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Posts Tagged ‘John Beilein’

Michigan hoops preview & Sam’s 3 thoughts: #12 Villanova

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


UM-Villanova
Michigan (4-0) vs Villanova (4-0)
Tuesday, Nov. 25 | Brooklyn, N.Y. | 10:00 p.m. EST | ESPN2
Legends Classic Championship
Offense
77.5 Points/gm 76.8
(103-220) 46.8 Field Goal % 45.3 (106-234)
(33-74) 44.6 3-pt FG % 28.7 (27-94)
(71-92) 77.2 Free Throw % 71.6 (68-95)
17.8 FT Made/gm 17.0
34.5 Reb/gm 35.2
14.8 Assists/gm 15.5
7.8 Turnovers/gm 9.3
Defense (2013-14)
61.5 Points/gm 57.0
(92-218) 42.2 Field Goal % 43.7 (87-199)
(30-81) 37.0 3-pt FG % 27.4 (17-62)
30.8 Opp. Reb/gm 31.3
6.0 Steals/gm 10.5
3.5 Blocks/gm 4.0
Individual Leaders
Zak Irvin (20.3), Caris LeVert (16.3) Points/gm Dylan Ennis (12.5), Darrun Hilliard (11.0)
Caris LeVert (7.0), Derrick Walton Jr (5.5) Reb/gm Daniel Ochefu (9.3), JayVa Pinkston (6.0)

___________________________________________________________________________________

It hasn’t always been pretty, and it hasn’t been particularly clean basketball yet, but the young Michigan Wolverines find themselves off to a 4-0 start after last night’s 70-63 Legends Classic semifinal win over a decimated Oregon squad. John Beilein’s freshmen still have a ways to go, and even the veterans have looked rushed at times, but there’s little reason to complain over an undefeated start. Tonight (10:00pm, ESPN2), the Wolverines face their toughest test thus far, however, in the Villanova Wildcats. Jay Wright has put together somewhat of a basketball powerhouse in Philadelphia, and the crowd at the Barclays Center won’t be as Maize and Blue dominated as it was last night. How can Michigan escape with another win and the preseason tournament title? Here are my three keys.

1. Play Poised: Villanova is considerably more experienced than Michigan, starting two seniors, two juniors, and a sophomore, and will look to control the pace right out of the gates. Last night, the Wolverines allowed Oregon to dictate flow far too often, and despite recording only eight turnovers total, Michigan often looked out of sorts and unimpressive offensively. If the Wildcats are able to dominate the fast break the same way the Ducks did, Beilein’s squad will be in for a long night and an even longer flight home. Villanova only coughed it up nine times against VCU’s aggressive defense in their 77-53 blowout, and their veteran, guard-dominated style will be hard to rattle. Michigan just needs to run their offense, minimize turnovers, and take advantage of fast break opportunities to control the pace.

2. Crash the Glass: I’m still not sure how the Wolverines never trailed last night despite letting Oregon rebound a whopping 45 percent of their own misses, but another miserable performance on the defensive glass is sure to equal a loss against Villanova. Michigan actually led the nation in defensive rebounding percentage before being beat up last night, and they have the size and athleticism to clean up, but the Wolverines need to stop ball-watching and put bodies on the opponent. The problem with last night wasn’t that Oregon was winning 50-50 rebounds consistently; the problem was that Oregon was too often the only team represented in the vicinity of their own misses. On four or five occasions, the Ducks grabbed uncontested offensive boards and laid (or slammed) them right back in. Those are the easy points Michigan cannot afford to give up against a much better team. Tonight, it’s all about positioning. It doesn’t matter if it’s Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Spike Albrecht, or Ricky Doyle grabbing defensive rebounds; all that matters is that Michigan is boxing Villanova out consistently on defense and competing on the glass.

3. Guard the Hot Hand: With Villanova’s bevy of guards comes a significant threat from deep. So far, the Wildcats have been ice cold from downtown, with a team mark of only 28.7 percent, and only two players are shooting better than 33 percent, but that won’t last all season. Junior Dylan Ennis, brother of former Syracuse star Tyler Ennis, is hitting at a 40% rate from downtown while freshman Phil Booth has made two of five attempts in limited minutes; but Michigan will also need to watch out for junior Ryan Arcidiacono, a high-volume sniper who can go off at any time despite his current 23.5 percent connection rate, and senior Darrun Hillard II, who shot 41% from distance last year but is shooting a lowly 19 percent so far this year. The young Wolverines should have the advantage from outside, but they’ll need to play smart defensively and stick to the shooters when the drive-and-kick is on.

Prediction: In my preseason preview, I penciled in a loss in tonight’s Legends Classic finale for Michigan, but I like the way the guards are playing and I was extremely surprised by Ricky Doyle’s strong emergence last night. Villanova was also quite unimpressive against Bucknell last week and has struggled mightily to put the ball in the hoop. Further, Michigan has also been playing some solid set defense despite some baffling freshman miscues on that end of the floor. I like Zak Irvin to have a big game tonight while Mark Donnal is the surprise big, helping Michigan to a 71-66 win.

First test passed: Michigan 70 – Oregon 63

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


LeVert layup vs Oregon(MGoBlue.com)

After opening the season with a Division II school and two mid-majors, Michigan faced its first test of the season on Monday night in the semifinal of the Progressive Legends Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Wolverines passed the test with a 70-63 win over Oregon to advance to Tuesday night’s championship game.

Michigan opened the game with a Caris LeVert three-pointer and opened up a 7-2 lead thanks to a Kameron Chatman layup and a Mark Donnal dunk. After an Oregon basket, Zak Irvin hit his first three of the game to give Michigan a 10-4 lead.

The rest of the first half was played within a few points with Oregon pulling even at 25 with 4:50 to play. But Michigan freshmen scored the next four as Chatman made a free throw and Ricky Doyle made a layup and a free throw. After a two minute and 40 second scoring drought, Oregon got a Jordan Bell dunk to pull within 29-27, but Michigan closed the half with a Doyle tip-in and two LeVert free throws. Michigan led 33-27 at the half.

Four Factors
Michigan Oregon
51.1 eFG% 43.2
23.3 OReb% 45.0
12.7 TO% 22.2
63.0 FTR 33.5

Oregon scored the first basket of the second half, but Irvin hit another three. Every time Oregon tried to make a move, Michigan had an answer. The Ducks scored the next six points to pull within one, but four straight Michigan free throws put the Wolverines back on top by five.

