The Wolverines will play their first publicly viewable exhibition this Friday at Wayne State’s newly-built arena. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be streamable via Wayne State Athletics’ website for $5.95. For those who choose to watch or listen on the radio, The Daily breaks down three things to keep an eye out for.
Described by teammates as “a freak of nature,” freshman big man Moussa Diabate might turn out to be the most captivating player on the floor. The 6-foot-11 Frenchman has the size to compete in the paint, the shooting to stretch the floor and the defensive stopping power to guard any position.
Though he won’t start — rumors point towards sophomore Hunter Dickinson and senior Brandon Johns Jr. to start at the five and four, respectively — Diabate will likely be the first man off the bench for Michigan.
“He’s a great competitor,” Dickinson said on Thursday. “High motor, really works hard and really makes me work on the defensive end (in practice).”
Diabate’s first observable test against another college lineup will reveal a lot about the strengths and weaknesses in his game. One thing to monitor will be whether his shooting ability translates at this level.
“Right now, the main thing I’ll say is shooting, keep on getting better at it,” Diabate said at Michigan’s media day in October. “Even though it’s getting better … I still gotta get better and keep on working on it.”
It wouldn’t be a surprise, though, if fans who haven’t seen Diabate play find their eyes glued to him the moment he checks in, especially if his shots start to fall.
Another new connection: The chemistry between Eli Brooks and DeVante’ Jones
For the second year in a row, fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks is sharing the backcourt with a new face. Making his Michigan debut beside him tomorrow will be Coastal Carolina graduate transfer guard DeVante’ Jones.
Last season, Brooks and then-graduate transfer guard Mike Smith found a rhythm together right off the bat. Against Wayne State, watch to see if Jones and Brooks show signs of the same ability to mesh. With Jones being the Wolverines’ primary ball-handler, his comfort and connection with Brooks will be crucial to Michigan’s long-term success.
The two guards have been putting in the effort to build their relationship with one another, both on and off the court.
“I really get to know people through conversation,” Brooks said on Oct. 15, “Just having sit down conversations with him. Getting to know him outside of basketball. It’s been good. I think that helped with the chemistry on the court so far.”
Friday night, their efforts will be shown publicly for the first time. The duo’s ability to make plays and create points will serve as the barometer for Michigan’s offense heading into its season.
The first group coming off the bench
In an exhibition game against a lesser Wayne State team, droves of substitutions and lineups with different looks are to be expected. The first players to come off the bench might be early contenders to lead the Wolverines’ secondary rotation this season.
“Every guy is still being, I would say, judged in a positive light as far as what’s best for our team moving forward,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “I haven’t decided as far as how many that we’re going to go with when it comes to a rotation. Rotation is still being decided and looked at.”
As mentioned before, one of the first guys to check in for Michigan will be Diabate. Beyond that, the likes of sophomore forward Terrance Williams II, freshman guard Kobe Bufkin and senior guard Adrien Nunez appear as possible contenders for the next set of players to enter the game.
Whoever it is, don’t consider their position in the rotation a done deal. With a deep roster, Howard’s subs are likely to be an ongoing development, but the exhibition might hint towards who the coaching staff has some trust in right now.