Early Outlook: 2012-13 Michigan Basketball

Submitted by Ace on April 11th, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary: Capable of dunking

Now that Trey Burke has announced his return to the Michigan basketball program, we can all emerge from our panic rooms and take a look at the roster for next year. Since the end of the season, Michigan has lost five scholarship players—Zack Novak and Stu Douglass to graduation; Evan Smotrycz, Colton Christian, and Carlton Brundidge to transfer—and pulled in a commitment from point guard Spike Albrecht. With today's news that the Wolverines are no longer pursuing combo guard Amadeo Della Valle, the roster is set barring a graduate-year transfer. Here's one man's guess at the 2012-13 depth chart:

Point Guard Shooting Guard Small Forward Power Forward Center
Trey Burke Tim Hardaway Jr. Glenn Robinson III Mitch McGary Jordan Morgan
Spike Albrecht Nick Stauskas Matt Vogrich Max Bielfeldt Jon Horford
Eso Akunne  -   -   -  Blake McLimans

Schwing. That's a lineup featuring an All-American (honorable mention) point guard, an enigmatic but uber-talented shooting guard, two five-star freshmen at the 3 and 4, and a proven Big Ten center. It's also a lineup with a fair amount of versatility. If Michigan wants to go small, they can play GRIII at power forward and slide either Nick Stauskas or Matt Vogrich to the wing, adding some extra outside shooting. Going bigger is pretty unnecessary, since the presumed starters outside of Burke all have more than adequate size for their position—no more 6'4" guys in the post.

At point guard, once again it pretty much starts and ends with Trey Burke, but the pickup of Albrecht gives the team some options. Albrecht's main strengths are basketball savvy and passing ability; should he pick up on the offense quickly enough, he can provide Burke with a few minutes of rest without sacrificing much offensive flow. Nick Stauskas is a natural shooting guard, but he's a slick passer. If he can just be adequate at handling the basketball, he could also help ease the load on Burke. While Burke will undoubtedly play well over 30 minutes a game once again, there's hope that he won't be forced to log the 40 (or more) minute efforts he did as a freshman.

The key to a successful season—and next year, success means a Big Ten title and/or a deep run in the NCAA tournament—is the production of Tim Hardaway Jr. Can he improve his shot selection and return to the efficient scoring ways of his freshman campaign, or will he continue to be maddeningly inconsistent on both sides of the ball? Who knows, though I'd like to think he won't shoot 28% from downtown again. The good news is that with a four-star gunner in Stauskas and good secondary scoring options in GRIII and McGary, Michigan won't have to lean so heavily on Hardaway to carry the non-Burke scoring load. Stauskas hopefully will be the guy who finally lives up to his high school reputation as a deadly marksman; if he does, this team gets a whole lot more dangerous and versatile.

I'm guessing Glenn Robinson III steps right in and starts at small forward after surging to five-star status over the last several months. GRIII brings a level of athleticism on the wing that Michigan hasn't seen in a long time; the Burke-to-Robinson alley-oop combination should provide some Sportscenter Top 10 moments. Robinson should also be able to create his own shot heading towards the basket, something nobody outside of Hardaway could do with any consistency last season. Backing up GRIII will likely be Matt Vogrich, who will hopefully break through as an outside shooter while continuing to provide a surprising level of rebounding and defensive hustle.

The ballyhooed Mitch McGary should start right away at power forward with Smotrycz heading elsewhere. While his stock has dropped a bit since his commitment, McGary is still an instant-impact guy, and I'm very interested to see what he can bring to Beilein's burgeoning pick-and-roll game. McGary has the bounce necessary to take a quick pass off the roll and attack the basket with ferocity, something Jordan Morgan has struggled with in the past. With teams justifiably focused on stopping Burke, McGary could be the beneficiary of a lot of easy looks around the hoop. His high motor and effort should make him a force on the boards, as well. After redshirting last season, Max Bielfeldt has a chance to earn some PT at the four, being the guy who most fits the Beilein mold of a big who can stretch the floor. If he can hold his own defensively and on the glass, Bielfeldt could be a surprisingly solid weapon off the bench.

