photo AnnArborGIFHeader_zps02670880.gif

Posts Tagged ‘Spike Albrecht’

Ice cold: SMU 62 – Michigan 51

Saturday, December 20th, 2014


UM vs SMU(Duane Burleson, Getty Images)

Coming off three straight losses, two of which were shocking home losses, Michigan had a week to prepare for an increasingly important non-conference matchup with Southern Methodist this afternoon. The week would surely provide rest, rehabilitation, and some renewed confidence after a tough skid that saw poor defense, putrid offense, and all around bad play.

One week wasn’t enough.

The Wolverines struggled right out of the gates, getting outscored 11-10 in the first six minutes of the game by star Mustang point guard Nic Moore alone, then continued to lag closely behind throughout the rest of the first half.

Much like in their losses against Arizona and Eastern Michigan, Michigan simply could not buy buckets, finishing the first half at a lowly 34.6 percent mark from the field and just 25 percent from deep, yet still only trailed by three.

The beginning of the second half continued the inept offensive display, as missed buckets and box outs led to a quick 7-0 spurt and a double-digit lead for SMU.

Then, out of nowhere, Michigan finally started to pick it up on offense after falling behind. Mark Donnal, after coming off the bench for the first time all season, scored five straight points during a 15-3 Michigan run that saw the Wolverines take a 44-42 lead with 9:30 left.

But as quickly as the run came, a heavy drought arrived in Ann Arbor, a far too common occurrence so far this year. One minute Michigan looked ready to take control and grab a much-needed home win just prior to the start of conference play. The next minute, Michigan found itself down nine with 2:31 left.

Four Factors
Michigan SMU
38.9 eFG% 50.0
19.5 OReb% 36.7
20.8 TO% 29.7
25.9 FTR 30.8

Any confidence the young team had mustered up was drained in an instant, and SMU used an extended 20-7 run over the final nine-and-a-half minutes to come away with a 62-51 win.

Michigan seemed to find some answers today, but even more questions were raised. The Wolverines found plenty of open looks throughout the game, but knocked down a measly 31.5 percent of their shots, with a whopping two-thirds of them coming from downtown (which they hit at an even-uglier 22.2 percent clip). Too often, players are settling for threes and long jumpers without so much as trying to traverse the lane and draw contact, or at least collapse the defense.

Ricky Doyle earned his first start of the season over Mark Donnal after looking like the superior option throughout the non-conference season only to raise further question marks while being severely out-played by the redshirt freshman. Doyle finished with just three points on 1-of-3 shooting and four rebounds while mishandling a number of passes and getting burned multiple times defensively. Donnal, on the other hand, poured in a career-high 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting and 2-of-3 from downtown while collecting four rebounds in five fewer minutes than Doyle. Beilein mentioned after the game that he thinks bringing Donnal off the bench made him play more relaxed, and he is seeing him as more and more of an outside shooter who can spread the defense. Donnal also said that his first bucket off the bench – an open triple from the wing just seconds after he walked onto the floor – came on a drawn-up play.

Lastly, Irvin seemed to start emerging from a slump while Caris LeVert, who had been carrying the team throughout a difficult December, had his worst game of the year with four points (1-of-8 FG, 0-of-5 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds, five assists, and five turnovers – a few of which were extremely costly and downright inexplicable. Irvin led the team with 17 points on 15 shots and made a few nice plays on the defensive end with three steals.

At some point, you have to assume that this dreadful shooting and these long periods of nothingness on offense will come to an end, but that day looks to be a far way down the dark tunnel at this point.

The Wolverines’ season, of course, is not over, but the impending bump in the road just became a mountain.

Luckily, most mountains are scalable, and Michigan’s next game against Coppin State should get them off the pavement before Big Ten season starts a week later.

John Beilein remained calm in the post-game press conference, and has always said that Big Ten teams are fortunate to have three chances to win a bid to the Big Dance – the non-conference season, the conference season, and the conference tournament.

Michigan has already blown their first chance. Can they learn from their mistakes and rebound?

Quick Hitters:

 Perhaps the most entertaining part of today’s game came while both Michigan and SMU were in their respective locker rooms at halftime. Back on the Crisler Center floor, one Michigan student was given a chance to win $10,000 after winning a mini free throw contest. In order to win, this student had to make a layup, a free throw, a three-pointer, and a half court shot all in 25 seconds. In what could go down as one of the more memorable fan contests of all time, the student made the layup with ease, hustled after a free throw miss to rattle home his free throw, drained a three, then swished a half court heave only to find out that he had released his half court shot a half-second after his time ran out and would not be taking home $10,000. During the second half, however, Michigan announced that they would give the student a consolation prize of $1,000 for his heroics.

• SMU’s size and strength down low was too much for Michigan to handle throughout the game. Center Yanick Moreira was dominant with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 5-of-9 free throws while grabbing five rebounds, leading the way for the Mustangs to destroy Michigan by a 17-to-25 mark in the paint and out-score the Wolverines 34-10 down low.

• Both of Michigan’s point guards are clearly playing injured right now, and both Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht had to receive medical attention at different times throughout the game. The sophomore-junior tandem combined for just 13 points on 17 shots while turning the ball over five times.

