Most backcourts struggle in the year after two NBA first-round draft picks depart, unless they're a Kentucky or Kansas that can order up multiple McDonald's All-Americans like so many McNuggets. Michigan doesn't fall into that category, but the Wolverines are still in good shape without Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Most of the time, anyway.
Sophomore Nik Stauskas is playing at an All-Big Ten level, averaging 16.7 points per game with a superb 65.2 percent true shooting percentage, good for 25th nationally, according to Pomeroy. In his first eight Big Ten games, he was polishing his case for conference player of the year, averaging 18.6 per game.
Stauskas has struggled over the last five (10.2 PPG), but even when he's not scoring, he can find other ways to impact the game, such as eight assists against Nebraska.
When Stauskas isn't feeling it, classmate Caris LeVert can take over. He's averaging 16.8 points per game during Stauskas' recent slump. The problem is that he can be too deferential, posting five single-digit Big Ten games. His three biggest scoring games came in Michigan losses, illustrating a reluctance to assert himself when the normal flow of the offense is rolling.
Freshmen Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin have each had superb games in recent weeks, with the two being primary catalysts for last week's win over Ohio State. Both have also had ugly games, such as their very next outing against Wisconsin. The two combined for one basket on 13 shots against the tough Badgers defense. So, essentially, they're freshmen.
Sophomore Spike Albrecht has lost minutes as Walton improves at point guard, but he's still the guy who struck hard in last season's national title game and put up a 10-point, four-assist game against top-ranked Arizona. He can't be ignored on the scouting report.
The Wolverines need greater assertiveness from LeVert rather than waiting until the team needs to be rescued. Overall, the players do a great job of running coach John Beilein's intricate offense, but if they have an off shooting day, they're not all strong enough defenders to stifle their opponents the way Ohio State or Michigan State can.