BBall 2018 Predictions - Depth Chart

Submitted by AC1997 on March 30th, 2017 at 11:10 PM

It is that painful time of year for Michigan fans where the basketball season has ended and we’re still a long 4+ months away from the start of football season.  During this time we are left scrounging for scraps of information out of spring practice or projecting ahead to the next season of basketball.  It is the latter of those two things that this post will focus on.


One annual tradition for just about all of us that follow the basketball team closely is to project the rotation for the following season.  Almost everyone who does so falls into the same trap – predicting that the upcoming season will feature more depth in the rotation than the prior season.  We stare at the roster, we look at the recruits coming in, and we extrapolate the freshmen who barely played into their future roles.  This time of year we end up predicting a rotation of 10+ people depending on the season – and I’m just as guilty as anyone else.  In this post I’m going to try to explain the outlook for next year as we see it today, then throw it to the readers to share their predictions….


Based on all of the post-season basketball content on the site this week (mailbag, podcast, WTKA) I have tried to compile a list of what I think would be the minutes predictions for Brian and Ace.  For purposes of this discussion I’m going to assume that we don’t win the Mo Bamba lottery*, that everyone from the rotation with eligibility returns, and that there is no surprise grad transfer.  I’m also going to split up the minutes in chunks of 5 to make the exercise easier to follow.  Here’s how I interpreted the predictions from Ace & Brian for next season:


  • PG = Simpson (25min), Brooks (10), Rahk (5)
  • SG = Rahk (30), Poole (10)
  • SF = Matthews (25), Robinson (15)
  • PF = Wilson (25), Robinson (5), Livers (10)
  • C = Wagner (25), Wilson (5), Davis/Teske (10)


We can all agree that we know the six primary rotation players next year – Simpson, Rahk, Matthews, Robinson, Wilson, and Wagner.  Looking at the prediction above, we see that there are four additional players predicted to have about 10 minutes per game – Brooks, Poole, Livers, and the winner of the Teske/Davis battle for back-up center.  (I suppose if you are a member of Ibi Watson’s fan club you could switch his name for Poole’s if you want.)  What you see there sounds like a deep and healthy rotation that has a backup at every position, allows all of the recruits to get a few minutes, and has plenty of versatility with guys like Rahk, Robinson, and Wilson who can play multiple positions.  I’m guessing that you’ll see similar predictions on other Michigan blogs.  Sounds like a great plan, right?  Let’s start writing up the season-preview for next year with that as our baseline!


NOT SO FAST….. That prediction is assured to be wrong.  


I can promise you right now that there is no way Beilein is going to play 10 guys that many minutes.  I went back and looked at the numbers for all of the years that Beilein has been at Michigan.  On average, the number of players who play 25% of available minutes (i.e. 10mpg) is just eight per season for his teams:

  • 2007-2008:  9 players
  • 2008-2009:  9 players
  • 2009-2010:  7 players (rounding Zak Gibson’s 24.9% to 25%)
  • 2010-2011:  7 players
  • 2011-2012:  7 players
  • 2012-2013:  6 players (though Spike, Caris, and Horford were all in the 18-23% range)
  • 2013-2014:  8 players
  • 2014-2015:  9 players (Donnal was also at 24%)
  • 2015-2016:  8 players
  • 2016-2017:  7 players (for reference, Xavier Simpson finished at 22%)

Only three times since he’s been at Michigan has Beilein played more than 8 players at least 10mpg.  Never has he had ten players reach that threshold, which is what we had in our prediction.  So what’s more likely to happen?  Let’s break down those seasons where more than 8 players contributed to see if any of those would support something closer to our prediction of 10 contributing players.



This was the miserable first year of Beilein’s tenure at Michigan.  Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims started all 32 games and three other players (Ekpe Udoh, Kelvin Grady, Ron Coleman) started at least 21 and averaged over 20mpg.  Then there were several bench players that kept bouncing in and out of the rotation and ended up reaching the >10mpg threshold – Zack Gibson, Jevohn Shepherd, and CJ Lee.  I think it is safe to say that we can’t learn much from this season as it was the transition from the Amaker to Beilein era and he was trying to find out what he had while losing a ton of games.



