Michigan Basketball: Biggest Lessons from Wolverines' 2014 Offseason so Far
Ever since Michigan ended its basketball season on March 30, 2014 in a heartbreaking loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight, a lot has happened in the offseason that has shaped how the upcoming season may play out.
Along the way, the Wolverines have learned a few things over the past few months as we enter the 2014-15 season. So, what follows are the four biggest lessons learned over the offseason thus far.
Michigan Lost a Lot of Firepower This Offseason
This is quite the “Captain Obvious” statement, as Michigan lost five crucial members of its 2013-14 squad.
Among the losses were three NBA draft picks in Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary (although he was lost early in the year due to injury) and Glenn Robinson III. Not only that, but the Wolverines also lost some low-post production with the graduation of Jordan Morgan and the transfer of Jon Horford to Florida.
No matter how good of a coach John Beilein is and regardless of the talent returning, that is quite a loss to absorb. However, don't bet against Beilein, as he knows how to reload and compete at a high level just as well as anyone.
Which bring us to the next point.
Michigan Brings in a Talented Class to Offset Their Personnel Loss
With perhaps knowing that he would need a large recruiting haul with the possibility of McGary, Stauskas and Robinson III all leaving early, Beilein roped in a rather impressive class.
In the fall, Michigan signed Kameron Chatman, Ricky Doyle, D.J. Wilson and Austin Hatch. Then after McGary, Stauskas and Robinson III all officially declared for the NBA draft, Beilein and company brought in versatile guard/forwards in Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins in the spring signing period.
Collectively it is a nice class, as it is ranked as the No. 28 class according to 247Sports. If there is one thing Beilein can do better than almost any coach, it is to find jewels on the recruiting trail and coach them into stars. There may be a learning curve with this class, but in due time it is sure to leave its mark.
Caris LeVert Undergoes Successful Foot Surgery
In May, LeVert had to undergo foot surgery after playing on a fractured foot for part of the 2013-14 season, reported Brendan Quinn of MLive.com.
As the leading returning scorer (12.9 PPG) and rebounder (4.3 RPG), the health of LeVert is crucial to the success of Michigan in 2014-15. With the scoring punch lost, as well as the leadership departing from last year's Elite Eight team, LeVert will have to be on top of his game this year.
Considering how he looked on the recent Italy trip, where he averaged 14.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.0 steals in four games, he should be raring to go in November.
Wolverines Have Encouraging Italy Trip
Speaking of the Italy trip, well, the whole experience had to be considered a smashing success.
The Wolverines went 4-0 while while averaging 101 points per game and shooting 55.4 percent from the field in their tour against Italian all-star clubs.
In the process, several players exceeded expectations. Granted, the competition can hardly be described as fierce, but the trip was a great way to build team chemistry and camaraderie. Aside from the way LeVert looked and played, three players in particular had impressive trips:
- Zak Irvin: Perhaps playing with a chip on his shoulder and trying to prove those who say he is not a complete player wrong, Irvin had a fabulous trip, averaging 20.8 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting a blistering 68.8 percent from the field. He also did what he does from beyond the arc, nailing down a fantastic 12 of 16 of his three-point field goals. All in all, it was a trip to build on for the budding sophomore.
- Mark Donnal: With some issues and inexperience along the front line, Donnal showed real promise in Italy, averaging 10.2 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting a sizzling 69.5 percent from the floor. Considering all of the big men who departed, Donnal will be counted on to be a big factor down low, and his showing in Italy was an encouraging start.
- Ricky Doyle: Another big man who stood out in Italy was Doyle. He also answered the bell, averaging a healthy 11.8 points and eight rebounds. Together with Donnal, Doyle looks like he'll be a key cog in the middle for the Wolverines.
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