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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Donnal’

Michigan hoops preview: Syracuse

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014


UM-Syracuse
Michigan (5-1) vs Syracuse (5-1)
Tuesday, Dec. 2 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 7:30 p.m. EST | ESPN
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Offense
76.0 Points/gm 70.2
(158-334) 47.3 Field Goal % 44.4 (159-358)
(53-119) 44.5 3-pt FG % 20.2 (18-89)
(87-113) 77.0 Free Throw % 66.9 (85-127)
14.5 FT Made/gm 14.2
34.2 Reb/gm 42.7
14.0 Assists/gm 15.0
9.2 Turnovers/gm 12.3
Defense
61.3 Points/gm 51.7
(138-325) 42.5 Field Goal % 34.1 (110-323)
(44-120) 36.7 3-pt FG % 26.8 (33-123)
30.3 Opp. Reb/gm 33.2
5.8 Steals/gm 9.8
2.5 Blocks/gm 6.3
Individual Leaders
Zak Irvin (17.7), Caris LeVert (17.5) Points/gm Rakeem Christmas (17.5), C. McCullough (15.3)
Caris LeVert (6.2), Derrick Walton Jr (5.4) Reb/gm Rakeem Christmas (9.5), C. McCullough (8.3)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Despite losing to 12th-ranked Villanova in the Legends Classic championship game last Tuesday, Michigan showed it can compete with the nation’s best. The Wolverines rebounded from that loss with a 91-62 win over Nicholls State on Saturday and now host Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The last time Michigan and Syracuse faced off a national championship game appearance was on the line. Michigan topped the Orange 61-56 in the 2013 Final Four to reach the title game. This time, the only thing on the line is a chance to pick up an early-season quality win that will pay dividends come tournament time. Michigan will get another chance for that when it travels to Arizona next week, but getting Syracuse at home on national television is a prime opportunity.

Syracuse comes in with an identical 5-1 record with wins over Kennesaw State (89-42), Hampton (65-47), Iowa (66-63), Loyola (70-37), and Holy Cross (72-48) and a loss to California (73-59). Like usual under head coach Jim Boeheim, Syracuse gets it done defensively, allowing an average of 51.7 points per game, which ranks ninth nationally. In addition, Syracuse is holding opponents to just 34.1 percent from the field (eighth nationally) and 26.8 percent from three-point range.

Three players average in double figures, led by 6’9″, 250-pound senior forward Rakeem Christmas, who averages 17.5 points. He also leads the team with 9.5 rebounds per game and 15 blocks. He has scored at least 15 points in five of six games this season. The only one he didn’t was the loss to Cal in which he was held to eight on 3-of-10 shooting. The last time out, he scored 25 against Holy Cross on 8-of-10 shooting and 9-of-10 free throw shooting.

Freshman forward Chris McCullough (6’10″, 220) is the second leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 15.3 points and 8.3 board per game. He scored a season high 20 points against Iowa and has two double-doubles in six games.

Redshirt junior guard Trevor Cooney (6’4″, 195) is the only other player in double figures, averaging 10.2 points per game, but he has struggled from three-point range, having made just 9-of-33. Freshman guard Kaleb Joseph (6’3″, 165) is the fourth player that has started all six games this season. He leads the team with 6.2 assists per game while scoring 8.5 points, but he has also turned the ball over 21 times. He has only attempted three three-pointers and missed all of them.

Sophomore forward Tyler Roberson (6’8″, 212) started the first four games and averaged 6.5 points and five rebounds, but missed the last two with a strained abdominal muscle. It is unclear whether he will be ready for tonight’s game. In his place has been 6’7″, 185-pound sophomore forward B.J. Johnson. He has averaged 7.8 points and 7.6 rebounds thanks in large part to a 19-point, eight-rebound performance in the season opener against Kennesaw State. However, he was held scoreless on 0-of-8 shooting in the loss to Cal.

Junior forward Michael Gbinije (6’7″, 200) is the first man off the bench, averaging six points and 3.4 rebounds per game. He ranks second on the team with 10 steals, but has made just 2-of-16 three-point attempts to start the season. Ron Patterson, a 6’2″, 200-pound sophomore guard, is the only other player averaging double-digit minutes per game (10.2), but he has very little production, averaging 1.2 points and 1.7 assists.

