How Important is Week One for Michigan?

For the second season in a row, Michigan will open up their regular season with what will be a top 25 match-up.

Two major criticisms that head coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan have been dealing with are losing rivalry games, and losing to ranked opponents on the road. September 1st will present a golden opportunity to take down both a rival and a ranked team on the road for the first time since the 2006 season.

Michigan and Notre Dame both will be ranked, possible that both end up in the top ten to start the season. College Gameday will likely consider South Bend for their week one destination. This is a game of early season national relevance and will be played in prime time.

When you’re Michigan, coming off a three game losing skid from the 2017-18 season, is this really a must-win game? The obvious answer is a resounding yes, in college football every game matters. But what are the consequences of maybe losing this game?

  • 0-1 to start the season
  • Harbaugh 1-6 against rivals at Michigan
  • Likely fall out of the top ten rankings
  • Harbaugh hot seat???

It is very possible to lose in week one and still meet your team goals come November. The CFB playoff committee is usually willing to forgive an early September loss to a potentially solid team in Notre Dame given that they bounce back in domineering fashion.

Later in the season, they’ll have plentiful chances to gain national attention with trips to East Lansing and Columbus, along with hosting both Penn State and Wisconsin.

But can this Michigan team mentally handle the adversity and the criticism that will come with yet another loss to a rival? They’ve spent this entire off-season listening to critics who absolutely trash their team and make a mockery of their coach. It’s safe to assume that this team is desperately looking forward to September 1st to silence their doubters.

Following the trip to South Bend, there are just two weeks of games that should be decided before halftime against Western Michigan and SMU. They’ll dive into conference play on the fourth Saturday of September against a highly motivated, Scott Frost coached Nebraska team in the Big House.

Much like Michigan, Notre Dame is a defensive-minded team with question marks on offense. QB Shea Patterson could kick off his Heisman trophy campaign with a solid day that results in a win for the Wolverines against a quality team. A loss that features sloppy quarterback play could cause headaches for fans, and a blow to the team’s confidence.

The three game losing skid from a season ago that I’d mentioned earlier consisted of losses to Wisconsin, Ohio State, and South Carolina. All three losses stung in a unique way, two of which can be pinned on poor quarterback play. The bottom line is that there is still a very sour taste in the mouths of the fans, the players, the coaches, and the program overall

This is most definitely a must-win game, a revenge game (from losing 31-0 to Notre Dame in 2014), and a statement game. Michigan needs a confidence boost, they need a signature win. There is a lot to prove on the field for Harbaugh’s fourth Michigan team, and it all starts with a big game in South Bend, Indiana on September 1st.

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Right Decision for Charles Matthews

Charles Matthews decided to return to school for his redshirt junior season at the University of Michigan on Wednesday. This, in my opinion, was the best choice he could’ve made for himself.

Don’t get me wrong, Matthews had a solid season with the Wolverines in 2017-18. But I don’t think he was ready to make the jump to the pros. Neither did the NBA or pro scouts as he wasn’t invited to the NBA Combine held a couple of weeks ago. He was projected to go undrafted in most mock drafts and was a late second round choice, at best, in some mocks.

First off, I think it was a wise choice for Matthews to return because he needs more seasoning along with more than just one solid season of college hoops to solidify himself as an NBA draft prospect.

Matthews started off his college career as a highly touted recruit out of Chicago as a lengthy, athletic swing-man. He chose the Kentucky Wildcats as his first team and averaged 1.7 points per game in just over 10 minutes a game as a freshman for John Calipari’s squad. After his first year, he decided to transfer to U of M and sat out the 2016-2017 season.

In his first season for John Beilein and the Wolverines, Matthews showed why he was the 42nd best recruit by ESPN in the class of 2015. He averaged 13 PPG, 5.5 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game and shot 49.5% from the field in 2017-18. He was second on the team in points and rebounds behind Moe Wagner (who could be a late first round, early second round draft selection in this years draft) and second in minutes played behind Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

He also was crucial to Michigan’s run to the championship game in the NCAA tournament. He bested some season averages in the tourney by averaging 14.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG and shooting over 50% from the field.

