Respect and Expectations

Dylan Burkhardt

Of course every media outlet has to put out their pre-pre-season rankings before NBA draft news is even official. The ritual is a little bit foolish but it provides something to talk about. Michigan has received some love and it seems the Big Ten is getting some respect as well.

Here are a couple of highlights:

Andy Katz:

11. Michigan: John Beilein has made the Wolverines relevant again. He got the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament and won a game. Expect even more from Michigan with a true Michigan State-Michigan rivalry in hoops. These should be the two top teams in the league. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims might flirt with the NBA draft, but both are unlikely to stay in it. If they return with sharp-shooting guard Stu Douglass and quickly developing players Zack Novak and Laval Lucas-Perry, the Wolverines will be a good watch.

Jeff Goodman:

23. The Wolverines went to the second round of the Big Dance and didn’t really lose anything of note. Harris, Sims and Douglas are back, Lucas-Perry will improve and John Beilein will add point guard Darius Morris and big-time shooter Matt Vogrich.

Others: Rivals (18),  Parrish (22), NBC Sports (23), Ted Keith (“under the radar team to watch“)

Michigan is getting some love but MSU, Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio State all make appearances on the various preseason rankings. There is no doubt that the conference is going to be deep and tough again this year.

The downside to all of the preseason love is that it comes with the weight of expectations. I think that expectations will have a huge effect on this team, especially early in the year after losing both senior captains. The fact that over 1000 student tickets have already been sold just emphasizes just how dramatically expectations have shifted.

I’m pretty sure that Andy Katz’ number 11 ranking is a little overzealous, but then again I guess his list can help cancel out a list that doesn’t include Michigan. I think a fair preseason ranking for Michigan falls somewhere in the 15-25 range.

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  • emmekel

    Damn, it’s nice to be relevant again. Now we just have to take of sparty next year which will not be easy. Go Blue!!

  • gpsimms

    what’s tough here is the fact that michigan can take a huge step forward, be much improved, and STILL be on the bubble come tournament time.

    think about it, the top 1/2 of the big ten (except wisconsin/osu) take just as big a step forward as we do. IU takes a huge step forward, iowa becomes the new IU. We are going to be clawing through the big ten just like we did this year…

    on top of that, say we are 1000 times better this year than last, exactly how do we have a BETTER non-conference performance than we did this year? I think this year’s team got a little lucky in non-conference, but still I don’t see us beating duke and UCLA or anything equivalent to that even in a good year.

    expectations could really hurt this team when they are, in fact, much improved but still on the bubble.

  • Dave

    i feel the experts or whoever said pressure might get to this team is completely wrong. there isnt going to be pressure on these guys at all…….maybe on a certain player or 2, and thats a debatebul maybe but as a team they know what they can do and they know what they have to do…….i will give beilein credit for being able to prepare kids and get them focused…….michigan come next season is going to be a very dangerous and exciting team to watch. they will be hungary without a doubt………its weird to think this but we will have players with plenty of experience, at least in big ten play and things of that nature……….all these kids know what it takes to win……….they will turn heads and represent michigan well……..end of story


    agreed Dylan….agreed. That is one thing youbcan count on is that JB does a masterfull job of preparing his kids mentally. That’s the reason we were able to have such a great non confrence. Most other programs and coaches with our roster and youth would have had serious meltdowns in games like that. But not JB’s team. He has the uncanny ability to slow the game down for these kids and a lot of times it doesn’t matter if they are a true freshman, or a 5 year senior. Expect little change in the mental toughness department next year.


    I’m sorry I meant I agreed with Dave. My apologies.

  • gpsimms

    pretty awesome interview on wtka of the scout guy…

  • I’m not trying to question Beilein’s ability to get them ready. Just pointing out that expectations most likely will be an issue at some point next year. Pre-season rankings next year don’t matter — clean slate for better or worse.

  • Kenny

    to be fair, 20-25 is where we belong.

    but I won’t be surprised to see a decent run in the tournament next year.

  • Tom Too

    I pretty much have not feelings about the pre-season rankings because they don’t mean anything…nice to get the love, but that is about it. I would love to see a tough pre-B10 schedule and get this team ready for March 2010. No cupcakes. Let’s get beat up a little bit and get some character like this year. I think the UCONN game helped a ton, as did the loss to Duke. I think we are playing in the Old Spice Tourney, which is Nice.

  • Erik

    I’m not sure I agree with katz’ assessment that they don’t really lose much.

