There’s little doubt that Indiana is the prohibitive favorite in the Big Ten this season, thanks to their mix of players who were part of a Sweet 16 run and one of the nation’s best recruiting classes.
But the Hoosiers won’t lack for challengers in league play, and Michigan is one of the teams that is expected to be one of those teams.
Returning guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. both attended the LeBron James Skills Academy last week, and along with Jordan Morgan they’ll need to take over as leaders with Stu Douglass and Zack Novak graduating.
Those veterans also welcomed a talented group of newcomers to Ann Arbor, but not without the youngsters teaching a few lessons of their own.
“The first two or three games they destroyed us,” junior wing Tim Hardaway Jr. said Thursday. “They were very excited. I wouldn’t say destroyed, but in games to 11 they were beating us, 11-6, 11-7. Then one game J-Mo (Jordan Morgan) and I looked at each other and said we’ve got to show them what Big Ten basketball’s all about. Then we ended up beating them. 11-1 and 11-2. They got their time, but it won’t happen again.”
The class goes five deep, featuring big man Mitch McGary, a phenomenal shooter in Nik Stauskas and a wing with Big Ten bloodlines in Glenn Robinson III.
John Beilein’s system will allow the freshmen to find scoring opportunities, and if they’re ready to hit the ground running on both ends of the floor Michigan will be well-positioned to avoid what happened at the end of last season.
After being blown out in the Big Ten tournament semifinals by rival Ohio State the Wolverines fell to Ohio in their first NCAA tournament game.
The newcomers certainly will be key factors, but the leadership (not to mention talent) provided by the likes of Burke, Hardaway Jr. and Morgan will determine just how far they can go.