Big Ten writers pick Michigan to finish fifth

Michigan 87, Coppin State 45-8

The Big Ten conference won’t release an entire preseason poll at Thursday’s Big Ten Media Day, opting instead to just unveil the league’s top three teams.

However, Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch, completed his annual poll of Big Ten writers (27, up to two per program) for the upcoming season.

The league’s media voted Michigan to finish in fifth place, behind Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska.

The Wolverines won the conference by three games last season, but will be forced to deal with the departures of Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Jordan Morgan, Mitch and Jon Horford this season. Wisconsin is the odds on favorite to win the league, drawing 378 votes, 56 votes ahead of second place Ohio State.

Michigan received 286 votes, just 13 votes behind Nebraska and 60 votes ahead of Minnesota at No. 6. Find the entire conference poll after the jump. (Photo: Dustin Johnston) [click to continue…]

2014-15 Player Preview: Spike Albrecht


With the start of college basketball around the corner, we’re breaking down Michigan’s roster player-by-player. Today, we start with Spike Albrecht. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)

Last summer, Spike Albrecht spent the summer as something of a folk hero. He had exploded onto the national scene with his heroic 17 point performance in the championship game and he had asked Kate Upton out on a date and gained tens of thousands of Twitter followers.

With a freshman point guard coming into the fold, there was some speculation that Albrecht could push to start during his sophomore year. Instead, Derrick Walton won the job fair and square, as many expected. While Albrecht played more minutes as a sophomore, his role was still very similar to his freshman year. He came off the bench, ran the offense effectively and shot more than his fair share of threes.

Albrecht only reached double figures in one game, but he still had his moments, particularly the Iowa game where he got the start and led Michigan to a win in Walton’s absence. Now a junior, Albrecht is Michigan’s oldest player and ready to take on a significant leadership responsibility.

“Spike Albrecht at every point was the voice of the team,” Michigan assistant coach Jeff Meyer said in recollecting Michigan’s Italian tour. “He just took it upon himself. Certainly Caris, Zak and Derrick are right there. It certainly is a Mt. Rushmore in terms of this group moving forward with the leadership pieces.”

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New-look Michigan roster is one of Beilein’s ‘most versatile’

Michigan 84, Illinois 53-27
Dustin Johnston

Three years ago, Michigan won the Big Ten with a starting lineup that measured 6-1, 6-3, 6-5, 6-4 and 6-8. The Wolverines were one of the smallest teams in the country and while they certainly rebounded like it, they also found a way to win.

Since then, John Beilein has been forced to overhaul his roster almost every season. The only players from that roster still playing college basketball are doing so at other schools. In its place is perhaps Beilein’s best combination of length and versatility yet. The Wolverines can now lean on a starting lineup that measures: 6-1, 6-7, 6-6, 6-8 and 6-9.

For all of the questions about Michigan’s youth and inexperience this season, there’s a lot to like about the roster that John Beilein has constructed. It’s tough to say how they’ll all fit together, but it’s clear that there’s a very flexible group for Beilein to develop.

“We have guards, we have forwards and we have a guy that plays in the middle. Sometimes we will have four guys out there at one time that are guards,” Beilein said. “Because of Kam’s ball-handling ability, I think he can play a lot of positions. This may be one of our more versatile teams.”

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Notebook: Michigan assistants encouraged by early progress

14555633-mmmain[1]When Michigan’s coaches spoke to the team’s centers about expectations for the upcoming season, one of them wasn’t particularly impressed.

Ricky Doyle, being a true freshman, said ‘Coach, that seems like a low expectation,’ ” assistant Bacari Alexander recalled on WTKA-AM (1050) on Wednesday morning.

Alexander had told the trio of Doyle, redshirt freshman Mark Donnal, and senior Max Bielfeldt that he hoped they’d combine for 15 points and 15 rebounds per game this year.

“There’s an ability to have an inside-out approach that allows them the ability to really be a threat from 15-17 feet,” Alexander said. “Because they’re young, we can grow that range over time to make those guys remind us of some of Beilein’s previous teams, when he had really deadly big men who could shoot.”

Much of that production will likely come the duo Alexander called “thunder and lightning”: Doyle and Donnal. And in contrast to Jordan Morgan’s dependance on the pick-and-roll, the Wolverines will have more versatility at the position this year.

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Zak Irvin capable of "same strides" as Caris LeVert

Michigan 77, Purdue 76-11
Dustin Johnston

The name is Camp Sanderson, and the results are unquestionable.

Spend a summer with Michigan strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson, and you’ll reap the benefits throughout the upcoming season.

Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert did it last summer. Trey Burke made the leap before his sophomore season.

Spend a summer in Camp Sanderson, and you’ll improve your vertical jump, or your sprint speed. You’ll certainly enter fall practices a much stronger player.

So don’t be surprised if forward Zak Irvin makes a similar progression to Stauskas, LeVert or Burke this winter. Actually, be surprised if he doesn’t.

Since choosing to spend the summer months training with Sanderson in Ann Arbor, Irvin has added 15 pounds of muscle and five inches to his vertical leap, putting him in line for a breakout year.

“We all had the choice and opportunity to stay here, and I thought it would be best for me in terms of my development as a basketball player, whether that be agility drills or being in the weight room,” Irvin said Tuesday. “When we’re in the weight room, there are no days off and no slacking. We’re giving it 110% every time we are in there.

“I don’t want to be one-dimensional like I was last year, being just a shooter. I want to be able to shoot the ball from the outside and score easy baskets as well.”

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Video: Caris LeVert NBA Scouting Report

Mike Schmitz of Draft Express compiles some of the best video scouting reports in the business on a consistent basis. Schmitz put together a 12 minute breakdown of Michigan junior Caris LeVert, profiling how his game translates to the NBA level. Draft Express ranked LeVert as the No. 2 NBA prospect in the Big Ten and has him projected at No. 18 in the 2015 NBA Draft.

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