LIST OF WWE PERSONNEL?!?
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.
Jordan Morgan graduated, triumphant. So, too, did Jon Horford, who chose to play his final year of eligibility at Florida. Mitch McGary, a victim of the NCAA's enthusiastic, aggressive stupidity, will suit up this winter for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
As a result, out of the 1490 minutes Michigan centers played in 2013-14, the Wolverines return just 89, in the form of 6'7" tweener Max Bielfeldt, a senior with all of 38 career points to his name. While Bielfeldt may play a bigger part in the rotation, he isn't expected to take on major minutes; those should go to two freshmen with distinctly different playing styles.
why did I start the tape here? oh, no reason.
Year: Redshirt Freshman
Measurables: 6'9", 240
247 Composite Ranking (2013): 4*, #18 PF, #86 OVR
Highest Ranking: 4*, #23 PF, #89 OVR (ESPN)
Lowest Ranking: 3*, #37 PF, #147 OVR (247)
Highlight Tapes: Senior Highlights, Three Minutes Of Dunks, Single-Game Reel From 36-Point Game, Summer 2012 Highlights, UMHoops Italy Rewind (stats & video)
Mark Donnal is the closest thing to Kevin Pittsnogle that John Beilein's had during his tenure at Michigan.
It's true, and you're going to hear it about half a billion times this season, so get used to it. Pittsnogle was Beilein's West Virginia version of Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky, a productive post player with a killer three-point stroke. If you haven't yet, hit play on the embedded YouTube video above.
Donnal redshirted last season while bulking up from 215 pounds to his current 240, a luxury Michigan could afford with Morgan/Horford/McGary manning the center position. By midseason, word was leaking out around the program that Donnal was really impressing in practice, and by the end he was reportedly hanging with his older, accomplished teammates:
If it wasn’t for the redshirt, Morgan and Horford might have had to worry about their job security.
“He’s becoming a force,” Morgan said. “He’s hard to guard down there in the post, and he’s definitely come a long way.
“Over the past couple months, he’s just become really good. Really dominates, shoots the ball well.”
The tentativeness that plagued Donnal through the season’s first couple months seemed to disappear.
“Now that I have my confidence back, I know that I can play with these guys,” Donnal said.
This summer, Donnal started all four games of the Italy tour, averaging 10.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game—numbers that Michigan would be over the moon about if he came close to replicating them during the season, wildly unlikely given the center's place on the offensive pecking order. While he was very efficient inside the arc, he went 0/3 on three-pointers during the trip, instead getting most of his buckets in transition or off pick-and-rolls.
Michigan doesn't exactly need huge production out of their center, of course, and the threat of Donnal's outside shot should open up space for everyone else if he's able to handle the more physical demands of the position. He can also diversify Michigan's high screen game; the Wolverines haven't had a center who's as much a pick-and-pop threat as a pick-and-roll threat, and that adds an entirely new dimension to guarding the screener. One thing to keep an eye on as the season progresses: while Donnal looks very comfortable on film finishing with his right hand, he rarely seems to use his left—and often goes out of his way to use his right. If/when opponents pick up on that he's going to have a more difficult time scoring around the basket.
A good rebounder in high school, Donnal should at least be passable in that regard, albeit a likely downgrade from the trio of very productive rebounders on last year's roster. The focus then turns to defense. While true freshman Ricky Doyle is a bigger guy who projects to be the better rim protector, Donnal showed off some nice shot-blocking himself in his high school film, and his year of practice experience should give him a leg up on Doyle when it comes to positioning and directing the defense from the all-important center spot.
If Donnal isn't a defensive liability, his diverse offensive game provides tantalizing possibilities on the other end of the floor—a Beilein-coached Michigan squad with five quality shooters on the floor... I'm not sure I can finish this sentence without getting faint.
I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Before DEATH FROM ABOVE is unleashed in its all-consuming form, Donnal must prove he brings enough rebounding and defense to the court to keep Michigan average in those areas, or he might lose playing time to...
[Hit THE JUMP to resolve this EPIC CLIFFHANGER.]
xkcd. it's funny because SCIENCE okay?
As the Rigelians informed us, basketball it turns out is the universe's favorite sport. Of the trillions of basketball leagues worthy of broadcast, the most incompetent is Lockeceles VI's "Internashunil Assosiation of Basketball Playig and Shoving Sharp Objects Into Our Eyes [sic]," [sic] best known for their ruling that the Targavian Turnips should have to play an entire season hopping on one leg and bent sideways after a local columnist accused the Turnips' frontcourt of not hustling. Fortunately for the players, Targavia was a city entirely made up of chiropractors, so nobody's life was ruined. The season was of course a disaster.
|If the NCAA just claimed the refs were getting too expensive we would have believed it.|
The second most feckless basketball league in the universe is, of course, Earth's "National Collegiate Athletic Association," which recently challenged the IABPSSOIOE[sic]'s title by issuing a one-year (effectively life) suspension to an injured player who tested positive for a recreational, performance-reducing substance that everyone uses.
