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Posts Tagged ‘Caris LeVert’

Michigan hoops 3 thoughts: #18 UConn

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Michigan vs #18 UConn
Wednesday, Nov. 25 | Paradise Island, Bahamas | 9:30 p.m. EST | AXS TV
76.0 Points/gm 89.3
(79-164) 48.2 Field Goal % 51.0 (98-192)
(29-66) 43.9 3-pt FG % 36.7 (29-79)
(41-56) 73.2 Free Throw % 76.8 (43-56)
13.7 FT Made/gm 14.3
31.0 Reb/gm 44.3
14.3 Assists/gm 19.3
11.3 Turnovers/gm 8.0
66.0 Points/gm 60.0
(67-167) 40.1 Field Goal % 33.5 (60-179)
(23-61) 37.7 3-pt FG % 30.9 (25-81)
35.3 Opp. Reb/gm 35.0
8.0 Steals/gm 5.7
2.7 Blocks/gm 7.7
Individual Returning Leaders
Caris Levert (19.3), Derrick Walton (10.7) Points/gm Sterling Gibbs (15.7), Rodney Purvis (14.3)
Aubrey Dawkins (5.0), Caris Levert (5.0) Reb/gm Daniel Hamilton (8.3), Shonn Miller (6.3)

Coming off of an embarrassing home loss to Xavier, the Michigan basketball team earned the enviable task of spending the week in the Bahamas for the school’s first Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

The Wolverines already missed their best opportunity for a quality nonconference win, so now they’ll need to pull a big upset in one of these games to right the ship. The first round pits Michigan against the 18th-ranked Connecticut Huskies, who’ve started the season with a trio of home wins over cupcake opponents.

What will it take for John Beilein to get things moving in the right direction?

1. Stop the bleeding

For a team that didn’t really know what to expect heading into this season, Friday’s blowout loss was a huge wakeup call. Xavier is a talented, physical basketball team, but Michigan should never lose by 16 points in the Crisler Center.
There’s no way around it: As of now, Michigan is not an NCAA Tournament team.

But Beilein is the right guy to help the Wolverines learn from the loss and continue to grow. The most valuable resource for this group is time; time for everyone to learn their roles and develop a better rhythm. Injuries to Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht robbed this talented group of an offseason that most teams spent getting comfortable playing with each other.

What Michigan can’t afford is a nonconference slide like it experienced last season. After dropping consecutive home games to N.J.I.T. and Eastern Michigan, the Wolverines got blasted in Arizona and lost a fourth straight to SMU.

If Michigan hopes to get back into the field of 68, it’ll need to avoid another long losing streak and pick up a few quality wins in the nonconference. As I said last week, those opportunities are few and far between in the upcoming schedule.

2. Find an offensive flow

When you look at Michigan’s team on paper, you can’t help but think ‘this group could be an offensive juggernaut.’ It has everything a team needs to put up huge point totals: Sharpshooters, slashers, great passers, even a couple of strong offensive rebounders.

But the team we’ve seen on the court has been absolutely stagnant through three games. Yes, they can get out in transition and put together a few nice scoring runs, but that’s more representative of the pure athletic prowess of guys like LeVert and Walton.

Take Aubrey Dawkins as an example. He emerged as one of the team’s best players late in the 2014-15 season because he can shoot, he can finish and he can really clean up shots around the rim. But Dawkins was a complete nonfactor against Xavier, spending most of his court time standing in the corner around the three-point arc. Yes, he grabbed six defensive rebounds, but five points on 1-6 shooting? That’s indefensible for a guy as explosive as Dawkins.

Irvin was the other no-show. The junior is coming off a long layoff because of injury, but he doesn’t look ready to play on the offensive end. In February and March, Irvin looked like a new man, evolving into Michigan’s best passer and improving off the dribble. But on Friday, it was more of the catch and shoot that Irvin displayed early last season. Settling for deep jumpers is part of what got Irvin, and the Wolverines, in trouble.

It’s up to Walton, who struggled greatly against Xavier, and Albrecht, who’s trying to get back into game shape himself, to kick start this offense in the Bahamas. Everyone needs to be moving without the ball instead of standing around the outside while LeVert tries to make a 1-on-1 move late in the shot clock.

Barring another avalanche of injuries, I expect Beilein’s offense to get much better as the players settle in. Remember, most of these guys, like Dawkins, Kam Chatman, Duncan Robinson, Ricky Doyle, D.J. Wilson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, haven’t spent much time on the court with a healthy LeVert or Walton. It’ll take a big leap from what we saw Friday to come out on top of UCONN.

3. Off the Mark

If it wasn’t completely obvious last season, it is three games into the new campaign: Mark Donnal simply isn’t ready for a major role on this team.

I’m not going to crush the guy. He’s never done anything wrong off the court and he seems to be a quiet kid who just goes about his business.

But I think that’s part of the problem.

Michigan, which has a glaring weakness at the center position, can’t afford to be soft in the paint. And there’s no way to deny that Donnal simply hasn’t been the force inside that the Wolverines need.

Donnal started the game against Xavier but played only six minutes because he picked up four fouls. He gave up two dunks on defense and couldn’t hold on to a few rebounds that were basically right in his grasp.

On offense, he won’t go up strong at the rim. Even when he takes a pass off the screen-and-roll, Donnal flips it up toward the backboard and often gets blocked or, unfortunately, flat-out misses.

There was one sequence during the game on Friday when Donnal checked into the game in the 2nd half with Michigan on defense and trailing by a few possessions. When I saw him at the scorer’s table, I turned to my dad and said, “Here comes a dunk.”

Xavier inbounded the ball, missed a three-point shot from the corner, grabbed the offensive board, missed a short put-back and tip-slammed the second rebound. The second rebound wasn’t Donnal’s fault, but it struck me how the team lacked an inside presence with anyone but Doyle on the court.

The Big Ten isn’t a soft league, and Connecticut isn’t a soft team. Maybe Beilein needs to light a fire under Donnal to get him going. But for now, he’s not getting the job done and Doyle, Wilson and even Moritz Wagner have emerged as better inside options.

Xavier 86 – Michigan 70

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Beilein vs Xavier(

Last night was supposed to be the start of a season-long comeback party for Michigan after underperforming last year. It was supposed to be a game to help the team, coaches, and fans start forgetting about some of the horrors of a season ago.

Instead, it was anything but the start of that comeback party. All last night’s loss to Xavier did for the Wolverines was bring back those same demons.

After cruising to two easy victories against overmatched competition to open the gates on the new season, Michigan took one massive step back against a very good Musketeer squad that made the Crisler Center feel like their home away from home, dumping the Wolverines 86-70 with a balanced attack that saw four Musketeers score at least 14.

Throughout the night, Xavier simply looked like the better, stronger, and more prepared team. They dominated the paint from just after the opening tip, when Detroit native Jalen Reynolds cleared out the lane, posted up starting Wolverine center Mark Donnal, and blew by him for an easy and-1 finish just 10 seconds into the game.

Four Factors
Michigan Xavier
50 eFG% 48
19 OReb% 45
16 TO% 13
50 FTR 39

That would be an ominous sign for the four Michigan big men who saw minutes Friday, as they struggled to contain Reynolds and fellow Musketeer big James Farr – who combined for 23 points on 15 shots and 22 rebounds (eight offensive) – and racked up fouls left and right. By halftime, Donnal, Ricky Doyle, D.J. Wilson, and Moritz Wagner all had at least two fouls but only combined for five points and one rebound in an opening stanza that saw Michigan trailing 45-36 at the break.

The visitors also looked like they simply wanted the win more. Time and again, 50-50 balls ended up in Xavier’s collective hands, and by the end of the blowout, it seemed that Michigan might never get another rebound, with the Musketeers more than half of their misses in the second half.

Michigan showed some promise early on, grabbing a 16-12 advantage nine minutes in after Reynolds was tagged with a technical foul for hanging on the rim, but they lost that lead within the next minute and never got it back.

