Hoops Mailbag: The Wagner Effect, The Inbounding Myth, A Beilein Hypothetical

Hoops Mailbag: The Wagner Effect, The Inbounding Myth, A Beilein Hypothetical

Submitted by Ace on March 27th, 2018 at 2:42 PM

SPONSOR NOTE. HomeSure Lending is once again sponsoring our NCAA Tournament coverage this year, and once again that is going rather well. I'm not saying Michigan's second run to the FINAL FOUR is due to this great partnership of sports blog and home-financing expert; I'm not saying it isn't, either. I certainly don't want to test this theory. If you're looking at buying a house this spring/summer you should talk to him soon.

It's time for yet another two-part mailbag. If you haven't submitted a question yet, I'm still taking them: you can tag them with #mgomailbag on twitter or email me.

Moe Impact


even on a bad day, Moe Wagner helps you win. [Patrick Barron]

Is my memory right that Hamilton played small ball for most of the 2nd half? maybe the last 10 minutes, except for the short period when we saw the Livers-Giant matchup, FSU played w/o a center, didn’t they? What a huge change and what a huge credit to Beilein’s scheme and fearlessness that Wagner - even cold as ice - scared the s[not] out of Hamilton in the 2nd half.

John Beilein allows Moe Wagner to shoot his way out of cold stretches for very good reason: he completely changes the way opponents have to approach defense. This is FSU coach Leonard Hamilton after a game in which Wagner went 0-for-7 on threes:

Sure, we did a pretty good job defending him, but I also think the effort that we spent on him, we opened up some opportunities for some other guys, and I think that's one reason why they were probably a little bit more effective. In order to get to him, being the type of three-point shooter that he is -- I think he shoots over 40% from the floor -- when you're trying to get to him and he's a seven-footer, he's their center, well, obviously, he opens up the lane.

And I think that's one of the reasons why they were able to get into the interior of our defense and get some easy ups, some high-percentage baskets because we had to put forth so much effort to close out on him because he's such an outstanding shooter.

Wagner may have been ice cold but I don't exactly blame Hamilton for getting deeply uncomfortable with the quality of looks, especially early in the second half. Michigan was successfully going five-out, getting penetration in the paint (mostly by Zavier Simpson), and kicking out to Wagner for achingly open shots. Hamilton would be hard-pressed to bet on Wagner continuing to miss literally all of those shots.

So, to answer the question, your eyes did not deceive you: after combining to play every minute of the first half, FSU's center trio of Christ Koumadje, Mfiondu Kabengele, and Ike Obiagu played nine combined minutes in the second. Obiagu, who'd emphatically swatted three shots in the opening stanza, didn't see the floor at all.

Going small, while a viable strategy against Michigan, isn't really FSU's game. Using HoopLens data and removing body-bag games, the Noles played over 1400 possessions with at least one center on the floor and under 270 with no center. While their offense improved a bit without a big man hurting their spacing, they went from allowing 46% on two-pointers with a center on the floor to 53% without—the gap between very good and very bad.

Michigan went 10-for-16 on two-pointers in the second half. After recording seven blocks in the first half, FSU had only two in the second. Even when he's broke from the perimeter, Wagner changes games.

[Hit THE JUMP to dispel the inbounding myth and explore a Beilein/NBA hypothetical.]

Hoops Mailbag: The Beileinbag

Hoops Mailbag: The Beileinbag

Submitted by Ace on March 22nd, 2018 at 4:30 PM

SPONSOR NOTE. HomeSure Lending is once again sponsoring our NCAA Tournament coverage this year, and once again that is going rather well. I'm not saying Michigan's second straight run to the second weekend of the tournament is due to this great partnership of sports blog and home-financing expert; I'm not saying it isn't, either. I certainly don't want to test this theory. If you're looking at buying a house this spring/summer you should talk to him soon.

ICYMI. The Poolebag. Chartin' threes. The Texas A&M preview. Pre-game matchup analysis/feelingsball roundtable.

I started digging into this first question and, once we wrapped up the roundtable, realized I wanted to dedicate the entire post to it. Before we hit the Sweet Sixteen game, let's take a look at some of the ways John Beilein's offense confounds defenses.

