The Michigan men’s basketball team has listed its possible starters for today’s Big Ten opener at No. 14 Iowa as freshman Ron Coleman, junior Chris Hunter and sophomores John Andrews, Courtney Sims and Dion Harris. Of this bunch, Harris and Sims are the only players who started in Michigan’s first contest of the season, when the Wolverines took on Binghamton.
This lineup is probably not what Michigan coach Tommy Amaker envisioned when the Wolverines (8-5 overall) embarked on a season two years removed from NCAA sanctions. Michigan’s resources have been severely depleted since mid-December, when Amaker announced that captain Lester Abram was out for the season and that captain Graham Brown, junior Dani Wohl and junior Daniel Horton would have to sit on the bench for four to six weeks due to injuries.
Horton has since stated that he has started practicing lightly and could potentially return to the floor tonight or soon after.
Although their estimated return dates are still up in the air, Amaker is pleased with the way his previously less-prominent players have performed — particularly Coleman, who put up 17 points against UNC-Asheville on Dec. 31.
“It’s been very positive to see how aggressive he’s been,” Amaker said. “He’s worked hard, he’s a great kid, but he’s also been able to make some shots and get some confidence.”
Even with the possibility of Horton returning, the Wolverines will have their work cut out for them against Iowa (12-1) on the road. The Hawkeyes are currently riding a nine-game winning streak. Michigan’s two-game streak pales in comparison.
“I think it’s obvious that we have some momentum going into conference play,” Amaker said. “We have a daunting task in playing the Hawkeyes. We recognize that they are one of the hotter teams in the nation, and we’re on the road against those guys.”
Tonight also marks Michigan’s first game against a ranked opponent since it defeated then-No. 20 Notre Dame at the beginning of January before most of the injuries occurred.
Iowa boasts guard Jeff Horner, who falls in the top 11 of seven statistical categories in the conference. His 3-point shooting percentage puts him at the top of the Big Ten, while he is second in the league with an average of 6.3 assists per game.
Hawkeye Erek Hensen’s average of 3.9 blocks per game also surpasses all of his conference counterparts. Michigan does not have a consistent threat from beyond the arc, but sophomores Brent Petway and Sims rank fourth and fifth in shot-blocking.
Still, Amaker feels that the course of the season can take any direction when Big Ten action begins.
“We’re pleased with (our last two wins), but we know that now things completely change for everybody, in terms of all teams in college basketball,” Amaker said. “Every coach in every conference will probably say that conference play is different. And certainly conference play is different when you’re on the road.”