The 2014-2015 Michigan Wolverines basketball team will more than likely be NIT bound. Despite what you may think to the contrary, that’s OK.
Michigan fans have been thoroughly spoiled in the John Beilein era. Since he’s been here, the basketball program has been revived. The Wolverines have accumulated 161 overall wins and 74 Big Ten wins in eight years. On top of that, they’ve won the conference title and been to the Elite 8 twice each. In 2013, the Wolverines were a block away from winning the national championship. Michigan is coming off of the winningest two-year stretch in school history, marked by a total of 59 wins. What Beilein has done here has been nothing short of amazing. So, if you’re a fan who criticizes him or thinks he’s the problem, you’re better off not watching basketball.
Michigan has made the NCAA Tournament five years in a row. That streak will likely be ending this season though. The program has come a long way since making the NIT in 2007. That’s why there are many fans freaking out about this season’s lack of success. If we’re being honest though, there is really no reason to be upset. This season has gone badly because of a culmination of things. Most of those things have been beyond control. With Nik Stauskas, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Jon Horford all leaving, the heavy load shifted to the freshmen.
This team is young. No, it’s not a cliché. There isn’t a senior on this team; seven freshmen are sprinkled throughout the roster. The average age of this team is 19.5 years old. When you have the kind of complex offensive system that Beilein has, it’s tough to pick it up quickly. Even former Michigan guard Trey Burke admitted that it was tough to understand the terminology in his first year. The youth is one big reason why Michigan is struggling this year.
Because of the youth on the team, there is a lack of depth. They are reliant on their freshmen to play heavy minutes, simply because they don’t have very many capable bench players. Last year, Michigan could rely on the bench play of Jon Horford, Spike Albrecht, Zak Irvin and, in the beginning of the season, Jordan Morgan. This year, reasonable options off the bench include: Max Beifedlt, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Mark Donnal and Aubrey Dawkins. The problem is that you have unknowns coming off the bench. Three out of the four are freshmen and they’re still developing into the kind of players Beilein envisions them to be.
Due to the slow maturation process of much of the freshmen, the Wolverines have struggled offensively. Michigan currently ranks 11th in PPG in the Big Ten (111th in Division-I). Along with that, Michigan ranks 6th in the Big Ten in OPPG. They are averaging 65.5 PPG and are allowing 62.4 PPG. That is a big problem and one of the reasons the losses are racking up. If you have no defense and your usually efficient offense is gone, then you’ll likely lose a lot of games.
Along with youth and roster problems, this team has had some bad luck this year with injuries. Ricky Doyle and Spike Albrecht are ill. Along with the cold, Albrecht has been dealing with an ankle issue. D.J. Wilson has been out with a hand injury. Derrick Walton Jr. has been dealing with a bad toe. Zak Irvin has been injured at some point this season as well. On top of all that craziness, there was the devastating news this week that Michigan’s leading scorer, Caris LeVert, re-injured his left foot and will be out for the rest of this season.
“We have more injured or sick players than we have healthy players right now,” Beilein told the media on Monday.
As mentioned earlier, this season has been a culmination of bad things piling up. Although Michigan has a winning overall and Big Ten record, you shouldn’t expect that to keep up with LeVert out. This roster and its circumstances won’t allow them to win much more this year. They’ll likely miss the NCAA tournament. This is still a solid program and they’re not going anywhere as long as coach Beilein is at the helm. Even the strongest of programs have down years. For example, Kentucky basketball missed the NCAA tournament in the 2012-2013 season and lost in the first round of the NIT tournament to Robert Morris. It happens. Calm down and just let these players grow and learn from their mistakes. There is no doubt that with the amount of players coming back for Michigan, they will be a much improved team next year and be a huge contender in the Big Ten. These kind of years have to happen sometimes and this is one of those times. We have to just accept it and look forward to next year.
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