fair point that
Michigan's defense provided little resistance. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Michigan has a long way to go.
The good news is the season is far from over. In fact, Michigan probably hasn't yet played a game with what will become their standard starting lineup. But there's no glossing over the holes Xavier exposed in Michigan's defense tonight.
None is bigger than the hole in the middle. Mark Donnal gave up a bucket and a foul to Xavier's Jalen Reynolds on the game's opening possession and his night didn't improve from there; despite starting the game, he finished with four fouls, one rebound, and a turnover in six minutes. Ricky Doyle at least provided a little resistance in the post, but his poor hands cost M on both ends of the court, and time and again he found himself too far from the hoop on pick-and-rolls that resulted in open looks. Mo Wagner and DJ Wilson flashes some promise, especially the former, but they're both still getting used to the position; neither was ready for extended time against Reynolds.
Add in Michigan's porous perimeter defense and Xavier simply overwhelmed the Wolverines. Reynolds finished with 15 after getting to the line at will in the first half. The Musketeers hit nine of their 21 three-point attempts, usually wide open looks off the high screen. They missed 39 shots and rebounded 18 of them. Michigan's desperate late attempts to run a 1-3-1 zone only hurt in that regard.
It not for Caris LeVert posting 29 points on 21 shot equivalents, this would've been even worse; LeVert was the only Wolverine who could consistently produce his own shot, and while he sometimes forced it a little too much, someone had to carry the load.
For a brief period in the second half, Michigan looked like it would mount a comeback, getting as close as two points down on two separate occasions after triples by Duncan Robinson and LeVert. Each time, though, Xavier immediately responded with a three of their own and a dunk on the following possession, which aptly sums up the defensive effort from the Wolverines.
While the offense went in fits in spurts, it was at least decently effective, and Michigan easily could've surpassed the 1.05 PPP they posted if a couple open three-point looks didn't rim out. Their effort for most of the game, especially midway through the second half, was good enough to win a lot of games, but not this one given what was happening on the other end. Rough shooting nights from Derrick Walton (1/5 FG) and Aubrey Dawkins (1/6) didn't help matters. Robinson (nine points) and Zak Irvin (seven) were the top scorers behind LeVert, and that simply wasn't enough.
Michigan will have to learn from this game in a hurry. They head to the Bahamas for the Battle of Atlantis next week and will face UConn—featuring seven-footer Amida Brimah and plenty of size across the board—in the opener on Wednesday.
Tonight will hopefully prove to be one of the team's worst performances of this very young season. There are plenty of reasons to expect it to be so; this was a bad matchup given M's still-developing centers—who will have to grow up in a hurry—and uncertain rotation. If the effort on defense doesn't improve by next week, though, this team will take some serious lumps even before conference play begins.
Not just a 6'8 shooter? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
So we've seen a little bit of basketball now. What is your early season takeaway?
David: I will let the basketball pundits break down how Walton looks like he's back, Caris's B1G MVP potential, HOLY DUNCAN ROBINSON, and the myriad of ways DJ Wilson will contribute this year. My first major thought after seeing the first few games is the deep rotation.
|Also he's quite the 6'8 shooter. [Pat Barron]|
This is the deepest M team that I can remember. Beilein has made comments about keeping a tight rotation and playing through their mistakes. While I think that is maybe an ideal goal, I think it is also a bit of coachspeak to generate a lot of competition within the squad. The point I am also trying to get at is that I'm not convinced, yet, that there will be an 8-man rotation. In the past few years, we've been scanning the roster trying to find 8 guys that have potential and/or we can just get on the floor. That should not be the case, this year.
The starters will most likely be Walton, LeVert, Dawkins, Irvin, and Doyle. Obviously the next two off the bench will be Spike and Robinson. After that, you'd have to think DJ Wilson will get minutes. That is probably the most logical rotation. However, due to some youth, inexperience, and lack of endurance, I think that while Donnal's play has been somewhat underwhelming, he will still get minutes at the 5. M is probably going to have to play 3 different centers in most games. After that, you look at the upside of both Rahk and Chatman and both will have their opportunities, as each can present different matchup problems.
