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Posts Tagged ‘Jordan Morgan’

Michigan basketball media day: Bacari Alexander transcript

Thursday, October 30th, 2014


Bacari Alexander(Duane Burleson, AP file photo)

Michigan basketball held its 2014 media day on Thursday afternoon at the Crisler Center and our lead basketball writer, Sam Sedlecky, was there to gather quotes and observe the hour-long open practice. Here’s the transcript from assistant coach Bacari Alexander’s media session. He answered questions about rebounding, losing Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, how much he thinks about the Final Four loss to Kentucky, how to deal with so many new faces, and more.

Q: On rebounding with the current team
BA: Whenever you lose the collective prowess of a guy like Jordan Morgan who’s a fifth-year senior, Mitch McGary who we felt could be a double-digit rebounder, Jon Horford, who grabbed his share. You know, when you look at that unit, you do have some initial concerns. I think what we discovered over in Italy, the combination of Mark Donnal, along with Ricky Doyle, what we tried to do is look at them as one player, and now you add Max Bielfeldt into the mix, and you set a kind of template for them to shoot for.

We mentioned before 15 rebounds being our goal as a unit, and if you add D.J. Wilson into that mix, who may see some time in that position as well, I think it gives them an opportunity to take some of the pressure off while we develop the skills of rebounding. There’s a lot of nuances that go into being good on the glass in terms of knowing shooting angles, knowing the geometry where shots are being shot on the outer third of the floor, where they will likely bounce to, things of that nature. As they learn those things, we’re discovering in practice they’re becoming better rebounders, but until we go up against real competition, we really don’t know.

Q: On Doyle/Donnal rebounding
BA: Yeah, the competition is really allowing them to sharpen each other’s iron, if you will. Ricky Doyle walked in the door as a contact seeker. Mark Donnal learned how to be a contact seeker going against Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford banging, so I think it’s something we welcome, it provides a great competitive environment which allows them both to improve, so I encourage it.

Q: Can D.J. Wilson be a shot-blocking force?
BA: Yeah, there’s potential for all four of the guys, maybe not so much Max Bielfeldt, to be great rim protectors. D.J. Wilson has great length in terms of wingspan, so does Ricky Doyle. Mark Donnal has average wingspan, but he has experience, he blocked shots in high school, so that’s something that we could explore. Right now with their inexperience, I think the game moves so fast for them that they don’t necessarily process the opportunities to get those shot-blocking chances within the flow of the game. Once things kind of settle down, and the dust settles, I think they’ll see those opportunities.

The first thing we’ve gotta teach them is that most shot blocks generally come from the weak side, it’s not so much the primary defender. A lot of guys think because of their length, being the tallest guys on the floor in high school, think that they can block the guy’s shot that they’re guarding, which can ensue foul trouble.

Q: What did Jordan know without thinking about that these guys have to learn along the way?
BA: The rules of rebounding. Jordan Morgan, if you look back early in his career as a redshirt freshman, in those first maybe 6-10 games of the Big Ten, he was one of the tops in our league in offensive rebounding. So he understood when Tim Hardaway Jr. was shooting a shot on one side of the floor, how to get to the other and get an early weak-side wedge in air time as the ball was traveling from the fingertips to the basket. He understood maybe the importance of not dwelling on a missed chippy and retrieving that rebound for a stick back. He knew all of those different things as a fifth-year senior that these guys are learning on a daily basis.

Q: On dealing with extra motivation, how do you use or have you used that last shot from the Kentucky game?
BA: Not so much. I think when you look at the way that game ended, and how closely contested the shot was, it reminds us all that the game is a game of inches, and what we try to do with our veteran guys that are returning, like Caris in that particular situation, Zak, Derrick Walton, and Spike who were actually in the game, is we use that as a catalyst to understand the importance of valuing possessions. So when you look at that situation as a microcosm of a thought, valuing possessions is key. We shared a poem with the team the other day (titled) “It’s Only One Possession”, and I believe the author is Jeff Smith. We’re just trying to build that foundation to get these guys to understand that the cumulative effect of winning possessions throughout the course of a 40-minute game is vital.

Q: How often does it cross your mind that you were two seconds away from, potentially, back-to-back Final Fours?
BA: Every day.

Q: You think about that shot every single day?
BA: Every day.

Q: The idea of how far you went two years in a row, now you got six new guys who have to kind of deal with a certain level of, not expectations, but a standard, that you don’t want that dip, how do you deal with them, in expecting to keep it at that level, but not driving yourself too crazy?
BA: Well one of the things that’s fun when you try to compartmentalize the game for young, inexperienced players, is you make sure they understand that they have to beat drills before they beat opponents. So what’s gets measured gets done and we put them in a series of situations where we put measurements on it, whether it’s shooting drills, defensive stop drills, rebounding drills, free throws, etc. that sets the stage for them to be able to maintain those expectations, but before you can get into what the expectation is, whether it be from your fan base or from inside the locker room, you have to put one foot in front of the other, so winning and beating drills before you beat opponents is at the epicenter of our teaching.

Q: How are they doing on beating drills at this point?
BA: I think they’re doing a pretty good job. When you have so much inexperience, it can be sort of a seesaw approach. There’s great days or great stretches of days and then sometimes there’s that early pre-season fatigue that sets in where they’re not so good, but this group of guys has shown a great deal of hunger and a great deal of concentration, and an expectation amongst themselves of not wanting to let that enthusiasm and momentum subside.

Q: What did you take away from Italy from your bigs?
BA: The number one thing that came out of Italy in my mind from the post position is getting those guys to understand we can’t coach effort and strategy simultaneously, so playing as hard as you can and as long as you can was so key to both of those young guys because they hadn’t seen game reps, and they did a marvelous job of that, I think as a result that’s carried over into our practices, and it becomes an expectation. Now we can work on skill refinement, situations, things of that nature to allow them to at least be familiar with some of the scenarios that they’ll see in upcoming scrimmages and games.

Q: On rebounding with guards, specifically Caris, Derrick, Zak
BA: Yeah, we’ll rebound by committee, and one of the things that you might see early is big guys really learning to prioritize blocking their man out. OK, I may not get the carom, but my opponent isn’t either, and now when you get your guards rebounding, it ignites the fast break and gets us into our transition game quicker.

Q: Thoughts on Zak Irvin from last year taking a sixth man role with no public complaints
BA: Our core values govern everything we do. Zak Irvin, and anyone else on our roster, understands that unity, passion, appreciation, integrity, diligence, is right at the core of our culture, and so it’s very easy when you come into a program with such great examples being fed by his predecessors in Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Darius Morris, Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Jordan Morgan – all these guys that are so selfless – how difficult is it really to complain when you see Jordan Morgan encouraging Mitch McGary, who became a starter in the NCAA Tournament, and handled that like a champ, only for him to come right behind that and be a sixth man for us. So it’s those examples, that success, that leaves footprints that allows a guy like Zak Irvin to relish that role.

Q: Is it fair at all to say right now that Ricky (Doyle) might be a little bit more polished down low and Mark (Donnal) might be a little bit more polished outside?
BA: I think ‘polish’ wouldn’t be the word that I’d use to describe the disparity between the two. With Ricky you’re dealing with a guy that’s inexperienced obviously, and Mark, being a redshirt freshman, he’s inexperienced, but is a different level of inexperienced. What we’ve learned is that if one guy is ying, the other guy is yang. There’s days where Mark Donnal is pretty dominant on the practice floor, there’s days where Ricky Doyle is (dominant) on the practice floor. Right now it’s a toss-up. It’s a coin flip.

Q: On the length that the team has now compared to with Jordan Morgan and how that affects charges and blocking
BA: What we’re trying to do is get them to those spots early in possessions. A lot of times, whether you talk about the block/charge call or the shot-blocking call, it takes great timing. A lot of times our guys, because of the stimulus of the game moving much faster than a high school level, they’re a little tape-delayed on rotations. Oftentimes we get there and we may think about blocking a shot and it leads to a foul; other times we may get there thinking about taking a charge and it leads to a foul, so there’s still some timing that has to be invested that has to get those guys to that level, but with the length, I think one of the things that you’ll see defensively that we’ll do is quite a bit is chart deflections. How much can we deflect a ball, disrupt people, pressure passes, and pressure shots to see if we can affect field goal percentages that way as well?

Michigan basketball season preview: Freshman Ricky Doyle

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-RickyDoyle

Michigan Basketball is right around the corner, and it’s time now to start looking at the new and returning Wolverines as we begin to preview the upcoming 2014-15 season. As in the past, we will begin by taking a look at the unknowns – the freshmen – and continue with position-by-position breakdowns featuring the rest of the squad and conclude with a complete season preview, including our picks for breakout players, team MVP, record, postseason finish, and more. Get excited!

