For nearly the entire 2013-14 season, everyone around the Michigan basketball program has been waiting for Glenn Robinson III to live up to the hype placed on his shoulders over the summer. Over the past three games, he appears to have finally broken through, thanks to the development of Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr.
With LeVert blossoming at the 3 and Walton looking as comfortable as ever at the point, Robinson has been able to do much more of what he did a year ago. Finish plays at the rim.
This has always been his greatest strength. No one has ever been able to question Robinson's athleticism and ability to be a dynamic finisher. Those traits are what had NBA executives pondering whether or not he could be a lottery pick in the draft.
Those projections have taken a bit of a tumble after an up-and-down campaign for the sophomore small forward.
As told by ESPN's Myron Medcalf, this is how the season was supposed to go for Robinson:
He’d return to a more natural small forward slot after competing at the four-spot last season alongside Tim Hardaway Jr. on the wing. John Beilein would run his best stuff through the promising sophomore, who had a chance to make a lot of money last summer before choosing to return to Ann Arbor with his buddy Mitch McGary.
Needless to say, things did not go as planned.
Prior to the last three games, Robinson either scored in single-digits or shot worse than 45 percent from the field in 12 of Michigan's 24 contests. The sporadic production came as a result of forced jumpers, too much one-on-one action and an excess of three-point field goal attempts.
At the time, this is what the Wolverines needed from him. LeVert and Walton were only starting to scratch the surface of their potential and could not be the creators they are today.
Since January 18th, LeVert has averaged 16.1 points per game and shot better than 45 percent in six of those 11 contests. The long-armed Ohioan also grabbed 5.8 rebounds and handed out 2.5 assists during that stretch.
Things started to click for Walton once Michigan traveled to East Lansing. The former 4-star prospect lit Michigan State up to the tune of 19 points. He then followed it up with 14 points against Purdue and a 13-point performance in a loss at Indiana. Since then, Walton has only scored more than eight points once, but he has remained aggressive and continues to get his teammates open looks.
Spike Albrecht has had a hand in this as well with 62 assists to 11 turnovers through 27 games.
Given Robinson's recent production, there is no need for Walton to be one of the Wolverines' top scorers. He just needs to be a facilitator and avoid turnovers.
Opponents still have to respect Walton's shot, while simultaneously devoting most of their attention to LeVert and Nik Stauskas, who is undoubtedly Michigan's top weapon at the offensive end of the floor with team-highs in points (16.9) and assists (3.5) per game.
In turn, defenses have forgotten about Robinson, which has led to several uncontested drives along the baseline. These have resulted in an array of alley-oops and nifty finishes around the basket. This is a perfect example:
Here is another one from the Wolverines' recent win over Michigan State.
Walton is positioning himself to drive, while Robinson waits in the corner for the defense to adjust.
Once Walton penetrates, he draws the attention of the three Spartan defenders closest to him. Meanwhile, Robinson cuts along the baseline unguarded.
Walton throws a nifty pass through the traffic he attracted and Robinson throws down a two-handed dunk to finish off the play.
Situations like these are when Robinson is borderline unstoppable. At the rim this season, he is converting 88.4 percent of his attempts, according to Hoop-Math. On two-point jumpers and three-pointers, Robinson is only shooting at a 35.7 percent clip. Michigan asked him to take far too many of those shots early in the campaign out of necessity.
Now, the St. John, Ind. native's role is simply to be a finisher, much like last season when scouts could not get enough of him.
Robinson is a much more efficient player in this role. The last three games have proven such. In those contests, he averaged 14 points and shot 56.3 percent (18-of-32) from the field. Most importantly, the majority of his attempts have been near the basket, including this game-winning dagger at Purdue.
Down the closing stretch of the regular season and entering the NCAA tournament, the Wolverines are going to be scarier than ever, so long as Robinson does not fall back into the habit of settling for jump shots. That part of his game still needs some work, which is why another year in Ann Arbor might be necessary before he heads to the NBA.
Regardless of whether or not Robinson is truly ready for the next level is irrelevant right now, though.
All that matters is Robinson's return to the role which helped Michigan advance to a Final Four in 2012-13. The way he is playing, the Wolverines' best basketball may still be ahead of them.
Want to talk more Michigan basketball? Follow me on Twitter: @Zach_Dirlam.
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