Just a week and a half removed from Michigan basketball ending their season with a national championship game loss, times have been tenuous in Ann Arbor. Yesterday, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III announced their intentions of returning to Michigan for their sophomore seasons. This news came on the heels of Trey Burke’s obvious decision to leave and the subsequent departure of junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Had McGary and Robinson bolted campus it would have left Michigan with just nine players on the roster: Nik Stauskas, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert, Max Bielfeldt, and the three new freshmen – Derrick Walton, Mark Donnal, and Zak Irvin.
The return of these two players, who are turning down potential fortunes in the NBA to prove that they are more than what we witnessed last season, keeps Michigan firmly within the top tier of college basketball teams.
Most fans not close to Michigan recruiting will fear the losses of Burke and Hardaway, and rightfully so. Losing the consensus national player of the year and the team’s 2nd leading scorer are substantial developments. Stepping into their roster spots as well as potentially their slots in the starting rotation will be Walton and Irvin.
Walton is a 6’0’’ point guard who is prolific on the offensive end of the floor. Sound familiar? There will be a drop off in efficiency from what Burke was able to do without question, but it won’t be as dramatic as you might expect. Walton is rated the #35 class of 2013 prospect by ESPNU. What launched Trey Burke into the class of truly elite was his undying work ethic. If Walton can tap into that commitment to excellence then all will be well.
The freshman point guard will pair with Irvin, a 6’6’’ scoring machine from Indy. Irvin is ranked #24 by ESPNU. The return of McGary and the addition of the 86th ranked Donnal (6’8’’, 225 lbs) will give Michigan their deepest frontcourt in years. Veterans Morgan, Horford, and Bielfeldt will also be in the mix.
This is the 2nd consecutive year that John Beilein has brought in three players ranked in the top 100.
Looking ahead to next season’s opening tip you will likely see a starting lineup like this:
PG – Derrick Walton
SG – Nik Stauskas
SF – Glenn Robinson III
PF – Mitch McGary
C – Jordan Morgan
It certainly wouldn’t be an upset if Irvin found his way into the starting lineup as Big Ten play heats up. Initially, the first guys off the bench will be Irvin, LeVert, Albrecht, Horford, and Donnal.
Despite the talent that remains, this isn’t a finished product for Beilein and his staff of assistants. They will not go to battle with 11 players total. Late recruiting (think LeVert and Albrecht from a year ago) and the potential for some walk-on type of players will represent the next round of buzz surrounding this team.
Early whispers are that Michigan will enter the 2013-14 season as a Top 10 team. Naysayers will point to Burke and Hardaway leaving and snicker at the notion. It won’t take long for them to realize how talented Walton and Irvin are though, and how committed McGary and Robinson remain.
This team is going to be a contender.
[Find out where Trey Burke ranks among Michigan’s all-time best point guards. Click here.]
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