Let's Start Again: Center Comment Count

Brian April 18th, 2018 at 11:53 AM

An irregular series about next year's basketball team. Previously: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power-ish forward.


[JD Scott]


Jon Teske (Jr): 12 MPG last year, top-30 OREB rate, rim protector, 118 ORTG(!) thanks to scanty TOs and huge FT rate. 60% from line.

Austin Davis (So*): Played well in scattered minutes here and there. Projects as traditional big.

Colin Castleton (Fr): Stretch five is Wagner except with crazy gumby arms?


Wither five-out, and how crippling the loss?

I mean… it'll be fine? Probably?

Midway through the season it became clear that Jon Teske had shed his freshman awkwardness and emerged into the kind of rim protector and possession generator that this site has craved for years. Once Moe Wagner became a borderline-NBA-level stretch five we stopped talking about it so much. The burning fire never left, though, for the ultimate Beilein C that doesn't need the ball to do a bunch of stuff.

Teske promises to do a bunch of stuff sans ball like nobody since Mitch McGary. Game columns around here more often than not had some note about how everything was going to be fine even if Moe left, usually citing Teske's excellent OREB rate—which would have been tied for 30th if he qualified for Kenpom leaderboards and got significantly better against better teams—and absurd-for-a-big steal rate. Here's a graph from Bart Torvik of 6'10"+ high major players who played at least 10 MPG:


Ray Spalding of Louisville and Javin DeLaurier of Duke are the only dots in the vicinity. Teske's combination of possession generation and sheer size is otherwise unheard of. That goes a long way toward replacing Wagner's diverse offensive skillset. (If you're curious, Wagner is the yellow dot just under the 2.25% steal rate line. Ethan Happ is the red dot at the very top in the middle.)

Meanwhile Teske's meh 5.4 block rate doesn't do his rim protection justice. This site after the game at Maryland:

Jon Teske didn't score but that might have been his best game of the season? I might be serious about that. His ten minutes saw him contest maybe a dozen shots, several of which looked like easy finishes until he got involved. Teske was able to fall off his defender despite the opposition starting their drive as Teske, back to the basketball, recovered on a pick and roll; he was only hit with one foul; he at one point intimidated Huerter into a bizarre miss.

In about 500 possessions against top 100 teams Teske's presence depressed opponents' 2P% by a whopping six points, at the cost of a slight uptick in threes attempted:

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 2.21.17 AM

Michigan also forced more turnovers, got more rebounds, and gave up fewer free throws with Teske on the floor.

He even managed to survive against Villanova's pick and roll. Very few Wildcat points could be tied back to Teske's relative immobility. And that's the only question left about his defensive prowess: what happens if he plays Haas against an opponent's Wagner? So far, so good—and a brief survey of the league next year turns up only a couple plausible stretch 5s, give or take annual development. Issa Thiam of Rutgers(!) is the only returning player over 6'8" to put up 100 3s last year, and he's a super-sized Just A Shooter SF. Luka Garza, Isaiah Roby, and Juwan Morgan all tried around 50 with acceptable-ish hit rates and might blow up.

Teske is likely to be a defensive difference maker and shot volume asset.

[After the JUMP: Teske O click, Moe 2.0?]


[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

On the downside, there's no escaping that Teske isn't going to produce shots at the rate Wagner did. As this series as repeatedly fretted, the worst case scenario for next year's team is that Wagner's absence means that a lot of folks get pressed into late clock shots they're not suited for. The drop from Wagner's 25% usage to Teske's 16% has to be picked up somewhere. Teske might be able to pull himself up a bit, especially if his rumored three-point proficiency translates to the court next year, but unless Michigan decides to start posting up a lot he's likely to top out at 20. Chance that Michigan starts posting up a lot: zero.

The good news is that Teske had a "click" moment midseason, around about the time Michigan drivers started using Teske as a re-screener after a slip. Ace:

Over the last month, however, the light came on. Teske played only 18 combined minutes across three games culminating in the February 11th trip to Wisconsin. To that point, facing top-75 competition (venue-adjusted), Teske made only 13-of-28 two-point attempts in 13 games—nobody that big and skilled should be sub-50% inside the arc. He's 8-for-13 on twos in the six top-75 games since, culminating in the 14-point outburst at Purdue, while averaging over 15 minutes in that span. He's finishing with an authority he hadn't shown previously, as Isaac Haas can tell you.