Jordan Morgan returns and should continue to provide high-percentage shooting, solid rebounding, and quality interior defense. While his ceiling doesn't appear to be especially high, Morgan has steadily improved in his Michigan career, and we'll likely see him take another step forward as a junior. If that step forward includes even a rudimentary post game (or at least better finishing on layup opportunities), the masses would be quite pleased. Morgan could be pushed for playing time by Jon Horford, who returns from a foot injury. Horford isn't as polished as Morgan, but he's more athletic and provides a better shot-blocking presence on defense. He should get at least 15 minutes a game next year, especially if Morgan's propensity for foul trouble continues to plague him. Blake McLimans may just be the odd man out with Michigan's new-found depth up front.

So, what's the outlook? While the Big Ten is loaded next year—the news that Christian Watford and Cody Zeller both return makes Indiana a potential national contender—Michigan is set to challenge for the conference crown and could be a Final Four team if a few things fall the right way. Getting Hardaway back on track is the key, assuming Robinson and McGary live up to their lofty recruiting rankings. While Michigan doesn't have a lineup loaded with shooters like Beilein's West Virginia squads, they have more athleticism and a dynamite point guard that the Mountaineers never had. Beilein's offense became more guard-centric the past two seasons with Darius Morris and Burke running the show, and that should continue next year. Expect to see more evolution from the offense as the coaches adjust to having a much bigger team, and possibly a shift back to more zone defense to better fit the personnel.

The expectations for next year are dramatically higher than they've been in Ann Arbor since the Fab Five era, and those expectations are justified. An experienced Burke coupled with a hopefully reinvigorated Hardaway should take this team a long way. If the freshmen produce as expected, Michigan will take the next (big) leap forward under John Beilein, going from Big Ten dark horse to national contender.



April 11th, 2012 at 12:49 PM ^

i bet that for at least the first half of the season, akunne is ahead of spike on the depth chart.  his knowledge of the offense will prove key, i expect. 


April 11th, 2012 at 12:53 PM ^

That wouldn't surprise me either, especially if Michigan plays more zone defense—probably should've given him a mention. His ballhandling ability worries me, though. I'd guess we see him play much like last season; more minutes in non-conference play, then mostly phased out by the B1G schedule (and yes, I realize he got hurt, but his minutes dwindled before that).

Akunne did shoot well in his very limited chances last year, though, so I may be underestimating him. That would be nice.


April 11th, 2012 at 12:58 PM ^

If we see notable minutes from Akunne or McLimans, then it's going to be a disappointing year.  They both take ill-advised shots (regardless of high shooting percentages based on a too-small sample size) and don't exhibit the Novakesque hustle required of a deep sub.  The backup to Trey needs to pass the ball and limit turnovers...that's it.


April 11th, 2012 at 1:26 PM ^

Akunne seems clumsy and 2 steps behind when he is on the court. Hopefully the offseason he can approve. Based off watching highlights of Spike, he'll be the #2. Remember most of the highlights you see are against D-1 caliber players.


April 11th, 2012 at 12:56 PM ^

Just speculation—I think the lineup I put up there gets the five best guys on the floor at the positions that fit them best. I like Stauskas as a sixth man who can provide some scoring punch, and I think GRIII is too good to keep off the floor. Robinson seems like his game requires less of a transition to college than Stauskas. Also, I like the idea of having a much bigger lineup next season.


April 11th, 2012 at 1:00 PM ^

My guess would be THJ at the 2 makes more sense because it provides more offensive threats and therefore more and better open looks for THJ...and in zone looks on D, it puts a bigger guard out on the perimeter to help a more-experienced Trey defend the 3.

That said, it is strictly my opinion and based on nothing factual. I bet we see a couple different looks, especially before the B1G season opens.


