Michigan's elite backcourt

Why Wolverines' guard play is nation's best, and what it means for title hopes

Updated: January 24, 2013, 10:00 AM ET
By Miles Simon | ESPN Insider
Nik StauskasBrad Penner-USA TODAY SportsMichigan guard Nik Stauskas, a 3-point specialist, is just one part of a loaded backcourt.

In evaluating national championship contenders every season, I always start by looking at how good a team's backcourt is. A team needs to have great guard play in order to make a run in the tournament, because truly great big men -- ones who are effective playing with their backs to the basket -- are hard to find in today's game.

Guards are controlling the game now more than they ever have. Teams are utilizing dribble-drive offenses, allowing guards to break defenders down playing one-on-one, and there is a ball screen nearly every time down the floor. An elite-level guard can carry a team on his back for two, three or four games in a one-and-done setting (see: Kemba Walker) because they have so much control over the basketball.

So it should come as no surprise that the team with the best backcourt in the nation -- the Michigan Wolverines -- is on my short list of title contenders. Let's take a look at what makes their guard play so good, both individually and collectively, ahead of their Thursday night home matchup against Purdue (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

To read more from Miles Simon on why Michigan's backcourt is the nation's best, become an Insider today.