Hoops Mailbag: Shooting Breakouts, Crootin After Carton, Sellouts? Comment Count

Ace July 17th, 2018 at 1:50 PM

Can this be fixed? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

This edition of the hoops mailbag begins with a question that ended up being far tougher to answer than I expected.

What are the biggest 3P% jumps over a career for Beilein at Michigan? Is it reasonable to hope that X and Matthews can get up to that 35 percent head-above-water mark?

While there are several examples of players whose three-point percentage improved at Michigan, the nature of high-level college basketball makes it very tough to draw wide-ranging conclusions. Many of the players in that group—Caris LeVert, DJ Wilson, Moe Wagner, to name just a few—posted tiny samples in their first year.

Even among the Beilein players who have more of a statistical base with which to work, it's tough to pick out his impact without a seriously deep dive. Glenn Robinson III never shot the ball very well from the outside at Michigan but he's grown into a decent NBA marksman; would we have seen that if he stuck around another year or two? The same question applies to Kam Chatman, a 26% 3P shooter in two seasons at Michigan who canned 41% on five attempts per game following his transfer to Detroit. Some of Beilein's skill development work surely played into the improvement of each player, but it's impossible to measure the precise impact.

We're left with cherrypicking examples. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has an encouraging combination; his volume and percentage both went up substantially and he had to rework his mechanics. That last bit of of particular relevance since Zavier Simpson is going back to "ground zero" to fix his shot. MAAR also went from purely a spot-up shooter to a player capable of drilling a solid percentage off the bounce, which is definitely relevant to Charles Matthews, who's likely to take on more pick-and-roll possessions.

We've seen a lot of evidence that Beilein can identify and develop good shooters even if they're not necessarily tearing it up from beyond the arc in high school—MAAR, Wagner, and Wilson went from prospects whose range was questioned to integral pieces of one of the country's most lethal shooting teams in 2016-17. It's tougher to say, on a case-by-case basis, if Beilein can always fully tap that potential in the short window a player is on campus; as Jason Kidd can attest, a reliable outside shot can take a long time to develop. For every MAAR there's a Darius Morris.

This isn't a complete punt on the question. I believe Matthews will end up in the passably decent range this season; his form is solid and he knows that's the main thing between him and an NBA career. I don't have as much confidence in Simpson making that breakthrough in 2018-19; he's overhauling his mechanics and his peripherals aren't encouraging—namely, he's a career 55% free-throw shooter. (This is admittedly a concern for Matthews, as well, but at least his free-throw shooting improved from his woeful Kentucky mark. Simpson went the wrong way last year.)

I should note this isn't a death knell for the offense by any means. Michigan made the title game with both of those players starting, after all, and they each should be more effective in the pick-and-roll (here's more detail on that with a focus on Simpson and Jon Teske).

[Hit THE JUMP for the recruiting focus after DJ Carton and more.]

I didn't get the "where does Michigan turn after five-star PG DJ Carton made a surprise commitment to Ohio State" question I hoped, so this'll do. This is a tough loss for Beilein, as it was clear Carton was the staff's top priority, and confidence was high in landing him; in the end, as Sam Webb suggested it might, an inability to guarantee that he'd run the show from the moment he stepped on campus appears to have made the difference:

"They stuck with me," [Carton] said about Ohio State. "When I said I wanted to slow down my recruitment, they slowed down. They believed in me and they said they’ll give me freedom and let me play my game. I just want to play my game and help my team. I’m willing to do what it takes. They are giving me the keys to the offense and they believe in me."

Michigan couldn't—or wouldn't—say that with Simpson projected to be a senior entering his third year as the starter when Carton will be a freshman. It's an unfortunate miss for a very talented player who now ends up at a rival school. That said, the staff hasn't been caught unprepared. As 247's Josh Henschke and UMHoops' Dylan Burkhardt broke down, there are plenty of other options on the board. The primary candidates:

