The season finally is here.
More than eight months after Michigan basketball was pulled off the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, college basketball is back.
It could be a bumpy ride. Some programs already have pulled out of early season tournaments, canceled games or paused all basketball activities because of COVID-19-related issues.
The Wolverines could run into those same issues. But for now, U-M's season will begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday against Bowling Green.
Here are three things to watch in Wednesday's contest (4 p.m., ESPN2):
Who will start, and what will the rotation look like?
There hasn't been clarity from coaches about what Michigan's starting lineup or rotation might look like. Mike Smith, Eli Brooks, Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers and Austin Davis were practicing as the five starters, Livers said earlier in fall. It is, at least, safe to assume those five players (if healthy) will play significant minutes. But where does Chaundee Brown fit in? And how much will Hunter Dickinson play at center? What about Brandon Johns Jr., who could play the "4" or the "5"? These questions won't be answered Wednesday. But there will still be an early look at what Juwan Howard thinks are his best lineup combinations right now.
[ FOR SUBSCRIBERS: Bold predictions for Michigan's 2020-21 roster ]
Spotlight on the new players
The Wolverines added six new faces (two transfers, four freshmen), and Michigan's success will largely be determined by how well the new pieces fit in. Smith, a grad transfer from Columbia, filled a huge need in the backcourt; while he lit up the scoreboard in the Ivy League, how will his game translate to the Big Ten? Brown, who averaged 12.1 points at Wake Forest last season, has played big-time basketball before. But how will he fit alongside Wagner and Livers, and can he improve his 3-point shooting? And with the four freshmen, are there any other than Dickinson who will play significant minutes this season?
Slowing down Justin Turner
Bowling Green's top player is guard Justin Turner (Detroit Renaissance), who could have been a star grad transfer for a Power Five school but chose to return to the Falcons. Turner averaged 18.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 2019-20 and shot 36.1% from 3; the year before that, he averaged 18.2 points, so he has proven he isn't just a one-year wonder. Last season, Turner was the heart-and-soul of Bowling Green's offense, using 28.4% of the team's possessions and taking 29.3% of the team's shots. He's very talented, and stopping him will be the primary concern for Michigan's defense. On paper, it seems like Brooks — the team's top individual defender last season — would draw this assignment. But it'll be interesting to see if the Wolverines try guarding Turner with Brown, too.
Michigan basketball's roster has changed a lot since we last saw it. At the same time, the Wolverines do have plenty of talent. Even if there are some early struggles, they should still win this game comfortably. Michigan 75, Bowling Green 63
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball vs. Bowling Green: Scouting report, prediction