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2018 Michigan basketball outlook: Veterans and freshmen expected to play big role

With all the hype of the big Penn State and Michigan football game, the start of basketball season is being overlooked.

Florida State v Michigan Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines 2018-19 campaign officially begins next week as they will face the Norfolk State Spartans in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines open up the season as the 19th ranked team in the country after finishing as the runner-ups in the National Championship last season. The team will have quite large shoes to fill after winning their second straight Big Ten Tournament Championship and making it to the national championship. Let’s take a quick look at their path to contending again this season.

The Schedule:

  • Nov. 6-10: Heavy favorites against Norfolk State and Holy Cross at home.
  • Nov. 14: A can’t-miss National Championship rematch against the No. 9 Villanova Wildcats.
  • Nov. 17-18: 2018 Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament against George Washington. They will play either Providence or South Carolina in the second game (championship or consolation game).
  • Nov. 28: ACC/Big Ten Challenge: No. 8 North Carolina at home.
  • Dec. 1: Big Ten schedule begins against No. 24 Purdue.
  • Dec. 4-Feb. 21: 19 games (16 conference opponents) against currently unranked opponents.
  • Feb 24: No. 10 Michigan State at home.
  • March 9: Final game of the season @ No. 10 Michigan State.

The Roster

The team is led by senior forward Charles Matthews, a focal point of the offense last year. After contemplating the NBA Draft, Matthews decided to return to the Wolverines for one more season. He posted an impressive 13/5/2 line last season.

Another veteran leader is Zavier Simpson, who had a terrific regular season for Michigan last year. The Wolverine point guard averaged 7.5/4/3 en route to becoming one of the best point guards in the Big Ten. He seemingly disappeared offensively during the tournament run. He was a turnover machine and posted very few points in the tournament.

Getting his first opportunity to be a consistent starter for Michigan is junior center Jon Teske. He is best known for his defensive abilities and being able to shut down opposing big men. He led the team in blocks last year and will be called upon more often with Mo Wagner gone.

As one of the most highly touted freshman in last years’ class, Isaiah Livers was a huge part of the Wolverines rotation last season. Playing the 4 in the Big Ten is not an easy thing to do, but Livers held his own as a freshman last season. His experience will be called upon as he will be one of two sophomores in the starting lineup. That is, if true freshman Ignas Brazdeikis doesn’t have anything to say about it (spoiler: he does).

The other was the hero against Houston with one of the most memorable shots in the NCAA Tournament: Jordan Poole. There is a ludicrous amount of hype around this kid. He has even been mocked as a mid-second round pick in the 2019 draft despite only putting up six points and one rebound per game.

The sixth man will be yet another sophomore, Eli Brooks. He played in 39 games last season and received a ton of praise from the coaches prior to the season. But his game just didn’t translate to the college level yet as he only averaged two points per game last year.

A trio of talented freshmen will also see valuable playing time this season. Exit Wagner, enter Ignas Brazdeikis, a 6-foot-7 freshman forward from Lithuania. He has already earned the respect of most of the starters on the team and has been compared to Conor McGregor with his swag. He is one that will certainly be fun to watch this season.

The other two freshmen that should receive good playing time are Brandon Johns Jr. and David DeJulius. Johns was the 60th ranked recruit in the class of 2018 and is from East Lansing of all places. DeJulius potentially has the highest ceiling of this class. I’m simply blown away by his shooting and play-making ability as a point guard. He may have the ability to prove himself over Brooks if he starts slow.

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