But for all the positives Matthews had, there was a negative to accompany it.

His shooting (although he had a solid field goal percentage) was horrendous. He shot 31.8% from behind the 3-point line in the regular season and 55.8% from the free throw line. Those percentages actually got worse during the NCAA tournament as he shot 21% (4-19) from behind the line and 54.2% (13-24) from the charity stripe. Those are numbers that would not bode well in today’s NBA for a 6’6 shooting guard/small forward.

He is also not the best passer or decision maker out there and doesn’t have the best court vision. He only averaged 2.4 APG during the regular season and had only 7 assists in 6 games in the tournament. Another year of college basketball could allow him to hone this skill before he goes pro.

While most top end players are “one and dones” in today’s world of college basketball, that was just not in the cards for Matthews. After barely playing for Calipari as a freshman at Kentucky, he transferred to Ann Arbor to get more playing time and hone/improve his skills, and he did just that.

He had solid stats during his first year as a Wolverine and with Wagner leaving for the NBA and the graduation of seniors Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson, I believe this could be Matthews’ team next season. He, along with Zavier Simpson, should be the leaders for this U of M squad for 2018-19.

Those two, along with the development of young players like Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers, and a strong incoming recruiting class, that includes 4 star forward Ignas Brazdeikis out of Canada, could lead this Michigan team to heights they haven’t seen since 1989 when they last won a national championship.

Returning to school for Matthews allows him another year to grow both mentally and physically. While he stands 6’6, he only weighs around 200 pounds. Another year of college will allow him to get stronger and be able to bang with bigger bodies that come with playing in the NBA.

It will also allow him to try to improve his shooting stroke. He has no problem getting to the rim and scoring, but he also needs to develop a mid-range and outside shooting touch if he wants to make it at the next level. And while getting to the rim is nice, converting and-one’s after a foul is even nicer.

I believe, in the long run, Matthews will appreciate his decision to return to the maize and blue. Coach Beilein is a fantastic coach and will do all in his power to help him reach his ultimate potential, not only as a player but as a person as well. I think after another solid campaign in college, Matthews could become a late first rounder/early second rounder if he progresses well enough over the course of next season.

So overall, I think it was probably an easy choice for Matthews to make. While it may be his dream to one day play in the NBA, I think he realized that this year was not for him. It’s a stacked draft and he has many weaknesses that he can improve on with another year of college hoops. He was a good player this year but I think can become a great player next year.

Welcome back and good luck, Charles.

 

Michigan Championship Game Preview and Prediction

March has come and gone and, in the blink of an eye, we’re now in April. The NCAA Men’s championship game is here and the matchup is set.

The game features a 1-seed in Villanova that many picked to get here and many chose to win it all. Their opponent is the 3-seeded Michigan Wolverines, who once sat at 19-7 after a loss to Northwestern in early February.

But that was their most recent loss, U of M is arguably the hottest team in college hoops at the moment. They are on a 14 game winning streak and that has led them to a Big 10 tournament championship and their spot in the championship game tonight. But it will be a mighty tough task if they want to keep that streak alive.

While Michigan might be the hottest team in the country, the team they are facing just may be the best squad in the nation. Villanova is on a ten game winning streak of their own and have annihilated their competition in the tournament. They’ve won every game of the tourney by double-digits, with their smallest margin of victory being 12 against West Virginia and Texas Tech and their biggest margin being 26 against Radford.

Oh, and the Wildcats just might have the best player in college basketball in Jalen Brunson. The AP Player of the Year and Wooden Award finalist has averaged 17.6 points per game in the five game of the tournament. That is slightly under his season average of 19.2, but he is still a fantastic player who is tough to stop.

He also has a teammate, Mikal Bridges, who is most likely a lottery pick in this years NBA draft. He has averaged 14.8 PPG during the tournament, which is also under his season average of 17.6, but these two are a dynamic duo who are tough to contain.

