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Archive for the ‘Season Recap’ Category

How Michigan’s points and bigs performed relative to expectations

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014


J-MO

On Monday, we took a look at how Michigan’s wings performed relative to the expectations that Sam set in his season preview series back in November. Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert outperformed in most statistical categories (Stauskas for the second straight season), while Glenn Robinson III and Zak Irvin under performed. The latter, however, was tough to forecast as a true freshman and had some of his potential production eaten up by the emergence of LeVert.

Today, we take a look at the point guards and big men to see how Derick Walton Jr., Spike Albrecht, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Mitch McGary performed.

For a look back at Sam’s preseason team preview and player previews, here they are: the wings, the big men, the point guards. He made his predictions for each player’s points, rebounds, assists, steals, turnovers, and minutes. Later this week, Sam will take a very early look ahead at what the 2014-15 season could bring.

Derrick Walton Jr.
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 6.0 2.5 4.0 1.5 2.0 25.0
Actual 7.9 3.0 2.9 0.6 1.5 26.7
Difference +1.9 +0.5 -1.1 -0.9 -0.5 +1.7

Derrick Walton Jr.Recap: While Nik Stauskas had the challenge of replacing Trey Burke’s production, it was Walton that was tasked with replacing his command of the offense. The freshman from Detroit wasn’t expected to score at Burke’s rate, but needed to run the offense effectively, finding the open man and taking care of the ball.

In Sam’s preview, he wrote, “Walton is a very quick player with the ball in his hands who will be looking to create for others before looking to shoot himself. He will never be the same player that Trey Burke was in Ann Arbor, but Walton clearly has the potential to make a similar impact, and with the talent of this Michigan team, it should be felt instantly.”

And it was, as he finished with a 2:1 assists-to-turnover ratio while contributing just under eight points a game. He had a season-best 19 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists in Michigan’s win at Michigan State on Jan. 25. He also recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, in addition to six assists, in the win at Ohio State.

Future: Walton finished third on the team in assists behind Stauskas and Caris LeVert. With Stauskas gone, and LeVert stepping into his role of go-to guy, it will be up to Walton to make a big sophomore leap. He will still likely share time with Spike Albrecht, but will need to keep his assists-to-turnover ratio roughly the same and increase his scoring production by a few points. He proved  to be a capable three-point shooter this season. Now he needs to show he can create off the dribble like Burke did.

Spike Albrecht
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 3.5 1.2 1.5 0.5 0.8 10.0
Actual 3.3 1.1 2.0 0.5 0.4 14.7
Difference -0.2 -0.1 +0.5 0.0 -0.4 +4.7

SpikeRecap: Albrecht burst onto the scene in last year’s national championship game with 17 points, his first and only double-digit performance of the season. While no one is confusing him with Trey Burke, the performance eased at least some concern following Burke’s departure.

Sam wrote, “This year, expect a year of practice against Burke to pay dividends for Albrecht and a few more girls to flutter their eyebrows while walking by the boyish-faced Spike on the Diag. But most of all, expect to be happy with Albrecht’s contributions. Those contributions won’t be great, and oftentimes they will go unnoticed, but a back-up point guard who flies under the radar is usually a back-up point guard who is doing his job.”

Albrecht did just that, providing a steady hand in 15 minutes a game while splitting time with Walton. He turned the ball over just 16 times in 545 minutes — an average of once every 34 minutes of action — with a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He contributed 3.3 points per game and was usually good for one big three-pointer per night.

Future: Albrecht will continue to play an important role for John Beilein as a four-year guy who provides consistency while others leave early for the NBA. His role next season will be about the same as this season, sharing time with Walton, taking care of the ball late in games, and knocking down the occasional open three. He’s the perfect point guard option off the bench and will remain so.

Jordan Morgan
Points Rebounds Blocks Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 3.5 3.0 0.2 0.5 0.8 10.0
Actual 6.4 5.0 0.4 0.4 0.9 20.1
Difference +2.9 +2.0 +0.2 -0.1 +0.1 +10.1
2012-13 Difference -3.9 -1.5   -0.5   -6.1

Jordan Morgan cutting net 3-8-14Recap: Perhaps the feel-good story of the season was the senior-year emergence of Jordan Morgan. He committed to Michigan in 2010 when the program was very different than it is now, stuck with the program despite losing his playing time to Mitch McGary last season, and became one of the most beloved players on the team by season’s end. A year ago, Sam held fairly high expectations for Morgan, but he performed below every one. This year, he over-performed.

In his preview, Sam wrote, “A couple seasons ago, Morgan’s own dad admitted that he was very surprised when Beilein called Morgan in the first place to express interest and ultimately offer him a scholarship. After all, Morgan’s future would be as an engineer. But Beilein did give him that chance, and Morgan has embraced his role in playing basketball for Michigan, no matter what it might be.

“This season, his last, might be Morgan’s most unspectacular in the scoring column, but his leadership and experience will undoubtedly be needed if Michigan is to make another run. Many fans will end up forgetting Morgan’s seemingly insignificant contributions, but Morgan himself will never forget his own journey.”

He was never a star, but Michigan fans most certainly won’t be forgetting his contributions any time soon. Just like the charge he drew late in last year’s Final Four win over Syracuse, Morgan saved Michigan’s season with a drawn charge in this year’s Sweet Sixteen win over Tennessee. Those are the kind of plays that don’t show up in the stat sheet, but are just as important.

Future: Morgan was the lone senior on this year’s team and got a fitting sendoff on Senior Night. He leaves Ann Arbor with an engineering degree, two Big Ten titles, and the program’s career and single-season field goal percentage records. Those are some great accomplishments for a big man out of Detroit that wasn’t highly recruited.

His departure leaves a gap both inside and in terms of leadership. If McGary opts to return next season Michigan will still be in good shape, but if he follows Stauskas and Robinson to the next level, Beilein will need some young guys to step up.

Jon Horford
Points Rebounds Blocks Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 4.5 3.0 0.8 0.5 0.8 12.0
Actual 3.8 4.2 0.7 0.3 0.5 13.8
Difference -0.7 +1.2 -0.1 -0.2 -0.3 +1.8
2012-13 Difference -3.8 -2.3 -1.4 -0.3   -6.2

Jon HorfordRecap: Horford has battled the injury bug throughout his career at Michigan, but entered the 2013-14 season as healthy as could be. He was still battling Morgan and McGary for playing time, but as the season went on it became apparent that even with McGary sidelined with a back injury, it was Morgan who had earned the coaches’ trust and Horford was left coming off the bench. He proved a capable rebounder, averaging over four per game in less than 14 minutes, but struggled on the offensive end of the court.

In Sam’s preview, he wrote, “Over the course of two preseason games, Horford recorded four blocks and 21 rebounds, 17 of which came on defense. If he can continue to provide that kind of production while finishing wide open looks in the paint, Horford will see a nice uptick in minutes and could occasionally see the floor next to McGary – a potentially devastating look for opponents.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way as Horford scored in double figures just three times all season — all in a five game stretch at the start of Big Ten play — and had just one more double digit rebounding performance the rest of the way.

Future: Horford could have returned to provide leadership as a fifth-year senior next season and likely see more playing time as a result of Morgan’s graduation, but he announced his decision to transfer elsewhere for his final year of eligibility. This leaves a hole in the front court, depending on what McGary decides to do and means redshirt freshman-to-be Mark Donnal is in line for a big role next season.

Mitch McGary
Points Rebounds Blocks Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 12.0 9.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 28.0
Actual 9.5 8.3 0.8 1.9 1.6 24.6
Difference -2.5 -1.2 -0.2 +0.4 -0.4 -3.4

McGaryRecap: Sam’s predictions for McGary were made with an asterisk because his status was unknown at the time, so any under- or over-performance should also be noted with an asterisk.

In his preview, Sam wrote, “Already this season, McGary has been deemed a preseason AP All-American, but he has one more physical hurdle to climb before fulfilling his vast potential – a lower back “condition” that has severely limited McGary’s practice time this fall and has many wondering when he’ll be back to full strength. Beilein maintains that Michigan is just being extremely cautious with McGary right now, and McGary himself is constantly wearing a smile as he says he feels “fine”, but any back injury for a guy of McGary’s size is worrisome.

“If the super sophomore is completely healthy by Michigan’s first big game, though, the Wolverines should be one of the most talented teams in the country and one of the few with exceptional players at every position. And of course, if McGary picks up where he left off, this condition will just be the latest bump on the rise to stardom.”

