2012--13 RECORD 31--8 BIG TEN 12--6 (T-4TH) WHAT'S BACK MINUTES: 62.2%% POINTS: 53.8% REBOUNDS: 66.2%
While most of the country was admiring national player of the year Trey Burke last March, Derrick Walton Jr. (above, center) was studying him. Walton was still a senior at Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods, Mich., but he knew he could become the Wolverines' starting point guard as soon as Burke left for the NBA. Now Burke is with the Jazz and Walton is in Ann Arbor, where he—just as Burke did two years ago—joins a roster seemingly built to suit his skills.
Burke arrived as a scorer with exceptional ballhandling ability who had to learn how to be a playmaker; that team desperately needed its point guard to score. Walton is an outstanding passer who knows how to get his teammates good shots—just the skills that the Wolverines need now. Sophomore forwards Mitch McGary (a rare high-energy post scorer with range out to 15 feet) and Glenn Robinson III (a gifted shooter and an extraordinary leaper who needs to develop a dribble-drive game) are likely first-round NBA picks whenever they leave school. And sophomore guard Nik Stauskas made 80 of 182 (44.0%) of his three-point shots as a freshman.
The Wolverines don't need Walton to pile up points as Burke did. They just need him to get the ball to McGary, Robinson and Stauskas. Says Michigan sophomore Spike Albrecht, who has faced both point guards in practice, "They're both really good. D-Walt can score, don't get me wrong, but he is really good at facilitating. He makes great decisions. He knows when to pass, when to shoot."
Walton says, "We have shooters around the floor, we have big guys who can finish around the basket.... I feel right at home." If Walton falters, Michigan can turn to Albrecht, a cult hero after his 17-point first half in the national-title game, an 82--76 loss to Louisville. But for this team full of finishers, Walton looks more than ready to start.
Projected Lineup (2012--13 STATS)
PG DERRICK WALTON JR.‚Ä†
FR. 6'1" 26.1 PPG 7.3 RPG
SG NIK STAUSKAS*
SOPH. 6'6" 11.0 PPG 44.0 3PT%
SF GLENN ROBINSON III*
SOPH. 6'6" 11.0 PPG 5.4 RPG
PF MITCH MCGARY*
SOPH. 6'10" 7.5 PPG 6.3 RPG
F JON HORFORD
JR. 6'10" 2.7 PPG 2.2 RPG
G-F CARIS LEVERT
SOPH. 6'6" 2.3 PPG 1.1 RPG
F JORDAN MORGAN
SR. 6'8" 4.6 PPG 4.3 RPG
‚Ä†HIGH SCHOOL STATS
JOHN BEILEIN (7TH SEASON)
SI This team may not be better than last year's, but will it be more versatile?
JB That's one of our things. We were so defined [last year]: What we were going to do when we needed a basket, what our defensive switching patterns were. This [team] is still a work in progress, and I love it because there are some fine young men who are ready to adapt to whatever we ask them to do.
SI Have you watched the NCAA title game loss to Louisville?
JB I have watched major parts of it at different times. They were a really good team. There is a reason they were a No. 1 seed.
SI Do you watch for emotional reasons or to break down the tape?
JB Just breaking down the tape [to show the team]. Whether it's a 50-50 ball, an action that we're running, a technique. There were a couple of times we got stripped in transition. When you show it in the championship game, it makes a difference.
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ROUND OF 32
ROUND OF 64
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MCGARY)
ERIC BRONSON/MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY (WALTON)
DAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (BEILEIN)