The loss of the dynamic Moritz Wagner to the NBA leaves a huge hole in the middle of the paint for John Beilein’s team. Michigan now looks to Jon Teske to fill that spot, albeit in a much different form.
Behind Teske, Beilein will call upon seldom-used Austin Davis and newcomer Colin Castleton to provide bench relief.
Now the starting man in the middle, Jon Teske will serve a critical role in Michigan’s success and failures in 2018-19.
Despite some limitations offensively, Teske’s offensive rating last season was second to only Duncan Robinson’s thanks to his efficient finishing and lack of turnovers. His role without the ball was far more important, though.
Teske proved extremely valuable as a screener during Michigan’s 2018 run. His large frame opened up driving and passing lanes that a Michigan big has not provided for teammates in many years. Returning players Zavier Simpson and Charles Matthews took full advantage of that screening, developing some very real chemistry with Teske as the season progressed. Because Michigan has an apparent lack of shooting entering this year, Teske’s screens could serve as a focal point for the offense to create easier looks in the pick-and-roll when shots aren’t falling.
Adding to the intrigue is the development of an outside shot for the Ohio native. Onlookers saw Teske nail an in-rhythm three in Spain and the big man seems to suggest that he’s added a three-point ball to his game:
“Obviously, every day Coach B is watching you and he keeps track of everything — scrimmages, points, blocks, rebounds. So that's one thing that they do keep track of is makes and misses,” Teske said. “That's one thing that he's seeing me grow and I've been able to show him that I'm capable of shooting the 3.”
Teske’s true value comes, however, on the other end of the court. His huge size and ability to protect the rim adds an aspect to Michigan’s defense that John Beilein has not enjoyed since Mitch McGary. But it goes further that.
We discussed previously that Teske displayed a high basketball IQ. Although he’s not the most mobile big man in the country, his recognition of when to attack screens and when to lay off was exceptional. With an offseason to watch film and grow in his play recognition, Teske’s defense could improve to a dominant level despite his perceived physical limitations.
Midway through the season it became clear that Jon Teske had shed his freshman awkwardness and emerged into the kind of rim protector and possession generator that this site has craved for years. Once Moe Wagner became a borderline-NBA-level stretch five we stopped talking about it so much. The burning fire never left, though, for the ultimate Beilein C that doesn't need the ball to do a bunch of stuff.
Teske promises to do a bunch of stuff sans ball like nobody since Mitch McGary. Game columns around here more often than not had some note about how everything was going to be fine even if Moe left, usually citing Teske's excellent OREB rate—which would have been tied for 30th if he qualified for Kenpom leaderboards and got significantly better against better teams—and absurd-for-a-big steal rate. Here's a graph from Bart Torvik of 6'10"+ high major players who played at least 10 MPG:
Ray Spalding of Louisville and Javin DeLaurier of Duke are the only dots in the vicinity. Teske's combination of possession generation and sheer size is otherwise unheard of. That goes a long way toward replacing Wagner's diverse offensive skillset. (If you're curious, Wagner is the yellow dot just under the 2.25% steal rate line. Ethan Happ is the red dot at the very top in the middle.)
Jon Teske didn't score but that might have been his best game of the season? I might be serious about that. His ten minutes saw him contest maybe a dozen shots, several of which looked like easy finishes until he got involved. Teske was able to fall off his defender despite the opposition starting their drive as Teske, back to the basketball, recovered on a pick and roll; he was only hit with one foul; he at one point intimidated Huerter into a bizarre miss.
In about 500 possessions against top 100 teams Teske's presence depressed opponents' 2P% by a whopping six points, at the cost of a slight uptick in threes attempted:
Michigan also forced more turnovers, got more rebounds, and gave up fewer free throws with Teske on the floor.
He even managed to survive against Villanova's pick and roll. Very few Wildcat points could be tied back to Teske's relative immobility. And that's the only question left about his defensive prowess: what happens if he plays Haas against an opponent's Wagner? So far, so good—and a brief survey of the league next year turns up only a couple plausible stretch 5s, give or take annual development. Issa Thiam of Rutgers(!) is the only returning player over 6'8" to put up 100 3s last year, and he's a super-sized Just A Shooter SF. Luka Garza, Isaiah Roby, and Juwan Morgan all tried around 50 with acceptable-ish hit rates and might blow up.
Teske is likely to be a defensive difference maker and shot volume asset.
