Michigan 59, Texas 52

Michigan 59, Texas 52

Submitted by Ace on December 12th, 2017 at 11:56 PM

It may have been ugly. Texas may have been shorthanded. For Michigan, though, tonight's 59-52 road victory over the Longhorns capped a huge week for their tournament chances.

While a defensive slugfest wasn't the unlikeliest scenario, I don't think anybody expected this game to play out the way it did. Both teams struggled to hit from beyond the arc, but Michigan scored more efficiently than a tall Texas squad on two-pointers, especially as they built a 12-point halftime lead. The Longhorns led 2-0 at the under-16 timeout; they wouldn't lead again. Facing five-star skyscraper Mo Bamba, Michigan won the battle of the boards.

After the achingly slow start, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman got the team rolling with a corner three and never looked back. The Wolverines, especially MAAR, got more confident attacking the basket even with Bamba protecting the rim, and they were able to hit a surprising number of tough shots. Of Michigan's 14 first-half field goals, 12 were two-pointers.

The lead didn't remain comfortable for long as Texas made multiple second-half surges. Duncan Robinson and Isaiah Livers both had trouble slowing down Dylan Osetkowski, who led the way for Texas with 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting. He was the only Texas player who could maintain any sort of effeciency on offense, however; the rest of the team went 10-for-25 on twos and 3-for-16 from downtown.

After Osetkowski went on an early second-half tear, Michigan answered with an 11-0 run spearheaded by Charles Matthews and Moe Wagner. Shortly after the run ended, however, Wagner rolled his right ankle over Bamba's foot, and he was quickly ruled out of the game. Seemingly given new life, Texas went on a 7-0 run of their own to close the gap to seven.

As he had all night, MAAR came up big, though perhaps a tad lucky; his banked-in three-pointer ended the run and all but ended the game with 4:53 remaining. He'd add one more tough bucket and a free throw to keep UT at bay, finishing with team-highs of 17 points and ten rebounds.

After beating UCLA and Texas in back-to-back games, Michigan gets a few tune-up contests before conference play starts in January, beginning with a matchup against Detroit on Saturday. While the schedule would allow Michigan to avoid rushing Moe Wagner back, his injury thankfully doesn't sound too serious anyway:

Jon Teske played 18 minutes because of Wagner's injury and early foul; he was a defensive presence, blocking two shots and adding a steal. While he failed to make an offensive impact, he covered much of the gap with his defense, continuing an encouraging run of play for him. Zavier Simpson had another solid performance, getting into the lane for a couple tough buckets, dishing out four assists, and once again earning John Beilein's trust to handle crunch-time minutes. Jordan Poole only played eight minutes but made both of his shots, a tough transition bucket and a step-in jumper off a nifty move at the arc.

So long as Wagner's injury doesn't have a significant impact, this was a huge night for the boys in blue. The victory has already moved Michigan up five spots on KenPom, and for now they should be on the right side of the bubble in early tourney projections. Even if Texas collapses without leading scorer Andrew Jones, which looks like a distinct possibility, the Wolverines just came through a tough five-game stretch with a 3-2 record, strengthened their resumé, and got a better idea of the rotation going forward. Now Beilein gets a few games to tinker before Big Ten play resumes.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Basketbullets: Can This Team Be Good?

Basketbullets: Can This Team Be Good?

Submitted by Ace on December 6th, 2017 at 2:48 PM


[James Coller]

After the collapse at Ohio State on Monday, there's been quite a bit of consternation among Michigan fans about the course of the season. The Wolverines sit at 7-3, and they're only 2-3 against viable competition, with their best win coming against the #82-ranked team on KenPom. If they don't at least come away with a split in their upcoming games against UCLA and Texas, there's good reason to worry about how this team is going to compile a worthy tournament resumé.

To get an idea of how the season could play out, I wanted to take a look at how John Beilein's Michigan teams have improved (or not) over the course of the season. I'm an idiot, however, so thankfully our very own Alex Cook had the same thought and could actually put it into action. Alex used the game score metric from Bart Torvik*—a 0-100 score for each game based on adjusted efficiency margin—to map out the in-season progression of Beilein's teams. This, for example, is last season's graph. The blue line tracks the individual game scores; the black line is a five-game running average; the gray line is the overall season trend. As you certainly guessed, the 2016-17 graph shows a great deal of late-season improvement:


Waltoning, The Graph

The first question that I had: was last year more the exception or the rule? Alex went through each season to get the answer. Positive numbers show in-season improvement, negative the opposite:

I'm about to get into much more detail, but the initial takeaway is we can't assume that Beilein is going to turn things around this season without a couple things breaking the right way. Using the above as a guide, it's time to take a look at the potential ways this season plays out.

