Entering the 2006-07 season, many variables remain for the Michigan men’s basketball team.

Sarah Royce
Captain Lester Abram looks to lead the Wolverines to the NCAA Tourney. (DAVID TUMAN/Daily)

But one thing is for sure.

The Wolverines don’t want to end up in the NIT for the third time in four years.

“It’s no secret that the next step for us is to make the NCAA Tournament,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “We certainly realize that (making the tournament) is the ultimate goal for our team,”

The Maize and Blue are going to rely on a very experienced senior class to do so.

Captain Lester Abram and seniors Dion Harris, Courtney Sims and Brent Petway all return for their final years at Michigan, and are hungry to avoid another NIT appearance.

“Making the tournament is something that’s important to everyone on the team,” Abram said. “That’s what you play for. That’s what the college basketball season is for. I just hope and I pray that we don’t have any setbacks as far as injuries. It seems like we never can catch a break, so hopefully we can get one this year.”

Abram, who was granted a medical redshirt after missing nearly his entire junior season, hopes to stay healthy for the entire year. He has missed good portions of the past two seasons due to various injuries.

As the lone captain, Abram will lead a group of six freshmen, some of whom will be expected to contribute significant minutes right away.

Forwards Deshawn Sims and Ekpe Udoh have been particularly impressive during offseason workouts.

“There role is to learn, to work hard and compete,” Amaker said. “If we can get those three things from our incoming freshman guys, with the talent and some of the abilities that they bring to the table, I think we’re going to have the nucleus of a good class here in this program.”

With the graduation of last year’s star point guard Daniel Horton, someone needs to fill the void, and Amaker expects Harris and sophomore Jerret Smith to share the ballhandling duties this season.

When it comes down to who will take the last shot as the clock winds down, there will be no set replacement.

“If we can have a team that plays unselfishly, and not necessarily have to rely on one player to carry the burden, then I think we have the makings of a good team,” Amaker said.

Despite the optimism that characterized media day, the message was simple:

Anything less than the Wolverines’ first NCAA Tournament since 1998 will be a disappointment.

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