With 13:45 to play, Oregon pulled even once again at 40, but Michigan scored the next eight to take its biggest lead of the night. Oregon ended a 3:19 scoring drought with a Joseph Young three, and after two more LeVert free throws, Oregon scored five straight to pull within 50-48.

After a Doyle layup, neither team scored for the next minute and a half until Derrick Walton Jr. made two free throws to put Michigan back ahead by six. Oregon wouldn’t go away, again pulling within one with four minutes left, and again a minute later after the teams traded a pair of free throws. LeVert converted an and-one, but Oregon responded with two free throws.

Leading by two with 1:34 to play, Michigan called a timeout to set up a play. LeVert drove from the top of the key and kicked it out to Irvin on the right wing. Irvin nailed his third three of the game. Four Oregon free throws surrounding two by Walton made it a three-point game and Michigan ball in the final minute.

LeVert missed a jumper, but Doyle grabbed the offensive rebound on the left block. He pivoted back and forth, trying to find a teammate to kick it out to, but unable to find one, dribbled, pump-faked, and put in a game-clinching layup. The final 30 seconds were just a formality as Irvin rebounded a missed Oregon shot and made two free throws to give Michigan a seven point win.

Irvin led the way for Michigan with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He made 3-of-6 three-pointers and grabbed three offensive rebounds. LeVert added 18 points on just 3-of-13 shooting, but made 11-of-13 free throws. Doyle was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 10 points and he also grabbed three offensive boards.

As a team, Michigan shot 45.6 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range. Oregon shot 39.0 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from three. Oregon held a 41-29 advantage on the glass, including an 18-7 advantage on the offensive glass, but turned the ball over 14 times compared to Michigan’s eight. The biggest difference was Michigan’s ability to get to the free throw line. The Wolverines shot and made 11 more free throws than the Ducks.

The Wolverines will face an even bigger test against 12th-ranked Villanova (4-0) on Tuesday night for the Legends Classic championship. The game will tip off at 10 p.m. EST and will be televised by ESPN2.

Three Stars:

***Ricky Doyle***
10 points (4-of-5 FG, 2-of-3 FT), three rebounds (all offensive), one block in 24 minutes

**Zak Irvin**
19 points (6-of-11 FG, 3-of-6 3pt, 4-of-4 FT), five rebounds (three offensive), one steal in 38 minutes

*Caris LeVert*
18 points (3-of-13 FG, 1-of-4 3pt, 11-of-13 FT), five rebounds, three assists, one block, two steals, two turnovers in 39 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 1-4 0-1 2-4 0 3 3 1 4 3 1 0 0 15
34 Mark Donnal* 2-3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 4 0 0 1 0 11
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 1-3 0-0 4-4 0 4 4 4 6 2 0 0 0 24
21 Zak Irvin* 6-11 3-6 4-4 3 2 5 4 19 0 0 0 1 38
23 Caris LeVert* 3-13 1-4 11-13 0 5 5 2 18 3 2 1 2 39
02 Spike Albrecht 3-6 1-2 0-0 0 2 2 1 7 3 2 0 0 35
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
32 Ricky Doyle 4-5 0-0 2-4 3 0 3 1 10 0 0 1 0 24
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 2 0 1 0 0 7
Totals 21-46 5-13 23-29 7 22 29 16 70 11 8 3 3 200
Oregon 23-59 5-19 12-18 18 23 41 24 63 10 14 2 3 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Oregon

Monday, November 24th, 2014


UM-Oregon
Michigan (3-0) vs Oregon (3-0)
Monday, Nov. 24 | Brooklyn, N.Y. | 9:00 p.m. EST | ESPN3
Offense
80.0 Points/gm 89.3
(82-174) 47.1 Field Goal % 47.8 (97-203)
(28-61) 45.9 3-pt FG % 39.2 (29-74)
(48-63) 76.2 Free Throw % 71.4 (45-63)
16.0 FT Made/gm 15.0
36.3 Reb/gm 47.3
16.0 Assists/gm 19.0
7.7 Turnovers/gm 11.3
Defense (2013-14)
61.0 Points/gm 66.3
(69-159) 43.4 Field Goal % 35.0 (70-200)
(25-62) 40.3 3-pt FG % 40.5 (30-74)
27.3 Opp. Reb/gm 36.0
7.0 Steals/gm 6.3
3.7 Blocks/gm 6.0
Individual Leaders
Zak Irvin (20.7), Derrick Walton Jr (17.7) Points/gm Joseph Young (26.0), Dillon Brooks (12.7)
Caris LeVert (7.7), Derrick Walton Jr (6.0) Reb/gm Jordan Bell (9.0), Dwayne Benjamin (8.7)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan won its two regional games of the Progressive Legends Classic last week, topping Bucknell 77-53 and Detroit 71-62. Tonight, the Wolverines face their first big test of the season and their first game away from the Crisler Center. Michigan faces Oregon in the tournament semifinal in Brooklyn, N.Y. tonight at 9 p.m.

Oregon also comes in 3-0 with wins over Coppin State (107-65), Detroit (83-66), and Toledo (78-68). The Ducks are averaging 9.3 more points per game than Michigan and allowing 5.3 more. They shoot about the same as Michigan so far in the early season, but shoot three-pointers about six percent worse. Oregon has attempted 13 more threes than Michigan has and made just one more. The Ducks attack the board, averaging 47 rebounds per game compared to Michigan’s 36. However, they let opponents rebound 36 per game while Michigan allows its opponents to rebound 27.3 per game.

Fifth-year senior guard Joesph Young (6’2″, 180) is the star, averaging 26 points per game so far and shooting 50 percent. He scored 32 points in the opener against Coppin State, 22 against Detroit, and 24 against Toledo. Despite making just 1-of-12 three-point attempts against Detroit, he’s still shooting 40 percent from downtown. Young scored the fifth-most points in a single season in Oregon history, earning second-team all-Pac 12 honors last season.

Freshman forward Dillon Brooks (6’6″, 225) is the second-leading scorer with 12.7 points per game. He’s been consistent so far this season, scoring 14 points in each of the first two games and 10 in the third. He’s from the same hometown in Canada as Nik Stauskas, and while he’s not the three-point shooter Stauskas was, he has still made 5-of-12 so far this season.

