Peppers at 10, which seems low.
I told you I told you all
Michigan has a new starting center, I think. Ricky Doyle came off the bench to provide ten points, a monster block, and three offensive rebounds. The most critical of those came with under a minute left; Doyle looked for passing options, found none, and then displayed savvy beyond his years by following a single power dribble with an up-fake and a bucket that stretched the Michigan lead to five. Once the ensuing jacked-up three landed safely in Zak Irvin's hands it was time to exhale.
In the aftermath Michigan has a very odd Beilein-era win. Michigan shot just 13 threes against 33 twos and got to the line a whopping 29 times. Oregon's game plan was to shut off Death From Above; they succeeded but Michigan was diverse enough to scrape out the win anyway.
Defensively Michigan was proficient when able to corral Oregon into a half-court game. Star Oregon guard Joseph Young shot just 5-16 and only cracked 20 points with a series of desperate late forays that got him to the line—in one case, questionably. As a team, Oregon shot 26% from three and turned the ball over 14 times.
Rebounding was the only thing keeping them in it. Oregon grabbed almost half their misses. That's an issue that will have to be addressed. With Oregon's multiple bouncy 6'6" guys crashing the boards the centers were overwhelmed—neither Donnal or Doyle got a single defensive rebound.
But that's a win over a Pac-12 team that looks a bit better than its preseason predictions; Villanova is tomorrow after the Wildcats dismantled VCU by taking care of the ball and punishing the press—stop me if you've heard that one before. Doyle will again be key as 'Nova brings more size than any opponent to date.
1 hour 15 minutes
BATS [Eric Upchurch]
The usual pratfall.
Big three, yes please. Spike taking a leap forward. Need more production at the 4 and 5.
TALKING BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
This diverges into a discussion about the ticket bubble and Big Ten expansion and how it feels like the breaking point has finally been reached. The appearance of bush league. The Bits Of Broken Chair trophy is amazing.
"Across 110th Street"
"What Becomes Of The Broken-Hearted?," Jimmy Ruffin
"When Disaster Strikes," Busta Ryhmes
THE USUAL LINKS
11/17/2014 – Michigan 77, Bucknell 53 – 2-0
then he served Bucknell pancakes [Eric Upchurch]
That was rather impressive. The Bison are not a SWAC pushover. Historically they're one of the best teams in the Patriot League, and while they fell off a bit last year they were still good enough to put scares into Stanford and St. John's and beat Penn State by ten.
Michigan blew 'em off the court, opening up a 48-19 halftime lead and coasting from there.
We never think of the Kenpom. Speaking of the coasting: it got sloppy in the second half, with Michigan settling for a ton of long twos off the dribble with 25 seconds on the shot clock. These went clang, as dictated by Karma, and the blistering hot start petered out into a less than blistering 1.15 points per possession.
Broken record time: I don't mind open jumpers taken in rhythm, especially after you've gotten past a guy on a closeout and know you've got space to elevate without being harassed. I really do not like low-efficiency long twos that come without exploring your possession for better shots. There's a reason you can get those whenever you want. It's hard to yell at guys when you're hammering the opposition, but hopefully that's one of them coaching points that can be deployed.
THE CALVES THAT ATE THE AMERICAN WEST. So… remember that time someone asked why Max Bielfeldt keeps taking threes and Beilein responded that he was an assassin in practice? I guess that's accurate. On a night where one of the Big Three was struggling with his shot and Michigan got little production out of the four spot, Bielfeldt laid waste to the Bison. He hit all three of his attempts behind the arc and scoring 18 on 10 shot equivalents. Max was a one-man Manifest Destiny out there.
Does this mean something going forward? Maybe. Bielfeldt is still way undersized for the 5 spot in the Big Ten, and in this game there were a couple of post buckets by the spectacularly-named Nana Fouland that Bielfeldt could barely contest.
But maybe the four would work? If Bielfeldt is a credible threat in the corner and the matchup doesn't seriously expose him defensively that could be an option, Kenny Kaminski style. Bielfeldt is a decent matchup against Brandon Dawson types who aren't going to blaze by him to the basket, and Michigan's not getting much production out of that spot.
I still don't think you can build a Big Ten defense around a 6'7" post.
[After THE JUMP: rebounding strategy, HULK SMASH, Irvin "not bad" face.]
