Hoops Preview 2015-16: Bigs

Hoops Preview 2015-16: Bigs Comment Count

Ace November 3rd, 2015 at 5:00 PM

Previously: Hoops Preview PodcastMGoRadio 1.6 (wsg John Gasaway), Point Guards,Wings Part I (LeVert, Dawkins, Irvin), Wings Part II (MAAR, Chatman, Robinson, Wagner)

A sign of things to come?

In Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary, and Jon Horford, Michigan had the good fortune of rolling with a deep and productive group of big men for a couple years. Last year's trio of Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, and Max Bielfeldt lacked the experience, skill, and physicality of that group, and there was a noticeable effect on Michigan's performance at both ends of the court.

While Bielfeldt was allowed to move on to a big-desperate Indiana squad for his graduate year, Doyle and Donnal should be better players as sophomores, and DJ Wilson provides hope that Michigan will get more from its bench up front this season. If there's a hole in this lineup, it's at center, but Doyle displayed enough potential last year that this position can quickly turn into a strength if a viable backup emerges.

Ricky Doyle

Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog

Year: Sophomore
Measurables: 6'9", 250
Base Stats: 18.2 MPG, 6.1 PPG, 61/0/59 2P/3P/FT%, 3.2 RPG, 12 blocks
Key Advanced Metrics: 17.9% usage, 117.4 ORating, 10.4 OReb%, 11.9 DReb%, 55.5 FT Rate, 2.6 block %

If you listened to the season preview podcast or the recent hoops-centric MGoRadio, you know the writers of this blog are very excited about Doyle. A series of unforeseen events—Mitch McGary's suspension and subsequent departure, Jon Horford's transfer, Mark Donnal looking overwhelmed—caused him to go from unheralded recruit to starting center for a Big Ten title hopeful, and while Michigan's season didn't go as planned, Doyle rose to the challenge better than anyone could've expected.



Unverified Voracity Has A Busy Week

Unverified Voracity Has A Busy Week Comment Count

Brian May 26th, 2015 at 12:42 PM



Hey: tournaments. Softball making the postseason is a given, and even the CWS is kind of expected when they're having a good year. Baseball not so much, but they played themselves in off the bubble. So here we are with an unusually busy late May sports weekend.

Softball's opener is against Alabama on Thursday at 8 PM Eastern on ESPN2. Alabama's 47-13, the #6 overall seed, and one of five(!) SEC teams to make it. All eight national seeds made it to the CWS because softball is way more predictable than baseball. if they win that they will play on Friday at 10:30; if they lose they'll be in an elimination game on Saturday at 3:30.

Baseball kicks off its regional against two-seed Bradley at 2 on Friday. That game is only available on ESPN3; Louisville is the top seed and host. Let's find out about Bradley!

"We don't know anything about Bradley, so we are going in with a blindfold on," Cronenworth said.


Let's have a DB transfer key party. Just days after the Moncrief kerfuffle, Blake Countess announces he'll spend his final year at Auburn. Excellent pickup if you're going to play a lot of zone, but this is the important part.

So they've got that going for them.

Holy pants. Remember a few days ago when I compared the Big Ten's DOA freshman ineligibility plan to Nationwide Your Kid Just Died? They may have literally been created by the same people.

The Big Ten floated the “year of readiness” plan mostly as a ploy to get people focused on discussing more academic and student-welfare issues, or what Glass called “less controversial and more doable” reforms.


Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.

Unfortunately, Jim Delany isn't accountable to anyone. Jim Delany could walk around pooping big scarlet Rs on Big Ten fans and it wouldn't impact his job security. He could jump on the hood of a car and fire 17 scarlet Rs at unarmed passengers and get acquitted. Nationwide bro got future endeavored.

“Matt accomplished a great deal during his time at Nationwide and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” Nationwide spokesman Joe Case said.

No such luck for the Big Ten's partisans.

Camp Sanderson yoke up of the year. Can't be summer on a Michigan blog without a picture of a basketball player who has put on an impressive amount of muscle. Memorial Day has just passed, so:

That is a big leap, one that should help him a lot as he gets drafted into playing some center this year.

