It's Friday, my close childhood friend is making an unexpected one-day-only appearance in town, and my desire to write a whole lot is waning by the minute. We've fretted ever since Mitch McGary's departure about Michigan's status as a Big Ten title contender. Here's a quick reminder of what John Beilein can do even when handed a less-than-stacked deck. Apologies for the rather cumbersome chart:
|Michigan||Michigan St.||Ohio St.||Wisconsin||Indiana|
|PG||Trey Burke (Fr.) (6’1, 175)||Keith Appling (So.) (6’1, 180)||Aaron Craft (So.) (6’2, 190)||Jordan Taylor (Sr.) (6’1, 195)||Jordan Hulls (Jr.) (6’0, 175)|
|SG||Stu Douglass (Sr.) (6’3, 190)||Brandon Wood (Sr.) (6’2, 190)||Lenzelle Smith Jr. (So.) (6’4, 205)||Josh Gasser (So.) (6’3, 190)||Verdell Jones (Sr.) (6’5, 185)|
|SF||Tim Hardaway Jr. (So.) (6’5, 185)||Austin Thornton (Sr.) (6’5, 210)||William Buford (Sr.) (6’6, 220)||Ryan Evans (Jr.) (6’6, 210)||Victor Oladipo (So.) (6’4, 210)|
|PF||Zack Novak (Sr.) (6’4, 210)||Draymond Green (Sr.) (6’7, 250)||Deshaun Thomas (So.) (6’7, 225)||Mike Bruesewitz (Jr.) (6’6, 222)||Christian Watford (Jr.) (6’9, 230)|
|C||Jordan Morgan (So.) (6’8, 240)||Derrick Nix (Jr.) (6’9, 278)||Jared Sullinger (So.) (6’9, 280)||Jared Berggren (Jr.) (6’10, 235)||Cody Zeller (Fr.) (6’11, 220)|
|6th||Evan Smotrycz (So.) (6’9, 235)||Adreian Payne (So.) (6’10, 230)||Evan Ravenel (Jr.) (6’8, 260)||Ben Brust (So.) (6’1, 190)||Will Sheehey (So.) (6’6, 195)|
|7th||Matt Vogrich (Jr.) (6’4, 190)||Branden Dawson (Fr.) (6’6, 216)||Sam Thompson (Fr.) (6’7, 190)||Rob Wilson (Sr.) (6’4, 200)||Derek Elston (Jr.) (6’9, 235)|
A reminder: Michigan shared the Big Ten title that year with MSU, OSU, and Wisconsin, while that Indiana squad finished a game back.
Keep in mind that Trey Burke hadn't quite become TREY M.F. BURKE, Tim Hardaway went through a sophomore slump in which he shot 28% on 187 three-point attempts, and Jon Horford suffered a foot injury that forced a redshirt, so Michigan's only viable backup big was Evan Smotrycz, who never appeared very interested in post defense and transferred following the season.
Here are the KenPom Player of the Year standings from that season:
The four other Big Ten contenders are all represented. Of the four Big Ten players to make the list, only Jordan Taylor wasn't a college big.
Somehow, Michigan put together the nation's #19 offense despite (1) having only two rotation players shooting above 40% from three, and (2) attempting a higher percentage of three-pointers than all but seven teams in the country. The defense finished a respectable 61st in efficiency in spite of a relatively inexperienced lineup, a complete lack of shot-blockers or pickpockets—Evan Smotrycz, of all people, finished first on the team in both block and steal rate—and that whole 6'4" power forward thing.
At the time, Smotrycz was the team's highest-rated recruit on the roster—yes, including Burke and Hardaway. Backup guard Carlton Brundidge, a Southfield product in the same class as Burke, was the second-highest regarded prospect on the team. He transferred to Detroit after barely seeing any time as a freshman.
Sure, Michigan was fortunate to share the conference title that year, and they bowed out of the NCAA Tournament before any of the other Big Ten contenders. But look at that Wolverine roster, then look at this upcoming season's—talent-wise, at least by recruiting standards, there's no comparison, and even knowing how much Burke overachieved I'd take the 2013-14 roster over the 2011-12 roster in a heartbeat. How that team went 13-5 in that conference—one dominated by exceptionally talented big men, and featuring plenty of talented point guards to match up with U-M's best player—still perplexes to this day.
This is a long way of saying that you probably shouldn't count out John Beilein, because he's a wizard masqerading as a basketball coach/sub enthusiast.
Damn, I was really hoping this would be an exercise in optimism piece for the football team. It's ok Pessimism, you can come back out now
Please post in the comments so that I may upvote you.
I thought we shared that with MSU and OSU after Oiho St. beat Sparty in EL on the last Sunday of the season.
Michigan shared the title with MSU and OSU. Wisconsin finished a game back. As much as I like Ace, crediting Wisconsin with something they didn't earn makes me suspicious that he is either one of the bug people or working for them.
Some photoshop genuis needs to make Beilein Gandalf leading hobbit Zack Novak into battle with an Orc-type figure (I'm thinking Derrick Nix?). His wizard stuff can be a sub or something like that.
Also, a Chuck Norris-esque meme about Beilein would be good. Ex: At Cansius, he once drove a van 400 miles to a recruit while watching film on a VCR/TV in the passenger seat.
I forgot all about Evan Smotrycz. Guess we'll be seeing him next season. Per Maryland's website, he averaged 11 points, 6 rebounds last season.