Redshirt junior forward Elgin Cook (6’6″, 205) also averages 12.7 points per game and has made 14-of-27 shots so far, but has attempted just one three-pointer, which he missed. He was the team’s field goal percentage leader last season at 57.5, a total that ranked third in school history.

Junior forward Dwayne Benjamin (6’7″, 210) has started all three games, but struggled a bit so far. He managed just three points on 1-of-5 shooting in the opener, but scored eight and 11 in the last two. He has, however, been solid on the glass, ranking second on the team with 8.7 rebounds per game.

Rounding out the starting lineup is 6’1″, 175-pound freshman guard Ahmaad Rorie. After scoring 10 points in the first game, he scored 10 combined in the next two. He’s shooting just 29.4 percent from the field and 30 percent from downtown, but ranks second on the team with nine assists.

The main contributors off the bench are 6’4″, 197-pound senior guard Jalil Abdul-Bassit, 6’9″, 215-pound freshman forward Jordan Bell, and 6’3″, 185-pound freshman guard Casey Benson. Bell is playing 25 minutes a game and leads the team with nine rebounds per game while making 10-of-14 shots. Abdul-Bassit ranks fourth in scoring with 9.7 points per game and has made 5-of-10 three-point attempts. Benson is the only other player in the rotation averaging more than two minutes per game. He averages six points and 3.3 rebounds and has made seven of his 12 shots.

You can see that head coach Dana Altman is playing quite a few freshmen, and that’s mostly out of necessity. The Ducks lost 10 contributors from last season to graduation, dismissal, and transfer. Young is the player Altman will have to lean on if the Ducks want to do better than their preseason Pac-12 media poll expectations of eighth place.

Oregon won’t be the best team Michigan faces in the non-conference portion of the schedule — maybe not even the best team Michigan will face in Brooklyn — but it will be a big early test for Michigan’s remade roster. It will also be an important game for both teams’ postseason hopes come March, as Oregon will surely be fighting for a bubble spot in the NCAA Tournament, and Michigan could use a quality early season win before Big Ten play starts.

The game will be shown on ESPN3.

Veteran led: Michigan 71 – Detroit 62

Thursday, November 20th, 2014


LeVert-Irvin vs Detroit(MGoBlue.com)

The test was going to come sooner or later. Michigan, a young team that has looked the part, struggled right out of the gates this year against Hillsdale before settling in and rolling the completely over-matched opponent. In their second game, the Wolverines stashed away Bucknell early.

But tonight, the Maize and Blue were given all they could handle by an upstart Detroit team hungry for some headlines.

Ultimately, Michigan survived with a 71-62 win, but it was far from pretty.

Right out of the gates, the Titans showed that they came to play for real; this wasn’t going to be recess for the home squad. After former Michigan target Patrick Ackerman opened the scoring, he made another bucket to tie it up at 4-4 three minutes into the game. Following a Derrick Walton three-pointer, Juwan Howard, Jr. and Jarod Williams both nailed triples of their own to put Detroit up three.

It started a theme that would last throughout the night.

Michigan would answer, Detroit would take the hit, Detroit would take another lead, Michigan would claw back.

Four Factors
Michigan Detroit
51.9 eFG% 51.9
28.1 OReb% 6.7
15.6 TO% 17.2
37.7 FTR 15.1

In between the buckets, however, was a lot of ugly. The two teams combined to shoot just a hair over 38 percent while turning it over 11 times in the first half, but Detroit’s one-point lead going into halftime could be chalked up to their 5-of-9 mark from downtown to Michigan’s woeful 3-of-12.

Out of the break, there was a sense that Michigan would shake off the rust and run away with it, just as Oregon had done earlier this week after being tied with the Titans at the half and ending up with a 17-point victory. A Walton three right away strengthened that feeling.

Then Brandan Kearney, a former Michigan State player, matched the triple with one of his own. Howard Jr. followed by hitting an and-one of his own to put Detroit up four again.

Kameron Chatman came out of the game after the foul and Michigan went to a no-freshmen-allowed lineup a couple minutes later when Max Bielfeldt replaced Mark Donnal. Coach John Beilein wouldn’t put another freshman back in for nearly nine minutes.

With the veteran lineup, Michigan finally started to build a little bit of cushion. Bielfeldt caught a beautiful over the shoulder pass from Spike Albrecht and made the open layup look easier than it was. Caris LeVert stole a pass on the next possession and went coast-to-coast for a lay-in en route to scoring 10 straight and helping the home team to a nine-point lead.

A minute later, Zak Irvin flushed home a dunk from Albrecht before Kearney, Albrecht, and then Howard, Jr. made three straight triples to cut the lead to six.

Detroit was far from waving the white flag. Within five minutes, the Titans made up the difference and tied it up at 52 with 5:19 left – largely behind the leadership and scoring of Juwan Howard, Jr., who made eight straight points in that stretch and finished with a game-high 24 points on 23 shots.

But Howard’s success soon became Detroit’s downfall, as the senior and son of Fab Fiver Juwan Howard missed a couple circus shots over the next couple possessions, allowing Michigan to jump out to an 11-point advantage just two minutes later on a pair of Zak Irvin threes, a beautiful coast-to-coast finish from Walton, and three LeVert free throws.

Albrecht’s in-your-eye three with 1:27 left served as the unofficial dagger – and boosted his own confidence after he’d been passing up open looks in practice according to Beilein.

When it was all said and done, Michigan’s nine-point victory looked a lot more comfortable than it was. But that’s what happens when a young roster limits your options.

After escaping, Spike Albrecht noted that it’s a lot better to learn from a challenging win rather than a tough loss.

Beilein, as usual, praised Detroit for the terrific battle, but he would have done the same if Michigan won by 35. In reality, though, Detroit is not one of the better teams Michigan will face this year – even before Big Ten season.

If the Wolverines are to continue escaping challenges against the likes of Oregon, Villanova or VCU, SMU, and Arizona, they’ll have to play a lot better a lot earlier.

The talent is there, especially among Irvin, Walton, and LeVert. But the Wolverines needs to shore up the consistency.

