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Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Mailbag: Did Michigan peak too soon?

By Michael Rothstein

Jordan Morgan
Michigan's defense and rebounding should improve as Jordan Morgan (52) gets back to form.

March Madness is about a month away and the world is starting to turn its full attention to college basketball.

So, too, does this week’s WolverineNation mailbag. Have questions for next week? Send them to jenningsespn@gmail.com or @chanteljennings on Twitter.

On to your questions.

SlickElvis13 asks: The lackluster performance of the Michigan basketball team against [Michigan State] and then Penn State has me concerned. I still believe Michigan can make a deep tournament run, but they could also lose in the first or second round. What needs to be done so they can be the force they looked to be as little as two weeks ago? Can they improve defense and rebounding enough in the next three weeks to be ready for a Final Four run? What are your thoughts?

A: These are legitimate questions. Part of Michigan’s issue was the schedule. The Wolverines, much like every team in the Big Ten this season, had a stretch which was crushing, and to end it with a trip to Michigan State almost set this team up to run out of energy, which was apparent. Sunday’s game against Penn State would be more of a concern, because it begs the question of whether this team peaked in January or if it still was recovering from the aforementioned four-game swing.

Sunday against Illinois will tell a lot. The Illini are more confident than they were last month when Michigan won in Champaign, but are still beatable. Michigan’s rebounding -- and to an extent its defense -- will return as Jordan Morgan returns to health and form, but the biggest area of concern, to me, is how Michigan rotates on defense.

Trey Burke said Sunday the defense was something that concerned him and explained the players know they are missing the rotations from film, but it isn’t translating into games. John Beilein said they worked on rotations last week in practice for two straight days. Expect more of that this week in practice because not getting to close out on 3-point shooters is a death knell in March. This team is still exceptionally talented. It just needs an infusion of confidence, Morgan and discipline on defense.

baseballgabe2170 asks: Come March, where do you think Michigan will be seeded in March Madness?

A: There’s still a lot of wiggle room in this for Michigan. If the Wolverines rebound and win the Big Ten and reach the finals of the Big Ten tournament, a No. 1 seed would be likely, almost a certainty. More than likely, though, Michigan will end up as a No. 2 seed, which isn’t a bad thing. Seeding only means so much, because after the first round, Michigan is going to face a good team in the Round of 32. For Michigan, and this is cliche, the biggest thing is fixing its own issues now. If it doesn’t, it might not matter the seed, because the result won’t be pretty.

Herbert from Chicago asks: When does Glenn Robinson III go NBA? Is he gone after this year? Doesn’t seem like he’d be one-and-done, but I have no idea how these guys think. Are there any one-and-dones in the Big Ten? I don’t see any obvious ones, but again, I’m old school.

A: This is an intriguing question, mostly because right now it doesn’t have a good answer. Robinson III has a ton of NBA potential, and the question is if he is ready or not. I think it is still a remains-to-be-seen situation. If he has a huge March, then it becomes more of an issue. His recent swoon in production could be a factor, but the NBA loves drafting on potential, and Robinson III has oodles of that.

As far as the rest of the Big Ten, I don’t know if there are any sure-fire candidates, but Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Gary Harris from Michigan State are all guys who scream NBA potential to me, even at this early stage. So much of this is fluid, though, that between now and April, so much can change. So that is a long answer to say I have no idea yet. One other thing -- and this holds true with pretty much every potential early-entry candidate: Anything they say between now and April take with a giant grain of salt.