2012-2013 ITH season preview: Michigan Wolverines

With the college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next few weeks. Today, we wrap up our Big Ten team previews with a look at the Michigan Wolverines.

It’s been brewing in Ann Arbor the last few seasons, and now we can say it with little hesitation: The Wolverines have arrived in the Big Ten elite.

In 2010-11, the emergence of Darius Morris paved the way for an upstart run in the NCAA Tournament, where the Wolverines trounced Tennessee by 30 in the opening round. In the round of 32, they nearly beat Duke, falling by two after a Morris runner in the lane at the buzzer just missed. Morris left for the NBA Draft, but the Wolverines were able to immediately patch the hole he left at point guard with freshman Trey Burke in 2011-12.

Burke excelled in the role, garnering Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors from the media and leading the Wolverines in points (14.8), assists (4.6) and steals (0.9) per game. The team won a share of the Big Ten championship, though they were bounced out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament by John Groce’s Ohio Bobcats, who advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Groce is now at Illinois. Burke flirted with the NBA Draft after his strong freshman campaign, but he ultimately decided to return to Michigan.

Yet, the Wolverines boast more than just Burke.

Though the team does lose heavy minutes and shooting with the departures of Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Evan Smotrycz (who transferred to Maryland), Tim Hardaway Jr. returns for his junior season. While Hardaway’s shooting numbers dipped across the board from his freshman to sophomore season, he remains a dangerous scorer on the wing when he’s hot and forms a solid 1-2 punch with Burke. Junior Matt Vogrich will provide depth in the backcourt.

Up front, Jordan Morgan is back for his junior campaign, and he figures to be another serviceable offensive option for the Wolverines. Morgan’s effective field goal percentage in 2011-12 (61.9) was fourth best in the Big Ten. Morgan was also the team’s second best defensive (17.6 DR%) and offensive rebounder (11.9 OR%) a season ago. Though he didn’t see nearly the court time of Morgan, the team’s top rebounder from 2010-11, 6-10 junior Jon Horford (23.1 DR%, 18.2 OR%), also returns after missing most of last season with a stress fracture.

And after walking into Columbus, Ohio and grabbing Burke heading into last season, John Beilein welcomes another class of high talent in 2013. Five-star wing and Indiana product Glenn Robinson III figures to make an immediate impact, as does big man Mitch McGary, whom the Hoosiers once courted. Robinson should be Michigan’s best athlete from day one and McGary has the ability to overpower opponents and can also step out and occupy the high post. Nik Stauskas, a top 100 recruit from Ontario, will also see minutes because of his shooting ability.

Bottom line: Beilein has enough talent at his disposal to challenge for the Big Ten title and make a strong run in the NCAA Tournament. ESPN’s Jay Bilas tweeted the Wolverines as his preseason  No. 5 team on Tuesday. While Beilein’s system is known for 3-point shooting, his team now has enough size and talent up front to muscle other teams around. How Beilein gets his returnees and new talent to mesh and grow as the season progresses might ultimately tell the tale on just how far the Wolverines go in 2012-13.

Quotable:  “It was very obvious in our (Big Ten Tournament loss) against Ohio State, how the lack of length and size can hurt. Playing with four guards helped us win the league, but we lost two out of three to Ohio State. We’ve got to be able to play big. But, also, there’s teams in our league where we’ll have to go back to the way we played last year with four guard types, four wings, three wings and a point guard — that’ll still be in our package.” — Beilein to MLive late last month

PreviouslyNebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, Iowa, Illinois, PurdueWisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State

  • jaywiz

    That’s a scary team right there. looks like a season split to mewith a rubber match in the btt. might even see a replay of 1976 in April.

  • N71

    Burke is obviously very good but I have questions beyond that which have me looking at Michigan like I do Kentucky, they could be great or suck, hard to say until 5 to 10 games into the season. Hardaway can be eratic and the freshman are unproven. I’d have to put both Michigan an UK in the 12th to 18th ranked range based on talent, if they show they work well together, then top 10. The freshman are the wildcard, look at Illinois last year, they could have been great but they sucked. McGary and Robinson could be great, but there may be issues as well.

  • Evansville Hoosier

    I’d have to disagree, Kentucky is almost definitely top 3 in raw talent, and I wouldn’t say Michigan is too far behind. But you are right in saying that it depends on how well they can work together.

  • jacobdetroy

    Don’t you think it will come down to coaching and veteran leadership? Coaching wise, sticking with the comparison, you have to go with Calipari over Beilein, however; Michigan by far has a more veteran presence than UK. I see where Mich is justifiably a top 10 team based on those returning. I do not see it with UK solely on lack of veteran leadership.

  • DarkSouth

    There was a time when I thought McGary was sure to be a Hoosier if IU wanted him, back before the reclassification and his stock taking off. I remember him saying Crean was talking to him about being a future NBA guy back in ’09 or ’10.

    The photo insert for the story made me laugh…it’s like Hardaway is telling Burke “…yeah, that’s funny….now get out of frame, son, they’re taking pictures”. Not that that’s their relationship, but the picture is funny.

  • Oldguyy

    I’d love to see the same smackdown as happened in the 1976 final game, too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregory.spera.3 Gregory Spera

    To me, this is Indiana’s foremost challenge in the B1G. Love their young talent.

  • gpsimms

    I was going to make, verbatim, the same post.

  • SCHoosier

    UM is going to demand respect with the talent they have. Burke is a bit of a ball hog (by design of the offensive I guess)..but has a bigger and better stable of teammates to dish it to this year. I know Coach B has had success with this “shoot the 3 anytime” approach…and they will spread the floor..have Burke drive and dish when they can. Teams that live by the three can die by the three and I think UM needs to step up the defense to have the year they should “on paper.”

  • jpniles

    I find it hard to dislike Michigan. They have a TON of talent. I think the IU-UM game could be the best basketball game of the season. The match-ups are set to be pretty epic. I really think the difference will be Cody/Elston/PJ against McGary/Morgan/Horford. I think Cody will OWN anyone that they bring in. The question will be if he can stay out of foul trouble. I also worry about defense when Jordy is in. The kid is lights out so you have to play him, but who does he match up with on D. It is at the very least a little worrisome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ken.bergmann2 Ken Bergmann

    Yeah, but who runs the show at UK? They don’t have a point. I think this is the year it blows up in Calapari’s face. Just a gut feeling.

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