Basketbullets: Pick-and-Roll Defense, Shot-Blocking Comment Count

Ace January 16th, 2017 at 3:58 PM

The Defense, For A Given Definition Of The Term

Slicing through M's defense with little resistance. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Do you have a stick? Throw it. Congratuations, you have hit a horrifying Michigan defensive stat.

The Wolverines may have pulled out a victory against a Nebraska team playing without its only viable post player, but they didn't do it by solving any of their problems on defense; the Huskers scored 1.21 points per possession, a hair below the average performance against M's defense in conference play. Michigan is now 185th in adjusted defensive efficiency; their worst finish under John Beilein was 120th in his first year in Ann Arbor.

Through five conference games, Michigan has the worst Big Ten defense by 8.9 points per 100 possessions; B1G opponents are making 52.7% of their twos and 55.3%(!!!) of their threes—and they're rebounding 34.7% of their misses. Michigan is great at not fouling and above-average at stealing the ball; they're somewhere between below-average and terrible at everything else.

Dylan has a post today that goes into further, gruesome detail on Michigan's defense, with one area of focus being the collapse of their pick-and-roll defense:

Michigan’s pick-and-roll defense has completely fallen apart. In the last six games, the Wolverines have allowed .986 points per possession (including pass outs) in the pick-and-roll game. Compared to seasonal numbers across Division I, that would rank 336th nationally.

Only the first half of the Nebraska game is available on the YouTubes, which is probably for the best. This actually came out better than I expected and it's still far from good:

The issue, as Dylan mentions in his post, doesn't appear to be the scheme; no matter how Michigan approaching defending the high screen—usually either with a soft hedge or ICE technique—they're allowing baskets because of individual player breakdowns. Passes into the post, like in the first play, are too easy to make. Blown rotations, like in the second, lead to wide open three-point attempts. Michigan commits the cardinal sin of allowing the P&R ballhandler to split the hedge at the 0:34 mark, something that occurred at least once more in the second half.

They did a little better towards the end of the half, as you can see in the video, but I also forgot to include this abomination:

It was more of the same in the second half. There are two common threads: Michigan has zero rim protection, which allows opponents to attack without fear, and their help/rotation off the ball is awful. I grew up on the suffocating team defense of the mid-aughts Pistons. This is the opposite of that. The problems are so widespread that it's impossible to suggest one or two solutions that could turn things around.

[After THE JUMP: That said...]

HOWEVER, Rim Protection

The problem. [Campredon]

It should be astonishing that a team starting an athletic 6'11" center and even-more-athletic 6'10" power forward is so bad at blocking shots—260th nationally in block rate, 12th in Big Ten play—but that's been Michigan's M.O. under Beilein, who values foul avoidance over rim protection.

I believe this prioritization, more than anything else, is why Beilein's defenses have never been very good. Looking at the NBA, there may not be any correlation between foul rate and adjusted defensive efficiency; on the other hand, there's a much stronger correlation between block rate and adjusted defensive efficiency:

There's probably no surprise that blocks positively affect team defenses. There's a clear linear trend in the graph, and the R² value is high enough that we can be alright with assuming correlation. The data says that, for every block, the team saves about 1.37 points per 100 possessions.

However, this might be underselling the effect of blocks on a team defense. Since we’re looking at such a large sample size – really, it includes every defensive possession of the last 10 years – it doesn’t account for type of defensive possession. For example, a team’s point guard throwing a bad pass that leads to a wide-open dunk is still a defensive possession, but it’s not in the half-court setting and doesn’t really tell us much about blocks, since there was no opportunity for one.

Even still, for there to be a discernible trend even in the midst of the noise, further solidifies the importance of blocks and rim protection to good defenses. Speaking of noise, a statistic like blocks doesn’t measure rim protection perfectly. Roy Hibbert alters shots and deters penetration without racking up blocks like, say, Serge Ibaka does. Both are effective, but the former’s doesn’t necessarily always show up in the box scores.

This blind spot in Beilein's approach to defense manifests in a couple ways. He hasn't prioritized shot-blocking in recruiting, looking more for offensive skill. He coaches his players to avoid fouls, which leads to them contesting fewer shots. He's a strong proponent of taking charges, which does the same. Perhaps most frustratingly, he doesn't seem to take rim protection into account when doling out minutes.

