Basketbullets: Oregon

Basketbullets: Oregon

Submitted by Brian on November 25th, 2014 at 12:06 PM

11/24/2014 – Michigan 70, Oregon 63 – 4-0

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[Joseph Dressler]

Tight all the way. Announcers will proclaim basketball A Game Of Runs. This was a game of ambles, or strolls, or little rabbit hops. The entire game was played in a narrow window between tied and Michigan +8, causing maximum tension throughout. Michigan would push out to five or six or that lovely 8 that one time and then Oregon would hit a three or get a rebound putback and the tension would ratchet up again.

This was a nice reminder that it is possible to have feelings about sports.

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I'm soaked in joy [Joseph Dressler]

Hello Ricky Doyle. The obvious story of the game: after a paltry two minutes against Detroit, Doyle came off the bench to register 24 of the game-winning variety.

His defense was worlds better than anyone else available at center. He was capable of hedging hard, Morgan-style, and recovering. He brought a shot-altering presence. There were a number of opportunities to compare him directly to Donnal as Oregon attempted to post both guys up as likely weaknesses. Doyle gave up a series of difficult attempts that ended in misses and took multiple charges; Donnal gave up buckets and gave fouls. There was a particularly revealing sequence midway through the second half when Michigan tried to steal a few minutes with Donnal and had to lift him after Oregon went right at him on back-to-back possessions.

Doyle also displayed a knack for finishing around the rim, going 4/5 on the night. He went up strong when provided the opportunity to, and as described in the game recap his savvy on the sealing putback was beyond his years. I was like KICK IT OUT, he was like KICK IT OUT, Oregon was like HE'S GOING TO KICK IT OUT WE HAVE TO STOP THIS, and Doyle was able to recognize a lack of options in that department and deliver a mansome finish against three guys.

And about two minutes into the game he was leaving a trail of sweat behind him, hair plastered to his head. That shot on the right makes him look like the world's largest Rascal. I can't find this to credit it but someone suggested we call him "Ice Bucket" because he perpetually looks like he just took the Ice Bucket Challenge. Big, big night.

Eclipse of the Beilein. I would be surprised to find another game in Beilein's tenure at Michigan—or anywhere—with as few three-point attempts as that one. Michigan launched just 13, hitting 5, compared to 33 two-point attempts. Oregon refused to sag and their zero-center lineup featuring a lot of quick guys provided few opportunities to get them out of alignment.

The cost for Oregon was allowing a ton of driving lanes. That is normally not a huge problem for a Michigan opponent, but LeVert was able to get to the basket and draw a whopping 13 FTAs; as a team Michigan had 29, with only a few due to late-game fouling.

The contrast in LeVert's game between long shots—3 of 13 on the night from the field—and drives was stark. LeVert had a number of Long Contested Isolation Jumpers that banged off the back rim and set up Oregon's transition game. The drives got Michigan vital points and set Oregon against a half-court defense. This was no doubt the message Beilein was sending with an unusually fiery rant during a late timeout.

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YOUTH IS WASTED ON THE YOUNG [Bryan Fuller]

Chatman starts strong, then wobbles. We saw Kam Chatman's best burst of play as a Wolverine in the first few minutes of the game. He set up Mark Donnal for an easy dunk and had a sinuous finish of his own. Then things got rough, on both ends. Michigan eventually yanked him after some defensive breakdowns; before that he'd bricked another three and missed two of his four FTAs wildly.

There hasn't been much to indicate that anyone else is ready to take those minutes, so Michigan is going to have to keep rolling with him and hope he can be more like that guy early instead of that guy late.

Irvin: not just a shooter. Zak Irvin joined the parade of guys heading to the bucket, drawing a couple fouls and finishing some swooping drives smoothly. Early yet, but so far he seems to have a good feel for when he can attack closeouts and looks much more comfortable doing so than GRIII or THJ ever did. I've been wary about the idea Irvin is going to become a complete offensive player because of those two antecedents; so far, so good.

Beilein autobench ack. Walton was limited to six points in 24 minutes as the Beilein autobench saw him out for most of the first half and for five or so minutes in the second. I love John Beilein but… Walton averaged 2.5 fouls per 40 last year. Michigan voluntarily fouled him out of this game.

