Upchurch – MGoBlog
Michigan’s first stroke of bad luck came late in November: the Wolverines had just lost a hard-fought contest to eventual 1-seed Villanova in Brooklyn, but starting point guard Derrick Walton suffered some sort of toe injury – one that would affect him for the remainder of the year, eventually sidelining him for good in late January. It was evident that the injury sapped Walton of his explosiveness, both vertically and running in the open floor, but he played through it until his other foot was injured, most likely due to overcompensation for his original injury.
After a disappointing sophomore campaign, it’s prudent to recall exactly how good Walton was as a freshman. He started all but one game for a team that would come to the brink of a return trip to the Final Four and excelled in a modest role on offense. Derrick got better throughout the season: he posted a gaudy offensive rating (120.8) on a not-insignificant usage rate (18.4) in conference play while posting the fourth-highest free throw rate of qualifying players in the Big Ten; he was arguably Michigan’s best perimeter defender; he shot 41% from three on the season on 105 attempts. Expectations were naturally quite optimistic for the highly-touted Detroit point guard entering his sophomore season.
It’s hard to quantify exactly how much of Walton’s struggles were due to his injury, the stark decline in talent around him, or the burden of an increased role on offense, but the drop-off was so severe that the injury is the best explanation. After shooting an impressive 59% at the rim as a freshman, he shot 41% inside the restricted area as a sophomore – evidence that his toe was clearly bothering him. Derrick was still called on to play just shy of 40 minutes a game (barring auto-bench foul trouble in the first half) and, even though Spike Albrecht played well down the stretch, Walton was clearly Michigan’s first option at the point guard spot before his season-ending injury.
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[After the jump: let's go back to the beginning]
I knooowww you belooooong to soooooomebody neeeeww.
But toniiiiiight you belooooong to me.
Is the state of Michigan driving kids away from in-state schools? This year Tom Izzo rode an easy bracket to a Final Four appearance with a down-year team, then put together a very good recruiting class, even if his top target went to Purdue. Since he really has no need to make excuses at the moment, his friends are doing it for him. Before the tournament it was "Tom Izzo doesn't cheat but everyone else does." Which is generally true—on a scale of "Look at our shiny Tommy Amaker" to "Ridin' this Calipari" MSU is definitely near the Amaker extremity of programs that regulate that stuff as best they can (nobody, including Michigan, would stand up to scrutiny, nor should).
The latest non-excuse excuse is MHSAA's arcane rule drives top 150 talent out of the state of Michigan, and thus away from the in-state schools. An article by Graham Couch—
Hey where are you going? Stop. At least see where I'm going with this. Yes the Couch article was exactly the paragon of crappy slappy journalism you'd expect from one of the worst journalists of my generation. He interviewed a couple of Detroit high school basketball coaches about the "parasitic" effect of AAU and national prep powers—as if anyone but the in-state schools would be helped if Miles Bridges was forced to live in Flint rather than a prep school down the street from Marshall University.
But that doesn't preclude a possibly real effect of talent leaving the state (and not looking back) due to overly stringent rules put in place by the body that controls high school athletics.
Couch cares because Michigan State in basketball is like an SEC football school (minus the cheating), in that their historical success is tied to proximity to talent. If the state of Michigan is systemically exporting more talent than it's bringing in, that's bad for the in-state schools. However if one program is suffering from greater national vagrancy because it's built on recruiting in-state talent and doesn't know how to compete for regional and extra-regional players, that's just that program falling behind the times.
Are more basketball players playing elsewhere in general? Is this state different somehow? I realized I didn't have a study to link to show this, so I made one.
And found M and MSU are getting less in-statey:
Bentley has a list of all Michigan basketball players except for 2008 (I added). For Michigan State I could only find a list of letterwinners, so I compared just Michigan's varsity:
A lot of wiggle: This isn't like football where there's over 100 players on each roster; if three freshmen from a prep school decide to attend the same college you'll get a big jump on the graph above.
There are two major national events responsible for two huge dips: World War II (1942-1945), and the implementation of Title IX, which regulations were promulgated in 1974 and clarified in 1979. The "three-part test" comes from '79, and it's from then through '82 that the three-part standards, e.g. having as many girls on official athletic rosters as boys, truly went into effect.
That said, there's a historical mean of around 50% in-state for Michigan and about 60% for Michigan State—not enough difference on a squad of 16 players to make a difference. Both schools have recently gone more out-of-state, Michigan to a much greater degree.
What about the Wolverines?
[Hit the jump]
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.]
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.]