The buzz around Ann Arbor has been at an all time high since….oh I don’t know….August 1st. The university of course began its partnership with Nike/Jordan that day, ending their previous deal with Adidas. The football team and Coach Harbaugh have been in the national spotlight ever since. However, the Michigan basketball squad has recently kicked off their season, and are off to a hot start.
The Wolverines came into this year returning ten players from last years’ squad, who were eliminated from the NCAA tournament in the first round, thanks to a 70-63 loss to Notre Dame. Michigan added two key sophomores this year.
Charles Matthews, Sophomore, Guard
Matthews found his way to Ann Arbor, after playing one season for Kentucky. He will have to sit out this season, due to NCAA transfer rules, but he will still have three years of eligibility remaining. A 6’6” guard, originally from Chicago, Matthews size will help the Wolverines in the very near future. He was ESPN’s number 42 overall player in the 2015 class, and the number 2 overall player from Illinois.
Fred Wright-Jones, Sophomore, Guard
Wright-Jones spent the 2015-2016 season as a team manager, before eventually getting clearance from the NCAA to become a full time practice player. He dressed for the season finale last year versus Iowa, but did not see any game action. In high school, Wright-Jones averaged 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals per game. He was a 3x team captain, and is originally from Detroit. He was also named team Defensive Player of the Year his senior year of high school. There is something to be said of the first generation college student, if John Beilein promoted him to the team. Keep and eye on him, as the season goes.
The Wolverines welcomed four new freshman to Ann Arbor as well.
Xavier Simpson / 6’0” guard / Lima Ohio
Jon Teske / 7’0” forward / Medina, Ohio
Ibi Watson / 6’5” guard /forward/ Pickerington, Ohio
Austin Davis / 6’10” forward / Onsted, Michigan
All but Austin Davis have seen game minutes this year.
Michigan also welcomed two new coaches, after both LaVall Jordan (Milwaukee), and Bacari Alexander (Detroit Mercy) departed to take head coaching positions elsewhere.
Donlon has been the head coach for the past six season at Wright State, and has nearly 20 years of college coaching experience. He helped Wright State to four straight 20-plus win seasons, and is known for his defensive strategy. Donlon will bring a lot of intensity to the Wolverine coaching staff.
Washington has spent the last decade on the Oakland University coaching staff. During his 10 years, the Golden Grizzlies won 198 games, including five 20-plus win seasons. After working with guards for the majority of his career, Washington made the switch to working primarily with posts last season, and will provide a good spark for Michigan’s post players.
Michigan is off to a 5-1 start in 2016, and are turning a few heads around the country. As mentioned earlier, the Wolverines came into this season unranked. After wins over Howard, IUPUI, Marquette, and SMU, the Wolverines were 4-0 on the season, and notched a championship victory in the 2K classic. After their victory over SMU, the Wolverines cracked the Top 25 finally. Through the first four games of the season, Michigan was averaging 77 points per game, while holding opponents to just 59.5 points per game.
Michigan hit the road for their first true road game of the year last week, as they traveled to South Carolina. The Wolverines couldn’t take the lid off of the rim however, as they managed just 27 points in the first half. Michigan would go on to lose that game 46-61. They shot just 19.2% from the field that night (10-52), and a measly 7.7% from beyond the arc (2-26). Michigan of course dropped back out of the Top 25 with their loss.
The Wolverines got things back on track Sunday night, as the defeated Mount St. Mary’s in Ann Arbor, 64-47. Zac Irvin led the way for the Wolverines, as he scored 14 points, had 4 assists, and secured 3 rebounds.
Here is a quick breakdown of the Wolverines statistical leaders through the first 6 games of the season.
The two biggest stories this season for Michigan Basketball are their defense, and the play of D.J. Wilson. They are holding opponents under 58 points a game thus far in the season, and that will be key to their success in the Big Ten this season. Coach Billy Donlon, as well as head coach John Beilein, will continue to preach tough defense to the Wolverines all season long.
The Wolverines are back in action Wednesday night, as they welcome Virginia Tech to the Crisler Center. This game is part of the ACC/Big Ten challenge, and tipoff is at 7:30pm EST, and will be broadcast on ESPN2. Go Blue!
*All stats courtesy of MGoBlue.com*