Caris LeVert showed off an impressive array of drives to try to keep the Wolverines afloat, and he had his shot all night on his way to 29-point outburst, but none of his teammates were able to crack double digits. LeVert’s seven rebounds and three assists also led the team.

It looked as if Michigan would take control of the game a couple times midway through the second half, twice cutting Xavier’s lead to two points behind a pair of triples (I dare you to see how many variants of two you can use in one sentence), but every time the Wolverines showed life, the Musketeers answered with triples of their own.

At one point, Duncan Robinson made two straight threes, and had a third would-be go-ahead trey go down only to be taken away by an illegal screen call.

But it wasn’t meant to be. For his part, Robinson looked like he should ably fill the role of instant microwave off the bench, but he’s never going to be a dynamic playmaker – he recorded just one rebound to go along with his nine points, zero assists, zero steals, and zero blocks.

The production simply wasn’t there from the rest of this potentially deep squad, and the defense struggled to get any stops. Zak Irvin, back in the starting lineup after missing offseason time following back surgery, was clearly a step slow and only managed seven points, while fellow starters Aubrey Dawkins and Derrick Walton Jr. had five and four points, respectively. No other Wolverine had more than five points, and only LeVert and Walton had multiple assists.

From here, the road doesn’t get much easier in the near term, but it’s clear that Michigan’s defense must improve if they are to be competitive in next week’s Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will open up with Connecticut on Wednesday and could potentially see Syracuse in the second game. As LeVert repeatedly said after the game, Michigan needs to lock down its defense and limit the fouls going forward – they had 23 called against them in this one that led to 23 made free throws for Xavier. It’s unusual for a John Beilein-coached team to have such a high foul rate, but new emphasis on contact rules will take some adjusting. LeVert also thought that Michigan should win most games when they put up 70 points, but they may not be at that point yet.

Luckily, Michigan is far from the only squad to lose an early season matchup, and this one shouldn’t hurt the resume too much, as Xavier looks to add to an impressive run in March Madness from last season with a more dynamic, experienced squad.

At the same time, the Wolverines will need to show that they can win some of these big games in the near future – or else memories of last year just might creep up on them again.

Three Stars

***Caris LeVert***
29 points (8-of-16 FG, 5-of-8 3pt, 8-of-10 FT), seven rebounds (one offensive), three assists, two steals, three turnovers in 36 minutes

**Duncan Robinson**
9 points (2-of-5 FG, 2-of-4 3pt, 3-of-3 FT), one rebound, zero turnovers in 19 minutes

*Spike Albrecht*
5 points (1-of-1 FG, 1-of-1 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), one rebound, one assist, zero turnovers in eight minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Caris LeVert – 4
Duncan Robinson – 4
Derrick Walton – 3
Spike Albrecht – 1
Quick Hitters

• This isn’t the first time Michigan has lost a game despite a scoring outburst from LeVert. The Wolverines fell to NJIT last season despite 32 points from their star, while also dropping games against Duke and Wisconsin two seasons ago when LeVert scored 24 and 25 points, respectively. In all of these cases, LeVert scored more than one-third of the team’s total points.

• I thought Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht looked close to 100 percent on Monday, and Irvin said himself that he felt he was at 100 percent physically, but they clearly both have a ways to go. Albrecht only got eight minutes on the night, and though he threw his body around for loose balls, he’ll be seeing a lot more time when Beilein feels the senior point guard is fully back. Irvin was noticeably slow on the floor, at one point just jogging to a crucial long rebound late in the game that he was easily outrun for despite having perfect position.

• The rotation once again included all 12 scholarship players on the team, but that won’t last much longer. Mark Donnal struggled all night, recording zero points and zero rebounds while committing four fouls and turning it over once in just six minutes of time. Kameron Chatman and Albrecht only got eight minutes a piece (I expect Albrecht’s minutes to go up, but Chatman’s may disappear), Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman only saw 10 minutes, and D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner played just seven and five minutes, respectively.

Beilein Coachspeakometer

John Beilein is always quick to praise Michigan’s opponent – whether playing against the worst team in the country or one of the best. Here’s a look at a Beilein quote from this game’s press conference followed by a rating from Completely Objective and Fair (1) to Pure and Utter Coachspeak (10) on the John Beilein CoachSpeakometer

“We’ve seen good teams come (to Crisler Arena). Sometimes we were able to win, sometimes we weren’t, and that was as good a team as I’ve seen come in here at any time. They got all the pieces, they’re just really good. They hit the backboards obviously much better than us, they got loose balls, they got tremendous grit, and then they got a great mix of guys that can drive the ball, guys that can shoot the ball, (along) with the big men. So they’re sitting on something great right now, and they have for a long time at Xavier. They have a really experienced team that knows how to win…they’ll vie for a Big East Championship is what I think and they’ll be a team that is very good all year long.”

Verdict: 8

John Beilein is right to a certain point here – Xavier is a really good team that should be in the thick of the Big East race along with Villanova, Providence, and Butler. But to say that they are as good a team as he’s seen play at Crisler is quite the stretch. Along with a handful of excellent Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State teams (and many other very solid conference foes in the past eight years), Michigan has also welcomed #1 Arizona (2013), #3 Kansas (2011), and #4 Duke (2008) to Ann Arbor in Beilein’s tenure, not to mention plenty of other very good ranked and unranked conference and non-conference foes. Xavier will most likely be ranked in the next poll (and rightfully so), and coach Chris Mack has established a program that can compete with any team on any night, but they are certainly not on the same level as other recent home opponents. Excellent coachspeak yet again.

Final Game Stats
34 Mark Donnal* 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 4 0 0 1 0 0 6
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 1-5 0-3 2-2 0 5 5 1 4 2 2 1 4 31
21 Zak Irvin* 3-6 1-4 0-1 0 1 1 3 7 0 2 0 0 22
23 Caris LeVert* 8-16 5-8 8-10 1 6 7 2 29 3 3 0 2 36
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 1-6 1-5 2-2 0 6 6 2 5 1 0 0 1 36
02 Spike Albrecht 1-1 1-1 2-2 0 1 1 0 5 1 0 0 0 8
03 Kameron Chatman 1-3 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 8
05 D.J. Wilson 1-2 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 2 3 0 1 1 0 7
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 1 1 0 0 10
13 Moritz Wagner 1-3 0-0 0-1 1 1 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 5
20 Duncan Robinson 2-5 2-4 3-3 1 0 1 2 9 0 0 0 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle 2-3 0-0 0-3 1 0 1 3 4 0 1 0 0 22
Totals 21-52 10-26 18-26 7 22 29 23 70 8 11 2 7 200
Xavier 27-66 9-21 23-26 18 29 47 25 86 13 9 2 3 200
Full Stats
Beilein tie watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan hoops 3 thoughts: Xavier

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Michigan vs Xavier
Friday, Nov. 20 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 9:00 p.m. EST | BTN
79.0 Points/gm 79.5
(58-112) 51.8 Field Goal % 42.1 (48-114)
(19-40) 47.5 3-pt FG % 33.3 (13-39)
(23-30) 76.7 Free Throw % 79.4 (50-63)
11.5 FT Made/gm 25.0
32.0 Reb/gm 41.0
17.5 Assists/gm 14.0
11.5 Turnovers/gm 14.0
56.0 Points/gm 69.0
(40-101) 39.6 Field Goal % 43.3 (45-104)
(14-40) 35.0 3-pt FG % 34.9 (15-43)
29.5 Opp. Reb/gm 26.5
3.0 Steals/gm 9.0
0.5 Blocks/gm 2.5
Individual Returning Leaders
Caris Levert (14.5), Derrick Walton (14.0) Points/gm J.P. Macura (16.5), Edmon Sumner (15.5)
Aubrey Dawkins (4.5), Caris Levert (4.0) Reb/gm James Farr (9.5), Jalen Reynolds (8.5)

As if the Big Ten – ACC Challenge wasn’t awesome enough, now we have the Big Ten – Big East Challenge as a preview. With conferences constantly trying to improve their early-season schedules, the Big Ten agreed to match up with what used to be the best college basketball conference in the country.

