"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Aubrey Dawkins: still bouncy
In the regular-season opener, Michigan made easy work of D-II Northern Michigan, taking a ten-point lead into halftime before blowing the game wide open in the second half. Since a traditional recap would still read "blowout" and not much else, I'll go with another list of observations.
While the competition remained easy, we learned a little more about the likely rotation in this one. Michigan started the same group as they did against Le Moyne: Derrick Walton, Caris LeVert, Aubrey Dawkins, Kam Chatman, and Mark Donnal. While Donnal got the start, however, he played fewer minutes (10) than Ricky Doyle (15), and DJ Wilson saw his first live action at the five.
To keep it simple, Donnal looked like Donnal, Doyle looked like Doyle, and Wilson looked viable in the middle—arguably more comfortable there than at the four, where he also saw extensive minutes. Wilson's athleticism made it easy for him to hedge on screens and get back on his man, he's got a rudimentary but functional post game, and he passed well from the top of the—he tallied three assists and only a foul on Dawkins at the hoop prevented a fourth.
If tonight was any indication, I think Wilson has a great shot at being the backup five before too long.
Moritz Wagner will not redshirt this year. He checked in with around six minutes to play. He looks to be behind Donnal, Doyle, and Wilson in the pecking order at center, but this is clearly a move being made with an eye on the end of the season. While Wagner looked lost at times out there and struggled with his post defense, his potential was apparent—his length contributed to a tip-in for his first career points and a late three-point attempt barely rimmed out. He probably won't play much early in the season, but I wouldn't be shocked if he developed into a contributor for the stretch run.
Aubrey Dawkins bounced back from an underwhelming game against Le Moyne with an impressive, efficient outing: 15 points on 6/7 shots, six rebounds, two assists, a steal, and three dunks, including the insane tip-slam at the top of this post and this alley-oop finish from Walton:
Not only did Dawkins hit 2/3 triples and use his cutting ability to create easy points like he did as a freshman, he also showed off a new wrinkle, hitting a one-handed floater off the dribble at the free-throw line in the first half. He's still a work-in-progress on defense, especially when it comes to fighting through screens, but there's no questioning his ability on the other end.
Duncan Robinson, meanwhile, came back to earth, missing his only shot attempt—which Dawkins would finish with authority—and getting pulled in the second half for missing defensive assignments. He played both the three and the four and was active on the glass, but he'll need to get better with his rotations or he'll max out at the 15 minutes he got tonight.
Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton: still good! LeVert had the superior game tonight, posting a stat line of 18-4-5 on 7/12 shooting with two steals. The offense mostly ran through him when he was on the floor; he had three consecutive assists during one second-half stretch, and he seems to be looking for the dish a little more.
While Walton had a quiet game statistically—four points on four shots, one assist, one steal—he was the primary driver of Michigan's 14 transition points; when he's on the floor, the Wolverines are looking to run, and with their athleticism on the wings (and at center when Wilson is there) that's a good plan. Walton had some hockey assists that don't show up in the box score. I'd like to see him be more assertive in halfcourt sets but with LeVert taking on a big role as a passer/ballhandler that's a minor gripe.
- Chatman looked more comfortable out there. His six points on seven shots isn't great, but he had two layups off sharp backdoor cuts, pulled down four boards, and used his length to affect passing lanes against an undersized NMU squad.
- Spike is a little limited but that didn't stop him from jumping passing lanes—scoring a reverse layup off one steal—and passing out three dimes. He got to the hoop more than you'd expect, too, though that probably has a lot to do with the competition.
- Rahkman still has a place in the rotation. He played 14 minutes, knocked down a corner three, and had a nice lefty finish on a hard drive to the hoop. While his shot is still coming along (2/5 FG), he remains one of the best on the team at attacking the rim.
