The All-Beilein Teams: Off The Bench Comment Count

Ace April 13th, 2017 at 3:23 PM

[Bryan Fuller]

John Beilein has spent ten seasons in Ann Arbor. As of the most recent, he's the winningest coach in program history with 215. He snapped Michigan's post-sanction tournament drought in 2009, the first of seven NCAA appearances with the Wolverines, three of which have extended at least into the second weekend.

In recognition of the above, as well as the need for offseason #content, I've put together a series of All-Beilein teams, inspired by this twitter post and the ensuing conversation. My guidelines:

  1. I'm attempting to put together the best possible lineups, which isn't necessarily the same as picking the best individual players at each spot.
  2. I'm choosing individual player vintages (i.e. 2013 Trey Burke). A player can only be chosen once for each category, but different player years (i.e. freshman bench gunner 2014 Zak Irvin and well-rounded senior 2017 Zak Irvin) can be eligible for separate categories.
  3. Eligibility for certain categories, like today's best bench players, may be slightly fudged because of the limited pool of players.

I'm not putting too many constraints on myself for this exercise since the point is to let our imaginations run wild. Without further ado, here's the first All-Beilein team, which wasn't easy to put together given Beilein's tendency to roll with a tight rotation: the All-Bench squad.


The YMCA Scoop. [Fuller]

We start with the fudged guidelines right away, as Albrecht ended up starting 18 games in this particular season because of Derrick Walton's foot injury. This was the best version of Spike, however, and any of the previous versions would also have earned this spot; between injuries, early draft departures, and the occasional recruiting miss, depth at the point has been hard to come by in the Beilein era.

For the better part of four years, Spike was the exception to that rule. He was an excellent passer. He covered for being undersized by displaying a knack for jumping passing lanes. He did donuts in the lane. He broke out the old-man scoop for critical layups. Most importantly to Beilein's offense, he had defense-extending range and the confidence to hit big shots, after which he just might do the Sam Cassell big balls dance:

Spike was a 41% three-point shooter at Michigan. While he probably would've earned this spot based on one particular half of basketball alone, he did a whole lot more than just light up Louisville.

Honorable Mention: 2008-09 CJ Lee. Another player whose selection is borderline cheating since Lee finished the season as the starter, but he came off the bench in twice as many games as he started as Beilein searched for the right guy between football-player-turned-scholarship-point Kelvin Grady and two walk-ons, Lee and David Merritt. Lee eventually won out by being the most reliable offensive player and best defender.



Fire away. [Fuller]

Freshmen rarely arrive as complete players, and Zak Irvin was no exception. On a stacked 2013-14 team, though, he could focus on one thing: shooting the hell out of the basketball. Just under 75% of Irvin's attempts came from beyond the arc; he sank them at an impressive 43% clip. He wasn't bashful, either: when he was on the court, he took 25.9% of Michigan's shots, easily the highest rate on the team.

Irvin was Michigan's version of Vinny "The Microwave" Johnson, and like the Pistons archetype, Irvin had a way of coming up big in key situations. He had eight points in 15 minutes in the dramatic overtime win at Purdue, then nine in only 11 minutes to help Michigan edge Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen. He may not have created many shots, but he fits just fine as a lethal spot-up shooter in this lineup.

Honorable Mention: 2010-11 Matt Vogrich. Vogrich lost his playing time and outside shooting touch in his final two years, so we often forget that he was a useful reserve as a sophomore. On a 21-win tournament team, Vogrich played a third of the team's minutes and hit 39% of his threes in a Just A Shooter™ role.


When Tim Hardaway Jr. arrived on campus, Douglass took one for the team and moved to a super-sub role for his final two years. As a junior, he only started 12 of 33 games, but he averaged over 30 minutes. While Douglass didn't measure up to (freshman) Irvin as a pure shooter, he still posed a threat from the outside and was a more well-rounded player. He pushed his two-point percentage near 50, moved the ball well, and played solid defense. While Douglass was a better player as a senior, he finished that season as the starter over the next player in this lineup, and the less-efficient junior version of Stu has the MSU dagger and dunk against Tennessee to his credit.

Honorable Mention: 2015-16 Aubrey Dawkins. If you're just looking at the stats page, Dawkins appears to merit inclusion on the first team. He hit 56% of his twos and 46% of his threes, rarely turned the ball over, and chipped in on the glass. The highlights would indicate the same; Dawkins could rise. The reason Dawkins qualifies for this list in the first place is why he's only honorable mention here: he was benched in favor of Duncan Robinson for being a noticeably inferior defender.


Not pictured: Lobstryczs. [Eric Upchurch]

Smotrycz began this season as the starter but finished it coming off the bench as Beilein moved Douglass back into the lineup and tasked Zack Novak with being the grittiest 6'4" power forward of all time. Smotrycz was better-suited to the bench role; his 44% three-point shooting was his strength, but he could also finish inside against smaller defenders, and he posted impressive rebounding rates on both ends of the floor. He also earns bonus points for inspiring the best player-specific Maize Rage costumes: Smotrycz's Lobstryczs.

Honorable Mention: 2016-17 Duncan Robinson. As you may have noticed, this team wouldn't be the strongest on the defensive end of the floor, but they sure can shoot. Robinson reaquainted himself with the sixth-man role this season when DJ Wilson broke out as a bona-fide NBA prospect. He was his usual sharpshooting self, making 43% of his threes, and improved as a finisher off cuts. He played better defense, too, though he'd set a low bar there.


Big Puppy on the loose. [Fuller]

The most-prized recruit to sign with Beilein, McGary is the clear star of this group. He only started twice as a freshman in the regular season before getting unleashed in the NCAA Tournament, where he put together the best run of play we've seen from a Michigan center under Beilein.

McGary scored in bunches, tallying 20+ against VCU and Kansas. He was a hellbeast on the boards, grabbing four or more offensive rebounds in three tournament games. After never tallying more than two assists in a college game, he had six operating from the middle of Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone in the Final Four. In the previous game, he had five steals against Florida. He protected the rim. He led fast breaks. He threw Unseldian outlet passes. He made inexplicably beautiful hustle plays. He set bone-rattling screens. He survived an unprovoked dick punch.

Freshman McGary was a supernova. He burned out after just eight more games, leaving us with a 6'10", 250-pound hole of what-if.

Honorable Mention: 2013-14 Jon Horford. Michigan fans ended up appreciating Horford more in his absence. In his sophomore and junior years, Horford did the typical big man stuff effectively; he made 57% of his shots, rebounded well on both ends, and was the team's best shot-blocker in that span. Horford, who never quite saw eye-to-eye with Beilein, grad-transferred to Florida just as he was in line to start; instead, the 2014-15 squad had to make do with Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle, and Max Bielfeldt.



April 13th, 2017 at 3:43 PM ^

I sweat if you are putting jordan morgan as the starting center over Mitch this list is invalid. 

You'd be putting a guy that lost his starting spot in over the person he lost his starting spot to, and the Kentucky elite eight game showed why a team with Jordan Morgan as its starting center is unlikely to win a national championshi, because when he went up against elite rebounders he lost badly.


April 13th, 2017 at 4:27 PM ^

He started over McGary because McGary was a true freshman learning the system and people forget was actually injured before the season too.  The second McGary could actually function in the system he got the start because he was the clearly superior player.  

edit to say I thought you were putting together a single team, comprised of players on the bench and starting players and had mcgary on the bench with morgan starting on your dream team so my objection isn't really valid but your post is also confusing.


April 13th, 2017 at 5:33 PM ^

I'll certainly admit to being exhaustively pedantic but don't think I'm wrong about Jordan Morgan.  There are many reasons to love the man and all he did for Michigan basketball, but if your goal is to put together the best possible basketball team with players under John Beilein Morgan doesn't belong as anything more than a glue guy veteran on the bench.  

And I have nothing against undersized beneath the rim centers, I grew up watching MD basketball win a national championship with a 6'8 Lonny Baxter as their starting center.  Baxter just also average 8 rebounds and 2 blocks a game the year they won the championship in addition to adding 15 points a game.  Morgan in 2014 averaged 5 rebounds and less than half a block a game while chipping in 6.4 points a game.  He can be a smart and heady player, tough to win a championship with that as your starting center.


April 14th, 2017 at 7:29 AM ^

are wondering also... so i looked it up , 'cuz i didnt know... pedantic means  someone who is constantly trying to teach you something with a negative connotation meaning that the person attempting to teach you is trying to make you feel inferior or themselves superior.... you are welcome... dont we all feel smarter now.. thanks ace!!! lol


April 13th, 2017 at 4:00 PM ^

Morgan balled out that game and got in foul trouble early with the second being a BS foul. It was Horflrd who gave up put back after outback to Marcus Lee. Shit, we even played 6'6 Bielfeldt at the 5 for a few first half minutes. Harrison misses that shot, who knows, we would have beaten Wisconsin and UCONN.


