LSU 77, Michigan 75

LSU 77, Michigan 75

Submitted by Ace on November 21st, 2017 at 2:35 AM


via Alejandro Zuniga

I'm starting this a little before 2 am, so this won't be a standard recap. Some scattered thoughts following a loss that may have a big impact on this season in several directions.

The schedule impact is rough. Michigan's tourney fortunes may end up tied closely to the fate of this LSU team if the Wolverines end up on the bubble. While LSU has looked good early on, they were terrible last year—this could wind up being a bad loss on the resume, though I suspect Tremont Waters is going to get the Tigers respectable soon. The bigger deal is having an opportunity to play Notre Dame replaced by a date with D-II Chaminade, a no-win game for Michigan. Instead of getting three quality opponents out of this week, they only get two.

The point guard situation is the team's biggest problem. Let's get the bad out of the way. While there were some flashes of talent from Eli Brooks, who canned a pull-up three and had a nifty drop-off assist to Moe Wagner, the point guard position is still in major flux. John Beilein put his trust in Brooks down the stretch; Brooks missed a couple crucial shots, got pickpocketed by Waters, and had a difficult time staying in front of Waters down the stretch.

Those are growing pains you expect from a freshman point guard. The problem is that Brooks is being relied upon in the first place. Zavier Simpson almost wasn't playable because of his passivity on offense—he didn't attempt a shot in ten minutes—and he had his troubles with Waters as well, picking up four fouls. Jaaron Simmons went 0/1 with an assist and a turnover in 15 minutes. Even if this team is going to run through the wings, which it sure looks like will be the case, they need way more production from this spot.

Duncan Robinson's defense is one, too. LSU mimicked Oregon's game plan from last year's tournament, isolating Robinson when they got the opportunity and attacking him off the dribble. To little surprise, this worked.

Far more concerning was Robinson's offense, which was all but nonexistent. He was unable to shake lanky 6'5" wing Brandon Sampson, scoring his only points on a transition three and getting nothing in the halfcourt. Michigan will be in trouble against bigger, more athletic teams if they're unable to find ways to free up Robinson for shots.

Charles Matthews looks like a star. There was still plenty of good in this game, none better than the performance of Matthews: a game-high 28 points (9/15 2-pt, 1/2 3-pt, 7/10 FT) with six offensive rebounds and two assists while playing his usual strong defense.

Michigan's offense was at its best when it ran through Matthews, especially when he paired with Moe Wagner (24 points, 6/7 2-pt, 3/7 3-pt) as a screener. The most effective play was the side pick-and-pop, which opened driving lanes for Matthews to sky for short jumpers and easy midrange opportunities for Wagner. It took the team most of the first half to find this offense, however, and they strayed from it at times in the second; I'm excited about the future of a team that makes this their identity.

Other quick notes:

  • While Jon Teske didn't make a huge splash tonight, he still looked good out there. He batted another offensive rebound back out for a reset, engulfed a shot off a drive, and dished out a pretty assist. His post passing looks like it could be special—it's already quite good.
  • This was a rough game for Ibi Watson, who chucked four shots, making only one, in eight minutes and giving up some easy blow-bys on defense. He's going to lose his minutes to Brooks and perhaps Jordan Poole, who got in for a minute tonight, if things don't get better fast. He may be a good player in practice but it's not translating to games.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had an uneven performance. He couldn't find the mark from the outside, missing all five of his threes. He was great at getting to the basket, however, and made 4-of-8 twos, including some tough baskets to keep it close down the stretch. MAAR was often the only Wolverine willing to assert himself, especially when Wagner and/or Matthews weren't on the floor.
  • Isaiah Livers had a putback and a steal in 12 minutes. I noticed some trouble on defense and on the boards, though, and that type of stuff is going to hold him back from getting more minutes unless Robinson goes into an extended slump.
  • Tomorrow's game against Chaminade tips off at 8 pm EST on ESPN 2.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Hoops Preview 2017-18: Wings

Hoops Preview 2017-18: Wings

Submitted by Ace on November 10th, 2017 at 9:57 AM


[Photos/graphic: Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Previously: Point Guards

The second part of the three-part position previews comes one day before Michigan opens the season, which means I'm way behind. While the season preview will continue into next week, I should probably post the first game info, right?

Oh, dammit, they scheduled it while the football game is almost certainly going to be in the fourth quarter, and you'll have to pay for a stream if you're not there.

WHAT: Michigan vs. North Florida
WHERE: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 pm EST
TV: BTN Plus ($, online stream only)

Uh, don't expect an instant recap, but I'll get some notes posted on this game once I get a chance to actually watch it.

