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Roundtable: Turning The Page On Michigan Basketball

Michigan v Oregon Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Nick: Hey, guys. Well, that was a rough way to end the season, there’s no doubt about that. A week out, what are your guys’ thoughts? And when will this loss stop stinging?

Eric: I guess it’s all about expectation. Disappointing ending for sure, and the inability to grab a key rebound has been an issue all year. But we’ve been playing with house money for a while here. This one stings like 10% of the OSU football loss (or even Iowa). In all three football losses (plus Florida State) we just couldn’t close out with a lead in the waning minutes. So it’s more of a cumulative pain. We got a Big Ten Tournament championship at least, and have had a really fun run.

Andrew: “What if’s” can drive you crazy, but I can't stop running this one through my head. This team took off after a plane crash and went on a run we can all appreciate. It hurts to end this way, but bright things are ahead if Wagner and Wilson are back.

Jared: Agree with Eric in that it is nowhere close to the OSU football loss, but it did seem like we were meant for more. They can hold their heads high with what they accomplished this season. Just bummed it’s over like everyone.

Will: A couple things make the final loss especially painful. First, they didn’t play well against Oregon; neither team looked like a Sweet Sixteen program. Then, the Ducks regrouped and outplayed the tournament favorite Kansas, leading me to wonder if the Wolverines were only one Derrick Walton buzzer beater from the Final Four. In the end, though, these guys redeemed their season and grabbed a Big 10 tournament championship. They had a good run.

Nick: Man, this is going to be kind of a sad roundtable, isn’t it. What does next season look like - assuming that Wilson and Wagner come back?

Eric: After that performance against the Ducks, and the way they both looked on defense, let’s assume that they are both back (the one upside of the loss). The real problem is that Beilein's short rotation hasn’t given a lot of PT to the guards coming back. I would have loved to see Simpson get some more reps this year.

But I don’t think anyone in the Big Ten is going to be great next year, so we should at least be able to be competitive. And if they can get some guard play to augment the big guys, it could be a really interesting team.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Oregon vs Michigan Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew: To reiterate what Eric was saying, guard play will be imperative to success next season. I believe that if both come back, Wilson will be a potential Big 10 POY candidate. I highly believe in this kid. We are down at the moment, but the future is bright.

Jared: I agree with everything that’s already been said. I think that shooting guard Jordan Poole could come in and see a lot of minutes early, he looks to have a really high ceiling.

Will: Going off the assumption surrounding Wilson and Wagner, I think Michigan remains competitive for the conference title. With the departure of Walton, Simpson’s play is suddenly critical, and as Eric stated, his playing time has been less than ideal. It will be interesting to see if Wilson emerges as an elite player.

Nick: What happens with the whole “White collar/Blue collar” thing? Is that kind of the mantra for Michigan basketball going forward, or is it more tied to this particular season?

Andrew: I believe it's tied to this season. I loved the mantra and the attitude behind the hard work, but I believe next year will have a different feel. Carrying a mantra over different seasons is difficult because it almost makes the next seasons feel less meaningful. Each season should be its own. Have its own identity (even though I loved this one).

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Tournament-Michigan vs Purdue Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jared: I think that was more of a rallying cry for this year’s team. It was right around when that started you started to see them start to turn a corner and play some really good basketball. Next years team will be completely different and I would expect they would want to build their own identity. Like Andrew said though, this one was a lot of fun.

Will: I’d like it to be an ongoing mantra. Beilein is a great coach, but I feel like his teams lack the grittier guys who aren’t afraid to bang bodies around the hoop. I’d love them to get a throwback post player or two to balance out what often seems like a 40-minute 3-point shootout.

Speaking of throwbacks: In Charles Matthews’ last three seasons - one at St. Rita and then two riding the bench at Kentucky and Michigan - his teams have gone 79-25, and he’s been a ‘glue’ guy in the locker room and on the floor.
The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports

Nick: Alright. I was being serious, though, how do you get this loss to stop stinging? Cuz that Derrick Walton shot would have been iconic.

Andrew: Prayers and brews, my friend. At least we didn't suffer a loss like Wisconsin. I would be in therapy.

Jared: That shot seemed destined to go in. Spring football is a nice distraction, but that one is going to sting for awhile.

Will: I think I feel badly for Walton, above all. The guy flat out plays hard and at points he single-handedly kept Michigan in postseason play. It would have been great to see him seal the Oregon game on a final shot. Off to my brews and prayers, per Andrew’s guidance.

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Thanks to everybody for participating in this week’s roundtable. Have thoughts of your own that you want to include? Continue the roundtable below.

Also, since we were a little lean on emphasizing how totally awesome next year could be - hey, the Oregon game sucked, c’mon - here are some fresh faces to keep in mind.

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A few names to know going forward: F/G Charles Matthews, C Austin Davis, F/G Ibi Watson ... and the freshmen

Looking forward to next year is certainly going to be a lot more exciting, even though Walton and Irvin are moving on. Michigan should be a deeper team, and they’ll have a glut of wing players to sort through.

Charles Matthews is a particularly interesting guy, one who transferred from Kentucky after one season. He’s the kind of gritty defender that some fans have been clamoring for, but he’ll need to work on his offensive touch to be really effective. He’s very solid around the rim, though.

Matthews will be competing with Ibi Watson, among others. Watson struggled mightily his freshman year, going 1-18 from threes and generally hitting a “ceiling” in practice. I’m not really bullish on his shooting motion (if I’m lucky, I could block one of his shots), and that can be a pain to fix. We’ll see how he attacks the off-season.

Another possibility is Jordan Poole, an incoming freshman and stud of the 2017 class. (Prove me wrong, Bamba!) Poole is more of a 2-guard at 6’4”, but he’ll get opportunities to play regardless of how small or large Beilein’s starting unit is. He’s a smooth shooter who’s been nicknamed “Baby Steph.”

Elsewhere, Michigan will need to see improved shooting from Xavier Simpson, who’s quick and comfortable passing the ball more than he is taking over a game. They’ll also have a little more depth at center (knock on wood), with a couple sophomores in Jon Teske and Austin Davis. (Again, prove me wrong, Bamba! Bambaaa!!)

NCAA Basketball: 2K Classic-Marquette vs Michigan
Ibi Watson playing against Marquette
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan’s two other freshman commits - power forward Isaiah Livers and point guard Eli Brooks - might be able to have an impact, too. Brooks, who’s listed at 6’1”, 170 pounds, will probably be Xavier Simpson’s backup right out of the gate. But he’ll be competing with former team manager and walk-on Fred Wright-Jones, who’s a pretty awesome story in his own right.