With the news that Spike Albrecht will be transferring for his fifth-year senior season, the last member of the “Fresh Five” departs Ann Arbor. The 2012 recruiting class – Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson, Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, Spike – were all rotation players as freshmen in March and made it to the national title game: for a brief stretch, they were all on the floor together in the Georgia Dome as Michigan raced out to a first half lead over Louisville. Mitch, who was so impactful in that tournament run, was lost to injury as a sophomore; with Nik, Caris, and GRIII leading the charge, Michigan won the Big Ten and made it to the Elite Eight.
In those two seasons, the Wolverines won 59 games, posting a 27-9 record in Big Ten play and going 8-2 in the NCAA Tournament. The three-year span from 2012 (when the Fresh Five were seniors in high school) to 2014 (their sophomore year) will probably be considered the apex of the Beilein era – the ‘13 and ‘14 teams were the best offensively in all of college basketball and true national title contenders. As far as recruiting classes – and five-man lineups – go, Albrecht / LeVert / Stauskas / Robinson / McGary is about as good as you’ll get in college basketball.
Mitch thrived after he lost weight and, with the help of Trey Burke, became one of the best players in the country in March as a freshman – physical, energetic, and lethal in the pick-and-roll. Nik blew up as a sophomore, won Big Ten POY, and was drafted in the lottery after excelling as the team’s sharpshooting alpha dog. GRIII started and played big minutes in a complementary role for two excellent teams before leaving for the NBA (and sticking with a team). Caris was a phenomenal second banana as a sophomore and developed into an very intriguing NBA prospect in his own right. Spike was always a good backup point guard, an offensive sparkplug and a stable rotation cog – and developed into a capable starter as a junior.
Depending on LeVert’s health, there could be four of the Fresh Five in the NBA next season. Hopefully we’ll get to see Spike play well at his next stop and light up somebody in the NCAA Tournament a year from now. Because talent is so fleeting in college basketball, the window for these guys at Michigan was pretty small – just two seasons. Beilein made the most of those two seasons though and the Fresh Five helped elevate Michigan to a level of success it hadn’t seen since the Fab Five while playing a brilliant kind of offensive basketball – elite shooting, pick-and-roll mastery, and GRIII thunder-dunks.
Unfortunately, fate was cruel to Mitch, Caris, and Spike.
[sadness, but also happiness after THE JUMP]
Fresh from the mothership.
Beilein on LeVert: "I want to be clear about something with Caris. Nothing is clear."
Beilein says LeVert will get out there when he's ready, "I need everybody to back off, stop projecting. Thank you."
Seriously, what the hell is going on? He was cleared, now he's not? How do we just know absolutely nothing about this injury?
Beilein gets paid millions of dollars to coach this team, and he needs to be accountable to the media when our star player is out for weeks with a mysterious injury.
Despite losing star guard Caris LeVert for a month due to injury, Michigan currently sits in fourth place at 7-2 in the Big Ten; after a so-so non-conference showing, the Wolverines’ strong start to conference play has allayed any concerns about missing the NCAA Tournament. Still, there’s a lack of clarity with this team – even disregarding the uncertainty regarding LeVert’s return and ability to quickly and seamlessly reintegrate into the lineup.
With the notable exception of the win over Maryland, Michigan still is essentially a team that’s beaten the teams they should’ve beaten and lost to the teams they should’ve lost to (two neutral site games, UConn (loss) and Texas (win), were the only two against opponents close to U-M in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings). For the most part, the Wolverines’ wins in the Big Ten have been rather pedestrian: Rutgers and Minnesota were uninspiring home victories over terrible teams, sweeping Penn State isn’t a notable resume event, and the road wins in Big Ten play – over Illinois and Nebraska – were against teams that will surely miss the NCAA’s.
Still, between that win over the Terrapins, the complete lack of bad losses, and the tantalizing potential of adding an All-American level player to a team that’s already playing pretty well, there’s reason to hope that Michigan can round into a formidable squad heading into postseason play. The schedule from here on out in the Big Ten is undeniably harder – starting this week with home contests against Indiana and Michigan State. After Michigan’s solid start to the conference season, there are a few things we can point to as pretty important moving forward:
[After the jump, those things]
This was RT'd on Ace's twitter but I didn't see an MGoPost about this so thought I'd share. A classic example of the sly, self-deprecating humor that makes Spike the most eligible bachelor on campus and another example of the likeable bunch of guys we are priveleged to watch represent U-M
LEVERT IS COMING BACK, WE'RE GOING TO WIN THE BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP NEXT YEAR, AND HARBAUGH... so POSBANG