Michigan Basketball: Way-Too-Early Grades for Wolverines Starters
The 2013-14 Michigan basketball team is finding out what life in the spotlight is all about. High expectations have not been kind to the Wolverines in their opening six games. A stunning loss to Charlotte, one in which the Maize and Blue shot 31 percent from the field, and a road defeat against Iowa State have some questioning just how good head coach John Beilein's club really is.
Games against Duke, Arizona and Stanford in December will give everyone a much better indication as to where Michigan stands among some of the top teams in college basketball.
With a tune-up against Coppin State on tap to close out the opening month of the campaign, it is a perfect time to take a look back rather than ahead. Grading the starters is a good way to assess what has gone wrong and where the Wolverines need to get better.
Note: A "C" is considered an average grade. All grades are relative to expectations and production.
Derrick Walton Jr., Point Guard
If Derrick Walton Jr. were in his second or third year at the college level, this grade would be much different. Seeing as he is just a true freshman and some growing pains come with the territory, a B-minus seems like a fair mark.
There have been great moments and frustrating sequences. Take, for instance, Michigan's recent loss to Charlotte. Walton committed three turnovers, committed two fouls and missed his only shot in just 17 minutes. On the other hand, efforts against Florida State and Iowa State were quite impressive for a frosh. In those games, he went 10-of-19 from the field, scored 28 points and dished out eight assists.
Overall, Walton is averaging 9.2 points on 42 percent shooting, 2.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Those are respectable numbers for a point guard with a struggling star and another who is just coming back from injury.
Walton has plenty of upside. That much is clear through the first six games. Becoming more assertive and limiting turnovers are the two things he needs to work on in order to maximize his potential.
Nik Stauskas, Shooting Guard
Nik Stauskas has been an absolute monster for the Michigan Wolverines thus far. He is creating for others, driving to the basket with authority and knocking down perimeter shots. He is doing it all right now.
It is way too early to talk about potential All-Americans, but his stat line is certainly worthy of any award conversation right now. The Canadian product is scoring 20.3 points per game and averaging 3.0 assists. He grabbed at least four rebounds in four of Michigan's first six games.
Three-point shooting is still Stauskas' strong-suit (47.4 percent), but the muscle he added to his frame during the offseason is paying major dividends. The 6'6", 205-pounder has attempted at least eight free throws in five of the Wolverines' six games.
There is still some improvement needed at the defensive end. However, he is not the liability he was as a true freshman.
Stauskas has been Michigan's best player this season. There is no debating that.
Caris LeVert, Small Forward
Although Caris LeVert's season averages are a bit deceiving, he has proven to be much more than just a defensive specialist.
Against Michigan's toughest opponents, Iowa State and Florida State, he scored a combined 10 points on 4-of-15 from the field. He did still manage to grab 14 boards and hand out seven assists in those matchups, so it is hard to call those dismal performances.
Conversely, in four contests versus weaker competition, LeVert averaged 18 points, four rebounds and 2.5 assists.
Keep in mind, the sophomore small forward has been thrown into the fire early as far as minutes go. LeVert only played 10.8 minutes a night last season compared to the 33.0 minutes he has been asked to log this year.
Showing up offensively in big games is the next step LeVert has to take. For now, though, he has done fairly well and is deserving of a slightly above-average grade.
Glenn Robinson III, Small Forward
Going from the fourth scoring option to being "the guy" is proving to be a tough transition for Glenn Robinson III. Yes, he has reached double figures in all but one game, an injury-shortened effort at that. He has also been active on the glass (5.3 rebounds per contest).
Robinson's averages have not exactly matched up with the game tape, though. Often, he is not nearly aggressive enough. Other possessions, he tries to do too much and winds up turning the ball over, or he is completely out of control.
Shooting is still not a strength for the coveted NBA prospect either. Robinson is shooting just 36 percent on two-point jumpers and 25 percent from beyond the arc. Considering those shots make up 81.9 percent of his attempts this season, his numbers are far from efficient.
A dismal 4-of-14 effort in a loss to Iowa State proves how important Robinson is to this team. When he is struggling to find the bottom of the net, Michigan is vulnerable and cannot contend for a Big Ten conference title.
Unless he is able to find a happy medium between out of control and passive, the Wolverines are in trouble going forward.
Jon Horford, Center
This grade may seem a little high considering how Jon Horford does not contribute a whole lot to Michigan's offense, but this has been the biggest knock on him for years. Expectations are much lower for him than Glenn Robinson III, or even true freshman Zak Irvin.
Even though Horford has started all six games, he is not exactly playing starter-type minutes. The only two games he saw the floor for more than 14 minutes were against South Carolina State and UMass Lowell.
As Mitch McGary continues to regain his conditioning, Horford could see a bit of a drop in minutes, and his starting role will likely be gone as well. The Wolverines still need what he brings to the table in terms of rebounding and shot blocking.
The Grand Ledge, Mich., native has not been detrimental to the Wolverines, but he has not been much more than average either.
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