Since then, the Big East underwent quite a transformation. Gone are powerhouses like Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and even Cincinnati. The conference also lost South Florida and Rutgers. How did the Big East survive? It added small, but competitive, basketball schools Butler, Creighton and Xavier to form a new-look 10-team league.

On Friday, Michigan draws a matchup with the Xavier Musketeers. Xavier is already 2-0 with a solid win over Missouri this season. Last year the 6th-seeded Musketeers knocked off Ole Miss and Georgia State to make it to the Sweet 16 before falling to Arizona, 68-60.

Let’s take a look at some of the keys for this matchup.

1. Beef up that resume

It’s obviously still very early in the season, but in today’s age of college basketball, it’s never too early to start constructing an NCAA Tournament resume. Michigan fans seem to be taking the tournament for granted this season, a mistake many made last year after two straight deep runs under John Beilein in March.

Xavier offers a rare opportunity for Michigan to knock off an almost sure-fire tournament team. Xavier makes the field of 68 nearly every season and would give the Wolverines an excellent early RPI boost.

After Xavier leaves town, Michigan’s only chances to pick up quality non-conference wins will come in the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Big Ten – ACC Challenge and a road game against SMU. That means Xavier is the only quality team outside the Big Ten to visit Crisler Arena this season. Beilein’s team can’t afford to waste such an excellent opportunity.

2. Points in the paint

We all know Beilein’s offense is predicated around the three-point jump shot, but Michigan was stagnant at times against Northern Michigan and Elon when the long-range jumpers weren’t falling.
Against strong defensive teams like Xavier, Michigan needs to establish an inside presence to keep defenders honest around the arc. If Michigan settles for 24 three-pointers Friday, it’ll need to make around 40 percent to make up for a lack of scoring inside.

Ricky Doyle is obviously the team’s best option inside, but he hasn’t really emerged as an offensive threat during his short time in Ann Arbor. His calling card is efficiency, as most of his shots come off of dump down passes and offensive rebounds. He took only four shots off of the bench against Elon but scored eight points.

Ironically, the burden of scoring in the paint will fall on two of the team’s best outside shooters: Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert. The two guards have settled for outside jumpers against a pair of inferior opponents this season, but now it’s time for them to work their way to the basket.

At his best, LeVert’s slashing ability opened the door for his outside game in the 2013-14 season when he averaged 12.9 points on just 10 shot attempts per game. Working in the reverse order is much tougher when the first few outside shots don’t drop.

Walton knocked down eight of 10 shots for 24 points against Elon as he found his long-range jumper for the first time this season. If he can pair that shot with the driving ability he showed early last season, he’ll tear his way to first-team All-Big Ten honors.

3. Defense off the bench

The second unit will be vital for John Beilein Friday against a pair of Xavier bench players who can really score the basketball. James Farr and J.P. Macura came off the bench to roast Missouri for a combined 31 points Tuesday, which proved to be the difference in the game.

Macura is a tough matchup at 6 foot 5 and he plays off of his ability to get to the free-throw line. Fourteen of his 33 points through two games have come from the charity stripe, where he’s yet to miss a shot.

Farr, on the other hand, is Xavier’s best inside scoring presence. The 6-10, 247-pound senior scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the win Tuesday, setting up a crucial matchup with Doyle inside. Beilein won’t be able to count on Mark Donnal, who’s been soft on the defensive glass again to start this season.

It’ll be Doye, D.J. Wilson and Michigan’s deep group of guards assigned with containing Macura and Farr Friday. If they can slow down those two on the offensive end, it’ll go a long way towards a Michigan win.

Their time is now: 2015-16 Michigan basketball season preview

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

UM BBall(

A few years back when I was just a young college student in the then-miniscule Maize Rage, Michigan was coming off John Beilein’s miserable first season in Ann Arbor. No one thought much of the young Wolverines’ chances in Beilein’s second year either, but that didn’t stop them from believing in themselves.

The song that blasted throughout the Old Crisler Arena* before games that year was one that could be applied to just about any team playing any sport, but it seemed to carry extra weight for Michigan that season.

The first few lines went something like this:

“Go hard, today
Can’t worry bout the past cause that was yesterday
I’ma put it on the line cause it’s my time
I gotta stay on my grind cause it’s my time.”

It’s certainly not one of the best songs of the last decade, but it always gives me chills when it unexpectedly comes on the radio or blares out of some party’s speakers.


The Wolverines had to forget about the struggles of their first season under their new head coach, and though nearly every outsider doubted them, they grinded out one of the most memorable basketball seasons of my life, earning their way to a berth in the Big Dance and upsetting Clemson in the first round before bowing out to an over-powering Oklahoma squad.

You won’t hear Fabolous’s “My Time” any time soon at the new Crisler Center, but the message once again holds weight in Ann Arbor.

When I was walking down the Crisler tunnel to pick up my press pass earlier this week, getting the same tingly excited feeling I always do at the start of the college basketball season, an usher greeted me with a warm smile at the credentialing table and quipped “another season, huh?” in a mostly blasé tone.

Yes, it’s just “another season”, but it’s a season of renewed opportunity for the Michigan Wolverines. It’s a season of not worrying about the past and working to make the most out of an extremely talented and deep roster. In many ways to me, it’s also a season that represents the end of a mini-era.

That’s not to say that the Wolverines’ last chance to win the Big Ten and make the Final Four hinges on this year alone; nay, the future certainly appears bright under Beilein and a handful of talented sophomores and juniors.

But it wasn’t until this season’s senior class was in its first year that the Maize and Blue truly found its way back on the college basketball map with a magical run through the NCAA Tournament that ended in heart-breaking fashion in the championship game.



The only two members of that storied five man class who hung around long enough to see their time as seniors arrive are Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht. Their old classmates have all gone on to the bright lights and superstardom of the NBA, leaving two of the unlikeliest heroes carrying the team back in Ann Arbor.

If Michigan can make another deep run in the postseason this year, Albrecht just might break Jordan Morgan’s total games played record at the University, which would be quite the consolation prize for the under-sized point guard who will likely be the sole 2012 recruit to not play at the next level.

The past for those two, of course, has been a bit of a bumpy ride. Three seasons ago saw the wondrous tournament run, the year after that saw Michigan fall just a basket short of another Final Four appearance, while last season saw the Wolverines stumble early on in the non-conference before the wheels completely fell off with LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. missing a significant portion of the season with foot injuries.

There’s always a silver lining, though, and it seems to be shining brightly so far. As a result of the season-ending injuries, a number of freshmen were forced into big minutes and played about as well as could be expected. One of those freshmen, Aubrey Dawkins, seems to be a shoo-in to start this year after coming on strong in February on the offensive end, while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has the potential to be a lock-down defender. Kameron Chatman is another sophomore that will be competing for minutes after struggling to find his way last season, while Ricky Doyle and D.J. Wilson are big men that appear primed for breakout seasons. Duncan Robinson, a sophomore transfer from the DIII level, should also shoot his way into plenty of action.

Perhaps no player looked better carrying the decimated Wolverines teammates, however, than Zak Irvin. Now a junior, Irvin blossomed from being a knock-down shooter his freshman season to an all-around offensive threat to close an otherwise disappointing campaign a year ago.

Match this depth up with somewhat proven commodities in LeVert, Walton, and Albrecht and you could be staring at another offensive juggernaut in Ann Arbor. Defensively, there may be some questions, but John Beilein has always been one to out-score with offensive fireworks.

A new season has dawned, and things are looking up for Michigan. It might not all go according to plan, as last year clearly did not. It might not look like the runner-up team from these seniors’ freshmen year. But it most certainly will be fun. Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht deserve a wonderful sendoff, and the supporting cast will grind hard to make sure it happens.

After all, their time has come.

