clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Opinion: The good, the bad, and the future for Michigan basketball

With the news of D.J. Wilson leaving for the NBA, and Moe Wagner returning for his junior season, the roller coaster ride has finally ended for upcoming roster

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Michigan vs Louisville Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Back on April 12 earlier this year, Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson within minutes of each other both composed a tweet that declared they would enter the NBA Draft without signing with an agent.

Today, May 24, both of these individuals made their final decision, but this time they weren't identical announcements.

Wagner was the first to make an announcement, deciding to return for his junior season with Michigan and by-pass the 2017 NBA Draft. The Berlin, Germany native said that his draft status wasn't enough to make him leave Ann Arbor yet.

“The second round doesn't guarantee you anything,” Wagner said. “I’d rather play another two years here at the University of Michigan, take another step towards my bachelor degree and have a good time here.

“I would've hated myself if I’d found myself in the D (NBA Developmental) League next year. I would rather play college.”

With that being said, just over an hour later, Wilson decided to take the alternate route that will send him down a road that is going towards pursuing his “dream” of playing in the NBA.

So after a month and a half of not knowing where the Michigan basketball program really sat, it has all finally fallen into place.

To be honest, I don’t think they are in a bad position.

Other than Wagner coming back, the Wolverines also have picked up what will likely be their starting point guard in Jaaron Simmons, who was most likely going to be the Mid-American Conference preseason player of the year.

It’s a huge add, considering that Michigan just lost its catalyst of this past campaign in Derrick Walton Jr. Simmons has played in 98 career games, and leads Michigan with 1,101 points and 512 assists in his collegiate career.

The 6-foot-1 point guard isn't the only new face that Michigan will most likely see in their starting lineup that has upside for this season.

Red-shirt sophomore and transfer student from Kentucky Charles Matthews is someone who has the ability to step in and make up for some of Michigan’s off-season losses as well.

Matthews was expected to be a one-and-done player like so many are in college basketball, being a spark plug for the 2015-16 Kentucky squad but watched his playing time get squeezed down by Tyler Ulis and only averaged 1.7 points per game by seasons end.

He was as far from the NBA as any fan of the game.

The Chicago, Illinois native seems to be a better fit in the Beilein system and will now finally get his chance to step in and make a difference for the Wolverines right away this season.

Now it’s not all just positive for Michigan, this team will have to find itself an identity just like this past season.

Along with Walton, senior Zak Irvin also graduated and Mark Donnal is leaving to play his final year of eligibility at Clemson after not receiving another year offer on his scholarship.

While Donnal played more a coming off the bench role, Irvin and Walton have been staples over the past couple years in the Michigan starting lineup (barring injuries) and will be big shoes to fill, along with Wilson now leaving.

If this 2017-18 group wants to compete at a high level and contend for the Big Ten Conference championship, some players are going to need to step up.

Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman — the spotlight is on you.

Both players have played under Beilein for a few seasons now and neither of them has really been able to find a consistency.

That’s now going to be a requirement if this team wants to excel and compete with other top teams in the country.

Robinson will have a chance to now slide back into the starting lineup for this season, while Rahkman will more than likely keep his spot as a starter. Neither player averaged double figures in scoring last year (Rahkman 9.1, Robinson 7.2 points per game) even though they both played over 20 minutes a game.

Now, Michigan did have other people scoring in double digits so it was more understandable, but it is their time to step in and make those changes. The question is “can they?”

Go take a look at Beilein’s track record and I think you have your answer.

Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson are perfect examples. In their freshman season, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Mitch McGary did most of the scoring while Stauskas and Robinson were left as role players. The following year, they led their team to the Elite Eight.

So while, yes, losing Wilson today was a big blow to go along with the other players Michigan lost, it’s nothing Beilein hasn't dealt with before. Over the last 10 seasons Beilein has been head coach, eight Michigan players have went to the draft.

So don’t panic Michigan fans, this program has been here before, and with Wagner returning for next season, the team has time to grow in the off-season and jell together into something that could be great.

After last season’s finish, I don't know why anyone would even sweat it.