spoiler alert: i linked this
Michigan's top options had a tough time creating good looks at the rim.
Injuries. Let's get this out of the way. Michigan managed to make the tournament despite losing Caris LeVert, who was playing at an All-American level when injury struck, and Spike Albrecht, whose absence kept Derrick Walton on the court for huge minute totals and caused John Beilein to give Andrew Dakich a spot at the end of the rotation. Add in Zak Irvin's wonky back, which affected his shot well into the season, and Derrick Walton still not looking like the player he was before his sophomore-year injury, and it's fair to say health cost the Wolverines at least a couple wins.
The center position. Moe Wagner's late emergence provided hope for the future. For most of the season, however, the center position was the source of much consternation. Ricky Doyle, the presumed starter heading into the season, took a huge step backward as a sophomore; his turnover rate nearly doubled and his teammates clearly lost trust in him as a result. Doyle's struggles may be attributed to the late-season revelation he suffers from sleep apnea, but that realization came too late to save his season or, ultimately, his career at Michigan.
Mark Donnal stepped into the void and improved markedly from his first year of game action. That said, he still had obvious deficiencies, especially on defense. Getting beat up by AJ Hammons is one thing; making Alex Olah look like Hakeem Olajuwon for the second straight year is another. Unless Donnal gets a lot stronger or becomes a legitimate three-point threat, he seems best suited as a backup center; deploying him against opposing backups would mitigate his weaknesses. For that to happen, though, Wagner must cut his foul rate significantly.
Perimeter defense. It was bad, even by the mediocre standard of previous Beilein squads. Michigan's best perimeter defenders, MAAR and Derrick Walton, had uneven seasons on that end of the floor—especially Walton, who'd vacillate from awful performances to good ones with little indication of what he'd bring on a given day. The three spot the biggest sore spot with Duncan Robinson somehow looking sigificantly less bad than Aubrey Dawkins by the end of the season; Robinson was still quite far from good.
The Wolverines were especially poor in the halfcourt. While their transition eFG% allowed fell in the middle of the NCAA pack, they were 273rd out of 351 teams in non-transition eFG% defense, per hoop-math. The problems were myriad: fighting through screens, guarding isolation, contesting shots, weakside rotation—you name it, really. The problems on the perimeter were amplified by the lack of a rim protector; they still started on the perimeter.
via Shot Analytics
Stars taking one step back for every step forward. There were encouraging developments out of both Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton this season. Irvin did an admirable job playing out of position on defense and rounded out his offensive repertoire, nearly doubling his assist rate. Walton posted center-level defensive rebounding numbers and returned to his freshman form as a perimeter shooter.
But with their bigger roles, flaws were exposed. Irvin's forays to the hoop increasingly resulted in turnovers as the season wore on; his handles still need work and teams exploited the fact that he was far more likely to try to kick the ball out than finish in traffic. Walton simply couldn't finish at the rim, continuing an alarming trend from his injury-plagued sophomore season.
This is where LeVert's absence hurt the most. The only player Michigan could rely upon to consistently generate a decent look—MAAR—still had a limited game; while he could weave his way to the basket in LeVert-like fashion, he wasn't nearly on LeVert's level as a shot-creator for others. Rahkman becoming a better all-around offensive player would be huge for the 2016-17 squad. It's becoming harder and harder to expect Irvin or Walton to live up to the expectations set by M's previous top options.
[photo: Bryan Fuller.]
What are you watching for in the Spring Game? What is there to learn?
David: Brian and Ace did a good job during the Podcast of pointing out some of the main things to watch for on Friday night. Here are some additional battles/guys that will grab my eyes:
|No no the one on the right. [Fuller]|
Not De'Veon Smith running backs. At this point, we know who Smith is and what he can do. After him, there is quite a race happening. Isaac has been hyped a little, but he was last year, as well. Kareem Walker is a big recruit, but as of a couple weeks ago, he was still with the Maize group. Also, I guess Joe Hewlett has gotten some nice run.
