The face of the Michigan Wolverines basketball program is undoubtedly sophomore point guard Trey Burke - there’s no debate there. That said, this team wouldn’t be 21-2 and staring down a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if not for the spectacular recruiting class John Beilein brought in this season.
Beilein typically isn’t the type of coach who likes to feed his freshman a ton of minutes per game, but the trio of Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary have simply been too dominant to keep on the bench.
Each possesses the ability to contribute significantly, and in many different ways. Stauskas is already regarded as one of the nation’s top three-point shooters and he’s hit on 48.7 percent of his attempts thus far. GRIII is a freakishly talented wing whose lengthy frame has allowed him to haul in 5.7 rebounds per game in addition to scoring 11.7 points per game. Both Stauskas and GRIII are averaging over 30 minutes a night on the season.
And then you have McGary, the 6’10”, 250-pound wrecking ball. McGary’s minutes had been limited prior to the past couple of games, but he’s quickly becoming Michigan’s most effective big man. He was very effective against the tough interior defenses of Indiana and Ohio State. He’s averaging eight RPG over his last four and just poured in 14 points to go with four steals and a block to help the Wolverines pull out a 76-74 OT win over the Buckeyes.
So, while Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. have been Michigan’s main contributors, this team would not be where it is without these freshmen.
For argument’s sake, though, which youngster has made the biggest impact thus far? As of now, McGary can probably be ruled out due to a lack of minutes much of the year, but he may very well be part of the debate a week or two down the road.
Stauskas and GRIII, however, have both been seeing heavy minutes night in and night out and are certainly making the most of that extended time on the floor.
Stauskas has a slight edge in PPG (12.4 to 11.7), but GRIII blows him out of the water in RPG (5.7 to 3.0). The two are basically tied in assists per game (Stauskas 1.4, GRIII 1.3). GRIII has a clear advantage in shooting percentage (.576 to .487), but not nearly as many of his shots come from beyond the arc.
It’s tough to say which of the two has made a bigger impact at this point in the season, partly because they each bring so much to the table. GRIII does a little bit of everything, while Stauskas is more a of pure scorer. Stauskas’ game isn’t limited to the three-point shot, either. He can shoot the mid-range jumper and even take it to the bucket on occasion.
Perhaps we won’t have an answer until the Big Ten Conference names its Freshman of the Year at season’s end. At this point, it seems pretty likely that the winner will be wearing Maize and Blue.