Reads on Reads on Reads


There's a lot happening up there. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Hey Ace,

This question is inspired by the “Indiana” Play. In football posts, specific plays are often referenced and then how various counters are deployed to react to a team biting on the base play. Do you have an example of a common play M runs and some examples of counters we run off of it?

Brian

It's important to begin this by differentiating between football and basketball offenses, especially since many Michigan fans are much more familiar with the inner workings of the former. Football offenses are more rigid; every play needs to be a set play (obviously) and the execution of the play happens within a few seconds, so even plays with options/reads are limited to quick on-the-fly reads.

Basketball has a lot more improvisation, even within the more regimented offenses. There are 30 seconds to get a good shot. Part of what makes Beilein's offense so difficult to pick up is that Michigan's "plays" involve constant reads based on how the defense reaction to the initial action. Add in that a player could break the play off entirely if there's a defensive breakdown and it's often tough to pin down what they ran—the same offensive set can produce very different-looking actions and results depending on a cascading series of decisions made through the course of the possession.

For example, here's a nine-minute long video showing the various things Beilein's offense does to set up, run, and play off of one action, a pindown screen on the wide side of the court:

You can watch the whole thing; you can also get the general idea within a few clips. Depending upon how the defense plays the screen, the player running off the ball can pop out for a long jumper, curl off the pick for a midrange shot or drive, or turn down the screen and cut to the basket—and that's just the initial part of a play that has a half-dozen other options to come if the defense manages to account for all of those.

Those aren't different set plays; it's Michigan's players internalizing the offense to the point they can all make those reads as a team. That Beilein develops his players so they can not only execute his offense but do so while being one of the most turnover-averse teams in the country is nothing short of remarkable.

[Hit THE JUMP for some more examples.]

Hoops Mailbag: The Poolebag

Hoops Mailbag: The Poolebag

Submitted by Ace on March 21st, 2018 at 8:04 AM


Yes, this still somehow went in. [JD Scott]

Another tournament week, another multi-part mailbag. This one contains the questions about/inspired by Jordan Poole's buzzer-beater. Yes, I'm as shocked as you are that I sorted them this way. Jump in!

A Free Pass

Hey Ace - Are there any statistics showing whether teams should guard the inbounder in late game situations like against Houston? On the surface, it seems like a huge mistake to let Livers inbound the ball to halfcourt so easily.

-Pat

While I don't remember seeing such a study and can't find stats on it, I agree that Kelvin Sampson erred in allowing Isaiah Livers to get a clean look on the final play. An opposing staff can only scout so many games, but I'm guessing Houston's coaches didn't get to the Maryland tape.

Even though the outcome of the plays were wildly different, Michigan's game-winners against the Terps and Cougars came on nearly identical setups: Livers hitting Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman with a baseball pass from his own baseline out of a timeout. Neither opponent elected to guard the inbounder even though Livers wasn't allowed to run the baseline.

Maryland's Mark Turgeon explicitly tried to set up his defense to prevent anyone from catching a pass while running towards the Terps basket. Here's how that went:


If you forgot, MAAR nearly got all the way to the hoop, drew a foul, and drained both free throws with the ruthless calm of a serial killer.

Here was Houston's setup:

While the Cougars were more successful in preventing a long pass to a guy on a dead run, they still allowed MAAR to catch the ball a fair distance up the court without any immediate pressure, which let him get upcourt in a hurry even though they had two defenders waiting.

Houston forced a tough shot, but it was still a catch-and-shoot look from a not-entirely-unreasonable distance by a shooter who had the time and space to square up to the basket. That's not a prayer, at least if you're Jordan Poole; ideally, the defense is forcing teams into prayers in that situation.

I don't think having the extra defender back is worth whatever added coverage it provides. Again, Livers can't run the baseline in either of these cases, and he's being asked to throw accurate passes far downcourt. Stick a big man on him and that becomes a great deal more difficult to execute. A tougher pass for Livers means either MAAR has to run farther back to the ball—losing precious time and momentum—or risk never completing the pass at all on a deeper attempt. Beilein's now gushed twice this season about Livers being able to throw pinpoint baseball passes; that's a lot harder to do with a basketball when you're not getting the same amount of space as an actual baseball pitcher.

