Offseason storylines: Can Michigan overcome its youth again?

Basketball season is around the corner and over the next several weeks we’ll rundown some of the biggest storylines facing the 2014-15 Michigan Wolverines. In this edition we look at Michigan’s youth and whether the Wolverines will struggle with another young roster.  (Photo: Michigan Basketball)

Michigan is going to have one of the youngest rosters in the Big Ten once again this season. The Wolverines return just two starters from last year’s Big Ten Championship squad and seven of their 12 eligible scholarship players have freshman eligibility. Two freshmen are expected to start and many others will play critical roles. John Beilein could have his youngest roster yet in Ann Arbor despite the fact that the Wolverines have ranked 300th or worse in experience four times in eight years and have never ranked better than 207th.

As a program, the Wolverines are stuck in a constant cycle of youth. Transfers and attrition have played a small part in the equation, but the NBA Draft has been the catalyst. In the last five years, seven Wolverines have opted to enter the NBA Draft before exhausting their eligibility. (Despite having consistently young rosters, Michigan has also graded out favorably in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Ranking metric to track graduation rate.)

John Beilein has managed to build a dominant program in the Big Ten despite constantly recycling his roster. The Wolverines lead the Big Ten with 40 wins over the last three seasons and had the youngest team in the league in 2013 and 2014.

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Offseason storylines: Is Zak Irvin ready to break out?

Michigan 87, Coppin State 45-17
Basketball season is around the corner and over the next several weeks we’ll rundown some of the biggest storylines facing the 2014-15 Michigan Wolverines. In this edition we look at sophomore wing forward Zak Irvin and whether he’s ready to make the leap in John Beilein’s offense.  (Photo: Dustin Johnston)

Zak Irvin only played more than 20 minutes six times as a freshman, but he still had plenty of big games. Irvin knocked down 43 percent of his triples and always seemed to give Michigan an offensive jolt off the bench.

But after an impressive freshman season, the game that best defines Irvin as a player might have been his worst of the season. In Irvin’s sixth college game, he was thrown into the fire after Glenn Robinson III was sidelined in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Championship. He responded by doing what he does best: shooting. Irvin played 26 minutes during the loss, scoring 8 points and going just 3-of-14 from the floor.

“Here’s what I like,” Beilein said after the game. “I like that Zak Irvin didn’t stop shooting even though he couldn’t make a shot. Because he had a huge one for us late and a huge one in the first half.”

It wasn’t just Irvin that had an off day, literally everything went wrong for the Wolverines in Coliseo Roberto Clemente as they played their worst game of the season. The game defined Irvin because it proved his temperament is a shooter, he would always keep shooting. Irvin missed his first eight shots of the game hitting a three with 21 seconds to play in the first half. He continued to struggle with his shot in the second before burying a three with 38 seconds left to give Michigan a chance down the stretch. His confidence never faltered.

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Recruiting Notebook: PJ Dozier visit on deck, new targets

August 3, 2013: adidas Nations as Next Level Sports Complex in Garden Grove, CA.Michigan will host class of 2015 five-star guard PJ Dozier for an official visit this weekend in Ann Arbor. Dozier is ranked 25th nationally by 247Sports Composite and is Michigan’s top target in the class of 2015.

Michigan has had two in-home visits with Dozier, a first visit by Michigan point guard coach LaVall Jordan and a second visit with John Beilein and his assistants. Dozier will also visit North Carolina on October 3rd, Georgetown on October 17th and South Carolina on October 24th.

Dozier appeared to have just four official visits scheduled (Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgetown) after Louisville accepted a commitment from Antonio Blakeney. However, Blakeney announced his decommitment from Louisville which caused the Cardinals to jump back into Dozier’s recruitment. Louisville had in-home visit with Dozier on Wednesday evening and will receive an official visit from Dozier.

Dozier’s father made it clear that his wants to take all of his visits before making a decision.

“He said, ‘Dad, until I go on my visits, that’s the only way I’ll know if it’s a fit for me,'” Dozier Sr. told the Courier Journal. “People can predict all day, but there would be a lot of people winning the lottery if they knew what they were talking about, right?”

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Report: Michigan offers four-star forward Tyler Cook

2876370[1]Michigan extended a scholarship to 6-foot-8 forward Tyler Cook on Wednesday evening.

Cook is the No. 58 player in the class of 2016 according to 247Sports Composite rankings and holds offers from Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Florida, Florida State among others. News of the offer was first reported by Ben Weixlmann.

Cook averaged 5 points and three rebounds per game while playing up a grade with the St. Louis Eagles on Nike’s EYBL Circuit this summer. He averaged 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game during his sophomore season at Chaminade.

Cook is described as a traditional power forward and had a breakout summer highlighted by an impressive 32 point, 11 rebounds performance at Kansas’ summer camp.

Cook to an unofficial visit to Michigan on August 10th and joins Derryck Thornton, Tyus Battle, TJ Leaf, Cassius Winston, Josh Langford, Seth Towns and Quentin Goodin as prospects that hold a Michigan offer. The Wolverines currently hold one commitment in the class, from top-100 big man Jon Teske.

Blue Ribbon picks Michigan to finish fourth in Big Ten

Iowa State 77, Michigan 70-12

Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook has Michigan ranked 23rd overall and fourth in the Big Ten in its inaugural preseason publications, according to a report from MLive’s Brendan Quinn.

Michigan is picked to finish behind Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State in the conference. Junior guard Caris LeVert was selected as an Preseason All-Big Ten player and a second team All-American.

Michigan is faced with mixed preseason expectations this year after entering the last two seasons with a top-ten ranking. This year the Wolverines are widely regarded as a fringe top-25 team and expected to finish somewhere in the upper-half of the Big Ten. The Sporting News and Athlon Sports both picked Michigan fifth in the conference while Lindy’s Sports picked Michigan to finish sixth.

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Big Ten’s Best Cutters & Finishers

Branden Dawson NCAA Basketball Tournament B-fP6YjopRal[1]

Welcome to Big Ten’s Best, a look at some of the Big Ten’s specialists returning for the 2014-15 season. Today we break down the best post-up players in the conference. (Previously: Best Pick-and-Roll Players, Best Post-Up Scorers)  These lists are based on last year’s numbers, but involve some prognostication as well.

Michigan fans are familiar with how important having a great finisher can be. The Wolverines lost two of the best cut and finish players in the Big Ten last season in Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan, but the conference returns plenty of players that finish consistently above the rim and have a knack for finding open space and easy baskets.

1. Branden Dawson (Michigan State)

Percent of Offense: 23.2%
Points Per Cut: 1.41

Cuts to the basket and drop-off passes made up just shy of a quarter of Branden Dawson’s offense in 2013-14 and his combination of strength and athleticism makes him a lethally efficient finisher.  Entering his senior year, Dawson faces many of the questions that Michigan combo forward Glenn Robinson III faced last season. Dawson is 0-of-9 from three-point range in his career and hasn’t shown consistent ability to create offense outside of cuts to the rim and transition dunks. While he won’t be Michigan State’s primary creator (that role is saved for Denzel Valentine), Dawson will have to show a more well-rounded offensive game in 2014-15.


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