Will size continue to be a problem for MBB?

Submitted by julesh on February 9th, 2015 at 11:05 AM

I was listening to the radio on my way into work this morning, and they were talking about how LeVert going down is good for the future of this team. Next year's team should have a lot of experience. I agree with that, and I'm excited for next year (while still being somewhat hopeful for this year.)

But then I thought about the Iowa game. Iowa was able to do whatever they wanted because they are just so much bigger than our players. No matter how much experience you have, it won't add inches to your height. How will the team overcome that?

(This topic probably doesn't really deserve its own thread, but it's a slow morning, so figured I'd get some discussion going.)



February 9th, 2015 at 11:48 AM ^

susceptible to inside domination by teams which live off interior scoring. That's primarily the case now because of lack of experience and talent in Michigan's frontline players without any real scoring threat down low or a physical presence protecting the rim.

As a result, teams with strong centers and power forwards, and this would include Purdue, Iowa, Northwestern,  Ohio and Michigan State to a lesser extent, which thrive on inside scoring or going to the basket, give Beiein's team massive problems.

Opponents which run offenses that feature inside scoring only as a means to create better outside shooting and feature balanced scoring based on having more efficient backcourt scorers give Michigan less trouble obviously because they can be guarded more effectively one-on-one or in various zone defenses. Wisconsin will go to the rim with all five on the floor, but the Badger offense is more like Michigan's than Purdue

When Michigan had upperclass guys at center and talent off the bench, Iowa's offensive game was less threatening. It's both an issue of size but more about the way Michigan plays and the way opponents can most effectively attack its defense, which is by going to the rim and dominating in the paint. Michigan can't offset the inside game with its offensive efficiency of recent seasons because its shooting percentages don't offset it and second-chance points are fewer as well. It's an issue of size and performance fueled by lack of experience and playing style for the most part, which limits Michigan by design from a strong interior game on both sides of the floor. It's something you have to work through over time as the team learns how to play better and win under all circumstances.


February 9th, 2015 at 11:08 AM ^

As I see it there are two real problems. One is the size issue. The other is that for whatever reason, despite our success, Beilein struggles to recruit top talent. Not really even a criticism, just a fact.


February 9th, 2015 at 11:13 AM ^

While I have no formal knowledge, it has been other have alluded to the fact that Basketball recruit is even dirtier than footbll in that top palyers are often being bought off for their services for s year or two and Beilein will never do this. 

Plus in the end, IMO it is better to stack your team with top 50-100 players that will be around for 2 or more seasons than one n dones every year.....


February 9th, 2015 at 11:22 AM ^

Michigan isn't offering money to "top talent."  Too many other schools are almost to a point where they don't even bother to hide it anymore.  The only time Michigan has ever recruited "top talent' on a regular basis was when they hired Perry Watson, who delivered Rose and Webber, with classic bagman Ed Martin.  

Bottom line: when Michigan cheats with the big boys, they recruit with the big boys.  When they run an ethical program, they recruit with other ethical programs.  That is one reason why I am so adamant that the NCAA should just stop screwing the players and let them take money.  That way, it isn't cheating anymore because nobody has to violate the rules to pay players.

If it has to be this way, I will cheer for an ethical Michigan program and hope for the occasional "lightning in a bottle" season.  


February 9th, 2015 at 11:43 AM ^

If Michigan was cheating with big boys then why was Michigan busted and not the big boys?

The problem I have with statements like this is it plays on the idea that we are losers because others are cheaters. This statement derives from a losers mentality. Michigan has recruited at a top level and recent attrition demonstrates this. Trey Burke, Mitch McGary, Nik Staskus, and GRIII could all be playing this year! You read that right! How much different would our team be? In the past two seasons, we have lost five players to the NBA (Hardway Jr included)! How many college basketball programs can claim the same?

Michigan is having a down year partly because of attrition and partly because of issues beyond its control. 1) Mitch McGary busted for smoking pot. 2) Jon Horford transfer. The inclusion of those two players on the roster would have swung several games in Michigan's direction.

Let's stop overreacting on what is essentially a down year after we have enjoyed explosive success. Any type of claim that others are cheating without proof or whining that Michigan can't recruit reeks of entitlement.

Beilein will use this season to train current players and a fresh crop of top talent will be inserted.


February 9th, 2015 at 11:58 AM ^

I don't understand the logic if we're able to recruit top talent than we wouldn't be struggling right now. Kentucky,Kansas,Arizona and others have lost just as many or more kids to the NBA over the same amout of time and are all still doing well. The we've lost so much talent card isn't really usable when your point is we get top talent cause if we did get top talent we would be reloading. I love Coach B think he's a awesome person but sometimes he gets to caught up in playing small ball. We will never win a National Title with shooting guards and small Forwards playing the 4.


