2013-2014 ITH season preview: Michigan Wolverines

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With the start of 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 month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Michigan Wolverines.

After a improbable run to the national championship game that ended in defeat to Louisville, Michigan is once again back on the national scene despite losing national player of the year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA.

That’s largely because of the two guys pictured above, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. Both turned down spots in the first round of June’s NBA Draft in favor of returning to Ann Arbor. Whether returning to school was the right decision was the right call for either guy with a monster 2014 draft looming is a debate for another day. The story for now is that Michigan has one of the best young duos in college basketball.

McGary’s monster NCAA tournament has landed him on plenty of preseason All-American lists despite an otherwise underwhelming freshman campaign. Over the season’s final six games, McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, and his presence transformed Michigan from a trendy upset pick to a national runner-up. Robinson, meanwhile, was one of the nation’s most efficient offensive players as a freshman. His offensive rating ranked 10th nationally and he shot 65.2 percent on 2-point field goals. Robinson has work to do in terms of making his game more consistent from the perimeter, but there’s no questioning his elite athleticism.

Michigan’s leading returning scorer actually is sophomore Nik Stauskas, who doesn’t get the headlines like McGary or Robinson but posted ridiculous efficiency numbers as a freshman. Stauskas hit 44 percent of his 3-point field goals and finished in the top 40 nationally in offensive rating. He also was nearly automatic from the free-throw line (85.1 percent). Beyond the three players already mentioned, the sophomore class also offers Spike Albrecht, who famously erupted in the national championship game, and Caris LeVert, who figures to challenge for more minutes and was effective in a limited role last season.

Michigan’s frontcourt depth behind McGary is adequate on paper with Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford. Morgan battled injuries last season but is a capable role player who is heady defensively and finishes his limited offensive opportunities. Horford also has battled injuries for much of his career but has the upside to overtake Morgan on the depth chart.

Beyond the returnees, Michigan also welcomes Indiana Mr. Basketball Zak Irvin to campus and Detroit native Derrick Walton, who could take over the point guard duties vacated by Burke. Irvin figures to get a hard look for starter’s minutes on the wing this season, and his ability to shoot off the dribble fits well in Beilein’s system. Walton, the No. 45 recruit in the 2013 class according to the 247 Composite, just needs to limit mistakes and run the team effectively given the talent surrounding him.

Bottom line: On paper, Michigan is still one of the youngest teams in the Big Ten, but with five sophomores who all logged NCAA tournament minutes, it has the experience to once again field one of the league’s top teams. Whether the Wolverines can challenge Michigan State will be largely dependent on how McGary and Robinson adapt to leadership roles and how effectively Albrecht and Walton can fill in at point guard.

Quotable: “It’s gonna be different. You lose a backcourt like that with two first-rounders … just think about that. Two first-rounders and it was the starting backcourt. So it’s gonna be brand new. We like the experience Spike and Caris got as backups last year. We like Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton and what they bring to the team as perimeter players. We have to, just like we try and do every year. Hopefully you learn from what Trey and Tim did well.” – John Beilein to The Detroit News.

Previously: Ohio State, IowaPurdueMinnesotaNorthwesternNebraskaPenn State

  • Banner#6

    I just can’t see how Mitch McGary doesn’t disappoint this year. He took a lot of people by surprise last year and probably should have taken the money and ran.

  • Kyl470

    If he can stay out of foul trouble I could see him having a monster year.

  • Chris

    My personal guess is the loss of Trey Burke will be too much to overcome and Michigan will disappoint this year.

  • SCHoosier

    Especially the cheap shots he likes to take. Kid is a handful though.

  • SCHoosier

    Burke and Hardaway had the ball in their hands so often at crunch time …..UM is gonna need somebody else to step up big time. They have shooters..and its not difficult to find them in Coach B’s system. Robinson often gets dissed on this board….but I think he will step up this coming year with the two superstars gone . Little Dog should defer to no one.

  • Earl Scheib

    Both McGary and G Rob are from The Region. As is Spike. CTC should start hitting Northwest Indiana a bit harder. Lots of good ballers up there.

  • Hardwood83

    I whole-heartedly agree. Burke was what made that team go and Hardaway helped. The rest are a nice collection of players, but I don’t buy them as a top 10 team until I see it.

  • N71

    Spike Albrecht is good.

  • Ole Man

    Thanks for these previews, Alex. I’m enjoying them. Well thought out and written.

  • notfargj

    he certainly proved his mettle in the championship game.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    can’t wait to see mcgary vs. vonleh. goes without saying i’m glad he’s packed on some muscle. you know scUM’s gonna be out for revenge after we smacked em around a couple times last year, should be some intense games

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    Ha, “scUM” — hadn’t heard that one. I’m not sure if it carries the vitriol of “pUKe” or the playfulness of “BoilerWanker” (a term I came up with myself), but I like it.

  • BT

    “scUM” is used mostly by MSU fans for obvious reasons. I don’t see why Hoosier Nation needs to have any sort of disdain for Michigan. It’s been a good, clean rivalry. Now Wisconsin on the other hand…

  • Jeremy Pinnell

    I think it is gonna take a while for them to find someone to take over to fill in the leadership role Burke had. I say top 10, but we will see.

    Why is it whenever I see a picture of McGary, the first thing that comes isn’t about how smart he is? He looks like someone who hit his head on a brick wall one too many times. Just my opinion.

  • And_One

    Used by scuMSUcker fans, you mean? Couldn’t resist. But, yeah, neither that nor scUM has any emotion behind it. Decent, well-run programs, worthy of our respect, blah blah blah… Except during the two hours when the actual game is going on–then anything goes.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    I didn’t have much ill will toward U of M, but I moved to Michigan a couple of years ago and a small amount has developed after they made it to the Final Four.

  • Kyl470

    I know some pro team will draft McGary, but he seems like your classic college basketball player turned NFL tight end.

  • Kyl470

    I don’t see Michigan making a Final Four run, but I think they will be a top 3 team in the Big Ten.

  • BT

    Anything does go, like berating the other team’s assistant coach on their home floor after a win. Come to think of it, UM does have a reason or two to not like IU very much…

  • GeneralRMK

    When Little Dog falls into his funk again this year, who is going to coax him out of the corner to participate in the offense? He’s the reason Michigan didn’t win the B1G last year, and he is highly overrated.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    speaking of, are there any good names for wisconsin? having trouble coming up with something containign ‘UW’. hmmm…

  • ecodustin

    What??? Nothing to dislike??? Maybe except for all the Indiana kids they’ve been poaching from our back yard…. put those teams together and you get an ALL B1G Indiana team…sheeeesh…… I hate it.

  • juan

    He’ll be too old for a pro career when he graduates from UM. Isn’t he the oldest sophomore in D1 athletics? The guy is 26 or so.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Pissconsin

  • WhatsUpKnight

    beautiful! love the subtlety! ;)

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