Preview: Hillsdale

Preview: Hillsdale Comment Count

Ace November 14th, 2014 at 2:20 PM

hillsdale-mascot

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan vs. Hillsdale
WHERE Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 2 pm Eastern, Saturday
LINE No line, you degenerates; Hillsdale is D-II
TV ESPN3

THE SEASON PREVIEW

Big (or B1G) Picture: Gardening Lessons (The Story)Big Ten NewcomersBig Ten Outlook Part 1Big Ten Outlook Part 2Preview PodcastPreseason All-Big Ten Teams

The Squad: Point GuardsWings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player InterviewsMailbag Part 1, Mailbag Part 2

HOOPS BACK

HOOPS BACK.

THE THEM

Hillsdale plays in the GLIAC, a D-II conference that also includes Michigan's exhibition opponent, Wayne State. The Chargers return two starters from a squad that finished 18-9 last season, and they have a huge hole to fill with the graduation of record-setting forward Tim Dezelski, who averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds in 2013-14.

Now the go-to guy is 6'7" junior forward Kyle Cooper, who averaged 14 and 6; his statistical profile suggests he's more dangerous inside the arc than outside, but he can stretch the floor a bit. 5'8" point guard Zach Miller is the other returning starter, and shooting guard Darius Ware returns to action this season after missing all of 2013-14 with an injury—he started 25 games the season prior and is described on the team's site as an athletic player with a decent mid-range game.

Michigan's young bigs could get tested by seven-foot center Jason Pretzer, though Pretzer hasn't produced much during his first three years in the program. For a more complete preview of Hillsdale, check out their official site. For our purposes, this is D-II cannon fodder.

THE TEMPO-FREE

Not yet, stat-heads. Due to Hillsdale's D-II status, KenPom doesn't even have them in his database, and he gives Michigan a full 100% chance to win this game. I'm not one to argue with him.

THE KEYS

Secondary rebounding. Michigan's centers might have their hands full with a true seven-footer, and even if they're able to overcome that disadvantage with their decided edge in pure talent, the Wolverines will need the non-bigs to step it up on the boards in order to replace the excellent rebounding production of last year's now-departed bigs. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton have already displayed both willingness and ability to get involved on the boards; this year, it's Zak Irvin's turn to step it up in that regard, and he did so in the exhibition against Wayne State. It'd be nice to see that continue against a slightly (slightly) better opponent.

Who are the shooters? John Beilein is going to start the season playing all the freshmen, but he's unlikely to keep it that way as the season wears on, and a major determining factor for which guys stay in the rotation will be their ability to force opponents to respect their shot. Spreading the floor and knocking down shots will be huge for determining if Mark Donnal and Aubrey Dawkins are worth playing over other options; same goes for MAAR, whose jumper has looked a bit iffy in the early going, but it's possible he can make up for that with his ballhandling and knack for getting to the line.

Get penetration. The Wolverines were productive in their exhibition against Wayne State, but outside of LeVert there wasn't much in the way of creating baskets off the dribble, at least in the halfcourt. Walton has a juicy matchup against a much smaller point guard that I'd like to see him exploit, and it'd be great to see Kam Chatman and DJ Wilson look to create when they get the right matchup themselves. If Zak Irvin starts blowing by defenders, you're allowed to get pretty excited, as well, competition be damned.

THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES

Michigan by lots. (Seriously, there's no line on KemPom, so this is the best I can do.)

Elsewhere

UMHoops preview. Maize n Brew preview. For the love of all things sacred and holy read Brendan F. Quinn's masterful feature on John Beilein already:

"I remember John just being the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet," says Bob Narrish, a teammate. "Charismatic. Everybody liked him. The girls liked him. He had that long flowing blond hair. A good looking guy."

Perched like two old crows on a set of three-row bleachers in the same gym some 40-odd years later, Betchel turns to Narrish and, looking around, says, "When you were on the end of that bench with ol' John, while Baker was running around all crazy, would you have thought (Beilein) would end up being one of the best coaches in the game of basketball?"

 

"Nah, probably not," Narrish says. "Probably a teacher."

