Michigan Basketball: Biggest Improvement Each Returning Player Must Make

Zach DirlamSenior Analyst IIApril 24, 2013

Michigan Basketball: Biggest Improvement Each Returning Player Must Make

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    Players work during the offseason to shore up weaknesses in their games, and the Michigan basketball program will be back in the hunt for conference and national titles once again as long as everyone returning to Ann Arbor improves before November.

    Some of the players coming back simply need to be more consistent.

    Another must improve at the free-throw line. While, one Wolverine has serious work to do at the defensive end of the floor over the course of the next seven months.

    There will be high expectations placed on Michigan for the 2013-14 season, which makes the spring and summer gym sessions that much more important for the returning Wolverines.

Max Bielfeldt, Power Forward

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    What He Needs to Improve: Finishing at the Rim

    Rising redshirt sophomore power forward Max Bielfeldt, did not see the floor too often during the Michigan Wolverines 2012-13 campaign.

    When given the chance to produce, though, Bielfeldt proved to be a valuable asset on defense. Improving at the other end of the floor is how he will earn extra minutes this season.

    Last year, Bielfeldt made just 45 percent of his field goal attempts. Meanwhile, the three big men playing ahead of him (Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary and Jon Horford) all shot better than 57 percent. 

    If Morgan, or any of Michigan's other big men are injured, Bielfeldt will be called upon to fill the void.

    The 6'7", 245-pounder will not struggle defensively.

    Unless Bielfeldt finishes at the rim more consistently, however, incoming freshman Mark Donnal could wind up stealing some minutes.

Jon Horford, Power Forward

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    What He Needs to Improve: Mid-range Jump Shot

    With Mitch McGary more than likely sliding over to the 4, rising redshirt junior big man Jon Horford will be battling Jordan Morgan for the starting spot at the five.

    Adding a mid-range jump shot would help Horford separate himself from Morgan in the position battle.

    Horford is already an effective rebounder, which is his best skill. In eight games last season, Horford pulled down at least four rebounds. Considering the fact that the Grand Ledge, Mich. native only averaged 8.8 minutes per contest, that is fairly impressive.

    Most of Horford's points come from lay-ups and dunks in the paint. Expanding his range outside of the key could do wonders for Horford.

    The Michigan Wolverines will need more production from their lesser heralded forwards if they are going to make another run to the Final Four.

    Improving Horford's offensive repertoire would do wonders for the Wolverines. 

Caris LeVert, Shooting Guard

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    What He Needs to Improve: Shooting Consistency

    Although the Michigan Wolverines used shooting guard Caris LeVert primarily as a defensive specialist during his freshman campaign, the team will need his offense to come along next season.

    Now that Tim Hardaway Jr. is gone, LeVert will have the chance to crack the starting lineup.

    In order for this to happen, though, LeVert needs to shoot the ball consistently. Despite the fact LeVert knocked down at least 50 percent of his attempts in eight games, he shot just 31.5 percent from the field last year.

    The ability to score the basketball is the primary reason Nik Stauskas is favored to be the starting 2-guard in November. LeVert is a far better defender, but his talents cannot be maximized until he can consistently hit jumpers. 

    If Michigan is able to get solid production out of LeVert at both ends of the floor, it can contend for a Big Ten Conference title.

Jordan Morgan, Power Forward

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    What He Needs to Improve: Free-throw Shooting

    Whenever power forward Jordan Morgan steps to the charity stripe, the Michigan Wolverines never really know what is going to happen. The University of Detroit Jesuit product has never made more than 56 percent of his free throws in any of his three seasons at Michigan.

    There is not much more Morgan can do to improve his defense. Scoring is never going to be a strong suit of Morgan's either, which makes converting the freebies even more important.

    Based solely on experience and defensive prowess, Morgan should be in the Wolverines' starting five at the beginning of the 2013-14 season.

    Staying there, however, is going to be difficult with Jon Horford pushing for more minutes.

    Missing free throws is one thing that could put Morgan back on the bench. After all, they are called free throws for a reason. 

Spike Albrecht, Point Guard

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    What He Needs to Improve: Rebounding

    There is not a whole lot to dislike about rising sophomore point guard Spike Albrecht's game.

    Nobody outside of Ann Arbor had heard of Albrecht until he dropped 17 points in the first half of this year's national title game.

    Everyone knows who this fearless sharp-shooter is now.

    Albrecht makes good decisions with the basketball, avoids turnovers and creates shots for others by penetrating the lane. One improvement Albrecht needs to make before the starter of the 2013-14 season is grabbing rebounds. 

    As a point guard, it is not crucial for Albrecht to pull down a ton of boards. All he needs to do is approach the 3.2 rebounds per game average Trey Burke recorded last year. 

    Given Albrecht's small 5'11", 170-pound frame, boxing out will be critical in order for him to successfully snag missed shots. 

Nik Stauskas, Shooting Guard

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    What He Needs to Improve: Defense

    Offensively, sophomore shooting guard Nik Stauskas will be one of the best players in the Big Ten Conference this season. As far as defense goes, though, Stauskas has some significant improvements to make. 

    Time after time during the 2012-13 campaign, Stauskas failed to keep his man out of the lane. Opposing teams knew Stauskas was the weakest defender on the floor and took advantage of his deficiency.

    The Michigan Wolverines do not need Stauskas to be a lock-down defender. All Michigan requires from its top shooting guard is for him not to be a liability.

    Stauskas' shooting (46.3 percent) will keep him in the starting lineup. Maintaining that position, however, will be difficult if he continues to play poorly at the defensive end of the floor.

    Incoming freshman Zak Irvin and returning guard Caris LeVert will both be out to take Stauskas' spot in the starting five.

    Preventing opponents from scoring easy baskets is what Stauskas needs to do in order to hold Irvin and LeVert off.

Mitch McGary, Power Forward

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    What He Needs to Improve: Post Play

    Following a breakout performance in the 2013 NCAA tournament, Mitch McGary is primed for a huge sophomore season.

    McGary's mid-range jumper and ability to finish at the rim off of pick-and-roll plays will make him an All-American candidate for much of the upcoming season. Playing in the post is something McGary needs to do better in order to have a successful career at the next level, though.

    Head coach John Beilein would love to see McGary become a dominant player in the high post as well as the paint.

    "His goal should be to play face-up, as a high post player. But also, when they put smaller guys on him, being able to just go down on the block and put it in," Beilein told UMHoops.com. "He has gotten much better at that."

    Already considered to be a potential lottery pick, McGary could jump into the top 10 of next year's NBA draft, if he is able to develop a post game.

Glenn Robinson III, Small Forward

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    What He Needs to Improve: Jump Shooting

    A majority of Glenn Robinson III's offensive production during the 2012-13 season came from throwing down alley-oop dunks and tipping in missed shots. While those two skills will benefit Robinson at the 3, becoming a better jump shooter would make him the biggest matchup nightmare in the Big Ten.

    Robinson finished tied for third on the team in scoring (11.0 points per game) and second in rebounding (5.4 per contest). Those numbers make for a pretty impressive stat line.

    According to Robinson, though, the best is yet to come.

    "I feel like I really haven't showed everybody what I can really do on a basketball court," Robinson told Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. "Hopefully I can come back and shock some people...And maybe make some people think about what I can do."

    At times last season, Robinson knocked down open jumpers with ease. Other games, however, Robinson failed to make anything except for dunks and lay-ups. 

    In order for Robinson to become the star for the 2013-14 Michigan Wolverines, he needs to round out one of the only areas of the game he struggles with, which is shooting consistency.