If you can do this, we've got minutes for you [Upchurch]
Question by Ace: The biggest question Michigan hoops faced heading into this season was how the center position would hold up, and the focus went almost entirely on the three freshmen. Now, against the first team M played with a pulse, Max Bielfeldt went off, to the point that HAHA SETH DAVIS "MAXIMUS" WE GET IT WE ALSO GOT IT THE FIRST TWO DOZEN TIMES YOU CAN STOP NOW.
ANYWAY, now that we've got a small sample to work with, how do you see the minutes at the five shaking out? Is Bielfeldt at all for real, and what have you seen from the freshmen that's also informing your opinion?
|Why would there be an 'a' in it if it's pronounced with a short 'e'? This makes less sense than a 6'7 center. [Upchurch]|
Seth: Max looked awesome, and bigs get better with time, but my expectations for him haven't changed from pre-season. Those expectations were for significant improvement toward a ceiling that's still below what we want as a starter. I think once Michigan's playing teams who aren't Division II or a Patriot League power in a down year, we'll look back on this as the Bielfeldt game. The standard comparison for a 6'7 center is Wes Unseld, but 6'7 in the 1970s is 6'9 today; Mitch McGary was more Unseld. When Bucknell could get the ball down low to their guy named Nana, Bielfeldt couldn't hang; he looked to give up three inches to a guy who's listed 6'9.
Donnal (apparently this is pronounced "Don-ELLE"?) again got the starter's run and I think he remains Option 1A. He's merely efficient and clearly the weak point of the starting five, but in an alternate universe where the NCAA isn't the dumbest organization on the planet I would expect Donnal to be getting minutes behind McGary.
After the non-conference you'll be seeing way more Doyle. He's definitely looked the most raw of the four fives. He also looks big--like as big as McGary—and the scattershot results of his minutes have pocked things Max and Donnal never will. The best case scenario for Michigan is to slowly ease Doyle into more minutes so he's a viable option against the larger Big Ten teams.
We saw a bit more Wilson this time, and nothing changed my feelings that he's a four. My guess is he's not seeing time there because Michigan desperately wants someone to emerge at the five. My guess is this is what's causing a lot of the slowness in progression that Beilein mentioned, because he's a freshman and learning to play center is like a five-year journey, not to mention Beilein's system and all its quirks. He does make some cool defensive plays, but the Smotrycz is strong with this one. Watching him trying to help down low then swing out out the wing gave me a renewed appreciation for the guys who could do that.
So post time:
Early season: 50% Donnal, 25% Bielfeldt, 25% Wilson/Doyle
Big Ten season: 41% Donnal, 40% Doyle, 19% Bielfeldt/Wilson.
[Jump for Ace disagrees with everybody]
Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player Interviews, Big Ten Newcomers, Big Ten Outlook Part 1, Big Ten Outlook Part 2, Mailbag Part 1
Who will get the bulk of the minutes at center? The panelists disagree. [Fuller]
The preview is almost done, but first, Alex and I attempt to answer perhaps the longest mailbag question in this blog's history. Without further ado, a five-part query covering everything:
Can you predict the minutes by position for the roster this year given the unique nature of this team compared to the past rosters?
I'm very intrigued to see how Beilein deals with the youngest but probably deepest and most versatile roster he's ever had. For most years we were scrambling to find 8 usable scholarship athletes and this year we have 11 guys who could see meaningful minutes in any given game. How will he handle that? How will he handle the frustrations that come with so many freshmen learning a complex system? How will he handle the unique skills that guys like MAAR or Wilson offer if they aren't quite the fit into his system?
Ace: I'm going to start from the end—first of all, Wilson is an ideal fit in the system (more on him later), and second of all, if a player is good enough to get on the court, Beilein is going to adjust his team's approach to fit his personnel, as we've seen time and again.
Also, talk about good problems. There really are 11 players who could see at least a consistent bit role this season, though I highly doubt Beilein is going to go with an 11-man rotation; I think he'll whittle it down closer to eight or nine as the season goes on.
My best guess at how the minutes breakdown will look when this team settles into a rotation—in the early going, I expect some experimenting as Beilein figures out what his freshmen can and can't provide:
1) Walton - 30, Albrecht - 10
2) LeVert - 35, Albrecht - 5
3) Irvin - 30, Dawkins - 10
4) Chatman - 25, Wilson - 15
5) Doyle - 20, Donnal - 10, Wilson - 10
Positions matter less than minutes distribution here—Irvin and Dawkins can both play the two, and LeVert can play the three, for example, and those positions very similar in Beilein's system, anyway.
