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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan Basketball’

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?

2014 Big Ten basketball preview: Part two

Thursday, October 30th, 2014


2014-15 B1G BBall Preview-Part2

Over the past few years an incredible change has passed over the Midwest, which was long praised for elite football programs like Michigan and Ohio State and largely uncompetitive on the hardwood with Michigan State taking the cake nearly every season. Now, the sports landscape has been turned on its head, as Big Ten football struggles to keep three teams ranked in the Top 25 while the basketball conference continues to solidify itself as the best in the nation.

Last season was another great campaign for the conference as a whole. Wisconsin fought its way through a tough West regional to reach the Final Four, while Michigan and Michigan State were just seconds away from doing the same, eventually losing to the two National Championship competitors. Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska were also selected for the Big Dance, giving the Big Ten six teams that made the cut. Minnesota also had a successful postseason, winning the NIT championship.

The Big Ten has climbed to the top of the basketball world by featuring a deep slate of teams led by a few legitimate Final Four contenders. This season will be no different, even as the conference welcomes two new teams that have struggled in recent years.

Below is part two of our Big Ten preview. Although there are no divisions in basketball, we split up our preview into the Big Ten West and Big Ten East divisions for the sake of organization. Part one (the Big Ten West) was posted earlier this week.

Note: In the 2013 Stats & Rankings tables for each team, the darker the shade of maize, the better that team was in that category; the darker the shade of blue, the worse that team was in that category.

Indiana Hoosiers Indiana logo
Head Coach: Tom Crean (7th season)
2013-14: 17-15, T-8th in Big Ten (7-11), No postseason
Returning starters: 3 (Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, Yogi Ferrell)
Recruiting class rank: #17 (James Blackmon, Jr., Robert Johnson, Emmitt Holt, Max Hoetzel, Tim Priller, Jeremiah April)
Key non-conference games: Dec 2 vs Pitt, Dec 9 vs Louisville, Dec 20 vs Butler, Dec 27 vs Georgetown

Indiana was surprisingly mediocre last season coming off two straight 27-plus win seasons under Tom Crean. As a sophomore, Yogi Ferrell took over the team and averaged 17.3 points and 3.9 assists per game to lead the offense. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, dominant freshman Noah Vonleh declared for the NBA draft and senior leader Will Sheehey graduated, leaving Ferrell without much help on the offensive side of the ball.

As Ferrell continues to lead Indiana as a junior, the team will have to solidify itself on defense without that dominating presence inside. The roster is small and turnover-prone, which is a formula for disaster in a difficult Big Ten conference. If strong defensive teams lock up on Ferrell and force the rest of this group to make plays, it could be another empty March for the Hoosiers.

Player to watch: Yogi Ferrell. This guy is really fun to watch, as he is quick and creative off the dribble but also accurate from the outside. As one of the most dangerous offensive players in the Big Ten, Ferrell can explode and give Indiana a chance to win on any given night.

Best-case scenario: Indiana sees even more growth from Ferrell and freshmen James Blackmon and Robert Johnson make a quick transition to the college game, landing Indiana a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Worst-case scenario: Last year’s mess leaks over into this season and Indiana hovers around .500 all season, giving the players plenty of time to study for exams in March.

Projected finish: 9th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 72.2 5 108
Scoring Defense 67.6 8 96
Field Goal Percentage .448 6 132
Field Goal Percentage Defense .412 4 59
3-pt FG Percentage .344 6 173
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .299 2 8
Free Throw Percentage .730 7 66
Rebounding Margin +7.6 1
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.5/15.1 = 0.8 12 321
Steals 5.9 7 179
Blocked Shots 4.3 6 82

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Maryland Terrapins Maryland logo
Head Coach: Mark Turgeon (4th season)
2013-14: 17-15, 9th in ACC (9-9), No postseason
Returning starters: 1 (Evan Smotrycz)
Recruiting class rank: #14 (Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens, Michal Cekovsky)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Virginia, Dec 21 at Oklahoma State

Maryland will make the move to the Big Ten and find itself in uncharted territory as a grueling conference schedule offers challenge after challenge during the winter months. Despite battling to stay relevant over the past few seasons, Maryland brought in a top 10 recruiting class to counter its first Big Ten slate, including Melo Trumble, who will join the team’s top returner Dez Wells in the backcourt.

Though the Big Ten is much deeper than the ACC, Maryland is no stranger to tough games and atmospheres. The Terrapins lost to eventual champion UCONN by just one point last season and even knocked off the conference champion Virginia Cavaliers.

Player to watch: Evan Smotrycz. Michigan fans will remember the curly-haired senior well from his two seasons in Ann Arbor. The 6 foot 9 forward averaged 11 points and six rebounds per game in 2013-14, both better than his totals in the Big Ten. He will miss at least the first month of the season after breaking his foot in October.

Best-case scenario: Maryland surprises the Big Ten and finishes in the top half of the league behind elite backcourt play from Wells and Trumble. Finishing with just over 20 wins earns the Terps a late invite to the Dace.

Worst-case scenario: The Big Ten proves to be much more difficult than the ACC and Maryland wears down early in 2015, finishing with a losing conference record and missing the tournament once again.

Projected finish: 11th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank* National Rank
Scoring Offense 70.9 8 157
Scoring Defense 67.7 9 103
Field Goal Percentage .430 8 218
Field Goal Percentage Defense .417 7 78
3-pt FG Percentage .342 7 172
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .341 9 154
Free Throw Percentage .679 12 253
Rebounding Margin +3.3 5
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.7/12.8 = 0.9 11 243
Steals 6.3 6 138
Blocked Shots 4.3 6 81
*Where Maryland’s stats would have ranked in the Big Ten last season

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Michigan Wolverines Block M - Maize
Head Coach: John Beilein (8th season)
2013-14: 28-9, 1st in Big Ten (15-3), Elite Eight NCAA Tournament
Returning Starters: 2 (Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Jr.)
Recruiting class rank: #28 (Kameron Chatman, D.J. Wilson, Ricky Doyle, Aubrey Dawkins, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Austin Hatch)
Key non-conference games: Nov 24 vs Oregon, Dec 2 vs Syracuse, Dec 13 at Arizona, Dec 20 vs SMU

John Beilein has certainly turned the Michigan basketball program around. After leading his team to the National Championship game in 2013 and losing stars Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to the first round of the NBA draft, Beilein simply reloaded and came within one miracle heavy by Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison of returning to the Final Four. Now the team is hoping to recover from major losses once again as Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III left for the NBA, Jordan Morgan graduated and Jon Horford transferred to Florida for his final year of eligibility.

It’s no secret that Beilein needs to continue developing his players to maintain Michigan’s recent success. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. weren’t the most highly-rated recruits, but they will be asked to lead the offense from the backcourt this season after shouldering a big load last year. LeVert, who was named to the 2014-15 preseason All-Big Ten team, set the precedent for sophomore Zak Irvin, who is the popular choice for Michigan’s third straight breakout star.

As the former Mr. Basketball in Indiana, Irvin should welcome lofty expectations. He gave the offense a shot in the arm in a lesser role last season, and will hope to become a more versatile scorer as a starter, much like Stauskas and LeVert did last year.

Michigan also brings in a trio of talented freshmen in D.J. Wilson, Kameron Chatman and, perhaps most importantly, Ricky Doyle. While Wilson and Chatman figure to join a deep rotation of talented guards, Doyle will join redshirt freshman Mark Donnel as the top options at center for Michigan. The two freshmen stand at just 6 foot 9, so Michigan will have to hide that weakness with another elite offensive season.