*Unless it was the 2009-10 season – either way, the song still applies

Top Five Scorers Top Five Rebounders
Caris LeVert Caris LeVert
Zak Irvin Ricky Doyle
Derrick Walton Jr. Derrick Walton Jr.
Aubrey Dawkins Mark Donnal
Spike Albrecht D.J. Wilson
Top Five Assists Top Five Three-Point Shooters (%)
Derrick Walton Derrick Walton Jr.
Caris LeVert Spike Albrecht
Spike Albrecht Duncan Robinson
Zak Irvin Zack Irvin
Kameron Chatman Caris LeVert
Most improved player: D.J. Wilson
Most valuable freshman: Moritz Wagner
Most valuable player: Derrick Walton Jr.
Final record: 27-10 (12-6 Big Ten)
Conference finish: 2
Postseason: NCAA Tournament, Elite Eight

Michigan basketball 2015 season preview: The seniors

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Spike and Caris(Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

While we’re in the midst of football season – a season of rebirth and return of the Michigan of old – college basketball is here! With the year now underway, let’s take a look at the most experienced of the Wolverines – the seniors.

#2 Spike Albrecht
Class Senior Spike headshot
Major General Studies
Measurements 5’11”, 175
Hometown Crown Point, Ind.
High School Northfields Mount Hermon (Mass.)
Position(s) Guard (1, 2)
Committed April 6, 2012
Fun Fact Earned nickname “Spike” after he wore baseball spikes everywhere as a kid
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2012-13 2.2 0.8 0.7 0.3 0.4 8.1 47.5 54.5 83.3
2013-14 3.3 1.1 2.0 0.5 0.4 14.7 40.4 38.7 77.8
2014-15 7.5 2.3 3.9 0.9 1.3 32.0 40.4 36.5 91.3
Career 4.1 1.4 2.1 0.6 0.7 17.2 41.5 39.9 81.4

Career Highs: 18; Rebounds: 6; Assists: 9 (twice); Steals 4: Turnovers: 4; Minutes: 47
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Michigan State

Career to Date: Spike Albrecht came to Ann Arbor as the over-shadowed no-name prospect in a class replete with a trio of stars who all moved on to the NBA after two seasons. After failing to earn any major college interest while playing for his hometown high school in Northwest Indiana, Albrecht decided to take a prep year in the elite New England Prep School Athletic Conference, where he played against the likes of Mitch McGary and plenty of other top-notch prospects. And though the under-sized point guard held his own – even earning MVP honors in a major tournament – he went largely unnoticed.

When it came time to choose a school, Albrecht’s options were Appalachian State and no one else. But Albrecht didn’t want to play outside of Division I; following a conversation with his father, he decided that he’d go to Indiana University to be a regular student.

That is, until John Beilein stepped in with the unlikeliest of offers – an offer that, reportedly, Beilein thought would potentially make or break his career.

The rest, as they say, is history that many of us are aware of. Albrecht has never been a star player – outside of a first-half outburst in the National Championship game his freshman year – but he’s been a steadying force for three seasons. He’s a guy that can be called upon to run the offense efficiently, make smart passes, and not turn it over. Albrecht will never be a world beater because of his lack of size and elite athleticism, but he makes up for it with heady play. Every coach would love to have a veteran point guard to bring off the bench who knows the offense like the back of his hand, will knock down a good deal of threes, and doesn’t try to do too much. That is Albrecht in a nutshell.

Now back for his senior season, Albrecht is still getting back to full strength after a pair of offseason hip surgeries (he’s the oldest guy on the team at 23, but managed to play through the pain last season) following a junior year in which he was asked to carry much of the load later on with Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert sitting out injured. He has likely seen his last career start barring further injuries, but should prove to be an invaluable spark off the bench and will undoubtedly be a leader both on and off the floor. For a kid who will most likely be the only recruit of his five-man class to not be drafted into the NBA, that’s just fine.

Area to Improve: Defense

I know, I know – Spike Albrecht is never going to be a plus player defensively, but if he can just be average in man-to-man defense, he’ll see a lot more of the floor. John Beilein loves the leadership, confidence, and shooting that his veteran guard brings to the game, but quick opposing players will make it difficult to play Albrecht big minutes night in and night out. With strong positioning, Albrecht can at least minimize his defensive deficiencies and bring his playing time from a floor of around 15 to around 20-25.

Stat Predictions: 6.0 points (45.0 FG%, 41.0 3-PT%, 88.0 FT%), 2.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists in 20 minutes per game

#23 Caris LeVert
Class Senior Caris headshot
Major General Studies
Measurements 6’7″, 205
Hometown Pickerington, Ohio
High School Pickerington Central
Position(s) Guard/Wing (2, 3)
Committed May 11, 2012
Fun Fact Nickname is “Baby Durant”
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2012-13 2.3 1.1 0.8 0.2 0.3 10.8 31.5 30.2 50.0
2013-14 12.9 4.3 2.9 1.2 1.7 34.0 43.9 40.8 76.7
2014-15 14.9 4.9 3.7 1.8 2.2 35.8 42.1 40.5 81.0
Career 9.5 3.2 2.4 1.0 1.3 25.8 41.9 38.9 76.6

Career Highs: Points: 32; Rebounds: 11; Assists: 9; Steals: 4 (three times); Turnovers: 5 (three times); Minutes: 42
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Wisconsin

Career to Date: Much like classmate Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert was a very late addition to Michigan’s 2012 recruiting class after the coach he originally signed with, John Groce, left Ohio University for the University of Illinois. Groce wasn’t interested in bringing his former commit to the Big Ten, but his peer, John Beilein, saw something in him and decided to take a flyer on the young, lanky shooter.

In the years that followed, LeVert has made that look like a fabulous decision on his coach’s part. Once a gangly, stick-thin, and off-balance freshman that resembled a bowl of Jell-O more than he did a basketball player, the senior has blossomed into one of the best wings in the country. The Columbus native is an excellent shooter and a deceptive athlete. LeVert is comfortable driving to the rack and finishing or squeaking through two defenders and finding an open teammate for an easy finish. He’s a terrific finisher in the open court and a quiet leader, but also a top NBA prospect that will look to back up his own decision to return to school for one last season in Ann Arbor.

Following a junior year that was already headed down the wrong path and eventually cut short by injury, LeVert will look to bring his team back to the land of the Big Dance – a tournament in which LeVert has already experienced runs to the Championship game and the Elite Eight.

He’s added the requisite weight for a third straight offseason and appears to be fully healthy. Now, the ball is in LeVert’s court – can he seize one last season of opportunity?

Area to Improve: Decision making

I am not accusing Caris LeVert of being a bad decision-maker or a ball hog, but there were times last season when it felt like the then-junior was trying to do a bit too much. He had talent around him in the form of Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Spike Albrecht, and company, but often dribbled a bit too much and bore too much of the load before going down with a foot injury. This season, LeVert needs to display a comfort level with deferring to his more-than capable supporting cast – a cast that now not only includes the aforementioned veterans, but also a group of sophomores that got plenty of live action a year ago.

Stat Predictions: 15.0 points (44.5 FG%, 40.5 3-PT%, 83.0 FT%), 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals, in 33 minutes per game

Michigan 88 – Elon 68

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Walton vs Elon(

The Michigan Wolverines are no strangers to some early season non-conference jitters against supposed “cupcake” opponents. It was just one season ago when John Beilein’s squad, almost at full strength, lost back-to-back games at home against the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Eastern Michigan.

With a brand new team again that is running out just about every available player early on, Beilein found himself in another early battle last night against Elon. The Phoenix, winners over Charlotte in their season opener, kept it close throughout the first half despite a bevy of errors – including 10 turnovers – to find themselves down only one point with 3:40 left in the opening stanza.

By now, this shouldn’t be too surprising. College basketball is the ultimate underdogs’ game. A team full of no names can catch fire at any time and knock off the big fish; every March, we see it in action as an unknown coach leads his band of misfits over a blue blood program in the Big Dance. In football, it’s nearly impossible for 11 undersized and overmatched DII players knock off a big time DI program (what’s that? Of course it hasn’t happened to Michigan…). In basketball, though, it’s become commonplace.

And already this season, top programs like Wisconsin, Virginia, Illinois, and North Carolina State have already lost in “guarantee” games.