In a game Michigan controlled from the outset, the John Beilein's Wolverines defeated Patrick Beilein's Le Moyne Dolphins, 74-52, in the exhibition tune-up before the season tips off for real a week from tonight. Caris LeVert led all scorers with 22 points on 17 shots; Duncan Robinson came off the bench for 15, hitting three of his six three-pointers, and Derrick Walton added 13 on seven shot equivalents.
Some scattered thoughts from the game:
Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton: still good. There's not too much more to say here except that both looked fully healthy. LeVert's ability to create his own offense outside the arc bailed out some stagnant possessions. Walton is back to his normal self; he had a couple strong takes to the hoop in transition and knocked down a pull-up jumper off a late-clock drive—these were the shots he couldn't get last year because of his injury.
Mark Donnal got the start at center, but he still doesn't look like Michigan's best big man. While Donnal hit three of his five shots, the two misses were layups—not a great sign against a woefully undersized opponent. He affected some shots at the rim but still looked a step slow on defense.
Ricky Doyle only played 12 minutes; I don't think that's a reflection of the pecking order as much as Beilein wanting to see what he has in Donnal and Moe Wagner, who played most of his 11 minutes at the five. Doyle looked much like he did last year, scoring on his lone post-up opportunity and grabbing five boards while allowing a couple other rebound chances to find their way to Le Moyne. Wagner was active but a little lost out there, which doesn't come as a huge surprise; he did look like he could contribute this season in a pinch.
Michigan really missed Zak Irvin, who sat out the game with a back injury that shouldn't affect his availability during the season. With Irvin out of the lineup, Kam Chatman and DJ Wilson played most of the minutes at the four, and their inability to hit the outside shot—a combined 0/6, with Aubrey Dawkins also missing his four attempts from beyond the arc—limited the effectiveness of the offense. Michigan couldn't get much pick-and-roll offense going and mostly scored with one-on-one takes and off-ball movement; not having Irvin to spread the floor constricted some space to operate in the paint.
Chatman's scoring output remains frustrating, especially since he can do other things well; he's a good passer an one of the team's more reliable rebounders. If he can't put the ball in the bucket, though, he'll cede minutes to someone else; he's not strong enough as a perimeter defender to justify getting minutes otherwise.
Wilson is an interesting case. He runs the floor really well—he's a weapon in transition—and he alters shots at the rim, but he doesn't look totally comfortable with his outside shot and he got blown by on the perimeter for a couple layups. He hit a face-up jumper on a post-up and may be better suited for the five, especially if Donnal struggles.
Duncan Robinson is going to pose major problems to opposing defenses. He looked great shooting the ball, as expected, hitting 3/6 triples. Encouragingly, he also hit 3/4 two-pointers, with much of that offense set up by him making nice off-ball cuts. He had an up-and-down game defensively playing primarily the three, but he's going to get a lot of time regardless.
Aubrey Dawkins had an off night on both ends. I'm not concerned at all about his offense—we know he'll be fine on that end. The more concerning stuff came on defense; he got pulled a couple times for Robinson when he ran right into screens and gave up open outside shots. Perimeter defense is a work-in-progress on a team-wide basis; Le Moyne got off 28 three-pointers and many of those were solid looks.
For an exhibition game in which the team was missing a critical starter and trying out a ton of different lineups, this went fine. The offense should function much better with Irvin on the court, Robinson looks as advertised as an offensive weapon, and the two stars who played looked like their old selves tonight.
A sign of things to come?
In Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary, and Jon Horford, Michigan had the good fortune of rolling with a deep and productive group of big men for a couple years. Last year's trio of Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, and Max Bielfeldt lacked the experience, skill, and physicality of that group, and there was a noticeable effect on Michigan's performance at both ends of the court.
While Bielfeldt was allowed to move on to a big-desperate Indiana squad for his graduate year, Doyle and Donnal should be better players as sophomores, and DJ Wilson provides hope that Michigan will get more from its bench up front this season. If there's a hole in this lineup, it's at center, but Doyle displayed enough potential last year that this position can quickly turn into a strength if a viable backup emerges.
Measurables: 6'9", 250
Base Stats: 18.2 MPG, 6.1 PPG, 61/0/59 2P/3P/FT%, 3.2 RPG, 12 blocks
Key Advanced Metrics: 17.9% usage, 117.4 ORating, 10.4 OReb%, 11.9 DReb%, 55.5 FT Rate, 2.6 block %
If you listened to the season preview podcast or the recent hoops-centric MGoRadio, you know the writers of this blog are very excited about Doyle. A series of unforeseen events—Mitch McGary's suspension and subsequent departure, Jon Horford's transfer, Mark Donnal looking overwhelmed—caused him to go from unheralded recruit to starting center for a Big Ten title hopeful, and while Michigan's season didn't go as planned, Doyle rose to the challenge better than anyone could've expected.
[Hit THE JUMP.]
Hey: tournaments. Softball making the postseason is a given, and even the CWS is kind of expected when they're having a good year. Baseball not so much, but they played themselves in off the bubble. So here we are with an unusually busy late May sports weekend.
Softball's opener is against Alabama on Thursday at 8 PM Eastern on ESPN2. Alabama's 47-13, the #6 overall seed, and one of five(!) SEC teams to make it. All eight national seeds made it to the CWS because softball is way more predictable than baseball. if they win that they will play on Friday at 10:30; if they lose they'll be in an elimination game on Saturday at 3:30.
Baseball kicks off its regional against two-seed Bradley at 2 on Friday. That game is only available on ESPN3; Louisville is the top seed and host. Let's find out about Bradley!
"We don't know anything about Bradley, so we are going in with a blindfold on," Cronenworth said.
Let's have a DB transfer key party. Just days after the Moncrief kerfuffle, Blake Countess announces he'll spend his final year at Auburn. Excellent pickup if you're going to play a lot of zone, but this is the important part.
Auburn will have a Duke, Prince, Queen, King, President and a Countess on the roster in 2015. http://t.co/aiTFaHhPn0
— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) May 26, 2015
So they've got that going for them.
The Big Ten floated the “year of readiness” plan mostly as a ploy to get people focused on discussing more academic and student-welfare issues, or what Glass called “less controversial and more doable” reforms.
Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.
Unfortunately, Jim Delany isn't accountable to anyone. Jim Delany could walk around pooping big scarlet Rs on Big Ten fans and it wouldn't impact his job security. He could jump on the hood of a car and fire 17 scarlet Rs at unarmed passengers and get acquitted. Nationwide bro got future endeavored.
“Matt accomplished a great deal during his time at Nationwide and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” Nationwide spokesman Joe Case said.
No such luck for the Big Ten's partisans.
Camp Sanderson yoke up of the year. Can't be summer on a Michigan blog without a picture of a basketball player who has put on an impressive amount of muscle. Memorial Day has just passed, so:
— D.J. Wilson (@Lanky_Smoove) May 21, 2015
That is a big leap, one that should help him a lot as he gets drafted into playing some center this year.
“Once you start your senior year of high school, you should be able to sign at any time,” Johnson said. “The schools have their 85 scholarships, and you can sign no more than 25 in a year. When you sign your limit, you’re through. If you sign a kid and he doesn’t qualify, you lose it for that year. We put the onus back on the kids with better grades and better students, and we stop all the craziness of the hat shows, soft commits, decommits and all that.”
You can't stop a hat show, but he's right on about that. My blue sky version of that goes slightly farther:
- players can sign a non-binding LOI whenever they want
- this LOI commits the school to offering a slot in their class
- the kid can withdraw it at any time until Signing Day
- he can only visit the school he committed to, he has unlimited contact with that school, and other coaches can't call him
It's a bad idea to lock people into commitments before the coaching carousel stops moving in mid-January, but that system gives both schools and players incentives to be up front with each other. Johnson:
“If a kid said he was committed, you hand him the papers. If he didn’t sign, you knew he wasn’t committed. The same thing on the schools. If the kid went in, and they said, ‘You’ve got an offer,’ and the kid wants to sign, (he’d) call their bluff as well."