Player to watch: Derrick Walton. Michigan figures to get great production from the wings while struggling down low because of a size disadvantage. If Walton can build off of an impressive freshman season, he could give Michigan enough of a backcourt to make another run at the Big Ten

Best-case scenario: John Beilein does it again, and the revamped Wolverines improve throughout the nonconference season and emerge as one of the top teams in the Big Ten. After a top-3 finish in the conference, Michigan enters March with a return to the Final Four in mind.

Worst-case scenario: The exodus of centers from last season bites Michigan, and the Big Ten exposes a lack of size and experience in the paint. Michigan finishes the conference season in the middle of the pack and approaches Selection Sunday with a nervous twinge of doubt about their status.

Projected finish: 3rd

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 73.9 3 70
Scoring Defense 65.1 5 48
Field Goal Percentage .477 1 18
Field Goal Percentage Defense .445 12 196
3-pt FG Percentage .402 1 4
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .318 6 46
Free Throw Percentage .763 1 10
Rebounding Margin +0.2 10
Assist/Turnover Ratio 14.2/9.3 = 1.5 2 7
Steals 5.2 9 273
Blocked Shots 2.4 12 301

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Michigan State Spartans MichiganStateLogo
Head Coach: Tom Izzo (20th season)
2013-14: 29-9, T-2nd in Big Ten (12-6), Elite Eight NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 2 (Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson)
Recruiting class rank: #51 (Lourawls Nairn, Jr., Javon Bess, Marvin Clark)
Key non-conference games: Nov 18 vs Duke, Dec 3 at ND

Michigan State battled through some regular-season adversity to emerge as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four last March, but fell short when eventual champion UCONN sent the Spartans home. In the following weeks, head coach Tom Izzo said goodbye to his three top players: Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling.

This season, a variety of role players will be asked to fill the void left by those starters, as the incoming freshmen are far from elite. Branden Dawson will be asked to finally embrace his full potential and anchor the starting lineup alongside streaky Denzel Valentine. Travis Trice and Matt Costello will be asked to step into bigger roles this season and give the Spartans a chance to contend for another Big Ten title.

Izzo’s teams often start slowly during the nonconference season, but they will always improve enough to offer a challenge as the calendar turns to March. With all the new faces in East Lansing, this team will likely follow that same script.

Player to watch: Branden Dawson. Will Dawson finally turn the corner and become the dominant inside presence Izzo recruited him to be? He’s no longer in the (exceptionally large) shadows of Derrick Nix or Payne, which means this is his team now.

Best-case scenario: Though this group may not be one of Izzo’s more talented teams, the best-case scenario for Michigan State is always to be in contention for a Final Four run. If Dawson has an All-Big Ten season and the role players progress significantly, no coach in the country will want to match up with MSU in the NCAA Tournament.

Worst-case scenario: A loaded Big Ten proves difficult for the Spartans during a transition year and the team lands somewhere around .500 in the conference and barely squeezes into the Big Dance.

Projected finish: 5th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 75.5 2 49
Scoring Defense 65.6 7 57
Field Goal Percentage .474 2 21
Field Goal Percentage Defense .397 1 18
3-pt FG Percentage .392 2 16
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .332 8 103
Free Throw Percentage .707 9 151
Rebounding Margin +5.1 3
Assist/Turnover Ratio 16.8/11.6 = 1.4 3 18
Steals 6.8 5 85
Blocked Shots 4.6 4 63

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Ohio State Buckeyes Ohio State logo new
Head Coach: Thad Matta (11th season)
2013-14: 25-10, 5th in Big Ten (10-8), Second Round NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 2 (Amir Williams, Sam Thompson)
Recruiting class rank: #8 (D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, Dave Bell)
Key non-conference games: Nov 18 vs Marquette, Dec 2 at Louisville, Dec 20 vs UNC

Remember when Ohio State was 15-0 last season and ranked in the top five? Not many do, because the Buckeyes finished the season 10-10 with a loss to 2014’s Cinderella, the Dayton Flyers, in their first tournament game. Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. graduated, and LaQuinton Ross signed with a team in Italy, so things can only get worse for Than Matta’s group, right?

Wrong. Matta countered the loss of three starters by welcoming a top-five recruiting class into Columbus for the 2014-15 season. Top-ranked shooting guard D’Angelo Russell offers a much-needed shot in the arm for what was a terrible Buckeye offense last season. Shannon Scott will take over as the defensive anchor in wake of Craft’s departure, as OSU tries to match last year’s 59.8 points allowed per game (12th in the nation).

In the paint Ohio State will rely on two potential studs to mask an otherwise thin roster. Amir Williams is a beast on the defensive end and will have to stay out of foul trouble. Anthony Lee joins the Buckeyes after transferring from Temple and will partner with Williams to compose a duo that has to grab all the rebounds for this team.

Player to watch: D’Angelo Russell. He’s the top-ranked recruit joining the Big Ten this season, and Matta has a way of getting the most out of his guards. He has to be the go-to man on offense right out of the gates.

Best-case scenario: Matta turns Russell into one of the top players in the country and pairs him with a dominant defense led by Scott and Williams to win the Big Ten and enter the NCAA Tournament as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four.

Worse-case scenario: A talented trio of recruits suffers growing pains and fails to live up to sky-high standards in Columbus, while foul trouble exposes a thin inside presence on defense. Ohio State struggles in the conference season and finishes sixth in the Big Ten, earning a double-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament

Projected finish: 2nd

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 69.5 9 190
Scoring Defense 59.8 1 11
Field Goal Percentage .450 5 124
Field Goal Percentage Defense .406 2 34
3-pt FG Percentage .324 9 263
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .293 1 5
Free Throw Percentage .689 11 211
Rebounding Margin +0.3 9
Assist/Turnover Ratio 12.0/11.3 = 1.1 6 161
Steals 7.7 1 21
Blocked Shots 4.5 5 85

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Penn State Nittany Lions Penn State Logo
Head Coach: Patrick Chambers (4th season)
2013-14: 16-18, T-10th Big Ten (6-12), CBI Quarterfinals
Returning starters: 4 (Jordan Dickerson, D.J. Newbill, Brandon Taylor, John Johnson)
Recruiting class rank: #86 (Shep Garner, Isaiah Washington, Devin Foster)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Virginia Tech

It might be another tough year for Pat Chambers and Penn State, especially now that Tim Frazier’s rein of terrorizing the Big Ten is finally over. But five of Penn State’s Big Ten losses came by five points or less last season, which means the Nittany Lions were reasonably within reach of finishing 11-7 in the nation’s top conference. That would have put PSU in fourth place with an overall record of 20-12 at the end of the regular season, a resume that almost exactly mirrors the one that put Nebraska in the NCAA Tournament.

Frazier’s departure hurts the Nittany Lions, but D.J. Newbill quietly took over much of the leadership from the senior last year, leading the team with 17.8 points per game and finishing second in rebounds, blocks and steals. Newbill won’t be alone as the team returns each of its top six scorers from last season, with the exception of Frazier.

Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor will start in the frontcourt for Chambers, who will have no shortage of veteran depth across the board.

Player to watch: Devin Foster. The junior college transfer quietly chose Penn State during the offseason and should take over as the starting point guard right off the bat. Foster averaged 12.2 points and 4.8 assists per game last season with Vincennes and gives Chambers a much-needed distributor on offense.

Best-case scenario: A host of returning players continues to improve under Chambers and Penn State wins half of its Big Ten games, threatening fellow bubble teams in the race for a NCAA Tournament bid.

Worst-case scenario: While Newbill performs much like he did last season, the loss of Frazier turns Penn State into the team it was two years ago, when its leader missed the entire season with a ruptured achilles. If so, the Nittany Lions could end up near the bottom of the league.