To rein people in, stop reining them in. Via Get The Picture, GT coach Paul Johnson has a way to fix all the offer-not-offer stuff going on in college football currently:

Once you start your senior year of high school, you should be able to sign at any time,” Johnson said. “The schools have their 85 scholarships, and you can sign no more than 25 in a year. When you sign your limit, you’re through. If you sign a kid and he doesn’t qualify, you lose it for that year. We put the onus back on the kids with better grades and better students, and we stop all the craziness of the hat shows, soft commits, decommits and all that.”

You can't stop a hat show, but he's right on about that. My blue sky version of that goes slightly farther:

  • players can sign a non-binding LOI whenever they want
  • this LOI commits the school to offering a slot in their class
  • the kid can withdraw it at any time until Signing Day
  • he can only visit the school he committed to, he has unlimited contact with that school, and other coaches can't call him

It's a bad idea to lock people into commitments before the coaching carousel stops moving in mid-January, but that system gives both schools and players incentives to be up front with each other. Johnson:

“If a kid said he was committed, you hand him the papers. If he didn’t sign, you knew he wasn’t committed. The same thing on the schools. If the kid went in, and they said, ‘You’ve got an offer,’ and the kid wants to sign, (he’d) call their bluff as well."

As GTP says, hard to argue with that logic.

A bit on Hibbitts. I wonder if Michigan went with preferred walk-on Brent Hibbitts over Max Bielfeldt with their last scholarship this year. Once they missed on Jaylen Brown it seemed like they had a spot to keep a guy who is drawing interest from Nebraska and Indiana. Bielfeldt told reporters he would like to stay but that wasn't happening. Illogical, captain.

But then Michigan gets a 6'8" stretch four with mid-major offers. If Michigan thinks they could develop Hibbitts into a player given some time—and their track record is impressive in that department—and they need a carrot, guaranteeing him a scholarship for his first year isn't a bad one.

Etc.: John Calipari has goals man. Harbaugh regret in San Francisco. There are more quarterbacks now. Excellent outside zone primer from James Light. Highly recommend the first comment. Stauskas comes back for the summer. Dawkins and Donnal evaluated.


Roster Set, Let's Talk Minutes: Nominal Frontcourt

Roster Set, Let's Talk Minutes: Nominal Frontcourt Comment Count

Brian May 8th, 2015 at 12:05 PM

Previously: nominal backcourt

"Power" Forward


[Eric Upchurch]

Starter: Zak Irvin (Jr.)
Backups: Kam Chatman (So.), DJ Wilson (Fr.*), Moritz Wagner (Fr.)

On a roster that is suddenly brimming with depth this is the spot at which minutes are tightest. The competition here is not really between Irvin and the guys listed as backups—Irvin's playing 30+ minutes guaranteed—but between Kam Chatman, DJ Wilson, Moritz Wagner, and the two guys we covered as "small" forwards. There's about 50 minutes to divide up between the five players.

This preview projects that the bulk of those minutes go to Aubrey Dawkins and Duncan Robinson. Chatman shot 36/26 last year, Wilson is coming off a redshirt after looking pretty bad in 26 minutes before his injury, and Wagner is physically reminiscent of a freshman Caris LeVert. Dawkins was already a pretty good Big Ten player last year and is likely to improve; Robinson is shooting is shooting is shooting on a John Beilein team. They're getting minutes. These guys will get the squeeze.

It is reasonable to expect that one of the three candidates here steps forwards to become a quality bench player. Who that will be is anyone's guess. Chatman settled down late in the year, using his handle and passing ability to create some baskets. The coaches have been talking up Wilson's "productive" redshirt year… and I've also heard that he stepped it up in a big way after Wagner came in on an official visit and took it to him.

A redshirt for someone seems like a good idea. That would probably be Wagner… if he's not clearly better. Which is a possibility. I just don't know, man.

What I do know: Zak Irvin's going to be on the court a lot. Last year we asked him to become a "threes AND" guy. Progress in that department was dubious at best until a late surge forced upon him by the injury issues. Alex covered his remarkable uptick in things other than shots:



Even on the post-apocalypse roster it took several games for Irvin to grok the fact that he had to be Nik Stauskas now. When he did grasp it, he turned in the finest stretch of his Michigan career by some distance. It felt like he had grasped not only his role but how to create shots in the Beilein offense. While his role should be less prominent on next year's roster if only because he's no longer Dion Harris, the efficiency of possessions he uses promises to shoot up.

