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UM's Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman met the media Saturday following a win over Penn State at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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New York -- For the first time, Michigan coach John Beilein is suggesting Caris LeVert is ready to return.

Asked after Saturday's 79-72 victory over Penn State at Madison Square Garden if Levert could play next week, Beilein didn't brush off the question.

"I would say there's a chance," Beilein said. "I'm really looking forward to what the next step is tomorrow (Sunday)."

LeVert on Saturday missed his eighth consecutive game, with what only has been described as a lower-left leg injury.

Michigan has gone 6-2 in those games, thanks to the emergence of juniors Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr., especially in the leadership department.

The Wolverines, after all, are down both seniors, LeVert and Spike Albrecht.

Beilein described the leadership styles of Irvin and Walton as very different, with Irvin the extrovert and Walton, well, not.

"If you listen to a huddle-up sometime, Zak is standing on a soap box. Derrick is very much like the Trey Burkes -- we'll find out how he feels when he feels like saying something," Beilein said. "He's going to do it much more with his actions."

Two different styles, but both effective.

And both very important, as Michigan, after an underwhelming nonconference performance, has found itself in the thick of the Big Ten race -- with big games against Indiana and Michigan State coming up next week.

No small thing, they've both also picked up the void in assists, rebounds and points left by LeVert's absence.

"They've really emerged," Beilein said. "All of a sudden with this void, they have really changed their personalities."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984

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