I wrote it down while writing about the Lions
What non-rotation bench player's development is most crucial for 1) this season's success 2) success in coming years? — @DrGarbs
Right now, the rotation consists of all of Michigan’s scholarship players who have been in the program for more than a year, as well as Ignas Brazdeikis. That leaves the remainder of what was a highly-touted freshman class: Brandon Johns, David DeJulius, Colin Castleton, and Adrien Nunez. All four have struggled in their rare, mostly garbage time appearances in live action so far in their young careers. None have looked ready to meaningfully contribute for a top team.
With Austin Davis’s struggles as the backup center and Michigan’s depth issues more generally, the Wolverines could really benefit from the emergence of another adequate role player (or two). Unfortunately, the three 4* freshmen who are currently out of the rotation play at positions that are difficult for some young players to adjust to: point guard and center. DeJulius was a great scorer and shooter in high school and has to learn how to operate one of the most complex offensive schemes in college basketball. Center isn’t Johns’s natural position, and Castleton might be too slender to contribute in his first year on campus (Johns and DeJulius have looked much more physically ready).
Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske were near the same caliber of recruit as those three — and both fared poorly as freshmen two years ago. Simpson was recruited to be Derrick Walton’s backup and made more than one shot in a game just four times all season; Teske couldn’t supplant Mark Donnal as the backup center, and the game looked way too fast for him in his brief cameos. They’re now essential components of an extremely good team. Michigan’s best freshman (Iggy) won’t be around for too long, and it’s impossible to say how any of the remaining members of that class will turn out solely based on how they’ve looked as freshmen.
Based on Michigan’s current rotation, the most obvious need seems to be at center, though any of the bench freshmen who can step up to provide eight capable minutes per game will surely find playing time. Johns and Castleton provide different looks than Teske or Davis; if Johns can get more comfortable in his role on both ends, he could make a sporadic impact as early as this season — he has the talent. And while DeJulius profiles to be a good — possibly great — general of the Beilein offense in time, Johns probably has the higher ceiling. The idea of Castleton is an intriguing one as well, though. Maybe they could reprise the Wilson-Wagner frontcourt.
So, for this season’s success: Johns. For success in coming years… DeJulius (because he’s the Point Guard of The Future, and having a good point guard is very important in college basketball).
Which B1G team is KenPom/Torvik underrating the most? Overrating the most? — @colintj
Tim Miles and his veteran team are likely to return to the NCAA Tournament, but a ranking on the edge of the top ten (per Torvik and Sagarin, Kenpom has them around twenty) is too high. James Palmer is one of the better scorers in all of college hoops; Isaac Copeland and Isaiah Roby make up a strong frontcourt; crucially, Glynn Watson is shooting well from outside. The Cornhuskers have a quality offense and a quality defense, though they’re not exceptional on either end.
Nebraska’s resume thus far consists of a narrow road win over Clemson and decisive home wins against Creighton and Seton Hall (none of which are consensus top forty teams); in their losses, Texas Tech pulled away at a neutral court (not really any shame in that), and they blew a substantial lead at Minnesota (a bad loss in how it went down, not necessarily that bad as a binary outcome). They did annihilate two bad teams by a combined 121 points, which may be boosting their rankings.
According to the computers, Michigan and Michigan State are ahead of a well-regarded second tier, and I don’t think Nebraska will prove to be the best team in that tier, and could wind up closer to the middle of the league. I don't think Tim Miles's first truly good team is this good, and I'm not sure I trust him to get this team to its ceiling.
Because of how well-regarded the league is right now, there aren’t many candidates here. Michigan, State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, and Indiana are too highly-ranked relative to how good they are to be considered underrated. Illinois and Rutgers - both bad - are assessed fairly.
That leaves Maryland, Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State and Minnesota, roughly in that order. Maryland and Iowa will probably wind up on the bubble - Maryland’s one of the youngest teams in the country and Iowa is the big “good offense, bad defense” outlier in the conference. Northwestern, Penn State, and Minnesota all are probably mediocre, and if there actually is an underrated team in the conference, it’s probably the Gophers (Minnesota is the lowest-ranked of the three).
But ultimately the Big Ten is just viewed too favorably by the computers to consider any of its teams to be underrated. I’m not going to make the affirmative case for Minnesota being good (though Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy are certainly good), and everyone else seems to be ranked where they should be — or too highly.
[More after the JUMP]