  • Top-50 Detroit CG Rocket Watts. Watts had a breakout performance at the Team USA tryouts and is getting a lot of attention from top programs. Michigan has been in on him for a long time, recently made his top eight, and should be a contender to the end—Watts is close with freshman PG David DeJulius.
  • Five-star NY CG Cole Anthony. While the #3 overall player in the class has to be considered a longshot, Anthony doesn't speak much to reporters, let alone give a sense of what direction he's leaning. Michigan has been recruiting him heavily and they do have a connection—his mom is an alum. Anthony has said he wants to play in a ball-screen-heavy offense, too, which could play in M's favor. All that said, they'll be competing with the best of the best here.
  • Four-star NY CG Joe Girard. A player who got a lot of attention from M early before Carton became the main focus, Girard is a prolific sharpshooter with some top programs in pursuit. Syracuse is the presumed leader coming off a recent visit and Duke is also involved; the Wolverines could potentially get back in it if they turn up the heat—Girard's dad played for Beilien at Le Moyne.
  • Top-100 Southfield CG Harlond Beverly. Another in-state prospect, albeit one taking the all-too-familiar pattern of Michigan players who'll play their senior seasons elsewhere—in Beverly's case, Montverde Academy in Florida. Michigan may have a tough time making up ground here; Beverly was clearly a backup plan, the Wolverines haven't offered yet, and now he's leaving the state. If he does come back to Michigan, it'd likely be as a Spartan.

There are other names that have hit the board lately that I'll cover in a roundup at some point. Losing Carton was a blow to the 2019 class, but landing Watts would get it right back on track.

Expand me. [Campredon]

This is a big picture question. Is this the year we're going to start seeing consistent sell outs at the Crisler Center? Will two championship game runs in 5 years finally start making people excited for basketball in November, or is it truly impossible to be both a football and a basketball school?

It's hard to say. On one hand, fans showed out well the year after the last title game appearance, averaging 12,698 in attendance (24th nationally), about as well as you can hope in an arena with a capacity of 12,707 given how non-conference scheduling goes these days.

On the other hand, attendance has dipped every season since, and while figures aren't out for last season, I can personally attest that Crisler was pathetically dead for the conference opener against Indiana—it didn't feel like much, if any, momentum rolled over from the remarkable Big Ten and NCAA tournament runs of the year prior.

That may change this year with another BTT title, an unexpected title game appearance, and a big-time recruiting class helping sell tickets. That's just part of the battle, however. Reported attendance figures and the swaths of empty seats in the lower bowl tell different stories. Local non-student fan interest, at least when it comes to showing up to games, just hasn't sustained through a remarkable run of basketball.

I believe it's going to take something more than on-court success to change the atmosphere at Crisler, which outside of a handful of huge games—and sometimes not even then—doesn't feel like the home of a crowd that can change games, and you see those all over in college hoops. I'll ring this bell again, and yes, I know that it'll take some minor renovations to the lower bowl: expand the dang Maize Rage. It's a major deterrent for student ticket sales that only a select few can sit courtside while a huge portion are behind the hoop or in the upper bowl, and getting those students courtside could fundamentally alter the feel of Crisler.

Until then, I expect a lot of locals will continue to look at it as a fun place to go on occasion instead of an event, and at this point home basketball games should be the latter.



July 17th, 2018 at 2:03 PM ^

Great Stuff.  I agree with getting students on the floor.  It looks better on TV. It seems more fun of an atmosphere, and hopefully gets more people in the door.  As a parent, and working man, many of the weekday games aren't reasonable for me to get to (plus the prices are way to high for me to take the kids as just a game).  I say get students in love with the experience and in the best seats.  They will create memories (as many of us did at Yost) and come back as alumni to attend games and relive their College glory.  Also reduce the ticket prices for more of these games for families maybe?


July 17th, 2018 at 2:05 PM ^

Discussed this on a few boards last year, but the AD reports student numbers here. While I agree the atmosphere could (and should) be better, I'm sure they have a hard time justifying adding more student seats downstairs when they don't fill the seats that they currently have. 

It looks like 10 of the 17 games last year failed to have 653 student season ticket holders attend, which is capacity for downstairs. 

There needs to be some type of solution to get a better atmosphere, but I have a hard time selling this one.

I also heard from a family friend who has a freshman this year say that they were on the wait list for basketball season tickets.


July 17th, 2018 at 3:53 PM ^

I think you missed the point - 

The students don't fill the LOWER LEVEL seats for most games - the ones that everybody wants to have. So why would the AD give them more seats downstairs? 