Wait wait I have a Spongebob meme for this? Man, Colin Castleton released a senior highlight reel and after the third Nowitzki pogo-stick jumper I was all
Did I do that right, fellow kids?
Anyway, here's a guy doing things once you get past the usual open-court dunks:
Castleton displays several different skills that should translate to higher levels, most obviously the shooting and Wagner-like ability to drive to the basket. He might even be better at changing directions? Wagner had a straight line drive and a behind-the-back move that was clunky but effective because of the surprise factor. Castleton looks more fluid. Toss in that EYBL block rate a tick higher than Bol Bol and… uh, yeah.
Caveat from certified insane person Colin From Twitter, who watched a full game:
the game was interesting. he's was clearly figuring out how to play with a constant motor and how to position himself consistently on O and D to be productive. but he turned it on in the last 5 and won the game by himself.
There are reasons that Castleton isn't ranked where Bol Bol is.
Still, Castleton suddenly seems like this class's most crucial recruit. Seriously: since Michigan doesn't have access to five-star posts, maintaining the five out offense is their best way to compete with teams that do. Castleton promises to do that while adding a ton of rim protection (relative to Wagner, at least). He'll need a year or two of Camp Sanderson before hitting his potential. When he beefs up, look out.
Trevon Duval declared for the NBA draft last week, but the Duke freshman’s decision was made for him back in January. That’s when Coach K completed a recruiting hat trick by signing Zion Williamson to what was already the top recruiting class in the country, which featured the potential top two picks in next year’s draft (R.J. Barrettand Cameron Reddish) as well as the best pure point guard (Tre Jones, the younger brother of former Duke standout Tyus Jones) in the class. Neither Duval or Gary Trent Jr., his backcourt partner, were able to build up their draft stock at Duke, but both have decided not to give it a second try. They are essentially being pushed out the door by a program that no longer needs them. …
Playing at Duke was a worst-case scenario for Duval’s draft stock. He couldn’t do the things he did well, while his weaknesses were on full display. That’s how he went from a potential lottery pick before the start of the season to no. 50 overall on ESPN’s Top 100 prospects list. Freshmen in that range typically go back to school to work on their games. Most NCAA coaches would love to have a sophomore like Duval running their team and would have tried to sell him on returning by structuring their offense to emphasize his strengths. The situation is different at Duke.
Duval at least got to play and score some and will probably go in the second round. Charles Matthews evaporated off draft boards and had to take a redshirt year at Michigan, a place that actually cared to develop him. It's a big risk to go into a situation like Duke or UK where you get recruited over annually, and that's biting guys on the regular.
"I just kind of saw what they did with people in my position. I just wanted to come here and learn, get a fresh start," Matthews told ESPN. "I feel like my knowledge has grown a lot more. More open to learning and understanding the game. Really just getting a better grasp of that."
Matthews quickly emerged as one of Michigan's most integral pieces early on this year. He's playing a much different role, with 21 percent of his total offense coming as the pick-and-roll ball handler. He regularly initiates offense in both the half-court and transition. Thanks to his improved ball skills and ability to see over the top of the defense, Matthews' pick-and-roll passes generate 1.25 points per possession for Michigan, which ranks in the 90th percentile in all of college basketball.
"I was always more comfortable with the ball," Matthews said. "I'm happy I've been able to play in two different systems. Play pick-and-roll, play off the ball. I feel like with my increasing handle I'll be able to play with the ball even more."
It's Matthews' steady improvement as a shooter that really has unlocked the rest of his game. Although he is not a natural scorer and he still needs to up his efficiency, Matthews is far more comfortable both with his feet set and off the dribble than he was in the past. He's capable of rising up off the bounce in midrange spots or stepping into spot-up 3s when given time and space -- 56th percentile in unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers -- which bodes well for his NBA outlook if he can continue to progress.
That would never happen at Kentucky. Calipari does a good job of getting his various insane athletes to shed AAU ball and play defense as a unit, but it seems like he hardly has time for anything else and ends up running fairly rudimentary offense for guys who don't tend to improve in the rare case that they come back for a second year. I'm thinking of the conscience-free iso offense the Harrison twins ran against Michigan in the Elite Eight.
I'm not a "when do we see the recruiting benefits?!?!" person—the 2018 class is already enough to make Michigan a top five team for a couple years—but it would be nice if Beilein's development caught the eye of one or two five star types a year and convinced them to pass over the bag for a better chance at a long NBA career. It still baffles that Tyus Battle signed up to run desperate isos at set defenses while spending much of his time practicing a defense the NBA outlaws.
