Eyeing the future: How the Michigan basketball team should look in 2012-13
Update: The content of this story changed with the announcement Wednesday that Evan Smotrycz, Colton Christian and Carlton Brundidge have opted to leave the Michigan basketball program
It'll take some time for the pain of last week's NCAA Tournament fizzle to completely wash away from the William Davidson Player Development Center.
And maybe, in the end, it'll never completely go away.
But for the Michigan basketball program, life goes on.
And it'll have to go on without Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, the two cornerstones of John Beilein's Wolverine reclamation project over the past four seasons.
Novak and Douglass will have to be replaced, but that doesn't mean Beilein's cupboard is bare.
On the contrary. In 2012-13, the longtime coach may have the most physically gifted roster he's ever coached. And in part because of that, the expectation level at Crisler Center will rise even higher.
Here's an early look at what the Wolverines could look like next season.
There's no subtraction here, but there is one gigantic addition.
And suddenly, Michigan's front court is really, really crowded.
When 6-foot-10, 260-pound power forward Mitch McGary finds his way to campus, he'll change everything in Beilein's system.
He may not be completely polished, it might take him some time to adjust to the speed and complexities of the college game, but he's not going to shrink. Meaning, for the first time in the Beilein era (and beyond that), the Wolverines will have a legit shot-blocking presence inside and a player who should be able to rebound with anyone in the Big Ten.
McGary should push for minutes instantly, and could be used in many different combinations. He could play alongside Jordan Morgan in a two-post set, he could play next to Evan Smotrycz at the four, allowing Smotrycz to float out as a shooting five-man.
Or, he could be the anchor in a smaller, more athletic lineup, filling lanes on the fast break and serving as a rebounder in perimeter-oriented sets.
McGary, Morgan and Smotrycz seem to be in line to be Michigan's top three post rotation players. But they won't be alone.
This past season, Michigan had little to no depth up front. Next year, that'll change. Jon Horford's foot will be fully healed, and he'll have another summer to add mass and athleticism to his 6-foot-10, 250-pound frame.
Max Bielfeldt spent most of this past season healing the tendonitis in his knees, and at 6-foot-7 and 240-pounds, he could conceivably provide eight to 10 minutes of rebounding help if multiple players wind up in foul trouble.
Beilein, and big man coach Bacari Alexander, will have a lot to work with up front next season. And in the end, the trickiest part might just be the number-crunching involved with minute distribution.
Never say never, one way or another, but both Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke said they'd be back at Michigan next season immediately after the team's loss to Ohio last week.
Keep in mind that Hardaway just turned 20 and Burke's only 19. Kids change their minds. It has happened before.
But, as of now, neither Burke or Hardaway are projected to be NBA Draft choices. Meaning Michigan will likely have its two best players back in the fold.
Should they both have mature, productive summers, the Wolverines could be in possession of two of the best backcourt scoring options in America.
Burke will be the unquestioned starting point guard, and Hardaway will remain at the three-spot. Who plays the off-guard, though, is a bit trickier.
This is where the on-court loss of Novak and Douglass ends up hurting Michigan, as both players had the ability to play -- and defend -- the two, while Douglass could also run the point from time to time.
Expect freshman Nik Stauskas to compete for heavy minutes at the two right away, but don't sleep on Matt Vogrich, either. Vogrich isn't overly scary defensively, but he's better than most give him credit for, and he's most effective with his shot when he's seeing heavy minutes.
From there, Michigan will likely have Carlton Brundidge continue to work at becoming a steady backup for Burke at the point, though his natural skill-set could see him steal minutes at the two as well (should he progress this summer).
That leaves four-star wing Glenn Robinson III.
Reports have Robinson approaching 6-foot-7, and he's an emphatic slasher and finisher. His outside game has also started to form into shape, leading some analysts to already peg him as a player with NBA potential.
Robinson seems to be a natural three, but could probably also see time as a two and maybe even a four, in a smaller lineup.
One way or another, Michigan will find minutes for Robinson -- he appears to be too talented to not find a way on the floor in some capacity.
Michigan still needs a backup for Burke, and the two-guard spot will be hotly contested. One way or another, the Wolverines' overall length in the backcourt is about to go up exponentially.
This should make Michigan a much more effective zone team, both in the 2-3 and 1-3-1 sets.
This, above all else, is the big void left by Novak and Douglass.
Who controls the locker room? Who brings the club together when things get a bit rocky? Who makes sure everyone puts the team first, rather than individual success?
Novak hinted earlier this season that Burke would be a prime candidate to serve as a sophomore captain, and that's really not far-fetched. Although it'll be an awful lot more heaped on his already full plate.
In Beilein's perfect world, Hardaway would step forward and help Burke in the leadership role, but it seems it'd be a bit more difficult for Hardaway, personality-wise, to put himself out there as much as a Novak and Douglass did.
Overall, this will have to be a collective effort. Morgan and Smotrycz will be juniors who will need to be more vocal, as will Hardaway.
The team's senior class includes Vogrich, Blake McLimans and walk-ons Eso Akunne and Josh Bartelstein. Together, that foursome might not play a ton, but they'll have to contribute as much as they can in a leadership capacity.
Want to stay connected to Wolverine basketball in your Facebook newsfeed? “Like” AnnArbor.com's Michigan Basketball News & Views.