Bobby Henderson at fullback. He's the only returning true fullback. They've moved a couple other guys (Hill and Poggi) back there, but I'm curious to see if Henderson will fend them off and be able to earn PT just because he will be more familiar with the position.
Dymonte Thomas and Tyree Kinnel at safety. Thomas blew up towards the end of 2015 and earned his spot on the field. He's a crazy athlete and a little more practice time could turn him into a dynamic deep safety. Tyree Kinnel is a guy I still wish they would have red-shirted, but he is also a guy to keep an eye on for not only next season but for the future. There's not a whole lot behind these guys. *We've seen Delano Hill before and mostly know what we'll get from him.
The rest of the tight ends. Jake Butt is YAY! There are also some interesting guys after him. Bunting, Wheatley, Jocz, and Gentry are all different kinds of players and each can create his own matchup problem. Seeing Wheatley slip out, Jocz block (ha), and Bunting/Gentry use their size against smaller DBs will be some things to keep an eye on that could get them on the field in the Fall...and very much diversify Michigan's tight end arsenal.
[Hit THE JUMP to find out who the coaches' thought their #3 overall player was at this time last year. Hint: he didn't play.]
Where have you seen the biggest growth in your offense over the last couple of weeks?
“I just think that people understand the concepts. Really the passing game’s come along with the precision and timing. You know, making corrections. People understand what you’re trying to correct and they’re fixing it the next day you come out.”
Coach Harbaugh said that his quarterbacks were making ‘one big mistake’ per day right now. Is that still—I mean, what do you need to see from them this week and then going through the summer?
“I think just, you know, in terms of where they need to go with the ball, the progressions of their reads, when there’s no play to be made make a play. And that goes for any type of quarterback in any system. That’s not just this particular system here. That’s what you’re looking for.”
Have you seen a difference between John [O’Korn] being in his first year being in a competitive situation and the other two guys, Shane [Morris] and Wilton [Speight]?
“I think John’s a real competitor. I don’t think if he’s a redshirt it doesn’t matter to him. He’s a guy who comes out, wants to compete every day, and wants to be at his best.”
How do you distinguish between making a play when there isn’t one and trying to do too much? Where’s the line that gets drawn between those two?
“I think those guys just kind of naturally have it. They know when to make a play. They know when to step up and find a spot in the pocket. They know when to scramble. They know when to get rid of the ball not to take a sack. You know, I think it’s just kind of part of their DNA. It’s in there, you’ve just got to get it out of them.”
Was moving Mason [Cole] more about the importance of that center position or just getting the top five on the field?
“You know, you just really want to get the top five in however you do that. We’re still evaluating if that’s the best position for him. He’s done a very, very nice job this spring. That’s a hard thing to do is stand there with the ball in your hand and you’ve got a 300-pound guy breathing down your neck and you’ve got to snap it, you know. He’s really handled it beautifully. He’s done a really, really nice job with it.”
Do you guys feel like Newsome’s ready to start if need be?
“Yeah! When we played him last year as a true freshman we believed that he’s ready to do that if that’s how it all pans out.”
What’s different about him? You’ve talked about football lenses opening. Was his already a little more open than most?
“He’s very intelligent. He gets it. He can make a correction once [and] he can fix it. He understands what you’re talking about when you talk to him in the room. The screen doesn’t got fuzzy with him. He stays with you in a conversation.”
[After THE JUMP: Others in the OL rotation, Ty Isaac’s spring, and what Don Brown’s scheme does for the O-line]
Dawkins, Wilson, and Chatman give M three non-Wagner breakout candidates.
Part one of the postseason mailbag, which definitely didn't include an egregious error in the original post, can be found here. Part two got quite lengthy, so let's get right to it.
A Spike return is very unlikely.
— Erik in Dayton (@erik_dayton) March 29, 2016
While that door isn't completely closed, it would shock me if Spike ended up back on the roster next season, and I think it would shock him, too:
With that, Albrecht and Beilein shook hands and parted ways. According to Albrecht, Beilein told him that if an additional scholarship should open up at Michigan, the program would "entertain the idea of" him returning, but added that such a scenario is unlikely.
"That's a long shot," Albrecht said Monday. "And really, I don't even know if they'd want to bring me back because they'll already have two very talented point guards on the roster next year."
I know it's hard to come to terms with this because Spike is such a beloved figure, but this is the best arrangement for both parties involved. The issue with bringing Spike back, even if a spot does open up, is you're then impeding the development of a highly regarded player at the same position. Xavier Simpson is the future at point guard for this program and they justifiably want him to get plenty of time next year. If he's stuck behind Walton and Albrecht, it's hurting the team down the road just so the team can have a marginal one-year upgrade at backup point guard—and that's not a slight against Spike, just an assessment of Simpson's talent. Plus, Albrecht isn't exactly a sure thing after coming off surgeries to both his hips.
As Spike mentioned above, returning to Michigan isn't necessarily his ideal scenario, either. If he's healthy, there's a good chance he'll start at another program—he'll be able to choose a school with that role available to him. That's not going to be the case in Ann Arbor with Walton coming back and Simpson arriving.
If there's further attrition, I'd rather see Michigan go after a grad transfer shooting guard, preferably one who's a positive on the defensive end—that's a far bigger need than a third point guard. Alternatively, they could go after a stretch four to take pressure off Zak Irvin if there's attrition in the frontcourt. That's far from the sentimental choice, but I think it's the best one for the team.
It appears John Beilein is thinking along the same lines. According to ESPN's Jeff Borzello, Michigan is one of the programs that's contacted grad transfer Columbia combo guard Grant Mullins, who's a 44% three-point shooter. At 6'3" with a PG-like assist-to-turnover ratio, Mullins could play either guard position. The coaches also reportedly contacted Sacred Heart transfer Cane Broome (that is apparently a real name), but there doesn't appear to be strong mutual interest; Michigan isn't listed among the schools Broome plans to visit, per CBS's Jon Rothstein.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the mailbag.]
So pumped for the Don Brown era. Half because of his defense, and half because dude is on Harbaugh's level when it comes to photos:
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) March 30, 2016
Don Brown's seen some things. Some things better left buried. But the law doesn't work like that. The law just keeps bringing things back, like a cat with a hairball.
Basketball roster not exactly set yet. Michigan has lost Spike Albrecht and Ricky Doyle, bringing their 2013 roster to 13. But they don't appear entirely settled with their roster yet:
Michigan, California, Syracuse and Hawaii are among the schools that have contacted Columbia grad transfer Grant Mullins.
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 30, 2016
Mullins, a combo-guard, was super-efficient in the Ivy League last year (36th nationally in ORTG, 44% from three, lots of FTs at 83%) on a team that looks a lot like Michigan, statistically. Michigan also reached out to Sacred Heart transfer Cane Broome, though it doesn't look like anything is coming of that.
What's the deal with that as regards Spike, then? I don't know. Maybe Spike isn't likely to be the same player, or Xavier Simpson was going to take his minutes. Or Michigan is just keeping options open in case someone who has not decided to transfer does so in the future.
Red status not set either. Red's offered some quotes to news organizations about his impending decision, which seems honestly yet to be determined:
“I’m going to talk to [Manuel]…I don’t want to make an emotional decision because I’m mad at somebody or something, I want to make a decision that’s good for the program,” Berenson said.
Who or what he would be mad at is unknown. This in the Free Press doesn't really sound like a guy who was planning to come back but wanted to anyway:
“There’s no question ... the start of the year, I was pretty much resigned to the fact this would be the last year,” Berenson said. “But as the year went on, it got better and better. I thought it made more sense and it was working.
“I don’t want to be in the way, that’s the other thing. If I’m going to coach, I want to coach.”
The relative success of the team might extend his desire to coach. So… yeah. I said my bit on what should happen already.