If they are comfortable with having empty seats downstairs, which they appear to be, I think they've made it clear that they would rather have the donor who may pay $2K+ for their seats rather than a student who pays $175.


July 17th, 2018 at 2:44 PM ^

Have they ever not filled their lower bowl section? Seems like more students would show up if they knew there was a good chance they'd get a good seat (without having to lineup hours ahead of time). 

Keep the total student section size roughly the same, but increase the percentage in the lower bowl. Obviously the better atmosphere has to be weighed against whatever money they'd lose out on in season ticket sales for the lower bowl, but it'd be worth imo. 


July 18th, 2018 at 10:41 AM ^

Great practice.  Like a mini lottery.  You pay for cheap seats and if the good seats are empty you can receive a free upgrade. Not everyone will get upgraded and not everyone needs to take the upgrade, but it seems like a great policy.  If you do get the upgrade and the owner ends up there later, then you go back to your seats no problem.  


July 17th, 2018 at 2:27 PM ^

I gave up my season tickets. My parents had season tickets from before Crisler opened and I went often as a kid and student. I had season tickets before Ed Martin and dropped them afterward.

I moved back to A2 last year and got season tickets again and attended every game.

Ok, so why quit buying? The cost for seats including the PSD was a bit high, but what really bothered me was paying a PSD for upper bowl baseline seats and watching much of the lower bowl never fill up.

I would like them figure out a way to reward people who actually attend. I did not feel valued as a season ticket owner. I was never even contacted as to why I dropped tickets. There were no surveys on how to improve my experience (unlike football where you get surveys all the time).

Given the lukewarm demand you would think they would nurture basketball season ticket holders, but they do not give two shits.


July 18th, 2018 at 10:47 AM ^

With tv money so high and dictating the times and schedule of the games, along with drops in attendance in all sports due to high def 50" plus screens, I really don't understand why the cost of attendance doesn't drop dramatically.  For a long time, Football and Hockey ticket prices were well below demand creating sellouts and crazy atmospheres.  Maybe they are worried people will miss the games because they spent so little on it and wanting people to attend because of sunk cost theory.  I don't know, your situation seems weird. 

True Blue Grit

July 17th, 2018 at 2:36 PM ^

Getting Watts would easily make up for the miss on Carton, at least to me.  I think he'd give some better shooting and be a bit more versatile.  

Seating:  one thing that always sticks in my craw is all the empty seats in the blue not in the student section.  You know these seats were sold to someone and if you look on StubHub, only a certain % of them are for sale.  I'd love to have so much money that I could buy season tickets in the blue and then not show up for half of them.  I'd like to see the ushers at halftime fill those seats with people from the maize seats if no one has shown up.  

Also, maybe there's some way where they could ID people who aren't showing up for a lot of games and ask them to put them up for sale on StubHub if they're not already. 


July 17th, 2018 at 10:05 PM ^

Yeah, I wanted Carton as he seems to have the ability to get to wherever he wants on the floor (at least against high schoolers). The concern was about his outside shot and range. DeJulius might not have quite athleticism but he can get his own shot and buries it from deep.

Watts would fill a position of need and he is bigger and just about as highly rated.


July 17th, 2018 at 2:48 PM ^

I think the issue is the location of the stadium and the time of the games. A lot of people work in the Troy/West Bloomfield area and it's difficult to get out of work, grab dinner, then get to the game and park all by 7pm. My guess is that where the games are more highly attended are either in a less spread out metropolis or are one of the only sports events in town...


July 17th, 2018 at 3:08 PM ^

Ann Arbor itself is 120k people.  It's the only sports event in Ann Arbor.  So even without support from Metro Detroiters, there should be more people there.

I think it's a symptom of a much larger media consumption/preference trend.  When you can watch incredible television with no commercials from the comfort of your own home, that's a tough competitor.

Gotta believe the increasingly competitive admissions standards and increasingly out-of-state student population (who didn't grow up M fans) are having a sizable effect on student attendance at all M sporting events.