Silver lining is that he'll be relatively fresh for tonight's game. Michigan had its usual early-season-tourney spate of weird lineups in the first half, but with the game on the line and no bench players other than Doyle distinguishing themselves, Michigan had to go with a heavy, heavy dose of LeVert (39 minutes) and Irvin (38 minutes). Hell, Spike got 35 himself. If Michigan's going to win against 'Nova, Walton's going to have to have a huge game.

Rebounding issues. Oregon came in averaging big piles of OREBs, as you might expect from a team with a lot of bouncy 6'6" guys who crash the boards. You'd want Michigan to do better than they did, though. Oregon rebounded almost half their misses.

The fives were overwhelmed not by length but by numbers. Neither Donnal nor Doyle pulled in a DREB—Doyle did have three on the other end—but with 11 OREBs between the three main Duck forwards it's hard to put the blame on them exclusively.

One issue: another rough night for Chatman forced Michigan to use a Spike lineup featuring Irvin at the 4 for most of the second half.

The damage. Via hoop-math, 10 of the 18 Oregon OREBs were immediately put back up, with seven buckets resulting. That's the only reason this game was close. Can Michigan do anything about it is the question.

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Physics is a dead end, Shon. How is the wreckage of the Indiana program going, Tom Crean?

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Oh.

Basketbullets: Detroit

Basketbullets: Detroit

Submitted by Ace on November 21st, 2014 at 12:26 PM

11/20/2014 - Michigan 71, Detroit 62 - 3-0


Blow-by. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

Apparently necessary perspective. Hoo boy, I guess making the point that having three players account for over three-quarters of the team's points may not be ideal in the long run equated to PANIC for many. It's admittedly difficult to make a nuanced point in a gamer written moments after the final buzzer, so allow me to flesh this out a little more.

It's November. The team has five scholarship non-freshmen. Of course there are going to be growing pains, areas of concern, and the like at this juncture. That's far from saying those issues won't be resolved, or at least mitigated, as the season progresses; on the flip side, that doesn't mean those areas aren't worth pointing out. Michigan is too reliant on their three starting guards right now. The freshmen centers and Kameron Chatman do have to step up, or there will be too many ways to exploit this team, especially when they face larger opponents.

John Beilein still coaches this team, though. In-season improvement isn't just the hope, it's the established expectation, and one only has to think back to the Charlotte game last season for perspective; every basketball team is going to have their share of ugly outings, and Michigan just beat a team with a pulse by nine in such a game.

Another helpful tack. Take a look at the recent scores of the upcoming marquee opponents on Michigan's schedule.

  • Oregon, Michigan's opponent next Monday, went into halftime tied at home against this same Detroit team four days ago. They pulled away and won by 17; if the Titans had decided to start fouling at a reasonable time last night, Michigan's final margin might've been very similar.
  • Villanova, the most likely opponent if Michigan advances to the final of the Legends Classic (it'll be 'Nova or VCU), nearly lost to Bucknell—the squad M whomped by 24 points—at home last night, needing a late run to win by a misleading seven points after the Bison took a 65-63 lead with 1:51 remaining. 'Nova also had a six-point second-half deficit against #237 Lehigh in their season opener before pulling away.
  • VCU, for their part, had a lot of trouble at home against #113 Toledo on Tuesday. The Rockets held a four-point lead midway through the second half and were as close as one point back with three minutes to play before VCU's press forced a few critical turnovers to close it out.
  • Syracuse played Cal in Madison Square Garden last night, a neutral-site game that essentially functioned as a home game. The Bears entered the evening as KenPom's #63-ranked squad. Cal won by 14.
  • SMU is now 1-2 thanks to a tough schedule and some ugly play; after losing by 16 at Gonzaga on Monday, they committed 19 turnovers on their way to losing by six at Indiana last night, coughing up a 12-point first-half lead in the process.

So let's not freak out just yet.

Derrick Walton! I think this is something that often comes through better in person than on TV, but Walton's court vision in transition is something to behold. It's tough to run a 3-on-2 break better than this:

The move to initiate the break is slick, but the real moment of excellence here is the little dive into the lane just before the pass; even though Max Bielfeldt's spacing here isn't ideal, Walton forces the two Detroit defenders to collapse into the paint, and in doing so he also shortens the pass to Irvin. Walton could've easily stayed wide to the left and tried a cross-court pass to Irvin, but that would've given the far-side defender time to get out and contest the shot. Instead, he hits Irvin in rhythm, and Detroit can only contest the shot late, which is doom against Irvin.