Ultimately, McGary played in just eight games, starting four, before he had back surgery and was shut down for the season. It’s impossible to tell how healthy he actually was in the games he played, but he certainly wasn’t 100 percent. Still, he averaged 9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and two steals per game.

Future: McGary is the one remaining piece of the puzzle that needs to be placed for next season. He hasn’t yet announced his decision of whether to return or to enter the NBA Draft. In one sense, it seems like an easy decision — will an NBA team want a player coming off back surgery who has really only had a dominant NCAA Tournament run that shows his potential? On the other hand, he’s old for his class and his NBA future is getting shorter the longer he waits. If his back is healthy enough for pre-draft workouts, he could work his way solidly into the first round.

A return to Michigan would immediately solidify Michigan’s front court, allowing McGary to play the five and Donnal the four with Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert as the wings and Derrick Walton Jr. handling the ball. That would be a lineup worthy of Big Ten title consideration. If he doesn’t return, however, there will be plenty of questions to be answered inside.
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Check back at the end of the week for Sam’s look ahead to the 2014-15 season with some very early team and player predictions.

How Michigan’s wings performed relative to expectations

Monday, April 21st, 2014


Stauskas dunk vs MSU 2-23-14

Back in November, as the Michigan football team was limping through the conference schedule and many of the maize and blue faithful started to turn their hopes to the hardwood, Sam penned a preview of the basketball season, complete with team and player predictions. It was no easy task as the Wolverines were replacing Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Most anticipated a solid sophomore leap from Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, but Caris LeVert’s improvement turned out to be a pleasant surprise that no one saw coming.

Sam pegged Michigan to finish 30-7 overall and 15-3 in the Big Ten, tying for the conference title and advancing to the Elite Eight. When the Wolverines started the season 6-4, it looked as if his predictions were way too optimistic. However, the young squad clicked and ran its way through the Big Ten, finishing 28-9 overall and 15-3 in the Big Ten. Instead of sharing the conference title, Michigan won it outright for the first time since 1986 and then advanced to the Elite Eight, falling just short of a return trip to the Final Four.

In addition to the team preview, Sam wrote a series of player previews: the wings, the big men, the point guards. He made his predictions for each player’s points, rebounds, assists, steals, turnovers, and minutes. Let’s take a look at how each player performed relative to Sam’s expectations. Today, we’re reflecting on the wings.

Nik Stauskas
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 13.5 3.5 1.0 0.5 1.0 33.0
Actual 17.5 2.9 3.3 0.6 1.9 35.6
Difference +4.0 -0.6 +2.3 +0.1 +0.9 +2.6
2012-13 Difference +5.8 +0.7 +0.1     +18.5

Stauskas blowing kissesRecap: Michigan’s second consecutive Big  Ten Player of the Year, Stauskas exceeded nearly every expectation. As a freshman, he proved he could snipe from three-point range, but because of Burke and Hardaway, he wasn’t asked to do much more. With those two gone, however, he took over.

In Sam’s preview, he wrote, “The sophomore claims to have increased his vertical leap by some six inches while putting on 16 pounds of muscle without losing his surprising first-step burst and shooting stroke. If true, Stauskas will easily contend for scoring leader on the team and will again be a nightmare for opposing coaches.” Stauskas certainly looked and played the part.

Future: Stauskas declared his intentions to enter the NBA Draft last week, and while Michigan fans hate to see him go, virtually no one can blame him. His draft stock soared to a potential lottery pick, so there’s no use risking injury by spending another year in college at this point. His production will be tough to replace, but as Beilein proved this year replacing Burke and Hardaway, it’s not impossible.

Glenn Robinson III
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 14.0 6.0 1.5 1.3 1.3 35.0
Actual 13.1 4.4 1.2 1.0 1.2 32.3
Difference -0.9 -1.6 -0.3 -0.3 -0.1 -2.7
2012-13 Difference 0.0 +0.9 -1.2 -0.2 +5.6

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at IllinoisRecap: Robinson was expected to be the team leader in the absence of Burke and Hardaway, but it was Stauskas that took on that role. Robinson was frustrating at times, but picked up his play over the last third of the season, playing his best ball down the stretch, scoring nearly a point more than his season-long average in the NCAA Tournament.

In his preview, Sam wrote, “The knock on Robinson all of last year was his lack of aggression and his inability to create for himself. And despite tying Stauskas as the third-leading scorer, Robinson always seemed to quietly go about his business throwing down alley oops and cleaning up a couple misses down low.

“This year, look for Robinson to make a little more noise, even if he isn’t scoring 20 points every night. As long as he can make defenses respect his shot and his slashing ability, he should highlight a team chock full of talented wings.”

For the most part, Robinson was still the player that quietly went about his business. He just did it a little bit better than last year.

Future: Like Stauskas, Robinson already announced his decision to enter the NBA Draft. Unlike Stauskas, this came as a surprise to many who thought he could use another year in college to prove he can be a go-to guy. His draft stock has hovered around the end of the first round based on his perceived potential. But that potential could also allow him to work his way up to a higher pick during pre-draft workouts.

Caris LeVert
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 8.0 3.0 0.5 3.0 1.2 25.0
Actual 12.9 4.3 2.9 1.2 1.7 34.0
Difference +4.9 +1.3 +2.4 -1.8 +0.5 +9.0

LeVert vs OSU 3-15-14Recap: In his freshman campaign, LeVert was a string bean that came off the bench to provide solid defense for less than 11 minutes a game. He showed potential, but nobody saw the leap he made during his sophomore season coming. He was easily the most improved player on the team, raising his scoring average from 2.3 to 12.9, rebound average from 0.8 to 4.3, and assist average from 0.2 to 2.9.

In Sam’s preview, he wrote, “Last year was Caris’s opportunity to learn the game and Michigan’s style in spurts. This year, Beilein seems to think he’ll be playing so much that the bigger concern is going to be finding time to rest him.

“Most people would have been skeptical of that quote just before the summer, but after seeing LeVert dish out 10 assists in the first exhibition game and record 16 points in 28 minutes two nights ago, it’s clear that the Pickerington Central product is ready to shine.”

Shine he did, especially in games in which Stauskas was shut down. LeVert scored 24 against Duke, almost single-handedly keeping Michigan in the game, and had a four game stretch late in the conference schedule in which he scored 22, nine, 25, and 23.

Future: With Stauskas and Robinson gone and Mitch McGary still undecided, it’s now LeVert’s team. The lightly recruited, baby-faced kid from Columbus weighed making the jump to the next level as well, but elected to return. As the leading returning scorer, he’ll be tasked with the role of go-to man and try to become Michigan’s third straight Big Ten Player of the Year. If he shows even the slightest improvement throughout the offseason, that’s certainly a realistic possibility.

Zak Irvin
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 9.5 3.0 1.5 1.0 1.5 21.0
Actual 6.7 1.3 0.3 0.2 0.4 15.4
Difference -2.8 -1.7 -1.2 -0.8 -1.1 -5.6

Zak Irvin vs NebraskaRecap: Irvin came in with a lot of potential, but it’s never easy to forecast the production of a freshman.

In Sam’s preview, he wrote, “For the freshman, it will be all about consistency this year. Irvin has all the tools to be a very good defender and a diverse scorer, but he needs to realize that Michigan has a bevy of riches on the offensive end and pick his spots wisely.”

In reality, LeVert’s progression from gangly defensive sub to a very good offensive threat probably limited Irvin’s production a bit, but that’s okay. Irvin was called upon to play a similar role to Stauskas last season: three-point sniper. The Fishers, Ind. native is capable of much more than that, and will be able to prove it next season, but was simply needed to knock down threes in 15 minutes a game. And he did just that, making 62, second only to Stauskas.

Future: Irvin will be tasked with making the sophomore leap next season. He’s in line for a starting role and will need to be much more than simply a three-point sniper. He has the game to do much more, but come November it will be time to prove it. He’ll need to raise his scoring average at least into double digits to make up for the production lost by the departures of Stauskas and Robinson.
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Come back later this week for a look back at how the big men and the point guards performed relative to expectations.

A statistical look at Michigan’s 2013-14 season

Monday, April 7th, 2014


Huddle vs UK(MGoBlue.com)

With the 2013-14 Michigan basketball season in the rear view mirror, it’s time to take a statistical look back at the team. The chart  below is color-coded for each player’s rank in each statistical category based on that player’s team rank. The darker the maize, the higher he finished, with the team leader represented in dark maize and the number bolded. The darker the blue, the lower he finished, with the low man in dark blue and the number bolded.

