Many may be wondering, how can such a talented team already lose three games early on in non-conference play?
The obvious answer is the loss of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Both players were drafted in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. Trey led the Wolverines in points, assists, and steals per game during his amazing sophomore campaign. These numbers compelled voters to name him the Wooden National player of the year.
Also, Hardaway was always capable of leading the Wolverines on any given night if Burke experienced an off night. Despite the loss of these two players, Michigan maintained a talented cast of players who were expected to once again be a serious contender for the NCAA championship.
The three main reasons Michigan is yet to perform up to expectations are the play of Glenn Robinson III, the health of Mitch McGary and the over-reliance on the three point shot. Going into the season, scouts prematurely labeled Glenn Robinson III as a lock to be drafted in the lottery of the 2014 NBA draft and the top scorer on Michigan.
In reality, Glenn has struggled to find his offensive touch as he is yet to find his range from behind the arc and is struggling to get to the free throw line at a consistent rate. On most nights, Robinson’s game is overshadowed by that of fellow sophomores Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert.
A preseason All-American, Mitch McGary was thought to be the strong, consistent big man Michigan needed. Although he still has that potential, his play this season has taken a hit due to a lingering back injury. Early on in the season, McGary’s speed and jumping abilities have been called into question, but finally he is beginning to look like the star we all saw during March Madness last year.
The final reason Michigan is struggling is a problem that has derailed the team for years, a over-reliance on the three pointer. When the threes are falling, the Wolverines are near unstoppable on the offensive end. However, when Michigan is struggling from beyond the arc, the players tend to try to shoot their ways of their slump, which often times leads to a poor offensive output.
In all of Michigan’s losses this season, they have struggled from the three-point line.
When it’s all said and done, Michigan should be expected to make it to March Madness as a decent seed, but there will be no magical run like last year unless there are major changes in both the philosophies and health of the team.