Michigan Basketball: Midseason Report Card for the Wolverines

Zach DirlamSenior Analyst IIFebruary 5, 2013

Michigan Basketball: Midseason Report Card for the Wolverines

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    There are only a select group of teams in the same class as the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines right now and do not be tricked into believing this is an overrated group of youngsters surrounded by a couple of veterans.

    Basketball is a big deal in Ann Arbor for the first time since the days of the Fab Five, and the Wolverines look like they have a program built to last rather than a flash in the pan.

    There have been several stellar performances from Michigan's top players this season, and its five freshmen have come a long way in their respective developments since the beginning of the 2012-13 campaign. 

    All that being said, what kind of report-card grades should Michigan's starting five and bench receive for helping the Maize and Blue race out to a 20-2 start? 

    Click ahead to find out! 

Trey Burke, Point Guard

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    Midseason Grade: A-

    There is absolutely no way the Michigan Wolverines would be ranked in the top five or even in contention for a Big Ten Conference title without sophomore point guard Trey Burke.

    Michigan's offense features several new weapons, but the only one that is not being talked about frequently is the improvements Burke has made from his freshman year to this season. Burke is averaging almost four points (18.2) and three assists (7.2) more than he notched in 2011-12.

    The Columbus, Ohio, native has scored at least 20 points in seven games, thus far, including a season-high 27 in a rout of the West Virginia Mountaineers.

    Burke is also shooting the ball better than he did last season as well, which is evidenced by his five percent increase in field-goal percentage (48.7) in his second year with the Wolverines.

    The only thing keeping Burke from a perfect grade are blemishes against the Ohio State Buckeyes and Indiana Hoosiers.

    In those two losses, Burke only made a combined 13-of-37 attempts from the field, turned the ball over seven times, and at times, tried to do too much on his own rather than get all of his teammates involved.

    The Wolverines will be one of the favorites to win the NCAA tournament if Burke continues to play at his current level come March. 

Tim Hardaway Jr., Shooting Guard

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    Midseason Grade: A-

    Inconsistency and shooting funks plagued junior shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. for a large portion of last season, but he has rarely been off the mark, thus far, in the 2012-13 campaign.

    Hardaway has shot better than 40 percent from the field in all but eight of the Michigan Wolverines' 22 games this season. Five of those lackluster performances came prior to Jan. 3, so Hardaway is only beginning to hit his stride offensively.

    The Miami, Fla., native has recorded two double-doubles this season and has five games with more than 20 points.

    The 6'6", 205-pounder turned in his best performance of the year in Michigan's rout of the nationally ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. Hardaway knocked down 7-of-8 shots, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, and finished with 21 points, five rebounds and three assists.

    Shooting woes against the Western Michigan Broncos, Binghamton Bearcats, Ohio State Buckeyes and Northwestern Wildcats kept Hardaway from a perfect mark. 

    If Michigan is going to win a second straight Big Ten title it will need Hardaway to continue knocking down shots with consistency. 

     

    Note: Hardaway's stats are only for 21 games due to missing one contest on Dec. 29 with an ankle injury.

Nik Stauskas, Shooting Guard

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    Midseason Grade: A-

    One of the most pleasant surprises from the Michigan Wolverines' highly touted 2012 recruiting haul has been freshman shooting guard Nik Stauskas.

    Stauskas started the season as a reserve, though he replaced Matt Vogrich the starting lineup after turning in impressive performances in all of the Wolverines' first five games of the year.

    Three-point shooting is Stauskas' specialty, but the Mississauga, Ont., native has proven to be much more than just a jumper shooter. Stauskas has show the ability to get to the basket and create open shots for other as well.

    The 6'6", 190-pounder has shot better than 50 percent in 14 of Michigan's 22 games this season and reached double figures scoring in all but two contests. This has translated to 12.5 points per game for Stauskas this season.

    Unfortunately for Stauskas, his worst performance as a Wolverine came when Michigan could have used his productivity the most.

    The Ohio State Buckeyes were able to hold Stauskas scoreless in their 56-53 win over the Maize and Blue at Value City Arena. 

    Michigan needs Stauskas to continue pulling defenders toward the perimeter in order to free up cutting lanes and knock down some three-balls for the Wolverines to contend for a national title.

Glenn Robinson III, Small Forward

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    Midseason Grade: B+

    Believe it or not, freshman small forward Glenn Robinson III might be a better pro prospect down the road than scoring point guard Trey Burke, which means it will be tough for the Michigan Wolverines to keep him around for more than two seasons.