Syracuse is shooting just 20.2 percent from three-point range so far this season and averaging 5.8 fewer points than Michigan. But the Orange have a major advantage inside with a 8.5 rebounds per game edge. If Michigan can force Syracuse to settle for long shots and limit Syracuse’s second-chance opportunities, the Wolverines will have an excellent opportunity to pick up a win. But Michigan’s big men — Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, and Max Bielfeldt — will have to control Christmas and McCullough without getting into foul trouble, especially with D.J. Wilson out several weeks with an injury.

First test passed: Michigan 70 – Oregon 63

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


LeVert layup vs Oregon(MGoBlue.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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

Veteran led: Michigan 71 – Detroit 62

Thursday, November 20th, 2014


LeVert-Irvin vs Detroit(MGoBlue.com)

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

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

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

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

It started a theme that would last throughout the night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Derick’s 3 Thoughts: Bucknell

Monday, November 17th, 2014


UM-Bucknell

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

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

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

1. Don’t overlook the Bison

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Find a way to get the post involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Keep up that freshmen hustle

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

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

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

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

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

Banner day: Michigan 92 – Hillsdale College 68

Saturday, November 15th, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

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

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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

Michigan basketball 2014-15 season preview: Caris’ turn

Saturday, November 15th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-2014-15Preview

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

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

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

(Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan basketball position preview: The bigs

Friday, November 14th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-BigMen

Now that we have already broken down Michigan’s freshmen and analyzed the point guard and wing positions, let’s preview the biggest unknown for the Wolverines — the bigs. Michigan graduated Jordan Morgan and lost Jon Horford and Mitch McGary to transfer and the NBA Draft, respectively, last season. Now, the Maize and Blue look to replace the lost production with a stable of inexperienced big men and one rarely used senior.

The Starter

#34 Mark Donnal – 6’9, 240 – Redshirt Freshman
2013-14 stats: N/A (redshirt)
Projected 2014-15 stats: 5.3 pts (55% FG, 35% 3pt, 68% FT), 3.8 reb, .5 ast, .4 blk, .4 stl, .4 TO, 20 min/game

With a year of practice under his belt, Mark Donnal looks to be the safe bet to start at the five – at least early in the season. The Toledo native provides Beilein with yet another shooting threat, and Donnal has bulked up after being far too skinny to play last season.

But there is clearly work to be done. In Michigan’s exhibition win over Wayne State, Mark Donnal started down low but looked timid at times and struggled to deal with contact around the basket. With his body starting to fill out, Donnal simply needs to be strong with the basketball in his hands, get good position on the boards, and battle with what he has. He’ll look to add more muscle next offseason, but it’s very difficult to put on any weight during the grueling season.

This year, Donnal won’t be asked to carry much of the scoring load, but I really like his versatility and all-around game. When I scouted him in a high school game, Donnal shot beautifully from deep but also showcased an array of face-up and back-to-the-basket moves for easy finishes at the rim in addition to a couple monster dunks and blocks. The competition is obviously a few steps above the high school level, but Donnal’s outside-in skillset is hard to deny.

Donnal also runs the court very well and showcased an intelligent Euro-style slap-out on offensive misses in the exhibition game. Most players simply look to corral the rebound, but Donnal knows that if he can’t grab it, he can at least try to slap it back outside, where his guards are likely to get the rebound.

The Backups

#32 Ricky Doyle – 6’9″, 245 – Freshman

For a complete look at Doyle, please see his freshman preview.

Ricky Doyle is the yin to Mark Donnal’s yang. Where Donnal excels further from the basket and should develop into a nice perimeter threat while continuing to work on his game down low, Doyle is a true old-school post. Doyle loves to catch the ball with his back to the basket, make one move, and put it up. Beilein raved about Doyle’s hook shot during Media Day, and Doyle’s willingness to bang in the post makes him the most similar returning player to Jordan Morgan.

