ANN ARBOR — Michigan coach John Beilein enters his third season in Ann Arbor with his team ranked No. 15 in the nation.
The Wolverines play the brand of basketball Beilein — and fans — love: shooting three-point baskets and mixing up their defenses from man-to-man and a 1-3-1 zone. But when Michigan has the basketball, it’ll be bombs away. The Wolverines broke a school record last season by attempting 181 more three-point shots than ever before.
Here’s a look at the expected starting five:
No. 3 Manny Harris
A first-team Big Ten preseason player, Harris will be starting for his third consecutive year. He will lead the team in scoring as long as he stays healthy. He can drive to the basket and finish strong, or step back and hit the outside three.
“I want him to shoot the ball,” Beilein said. “Balance between his drives and his three-point shooting.”
In last season’s signature Big Ten win, Harris lead Michigan with 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds in an 87-78 win over Purdue.
“His demeanor on the court is where it should be,” Beilein said. “He’s a great leader.”
No. 0 Zack Novak
Novak brings an intensity that is unmatched on the court.
He gives up his body and out-hustles every player on the floor, getting rebounds, loose balls and saving a ball going out of bounds. He’s also a sharpshooter from long range. He hit five of eight threes in the exhibition against Wayne State.
“He gives us hustle plays and so many other things,” Beilein said.
Novak started the final 22 games of his freshman season and showed he can be a vital player on defense. When Michigan runs the 1-3-1 zone, Novak is physical enough to defend under the basketball from boxing out rebounders to disrupting shot attempts.
Novak’s intensity has gotten him in trouble. Last season he was suspended for a game after elbowing Ohio State guard P.J. Hill in the face.
No. 31 Laval Lucas-Perry
The Flint guard transferred to Michigan after spending only five games his freshman year at Arizona. The NCAA granted him an extra year of eligibility. In his first year at Michigan, Lucas-Perry started 12 games.
He showed his value last year against Minnesota, when Michigan was on the NCAA tournament bubble.
Lucas-Perry dropped 19 points in only 21 minutes, leading Michigan to a three-point victory that helped ensure a NCAA tournament bid.
“We got to get it out to our wing men,” said Darius Morris, point guard. “They’re big and fast and can take it in for easy scores.”
No. 34 Deshawn Sims
One of only two seniors on the team, Sims brings experience and leadership. He also provides a big, 6-foot-8-inch, 235-pound frame to a team that will desperately be looking for an inside presence.
“To have more gritty type of rebounds, to defend a four-man, not just a five man,” Beilein said. “Create match-up problems for other teams, those are things he can do.”
Last season, teams with reliable big men were able to exploit Michigan’s weakness inside. If the Wolverines want to stay in the Top 25 all year, they’ll need a rebound presence from Sims.
No. 4 Darius Morris
A freshman starting at point guard is always a scary thing for coaches, but Michigan is confident in Morris’ abilities.
“I’ve been impressed by how fast he’s picked up things,” Beilein said. “He’s learning the offense. He’s got to learn when to drive and when to set up the next play. He’s got great basketball IQ.”
Morris is a four-star recruit (according to Rivals.com) from Los Angeles. In high school, he averaged 21.7 points per game with the ability to score in the paint when he drives.