Michigan Basketball: Breaking Down Wolverines Guards for 2014-15 Season
Great guard play goes a long way. Just ask UConn's Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie, or even Michigan State's Tom Izzo, and they'd all say the same thing.
Title outcomes are often left in the hands of the backcourt.
Of course, Michigan's John Beilein is probably aware of that too. Due to a wonderfully talented and developing corps of guards, his Wolverines are considered to be a shining example of Big Ten hoops—not to mention the fact that they're backcourts have been among the NCAA's most consistent over the past few years.
Getting to the national championship with a developing team, only to return to the Elite Eight with a "down" version of his squad speaks volumes to Beilein's leadership and ability to motivate. With Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert headlining the show, Michigan certainly boasts something to talk about.
With that being said, this slideshow will analyze Beilein's backcourt from top to the bottom. To avoid confusion and the debate over whether a player is a guard, small forward or a wing...MGoBlue.com's roster will serve as the final say. If MGo says LeVert's a guard, he's a guard.
And since Kameron Chatman's listed as a F/G, he'll get a slight mention.
With the exception of freshman Austin Hatch, Michigan has five full-time guards on its roster: Walton, LeVert, Spike Albrecht, Andrew Dakich and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.
Note: Zak Irvin, Kameron Chatman and Aubrey Dawkins each carry the G/F designation on MGoBlue. However, they're going to be listed in the following quick summary.
Michigan guards 2014-15
Derrick Walton (6'1", 185 pounds, Sophomore)
I'm leaning toward calling him the best point man in the Big Ten.
Caris LeVert (6'6", 185 pounds, Jr.)
Big Ten Player of the Year finalist. Book it.
Zak Irvin (6'6", 200, Sophomore)
He can shoot the ball from anywhere. Next step is honing other skills, getting stronger and becoming more consistent.
Spike Albrecht (5'11", 175; Jr.)
Another sharpshooter. Streaky. But when he's hot, he's good from The Big House—or center court during a title game.
Andrew Dakich (6'2", 185 pounds, Sophomore)
Best dancer/bench partier in the Big Ten.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (6'4", 200; Fr.)
Raw but talented. I can't imagine him seeing a ton of minutes this season.
Aubrey Dawkins (6'6", 190 pounds; Freshman)
Other than to gain experience, there really isn't much for Dawkins to do this season. He's better off learning the ropes rather than trying to jump right into action.
Kameron Chatman (6'7", 210 pounds; Freshman)
Simply put, Chatman is going to be a special player for the Wolverines. Beilein's done an excellent job with recruiting, but I'm putting Chatman near the top of the list. He's that impressive. Don't be surprised to see the true frosh carry his weight and more this season.
Walton is one of those players who will be as good as he wants to be. It's cliche to say that, but it's true. With an already-tremendous resume in place, the sophomore stands to boost his stock a great deal this season by simply continuing what he did as a freshman: develop.
Walton isn't overly flashy, but he's incredibly gifted. If you're looking for an exciting player to follow, choose him—you won't be disappointed.
Now that's not say that he's perfect. He's far from that. As a point guard, he must take better care of the ball. This past season, his assist-to-turnover ratio was a paltry 2.9-to-1.5, and that wasn't even good enough to crack the conference's top-10 leaderboard.
Walton can be a 3-to-1, assist-to-turnover-ratio guy, at least.
Despite averaging 7.9 points per game as a sophomore, he proved to be one of the league's better long-range marksmen, coming in at No. 8 overall with a .410 shooting percentage.
On a great night, he can give Michigan 16 to 20 points and five or six assists. Those are sturdy digits for a point guard.
UMHoops.com's Dylan Burkhardt feels that Walton is on the verge of leading the Wolverines. And he's right:
Walton may end up leading Michigan by example, but LeVert will likely end up leading it in points.
And in highlight plays. Don't forget those, as they're an important piece to his puzzle.
As mentioned earlier, if I had to choose today, I'd pick LeVert for Big-Ten Player of the Year. Based on his performance in 2013-14, a lot of people feel the same way, so that's not any revelation. Check the mock drafts too. As of mid-July 2014, most had LeVert being selected within the first 15 to 20 picks.
If that's not enough to intrigue you, perhaps this will: Considering that Michigan ran a Stauskas-centric offense a year ago, LeVert's average of 12.9 points per game was certainly noteworthy. It's not often that a team gets lucky and lands a Stauskas. To his credit, LeVert appeared to be fine with a secondary role. This is his year, and his patience should pay off.
From the baseline to the free-throw line, LeVert is a threat wherever he goes. He's improving defensively too, which will help ease the burden of losing power in the frontcourt. He's going to be a terrific all-around player for Beilein.
University of Michigan's Caris Levert: Quick Q & A: http://t.co/8gSce0sAjj— John Gordon (@JG_82) July 17, 2014
Like LeVert, Irvin has NBA-level talent, and 2014-15 could be, as it might be with LeVert, the farewell tour for Irvin, as he too is projected as a first-round prospect for the 2015 NBA draft.
But forget all of that right now and think of what he's going to do during his sophomore year, which will be a lot more than he did as a frosh. It was almost disheartening to see so little of Irvin (about seven points and 15 minutes per game). But understanding the long-term approach of the Wolverines, it was easy to see why: Beilein was priming him for a bigger chunk of responsibility.
There's definitely a window of opportunity.
Michigan's Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III leave for NBA, should open up playing time for HSE's Zak Irvin. http://t.co/92TcFS1UVq— IndyStar Sports (@IndyStarSports) April 16, 2014
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81