The Daily's preseason coverage is up to its usual lofty standard. Daniel Feldman's look back at Stu Douglass's program-altering game-winner against MSU in 2011 is well worth a read:

“What sticks out the most from that game was the silence from the crowd after the shot,” Douglass said. “The energy of the building was immediately gone. That possession was so charged up and loud, and once the shot went in, it was immediately flat. You could feel the disappointment of their fans.

“Not many things beat hearing the silence of an opposing crowd that hates you.”

Stu's troll game remains on point. Meanwhile, DJ Wilson's taste in film is impeccable, and somebody please feed Ricky Doyle.

Tim Miles remains a wonderfully charismatic lunatic.

Comments

Hoops Preview 2014-15: The Mailbag, Part Two

Hoops Preview 2014-15: The Mailbag, Part Two Comment Count

Ace November 12th, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story)Preview PodcastPreseason All-Big Ten TeamsPoint GuardsWings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player InterviewsBig Ten NewcomersBig Ten Outlook Part 1Big Ten Outlook Part 2, Mailbag Part 1


Who will get the bulk of the minutes at center? The panelists disagree. [Fuller]

Three days.

The preview is almost done, but first, Alex and I attempt to answer perhaps the longest mailbag question in this blog's history. Without further ado, a five-part query covering everything:

Can you predict the minutes by position for the roster this year given the unique nature of this team compared to the past rosters?

I'm very intrigued to see how Beilein deals with the youngest but probably deepest and most versatile roster he's ever had.  For most years we were scrambling to find 8 usable scholarship athletes and this year we have 11 guys who could see meaningful minutes in any given game.  How will he handle that?  How will he handle the frustrations that come with so many freshmen learning a complex system?  How will he handle the unique skills that guys like MAAR or Wilson offer if they aren't quite the fit into his system?

Ace: I'm going to start from the end—first of all, Wilson is an ideal fit in the system (more on him later), and second of all, if a player is good enough to get on the court, Beilein is going to adjust his team's approach to fit his personnel, as we've seen time and again.

Also, talk about good problems. There really are 11 players who could see at least a consistent bit role this season, though I highly doubt Beilein is going to go with an 11-man rotation; I think he'll whittle it down closer to eight or nine as the season goes on.

My best guess at how the minutes breakdown will look when this team settles into a rotation—in the early going, I expect some experimenting as Beilein figures out what his freshmen can and can't provide:

1) Walton - 30, Albrecht - 10
2) LeVert - 35, Albrecht - 5
3) Irvin - 30, Dawkins - 10
4) Chatman - 25, Wilson - 15
5) Doyle - 20, Donnal - 10, Wilson - 10

Positions matter less than minutes distribution here—Irvin and Dawkins can both play the two, and LeVert can play the three, for example, and those positions very similar in Beilein's system, anyway.

Of the freshmen, I think Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman is the most likely to fall out of the rotation. Michigan has plenty of guards that can handle the ball, Walton's ability as a spot-up shooter will allow for the Walton/Spike backcourt to get a good amount of run, and Rahk's iffy shooting is going to hold him back, especially once M hits the meat of the schedule—Beilein's system doesn't work nearly as well if defenses don't have to respect the outside shot of one of the guards.

Aubrey Dawkins, meanwhile, has the skill set to be an immediate bench contributor. He can defend multiple positions and he can shoot the three; add in his outstanding athleticism, which should make him a good finisher on the break, and it's easy to see a role for him as a three-and-D guy with some upside.

I'm of the mind that all three freshman centers, including DJ Wilson, will get extensive time, and their minutes will wax and wane depending on the matchup; Wilson should see more time at the five against smaller, athletic teams, while Doyle may be leaned upon heavily against a bigger squad like Iowa. I believe Doyle will end up playing the most minutes at the five; I'm a fan of his combination of size and ability to finish near the basket, and for some reason it doesn't feel like Donnal is currently living up to expectations.

[Hit THE JUMP for Alex's guess at the rotation plus our outlook on DJ Wilson, picks for this year's breakout players, and comparable players to this year's freshmen.]

