Preseason hype building for 2013-14 Wolverines

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 61, Syracuse 56 extra-15
Dustin Johnston

A year ago we spent large portions of the offseason debating whether Michigan – slotted No. 5 in most preseason publications – was overrated entering the season.

The Wolverines were good the year before and snuck into a share of the Big Ten Championship but could they really be national contenders? Opinions varied across the board, including Dan Hanner’s drastic take that the Wolverines weren’t a top 25 team. In the end, Michigan’s preseason ranking was pretty much dead on. The Wolverines were ranked in the top five for the majority of the season, climbed all the way to No. 1 at one point and despite a late season tumble made a run to the National Championship game.

With the NBA Early Entry Deadline in the rearview mirror, preseason top 25 polls are rolling off of the presses once again. With Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary back in the fold, pundits are buying the Wolverines once again.

CBS Sports ranked Michigan No. 4 in its post-NBA deadline Top 25, trailing Kentucky, Louisville and Michigan State. CBS Sports ranked five Big Ten teams in its preseason rankings with Michigan State (3), Michigan (4), Ohio State (9), Wisconsin (12) and Indiana (24) all included.

Jason King’s updated preseason top 25 at ESPN isn’t quite as rosey on the Wolverines. King ranks Michigan 9th, citing the loss of Trey Burke.

Losing point guard and Wooden Award winner Trey Burke makes the Wolverines look a little less imposing entering the 2013-14 season, and the departure of shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. will definitely hurt. But this will still be an incredibly dangerous team more than capable of getting back to the Final Four, thanks to the return of forwards Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary. Both players would’ve likely been first-round picks in this summer’s NBA draft had they chosen to leave school early. Rising sophomore Nik Stauskas, a returning starter, is among the country’s top outside shooters. Forwards Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford and guards Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht all earned valuable minutes during the Wolverines’ run to the NCAA title game and will only improve. Michigan is adding two freshmen — small forward Zak Irvin and point guard Derrick Walton — who should step in and contribute immediately.

Luke Winn ranks Michigan 5th in his post-draft power rankings and compares NCAA tournament-McGary to Kevin Love and Jared Sullinger as freshmen.


ESPN went as far as tabbing Mitch McGary as a preseason All-American:

Mitch McGary, Michigan: Small sample size or sign of more to come? That is the defining question about McGary’s sophomore season to come after McGary turned down likely NBA riches to stay in Ann Arbor. The goals are straightforward: Win a Big Ten title and, in doing so, replicate that immense March performance for a full 35-game stretch.

Anyone who saw McGary this spring can get with his placement here, because he really was a star. In six tournament games, McGary finished with an offensive rating of 125.7, shot 40-of-59 from the field, grabbed 64 rebounds, ripped 12 steals (including five in one game against Florida) and generally dominated the interior pretty much any time he was in the game. And yes, McGary’s minutes went up in March thanks to a Jordan Morgan injury, but it’s easy to forget that as recently as Michigan’s final regular-season game, McGary picked up four fouls in just eight minutes and spent most of the game on the bench. His March didn’t come out of nowhere — McGary was the second-rated prospect in the 2012 class as recently as his final season in high school — but it was a surprise to anyone who watched the Big Ten all season.

The return of Robinson and McGary means that people expect the Wolverines to compete once again. Michigan State is back, Ohio State and Wisconsin return a lot of talent, but Michigan does too.

There are plenty of question marks. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin being able to contribute immediately. Mitch McGary playing like NCAA tournament Mitch McGary. Glenn Robinson III diversifying his offensive game. What does Michigan basketball look like without Trey Burke? But every team in America has questions on April 30th and, similar to last year, Michigan has a lot of potential answers.

  • BlueBear_E

    My thoughts on the rotation next year:

    If McGary and Robinson become the studs they can, then I see us playing two different rotations to allow those guys to dominate a variety of teams. Even if coach keeps the starting line-up the same for solidarity,
    there is the potential for two different “looks” or ways to divide the minutes
    based on match-ups. Even though I have Glenn and Mitch playing different
    positions in these scenarios I expect them to play as many minutes as stamina and foul trouble allow in both “line-ups”. Like a few others have said, expect Albrecht to be the starting PG the first few games. Walton will eventually take over as the starter and I hope he earns 75% to 80% of the PG min. by the end of the season. Think that Walton is better equipped to defend PGs from good college teams. That will be the major reason he sees a lion’s share of the time there.

    When coach thinks that we should play small (when we want to run / have more ball handling or when we are playing mid-major types and we can still dominate the glass with Robinson at the 4 and Irvin or Stauskas at the 3)

    1 – Walton / Albrecht

    2 – Stauskas / LeVert / Irvin

    3 – Irvin / Stauskas

    4 – Robinson / Bielfeldt or Donnal?

    5 – McGary / Morgan / Horford

    I’m not saying we will play small for 40 minutes, but think there will be games next year when Robinson still gets a majority of his minutes at the 4. The 2s and 3s in this line-up would all see more minutes with Morgan and Horford seeing less. If Bielfeldt and Donnal show the ability to guard 4s in this small line-up, they might get some minutes there. Half-court sets would look like this year with less PG domination. Classic Beilein spacing giving McGary room to go to town, allowing Robinson to make cuts and curls, and giving shooters time to shoot.

    When coach thinks we should play big (when we need more interior defense and rebounding)

    1 – Walton / Albrecht

    2 – Stauskas / Irvin / LeVert

    3 – Robinson / Irvin / Stauskas

    4 – McGary / Morgan / Bielfeldt or Donnal?

