This Week's Obsession: Basketball Takeaways Comment Count

Seth November 18th, 2015 at 12:16 PM


Not just a 6'8 shooter? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The Question:

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.



November 18th, 2015 at 12:29 PM ^

DJ's Defense will ultimately take away minutes from Donnal. Let's hope we can start recruiting some bigs that like to rebound/play D. Our offense system almost always needs a J Mo out there, he was great for us. Tough D, tough on the glass, and could finish like no other.

Also, I still am a huge fan of Rahk's game and think he will get key minutes off of the bench for his D. While he's not your typical "3 and D" guy, he's a D and Drive to the basket guy. He's one of the few guys we have that can create a shot/attack the basket off of the bounce.


Also, Chatman is showing promise. He will get his chance with Irvin still recovering.




November 18th, 2015 at 1:47 PM ^

Teske is 6-11 and 210lbs. He'll definitely need a year or two to gain some weight.

Davis, while better sized at 6'10 and 240 will need some development. His game is raw.


Taco Charlton once was pretty good at basketball... and Harbaugh loves athletes.

I'm sure he could pull down some boards for us.




November 18th, 2015 at 1:56 PM ^

Davis is raw? He's the most refined low post scorer. He does drop step, hook, spin, up and under, and to name a few. Conditioning and explosiveness is the issue.

If any, it's Teske that needs development since his offense lags behind his defense.

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November 18th, 2015 at 12:51 PM ^

David, when you are talking about playing rotation you mention attrition which some have hinted about.  I expected that after the end of the year if it does indeed happen.  Does that mean there is the possiblitity of a mid year transfer since you mentioned it when talking about playing time in the present sense?


November 18th, 2015 at 5:24 PM ^

No,  I wasn't referring to anything in particular.  It was more an overall sense of sometimes things, aside from just injury, happen during the season that don't allow people to play athletics  (grades, suspensions, not enough playing time, personal issues, etc).  I just meant that if/when things like this happen, it will impact the rotation and M's depth is such that they should be able to at least field a somewhat viable replacement.  But, no, I don't have any insider info that I was writing between the lines.  haha


November 18th, 2015 at 12:58 PM ^

My thought is take a gamble on Mo Wagner's upside. Play him as many minutes as possible to start the season and hope he develops into something resembling a mini-McGary to compliment Doyle. Donnal has looked atrocious.

All the positions 1-4 on the lineup and coming off the bench look terrific but making a run in the Big Ten or to the NCAAs won't happen without some talent emerging at the 5 and it's not coming from Donnal.


November 18th, 2015 at 1:11 PM ^

but I think Beilein has already gambled on Wagner's upside simply by burning his redshirt already.  Best case scenario for him at this point is a contribution like Caris in his freshman year, which would be great to get off the bench in someone who can play the 5.


November 18th, 2015 at 1:50 PM ^

The truth of the matter is that we will need at least 3 bigs to contribute a decent amount of minutes, especailly the way they're calling fouls.  Yes, Wilson can be one of those (and will be), but I really think that Wagner has the post potential on the defensive side of the ball.  He seems to be a better natural rebounder/deflectioner of basketballs and has a lot more "intensity" than maybe any other Big on the team. Donnal may have the best offensive game of the bunch as far as outside shooting goes, but I could see him hitting the bench if his hustle and intensity don't increase. 

Wagner is an improving player as is Wilson, and Donnal's been in the system for two full years and change now. We will see more improvement from both Wagner and Wilson as a % of overall talent compared to Donnal due to their lack of overall experience, and right now both of those guys seem to have a higher overall potential than Donnal. Because of that fact, I just really have a hard time seeing Donnal keeping his minutes over time.  May resort to more of a Bielfeldt role (prior to RS Junior year) where he comes in when guys are in foul trouble or really struggling on the court.

Those are my thoughts at least.

Detroit Dan

November 18th, 2015 at 2:04 PM ^

Yeah.  Michigan State looked GOOD last night.  We'll need MAAR out there defensively to slow down Valentine and company.  The depth all around will be essential to ensure that we can go all out defensively at all times, without players worrying too much about foul trouble.


November 18th, 2015 at 1:12 PM ^

Obviously we don't want to turn games into a foul-shooting contest as those are harder to win.  But there is somewhat of an advantage to this year's team if it went that way.  First of all, Beilein teams are very good at shooting free throws.  If the refs are going to call everything, let's parade to the line.  (Assuming Michigan actually gets to the line since they somehow avoid that historically.)  


The other part of it is that depth plays an advantage here.  Michigan is literally 2-deep across the roster and doesn't sacrifice a ton of performance having to dip into the bench.  This isn't giving true freshmen or walkon players minutes.  


  • PG - Walton gets fouls?  Spike is a starting caliber backup.
  • Wing - Levert would be a problem, but they could play two PG or they could put any combination of Irvin, MAAR, Dawkins, Robinson, or Chatman out there.
  • Center - We're four deep.....without an obvious drop off between most of them.


November 18th, 2015 at 1:16 PM ^

I never bought the argument that there was going to be an 8-man rotation.  Even last year that wasn't really the case.  

  1. Walton
  2. Levert
  3. Irvin
  4. Dawkins
  5. Center #1
  6. Spike
  7. Robinson
  8. Center #2
  9. Center #3 

Chatman would be #10 in this case and is currently getting meaningful minutes.  MAAR would be #11.  He'll probably play here and there but not be a regular.  

As for three centers, we played Morgan/McGary/Horford and then Doyle/Donnal/Max.  The third guy might only get a few minutes, but he'll play.  