    UofM just lost three point guards. Yes, it was two walk-on’s and a much maligned bench player. BUT I don’t think you can quantify the leadership, intangibles, and chemistry those guys brought. I also think it’s going to take Morris at least a full year before he really gets this offense. I expect him to be more along LLP’s learning curve than Zach Novak’s for example.

    Overall, I think the ceiling is much higher next year, but I think there will also be more potential “downs”.

    I hate to be a pessimist but I just really value those role players who contribute in the locker room and outside of the stats. I think a lot of people are underestimating what Lee and Merritt did and just assume Morris will be able to fulfill those things from day 1.

  • Dave

    losing guys and locker room guys sucks but there is many guys that have many games under there belts……….they know what is takes to win they know what it takes to lead…….its manny and deshawns turn to step up and be leaders here……..everthing is going to come together nicely

  • Dave

    both on the court and off………it will get done

  • Dave

    and they are going to feel some pressure next year, and its going to be blamed on these “expectations” but it in fact has nothing to do with that……i have said this many times already, michigan will lose stupid games because they are going to rely on 3s to much and there are going to be nights in which they have off nights shooting and nobody will be able to create a shot of themselves……this is my prediction anyways……..hopefully this is stuff that beilein is addressing over the summer…….to say the expectations will get them, i dont think thats the case, but until beilein can get get athletic creaters who can shoot the 3 as well then michigan will always have stretches in which they look bad in my opinion……but hopefully those were problems of the past and im just speculating so dont jump all over me for saying this stuff, but anybody that watched their games this year and see that this could potentially be a problem

  • UMDC

    Every team has stretches where they look bad, Dave. It’s the good teams that can limit them and over come them when they happen.

    I assume that when everyone uses the term “athletic” they are referring to a guy who can create his own offense. I don’t particularly like the term because I don’t think it really describes what people mean. There are plenty of great athletes in this world that cannot (or would not be able to) create their own offense on a basketball court.

    Or maybe I’m wrong. Is this what people mean when they say we need “athletes?”

  • Brent Petway was a great athlete.

  • Ken

    I expect the team to be much better. I liked the little I saw of Cronin last year and hope he can stay healthy. Vogrich and Morris from everything I’ve read and heard, seem like players who will be able to contribute right away.
    Based on what Belien has done it is reasonable to think everyone who returns will be improved, to me that is Belien’s biggest asset as a coach. HIS PLAYERS GET BETTER.

  • Dave

    when i say athletic i mean guys that can do it all and have the look and the movement as if they can play or at least more potential…… disrespect to certain michigan players, but more than one person on the team is less than athletic to say the least

    the more athletic you are the more potential and ability you have………unathletic people can only go so far, why is this so hard to understand

    brent petway would have been tremendous with a different college coahc……named defense player of the year in the d league

    the overall point im making is that we cant rely on 3s and manny is the only player capable of doing anything else on a consistent basis, with the exception of deshawn

    also……….lets look at michigan state and north carolina…..teams with great athletes ….i cant remember, what did they do this year

  • Dave

    athleticism enables people to do more on both sides of the ball simple as that

  • jmblue

    Certainly Big Ten will be tough next year. But other than Indiana, I don’t know if any team in the conference will address its personnel issues like we will. Lack of size was our Achilles’ heel this year. Teams scored lots of points just by lobbing it in over Novak’s head. That should change next season. Even if Cronin, Morgan and McLimans aren’t anything special, they should give us just enough off the bench to allow us to play Sims and Gibson at the same time more often, which should help us match up much better against big teams like OSU, Wisconsin and Illinois. And at the same time, we’ll still be able to go small when we want. I think we’re going to be very tough to beat at Crisler (the surge in student-ticket sales is a big help), and we’ll end up finishing a couple of games higher in the standings.

  • Kenny

    Any words on Merritt and CJ Lee’s plan for the next year. i love to see both back as graduate assistants.

  • Paul

    It will be fun to see Indiana and Iowa get better. Make it special went Michigan cleans their clocks. Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State fighting for a top spot with our Wolverines. I love it.

  • Brick

    How will we see Iowa get better? Half the team is transferring. They might be worse than Indiana next year.

  • Tom Too

    I hope Crean and IU stink next year. That guy is a real jerk.

  • Sheryl

    Kenny-Merritt is starting a company in Ann Arbor. He says that in his video interview on MGoBlue from March 4th.

