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Tuesday Morning Brews: Spring Ball on My Mind

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Spring ball is right around the corner, men’s & women’s basketball advance, and women’s gymnastics earns yet another championship

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NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Tuesday, folks. We’ve got a good bit of football news in this morning’s Brews, plus some coverage of softball, women’s basketball, and women’s gymnastic’s second B1G Championship is as many weekends. But first, let’s touch on men’s basketball - which is having some kind of March. MnB has covered their run extensively so I’m not going to include those links in this morning’s Brews. But if you missed anything and want to catch up, I’ll quickly link some of the coverage here so you don’t need to find it on the front page. Here is Von’s recap of the Louisville game and Anthony’s recap of the Oklahoma State game. To commemorate basketball’s run through the B1G Tournament and into the Sweet Sixteen, MnB has partnered with our friends at BreakingT to produce a t-shirt. You can find all the details on how to order HERE.

Let’s hit the links:

With spring ball right around the corner thoughts are turning to the depth chart, and with De’Veon Smith gone the feature RB position is up for grabs. Michigan has plenty of depth in the backfield with Chris Evans, Ty Isaac, Karan Higdon, Kareem Walker, and Drake Johnson (?) all looking to seize greater shares of the carries next year. Josh Hensche at Scout reports ($) that each is well motivated to show what they can do on the field next season. As discussed back in February, the MnB staff likes Chris Evans to see a big jump in playing time and production when fall begins. Also keep an eye on Kareem Walker, O’Maury Samuels, and Kurt Taylor - as they’ll likely see the field as well.

In addition to the RB spot, Michigan’s secondary has plenty of questions to answer during spring ball. The Wolverines will replace almost the entire secondary, as last year’s stars move on to the NFL. Josh Newkirk and Sam Webb recently went in-depth ($) with Michigan’s DBs coach to see what Team 138 will look like outside the box on defense. Mike Zordich specifically highlighted David Long, who has reportedly made great strides since bowl practice. He also mentioned LeVert Hill as someone who has looked great during off-season workouts. Aside from those two, Zordich told Webb that he expects Keith Washington (So.), Brandon Watson (Jr.), and Ambry Thomas (Fr.) to fight for playing time during spring ball.

Redshirt freshman Brandon Peters has earned high praise from the coaching staff, and will enter spring ball looking to push Wilton Speight for the starter’s spot at QB. Though Speight, coming off his first full year as Michigan’s signal caller, is unlikely to take anything for granted. Nick Baumgarder over at MLive reports that Tim Drevno believes Speight’s next step in his development is not physical, but mental. Drevno recently spent time on sports talk radio and said that he expects Speight to become more adept at reading defenses, and exploiting their mistakes. Such a progression will be in the hands of Jim Harbaugh’s new man, Pep Hamilton. Hamilton, who Harbaugh lured from the NFL, will bring a career’s worth of experience developing QBs to bear when the Wolverines hit the field for spring ball.

Women’s gymnastics followed up last week’s regular season B1G Championship with another first-place finish in the B1G Tournament. The championship, the women’s fourth tournament title in a row and 23rd total conference championship, was highlighted by four individual event titles. Head coach Bev Plocki has led the Wolverine’s to 22 of their 23 conference titles, and Michigan has won 22 of the past 26 B1G tournaments. Senior Nicole Artz earned B1G Gymnast of the Year honors, the 11th time a Wolverine has done so. The four individual event chamionships gives Michigan 91 such titles in program history, far and away the most of any B1G program. The closest program to the Wolverines is Minnesota, who has 37. Next for the team is an NCAA Regional meet that will take place on April 1st.

Long-time softball skipper Carol Hutchins earned her 1,500th career win this past weekend, as her team bested Kent State on Friday and twice on Saturday (2-0, 11-3, 3-0). Hutchins, one of the longest tenured coaches in the history of athletics at Michigan with 33 years and counting, has tallied the most wins of any coach in collegiate softball. Prior to this weekend, the Wolverines won two of three at the John Cropp Classic - beating Evansville 11-2, Kent State 5-1, but falling to #19 Kentucky 5-1. Softball is 17-7-1 this year and will return to action this afternoon with a game against Bowling Green. On Wednesday, the Wolverines will host Eastern Michigan and this weekend Penn. State comes to Ann Arbor for the three-game tilt.

Women’s basketball, no doubt eager to show the NCAA selection committee the error of their ways, have won their first two games of the WNIT Tournament this past weekend. The Wolverines topped Kent State by a score of 67-60 on Thursday evening before besting Wright State 71-66 on Saturday. With 23 points against Wright State, sophomore Hallie Thome joined the 1,000 point club for Michigan. She’s just the third Wolverine to reach that mark during their sophomore campaign. Michigan looks to continue its winning ways this coming Thursday when they face St. John’s. If the Wolverines prevail, they’ll face the winner of Penn. State and Virginia Tech. over the weekend.