Michigan fell in a heartbreaker to Kentucky today, getting beat by an Andrew Harrison three in the final seconds. But Michigan’s star, Nik Stauskas, was fantastic, even in a losing effort. Was this his last game in the maize and blue?
In a game where Michigan was getting bullied inside throughout and Caris Levert and Glenn Robinson III were silent in the first half, Stauskas’ production was vital. He scored 18 in the first half, nearly half of Michigan’s 37 points. As the Wildcats tightened the squeeze on Stauskas, the offense became more balanced in the second half. Still, Stauskas was the flame under the offense, finishing with 24 points and 3 second half assists. He was Michigan’s stud scorer, bringing them so very close to another Final Four.
But was that Stauskas’ last hurrah?
It’s easier said than done, but almost always true: if you can be a first round NBA pick, go do it. The argument for getting out of the NCAA cartel and to be able to earn income for one’s talents is just so strong, that staying in college too long often ends up being a mistake. Ask Mitch McGary and Marcus Smart if they wish they had been in the draft last season. Both players would have been lottery picks, but Smart had to endure a frustrating season at Oklahoma State in which he didn’t even make the NCAA Tourney and McGary has seen his career put on hold with a scary back injury. Neither improved their draft stock and you can’t tell me they wouldn’t have developed more in an NBA environment. No matter what happens, they’ve both already lost seven figures.
So then the next question is: would Stauskas be a first round pick?
Stauskas’ draft stock is as hot as anyone’s right now, as he’s gone from a late first round projection to potentially breaking into the lottery. He’s a phenomenal shooter, with the size and athleticism to make him complete. He’s also proven he can carry a team at a high level, winning Big Ten POY and having a strong tourney showing. Observers will jump to make their white NBA player comps, but that really isn’t fair to Stauskas. He can be so much more than a Kyle Korver, or whichever white shooter you want to throw in. Stauskas can really play.
And he’s no dummy. Stauskas hasn’t given off the sense that he wants to play college ball much longer; he loves to challenge himself too much. The next level is where Nik Stauskas should be next season, as sad as that reality might be for Michigan fans. It’s been a fun couple of years watching this cocky Canadian rain threes at Crisler, but it’s time for him to put on his three goggles and go pro.
You can follow Alex Dale on Twitter @alexdaleCFB