Doyle’s strengths this year will lie in his rebounding ability and his passing. He had a couple nice dishes on Monday despite not recording an assist, and his 2/2 line from the field should be pretty typical – he’s not going to shoot or score much, but he is also not going to take many risky shots. Doyle’s big body and strength will be key when Michigan faces the likes of Arizona, Wisconsin, and Syracuse this year.

So while Doyle’s skillset seems most typical and perhaps the safest of Michigan’s bigs, his shortcomings make him the clear backup at this point. The worry with keeping Doyle on the floor too long stems from two areas: defense and handling. Doyle has worked long and hard in the weight room to improve his strength and quickness, but he is still clearly too slow to defender quicker bigs or provide adequate help defense.

During Media Day, Assistant Jeff Meyer was going through a simple defensive shuffle drill with everyone. When Meyer pointed left, the players needed to shuffle as quickly as possible that direction; when he pointed right, they’d change direction. The majority of the players were able to take two or three shuffle steps in both direction every time Meyer pointed; Doyle, however, would barely get his shuffle foot down once before having to shuffle the opposite way. In another drill where the bigs practiced hedging screens, Doyle let Spike Albrecht split through him and the screened defender as if no one was there two straight times. Beilein had to stop the drill and give Doyle a word of advice.

When it comes to handling, Doyle almost treats the ball as a grenade that would explode if it hit the floor. He is far from a confident dribbler at this point and will be an easy pick-pocket if he holds onto the ball too long. Throughout the season, you may even be able to count the number of dribbles Doyle takes on two hands.

#5 D.J. Wilson – 6’9″, 220 – Freshman

For a complete look at Wilson, please see his freshman preview.

Wilson’s natural position at Michigan will end up being on the wing, as previewed in our piece earlier this week, but he will also see some minutes at the five backing up Donnal and Doyle. Like Donnal, Wilson presents a deep threat that will force defenses to spread the floor.

Unlike either Donnal or Doyle, though, Wilson lacks the size to bang too much with opposing bigs. Wilson will likely be a fouling liability if he is to play big minutes at the five, but I still think his versatility and shot blocking provide some interesting options for Beilein down low.

Right now, Wilson looks a little bit more comfortable on the wing facing up, but he’ll continue to learn both positions and is willing to help out wherever he is needed.

#44 Max Bielfeldt – 6’7″, 245 – Senior
2013-14 stats: .8 pts (28.6% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 0% FT), 1.1 blk, .1 blk, .1 stl, .1 TO, 4.7 min/game
Projected 2014-15 stats: 0.8 pts (40% FG, 30% 3pt, 50% FT), 1.0 reb, .1 blk, .1 stl, .2 TO, 2 min/game

Max Bielfeldt committed to Michigan over Illinois a few years back but has found himself buried on the depth chart throughout his college career to date. This year, it looks like he again finds himself behind three freshmen at the five and may be relegated to providing strong leadership in practice and in the locker room.

Unfortunately for Bielfeldt, he simply lacks the size, skill, and athleticism to compete at center at the highest level right now, but he certainly showcases strong effort on the court. In the exhibition game, Bielfeldt sat out the entire first half but came in early in the second half and had a nice spurt resulting in five points, an offensive rebound, and two blocks in just seven minutes of play, so he’s certainly making a case.

We may see some spot minutes from Bielfeldt early on in the season as Michigan breaks in a slew of new big bodies who could struggle with foul trouble, but as those freshmen continue to mature and grasp the offense, Bielfeldt’s minutes will start to decline.

Minute Breakdown:

5-spot (traditional center):
20 Mark Donnal
14 Ricky Doyle
4 D.J. Wilson
2 Max Bielfeldt

A hero Hatched: Michigan 86 – Wayne State 43 (exhibition)

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014


Austin Hatch(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

With 12 seconds remaining on the clock in Michigan’s exhibition blowout of Wayne State last night, one Wolverine stepped to the line to shoot two free throws.

The first shot, perhaps a little rushed, clanged off the back left of the rim.

The second one found nothing but net to put Michigan up 86-43.

The ensuing roar of the crowd might have looked like a shallow celebration of doubling up an over-matched opponent to the outsider.

