Saturday, April 7, 2012

Projecting The Basketball Starting Lineup

Michigan will be returning a solid squad for the 2012-2013 season and is bringing is a very talented recruiting class. The major question early on was whether Trey Burke would stay or go pro, but now that he has decided to stay, the main questions are just about how quickly some of the new recruits can transition into college basketball and Michigan's system.

Bringing in 5 commitments, including 3 ESPN100 players, will go a long way towards building depth on a team that desperately needs some.  Michigan had a solid starting lineup and some decent contributors off the bench such as Evan Smotrcyz and Jon Horford, but with the loss of Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Smotcryz's transfer, and Horford's season ending injury last season, Michigan will need to find some players that can fill these voids.  I think with some of Michigan's current players and with their incoming recruiting class, filling these voids shouldn't be as difficult as many first assumed.  The big question mark will just be whether these players can meet or exceed the production of last year's team and build off their great success.

Projected Starters For The 2012-2013 Michigan Basketball Team:

Trey Burke - PG
This was the position with the biggest question marks when the season ended.  Not because it lacked talent or production, but because nobody knew what Trey Burke was going to do in regards to the NBA Draft.  He ultimately decided to return to Michigan for at least another year and easily made this the best position on Michigan's roster.  He averaged an amazing 36.1 minutes per year last season and I would be surprised if it wasn't near that next year.  With the return of Eso Akunne from injury and the commitment of Spike Albrecht, there should be a little added depth, but there is a huge drop-off from Burke.  I think he will again play the vast majority of the time and put up amazing numbers again.  He led the team in minutes, points, assists, steals, and blocks last year.  The only real category he didn't lead the team in was rebounds, which shouldn't be a surprise, since he is a point guard.  I anticipate that Burke will become the leader of this team and really take them on the path towards some big things next year.  This is by far the best position for Michigan and should be the one that carries them in the Big Ten Title race.

Tim Hardaway, Jr. - SG
This is a position that is pretty established and doesn't have a lot of question marks coming back.  Granted, Hardaway had a weaker sophomore season than his freshman year, but he's performed very well at Michigan during his career and I think he'll get back to that before next season.  There is some depth at this position as well with Matt Vogrich, but he's not exactly set to make any major contributions.  Vogrich is still pretty inconsistent and Hardaway will not doubt play the vast majority of the time. Hardaway doesn't appear to be a major team leader and often will just fail to show up for big games, which holds this position back a bit for me.  I think Burke will assume that role from the graduating seniors.  Because of Hardaway's inconsistent play and the lack of bench depth at this position, I'm going to list this as the 2nd strongest position for next year.

Glenn Robinson III - SF
To me, this is a position that will be filled adequately by a freshmen.  Yes, GR3 is still a freshman, but wow.  Since Beilein got him to commit he has jumped from a 3* to a 5* recruit.  That's pretty substantial and he still appears to be on the rise.  In fact, he is now Michigan's highest rated recruit and I anticipate he may even rise higher on the recruiting boards.  He brings a lot of raw talent to the team and I think he'll be an instant impact player.  Of course, there's no way to guarantee he'll be an instant impact for the Wolverines, especially because he's not even on campus yet, but that shouldn't dissuade fans from anticipating a great start for Robinson.  He is very talented and enters a position that isn't very deep for Michigan.  I think this is going to be the 3rd strongest position for Michigan next season, primarily because of Robinson's pure talent and ability.

Mitch McGary - PF
Now, this is a position that is going to get an amazing amount of attention.  Early speculation had McGary playing at center, but with Smotrycz's transfer, McGary is probably going to be slid over to play the 4 spot.  Not necessarily because he's a fantastic fit here, but because there is such depth at the center position that it only makes sense.  It would not be logical to put three solid players, McGary, Morgan, and Horford, all at one position.  Morgan and Horford are not great fits at this position, so McGary becomes the obvious favorite to start here.  The big thing that concerns me is that McGary has been over-hyped by fans.  Yes, he's good, but I really don't see him being that insanely dominant guy in year 1.  For instance, at one point he was ranked as the #2 propect in the 2012 class, but a lot of that hype has faded over the last few months and pulled him down.  McGary is still sure to be a very good player and I believe he'll be a solid starter with a lot of minutes, but I'm not so sure he will transition immediately to the college game as first predicted.  There might be a little bit of a rougher transition for McGary and there is a lack of depth at this position, which makes me put this as the weakest starting position on the roster.

Jordan Morgan - C
The final position on the roster should be a solid one for the Wolverines.  With two solid players coming back that each started games last season, Morgan and Horford, I think this should be the most consistent on the roster.  It certainly won't be the most talented, but the fact that there are two players that could both start is reassuring.  Morgan improved on his foul issues during the season, but having a backup like Horford is going to help him make it through the year without those issues rising again.  Instead of being forced to play Smotcrycz at this position, Beilein is going to be able to put a center on the court, which will help a lot.  Morgan has his limits and is not going to be able to dominante the court, but with added size and depth, I think this should be a solid spot for the Wolverines.  I'm ranking this as the 4th best position for next season.

Going through each one of these positions should give Michigan fans a lot of excitement.  When your weakest positions are a 4* ESPN100 recruit that was ranked #2 in the country at one point and a 3rd year starter, things are going pretty well.  Here, once again, are my rankings for strongest positions for Michigan next year:

1. PG - Burke
2. SG - Hardaway
3. SF - Robinson III
4. C - Morgan
5. PF - McGary

Obviously, a lot can change between now and next season, but I think there is a strong likelihood that this is the starting lineup for next season.  Yes, guys like Horford may make a run at some positions, but I really do think that these are the best five players at their positions and to adjust for depth.  Either way it should be an exciting season for Michigan fans.

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