Recency and confirmation biases may be playing a factor, but I rarely find the fifth defender that stays back even comes into play that often. For the offense, the downside of having the entire court to cover can also be an upside—your players can sprint full-out, which never happens for more than a couple steps in a halfcourt situation. Even with the extra man back, it's hard to keep a team from hitting the player they want—usually after running him through a couple screens—and that can lead, as in Maryland's case, to getting a bunch of players uselessly stuck behind the play while a fast man runs past them.

Houston more productively spent their extra player on MAAR and he still had an easy pass to make because of the amount of space he had on the catch. They did a much better job on the back end than Maryland by preventing MAAR from either driving or pulling up. They still got burned. I thought everyone learned this lesson in 1992: guard the dang inbounder

Or don't, actually. Coaches not doing that is working out pretty nicely for my life.

[Hit THE JUMP for my top-five last-shot-makers of the Beilein era, an evil question that was also the most popular, and MAAR's overlooked move.]

Pre-BTT Hoops Mailbag, Part Two: Lineup Combos, Facing Nebraska-Types, Fouling, NBA Futures

Pre-BTT Hoops Mailbag, Part Two: Lineup Combos, Facing Nebraska-Types, Fouling, NBA Futures

Submitted by Ace on February 28th, 2018 at 2:11 PM

If you missed it, here's part one of the pre-BTT mailbag, and today's podcast also featured extensive hoops discussion. Let's get right back to it.

Lineup Combos: Unlocked


Recent adjustments have given Beilein more lineup flexibility. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

It has indeed. When I ran a mailbag in mid-December, those lineup pairings were necessary to keep the team afloat. They aren't anymore.

While Isaiah Livers still holds the starting job, his minutes have faded significantly. Per KenPom, Duncan Robinson has played 71% of the minutes at the four over the last five games, and it's because he can be on the floor with Wagner again. Since conference play resumed, Michigan scores 1.13 points per possession and allows only 1.02 when the Robinson/Wagner combo is on the floor. The numbers get even starker when you look at the nine-game stretch since the second Purdue game, which I believe is around the time Luke Yaklich made his defensive tweak to keep Robinson mostly in the post: 


via HoopLens

The defensive numbers are impacted by some three-point luck (good for Robinson/Wagner, bad for other lineups) but there are still some significant takeaways. First, the offense is lethal when Wagner and Robinson are both hitting their threes—no surprise there. The other stat that stands out to me is their ability to dominate the defensive boards. Wagner has really stepped up his game as a rebounder; Robinson doesn't go get them often, but he's done a great job of sealing off his man—usually an offensive rebounding threat—to allow Wagner and the guards/wings to swoop in and grab the ball.

So long as the impact of these defensive adjustments remain, we should continue to see Robinson play around 30 minutes per game, even if Livers continues to start. Robinson is much more impactful on offense and his hidden impact on rebounding (plus his solid post defense) has made him a more valuable defender of late than Livers. (I can't believe I just typed that.)

Luke Yaklich unlocked Michigan's best lineups. With Robinson playable on defense again, John Beilein can be comfortable putting out groups like Simpson-MAAR-Poole-Robinson-Wagner that are capable of ridiculous shooting stretches like the 51-points-in-15-minutes torching of Maryland. That's been missing from the M offense this season; it's back now.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the mailbag.]

Pre-BTT Hoops Mailbag, Part One: Yaklich Praise, Slump-Bust Odds, Poole Comps

Pre-BTT Hoops Mailbag, Part One: Yaklich Praise, Slump-Bust Odds, Poole Comps

Submitted by Ace on February 27th, 2018 at 3:10 PM


This mailbag, basically. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

No time for an intro, the BTT is coming. This is the first of a two-part all-hoops mailbag.

The Yaklich Effect

Let's start here: I'm never going to be able to bring myself to not say Jordan Poole. I just can't.

With that out of the way, Yaklich has been phenomenal; while Michigan's defensive improvement has been widely noted I still don't think he's getting his due. Despite working with a lineup that has some defensive limitations, he has M up to 11th(!!!) in adjusted defense on KenPom, a significant leap from last year's finish of 69th. No John Beilein team has finished higher than 34th, and that was in his last year at Richmond in 2002.

