After the graduation of Jordan Morgan, the transfer of Jon Horford and three early NBA departures, the dust has settled in Ann Arbor (well, mostly). Mitch McGary's bizarre end to his collegiate career became a public story on Friday, as the NCAA would have suspended McGary for the entire year for testing positive for marijuana during the NCAA tournament. Regardless of your stance on the issue, McGary understandably gave up his final two years of eligibility instead of sitting out for one of those, but Michigan still has a lot of great pieces that will be playing in Ann Arbor next season.
Caris LeVert is the name most college basketball fans know, and LeVert broke out this season after a quiet freshman campaign. With three starters departing, LeVert will become the focal point of this team, like Nik Stauskas was last season. But LeVert will have a great supporting cast around him. The other returning starter, Derrick Walton Jr., often deferred to Stauskas, Glenn Robinson and even LeVert last season, but he will have a chance to show his full potential this season. Michigan has the luxury of bringing back both their rotation point guards, as Spike Albrecht could see an increased role as well. With two of his most experienced players at the same position, it will be interesting to see if Beilein elects to play with two point guards, a smaller but potentially more talented option that could be explored. Another player poised for a breakout year is Zak Irvin. While Irvin is a deadeye shooter, he showed flashes of brilliance on both the defensive end and driving the ball to the basket. Like Walton, Irvin did not get as many touches as he would have liked, but will have plenty of opportunities to attack this season. The final returning contributor, and potential X-factor for the success of the Wolverines, is Max Bielfeldt. Michigan has a severe lack of depth on the frontline, and Beilein has been quoted saying that Bielfeldt has become a force on the interior. If this is the case, look for a huge increase in his minutes.
The New Guys
This season, Michigan will likely be a younger team than Kentucky. The Wolverines will likely play 3 juniors, 2 sophomores and freshmen. It is unclear who and how many, but we can speculate who will crack the rotation. The guys Michigan fans should be extremely excited for are Mark Donnal and Kameron Chatman. Donnal was a highly recruited player out of high school, but with McGary, Morgan and Jon Horford all playing the center position, Donnal was given a redshirt to improve his post game and shooting. At 6'9, it seems likely that Donnal will start at the 5 this year, and like John Beilein teams of old (see Kevin Pittsnogle) all five starters should be able to shoot the 3. Donnal will be a matchup nightmare for opposing centers, and it will be interesting to see how many minutes Beilein gives him in his first campaign. Chatman is also a classic Beilein player, measuring anywhere from 6'6 to 6'8, as he was recently measured at the Jordan Brand Classic. If he is 6'8, this will give Beilein more of a true "stretch 4", and Chatman should be given a lot of minutes right away. The final player that I am especially interested in is newly signed recruit Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman. MAAR (it's much easier, trust me) will be 20 when he steps on Michigan's campus, a huge luxury that most college freshmen do not have. He is an explosive 6'4 combo guard who will likely see some time next season at the 2 or even the 3 if Michigan chooses to go small, but I could see Beilein using him in a similar role to how Caris LeVert was used two seasons ago. If he can give Michigan 10-15 solid minutes off the bench, it could be a huge boost to LeVert, Irvin and Chatman.
Michigan is going to be an incredibly talented team next season, regardless of which of 10 potential players take the court. If I had to guess right now, the starting lineup/rotation will look something like this.
C-Mark Donnal- 25 minutes
PF- Kameron Chatman- 30 minutes
SF- Zak Irvin- 35 minutes
SG- Caris LeVert- 35 minutes
PG- Derrick Walton- 30 minutes
PG- Spike Albrecht- 20 minutes
C- Max Bielfeldt- 15 minutes
SG- Abdur-Rahkman- 15 minutes
While there could be places for Ricky Doyle and DJ Wilson to play, I don't see Beilein finding them many minutes for next season. Doyle seems prime for a redshirt, and it's possible to even see Chatman play the 5 if he keeps growing. Overall, Michigan will play a high-octane brand of basketball that fans love to see. If they can get easy baskets on fast breaks and LeVert can elevate to Stauskas' level last year, this team could be very dangerous again.