Two years ago when I did this, the chart showed that Michigan was basically a six-man team. The first six were mostly maize and the bottom eight were mostly blue. This year’s team went a little deeper with a nine-man rotation (counting the injured McGary) before the colors turn to blue. The nine regulars played 97.8 percent of the team’s total minutes all season, while the bottom five played a combined 162 minutes. That’s 35 minutes fewer than McGary played in the eight games he played in.

Nik Stauskas led the team in 10 categories: minutes, minutes per game, field goals made, three-point field goals made, three-point percentage, free throws made, free throw percentage, assists, points scored, and points per game. He also had the most turnovers. He had an average team rank of 4.57.

Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert had an identical average team ranking of 4.79. They were the only two players on the team to play in and start every game, and while Robinson didn’t lead the team in any other category, LeVert led the Wolverines with 141 defensive rebounds. The two ranked second or third in most other categories.

Jordan Morgan led the team in three categories: field goal percentage, offensive rebounds, and total rebounds, while McGary led in rebounds per game and Horford led in blocked shots.

Final Player Stats
Name GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
Nik Stauskas 36-36 1281 35.6 185-394 .470 92-208 .442 168-204 .824 15 90 105 2.9 118 67 11 20 630 17.5
Glenn Robinson III 37-37 1194 32.3 182-373 .488 33-108 .306 87-115 .757 54 110 164 4.4 44 46 11 35 484 13.1
Caris LeVert 37-37 1258 34.0 163-371 .439 60-147 .408 92-120 .767 19 141 160 4.3 109 62 10 44 478 12.9
Mitch McGary 8-4 197 24.6 30-55 .545 0-2 .000 16-24 .667 23 43 66 8.3 12 13 6 15 76 9.5
Derrick Walton Jr. 37-36 989 26.7 91-212 .429 43-105 .410 69-87 .793 14 98 112 3.0 106 56 1 21 294 7.9
Zak Irvin 37-0 569 15.4 85-196 .434 62-146 .425 15-21 .714 14 35 49 1.3 13 16 3 9 247 6.7
Jordan Morgan 37-27 743 20.1 98-140 .700 0-0 .000 39-62 .629 72 113 185 5.0 22 32 16 16 235 6.4
Jon Horford 37-7 512 13.8 62-110 .564 0-2 .000 17-26 .654 49 105 154 4.2 19 19 26 10 141 3.8
Spike Albrecht 37-1 545 14.7 38-94 .404 24-62 .387 21-27 .778 6 35 41 1.1 75 16 1 18 121 3.3
Cole McConnell 4-0 10 2.5 1-3 .333 1-3 .333 1-2 .500 0 1 1 0.3 0 0 0 0 4 1.0
Max Bielfeldt 19-0 89 4.7 6-21 .286 3-9 .333 0-1 .000 8 12 20 1.1 0 2 2 2 15 0.8
Sean Lonergan 11-0 23 2.1 2-5 .400 0-1 .000 2-2 1.000 2 2 4 0.4 1 2 1 1 6 0.5
Brad Anlauf 8-0 16 2.0 1-4 .250 0-0 .000 0-0 .000 0 2 2 0.3 1 1 0 0 2 0.3
Andrew Dakich 12-0 24 2.0 1-4 .250 1-1 1.000 0-0 .000 1 3 4 0.3 5 2 0 0 3 0.3
Color Key
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Further analysis will follow in the individual player season profiles in the coming days, but below are the overall team stats and how they compared to last season.

The column on the far right shows the difference for each stat category. A maize highlight means the team improved in that category and blue means it declined. This year’s team won three fewer games and lost one more than a year ago, but improved in conference play by three games, which was good enough to win the Big Ten.

This year’s offense was college basketball’s most efficient offense in the last 12 years according to Kenpom, but it scored 1.3 fewer points per game and shot 0.7 percent worse than last year’s squad did. That said, this year’s team took 278 fewer shots (in just two fewer games) than last year’s, which is a big reason for the great efficiency. This squad improved its three-point shooting by 1.7 percent while attempting 25 more, and improved its free throw shooting by a whopping 6.2 percent while attempting 49 more, compared to last season.

On the glass, this squad pulled down 3.6 fewer boards per game, but also allowed its opponents to rebound 0.9 fewer as a result of the great offensive efficiency. Assists, blocks, and steals all went ever so slightly down, but turnovers improved by a hair.

Final Team Stats
2012-13 (Last year) Category 2013-14 (This year) Difference
75.2 Points Per Game 73.9 -1.3
63.3 Scoring Defense 65.1 -1.8
1,093-for-2,260 (48.4%) Field Goal % 945-for-1,982 (47.7%) -0.7
941-for-2,221 (42.4%) Def. Field Goal % 905-for-2,035 (44.5%) -2.1
296-for-769 (38.5%) 3-point % 319-for-794 (40.2%) +1.7
242-for-745 (32.5%) Def. 3-point % 201-for-632 (31.8%) +0.7
450-for-642 70.1%) Free Throw % 527-for-691 (76.3%) +6.2
11.5 Free Throws Made/Game 14.2 +2.7
35.0 Rebounds Per Game 31.4 -3.6
32.1 Opp. Rebounds Per Game 31.2 +0.9
14.5 Assists Per Game 14.2 -0.3
9.4 Turnovers Per Game 9.3 +0.1
6.1 Steals Per Game 5.2 -0.9
2.8 Blocks Per Game 2.4 -0.4
12,138 Average Home Attendance 12,698 +560
G – Trey Burke (18.6)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.5)
Leading Scorers G – Nik Stauskas (17.5)
F – Glenn Robinson III (13.1)
F – Mitch McGary (6.3)
F – Glenn Robinson III (5.4)
Leading Rebounders F – Mitch McGary (8.3)
F – Jordan Morgan (5.0)

Stay tuned in the coming days for the individual player season profiles, where we’ll evaluate each player’s contribution to the season, how it compared to his previous season(s), and the main areas of improvement for next season.

This team will never be forgotten

Friday, April 4th, 2014


Stauskas vs Kentucky(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Last year was supposed to be Michigan’s year, and what a year it was. After sputtering near the end of the Big Ten season, the Wolverines, led by All-Everything point guard Trey Burke and fellow future first-round NBA Draft pick Tim Hardaway, Jr., danced their way to the Final Four and then the championship game with pizzazz. And although they ended up falling just short of being NCAA tournament champions, those Wolverines were certainly impressive.

Following the magical run, Burke and Hardaway announced their entry into the draft, and any hopes of a repeat season seemed out the window.

Sure, Mitch McGary, the darling of the Dance, was back for his sophomore season along with best pal and projected lottery pick Glenn Robinson III, and Michigan had another interesting piece in Nik Stauskas, but the consensus was that this year’s squad simply could not become what the previous team was.

And for a long while, those sentiments seemed spot on. After bowling over two overmatched opponents, Michigan traveled to Iowa State and failed to hold onto a win despite the return of the injured McGary. Two more wins came, including an overtime thriller over Florida State in which it seemed that the team may have turned a corner, just to be followed by a head-scratching loss to Charlotte in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Three of these five may be gone next year but they'll always be remembered for a special season (MGoBlue.com)

Three of these five may be gone next year but they’ll always be remembered for a special season (MGoBlue.com)

Michigan went on to split the next four games, with losses at Duke and to Arizona sandwiched among them, and learned that McGary’s injury would probably hold him out for the rest of the season.

The non-conference season was just about over, Michigan had no big wins to speak of, and perhaps the Wolverines’ best player was down for the count. Just like that, the Maize and Blue went from a potentially solid, but not great, team to a team that many thought had an uphill climb just to make the Big Dance.

We all know where things went from there. Inexplicably, the Wolverines regrouped, winning 15 of 18 Big Ten games, swept Michigan State, won the conference outright by three games, and came inches away from making a second straight Final Four.

None of this was supposed to happen. This team was too young, too small, too weak. Jordan Morgan was not a Big Ten-caliber starter, and much less on a Big Ten championship team. Caris LeVert was too skinny and erratic, Nik Stauskas and Zak Irvin were too one-dimensional, Glenn Robinson III was too passive and inconsistent, Spike Albrecht was too slow, Derrick Walton needed another year of experience, and Jon Horford was, well, Jon Horford.

Together, however, those “toos” became one. This team of misfits banded together as friends and showed all the doubters what they were capable of.

This team wasn’t a fluke. It was a team that maybe lacked some recruiting star power, but certainly didn’t lack heart or a star coaching staff. It was a team that, when things started to click, was perhaps more dangerous than any other in the country. It was a team that was a joy to watch.

