Despite losing both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to the NBA, The Michigan basketball team was poised to make another NCAA tournament run.
That was until center Mitch McGary had back surgery. Now, the Wolverines must depend on a committee to man the post, and the other youngsters to pick up the slack.
Michigan put itself behind the eight-ball with four non-conference defeats.
Early losses hurt
By losing to Duke, Arizona, Iowa State and Charlotte, the Wolverines dropped out of the rankings, and must count on a strong Big Ten season to play in March.
On a positive note, Michigan, who is favored by 5.5 points tonight at Nebraska (9 pm, ET), could come home with its second road game of the Big Ten campaign.
A loss would be devastating, since U-M will soon enter the Murderer’s Row portion of the schedule that will have the Wolverines playing successive games against Wisconsin, Iowa, MSU, Purdue and Indiana.
Beilein’s 6th season at Michigan
Without McGary, who is probably lost for the season, the Wolverines now start one freshman, three sophomores and a redshirt senior.
Head coach John Beilein, in his sixth season at Michigan and 36th overall, will have to find a magic wand.
Beilein’s largest task will be in the middle, where Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford have been splitting time. In Sunday’s 74-51 win over Northwestern the two big men combined for 15 points and 16 rebounds. The numbers sound good, but the Wildcats don’t compare to the Spartans, Buckeyes, or Badgers in the paint.
Another sensitive situation has been at point guard. Beilein could have easily handed the starting job to Spike Albrecht, who kept Michigan in April’s NCAA title game by scoring an enthusiastic 17 points, hitting four of five beyond the arc.
Plenty of guards
But Beilein saw something special in freshman Derrick Walton, and has been tutoring him every chance he could. Albrecht has been a model citizen, handling his backup role with nothing but class.
Michigan has shown its versatility as Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas can even bring the ball up on occasion.
LeVert and Stauskas are basically interchangeable, especially since Stauskas added to his three-point shooting skill by improving his dribble-penetration.
Freshman Zac Irvin has added to Michigan’s arsenal by shooting nearly 44 percent from downtown.
Then there’s Glenn Robinson III, who quietly averages 13.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. One day GRIII is going to live up to his name and pour in 30.
Should Robinson hit that type of stride, Michigan will have nothing to worry about.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer