Friday, November 2, 2012

Previewing The Roster: Guards

I'm reaching the end of basketball preview season and I've already went through Michigan's wings and bigs for this year. Last up are the guards.  Michigan's guards should be outstanding this year and have repeatedly received love from the basketball analysts and national media.  Michigan loses very little at the position and brings in a few players that have the chance to make a major impact both now and in the future.

Last season, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, and Stu Douglass dominated the position.  Once in awhile, Beilein would bring in Matt Vogrich or Eso Akunne, but this was a position primarily dominated by those three players.  Douglass will be gone, but all the other guys are back for the season.  This was Michigan's strongest positional group last season and the loss of Douglass shouldn't be too significant of an impact for the position and team, especially with the recruiting additions.

New recruits that could make an impact the position this year are Spike Albrecht, Nik Stauskas, and Caris LeVert.  Glenn Robinsion III could get a little time at the 2 spot, but I don't see him doing anything significant at the position.  I think he's a much better fit at the 3 and he does play the 4 in the smaller lineup for Michigan, so I don't see him being at the 2 for very long, if at all.  So after adding the new recruits, that gives us 7 players that will likely be making contributions in the backcourt for Michigan this season.

First up is preseason All-American Trey Burke.  He has obviously solidified himself as the starter at point guard.  Barring injury, Burke should play the most minutes out of anybody at guard and probably the entire team.  The big thing that I'm looking to see for Burke is for him to get better at not turning over the ball and getting on the bench.  There were a lot of times last season when Burke nearly played the entire game.  If Michigan hopes to be ready for the late season games, the Big Ten Tournament, and the NCAA Tournament, Burke needs more time on the bench.

The players that are the most likely to give him rest are Spike Albrecht and Eso Akunne.  Spike started the exhibition game (Burke was suspended) and played very well.  I even gave him an A on his performance in his first collegiate game.  He did make some mistakes, but he is going to be a solid player off the bench and is going to help the team significantly as they get deeper into the season.  Look for him to get 5-15 minutes a game.  Akunne will get on the floor rarely, but if either Burke or Spike get into serious foul trouble or injury problems, he might get some minutes.  He will never be a major contributor, but he could be important in relief.

Hardaway and Vogrich are both due for bounce-back years and they both started the exhibition game earlier this week.  They, like GR3, are going to play some time outside of the 2 spot, but they both should get some serious time in the backcourt.  I still have some concerns about Hardaway's play, but he should be ok. Beilein talked about wanting Hardaway to attack and "score" more and if he can work on being more aggressive, I think he should be better than last year, but even if he isn't, he will still be a solid player for the Wolverines.

Vogrich brings some real fire to the lineup and the team's play.  I wouldn't put him in the same class as Zach Novak just yet in terms of his game intensity, but he definitely gets fired up.  He seemed to be more aggressive in the first game than he was last year, which I liked, but he definitely will need to shoot a little more consistently if he wants to get some serious playtime.  One thing worth noting is that I think his defense is a little better, which is probably why he got the starting nod.

Finally, the two recruits I haven't talked about; Stauskas and LeVert.  In warmups, I was amazed at how well Stauskas can shoot the basketball.  I mean, it almost seems like the guy never misses.  For those concerned about the losses of Novak, Douglass, and Smotrycz and their 3 pt shooting abilities, I think Stauskas is better than any of them at shooting outside the arch.  Yes, it was Northern Michigan, but even in warmup comparison he looked better.  He also showed off a good handle and some good passing abilities.  This is a guy that I could see even getting some time at the point.  Could use some work on the defensive end, but he will definitely mix things up off the bench.

LeVert was an interesting player in the recruiting rankings and the exhibition game.  He was all over the floor and seemed to be able to do everything to a certain extent.  He had a few nice passes and actually ended up playing at the point for a series, which was kind of interesting.  I think LeVert is going to be a good contributor, just not right now.  He can do everything, but he just can't do everything very well yet.  He just needs some overall improvement to his game, which isn't a negative for a true freshman.  I'm not sure how Beilein feels at this point, but in my opinion, LeVert should get a redshirt.  If he's good enough, play him, but I just don't think he will get enough minutes for it to be worth it.

A few other players worth noting are Josh Bartelstein and Corey Person.  Both will be major leaders for the Wolverines, but they will do most of their leading off the bench.  Bartelstein was named a unanimous captain before the Northern Michigan game and Person has been known consistently for his leadership skills.  Don't expect more than a few minutes throughout the season, but their contributions will be important, especially if the team struggles at points.

Overall, this position is going to largely come down to Trey Burke.  He will dominant the backcourt.  I have predicted that Stauskas will get a lot of love by time the season is done, but Burke is the guy that runs this offfense.  Spike did a good job, but when the tough defenses show up, Burke is going to be the guy that takes Michigan to the next level.  The added depth is going to do a lot for this team, especially when their offense is struggling and players suffer injuries or get tired.  Expect a huge year from Michigan's guards.

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