Michigan Basketball is off to a 2-1 start and despite the small sample size, we have learned a lot about this team and the players that will play prominent roles on it.
Nik Stauskas will be a go-to guy
The sophomore sniper leads Michigan in scoring at 17.3 points per game. He looks stronger, more explosive and very confident. In the loss at Iowa State, Stauskas showcased his all-around skills with a team-high 20 points. He drained four three-pointers, dished out 6 assists, pulled down 4 rebounds and threw down one thunderous dunk off a dribble-drive.
When the Wolverines have to have a big bucket, Stauskas will be a prime option to take the shot. Not only can he bury a clutch three-pointer, but he has the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim.
Mitch McGary is the key
I think we all knew this already, but it’s abundantly clear that Michigan needs McGary if they are going to make a run at a Big Ten Championship and a second straight Final Four appearance.
After being held out of the preseason, and the first two games of the regular season, McGary made his season debut at Iowa State. He logged 22 minutes and notched 9 points, 6 boards and 4 steals. He is a monster on the boards, towering over the opposition and making the basketball look the size of a softball in his giant hands.
McGary’s relentless effort is contagious and often results in him recording a steal or knocking the ball away from the other team. He is outstanding at triggering fast breaks with long outlet passes or simply by driving the ball up court himself.
Without McGary, Michigan would be a strong team. With him, they are a championship contender.
Caris LeVert will play a prominent role
We saw flashes of LeVert’s great potential last year. This season that potential will start to be realized. LeVert is a highly-skilled player who can do everything for John Beilein. He is one of Michigan’s best defenders, a very good ball handler and has a lightning-quick release to what can be a deadly accurate shot.
LeVert struggled at Iowa State, but will be a key component for the Wolverines all season long.
A new point guard
Derrick Walton, a true freshman, has started all three games at point guard. He is averaging 10.3 points, 2.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 turnovers per game. He is also shooting an even 50% from the field. He is, however, shooting just 20% (2-10) from beyond the arc.
Walton has displayed good speed as well as an ability to get to the rim and finish. The point guard position appears to be in good hands and he should get better as the season progresses.
The loss at Iowa State, while disappointing, was not entirely surprising. The Cyclones and their fans both performed at a high level and it was a tough road test for a young team, in just their third game of the season. Michigan will have a chance to get back on the winning track starting on Thursday at the Puerto Rico Tip Off. The Wolverines will open that tourney against Long Beach State then play either VCU or FSU the next day.
There are more opportunities for resume building wins when Michigan plays at #6 Duke (Dec 3) and hosts #5 Arizona (Dec 14).
This team is deep, talented and has great size. They are, once again, a young team and will likely experience some growing pains. However, when the calendar turns to March, Michigan will be in high-gear and they’ll be a tough team to beat.
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