Comments

Hoops Preview 2014-15: The Mailbag, Part One

Hoops Preview 2014-15: The Mailbag, Part One Comment Count

Ace November 11th, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story)Preview PodcastPreseason All-Big Ten TeamsPoint GuardsWings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player InterviewsBig Ten NewcomersBig Ten Outlook Part 1, Big Ten Outlook Part 2


Improvement from the rest of the squad should help M's young centers get acclimated. [Fuller]

Michigan had their first and only exhibition of the 2014-15 season last night, and on Saturday the games start counting for real. Even by John Beilein Michigan squad standards, this is a young group facing a lot of pressing questions, and the answers will determine if the Wolverines continue the remarkable success of recent seasons or fall back to the pack a bit.

There are so many, in fact, that the preseason mailbag will be a two-parter. Today, Alex and I address your questions about the young group of centers, the possibility of more zone defense this season, and proper expectations for Zak Irvin's sophomore season.

The latest mailbag said you're looking for basketball questions, so here's my biggest wonder heading into the season: What should my expectations be for the production from the center position, a position that seems to be a weakness on an otherwise strong team? 

Beilein said he wants Mark [Donnal] or Ricky [Doyle] to eventually emerge as The Guy, but if we consider them to be a platoon (can we call it Donnoyle?), what output should we be happy with and what should concern us? Will Mark Donnal be the perfect fit everyone's been talking about (I won't make the age-old comparison), or will he be overpowered by mean scary Big Ten centers? Will Ricky Doyle be a calming presence on the defense or will we see that classic freshman deer-in-the-headlights look too often?

This message got a lot longer than I planned, but it's just something that I've been discussing at length with the basketball beat writers, and I think it's something that a lot of the fan base is wondering. Let me know what you think!

Thanks,
David

Ace: Let's start with a point of reference. Last season in Big Ten play—which removes Mitch McGary's scattered nonconference minutes from the equation—the combination of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford averaged 11.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.4 turnovers, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 70.7% from the field.

A few of those numbers are unlikely to be replicated by a trio of freshman centers—while he'll see plenty of time at the four and maybe even the three, DJ Wilson will get a lot of run at the five—and Max Bielfeldt. Morgan and Horford were both very efficient finishers who didn't take jumpers; that's not the case for any of M's current centers—even Doyle is comfortable shooting from mid-range—and just by virtue of them taking more jumpers, that shooting percentage is going to dip. Replacing seniors with freshmen usually means rebounding will go down and turnovers up, too.

All three main center options have scoring potential, though. Donnal missed his only three-point attempt last night and wasn't a major factor on offense, but if he can consistently stretch the defense he should stick as the starter. Ricky Doyle could easily surpass him, however, and even provide the type of scoring that Morgan/Horford did. Doyle is the bigger guy and looks to have more potential as a rebounder—he had an impressive putback last night—and his tape from high school and the Italy trip shows he's adept at finishing near the basket with either hand. Wilson, when he's at the five, will really spread the floor, and he's easily the best passer and ballhandler of these three; he may also be the best outside shooter.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of this excessively long answer and much more.]

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Hoops Preview 2014-15: Big Ten Outlook, Part Two

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Big Ten Outlook, Part Two Comment Count

Ace November 5th, 2014 at 2:47 PM

Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story)Preview PodcastPreseason All-Big Ten TeamsPoint GuardsWings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player InterviewsBig Ten Newcomers, Big Ten Outlook Part 1

After yesterday's look at the bottom half of the Big Ten, it's time to check out the top seven squads in the conference. There's one certainty heading into the season: Wisconsin is the favorite. After that, question marks abound. Can Ohio State score? Can Michigan hold up inside? Can Izzo work his magic with an underwhelming roster? Is Nebrasketball for real? I don't claim to have answers, so here goes nothing...

