no, YOU'RE off topic
Ace: Michigan's basketball season is almost certainly lost, but there's always the prospect of seeing one or two players transform under Beilein's continued tutelage, especially now that most of the freshmen have bee n thrust into major roles. Which freshman do you expect to show the most improvement over the rest of the season, and which do you want to see show the most improvement?
|Nnanna nnanna, nnanna nnanna, hey hey hey, that's pretty high. [photo: Upchurch]|
Dave Nasternack: Expect: Ricky Doyle. I think this is probably the most obvious choice. First, he's been starting for awhile, now, and has already shown improvement in various areas. I'm guessing he's leading in 'freshman minutes played?' If not, he's got to be close. So, just due to experience on the floor, he's got the be as comfortable in his role as any of the other contenders. Plus, the areas of improvement for Doyle are closely related to experience and mental understanding: positional awareness and some body control (almost always for bigs) vs. increased shooting %s, building muscle, better technique, etc. In addition to a couple of post moves, Doyle has shown patience inside and flashes of passion/GAF, which is exactly what you want to see to fuel his improvement. It would also be ideal if he could grab a few more rebounds.
Hope: While there is definitely something to be said for Aubrey Dawkins, I'm going to go with Kam Chatman. Chatman came into school with a ton of hype and excitement—not to mention a little more hair—but has only showed flashes of his potential in short bursts. While Chatman has looked lost both offensively and defensively for long stretches of this year, I do believe that he has the highest ceiling of any freshman on the roster. Plus, unless Donnal were to move down a position, Chatman is the ideal 4 on this roster. His length, size, and athleticism would make him the most ideal fit for the position that Beilein has had in his M tenure. Chatman will definitely have to improve his court awareness, positioning, and definitely his shooting consistency in order to do so, however. Based on losing his starting spot, a further decrease in minutes, and the eyeball test when he was playing more consistently, I'm guessing that his "growth jump" will come over the summer or in 15/16 rather than in the next couple of months.
The brick (left) and the Rahk. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
They escaped, at least.
That's about as much as one can say about a two-point win over Northwestern that ended when the Wildcats' leading scorer, freshman Bryant McIntosh, missed an uncontested layup that would've sent the game to overtime.
We'll start with the good. Freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman performed admirably in the stead of Spike Albrecht, who missed the game with an "upper respiratory illness." Rahk accounted for what would ultimately stand as the winning basket, draining a triple from the wing in the final minute to finish with nine points and five rebounds in his first career start.
Caris LeVert, tasked with creating much of the offense on his own, played a strong game in all facets, stuffing the stat sheet with 18 points (albeit on 19 FGA), six rebounds, seven assists, a block, and a steal. While Derrick Walton still struggled inside the arc, he knocked down four triples, grabbed five rebounds, and added three steals. Both handled the ball well, combining for just one turnover; as a team, the Wolverines coughed up the rock just three times.
Michigan even got off to a hot start, hitting their first four three-point attempts and ripping off an 18-0 run that saw them go up 14 with 9:43 to go in the first half.
Now for the bad. Michigan went ice cold to finish the first half, going down a point when Vic Law beat the halftime buzzer, and that carried over into the second; the Wolverines would go 7:08 without a bucket, the seventh time this season they've had a seven-minute drought.
While Zak Irvin knocked down a crucial late three, it was his only basket of the night. He'd finish with six points on 1/5 shooting. Irvin at least had something of an excuse for his shooting woes tonight; he, too, is sick.
Northwestern controlled much of the game due to the interior exploits of Alex Olah, who came within a point of his career high with 22 on 9/12 shooting; he also dominated the glass with five offensive rebounds. Ricky Doyle, suffering from a cold, didn't play at all in the second half after huffing and puffing his way through the first.
In Doyle's place, Mark Donnal had an awful game, going scoreless with one rebound and four fouls in 11 minutes; he looked helpless defending Olah in the post. Max Bielfeldt proved marginally better, posting five points and two boards—all in the second half—in 18 minutes, while Michigan covered his height disadvantage on defense by playing a lot of 1-3-1 zone.
To top it off, John Beilein said after the game that Caris LeVert may have sprained his ankle; he came up limping after the chaotic final play and was seen on crutches afterward. He won't have much time to recover before Michigan heads to Rutgers on Tuesday.
This team sorely needs him. Even with LeVert doing a lot of everything, it took a lot of good fortune for Michigan to squeak by a Big Ten afterthought at home. The road to a postseason bid only gets tougher from here.
