I did not make this headline up
Entering the season, Michigan expected Max Bielfeldt to reprise his role as the "break glass in case of emergency" third center for one last year before wishing him well in his future endeavors. Instead, Bielfeldt played his way ahead of Mark Donnal—more than doubling Donnal's minutes in conference play—and produced a little more on offense than starter Ricky Doyle.
With, for now, one scholarship open for 2015-16, it's no longer a certainty that Bielfeldt will move on from the program, even though he went through Senior Day festivities last weekend. The Daily's Lev Facher wrote yesterday that John Beilein hasn't ruled out a return...
“I would like him to go out and explore some options,” Beilein said. “We’ll look at some options and decide whether it’s a good option (for Bielfeldt) to come back.”
...and neither has Bielfeldt, who acknowledges the choice largely lies with Beilein:
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Bielfeldt said. “Family and friends ask me the same thing — I give them the same answer. I really don’t know. I just like knowing what my options are. I’m obviously just going to look for options and kinda weigh them out.”
This raises the obvious question: Is it a good idea to bring Bielfeldt back? The answer isn't as simple as it may appear.
|Michigan's pursuit of 2015 German forward Moritz Wagner may preclude Bielfeldt's return. [Fuller]|
Caris LeVert's upcoming decision could play a huge role in Michigan's choice regarding Bielfeldt. Despite his injury, LeVert is still projected to go in the first round by both DraftExpress (#18) and Chad Ford (#30), but over the last month there's been increased optimism that he'll return for his senior season.
A LeVert return would put Michigan one scholarship away from the 13-man limit—before counting Bielfeldt. That makes the decision-making process more clear-cut.
Michigan hosted 6'10" German forward Mortiz Wagner for a visit last weekend. Wagner, who'd be a freshman in 2015-16, is reportedly leaning towards college ball over playing professionally, and Sam Webb expects Michigan will be the choice if he takes the collegiate route ($). Beilein isn't going to turn down a potential four years from a talented prospect for one more season of a backup-quality player, even if Wagner is much more wing than post.
The Wolverines are also reportedly one of several schools in pursuit of Seton Hall transfer Jaren Sina, who'll sit 2015-16 due to NCAA transfer rules before playing out his final two seasons of eligibility. Given how active Michigan got with both late-emerging recruits (MAAR, Dawkins) and transfer candidates (Cole Huff) after the end of last season, it wouldn't surprise to see even more names emerge if the Wagner recruitment falls through.
What seems clear is that Beilein is keeping the possibility of a Bielfeldt return open as a backup plan, which to me is the approach that makes the most sense. Doyle and Donnal will be better next year—and hopefully less plagued by illness—while DJ Wilson, after plenty of time in the weight and film rooms, should be able to provide spot minutes at the five. Ideally, at least two of those three would progress to the point where Beilein wouldn't need to call on Bielfeldt for significant minutes.
While Bielfeldt's play down the stretch was a pleasant surprise, he still doesn't project as more than an ancillary player on a good team—life is tough for a 6'7" post that doesn't possess game-changing athleticism. Even if LeVert goes pro, it might be best for both parties to look at other options; Bielfeldt could see a larger role at a smaller school (or get his post-basketball career started) while Michigan could continue building for the future. If all else falls through, however, Bielfeldt is a nice fallback plan if he wants to return; he's proven he can be a contributor on this team.
Disappointing lack of calves on the jersey plaque. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Max Bielfeldt recorded his first career double-double. Aubrey Dawkins nearly tied the single-game school record for three-pointers. Michigan's game-ending lineup featured Austin Hatch, two walk-ons, and two student managers turned practice players.
Needless to say, the game wasn't nearly as close as the final score would indicate. Save for a 19-0 Rutgers run to close a contest that had long been decided, Michigan maintained a death grip from start to... well, almost-finish.