Here are two more horrifying stats, courtesy of hoop-math. Michigan allows the second-highest shooting percentage at the rim (73.5%) of any team in the country; not coincidentally, they block the second-lowest rate of shots at the rim at a mere 3.2%. The national medians for those figures are 59.1% and 10.4%, respectively. Those numbers somehow look even worse in the context of Michigan's style of play, which is to avoid crashing the offensive glass at nearly any cost (dead last in B1G in OR%) in order to prevent easy transition opportunities, which they also do effectively by being one of the best teams in the country at not turning the ball over.

In other words, a Michigan team set up to prevent easy layups in transition is instead giving up easy layups in halfcourt. Their ability to avoid committing fouls isn't a positive in this context; there's little reason for opponents not to attack the basket time and again, because the most threatening thing they may face is a defender squaring up to take a charge.

The solution? [Bryan Fuller]

While this is a difficult issue to fix during the course of the season, there's at least one obvious patch worth trying. In 275 minutes this season, Mark Donnal has three blocks, equal to the output of Duncan Robinson. In 40 minutes this season, behemoth seven-foot freshman Jon Teske has four blocks.

While Teske probably has a ways to go on offense, Donnal hasn't been much of a factor on that end of the floor despite his impressive efficiency. Donnal used 19.3% of the team's possessions when on the court last year with a 19.4% share of shots; those numbers have plummeted to 16.1% and 13.8%, respectively, this season, and they're down to 15.0% and 9.1% in Big Ten play. When Donnal isn't getting putbacks, he isn't doing much of anything; M's guards aren't even looking for him off the high screen at this juncture, even as Moe Wagner's usage skyrockets.

Donnal has no confidence going up at the rim. He has seven offensive rebounds in Big Ten play and six two-point attempts; if it's not an open putback, he's not taking it. His near-nonexistent 2.0 assist rate means his kickouts aren't leading to immediate buckets, either. Even if Teske isn't totally comfortable in the system, he should be functional enough in the offense to be worth putting out there given the alternative.

It took a long time for Beilein to realize that Moe Wagner, now the focal point of his team, needed to start over Donnal, let alone get the lion's share of the minutes. As the season progresses, it's getting harder to believe he's not making the same mistake with Teske. Teske may be an unknown, but at least he's a seven-foot unknown with an excellent reputation as a shot-blocker out of high school. It's time to see if he can live up to that billing against Big Ten competition, even if he takes some lumps along the way.



January 16th, 2017 at 4:05 PM ^

A little bracketology update.  Joe Lunardi has Michigan as his last at-large team in.  Jerry Palm has Michigan as the 4th team out.  Both projections were updated today.

Still early but looks like a slighty softer bubble than last year. 


January 16th, 2017 at 4:16 PM ^

Nearly everyone on this team has slow feet for their position except for Simpson, not surprisingly the best defender of the bunch as a true freshman. It's a direct result of Beilein's lack of emphasis on athleticism in recruiting. DJ Wilson is really the only plus athlete, and even he isn't good laterally (being able to jump out of the gym doesn't mean you can shuffle side-to-side quickly).

Charles Mathews should bring some much-needed speed next year and Livers is a good athlete too. Brooks looks slow and I'm not sure on Poole.

Beilein needs to not give Duncan Robinson a 5th year and go grab a guard/wing who with a higher ceiling.


January 16th, 2017 at 4:28 PM ^

Yep, dudes are slowwww.

Also, guys that can jump out of the gym don't get shots blocked at the rim or come up short on dunks and get stuffed by the rim (Aubrey Dawkins last year, who people also claimed could jump out of the gym). Both guys had/have good hops but aren't explosive. DJ ia just straight up tall, so. Now, OG Anunobe (sp?) at Indiana is explosive; that dude "jumps out of the gym".

Sorry for the odd disagreement, it doesn't negate that I agree with you on everything.


January 16th, 2017 at 4:27 PM ^

Robinson is a good representation of JB's approach to the game: great shooter, acceptable passer, below average going to the rim, woeful at everything else, and rarely fouls.  Craig Ross can blather about bad luck all he wants on WTKA; the fact is 3-4 years of awful defenses isn't bad luck. 


January 16th, 2017 at 4:34 PM ^

This roster is ripe for a quick and impressive turnaround if Beilein can adjust the way he recruits.

