What's already been a bit of a rough month for the Michigan basketball program could get significantly worse, it appears.
The Wolverines began March by claiming a share of the Big Ten regular season title, but then they were bounced by Ohio State in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Still, John Beilein's club earned a 4-seed in the NCAA tournament, but was upset in the first round by 13-seed Ohio, who then advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.
On Wednesday, Beilein announced the intentions of three of his underclassmen to transfer. Star freshman point guard Trey Burke might be following them out the door, too, it appears, but only to a much different destination.
Rivals.com affiliate TheWolverine.com is reporting that Burke, the Big Ten co-Freshman of the Year who started 33 of 34 games, led the team in scoring (14.8 ppg) and in assists (3.5 apg), is considering entering the NBA draft. According to his father, Benji Burke, the two major factors forcing his son to lean that way at the moment is the wave of momentum he has going for him along with it being a relatively weak draft this year in terms of point guard depth.
"As of right now, he's coming back," Benji Burke told TheWolverine.com. "I'm speaking for him, but as of right now, he's coming back. We're gathering information. In two weeks that maybe will change, I don't know. But right now he's coming back. He's going to class, doing his individual workouts and still in the process of doing everything with the program."
Those transferring include sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz, sophomore wing Colton Christian and highly-touted freshman guard Carlton Brundidge.
Smotrycz was the team's fourth-leading scorer (7.7 ppg) and led the Wolverines in 3-point percentage (43.5). He started the first 18 games of the season before seeing his minutes drop some as a reserve the rest of the way. He does go out with a monster performance, though, with 15 points off of 6-of-7 shooting and seven rebounds in the NCAA tourney loss to the Bobcats.
Christian and Brundidge were little-used as reserves this year, though Brundidge was a four-star prospect coming out of Southfield (Mich.) High last season, according to Rivals.com.
If Burke leaves, it means that four of the seven players Beilein used in the Ohio game will be gone next season.
Does this spell doom for the Michigan program? Not by a long shot.
Especially if Beilein can continue to be the kind of force on the recruiting trail that he has been of late.
Coming in, he has the best recruiting class the program has seen since its glory days back in the early 1990s, including Rivals.com's No. 3 overall recruit in the 2012 class in power forward Mitch McGary, along with four-star prospects in small forward Glenn Robinson III and shooting guard Nick Stauskas.
Michigan should also have starters Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan back in the fold next season, which will still make for a strong contender in the Big Ten.
But if Burke returns, Beilein could have a strong contender for a national championship to work with.
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