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Wednesday, January 9, 2013
WolverineNation Mailbag

By Michael Rothstein

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Football season might have ended, but that doesn’t mean your questions have stopped.

In this week’s WolverineNation mailbag, we look back at the Michigan season that was, take a glance at the future and also discuss some basketball, where the Wolverines are the No. 2 team in the nation.

Have questions for the Mailbag? Email Chantel Jennings at jenningsespn@gmail.com or tweet at her @chanteljennings.

On to your questions.

Grahambino0007 from Twitter: How many incoming freshmen do you expect to play in the upcoming season?

Not a ton. Have a tough time seeing any of the offensive linemen playing and on the defensive line; perhaps Taco Charlton will get some run since he is coming in early and there is a need there. Otherwise, Jake Butt is someone who should see early time at tight end out of necessity with numbers. Michigan needs help at running back and wide receiver, so someone there could make an impact -- certainly if running back Derrick Green were to commit he would have a great chance. Dymonte Thomas, a safety who is also enrolling early, is also a candidate for early playing time. Michigan has fewer glaring holes than in the past few seasons, so fewer freshmen will have to play as a necessity, which has been what happened the past few years.

Trevor Mbakwe
Trevor Mbakwe and Minnesota will provide a stern road test.
br220253 from The Den: The Michigan basketball team has been dominant so far, through only a mild schedule. Do you see any potential downfalls/weakness come the meat of Big Ten play (i.e. Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, etc...)

Yes, I do. This Michigan team has yet to win in late-game situations against a quality opponent or win a hostile game on the road. Michigan hasn’t needed to do that most of the season, the closest example against NC State when the Wolfpack cut the Wolverines’ lead to one possession in the second half. But until this team gets truly tested either in a road environment or one where they trail in the second half, you should be cautious. Those chances, though, are coming beginning Sunday at Ohio State. Three of Michigan’s next five games are on the road against teams in the upper half of the Big Ten -- OSU, Minnesota and Illinois. Win one or two of those and then they’ve shown a lot. But that is the one area Michigan still has to prove to itself.

The other area of concern is defense on the interior. Michigan has been decent-to-good this season, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the Wolverines face a true low post presence again. Jon Horford, who is still coming back from injury, could be the critical piece there.

akim120 from The Den: It is probably still too early in the season to talk about the success of this team, but is the general recent success of the basketball team sustainable for future years? If someone asked you what was the recipe for Michigan’s success to move from a NIT team to where they are now, what were the key factors to get from point A to point B?

This is a big question, but the short answer is yes. Michigan has done a really good job evaluating talent in recruiting and what it wants in its system. Next season’s recruiting class has the potential to be as good as its current freshman class with three Top 100 prospects in point guard Derrick Walton Jr., swingman Zak Irvin and post Mark Donnal. The Wolverines are also going after higher profile prospects while continuing to look for under-the-radar talent such as Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht.

Recruiting has been a big key to where Michigan has gotten to, but much of it also has to do to John Beilein’s ability to adapt. Remember, in the middle of the 2010-11 season, Michigan went to more of a ball screen offense with Darius Morris and Jordan Morgan, setting up the Wolverines’ turnaround that season and what it has done since. That combined with one of the top assistant coaching staffs in the country has helped massively.

@dwinslow09 from Twitter: Was Michigan’s schedule the toughest schedule of the year?

In the nonconference, yes, having played both national championship game teams in September. In all, Michigan faced five teams in final AP Top 25, going 1-5, beating No. 17 Northwestern and losing to No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 8 South Carolina and No. 25 Nebraska. The Gamecocks also faced six teams in the final AP Top 25, going 4-2. Florida might have had the most difficult schedule, though. The Gators faced seven teams in the final AP Top 25, losing to No. 5 Georgia and No. 13 Louisville while beating No. 5 Texas A&M, South Carolina, No. 10 Florida State, No. 14 LSU and No. 23 Vanderbilt.