Projected finish: 10th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 70.9 8 158
Scoring Defense 70.2 10 172
Field Goal Percentage .428 8 228
Field Goal Percentage Defense .414 5 63
3-pt FG Percentage .319 10 284
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .352 12 222
Free Throw Percentage .741 4 38
Rebounding Margin +0.7 6
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.3/10.6 = 1.1 8 144
Steals 4.5 11 327
Blocked Shots 4.7 3 58

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Rutgers Scarlet Knights Rutgers logo
Head Coach: Eddie Jordan (2nd season)
2013-14: 12-21, 7th in AAC (5-13), No postseason
Returning starters: 2 (Kadeem Jack, Myles Mack)
Recruiting class rank: #66 (D.J. Foreman, Mike Williams, Ibrahima Diallo)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Duke, Dec 6 at Marquette, Dec 22 at California

Rutgers has battled controversy in its basketball program over the past couple of years, and the looming Big Ten schedule could make the winter just as ugly on the court for the Scarlett Knights. Eddie Jordan’s team failed to knock off a ranked opponent last season and now faces a conference slate that could feature as many as eight ranked teams over the course of the coming months.

Last year’s 20-loss team returns only three of the seven players that averaged more than five points per game. Luckily for Jordan, top playmakers Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack will lead the offense after averaging a combined 29.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and five assists per game last season. Jack is a slightly undersized center who will battle more physical defenses in the Big Ten, and his transition will be a major factor for Rutgers.

Player to watch: Kadeem Jack. His special 2013-14 season was masked by the team’s struggles, but the 6 foot 9 forward put up 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field. His 68.8 percent free throw rate will be a number to watch as Big Ten centers bang with him in the paint.

Best-case scenario: Rutgers fans are treated to another version of the Mack and Jack show, carrying the team out of the Big Ten cellar in its first go-around.

Worst-case scenario: Rutgers finished 1-11 on the road last season with the lone win coming over last-place South Florida. With that in mind, Rutgers could realistically lose nearly every single Big Ten game if the players don’t make a smooth transition from the American.

Projected finish: 14th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank* National Rank
Scoring Offense 71.1 8 185
Scoring Defense 76.2 13 298
Field Goal Percentage .426 11 270
Field Goal Percentage Defense .447 13 232
3-pt FG Percentage .336 7 230
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .371 13 302
Free Throw Percentage .706 10 163
Rebounding Margin -0.6 11
Assist/Turnover Ratio 12.7/12.6 = 1.0 9 194
Steals 5.8 8 209
Blocked Shots 4.2 7 114
*Where Rutgers’ stats would have ranked in the Big Ten last season

Michigan basketball season preview: Freshman Kameron Chatman

Thursday, October 30th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-KameronChatman

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 wing Kameron Chatman.
Previously: Ricky Doyle

#3 Kameron Chatman
Measurements 6’7″, 210 7/18/14 Men's basketball promos
Hometown Portland, Ore.
High School Columbia Christian HS
High School Stats (2013-14) Unavailable
AAU ICP Elite
Projected Position(s) Wing
Committed Oct. 1, 2013
Major Suitors Arizona, Oregon, USC, UConn, UCLA
Chance of Redshirt 0 percent
Recruiting Rankings
Rivals 4-star – Overall: 25
Scout 4-star – Overall: 23, Position: 6
ESPN 4-star – Overall: 38, Position: 11, State: 1, Grade: 88
247 4-star – Overall: 28, Position: 8, State: 1, Grade: 97
247 Composite 4-star – Overall: 27, Position: 7, State: 1

Background:

Kameron Chatman

(247 Sports)

Unlike many prospects John Beilein goes after, Kam Chatman’s recruitment was relatively normal, if that is a thing anymore. Michigan pursued the lengthy Portland native early in his career while still attending Jefferson High School until his junior year, when Chatman decided to transfer to California powerhouse Long Beach Poly. Due to transfer rules, Chatman was ruled ineligible by the California Interscholastic Federation and was relegated to the junior varsity team, where he tore through the competition with averages of 25 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists per game.

Despite his inability to compete at the highest level of high school basketball, Chatman continued to draw major interest from top-notch colleges, particularly on the West Coast and in the PAC-12, and eventually earned invitations to the Jordan Brand Classic, the USA Basketball U-18 national team tryouts, and the LeBron James Skills Academy. By the time Chatman transferred to Columbia Christian back in Portland, he had offers from just about every PAC-12 school, including presumed leaders Arizona and Oregon, and a host of other schools around the country, like UConn and Memphis. But Michigan, led by recruiting guru Jeff Meyer, was persistent in their pursuit of the rising senior and never gave up hope.

With this persistence, Michigan’s coaching staff was able to secure an official visit from Chatman for the weekend of the football team’s heart-pounding 41-30 triumph over Notre Dame and made another impression.

Not to be outdone, Oregon, USC, and favorite Arizona hosted Chatman on officials the next three consecutive weeks. Once again, it looked like Michigan’s chances were nil.

Apparently Chatman had other thoughts, though, inviting Coach John Beilein out for an in-home visit on October 1 and committing to play across the country in Ann Arbor later that day.

For Beilein and his staff, it was the first major recruiting battle won against other national powers since reigning in Mitch McGary two years prior.

Now, Chatman and his fellow freshmen have a chance to show what they’ve got with plenty of minutes up for grabs. The lefty wing from the West Coast has been climbing up the boards of scouts across the country, and looks to be perhaps next in line at the Beilein NBA Molding Factory, but will he be able to back up those lofty expectations in the Big Ten?

Video:



What He Will Provide:

1. Versatility: Chatman himself has said that he’s never stuck to one position throughout his career, having played everything from point guard to the four spot. This will be a huge asset on a very young and inexperienced Michigan team who will be looking for depth at just about every spot on the floor. Right now, Chatman is widely assumed to be the front-runner to start at the four-position, but he will also likely be one of the primary backups at the two and three wing spots.

Chatman should be one of those players that can do a lot of things well but doesn’t do any one thing great. He should be a reliable third or fourth scorer who grabs rebounds, dishes out a few nice assists, and plays tough defense. Lastly, having a southpaw should give Beilein even more freedom in running his offense, as Chatman will be able to mirror actions from right-hand dominant players and give the defense that much more to think about.

2. Length and Size: Kam Chatman is not the most athletic player out there, but he does possess above-average length and size for where he will be playing. At 6’7″, Chatman is at least three full inches taller than the last southpaw Michigan played at the four, Zack Novak, and with a 6’9″ wingspan, Chatman should make up for his lack of athleticism on defense and on the glass. Whether you consider it size or versatility, Chatman will also enable Beilein to go bigger than ever before, with a potential lineup of LeVert-Irvin-Chatman-Wilson-Doyle (and maybe even Abdur-Rahkman at the one), to give defenses fits and offenses even more trouble in dealing with a long man-to-man across the board

What He Will Have to Work On:

1. Consistency: The big knock on Chatman right now is consistency, especially in outside shooting. I really like the Oregonian’s efficient stroke and release point, and with Beilein as his coach I expect great improvements in this department, but it deserves to be said that Michigan won’t be at its best unless Chatman can be a consistent three-point and mid-range threat. Obviously all players go through ups and downs throughout the season and Chatman has plenty of things to focus on as a freshman, but pay special attention to how many attempts he is taking from deep per game. I’d like to see him attempting 2-3 per game and work his way through any hiccups. In summer EYBL play, Chatman shot under 20 percent from downtown; a number that low is not going to cut it in college.

2. Athleticism: Chatman will never be an above-the-rim type player, but I’d like to see him improve his strength and quickness especially for the defensive end of the floor. Scouts rave about Chatman’s ability to get where he wants on the court and to find the open man when his shot isn’t there; now, if he can gain some muscle, jump a few inches higher, and body up against bigger opponents, Chatman will be an explosive and incredibly dynamic wing.