There were plenty of bumps along the way, with the non-conference season being the biggest of all. There were puzzlingly lazy starts (Florida State,  at Minnesota,  at Purdue, and Wisconsin) and games that you couldn’t help but sit back, enjoy, and shake your head at (Nebraska, Michigan State,  at Illinois, and Texas). There were heart attacks and heart breaks, comebacks and even a few letdowns.

But more than anything, this was a team to be proud of. It was clear from the start that these guys loved playing with each other and loved playing for their coach. McGary, watching from the bench for the majority of the season, perhaps had more fun than anyone else, and in this day and age of superstars with inflated egos, that is something to behold.

A regular season sweep of Michigan State en route to a Big Ten title highlighted a great season (MGoBlue.com)

A regular season sweep of Michigan State en route to a Big Ten title highlighted a great season (MGoBlue.com)

When players answered questions after games, they gave standard coach-speak responses as they’ve been coached to do, but it still felt sincere. When Stauskas said he was confident that Horford would finish his passes with buckets, he meant it. When Jordan Morgan told everyone that he didn’t care who was scoring the points or collecting the rebounds down low so long as the team won, and then shed tears on Senior Day and after the season-ending loss to Kentucky, he wasn’t faking it.

You rarely heard anything negative about these players because there was little negative to tell. These weren’t the college basketball players who would scuffle with each other and their coaches or the type to break a hand smashing a table in frustration.

By the end of the season, the team had accomplished so much and won so many close games and overcome so much doubt that another Final Four seemed inevitable. Yes, Kentucky proved to be the more talented team, but Michigan had already ousted many talented teams this season. When Julius Randle accidentally tipped in two points for Michigan after Caris LeVert battled for seemingly endless offensive rebounds in what would be the second-to-last offensive possession the Wolverines would have this season, I knew the Wolverines would pull one out like they had so many times before. Even when Aaron Harrison made that improbable deep three with a LeVert hand in his face, I thought Stauskas would drain a heave to send it to overtime, where, of course, the Maize and Blue would punch their ticket to Dallas.

Alas, it all ended too soon. Michigan will not travel to the Lone Star state this weekend to battle for the ultimate prize in college basketball, and this team, these warriors, will never all take to the court as a team again. And it still seems a bit surreal.

When next season rolls around, Morgan will have exhausted his eligibility, and Stauskas and Robinson III will have probably moved on to bigger and better things in the world of basketball. Many of the players will return, but things will be different.

There will be a couple new banners hanging in the rafters of Crisler, however, to honor and remember this team.

Because, after all, this team will never be forgotten.

How Michigan basketball performed relative to expectations

Thursday, April 11th, 2013


Michigan’s magical season came to an end Monday night in heartbreaking fashion. But it was hard to stay down for long given the show Team 96 put on in one of the greatest national championship games we’ll ever see. No one will ever say a loss is a good thing. It’s not and this one wasn’t. It hurt, moreso for the players and coaches involved than you or I will ever know. But the young Wolverines played like they belonged to be there. They played well enough to win, and if not for a bad break here or there, they would have.

But even though the season ended just short of the ultimate goal, what Team 96 achieved will go down in Michigan history right alongside the national championship winning 1989 team, the Fab Five, and all the rest of the great teams to don the maize and blue.

Six months from now, Team 97 will begin anew and we will root them on with a renewed love and passion for Michigan basketball. For the first time in a long time, Michigan basketball will enter a season viewed in high regard on a national stage. But before we get there, and before we even turn our full attention to football, let’s look back at what we expected out of this team and compare our expectations to how it performed.

Back in November as Michigan was getting ready to open its season at home against Slippery Rock, Sam posted his season preview. In it, he pegged the Wolverines to finish the regular season 26-6 and 13-5 in the Big Ten. In reality, they went 26-7 and 12-6. Furthermore, he pegged Michigan as a Final Four squad, which they not only were, but went one game further and finished the season with a school record 31 wins and just eight losses. Sam picked Michigan to finish first in the Big Ten, but they fell just short, although the fifth-place finish is deceiving since they were one rotation of the ball away from beating Indiana and claiming a share of the title.

As far as individual players go, in Sam’s player previews, he forecasted their stat lines from points, rebounds, and assists to field goal and three-point percentage. Let’s see how they performed based on expectations.
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Trey Burke
Points FG% 3-pt % FT% Rebounds Assists Steals TOs Blocks Minutes
Predicted 15.0 44.8 37.0 81.2 3.3 5.7 1.0 2.2 0.4 35.0
Actual 18.6 46.3 38.4 80.1 3.2 6.7 1.6 2.2 0.5 35.3
Difference +3.6 +1.5 +1.4 -1.1 -0.1 +1.0 +0.6 +0.1 +0.3

Recap: The sentence that hit the nail on the head was “A huge season for Trey likely means a deep run in March for the Wolverines, but if he sees a sophomore slump, Michigan could find itself underachieving massively.” Big Tean and National Player of the Year is certainly a huge year and Michigan made the deepest March run possible. Burke outperformed his expectations in nearly every category – at least in the ones that matter most – and led Michigan to the brink of a national title.

Future: Trey is the most likely player to jump to the NBA and if he does, no one will blame him. He has done more in his two seasons in Ann Arbor than most players do in their career. He set the single season assists record, was a consensus first team All-American, Big Ten Player of the Year, Naismith Player of the Year, and Wooden Award winner to name a few. He’s a projected lottery pick in the NBA Draft – Chad Ford has him listed 6th in his updated mock draft – and he’s only that low because of his height. He doesn’t have much left to prove at Michigan, but maybe, just maybe, he will want to return to lead the Wolverines to a Big Ten title and win a national championship next season. We can hope.
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Tim Hardaway Jr.
Points FG% 3-pt % FT% Rebounds Assists Steals Minutes
Predicted 15.0 46.0 40.1 77.8 3.2 2.9 1.0 33.0
Actual 14.5 43.7 37.4 69.4 4.7 2.4 0.7 34.8
Difference -0.5 -2.3 -2.7 -8.4 +1.5 -0.5 -0.3 +1.8

Recap: Hardaway improved his shooting and three-point shooting this season compared to his sophomore season, but they still fell short of his projected averages. In Sam’s preview of Tim he wrote, “There’s no doubt that that Tim Hardaway is one of the best players on this team and an intriguing NBA prospect…but he will need to show some consistency on both ends of the court if he is to realize his dream and follow in his dad’s footsteps to the League.” Hardaway still struggled with consistency this season. When he was on, he was on. Take the Ohio State game in Ann Arbor for instance, when he hit 6-of-9 three-point attempts to carry the Wolverines to victory. However, he also went a combined 4-of-23 from the field in two games against Michigan State and went just 16-of-53 (30.2 percent) from the field and 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) from downtown in the final four games of the NCAA Tournament.

Future: Based purely on speculation, if I had to bet on it right now, I’d say Hardaway will make the jump to the NBA. But scouts don’t have him as a first round prospect anymore and he could drastically help his draft prospects with one more year in Ann Arbor. If he stays and is able to improve his shooting and become more consistent, he could easily work his way into the top half of the first round in 2014.
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Mitch McGary
Points Rebounds Assists Blocks Minutes
Predicted 10.0 8.2 1.5 1.5 22.0
Actual 7.5 6.3 0.6 0.7 19.7
Difference -2.5 -1.9 -0.9 -0.8 -2.3

Recap: Predicting the production from a true freshman is next to impossible because you don’t know how long it will take him to adapt to the college game. Everyone knew McGary would be a very good player for Michigan, but nobody really knew whether it would be right from the start or whether it would take him a while. He showed flashes of his potential right from the start, but served as Michigan’s sixth man for most of the season, giving the team a spark off the bench. In the tournament, however, he blossomed into a star. He was the talk of the tournament – at least up until his disappointing performance that was marred by foul trouble in the national title game – after back-to-back dominant performances against VCU and Kansas. He underperformed based on Sam’s projections, but he showed everyone late in the season that the expectations will be high next season.

