Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
PROS: If he was a Football Manager player, would have an influence and work rate of 20. This means he's a gritty grittenstein who everyone loves because he defies his physical limitations to be pretty good. Had an Aneurysm of Leadership to lead Michigan to its first victory in Breslin since 1997.
Also nailed six threes in that game. Iconically bled all over himself in a game against Illinois during Michigan's first tourney push since the program's NCAA immolation. Kind of a walking capital-L Leadership avatar. The kind of player opposing fans loathe. Our Brian Cardinal. Swears like a sailor and has problems keeping his emotions in check.
CONS: Was never a star. Senior year usage was 14.3%, in the "role player" arena. Repeatedly posterized by men a half-foot taller than him, though this could be filed under a positive from a grit perspective. Clocked an OSU player late in a loss to get booted.
PROS: Amazing sophomore year saw him finish top five in assist rate nationally and shoot efficiently despite an astronomic usage rate. Told Kalin Lucas to get off his #$&*ing court, and Lucas had to since Michigan had just swept Michigan State for the first time since paper was invented. Was the engine of Michigan's second tourney birth since the NCAA immolation, this one not a skin-of-your-teeth bubble nailbiter. Nearly led Michigan to an upset of Duke in the secound round. If only that floater had dropped…
CONS: Made a poor decision to enter the draft early, limiting his impact to that one year—his freshman year was not exactly Trey Burke's. Draft entry decision seemingly taken in full knowledge that he was unlikely to go in first round. That's tough to take, and it seems like a one-year phenom has to be more phenomenal to get in here.
Also while it's not his fault that Tim Doyle called him "butterfly," it is a regrettably true thing.
PROS: Best player on Michigan's tourney-drought-breaking team, with massive usage (32%, top 25 nationally), a nearly-as-massive assist rate, and okay shooting. Major factor in the win at Minnesota that essentially got Michigan into the tourney.
A guy who signed up with Michigan when he had other options and there wasn't much reason to be a Wolverine. Stuck with it despite the Amaker firing. Way less crazy than Alex Legion. Actual full name is "Corperryale L'Adorable Harris," which… wow. Key guy in Michigan's perception-altering wins over UCLA and Duke in 2009.
CONS: Also made a debatable-at-best decision to enter the draft early and has spent his NBA career on the fringes of the Cavs' roster. Had blowups with Beilein that caused him to sit during critical periods. Tended toward lazy habits like jacking up contested threes. Had a little Rasheed Wallace disease while at M wherein he seems like less than he should be. Michigan disappointed greatly in his final year despite losing only a couple of walk-ons and Kelvin Grady.
PROS: Yeah, he's eligible. If this is a surprise it just goes to show how long ago 2006 seems in basketball terms.
Horton's teams never made the tournament but in his last go-round he was the main man on an outfit Kenpom likes better (#31) than a couple of Beilein outfits that got in. And he was fantastic: 28% usage the #35 assist rate, a bunch of steals, 90% free throw shooting, 49% from two, and 39% from three. That team would have made the tourney if they a) hadn't gone from 16-3 to 18-10 to end the year and b) hadn't blown it against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament.
I think we all forget how good Horton was because his teams never got anywhere.
CONS: Teams never got anywhere. He's holding the NIT MVP trophy above, a career-summing photo if there ever was one. While this isn't his fault it is a downer. Got suspended for most of his junior year thanks to a domestic violence thing he pled guilty to.
This was difficult to separate out since there are a number of candidates with things to recommend them: Brent Petway, Graham Brown, and Stuart Douglass were tough to leave out, but they all seemed like junior versions of Novak in the grit category.
PROS: The other top banana on Michigan's drought-breaker. A skilled power forward forced to play out of position at center too much, Sims was a wildly inconsistent player capable of dropping 20 on 8 shots one night and 2 on 8 the next night. These swings correlated very well with the height of his opponent. Are you a below-the-rim 6'8" kid at Northwestern? Forget it. Are you a shotblocker? Enjoy your feast.
Sims came back from an unimaginable personal tragedy—his brother was shot to death—endured during his freshman year to be a mainstay for his final three years. He was high-usage, a quality rebounder, and rarely turned the ball over. These things made up for some eh shooting percentages to make him an efficient player. Another guy who had options but decided to go with Michigan at a time where there was little reason to.
