Michigan Basketball: Questions loom as Big Ten season nears


The Michigan basketball team enters the Big Ten portion of its schedule with plenty of question marks.

It’s a good thing the Wolverines have a week off before hosting Illinois next Tuesday (Dec. 30) at Crisler Center. Tip off is 3pm and the game will be telecast by ESPN2.

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With a 7-5 record, a suspect defense and an inconsistent offense, The Wolverines find themselves outside the traditional polls.

They are, however, ranked 78th in the Pomeroy College Poll, a far-cry from their elite-eight appearance at the close of the 2014 season.

4-game losing streak

Illinois, now 9-3 and ranked 43rd in the Pomeroy Poll, has one more cupcake on its schedule (Kennesaw State) before making the trip to Ann Arbor.

Michigan arrived at its 7-5 mark with quality wins over Oregon and Syracuse, but also suffered shocking losses to New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Eastern Michigan—both during the recent four-game losing streak.

Sure, Michigan fans didn’t exactly expect the team to pick up where they left off last season, coming within a three-point basket of upsetting Kentucky late in the NCAA tournament.

The squad showed up this fall minus two first-round NBA draft choices (Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary), a second-rounder (Glenn Robinson III), a graduated senior (Jordan Morgan) and a transfer (Jon Horford).

2 freshmen starters

Still, guards Derrick Walton, Jr., Caris LeVert, and Spike Albrecht, along with shooting forward Zak Irvin formed a formidable nucleus.

But head coach John Beilein was forced to go with freshmen at the other two positions.

Kameron Chatman is just getting his shooting eye at “power” forward while the center duo of Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal is inconsistent at best.

“They are making small steps in the right direction, but they are making steps in that direction,” Beilein said of his two post players. “That is so key for us going forward, that those guys just get used to playing inside, playing against contact, finishing around the rim.”

Bigs scored some points

Beilein was pleased with the post players’ effort in Monday’s 72-56 win over No. 336 Coppin State, but he was quick to point out that Coppin is no Wisconsin or Michigan State. Obviously, the Coppin State inside guys are not what they will see in the Big Ten, however, it was just good for them to get some points.”

Points have been hard to come by, especially in the the last five games (1-4). Michigan is hitting just 38 percent of its shots, compared to 46 percent by its opponents. Beyond the arc, the Wolverines are hitting 29 percent while their opponents are swishing 36 percent.

Individually, Chatman is averaging a ghastly four points in his five recent starts, while Walton is at 10.4, Irvin is at 11.8 and LeVert is at 12.4,

Bolded players names are linked to sports-reference, a statistics-enhanced website

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