This was the year we got back into the tournament with an unheralded group of players.  Once again Manny and DeShawn played about 80% of available minutes, but there was a ton of rotational depth perhaps unlike any other season in Beilein’s tenure.  Zack Novak, Stu Douglas, Laval Lucas-Perry, Zack Gibson, Kelvin Grady, CJ Lee, and David Merritt all averaged 10-25mpg and even Jevohn Shepherd and Anthony Wright were close behind.  That’s a full 9 man rotation with two more still seeing more than just garbage time.  I suppose this would indicate that Beilein is willing to use a deep bench, but what I see in this roster is that he had a lot of role players and not a lot of guys he felt he could truly count on.  He kept trying to find the right mix of players that season and adjusted from game to game without playing hardly anyone a majority of minutes.



This was the season that started the grumbling about Beilein’s job security because they missed the post-season, in large part to the fact that their two best players were injured.  In fact, because Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert only played in 19 and 18 games respectively, it actually skews the minutes higher for other players.  Do we think that Kam Chatman, Rahk, or Aubrey Dawkins play as many minutes as they did that year if both starting guards are healthy?  Not likely.  But maybe it is possible that this could be a blueprint for next year as Michigan did go deep at every spot:

  • PG:  Walton / Spike
  • SG:  LeVert / Rahkman
  • SF:  Irvin
  • PF:  Chatman / Dawkins
  • C:  Doyle / Bielfeldt / Donnal

However, if they were healthy that season it seems far more likely that Walton and LeVert eat up a lot of minutes that were going to inconsistent freshmen like Rahk, Dawkins, and Chatman.  We also know entering next year that Wagner is going to play as many minutes as possible at center, which isn’t the same as playing a three-headed monster of mediocrity shown here.


So where does this leave us?  While it seems that Michigan has about 10 players who could potentially earn meaningful time next year, we also know that only 8 of them likely will.  I’d like to throw it out to the reader at this point – rank these four players with regard to how likely they are to have a role within the rotation next season:


  • Eli Brooks (PG) – We need another ball handler and Simpson has yet to prove himself.  Then again, it is very rare for a Beilein point guard to contribute in his first season.
  • Jordon Poole (SG) – As the guys said on the podcast, there’s always room for a pure shooter to find minutes for Beilein, especially if Rahk has to moonlight some at PG and/or Matthews isn’t living up to the practice hype.  But if Rahk, Matthews, and Robinson are playing major minutes on the wing, where does he fit in?
  • Isaiah Livers (PF) – The most heralded of the incoming recruits and a lock to become DJ Wilson 2.0.  He would help compensate for the loss of Irvin’s ability to defend the PF spot.  Except that Michigan already has three guys who can play the forward spots for major minutes.
  • Teske/Davis (C) – Michigan has to have a back-up center to spell Wagner when he gets tired or in foul trouble.  Despite his struggles this year, Donnal was still comfortably above the 25% of minutes played mark.  Then again…..what if those back-up minutes go to Wilson in a small-ball lineup?  Or what if both Teske and Davis split these few available minutes between them?


How does everyone see this playing out?  I’ll share my prediction in the comments.


*My feeling with Bamba is that Michigan has a chance.  He has a unique personality, not unlike Mitch McGary. I think he’s looking at more than just the typical blue-blood NBA factories and doesn’t see himself as a 1-and-done player.  However, when you start reading into the minutes available I’m not as sure I see more than 10mpg available for him at Michigan and that might be a turnoff for him.  I know UMHoops and others think that Bamba is an instant-impact player on defense who has to play right away, but would he really force Wagner to the bench as a true freshman who is extremely raw on the offensive end? I think he'd be in the rotation, but not in a major way.