[Hit THE JUMP for season scenarios with past precedent.]

Basketbullets: Matthews-Wagner Ballet, Point Guard Roulette, Two Bigs?

Basketbullets: Matthews-Wagner Ballet, Point Guard Roulette, Two Bigs?

Submitted by Ace on November 29th, 2017 at 3:33 PM

If you're looking for the UNC preview, click here or scroll down.

Charles Matthews, Point Guard


No point guard? Just run the offense through the wing. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Charles Matthews was nothing short of spectacular in the Maui Invitational. The only thing that could slow him down was cramps, which hit in the third game in three days after Matthews had posted back-to-back 20+ point, 8+ rebound, 3+ assist games.

If anything, those numbers undersell Matthews's impact. This offense now runs through him, much like the 2014 team's went through Nik Stauskas while the team broke in a freshman point guard. In the loss to LSU, Matthews took on 40% of the team's possessions with remarkable efficiency: 28 points on 22 shot equivalents, six offensive rebounds, three assists, and only two turnovers. While the final result may not have been desirable, Michigan established their offensive identity in this game. Once again, the two-man game with Moe Wagner will be the centerpiece of the offense, this time with Matthews running the show.

Early on, Michigan used a side screen to get Matthews going left-to-right into the paint, where he could either pull up for a short jumper or dump it off to Wagner for a jumper:

Like the Walton-Wagner duo, the two showed an innate ability to read the defense and make the right play off the screen, whether originating at the top of the key or off to the side. Matthews found Wagner with a nifty lob on the roll to set up an and-one; Wagner flipped a high screen to get a wide open jumper; when the roll wasn't open, Wagner cleared out so Matthews could isolate his defender and draw a shooting foul off the drive; when Wagner popped out for a three-point attempt, Matthews crashed the boards and cashed in with a putback.

What's been most impressive, and pleasantly surprising, is Matthews's court vision and passing out of the pick-and-roll. According to Synergy, Michigan ranks in the 88th percentile in pick-and-roll derived offense when Matthews is the ballhander, and he's currently providing more value as a passer (87th percentile) than a finisher (69th). This play jumped out to me the most from last week. Wagner slips the initial screen as VCU aggressively doubles Matthews. When the defender in the corner slides down to prevent a Wagner layup opportunity, Matthews throws a really difficult pass to Duncan Robinson over the double:

If that pass is late or even a bit off-target, VCU can recover to contest Robinson's shot. Instead, it's an easy three points because Matthews puts it right on him.

[Hit THE JUMP for the Matthews-Wagner off-ball two-man game and more.]

Michigan 68, VCU 60

Michigan 68, VCU 60

Submitted by Ace on November 22nd, 2017 at 7:48 PM

John Beilein will express his gratitude for the refs tomorrow.

Moe Wagner may have been on the wrong end of some questionable calls for most of the evening. With the game knotted at 60 and under 90 seconds to play, however, he got away with an obvious foul while stealing the ball from VCU's Jonathan Williams.

Wagner, who'd never been able to get into the rhythm of the game, finished a three-point play at the other end, then coolly knocked one down from beyond the arc to put the nail in the coffin. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's unnecessary—but consequential, given the game's Michigan -7 betting line—layup just before the buzzer gave the Wolverines an 11-0 run to close out a much-needed win.

That final six-point flurry represented half of Wagner's point total. As you might imagine given that stat, Michigan didn't have a stellar offensive performance, especially as Charles Matthews struggled to stay on the floor in the second half with cramps—and struggled to make free throws (1/6 in the half) when he did.

Michigan didn't have the Matthews-Wagner two-man game going like they did in the first two games in Maui and the halfcourt offense suffered mightily for it. The Wolverines shot 5-for-20 from beyond the arc and nine of their ten turnovers came after halftime. They managed to make up for that, at least for tonight, with a 16-0 edge in fast break points.

While it wasn't pretty, Michigan needed this victory badly to get out of Maui with a 1-1 record against D-I teams and not saddle themselves with potential resumé-hurting losses. After a home tune-up against UC Riverside, they'll face their toughest test of the young season next week when they travel to Chapel Hill. Without more consistent production in the halfcourt, that UNC game could get ugly.

[Hit THE JUMP for more notes and the box score.]

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.]

Basketbullets: Big Nasty Edition

Basketbullets: Big Nasty Edition

Submitted by Ace on November 20th, 2017 at 2:37 PM

It's Teske Time


[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Michigan heads into this week's Maui Invitational with a 3-0 record in body-bag games. There's a good chance you haven't seen too much of this team yet; two of those games were on the dreaded subscription-only BTN-Plus stream.

