Getty Images

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 9 Michigan Wolverines

1 Comment

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 31-8, 12-6 Big Ten (t-4th); Lost to Louisville in the title game

Head Coach: John Beilein (7th season at Michigan: 122-85 overall, 55-53 Big Ten)

Key Losses: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr.

Newcomers: Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, Mark Donnal

Projected Lineup

G: Derrick Walton, Fr.
G: Nik Stauskas, So.
F: Caris LeVert, So.
F: Glenn Robinson !!!, So.
C: Mitch McGary, So.
Bench: Spike Albrecht, So.; Jordan Morgan, Sr.; Zak Irvin, Fr.; Mark Donnal, Fr.; Jon Horford, Jr.

They’ll be good because …: Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. may be gone, but John Beilein still has a roster with a ton of talent on it, particularly in the sophomore class. We’ll start with the front line, where Mitch McGary made the decision to return to school after a dominating NCAA tournament performance. Glenn Robinson III followed suit, giving Beilein a pair of potential lottery picks on his front line. It will be interesting to see what kind of jump those two will make as sophomores, as both have plenty of room to grow. Robinson is an excellent athlete that too often settled into a role as a jump-shooter last season, while McGary is massive and plays hard but can still improve his back-to-the-basket game.

Nik Stauskas is another sophomore that returns with a chance to prove that he’s a more complete player than the role he played last season. Arguably the best shooter in the country, Stauskas is a better athlete than he gets credit for and can create off the bounce when he has the chance. Caris LeVert was impressive in his limited minutes a season ago and will join five-star recruit Zak Irvin round out Michigan’s perimeter attack.

source:
AP photos

But they might disappoint because …: The Wolverines lost Trey Burke, and while everyone will remember that Burke won the National Player of the Year award, they may not remember just how important he was to this team. His numbers speak for themselves — 18.8 points, 6.6 assists, and just 2.1 turnovers while posting a 121.2 usage rate while using 29.0% of Michigan’s possessions in the 35.3 minutes he played. Those are monstrous numbers, and it reflects the fact that John Beilein’s offense last season was structured around Burke’s ability to create off the dribble and in pick-and-roll actions. He got McGary his dunks. He created the open looks for Stauskas and Robinson. He broke down defenders one-on-one. His importance cannot be overstated.

And this season, Michigan more-or-less returns the same team, with LeVert and Irvin playing the role of Hardaway, without Burke. In his stead resides Spike Albrecht, the darling of the title game after scoring 17 first half points, and freshman Derrick Walton. So here’s the question: Can those two fill the void left by Burke? Can the rest of the roster increase their production enough that the loss of Burke can be mitigated?

Outlook: Michigan has plenty of talented hoopers on their roster, and at the end of the day, betting on talent is going to earn you more wins than it will losses. But just how good Michigan ends up being this season will depend entirely on two things: the development of their awesome sophomore class — McGary, Robinson, Stauskas, LeVert — and the play of point guard duo Albrecht and Walton.

Frankly, I think that just how much the sophomores are capable of doing on a basketball court was overshadowed by the fact that it was in Michigan’s best interest to have the ball in Burke’s hands. I think Robinson is more than just a stand-still shooter even though that was more-or-less the end of his role a year ago. The same can be said for Stauskas. I think LeVert is going to have a big year now that he is in line to see a bump in minutes, and McGary already thrives in his role as a rebounder and physical presence in the paint. Michigan should compete for a Big Ten title; anything less than a top four finish in the conference and a top four seed in the NCAA tournament will be a disappointment.

Wesley Iwundu, Kansas State knock off No. 1 Oklahoma

Kansa State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) pulls down a rebound against Mississippi during an NCAA college basketball game in Manhattan, Kansas, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (Bo Rader /The Wichita Eagle via AP) LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT; LOCAL RADIO OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
Bo Rader /The Wichita Eagle via AP
Leave a comment

One of the big questions regarding No. 1 Oklahoma was how they’d handle an off shooting night. On multiple occasions this season the Sooners have managed to win in spite of a subpar effort from one of their guards, thanks in large part to national Player of the Year frontrunner Buddy Hield. But what would they do against a team that managed to limit Hield (by his standards)?

That’s what happened at Kansas State Saturday night, and the Sooners did not have the right answers for the Wildcats on either end of the floor. Wesley Iwundu scored 22 points, dished out seven assists and played excellent defense on Hield throughout the game to lead the way. And freshman forward Dean Wade chipped in with 17 points and seven rebounds off the bench as the Wildcats won by the final score of 80-69.

Hield scored 23 points but did so on 7-for-16 shooting, and a lot of that damage was done during the second half as he scored 17 points during the game’s final 20 minutes. But it wasn’t enough as the Sooners didn’t get much from anyone other than Ryan Spangler (nine points) as they looked to mount a comeback. Jordan Woodard, who’s been a consistent supplementary scoring option this season, went scoreless Saturday and that essentially left Oklahoma with three scorers (Hield, Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins).