CONS: Has the same knock Manny Harris did since his final year was the disappointing follow-up to the tourney appearance. Was never a really great player and doesn't bring Novak-level fan intangibles (FANTANGIBLES!) with him.
This was a triumph. I'm making a note here:
It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.
We do what we must because we can.
For the good of all of us
Except the ones who are dead.
But there's no sense crying over every mistake
You just keep on trying till you run out of cake
And the science gets done and you make a neat gun
For the people who are still alive.
I'm not even angry.
I'm being so sincere right now.
Even though you broke my heart and killed me.
And tore me to pieces.
And threw every piece into a fire.
As they burned it hurt because
I was so happy for you.
Now these points of data make a beautiful line
And we're out of beta we're releasing on time.
So I'm GLaD I got burned think of all the things we learned
For the people who are still alive.
(I was all like…)
THAT WAS A JOKE. HA HA, FAT CHANCE.
Anyway, this cake is great:
It's so delicious and moist.
(But now I'm all like…)
Look at me still talking when there's science to do.
When I look out there it makes me GLaD I'm not you.
I've experiments to run there is research to be done
On the people who are still alive
And believe me I am still alive.
I'm doing science and I'm still alive.
P.S. I feel FANTASTIC and I'm still alive.
P.P.S. While you're dying I'll be still alive.
Final thought: And when you're dead I will be still alive.
Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary: Capable of dunking
Now that Trey Burke has announced his return to the Michigan basketball program, we can all emerge from our panic rooms and take a look at the roster for next year. Since the end of the season, Michigan has lost five scholarship players—Zack Novak and Stu Douglass to graduation; Evan Smotrycz, Colton Christian, and Carlton Brundidge to transfer—and pulled in a commitment from point guard Spike Albrecht. With today's news that the Wolverines are no longer pursuing combo guard Amadeo Della Valle, the roster is set barring a graduate-year transfer. Here's one man's guess at the 2012-13 depth chart:
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Trey Burke||Tim Hardaway Jr.||Glenn Robinson III||Mitch McGary||Jordan Morgan|
|Spike Albrecht||Nick Stauskas||Matt Vogrich||Max Bielfeldt||Jon Horford|
|Eso Akunne||-||-||-||Blake McLimans|
Schwing. That's a lineup featuring an All-American (honorable mention) point guard, an enigmatic but uber-talented shooting guard, two five-star freshmen at the 3 and 4, and a proven Big Ten center. It's also a lineup with a fair amount of versatility. If Michigan wants to go small, they can play GRIII at power forward and slide either Nick Stauskas or Matt Vogrich to the wing, adding some extra outside shooting. Going bigger is pretty unnecessary, since the presumed starters outside of Burke all have more than adequate size for their position—no more 6'4" guys in the post.
At point guard, once again it pretty much starts and ends with Trey Burke, but the pickup of Albrecht gives the team some options. Albrecht's main strengths are basketball savvy and passing ability; should he pick up on the offense quickly enough, he can provide Burke with a few minutes of rest without sacrificing much offensive flow. Nick Stauskas is a natural shooting guard, but he's a slick passer. If he can just be adequate at handling the basketball, he could also help ease the load on Burke. While Burke will undoubtedly play well over 30 minutes a game once again, there's hope that he won't be forced to log the 40 (or more) minute efforts he did as a freshman.
The key to a successful season—and next year, success means a Big Ten title and/or a deep run in the NCAA tournament—is the production of Tim Hardaway Jr. Can he improve his shot selection and return to the efficient scoring ways of his freshman campaign, or will he continue to be maddeningly inconsistent on both sides of the ball? Who knows, though I'd like to think he won't shoot 28% from downtown again. The good news is that with a four-star gunner in Stauskas and good secondary scoring options in GRIII and McGary, Michigan won't have to lean so heavily on Hardaway to carry the non-Burke scoring load. Stauskas hopefully will be the guy who finally lives up to his high school reputation as a deadly marksman; if he does, this team gets a whole lot more dangerous and versatile.
I'm guessing Glenn Robinson III steps right in and starts at small forward after surging to five-star status over the last several months. GRIII brings a level of athleticism on the wing that Michigan hasn't seen in a long time; the Burke-to-Robinson alley-oop combination should provide some Sportscenter Top 10 moments. Robinson should also be able to create his own shot heading towards the basket, something nobody outside of Hardaway could do with any consistency last season. Backing up GRIII will likely be Matt Vogrich, who will hopefully break through as an outside shooter while continuing to provide a surprising level of rebounding and defensive hustle.
