Adjusting to life without Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III won’t be hurdle-free, but in all likelihood, Michigan will survive without them in 2014-15.
Every team has an upside and downside, strengths and advantages. The loss of three stars isn’t a plus for the Wolverines, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll be so detrimental as to sink the ship. Coach John Beilein’s recruited the No. 28-ranked class of 2014, per 247Sports, and he has returning power in Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin.
And with an assorted cast of contributors, Beilein possesses the ingredients to challenge for a Big Ten championship.
Time to Flex
As an early conference player of the year candidate, LeVert, in terms of personnel, stands out as the Wolverines’ biggest strength. The 6’7,” 200-pound winger combines a fluid style, steady defense and a silky scoring touch that complements his above-average basketball mind.
As a sophomore, he averaged 12.9 points per game and 15.5 in Big Ten play. However, he didn’t wow during the national tournament, turning in just 9.8 per outing. It’s not that he hit the skids—it was his foot, in all of its pre-surgery glory, that was partly to blame.
He's expected to return healthy. Scratch that. He's expected to return like nothing ever happened and be Beilein's A1 option.
But luckily, the coach doesn't have to put all his eggs in one basket, for help is near with Walton, a 6'0", 185-pound point guard. Now a sophomore, he has all the makings of a classic floor general. Like LeVert, he's a heady player who always seems to know where to be. While still young, Walton brings a level of maturity to a team that'll need experience to take center stage this year.
In essence, should Walton and LeVert skyrocket as forecast, Beilein could have one of the best tandems in all of college basketball.
Irvin's size, a robust 6'6", 215 pounds, also deserves mention. He has guard skills but displays hints of a forward's game. Equally effective either way, Irvin's spot-up shooting and ability to attack the basket must be considered as aces up Beilein's sleeve.
Having such a trio has to be reassuring. Plus, there's Kameron Chatman, a nearly 6'7", 200-pound winger who does it all, and D.J. Wilson, a 6'9", 220-pound power forward who lives on paint, iron and glass. The pair of super freshmen can't be denied. In all likelihood, Chatman will play an important role this season.
Wilson has definite upside, so expect quality, not necessarily quantity, from him in 2014-15.
Hit the Weights
Michigan averaged 74 points per game in 2013. Combined, Stauskas (17.5) and Robinson III (13.1) accounted for roughly 30. McGary averaged nearly 10.0 in eight games played.
Aside from Stauskas, McGary and Robinson III's absences, there aren't a lot of weaknesses. Some would argue that sending off a program-defining player would impede progress. But Beilein got it done without Trey Burke, who left after two years in 2013, and he should do the same without Stauskas, who gave two excellent years to the Wolverines before turning pro.
But again, that's the nature of the game, and coaches find ways to reload. One of the first orders of business is to discover the next big man. Beilein's recruited well, so don't let the modest ratings of Mark Donnal, a redshirt freshman (4-star recruit), and Ricky Doyle (3-star recruit), a true frosh, fool you. They're not blue chips, but they're just the type of athletic centerpieces who could prove to be difference-makers.
Scoring in the paint has been a strength of Beilein's frontcourt. Speed has also been a trademark. Unfortunately for Michigan, Donnal and Doyle haven't done anything. So at this point, the lack of a track record at the position could be viewed as a downside.
And there's this: In 2013, 53 of 85 blocks came from Jon Horford (26), Jordan Morgan (16) and Robinson III (11). It'll be on Donnal and Doyle to recoup some of those losses.
Of course, Beilein's knack for developing bigs could be used as a counter to the previous statements. It's all a matter of perspective.
But Michigan has more working for it then against it.
All recruiting information comes courtesy of 247Sports composite rankings.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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