basketball Dad is back [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Open Practice Impressions Comment Count

Brian October 30th, 2018 at 12:19 PM

Michigan's annual basketball open practice was yesterday. Takes! You need takes!

Pick and roll focus. After a quick warmup the drills portion of the practice was largely pick and roll, with various managers simulating the various ways teams defend P&R and Michigan executing plays based on the opposition's reaction. There was also a fast break drill that started 3 v 2 or 3 v 1 with the defense getting extra players up to parity after an initial disadvantage.

Positional intrigue. Brooks played the two next to Simpson in the scrimmage; Beilein explicitly noted that a number of players were playing multiple positions. That's par for the course; the interesting bit was that Livers and Johns are both options at center. Michigan ran a little of Livers at C last year, where he looked lost on the offensive end. Johns looked pretty similar during the scrimmage. Despite that I'd expect to see him mostly at the 5. Beilein talked about his "four bigs" at one point and generally referenced Johns as a 5.



Scrimmage! Teams:

  • Maize was Simpson/Brooks/Nunez/Livers/Teske, with Castleton subbing in at the 5. CJ Baird also got a little run.
  • Blue was DeJulius/Poole/Matthews/Brazdeikis/Davis, with Johns subbing in at the 5.

Maize won by approximately 8 points (there was no scoreboard but Beilein had it in his head and kept exhorting blue to get some stops), largely on the strength of Simpson and Teske. Beilein was mic'd up and kept relaying items to the crowd—this was delightful—and one of them was a mention that Simpson and Teske had great chemistry in the pick and roll. This was borne out, as Simpson found Teske repeatedly with a series of slick pocket passes that set the Maize team up for easy buckets. Many of these drew "oooohs" from the assembled crowd.

Simpson didn't just find Teske; he was able to set up all manner of his teammates. His shot's still pretty broke; even so he looked like a guy who'd taken another largish leap forward. It felt like he'd be able to get to the lane with more consistency and pay that off more. Simpson's sophomore year already featured a 25% assist rate*, which was around 200th nationally. That was comparable to Derrick Walton's final two years. Trey Burke's Naismith year saw him rack up a 37% assist rate. Simpson could get to 30-32%, maybe? The kind of passes he was making felt like they'd work against a whole hell of a lot of folks.

*[IE, a quarter of Michigan's baskets when Simpson was on the floor were assisted by him.]

[After THE JUMP: a freshman who doesn't feel like one]

Freshmen. Beilein took time to instruct most of his young charges. David DeJulius and Brandon Johns were the most frequent advisees, which I took to mean that they were the closest to meaningful time at spots (PG, C) where there was a lot of learning to do. At one point Beilein stopped things entirely and turned off his mic to give DeJulius some detailed instructions.



And not quite a freshman. The guy who avoided this, for the most part: Ignas Brazdeikis. Brazdeikis was on the same team as Matthews and Poole and very much came off like the alpha dog. He was able to get to the basket on some complicated change-of-direction drives and while his finishing wasn't quite on point a few of his misses were (or should have been) Kobe assists. He is ready to be a high(ish) usage guy immediately. It was slightly odd to see Matthews sit on the wing and watch Brazdeikis go to work on a few possessions.

It's probably good though. Matthews had a terrible stretch midseason when the offense bogged down and ideas were limited to "Charles, do something." Matthews is not that guy. There are guys who can weather higher usage without shedding too much efficiency, and then there's Matthews: a hyper-efficient gentleman when put in advantageous situation who struggles when asked to generate those situations himself.

If Brazdeikis is instantly a 20-25% usage guy and Poole takes the step forward everyone thinks he will and Simpson is able to amp up his assist rate a bit, almost all of Matthews's usage is going to fall into the hyper-efficient category. Like the time when he got Nunez on his back at the three point line and ripped past him for a dunk. Beilein in the aftermath: "who could see that coming?"

Charles Matthews usage at 20% is a bellwether for the season; I think it'll happen.

Backup C: probably fine. Austin Davis managed a couple of hook shots in the lane, played solid defense, cleaned up the boards aside from one patented Teske self-tap OREB, and felt like a guy ready to be a contributor. Beilein praised both he and Teske for growing into their bodies and getting that extra bit of athleticism that can take a project big to a playing one. He did dorf a tough entry pass but looked very comfortable on the pick and roll himself.

He'll be totally fine as a backup C… as long as he can stay on the court. We talked about Davis's 12 fouls per 40 in limited time last year on the podcast, and at one point Beilein criticized Davis for grabbing Tekse's jersey, going so far as to tell the crowd that when this happened during the season the head coach would be hopping mad.

Colin Castleton was wobblier positionally but had two impressive blocks. He's skilled; it's going to take him a year to fill out and put things together.

The one downer: shooting. Michigan worked themselves a lot of good shots off of complicated action. Easy buckets were rare. It felt like Michigan was very good at breaking down good defense. The level of polish at this practice far outstripped previous editions… but the shots didn't go down nearly enough.

