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Zavier Simpson describes Beilein’s departure as ‘nerve-wracking’

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Simpson spoke out on Andy Katz’s podcast.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Montana vs Michigan Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Former Michigan Wolverines point guard Zavier Simpson joined college basketball reporter Andy Katz on the “March Madness 365” podcast for Katz’s senior showcase series to discuss several aspects during his time at Michigan.

The Wolverines weren’t really in Simpson’s head space in his final year of high school. In fact, he had already cut his list to four prior to Michigan even reaching out to the former four-star prospect. Miami, Wisconsin, Iowa State and Illinois were all anticipating Simpson’s commitment. Then came John Beilein and the Wolverines.

“(Michigan) came on a little late,” Simpson explained. “I took an unofficial visit, and then it was clear that it was the best opportunity for me as a basketball player and a person. From the first time I met Beilein, I knew it would be something special.”

Beilein and Simpson built a very solid relationship through the point guard’s first three seasons in Ann Arbor. But Beilein made the shocking announcement he agreed to become the next head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, which came after Simpson’s junior season. The news rocked the basketball program, and especially Simpson.

“It was pretty rough, honestly, because it was my senior season and John Beilein and myself had built up a strong relationship,” he said. “It was the first time I had found out that this was a business...I wasn’t mad at coach Beilein, but it was kind of scary because I was going into my senior year not knowing who was going to be my head coach.”

It was pretty clear Juwan Howard had to rely on his senior leadership in his first season as head coach, and he found just that in Simpson. However, the transition may not have been as easy as it seemed with the Wolverines 7-0 start to the 2019-20 campaign, as Simpson said it “took a lot,” and that he “knew it was going to be tough with the transition from a playbook (perspective) and with (Howard’s) new habits, but at the end of the day, it was just something we had to prepare for, and it all worked out.”

The mindset was captured by the entire team as they raced from unranked to No. 4 in the country while starting off the season undefeated and winning the Battle for Atlantis. While there was a bit of drop off in Big Ten play due to injuries and a stacked schedule, the team was posed for an NCAA Tournament run before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The end of his collegiate career would not define it’s entirety, though. Simpson would end his career at Michigan as a two-time Big Ten Tournament champion (in three appearances). He was also a part of the 2018 National Championship runner-up team. Individually, he also became only the fourth player ever at Michigan to surpass 500 career assists, and he also crossed the 1,000-point threshold in his senior season.

These things will stick around with Simpson, who will be remembered as one of the best point guards in the program’s history. He told Katz, “College basketball means a lot. It defines who you are. Me playing four years, I have learned a lot on and off the court as a man, maturing into a young adult. I’m blessed to be where I am. Overall it was a tremendous experience.”

Athlon Sports releases early NCAAF Top 25 rankings

Athlon Sports thinks relatively highly of the Wolverines this upcoming season, as they have them starting off the year as the No. 15 team in the country. Worried about the Wolverines’ tough road schedule and lack of clarity at the quarterback position, writer Steven Lassan likes some of the returning starters on both sides of the ball.

Several other Big Ten teams fall into his rankings with Iowa coming in at No. 25, Minnesota being ranked at No. 20, Wisconsin placed at No. 12, and Ohio State at No. 3. Like most rankings at this point, Clemson and Alabama are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

National Brews:

  • Former Bulls Forward Horace Grant sounded off on ESPN Radio about the legitimacy of The Last Dance documentary and called Michael Jordan a “snitch” in the process.
  • Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN the conference needs to be “up and running” by mid-July for the college football season to start on time.