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Posts Tagged ‘Ricky Doyle’

Albrecht, Doyle to transfer from Michigan

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016


Spike-Doyle(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

On Monday, the Michigan football team gained two commitments. By Tuesday afternoon, the basketball program lost two members of its team. Senior Spike Albrecht and sophomore Ricky Doyle both announced their intentions to transfer.

Albrecht will seek a grad-year transfer, something that Max Bielfeldt did after last season. Bielfeldt landed with Indiana, where was named the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year and helped the Hoosiers to the Sweet 16. Albrecht will hope for a similar role and success wherever he lands.

The Crown Point, Ind. native played in just eight games this season after having offseason hip surgery. He shut his season down early enough to preserve a redshirt. Over his career, Albrecht started just 19 games, but played a pivotal role as the backup point guard. He averaged 3.9 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. However, during his junior season, he made 18 starts and averaged 7.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists.

Albrecht’s legacy will forever be remembered for his breakout performance against Louisville in the 2013 national title game. Coming off the bench in relief of national player of the year Trey Burke, Albrecht scored 17 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting, helping to build a big first half lead. Try watching these highlights without getting goosebumps.

Unfortunately, Michigan lost the game, but Albrecht cemented his legacy with a tweet to Kate Upton following the game.

Doyle has two years of eligibility remaining and will be eligible to play at his new school after sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. According to Doyle’s high school coach, Doyle felt the system wasn’t the right fit for his skills.

The Cape Coral, Fla. native started 20 games over the past two seasons, averaging 4.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. However, his minutes and production fell off this season. After averaging 18.2 minutes, 6.1 points, and 3.2 rebounds during his freshman year in 2014-15, Doyle averaged just 12.2 minutes, 3.8 points, and 2.0 rebounds this season while losing the starting job to Mark Donnal.

In a statement issued by the program, John Beilein thanked Doyle for his contributions to the program.

“Ricky is a tremendous young man with very high character and plenty of potential to develop into being a fine college player,” said Beilein. “We have enjoyed coaching him over the past two years and wish him nothing but the best.”

The two transfers bring Michigan to even in terms of scholarships available with nine players returning and four freshmen coming in. The incoming freshmen include four-star point guard Xavier Simpson, who will replace Albrecht, and big men Austin Davis and Jon Teske, who will replace Doyle.

2015-16 Michigan basketball season review: A season of what-ifs

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016


UM BBall(MGoBlue.com)

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. A year after struggling to a .500 record while two potential stars watched from the bench nursing injuries, Michigan was supposed to bounce back this season. This would finally be the season that John Beilein had some seasoning in his team, with senior leaders that had been to the National Championship before and a pair of juniors who played key roles on an Elite Eight team the following year.

The Michigan Wolverines entered the 2015-16 basketball season primed to show what their healthy, veteran squad could do in a college basketball landscape that lacked any team that clearly stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Senior Caris LeVert was returning from injury after deciding to forego a likely guaranteed NBA paycheck for an opportunity to prove himself.

Fellow senior Spike Albrecht was also coming back after a junior season that saw him sometimes spectacularly lift a shorthanded team to victories that should have never been possible – and he was also supposed to be healthy and ready to roll with a pair of new hips.

Junior Derrick Walton, like LeVert, entered the season at 100 percent after missing the majority of his sophomore season with an injury. And classmate Zak Irvin was back to show everyone that his end-of-year evolution from Just A Shooter to All Around Threat was real.

Sprinkle in a promising group of sophomores that included an eye-popping athlete in Aubrey Dawkins, a quiet but creative playground-style baller in Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and a promising big man on the rise in Ricky Doyle, and it looked as if the 2014-15 season could be just a blip on the timeline of a dominant five-year run for Michigan basketball.

Alas, sometimes the world of basketball is a cruel place.

Perhaps Irvin’s offseason back injury and ensuing surgery should have been a bigger omen than it was perceived to be at the time.

If that wasn’t, then a couple early drubbings at the hands of Xavier and UConn would prove to be all the foreboding necessary.

Sure, Michigan bounced back with an impressive win over Texas and managed to squeak into the NCAA Tournament with a few big time conference home wins and a heart-pounding win over Big Ten champion Indiana in the conference tournament – the season’s unquestionable highlight – but the season certainly didn’t meet some lofty expectations.

A nail-biter victory over Tulsa in the First Four of the Big Dance preceded a season-ending loss to Notre Dame that could not have been a better microcosm. After jumping out to a 12-point halftime lead behind crisp offense, hot shooting, and an efficient fast break attack, the Wolverines faded just as fast in the second stanza with defensive miscues, a brutal scoring drought, and a lack of a killer instinct.

UM BBall 2(MGoBlue.com)

Unfortunately, the team we all thought was going to help us forget last season ultimately became almost a mirror image of that group.

LeVert, an All-American candidate who looked every bit the part in the non-conference, went down at the end of Michigan’s first Big Ten game and missed all but 10 minutes of the rest of the season.

Albrecht, a vocal leader, an excellent passer, and a tremendous shooter, shut it down much earlier on after realizing that his hips had not healed nearly enough to allow him to play effectively or pain-free.

Walton remained healthy for the most part, and his three-point shooting returned to freshman form, but his tantalizing finishing ability from two seasons ago continued to lag behind all year without LeVert around to distract opposing defenses.

Irvin, a deadeye shooter just two seasons ago who blossomed into a big-time athlete and passer as a sophomore, started the season in a major funk and never fully developed into the go-to guy many expected. Certainly his offseason procedure didn’t help matters there, as his athleticism took a noticeable hit and his shooting became increasingly sporadic. After shooting 42.5 percent from deep as a freshman and 35.1 percent last season, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball failed to crack 30 percent by season’s end, while his free throw shooting followed the same mysterious downward spiral (71.4%, 68.9%, 65.8% year-to-year-to-year).

In turn, what everyone saw as a memorable season in waiting became a year that may soon be forgotten.

But it’s hard to put the disappointment on any one player or coach. Beilein was once again dealt a hand that few, if any, coaches around the country would have been able to compete with.

Think about it. Take two veterans – one the undisputable star player and another an ultra-reliable vocal leader, ball-handler, passer, shooter, and all-around charmer extraordinaire – away from any team in the country in a year dominated by upperclassmen and try to find one that marches on to the same beat. Many, I would venture to guess, would run straight into a brick wall while others would struggle to power their proverbial engine up the side of a mountain.

In many ways, the job that Beilein and these players did to even play their way into the Big Dance was remarkable. A team lacking its biggest sure things managed to take down the likes of Maryland and Purdue in the regular season before grinding out a win over the class of the Big Ten in a virtual road game. Sure, there were a number of losses mixed in, and many of them not pretty, but by season’s end, Michigan would have wins on its resume over three five seeds and a six seed.

Likewise, it’s hard to criticize a group of players that had to adapt to completely unfamiliar circumstances midway through the season. One day the do-it-all senior was there to carry the torch and the next day he was done. How do you adjust to losing a guy that leads the way in scoring, assisting, and rebounding overnight — the guy that runs the show and has the ball in his hands with the shot clock winding down?

Quite simply, you don’t.

Yet again, a promising year faded into a chorus of what-ifs. There’s no denying that it was a disappointing season in many ways, but there’s also no denying that much of it was out of the team’s power.

For better or worse, the group that ended this season together should be back almost in its entirety come fall. And while the what-ifs of this season pain Michigan fans now, they will eventually fade and make way for newfound excitement and frustration, more expectations and heartbreak, and more promise and surprise on the horizon.

‘Tis the game of college basketball.

The Far-off Season
Reasons for Optimism

1. Everyone is Back!
For those fans who think college basketball revolves around the freshmen sensations at Kentucky every year, take a look at the remaining 16 teams left in the Tournament today. Nearly every team relies on a junior or senior to be the key cog, or at least to be one of the prime performers. From Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden at Kansas to Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes at Virginia to Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige at North Carolina to Elgin Cook and Chris Boucher at Oregon (oh, those are all 1 seeds? interesting…), experience is the name of the game.

Experience has been a foreign concept to the past few Michigan squads until this last one, when much of the experience disappeared somewhere between a quarter and halfway through the year. For the first time in what feels like forever, the Wolverines figure to start all upperclassmen, including seniors in Walton and Irvin. And while the improvement hasn’t been as rapid as hoped in those two, I expect another leap.

For a couple quick examples, feel free to look at Denzel Valentine and Buddy Hield’s numbers over their first three seasons before emerging as the top Player of the Year candidates as seniors (hint: Hield has nearly doubled his free throw rate and 3pt% since his freshman season while Valentine went from shooting liability and turnover machine to…well, we all know how good he was this year). Rising junior Duncan Robinson should also figure to improve now that he has a full season of live ball under his belt at the highest level.

2. The Newbies
Michigan welcomes a four-man class in 2016 that includes an undersized point guard recently named Ohio Mr. Basketball (NO I AM NOT TRYING TO DRAW PARALLELS TO TREY BURKE), a lanky wing from Pickerington Central in Columbus who looks to do a bit of everything (NO I AM NOT TRYING TO DRAW PARALLELS TO CARIS LEVERT), and a pair of big men to add to the mix at arguably the weakest spot in the lineup (see? No parallels).

Xavier Simpson figures to back up Walton at the point and should add some creative scoring punch after averaging 27.2 points per game in high school (buoyed by a couple of ridiculous scoring nights) while Ibi Watson should be in the minutes mix on the wing. Bigs Austin Davis and Jon Teske are both probably a season away from getting big time minutes but will add competition down low. Teske in particular could develop into a nice rim protector not seen around Ann Arbor since Ekpe Udoh swatted anything within five feet of him.