Burning Question: Can Kameron Chatman replace Glenn Robinson III’s production?

As a role-playing freshman on a Michigan team that eventually came up just short of an NCAA Championship, Glenn Robinson III was able to put up 11 points, more than five rebounds, one assist, and one steal per game. Chatman has the ability to put up similar numbers and will be given every opportunity to do so, and quite frankly Michigan is in a pretty similar situation to where they were two years ago, but will the freshman find his shot consistently enough to be that stat-sheet stuffer?

Stat Predictions: 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 turnovers, 46% FG, 34% 3pt., 70% FT, 25 minutes per game

Bottom Line: Chatman is the crown jewel of yet another sizable Beilein recruiting class, and fans have high expectations for the freshman playing more than 2,000 miles from home. He’ll have his highs and lows, but look for Chatman to be a balancing and calming force for this young team.

Michigan basketball season preview: Freshman Ricky Doyle

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-RickyDoyle

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

First up is freshman big man Ricky Doyle.

#32 Ricky Doyle
Measurements 6’9″, 245

7/18/14 Men's basketball promos

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

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

Ricky Doyle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video:



What He Will Provide:

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

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

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

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

What He Will Have to Work On:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 Big Ten basketball preview: Part one

Monday, October 27th, 2014


2014-15 B1G BBall Preview-Part1

Over the past few years an incredible change has passed over the Midwest, which was long praised for elite football programs like Michigan and Ohio State and largely uncompetitive on the hardwood with Michigan State taking the cake nearly every season. Now, the sports landscape has been turned on its head, as Big Ten football struggles to keep three teams ranked in the Top 25 while the basketball conference continues to solidify itself as the best in the nation.

Last season was another great campaign for the conference as a whole. Wisconsin fought its way through a tough West regional to reach the Final Four, while Michigan and Michigan State were just seconds away from doing the same, eventually losing to the two National Championship competitors. Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska were also selected for the Big Dance, giving the Big Ten six teams that made the cut. Minnesota also had a successful postseason, winning the NIT championship.

The Big Ten has climbed to the top of the basketball world by featuring a deep slate of teams led by a few legitimate Final Four contenders. This season will be no different, even as the conference welcomes two new teams that have struggled in recent years.

Below is part one of our Big Ten preview. Although there are no divisions in basketball, we’re splitting our preview up into the Big Ten West and Big Ten East football divisions for the sake of organization. Part two will be posted later this week.

Note: In the 2013 Stats & Rankings tables for each team, the darker the shade of maize, the better that team was in that category; the darker the shade of blue, the worse that team was in that category.

Illinois Fighting Illini IllinoisLogo
Head Coach: John Groce (3rd season)
2013-14: 20-15, T-8th in Big Ten (7-11), No postseason
Returning starters: 4 (Nnanna Egwu, Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn)
Recruiting class rank: (according to 247 Sports): #47 (Leron Black, Michael Finke)
Key non-conference games: Dec. 2 at Miami, Dec. 9 vs Villanova, Dec. 13 vs Oregon

Jon Groce took a major step backwards in his second season in the Big Ten, missing the NCAA Tournament and falling to Clemson by one point in the second round of the NIT. Illinois received a major blow during the offseason when Tracy Abrams tore his ACL, putting the senior point guard out of commission for the entire year.

Despite the loss of Abrams, the Illini offense will have to improve on an average of 64.6 points per game last season, which was good for 311th in the nation. Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice joined Illinois and led the team in scoring with 15.9 points per game last year, but he’ll need help from young players like Kendrick Nunn to give the team a chance to play deep into March in 2015.

Player to watch: Rayvonte Rice. He led the team in scoring in his first Big Ten season, shooting 43 percent from the field and grabbing six boards per game.

Best-case scenario: Rice continues to improve his offensive game, and Nnanna Egwu becomes a defensive force in the paint, leading Illinois to an NCAA Tournament berth.

Worst-case scenario: The team feels the loss of Abrams and lets that set a defeated tone for the season, which carries into the gauntlet Big Ten schedule and Groce’s team ends up in a second straight NIT.

Projected finish: 8th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 64.2 11 303
Scoring Defense 62.2 2 19
Field Goal Percentage .411 11 303
Field Goal Percentage Defense .421 9 94
3-pt FG Percentage .317 11 292
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .343 11 164
Free Throw Percentage .733 6 59
Rebounding Margin +0.5 8
Assist/Turnover Ratio 10.0/10.4 = 1.0 10 209
Steals 6.1 6 155
Blocked Shots 3.6 9 164

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Iowa Hawkeyes Iowa logo
Head Coach: Fran McCaffery (5th season)
2013-14: 20-13, 6th in Big Ten (9-9), First round NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 3 (Adam Woodbury, Aaron White, Mike Gesell)
Recruiting class rank: #72 (Brady Ellingson, Trey Dickerson, Dominique Uhl)
Key non-conference games: Nov. 20 vs Texas, Dec. 3 at UNC, Dec 12 vs Iowa State

Iowa returns most of a team that put together one of the most confusing resumes in the country last season, ultimately finishing with 20 wins and squeaking into an NCAA Tournament first-round game. The only major loss is that of Roy Devyn Marble, who was the most dangerous offensive player for Fran McCaffery last season.

On offense the Hawkeyes ranked in the top 15 in points, rebounds and assists per game a year ago. At the same time, the defense ranked 12th in rebounds, 37th in blocks and 54th in steals per game, combining to form one of the most impressive statistical resumes in the country. But a 1-6 finish to the regular season set up the overtime loss to Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and sent Iowa home as an afterthought.

This year the team will rely heavily on do-it-all man Aaron White and an athletic backcourt of Mike Gesell and junior college All-American transfer Trey Dickerson to lead a lethal offense. Center Adam Woodbury will be asked to anchor the defense as a junior.

Player to watch: Trey Dickerson. McCaffery brought in Dickerson to give the offense an element of speed, which helped him earn All-American honors in junior college. He could be a huge addition to this deep Iowa rotation.

Best-case scenario: With a balanced offense returning, the Hawkeyes learn from their late-season collapse and put together a complete season, finishing near the top of the Big Ten and priming themselves for a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Worst-case scenario: The loss of Marble puts too much of the load on White and the offense takes a step back, exposing an overmatched defense. Iowa fights through an inconsistent conference season and lands on the wrong side of the bubble in March.

Projected finish: 6th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 81.5 1 8
Scoring Defense 70.3 11 175
Field Goal Percentage .463 3 51
Field Goal Percentage Defense .415 6 68
3-pt FG Percentage .350 5 135
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .317 5 47
Free Throw Percentage .735 5 52
Rebounding Margin +7.0 2
Assist/Turnover Ratio 16.1/11.2 = 1.4 4 20
Steals 7.1 3 53
Blocked Shots 5.0 2 35

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Minnesota Golden Gophers Minnesota-Logo
Head Coach: Richard Pitino (2nd season)
2013-14: 2013-14: 25-13, 7th in Big Ten (8-10), NIT Champions
Returning Starters: 4 (Maurice Walker, Joey King, Andre Hollis, Deandre Mathieu)
Recruiting class rank: #71 (Nate Mason, Jr., Carlos Morris, Josh Martin, Bakary Konate, Gaston Diedhiou)
Key non-conference games: Nov 14 vs Louisville, Dec 2 at Wake Forest

Minnesota put together quite a run to end the 2014 season, winning five straight games by single digits to take home the NIT crown. As the best of the teams that didn’t make the tournament, Minnesota proved that it probably should have received an invite to the Dance.

Now, Richard Pitino returns three of his four leading scorers, including the explosive Andre Hollins, to an offense that must improve on its 71.2 points per contest from last season. Top rebounder Elliot Eliason is also back, and joins Hollins and Deandre Mathieu to form a solid core in Minnesota.

