BBall: Could a lack of an inside presence hurt us long run?

Submitted by GoBlueGB on January 12th, 2013 at 12:44 PM

With the way this basketball team has started this year, everyone is dreaming of a potential national championship run.   Some analyst say we are the top team in the country, while others say we haven't had a true contest yet to test our potential.  With the bulk of our schedule coming up against Ohio State, Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana, we shall find out.  But if you were to talk to an analyst, the one concern they have for Michigan is the lack of a big man down low.  Which got me thinking.  When you are putting together a national championship run, there are three main ingredients that I believe you need.  Number one, the most important thing is the point guard play.  I took a look at the last six national champions, and these were the point guards.

2012 (Kentucky)- Doron Lamb    2011(UCONN)- Kemba Walker   2010 (Duke) - Nolan Smith   2009 (UNC)-  TY Lawson    2008(Kansas)-  Mario Chalmers    2007(Florida)-   Taurean Green.  

Most of these guys were top 2 on their teams in scoring and were all great leaders.  We got Trey Burke, the best point guard in the country, so we are good here.

The second ingredient in my mind is coaching.  Here are your last six national championship coaches.  John Calipari, Jim Calhoun, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self, and Billy Donovan.  If you had to name the top six coaches in basketball, these might be your top six.  I have 100% confidence in John Beilein, and would put him very close as an elite coach.  There is no doubt in my mind that Beilein and this coaching staff have the potential to coach a national championship.

Then lastly, I believe having a dominant big man is the third most important ingredient.  Here are your last six centers.  Anthony Davis 14.2 PPG, Alex Oriakhi 10 PPG, Kyle Singler 17.7 PPG, Tyler Hansbrough 20.7 PPG, (Darrel Arthur and Darnell Jackson, 24 PPG combined), and (Al Horford and Joakim Noah, 25.5 PPG combined).  When you look at Michigan, you have Morgan at 6.8 and McGary at 5.3.  In my mind, having a big man is huge, because when the shots are not falling, it is nice to pound the ball inside.  For example, during the Nebraska game when we were struggling with our shooting, it would of been nice to give the ball down low, but instead Morgan had just one shot and zero points.  And for many games this year, Michigan has had some bad funks which put us in holes, in which luckily we were playing insuperior talent.. To win it all come March, you need to win seven games in a row.  During that stretch, there will be times when shots will not be falling, which worries me with Michigan.  What will this team do when they face a stretch of the game and shots don't fall?  If it wasn't for playing Nebraska, Michigan could of very easy lost Wednesday.  When Morgan and McGary do score though, it is usually a pick an roll dunk or a put back bucket.  Very rarely will they score when posting a guy down low, which I don't get because if you keep an eye on those two, they get opportunities and they call for the ball, but they never get it.  I get a sense that McGary gets frustrated at times, with not touching the ball enough, and Morgan appears "out of it" sometimes, when not active enough.  Come Big Ten season and March, I hope this doesn't  hurt us more.  What are your thoughts?  Does this worry anyone else?  



Space Coyote

January 12th, 2013 at 12:50 PM ^

It would be great to have a guy that you could throw the ball to in the post and have him score points. Every weakness could hurt a team in the long run, and I'm guessing that Michigan will drop a game they wouldn't if they had better post play this year. But all teams have weaknesses, and Michigan's offense doesn't rely on that, so while it certainly doesn't help, it's not catostrophic. The most worrying part is when you have a game like the one Michigan had against Nebraska where the outside shooting isn't there.

Come tourney time, you have one of those nights you're going home. This team can usually overcome that based on the number of good outside shooters it has, but a lack of post game could show itself at some point in the tourney too when the defenses get more intense.


January 12th, 2013 at 12:50 PM ^

I don't get how people can talk about GR3 being a one-and-done type if this is supposed to be a concern for us. We've got plenty of rebounding inside with Morgan, McGary, and GR3, and scoring with GR3. Ain't skeered.

david from wyoming

January 12th, 2013 at 12:51 PM ^

It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words "DON'T PANIC" in large, friendly letters on the cover.

big john lives on 67

January 12th, 2013 at 12:58 PM ^

It certainly is not our strong suit, but I think you are overstating it in saying we have a lack of an inside presence.  McGary, Morgan, McLimans, Biefeldt, and Horford are solid, and do their job to help the team win.