3. A More Manageable Big Ten
The Big Ten should be strong as usual next season, but take a quick glance at some of the top teams and there’s reason to believe Michigan should be able to make up some ground. League champion Indiana loses Yogi Ferrell, Max Bielfeldt, and Nick Zeisloft (and possibly Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams as well); Michigan State waves goodbye to Valentine, Matt Costello, and Bryn Forbes; Maryland will see Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman depart (almost certainly along with Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone); Purdue graduates A.J. Hammons and Raphael Davis, etc. Yes, other players will also come and go, but there is rebuilding to be done in almost every Big Ten city but Ann Arbor.

Reasons for Pessimism

1. Everyone is Back
Sure everyone is back…but everyone is back from that. Will a team with ultimately the same core be able to make a big enough jump? Only time will tell, but there is certainly improvement needed in the offseason.

2. Defensive Woes
I’m not sure how Michigan’s defense will take a substantial step forward with all the same personnel and the same coaching staff short of a miracle. LeVert probably had the most potential on that end, and while I generally like Walton and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s defensive skill set, there are still some giant holes that have no apparent quick fix.

3. Where is the Improvement?
Unfortunately, one could make an argument that Rahk and Mark Donnal were the only two Wolverines to take major steps forward. Arguments could be made that a handful of other players actually regressed (Irvin, Dawkins, Doyle) while some merely treaded water. If the team is going to improve greatly a season from now, the individuals on the team are going to need to improve along with it; unfortunately we don’t have too much to go off in that regard. The big man problem could be solved if Donnal continues to make strides and Moritz Wagner emerges as a consistent option as well, while there should be plenty of options on the wings to find serviceable parts.

A Couple Offseason Happenings to Make Note Of

1. On the way out?
With four freshmen coming in and only three scholarship spots opening up, someone is going to need to leave town to make room. I won’t speculate too much on individual players, but one might presume that a jumbled big man or wing rotation, declining minutes, and/or a sense of homesickness could influence a Wolverine or two to seek greener pastures.

Alternatively, Austin Davis could hypothetically take a prep year to even out the numbers, but I expect to see some attrition instead. To make things a bit more complicated, Spike is eligible for a medical redshirt and could also figure into scholarship discussions. If he and the coaching staff agree on his return, one fewer scholarship would be opening up.

2. A New Look Coaching Staff?
Some are calling for a shakeup in Beilein’s assistant coaching staff of Jeff Meyer, Lavall Jordan, and Bacari Alexander, and I think we will see some movement in that department – but not necessarily by way of firing. Meyer is approaching the end of his career and could foreseeably step down if he thought it was best for the team while Jordan and Alexander will certainly get looks from mid-majors looking to fill head coaching vacancies. My best bet would be that Bacari leaves for a head job while Jordan and Meyer remain – but that’s merely a guess. Regardless, if at least one assistant does not return, expect Beilein to scour the coaching ranks hard for a defensive-minded assistant.

3. Donnal Reclassifying?
Early on this past season, John Beilein abruptly changed Mark Donnal’s class standing from redshirt sophomore to true junior, meaning he was at the very least considering the Max Bielfeldt treatment for the third-year big that was struggling to meet expectations despite considerable opportunity. Just as abruptly, Donnal then emerged as Michigan’s no doubt top option at the five spot with a 26-point, nine-rebound, three-block performance at Illinois in the conference opener. And while Donnal’s head-scratching mistakes and mysterious aversion to dunking the ball did not fully disappear, he was a generally reliable finisher and rebounder throughout the season. As Brendan Quinn from MLive quipped a few weeks ago, I believe Donnal is due to be reclassified back to his redshirt status.

The 10 best moments of Michigan’s season (so far)

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016


(Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

It has been a long ride for the 2015-16 Michigan basketball team, one with many highs but an unexpected number of lows. John Beilein’s team fought through injuries, shooting slumps and far too many defensive lapses to ultimately land right where it wanted to be: The NCAA Tournament.

The Wolverines certainly didn’t take the traditional route to the Dance. Up until the moment the official bracket leaked on Twitter, it looked like Michigan’s odds of playing in the tournament were only slightly better than 50-50.

Most importantly, Michigan is one of 66 teams that still have a non-zero chance to win it all. But before we turn our attention fully to the NCAA Tournament, let’s take a look back at the top moments that landed the Wolverines in this position.

10. Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht honored on Senior Night

Okay, so Senior Night wasn’t exactly what Michigan envisioned at the beginning of the season. For one, neither LeVert nor Albrecht scored a single point for the Wolverines in 2016 due to injury. The seniors didn’t play on Senior Night, instead watching their teammates get trounced by an Iowa team that arrived on a four-game losing streak.

But it wouldn’t seem right leaving Senior Night completely out of the top 10. Michigan hasn’t had a truly meaningful Senior Night since Zack Novak and Stu Douglass said their goodbyes, and LeVert and Spike at least gave Beilein two great seasons.

Spike also held up his framed jersey the wrong way when saluting the crowd, a cherry on top of an endlessly entertaining college career.

LeVert and Albrecht were added to the Fresh Five as afterthoughts, joining Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas in a loaded recruiting class. But Albrecht turned into a solid backup point guard in his freshman year and exploded for 17 points in the school’s biggest game in over a decade. LeVert, on the other hand, became the team’s best all-around player for an Elite 8 run and will continue his career in the NBA.

The last two years have been frustrating, but Michigan still got more than it could have hoped for out of the two lightly-recruited guards. Good luck, fellas.

9. John Beilein wears a ChadTough T-shirt during game

Since Beilein took over as the top dog in Ann Arbor nearly 10 years ago, he’s stuck to his two-trick wardrobe combinations: Shirt and tie — or polo — and dressy pants. But he made an exception on Feb. 13, sauntering out of the Blavin Tunnel with his maize ChadTough Foundation T-shirt.

It was the final push for Beilein to win the Coaches Charity Challenge and raise $100,000 for the ChadTough Foundation, an announcement that came the very morning Michigan was named to the NCAA Tournament field.

Beilein has since reverted to his business casual ways, but the T-shirt game did happen, coach. We have pictures.

8. Mark Donnal drops 26 points (yes, twenty-six) at Illinois

6, 6, 0, 0, 7, 4, 0, 2, 0, 0, 11, 0, 7

If I asked you to pick the outlier in the group of numbers above, you respond with something like, “Well, 11 sure is quite a bit higher than the rest of those numbers.”

You would be correct. Mark Donnal had quite an explosion against Northern Kentucky, scoring 11 points and grabbing two rebounds. It was by far his best performance in Michigan’s first 13 games of the season.

Then on Dec. 30 Donnal embarrassed Illinois’ weak defensive front court and made 11 of 15 field goal attempts for 26 points. He also grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots.

Oh yeah, and he didn’t even start. Ricky Doyle did.

There was not a full moon on Dec. 30, 2015. I checked. And it wasn’t Donnal’s birthday, either. He was born in May. The only explanation for his stat line is that college basketball is amazing and pretty much anything can happen any time two teams hit the court.

For Michigan, Donnal’s outburst halted the revolving door at center and cemented the sophomore as the team’s starter. Doyle and Donnal went back and forth a bit during the first half of the year, but at the turn of the calendar, it was Donnal all the way for Beilein.

7. MAAR gets new life, and runs with it

At the beginning of the season, one had to wonder if Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman would be in the Maize and Blue for much longer. He was planted firmly behind Derrick Walton, Albrecht and LeVert in the guard rotation and even lost some minutes to the Duncan Robinson-Aubrey Dawkins duo early.

With such a loaded group of guards and Xavier Simpson set to join the team for 2016-17, it looked like MAAR’s minutes would take a massive hit, despite his excellent contributions down the stretch in 2015.

But then a hobbled Albrecht called it a career and LeVert went down with the secretest injury in Michigan history and the door of opportunity swung open for Abdur-Rahkman.

It didn’t take long for MAAR to lock up the fifth starting spot. In his second game filling in for LeVert in the back court, Abdur-Rahkman scored 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting in West Lafayette and almost single-handedly kept Michigan alive for 30 minutes against a heavily-favored Purdue team. He scored from beyond the arc, he scored from the free throw line, and most importantly, he scored off the dribble, giving Michigan a legitimate attacking threat in the paint.

Here we are, two months later, and he’s still the team’s best offensive player off the dribble. Instead of watching from the (albeit extremely comfortable-looking) folding chairs on the sideline, Abdul-Rahkman could be an integral part of the NCAA Tournament.

6. Caris LeVert makes his return! Well, sort of

It seems cruelly ironic to look back on LeVert’s return to the court and think, “That was actually the beginning of the end.”

After game after game after game (11, to be exact) of LeVert being ruled out following ‘game-time decisions,’ he actually participated in warmups on Feb. 13 and caused quite a buzz in Ann Arbor.

The team as a whole wasn’t giving fans much to be excited about. After losing back-to-back home games by half a hundred and nearly blowing a huge lead to winless Minnesota, the Wolverines returned to a less-than-optimistic crowd at the Crisler Center to battle an enormous Purdue team that won the previous meeting by 17 points.

I remember looking around before tipoff and wondering how the stands could be so empty with a top 20 team in the building. Sure, the ChadTough T-shirts generated a bit of excitement in the Maize Rage, but the overall feeling of the fanbase was one of defeat.

