Michigan still has one remaining non conference game and that is February 7th at Connecticut. As some of you will remember before the season started I projected Michigan would win 21 games and I came under fire for that prediction. I had conservatively projected they would come out of the non conference at 8-4 so they are already 2 games ahead of my 21 win pace. Their only loses were to Duke on a neutral court and at Maryland.
So they don’t have any bad loses and they have two signature wins. They are ranked in both polls coming in at 23 in the AP and 24 in the Coaches Poll.
Sure they nearly lost to Savannah State, but they won. They won ugly against Florida Gulf Coast and North Carolina Central. But seriously think about it. This is a young team that won 10 games last year and people are complaining when they beat North Carolina Central by 20 points and Florida Gulf Coast by 17 points? If that is all we have to complain about after 12 games I think things are looking great.
Manny Harris has probably exceeded expectations through the first 12 games. Harris is averaging 19.0 points per game to go along with 7.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 47% from the field and 89% at the free throw line. He has already flirted with a triple double twice and has set single game career highs in rebounds (16) and assists (13) in the last 3 games.
DeShawn Sims has emerged as an All Big Ten type player as he is averaging 17.2 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game he also averages 1.1 steals per game while shooting 54% from the field.
Harris and Sims are the top scoring duo in the Big Ten and have played so well that some analysts have speculated about them jumping to the NBA.
Laval Lucas-Perry has not disappointed. He appears to be Michigan’s best three point shooter as he is 9 for his first 13 from deep and has looked good doing it.
I can’t say enough at how impressed I am with the play of Kelvin Grady. He is really pushing the tempo for Michigan by playing fast and under control. Grady has 24 assists against 9 turnovers on the season. He is also averaging 43% on three pointers.
Zack Novak and Stu Douglass have drilled 14 three pointers each and have both sparked the team at different times. They are both smart players who can handle the ball. Novak has actually been logging minutes at the 4 position recently.
David Merritt has been solid in the minutes he has played. I have to think that Merritt might see his minutes drop a bit as Lucas-Perry continues to get worked into the rotation. If that happens then you have to wonder how much playing time will be left for CJ Lee.
Anthony Wright began the season as a starter but has recently been stuck on the bench only getting a couple of minutes against NCCU and getting some DNPs in other games.
Zack Gibson has not played well recently. He is going to be needed in the Big Ten season because Sims can’t do all the big man work by himself.
Jevohn Shepherd has been starting recently and has had a couple of big games this year. His development has been remarkable.
The team has some quality depth this year and that is something that was severely lacking last year. The depth is only going to increase next year when they bring in their very good recruiting class of 4 quality players.
I’m obviously a big John Beilein fan and love what he is doing with the team. He has said several times that if you believe in what you are doing you can beat anybody.
When I had the privilege of meeting Coach Beilein this summer he commented on how his teams were the first to go with 4 shooters on the floor at the same time and that maybe they would go with 5 shooters on the floor together this year. At times already this season he has put line ups on the floor that feature 5 shooters. It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments the coaching staff makes as they head into Big Ten play.
Overall to be sitting at 10-2 and ranked in both polls I don’t think we could have asked for much more. This team is poised to reach their goal of an NCAA tournament bid. Could it fall apart during the Big Ten season, sure it could. Do I think it will? No. The reasons are the same reasons I cited for projecting 21 wins.