TrueBlue2003 had a great look last week at one adjustment Yaklich made to better accomodate the team's personnel. That's been indicative of a wider trend. He's introduced multiple variations on the 2-3 zone—you could see him adapt from a wide spread to a tightly packed zone in the PSU game—and they've been remarkably effective as a changeup; per Synergy, Michigan has the best zone defense by points per possession allowed (a paltry 0.692) among high major teams. They've only played 78 zone possessions (a fast-paced game's worth), so the sample is small, but there's much more in the way of numbers that indicate Yaklich is doing a remarkable job.

The main source of Michigan's defensive prowess comes from their ability to keep opponents out of high-efficiency scoring situations, especially transition. We've discussed M's ability to both prevent and shut down opponent fast break opportunities before and the numbers just keep getting better.

The Wolverines are in a league of their own among high major teams at combining those two skills. They rank second among high majors in transition PPP, allowing 0.845 PPP—rather incredibly, an ever-so-slightly better mark than they allow in halfcourt defense (0.858).* They rank first among high majors (and fifth in all of D-I) at preventing transition chances in the first place; they comprise only 11.0% of opponent possessions. Only three other high majors allow less than 0.90 PPP on transition opportunities; they rank 182nd (Louisville), 271st (Cincinnati), and 345th (West Virginia) at preventing those transition chances. That is, in a word, bonkers.

Michigan's analytics-minded approach to defense extends well beyond keeping opponents from running. I put together Synergy stats last night comparing the play types Michigan's offense runs and their efficiency versus the same numbers from opposing offenses against M's defense. This table could be a lot prettier but it shows how well the Wolverines have forced opponents into shots that generally aren't very efficient (while the offense is, as usual, doing the opposite):


click to embiggen

Michigan generally forces pick-and-roll ballhanders to finish themselves, allowing Zavier Simpson to harass guards into tough shots while the rest of the defense stays home and prevents more effective scoring chances: passes to the roll man and kickouts to open shooters. Opponents funnel a ton of their possessions through the post, and even though M is downright bad at post defense, it's still not very efficient offense. They're really good at contesting the rare putback opportunities they allow.

This is a Moneyball defense and I can't wait to see what Yaklich does when next year's team gets an infusion of athleticism while the majority of this group comes back. He's entered the conversation, at least in my mind, as a potential Beilein successor; combining Beilein's offensive principles with Yaklich's defense could produce remarkable results. Of late, is already is.

*A note on these numbers: Synergy counts putbacks as their own possession for PPP so they can properly separate out each scouting category, which is why these numbers are lower than Michigan's actual PPP allowed.

[Hit THE JUMP for discussion of Simpson's and Matthews' respective Achilles heels, Jordan Poole's comparable players, and a reader-submitted photoshop.]

Hoops Mailbag: Next Year

Hoops Mailbag: Next Year

Submitted by Ace on March 28th, 2017 at 9:59 AM


It's their team now. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

I'm not ready yet. A memorable season and the collegiate careers of Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin are over; the postmortem will come when I've had a little more time to collect my scattered thoughts. In the interim, a six-part mailbag question about next season has sat in my mailbox for the last few weeks, and while I'm not quite prepared to look back, I'm ready to look ahead.

I'll get this caveat out of the way now: Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson haven't made decisions about their potential NBA futures. This post makes the not-entirely-safe assumption both will be back. DraftExpress' latest 2017 mock doesn't feature either player; in fact, only Wilson makes their 2018 projection. In Chad Ford's latest update, Wagner is a "stock down" after Oregon while Wilson held steady as a late first/early second projection who "most [scouts] think needs another year of school." There's a decent chance both stay. If not, there will be plenty in this space on the ramifications for 2017-18.

Now that we've addressed the elephant, here are one reader's most pressing questions heading into next season and my attempts to answer them.


Can X make the leap? [Bryan Fuller]

Will we have the necessary performance from a Lead Guard to succeed?
We can gush all we want about the big guys and the allure of Charles Mathews, but Michigan's offense has only reached its potential when there was a lead guard at the controls -- Burke, Stauskas, Morris (to a lesser extent), and the 2017 version of Walton.  Can Michigan reach that potential with Simpson/MAAR having the ball in their hands most of the time?

Xavier Simpson came along at the perfect time. He got a year to learn from Derrick Walton, get his feet wet, and process the intricacies of John Beilein's offense. As a drive-first, shoot-second player, he'll step into the ideal lineup to fit his skill set. Simpson's iffy outside shot would normally put a ceiling on the offense; the Darius Morris squads topped out at 38th in offensive efficiency on KenPom. Those teams couldn't play five-out, however. With Wagner and Wilson, this team can and will.