But LeVert and Spike will have to fill that role. I have confidence.
upperclassmen. Only MSU has more in their top 7 (and it isn't by much). That is what worries me most about next year. Yes we will have a lot of talent, but it is raw.
And had only 1 contributing frosh. This year they'll need 2 - 4. I love Caris, Zak and DW, and hope Max really makes a jump. Beilein (& staff) Uber Alles.
We went to the title game last year and the Elite 8 this year with a starting 5 largely made up of freshman and sophmores
Burke (So), THJ (Jr), Nik (Fr), GRIII (Fr), McGary (Fr) / Morgan (Jr)
Walton (Fr), LeVert (So), Nik (So), GRIII (So), Morgan (Sr)
I'm sure Morgan helped, but sophmores carried this team in both years (Burke, Stauskas). We should be just fine.
There have been a few Negative Nancies crying about next year's bball team and "settling" on the recruiting trail. It's wild how people forget that Beilein's gonna Beilein.
Beilein Uber Alles
For me, I never felt that sinking feeling when all three left this year. Coach B. is a genius and creates winning teams with whatever talent he has. Look at these kids he is brining in, some are borderline 1 and done players...Coach B. will mold whatever team he has to a competitive/winning team.
never would have guessed that... does Beilein use a salt or sugar based brine to get the best out of his players?
Based on the recent sweet 16's, I'd lean sugar. Plus it seems that all the saltiness is in East Lansing.
I completely agree that people are being way too pesimistic about next year's bball squad. Beilein has proven himself to be one of best coaches in the country and we have a lot of talent coming back in the backcourt. Obviously there will be some issues to overcome. Interior defense and rebounding won't be nearly as strong with the loss of Jordan Morgan. We're weaker at the 4 and 5. However we're also more versatile at those positions than we've ever been. Michigan will have 5 guys on the court at the same time who can hit 3s. Even with the loss the Stauskus this will probably be the best shooting team Michigan has ever had. One important area that a lot of people are ignoring is perimeter defense. This team should be much better than last year's at preventing guards from driving to the paint. That was proabably our biggest weakness this year. If Walton and Irvin improve at the rate we've come to expect under Beilein than our backcourt will be much stronger on offense and defense. Levert will be one of the best players in the NCAA next year (projected as a top 5 pick) and he's surrounded by an immenseily talented supporting cast. Michigan will compete for a Big Ten Title and make a deep run into the tourney.
Another interesting comparison would be a side by side look at that year's UM 7 man rotation with next season's projected counter parts.
I generally like this post because Beilein has earned trust and optimism no matter who's on the court. With a stunning FIVE players leaving for next year it is natural to be worried. It would also be wise to set proper expectations, but look forward to improvement and good offense no matter what.
But I think we should emphasize the best attribute of next year's roster - depth and versatility. What limited the Novak team was that we only had two viable guys off the bench and Vogrich added little. Next year we have 12 scholarship players and go 2+ deep at every position. If one of the freshman isn't quite ready or has an off night - there's someone waiting to step up. That's going to be a fun new wrinkle to Beilein's story - what does he do with 12 scholarship players and a full 2-deep roster after years of playing a short bench?
With all of that being said, let's not sell the 2011-2012 team too short. Two of those players are successful in the NBA, two others had success in Europe, and Smotrycz is a solid starter for a good program. While lacking depth and forcing two guys to play out of position, this was a good team with experience and talent. Quick comparison:
If you assume natural improvement from Walton/Irvin and a star season from Levert it really comes down to finding 2 of the 6 freshman who can hold their own as starters. Seems like pretty good odds that some combination of them will be just fine.
In your side by side comparasion, I think the only given is that LeVert will be better than Douglas and the 2014 bench should be more productive. I think So. Walton could be better than Fr. Burke. Hardaway was not great as a So., but will Irvin be better? I loved Novak and he won, but Chatman has the size and talent to out perform him, even as a freshman. Don't know if he will though. The center position is Morgan's defense against Donnal's offense. Toss up.
It will be an interesting year. Let's hope that they pick things up quickly and come together as a team sooner than later.
Second, I see a lot more parallel to the 2010-2011 team than the 2011-2012 team
That team finished 9-9 in the Big 10 which was good for a clusterf*** at 4th place (won multiple tie breakers between the 5th, 6th, and 7th place teams). 21-14 overall. I expect a similar cluster behind Wisconsin this year - any # of teams could finish anywhere from 2nd to 8th and I think the difference between 2nd and 8th could be as little as 2 games btw MSU, Illinois, OSU, Maryland, UM, Iowa, Nebraska.
I think this team will have far more ultimate talent than the 2010-2011 team but is somehow even younger... similar growing pains but Beilein is far more entrenched now, and with the athletic upside and longer team at guards and wings can do more damage in February and March ... but I expect early struggles overall as people find their roles and just plain youth, and defensive struggles all year - especially when reserves roll in.
will be far more athletic and diversified on offense. Morris was a ball dominant PG with no outside shot. Caris is more athletic and can score in more ways. Walton won't need to dominate the ball...first Caris can trigger the offense in ways that Stu couldn't and second because he's going to be surrounded by more athletes and a Center who can spread the floor. I worry about two things and that's interior defense and leadership (though I think Beilein's recruiting profile says someone will step up).
Caris LeVert - 20+ ppg, National Player of the Year and Top 5 NBA draft pick.
that his first tourney team with us was held together by chewing gum and duct tape and a lot of kids buying into the coach. Anyone who counts this team out next year is not in touch with reality. Beilein is an AWESOME coach.
here we go with the kenpom boner again.