You drop Donnal and Robinson after their redshirt junior years. That opens up two more spots for 2017. You could snag one good athlete that's a guard/forward type (Greg Elliott or flip Jamal Cain). Bank the other scholly for Cormac Ryan in 2018. Then Mathews comes in next year and adds a boost. Plus, you've got Wilson and Wagner back, with Livers and Poole coming in. At least one of those guys should be instant impact.

Still don't understand why they went after Brooks though. He's not the type of player this team needs. Hopefully he makes me eat those words. They should've taken Nojel Eastern instead.


January 16th, 2017 at 4:31 PM ^

Even Simpson is not exceptionally quick, which concerns me given that he looks to be closer to 5'10" than 6'. I'm not giving up on him, but I'm not optimistic about the next two years at PG either.

Poole will be on one of the ESPNs at 5:00, btw.

Bertello NC

January 16th, 2017 at 6:07 PM ^

This is a good and very accurate observation. Very few quick twitch athletes in this program right now. The amount of times our guys just simply get blown by are of epic proportions. It's like Jordan gave us cement shoes. Obviously all around athleticism on this team is extremely low. With the exception of Mo and Wilson there is no high level athlete on this roster. Especially where it would be nice to have one in the two guard to small forward positions.
One of the things that strikes me as odd with the strategy in a lot of these games is think back to when we had similar type athletes with Stu and Novak, CJ.. ect, Beilein played quite a bit of 1-3-1 and even 2-3. IMO you have to tailor your philosophy and gameplans to the style of players you have. And the definition of insanity is continually doing something you're failing at over and over and expecting things will get better. I'm no basketball guru but at some point you have to look at the guys you've brought in here, the guys you've recruited and 1. Have a pretty good idea of what you're initially getting with that player and 2. How much can we improve that player athletically, mentally, and skillfully. And this is where I think Beilein is really missing the boat. I don't know if he genuinely thinks he can spit shine a turd into a shiny diamond or he just flat out can't recruit very well. Either way he seems bullheaded and stuck in his ways and or can't evaluate what he's bringing in as a ball player and athlete and cannot adapt to the team he has. I'm in no way saying he is a terrible basketball coach, but at some point you have to start looking at the trajectory of this program, Beileins age, and what seems to be his unwillingness to adapt and or make changes in recruiting and the overall philosophy he's injecting. Because it is soft, it is non- aggressive and based upon shooters, spacing and exploiting matchups, and not defense, rebounding and toughness. So at the end of the day when you don't have the players that shoot at a high clip and don't have the athletes to drive and just simply make tough athletic plays what are you left with? I agree and I said it a month ago that Teske should be getting a lot of the minutes Donnal is. But there again Beileins stubbornness rears its ugly head. It really just bugs me how Beilein lacks intensity. And how he doesn't put emphasis in certain parts of the game. Give Teske some run and see what comes of it.

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January 17th, 2017 at 3:11 AM ^

But I wonder what they're actually teaching Teske that's going to make a difference? Our guys don't box out properly on freaking free throws, something they teach in middle school basketball! As far as I can tell, Teske's blocks, like Wagner's behind-the back-in-traffic dribbles might just be something they brought with them versus something being taught.
I suppose it'd be better in some respects...I put a high value on the rebounding and defensive parts of the game, so guess I've lost faith after seeing the ineptitude for so long...


January 17th, 2017 at 2:07 PM ^

man-to-man defense in 2012 with Stu, Novak and Jordan Morgan very good man-to-man defenders and all way too short to be effective in zone.

I would agree with you that this team is slower and longer which typically points to zone being the defense you should go with, but it seems like every time we do, we get beat even worse.  You have to practice a certain defense a lot to be good at it, so it's not that easy to just switch mid-season. Yes, they could have prepared all off-season to play more zone, but my guess is we thought Donlon could get these guys to play effective man-to-man and that's what he worked on. They've turned out to just be too slow or haven't picked it up (also they don't play very hard), and now we're a little bit stuck.