1. Wisconsin (Last Year: 30-8, 12-6 B1G, lost in Final Four)


Frank Kaminsky (#44) is the prototype John Beilein big man. [Fuller]

Head Coach: Bo Ryan; 704-224 career, 321-121 at Wisconsin (15th year)
Preseason KenPom Ranking: 6th (#1 B1G)
Key Returners: G Traevon Jackson, G Josh Gasser, G Bronson Koenig, F Sam Dekker, F Nigel Hayes, C Frank Kaminsky
Key Losses: G Ben Brust
Top Newcomers: F Ethan Happ

When looking at the Big Ten predictions, there are only two squads that are locked into their positions: Rutgers, bringing up the rear, and Wisconsin, the unanimous choice to win the conference.

It's easy to see why the experts love the Badgers. Bo Ryan unleashed an offense that was eminently watchable (gasp!), finishing fourth nationally in adjusted efficiency, which allowed Wisconsin to not just overcome a step back on defense, but ride a stellar last two months of the season into a Final Four berth before falling to Kentucky by a point. (Know that feel, Wisco bros.) Ryan's squad loses just one major contributor, Ben Brust, and have a ready-made replacement in sophomore Bronson Koenig.

Frank Kaminsky is the leading preseason candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year after becoming an inside-outside force at the center position last season; John Beilein may go so far as to hurt a fly if it resulted in a seven-footer with Kaminsky's ability ending up in Ann Arbor. The rest of the frontcourt is excellent, as well; Sam Dekker is arguably the top draft prospect in the Big Ten, an athletic slasher who could be really difficult to stop if he gains consistency with his outside shot, while big-bodied sophomore Nigel Hayes was so effective on the block even the notoriously freshman-averse Ryan had to give him significant minutes.

One infuriatingly good shooting specialist, Ben Brust, is finally gone, but Josh Gasser is still around to break hearts and shatter dreams. (Death to backboards, amen.) Koenig should step into the starting lineup and provide a more diverse offensive skillset than Brust, though his three-point shooting isn't yet on Brust's level.

Arguably the weakest spot on this team is point guard, and that features senior third-year starter Traevon Jackson, a solid all-around player whose main weakness is a propensity for going heroball despite being surrounded by more efficient scorers. It'll be a surprise if Wisconsin doesn't finish atop the conference, and they'll be right in the mix for a #1 seed—perhaps even the #1 overall seed.

[Hit THE JUMP to see how the other contenders stack up.]

Comments

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Big Ten Outlook, Part One

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Big Ten Outlook, Part One Comment Count

Ace November 4th, 2014 at 4:35 PM

Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story)Preview PodcastPreseason All-Big Ten TeamsPoint GuardsWings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player InterviewsBig Ten Newcomers

The hoops preview returns after a brief AD-chaos-related absence; in fact, Alex already got the jump on me this week with his impressively thorough look at the top newcomers to the Big Ten. It's time for me to also turn my attention to the conference at large. Today, I'll take a look at how I expect the bottom half of the conference to shake out. The "Wisconsin & Friends" portion will go up later this week.

8. Illinois (Last Year: 20-15, 7-11 B1G, lost 2nd round of NIT)


oh was it ever so tempting to put Stauskas' end-of-half buzzer-beater here [Fuller]

Head Coach: Jon Groce; 128-84 career, 43-28 at Illinois (3rd year)
Preseason KenPom Ranking: 38th (#10 B1G)
Key Returners: G Kendrick Nunn, G/F Rayvonte Rice, C Nnanna Egwu
Key Losses: G Tracy Abrams (injury), F Joseph Bertrand, F Jon Ekey
Top Newcomers: G Aaron Cosby (transfer), G Ahmad Starks (transfer), F Leron Black

My #8 team in the Big Ten—and KenPom's #10—should make a push for the NCAA tournament bubble, in case you were wondering about the depth of the conference this year. Illinois gets a solid influx of talent in Jon Groce's third year while bringing back several key pieces from last season's NIT squad.

After finishing as the worst-shooting team in the conference last year, the Illini get a big boost in that regard from a pair of transfers, Aaron Cosby (39% 3-pt at Seton Hall) and Ahmad Starks (39.5% at Oregon State, where he holds the school record for most 3PM). The diminutive Starks, a shoot-first point with a solid outside shot and iffy efficiency elsewhere, should step right into the starting point guard spot to replace Tracy Abrams, who will miss the season with a torn ACL. Cosby should also get a big role in the rotation, likely splitting minutes on the wing with sophomore guard Kendrick Nunn.