Very few national championship teams, or even conference champion teams are top level at every position.  For example, Michigan fits two of your top three requirements exceedingly well.  The third we are not top in the country.  But then the next positions, SG/F, we have top level performers, which can more than make up for the one area that we may be average.

I say this is not an issue.



January 12th, 2013 at 1:06 PM ^

 Who does have dominating bigs on their roster in college hoops anymore? They don't grow on trees, and it isn't the NCAA circa 1988. A big that shows potential to be dominant in the post is in the NBA lottery after one year of college.


January 12th, 2013 at 1:08 PM ^

You are not accounting for style of play.  This is a very guard-heavy system that Michigan runs right now.  Even the big men are expected to knock down jumpers on occasion.  We have an inside presence in terms of rebounding and defense, which is all this team really needs.  Mcgary, Morgan, et al, don't need to get the ball on the block to be affective. 

As long as the big men continue to clean up the glass and get the scorers second chances, this team will be very good.  Remember, This is really the first year Beilein has put in a two-post offense, and it doesnt really work all that well because it screws up the spacing. 

To answer answer your question, no,  I am not worried.  This team has all the inside presence it needs and then some.


January 12th, 2013 at 1:13 PM ^

Every team wants one, but they're actually a rare commodity.

I'm no basketball expert, but characterizing Morgan, McGary, and Horford et al as a "lack of an inside presence" seems a bit of an exaggeration to me.

What's far more likely to lead to losses this season is stone-cold shooting, which up until this year has dogged Beilein's teams at Michigan.


January 12th, 2013 at 1:12 PM ^

Did you really just list Kyle Singler as Duke's starting big? I think you meant Brian Zoubek, who was a 5.5 PPG game much like Mitch and Jordan. So to answer your question, yes you can win it all with a glue guy playing the 5.

SF Wolverine

January 12th, 2013 at 1:28 PM ^

But it will take a very good, well-coached team to exploit that.  First, and as noted above, it's not like the cupboard is entirely bare in this regard.  The fact that our bigs are not the strength of this team does not make them a weakness.  Second, we have a lot more depth there than in years past, so a little boo-boo (Horford) or early foul trouble (Morgan) is something that we can fight through for a short time.  

I'm hopeful that this recedes as a factor as the year progresses.  We should have Horford back soon, McGary is starting to give us some glimpses of his ceiling, and Bielfeldt looks adequate even this early on.  Plus, we have very good lentgh at the 2, and get a reasonable amount of rebounds from the 1-3 positions.




January 12th, 2013 at 1:46 PM ^

We have the top PG in the country, with people thinking he is the best player in the country, we have depth and lots of talent. Just because our big guys are above average and not super stars doesn't really mean we have a problem.

IMO this team is super solid, has multiple play makers (instead of relying on just 1 guy), and one of our worst games (Nebraska) we ended up winning by 15. 

Yes we haven't had a super tough road test yet, but just wait until tomorrow. I have yet to see a team expose any glaring weakness that will end up hurting us in the long run. 


January 12th, 2013 at 1:49 PM ^

listing williams and self as top coaches is a joke.  their in-game coaching stinks.  they win because of talent. period.  i would love to see what those guys would do with UMs talent the past few years.

i'm biased, but beilein is about the best there is Xs and Os.  i can't think of any coach who adjusts to his players as well as he does, vs forcing players to play his system (see dean smith who should have won at least 5 titles with his talent).


January 12th, 2013 at 1:51 PM ^

But we survived Howell of NC State who's dominating Duke's big men right now.

Honestly, we probably won't win the tournament. I can't think of any year where I wouldn't take the field over a single team to win the tourney. Could it be due to the lack of a truly dominant big man? Sure. Could it be due to randomness and some team just playing better than us on a given day? Likely.

We have a real championship contender for the first time in a very long time. Just enjoy it while it lasts, and don't fret about the few number of imperfections that we do have.


January 12th, 2013 at 1:57 PM ^

Anything is possible!!!

