Michigan Basketball: 5 Bold Predictions for Wolverines' Incoming Freshmen
Nearly two months of the offseason have come and gone, which means the Michigan basketball team is getting closer to returning to action. With the nation's No. 12 recruiting class coming to Ann Arbor, the Wolverines should be able to contend for a Big Ten Conference title yet again.
Head coach John Beilein is already scheming about how to utilize the four incoming freshmen. Fans are getting excited about the potential for a couple of the newcomers who have a chance to make an immediate impact.
Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton should contend for Freshman All-Big Ten honors, while Mark Donnal and Andrew Dakich will be battling for playing time. There are some high hopes for this class, so bold predictions are only natural.
These five predictions all seem realistic, but will be very difficult for each of the freshmen to validate. Hey, they are called bold predictions for a reason.
Zak Irvin Will Be Michigan's Leading Scorer...
Last season's top two scorers, guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., are both preparing for the NBA draft, which means there are 33.1 points per game to replace come November. Zak Irvin is going to be one of, if not the best shooter on the Michigan Wolverines' 2013-14 roster. It is not exactly insane to think Irvin could wind up being the team's top scorer as a true freshman.
Filling up the basket is what the Fishers, Indiana native does best. As a senior at Hamilton Southeastern High School, Irvin scored at least 20 points in 17 of 21 contests.
Some of the scoring chances Irvin had at the high school level will not translate to Division I. Driving through the lane and finishing at the rim is much more difficult when everyone on the floor is an exceptional athlete. Still, Irvin's jump shot will allow him to be a double-digit scorer immediately.
Whether or not Irvin winds up being Michigan's top point-getter will depend on how many minutes per game he plays. John Beilein is going to experiment with starting two big men. This means there will not be room for three guards, a small forward and a center anymore.
Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Irvin will be competing for minutes at the 2. The 6'6", 185-pounder will also rotate with Glenn Robinson III at small forward.
Unless Irvin is able to replace Stauskas in the starting lineup, it is more likely Mitch McGary or Robinson will finish atop the Wolverines' list of scorers. If Stauskas does not improve defensively, though, Irvin very well could supplant the rising sophomore.
... and Shoot 50 Percent from the Field
Despite the fact that the Michigan Wolverines finished No. 9 nationally in field-goal percentage (48.4) last season, none of their guards shot 50 percent from the floor. Zak Irvin could buck the trend in the 2013-14 campaign.
There is no question Irvin will be an efficient shooter. During Irvin's final year of high school basketball, he knocked down more than half of his attempts in 11 of 21 games.
Limiting three-point attempts will help Irvin increase his offensive efficiency. Much like Trey Burke, when Irvin starts jacking up a bunch of shots from beyond the arc, his field-goal percentage takes a hit. In nine of the 10 games, the nation's No. 21 overall prospect failed to shoot 50 percent, Irvin put up at least five threes. Six times, Irvin attempted eight or more tries.
Thankfully, the Wolverines will not ask Irvin to shoulder the same type of shooting load. Inside the arc is where Irvin is more potent anyway. Opponents will have a hard time stopping his mid-range jumper.
As long as Irvin chooses his shots wisely, there is no reason he cannot convert at least half of his attempts.
Derrick Walton Will Average at Least 7 Assists Per Game
This is a prediction I have already made once, and it is bold to say the least. Incoming frosh Derrick Walton has the athleticism and skills to be the next great point guard to play in John Beilein's system. Seven assists may seem like a high number, but Walton will not be the scorer Trey Burke was during the 2012-13 season.
Instead, Walton will dish the rock to strong finishers like Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary for much of the upcoming campaign. Setting up guards Nik Stauskas and Zak Irvin will help the four-star recruit's numbers as well.
One thing that could keep Walton from hitting this mark is returning point guard Spike Albrecht. Although Walton is a perfect fit for Beilein's offense, Albrecht is going to get plenty of minutes at the 1. The rising sophomore will take some playing time away from the newcomer.
Chances are Walton will play between 25-30 minutes at the point. The closer to 30 minutes Walton gets, the more likely seven assists per game becomes.
Mark Donnal Will Play over 8 Minutes Per Game
Big men with a knack for knocking down perimeter shots are hot commodities, especially to John Beilein. Incoming four-star prospect Mark Donnal has the ability to stretch the floor with his shooting abilities. The only problem is, the Michigan Wolverines already have three bigs that will play ahead of Donnal.
Veterans Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan, along with Mitch McGary, will eat up most of the minutes at the 4 and 5. Whatever is leftover will be divvied up between Donnal and rising redshirt sophomore Max Bielfeldt.
Do not expect Donnal to play a whole lot more than eight minutes per game in 2013-14, though. This is roughly the same amount of playing time Horford earned last season.
Without a post game, opposing defenses will be able to key in on Donnal's shooting. This will limit the contributions Donnal can make as a true freshman. The No. 23 power forward in the country is likely a year away from making a major impact for the Wolverines.
Andrew Dakich Will Appear in More Than 10 Games
The fourth and final incoming freshman is walk-on point guard Andrew Dakich. With Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht already established at the 1, Dakich is going to do a lot more observing than playing during the 2013-14 season.
The chances of Dakich getting on the floor in even half of the Michigan Wolverines' games is very low. Unlike last season, Michigan will play several marquee non-conference games. Arizona, Iowa State, Duke and a deep field at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off are all on tap for this year. John Beilein is not going to have a whole lot of opportunities to empty the bench.
One thing Dakich will bring down the line is leadership. Previous walk-ons such as Corey Person and Josh Bartelstein have proven limited playing time does not mean one cannot be a leader for Michigan. Dakich will no doubt try to emulate those two former Wolverines.
For Dakich's first season in Ann Arbor, though, he will be lucky to play in more than 10 games. Person saw action in just 13 games in the 2012-13 campaign, and the schedule strength is trending upward. While 10 appearances is realistic for Dakich, it will be tough for him to reach that total.