But the Wolverines have a dynamite combination of their own. Moritz Wagner and Charles Matthews have played great during Michigan’s tourney run and are going to be huge keys in this game. Wagner has averaged 14.8 PPG game during the tournament, a little above his 14.6 season average. He also went off in U of M’s Final Four matchup against Loyola-Chicago, and scored 24 points and had 15 rebounds.

But Matthews has been the key cog in the Maize and Blue’s offense all tournament long. He has averaged 16.6 PPG in the five games, which is well above his 13.1 season average. He has played more aggressively and been the spark this offense needs when its leading scorer, Wagner, hasn’t played up to par.

This game is a clash of two teams who are polar opposites. Villanova has been an offensive juggernaut all year and deadly from deep. They’ve averaged 84.8 points per game and they’ve shot 42% from behind the 3-point line during the tournament. That percentage from deep is actually a little better than their already great 40% on the year.

Michigan, on the other hand, has shot poorly from beyond the arc during the tournament. They are shooting an abysmal 31.7% from 3 and that is largely bolstered by a 14-24 showing against Texas A&M. They are also only averaging 70.2 PPG in their five games, which is also inflated thanks to the 99 they scored against A&M.

But John Beilein’s team has prided itself on its defense all year, and that has been the biggest reason they’ve made it this far. Michigan, during its five games in the tourney, has held their opponents to 58.6 PPG and a measly 24% from downtown. They will need to continue this stellar defensive play if they want to stay in this game.

There are also two players, besides Wagner and Matthews, for U of M who need to come up big if they want to come out victorious. Those two guys are Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

Simpson is the floor general for Michigan’s offense and will need to play better than he did against Loyola. He was scoreless and only had three assists in Saturday’s game. He will need to score, at least a few points, for his team to win this one. Simpson is also the leader of this defense, but he will have a tough task in guarding Brunson. He is used to hounding the opposing point guard and had played great all year on that end, but Brunson will be his hardest matchup by far. Slowing him down may be the key to a U of M victory.

As for MAAR, he will need to be a spark for this offense. He went 2-11 from the field for 7 points against the Ramblers on Saturday. He will need to be a lot more effective against Villanova if he wants to end his Michigan career as a champion.

Now for my prediction. While the betting line in Vegas currently sits anywhere between Nova being favored by 6 and 7, I think this game will be closer than most think. Both teams are talented and can be dangerous from deep. But I think Jay Wright ultimately gets his second championship and the Wildcats win 84-79.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wolverines got hot like they did against Texas A&M and get U of M’s second championship in school history. After all, I predicted this team to get to the Final Four before the tournament started and they exceeded that by reaching the title game.

This team definitely has the talent to leave San Antonio as NCAA champions. Only time will if they will.

Prediction for Michigan’s NCAA Tournament Journey

Selection Sunday has come and gone. The brackets are made up and teams are either happy, upset, or content with where they were/were not seeded and placed.

The Michigan Wolverines coming off a strong 28-7 record and a Big Ten tournament championship were rewarded with the 3 seed in the West Region. While some may have thought they deserved a 2 seed after reaching number 7 in the AP and Coaches Poll, a 3 seed seems pretty fitting to me.

Their first game will be Thursday night at 9:50 p.m. ET against the Grizzlies of Montana. The Griz received a 14 seed after a 26-7 record and winning the Big Sky tournament.

I’ll go through each round for Michigan and predict whether they will win and advance or lose and head back to Ann Arbor. For the sake of making too many predictions, I will just assume the higher seed will win in Michigan’s potential games.

First Round: Michigan’s first round game, as mentioned earlier, will be against the Montana Grizzlies. While the Grizzlies had a nice season and won the Big Sky, I believe the Wolverines will be a tough matchup and handle them rather easily. Their two leading scorers, Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine, make up the backcourt. Michigan has a dynamic defensive duo in their backcourt, Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, that I think will more than hold their own. Michigan advances with a 76-59 win.