The Mooney thing. News that Michigan is involved with a grad transfer is fairly surprising, but here it is:
Among the head coaches [South Dakota G Matt] Mooney, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound shooting guard, met with were Bobby Hurley, Greg McDermott, Archie Miller, Chris Beard and Dana Altman. He also met with assistants from Iowa State and TCU, plus FaceTime’d with Chris Collins.
“I took a bunch of notes from every meeting,” Mooney said. “I’m going to rank them. I have list of my priorities what I’m looking for and then rank out which school is best.”
But the meetings aren’t done. Fresh off playing in the National Championship game, John Beilein will “tentatively” meet with Mooney next Tuesday.
“I think I’m going to give Michigan a serious look,” Mooney said.
Michigan's scholarship count currently stands at –1; even if Moritz Wagner declares for the draft there isn't a spot unless someone transfers. Michigan will know about the first bit of that by April 22nd at the latest since Wagner's already used up his Get Out Of NBA Draft Declaration Free card. I would in fact assume that Michigan's involvement with Mooney means that non-Wagner attrition is likely. With Eli Brooks and Austin Davis both coming off freshman* years at spots where age is very helpful the obvious candidate is Ibi Watson.
FWIW, Mooney is coming off a 30% usage year in the Summit where he shot 50/36 and hit 83% from the line. A top 50 steal rate also perks the ears up. That's on another level from Jaaron Simmons, who had less usage and an ORTG ten points lower in the MAC a year ago. Mooney also wouldn't be trying to play point guard.
Even if Michigan has the room it seems unlikely that Michigan can offer Mooney anything other than backup SG minutes. Some other team out there is almost certain to have a more attractive depth chart. OSU is involved, and they can say they played Andrew Dakich for 20 minutes a game last year. OTOH, Evan Daniels said Mooney seemed "VERY intrigued," his caps, in a comment about that article on 247.
*[Redshirt freshman in Davis's case, but he's a developmental big who didn't look out of place during his brief time on the floor.]
Sponsor note. Hey, if you happen to be in Philadelphia and punched a police horse last night, you need a lawyer. Please don't call Richard Hoeg, who does not handle that kind of law at all.
But if you had the idea for a company that sells football helmets for police horses, then you would call Richard Hoeg, who does do that kind of law: contracts, LLCs, S corps, and the like, for entrepreneurial sorts who can survey the urban chaos our Super Bowl inflicts on local communities and finds a way to make it slightly better. For horses. Or people, I guess. If you have a company that helps people, Hoeg Law will also help you. I've never heard Richard say "we only handle horse companies." And that's the sort of thing that I think you'd bring up. Right?
The Gang Wins The Super Bowl, thanks to Brandon Graham. Obligatory Philly chaos:
Congratulations to Brandon Graham, who was one of the few bright spots on the whole dang team when he was an upperclassman. I remember doing the UFRs for his senior year and pleading with anyone to listen to me that dude was an All-American. Nobody did except maybe Matt Hinton(?). Graham worked his ass off despite the very Rich Rod carnage all around him and was deservedly drafted in the first round; took him a minute to find his footing but that'll do. Everyone who's met him also thinks he's the best dude ever.
In other Super Bowl takes, this article from SBN was extremely prescient after watching that Big 12-ass game:
Last September, Sonny Dykes sat to watch the NFL’s season-opening game between the Chiefs and Patriots. Dykes, recently the head coach at Cal and then an offensive analyst at TCU, has coached college football since he was a graduate assistant at Kentucky in 1997. He noticed something about the pro game he was watching.
“Watching that game, I remember thinking, ‘This looks like a college football game,’” Dykes tells SB Nation. “They were both playing kind of college offenses, were really diverse in what they were doing, were using a lot of misdirection, were using some quarterback run, both teams. I thought, ‘Wow, this is kind of fun to watch.’”
The Chiefs used a series of misdirection and option plays that have long been common in the college game. They conned New England’s defense all night and scored 42 points in a surprising win. The Chiefs were near the tip of a spear that now includes pretty much the whole league, including the team they beat that night and the Eagles team the Patriots will play in Super Bowl 52.
“Ten years ago or maybe eight years ago, even, everybody in the NFL ran the same offense,” Dykes, now SMU’s head coach, says. “It was all kind of an I-formation, under center, you know; everybody ran the same stuff. All of a sudden, you started seeing a little bit of the college game proliferate a little bit in the NFL.”