February 9th, 2015 at 12:10 PM ^

You are talking about three programs all of which have long standing winning traditions. I am not saying that Michigan shouldn't be in that group and maybe that is a goal for Beilein's staff but there are 100 other teams you could list that have down years like we are having.

Quiet possible that Beilein's group is looking at the lack of big guy and recruiting them. I am disappointed about this season as much as anyone but I don't assume our troubles is due to A) Poor recruiting because recent history negates that and B) Other teams are cheating without proof.


February 9th, 2015 at 12:47 PM ^

This is ridiculous. Get a correct block call against Louisville and we might already have won a title.

Yeah, Beilein has lost out on some recruits. But Michigan didn't hire him to recruit the biggest stars; they hired him to build a competitive basketball team. Four years ago I would have said the ceiling for Michigan basketball is, in a four-year period, three tourney appearances and one decent run. We're already way past that.

Michigan is not and never has been Duke, Kentucky, or Kansas. It never will be. It can, however, be as good as most other teams, with solid coaching, good talent evaluation, and the occasional rebuilding year that sets the team up for future success.

Yeah, I think recruiting could be a bit better. But your last sentence is so absurd that you are either being willfully ignorant, or you're just trolling.


February 9th, 2015 at 1:30 PM ^

but i think there has been a pretty significant talent drop in the state of michigan the last 10 years or so.  in the 90s there seemed to be multiple top 30 players (even top 10) every year.  now we are lucky if the state has multiple top 100 players and often only 1 four star player.  UM and msu have to fight over that player or two then go out of state.

our recent stars have all come from out of state; sparty's too.  that wasn't so pre-2000.  UM's teams were built with a Detroit core.  Sparty's were built with a good Flint core.

maybe it's the population exodus out of detroit.  i will leave that to the sociologists.


February 9th, 2015 at 12:56 PM ^

I don't believe Beilein is tied to small ball.  But he will never play a low-post oriented offense.  Beilein is considered a virtual offensive scheme genius by his peers.  Why would he/we want to move away from it.?

And yes we can win a NC playing small ball.  We were arguably 1 badly called block away from a NC just 2 years ago.  Then last year, we were 1 three-pointer away from from returning to the Final Four.  For every offensive rebound Kentucky got, we spread them out on offense and created similar mismatches.  And, if in the Final Four, you don't believe we were capable of beating Wisconsin (again) or a mediocre UConn team?

Apparently size fetishism extends beyond the common parlance.


February 9th, 2015 at 1:32 PM ^

if beilein could get a tim duncan, you bet your ass he would try hard to get him.  a big guy that can pass would do wonders.  beilein shifts his style to the talent he has.  he's proven that with his tenure here.


February 9th, 2015 at 2:44 PM ^

of course he would chase Tim Duncan.  He would be a proto-type Beilein 5--four on the outside surrounding a big who can pass.

And while Beilein will certainly tweak his style to his talent, he has never shifted his style or system on offense.   Beilein at Michigan has never run a low post offense.  Sims played a face-up 5 the first years after Beilein's arrival and afterwards Morgan and company were primarily screeners (and rollers).  Now if Mitch had stayed or not been hurt last year, I suspect we would have seen the offense tweaked to take advantage of his skills.


February 9th, 2015 at 5:39 PM ^

you can't run a low-post game with 6'8" centers.  even sims was only 6'8", so getting him to the outside created a mismatch for the opponents D.

i guarantee you, cronin would have had a low post game, but so far, he's the only 7 footer JB has been able to land.

Teske, once he shows up, will be that guy.

and you are wrong about JB not shifting his style of offense.  when he first arrived, he ran a princeton syle - a lot of back door cutting and 3s.  he also ran a lot of isolations with manny.  once DMo arrived, he did a lot of pick and roll action with slashing to the hoop.

trey also did pick and roll, but was a better shooter than DMo and shot more 3s instead of slashing.  nik and levert are pretty good at both.

his offense now is much more nba-like.  you don't need a good post player, but i guarantee you JB is recruiting them.  cronin, mcgary, amir williams and costello are examples.


February 9th, 2015 at 1:26 PM ^

watched any Michigan basketball the last 4-5 years? Beyond doubt, Michigan has been one of the best programs in the country. Yes, this year, we didn't recruit as well as Kentucky. But...Suggesting that it's impossible to win with Beileins system is just silly, as we've been within a play of one NC, and a 27 foot contested three of a second final four. If Kentucky's approach is so incredibly awesome, why couldn't their guys totally dominate Michigan, instead of needing that desperation Harrison three to go to the final four? 