Pitino will have to fill the void left by Austin Hollis, who did a little of everything for the Gophers, averaging 12.4 points, 2.4 assists, five rebounds and two steals per game. Minnesota should be back on the bubble for an NCAA Tournamnt berth, if it can finish .500 in the Big Ten.

Player to watch: Deandre Mathieu. The Morehead State transfer burst onto the Big Ten scene last season, averaging 12 points and 4.2 assists per game for the Golden Gophers. If he can improve on his numbers as a season, he could become an even better version of Austin Hollins.

Best-case scenario: Mathieu clicks, Andre Hollins makes smart decisions as an upperclassman, and Pitino leads his team to double digit conference wins in his second year with Minnesota.

Worst-case scenario: The consistency and playmaking ability of Austin Hollins is sorely missed and the committee of talented guards in Minnesota struggles to fill that gap. Minnesota ends up back in the NIT with a chance to defend their bittersweet title.

Projected finish: 7th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 71.1 7 149
Scoring Defense 67.7 9 106
Field Goal Percentage .447 7 121
Field Goal Percentage Defense .426 10 110
3-pt FG Percentage .352 4 118
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .343 10 170
Free Throw Percentage .742 3 45
Rebounding Margin +0.6 7
Assist/Turnover Ratio 13.9/11.7 = 1.2 5 71
Steals 7.6 2 36
Blocked Shots 4.1 7 115

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Nebraska Cornhuskers Nebraska logo
Head Coach: Tim Miles (3rd season)
2013-14: 19-13, 4th in Big Ten (11-7), Second Round NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 5 (David Rivers, Terran Petteway, Walter Pitchford, Shavon Shields, Tai Webster)
Recruiting class rank: #87 (Jake Hammond, Tarin Smith)
Key non-conference games: Dec 1 at Florida State, Dec 7 vs Creighton, Dec 13 vs Cincinnati

After an 0-4 start to the Big Ten season landed Nebraska at 8-8 on the season, rumblings of a tournament bid completely died in Lincoln as the team featured no quality wins and two terrible losses. But then, in perhaps the most unlikely turnaround in the country, the Cornhuskers won 11 of their last 14 regular season games before being bounced out of the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament on consecutive Fridays.

The X-factor for Nebraska was obvious: Tim Miles’ team simply didn’t lose in the brand-new Pinnacle Bank Arena. In 16 games at home, Nebraska went 15-1 with a last-second loss to the conference champion Wolverines in early January. With that type of home court advantage this season, the Cornhuskers should be well on their way to another tournament appearance.

Of the nine players that averaged over 10 minutes per game for Miles, seven of them are returning, including two of the top offensive players in the conference: Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields. The two forwards make up perhaps the most dynamic duo in the Midwest and figure to lead this team as it enters the season with something new surrounding the program: Expectations.

Last season it was a miracle for Nebraska to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, but this year it will be a massive letdown if they don’t return.

Player to watch: Terran Petteway. This guy is a legitimate contender for conference player of the year. He averaged 18.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season while leading the underdog Cornhuskers to fourth place in the best conference in basketball.

Best-case scenario: Nebraska returns with all the magic from last season and puts together a complete campaign, winning 25 plus games and challenging Wisconsin for the Big Ten crown.

Worst-case scenario: Shields and Petteway can’t match their 2013-14 level of play and the team spends the whole season searching for a leader. In March Nebraska sits near the middle of the pack in the Big Ten and on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble.

Projected finish: 4th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 66.8 10 263
Scoring Defense 65.2 6 50
Field Goal Percentage .427 9 235
Field Goal Percentage Defense .420 8 88
3-pt FG Percentage .333 7 210
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .315 3 42
Free Throw Percentage .717 8 117
Rebounding Margin -1.9 11
Assist/Turnover Ratio 9.5/10.9 = 0.9 11 284
Steals 6.9 4 72
Blocked Shots 3.1 11 213

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Northwestern Wildcats NorthwesternLogo
Head Coach: Chris Collins (2nd season)
2013-14: 14-19, T-10th in Big Ten, No postseason
Returning starters: 4 (Alex Olah, Sanjay Lumpkin, JerShon Cobb, Tre Demps
Recruiting class rank: #54 (Vic Law, Bryant McIntosh, Scott Lindsey, Gavin Skelly, Johnnie Vassar)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Georgia Tech, Dec 6 at Butler

The hire of Chris Collins from Duke University sparked a buzz around the Northwestern program last season, and the team did show signs of competing within the Big Ten. In fact, with a 5-5 conference record on the first day of February, the Wildcats were in fourth place in the conference with just 10 games to go. Unfortunately, those 10 games didn’t go well.

Northwestern lost their next seven games and eight of their last 10 to finish just a game out of the cellar. Now Collins has to move forward without his best all-around player Drew Crawford, who has taken his talents to the NBA. Crawford led the team in scoring and rebounding and was among the top three in assists and blocks last season.

The team will feature much of the same core in 2014-15, with guards JerShon Cobb and Tre Demps leading the charge from the backcourt. Seven-foot center Alex Olah is back after a solid sophomore season, and Dave Sobolewski will have to step up as a senior coming off the bench. Vic Law was a top 100 recruit and should give the team a future to build around going forward.

Player to watch: Vic Law. The freshman forward should grow into a significant role this season and play a big part in what Collins hopes to do at Northwestern. The team is deep in the backcourt, but could really use a breakout season from Law on the wing.

Best-case scenario: Northwestern’s starting lineup gels and keeps them in most of their games, thanks to career seasons from Cobb and Demps and a solid freshman campaign from Law. The Wildcats enter the final weeks of the season with an opportunity to put themselves on the bubble.

Worst-case scenario: Big Ten defenses no longer have to worry about Crawford, so the host of Wildcat guards are slowed by more focused defenses.

Projected finish: 12th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 59.5 12 347
Scoring Defense 63.4 3 30
Field Goal Percentage .396 12 335
Field Goal Percentage Defense .411 3 55
3-pt FG Percentage .306 12 318
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .315 4 45
Free Throw Percentage .700 10 177
Rebounding Margin -4.5 12
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.0/10.9 = 1.0 9 175
Steals 4.3 12 335
Blocked Shots 3.7 8 162

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Purdue Boilermakers Purdue logo
Head Coach: Matt Painter (10th season)
2013-14: 15-17, 12th in Big Ten (5-13), No postseason
Returning starters: 3 (A.J. Hammons, Kendall Stephens, Rapheal Davis)
Recruiting class rank: #34 (Isaac Haas, Vincent Edwards, Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson, Jacquil Taylor)
Key non-conference games: Nov 24 vs Kansas State, Dec 2 vs NC State, Dec 20 vs ND

It took a truly impressive collapse from Matt Painter’s team to finish with a losing record last season, as Purdue stood at 13-5 midway through the season. A 2-12 finish certainly wasn’t what Painter had in mind, and losing his top two scoring threats for this season won’t help.

When two-time MVP Terone Johnson graduated and moved on to play professional ball in Greece, his brother, Ronnie decided to transfer and take his talents to Houston. With the loss of the Johnson brothers Painter waved goodbye to a total of 22.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game. The only saving grace is that starting center A.J. Hammons is ready to take over the team as a junior, much like JaJuan Johnson did under Painter as a sophomore five years ago.

Hammons will be joined by returning guards Kendall Stephens and Bryson Scott, who played major roles for Purdue last season. Transfer Jon Octeus could be the most important player for the Boilermakers this season after he averaged 13.4 points and 4.7 rebounds out of the backcourt for Colorado State last season.

