Make no mistake about it, the Michigan Wolverines are on.
Their Final Four showdown against Syracuse wasn't pretty. The Wolverines played great at times and looked flat at other times. But by taking care of the ball, using great team defense and finding holes in the Syracuse zone, Michigan came out on top with a 61-56 victory and a national championship berth against Louisville.
Michigan didn't turn in a dominant performance, but it did enough to keep the Orange contained. Through every threat, the Wolverines answered Syracuse with hustle plays and solid contributions from just about everybody.
Even with the bench and role players providing some help, the bulk of the credit will still go to the starters, who are now being mentioned as NBA draft prospects. Guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. have been mentioned in this talk for a while, but now budding forwards Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary have joined the conversation.
Many prospects will be tempted to chase dollar signs thanks to a weak 2013 draft class. But from a basketball standpoint, which of these four players are ready for the NBA? Here's a brief rundown of the four Michigan starters.
With the numbers and credentials Trey Burke has put together this season, his case essentially speaks for itself. The Wolverine point guard has shined bright in a dark class of NBA prospects.
Averaging 18.8 points and 6.8 assists and shooting 46 percent from the field, Burke earned Big Ten Player of the Year and AP Player of the Year honors. He's been the catalyst to Michigan's success and makes his teammates better.
The question isn't whether Burke is ready for the pros, but what kind of pro will he be? He should be selected toward the top of the lottery, but there are concerns about his 6', 190-pound frame and defense.
Burke has also had some questionable performances in the tournament. He is only shooting 32 percent from the field during March Madness including rough shooting days against San Diego State (2-12), Florida (5-16) and Syracuse (1-8). Burke had a scoreless first half against Kansas in the Elite Eight but orchestrated a heroic comeback performance with 23 points.
The Wolverines All-American seems to be one of the safest gambles in this year's draft. He might not be worth a top-tier pick, but not many other prospects are. Burke should exceed expectations and have a solid NBA career.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is a dangerous scorer who can create his own shot. The 6'5" junior has formed quite a dynamic backcourt tandem with Burke.
However, Hardaway Jr. can be frustrating to watch at times. He's not a high-volume shooter and is streaky and inconsistent. Settling for jumpers instead of attacking the rim continues to be a negative feature of his game.
Although he sometimes takes bad shots, Hardaway Jr. can still get hot and fill up the basket at any moment. After averaging 14.6 points during the regular season, he's shown how effective he can be offensively.
While his game could use some improvement, the Michigan guard could be a key contributor in an NBA rotation. Staying and improving next year could elevate his stock to a lottery pick, but he is a late first-rounder in 2013. If the mechanics of his jump shot improve, Hardaway Jr. could turn out like guard Jordan Crawford.
The majority of Glenn Robinson III's stock in this year's draft will come from his athleticism and potential. He's benefited greatly from playing next to Burke and Hardaway Jr. He also finishes well at the basket, rebounds strong and can stretch his range behind the arc.
In an offense where the ball is dominated by the guards, Robinson III has filled in nicely as the No. 3 guy for Michigan. He averaged nearly 11 points and 5.5 rebounds in the regular season and has delivered during March Madness.
The Wolverines are continuing their NCAA championship run, but Robinson III's basketball legacy will be defined in the NBA like his father. Returning for another year would be wise to sharpen his raw game. He is talented enough to be the go-to guy for Michigan and would benefit by playing another year of college ball. However, his pro upside could land him big money from the NBA.
Decision: Not Ready
It's risky to get caught up in a player's March Madness success. Scrappy forward Mitch McGary has gone from an active role player to a star since the start of the tournament. The 6'10" forward played most of the regular season on the bench but has emerged as a productive starter for Michigan.
McGary only averaged 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds during the regular season, but those numbers along with his stock have shot up during March Madness. He's now averaging a double-double with 16 points and 11.6 rebounds in five games. He is credited for breaking the Syracuse zone defense after he grabbed 12 boards including five on the offensive side.
McGary's coming-out party during the tournament has raised the idea of going pro. His game is quite similar to David Lee's. They both are naturally left-handed, aggressive rebounders and have the ability to knock down open jumpers.
However, we haven't seen enough to crown him a first-round pick. McGary isn't a product of the talent around him, but with an improved and more consistent sophomore year, he could propel himself into possible lottery consideration in 2014.
Decision: Not Ready