Michigan basketball hosted its “Selfie Night” open practice session Monday in Ann Arbor.
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Detroit Free Press sports writer Orion Sang breaks down three things to watch for in Michigan basketball’s season opener against Norfolk State on Tuesday night.
Who will get the start at forward?
In the Wolverines’ 90-58 exhibition win over Northwood this past Friday, freshman Ignas Brazdeikis got the start at the four over sophomore Isaiah Livers.
The rationale, John Beilein explained after, was that Livers had missed a significant amount of time in the preseason with an ankle injury. The team went with Brazdeikis in Livers’ absence, including in a secret scrimmage against Toledo, and Beilein simply stayed the course when the exhibition rolled around.
Beilein made no guarantee, though, that the same thing would happen against Norfolk State.
At this point, either option should work out well for Michigan. Brazdeikis is an aggressive, physical player who likes to get downhill on offense. Livers has starting experience and is a steady presence. Whoever comes off the bench will most likely still play a starter’s share of minutes.
How many 3s will the team take?
Against Northwood, Michigan attempted just 14 3s. That’s significantly lower than the average attempts per game the Wolverines took last season.
Shooting is a question mark for the team entering the season, considering the top three 3-point shooters from last year’s team are all gone, and the display against Northwood didn’t provide a definitive answer.
And to be honest, a definitive answer won’t come for a while. Still, it’ll be interesting to monitor how many 3s the Wolverines take per game early on this season.
Will Jon Teske hit another 3 (or two)?
Another shooting-related topic. Junior center Jon Teske, taking over for Moritz Wagner, said he emphasized his outside shooting over the offseason. Early returns were positive, as Beilein complimented Teske’s shooting.
When we’ve seen it in open practices and warm-ups, Teske’s shot looks good. Against Northwood, he drained a 3 off the pick-and-pop. It was his only attempt of the night, but he made it count.
Teske could be the X-factor for this team. If he can become a reliable 3-point threat, similar to how Wagner was the past two seasons, then a lot of things will open up for the team’s offense.
It’ll be hard to replicate Wagner’s production in full — he was an elite shooter — but Michigan might not need that from Teske anyway. If he continues to do what he did against Northwood, opposing teams will have to respect the threat of his shot.
Michigan wins in a romp over Norfolk State, which finished last year ranked No. 299 in Ken Pomeroy’s college basketball rating system and slots in at No. 312 in the 2018 rankings.
Michigan’s defense smothers Norfolk State’s offense, Brazdeikis and redshirt junior forward Charles Matthews combine for 30 points and Teske hits another 3.
Oh, and a bonus prediction: Matthews and junior point guard Zavier Simpson will be revealed as the team’s captains.
Contact Orion Sang: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang.