Stuffing the Passer, accidentally ironic for once.
You SERIOUSLY cannot be telling me we have to entrust our lives to--- So Everett Golson is leaving Notre Dame, and Harbaugh is all take ALL THE QUARTERBACKS so this is now a thing. I doubt it happens now that Rudock is committed—why walk into anything like the same situation he's walking out of?
But do we even have to have the "would you take him?" conversation? The cost to Michigan is zero (the cost to one walk-on is one year of college), and the upside is perhaps a redshirt on Morris and one more bullet in the chamber at the most important position. Worst case scenario is still the current scenario, except with 100% more Sockface.
"All the World's a Stage. Except that Couch. That Couch is not a Proper Stage. Do not perform on that couch!" –Shakespeare, full quote.
In 2011 a Theater student named A.J. Holmes arranged a choral performance of the Victors and the chants everybody knows, and last weekend the Theater students performed it for their parents at a graduation party. This got recorded on someone's dad's phone, posted on Facebook, and was instantly adored by everyone except the UM Theater Dept version of Dave Brandon (Orr is the dad):
Orr said the post was taken down at the request of the Chair of the Musical Theatre Department, Brent Wagner.
"The chair of our department is interested in preserving the department and he just wanted to make sure that whenever it's performed it's done so in a professional manner and we completely respect that," Orr said.
Despite such ruinous production value, over half a million people shared it, generating more positive comments about the department in a day than 100,000 performances of Equus ever got them. To his credit, in face of righteous blowback, Wagner relented and let the dad re-post it. I suggest you watch the hell out of this:
Listen to this! What happens when 22 talented UMich musical theatre grads sing their version of the University of Michigan fight song at their graduation party. An amazing arrangement by Michigan MT alum A.J. Holmes (who we just saw starring as Cunningham in the Book of Mormon Broadway National Tour). Awesome!
Posted by Scott Orr on Sunday, May 3, 2015
Marvel at the talent of those singers. Also marvel at Scott Orr, who not only just paid for four years of Theater education at the University of Michigan, but can also use a camera phone, and manipulate the privacy settings of Facebook. I hereby award Scott Orr the inaugural Jim Harbaugh Heroic Dad of the Year Trophy.
[After the jump: what % of Michigan's 3-/4-/5-stars were NFL draftees]
Previously: nominal backcourt
Starter: Zak Irvin (Jr.)
Backups: Kam Chatman (So.), DJ Wilson (Fr.*), Moritz Wagner (Fr.)
On a roster that is suddenly brimming with depth this is the spot at which minutes are tightest. The competition here is not really between Irvin and the guys listed as backups—Irvin's playing 30+ minutes guaranteed—but between Kam Chatman, DJ Wilson, Moritz Wagner, and the two guys we covered as "small" forwards. There's about 50 minutes to divide up between the five players.
This preview projects that the bulk of those minutes go to Aubrey Dawkins and Duncan Robinson. Chatman shot 36/26 last year, Wilson is coming off a redshirt after looking pretty bad in 26 minutes before his injury, and Wagner is physically reminiscent of a freshman Caris LeVert. Dawkins was already a pretty good Big Ten player last year and is likely to improve; Robinson is shooting is shooting is shooting on a John Beilein team. They're getting minutes. These guys will get the squeeze.
It is reasonable to expect that one of the three candidates here steps forwards to become a quality bench player. Who that will be is anyone's guess. Chatman settled down late in the year, using his handle and passing ability to create some baskets. The coaches have been talking up Wilson's "productive" redshirt year… and I've also heard that he stepped it up in a big way after Wagner came in on an official visit and took it to him.
A redshirt for someone seems like a good idea. That would probably be Wagner… if he's not clearly better. Which is a possibility. I just don't know, man.
What I do know: Zak Irvin's going to be on the court a lot. Last year we asked him to become a "threes AND" guy. Progress in that department was dubious at best until a late surge forced upon him by the injury issues. Alex covered his remarkable uptick in things other than shots:
Even on the post-apocalypse roster it took several games for Irvin to grok the fact that he had to be Nik Stauskas now. When he did grasp it, he turned in the finest stretch of his Michigan career by some distance. It felt like he had grasped not only his role but how to create shots in the Beilein offense. While his role should be less prominent on next year's roster if only because he's no longer Dion Harris, the efficiency of possessions he uses promises to shoot up.
Irvin will be a big deal for other things, as well. He's going to be drawing guys Caleb Swanigan at (apparently) Purdue. Nigel Hayes at Wisconsin. And so forth and so on. Michigan has never been particularly good defensively at the 4 because of the guys they run out there at the spot; Irvin seems better able to hack it than just about anyone Beilein has had at Michigan. Glenn Robinson was pretty good as a sophomore. Other than that…? If Irvin can rebound at the clip he did late in the year and prove something other than weak spot on D, Michigan will benefit greatly.
Minute projection: Irvin 30, Miscellaneous 10.
[After the JUMP: Doyle, rebounding philosophies, and so forth.]
As mandated by sports radio law, we talk about Ballghazi. I don't want to; Ed does because he comes in with a scorching hot take. I have a theory that Jim Harbaugh is responsible for all of this.
We talk some 2016 basketball recruiting, with a focus on Beilein's approach and if they should be altering this at all. Disregard thing about MSU getting Caleb Swanigan. (Heh.) Amaker recruiting #TBT.
We finish up talking about AFC Ann Arbor's first game, which was a good time.
THE USUAL LINKS
I thought I'd revisit the basketball roster now that it seems set. We covered similar ground in the Always Next Year post on the team, but now that the Minutes Crunch™ is official, let's look at how things might shake out.
Starter: Derrick Walton (Jr.)
Backups: Spike Albrecht (Sr.), Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman (So.)
Albrecht's hips and Walton's foot are lingering issues hovering over this spot. Derrick Walton was shut down in January and should be back from just about anything by November. His issues massively blunted his effectiveness. Walton went from a 45/41 percent shooter to 32/34. It's never good when a shooting line forces me to remind readers that the first one is twos and the second is threes.
Just about every part of Walton's statistical profile was static or regressed save his reliably mansome defensive rebounding; how much of that was the injury? How much was disorientation in an environment far more focused on his output? How much was just flat-out poor play?
We're hoping the answers to those questions are "lots," "some," and "not too much considering." Michigan and LaVall Jordan's point guard track record should mean that is close to the truth.
Still, the version of Derrick Walton Michigan gets is a major question mark for the season. Point guards have universally played above expectations since Darius Morris's freshman year. I just don't know what expectations are for Walton anymore.
Meanwhile, Spike Albrecht's presence would have certainly mitigated any downside here if he wasn't in the midst of dual hip surgeries. Instead he just probably mitigates any downside. The media has been told that he should be back in five or six months, no problem, but there are whispers he might be forced to redshirt. Albrecht was low usage and could not sustain his ludicrously low TO rates when forced into extensive action; he also led the post-LeVert team in assist rate by a huge margin and maintained shooting efficiency in a more difficult environment.
Spike was a major reason Michigan managed to remain competitive without Walton and Irvin. In the twelve games Michigan played without those two stars, Spike scored in double digits nine times, shot 45/43%, and had a stellar 60:19 assist:TO ratio. Even before the injuries Michigan was leaning on him heavily for minutes until the freshmen were somewhat more prepared. A senior reprise would have been most excellent. Is that still possible?
If not, MAAR steps into the breach. There are worse backup plans to your backup plans than a guy who put up 18 at Michigan State as a freshman and harassed DeAngelo Russell into an awful game. MAAR needs to work on his deep shooting (29% on fewer than two threes a game) and passing, but Michigan hasn't had a guy who can get to the basket like him since Trey. A bit more on him in the next section.
Minute projection: Fuzzy with injury issues. Call it Walton 25, Albrecht 15.
[After the JUMP: Caris, Dawkins, and the cavalry behind.]
Hoosier Leader Now?
Michigan hosted a pair of four-star Indiana prospects on Monday, and it was well-known that the Wolverines were working from behind on each. Wide receiver Austin Mack, considered an Ohio State lean, forged a stronger connection with the new coaching staff, per Scout's Josh Newkirk ($):
"This visit really helped a lot," Mack said. "This is the second time I was able to get down and speak with the coaches and build that relationship. It definitely ranks them a lot higher in my eyes.
"Seeing how beneficial the education and the coaches are at Michigan. Knowing that the next few years they won't be losing like they have been. Success is going to come and it's definitely going to come from hard work. They have definitely moved up and are team to think about."
Mack told Newkirk that he has no leader heading into his June 7th decision; the general consensus, however, is that Michigan made a move but still has ground to make up on the Buckeyes.
That's also the case with defensive end Auston Robertson and Michigan State, though Michigan managed to replace another rival in his top three, per ESPN's TomVH ($):
“I don’t really have a relationship like that with Ohio State anymore, so why keep them in the top three,” he said. “So now it’s Michigan State, Notre Dame and Michigan."
Robertson admits the Wolverines have some ground to make up on the other two schools on the list, but says he will give them a shot to do so.
Robertson wants his mother to visit each of his top three schools before he also decides on June 7th, so while Michigan still needs to make a push, they should get that opportunity.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
(Dressler, Barron, Fuller – MGoBlog)
Entering the year, Michigan’s most obvious area of concern was at the center position – Michigan fives play a singular role and that big man play was an underrated storyline amidst the Wolverines’ success in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. It’s easy to see why the position was unsettled, especially relative to the rest of the roster. Derrick Walton, Caris LeVert, and Zak Irvin were solid contributors in 2014 and each was projected to have some sort of breakout season. Kam Chatman, a big, skilled lefty – a five-star who chose Michigan over Arizona – looked to lock down the four spot.
There were four potential contributors at the five:
- Redshirt junior Max Bielfeldt – a short, stout post player who flashed signs of a clever pick-and-pop game shooting spot-up threes – had yet to play meaningful time in the rotation behind guys like Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford.
- Redshirt freshman Mark Donnal, who, as a former top-100 recruit, was the most highly-touted of the group; Michigan could afford to take a redshirt for him in 2014, but that Bielfeldt, not Donnal, was the emergency center, it seemed as if he was still far from being able to hold up physically.
- True freshman Ricky Doyle, a guy who Beilein prioritized early in the recruiting cycle, looked to have the size and bulk to contribute early, though he never rose significantly in the recruiting rankings before or during his senior year of high school.
- True freshman D.J. Wilson: in order to create as much competition at the position as possible, Beilein put the potential four at the five – Wilson has a lot of potential, but he looked lost early on in the year and suffered a knee injury, taking a medical redshirt after not being able to contribute meaningfully.
Ultimately, Michigan’s center spot was not a position of strength—and there’s definitely places where you can contextualize Michigan’s struggles with the problems in that group – but it’s possible to see reasons for encouragement in the future.
* * *
Beilein’s Big Men
As much as anything, John Beilein’s gained acclaim in the world of college basketball because of his reputation (and prowess) as an offensive whiz, and with his precise, familiar system, it’s easy to see certain roles for certain positions: the backcourt is capable of going with a two guard look in Princeton sets, but it also lends itself to individual pick-and-roll prowess; the two wings – at the three and four – play essentially the same roles, mirroring the other on the opposite side of the floor.
Beilein’s best team at West Virginia featured Kevin Pittsnogle at the five – The Mountaineers were able to play five-out ball because of his outside shooting ability. He hasn’t had a player like that in a prominent role at Michigan: Wolverine bigs under Beilein (and especially under the tutelage of Bacari Alexander) are the sort of specialized two-way bigs gaining in popularity across the NBA in spread pick-and-roll schemes. Michigan’s centers work as a fulcrum in Beilein’s traditional read-and-react schemes, but their function in the generally effective pick-and-roll game is to finish around the rim after setting good screens for perimeter playmakers. They’re required to anchor often-suspect defenses, though they clearly lack the athleticism and shot-blocking ability to fit into the NBA archetype.
Predictably, there’s a lot of statistical similarities of big men in the John Beilein era at Michigan, especially starting in the 2011 season with players he recruited:
Generally – and largely because of Michigan’s offensive and defensive schemes – there have been unmistakable indicators of Beilein’s role for his big men: they’re efficient and have solid advanced shooting statistics, they typically use a low percentage of Michigan’s possessions on the offensive end (though McGary and Bielfeldt bucked that trend some), and even though Michigan’s guards and wings retreat in transition after a miss, the big men post solid offensive rebounding rates. Usually, there’s not a lion’s share of minutes to be had at the position after DeShawn Sims’s departure – Beilein’s more egalitarian with his playing time at that spot than at any other.
Contextualizing Michigan’s 2015 center troika within the statistical outputs of all of Beilein’s post players offers some interesting observations:
Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal were very efficient; they didn’t approach 2014 J-Mo’s ridiculous season, but the two freshmen took generally tougher shots. Bielfeldt was the opposite: high usage, but mediocre efficiency.
The biggest surprise to me is the poor rebounding numbers from Ricky Doyle, though there’s potentially an explanation for that. Ricky’s offensive rebounding rate, while not excellent, was fairly decent – on defense, he focused on box-outs because of his limited leaping ability and the benefit of having guards and wings push the break.
Bielfeldt was legitimately a solid rebounder on both ends as a senior, which was a big surprise – those numbers probably inflate his ability, because opponents often attacked the glass when he was in, but he was decidedly the best of the three.
Of course, the players each had respective characteristics that defined their game, so I’ll break down the style of each in their own sections:
* * *
(Fuller – MGoBlog)
If there was a winner in the Michigan center sweepstakes, it was Doyle, who played the most minutes throughout the year despite facing the effects of illness and conditioning issues.
Note that the minutes trends for Bielfeldt and Donnal are pretty much the inverse of each other.
Of the three, Ricky was the closest to a traditional Big Ten bruiser. Semi-serious comparisons to Graham Brown abounded early in the season, though Doyle showed off incredibly soft hands and surprising coordination near the basket. His post game – something that Michigan seemed to actively try to develop (even though guys like McGary rarely posted up) – was a little bizarre: Ricky showed off a precocious repertoire of moves but he wasn’t decisive with any of them, often stringing together superfluous moves that attract traveling calls.
Still, Doyle was the best two-way option early in the season because of his size. Under Beilein, there’s only been one freshman with comparable height and heft in the post – Mitch McGary. Going from McGary to Doyle highlighted a lot of what made Mitch a rare talent: Ricky simply doesn’t have the athleticism, lateral quickness, or general polish to his game, not to mention his odd inability to put up good rebounding rates.
Even though Beilein would probably prefer ballhandlers to grab defensive rebounds, Ricky’s DR% of 11.9 was the lowest of his tenure at Michigan and has to be a reason for concern moving forward. Hopefully with a year of good health (Doyle’s illnesses were – in hindsight – a bigger problem than we thought) along with a summer of conditioning, he’ll be able to post respectable numbers next year. Doyle’s defense also needs work, but a year of experience should be invaluable for his positioning.
Focusing on that one weakness doesn’t seem fair, but it’s certainly notable. There was real reason for excitement for Doyle – which he showed off briefly at the end of the year against Frank Kaminsky and Wisconsin – when he was healthy. We knew that Ricky would be a big body inside, hopefully anchoring a team without many offseasons of physical development. In a way, he was, but we didn’t expect him to have a nose for drawing fouls or the ability to be a high-percentage shooter, especially in contested situations.
Doyle’s list of statistically analogous Big Ten players is an unusual mix. He has three different Penn State Nittany Lions in his top seven (not good), but compares well to Indiana’s Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Michigan State’s erstwhile center platoon. Colton Iverson is an interesting projection: he didn’t pan out at Minnesota and eventually joined Tim Miles at Colorado State for a productive career playing the way Doyle plays. Jae’Sean Tate and Basil Smotherman indicate that those two are like centers and – statistically speaking – Doyle has a profile suggestive of a low-volume stretch-four without much range (but one who can score effectively around the basket.
* * *
(Fuller – MGoBlog)
Mark Donnal was a perfect example of the dissonance between numbers and the eye test last year. He shot 57 / 37 / 70 (2 / 3 / FT) on the season and he posted an offensive efficiency number of 119.6 on 17% of available possessions (which compares favorably to Aubrey Dawkins’s respective 116.3 and 16.4%). Donnal was a better rebounder than Doyle, based on their rebounding rates; he easily had the team’s highest block rate. So why – as evidenced in the charts above – did his minutes drop throughout the season to the point where he was clearly the third option?
Max Bielfeldt was better than Donnal at creating his own shot, but that’s not why Donnal was effectively frozen out of the rotation late in the year (he only played one minute against Wisconsin). Through the first few games, it appeared that Donnal wasn’t physically ready to contribute meaningfully and that suspicion was supported often throughout the season. He frequently was unable to set good screens (which was a problem he shared with Doyle); he couldn’t maintain position in low-post defense; he often resorted to hacking an opponent to prevent them from getting good looks (instead of contesting shots well) – his foul rate (6.4) was much higher than either Doyle’s (4.0), or Bielfeldt’s (3.8).
There are positive signs from Donnal, but it became clear that he’s a long-term prospect, even now. Since he has 3 years of eligibility, it’s much too early to write him off. Despite not being able to handle low-post physicality, he still shot pretty well around the rim; 37% from three for a center is a good clip and Donnal could be a potentially useful pick-and-pop option at some point; his length could enable him to contest shots well on defense eventually.
A few comparisons here stand out: Cole, Nankivil, Dukan, Clark, Griffey, and Pitchford are all stretch bigs that either play the 4 or 5 – all of them have perimeter-oriented skill-sets. It’s interesting to see Marvin Clark there: MSU fans project him to have a breakout sophomore year, while it’s hard for UM fans to avoid feeling disappointed after Donnal’s freshman year. Interestingly, Matt Costello shows up again (7 for Donnal, 8 for Doyle); Michigan State’s center platoon was uninspiring last year, but blue-chip recruits are providing reinforcements. Walter Pitchford is the name that sticks out most to me though. He was pretty solid as a sophomore and dropped off entirely as a junior – being the Huskers’ only reliable three-point option didn’t work out well in 2014 and last year, his shooting fell off competely. Still, I think he’s perhaps the best stylistic comparison for Donnal on this list, at least.
