Michigan Basketball: Biggest Ups and Downs from 2013 Offseason so Far
Believe it or not, five months have passed since the Michigan basketball program played its final game of the 2012-13 season. Although the offseason has been anything but quiet for the Wolverines, the ups outweigh the downs and have only added to the hype surrounding head coach John Beilein's club.
Less than two months before the 2013-14 campaign will tip off, it is time to assess what has happened since the conclusion of the national title game.
As previously mentioned, the offseason has been a good one for Michigan. Can the Wolverines close it out in similar fashion? It remains to be seen, though, there is reason to believe things could end with disappointment.
Up: Disassociations Come to an End
One of the highest points of the offseason for the Michigan Wolverines was when the 10-year disassociation from Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock came to an end. Shortly after the announcement on May 8, Taylor and Bullock expressed their excitement to reconnect with the university.
"This morning, I felt really good about the dissociation being over and having the opportunity to reunite with the University of Michigan,'' Taylor said, according to SI.com. "I'm excited to talk to (athletic director) Mr. (Dave) Brandon and coach (John) Beilein. While I had some success in the NBA, there was a void in my life because of the circumstances. I had three of the best years of my life there and I love that school and all that it stands for."
As for Webber, it remains unclear what kind of relationship he and Michigan will have going forward. An apology from the university and/or Brandon is highly unlikely, which leaves everything up to Webber.
According to fellow Fab Five member Jalen Rose, Brandon is "putting the ball in Chris Webber's court."
Regardless of whatever stance Webber decides to take, the last sanction related to the Ed Martin scandal, which all but destroyed the Michigan basketball program, is over. The Wolverines can finally usher in a new era without any ties to their ugly past.
Down: Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Enter the NBA Draft
It did not surprise too many Michigan fans when Trey Burke declared for the 2013 NBA draft. After all, Burke swept the postseason player of the year awards and provided arguably the most memorable moment of the entire NCAA tournament.
Meanwhile, Tim Hardaway Jr.'s decision to turn pro came off as a stunner initially. Hardaway did not appear to be ready for the NBA and looked like a streaky three-point shooter at best.
However, impressive workouts at the NBA combine enabled the 6'6", 205-pounder to shoot up draft boards. The New York Knicks eventually took Hardaway No. 24 overall, which validated his decision to leave Ann Arbor a year early.
These departures hurt the Wolverines significantly. Burke and Hardaway were Michigan's leading scorers and combined to knock down 146 three-pointers in 2012-13.
Again, the Maize and Blue faithful were fully aware both could bolt for the draft, but knowing ahead of time did nothing to soften the blow.
Up: Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III Choose to Return
By far the best moment of the offseason for the Michigan Wolverines was when Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary passed on the NBA draft. Losing Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. hurts, but the Maize and Blue will not be forced rebuild in 2013-14 with two stars returning.
McGary and Robinson both attended camps hosted by some of the NBA's top players, including the LeBron James Skills Academy. The camp is reserved for the top 20 college basketball players, so simply being invited is quite an accomplishment.
The work they've put in during the offseason has paid dividends thus far. Both are projected to be mid-first-round picks for the 2014 draft by ESPN's Chad Ford. Additionally, McGary was named to USA Today's Preseason All-American team.
The duo will have a completely different set of responsibilities for the Wolverines this season. Robinson is moving to small forward and McGary will likely spend significant minutes at the 4 rather than the 5.
If the pair of rising sophomores have shored up some of the weaker areas in their game—three-point shooting for Robinson and something of a post game for McGary—Michigan could make another Final Four run.
Down: Uncertainty in Recruiting
Despite advancing to the national title game in April, the Michigan Wolverines have yet to land a nationally ranked prospect for its 2014 recruiting class. The Maize and Blue are still in on a number of highly touted recruits, but uncertainty is growing as to whether they will land any of them.
Things are not looking good for the Wolverines in the battle for ESPN 100 shooting guard Devin Booker either. Booker will officially visit Michigan on Oct. 4 and see Missouri Oct. 19. After those trips, the 6'5", 185-pounder could choose to end things relatively soon. As of now, Kentucky appears to be the favorite.
Arizona seems most likely to wind up with Kameron Chatman and where James Blackmon Jr. will go is anyone's guess.
Landing any combination of D.J. Wilson, Donte Grantham and Jonah Bolden would not be a bad consolation prize. However, there is no positive way to spin missing out on so many coveted prospects. There is still a chance for the Wolverines to close out the 2014 class with a bang, but time is running out for them to make up ground.
Up: LaVall Jordan Gets Passed over by Butler
After getting over the initial shock of Brad Stevens agreeing to coach the Boston Celtics, the Maize and Blue faithful discovered assistant coach LaVall Jordan was a favorite to replace him at Butler. The Bulldogs narrowed their search to just two candidates: Jordan and Butler assistant Brandon Miller.
At one point, Jordan was even considered the front-runner to fill the void left behind by Stevens.
Luckily for the Michigan Wolverines, the Bulldogs eventually hired Miller. Losing an assistant coach may not seem like a big deal, but Jordan is a big part of Michigan's recent rise to power in the Big Ten Conference. His connections in Indiana helped lure Glenn Robinson III and Zak Irvin to Ann Arbor. Jordan has also been credited with turning Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Darius Morris into NBA draft picks.
The Albion, Mich. native and fellow assistant coach Bacari Alexander are going to land head coaching jobs in the near future. Both are "hot commodities" and will have the chance to build a program of their own when they wish to do so.
Having Jordan on the bench for another year is a great lift, though, it remains to be seen how much longer he will remain with the program.
Up: Michigan Ranked No. 10 or Higher in Multiple Preseason Polls
The Michigan Wolverines are not going to sneak up on anyone this season. In spite of losing Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., the Maize and Blue are ranked in the top 10 of three different preseason magazines.
Returning starters Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas are why this team is so highly thought of in the preseason rankings. A host of role players, including Spike Albrecht, the star of the national title game, have an extra year of experience under their belts as well. Oh, and point guard Derrick Walton is a top-10 incoming freshman, according to Chris Johnson of SI.com.
That does not even include Walton's classmate, 5-star shooting guard Zak Irvin, who could easily be the Wolverines' top non-starter this season.
All the love Michigan is getting before the 2013-14 campaign even starts shows how far John Beilein and his staff have brought this program. The Wolverines are back on the national stage and do not appear to be departing anytime soon.
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