Quick Hitters:

• John Beilein is starting to whittle down on the rotation, and tonight, only nine Wolverines saw minutes after at least 11 did in Michigan’s first two games. Freshmen Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman rode the pine all night while classmates D.J. Wilson and Ricky Doyle only saw seven combined minutes. Meanwhile, the veterans’ minutes continue to increase, as Zak Irvin, Spike Albrecht, and Caris LeVert played more than 30 minutes and Derrick Walton played all 40 minutes.

The big man rotation is still far from being solved. Max Bielfeldt was the first big off the bench again and led all centers with 20 minutes, while Mark Donnal played 15, Doyle played two, and Wilson played three minutes at the five.

Kameron Chatman and Derrick Walton rimmed out back-to-back three-pointers in the first half that perhaps went further down than I’ve ever seen in my life before popping out.

Three Stars:

***Caris LeVert***
21 points (7-of-13 FG, 1-of-3 3pt, 6-of-7 FT), nine rebounds (one offensive), three assists, one steal, three turnovers in 38 minutes

**Derrick Walton, Jr.**
16 points (4-of-10 FG, 2-of-5 3pt, 6-of-7 FT), six rebounds, three assists, two turnovers in 40 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
18 points (6-of-16 FG, 4-of-10 3pt, 2-of-4 FT), three rebounds (one offensive), one assist, three turnovers in 38 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 1-4 0-3 2-2 1 3 4 1 4 1 1 0 0 10
34 Mark Donnal* 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 0 2 0 0 1 1 15
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 4-10 2-5 6-7 0 6 6 3 16 3 2 0 0 40
21 Zak Irvin* 6-16 4-10 2-4 1 2 3 1 18 1 3 0 0 38
23 Caris LeVert* 7-13 1-3 6-7 1 8 9 2 21 3 3 0 1 38
02 Spike Albrecht 2-5 2-3 0-0 1 3 4 2 6 4 1 0 1 32
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 3 0 0 1 1 0 5
32 Ricky Doyle 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
44 Max Bielfeldt 2-3 0-0 0-0 2 3 5 1 4 2 0 1 0 20
Totals 23-53 9-24 16-20 9 28 37 13 71 14 11 3 3 200
Detroit 23-53 9-19 7-8 2 23 25 20 62 14 11 1 4 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch:
Beilein vs Detroit

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan hoops preview: Detroit

Thursday, November 20th, 2014


UM-Detroit
Michigan (2-0) vs Detroit (1-1)
Thursday, Nov. 20 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 6:00 p.m. EST | Big Ten Network
Offense
84.5 Points/gm 71.5
(59-121) 48.8 Field Goal % 43.8 (53-121)
(19-37) 51.4 3-pt FG % 38.2 (13-34)
(32-43) 74.4 Free Throw % 68.6 (24-35)
16.0 FT Made/gm 12.0
36.0 Reb/gm 38.5
17.0 Assists/gm 10.0
6.0 Turnovers/gm 14.0
Defense (2013-14)
60.5 Points/gm 68.5
(46-106) 43.4 Field Goal % 42.5 (51-120)
(16-43) 37.2 3-pt FG % 33.3 (19-57)
28.5 Opp. Reb/gm 37.5
9.0 Steals/gm 8.5
4.0 Blocks/gm 2.5
Individual Leaders
Zak Irvin (22.0), Derrick Walton Jr (18.5) Points/gm Anton Wilson (17.0), Juwan Howard Jr (16.0)
Caris LeVert (7.0), Derrick Walton Jr (6.0) Reb/gm Matthew Grant (6.0), Juwan Howard Jr (5.0)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan opened the regional round of the Progressive Legends Classic on Monday with a 77-53 win over Bucknell. Tonight, the Wolverines host Detroit — where assistant coach Bacari Alexander played the final two seasons of his college career — in the second game. Like Michigan, Detroit began its season with a much smaller school. Detroit beat Rochester College of the NAIA, 77-54, before falling to Oregon 83-66 on Monday night.

Junior guard Anton Wilson has been the star so far for the Titans. The 6’5″, 206-pound Flint native scored 20 points in the opener and 14 against Oregon while shooting 66.7 percent from the field and making 8-of-10 three-pointers.

Juwan Howard Jr., a name Michigan fans will recognize, is the son of Fab Five member Juwan Howard. The 6’5″, 232-pound senior forward scored 16 points in each of the first two games while attempting a team-high 30 shots.

The rest of the starting lineup hasn’t provided much scoring. Senior guard Brandon Kearney, sophomore point guard Matthew Grant, and junior center Patrick Ackerman average just 7.5 points combined. Kearney (6’6″, 188) has made just 2-of-13 shots and none of his five three-point attempts. Four of his eight points have come from the free throw line. Grant (6’0″, 177) has made 2-of-8 overall and 1-of-3 from three-point range, while Ackerman (6’10″, 218) has yet to score in 42 minutes of action. He has also pulled down just six rebounds despite being 6’10″, while Grant — the point guard — leads the team with 12 boards.

The rest of Detroit’s scoring comes from the bench. Freshman wing Paris Bass (6’7″, 187) is the third-leading scorer at 10.5 points per game. He scored 13 in the opener on 6-of-10 shooting and eight against Oregon. Sophomore point guard Jarod Williams managed just three points in the opener but scored 15 on 6-of-9 shooting against Oregon.

The rotation is rounded out by 6’6″, 233-pound freshman forward Jaleel Hogan and 6’2″, 204-pound junior Carlton Brundidge, a Michigan transfer. Both are averaging 5.5 points in about 16 minutes per game.

Michigan has won its last 13 matchups against Detroit, but the two haven’t played since the 2009-10 season when Michigan won 75-64. Michigan holds a 25-3 lead in the overall series with the last Detroit win coming on Dec. 19, 1981.

After a 13-19 season a year ago, Detroit was picked to finish third in the Horizon League this season behind Green Bay and Cleveland State. Howard Jr was picked for the Horizon League preseason first team.

Former Michigan All-American Campy Russell will be honored at halftime as Michigan’s Legend of the Game. As a freshman in 1972-73, Russell averaged 18.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, breaking all of Michigan’s freshman scoring and rebounding records. During the 1973-74 season, he led the Big Ten with 23.7 points per game and added 11.1 rebounds per game, earning consensus All-American honors. He led Michigan to the 1974 Big Ten title.

The game will be televised by Big Ten Network.