Walton and Caris LeVert are both rebounding very well—both, in fact, have top-200 defensive rebound rates at this very early juncture—and that's allowing Michigan to get out in transition, where they're absolutely lethal.

A quiet 21-9-3. LeVert's final stat line looked darn impressive despite a very uneven performance. I'd still like to see him finish more of his drives at the rim instead of settling for pull-up jumpers, but he managed to knock down a couple of those shots last night, and at some point you just shrug and let the NBA prospect take NBA shots; LeVert's 46% shooting mark inside the arc matches his percentage from last season, and that's while shouldering a bigger offensive load without Nik Stauskas around to stretch defenses thin.

Meanwhile, LeVert's got a 25.6% assist rate against just a 11.1% turnover rate, his defensive rebound rate ranks 83rd(!) nationally, and he's been very active on defense. When his outside shot starts falling, and it will, he's going to post some absurd stat lines.

The go-to lineup. This is where those lingering concerns come to the forefront. Michigan's best lineup for the past couple games has been Albrecht-Walton-LeVert-Irvin-Bielfeldt, and I don't think that's going to hold up in the long run—the lineup has its considerable upsides but also some major shortcomings.

The positives: Spike Albrecht has been fantastic thus far this year at generating offense for others, and he found his shot last night, too. With him out there, Walton can crash the defensive boards a little more—and subsequently get M out on the break in a hurry—and spot up for those killer corner threes on the other end. This is also Michigan's most experienced lineup, so their halfcourt offense runs smoothly; these guys know where to be, which isn't the case at the moment with the freshmen.

The negatives: Michigan hasn't faced a big, strong-rebounding team yet, and I'm skeptical of how well this lineup will hold up in that regard once they do. That would be a huge problem, as this lineup would have to continue rebounding at a phenomenal rate to make up for the fact that there's zero rim protection with Bielfeldt at the five and Irvin at the four. Detroit had a few disturbingly easy layups against this group when they were able to get past a perimeter defender; once that happened, they didn't face any resistance.

I think this is a stopgap while the freshmen figure it out, and nothing more than a situational lineup against better teams. Detroit didn't have the size or post skill to attack them at their weakest point; that won't be the case in a week, and definitely not in Big Ten season.


Beilein has been visibly frustrated with his freshmen. [Fuller]

Withholding judgment. Kameron Chatman is struggling out there. DJ Wilson has no clue where he's supposed to be on the court. Mark Donnal blew a layup last night. Ricky Doyle put up a two trillion. John Beilein is unhappy with their development, and it's not hard to see why.

Here's where I scream IT'S THREE GAMES INTO THEIR FRESHMAN SEASONS. Chatman has played the most out of any of these guys, a whole 60 minutes across three games. There are people drawing big-picture conclusions about him and the others from seeing them play basketball for an hour or less. One. Hour. These guys get more burn in a single practice than they have so far this season.

TOTALLY RANDOM ASIDE: In Trey Burke's first official game, against Ferris State, he shot 1/7 from the field with a 0:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Chatman's offensive woes have been disconcerting, sure, but he's also missing shots that are going to start falling; he's 1/5 at the rim this season. His field goal misses from the free-throw area have often come off awkward drives; when he had the chance to catch-and-shoot last night, he stroked an 18-footer from the right elbow, a shot that very much looks repeatable. He's shown flashes of being a very good passer. His rebounding rates are passable and should only improve.

Chatman has a ways to go on defense, but he's already advanced in his ability to disrupt passing lanes. Looking at what guys like D'Angelo Russell and James Blackmon Jr. are doing as true freshmen—in less complicated offenses, with entirely different roles—isn't fair to the kid, and a slow start doesn't mean he won't flourish as early as this season.

The bigs have barely played enough to even have a half-baked opinion, let alone a fully-formed one. Just because Beilein finally has the luxury to put a senior, however limited in terms of size and athleticism, out there to show them how it's done doesn't mean Donnal/Doyle/Wilson won't be critical parts of the rotation going forward.

Smile!

It's gonna be okay, everyone.