But those who have followed Michigan basketball and the story of Austin Hatch for the past few years knew it was so much more than that. The standing ovation for that one free throw was a celebration of life, an ode to a historical moment at the Crisler Center, a tear-soaked applause for a kid who has overcome more hardship than what most could even imagine.

Austin Hatch scored the first point of his Michigan career with a late free throw (MGoBlue.com)

Austin Hatch scored the first point of his Michigan career with a late free throw (MGoBlue.com)

Back in the summer of 2011, nine days after accepting an offer on the spot to play basketball at the University of Michigan, Hatch was involved in a deadly plane crash that took the life of his father, his stepmom, and a family dog. The 16-year-old Hatch was left completely unaware for eight weeks, as he lay comatose while doctors dealt with his punctured lung, broken collarbone, broken ribs, and, worst of all, a fractured skull that resulted in a bruised and swelling brain.

But that’s far from the whole story. It turns out that the family Hatch lost in that catastrophic accident was the only immediate family he had left.

Eight years prior, the eight-year-old Hatch was riding in a different plane that went down, taking the lives of his mom, his only sister, and his only brother. His father, who had his pilot’s license and was flying both planes, made it out of the first wreck and had become the younger Hatch’s self-proclaimed best friend.

Today, Hatch is still a shell of his former self on the basketball court. At the Canterbury School in Fort Wayne, Hatch thrived as a shooter and scorer for two years before suffering those injuries that knocked his development back to the point at which he says “it was almost like being born again”.

Hatch is noticeably the slowest player on the floor and has to think two steps ahead to be able to beat his man to the spot. He’s still a long way off from finding himself in a game that’s up for grabs.

But that doesn’t mean he’s settled. No, Hatch is perhaps more determined than ever to keep fighting. He admits that last night was a cool moment, a special moment, even monumental, but Hatch is the first to acknowledge that the actual point he scored was not a deciding factor in the preseason game.

“I don’t want to be known, by the time my career comes to an end here, as a cool story. Obviously what happened to me is kind of unique, but that’s what happened. It’s not who I am. Obviously it’s a big part of my life, but I’m about moving forward and making the most of my experience here.”

This is coming from the same kid who would not allow his high school coaches to insert him into a basketball game until he felt that he could contribute in a meaningful way.

Austin Hatch has a lot of heart, faith, and determination. He knows last night was not the end of a road, a chance to ride off into the sunset. Last night, though the score will not go down in any record books, was just the beginning.

Freshmen Takes:

The exhibition was the first chance for most to see Michigan’s other five true freshmen in live action against a real opponent. Here are some quick thoughts on each:

Kam Chatman – Chatman looks to have locked down the starting spot at the 4 and shook off some early nerves to wind up with a nice night of nine points, six rebounds (one offensive), four assists, and zero turnovers in 25 minutes. The highest-rated player in this class seems to be operating comfortably within the offense and made a really nice drive from the top of the key where he used a pretty hesitation move and an up-and-under scoop to get past two defenders for his first bucket of the night. He air-balled two threes long from the same corner in the first half, but came back in the second half and stepped into a pretty catch-and-shoot three from the right wing and drained it. He also went 4-of-4 from the free throw line and had a couple nice passes.

Kam Chatman had a nice all-around game in his first collegiate action (MGoBlue.com)

Kam Chatman had a nice all-around game in his first collegiate action (MGoBlue.com)

Aubrey Dawkins – Dawkins was the first true freshman off the bench and was quiet for most of the night until scoring eight points, including two pretty-looking threes from the right corner, within three minutes near the end of the game. Like most freshmen, he looked lost a couple times on the floor and nearly turned the ball over the first time he touched it, but he didn’t make any glaring errors and has two skills – shooting and athleticism – that could see him settle into a nice role. He also drained two free throws and recorded an assist, a block, and a turnover each.

Ricky Doyle – The big Floridian notched four points and three rebounds in 15 minutes but has a ways to go before any of the big boys come to town. Doyle is a hard worker who arrived in Ann Arbor early to put in extra work with Strength and Conditioning Coach Jon Sanderson, and his body looks ready for Big Ten play, but his foot speed and hands stand out as major areas for improvement. Doyle jumped through a crowd on one occasion to get an offensive rebound and put-back, but too many times when he was on the floor he was nowhere near the carom. As the biggest player on Michigan’s team, he needs to rebound. He did throw a nice back-door pass to Zak Irvin but was not credited with an assist.

