Saturday, May 5, 2012

Michigan Basketball Roster: Part IV - Best Roster In The Big Ten?

Photo Credit: iSports
Over the past few weeks, I've went through much of what will become Michigan's basketball roster for next season.  I looked at the returning starters in Part I, the incoming recruits in Part II, and analyzed which teams would likely have the best star players in Part III.  Now, I'm going to try to synthesize the knowledge and information in the earlier posts to determine whether or not Michigan will have the best Big Ten roster next season.

As I've consistently pointed out, these techniques are not always exact.  Yes, things like returning starters are pretty straightforward, but determining which incoming recruits will have an impact and which players will assert themselves as stars is a lot harder to do.  Perfect examples of these challenges are Robbie Hummel and Draymond Green.  Nobody expected a ton out of either player last season.  Primarily because Purdue and MSU hadn't been that good the year before and both players had some big question marks entering the season.  However, they both rebounded and had spectacular seasons.  You can analyze just about every piece of data or stat you can find, but, ultimately, it's going to come down to what happens on the court.

Having said that, let's take a quick look at the conclusions I reached in the earlier sections of this piece.  If you've read my first three posts, you would see the likely separation that should happen next season between Indiana, Michigan, MSU and the rest of the Big Ten.  Indiana has the best group of returning players, with Michigan close behind.  Michigan's recruits will probably have the biggest impact next season, with MSU close behind and Michigan will probably have the best star players next year, but Indiana and MSU has a chance to get some other players to develop into stars.

In most situations, the information above would make people support Indiana as the team with the best roster for next season, simply because they have so many solid players coming back to play next year.  However, in college basketball, this isn't necessarily the case.  Yes, returning starters normally help the team, but recruits and star players are making more of an impact than they have ever before.  Take a look at Michigan and Purdue last season.  Michigan's true freshman point guard, Trey Burke, had an enormous impact and carried the team to its first Big Ten Championship since the 1980s.  On a similar note, Hummel from Purdue carried what was otherwise a lackluster team to a solid NCAA Tournament appearance and a successful season.  Basically, returning a certain number of starters on any team isn't a guarantee for anything because of the impact one player can have on a team.

So where does that leave us?  It leaves us with a close Big Ten race between Indiana, Michigan, and MSU. That may not seem that specific, but when you're dealing with as many unknown factors as these teams have for next year, it's pretty hard to definitively say one team is going to be better than the other.  However, using the predictions I have made in my earlier posts, I would say that Indiana and Michigan have the best chance at winning the Big Ten.  These two teams are extremely close and the winner is probably going to be determined by how much Michigan's top two new recruits (Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary) develop next season.

Do I think Michigan will win the Big Ten Championship again next season?  I think they have a great chance at repeating.  I'm not willing to go out on a limb and "book" Michigan as repeat champions, but I see no reason why not to think they will at least be in the race until the end.  Indiana has a great team and has a lot of talent coming back, but the primary reason they're being selected as the Big Ten favorites is simply because they are a team that is more well known than Michigan.

Nobody knows how Robinson or McGary will fit in with Michigan.  They may even end up at busts over the next few seasons (hopefully not).  Personally, I think they are going to do pretty well with their roles next season, but like I said, it's an unknown for Michigan.  In fact, if Michigan's recruits live up to even most of their hype, I think Michigan may end up better than Indiana.  Not just because of these two players, but the fact they are returning more key players than any other Big Ten team.

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