Michigan 71, Detroit 62

Michigan 71, Detroit 62

Submitted by Ace on November 20th, 2014 at 8:38 PM


Derrick Walton led M's late charge with great transition play. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

They should've known.

Detroit hung with Michigan for most of a rather ugly game, thanks to the hot hand of Juwan Howard Jr. (24 points) and the cold first-half shooting of Michigan. With just 5:38 to play, the upset watch remained in effect with the game tied at 52.

Then Detroit slapped the floor.

Michigan put the game away with an 11-0 run.

If you're confused about the correlation, ask a State fan.

The Wolverines couldn't buy a bucket in the first half, going 10/29 from the field, including an uncharacteristic 3/12 mark from beyond the arc. Neither team looked very good, nor did the officials, who couldn't decide whether to call the game tight or let everything go. The Titans scored on the half's final possession to take a 28-27 lead into the locker room.

The second half didn't begin so well, either, as Detroit extended their lead to four points during a rough stretch for Michigan freshman Kameron Chatman. John Beilein wasted little time going to what would be his best lineup of the night, lifting Chatman for Spike Albrecht and inserting Max Bielfeldt at center. Both provided the support Michigan's three backcourt stars needed; Albrecht dished out four assists, knocked down two threes, and added a steal, while Bielfeldt hauled in five boards and even dished out a couple assists himself.

That allowed the big three to flourish. After a rough first half, Caris LeVert went on a tear in the second stanza, scoring 17 of his team-high 21 points in the final 20 minutes; he also pulled down nine rebounds to nearly tally a double-double. Zak Irvin became the main beneficiary of Walton's fast break exploits, knocking down a couple second-half transition threes on his way to 18 points. Walton finished with 16 points of his own, grabbed three rebounds, and handed out three assists.

Outside of Howard, who needed 24 shot equivalents to score his 24 points, and an usually efficient Brandon Kearney (14 points on 5/6 FG), nobody on Detroit could get much going offensively; Michigan kept the Titans almost entirely off the offensive glass and forced most of their shots to originate from the perimeter, and eventually the Titans flat-lined, going through long stretches of the second half without being able to score.

Michigan managed to weather a bad shooting night to eventually come away with the win, but concerns are mounting as the three stars have been forced to bear what could be an impossible load to carry long-term. The Irvin/LeVert/Walton troika scored over 77% of the team's points tonight, and the freshmen expected to fill major roles either looked lost on the court (Chatman, DJ Wilson) or were disturbingly absent from the rotation as the game wore on (Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle).

That's to be expected, in part, on such a young team with such obvious go-to players, but when the competition steps up significantly on Monday—when Michigan faces an Oregon team in Brooklyn that beat these same Titans by 18 earlier this week—the lack of secondary options is going to become a serious problem.

For now, Michigan's survived unscathed, and there are encouraging signs—one of those, somewhat surprisingly, on defense, where they've owned the boards. Sometime soon, though, this team is going to need one or two of their freshmen to grow up in a hurry.

The Midrange Game: Zak Irvin Vs. Everyone Else

The Midrange Game: Zak Irvin Vs. Everyone Else

Submitted by Ace on November 19th, 2014 at 4:00 PM

You may have noticed, especially during the second half of Monday's thumping of Bucknell, that Michigan's offense has looked a little different this season. This season's shot chart, via Shot Analytics, puts it in picture form (green dots are makes, red misses):

A little over 34% of Michigan's shots this season have come from midrange, compared to just over 25% last season. It's not a good change, either; midrange jumpers are by nature the game's most inefficient, and the Wolverines are hitting just 33% of such shots this season, down from 39% in 2013-14. A higher volume and lower efficiency is obviously not a good thing.

A closer look reveals that there may be something here worth sticking with, however. With the usual sample size caveats applying, here's a simple breakdown of what's working and what's not:


(If you're wondering why it looks like a three is included in Irvin's chart, he had a foot on the line.)

Simply put, Zak Irvin is working, and a look at the tape reveals that this may be no fluke, especially since Irvin wasn't bad on midrange elbow jumpers last season (8/19). Here are all of Irvin's midrange attempts from this season:

He's getting these shots primarily in two ways: catch-and-shoot jumpers (3/3) and step-ins when defenders overplay his outside shot (2/4). The aborted drive to the rim off a curl-cut stands as the exception, not the rule.