You may ask what were they smoking at the time, but that would appear rather obvious.
Alas, the burden of picking up the pieces shall fall upon the TV camera crews at Crisler, who must find a way to shoot the games without broadcasting all of those extended middle fingers, and the Michigan Wolverines Basketball team, who'll have to figure out how they're supposed to rebound anything. And it shall fall upon the MGoBloggers to inform you how that will go down:
The cagers are suddenly without a front court. Has Michigan slid back to pack for now or is this all just a setup for the Beilein Little Shooters Magnum Opus? What's your take on Donnal? Can we do this without becoming a study on Bielfeldt anatomy?
I think it's really happening. Mike Babcock-to-Michigan rumors have just been turned up to 11:
Mike Babcock says not worried about negotiating for extension, will either remain coach of Red Wings or be assistant at U of M/ Berenson
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) April 29, 2014
That is quite a statement: "eh, if I don't continue to coach one of the most storied franchises in the NHL I'll just go be Red's assistant." If Michigan sticks to the plan that would be a one-year apprenticeship before the job came open.
Oh really. Paging Captain Renault: Mitch McGary's drug test won't impact his draft stock.
"No, not really, because you know what, probably 70 percent of the league does that (smokes marijuana)," the scout told MLive, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
But what about the spirit of sport, NBA? What about the spirit of sport?
"Appropriate." Matt Hayes walks up to the unionization issue on a tee and takes a Casey-like swing:
So if we’re going to do this; if we’re going to call athletes employees (or whatever you want to call them) and expand benefits and increase their ability to market and make money off themselves, the consequences for violating rules must be swift and appropriate.
Gone are the days where Troy Smith can take $500 from a booster, sit out a bowl game, get reinstated and two years later finish his career by winning the Heisman Trophy.
If you take $500 from a booster now, you lose eligibility. Permanently.
Hayes, prone on the ground, cartoon birds circling his head. The tee, untouched.
The average Troy Smith is still going to get the money, but will not be punished. Ramping up penalties for infractions that 99% of offenders will not get caught for is like throwing people in jail for speeding.
I mean, who cares? Who cares that Troy Smith now has 500 dollars? Level playing field, you say?
Gone are the days of second, third and fourth chances as it relates to— take your pick— arrests (and convictions), academic failure, failed drug tests (performance enhancing or recreational), or any behavior that harms a university’s reputation.
Let me just direct you to the quote above about Mitch McGary. Or, you know, society. The society in which those first time arrests and convictions generally result in probation or diversion so that people can have a second chance. If people were held to the standards Matt Hayes is advocating for newly professional-ish college athletes, unemployment would run around 50% and include Matt Hayes.
Let's goooooo. The News profiles now-critical Mark Donnal, collecting the various encouraging quotes about him that have been dropping in the past couple months:
“He’s definitely displayed a couple of specific skill sets,” Alexander said. “Mark is a tremendous passer, both in traffic and on the perimeter. His shooting range makes him a capable and reliable pick-and-pop jump shooter on the perimeter.
“He has a great face-up game in the post. The thing he discovered through added strength is the ability to rebound the ball in traffic.”
With sufficient three-point range to drag posts out to the perimeter, Michigan's post guys are liable to find shotblockers absent when they get by their guys. It'll be interesting to see what happens Walton and LeVert's shooting percentage at the rim when Donnal is out there providing Beilein his first shooting five since his arrival in Ann Arbor. I'm more concerned about his defense and rebounding—by the end there, Jordan Morgan was in beast mode.
Bacari is at least making the right noises about where he's headed:
“The thing that really excites me as his position coach is that nasty edge that he brings to the table, as well.”
He also has an interesting quote about how at Michigan "you are who you can guard," and the offense takes care of itself. Donnal will start at the five—out of necessity now—and has some ability to move out to the four as he "continues to improve his conditioning and lateral quickness." Given the composition of Michigan's roster the next couple years it doesn't seem like he'll be spending much, if any, time at the 4.
How much thing X irritates coaches, officially. Michigan's defensive grading system seems a little out of whack to me:
Like… forcing a fumble—hit the ballcarrier with enough force to make him drop the ball—is way harder than recovering one—get lucky, fall down. And what counts as a "missed tackle"? Missed tackles come in all shapes and sizes: you can let someone outside of you for a huge gain, which is super super bad, or you can not quite get a guy down but delay him enough that the cavalry rallies to stop him a yard after you would have. I'm guessing that latter probably counts as a tackle and the former gets a CRITICAL ERROR added to it.