Extrapolating from a brief scrimmage at the tail end of a two-and-a-half hour practice (Beilein said they'd been going for 90 minutes before folks arrived) is unwise. Many of the misses rimmed out; many of the players taking the shots have established levels of performance. Only one came from Matthews or Simpson, who were iffy shooters last year. But, yeah, the shots didn't go down enough.

FWIW, Beilein insisted in a press conference that Teske was going to take and make threes this year and he insisted it to the crowd after Teske had a three rim out. He's not going to be Mo level; Michigan will hope to establish him as enough of a threat to be guarded beyond the arc.

Other takes. From Andrew Kahn:

Beilein provided commentary throughout: "Look out!" as Livers soared towards the basket. After a Matthews drive and dunk: "I like high-percentage shots like that." After Brazdeikis finished at the rim through contact: "That's a big boy bucket right there." He told fans to expect 3-pointers from Teske and teased Davis for grabbing jerseys in the post.

With Simpson's Maize team trailing 14-10, Beilein looked at his watch, realized there was still a 3-point contest and a photo session to come, and requested five minutes be cut from the game clock, drawing a protest from Simpson.

"When I want to end practice early, Zavier usually wants to keep going," Beilein said.

Jacob Shames:

Livers still expanding his game

Players and coaches alike have wanted the sophomore forward to take more offensive initiative this season. Monday’s scrimmage was encouraging in this regard — but it was also a reminder that it won’t happen overnight.

In one offensive set, Livers received the ball alone at the top of the key, with Charles Matthews just out of position to close out. Livers paused for a second too long and ended up passing out of the situation, prompting Beilein to shout, “Shoot that, Isaiah!”

One possession later, Livers made up for his indecision. Curling to his left, he received a pass on the right wing and put up a catch-and-shoot three without any hesitation, catching nothing but net. The Wolverines hope he eventually won’t need a reminder to do so.

Rian Ratvanale:


After flirting with the starting job last year briefly, Brooks fell out of the rotation as a freshman to the likes of Jaaron Simmons and Zavier Simpson. While the sophomore is obviously no threat to Simpson for the starting job this year, Brooks was the best player at the open practice, consistently getting to the rim and draining multiple three-pointers. With freshmen guards Adrien Nuñez and David DeJulius not quite in the rotation yet, Brooks seems to be the most likely source of shooting off the bench for Michigan.

Brooks still has to prove it on the court in a game setting, but his development throughout the month of October looks to be a pleasant surprise for the Wolverines.


Prince Lover

October 30th, 2018 at 1:02 PM ^

I’m really looking forward to some basketball and especially this team. Solid d will keep them in games while they work the kinks out of their offense. Then they’ll start really rolling in B1G play....

Go get ‘em Blue!!


October 30th, 2018 at 1:05 PM ^

You know what I find most amazing about this team? That Jordan Poole is probably the fourth most intriguing (not best) player to me:

1) Simpson - He might become my favorite UM player in my 47 years (assuming he continues to develop). I love the way he plays and leads. He gets so much out of his abilities. Watch him on defense and notice how many times he has three points touching the floor because he is scooting around so aggressively. He is like Stauskas' snarl but 24/7. 

2) Teske - So underrated last year (possibly except from the UM fan base). He does so much out there on defense but also offense. I'm eager to see what he can do with a lot of minutes and with Simpson cutting to the lane and dropping him dimes.

3) Iggy - I don't think we've had a player like him in my memory. He's a very poor-man's Stauskas / Shawn Kemp hybrid (OK that comparison sucks, but he's unique physically but also offensively mentally). Call me intrigued!

4) Poole - 4th on my list of who I want to see this year... and he might very well end up First Team All B1G.


October 30th, 2018 at 1:08 PM ^

Feels to me like this could be one of the least "Beilein-like" seasons ever. Lot of defense, not a lot of shooting. Lots of driving and pick-and-roll baskets, lots of sub-20% 3 point shooting nights.


October 30th, 2018 at 1:14 PM ^

I can't wait to see the same optimists change their tune when we can hit the broad side of a barn in Nov & Dec.  I expect a very rough non-con season before turning it on in Jan and Feb.

This will probably be one of Beilien's most frustrating teams to coach.  With that said, if the defense takes another step up, could still be one of his best.  Really interested to see how he adapts an offense to one that is below average @ shooting.


October 31st, 2018 at 6:48 PM ^

We couldn't hit the broad side of a barn last March and it worked out pretty well because of defense. This team's defense should be even better than last year's. We will surely have some rough offensive games in the first half of this year but we should be able to survive most of them because the other team will always be having a rough offensive game.


October 30th, 2018 at 1:10 PM ^

Good to see that Eli Brooks note at the end. In the end DeJulius might end up getting more minutes, but great to have that experience at the guard position. 


October 30th, 2018 at 1:11 PM ^

Shooting continues to be a worry. The defense should remain excellent, especially if Iggy and Poole can develop in DR-type ways. But we might look like Virginia if we can't shoot from deep.

Don't get me wrong, I hope Simpson can be deadly on drives. But if he can't hit 3s and Matthews can't hit 3s and Teske can't do it consistently enough, the paint is going to be packed. 