Bertello NC

January 17th, 2017 at 7:18 PM ^

Yes you're right, we did play primarily man but feel like we sprinkled in the 1-3-1 more than we do now maybe out of necessity. And I also agree that to play a sticky zone and to know when and how to sag and close out are things that take time to run it properly.
I think the long and short of it is we just simply do not have the quick twitch athletes to stay with even decent scorers no matter the defense. To add to that Beilein does not embody the toughness and tenacity that it takes to play good defense. Maybe Donlon does but also maybe his hands are a little tied.(coached not to be aggressive as that turns into fouls) and Beilein seemingly does not trust the freshmen he's recruited well enough to be aggressive. I kind of feel like to be a good, somewhat in your face man defense fouling is going to be a byproduct. It'd be interesting to see the stats on some of the better defensive teams and their PPP vs foul rate. I can't say for certain just a feeling but you don't often see a lot of teams that play great defense not foul. I feel it's going to happen because of the tenacious mindset. I could be wrong tho lol

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January 16th, 2017 at 4:25 PM ^

Great, informative and insightful article! Thanks.  This is so depressing, though.  I think everyone was hoping that bringing in a "defensive coordinator" would make a huge difference but after we showed a lot of promise on defense during the early season wins in New York, we've really fallen apart.  


January 16th, 2017 at 4:32 PM ^

One factor affecting things this season is depth.  Whether or not this is where Beilein's foul avoidance bias came from decades ago I can't say, but this season he just doesn't have the horses to get into a physical game.  He likes a short bench in general, but this year he's only playing 7.5 players in the rotation.  I'd like to see Michigan get more physical, but if Watson isn't ready to play, then you don't have a lot of athletic options until next year.  


Izzo historically uses a deep bench (even when he probably shouldn't).  That helps build some talent but also lets the guys use up fouls and be physical.  (here's where you insert a jab about Beilein's recent recruiting.)


Another thing that hurt Michigan more than most teams is the fact that  taking charges isn't much of an option anymore.  Those "adequate" defenses that helped Michigan win some B1G titles were boosted by guys  like Morgan and Novak taking a ton of charges.  Those calls are not as likely now.  




January 16th, 2017 at 5:03 PM ^

I don't understand the X's and O's of basketball very well, so can someone please explain to me what Billy Donlon was brought in to change, whether he has had any success changing it, and why the end result is so abysmal regardless?  Like, is part of the problem that this is a transition year while the players adjust to a new scheme, or does that excuse only work in football?


January 17th, 2017 at 3:20 AM ^

in reverse! You play tight D, commit a foul, Beilein pulls you out. Next time out there you're confused, makes you a half-step slow, guy gets a blow-by. Or an open 3. Diametrically opposed coaching cancelling out what decent defense we might have had?


January 16th, 2017 at 5:30 PM ^

Great article, Ace, but you don't address the elephant in the room.  Namely, Beilein and his system.  You basically point out that with the attitude and philosophy of the coach, this team is basically where it should be expected to be.  You note that there is at least one personnel change that might be explored to mitigate the grim defensive issues, but that we maybe can't expect any action on that point, as Beilein seemed to take an inexplicably long time to start Mo Wagner, despite extensive evidence that he was/is a better option then Donnal.  

So... (1) does the coaching staff need to alter its philosophy/approach, or can "better execution" by the players in the present scheme, lead to more wins on the court?  (2) Presuming at least some adjustment needs to be made, is this coaching staff capable of identifying an effective adjustment, and are they able to implement some adjustment?  (3) Given the Donlon hiring, should we conclude that this staff has adjusted as much as it could, or has Donlon's input been blocked or obscured by other issues?

I'm not trying to be reactionary, or to denigrate the long list of positive things that Beilein has done here at Michigan, but you diagnose the present situation right up to the point of an actionable recommendation or conclusion.  Can Beilein's philosophy carry us into the top 25?  Can he adjust to get us there?  Or must we reluctantly conclude that, based on the evidence to date, his system is highly unlikely (or no longer highly likely) to place Michigan in the top 25?

Notes:  Yes, Beilein's philosophy has put us in the "top 25" before, but can he get us back? No, I'm not fixated on the polls, but refer to the "top 25" as the easiest metric I can think of to characterize the level of competitiveness that I think we'd all like Michigan to display a majority (if not all) of the time.


January 16th, 2017 at 5:46 PM ^

This nails it. Teske isn't even getting spot minutes despite a glaring need for a big dude inside. The reason: Offense matters more here.

This is why this idea that we're a great offensive team that just needs to figure out defense is nonsense. U-M is good on offense in large part because it refuses to make personnel concessions for defense like other teams do.

