<
>
Get ESPN+

With big recruiting class, Michigan could have a bigger year next season

Coming off a breakout season, point guard Zavier Simpson could be even more valuable for the Wolverines in 2018-19. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

We conclude the recruit and return series with the Michigan Wolverines. A look at what the 2018-19 season could hold.

Possible 2018-19 starting five

G: Zavier Simpson

G: Jordan Poole

G: Charles Matthews

F: Isaiah Livers

C: Jon Teske

Who is lost: Two starters and a wealth of experience are likely departing Ann Arbor at the end of the semester. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has started more than 50 straight games and is out of eligibility. Junior Moritz Wagner most likely will turn pro after flirting with the draft last season. Matthews could see what pro options are out there for him but isn’t expected to make that leap yet. Duncan Robinson, a shooter who became a valuable sixth man this season for the Wolverines, is out of eligibility, as is graduate transfer guard Jaaron Simmons.

Who is added: Michigan has locked up one of the best recruiting classes of John Beilein’s 11 years leading the program. The Wolverines will add five new faces to the roster in the coming months, including a college-ready Canadian import and the top-ranked player in Michigan. Ignas Brazdeikis, who is wrapping up a prep year in Ontario, is a 6-foot-8, physically mature scorer. East Lansing native Brandon Johns -- No. 58 on the ESPN 100 list -- spurned the hometown Spartans despite a long relationship with head coach Tom Izzo. He and Brazdeikis will give Beilein’s team an option to play big if both can be ready next year. Point guard David DeJulius will fit well with the evolving identity of a roster that’s intent on proving its toughness via defense. Colin Castleton (6-foot-11, 215 pounds) and Adrien Nunez (a capable shooter) round out the group to provide some depth.

What it means for next season: This season, especially during the past several weeks, has seen Michigan morph into a tough-minded defensive team to go along with the offensive scheme that has produced good looks for the majority of Beilein’s lengthy coaching career. That transformation is led by point guard Zavier Simpson and other recent imports like Matthews and Poole. As Simpson continues to grow into a leadership role, expect that attitude to continue growing with him. It will be Beilein’s task to keep things on an even keel while replacing Wagner and the always calm Abdur-Rahkman next season. From a personnel standpoint, a couple of big bodies are coming to help strengthen that front court. It may take some time to figure out how all of the puzzle pieces fit together, but the coaching staff has proved it is one of the best in the country at snapping together all those different elements at the right time.

Trending: Up. From a big-picture perception standpoint, Michigan has recovered from the dip it took when a good chunk of the talented Final Four roster from 2013 turned pro sooner than expected. Back-to-back conference tournament titles provide further evidence that Beilein is as good as anyone at getting his teams to peak at the right moment. With a strong and deep recruiting class and minimal concern about the upheaval surrounding the FBI’s corruption investigation, the future looks bright for the Wolverines.