D.J. Wilson – Wilson just oozes potential. The lanky 6’9″ Sacramento native with a 7’3″ wingspan is going to be excellent when he really gets everything figured out. Wilson’s foot speed is much better than fellow big man Doyle’s at this point, and his outside shot looks smooth. Wilson’s final stat line – nine points (including a three), two rebounds (one offensive), two assists, one block, and zero turnovers in 15 minutes – is exactly what Beilein would love out of him.

Wilson did make one befuddling error early in the game when he caught a ball on the elbow and nervously threw up a shot that got sent right back in his face, but he really seemed to calm down as the game got going, and was calling for the ball on the wing by the end. All four of his buckets were pretty impressive for a freshman big – a monster dunk underneath from Spike Albrecht, a harder-than-it-looked layup in a crowd, a drive from the right wing capped by an awkward lay-in, and a three from the right corner. Wilson also missed a layup in the first half where he was more open than he thought and got blown by once on defense, but he made up for it with a nice block from behind. One troubling stat – Wilson’s three fouls in 15 minutes have him off to a rough 8 fouls per 40 minutes pace.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – Rahk may be the furthest freshman from seeing meaningful minutes at this point. He has the quicks that should make him a dangerous player and a good defender down the line, but he rushed things a little bit and missed all three of his shots by a wide margin. He did make two of three free throws, though, and recorded a rebound, an assist, a steal, and a turnover in 12 minutes.

Quick Hitters:

 Zak Irvin’s improved athleticism has been a major talking point all offseason, and he finally got the chance to show it off here, recording a trio of rim-rattling dunks that got the crowd on its feet. He looks much markedly more comfortable operating within the offense and should see his 1-of-4 shooting from downtown improve significantly.

 There is no doubt that the core of this team is in its guard play. Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, and Irvin will all easily see more than 30 minutes a night and should carry the scoring load. All three looked to be in good shape and led the team with 16, 11, and 13 points, respectively, despite only making three of their combined 10 triple attempts.

 Derrick Walton went down hard on a late drive to the basket and limped his way to the locker room after not being able to put any weight on his left leg, but he emerged jogging just a few minutes later with no noticeable limp and entered back into the game shortly after. Players and coaches confirmed after that it was just a cramp.

 The battle for 40 minutes at the five position is not close to being settled. Mark Donnal started and scored four points while grabbing five boards in 12 minutes, but needs to continue to build muscle to deal with stronger players down low. He also did not attempt any outside shots – a disappointment for me. Doyle saw 15 minutes of action while a few of Wilson’s 15 minutes also came at the five. The most impressive of the bigs, however? That would be seasoned vet Max Bielfeldt, who didn’t see a minute in the first half, but immediately grabbed an offensive rebound for an easy put-back when entered in the second. The senior also drained a nice 10-footer and made his only free throw attempt (in place of Walton after his injury) while blocking two shots in just seven minutes. Bielfeldt clearly has the lowest ceiling of any of Michigan’s big man options, but he may also have the highest floor for quite some time as well.

• The crowd, listed at 10,510, looked much smaller than that and was very late to arrive and quiet when it did.

Three Stars:

