Preview of the Michigan 09-10 Season

08-09 Overall Record: 21-14
08-09 Conference Record: 9-9 (7th, tie)
08-09 Conference Efficiency Margin: -0.02 (7th)
Percent of Returning Minutes: 74.9
Percent of Returning Freshman Minutes: 36.7

As we asserted in our Michigan recap, it appeared last season that John Beilein's offensive system had been fully implemented in Ann Arbor, leading to marquee victories and an NCAA Tournament berth. Setting aside the returning minutes (which are indeed encouraging in and of themselves), let us ask the question - has Beilein's system been maxed out, or can we expect further improvement in his third season? It may be instructive to compare the numbers from Beilein's first three seasons at West Virginia to what he has done thus far at Michigan. Since defense has never been the driving force behind Beilein's best teams, we'll assume that Michigan's defense won't change much from where it was in 2009-09 (67th nationally, on par with Beilein's best defenses at West Virginia) and focus entirely on the offense's upside potential. Note that we are including data from the season _before _Beilein arrived, just to give us a comparative starting point.

First, the raw offensive efficiency (points per possession):

We see that Beilein steadily improved the West Virginia offense each of his first two seasons, then it exploded in Year 3. That was the Mountaineer squad of Gansey and Pittsnogle that nearly reached the 2005 Final Four and gave us one of the great Tournament games of this decade. Michigan was ahead of that curve in Year 2, but still appears to have room for growth.

As you'd expect, the eFG% chart looks very similar to the offensive efficiency chart. Again, we see that Michigan likely has some room for improvement, and it's easy to pinpoint exactly where it can come from - Manny Harris posted a mediocre eFG of 47.5% while taking a shot diet of 28.2%. We know he's a better shooter than that, evidenced by his excellence at the free throw line (86%). Even a slight improvement in Manny's FG percentages would pay big dividends for the Wolverine offense (and, eventually, for Manny's pocketbook).

Here's where we see Beilein's style being ingrained. It appears that Michigan may have already embraced this aspect of the offense in 2008-09. Beilein's West Virginia teams did continue to take more threes, peaking in Year 4 (2005-06) with a full 51% of their shots coming from downtown. Even an increase to that level wouldn't be much different from what Michigan did in 2008-09, so don't expect any big changes this season in terms of shot distribution - Michigan figures to take nearly half of their shots from downtown once again.

Here's where Beilein is truly a master, and it looks like he was able to reach his Michigan players on turnovers a year sooner than he did at West Virginia. Does that limit the upside for Michigan heading into 2009-10? Well, in Year 4, the Mountaineers further improved their turnover rate to a crazy-low 13.2%. So, if Michigan can stay a year ahead of schedule and reach similarly low levels in 2009-10, watch out - we could have a Big Ten title contender on our hands.