Michigan Basketball: What we learned from instrasquad scrimmage

The Michigan basketball team took the floor Friday night for a dress rehearsal ahead of Wednesday’s season opener and here’s what we learned.

The wait for the 2020-21 Michigan basketball season is almost over and for the players, they got a taste of on-court action with an internal scrimmage Friday night.

Michigan basketball split its roster into two teams, welcomed in officials and played a 40-minute basketball game. According to Dylan Burkhardt of UMHoops (subscription required), Mike Smith, Zeb Jackson, Chaundee Brown, Isaiah Livers and Austin Davis started for the Maize team.

The Blue team featured Franz Wagner, Hunter Dickinson, Eli Brooks, Terrance Williams and Brandon Johns. And thanks to a stellar night from Wagner shooting the basketball, his team won the game 84-73. The sophomore finished with 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting.

When you look at the lineup Wagner played with, it appears he would have seen time mostly at the two with Brooks at the point, Williams at the three, Johns at the four and Dickinson at center.

Maybe the most impressive part about Dickinson, Michigan’s top recruit in 2020, was that he was able to play 33 minutes, while also scoring 17 points and dishing out two assists.

While there were varying stats that summed up the night, the fact that Dickinson, Livers, Wagner, Brooks, Brown, Smith and Johns all played 30 minutes or more is significant.

Those guys along with Davis should make up the core rotation, with other freshman such as Jackson and Williams also getting minutes as signaled by their inclusion as starters Friday.

What does it tell us about the starting five?

Another thing that stood out from the stats was that Eli Brooks connected on 7-of-11 shots and drew five fouls. Considering he was likely guarded by Mike Smith most of the game, that would lead one to believe the concerns about his defense are legit.

And with the way that Eli played, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him wind up as the point guard, with Brown at the two, Wagner at the three and Livers at the four. Dickinson is going to start at some point this season and could even be the guy this week vs Bowling Green.

Davis is a force down low offensively, but last year he was effective in a limited role and even if he starts, he won’t play more than 20 minutes a night or so, at least if the Wolverines want him to be most effective.

The bottom line is that who starts the game can be overrated. Michigan basketball is going to have an eight-man rotation with Brooks, Smith, Brown, Wagner, Livers, Johns, Dickinson and Davis and those guys will see the majority of the minutes.

That was backed up by what we saw Friday. Jackson and Williams should be the next two guys and that’s key because each freshmen offers some position versatility.

Williams should see minutes as a three and a small-ball four for Michigan, a la Livers, while Jackson should get some run at point and even at two guard with his skilled 3-point shot.

The ceiling of this team will depend on how much guys like Wagner and Livers improve from season.

We are all expecting Wagner to blossom into an All-Big Ten talent and Livers could produce a similar season. He even dished out six assists last night, meaning the talk of him being more a playmaker was real. It could also mean more ball-screen sets with him.

However, the floor for this team should be pretty high and as long as all the pieces mold together, which it appears they are, it should be a fun season for Michigan basketball fans.

And finally, it starts in just a few days.