First up is freshman big man Ricky Doyle.

#32 Ricky Doyle
Measurements 6’9″, 245

7/18/14 Men's basketball promos

Hometown Cape Coral, Fla.
High School Bishop Verot HS
High School Stats (2012-13) 24.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks per game
AAU SWFL Gold
Projected Position(s) Center
Committed March 11, 2013
Major Suitors Miami (FL), Boston College, Notre Dame
Chance of Redshirt 0 percent
Recruiting Rankings
Rivals 3-star – Not ranked
Scout 3-star – Not ranked
ESPN 3-star – Position: 22, State: 9, Grade: 78
247 3-star – Overall: 212, Position: 55, State: 22, Grade: 88
247 Composite 4-star – Overall: 203, Position: 50, State: 21

Background: Ricky Doyle is in a unique position on this year’s Michigan basketball team as probably both the most important newcomer for this season’s squad while also being the biggest unknown. Hailing from Southwest Florida, Doyle never faced great high school competition, often towering over his opponents and seeing consistent double- and triple-teams. He also stayed away from the AAU scene for the most part, preferring to work on his game under the tutelage of his father Richard, who himself played professionally in France for 11 seasons.

Ricky Doyle

When the big man committed more than a year and a half ago, he could have never imagined the situation he’d be in when arriving in Ann Arbor. At the time, Michigan was preparing to make a run that would eventually turn into a magical NCAA runner-up finish. Jordan Morgan would be a fifth-year senior the next season, Mitch McGary was thought to be a surefire NBA lottery pick after his dominant tourney performance, and Jon Horford seemed like the heir apparent while then-commit Mark Donnal would be the back-up. Doyle, the big man whom little was known about, would have plenty of time to develop under the tutelage of John Beilein and Bacari Alexander before ever seeing meaningful minutes.

One year later and everything had changed. Morgan’s eligibility indeed ran out, but Mitch McGary ended up staying in Ann Arbor an extra season only to be forced into declaring for the Draft in early 2014 after testing positive for marijuana, Horford decided to transfer for his final year of college basketball, and Donnal redshirted his first year in Ann Arbor.

All of a sudden, the largest of doors had opened for Doyle without so much as a push.

Sensing the unexpected opportunity, Doyle went to work, packing on some muscle while reportedly following a personalized practice and workout regimen right from the hands of the Michigan coaching staff. He then went on to arrive on campus weeks before he needed to in order to put in extra work with strength and conditioning guru Jon Sanderson.

Now the one-time afterthought is sure to have a major hand in what is to come this season. In the Wolverines’ summer trip to Italy, Doyle looked up to the challenge, scoring 11.5 points per game while also leading the team with eight boards an outing – besting presumed starter Donnal in both departments – off the bench.

The once gangly looking high schooler also looks more the part of a Division I contributor these days with a svelte 6’9″, 245-point frame and reported 7’2″ wingspan.

So the question now is not whether or not Ricky Doyle will get a chance to show what he’s got as a freshman. The question, of course is whether Ricky Doyle is up for the challenge.

Video:



What He Will Provide:

1. A true back-to-the-basket presence: Throughout John Beilein’s coaching career, one could probably count the number of true big men he’s rostered on one hand. Put one more finger up for Doyle, though, because everything about him screams low-post player. Doyle showcases an array of moves on the block, many starting with his back to his defender, and finishes at a very high clip.

A few things really stand out about the three videos above in this regard. First, in the Italy cut-up, the big man does not put the ball on the floor a single time, rather preferring to put it in the hole with a quick and simple one- or two-step move. Second, Doyle will make big man assistant Bacari Alexander sleep a little more soundly at night because he never takes the ball low after catching an entry pass. I have spoken with Alexander numerous times about how much it frustrates him when a big man does this, but Doyle looks very smart in this department. Lastly, the Floridian is adept at finishing around the basket with both hands off his arsenal of moves and rarely takes a shot he’s uncomfortable with.

2. Rebounding: Highlight videos generally skip over more of the blue collar work that players put in on the court, and this is mostly the case here with Doyle, but the reports of his rebounding prowess are enough to list this as a strength for me. After Mitch McGary’s fleeting career that promised so many more big-time rebounds came to an end this spring, Michigan fans were left wondering where this team’s work on the boards would come from. Enter Doyle, who led the team in rebounding in Italy, has the size and willpower to bang down low, and should be much more focused on gathering than scoring, and we could have a very good rebounder on our hands.

3. Defensive Presence: Doyle will undoubtedly have plenty of growing up to do on the defensive side of the court, especially once a bevy of strong post players comes in Big Ten play, but he has the size, wingspan, and instincts to at least provide some defensive presence and make guards think twice about driving to his protected basket – another skill that’s been lacking of late in Ann Arbor.

What He Will Have to Work On:

1. Adapting to the college game: All freshmen will have some growing up to do, but few will be asked to do it as fast and at as tough a position as Doyle. To make things even more interesting, Doyle is not the most hyped recruit out there and has unfortunately spent the bulk of his career facing far over-matched teams on the high school circuit. Guys like Frank Kaminsky, Kaleb Tarczewski, and A.J. Hammons will be licking their chops going into their game(s) against Michigan if Doyle doesn’t show a ferocious competitive side early on in his career. One stat to keep an eye on here: fouls per 40 minutes. Doyle fouled more than any other Wolverine in Italy and will need to be careful about how many ticky-tack violations he is picking up while getting acclimated to this level.

2. Free throw shooting: Because Beilein teams are usually packed with outside shooters, free throw shooting is generally not a huge issue, but Ricky Doyle looks to have some work to put in at the charity stripe after making 60 percent in his four games overseas. If he can make his freebies consistently at a 60-65 percent clip, that will be a win for the Maize and Blue, but if his percentage starts dipping closer to the 50-50 range, teams could start to employ the hack-a-Shaq strategy early and often.

3. Range: Michigan does not lack in the shooting department, something that always makes them so tough to guard, and Ricky Doyle is a ways off from being asked to contribute anything more than finishing around the paint, but eventually the young big will have to at least make defenders respect him from 12-15 feet in order to reach his potential. Doyle looks well on his way to doing that, but it’s something he will have to continue to work on.

Burning Question: Will Ricky Doyle be a liability on the floor?

Perhaps this question is a bit blunt and unfair, but it’s the one thing everyone is dying to know. Most Michigan fans are level-headed and understand that Ricky Doyle is not going to come in and be a Trey Burke-level world-beater. Those types of players are once-in-a-decade types, and even rarer when it comes to big men, but Doyle is going to need to play at least 10-20 minutes per game. In that time on the floor, will Michigan be able to hold up against more experienced, savvy opposing centers, or will the Wolverines be scrambling to get the freshman off the floor and in the Player Development Center more?

Stat Predictions: 6.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 0.3 assists, 0.8 turnovers, 59% FG, 57% FT, 17 minutes per game

Bottom Line: Doyle seems to be putting in the work necessary to be the role player he will asked to be early on in his college career. Look for him to have his ups and downs like any freshman, but the less he’s noticed, the better it should be. He’ll be a solid, if quiet, contributor this season.

Michigan fifth in preseason Big Ten basketball media poll

Thursday, October 16th, 2014


Beilein(Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

Michigan has become one of the most consistent basketball schools in the Big Ten conference under head coach John Beilein. Over the past four seasons the Wolverines have racked up a 104-41 record en route to four NCAA Tournament appearances, two Elite Eights and a national championship game.

Michigan has been equally dominant within the Big Ten during that span, winning the conference by three games last season for its second title in three years. Beilein’s group is averaging over 12 wins in the Big Ten per season since 2010-11, never finishing below fourth place.

But an exodus of talent to the NBA and graduation has raised questions about the upcoming Michigan season. Sixty percent of the starting lineup is gone, including the team’s leading scorer and passer (Nik Stauskas) and top three rebounders (Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III).

The uncertainty is reflected in the Big Ten preseason media poll, released on Wednesday as the conference descends upon Chicago for Big Ten Media Day, which pinned Michigan at No. 5 in the league. Above Michigan are Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska.

You can see the full rankings, along with the point totals, below:

Preseason media poll
Rank Team Points
1 Wisconsin 378
2 Ohio State 322
3 Michigan State 305
4 Nebraska 299
5 Michigan 286
6 Minnesota 226
7 Iowa 214
8 Illinois 196
9 Indiana 163
10 Maryland 162
11 Purdue 95
12 Penn State 84
13 Northwestern 78
14 Rutgers 27

Wisconsin, the unanimous No. 1 team, returns nearly every major contributor from last season’s Final Four team. Ohio State struggled in 2014 and fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to 11th-seeded Dayton, but brought in one of the top freshmen classes in the country. Michigan State, like Michigan, lost in the Elite Eight in March and waved goodbye to three of its starters: Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling. Nebraska was knocked out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Baylor, but returns most of the team that finished the regular season 8-1.