[Hit THE JUMP for a look at why the rest of the team isn't shooting like Irvin, as well as a picture pages of how M is getting Irvin good midrange looks.]

Basketbullets: Hillsdale

Basketbullets: Hillsdale

Submitted by Brian on November 17th, 2014 at 12:12 PM

11/15/2014 – Michigan 92, Hillsdale 68, 1-0

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AHHHHHHHHHHHH basketball exists [Dustin Johnston/UMHoops]

No drama just bullets:

Big three. Big three. Big three. Chances a basketball podcast uses "The Big Three Killed My Baby"—the White Stripes' screechy intro to the world off their self-titled debut—are 99.9%. Outside of the uber-recruit laden one-and-done factories There are few in the country who can match Michigan 1 to 3. The backcourt troika all went over 20 points efficiently, and there is more where that came from.

Yes, just a D-II team, but even so Walton/Irvin/LeVert all cracked 20 points on 13-ish shot equivalents. None of these guys got their points via volume. As a result, they picked up where they left off last year at 1.33 points per possession. Single-game ORTGs for the big three: 170, 166, and 144. That's nuts.

Usage was also in the same range it was last year: the six guys who cracked ten minutes all had their usage fall between 16 (Chatman) and 25 (Albrecht!) percent. Last year's Michigan team was efficient in part because no individual player had a particularly heavy load. Even without Stauskas they look ready to repeat that feat.

Individually:

  • LeVert looks ready to take over the late-shot-clock mantle capably handled by Burke and Stauskas the last couple years. He's a long 6'7" with an excellent ability to get to his spot and get off a clean jumper, and that's a fine option when you have to get a shot off, any shot. Also he had nine assists. And eight rebounds.
  • Walton, meanwhile, is also verging on being able to get what he wants when he wants it. He got the the line ten times, had four assist and just one TO. I don't want to talk about a Trey leap yet… but hey man Beilein point guards have gotten really really good in year two. Hell, you could even throw Stauskas in there if you want.
  • Irvin didn't fill up the box score like he did against Wayne State; he did show off a couple of drives off of closeouts that were absent from his game last year. He was actually 5/6 from inside the line… which is about a month's worth of games from last year.

In re: Irvin twos: About half of those were THJ-style pull-up jumpers just inside the line. You know me and my hatred of long twos, but even I have to admit those looked like they might go down often enough to be a decent option.

[After THE JUMP: the five spot, defensive issues, calmer than you are.]

Michigan 92, Hillsdale 68

Michigan 92, Hillsdale 68

Submitted by Ace on November 15th, 2014 at 4:28 PM


Dustin Johnston/UMHoops

They stuck to the script.

Michigan raises banners on opening day now. They did so again today, hoisting the 2014 Big Ten title banner to the rafters and handing out rings in a pregame ceremony. Continuing tradition, the biggest names from that championship squad weren't able to attend due to professional obligations; Glenn Robinson III was absent, and the parents of Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, and Jordan Morgan stood in for their sons who've taken the next step.

After all the hubbub before tipoff, a familiar scene for the returners but not for the squad's six freshmen, the Wolverines came out flat, allowing Hillsdale to ride hot outside shooting to a 15-6 lead. Then Michigan roared back by doing what they do best: shooting the rock. Three consecutive triples tied the score before M took the lead for good with a Kameron Chatman basket with 8:59 to go in the half.

Michigan leaned heavily on their veterans for production, and they came through in a big way. Caris LeVert flirted with a triple-double, posting a 20-8-9 line while hitting 4/6 three-point attempts. Derrick Walton may have been even better, leading the team with 22 points (5/8 FG, 9/10 FT), dishing out four assists, and masterfully running the Michigan fast break. Zak Irvin diversified his shooting a bit, adding several midrange buckets and even a few strong drives to the hoop on his way to 21 points on 8/12 field goals. The three stars lived up to the billing.

The rest, as expected, is a work-in-progress. Hillsdale knocked down 10/23 three-pointers in large part because the new faces in the lineup struggled on defense, especially working through the myriad off-ball screens set by the Chargers.

