Michigan men’s basketball season preview: A changing of the guard in Ann Arbor

(File Photo)

By GEOFF MEHL, Staff Reporter

The University of Michigan’s men’s basketball team made a magical run in the NCAA tournament last season that many did not see coming.

After taking a trip to the National Championship, the Wolverines fell to the Louisville Cardinals in a heartbreaking defeat for Michigan fans. This season the expectations couldn’t be higher for this talented young team.

Losing star sophomore point guard Trey Burke and junior shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA was an impactful loss on the floor and in the locker room but Blue still has the talent to be successful in the 2013-14 season.

Michigan is returning an excellent young nucleus of battle tested players and have some highly touted freshman coming into the fold for coach Jon Beilein.

Here is the first part of a positional breakdown to introduce fans to some new and old faces of the Wolverines backcourt.

Point Guard

As a freshman, Trey Burke made an immediate impact on an emerging Michigan team. This season they hope Derrick Walton Jr. can do the same. The Harper Woods native is a four star recruit with unlimited potential. The 6’1” 185lbs freshman is strong on defense with speed and quickness to stay with his man and has the vision to dish the ball to his scorers on the offensive side of the court. Walton Jr. will be brought along slowly in the early season to get him acclimated to the college game. Don’t be surprised if he makes his way into the starting lineup in the later part of the season.

Michigan also has some experience returning at point guard. Sophomore Spike Albrecht will most likely be running the point for Blue when the season opens. He played in 39 games last season and had a career best 17 points in the first half of the National Championship game. Also returning is sophomore guard Caris LeVert, who will play a much bigger role this year. LeVert was known for his length and defensive play last season but let’s not forget the kid can shoot. He was effective off the bench and should make the leap to the sixth man this year.

Freshman guard Andrew Dakich is also in the mix at point guard this year but may not see as much time as the rest. He will mostly get his work off the bench during the regular season but look for him to be more of a developmental player in 13.

Shooting Guard

Tim Hardaway Jr. was a constant the last three years at the shooting guard position for the Wolverines. Now that he is gone, it is time for some new faces to step up and create their own legacy. Freshman shooting guard Zak Irvin should be the guy fans will be looking for. The 6’6” 200lbs Irvin has the ability to score the basketball, taking it off the dribble and shooting from the outside. His size and skill set will give Beilein the flexibility to use Irvin also at the small forward position. Michigan will look heavily upon the freshman to help in search of a Big Ten title.

As for those who are returning at shooting guard, Nik Stauskas will be leaned on as the main weapon from the two position. Stauskas was an integral part of what Michigan did in the tournament and will have a much bigger role as a sophomore. He is known for his abilities to shoot the three and can also get in the paint when looked upon. Count on Stauskas to be a budding star for this Michigan team.

Freshman guard Cole McConnell will also be an interesting player this year. McConnell will likely get some time in the rotation during the easier part of the non-conference schedule.

The guard play will be important for Blue as they move forward in 13. The tandem of Hardaway Jr. and Burke were one of the best in the country and will be hard to replace but this team has potential to produce another set of impactful guards that will grow as the season rolls on. Next week be on the lookout for part two of the positional breakdown, where we put the focus on forward and center.