Player to watch: A.J. Hammons. When Purdue was a Big Ten powerhouse under Painter, the centerpiece was a dominant big man inside. Now Hammons looks like the team’s only chance to get back to that level of success following a last-place finish.

Best-case scenario: Hammons takes the reins and runs with them, drawing double and triple teams to help out the trio of potential breakout guards. Purdue fights its way into the top 10 in the conference and gives the top teams headaches in February and March.

Worst-case scenario: Purdue continues to trend downward and finishes at the bottom of the league once again. Hammons isn’t ready to be a go-to scorer and Painter’s seat gets ever hotter.

Projected finish: 13th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 72.2 5 109
Scoring Defense 71.7 12 208
Field Goal Percentage .427 10 239
Field Goal Percentage Defense .419 7 83
3-pt FG Percentage .327 8 239
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .326 7 77
Free Throw Percentage .671 12 271
Rebounding Margin +3.5 4
Assist/Turnover Ratio 13.1/12.3 = 1.1 7 140
Steals 5.6 8 229
Blocked Shots 5.3 1 28

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wisconsin Badgers Wisconsin logo
Head Coach: Bo Ryan (14th season)
2013-14: 30-8, T-2nd in Big Ten (12-6), Final Four NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 4 (Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson, Josh Gasser)
Recruiting class rank: #108 (Ethan Happ)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Duke, Dec 6 at Marquette, Dec 22 at California

Wisconsin has finished in the top four of the Big Ten standings each year since 2001, but this season, the Badgers are the favorites to land on top and return to the Final Four. Bo Ryan’s returns Big Ten preseason player of the year Frank Kaminsky along with fellow starters Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser.

The Badgers used an eight-game winning streak near the end of the Big Ten season to position themselves as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A one-point overtime win against top-seeded Arizona sent Wisconsin to Arlington, where a one-point loss to Kentucky ended a 30-win season.

Now Ryan enters the 2014-15 season with lofty expectations, thanks to a team that lost little more than Ben Brust during the offseason. Wisconsin should be one of the top teams in the Big Ten and battle for a No. 1 seed in March.

Player to watch: Frank Kaminsky. The seven-footer averaged just 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season, but his strong second half was enough to earn him preseason player of the year honors heading into his senior season.

Best-case scenario: Wisconsin picks up where it left off, blazing through the Big Ten and storming back to the Final Four behind Kaminsky and a more mature Dekker.

Worse-case scenario: Wisconsin’s veteran players take a step back and the team ends up in the fourth or fifth spot in the conference, earning a middling seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Projected finish: 1st

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 73.5 4 77
Scoring Defense 64.0 4 36
Field Goal Percentage .459 4 73
Field Goal Percentage Defense .429 11 118
3-pt FG Percentage .376 3 57
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .341 9 152
Free Throw Percentage .746 2 27
Rebounding Margin +1.5 5
Assist/Turnover Ratio 12.3/8.1 = 1.5 1 8
Steals 4.8 10 302
Blocked Shots 3.3 10 195

Jeff Meyer to be inducted into Taylor University Hall of Fame

Friday, October 17th, 2014


Jeff Meyer(Daniel Brenner, AnnArbor.com)

Michigan basketball assistant coach Jeff Meyer will be inducted into the Taylor University Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday. Taylor also happens to be my Alma mater. The university issued a release this afternoon.

“I am humbled and feel extremely blessed with this honor,” said Meyer. “Taylor University provided me a life changing college experience as a student-athlete which enabled me to establish a Faith foundation that has served my family and me well in our journey through life together.

“Life is a team sport. So many friends, co-workers, colleagues and former players have made this recognition possible. I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to these life teammates, and especially my wife, Karen, and our family for their enduring support and encouragement.”

“Jeff values his education at Taylor so much,” said Michigan Head Coach John Beilein. “He talks about it often and knows it’s been a separator for him in his life that allowed him to get into coaching and allowed him to have a tremendous career as a coach. It’s terrific to be recognized by your Alma Mater in an environment like this; he certainly deserves it and I’m glad they are honoring him in this way.”

A 1976 Taylor graduate, Meyer is beginning his seventh season as a member of the Michigan basketball staff. During in time in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines have won a pair of Big Ten championships (2012, ’14) and reached the NCAA Tournament five times, including back-to-back Elite Eight’s in 2013 and 2014, including a trip to the Final Four and championship game in 2013.

Meyer has spent 36 years coaching collegiately and has been a part of 670 victories as a head and assistant coach, including 19 trips to postseason competition.

A native of Reynolds, Ind., Meyer began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant at Purdue, helping the Boilermakers to a Big Ten championship in 1979 and the Final Four in 1980. He then spent one season as an assistant at South Florida, where he helped the Bulls reach the NIT.

Meyer was the head coach at Liberty University for 16 seasons from 1981-97, guiding the Flames through their transition from NAIA to NCAA Division I. Meyer won 259 games at Liberty and is the school’s all-time winningest coach. In 1994, Meyer and the Flames won the Big South and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

Following his time at Liberty, Meyer worked as an assistant at Winthrop (1998-01), Butler (2001-04), Missouri (2004-06) and Indiana (2006-08) prior to coming to Ann Arbor. During those 10 seasons, Meyer helped guide his teams to eight postseason appearances, including six NCAA Tournament trips, highlighted by Butler reaching the Sweet 16 in 2003.

Meyer is one of four inductees into the Taylor University Athletic Hall of Fame this weekend, joining long-time Taylor Faculty Athletic Representative Tim Burkholder, former men’s tennis head coach Bob Blume and women’s basketball player Liz Plass Martin.

Taylor is a perennial NAIA basketball power that has gained notoriety in recent years for its Silent Night tradition that has been featured on ESPN. Meyer played at Taylor for legendary coach Don Odle, who led Taylor from 1947-79. In the early 1950s, Odle founded Venture for Victory, which took all-star college basketball players on playing trips to countries such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Odle also coached Taiwan’s national team during the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

Odle was replaced by Paul Patterson, who guided Taylor from 1979-2013. Following last season, Patterson retired as the winningest collegiate coach in Indiana history with 734, 73 wins ahead of second-place Bob Knight. He led the Trojans to 15 conference championships, 14 NAIA National Tournament appearances, two Sweet 16s and a Final Four while producing 24 NAIA All-Americans.

In addition to Meyer, Taylor has produced a great coaching tree that includes Illinois head coach John Groce, who played for Patterson from 1991-93, former Gardner-Webb head coach and current Butler University interim head coach Chris Holtmann, and Indiana Wesleyan University women’s head coach Steve Brooks.

Beilein, Michigan hungry to get back to Final Four

Thursday, October 16th, 2014


Beilein(Julian H Gonzalez, Detroit Free Press)

John Beilein took the podium for the first time in this new season Thursday morning to preview Michigan’s upcoming season. Big Ten Media Day came just one day after the preseason conference media rankings were released, pegging Michigan as the fifth-best team in the Big Ten.

“It is good to be here and get the season going again,” Beilein said in his opening statement. “We’ve been practicing for a little bit, but Oct. 15, yesterday, was the first day we really opened up camp and said we’re in it now.”

Beilein was peppered with questions about this season’s young team and whether it’s equipped with the tools to make another deep tournament run in March. When asked what challenges standin the way of a return to the Final Four, Beilein spoke from experience, having reached that stagejust two seasons ago.

“I’m as hungry or probably hungrier than ever to get back there,” he said. So I think it’s great motivation for everybody because they’ve experienced that run.”

Last season the Wolverines were just seconds away from another trip to the Final Four, but a deep three-pointer by Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison with virtually no time remaining took Michigan out of the running.

But Beilein wasn’t brooding over the past, he’s ready for what promises to be another long journey with the 2014-15 team, though one filled with ups and downs.