As expected, this young team still has a lot to figure out. Neither Zavier Simpson nor Jaaron Simmons have taken control of the point guard position. Charles Matthews's scoring, and seemingly his confidence in his jumper, has waxed and waned. The offense, as it often does early in the season under John Beilein, looks disjointed, and the team is connecting on only 32.9% of their three-pointers.

We do, however, have a definitive answer to one looming preseason question. Jon Teske removed all doubt about his standing on the depth chart with a ten-point, 11-rebound outburst against Southern Miss, going a perfect 5-for-5 from the field in 15 KenPom MVP-worthy minutes. Competition caveats abound, of course—bold prediction: Teske doesn't shoot 100% in most games—but USM at least fielded a 6'11", 260-pound center. Here's Teske eating that center alive:

Before getting into the serious analysis, some Small Sample Size Theater with Teske's early-season stats:

  • He's shooting 100% from the field and 80% from the line with an 83.3 free throw rate.
  • He's posting a 19.3 offensive rebound % and 37.9 defensive rebound %.
  • His 7.7% block rate would be Michigan's best over a full season since Ekpe Udoh in 2009-10.
  • According to Synergy, Teske has used nine possessions, including assists. Michigan is averaging 2.11 points on those possessions.

Pretty, pretty good. 

[Hit THE JUMP for a bunch more Teske GIFs, Z's lockdown defense, and more.]

Michigan 61, Southern Miss 47

Michigan 61, Southern Miss 47

Submitted by Ace on November 16th, 2017 at 9:46 PM


Big Nasty. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

In an effort to speak a new identity into existence this offseason, Michigan's coaches and players started calling sophomore Jon Teske "Big Nasty." They hoped that would replace "Big Sleep," the moniker Teske picked up during a quiet freshman year as a little-used third-stringer.

Now Moe Wagner's primary backup, Teske was every bit Big Nasty tonight against Southern Miss, tallying his first career double-double with ten points and 11 rebounds. The seven-footer made all five shots from the field and grabbed five offensive boards. He did all this in only 15 minutes, earning a standing ovation when he exited in the game's waning moments.

Without Teske's breakout performance, this could've been another uncomfortably close game against an overmatched opponent. After Michigan jumped out to an early 9-2 lead at the first TV timeout, USM fought their way back as—stop me if you've heard this before—Michigan couldn't can open looks while their opponents made an unsustainable percentage of their three-point shots. Fittingly, an off-balance pull-up triple by Tyree Griffin fell at the buzzer to give the Golden Eagles a one-point halftime lead.

Michigan still looked disjointed to open the second half, trading the lead with USM until Teske checked in with 13 minutes to play. He was a much-needed spark. His defensive rebound led to a quick Duncan Robinson three in transition to give M the lead for good; he'd cap a 13-0 run with a putback and a smooth baseline jumper. USM didn't threaten again.


MAAR finished with a team-high 14 points. [Campredon]

It was the third straight game that Michigan couldn't dominate a body-bag opponent. Their expected stars again underwhelmed. Wagner posted a quiet 12 points and six rebounds. Charles Matthews went scoreless in the first half, finished with six points and two turnovers, and looked unsure of when to assert himself. Point guards Zavier Simpson and Jaaron Simmons didn't make a shot from the field, though Simmons at least dealt out five assists, including a slick cross-court feed for a Matthews corner three that blew the game wide open.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was a notable exception, grinding out ten first-half points when the offense was struggling. He'd finish with a team-high 14 points and gave out five assists; his ability to make something out of nothing in late-clock situations proved critical.

Michigan will face a significant step up in competition with three games in three days at next week's Maui Invitational, starting with LSU on Monday. While the early portion of the season hasn't been pretty, there's reason to believe a simple correction in shooting luck, much like what occurred midway through last season, will have this team looking dangerous. Through three games, the Wolverines are making 32.9% of their three-pointers, even though their looks have been of decent quality; opponents are hitting a scorching 48.1%, even though the perimeter defense hasn't looked nearly that awful.

There are still problem areas. Michigan needs more production from their point guards, and Matthews looks alarmingly gun-shy for a player who's supposed to be one of the team's top two scorers. Teske's emergence, however, answers at least one big question, and could even give John Beilein some added lineup flexibility down the road.

Stick around, Big Nasty.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

This Week's Obsession: Hoopsters Of Intrigue

This Week's Obsession: Hoopsters Of Intrigue

Submitted by Ace on October 25th, 2017 at 11:57 AM

THIS ARTICLE HAS A SPONSOR: If you haven’t yet talked to Nick Hopwood, our MGoFinancial Planner from Peak Wealth Management, hopefully his appearance on last week's live podcast convinced you that he's the right guy to help you plan your financial future. As we learned last week, he saw well before many that Joe Paterno had become a useless figurehead; that same perceptiveness can be utilized to bolster your bank account.