Then Caris jogged out of the tunnel and joined the layup lines. You’d think he shot himself out of a cannon and landed at midcourt after a perfect flip by the cheer that ran through the crowd.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but for the first time since halftime of the Indiana debacle, fans around Crisler perked up.

When the game started, LeVert was on the bench, when Beilein pointed at him and he ripped off his warmup, the crowd really did erupt. He took only shot — a shot-clock hurried jumper near the elbow — and didn’t score in the game, but his return energized the fans and the team.

Nobody knew that would be the last time they’d see Caris LeVert play in a Michigan uniform. At that time, it was just great to see the team’s leader in nearly every major category back with the ball in his hands.

5. Zak Irvin’s elbow jumper saves Michigan in overtime

The No. 1 moment on this list will get most of the credit for sending the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament, but that might not have even happened if not for Zak Irvin’s dagger with three seconds left in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

After clawing and scratching their way to overtime, Michigan managed to earn itself a chance to take the last shot in a tie game. Beilein called on the team’s streakiest player, Irvin, to take a contested jumper off the dribble.

It worked. Irvin pulled up just beyond the right elbow and nailed the go-ahead jumper. Northwestern got another crack at a last-second prayer (two cracks, actually), but in the end, it was Irvin’s shot that sealed the deal and kept Michigan’s bleak NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

4. Wolverines return to the NCAA Tournament

When Michigan failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in 2015, it was a disappointing, but understandable pill to swallow.

LeVert, Walton and Albrecht were all injured. Dawkins and Abdur-Rahkman were leading the team as unknown freshmen and Beilein had just lost a small army of players to the NBA draft.

But in a year when the Wolverines began ranked in the Top 25, with players like Walton and Robinson added to the rotation, missing the 2016 tournament would have been a much bigger blow for the program to swallow. Sure, LeVert and Albrecht missed the most meaningful half of the season, but for a program that was trending toward elite in 2014, two straight absences in March Madness seemed unacceptable.

Luckily, those concerns were squashed for good Sunday. Contrary to what many of the ‘bracketology experts’ predicted, Michigan got into the Big Dance. The big wins were there, the bad losses were not, and the Wolverines got what they deserved: An outside chance to make some noise.

Some might argue that Michigan’s season won’t be a success unless it gets past the First Four. To you I say, “Rubbish!” The First Four isn’t a 16 versus 16 play-in game like it used to be. Plenty of teams have made runs after winning in Dayton, including a Tennessee team that nearly knocked Michigan out of the Sweet 16 in 2014.

When Michigan was flirting with another tournament-less season, the program seemed to be trending sharply downwards. But now that Beilein has his players back on the national stage, it’s a step in the right direction.

3. Michigan uses 11-0 run in final 3 minutes to beat Purdue

As we make our way through the top three moments of the season, keep in mind that Michigan needed EVERY single one of its four top 30 wins to get into the NCAA Tournament. Even with those wins, and no bad losses, Michigan just barely slipped into the Field of 68.

Perhaps the most unlikely of those three victories came against a team that presents the worst matchup problems for Michigan in the Big Ten. Purdue came into Ann Arbor with its top three players flourishing near the rim.

A.J. Hammons (7 feet tall) led the charge and fellow center Isaac Haas (7-foot-2) and dynamic freshman Caleb Swanigan (6-foot-9) weren’t far behind. The trio posed the greatest inside threat in the conference and figured to dominate a Michigan team that tries to make due inside with a pair of 6-foot-9 forwards.

For most of the game, Purdue was like a high school senior holding the charging freshman back with a hand on his forehead. Michigan would close to within five points, and Purdue would push back, keeping the game from getting within a possession.

It wasn’t until the final 2:45 of the game, when Irvin nailed a triple on the left wing, that Michigan really sent the building into a frenzy. Then Walton made a fast-break layup. Then Irvin hit another shot, and Michigan was in front.

Four Walton free throws later, Michigan polished off an improbable win with an 11-0 run to close out the game. With such a tough week in the rearview mirror, and an even more brutal stretch ahead, it was a win the program sorely needed.

2. Michigan upsets No. 3 Maryland

Remember when Maryland was one of the best teams in the country?

At one point, the Terps were 15-1 and ranked in the top five in both major polls. Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone were looking like one of the best duos in the country and Michigan hadn’t stayed within 14 points of a ranked team all season.

Needless to say, it looked like it would be a rout.

Instead, Michigan completely shut down Trimble and Irvin was the star of the show. He scored 22 points on 8-14 shooting and Walton added a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) as Michigan led for almost the entire first 30 minutes.

Maryland erased a couple of 10-point deficits in the second half and tied the game at 54 with 7:37 left. Michigan called timeout, but two possessions later, the Terps took a one-point lead on the heels of Stone’s and-one layup.

The Wolverines wouldn’t be denied that night, and buckets from Donnal, Robinson and Walton stretched the lead back out to five. An Irvin three-pointer with 3:08 left all but sealed the deal.

With Dickie V screaming “That’s a big time three, baby!” Michigan rode to its first ranked win of the season.

1. “It’s good! At the buzzer! Meeeeechigan wins!”

You don’t have to go back very far to find Michigan’s top moment of the season. With everything — An NCAA Tournament bid, a chance to advance in the conference tournament and a win over the Big Ten champions — on the line, Kam Chatman found the ball in his hands with the clock racing toward zeroes.

Some members on the team reportedly thought it was Aubrey Dawkins standing in the corner with the ball. I bet they were surprised when the shot went up with his left hand.

Chatman buried the contested corner triple, sending the bench into a frenzy and vaulting the Wolverines into the NCAA Tournament. It came after Michigan trailed by five with two minutes left. It came after MAAR fouled out of the game, allowing Chatman to check in.

It came after almost everyone had buried the Wolverines, who were forgotten on the wrong side of the bubble.

Michigan went 19 minutes without a three-pointer in the second half, but Robinson and Chatman hit two of the biggest triples of the season in that final minute. That’s why Michigan is playing tonight. That’s why they made the Dance.

Going forward

Almost every big play Michigan makes going forward will be worthy of this list, as everything is magnified in the NCAA Tournament. But with 34 games in the books, and more ups and downs than most tournament teams experience in a season, Michigan has already given fans a year to remember.

Wisconsin 68 – Michigan 57: Badgers hand Michigan 10th loss

Sunday, February 28th, 2016


UM vs Wisconsin(Max Siker, BadgerNation.com)

Michigan continued its limp to the regular season finish line Sunday evening with a 68-57 loss to Wisconsin. The Wolverines have now dropped five of their last eight as they try to hang onto an invite to the NCAA Tournament.

Four Factors
Michigan Wisconsin
53 eFG% 58
10 OReb% 29
18 TO% 20
14 FTR 31

Michigan hung with Wisconsin for about 27 minutes, but went six and a half minutes with only a Duncan Robinson three while Wisconsin broke open a nine point lead. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin both missed open layups that could have kept the Wolverines in the game, while the biggest drama of the last few minutes centered around whether or not little-used Wisconsin senior Jordan Smith would get in the game on Senior Night. He did and thanks to two free throws in the closing minute his point total equaled that of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

Michigan shot 48 percent from the field, but made just 5-of-13 three-point attempts. Wisconsin made 8-of-21 and held an eight-point advantage at the free throw line. Wisconsin also out-rebounded Michigan 33-20.

Irvin led Michigan with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting, in addition to eight rebounds, but he also turned the ball over five times. Walton struggled from the field, going 3-of-13, but recorded 10 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Robinson and Ricky Doyle  both also added 10 points, while Mark Donnal faced foul trouble most of the game and scored just six.

Bronson Koenig led Wisconsin with 19 points, while Nigel Hayes added 16, Vitto Brown 14, and Ethan Happ 12.

The Wolverines get six days off before hosting Iowa to close the regular season. At 20-10 overall and 10-7 in the Big Ten, Michigan may need to beat the Hawkeyes to secure a spot in the Big Dance. Iowa (20-8, 11-5) has lost three in a row, including a 68-64 loss to Ohio State this afternoon, and gave away the Big Ten title to Indiana.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 3-4 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 4 6 0 0 0 0 21
10 Derrick Walton* 3-13 1-4 3-4 0 5 5 2 10 8 2 0 2 38
21 Zak Irvin* 6-13 1-2 1-2 0 8 8 1 14 1 5 0 2 35
22 Duncan Robinson* 4-7 2-4 0-0 0 1 1 2 10 2 0 0 1 29
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 1-5 0-1 0-0 1 3 4 0 2 2 2 0 0 39
03 Kam Chatman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 8
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 3
11 Andrew Dakich 2-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-2 1-2 0-0 0 0 0 1 3 0 1 0 0 10
32 Ricky Doyle 5-5 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 2 10 0 1 0 0 16
Totals 24-50 5-13 4-7 3 17 20 16 57 14 11 1 5 200
Wisconsin 24-49 8-21 12-15 7 26 33 12 68 14 12 4 6
200
Full Stats

Michigan 66 – N.C. State 59

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015


UM vs NC State(North Carolina State Athletics)

In a season that has not exactly started off on the right foot for the Big Ten, Michigan did its part tonight in helping the conference along in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge by knocking off North Carolina State by a 66-59 margin in Raleigh.

After a slow, turnover-riddled start against the Wolfpack in which the Wolverines managed only one made bucket in the first eight minutes of game time, John Beilein looked to his bench to get things going. And they did just that.

Trailing 11-7 nearly halfway through the first half, Michigan needed a spark, which newcomers Moritz Wagner and Duncan Robinson ably provided. Robinson, sporting a jumper that’s as quick and clean as ever, swished a triple to cut the lead to one with 10:15 to go in the opening stanza, while Zak Irvin followed suit with a nifty layup to put Michigan ahead by one, then assisted Wagner on another layup to re-take the lead.

Wagner followed that up with a beautiful pass-fake, split-the-defense dunk and Robinson put in his second three of the evening shortly thereafter to give the Wolverines a 21-18 lead, which they would not relinquish.

Robinson would go on to pour in 17 points on five triples and a mid-range jumper, while senior stalwart Caris LeVert led the team with 18 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists on a bevy of nifty dribble-drives and passes that we’ve come to expect from him in his final season.

Four Factors
Michigan N.C. State
57 eFG% 36
8 OReb% 30
17 TO% 11
27 FTR 41

Unfortunately for the visitors, the victory came with a tinge of pain, as Derrick Walton went down late in the first half with what appeared to be a lower left leg injury and did not return for the remainder of the evening.

Still, this is a very welcome win, a win that perhaps seemed highly unlikely after Michigan got run out of the gym in consecutive losses against Xavier and Connecticut in the last couple weeks. North Carolina State, which returned a few starters from last season’s surprise Sweet 16 squad, has also started slow this year, with early losses to William and Mary and Arizona State.

But make no mistake about it: this was a very encouraging performance from a short-handed Michigan team, a win that will certainly boost their RPI (road wins count more than home or neutral court wins) and give them their second straight semi-quality, non-home non-conference victory after they downed Texas to close out the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday. The Longhorns sit within the top 50 on kenpom.com while NC State is just outside at 65.

As promised earlier this year, John Beilein has begun to significantly cut down on the rotation. At this point, it’s very clear that the five spot is a two-man platoon with Ricky Doyle and Wagner going forward while Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will command the most minutes off the bench at the guard and wing spots. Depending on the severity of Walton’s injury and the length of Spike Albrecht’s recently announced recovery period, Rahk could be in for a major uptick in minutes, and while he’s not a big-time scorer, he’s one of the better defenders on this team and one of the few players that displays strong confidence in driving to the hoop. Robinson, for his part, looks to be more Jon Diebler than Matt Vogrich early on – he didn’t even hit the rim on his first three treys tonight and is now shooting an absurd 60.6 percent from deep through seven games in Division I, with three nights of at least 14 points.

Also encouraging tonight was the resiliency that the Wolverines displayed midway through the second half when the Wolfpack looked primed to turn a double-digit deficit into a lead of their own with a 12-1 run that took a comfortable 45-30 Michigan advantage down to 46-42 in just over four minutes of action.

Irvin once again came through in the clutch, however, with a beautiful assist to Doyle for an uncontested layup and a corner three – his first and only made three of the night (1-of-6) – to bring Michigan’s lead back to 10 on an otherwise tough shooting night for the junior. Robinson also sandwiched five points in that 10-4 spurt.

Caris LeVert would go on to ice the game away late with six straight made free throws.

NC State was paced by sophomore Caleb Martin’s game-high 19 points and 16 from lightning-quick junior Cat Barber, who made an array of tough midrange jumpers. Star sophomore Abdul-Malik Abu was limited to just two points – only the second time he’s failed to reach double-digits this season – on an 0-of-6 mark from the floor despite averaging 12 points per game heading into tonight.

The Wolverines will now travel back to Ann Arbor for their first home game in two weeks this Saturday against a hapless Houston Baptist squad. Derrick Walton’s status is perilously in question – Michigan fans are hoping it is not a recurrence of last season’s foot injuries – but the rest of the team looks to be taking strides in the right direction. And that’s something many teams are not able to say.

Quick Hitters

• Moritz Wagner is quickly becoming Michigan’s best option at center despite an insistence from John Beilein before the season that the young German was destined for the four and had a lot of learning left to do. Ricky Doyle once again got the start this evening, but his play does not seem to have evolved from last year, and his hands appear to be getting more slippery by the minute. Wagner once again displayed the all-around skillset that makes his potential so high with a pair of nice finishes around the hoop, a couple of solid defensive plays, and a near coast-to-coast take on a rebound. His turnaround, defender-splitting dribble-drive-to-dunk finish was the highlight of the night. D.J. Wilson dropped out of the rotation this evening with only one minute of playing time while Mark Donnal did not see the floor. On the wing, Kameron Chatman’s playing time appears to be diminishing, as he saw only five minutes of time along with Spike Albrecht, who is now being limited in practice and games while continuing to recover from a pair of off-season hip surgeries.

• North Carolina State easily won the rebounding battle, grabbing 13 of 43 available offensive rebounds (30.2% OReb) while dominating the defensive glass – Michigan was only able to get two second chances for a measly 8% OReb rate (2 of 25). Beilein has never stressed crashing the offensive glass in order to better limit easy fast break points and run outs, but he certainly will not like this continuing disparity. During the Wolfpack’s second half run, a number of their offensive rebounds saw two NC State players closer to the ball than any Wolverine. Michigan will continue to work on limiting those second chance points for their opponents, but I don’t see them being one of the better defensive rebounding teams during conference season with another guard-oriented offense that almost never has more than one guy over 6-foot-7 on the court at a time. The Wolverines were able to make up for that disparity by connecting on five more shots despite taking 10 fewer attempts (50% to 32.8% from the floor).

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Caris LeVert***
18 points (3-of-6 2pt, 1-of-4 3pt, 9-of-10 FT), nine rebounds, seven assists, one block, two turnovers in 37 minutes

**Duncan Robinson**
17 points (1-of-1 2pt, 5-of-7 3pt), three rebounds, one steal, zero turnovers in 23 minutes

*Moritz Wagner*
8 points (4-of-6 2pt, 0-of-1 3pt), two rebounds (one offensive), two turnovers in 23 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Caris LeVert – 7
Duncan Robinson – 6
Derrick Walton – 3
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
32 Ricky Doyle* 3-4 0-0 0-0 0 4 4 2 6 0 3 1 0 16
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 1-1 0-0 2-2 0 2 2 0 4 2 2 0 1 13
21 Zak Irvin* 3-11 1-6 0-0 1 4 5 2 7 4 1 0 0 37
23 Caris LeVert* 4-10 1-4 9-10 0 9 9 2 18 7 2 1 0 37
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 1-3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 3 2 0 1 0 0 15
02 Spike Albrecht 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 5
03 Kameron Chatman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 1 0 0 0 5
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman 2-4 0-2 0-0 0 4 4 1 4 0 0 0 1 25
13 Moritz Wagner 4-7 0-1 0-1 1 1 2 4 8 0 2 0 0 23
20 Duncan Robinson 6-8 5-7 0-0 0 3 3 3 17 0 0 0 1 23
Totals 24-48 7-20 11-13 2 30 32 20 66 15 11 2 3 200
N.C. State 19-58 4-17 17-24 13 23 36 17 59 8 7 3 6 200
Full Stats

Xavier 86 – Michigan 70

Saturday, November 21st, 2015


Beilein vs Xavier(MGoBlue.com)

Last night was supposed to be the start of a season-long comeback party for Michigan after underperforming last year. It was supposed to be a game to help the team, coaches, and fans start forgetting about some of the horrors of a season ago.

Instead, it was anything but the start of that comeback party. All last night’s loss to Xavier did for the Wolverines was bring back those same demons.

After cruising to two easy victories against overmatched competition to open the gates on the new season, Michigan took one massive step back against a very good Musketeer squad that made the Crisler Center feel like their home away from home, dumping the Wolverines 86-70 with a balanced attack that saw four Musketeers score at least 14.

Throughout the night, Xavier simply looked like the better, stronger, and more prepared team. They dominated the paint from just after the opening tip, when Detroit native Jalen Reynolds cleared out the lane, posted up starting Wolverine center Mark Donnal, and blew by him for an easy and-1 finish just 10 seconds into the game.

Four Factors
Michigan Xavier
50 eFG% 48
19 OReb% 45
16 TO% 13
50 FTR 39

That would be an ominous sign for the four Michigan big men who saw minutes Friday, as they struggled to contain Reynolds and fellow Musketeer big James Farr – who combined for 23 points on 15 shots and 22 rebounds (eight offensive) – and racked up fouls left and right. By halftime, Donnal, Ricky Doyle, D.J. Wilson, and Moritz Wagner all had at least two fouls but only combined for five points and one rebound in an opening stanza that saw Michigan trailing 45-36 at the break.

The visitors also looked like they simply wanted the win more. Time and again, 50-50 balls ended up in Xavier’s collective hands, and by the end of the blowout, it seemed that Michigan might never get another rebound, with the Musketeers more than half of their misses in the second half.

Michigan showed some promise early on, grabbing a 16-12 advantage nine minutes in after Reynolds was tagged with a technical foul for hanging on the rim, but they lost that lead within the next minute and never got it back.

Caris LeVert showed off an impressive array of drives to try to keep the Wolverines afloat, and he had his shot all night on his way to 29-point outburst, but none of his teammates were able to crack double digits. LeVert’s seven rebounds and three assists also led the team.

It looked as if Michigan would take control of the game a couple times midway through the second half, twice cutting Xavier’s lead to two points behind a pair of triples (I dare you to see how many variants of two you can use in one sentence), but every time the Wolverines showed life, the Musketeers answered with triples of their own.

At one point, Duncan Robinson made two straight threes, and had a third would-be go-ahead trey go down only to be taken away by an illegal screen call.

But it wasn’t meant to be. For his part, Robinson looked like he should ably fill the role of instant microwave off the bench, but he’s never going to be a dynamic playmaker – he recorded just one rebound to go along with his nine points, zero assists, zero steals, and zero blocks.

The production simply wasn’t there from the rest of this potentially deep squad, and the defense struggled to get any stops. Zak Irvin, back in the starting lineup after missing offseason time following back surgery, was clearly a step slow and only managed seven points, while fellow starters Aubrey Dawkins and Derrick Walton Jr. had five and four points, respectively. No other Wolverine had more than five points, and only LeVert and Walton had multiple assists.

From here, the road doesn’t get much easier in the near term, but it’s clear that Michigan’s defense must improve if they are to be competitive in next week’s Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will open up with Connecticut on Wednesday and could potentially see Syracuse in the second game. As LeVert repeatedly said after the game, Michigan needs to lock down its defense and limit the fouls going forward – they had 23 called against them in this one that led to 23 made free throws for Xavier. It’s unusual for a John Beilein-coached team to have such a high foul rate, but new emphasis on contact rules will take some adjusting. LeVert also thought that Michigan should win most games when they put up 70 points, but they may not be at that point yet.

Luckily, Michigan is far from the only squad to lose an early season matchup, and this one shouldn’t hurt the resume too much, as Xavier looks to add to an impressive run in March Madness from last season with a more dynamic, experienced squad.

At the same time, the Wolverines will need to show that they can win some of these big games in the near future – or else memories of last year just might creep up on them again.

Three Stars

***Caris LeVert***
29 points (8-of-16 FG, 5-of-8 3pt, 8-of-10 FT), seven rebounds (one offensive), three assists, two steals, three turnovers in 36 minutes

**Duncan Robinson**
9 points (2-of-5 FG, 2-of-4 3pt, 3-of-3 FT), one rebound, zero turnovers in 19 minutes

*Spike Albrecht*
5 points (1-of-1 FG, 1-of-1 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), one rebound, one assist, zero turnovers in eight minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Caris LeVert – 4
Duncan Robinson – 4
Derrick Walton – 3
Spike Albrecht – 1
Quick Hitters

• This isn’t the first time Michigan has lost a game despite a scoring outburst from LeVert. The Wolverines fell to NJIT last season despite 32 points from their star, while also dropping games against Duke and Wisconsin two seasons ago when LeVert scored 24 and 25 points, respectively. In all of these cases, LeVert scored more than one-third of the team’s total points.

• I thought Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht looked close to 100 percent on Monday, and Irvin said himself that he felt he was at 100 percent physically, but they clearly both have a ways to go. Albrecht only got eight minutes on the night, and though he threw his body around for loose balls, he’ll be seeing a lot more time when Beilein feels the senior point guard is fully back. Irvin was noticeably slow on the floor, at one point just jogging to a crucial long rebound late in the game that he was easily outrun for despite having perfect position.

• The rotation once again included all 12 scholarship players on the team, but that won’t last much longer. Mark Donnal struggled all night, recording zero points and zero rebounds while committing four fouls and turning it over once in just six minutes of time. Kameron Chatman and Albrecht only got eight minutes a piece (I expect Albrecht’s minutes to go up, but Chatman’s may disappear), Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman only saw 10 minutes, and D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner played just seven and five minutes, respectively.

Beilein Coachspeakometer

John Beilein is always quick to praise Michigan’s opponent – whether playing against the worst team in the country or one of the best. Here’s a look at a Beilein quote from this game’s press conference followed by a rating from Completely Objective and Fair (1) to Pure and Utter Coachspeak (10) on the John Beilein CoachSpeakometer

“We’ve seen good teams come (to Crisler Arena). Sometimes we were able to win, sometimes we weren’t, and that was as good a team as I’ve seen come in here at any time. They got all the pieces, they’re just really good. They hit the backboards obviously much better than us, they got loose balls, they got tremendous grit, and then they got a great mix of guys that can drive the ball, guys that can shoot the ball, (along) with the big men. So they’re sitting on something great right now, and they have for a long time at Xavier. They have a really experienced team that knows how to win…they’ll vie for a Big East Championship is what I think and they’ll be a team that is very good all year long.”

Verdict: 8

John Beilein is right to a certain point here – Xavier is a really good team that should be in the thick of the Big East race along with Villanova, Providence, and Butler. But to say that they are as good a team as he’s seen play at Crisler is quite the stretch. Along with a handful of excellent Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State teams (and many other very solid conference foes in the past eight years), Michigan has also welcomed #1 Arizona (2013), #3 Kansas (2011), and #4 Duke (2008) to Ann Arbor in Beilein’s tenure, not to mention plenty of other very good ranked and unranked conference and non-conference foes. Xavier will most likely be ranked in the next poll (and rightfully so), and coach Chris Mack has established a program that can compete with any team on any night, but they are certainly not on the same level as other recent home opponents. Excellent coachspeak yet again.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 4 0 0 1 0 0 6
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 1-5 0-3 2-2 0 5 5 1 4 2 2 1 4 31
21 Zak Irvin* 3-6 1-4 0-1 0 1 1 3 7 0 2 0 0 22
23 Caris LeVert* 8-16 5-8 8-10 1 6 7 2 29 3 3 0 2 36
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 1-6 1-5 2-2 0 6 6 2 5 1 0 0 1 36
02 Spike Albrecht 1-1 1-1 2-2 0 1 1 0 5 1 0 0 0 8
03 Kameron Chatman 1-3 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 8
05 D.J. Wilson 1-2 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 2 3 0 1 1 0 7
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 1 1 0 0 10
13 Moritz Wagner 1-3 0-0 0-1 1 1 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 5
20 Duncan Robinson 2-5 2-4 3-3 1 0 1 2 9 0 0 0 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle 2-3 0-0 0-3 1 0 1 3 4 0 1 0 0 22
Totals 21-52 10-26 18-26 7 22 29 23 70 8 11 2 7 200
Xavier 27-66 9-21 23-26 18 29 47 25 86 13 9 2 3 200
Full Stats
Beilein tie watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Their time is now: 2015-16 Michigan basketball season preview

Thursday, November 19th, 2015


UM BBall(MGoBlue.com)

A few years back when I was just a young college student in the then-miniscule Maize Rage, Michigan was coming off John Beilein’s miserable first season in Ann Arbor. No one thought much of the young Wolverines’ chances in Beilein’s second year either, but that didn’t stop them from believing in themselves.

The song that blasted throughout the Old Crisler Arena* before games that year was one that could be applied to just about any team playing any sport, but it seemed to carry extra weight for Michigan that season.

The first few lines went something like this:

“Go hard, today
Can’t worry bout the past cause that was yesterday
I’ma put it on the line cause it’s my time
I gotta stay on my grind cause it’s my time.”

It’s certainly not one of the best songs of the last decade, but it always gives me chills when it unexpectedly comes on the radio or blares out of some party’s speakers.

MGoBlue.com

(MGoBlue.com)

The Wolverines had to forget about the struggles of their first season under their new head coach, and though nearly every outsider doubted them, they grinded out one of the most memorable basketball seasons of my life, earning their way to a berth in the Big Dance and upsetting Clemson in the first round before bowing out to an over-powering Oklahoma squad.

You won’t hear Fabolous’s “My Time” any time soon at the new Crisler Center, but the message once again holds weight in Ann Arbor.

When I was walking down the Crisler tunnel to pick up my press pass earlier this week, getting the same tingly excited feeling I always do at the start of the college basketball season, an usher greeted me with a warm smile at the credentialing table and quipped “another season, huh?” in a mostly blasé tone.

Yes, it’s just “another season”, but it’s a season of renewed opportunity for the Michigan Wolverines. It’s a season of not worrying about the past and working to make the most out of an extremely talented and deep roster. In many ways to me, it’s also a season that represents the end of a mini-era.

That’s not to say that the Wolverines’ last chance to win the Big Ten and make the Final Four hinges on this year alone; nay, the future certainly appears bright under Beilein and a handful of talented sophomores and juniors.

But it wasn’t until this season’s senior class was in its first year that the Maize and Blue truly found its way back on the college basketball map with a magical run through the NCAA Tournament that ended in heart-breaking fashion in the championship game.

LeVert

(MGoBlue.com)

The only two members of that storied five man class who hung around long enough to see their time as seniors arrive are Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht. Their old classmates have all gone on to the bright lights and superstardom of the NBA, leaving two of the unlikeliest heroes carrying the team back in Ann Arbor.

If Michigan can make another deep run in the postseason this year, Albrecht just might break Jordan Morgan’s total games played record at the University, which would be quite the consolation prize for the under-sized point guard who will likely be the sole 2012 recruit to not play at the next level.

The past for those two, of course, has been a bit of a bumpy ride. Three seasons ago saw the wondrous tournament run, the year after that saw Michigan fall just a basket short of another Final Four appearance, while last season saw the Wolverines stumble early on in the non-conference before the wheels completely fell off with LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. missing a significant portion of the season with foot injuries.

There’s always a silver lining, though, and it seems to be shining brightly so far. As a result of the season-ending injuries, a number of freshmen were forced into big minutes and played about as well as could be expected. One of those freshmen, Aubrey Dawkins, seems to be a shoo-in to start this year after coming on strong in February on the offensive end, while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has the potential to be a lock-down defender. Kameron Chatman is another sophomore that will be competing for minutes after struggling to find his way last season, while Ricky Doyle and D.J. Wilson are big men that appear primed for breakout seasons. Duncan Robinson, a sophomore transfer from the DIII level, should also shoot his way into plenty of action.

Perhaps no player looked better carrying the decimated Wolverines teammates, however, than Zak Irvin. Now a junior, Irvin blossomed from being a knock-down shooter his freshman season to an all-around offensive threat to close an otherwise disappointing campaign a year ago.

Match this depth up with somewhat proven commodities in LeVert, Walton, and Albrecht and you could be staring at another offensive juggernaut in Ann Arbor. Defensively, there may be some questions, but John Beilein has always been one to out-score with offensive fireworks.

A new season has dawned, and things are looking up for Michigan. It might not all go according to plan, as last year clearly did not. It might not look like the runner-up team from these seniors’ freshmen year. But it most certainly will be fun. Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht deserve a wonderful sendoff, and the supporting cast will grind hard to make sure it happens.

After all, their time has come.

*Unless it was the 2009-10 season – either way, the song still applies

Predictions:
Top Five Scorers Top Five Rebounders
Caris LeVert Caris LeVert
Zak Irvin Ricky Doyle
Derrick Walton Jr. Derrick Walton Jr.
Aubrey Dawkins Mark Donnal
Spike Albrecht D.J. Wilson
Top Five Assists Top Five Three-Point Shooters (%)
Derrick Walton Derrick Walton Jr.
Caris LeVert Spike Albrecht
Spike Albrecht Duncan Robinson
Zak Irvin Zack Irvin
Kameron Chatman Caris LeVert
Superlatives
Most improved player: D.J. Wilson
Most valuable freshman: Moritz Wagner
Most valuable player: Derrick Walton Jr.
Final record: 27-10 (12-6 Big Ten)
Conference finish: 2
Postseason: NCAA Tournament, Elite Eight

Michigan 88 – Elon 68

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015


Walton vs Elon(MGoBlue.com)

The Michigan Wolverines are no strangers to some early season non-conference jitters against supposed “cupcake” opponents. It was just one season ago when John Beilein’s squad, almost at full strength, lost back-to-back games at home against the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Eastern Michigan.

With a brand new team again that is running out just about every available player early on, Beilein found himself in another early battle last night against Elon. The Phoenix, winners over Charlotte in their season opener, kept it close throughout the first half despite a bevy of errors – including 10 turnovers – to find themselves down only one point with 3:40 left in the opening stanza.

By now, this shouldn’t be too surprising. College basketball is the ultimate underdogs’ game. A team full of no names can catch fire at any time and knock off the big fish; every March, we see it in action as an unknown coach leads his band of misfits over a blue blood program in the Big Dance. In football, it’s nearly impossible for 11 undersized and overmatched DII players knock off a big time DI program (what’s that? Of course it hasn’t happened to Michigan…). In basketball, though, it’s become commonplace.

And already this season, top programs like Wisconsin, Virginia, Illinois, and North Carolina State have already lost in “guarantee” games.

After turning the jets on a bit late in that first half, though, the Wolverines ensured they would not yet find a place in that group that is sure to grow as November pushes on, taking a double-digit lead into the break and building on that early and often in the second half on their way to an 88-68 win.

Duncan Robinson had the right tools in his belt to keep Michigan trucking along steadily, with an unexpected strong dunk on a fast break followed shortly by a pair of back-to-back triples from either corner – both assisted by Zak Irvin – on his way to a game-high 13 first-half points. He would go on to finish with a Michigan career-high 19 points and three rebounds on a flawless shooting night – 6 of 6 from the floor, 5 of 5 from deep, and 2 of 2 at the free throw line.

In the second half, Michigan coasted with easy layups and wide open threes, often facilitated by now-healthy junior Derrick Walton Jr., who looked well on his way to making the Beilein Leap a year late with a game-high 24 points, seven assists (to just two turnovers), and six rebounds. Walton’s quickness is completely back, his passing was crisp, and his outside shot looked better than ever.

Elon was led by a quartet of scorers – Dainan Swoope, Dmitri Thompson, Brian Dawkins, and Tanner Samson – with double-digit points, but the team’s sloppiness as a whole with 17 turnovers led to 28 Michigan points and an inability to stay in front of the Wolverine shooters doomed the Phoenix. Michigan finished 13 of 24 (54.2 percent) from downtown – better than their 50 percent mark from inside the arc – and had their way on the pick-and-roll.

Following an offseason back injury, Zak Irvin made his season debut and said he felt 100 percent after the game despite an off night from the field. He finished with zero points on five shots in 15 minutes but was praised by Beilein and his teammates for playing great defense, and his entrance in the first half sparked some improved ball movement. Irvin’s three assists were a very encouraging sign as well, showing that perhaps the excellent form he ended last season in will carry over.

In all, a dozen different Wolverines saw the floor for at least seven minutes of playing time – thanks in part to a refereeing crew that called a foul seemingly any time someone was breathed on. Beilein commented after that he is still tinkering with lineups and seeing how each player responds to the opportunity early on that won’t be there for the entire season. He also noted that he was pleased that a comfortable lead gave him the luxury of trying out different players in a variety of spots. Eventually, it seems that the lineup will be whittled down to 8-9 regular players, but it might be a few games before the rotation is firmly determined.

This win, while sometimes sloppy, is certainly another small step in the right direction for the Maize and Blue. Offensively, there is plenty of potential – Spike Albrecht, Irvin, and Moe Wagner were the only Michigan players to not record points in this game – and lots of firepower. Defensively, there is certainly some work to be done, but Walton, Irvin, and Caris LeVert looked to be solid veterans on that end of the floor. And if the team scores as many points as they are capable of doing, it’s going to take a strong effort from anyone to out-score these Wolverines.

The going will get significantly harder from here, with upcoming games against Xavier (Gavitt Games), UConn (Battle 4 Atlantis – followed by potential matchups with Syracuse and Gonzaga), and at NC State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, before getting easier again in early December with home games against the likes of Houston Baptist, Delaware State, Northern Kentucky, Youngstown State, and Bryant.

Right now, though, any team in the country will take a win – after all, there’s no such thing as a guarantee in college basketball.

Quick Hitters

• Once again, Mark Donnal got the start at the five over Ricky Doyle, but four different players saw minutes there, D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner joining in on the action. Donnal had a very up and down game, with a tough rebound and put-back early on paired with two or three missed layups. Confidence and defense are his biggest issues, though six points in 15 minutes is not bad output. Doyle was solid, if unspectacular, in 13 minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing three rebounds, Wilson flashed his excellent potential – nailing a triple early on from the four position and recording a couple nice blocks – with five points, and Wagner was clearly the least ready, though he did display an excellent motor and a willingness to tussle. At one point, he took a charge that left him with a bloodied gash over his left eye – a la Zack Novak many years ago against Illinois. The German freshman still has a ways to go in terms of learning the offense, competing defensively, and improving his quickness before he will be a major threat, however.

• When asked about what his rotation will evolve into, Beilein noted that he is continuing to experience with different lineups and get a feel for what every player can bring before making decisions on who will and won’t see regular playing time. He also talked about how the re-entry of Irvin into the lineup probably skewed the spread of minutes tonight – the junior will normally play around 30 minutes a night but only saw half that as he eases his way back from offseason surgery. The four big men will probably become a two-man platoon according to the ninth year head man, and players like Kameron Chatman, Duncan Robinson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and D.J. Wilson will have to fight for minutes. Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, and Irvin are surefire bets to see 30-plus minutes per night, and Beilein pegged Aubrey Dawkins at around 30 minutes a night as well. That leaves no more than 40 remaining minutes at the 1-4 slots – which will likely be spread among just two or three players.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Derrick Walton Jr.***
24 points (career high) (8 of 10 FG, 6 of 7 3pt, 2 of 2 FT), seven assists, six rebounds, one steal, two turnovers in 30 minutes
**Duncan Robinson**
19 points (Michigan high) (6 of 6 FG, 5 of 5 3pt, 2 of 2 FT), three rebounds (two offensive), one steal, two turnovers in 18 minutes
*Caris LeVert*
11 points (3 of 8 FG, 0 of 1 3pt, 5 of 6 FT), four rebounds (one offensive), seven assists, four steals, three turnovers in 32 minutes

Beilein CoachSpeakometer

John Beilein is always quick to praise Michigan’s opponent – whether playing against the worst team in the country or one of the best. Here’s a look at a Beilein quote from this game’s press conference followed by a rating from Completely Objective and Fair (1) to Pure and Utter Coachspeak (10) on the John Beilein CoachSpeakometer

“I was laughing this morning because I happened to be listening to a local radio show and heard one of their announcers say what a ‘cupcake’ Elon will be. I’m just telling you that team right there is going to win a lot of games this year. They have so many components that are tough to guard, they got all these shooters out there, they got great guard play, an excellent coach. That was a really good win for us. I know people look at these ‘guarantee’ games, and this is actually part of the Atlantis Tournament. That team is going to be a great RPI win for us because I really feel unless they have injuries they are going to be really good.”

Verdict: 9 – Last year, Elon finished in the bottom third of the Colonial Athletic Association with a 6-12 conference record and 15-18 mark overall. They also check in at a woeful #240 overall on KenPom – just one spot above traditional power Incarnate Word. The Phoenix do have a win over Charlotte already this season – who check in at a dismal #293 – but they most certainly don’t look like a future “great RPI win”. This was coachspeak nearly at its finest.

