Top 25 Countdown: No. 9 Michigan Wolverines

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 24-10, 13-5 Big Ten (t-1st); Lost in the Opening Round of the NCAA tournament to Ohio

Head Coach: John Beilein

Key Losses: Zack Novak, Evan Smotrycz, Stu Douglass

Newcomers: Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht

Projected Lineup:

G: Trey Burke, So.
G: Tim Hardaway Jr, Jr.
F: Glenn Robinson III, Fr.
F: Mitch McGary, Fr.
C: Jordan Morgan, Jr.
Bench: Nik Stauskas, Fr.; Jon Horford, So.; Matt Vogrich, Sr.; Spike Albrecht, Fr.

Outlook: On paper, this Michigan team is a very easy one to fall in love with.

It starts at the point guard spot, where John Beilein will have one of the best in the country at his disposal in Trey Burke. Burke was one of the country’s most pleasant surprises last season, as he filled in for NBA-bound Darius Morris by putting together an all-american caliber season while carrying the Wolverines to a share of the regular season title in the Big Ten. To get an idea of just how impressive and unexpected Burke’s season was, he went from the outside of most top 100 lists as a high school senior to sharing the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award with Cody Zeller.

Part of the reason that Burke was so effective for the Wolverines last season is that he’s excellent in pick-and-roll situations, something that Burke was called upon to do incredibly often last year. Essentially, what Beilein did is put the ball in Burke’s hands at the end of a clock, gave him a high-ball screen and let him create. More often than not, it worked out well, as Burke averaged 14.8 points and 4.6 assists on the season for one of the slower teams in college basketball.

At this point in his career, Burke can probably be called a scorer that is capable of being a playmaker, which was required of him last season with the makeup of Michigan’s roster. That may not be the case this season, as the Wolverines will have plenty of weapons.

Tim Hardaway Jr. has proven himself to be a capable slasher, averaging 14.6 points last season as Michigan’s secondary offensive option. He’ll slide down to the shooting guard role this season, meaning that it would be nice if he could, you know, shoot a little better than last year’s 28.3% clip from three. But Hardaway’s strength will always be as a big, athletic scorer, not as a spot-up shooter. Glenn Robinson III will slide over and play the role that Hardaway did last season, and the top 20 recruit actually has a similar skill-set to Hardway. He’s a little bigger and stronger than Hardaway, but he’s another big-time athlete on the wing that is capable of scoring in multiple ways.

Nik Stauskas is another freshman wing that will see a lot of time this season. Beilein has compared him to a five-tool prospect in baseball given the 6-foot-6 wing’s all-around ability. The most important may be how well he shoots the ball, as neither Robinson nor Hardaway are what you would call a knockdown shooter. Matt Vogrich and Spike Albrecht will be the guys that see emergency minutes on the perimeter.

This may be the best front court that has ever graced the roster of a Beilein coached team. It starts with junior Jordan Morgan, a strong, 6-foot-8 center that really seemed to build a chemistry with Burke in the pick-and-roll by the end of the season. He’ll be joined up front by Mitch McGary, a four-star recruit that was once considered a top three prospect in the class. McGary’s ceiling has dropped a bit, but that should take nothing away from his ability as a basketball player. He’s aggressive and he’s strong, although he sometimes relies too much on outhustling opponents. He ball skills definitely can stand to be polished. He has a bit of a young Tyler Hansbrough in him.

The third guy to keep an eye on will be Jon Horford, Al’s younger brother. He was injured much of last season, but he’s the biggest and most athletic of Michigan’s bigs.

There is a ton of talent on the Michigan roster, but there is also plenty of reason to be concerned. For the first time that I can remember, Beilein will be fielding a team that not only plays two true big men, but two big men that are nothing like the Kevin Pittsnoggles of yore. There is also a dearth of perimeter shooting for the Wolverines, which could also pose a problem. You see, when you hear the name John Beilein, you think of defenses spread thin by sharpshooters and big men that are more comfortable 20 feet from the rim than two feet from the rim. That’s not there this season. Will it be a problem?

Predictions?: Beilein’s teams usually execute well enough offensively, taking advantage of mismatches, that they can survive the fact they struggle defensively and on the glass. This group? Well, they look much better prepared to defend and rebound than run a typical Beilein offense. Does that mean things won’t work out in Ann Arbor? Not at all. Beilein can adapt his system to the strengths of his players and his players can adapt to fill the roles they’ll be asked to play. It’s just … interesting. How well the Wolverines and Beilein can manage with this kind of roster makeup will be one of the more important subplots of the season. Beilein’s always won with guys that everyone else overlooked, so what happens if he proves he can win with the guys everyone else wants?

As for this season, I think Michigan will be right there with Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, battling it out for second place in the conference behind Indiana.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

CBT Podcast: Recapping the first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament

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Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic joined Rob Dauster for an epic, two-hour podcast on the first weekend of the tournament. It was so good that we had to split the podcast into two parts. On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the South and West Regions, from Sister Jean to UMBC to Nevada’s comebacks to Kentucky’s chances at a Final Four.

On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the East and Midwest Regions, from Villanova and Duke steamrolling to Michigan State collapsing to Syracuse and Clemson and Texas Tech and Purdue. It’s all in there.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Eight viral heroes from first weekend of March Madness

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One of my favorite parts of the NCAA tournament is seeing who comes out of nowhere to turn into a viral celebrity during this month of madness.

By my estimation, we had eight true candidates for the award of March Madness Viral Celebrity of the Year. Here they are:


He was more fired up for Houston’s success in the tournament than any Houston fan in the history of basketball in the city of Houston.