But I'm not worried about this team's inside presence.  McGary is improving, Morgan is solid, and Horford should be back soon.  There are really only a few elite bigs in the country that would cause significant matchup problems, namely Alex Len, Cody Zeller, and Isiah Austin.  Those are the only guys that I think would really test us, and with Austin and Len, the other four positions favor the Wolverines so much that the interior game shouldn't even be that much of a factor.  Indiana is really the only team I could giving us a problem based on big man play, and if we were to play them in the tournament it probably wouldn't be until at least the final four.


January 12th, 2013 at 2:06 PM ^

but it isn't critical. If your strength is your post player and he has an off night or gets into foul trouble, you could be in just as big of trouble as Michigan on a cold shooting night.

FYI, I think you need to win 6 straight games (not 7) to win the National Championship. Also, inferior might be a better word than insuperior.


January 12th, 2013 at 2:13 PM ^

is just not built around Morgan and McGary. We rebound the heck out of the ball at both ends, so "lack of presence" just isn't so apt. (Horford, if back, is a monster shot-blocker.) Hark back to last year, meanwhile, and Morgan had a lot of 8-10 point games; he's been de-emphasized a little so far this year. It would be great to see Burke integrate McGary and Morgan more--to what extent, I don't know, but I think we will see it happen. They may even surprise a few people tomorrow; Morgan has played well against OSU. 


January 12th, 2013 at 2:15 PM ^

We don't have the best offensive big men, so that could hurt us, but not many teams have dominant big men in college nowadays, and I think the trio of Morgan, McGary and Horford is a very good trio to have. Obviously not as good as Zeller or Plumlee, but better than most. Also, everyone always says guard play wins in the tourney, if you have a guard who can take over like Kemba Walker did a few years ago, you can go far. And we definitely have that in Burke.

Dilithium Wings

January 12th, 2013 at 2:43 PM ^

Seems as if GR3 and hardaway have no problem throwing monstrous dunks on opponents. Plus Burke is able to get to the basket whenever he wants. I think we shall be fine. Plus I believe Morgan and McGary are going to continue to evolve in this offense.


January 12th, 2013 at 3:17 PM ^

Michigan's NCAA Championship team had four players in the rotation who were listed at 6-9 or taller: Terry Mills, Sean Higgins, Loy Vaught, and Mark Hugues.  On the bench, they had JP Ooosterbaan, who was somewhere around 7 feet tall, but had a lot more enthusiasm than talent.  

While Mills was tall, he was never truly a classic "inside presence," nor was Higgins.  The grunt work was done by Vaught, who averaged 12.6 ppg that year, and Hughes, who averaged 6.8.  Most of the points, or course, came from Rice, who was 6-7 at the 3 spot.  

Their make-up was quite similar to this year's team. They had a brilliant PG in Rumeal Robinson, a great outside shooter in Rice, lots of height and depth, competent shooting guards, and Higgins, who was the "joker factor" in the lineup.  

Eight players played in 30 or more games that season, and five averaged in double figures.  The player with the highest rebounds per game average was Vaught, with 8.0.  The team averaged 37.9 rpg to the oppponents' 30.0 for a 7.9 differential.

This year's team has three "bigs" and GRIII, who plays big.  It has a rotation that goes eight deep  Four players are currently scoring in double figures, with Morgan and McGary chipping in a combined 12.1 ppg.  The highest rpg's are McGary and Robinson, with 6.1 each, with Jordan and Hardaway averaging 5.4 rpg each.  The team averages 38.4 rpg to 28.5 rpg for opponents for a 9.9 differential.

So, do I think that the "lack of an inside presence" is going to hurt in the long run?  Of course not.  There is no "lack of an inside presence."  To the contrary, there are three very good bigs inside, and they are getting plenty of rebounding from smaller players. 

This team is scarily similar to the 1989 team in a lot of ways.  I hope the similarities extend all the way to the trophy presentation.…




January 12th, 2013 at 3:42 PM ^

I complain about Morgan the most. He plays soft at times. He has bad hands when Burke and Stauskus hit him with passes. He also has real soft hands on rebounds inside. In addition, he is no threat to score in traffic. However, McGary is a huge surprise. He needs to start. We also need Horford. He is one hell of a rebounder and gives a threat to score and run the floor. I think he is the one that gives us the depth to make a run.


