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Varsity Blue

Visit the new Varsity Blue at http://www.umvarsityblue.com!

Basketball is upon us

Oh god, the football season must be really bad…

Last year, Michigan finished 148th in the nation in Jeff Sagarin’s college basketball rating system. This is a bad thing, and the 10-22 record would certainly speak to that. However, there are a few caveats that may give a little hope to UM basketball fans in regards to the upcoming year. First, last year’s record was compiled against the 7th most-difficult schedule in the nation. The teams with more difficult schedules than the Wolverines are as follows:
  1. Arizona (36th in final Sagarin Ratings)
  2. Georgia Tech (63rd in final Sagarin Ratings)
  3. Southern Cal (26th in final Sagarin Ratings)
  4. Texas (6th in final Sagarin Ratings)
  5. Tennessee (9th in final Sagarin Ratings)
  6. Illinois (73rd in final Sagarin Ratings)

Of course, all of these teams finished well ahead of Michigan in the final standings. A tough strength of schedule helps Sagarin rating, so unless you are a bad team (as Michigan certainly was last year), it makes sense that there is something of a correlation between the two metrics. Michigan, however, went 1-10 against the final top 25 and 1-13 against the final top 50 (the lone win came against Ohio State the night of Rich Rodriguez's introduction).

The schedule isn’t leaps and bound easier this year, however, with games at Maryland and against Duke in the first semester, along with (hopefully) a pair against highly-regarded teams in the Coaches v. Cancer Classic. Duke, UCLA, and Southern Illinois are the other hosts and likely favorites to make it to the Garden. Michigan would face off against UCLA in a hypothetical semi-final where all the favorites win. On top of the conference slate, the Wolverines play UConn in Storrs February 7th.

So why should there be confidence for Michigan basketball fans this year? The most important reason is the coach. John Beilein is undoubtedly a system coach, and a damn good one at that (check out Brian's offensive efficiency conclusions). Having one year to install his system, without players that he recruited, can only be expected to be a disaster (just as Rich Rodriguez is learning now). Now Beilein has been able to prepare his players for a much longer period of time. Both offensively and defensively, the players should improve somewhat.

Speaking of the players, essentially all of the important ones except Ekpe Udoh return, and there are a few notable additions. Beilein recruits Stu Douglass and Zach Novak are long-range bombers with the ability to handle the ball a bit. Both perfectly fit the system. Ben Cronin is a bigman with an outside touch. Laval Lucas-Perry was with the team last year (meaning he already has a year of the system under his belt), but was ineligible to compete because he was a transfer student; he will join the active roster after first semester exams.

So, if I haven’t at least drummed up a bit of excitement for Michigan basketball, I guess there’s none to be found. However, if nothing else, this team deserves support because it wears the maize and blue. The season starts tomorrow with an exhibition against Saginaw Valley. Watch it on BigTenNetwork.com at 7pm. Go Blue!

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“Basketball is upon us”