i refuse to even consider this a possibility
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.
A note. UFR tomorrow. Life things.
Open practice. Basketball had one, and it was fun. The most interesting segment was an "overtime" period in which a mostly first-team unit took on a mostly second-team unit, which one of our users got on the tubes:
Impressions on the new blood:
- DJ Wilson has the potential to greatly improve Michigan's defense. Maybe not this year, especially since they're running him out at the five some, but down the road. He's tall, has long arms, is bouncy, and has the lateral agility to check anyone approximately his size. He was about the only defender who was at all effective in a transition drill where the guy on D faces a 2 on 1. He's going to block a bunch of shots. Wilson played a significant amount of five with the next guy limited.
- Ricky Doyle was participating, but only in short bursts, skipping all the running (he did pushups instead) and mostly watching. He seems limited by some sort of injury. Michigan's going to need him by the time they go to Brooklyn—he's much bigger than Donnal and Donnal struggled to finish at the rim to the point where he was sent on a run up the steps. We might retroactively appreciate Jordan Morgan's finishing this year.
- MAAR is probably your third point guard if Michigan needs to dig that deep because of foul trouble or injury. He was able to penetrate to the lane several times, but like LeVert as a freshman he usually didn't have a great idea what to do after that happened.
- Aubrey Dawkins is inexplicable. The guy is 6'6" and can jump out of the gym. The fact he had to prep and then only had a Dayton offer before Michigan swooped in is hard to believe; a guy with his athletic package should have mid-majors and lesser power conference schools leaping to offer him even if he's never seen a basketball in his life. He's going to be a lot like GRIII, I think.
- Kam Chatman is smooth and skilled. Hard to get any serious impression of shooting ability in this brief window but he looked highly capable there—and that was supposedly his weak spot. Beilein will get you to shoot.
I forgot Duncan Robinson existed so I assumed the guy wearing 22 was a walk-on and didn't pay much attention to him; Hatch participated in some drills early but that was all.
One issue: the audio was severely distorted and made it impossible to hear anything. Hopefully they fix that if/when they do this next year.
Other open practice takes. Kyle Bogenschutz:
Most impressive? Michigan sophomore wing Zak Irvin. Irvin was just doing what Irvin does, knocking down threes from all over the perimeter and at an extremely high percentage. Of the opportunities Irvin had in live settings he didn’t miss many. Early of course and just practice but if Irvin is given some more looks like he had last year he will have a chance to lead the team in scoring despite LeVert being the most complete player on the team.
He also references Wilson's defensive upside.
Offensively, Chatman looks game-ready. The 6-foot-7 freshman is confident with the ball not shy about getting his shot off. Known as a smooth and methodical player, he had a little more bounce than anticipated. The questions for Chatman remain on the defensive end of the floor. Those will be answered with time.
A defense. What kind of argument to you have to make to get me to defend Dave Brandon? This kind:
Applying ESPN Grade To Michigan's Situation: Last Friday, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon resigned under pressure from boosters and alums unhappy with the football team's decline from the Top 25 and with stadium renovations intended to provide luxury to the 1 percent. Added to the bill of attainder should be that Michigan looks bad on graduation rates. The football graduation rate under Brandon averaged 69 percent, which would be acceptable at some lesser schools but is embarrassing at an elite institution like the University of Michigan.
He later cites Northwestern's 97% grad rate so I know what numbers he is using: the NCAA's graduation success rate metric. The NCAA's GSR site has numbers up to the 2007 cohort, who gradated in May of 2011 if they took four years. That's barely a year after Brandon's arrival and is in no way representative of anything he did academically. Michigan's APR has hit Northwestern levels the last few years as they dig out from the Carr/Rodriguez botched transition, and the GSR will follow… in like five years.
Congrats, Gregg Easterbrook. You have found a bad way to argue for Dave Brandon's dismissal. They said it couldn't be done, but you did it.
Coming up empty. The Daily has an article on Michigan's document retention policy, or lack thereof:
Despite the fact that Michigan state law requires public bodies to “protect public records from loss, unauthorized alteration, mutilation, or destruction,” according to University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald, there is no University policy currently in place to ensure that employees retain communications in accordance with state-level regulations.
State law stipulates that public records be kept and disposed of in accordance with a formal schedule, which requires that correspondence be retained for two years after the date of its creation before it can be destroyed.
University officials, however, claim that on-campus regulations are separate and exempt from state law.
“It’s our policy that it’s up to individual users to determine their own document retention,” Fitzgerald said. “The University doesn’t have a set schedule.”
Daily FOIAs for Brandon emails between March 13th and 14th of this year and between July 24th and 26th of 2014 came up with "no responsive records"; the Daily was looking for correspondence on the Gibbons matter. I can add that I filed an FOIA for the specific date of the Have A Happy Life email and, like one of our users, it came back non-responsive as well.
Hilariously, the University is arguing that it is "not a formal part of state government" to justify this behavior… after repeatedly arguing in court that they are. In yet further evidence that the Michigan FOIA department is out of step with standard practice:
When the Daily submitted requests for e-mail archives of various other Big Ten athletic directors in mid-2014, representatives from MSU, the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Nebraska, Purdue University and the University of Illinois responded with offers to provide the records. The University of Minnesota, Indiana University, Pennsylvania State University and Ohio State University did not respond immediately.
A lack of transparency is always in service to the people entrenched at the top of the institution and not the institution itself.
Boo, John Clayton, boo. Clayton on Olbermann:
In brief: Clayton asserts that Harbaugh's going to be somewhere else next year but it is likely to be an NFL team, not Michigan.
Etc.: The Big Ten is bad at hockey. Except for Minnesota. Hockey commit Kyle Connor is kind of a big deal, and explicit that he is going to honor his commitment. Derrick Walton is set to make a leap. Tom Crean wrecked his program. Smart Football has a glossary.