Guy Fawkes

July 17th, 2018 at 3:43 PM ^

I think you're on to something. I'd wager 75% of Michigan students and faculty don't give a shit about any of the athletics. Maybe even a worse % of the 120k residents in AA. Throw in crap weather, a location that's not that walkable from downtown, and a $80 lower bowl ticket to see NW (what i paid last season) and you have a lot of factors to correct. 


July 18th, 2018 at 11:53 AM ^

As an out of stater who bought student season tickets to 3 sports every year (and attended almost every one, along with many away games), I challenge you to a duel, sir!  Blame not the out of state kids - they probably like their school even more than the in-state kids, on average.


July 17th, 2018 at 3:01 PM ^

Any chance the staff takes a peak at Lorne Bowman?  This kid has been killing it on the AAU front, including this past weekend leading his team (D-Wade style) to a come from behind championship, as clear underdogs.  Wisconsin and some MAC schools are the most interested says google.    @Matt D are you out there for some perspective?  

I know this much, he comes from a school that has sent a ton of kids to Michigan the past 20 years.  Their head coach is a huge Michigan fan, and there ast football coach is an x-Michigan QB.  I love the kids game, he reminds me a lot of Colin Sexton or D Wade.  Plays on both ends of the floor, gives 100% at all times, and fills up the stat sheet. Go Blue. 


July 17th, 2018 at 3:02 PM ^

The more things change, the more things stay about exactly the same.  Let's take a look at Michigan's basketball attendance averages and national ranking through the years

78-81 (my four years - no NCAA tourny invites)

  • 78-7th,   13,496
  • 79-7th,   14,865
  • 80-20th, 10,960
  • 81-19th, 11,658

Now let's look at the Frieder glory days.  Ranked #1 several times, lots of fun to watch this team play

  • 85-19th, 11,769
  • 86-13th, 13,609
  • 87-16th, 12,241
  • 88-18th, 13,801
  • 89-19th, 12,838

Now lastly lets look at the heyday of the Fab 5.  We certainly MUST'VE packed the gym to watch those guys play no?

  • 1992 - 24th, 12,396
  • 1993 - 18th, 13,734
  • 1994 - 29th, 12,166

We've been talking about this since before I enrolled and will likely be talking about it when you guys are also mgrowold like me.  But at the end of the day we operate in a pretty tight window of attendance (high of 14,865 by sophomore year and low of 10,960 my junior year) and usually in the high teen, low 20's ranked nationally.


July 17th, 2018 at 3:14 PM ^

Yep, I'm not that optimistic we'll ever move the needle in basketball, unfortunately.  People prioritize their allotment of sports time and money to football at M and I don't see that changing soon even with great, likable teams.

I do think the AD could do more to make the atmosphere more intimidating with the people that do show up.  That starts with getting more of the maize rage on the court. 

Inertia Policeman

July 17th, 2018 at 3:20 PM ^

This is certainly true - it's not something that's likely to change drastically. However, having gone to the away game at Nebraska last year (I now live in Omaha) it was somewhat depressing to see how great their atmosphere was comparatively - the place was totally packed, really loud, and they had a wild student section filling up maybe 1/3 of their lower bowl. And that's a school with NO basketball history whatsoever and with 1 tournament bid (lost in first round) in the last 20 years.


July 17th, 2018 at 3:47 PM ^

If you went for the M game, keep in mind you were going to their biggest game of the year.

compare that to some of M’s big games and it’s similar.  Nebrasketball is a weird comparison as is since they are an upcoming, underdog program that has some new excitement around it. And it’s the only show in town. In Ann Arbor, families are probably more concerned about getting to their elite club soccer practice.

Inertia Policeman

July 17th, 2018 at 9:18 PM ^

It’s not the only show in town, in a way. Omaha is only a 40 minute drive from Lincoln, and most Omaha fans are ‘Jayskers’ - Nebraska football fans and Creighton basketball fans. Creighton has a significantly larger basketball following than Nebrasketball, and the sense lately is that after Tim Miles made some early strides, the program has regressed. In any event, I was impressed with their atmosphere compared to ours, which I didn’t understand given the historical and current state of both programs.