    Robinson is not going to take nearly as many shots as Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. or Nik Stauskas, but he is far more efficient than the aforementioned trio.

    A majority of Robinson's field-goal attempts through the first half of the season have come off assists and are often high-percentage shots in the paint. This has enabled the St. John, Ind., native to convert 58 percent of his shots.

    The 6'6", 210-pounder has also shown the ability to hit three-pointers from time to time. Robinson has never attempted more than four threes in a game, though he has managed to knock down 17-of-42 attempts (40.5 percent) from distance.

    In addition to what Robinson gives the Wolverines as a scorer, his defense is rounding into form, and his athleticism has enabled him to be productive as a rebounder. Michigan is getting 5.7 rebounds per game out of Robinson at the moment, and that number is not going to fluctuate much as the year goes on.

    The Wolverines will only get better as Robinson gains more experience and continues to become accustomed to Big Ten Conference play. This thought has to make some teams in the league a little frightened. 

Jordan Morgan, Power Forward

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    Midseason Grade: B-

    One of the most difficult players to grade for the Michigan Wolverines is redshirt junior power forward Jordan Morgan. 

    The Wolverines do not get a whole lot of points out of Morgan, mostly because they already have plenty of other scorers, but the Detroit, Mich., product has been a strong presence on the boards and defensively in the post for much of the first half of the 2012-13 campaign.

    Morgan already has two double-doubles and pulled down 10 or more rebounds in four games this season. 

    The 6'8", 250-pounder had his best game of the year against the Northwestern Wildcats on Jan. 3. Morgan grabbed 13 boards and scored 12 points in Michigan's 94-66 demolition of the Wildcats.

    Although Morgan's scoring (6.1 points per game) and rebounding (4.9 per contest) have come down as of late, due to only playing four minutes in two games due to an ankle injury, the Wolverines will need his veteran leadership on the floor to repeat as Big Ten Conference champions.

Bench

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    Midseason Grade: B

    This is one grade I expect to completely change by the end of the 2012-13 season.

    The Michigan Wolverines are getting more production than ever before from freshman big man Mitch McGary, Jon Horford has been solid since returning from a dislocated kneecap, and Caris LeVert is progressing quicker than expected.

    McGary is making a strong case to crack the starting rotation after an outstanding performance at both ends of the floor against preseason All-American Cody Zeller and the Indiana Hoosiers.

    The Chesterton, Ind., product does a great job of getting out in transition and has come a long way defensively since November. If McGary continues to develop at his current rate, the Wolverines may be able to turn one of their only weaknesses into a strength as the NCAA tournament approaches.

    LeVert still looks like a bit of a project, but he did manage to score at least six points in four straight games from Dec. 20-Jan. 6. The long and lanky 6'5", 170-pounder also chipped in four points in Michigan's loss to Indiana last Saturday.

    Meanwhile, Horford has made two straight starts with Jordan Morgan unable to play and is rounding into form for the Wolverines.

    Horford has looked better than ever now that he is finally healthy and turned in a solid 10 minutes of action against the Hoosiers. 

    Reserve point guard Spike Albrecht has done his part by managing the offense without turning the ball over, which has enabled Michigan to rest Trey Burke more than it did a year ago.

    Albrecht also tallied a career-high seven points against the Ohio State Buckeyes, which helped ignite Michigan's furious rally.

    It takes depth to win in the NCAA tournament, and the way the Wolverines' reserves are coming along they should have enough talent to make a run at a national title. 

Overall

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    Midseason Grade: A-

    Even though the Michigan Wolverines have yet to run through the toughest stretch of their schedule, this team has taken care of business just about every game, thus far, and look talented enough to play for a national title.

    Already this season, the Wolverines have risen to No. 1 in the polls for the first time since 1992, have three victories over teams inside the RPI Top 25 and are in position to make a run at a second straight Big Ten Conference banner.

    Michigan's 20-2 record is quite impressive, and when you consider that its only two losses came on the road at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes and Indiana Hoosiers, there really is no way anyone can discount the start the Wolverines have had.

    The defense will improve as the younger players continue to develop, and offensively, Michigan is already a juggernaut with the nation's No. 16 scoring offense (77.8 points per game) and No. 3 team field-goal percentage (50.5).

    Pivotal tilts with the Michigan State Spartans (twice), Wisconsin Badgers, Indiana and Ohio State still remain, but head coach John Beilein and his staff have made all the right moves, thus far, and will have Michigan ready to play at a high level.

    Things only get tougher from here, though the Wolverines look like a team set up for success in March and appear to be ready to end a 24-year national-title drought.