Second Round: Michigan’s second round match-up would come against the Houston Cougars. Houston had a pretty solid season with a 26-6 record and 14-4 in the AAC. They rely heavily on the play of senior guard Rob Gray who averages over 18 points a game. However I think Duncan Robinson and Charles Matthews will carry this squad to a close victory in this one and a second consecutive Sweet 16 berth. Michigan wins 71-65.

Sweet 16: Michigan’s Sweet 16 match-up may be their toughest match-up throughout the entire tournament. They would face the North Carolina Tar Heels, who defeated U of M 86-71 earlier in the season. Michigan was a struggling team back then and hadn’t quite found themselves yet. I think this time around things can and will be different. Zavier Simpson has grown and his battle with Joel Berry II will be a fierce one. I believe Michigan will come out victorious in this one 68-66 and advance to the Elite 8.

Elite 8: The Xavier Musketeers would be the team Michigan would face in the Elite 8 if the seeding held true. They have a high scoring offense and average over 84 points a contest. Senior Trevon Bluiett leads the offensive attack by scoring over 19 points a game. He is a fantastic talent and Michigan will have to work as team to slow this young man down. But I believe the Maize and Blue will come out ready to rock and roll in this one and Moe Wagner will show up and produce a double-double and lead his team to the victory. U of M advances to the Final Four in San Antonio with a 81-74 win.

Because predicting the Final Four match-ups would lead to too much of a guessing game (and picking the highest seed doesn’t seem right as the odds of all the number 1 seeds making it there are highly unlikely) I will just finish up my prediction this way.

I honestly believe this is one of John Beilein’s best teams he’s ever coached and has the potential talent to reach the Final Four. I think when they are on offensively, they can hang with and beat anyone in the country because of the way this team plays on the defensive end. They play as a team and take care of the ball. They also don’t commit many fouls, which will bode well in a one and done style format as well.

Michigan has a legitimate star in Moe Wagner. The others who contribute are no slouches either and they all do their part to lead this team. Simpson, Matthews, Robinson and Abdur-Rahkman have all carried their own weight and had their moments this season. And that also goes without mentioning players such as Isaiah Livers, Jordan Poole and Jon Teske, who have also contributed greatly to this team.

I’ll end with making a final prediction for this squad. I truly believe they will make the Final Four, but will ultimately end up losing to either Virginia or Arizona in their match-up with the South Region winner. Just because I don’t have them winning it all or making it to the championship game, I wouldn’t be shocked if this team did cut the nets down April 2nd.

This team can do it, but will they?

That’s the fun part of March Madness. Everyone thinks they know who will advance, but upsets are awaiting unsuspecting teams and Cinderella’s are waiting to be born.

Let the madness begin.

Back-to-Back

The Michigan Wolverines basketball team won their second consecutive Big Ten tournament. Their journey to this title was a little less dramatic and eventful than just a season ago (plane incident), but still just as sweet and satisfying for fans nonetheless.

They started off by playing Iowa on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. They defeated the Hawkeyes 77-71 in an ugly, overtime thriller. While U of M didn’t play the greatest in their opening game at MSG, their next three games showed what this team is capable when rolling on all cylinders.

Their next game took place on Friday against Nebraska, and the Wolverines routed the Cornhuskers 77-58. This match-up allowed the Maize and Blue to exact some revenge after their 72-52 loss back in mid-January.

The Wolverines then entered the semifinals with a much-anticipated rematch against Michigan State. Michigan had beaten the Spartans 82-72 earlier this season, ultimately came out victorious yet again with a 75-64 score on Saturday. A 2-0 record against your in-state rival is always nice and had to be extra sweet because people strongly believe that this is one of, if not the most, talented teams Tom Izzo has had in East Lansing.