Our deal is Nick is the guy I go to for financial strategies, and he gets to ask us Michigan questions on your behalf. Anytime it’s a Nick question, we’ll let you know. Anytime you’ve got a financial question, let Nick know.

-------------------------------

Legal disclosure in tiny font: Calling Nick our official financial planner is not intended as financial advice; Nick is an advertiser who financially supports MGoBlog. MGoBlog is not responsible for any advice or other communication provided to an investor by any financial advisor, and makes no representations or warranties as to the suitability of any particular financial advisor and/or investment for a specific investor.

--------------------------------


Jaaron Simmons is expected to take over Derrick Walton's role. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Nick's Question: Basketball media day is today, which gives us an excuse to talk about something besides football. Let's do that.

Which Basketball Player Are You Most Interested To See As The Season Starts?

Ace: You might expect me to say Charles Matthews, and the Kentucky transfer’s development since his freshman year is certainly of paramount importance to the success of this team. That said, I’m going with Ohio grad transfer Jaaron Simmons, who’ll be tasked with replacing the majority of Derrick Walton’s possessions as the team’s lead guard.

The key to last year’s offense was the high screen tandem of Walton and Moe Wagner, who found a way to beat opponents no matter how they tried to defend it. According to Synergy, Walton graded out in the 86th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball handler in 149 possessions; the only returning Wolverine to use 50 such possessions last season was Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who graded out in the 31st percentile. Zavier Simpson showed good passing ability on limited possessions but his lack of an outside shooting threat is going to seriously limit him — opponents are going to sag off and dare him to shoot until he proves he can make them pay.

Given an enormous workload on a team with limited talent, Simmons played with surprising efficiency last year, reaching the 65th percentile as a P&R ball handler in 228 possessions, the 18th-most in the country. (Others in the top 25: Jawun Evans, Melo Trimble, Tai Webster, Bryan McIntosh, Corey Webster, Nate Mason.) He ranked in the 70th percentile in offense derived from pick-and-roll situations even though he played with substandard (47th percentile) roll men; Wagner graded out in the 90th percentile.

Simmons is very capable as both a scorer and passer, and Michigan’s surrounding talent should allow him to play with greater efficiency than he did as a heavy-usage player on a mid-major squad. (Ohio’s #2 option last year was MSU castoff Kenny Kaminski.) While Matthews is the key to Michigan’s defensive success, Simmons is the newcomer who’s best equipped to keep Beilein’s offense scoring up to its lofty standard.

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

This Week's Obsession: Wagner or Wilson?

This Week's Obsession: Wagner or Wilson?

Submitted by Ace on May 19th, 2017 at 3:04 PM


Pick one. Not so easy, right? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

If you can only choose one, which player would you rather have back next year: Moe Wagner or DJ Wilson?

Ace: The genesis of this question was a lengthy twitter thread that had some good points on both sides. While it’s close, I lean just barely to the side of Wagner, who I think is a better college player than pro prospect; Wilson is the opposite. While you’re certainly sacrificing some defense to keep Wagner, the consistently efficient offensive outputs are tough to pass up, especially since he showed last year he can create for himself, something the team sorely needs sans Walton (especially) and Irvin.

Wilson is a bit too much of a wild card; he can put it all together and make this conversation look stupid, or he can essentially be the guy he was last year—he’d need to dramatically change his approach to be the lead guy we’d want him to be.

BiSB: I agree that Wagner is a better college player. But at the same time, I think Wilson leaving would leave a bigger hole in the lineup. Teske and Davis are largely untested, but at least they are extant. Unless Wagner is going to play minutes in a two-big sort of lineup, you're looking at Duncan Robinson playing a ton of minutes at the four. And while his defense has gotten somewhat better, and you can get away with it against certain types of teams, that's still a glaring hole in the defense.

Brian: This question depends heavily on how much those guys improve from last year, when they were way behind Mark Donnal. To be honest, I'd expect a Wilson-no-Wagner team to have DJ at the 5 for 20 minutes a game. Late last season that was almost already the case and small ball is all the rage at every level of basketball.

Ace: The defensive impact is what keep this close for me. Wilson is more versatile positionally, quicker, and a better rim protector. But I’m also not sold on Teske or Davis being a better option than more Robinson; I’m not sure either packs enough offensive oomph to make that a desirable swap. There are lineups than can run Robinson off the court, but there are also lineups that can probably run Teske, who’s rather ponderous, off the court as well.

BiSB: Perhaps my assumption that John Beilein could turn five confused baby ducklings into a top-25 KenPom offense is too strong.

But I do feel like DJ is what gives Michigan flexibility at both ends of the court.

[Hit THE JUMP as the debate continues, now with Synergy numbers.]

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.]