Ferris St.-Michigan Preview
Darius Morris hurried down the court and managed one final shot
– a runner in the lane that bounced off the back of the rim.
Michigan was that close to taking Duke to overtime in last
season’s NCAA tournament, that close to extending a remarkable
turnaround season at least five more minutes, with a round of 16
berth at stake.
Although the Wolverines fell just short, they took several steps
forward in 2010-11, and they’ll look to keep progressing as they
open this season at home against Division II Ferris State on Friday
Little was expected of Michigan at the start of the season, and
as late as January the program seemed trapped near the bottom of
the Big Ten. The team began to click down the stretch, however, not
only reaching the NCAA tournament but routing Tennessee in its
opening game before losing 73-71 to Duke.
“We have a lot of confidence,” guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “We
tasted the NCAA atmosphere and we want to go back there and taste
The first order of business is replacing Morris, and nobody
harbors any delusions about that. As a sophomore, Morris averaged
15.0 points and 6.7 assists a game, shouldering plenty of
responsibility as the team’s point guard. Although he wasn’t much
of a threat from 3-point range, Morris diversified the offense with
his ability to penetrate, creating good shots for himself and his
Morris was a second-round pick in the NBA draft.
“Obviously we’re going to miss Darius,” guard Zack Novak said.
“You can’t say you’re not going to miss a player like that. We know
we’ve got our work cut out for us, but I think we’re ready.”
If they can adequately replace Morris, the Wolverines should
feel optimistic because they return every other key player from a
team that went 21-14 last season. Hardaway came on strong toward
the end of the season and ended up averaging 13.9 points. He made
76 3-pointers, one of four Michigan players with at least 45.
Jordan Morgan was efficient around the basket, shooting 63
percent from the field. The Wolverines looked increasingly
comfortable in coach John Beilein’s offense. Michigan shot well,
didn’t turn the ball over much and did a serviceable job on the
boards. The combination was effective, resulting in a two-game
sweep of in-state rival Michigan State and a No. 8 seed in the NCAA
Of course, the 6-foot-4 Morris was at the center of it all.
Senior Stu Douglass, who made 53 3-pointers last season, is a
candidate to take over at point guard. The Wolverines also add
freshman guards Trey Burke and Carlton Brundidge to the mix.
“What I’m really interested to see is, because of Darius’
length, how big a factor that would be in some of the passes,”
Beilein said. “But I also think, while we’re rebuilding that
position a bit, the strengths in the other positions will help that
be an easier transition.”
Michigan will be tested early, traveling to Hawaii in November
for the Maui Invitational. The Wolverines face Memphis in that
event, then will play a rematch from last season’s NCAA tournament
in their second game, against either Duke or Tennessee.
On Friday, Michigan will get its first look at newly renovated
Crisler Arena, which includes new seats and a new high-definition
scoreboard. Although expectations are significantly higher than
last year, Beilein is taking nothing for granted as he tries to
take the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament for the third time in
five seasons as their coach.
“We were sweating on Selection Sunday last year, despite the
eight seed,” Beilein said. “We were sweating that. I think based on
the league and the schedule, we’re going to have to perform early
and we’re going to have to perform in the season as well – and
there are a lot of good teams with a lot of good coaches out
“We don’t know anything about injuries, we don’t know anything
about chemistry yet. There are a lot of hurdles we have to still
That seemed apparent last Friday, when Michigan escaped with a
47-39 exhibition victory over D-II Wayne State. The Wolverines shot
37.3 percent from the field and went 5 of 24 from 3-point
Hardaway Jr. scored 20 points and Novak added 14.
Great Lakes Conference champion Ferris State went 24-8 last
season and reached the Midwest Regional championship game of the
D-II tournament, the first time it advanced to a regional title
game since 2005. The Bulldogs, however, lost four of their top five
scorers from 2010-11, including Justin Keenan (21.6 points and 9.7
rebounds per game) and Darien Gay (14.6 ppg and 4.3 assists per
They’ll need junior guard Kenny Brown, who averaged 9.2 points
and is the top returning scorer, to step up along with junior
Daniel Sutherlin (5.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg) and senior Dontae Molden (5.0