The ballyhooed Mitch McGary should start right away at power forward with Smotrycz heading elsewhere. While his stock has dropped a bit since his commitment, McGary is still an instant-impact guy, and I'm very interested to see what he can bring to Beilein's burgeoning pick-and-roll game. McGary has the bounce necessary to take a quick pass off the roll and attack the basket with ferocity, something Jordan Morgan has struggled with in the past. With teams justifiably focused on stopping Burke, McGary could be the beneficiary of a lot of easy looks around the hoop. His high motor and effort should make him a force on the boards, as well. After redshirting last season, Max Bielfeldt has a chance to earn some PT at the four, being the guy who most fits the Beilein mold of a big who can stretch the floor. If he can hold his own defensively and on the glass, Bielfeldt could be a surprisingly solid weapon off the bench.
Jordan Morgan returns and should continue to provide high-percentage shooting, solid rebounding, and quality interior defense. While his ceiling doesn't appear to be especially high, Morgan has steadily improved in his Michigan career, and we'll likely see him take another step forward as a junior. If that step forward includes even a rudimentary post game (or at least better finishing on layup opportunities), the masses would be quite pleased. Morgan could be pushed for playing time by Jon Horford, who returns from a foot injury. Horford isn't as polished as Morgan, but he's more athletic and provides a better shot-blocking presence on defense. He should get at least 15 minutes a game next year, especially if Morgan's propensity for foul trouble continues to plague him. Blake McLimans may just be the odd man out with Michigan's new-found depth up front.
So, what's the outlook? While the Big Ten is loaded next year—the news that Christian Watford and Cody Zeller both return makes Indiana a potential national contender—Michigan is set to challenge for the conference crown and could be a Final Four team if a few things fall the right way. Getting Hardaway back on track is the key, assuming Robinson and McGary live up to their lofty recruiting rankings. While Michigan doesn't have a lineup loaded with shooters like Beilein's West Virginia squads, they have more athleticism and a dynamite point guard that the Mountaineers never had. Beilein's offense became more guard-centric the past two seasons with Darius Morris and Burke running the show, and that should continue next year. Expect to see more evolution from the offense as the coaches adjust to having a much bigger team, and possibly a shift back to more zone defense to better fit the personnel.
The expectations for next year are dramatically higher than they've been in Ann Arbor since the Fab Five era, and those expectations are justified. An experienced Burke coupled with a hopefully reinvigorated Hardaway should take this team a long way. If the freshmen produce as expected, Michigan will take the next (big) leap forward under John Beilein, going from Big Ten dark horse to national contender.
Out: William Buford, probably Jared Sullinger, possibly Deshaun Thomas
In: Nobody yet. LaQuinton Ross may qualify here since he didn't get until the second semester and did not play.
Status: Yes, it is odd to see OSU in this section, but fresh off a heartbreaking choke job in the Final Four Ohio State faces the prospect of life without 80% of its shots. William Buford is definitely gone. Jared Sullinger is presumed gone. Deshaun Thomas could go. He said "of course I might come back" in the aftermath of the exit. Interpret that as you will. To me that sounds like a guy who will get a first round grade from the NBA and take it. If Thomas is back, upgrade the Buckeyes into the contender tier. FWIW, he's #41 on Chad Ford's board. That seems low to me.
Replacing those lost will be… no one. At least right now. Ohio State is after a guy named Tony Parker who makes it seem odd that you associate such a bland name with French point guards. This version of Tony Parker is a 6'9" post from Georgia. OSU acquiring him is far from certain (the current leader seems to be UCLA) and the Buckeyes seemingly aren't in on any of the other one-and-done types who are probably headed to Kentucky.
Without reinforcements it's hard to see OSU keeping pace at the top of the league. The two returning starters are efficient players that provide a lot of value when they are not asked to be alpha dogs. They are unproven as go-to-guys. The backups will have to make quantum leaps if they're going to take up the mantle.
One probably will. These are highly touted guys, after all. One doesn't seem like enough given the additions at the top of the league.
Question in need of resolving: Can any of OSU's backups actually play basketball?
There are talented recruits behind the starters, but early returns on everyone except maybe Amir Williams are poor. No one could get on the floor for more than about 25% of OSU's minutes; no one save Evan Ravenel and the possibly-transferring, definitely-low-sample-size-possessing JD Weatherspoon cracked 100 in ORtg.