After turning the jets on a bit late in that first half, though, the Wolverines ensured they would not yet find a place in that group that is sure to grow as November pushes on, taking a double-digit lead into the break and building on that early and often in the second half on their way to an 88-68 win.

Duncan Robinson had the right tools in his belt to keep Michigan trucking along steadily, with an unexpected strong dunk on a fast break followed shortly by a pair of back-to-back triples from either corner – both assisted by Zak Irvin – on his way to a game-high 13 first-half points. He would go on to finish with a Michigan career-high 19 points and three rebounds on a flawless shooting night – 6 of 6 from the floor, 5 of 5 from deep, and 2 of 2 at the free throw line.

In the second half, Michigan coasted with easy layups and wide open threes, often facilitated by now-healthy junior Derrick Walton Jr., who looked well on his way to making the Beilein Leap a year late with a game-high 24 points, seven assists (to just two turnovers), and six rebounds. Walton’s quickness is completely back, his passing was crisp, and his outside shot looked better than ever.

Elon was led by a quartet of scorers – Dainan Swoope, Dmitri Thompson, Brian Dawkins, and Tanner Samson – with double-digit points, but the team’s sloppiness as a whole with 17 turnovers led to 28 Michigan points and an inability to stay in front of the Wolverine shooters doomed the Phoenix. Michigan finished 13 of 24 (54.2 percent) from downtown – better than their 50 percent mark from inside the arc – and had their way on the pick-and-roll.

Following an offseason back injury, Zak Irvin made his season debut and said he felt 100 percent after the game despite an off night from the field. He finished with zero points on five shots in 15 minutes but was praised by Beilein and his teammates for playing great defense, and his entrance in the first half sparked some improved ball movement. Irvin’s three assists were a very encouraging sign as well, showing that perhaps the excellent form he ended last season in will carry over.

In all, a dozen different Wolverines saw the floor for at least seven minutes of playing time – thanks in part to a refereeing crew that called a foul seemingly any time someone was breathed on. Beilein commented after that he is still tinkering with lineups and seeing how each player responds to the opportunity early on that won’t be there for the entire season. He also noted that he was pleased that a comfortable lead gave him the luxury of trying out different players in a variety of spots. Eventually, it seems that the lineup will be whittled down to 8-9 regular players, but it might be a few games before the rotation is firmly determined.

This win, while sometimes sloppy, is certainly another small step in the right direction for the Maize and Blue. Offensively, there is plenty of potential – Spike Albrecht, Irvin, and Moe Wagner were the only Michigan players to not record points in this game – and lots of firepower. Defensively, there is certainly some work to be done, but Walton, Irvin, and Caris LeVert looked to be solid veterans on that end of the floor. And if the team scores as many points as they are capable of doing, it’s going to take a strong effort from anyone to out-score these Wolverines.

The going will get significantly harder from here, with upcoming games against Xavier (Gavitt Games), UConn (Battle 4 Atlantis – followed by potential matchups with Syracuse and Gonzaga), and at NC State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, before getting easier again in early December with home games against the likes of Houston Baptist, Delaware State, Northern Kentucky, Youngstown State, and Bryant.

Right now, though, any team in the country will take a win – after all, there’s no such thing as a guarantee in college basketball.

Quick Hitters

• Once again, Mark Donnal got the start at the five over Ricky Doyle, but four different players saw minutes there, D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner joining in on the action. Donnal had a very up and down game, with a tough rebound and put-back early on paired with two or three missed layups. Confidence and defense are his biggest issues, though six points in 15 minutes is not bad output. Doyle was solid, if unspectacular, in 13 minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing three rebounds, Wilson flashed his excellent potential – nailing a triple early on from the four position and recording a couple nice blocks – with five points, and Wagner was clearly the least ready, though he did display an excellent motor and a willingness to tussle. At one point, he took a charge that left him with a bloodied gash over his left eye – a la Zack Novak many years ago against Illinois. The German freshman still has a ways to go in terms of learning the offense, competing defensively, and improving his quickness before he will be a major threat, however.

• When asked about what his rotation will evolve into, Beilein noted that he is continuing to experience with different lineups and get a feel for what every player can bring before making decisions on who will and won’t see regular playing time. He also talked about how the re-entry of Irvin into the lineup probably skewed the spread of minutes tonight – the junior will normally play around 30 minutes a night but only saw half that as he eases his way back from offseason surgery. The four big men will probably become a two-man platoon according to the ninth year head man, and players like Kameron Chatman, Duncan Robinson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and D.J. Wilson will have to fight for minutes. Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, and Irvin are surefire bets to see 30-plus minutes per night, and Beilein pegged Aubrey Dawkins at around 30 minutes a night as well. That leaves no more than 40 remaining minutes at the 1-4 slots – which will likely be spread among just two or three players.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Derrick Walton Jr.***
24 points (career high) (8 of 10 FG, 6 of 7 3pt, 2 of 2 FT), seven assists, six rebounds, one steal, two turnovers in 30 minutes
**Duncan Robinson**
19 points (Michigan high) (6 of 6 FG, 5 of 5 3pt, 2 of 2 FT), three rebounds (two offensive), one steal, two turnovers in 18 minutes
*Caris LeVert*
11 points (3 of 8 FG, 0 of 1 3pt, 5 of 6 FT), four rebounds (one offensive), seven assists, four steals, three turnovers in 32 minutes

Beilein CoachSpeakometer

John Beilein is always quick to praise Michigan’s opponent – whether playing against the worst team in the country or one of the best. Here’s a look at a Beilein quote from this game’s press conference followed by a rating from Completely Objective and Fair (1) to Pure and Utter Coachspeak (10) on the John Beilein CoachSpeakometer

“I was laughing this morning because I happened to be listening to a local radio show and heard one of their announcers say what a ‘cupcake’ Elon will be. I’m just telling you that team right there is going to win a lot of games this year. They have so many components that are tough to guard, they got all these shooters out there, they got great guard play, an excellent coach. That was a really good win for us. I know people look at these ‘guarantee’ games, and this is actually part of the Atlantis Tournament. That team is going to be a great RPI win for us because I really feel unless they have injuries they are going to be really good.”

Verdict: 9 – Last year, Elon finished in the bottom third of the Colonial Athletic Association with a 6-12 conference record and 15-18 mark overall. They also check in at a woeful #240 overall on KenPom – just one spot above traditional power Incarnate Word. The Phoenix do have a win over Charlotte already this season – who check in at a dismal #293 – but they most certainly don’t look like a future “great RPI win”. This was coachspeak nearly at its finest.

Beilein Tie Watch
Beilein tie - Elon

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan hoops 3 thoughts: Northern Michigan

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Michigan vs Northern Michigan
Friday, Nov. 13 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 7:00 p.m. EST | BTN Plus
Offense (2014-15)
64.7 Points/gm 61.5
(734-1,724) 42.6 Field Goal % 44.1 (648-1,471)
(250-696) 35.9 3-pt FG % 33.0 (150-455)
(353-468) 75.4 Free Throw % 69.8 (277-397)
11.0 FT Made/gm 9.9
30.2 Reb/gm 31.1
11.9 Assists/gm 11.4
9.6 Turnovers/gm 12.5
Defense (2014-15)
63.9 Points/gm 61.9
(764-1,702) 44.9 Field Goal % 44.7 (678-1,516)
(208-606) 34.3 3-pt FG % 37.0 (185-500)
34.1 Opp. Reb/gm 30.6
5.4 Steals/gm 5.0
1.8 Blocks/gm 3.5
Individual Returning Leaders
Caris Levert (14.9), Zak Irvin (14.2) Points/gm Jordan Perez (11.6), Marcus Hall (10.0)
Caris Levert (4.9), Zak Irvin (4.8) Reb/gm Terry Nash (3.9), Kenny Williams (2.9)

It’s amazing how much football affects the buildup to college basketball season.

For the better part of a decade, Michigan’s football team had fans counting down the days until the start of basketball, which won two conference titles and went to a Final Four and an Elite Eight during the football team’s struggles.

But now that Jim Harbaugh has Michigan back on the map, the start of basketball sneaked up on some people. Once the season starts, fans shouldn’t sleep on John Beilein’s team.