March 30th, 2017 at 11:53 PM ^

I think Bamba would be such a difference maker defensively that he would be able to play 20 minutes a game, with Wagner getting the other 20 at the 5 and another 8 or so at the 4 playing big ball, with Wilson playing the other 32 minutes at the 4. Beilein loves to bench players who pick up early fouls, so there would be nights Bamba plays 10 minutes and nights he plays 30 with Wagner getting 2 in the first half.

Hard to rank those 4 freshman (+ Teske) in playing time, but my sense is that while the winner of the center battle is the safest choice, our lack of iso and pick and roll scoring on the perimeter with Walton and Irvin graduating will mean that we need 5 scoring threats to open up big enough lanes for the tiny Simpson and MAAR to get buckets, which means Wilson at the 5 and a healthy amount of Livers or Matthews at the 4 depending on whichever one can best managet to both hit a corner 3 (presumably Livers) and move their feet and not get lost on D (presumably Matthews). 

I do think we're going to have a hard time generating offense next year due to the lack of penetration. At gunpoint I'd set the over/unders next year if both Wilson and Wagner come back as being a dissapointing 18th on O but a better than average for us 60th on D, which is basically what Notre Dame did this year. Notre Dame, Butler and Michigan all seem to have great Os and mediocre to bad Ds every year due to coaching and recruiting. Lots of shooters, not enough athleticism and very good perimeter players that end up playing in the NBA (Grant, Jackson, Burke, Stauskas, Hayward, Mack all come to mind).

I still don't really understand why the best rim-running DeAndre Jordan/Tyson Chandler style bigs aren't desperately sought by these schools. Someone like Jordan Bell or a Varnado style shotblocker who can catch lobs and finish at the rim would help these schools a ton defensively without too badly hurting the O. 


March 31st, 2017 at 8:59 AM ^

I agree with your comments to a point.  I think the key to Michigan's offense will always be the play of its lead guard.  Morris, Burke, Stauskas, and Walton have all lead the team to success when they were dominating the scoring and distribution of the ball.  Michigan has never really had a situation like they will face next year, unless you want to count Morris' freshman year.  I like Wagner and Wilson a lot as players, but I think they need help from a lead guard to get them the ball in easy situations and I'm not sure how that's going to work with X and Rahk.  

I like Wilson and have been amazed at how he went from a guy we wrote off the last two years as a possible transfer candidate who didn't have a position to a guy some people are considering as a POY candidate.  But he still needs to remember that he's 6'10" and 230 pounds - play tough!  Dunk!  Rebound!  Defend!  That's his task for this off-season.  

Wagner has almost the same to-do list, but I think he needs to focus on his post game.  There should be no one that could defend him 1-on-1 in the post, much like Ethan Happ this year.  When he realizes that, then his outside shot will be so much easier to get.  Right now he still thinks he's Duncan Robinson and needs to realize that his strength is the diversity of his game. When I saw his 3s having too high of an arc against Oregon I knew he was in trouble - he needs to make his first couple of baskets - and what better way to do that then from 3 feet away instead of 30.

As for your Tyson Chandler statement - I think there are two issues.  The first is that there just aren't than many of those guys around.  Look at the Big Ten - who had a 7-foot athlete out there that could play defense?  Very few....  On top of that, you end up getting a lot of guys that are big and unathletic or guys who are athletic but have no idea what to do on the court.  Hell, look at Andre Drummand lately.  Great athlete, great rebounder.....mostly lost on offense and a trainwreck on defense right now.  Hard to find the right guys and even harder to fit them into a system......but let's see if we can give it a shot with Bamba!


March 31st, 2017 at 8:51 AM ^

As promised in the piece, here is my ranking of who is most likely to see 10+ minutes next year of the people outside the core 6-man rotation:

1.      Brooks – Ball handling is too important and I don’t see Simpson being ready to play more than 30mpg or Rahkman being able to be a frequent option in that role.  I think we’re going to see more rotation at the PG spot that we haven’t seen since Darius Morris was a freshman.

2.      Livers – I think he’s too talented to leave on the bench and I am worried about the fact that neither Robinson nor Matthews offer the positional flexibility that Irvin did.  I think he’ll be right around that 10mpg mark over the course of the season and play more when Wilson is at the 5.

