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Michigan preparing Brandon Johns for the unknown against Indiana

ANN ARBOR — After it was announced that sophomore forward Isaiah Livers would be doubtful to participate in Michigan’s victory over Penn State on Thursday due to back spasms, questions began to arise about whether he would be available for when the Wolverines face off against No. 21 Indiana on Sunday.

After the game, Beilein told reporters that it was too early to tell whether Livers would be available for Sunday’s game/

“It is too early,” Beilein said. “I hadn’t planned on him not playing, I talked when he was tight yesterday, to make sure you get him [worked on]. My thought was with back spasms, you probably won’t be at 100-percent. Being a guy who has had back spasms, he probably won’t be at 100-percent. Hopefully, he can go because we just need the minutes there from that position.”

The next day, the relative air of unknown still remains and Beilein noted that Livers’ injury will not be a long-term issue but pain could still linger into Sunday. Livers had spent most of the day on Friday at the training table to receive treatment for his back spasms.

With that being said, where do the Wolverines turn to if Livers is unable to play or his role is reduced on Sunday? There’s a good chance that true freshman Brandon Johns just might see the floor in an expanded role.

Regardless whether Livers plays or not, Beilein is preparing for any scenario by making sure the freshman is ready at a moment’s notice.

“[Livers’ status] was a surprise yesterday so we have a package we want to put in for him today,” Beilein said. “We have a package if they are really small and that would give Brandon problems right now. If they went really small, we could play Charles and Jordan together at the forwards. Then Eli and Zavier, maybe David. We gotta be versatile and be ready for anything. We have to have something ready for him. He had been Stevens the whole week. Now, all of the sudden, he’s in there guarding Stevens. It was just to give Iggy a rest last night. Now if Iggy would’ve gotten into foul trouble, he would’ve had to play a longer time. He did a good job of staying out of it.”

For a player like Eli Brooks, he’s well aware of what it takes to change roles at any moment when he comes off the bench. One minute he could be tasked to back up Zavier Simpson, the next could be playing with Simpson to give Poole a rest. The most important piece of wisdom that Brooks can offer to Johns to 

“Going from very limited minutes to getting key minutes, that’s going to be big and his improvement is going to be big for us at the five and at the four,” Brooks said. “Just him knowing the offense and the defense, mostly the defense, because he can score. [He has to] stay engaged in the game, you never know who is going to pick up the fouls as you saw in the last game. Just being ready at all times, taking every practice seriously. He has a double duty right now learning the four and the five. He really has to lean on himself at practice and be willing to learn.”

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