Many were surprised with the news from earlier this afternoon that Michigan basketball‘s senior big man Jon Horford would be transferring schools for his final year of eligibility, but when you consider what his body language and performance was like down the stretch this season, it does not come as much of a surprise.
His departure from the program does have a huge impact, though, as he was expected to be a key contributor in the rotation of post players next season.
During the latter part of the season, Horford started to look a bit lost on the floor at times and really did not seem like he has enjoying himself as much as his teammates were en route to an appearance in the Elite Eight.
Many see this as a possible foreshadowing to the return of Mitch McGary for his junior season, and while I do believe that is what will happen, it is still too early to pencil that in just yet. Even with McGary possibly staying, the uncertainty with his health will remain and Horford would have at least provided some proven depth behind him.
The cupboard is not bare at all, though. Michigan could certainly have McGary back, and while their options behind him will be unproven, there is a ton of potential with that group of guys.
Let’s start with Max Bielfeldt. While not the flashiest player on the roster by any means, he does work as hard, if not harder, than anyone else on the floor when he is out there. He is not the best athlete, but he is a grinder, and that’s extremely valuable coming off of the bench. An off-season knowing that he will have an expanded role on this team will benefit him, and head coach John Beilein will get the most he can out of Bielfeldt.
Mark Donnal can have an impact in this rotation as well coming off of a redshirt season in his first year with the program. We did not see what he was capable of this year, but he is a definite candidate to be a breakout player next year. He is a player that should be a very good presence down low when the game slows down for him.
Incoming freshman Ricky Doyle will have a chance to make an immediate impact, as well. In terms of a polished offensive skill set, he appears to be farther along than Donnal. Doyle also has some range on his jumper, so with teams having to respect that he could get some good looks down low.
Things have gotten a lot more interesting with the rotation of centers and power forwards with the departure of Horford, but if nothing else, it creates opportunities for others to emerge and throw their names into the mix of Wolverines who can produce behind McGary if he comes back.
If McGary does leave, those opportunities become greater for each player involved. The good news is that the Wolverines will be headed to Europe later this summer to get some game experience and extra practice in, so the Michigan bigs will have a leg up on the rest of the competition.
The picture is cloudy now, but things should start to take shape in the next few weeks with McGary’s decision looming.