3.      Teske/Davis – Honestly I think they’re going to be right around the 10mpg mark combined and probably fall below that by the end of the season.  Ideally they’d get plenty of time with a view toward Wagner leaving after his junior year, but how do you justify playing them when Wagner/Wilson should be on the court 30+ minutes each?

4.      Poole – I think he’s the odd man out next year and will be on the 2-year plan at a minimum.  I think he’ll get similar treatment to Ibi Watson this year – a few minutes here and there and if he hits jumpers then they’ll give him more time.  But I don’t think there are enough minutes for both Brooks and Poole on this team and I think they will want Brooks ability to create and handle the ball more than Poole’s ability to stand in the corner and hit shots.


April 1st, 2017 at 9:48 PM ^

Great post and I admire your willingness to predict on little information and withstand the slings and arrows of people like me, presumably with little or no pay, but your post has several assumptions that are debatable (disregarding the fact that we've never seen the new freshman or Davis, only a little of this year's freshmen, and we've not seen Matthews play any extended minutes for Ky or Michigan either as we must).  

In general, it is difficult to imagine this team without Walton's offensive run and Irvin's steady hand when not ill.  They weren't fabulous (except for the last run), but they were solid big ten players when playing in their true positions.

In general, you are making predictions based on Beilein's past history, but he's shown himself to be reasonably adaptable.  Additionally, Donovan may turn this team into a more defensive minded team that wins through that next year more than high efficiency offense.

1.  First, the point guard position is totally up for grabs in two ways and not just as to who will play it.  The second is what role will the PG have: a very heavy one as has been the case while Beilen has been at Michgan or a somewhat less heavy one that depends on more players for movement and assist.  On the fast break a ball handler is usually essential, almost always a point guard, but in a half court game a lack of a super skilled point guard can (not always) be addressed through better movement and passing from others.

As far as the player, you're right, we'll see a lot of rotation, but I don't see Simpson as necessarily being dominant because he will always be a defensive liability unless he grows 6 inches and adds thirty pounds.  The most that can be expected is that he guards the passing lanes well and makes a few steals.  He is really quick and can drive, but he is still small.  Can he score at the rim?  I don't know, but players his size who can are rare, which may make MAAR the better option for driving.  Simpson's understanding of Beiein's offense is limited, his outside shooting is suspect, and his passing ability against first teamers who are prepared for his game is unproven. 

On the other hand, he's had one year at UM and often big improvements happen between the 1st and second years.  I hope it happens, but projecting him at 30 minutes a game is optimistic, especially at the end of the year when the other potential PGs have had an opportunity to develop and Beilein has been forced to modify his offense if he hasn't before.

I wouldn't be surprised if Beilein finds a servicable PG via grad or other transfer, but Bamba may be too appealing.

2.   The front line is also unclear because of the above other than the likely stalwarts Wagner and Wilson.  Robinson is a second string sharp shooter unless he swallows a spinach can from every day until he leaves.

I don't agree with your evaluation of Donall--he was servicable at best, and then often only for one half a game.  Nor do I agree with your evaluation of Wagner's current game, your solution, and his potential.  In the best case world, he would add a good post up game, but he can be very, verygood driving to the basket, crashing the boards, playing in the high post, and a few down low moves if he develops some counters.  There are good pros with this game, but he and Wilson must improve their defense and rebounding, Wagner more than Wilson. 

I think Davis (rebounding and defense) and Livers (offensive skills with physical gifts) each will get more than 10 minutes a game.

So, despite my noting that this is speculation for the most part, some of this is close to being disagreement based on a lack of information, but I think you're not considering the most likely ways this team will pan out if Beileing and Donovan don't throw in the towel and make it a rebuilding year or Bamba doesn't attend.  Great article!




March 31st, 2017 at 9:24 AM ^

I'm surprised that no one is giving ibi a chance. I honestly think he plays over livers. Let's not forget that coach gave him non garbage time early in the year. the potential is there.


