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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan Basketball’

Veteran led: Michigan 71 – Detroit 62

Thursday, November 20th, 2014


LeVert-Irvin vs Detroit(MGoBlue.com)

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

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

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

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

It started a theme that would last throughout the night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan hoops preview: Detroit

Thursday, November 20th, 2014


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

___________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The game will be televised by Big Ten Network.

Maximized: Michigan 77 – Bucknell 53

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014


Max Bielfeldt vs Bucknell(MGoBlue.com)

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

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

Those thoughts didn’t last too long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Derick’s 3 Thoughts: Bucknell

Monday, November 17th, 2014


UM-Bucknell

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

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

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

1. Don’t overlook the Bison

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Find a way to get the post involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Keep up that freshmen hustle

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan hoops preview: Bucknell

Monday, November 17th, 2014


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

___________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Banner day: Michigan 92 – Hillsdale College 68

Saturday, November 15th, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

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

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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

Michigan basketball 2014-15 season preview: Caris’ turn

Saturday, November 15th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-2014-15Preview

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

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

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

(Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan hoops preview: Hillsdale College

Friday, November 14th, 2014


UM-Hillsdale College
Michigan vs Hillsdale College
Saturday, Nov. 15 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 2:00 p.m. EST | ESPN3
Offense (2013-14)
73.9 Points/gm 73.1
(945-1,982)47.7 Field Goal % 48.5(676-1,394)
(319-794) 40.2 3-pt FG % 39.6 (227-573)
(527-691) 76.3 Free Throw % 78.2 (395-505)
14.2 FT Made/gm 14.6
31.4 Reb/gm 34.0
14.2 Assists/gm 16.3
9.3 Turnovers/gm 12.3
Defense (2013-14)
65.1 Points/gm 66.1
(905-2,035) 44.5 Field Goal % 42.1 (624-1,481)
(201-632) 31.8 3-pt FG % 34.0 (188-553)
31.2 Opp. Reb/gm 29.0
4.9 Steals/gm 5.3
2.7 Blocks/gm 3.4
Individual Leaders
N. Stauskas (17.5), G. Robinson III (13.1) Points/gm Tim Dezelski (22.9), Kyle Cooper (13.5)
Mitch McGary (8.3), Jordan Morgan (5.0) Reb/gm Tim Dezelski (9.6), Kyle Cooper (6.2)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan doubled up Wayne State 86-43 in its only exhibition on Monday, getting 16 points from Caris LeVert and 13 from Zak Irvin. More importantly, John Beilein was able to get six new freshmen into the game to get their feet wet and work out some nerves. The nerves were certainly there as Kameron Chatman airballed his first two three-point attempts while others missed layups and free throws. The best moment of the night, however, belonged to Austin Hatch, who scored the first point of his college career, drawing a standing ovation when he sank a free throw.

On Saturday afternoon, the young Wolverines get a chance to gain further experience against similar competition, but this time it counts.

Only 70 miles southwest of Ann Arbor lies tiny little Hillsdale College, a small liberal arts school of less than 1,500 students. Despite being just five percent the size of Michigan’s undergraduate enrollment, the Chargers will travel to Ann Arbor for the season opener for both teams.

Hillsdale went 18-9 last season and 14-8 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the same conference as Michigan’s exhibition opponent from Monday, Wayne State. Hillsdale finished seventh in the conference, three spots ahead of Wayne State, and beat the Warriors 69-67 in their only matchup. As the seventh seed in the GLIAC Tournament, Hillsdale ended its season with a 67-47 loss to eventual champion Findlay.

This season, Hillsdale has to find a replacement for All-GLIAC first team forward Tim Dezelski, who averaged 22.9 points — which ranked third in the conference — and 9.6 rebounds — which led the conference — per game. He became the only player in NCAA Division II to reach 600 points, 250 rebounds, and 100 assists.

The go-to role will now fall on junior forward Kyle Cooper, a preseason All-GLIAC North Division second team selection. The 6’7″, 225-pound Northville native was the team’s second-leading scorer (13.5 points) and rebounder (6.2 rebounds) a year ago. The only other returning starter is point guard Zach Miller, a 5’8″, 165-pound junior from Chicago, Ill, who averaged just 4.3 points and 1.2 rebounds.

Junior center Jason Pretzer will be the biggest man on the court at 7’0″, 250. He averaged 3.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per game. Despite his size, he blocked just three shots all season. The other big man is Rhett Smith. The 6’7″, 225-pound junior played just 3.5 minutes per game last season, averaging 0.6 points and 0.7 rebounds.

The Chargers were picked to finish fourth in the GLIAC North Division this season behind Michigan Tech, Grand Valley State, and Lake Superior State. Statistically, Hillsdale was pretty similar to Michigan last season, as you can see in the chart above. But with so many newcomers on both teams and the disparity in level of competition, that doesn’t mean much.