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January 16th, 2017 at 8:38 PM ^

 because all but two of the games have been incredibly close. If he'd come in and lost a game for us the howls. . . 

The elephant in the room is, to my mind, how the D could have regressed when we just brought in a D specialist to coach the team up--how it could have gotten worse. Beilein has already SHOWN the willingness to adjust, has in fact made huge adjustments TWICE now. The notion that he's an old stick in the mud. . . not really the case. 

I don't personally think Ace's hoop posts are up to much--here he recycles Dylan's article almost to the letter, then has a brainstorm and says that Beilein de-emphasizes blocks, too, as if this were some kind of Achille's Heel that Ace has uncovered. When that magic 7 footer who can also shoot comes along, I'm sure Beilein craves him as much as the next coach. 

The truth is that when Beilein came on the scene the B1G was the most boring lunch-pail league in the country. Everyone wondered if the new coach could succeed. Ten years later the league plays at a much quicker pace and the coach has put us in the dance six years, went to an NC championship that only hookers could keep us from winning and put twice as many guys in the league as Izzo did career-long. Our defense is atrocious, but once again we have among the very best offenses in the country. The problem--added to all the issues Dylan carefully delineates--is that our starters average 30-plus minutes. I doubt that we get to the NCAA tourney this year, and that sucks; if it happens again next year I'd say Beilein's job is in serious question. Meantime, as Dylan notes, even a slight uptick in the D--with the offense this good and capable of still better--could win us that handful of necessary games that make the difference. Just an excruciating year, and it follows last year, when we lost Caris early and plugged and chugged. (If he stays healthy he's a ten-year NBA journeyman, btw.)

Bertello NC

January 16th, 2017 at 10:11 PM ^

Donlon to this point is hard to figure out. We seemingly started the year out playing half way decent defense. Now we are at all time lows. A head scratcher to say the least. I think more than anything that has a lot of people here puzzled is how we've followed up the championship game and another near final 4 appearance with sub par player evaluation and or recruiting. I understand we've had guys injured and guys unexpectedly leave but Beilein has really missed on higher end recruits and evaluation. And I understand he runs things in an extremely honorable fashion. Now maybe the talent level increases next year with a couple guys who can make an early impact and Matthews eligible.
What are your thoughts on Beileins ability to evaluate an athlete and reload?

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January 16th, 2017 at 5:52 PM ^

needlessly tying Beilein to his history, even though he's shown time after time he is willing to adapt both his offense and defense. He believes the shortened shot clock has changed the game in terms of attacking offense. In response he brought in two bigs and Donlon. Still, he has two bigs that are first year starters, one of whom was foul prone last year. They are going through the culture change of a new defense and learning what a good foul is. To my eye their perimeter defenders are so afraid of getting blown by they sag too much. When they do get up on a guy they give their man the wrong lane rather than sending them toward help. This will improve as their recognition and experience grows. Good defense requires the 5 people on the floor playing on a string. That doesn't happen over night, one breakdown blows it up.


January 16th, 2017 at 6:18 PM ^

Attacking defense that is physical, rebounds well, and blocks shots would be great to have too. Good defense makes for a lot of easy offense in transition. And these guys have been playing basketball for enough years that they shoud already know what a good foul is. 


January 16th, 2017 at 6:30 PM ^

I agree with this point of view, especially if you watch other teams defend.  They typically are up in your grill at the 3 pt line (and beyond) where we are off considerably.  However, Walton and Irvin are seniors, so they should know how to play defense by now or are you stating a new defensive coach and system is at fault as all are in a learning curve?  The amount of blow bys and uncontested layups during the Nebraska game was embarassing.   


January 17th, 2017 at 2:46 PM ^

but the perimeter defenders just aren't that good.  Perimeter defense isn't something that requires a lot of learning. It's one-on-one defense.  Guard the guy.  That's a skill players (should) have been working on since picking up a basketball. Yes, a defense is either designed to shade penetration to the middle or to the baseline (if not straight up), but the transition to pack-line should have actually made this assignment easier.

A pack-line defense calls for guys to play tight (which as you point out, we never seem to do) and straight-up on-ball defense on the perimeter since the help should be coming from either side.  So the on-ball assignment is very simple:  Try your hardest not to get beat.  We just don't have perimeter defenders that can do that often enough. If you're constantly getting beat and allowing ball handlers to get by you, it doesn't matter how good your help defense is, you're going to give up a lot of open shots.