Michigan fans can reasonably argue that the team should rank just behind Wisconsin, as Beilein has proven this team to be a mainstay among the top teams in the Big Ten. But it looks like the country wants emerging stars like Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr. to prove themselves this season before investing in this team.

Perhaps the skepticism stems from the lack of size on Michigan’s roster. Freshmen Rocky Doyle and Mark Donnal check in at 6-foot-9, the tallest listings on the team. If they can hold their own next to a slew of talented guards, Michigan should finish much higher than fifth in the Big Ten standings.

Drew’s mailbag: The last scholarship, Dawkins or Abdur-Rahkman, and redshirts

Monday, May 5th, 2014


Today is the second installment of Drew’s Mailbag, which will run every two weeks throughout the offseason, answering any questions you may have regarding Michigan athletics. You can submit your questions to Drew on Twitter (@DrewCHallett) or via email (drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com).

[Will Michigan] fill the last [basketball] scholly? – N Sulla (@NS0518)

For those who have not followed Michigan basketball’s roster situation since the end of the season, here is a quick recap: Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary all declared early for the NBA Draft, while Jon Horford decided to take his final year of eligibility to Florida. With four departures, Michigan had three available scholarships for next year’s team. John Beilein offered scholarships to two under-the-radar wings, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins. Both committed to the Wolverines soon thereafter. With one spot left, there appeared to be mutual interest between Michigan and Nevada transfer Cole Huff. However, last week, his AAU coach, Clint Parks, tweeted that Huff was down to Creighton and Iowa. Huff committed to Creighton yesterday.

So what should Michigan do with this last scholarship? Should Michigan use it now or bank it? Well, the Wolverines no longer have pressing needs for next season’s roster. Michigan did have them a few weeks ago when the departure of both Stauskas and Robinson III created a huge hole in the depth chart at the wing positions behind Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin. But Beilein filled it by bringing both Abdur-Rahkman and Dawkins into the fold. Now, the roster for next season is balanced with depth at each position, even with another scholarship available.

It's a long shot at this point, but if Beilein can get WVU transfer Eron Harris, he should use his final scholarship on the efficient guard (Michael Clements)

It’s a long shot at this point, but if Beilein can get WVU transfer Eron Harris, he should use his final scholarship on the efficient guard (Michael Clements)

Michigan should use this scholarship now only if there is a better option than the 2015 recruits Beilein is pursuing. Currently, Michigan is heavily involved in the recruitment of several top-50 prospects in the 2015 class. In fact, 24/7’s Crystal Ball projects that Michigan leads for both Jalen Brunson (No. 25 nationally in the 24/7 composite rankings) and Jalen Coleman (No. 35). On the other hand, almost every top-100 prospect in the 2014 class has signed his letter of intent because the recruiting cycle for that class is essentially over. The ones who have not signed yet are not Michigan targets either. Therefore, if Michigan wants to fill its last scholarship now, it should consider only transfers.

The only transfer still available with reported interest in Michigan is West Virginia’s Eron Harris. Harris is a 6’3” shooting guard who just completed a fantastic sophomore season. Harris averaged 17.2 points per game, converting 45.4 percent of his two-pointers, 42.2 percent of his three-pointers, and 85.6 percent of his free throws. As his shooting percentages indicate, Harris was an efficient scorer all season (113.4 offensive rating). But, notably, Harris was efficient while being one of WVU’s two go-to players (24.8-percent usage rate). There is no doubt that Harris would flourish in Beilein’s offense. Plus, Harris likely would receive substantial playing time at Michigan. Some project LeVert will be a first-round draft pick next summer. If LeVert declares for the NBA, Harris would be able to slip into the starting lineup at shooting guard as soon as he regains his eligibility for the 2015-16 season.

However, it is unclear just how serious Harris’ interest in Michigan is. Harris is transferring from West Virginia because he wants to play closer to his hometown of Indianapolis. This is why Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, and Butler are mentioned repeatedly as Harris’ potential destinations. Although Michigan is closer to Indianapolis than West Virginia, the 262 miles between Ann Arbor and Indianapolis still may be too far for Harris’ liking. This seems to be the main roadblock to Harris becoming a Wolverine.

Nonetheless, even if Harris transferred to Michigan, there would be one drawback: limited scholarships for the 2015 recruiting class. Michigan would have zero scholarships for the 2015 class unless one of four events happened: (1) a Wolverine declared early for the NBA after next season; (2) Beilein did not invite Bielfeldt back for his fifth year; (3) Beilein placed Austin Hatch on a medical scholarship; or (4) Michigan experienced any other natural attrition. One of these events likely will happen and open up a scholarship or two. But, with all of the talent Michigan is in on for the 2015 class, Beilein may want to save that scholarship for that class rather than accept Harris as a transfer.

The most likely scenario is that Michigan banks its final scholarship for the 2015 class. First, Harris likely will decide to transfer to a school closer to Indianapolis than Michigan. Second, even if Harris wanted to transfer to Michigan, Michigan’s admissions office can be a stickler for transferrable academic credits and prevent it from going through. However, given Harris’ skill set and Michigan’s future roster outlook, I think Beilein should try to land Harris if there is mutual interest.

How do you think [Aubrey Dawkins] is going to play into the rotation next year? –Andrew (@AndrewSWelch)

With the recent commitments of Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, we now know exactly whom Michigan will have available to play next season. Even if Eron Harris transferred to Michigan, he would not be eligible to play until the 2015-16 season. Therefore, we can begin predicting how John Beilein will distribute minutes for next year.

It is impossible to discuss how Dawkins will fit into next year’s rotation without including Abdur-Rahkman in that discussion. Both players will be lightly-recruited true freshmen whom Michigan brought into the program to provide depth at the wing positions. However, it is doubtful that Beilein needs both of them to be backups next season. Beilein prefers to use a short bench and give most of the minutes to his starters. His bench has received no more than a quarter of the available minutes each of the past five seasons. This generally is near the bottom of the national rankings. There is no reason to believe that will change next season when much of Michigan’s depth will be unproven freshmen.

Aubrey Dawkins is most likely headed for a redshirt next season

Aubrey Dawkins is most likely headed for a redshirt next season or at best a couple minutes per game

Additionally, Michigan returns a few players who have shown the versatility to play multiple positions within Beilein’s offense. With a veteran backup at point guard in Spike Albrecht, Beilein has played both Albrecht and starting point guard Derrick Walton, Jr. in the backcourt at the same time, sliding Walton, Jr. down to shooting guard. Caris LeVert has switched between shooting guard and small forward each of his first two seasons at Michigan. And Zak Irvin is mostly a small forward, but can be a stretch power forward, too. With all of these movable pieces, Beilein likely will need only one backup wing next year.

So the question is whether it will be Dawkins or Abdur-Rahkman who wins that job for Michigan. It is not an easy call because they have dissimilar games and bring different assets to the table. Dawkins is around 6’5” and seems to be more of a small forward than shooting guard. However, Dawkins probably could play both spots. Dawkins’ best strength offensively is his outside shooting, which Beilein highly covets in his players. Dawkins also has shown an ability to move very well off the ball and the athleticism to finish effectively at the rim. However, Dawkins seems to struggle to create shots for himself off the dribble, especially in isolation situations. Defensively, Dawkins appears to have the size to be an asset on the perimeter, but it is unknown if that will be the case immediately.

On the other hand, Abdur-Rahkman is closer to 6’4” and more of a shooting guard than small forward. He also can play both positions like Dawkins. Unlike Dawkins, though, Abdur-Rahkman’s best strength offensively is to create with the ball in his hands. He flourishes in transition, but also is effective in isolation and ball-screen situations. With the ball in his hands often, he also distributes the ball well to teammates. Abdur-Rahkman seems to be more a known defensive commodity on the perimeter than Dawkins, too. However, Abdur-Rahkman is an inconsistent outside shooter. This can be a major flaw in an offensive system that relies on perimeter shooting.

When comparing the two new wings and their fit on the roster, I think Abdur-Rahkman is more likely to win the job as the backup wing. Although Beilein likes all of his perimeter players to be able to consistently knock down open jumpers, Abdur-Rahkman brings a skill set to the table few others on the roster have. Michigan has lots of shooters. But the only two Wolverines that have shown an ability to create off the dribble are Walton, Jr. and LeVert. Irvin should do more of it with an expanded role next season, but Abdur-Rahkman will be able to showcase that ability, too. Plus, Michigan’s perimeter defense was a sieve last season. The Wolverines could use a strong, lengthy, versatile perimeter defender like Abdur-Rahkman.

