What's Next for Michigan Following Loss to Louisville in 2013 NCAA Title Game?
With the "Fab Five" watching from the Georgia Dome stands, Michigan met a familiar fate in the national final Monday night. The Wolverines suffered a third straight title game defeat and dropped to 1-5 in the championship game, losing to Louisville 82-76 in a contentious affair.
Michigan cruised to a comfortable advantage early in the matchup, leading Louisville by double digits during the first half. The Cardinals clawed back with a furious late first-half rally and kept up the pressure throughout a torridly paced second half.
The Wolverines rebounded from a disappointing final stretch of the regular season to reel off a series of sensational victories that set the squad up for a date with destiny Monday evening. Michigan met top-seeded Louisville every step of the way until the Cardinals closed out a memorable national championship run with timely free-throw shooting and post defense.
Coach John Beilein and company have laid the foundation for a new era of Wolverines basketball in Ann Arbor and will seek to use this spring's success toward a brighter future on the hardwood. Here's a peek at how Michigan should fare in the immediate future.
Season in Review
The Wolverines journeyed to the program's first Final Four appearance since 1993, symbolizing the strides made in Beilein's sixth season at the helm. Michigan enjoyed a sensational start to the regular season, staking claim to a No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll at one point, but stumbled down the stretch.
The squad suffered six losses in its final 12 Big Ten Conference games and entered the tournament on an apparent downswing. Instead, the Wolverines won five consecutive games, including an overtime victory over top-seeded Kansas, to solidify a spot in the 2013 title game.
Since a dismal 10-22 debut in 2008, Michigan has quickly become a national championship contender under Beilein. The Wolverines have won at least 21 games in four of the last five seasons and compiled a 31-win campaign this year.
Michigan enjoyed a landmark year in basketball but remains the second fiddle in an athletic department largely built on its football prowess. The Wolverines certainly made inroads toward changing that sentiment throughout the season and into the tournament.
Most NBA mock drafts anticipate three talented Michigan underclassmen will declare their intent to seek a career at the next level. Junior Tim Hardaway Jr., along with sophomore Trey Burke and freshman Glenn Robinson III have long been viewed as potential early-entry candidates and their departure could truly test this team's depth.
Burke, who doubled up with Naismith and Wooden Award player of the year honors, seems destined to take on the challenge of an NBA career. The six-foot sophomore, a scintillating point guard who offered America an opportunity to witness his big-time playmaking ability throughout the tourney, is in contention to be selected as a top-five pick.
His incredible individual run was headlined by a converted three-pointer that tied top-seeded Kansas with four seconds remaining in regulation in the Sweet 16. Players like Burke rarely return to college after dominant seasons.
Hardaway and Robinson, key members of a predominately young Michigan rotation, are also likely to bolt for the NBA. Many are also wondering whether freshman post player and tournament standout Mitch McGary will look to cash in on a strong final month of his first college campaign.
If a mass exodus of guards gets underway shortly, Michigan needs freshman post player Mitch McGary to remain in Ann Arbor in order to retain any hope of reaching the 2014 Final Four. The 6'10" freshman averaged seven points and six rebounds during the regular season but took his game to another level throughout the NCAA tournament.
McGary averaged 14 points in six tourney games, tallying three double-double performances along the way. He is hardly alone among young impact players who should return to the court next season.
Backup point guard Spike Albrecht barely made a blip on the radar before the national title game, coming in with a career-high of seven points. The freshman scored 17 against Louisville, providing Wolverines fans with a glimpse of life after Trey Burke.
Fellow first-year guard Nik Stauskas was inconsistent in the tournament, scoring only three total points in the Final Four. However, his 22-point outburst against Florida in the Elite Eight proves he is among the Big Ten's premier three-point snipers (he buried all six of his long-distance attempts versus the Gators).
Incoming Recruiting Class
Coveted point guard Derrick Walton faces immediate pressure to play right away assuming Trey Burke is competing in the NBA this time next season. The six-foot point guard is ranked 10th nationally at his position by Rivals.com.
The Detroit native headlines a talented trio of prospects prepared to embark on careers in maize and blue. Shooting guard Zakarie Irvin helps fill the void created by impending departures and is capable of competing for Big Ten rookie of the year honors.
Irvin is a rangy 6'6" specimen who can step back beyond the arc and drain a three or crash the boards with authority. His on-court awareness is already elite, so Irvin's physical maturation process is a key factor next season.
Power forward Mark Donnal is still too slender to compete consistently at the collegiate level, but he provides Beilein with an unpolished product to preen during the early stages of the 2013-14 season. It's important to note potential NBA lottery pick Mitch McGary didn't really crack the Wolverines' regular lineup until the second half of the season, so there is room for an unproven player to grow quickly in this system.
Donnal, a 6'9" Ohio product, owns a solid mid-range game and should only improve as a rebounder.