On his Senior Day, Bielfeldt opened the proceedings with a hook shot before going on to score 14 points (6/10 FG), pull down 11 boards, and even hand out three assists. Bielfeldt earned a couple ovations on the day, including a "double double" chant when he grabbed his tenth rebound.
While it was Bieldfeld's day, Aubrey Dawkins stole much of the spotlight. Setting a career high in points for the second consecutive game, Dawkins rained in eight of his 11 three-point attempts—finishing one make short of Garde Thompson's school record—on his way to a game-high 31. He also provided the highlight of the afternoon with a forceful two-handed finish of a Spike Albrecht lob.
Albrecht generated much of Michigan's offense despite scoring just seven points on eight shots. He repeatedly found open shooters after lulling Rutgers to sleep with his patented forays along the baseline, ultimately dishing out nine assists, tying a career high.
As a result, the Wolverines literally shot until the lights went out. After Dawkins knocked down his first four three-pointers, Kameron Chatman added one of his own to give Michigan an early ten-point lead; the lights in Crisler Center promply shut off, causing a brief delay in the action. It didn't seem to affect Michigan, which continued its assault right up to the halftime buzzer, when Chatman drilled another triple from the corner to boost the lead to 19.
Chatman would finish with 13 points on 4/5 shooting. Zak Irvin had an off day, knocking down just 5/15 shots on his way to 12 points, but it was barely noticable with all the offensive fireworks going off around him.
The second half mostly featured both teams playing out the string—or canning more threes, in Dawkins' case—until the late Rutgers run. While the final few minutes provided John Beilein with some teachable moments, it didn't threaten to change the final outcome. Bielfeldt gave himself a proper sendoff, while Dawkins continued a hot streak that should have Michigan fans very excited about his future.
Michigan is now locked in to the #9 seed in next weekend's Big Ten Tournament. Their opponent will be either a reeling Indiana squad or, if they lose to Purdue this afternoon, Illinois. Either way, the Wolverines managed to build a little momentum for themselves after a heartbreaker earlier this week at Northwestern.
Michigan (14-15, 7-10 B1G) vs.
Rutgers (10-20, 2-15)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||2:15 pm ET, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan -10 (KenPom)|
PBP: Joe Davis
Analyst: Shon Morris
Right: Goodnight, sweet calves. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
Crisler will host Senior Day festivities for Max Bielfeldt tomorrow before tipoff, which should end any speculation Michigan will bring him back for a fifth year in 2015-16. Bielfeldt became an unexpectedly critical contributor this season after there years spent mostly on the bench. His calves have been, remain, and presumably always will be magnificent.
UPDATE: As it turns out, Bielfeldt will start tomorrow:
Beilein says Max Bielfeldt will start tomorrow for Senior Day. Ricky Doyle has not practiced b/c of an intestinal problem.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) March 6, 2015
As for Derrick Walton, there's less and less optimism he'll make it back onto the court this season:
"We're running out of time," U-M coach John Beilein said Wednesday night on his weekly radio show. "We're guaranteed at least two more games, but he has not been able to do anything close to going at full speed. When he pushes off in certain ways, it bothers him. His (practices) with us are usually very short -- 10 or 15 minutes."
To sum it up, Walton is still not pain-free.
Until he is, he won't play.
Today, Beilein confirmed Walton is out for Rutgers and said he's "doubtful" for the Big Ten Tournament. I don't see much reason to push it at this point.
THE LAST TIME
In the first game after Caris LeVert went down for the year with a broken foot, an illness-ravaged Michigan squad edged past Rutgers, 54-50. The then-novelty of seeing freshmen and walk-ons stepping into bigger roles helped make up for the game's lack of aesthetic appeal.