October 31st, 2018 at 2:02 PM ^

Please explain your understanding of UVA's offensive philosophy.  It seems be based on uninformed national media hot takes.  On a per possession basis they were #30 offense nationally. Their low points per game is obviously a result of pace, because the efficiency is high. What else could it be? They regularly force opponents deep into their shot clock, then run the floor only selectively, and in the half court they run a patient motion offense that works to get the ideal shot.  That plus playing elite defense is a horrid brand of basketball?  okay.


October 30th, 2018 at 2:22 PM ^

During his presser last weeks...

John Beilein seemed confident as he explained that Matthews was not too far away of a good ratio's at the 3 (I believed he said he only needed 8 more over the full season!!).

He seemed to relay on Teske for 3's shooting and his abilities to do so would be the key for this season.

They also do a lots FT and 3's drills apparently at every single practice - Therefor he don't expect a poor shooter to become a Stauskas but to become a good / average one.


True Blue Grit

October 30th, 2018 at 1:13 PM ^

Reading about how well Simpson and Teske were doing the pick and roll repeatedly is music to my ears.  They did that so well in one game this last season, and I kept waiting for them to continue doing it in subsequent games.  But nada.  That's one great way to get Teske more scoring opportunities, which we'll really need post-Wagner.  As far as him getting three's this season, I'll believe it when I see it.  But I do like to hear that now!  

scanner blue

October 30th, 2018 at 1:16 PM ^

There was a clock and scoreboard but it was on the court facing away from the east stands [I was working in the Maize Rage area]. I thought Matthews play was similar to last year’s mid season malaise. He stood on the perimeter and passed the ball and his few drives were smothered by the Yaklich defense. I agree the freshman who stood out was Iggy. He looked confident, poised and skilled and not afraid to attack the basket ...a rarity in Michigan freshmen bigs.


October 30th, 2018 at 1:25 PM ^

Sounds like a 100% Beilein team, just what I love.  Can't find their rhythm in the first half of the season and beat everyone in the second half. Hopefully Iggy can be the true baller we all think he is, already looks strong and ready for the NBA, hoping he isn't a one and done.


October 30th, 2018 at 1:36 PM ^

Seems to be a lot of hype around Brooks so far, specifically his scoring/shooting ability. That would be a welcome sight considering the struggles we'll probably have there. Teske should be decent as a 3 point shooting big but he's no Moe. Matthews might improve a little but I wouldn't hold my breath, for him or Simpson. Iggy is supposed to be a good spot up shooter based on HS numbers but between Spain and practices we've seen he hasn't really put up any 3's.

We're going to need Poole to take a big LeVert type leap forward, and most importantly maintain his 3 point shooting at a much higher volume. If Brooks can come in and help pick up the slack shooting wise with Teske, Livers and Nunez in a limited role off the bench, I think we'll be able to make that work.

Mr Miggle

October 30th, 2018 at 5:09 PM ^

Wagner was a matchup nightmare because he was both a good 3 point shooter and was excellent driving to the hoop. Few opponents were big enough to bother his shot and quick enough to keep up with him. The aim for Teske is more modest. If he's a threat from 3, then he'll pull a big out from the lane and open things up for drives inside. That will make a lot of difference for this offense. He may already be the best screener we've had. 


October 30th, 2018 at 1:39 PM ^

How are we feeling about this team/season?  Obviously National Champ games are always tough to come by/predict, but man this just feels like a really good JB Michigan team.  Deep, versatile, athletic, the D is going to be legit, and if their shooting comes along, could win B1G and make a run.  Thoughts?

The Denarding

October 30th, 2018 at 1:54 PM ^

It will be one of the tougher openings for sure - you lose Duncan, Mo and MAAR from a team that was not that great shooting in the first place.    Not sure where the shooting is going to come from - the key will be if Teske or Livers can stretch the D.   Otherwise SJK is right - the paint will be PACKED....


October 30th, 2018 at 2:02 PM ^

As others have said, we may see some struggles, particularly on the offensive end through the first half of the season.  I think we could compete for the B1G on the strength of the defense and JB's ability to get his teams primed for the stretch run, but I think we are still a year away from being an elite team.

I don't want to discount our chances to have a great season, but when you look at that roster and realize that we most likely only lose Matthews next year...holy crap.


October 31st, 2018 at 7:16 PM ^

We have an opportunity to roll out a small ball lineup of death with brooks/dejulius, poole/nunez, iggy, livers, johns that could potentially be 5 players who all shoot around 40% from three with a hyper athletic 6'9 guy who can switch almost everything at center.  As unlikely as that is, we do have some shooters in the rotation.


October 30th, 2018 at 3:11 PM ^

you tell me to look at that lineup and tell you who won, i would say blue team each and every time.  When i read that the maize team kicked their ass, i had to look over the teams again!  Impressive.  

Gustavo Fring

October 30th, 2018 at 3:25 PM ^

Any one have thoughts on Jordan Poole?  This was a great write-up but I'm not gonna lie I was hoping we'd see a bit about how Jordan Poole is now a combination of Jesus Shuttlesworth and Michael Jordan...