Michigan's as a No. 7 seed amounted to one of the most memorable runs in program history. As a result of that six-game winning streak, two UM players -- D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner -- significantly boosted their national profile and NBA stock.
On Wednesday -- the NCAA-imposed deadline day for college players to decide whether or not to return or stay in the NBA Draft -- both sophomores made their decisions.
One is staying, one is going.
Wilson has played his final game for the Wolverines, while Wagner will return for his junior season. Wagner, who is a hybrid center and could become one of the best players in the Big Ten next season, is making the right call.
Wilson had a really interesting choice. He could be picked as high as 20th or as low as 45th. Had he come back, Michigan would have had a chance at being a top 25 team. But I don't fault Wilson at all for chasing his dream while his stock is arguably as high as it will ever be. He averaged 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks last season. Wagner averaged 12.1 points last season, and his long-distance shooting (he made 45 of his 114 3-point attempts) added a necessary facet for Michigan to rally in the NCAAs. Wilson, who is 6-foot-10, made for a great frontcourt partner for Wagner.
With Wilson leaving, he is the eighth player in John Beilein's 10 years as coach of Michigan to leave with eligibility remaining in college. That's a number higher than some might expect, but take a look at previous Wolverines who left early for the NBA (info via Michigan Athletics):
- Darius Morris (2011, No. 41, Los Angeles)
- Trey Burke (2013, No. 9, Minnesota)
- Tim Hardaway Jr. (2013, No. 24, New York)
- Nik Stauskas (2014, No. 8, Sacramento)
- Mitch McGary (2014, No. 21, Oklahoma City)
- Glenn Robinson III (2014, No. 40, Minnesota)
- Caris LeVert (2016, No. 20, Brooklyn)
"I am confident I have the drive, work ethic and maturity for this next step," Wilson said in a written statement. "It's never going to be easy, but if I have learned anything at Michigan, perseverance pays of. It has truly been a blessing to have had the opportunity to attend Michigan, and I will forever be grateful to Coach Beilein and his staff for taking the chance on me."
Wilson's length, bounciness at his size and his confidence/capability to shoot at three levels will ensure he is picked. He'll be likely taken as a project and might not surface as a role player in the NBA for a couple of seasons. Wagner will return to Michigan alongside Jon Teske and Austin Davis, relative unknowns who will try to produce into the types of players Wagner and Wilson became last year. Duncan Robinson, a small forward, might be asked to be a power forward in Beilein's pinpoint offensive scheme.
That could be fun.
Beilein has coached Michigan to an average of 25 wins per season over the past five years.