An externality of Michigan’s ascent has been its ability to simply run overmatched non-conference opponents out of the beautiful Crisler Center. Bucknell has been a solid mid-major program for a few years now and their kenpom rank entering the night (177) suggested that they may be game for a fight. That notion was quickly disproved after Michigan ran out to an early 10-0 lead, capped by a three-pointer from little-used reserve Max Bielfeldt. The rest of the first half was much of the same: Michigan led 10-2 at the under-16 timeout, 24-7 at the under-12, 34-13 at the under-8, 41-17 at the under-4, and 48-19 at halftime.
With the game’s outcome fairly secure, the story quickly became about Bielfeldt – the veteran had yet to make a significant contribution in his time at Michigan and many (including myself) projected that three freshmen would be above him on the depth chart. It was a surprise to see Bielfeldt replace Mark Donnal as the first big man off of the bench, but—as usual—John Beilein made a wise decision in playing the senior center.
In Bielfeldt’s first four minutes on the court, he made two three-pointers (both assisted by Kam Chatman) and was the beneficiary of an excellent drive-and-dish from Spike Albrecht; those eight points doubled his previous career high. He finished with 18 points total on an efficient 7-9 shooting and made each of his three-point attempts. With Michigan’s impressive cadre of lethal offensive weapons, it’s hard to imagine that Bielfeldt was scouted much by the Bison, but Bielfeldt was outstanding. In the end, he finished second on the team in scoring (behind Zak Irvin’s 23 points) and looks like he’s another factor in Michigan’s uncertain hierarchy of big men.
Irvin got his points efficiently – 23 points on 8-13 shooting (4-5 from three) – and seemingly scored at will. His characteristic quick-trigger was on full display, though he did also have a nice assist to Mark Donnal on a screen-and-roll action and had a nice take in transition. Derrick Walton chipped in with 15 points, managed to pull down 8 rebounds, and was extremely aggressive in transition.
The third member of Michigan’s high-octane triumvirate, Caris LeVert, was notably quiet, though his production wasn’t needed. LeVert was 2-11 from the field and eventually just managed 6 points on the night (along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists). Spike Albrecht didn’t shoot well (1-5) but did have six assists; he was so masterful with the ball in his hands and it seemed like he was able to do whatever he liked against the Bison defense.
Beilein did give minutes to six freshmen and they were variably effective: Mark Donnal got the start but was quiet (though he did have two blocks); Ricky Doyle had a few nice post moves; Kam Chatman had a few opportunistic steals on defense but conceded a few open looks because of his inexperience, while contributing little offensively; D.J. Wilson looked a little bit lost on offense and didn’t play much until garbage time; Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman got a little run in the first half but didn’t do much; Aubrey Dawkins was relegated to mop-up duty at the end of the night.
Graphic from Ace Anbender
Michigan just overwhelmed Bucknell from the opening tip. The Wolverines’ shooting regressed to the mean in the second half and Bucknell’s numbers were bolstered by a flurry of late, inconsequential threes from Chris Hass. Michigan’s defense—normally not known for its ability to force turnovers—flustered Bucknell in the half-court and the Bison turned the ball over 17 times. With Michigan’s dominance on the offensive glass, it was a comprehensive win.
These types of games tend to blend together over time, but Bielfeldt’s breakout performance, in particular, was very memorable. If he eventually becomes a key cog on this Michigan team, we’ll look back on this game on an unseasonably wintry November weeknight as the catalyst for something bigger.
[Note: Jamie's got an Odds On Favorites post to accompany this but life intervened and it's part-done. Putting this up now so you have time to pick your teams before tomorrow's games. OOF will be posted separately.]
THIS WEEK'S GAME: COLLEGE. BASKETBALL. EMPHATIC PERIOD.
Our coach is awesome. Our conference is the best. We have some really good, future pro players. This probably won't make you depressed.
MGo's fantasy sports partner Draft Kings is starting their college hoops games this week, and though Michigan plays its opener Saturday there's a bunch of names you should know well in the Friday pool.
Also it's the season opener so having watched basketball last year makes you smart. There's some pretty good deals on the board: Amile Jefferson (130.1 ORtG last year) and Quinn Cook (120.2) are playing Presbyterian, and come at $5,500 and $6,200, respectively. Rakeem Christmas (125.7) is missing his setup man but at $3,700 he's a pretty good fill for when you're over budget. If you're of the belief that MSU's offense has to go through Brenden Dawson early on, $7,200 is reasonable.