It’s highly unlikely that anyone’s going to completely take away Hield; the key there is to make him work for everything he gets and the long, athletic Iwundu managed to do that. But if you can take away one (or more) of Oklahoma’s supplementary scorers you’ve got a shot at knocking them off.

Oklahoma also had issues defensively, as the Wildcats shot 52.9 percent from the field. Iwundu was very good at finding scoring opportunities not only for himself but for his teammates as well, and in the post players such as Wade and B.J. Johnson were effective against Spangler, Khadeem Lattin and Akolda Manyang. Kansas State outplayed Oklahoma in the post, and their execution offensively helped the Wildcats pull off the upset despite committing 15 turnovers.

If not for those turnovers the margin likely would have been worse for Oklahoma, which scored 26 points off of Kansas State turnovers and many of its 15 fast break points came via K-State mistakes. The Sooners are lethal in transition, something we’ve seen on many occasions this season. Kansas State, when they didn’t turn the ball over, kept Oklahoma from running out and finding the quality looks that have made them so successful.

As a result, Bruce Weber’s Wildcats made sure that Hield and his fellow Oklahoma seniors will graduate without a win in Manhattan.

Ryan Anderson, Gabe York pace No. 23 Arizona at Washington

Arizona's Ryan Anderson (12) dunks against Washington State's Conor Clifford (42) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Pullman, Wash. Arizona won 79-64. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
College basketball is better when the Arizona-Washington rivalry is relevant, and we got a perfect example of that on Saturday, as No. 23 Arizona landed an important, 77-72 win at Washington in a ugly-but-thrilling game. Washington has one of the nation's most high-octane, uptempo offenses, as Lorenzo Romar does what he can to maximize the pieces that he has on his roster. Andrew Andrews and DeJounte Murray make up one of the nation's most talented backcourts, and when combined with the myriad of athletes of populate the rest of the roster, what you get is a team that is top five in pace, according to KenPom.com. What they don't have is much strength in the paint, and Ryan Anderson took complete advantage of that. The fifth-year senior had arguably his best game as a Wildcats, finishing with 22 points and 15 boards -- eight offensive -- to pace Arizona. Gabe York added 18 points as well, which is a great sign for the Wildcats. The knock on this team has been that they don't have a star or a go-to guy, and two of them stepped up in a tough road game on Saturday. Perhaps more importantly, it was Kadeem Allen that his the biggest shot of the game, hitting a three to break a 70-all tie with a minute left in the game. And should we mention that Allonzo Trier, who was Arizona's leading scorer when he broke his hand a month ago, returned to the lineup? Yeah, we probably should, because Trier is the best one-on-one player that Sean Miller has on his roster. All-in-all, this was a promising road trip for Arizona, who got swept at home by the Oregon schools last weekend. I'm not sure that Arizona, who is still two games back of Oregon in the Pac-12 standings, has a real shot of winning the league's regular season title. But I am sure that, when they're at full-strength and playing well, the Wildcats are good enough to win the Pac-12 tournament and get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.
Leave a comment

College basketball is better when the Arizona-Washington rivalry is relevant, and we got a perfect example of that on Saturday, as No. 23 Arizona landed an important, 77-72 win at Washington in a ugly-but-thrilling game.

Washington has one of the nation’s most high-octane, uptempo offenses, as Lorenzo Romar does what he can to maximize the pieces that he has on his roster. Andrew Andrews and DeJounte Murray make up one of the nation’s most talented backcourts, and when combined with the myriad of athletes of populate the rest of the roster, what you get is a team that is top five in pace, according to KenPom.com.

What they don’t have is much strength in the paint, and Ryan Anderson took complete advantage of that.

The fifth-year senior had arguably his best game as a Wildcats, finishing with 22 points and 15 boards — eight offensive — to pace Arizona. Gabe York added 18 points as well, which is a great sign for the Wildcats. The knock on this team has been that they don’t have a star or a go-to guy, and two of them stepped up in a tough road game on Saturday.

Perhaps more importantly, it was Kadeem Allen that his the biggest shot of the game, hitting a three to break a 70-all tie with a minute left in the game.

And should we mention that Allonzo Trier, who was Arizona’s leading scorer when he broke his hand a month ago, returned to the lineup? Yeah, we probably should, because Trier is the best one-on-one player that Sean Miller has on his roster.

All-in-all, this was a promising road trip for Arizona, who got swept at home by the Oregon schools last weekend.

I’m not sure that Arizona, who is still two games back of Oregon in the Pac-12 standings, has a real shot of winning the league’s regular season title.

But I am sure that, when they’re at full-strength and playing well, the Wildcats are good enough to win the Pac-12 tournament and get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.