That should leave ample room for Simpson to operate off the dribble. While we only saw flashes of his scoring ability as a freshman, it's worth remembering he was capable of scoring 65 points in a high school playoff game. As he got more comfortable within Beilein's offense, he began to display his playmaking ability, especially off the high screen. He showed no fear of the nation's leading shot-blocker in the BTT semifinal:

In the conference title game, he displayed a Morris-like ability to both see and make a pass from a difficult angle:

Simpson isn't going to be a dead-eye shooter like Walton; hopefully he can use the leadup to next season to refine his outside shot enough where he's at least not treated like Tum Tum Nairn. Regardless, I expect he'll be a relatively efficient offensive player because of his quickness, court vision, and the surrounding talent; he won't need to be the number one or possibly even nos. 2-4 scoring option. As long as he keeps his fouling under control he should be an upgrade over Walton as an on-ball defender.

I'm not entirely sold on Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman as a primary ballhander; he still seems to decide before he drives whether he's going to shoot or pass. He'll take on more late-clock possessions because of his ability to create decent looks for himself outside of the offense. Unless he has a major breakthrough as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, which isn't entirely out of the question, he'll still be better-suited as an off-guard. As I'll discuss later in this mailbag, however, I believe Eli Brooks is going to have a role on this team.

[Hit THE JUMP for Ultimate X Factor and much more.]

Hoops Mailbag: Robinson vs. Irvin, Stretch Run, The Tech

Hoops Mailbag: Robinson vs. Irvin, Stretch Run, The Tech

Submitted by Ace on February 21st, 2017 at 4:33 PM

Irvin or Robinson?


Choosing between defense and offense. [Left: Campredon; right: Barron]

I put out a call for hoops mailbag questions over the weekend. A theme emerged:

With Duncan Robinson's semi-emergence on defense (feels weird saying that), why is Coach Beilein not inserting him into the clutch-time lineup for Zak Irvin? I live in constant fear of Irvin hero-ball and I just don't trust him to make shot these days, let alone the right decision.

I'd feel much more comfortable with a Walton-MAAR-Robinson-Wilson-Wagner lineup offensively at the end of the game, and if the defense only takes a small step back isn't it worth it?

Go Blue,

Christian
UM '15

The first two questions are slightly different from the third. To address those first: Zak Irvin is going to remain in the starting lineup. I agree with that choice because of the difference Irvin makes on defense. I disagree with the premise in the first question; the defense can get substantially worse—we all saw as much in January—and Irvin is a big reason why Michigan has improved on that end.

Irvin's versatility on defense is more important than people seem to think. He can do everything from stay in front of two-guards to play passable post defense; did we already forget about this? (And this? And this too?) Michigan doesn't have another wing (DJ Wilson, if you're inclined to count him, excluded) with anything resembling Irvin's combination of strength and quickness; his presence allows M to switch on defense without creating too many mismatches. He's one of Michigan's better on-the-ball defenders, too.

Robinson has made strides on defense; he's still far from a good defender. SI posted anonymous coach quotes today on several potential tourney teams. From the Michigan section, which was critical but fair:

If [senior guard Duncan] Robinson is in the game you want to attack him defensively. Everybody knows that.

Robinson hasn't been caught out of position as often as he was earlier in the season. He's still susceptible to being attacked off the dribble by quicker guards/wings and he doesn't have Irvin's strength to hold up when he's switched onto a post player. Yes, Robinson is the superior offensive player; Irvin, in my opinion, has as much of an edge on defense.

A straight-up comparison between the two isn't sufficient; this is, after all, a team sport. You can gameplan to hide a struggling offensive player, especially when the rest of the offense is clicking like Michigan's. Irvin, in fact, is playing a decreased role in the offense over the course of this slump. This mathematical approach isn't perfect, but Irvin averaged a 27% usage rate over M's first seven conference games, with a high mark of 32% (Maryland) and a low of 21% (Illinois). That average is down to 17% over M's last seven games, in which he's surpassed the 20% only three times, topping out at 24% in the Wisconsin win; he's gone as low at 8% in that span, using only five possessions in the MSU win. Walton and MAAR have been able to pick up the slack.

