Michigan Basketball: 5 Questions the Wolverines Need to Answer in Preseason NIT
The Michigan Wolverines enter the 2012-13 season carrying the highest expectations the program has had in over two decades and will have a chance to showcase their skills to a national audience in the Preseason NIT Tip-Off, which will get underway on Monday night at the Crisler Center.
Michigan looked impressive in their season-opening 100-62 blowout of Slippery Rock, but after two exhibition games and a regular-season game against a Division II team there are a lot of questions the Wolverines have left unanswered heading into their Preseason NIT game against the IUPUI Jaguars.
Click ahead to find out the five questions the Wolverines have to answer in the Preseason NIT before college basketball fans will buy into the preseason hype!
Can Michigan Out-Rebound Teams with Talented Big Men?
The Michigan Wolverines have done a much better job on the glass through two exhibition games and a season-opening rout of Slippery Rock, and while the improvement is something to be excited about for the moment, expectations need to be tempered until the Maize and Blue take on a team with legitimate post players.
The Pittsburgh Panthers will provide the toughest test inside for the Wolverines, if both teams are able to win their respective regions, with 7' center Steven Adams and power forward Talib Zanna, who went off for 20 points in a victory over Mount St. Mary's.
Additionally, the Virginia Cavaliers out-rebounded Michigan a year ago in their Big Ten/ACC Challenge contest and could provide a similar challenge for the Wolverines again this season despite only having one player taller than 6'8".
The Wolverines were one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation last season, so Michigan will need solid efforts from junior forward Jordan Morgan and true freshman center Mitch McGary in order to show the Maize and Blue faithful that this year's team will not be dominated by opponents on the glass.
Will Mitch McGary Be Able to Stay out of Foul Trouble?
True freshman Mitch McGary has finally provided the Michigan Wolverines with a rebounding presence in the paint that John Beilein has never had before in his storied coaching career, but will the Chesterton, Ind., native be able to stay out of foul trouble and play enough minutes for his impact to be felt?
In the Wolverines' season-opener against Slippery Rock, McGary pulled down nine rebounds and scored nine points in just 12 minutes as the Brewster Academy alum picked up two fouls early in the first half and a third personal shortly after play resumed in the second half.
There is no denying that McGary is a talented big man and will be a key to fixing Michigan's rebounding woes.
For this to happen, though, McGary will need to be on the floor for at least 25-30 minutes a game for the Wolverines, and the only way for him to do that will be to stay out of foul trouble against the tougher teams Michigan will face in the Preseason NIT Tip-Off.
Will Michigan Be as Impressive Away from Home?
The Michigan Wolverines were dominant at the Crisler Center during the 2011-12 season and only lost one game on the home court, but John Beilein's team did not look like the same team away from the friendly confines a year ago as the Maize and Blue had a 9-9 record in games outside of Ann Arbor.
Even that record is not as good as it looks when you factor in that the two of those road wins came against the struggling Penn State Nittany Lions, Nebraska Cornhuskers and an Illinois Fighting Illini team that was in complete shambles by the time Michigan rolled into Assembly Hall.
The Wolverines were dominated in road games against the Virginia Cavaliers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan State Spartans and did not look impressive in their postseason losses to the Buckeyes and Ohio Bobcats.
Assuming Michigan wins their opening-round game against the IUPUI Jaguars and dispatch of their second-round opponent, which will be either the Cleveland State Vikings or Bowling Green State Falcons, the Wolverines will head to Madison Square Garden in New York.
The neutral setting for the Preseason NIT Tip-Off semifinals and championship game should provide Michigan fans with a sense of how good the Wolverines will be away from home this season.
What Will Spike Albrecht's Role Be This Season?
True freshman point guard Spike Albrecht did not bring as many accolades and achievements to Ann Arbor as Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskus, but the Michigan Wolverines' coaches are very excited about having an effective backup for Trey Burke, who wore down at the end of the 2011-12 season due to playing extended minutes for much of the year.
Albrecht has played well for the Wolverines in their two exhibition games, one of which he started when Burke was suspended for a team rules violation, and season-opener against Slippery Rock.
The Crown Point, Ind., native scored 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting and dished out six assists against the Northern Michigan Wildcats.
Once Burke returned, though, Albrecht's minutes dipped significantly and the 5'11", 170-pounder has only scored four points in Michigan's last two games.
All that being said, Albrecht is still the backup point guard and John Beilein will probably keep Burke on the floor as much as possible, but the Wolverines could opt to put both of their distributors on the court at the same time.
It remains to be seen whether Beilein will make that move, which is why Michigan fans should watch closely to see what kind of situations Albrecht comes in for.
Can the Wolverines Live Up to Preseason Expectations?
This season's Preseason NIT Tip-Off field does not feature a high number of elite programs as it has in the past, so fans are expecting the Michigan Wolverines to run through the tournament and get off to a 5-0 start to the 2012-13 campaign.
The expectations are warranted given Michigan's returning talent from last season's squad that won a Big Ten Conference regular-season title and the addition of highly touted freshmen Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskus.
The Pittsburgh Panthers, Virginia Cavaliers and Kansas State Wildcats would all provide an adequate barometer for exactly how good the Wolverines will be this season, but Michigan should be able to pull away from all of those teams in the second half if it's as good as advertised.
The Wolverines will contend for a second straight Big Ten title this season, and the Preseason NIT should provide Michigan with a couple of major conference opponents to round into form prior to their marquee matchup with the No. 6 North Carolina State Wolfpack in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Nov. 27.