11/20/2014 - Michigan 71, Detroit 62 - 3-0
Blow-by. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Apparently necessary perspective. Hoo boy, I guess making the point that having three players account for over three-quarters of the team's points may not be ideal in the long run equated to PANIC for many. It's admittedly difficult to make a nuanced point in a gamer written moments after the final buzzer, so allow me to flesh this out a little more.
It's November. The team has five scholarship non-freshmen. Of course there are going to be growing pains, areas of concern, and the like at this juncture. That's far from saying those issues won't be resolved, or at least mitigated, as the season progresses; on the flip side, that doesn't mean those areas aren't worth pointing out. Michigan is too reliant on their three starting guards right now. The freshmen centers and Kameron Chatman do have to step up, or there will be too many ways to exploit this team, especially when they face larger opponents.
John Beilein still coaches this team, though. In-season improvement isn't just the hope, it's the established expectation, and one only has to think back to the Charlotte game last season for perspective; every basketball team is going to have their share of ugly outings, and Michigan just beat a team with a pulse by nine in such a game.
Another helpful tack. Take a look at the recent scores of the upcoming marquee opponents on Michigan's schedule.
- Oregon, Michigan's opponent next Monday, went into halftime tied at home against this same Detroit team four days ago. They pulled away and won by 17; if the Titans had decided to start fouling at a reasonable time last night, Michigan's final margin might've been very similar.
- Villanova, the most likely opponent if Michigan advances to the final of the Legends Classic (it'll be 'Nova or VCU), nearly lost to Bucknell—the squad M whomped by 24 points—at home last night, needing a late run to win by a misleading seven points after the Bison took a 65-63 lead with 1:51 remaining. 'Nova also had a six-point second-half deficit against #237 Lehigh in their season opener before pulling away.
- VCU, for their part, had a lot of trouble at home against #113 Toledo on Tuesday. The Rockets held a four-point lead midway through the second half and were as close as one point back with three minutes to play before VCU's press forced a few critical turnovers to close it out.
- Syracuse played Cal in Madison Square Garden last night, a neutral-site game that essentially functioned as a home game. The Bears entered the evening as KenPom's #63-ranked squad. Cal won by 14.
- SMU is now 1-2 thanks to a tough schedule and some ugly play; after losing by 16 at Gonzaga on Monday, they committed 19 turnovers on their way to losing by six at Indiana last night, coughing up a 12-point first-half lead in the process.
So let's not freak out just yet.
Derrick Walton! I think this is something that often comes through better in person than on TV, but Walton's court vision in transition is something to behold. It's tough to run a 3-on-2 break better than this:
The move to initiate the break is slick, but the real moment of excellence here is the little dive into the lane just before the pass; even though Max Bielfeldt's spacing here isn't ideal, Walton forces the two Detroit defenders to collapse into the paint, and in doing so he also shortens the pass to Irvin. Walton could've easily stayed wide to the left and tried a cross-court pass to Irvin, but that would've given the far-side defender time to get out and contest the shot. Instead, he hits Irvin in rhythm, and Detroit can only contest the shot late, which is doom against Irvin.
Walton and Caris LeVert are both rebounding very well—both, in fact, have top-200 defensive rebound rates at this very early juncture—and that's allowing Michigan to get out in transition, where they're absolutely lethal.
A quiet 21-9-3. LeVert's final stat line looked darn impressive despite a very uneven performance. I'd still like to see him finish more of his drives at the rim instead of settling for pull-up jumpers, but he managed to knock down a couple of those shots last night, and at some point you just shrug and let the NBA prospect take NBA shots; LeVert's 46% shooting mark inside the arc matches his percentage from last season, and that's while shouldering a bigger offensive load without Nik Stauskas around to stretch defenses thin.
Meanwhile, LeVert's got a 25.6% assist rate against just a 11.1% turnover rate, his defensive rebound rate ranks 83rd(!) nationally, and he's been very active on defense. When his outside shot starts falling, and it will, he's going to post some absurd stat lines.
The go-to lineup. This is where those lingering concerns come to the forefront. Michigan's best lineup for the past couple games has been Albrecht-Walton-LeVert-Irvin-Bielfeldt, and I don't think that's going to hold up in the long run—the lineup has its considerable upsides but also some major shortcomings.
The positives: Spike Albrecht has been fantastic thus far this year at generating offense for others, and he found his shot last night, too. With him out there, Walton can crash the defensive boards a little more—and subsequently get M out on the break in a hurry—and spot up for those killer corner threes on the other end. This is also Michigan's most experienced lineup, so their halfcourt offense runs smoothly; these guys know where to be, which isn't the case at the moment with the freshmen.