Anyway, the wings. Michigan loses two starters, DJ Wilson and Zak Irvin. Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews, a similarly sized player with a similarly broad set of skills, is the clear replacement for Irvin. As for Wilson, well, can we interest you in some three-point shooting? Ask about the rest later.

[Hit THE JUMP for individual player previews.]

Hoops Preview 2017-18: Point Guards

Hoops Preview 2017-18: Point Guards

Submitted by Ace on November 8th, 2017 at 4:05 PM


[Photos/graphic: Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The team preview posts begin with Michigan's biggest hole to fill. Derrick Walton was nothing short of spectacular in his final season running the point for John Beilein.

Ever since Michigan picked up Ohio grad transfer Jaaron Simmons this spring, the expectation has been that he'd step into the starting spot. At least for the moment, however, this is an open competition with sophomore Zavier Simpson and freshman Eli Brooks. John Beilein at last week's media day:

“It’s all three. We have a scrimmage coming up Sunday. I have no idea who I’m gonna start, it could be any one of those three. That is the honest truth. I would expect that to be revolving a little bit and hopefully somebody wins it down the line. We might have a quarterback controversy.”

So far Beilein has gone with experience within his system; Simpson started last week's exhibition. While it looks like a two-man race between him and Simmons, expect to see all three point guards on the floor as Beilein does his usual early-season tinkering with lineup combinations.

"None of those guards came in and said ‘okay, I’m the guy.’ Maybe it’s because they’re playing so hard against each other, really. There is a war going on out there every day and it’s really good."

Beilein is certainly hoping someone steps to the forefront. As Michigan fans well know, his best teams in Ann Arbor have all featured excellent point guard play.

[Hit THE JUMP for individual player previews.]

Hoops Mailbag: Next Year

Hoops Mailbag: Next Year

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


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

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

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

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


Can X make the leap? [Bryan Fuller]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basketbullets: Limiting Happ and Hayes, Late-Game Breakdowns, 2017 Class Check-In

Basketbullets: Limiting Happ and Hayes, Late-Game Breakdowns, 2017 Class Check-In

Submitted by Ace on January 20th, 2017 at 9:47 AM

The Post Defense Was... Good?


Michigan put up a surprisingly strong fight in the post. [Patrick Barron]

I don't think I was alone in thinking Wisconsin, boasting two strong post scorers in Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes, would crush Michigan in the paint on Tuesday night. Instead, Michigan limited the Happ/Hayes duo to shooting a combined 8-for-20 on two-pointers with six assists and four turnovers; they were the two least-efficient players among Badgers to play at least 12 minutes.

I went back through the game and pulled clips of every Wisconsin possession that went through the post. While Happ missed a couple makeable shots, Michigan generally played strong post defense, with both DJ Wilson and Moe Wagner standing out for the good:

Given how Michigan has played defense this year, the first thing that jumps out is their effort; they scrapped for post position, didn't give up on plays, and hit the deck for rebounds.

Wilson gave up an easy bucket to Hayes early when he got caught napping on a cut (0:29 mark) and couldn't recover in time to deny prime post position. He otherwise did quite well; he blocked Happ twice and forced a Hayes miss shortly after the aforementioned bucket by establishing good position and forcing him to spin for a tough left-handed attempt.

While Wagner wasn't quite as strong in the post, which allowed Happ to get good position on him multiple times, he used his hands quite well to disrupt Happ on the way up and pulled off the subtle "step in and bump the guy with your chest" thing that often throws off shots and rarely draws a whistle (0:39, 2:23). A couple paint baskets weren't on the bigs, either; I didn't include Vitto Brown getting isolated on Duncan Robinson, which ended in a layup (surprise!), and on the final clip Robinson rotates over to the open big way too late.

The notable exception to M's strong interior defense: Mark Donnal, who gave up an and-one and fouled Happ on the floor just before he could give up another on his two post defense possessions before getting yanked.

In his lone opportunity, Jon Teske gave up a second-chance bucket when he lost contact with Happ after an offensive rebound. I'd still like to see more of him out there; Donnal was physically overwhelmed on defense and once again a non-factor on offense, so Beilein might as well let his behomoth freshman big man work through his mistakes—Teske is much more likely to display significant in-season improvement than a guy in his fourth year in the program.

Michigan still had their fair share of defensive breakdowns, which I'll get to momentarily. That said, this was an encouraging performance on that end of the floor, especially in the paint. If the Wolverines can replicate that level of effort on defense while getting offensive outputs like they have in their non-Wisconsin Big Ten games, they can make a late tourney push. It's a huge if, of course, but it's hard not to feel better about this team after Tuesday night despite the loss.

[Hit THE JUMP for the aforementioned breakdowns, highlights of a couple 2017 commits, and more.]