***Austin Hatch***
1 point (1-of-2 FT) in 1 minute

**Caris LeVert**
16 points (6-of-10 FG, 1-of-3 3pt, 3-of-4 FT), three rebounds, six assists, one turnover in 30 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
13 points (5-of-11 FG, 1-of-4 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), one assist, one steal, two turnovers in 29 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 2-6 1-3 4-4 1 5 6 1 9 4 0 0 0 25
34 Mark Donnal* 1-2 0-1 2-4 2 3 5 2 4 0 0 1 1 12
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 2-6 1-4 6-7 0 4 4 2 11 0 0 0 1 21
21 Zak Irvin* 5-11 1-4 2-2 2 3 5 1 13 1 2 0 1 29
23 Caris LeVert* 6-10 1-3 3-4 0 3 3 3 16 6 1 0 0 30
02 Spike Albrecht 2-3 0-1 0-0 1 2 3 1 4 2 1 0 3 20
05 D.J. Wilson 4-8 1-3 0-0 1 1 2 3 9 2 0 1 0 15
12 M-A Abdur-Rahkman 0-3 0-1 2-3 0 1 1 2 2 1 1 0 1 12
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 0 0 1 1 0 4
24 Aubrey Dawkins 2-3 2-2 2-2 0 2 2 0 8 1 1 1 0 9
30 Austin Hatch 0-0 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1
32 Ricky Doyle 2-2 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 1 4 0 1 0 0 15
44 Max Bielfeldt 2-2 0-0 1-1 1 0 1 0 5 0 0 2 1 7
Totals 28-56 7-22 23-29 9 31 40 17 86 17 8 6 8 200
Wayne State 14-54 4-12 11-13 10 23 33 23 43 8 18 2 3 200
Full Stats

Michigan basketball season preview: Freshman D.J. Wilson

Monday, November 3rd, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-DJWilson

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!

Next up is freshman big man D.J. Wilson.
Previously: Ricky Doyle, Kameron Chatman

#5 D.J. Wilson
Measurements 6’9″, 220 7/18/14 Men's basketball promos
Hometown Sacramento, Calif.
High School Capital Christian HS
High School Stats (2013-14) 13.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks per game
AAU Team Superstar
Projected Position(s) Wing Forward/Center
Committed Oct. 6, 2013
Major Suitors Gonzaga, California, Columbia, Boise State, Colorado, USC
Chance of Redshirt 0 percent
Recruiting Rankings
Rivals 4-star – Overall: 86
Scout 4-star – Overall: 69, Position: 14
ESPN 4-star – Overall: NR, Position: 41, State: 14, Grade: 75
247 3-star – Overall: 247, Position: 55, State: 23, Grade: 87
247 Composite 4-star – Overall: 123, Position: 32, State: 14

Background: It’s no secret that John Beilein has made a living recently off bringing in less highly touted players that he sees something in, coaching them up, inserting them into his system, and then watching their uncanny development lead to great team and individual success.

The list of these under-the-radar guys goes on and on, with players like Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Caris LeVert having made recruiting services eat their words. Perhaps next in line at Michigan is forward D.J. Wilson, who comes in with skills you don’t expect to see from someone who is 6’9″ with a 7’3″ wingspan.DJ Wilson

Behind every under-recruited player is usually a reason, however. For Wilson, it was as simple as growing too fast for his own good. After sprouting three inches before his junior year of high school ball, Wilson’s back literally broke on him, forcing him into a brace that stretched from below his waist all the way to his chest. The injury kept him out for AAU season and part of his junior year, and to make things even more iffy, Wilson’s Capital Christian School wasn’t giving him much exposure, with only about 400 kids in the entire school.

By the time Wilson was healed up and preparing for his final year of high school ball, many prospective colleges had already moved on. But an eye-opening game on the summer circuit in which Wilson scored 22 points and pulled in eight rebounds against 2015 5-star forward Ivan Rabb at a team camp at the University of California-Berkeley kept John Beilein and staff hot on the trail.

At the start of his senior year, Wilson received consecutive visits from Beilein, Jeff Meyer, LaVall Jordan, and Bacari Alexander. Other colleges were starting to sniff around again, and Wilson took official visits to Columbia and Gonzaga in late September before rewarding the Wolverines’ coaching staff’s dedication to him, and visiting Ann Arbor the weekend of October 4. Beilein extended a scholarship offer on that official visit and Wilson committed within a day.

Michigan was the biggest name recruiting Wilson to the end, but the lanky forward says it was his relationship with the coaching staff, Beilein’s history of developing under-recruited players into NBA draft picks, and an opportunity for early playing time that made the difference.

The opportunity is certainly there, and it’s Wilson’s for the taking. Will the big man prove Beilein’s diamond-in-the-rough radar accurate again? Only time will tell, but signs are pointing up.