Teske's also settling into the offense in ways that don't show up in his personal stat line. Using data from Hoop Lens, here are Michigan's offensive stats with Teske on the floor before and after the trip to Madison (top-100 non-conf. games and Big Ten only):


There's noise in here, to be sure—the nearly ten-point gap in three-point shooting should be attributed more to luck than anything Teske is doing. A six-point difference in two-point percentage is less fluky and remarkably impactful, however, and there's reason to believe it's sustainable based on the film.

By the end of the season Michigan's offense was actually slightly better with Teske on the floor after February 1st. EFG, TO rate, and various other factors remained static; FT rate dropped a lot and OREB rate rose a lot. That's about 300 possessions—five games worth—against top 100 opponents. It's not nearly enough to declare anything but it certainly suggests that Michigan's offense can survive in the post-Moe era. It'll get tougher without Wagner since teams will be gameplanning for Teske and not focusing so much on pick and pop, but that's what team-wide offseason improvement is for.

If the rest of the team can pick up the usage slack, Michigan won't miss Wagner much. Moderately large "if."

I am from the internet and have repeatedly suggested Austin Davis could/should transfer?



Finally, I have found you. Cut that shit out. Ain't happening, and shouldn't.

Never give up on a big. Never! Never never. Ok, maybe sometimes when they have narcolepsy or you wish they had narcolepsy because it might improve their defense. But definitely don't give up on a redshirt freshman big who got stuck behind an NBA player and the already-discussed Jon Teske.

In the exceedingly brief windows that Davis played against real teams, he acquitted himself well. He forced Isaac Haas into a tough hook shot he missed against Purdue; he was not exploitable at Breslin when the usual atrocities forced him onto the floor; he's rebounded well. Since Davis's high school career was spent at Onsted that's about all the data we have on the guy. It is vaguely positive.

Davis is never going to be the Moe Wagner super bomber. Your author believes he can still be at least a useful piece this year, spotting Teske when that's a necessity. "Jordan Morgan plus a couple inches" is the ideal. He will be a key backup unless the next guy's improvement is exponential.


Maaaan I don't even want to think this is a real thing:

Colin Castleton has our attention, and that of Rivals. They just moved him up 40-some spots in their final 2018 rankings.

Before this year, Castleton was always a bundle of potential in a disturbingly skeletal package. His early highlights gave me an unaccountable desire to write a check to Sarah McLachlan. This video from about this time last year featured a very very active and very very skinny Castleton, who is #22 in the foreground:


That is a post version of Caris Levert right there.

He since filled out considerably and has evidently spent most of his time working on euro-style skills. Per his high school coach he not only hit threes at a 38% clip but also took more than anyone else on his team, and in the highlights above you can see how that might be the case. Castleton's stroke is a hair quicker and smoother than Wagner's, and his drives to the buckets are straight out of the same book. He even goes behind the back at one point early in the tape. Add in his potential as a defender—he had the #2 block rate in the most recent EYBL and was acquired largely by Luke Yaklich—and you're probably looking at one of the most underrated prospects in the 2018 class even after Rivals flung him upwards. ESPN still has him rated in the 70s.

While it's unlikely that Castleton comes out of the gate strong enough to warrant much playing time (remember Wagner sitting behind Donnal a couple years ago), Michigan might as well take their shot with him. A redshirt would be pointless. The combination of Castleton's skills, frame, and athleticism with Beilein player development should see him to the NBA before a fifth year, easily.

But I wouldn't bet on him to blow up immediately.


Teske should be a rebound machine and all-around defensive upgrade on Wagner; whether that's enough to offset the offensive drop is up to his teammates. If Poole is a 25% usage guy with high efficiency and Matthews is his low turnover version from late in the season it's going to be fine. Teske's offense is likely to be restricted to acting as a roll guy on the PNR and the occasional decent midrange look. I want to believe that he'll start canning threes but his FT rate makes me skeptical. Even if he's not offering stretch out to the three-point line he should be one of the better Cs in the league.