Nunn and Rayvonte Rice give the Illini a pair of solid slashers off the wing, and while Rice's shooting comes and goes, Nunn connected well from deep as a freshman last season. The team is a little lacking in the frontcourt, however. Nnanna Egwu, their lanky no-offense, all-defense center, returns for his senior season; he is what he is at this point. Sophomore Malcolm Hill should split minutes at the four with top-50 freshman Leron Black; Hill emerged as a decent stretch four option as last season went along, while Black is the more physical and athletic option, which may be preferable next to Egwu.

The Illini should be a strong defensive team again this year; if they want to earn an invitation to the Big Dance, however, they'll have to be a much more efficient offensive squad. The addition of Cosby and Starks should help, but it'll take a more disciplined Rice (30% on 156 3PA in '13-14) and perhaps a breakout year from Nunn for them to really take the next step forward.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the bottom half of the Big Ten.]

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Hoops Media Day 14-15: The Players

Hoops Media Day 14-15: The Players Comment Count

Ace October 31st, 2014 at 2:14 PM


[Ace Anbender/MGoBlog]

The Michigan basketball team held their media day yesterday at the Crisler Center, and the theme of the afternoon was a familiar one: the team's youth. The players discussed leadership, the progress of the six freshmen, and much more; here's what I managed to get on the recorder yesterday.

Soph. Guard Derrick Walton

On his shooting getting better last year: “I understood that there were guys like Nik and Caris, the guys that waited their turn, it was their time to do the things that they’d sat and watched other guys do. I was very comfortable letting those guys make the plays and just contribute to the team any way I could, and that was one of the ways.”

On what prompted him starting: “Just starting to feel more comfortable, getting back and doing the things I was used to doing. Like I said, I was just happy contributing any way I could last year.”

On being comfortable becoming assertive this year: “Of course I have. We talk about it almost every day, just how it important it is for me to be aggressive this year. I want to be successful, so I take it upon myself, and my teammates encourage me every day, so I think I’m doing a good job with it.”

On being the point guard: “I try to find my balance and know that there are other guys who are very capable of making plays. It all depends on the situation. It’s hard to predetermine what may happen, so I just try to play it as is.”

On getting the ball into the post: “To be honest with you, this is the exact same thing we did last year. It just so happens this year we’re getting the ball into the post more. That’s the way it’s been thus far. I honestly don’t see a big difference between what we did last year and what we’re doing this year, there’s just guys getting more looks in the post.”

On his comfort level in the system this year: “Yeah, just knowing all the ins and outs of the offense, knowing how and when to pick my spots, just having a year under your belt in the system, it’s a big leap, that’s all I can say, from freshman to sophomore year, there’s a lot of stuff now that I didn’t even recognize last year.” (2:56.8)

On playing more with the ball in his hands this season: “That’s kinda been my M.O. my entire life. Just sitting back and having to watch another guy do it wasn’t a big deal. I’m just capitalizing on the opportunity I have right now.”

On this year being a return to normalcy for him: “It was different in some ways, but like I said, I was focused on winning and helping the team in any way. That was the role I was given, so I just tried to excel in it as much as possible.”

[Hit THE JUMP for quotes from Caris LeVert, Ricky Doyle, DJ Wilson, and Andrew Dakich.]

Comments

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Bigs

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Bigs Comment Count

Ace October 27th, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten TeamsPoint Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR)

Jordan Morgan graduated, triumphant. So, too, did Jon Horford, who chose to play his final year of eligibility at Florida. Mitch McGary, a victim of the NCAA's enthusiastic, aggressive stupidity, will suit up this winter for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As a result, out of the 1490 minutes Michigan centers played in 2013-14, the Wolverines return just 89, in the form of 6'7" tweener Max Bielfeldt, a senior with all of 38 career points to his name. While Bielfeldt may play a bigger part in the rotation, he isn't expected to take on major minutes; those should go to two freshmen with distinctly different playing styles.

