The Michigan Wolverines survived the Big Ten and threw the throttle wide open on their way to the national championship game, losing 82-76 to the Louisville Cardinals. The obvious centerpiece of that team was point guard Trey Burke, the dynamite sophomore who won National Player of the Year and ultimately left for the NBA draft, where he was the ninth overall pick.
But Michigan is ranked No. 9 in the preseason coaches poll for a reason. The team will be young—most of the regular rotation will be either sophomores or freshmen—but John Beilein has another group saturated with sharpshooters and capable scorers. Beilein has no fewer than two leading Big Ten Player of the Year candidates in Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, and Nik Stauskas is one of the top shooters in the country. Michigan won't be as reliant on newcomers as, say, the Kentucky Wildcats, and the Wolverines won't be as loaded with veterans as the Michigan State Spartans. Still, somewhere in between is a nice place to be, and Beilein surely isn't complaining about the mix he has for the upcoming season.
Spike Albrecht, So.: Remember Spike Albrecht? That was fun. The 5'11 guard captivated the hearts and/or minds of every college basketball (with the exception of Louisville fans) with his 17 first-half points in the title game when Burke was in foul trouble. Albrecht had never scored more than seven points in a game and he averaged 8.1 minutes per game, and here he was, hitting 6-of-7 from the floor including four three-pointers at halftime of the national championship game. He was scoreless in the second half, but that didn't stop him from tweeting at Kate Upton in his moment of temporary notoriety. With Burke gone, Albrecht will compete with Derrick Walton for the starting job. No matter who wins the job, Albrecht will certainly see floor time as a shooter alongside the dead-eyed Nik Stauskas. Albrecht is not great defensively, and his play there will go a long way in determining his role.
Derrick Walton, Fr.: Before The Albrecht Half, Walton was going to be the undisputed guard to replace Burke. The 247Sports.com composite rankings had him as the 45th overall player in the Class of 2013 and the No. 10 point guard. He averaged over 26 points per game as a high school senior, though he doesn't classify as a scorer as much as it was, he was by far the best scoring option on his high school team. Walton excels as a passer, and with an offense including Robinson, Stauskas and McGary, he'll have plenty of capable scorers to feed. That said, he can still score. He's especially effective from the perimeter.
Zak Irvin, Fr.: Irvin was the highest-ranked recruit in Beilein's class, falling in the 247Sports.com composite rankings as the No. 29 player in the class. But because of Michigan's depth at the two and three, Irvin isn't guaranteed a huge bulk of minutes early in his career. He'll have to compete with proven guys like Stauskas and Robinson, and Caris LeVert as well. Still, Irvin stands a good chance to log plenty of minutes for one reason: defense. Beilein has been impressed early in practices with his defense, according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. And it shouldn't surprise you to know that in Irvin, Beilein landed another 6'5 wing who can shoot the lights out.
Caris LeVert, So.: LeVert didn't see a whole lot of time as a freshman—and what time he did see was mostly as a defensive substitution—but he stands to see more this season as he may provide relief at point guard, Brendan F. Quinn of MLive.com reported. That kind of flexibility will help him see the floor more, and an occasional backcourt of the 6'6 sophomore with 6'6 Stauskas would presumably present match-up problems across the court.
Nik Stauskas, So.: Stauskas emerged as quite a threat last season, scoring a career-high 22 points in the regional final against the Florida Gators to help secure the Wolverines' Final Four bid. He wasn't totally immune from freshman mistakes, as he had three scoreless games in the season, including no points in 18 minutes in the Final Four against the Syracuse Orange. Stauskas being the tall sharpshooter that was designed to break a zone defense, such a no-show was not a good look. The biggest lingering question about Stauskas heading into his sophomore season is about his defense, which he'll have to prove in an expanded role as a sophomore. He can't be a spot shooter any more.
Glenn Robinson III, So.: Robinson hit the gym in the summer to work on his body—it's hard to remember sometimes that college players, no matter how high-profile, come to school as 18-year-olds—and apparently, the work paid off. Michigan's equipment to measure vertical leaps only reaches up to 12 feet, 3 inches, and Robinson maxed it out upon returning to school for his sophomore season, according to Quinn. Robinson is the leading returner in terms of minutes played, having played 33.6 minutes per game as a freshman. Robinson, who averaged 11.0 points per game last year, also spent the summer working on ball-handling and shooting, Quinn said. Such projections could see him turn into one of the best players in the Big Ten.
Mitch McGary, So.: McGary only started two games all season before the NCAA Tournament, and then he started all six games in the Wolverines' run to the championship game and was one of the best players in the entire tournament. In the six games, he averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. McGary has dealt with back issues this fall that have prevented him from fully practicing yet this fall, according to Mark Snyder of Freep.com. In September, Beilein told the Associated Press he was hopeful the problem would not linger during the season. If he's healthy, he has the shooting ability and presence on the floor to be one of the best big men in the country.
Mark Donnal, Fr.: The 6'9 freshman was the third in a three-man recruiting class, ranking at No. 89 in the 247Sports.com composite rankings. Donnal is a bona fide stretch four, and he'll add a dimension that will keep teams from collapsing on McGary. He can stretch all the way out to the three-point line, and he will.
Jordan Morgan, Sr.: The only upperclassman in Michigan's projected regular rotation, Morgan was the starter at the five until McGary supplanted him at the end of the season. He never fully recovered from a February injury; if he recovered physically, he wasn't able to put it behind him mentally, and he played a total of 25 minutes in the NCAA Tournament. As the old man on campus, Beilein is expecting Morgan to bring leadership as much as anything tangible in a box score, Snyder reported.