New England didn't punt, gained 600 yards, and lost. Oh and there were multiple missed extra points. Big 12? Big 12.
The other thing that jumped out at me as I watched the second of two NFL games I consume annually: holy hell that catch rule. Philly's winning touchdown saw the WR catch the ball, get two feet down, and then take a full step to the endzone before he hit the ground. Both Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were absolutely convinced it was not a catch.
Which is nuts, because... uh, that's nuts. I will repeat my previous assertion: once you get foot #3 down by taking a step you're a runner and have caught the ball. That's a catch, and the Pittsburgh play earlier isn't.
Also, in the fourth quarter of a tight, all offense Super Bowl, Cris Collinsworth marveled that the football game he was watching could possibly live up to the halftime show. This was after several hundred plain old play action passes were dubbed "RPOs," like—just hypothetically—a two year old who had just discovered the word "wine" at Thanksgiving and may have repeated it at maximum volume for the sheer delight several hundred times.
I just dunno man.
Sample size! I have maybe been googling David DeJulius's free throw stats, for no reason, really. This is what I have found.
DeJulius continued his strong play in the second half and was extremely efficient, finishing with 49 points on 13-of-19, including 9-of-11 from deep range in the 92-82 victory. He also converted 14-of-15 free throws and had seven assists and three turnovers.
I get nervous when they show him shooting just one free throw in the highlight videos but apparently that's just because free throws are boring. May they again be boring.
Miller said he runs a motion offense and moves Castleton around the court to try and make it harder for teams to focus on him. "We let him back screen, we get him on the perimeter and let him flare and curl to the basket," Miller said. "We're perfectly fine with him shooting 3s." In fact, Castleton is his team's best 3-point shooter at 38 percent.
...after a year of eating nothing but meatballs.
Michigan commit Adrien Nunez had a solid 2 outings here at the National Prep Invitational. The 6-5 SG can really knock down shots from 3. Great shot mechanics.
Boiled up. Purdue AD Mitch Daniels writes an op-ed for the Washington Post about the one-and-done rule being bad and dumb, and while he's necessarily compromised by being the head of an organization that doesn't actually pay its most important labor, he still brings more heat at the NCAA than I've seen from someone inside the sausage factory:
When the FBI revealed its findings about the corrupt connections among shoe companies, agents, a few big-time college programs and coaches, and the Amateur Athletic Union or AAU (the first “A” increasingly looks like a misnomer), no one near the sport was shocked. The existence of this part of the cesspool has been in plain view for years. Those in a position to stop the scandals spawned by the “one-and-done” era — in which many top-tier players were required to enroll in college for one year before bolting for the NBA — have been either powerless to do so or actively interested in perpetuating the status quo.
When it was discovered that, at what we’ve always considered an academically admirable school, championships had been won by teams loaded with players who took completely phony classes, most of us were sincerely shocked. We were stunned again when, after years of cogitation, the NCAA delivered a penalty of . . . nothing. It was a final confession of futility, confirming the necessity of this special commission, if any meaningful change is going to happen from the collegiate end.
Unfortunately none of his policy solutions—removing freshman eligibility, leaving early entry scholarships filled for four years, or adopting the college baseball zero-or-three model—are, like, good. Or even implementable, in the baseball case. I still fail to see how one-and-done stands up legally since the collective bargaining of the NBAPA is taking away rights from people who aren't members; IANAL but I'm surprised one-and-done hasn't been sued into oblivion by some Lavar Ball sort.
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[long gushing thread about Poole’s ceiling]
Nick: And Livers and Teske are still so young. And then the incoming class…
Seth: Yeah in two years this could be Beilein’s best team ever.
Nick: I don’t even know which of these guys to be the most excited about!
Seth: Is that your TWO question?
Seth: Good because we’ve been talking about the same thing in slack all this time.
Ace: Just one? Top three? Top five? I have a hard time containing my enthusiasm with this bunch and the 2018 class.
Seth: Should we try to come up with a consensus rank?
Brian: Top three. Ordered by projected alpha dog on the 2019-2020 team.
Ace: I’m gonna drop this in from the discussion that led to this topic:
Alex: I mean the roster in two years could look like:
PG - Z, Brooks/DeJulius
SG - Poole, Nunez
SF - Iggy, Johns
PF - Livers, Johns
C - Teske, Castleton
I don't want to get too far ahead of myself but that's a group that could do some big things, especially if Z continues to improve
This, of all things, is going to kill me.