Hoops Hello: Eli Brooks

Hoops Hello: Eli Brooks

Submitted by Ace on July 20th, 2016 at 2:20 PM


[Photo: GametimePA.com]

Spring Grove (PA) point guard Eli Brooks grew up a Villanova fan and picked up an offer from the defending national champions last week, one of a handful of high-level offers Brooks added during the July evaluation period. Michigan, in need of a 2017 point guard, also offered during that time, and despite not having homecourt advantage, they landed a commitment from Brooks last night.

“(Villanova) was his dream school ever since he was a little boy,” said Brooks’ AAU coach Tony Sagona. “He just felt a better feeling about Michigan.  He really loved Coach Beilein.”

...

“He picked up the offer probably about two weeks ago,” said Sagona. “He was up there a month ago and he loved the school, loved Coach Beilein.  I’ve known coach a long time.  I’ve been doing this 35 years, so I’ve had dealing with coach… his honesty, his integrity, and his reputation. Also his assistant coach (Billy Donlon) did a great job.  "

Brooks is the second commit in the 2017, joining shooting guard Jordan Poole. His commitment leaves Michigan with two open scholarships for the 2017-18 season. As Brendan Quinn covers at MLive, this is Billy Donlan's first major recruiting win as an assistant at Michigan.

GURU RATINGS

Scout Rivals ESPN 247 247 Comp
NR PG NR PG NR PG 4*, 90, #23 PG,
#112 Ovr
NR PG

Based on the recent influx of offers, Brooks shouldn't be mostly unranked for long. Thus far, 247 is the only site that's rated Brooks, placing him on the lower end of the four-star spectrum—notably, two spots in the PG rankings behind offeree and recent Wisconsin commit Brad Davison. Meanwhile, ESPN has yet to even give Brooks a profile.

Rivals, Scout, and 247 all list Brooks at 6'1" and 165-175 pounds.

SCOUTING

Brian posted this when Brooks committmed last night but it remains the most comprehensive bit of scouting on him—here's a full eval from City of Basketball Love:

Strengths: In his area, Brooks is known as a scorer, putting up over 25 ppg for Spring Grove High School as a junior. However, his biggest strength is his ability to run a team. Brooks plays the game at a great pace. He never allows the defense to speed him up, and makes his teammates better every time he touches the floor. His jump shot has continued to improve and he his now knocking down outside shots on a consistent basis.

Weaknesses: One concern for Brooks heading into the summer will be his lateral quickness. During the high school season he is not challenged to defend on a consistent basis; it will be interesting to see during the AAU season how he keeps more athletic guards in front of him.

Overall: A super-stock riser over the last few months, Brooks' amazing 2016 summer was capped off with a commitment to Michigan. But he's proven he's a true high-major guard of late -- he's completely unflappable, limits his mistakes as well as anybody around, and is a knockdown shooter from all over the court who also makes his teammates better both in his style of play and his leadership. Has been a winner at every level and will only make a program better at the high-major level, even if he's not a four-year starter.

While Brooks's high school competition isn't top-notch, he performs like you'd expect from a high-major prospect at that level:

“He’s very smooth,” PennLIve.com’s Patrick Strohecker told TheWolverine.com last month. “He’s not physically imposing, but he’s very quick and, at least locally, he dominates games, as he should be doing. He’ll need to put some weight on at the D-I level, but right now, he has no problem taking over games and dominating them.”

The rest of what's out there on Brooks comes from his coaches. His AAU coach gave a nice overview of his game to Sam Webb:

What had the coaches buzzing most about Brooks is ability to score, but desire to get others involved first.  In other words he is the quintessential pass first, shoot second point guard.

“He has a great control of the game,” Sagona said.  “He does nothing that he shouldn’t do as a point guard. No extra dribbles, no toying with the ball, goes by people, plays defense, can shoot… tremendously athletic.”

Brooks's father is his high school coach, and they've worked together to develop his scoring ability on multiple levels:

“He’s a 41 percent three-point shooter, 79 in 29 games, but his midrange game is where we start,” his dad said. “He has a nice 15-foot pull-up. We knew his scoring had to be at three levels, so he can pull up, hit the three and get to the free throw line. He’s an 82 percent free throw shooter and shot over 150 free throws, and he averaged a double double with rebounds. Coach Beilein actually asked if he could dunk, and he said, ‘coach, that’s not a problem.’ He’s athletic. Coach Beilein was surprised by that.

“When you’re not on the [high level] AAU circuit there’s little time for people to really see you, but when they do … he’s not always the flashiest, but he’s making everybody better every time out there. We won’t rely on him shooting 25 jumpers, but he’ll make a mediocre kid a good player.”