Backup minutes will probably be Davis's and that'll probably be all right. I have no basis for that assertion except a few possessions here and there.

Castleton will play but will probably be too slight and too overwhelmed to do much, especially early. Wagner got 8 MPG his freshman year and he was playing behind Doyle and Donnal, not an established defensive force. 2019-20 will be fascinating; Castleton should be ready to break out but Teske probably isn't an early entry candidate given the way the NBA is going. Going to be crowded for a bit.


Shop Smart Sho…

April 18th, 2018 at 12:03 PM ^

"Castleton should be ready to break out but Teske probably isn't an early entry candidate given the way the NBA is going."

And now everyone is going to start talking about playing two bigs in two years with Castleton as the stretch 4, right?

Shop Smart Sho…

April 18th, 2018 at 12:27 PM ^

I think we can guarantee that Castleton isn't getting anywhere near 25 mpg this coming year, and it would be surprising if he got there the season after if Teske and Davis are both healthy and continue on their development track, unless they actually do run a 2 big man lineup with him at the 4.

He's an increbily intriguing prospect, but I think it's pretty safe to assume he's going to follow a similar development track to Wagner, except he'll have much more viable upperclassmen blocking his minutes.

Mr Miggle

April 18th, 2018 at 12:39 PM ^

20 minutes each as the sole big is an entire game.

We should probably just give up an the idea that Beilein is suddenly going to switch to playing two bigs significant minutes. He wasn't willing to do it when he was thin or undersized at the 4. It's much harder to see him going that way with Livers, Johns and Iggy on the roster.. 

Shop Smart Sho…

April 18th, 2018 at 12:43 PM ^

The only way I see it happening is if Castleton is a legit early draft choice after his sophomore year, and it's apparent that he'll be playing the 4 in the NBA. At that point, there is no reason to stick him behind Teske, and it would mean he's a better option than everyone else on the roster at the 4. Sort of how JJJ played at the 4 this year for MSU. I just don't know that he has the lateral quickness to play the 4 in the NBA, so it might be a moot point.

Ali G Bomaye

April 18th, 2018 at 1:11 PM ^

The math is just a rough estimate. It's going to vary depending on how both guys develop and on opponent matchups. I was just trying to indicate my guess that they'd roughly split time, with each being the sole big on the court for the vast majority of their court time.


April 18th, 2018 at 2:08 PM ^

the only reason sensible fans talked about it early in the season this year was that Duncan was in a slump and a major liability on defense and the only other option was a freshman that started the year 4-17 from 3.  There was an early #FreeTeske movement that rightly suggested maybe we should try to get our best 5 on the floor.

Then both Duncan and Livers upped their games significantly and the 4 spot went from trouble to above average with versatility as a bonus.  At that point, there was no need for #FreeTeske (but agree that there were still some people unreasonably talking about twin towers).


April 18th, 2018 at 12:12 PM ^

Castleton reminds me of Cody Zeller, but a year or two behind. Zeller was stronger and very polished offensively as a freshman in college. I think Castleton has the potential to showcase many of Zellers strengths, except he has a much higher ceiling defensively.

Roy G. Biv

April 18th, 2018 at 12:13 PM ^

Sarah McLachlan. Apologies for being that guy. I thought Teske was really good in broken plays as a screener, frequently recognizing and picking off the dribbler's man to clear the lane. I think his see and react response is excellent for a big guy.


April 18th, 2018 at 12:18 PM ^

Teske also excelled at two things that don't show up on the stat sheet: tip outs extending possessions and sealing off defenders from helping on someone driving to the hoop.


April 18th, 2018 at 12:14 PM ^

QUICKLY became one of my favorite players..He does ALL the little things that nobody notices...rebounds, tap outs, blocks, loose balls...He maybe didnt score alot of points but he made his presence felt and there were a couple of games in the Big and NCAA tournament runs that he had crucial play...He has a TON of potential and next year will be a breakout year for him..Teske is Pesky!