Hint - It's because you are 100% wrong.



February 9th, 2015 at 12:34 PM ^

michigan was busted because the rollover accident started a legal investigation which took police to Ed Martin. once they realized the s open of Martin's money laundering and the FBI was involved, they had subpoena power that the NCAA does not have.

in summary: if you cheat, NCAA may slap your wrist. once the FBI gets involved, you are screwed


February 9th, 2015 at 12:41 PM ^

I don't object to much of your post, but let's address this statement: "If Michigan was cheating with the big boys, then why was Michigan busted and not the big boys?"

Michigan wasn't busted because they self-reported or because infractions just naturally floated past the nose of NCAA investigators. They got busted because there was a poorly timed car accident, and more importantly because the crucial figure in the infractions was prosecuted for violating federal law.

Those serious legal problems were the dominant reason that NCAA violations (which are not against the law, and are enforced by a governing body that cannot compel cooperation in its constituents) came to light. If memory serves, Chris Webber only spoke candidly about his involvement because it was part of a deal struck with prosecutors.

This is a common theme in sports: scandals only occur when those breaking the rules are prosecuting for breaking laws that exist outside of the rules of the sport. From Reggie Bush's trouble with agents (he was used, that's what started that whole thing) to police uncovering illegal operations in a Columbus tattoo parlor to Federal drug law investigations revealing widespread sports doping, a lot of the worst scandals have heir roots in conventional legal trouble.

This is natural, since sports have artificial rules of competition that are not laws for regular citizens. I do not get ticketed for "holding" if I grab my daughter in the course of horseplay, for example. The problem is that these sports governing bodies cannot enforce guidelines with the same thoroughness that government law enforcement can.

The fact is, athletes don't get caught doping unless they make a mistake. Many succeed. And many schools likely get away with breaking NCAA rules because they are not violating laws. They don't get caught unless they make a mistake.


February 9th, 2015 at 1:06 PM ^

I agree with your overall point, and think the degree of recruiting overreaction has been ridiculous around here.

But to answer your question re: why Michigan was caught cheating and not other teams, it happened because Taylor or Traylor (accounts differ) rolled an SUV that (I beleive) belonged to Ed Martin and that definitely contained Mateen Cleaves, then a high school student.  They were on the way back from a party involving alcohol, drugs and strippers.  When it turned out that some part of their trip involved a stop at Ed Martin's house, investigators looked into and eventually uncovered Martin's relationship with the basketball team.  The FBI and DOJ got involved, and things went downhill for Michigan from there.

If that SUV doesn't flip, none of this comes out, and Fisher probably coaches here for 20 years.  Total fluke - the combination of a serious crash with significant injuries (Taylor was lost for the year with a broken arm) involving a high profile recruit and a guy running a significant gambling operation doesn't happen every day.  We were caught and stopped cheating, but others certainly did not.


February 9th, 2015 at 2:06 PM ^

While I agree the rules should change re compensation for college athletes in D1 MBB and football, imagine the ramifications that would have at the high school level where parents and coaches would be that much more incentivized to get their kids ahead.  It's already a major problem, but we'd see even more steroids/cheating/assaults on refs/stacked leagues, etc.


February 9th, 2015 at 11:11 AM ^

McGary and Morgan used a relentless effort to defeat taller players. Doyle is only an inch shorter than Mitch. He just needs experience and another trip to Camp Sanderson.


February 9th, 2015 at 11:11 AM ^

I dont see size being as big a factor next year.  Experince will help players like Donnal and Doyle combat against bigger guys.  Doyle I am very excited for, I feel he is McGary 2.0, and McGary, although a bit short, was never "out powered" by anyone. 


February 9th, 2015 at 11:14 AM ^

I like Doyle, but I don't see him as McGary 2.0. McGary was a very athletic big man with a relentless motor. Doyle is a much more traditional big man with some, but limited, athleticism.

I think Doyle can be a solid, consistent player, but he strikes me as being closer to Jordan Morgan (with higher upside) than McGary.


February 9th, 2015 at 12:04 PM ^

jumpers give Michigan fits down low because of the various defenses Michigan plays and their general lack of athleticism in the frontline. There is no player on Michigan's bench who presents a challenge to anyone going to the hoop. The team might get the occasional block but there is no energy guy off the bench like Tate at Ohio State who gives you a real burst and jump when he enters the game.