“It’s maybe not getting [to the Final Four], it’s the way you get there and how you get there and those moments in between, the journey,” Beilein said. “It makes it so valuable. So yes, it’s hard. You’d like  to stay injury-free…it’s very normal to have times during that year where you’re not going to play well. You won’t look like a Final Four team, and that’s exactly what you may need in February or late January or even in March.”

Questions surround a Michigan program that lost starters Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan along with big men Mitch McGary and Jon Horford. Beilein’s group will count on another big year from their guards to lead the team.

Among the returning guards is junior Caris LeVert, who was named to the All-Big Ten first team.Beilein thinks his star shooting guard can handle the spotlight in Ann Arbor.

“He was in it a bit last year,” Beilein said. “I mean, there were several games where we just wentto him because people were doing things with Nik or Glenn, Jordan Morgan, Mitch, so we just went with him. He’s sort of used to it.”

Beilein said he loves LeVert’s personality because he doesn’t let anything both him. His level demeanor keeps him from getting too high when the team is rolling or too low when times get hard.

Of the trip to Italy, the head coach said it helped his team learn more about the world as a whole, but also about the game of basketball. He said the coaching staff has a better understanding of who can make adjustments on the fly and adapt to situations quickly.

Michigan will start the regular season against Hillsdale College on Nov. 15 in Ann Arbor.

Caris LeVert named to preseason All-Big Ten first team

Thursday, October 16th, 2014


Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals(Getty Images)

Michigan junior guard Caris LeVert was named to the All-Big Ten first team Thursday during Big Ten basketball media day.

LeVert, who was named to the second team last season, started all 37 games as a sophomore and averaged 12.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. He helped lead Michigan to an outright Big Ten championship and the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

This is the third straight season a Michigan player has received the honor. LeVert joins Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, Nebraska’s Terran Petteway and Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky on the squad. Kaminsky received Big Ten player of the year honors.

LeVert was also named to the 2014 USBWA All-District V Team, was the Rudy Tomjanovich Most Improved Player and Steve Grote Hustle Award recipient at the Wolverines annual postseason celebration.

As a junior LeVert will be asked to lead the Wolverines in the wake of departures from Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgans from last season.

Michigan opens the regular season against Hillsdale College on Nov. 15 at the Crisler Center.

Michigan fifth in preseason Big Ten basketball media poll

Thursday, October 16th, 2014


Beilein(Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan basketball Italy trip review and translation

Monday, October 13th, 2014


Michigan bball Italy(UMHoops)

Michigan fans, I have some good news for you: college basketball season is just around the corner. Practice has started, John Beilein is back at work with the team, and football will soon be a distant memory.

As everyone knows, the Wolverines took one of their every-four-years off-season trips this summer to play some lower-tier teams in Italy, and the results were encouraging, with four 20-plus point wins, a healthy dose of balanced scoring (eight players averaged more than eight points per game), and strong freshmen play.

About that last point, as Michigan fans have become accustomed to, the Maize and Blue will largely be looking to replace the lost production of Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford with five freshmen and a sixth redshirt freshman. You’d be right to blame Beilein with continuous gripes of too much youth if not for his absurd record of turning these young (and often overlooked) Wolverines into high NBA Draft selections. Of those five departures, two were first-rounders, one was a second-rounder, another is off to play first division ball in Europe with Virtus Roma, and the last transferred to Florida. With this turnover comes new names and faces to follow, new games to drool over, and a bevy of prospects that are question marks waiting to become stars under Beilein’s tutelage.

Today, let’s take a trip back in time to analyze some tape of each projected rotation player in Italy and see how their style of play will translate this fall and what still needs to improve. Special thanks to UMHoops for the video.

#23 Caris LeVert – 6’7″, 200
Italy stats: 14.3 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.3 apg, 3 spg, 1.8 TOs, 50% FG, 40% 3pt., 64.3% FT, 4 starts

What he showed: After suffering a stress fracture in his foot over the summer, LeVert was thought to be iffy to even suit up in Italy. Instead, he looked completely healthy and ready to lead the team moving forward. The junior just turned 20 in August, but he certainly looked capable of being The Guy this season, even though his scoring numbers weren’t gaudy.

LeVert came to Ann Arbor two years ago as a late addition after John Groce left Ohio University for Illinois and was by most counts a frustrating, wiry, inconsistent human in jelly-in-basketball-player-mold. A year later, LeVert had easily become the second offensive option on a very talented squad. Now, he is fully expected to lead the team, and his play in Italy leaves few questions. His shot looks as smooth as ever, his passing is crisp, his off-the-ball and pick-and-roll play looks improved, and he can rebound and run with anyone. But what stood out most was his confidence.

In the past, LeVert would sometimes appear to be thinking two steps ahead of his feet and would carelessly turn it over or take an ill-advised shot, but now he is showing that he can take the ball, survey the defense, and take the smartest course of action with his long strides and terrific finishing ability. He is comfortable passing or shooting, he isn’t hesitating at all, and he can even be seen directing his comrades a couple times. By all means, expect an outstanding season from Caris.

Where he can improve: No basketball player is perfect, especially in college, but LeVert’s well-rounded game is hard to nitpick at. One area that I think he has the potential to be even better is his man-to-man defense. LeVert’s size (he grew an inch and gained plenty more weight this off-season) and length give him the prototypical shutdown defender mold, but he lacked aggressiveness at times on that end of the floor last year. His steal numbers are quite encouraging, and his free throw shooting shouldn’t be an issue.

#21 Zak Irvin 6’6″, 215
Italy stats: 20.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1 spg, 2.3 TOs, 68.8% FG, 66.7% 3pt., 83.3% FT, 4 starts

What he showed: Shooting, shooting, and more shooting. Zak Irvin proved how big of a deep threat he is while shooting 42.5 percent from downtown as a freshman who did one thing. It’s pretty clear that his stroke didn’t take a summer break, and his outside shot should continue to make it easier for him to develop a dribble-drive game. In this video, we see some strong finishes, but Irvin really only takes it to the rack by himself a couple of times off two or three dribbles to his left. The majority of his two-pointers here are breakaway dunks and smooth backdoor cuts that won’t be as readily available against better competition. His rebounding numbers are also phenomenal.

Where he can improve: Coaches and players alike have been raving about Irvin’s game since the end of last season, and he has great potential, but his game still lacks LeVert-level diversification. Irvin’s shot is so good right now that I think he relies on it perhaps a bit too much. Look for him to continue to work on his handling and driving skills while using his outside shot to his advantage in creating inside for himself and others. Irvin, like everyone else on the team, needs to also be a little lighter on his feet defensively and use his athleticism and length to create havoc.

#10 Derrick Walton 6’0″, 185
Italy stats: 8.8 ppg, 3.3 apg, 4.5 rpg, 2.5 spg, 1.5 TOs, 44.8% FG, 27.3% 3pt., 50% FT, 4 starts

What he showed: If Caris LeVert is The Guy on this team and Zak Irvin is the dynamic sidekick, Derrick Walton needs to be the glue to hold everything together, and he looks the part to me. I love Walton’s creativity in the paint, his jump shot is worlds better from his high school days, and his acceleration and Trey Burkeian moves all point to No. 10 becoming the next great point guard out of Beilein’s factory. Walton’s high basketball IQ allowed him to learn the ins and outs of the offense rapidly as a freshman, and his grasp should only help the freshmen get up to speed that much sooner.

What he can improve: It’s tough to extrapolate too much from a few overseas blowouts, but Walton’s box scores seem to indicate that he may have spent some time away from the court this summer. His 10-2-9-14 scoring outputs point to a lack of consistency and his poor shooting certainly needs to improve, but I have no doubts that the small sample size and long off-season can take most of the blame here.

