I think that we need to ask "Do we have good basketball coaches?" I know I am carrying over the football season, but I trust these coaches and they will teach the freshmen how to get better. I still think Michigan will cause trouble in the tournament, i just hope it doesnt take them too long to figure everything out.
This Week's Obsession: What's the Matter With Kids Today (Basketball Edition)
Freshmen sometimes play like freshmen, but fergodsakes…
From Hardaway to Stauskas, Michigan fans in recent seasons have been spoiled by freshmen who show up and can immediately ball with the starters. So what's up with Walton/Irvin? Were we too high on them or is this normal for kids before Christmas? Will they improve enough by March to make Michigan the contender we thought they were at the beginning of the season?
Brian: I DON'T EVEN KNOW ANYMORE
Okay, sorry, sorry. It is kind of weird that all of a sudden Michigan has to deal with freshmen playing like freshmen. Last year Stauskas was pretty great from the drop, GRIII was the perfect addition to a Trey Burke driven team, and even Albrecht came off the bench to play his role effectively and occasionally drop sick dimes on VCU or rain threes on Louisville. The year before that, Trey Burke! The year before that Tim Hardaway was just a (high volume, pretty effective) shooter but I'll take just a shooter from a freshman.
|The last freshman who wasn't really efficient as a true freshman.|
You have to go back to 2010(!) to find a Michigan team that didn't get really efficient play from at least one of its freshmen. That year, Darius Morris did get starter's minutes at the point but barely shot and had a post-like 27 TO rate. And even in that situation you can understand what happened: Morris was a no-shoot pick and roll savant playing with Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims. The former was a ball magnet with no conscience, the latter a PF masquerading as a C. He was never going to be a great player until he got to dominate the ball a la Manny.
Michigan's freshmen are not in that situation. Irvin can stand in the corner and jack threes a la freshman Hardaway just fine, hypothetically. Walton, too, is in a situation where he can contribute with his decent three point shooting and hypothetically good on-ball defense without having to dominate the ball, which doesn't seem like a good idea. So they can slot in to provide effective help for the GRIII/LeVert/Stauskas troika that spearheads Michigan shot generation. We just have to see them do it.
I think both have disappointed, and that it's reasonable to expect better production--some production--any production--from guys ranked in the top 50 most places. That's not to write either off. I mean, Caris LeVert. Players get better, often radically. But Michigan fans are well within their rights to be a little disappointed about how it's gone for the freshmen so far.
As for whether they'll get better, I DON'T EVEN KNOW ANYMORE. Someone tell me yes.
[After the Jump: people who work for Brian telling him 'yes']
BiSB I'm not terribly worried about Zak Irvin. As much as anything, I'd chalk his limited playing time up to the butterfly-like emergence of Caris LeVert (bet you're sorry you wasted that nickname on Darius Morris, aren't you Tim Doyle?). You can't keep LeVert off the court right now because he and Stauskas are the only guys generating offense in the half-court.
|The role of spot-up jumper may be o…oh Caris can do that too. What else you got Zak?|
That leaves LeVert/Stauskas/GRIII hogging minutes at the 2-3-4, which really doesn't leave a lot of room for Irvin. Whatever the hell was up with Puerto Rico's rims notwithstanding, Irvin has shown the ability to play the role of the spot-up artillery piece, and I think we'll see his minutes look a lot like LeVert's minutes last year.
Walton's case is a little more concerning, because he's getting minutes and still hasn't been particularly productive with them. Comparing Walton and Trey Burke is a little unfair, both because Trey Burke was Trey Burke (which has been shown to be a decided advantage in the area of 'basketballing') and because Burke was more of a dribble-drive point guard where Walton is more of a distributing point guard. Brian pointed out some solid reasons Morris wasn't statistically great as a freshman, but the fact remains that he wasn't. Walton has been dealing with a just-now-getting-going McGary, and I'm holding out hope that once the pick and roll maestro gets fully healthy, Walton will start to emerge. Still, if you had to peg it right now, Walton's career trajectory looks a lot more like Keith Appling's than Trey Burke's.
All that said, this week's football revelations teach us that a bird in the hand is worth two in the committed-but-signing-day-isn't-here-yet. These are two guys with high floors, and their worst-case scenarios are still going to be helpful for the team going forward.
