Michigan basketball is fresh off their invigorating championship game run from a season ago and is hungry for more of the same. They’ll have to do it without NBA’ers Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., who left for greener pastures, but didn’t leave the cupboard bare on their way out the door.
The Wolverines have a deep and talented roster that will allow coach John Beilein to go with multiple looks when wanting to go big or small. You can expect to see as many as nine different Wolverines crack the starting lineup at some point this year. Beilein will try some different looks during the non-conference portion of the schedule and then lock in on a more consistent rotation come Big Ten play.
In this segment of our season preview I will break down each player and what they bring to the table. Generally I’d begin with the starting 5 but there is some uncertainty there so we’ll break it down from a skills perspective. Here are your 2013-14 Wolverines:
Spike Albrecht – Spike played sparingly but steadily under Trey Burke a season ago and then let his star loose on the national stage against Louisville with a 1st half for the ages. Spike will likely get his fair share of starts this year. He provides solid ball-handling at the point, can run Beilein’s schemes effectively, and is a fearless 3-point shooter. Spike was 18-33 (55%) from long range a season ago. Look for him to have some big scoring games when the attention is elsewhere and some quieter moments when teams deny him open looks.
Projected stats: 18 minutes, 7 ppg, 3 apg, 43% 3-pt.
Derrick Walton, Jr. – At 6’1’’, Walton gives Beilein his tallest point guard since Darius Morris. He plays quick and confident, can shoot well, and should take the controls of Beilein’s ship before too long. Thanks to Spike he won’t be asked to ‘fill Burke’s shoes’ all by himself, but he will ensure that the combined drop-off isn’t as steep as some have feared.
Projected stats: 20 minutes, 8 ppg, 3 apg, 35% 3-pt.
Caris LeVert – Many fans wouldn’t slot LeVert into this category. I, however, was consistently impressed with his ball skills a year ago and Beilien likes him so much that he will let him run point at times when the coach decides to go with his big lineup. LeVert is lightning quick for a 6’6’’ player. He has added strength, a better shooting stroke, and confidence in the offseason and is also Michigan’s best perimeter defender. For all of these reasons he will see a ton of floor time in his sophomore season.
Projected stats: 22 minutes, 7 ppg, 3 apg, 3 rpg, 1 spg, 35% 3-pt.
Glenn Robinson III – GR3 returned to campus on a mission to become one of the elite players in the nation. Voted to the preseason All-Big Ten team won’t be enough satisfaction as he is showing a Trey Burke-like drive toward stardom. He has noticeably bulked up, has added 5 inches to his already silly vertical jump, and has been working on all facets of his game. Expect Robinson to not only be Michigan’s main man, but to also leave school after the season as a Top 10 NBA pick. He’s that good.
Projected stats: 35 minutes, 18 ppg, 6 rpg, 1 spg, 1 bpg, 38% 3-pt.
Nik Stauskas – The only thing that kept Stauskas from being more of a contributor as a freshman was his defense. Nik lost big minutes to LeVert due to that shortcoming. He has added 15 pounds of muscle and has worked hard to improve his all-around game to match his sweet shooting touch. With Robinson and McGary stealing most of the opposition’s attention, look for Stauskas to have some huge games throughout the season.
Projected stats: 28 minutes, 13 ppg, 3 rpg, 45% 3-pt.
Zak Irvin – The 6’6’’ freshman from Indiana will give Michigan tremendous depth and talent off the bench all season long. Playing alongside so many players of elite talent will take some time to adjust to but once Irvin finds his niche, he projects to be a special player.
Projected stats: 17 minutes, 6 ppg, 2 rpg
Mitch McGary – Lingering throughout the summer and early fall has been the hushed news of McGary’s back injury. The Wolverines have been pretty tight-lipped about the situation but have been giving The Monster as much time to heal as he needs. With that in mind, his start to the season may be slower than some had anticipated. Much like last year, expect Beilein to slow play the big fella until the final weeks of the season where a rested and hungry McGary can feast on the opposition and fuel another deep tournament run. McGary is on almost everybody’s 1st team preseason All-America team.
Projected stats: 25 minutes, 13 ppg, 8 rpg, 1 spg, 1bpg
Jordan Morgan – Morgan enters his final year at Michigan with a goal of becoming the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He is extremely athletic for a player his size and has worked harder than ever to make sure his farewell season in the Maize and Blue is an impactful one. His contributions won’t always show up in the box score, but when it’s all said and done Morgan will be one of the keys to the season.
Projected stats: 18 minutes, 5 ppg, 5 rpg
Jon Horford – Horford is healthy and looks to make his redshirt junior season a memorable one. Horford has respectable back-to-the basket skills and can be an imposing defender at times. He may bounce in and out of the starting lineup throughout the year and will put up some notable double-double type games on occasion.
Projected stats: 15 minutes, 5 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 bpg
Max Bielfeldt – Bielfeldt looks to be #4 on the big man depth chart ahead of freshman Mark Donnal. All three of the above mentioned Wolverine big men have had injury problems throughout their run at Michigan, which means Bielfeldt will see some occasional spikes in playing time and responsibility. He has proven to have a nose for the ball when he does see the court and works as hard as anyone.
Projected stats: 5 minutes, 1 ppg, 1 rpg
Mark Donnal is a skilled big man but given Michigan’s depth he may red shirt this season and wait out the departure of Morgan and likely exit of McGary and then move into the rotation in 2014-15. Sean Lonergan, Andrew Dakich, and Cole McConnell are the walk-ons and will have some mighty big shoes to fill as they step in for departed leaders Josh Bartelstein, Eso Akunne, and Corey Person.
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