After an offseason of questions about youth, cohesion and transfers, the Michigan men’s basketball team will play its first game of the 2017 season Friday.
Granted, it’s an exhibition game against Division II Grand Valley State, but with the myriad of unknowns surrounding the Wolverines, the game should at least provide a glimpse of what to expect in the 2017-18 season.
And at coach John Beilein’s press conference Wednesday, he wasn’t giving many hints as to what fans will see.
“I’m not going to share (the starting lineup),” Beilein said. “But I have an idea of the top nine. We’ll see what happens in practice — top 10. I’m gonna play, probably, 10 guys, and maybe an 11th will get in there, we’ll see. I think (junior forward Moritz Wagner) is gonna start, though. But we’ll see.”
That statement should come as no surprise. Wagner is the most productive returner on the team, and, along with senior forward Duncan Robinson and senior guard Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, he will be expected to provide some stability to an otherwise volatile roster.
Beyond that, Friday’s game against the Lakers will be the first chance for the rest of the team to show what they’re made of.
One of those areas of interest will be the point guard position. Beilein hinted that all three — sophomore Zavier Simpson, graduate transfer Jaaron Simmons and freshman Eli Brooks — have all had a chance to play. Presumably, that will be the case again Friday.
While Simpson has gotten time with the starters in open practices, tomorrow will be the first time a leader in the clubhouse will be named.
“Well you gotta pick somebody, right?” Beilein said. “So, we had one of the young men start the other day, and now we’re reading his performance today to see whether he’s the guy for tomorrow. So, yeah, it is day-to-day, and it could change.”
The exhibition game against Grand Valley won’t provide all the answers. Things will change over the course of the season, especially since Michigan’s youth will need time to become a cohesive unit. But at the very least, Friday’s matchup will give an early look at the makeup of the team.