Seth: Yes, freshmen get better, but they would be getting better if they were Burke 2.0 and Hardaway except 6'6. It appears the principal was a little less than we hoped, and it's going to take more time for these bonds to mature. Let's try one of those blind comparisons between freshman point guards:
Player 1 is Derrick Walton. Player 2 is 2009-'10 Darius Morris. Player 3 is 2002-'03 Daniel Horton, and Player 4 you probably guessed is Burke. Morris is the nearest comparison but he had way less usage because Manny was that offense. On the other hand a big part of the expectation for Walton was that he wouldn't have to be the offense this year, either.
Taking entire freshman seasons, though, is unfair, since presumably the first 10 games of a point guard's career will be his worst. It's too cumbersome to produce ORtg and other team-dependent stats for everybody's first 10 games but here's the base stats of those four guys at this point in their freshman campaigns:
|Daniel Horton '02||333||129||62||29%||34||76%||38||37||16||136||38.2%|
|Darius Morris '09||241||45||13||23%||12||75%||24||20||4||52||42.2%|
|Trey Burke '11||330||107||48||35%||22||64%||48||30||9||125||46.8%|
|Derrick Walton '13||244||65||32||38%||22||73%||28||23||4||84||47.4%|
Walton is getting Morris minutes and playing like freshman Morris except not afraid to shoot, which he's doing like Burke (he hasn't had Burke's weird free throw problems from his freshman year—oh yeah, remember that?). So if we're adjusting expectations for the rest of the year and beyond, it's down from "guy who will win Naismith next year" to "guy who will be an NBA draft pick in two years." If you're disappointed by that you have been spoiled by Trey Burke.
I would reserve more disappointment for Irvin, but I'm also more used to guys coming in who we think are perfect Beilein wings and having them not really be that yet. He needs to find his spot in the offense.
Ace: I think part of the difficulty regarding the freshmen finding roles this year is that, unlike previous years, many of the other pieces on the roster are still trying to find their roles. Last year's freshmen joined a team with Burke and Hardaway as the obvious go-to guys and fell into place around them. The previous year, Burke was the only viable option at the point. In 2010-11, Hardaway and Smotrycz each had clear-cut spot-up shooter roles with Morris dominating the ball. When Morris was a freshman, he was the setup guy for Harris and Sims.
|So we've got a Yogi? Has Indiana even decided what their Yogi is yet? [Fuller]|
This year, Walton is the starting point guard except possibly not—I'm posting a much more in-depth look at this soon; the short version is that he's being outplayed by Spike Albrecht and the minutes are beginning to reflect that. Irvin is a spot-up shooter and defensive specialist whose minutes have waxed and waned as the schedule gets more difficult—he played just five minutes against Arizona. Stauskas has emerged as the go-to guy but now the team is trying to figure out what they do when opponents key on him; both GRIII and LeVert are still getting used to their new roles in the offense, and while they're figuring it out there's little room for Irvin to do the same. It's tough for freshmen to settle into a role when they're not entirely sure what that role is supposed to be (or, as is the case with Walton, when they're looking at the bench after every mistake).
That said, they're both underperforming for recruits of such high regard. At the moment, I'm more concerned about Irvin than Walton; freshman point guards tend to struggle in the early going while Irvin's game seemed tailor-made for an early impact on this team. Seth has some good Michigan comps for Walton; my first thought when looking for players in more similar situations was to take a look at Indiana now-sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell's first ten games from last year, when he stepped into a starting role surrounded by players who'd be higher priorities on offense:
Walton Thru 10 Games (5 KenPom100 Teams, 4 KP50): 244 minutes, 8.4 points/game, 16/33 2-pt, 12/32 3-pt, 16/22 FT, 28 assists, 23 turnovers, 4 steals
Ferrell Thru 10 Games (4 KP100, 3 KP50): 255 minutes, 6.5 points/game, 15/45 2-pt, 3/14 3-pt, 26/29 FT, 47 assists, 21 turnovers, 7 steals
|GRIII's great Arizona game may have provided Michigan an answer to what to do when defenses key on Stauskas, it also means another recalibration of how the 2-4 spots interconnect.|
Ferrell was the better distributor in the early going, but he had similar turnover issues to Walton and was a much worse shooter. Both players are of similar size and recruiting hype and carried the reputation of being strong defenders in addition to good point guards. This year, Ferrell has greatly improved his efficiency—with improved shooting percentages and a marked decrease in turnovers—despite taking a much higher percentage of shots; that leap forward began in the latter stages of last season when he starting learning when to pick his spots to attack. I think Walton can follow much the same pattern, which would mean gradual improvement to the end of this season and a big leap forward next year.