A loss to Rutgers probably dooms Michigan's NIT hopes unless they make a solid run in the Big Ten Tournament. There are also potential BTT seeding ramifications: Michigan should be the #9 seed (facing off against either Illinois or Indiana) unless they lose to Rutgers, Northwestern beats Iowa, and Wisconsin beats Ohio State—then M would be the #10 seed.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||4||Myles Mack||Sr.||5'10, 175||88||23||Not really|
|Scoring and assist leader is RU's only player with ORtg above 100.|
|G||2||Bishop Daniels||Jr.||6'3, 185||66||23||Kinda|
|Not very efficient but draws a lot of fouls. Very turnover-prone.|
|F||10||Junior Etou||So.||6'7, 230||70||14||Kinda|
|Team's best defensive rebounder. Not a good shooter. Draws lots of fouls.|
|F||11||Kadeem Jack||Sr.||6'9, 235||77||27||Yes|
|43% on twos and 31% on threes, so naturally takes a crapton of shots.|
|C||35||Greg Lewis||Jr.||6'9, 245||58||15||Very|
|Okay rim protector, mediocre rebounder and finisher.|
|G||6||Mike Williams||Fr.||6'2, 190||38||19||Yes|
|Spot-up shooter who can't knock down shots (22% 3P).|
|F||22||DJ Foreman||Fr.||6'8, 230||37||20||Yes|
|Poor finisher, decent rebounder, especially on offense.|
|C||40||Shaquille Doorson||Fr.||6'11, 275||25||11||Very|
|Low usage, solid off. rebounder and shot-blocker, TO- and foul-prone.|
Rutgers has lost 13 in a row, which dates back to two games before their first matchup against Michigan. This is likely the last time their résumé will be discussed in any capacity.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
This season hasn't inspired much in the way of GIFs posts. Sunday rectified that.
Different rival, different scenario, but man, does that look deliciously familiar nonetheless.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Ohio State game in GIFs.]
Same business. I already wrote the column about John Beilein as MacGuyver, and this was more of that, except moreso. After ten minutes of post-game frustration, I have the same emotional reaction to beating Nebraska handily at home as losing in OT on the road to MSU down LeVert and Walton (and DJ Wilson and Mark Donnal and those five guys in the NBA): wow.
Once we have experience/players they'll get back to it. It's unfortunate they ended up on the wrong side of a couple of games that look like they'll prevent them from getting to the tournament. Let's see what the guys can do for the rest of the year and then go into next year with confidence. And so forth and so on.
MAAR/RAHK. In a meme:
MAAR had an efficient 18 points on 14 shots and a few rebounds. He didn't exactly fill up the box score—just one assist and one TO and a bunch of zeroes places other than points—but Michigan needs points more than anything else.
MAAR's ability to get to the basket and hit contested layups is a foundation for expanding his game. Once teams start to focus on him that will hopefully lead to more good looks for other people.
Autobench. In fact Michigan lost this game because MAAR picked up two first half fouls, leading to an extended period with Andrew Dakich on the court. Dakich played 16 minutes, attempted one shot, got one rebound, and turned the ball over once. Replace a few of those minutes with MAAR minutes and that's probably worth another few points—in his absence defaulted to posting Max Bielfeldt.
MAAR then finished with two fouls, frustratingly. I complain about this every time it happens but I'll keep complaining about it. Every year Beilein has one of the least foul-prone teams in the country, and every year he yanks an important player from the lineup for ten minutes because a guy who averages 2 fouls per 40 picks them up early. When that guy is a scholarship player who has some ability it's one thing. When it's a walk-on who was a few bounces of the ball away from a 16-minute trillion it's another.
I'm enjoying the scotch-tape-and-soda thing as far as it goes, but it is still frustrating to feel that you could have won this game if you'd just had faith a guy averaging 3.5 fouls per 4 could handle a few first-half minutes with two.
This is like timeout strategy with NFL coaches: even the best people are seemingly insane about it.
Assist drought. Michigan struggled through this game with a measly 8 assists (30% of their baskets). MSU was at 70%. That's the offense's struggle in a nutshell. There's a lot of one on one basketball and not much ability to find an open guy. Irvin actually led the team with three. That was the second straight game he'd managed that. Believe it or not, that's the first time in his career he's had back-to-back games of three+ assists.