Maximized: Michigan 77 – Bucknell 53

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014


Max Bielfeldt vs Bucknell(MGoBlue.com)

Following a shaky start in the first regular season game of the year (against a DII school) for Michigan that saw Hillsdale hold strong for about half of the first half, many thought that last night’s matchup with the Patriot League’s Bucknell Bison would be perhaps even more interesting – and for even longer.

After all, Bucknell is much more experienced and runs a terrific program under coach Dave Paulsen.

Those thoughts didn’t last too long.

Michigan raced out to a 10-0 lead on five quick points from Zak Irvin and a triple from Max Bielfeldt – which would become the surprise theme of the night. Just over halfway into the opening stanza, Derrick Walton’s and-one layup gave Michigan 27 points; Bucknell had yet to reach double figures.

The rest of the game was semantics, as Michigan was never threatened and rolled to a 24-point win, 77-53, in the first round of the Legends Classic.

Zak Irvin led the way with an efficient 23 points on 13 shots while Derrick Walton chipped in 15 and a game-high eight rebounds.

Four Factors
Michigan Bucknell
52.4 eFG% 45.8
32.4 OReb% 13.3
9.1 TO% 25.8
28.6 FTR 25.0

But it was Bielfeldt who really stole the show from the get-go. The reclassified senior (Bielfeldt redshirted his freshman year during the 2010-11 season but will be free to transfer after this year for one graduate season, per John Beilein), whose previous career high was four points (on three occasions), poured in 18 points on an incredible 7-of-9 night from the field, including a 3-of-3 mark from downtown. Those three triples matched his career totals over two seasons of play.

In a head-scratching move, Bielfeldt was the first man off the bench when Mark Donnal picked up an early foul after he didn’t even get on the floor against Hillsdale and saw very limited action in the exhibition opener. When Bielfeldt fired up a three early on, even more questions were raised, but it found nothing by nylon. A couple minutes later, Bielfeldt let it fly again…money. Two possessions following, Spike Albrecht found Bielfeldt wide open underneath with a pretty over-the-shoulder pass from underneath the rim. Bielfeldt appeased the crowd with a thunderous slam.

Despite the where-did-this-come-from looks, John Beilein made it clear after the game that Bielfeldt earned the minutes and the sixth man spot after a couple impressive days in practice.

“The last couple of days of practice, he has virtually been a man-child playing with our guys. He has just been very, very good.”

Bielfeldt himself credited the big night to his feeling healthy and well-balanced on his feet following offseason surgery on his hip that had plagued him for years. He even attributed that bum hip to the reason for redshirting his first year.

Now that he’s healthy for the first time in a while, Bielfeldt should see increased looks in a far-from-solidified front court rotation. But Beilein isn’t ready to make any knee-jerk changes just yet.

“I’d like to see this consistently in practice over and over again. We know that that’s been the issue…I think he had great confidence today. Sometimes, as a senior, that just happens. We’ll wait and see how it plays out. I won’t make be making any knee-jerk (reactions), but I assume he’ll be in the game with Detroit.”

For now, all signs still point to redshirt freshman Mark Donnal remaining in the starting five, but his 11 minutes were completely over-shadowed by Bielfeldt while Ricky Doyle and D.J. Wilson saw nine and eight minutes, respectively.

While the season is still very early, however, it remains clear that Michigan’s strength is going to lie in the backcourt. Irvin was exceptional again, shooting confidently from all over the floor and flying for five rebounds. Walton, though he struggled a bit at the free throw line, showed off his improved finishing ability and also did his part in cleaning up the glass. And despite a quiet scoring night from Caris LeVert, the junior’s six rebounds, six assists, and two steals, along with a second straight zero-turnover performance, did not go unnoticed.

The Bison looked over-matched and unsure of themselves from right out of the gates, and a double-digit scorer didn’t emerge until Pellston, Michigan native Chris Hass rained down four threes and a mid-range jumper in a 2-minute, 28-second span of five straight possessions late in the second half.

Now that the young Wolverines have a couple games of experience under their belts, they’ll look to take down the Legends Classic after a matchup with Detroit on Thursday evening.

The guards certainly look ready for the challenges that Oregon and either VCU or Villanova will present, but a little may be needed from down low. Perhaps the answer is in the calves.

Quick Hitters:

• It was another quiet night for Michigan’s six true freshmen, as they only managed a combined nine points on 12 shots, with seven coming on bunnies from Ricky Doyle. Kam Chatman remains the best option at the four, and looks comfortable for the most part, but is still learning the offense and finding his spots to attack. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins played a total of just nine minutes late in the second half and each recorded a turnover. In all, five of Michigan’s six team turnovers were freshmen mistakes.

• Spike Albrecht’s shooting woes continued, as he hit just one of his five shots and none of his two triple tries, but his 29 minutes and 6:0 assist-to-turnover margin show Beilein’s great confidence in him. He remains the only rotation guard to not make a three yet.

Three Stars:

***Zak Irvin***
23 points (8-of-13 FG, 4-of-5 3pt, 3-of-4 FT), five rebounds (one offensive), one assist, one block, zero turnovers in 23 minutes

**Max Bielfeldt**
18 points (7-of-9 FG, 3-of-3 3pt, 1-of-2 FT), three rebounds (two offensive), zero turnovers in 16 minutes

*Derrick Walton, Jr.*
15 points (5-of-9 FG, 1-of-2 3pt, 4-of-7 FT), eight rebounds (one offensive), two assists, two steals, one turnover in 35 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 1-5 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 1 2 3 2 0 2 20
34 Mark Donnal* 2-4 0-1 0-1 3 1 4 3 4 0 0 2 0 11
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 5-9 1-2 4-7 1 7 8 0 15 2 1 0 2 35
21 Zak Irvin* 8-13 4-5 3-4 1 4 5 0 23 1 0 1 0 32
23 Caris LeVert* 2-11 0-3 2-2 0 6 6 1 6 6 0 0 2 30
02 Spike Albrecht 1-5 0-2 0-0 0 3 3 2 2 6 0 0 1 29
05 D.J. Wilson 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 8
12 M-A Abdur-Rahkman 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 4
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 5
30 Austin Hatch 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
32 Ricky Doyle 3-4 0-0 1-2 2 2 4 2 7 0 1 0 0 9
44 Max Bielfeldt 7-9 3-3 1-2 2 1 3 3 18 0 0 0 0 16
Totals 29-63 8-18 11-18 11 26 37 13 77 18 6 4 7 200
Bucknell 19-48 6-20 9-12 4 25 29 21 53 10 17 1 1 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch:
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Derick’s 3 Thoughts: Bucknell

Monday, November 17th, 2014


UM-Bucknell

Fans got their first look of the 2014-15 Michigan basketball team on Saturday afternoon, when the Wolverines discarded Hillsdale College 92-68. Now Bucknell comes to town after winning their opener in a much closer battle: 75-72 over Marist.