Irvin will be a big deal for other things, as well. He's going to be drawing guys Caleb Swanigan at (apparently) Purdue. Nigel Hayes at Wisconsin. And so forth and so on. Michigan has never been particularly good defensively at the 4 because of the guys they run out there at the spot; Irvin seems better able to hack it than just about anyone Beilein has had at Michigan. Glenn Robinson was pretty good as a sophomore. Other than that…? If Irvin can rebound at the clip he did late in the year and prove something other than weak spot on D, Michigan will benefit greatly.

Minute projection: Irvin 30, Miscellaneous 10.

[After the JUMP: Doyle, rebounding philosophies, and so forth.]


Unverified Voracity Refuses To Get Excited

Unverified Voracity Refuses To Get Excited Comment Count

Brian April 28th, 2015 at 12:28 PM

Jaylenbits? Maybe not quite but it is by far the most interesting thing going on right now. The latest:

  • Scout's Brian Snow has been saying this is a top two of UK and M for weeks and reiterated that, with Cal running third. Feels like the Bears would be a surprise but not an all-caps SHOCK.
  • Sam Webb did not offer a gut feeling on WTKA this morning but did reiterate that Michigan was very much in this recruitment; he's got an article coming up in the News on why that is. As a guy who's badgered him about this recruitment for months I can say that Sam is getting more hopeful as we move along here. He is not playing coy, though: nobody knows.
  • Kentucky offered 2015 6'6" wing Shaun Kirk yesterday just hours after he committed to NC State. Kentucky needs a lot of guys, yes; they already have a commitment from a 6'6" wing out of Chicago and are about to get a JUCO shooting guard, Mychal Mulder. A 247 Kentucky staff member suggested this was "more indicative" of where things are with Jaylen Brown than Cheick Diallo, the 6'9" power forward who is the other major prize Kentucky is after.
  • Even if Kentucky sweeps Kirk/Mulder/Diallo they will still have a spot for Brown, FWIW. Adding Jamal Murray, the Canadian combo guard who is considering reclassifying from 2016, and all those guys would fill them up but even then a guy like Marcus Lee could get Creaned.
  • Crystal Ball predictions continue to roll in for Michigan, including one from Jerry Meyer, 247's head of basketball recruiting. Michigan now has the last 13 picks, with 247 staffers at their Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, and UNC sites amongst those to pick M in the last couple days. Again, I wouldn't take this as gospel since this recruitment has been cloak and dagger. Somebody is hearing something.
  • College coaches don't seem to be among that group, as several said they have "no clue" and/or "no feel" for what Brown was going to do.
  • The OSU staffer told his message board that after some texts it looks like it's "headed UM's way" and that the Adidas thing was "huge". Steve Lorenz also mentioned something along those lines. I will call them Competent Germans for a week if this happens.
  • Rivals, which has been pessimistic the whole time, suggests that Kansas writers in their network are "beginning to believe" they have a real shot. That's at odds with what their 24/7 guys are saying.
  • There's no scheduled commitment time but people expect that that Brown will choose within the next couple weeks.

Meanwhile VA combo guard Kenny Williams is planning to take an official to Michigan. UNC and Virginia are the other schools he'll visit after using two of his officials earlier in the year; those schools and maybe VCU appear to comprise his list. Obviously if Brown does happen, Williams will no longer be an option.

Other basketball things. During the Hatch press conference, Beilein touched on a couple personnel matters. On DJ Wilson's position:

That is no surprise with Teske and maybe Davis scheduled to enter in 2016 (Davis may prep), but it is an indicator where Michigan stands this year. They may need a third C and it sounds like Wilson will be the guy playing Bielfeldt/Smotrycz when foul trouble looms.

On Spike:

That does not put talk about Spike redshirting to rest but it should at least dampen it considerably. Given the composition of the roster Michigan should want to add a point guard in 2016; a Spike redshirt prevents that. And having Albrecht available is a very good thing for a team with aspirations.

On other potential roster moves:

There was some speculation that Chatman might light out for greener pastures; happy that is not the case. He is still a guy who can develop into an excellent player. Just get that corner three down and get mean on the boards and we're in business.

1925 sounds exactly as fun as you would expect. The roaring 20s of football:

Several years later mud would obscure key numbers in the New York Stock Exchange, and the rest is history.