#34 Mark Donnal 6’9″, 240
Italy stats: 10.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, .3 bpg, .3 TOs, 69.6% FG, 0% 3pt. (0-3), 81.8% FT, 4 starts

What he showed: Redshirt freshman Mark Donnal displays great movement throughout this clip, and his soft touch around the basket will be a welcome addition after Jordan Morgan sometimes struggled throughout his career in finishing the bunnies. Donnal needs to be able to run the floor in this offense, and he looked more than capable of doing that, beating his man down on a couple occasions and then out-smarting a defender for position as well. Donnal’s high field goal and free throw percentages are exactly what this team needs out of him: smart, solid play and finishing. If he does that, his job is done. Lastly, Donnal’s 14 offensive rebounds to 12 defensive is something exciting to keep an eye on.

What he can improve: What intrigued me most about Donnal as a prospect was his outside shooting. Obviously as a big man you want Donnal to be able to play inside, and he appears to be picking that up pretty well, but his outside shot in high school made me drool over the possibilities in Beilein’s offense. The pick-and-pop would be a terrific addition to this offense, but unfortunately it looks like Donnal is still progressing inside before he thinks too much about stepping out for the trey. His 0-for-3 line from downtown is discouraging for me, and I think he has the talent to do a lot better than one block every four games.

#3 Kameron Chatman 6’7″, 210
Italy stats: 9.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2 spg, 1.3 TOs, 42.5% FG, 33.3% 3pt., 0.0% FT, 4 starts

What he showed: Chatman comes in this season as the most highly touted true freshman of the bunch, and his versatility should help contribute to Michigan’s excellent depth this season. Watching this video, I’m most impressed with Chatman’s vision and midrange game. For a big freshman, Chatman really zips off a few nice passes, and his confident stroke from just inside the deep line bring about memories of GRIII, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Trey Burke. Chatman’s role is just that, to be a role player who can score a few points, rebound well, defend, and provide value in different ways. He doesn’t need to fill up the stat sheet every night, but we should see a solid 6-9 points per game from the Oregon native. I feel like my keyboard is on replay, but Chatman also has great length and appears to have good, not great, athleticism.

What he can improve: Two things stick out right away in Chatman’s line after four games: low shooting percentages and zero attempted free throws. Chatman is most likely going to start from the beginning at the four spot for Beilein, meaning he’ll be going against guys his size on a regular basis. He is not going to be able to curtsy his way to easy one-dribble mid-rangers every night. Instead, Chatman needs to embrace aggressiveness, get to the hole a little more often, and either finish a layup or get fouled. His stroke looks very smooth right now, but he will need to up those shooting numbers a bit.

#32 Ricky Doyle 6’9″, 245
Italy stats: 11.5 ppg, 8 rpg, .3 apg, .3 bpg, 0 TOs, 74.1% FG, 60% FT

What he showed: Ricky Doyle was perhaps the biggest revelation of the Italy tour. In high school, Doyle played in a low-level league and was not active on the AAU circuit. Most of his development came from private lessons. Now in college, the book will be out soon that Doyle is a true big man in every sense of the word. Throughout his nearly three-minute long highlight video seen here, Doyle scored a number of strong buckets by finding open spots, running the floor well, and cleaning up misses, but the one thing that stood out to me was the number of times he put the ball on the floor – zero. Watch for yourself. Not once does Doyle put the rock to hardwood, even at the top of the key while waiting for the wings to complete their action. His field goal percentage is very impressive, and should stay pretty high this year considering the types of shots he’ll be taking, and his team-high eight rebounds per game are as encouraging a stat as any on this trip.

What he can improve: Doyle won’t be asked to do too much offensively this year other than finish off what Michigan’s skilled guards create for him, but some offensive versatility would be nice. He should be able to put the ball on the floor when going back-to-the-basket. Doyle’s free throw percentage is also a hair lower than what you’re comfortable with, and eventually he will work on his range. The Florida native will also want to improve his defensive footwork and mindset, as his 12 fouls were by far the most on the trip. With only him and Donnal really competing for minutes at the five, Doyle needs to be smart when it comes to foul trouble.

#12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman 6’4″, 175
Italy stats: 10 ppg, 2.5 apg, 3.3 rpg, 2.3 spg, 2.3 TOs, 47.8% FG, 20% 3pt., 64% FT

What he showed: Driving. If not for Doyle’s breakout performance, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s (you can’t expect me to write that out every time) impressive four-game stretch would be making the most headlines from the newbies. Michigan basketball’s Twitter account routinely went nuts over MAAR’s driving and finishing ability, and you spot a few glimpses throughout this clip. Abdur-Rahkman was a late pickup this off-season from the Philadelphia area, and while many questioned the scholarship offer, he already looks well on his way to providing immense value as that threat to get to the hole every time. I love his quickness on the dribble and his ability to keep his head up at all times. What’s more is that Abdur-Rahkman didn’t do all his damage in one game. He reached double figures in scoring three of four games and had multiple steals and assists in all four games.

What he can improve: Shooting. Abdur-Rahkman will earn minutes on the wing this season with his driving ability alone, and he should get to the free throw line often, but he will need to make defenders respect his outside shot if he is to bring his game up to the next level. Abdur-Rahkman made just two of his 10 three-point attempts on the trip, and he isn’t shown taking anything from distance in this video. The knock on his game in high school was always that shot, and it looks like he has a ways to go.

#24 Aubrey Dawkins 6’6″, 190
Italy stats: 9.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, .5 apg, .3 spg, .8 TOs, 63.6% FG, 62.5% 3pt., 80% FT

What he showed: Aubrey Dawkins, the son of former Duke great and current Stanford coach Johnny, is probably going to be just a shooter this season if he plays at all, and that’s fine – especially when he is draining nearly two-thirds of his deep attempts. His stroke is smooth and his prep year on the East Coast should serve him well in transitioning to the college game. Dawkins does also showcase a good handle and a few nice finishes in this cut-up, but I expect his game to be pretty similar to Zak Irvin’s of last year. The skinny native Californian is also reputed to be a terrific athlete, which will serve him well down the road and perhaps bring some Glenn Robinson III comparisons eventually.

What he can improve: Again, like Irvin, Dawkins will continue to work on his dribble-drive game so that defenders cannot simply stick to him in the corner and erase him from the picture. Dawkins will need to move around a lot to create open looks for himself while also improving on his ability to get to the rack and the free throw line (just five attempts in four games).

#2 Spike Albrecht 5’11″, 175
Italy stats: 5 ppg, 2.5 apg, 2 rpg, .8 spg, .8 TOs, 46.7% FG, 37.5% 3pt., 75% FT

What he showed: At 22 years old and in his junior season, Spike is pretty safely expected to be the ever-reliable backup point guard. He’s never going to be the biggest, strongest, or most athletic player on the court, but he is calm and collected with the ball in his hands and usually makes the right pass. I’d like to see him shoot a little bit more this season with his terrific numbers, but Albrecht can most definitely be counted on to dribble under the basket and somehow find that open guy on the opposite wing at least once a game. His cool approach to the game and quiet, relaxed demeanor should do well to keep the team playing their style.

What he can improve: There was one really nice behind-the-back, pull-up elbow jumper drained in this video that I’d love to see more from out of Spike, but other than perhaps increased aggressiveness, Albrecht has a very defined game and a somewhat defined ceiling.

# 5 D.J. Wilson 6’9″, 220
Italy stats: N/A

Unfortunately, D.J. Wilson broke his pinky just before the trip to Europe and was unable to take part in gameplay, so I will hold off scouting for now, but if you follow me on Twitter (@SamSedlecky), you’ll see that I have some very high hopes for this lanky Sacramento native.