Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
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.
* * *
[After the jump: let's go back to the beginning]
In defense of 2015 [Fuller]
Ace: There's no question this basketball season was a strange one. Michigan headed in with many question marks but high expectations, started off the season with a couple quality wins and a very competitive game against one-seed Villanova, went on to lose head-scratchers against NJIT and EMU before getting run off the court by Arizona, lost their two best players to injury, and then saw flashes of great promise from several players that didn't necessarily show up in the team's final record.
Let's try to make some sense of this. What about this season would you consider a success, what was a failure, and how did it affect your expectations for the program moving forward?
Adam Schnepp: I've placed my hands on the keyboard and taken them off three times before I typed this, but not making the NCAA tournament is a failure. I'm hesitant because of the stark negative connotation of the word "failure."
|Anything that leads to more Dakich isn't so much "failure" as "awesomesauce with an oh darn." [Fuller]|
This is a failure that happened because of course it did. As the hockey guy I'm used to watching the type of failure where you have a team loaded with talent that underperforms and shoots itself in the foot until there's nothing left. Nothing. Not even, like, a bloody remnant that doctors could reconstruct. Just, poof, gone. This is a completely different kind of failure, a failure in which there are explanations (NBA attrition, injuries that led to a lineup Tom Izzo would find weird) that make sense and extend beyond "this is just what we do now."
Dave Nasternak: Michigan Basketball isn't in the same place that it was seven years ago (one huge mess, but with John Beilein). Its not even in the same place that it was 3 years ago (bummed about a tournament upset but only a round or two away from its ceiling). After seeing the faces of the players and coaches in that hotel in Atlanta two Aprils ago, this program expects to succeed at the highest level. National Championships, Final Fours, Sweet Sixteens, NCAA Tournament games, Big Ten Championships (regular season and tournament) are all accomplishments that this program expects to be competing for every year.
And that's the right answer. As Michigan players/staff/alumni/fans/constituents... that's why we are connected with this University. Now, we don't consistently get the freshmen that Kentucky and Duke get every year, so some of these goals will be a little too lofty from time to time. But I am willing to bet that if you asked people in and around the program if they were supremely disappointed with not obtaining some (most, all) of these goals, they would not only verbally say that they were, but that you would also be able to see it on their faces. That's just what the Michigan Basketball program has achieved.
[after the jump: no more dancing. Around the question I mean. Lots of the other dancing (not That dancing)]
Michigan did not make the 32-team field of the NIT, which was revealed in somewhat excruciating fashion over the last half-hour on ESPNU. John Beilein has already ruled out an appearance in the CBI or CIT tournaments, so this marks the end of the 2014-15 season. It will not be missed too much.
The Michigan basketball team held their media day yesterday at the Crisler Center, and the theme of the afternoon was a familiar one: the team's youth. The players discussed leadership, the progress of the six freshmen, and much more; here's what I managed to get on the recorder yesterday.
Soph. Guard Derrick Walton
On his shooting getting better last year: “I understood that there were guys like Nik and Caris, the guys that waited their turn, it was their time to do the things that they’d sat and watched other guys do. I was very comfortable letting those guys make the plays and just contribute to the team any way I could, and that was one of the ways.”
On what prompted him starting: “Just starting to feel more comfortable, getting back and doing the things I was used to doing. Like I said, I was just happy contributing any way I could last year.”
On being comfortable becoming assertive this year: “Of course I have. We talk about it almost every day, just how it important it is for me to be aggressive this year. I want to be successful, so I take it upon myself, and my teammates encourage me every day, so I think I’m doing a good job with it.”
On being the point guard: “I try to find my balance and know that there are other guys who are very capable of making plays. It all depends on the situation. It’s hard to predetermine what may happen, so I just try to play it as is.”
On getting the ball into the post: “To be honest with you, this is the exact same thing we did last year. It just so happens this year we’re getting the ball into the post more. That’s the way it’s been thus far. I honestly don’t see a big difference between what we did last year and what we’re doing this year, there’s just guys getting more looks in the post.”
On his comfort level in the system this year: “Yeah, just knowing all the ins and outs of the offense, knowing how and when to pick my spots, just having a year under your belt in the system, it’s a big leap, that’s all I can say, from freshman to sophomore year, there’s a lot of stuff now that I didn’t even recognize last year.” (2:56.8)
On playing more with the ball in his hands this season: “That’s kinda been my M.O. my entire life. Just sitting back and having to watch another guy do it wasn’t a big deal. I’m just capitalizing on the opportunity I have right now.”
On this year being a return to normalcy for him: “It was different in some ways, but like I said, I was focused on winning and helping the team in any way. That was the role I was given, so I just tried to excel in it as much as possible.”
[Hit THE JUMP for quotes from Caris LeVert, Ricky Doyle, DJ Wilson, and Andrew Dakich.]
The objective. [Fuller]
The Big Ten unveiled the complete conference schedule for the 2014-15 basketball season, so we can now take a look at Michigan's season in full. It is as follows (almost all game times and broadcast information are TBA):
|Michigan Basketball 2014-15 Schedule|
|11/10||vs Wayne State (ex)|
|Progressive Legends Classic (Regional Round)|
|Progressive Legends Classic (Brooklyn, NY)|
|11/25||VCU/Villanova||TBD/ESPN2 or ESPN U|
|11/29||vs Nicholls State|
|Regular Ol' Non-Conference Games|
|12/9||vs Eastern Michigan|
|12/22||vs Coppin State|
|Big Ten Schedule|
|1/6||at Penn State|
|1/13||at Ohio State||7pm/ESPN|
|2/1||at Michigan State|
|2/17||vs Michigan State||9pm/ESPN|
|2/22||vs Ohio State|
|B1G Tournament (Chicago, IL)|
Thanks to WolverineDevotee for putting this in table form.
