Is Michigan the nation’s most talented team?

Dylan Burkhardt

ESPN’s Chad Ford says the Wolverines just might be:

But the team that may have the most talent in the country, in my book, is Michigan. The Wolverines currently have five players ranked in our Top 100. Kentucky is the only other team to have as many Top 100 players.

Right now, point guard Trey Burke is the only Michigan player ranked in our top 30, butGlenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. both have the ability to crack the first round of the NBA draft. Freshmen Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas are further down the list, but both have a real shot at getting drafted down the road.

That’s in part why I believe Michigan is a Final Four team and may give Indiana a run for the No. 1 spot by the end of the season.

Let’s hear your thoughts, how does Michigan’s talent stack up to the rest of the country?

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  • Kevin

    Probably not as talented as IU, top to bottom. Once Perea and Jurkin come back for the Hoosiers, that team can easily go 10 deep without playing a guy like Vogrich. Plus, I think we all know Jordan Morgan is a product of excellent PG play on the offensive end.

    • James

      Morgan doesn’t create his own offense, but his finishing is underrated. People complain when he misses a layup or two, but all bigs miss bunnies from time-to-time, and most bigs do not finish around the rim at as high a rate as Morgan.

  • ZRL

    It depends on your definition of talent. We only have 3 rsci top 100 players, and they are all freshman. Is that because our other players were under-rated or because we have good coaching and player development? I would say we have the most skilled team in the nation. but not the most talented.

  • m hoops

    We are not the most talented team in the country. we have a lot of talent but there are a handful of teams with loads of talent, nc state is up there for example. i think we play very well together and i could understand an argument that we are the best team, but not the most talented team. we have a lot of talent and one of the best coaches out there, but there are a handful of teams with as much talent and there are definitely a few with more “talent”.

    • Michael

      Am I the only greedy wolverine pining for a 2014 commit?

  • blucinic

    I would say we may have the best combination of skill, coaching and talent in college basketball. This is different from raw talent. For comparison, the Fab 5 had tons of raw talent, probably more than the current team, but didn’t quite maximize it. There are many different factors necessary to win. Here would be what I would consider the factors:

    1. Raw talent. You can’t coach athleticism and speed.
    2. Balance. You have to have talent at all the positions.

    3. Coaching. Beilein is a master.
    4. Skill. Stauskas may not be as athletic as some, but he is more skilled than most.
    5. Leadership. Someone has to lead. This is why a good PG is so important.
    6. Depth. Having solid talent on the bench gives starters a rest and protects against fouls and injuries.

    Michigan certainly has good talent. What pushes them to the top are the other five factors. Because Michigan has solid play at guard, wing, and the bigs, because Michigan has great coaching, because Michigan has a number of skilled 3 point shooters, because Michigan has leadership, because Michigan has great depth, I believe they are a final four team.

  • James

    Talent-wise, here is how I would bucket Michigan’s roster. Average = average talent Big Ten player:

    Elite Talent (top 10 nationally):

    Highly Talented (top 15 Big Ten):
    Burke, Hardaway, Robinson

    Above Average:
    McGary, Horford, LeVert

    More or less Average:
    Stauskas, Morgan

    Below Average:
    Spike, Bielfeldt

    Well Below Average:
    Vogrich, McLimans

    Looking at that, I’d say we’re probably one of the 10 most talented teams nationally, but not one of the top 5.

    What that doesn’t factor in, is that Stauskas is probably the best 3pt shooter in the nation, and he can pass, dribble, rebound and is talented enough to be a decent defender (eventually). How often can you say that about a highly elite 3pt shooter? The combination of those things make him a likely draft pick someday.

    Similar things can be said about McGary’s motor and rebounding abilities, and Morgan’s solid all-around game.

    As someone else has already stated, this may not be the most talented team in the nation, but it’s certainly one of the most skilled.

    • John

      How does being arguably the best 3 point shooter (that can also drive) not equate to talent. Stauskas is not average talented. He’s average athletically, but he’s HIGHLY talented, or at least above average.

      • James

        I generally meant athletically talented, adjusted to account for height/size. I would consider shooting ability a skill, not a talent, but I don’t have a problem if you disagree.

        • John

          Fair enough. I tend to think of talent and skill as more of the same, and those two are compared to athleticism.

        • Kenny

          have to disagree with your explanation.

          1. shooting is talent, not just skills.

          2. speaking of pure athleticism, burke is above average, but he is very skilled and talented as a PG.

          3. understanding of the game, ability to finish, good decision making, all part of talent, not just skills

  • Champswest

    I haven’t seen all of the other teams, so I can’t say that we are the most talented. I would suspect that we are in the conversation.
    As for final four team, I wish people would refer to that as “final four quality” and not assume that Michigan will be one. After all, how many #1 seeds make it to the final four on average? We saw how easy it is to get knocked out of the tournament last year.