Five star point guard of the future Shannon Scott was particularly awful, shooting 22% from the line, 36% from two, and 5% from three and managing a turnover rate of 34.4. That's good for a 67.8 ORtg, which is the worst I think I've ever seen. Let's click over to his comparables… UNC PG Larry Drew is the #1 hit. He still managed a 79.1 in 2009.
OSU's going to need two or thee of these guys to step up and become quality starters or they're doomed.
Out: PG Bryce Cartwright, SG Matt Gatens, C Andrew Brommer
In: C Adam Woobury (4.5*, right), PG Mike Gesell (4*), C Kyle Meyer (3*), SG Patrick Ingram (3*), PG Anthony Clemmons (3*)
Status: While Iowa barely scraped their head above .500 this year, things are looking up for the Hawkeyes. They should break their NCAA tourney drought and if things go right they could be one of the nation's surprise teams.
Their only major loss is Gatens, who went ham at the tail end of his senior season. Cartwright was an assist machine who also manufactured copious turnovers and missed shots; Brommer was the end of the bench.
They return Andrew White, everyone's Big Ten Third Best Freshman of the Year winner, Roy Devyn Marble, budding wing snipers Zach McCabe and Josh Oglesby, and enigmatic but potentially lethal Melsahn Basabe. To this they add a seven-foot center they grabbed from everyone in the world and the point guard who set up most of Glenn Robinson III's dunks in that All Star game. He, too, is a consensus top 100 guy.
There's enough recruiting hype and proven Big Ten production here to see Iowa taking a significant step forward from its Big Ten form. That would have been a game away from a tourney bid if the Hawkeyes hadn't started off so poorly. Losses to Creighton, Campbell, Clemson, Northern Iowa, and Iowa State doomed the Hawkeyes to NIT aspirations before the Big Ten even started. That won't happen next year. The Hawkeyes should find themselves comfortably in the tournament.
Question that needs resolving: Melsahn Basabe was Tim Hardaway Jr Jr last year. Which way will he go?
Basabe hit the Big Ten running. His freshman year he was near top 100 in true shooting percentage, blocked a ton of shots, rebounded very well on both ends of the floor, and generally looked like he was going to be an All Big Ten player for multiple years. Like Hardaway, he backslid as a sophomore. He was worse at virtually everything, losing 5% off his FT and 2PT percentages, rebounding less effectively, and seeing slight declines in blocks, minutes and usage.
You'd think Basabe gets a boost playing next to White and Woodbury; last year he had to play a lot of time out of position at the five. Free to take short jumpers and slash into the post he should rebound, figuratively and literally.
Out: C Ralph Sampson
In: PF Trevor Mbakwe (essentially), PF Charles Buggs (3*), SG Wally Ellenson(3*)
Status: When Trevor Mbakwe went out for the year in Minnesota's seventh game, the world left them for dead. This was the right thing to do. The Gopher stomped through a weak nonconference schedule before stopping dead against Big Ten opposition. Eighteen games later, the Gophers were 6-12 with one win against a team that made the tournament (@ Indiana).
Was Mbakwe really that big of a deal? Yes. If you forget his thunderous first year in the Big Ten—something Zack Novak never will—here's a reminder: 58% shooting, top 20 in defensive rebounding, top 30 in getting to the free throw line, and a healthy number of blocks and offensive rebounds. His absence robbed Minnesota of a potential All Big Ten player.
They've got him back. Their only personnel loss is Ralph Sampson, a guy who played 42% of Minnesota's minutes and was no better than his projected replacement, rising sophomore Elliott Eliason. Two of their starters will be making freshman-to-sophomore transitions, and the silver lining to the Mbakwe injury was Rodney Williams bursting onto the scene, often through people's chests.
Minnesota has been a bear defensively since Tubby Smith arrived; they'll be good enough on offense next year to knock off anyone in the conference.
Question that needs resolving: Can Williams and Mbakwe play together?
While they're not quite the same player—Mbakwe is bigger and a much better rebounder—they fill the same niche in the offense. There are only so many alley-oops and thunderous putbacks to go around. I'd guess Minnesota plays Mbakwe at the five quite a bit; having that work out on the boards and on offense will go a long way towards determining how good the Gophers can be.
