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With Beilein and Matthews Back, Michigan Can Reach Another Final Four


The Wolverines are the 10th betting choice at +2800 odds to win the 2019 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship at Bovada sportsbook. Is there value in the number? You bet. Head coach John Beilein, who flirted a bit with the NBA's Detroit Pistons, returns seven players from last season’s national runner-up team, including three starters: point guard Zavier Simpson, wingman Charles Matthews and forward Isaiah Livers. Departed are two of Beilein’s three top scorers, including Moritz Wagner (14.6 ppg) and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12.9), but the influx of new talent is promising. This a well-balanced squad with a nice blend of experience to youth, and offensive and defensive talent.

Stellar Recruiting Class
Beilein rolls out his highest-rated incoming class since 2012. That squad included NBA draftees Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas. The Wolverines went 31-8 SU their first year, compiling the most wins by the program in more than 20 years. They lost to Louisville 82-76 in the NCAA championship game, a title later vacated due to the Cardinals’ sex scandal. Expect a similar U-M run this season.

Four of the five incoming recruits are four-star prospects, led by forwards Ignas Brazdeikis and Brandon Johns. Each standing 6-foot-8, this pair will see minutes from the get-go. Guard David DeJulius and center Colin Castleton, meanwhile, are ranked in the top 20 nationally at their positions. Three-star guard Adrien Nunez rounds out the class. Two factors characterize the group as a whole: They all have size and can all score. This is a perfect combination for competing in the always-physical Big Ten.

What Scoring Void?
Beilein has led Michigan to eight NCAA Tournament appearances since 2007, including reaching the Sweet 16 four times in the last six years. The recent success is due to a boost in scoring. Since 2012, the Wolverines have averaged over 73 points per game each season. They never posted more than 66.9 per contest through Beilein’s first five years. Michigan, in fact, is 168-27 SU (86.2 percent) and 118-55-3 ATS (68.2 percent) when putting up 70 points or more under Beilein. That suffocating defense only needs so many helpers to see out a victory.

To reach the key mark again, the offense will have to uncover new scorers. Matthews is the primary outlet, leading the team nine times last year in points per game. He averaged 13.0 per contest, the only returning player posting double digits. He has the talent to put up closer to 20 a night with improvements to his perimeter and free-throw shooting. Sophomore Jordan Poole, likely a starter at shooting guard, is the biggest outside scoring threat. Poole is the only player remaining that drained 40-plus 3-pointers from last year’s squad, including an epic game-winner in the NCAA Tournament win over Houston.

The biggest challenge to uncovering scorers will hinge on the development of center Jon Teske Jr. Last year’s offense moved through Wagner, a terrific ball handler that could beat players off the dribble. Teske doesn’t offer the same offensive strengths, but can shoot from range (15 feet and out). Expect a similar flow and attack from Beilein, but the big man will have to draw his fair share of attention to let Matthews and Co. get to the rim.

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