Future: McGary’s breakout tournament performance moved him all the way up to 12th in Chad Ford’s latest mock draft, something that might tempt him to make the jump. But I don’t think he will. He has the potential to be an absolute star, and with a full season in 2013-14 like he had in the tournament, could easily become a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Expect McGary to return to dominate the paint for Michigan next season.
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Nik Stauskas
Points Rebounds Assists Minutes
Predicted 5.2 2.3 1.2 12.0
Actual 11.0 3.0 1.3 30.5
Difference +5.8 +0.7 +0.1 +18.5

Recap: As with McGary, predicting the stats of a true freshman can sometimes be very wrong. In this case, Stauskas performed much better than predicted. In a sense, much more was known about McGary coming out of high school as, at one point, the #2 player in the class, but there wasn’t much to go off of for Stauskas, the Canadian assassin. All that was really known was that he was deadly from behind the arc. It wasn’t until the season started that everybody realized the often heard phrase “he’s not just a shooter.” He finished third on the team with 11 points a game, which is impressive, and earned a starting spot very early on, so his minutes were much higher than predicted. But his shot struggled in the second half of the season with the exception of the 6-of-6 performance against Florida in the Elite Eight. He finished the season 46.3 percent from the field and 44 percent from three-point.

Future: Stauskas isn’t a threat to go pro this season, so we don’t have to worry about that. He has vowed to return a different player next season, hitting the gym hard during the summer and coming back stronger and better defensively. The defensive end was by far his weak point this season, and if he can improve that, he’ll be a very dangerous player going forward.
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Glenn Robinson III
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Minutes
Predicted 11.0 4.5 2.3 1.2 28.0
Actual 11.0 5.4 1.1 1.0 33.6
Difference +0.9 -1.2 -0.2 +5.6

Recap: Robinson might have been the easiest freshman to predict since most knew he would start from the get-go. His 11 points per game average was exactly what Sam projected and he exceeded his projected rebound average, finishing as the team’s second best rebounder behind McGary. He played more minutes than expected and was always dangerous on the baseline and around the rim.

Future: There’s a slight chance Robinson could make the jump to the NBA since he oozes potential. Chad Ford projected him to go 15th in his latest mock draft. He’ll likely stick around for at least one more year to improve his game and potentially move into the top 10. The main area of work is creating his own shots. In his player preview, Sam said, “He’s certainly a capable shooter, but no one is quite sure how good. We also know he can fill it up from mid-range and will be deadly around the rim, but I’ll be interested to see how his overall offensive game develops and where the majority of his shots come from.” This season, he was mostly reliant on Burke and others to get him the ball in position to hit a shot or to score around the rim. If he can improve to the point where he can create his own shots, he will be lethal.
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Jordan Morgan
Points FG% FT% Rebounds Assists Steals Minutes
Predicted 8.5 55.0 60.1 5.8 0.8 0.8 22.0
Actual 4.6 57.7 55.8 4.3 0.3 0.3 15.9
Difference -3.9 +2.7 -4.3 -1.5 -0.5 -0.5 -6.1

Recap: It’s no secret that Morgan was somewhat of a disappointment this season. No one expected him to be a first team All-Big Ten caliber player, but in his first two seasons he showed potential to be a reliable big man. But this season, he struggled to be a consistent scoring option and had problems catching the ball down low. He underperformed in nearly every category and eventually lost his starting job to McGary during the tournament.

Future: Morgan has one season left in Ann Arbor and is still an important piece of the puzzle for John Beilein. He remains one of Michigan’s best defensive players, and that was no more evident than when he came in and took a charge at the end of the Final Four game against Syracuse that essentially sealed Michigan’s win. If he can work on his hands to the point that he’s able to catch the balls that are fed to him on the pick and roll, he could earn back some playing time next season. Otherwise, he’s probably destined to be the first or second man off the bench.
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Jon Horford
Points FG% FT% Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Minutes
Predicted 6.5 55.0 85.0 4.5 0.8 0.5 1.8 15.0
Actual 2.7 57.6 70.4 2.2 0.2 0.2 0.4 8.8
Difference -3.8 +2.6 -14.6 -2.3 -0.6 -0.3 -1.4 -6.2

Recap: Horford continues to develop as a player and fight through injuries early in his career. He missed several games early in the season due to injury, which set back his development and allowed McGary to eat up some of his playing time. Sam said as much in his player preview: “Pay very close attention to him early on to see how his season may go.” The time missed resulted in only 8.8 minutes per game throughout the season. When he was on the court, he was usually reliable, capable of rebounding and finishing when given the opportunity and stepping up and hitting free throws. But he wasn’t the breakout player that Sam thought he might become.

Future: There is still optimism for Big Jon’s future. He has the lineage and the work ethic – he hit the gym to work on shooting right after Michigan arrived back in Ann Arbor after the national championship game – to become a dependable big man worthy of more minutes. He just needs a full off-season and season of staying healthy. If he, Morgan, and McGary continue to develop, Michigan could have a very good frontcourt next season.
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Spike Albrecht
Points Assists Rebounds Steals Minutes
Predicted 1.2 1.0 0.5 0.3 4.0
Actual 2.2 0.7 0.8 0.3 8.1
Difference +1.0 -0.3 +0.3 +4.1

Recap: Perhaps the rotation player that carried the lowest expectations into the season, Spike proved that he has what it takes to run the basketball team at the college level. He was only expected to manage the offense for a few minutes a game while Burke got a breather, and he did that adequately. But in the Final Four, he gave the world a glimpse of his potential. In the semifinal against Syracuse, he hit two key threes to fuel Michigan’s lead, and then in the national championship game, he exploded for 17 first half points. It was like Rudy, except you know, good. He fizzled in the second half, not used to playing so many minutes, especially on such a big stage, but his performance at least put to ease concerns about who will run the team if Burke makes the jump to the NBA.

Future: While Michigan has had the bittersweet reality of great point guards that leave early the past few years – first Darius Morris and now, most likely, Burke – Albrecht is a nice change of pace. He’ll never be a threat to leave early and he may never even earn a starting spot since Michigan has another talented point guard coming in next season. But he gives the position quality depth, which is something it has lacked.
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Matt Vogrich
Points FG% 3-pt % Rebounds Assists Steals Minutes
Predicted 4.3 44.0 41.3 1.5 0.5 0.5 13.0
Actual 1.0 33.3 26.3 0.9 0.1 0.1 5.6
Difference -3.3 -6.7 -15.0 -0.6 -0.4 -0.4 -7.4

Recap: Like Morgan, Matt Vogrich saw his playing time dip this season, but his happened a lot sooner. He began the year as a starter, but that only lasted a handful of games before Stauskas took over. In fact, Vogrich played double digit minutes in only four games all season. He scored his season high of eight points in the season opener against Slipper Rock and then didn’t score more than three in a game the rest of the way. He enjoyed an interesting career that saw his playing time fall as his career went on, but that also coincided with team success.

Future: Vogrich’s career is over.
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As you can see, the player who most outperformed his expectations was Burke, which is extremely impressive given the expectations he had after his freshman campaign. It’s no wonder he won every award imaginable. Stauskas also vastly outperformed his projections, though I don’t think anyone could have thought he’d have so much early success. Glenn Robinson III performed right on his expectations and will likely have them raised going into next season.

The biggest underperformers were the big men. Morgan and Horford could improve next year, while McGary will likely have the highest expectations of anyone on the team going into 2013-14. Hardaway also underperformed slightly despite improving his shooting. If he returns for his senior season, his expectations will be high once again.

Now, we wait and see what Burke, Hardaway, McGary, and Robinson decide regarding their futures. The choices they make will determine the expectations the team has going into next season. It’s most likely that two of the four will leave, but as we saw with Taylor Lewan’s surprising decision to return for his senior year, anything is possible.

An ode to Team 96, forever winners in our hearts

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013


via MGoBlue.com

Meet Josh Bartelstein, Michigan’s senior captain who played a total of 56 minutes in his Michigan career, none of them meaningful in any game, but all of them significant to his 14 teammates. The blogger and son of a prominent NBA agent, Bartelstein is more likely to represent future professionals than ever get paid to play himself, but the respect this team had for him was immense. No Michigan player was ever more excited to see a made three-pointer than when Bartelstein made either of his two career field goals, one last year and one the year prior.

Meet Corey Person, a fifth-year senior who was offered to come back for one last year this season not because of his on-court production but because of his off-court leadership, and, most likely, his pre-game dance ritual, a staple that will be dearly missed and never forgotten. Person entered graduate school after earning his bachelor’s degree last year, and despite the time commitment he made for such little recognition, Person never once questioned his decision, a sacrifice certainly appreciated by his teammates.

Senior Josh Bartelstein served as team captain this season (MGoBlue.com)

Meet Eso Akunne, another senior who rarely had a direct impact on any game but again stuck it out and never complained. Akunne lost his mother two summers ago to cancer, and was never able to give her a final farewell as she passed away a half-world apart, but his strength and courage contributed to the team’s success perhaps more than any basketball play could have.

