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.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game.

Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen to declare for NBA Draft

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Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen will announce today that he is declaring for the NBA Draft and signing with an agent, according to multiple reports.

The program is holding a press conference for Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.

Markkanen is a 7-footer from Finland that averaged 15.6 points this season while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc. He’s projected as a top ten pick, and his size and versatility should make him a valuable piece given the way that the NBA is trending.

There is very little surprise with this decision. The expectation always was that Markkanen would be gone after one season.

The news was first reported by Scout.com.

Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller at Dayton

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Dayton has hired Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller as head coach, the program announced on Thursday.

“Anthony Grant is a proven winner with the highest integrity,” Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “He has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level. I welcome Anthony to our staff and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to aggressively pursue graduating student-athletes, winning conference championships and advancing in the NCAA tournament. He is absolutely the right coach.”

Grant is a Dayton alum. He spent 12 years as Billy Donovan’s assistant coach before finally landing a head coaching gig at VCU. After three seasons with the Rams, he took over at Alabama, where he was fired in 2015.

Grant has spent the last two years with Donovan as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I am honored and humbled to be the head coach at the University of Dayton,” Grant said. “It’s a great responsibility to take over at an institution that is so well-respected. Anyone you talk to in college basketball would say our program is a successful one, but the potential is here for so much more.”

North Carolina ‘repeals’ HB2 to satisfy NCAA, anti-LGBTQ discrimination remains legal

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Late on Wednesday night, literally hours before an NCAA-imposed deadline that would have prevented the state of North Carolina from hosting any and all NCAA tournament events until at least 2022, the lawmakers in the state announced that they have reached an agreement to repeal House Bill 2, a discriminatory law that is commonly known as the bathroom bill.

The question now is whether or not this repeal will be enough to satisfy the NCAA, who was one of a handful of businesses that pulled out of the state due to HB2. According to the AP, more than $3.7 billion in revenue will be lost over the next decade as a result.

The issue with HB2 isn’t just that it makes it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. That gets the headlines, but the real damage done by this law is that it curbs legal protections for the LGBTQ community by banning local governments from passing laws to make discrimination illegal for at least three years.

From the New York Times:

Gay rights advocates were harshly critical of the bill. Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said that the compromise would leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with no statewide anti-discrimination ordinance and no ability to seek such protections from local government for a number of years.

“What that means for the L.G.B.T. community is that we continue to be boxed out of nondiscrimination protections,” she said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of the gay rights group Equality North Carolina, said that the proposal “keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law.”

From the Charlotte Observer:

“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”

The NCAA had pulled first and second round games from Greensboro for this year’s tournament, instead allowing Greenville, South Carolina, to host the games. That’s significant because the NCAA, in 2002, pulled all events from that state because they flew the confederate flag on the statehouse grounds. The flag came down in 2015, and the NCAA rewarded the state with games; it’s hard not to see that as a statement to North Carolina.

In this year’s tournament, No. 2 seed Duke lost a game to No. 7 seed South Carolina in a game that was played in South Carolina instead of in North Carolina. The location wasn’t the only reason Duke lost that game, but you’ll have trouble convincing me that quasi-home court environment didn’t play a role.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.