It's much more difficult to hide a weak defender; you don't get to choose what set the opposing team runs. Robinson has been such an effective offensive player this season in part because John Beilein can cherry-pick his matchup on both ends. Robinson wasn't nearly as efficient as a starter last year (107.7 ORating in B1G games) compared to what he's done as the sixth man this year (122.8 ORating in B1G); while correlation doesn't equal causation, I don't believe that's a coincidence.

If Irvin continues to take on big late-game possessions—I'll admit I cringed when he waved off Derrick Walton in a second-half late-clock situation at Minnesota—then I wouldn't mind seeing Beilein use Robinson over Irvin in certain late-game situations, as Christian suggests, especially if he can go offense-defense with his substitutions. Benching Irvin is a step too far; Michigan still has the best offensive efficiency in the conference with him playing 89% of the available minutes, and he's played a major role in the defensive improvement of the last month. Another stat of note: Robinson averages 22.3 minutes per game in Michigan's seven conference losses; he's at 17.6 in their seven conference wins.

[Hit THE JUMP for the path to the tourney, Minnesota technical explanation, and more.]

Hoops Mailbag: More Weezy, Late Clock Offense, Best Five

Hoops Mailbag: More Weezy, Late Clock Offense, Best Five

Submitted by Ace on December 30th, 2016 at 4:36 PM


What's German for "you should play me more"? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Michigan begins Big Ten play on Sunday at Iowa. As the team's long holiday break comes to a close, it's a good time to take some mailbag questions. I got enough good questions this time around that I'll probably do another one of these next week; a couple of these required deeper dives than I expected.

I'll begin with this: I'm less concerned about the team making the tournament than most Michigan fans, or at least that's the sense I get. They're 10-3 with no resume-crushing losses and a couple neutral-site blowout wins over top-40 teams. While it's early yet to keep tabs on this, the Wolverines are a nine-seed in the Bracket Matrix with eight at-large teams below them. A handful of the teams ahead of them have the look of paper tigers. I'm not ready to believe Minnesota and Northwestern are tournament squads; both are currently ahead of Michigan in the matrix. This team is in better shape both statistically and resume-wise after the nonconference schedule than last year's team, which had Caris LeVert through the Big Ten opener. Unless there's an injury to a major contributor, which we obviously can't rule out, then this will be a tournament team.

With that out of the way, the key to season is Moe Wagner earning John Beilein's trust enough to become the focal point of this team. This is both on Wagner and Beilein. Wagner, for his part, needs to cut down on the oft-inexplicable mental errors that he makes on defense; those have been Beilein's focus when he explains why Wagner got pulled from a particular game or doesn't have a bigger role in general. Beilein, for his part, needs to realize that Michigan is usually better off with Wagner in the game even when he's made a couple mistakes. While I understand the need for teaching moments, they don't always need to come during games, especially when they may be at the expense of the team's chances to win.

There are already encouraging signs on this front. Wagner has played 25+ minutes in three of the last six games; the exceptions were UCLA, when he got in foul trouble, and the blowouts over Central Arkansas and Maryland Eastern Shore, when Beilein had a chance to give Jon Teske some extended playing time.

Meanwhile, Wagner's relatively low minute total—he's still playing a shade less than half of the available minutes—partially obscures the reality: when Wagner is on the floor, he's the lead offensive player. His 24.0% usage rate is the highest on the team, as is his 26.2% share of shot attempts when he's on the floor. His seven assists already outnumber last season's total by three. He's cut his turnover rate nearly in half, an especially difficult feat given the major uptick in usage. He's drawing more fouls. Most importantly, he's obscenely efficient as a scorer, shooting 71% on twos and 50% on threes. While those numbers will fall back to earth as Wagner can no longer feast on the Kennesaw States of the basketball world, it's clear that Wagner has the highest ceiling as a scorer of any of Michigan's rotation players, and it may not be close.

Wagner has done an excellent job of cutting down his foul rate, which has dropped from 7.3 fouls per 40 minutes last season to 3.9 this season. As long as that continues, it's time for Wagner to play closer to 30 minutes per game than his current mark of 19.2.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the mailbag.]