I think we play off because we are so bad at preventing penetration but if you can't pressure the ball, you're going to give up shots and passes easily.  But that spells disaster in a pack-line that has everyone else playing off.

A defense is going to have a really hard time if guys can't guard the ball one-on-one, and that's not an easy skill to "learn" for an 18-21 year-old if he doesn't have the ability and athleticism coming in.

Boner Stabone

January 16th, 2017 at 5:55 PM ^

I like the Teske idea that Ace brings up.  Donnal is doing nothing from an offensive standpoint anyways, so might as well give Teske some minutes and let him develop on the fly.  

Shoot, Donnal is still making Freshmen mistakes out there anyways as a Senior, might as well have a real Freshman make the same mistakes.

Steve in PA

January 16th, 2017 at 6:10 PM ^

I was yelling at the TV.  Then showed my wife what pick-and-roll offense looks like.  Now I've decided since I'm going to coach elementary basketball again I will use some clips from that game to show the kids.


January 16th, 2017 at 7:02 PM ^

Why are we so bad compared to the beginning of the season?

Why are we so bad compared to last year with all starters returning and vast improvements from Mo and DJ?


Why are we so bad when we don't hard hedge and give free fouls away anymore?

Why do we keep doing the 1-3-1 and giving up the easiest basket of the game once a game?


Why was Nebraska killing us with the 1-3-1 while everybody else destroys ours?


I don't understand basketball anymore.


January 16th, 2017 at 10:57 PM ^

Can someone explain the Ball Screen D numbers Ace posted? We've been giving up 1.2 PPP or so overall, so 0.986 PPP seems better than normal. Obviously it's not good, but what am I missing? Thanks,

Vacuous Truth

January 17th, 2017 at 11:57 AM ^

I was wondering the same thing, and I'm not an expert by any means, but I think that 0.986 is still bad because the overall 1.2 is inflated by things like easy fast break buckets. Teams only go to the pick-and-roll when the D has already stymied the easiest ways to score. The opposing offense will also perhaps run more complex plays early in the shot clock which try to get an open layup/dunk or 3. If those fail, they'll fall back to the simple pick and roll, at which point an average defense should be able to hold the O well below the 0.986 PPP we allow.

A similar concept is the semi-argument we've seen around here re: Irvin's mid range jumper. Off the top of my head I think he's getting around 0.9 PPP on that jumper he shoots off the dribble around the elbow. If that's all you're getting on a typical posession, you wont' be very good. But if it's late in the shot clock and we haven't been able to get a better shot yet, 0.9 PPP isn't a bad last resort.


January 17th, 2017 at 2:51 PM ^

fast breaks and offensive rebound put-backs and other non-"half court" plays tend to be very high efficiency plays for an offense.  So giving up nearly a point per possession in the half court is going to be bad for your overall defensive efficiency when those other plays get factored in.  I think half court defensive efficiency of 0.7s is pretty good, 0.8s is decent, 0.9s+ is bad (I think).

Vacuous Truth

January 17th, 2017 at 11:52 AM ^

Very interesting write up. I especially appreciate that, in Teske, Ace at least tries to offer a possible solution besides "be better." I certainly want to believe Teske could be a major help; at the very least it's worth a shot b/c the opportunity cost of sitting Donnal seems to be approximately zero.

However, after also reading Dylan's piece on the matter, one thought struck me. Dylan's only mention of rim protection was in regard to DJ Wilson; namely, how Wilson appeared to be a solid rim protector early in the year but has clearly regressed in that aspect. Dylan thinks this may be due to Wilson's attempts to avoid fouling (3 fouls in the last 4 games). 

My concern is - is there a risk the same would happen to Teske? In exactly 40 minutes this season Teske was an aggressive and successful rim protector (4 blocks) but also committed 5 fouls. It seems possible to me he might end up following the Wilson path, wherein he gets coached to stop fouling so much and consequently stops being useful around the rim.

Sadly, I'm basically hypothesizing that the guy on the bench who seems to offer a skill we need will cease to offer that skill as he plays more. 


January 17th, 2017 at 11:57 AM ^

"It took a long time for Beilein to realize that Moe Wagner, now the focal point of his team, needed to start over Donnal, let alone get the lion's share of the minutes."