April 13th, 2017 at 3:47 PM ^

You're kidding right?  Tell me you're kidding.

I'll take Darius Morris all day long and twice on Saturday's.

Oh....and YOU and MSU can GTFOMC too......

Image result for darius morris michigan

matty blue

April 13th, 2017 at 3:56 PM ^

...the idea is not to pick first and second teams from all players, but to try to pick the best player to come off the bench?  the reference to fudging the requirements to call spike a bench player despite his 18 starts would seem to agree.

besides, if you're picking point guards, darius would be third team behind trey and 16-17 walton.


April 13th, 2017 at 3:50 PM ^

Mitch McGary is a STARTER on the Beilein era All-Stars - Hell, on virtually ANY era of Michigan hoops!

His tournament run's only comps in my memory banks - and I saw Cazzie as a youngster - are Phil Hubbard & Rickey Green in '76, Glen Rice in '89, Webber in '93 (pre TO, Duh!), and his own teammate, "They Forgot About Trey".

Now I realize this OP wasn't naming an "All NCAA Tournament" team, but those are the games that stay with me as I slip into my golden years, that have a life of their own, a mythology.

Regular season games I can recall in the same way are sort of limited to "The Aneurysm of Leadership" level performances. Fab 5 beating Duke; I think THJr destroyed sparty one night? GR3's buzzer beater vs Purdue. Tarpley vs Salley on my 25th birthday! (Ugh, I got old!)

Point is, I'm about tourney success. Without the B1G tournament title and the 2 Ws in the NCAA, would any of us be looking back on Walton (and Irvin) with such fondness now?!


April 13th, 2017 at 4:09 PM ^

OK, so it was made clear that to be a back-up on this team the player had to actually be a back-up?

I was not alone in missing that!

But then that means 2017 Walton can't make the team, because he was a starter and so was 2013 Trey?

That seems silly, Ace...


April 13th, 2017 at 4:18 PM ^

They're all eligible. The lists/posts are separate. 2013 McGary can (and very well might) make the All-Beilein first team despite being a bench player. There will also be posts for the best small-ball/freshman/defense lineups, and so on.

It does mean 2017 Walton and 2013 Burke can't both be first-team All-Beilein players because they're both point guards. I'm not entirely sure what's silly about that.


April 13th, 2017 at 4:34 PM ^

Ok, so there'll be a 1st Team and a 2nd Team, and backups (for both?). A 3rd team too (for the Darius lovers?)

We can get everyone who needs to be included in that way! Dakich must be in! Who jumped up off the bench as soon as Trey released the 3 vs Kansas like he was SURE it was in? That guy is on my team too!!!


April 13th, 2017 at 4:42 PM ^

Here's what I have planned. These are all separate lists and players can be on multiple teams (I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying Burke is both a First-Team PG and the Small Ball PG):

First Team/Second Team (with either a third team or honorable mentions for the Darius lovers)
Small Ball Lineup
Kentucky-Style Giant Lineup
Pure Shooting
Bench Mob

If anyone has suggestions, I'm open to doing more.


April 13th, 2017 at 3:55 PM ^

From what I can tell, Ace is not saying he would take Jordan Morgan over Mitch or Spike over Darius, but here he's exclusively picking players who were used as bench players in a particular season. That's why 2011 Stu is on there instead of 2012 Stu because 2012 Stu started all season.


April 13th, 2017 at 4:18 PM ^

Virtual +1 for the Obligatory Wes Unseld Reference.  I love that a guy who retired decades ago is still the point of reference for that.

It's such a shame we didn't get to see a healthy McGary as a sophomore.


April 13th, 2017 at 4:16 PM ^

Looking at the McGary post still just makes you scratch your head.  He often times so lost, so injured, so foul-prone, or so high that his career was difficult to comprehend.  In some ways he is like Drew Henson - obviously incredible talent but never quite reached their potential and left too soon.  

I think your list of bench guys is just about perfect.  Are you going to have a "Victory Cigar" role posted at some point?  Would be an interesting battle between McLimans, Dakich, Austin Hatch, and Ben Cronin.  


April 13th, 2017 at 7:14 PM ^

I once met Zack Novak who told me the only player he ever played with and disliked was Smotrycz. In fact he said that Smotrycz was universally hated and that's why he transferred. This will come as no surprise to anyone who watched Smotrycz. He makes no team but all-turd.