- Adam Glanzman/Daily
By Daniel Wasserman, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 21, 2013
Since the day Trey Burke decided to return to Ann Arbor for his sophomore season, the 2012-13 Michigan men’s basketball team was expected to contend for a Final Four. It didn’t disappoint, either, remaining in the nation’s top 10 for the entire season and eventually reaching its goal in Atlanta.
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Though Burke and junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. have since departed in favor of the NBA Draft, freshmen forwards Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III chose to follow Burke’s lead and stay for their sophomore seasons. Their decisions, along with another top-flight recruiting class, position the Wolverines for another Big Ten title and Final Four hunt.
Despite the departure of Burke and Hardaway, Michigan essentially returns four starters — McGary started each game in the NCAA Tournament, while redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan started nearly the entire regular season after holding the starting post spot throughout the previous two seasons.
The Daily broke down the Wolverines’ upcoming roster, position by position:
Point guard: When Burke picked up two quick fouls in the championship game against Louisville, freshman Spike Albrecht filled in more than admirably, netting 17 points on 4-of-4 shooting from 3-point range. In the second half, everyone was reminded of the Albrecht we saw — or didn’t see — for much of the season, the one who hit just four 3-pointers in his 18 appearances during conference play.
Albrecht should see a rise in minutes from his 8.1 minutes per game average last season, and as he showed in the Final Four, his shooting touch gives him the capability to score in bunches, but he’ll likely play in another reserve role. Albrecht will probably be the starting point guard when the Wolverines open their season in November, but like Matt Vogrich this year, he’ll likely accept a diminished role in favor of incoming freshman Derrick Walton Jr. as the non-conference slate progresses.
Walton, a Detroit native, is the nation’s No. 37 recruit — good for the eighth-best point guard — according to Rivals.com, which tabbed Michigan’s incoming class at No. 12, second in the Big Ten behind Indiana. Walton, like Burke, is undersized — each stands at 6-feet tall — but is lauded for his passing and shooting abilities. His defense remains a question mark, but on offense, he’s consistently been tabbed as a “true point guard” who could flourish in a Wolverine offense loaded with a wealth of scoring options.
Bottom line: No matter how well Walton or Albrecht play, this position will be a downgrade from the consensus National Player of the Year, who played more than 35 minutes per game. Inexperience could hamper Walton early on, but when given time to jell with all of his surrounding talent, Walton should be able to facilitate another dangerously talented Michigan offense.
Wing: Hardaway’s offensive production can be replaced, but can his defense? After being a defensive liability for most of his first two seasons, Hardaway turned into one of the Wolverines’ most reliable perimeter defenders, often guarding the opposition’s top outside threat.
Michigan coaches have already said they’re planning on employing more lineups with two big men on the floor at the same time, which would allow Robinson to play at his natural position, small forward, rather than the undersized power forward role he played for most of his freshman season. Given the circumstances, Robinson’s play was respectable, but against bigger teams, he was abused defensively and disappeared on the offensive end. At the small forward position, Robinson could terrorize opposing teams with his flexibility to play on the perimeter or post up smaller defenders, while his ability to find space in transition is as good as anyone in the country.
Freshman guard Nik Stauskas isn’t the porous defender he was at the start of the conference season, but he’ll still benefit greatly from another offseason of strength and conditioning, as well as coaching. Combined with Robinson on the wing, the Wolverines are already looking at a formidable one-two punch, but perhaps the team’s top wingman next season, incoming freshman Zak Irvin, hasn’t even graduated high school.
The five-star product, Indiana’s 2012-13 Mr. Basketball, is Rivals.com’s No. 24 prospect.