* * *
(Fuller – MGoBlog)
Since Max most likely won’t be back next year, I won’t spend time describing his game or highlighting strengths and weaknesses. From UMHoops’s excellent Five Key Plays series, here are Bielfeldt’s season highlights: Bucknell, Rutgers, Illinois, and Rutgers again. I didn’t expect him to contribute as arguably the best big man for stretches, but he held up well – especially for a guy who might be just 6’6.
Another thing: I came to Michigan in the same high school class as Bielfeldt (2011) and the last member of that recruiting class – Carlton Brundidge, Max Bielfeldt, and some Trey Burke guy – is finally leaving Michigan. Bielfeldt was the only remaining player in Michigan’s program to have played on the same team as Zack Novak and Stu Douglass; now, the “Fresh Five” remnants are seniors and leaders – two kids who hadn’t even committed to Michigan when they pulled in their first Big Ten title in about thirty years. Even though Max Bielfeldt wasn’t an impactful contributor for most of his career, it’s sad to see him go.
I do wonder if he’d be a better fit somewhere else though. At 6’6, he wasn’t big enough to man the center spot full-time for Michigan, but he could work as more of a traditional power forward (which Michigan doesn’t have) between his adequate post-up ability, the ability to space the floor, and his above-average rebounding for his size, he could work well into a frontcourt rotation that operates in a different way than Michigan does. It would be interesting to see if he has somewhat of a breakout season after a change in scenery, though that definitely didn’t happen this past year with Jon Horford’s transfer to Florida.
Best of luck, Max. Congrats on going 8-1 against Illinois.
* * *
2011 vs. 2015
Entering the season, there was an ostensible comparison between Michigan’s situation at the five spot: in 2011, Michigan started the season with Jordan Morgan (rFr), Jon Horford (Fr), and an out-of-position Evan Smotrycz (Fr); in 2015, Michigan had Mark Donnal (rFr), Ricky Doyle (Fr), and an out-of-position (maybe) D.J. Wilson (Fr) – as well as Max Bielfeldt. Wilson was too raw to contribute and took a medical redshirt, but comparing Morgan and Horford to Donnal and Doyle is fair. Team success makes us remember the 2011 center corps more fondly (plus J-Mo’s eventual ascension to small-time cult hero late in his senior year), but – due to Morgan and Smotrycz – the 2011 big men had better individual performances than the ‘15 bigs:
“Game Scores” are a metric devised by John Hollinger to find one rough number to quantify all-around performance in a given game – efficiency and many traditional box score stats are incorporated.
Looking at the eye test – Doyle is reminiscent of Morgan, Donnal is reminiscent of Horford – might be more instructive: as a freshman, Jordan Morgan operated a beautiful pick-and-roll game alongside a great distributor in Darius Morris, but Doyle was never able to get a hold on how savvy screeners can create open looks. They’re both good finishers, Doyle is better with his back to the basket (which is generally inefficient anyways) and he’s bigger too.
They’re not exactly similar players, but Doyle definitely could do well to try to emulate Morgan – neither can protect the rim but Morgan’s agility (which Doyle doesn’t have) made him a solidly above-average defender and maybe Doyle’s size could help him in that regard. Ricky seems to have the ability to seamlessly step into the other half of theoretically solid pick-and-roll combinations between he and LeVert, Walton, or Irvin. At the very least, Ricky’s shown himself to be physical and he competed well against some of the better bigs in the league (and exploited a tiny Indiana front line for his best game of the year).
* * *
(Fuller – MGoBlog)
Yes, that’s Ricky Doyle baptizing first-team All-ACC senior center Rakeem Christmas (who was also a third-team All-American, in large part due to his defense). It’s a thing that happened. Really.
For the second year in a row, the five projects to be Michigan’s weakest position – Walton, Albrecht, LeVert, and Rahkman can control the guard spots; Irvin, Dawkins, Robinson, Wagner, and Chatman are on the wings. There’s depth and talent across the board one-through-four. But the five is just Doyle and Donnal, two guys who haven’t proven much yet. Michigan has an empty scholarship after Jaylen Brown and Kenny Williams went elsewhere, but I haven’t seen any chatter about bringing on a grad transfer for a one year stopgap. It hurts that Bielfeldt is leaving, but hindsight’s 20/20. In any case, Doyle and Donnal will be dissected plenty ahead of the upcoming season. Hopefully a summer at Camp Sanderson gives them enough to battle with the Big Ten’s newfound strength in the post.