Mark Donnal

why did I start the tape here? oh, no reason.

Year: Redshirt Freshman
Measurables: 6'9", 240
247 Composite Ranking (2013): 4*, #18 PF, #86 OVR
Highest Ranking: 4*, #23 PF, #89 OVR (ESPN)
Lowest Ranking: 3*, #37 PF, #147 OVR (247)
Highlight Tapes: Senior Highlights, Three Minutes Of Dunks, Single-Game Reel From 36-Point Game, Summer 2012 HighlightsUMHoops Italy Rewind (stats & video)

Mark Donnal is the closest thing to Kevin Pittsnogle that John Beilein's had during his tenure at Michigan.

It's true, and you're going to hear it about half a billion times this season, so get used to it. Pittsnogle was Beilein's West Virginia version of Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky, a productive post player with a killer three-point stroke. If you haven't yet, hit play on the embedded YouTube video above.

Yeah.

Donnal redshirted last season while bulking up from 215 pounds to his current 240, a luxury Michigan could afford with Morgan/Horford/McGary manning the center position. By midseason, word was leaking out around the program that Donnal was really impressing in practice, and by the end he was reportedly hanging with his older, accomplished teammates:

If it wasn’t for the redshirt, Morgan and Horford might have had to worry about their job security.

“He’s becoming a force,” Morgan said. “He’s hard to guard down there in the post, and he’s definitely come a long way.

“Over the past couple months, he’s just become really good. Really dominates, shoots the ball well.”

The tentativeness that plagued Donnal through the season’s first couple months seemed to disappear.

“Now that I have my confidence back, I know that I can play with these guys,” Donnal said.

This summer, Donnal started all four games of the Italy tour, averaging 10.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game—numbers that Michigan would be over the moon about if he came close to replicating them during the season, wildly unlikely given the center's place on the offensive pecking order. While he was very efficient inside the arc, he went 0/3 on three-pointers during the trip, instead getting most of his buckets in transition or off pick-and-rolls.

Michigan doesn't exactly need huge production out of their center, of course, and the threat of Donnal's outside shot should open up space for everyone else if he's able to handle the more physical demands of the position. He can also diversify Michigan's high screen game; the Wolverines haven't had a center who's as much a pick-and-pop threat as a pick-and-roll threat, and that adds an entirely new dimension to guarding the screener. One thing to keep an eye on as the season progresses: while Donnal looks very comfortable on film finishing with his right hand, he rarely seems to use his left—and often goes out of his way to use his right. If/when opponents pick up on that he's going to have a more difficult time scoring around the basket.

A good rebounder in high school, Donnal should at least be passable in that regard, albeit a likely downgrade from the trio of very productive rebounders on last year's roster. The focus then turns to defense. While true freshman Ricky Doyle is a bigger guy who projects to be the better rim protector, Donnal showed off some nice shot-blocking himself in his high school film, and his year of practice experience should give him a leg up on Doyle when it comes to positioning and directing the defense from the all-important center spot.

If Donnal isn't a defensive liability, his diverse offensive game provides tantalizing possibilities on the other end of the floor—a Beilein-coached Michigan squad with five quality shooters on the floor... I'm not sure I can finish this sentence without getting faint.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Before DEATH FROM ABOVE is unleashed in its all-consuming form, Donnal must prove he brings enough rebounding and defense to the court to keep Michigan average in those areas, or he might lose playing time to...

[Hit THE JUMP to resolve this EPIC CLIFFHANGER.]

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Hoops Preview 2014-15: Wings, Part 2

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Wings, Part 2 Comment Count

Ace October 21st, 2014 at 4:30 PM

Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Point Guards, Wings Part 1


Kameron Chatman (L) and DJ Wilson (R/HAIR) will split minutes at the four

Thus far, this preview has covered the knowns for this season's iteration of Michigan basketball. The point guard position is rock-solid with Derrick Walton in line for a breakout sophomore season and Spike Albrecht's steadying presence on the bench. Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin provide plenty of scoring punch (and much more, in LeVert's case) at the two and three, and both have the potential to take big leaps forward in 2014-15.

