- Michigan will head into 2017-18 looking to build on its surpring run to the Sweet 16 this season, but the Wolverines will have to account for the loss of a lot of production and experience.
The college basketball off-season is long and largely lacking in major news developments. Programs are still finalizing their 2017 recruiting classes and sorting out which of their players will return for another season or jump to the professional ranks. We’ve got a long way to go until Midnight Madness. To help pass the time, SI.com is asking and answering three key questions about each of the teams in our Way-Too-Early Top 25. Here’s No. 23, Michigan.
1. Who, exactly, will be on the Wolverines’ roster next season?
Right now, Michigan has one open scholarship spot for next fall, but it’s saved for five-star center Mohamed Bamba, who’s yet to make a college decision. He’s reportedly down to Kentucky, Duke, Michigan and Texas. Landing a prospect like him in Ann Arbor could go a long way toward elevating the Wolverines’ profile next year. (Michigan already has three signees in the class of 2017: three-star guard Eli Brooks, four-star guard Jordan Poole and four-star forward Isaiah Livers.)
The Wolverines are also still somewhat uncertain about the status of two big men, Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson, both of whom declared for the NBA draft this month but decided not to hire agents. That means they can withdraw by May 24 should they not feel confident after going through much of the pre-draft process. If one or both decides to go pro, that’ll open up scholarship spots, which the Detroit Free Press reports may be used on graduate transfers.
2. What will Charles Matthews’s role be?
Matthews played the 2015-16 season as a freshman at Kentucky, where he averaged 1.7 points and 1.6 rebounds. The guard had been the No. 11 recruit in the country and he’d planned to be a one-and-done, off to the NBA for the fall of 2016. With numbers like that, though, the NBA wasn’t beckoning, and Matthews elected to transfer to Michigan. He sat out last year, and coming into 2017-18, he may be the Wolverines’ most exciting new player. He certainly has the talent and the pedigree, and according to Mlive.com, he was the star of the Wolverines’ scout team last year, creating shots and playing solid defense—two things Michigan will need going forward.
3. How will Michigan replace Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin?
Walton averaged 15.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists as a senior at Michigan last year. He ended his career on a high note, averaging 19.0 points and 8.0 assists since March 1. Irvin, meanwhile, scored an average of 13.0 points on the year, with 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists. The two veterans were Michigan’s most productive players, as well as its most experienced and the faces of the program. Losing them both leaves a massive hole to fill. Xavier Simpson, a sophomore, should earn the bulk of Walton’s minutes at point guard, while Matthews should be Irvin’s successor at shooting guard.