John Beilein’s squad advanced to the finals to battle with the Purdue Boilermakers. The Wolverines played tough against them both times this season but came up empty-handed with an 0-2 record against Matt Painter’s crew. The result was not similar Sunday night when U of M controlled much of the game and came away winners of the game and the Big Ten tournament as well.

This year’s Big Ten Tournament run proved this team can potentially be very dangerous in the NCAA tournament. They saw good games from their stars and upperclassmen like Moe Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. But they also saw solid production from lesser used players and unsung heroes like sophomore Jon Teske.

These red-hot Wolverines also proved they can overcome bad games or foul trouble from their star player, Wagner, who fouled out against Iowa and shot 4-14 (0-7 in the first half) against MSU.

This team moved up to no. 7 in the latest AP and Coaches Poll after their four tournament wins. I believe this proves that their ceiling could be a possible no. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, given that everything goes right and some of the big dogs go down early in their respective conference tournaments. Realistically, I think this team ends up being a three-seed come Selection Sunday.

Whatever seeding they receive, they’re primed to be a tough out against whoever they play and will be a dark horse Final Four candidate in my mind. John Beilein is an underrated, amazing coach, and leading this team to back-to-back Big Ten Tournament titles proves just that. After all, Drake said it best when he sang “Back to Back.”…

 

What does this recruiting class mean for Harbaugh, Michigan?

The 2018 Michigan Football recruiting class was ranked as low as it’s been since the Rich Rodriguez/Brady Hoke transitional period.

This class was ranked at the no. 21 spot nationally according to 247Sports. Third in the Big Ten conference, behind both Ohio State and Penn State.

Four star LB Otis Reese jumped ship on his prior commitment to Jim Harbaugh and Michigan, signed with Georgia instead. The Wolverines were also unable to land primary target five-star OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, as he signed with Ohio State. Missing out on Petit-Frere wasn’t exactly a surprise given recent events leading up to this week.

Ultimately, Michigan wasn’t victorious on national signing day. Harbaugh and his staff were unable to land a third consecutive top ten recruiting class.

If the 8-5 season wasn’t enough of a reality check (which it should be), then look no further. How long can a program continuously fail to win important games, be nationally irrelevant, and still land major recruits?

For years, Michigan has been one of the nation’s easiest recruiting jobs. National exposure, biggest stadium in football, the hype, the tradition, the brand. Kids wanted to come be apart of this rebuild that fans have been waiting on for well over a decade.

Add first year head coach Jim Harbaugh to the equation, runner-up head coach in Super Bowl 47. He’s a celebrity, he dabs, he hangs out with the Migos, he climbs trees, and he’ll even come sleep over at your house.

Appealing for recruits, right? Absolutely, but do you know when that stops being cute? When he goes 1-5 against his chief rivals for his first three seasons, doesn’t finish better than third in his own division, and goes 1-2 in bowl games. Did I mention that Michigan pays Harbaugh $9 million per year?

Look, this post wasn’t intended for Harbaugh criticisms, we can cover that another day. The point I’m getting at: recruits aren’t buying into Harbaugh and Michigan anymore.

Why aren’t they buying into it? Quite simple. They’re realizing that Michigan has been all bark and no bite for quite some time now.

You can sell hope to these kids for so long, but when it becomes a trend to sell hope, obviously results are scarce. Recruits don’t want the preseason top ten ranking, they want a trip to Indy and to win something of national relevance.

I won’t act as if this class was a total failure because Michigan most definitely signed some kids who will contribute significantly. They just lack the heavy hitters, the five stars, the kids you expect to sign with a big name like Michigan. There was not one recruit ranked in the top 100 for this class.

This has been Harbaugh’s quietest offseason yet regarding headlines for Michigan, and I believe that speaks volumes. He’s been humbled by the 8-5 season and understands that he needs to attend to his program.

To regain an upper-edge on the recruiting trail yet again, the formula is easier than you think. It’s not about hiring better recruiters, it’s not about cool uniforms, it’s not about going to France for Spring Break, and it’s not about sleepovers. Sure, those things are fun and can help in certain scenarios. But it’s about winning.