Finally, Abdur-Rahkman will be 20 years old before he plays a game for Michigan, so he will be more physically mature than the younger Dawkins. Therefore, I think Dawkins will either receive about five minutes per game as the second backup wing or may even receive a redshirt next season.

With the possibility of adding one more [basketball commit], one or two of [Michigan’s] players could be redshirted next year. Who? – Bill (@BillOffer)

The only player whom Michigan definitely will redshirt is Austin Hatch. In June 2011, shortly after he committed to Michigan, Hatch was in a deadly plane crash that killed his father and stepmother. Hatch survived the crash, but was critically injured and placed in a medically induced coma for almost two months. As any decent human being would, John Beilein honored Hatch’s scholarship and told him that there would always be a place for him in Ann Arbor. It has been a long recovery for Hatch, but, in January 2014, he returned to the hardwood for the first time since the crash. The hope is that Hatch will be able to fully regain his pre-crash basketball abilities while at Michigan and play some meaningful minutes down the road. But that will not be next season, so expect Michigan to redshirt Hatch.

As I wrote in my previous answer, I think one of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman or Aubrey Dawkins will be redshirted. I am leaning towards Dawkins receiving that redshirt because Abdur-Rahkman is more physically mature and has a unique set of skills on Michigan’s roster. But this is by no means a certainty. There is always the chance that Beilein believes he needs additional depth at the wing spot and plays both this season.

The only other player that may receive a redshirt is incoming freshman Ricky Doyle. Listed at 6’9” and 235 pounds, Doyle is the big man of the 2014 class. Doyle has exhibited that he can be a proficient offensive player, but he was an unheralded recruit mostly because he lacks athleticism and explosion. A year in the weight room could do wonders for Doyle like it did for Jordan Morgan and has reportedly done for redshirt freshman Mark Donnal. However, Donnal and Max Bielfeldt are the only other two options Michigan has at center. Both are undersized and have zero combined starts. If they struggle to perform well or stay out of foul trouble, Beilein may have no choice but to throw Doyle in there as a third big body. Ultimately, I think the lack of experienced depth at center will mean Doyle plays a few key minutes here and there.

If you have any questions related to Michigan athletics that you want answered in the next mailbag, please tweet them to @DrewCHallett on Twitter or email them to drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com. 

2014-15 Michigan basketball projections

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014


UMBB

This year’s Michigan basketball team finished just shy of a second straight Final Four, but they still turned many heads along the way. People were incredulous that such a young group of players could play so well after losing two non-senior guards to the first round of the NBA Draft — including the previous season’s Player of the Year — and a preseason All-America big man to a season-ending injury, and that always seemed to be one of the first things brought up in every Michigan broadcast.

You might want to get used to that talk.

The NBA’s April 27 deadline for early entries into the draft has come and gone, but unfortunately for Michigan fans, it was certainly not without lots of action in Ann Arbor.

With the big three heading to the NBA Michigan will once again have a very young team next season (Detroit Free Press)

With the big three heading to the NBA Michigan will once again have a very young team next season (Detroit Free Press)

On April 15, just a couple weeks after the Wolverines’ heartbreaking loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight, sophomores Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III announced together that they would forego their final two years of college eligibility to enter the draft. Both were widely expected to leave — Stauskas after a breakout campaign that saw him take home Big Ten Player of the Year honors and Robinson III after he had passed on a likely top-15 selection a year before — but the departures will nonetheless make “what if” a common musing once again come basketball season.

A week and a half later, fellow sophomore Mitch McGary also declared for the draft – but without a press conference and just two days before the deadline. McGary, who didn’t play a game for Michigan  since the new year, announced that he would leave college after testing positive for marijuana during the NCAA Tournament, which would have resulted in a one-year suspension levied by the NCAA.

Many had speculated that McGary was going back and forth on his NBA decision until the bitter end, but his confession of the failed test and the NCAA’s denial of Michigan’s appeal brought light to the situation, and a source has confirmed that McGary would have returned to Michigan next season if he was not facing a suspension.

Regardless, all three have commenced their professional careers, leaving Michigan to regroup yet again.

So what does that mean for the Wolverines?

Well, for one, coach John Beilein and his staff are developing players at an incredible rate. Stauskas will be a first-rounder, and at least one of Robinson III and McGary will likely be there as well. If we can assume that, Michigan will have had four — maybe five — first round selections in two years.

Now, the philosophy of next man up must continue.

Most probably didn’t think this would be possible, but next season Michigan will be younger and less experienced than ever before in the Beilein era. Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht, and Max Bielfeldt are the only three players that have been in the program for two full seasons, and with the recent commitments of Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan will have a whopping seven players with freshman eligibility. Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, Jr., and a few walk-ons round out the roster with one year under their belts.

After butchering last season’s individual player predictions (but hey, I got the Big Ten record and the Elite Eight finish spot on), I think the time is ripe to look foolish again. So with that in mind, let’s take a wild guess at how the lineups will shape up, who will handle the scoring load, and how many games Michigan can pull out.

Mark Donnal has a huge task ahead of him in locking down Michigan's front court (Courtney Sacco, Ann Arbor News)

Mark Donnal has a huge task ahead of him in locking down Michigan’s front court (Courtney Sacco, Ann Arbor News)

The Bigs

Perhaps the biggest what if of next year would have been the “what if Michigan still had Mitch McGary, a potential big man All-American, along with a dynamic backcourt headlined by Caris LeVert, who is already garnering some All-American talk?” The same question could be asked of graduating senior Jordan Morgan and rising senior Jon Horford, who has transferred to Florida.

As my dad always says, though, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.

McGary is gone and Michigan’s only center candidate with any college game experience is Max Bielfeldt. Let that sink in a little.

The two freshmen vying for playing time will be Mark Donnal, who turned some heads in practice while redshirting last season, and Ricky Doyle, a true freshman from Florida whose high school competition was somewhat questionable.

Donnal seems to be the clear front-runner to start, and I am a huge fan of his game based off one live viewing of him in high school. Donnal possesses excellent range for a big man, which could make for a devastating combination in Beilein’s jack-happy offense, has solid length that should make him a serviceable rebounder and shot-blocker, and seems to be able to score from anywhere on the floor. Without raising too many eyebrows, I have to say that Donnal’s offensive game most closely reminds me of Doug McDermott and Adreian Payne as a junior and senior; obviously he will not score as much as McDermott did right off the bat, but Donnal’s versatility makes him a real threat.

Doyle would have been an excellent redshirt candidate this season but will likely be forced into some action with the limited depth. He is more of a back-to-the-basket type with a developing shot.

Bielfeldt has played spot minutes before and clearly has the upper hand when it comes to experience, but I don’t see great potential. He is a little short on size, talent, and athleticism; his range could score him a few minutes again, but I expect Donnal to get the lion’s share.

Minute Breakdown:
Donnal: 25 Doyle: 10 Bielfeldt: 5

The Wings

Caris LeVert is the de facto leader for Michigan next season (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

Caris LeVert is the de facto leader for Michigan next season (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

At the wing spots for Michigan, you will again find – surprise! – more youth.

Caris LeVert is obviously the one that everyone is talking about as the next potential NBA early entry after a breakout sophomore season, and as a junior this coming year, is a shoo-in to be a captain and a starter. He’s also likely to be the guy, at least to start the season, who would be Beilein’s choice to take it on the last possession. If LeVert sticks around Ann Arbor this summer to work on his game and packs on a few more pounds to his lanky frame, the All-America talk will not fade any time soon.

Zak Irvin will be the only other wing with experience, and after a year of some excellent spot-up shooting for a true freshman, he will be asked to develop into more than just a shooter in the upcoming offseason. The former Indiana Mr. Basketball has shown in the past that he can be a great scorer, and his length makes him a strong candidate to emerge as one of Michigan’s best on-ball defenders. He flashed some encouraging signs late in the season. If Irvin sticks around for Camp Sanderson, expect many headlines on a potential breakout for him as well.

LeVert and Irvin should both see 30-plus minutes per game at some combination of the two and three spots in the offense, and Irvin could slide to the four on occasion as well. If Irvin sticks mostly to the three, however, it will be two true freshmen, just like at the five, earning the vast majority of playing time at the four spot.

Those two freshmen are Kameron Chatman of Oregon and D.J. Wilson of California. Chatman measures in around 6’7″ and comes in as the highest-rated recruit of the class, while Wilson is listed around 6’8″ and recently jumped up in the ranks after a solid senior year. Both players have range out to the three-point line and length to spare. Chatman seems to be a little more perimeter- and offensive-oriented at this point, but Wilson looks to have better bounce and shot-blocking skills. I would expect both to earn a good chunk of playing time right off the bat in what will be one of the more interesting competitions to watch.

