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?
Ace: CALVES CALVES CALVES CALVES CALVES
Sorry, Dan Dakich briefly took control of my keyboard, but I just tweeted that Aaron Craft is signing autographs at the mall, so I think I shook him off. (What mall? Doesn't matter. Dan Dakich will find it.)
I don't think I'm going out on a limb in saying that it's a stretch to hope for the level of success the program has enjoyed these past two seasons given the lack of depth up front, but hopefully we're all aware of that reality at this point. Luckily, it should be a relative down year in the Big Ten, and if anybody can adjust to life without enough viable big men, it's John Beilein.
|Save us, abnormally large triceps surae!
In all likelihood, I think Michigan is going to have to rely on Donnal living up to the hype—and given the recent track record of heralded practice players having their success translate to games, I think he'll be solid—and hope that Kam Chatman adjusts quickly enough to the college game that his rebounding acumen shows up early. Unless there's a surprise, that should be the starting frontcourt, and while they lack a real defensive presence at the rim, that hasn't stopped Michigan from being successful recently. With their ability to spread the floor on the other end, I'm excited to see how Beilein's offense evolves for this year's lineup, too.
UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT: There's also a distinct chance we're sleeping on Bielfedt. He's actually been a pretty solid rebounder, especially offensively, in the (admittedly very limited) minutes he's played so far in his career. I realize he looked overmatched when thrown into the fray against MSU in the Big Ten title game, but that was a tough situation to be seeing his first significant minutes since non-conference play, to say the least.
I was surprised to see Brian's latest guess at the rotation, which had Bielfeldt getting just five minutes a game as the team's third center. I'm far more skeptical that a pair of three-star true freshmen are going to be ready to see significant time, let alone worthy to play over someone with three years of practice experience against a group of solid Big Ten bigs and some actual game experience. Having upperclassmen big men is a luxury—just look at the respective developments of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford—and my guess is Bielfeldt's rebounding, familiarity with the system, and physical maturity will earn him ~15 minutes a game, and those minutes won't be as hair-raising as seemingly everyone expects.
In the end, though, my instinct is to sit back, try not to worry about the whole situation, and remember that Beilein went 13-5 in the Big Ten with a 6'4" dude at power forward. Michigan may not be a national title contender—my, how expectations change—but I fully expect them to compete for another conference title with all that talent in the backcourt.
Ace again: Crap. Of all the typos, I had to pull "sleeping on Bielfedt." From now on, I'm just calling him CALVES.
Re: CALVES CALVES CALVES: I just can't see Bielfeldt holding up against legit 6'10" guys at his size--which is 6'6". If he actually hits the threes he inexplicably takes and inexplicably seems to have the green light for, I can see him as a stand-in-the-corner 4 against certain matchups, but with him the question is always "who is he going to guard?" Though the freshmen are green, they are significantly larger in all areas that are not calves, and it is clear who they will guard. I can see Bielfeldt getting time against certain players--Nigel Hayes, Branden Dawson--who are smallish post types. Against the Kaminskys and even Costellos of the world not so much.
|Having grown-up bigs is nice.
Re: Sliding back to the pack. Yes, I think they are back in the pack. With McGary they are co-favorites with Wisconsin; now they're in a group of folks chasing. (That group: Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, and probably OSU--OSU is going to be an entirely different team this year.) Michigan does seem to have a ceiling now that they did not in the event of a hypothetical McGary return. I think that ceiling is annoying undersized team that gets booted in the second round* or Sweet 16... unless they somehow maintain the ludicrous efficiency they had this year. Michigan got pounded on the boards by three straight opponents and it still took a miserable contested three from a mediocre shooter to knock them out. That seems unlikely since 1) Michigan was the best offense in the history of Kenpom last year, 2) they have lost two probable first round picks from that team, and 3) things like Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas freshman to sophomore transitions just don't happen that often.
Yeah, if it's going to happen to anyone it's going to happen to kids Michigan has, but I'm not expecting LeVert or Walton or Irvin to become an All-America caliber guy, because that's silly. Reasonable expectations for Michigan's offense are to be really good but backslide significantly from back-to-back #1s, and then you're relying the defense to be a lot better with zero experienced players over 6'6". It could happen; I'm not banking on it.
Re: Donnal. I was very much looking forward to Donnal playing the 4, as he is a skilled guy with pick and pop ability who would have given Michigan real size on the other end of the floor. But it sounds like Donnal was not prepared to play there even in the event of large men returning--Bacari said he would guard the five until "his lateral quickness and conditioning improve"--so not that much has changed, especially if Horford felt that he was going to get passed. I think he'll be great for Michigan's offense, as he has a terrific face up game and can drag bigs to the perimeter like Payne and Kaminsky did last year. That opens up driving lanes for Walton and LeVert, and you know Beilein is a guy who can take advantage of his unique offensive skills.
I assume he'll be a wreck defensively as a relatively below-the-rim freshman (yes yes the dunk video is nice but if a guy as skilled as Donnal was an above the rim player he'd already be in the NBA), as will Doyle, and therein will be the major issue.
*[The actual second round, not the first round.]
Seth: Brian hit on all of my points. Donnal came in for high offensive praise late last year, but even then wasn't a threat to un-redshirt. He could grow into a really good player as soon as 2015-'16 but that's not this year.
Michigan wasn't ever a really good defensive team, but they had enough to get by when they were breaking Kenpom's offensive records. You can squint and see progression from Walton/LeVert/Irvin and maybe a freshman of the year season from Chatman making up for Stauskas and Robinson, but the center spot just became the 2010 defensive backfield with better coaching.
I ran down the Kenpom teams to find a team with a good backcourt and a young and small frontcourt (I though of Providence but they had senior Batts and a 7-foot junior behind him) and came up with Georgia State:
This team was 23rd in adjusted offense and 144th in defense. They struggled a ton in the non-conference, walked through the Sun Belt until losing to LA-Lafayette in overtime in the conference semis, then went out in the first round of the NIT to Clemson. Cal, Georgetown, and Indiana were ranked around them.
That's what Michigan looks like if Donnal is the scorer we're hearing about…er…and he rebounds better than J-Mo (who was 12.9/19.0). If there was ever an opportunity to test this score-score-score theory of modern basketball, Beilein and the squad with no centers is a good enough scenario. Upside is barring a LeVert/Walton explosion a la Stauskas/Burke, they'll all be back the following season.