must attract some great players to Michigan -- and not in the year 2025.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 9:08 a.m.

Wow they are going to rebuild again, this is an ongoing project that has no completion date,in fact writing about them should be reduced,the other Big Ten school in the state has two teams doing well in football and basketball. Maybe U of M should reflect on getting West Va. coaches for their programs, but this is an on going project and should be left alone.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 7:40 a.m.



Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 7:33 a.m.

How can you rebuild something that was never built?