Of the freshmen, I think Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman is the most likely to fall out of the rotation. Michigan has plenty of guards that can handle the ball, Walton's ability as a spot-up shooter will allow for the Walton/Spike backcourt to get a good amount of run, and Rahk's iffy shooting is going to hold him back, especially once M hits the meat of the schedule—Beilein's system doesn't work nearly as well if defenses don't have to respect the outside shot of one of the guards.
Aubrey Dawkins, meanwhile, has the skill set to be an immediate bench contributor. He can defend multiple positions and he can shoot the three; add in his outstanding athleticism, which should make him a good finisher on the break, and it's easy to see a role for him as a three-and-D guy with some upside.
I'm of the mind that all three freshman centers, including DJ Wilson, will get extensive time, and their minutes will wax and wane depending on the matchup; Wilson should see more time at the five against smaller, athletic teams, while Doyle may be leaned upon heavily against a bigger squad like Iowa. I believe Doyle will end up playing the most minutes at the five; I'm a fan of his combination of size and ability to finish near the basket, and for some reason it doesn't feel like Donnal is currently living up to expectations.
[Hit THE JUMP for Alex's guess at the rotation plus our outlook on DJ Wilson, picks for this year's breakout players, and comparable players to this year's freshmen.]
Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player Interviews, Big Ten Newcomers, Big Ten Outlook Part 1, Big Ten Outlook Part 2
Improvement from the rest of the squad should help M's young centers get acclimated. [Fuller]
Michigan had their first and only exhibition of the 2014-15 season last night, and on Saturday the games start counting for real. Even by John Beilein Michigan squad standards, this is a young group facing a lot of pressing questions, and the answers will determine if the Wolverines continue the remarkable success of recent seasons or fall back to the pack a bit.
There are so many, in fact, that the preseason mailbag will be a two-parter. Today, Alex and I address your questions about the young group of centers, the possibility of more zone defense this season, and proper expectations for Zak Irvin's sophomore season.
The latest mailbag said you're looking for basketball questions, so here's my biggest wonder heading into the season: What should my expectations be for the production from the center position, a position that seems to be a weakness on an otherwise strong team?
Beilein said he wants Mark [Donnal] or Ricky [Doyle] to eventually emerge as The Guy, but if we consider them to be a platoon (can we call it Donnoyle?), what output should we be happy with and what should concern us? Will Mark Donnal be the perfect fit everyone's been talking about (I won't make the age-old comparison), or will he be overpowered by mean scary Big Ten centers? Will Ricky Doyle be a calming presence on the defense or will we see that classic freshman deer-in-the-headlights look too often?
This message got a lot longer than I planned, but it's just something that I've been discussing at length with the basketball beat writers, and I think it's something that a lot of the fan base is wondering. Let me know what you think!
Ace: Let's start with a point of reference. Last season in Big Ten play—which removes Mitch McGary's scattered nonconference minutes from the equation—the combination of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford averaged 11.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.4 turnovers, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 70.7% from the field.
A few of those numbers are unlikely to be replicated by a trio of freshman centers—while he'll see plenty of time at the four and maybe even the three, DJ Wilson will get a lot of run at the five—and Max Bielfeldt. Morgan and Horford were both very efficient finishers who didn't take jumpers; that's not the case for any of M's current centers—even Doyle is comfortable shooting from mid-range—and just by virtue of them taking more jumpers, that shooting percentage is going to dip. Replacing seniors with freshmen usually means rebounding will go down and turnovers up, too.
All three main center options have scoring potential, though. Donnal missed his only three-point attempt last night and wasn't a major factor on offense, but if he can consistently stretch the defense he should stick as the starter. Ricky Doyle could easily surpass him, however, and even provide the type of scoring that Morgan/Horford did. Doyle is the bigger guy and looks to have more potential as a rebounder—he had an impressive putback last night—and his tape from high school and the Italy trip shows he's adept at finishing near the basket with either hand. Wilson, when he's at the five, will really spread the floor, and he's easily the best passer and ballhandler of these three; he may also be the best outside shooter.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of this excessively long answer and much more.]
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.
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.]