- $3,000 prize pool.
- $2 entry fee. FREE entry with first deposit.
- $450 1st Place prize.
- Top 400 are paid.
- Starts on Friday, November, 14th at 6:00 EST.
- Salary Cap Style Drafting. $50,000 to select 8 spots.
- Roster Format: 3 G, 3 F, 2 UTIL.
- First time depositors at DraftKings receive a 100% bonus up to $600
11/10/2014 – Michigan 86, Wayne State 43 – 0-0
Hey: basketball. I took in the exhibition, which exhibited various things I'll now detail.
I hope this was just nerves. Freshmen had a rough shooting night with the limited exceptions of Doyle and Dawkins, none more so than Chatman. He airballed his first two threes, took a bad, contested long two, and bricked a THJ-style pull-up long two; he did hit a three late.
On the good side, his other bucket was an impressive drive to the basket with a finish that made a lot of people look at their buddy so they could do this:
He also added four assists and led the team in rebounding with six; he also looked capable of switching on the perimeter at least as effectively as GRIII.
Shooting was never a strength for Robinson—he developed an elbow jumper he was proficient at but hovered around 30% from three—so even if Chatman isn't a great threat from deep Michigan won't be backsliding too much. And Beilein believes he can coach up anyone's three point stroke.
DJ Wilson. Wilson's going to be an interesting case this year. He's skinny as all git out but with his size and hops he's going to be much better at altering shots than anyone on last year's team other than Horford. Michigan has been playing him mostly at the 5 with occasional forays at the 4, and while Doyle's lingering ankle thing has something to do with that you get the feeling that when opponents have a lanky dude in there Michigan is going to counter with Wilson.
I could have sworn Wilson hit two late threes but the box score only gives him credit for one. Foot on the line? Either way he mitigated some of the freshman shooting questions by hitting those late.
Aubrey Dawkins. Skinnier version of GRIII. Can shoot some, 6'6", athletic, not going to create much. Had some issues dribbling.
MAAR. Or "Rahk." Rahk appears to be Beilein's favorite way of saying Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman without taking up nine syllables, and it has its appeal.
Anyway, MAAR has a much better handle than the rest of the freshman and is your third point guard. He had a nice take to the hoop that he followed with a layup that was way too hard; he had a second drive on which he'd gotten an angle to the bucket when his handle betrayed him and the ball looped out of bounds.
He ended up not hitting a shot; early yet.
Center fight. There are four options: Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle, DJ Wilson, and Max Bielfeldt. I expect Doyle to emerge into a clear starter, with Donnal giving him a breather. The lack of pick and pop game with Donnal on the court says somethin' about somethin'.
Doyle is both one inch taller and somehow way bigger than Donnal. He seems to have considerably more defensive upside. He's also finished much better around the basket in the two glimpses we've seen of him this fall. Donnal has been a below the rim Morgan type without Morgan's crazy efficiency; Doyle is finishing with both hands easily because he's got those super-huge hands and long arms that allow him to gently deposit the ball on the glass from whatever angle is called for.
This person looks like a person who will finish around the rim. [Fuller]
Wilson will rotate in at the 4 and the 5 depending on matchups and how Chatman's seemingly mercurial shooting stroke is going.
The returning folks. All looked pretty good minus some uncharacteristic three-point foibles (Irvin, Walton, Albrecht, and LeVert combined to go 3 for 12) that we can ignore because we have full-season samples for all those guys in which they hit 40% from deep.
I got this [Fuller]
LeVert looked ready to take on the alpha dog mantle passed down from Burke to Stauskas and now to him. He's taking the late clock shots; his length and ability to get to good spots on the floor mean these are usually okay shots.
Irvin was much more active on the boards, hauling in five rebounds in 29 minutes, and even had shots from within the arc(!). On the podcast we discussed how Irvin needs to be a "three AND" guy this year, whether that's perimeter defense or rebounding or sometimes venturing inside the line. So far so good.
Walton was hampered by a scary-looking injury that turned out to be a cramp; he was very assured on the ball and got to the line seven times—would have been eight if not for the injury.
