McGary and the No. 12 Wolverines gear up for another Tourney run
This preview and more on Michigan and the Big Ten are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 12 Michigan Facts & Figures
Last season: 31-8 (12-6 Big Ten)
Postseason: NCAA runner-up
Coach: John Beilein (122-85 at Michigan)
Big Ten projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
But now, for Beilein, life without superstar point guard Trey Burke and veteran sharpshooter Tim Hardaway Jr. officially begins. And one season after taking the Wolverines to the national title game for the first time since 1993, the expectations have now been raised.
“That’s part of the business you have to go through right now,” says Beilein. “If you don’t recruit good enough players (you won’t win). If you recruit really good players, they could go pro and you’re back to where you started.”
Michigan lost its two best players to the NBA, but it didn’t lose everything. Expected first-round picks Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III shocked many by announcing they’d be back for a sophomore season.
At 6-10, 255-pounds, McGary was expected to be the Wolverines’ best big man prospect since Chris Webber. And though it took him about five months to figure everything out, he lived up to that billing during a wild NCAA Tournament run that turned him into a legit star. The Indiana native averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in the Wolverines’ six NCAA games, highlighted by his 25-point, 14-rebound effort against Kansas.
McGary will anchor Michigan’s front line this season, and he’ll likely do so at multiple positions. Beilein wants McGary to play both power forward and center, and wants to continue expanding his game — as a shooter, as a transition player and a finisher.
Who plays next to him, though, remains a mystery.
If Michigan opts to go big, something Beilein rarely does, McGary will be joined up front by either senior Jordan Morgan or junior Jon Horford — two role players who should see extended time either way next season. Morgan averaged a solid 4.3 rebounds in only 15.9 minutes as a junior.
If the Wolverines go small, Robinson (6-6, 220) will be back at the stretch-4 position, giving Michigan incredible versatility. Robinson has stated he’d like to spend more time at his natural position, small forward, and Beilein says the smooth wing will likely play with the ball in his hands more often this season.
“I don’t know how close I was to leaving, I always wanted to come back here and stay,” Robinson says. “I’m going to have a chance to come in and hopefully be a leader for this team.”
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Burke and Hardaway are gone, but Michigan’s cupboard isn’t bare.
Incoming freshman point guard Derrick Walton was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Michigan as a high school senior, and 5-star shooting guard Zak Irvin was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball.
Walton will be joined at the point by tournament sensation Spike Albrecht, but even both players combined will have a tough time replicating what Burke was able to bring to the table.
Walton has been committed to the program since 2011, and he watched Burke’s entire development from afar.
“The coaches always told me to watch Trey, watch the point guard position, because that’s where I’d be playing,” he says. “He said it was a point guard’s dream. He’s right. They let you play. They let you create. But it’s important for me to be my own person, I can’t be somebody else.”
At shooting guard, Michigan has a logjam. Sophomore Nik Stauskas, who shot 44.0 percent from 3-point range, will likely slide down and spend more time at the 2, while improving sophomore Caris LeVert will also compete for minutes.
Michigan’s highly touted class is highlighted by 5-star shooting guard Zak Irvin, who claimed Indiana’s Mr. Basketball last season. The club’s most important newcomer is 4-star point guard Derrick Walton, who is looking to fill Trey Burke’s shoes as the team’s floor leader alongside Spike Albrecht. Power forward Mark Donnal, a 4-star big man with an outside touch, rounds out the class.
Factoid: 23. Guard Spike Albrecht scored a total of 23 points in Michigan’s two Final Four games. He scored a total of 22 during the 18-game Big Ten season.
Michigan has plenty of work to do without Burke running the show. However, the Wolverines avoided the doomsday scenario when both Robinson and McGary opted to return.
Beilein, who has established himself as one of the elite coaches in the game, has enough talent on his roster to remain in the top tier in the rugged Big Ten. By the time March rolls around, don’t be surprised if Michigan has emerged as a favorite to reach the Final Four for the second straight season.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State