Not just a 6'8 shooter? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
So we've seen a little bit of basketball now. What is your early season takeaway?
David: I will let the basketball pundits break down how Walton looks like he's back, Caris's B1G MVP potential, HOLY DUNCAN ROBINSON, and the myriad of ways DJ Wilson will contribute this year. My first major thought after seeing the first few games is the deep rotation.
|Also he's quite the 6'8 shooter. [Pat Barron]|
This is the deepest M team that I can remember. Beilein has made comments about keeping a tight rotation and playing through their mistakes. While I think that is maybe an ideal goal, I think it is also a bit of coachspeak to generate a lot of competition within the squad. The point I am also trying to get at is that I'm not convinced, yet, that there will be an 8-man rotation. In the past few years, we've been scanning the roster trying to find 8 guys that have potential and/or we can just get on the floor. That should not be the case, this year.
The starters will most likely be Walton, LeVert, Dawkins, Irvin, and Doyle. Obviously the next two off the bench will be Spike and Robinson. After that, you'd have to think DJ Wilson will get minutes. That is probably the most logical rotation. However, due to some youth, inexperience, and lack of endurance, I think that while Donnal's play has been somewhat underwhelming, he will still get minutes at the 5. M is probably going to have to play 3 different centers in most games. After that, you look at the upside of both Rahk and Chatman and both will have their opportunities, as each can present different matchup problems.
An argument can be made why every scholarship player could get some consistent minutes. Will M really play 11-12 guys every game? Most likely not. But I really do think that 9 and possibly 10 guys could see playing time, at least for the foreseeable future. Obviously, there could be attrition and injuries, but with this kind of depth M seems very well prepared for such events. Plus, if fouls are going to be called the way they have so far this season, walk-ons may see time, again!
[After the JUMP: je ne de fense?]
Seth: I've only seen one of the games in Crisler so far (the Elon game) and my first takeaway is I wasn't expecting this team to be top 60 in defense but now I'm kinda worried it's going to take a lot of work to get even there.
|Walton is so hot right now it's terrifying. [Barron]|
The new hedging rules were really playing havoc, even if that's ultimately going to help Michigan if it continues to be enforced as such. Doyle and Wilson accrued 7 whistles on 26 combined minutes, while Caris and Walton both finished with three, and plenty of those were on little hip bumps.
Dawkins also seemed three steps away from being an "and D" guy; I was hoping he'd be more like two steps. Duncan Robinson is really long but guys he was defending shot nearly as well as he did from range. If Michigan wasn't scorching from three on Monday night that Elon game might have had a few more collar-pulls after the half.
Also did I mention "scorching" because...
click for big
I am going to cuddle that 183.6 ORtG (and 25.8 DReb%) like a baseball writer cuddles his April batting averages. Ace pointed out in slack that Robinson's eFG% was actually hurt by making two free throws. Having that hold up is as unpossible as Walton and Robinson's "true" shooting numbers, but that's a good sign of offense to come.
Brian: I have a good one and a bad one.
The good one: Duncan Robinson is going to finish the year with the top ORTG on the team and I wouldn't be surprised if he had a single digit under that number at the end of the year. When he transferred from Williams I said "shooting is shooting is shooting" and man has that borne out so far.
|Lesser expectations for Donnal means Mo Weezy. [Campredon]|
Dude shot 46% from 3 as a freshman who had to drive the large bulk of his team's offense. At Michigan he is going to be the third or fourth banana when he's on the court. Even if guys aren't hedging off him much, he's 6'8" and doesn't need much room to get his shot off. Y'all better bring your Raiden hats.
*And* he knows the offense really well and has shown a proclivity for both cutting to the basket and finding guys when they get loose on their way to the basket. He is kind of a disaster on defense but when you're that much of a rainmaker on offense it's worth it.
The bad one: Mark Donnal has shown almost zero development on defense. Last year in Big Ten play he fouled at an incredible rate: 8 per 40 minutes. This year he's got 4 in 25 minutes against lower-level competition, and both NMU and Elon had bigs back him down for excellent shots whenever he was in there. The NMU guy couldn't finish but that's because he's 6'6", 285, and not good—the shots themselves were point blank layups.
If Donnal is a target for the Fightin' Christians he's going to get ripped a new one by anyone with tourney aspirations. We've been getting serious mixed messages about his future here. He's been starting games; Beilein just publicly reclassified him from a redshirt sophomore to a junior. Given the latter, the former seems like a last-ditch attempt to light a fire under a passive player. That attempt isn't working.
Oh right, him. [Campredon]
Ace: The big men are covered by everyone else, so I'll focus on the development of Derrick Walton, who I thought was playing far better than his numbers indicated through the two D-II games before he exploded for a 24-6-7 line against Elon. In the first two games he picked his spots while the offense mostly ran through Caris LeVert, which was fine given the matchups—LeVert is as tall as the two D-II teams' centers—and the fact that Walton did excellent work starting the fast break, even though his passes weren't resulting in many assists.
|It's alright if the offense goes through Caris this year. [Barron]|
The Elon game showed off all he's capable of doing. The transition stuff was still a big part of his game, both as a passer and scorer, but he also made a much bigger impact in halfcourt sets—his baseline drives set up corner threes, he excelled as an outsider shooter both spotting up and off the dribble, and he created his own shot in late-clock situations. He continues to be an excellent defensive rebounder on top of everything else. The sophomore breakout is arriving a year late; even if Walton's deference to LeVert and (when he's healthy) Irvin keeps him from posting big numbers every game, he's a top-flight player.
As for M's defense, I assume the foul calls aren't going to be as much of an issue as players adjust to the way the game is called and the early-season emphasis on whistling every little bump isn't quite emphasized so much; these initial adjustments tend to level out, and ultimately the attempt to crack down on contact should benefit the Wolverines, who play a much less physical brand of defense than, say, MSU or Wisconsin, to pick two teams at complete random.
What I'll be watching for is how much Michigan can offset their perimeter defense deficiencies by forcing turnovers. The guards and wings haven't been very good on that end so far; M is blowing rotations, getting caught on screens, and allowing too many flat-out blow-bys. Aubrey Dawkins and Duncan Robinson are clear minuses as defenders and they're going to get a lot of time; the closest the team has to a lockdown defender is MAAR, and it's unclear how big a role he'll even play.
Thus far the team has done a solid job of canceling out many of those issues by being very active in jumping passing lanes and swindling unsuspecting ballhandlers, something Beilein has mentioned was a significant point of emphasis heading into this season. Michigan has a ton of length now and several players—LeVert, Spike, and Kam Chatman foremost among them—who have a knack for disrupting passes. While Beilein teams have never relied much on generating turnovers, I think this year's squad will be an exception.