Not bad. Wisconsin hired Tony Granato as their new head coach. Granato is a former NHL head coach who is a Wisconsin alum who had a prolific NHL career; he was a Wings assistant. He's bringing his brother Don, the NTDP head coach, and former OSU coach Mark Osiecki with him. Osiecki was doing a not-bad job with OSU when his tenure was suddenly and inexplicably terminated just three years in.
That is a lot of coaching firepower for one program. Wisconsin is going to bounce back just fine. With the addition of Notre Dame this early blip in Big Ten hockey is going to look like just that—a blip. The league has four historical powerhouses; those programs don't just stay down.
Well, most of them…
Not good. Meanwhile in erstwhile Big Ten hockey powers, Tom Anastos still has a job because apparently Sunil Gulati is running MSU's athletic department now. Mark Hollis is making statements that are downright delusional:
“I feel really good about where we’re at,” Hollis said. “…I’m also an AD that has to look at, ‘OK, what’s the next five years going to look like, based upon the past five years?’ And from all the assessments I’ve put into this and all the folks I’ve talked to, I’m very confident we’re going to have success here next year and in the immediate future.”
That is the most insane thing I've heard an athletic director say, and I was exposed to years of Dave Brandon. Anastos's teams have gotten worse every year, and this is year five. You can no longer say these things in year five:
Comley left the program bare, though Anastos has been careful not be be overly critical publicly. Most of the players he inherited were not highly recruited.
And guess what… most of the players Anastos is recruiting are not highly recruited. Their recruiting class is bulked up with 20-year-olds like MSU is Merrimack or something, and the guy they seem the most hyped about coming in next year is an overage forward out of the BCHL named Taro Hirose.
Hirose does have a nice line (15-56-71 in 58 games). It probably won't translate. Dexter Dancs came out of that league two years ago with 67 points in 56 games and has mostly been a fourth-liner at Michigan. Before him, Ben Winnett had 58 points in just 39 games; his career high in four years at Michigan was 14 points.
Meanwhile Anastos will not have the services of leading scorer MacKenzie MacEachern, former third round pick and the most Scottish thing not in a bottle. His lone returning draftee at F was –30 last year. I mean… what does it take to fire this guy?
I look forward to having the "Tom Anastos still has a job?" conversation again next year after Wisconsin gets instantly better with their new staff. I'm sorry I'm a broken record about this but keeping Anastos is brutal for the league and what used to be my favorite rivalry in sports.
How much further along is your defense right now than when you started four weeks ago?
“We’ve come a long way. We are obviously 14 practices in. Starting from scratch really in essence for the third year in a row, so the challenges were there, you know, and obviously my hat’s off to our guys. I thought they approached it in a positive manner. I think they’ve got a pretty good handle on what we’re doing. We’ve got a number of pressures in. The bulk of our coverage concepts are in, and I was able to kind of at least get all the concepts in. Not all the patterns and so forth that accompany those, but there will be nothing now that’s brand new to the guys. It’ll be a concept that they can relate to as we move forward.”
Guys were talking about how most of the stuff’s the same [and] there’s just the one new coverage. Whatever new changes you are bringing to the system, how do you think they’re adjusting to them?
“Well, you know, one of those concepts is pretty involved and there’s a lot of moving pieces and the players have a lot of accountability because they have to handle all the checks and so forth, and I think we’ve done a really good job of handling the responsibility and accountability piece of it as well as functioning from a concept standpoint. So yeah, I’m pretty pleased. And it’s really—you know, football’s football. The reality is football’s football. But, you know, that concept’s pretty different and I think the guys have handled it really well.”
You talked about the linebackers earlier in Florida about some new guys and guys who hadn’t proven themselves. How have they progressed over the course of the month?