Michigan battled a slew of injuries last season, including the loss of its two best players — Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton — early in the conference season. Now that the whole crew is back, minus role player Max Bielfeldt, who transferred to Indiana, we’ll see what Beilein really had in mind for this group.

Here are three keys for Michigan’s opener against Northern Michigan.

1. Welcome back party

This season’s recruiting class might not play a major role during the 2015-16 season, but the Wolverines are adding two five-star caliber players back into their rotation.

LeVert, who was shut down on Jan. 18 last season after injuring his foot late in a home win over Northwestern, will be the team’s top player on offense and defense if he can stay healthy. At the time of his injury, LeVert was leading Michigan in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks while often lining up against every opponents’ best offensive player.

The one area LeVert can really improve is his field goal percentage. He shot below 30 percent in six of 18 games last season and needs to be much more consistent to help Michigan compete in the Big Ten.

Walton was starting to round into form last season before a foot (and toe) injury of his own slammed the breaks on his sophomore campaign. He scored 12 or more points in five of his last six games, capped by a 17-point effort against eventual National runners-up Wisconsin.

Without its starting point guard, Beilein’s formidable offense looked like a train without a conductor. Though Spike Albrecht evolved into the team’s best passer, the offense went through staggering scoreless stretches that cost Michigan games it should have won. At 16-16, the Wolverines were only a few wins away from slipping into another NCAA Tournament.

Walton’s return not only gives the starting five a legitimate off-the-dribble scoring threat, it also bumps Albrecht down to his more familiar role as the second point guard. Even when he’s on the floor with Walton, which will be often, if the last two years are any indication, Albrecht can focus on running the offense and defer to LeVert and Walton when it’s time to rack up the points.

If those two guys can return to form, Michigan will be right back in the thick of the conference race. A third key player returning from injury, Zak Irvin, will not play in Friday’s opener.

2. 3D in the paint

One of the biggest holes in last year’s team came at the center position, where the revolving door of Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle and Bielfeldt turned into way more Bielfeldt than Beilein had hoped.

This season, Michigan will look to its three Ds — Doyle, Donnal and, well, D.J. — to establish a presence in the paint and give a deep group of shooters more open looks.

If that’s a focus for Beilein this season, expect to see a heavy emphasis against teams like Northern Michigan.

Doyle showed the most promise last season, playing nearly 20 minutes per game and chipping in with about six points and three rebounds while shooting well over 60 percent from the field.

The best case scenario for Michigan is for Doyle to grab the starting job and run with it, as he’s clearly got the most upside of the bunch. He has a few strong moves down low and he’s a way stronger rebounder than Donnal. An offense that features LeVert, Walton and eventually Irvin won’t need Doyle to be a prolific scorer. He just needs to clean up the offensive and defensive glass and control the paint.

Donnal is much more of a question mark. After losing his starting job early last season, the redshirt freshman looked soft and timid during Big Ten play. He’s got a decent outside game, but sometimes that hurts him, as he doesn’t do enough work underneath the basket. His best performance came against Rutgers last season, when he scored only three points but ripped down seven boards and looked like a Big Ten center. Beilein will need to see more of that to keep Donnal in the regular rotation this year.

D.J. Wilson, on the other hand, didn’t get much of a chance to prove himself before accepting a redshirt five games into his freshman campaign. He’s got a great basketball body, but he was a little hesitant on offense and needed to bulk up on the defensive end.

Now that he’s back from another offseason of work, Michigan fans will finally get a look at where he fits into the system. More than a year ago, Beilein said Wilson can guard positions one through five on the court. Hopefully he can fit into just one of those jobs and gain some confidence.

3. Air Dawkins

There wasn’t much to celebrate when Michigan’s season came to a close in Indianapolis. A streak of two straight deep tournament runs came to a close as the Wolverines packed it up after the Big Ten Tournament.

But the extra playing time did reveal a few bright spots, the greatest being afterthought 2014 commit Aubrey Dawkins.

Dawkins played almost no role during the preconference schedule, scoring just 15 points in the team’s first 12 games. But when the Big Ten season rolled around, he burst onto the scene in a big way.

A very big way.

The freshman exploded for 20 points on 6-7 three-point shooting in the opener against Illinois, leading the team to an improbable overtime win. He slowly developed into a staple in the offense, eventually scoring 70 points in the team’s last three regular-season games. In his best effort, Dawkins dropped 31 points on Rutgers on eight for 11 shooting from beyond the arc.

Beilein showed his confidence in the freshman when he played him for 49 minutes during a double-overtime loss at Northwestern.

It’s hard to imagine why Dawkins didn’t garner more interest as a recruit. He can shoot from anywhere in the gym, he’s the most athletic player on the team and he even plays reasonable defense on the perimeter. If he’s grown as much as Beilein claims during the offseason, he could be one of the best offensive players in the Big Ten.

Dawkins needs to get off to a strong start against Northern Michigan to establish himself as a top option in what promises to be a much deeper offense.

Big Ten Basketball Media Day transcript: John Beilein

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Today is Big Ten Basketball Media Day in Chicago and Michigan head coach John Beilein took to the podium to discuss the upcoming season and answer some questions. Here is the transcript, provided by Caption Northwest, Inc.

Opening Statement

COACH BEILEIN: It’s great to be back at another media day. I mean that. It’s good to have enthusiasm, start talking basketball again. We are excited, as we’ve been every year. I think we approach the beginning of the season with great excitement. We have a team and I mean a true team, with Caris LeVert is, obviously, a spectacular talent. However, he right now is one of the greatest teammates you could ever have and sees his role as being a leader on this team. And everybody else — Spike and everybody else sets that tone, and we just love going to practice every day. The mentality is terrific. So now we’ve just got to continue to try to get better, stay united as a team, and who knows what can happen this year.

Q. Jon, I know last year was difficult to go through with all the injuries. But now that you’re through it, do you look back and think how great that was for Aubrey players like that to get so much time and experience?

COACH BEILEIN: As you know, it is painful to go through that. It is painful for them as well. We had a lot of close losses, and right now you can see the effect has been terrific. They’re hungry. But we make no mistake about it and say we’re not close. You know, we’re not going to talk about it. We’re a few wins here or a few wins there. No. We have a lot of gap to make up with this young team. But without question, now that we look back on it, it was very beneficial for all of us, including the coaching staff.

Q. Coach, with Oliver having missed, obviously, a big chunk of the season, how has he been progressing this off-season as he rehabs and comes back?

COACH BEILEIN: He’s been rehabbed quite a bit obviously since the injury. It’s a long time, and we really erred on the side of caution to give him even more time in rehab. But he’s running faster, jumping higher, stronger than he’s ever been. That’s the good news, is that he has spent so much time building his body up while he was rehabbing the foot. So it really is exciting to watch right now. And I think of this — you know, he’s just 21 years old as a senior, just turned 21 in August. So he is still — I think he’s still developing as a player at this level and then beyond.

Q. Coach, those guys who got to play last year while some of the other guys were injured, do you expect that experience to pay off just in terms of depth, or do you expect them to make as big an impact as guys like Caris and Derrick are coming back?

COACH BEILEIN: I think everyone is separate. We have to get these young men that will probably have to move back in their minutes and still get comfortable with a 5-, 10-, 15-, 20-minute slot, and some of those same young men might be in the 30-, 35-minute slot. So we’re going to determine that out, and it is great to have depth. And it gives you all kinds of choices. Sometimes that’s tough too. We’re trying to still figure things out, and we’re really looking at these six weeks of preseason as a time to try and figure it out and then start the season. You still don’t have all the answers. You try to evolve during the season as well.

Q. Coach, you obviously have a tremendous amount of depth in the perimeter. But talk about the role of Kam Chatman in his sophomore year and how he can be kind of an X factor filling that stretch for you.

COACH BEILEIN: He’s made great strides so far. He has — his shooting has really improved. His body continues to improve, like they all should at this time, with another year of weightlifting and another year of quickness training. Just his knowledge of you can accomplish a lot more if you maybe try to do less a little bit. Just his general understanding of the game and his body and his ability to shoot the ball right now that has really improved.