Michigan Fan L…

November 18th, 2015 at 1:18 PM ^

I am very disappointed in Donnal.  During the 2013 championship run where Donnal took a redshirt, all the players kept talking about how great he looked.  So he shows up in 2014 and plays like he's still in high school.  So this year I'm thinking that he maybe he worked on his weaknesses during the offseason?  Next thing I know, against Elon he's missing layups left and right.  Against Elon, for cryin' out loud.

I watched both games and came to the conclusion that we really are barely a top-25 team.  And then I watched Duke-Kentucky last night and saw all the athletic big men on both teams and wondered how we would fare against either of them.  During our championship run we had McGary, Horford, and Morgan and it worked out O.K. because McGary went crazy during the tournament.

Right now we have Moritz and Doyle,  Chatman and Wilson look like they might eventually be able to play "big."  But I'm hoping that Moritz can show the type of improvement that McGary showed in 2013.  I need for Moritz to go crazy.  Then we might have a chance at making a run.

Go Blue!!!! 


November 18th, 2015 at 1:58 PM ^

The key will be to how fast Moritz improves in my opinion. He's got the "intensity" and athleticism for being a big center type. Not McGary by any means, but he seems to have the ability to play defense closer to half court similar to McGary. Wilson is similar. I think as those two guys get more comfortable at that position, their progression will be the tale of how much potential this team has this season.


November 18th, 2015 at 1:20 PM ^

I'm not as bullish as you guys are about Robinson yet.  Shooting isn't just shooting, look at Stauskas in the NBA right now, his 3 point percentage is terrible because the guys guarding him are now more athletic than him.  I'm not worried about what Robinson brings to the table against Elon, I'm worried about what happens to him when we play msu or osu or maryland, especially on the defensive side where he is already getting abused, against a player like Jake Layman he may be so bad at defense as to be unplayable even if he is hitting his shots.

The defense worries me but I think the offense gets even better with Irvin back, so that is awesome.


November 18th, 2015 at 2:05 PM ^

Thankfully Michigan won't be competing against NBA teams. Robinson's role is not to be a freak athlete. Stauskas may have had a bit more "create your own shot"ness than Robinson, but this is also the first time we've seen him play. During the Elon game, you could tell he was confident shooting the ball. Confidence is important as anything when it comes to shooters.

He may not score 15+ pts per game on average, but he will be that guy you can rely on when you need a bump in scoring. We've seen those types all over the B1G. That short white Indiana kid comes to mind, but his name doesn't come to me. Robinson is TALL and a good shooter. He won't have to have that "athleticism" you're speaking of. He does, however, look more athletic than I thought he'd be.


November 18th, 2015 at 1:56 PM ^

I don't like to rag on players but I felt compelled to say that this kid has no fire in there, which is sad because coming out of school he looked like he had the potential to really stretch defenses and develop into an efficient low post player.  Now he is a shell of post presence with very little confidence in his game and his D is terribly lacking. He was down right bad against Elon, and I'm guessing Beilein might be trying to push him to do.....something.  Every option out there is better than playing him right now.  I wouldn't mind seeing Wilson at the 5 and watch this team just make it rain....hard.  

My ideal lineup would be Walton, Caris, Irvin, Duncan/Dawkins, Wilson. Good luck playing D with that crew.  Even if one or 2 guys are cold you still have 2 other elite shooters on the floor.  As far as the D, do they really need to play it? haha.



November 18th, 2015 at 2:24 PM ^

Donnal was recruited as a PF, not a center. His strength has always leaned toward the outside game. He is trying to become a center out of team need. As our other bigs develope, I would not be surprised to see him move to the 4, especially next year when we will be loaded with post players (Doyle, Teske, Davis, Wagner, Wilson, etc.).


November 18th, 2015 at 3:28 PM ^

Not only is Donnal a defensive disaster, he has flat out missed open layups.  If you're going to be terrible defensively, you'd better be Jordan Morgan offensively.  Man do I miss having someone like that.


November 18th, 2015 at 5:22 PM ^

level of competition may matter. I am reminded of Smotz year where he hit something like 43 percent from 3, but that was built on 57 in non-confernce and in the 30's in the BT. Not saying that will be how it is with Robinson. For those of you who have been to games, how quickly does he get his shot off? Smotz was really slow to load up his shot.

Bertello NC

November 18th, 2015 at 10:26 PM ^

I think we need to see a bigger sample size when diagnosing the strengths and weaknesses of the team IMO. Im excited to see how this team competes against Xavier on Friday. We don't have to see what they do against Kansas or duke but let's see what they do against some viable competition. Watching the games last night - that's some big boy basketball being played. Physical basketball. I think what we need more than anything is a little more tenacity. Maybe not so much physicality although there are a couple players who need to bring that as well (Donnal) but we just need to be knocked around a little to see how we respond. Who will respond. I know JB doesn't preach physicality like some other programs, but like a lot of you have stated already, that's what it'll be as we move forward especially once big ten starts. We need another guy to bring that along with Doyle. I think getting Irvin back will help as he brings experience and some tenacity. Hopefully that bleeds out to the rest of the team.

Bertello NC

November 19th, 2015 at 8:48 AM ^

I also understand that Donnal was recruited as a stretch 4 or whatever but that fact of the matter is that this team needs help in other areas. And he hasn't shown the ability or seems like the willingness to give what the team needs. His eligibility reclassification is pretty telling as well. Like we've stated before, star rating doesn't mean a lot especially with JB. But man Donnal was rated by most as a 4 star. It's amazing that with that eval he doesn't have the upside or physical ability to at least improve significantly in all areas. Even as a finesse big he hasn't really shown he can stretch the floor with his shooting ability. It takes forever for hm to get his shot off and just isn't quick enough for much of anything else. He still should be able to bring something else to the table but it's not happening. I just don't see any fire from him. Now it's early in the season and he will have opportunities to turn it around but it's not looking good.