Fair or not, a quarterback is often times the first position to be thrown to the wolves and put under a microscope if an offense is struggling on the football field.
In basketball, the point guard position falls under the same scrutiny.
Michigan’s inability to find consistency offensively has been a formidable issue during the Wolverines’ surprising 6-4 start to the 2013-14 season.
Several factors share in the guilt including a less than 100-percent (conditioning and injury wise) Mitch McGary, an early ankle injury for Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III still looking to find his way, and the oft suggested two big men lineup seen on occasion.
Either way, it has to be the point guard right? Not necessarily.
Handed the keys right from the get go, freshman Derrick Walton Jr. has battled with ups and downs in his first 10 career starts, not unlike most first year players at the position.
Walton is averaging 8.4 points, just shy of three assists a game, and shooting 43-percent from the field in 24 minutes per contest.
Comparing those numbers to sophomore back-up Spike Albrecht, one key statistic stands out; Walton’s assist to turnover ratio sits at 28 assists to 23 turnovers while Albrecht is responsible for 29 assists and just six turnovers playing 14 minutes a game off the bench.
This should be reason enough to make a change, right? Again, not necessarily.
Throughout preseason practice Beilein was asked about a starting lineup -- who’s earned it, whether or not Michigan will go small, the point guard battle, so on and so forth.
Not giving away any hints prior to the opening season win over UMass Lowell, Beilein consistently mentioned the need to look at who is most comfortable coming off the bench versus those who play starters minutes or filling another role on the team.
And at the point guard spot, Beilein isn’t ready to alter that approach.
Walton Jr. is averaging 7.3 points per game with six assists and six turnovers over his last three games, two of which came against top-10 opponents in Duke and Arizona.
Most recently in last Saturday’s loss at home to the Wildcats, Albrecht and Walton Jr. flipped their minutes average as Albrecht played 24 and Walton Jr. just 14.
For a young player, confidence is key and making the decision to pull Walton Jr. from the starting lineup would be the wrong move for a Michigan team still looking to find it’s way, clear that No. 10 is the best option to start now and in the future.
Thursday morning as a guest on the Michigan Insider on Sports talk 1050AM WTKA with Sam Webb, Beilein made sure any debate about his starter at point guard be seen only as hogwash.
“We were playing really well with Spike,” Beilein said. “It wasn’t anything Derrick wasn’t doing it was Spike was playing really well. He see’s the floor, he was hitting his shots, he was guarding -- he was doing everything.
“I think that’s the big difference with the freshman point guard that we have this year is Trey Burke had no back-up, he had no experienced back-up when he was a freshman.
“Derrick Walton’s got a heck of a back-up and he will remain as a back-up. Derrick’s just got to keep working and working and he learns everyday. He’s a terrific young man, terrific player.”