Out: PF Robbie Hummel, PG Lewis Jackson, SG Ryne Smith, SF Kelsey Barlow
In: PF Jay Simpson (4*), PG Ronnie Johnson (4*), C AJ Hammons (3*), SG Rapheal Davis (3*)
Status: If Minnesota and Iowa are going to rise without the teams that finished at the top of the standings sliding back, it will be Purdue that suffers.
They've lost the heart of their team in Hummel and Jackson. They used almost 50% of Purdue's possessions between them. Ryne Smith was Just Another Three Point Shooter, but he was really good at that (43%). Those three guys were the linchpins of an elite offense that saw Purdue scrape into the tournament as a ten seed, and now they're gone. (Also out the door is the dismissed Kelsey Barlow, but Purdue played a lot better without him.)
What's left behind is alarming given the talent already listed in these posts. Purdue's best returning player is… DJ Byrd? Terone Johnson? Anthony Johnson? It doesn't matter who it actually is, because any of them would be a third banana on a Big Ten contender. Meanwhile, Purdue spent most of the year running Hummel out at the 5 because their best post guy was Travis Carroll. Carroll was invisible offensively and had a defensive rebound rate only 0.4 percent better than 5'9" Lewis Jackson. Jackson created all the shots, too.
All this sounds grim. The Boilers do have a couple of quality recruits incoming who may be able to pick up some of the slack, but their guys are on the 3/4 borderline and seem like they'll take a year or two to get adjusted to the Big Ten. They can't provide enough in a Big Ten that looks even deeper than last year.
Question that needs resolving: Who, like, does stuff now?
About the only thing that Purdue can feel good about next year is Byrd raising up for an open three. The Johnsons drive to the basket with abandon and do not finish well when they get there. They were crappy defensively and their most experienced post is all but useless. Now they have to play him. Robbie Hummel is not walking through that door.
Out: Matt Roth, Tom Pritchard, Verdell Jones, maybe Christian Watford, probably not Cody Zeller.
In: Yogi Ferrell (5*), Hanner Perea(5*), Jeremy Hollowell(4*), Peter Jurkin (3*), Ron Patterson(3*).
Status: A chic pick for big things next year, the Hoosiers lose only a few seniors who didn't contribute much. Roth and Pritchard saw about 25% of Indiana's minutes, and while Roth hit a spectacular 55% of his threes he only took five twos. His 82 shots will go to good homes. Pritchard was terrible at everything. Oft-injured Verdell Jones provided some assists, but had an ugly turnover rate and poor ORtg. No one will be pined for next year.
Meanwhile, the incoming class is loaded. Yogi Ferrell was a McDonald's All-American and seems a lot like Trey Burke except with bunches of extra hype; Hanner Perea and Jeremy Hollowell played on a virtual Big Ten All Star team in that game GRIII got the MVP in and impressed. Add those guys to a virtually intact roster that sees its best player go from freshman to sophomore and you can see the outlines of a very, very good team.
Question in need of resolving: Can they play defense?
The Big Ten featured three of the top five defenses in the country, all of whom received Sweet Sixteen seeds. The other two B10 outfits to do so were Michigan (60th defensively) and Indiana (64th). Michigan's problems were obvious: they played Zack Novak at the four most of the year and had one legit post defender after Jon Horford was sidelined with a foot injury early in the year. They'll fix those issues with an influx of size and athleticism.
Indiana's defense has fewer easy solutions. They'll probably start the same guys they did this year, and that means a lot of Jordan Hulls blowbys. That's something you can live with when a guy is shooting 49% from three. It's also the thing that may keep Indiana from being as lights out as people expect.
Out: Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Evan Smotrycz, Carlton Brundidge, Colton Christian, maybe Trey Burke.
In: Mitch McGary(5*), Glenn Robinson III (4.5*, right), Nick Stauskas (4*), maybe Amedeo Della Valle (3*) or other late pick-up.
Status: The departure of Smotrycz, the only guy to hit some shots in Michigan's first-round tourney flameout, puts a damper on expectations that had begun to tower relative to the program's recent success. Before that Michigan's departures were seniors who built the program despite talent deficiencies; their recruits were versions of their current players after a power mushroom.
Now… well, they're probably still fine. It was a struggle to find minutes for the two incoming five stars and Smotrycz since Michigan has two upperclassmen at the five and Tim Hardaway at the three. Jamming everyone into the four left me projecting Mitch McGary would manage 15 minutes a game next year.