April 18th, 2018 at 1:19 PM ^

Couldn't agree more.  Although I think a lot of us did notice and he was apprecitiated.  That's why when Mathews wasn't going so well earlier in the B1G season, I think some wanted to see how Wagner and Teske on the floor at the same time would look. 

Mr Miggle

April 18th, 2018 at 12:45 PM ^

Literally no one has speculated he'll do so and hire an agent. Many expect him to do it without an agent. If he declares without one, he'll get the chance to work out for NBA teams, get feedback and try for a combine invite. After the combine he would decide whether to stay in the draft or return to Michigan.


April 18th, 2018 at 12:50 PM ^

If you watch the NBA at all, you can tell Matthews isnt ready. I mean who knows, maybe there are some teams who need a guy who just figured out how to pivot within the last few months, but I'm not so sure. 

Basically, if he declares teams will sit him down and say "your jumper sucks and you turn the ball over too much, we won't draft you", and then he'll have a choice to make. I think we here in the MgoUniverse are at like 95% certainty he'll be back next year. He's an NBA prospect with legit athleticism and awesome wing defense, but he needs to smooth things out, mainly his jumper/handles. That's what's holding him back right now. I'm not saying that because I want him back, I think the general consensus is that another year in college would do him a lot of good. That's why you see him listed in a lot of articles


April 18th, 2018 at 5:05 PM ^

Yeah. He has no role in the NBA right now. Bench player that can create scoring? Not good enough. 3-and-D? Not good from 3. Incredible can't-miss athlete? He's athletic, but guys who get drafted for that are guys like GRIII, who was on an entirely different level. 

He needs to develop offensively a lot to be a draftable prospect. He might; he's playing for the right guy. But he's not close to the NBA right now.


April 19th, 2018 at 2:35 PM ^

I would argue Matthews and GR3 are on par athletically. 

Matthews is projected just outside the second round right now.  If he shot his FTs at a 20% higher percentage which would put him at 75% where GR3 was, he'd be a second rounder right now, just like GR3 was.

And then if either of them were high 30s 3pt shooters that'd shoot them up to the first round.


April 18th, 2018 at 12:25 PM ^

Less versatile Center with Teske and still probably meh 3 point shooting. I'm not seeing the offense taking a step forward next season. Maybe if both Poole and Livers make huge leaps.


April 18th, 2018 at 1:26 PM ^

Even with Wagner and Robinson gone, I think we have a good chance to be better on offense.  Not like we were consistent at all this past season. 

Poole most certainly will take a lead scoring role.  Livers inevitably will score more than next to nothing he did last year.  You certainly can't discount the freshman -- they'll be contributions off the bench from many of them.  Teske will learn to score his eight - ten a game and Mathews will likely be the lead scorer consistenty in the 14-19 pt per game area. 


In other words, everyone coming back should improve at least incrementally and more so for Poole; and this is a freshman class that will certainly contribute out of the gate and improve as the year goes on.


April 18th, 2018 at 2:58 PM ^

look at those offensive stats with him on the floor v without him on the floor. Definitely a dip.  You're correct that some combo of Poole, Livers, Z and Matthews would have to take leaps for the offense to improve.

But look at those defense stats.  We were even better at defense with him on the floor than we were worse at offense.

We stand to improve significantly on defense, which is crazy given how good we were season.

Z, Matthews, Livers and Teske will probably all be top 2 in the conference at defending their positions.  Last year we were a very good defensive team, this coming year we could approach Virgina level dominant.

Mr Miggle

April 18th, 2018 at 3:47 PM ^

improve over last season. Center is the only position that's clearly worse and probably by a fair amount. It's unreasonable not to expect improvement from the returning players, but the freshmen are all wildcards. It's a very strong freshman class and it would be a surprise if at least 2 aren't able to make significant contributions.

PG should be better, both Simpson and his especially his backup(s). 

SG is the hardest to guess. Poole is more explosive and I think more likely to carry a big scoring load if needed. We may well need him to. MAAR was really good at taking care of the ball and could take over as the main ball handler. Hopefully Poole can do both reasonably well We could lose something at the backup spot, but we have a couple of shooters coming in that might match Poole's freshman production.

