The last time the Michigan basketball team played a game other than a scrimmage, then-sophomore point guard Darius Morris was one newton too strong on his floater in the lane as Duke closed out the Wolverines, 73-71, in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament.
Since then, a couple things have happened. Morris left for the NBA. Ohio’s Mr. Basketball Trey Burke joined the team. Sophomore forward Tim Hardaway Jr. played for the USA Under-19 National team.
Meanwhile, Crisler Arena was renovated. A new practice facility was built. And sophomore forwards Jon Horford and Evan Smotrycz gained 28 and 36 pounds, respectively.
Michigan fans will see the Wolverines’ newest product on Friday when Wayne State comes to Ann Arbor for an exhibition game.
“We’ll try and win the game,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “At the same time, we’ll do things in the first half that maybe I might not do during a regular game as far as giving people extra time.”
Beilein said he will try to get 10 players on the court, but much will depend on how the game is going.
Senior Stu Douglass will get the nod at point guard over freshman Trey Burke because Beilein said he would like to open up with a veteran lineup before making adjustments. The other players on the floor will likely be senior guard Zack Novak, redshirt sophomore forward Jordan Morgan and sophomore forwards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz.
“The top eight, top nine, top 10 guys, that’s what we’re trying to get,” Beilein said. “The starting lineup is not as important as who gets the most minutes.”
Burke will likely see the most minutes of the freshman group, which includes guard Carlton Brundidge and forward Max Bielfeldt.
“Trey, so far, has really shown some progressive steps,” Beilein said. “It’s so natural to him. He had six assists and no turnovers in his first scrimmage. So he’s shown some ability to make some pretty simple decisions. What I like right now about him, he’s trying to hit singles, not home runs. We always need a lot of singles hitters.”
So far this week, two basketball powers have already fallen to Division-II schools in exhibition games. Seattle Pacific knocked off Arizona, 69-68, and Butler fell to Northern State 53-50.
No. 18 Michigan will use the exhibition to get back into the swing of clocks, buzzers, officiating and adrenaline.
“We’re tired of playing against each other,” Hardaway Jr. said. “Everybody’s talking about ‘We can’t wait to play somebody else.’ Just to get a chance to play someone else that really doesn’t know our strategy or how we play, it should be really fun.”
Hardaway Jr. said he will look for how the team responds after the game as well, in terms of being receptive to criticism in film sessions and adjusting in practice the next day.
“I’d like to see us defend very well so we can run the floor,” Beilein said. “All teams need to get easy baskets to win. One way to get easier baskets is to fast break. But the only way you can fast break, is you got to get the ball on the 25 (or) 35 yard line. You can’t get it on the goal line.”
Though the game is just an exhibition, it will be the Wolverines’ only tune-up before the regular season, when a loss to an inferior team could damage its postseason hopes.
“This is no different than it’s ever been here,” Beilein said. “We’ve got chips on our shoulder, we’re trying to prove that we’re around to stay and it’s going to be a battle.”