It’s still far too early and at this point it’s impossible to put any ceiling on Austin Hatch. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks through it. The amount of progress that he’s made during the three years since the plane crash has already been incredible, beyond what many would have deemed possible or likely. He deserves all of the time in the world to grow, but at this point how could you bet against him?
@Smoothitron: Michigan has had no shortage of early entry candidates. Other than Caris, who on the roster could make that leap?
I’ll go with Zak Irvin. He’s got a great frame and prototypical size for a wing guard in the NBA. His athletic improvement looks to be the real deal and I expect he’ll put up monster numbers this season because of his ability to get his shot off so easily. That being said, I’d still be somewhat surprised if anyone other than LeVert is discussing leaving school after this season. (I might have said the same thing about Nik Stauskas at this point last year.)
@jlustig22: Do you expect Walton’s assist numbers to rise a lot this year? Would you be surprised if LeVert actually led the team in assists?
I think Walton making a big jump in the assist category would be great news for Michigan and he’s certainly capable, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if LeVert leads the team in assists.
Monday’s exhibition game was just a first taste, but LeVert looked more comfortable as Michigan’s primary ball screen player and creator. He was throwing drop off passes, holding the ball in late clock situations and he could easily play a Nik Stauskas role as a distributor.
@losfromcp: Which need is more imperative: 1) Big 3 (Levert, Walton, Irvin) to come up big, or 2) Young frontcourt to develop quickly?
This is a bit of a trick question.
The ‘big three’ of LeVert, Walton and Irvin are the most important part of the team. Michigan is going to be carried as far as its backcourt can take it. If one or two of the big three struggle or get injured, then the Wolverines are going to be in trouble this season. Right now, there’s no reason to believe that the ‘big three’ won’t get it done. They’re all fairly proven and they should be one of the better backcourts in the Big Ten.
On the other hand, the frontcourt is an out-and-out question mark. No one knows what to expect from the bigs or even who is going to play the majority of the minutes. If Michigan’s young bigs can’t get it done then it might not matter how good LeVert, Irvin and Walton perform. So I’ll go with the big three, but only because I have more confidence in the backcourt.
@colintj: What odds would you lay that this team finishes lower in KenPom than the previous four?
Michigan finished 26th, 23rd, 4th and 10th in KenPom’s final rankings over the last four seasons and if I had to put an over/under on Michigan’s final ranking this season I’d probably set it around 25.
On paper at this point, this team has a lot of similarities to those 2011 and 2012 teams. This group will experience some growing pains along the way, but could peak playing its best basketball by February and March.
The weakness of this team is going to be up front, especially on the glass. The million dollar question will be how well can the Wolverines clean up the defensive glass and they are going to need players like Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert and Kam Chatman to all chip in.
The strength of this group has to be the backcourt. LeVert could be the best guard in the Big Ten this season and Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin are both poised for big years.