An argument can be made why every scholarship player could get some consistent minutes. Will M really play 11-12 guys every game? Most likely not. But I really do think that 9 and possibly 10 guys could see playing time, at least for the foreseeable future. Obviously, there could be attrition and injuries, but with this kind of depth M seems very well prepared for such events. Plus, if fouls are going to be called the way they have so far this season, walk-ons may see time, again!
[After the JUMP: je ne de fense?]
Derrick Walton dishing pic.twitter.com/5HEI9LlBx1
— Dustin Johnston (@DJPhotoVideo) November 17, 2015
It's safe to say Michigan sorely missed a healthy Derrick Walton.
After the Wolverines got out to a slow start against Elon, finding themselves in a 15-12 hole midway through the first half, Walton spearheaded an offensive explosion. First he excelled in transition, getting his teammates going with quick runouts and timely passes. Then he found his own shot, kickstarting M's halfcourt offense as they pulled away.
Walton posted a stat line of 24 points (2/3 2P, 6/7 3P), six rebounds, and seven assists, and he created offense in a multitude of ways. If he wasn't springing a fast break, he was spotting up for a corner three, or driving the baseline before kicking it out to a shooter, or pulling up from midrange, or going coast-to-coast for a Euro-step layup. This was the most aggressive he's looked in a Michigan uniform and the results could hardly have been better.
Duncan Robinson also lit it up from beyond the arc, hitting all five of his three-point attempts and adding a transition dunk and a pair of free throws to score 19 points without missing a shot. While his defense still has a ways to go, his shooting ability is an asset that affects more than his own scoring—when he's on the floor it stretches opposing defenses thin.
and then the blood starts pouring pic.twitter.com/MyoK3s3r2l
— Dustin Johnston (@DJPhotoVideo) November 17, 2015
The exploits of Walton and Robinson allowed the Wolverines to weather an underwhelming shooting night from the rest of the team, which was a combined 2/12 from three-point range. Zak Irvin played his first minutes of the season and didn't look comfortable coming off his back injury; he went 0/5 from the field, though he still managed to contribute with three assists. Caris LeVert was quieter than normal, scoring 11 points on 3/8 FGs and 5/6 FTs. Like Irvin, he found other ways to create offense, dishing out seven assists with some nifty work to create open looks in late-clock situations; he also swiped four steals.
The big-picture takeaways from this game will focus on the center position. Mark Donnal got the start but struggled, to put it kindly, on both ends in his 15 minutes on the floor. Ricky Doyle looked like he should be the clear-cut starter with eight bruising points in 13 minutes; three fouls limited his time but he looked far superior to Donnal.
DJ Wilson moonlighted at the five but mostly stuck to the four. Mo Wagner, meanwhile, got in early and played seven eventful minutes, pulling down an offensive board and helping M grab at least one more, then taking a charge before triumphantly exiting with a Novak-esque stream of blood running down his face. Donnal's hold on a rotation spot may be tenuous, especially as the season goes on.
There were signs of the rotation forming on the wings, too. Aubrey Dawkins, Kam Chatman, and Robinson have seemingly distanced themselves from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who only saw eight minutes, most of them late, despite Dawkins and Robinson struggling on defense.
While Michigan's team defense wasn't as good as the box score would indicate, they managed to work through some very tight officiating—which seems to be the trend this season—and come up with eight steals, a point of emphasis for them in the early going. With Walton fully operational, the offense came together as soon as the open looks from outside started falling, and the Wolverines didn't look back.
Now Michigan must hope that Irvin gets more comfortable and someone outside of Doyle steps up in the middle, as the first big test of the season looms on Friday when Xavier comes to Crisler.
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.]