The freshmen showed their talent and their youth. Mark Donnal earned the start at center, had a couple nifty layups, worked hard on the offensive glass, hit a nice-looking mid-range jumper in the second half, and defended quite well for the most part, but also allowed a couple of easy buckets. Kam Chatman went 1/7 for 4 points in 30 minutes and allowed too many open shots; he also passed the ball well and had a stellar crossover in transition that led to an and-one opportunity.

Aubrey Dawkins sunk a three and seemingly reached into the upper bowl to rip down an offensive board in his limited time on the court. Ricky Doyle scored seven points in eight minutes but didn't look as quick to rotate on defense as Donnal. DJ Wilson played the entirety of his nine minutes at the five and pulled down four boards but didn't make a major impact otherwise. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman missed his pair of shots in four minutes of play, though he did display the ability to blow by defenders.

While the victory was hardly in doubt for most of the game, Michigan wasn't able to truly put it away until around nine minutes remained, and the Wolverines extended a 12-point lead all the way out to 30 over the course of the next several minutes.

In the end, it felt like an early-season cupcake game should for such a young team. The team won comfortably while getting enough of a test to have several areas of improvement to emphasize before Monday night's game against Bucknell, this squad's first against D-I competition. In the meantime, Michigan fans can rest comfortably knowing that this team can still shoot (11/19 from three) and the stars look ready to shine.

Talking About The Basketballs

Talking About The Basketballs

Submitted by Brian on November 11th, 2014 at 1:18 PM

11/10/2014 – Michigan 86, Wayne State 43 – 0-0

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[Bryan Fuller]

Hey: basketball. I took in the exhibition, which exhibited various things I'll now detail.

Player things

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[Fuller]

I hope this was just nerves. Freshmen had a rough shooting night with the limited exceptions of Doyle and Dawkins, none more so than Chatman. He airballed his first two threes, took a bad, contested long two, and bricked a THJ-style pull-up long two; he did hit a three late.

On the good side, his other bucket was an impressive drive to the basket with a finish that made a lot of people look at their buddy so they could do this:

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He also added four assists and led the team in rebounding with six; he also looked capable of switching on the perimeter at least as effectively as GRIII.

Shooting was never a strength for Robinson—he developed an elbow jumper he was proficient at but hovered around 30% from three—so even if Chatman isn't a great threat from deep Michigan won't be backsliding too much. And Beilein believes he can coach up anyone's three point stroke.

DJ Wilson. Wilson's going to be an interesting case this year. He's skinny as all git out but with his size and hops he's going to be much better at altering shots than anyone on last year's team other than Horford. Michigan has been playing him mostly at the 5 with occasional forays at the 4, and while Doyle's lingering ankle thing has something to do with that you get the feeling that when opponents have a lanky dude in there Michigan is going to counter with Wilson.

I could have sworn Wilson hit two late threes but the box score only gives him credit for one. Foot on the line? Either way he mitigated some of the freshman shooting questions by hitting those late.

Aubrey Dawkins. Skinnier version of GRIII. Can shoot some, 6'6", athletic, not going to create much. Had some issues dribbling.

MAAR. Or "Rahk." Rahk appears to be Beilein's favorite way of saying Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman without taking up nine syllables, and it has its appeal.

Anyway, MAAR has a much better handle than the rest of the freshman and is your third point guard. He had a nice take to the hoop that he followed with a layup that was way too hard; he had a second drive on which he'd gotten an angle to the bucket when his handle betrayed him and the ball looped out of bounds.

He ended up not hitting a shot; early yet.

Center fight. There are four options: Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle, DJ Wilson, and Max Bielfeldt. I expect Doyle to emerge into a clear starter, with Donnal giving him a breather. The lack of pick and pop game with Donnal on the court says somethin' about somethin'.

Doyle is both one inch taller and somehow way bigger than Donnal. He seems to have considerably more defensive upside. He's also finished much better around the basket in the two glimpses we've seen of him this fall. Donnal has been a below the rim Morgan type without Morgan's crazy efficiency; Doyle is finishing with both hands easily because he's got those super-huge hands and long arms that allow him to gently deposit the ball on the glass from whatever angle is called for.

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This person looks like a person who will finish around the rim. [Fuller]

Wilson will rotate in at the 4 and the 5 depending on matchups and how Chatman's seemingly mercurial shooting stroke is going.