March 31st, 2017 at 9:57 AM ^

Based on Beilein's history, I disagree with Brooks playing 25% of PG minutes. Beilein needs a PG who can run his complex system and it's the rare freshman PG that can do that. Xavier, on the other hand, started showing some competence late in the season.

I also question how many minutes Poole will get with Matthews and Rahk able to play SG. We have a log-jam at the big man positions (with or without Bamba), so I suspect Matthews -- if Beilein teaches him to shoot -- will play a lot at the 2.

Finally, I am curious to see how Robinson factors in. Yes, he's a great shooter, but he actually saw a notable decline in minutes his second year with us (8.8 per game, which is more than I was expecting when I looked). He lacks three crucial skills: (1) the ability to create his own shot on a consistent basis; (2) the ability to play solid defense (due to lack of athleticism); and (3) elite ball-handling. Stauskas could create for himself by his second year and was a very solid ball-handler. If Robinson continutes to be JUST a shooter, I think he sees another decline in minutes.

the Bray

March 31st, 2017 at 10:47 AM ^

PG - X 30/MAAR 6/Eli 4

SG - MAAR 30/Matthews 8/Poole 2

SF - Matthews 20/Duncan 20

PF - Wagner 25/Bamba 15

C - Wilson 30/Bamba 10

Foul trouble gets Teske/Davis in.  The freshmen guards don't play much if X progresses and MAAR can handle the point for a few minutes a game.

This gives:

X - 30 mpg

MAAR - 36 mpg

Matthews - 28 mpg

Duncan - 20 mpg

Wagner - 25 mpg

Wilson - 30 mpg

Bamba - 25 mpg

And is a pretty tidy 7 man rotation.


March 31st, 2017 at 12:45 PM ^

Perhaps the only edit I'd make to this is that I expect it would be Brooks or Poole backing up both PG or SG, with my expectation being Brooks since he's the more natural PG (and likely to be the more needed skill).  Barring foul trouble, anyway.  (Well, and I'd flip Wagner/Wilson in terms of their primary postition.)


March 31st, 2017 at 12:52 PM ^

Really solid post. I think Ibi Watson might get the nod over Poole. 

I also don't think we will see much of Brooks year 1. X will run the show over 70% of the time, and we may see MAAR or Matthews bring the ball up the court if X comes out. 


March 31st, 2017 at 3:42 PM ^

Beilein actually came out and said he fully expects Brooks to play a bigger role next season than Simpson did this year (was in the same article he announced Donnal wasnt coming back for year 5). MAAR still hasn't shown the ability to setup teammates. He is either a spot up shooter or looking to get his off the bounce. 

I have pretty high hopes for X but we still don't know what he is going to be able to handle. I definitely think Brooks is going to be an important piece for us in 2018. Beilein also seems to think he is further along in his development coming into college than recent Michigan guards not named Burke.


March 31st, 2017 at 1:37 PM ^

personally I'd like to see:

1. maar 30, X 10
2. mathews 35, maar 5
3. Robinson 30,
4. Wilson 32
5. Wagner 30

not sure about the remaining mins.


March 31st, 2017 at 1:54 PM ^

I think this is the year for him. We all are kind of assuming he is what he is at this point because he came in as an older freshman with a high floor/low ceiling type of profile, but I think he's been patiently waiting his turn to step up to alpha dog status. He has been a useful contributor since he stepped on campus despite not being able to shoot early in his career. He has elite quickness and can get to anywhere on the floor with or without the ball. His jumpshot has gotten good enough that it needs to be accounted for. He has quietly become a very good on-ball defender. He has been very, very efficient in limited usage. He's going to be an excellent senior leader in a huge breakout season in 2017. We wont need a frosh to play 10-15 minutes at the point.


March 31st, 2017 at 2:47 PM ^

but I have to admit that besides Wagner, WIlson, Rahkam and Robison, who had extensive role on this year's team, we do not know much about other players.

