1 – Mitch McGary
When you visit www.wagersolutions.com, you learn how to become a superior sports bettor. When you look over the progression of Michigan’s basketball team last season, as it went from a vulnerable fourth seed to a national runner-up in the span of a few weeks, you will realize that one player in particular enabled the Wolverines to make that kind of climb in a fairly short time. McGary slowly improved as the 2012-2013 season unfolded, but he threw his own personal coming-out party in the NCAA tournament, turning into a reborn power forward who controlled multiple games and stood his ground against Kansas center Jeff Withey in the South Regional semifinal that was won by the Wolverines in overtime. McGary should be a star for Michigan this season, and if one of his big-name teammates, small forward Glenn Robinson, can blossom into a truly great player (he’s not there yet), Michigan will have the composition of a team that can do a lot of damage in March.
2 – John Beilein
The Wolverines’ fortunes as a program declined in the wake of the departure of former head coach Steve Fisher, who led the team to a national title in 1989 and then back-to-back appearances in the national championship game in 1992 and 1993. From 1999 through 2007, a span of nine seasons, Michigan didn’t make a single NCAA tournament under failed coaches Brian Ellerbe and Tommy Amaker. It took a new man, John Beilein, to revive the program. Beilein made the NCAAs in his second year and has taken Michigan to four Big Dances in the past five seasons. This past season was his masterpiece, as he guided the Wolverines to the Final Four and a national semifinal win over Syracuse. Michigan fell short in the title game against Louisville, but this program is still in great shape thanks to Beilein. Michigan looked tired late in the 2012-2013 regular seasons, suggesting that it would get knocked out of the brackets fairly quickly. Yet, Beilein settled his players and got them to treat the NCAAs as a fresh start. Precise halfcourt sets, combined with accurate shooting from reserve wings and role players, translated into five NCAA tournament wins. Beilein got his players to buy in precisely when things looked bleak for Michigan last winter.
1 – No Trey Burke
One cannot begin to count all the ways in which Burke’s absence will matter for Michigan this season. Burke’s first step and quickness as a dribble penetrator were lights-out. That was the cornerstone of Burke’s game. A fearless demeanor on the court and a willingness to take every big shot infused Burke with a level of confidence that most of his opponents lacked. Burke was not just a one-way player, either. He won multiple games for Michigan with his man-to-man defense. The absence of Burke in this lineup creates so many deficiencies that Beilein and his staff will have to find a way to address.
2 – Backup bigs
McGary has been troubled by a back injury early this season, raising fresh questions about whether the Wolverines will be able to hold their own without McGary on the court (or at the very least, when McGary is not at his best). This is a huge concern for the program, which – if you take a tour of its roster – has generally not been able to pull in good centers. McGary’s emergence as a freshman really saved the team in a point of crisis last season. If no one develops and can play 20 minutes a game to nurse McGary through the full season, this team will take several hard hits.