  • AG2

    My projected Big Ten for next season:

    1. MSU
    2. Purdue
    3/4/5 Michigan/Illinois/Minnesota (no particular order)
    6/7/8 OSU/Wisconsin/Indiana
    9/10 Penn State/Northwestern
    11. Iowa

  • Romeowolv

    flip flop northwestern and penn state.

    i also think its really 3/4/5/6 between us, ILL, Minny, and OSU in any order.

    big ten is a beast next year.


    Dave; having athletes is a definite need, but its good that we have guys like esmo, blake, and stu…novak….ect. Balance is always the key!

  • Jay

    Anybody know the differnece between Duke and North Carolina? its called ATHLETICISM!! outside of Gerald Henderson who didnt get the handcuffs removed until midseason Duke has absolutely no athleticism. Singler has become a spot up shooter, and Nolan Smith looks like hes lost most of the time.

    Dont sleep on the underacheiving Buckeyes, they have another stacked class of highly ranked players.

  • UMDC

    I’m going to be so pissed off if JB only builds us up to be as good as Duke!

  • raiderfan

    UMDC- are you kidding me? I would love to be as good as Duke. What are you expecting man?

  • Jay

    Nobody would complain about being Duke, it was just a an example of two teams that are extremely good and one hasnt gotten over the hump since the lost of that type of player. You know like the 01 team with players like Battier, Jones, J Will, Duhon, Boozer..or the team before that with Maggette,Brand, Avery,James..athleticsm UMDC

  • UMDC

    Were Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley athletic? Or was it just Grant Hill?

  • UMDC

    I don’t really want to argue because I want the best players UM can get, as you do Jay.

    It’s just that I don’t like the term “athletic” the way it is often used. It seems to play into the bogus stereotypes of African American players as natural, gifted, athletes while white players are scrappy, smart, hardworkers. This is (usually) unconsciously perpetuated by the talking heads on tv.

    I think in terms of athletic ability Manny Harris and Zack Novak are probably equal. You can’t tell me that if you’re playing any sport that those two guys wouldn’t be great at it, from ping pong, to football, to water polo, to basketball, to soccer, to hockey. In gym class those two guys are going to be picked first!


    umdc: I think you need a certain level of athletic ability to have an elite level of success. Athletic ability is simply having an elevated ability in jumping, running, lateral movment…ect. I’m not saying we should emulate bob huggins by any means, but we do need a certain amount of kids on this team with that afore mentioned ability. You cant tell me that a guy like novak has the same level of athletic ability as say deshawn sims. If we have a team full of either one of them we would suck. The fact of the matter is we need both to be successfull. But if we have any hopes of possibly going to a final four I feel like we need just a bit more athletic ability. Its all about balance, balance, balance. We are getting there.

  • Dave

    i hope that comparing manny to zachs athletic ability was a type o ……..zach is probably the worst athlete on the team besides maybe wright……….not trying to disrespect these kids, but to say that manny and zach are equal is the literally the craziest thing ive ever heard

    when you look at somebody you can instantly tell if they are athletic. athletic meaning fast, quick, can move well in all directions…… can tell when somebody is athletic and when somebody is not, and novak is a work in progress

  • Dave

    and i didnt read the post above mine until after the submission so basically i just repeated everything whatup just said feel free to remove both posts once this is seen

  • KJay

    We should be ranked pre-season 12-20, meaning a possible Sweet 16 type team. We’ve got 2 studs in DeShawn and Manny, and have Morris, Vogrich, Cronin, Morgan, Akunne and McLimans coming in to replace Lee, Merritt, Grady and Shepherd. If Douglass and Novak were able to contribute as much as they did as true frosh, shouldn’t be a stretch to expect at least a couple out of that 6 player group to provide as much or more than what those 2 did this year. LLP will be much better next year, this was a tough transition year and he probably spent too much time thinking about how to best fit in due to his mid-year insertion.

    Anyway, amazing to think how quickly Coach Beilein has turned this thing around. High expectations are a good thing, especially for recruiting.