Brooks has a pretty midrange floater that shows up several times in his highlights; it's a shot that could become a major weapon as he encounters defenses that provide more resistance at the rim.

OFFERS

Brooks added most of his major offers in the July evaluation period, including those from Kansas State, NC State, Ohio State, Temple, and Villanova. He also held offers from American, Brown, Bucknell, Colgate, Delaware, Drexel, George Mason, High Point, La Salle, Lehigh, Monmouth, Penn, and Rice. The quality of his offers has obviously taken a leap of late.

STATS

Brooks averaged 24.7 points per game as a junior, leading Spring Grove to their first league title since 1971 while shooting 41% on three-pointers and 82% on free throws. I haven't been able to find AAU stats for Brooks, who plays for the Jersey Shore Warriors, a lower-level AAU squad without a shoe partnership that's nonetheless produced some talented players over the years:

“(Brooks is a) character kid,” said Sagona.  “He is tremendously happy with his choice.  He is ecstatic about his choice. I just think that he is a great character kid and he is a great player.  We’ve had some really good players come through our program…  Matty Carroll (Notre Dame, 10 years in the NBA), Troy Murphy (Notre Dame, 12 years in the NBA), Kyle McAlarney (Notre Dame, current Euro League player), Darrun Hilliard (Villanova and the Detroit Pistons)… he is right up there with those guys.”

VIDEO

Dylan edited some highlights from the recent evaluation period:

Sophomore Spring Grove highlights:

Interview with some highlights from last summer.

PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE

There's not much projection necessary here: Michigan needed a point guard to join Xavier Simpson at the position following Derrick Walton's graduation, and Brooks fills that need. He's well aware of the situation he's walking into:

In that regard, Brooks said he's comfortable coming in behind Simpson because, at the end of the day, he's comfortable at Michigan.

"I think it's tough to walk in and be a starter at any level, but especially when there's a sophomore guard and you're going to be a freshman," Eli Brooks said. "But I'm not really concerned about starting. I just want to continue to get better and push the guys who are ahead of me."

Unless Simpson fails to live up to expectations, Brooks should be the primary backup at the point for three years before taking over as the starter as a senior. If he proves capable of guarding two-guards—and that should be the case, at least against smaller teams—then he should be able to play alongside Simpson in the same backcourt in certain situations.

UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS

Michigan has their point guard, which likely spells the end of their pursuit of Nojel Eastern. With two scholarship spots remaining, the focus will turn to adding a couple wings, with one of those being a prospect who can play the four in Beilein's system. Four-star OH F Kyle Young and four-star IN F Jaren Jackson both hold offers and could slot in at the four. Five-star wings Brian Bowen and Kris Wilkes are the top overall targets on the board, and three-star in-state wing Jamal Cain also holds an offer.

Hoops Hello: Eli Brooks

Hoops Hello: Eli Brooks

Submitted by Brian on July 19th, 2016 at 9:52 PM

Michigan picked up a commitment from 2017 PA PG Eli Brooks, a guy who's blown up on the recruiting trail as of about two days ago, when he fielded Ohio State and Villanova offers. Brooks in fact called Villanova his "dream school" under two weeks ago, which… uh… I don't think that word means what you think it means. As a man who has a crystal ball vote I sympathize with the folks with a big red X next to their Nova projections.

Brooks was flying under the radar for a reason:

Brooks is a 6'1" point guard from Spring Grove, Pa. who plays for the non-sponsored Jersey Shore Warriors AAU program (alongside Villanova Football verbal Kyle McCloskey). Because the Warriors don't play on one of the major AAU circuits, Brooks has mostly flown under the radar. A strong AAU season has led to more offers, with Kansas State and NC State jumping in the mix recently.

City Of Basketball Love has a scouting report:

Strengths: In his area, Brooks is known as a scorer, putting up over 25 ppg for Spring Grove High School as a junior. However, his biggest strength is his ability to run a team. Brooks plays the game at a great pace. He never allows the defense to speed him up, and makes his teammates better every time he touches the floor. His jump shot has continued to improve and he his now knocking down outside shots on a consistent basis.

Weaknesses: One concern for Brooks heading into the summer will be his lateral quickness. During the high school season he is not challenged to defend on a consistent basis; it will be interesting to see during the AAU season how he keeps more athletic guards in front of him.

Overall: A super-stock riser over the last few months, Brooks' amazing 2016 summer was capped off with a commitment to Michigan. But he's proven he's a true high-major guard of late -- he's completely unflappable, limits his mistakes as well as anybody around, and is a knockdown shooter from all over the court who also makes his teammates better both in his style of play and his leadership. Has been a winner at every level and will only make a program better at the high-major level, even if he's not a four-year starter.

Ace will have a full Hello post tomorrow.