During Matt Vogrich‘s sophomore campaign, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound shooting guard improved in nearly every area of the game. Vogrich played more minutes, scored more points, made more threes, and even grabbed more rebounds during his sophomore season. He seemed to be progressing as an offensive spark off the bench, a knock-down shooter who could also surprise in other areas of game in limited bursts. There was a feeling that Vogrich was on his way to being a solid, consistent contributor to Michigan’s lineup as his progression continued.
But last year, Vogrich experienced the opposite of his 2010-11 season. The Lake Forest, Illinois native regressed in nearly every statistical category, including minutes and the all important three point shooting. There seem to be a couple possible reasons for Vogrich’s regression. One is that opposing teams undoubtedly keyed on Vogrich defensively while he was in the game. It was possible to take him out of games simply be denying him open threes and opponents took advantage. Another reason for his regression last year was the unavailability of playing time. Vogrich spends his time at the two or three positions and Stu Douglass, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Zack Novak accounted for nearly all of the playing time at those spots.
Fortunately for Vogrich, it appears he’ll have a good shot at significant playing time this season. With Novak and Douglass graduated, he will be competing for minutes with Tim Hardaway Jr. and incoming freshmen Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert. It’s probably safe to pencil in Hardaway for 35 minutes per game but whether those minutes come at the two or the three remains to be seen. Assuming the Michigan coaching staff gives the benefit of the doubt to the senior over the freshman, especially early, Vogrich should have plenty of opportunity to prove himself as a reliable contributor at the two guard spot. Whether or not he can secure solid minutes the whole year will depend on three factors: whether or not he can knock down open looks, his on-ball defense and the play of Nik Stauskas.
Reasons for Excitement
- 3-point shooting: This is always near the top of the list when it comes to things to like about Matt Vogrich. The senior’s shooting touch is undeniable, even after he experienced a significant drop in 3-point shooting percentage last year (from almost 40 percent in 2010-2011 to just over 30 percent in 2011-2012). With more playing time, it’s likely Vogrich will have a better chance of finding the shooting rhythm that so eluded him last season. It will be up to Michigan to get Vogrich open looks, which the coaching staff has generally been able to do when he’s on the floor. It will be up to Vogrich to knock them down. One reason to believe he will? The relative randomness of 3-point shooting percentage by year. For comparison, consider Zack Novak’s 3-point shooting percentage from 2009-2010 (30 percent) and 2010-2011 (almost 40 percent). Vogrich is a knockdown shooter, and chances are he’ll figure it out.
- Team depth and skill around the rim: As has been already well-documented, Michigan has added some serious talent in the post for this season. Freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III will undoubtedly make an immediate impact in the post. That, combined with solid contributions from the veteran Jordan Morgan, should open up plenty of opportunities for Matt Vogrich from range. In Michigan’s pick-and-roll system, the added skill in the paint will mean more perimeter defenders drawn to the inside to help, which means more open looks from 3. McGary’s passing instincts are well-known, and he will always have a safety valve on the perimeter should he encounter a double-team down low. Vogrich should be able to knock down those open looks in his sleep.
- Basketball IQ: Vogrich has always been adept at getting open buckets within the offense. Because he is known as a shooter, defenders often overplay him on the perimeter, which he has consistently taken advantage of through back-door cuts. Vogrich seems to have an excellent handle on exactly how he is able to score on any given possession. Little plays like back-door cuts, being in the right spot for a loose ball or hustling to an extra rebound can be the difference between winning and losing and Vogrich has shown a knack for making those plays in limited opportunities.
Causes for Concern:
- On-ball defense: There’s no getting around it: Matt Vogrich is a defensive liability. If Vogrich doesn’t log starter minutes this season, the reason will most likely be his inability to stay in front of Big Ten-caliber guards. This isn’t to say Vogrich is a horrible defender overall; he actually has a knack for stripping the ball and being in the right place to provide help. He just doesn’t possess the quickness required to stay in front of the Keith Applings of the world that will be required to play the two in Michigan’s offense.
- Diversity of skills: Despite having just talked about Vogrich’s back-door cuts and rebounding, the fact is that he remains mainly a shooter. This is what was expected when Vogrich joined the team, but if he wants to solidify consistent playing time then he has to find something else to contribute to the team besides shooting. There has to be another reason the coaches want to keep him on the floor, especially considering his above-mentioned defense.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas is probably going to be Matt Vogrich’s main competitor for playing time this season. The bad news for Vogrich: the kid is good. Stauskas is a consensus top-100 recruit, he has more size (6-foot-6 vs. 6-foot-4) than Vogrich and has demonstrated a phenomenal shooting stroke at the prep level. If Stauskas’s shooting stroke translates as advertised, it could be tough for Vogrich to secure significant playing time once again.
The table is set, perhaps more than at any other point in his career, for Matt Vogrich to make an impact. There’s a real opportunity for the senior to be more than just a sharpshooting microwave off of the bench. Whether or not Vogrich is able to seize this opportunity depends on a few different factors: the development of Nik Stauskas, the consistency of Vogrich’s shooting and whether or not he has improved his defense. Vogrich will most likely continue to play at both the two and three. If Vogrich doesn’t land the starting shooting guard spot, he will most likely continue in the role he’s had the past three years.
Even if Vogrich settles into a microwave role off of the bench, his senior season could still be a success. Every team, especially one coached by John Beilein, has a spot for a knock-down shooter off of the bench. Moderate increases in playing time combined with a dramatic increase in three point shooting accuracy would give John Beilein a valuable player to call on throughout the year.
It isn’t likely Vogrich will suddenly turn into the kind of player who can give you 30 solid minutes every game. What is far more likely: Vogrich will continue to contribute points in bunches off the bench, and have a much easier time doing so with the new weapons that will be surrounding him. With the offense guided by sophomore point guard Trey Burke, along with the talent in the post, Vogrich will get plenty of open looks from range. I anticipate his 3-point shooting percentage will return to its 2010-2011 form (flirting with 40 percent) and that he will provide Michigan with a consistent offensive spark.