April 11th, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

But unless Hardaway suddenly becomes a much better ballhandler, does it really make sense to have him play the 2? And after his struggles last season, do you really want to ask him to learn a new position?

Beilein has told Robinson to work on his ballhandling because they want to use him at both small forward and shooting guard next season, so I tend to think the shooting guard position would be split among Robinson, Stauskas, and Vogrich. I think Hardway will continue to start at the 3, and either Robinson or Stauskas will start at the 2.


April 11th, 2012 at 2:06 PM ^

To me, pros outweigh the cons there. I get what you're saying re: the ballhandling but like Ace said, get the 5 best athletes on the floor.

You have Trey who is Trey, a 5 who can run the pick and roll, a 4 who can step out and shoot, GRIII who can do it all from the sounds of things...THJ can let the game come to him and not force things. You could argue that that was a cause of his TO's more than anything.



April 11th, 2012 at 12:56 PM ^

I know this has been said before, but...I am extremely excited for our prospects in both basketball and football next year. My non-Michigan friends are quite sick of how much I talk up not only our athletes, but our coaching regimes as well.

It is definitely a great time to be a fan of the Wolverines.


April 11th, 2012 at 1:05 PM ^

I am ridiculously excited to watch this team next year.  Possibly more excited than I am to watch the football team, which I never thought I would hear myself say...


April 11th, 2012 at 1:08 PM ^

On a serious note, it will be interesting to see how Coach Beilein adjusts to having a 4 man who can't really shoot the three consistently (assuming I'm not underestimating McGary's shooting). 


April 11th, 2012 at 4:16 PM ^

That's not exactly definite given that wording.  I'm confident that Beilein will use his players optimally, but that still may well be within the confines of a 4-high offense.  I think GRIII is going to break out and end up playing the 4.  Main rotation:






I don't think subtracting Stauskas or GRIII for Morgan is going to ultimately be a good trade-off.  Maybe to start the season things will look different as those guys adapt.  But I think McGary does everything Morgan does, but better.


April 11th, 2012 at 1:22 PM ^

I love the wing players that Beilein is bringing here.  Hardaway, GRIII, Stauskas, and Irvin give Michigan a look that no other Big Ten team can offer.  They're players that are very long and athletic and will be matchup nightmares for all opponents.  Where is the poster that was saying he didn't think Beilein was the right guy for the job during the whole Trey Burke fiasco?  Beilein has always been one of the best coaches in the country, and now he finally has the talent in place to take this team to elite status.


April 11th, 2012 at 1:17 PM ^

I expect to see a minutes breakdown of:

PG: Burke - 30-35; Albrecht 5-10

SG: Hardaway 25; Stauskas 15

SF: GR-III 25; Hardaway 10; Vogrich 5

PF: McGary 25; GR-III 10, Bielfeldt 5

C: Morgan 20, Horford 15; McGary 5


I expect a lineup that plays about 10 min/game in the small-ball 4 guard look and the other 30 with a more traditional 2-big approach.


April 11th, 2012 at 1:27 PM ^

Another player a lot of people are forgetting about is Jon Horford.  He is the best shot blocker on the team, and has a more evolved offensive game than Morgan.  He has a nice jump shot, more post moves, and is much more athletic than Morgan.  He just needs to put some weight on, but I would not be surprised to see him as our starting center next year.  Either way, man is it a great time to be a Michigan Wolverine! Go Blue!


April 11th, 2012 at 1:52 PM ^

I know Beilein will figure it out, but this team is going to be completely different from what he is used to coaching.  I think it will be really fun to watch, but I wouldn't be surprised if it takes a little adjustment period before the team plays to their potential.

Then again, I wouldn't be surprised if we scored 100 pts every game and went undefeated.



April 11th, 2012 at 1:36 PM ^

Why does everyone assume that Spike Albrecht will be ahead of Akunne? Akunne, before he got hurt, was shooting great, and he is more comfortable in John Beilein's complicated offense.  I think he'll see more minutes than Albrecht.

Mr. Yost

April 11th, 2012 at 1:44 PM ^

What is the obsession with some people and Akunne?