Video:





What He Will Provide:

1. Versatility: When I asked Wilson at Media Day what he felt his biggest strength was, he immediately responded with “versatility”. Wilson has the size to play the four or the five position in Michigan’s offense, but also seems to have the handles, quickness and athleticism to play the three if needed. Beilein said that the coaching staff is still trying to see where Wilson fits best, but he mentioned that he thinks he’ll end up as a forward. Wilson himself thinks that his versatility will be key in exploiting mismatches on offense, where he could go against a guy three inches shorter and either post up or shoot over him without giving up anything on defense. Regardless of where he ends up fitting into this team’s plans, D.J. Wilson is already refining a solid all-around game and will provide a welcome movable piece on both sides of the floor. His shot is smooth, his athleticism is terrific for his size, and his basketball I.Q. has been praised by Beilein.

2. A Potential Shot-Blocking presence: Assistant Coach Bacari Alexander told me that he sees Wilson, Ricky Doyle, and Mark Donnal all as potential rim protectors for this floor, but it seems clear that Wilson’s combination of legitimate 6’9″ height (7’0″+ hair included), a 7’3″ wingspan, and plus-athleticism give him a head-start in that category. Beilein has yet to have a true post presence when it comes to rejecting shots, and Alexander himself admitted that all three freshmen still probably have quite a bit of learning to do before becoming bona fide Ekpe Udoh-types, but I like Wilson to have at least 10 multi-block games this season.

3. Stretching the D: Like Mark Donnal, part of D.J. Wilson’s intrigue comes from his ability to shoot from deep. Wilson mentioned at Media Day that right now he is more focused on improving in the post with BA coaching him up, but I suspect part of that has to do with an already established comfort level on the outside. The native Californian doesn’t get a ton of air under his feet when shooting, but with his size, length, and quick release, he more than makes up for it and looks fluid from beyond the arc and in the mid-range game. I’m still waiting to see Beilein deploy the pick-and-pop at Michigan and unleash the inner Kevin Pittsnogle of his current bigs, but something tells me I won’t be waiting much longer.

What He Will Have to Work On:

1. Strength: Wilson’s injury a couple years back probably didn’t help much in this department, and quick growth spurts in basketball players are generally paired with a lean body frame that needs work. That’s certainly the case with Wilson, who, though not overly skinny right now at 220 pounds, will look to add a solid 10 to 15 pounds of muscle before he’s able to compete and bang down low with the best big men college has to offer.

2. Back-to-the-Basket Game: Beilein has mentioned that D.J. Wilson could play center for a few minutes a game this season, especially in the case of injury or foul trouble, but if that is the case, Wilson will have to work on his post moves. His video showcases a strong face-up game for a big man and plenty of passing, dribbling, and driving, but rarely do you see Wilson turning his back and making fundamental moves to get easy layups. The caveat here, of course, is that Beilein rarely expects any of his players to back down defenders one-on-one, but it’d be nice to see Wilson continue to diversify his game at multiple positions after getting a strong grip on the offense.

Burning Question: Where will D.J. Wilson fit into the offense?

John Beilein flat-out admitted at Media Day that the staff is still very unsure of where to put Wilson to optimize his output, and with so many young players, those questions probably won’t go away tomorrow. If I had to guess right now, I think Kam Chatman will start at the four and just about split minutes with D.J. Wilson there, with the potential for a couple more minutes for Wilson at the center spot. Ultimately, Wilson should settle into the four spot nicely and provide depth at the three and five positions as well, but will he be able to grasp the intricacies of the offense enough early on to excel in multiple positions?

Stat Predictions: 10.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 1.0 assists, 1.0 turnovers, 48% FG, 38% 3pt., 75% FT, 25 minutes per game

Bottom Line: Wilson is going to be my pick for Freshman of the Year for Michigan, and I think he has the potential to develop into a very special player. His toolbox is absolutely packed and there appear to be very few glaring weaknesses in his game at this point despite flying under the radar out of high school. Wilson can score from anywhere on the floor, can rebound, block shots, and would be a major X-factor in a 1-3-1 defense. Look for a few monster dunks out of the freshman as he develops into the next unlikely pro prospect under Beilein.

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?