The returning folks. All looked pretty good minus some uncharacteristic three-point foibles (Irvin, Walton, Albrecht, and LeVert combined to go 3 for 12) that we can ignore because we have full-season samples for all those guys in which they hit 40% from deep.

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I got this [Fuller]

LeVert looked ready to take on the alpha dog mantle passed down from Burke to Stauskas and now to him. He's taking the late clock shots; his length and ability to get to good spots on the floor mean these are usually okay shots.

Irvin was much more active on the boards, hauling in five rebounds in 29 minutes, and even had shots from within the arc(!). On the podcast we discussed how Irvin needs to be a "three AND" guy this year, whether that's perimeter defense or rebounding or sometimes venturing inside the line. So far so good.

Walton was hampered by a scary-looking injury that turned out to be a cramp; he was very assured on the ball and got to the line seven times—would have been eight if not for the injury.

The rotation. Until such time as one of the freshmen gains enough trust to be put out there in pressure situations, expect the main backcourt sub to be Spike. Beilein's always kept a short bench and Albrecht's utterly reliable with the ball in his hands. This is Beilein's favorite thing. He'll spot Walton for eight minutes a game and then Michigan will have ten or so minutes with both points on the floor, leaving 5-10 minutes for MAAR and Dawkins to scrap over.

A lack of flow. You know it's early and you've got a bunch of freshmen when your guards have to keep yelling at the posts to screen for them. Michigan used its time on offense inefficiently, with several incidents where plays had to be reset because of poor spacing and miscommunication.

In particular, there was one play featuring DJ Wilson where Wilson had two obvious opportunities to drift to the three point line in the corner and either force someone out of the middle or get a good shot. Instead he hung out 15 feet from the basket and neither option opened up. He was far from the only culprit, but that stood out as a moment where I may have been more familiar with Beilein's system than freshman X—I blinked a couple times because I couldn't understand what Wilson was doing.

Beilein seems pretty frustrated right now:

"We don’t have a very good package in, and I’m trying to figure out how that’s happened,” Beilein said. “We held things back today so it’s not on film, but it’s not very far right now. We’re creeping along. We’re moving in the right direction, but it’s really slow.”

He added, “It’s my biggest quandary every day, is whether we can move forward faster. We spend so much time on defense, because we realize that shots aren’t (always) going to drop. It’s hard to believe that we went to Europe and we aren’t further along and we’re not moving as quickly as I would have in past years.”

This team isn't appreciably younger than either of his previous two, which were amongst the youngest in the country. Hopefully they get it figured out before the preseason tourney rolls around.

How to stay good

Michigan endured yet another talent exodus this offseason and has to regress from last year's all-time Kenpom offensive efficiency record. To maintain their elite level they're going to have to make it up in other places. Here are a few candidates.

Rebound some low-hanging fruit. Michigan's rebounding production out of the 3 and 4 spots last year was not impressive. 6'6" PF Glenn Robinson had a 6% OREB rate and an 11.5 DREB rate; 6'6" SF Zak Irvin had a 3.3% OREB rate and a 7.7 DREB rate. Irvin was in fact the least likely guy on the team to get a defensive rebound—even Spike Albrecht beat him out.

A selection of 6'7"-ish forwards in the Big Ten last year:

  • Troy Williams, IU: 8 OREB and 15 DREB
  • LaQuinton Ross, OSU: 7.5 and 17
  • Terran Petteway, NEB: 3 and 15
  • Shavon Shields, NEB: 5 and 16
  • Jon Ekey, ILL: 8 and 15
  • Aaron White, Iowa: 7 and 19
  • Melsahn Basabe, Iowa: 12 and 23
  • Branden Dawson, MSU: 13 and 21
  • Denzel Valentine, MSU: 5 and 18

(Should be noted that the Nebraska guys' OREB rates are a reflection of a team-wide allergy.) It isn't too hard to find guys with much better production. While Dawson and White are rebounding specialists who find a lot of their value as players in what happens when a shot caroms off the rim, no one is going to mistake Williams, Petteway, Valentine, or Ross for D-oriented role players.

Michigan can seriously beef up production here, and so far so good. Chatman led the team with six rebounds; Irvin had five.

Block some dang shots. Michigan had vanishingly little shotblocking on the team last year. Michigan was 308th nationally, and this contributed to their very bad two-point D.

