ESPN just tweeted out something about how true freshman Mason Cole was looking very good and "competing for the starting left tackle spot," so you'll forgive me if I take one more day to think about basketball before pivoting towards what will be a never ending supply of quotes about toughness that no one is going to care about until they actually see something on the field.
But first, a glimpse into what the next basketball seas-
At Michigan, toughness -- and new offense -- drive offseason
-on might hold. Michigan loses defensive keystone Jordan Morgan from what was statistical-
Remember when Michigan had trouble controlling the line of scrimmage?
“That's a toughness thing,” Hoke said.
-ly Beilein's worst at Michigan, and then the NBA draft-
Or what about not finishing, losing four games by a combined 11 points -- and leading three of them entering the fourth quarter?
“Toughness,” Hoke said.
JUST ONE FRIGGIN' DAY OKAY. JUST ONE. Jeez.
Anyway. Beilein loses defensive keystone Jordan Morgan off a unit that slipped to 101st after the Kentucky game; everyone else returns save those who will set sail for the NBA draft. So…
The NBA Draft
Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary will all have options. McGary and Robinson returned as a unit with the idea they would rip things up this year and then depart; McGary's injury and a bit of stagnation in Robinsons game interfered with that plan. Stauskas just plain blew up.
All available tea leaves point to Stauskas's departure. The feeling anyone in the building got when Michigan cut down the nets to celebrate their outright Big Ten title was that he was out. While Stauskas shot down his father's overly honest take as to his future, one of those things is PR and it's not hard to figure out which one.
Stauskas is solidly in the first round anywhere that bothers to rank prospects—17th at Draft Express, 15th to Gary Parrish, 21st to Chad Ford—and just saw two teammates drop in those rankings from the spot he's at right now to second round grades. It would be a Lewan-level upset if he came back.
The fates of Robinson and McGary are murkier. Robinson has alternately sounded like a guy open to a return…
"There have been times this year when I thought about it and heard a lot of talk and everything," Robinson said. "I just want to make the best decision, the best decision for me, because I want to play this game for a long time. So if I'm not ready, I'm not ready."
…and a guy headed out the door…
“At the beginning of the season, things weren’t going right,” Robinson explained on Saturday. “I was going to play the three and coach decided he wanted me back at the four when Mitch got hurt.”
The move was tough on the 6-foot-6 sophomore.
“I was kind of upset a little bit about that,” Robinson admitted. “I was kind of questioning my decision to come back.”
…depending on the context and question. Generally in these situations the out-the-door thing is more likely, but Robinson's stock has fallen to the point where he has a tough decision. Most places have him a second rounder—one in the range that Tim Hardaway Jr was last year before draft workouts saw him leap into the first round. DX has him 37th, Parrish 39th, Ford 32nd.
It's clear that Michigan sold Robinson on the idea of playing the three, his NBA spot, when he returned. They would have to do that again, presumably by promising a lot of McGary/Donnal frontcourts with Robinson on the wing.
And then there's McGary, who parlayed a brilliant six-game run in the tourney into a mid-first round grade, annihilated various camps in the summer, and came down with a back injury that lingered until it required surgery. What is an NBA draft executive supposed to do with that information attached to a guy a year older than his class? Guess wildly. McGary is also universally hailed as a early second-rounder; in his case the motivation to return seems obvious. A healthy year of McGary should make him an easy first-rounder once again.
If I had to guess I'd say Michigan gets one of the three back and that's Mitch. But nothing would shock me… other than a Stauskas return.
So Then What
Assuming the scenario in the last paragraph plays out, these are your 2014-15 Michigan Wolverines:
- PG: Walton (So., 30 min), Albrecht (Jr., 10 min)
- SG: Irvin (So., 30 min), Chatman (Fr., 10 min)
- SF: LeVert (Jr., 35 min), Chatman (Fr., 5 min)
- PF: Donnal (Fr., 30 min), McGary (Jr., 10 min)
- C: McGary (Jr., 20 min), Horford (Sr., 20 min)
That's an eight man rotation. Michigan also has Ricky Doyle and DJ Wilson coming in. If McGary returns they can definitely redshirt one and maybe both; if he returns they have to play one and maybe both. Michigan will be in the market for any LeVert-like spring risers in this scenario; they could also take a transfer.
That looks… wow. I am shocked at how good that looks given that this hypothetical scenario has bombed three NBA draft picks off the roster. (Trey would hypothetically be a senior if he was not Trey.) Michigan returns LeVert, who is improving nightly and still has buckets of upside since he's a year younger than most guys his grade. They have two top-50 recruits who turned in promising freshman years and promise to blow up themselves. They're guards entering year two under Jordan/Beilein. A veritable leap beckons.
What if Glenn's back?
