It’s Time to Discuss If Michigan Was Overrated Coming Into the SeasonPosted by Jonathan Batuello on November 29th, 2013
One game doesn’t prove anything is drastically wrong with a team, but after Michigan‘s 63-61 loss to Charlotte last weekend, the preseason top 10 team’s struggles have already raised some eyebrows. The Wolverines now sit at 4-2, which could have very easily been 3-3 given its comeback overtime win over Florida State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but the loss certainly exposed plenty of issues across the board against an inferior opponent (Pomeroy had the 49ers rated 196th coming into the game). Michigan was outrebounded, it only had eight assists, and shot only 30 percent from the field and 22 percent from three-point range in the loss. The two players who everyone expected to lead this team were dismal, with Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary combining for 10 points. Robinson was particularly rough, failing to connect on any shot in his nine minutes of playing time. Nik Stauskas continued his season-long strong play with 20 points, but Zak Irvin’s 3-of-14 effort offset anything Stauskas was able to do.
So the real question is to wonder how much is this cause for concern for a team most analysts had picked to be second or third in the Big Ten? Does the Charlotte loss represent just one really bad night or was Michigan overrated as a top-10 team after losing two NBA draft picks and the reigning Player of the Year in Trey Burke? The easy answer is yes to both questions. Michigan likely had a really bad collective night to cause the loss, but the Wolverines haven’t really shown yet this season that it deserved to be so highly touted.To start with, Robinson hasn’t been the expected go-to player for this team. His statistics are up just minimally compared to last season (a couple points and less than a rebound more per game). This isn’t too surprising, as we discussed before the season that many top freshmen rarely have huge upswings in production during their second years. For Michigan to be a top-10 team, though, it needs Robinson to produce like an expected first round draft pick. It also doesn’t help that the other NBA Draft pick on this roster, McGary, hasn’t shown the same dominance he did in the NCAA Tournament. Granted, the big man has a back injury and is still slowly coming back from it, but there’s also the possibility that he just got hot for a few weeks. During the regular season last year, McGary averaged 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game — he wasn’t a special player until the final six weeks and people could have been reading way too much into his strong postseason play. Maybe what we’re seeing now represents more of the kind of player McGary is on an average basis and expecting his postseason play to continue into this season isn’t fair.
Without Robinson or McGary taking charge offensively, and no Burke around to create shots for himself and others, this team doesn’t have a go-to game plan on that end of the floor. Stauskas has certainly been electric early, but Derrick Walton Jr. and Irvin aren’t doing much yet to support him. They’ve both shown some flashes, but they aren’t anywhere near what their predecessors were in Burke and Hardaway. The Wolverines’ struggles offensively are enhanced when the defense hasn’t been stellar either again this season, with opponents’ effective field goal percentage at 47.0 percent, putting them at 104th in the country (last season Michigan ranked 158th). With all of this working against them, it’s time we start to draw back a bit on the top-rated expectations Michigan was given before this season. It’s true that the loss to Charlotte can be spun as just one bad game, but there are already some obvious underlying issues with this team that may not be easy for John Beilein to solve. McGary may not ever be what he was in the NCAA tournament, Robinson may never take over as a first-option player, and this team may struggle to find an offensive identity without Burke. Until some of these things change, it’s time to move Michigan back a couple of slots in the Big Ten pecking order and out of the Top 25.