Michigan Basketball: Assigning Roles to Each Player on the 2014 Roster
College basketball's offseason may be in its infancy, but the Michigan basketball program has been hit by two early departures, which means there will be new roles for several returning players.
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. were the stars for the Wolverines a year ago, so a pair of talented returners will have to up their production. Departing starters also means there will be some fresh faces in the starting lineup.
A breakout performance may have earned one Michigan guard a spot as the sixth man, while the rest of the team will have to bide their time as reserves.
The roles for next season's group of Wolverines will be broken down into the following categories: reserves, sixth man, starters and stars.
Players Filling This Role: Zak Irvin (Fr.), Caris LeVert (So.), Jon Horford (Jr.), Max Bielfeldt (So.) and Mark Donnal (Fr.)
Although head coach John Beilein utilized a very short rotation during the 2012-13 season, an abundance of talent on the bench should lead to more minutes for the Michigan Wolverines reserves this year. Only one upperclassman will start the game on the sideline, but there is no shortage of experience among the group.
Rising sophomore shooting guard Caris LeVert played 10.7 minutes per game last season, though, he saw extended action in some of Michigan's biggest games. LeVert is a defensive specialist and gave the Wolverines 21-plus minutes of quality basketball in wins over the Michigan State Spartans and Syracuse Orange.
With Tim Hardaway Jr. heading for the NBA, LeVert should see an increase in playing time during the 2013-14 campaign. Most of LeVert's minutes will be at the 2, but he could play small forward if called upon.
Returning big men Jon Horford and Max Bielfeldt will earn more playing time as well. As long as Horford stays healthy, he will bring a much needed veteran presence to Michigan's rotation. Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan are going to eat up plenty of minutes, though, Horford will get his fair share.
Meanwhile, Bielfeldt could steal some playing time from Morgan and Horford if he turns in an impressive summer.
As for the incoming freshmen, Zak Irvin and Mark Donnal will be at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of minutes played. Irvin has the scoring abilities to crack the starting lineup, or at worst be one of the top options off of the bench for Beilein.
On the other hand, Donnal may find himself redshirting due to the number of big men able to play quality minutes. Even if Donnal's three-point shooting forces the staff to burn his redshirt, it is unlikely the 4-star prospect will have much of an impact in his first year.
Player Filling This Role: Spike Albrecht (So.)
A talented sixth man is just as important to a national title contender as assembling a dominant starting five. This role will likely be assigned to rising sophomore point guard Spike Albrecht for two reasons.
Firstly, Albrecht is versatile. The Crown Point, Ind. native played both point guard and shooting guard at various times last season for the Michigan Wolverines. With true freshman Derrick Walton expected to run the point, there will be plenty of opportunities for Albrecht to relieve the greenhorn.
There is no reason why Albrecht and Walton could not be on the floor simultaneously, either. Having two point guards with the ability to score and handle the basketball gives Beilein an abundance of options. Expect both Albrecht and Walton to share the point guard duties and play some shooting guard, too.
Additionally, Albrecht will be tough to keep on the bench for very long because of how well he shoots. Albrecht connected on 54.5 percent of his attempts from three-point range. Dropping 17 points in the national title game against the Louisville Cardinals showed how much Albrecht has developed since arriving in Ann Arbor.
Look for a confident Albrecht to be the first man off the bench in several games this season for the Wolverines.
Players Filling This Role: Nik Stauskas (So.), Derrick Walton (Fr.) and Jordan Morgan (Sr.)
New roles for two of the Michigan Wolverines' top performers means there is going to be a much different starting lineup for the 2013-14 campaign. John Beilein may elect to start the year with a pair of bigs playing at the same time, which creates an opening for Jordan Morgan.
Up until an ankle injury last season, Morgan had made 53 straight starts and appeared in 89 consecutive games. Morgan did not play nearly as well after returning to the team. As a result, Morgan lost his starting spot to Mitch McGary. Redemption is what Morgan will be chasing this year.
If Beilein does indeed start Morgan and McGary, the former will play at the 5. Michigan's offense may not be as dynamic with the two on the floor together, but it should pay major dividends on defense.
Only Caris LeVert will challenge rising sophomore Nik Stauskas to be the starting shooting guard. Stauskas shot 46.3 percent from the field and scored 11.0 points per game as a true freshman. With an entire offseason to develop his defense and add to his arsenal of offensive moves, talented teams will not be able to take away Stauskas as easily as they did a year ago.
Finally, Derrick Walton will be tasked with replacing All-American point guard Trey Burke. Much like his predecessor, Walton excels in transition, which means the Wolverines can play the same brand of basketball as they did in 2012-13.
With all of the talent around Walton, he will be asked to distribute at a higher rate than Burke was. Walton can score in bunches, though, so he could take over a game offensively if need be.
Do not be surprised if Spike Albrecht sneaks into the starting lineup, but for now it appears Walton will provide the quickest transition to the post-Burke era.
Players Filling This Role: Mitch McGary (So.) and Glenn Robinson III (So.)
There is no question about who the stars will be for the Michigan Wolverines next season. Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III both broke out during the NCAA tournament, which helped the pair climb into the top 15 of Chad Ford's mock NBA draft. Both decided to return to Ann Arbor to refine their games.
As mentioned in the previous slide, Robinson and McGary will both be playing new positions for the 2013-14 campaign.
Robinson is going to shift from the 4 over to small forward (the 3). The move should allow Robinson to get more involved with the offense rather than just relying on alley-oops and putbacks to score.
"The three and the four can both be guards in coach (Beilein's) offense," Robinson told Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. "But the three can play with a little more ball screens, a little bit more action and hopefully my skill development this summer will allow me to play there next year."
Scoring 11.0 points per game while playing out of position makes last season all the more impressive for Robinson. Shifting to the 3 will make Robinson the bona fide star of Michigan's offense.
Not too far behind Robinson in terms of star power will be McGary. Following a postseason which saw the Brewster Academy alum average 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, McGary will be hungry to build on his breakout performance.
McGary plans on sliding to the 4, which means he will no longer be the man in the middle on defense for the Wolverines. According to Beilein, McGary "has to grow his game so he can play perimeter (forwards)."
If McGary comes along defensively, develops a post game and Robinson manages to fine tune his jump shot, the dynamic duo will be difficult to stop.
Michigan will need Derrick Walton to avoid turnovers to win games, but McGary and Robinson have to be the stars for it to make another Final Four run.