The Michigan Wolverine’s season ended on Sunday with a crushing loss to the Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight. While they still had a fantastic season, losing on a deep three with mere seconds left leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Jordan Morgan, Michigan’s lone senior, played the last game of his fantastic career. There are also three other players who may have suited up for the maize and blue for the last time as well. Super sophomores Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary all have a big decision to make. Will they test the NBA waters and declare for the draft, or will they return to college to play for John Beilein for another season? Below we’ll cover the best case and worst case scenarios for Michigan and what it means for their lineup heading into next season.
Best Case Scenario
The best case scenario is of course that everybody decides to stay. While certainly not impossible, this scenario seems unlikely. The lineup going into next year would look like this:
PG: Derrick Walton
SG: Nik Stauskas
SF: Caris LeVert
PF: Glenn Robinson III
C: Mitch McGary
Bench: Zak Irvin, Jon Horford, Mark Donnal, Spike Albrecht
Dang, that’s one heck of a lineup. The only unfamiliar name on that list is at the power forward position with Mark Donnal. Donnal is a big guy who can hit from the outside, but would also help out on the boards. At 6-9, he would be the first true stretch four to play for Michigan in Beilein’s system (unless you count Evan Smotrycz). Donnal was given a redshirt last year after it was apparent that he still needed to bulk up a little to play at the college level. Now at 240 pounds, he is ready to hit the paint with the big guys that the Big Ten has to offer. Donnal would also give GRIII the opportunity to play more small forward, a position he is much more comfortable with.
This team would be a clear favorite to once again win the Big Ten title. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if they were ranked in the top five to start the season and would be a true contender to win the 2014-2015 national championship. Michigan’s biggest achilles heal this year, rebounding, would seem to evaporate, with only having one player in the starting lineup under 6-6. Yowzers.
Worst Case Scenario
Well the worst case scenario truly stinks. Nik, Glenn, and Mitch all decide to jump to the NBA and leave Michigan with some question marks in their lineup. Horford and Irvin move from the bench to the starting lineup and the Wolverine’s will have to rely on some younger guys for productivity.
PG: Derrick Walton
SG: Zak Irvin
SF: Caris Levert
PF: Mark Donnal
C: Jon Horford
Bench: Kameron Chatman, Ricky Doyle, D.J Wilson, Spike Albrecht
This lineup is actually not as bad as you would initially think. Caris Levert would be asked to do a lot on offense, but Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton are more than capable of helping out in the scoring column. PF Mark Donnal has talent as does freshman Kameron Chatman. Chatman, a 6-7 wing player, will probably get minutes regardless of who comes back next year. He is a big body who loves to hit the glass and has a developing outside game. He is probably best described as a more aggressive, less athletic Glenn Robinson III.
This team would still be very competitive in the Big Ten, though Wisconsin would have to be thought of as the favorite. Still, Michigan would most likely find themselves in the top three or four teams in the big ten and make their way into the NCAA tournament with relative ease. Levert or one of the young guys would really have to blow up for Michigan to exceed these expectations.
The most likely scenario probably lies somewhere in between with one or two of our super trio coming back. Still, when your worst case scenario is still considered a tournament team you know Michigan has really turned a corner under John Beilein. He is recruiting players that fit into his system and doing a great job of coaching those guys up. The amount of improvement shown from players going from their freshman to sophomore seasons has been absurd. Think about freshman Caris vs. sophomore Caris, freshman Nik vs. sophomore Nik. Michigan’s young players, especially the perimeter players, are likely to take a huge step forward as they continue their careers at Michigan.