Mar 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Caris LeVert (23) drives against Tennessee Volunteers guard Jordan McRae (52) in the second half in the semifinals of the midwest regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
2013-14 Result: 28-9(15-3)
Postseason: Elite Eight (lost to Kentucky 75-72)
Head Coach Prospectus: John Beilein (150-94, eight years at Michigan)
The Wolverines lost a great deal of their star power this offseason with Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas all departing for the NBA. The trio was part of a Michigan team that reached the Elite Eight, and were the regular season Big Ten champions. While McGary missed most of the season with a back inury, Robinson and Stauskas 41.3 percent of the team’s points-per-game. Both guards were solid shooters, and definitely will have their presences missed on the perimeter. Despite losing such a significant amount of talent, Michigan still will be a factor in the Big Ten race. In the annual Big Ten preseason poll, the Wolverines were picked to finish fifth. With only three conference losses a season ago, it may be a down year for the Wolverines, but there’s still plenty of talent on this roster.
Key Returning Players:
G Caris LeVert (Jr.)
G Derrick Walton Jr. (So.)
G/F Zac Irvin (So.)
Michigan’s new core may be a slew of names that many Big Ten fans may not be as familiar with. Guard Caris LeVert is one of the most talented players in all of the Big Ten. The junior really has a knack for scoring the basketball. LeVert is the type of player that can create his own shot while also being able to burn opposing teams from beyond the arc. With many of the big guns from last year’s team gone, LeVert is going to be “the guy” in Ann Arbor this season.
Walton looks like he will be the future for the Wolverines at the point guard spot. The Detroit native can affect the game in multiple facets. Walton has very strong court vision, and can also shoot the ball pretty well. He is being compared by some to Trey Burke, which is a pretty lofty comparision. Walton’s minutes should skyrocket as a sophomore and he should make quite the impact on Michigan’s offenseive flow.
Zac Irvin is a name that casual Big Ten fans (and Maryland fans) probably won’t know, but they will in time. The Indiana native is a guy that is a natural born scorer. Despite only playing around 15 minutes-per-game as a freshman, Irvin still made quite an impact both on the perimeter and around the rim. The sophomore is a guy that should score in bunches for the Wolverines, and help replace the production of Stauskas and Robinson.
The frontcourt is where the question marks lie for the Wolverines. McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford (transferred to Florida) are all gone, and that’s a lot of talent to replace in one season.
The Wolverines will likely go with a smaller lineup during the 2014-15 season with one of their biggest assets being stretch four Kameron Chatman. Chatman was a top 30 recruit with offers from several major programs, including Arizona, Connecticut, and Gonzaga. However, the Oregon native decided to spend his collegiate career in Ann Arbor, and should see big-time minutes as a freshman. Chatman is a guy that can score from the perimeter as well as make a living in the low post. Chatman is a more athletic version of Maryland stretch four Evan Smotrycz.
After Chatman, it gets interesting in terms of who will be the starting center for the Wolverines. Judging by the type of lineup that Michigan rolled with in the exhibition game against Wayne State, it looks like redshirt freshman Mark Donnal will be the team’s center. While he may not be the most athletic big game in the history of college basketball, Donnal can run the floor and finish strong at the rim. The Ohio native is a very opportunistic big man that should be a solid piece for the Wolverines. With a year practicing and just being around the team, Donnal definitely should produce in his first collegiate season.
The backcourt is where the Wolverines will get the bulk of their scoring. Caris LeVert is one of the top players in the Big Ten, and should be able to score in droves this season. When he first arrived at Michigan, LeVert wasn’t a very effective shooter from beyond the arc. However, in year two, LeVert improved his three-point field goal percentage by 10.6 percent to get it up to 40.8 percent, and also attempted nearly three more long-range shots per contest. The junior guard is also a very sound passer. He’s very comfortable finding spot-up shooters, and also excels in transition when handing off the basketball. LeVert will likely be a first round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft if he has the year that he is capable of having.
Derrick Walton Jr. fills the point guard role for the Wolverines, and produced quite a bit in his freshman campaign. As was mentioned above, Walton is being compared by some to former Wolverine and current Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke. Walton has a ton of natural talent, and really should excel in a starting role once again. Walton is the type of floor general that likes to push the tempo when the time is right. The Detroit native is a very good shooter from the outside as he shot 42.9 percent from the floor and 41 percent from beyond the arc last season. Walton is also a very sound passer, and isn’t afraid to get into the lane and sky for a rebound (Averaged three per game last year). With strong guards like LeVert and Zac Irvin also scoring from the perimeter, the sky is the limit for Walton’s potential.
As was mentioned above, Irvin is just a natural born scorer. Aside from LeVert, Irvin may be one of the most talented players on Michigan’s roster. The Indiana native has no problem creating his own shot, and is a natural scoring threat from the perimeter. Irvin also excels in the transition, and has the ability to finish strong at the basket. John Beilein seems to have a knack for finding guys that can flat-out score the basketball and clearly, Irvin is no exception.
The biggest issue with the Wolverines is going to be depth. There’s not a ton of depth in the frontcourt, and that could prove problematic. If Chatham and Donnal are able to play a lion’s share of the minutes and play at a high level, but that is asking a lot of two guys that have yet to play a collegiate game. My guess is that Michigan will have a solid season, and finish in the top five in the Big Ten. Eight or nine conference wins is where I’ll put them with them being right on the bubble coming NCAA Tournament time.