Michigan Basketball: How Good is This Michigan Wolverine Basketball Team?
The short answer to the above question is pretty good, but not so good anything the rest of the season is a given. The motto that the team has taken up “Nothing given, everything earned” is very appropriate. Shortly that motto will be put to the test.
The discussion starts with the offense. There are few teams in the country that can run an offense as does Michigan. There is speed to run when the opportunity arises. There is enough inside play and dribble drive to prevent the entire defense from playing the Michigan shooters face-up the entire time on the perimeter.
Any college offense starts with a point guard and Michigan has one of the very best. Trey Burke is the difference between Michigan being good and excellent on offense. He is Michigan’s number one option when push comes to shove. He already finishes much better than Darius Morris around the rim and clearly shows the Beilein coaching 101 class and film work has paid off handsomely. Burke goes beyond getting to the hoop, he can take and make tough threes and find the guy for easy points with regularity. The high screen that Michigan runs is easy to spot and tough to stop. As long as Burke maintains his current level of offensive performance, Michigan is in the running for making a deep tournament run.
The bookend wings, Robinson and Hardaway, are a little on the short end, but both can fly, shoot, and are very athletic. Both can shoot threes and both can get to the rim, either on the dribble or well timed cuts.
Stone Cold Nik Stauskas just needs to understand the nature of basketball. It is a team sport where he is not the number one option on offense, but when the opportunity presents itself, his deep shooting can place opposing defenses between a rock and a hard spot. If he becomes full of himself and loses focus, then he is just another freshman trying to find his way and will fall to the humble pie syndrome. It is encouraging how he reacted in the Eastern Michigan game after his setbacks, mentally mostly, against West Virginia.
Jordan Morgan continues to just do what he can, and right now that is enough to help the cause. Jordan is not a quick jumper and not very adept at getting to a spot, but if he continues to grab near ten points a game and near ten rebounds, Jordan will be a big part of this team’s success. Behind him and gaining is the more talented but somewhat spastic Mitch McGary. Fear not about McGary, he will join the get it club, the question is when the blessed event will occur. His nice game against Eastern Michigan indicates there is hope he is progressing. Mitch is a natural rebounder and he uses his size, position, and effort to get the ball. Mitch still has a long way to go on offense. Like some others mentioned above, Mitch is not the primary option and is instead a contributor. He is smart enough to understand this fact and has always been hailed as a team player.
This team has many contributors, and each has a definite roll. So far the rolls are working out well and most seem to understand the master plan.
Another reason the offense is so good is sufficient depth. Inside the presence of Horford, Morgan, and McGary gives Michigan two or three different ways to go. This goes beyond playing big and small, the three change the defense of Michigan as well. Horford can get the tough rebound and at least play average post defense. Lately, before his injury, it is accurate to say Horford was playing above average post defense.Gym rat Spike Albrecht will need to give Michigan a good five to eight minutes a game. His ball handling needs much work as does his defense. But give Spike a free gift at the arc and he frequently cashes in the chance with points. Max Bielfeldt and Caris LeVert provide Beilein with further chances to give starters an extra five minutes a game rest , or save the fort in case of foul trouble.
The defense of Michigan appears average at times, but quick hands and good help have created turnovers. When Michigan can run off of a live-ball turnover the result is impressive. The Wolverines are still not physical on inside defense and probably will not be, excepting McGary, who can be too physical drawing some unneeded fouls. Michigan still does not play great backside help and is late getting back to the open shooter that was left as the lesser of the two options.
The Big Ten is going to be grueling, and each team will have ups or down. Just like last year a team cannot give up if it gets two or more games down in the standings. The Michigan schedule is very difficult after the first few games and again going down the league stretch. Having Ohio State and Indiana back to back is no great help, but having them at home to end the season is more palatable.
In a dogfight the toughest dog comes out on top usually. During last year’s Big Ten season, Michigan got tougher as the schedule wore on, and will need to do the same. The five freshmen will need to play like sophomores, sometimes that will happen and sometimes not. This race will be a big picture vision; Michigan is aware of this, but so is everyone else.
At the end of the season Michigan will be very high in the RPI, perhaps top three or four. But wins count as well and every team in the league will hold each win as a precious commodity, regardless of the name on the uniform.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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