For two consecutive years, the Michigan basketball program has been a pipeline for early entry in the NBA Draft.
Entering last year, Michigan had lost National Player of the Year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Even without those two stars, the Wolverines and John Beilein had an extremely successful year with an outright Big Ten Championship and Elite 8 appearance. Can they do it again?
This past offseason saw Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas jump to the NBA. With the loss of these three highly talented players, the graduation of long time center Jordan Morgan and transfer of Jon Horford, a quick rebound to powerhouse status seems unlikely. In the last two years, Michigan has lost their starting five from the National Championship runner up team.
The loss of Big 10 player of the year Nik Stauskas is a crushing blow to this already weakened roster. Returning juniors from the national championship berth in 2013, Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht need to step up and elevate their games alongside returning point guard Derrick Walton.
Walton had some bright spots but was inconsistent this past season. Without a senior leader holding this roster together, these three returning guards need to mold the group of highly regarded incoming freshman to continue the success of Wolverine basketball since Coach Beilein arrived.
High hopes and expectations loom around this recruiting class as they have the 25th ranked incoming freshman class. The highest expectations are placed upon Kameron Chatman as well as NBA star Johnny Dawkins’ son, Aubrey Dawkins. Chatman is a 6-foot-7 swing man and a four star recruit with very high hopes. Dawkins is a 6-foot-6 athletic swing guard who can play inside or outside. Beilein hopes Chapman and Dawkins can come in early and replace the loss of Stauskas and Robinson III.
With MSU and OSU in similar positions this upcoming season, the Big 10 is up for grabs, especially with the addition of long time ACC power Maryland. Michigan has represented a formidable force to compete with Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana since the arrival of Beilein and firing of Tommy Amaker. Some believe this incoming freshman class might be able to continue this streak of success as of late. But this may be difficult, because of the lack of leadership coming from Walton and the loss of superstar Stauskas, this roster is lacking in many facets. Without any experienced big men due to the loss of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, Michigan could have trouble competing in the tough, brute and low scoring Big 10.
With all that said, returning guards Walton, Albrecht, and LeVert combined with high powered freshman Chatman and returning Zak Irvin could mold together to make some real noise once again this season.
As always, expectations remain high for the Wolverines, but can the success continue? The Wolverines should have success for the majority of the upcoming season, except possibly when running in to teams with too much size and strength up front. But the elevation of LeVert and Walton with an extremely talented stretch four in Chatman could make up for lack of size inside.