Michigan Basketball: 5 Lessons Learned About Wolverines This Offseason
The offseason may only be two months old, but we have already learned five lessons about the Michigan Wolverines basketball program. Just about all of them are positive.
Last season's Final Four run has a lot to do with the Wolverines' successful offseason. Two key players passed up millions for another year under the watchful eyes of head coach John Beilein. Others are hoping to bolster their draft stock during the 2013-14 campaign.
After two straight years of championship contention, another successful season appears to be on the horizon. The following lessons will help kick start it all.
Academic Success Is Still a Priority for John Beilein's Staff
The latest APR scores were unveiled by the NCAA last week. It should not come as much of a surprise that the Michigan basketball program recorded one of the best scores. In fact, the Wolverines had a near-perfect score of 995.
For their efforts, the team received a Public Recognition Award. This marks the second straight year John Beilein's group has finished in the top 10 percent of its sport.
Michigan's high score was actually a step back from the 2010-11 season. That tends to happen when a team finishes with a perfect score of 1,000, though.
Beilein and his staff do not take academics lightly. This is one of the reasons why Beilein has been very careful when it comes to recruiting potential one-and-done prospects.
"I think if a kid is going to be a guaranteed one-and-doner, we're only recruiting that kid if that kid's dream is to go to Michigan," Beilein told reporters leading up to the 2013 national title game, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. "He wants to go here, he's still going to go to study hall, class, be a great teammate, we're not going to turn that kid down."
No matter how much success the Wolverines have in the coming years, academics will continue to be a top priority.
Spike Albrecht's Hopes of Starting Have Already Taken a Hit
Following a 17-point outburst in the first half of last season's national title game, Spike Albrecht entered the offseason as a legitimate contender to become the starting point guard.
The competition will be fierce, though, with 4-star prospect Derrick Walton coming to campus this summer.
Despite the fact that the battle to replace Trey Burke in the starting five has yet to begin, Walton may already have a leg up. Although performance in practice will determine which player gets the spot, the coaches love what they see in Walton.
In early June, assistant coach LaVall Jordan said this on WTKA-AM 1050 (h/t Mlive):
He's a kid with a high skill level on the way in. Derrick can really handle it, and has great vision. I told some of our returning guys -- he's like Spike on steroids, the way that Spike handles the game, has a fearlessness about him, can handle and make plays for others and kind of put the ball in positions where guys don’t have to work too hard to be able to finish a play. (Walton) can do that.
Walton's athleticism sets him apart from Albrecht. The fast break will once again be an important part of Michigan's offense, which is why the former appears to be the best candidate to start.
There is still plenty of time for Albrecht to prove the doubters wrong. However, he has some ground to make up, given Jordan's comments.
It Is Time to Reload, Not Rebuild
The best news the Michigan Wolverines got during the offseason came back in April. Both Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary turned down the NBA draft to return for their sophomore campaigns. Even without Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan is now in a position to reload rather than rebuild.
Had Robinson and McGary bolted, the Wolverines would have been in serious trouble. Only one of the top five scorers from last season's team would have been back.
Instead, Michigan returns three of its top five scorers and both of its leading rebounders.
There is a question as to whether or not the two can take ownership of the Wolverines like Burke and Hardaway. As long as both can duplicate the stellar performances they put on throughout the NCAA tournament, though, the duo should lead with their play on the floor. Neither has to become a vocal leader.
Rising sophomore shooting guard Nik Stauskas will bolster the Wolverines' perimeter shooting. Veteran big men Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford will provide leadership and solid defense.
Adding the nation's No. 12 recruiting class is going to help Michigan reload as well.
As long as the point guards can take care of the basketball, the Wolverines will be Big Ten Conference and national title contenders once again.
Last Season's Final Four Run Is Already Paying Dividends on the Recruiting Trail
Winning matters to the nation's top high school prospects. With a Big Ten title and Final Four appearance under its belt over the past two seasons, recruits no longer need to take a leap of faith when committing to Michigan. Anyone coming to Ann Arbor under Beilein's watch knows they will have the chance to win championships.
As a result, highly touted recruits across the country are giving serious thought to becoming Wolverines.
ESPN 100 prospects Vincent Edwards, Trevon Bluiett, Kameron Chatman, Devin Booker and Kevon Looney are all considering Michigan. Booker appears to be the most likely of the bunch to join the Wolverines' 2014 class.
Adding Aussie shooting guard Daniel Exum is also a real possibility, according to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.
Getting a jump start on 2015 is never a bad thing either. The Maize and Blue are already in good position with several coveted rising juniors. ESPN 60 recruits Diamond Stone, Jalen Brunson, Isaiah Briscoe, Dwayne Bacon and Hyron Edwards have legitimate interest in the Wolverines.
Over the years, Beilein has been known for overachieving with little talent. Imagine the possibilities for the program under his watch with top recruits consistently donning the Maize and Blue.
Michigan Basketball Is Back and Here to Stay
The Michigan basketball program has been to hell and back. It took several years for the Wolverines to recover from crippling NCAA sanctions, but they have finally returned to the national spotlight. Thanks to John Beilein, Michigan is doing it the right way—clean and scandal-free with high-class individuals.
With Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary back in the fold, the Wolverines are going to be contenders for the 2013-14 season.
Recruiting is going better than ever. NBA-level talent will be rolling through Ann Arbor over the next several seasons. This will enable Michigan to remain in the national spotlight for years to come.
The darkest hours of the program have ended. A new era has begun. Thankfully for the younger fans who have known nothing except for a lengthy NCAA tournament drought and settling for deep runs in the NIT, it is one in which the Wolverines will be winners.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!