By Ashley Dunkak
ANN ARBOR (CBS DETROIT) – Repeating a run to the national championship is always difficult.
Returning to college basketball’s biggest game with a roster on which 11 of 13 players are freshmen or sophomores?
That’s what Michigan will try to do in the 2013-2014 season.
Not only are the Wolverines young, they are also minus two NBA-caliber guards in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., both of whom went in the first round of the June draft.
Burke and Hardaway were the team’s top two leading scorers and also set the bar with assists. Their absence will necessitate a big adjustment in the backcourt, said Michigan coach John Beilein.
“It could be brand new,” he said, “or we could shift some people around.”
Beilein mentioned possible backcourt combinations of sophomores Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert or freshmen Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin. He said he would know more after the team went through more workouts.
The frontcourt will enjoy more stability, with leading producers Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary returning. Beilein said he has seen improvement from both, particularly McGary, who he said ironed out many of his past deficiencies.
“Mitch was working on his balance, catching the ball on two feet, maximizing – being efficient with his game, and I just watched him yesterday,” Beilein said. “He does all those things now.”
Also part of the frontcourt will be the most veteran players on the team, Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan.
Beilein said Morgan, whose lingering ankle injury limited him last season, could be poised to contribute more now that he is finally fully healthy.
“There’s a really positive development with his shooting, just his attitude, everything, because he’s healthy,” Beilein said. “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to really put a number on what that cost him, that injury. What we thought was a slight sprain turned out to be something that was nagging, threw off his timing, which threw off his confidence.
“It’d really be big for him to come back the way he had played several times over his career here,” Beilein added. “He was the best big man on the court on either team many times.”
A repeat run to the title might be unlikely for the Wolverines, but if nothing else, their success last season has given the Michigan coaching staff another dimension in its recruiting efforts.
“We say, ‘Did you watch the championship game?’” Beilein asked, then shared recruits’ responses. “’Of course.’ The word is ‘of course.’ ’Are you interested in Michigan?’ ‘Of course.’
“So that is very positive,” Beilein added.