X and Matthew are two key pieces for next year's success, i think that X might play over the expection Matthew might play below, and my reasoning is solely based on regression effect, if you know what I mean.

Out of the OTHER three freshmen on the team, Watson, Davis, Teske, I guese one of them, but don't know which one, might crack into the rotation. It is not necessarily btw Davis/Teske, as the small line-up with Wilson at 5 is more than a viable choice.

following Beilein's team for 10 years taught me that we may not know which of the three incoming freshmen might contribute most either. Who would've predicted that Chatman played less than three of his classmate Dawkins/Rahkam/Doyle in year one. It won't surprise me if two of them start at end of the season, it won't surprise either if they play 5 minutes per game combined. 

Speaking of Bamba, he is from a different solar system, and he will start every single game and play 40 minutes per game (insert whatever you want to say, yes, he will never get into foul trouble) IF HE COMES.  



March 31st, 2017 at 3:17 PM ^

Bamba. There is 80 minutes between the 4 & 5 to split 3 ways, that's 26+ minutes per man. Wilson could even get some minutes at the 3, especially with Mo and Moe behind him for rim protection.

For his first three years, MAAR was given minutes on a silver platter due to injuries to Walton, LaVert and Spike and the absence of other guards on the roster. This year, there is Simpson, Brooks and Poole to fight for minutes. MAAR brings experience and leadership, but I think Poole and Brooks are better passers and shooters and we need both. MAAR will either need to up his game or see his minutes shrink.


March 31st, 2017 at 3:34 PM ^

I'm not sure where you figure that two unheralded freshmen in Brooks/Poole will take away minutes from MAAR.  While he has benefitted from other players being injured at times, there's no way two guys off the street are going to send a senior guard and 3-year starter to the bench.  

Rahkman does a lot of things very well and was one of the most efficient players in the entire conference this year.  If anything, you should expect him to get more minutes and more usage.  If Simpson couldn't fight he was on the court much this year, there's no way Brooks/Poole do it next year.  

I have some concerns about Rakh's ability to be a point guard, as the MGoBlog crew has pointed out frequently.  But I think it is infinitely more likely that we see him do some of that than it is that his minutes go down next year without any other proven guards on the roster.  


March 31st, 2017 at 3:58 PM ^

I don't buy the "freshman PG in Beilein's system don't contribute" argument, especially with how it pertains to Brooks.

According to Wikipedia (obviously not a gospel but an easy quick way to check Beilein's recruits), Beilein has recruited the following players as PGs:

Darius Morris

Trey Burke

Spike Albrecht

Derrick Walton

Xavier Simpson

This doesn't include the following recruits, who may fit the description depending on the person:

Manny Harris

Stu Douglass

Carlton Brundridge

Of the pure PGs, both Walton and Burke started as freshman, so definite contributors. Morris played over 24 minutes a game so a contributor, granted not with great stats. X and Albrecht were non contributors by this post's definition, but both were undersized guys who were right on the borderline and showed growth towards the end of the year.

If you include the 3 borderline PGs, then you have Harris as starter, Douglass as a contributor, and Brundridge as a nothing.

So depending on how you look at it, you either have of 2/5 or 3/8 starter level freshman PG, 1/5 or 2/8 contributer level freshman PG, and 2/5 or 3/8 bench warmer level freshman PG under Beilein. So of freshman PGs under Beilein, you have 40% who played an a very high level, 20% who played at an acceptable level, and 40% who played at a below average level. 60% of freshman PG contributing seems like a pretty high mark to me.

And if you look at the 3 guys who missed the contributing mark, you have Brundridge who was just a bust and got lost being in the same class as Burke, Albrecht who didn't need to play heavy minutes because Burke, and Simpson who didn't need to play heavy minutes because Walton. Obviously if Simpson/Albrecht start in lieu of Walton/Burke the team plays much worse, but for all we know if theose two are practicing as starters all preseason and early season long they have much better freshman year than we expect.