Rounding out the wing depth are the two late signees in Abdur-Rahkman and Dawkins. I admittedly have to watch much more video on each before formulating any sort of scouting report, but they both are garnering the “Trust in Beilein” philosophy for now. After seeing unheralded late signees like Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert pan out pretty well so far, that seems to be a fair approach. Both come in in the 6’4″-to-6’5″ range with solid athleticism and were on track to be mid-majors until Beilein came calling. Abdur-Rahkman is generally viewed as more of a slasher who needs to work on his shot while Dawkins has been called more of a shooter who needs to work on his handles. With hard work, both will certainly be given the chance to develop into rotation players, but they will likely play sparingly next year.

Minute Breakdown:
4 Wilson: 20 Chatman: 15 Irvin: 5
3 Irvin: 25 Chatman: 5 LeVert: 5 MAAR/
Dawkins
: 5
2 LeVert: 30 MAAR/
Dawkins
: 5
Albrecht: 5

The Point Guards

At perhaps John Beilein’s most critical position, Michigan will luckily have two players with a combined three years of college experience. Though Spike Albrecht will only be a junior and Derrick Walton, Jr. a sophomore, they will be the gray beards directing traffic.

Albrecht is a steadying force and a pretty decent bet to be the only player from the 2012 recruiting class to finish out his college eligibility. He is the known commodity – a plus passer, a plus ball handler, and a plus shooter with middling size and athleticism.

Walton is a prime candidate to break out, and if previous sophomore seasons from Darius Morris and Trey Burke are any indication, too big of a breakout from Walton could have Michigan fans shaking in their boots again. The quiet floor general has plenty of quickness, a shot that continues to improve, and a strong ability to finish at the rack after struggling with that early last season. He has also shown poise with some excellent late-game free throw shooting, which is always a great attribute for a point guard. One of the bigger areas Walton can improve on this offseason will be on the defensive end, where he could develop into a nice thief.

Minute Breakdown:
Walton, Jr.: 30 Albrecht: 10

Starting Lineup and Team Predictions

Starting Lineup:
1 2 3 4 5
Walton, Jr. LeVert Irvin Chatman Donnal
Team predictions:
MVP Caris LeVert
Most Improved Player Zak Irvin
Freshman of the Year Mark Donnal
Newcomer of the Year D.J. Wilson
Top 3 Scorers (in order) LeVert, Walton, Irvin
Players Shooting 40%+ from 3 (in order) LeVert, Irvin, Walton, Wilson, Albrecht
Projected Record 25-11 (11-7)
Projected Finish Sweet Sixteen
Bold Prediction D.J. Wilson earns Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors

What do you think? Do you agree with these projections? If not, what changes would you make?

Mitch McGary to enter NBA Draft

Friday, April 25th, 2014


McGary-Stauskas(MGoBlue.com)

Mitch McGary has announced his decision to follow Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III to the NBA Draft, forgoing his final two seasons in Ann Arbor following an NCAA-mandated one-year suspension for testing positive for marijuana.

“Mitch has had a tremendous impact on our program from the moment he committed to us,” said head coach John Beilein. “He has injected an enthusiasm that cannot be matched. This is why he is loved by the coaching staff, his teammates and Wolverine fans. The progress he has made on and off the court has been outstanding. His willingness to face a personal issue head on and his positive work ethic during his recent injury have helped him to grow in many ways. We know that he will put all of his energy and effort toward achieving his goals. We will continue to assist and support Mitch as he pursues a career in the NBA.”

McGary averaged 7.5 points and 6.3 per game as a freshman during the 2012-13 season, but broke out during Michigan’s NCAA Tournament run to the national championship game. In those six games, McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds, recording three double-doubles. He was named to the NCAA Tournament All-South Region team and the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament team. Entering this season, McGary was named to five Preseason All-America teams and a preseason candidate for the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith Award, and USBWA’s Oscar Robinson Award.

McGary hopes to be a first round selection in the NBA Draft this June (MGoBlue.com)

McGary hopes to be a first round selection in the NBA Draft this June (MGoBlue.com)

A back injury limited McGary to start the season and he played in just eight games before undergoing back surgery that ended his season in mid-December. In those eight games, he averaged 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds despite not being fully healthy. He recorded double-doubles against Florida State (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Duke (15 and 14).

“My family and I want to thank everyone for giving us privacy and the time to make this decision,” said McGary. “As you know, it was important for us to weigh all the factors that go into something like this. With that being said, I am ready to move on to the next stage in my life and enter the NBA Draft.”

The failed drug test, as reported by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, came during this year’s NCAA Tournament run while McGary was still sidelined. He was selected for a random test following Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen win over Tennessee. Following the Final Four, Michigan and McGary learned he had failed the test and would face a one-year suspension for a first-time offender if he returned to school next season. From there, whether McGary wanted to return to school or not, the decision became easy: enter the draft. But credit McGary for coming clean.

“Being a part of a program that values integrity, it is important to let everyone know of a poor decision I recently made. I tested positive for marijuana during the NCAA Tournament. We were notified of that result after the Final Four. I regret thoroughly disappointing my family, coaches and administration. Despite all of this they have been understanding and helpful over the last couple of weeks.

“I take full responsibility for this poor choice and want to apologize to everyone, especially those I have grown close to during my fabulous two years at the University of Michigan.

“I love the University of Michigan and all it has allowed me to do. I have had my ups and downs, especially with my injury this season. I want to thank all the fans for embracing me. This has been the best two years of my life and I have some unbelievable memories. I know that I will be a Wolverine forever. Go Blue.”

With McGary, Stauskas, and Robinson III all heading to the NBA, in addition to the graduation of Jordan Morgan and transfer of Jon Horford, Beilein faces an enormous task next season. He has quality pieces in place in Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr., and Zak Irvin, but virtually no experience inside. Max Bielfeldt averaged just 4.7 minutes per game and less than one point this season. Mark Donnal, a four-star freshman who redshirted, becomes perhaps the most important player on the roster next season and incoming big man Ricky Doyle will likely have to play as well.

Michigan is also in the market for a transfer, most notably Nevada big man Cole Huff, but he won’t help next season due to the transfer rule that will force him to sit out a season.

How Michigan’s points and bigs performed relative to expectations

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014


J-MO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A return to Michigan would immediately solidify Michigan’s front court, allowing McGary to play the five and Donnal the four with Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert as the wings and Derrick Walton Jr. handling the ball. That would be a lineup worthy of Big Ten title consideration. If he doesn’t return, however, there will be plenty of questions to be answered inside.
______________________________________________________________________________

Check back at the end of the week for Sam’s look ahead to the 2014-15 season with some very early team and player predictions.

Stauskas, Robinson III declare for NBA Draft

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014


Stauskas-Robinson

Michigan star guard Nik Stauskas and athletic forward Glenn Robinson III announced Tuesday afternoon at a press conference at the Crisler Center that they will declare for the NBA Draft after their sophomore seasons with the Wolverines.

In two seasons, Stauskas and Robinson helped Michigan advance to the national championship and then return to the Elite Eight in addition to the program’s first outright Big Ten title since 1986.

Stauskas took over a team that lost leaders Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. from the 2012-13 team and came within one miracle shot of leading his team back to the final Four.

Thanks to an offseason dedicated to improving his game, Stauskas not only increased his scoring from 11 points per game to 17.5 during his second college season, he also led the team with 3.3 assists following the exit of assist-leader Burke.

“For as long as I can remember I have had a goal of playing in the NBA, whether it was on my backyard court or winning the Big Ten title at Crisler Center,” Stauskas said in a statement released by U-M media relations. “Following some heartfelt discussions with my family, Coach Beilein and the rest of the coaching staff, I am ready to pursue my goals and begin my NBA career.

Robinson and Stauskas are leaving early. Michigan now turns its attention to McGary's decision (Detroit Free Press)

Robinson and Stauskas are leaving early. Michigan now turns its attention to McGary’s decision (Detroit Free Press)

“What cannot be understated is how the University of Michigan has helped prepare me for this moment both on and off the court,” continued Stauskas. “This great university took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to achieve my college basketball dreams. I hope in some small way, I was able provide some lasting moments. As I move forward into this next stage of my life, it cannot be said enough how thankful I am to the Wolverine fans for embracing me. I will always be a Wolverine at heart.”

Robinson, often criticized for his seemingly nonchalant demeanor, stepped up during the later part of the season to give Michigan the boost it needed to contend for a championship. He finally found a comfort level with his mid-range jumper and became an all-round offensive weapon as a result.

“I have thought a lot about the next step in my career over this past year,” said Robinson. “After talking with my mom, my dad, my grandma, Coach Beilein and the coaching staff, I feel the time is right for me to begin my professional career and declare for the NBA Draft. I am confident I have the work ethic, the talent and maturity to pursue this path successfully.

