Last summer, whispers from around Michigan basketball were that Matt Vogrich was poised to be the “super sub” that Michigan badly needed. He was playing well in practice, had added muscle and was ready to go. Then he sprained his MCL two weeks before the season began. Vogrich struggled to regain his comfort and shooting stroke and it showed. He started the season just 1-for-13 from behind the arc throughout Michigan’s first nine games and began to pick up his fair share of criticism as Michigan’s shooter that couldn’t shoot.
John Beilein backed Vogrich throughout his slump, insisting that he would snap out of it, and he was correct. Vogrich hit 3-of-5 three-pointers in a December 13th win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff and his confidence began to grow from there. After the abysmal start to the season, Vogrich finished conference play first on the team in 3-point percentage at 43 percent. When all was said and done, Vogrich played his role about right on what would be expected in conference play. He provided spurts of energy and just enough timely jumpers to help Michigan to a Big Ten title.
Three-point shooting: It’s no secret that this is Vogrich’s biggest strength. He was recruited to shoot the ball from deep. Though Vogrich’s season 3-point percentage was just over 30 percent – second-to-last on the team behind Tim Hardaway Jr. and over eight percent worse than a season ago – that can be attributed to his 4-of-18 non-conference start. When the lights got brighter and the stakes got higher in conference games, Vogrich started hitting some big shots.
Energy: It’s impossible to put a number on this one, but if you could, Vogrich’s numbers would be at the top of the Big Ten. You were never quite sure what you would get out of Vogrich offensively, but you always knew one thing — he was going to play hard. Vogrich’s rebounding numbers certainly aren’t stellar, but there were several times this year when Vogrich would somehow find a way to come away with a big rebound when surrounded by much bigger players. Vogrich had just 13 steals on the year, but there were plenty of times when Vogrich got his hand on the ball to create a turnover or disrupt the offensive flow of the opponent.
Backdoor Cuts: Vogrich is still primarily a three point threat, as only 30 percent of his field goal attempts came inside the arc, but he proved to be a deft backdoor cutter and provided a number of timely buckets around the hoop. Vogrich made 57 percent of his limited two point opportunities and could find more two point opportunities with increased playing time.
Room to Improve
Consistency: In a five-game stretch in February, Vogrich was 9-for-15 from behind the arc. That means nine of his 16 made threes were during one five game period. Besides that stretch, Vogrich failed to hit at least one 3-pointer on back-to-back nights all season. Not exactly what you want to see out of a guy whose main weapon is shooting it from deep. Everybody knows he has the physical skills to put the ball in the bucket from deep. Vogrich’s biggest issue here seems to come from what’s happening upstairs.
Defense: Though Vogrich has improved dramatically defensively since his freshman year, he still is not quick enough to defend faster guards. He can get by playing in a 1-3-1 or 2-3 zone, but in man-to-man, he is often exposed. Some added strength has helped, and he has active hands, but more often than not he is a liability on the defensive end of the floor.
Ball-handling: It’s pretty clear that Vogrich is never going to be a point guard or a phenomenal ball handler. But as a guard, he still has average ball-handling skills at best, although he did show signs of improvement this year. With Douglass and Novak now gone, there’s a good chance Vogrich will be called upon to handle the ball more often next year, and he will have to continue to improve over the summer if he wants to have a bigger role on the floor for this team.
Shining Moment: Nine points on 3-of-6 shooting behind the arc in a 67-55 overtime win at Northwestern. The numbers may not be staggering, but each bucket that Vogrich hit was huge in a game that Michigan needed in order to stay in the hunt for a Big Ten Championship. Without him, there’s a good chance Michigan would have lost this game and wouldn’t be hanging a Big Ten banner in the Crisler Center rafters.
Though most of Vogrich’s numbers were down this year in comparison to last, his role was much of the same. Coming off the bench, he brought energy and would surprise many with a big rebound or steal in critical moments. Though he struggled offensively in non-conference play, it’s hard to complain about a 3-point shooting percentage of 43 percent in Big Ten games. He may not have had the greatest year, but there’s no doubt that Matt Vogrich had a role down the stretch.
His senior season will be the one to remember. There are ample opportunities for Vogrich, the only senior on next year’s team, to seize a greater role after the graduation of Zack Novak and Stu Douglass. Vogrich has played both the two and the three and should see more minutes, but could also emerge as one of the team’s leaders. In past year’s Vogrich’s production was a luxury, next year Michigan is finally going to rely on him. Whether Vogrich sinks or swims in an increased role will not only affect Michigan’s fate, it will also be what people remember when reflecting on his career.