*Quotes provided by Caption Northwest, Inc.

New in Blue: 2016 SG Tyus Battle

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Battle(Gregory Payan, AP)

Tyus Battle – SG | 6‘6″, 205 | Edison, N.J. – Gill St. Bernard’s School
ESPN: 5-star, #4 SG, #14ov Rivals: 5-star, #16ov 247: 5-star, #4SG, #12ov Scout: 5-star, #4SF, #10ov
Other top offers: Duke, Connecticut, Louisville, Syracuse, Ohio State, Notre Dame

Just days after missing out on the No. 2 overall prospect for 2015, John Beilein and the Michigan Wolverines picked up a huge commit for the following season.

Tyus Battle announced via Twitter Monday that he will attend Michigan over a host of other schools, including Ohio State, Duke and Syracuse, who were considered among the front runners.

Battle is the No. 12 overall recruit and the No. 4 shooting guard according to 247 Sports. Scout lists him 10th overall in the 2016 class, while Rivals currently has him the lowest at 16th. His official visit to Ann Arbor this past weekend seemed to be the trump card for Michigan, as he committed just two days later.

Battle gives Michigan an elite guard in 2016 with the coming departures of Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht to graduation. Battle is an elite shooter from all over the floor and can create his own shots with his quickness.

If the high school senior holds onto his top 14 ranking, he’ll move to Ann Arbor as the highest ranked recruit in Beilein’s tenure at Michigan. His previous highest recruit was Glenn Robinson III, who was ranked No. 16 overall.

As a sophomore in 2013-14, Battle averaged 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game for Gill St. Bernard’s School in Edison, N.J. His numbers dipped to 16.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game last season as result of an injury-plagued year in which he played in just nine games. A big senior season in 2015-16 should help keep Battle ranked among the best in the nation before he heads to Ann Arbor.

The M&GB HAIL Awards: Basketball 2014-15

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

UM Bball HAIL Awards

Michigan’s basketball season has been over for more than a month and the Wolverines just held their annual awards celebration a couple weeks ago, but we’ve finally gotten around to handing out our M&GB HAIL Awards. Better late than never, I guess.

After reaching the national title game in 2013 and coming just short of the Final Four last season, the 2014-15 season was a major disappointment. Everybody knew Michigan was due for a letdown after sending five players from those two NCAA Tournament teams to the NBA, but no one expected it to be as bad as it became.

Early season wins over Oregon and Syracuse were fun, and nearly topping eventual No. 2-seed Villanova in the Legends Classing championship game gave Michigan hope for a successful season. But it all came unravelled with back-to-back home losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, followed by a 27-point loss at third-ranked Arizona and an 11-point loss to SMU. To make matters worse, Michigan lost its two best players, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton for the season with injuries.

The Wolverines opened Big Ten play with an overtime win over Illinois on a celebratory night in which new football head coach Jim Harbaugh was honored for his triumphant return. But Michigan had trouble stringing together wins in conference play, beating the teams they were expected to beat — Penn State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Rutgers — and falling to the teams in the top half of the league. Even so, Michigan had its share of near misses, taking Wisconsin and Michigan State — both Final Four teams — to overtime, but couldn’t pull out either of them. Michigan found some fire in the Big Ten Tournament, topping an Illinois squad that was on the NCAA Tournament bubble by 18 points, but Wisconsin ended Michigan’s season the next night.

It wasn’t the type of season John Beilein, the players, or the fans wanted or expected, but when all was said and done there was plenty to be excited about heading into next season. For one, Michigan shouldn’t lose anyone save senior Max Bielfeldt who likely won’t get a fifth year. Secondly, the emergence of freshmen Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman should give the Wolverines quality depth in 2015-16, something that likely wouldn’t have happened with a healthy LeVert and Walton.

Let’s take the time to honor the top players, plays, performances, and moments of the 2014-15 Michigan basketball season.

To revisit last year’s HAIL Awards: 2014-15 or our football HAIL Awards: 201420132012, 2011.

Player of the Year Zak Irvin

Irvin vs WisconsinWhen Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III departed for the NBA following last season, a void needed to be filled and most expected junior Caris LeVert and sophomore Zak Irvin to fill it. And for the most part they did just that. But when LeVert went down with a broken foot midway through the season Irvin had to step up and take on a larger role.

But Irvin hit a month-long slump in which he shot just 34.9 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from three-point range while averaging just 10.8 points per game. Over the final month of the season, however, Irvin hit his stride, averaging 16.9 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from downtown.

“After both Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton went down with season-ending injuries, Michigan had to rely on everyone to step up,” said Sam. “It took a little bit longer for anyone to rise to the occasion and seize the opportunity, but by the end of the year, Zak Irvin was undoubtedly the most dynamic player on the team and the one that kept the Wolverines in most games even though the postseason was always going to be a tough proposition.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Aubrey Dawkins (1)

Guard of the Year Zak Irvin

Irvin dunk

Irvin scored in double figures in all but five games this season and scored 20 or more points five times, including in three of the last nine games. He led the team in points 12 times and in rebounds nine times. He finished second in scoring (14.3 points) behind LeVert, second in rebounds (4.8) behind LeVert, and led the team with 33 steals.

His shooting percentage of 40.2 percent ranked seventh on the team, although he took 184 shots more than anyone else and 212 more shots than anyone other than LeVert. Likewise, his three-point percentage of 35.5 percent ranked sixth, but his 217 attempts were 121 more than the next closest, Spike Albrecht’s 96 attempts.

“Last season, Zak Irvin recorded three assists in a game just one, and tallied zero dimes more often than not,” said Sam. “This season, it looked like it might be the same Irvin with better hops early on, as the sophomore reached that magic number of three only once over the first three months of the season. Then, the light switch went on, and the Just a Shooter label came off. Over the last 12 games of the year, Irvin dished out at least three assists eight times (including the last six games of the season), while reaching double digit point totals in 10 of those games (with a low of seven points).”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Aubrey Dawkins (1)

Big Man of the Year Max Bielfeldt

Max Bielfeldt

Losing Jordan Morgan to graduation and Mitch McGary to the NBA left a huge hole in the Michigan frontcourt entering this season. Most figured redshirt freshman Mark Donnal to be the logical replacement, but while he began the season as the starter it was obvious he still had a long way to go. True freshman Ricky Doyle succeeded him, and while he had his flashes, his youth and inexperienced was evident. By season’s end, it was senior Max Bielfeldt who proved to be the most reliable.

Despite starting just three games — the final three of the season — Bielfeldt took Donnal’s minutes and improved as the season went on. He finished seventh on the team in scoring, averaging 5.1 points per game, and fourth in rebounding with an average of 3.6. Despite playing 130 fewer minutes than Doyle, he grabbed 10 more boards to lead all big men. Over the final eight games, Bielfeldt averaged 7.8 points 4.9 rebounds and he went out in style with a 14-point, 11-rebound performance against Rutgers on senior night.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Bielfeldt was the most consisten center for Michigan down the stretch,” said Derick. “The same guy that couldn’t guard a stationary post early in the year became a confident player around the rim and an above average rebounder for Michigan. Though Bielfeldt was never a focus for Michigan on offense, he developed a small, but effective, arsenal of moves and improve dramatically on defense.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Ricky Doyle (1)

Defensive Player of the Year Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman

MAARPrior to the season, unheralded freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman didn’t figure into many projections of significant contributors. But the Allentown, Pa. native who — along with Aubrey Dawkins — filled out Michigan’s 2014 class, was thrust into action when Derrick Walton Jr. went down for the season with a foot injury.

He made his first career start on Jan. 17 against Northwestern and finished with nine points, five rebounds, two assists, and made the game-winning three. Two games after Walton went down, Abdur-Rahkman broke out with 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting at Michigan State. In Michigan’s first Big Ten Tournament game against Illinois, Abdur-Rahkman nearly missed a double-double with 15 points and eight boards.