John Beilein’s teams haven’t always jumped out to fast starts. In 2013 Michigan was 6-4 and the season seemed to be spinning out of control before the Wolverines righted the ship and won the Big Ten by three games.

Game two comes to Crisler on Monday night as the Bison prepare to take on the offensively-charged Wolverines. Michigan will look to build off a strong finish against Hillsdale and avoid another slow start. Here are three thoughts to keep in mind while Michigan and Bucknell battle on the hardwood.

1. Don’t overlook the Bison

Michigan is one of the top contenders in the best conference in college basketball, so it should have no problem disposing of Bucknell in the Crisler Center. But the Wolverines can’t come into this matchup unprepared and disappear for stretches like they did against Division II Hillsdale.

Bucknell has won 20 or more games in three of their last four seasons and upset the Big Ten’s Penn State in Happy Valley last season. That win came in the second game of the year, when the teams were still working to find their identities. Michigan needs to come out of the tunnel strong and put the Bison away early.

Beilein won’t simply be able to put Caris LeVert on Bucknell’s top scorer to shut down the opposing offense Monday, as five players scored in double figures for the Bison in their opener against Marist. LeVert stifled Hillsdale’s Stedman Lowry after the freshman scored 11 of his team’s first 15 points in the opening five minutes.

Beilein’s young team will have plenty of chances to beat up on inferior competition, but it will want to bring it’s A game against the perennial Patriot League powerhouse Monday night.

Former Michigan graduate assistant Dave Paulsen returns to the Crisler Center as head coach of Bucknell

Former Michigan graduate assistant Dave Paulsen returns to the Crisler Center as Bucknell’s head coach (Getty Images)

2. Find a way to get the post involved

Michigan’s guards put on quite an offensive show in the opener, as Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin and LeVert each scored at least 20 points and combined for 63 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists. LeVert even made a bid for a triple-double, falling just two boards and a dime short on the night.

But as the nonconference schedule continues, Michigan should look to establish its trio of 6’9″ post players as stiffer competition looms. When the Big Ten season starts, the Wolverines will need contributions from the big men, even against elite post players like Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Purdue’s A.J. Hammons and Northwestern’s Alex Olah.

Yes, the offense will run through the talented guards all season, as it did through Trey Burke in 2012 and Nik Stauskas last season. But if Michigan can add an offensive presence in the paint, it will free up even more open shots for the sharpshooters.

Take a look at the performance of the big men on Saturday. Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle and D.J. Wilson combined to shoot six for eight from the field, scoring 18 points. If that trio continues to score with such efficiency, Michigan should really use these early-season games to develop the three freshmen.

Donnal and Doyle spent most of their time in the paint, grabbing five rebounds in 35 combined minutes on the floor. If Michigan works those two into the offense, it will be much more difficult for opposing teams to cheat toward the countless three-point threats around the arc in Beilein’s sceme.

Wilson, on the other hand, is much more likely to factor into the offense with a bigger role. The versatile forward played just nine minutes against Hillsdale, but can score inside and out, even knocking in a couple of three-pointers from the corner against Wayne State in the team’s exhibition matchup.

If Michigan doesn’t get the post involved during the early games when Michigan clearly holds the upper hand, then it will never happen. Tonight is the first chance to really help the three forwards spark their offense at the college level.

3. Keep up that freshmen hustle

One of the most documented themes of this Michigan basketball season is the youth of Beilein’s roster. A roster that lacks any seniors (counting Max Bielfeldt as a redshirt junior) will definitely hit some speed bumps due to lack of experience. But the important thing is to make up for that hole with hustle plays.

Beilein played six freshmen Saturday that figure to take on significant roles this season in Kameron Chatman, Aubrey Dawkins, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Wilson, Doyle and Donnal. Those players demonstrated their enthusiasm to be playing major college basketball against Hillsdale, stuffing the boxscore with what you might call “hustle stats.”

Perhaps the most important number from this group was eight: The total offensive rebounds the Wolverines pulled down in the opener. Donnal led the team with three offensive boards, Abdur-Rahkman added two and Wilson and Chatman each had one. The rest of the team failed to record an offensive rebound, but the hustle of those four players gave Michigan eight extra possessions for its deadly offense.

On the other side of the court, Donnal and Chatman led the charge on defense with a combined six steals. For a Wolverines defense that struggled to contain shooters, steals were the most effective way to stifle the Chargers’ offense. As coach Bacari Alexander said at halftime of the opener, the offense was sparked by these steals as the defense turned directly into points on the other end.

Chatman’s four steals were particularly impressive as he struggled on offense in his first college game, making one of seven field goal attempts and scoring just four points. Chatman showed great maturity, not letting his shooting woes stop him from making a major impact on the defensive end.

Michigan hoops preview: Bucknell

Monday, November 17th, 2014


UM-Bucknell
Michigan (1-0) vs Bucknell (1-0)
Monday, Nov. 17 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 8:00 p.m. EST | Big Ten Network
Offense
92.0 Points/gm 75.0
(30-58) 51.7 Field Goal % 41.7 (25-60)
(11-19) 57.9 3-pt FG % 35.0 (7-20)
(21-25) 84.0 Free Throw % 75.0 (18-24)
21.0 FT Made/gm 18.0
35.0 Reb/gm 41.0
16.0 Assists/gm 15.0
6.0 Turnovers/gm 7.0
Defense (2013-14)
68.0 Points/gm 72.0
(27-58) 46.6 Field Goal % 42.1 (25-57)
(10-23) 43.5 3-pt FG % 42.9 (12-28)
28.0 Opp. Reb/gm 29.0
11.0 Steals/gm 4.0
4.0 Blocks/gm 2.0
Individual Leaders
Derrick Walton Jr (22.0), Zak Irvin (21.0) Points/gm Dom Hoffman (14.0), John Azzinaro (13.0)
Caris LeVert (8.0), Mark Donnal (4.0) Reb/gm Dom Hoffman (9.0), John Azzinaro (6.0)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan opened its season with a 92-68 win over Division II Hillsdale College on Saturday afternoon. Tonight, the Wolverines will take the court for the first time against a Division 1 foe when they welcome Bucknell to the Crisler Center for the opening game of the Progressive Legends Classic.