“Well, you know, I think Noah Furbush has done a good job at Sam. Obviously we’re doing a lot with Jabrill and he’s logging some minutes there and doing a very good job. Ben Gedeon has had an extremely positive spring, so I’m excited about his progress and where he’s at. Mike McCray has stayed healthy and continued to take steps moving forward, as has true freshman Devin Bush. And Mike Wroblewski, we moved him from defensive end to linebacker earlier on in the spring practice period and it seems to have been a good move for us. He’s still got some work ahead of him, but he’s doing a very, very good job.”
How much of Jabrill’s time is now spent at linebacker? How much are you dividing it?
“Eh, he’s probably 70/30, but he’s doing a lot of things. You won’t see it on display Friday, that’s for sure, but he’s doing enough stuff that keeps his plate full. There’s no question about that.”
Seventy [%] linebacker, thirty [%] other stuff?
“Yeah, I would say about that. But, you know, it’s not gonna stay that way. It’ll end up increasing as we move forward as we’re trying to do things package-wise to offset the other people.”
[After THE JUMP: D-line rotation, Jabrill, the art of the mustache. One of those things may not have actually come up.]
When he’s doing that and he’s at that position—you said you had a player last year that did the same thing. Can you see him pick it up that quickly?
“Yeah, he’s already picked it up. He’s playing at a high level there, so I’m happy with him. From a coverage standpoint it’s everything we expected. I think he’s picked up the linebacker pieces pretty well as well. So, you know, making good progress, but like everybody else he needs more time, more reps.”
Are you able to do more creative things or different things than what you’ve done in the past with a player like Jabrill?
“Yeah, we’ll be able to do some stuff but, you know, that position’s always been occupied—you know, the last three guys are all in the NFL that I’ve coached that have played that position so it’s a pretty—you expect a lot at that spot. We’re gonna get what we expect. There’s no question.”
Who else plays that spot? Is there another guy who can do what Jabrill does?
“We’re playing Noah there, Noah Furbush. He can’t do some of those things, but there’s a number of those things he can do and we can function as a defense with him being there if we had to.”
Will Devin Bush see the field this fall?
“Uh, yeah, I’m not really looking at—I mean, obviously that still remains to be seen, but I’m very happy with his progress at Will linebacker.”
Do you have a term for that position that Jabrill and Noah are playing?
Jim said the quarterbacks will be live on Friday. What do you want to see from your defensive line now that they can hit them?
“Well, you know, we gotta rush the passer. The reality is you gotta get better against the same color jerseys. That’s the reality. We’ve done a good job, and obviously there’ll be some limitations from what we’re gonna be able to do from a defensive perspective. Which is fine, because you wanna find out who can win the one-on-ones and those kind of things. Gotta go get ‘em!”
MGoQuestion: With guys like Winovich and Kemp, do you see them sticking at End or do think they could also play a little bit at Backer* or Sam?
“I think Winovich and Kemp are both in the right spot. Obviously Carlo’s been here for a short period of time. We fooled around with him standing up a little bit. I think he’s in the right position now. Now it’s just a matter of, you know, like every other freshman he’s got to get his feet wet. He’s got to go through the learning process, and, you know, we’ll let that run its course.
Winovich is playing well at End. Obviously techniques, fundamentals he needs to get better at but we think we got him in the right spot.”
We’ve seen a lot in the last couple years about the defensive line and rotating because they said that they had depth and then by the end of last year there wasn’t as much. How many guys do you trust in that defensive line to rotate?
“Well, we’d like to be seven or eight guys. I mean, you certainly want to be a pair and a spare. You’d like to be up to seven or eight guys, eight if possible.”
What are you at now do you think? That you trust.
“You know, I think we’re approaching that number. I really do. Once we get through summer workouts and get everybody back healthy there plus the influx of the young guys, I think we’ll be just fine.”
Good to work with Brian [Smith] again?
“Yeah, Brian’s a great guy. He was a tremendous player, tremendous leader. Won a national championship as a player and helped me coach a team that went to the national championship game. I still lay awake thinking of Armanti Edwards from App State on occasion [Ed-A: same], but I’m glad to be back with him. He’s a great dude.”