I'm a huge Moe Wagner fan. I think he'll be a first round pick after next year. I am glad he is now getting 28-30 minutes a game, as he should be. But when, exactly, was the "long time" that Beilein should have put Wagner in as a starter over Donnal?

- Was it against Marquette? Donnal played 21 minutes, 6-8 FG (1-1 from 3pt), scoring 15 pts with 3 Reb in a 79-61 win
- Was it against SMU*? Donnal played 25 minutes, 4-5 FG (1-1 from 3pt), scoring 9 pts with 5 Reb in a 76-54 win
- Was it against South Carolina? Donnal played 20 minutes, 1-3 FG (0-1 from 3pt), scoring 10 pts (due to 8-9 from FT) with 4 Reb in a 61-46 loss.

So Donnal was bad against SC; Moe was worse: in his 16 min, going 0-2, scoring 2 pts with 3 Reb. 

Still Beilein recognized Donnal had limitations, and Moe had more upside and UM needs his athleticism now, and it was at that point he started working in Moe more. He should have, in retrospect, played Moe 25-28 minutes against VT (instead of 18), when he had a good game and Donnal had a horrible one, but a) UM lead that whole game and shockingly (at the time) blew it and b) as shown above, Donnal had a body of work which showed he could meaningfully contribute to big wins. But immediately after VT, Moe started getting 25+ minutes a game (except UCLA, when Moe had 4 fouls). So again, what was the "long-time"?

I know people like to bag on Donnal b/c he looks so unathletic, but it wasn't just last year he played good games which helped us win against quality opponents. Still, he appropriately has been moved to the bench as Moe has developed, as Moe is just plain better than Donnal, now (though neither of them is good at defense or rebounding). We don't have to keep bagging on Donnal that it was obvious that it should have happened basically at the beginning of the season.

*Moe also did basically nothing in his 11 minutes against SMU, scoring 3 pts, which matched his 3 fouls.



January 17th, 2017 at 3:15 PM ^

I feel like Donnal had one rough game with a bad matchup and the call was made to keep Wagner in for the end (I think against Texas) despite Beilien saying Donnal was the better defender.  The defensive numbers have plummeted as Wagner has played more minutes.

I'm not saying there's a direct cause-and-effect, but Wagner has plenty of his own defensive issues.  He could be great, but he seems lost so often still.  This has been a very bad defense in conference play, which is when Wagner has played a lot of minutes.


January 17th, 2017 at 3:28 PM ^

The second play in the sequence in which DJ gives up a wide open three was probably what they wanted there.  DJ was guarding a freshman forward that came in shooting 2-11 from 3pt.  The scouting report was almost certainly for DJ to sag off him to help the roller until his man had recovered.  That's what he did and the guy shot and missed a three (although it did look like he sort of lost his guy - even if you're helping off a guy you need to know where he is).  That guy shooting a three is something you want as a defense, given the situation.

Yes, it'd help if our bigs could recover back to the roller faster (this was where the first play went wrong, along with MAAR allowing the guy to cut back on him and get an easy entry pass off), but DJ probably did exactly what he was supposed to do there and we got what we wanted.

On the third play, the PnR defense was actually quite good.  The breakdown was after everyone had recovered and Walton's guy dribbled toward the corner, but Irvin helped out when he shouldn't have (Walton wasn't beat, there was another defender there anyway) which gave up the pass to the corner and an easy path to drive baseline (solid help there from Wagner but the guy makes a tough shot over him - that's a shot you expect him to alter being much taller).

Fourth play was either poor scouting or a brain fart by Irvin.  You're guarding Webster who is a relatively bad three point shooter but a very good slasher and finisher.  The scouting report has to be to go under the screen against him.  Bad on the coaches if that wasn't the case.  Bad on Irvin (or Donnal if the communication was late) if he blew the assignment.

The fifth was good defense on what we could control.  X is just too short though and the guy makes a tough shot over him that he can't do anything about.  Similar with the sixth.  He's right there but the guy passes right over him because he's so short.  Good defense by the bigs to not all the shot in the paint though.  X is going to be a frustrating player, because he does look like the best perimeter defender in terms of recovering quickly and not letting guys go around him, but they can just go right over him.

Anyway, a lot of this seems correctable with coaching.  For the future, need to get X some stilts.