Over the last few weeks, I have been looking at some of the hypothetical situations that could have impacted Michigan basketball over the last few seasons. First, I looked at what could have happened if Trey Burke had stayed committed to Penn State instead of coming to Michigan. Then I looked at what could have happened if Darius Morris had opted to return for another season at Michigan. This time, I am going to look at what could have happened if Evan Smotrycz had stayed at Michigan.
Smotrycz was not a great player for Michigan. He played just two seasons for the Wolverines and failed to average 10 points per game in either season. In his first season, he averaged just 17.8 minutes, 6.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game. He increased those numbers in his second season to 21.1 minutes, 7.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 0.9 assists per game. So he wasn't great, but he was certainly a solid player. The big problem he experienced in his sophomore season was that he often got put out of position in the lineup due to Jordan Morgan's foul trouble, which significantly limited his play. I remember even joking during his second season that he had to have the highest foul to minute ratio in the Big Ten because he would often foul just seconds after getting on the floor. So what would have happened if he stayed? Let's take a look:
For as average as his contributions were to Michigan as a sophomore, I cannot express how big his return would have been for Michigan last season. With Zack Novak gone, Mitch McGary in Ann Arbor, and Jon Horford back from injury, Smotrycz would have started from day one. The lineup would have been: Morgan, Smotrycz, GR3, Hardaway, Burke. Then McGary, Horford, Stauskas, LeVert, and Spike would have come off the bench. Think about that. That bench lineup would have probably done alright in the Big Ten and they would have been coming off the bench.
The big problem for Michigan's big men all season was that they were inefficient on the offensive end. Well, Smotrycz was much better on the offensive end than the defensive end contrary to Michigan's other big men. This would have given Michigan the offensive boost while also adding some size inside to help on defense and in rebounding. Plus, GR3 would have been able to play his natural position. McGary would have eventually moved in and started at the 5, but I'm not even sure Louisville could have slowed down Michigan's offense at that point.
At this time, we're really stretching this hypothetical situation, but it's hypothetical so why not? This would be Smotrycz's senior year. Assuming the same players leave after last year in this situation, that would likely give Michigan a starting lineup of: McGary, Smotrycz, GR3, Stauskas, Walton. Then Irvin, Morgan, Horford, LeVert, and Spike would come off the bench. For the second straight season, Michigan would have a fully capable bench lineup that could probably beat a few teams in the Big Ten.
It's tough to imagine this roster not going really far in the NCAA Tournament. They would have a boatload of talent, experience, and depth across the board. Every single position on the roster would be proven except point guard, where a 4* recruit would be coming to campus and Michigan would have a backup that scored 17 points in the national championship game (assuming this happened again). I would also be hard pressed to see this team ranked anywhere outside of the very top of the preseason rankings and probably would have been higher than they even are now (Michigan - #4 by CBS & #10 by ESPN).
If Smotrycz had opted to stay in Ann Arbor, it certainly would have been a welcome addition to last year and this year's Wolverines. Whether it would have ultimately changed the result remains to be seen, but with his size and his offensive weapons, things would have boded well for the team. Of course, he did decide to transfer to Maryland and it will be interesting to see if Michigan is slotted to play Smotrycz in the 2014-2015 season for what will now be Smotrycz's senior season. Interestingly enough, the only player that could be left on Michigan's roster who played with Smotrycz at Michigan would be Jon Horford as everyone else will have graduated, transferred, or went to the NBA from the 2011-2012 squad.