Nyet. Mike Spath reported a week or so ago that Michigan would look to add a grad transfer wide receiver or two over the coming months, space permitting, and thoughts naturally turned to Devin Lucien, the UCLA receiver who Michigan essentially turned down (they asked him to play D) days after Hoke took the job. Lucien is no longer available:

Ah well.

Cut to the chase. The Final Four—two spectacular games and Duke punking MSU—put the "COLLEGE BASKETBALL IS DEATH" meme to the sword, or it least it should have. But at the same time the tournament was going on, basketball was experimenting with a 30 second shot clock in their B- and C-tier postseason tournaments. Those increased scoring without a commensurate decrease in efficiency, so you may as well do it. It appears that people are going to do it:

Men's basketball is likely heading toward reducing its shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, NCAA rules committee chairman Rick Byrd told ESPN.com on Monday.

Byrd, the coach at Belmont, said a year ago that there was a 5 percent chance of the change happening, but he changed his tone Monday.

"Now there's a real decent chance," Byrd said. "It's pretty evident a lot more coaches are leaning that way. The opinion of coaches on the shot clock has moved significantly to reducing it from 35 to 30. And all indicators are pointing toward that."

Byrd also said there was a 90% chance college basketball would adopt the NBA charge circle. It does sound like other changes are on the horizon:

Byrd said coaches have told him the game is too physical and too rough. He said that will come up quite a bit in the meeting.

Byrd also said there will be discussion about altering the timeout rule to create better flow. He said he would like to mimic the rule in women's basketball where if a coach calls a timeout within 30 seconds of a media timeout, then that becomes the TV timeout.

He said too often coaches will call a timeout, knowing they are getting a media timeout 15 seconds later, and that creates an even longer downtime for the fans in the stands and the TV audience.

"You can have the last few minutes take 20 minutes," Byrd said. "It doesn't bother coaches, but it does for those watching at home and in the arena. We need to try to get the games within two-hour windows."

All of that sounds excellent. From a selfish perspective I think the shot clock reduction hurts Michigan since they use their time on offense so well, but if it's part of a package that includes improving offensive flow by reducing the Spartanizing of the game I'll take it in a hot second.

Now just implement my coaches-must-cut-off-a-digit-to-call-timeout plan and we are cooking with gas.

The unbundling. ESPN has sued Verizon for attempting an end-around of their contract. ESPN thinks it says Verizon can't offer "basic" packages without its family of channels; Verizon is like nah.

Verizon Fios has just shy of six million cable subscribers -- making it the fourth largest cable company and sixth largest cable or satellite company in the country. Verizon recently announced a new cheaper alternative to a basic cable package. That offering allows consumers to subscribe to a basic cable package for $59.99. Unlike Dish Network's recent Sling TV offering which includes ESPN in its basic tier, the new Verizon Fios package doesn't include ESPN in its basic tier pricing. Instead ESPN -- along with ESPN2, FS1 and NBC Sports Network -- are included in a sports tier package which consumers can purchase for the additional price of $9.99 a month. That is, it's possible to subscribe to Verizon's new cable package without receiving ESPN.

That's actually a great deal for that sports package since ESPN and ESPN 2 alone cost Verizon seven dollars. I am not a law-talking guy but I can't see how this is going to fly in the courts; it is an indicator of where we're going. Right now sports is being subsidized by people who don't care about it at all. In an a-la-carte world that no longer happens.

Then what? Then ESPN takes a bath, with sports leagues next on the chopping block. ESPN costs 6 bucks a month for a channel 20% of people are interested in; it will not cost thirty bucks a month in an a-la-carte world because a lot of people will forgo it. There's only so much you can do by strong-arming customers in an environment where ten bucks a month gets you a virtually infinite pile of content. The people who don't care will opt out.

This is why adding questionable fanbases to the Big Ten in the pursuit of short-term cable dollars was so incredibly foolish even beyond the deleterious effects of adding a bunch of games nobody in the world cares about. Every time I see someone hail Jim Delany as some kind of visionary I want to laugh/cry.

Etc.: Jack Harbaugh on satellite camps. Quinn on Hatch.


There's Always Next Year: Basketball

There's Always Next Year: Basketball Comment Count

Brian March 25th, 2015 at 12:13 PM

See also: hockey.