Even so, it seems like "missed assignment" is the worst of all possible things. Missed assignments are touchdowns waiting to happen. When I do the UFRs some guy doing something that doesn't make any sense gets a serious downgrade and most of the coach types who have commented seem to agree with that assessment.
But being a coach is always a compromise between what you actually think in your head and what you think is the best way to get 85 guys doing a complicated thing well. See: the entire concept of "coachspeak." Or "Devin Gardner might start."
Just don't advertise it during games. Michigan Stadium is now open for prom:
Michigan Stadium is getting ready for prom season as part of a push to use the home of Wolverines football for more events during the offseason.
About 230 students from Durand High School, about 45 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, will take the field May 10 — the first time the Big House has hosted a prom, The Ann Arbor News reported (http://bit.ly/1mQvHXn ). And Dexter High School's prom is there May 17.
Hooray incremental revenue, as long as incremental revenue is not flogged at my ears during the games. See also: weddings, facebook, twitter, nonrevenue sports.
Everywhere, all the time. Ramzy on Ohio State's version of creating the future is worth your time:
Ohio State does not belong to you. You just happen to work there at this moment - you're stewards for a rich inheritance you're passing along to someone else that no one will ever cash. That's what Ohio State is. You did not build this brand. You can only damage or improve it.
And you should find as many ways as possible to give it away for free. Businesses do this all the time because it gives them a great return and it's terrific exposure for future buyers. Future buyers. This is where we talk about the children who don't have wealthy parents or opportunities to embark on a wallet-crushing fall Saturday in Ohio Stadium.
Also in this genre is a post from Get The Picture, a Georgia blog:
It’s not like money is a problem in Athens. It’s just that there seems to be little thought to spending it in a way that makes the fan base content. I think back to the shameful way North Campus was treated before Michael Adams had his hissy fit and essentially shut down the tailgate experience; much of that could have been resolved with better security, more restroom facilities and a reasonable amount of attention paid to trash removal. None of that is exactly back-breaking from a financial standpoint for a school with Georgia’s resources. It’s just that no one in a position to improve things could be bothered with it. And that’s a story you could repeat in many other ways.
Instead, we’re offered enhanced wi-fi, ever more intrusive piped in music and goofy sideshows like yesterday’s mascot abomination as a solution. But I don’t weigh the prospect of live attendance on the basis of my short-term attention span. The home experience is about greater comfort and convenience. I don’t wait to go to the kitchen for a drink, my bathroom smells nice and I can always find a place to park. This is the lesson I’m afraid McGarity and his AD peers are missing. I want what I got yesterday – a feeling that the money I’m shelling out is somehow being spent to benefit my experience in a way that gives me what I have at home, while making me feel glad I came.
I also recommend the comments, this one in particular:
UGA AA for so long thought that buying a ticket was the only way to gt a good view. Then 27 inch crt color television gave ay to 60′ HD home theaters and the Butts-Mehre suits haven’t yet figured out how to compete without creating something to sell.
Georgia fans are basically the Michigan fans of the SEC and they're experiencing the same things, albeit with less of a swoon with their football program. The comparison they're making here is to the Masters, which is a fantastic example of an organization successfully creating a culture of otherness that makes it in fact special. While that comes with costs—see women and minority membership—they're holding onto their fanbase because they make it feel good to be a fan. I can't say I remember the last thing Michigan did that was a step in that direction.
That reminds me of a thing I think I failed to relate when it happened: before the Nebraska game this year I was walking to my family's tailgate. As I neared the stadium the jumbotron was showing me the previous week's game… against Michigan State. Devin Gardner got annihilated and intercepted and I was like "feels bad, man."
It was the previous week's Not Michigan Replay, it turned out, and I just thought to myself "is there literally no one in the athletic department with the common sense to not show Michigan fans highlights of a game in which they rushed for –48 yards?" People are just in charge of things for no reason.
The ultimate Pandora's Box question. Oh, man. As scaremongering anti-union/reform questions go, this is the best/worst:
Could boosters treat recruiting like the Wild West?
oh no what would that look like
Etc.: Why the O'Bannon case is a duel to the death. At least everyone hates the way the McGary thing went down. More evidence that Michigan's upper reaches are inappropriately secretive. Jordan Morgan report card. Talking with Ricky Doyle. The Big Ten basketball powerhouse.
ludicrous photo illustration of Donnal via the Blade.
I'm trying as hard as I can to not go on a rage bender, so let's just move on to the implications for next year's basketball team. They are not good, obviously, but it is also not the end of the world. John Beilein won a Big Ten title with a 6'4" starting power forward; Michigan will live.