July 17th, 2018 at 3:19 PM ^

"expand the dang Maize Rage. It's a major deterrent for student ticket sales that only a select few can sit courtside while a huge portion are behind the hoop or in the upper bowl, and getting those students courtside could fundamentally alter the feel of Crisler"




July 17th, 2018 at 3:38 PM ^

I honestly don't know why it's so hard for the basketball team to generate support from the community.  It's not so much on the students because I assume they show up in reasonable numbers, but why wouldn't people in A2 and surrounding environs want to come to a couple of conference home games a year.  I get not being up for nothingburger non-conference games, but when I'd check in on games even toward the end of the year, you'd see swaths of seats open.


July 17th, 2018 at 3:54 PM ^

I'm sure that's a big part of it.  But then in those circumstances, they should just let students/people in the arena go down there.  I'm sure Breslin isn't a sellout every mid-week game against Rutgers either, but it tends to look far more fleshed out.  

I assume this is an issue they are dealing with as we speak, but it's just weird given the success that they can't scrounge together enough students + locals to fill the bottom bowl of a reasonably sized arena.


July 17th, 2018 at 4:23 PM ^

I think the main point is that those lower bowl tickets are ALWAYS sold out. So it’s not a matter of convincing Ann Arborites to buy those tickets because they are always sold.

For real body bags, they waive us plebes in the upper bowl down. But that’s it. Definitely not for conference games or any major conference opponents, regardless of how long seats stay empty.



July 17th, 2018 at 9:59 PM ^

It's weird they don't let people fill in the lower bowl once the game starts.  In the extremely rare event that people start showing up en masse late, then I guess you figure it out.  But even if you just put students/younger fans along half the bottom bowl, I'd have to imagine you wouldn't have the empty feel you see on TV.


July 17th, 2018 at 11:16 PM ^

I graduated in 2008 and have lived in Ann Arbor ever since. Even though I'm a pretty big fan, the last Michigan Basketball game I went to was in college.

I think it's a combination of a few factors. Usually the weather is shitty during most of basketball season, so it requires a lot of extra motivation to attend the game as opposed to just watching on TV. Also, even the good Beilein teams have usually looked pretty crappy(barely winning games) before putting it together late in the season. Very rarely is a Beilein-coached team firing on all cylinders before February, unless it's against an overrated UCLA team.

I do enjoy attending Crisler for games though, and could probably see myself getting season tickets when I'm like 50+ years old.


July 18th, 2018 at 1:18 AM ^

"Even though I'm a pretty big fan, the last Michigan Basketball game I went to was in college."

Uhhhh, dude. Trey Burke and the 16-0 and 20-1 start and #1 ranking wasn't enough for you? Nik Stauskas and the 15-3 conference champs? Nothing? No?

Weather has been the excuse for 10 years? Do you go outside for anything ever? 


July 17th, 2018 at 5:19 PM ^

Seems like they could bring down the price of a ticket, but as has been pointed out, this has been a struggle for years.  Michigan is a big hockey state which can create divided attention, especially with U of M hockey seemingly back.


July 18th, 2018 at 1:31 AM ^

Total punt on that first question.  Why not just throw out seasons in which a player shot fewer than 50 threes and run a quick analysis to see if there's anything significant at any level of confidence?  Seth, this is a good one for you!

There are plenty of caveats (like if the players usage increased maybe the quality of looks decreased) but that should all just be noise.

And to further that, you'd think players would improve a baseline amount so it'd be interesting to see M players compared to a college average.

My guess is and always has been that there's no measurable Beilein effect on shooting.  He recruits good shooters and then it's largely up to the kid to keep improving.  There's not a lot you can do with a kids shot in 2-4 years when he's already been shooting a certain way for a long time.  See: Zak Irvin (who seemed to get worse as Beilein tried to tweak).

Simpson will be really interesting.  It largely scares me that they're starting from scratch. Shooting is about muscle memory and repetition.


July 18th, 2018 at 3:58 AM ^

The reality is M b-ball isn’t an event for students or Ann Arbor. Games aren’t circled on the calendar. Culprit #1 is location, #2 is arena itself.

Crisler is at least 25 min walk for most of campus, without an easy route to navigate, in a not particularly walkable or interesting area. Meanwhile the arena itself doesn’t seem to pack spectators close to the action like other schools.

For kicks, imagine a vintage fieldhouse style arena directly on campus off hill st or south forest. Student attendance and atmosphere would be radically improved