'Ask Nick!' answered: Michigan State's 2000 title team vs. Michigan's '12-13 squad (really)
ANN ARBOR -- Well, this was bound to happen eventually.
We do all live in Michigan, after all.
One thing sports fans love to do is take one current team, one old team, one imagination and see what would happen.
The old "who would win between" question -- as classic as it gets.
Last week I was asked if the current Michigan basketball team was more talented than the famed Fab Five.
This week, we'll start the mailbag in a similar fashion. Only this time, we'll spice it up a bit.
A little Michigan-Michigan State, anyone?
Question: Do you think that the MSU 1999-2000 national championship team with Mateen Cleaves better than this Michigan team? (A Michigan State fan) posted that the MSU team (would) beat this team by 30 points. -- xtr
A: We don't screw around with 'Ask Nick' mailbags, we get after it -- go right for the jugular right away with bold questions.
OK, first off, X, I'll say this -- Michigan's current team might be the No. 2 team in America and it might be one of two remaining unbeaten clubs nationally.
But it hasn't earned the right, in my opinion, to be compared with or even placed on the same planet as that 2000 Michigan State team -- because that Spartan squad won a national championship. It finished the job, and no one can ever take that away from them.
So there's that.
In terms of a straight matchup? I'll side with the 2000 Spartans in this one, probably by a solid margin, too. That team was full of grown men, and it came from a different era.
Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Jason Richardson were all first-round picks. Charlie Bell played in the NBA, and Andre Hutson was a second-round pick. And, that team was led by upperclassmen who had been playing together for seemingly ever.
Also, I don't think I remember seeing A.J. Granger miss a shot during the entire 1999-2000 season.
Whether you're a Michigan fan or a Michigan State fan doesn't really matter here -- Tom Izzo's 2000 Spartans were tough as nails, and a classic NCAA championship squad.
Would they win by 30? I'll let you guys wrestle over the score. I just know the Spartans would win that mythical game. There's little doubt in my mind.
Question: Hey Nick, what are the chances of the Wolverines winning 30 regular season games this year? With them being 16-0 so far and 15 games to play (not including tournament play). -- slight78
A: Slight, the easy answer -- not good.
For Michigan to win 30 regular-season games, it would have to finish the year 30-1. In this league, that's just not happening. I can't fathom a team going through the Big Ten season with just one league loss.
Remember, Michigan still has to travel to Ohio State, Minnesota, Michigan State, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin this season.
Nothing's impossible. But 30 wins in the regular season seems pretty close.
Question: Do you think we see (Mitch) McGary start at some point if he keeps growing? -- Clevo
A: Good question, Clevo. And an interesting one.
The only way, in my opinion, McGary gets into the starting lineup this season is by taking Jordan Morgan's job away. Because I just don't think the Wolverines are going to start two true posts this year, they don't need to.
Now, in terms of numbers: Morgan's averaging 6.8 points (62.3 percent) and 5.4 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game. McGary's averaging 5.3 points (57.6 percent) and 6.1 rebounds in 15.5 minutes.
Do I think McGary take's Morgan's spot? No, I don't. I think John Beilein loves bringing him off the bench, and being able to insert energy into the lineup four or five minutes into the game.
However, I think McGary's continued development could push that minutes per game gap closer together. It's almost even right now, and it could be close to dead even by the end of the year.
Question: Who's going to come out ahead after Sunday's showdown with #Ohio (State)?? Just curious. Trey Burke playing at "Home" again. -- Mark Hoge
A: That's the question on everyone's mind right now, isn't it?
Michigan's first serious road test of the season, and Trey Burke's second (and perhaps last?) homecoming to Columbus as a Michigan Wolverine.
Michigan hasn't beaten Ohio State in Columbus since the 2003, and it was handled there last season -- a game that saw Burke turn the ball over 5 times. Michigan's final meeting against Ohio State last season, in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, was probably the worst game of Burke's career -- as he went 1 of 11 from the floor with 8 turnovers.
To say he'd like to atone for that performance is probably understating things.
But this isn't Burke vs. Columbus -- it's Michigan vs. Ohio State. And both of these teams are different this season.