Expect John Beilein to mix and match rotations similar to Monday, hoping to gain more consistency and cohesion with his young guys, but since this one counts, he’ll stick with the starters a bit more.

The game will not be televised, but will be shown on ESPN3. For those unable to access ESPN3, you can follow @SamSedlecky on Twitter for live updates. If you are going to the game, make sure to get there early for the 2013-14 Big Ten Championship banner ceremony.

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

Michigan basketball position preview: The point guards

Thursday, November 13th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-PointGuards

After taking a look at the three wing spots yesterday, let’s take a look at the point guard position today. With Michigan returning its two primary floor generals, there’s not much up for debate, so let’s see how things will run.

The Starter

#10 Derrick Walton Jr. – 6’0″, 185 – Sophomore
2013-14 stats: 7.9 pts (42.9% FG, 41% 3pt, 79.3% FT), 3.0 reb, 2.9 ast, .6 stl, .1.5 TO, 26.7 min/game
Projected 2014-15 stats: 12.0 pts (45% FG, 41% 3pt, 82% FT), 3.5 reb, 4.1 ast, 1 stl, 1.3 TO, 32 min/game

In the summer of 2011, John Beilein and his staff sent out offers to three different coveted point guards: Monte Morris, Demetrius Jackson, and Derrick Walton Jr. Walton was the first of the trio to jump at the offer, and it’s been an outstanding fit so far. Like Trey Burke before him, Walton probably committed with the idea that he would have a year or two to apprentice under Michigan’s then-star point guard, but Burke of course left after his sophomore season, leaving Walton the keys to the offense.

As a freshman, Walton performed about as well as could be expected, and had game-changing performances in road victories at Michigan State and Ohio State. He’s certainly not making any friends among rival fan bases, and that has made him all the more loved in Ann Arbor. In his first season, Walton scored when he needed to, but more often deferred to Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, and Glenn Robinson III.

With two of those three gone, Walton will take on a bigger overall role this season. Not only will he be asked to shoot and score more, but he will also be charged with finding LeVert, Zak Irvin, and Michigan’s bigs in scoring positions consistently off the dribble and pick-and-roll. Walton is Michigan’s quickest player and arguably the best slasher on the team. He is also a very good shooter from range and the best returning free throw shooter.

One area for improvement this year will be in finishing at the rim. Walton has no trouble getting to the hole and is excellent at drawing contact, but his 42.9 percent mark from the field should go up a couple ticks.

The Backups

#2 Spike Albrecht – 5’11″, 175 – Junior
2013-14 stats: 3.3 pts (40.4% FG, 38.7% 3pt, 77.8% FT), 2 ast, 1.1 reb, .5 stl, .4 TO, 14.7 min/game
Projected 2014-15 stats: 5 pts (43.5% FG, 40% 3pt, 80% FT), 2.5 ast, 1.4 reb, .7 stl, .7 TO, 15 min/game

Spike Albrecht has been a consistent, if quiet, role player for Michigan the past two seasons and will look to take on a slightly bigger role this year with an even younger roster. Albrecht knows he’s not the scorer or the athlete that Walton is, but he uses his own toolset to make a difference when called upon.

It’s no secret that John Beilein loves the veteran presence and fundamentally solid play that Albrecht can provide in buckets, and though Albrecht’s star will probably never be brighter than during the first half of the 2013 National Championship game (or immediately after when one of his teammates tweeted at Kate Upton from Spike’s account), he will do enough this season to be a thorn in the side of opposing teams. Beilein has already said that he’s calling on both Walton and Albrecht to shoot more from deep, which is good news for Spike, but his patented move will always be the corner drive and cross-court dish to an open shooter on the opposite corner.

This year, look for more of the same from Spike, who should also see about half of his minutes come with fellow point guard Walton on the floor.

#12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 6’4″, 175 – Freshman

For a complete look at Abdur-Rahkman, please see his freshman preview.

Rahk will only be an emergency option at point this season, but he has the raw skills right now to develop into an intriguing prospect down the line. His height is ideal for a Beilein point guard who plays off screens a lot, and his quickness and driving ability are great for the fast break and drawing fouls. I also really like the Pennsylvania native’s potential to grow into a lock-down man defender with his plus foot speed, length, and energy.
Abdur-Rahkman will see very few, if any, minutes as the primary ball-handler this year, but he should see spot minutes here and there on the wing as he continues to learn the offense. Next year will be his chance to compete for primary backup duties, but he’ll need to spend many hours in the gym working on his shot if he wants to win the role.

Minute Breakdown:

2-spot (traditional shooting guard):
32 Derrick Walton Jr.
8 Spike Albrecht