Michigan and Bucknell have never faced each other, but if the name sounds familiar it is because the Bison have appeared in the NCAA Tournament several times in recent years, most recently in 2013.

Head coach Dave Paulsen served as a graduate assistant at Michigan during the 1989-90 season — the year after Michigan’s national championship — and received his Master’s degree from Michigan in 1993. He has followed a similar rise up the ranks as John Beilein, though he hasn’t reached the same heights, going from Division III St. Lawrence to Division II Le Moyne to Division III Williams to Bucknell, his first Division I stint. And he has had success everywhere he’s been with a 377-199 career record and a Division III national championship in 2002-03 while at Williams.

From the 2010-11 to 2012-13 seasons, Bucknell went 78-25 with two NCAA Tournament appearances, but last season the Bison finished just 16-14 overall and 11-7 in the Patriot League.

This season, Bucknell was picked to finish fifth in the Patriot League and opened the season with a 75-72 win over Marist on Friday. Three starters from last year’s team are back, but the biggest loss was Patriot League Player of the Year Cameron Ayers, who finished second in the conference in scoring with 15.4 points per game and 16.2 points in conference games. He was also the team’s best three-point shooter with 62 made threes. By comparison, Nik Stauskas made 92 last season and Zak Irvin was second on Michigan’s team with 62.

Junior guard Chris Hass is the leading returning scorer. The 6’5″, 184-pound Pellston, Mich. native averaged 11.1 points and 4.0 rebounds last season while shooting 42.7 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from downtown. However, he managed just five points on 2-of-10 shooting in the season opener on Friday. Joining him in the backcourt are 6’3″, 196-pound senior Stephen Kaspar and 6’0″, 190-pound junior Ryan Frazier. Kaspar averaged 6.5 points per game last season and scored 10 in the opener. Frazier averaged 4.2 and managed six on Friday.

Junior Dom Hoffman, a 6’7″, 222-pound forward, led the Bison with 14 points and nine rebounds on Friday, while 6’9″, 227-pound freshman Nana Foulland rounded out the starting lineup at center and scored just two points.

Sophomore guard John Azzinaro came off the bench to score score 13 points and grab six rebounds, while freshman J.C. Show joined him in the backcourt off with 12 points off the bench. Sophomore forward D.J. MacLeay was the only other player in double figures with 11 points off the bench.

As a team, Bucknell shot 41.7 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from three-point range while out-rebounding Marist 41 to 29.

Bucknell will provide a tougher test for Michigan’s young team than Hillsdale did on Saturday, and it will be a good early-season test before Michigan visits Brooklyn, N.Y. next week for the final four of the Progressive Legends Classic. The game will be televised on Big Ten Network at 8 p.m.

Banner day: Michigan 92 – Hillsdale College 68

Saturday, November 15th, 2014


Michigan vs Hillsdale 11-15-14(MGoBlue.com)

As Michigan prepared to kick off their 2014-15 college basketball season, there was one more thing to take care of before tip-off — celebrating last year’s success by raising their Big Ten Championship banner.

John Beilein did the honors of handing out championship rings to his returning players while newly minted captains Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert presented Beilein with his own ring and Michigan’s freshmen looked on from the corner. While divvying them out, Beilein said he simply told the players, “Let’s do it again.”

The accomplishment was remembered briefly, the banner was raised, and the next quest began.

Hillsdale, a Division II squad playing the game as an exhibition, came out firing, perhaps taking advantage of a little lackadaisical Wolverines squad. Stedman Lowry nailed two deep threes and a layup to help the Chargers jump out to a 12-3 lead just over four minutes in.

Mark Donnal opened the scoring for Michigan before the mini Hillsdale run was stemmed by back-to-back-to-back triples from the Big Three of Derrick Walton, Jr., Zak Irvin, and Caris LeVert, respectively.

Hillsdale stayed level with Michigan for a few more minutes, but the Wolverines closed the half on a 31-14 after being tied at 19 midway through the first stanza.

Four Factors
Michigan Hillsdale
61.2 eFG% 55.2
25.8 OReb% 15.6
8.7 TO% 20.3
43.1 FTR 8.6

The Chargers’ efforts to mount a second half comeback never got them within double digits as Michigan cruised to a 92-68 victory.

For Michigan, those Big Three carried the load offensively, combining for 63 of the Maize and Blue’s final output. Impressively, Walton, Irvin, and LeVert each eclipsed 20 points individually while also dishing out 13 assists to two turnovers together.

The defense certainly has some work to do, but after the game, Beilein credited most of Hillsdale’s success to a talented roster that sticks together and plays more like a program than a team. Kyle Cooper led the way for the Chargers with a big double-double of 28 and 10 while Lowry finished as the only other double-digit scorer, adding 15.

Michigan’s freshmen continue to come along slowly, but provided some quality minutes today. Kam Chatman notably played 30 minutes and recorded four points, rebounds, and steals, but went just 1-for-7 from the field and lost his man multiple times on defense to lead to easy opposition points. Ricky Doyle led the freshmen in scoring with seven points in nine minutes, but redshirt freshman Mark Donnal was clearly the best big man for Michigan, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds in 26 minutes.

There was nothing too extraordinary about today’s win, but it was refreshing to see the offense firing again, as the Wolverines made 51.7 percent of their field goals and a crazy 57.9 percent of their threes.

Beilein certainly recognizes a quality program in an opponent, but he’s built one heck of a program here in Ann Arbor. That program’s goals are one game closer to glory again.

Quick Hitters:

 All of Michigan’s freshmen saw action, with Austin Hatch entering in the final minute to a rousing applause. Chatman impressed with his knowledge of the offense and will clearly lead his classmates in minutes early on; he displayed very nice control on a terrific steal at halfcourt, behind-the-back dribble to shimmy past a defender, and excellent and-one finish. Aubrey Dawkins saw only six minutes but made a three and leapt out of the gym to grab an offensive rebound while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman only played five minutes and went 0-for-2 from the floor.