It's actually the least-heralded recruit who may be the most important: Nick Stauskas figures to step right into the starting lineup at shooting guard and is the most plausible guy on the roster to give Burke a little bit of rest here and there. If he's truly the deadeye shooter he's reputed to be, Michigan's three-heavy offense could finally reach the heights of efficiency last year's Indiana team scraped.
Michigan is boned if Trey Burke leaves. They'd probably hobble into the tournament still, if only just.
Question in need of resolving: Is Tim Hardaway an elite talent or not?
Hardaway entered his sophomore year a potential All-American and exited it the Big Ten's leading bomb-chucker despite shooting 28% from three. He picked up little of the shot-creation slack in the aftermath of Darius Morris's departure and played indifferent defense. Flashes here and there and a relatively efficient end to the season could not obscure the massive disappointment.
Now entering his junior year it's time for everyone to find out whether Hardaway is truly an NBA talent or a guy headed to Europe for the standard Quality Big Ten Player 15-Year Career.
Out: Draymond Green, Brandon Wood, Austin Thornton, maybe Branden Dawson if he can't recover from his ACL tear fast enough
In: Gary Harris (5*), Matt Costello (4*), Kenny Kaminksi (3.5*), Denzel Valentine (3.5*)
Status: Losing Green will force a massive restructuring of the program. Green was an All-American who finished as the Kenpom POY, which means he's a high-usage player with a good assist to turnover rate and buckets of rebounds. Those are rare. Wood was also a major piece of the MSU renaissance; while Thornton had no usage he finished fifth in ORtg thanks to 48% shooting from three and 87% from the line on an inexplicably high number of free throw attempts.
Branden Dawson's ACL throws a wrench into this transformation. Mostly a three last year, Green's exit seemingly opened the door for him to move to the four, where his lack of shooting would be less of an issue and his rebounding could become even more pestilential to defenses. Now he's going to spend the summer rehabbing instead of adjusting, and while an ACL is generally regarded as a six-month injury these days that still puts him behind the curve when the season kicks off.
If Dawson doesn't move to the four Izzo will either have to field both of his posts at the same time—a dodgy proposition what with their conditioning issues—or go to a Beilein-esque lineup featuring freshman stretch four Matt Costello. Which might not be a bad idea. Kid is 6'10", can shoot threes—something MSU's offense has gotten used to lately—and poured in points en route to Mr. Basketball.
/shakes fist at Izzo recruiting all of Beilein's perfect power forwards
Question in need of resolving: This will become a theme, but do they have a point guard?
While Keith Appling managed the position decently this year, he's more of a natural two-guard. Without Green taking a near-equal share of the shot-generation duties he may find there's too much on his plate to be an effective distributor, scorer, and defender. He seemed to suffer late this year when an outside shooting slump saw his three-point shooting dip to 25%. MSU will be better off if they can move some of Appling's duties to other players.
This is where Harris comes in. He's got the rep and the skill; if he steps into the lineup at the one immediately and performs MSU will maintain their high level of performance from a year ago.
Out: Jordan Taylor, Rob Wilson
In: Sam Dekker (5*, right)
Status: Remember when we were getting all defensive about Wisconsin's Kenpom ranking? Point Kenpom. The Badgers recovered from a 1-3 Big Ten start to finish 12-6 in the league, get a four seed, and come within one point of Syracuse in the Sweet 16.
Next year is anyone's guess. They're replacing their version of Draymond Green: Jordan Taylor sucked up 25% of Wisconsin possession in his 36 minutes a game, had a massive assist rate, never turned the ball over, and shot… well, not well. But pretty well for a guy who seemed to get the ball 30 feet from the basket with five on the shot clock ten times a game. Unlike Michigan State they do not have anyone remotely plausible to plug in the large shoes of the departed.
They do have Sam Dekker, though, and Sam Dekker is the truth. A 6'8" small forward with range and burst, you can add Dekker to the long list of Wisconsin players John Beilein has naughty dreams about. They also return every player of note other than Taylor. If the swing offense can sustain itself in an environment where there is not a primary shot generator, the Badgers can expect similar success next year.
Question in need of resolving: Does Wisconsin need a point guard? Because they don't have one.