  • Jay

    How athletic was Laetner and Bobby Hurley when they played those Rebels? There are different levels of athleticism UMDC, for u to ignore that issue because of color lines is absurd. Just like Blake Griffin compared to Deshawn Simms is a next level athlete. YES umdc they were athletic, but maybe your forgetting Dukes mix of players with THomas Hill, Grant Hill, and Brian Davis? Slashers, guys that can create there own shot. When the offense is stagnant a guy that can improvize..i cant say it any better WHATAP, all im asking for is balance which the new Duke lacks

  • AG2

    Rather than athletes, I prefer guys who are scorers. Guys who when the play breaks down can find a way to score, either by creating a shot or taking it to the rim. Granted, most guys who are scorers are also athletic, but not all athletes are scorers.

    As much as my better judgment wants to temper my expectations for next season, I see almost every team in the other major conferences getting decimated by early entry, while we are only getting better.

    Oh, and Jay, OSU does have a dynamite recruiting class…in 2010. Next year all they have coming in is a JUCO transfer.


    good point ag2. You are right when you say not all athletes are scorers. But I would think JB wouldn’t bring in guys that are too one dimensional. I would like to also say that in regards to some of our players, I don’t want to underestimate, or undermine what some of our guys bring to the table. A guy like Novak was, is, and will be crucial in our continued success. A guy like novak might not be a flashy or smooth athlete, but it goes without question that he is a critical ingredient.

    All I’m getting at is that I would like to see a well balanced, versitale team. I do not want to end up like Wisconsin! I hate to compare programs. However I’m pumped to watch JB blaze our own UM trail. But just always think balance.

  • Jay

    U are correct AG2, my bad on that one I was expecting them this coming year

  • Bluebufoon

    Duke basketball has fallen off because they don’t have a low-post threat to complement their outside presents. Folks that are criticizing Michigan’s lack of athleticism are way to pre-mature.
    Beilein’s rosters these last two years have been like playing with
    half a deck. Next year Blake McLimans and Jordan Morgan and Ben Cronin if healthy will give U-M needed muscle to bang on the boards and balance out our lack of size on this roster. Athletically Morgan and McLimans are above average players who can hold their own at this level.

  • michael

    Dave–compare your definition of ATHLETIC:

    “when you look at somebody you can instantly tell if they are athletic. athletic meaning fast, quick, can move well in all directions…… can tell when somebody is athletic and when somebody is not, and novak is a work in progress”

    With the dictionary definition of ATHLETIC:

    1. physically active and strong; good at athletics or sports: an athletic child.
    2. of, like, or befitting an athlete.
    3. of or pertaining to athletes; involving the use of physical skills or capabilities, as strength, agility, or stamina: athletic sports; athletic training.
    4. for athletics: an athletic field.
    5. Psychology. (of a physical type) having a sturdy build or well-proportioned body structure. Compare asthenic (def. 2), pyknic (def. 1).


    bluebufoon: you could be very right in your statement about the comments made about UM lacking athletes is premature. I hope you are right and JB does a great job with the newcomers, and returnees. All in all I am very excited for this up coming season.

  • Dave

    yeah its exactly the point im trying to make…….certain people on michigan dont have agility, the capabilities or physical skills ….they have 1 skill and that is not enough to be considered athletic

    you can say what you want…….you can look at somebody and watch somebody and say wow this kid has great athletic ability or wow this kid does not………its not hard to see who is athletic and who is not…….the dictionary

  • AG2

    Joe Lunardi’s pre-season bracketology for next year is out. He must have made a conscious effort to release it before the early entry deadline, just so he can hold on to the idea for that little bit longer that the Big Ten won’t be the #1 Conference next season.

  • Mark in DC

    I have to put Purdue at the top of the league next year. I know MSU just got to the NCAA finals, but we will miss Suton and Walton more than I think the “experts” realize. Their defense will be hard to replace, as will Suton’s scoring punch. We are losing two starters – Purdue brings everyone back, and with a healthy Hummel plus JaJuan Johnson and a decent supporting cast that plays excellent D, I like their chances.

    Looking at who comes back in the Big Ten, this coming year we should be very strong – all our best players, judging by the All Big 10 team, were sophmores or freshmen this year. The league as a whole is losing little in the way of senior talent. We should be deep, skilled, and well coached as a league. I don’t think there will be much talk of the Big Ten being “down” next year. Maybe we can win the BT-ACC challenge for once.

  • rlc

    Jevohn Shepard has been the most athletic player on the team since Brent Petway graduated. Athleticism without basketball skills is of limited use in any system, but particularly so in Beilein’s.
    Would he prefer to have skilled athletes? Let me check, how many games did Manny Harris start last season? It’s clear, though, that when he has to choose between skills and athleticism, he will recruit the guys with skills.

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