Now we hit the unknowns. For the purposes of this preview, the power forward position is considered a wing, just like it functions in John Beilein's offense—the small forward and power forward essentially mirror each other—and Michigan must replace a productive starter there with the departure of Glenn Robinson III.

We know this much: a true freshman will crack the starting lineup, almost certainly top-30 prospect Kameron Chatman, and the backups at both the three and the four will also be comprised of fresh-faced new arrivals. As Beilein noted at Big Ten Media Day, the team doesn't have any other choice:

“Guess what? There’s going to be young players out there all over the place,” he said. “We’re just going to have to throw them in there. … We can’t look to our bench and say, ‘Let’s get a more veteran player in there.’ There aren’t any. They’re just going to have to get in there.”

The good news for Michigan is they reeled in two highly touted freshmen, led by Chatman, and picked up two sleepers late in the cycle who could contribute as soon as this season, with each of them bringing something different to the table. After the jump, a much closer look at the four freshmen on the wing.

[Hit THE JUMP for detailed breakdowns of each player.]

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Hoops Preview 2014-15: Wings, Part 1

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Wings, Part 1 Comment Count

Ace October 20th, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Point Guards, Preview Podcast


[Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

Let's get this out of the way: Michigan loses Nik Stauskas, and it's never good to lose a Nik Stauskas. Players that brutally efficient who can also shoulder such a large workload don't come around often; ditto shooters of that caliber. If you're expecting someone to step up and be Nik Stauskas, you will almost assuredly be disappointed.

If you're simply looking for excellent play out of Michigan's starting two and three, however, you should be quite happy this season. Caris LeVert has progressed in a scant two years from beyond-skinny-kid-who's-redshirting to beyond-skinny-kid-who's-too-good-to-redshirt to less-skinny-but-still-very-skinny-#2-scorer to, now, 200-pound-NBA-lottery-prospect. Zak Irvin entered last season as a top-30 prospect and showed absolutely no fear as an unabashed gunner off the bench; even if he doesn't diversify his game as a sophomore, which would surprise, he'll be a critical part of the offense.

LeVert will be the top option this season, and his ability to create off the dribble will be even more crucial with Stauskas in the NBA. Irvin steps into a starting role, and his shooting will be even more crucial with Stauskas in the NBA. While no one man can replace Stauskas, a reasonable step forward from each of these two can go a long way towards doing so.

[Hit THE JUMP for detailed breakdowns of each player.]

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Hoops Preview 2014-15: Point Guards

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Point Guards Comment Count

Ace October 16th, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Previously: Gardening Lessons


[Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

While the rest of the roster deals with a good amount of turnover, point guard is a comforting constant for Michigan this season thanks to the return of starter Derrick Walton and invaluable backup Spike Albrecht.

Although both point guards return, their roles—especially Walton's—should be quite different with the departure of Nik Stauskas, who ran the show on offense for much of 2013-14. Caris LeVert will continue to handle the ball quite a bit himself, but Walton will either be the second or third option when he's on the court, and with Stauskas gone Albrecht's shooting off the bench becomes more valuable, as well.

These two will also be asked to provide much of the leadership for this young squad. A true junior who recently turned all of 22 years old, Spike is the oldest player on this team—I KNOW, RIGHT?—and John Beilein has discussed his importance as a leader several times this offseason, including at today's Big Ten Media Day:

Q. I was wondering if you could talk about Spike and how you've seen him develop since he got on campus, particularly from last season to this season?

JOHN BEILEIN: It's amazing the confidence he has shown since the day he walked in the door. I mean, even when he came for his visit where he was what some people thought was an unlikely recruit, he was laughing about how unlikely people thought this was. And then every time he walks on the floor, he just -- he's got incredible confidence that "I can play at this level," and he's shown that so well. He's a pleasure to coach. He's become a really excellent team leader right now. I'm really leaning on him to be the pulse of the team.

Spike is the pulse, Walton the burgeoning floor general. Hit the jump for a deeper dive into what to expect from them this season.

[JUMP]

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