So now that I've had a few hours to digest Michigan's first exhibition of the season, I think it's a good time to give some comments on what happened tonight, especially for those that weren't able to see the game. There were a lot of expectations leading into the game and for the most part, I thought Michigan did a pretty good job living up to them. Of course, nothing's going to be perfect during the first game of the season, but for a team losing two starters, two captains, and the team's best 6th man, they did pretty well.
I'll start with the obvious. The starting lineup for tonight was Spike Albrecht, Matt Vogrich, Tim Hardaway, Glenn Robinson III, and Jordan Morgan. Obviously, Spike only got the nod because Trey Burke was suspended for the first game, but it's still pretty significant for a true freshman who didn't have a lot of recruiting hype to start the first game. I didn't expect Vogrich to start, but given that Mitch McGary doesn't seem fully ready (I'll cover this below) and Jon Horford is out with injury, it's not that surprising. Vogrich was the best option at the time and he did pretty well. The last three starters seemed pretty obvious and I projected them to start earlier this year.
The next thing I want to talk about is the freshmen. They were fantastic. Most (including myself) had some pretty low expectations for Spike, especially in his first game. He not only exceeded all of these predictions, but he really showed why Beilein gave him a scholarship offer. He is a quality player and I expect him to get a lot of playing time this season. Burke is the obvious choice at point guard, but Spike is going to be a massive upgrade for the team's point guard depth. He was decisive, aggressive, and a good shooter. He did make a few risky plays that he would have paid for against a tougher opponent, but I liked the energy. I was afraid he would come out and defer to his teammates instead of leading the offense, but this wasn't true at all. When on the floor, he dictated the offense and got everyone involved. Given his expectations and his strong play (yes, I know it's Northern Michigan), I would have to give Spike an A for the night.
Next up is Nik Stauskas. Wow can this kid shoot. We heard about it since he committed, but you don't fully get a grasp until you see the kid warming up for the game. I truly believe he is the best shooter on the team. I was a bit worried that his shooting would drop off in real gameplay, but he remained solid and demanded defensive attention. He also handled the ball well and attacked the basket on a consistent basis. His defense was alright, but it could use a little improvement. I would give him a B+ for the night.
The only freshman to earn a true starting role tonight was GR3. Spike started, but mainly because Burke was unavailable to play. GR3 played very well and especially on the defensive end. He also had an awesome alley-oop that got the crowd roaring. I would have liked to see him try to attack a bit more, but with the way Spike was attacking, he didn't have a major chance. I would rate him higher, but most expected him to start and be a consistent player so I'm grading him on a higher standard. I'll give him a B+ for his debut. Probably the most consistent of the bunch overall, but like I said, as a true starter for the team, I have to grade him on a tougher scale.
Caris LeVert had a pretty solid game. He logged a bit more time than I originally anticipated and did a pretty good job. The most interesting thing about LeVert's game was during a short segment when he was actually playing point guard. Not sure too many people expected that, although I don't think we'll ever see that happen in a game. He did everything pretty well, but he definitely isn't quite ready for serious time just yet. I thought he had a couple bright moments when he attacked the basket, but he doesn't seem quite able to finish on those types of plays yet. Expectations were lower for LeVert so I'll give him a B-.
Finally, Mitch McGary. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I thought he had one of the more interesting games of all the players tonight. He started on the bench, but got in the game pretty quickly. He didn't "struggle" so to speak, but it took him awhile to get any points. When he finally did, he had a pretty excited reaction. This is one of the feelings I got from McGary. He is a guy that's excited to play basketball and he conveys it very well, whether he's on the bench or on the floor. As for his actual play, he did well at points, but struggled in others. Essentially, he was pretty inconsistent on both sides of the court. He showed some flashes, but he got caught on defense a couple times and had a couple rough moments on offense including a bad turnover.
I still think McGary is going to be a great player and I hope I don't sound too negative because he still had some good moments. He rebounded well and had a very good block, but he also had some rough moments like missing on a bunch of free throws. I think he's going to be an upgrade from a guy like Smotrycz, especially on the defensive side, but he's definitely going to need to get more familiar with the system, which isn't that surprising for a true freshman. Given his expectations and play, I'm going to give him a B.
Just a few notes on other players. Jordan Morgan looks like he's in great shape. He also rebounded well and had some pretty good moments on the offensive side. Vogrich also looked like an improved player on both sides of the court and played with some real fire. I thought Hardaway did decently, but he still seemed pretty inconsistent. I'm hoping he will improve on that and that it won't be as important with so many other contributors, but I got the feeling he is going to look more like last year's Tim Hardaway than freshman Hardaway. He did have a nice play where he decisively attacked the basket, but I'm not completely convinced he can do that on a consistent basis yet.
Overall, a good night for the Wolverines. I'm not going to go into too much depth on the score and opponent given the nature of the game, but I did like to see Michigan steadily pull ahead. There were a couple times when the team seemed to slow down, but that was typically when a lot of the starters were sitting on the bench or somebody other than Spike was at the point. Now we just need to see Burke on Monday against Saginaw Valley and we can really start to get a feel for this team.