Michigan Basketball: Who Is the Wolverines' 1st Option on Offense?

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Michigan Basketball: Who Is the Wolverines' 1st Option on Offense?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Mitch McGary emerged during the NCAA tournament as a potential star for Michigan.

For the last three years, Michigan coach John Beilein's offense has been built around a point guard. The last two years, it was Trey Burke. Before Burke arrived, Darius Morris dominated the ball as a sophomore. 

This coming season, the Wolverines will have a different look with either Mitch McGary or Glenn Robinson III as the first option unless incoming freshman point guard Derrick Walton is ready to assume a role as significant as Burke's. 

Beilein made an adjustment the last three years to get his point guard more involved in his offense—mostly with a lot of pick-and-rolls—because Morris and Burke were the most talented players on the roster for three straight years. 

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Trey Burke led the Wolverines in scoring the last two seasons.

Before Morris' sophomore season, Beilein's point guards had not been so prominent in his offense. From 2002-03 (when he arrived at West Virginia) through 2009-10, Beilein had a point guard average double figures only one time, and not once did his point guard lead the team in scoring. 

What will be different in 2013-14 compared to last year is that Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. had both already experienced what it was like to be heavily involved in the offense. Robinson and McGary were both complementary players for most of their freshman years. 

The expectations for McGary changed because of what he did in the NCAA tournament, moving into the starting lineup and averaging 15.3 points and 10.7 rebounds.

Beilein's offense has always been built for perimeter players or big men who like to float to the perimeter. The last big man to lead a Beilein-coached team in scoring was Kevin Pittsnogle in 2005-06. Pittsnogle attempted 227 threes that year.

McGary did not attempt one three as a freshman.

Most of McGary's offense as a freshman was created by others—particularly Burke and Hardaway. In the NCAA tournament, Burke and Hardaway assisted on 22 of McGary's 40 buckets. If McGary wasn't finishing off a nice dish from one of his guards, the majority of his other buckets came off putbacks. He ranked 10th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, per KenPom.com (subscription needed).

The one thing McGary did not do often is post up, which is not surprising in Beilein's offense. According to Synergy Sports (via Dylan Burkhardt of UMHoops.com), McGary had only 17 post-up opportunities last season, and he scored eight points in those situations. Could Beilein look to add some wrinkles that get McGary in the post? Possibly.

It's more likely that McGary thrives as a face-up big man. Surprisingly, McGary was one of the big keys in Michigan's Final Four win against Syracuse, showing a nice awareness in the high post area. He led the Wolverines that day with six assists. 

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Glenn Robinson III is Michigan's leading returning scorer.

McGary also showed off an improved jumper during the tournament, knocking down nine of his 18 jump shots, according to CBSSports.com's shot chart data.

Look for Michigan to run more action next season that gets McGary the ball from 12 to 18 feet out, whether it's pick-and-pops or giving McGary the ball near the elbow and then running cutters off of him.

Seeing Robinson become a star in Beilein's offense is easier to imagine because other wings—like Hardaway and Manny Harris—have thrived in recent years for the Wolverines.

The difference between Robinson and those two is that they both came into Michigan taking a lot of shots from the start. Robinson had some high-scoring games last season—he scored 20-plus points five times—but rarely would he take a lot of shots.

In Big Ten play, Robinson had only one game (the opener against Iowa) when he had double-digit attempts. According to Ken Pomeroy's numbers, Robinson used only 15.2 percent of Michigan's possessions, which Pomeroy defines as a "limited role." 

Who will lead Michigan in scoring in 2013-14?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Much like McGary, Robinson relied on others to get his points. Burkhardt rewatched all 122 of Robinson's baskets in the half court as a freshman and found that only 18 percent were created by Robinson. The majority of his buckets were assisted or on putbacks

To become an elite scorer, Robinson will have to become comfortable creating his shot off the dribble. 

So who is going to be Michigan's go-to scorer: McGary or Robinson? Or could it be sharpshooter Nik Stauskas or incoming wing Zak Irvin? 

Robinson is extremely talented, but he is easier to game plan and guard than a guy like McGary. Just like Beilein had to make adjustments to feature his point guards more the last three years, he'll do the same with McGary.

Load More Stories

Follow Michigan Wolverines Basketball from B/R on Facebook

Follow Michigan Wolverines Basketball from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

Michigan Wolverines Basketball

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.