  • AADave

    I would say that Michigan is the most talented team in the country. But I’m factoring in experience and coaching. Beilein has done an excellent job at identifying underrated players as well as players with a high ceiling. He has coached under-the-radar players into NBA-level talent. I would even say that Michigan currently has a more talented team than the Fab Five. Here’s my assessment:

    Elite Talent (very good first round NBA potential):


    Solid D1 College Players (not NBA level but could start on many if not most D1 teams):



    In the second group, both Horford and Levert are both developing and may have high ceilings. I would not be surprised if one or both ended up playing pro ball.

    In comparison, the Fab Five had only 3 players who first round NBAers. It is possible that the players in the first group don’t reach their potential but given Beilein’s coaching, I wouldn’t bet against it.

    Some other teams, like Kentucky, have 2 or 3 players with awesome raw physical ability which has yet to to be developed into elite talent.

  • AC1997

    Talent only gets you so far so this question doesn’t really concern me much. (Though the fact that we’re even talking about it brings a smile to my face.)

    I watched Michigan teams in the late 1990s that had a ton of talent (Traylor, Bullock, Taylor, Baston, etc.) who were lost on the court most of the time. I also like to use MSU as an example. Izzo has an amazingly stable and successful program and has for a decade….but how many NBA players has he produced? The one time he had NBA prospects they all ended up leaving early and set his program back pretty far (Richardson, Randolph, Taylor, etc.).

    I love the balance with our program between high ceiling players, role players who will get better every year and stick around, bench players who know their limitations, and a great coach who doesn’t just roll the ball out there and say “go play a pick-up game and win” (like the Fab Five era). We were able to win games without high level talent….now imagine what the ceiling is.

    The closest comparison I can see in Michigan’s history is the 1989 team. There was a lot of high-level talent on that team (Rice, Vaught, Mills, Robinson, Higgins) as well as some solid role players (Riley, Calip, etc.) and they won games by playing solid basketball most of the time.

    • AADave

      I like our balance as well – the combination of stars and role players. Not only that, the role/bench players seem solid due to good coaching.

      But I don’t quite agree on your assessment of Steve Fisher. Despite his flaws, he has always been a very good coach. He didn’t just say “go play a pick-up game and win.” The Fab Five weren’t as talented as some people think and a good part of their success was due to great chemistry fostered by great coaching. They were great passers – it’s not surprising that Webber may have been the best passing NBA power forward – and didn’t just jack up shots. They were arguably overachievers who made the championship game BOTH years they played together – that’s not an easy feat for any team, let alone a team of freshman and sophomore starters.

      Fisher has continued to have success at SDSU as well – they just beat a more talented but lesser coached UCLA team.

    • gpsimms

      AADave said it too, but I think SDSU would take exception to the idea that Fisher just rolls the bals out there to play pickup basketball.

      The fab 5 played basketball the right way, albeit with a little extra flash, and it’s hard to call two finals appearances underachieving. That wasn’t just “streetball” and Fisher was/is a good coach.

      • AC1997

        Perhaps my comment came off a BIT negative toward Fisher, but I was looking beyond the Fab-Five as well. I attended every home game during the post-five days (1994-1997) and despite continuing to attract good talent during that period of time those teams constantly disappointed and were known to be highly inconsistent and error-prone. That’s despite producing a fair amount of NBA players during that era. My opinions of Fisher’s coaching ability were forged during that period and thus they aren’t all that flattering.

        I agree that he’s been solid at a smaller school with lesser talent, which I give him credit for. Maybe he just wasn’t a strong enough personality for those egos. Or maybe the way in which he walked into the job so dramatically affected the future. Beilein has built the program from the ground up and he can point to senior leaders, on-court results with lesser talent, and the success of his system at a variety of places when he needs a young kid to buy in. Fisher walked in the door at the top floor without ever having to do that, which brings a different set of challenges.

        • gpsimms

          I see what you’re saying, that was definitely a frustrating time for UMHoops. But I think you could argue it was more an indictment of Fisher’s talent/character evaluation than his coaching ability. A lot of those kids did have a lot of talent, but many of them did not exactly become life success stories. Certainly, Fisher is partially to blame here, but I think maybe he learned a lesson about the overall caliber of person he should be looking for. I think Maurice Taylor and Robert Traylor would have been underachievers under just about any coach.

          For example, Beilein has upgraded the talent in a big way, but I think the best thing is the way he still seems to be going after tough, humble, respectful (they certainly come off that way anyway) and hardworking kids,

  • eddieben

    I find this line of pondering very difficult to comprehend. While Stauskas, McGary, and Robinson have all played well early in the season, I question the sustainability of their strong play against the Big Ten. At least we know what we have with Burke and THJr—can Nikki 3-Balls keep up his 60+% 3pt% (no), will McGary settle down and slow his game down so that he stops turning the ball over and committing silly over-aggressive fouls (hopefully), will Robinson find a place in the offense that will leverage his strengths instead of chucking 3’s and cleaning up the occasional rebound (hopefully)?