“It has truly been a blessing to have had the opportunity to attend to the University of Michigan and be part of this basketball program,” added Robinson. “The Wolverine fans and U-M alumni are the best in the world. I have developed many relationships and created so many positive memories that I know will last a lifetime. As excited as I am about my future, I will always be grateful for this wonderful two year experience at the University of Michigan.”

The two sophomores helped amass a school record 59 wins in two seasons in Ann Arbor.

Stauskas became a fan favorite with his clutch shooting, most notably jump-starting Michigan’s run to the regular season outright Big Ten championship this season with a step-back three-pointer in Madison to bury the No. 3 Badgers. The flashy guard ended his outstanding college career by dropping 24 points on the eventual-runner up Kentucky Wildcats. Stauskas played 39 minutes during the game and single-handedly kept the Wolverines in the game.

The departure of these two key pieces seemingly leaves the team in the hands of fellow sophomore Caris LeVert, pending the decision of Mitch McGary. LeVert similarly stepped up this season, more than tripling his minutes and trailing just Stauskas on the team with 12.9 points per game and 2.9 assists per game.

Though the loss of his leading scorer certainly stings, John Beilein had to expect this decision. If McGary returns for another season, then Michigan is equipped with enough returning talent to compete for another conference championship. If McGary follows in the footsteps of his classmates, then Beilein will once again have to work his magic with the incoming freshmen. But what’s encouraging is that he’s replaced a similar loss of production before. Pretty recently, in fact.

 

Four-star small forward Kameron Chatman and a pair of three-stars, center Ricky Doyle and power forward D.J. Wilson, certainly bring a fresh wave of talent to Ann Arbor, but filling the holes of all three sophomores would represent an extremely difficult test. Beilein proved he can cope with losing talent to the next level through the team’s shocking performance this season, but Michigan would certainly benefit from keeping at least one of the star sophomores to help LeVert mentor the newcomers.

The loss of Stauskas and Robinson doesn’t bury the defending Big Ten champions for the upcoming season, but McGary’s decision, which could come at any time, will certainly hold a much greater significance now that his teammates have moved on.

Inside the Numbers: The fifth golden era of Michigan basketball

Friday, April 11th, 2014


Michigan(MGoBlue.com)

The college basketball season officially has ended. Accordingly, this will be the final entry of my “Inside the Numbers” series for the 2013-14 athletic season. This hiatus will last a few months until I begin previewing the 2014 Michigan football team this summer. But I still will write for Maize and Go Blue in the meantime. I am starting a bimonthly mailbag. If you have any questions about Michigan football and basketball that you want answered, please tweet them to me (@DrewCHallett) or email them to me (drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com), and I will answer them here. On that note, I hope you enjoy my last “Inside the Numbers” piece on the 2013-14 Michigan basketball team. 

Michigan is a “football school.” Always has been. Always will be. This is expected when Michigan is the winningest football program of all-time, leads the Big Ten with 42 conference championships, owns 11 national championships, has three Heisman Trophy winners, plays its home games in the nation’s largest football stadium, and has made more television appearances than any other college football program. But this “football school” label should not overshadow the achievements of the Michigan’s basketball program. Especially right now.

Michigan basketball is not some poor or substandard program. Michigan has won 14 Big Ten regular-season championships, which is one more than the number Michigan State has won. The Wolverines have appeared in the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight 13 times each. Michigan has participated in the Final Four seven times. Only nine schools in the nation have advanced to the Final Four more often. And the Wolverines have celebrated one national championship. Indiana and Michigan State are the only Big Ten programs with more than one national title.

Unlike the football program, though, Michigan’s basketball program has experienced only sporadic success. Historically, Michigan has not always been one of the best basketball programs in the nation. Michigan has not competed for Big Ten or national championships on a consistent basis. When the Wolverines have competed at such a level, they have not been able to sustain it for an extended period of time. This is why, from the inaugural NCAA Tournament in 1939 to 2011, there had been only four brief stretches during which Michigan was near the top of the college basketball landscape.

A-Maize-ing Stretches of Michigan Basketball (1939-2011)

Years

Overall
Win Pct.

Conference Win Pct.

B1G Titles

Sweet Sixteens

Elite Eights

Final Fours

1964-66

79.27%

83.33%

3

3

3

2

1974-77

79.31%

79.41%

2

3

3

1

1985-89

78.31%

72.22%

2

2

1

1

1992-94

78.43%

72.22%

0

3

3

2

Other 58 Years

52.65%

43.46%

1

0

1*

0

*Michigan appeared in the 1948 NCAA Tournament when the field had only eight teams

When John Beilein arrived in Ann Arbor in April 2007, it had been 13 years since Michigan had last been considered elite and nine years since Michigan had participated in the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines were in a rut and in need of a new leader to rebuild their program. The first few seasons under Beilein were slightly rocky. Yes, Michigan overachieved in 2009 with a 21-win season and its first NCAA Tournament since 1998. But a disappointing sub-.500 record in 2010 and underwhelming start in 2011 gave the impression that Michigan was still a long ways away from the top of the mountain.

Then, suddenly, everything began to click a few weeks into the Big Ten season in 2011. With a worrisome 1-6 conference record, Michigan traveled to East Lansing, a place where it had not won since 1997, to play rival Michigan State. With the program trending downwards, Michigan seemed destined to suffer yet another loss at the Breslin Center. But Zack Novak and Stu Douglass had different plans. Novak buried a career-high six triples, and Douglass drilled a three-point dagger with 20.2 seconds left to secure a surprising victory for the Wolverines. The win turned around the season. Michigan closed with a 10-5 record and pushed No. 1 seed Duke to the brink in a promising NCAA Tournament appearance.

Thanks to Beilein's ability to identify under-the-radar recruits and develop them for his system, Michigan is amid another golden era (MGoBlue.com)

Thanks to Beilein’s ability to identify under-the-radar recruits and develop them for his system, Michigan is amid another golden era (MGoBlue.com)

While this was happening on the court, Beilein was striking gold on the recruiting trail. In August 2010, Beilein landed an undersized point guard, whom Rivals ranked No. 136 in the 2011 class when he committed. His name was Trey Burke. One month later, Michigan received a pledge from an athletic wing whose father played in the NBA. The commitment earned little fanfare, though, because Rivals ranked the prospect only No. 118 in the 2012 class. His name was Glenn Robinson III. In March 2011, a Canadian sharpshooter, whom Rivals ranked No. 106 in the 2012 class at the time, decided he wanted to be a Wolverine. His name was Nik Stauskas. Then, after Beilein landed the highest-ranked recruit of his career in the form of five-star Mitch McGary, Beilein added a last-second commit, whom Rivals did not rank nationally, to the 2012 class. His name was Caris LeVert.

The combination of Michigan’s end-of-the-season turnaround in 2011 and Beilein’s superb recruiting of under-the-radar prospects ushered in what can now be considered the fifth golden era of Michigan basketball. Since 2011, Michigan has posted an 83-27 overall record (75.45 win percentage). The Wolverines’ 83 wins are the most they ever have had in a three-year span. U-M’s 59 total wins in 2013 and 2014 are the most ever by the school in consecutive seasons. With this type of on-court success, Michigan recently has accomplished goals and records that it has not done been able to do since the Fab Five era.

For starters, Michigan has been the best Big Ten basketball program during this timeframe. Since 2011, Michigan has a 40-14 conference record (74.07 win percentage). No Big Ten school has more conference wins or a higher conference win percentage in that span. The closest is Michigan State with 38 conference wins. Accordingly, the Wolverines won a Big Ten regular-season championship in 2012 and 2014. These were Michigan’s first conference championships since 1986. Further, Michigan ran away with the title in 2014, winning the Big Ten by three games. This was a feat no team had achieved since Michigan State in 2009. For the first time in almost three decades, Michigan sits atop the Big Ten without an equal.

Michigan’s success has translated to the postseason, too. Michigan has been no lower than a No. 4 seed in each of the past three NCAA Tournaments. Its No. 2 seed in 2014 was its highest since it was a No. 1 seed in 1993. Yes, the Wolverines fell unexpectedly to Ohio in the Round of 64 in 2012. But they have more than made up for it since then. Michigan has advanced to the Elite Eight each of the past two seasons, doing so in consecutive years for the first time since 1992-94. This included a magical run to the national championship game in 2013, where Michigan finished as the national runner-up. In these two NCAA Tournaments, the Wolverines accumulated eight wins. No other school in the nation can claim more in this span.

