John Beilein doesn't have Zack Novak and Stu Douglass to lead his team this season. But the defending Big Ten champs do feature a potentially powerful veteran combo at the guard spots, and a whole lot of new talent.
Sophomore point guard Trey Burke and projected shooting guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. could do a lot of leading themselves. Burke is up to 190 pounds, Beilein noted, from 175 when he first came into Ann Arbor.
That can make a major difference in the way he holds up over the course of the season.
"Trey has worked his body, and it's stronger," Beilein said. "The way the game has evolved right now, he's involved in so many ball screens, the point guard has to be in a similar shape as a middle linebacker, or a running back who is running it 40 times a game. That's the kind of shape a point guard needs today."
Burke has gotten there, in addition to now knowing the system and honing his skills. He'll likely be joined in the backcourt by Hardaway, who can also shift at any time to the small forward spot in which he's performed during his career at Michigan up to this point.
Beilein noted he's appreciated Hardaway's approach to the coming season.
"It's doing more than just being a shooter," Beilein said. "Working at other parts of scoring, rebounding, things like that, keeping composure through thick and thin. He's very emotional. He's very driven, and it's a good thing. We're channeling that in the right direction.
"I think he's had a tremendous summer, and even a better fall, from what I can see. I'm just liking his attitude. He's out there and he's taken a little bit of Novak, in that you can hear his presence - a different type of presence. You can hear it. That was pretty much left up to Zack in years past."
The two returning starters will be surrounded by plenty of veteran talent, including redshirt junior center Jordan Morgan. But plenty of Michigan's Media Day focus swung to the wave of incoming talent available.
That includes 6-10 Mitch McGary, along with highly athletic wing Glenn Robinson III, sharpshooter Nik Stauskas, point guard Spike Albrecht and guard Caris LeVert. Beilein doesn't like to over-hype his rookies, but he's excited about both the talent and the learning ability of the incoming crew.
"They really want to be coached, and they like our culture," Beilein said. "They're embracing it. There hasn't been any push back: 'I'm used to doing this, how come I have to do that now? The next guy is more open, but why do I have to pass it to him, when I've done this my whole life?'
"They've just said, 'Okay. If that's what we do, that's what we do.' Whether they're sharing the ball, getting into a stance, or playing defense, they're really receptive.
"I don't like to judge between teams, but they're as intelligent a team as I've had, over the summer. Maybe that has to do with the 16 hours we had in the summer. But it's one thing to get information. It's another thing to put it right into action.
"Glenn Robinson has had a couple of times where he took information he gathered and he was doing it 10 minutes later. With all of our freshmen, we've seen that."
Plus, Beilein noted, Michigan's veterans have been more than willing to assist in the grooming process for the newcomers.
"We had a great moment yesterday," Beilein said. "It was the end of a practice, at the end of our preseason. We had Josh Bartelstein, Corey Person and Eso Akunne, three guys who very rarely play, and they all had freshmen pulled off to the side.
"Coaches were leaving the court, and they were saying 'This is exactly what we were just talking about. You can do this.' It was really a great moment for me, walking off the court. There was a lot of teaching going on, and not just from the coaches."
If that continues, Beilein noted, the Wolverines will be in very good shape to launch themselves into the season. The coaches have been able to do plenty of skills development with them, and now will focus on creating a team.
Asked about a starting five, Beilein opted to go on the defense.
"The next two weeks, I probably won't tell you any more
but I will know more," he quipped.
• Beilein admitted he's very excited about the impending completion of Crisler Center. It's as if the old building had been leveled and completely replaced, he urged.
"It looks like a brand new building, like we built a $200-million building," Beilein said. "It's going to be a tremendous asset to us as far as recruiting. What's really going to be best about it is, it's going to be so fan friendly, and our fans will really enjoy coming to see Michigan basketball, men's and women's, in this environment."
• The head coach indicated the Wolverines will feature a vastly upgraded rebounding element on this year's team.
"This is a good rebounding team," he said. "If we show that all through the season, it's okay to score off an offensive rebound.
"We haven't gotten a lot of that. If we can get 10 points off offensive rebounds - etiher through kickbacks or finishes - that's a good thing. It's not been the norm.
"In rebuilding situations, it's not like you come in and get this tremendous rebounding team every year. We finally got to that point. I've got to make sure part of our offensive is offensive rebounding, because we do have a talent there, Mitch and Jordan in particular."
• The Big Ten, Beilein noted, will be as good as he's seen it since joining the conference.
"I've never seen it like this, where we have nine or 10 programs that have had the same coach, and two or three years to get things in the right direction," he said. "You just look at the teams.
"When I got here, there were about five or six, and the rest, it was the sixth or seventh team that everybody was fighting for. Now, it may be, who is going to be the eighth or ninth team, that gets into the NCAA Tournament?
"Just look at what Minnesota did last year. They were a heck of a team. They had two road wins in the NIT. They were in the championship of the NIT, and they were trying to get into the top seven or eight prior to that.
"So many people have so many people back. It's as good a league as I've ever seen. The coaches who have been here a long time, probably Bo [Ryan] and Tom [Izzo], could answer that. They go back 20 years. How good is this league? I think it's pretty good."
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