Michigan Basketball: Biggest Challenges for John Beilein in 2013-14
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The offseason is quickly wrapping up for the Michigan basketball program and the 2013-14 team is starting to come together. Even though the Wolverines check in at No. 9 in the preseason rankings, they are not a team without flaws.
In fact, there are four major challenges John Beilein is facing this season. Two are related to the lineup, another is tied to an injury, and the toughest one of all deals with everything Michigan has accomplished as of late.
What will Beilein have to guide this team through? Click ahead to find out.
Young Point Guards
Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton will be battling it out for the starting point guard spot.
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One of the main reasons why the Michigan Wolverines were able to average 75.2 points per game last season was because of an outstanding assist-to-turnover ratio. The Maize and Blue led the nation with a ratio of 1.54.
With a pair of inexperienced point guards vying for the starting job, it is likely the Wolverines take a step back in this department. The only question will be whether or not Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton can take care of the ball well enough for Michigan to win a Big Ten Conference title.
Trey Burke thrived in John Beilein's system as a freshman. Darius Morris took a year to develop. It is unclear at this time what Beilein has in Walton and Albrecht, but there is more talent around them than either of their predecessors had.
Neither one should have a problem being efficient distributors. And Walton's outstanding court vision should make Michigan a better half-court team than it was a season ago.
The challenge for Beilein will be to make sure Albrecht and Walton limit their mistakes, especially in pivotal moments.
Keeping All of the Shooting Guards Happy
There is an abundance of shooting guards on this season's team.
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The 2013-14 roster features an abundance of shooting guards, which is a good problem for John Beilein to have. The only challenge for the head coach will be to keep all of the 2s happy.
Rising sophomore Nik Stauskas started last season and is in line to do so again. The Canadian shooter averaged 11 points and three rebounds per game as a true freshman. There will be plenty of players battling to replace Stauskas, though.
Incoming 5-star prospect Zak Irvin is the best candidate to crack the starting lineup. The Fishers, Ind., native has impressed John Beilein at both ends of the floor, which is not something anyone can say about Stauskas yet.
Caris LeVert will also split some time between the 2 and 3. It is possible Spike Albrecht sees some action at shooting guard as well.
Depth is certainly not going to be an issue for Michigan this season. However, finding enough minutes for all of the shooters will be.
Managing Mitch McGary
A "lower back condition" has hindered Mitch McGary this offseason.
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Although the news coming out of Ann Arbor about Mitch McGary's back has been mostly positive as of late, there is still plenty of cause for concern. McGary has been battling a "lower back condition," which has forced John Beilein to limit him in practice.
We are very optimistic about him having a complete season -- I mean of him being able to play and do everything, Beilein told Brendan Quinn of MLive. We’re just being very cautious right now to make sure that he can have a complete season. We’re being very patient, probably way over cautious, but this is the time to do that.
This should give the Maize and Blue faithful a much more optimistic outlook on McGary's injury, but until he is let off the leash in practices, it remains a difficult situation for Beilein.
The head coach is doing the right thing by being very careful with McGary. Without him, the Wolverines would struggle to challenge Michigan State for the Big Ten title.
Limiting McGary's minutes early in the season to ensure he is at full strength for league play should be the top priority. Beilein will certainly do what he believes is right. That does not mean managing McGary's health will be easy, though.
Live Up to Preseason Expectations
It will be difficult for Michigan to live up to the preseason hype.
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For the second straight season, the Michigan Wolverines have garnered a top-10 ranking in the preseason edition of the USA Today coaches poll. The Maize and Blue managed to live up to the hype in 2012-13, but sustaining that level of success is always a challenge.
Over the past two campaigns, Michigan has won a Big Ten title and advanced to the national title game. Not bad for a program that had not done either of those things in more than 20 years.
Expectations are high, and every team has a tendency to handle that differently. The key for John Beilein will be to make sure the Wolverines do not get rattled by a few losses in nonconference play. Michigan has difficult road games against Iowa State and Duke, in addition to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. A highly anticipated matchup with Arizona will be a tough one as well.
The Wolverines will be judged based on what they do during the Big Ten regular season and the NCAA tournament. It is championship or bust now for Michigan. We will soon find out if this group is as advertised.