Recruiting is fun to evaluate and analyze. It makes the college football offseason worthwhile, good way to compare programs off the field. However, at the end of the day, stars are stars and players make plays. The coaches put those players in the position to make said plays; here’s an unpopular example most Michigan fans will cringe at:

Mark Dantonio consistently recruits classes with a slightly similar talent caliber to Michigan’s 2018 class on a good year. The results are there, the program is in good hands.

Dantonio has beaten Harbaugh two out of three times, won a Big Ten Championship, appeared in the playoffs,  and beaten Ohio State. They’re doing okay for themselves outside of their recent 3-9 season.

Michigan State landed just 21 four/five-star recruits combined in the 2015, 16, 17, and 18 classes. Michigan, on the other hand, has landed 47 four/five-star recruits combined in the same time period.

The bottom line is that Harbaugh has a roster with raw talent and he’s not developing them, thus far at least. I used Dantonio as an example because he clearly gets the most out of what he gets.

It’s a luxury to have a top 25 ranked class in the nation and refer to it as a disappointment. While it currently is trending downward, Michigan is still an easy recruiting job. It will continuously plummet if results remain to be nonexistent.

Michigan should not expect kids to keep coming to their school when they evidently see that talent leaves un-accomplished. Jabrill Peppers? Rashan Gary? What do these two five-star recruits have under their belts? Good individual performances, of course. But zero wins against the Buckeyes (so far, Gary has 1-2 more seasons).

Four senior classes at Michigan have went all four seasons winless against Ohio State since the turn of the century. That is an unappealing stat for recruits to look at.

This class shows that Michigan is hurting, something we already knew, but no one should be surprised by the outcome. This is a direct product of the 2017-18 season. It’s going on year four now, and Harbaugh has quite the job ahead of him. Win big games, and you can win big recruits again.

Grading Michigan’s Roster Halfway Through Conference Play

Michigan has played nine Big Ten games so far and have nine more to go. Their record in these nine conference contests is 6-3, which is currently good for fourth in the Big Ten behind Ohio State (9-0), Purdue (8-0), and Michigan State (6-2). The Wolverines have also played 22 games overall and sit at 17-5.

I would like to go through U of M’s roster and grade each player so far based on their expectations heading into the season and their performance so far now that conference play if halfway over. While the roster is composed of 17 players, I am only going to grade players who have played in at least half of the teams games so far (my apologies to C.J. Baird, Austin Davis, Brent Hibbitts, Naji Ozeir, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson).

I am going to list the remaining players alphabetically and talk about how each player has performed so far and what they can improve on moving forward. I will then give each player a grade.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman– The senior is currently third on the team in both points per game (10.5) and rebounds per game (4.0). He also is one of the best in the nation with a 5.82 assist-to-turnover ratio. The one improvement I was hoping to see from MAAR this year was in his scoring. He has improved on his 9.1 PPG from last year but his shooting percentages overall and from beyond the three-point line have dropped. He needs to attack the basket more and get to the free throw line more often as he is shooting a crisp 87% from the charity stripe. Abdur-Rahkman needs to show a little more senior leadership as this season moves forward as well.

Mid-Season Grade: B-

Eli Brooks– The freshman point guard has been a solid option off the bench for coach John Beilein. He provides a spark in his limited action and has held his own while giving starter Zavier Simpson a breather. His biggest knock so far on the season has got to be his shooting. He is shooting an abysmal 29% from the field and an even worse 25% from 3. Brooks needs to improve on his shooting if he wants to be a consistent contributor to the team.

Mid-Season Grade: B-

Isaiah Livers– The freshman from Kalamazoo has had a great season so far. He is averaging 4.6 PPG while shooting a fantastic 52% from the field and 41% from downtown. He has also taken his new starting role in stride. He came in for the struggling senior Duncan Robinson and has held his own against other teams starters. The one knock I have for Livers is his rebounding. He is 6’7″ but is only averaging 2.6 RPG. I think this can, and will, improve as he learns how to play with the big boys.