Irvin's a tougher one to figure out, in large part because his minutes have been sporadic. I think the inconsistent minutes are in large part to blame for his performance—it's difficult for a shooter to be ready to come off the bench and shoot when they don't have a regular time they're set to some in. Also, Irvin has played a lot in Michigan's big lineup featuring LeVert at the point; while LeVert is a good ballhandler and shot creator, he's yet to master the drive-and-kick—his passes often don't put the recipient in good position to immediately go up with a shot, and this has caused some misses that aren't entirely the shooter's fault. While Irvin struggled mightily in big minutes against Charlotte, he had a very nice bounce-back game against Coppin State when he got some run with the natural point guards. I think he comes around before the season is out and at least provides solid spot-up shooting.
No, we don't need to ask that.
I've hardly seen any of the games so far, so I'm pretty clueless about how these guys look in Things That Don't Show Up in the Box Score. Have they showed signs of being as strong defensively as we heard they would be?
Irvin's one consistent role has been as a defensive stopper when Michigan goes to that big lineup, and Beilein mentioned after the Arizona game that he might start utilizing that lineup more to get stops; it sounds like he's earned the trust of the coaches in practice on that end, and I think he's held up pretty well defensively in the time he's been out there.
Walton shows flashes of being really disruptive—he's got a good sense for when to double down on post players to generate steals—and he's got good size, but he's had some issues with defensive communication (not particularly surprising for a freshman) and fighting through screens. He's been pretty solid as an on-ball defender, though, and the off-ball stuff should improve as he gets used to the college game.
I think both players will be very strong defensive players for their position by next year. How soon it all comes together is a tougher question to answer.
Thanks, Ace. Putting this together with everything above, I get the sense that these guys are on track to be very good, very productive players in time, even if they aren't on track to be one-and-done or eventual NPOY types. I'm fine with that. In fact, a guy who is solid in his freshman year, good in his sophomore year, and very good in his junior year (and senior year, if he stays) might be more valuable in the long run than a guy who is good (freshman), great (sophomore), gone (after sophomore).
There's definitely something to be said for that. Beilein mentioned at media day, IIRC, that he's had to simplify his offense at Michigan because he's had so many early entrants to the NBA, especially at the point. We all focus on youth affecting the defense, as we should, but Michigan's in a pattern where they have to re-teach the offense to a new point guard every two years, with the first year being a trial-by-fire learning experience—Beilein was still installing new stuff for Burke during the season last year.
You can tell from the way Beilein talks about it that, while he loves having this much talent, he'd prefer to break that trend and reach the point where his young guys can at least get a year's apprenticeship before having to take command of his complicated, ever-changing offense.
I feel certain after these 10 games we've seen, Walton will not be gone after year 2. So the chance to grow the offense into a PG's 3rd and even possibly 4th season now exists. That should be helpful for Beilein's and Michigan's offense long term. Bringing in an even more dynamic point in the next couple classes will be important as well.
Short-term, this team ain't goin to the finals this season, so appreciate the amazing run Trey led last season!
Enjoy McGary, and if he can build on the Zona game, GR3 this season. They Gone!
Realize that with the skill with which Beilein discovers, recruits and develops talent, we'll constantly be bringing in new pieces who need to mesh with what's there following early entrants. That's the price of being a top program- even msu is gonna lose Harris early.
I feel certain after these 10 games we've seen, Walton will not be gone after year 2.
But we would have said the same about Darius Morris during his freshman year, too.
How is that guy going to say he feels certain after 10 games that Walton won't leave after 2 years? No one was talking about Burke leaving for the NBA after his first 10 games. He was good, but not leaving for the NBA good at the first part of his freshman year. As JMBlue said definitely no one was talking about Darius Morris leaving early after 10 games. Shoot no one was talking about Darius Morris leaving early even after he finished his freshman year.
kind of off topic, but I saw some miss communication on some late possesions against Arizona down in the paint. Mainly, it looked like GRIII got there late, and when McGary switched out to stop the penetrating man, GRIII failed to get his body on the offensive player, allowing for the put back.
I missed the first half, so I don't know if this is a fatigue issue for GRIII, but I thought I saw it last year as well, where he doesn't seem to recognize quickly who to take underneath, and use his big body and athletism to box out and grab some boards.
Thoughts? is this fatigue? Coaching? or just slow recognition we should expect to see improvement on from a young player?