Postseason Hoops Mailbag, Part II: Spike, Breakout Player, Bigs, Bigs, More Bigs

Postseason Hoops Mailbag, Part II: Spike, Breakout Player, Bigs, Bigs, More Bigs

Submitted by Ace on March 30th, 2016 at 4:29 PM


Dawkins, Wilson, and Chatman give M three non-Wagner breakout candidates.

Part one of the postseason mailbag, which definitely didn't include an egregious error in the original post, can be found here. Part two got quite lengthy, so let's get right to it.

A Spike return is very unlikely.

While that door isn't completely closed, it would shock me if Spike ended up back on the roster next season, and I think it would shock him, too:

With that, Albrecht and Beilein shook hands and parted ways. According to Albrecht, Beilein told him that if an additional scholarship should open up at Michigan, the program would "entertain the idea of" him returning, but added that such a scenario is unlikely.

"That's a long shot," Albrecht said Monday. "And really, I don't even know if they'd want to bring me back because they'll already have two very talented point guards on the roster next year."

I know it's hard to come to terms with this because Spike is such a beloved figure, but this is the best arrangement for both parties involved. The issue with bringing Spike back, even if a spot does open up, is you're then impeding the development of a highly regarded player at the same position. Xavier Simpson is the future at point guard for this program and they justifiably want him to get plenty of time next year. If he's stuck behind Walton and Albrecht, it's hurting the team down the road just so the team can have a marginal one-year upgrade at backup point guard—and that's not a slight against Spike, just an assessment of Simpson's talent. Plus, Albrecht isn't exactly a sure thing after coming off surgeries to both his hips.

As Spike mentioned above, returning to Michigan isn't necessarily his ideal scenario, either. If he's healthy, there's a good chance he'll start at another program—he'll be able to choose a school with that role available to him. That's not going to be the case in Ann Arbor with Walton coming back and Simpson arriving.

If there's further attrition, I'd rather see Michigan go after a grad transfer shooting guard, preferably one who's a positive on the defensive end—that's a far bigger need than a third point guard. Alternatively, they could go after a stretch four to take pressure off Zak Irvin if there's attrition in the frontcourt. That's far from the sentimental choice, but I think it's the best one for the team.

It appears John Beilein is thinking along the same lines. According to ESPN's Jeff Borzello, Michigan is one of the programs that's contacted grad transfer Columbia combo guard Grant Mullins, who's a 44% three-point shooter. At 6'3" with a PG-like assist-to-turnover ratio, Mullins could play either guard position. The coaches also reportedly contacted Sacred Heart transfer Cane Broome (that is apparently a real name), but there doesn't appear to be strong mutual interest; Michigan isn't listed among the schools Broome plans to visit, per CBS's Jon Rothstein.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the mailbag.]

Postseason Hoops Mailbag, Part I: Third Guard, #FreeWeezy, Defensive Improvement

Postseason Hoops Mailbag, Part I: Third Guard, #FreeWeezy, Defensive Improvement

Submitted by Ace on March 30th, 2016 at 10:26 AM

I put out a call for mailbag questions last week and got a high number of responses, many of which are now moot after Michigan's scholarship situation got sorted out in the last couple days. I'm running this in two parts and I'm still taking questions for the second; you can email me or ask your question on Twitter with the tag #mgomailbag.

On with the show, which starts with a somewhat prescient Smoothitron question that came in before Ricky Doyle's transfer announcement.

Guard rotation concerns.

Hey Ace,

Am I crazy for thinking the 3rd guard is the biggest question mark on the roster for 16/17?

As maligned as the 5s have been, Wagner, Donnal, plus some modest improvement seems ...fine? Not to mention, there is always the longshot of whatever other 5s that are on the roster at that point breaking out.

At guard, we'll have Walton and MAAR playing huge minutes and freshmen+Dakich behind them. It will be bad news for us if Dakich has to soak up minutes, so Michigan will probably have to rely on a freshman to fill a substantial role, or potentially a huge one if injuries strike.

As successful as Michigan has been relying on freshmen contributors, it seems scary, especially for someone like me who now assumes there will be 1-3 devastating injuries every year.

Abraham May
@Smoothitron

Short answer: I'm still far more concerned about the center position.

[Hit THE JUMP for the long answer and questions about Moe Wagner and the outlook for next year's defense.]