Now that the Big Ten has expanded to 14 teams, single-plays are a lot more prevalent in conference play. Here's the breakdown of how many times Michigan plays each conference opponent and where:
Home-and-Home: Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers
Single-Play (M Home Game): Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin
Single-Play (M Road Game): Indiana, Maryland, Penn State, Purdue
The single-plays work out relatively well for the Wolverines; the tougher opponents have to come to Ann Arbor, while two of the three worst teams in the conference last year—Penn State and Purdue—comprise half of Michigan's single-play road games. All four teams Michigan will host in single-plays have very tough home environments, as well; even after last year's win, nobody's going to mind not having to go to the Kohl Center.
While Michigan must play two favorites for the conference title twice—MSU and OSU, and I don't think anyone is complaining about getting as many of those matchups as possible—they get very winnable home-and-homes against Northwestern and Rutgers. The Wolverines also get to ease into the conference slate; the January schedule, especially early, isn't too hard, then the difficulty really turns up early in February. For a young team, that's probably ideal.
[Hit THE JUMP for the new B1G Tournament bracket and one reader's in-person impressions from Michigan's third game of their tour of Italy.]
Michigan once again cruised to victory in their second game in Italy, defeating the Vicenza All-Stars 93-53 yesterday afternoon. Zak Irvin again led Michigan in scoring with 18 points, sinking 7/8 field goals, including 4/5 threes—he's now 9/10 on three-pointers over Michigan's two games on the tour.
Freshman center Ricky Doyle posted an impressive double-double with 15 points (6/8 FG) and 14 rebounds (5 offensive) in just 19 minutes. Fellow freshman Kameron Chatman added 17 points and six boards in 21 minutes. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 13 points and got to the line regularly, shooting 7/11 from the charity stripe. Austin Hatch once again got on the court for the final few minutes, this time getting off a shot attempt, though it didn't quite go down.
Full box score (click to embiggen—turnover, steal, and block numbers weren't available):
We were lucky enough to have a reader who's in Italy and caught the game, and he emailed us his impressions of the team. A huge thanks to Kyle for sending this along; all opinions are his own, of course, as the Italy games aren't being streamed online.
1. Who will start at the 5? Doyle. Mark Donnal started and Beilein pulled him 1:49 into the game to teach him something specific. Doyle then came in and played a huge majority of the game. The most surprising thing about the whole game to me was Ricky Doyle. He was by far the most vocal on defense of everyone as a true freshman. His basketball IQ is obvious (calling out screens he could not see, making the correct pass). Crafty moves and very good at boxing out.
This is not even close as to who will start the season opener. Doyle seemed to play at an intelligence level far beyond his years. Donnal seemed a bit timid, got outrebound by a 45 year old 3rd round draft pick at your local YMCA, and definitely is not prepared for the rigors of being a big man in the Big 10 (mainly mentally, lacks confidence not talent). There were not even flashes of someone that was a top 150 recruit. Donnal was extremely disappointing. There is not an argument as to who will start the season opener. It is Doyle.
2. Who will be draw Brian’s ire as the most likely to shoot a lot of long two-point shots early in the shot clock? Kam Chatman guaranteed. I counted six, although one was at the end of a quarter…but still. He is smooth on offense, made a few sweet passes, and you will like him a lot. Offensively, he could might be more useful than Robinson III immediately.
3. Spike didn’t play very much and when he did was not awesome Spike. Derrick Walton almost seemed a bit disinterested against the talent level of Birracrua. Still, I have no qualms at point.
4. Who will replace Mitch McGary as Andrew Dakich’s dance partner? Austin Hatch. He was the most fired up in pre-game, was into it the whole time from the bench, and everyone (fans and players) loved him as he entered the game and led the post-game “Hail”. He is a definite asset to the program.
5. Holy Pants! Half the team wore blue leggings under their shorts.
6. Who will redshirt? Not Aubrey Dawkins. He looked very athletic and is far ahead of MAAR at this point on offense and defense. Assuming D.J. Wilson gets healthy; MAAR should take a redshirt and be a solid contributor after that. He played and scored some points at the line late, but the stats do not reflect what I saw. Maybe nobody redshirts.
7. This opponent was not good, old, and not really a team (their offense was primitive and not indicative of a European squad that they could be with familiarity). The U-M offense was not smooth but didn’t have to be with most of the guards being able to simply take guys off the dribble. Knowing Beilein, it will work itself out, especially when he figures out how to best use Chatman and Irvin. Irvin didn’t miss much and even made two three pointers after stepping out of bounds when he looked like he was in due to the volleyball-like lines on the court. He still did not finish strong or do any cool drive and dishes. “Not just a shooter”? We’ll see. I’m hopeful.
8. Biggest problem? Rebounding. This team looks to be even worse than any team he’s had at rebounding and they’ve never been overly good. I’m dreading Wisconsin and any other ‘big’ team. This team might not get a rebound against last year’s Texas team. This is a huge issue and is not going to go away. Score a lot of points and make three pointers, please.
9. Atmosphere. The overwhelmingly Italian crowd was polite and respectful. The kind of crowd you’d bring home to mom. They cheered at the rare crafty European moves that would baffle any American. The half time entertainment was a live (maybe the best) Italian rapper. The piped in music was mostly unedited American rap. If anyone gets a chance to travel abroad the next time Michigan travels…do it!
Thanks again to Kyle for passing along his impressions; he says he'll be at the last couple Italy games, too, so hopefully we'll have more of this as the team wraps up the tour.
[After THE JUMP, quotes from John Beilein and a few players courtesy of the athletic department.]