Now that we have already broken down Michigan’s freshmen and analyzed the point guard and wing positions, let’s preview the biggest unknown for the Wolverines — the bigs. Michigan graduated Jordan Morgan and lost Jon Horford and Mitch McGary to transfer and the NBA Draft, respectively, last season. Now, the Maize and Blue look to replace the lost production with a stable of inexperienced big men and one rarely used senior.
|#34 Mark Donnal – 6’9, 240 – Redshirt Freshman|
|2013-14 stats: N/A (redshirt)|
|Projected 2014-15 stats: 5.3 pts (55% FG, 35% 3pt, 68% FT), 3.8 reb, .5 ast, .4 blk, .4 stl, .4 TO, 20 min/game|
With a year of practice under his belt, Mark Donnal looks to be the safe bet to start at the five – at least early in the season. The Toledo native provides Beilein with yet another shooting threat, and Donnal has bulked up after being far too skinny to play last season.
But there is clearly work to be done. In Michigan’s exhibition win over Wayne State, Mark Donnal started down low but looked timid at times and struggled to deal with contact around the basket. With his body starting to fill out, Donnal simply needs to be strong with the basketball in his hands, get good position on the boards, and battle with what he has. He’ll look to add more muscle next offseason, but it’s very difficult to put on any weight during the grueling season.
This year, Donnal won’t be asked to carry much of the scoring load, but I really like his versatility and all-around game. When I scouted him in a high school game, Donnal shot beautifully from deep but also showcased an array of face-up and back-to-the-basket moves for easy finishes at the rim in addition to a couple monster dunks and blocks. The competition is obviously a few steps above the high school level, but Donnal’s outside-in skillset is hard to deny.
Donnal also runs the court very well and showcased an intelligent Euro-style slap-out on offensive misses in the exhibition game. Most players simply look to corral the rebound, but Donnal knows that if he can’t grab it, he can at least try to slap it back outside, where his guards are likely to get the rebound.
|#32 Ricky Doyle – 6’9″, 245 – Freshman|
For a complete look at Doyle, please see his freshman preview.
Ricky Doyle is the yin to Mark Donnal’s yang. Where Donnal excels further from the basket and should develop into a nice perimeter threat while continuing to work on his game down low, Doyle is a true old-school post. Doyle loves to catch the ball with his back to the basket, make one move, and put it up. Beilein raved about Doyle’s hook shot during Media Day, and Doyle’s willingness to bang in the post makes him the most similar returning player to Jordan Morgan.
Doyle’s strengths this year will lie in his rebounding ability and his passing. He had a couple nice dishes on Monday despite not recording an assist, and his 2/2 line from the field should be pretty typical – he’s not going to shoot or score much, but he is also not going to take many risky shots. Doyle’s big body and strength will be key when Michigan faces the likes of Arizona, Wisconsin, and Syracuse this year.
So while Doyle’s skillset seems most typical and perhaps the safest of Michigan’s bigs, his shortcomings make him the clear backup at this point. The worry with keeping Doyle on the floor too long stems from two areas: defense and handling. Doyle has worked long and hard in the weight room to improve his strength and quickness, but he is still clearly too slow to defender quicker bigs or provide adequate help defense.
During Media Day, Assistant Jeff Meyer was going through a simple defensive shuffle drill with everyone. When Meyer pointed left, the players needed to shuffle as quickly as possible that direction; when he pointed right, they’d change direction. The majority of the players were able to take two or three shuffle steps in both direction every time Meyer pointed; Doyle, however, would barely get his shuffle foot down once before having to shuffle the opposite way. In another drill where the bigs practiced hedging screens, Doyle let Spike Albrecht split through him and the screened defender as if no one was there two straight times. Beilein had to stop the drill and give Doyle a word of advice.
When it comes to handling, Doyle almost treats the ball as a grenade that would explode if it hit the floor. He is far from a confident dribbler at this point and will be an easy pick-pocket if he holds onto the ball too long. Throughout the season, you may even be able to count the number of dribbles Doyle takes on two hands.
|#5 D.J. Wilson – 6’9″, 220 – Freshman|
For a complete look at Wilson, please see his freshman preview.
Wilson’s natural position at Michigan will end up being on the wing, as previewed in our piece earlier this week, but he will also see some minutes at the five backing up Donnal and Doyle. Like Donnal, Wilson presents a deep threat that will force defenses to spread the floor.
Unlike either Donnal or Doyle, though, Wilson lacks the size to bang too much with opposing bigs. Wilson will likely be a fouling liability if he is to play big minutes at the five, but I still think his versatility and shot blocking provide some interesting options for Beilein down low.
Right now, Wilson looks a little bit more comfortable on the wing facing up, but he’ll continue to learn both positions and is willing to help out wherever he is needed.
|#44 Max Bielfeldt – 6’7″, 245 – Senior|
|2013-14 stats: .8 pts (28.6% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 0% FT), 1.1 blk, .1 blk, .1 stl, .1 TO, 4.7 min/game|
|Projected 2014-15 stats: 0.8 pts (40% FG, 30% 3pt, 50% FT), 1.0 reb, .1 blk, .1 stl, .2 TO, 2 min/game|
Max Bielfeldt committed to Michigan over Illinois a few years back but has found himself buried on the depth chart throughout his college career to date. This year, it looks like he again finds himself behind three freshmen at the five and may be relegated to providing strong leadership in practice and in the locker room.
Unfortunately for Bielfeldt, he simply lacks the size, skill, and athleticism to compete at center at the highest level right now, but he certainly showcases strong effort on the court. In the exhibition game, Bielfeldt sat out the entire first half but came in early in the second half and had a nice spurt resulting in five points, an offensive rebound, and two blocks in just seven minutes of play, so he’s certainly making a case.
We may see some spot minutes from Bielfeldt early on in the season as Michigan breaks in a slew of new big bodies who could struggle with foul trouble, but as those freshmen continue to mature and grasp the offense, Bielfeldt’s minutes will start to decline.
|5-spot (traditional center):|