Better an exhibition game than a regular-season game, but probably best not at all.
Preseason All-American Trey Burke is suspended for the No. 5 Michigan basketball team’s first exhibition game Thursday against Northern Michigan for a “violation of team standards,” according to a team statement.
It wasn’t the sophomore point guard’s first early-season infraction. Last year, Burke was late to a team walkthrough, and ended up coming off the bench after it was announced he’d start the season opener against Ferris State.
“Trey’s a good kid and obviously, as we talked about, he’s going to sit out this game and he’ll learn a very valuable experience,” said Michigan coach John Beilein.
Freshman Spike Albrecht will start in Burke’s place, and will account for a portion of the 30 minutes Burke was expected to play. Senior Eso Akunne may also see time at point guard.
Beilein announced that junior Tim Hardaway Jr., redshirt junior center Jordan Morgan and freshman Glenn Robinson III will also start. He didn’t indicate who the fifth starter would be.
That fifth starter may indicate whether the Wolverines prefer to go “big” or “small.” If 6-foot-10 freshman Mitch McGary — who is recovering from a foot injury but will play tomorrow — gets the start, Michigan will have McGary and Morgan in the frontcourt, with Robinson and Hardaway playing as off-the-ball guards. If senior guard Matt Vogrich or freshman guard Nik Stauskas gets plugged into the starting five, then Robinson may play as an undersized power forward making for a smaller, but quicker and better-shooting lineup.
Jon Horford will be out due to a knee sprain. The redshirt sophomore center missed almost all of last year because of a foot injury.
Though disappointed in his point guard’s violation, Beilein was excited to see what some of the others could do in Burke’s stead, particularly Albrecht, a Crown Point, Ind. native with a knack for hitting the hardwood.
“It must be in the water in that area of northern Indiana because he takes charges, Glenn takes charges, Mitch takes charges,” Beilein said. “It says a lot about their whole upbringing and that’s been good. Spike’s led us so far.”
The exhibition will give the coaching staff an opportunity to see how players who may be redshirted react to game situations.
“I think we have necessities in a lot of areas that would be tough to redshirt some,” Beilein said. “But if we feel somebody’s not going to get significant playing time, and we really feel he’d be a great one to have in a fifth year, we make sure we have all the information to make that decision.”
The player most likely to be considered for a redshirt is freshman Caris LeVert. The long, rail-thin guard from Pickerington, Ohio was the last recruit in the class to sign, but has impressed nearly the whole team.
With a logjam of talent at guard among freshmen though, and with the other non-starting guards being seniors, LeVert may be hard-pressed to find minutes this year.
“Just watching him play and how he can use his body; his frame is so small,” Hardaway said. “It’s ridiculous how he can get to different spots on the court.”
Beilein also offered a couple other hints at what this year’s installment of Michigan basketball would look like.
As with last year, Beilein intends to go mostly with man-to-man defense, with the possibility of sprinkling in a few zone-defense looks. He emphasized that the Big Ten was a “man league.”
Beilein also pointed out his comfort with Albrecht on the court, noting that he’s seen plenty of time in practice with the first and second teams.
“He’s been very good,” Beilein said. “He’s very clever, great vision, makes some plays that make us smile. I’m sure he’s going to make a lot of mistakes along the way.”
The mistakes may be a theme for the whole team, and particularly the freshmen during the first exhibition, but they’ll get the opportunity to show fans what they can do for the first time in the renovated Crisler Center.
“This is supposed to be fun,” Hardaway said. “We’re not supposed to be tense, we’re not supposed to be stiff. Be loosey goosey out there, have fun, enjoy the moment.”