Two years after winning the national championship, the University of Michigan basketball team is trying to rebuild its program, and what a task that will be. Three Michigan players were taken in the first round of the NBA draft last year and a fourth player was drafted in the second round.
That notwithstanding, the Wolverines will meet an equally inexperienced team, the University of Utah, this afternoon in Ann Arbor in a locally televised game (tipoff: noon MST).The Utes are 3-0, the Wolverines 1-0.
In the Wolverines' lone game of the year, they defeated Central Michigan Wednesday night in Ann Arbor 72-63. They also have played two exhibition games, including a 109-102 win over Athletes in Action, the same team that defeated Utah 74-66.
Michigan has won between 20 and 30 games in each of the last seven seasons, but expectations for this year's team are uncertain. Calip, who started 13 games last year and averaged 8.5 points, is the team's most experienced player and its only senior.
Michigan's lineup includes three sophomores - 6-1 guard Michael Talley, 6-11 center Eric Riley and 6-4 forward Tony Tolbert - plus 6-9 junior forward Chris Seter and the 6-1 Calip. Against Central Michigan, Riley and Tolbert both scored 17 points and Calip 13.
Utah and Michigan have met three times - the last time being 1969 - with Michigan winning twice.
"We're going to face a different look," says Ute coach Rick Majerus. "They have a very good big man (Riley)."
As expected, junior Josh Grant has been the Utes' best player so far this season. He has grabbed nine rebounds in all three games, and scored 54 points. Sophomore guard Byron Wilson, who missed the season opener, has scored 31 points in two games.
Because of their opponent's full-court press, the Utes played center Walter Watts only nine minutes during Wednesday's 80-78 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee. But Majerus probably will utilize the center position more against Michigan.
Watts is being pushed for the starting job by transfer Paul Afeaki, who, despite only a week of practice this year, has averaged 8 points and 4.3 rebounds in three games.