Meet Matt Vogrich and Blake McLimans, the fourth and fifth senior veterans of this University of Michigan basketball team. Both Vogrich and McLimans accepted scholarship offers from John Beilein with very little to go off other than one NCAA Tournament appearance and eventually had to accept “role player” spots on the team as younger players’ talent won out. Regardless, neither player once complained to the media or otherwise about a reduction in minutes played and points scored in each of their last three seasons, instead cheering on their teammates and happily playing their part as senior leaders.

Meet Jordan Morgan, a fourth-year junior who will be back for one final swan song next season. Morgan entered the year as a starter and played the role admirably for the most part before injuring his ankle in Michigan’s first loss of the season and never fully recovering health-wise or confidence-wise, eventually seeing his starting spot dissipate as freshman Mitch McGary stole headlines throughout the NCAA Tournament. Nonetheless, Morgan continued to give everything he had and was often the on-court vocal leader of this team and a guy who everyone looked up to despite his struggles. A quiet night in the championship game was aptly preceded for Morgan by his thunderous game-ending dunk in the semifinals over Syracuse.

Meet Max Bielfeldt, who chose to play for Michigan two years ago despite an unclear situation in terms of playing time and his family’s strong allegiances to Illinois. Bielfeldt, a redshirt freshman who must feel like a sixth wheel among the “Fresh Five”, has three years left of eligibility but certainly realizes that his battle for playing time will continue to be an uphill climb as the years continue to pass. Still, the player lovingly referred to as Moose by his fellow teammates was nothing but smiles and laughs throughout Michigan’s post-season run even though he only stepped on the floor for less than one minute the entire time.

Fifth-year senior Corey Person didn't play much but his pre-game dance will be missed (MLive.com)

Meet Jon Horford, a redshirt sophomore who continues to ooze potential but has a ways to go before putting it all together. Horford always seemed to be in positive spirits despite an early-season knee injury (his second in two seasons) and worked his way into productive minutes this year. The younger brother of NBA All-Star Al Horford is often over-shadowed in the media and was often over-matched on the court by stronger, quicker, and more talented big men this year, but Jon still has plenty more basketball to look forward to in Ann Arbor and will continue to put forth full effort every time he steps on the floor. His length and shot-blocking prowess make him an important piece moving forward, and Horford’s final point this year, a made free throw to give Michigan a three-point lead with just 18 seconds left against Syracuse in the first Final Four game, was absolutely crucial, especially considering he had missed the first.

Meet Caris LeVert, the skinniest, youngest, and last member of this year’s freshman class. A former Ohio University commit, LeVert switched his pledge to Michigan after coach John Groce left the Bobcat program and was immediately projected to redshirt this year in order to gain some weight and experience off the court. Early on, however, it was clear that LeVert had too much heart and not enough quit to let that happen, quickly over-taking Vogrich’s minutes by mid-season and going on to make a bigger impact than anyone could have predicted. The lanky 18-year-old was almost always out-muscled by his man and he finished this season with by far the lowest shooting percentage of any regularly-used player, but LeVert’s defense was always praised by coaches and his gutty eight-point performance against Syracuse was the difference between the biggest win and the hardest loss of the season for the Maize and Blue.

Matt Vogrich enjoyed success early in his career but was relegated to the bench this season (MGoBlue.com)

Meet Nik Stauskas, the Canadian sniper that will probably end up being the best shooter Michigan coach John Beilein has ever taught when his career comes to an end. The second commit of this freshman class, Stauskas honed his shooting skills in his cold backyard with the rebounding help of his dad for years as preparation for this – a chance to contribute on a championship-contending team and a potential future NBA career. This year saw its ups and downs for Stauskas, from the amazing 22-point shooting display to lead Michigan over Florida for the South regional title to the measly three combined points in the two Final Four games in Atlanta, but overall it was an incredible year for the calm, confident kid with a bright future in Ann Arbor and beyond.

Meet Spike Albrecht, another unheralded freshman who was brought in as a last-minute emergency plan in case Trey Burke had decided to bolt for the NBA last year. Once Burke announced his plans to return, most assumed that Albrecht would be relegated to a bench-warming spot, and his baby-face looks lent to some confusion as to whether Spike was a player or manager, but the sure-handed and sure-headed 20-year-old set things straight throughout the year with solid contributions in spot minutes. As the year went on, Albrecht seemed to provide more and more on a nightly basis, finally culminating with a captivating 17-point first half performance in the championship game on a brilliant 6-of-7 shooting stretch that stole big minutes on ESPN and stunned college basketball fans around the country – a show that followed a perfect, albeit short-lived, six-point outing in four minutes against Syracuse. Spike has now won over the hearts of many young women and Michigan fans everywhere and will look to build on his already growing legacy with three more years in Ann Arbor and a more prominent spotlight.

Meet Glenn Robinson III, the quiet, athletic freshman assassin. The son of former college great Glenn Robinson, Little Dog was never the focal point of this Michigan offense, but he always seemed to manage double-digit points while grabbing a few rebounds, helping the team to so many victories while never once complaining about not getting as many shots as perhaps he would demand on a lesser team. With his next-level athletic abilities and his knack for finishing around the rim, Robinson has turned the heads of many scouts and faces a decision of whether to declare for the NBA Draft or return to Michigan to work toward completing some unfinished business with the rest of the team. No matter what he decides, Glenn Robinson III has already carved out a spot in the hearts of many Michigan fans after blossoming from a lowly-regarded high school player to a top player on one of the best college teams in the country.

Eso Akunne never played much, but got to enjoy a trip to the finals (detroitnews.com)

Meet Mitch McGary, the freshman big man and ball of energy. After committing to play for Michigan as the second-highest rated high schooler in the country, McGary was expected to star right off the bat, but his learning curve was a little slow. Alas, the 20-year-old struggled academically at his four-year high school in Chesterton, Indiana before transferring far away from home to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire before getting his grades in order and refining his basketball game. With time, McGary’s conditioning and overall game improved slowly but surely at Michigan; his energy, on the other hand, has never lacked. As the NCAA Tournament finally rolled around, McGary’s star started to shine bright on the national stage, as he poured in double digit points in five of Michigan’s six games, including a new career high in consecutive games over VCU and Kansas, and recorded double-doubles over the same stretch before slightly struggling to reach the same level in the championship game, where he was hampered with four fouls. McGary, who now finds himself on draft boards with these renewed looks, has a decision to make much like his roommate Robinson’s. If he stays, McGary is seen as a potentially dominant animal in the post, a guy who could conceivably average a double-double, expand his game, and lead Michigan back to the promised land. If he goes, McGary will be seen as a Wolverine whose love of Michigan and passion for tough play have already ingratiated him in the hearts of all Michigan fans.

Meet Tim Hardaway, Jr., the son of NBA legend Tim Hardaway. The junior and second-leading scorer of this Michigan team bounced back from a tough year last year to become a scoring force on offense, a solid defender, and a player who could turn the course of a game with a huge dunk or a streak of three-pointers. Despite some difficult games here and there, Hardaway always seemed to be a steadying force and the seasoned veteran within a lineup full of underclassmen, scoring 10 or more points in all but eight games this year. As a freshman, Hardaway championed Michigan back to the NCAA Tournament after the Wolverines had struggled to a 15-17 mark the year prior to his arrival, and despite his tough shooting year last season, Hardaway has always been a great scorer and a phenomenal team player. Many expect him to forego his last year of eligibility and follow in his dad’s footsteps to the NBA; regardless of what he does, however, Hardaway’s three years so far will never be forgotten, and performances like his 23-point night to beat Ohio State in overtime this season will go down in Michigan history.

Blake McLimans was an important senior leader this season (annarbor.com)

Meet Trey Burke, the one-time no-name prospect and Penn State commit out of Columbus, Ohio. A high school teammate of former Buckeye Jared Sullinger, Burke had always dreamed of playing for Ohio State, but when he was shunned by Thad Matta, he decided to take his talents north and play for John Beilein. Two short years later, Burke has become the best Michigan player in at least 20 years, gaining far too many accolades – including First Team All-American honors and Big Ten, Naismith, and Wooden Player of the Year awards – to list off at once. Last year, Burke’s out-of-nowhere freshman stardom nearly convinced him to take off for the pro ranks after just one season of college, but a talking to from his parents and thoughts of the promise of this year’s team led him back to Ann Arbor, where he put on a show for the ages. Night in and night out, Burke’s cool leadership from the point guard spot led Beilein’s team, and his exceptional team play, his caring for his fellow Wolverines, always stood out to those on-lookers. In retrospect, he was without a doubt the best player on the court every time he suited up for Michigan, and his number will one day hang from the rafters of the Crisler Center. Trey, just like his teammates, was always quick to praise teammates for Michigan’s success, even though it was clear that he was the biggest reason for it. So many of his performances are unforgettable, both for Michigan fans and college basketball fans in general, and his ball-handling prowess, passing, and scoring ability will perhaps never again be matched by a Michigan player. In what will almost certainly be his final collegiate game, Trey Burke again showed why he will always be loved by Michigan fans, scoring 24 points, grabbing four rebounds, and dishing out three assists while his slight 6’0″ frame took a constant beating from the physical Louisville front line. It wasn’t enough, but, like usual, it was more than what could have ever been asked of him.