10467880993_5342607669_z (1)

a shruggie of a year [Bryan Fuller]


Despite a lot more playing time than anyone expected, Michigan seems content to allow Max Bielfeldt to graduate and move on. As a 6'7" center it seems unlikely he can feature on a team with major aspirations.

That is all.

And this isn't graduating yet but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that Austin Hatch may transition to a medical scholarship at some point.


The looming unresolved question of the offseason is "wither Caris LeVert?" LeVert would be a mid-to-late first round pick if he decided to enter the draft, but chatter from Scout and Rivals holds that LeVert seems to be favoring a return. I don't have to explain how huge that would be. Fingers will be crossed until the deadline.

Other attrition is unlikely. Zak Irvin's late diversification has not piqued the interest of NBA evaluators just yet; Derrick Walton has not shown the kind of meteoric rise necessary for a guy of his stature to leave early.



technically incoming is the best kind of incoming [Bryan Fuller]

Technically, nobody right now. Michigan has two guys who are functionally incoming, however. D-III transfer Duncan Robinson spent his redshirt year testing Nik Stauskas's practice marksmanship records and gathering hype:

"I texted Nik (telling him the record fell)," Beilein said of Robinson's record on WTKA 1050-AM on Thursday morning, adding that he didn't witness it personally. "(Stauskas) was happy, but he was also sad that the record went down. Duncan can really shoot the ball and as he learns the other parts of the game, he's tough to stop in practice." …

"He can help us against that zone anytime," said Beilein, who kept the record to himself, later saying, "I'm not going to disclose the numbers and maybe it will come out at some time, because I'm not sure I'm supposed to do that."

Robinson should be Just A Shooter, always a handy thing to have around. He could be something more.

Meanwhile, DJ Wilson took a redshirt after a second injury in a few months. Prior to that he'd offered hints that he could be an impact defender and skilled 4/5 man. He'd also struggled immensely in brief spurts of playing time against grown-ass men. (Not Eddie Johnson. Others.) Wilson was a solid four star recruit after an impressive senior season in California and could play either post-type position.

Michigan is also active in the spring recruiting period. Uber-prospect Jaylen Brown just took a visit, and Sam's saying there's a chance; German Moritz Wagner took a visit and seems set to choose Ann Arbor unless his pro team can convince him to change course; late-rising instate post Mike Edwards was just on campus; Seton Hall point guard transfer Jaren Sina, who Michigan recruited a bit a couple years ago, is listing Michigan amongst his options.

Edwards is 6'10" instate player who blew up as a senior, going from a lonely Akron offer to high-major offers from Nebraska and Georgia. Michigan is poking around but has not offered.

Will they? I'd be a bit surprised. Michigan has Donnal and Doyle plus 2016 7-footer Jon Teske; DJ Wilson may play the 5 for them as well. Even if you assume Wilson is a full-time 4, that would be a post per year for four straight. On the other hand, an incessant parade of senior Cs sounds okay by me.

Michigan has at least one slot from Bielfeldt's graduation and may have up to three depending on Hatch and LeVert. It seems like the most likely outcome here is Wagner, and only Wagner, comes.


After a year in which we fussed about auto-bench and a couple of walk-ons got meaningful playing time in most games, here is a happy about-face: it's difficult to find minutes for everyone if LeVert comes back.

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remember me? [Eric Upchurch]

POINT GUARD: Walton 25, Spike 15.

Hard to imagine Walton getting fewer than 30 a game even with Albrecht establishing himself a very good offensive player in trying circumstances last year, but 1) Walton only got 26 as a freshman when he was fully healthy and 2) all of the remaining minutes went to Spike.

Meanwhile Albrecht ended up playing over 30 this year and maintained a healthy 112 ORTG thanks to lots of assists and excellent shooting. There are going to be games and matchups where he may be the preferred option. When Michigan goes up against Bennie Parker or Lourawls Tum-Tum Nairn Jr, Spike's size deficiency isn't going to be, you know, deficient.

Walton could blow up a la Morris/Burke and relegate Albrecht to more bench time. The above is a best guess at a position that's relatively uncertain despite having two upperclassmen.


There will be some dual-point lineups. Spike's five minutes here are a representation of that. Past that, if LeVert's around he's playing a lot of minutes. Surprise!

