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Notes: Michigan's Robinson needs a big tournament

POSTED: Mar 20, 2014 3:58 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


This is his chance, an NCAA tournament beginning Thursday, to show NBA front offices the buildup was warranted and that he wasn't just living off the family name or spending two seasons hiding behind the Michigan roster.

This is his latest chance, actually. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. left Michigan last season as first-round picks -- Burke to the Jazz and Hardaway to the Knicks -- in what was supposed to create a clear path for Glenn Robinson III to ascend into a college superstar and a lottery choice. Teammate Mitch McGary, a possible 2014 first-rounder himself, went out with a back injury, creating more opportunity for Robinson.

That Robinson never came close to seizing the opportunity is one of the Michigan storylines as the Wolverines (25-8) head into the matchup Thursday night with Wofford in the Midwest. It's also an important NBA development. Robinson has fallen from the top 10 of the 2014 NBA Draft, out of the lottery, and, based on feedback from many executives, clear out of the top 20 as well, to No. 23 in the latest rankings.

He is the son of Big Dog Glenn Robinson, the No. 1 pick in 1994 who spent the first eight of his 11 seasons playing home games in the same BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee where GRIII takes the court tonight. Little Dog grew up around the Bucks of Ray Allen and George Karl. He made a name for himself as a standout high school player in Indiana. He went to Michigan and grabbed a prominent role as a freshman on a team with future first-round picks and a spot in the national championship game, where the Wolverines lost to Louisville.

Now, it is clearly about his present and his future.

Robinson desperately needs a big tournament to halt the cooling trend around front offices and end the perception of passive play. He may need it more than anyone else projected for the first round.

"I really want to like him," one front-office veteran said. "He's skilled, has a good body. But he goes stretches where you don't even know he's in the game. How much of that is his fault? How much of that is the coach's fault? He's got everything it takes to be successful. He can shoot it, is strong. I'm a fan."

Except, the executive said, "He's just not very assertive."

He's mostly going backward statistically.

Shooting: 57.2 percent last season, 48.9 this.

Three-point shooting: 32.4 percent last season with 1.8 attempts per game, 27.6 percent this with 3.0 per.

Free throws: 67.6 percent last season, 75.2 this (with just 3.3 attempts per).

Scoring: 11 points a game last season, 13 this.

Rebounding: 5.4 last season, 4.3 this.

Minutes: 33.6 last season, 31.7 this.

Kentucky power forward Julius Randle is in a similar spot, needing a good March, and maybe April, to reclaim the positive reviews of the past heading into individual workouts. Randle, though still projected for the top six, has gone from big scoring numbers at the start of his freshman season, to 14 points or less in 12 of the last 17 games, a bad sign for someone who built a lottery-pick reputation on being able to get baskets, especially inside. The Wildcats face Kansas State on Friday night in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, Michigan's McGary has started running on the court, after working on a treadmill in the water to reduce stress on the body, in his recovery from surgery to correct a lower-back injury. He did not rule out playing again this season, reported, although Michigan coach John Beilein has said the Wolverines are not planning on a return. McGary, who rose to prominence in the 2013 postseason, had dodged questions about whether he will be in the 2014 Draft or return for 2014-15 in Ann Arbor.

Other draft notes as the tournament begins:

*Arizona's Aaron Gordon, a possibility for the top 10, is down to 43.5 percent from the line. Great energy, mega-athlete, rebounds and defends. But the shooting problems are impossible to cover up. He has a game better suited for power forward and a body for small forward. He is listed at 6-foot-8, 225, though the leaping ability and non-stop motor will help.

*Under-the-radar player to watch: Adreian Payne of Michigan State. Good size for a power forward (6-foot-10, 245), athletic, plays hard, the experience of four seasons in a major program, and an improving offensive game, specifically with adding range to his jumper. Payne may not have star potential, but he does have the look of a long, productive career. He is No. 15 in the rankings.

*The lottery is two months from today.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
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