As GTP says, hard to argue with that logic.
A bit on Hibbitts. I wonder if Michigan went with preferred walk-on Brent Hibbitts over Max Bielfeldt with their last scholarship this year. Once they missed on Jaylen Brown it seemed like they had a spot to keep a guy who is drawing interest from Nebraska and Indiana. Bielfeldt told reporters he would like to stay but that wasn't happening. Illogical, captain.
But then Michigan gets a 6'8" stretch four with mid-major offers. If Michigan thinks they could develop Hibbitts into a player given some time—and their track record is impressive in that department—and they need a carrot, guaranteeing him a scholarship for his first year isn't a bad one.
Etc.: John Calipari has goals man. Harbaugh regret in San Francisco. There are more quarterbacks now. Excellent outside zone primer from James Light. Highly recommend the first comment. Stauskas comes back for the summer. Dawkins and Donnal evaluated.
Previously: nominal backcourt
Starter: Zak Irvin (Jr.)
Backups: Kam Chatman (So.), DJ Wilson (Fr.*), Moritz Wagner (Fr.)
On a roster that is suddenly brimming with depth this is the spot at which minutes are tightest. The competition here is not really between Irvin and the guys listed as backups—Irvin's playing 30+ minutes guaranteed—but between Kam Chatman, DJ Wilson, Moritz Wagner, and the two guys we covered as "small" forwards. There's about 50 minutes to divide up between the five players.
This preview projects that the bulk of those minutes go to Aubrey Dawkins and Duncan Robinson. Chatman shot 36/26 last year, Wilson is coming off a redshirt after looking pretty bad in 26 minutes before his injury, and Wagner is physically reminiscent of a freshman Caris LeVert. Dawkins was already a pretty good Big Ten player last year and is likely to improve; Robinson is shooting is shooting is shooting on a John Beilein team. They're getting minutes. These guys will get the squeeze.
It is reasonable to expect that one of the three candidates here steps forwards to become a quality bench player. Who that will be is anyone's guess. Chatman settled down late in the year, using his handle and passing ability to create some baskets. The coaches have been talking up Wilson's "productive" redshirt year… and I've also heard that he stepped it up in a big way after Wagner came in on an official visit and took it to him.
A redshirt for someone seems like a good idea. That would probably be Wagner… if he's not clearly better. Which is a possibility. I just don't know, man.
What I do know: Zak Irvin's going to be on the court a lot. Last year we asked him to become a "threes AND" guy. Progress in that department was dubious at best until a late surge forced upon him by the injury issues. Alex covered his remarkable uptick in things other than shots:
Even on the post-apocalypse roster it took several games for Irvin to grok the fact that he had to be Nik Stauskas now. When he did grasp it, he turned in the finest stretch of his Michigan career by some distance. It felt like he had grasped not only his role but how to create shots in the Beilein offense. While his role should be less prominent on next year's roster if only because he's no longer Dion Harris, the efficiency of possessions he uses promises to shoot up.
Irvin will be a big deal for other things, as well. He's going to be drawing guys Caleb Swanigan at (apparently) Purdue. Nigel Hayes at Wisconsin. And so forth and so on. Michigan has never been particularly good defensively at the 4 because of the guys they run out there at the spot; Irvin seems better able to hack it than just about anyone Beilein has had at Michigan. Glenn Robinson was pretty good as a sophomore. Other than that…? If Irvin can rebound at the clip he did late in the year and prove something other than weak spot on D, Michigan will benefit greatly.
Minute projection: Irvin 30, Miscellaneous 10.
[After the JUMP: Doyle, rebounding philosophies, and so forth.]
Jaylenbits? Maybe not quite but it is by far the most interesting thing going on right now. The latest:
- Scout's Brian Snow has been saying this is a top two of UK and M for weeks and reiterated that, with Cal running third. Feels like the Bears would be a surprise but not an all-caps SHOCK.