All in all it seems to me like freshman PG not playing at Michigan is more a result of Michigan generally having a bonafide PG head of the freshman. We don't have that this year with Simpson as the presumptive starter, I don't think it's out of the question to see Brooks compete for the starting job. His shot has improved over his HS career and he might already be a better shooter than Simpson. My guess is he competes for the starting job, and if he doesn't get it plays Darius Morris like freshman minutes.


April 1st, 2017 at 1:09 PM ^

If you look at the rosters for their freshmen years they started almost out of necessity.  Luckily, they were both talented.

Burke's freshman year saw 4 guys start just about every game:  Burke, Hardaway, Novak and Morgan.  Smotcyz and Douglass had 18 and 17 starts.  The other players on the roster were Horford, Vogrich, Eso Akunne, Corey Person, McLimmans, Brundidge, Colton Christian and Josh Bartelstein.  After Burke there wasn't anyone else to man the point guard position.

Walton's freshman year also saw 4 guys start just about every game:  Walton, GR3, Stauskas and Levert.  Morgan got a bunch of starts and Horford and McGary got a few.  The other players on the roster were Irvin, Albrecht, Cole McConnell, Bielfeldt, Lonergan, Brad Anlauf and Dakich.  The only competition Walton had for the point guard spot was Albrecht.


March 31st, 2017 at 5:51 PM ^

He started the first 9 games of the season, came off the bench for the next 13, then started the final 10. Stu Douglass took Darius's spot in the starting lineup, then D-Mo took Laval Lucas-Perry's spot.

I look at things somewhat differently than you do. Beilein has signed 4 guys who were expected to be starting point guards: Morris, Burke, Walton, and Simpson. The only time they started as freshmen was when there wasn't a starting point guard ahead of them. The plan was that Burke would back up Morris for at least a year, Walton would back up Burke for at least a year, and Simpson would back up Walton for a year. Morris and Burke being good enough to leave for the NBA as sophomores wasn't anticipated.

It seems that Beilein has adjusted his strategy now. I believe Brooks and David DeJulius (**** entering in 2018) were both recruited as starting point guards, but DeJulius has less uncertainty because he's playing a higher level of competition in HS. Brooks could push ahead of DeJulius, or be the next Spike, or something else - we won't know for a while. What I am 99 and 44/100% certain of is that Xavier Simpson is going to be the starting point guard next year, because that's what he has been recruited and groomed for. 

People have doubts about Simpson because he didn't cut into Walton's playing time more, but there were plenty of decent point guards who were worse than Derrick Walton - Nate Mason and Melo Trimble are two who immediately come to mind.


March 31st, 2017 at 5:15 PM ^

I appreciate this post because I wasn't ready yet for that 5+ month long wait until football.  And I assume the Tigers won't keep my attention much past May.

Alas, here we are.

I agree with the premise that most of us fans look at the roster and assume everyone plays to their maximum potential, so we can realistically go 10 or 11 deep.  It's awesome baby!  And I also agree that we're generally wrong and Beilein likes to stick with 7 or 8 guys he can trust.

I'm also one who HATES red-shirting freshmen in basketball.  It rarely pays off (Jordan Morgan is the only example for us where it paid dividends).  Most of the time, it seems like we're cutting bait with guys who red-shirted (Donnal, Bielfeldt).  Even if someone is red-shirted for injury - which I can understand - it usually ends in transfer (Horford, Spike) or worrying about them leaving early for the NBA (Wilson).

So in predicting the minutes for next year, I think everyone and their mother agrees that we have six guys who are going to get minutes next year - assuming everyone comes back and we don't win the Bamba lottery or hit on a grad transfer.

The six are:

Simpson, MAAR, Matthews, Robinson, Wilson, Wagner

That leaves - realistically - 2 or maybe 3 spots up for grabs for regular minutes from the following group:

Teske, Davis, Watson, Livers, Poole, Brooks

You would almost have to assume that one of Davis or Teske plays regularly (a la Donnal minutes).  Yes, we could move Wilson to the 5 and play small at the 4, but now that Beilein once again has a taste of a true stretch 4, does he want to go back to playing undersized at that position again for 10-15 minutes per game (Zack Novak, I salute you)?