SF Matthews improved a lot already late in the season. He's going to be motivated to work on his shooting, but just maintaining his end of season performance will mean a step up.

PF should be better. Livers went into a shell on offense after becoming the starter. He showed he could do a lot more and he will probably be asked too. Duncan had a solid season overall, but he wasn't that proficient on offense, playing a limited role. A more complete Livers plus Johns/Iggy has a lot of potential.

C is defnitely going to take step back but Teske is not a liability. He'll be a lower usage player than Wagner. We just need other positions to shoulder more of the load. 


April 18th, 2018 at 12:48 PM ^

Can't wait to see Beilein play with all these shiny new toys over the next few years. Castleton looks like a perfect Beilein 5 - a true 7-footer who can alter shots on defense, yet skilled enough to be a real stretch 5 on offense. Pair him up with Brandon Johns at the 4 doing his rim-running, 3-point shooting Blake Griffin impression, and surround them with other guys who can score...  <HOMER DROOL/>


April 18th, 2018 at 12:51 PM ^

i forget didn't moe get hurt in mid part of the schedule? or hit a wall? he started the year well above that 8 mpg and trailed off/DNP

aka CC may start slow, but come tournament time could be contributing 10 mins+ a game.

also might be interesting to pair CC with X as often as possible and dejulius with Teske/Davis (which seems counter to starting line ups) as this will balance out the shooting threat in the PnR game


April 18th, 2018 at 12:56 PM ^

I think you're going to see ~5mpg with Johns or Livers playing the 5 against smaller teams in an effort to generate more offense and spread the floor for guys like Iggy, Poole, etc. to attack.  I think Johns will see the floor quickest as a platoon with Davis for those 10-15 minutes backing up Teske.  


April 18th, 2018 at 1:00 PM ^

Is my guy in this class. He looks like John Leuer and Peja Stojakovic had a baby and that baby then had another baby with John Henson. I am not sure what that says about his NBA potential, but that sounds like a killer NCAA player.


April 18th, 2018 at 1:03 PM ^

makes me giggle giddily. Michigan gonna pound people, and not just club them like some MSU teams of the past have, but macerate them from inside and outside, turn them over and invert them like poultry at a processing plant. This is going to be fun. 


April 18th, 2018 at 2:57 PM ^

Optimism is mostly good....beats the hell out of pessimism. However, the cost of losing Robinson, Wagner and MAAR cannot be understated. What MAAR did for this team last year was off the charts...and there is nobody to replace him....make that NOBODY!!! 

Realistically, the 2018-19 team is going to encounter a painful learning curve...especially in league play. "Sophomore leaps" are not automatic givens. Lots of nice talent, HOWEVER. Fortunately, it appears as though the coaching staff is going to remain intact...but they are going to have their work cut out for them. I think they will make the big tournament...it is not a given.


April 19th, 2018 at 3:52 AM ^

Off the charts? Rahk was good, but he had his dry spells and even when he was efficient, he rarely had the usage to carry a game. It's not like he was Stauskas or Burke. It's not going out on a limb at all to think Poole will be better than Rahk was. I'd be really disappointed if he didn't at least match Rahk actually.


April 19th, 2018 at 8:11 AM ^

There are intangibles to the game that are not/can not be measured....that are "off the charts". Here, MAAR was special. Poole is a wonderful player and teammate but very different from what I am talking about. MAAR was a grinder of sorts-with a calm and  indomitable spirit. In watching DeJulius, he could well possess this "we are not going down without a fight" trait. Livers might be/become that guy too. These are not the rah, rah guys...these are the guys that quietly demand that their team, collectively, gets/stays in the game mentally.


April 18th, 2018 at 1:14 PM ^

1. Watch those Castleton highlights. Or maybe don't.

2. I've (finally) been getting around to tourney GIFs and Teske was an absolute monster on defense against Houston. This sequence may be my favorite of the year—he deters guys from shooting three times, and on the third his man travels.

There were multiple other instances where guys got to the paint and either really altered their shot or aborted the idea entirely because of Teske's interior presence. I think there's a good chance whatever dropoff occurs on offense is made up on defense when Teske is out there, which is remarkable to consider given this year's defense.