The negatives: Michigan hasn't faced a big, strong-rebounding team yet, and I'm skeptical of how well this lineup will hold up in that regard once they do. That would be a huge problem, as this lineup would have to continue rebounding at a phenomenal rate to make up for the fact that there's zero rim protection with Bielfeldt at the five and Irvin at the four. Detroit had a few disturbingly easy layups against this group when they were able to get past a perimeter defender; once that happened, they didn't face any resistance.
I think this is a stopgap while the freshmen figure it out, and nothing more than a situational lineup against better teams. Detroit didn't have the size or post skill to attack them at their weakest point; that won't be the case in a week, and definitely not in Big Ten season.
Beilein has been visibly frustrated with his freshmen. [Fuller]
Withholding judgment. Kameron Chatman is struggling out there. DJ Wilson has no clue where he's supposed to be on the court. Mark Donnal blew a layup last night. Ricky Doyle put up a two trillion. John Beilein is unhappy with their development, and it's not hard to see why.
Here's where I scream IT'S THREE GAMES INTO THEIR FRESHMAN SEASONS. Chatman has played the most out of any of these guys, a whole 60 minutes across three games. There are people drawing big-picture conclusions about him and the others from seeing them play basketball for an hour or less. One. Hour. These guys get more burn in a single practice than they have so far this season.
TOTALLY RANDOM ASIDE: In Trey Burke's first official game, against Ferris State, he shot 1/7 from the field with a 0:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Chatman's offensive woes have been disconcerting, sure, but he's also missing shots that are going to start falling; he's 1/5 at the rim this season. His field goal misses from the free-throw area have often come off awkward drives; when he had the chance to catch-and-shoot last night, he stroked an 18-footer from the right elbow, a shot that very much looks repeatable. He's shown flashes of being a very good passer. His rebounding rates are passable and should only improve.
Chatman has a ways to go on defense, but he's already advanced in his ability to disrupt passing lanes. Looking at what guys like D'Angelo Russell and James Blackmon Jr. are doing as true freshmen—in less complicated offenses, with entirely different roles—isn't fair to the kid, and a slow start doesn't mean he won't flourish as early as this season.
The bigs have barely played enough to even have a half-baked opinion, let alone a fully-formed one. Just because Beilein finally has the luxury to put a senior, however limited in terms of size and athleticism, out there to show them how it's done doesn't mean Donnal/Doyle/Wilson won't be critical parts of the rotation going forward.
— Sactown Royalty (@sactownroyalty) November 21, 2014
It's gonna be okay, everyone.
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]
11/15/2014 – Michigan 92, Hillsdale 68, 1-0
AHHHHHHHHHHHH basketball exists [Dustin Johnston/UMHoops]
No drama just bullets:
Big three. Big three. Big three. Chances a basketball podcast uses "The Big Three Killed My Baby"—the White Stripes' screechy intro to the world off their self-titled debut—are 99.9%. Outside of the uber-recruit laden one-and-done factories There are few in the country who can match Michigan 1 to 3. The backcourt troika all went over 20 points efficiently, and there is more where that came from.
Yes, just a D-II team, but even so Walton/Irvin/LeVert all cracked 20 points on 13-ish shot equivalents. None of these guys got their points via volume. As a result, they picked up where they left off last year at 1.33 points per possession. Single-game ORTGs for the big three: 170, 166, and 144. That's nuts.
Usage was also in the same range it was last year: the six guys who cracked ten minutes all had their usage fall between 16 (Chatman) and 25 (Albrecht!) percent. Last year's Michigan team was efficient in part because no individual player had a particularly heavy load. Even without Stauskas they look ready to repeat that feat.
- LeVert looks ready to take over the late-shot-clock mantle capably handled by Burke and Stauskas the last couple years. He's a long 6'7" with an excellent ability to get to his spot and get off a clean jumper, and that's a fine option when you have to get a shot off, any shot. Also he had nine assists. And eight rebounds.
- Walton, meanwhile, is also verging on being able to get what he wants when he wants it. He got the the line ten times, had four assist and just one TO. I don't want to talk about a Trey leap yet… but hey man Beilein point guards have gotten really really good in year two. Hell, you could even throw Stauskas in there if you want.
- Irvin didn't fill up the box score like he did against Wayne State; he did show off a couple of drives off of closeouts that were absent from his game last year. He was actually 5/6 from inside the line… which is about a month's worth of games from last year.
In re: Irvin twos: About half of those were THJ-style pull-up jumpers just inside the line. You know me and my hatred of long twos, but even I have to admit those looked like they might go down often enough to be a decent option.
[After THE JUMP: the five spot, defensive issues, calmer than you are.]
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.]