In a valiant effort against top-seeded Duke, the Michigan Wolverines fell an inch short of forcing overtime. This loss was no surprise, but Duke received more trouble than they expected.
Michigan’s 2010-2011 campaign was middle-of-the-road for an average Big Ten team, but this season has proven great promise for next year, the year after that and beyond.
The Wolverines have no seniors on their roster. And out of the players that receive regular playing time, only two of them are juniors.
But already, these kids have proven they can play with the best. They took Kansas into overtime, Duke to the final buzzer, and held two out of three contests with Ohio State very close.
Fast forward to next year. And they year after that. Kansas, Duke, and Ohio State will have refreshed lineups, but the same Michigan Wolverines will be taking the floor, having improved and gained experience since those close losses.
Darius Morris has tons of skill handling the ball and finding the open man, but he beams with the potential to improve. He lacks a jump shot. The majority of his points are scored in the lane. If he can improve his jump shooting, and can minimize his mistakes, he can be one of the top players in the nation.
Jordan Morgan holds down the front court on his own. As Michigan’s only true big man, but only 6’8’’, he plays way bigger than he actually is. Only a freshman, Morgan has already demonstrated great paint presence as well as a great ability to cut to the basket—a deadly combination when combined with Morris’ acute awareness.
Then there’s the group of shooting-guard/small-forward types. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Zach Novak have the tendency to get hot from behind the arc as well as the ability to grab rebounds and defend bigger opponents in the post, while Evan Smotrycz has the ability to find the hoop from anywhere on the floor.
The Wolverines were out-rebounded 641 to 536 in Big Ten play this year, signaling their lack of size. It was evident by the way they couldn’t stop Jared Sullinger or any Plumlees or Morrises this year. But they have proven that they can still compete despite that weakness by spreading the floor and using their speed.
If they have the talent to finish fourth in the Big Ten and compete with the nation’s top teams with this youth and inexperience, imagine what they will be like next year. They won’t need to adjust to new chemistry. They just need to work on their skills, and this already exciting team will only get better.