Michigan has more depth, it has the better point guard (I'm comfortable saying Burke's eclipsed Aaron Craft, even if Craft is still the better defender) and it's a better shooting team. Ohio State has Deshaun Thomas, but still hasn't figured out who his wingman is.
Maybe this is bold, maybe not. But I like Michigan in this game. I don't think Value City Arena is overly intimidating, and I just think the Wolverines have too many weapons. It'll be a close one, either way, though.
Question: Assuming Trey Burke leaves after this year, who do you see starting as the point guard next year? -- Logan Hukill
A: Well, Taylor Lewan surprised all of us Wednesday with his decision to return, right? Might Trey Burke do the same?
My gut says no (it said no on Lewan, too, of course). Burke came back to school, and so far, he's done what Lewan hopes to do next year -- he's improved his stock greatly and he's helped turn Michigan into a serious contender.
It's never safe to assume, I guess, but for the sake of the argument -- if Burke leaves, my money would be on incoming freshman point guard Derrick Walton getting every chance possible to start.
However, he won't play the type of minutes Burke had to as a freshman, because Spike Albrecht will almost certainly be back. I'd expect Albrecht's minutes to skyrocket next season.
And if Walton is slow to pick things up, don't be stunned if Albrecht begins the season in the starting five.
Question: My question is two fold. With the size on the wings I knew this team would be hard to press and it was confirmed in the Arkansas game. How would you assess the defense of this team? It seems that we mostly play a match up zone or man to man, with a little zone thrown in, is JB waiting for a close game in the 2nd half to uncork the famed 1-3-1 for more than a couple of possessions? -- Frank Redmond
A: Good question, Frank.
You're right, first off, in saying that Michigan is basically a man-to-man team that has the potential to do several different things defensively.
The Wolverines are athletic enough to line up with just about anyone in the league and play man-to-man, and have success while doing so. Beilein doesn't like going zone unless he absolutely has to -- I know that sounds odd, given his past, but he really likes this team's ability to just defend straight up.
As far as the 1-3-1 goes, Beilein plays that close to the vest. He keeps it around, and brings it out just enough to put a seed in the back of the opposition's mind. You have to spend time in your game prep with the 1-3-1 when you're preparing for Michigan. Even if the Wolverines never use it.
He used it during the Pittsburgh game to change the pace, and he's used it periodically here or there against other athletic teams, to see how they handle it.
That's not Michigan's base defense, not even close. But it's there when Beilein wants it -- never say never.
Question: Glen Robinson III is getting better and fast. When will he have a true "breakout" game? And when he does, We need to give him a nickname of his own that sticks. How bout Baaad Dog (as is in good)? -- CallThemFair
A: Glenn actually has a handful of nicknames right now. Some call him "Tre," others call him G-Rob or GR3. I'll have to get back to you on the nickname front, Fair.
As far as a breakout game goes -- I think a 20 and 10 performance against Iowa last weekend qualifies for that, don't you?
I think it's sometimes easy for people to forget that Robinson's a freshman, because he's so physically advanced for his age. And, at this point, it's almost expected that he perform at an incredibly high level.
Remember, he was a starter on this team from day one -- before Nik Stauskas. In my book, he's already had a few breakout games.
Question: You like this team's chances of getting to final 4 and winning it all? -- Andy Coak
A: Andy, it's still probably too early to start talking about all that -- how you're playing in late February/early March is so important when it comes to the NCAA tournament.
I heard the other day that John Calipari told reporters that he thinks there are "30 or 40" teams in the country right now that are capable of making a Final Four run.
Calipari also said that he thinks Michigan is playing better than anyone in America right now. So, by his logic, Michigan definitely has what it takes.
On paper, yeah, I think the Wolverines have what you need to make a deep run in the tournament. They have an elite point guard, they can run, they're deep, they have shooters and they can hang on the glass.
Now they just have to go prove they can do it.
As always, thanks to everyone who participated this week.
And if you'd like to get a question in for next week's mailbag, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or, feel free to drop a question in the comments box below. You can also find me on Twitter: @nickbaumgardner.
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