L'Carpetron Do…

April 18th, 2018 at 1:16 PM ^

I really dig Teske and I'm excited to see him block some shots and finish on the pick and roll next season. 

I don't follow much recruiting stuff in any sport but this Castleton dude looks awesome. I hope he doesn't spend too much time on the bench learning Beilein's sytem.  Would like to see Beilien find a way to get him time in games early on.


April 18th, 2018 at 1:14 PM ^

I will be surprised if Castleton doesn't get most of the backup minutes next year. I'm not ready to give up on Davis either, but based on what I saw this year, he's the underdog to get the backup minutes at the 5 next year.


April 18th, 2018 at 1:49 PM ^

Prepare to be surprised, I guess?


Castleton needs 8 cheeseburgers a day and a year at Camp Sanderson. He doesn't know our system yet either. 


Bigs take time. Wagner got less than 10 minutes per game as a frosh. Teske will get 30, Davis will get 8-10, Castleton will maybe start getting some more towards the end of the year


I am super high on him but I think it's premature to start saying he's the favorite for high backup minutes 


April 18th, 2018 at 1:43 PM ^

I'm excited for Teska but moderately worried about our offense.  The defensive upgrade might offset it but playing games in the 50's isn't going to be a good time.

I hope Davis can be serviceable but I have no idea, I imagine he will be mediocre on defense and a nothing on offense. Thats fine if he is getting under 10 minutes per game but if Teske has a foul trouble game I'm not sure we can roll with Davis for 25 minutes and come out with a win. Should be interesting.


April 18th, 2018 at 1:52 PM ^

per what coaches and players say about Davis, he's got the most polished finish around the rim of any of the bigs. I think he'll be more than nothing on offense


If we get in bad foul trouble on the bigs or have trouble playing offense, we'll probably resort to small ball and throw some combo of Iggy/Livers/Castleton/Johns at the 4 and 5


April 18th, 2018 at 1:58 PM ^

The best thing they had going for them this season on offense is a Center in Wagner that could pull oppossing team's big men away from the basket and spread out defenses and hit 3 pointers or take guys off the dribble. That will be absent next season. I think Castleton can probably be that guy down the road, but not next season, he's still a flyweight.

I think they'll have to hope they become more consistent without the stretches where they can't hit the broadside of a barn. Also, if they will need to vastly improve their free throw shooting as a team.


April 18th, 2018 at 2:27 PM ^

Not having a stretch 5 also means needing a shot creator to step up bigtime. (Looking at you poole). With a 5 out offfense even the slightest mistake or mismatch can be taken advantage of by most d1 players because there is no real help defense or rim protection. Without the threat of the 5 as a three Z's drives are likely to be even more difficult and less effective. We are going to need a couple guys that can create their own shot of the dribble. Without that we are a bad shooting night from the outside away from 40 points on any given night. Tough to have a consistently good season when you need to hit 40% of your threes every night to have a functioning offense.


April 18th, 2018 at 3:59 PM ^

I think folks are overstating the effect that the change from Moe to Teske will have on offensive spacing. Beilein's offense is based on motion sets with the 5 in the high post plus lots of 1-5 or 2-5 ball screens. They aren't all of a sudden going to have Teske posting up in the low block. 

There will likely be less pick and pop and more pick and roll with Teske, but that would only effect how a defense defends ball screen action. It wouldn't allow a rim protector to sit in the paint and clog things up.

This isn't to say that there there will be no offensive downgrade (maybe someone with access to Synergy could provide comparitive stats on PnR/PnP action of Moe vs Teske to give us a flavor), just that the "spacing" commentary is a bit off.


April 18th, 2018 at 7:32 PM ^

For the life of me I don't know why.

He will adapt the sets to the personnel he has. One thing that we saw in the non-conference was that Teske is a good passer - certainly better than Wagner. I would not be surprised to see Beilein add several wrinkles to the offense with Teske in the high post to take advantage of this skill.

The "Teske doesn't have Wagner's skill set - we're doomed!!!" narrative shows a lack of imagination that our coaching staff thankfully doesn't share.