March, 7, 2012
By Michael Rothstein | ESPN.com
Getty ImagesMichigan will miss the leadership of Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, but others should step up.Welcome to this week's Michigan mailbag as spring football is less than two weeks away, March Madness is in full swing -- Michigan starts its postseason Friday in the Big Ten tournament -- and the Michigan hockey team starts its postseason run this weekend as well against Notre Dame in the CCHA tournament.
Remember, too, the mailbag is only as good as your questions. Send those questions for next week to firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet at Chantel @chanteljennings.
Now, on to your questions:
Mark H. from Knoxville, Tenn. writes: People keep talking about how Michigan basketball is back and how they are going to be soooo good next year. Am I the only person who remembers 2009-10? Michigan was coming off a season with a tournament win and all their big names back, but they lost their key leadership and they ended up at 15-17. Am I the only person who fears another collapse with the departures of Zack Novak and Stu Douglass?
That is a fair and valid question -- and one that won't really be able to be answered fully until next season. However, there is a difference between that scenario and this one: Novak and Douglass have worked all year with freshman guard Trey Burke on leadership so he'd be able to take over next season. That is a big key. The 2009-10 collapse had many factors to it, from half the Wolverines going into a long shooting slump to Manny Harris never being fully healthy most of the season with a hamstring issue to other, undefinable issues. That team, too, wasn't accustomed to winning. It was still a group of players who had been to just one NCAA tournament and they bought into their ranking a bit. Michigan's seniors next season will have been to back-to-back NCAAs, and there is more of a culture of winning now. Don't underestimate that. Plus, Michigan's highly touted freshman class will give the Wolverines their most talented roster since the days of Tractor Traylor. So you have decent reason to be concerned, but I wouldn't be too frightened yet.
Russ from Maryland writes: Michigan wins the Big Ten without a player on the first team, defensive team or coach of the year. Can't explain that.
I can. Often in bigger conferences, awards get spread out. That there were tri-champs and only a five-person first team for a 12-team league meant worthy players were going to be left out. Michigan still had a major award winner in Burke winning Freshman of the Year from the media, but there is only going to be one coach of the year and any of four guys -- Tom Izzo, Tom Crean, John Beilein or even Bo Ryan -- could have won it. The first team is tough because there were three locks in Draymond Green, Jared Sullinger and John Shurna. Purdue's Robbie Hummel was going to be a likely selection and then there were really four candidates for one slot -- Burke, Cody Zeller, Tim Frazier and Jordan Taylor. All four were worthy and were clearly in consideration. As far as the defensive team -- no Michigan player stood out enough to really garner that honor, in my opinion. The closest would have been Douglass.
Jordan from Jackson, Mich. writes: What are you most looking for in spring practice over the next six weeks?
I'm most paying attention to what happens at center and along the defensive line. Those are Michigan's two biggest issues right now -- finding a replacement for David Molk and configuring the defensive line with a bunch of players in new roles as the Wolverines replace three starters there. So those would be the two spots I'm keeping my eye on as I think they'll be a predictor of early season success or struggle for the Wolverines next season.