ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan men’s basketball team is healthy, yet it’s young. The challenge for the Wolverines this season is to build off last year’s late-season success and to cultivate the talent that joins the roster this season.
Michigan finished 23-13 last season and made the NCAA Tournament. Despite a first-round loss to Notre Dame, there’s a lot for the Wolverines to build upon as they enter the 2016-2017 season.
“Now we’ve got talent, yet we’re very inexperienced,” Michigan coach John Beilein said earlier this month. “There’s a lot of things that go into this outlook, as we’ve found out. What is the bench going to play like, what are the starters going to play like, what is our injury situation? There’s a lot of things.
“I like the team right now and I like the way we’ve been practicing and, like I said, I’ve liked some of the things that we’re doing that would be a change from what we’ve done in the past.”
Caris LeVert has gone to the NBA, and Spike Albrecht is now at Purdue as a graduate transfer.
LeVert, a 6-foot-7 guard, is now with the Brooklyn Nets, but was limited to 15 games last season with a lingering foot injury and sat out the final month of the season. He averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists.
Albrecht originally stepped away from basketball because of injuries in December 2015. He averaged 3.9 points and 2.0 assists in 115 games, but was seen as a spark plug for Michigan and committed only 73 turnovers.
Key returning players
Senior point guard Derrick Walton is a preseason All-Big Ten pick. Walton averaged 11.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists and was a third-team All-Big Ten selection last season. Junior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and senior guard Zak Irvin will also provide reinforcement; Abdur-Rahkman averaged 8.6 points and 2.7 rebounds last season and Irvin averaged 11.8 points and 4.5 rebounds.
Moritz Wagner averaged 2.9 points and 1.6 rebounds in 30 games last season and helps the Wolverines build depth at center. The sophomore forward from Germany has added weight to his 6-foot-10 frame and has plenty of room for basketball growth.
Freshman guard Xavier Simpson highlights this year’s incoming freshman class and is expected to compete for playing time. Simpson averaged 27.2 points, 6.1 assists and 3.8 steals per game as a senior at Lima (Ohio) Senior High School.
Austin Davis, a 6-foot-10 forward from nearby Onsted, Mich., averaged 25.3 points and 14.3 rebounds as a high school senior as well as 4.9 blocks.
Michigan lost one of its key pieces in LeVert yet remains a team that has plenty of potential.
After stumbling through the Big Ten regular-season schedule and finishing 10-8 in conference play, the Wolverines went on a tear in the Big Ten tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. That playoff experience, as well as the collective growth of this year’s players as individuals and as a unit, will be vital to Michigan.