You're an optimistic scallywag this afternoon. Robinson's return would probably chop five to ten minutes off of four players' time: Horford, Donnal, Chatman, and Irvin.
What if Mitch is gone?
You are a nasty pessimist this afternoon. McGary departing would likely force Ricky Doyle to pick up 15-20 minutes a game with the rest of the vacated post minutes going to Donnal and Horford; there would be more of those worrying small lineups with Irvin at the 4.
What kind of team is that one above?
Uh… well… I mean I know they'll have just spit out a bunch of guys to the NBA but doesn't that look like another protected seed? Obviously there's a large range of possibility there, ranging from another two to a four, but if you look at that lineup the one question mark is Donnal, who is Beilein's first true stretch big in his time at Michigan.
How did this happen?
I don't know man.
I hesitate to make any strident proclamations after Nebrasketball happened this year. Persist we must. Next year's Big Ten looks like a race between four teams: Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Surprise Team To Be Named Later That I Will Say Is Iowa, After Which Everyone Will Shake Their Heads Softly And Wonder What Is My Deal With Iowa.
Michigan State isn't going to drop out of the tournament but in the likely event of a Gary Harris departure they lose him, Payne, and Appling and haven't brought in the level of talent those gentlemen represent in a few years now. Travis Trice, starting point guard, says it all.
Michigan probably isn't going to have the best offense in the Kenpom era and win the league by three games again. Probably.
At the bottom of the league, Purdue and Penn State figure to be less annoying thorns in the side of teams up the ladder after the departures of all Johnsons from the Boilers and Tim Frazier from Penn State. Penn State is going to lean heavily on DJ Newbill, as they did a year ago. Purdue is going to turn to… Bryson Scott? This figures to be Matt Painter's last year in West Lafayette.
Also, Northwestern turns over more of the offense to Sanjay Lumpkin.
Who's about the same?
You'd think Ohio State would take a hit with the losses of Craft and Ross, but they were already 10-8 in the league last year. They've added Temple fifth-year transfer Anthony Lee to their frontcourt, get SG Kam Williams off a redshirt—although that redshirt does invite one to wonder about how good this dude actually is given the state of the OSU offense—and bring in an excellent recruiting class featuring next year's Guy You Wish Beilein Had, Keita Bates-Diop. They'll probably be the same middling Big Ten team that doesn't have to worry about the bubble next year.
Davis (#15) might be Indiana's starting 5 next year, and he is basically Will Sheehey
Indiana brings in some talented recruits with poor decision making skills. They lose Noah Vonleh and Jeremy Hollowell in the middle. The only guy taller than 6'7" on the roster for next year is Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who Indiana just about refused to play even before his DUI incident. Can a Big Ten team featuring Devin Davis at the 5 make the NCAA tournament? Looks like bubble at best.
Minnesota loses Austin Hollins and no on else of significance; will remain Minnesota until such time as they are not a .500-ish Big Ten team that barely misses or makes the tournament.
As appalling as this is to consider, unless Sam Dekker takes his talents to the NBA there's no reason Wisconsin should take a step back. If anything they should charge forward with a senior Kaminsky. Their only loss is Ben Brust, a highly effective outside gunner who Bo Ryan will replace seamlessly because that's how he do. As long as someone shakes Traevon Jackson and tells him he's not Trey Burke every 30 seconds, they have to be the league favorite.
On the opposite side of the spectrum that runs from Bo Ryan through Stalin to Rainbow Dash and ends at Tim Miles, Nebraska exists. Their only departure from a breakthrough tournament team is Ray Gallegos, who was marginalized as a senior because he was a Designated Corner Gunner who hit 33% and Nebraska no longer thought that was their best option. The Pitchford/Shields/Petteway core is all sophomores who will be around another two years, and this is a team that went from 8-8 to 19-11 to end the regular season. Second-half Nebraska is a league contender.
And I will put my hand in the fire again: it's Iowa's year, baby! They lose the talented but inconsistent Roy Devin Marble, generally inexplicable Zach McCabe, and Melsahn Basabe. They return a pile of enormous dudes: White, Olaseni, Woodbury, and Uthoff all go at least 6'9". Aging big men put it together and Iowa's got senior White, senior Olaseni, and junior Woodbury on deck. If they can find some shooters they'll be much better than they were a year ago.
Illinois found something at the end of the year and loses only Joseph Betrand; since one of the things they found late was "maybe we should play our freshmen" the future bodes well. Or at least better than 7-11 in the league. Meanwhile, incoming recruit Leron Black is described as a "junkyard dog"—exactly what the Illini need at the 4 next to the uninspiring rebounding of Nnanna Egwu.
How About A Stupid Prediction?
Going to have to wait until draft declarations are made.