He took EIGHT shots all year. Yes, he made 7...but we're talking majority mop up duty vs. teams like Ferris St. and Alabama A&M. We got up comfortably on Iowa St. and he came in and played well as we lost our big lead.

But still, the sample size is WAAAY too small. People act like he contributed solid minutes in the B1G season. He and Albrecht are virtually even when it comes to game experience, let's be real. Where Eso has the advantage is PRACTICE minutes/time.

He could be GREAT...but the fact of the matter is, no one knows based off the little he did last year.


April 11th, 2012 at 2:24 PM ^

I can't speak for other fans of Akunne, but I guess I'm just responding against the automatic assumption that Albrecht will be the #2 point guard.  Eso, like him or not, has been the part of 3 big ten teams, going to head to head with Burke and Morris in practice.  Eso is also a few inches taller than Albrecht.  I don't think it's that absurd to think that Akunne could get second string point guard duty. 


April 11th, 2012 at 4:19 PM ^

Eso actually was a really good high school player.  Unfortunately, he was a frontcourt player at that level and just isn't tall enough to play it here.  He just doesn't really have the skillset to be a guard. 


April 11th, 2012 at 1:47 PM ^

is what I hope for, but I'm not sure. Tim's ball handling issues are obvious and as someone else pointed out, we really would be getting away from the perimeter oriented offense Beilein is associated with. That said, I have a feeling we are going to want GRIII playing ~ 30 mins, so JB is gonna have to find a way to get him on the floor with THJR.

Blue boy johnson

April 11th, 2012 at 1:55 PM ^

I don't think Beilein will have any problems figuring out how to play different combinations, he's been coaching about 500 years, dude knows what he's doing. I don't envision Coach B crying on Coach A's shoulder because he can't figure out how to play Morgan and McGary together. Three Stooges could  figure that one out. yuk yuk yuk


April 11th, 2012 at 1:57 PM ^

Look, I love the guy as much as the next Michigan fan, but Jordan Morgan as a "proven Big 10 center"


Nonethelss, thanks for the quality post.


April 11th, 2012 at 2:05 PM ^

Go back and watch the win over Ohio State. You know, the one where Morgan outplays Jared Sullinger.

I'm not saying he's a star, but I don't think "proven Big Ten center" is out of line with what he's shown us these last two years, especially when you see some of the stiffs who pass for centers at other programs.


April 11th, 2012 at 2:10 PM ^

Am I the only person still high on Vogrich?  I have a gut feeling that Vogrich will start at the 2, with THJ at the 3, at least to start the year.  I've always thought that Vogrich's biggest problem is that he hasn't seen consistent minutes to get in a shooting rhythm.  Starting a senior over a freshman (GRIII, 5* or not) is something I expect from Beilein early on.


April 11th, 2012 at 2:24 PM ^

Starting a senior over a freshman (GRIII, 5* or not) is something I expect from Beilein early on.

I said almost the exact same thing last off-season in regard to Douglass and Burke, and Beilein proved me dead wrong. Will Robinson be as ready as Burke was to step right in? I don't know.

But I agree with you that if Vogrich got more minutes his shooting percentage would go up. The question is whether he'll be able to earn more minutes given the additional competition for playing time at the 2 and 3. One thing is sure: the competition for playing time will be ratcheted up next season, and that alone should pay dividends.


April 11th, 2012 at 2:46 PM ^

If there is one thing that Beilein has shown its that he will play the best players regardless of class.  He showed this with Ekpe Udoh, Manny Harris, Darius Morris, Tim Hardaway, and Trey Burke.  No disrespect, but you are crazy if you think JB will start Vogrich over GRIII simply because he is a senior.

Edit - This was meant to be a reply to Shakers


April 11th, 2012 at 2:17 PM ^

Starting line-up really doesn't matter since Beilein pulls guys out of the first half once they have 2 fouls.  If Stauskas is the sixth man, he'll probably still play 20 minutes a game.