announced today that three members of Michigan's basketball team were leaving the program and planning to transfer elsewhere. Typically, almost any program (especially a successful one with some great incoming recruits) has to endure some transfers. However, this time, it was the individuals that decided to transfer that really took many by surprise. Evan Smotrycz, Carlton Brundidge, and Colton Christian all decided to leave the team.
The big thing to mark here is that none of these transfers are program or team killing. The team was not built around any of these three players and I don't think anybody would say any of these guys were the best on Michigan's current or future squads. Having said that, these transfers are very significant. You have one player who made major contributions this season, another plaery who was likely going to contribute big time next year, and a guy who, frankl,y shouldn't hurt too much. The team is likely going to have to make some adjustments now if they want to be able to compete with the great teams next year.
The biggest challenge by far is going to be filling the void left by Evan Smotrycz. He may not have started for the last several months of the season, but that's primarily because he was replaced by Stu Douglass (who will be graduated before next season). Without Smotrycz, there is not really a guy who is going to be a great fit to fill the "4" spot on the roster. Almost everybody assumed he was going to start and play significant time next season in the "4" spot. This is a better and more natural fit for Evan and this was apparent when he was forced to play at the "5" this year because of Jordan Morgan's foul trouble and Jon Horford's season-ending injury.
In order to address his transfer, I'm assuming that the coaching staff is now going to have Mitch McGary play the "4" spot. Most had McGary projected as playing center or the "5" spot on the roster, but I don't see how Morgan or Horford are going to be able to move down. Perhaps Horford could play the "4" spot, but there's no way Morgan is going to be able to play anything but center. The most logical solution to this problem would be to have McGary play the "4" and leave Morgan and Horford to rotate as the team's center. This way Beilein can get Morgan and McGary on the floor at the same time. Without Smotrycz and with Horford's season-ending injury, these guys should be "locks" for the best two "Big Men" on the team.
Michigan is finally going to be able to play "big" next season and this means Beilein is going to want his best "Big Men" on the court. This should be, without a doubt, Morgan and McGary. Since I, and I'm assuming most others, don't see Morgan as a "4", the coaching staff is going to have to play McGary there if they want two quality "Big Men" on the court at once. McGary probably would have done better at the "5" spot, but without Smotrycz, I just don't see another option for Beilein at this point.
Now, addressing Smotrycz's transfer is going to be the biggest challenge of losing these three players, but Brundidge could leave a hole as well. He was the closest thing Michigan had to a backup point guard for next season and without him, Burke is going to be forced to do what he did this year, play just about the entire game. This may not have hurt Michigan too much this season, but Michigan was really looking for someone that could pick-up the slack for Burke when he needed it. Brundidge was certainly the best option for this next year, but Beilein is going to have to look elsewhere next year.
These kind of losses may not seem significant, but if there was an injury to Burke (PLEASE NO!!!), Michigan fans would surely miss Brundidge. Christian didn't really have a ton of significance for next year's team simply because he was deep on the depth chart and unlikely to get much playing time at all, especially with guys like McGary coming on-board, but Smotrycz and Brundidge's exits will certainly be factors. Fans just need to hope that for the second year in a row Michigan will be able to replace a player that exited unexpectedly.
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