MAAR looks like he might be the odd man out in the musical chairs of next year's lineup: his handle won't be needed to spot PG minutes, he didn't shoot anywhere near Dawkins's numbers, and he doesn't bring the rebounding others might. Ace pointed out on a podcast that MAAR showed hints that he might be a lockdown perimeter defender (D'Angelo Russell had a terrible game against him) and that this might be a ticket to playing time. That's probably his best hope for PT next year.


In the unhappy event LeVert decides on the draft, dual-point lineups increase, MAAR gets a healthy chunk of playing time, and Duncan Robinson finds more time as a floor-stretching kickout option even if that's the extent of his game.

It'll be disappointing if LeVert does enter after these positive noises, but this hypothetical SG lineup is far from ominous.

SMALL FORWARD: Dawkins 25, Robinson 15

Dawkins's late shooting surge—he shot 48% from 3 in Big Ten play as part of a larger improvement in his game has everyone hype, as does the addition of the alley-oop dunk to his arsenal late in the season. This minutes breakdown is looking at Dawkins as 3 defensively but envisions his role on offense similar to that of GRIII: shoot corner threes, cut to the basket for explosive dunks, drive off closeouts.

Meanwhile, Robinson is a wildcard. It seems like his floor is a knockdown shooter off the bench. Robinson hit 45% from three as a freshman at Williams, and if he's given similar quality shots there's no reason to expect a dropoff. Readiness won't be an issue after a redshirt year, especially since highlight videos of his year in D-III demonstrate he's running Beilein's offense down to the cut.

If Jaylen Brown does come to Michigan—knock on wood—he would suck up 30 minutes here, leaving Dawkins and Robinson in a situation similar to MAAR's.



"POWER" FORWARD: Irvin 30, Chatman 10, Wagner?

Irvin will be the non-post most suited to bang in the paint on defense and rebound so he goes here. Michigan hopes to get the playmaking ability he demonstrated late last year. He could be the alpha dog; that could be LeVert; hopefully we get something like the Trey/Tim/Nik or Nik/Caris/Derrick teams in which the shots are spread out such that focusing on any one player just makes his assist totals go up.

Chatman struggled for most of last year. Like Irvin and Dawkins, he did come on late with a number of skilled drives to the basket and the first flashes of the passing ability he was noted for in high school. It does not seem likely he will push through anyone to field extensive playing time in year two, but if he can start giving consistently quality minutes off the bench that would set the table for a starting job as a junior if Irvin's improvement carries him to the draft.

Wagner's not even on the team yet; if he comes he will compete at the 3 and 4. He is not coming to redshirt but he's super skinny so playing time in year one might be scant.

CENTER: Doyle 24, Wilson 8, Donnal 8

Bigs develop.  Repeat this mantra until you feel good.

Either Mark Donnal takes a quantum leap forward on defense or Ricky Doyle eats up most of the minutes in the post next year, fouls permitting. Doyle has a much larger frame than other options and held his own against the posts of the Big Ten. Since Doyle is also a year younger than Donnal you would expect him to develop more quickly.

Doyle has a terrific ability to finish around the basket and actual post moves. he needs to work on his hands, mostly, and reduce the foul rate that is inherent in project freshman bigs. He hedges pretty well and he gets a lot of offensive rebounds Meanwhile I wonder what the team defensive rebounding rates are with Doyle on the floor versus other options with shinier DREB numbers. Michigan is utilizing a boxout-focused style that often results in a guard skying for the rebound as Doyle butt-shoves his man out of the way.

In any case, I've been a bandwagon member since the start and think he will develop into a very solid option. He shot 61% this year in a finishing environment leagues tougher than that faced by any Michigan post since the Beilein effect kicked in; with more assisted buckets he could scrape Jordan Morgan efficiency levels while providing a bit more size on D.

Donnal, meanwhile, needs to spend the offseason gluing sand to his jaw and making mean faces in the mirror. (Also lifting weights but mostly the first two.) He averaged 6.4 fouls per 40 last year (Doyle and Bielfeldt were around 4), which was indicative of his overall struggles on D. Offensively he was efficient but low-usage.

Wilson could figure in at the 4; the guess here is that Michigan deploys him as a skilled, skinny 5, hoping his promising shot blocking makes up for what figures to be a rebounding deficiency.