Brian: First and second year players on this team and the incoming croots are eligible.
Seth: So Iggy has one spot.
Ace: Does he, though?
Brian: Alpha dog is defense and rebounding inclusive. Everyone has their own list.
Ace: I thought the same thing and then I looked over everything again and this is really damn hard. There’s a legitimate argument for everyone on Alex’s two-deep outside of Brooks and probably Nunez, and those guys aren’t exactly dead weight.
Michigan put the finishing touches on an excellent 2018 recruiting class this morning when four-star Daytona Beach (FL) Father Lopez big man Colin Castleton announced his commitment:
Castleton chose the Wolverines over Illinois after taking an official visit to Ann Arbor last weekend. While Michigan made a relatively late push for Castleton, the efforts of John Beilein and new assistant coach Luke Yaklich—who'd recruited Castleton at Illinois State—made a major impression, per Sam Webb. Beilein's no-nonsense approach ultimately won Castleton over:
“It’s kind of like DeLand times 15 or 20,” said Castleton, who averaged 23.3 points, 11 rebounds and 5.4 blocks per game as a junior. “I liked the feel, the culture and the coaching staff. Coach Beilein doesn’t lie; he’s straightforward. He didn’t promise me any playing time or anything like that, but the players are all great.”
While there's a difference in star rating, Rivals and 247 both have Castleton a little ways outside their top 100, while Scout is more optimistic, placing him at #70 overall. ESPN continues to be useless; Castleton, a composite four-star with several high-major offers, isn't in their database, and they still list Taylor Currie as a 2018 commit. They did just get around to putting up a page for Adrien Nunez, so hopefully they'll add Castleton soon.
Castleton is listed at 6'10", 215 pounds by Scout and 247 and 6'11", 220 by Rivals. Much like Moe Wagner, he projects as an NBA power forward who'll play center in college:
247 changed latest commit Ignas Brazdeikis's composite ranking to reflect that half the services don't bother to rank foreign prospects. He's now the #42 overall player in the class, which would place him as the fifth-highest ranked signee in John Beilein's Michigan tenure, per Orion Sang.
It really can't be overstated how nice it is to be one of maybe three or four major college basketball programs that isn't in a full state of panic over the possibility of an FBI raid. We're already seeing the fallout for other programs: Arizona lost a five-star commit; Louisville no longer has a coach, athletic director, or 2018 recruiting class, and they've suspended five-star freshman Brian Bowen. There's surely more to come, as Nike's EYBL, the most prominent AAU league, has been served with a subpoena.
Meanwhile, both recruits and coaches have to figure out how to navigate the post-Feds recruiting landscape, and both sides appear to be acting with great caution. The top overall recruit in the class, RJ Barrett, is no longer visiting Arizona after they were linked to the scandal. He's also no longer visiting Michigan this weekend and has eliminated the Wolverines; given Beilein's sterling reputation, read into that what you will.
It's going to be a long, messy ride for many of college basketball's top programs. Beilein's insistence on sticking to rules almost literally nobody else follows has rankled in the past, even those who want a generally clean program, but he sure looks better for it today. Running a program that isn't in danger of major sanctions or, like, having coaches literally end up imprisoned is going to be a major draw for the foreseeable future.
It's getting to crunch time for the 2018 basketball class with visits ongoing and decisions upcoming. It's still mostly quiet on the football recruiting front, so today's roundup will focus entirely on the hardwood.
I really enjoyed it, there was three other recruits with me, two of them committed. It was a great time, just a family feel in Ann Arbor and the coaching staff and the players, I felt like that went really well. They had a big football game against Cincinnati and that was a really cool environment. Getting to see that and talk with Derrick Walton a bit, and seeing what they had to say about Coach Beilein and Michigan, and it was really cool.
He's also visited Vanderbilt, and had good things to say about them too, and there's still an official to Florida on the docket. Both Daniels and Sam Webb, however, suggested that Michigan is in the driver's seat (no gut feeling yet, however). Brazdeikis would be the crown jewel of a pretty impressive class should John Beilein reel him in. Vandy, which is heavily involved with his AAU teammate, five-star Simi Shittu, appears to be the primary competiton. We won't have to wait long to find out which way this one goes:
What’s the plan from here? Are you thinking an early decision after that third visit?
I’m definitely not going to drag this decision on too long. I probably will, yeah, not long after this third visit I will be close to making my decision for sure.
That third visit, to Florida, is set for the weekend of the 30th.