Ricky Doyle played up to the competition. [Fuller]
While our attention has, for the most part, turned to football in the offseason, a new KenPom feature has me digging back into hoops. On individual player pages, KenPom now displays split stats for performaces against (1) conference opponents, (2) games against top-100 opponents, adjusted for game location, and (3) games against top-50 opponents, with the same home-court adjustment.
This is a very useful tool for parsing out how well players did against better competiton. Michigan's big man situation continues to fascinate me, so I thought it'd be useful to see how last year's troika performed against the best teams on the schedule, especially since the disparity in big man quality tends to be large between bad teams and good teams. While KenPom hasn't yet separated out stats for non-top-100 opponents (consider this a humble suggestion from a mathematically challenged blogger), we can get a baseline by looking at each player's full stat line from last season.
|Ricky Doyle||43.7||17.9||117.4||10.4||11.9||12.0||2.6||4.0||39-66 (59%)||72-119 (61%)||0-0|
|Max Bielfeldt||34.2||22.3||107.2||12.4||19.5||13.7||1.9||3.8||22-32 (69%)||54-99 (55%)||8-30 (27%)|
|Mark Donnal||22.3||17.0||119.6||10.2||16.1||9.6||3.8||6.4||19-27 (70%)||25-44 (57%)||7-19 (37%)|
And now, each player's stats against only top-50 opponents. This covers 13 games from last season; Ricky Doyle and Max Bielfeldt played in all 13, while Mark Donnal participated in 11 of them.
|Ricky Doyle||51.4||15.5||117.7||8.3||13.5||12.6||2.2||3.8||16-25 (64%)||33-55 (60%)||0-0|
|Max Bielfeldt||32.7||22.9||91.8||8.7||21.9||16.7||2.1||4.6||8-11 (73%)||19-38 (50%)||3-14 (21%)|
|Mark Donnal||17.0||20.6||128.2||13.9||7.3||3.6||4.0||8.4||7-11 (64%)||12-22 (55%)||2-6 (33%)|
The above helps clarify why John Beilein was comfortable letting Bielfeldt go despite having the opportunity to bring him back. A few takeaways:
Doyle held strong. Doyle's offensive numbers stayed almost exactly the same against top-50 competition; his shooting held at 60%, he took care of the ball, and he allowed the offense to run through the guards/wings. While his offensive rebounding dipped, he still did pretty well in that regard. Equally as encouraging was his ability to hold up defensively; Doyle's foul rate stayed level and he took on a larger share of rebounding duties against top teams.
Bielfeldt's shortcomings became apparent. Bielfeldt proved effective against mid- and lower-tier teams in large part because he dominated the offensive glass, providing himself with easy putback opportunties. Against top-tier teams, however, his offensive rebounding fell off dramatically, his turnover rate rose, and he didn't have a post game or reliable outside shot to make up for either.
Bielfeldt also resorted to fouling more on defense. He was clearly overmatched on that end against high-level competition and that took him out of games even when he had it going offensively; for example, he had nine points on 4-6 shooting in the home overtime loss to Wisconsin but picked up three fouls in 14 minutes because he couldn't defend Frank Kaminsky or Nigel Hayes.
Donnal showed promise on one end. Donnal's decreased role as the season wore on means his sample size is smaller than the others—he essentially played two games worth of minutes against top-50 teams, and he did so in short stints. Those short stints weren't always by design. Donnal was foul-prone in the best of times but especially against good teams; yes, that 8.4 fouls/40 minutes figure is real and speaks to some major defensive shortcomings that were apparent to anyone who watched him play.
There's hope in the offensive numbers, however. Donnal was... good? Again, the tiny sample size makes it hard to draw grand conclusions here, but his rebounding rate and shooting numbers are encouraging.
With a bulked-up DJ Wilson—listed at 6'9, 240 on the updated roster—set to bolster depth up front, it makes sense for Beilein to prioritize developing Donnal and Wilson into reliable options instead of giving significant minutes to a redshirt senior whose limitations become very apparent in the most important games. With a year of development under Ricky Doyle's belt and a logjam at the four, Michigan may only need one of those two to play a major role off the bench anyway.