On January 23rd, 2011, the Michigan Wolverines’ season had just about collapsed. After a strong start in the non-conference schedule, the Wolverines began Big Ten conference play with a 1-6 record, and had in-state rival Michigan State looming next on the schedule. During the free-fall that saw Michigan, one of only four NCAA teams last season without a senior on the roster, go from 10-2 to 11-9 (including a non-conference loss to Kansas), the season was thought to be a lost cause. The program was trying so desperately to fill seats in Chrysler Arena, that $9 ticket packages were offered with a hot dog and drink included.
That all changed when the Wolverines traveled to face the Spartans on January 25. Not only did Michigan knock off Michigan State on the road for the first time since 1997, but the upset in East Lansing was the start of a 9-4 run to finish the season, earning John Beilein’s team their second NCAA tournament bid in 3 years.
In 2011-2012, Michigan returns every player from last year’s squad with the exception of point guard Darius Morris. Although Morris’ departure was a stinging loss, incoming freshman Trey Burke and senior Stu Douglass are expected to share the load at point, and freshman Carlton Brundidge is also expected to contribute. The Wolverines deservedly find themselves in the preseason AP top 25 rankings, but will have plenty of questions to answer early in the season without last year’s leading scorer in Morris. Senior Zack Novak’s leadership will be called upon more than ever as the Wolverines try to live up to 2011-2012’s lofty expectations.
Under John Beilein, the Michigan program has soared back into the national spotlight in the past 5 years. Since starting off 10-22 in 2007-2008, Beilein’s Wolverines have made the NCAA tournament twice in the past three seasons, and have won their first-round matchup in both games. Last season may have been Beilein’s finest head coaching job to date, as with the addition of assistant head coach Bacari Alexander, the Wolverines were able to reach the Big Dance despite being selected by many polls to finish 9th or worse in the Big Ten.
Beilein continues to build for the future, as freshman Burke, Brundidge, and Max Bielfeldt look to see significant action in contributing immediately to this year’s team, while top recruits such as Glenn Robinson, Nick Stauskas are already signed for 2012. The decision of #3 nationally ranked recruit, Mitch McGary, may also add another top prospect to the already outstanding recruiting class. It’s safe to say that Wolverines are an incredibly well-coached team.
For a rundown of U-M’s coaches and players, click here.
Check out Steve Lampert’s Big 10 Rundown here.
Read Mark Kempa’s opinion on how U-M basketball turned around here.
Finally, check out the Michigan Review Sports Staff’s thoughts and predictions on this season here.