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April 26, 2014

Roundtable: Impactful decisions

As far as weeks go, Michigan has had better. On Tuesday, potential transfer Chad Lindsay announced he was going to Ohio State while on Friday morning, Mitch McGary declared his intentions to enter the NBA Draft.

Which decision - Lindsay's or McGary's - will have a greater impact on the Michigan athletic community in 2014-15?

Chris Balas: You serious Clark? You've got a one-year rental not guaranteed a starting spot vs. a preseason All-American who could have led a team to the Final Four. It's time for the offensive line to live up to its lofty, collective ranking. There's talent there, and it needs to be developed into a good - not serviceable - unit.

Michael Spath: Lindsay, but on a technicality because even if he had decided to return for his junior year, McGary faced a year-long suspension so he would not have played anyway. Of course, we didn't know that when Lindsay made his decision but nevertheless, the Alabama transfer could have competed for the starting job at center and could have helped boost an offensive line that will occupy the spotlight every single quarter of every game this season. McGary could have offered some leadership and a physical presence to bang with in practice for redshirt freshman Mark Donnal and true freshman Ricky Doyle, but he would have been a glorified cheerleader next year.

Andy Reid: Without Lindsay in the lineup, the Wolverines have redshirt juniors Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow, who have each started multiple games at the center position, and they have an upstart with a bright future in redshirt freshman Patrick Kugler. They have options, which will breed competition, which will hopefully push these guys to be better. The basketball team has a 6-7 redshirt junior (Max Beilfeldt) and two guys - redshirt freshman Mark Donnal and true freshman Ricky Doyle - who have never played college basketball. The loss of McGary is absolutely bigger - he has All-American potential and can do some things that no other big man in college basketball could. His loss is huge, especially when you stack it on top of Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford.

How does the Michigan basketball team fill that void now created by the departure of McGary?

Balas: By committee. Mark Donnal, D.J. Wilson and Ricky Doyle are all going to be very good players in time, and Max Bielfeldt has had outstanding moments in practice. And you know they're going to be well coached.

This team will exceed expectations and get enough from the big men to complement an outstanding supporting cast. This will still be a very good basketball team - the ceiling will just be lower.

John Borton In some ways, the void has been there since December. It's more filling the void created by the departures of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford. Michigan fills those (and the dream of having McGary back) in a number of ways. You don't want to put too much into thinking redshirt freshman Mark Donnal is going to step up and be some fifth-year senior Morgan, because he's not. But he's been getting better behind the scenes, and with some front-line help from freshman Kam Chatman and veteran Max Bielfeldt, Michigan can get by now and build for the future. It doesn't hurt that they'll be doing it with one of the best perimeter trios (if not THE best) in the Big Ten. They also need to become a better defensive team, and that won't be easy without Morgan.

Reid: I wrote my column on this Friday. I went into it in more depth there than I could in this article. But, in a few words, they're going to have to get the most out of a lot of young guys. Donnal and Doyle will both have to play more minutes at the five than expected - Donnal won't get to swing over to the four, and there is no chance of a redshirt for Doyle now. At the four, the Wolverines might need to lean on Zak Irvin for a while and play him out of position - but there are two incoming players who should be able to eventually take over the four spot: Kam Chatman and D.J. Wilson.

Michigan will play in three night games this fall. Ohio State will play in four. What's a good number for a program of Michigan's stature?

Spath: If you ask a sportswriter, one is too many, but in today's college football climate, where the prestige of a game is often measured by its time slot, a school like Michigan has to keep up with the joneses and that means at least 1/3 of the season played under the lights. Doing so may break tradition, but tradition is ever evolving, and as U-M fights for attention with the premier of college football and even the Average Joes that are more than willing to play in primetime if it guarantees TV coverage, evening affairs are becoming a necessity.

Borton: A great number is zero, obviously, but the question asks what's a good number. We'll settle on one, which is what U-M athletic director David Brandon has said is the limit for home night games in a season. Obviously, that won't be all that gets played, because of under the lights contests on the road. Night games are a TV show, period. Very few fans like waiting around all day to hit a night game, although they love watching games at night after attending one during the day. And if your program is good enough, it doesn't matter when they play.

Reid: Three is a pretty good number. Primetime means excitement and eyeballs and national audiences and more exposure. Why do you think the SEC has glommed onto night games with such ferocity? Why have mid-major teams invested so heavily in mid-week games? Attention. That's the name of the game, and if Michigan can generate some buzz with a well-timed night game, people all over the country will tune in. Both of the Under The Lights games were among the best TV ratings of the season - that means something in today's college football climate.

Will junior Devin Funchess perform up to a level that is unrivaled by any U-M receiver since Braylon Edwards in 2004?

Spath: To do so, he'd have to bypass Jeremy Gallon, Adrian Arrington, Mario Manningham, Steve Breaston and Jason Avant, and that's some impressive company. However, because of his ungodly physical gifts - a 6-5, 230-pound frame with a 4.5 40-yard dash - Funchess certainly will have the chance to be the most dominant receiver Michigan has featured since Edwards. No one else on this list had the ability to just take over a game on his own. Funchess could do just that. It says here he catches more than 70 balls this season for 1,200 yards and close to 15 touchdowns, but he'll need to replicate that performance as a senior to enter the elite category.

Borton:He's not matching the record-setting season Gallon put together last year, so the answer is no. He WILL be very good, and a prime target all season long, but he's going to need someone to take the heat off him like he took it off Gallon at times. Funchess also needs to use his massive hands to be more consistent at times catching the football. As good as he was in a breakout season last year, he suffered too many drops, sometimes in big moments.


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