    5 – Morgan / Horford / McGary

    Again, not saying we ever play this way for a full 40, but in this line-up Robinson plays his minutes at the three w/ Irvin or Stauskas sliding over if Robinson is tired/sluggish/picks-up 2 fouls ever (JK, love JB). I don’t think LeVert plays too much when the match-up dictates going big. Stauskas could see his minutes go down in this line-up too. Irvin might be too talented to keep off the floor and reports are that he is a willing and intelligent defender. When McGary and Morgan play together I would have Mitch play the 5 on D and the 4 on O with Jordan switching to complement. If Donnal develops he could be a deadly combination w/ McGary in a Beilein-style offense with two posts that switch back and forth between high and low positions. Would be effective against a team that plays 2-3 zone and could be a nice option that develops in time for the post season.

    • Northern Blue

      Just can’t see a scenario, other than injury to one of the top guys where you’re small ball line up isn’t the most featured by the end of the season, unless in fact I am grossly overrating Irvin, which I don’t think I am. Those are the best 5 players, and I think Michigan as a team is best when all 5 are out together. There will be games against certain teams, not many however, where it will be necessary for Morgan and McGary to play a lot together. Small ball is spreading all across basketball right now as teams realize how important spacing is to an offense. It is happening in college and the NBA and it’s working. Against Louisville Behanan had his way in the 2nd half on the offensive boards, and that is the advantage of a two post lineup obviously, but other than MSU and Louisville, I am not really sure we faced any other team that GR3 really couldn’t match up against.

      Fact is, every year we talk about how Michigan is going to play bigger and every year, they tend to stick with small ball. Now, once Donnal is ready I do see him playing at the 4 as his offensive game suits the position.

      • CAMERAOV

        i think we may play BIG ball with glenn at the 3 at times, but i feel like 7% of the time we have to have a 5 best players out there

        • Champswest

          Hog wash, I say.
          You don’t need your 5 best guys on the floor. You need the 5 guys who give you the best TEAM.
          What would you do if the 5 best players were all point guards or centers?

          • cameron brooks

            DONT BE SILLY. a teams 5 best players are never guards or big men because u don’t have 5 great ones at one position. secondly our 5 best would be walton Nik Zak Glenn and Mitch WAOHH look guards AND big men on the floor!

        • cameron brooks

          70% of the time

      • BlueBear_E

        Who does Donnal defend? Gotta get quicker to guard most 4s for high majors and bigger to guard 5s.

        • Northern Blue

          There will be instances where Donnal will have to play the 5, however he will defend 4’s the same way a guy like Payne would defend the 4, or better yet a guy like Ryan Kelly or Erik Murphy would. I think he will be fine, hes a much better, more fluid looking athlete than Smotrycz. He might not be ready immediately, but as a sophomore or junior I think he will be a great contributor.

          • mikey_mac

            Totally agree. College 4s can slink off and generally concede the perimeter to their counterparts. There are not that many 4s that are efficient from outside … Watford and Thomas have left the B1G. The keys are staying in front of their man, providing help D, and rebounding.

  • Adam St Patrick

    Just my guess but I don’t see the recent comments about Robinson @ 3 as necessarily an indictment of smallball. GR3 gave it a good shot and in the end it was an awesome year, but you can play smallball with a significantly bigger PF. Beilein is very likely looking for a guy at that spot who can give you those things on offense that GR3 did without giving up too much in the areas of defense and rebounding. Some of the teams that Michigan had trouble with this year used a stretch 4 as well, but a bigger player in that role. Not saying it’s likely, but if Donnal comes in and kills it, he’s the kind of guy that could wrap up that spot.

    Things change if they want to run the offense through McGary next year in the high post though. In that case maybe a high post-low post look is what we’ll see next year, but as a reflection of the players next year and not as an indication of what Michigan wants to be as a rule in the future.

    • Kenny

      Coach Beilein always tries new stuff, and to use McGary on high post is definitely one of the moves to be seen next season. Not saying that it will stay that way in the future, Donnal fits that role better than as a stretch 4.
      Some of GRIII’s struggle was due to his youth and inexperience, even if he stays at 4, he will be much improved defending post players.

  • Wayman Britt

    Without Burke the offense will definitely be down next year, but the big question is will the defense improve. If the defense improves UM could be around the top 5 all season.

  • ChocoJoe

    I would love for the defense to improve to allow the team to get a lot of points in transition.

  • AGMart1

    I bet Mr. Hanner feels like a reel dumbass now.. I think that this upcoming season our boys may not be the 2nd best threat they were on offense last season, but they will undoubtedly be a top 15 to even top 5 best offense next year. Coach Beilein is just too good. I also think that McGary might shock everyone by extending his range to about 20 feet so that they can still space the floor and be almost as effective as last year. But I think an improved defense is gonna be the key to get back to the final 4. I think with 2 clogging the lane and the length that Stauskus Levert and Robinson have developing they could become adequate to legitimately good defenders. Honestly, in my opinion I’ve heard people complain about the officiating in the title, but I think if Stauskus and Robinson could defend nearly as well as Hardaway (who wasn’t incredible) the outcome would’ve been different.

    • cameron brooks

      Tim and Caris were good defenders.. so was glenn he just had to guard 4’s. NIk was the only poor defender

  • A2JD

    #9 seems like a fair assessment.

  • Mitchigan

    Dylan it looks like Michigan offered 2014 Justin Tillman, a PF out of Detroit Pershing (reminds me a little of Simms). Was wondering your thoughts and if you had any info?