Michigan Basketball: Stock Watch for the Wolverines' Starters
Following its first Final Four appearance in 20 years, this year's Michigan basketball team has gotten off to a rocky 5-3 start. Not many of the starters have lived up to expectations, which has contributed to early losses to Iowa State, Charlotte and Duke.
Head coach John Beilein has attributed some of this group's problems to youth. This is not an excuse. As Brendan F. Quinn of MLive points out, it is simply a reality the Wolverines have to deal with.
With that being said, it is time to figure out which starters are pulling their weight and where others need to improve.
This stock evaluation will take into account the Wolverines' most recent contests against Coppin State and the Blue Devils. The players will be evaluated based on expectations and overall performance.
Derrick Walton Jr., Point Guard
Stock Status: Falling
Growing pains were going to be a part of the learning process for Derrick Walton Jr. It is very rare for a freshman point guard to be comfortable leading an offense, especially one as complex as John Beilein's, from Day 1 and look nearly flawless in the process. The speed of the college game appears to be a bit much for Walton at this time, which explains his issues with turnovers in Michigan's marquee games.
In the Wolverines' three losses, he averaged three turnovers and one assist. With as many weapons as Walton has around him, those numbers are shocking.
A 3-of-8 shooting performance against Coppin State last week did not exactly turn any heads either. However, seven assists and five rebounds in that contest warranted some praise.
Once Walton adjusts to the pace of the collegiate level and continues to learn Beilein's offense through in-game reps, Michigan fans will love the point guard he becomes. When exactly that will be is unclear, but it is going to happen.
For now, however, his stock is on the decline.
Nik Stauskas, Shooting Guard
Stock Status: Level
This may come as a surprise to some considering Nik Stauskas was a non-factor in Michigan's loss to Duke, but his stock has remained level over the past week.
An ankle injury kept Stauskas sidelined against Coppin State. The Blue Devils' game plan completely took him out of Tuesday's marquee matchup. He finished with just four points and went 0-of-2 from the field.
"There’s not much you can do. They just face-guarded him in the corner," Beilein said, describing Duke’s defensive strategy to Joe Stapleton of UMHoops. "They’re going to want you to play four-on-four. There’s very little you can do for him at that time. We screened for him a couple times, and we have some things we can do, but you play 4-on-4."
"If they’re face-guarding a guy and saying, ‘you’re not going to get the ball,’ there’s very little you can do because they’re not going to play help defense (off Stauskas). If they’re not going to play help defense, then there are pockets where you can score."
Unfortunately, none of the other Wolverines were able to take advantage of those opportunities. Still, Stauskas managed to dish out four assists and grab three boards, which implies he had somewhat of a productive night given the circumstances.
Despite the quiet night against Duke, he is still averaging a team-high 18.0 points and 3.1 assists to go along with 3.7 rebounds per game.
Hopefully in upcoming contests, his teammates can make opponents pay for devoting so much attention to him.
Glenn Robinson III, Small Forward
Stock Status: Falling
Calling Glenn Robinson III's sophomore season anything but disappointing would be a denial of the facts. He has been far too passive for way too much of Michigan's first eight games, and NBA scouts have begun to take notice. Once a potential lottery pick, Robinson is in danger of falling out of the top 20, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman.
After it appeared he had regained some confidence with a 14-point, six-rebound outing against Coppin State, Robinson fell back into his old habits and looked rattled against Duke.
The 6'6", 220-pounder continues to struggle shooting from three-point range (25 percent) and is not hitting jumpers from inside the arc (38 percent) either.
Until those numbers come around, or Robinson is able to attack the lane with some authority, the Wolverines will continue to flounder against highly ranked opponents. Michigan needs him to be effective when teams are leaving him open.
A tune-up against Houston Baptist will give Robinson a chance to get back on track. Once Arizona rolls into Ann Arbor, though, he could be in for another rocky outing.
Caris LeVert, Small Forward
Stock Status: Rising
While all of his teammates looked completely overwhelmed by Duke, sophomore wing Caris LeVert finally broke through on the big stage. The Ohioan previously struggled to be a dynamic scorer against tougher competition. It is time to put that storyline to rest.
LeVert scored 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting, grabbed four rebounds and handed out a pair of assists. He also showed no hesitation when attacking the basket and finished well at the rim, which also led to seven free-throw attempts.
Combine that outing with a 15-point afternoon against Coppin State, and it all adds up to a fantastic week for LeVert.
If he is able to continue to score in Michigan's biggest games and the rest of the starters are able to piece things together, the Wolverines will be seen as a contender again once Big Ten play begins in January.
Mitch McGary, Power Forward
Stock Status: Falling
Anyone who looked at Mitch McGary's final stat line against Duke would have likely come away impressed, but box scores can be very deceiving. His 15 points and 14 rebounds were padded by garbage-time production.
A mere six points on 2-of-5 shooting in a rout of Coppin State did nothing for NBA scouts.
There are two problems McGary has right now. One, he is no longer a dominant player in pick-and-roll situations. Some has to do with youth and inexperience at point guard, while the rest is a result of opponents keying in on him more than they were able to with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. around.
Secondly, his mid-range game has not been overly sharp. Per Hoop-Math, 51.1 percent of McGary's shots this season have been two-point jumpers. He is only converting 39.1 percent of those attempts.
It has not been all bad for the big fella, though. He has looked good running the floor, handling the basketball and rebounding. Without those things, the Blue Devils would have put Michigan away by halftime.
McGary has to get better, especially when it comes to controlling his emotions in the early goings of pivotal games, but the potential for a monster season is still there.
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