Michigan is amid this golden era of regular-season and postseason success because it has become the nation’s gold standard for offense. The Wolverines have finished in the top 20 in adjusted offensive efficiency in each of the past three seasons. Michigan actually led the nation in this category in both 2013 and 2014. In fact, Michigan’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 124.1 in 2014 was the highest by any team in the nation for the 12 seasons this stat has been tracked. Therefore, Michigan’s offense this past season was the most efficient in the nation since at least 2002. Beilein’s offensive system is predicated on having four guards or wings on the court, spacing, constant motion, and outside shooting. With the proper weapons at Beilein’s disposal, few teams, if any, can score at a rate like Michigan.

Regardless of who goes pro, Michigan should remain elite next season (MGoBlue.com)

Regardless of who goes pro, Michigan should remain elite next season (MGoBlue.com)

And Beilein has found the proper weapons. Beilein has hauled in some of the best talent Ann Arbor has seen in decades, even if those players were not considered blue-chip recruits by other elite programs. In 2013, Burke was named the consensus National Player of the Year. It was the second time ever a Wolverine had received such an honor and the first time since Cazzie Russell in 1966. Additionally, Burke also was honored as a consensus first-team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year. Burke was Michigan’s first member of an All-America first team since Chris Webber in 1993 and first Big Ten Player of the Year since Glen Rice in 1989.

There were some outsiders who claimed that Michigan was a one-man program and would return to mediocrity with Burke’s departure. This was far from case. The following season, Stauskas became Michigan’s go-to player and blossomed into a star. Stauskas, like Burke in 2013, was named to an All-America first team and the consensus Big Ten Player of the Year. It was the first time a Wolverine had been a first-team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year in consecutive seasons since 1964-66 and 1988-89, respectively. McGary was a preseason first-team All-American in 2014, but his season was derailed by a lower back injury. LeVert was selected as a member of the All-Big Ten second team in 2014 after having a minimal role as a freshman the previous season. And Robinson III has been a two-time All-Big Ten honorable mention and projected to possibly be a first-round draft pick.

This is an exciting time to be involved with Michigan basketball. In each of the past three seasons, the team has competed for conference and national championships. The players have run Beilein’s offensive system to perfection, showing the rest of the nation how offense is supposed to be played. As a result, the players have received multiple national and conference honors to recognize their performances. Additionally, there have been so many other awards, honors, records, and accolades that Michigan and its players have attained since 2011, but there are too many to recognize all of them in this piece. It would be a stat overload. But the message is clear: this is the fifth golden era of Michigan basketball.

The logical follow-up question is, “How long will this fifth golden era of Michigan basketball endure?” Will Michigan drop from its lofty perch in the college basketball world quickly as it has historically? Or has Beilein built this program into a consistent contender that will be among the nation’s best for another decade-plus? This is anyone’s guess. If I had to give mine, I would lean toward the latter, even if one or two Wolverines declare early for the NBA Draft in the next week or so. Nonetheless, Michigan fans should not take this success for granted. Michigan may be a “football school,” but, at the moment, its basketball program is superior and may be for quite some time.

The M&GB Hail Awards: Basketball 2013-14

Thursday, April 10th, 2014


Pregame huddle(MGoBlue.com)

With the 2013-14 basketball season in the books and the Michigan Basketball Awards Celebration approaching next week, it’s time to hand out our own awards, the M&GB Hail Awards. This is the first time we’ve done this for basketball, and after doing it for the past three football seasons, we decided it was time to give the boys of the hardwood the same love.

After reaching the national title game and coming up just short a year ago, and then seeing the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA, a step back in 2013-14 would be expected. But Michigan still had plenty of star power in Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas, but just 10 games in McGary was lost for the season and the Wolverines stood just 6-4 with an embarrassing loss to Charlotte.

But then something started to click. A three-point win over Stanford in the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational started a 10-game winning streak that included wins over three straight AP Top-10 teams. Suddenly, a Michigan squad many had written off before December ended was now a Big Ten title frontrunner. And although the Wolverines lost three of their next five, they won the last five down the stretch to pull away from the crowd and win the Big Ten by a whopping three games.

Entering the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 1 seed, Michigan didn’t have much to prove and needed only to avoid injuries that could derail another long NCAA Tournament run. John Beilein’s squad survived a scare from Illinois in the quarterfinals and completed the season sweep of Ohio State in the semis, but then ran into a hungry and determined Michigan State squad in the championship. But the beauty of it is that the Wolverines still won the season series with the Spartans 2-1.

In the Big Dance, Michigan used its No. 2 seed to its advantage, topping Wofford by 17 points despite a lackluster performance. Texas was up next and the Wolverines answered any questions about their ability to handle a dominant frontcourt, winning by 14. Tennessee presented a similar problem, and after building up a big lead, Michigan committed a flurry of turnovers in the closing minute, needing a heroic charge taken by senior leader Jordan Morgan to pull out the win. The season then came to a close, one step short of a return trip to the Final Four, when Michigan had its hearts ripped out by an NBA-range three from Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison.

Although the goal of a national championship was not reached, this Michigan squad still accomplished plenty, including its first outright Big Ten title since 1986. The offense became college basketball’s most efficient offense in the past 12 years (the KemPom era). Two straight deep tournament runs proves that Michigan is here to stay, and doing so despite the personnel losses from a year ago are a testament to Beilein’s coaching acumen.

Let’s take the time to honor the top players, plays, performances, and moments of the 2013-14 Michigan basketball season.

To revisit our football Hail Awards: 20132012, 2011.

Player of the Year Nik Stauskas

Stauskas 3 vs IowaA year ago, Nik Stauskas played the role of sharpshooter, heeding the playmaker role to Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. He wasn’t needed to do much more than stand behind the arc and toss in daggers. But this season, with Burke and Hardaway playing at the next level, there was a void and Stauskas stepped in to fill it.

Everybody already knew he was more than just a shooter, but in his new role, the Canadian was able to flourish, adding a good penetration game and an affinity for finding the open man to his already proven three-point stroke.

All he did was earn Big Ten Player of the Year and AP All-America second team honors while averaging 17.5 points and 3.3 assists per game. He scored in double figures in 32 of the 36 games and scored at least 20 points 14 times. He was named Big Ten Player of the Week a conference-leading four times and Oscar Robinson National Player of the Week once.

“This season was undoubtedly a team effort in every sense of the word, but it’s hard to ignore Nik Stauskas’s individual improvement and contributions,” said Sam. “He was the one that I wanted with the ball in his hands late in the game and, more times than not, he delivered. Take a look at Michigan’s losses and then look at the box score. When Stauskas struggled, the whole team usually struggled without his scoring and creating abilities as well.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Guard of the Year Nik Stauskas

Stauskas 3 vs MSU 1-25-14After opening the season with nine points against UMass Lowell, Stauskas scored at least 20 in each of the next five games before being sidelined with an ankle sprain. He was still hampered when Michigan traveled to Duke and managed just four points on two shots, but proceeded to average 18.6 points over the next 12 games.

In three games against Michigan State, he averaged 20.3 points and shot 11-of-16 from three-point range. In the Round of 32 win over Texas, Stauskas scored 17 points and dished out eight assists, and in the Elite Eight loss to Kentucky — what might be his final game in a Michigan uniform — he poured in 24 points. In addition to leading Michigan in scoring, he led the Wolverines in assists, field goals, three-pointers, three-point percentage, free throws made, and free throw percentage.

“Stauskas spearheaded the nation’s most efficient offense of the past 12 seasons by being more versatile as a sophomore,” said Drew. “He attacked the rim more frequently, attempting more than double the number of free throws he shot last year. He was more effective finding open teammates for easy buckets, especially out of the pick and roll, increasing his assist rate from 7.6 to 18.8 percent. And he still made 44 percent of his triples, proving that, despite his versatility, he will always be most dangerous as a shooter.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Caris Levert (1)

Big Man of the Year Jordan Morgan

Jordan Morgan vs MSU 2-23-14Entering the season, Michigan figured to have one of the Big Ten’s best front courts with preseason All-American Mitch McGary and senior Jordan Morgan backing him up. But McGary began the season less than 100 percent and the back injury continued to linger, forcing him to undergo season-ending surgery. As a result, Morgan was thrust back into the starting lineup.

Morgan finished the season with a scoring average of 6.4 points and a rebound average of 5.0, but more than anything, he was a rock inside. The barely-recruited big man from Detroit especially came on late in the season, recording 15 points and 10 rebounds in the regular season finale against Indiana, and averaging 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in the NCAA Tournament. He also set the all-time Michigan records for single-season  (70 percent) and career (63.1 percent) field goal percentage.

