Michigan Basketball: 4 Things Still on Wolverines' Offseason To-Do List
There are only 19 days separating the Michigan basketball program from its 2013-14 season debut. Practices are underway as the Wolverines continue to gear up for their first exhibition game in late October.
The offseason has been far from quiet. Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III both passed on the NBA draft to return for their sophomore campaigns. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. decided to forgo their remaining years and turn pro. The nation's No. 12-ranked recruiting class arrived on campus and one Wolverine has a health concern that could eventually derail any title hopes this team has.
With the regular season nearly upon us, though, only a few things remain on Michigan's post-2012-13 checklist, including a couple of position battles that still need to be sorted out.
Close out the 2014 Recruiting Class
The Michigan Wolverines are going toe-to-toe with the Kentucky Wildcats for a pair of coveted shooting guards. James Blackmon Jr. and Devin Booker like what they have seen from both programs and are closing in on a decision.
First, Blackmon will make his choice on Oct. 22. The 5-star prospect will be fresh off of an official trip to Kentucky, but this does not necessarily mean he is a lock to join the Wildcats.
"I've never had a full staff come in to see me, so if it wasn't clear to me already, it is now that Michigan is very serious about me," Blackmon told Wolverine247 about John Beilein's recent in-home visit. "My family and I both liked what the coaching staff had to say."
According to Chris Balas of TheWolverine, Indiana, the school to which Blackmon originally committed to back in September of 2010, is no longer in the mix. If Michigan can lure the 6'2", 175-pounder away from Kentucky, it will close out the 2014 class on the highest note possible.
The Moss Point, Miss. native is scheduled to make a commitment on Oct. 31, a little over a week after an official visit to Missouri.
Failing to land either one would not be nearly as devastating as it would have been a week ago. The Wolverines recently received verbal pledges from 4-star small forward Kameron Chatman and 3-star recruit D.J. Wilson. Michigan also has 4-star big man Ricky Doyle and Austin Hatch in the fold for 2014.
Rest Mitch McGary's Back
When the Michigan Wolverines opened practice on Sep. 27, John Beilein announced that Mitch McGary has been dealing with a "lower back condition," per USA Today's Mark Snyder. As a result, the USA Today Preseason All-American has been limited throughout the team's daily activities and his status is day-to-day.
The biggest concern right now is the fact that no one is saying much about the injury. McGary told Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com that the Wolverines are simply "being cautious." However, Goodman wrote that another source told ESPN.com it has "become worrisome and that it could wind up being an issue this season."
Whether you choose to believe McGary or an unnamed source is irrelevant.
Until Beilein comes out and tells the world his starting power forward is healthy, which he is unlikely to do until closer to Michigan's first exhibition game, there is a major cause for concern.
It also means the Wolverines need to do whatever they can to rest McGary. If the rising sophomore has to miss a few tune-ups at the beginning of the season, so be it. Even resting him until the Puerto Rico Tip-Off would not be devastating to the 2013-14 campaign.
A healthy McGary gives the Maize and Blue a realistic shot at a Big Ten Conference title and back-to-back Final Fours.
Without McGary in the post, though, Michigan would no longer have a major scoring threat on the interior. It would likely lead to the Wolverines relying too much on perimeter shots and jumpers to win basketball games.
Letting McGary's back recover is about all the Maize and Blue can do right now. It cannot afford to rush him back and risk further injury during the season.
Name a Starting Point Guard
It is unlikely the Michigan Wolverines will name a starting point guard before the Oct. 29 exhibition game against Concordia, but this is one of the biggest offseason storylines to follow.
There has not been a whole lot of information given out by John Beilein about the ongoing competition between Spike Albrecht and incoming freshman Derrick Walton. Get used to this, because unless one manages to significantly outperform the other, Beilein will be reluctant to tip his hand.
Both bring something different to the table, which is why this position battle will come down to the wire.
Walton is the more athletic of the two and is at his best in transition. This plays to Michigan's greatest strength offensively. Per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, Beilein also labeled Walton's basketball IQ as "exceptional."
Do not count out Albrecht, though. The unheralded reserve shot 54.5 percent from beyond the arc last season and burst onto the scene with a 17-point performance in the national title game. Albrecht may not be the dynamic playmaker Walton is, but he has experience, which should not be undervalued.
Whoever winds up winning the job will not need to replicate Trey Burke's scoring production. Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III will handle that.
The starting point guard simply needs to take care of the rock and create chances for others.
Sorting out the Frontcourt
Assuming Mitch McGary is healthy, the Michigan Wolverines have another spot to fill out in the starting five. McGary's shift to power forward creates an opening at center for veteran bigs Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford.
There is also the issue of where incoming freshman Mark Donnal fits into the equation as well.
Morgan is one of the best defensive players on Michigan's roster and runs the high pick-and-roll as well as anyone in college basketball. Horford has struggled to stay healthy, but he has flashed good potential when given the opportunity.
Neither will be consistent scoring threats, so defensive performance will likely determine who plays the most minutes. Advantage: Morgan.
As for Donnal, it is hard to project what his role will be. The 6'8", 225-pounder is a solid shooter, especially from mid-range. Until he develops some sort of a post game, however, opponents will be able to key on his shooting and make him a non-factor more times than not.
Sorting out a crowded frontcourt should not be much of an issue for Beilein. Depth is a good problem to have.
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