Time to Turn the Page, Michigan Fans


Occasionally, well…often might be a better word, I have to remind myself not to wallow in pity after a particularly damaging loss.  Michigan’s first round exit at the hands of Ohio U. is a perfect example of that.  I had visions of a sweet sixteen run and even dared to dream of 3-pointers dropping left and right to upset North Carolina.  Reality hit square in the jaw last night, as Michigan’s weaknesses were exposed in a game Ohio controlled from the tip.  Looking ahead, however, the Wolverines have just the right type of players coming back and coming in next year to make a deeper run in March.

First of all, the loss of Zack Novak and Stu Douglass will certainly be felt.  As Michigan fans found out in the 2009-2010 season, talent only goes as far as leadership can take it.  That team, minus the senior leadership provided by C.J. Lee and David Merritt a season before, did not even make the postseason.  The danger next season is a roster without a true leader (Matt Vogrich will be the only senior getting regular playing time).  The difference, though, will be a Junior class ready to take the next step, and a deeper and more talented roster than the 2009-2010 squad.

Look Who’s Back

            In terms of talent and depth, Michigan will have a lot coming back next year.  Throughout this season, there were moments when I had to remind myself that many of Michigan’s important players were only sophomores, and inconsistency should be expected at times.  Tim Hardaway Jr., Evan Smotrycz, and Jordan Morgan had their highs and lows during the past season.  Next year, as juniors that have already played a lot of minutes, fans can expect them to take a step forward in terms of consistency, production and leadership.  Don’t forget about Jon Horford (who’s length could have helped against Ohio’s dribble drive lay-ups), who, if granted a medical red-shirt, should be back as a sophomore next season.

Another reason to look forward and not back today is Trey Burke.  Burke emerged as one of the best point guards in the Big Ten this season, if not the whole country.  As a sophomore, he should have a better understanding of the offense, and will have better players around him as well.  The combination of Burke and Hardaway in the backcourt will be a difficult for teams to defend, especially with shooters like Smotrycz and Vogrich to keep teams honest.

Help Coming

            The incoming class features three highly touted recruits.  Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas will help fill weaknesses that the losses to Ohio State and Ohio U. showed last week.  One glaring weakness is a presence in the middle.  Jordan Morgan was Michigan only post option on offense and defense this year with Jon Horford out with injury.  McGary, at 6’10” and 225 pounds, will fill the glaring need for a big man in the middle.

Michigan also lacks a capable swing-man, the type of player who can play outside or inside, slash to the basket or hit outside shots.  Glenn Robinson is just that type of player.  Hardaway is too in love with the three, and Burke, who can drive well, doesn’t have size.  Robinson is 6’6” and very long.  He is a good shooter but can also drive and finish at the rim.

Michigan loses two 3-point shooters with Novak and Douglass graduating.  Nik Stauskas can help fill that void next season.  Stauskas is a very good shooter and, at 6’6” can get his shot off over most defenders.  Stauskas, as with Robinson, can handle the ball well, perhaps taking some of that pressure off of Burke.

It is difficult to predict how freshman will adjust to college ball.  We have seen the success of Burke and Hardaway playing as freshman, but also the disappointments of Vogrich and Carlton Brundidge, both of whom were four star recruits that didn’t make the floor much in their first season.  If the three incomers next year adjust well, the starting lineup could feature Burke, Hardaway, Robinson, Smotrycz, and McGary.  This combination has shooters, drivers, post scoring, and length on defense.  Depth will be improved as well, with Morgan, Horford, Vogrich, and Brundidge getting time off the bench.  Michigan typically rotated seven players this past season, so a nine-man rotation will be a welcome change.

As difficult as this season’s abrupt end is to swallow, the future is bright in Ann Arbor.  Provided there are no surprise departures, the Wolverines will have the size, shooting, depth, and leadership to make a deep March run.  Look out, North Carolina, we’re coming for you.