But it was his defensive prowess that earned him playing time, and by season’s end he was called upon to clamp down on the opponent’s top guard.

“Defense looked to be the surprising strength of this disappointing season early on before the offense started to flow near the end of the season,” said Sam. “John Beilein has still yet to find one of those pesky defensive stoppers throughout his time in Ann Arbor, but it looks like Rahk might have a shot at being the first. The unheralded freshman out of Allentown, PA showed terrific poise in his head-to-head matchup with future lottery pick D’Angelo Russell and was easily the best player on the team at making a simple step-in to stop a potential fast break. I remember watching in awe a few times as Rahk stopped an opponent in his tracks multiple times when it looked like a layup was a sure thing.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Ricky Doyle (1)

Game of the Year 64-57 win over #24 Ohio State

Spike vs OSUThere were plenty of near-misses that could have been game of the year had they swung the other way. Early in the season, Michigan nearly topped 12th-ranked Villanova in the Legends Classic championship game. In Big Ten play, the Wolverines took both Michigan State and Wisconsin to overtime, but fell both times. And in the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan again took Wisconsin to the wire, but couldn’t pull it out.

But the one game that Michigan did impress in was a 64-57 win over Ohio State on Feb. 22. Michigan was struggling, losers of five straight, when the Buckeyes came to town, but that didn’t stop John Beilein’s squad from dominating their rivals. Michigan raced out to a 23-9 lead and led by as many as 20 at 31-11, cruising to a 39-23 halftime margin. Ohio State cut the lead to 10 a few minutes into the second half, and then pulled within three with 6:59 remaining, but a timely Zak Irvin three put a stop to the Buckeye run and Michigan held on for a big win.

Irvin and Spike Albrecht combined to score 31 points on 11-of-22 shooting, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman held Ohio State star D’Angelo Russell to just 16 points on 15 shots.

“Despite the awful slide to finish the season, Michigan did give fans one great memory: a wire-to-wire dominating win over Ohio State,” said Derick. “Michigan jumped out to an early lead and never let go, while holding freshman phenom D’Angelo Russell to one of his least efficient games of the season.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None

Play of the Year Derrick Walton three to force OT against Wisconsin

Walton three vs WisconsinWhen sixth-ranked Wisconsin came to town in late January, Michigan’s season was on the verge of collapse. Losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan in non-conference play made Michigan’s postseason hopes slim barring a great performance in conference play, and although the Wolverines won four of the first six Big Ten games, there wasn’t much room for error. To make matters worse, Caris LeVert went down for the season two games prior. A win over the Badgers sans LeVert would be a huge boost.

Michigan started slow, managing just three points through the first six minutes, but took their first lead at 17-16 with 8:53 left in the half. But Wisconsin pulled away to a 30-23 halftime lead. The beginning of the second half was a different story, however, as Michigan used a 15-8 run through the first nine minutes to tie the game at 38. Wisconsin kept threatening to pull away, but Michigan wouldn’t back down.

Trailing by three with under 20 seconds left, Derrick Walton Jr. took over. First, he made two free throws with 11 seconds remaining to pull within one, and then, after Wisconsin answers with a pair of free throws, Walton brought the ball up the court. He handed it off to Aubrey Dawkins who went up to shoot, but with a hand in his face, passed it back to Walton. Walton launched a three at the buzzer from the left wing and it found nothing but net to send the game to overtime. Unfortunately, Michigan couldn’t prevail, falling 69-64, but Walton’s shot was a lone bright spot in a dark season.

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Albrecht behind-the-back assist to Dawkins vs Illinois in Big Ten Tournament (1)

Performance of the Year Aubrey Dawkins’ breakout vs Illinois

Dawkins vs Rutgers

After dropping four of their last five non-conference games, Michigan needed a strong start to Big Ten play. On a festive occasion that saw the Wolverines welcome the return of Jim Harbaugh as head football coach, freshman Aubrey Dawkins led the way.

Dawkins scored 20 points on 6-of-7 three-point shooting and also grabbed five rebounds in a breakout performance. Prior to that game, Dawkins had scored a total of 15 points throughout non-conference play, but his breakout against Illinois set in motion a strong finish to the season for the freshman. From that point on, he averaged 9.7 points per game.

“This is perhaps the most telling category…three of the top “Performance of the Year” options came in losses,” said Sam. “I have to go with the one that resulted in a win, wherein Aubrey Dawkins put the team on his back much to the enjoyment of a packed house celebrating the homecoming of Jim Harbaugh and led the team to a huge victory in their Big Ten home opener. He couldn’t miss and we couldn’t stop oohhing and ahhing.”


Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Dawkins’ 31 points in regular season finale vs Rutgers

Newcomer of the Year Aubrey Dawkins

Dawkins dunkLosing an all-everything point guard to the NBA is never an easy task for any coach, but John Beilein got a superb season out of Derrick Walton Jr. The freshman from Detroit started 36 of the 37 games, averaging 7.9 points, three rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. Most importantly, he provided a steady presence at the point guard position with nearly twice as many assists as turnovers.

Walton wasn’t always counted on to score, but he could certainly do it when needed. His best performance came in the 80-75 win at Michigan State when he scored 19 points, pulled down six rebounds, and dished out four assists. His clutch free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the win. He also recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the Feb. 11 win at Ohio State and finished the season with a 41 percent three-point rate.

“Zak Irvin had an impactful freshmen season, playing his role to perfection as a scoring threat off the bench,” said Drew. “In most years, he would win this award. But it is difficult not to give it to a freshman starting at a position just vacated by the consensus national player of the year. Derrick Walton, Jr. averaged 7.9 points, made 41 percent of his threes, and had the second-highest defensive rebounding rate among Michigan’s guards and wings despite being only 6’1″. Most importantly, he did not shy away in big moments, making clutch plays in the final minutes of critical road wins against Nebraska, Michigan State, and Ohio State.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None

Those Who Stay Senior of the Year Max Bielfeldt

BielfeldtLike Jordan Morgan a year ago, Max Bielfeldt is the default winner of this award because he was the only senior on the roster. But as we mentioned in the Defensive Player of the Year category, Bielfeldt went from little-used big man to the best big man on the team as the season went along. By season’s end he was the most trusted man inside, able to come up with a key rebound and score when needed.

On his senior night against Rutgers, Bielfeldt put together the best performance of his career, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.

While Bielfeldt has a year of eligibility remaining, he was granted his release and will transfer elsewhere, and per Nick Baumgardner, he’s down to Iowa State, DePaul, Boston College, and Stanford. However, since John Beilein wasn’t able to secure a commitment from his top two targets — Jalen Brown and Kenny Williams — a scholarship remains open for next season and there’s a slight chance Bielfledt could choose to remain in Ann Arbor.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None

Most Improved Player  Zak Irvin

Irvin vs NUWhen Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, and Glenn Robinson III all departed for the NBA following the 2013-14 season, Michigan needed someone to step up and grab the reigns of the team. Last year’s most improved player, Caris LeVert, was the prime candidate with many projecting him a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate. But his season was cut short due to a foot injury. Enter Zak Irvin.

Irvin rose to the occasion after a slow start to the season to steadily improve as the season went along. By season’s end he had taken the team on his back and become the all-around player he was expected to be. He finished the season with double figures in eight of the last nine games, averaging 16.9 points per game during that span with three 20-plus games. He finished his sophomore campaign second on the team in points (14.3 points per game) and rebounds (4.8 per game), and shot 35.5 percent from three-point range.

“While I think Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman were the best suprises of the season, Zak Irvin, in my mind, made the greatest improvement,” said Derick. “The sophomore entered the season with expectations based solely on the one-year improvements fans saw with Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, but struggled early on. He was a volume shooter with little else to offer, and his defense was among the worst liabilities on the team. But by the end of the season, Irvin’s field goal percentage improved, he started finding the big men down low for easy buckets and he even became more active on the defensive end. He became the team’s top rebounder and also picked up 13 steals in his  last nine games. If his improvement continues into next season, Michigan fans will see the Irvin they expected a year earlier.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None