Meet the 2012-13 Michigan basketball team. In the end, these 15 young men came up just short of the finish line, losing 82-76 in the National Championship after an improbable run through five rounds of the Big Dance. Much like the teams of the early 1990s, they couldn’t match Michigan’s one national title from 1989, and they will not go down in history as the best team in the country in 2013. But they will forever hold a special place in the hearts of all Michigan fans, and rightfully so. Though the last game may have said otherwise, these Wolverines always have been, and always will be, winners in our hearts.

McLimans, Person, Burke, Bartelstein, Hardaway, Morgan and the rest of Team 96 made it to the NCAA Championship game

2012 Michigan defense infographic

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013


Previously: Michigan offense

2012 Michigan offense infographic

Monday, January 14th, 2013



Stay tuned for the Michigan defense infographic in the next day or two.

Lewan, Hagerup earn Big Ten individual awards

Monday, November 26th, 2012


The All-Big Ten teams were announced on Monday night and several Wolverines were among them. Taylor Lewan received the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award and Will Hagerup got the Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year award. No other school in the conference had more than two individual players win awards, though Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin also had two each.

Lewan and Patrick Omameh were named to the First Team by the coaches, while the coaches named Craig Roh and Jordan Kovacs to the Second Team. The media had Lewan and Hagerup First Team and Jake Ryan Second Team.

These teams are always gimmicky in that outside of the obvious, the coaches and media tend to differ vastly. The coaches thought Omameh was deserving of First Team honors while the media merely had him Honorable Mention. While Hagerup was named the Big Ten’s best punter, he wasn’t even on the first or second team by the coaches.

The full list of individual awards winners and All-Big Ten teams are listed below. Five other individual trophy winners will be announced on Tuesday.

Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year: Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year: Allen Robinson, Penn State
Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year: Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year: Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year: John Simon, Ohio State
Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year: Michael Mauti, Penn State
Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year: Micah Hyde, Iowa
Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year: Brett Maher, Nebraska, and Jeff Budzien, Northwestern
Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year: Will Hagerup, Michigan
Coaches
First Team Offense Second Team
Taylor Martinez Nebraska QB Braxton Miller Ohio State
Le’Veon Bell Michigan State RB Ameer Abdullah Nebraska
Montee Ball Wisconsin RB Venric Mark Northwestern
Carlos Hyde Ohio State
Allen Robinson Penn State WR Kenny Bell Nebraska
Jared Abbrederis Wisconsin WR Corey Brown Ohio State
Matt Stankiewitch Penn State C James Ferentz Iowa
Patrick Omameh Michigan G Ryan Groy Wisconsin
Spencer Long Nebraska G
John Urschel Penn State G
Taylor Lewan Michigan T Hugh Thornton Illinois
Rick Wagner Wisconsin T Jeremiah Sirles Nebraska
Jacob Pederson Wisconsin TE Dion Sims Michigan State
Jeff Budzien Northwestern K Brett Maher Nebraska
First Team Defense Second Team
Johnathan Hankins Ohio State DL Michael Buchanan Illinois
John Simon Ohio State DL Adam Replogle Indiana
Jordan Hill Penn State DL Craig Roh Michigan
Kawann Short Purdue DL Eric Martin Nebraska
Baker Steinkuhler Nebraska
Max Bullough Michigan State LB Will Compton Nebraska
Michael Mauti Penn State LB Ryan Shazier Ohio State
Chris Borland Wisconsin LB Gerald Hodges Penn State
Micah Hyde Iowa DB Jordan Kovacs Michigan
Johnny Adams Michigan State DB Daimion Stafford Nebraska
Darqueze Dennard Michigan State DB Christian Bryant Ohio State
Bradley Roby Ohio State DB Ricardo Allen Purdue
Mike Sadler Michigan State P Brett Maher Nebraska
Media
First Team Offense Second Team
Braxton Miller Ohio State QB Taylor Martinez Nebraska
Le’Veon Bell Michigan State RB Venric Mark Northwestern
Montee Ball Wisconsin RB Carlos Hyde Ohio State
Allen Robinson Penn State WR Cody Latimer Indiana
Jared Abbrederis Wisconsin WR Kenny Bell Nebraska
Travis Frederick Wisconsin C Matt Stankiewitch Penn State
Spencer Long Nebraska G Brian Mulroe Northwestern
Andrew Norwell Ohio State G John Urschel Penn State
Taylor Lewan Michigan T Jeremiah Sirles Nebraska
Rick Wagner Wisconsin T Jack Mewhort Ohio State
Kyle Carter Penn State TE Dion Sims Michigan State
Brett Maher Nebraska K Jeff Budzien Northwestern
First Team Defense Second Team
Eric Martin Nebraska DL Adam Replogle Indiana
John Simon Ohio State DL William Gholston Michigan State
Jordan Hill Penn State DL D.L. Wilhite Minnesota
Kawann Short Purdue DL Johnathan Hankins Ohio State
Ryan Shazier Ohio State LB Jake Ryan Michigan
Michael Mauti Penn State LB Max Bullough Michigan State
Mike Taylor Wisconsin LB Gerald Hodges Penn State
Micah Hyde Iowa DB Johnny Adams Michigan State
Daimion Stafford Nebraska DB Darqueze Dennard Michigan State
Travis Howard Ohio State DB Josh Johnson Purdue
Bradley Roby Ohio State DB Devin Smith Wisconsin
Will Hagerup Michigan P Mike Sadler Michigan State

All-Big ten honorable mention honorees can be found here.

End of season player profiles: the starters

Monday, April 2nd, 2012


Last week, we presented the final individual and team statistical breakdowns, all nicely color-coded to illustrate each player’s contribution to the team. Today, we’ll take a look at end of season profiles of each player, the highlights of his season, his contributions, and what he can improve for next season.

Before we get started, let me explain some of the numbers. The stat line at the top of each player’s profile is taken straight from last week’s stats post. The darker the maize, the higher his ream rank in that category. The darker the blue, the lower his team rank. At the bottom of each profile are more advanced metrics, such as effective field goal percentage (eFG%) and true shooting percentage (TS%), with my own twist on them to adjust for minutes played in relation to the total available minutes. That way, a player like Eso Akunne who only took eight shots all season and made seven, and played just 3.5 percent of the available minutes, doesn’t blow away everyone else on the team.

The Starters

Trey Burke
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-33 1227 36.1 177-409 .433 57-164 .348 93-125 .744 22 96 118 3.5 156 94 13 31 504 14.8

Burke led the team with 14.8 points per game and will be crucial to Michigan's success if he returns next season

Nobody knew what to expect from the gaping hole that was the point guard position prior to the season, but by season’s end, it’s hard to picture what the team would have looked like without Trey Burke. The fabulous freshman who was plucked from behind enemy lines in Columbus, helped Michigan fans forget about Darius Morris and turned point guard into a position of strength.

He didn’t start the season opener against Ferris State and scored just three points in 18 minutes. But in his next four games, he scored 13, 14, 14, and 17 points, respectively while starting and playing 30-plus minutes each game.

On New Years Day, he racked up 27 points against Minnesota and two weeks later he scored 20 to lead Michigan to its third straight win over Michigan State. In February, he more or less shut down Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and scored 17 of his own to earn the win, and in the first game of the Big Ten Tournament, Burke lit up Minnesota once again, this time for a career high 30 points.

He was the floor general who played well beyond his freshman status. He played 89.2 percent of the possible minutes, averaging 36.1 minutes per game and it seemed to show in the final two games when he didn’t have legs against Ohio State and had trouble keeping up with the guards of Ohio University.

Burke is considering entering the NBA Draft but if he does return next season, Michigan will be poised to make a run for another Big Ten title.