That is a hole in Michigan's recruiting, because Beilein is primarily interested in smart kids, who can adopt his system and shoot well. Rebounding isn't as important to him as scoring efficiency, pragmatic defense and opportunistic play, where rebounding more or less fits with this team right now. He's got a couple of long guys in Chatman and Miller along with Dawkins who might offer this potential as better defenders and rebounders, but they are just not at the level yet where they can provide that consistently or even effectively.


February 9th, 2015 at 11:29 AM ^

Teske is probably a legit 6'10/6'11 but is a twig at his current size.  If he does not show up here at 240+ he will get snapped in half in the Big 10.  While a decent shot blocker in high school he doesnt have elite "vertical" ability lets say but looks better than any of our current 5s.  Which is not a very high bar.

Its not so much size but lack of athleticism along the entire front line.  Our most athletic "big" is 6'6 Dawkins who is not really a big but is now forced into the GR3 role since Chatman has failed to develop.  Chatman is not an elite athlete but if he had developed would at least give you some size.  So the only real hope here is DJ Wilson shows up next year with 20 lbs and confidence and is ready to play 15-20 at the 4.  This would let Dawkins go play more 3, and Irvin can slide down to the 2 with MAAR and give us better size everywhere but the 1.

The body type we really need is a TJ Leaf type who is 6'9 215/220 and a man at the 4.  Unfortunately he decided to go to Arizona rather than UM.  Troy Williams has that same body at Indiana and plays way over the rim.  It is not so much height as athleticism.  Dennis Rodman at 6'7/6'8 is completely different than Ricky Doyle at 6'9 - one jumps like Rodman, one jumps like Bill Laimbeer.  Lateral quickness is on a totally different plane.

I am not even that concerned about the offensive end althought it is frustrating as hell to rarely get 2nd chance shots.  But our defense is abysmal due to lack of athletes.  I read on UMHoops yesterday Indiana got 2nd chance points on 48% of their shots.  Think about that.  Every other miss they got a second chance.  For us it feels like if we get an 4 offensive rebounds in a half its a miracle.  Our ability to box out, defend the lane, and rebound is due to youth and lack of athleticism.    If you have a freshman big man/athlete usually he stinks at offense but if he is a leaper he will still affect many shots, get you some rebounds, cause a Yogi or Blackmon to actually think twice before driving the lane.  We have none of that.


February 9th, 2015 at 1:41 PM ^

has plenty of time to get stronger.  if he shows up on campus in the Fall of 2016 and beats out juniors doyle/donnal and or reshirt soph wilson for playing time, then that can only be good for us.  if needs to get stronger, he will redshirt, which is not a bad option either.


February 9th, 2015 at 11:11 AM ^

seems like Beilein has tried to focus on bringing in some big guys the last class and in 2016 also with Teske. But you're right it's still an issue. Even if we have one big guy at center it seems like our 4 man is always a GR3 type guy, a 6'6" guy that can jump but can't defend a guy like Dekker from wiscy. I remember last year when we were hoping that we could put out some lineups that included both Mitch and J-Mo.

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February 9th, 2015 at 11:17 AM ^

But mostly because of what he likes out of the 4 position on offense. He likes a guy that can be a bit of a wing, or at least a guy that can drift to the corner or pick and pop. An extra post in his offense only causes congestion in the middle.

From what I watched of the Iowa game, Iowa just killed Michigan with the high post. A lot of two-bigs and things of that nature. That's been a bad matchup defensively for Michigan since Beilein arrived, and likely will continue to be. Ideally, the hope is that you offset that by having a match-up problem on the other side of the floor.

Now, not a whole lot of teams can pull that off anymore. Off the top of my head, really only Wisconsin and Iowa can really hurt Michigan that badly this year with 2 posts (as far at the B1G is concerned). MSU could in the past, but their roster makeup isn't really suited for it either. If a guy like Chapman can progress, then Michigan can potentially be in a situation where they have a a guy that can defend it well enough but still fit within the Michigan offense. So the concern could be mitigated with good talent on Michigan's side, and I think Beilein has tried to address that a bit in recruiting, but again, I think it's more a mitigation than alleviation. I don't think Michigan will ever match up toe-to-toe extremely well with a team that can run two post players and a guy that is a really threat in the high-post. That's tough for both man and zone defenses to handle, particularly ones that are a bit undersized. 


February 9th, 2015 at 11:15 AM ^

Beilein doesn't recruit those guys, and if we have the type of talent he wants where he wants it we're fine. We didn't have a bunch of behemoths on the national champion runner up team, it's not Beilein's style. This is an off year, we're rebuilding, remember all 5 starters of that team are in the NBA now. LeVert and (sort of) Walton are the only returning starters from last year, all of our frontcourt players are freshmen. That team that made the run to the NC beat plenty of opponents that had a size advantage.