2010-2011 Season Preview: Michigan Wolverines

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 12: Head coach John Beilein of the Michigan Wolverines watches action during the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 12, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)It’s time for Inside the Hall’s team-by-team breakdown of the Big Ten Conference. Today: The Michigan Wolverines.

The trajectory of the Michigan basketball program is far less defined entering the 2010-2011 campaign compared to a season ago.

Last fall, the Wolverines were a consensus preseason top 15 team that returned two of the league’s top players — guard Manny Harris and forward DeShawn Sims. But when the smoke cleared, Michigan finished with a disappointing 15-17 record and failed to reach a postseason tournament.

It was a significant step back for a program that reached the second round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament and seemed to be headed in the right direction.

So what are we to expect of this year’s version of the Michigan Wolverines? Another season of struggle in what will be John Beilein’s fourth season in Ann Arbor.

Three of Beilein’s top five scorers from last season — Harris (NBA), Sims (graduation) and Laval Lucas-Perry (violation of team rules) — are gone. Juniors Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, who would both be considered solid role guys under different circumstances, are Beilein’s top two returning pieces.

This means Michigan will rely, mostly out of necessity, on newcomers Evan Smotrycz and Tim Hardaway Jr. for immediate contributions. Smotrycz, a top 60 recruit according to Rivals, is a 6-9 forward that loves to shoot from the perimeter but also possesses the ability to put the ball on the floor. Hardaway Jr, son of the former NBA great Tim Hardaway (UTEP Two-Step!), can reportedly fill it up from the perimeter and also knock down pull-up jump shots. Sophomore point guard Darius Morris, who started 19 games as a freshman, will also be relied on heavily.

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Zeller has already decided

Cody Zeller has reached a decision, and I must tell you that I am not pleased.

He will make his announcement at the historic Hatchet House, thus eschewing an even more storied and significant lump of tradition: the local Ponderosa.

I was crushed when I heard the news. Convening near a steaming buffet to hear Tyler Zeller announce his decision, with that mixture of baked apples and mac and cheese wafting through the air, was a highlight of my career. While Tyler, the middle brother, explained his reasons for choosing North Carolina, I constructed a most excellent ice cream sundae. (Not really, but I wish I had.)

No, seriously, it was an interesting day. Here were the Zellers, already basketball royalty in the state and about to send a kid off to one of the most prestigious basketball programs in the country, hanging out in a the poorly lit wood-paneled room near the local Wal-Mart. Now I don’t mean to portray them as bumpkins. Quite the contrary. The answers they all gave were insightful, and they clearly by then had a sophisticated understanding of how college basketball — a ruthless and intricate undertaking that ends up spitting out many of those who it first accepts — works at the highest level.

Which is why I’m here today to say this: anybody who has claimed to this point to have anything more than a hunch about where Cody Zeller is going to go to college is fibbing. The Zellers simply do not work that way. They don’t do drama. If Cody at some point in the last few weeks had come to a final decision, he would have just gone ahead and said as much. The very act of holding a press conference is, I’d guess, an uncomfortable display verging too closely on boasting. But it’s necessary because otherwise they’d have to field phone calls from 50 reporters, all with the same questions.

Maybe word has leaked out in the past few days since Cody decided he was ready for an announcement, but I simply don’t see a scenario in which he knew, for sure, a few weeks ago. That’s when he became fodder for radio and internet folks who needed to grab your attention. Because, economically, it’s not very complicated: attention equals money. That’s a pretty straight line, and one that is, unfortunately, often easier to see than the connection between being responsible and building a loyal audience that will guarantee revenue.

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Crean on Roth: “He will return to action in due time”

Per an IU spokesperson:

Men’s Basketball player Matt Roth left Monday’s game against Ferris State with a right knee injury in the second half and did not return to the game.

Initial tests indicate it is not serious.  He is being treated and will be continually evaluated.

“All of us in the IU basketball program, especially Matt and his family have appreciated everyone’s concern for his health,” said IU Coach Tom Crean.  “Our prayers have been definitely answered and he will return to action in due time.”

This is fantastic news, considering this was the scene (captured by Ryan from the BTN online stream) last night at Assembly Hall when Roth went down and for several moments, the air was taken out of the crowd:

2010-2011 ITH Season Preview: Illinois Fighting Illini

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 13: Head coach Bruce Weber of the Illinois Fighting Illini calls a play during their game against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the semifinals of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 13, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)It’s time for Inside the Hall’s team-by-team breakdown of the Big Ten Conference. Today: The Illinois Fighting Illini.

First thing that sticks out about Brucey’s boys?

They’re a team with strong seniors and talented underclassmen — a recipe for success.

Point guard Demetri McCamey returns for his senior season, and though his leadership has been questioned at times, his size and physicality make him an elite player in the Big Ten. The frontcourt also returns seniors Mike Davis (6-9) and Mike Tisdale (7-1) — both threats for a double-double on any given night.

Guards D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul enter their sophomore seasons and should only get better. And then there’s freshman sensation Jereme Richmond — who did things like this in high school. Richmond is a big, athletic wing at 6-8, meaning he should give them tons of flexibility on both sides of the ball.

ESPN’s Chad Ford wrote yesterday that NBA scouts will be keeping an eye on both McCamey and Richmond this season.

These kids can play.

As I noted in our Ohio State preview, the Illini and Buckeyes pose the biggest threat to the Spartans atop the league’s scrap heap, but McCamey’s experience at the point might give Illinois a slight advantage over an Ohio State squad that’s looking for a new ballhandler this season.

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A nice mixtape of the 2012 recruiting class

Thanks, once again, to Azur Allen for putting together this mixtape of the three recruits currently committed to IU for 2012: Hanner Perea, Peter Jurkin and Ron Patterson:

Cody Zeller to announce Thursday at 1:05 ET

As first reported in a series of tweets by Mike Pegram of Peegs.com and Inside Indiana, 2011 Washington forward Cody Zeller will announce his college decision on Thurday at 1:05 ET at the Hatchet House. The announcement will be carried live on 107.9 FM (WAMV) in Washington.

Zeller will pick between three schools: Butler, Indiana and North Carolina.

Note: The announcement is not open for the public to attend.

(Photo credit: Jack Arent/adidas)

Tuesday morning musings on Ferris State

So I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t visually see any of Monday’s exhibition against Ferris State, though I did listen to basically the entire second half through the watchful words of Don Fischer (and Royce Waltman). So, uneducated as I might be, let me pose a question you might find puzzling: Isn’t this game better for Indiana, given the way it turned out? Let’s dig past the surface reactions of “Wow, that was really close,” and “Don’t good teams find ways to win?” Consider the following, which we learned about Indiana tonight and wouldn’t have before:

+ First of all, as Ryan touched upon, Victor Oladipo is a gamer. He won’t lead the team in scoring or rebounding or assists, but he’s already a fan favorite. More importantly, for the time being anyway, he’s proven to his coach that he’s a guy Indiana can count on when the stakes are highest.

+ After a veritable barrage last Wednesday, we learned tonight that Indiana does not have the wherewithal to lean heavily on the 3-point shot. Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Derek Elston, Maurice Creek, (Matt Roth if he’s OK, which by the way Fischer talked about it seems a tough pill to swallow) all of them are talented shooters. But 7-for-27 speaks for itself — this team has to create higher percentage looks.

+ Indiana must improve against the zone. Period. Fischer and Waltman hammered at it in the second half, and shooting south of 37 percent from the floor would indicate their analysis was on target.

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