Needs to improve: Turnovers. There’s really not much Burke wasn’t able to do as a true freshman. He played well beyond his years, hit clutch shots, led the team in scoring, and set the Michigan record for assists by a freshman. It’s nitpicking to suggest turnovers, but what else is there? He ranked tied for eighth in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio, but 10 Big Ten guards averaged fewer turnovers per game. If he can cut it down under two to the same level as Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor or Northwestern’s Dave Sobolewski, he’ll be a sure Big Ten player of the year candidate.

eFG% – 44.8
TS% –  48.0

________________________________________________________________________________________

Tim Hardaway Jr.
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-34 1162 34.2 167-400 .418 53-187 .283 101-151 .715 26 104 130 3.8 73 66 11 16 495 14.6

Tim Hardaway Jr struggled from the field in Big Ten play but was the team's second leading scorer

Hardaway was the star of the team last year and had high expectations heading into his sophomore campaign. He began the season right where he left off, averaging 16.2 points per game and shooting 47.8 percent overall and 34.3 percent from three-point range through the first 13 games.

But once conference play began, his scoring average dropped nearly three points to 13.5 and his shooting dipped to 37.7 and 25 percent the rest of the way, respectively.

He had a 2-for-14 night against Minnesota, 2-for-13 against Iowa, and 1-for-10 against Michigan State. He had a six-game stretch in which he hit just 7-of-35 threes.

Despite his struggles, he was still able to get his points and seemed to come alive at season’s end. Against Illinois on March 1, he scored 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds while hitting 6-of-7 shots, 4-of-4 threes, and 9-of-10 free throws. Against Minnesota in the first game of the Big Ten Tournament, he poured in 20.

He led the team in free throws made and attempted, averaging 4.4 attempts and three makes per game.

Needs to improve: Shot selection and consistency. The root of his shooting woes this season was shot selection as he often forced up off-balance jumpers late in the shot clock or early threes not within the offense. He was at his best when he was driving to the basket off the dribble, drawing fouls and creating plays. The return of Trey Burke would really help Hardaway’s consistency, as will more of an inside presence with Jon Horton coming off of injury and Mitch McGary joining the team. Hardaway shot 36.7 percent from three-point range as a freshman while taking 20 more threes, so he’s capable of hitting them. If he can get back to that level next year, he’ll be tough to stop.

eFG% – 40.9
TS% –  44.4

________________________________________________________________________________________


Zack Novak
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-34 1145 33.7 110-231 .476 52-127 .409 42-49 .857 42 112 154 4.5 61 33 3 26 314 9.2

Zack Novak was arguably the most consistent player on the team, ranking in the top three in nearly every stat category

Four years ago, Novak was a barely-recruited prospect and one of John Beilein’s first commits. As a senior this season, he was one of Michigan’s most important all-around players. He started every game, averaging the third-most minutes per game (33.7), ranked third on the team in scoring with 9.2 points per game, third in rebounding (4.5), third in overall shooting (47.6) percent, second in three-point shooting (40.9), and first in free throw shooting (85.7).

He scored a season-high 22 in Michigan’s Maui Invitational win over UCLA and also scored 17 and pulled in eight rebounds in a midseason loss at Arkansas. He made multiple threes in 14 games and hit at least one three in 26 of the 34 games. He also pulled down five or more rebounds 16 times.

However, he struggled in his final game, Michigan’s season-ending loss to Ohio, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting. But throughout his career, Novak’s legacy was defined by more than just scoring. While he averaged 8.1 points per game throughout his four years, his main contributions don’t show up on the stat sheet. He played more minutes than any Michigan basketball player in history and his was the body often diving after loose balls and jumping in front of potential layups, drawing charges. Novak also became Michigan’s first academic all-american in 30 years and was just the second three-year captain in Michigan history.

Novak graduates in May with a business degree from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. He won’t play in the NBA, but he has a bright future ahead and all the tools to succeed in life beyond basketball.

eFG% – 49.1
TS% –  51.4

________________________________________________________________________________________

Stu Douglass
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-17 1037 30.5 91-224 .406 48-142 .338 26-31 .839 7 80 87 2.6 78 34 4 26 256 7.5

Stu Douglass played in more games than any Michigan player in program history

Like Novak, Douglass was scarcely recruited coming out of high school but became one of Beilein’s first commits. All he did was go on to play in more games than any player in Michigan basketball history, never missing a game throughout his career.

This season, he averaged 7.5 points per game, good for fifth on the team, and 78 assists, which was second to Burke. His best game of the season was the opener against Ferris State when he scored 14 points on 3-of-7 shooting from three, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out four assists. He also scored in double figures six other times and scored the game-winning layup in Michigan’s January 17 win over Michigan State.

Through his first three years, Douglass was known as a good three-point shooter, but this season he developed an ability to get to the rim and create a shot off the dribble. Several times, he set up his defender and hit a turn around jumper, something that was hard to imagine in years prior. He also became one of Michigan’s best defenders on the perimeter.

He finished his career fourth all-time in threes attempted (603) and fifth in threes made (205). He started the season coming off the bench, but made his way into the starting lineup for the final 16 games.

He graduates in May with an economics degree and will likely pursue a basketball career overseas. Next season, his steadiness will be missed and Michigan will have to find a capable ball-handler to spell Burke at times.

eFG% – 38.7
TS% –  40.4

________________________________________________________________________________________

Evan Smotrycz
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-18 716 21.1 89-185 .481 40-92 .435 45-58 .776 45 120 165 4.9 30 46 11 27 263 7.7

Evan Smotrycz was the team's best three-point shooter, hitting 43.5 percent of his attempts

Smotrycz was the type of big man that John Beilein loves: able to step outside and create a mismatch for a slower big guy, capable of knocking down threes or driving to the basket. This season, his minutes were down, but his offensive productivity increased from his freshman campaign.

He led the team in three-point percentage, hitting 40-of-92 attempts, was second in overall field goal percentage (48.1), led the team with 120 defensive rebounds, and was the team’s second-leading overall rebounder, averaging 4.9 per game.

He had a four-game stretch to end the non-conference portion of the schedule in which he scored 20, 16, 17, and 20, but scored in double figures just four times in the final 21 games. In one of those, his 17-points helped Michigan beat Penn State to clinch a share of the Big Ten title. In another, his 15 points helped keep Michigan in the NCAA Tournament game against Ohio. He hit 6-of-7 shots from the field and both three-pointers and also pulled in seven boards.

Smotrycz began the season in the starting lineup, but lost his starting job to Douglass for the final 16 games. He averaged 21.1 minutes a game and was efficient on the offensive end, but was often a liability on defense.

At season’s end, he announced he was transferring to a yet-to-be-named school. In hindsight, it explains some of the frustration with Smotrycz all season. His on-court demeanor and lack of effort at times were frustrating but his ability to knock down shots somewhat made up for it. Had he returned next season, his minutes may not have increased but if his offensive production remained the same, he would have been a crucial player to Michigan’s success.

eFG% – 30.7
TS% –  32.2

________________________________________________________________________________________

Jordan Morgan
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-33 831 24.4 109-176 .619 0-0 .000 31-61 .508 75 116 191 5.6 11 53 9 22 249 7.3

Jordan Morgan led Michigan in FG percentage and rebounding

While Morgan’s scoring numbers were slightly down this season from his redshirt freshman year, he remained an important piece of the puzzle inside. Read: only pice of the puzzle inside. When fellow big man Jon Horford was lost for the season, Morgan’s inside presence became all the more important as the only guy big enough to defend opponents’ bigs.

He led Michigan and finished second in the Big Ten in shooting percentage (61.9) and led the team in offensive rebounds (75), total rebounds (191), and rebound average (5.6). His offensive rebound average (2.2) was good for sixth in the Big Ten.

Though his scoring average fell from 9.2 to 7.3 this season, he had a few great games offensively. His season high was 16, which he scored twice, against Iowa State on December 3 and Arkansas on January 21. He also had three double-digit rebounding nights, one of which was the highlight of his season when he recorded a double-double, grabbing 11 boards and scoring 11 points in helping Michigan defeat Ohio State. In that game, he virtually shut down Jared Sullinger.

Needs to improve: Playing like a big man. One of the most frustrating things to watch all season was Morgan grab an offensive rebound or get the ball under the basket, take a dribble, and get the ball stolen by a guard. If I had all the game tape to count, I bet it would tally at least a dozen times. He has the ability to score and once he has some help next season with Mitch McGrady and Jon Horford, should be able to excel as an upperclassman with a couple of years under his belt.

eFG% – 37.4
TS% – 36.7