Column: Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas get preseason A's, Mitch McGary and Tim Hardaway Jr. have room to grow
ANN ARBOR -- The Michigan basketball team's non-conference schedule isn't quite over yet, but it's close.
The second-ranked Wolverines will look for a perfect 13-0 non-league record after the holiday break when they host Central Michigan on Saturday (7 p.m., Big Ten Network).
After that, it's Big Ten season -- beginning on Jan. 3 at Northwestern.
So, while preseason exams aren't quite over yet, we can hand out non-conference grades anyway.
Away we go:
Trey Burke -- A
Burke hasn't only been Michigan's best player, he's also been one of the top point guards in the country through the season's first two months.
He leads the Big Ten in assists (85), and it's not even close. He's also Michigan's top scorer at 17.4 points per game, and is hitting at 51.9 percent from the floor.
Burke was supposed to be great this season, and so far, he's been just that.
Room for improvement: Burke could be a better 3-point shooter right now, he's only hitting at 35.8 percent. But that's about it. He's been terrific
Tim Hardaway Jr. -- B
Hardaway went through a mini-slump earlier this month, but enters the Christmas break on a roll -- putting up 25 points against West Virginia before going for 17 points and 7 assists vs. Eastern Michigan.
He has to develop consistency, though, as Michigan can't afford for him to vanish throughout period of Big Ten play. His rebounding (5.3 per game) has been outstanding, though.
Room for improvement: The only player in the Big Ten that can truly slow Hardaway is Hardaway. He still tends to rush shots (35 percent from 3), and has a hard time getting over poor plays mentally.
Nik Stauskas -- A
Stauskas has been, perhaps, the Big Ten's biggest surprise this season. He's on pace to set Michigan's freshman 3-pointers made record, and is shooting a ridiculous 55.7 percent from downtown -- the top number in America.
He's a scoring machine right now -- firing at 51 percent from the floor, 87.9 percent from the foul line. He's averaging 13.4 points per game.
Room for improvement: Stauskas has to keep a level head. Few rookies in America have started this well, and it's important for him to remember this isn't easy. If he stays calm, stays cool and keeps shooting -- he'll be fine.
Glenn Robinson III -- B+
Robinson has been Michigan's best rebounder (6.2 per game), and he's easily the team's most athletic wing. He's shooting the ball well in just about every area, and has consistently been a quiet double-figure scorer (11.4 points per game).
He's an athletic monster, a terrific defender -- and I'm not quite sure he realizes how good he is just yet.
Room for improvement: Aggression. Robinson could explode off the dribble against most wing defenders, but he's often very passive in the Michigan offense -- finding other ways to score. He'll be asked to look for his own shot, I think, as the season goes on -- and he'll have to be ready.
Jordan Morgan -- B
Morgan has been exactly what Michigan needs him to be -- steady and sound. His numbers could probably be higher (7 points, 4.9 rebounds per game), but the Wolverines don't really need it from him right now. His fouls are down, too, which is massive for Michigan early.
Room for improvement: Morgan has to be a better finisher at the rim. Too often he blows open looks at the basket, and it sometimes seems to creep in his head and leads to him becoming hesitant. Trey Burke finds Morgan with plenty of open looks, he's got to finish them.
Rotation bench players
Mitch McGary -- B-
McGary's still a freshman, and he's still learning. But he hasn't come close to tapping his potential through 12 games. He had his first double-double against EMU, but really struggled to just stay on the floor a week earlier vs. West Virginia.
McGary's mind knows what to do, but his body has yet to follow completely.
Room for improvement: Consistency, in all areas. McGary's been very active on the glass (5.8 rebounds in 14.6 minutes), but it often comes in bunches, leading to droughts. He also has to become more of a threat offensively, outside of put back points.
Caris LeVert -- B
LeVert has been a splendid surprise defensively for Michigan, using his ridiculous length to be a real asset atop the 1-3-1, as well as in man-to-man.
He's learning quickly, but his shot hasn't been outstanding -- just 5 of 14 from the floor.
Room for improvement: LeVert is still finding his niche and comfort level right now. And with that, it seems he's still unsure of what to do from time to time. If anything, I think LeVert could play with more confidence -- he's good, he should understand that.
Spike Albrecht -- A
Albrecht is asked to give Burke about eight minutes of rest per game -- and he does just that. He's averaging 7.6 minutes per game, and he's handed out 14 assists against just 3 turnovers.
Room for improvement: I'm not sure what else Michigan can ask from this guy right now, he's been exactly what they want him to be.
Jon Horford -- Incomplete
Horford's injury basically derailed any progress he was making -- and there was a considerable amount of it, too. Michigan has to make sure he's healthy again, because his 6-foot-10 frame and relentless motor could be great in league play.
Room for improvement: Health. Get healthy, sooner rather than later.
Max Bielfeldt -- Incomplete
Bielfeldt's ankle really didn't allow him to get into the rotation for any extended stretch of time. However, he's a terrific rebounder in space -- he's grabbed 17 in just 41 minutes of action already this season.
Room for improvement: Defense. Bielfeldt doesn't have Horford's length, he can't block shots at the same rate. He has to body up four-men consistently, and be able to play out on the perimeter as well.
Matt Vogrich -- C
Vogrich had the opportunity to be a starter on this team, but simply couldn't last. Nik Stauskas had a lot to do with that, but so did his 6 of 18 shooting performance through the first 12 games. He's also just 3 of 11 from 3.
Room for improvement: Vogrich has been a terrific teammate through all of this. As a senior, he could have really pitched a fit for being replaced by Stauskas. But he hasn't. That said, he has to learn how to score in limited action. He's getting 9.2 minutes per game -- and that could go down. He has to be warm the minute he comes off the bench.
The rest: Blake McLimans, Corey Person, Josh Bartelstein, Eso Akunne -- A
Just like Vogrich, these guys have been great teammates throughout this season. All four of these players are seniors, and none of them are receiving any extended playing time on this uber-talented roster.
That can't be easy. But one of the reasons this team hasn't had a hiccup yet is because of its chemistry, and these guys have a lot to do with that. They're doing their part, and leading by example. John Beilein couldn't be happier with this part of his roster right now.
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