We will also need a back-up ball-handler.  I've not seen any of the freshman play live nor on TV.  I've read about them and seen some highlight videos, but I'm no expert and have no idea how good any of them may be.

That said, I like what I've read about Brooks.  He was heavily recruited by Villanova.  Some articles I've read make it seem like he's a college ready ball-handler (a la Spike).  He's not as highly rated as our other two recruits, but I thought I read that he didn't play the summer circuit, so perhaps he's under the radar (Belien is obviously notorious for finding gems like this).  It's also possible that his competition in PA was mediocre, so who knows, right?

Jordan Poole seems ready-made to be Zak Irvin's freshman self - a guy who can play 10-15 minutes and basically do nothing but shoot 3's.  But if we have our 6, plus Brooks and then the winner of Davis/Teske, Poole would be #9 in the rotation.  Will Beilein go that high?

Isaiah Livers is Michigan's Mr. Basketball.  That's good, right?  A 6'7" guy who can stroke it?  Yes, please.  And yet he's rated around 120 in the rankings.  Why so low?

Then there's Ibi Watson.  Talk about a wild card.  When I went to one of the exhibition games at the beginning of this past season, I thought Watson looked the best of the freshmen (and Simpson looked the worst, to be honest), but then he ended up basically not playing at all.  Apparently his defense was a major reason why.  Will it improve enough to jump into minutes ahead of any of the freshmen coming in?  Time will tell.

Crazy wilda$$ guess:

Barring injury or the Bamba parade, I see us starting with a lineup of Simpson, MAAR, Matthews, Wilson and Wagner with Robinson as the 6th man backing up Matthews.

Problem with that lineup is that there are 2 guys who are NOT good shooters:  Matthews and Simpson.  The key to a successful Beilein offense is the spacing provided by having 4 or even 5 guys who are true threats from deep.  I think we can live with Matthews' ability because he's a plus defender, an athletic slasher and he should be able to rebound.

My wild guess is that after a few games where Simpson gets the Tum Tum Nairn treatment, Brooks takes over as the starter at the 1.

By the Big Ten season, or shortly into the conference slate, I see a lineup of:

Brooks, MAAR, Matthews, Wilson and Wagner

Poole and Robinson backup the 2 and 3 (MAAR backing up the 1).  I see Davis winning the battle over Teske and getting the Donnal treatment (some games 10 minutes, some games 2 minutes).  I also see Livers getitng maybe 5 minutes as a stretch 4 in situations where Wilson is playing the 5 and Beilein wants to go small (thus allowing Matthews to continue playing the 3).

Simpson will still play (he's a plus perimeter defender), but I think his role will be limited and he may not play more than he did this past year after conference season starts.

Crazy, right?  Probably.  Simpson certainly improved as the year went on, and it was no shame to play behind Walton who was other-worldly over the last 6 weeks or so.  But a point guard who can't shoot is NOT ideal.  Even on his free throws, X was a liability.  If anyone can improve someone's shot, it's Beilein.  But you're asking for predictions and I'm throwing this out there.

Now, who's ready for some spring football????


April 1st, 2017 at 12:03 PM ^

Ibi will be a contributor next year. He didn't play much this year because Irvin played nearly 40 minutes a game. I think he gives us about 10 minutes a game next year.

If Brooks is not ready to step up, I think MAAR gets 10 minutes at the point.

GoBlue C4

April 1st, 2017 at 12:40 PM ^

1- X / Brooks.  30/10


2- MAAR / Poole 35/5


3- Matthews / Robinson 30/10


4- Wilson / Robinson  28/12


5- Wagner / Davis / Wilson.  25/10/5


April 2nd, 2017 at 12:39 PM ^

1. X / MAAR/ Poole

2. MAAR/ Watson/ Poole 

3 Matthews/ Robinson / Livers

4. Wilson / Matthews / Livers

5. Wagner / Davis / Wilson  

Brooks -RS