Beilein Tie Watch
Beilein tie - Elon

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan hoops 3 thoughts: Northern Michigan

Friday, November 13th, 2015


UM-NorthernMichigan
Michigan vs Northern Michigan
Friday, Nov. 13 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 7:00 p.m. EST | BTN Plus
Offense (2014-15)
64.7 Points/gm 61.5
(734-1,724) 42.6 Field Goal % 44.1 (648-1,471)
(250-696) 35.9 3-pt FG % 33.0 (150-455)
(353-468) 75.4 Free Throw % 69.8 (277-397)
11.0 FT Made/gm 9.9
30.2 Reb/gm 31.1
11.9 Assists/gm 11.4
9.6 Turnovers/gm 12.5
Defense (2014-15)
63.9 Points/gm 61.9
(764-1,702) 44.9 Field Goal % 44.7 (678-1,516)
(208-606) 34.3 3-pt FG % 37.0 (185-500)
34.1 Opp. Reb/gm 30.6
5.4 Steals/gm 5.0
1.8 Blocks/gm 3.5
Individual Returning Leaders
Caris Levert (14.9), Zak Irvin (14.2) Points/gm Jordan Perez (11.6), Marcus Hall (10.0)
Caris Levert (4.9), Zak Irvin (4.8) Reb/gm Terry Nash (3.9), Kenny Williams (2.9)

It’s amazing how much football affects the buildup to college basketball season.

For the better part of a decade, Michigan’s football team had fans counting down the days until the start of basketball, which won two conference titles and went to a Final Four and an Elite Eight during the football team’s struggles.

But now that Jim Harbaugh has Michigan back on the map, the start of basketball sneaked up on some people. Once the season starts, fans shouldn’t sleep on John Beilein’s team.

Michigan battled a slew of injuries last season, including the loss of its two best players — Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton — early in the conference season. Now that the whole crew is back, minus role player Max Bielfeldt, who transferred to Indiana, we’ll see what Beilein really had in mind for this group.

Here are three keys for Michigan’s opener against Northern Michigan.

1. Welcome back party

This season’s recruiting class might not play a major role during the 2015-16 season, but the Wolverines are adding two five-star caliber players back into their rotation.

LeVert, who was shut down on Jan. 18 last season after injuring his foot late in a home win over Northwestern, will be the team’s top player on offense and defense if he can stay healthy. At the time of his injury, LeVert was leading Michigan in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks while often lining up against every opponents’ best offensive player.

The one area LeVert can really improve is his field goal percentage. He shot below 30 percent in six of 18 games last season and needs to be much more consistent to help Michigan compete in the Big Ten.

Walton was starting to round into form last season before a foot (and toe) injury of his own slammed the breaks on his sophomore campaign. He scored 12 or more points in five of his last six games, capped by a 17-point effort against eventual National runners-up Wisconsin.

Without its starting point guard, Beilein’s formidable offense looked like a train without a conductor. Though Spike Albrecht evolved into the team’s best passer, the offense went through staggering scoreless stretches that cost Michigan games it should have won. At 16-16, the Wolverines were only a few wins away from slipping into another NCAA Tournament.

Walton’s return not only gives the starting five a legitimate off-the-dribble scoring threat, it also bumps Albrecht down to his more familiar role as the second point guard. Even when he’s on the floor with Walton, which will be often, if the last two years are any indication, Albrecht can focus on running the offense and defer to LeVert and Walton when it’s time to rack up the points.

If those two guys can return to form, Michigan will be right back in the thick of the conference race. A third key player returning from injury, Zak Irvin, will not play in Friday’s opener.

2. 3D in the paint

One of the biggest holes in last year’s team came at the center position, where the revolving door of Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle and Bielfeldt turned into way more Bielfeldt than Beilein had hoped.

This season, Michigan will look to its three Ds — Doyle, Donnal and, well, D.J. — to establish a presence in the paint and give a deep group of shooters more open looks.

If that’s a focus for Beilein this season, expect to see a heavy emphasis against teams like Northern Michigan.

Doyle showed the most promise last season, playing nearly 20 minutes per game and chipping in with about six points and three rebounds while shooting well over 60 percent from the field.

The best case scenario for Michigan is for Doyle to grab the starting job and run with it, as he’s clearly got the most upside of the bunch. He has a few strong moves down low and he’s a way stronger rebounder than Donnal. An offense that features LeVert, Walton and eventually Irvin won’t need Doyle to be a prolific scorer. He just needs to clean up the offensive and defensive glass and control the paint.

Donnal is much more of a question mark. After losing his starting job early last season, the redshirt freshman looked soft and timid during Big Ten play. He’s got a decent outside game, but sometimes that hurts him, as he doesn’t do enough work underneath the basket. His best performance came against Rutgers last season, when he scored only three points but ripped down seven boards and looked like a Big Ten center. Beilein will need to see more of that to keep Donnal in the regular rotation this year.

D.J. Wilson, on the other hand, didn’t get much of a chance to prove himself before accepting a redshirt five games into his freshman campaign. He’s got a great basketball body, but he was a little hesitant on offense and needed to bulk up on the defensive end.

Now that he’s back from another offseason of work, Michigan fans will finally get a look at where he fits into the system. More than a year ago, Beilein said Wilson can guard positions one through five on the court. Hopefully he can fit into just one of those jobs and gain some confidence.

3. Air Dawkins

There wasn’t much to celebrate when Michigan’s season came to a close in Indianapolis. A streak of two straight deep tournament runs came to a close as the Wolverines packed it up after the Big Ten Tournament.

But the extra playing time did reveal a few bright spots, the greatest being afterthought 2014 commit Aubrey Dawkins.

Dawkins played almost no role during the preconference schedule, scoring just 15 points in the team’s first 12 games. But when the Big Ten season rolled around, he burst onto the scene in a big way.

A very big way.

The freshman exploded for 20 points on 6-7 three-point shooting in the opener against Illinois, leading the team to an improbable overtime win. He slowly developed into a staple in the offense, eventually scoring 70 points in the team’s last three regular-season games. In his best effort, Dawkins dropped 31 points on Rutgers on eight for 11 shooting from beyond the arc.

Beilein showed his confidence in the freshman when he played him for 49 minutes during a double-overtime loss at Northwestern.

It’s hard to imagine why Dawkins didn’t garner more interest as a recruit. He can shoot from anywhere in the gym, he’s the most athletic player on the team and he even plays reasonable defense on the perimeter. If he’s grown as much as Beilein claims during the offseason, he could be one of the best offensive players in the Big Ten.

Dawkins needs to get off to a strong start against Northern Michigan to establish himself as a top option in what promises to be a much deeper offense.

Michigan basketball 2015 season preview: The sophomores

Monday, November 9th, 2015


Sophomores(Melanie Maxwell, Ann Arbor News)

While we’re in the midst of football season – a season of rebirth and return of the Michigan of old – college basketball is surprisingly just around the corner. Michigan Basketball tips off their own season later this week with a team that is looking to prove that last year’s mediocrity is firmly in the past. As usual, we will begin to preview the season looking at the newest and youngest players first before finishing with the seniors (they exist this year!). Starting today, we will take a look at the returning players by class, beginning with those with just one year under their belts.

#12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
Class Sophomore MAAR headshot
Major Undecided
Measurements 6’4″, 185
Hometown Allentown, Pa.
High School Catholic Central
Position(s) Guard (1,2)
Committed April 19, 2014
Fun Fact Dad is coach at Muhlenberg College (D-2)
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2014-15 4.5 1.7 0.9 0.6 1.0 19.0 41.9 29.3 93.3
Career 4.5 1.7 0.9 0.6 1.0 19.0 41.9 29.3 93.3

Career Highs: Points: 18; Assists: 4; Steals: 3; Rebounds: 8; Turnovers: 4 (twice); Minutes: 47
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Michigan State

Career to Date: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was one of a couple recruits in his class that flew under the radar and struggled to generate much college interest before John Beilein swooped in at the last minute with an offer. It’s become somewhat of a Beilein trademark at this point, with the likes of Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert, Aubrey Dawkins, Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, and others sharing a similar path. And like some of those before him, Rahk (as he’s called by teammates) was asked to take on a much larger role than what might have been expected before the season started with injuries to two of Michigan’s top guards.

For the most part, Rahk acquitted himself in that expanded role. He’s somewhat old for his class at 21 years of age and displays a calm demeanor on the court despite the first name he carries, and Rahk affords some flexibility to the Wolverines backcourt with a skill set that could see him run the point or the off-guard position.

In nearly 20 minutes per game last season – minutes that for the most part did not come until Big Ten season – Rahk showcased great quickness, plus handles, and an aggressive style of man defense that has been missing in many of Beilein’s Wolverine squads. He nearly took down Michigan State single-handedly in East Lansing with a cool 18 points and had a standout defensive performance on future lottery pick DeAngelo Russell of Ohio State in one of the few big victories of last season. This year, Rahk will almost assuredly see his minutes average dip with the return of Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert, but he has a skill set that is unique to this team and could see more time against teams with ultra-athletic and dangerous scoring guards. With his size, Rahk can match up well with a number of different opponents.

Area to Improve: Consistent Shooting

Rahk’s shooting numbers last season were lower than what you like to see out of a rotation player, and he’ll have to improve his shot selection and stroke to truly compete for minutes with Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht in his path. I do think the poor shooting percentages were largely a product of some early season jitters (Rahk would regularly throw up wild shots in which it didn’t appear that he could see the hoop) and a stroke that needed some refining, but he will need to shoot consistently better this go-round. Beilein has already seemed to work some magic with the sophomore’s long ball form, so I do think Rahkman will have a spot in the rotation – albeit not a huge one.

