The Michigan basketball program recently used a nine-day getaway in Italy to build team chemistry and work on some new things, and the results were, suffice to say, encouraging. Michigan finished with a 4-0 record while averaging 101 points per game and shooting 55.4 percent from the field against a collection Italian all-star clubs.
For a team that lost five major players in Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary (albeit lost early in the 2013-14 season), Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, Michigan needs some time to come together and gel, as it is introducing six true freshmen and one redshirt freshman.
So the trip to Italy was just what the doctor ordered for head coach John Beilein and company, as it got the team to iron out some concerns and issues before the games count for real in November. It was not only a good trip to bond over, but Beilein got a head start in regard to what lineups he may implement in the winter.
Here, then, are the biggest takeaways from the Wolverines' trip to Italy.
All stats courtesy of MGoBlue.com.
Caris LeVert appears to be fine after foot surgery
After averaging 14.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.0 steals on the trip, it's safe to say LeVert is over his foot injury
As the de facto leader of the team, it was nice to see LeVert play at a high level and give Wolverines fans assurance that he'll be fine heading into the 2014-15 season. It was also nice to see LeVert expand his game; he rebounded and passed the ball well, playing a well-rounded game in Italy.
Michigan should be in good hands with LeVert being the alpha dog of the group this year, and the ankle injury must now be considered a thing of the past.
Zak Irvin appears ready to break out
After some concerns that Irvin would only be a shooter in Michigan's offense, he erased some doubt that he is not a complete player by having a fantastic Italian excursion. No MVP was given out for trip, but if there was one, he would have received it.
Irvin averaged 20.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game on the trip while shooting a blistering 68.8 percent from the floor. Don't worry, Irvin can still shoot from deep, as he shot 66.7 from long range (nailing 12 of his 18 three-pointers). Talk about efficiency!
It seems Irvin took to task the object of making himself a complete player and gave us a glimpse of how special he can be in his sophomore year.
Ricky Doyle could be the rebounder Michigan needs
If there is one thing the Wolverines need, it is a rebounder. With McGary, Morgan and Horford departing, Michigan needs a couple of its big men to step up, and Ricky Doyle definitively answered the bell in Italy.
In four games, Doyle averaged a very respectable eight rebounds a game. Not only that, but Doyle also chipped in 11.8 points per game on the trip.
Granted, the competition in Italy is not what he will face in the Big Ten, but Doyle gave Michigan fans hope that the team will have some good depth down low.
Mark Donnal appears ready to contribute
Doyle wasn't the only big man to impress during the Italy trip, as redshirt freshman Mark Donnal also showed his worth.
In the four games, Donnal averaged 10.2 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting a sizzling 69.5 percent from the field. Donnal showed he can play a nice role in Michigan's offense, and he, along with Doyle, can perhaps get the job done down low.
While there may be some bumps along the way, Donnal looks like he's ready to step into the starting lineup and be a factor.
Great to see Austin Hatch playing
While not expected to be much of a contributor this year, that is not the story here when it comes to Austin Hatch.
For a guy who has lost his mother, father, stepmother and two siblings in two separate plane crashes and was in a medically induced coma as a result of one of them, Hatch is the perfect picture of courage and perseverance. For him to come back from not only the grief that has stricken him, but the life-threatening injuries as well, is nothing short of miraculous and inspiring.
Good stories go beyond the bounds of basketball, and this story demonstrates how we should all appreciate how precious life is.
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