    The non-conference slate is a great time to see what kind of team you have, but given the level of competition and the unfamiliarity in the matchups, I would really hesitate before analyzing individual play.

  • mikey_mac

    This is not a knock, but GRIII is not an NBA talent yet, nor are Stauskas and McGary. Hardaway would likely be a second-round pick, but his defense, handle and deep shot are not strong enough to be a real rotation player in the NBA right now. Burke has NBA game, but NCAA size.
    Seems crazy to me to favorably compare UM to a NC State or Indiana, both of which are deep and have lottery-pick-caliber talent. Zeller alone gives IU an incredible head start in any comparison to UM regarding talent.

    That said, I like UM’s chances against any team because of system, coaching, and perhaps most importantly, Burke against NCAA competition.

    • James

      I could see Hardaway getting taken late in the 1st if he can more consistently produce preseason NIT-like performances. He’s followed up those performances with games where he’s handled and shot the ball poorly. Unless he can play at a consistently high level, the NBA will probably pass on him entirely.

      Stauskas’ NBA prospects are interesting. He’s probably not a one and doner, but I think with his offensive game, he’ll have a role in the NBA.

      • mikey_mac

        Hardaway has demonstrated his upside and downside quite well already this season … I agree he could sneak into the end of the first round if he shows that upside more often than not. I find Oladipo to be an interesting comparison for THJ … Similar stat lines, size, same age. I don’t see as much consideration for Oladipo in draft mocks, which is curious to me.

        Stauskas certainly has at least one pro-level ability that could get him into a rotation.

    • Mich man

      Thats a ridiculous comment. Indiana has 1 lottery pick not multiple. Go look at your inside the hall scouting report on the front page. Michigan has more upside than indiana and it will show when we meet in AA for the game that could decide the Big Ten title. Also dont be surprised if Trey Burke wins the player of the year award over zeller at this pace he will and Nik winning Freshy of the year. Go Blue!

      • mikey_mac

        Where did I suggest IU has more than one lottery pick?

    • John

      What? Your comment is irrelevant. Nobody is saying GR3, stauskas, and Mcgary are NBA talent at this moment in time(well some people may argue that GR3 is). They are saying by the time they graduate they will be. (That they have the potential to play in the nba does not mean at this instant)

      • mikey_mac

        Irrelevant? My (reasonable) interpretation is that Ford is talking about talent level RIGHT NOW, not future ceiling.

  • brettkp

    i guess it can be fun to have a “who is most talented” conversation, but the bottom line is this TEAM has all the pieces of the proverbial puzzle to be something special. You can say Nick isn’t “talented” (you’d be crazy), but if we are choosing teams to go suit up and play for a W, I will take him and you can go choose…Ray Jackson(although i did love Ray), or somebody more “talented”.

  • John

    I think one of the differences between our team and the other elite talented teams is that our team meshes well together and that can’t be overstated enough. Its the balance we have that I think is unmatchable by other teams. We have the penetrating pg(burke), the slashing wing(hardaway), the athletic stretch 4(gr3), the lights out shooter (stauskas), and 3 very solid bigs to be rotated in(with mcgary having a very high ceiling, and is already a beast on the boards). Then we have good bench players to spell our starters with levert, spike, and and 2 of the bigs that dont’ start.

    All of our players play their role on our team exceptionally well, which cannot be said for most teams in the ncaa, even if they do have exceptional talent(first team that comes to mind is kentucky).

  • KurtD

    I’ll wait and see what the computer that had us ranked 44 has to say first.

  • Mattski

    Fun to talk about, hard to say. . . unless you’ve been staring hard at Duke, Indiana, NC States, and Kentucky. Probably, we’re all more interested in how the talent meshes that in sheer raw ability, though. And since a heady point guard is worth his weight in gold in the tournament, I’d have to say we are sitting pretty with Trey Burke. Beilein is really good at game-planning and meshing his teams, so on that score we are–at present–looking good, too. But all the above schools have accomplished coaches, with coaches K and Cal very good at handling serious turnover season to season–how quickly do we become really integrated on offense, with so many players? How soon does the D really gel? (Beilein’s teams usually really start to clamp down toward midseason, and we’re already showing signs.)

    Beyond these things I would also question whether we have the dominating inside big-man presence to win it all (to challenge Mr. Plumlee). But we’re so darned accomplished on the pick and roll, and becoming more dominant all the time. I’d say the wild cards could be whether Stauskas can get his shot against really good teams, and how far GR III comes. He’s already arguably a great “glue guy.” But does he emerge and help take over some tough games?