Mid-Season Grade: A-

Charles Matthews– The transfer from Kentucky is having a fine season so far, leading the Wolverines with 14.6 PPG and is second on the squad with 5.2 RPG. He is fearless when attacking the rim and is shooting over 52% from the field. His one weakness is shooting from beyond the arc. His 33% from 3-point range needs to improve as the season progresses and if this team wants to be successful come postseason play.

Mid-Season Grade: B

Jordan Poole– The freshman from Milwaukee has been a revelation off the bench for Coach Beilein so far. He is fifth on the team with 6.3 PPG in only ten minutes per contest. He is shooting over 41% from deep and 49% from the field overall. The biggest struggle for Poole so far has been his court vision. His assist-to-turnover ratio is an awful 1:2 as he has only seven assists on the season to 14 turnovers. That needs to improve if this young buck wants to see more minutes off the bench.

Mid-Season Grade: A-

Duncan Robinson– Even though Robinson, a fifth year player, was demoted from the starting lineup and replaced by a freshman, he is still contributing nicely. He is fourth on the team in PPG (9.0) and has the best free-throw percentage (minimum 10 attempts) with a sparkling 92%. His area of weakness is on the defensive end and is usually a lot slower or undersized compared to many of the players he is defending.

Mid-Season Grade: B

Jaaron Simmons– The graduate transfer from Ohio has provided this team with some solid play in a backup point guard role with a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. But I was expecting more from the 2017 first-team All-MAC selection, especially on the offensive end. He averaged 15.9 PPG last year while shooting 43% from the field, 34% from beyond the arc and 72% from the FT line. I know his role has diminished since his days as a Bobcat and the Mid-American Conference is a far cry from the Big Ten, but his dip in shooting percentages is alarming. This year he is shooting 26% overall, 20% from 3-point range and 62% from the charity stripe. Maybe I was just expecting a little too much.

Mid-Season Grade: C

Zavier Simpson– The sophomore, who dropped the “X” from his name and took on a “Z”, has played outstanding so far this season. He is leading the Wolverines with 3.5 assists per game and 1.2 steals per game. Simpson has taken on the role of starting point guard for this team and has led them admirably after learning under the U of M great Derrick Walton, Jr. last year. His biggest area of improvement has got to be at the free-throw line. He is only shooting 51% from the line and some teams have gone with the “Hack-A-Shaq” approach with him late in games.

Mid-Season Grade: A-

Jon Teske– The sophomore has played pretty well when he has had to fill in for Moe Wagner, whether it be for injury or foul trouble, this season. He is fourth on team with 3.6 RPG, which is nice, but I also think this is the area where Teske can improve. He is 7’1″ and is usually one of the biggest guys on the court. He needs to use that big body of his to accrue even more rebounds in his time on the court.

Mid-Season Grade: B

Moritz Wagner– The big man from Germany has had an excellent junior campaign so far. He is second on the team in scoring with 14.3 PPG and is first with 7.1 RPG. He has also produced four double-doubles. Wagner’s biggest area of improvement though has got to do with his consistency. He’s had some monster games (21 points, 10 rebounds against UC Riverside, 27 and 4 against Michigan State, 18 and 11 vs. Maryland) but he has also produced some duds (4 points and 6 boards at Iowa and 2 points with 7 rebounds at Nebraska). Wagner is a tremendous talent and just needs to play like he is every game.

Mid-Season Grade: B+

Ibi Watson– The sophomore has provided a nice option off the bench for the Maize and Blue. He is only averaging 2.8 PPG, albeit in only 6 minutes per game, and is shooting a nice 37.5% from downtown. Watson’s biggest knock is his size (6’5″ but only 200 pounds) and is generally undersized when Beilein uses him in small forward role. But he is still young and will continue to grow and get stronger as the year moves on.

Mid-Season Grade: B-