Into the Depth: 2015-16 Michigan Basketball Season Preview

This year for the Wolverines should be a rather interesting and exciting one after coming off a rather disappointing 2014-15 season, in which they failed to reach the postseason for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

Although last year’s team had just lost their 4 best players to the draft (Stauskas, Robinson III, McGary, and Morgan), and the best two players were gone for the season due to injury (LeVert whole season, Walton most of the season), you cannot say the season was a complete loss. The roster was led by Spike Albrecht, who played amazing in stretches to try and will the team to success. The rest of the main rotation players were either freshman or sophomores, which now looks like a blessing in disguise. Thanks to the forced playing time, the young guys got some valuable experience and showed, at times, that they could hang with the big guys in the conference, including MSU and Wisconsin, both of whom they took into overtime.

If I know anything about Coach Beilein, it’s that he doesn’t care too much about moral victories like that. The team took last year as a shot to the chin and are preparing to settle the score against the B1G and the rest of the country this year.

Schedule Overview

  • Fri., Nov. 6 vs. Le MoyneCrisler Center 7:00 p.m. ET (Exhibition) 
  • Fri., Nov. 13 vs. Northern Michigan: Crisler Center 7:00 p.m. ET

Battle 4 Atlantis, Mainland Game

  • Mon., Nov. 16 vs. ElonCrisler Center 7:00 p.m. ET

Gavitt Games

  • Fri., Nov. 20 vs. XavierCrisler Center 9:00 p.m. ET

Battle 4 Atlantis

  • Wed., Nov. 25 vs. UConnParadise Island, Bahamas 9:30 p.m. ET
  • Thu., Nov. 26 Charlotte or SyracuseParadise Island, Bahamas 3:30 or 9:30 p.m. ET
  • Fri., Nov. 27 vs. TBD: Paradise Island, Bahamas TBA

ACC/Big Ten Challenge

  • Tue., Dec. 1 at North Carolina StateRaleigh, N.C. 7:00 p.m. ET

Regular Season

  • Sat., Dec. 5 vs. Houston BaptistCrisler Center 2:00 p.m. ET
  • Tue., Dec. 8 at SMUDallas, Texas 8:00 p.m. CT
  • Sat., Dec. 12 vs. Delaware StateCrisler Center 12:00 p.m. ET
  • Tue., Dec. 15 vs. Northern KentuckyCrisler Center 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Sat., Dec. 19 vs. Youngstown State: Crisler Center 6:00 p.m. ET
  • Wed., Dec. 23 vs. Bryant University: Crisler Center 7:00 p.m. ET

Conference Play

  • Wed., Dec. 30 at Illinois: Champaign, Ill. 2:00 p.m. CT
  • Sat., Jan. 2 vs. Penn State: Crisler Center 12:00 p.m. ET
  • Thu., Jan. 7 at Purdue: West Lafayette, Ind. 7 or 9 p.m. ET
  • Tue., Jan. 12 vs. Maryland: Crisler Center 9:00 p.m. ET
  • Sun., Jan. 17 at Iowa: Iowa City, Iowa 1 of 3:30 p.m. CT
  • Wed., Jan. 20 vs. Minnesota: Crisler Center 8:30 p.m. ET
  • Sat., Jan. 23 at Nebraska: Lincoln, Neb. 1:00 p.m. CT
  • Wed., Jan. 27 vs. Rutgers: Crisler Center 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Sat., Jan. 30 vs. Penn State: New York, N.Y. 12:00 p.m. ET
  • Tue., Feb. 2 vs. Indiana: Crisler Center 9:00 p.m. ET
  • Sat., Feb. 6 vs. Michigan State: Crisler Center 2:00 p.m. ET
  • Wed., Feb. 10 at Minnesota: Minneapolis, Minn. 8:00 p.m. CT
  • Sat., Feb. 13 vs. Purdue: Crisler Center 2:00 p.m. ET
  • Tue., Feb. 16 at Ohio State: Columbus, Ohio 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Sun., Feb. 21 at Maryland: College Park, Md. 1 or 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Wed., Feb. 24 vs. Northwestern: Crisler Center 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Sun., Feb. 28 at Wisconsin: Madison, Wis. 3 or 5 p.m. CT
  • Sat., Mar. 5 vs. Iowa: Crisler Center 8:00 p.m. ET

A non-conference schedule that doesn’t look all that tough, until you really get into it. They have a home game against an always tough Xavier team. The next game on their schedule is when they go down to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis against UCONN, although UCONN also had a down year of their own last year, they are only 2 years removed from a national championship. The next game will either be played against Syracuse or Charlotte. If Michigan has to play against Syracuse that will possibly be the toughest matchup they will have all season. Syracuse went under some harsh sanctions last year, but they still pulled in a very talented recruiting class that is expected to contribute right away.  

Obviously the B1G always has a great group of teams in the conference, and this year will be no exception. Expect the usual powerhouses (Wisconsin, Michigan State) to continue the success, but I believe the middle of the pack is what really makes this conference special. New comer to the conference Maryland, should be a preseason top 5 team, Purdue and Indiana look to build off of decent seasons last year, and Michigan has future 1st round pick Caris LaVert back from injury. The Wolverines relied a lot on freshman last year, so I expect these players to step up big. Then teams such as Ohio State and Iowa look to rebuild after losing some players to graduation and the NBA. Overall I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw 7-9 teams out of the B1G in the tourney, which would be outrageous, but the conference is as good as they come.

My Notes

  • Close to 15 guaranteed wins.
  • MSU: At home
  • OSU: Down year?
  • Iowa: Young sleeper team in the B1G
  • Wisconsin: End of year game will be a big test heading into postseason play

Players to Watch

#23 Caris LaVert

Easily the most talented player on this team, and one of the top in the conference. He has to return to the level of play he showed his sophomore year when he was a vital part of the B1G championship team. He has to be a leader in all phases of the offensive game (Points, assists, rebounds) if this team wants to reach its full potential.

#24 Aubrey Dawkins

The highly athletic and exciting sophomore will be a force this season in my eyes. He reminds me a little of the NBA star J.R Smith, in the fact he can make crazy dunks, as well as just knock down big shots from behind the arc. He really started to come around at the end of the season, which is when the offense started to click as a whole. I really believe he could make a run at being one of the better wing players in the conference this season.

Predictions

Overall I believe Michigan will have a good season that will be defined by the big games they play. I think if they can take a couple games against the non-conference they will get some needed momentum going into conference play. The B1G can either make or break a team. I expect Michigan to get some big wins in conference play and beat a few of the upper echelon teams. Doing well during the season can help get a favorable spot in the NCAA tournament, which can help you win some games in March.

Overall I think the Wolverines will finish the season with a 20-10 record, and within that record will be some quality wins over ranked teams. I believe the Wolverines will get into the tournament with a 5 or 6 seed, and as we all know about March Madness…anything is possible.

Hype Video

What is your season prediction for Beilein’s boys in 2015-16? Let us know below in the comment section.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Tony Ding