Right now their players under 6'6" are Ben Brust and Josh Gasser, guys with assist rates of 7.9 and 11.3, respectively. Gasser's going to have to be the guy, I guess. How do you feel about heaping Jordan Taylor's job on a guy who used 13% of Wisconsin's possessions despite being on the floor 85% of the time?
You might feel fine about this. You might not. Either Gasser is on everyone's lips as the most improved player in the conference or we're going to find out what happens when Bo Ryan doesn't have even the vaguest semblance of a point guard.
From our very own Zack Novak photoshop thread.
This is part two of the hoops season recap; part one, covering the guards, can be found here.
It should not come as a surprise to those who have followed John Beilein's Michigan squads that a post covering the team's "bigs" would feature a photo of 6'4" Zack Novak at the top of the post. Michigan entered the season relatively thin in the frontcourt, and things only got worse when backup center Jon Horford suffered a stress fracture in his right foot in December, an injury that would ultimately sideline him for the remainder of the season. When Evan Smotrycz suffered through a brutal slump to start conference play, Novak found himself starting at power forward, reprising his role from years past instead of playing his natural two-guard position.
While Michigan got solid seasons out of Novak and Jordan Morgan, along with some inspired efforts from Smotrycz, the lack of size up front was the team's greatest weakness. This was exposed each time Michigan played Ohio State or Michigan State, especially away from Crisler, and even when all of the bigs got in foul trouble at Northwestern and Colton Christian played important minutes at center. This shouldn't be as much of an issue next season with the addition of Mitch McGary and the return of Horford, but Smotrycz's departure hurts. Let's look back on each player's individual contributions:
Preseason Expectations: Morgan entered the season as the returning starter after a surprising redshirt freshman season, but he still had to hold off Jon Horford to keep the job. The hope was that he'd develop his post game while continuing to play solid defense, rebound, and hit his fair share of high-percentage shots.
Postseason Reality: Morgan still hasn't displayed much in the way of a back-to-the-basket game, and he missed a maddeningly large amount of layups. The latter point was a source of great frustration, along with his propensity for early foul trouble, but overall Morgan was quite solid in the middle. His defense improved—including a sharp decline in foul rate—his rebounding was solid, and he shot just a hair under 62% from the field. Trey Burke didn't look to Morgan as much as Darius Morris did last year, and there was a clear adjustment period while he got used to playing with a different style of point guard. While there wasn't a big leap forward in Morgan's offensive game, as many had hoped, he did not regress, either. Meanwhile, he was in better shape, running the floor well and consistently posting strong defensive performances. Morgan probably isn't ever going to be an offensive force, nor a intimidating shot-blocker—the touch and explosive athleticism just aren't there—but he's a solid presence who should end up as a four-year starter.
Highlight: The Ohio State win was the most memorable of the season, and it was also the best game of Morgan's career, as he posted his first double-double—11 points (5-8 from the field) and 11 rebounds—while limiting Jared Sullinger to 14 points on 6-14 shooting. Morgan also beat Sullinger down the court for a pair of thunderous dunks in transition.
Lowlight: When Michigan matched up against Ohio State in the conference tournament, things didn't go so well. The Buckeyes dominated the Wolverines inside, and Morgan could only muster three points (1-5 shooting) and four rebounds while turning the ball over three times.
Key Numbers: 61.9 2pt%, 17.8 DR%, 3.9 fouls committed/40 minutes
Next year: Morgan should start at center once again, and it would be nice to see him break out a go-to post move. Mostly, however, Michigan will need him as a rebounder/defender/screen-setter, which falls right into his comfort zone. Also, make layups, please.
Preseason Expectations: Novak was expected to make a grand return to shooting guard, where the hope was that is offensive production would rise now that he no longer had to guard players a half-foot taller while shouldering a large part of the rebounding load.
Postseason Reality: Novak, of course, had to slide back to power forward when Smotrycz was benched early in Big Ten play, and for the fourth straight year his play improved despite not being the focal point of the team. He shot very well from the field—56% on twos, 41% on threes—and posted the team's best ORtg—his 123.3 mark was 39th in the country. Then, of course, you get Novak's trademark grit, as he still marveled with his ability to rebound among the trees while providing solid defense against players who theoretically should be dunking all over him (sometimes they did, but that happens when you're a 6'4" post player). Novak finished his career as the consummate role player, knocking down threes, hitting big shots when called upon, and otherwise doing everything to raise the level of play from his teammates. Michigan fans may not miss having a natural shooting guard at power forward when the 2012 reinforcements arrive, but they'll sure miss Zack Novak.