Tough to say without looking at the specific play, but with GRIII that's been a consistent issue throughout his career. His defensive recognition isn't great—he's involved in more than his fair share of missed boxouts and blown switches—and while he's greatly improved his on-ball defense, that stuff keeps happening. I think it's a combination of fatigue—he definitely prefers guarding smaller threes instead of big fours, and Michigan's lineup doesn't afford him that luxury—and youth.
Other aspects of his defense have improved, so there's little reason to believe he can't shore up his awareness, which sometimes takes a while to come around, especially for a player who's had to work on so many areas of his game.
It seems like the "issue" with Irvin is, "plays a role already clogged with Michigan's best players." I think it's hard to draw any conclusions beyond that.
Remember how great McGary was during the regular season last year? Neither do I. He didn't emerge until the tournament. Yeah, injuries, different position, blah blah blah, but it is still true that freshmen often take time to "get it." Even Kentucky has problems with this--remember that last years team was already in danger of missing the Dance before Noel tore up his knee. And we know what kind of athletes they get.
In the not-quite-worst case scenario, these two just take longer to develop, and become great contributors in a year or two. They'll be a lot more important next season.
We should remember that Hardaway was struggling at this point in his freshman season (2010-11), too. He came on, big time, in the second half of the season, and that's also when the team found its groove and surged into a tournament bid. His final season numbers were solid, but it was really a tale of two half-seasons.
in the least bit about either player right now...they are both very young and are learning a ton and will start to get better as the season rolls along...losing Burke and THJ have proved to be incredibly hard to replace! give the young guns time, look how much better LeVert has progressed in just one off-season, it has been almost night and day!
As everyone basically noted, we are talking about 10 games for these young guys, including a couple of games against elite competition. I do think Walton will come along quicker, but Irvin should be more comfortable both in the flow of the offense as well as his role on the court to get those numbers up to expected performance.
when it comes to players development. JB has shown that he can develop players. They're true freshmen throw into the fire plus returning players have to figure out their new roles as well.
I expect Michigan to be much better in March rather than today. To see the improvement thus far this season is encouraging.
Michigan fans are obnoxiously impatient. It's hard to get through this.
his NCAA tourney runs were with Juniors/Seniors Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle. I think the points about Beilein stripping down the offense because of NBA entrants are very true and have been echoed by some of the previous players on the team (Bartelstein comes to mind). We were spoiled with Burke these past two years and it will take some time for them to figure things out.
Excited to see how this team performs on the road in the big ten. my gut tells me irvin's gonna have an unconscious game at some point where he hits 5 five triples and is the difference in the game. His long arms could help with teams that are great at closing out.
Conversely, mich is probably going to have a game or two or three (i could go on) on the road where they are gawdawful b/c that's just how it goes; even when you have a npoy pg let alone a blue-chip frosh pg.
Given that, my expectations are low for umich on the road and I will be pleasantly surprised if they can beat wisco, osu, msu, iowa, indiana, or purdue on opposing hardwood.
Given that, screw it, all that really matters is march...
Though it would be nice to see mich battle for big ten championships, a true belein squad seems better fit for a march run than being able to withstand and deliver haymakers for two months. Our true national championship contender teams will probably be in the running for the big ten title because obvi but belein's chuck and jive O is more likely to crash and burn on average than izzo's ram and jam O. The difference between going 12-6 and 13-5.
Still, it could mean sparty fans are going to be regularly left watching us cagers playing "the beautiful game" in late march while they're still licking their wounds from a 52-56 loss in the sweet sixteen to the Memphis Tigers.
Here's hoping (I guess?), anyway.
As everyone else has already said, this isn't even a issue. It's been 10 games. Just 6 months ago these 2 kids were dancing at their high school proms. They have both shown flashes of being really good and I think that is all you should expect 10 games into the season. They don't have a sophomore Trey Burke to take all of the attention off of them. Last year's freshmen were blessed with being able to play with the best point guard in the nation. That of course is going to help. He made everyone around him better.
Also Beilein and his staff are known for developing players (especially point guards). Look at the big leaps that both Burke and Morris took. Also do you remember the great play they were able to get out of CJ Lee and David Merritt at pg? Give Beilein and his staff some time to work with these kids and they WILL improve.
There is no problem with Irvin, but there is an adjustment to the game he played in high school to what he has to do now. Different game.
seeing Caris at the point and have Nic at the 2 while GRIII & Irvin play forward with McGary or Horford at C. We could play a mean zone defense ala Syracuse with length like that.