FORWARD [Patrick Barron]

A major rebound beckons. This is a team that was a few points away from being 10-8, even 11-7 in the Big Ten despite not having the two guys expected to be stars before the year. If LeVert returns Michigan adds him, Walton, Robinson, Wilson, and possibly a recruit to that team. Meanwhile subtract only Bielfeldt.

Michigan also gets a year older all around. This should see them rise to approximately average in Kenpom's "experience" metric. Michigan has been hovering in Kentucky territory for a while now. It is a Beilein miracle that they've had the results they have despite that.

It'll be nice to have some guys who are a bit older. Michigan started Getting It on offense late last year as the posts realized when they should roll to the basket and the wings figured out their cuts. It wasn't just Zak Irvin knowing he should pass that helped his assist numbers go up; there were also options for him to pass to.

The LeVert version of this team can be really good, especially if Irvin is going to continue to progress and Walton regains the explosion he lost as a sophomore. They would be a Big Ten contender—and depending on what happens with the rest of the league possibly the favorite—and an easy Sweet 16 seed.

The No LeVert version of this team could still hit that ceiling but it seems more reasonable to project them as a second-tier Big Ten team that gets a seed from 5 to 9.


Basketbullets: Detroit

Basketbullets: Detroit Comment Count

Ace 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.


It's gonna be okay, everyone.


This Week's Obsession: Forrealfeldt?

This Week's Obsession: Forrealfeldt? Comment Count

Seth November 19th, 2014 at 2:49 PM


If you can do this, we've got minutes for you [Upchurch]

Question by Ace: The biggest question Michigan hoops faced heading into this season was how the center position would hold up, and the focus went almost entirely on the three freshmen. Now, against the first team M played with a pulse, Max Bielfeldt went off, to the point that HAHA SETH DAVIS "MAXIMUS" WE GET IT WE ALSO GOT IT THE FIRST TWO DOZEN TIMES YOU CAN STOP NOW.

ANYWAY, now that we've got a small sample to work with, how do you see the minutes at the five shaking out? Is Bielfeldt at all for real, and what have you seen from the freshmen that's also informing your opinion?


Why would there be an 'a' in it if it's pronounced with a short 'e'? This makes less sense than a 6'7 center. [Upchurch]

Seth: Max looked awesome, and bigs get better with time, but my expectations for him haven't changed from pre-season. Those expectations were for significant improvement toward a ceiling that's still below what we want as a starter. I think once Michigan's playing teams who aren't Division II or a Patriot League power in a down year, we'll look back on this as the Bielfeldt game. The standard comparison for a 6'7 center is Wes Unseld, but 6'7 in the 1970s is 6'9 today; Mitch McGary was more Unseld. When Bucknell could get the ball down low to their guy named Nana, Bielfeldt couldn't hang; he looked to give up three inches to a guy who's listed 6'9.

Donnal (apparently this is pronounced "Don-ELLE"?) again got the starter's run and I think he remains Option 1A. He's merely efficient and clearly the weak point of the starting five, but in an alternate universe where the NCAA isn't the dumbest organization on the planet I would expect Donnal to be getting minutes behind McGary.

After the non-conference you'll be seeing way more Doyle. He's definitely looked the most raw of the four fives. He also looks big--like as big as McGary—and the scattershot results of his minutes have pocked things Max and Donnal never will. The best case scenario for Michigan is to slowly ease Doyle into more minutes so he's a viable option against the larger Big Ten teams.

We saw a bit more Wilson this time, and nothing changed my feelings that he's a four. My guess is he's not seeing time there because Michigan desperately wants someone to emerge at the five. My guess is this is what's causing a lot of the slowness in progression that Beilein mentioned, because he's a freshman and learning to play center is like a five-year journey, not to mention Beilein's system and all its quirks. He does make some cool defensive plays, but the Smotrycz is strong with this one. Watching him trying to help down low then swing out out the wing gave me a renewed appreciation for the guys who could do that.

So post time:

Early season: 50% Donnal, 25% Bielfeldt, 25% Wilson/Doyle
Big Ten season: 41% Donnal, 40% Doyle, 19% Bielfeldt/Wilson.

[Jump for Ace disagrees with everybody]


Hoops Preview 2014-15: The Mailbag, Part Two

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

Ace November 12th, 2014 at 2:54 PM

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

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

Three days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hoops Preview 2014-15: The Mailbag, Part One

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

Ace November 11th, 2014 at 2:28 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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