January 12th, 2013 at 4:29 PM ^

if morgan has played soft, i haven't seen it.  morgan and mcgary both play extremely hard for big guys but have trouble scoring in traffic near the basket.  at this point, morgan is better at the pick and roll and he at least has a jump hook that he hits.  mcgary has almost no post game.  that is the biggest surprise to me when it comes to mcgary, given all his prep school hype.  but his hustle makes up for it.

i think both guys go all out most of the time.  that's the beauty of it.  we now have 10 fouls to give from those guys.  plus, horford as even more depth.


January 12th, 2013 at 4:16 PM ^

The absence of a low post post-up game is by design. Beilein's entire offense is predicated on an open lane--a big man on the low block just gets in the way and puts a shot blocker under the basket. I can think of one time in one of his continuity sets where someone who's just set a screen posts up for a moment but it comes naturally out of the offense and as often as not it's a smaller guy posting up a smaller defender. And it's pretty rare. In the chin and shuffle sets there's never a post-up.

If we had bigs who wanted to score with their back to the basket instead of shooting, rebounding and going to the hoop on screen-and-roll, I'd wonder why he was recruiting against his system.

Lucky Socks

January 12th, 2013 at 4:26 PM ^

Sure it "could" hurt us in the long run.  But we don't lack bigs -- Morgan, McGary, Horford, Robinson (plus a 5th big in Max that could play for a lot of teams) each give us something different that other teams will have to worry about.  None is a true back to the basket scorer but our guards carry the scoring burden, and are capable of creating enough buckets from the bigs.  As far as defense and rebounding, McGary and Horford look the part. Morgan is a grizzled vet, Robinson is an athlete and our guards do a great job of helping out.

I think the lack of 1 guy who can do it all is a negative but collectively I think our big men will not hold us back from reaching our goals.

100th post.  Hooray! 

Hugh Jass

January 12th, 2013 at 4:31 PM ^

an inside presence - you do not want a big guy to clog the lane - Michigan gets its points with Burke and Hardaway and company driving the lane which is open because the defense must guard the perimeter and cannot sag into the paint.


I fear a team that is very physical more so than the inside presence.  A physical team can bump you off your spots and grind you down - Michigan has not really played that style.  I believe we are athletic enough to match up with any other athletic team.  Minnesota scares me for this reason - physical


January 12th, 2013 at 4:34 PM ^

Don't understand this thought process.  We aren't going to WIN games with our frontcourt, but it's not like people are running them off the court.  We have already faced several really good frontcourts (NC State, Kansas St, Pitt, Iowa) and our frontcourt held up very well.  Is our frontcourt as good as Minnesota?  No, but it's not like their guards are as good as ours either. It's not going to carry us through games, but it's more than capable of keeping up with other teams.


January 13th, 2013 at 12:16 AM ^

on nights when our outside shooting is poor, and we're not playing a cupcake like Nebraska.  We don't need that much scoring output from our bigs to be successful, as long as they're rebounding well.  Where our real problem lies is interior defense.  Morgan and McGary do not make things difficult in the middle for opposing players, and we've given up far too many easy and uncontested inside baskets, even against so-so talent.  Against teams like Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois and Michgan State, we're likely to get pounded inside, and have no answer of our own if our three pointers aren't falling.  Don't know about McGary yet, but Morgan's history is that he tends to disappear against tough opposing big men in conference games.  To win the Big Ten, McGary will have to develop, and we will need Horford back and useful sooner rather than later.



January 13th, 2013 at 4:05 AM ^

The fact that the OP has no less faith in this team than even he thinks he does. He states that in order to win it all you need to win 7 straight... Which is true only if you are among the last four in and are playing midweek in Dayton, which leads me to question more than just our inside presence... In all reality though michigan has three serviceable "big men" in horrors, Morgan, and mcgary... Add in the play by GR3 around the net and the ability of stauskas hardaway and Burke to get to the net when needed shows that this team does have a presence