 Michigan is off to a good start in the turnover department, turning it over on just 8.7 percent of their possessions while forcing Hillsdale into a 20.3 percent turnover rate, leading to a whopping 25-0 advantage in points off turnovers. The Wolverines recorded 11 total steals, with Chatman, Donnal, and Albrecht all getting multiple takeaways, on a variety of passes picked out of mid-air leading to breakaways.

 Caris LeVert finished just one assist and two rebounds shy of a triple-double in 33 minutes, but when asked about his play after the game, Beilein was quick to praise his nine assists and zero turnovers. LeVert looked extremely smooth and in control with the ball in his hand and facilitated much of Michigan’s offense. Zak Irvin’s stroke looked very good, and he nailed three mid-range jumpers from just inside the three-point line a la Glenn Robinson III.

Beilein Tie Watch:
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Three Stars:

***Caris LeVert***
20 points (7-of-12 FG, 4-of-6 3pt, 2-of-3 FT), eight rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block, zero turnovers in 33 minutes

**Derrick Walton, Jr.**
22 points (5-of-8 FG, 3-of-4 3pt, 9-of-10 FT), four rebounds, four assists, one steal, one turnover in 34 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
21 points (8-of-12 FG, 3-of-6 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), one rebound, one steal, one turnover in 29 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 1-7 0-0 2-3 1 3 4 2 4 0 1 1 4 30
34 Mark Donnal* 3-4 0-0 3-4 3 1 4 0 9 1 2 1 2 26
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 5-8 3-4 9-10 0 4 4 1 22 4 1 0 1 34
21 Zak Irvin* 8-12 3-6 2-2 0 1 1 1 21 0 1 0 1 29
23 Caris LeVert* 7-12 4-6 2-3 0 8 8 1 20 9 0 1 1 33
02 Spike Albrecht 2-7 0-2 0-0 0 2 2 0 4 2 1 0 2 16
05 D.J. Wilson 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 3 4 0 2 0 0 1 0 9
12 M-A Abdur-Rahkman 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 5
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-2 1-1 0-0 2 1 3 0 3 0 0 0 0 6
30 Austin Hatch 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
32 Ricky Doyle 2-2 0-0 3-3 0 1 1 1 7 0 0 0 0 9
44 Max Bielfeldt 2-2 0-0 1-1 1 0 1 0 5 0 0 2 1 7
Totals 30-58 11-19 21-25 8 27 35 7 92 16 6 4 11 200
Hillsdale College 27-58 10-23 4-5 5 23 28 21 68 18 14 5 2 200
Full Stats

Michigan basketball 2014-15 season preview: Caris’ turn

Saturday, November 15th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-2014-15Preview

Every year, college basketball starts in mid-November and ends with the conclusion of the Big Dance in early April. The season seems to pass in a flurry of magical moments, the kind where you blink your eye and they’re gone.

The time in between, on the other hand, feels like an eternity.

But just like the cool wind has begun to bring a crispness to the Michigan air and the leaves have all fallen to their cruel death, basketball is finally back. Excitement will brew and hearts will break, but most of all, it will be one hell of a ride.

(Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

Caris LeVert looks to step into Trey Burke’s and Nik Stauskas’ role as go-to guy for the young Wolverines (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

For Michigan fans, it’s an increasingly familiar start to the season. The football season has been a lost cause for what seems like many months, and all faith lies in the hands of John Beilein — the coaching savior of the program. After sending a trio of sophomores off to the NBA following another deep run in the Dance, the Wolverines will be breaking in a host of new faces while relying on a core of three young veterans to lead.

Caris LeVert, the one-time Ohio commit and Michigan after-thought, is the undisputed go-to guy. Zak Irvin, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball and freshman just-a-shooter, will look to flank LeVert and prove that his offseason strides are for real. And Derrick Walton, the sophomore point from Detroit, will run the show with a quiet confidence.

Joining those three are five true freshmen and one redshirt freshmen who have yet to see real playing time but will all be forced to contribute in some way. Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal, two raw big men, will do their best to replace Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Mitch McGary. Kameron Chatman and D.J. Wilson, two West Coasters, will try to make fans forget about Glenn Robinson III. Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, two late signees that didn’t get a look from any big name school other than Michigan, will fight for minutes with a chip on both shoulders.

But one other returning player perhaps best emulates the whole Michigan team. In the spring of 2012, John Beilein reached out to an under-sized point guard that no one wanted. In fact, this player had gotten so little attention that he felt the need to spend an extra year in prep school. After finishing up there, however, still the biggest school that came calling before Michigan was Brown.

As a freshman, Spike Albrecht played his role all year until nearly springing the Wolverines to a National Championship. After his 15 minutes of fame, Albrecht returned to be a backup yet again, but performed in the same way he was asked to. This season, the junior will again come off the bench, but he will play the way he needs to in order to help the whole team be successful.

Albrecht is still under-sized, unathletic, and underwhelming. Michigan as a whole has also been consistently over-looked since Beilein took over with his unorthodox style. But like Albrecht, Michigan plays the way they are supposed to, overcomes expectations, and consistently surprises.

After losing so much talent and production from last season, many continue to write the Wolverines off as a flash in the pan. Yes, pundits have finally become smart enough to pencil the Maize and Blue into the NCAA Tournament, but they don’t really take their chances of doing much in the Big Ten or on the national stage seriously.

Well, guess what? With another banner going up in Crisler this afternoon, maybe it’s time to start taking John Beilein and his Michigan program seriously. Sure, the unknowns abound. But throughout the course of the season, the baby steps will turn into leaps, and the Wolverines will be competing for all the glory – like usual.

Predictions:
Top Five Scorers Top Five Rebounders
Caris LeVert Mark Donnal
Derrick Walton Caris LeVert
Zak Irvin D.J. Wilson
D.J. Wilson Ricky Doyle
Kameron Chatman Zak Irvin
Top Five Assists Top Five Three-Point Shooters (%)
Derrick Walton Caris LeVert
Caris LeVert Zak Irvin
Spike Albrecht Derrick Walton
Kameron Chatman Spike Albrecht
Zak Irvin D.J. Wilson
Superlatives
Most improved player: Zak Irvin
Most valuable freshman: D.J. Wilson
Most valuable player: Caris LeVert
Final record: 27-9 (13-5 Big Ten)
Conference finish: T1
Postseason: NCAA Tournament, Elite Eight