Through the first two games of the Michigan basketball season, it hasn't exactly been the results many people may have expected, yet why wouldn't they be?
While this team does return experience to its roster, many of them are playing new roles with higher expectations. So far, some of those wrinkles that still need to be ironed out have been making showing progress.
So following Michigan’s 72-65 win over Central Michigan this past Monday night, here are some observations to look for more growth in as the Wolverines take the court at Crisler Center at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16, against Southern Miss.
Simpson looks to take over
A lot of the talk in the offseason for Michigan was how they are going to replace a point guard like Derrick Walton Jr. who was a staple to the Wolverines starting lineup for so long, especially after how he ended last season.
Transfer guard Jaaron Simmons was the player most people expected to take on the starting job, due to his experience in the MAC with Ohio.
No one could see what was going on behind closed doors though, and Zavier Simpson has clearly made enough noise to earn a starting job.
The sophomore had a career-high 13 points against CMU, topping his previous high of seven. Simpson was nearly perfect, missing just one triple (2-for-3) and one 2-point field goal (3-for-4).
“Another good day for Zavier,” U-M head coach John Beilein said. “He is gradually getting better and feeling more comfortable.”
Abdur-Rahkman takes charge
If you watched Michigan versus North Florida and then against Central Michigan, you would see two different players.
The first Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman went 1-for-5 from the floor and finished with three points in 33 minutes of action against the Ospreys. Against the Chippewas, however, he was a different player.
Abdur-Rahkman was challenged by Beilein to “set the temperature” and he responded with 17 points and four assists. He slashed to the lane when his team needed a bucket and knocked down needed 3-pointers.
“We wanted him to go out there and set the temperature today and go out there and show everybody how hard we have to play,” Beilein said.
Teske taking on a new role
While the 7-foot-1 forward Jon Teske may have only played in 10 minutes on Monday, the Wolverines went on a 12-5 run late in the first half when Moritz Wagner had to step off the floor due to foul trouble and Teske was there to provide a presence in the post.
Confidence was the clear issue for the sophomore a season ago in his first year with the Wolverines, but after making all four of his free throws on Monday, there is a new look of confidence in Teske when he’s on the floor as Beilein said it’s the best he’s ever played.
“He had a couple of days in practice where he was just out there,” Beilein said. “He’s got to play with that type of intensity.”
Previewing Southern Miss.
Before Michigan heads into the Maui Invitational, they have one final test to slide by in USM.
Doc Saddler’s Golden Eagles has not reached double digit wins over the past three seasons and only have 10 scholarship players this season due to previous NCAA scholarship reductions.
This will be USM’s first Division I game this season after topping Southern New Orleans in their opener by a final score of 79-69.
A player to watch for with USM is junior guard Tyree Griffin who transferred from Oklahoma State. He had a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds while adding five assists against Southern New Orleans. Two other names to watch will be Cortez Edwards and Kevin Holland who both averaged just over 30 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Keys to the game
Don’t allow second chances: USM was overall the worst offensive team in the Conference USA and in the country in 2016-17. They were 300th or worse in field goal percentage (45 percent), offensive rebounding (22.3 percent) and free throw rate (29.3 percent). With bad numbers on the offensive glass and as an overall offense, Michigan can’t allow the Golden Eagles to have second chances.
Simpson vs Griffin: Reverting to what was talked about earlier, Simpson has been asserting himself as the starting point guard. Tonight, he will be tested by Griffin who has played a pair of seasons in Division I basketball. If there is one matchup to keep your eye on tonight, this would be it.
Knocking down triples: Wagner and Duncan Robinson went a combined 3-for-13 from deep as the Wolverines as a team went 10-for-34 from 3-point distance. That shouldn't be a common occurrence for a team with as many shooters as Michigan has all season and if there was any game to change there luck, it would be against USM who has struggled to defend it.