The rotation. Until such time as one of the freshmen gains enough trust to be put out there in pressure situations, expect the main backcourt sub to be Spike. Beilein's always kept a short bench and Albrecht's utterly reliable with the ball in his hands. This is Beilein's favorite thing. He'll spot Walton for eight minutes a game and then Michigan will have ten or so minutes with both points on the floor, leaving 5-10 minutes for MAAR and Dawkins to scrap over.
A lack of flow. You know it's early and you've got a bunch of freshmen when your guards have to keep yelling at the posts to screen for them. Michigan used its time on offense inefficiently, with several incidents where plays had to be reset because of poor spacing and miscommunication.
In particular, there was one play featuring DJ Wilson where Wilson had two obvious opportunities to drift to the three point line in the corner and either force someone out of the middle or get a good shot. Instead he hung out 15 feet from the basket and neither option opened up. He was far from the only culprit, but that stood out as a moment where I may have been more familiar with Beilein's system than freshman X—I blinked a couple times because I couldn't understand what Wilson was doing.
Beilein seems pretty frustrated right now:
"We don’t have a very good package in, and I’m trying to figure out how that’s happened,” Beilein said. “We held things back today so it’s not on film, but it’s not very far right now. We’re creeping along. We’re moving in the right direction, but it’s really slow.”
He added, “It’s my biggest quandary every day, is whether we can move forward faster. We spend so much time on defense, because we realize that shots aren’t (always) going to drop. It’s hard to believe that we went to Europe and we aren’t further along and we’re not moving as quickly as I would have in past years.”
This team isn't appreciably younger than either of his previous two, which were amongst the youngest in the country. Hopefully they get it figured out before the preseason tourney rolls around.
How to stay good
Michigan endured yet another talent exodus this offseason and has to regress from last year's all-time Kenpom offensive efficiency record. To maintain their elite level they're going to have to make it up in other places. Here are a few candidates.
Rebound some low-hanging fruit. Michigan's rebounding production out of the 3 and 4 spots last year was not impressive. 6'6" PF Glenn Robinson had a 6% OREB rate and an 11.5 DREB rate; 6'6" SF Zak Irvin had a 3.3% OREB rate and a 7.7 DREB rate. Irvin was in fact the least likely guy on the team to get a defensive rebound—even Spike Albrecht beat him out.
A selection of 6'7"-ish forwards in the Big Ten last year:
- Troy Williams, IU: 8 OREB and 15 DREB
- LaQuinton Ross, OSU: 7.5 and 17
- Terran Petteway, NEB: 3 and 15
- Shavon Shields, NEB: 5 and 16
- Jon Ekey, ILL: 8 and 15
- Aaron White, Iowa: 7 and 19
- Melsahn Basabe, Iowa: 12 and 23
- Branden Dawson, MSU: 13 and 21
- Denzel Valentine, MSU: 5 and 18
(Should be noted that the Nebraska guys' OREB rates are a reflection of a team-wide allergy.) It isn't too hard to find guys with much better production. While Dawson and White are rebounding specialists who find a lot of their value as players in what happens when a shot caroms off the rim, no one is going to mistake Williams, Petteway, Valentine, or Ross for D-oriented role players.
Michigan can seriously beef up production here, and so far so good. Chatman led the team with six rebounds; Irvin had five.
Block some dang shots. Michigan had vanishingly little shotblocking on the team last year. Michigan was 308th nationally, and this contributed to their very bad two-point D.
The freshmen promise to change that. Wilson is long and bouncy and once Doyle settles in it's easy to see him getting his share of swats. His arms are oversized. Michigan had six blocks in this game, albeit against a highly undersized opponent. If Doyle and Wilson can block some shots, alter others, and convince drivers to pull up because of the first two items, that goes some distance towards repairing last year's conference-worst two point D.
Get some steals. Steals are great. Open-court turnovers lead to transition opportunities on which Michigan is deadly. Michigan had eight, with the sneaky Spike Albrecht picking up three.
Stay in front. We all love Nik Stauskas but his defense was never a strong suit; meanwhile Robinson was not awesome laterally and gave up some inches to most of the guys he was checking. Replacing Stauskas with Irvin could be a major upgrade—too early to tell yet—and having athletes like Chatman and Wilson who are close to GRIII's level while also being significantly longer should help the D recover from its swoon into the triple digits on Kenpom.
Hooray basketball. Hooray not being scoreless 30 minutes into the game.