Highlight: Novak absolutely tore up UCLA back in November, scoring 22 points on eight shots from the field and chipping in three rebounds.
Lowlight: The final game in Novak's Wolverine career was sadly forgettable, as he could only muster a season-low two points on 1-5 shooting and didn't record a defensive rebound in Michigan's tourney loss to Ohio.
Next Year: Novak will take his grit to Europe. Godspeed, captain.
Preseason Expectations: Smotrycz was pinned as the X-factor for Michigan, a player who could put the team over the top as a sharp-shooting starter at power forward. After a solid but inconsistent showing as a freshman, he looked due for a breakout season.
Postseason Reality: It was a rollercoaster season for Smotrycz, who struggled early, caught fire at the end of nonconference play, then went into a prolonged slump that saw him lose his starting job for the rest of the season. The surprising post-season transfer fits that narrative all too well. The overall numbers are solid: Smotrycz averaged 7.7 points per game with a 58.9 eFG%, and he was also the team's most effective defensive rebounder, bringing in 21.4% of opponent misses when he was on the floor. However, Smotrycz never quite found his game again after losing his shooting stroke in Big Ten play, and his overall defense left much to be desired; he finished with a sky-high 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes as he played defense with his hands instead of his feet far too often. Smotrycz on average was an effective offensive weapon, but the inconsistency and defensive shortcomings proved too great to justify giving him starter's minutes.
Highlight: Prospects looked good when Smotrycz scored 20 points on eight shots (4-5 from three) and grabbed nine rebounds against Oakland. It's also worth noting that Smotrycz's 15 points on 6-7 shooting was really the only thing keeping Michigan close against Ohio in the last game of the season.
Lowlight: Smotrycz's final start was the debacle at Iowa, and he failed to score in 22 minutes of play while also committing two turnovers. That was the final straw, as Beilein inserted Stu Douglass into the starting lineup against State.
Key Numbers: 58.9 eFG%, 21.4 DR%, 5.8 FC/40
Next Year: Smotrycz won't be here, which really sucks. Best of luck to him.
Preseason Expectations: Fight for the starting center job with Morgan, provide at least 15 quality minutes per game.
Postseason Reality: Horford's balky foot robbed Michigan of any depth at center and prematurely ended what was at times a promising sophomore campaign. He showed up much bigger than he was as a freshman, looking the part of a Big Ten center, and he was very active on the glass and as a shot-blocker. Horford doesn't have a polished offensive game, but he brings a lot of energy and is a more athletic option than Morgan, at least when it comes to quick-twitch explosiveness. Much is still unknown, however, as Horford only appeared in nine games.
Highlight: Horford hit all five of his shots from the field, grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked three shots against UCLA, by far the best performance of his young career.
Lowlight: The stress fracture that erased the season's last 25 games.
Next Year: Horford probably won't surpass Morgan at this point, but he should be a valuable backup who won't be much of a dropoff defensively or on the glass. I really like Horford's athleticism and potential, and we'll see how he develops once he gets through rehab and can go full-steam again.
Preseason Expectations: McLimans came to the team with the reputation of being the type of sharpshooting big man that Beilein loves, but he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn as a freshman. Expectations were rather low, with the hope being that he wouldn't really need to see the court behind a big man rotation of Morgan, Horford, and Smotrycz.
Postseason Reality: McLimans still isn't much of an inside presence, especially defensively, but he did manage to knock down a decent portion of his jumpers, going 5-12 from beyond the arc and 10-21 overall this season. McLimans only played more than eight minutes in a game once during conference play—the aforementioned Northwestern game—and only was used when both Morgan and Smotrycz got into early foul trouble.
Next Year: McLimans may see his role further decrease when Horford returns and Mitch McGary hits campus. He could see some time as a situational shooter, but he's going to need to really improve on defense if he wants to carve out a larger role.
Preseason Expectations: Provide the occasional boost of energy off the bench.
Postseason Reality: Christian played a total of 51 minutes on the year, grabbing six rebounds and hitting a few very unexpected shots. Still didn't display much of an offensive game, and was mostly content to hit the class and save his energy for defense.
Next Year: He won't be here, having also put in his name for a transfer. It's highly unlikely he would have seen the floor.