Stat Predictions: 3.0 points (43 FG%, 34 3-PT%, 85 FT%), 1.5 rebounds, 1 assist, 0.5 steals, in 8 minutes per game

#3 Kameron Chatman
Class Sophomore Chatman headshot
Major Undecided
Measurements 6’8″, 215
Hometown Portland, Ore.
High School Jefferson H.S.
Position(s) Wing (4)
Committed October 1, 2013
Fun Fact Left-handed
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2014-15 3.6 2.5 0.7 0.4 0.9 15.2 31.8 26.3 67.7
Career 3.6 2.5 0.7 0.4 0.9 15.2 31.8 26.3 67.7

Career Highs: Points: 13; Rebounds: 9; Assists: 3 (twice); Steals: 4; Turnovers: 3; Minutes: 30
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Rutgers

Career to Date: As a high four-star recruit with prototypical size for the 4 position in John Beilein’s offense, Kameron Chatman immediately graded out as a rotation player during the last offseason in the coaching staff’s eyes. Chatman began the year in the starting lineup playing big minutes, but his production on the court left much to be desired. After injuries created plenty of unexpected available minutes and some fellow sophomores saw their minutes increase seemingly by the game, Chatman found his own playing time shrinking. In fact, the 30 minutes he played in the season opener against Hillsdale ended up being his most of the entire year, and of the nine times Chatman saw at least 20 minutes, five of them were before Big Ten play began.

The biggest flaw in Chatman’s game was his dismal shooting. He was billed as a do-it-all offensive player with an easy left-handed stroke and range out beyond the three-point line along with a smooth finishing ability around the basket. None of that translated to the college game early on for Chatman, however, and with every missed shot seemed to come more frustration and less confidence. By the time the season came to a close, classmates Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins were consistently seeing 30 minutes per game while Chatman was just as likely to see seven minutes as he was 20.

The good news for the tall southpaw is that he’s just a sophomore with plenty of time to prove himself. And he presumably still has all the tools that saw him courted by a number of top programs around the country.

The bad news is that if his game doesn’t take a significant step forward this year, Chatman is likely to be buried even further down the bench with the depth that Michigan figures to have. Beilein has options aplenty at Chatman’s 4-spot, and whoever hits shots and plays solid defense is going to rise to the top.

Luckily, Chatman did seem to be putting things together better later on in the season, displaying some good ball-handling ability, a strong grasp on rebounding, plus passing, and a couple nice finishes around the hoop that evaded him earlier on. Now’s the time for him to start doing that on a consistent basis, and perhaps no one’s future will be as clear based on this season’s breakdown than Chatman.

Area to Improve: Shooting

Beilein’s system is predicated on shooters – or at least the threat of the open guy hitting triples. If you can knock down shots consistently, you’ll probably find your way into the coach’s heart and rotation – and especially so at the four position, where the Wolverines always look to space and stretch the floor. Last year, Chatman simply could not find the bottom of the net often enough to merit big-time minutes. His shooting stroke has apparently improved significantly this offseason, and Chatman’s natural left-handed stroke does play well into the offensive setup, but a couple missed open looks in any game and Chatman will likely be headed to the bench to watch Zak Irvin and company take over.

Stat Predictions: 2.0 points (41 FG%, 31 3-PT%, 70 FT%), 1.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, in 5 minutes per game

#24 Aubrey Dawkins
Class Sophomore Dawkins headshot
Major Undecided
Measurements 6’6″, 205
Hometown Palo Alto, Calif.
High School New Hampton Prep (N.H.)
Position(s) Guard/Wing (2, 3, 4)
Committed April 28, 2014
Fun Fact Dad is Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2014-15 7.0 2.1 0.4 0.3 0.6 20.7 47.8 43.8 87.0
Career 7.0 2.1 0.4 0.3 0.6 20.7 47.8 43.8 87.0

Career Highs: Points: 31; Rebounds: 5; Assists: 2 (three times); Steals: 2 (twice); Turnovers: 2 (four times); Minutes: 49
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Rutgers

Career to Date: A couple years ago, Aubrey Dawkins was playing his final season of prep basketball at New Hampton in New Hampshire while searching for interest from college programs. Much like Abdur-Rahkman, Dawkins simply could not get the calls and offers he was looking for. But unlike Rahk, Dawkins did not play high school in small town Pennsylvania – he played in perhaps the most prestigious prep league in the country for New Hampton and, oh yeah, his dad just so happens to be Johnny Dawkins, a former All-American at Duke and the current head coach at Stanford. And despite a solid shooting stroke and undeniable athleticism, Dawkins was left deciding between Dayton and, well, pretty much no one else.

That is, until once again John Beilein stepped in. Seeing Dawkins’ translatable skills and some room in a roster that just lost Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III to the pros, Beilein reached out late in the recruiting cycle with an offer that didn’t take long for Dawkins to accept.

The offer certainly looks like it was a good idea one year into Dawkins’ Michigan career. Dawkins saw very little playing time in the non-conference season before dropping 20 points on eight shots in the Big Ten opener against Illinois and eventually developing into a starter and an integral piece of the offense. By the end of the year, Dawkins was consistently playing 30-plus minutes every night and proved to be quite capable of filling in for his injured teammates.

Dawkins’ shooting stroke was the primary reason for this – he shot a ridiculous 47.4% from deep during Big Ten play – but his athletic finishing ability was also a positive. In perhaps the highlight play of the season, Spike Albrecht had a half-spin, behind-the-head pass to an open Dawkins, who easily skied for the thunderous dunk.

Now, all signs point to Dawkins maintaining his role in the starting lineup even with a healthy lineup after being pegged by John Beilein as the most improved Wolverine from last year to this year. If that is even close to true, Dawkins is primed for a breakout season that should see plenty more triples and a few sky-high throwdowns as well.

Area to Improve: Versatility

Last season, Dawkins was very much a shooter and a finisher, but he didn’t do much else. Going forward, Dawkins will have to develop a couple other aspects of his game if he’s to reach his astronomical potential. He needs to be able to put the ball on the floor and drive more (which he did a couple times in the exhibition opener), he needs to rebound the ball better given his size and athleticism, he needs to be able to create for others, and he needs to upgrade his defense. If Dawkins can do all those things, he will be an All-Big Ten level player and a future contender to be an All-American. Fortunately, he doesn’t need to put it all together this season, as Michigan has a number of other dynamic creators on the team, but there is definitely room for this sophomore to improve his overall game.

Stat Predictions: 11.0 points (47 FG%, 40 3-PT%, 85 FT%), 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, in 28 minutes per game

#32 Ricky Doyle
Class Sophomore Doyle headshot
Major Undecided
Measurements 6’9″, 250
Hometown Cape Coral, Fla.
High School Bishop Verot
Position(s) Center (5)
Committed March 11, 2013
Fun Fact Used to be a decorated club swimmer
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2014-15 6.1 3.2 0.3 0.4 0.6 18.2 61.2 0.0 60.9
Career 6.1 3.2 0.3 0.4 0.6 18.2 61.2 0.0 60.9

Career Highs: Points: 16; Rebounds: 9; Assists: 2 (twice); Blocks: 3; Turnovers: 2 (twice); Minutes: 33
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Indiana

Career to Date: As has happened a few times before, Ricky Doyle committed to Michigan under the belief that he would have a year or two to develop as a backup before taking over a starting job as an upperclassman; that all changed when former center Mitch McGary declared for the NBA Draft following what would have been a full-season suspension levied on him as well as Jon Horford transferring to Florida for his senior season.

Enter Doyle, the big center from a small Bishop Verot team down in the Fort Myers area. A traditional back-to-the-basket type big man, Doyle played about as well as could have been hoped to during his freshman season. He certainly was not an offensive superstar or a defensive standout, but he finished around the basket, boxed out consistently, and battled favorably with some much more experienced and polished centers during a freshman year that pitted Doyle against the likes of Rakeem Christmas, Frank Kaminsky, and A.J. Hammons.

This season, Doyle will be asked to do much of the same. If his finishing ability stays at or near the level it was a year ago and his defense does not make people remember him, Doyle will have done his job. The 6’9 center continues to learn the intricacies of the offense, and though he’s not a threat to shoot from farther than 8-10 feet yet, Doyle does well by not trying to do too much.

With Mark Donnal, D.J. Wilson, and maybe even Moritz Wagner available at the five position, Doyle should be able to give it his all in five minute spurts like last season to put in about 20 minutes per game. He may look to improve his defensive presence by trying to block and alter more shots, and we might see Doyle step out to the elbow to pop a few more jumpers this year (a skill that Mitch McGary proved to be incredibly value in a Final Four win over Syracuse), but a fitter and faster Doyle should do just fine. If he gets his rear into an opposing defender, Doyle can pull out a vast array of low post moves, and a face-up jumper would make him that much more difficult to deal with.

At the end of the year, though, Michigan doesn’t need Doyle to be a star. They need him to be himself.

Area to Improve: Conditioning

Ricky Doyle struggled to play long shifts last season because he simply got winded too fast. He was also prone to losing an opposing offensive player while hedging on occasion and could not always recover. If Doyle can improve his conditioning and quickness, he should be that much harder to deal with on both ends of the floor while being able to play longer spurts of time when needed.

Stat Predictions: 7.5 points (63 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, 68 FT%), 5.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.7 blocks, in 20 minutes per game