Michigan has very little ability to penetrate without two of their big three, and unless MAAR develops into more of a point guard instead of a shooting guard that's going to persist. The offense's smoothness will require assists in the 15-18 range instead of the 8 number they've put up in many of their Big Ten games.
Irvin. A frustrating year from him, one in which he's suffered greatly from Michigan's general lack of shot generation. He's improved in that department, but he's gone from "zero" to "not much"; many of the shots he gets for himself are heavily contested bad ideas. As a result his efficiency went off a cliff. His assist rate remains well under 10 despite the recent surge-type event and he's not a plus rebounder on either end.
Early in the season I was hoping Irvin could become a "threes and" guy, whether that was threes and D or rebounding or shot generation. He hasn't really. It's not so much about the shooting. He's been hurt by Walton's evident lack of burst all season, and would no doubt be just as deadly as he was last year if he was getting the same shot quality. It's about how he tends to drift out of games when he's not scoring.
Center spot. Bielfeldt hit some shots but not efficiently; he rebounded but was generally overwhelmed by MSU. He did screen much better than we've seen the freshmen do this year—too often they are imprecise and the screen just wastes time instead of creates room.
Michigan needed Doyle to have one of those games in which he seems like a future star; instead they got some iffy defense (he was too aggressive in the short corner in the 2-3) and one shot attempt in 15 minutes. He is a freshman post and so will be up and down for the next two years; really would have been nice to get a Syracuse-like performance from him.
We saw some brief passages with Bielfeldt at the 4 next to Doyle and I wonder if that'll be more common going forward when Donnal gets back. Against low-usage Big Ten 4s, Bielfeldt brings more rebounding, and if MAAR can pick up spot PG minutes that might be a way to prevent the dual-walkon backcourt we saw at the tail end of the first half.
Fifth year though, right? Michigan does not have any recruits in the 2015 class as of now; unless they do there seems to be no reason to not bring Bielfeldt back if he's willing. I know he was thinking about heading elsewhere for his final year so that he could get some playing time… but he is getting some now and I don't see why that would not be the case next year as well.
This appears to be an effective hedge. [Fuller]
Brian directed me to an excellent Vantage Sports article detailing how NBA teams defend the on-ball screen earlier this week and suggested it would be a good idea to take a closer look at how Michigan does it. Before getting into the Wolverines specifically, a look at the three basic ways to defend this:
- Hard Hedge — The way M's done it the most under Beilein. The defender guarding the screener (usually a big man) aggressively slides out on the ballhandler to cut off a drive to the basket and make quick passes more difficult. This temporarily commits two defenders to the ballhandler and usually requires quick rotation from the other defenders on the court.
- Soft Show — A less aggressive approach that still briefly commits two defenders to the ballhandler, in this case the defender guarding the screener moves next to the screener, cutting off a drive directly to the hoop; he doesn't move all the way out on the ballhandler, however, and dives back to the screener after cutting off the initial drive. This still requires some weakside rotation.
- Drop Back — The conservative tack. The defender on the screener drops back (surprise!) into the paint, discouraging the ballhandler from driving while also lessening the burden on other defenders to rotate onto the roll man. This does require the defender on the ballhandler to fight over the screen well, otherwise there's room for a pull-up three.
As best I can tell, college teams favor the more aggressive approaches. This is likely due to two things: pro point guards are really damn good, and there's less space inside the arc to cover in college, making it easier to recover after a hard or soft hedge.
I went through the last three games—Rutgers, Wisconsin, and Nebraska—to see how Michigan defended the pick-and-roll. I found nine instances in which Michigan was in man defense against a P&R*; six times they hedged hard and three times they played a soft show. The results:
A few takeaways with picture pages after THE JUMP.