“If you asked me this question in the middle of the season, I would have had a very difficult time picking one player here, but Morgan really solidified himself as one of the premier Big Men not only in the conference but in the whole country by March,” said Sam. “JMo’s play was all the more impressive when considering the bigger, more athletic opponents Michigan was facing on a day-by-day basis in the tournament.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Morgan

Morgan block vs TennesseeNot only did Morgan provide a reliable offensive threat late in the season, but he also lived up to his reputation as a solid defender. Although he was snubbed from the Big Ten All-Defensive team — which he was a part of last season — Morgan was consistent against some of the best big men in the Big Ten and the country.

No play provided bigger proof of his defensive prowess than his game-saving drawn charge in the closing seconds of the Sweet Sixteen win over Tennessee. With Michigan clinging to a one-point lead with six seconds remaining, UT big man Jarnell Stokes lowered his shoulder as he made his move to the basket. Morgan took the blow, drawing the charge, and giving Michigan the ball back to seal the win.

“They set a screen for him to come open, so I knew that the play was going to be for him,” Morgan said of the play. “I just know he likes to play bully ball and was just in a stance ready. I don’t know, I just was there. That’s just something I do. I take charges. That’s just what I do.”

“Michigan’s adjusted defensive efficiency was 102.1, which was U-M’s worst under John Beilein,” said Drew. “This was not Jordan Morgan’s fault, though. Morgan may not be the biggest or most athletic defender, but he certainly was the smartest. He knew how to play the angles, whether it would be to prevent a post-entry pass or take a last-minute charge. In the NCAA Tournament, Michigan’s defense noticeably declined when Morgan sat on the bench. It is a scary thought to imagine the Wolverines’ defense this year without Morgan down low.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Caris LeVert (1)

Game of the Year 79-70 home win over Michigan State

GRIII dunk vs MSUThere were certainly plenty of memorable games, but in terms of importance, the Feb. 23 win over Michigan State takes the cake. Michigan had already beaten the Spartans 80-75 in East Lansing a month before, but many discounted it because MSU was missing both Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. In this one, Payne was back, and the Spartans held a half-game lead over the Wolverines in the conference standings. The winner was in the drivers’ seat, while the loser had some catching up to do.

Michigan State jumped out to a 22-11 lead in the first 10 minutes, looking as if the Spartans were going to exact revenge for the previous game. But a Spike Albrecht three ended a nearly-four-minute scoring drought and ignited a 10-0 Michigan run. The Wolverines pulled within two by halftime and then outscored MSU 45-34 in the second half. Stauskas and Caris LeVert combined for 48 points on 16-of-28 shooting as Michigan completed the regular season sweep and vaulted into the Big Ten lead.

“Never before had these two rivals played each other under similar circumstances,” said Drew. “Michigan, thanks to 25 points from Nik Stauskas and 23 points from Caris LeVert, overcame an early 11-point deficit and used a 21-4 second-half spurt to beat the Spartans, 79-70. The Wolverines leapfrogged the Spartans into first place and never looked backed, winning their first outright conference title since 1986.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: 77-70 win at Wisconsin (1), 73-71 Sweet Sixteen win over Tennessee (1)

Play of the Year Glenn Robinson III buzzer-beater at Purdue

GRIII game-winning shot vs Purdue 2-26-14After the big home win over Michigan State that put Michigan in the drivers’ seat for the Big Ten title, the Wolverines hit the road for a classic let-down game against Purdue. Michigan was expected to win, but games like this were never easy.

Purdue had nothing to play for except to throw a wrench into the title hunt and played inspired ball for 40-plus minutes. The Boilermakers led by as many as 19 points in the first half before Michigan cut it to 13 at the break. In the second half, Michigan began chipping away. Eleven points, nine points, seven points, four points, and suddenly it was a game again.

A Stauskas free throw made it a one-point game with 9:50 to play, but Purdue refused to let Michigan get over the hump. The Boilers maintained the lead the rest of the way, until Stauskas tied it up with a pair of free throws, sending the game into overtime.

In the extra stanza, Michigan took its first lead of the game, but every time the Wolverines tried to exert their force, Purdue answered. A pair of Ronnie Johnson free throws gave Purdue a 76-75 lead with 31 seconds remaining. Michigan missed a shot and was forced to foul, but Purdue missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Wolverines one more chance.

With the ball out of bounds on the sideline and 2.9 seconds remaining, Caris LeVert heaved a jump ball across the court to Glenn Robinson III, who came down with it, took one dribble and kissed a runner off the glass as time expired. Michigan survived 77-76.

“A loss at Purdue would have killed all the momentum from sweeping Michigan State, but luckily GR3 pulled it off,” said Derick.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Performance of the Year Nik Stauskas’ 25 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds in 79-70 win vs MSU

Nik Stauskas dunk vs MSU 2-23-14There were plenty of performances that could be considered here, especially by Stauskas, but his performance in the 79-70 home win over Michigan State was a thing of beauty. He followed up a 19-point, 5-of-6 three-point shooting first meeting by lighting up the Spartans for 25 points, five assists, and three rebounds on 9-of-13 overall shooting in the return trip.

That second meeting was an important game for both teams as Michigan State held a half game lead, and Michigan, despite winning in East Lansing, needed the win for its Big Ten title hopes. The Spartans jumped out to a big lead early in the game, but Michigan whittled it down to two at the half. And that’s when Stauskas took over.

He opened the half with a layup to tie the game, and after a MSU dunk, hit a free throw and a jumper to give Michigan its first lead. A few minutes later, after the Spartans had pulled ahead by five, Stauskas scored seven straight to put Michigan back ahead. Gary Harris hit a three, but Stauskas responded with one of his own, and after a pair of LeVert free throws, Stauskas hit another three to give Michigan a seven point lead. He scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, one of the few moments all season that when he shot you knew it was going in.

“Pick any one of about 10 Stauskas performances throughout the season and you’re sure to be wowed, but his second half against Michigan State at home to help Michigan sweep the Spartans was probably the most exciting,” said Sam. “After Michigan State came out looking like world beaters in the first half, Stauskas paired with Caris LeVert to put on the most impressive run of the season early in the second half, and by the end of it, everyone in the arena knew every Stauskas shot was falling no matter how off-balance or guarded he was.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Stauskas’ 23 points, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks, one steal at Wisconsin (1), Derick Walton Jr.’s 19 points, six rebounds, four assists in win at Michigan State (1)

Newcomer of the Year Derrick Walton Jr.

Derrick Walton Jr.Losing 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: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Those Who Stay Senior of the Year Jordan Morgan

BiP-LF1CMAAZ3HLMorgan wins this by default, but even if he wasn’t the only senior on the team, another would have had a tough chance of beating him. His exploits have already been talked about in the Big Man of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year sections, but his contributions this season should not be downplayed.

Morgan committed to Beilein in 2010 under very different circumstances, when simply making the NCAA Tournament was a major accomplishment. By the time his career came to an end, Morgan had played in more games (142) than any player in Michigan history and started the third most (122). He holds the single season and career field goal percentage records, played in four straight NCAA Tournaments, won two Big Ten titles, and this season was named to the Allstate Good Works Team.

“Morgan, along with Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, is the foundation of the program that John Beilein has built in Ann Arbor,” said Drew. “Morgan committed to Michigan before U-M was considered one of the elite programs in the nation. And it sure did pay off. Most importantly, Morgan exemplified the leadership, determination, and heart that fans hope to see from every future player that dons the maize and blue.”

“Morgan’s grit, leadership, and confidence were absolutely crucial to this team, and were all the more impressive when considering Morgan’s complete loss of confidence in last year’s tournament,” said Sam.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Most Improved Player  Caris LeVert

LeVert vs Wisconsin 1-18-14When Trey Burke left early for the NBA and Tim Hardaway Jr. graduated, Michigan was in need of playmakers to step up. A sophomore class that performed well as freshmen had plenty of options, and several showed significant improvement in 2013-14, but none more than Caris LeVert.

The Columbus, Ohio native that was once committed to Ohio University started all 37 games and improved his minutes from 10.8 to 34.0 and points per game from 2.3 to 12.9. He scored in double figures in 25 of 37 games and scored 20 or more points seven times. He also averaged 4.3 rebounds per contest and led the team with 141 defensive boards.

When Michigan struggled to find any offense in an early season matchup at Duke, LeVert carried the team with 24 points. He did the same in a loss to Wisconsin when the Badgers shut down Stauskas, scoring 25, and also poured in 23 in the home win over Michigan State. He earned All-Big Ten second team honors and was named to the NCAA Tournament All-Midwest Regional team.

“LeVert often drew an audible sigh from the crowd when he would make mistakes last season, and his inconsistency in limited minutes was certainly frustrating,” said Sam. “Fast forward to this season, however, and one could argue that LeVert’s out-of-nowhere contributions were just as important as Stauskas’s dominance on occasion. And any time Stauskas was off, LeVert was the one picking up the slack. I don’t think anyone truly believed LeVert could improve THAT much in just one offseason.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None