The freshmen promise to change that. Wilson is long and bouncy and once Doyle settles in it's easy to see him getting his share of swats. His arms are oversized. Michigan had six blocks in this game, albeit against a highly undersized opponent. If Doyle and Wilson can block some shots, alter others, and convince drivers to pull up because of the first two items, that goes some distance towards repairing last year's conference-worst two point D.

Get some steals. Steals are great. Open-court turnovers lead to transition opportunities on which Michigan is deadly. Michigan had eight, with the sneaky Spike Albrecht picking up three.

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[Fuller]

Stay in front. We all love Nik Stauskas but his defense was never a strong suit; meanwhile Robinson was not awesome laterally and gave up some inches to most of the guys he was checking. Replacing Stauskas with Irvin could be a major upgrade—too early to tell yet—and having athletes like Chatman and Wilson who are close to GRIII's level while also being significantly longer should help the D recover from its swoon into the triple digits on Kenpom.

Hooray basketball. Hooray not being scoreless 30 minutes into the game.

Hoops Media Day 14-15: The Players

Hoops Media Day 14-15: The Players

Submitted by Ace on 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.]

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Wings, Part 1

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Wings, Part 1

Submitted by Ace on 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.]

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Gardening Lessons

Hoops Preview 2014-15: Gardening Lessons

Submitted by Ace on October 14th, 2014 at 2:12 PM


[Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

John Beilein tends his garden. Yet another year of turnover means another year of intense cultivation.

He once had a Shooter, which bloomed into a stunning Not Just A Shooter™. His Tantalizing Athlete blossomed into an Emphatic Finisher. The Quiet Generic Big Man, through years of care, sprouted into an Imposing Leader of Men and Taker of No Shit. Only the Magnus Catulus failed to effloresce into something entirely different; even the greatest gardener can't control the weather.

Michigan enters the 2014-15 season in a familiar position, loaded with talent but forced to reload. Gone to the NBA are Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary; Jordan Morgan's brought his salty style of basketball to Italy; Jon Horford's on-court meditation sessions will now take place in Gainesville.

The Wolverines roster isn't barren, of course. The string bean that was Caris LeVert is now a guru-approved NBA lottery prospect, and he's much less stringy, too. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin promise growth in their second years on campus. Spike Albrecht's steady hand will once again be available off the bench. A bevy of young big men of all shapes and sizes hope to fill the void left by the trio of departing centers.

I cannot and will not forget that the Bench Mob—led by the exuberant Andrew Dakich—returns in force, which brings me to the other Emerson quote I considered placing atop this post.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

John Beilein may run a sophisticated offense that takes time and great discipline to master, but the aura around his program has always been one of a loose, joyful group. It's infectious. It's changed the feeling of going to the Crisler Center as much as the exquisite renovations. Hell, it's carrying fans through football season, even as uncertainty again looms over the basketball team.

I don't know if Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, Max Bielfeldt, and DJ Wilson are a suitable set of big men to make another title run in what of late has been the nation's best basketball conference. I don't know if the loss of Stauskas will leave Michigan one shot-creator short of having another elite offense. I don't know if Kam Chatman can step into GRIII's spot and replace his production. I don't know if Derrick Walton will take a Burkeian sophomore leap. I don't know if Zak Irvin is really more than Just A Shooter. I don't know if last year's regression on defense can be reversed with such a young rotation.

I'm comfortable with not knowing, however, because this isn't the first time. There's plenty I do know, as well. I know that Michigan posted the best adjusted offensive efficiency in the history of KenPom last season, when they had to replace Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.

I know that the last time the Wolverines weren't considered a preseason top-three Big Ten team, they went 13-5 to grab a share of the conference crown. This season, with Wisconsin the heavy favorites over a jumble of teams with serious question marks, it appears Michigan will be in the same position.

I know that John Beilein is coaching this team, and that means I have no need to worry.

I know, above all, that basketball season will be fun. This isn't the highest bar to set, but as we've learned all too well from football, it's far from the lowest.

There are 27 days until Michigan opens the season with an exhibition against Wayne State. In that span, I'll be writing a lot of preview content, and much of it will focus on the questions this team must answer to live up to the standard that Beilein has created in Ann Arbor.

There's no question about this, however: it's time to start getting excited, because Beilein's green thumb will once again dig up those virtues most other coaches would never discover.