Jordan Poole is spelled a lot like Jordan Peele, which inevitably led to people tweeting at Peele instead of Poole. Peele’s thank you tweet was a highlight of the first weekend.


Having to answer questions from a bunch of reporters after suffering the most humiliating moment of your life is not an easy thing to do. Having to answer ridiculous and stupid questions could be intolerable, which is why I loved Ty Jerome’s response to a stupid question he was asked:


I loved seeing Robert Williams’ teammate do a panotmine windmill in the background while Williams was throwing down a windmill in real time on Providence:


Nevada head coach Eric Musselman has led his team to the Sweet 16, cussed on live television and gone shirtless to celebrate with his team, but the star of the Musselman family is his daughter Mariah:


He really does have great hair:

2. @UMBCAthletics

This dude lived the dream of every twitter user out there. When your shot is there, you have to take it.


Mic drop:

VIDEO: Eric Musselman celebrates Nevada win without a shirt

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Nevada head coach Eric Musselman went shirtless to celebrate his team’s come-from-behind win over No. 2 seed Cincinnati on Sunday.

I guess this is better than dropping F-bombs live on national TV. Maybe that’s why they had Steve Lappas talking over him …

Penny Hardaway to be named next Memphis head coach

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The worst-kept secret in college basketball no longer appears to be a secret: Penny Hardaway is going to be the next coaching at the University of Memphis.

ESPN is reporting that a deal has been agreed upon. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is reporting that Penny was waiting for his season to end with East High School before he made anything official. NBC Sports can confirm that an announcement is expected to be made early this week, likely as soon as Tuesday, to introduce the former Memphis and NBA star as Tubby Smith’s replacement.

The truth, however, is that we all knew this was what would be happening the second that Memphis formally fired Tubby Smith. Hell, we knew it a month before that decision was made final. This was always how it was going to play out.

What’s interesting to me is now the discussion of whether or not Penny will be able to handle being a Division I head coach, because it’s been hit or miss with basketball programs hiring legends of their past. Chris Mullin and St. John’s hasn’t exactly gone to plan but Fred Hoiberg was quite successful at Iowa State. Kevin Ollie won a title with UConn then fell off a cliff. Patrick Ewing’s start wasn’t great, but he was better than expected.

Where does Penny fall on this scale?

Well, let me just drop this section of a column from Geoff Calkins in here:

Hardaway isn’t a guy who woke up one morning and decided he’d like to be a Division I head coach. He’s not a former player who got bored with retirement and decided he’d like to do something other than play golf.

Hardaway started coaching at middle school. Middle school! Because an old friend needed some help.

Then he built one of the best AAU programs in the country. Then he spent years coaching a high school team.

Does that sound like someone who doesn’t want to roll up his sleeves and do the work? Does that sound like someone who is just in it for the glory and the glitz?

The truth is, if it weren’t for Hardaway’s iconic stature, he might be characterized as a grinder, as a guy who worked his way up from the lowest levels of basketball on the strength of his relationship with the kids.

I think that this is going to work out for both Penny and Memphis, especially if Penny hires a staff that can help him with the intricacies of running a college basketball program.

2018 NCAA Tournament: All-First Weekend Team

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PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND: Jevon Carter, West Virginia

So Carter’s numbers themselves were ridiculous this weekend. He had 21 points, eight assists, six steals and five boards in a first round win over Murray State. He followed that up with 28 points, five assists, five steals and four boards in a win over in-state rival Marshall to advance to the Sweet 16. For the weekend, he shot 54 percent from the floor and 63 percent from three.

But perhaps the more telling state in regards to what Carter did this weekend are the numbers that the Murray State and Marshall stars put up this weekend. Jon Elmore — whose averages of 23 points, seven assists and six boards matched what Markelle Fultz averaged a season ago — was 4-for-12 from the floor with eight turnovers in Marshall’s second round loss. Jonathan Stark, who entered the tournament averaging 22 points, had nine points on 1-for-12 shooting in Murray State’s first round loss.

On Friday night, we get Jalen Brunson squaring off with Carter.

Buckle up.


  • ROB GRAY, Houston: Gray is the only guy on this list that didn’t reach the Sweet 16 — blame Jordan Poole for that — but he did put together one of the most memorable and impressive first round NCAA tournament performances I can ever remember when he dropped 39 points and a game-winner on San Diego State.
  • KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: Evans averaged 22.5 points in this weekend’s two games, but what got him on this list was that he averaged 16.5 points in the second half of those two games, closing out a come-from-behind win against Stephen F. Austin with drive after drive and hitting the go-ahead three in the win over Florida.
  • ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga: Not only did the Zags freshman averaged 21.5 points in two games — including a career-high 28 points, a career-high 12 boards, a career-high six threes and his first career double-double against Ohio State — but he hit the dagger in both of those games; a game-winner in the final minutes against UNCG and a three to put the Zags up six in the final two minutes against Ohio State.
  • SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, Kentucky: We spent the entire season talking about how Kentucky didn’t have a star this year. That may not be true anymore. SGA averaged 23 points, 7.0 boards, 6.5 assists and 3.5 steals as the Wildcats reached the Sweet 16 as the highest remaining seed in the South Region.
  • THE MARTIN TWINS, Nevada: Caleb was the hero in the come-from-behind win over Texas, doing bonkers in overtime, while Cody had 25 points, seven assists and six boards in the come-from-behind win over Cincinnati. But mostly they were both awesome all weekend.