- Sam Webb did not offer a gut feeling on WTKA this morning but did reiterate that Michigan was very much in this recruitment; he's got an article coming up in the News on why that is. As a guy who's badgered him about this recruitment for months I can say that Sam is getting more hopeful as we move along here. He is not playing coy, though: nobody knows.
- Kentucky offered 2015 6'6" wing Shaun Kirk yesterday just hours after he committed to NC State. Kentucky needs a lot of guys, yes; they already have a commitment from a 6'6" wing out of Chicago and are about to get a JUCO shooting guard, Mychal Mulder. A 247 Kentucky staff member suggested this was "more indicative" of where things are with Jaylen Brown than Cheick Diallo, the 6'9" power forward who is the other major prize Kentucky is after.
- Even if Kentucky sweeps Kirk/Mulder/Diallo they will still have a spot for Brown, FWIW. Adding Jamal Murray, the Canadian combo guard who is considering reclassifying from 2016, and all those guys would fill them up but even then a guy like Marcus Lee could get Creaned.
- Crystal Ball predictions continue to roll in for Michigan, including one from Jerry Meyer, 247's head of basketball recruiting. Michigan now has the last 13 picks, with 247 staffers at their Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, and UNC sites amongst those to pick M in the last couple days. Again, I wouldn't take this as gospel since this recruitment has been cloak and dagger. Somebody is hearing something.
- College coaches don't seem to be among that group, as several said they have "no clue" and/or "no feel" for what Brown was going to do.
- The OSU staffer told his message board that after some texts it looks like it's "headed UM's way" and that the Adidas thing was "huge". Steve Lorenz also mentioned something along those lines. I will call them Competent Germans for a week if this happens.
- Rivals, which has been pessimistic the whole time, suggests that Kansas writers in their network are "beginning to believe" they have a real shot. That's at odds with what their 24/7 guys are saying.
- There's no scheduled commitment time but people expect that that Brown will choose within the next couple weeks.
Meanwhile VA combo guard Kenny Williams is planning to take an official to Michigan. UNC and Virginia are the other schools he'll visit after using two of his officials earlier in the year; those schools and maybe VCU appear to comprise his list. Obviously if Brown does happen, Williams will no longer be an option.
Other basketball things. During the Hatch press conference, Beilein touched on a couple personnel matters. On DJ Wilson's position:
Beilein: 'If DJ (Wilson) plays in the middle, it'll probably be the only year he plays in the middle.' Not a center. But can be, apparently
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 27, 2015
That is no surprise with Teske and maybe Davis scheduled to enter in 2016 (Davis may prep), but it is an indicator where Michigan stands this year. They may need a third C and it sounds like Wilson will be the guy playing Bielfeldt/Smotrycz when foul trouble looms.
Spike Albrecht will undergo a second surgery. Beilein expects full recovery by the start of fall practice.
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) April 27, 2015
That does not put talk about Spike redshirting to rest but it should at least dampen it considerably. Given the composition of the roster Michigan should want to add a point guard in 2016; a Spike redshirt prevents that. And having Albrecht available is a very good thing for a team with aspirations.
On other potential roster moves:
Beilein still expects every other player currently on the team to be back next season.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 27, 2015
There was some speculation that Chatman might light out for greener pastures; happy that is not the case. He is still a guy who can develop into an excellent player. Just get that corner three down and get mean on the boards and we're in business.
1925 sounds exactly as fun as you would expect. The roaring 20s of football:
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) April 28, 2015
Several years later mud would obscure key numbers in the New York Stock Exchange, and the rest is history.
Nyet. Mike Spath reported a week or so ago that Michigan would look to add a grad transfer wide receiver or two over the coming months, space permitting, and thoughts naturally turned to Devin Lucien, the UCLA receiver who Michigan essentially turned down (they asked him to play D) days after Hoke took the job. Lucien is no longer available:
WR Devin Lucien is transferring to ASU. Grad transfer. Eligible immediately. Nice get. 29 catches, 225 yards, 2 TDs last year at UCLA.
— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) April 28, 2015
Cut to the chase. The Final Four—two spectacular games and Duke punking MSU—put the "COLLEGE BASKETBALL IS DEATH" meme to the sword, or it least it should have. But at the same time the tournament was going on, basketball was experimenting with a 30 second shot clock in their B- and C-tier postseason tournaments. Those increased scoring without a commensurate decrease in efficiency, so you may as well do it. It appears that people are going to do it:
Men's basketball is likely heading toward reducing its shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, NCAA rules committee chairman Rick Byrd told ESPN.com on Monday.
Byrd, the coach at Belmont, said a year ago that there was a 5 percent chance of the change happening, but he changed his tone Monday.
"Now there's a real decent chance," Byrd said. "It's pretty evident a lot more coaches are leaning that way. The opinion of coaches on the shot clock has moved significantly to reducing it from 35 to 30. And all indicators are pointing toward that."
Byrd also said there was a 90% chance college basketball would adopt the NBA charge circle. It does sound like other changes are on the horizon:
Byrd said coaches have told him the game is too physical and too rough. He said that will come up quite a bit in the meeting.
Byrd also said there will be discussion about altering the timeout rule to create better flow. He said he would like to mimic the rule in women's basketball where if a coach calls a timeout within 30 seconds of a media timeout, then that becomes the TV timeout.
He said too often coaches will call a timeout, knowing they are getting a media timeout 15 seconds later, and that creates an even longer downtime for the fans in the stands and the TV audience.
"You can have the last few minutes take 20 minutes," Byrd said. "It doesn't bother coaches, but it does for those watching at home and in the arena. We need to try to get the games within two-hour windows."
All of that sounds excellent. From a selfish perspective I think the shot clock reduction hurts Michigan since they use their time on offense so well, but if it's part of a package that includes improving offensive flow by reducing the Spartanizing of the game I'll take it in a hot second.
Now just implement my coaches-must-cut-off-a-digit-to-call-timeout plan and we are cooking with gas.
The unbundling. ESPN has sued Verizon for attempting an end-around of their contract. ESPN thinks it says Verizon can't offer "basic" packages without its family of channels; Verizon is like nah.
Verizon Fios has just shy of six million cable subscribers -- making it the fourth largest cable company and sixth largest cable or satellite company in the country. Verizon recently announced a new cheaper alternative to a basic cable package. That offering allows consumers to subscribe to a basic cable package for $59.99. Unlike Dish Network's recent Sling TV offering which includes ESPN in its basic tier, the new Verizon Fios package doesn't include ESPN in its basic tier pricing. Instead ESPN -- along with ESPN2, FS1 and NBC Sports Network -- are included in a sports tier package which consumers can purchase for the additional price of $9.99 a month. That is, it's possible to subscribe to Verizon's new cable package without receiving ESPN.
That's actually a great deal for that sports package since ESPN and ESPN 2 alone cost Verizon seven dollars. I am not a law-talking guy but I can't see how this is going to fly in the courts; it is an indicator of where we're going. Right now sports is being subsidized by people who don't care about it at all. In an a-la-carte world that no longer happens.
Then what? Then ESPN takes a bath, with sports leagues next on the chopping block. ESPN costs 6 bucks a month for a channel 20% of people are interested in; it will not cost thirty bucks a month in an a-la-carte world because a lot of people will forgo it. There's only so much you can do by strong-arming customers in an environment where ten bucks a month gets you a virtually infinite pile of content. The people who don't care will opt out.
This is why adding questionable fanbases to the Big Ten in the pursuit of short-term cable dollars was so incredibly foolish even beyond the deleterious effects of adding a bunch of games nobody in the world cares about. Every time I see someone hail Jim Delany as some kind of visionary I want to laugh/cry.