Jon Horford's ever-more inexplicable decision to exit as buckets of playing time beckon leaves Michigan with the following options for tall rebounding folks:
- Mark Donnal. Freshman coming off a redshirt; reputed to be highly skilled perimeter big who certainly could play the 4 in a Beilein offense but now slides down to the five. Has a back-to-the-basket game, not that such things are at all relevant in Ann Arbor. Can be a Pittsnogle pick and pop guy; defense questionable. Supposed to be a below the rim type, though Camp Sanderson has endeavored to change that.
- Ricky Doyle. Gangly three-star freshman out of Florida now standing next to Bacari Alexander in an effort to demonstrate that he's a legit 6'10", Doyle has a decent face up game and is reputed to be your standard hard-working blue-collar rebounder. Freshman bigs, though, are not fifth year senior bigs.
- Max Bielfeldt. If only Bielfeldt's body was as large as his calves. Since they're not, the 6'6"-ish Bielfeldt just gets swallowed by actual posts. The first half of the Big Ten Championship game is the most recent example. Will have a role off the bench against certain matchups.
- Random fifth year guy. Nobody on the radar and Michigan's contingency plan in the event of a McGary exit appears to be Cole Huff, who won't be eligible next year if he does end up transferring in and wouldn't be a post even if he got a waiver.
- Random freshman. See previous bullet: Michigan's late offers have been focused on the wing. If Dawkins or Huff does turn Michigan down they would have a spot to go fishing with. Finding someone this late who is both a fit and able to play basketball is doubtful.
So Michigan's going to have to roll with what they've got, it seems: a 6'9" redshirt freshman and a 6'10" freshman plus Max Bielfeldt.
What about the four?
Irvin is not an ideal option at the 4. [Fuller]
Any thought Donnal would spend significant minutes at the 4 is out the window. Michigan's options there:
- Zak Irvin. Irvin saw the occasional stretch at the four a year ago, always when Robinson was on the bench. It seems doubtful Irvin can provide anything more than a few minutes here and there against a decent matchup, as he's far more wing-shaped than Robinson. His DREB rate was the lowest on the team, yes behind even Spike. That's partially roles and whatnot; I think it's also Zak Irvin not being much of a rebounder. Even a Hardaway-like move there does not make him the best option, which means Michigan's in a different place than they were a few years ago. Also, Irvin is going to be needed at the 3 for about 30 minutes a game.
- Kam Chatman. Chatman measured in at 6'8" at the most recent camo basketball all star debacle, so he'd actually be an improvement over Robinson in the height department despite being widely regarded as a wing player. At around 200 pounds that's understandable. Chatman would probably get beat up worse than Robinson did as a freshman, as he's taller and skinnier—going to be a lot of times he gets shoved under the basket when rebound time kicks in.
- DJ Wilson. Chatman's fellow freshman is the truest stretch four Beilein's brought in during his time at Michigan. Depending on who you listen to and what time they scribbled his weight down, Wilson's either the same 200 pounds Chatman is or a skinny-but-survivable 215 at 6'8" or 6'9". Wilson finally had a healthy high school season and used that to shoot up almost fifty spots in the Rivals rankings.
- Guy who looks suspiciously like Zack Novak wearing a fake beard and stovepipe hat. It could happen.
That seems super young
Yep. For the third straight year, Michigan projects to be one of the youngest teams in the country, with a frontcourt that is handing probably 70 of its 80 minutes to freshmen, has no seniors, and will have only one starter who's even a junior. That junior is almost as young as you can be and still be a junior. Kentucky might be older. For real.
This is not necessarily doom. The last two years Michigan has been 342nd and 330th in Kenpom's experience stat*. This did not matter much: no team in the country collected more NCAA tournament wins than Michigan whilst they were idling at the bottom of the table there.
It is something different to have freshman bigs who are not Mitch McGary, though. Bigs are long-term projects best eased into serious time lest they be overrun. Michigan can and will survive—I see Jane is tweeting out modified Forgot About Dre lyrics, which I second. "Surviving" is not what they did the last couple years, though, and we're probably in for a comedown from the highs of the last couple years.
*[Which is just an average of FR/SO/JR/SR weighted by playing time, so that a senior who plays five minutes a game doesn't throw you all out of whack.]
But I didn't want this to happen
Hey, at least the staggering hypocrisy of the NCAA chasing dudes out of school for an infraction that the legal system treats like whatever dude has a really good rationale behind it.
"Whereas the CSMAS rightly focused on the fact that marijuana and other street drugs are not performance enhancing, the committee also recognizes that the universe of sport is special, and the student-athlete is obliged to embrace the spirit of sport."
I'ma go build a lego Mark Emmert so I can hurl it off a building.