• Michigan’s contingent of true freshmen had a very rough day in all. Kam Chatman continued to struggle shooting the ball while Doyle couldn’t capitalize on his first career start, and Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman only saw three minutes of garbage time apiece. The freshmen combined for three points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Three Stars:

***Mark Donnal***
13 points (4-of-6 FG, 2-of-3 3pt, 3-of-4 FT), four rebounds (two offensive), one assist, one turnover in 14 minutes

**Zak Irvin**
17 points (6-of-15 FG, 3-of-11 3pt, 2-of-4 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), three steals, two turnovers in 38 minutes

*Derrick Walton, Jr.*
11 points (4-of-13 FG, 3-of-10 3pt), two rebounds, two assists, three steals, two turnovers in 38 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 0-3 0-2 0-0 1 2 3 2 0 1 1 0 0 14
32 Ricky Doyle* 1-3 0-0 1-2 2 2 4 2 3 1 0 0 0 19
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 4-13 3-10 0-0 0 2 2 1 11 2 2 0 3 38
21 Zak Irvin* 6-15 3-11 2-4 2 3 5 2 17 0 2 0 3 38
23 Caris LeVert* 1-8 0-5 2-2 0 5 5 2 4 5 5 0 2 37
02 Spike Albrecht 1-4 0-3 0-0 0 1 1 1 2 1 3 0 2 27
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 3
34 Mark Donnal 4-6 2-3 3-4 2 2 4 4 13 1 1 0 0 14
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-1 0-1 1-2 1 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 7
Totals 17-54 8-36 9-14 8 19 27 15 51 12 14 0 11 200
SMU 23-50 4-14 12-19 11 33 44 16 62 9 20 0 4 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch:
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Sam’s 3 thoughts: NJIT

Saturday, December 6th, 2014


Coming off their biggest win of the young season over Syracuse, the Michigan Wolverines now have a couple home games against lesser competition before preparing to take on Arizona and Southern Methodist on back-to-back Saturdays. Today, the opponent is the New Jersey Institute of Technology, an outfit that has been in Division I only since 2006-07 and has struggled mightily in that transition, with only one season of at least 16 wins and three seasons with five or fewer victories – including one with just one win and one with a donut in the win column.

In the early going this year, it hasn’t been much better, as the Highlanders are off to a 2-5 start with wins over Maine and Duquesne. In their defense, however, NJIT did give Marquette a close call in the Golden Eagles’ five-point win in Milwaukee. This afternoon (12:00pm, BTN), the Maize and Blue need to focus on the task at hand, but should have no problems disposing of the visitors with a strong effort. Here are a few quick thoughts on the matchup.

1. Get Walton Going: Derrick Walton is coming off what John Beilein has called a toe sprain and managed just three points on seven shots in somewhat limited minutes Tuesday night against the Orangemen. Spike Albrecht has been a savior thus far and will continue to be a very reliable backup point and wingman when paired with Walton on the floor, but Michigan needs production from its star sophomore if it is to replicate the success of the past couple seasons. Today, pay special attention to how Walton is moving on the floor, penetrating the defense, and running the fast break. He was probably slightly slower earlier this week, cutting down on his easy opportunities at the basket, but a smaller, less athletic defense should cure some of those issues.

2. Dominate the Defensive Glass: Tuesday’s win was an odd one for Michigan on the boards, as the Wolverines actually recorded more offensive rebounds (17) than defensive rebounds (14) and allowed Syracuse to grab nearly half of their own misses. It worked out this time, but it’s a trade-off that Beilein would probably never care to see again. Beilein stresses limiting possessions and second chance opportunities for the opponent while maximizing offensive efficiency on the Wolvereines’ own end; in fact, if the eighth-year head coach could have his way, he’d probably implement a rule where each team was only allowed one shot per possession, with turnovers and made baskets becoming the ultimate measure of success.

Against a smaller Highlander team that only sports one 6’8″ rotation player, Michigan should be able to control this department, but the Marquette game raises a little cause for concern. Against the Golden Eagles, NJIT managed to grab nearly half of their own misses while allowing Marquette to equally dominate their own boards. Luckily for Michigan, if today’s game turns into another feast of second chances, the Maize and Blue should still be able to win the possession battle, as the Highlanders turn it over a whopping 17 times per game, with star sophomore point guard Damon Lynn leading the way – he’s already attempted 79 three-pointers but has coughed up the rock at least four times in each of his last five games.

3. Start Ricky Doyle? I never imagined I’d be writing this, especially so early in the season, but I think it’s time to consider starting true freshman and fan favorite big man Ricky Doyle. It’s been made eminently clear over the past few games that Doyle gives Michigan the best hands, energy, rebounding, finishing, and touch down low, and it’s only a matter of time before his tremendous share of playing time turns into a spot in the starting five. With a couple easier games before a brutal two game stretch and the start of Big Ten season shortly thereafter, now seems like the time to make the change to allow the native Floridian to get comfortable from the tip.

As it stands today, I believe there are three things holding back Beilein from making the move right now. First, he’s said a couple times that he likes to bring some energy off the bench, and Doyle provides that in spades; second, Mark Donnal seems to be dealing with some confidence issues, especially when going up around the rim, and Beilein may figure keeping him in the starting five shows that the team still believes in him; third, keeping Donnal as the starter lets the redshirt freshman pick up the first big man foul of the game, putting less stress on Doyle trying to stay out of foul trouble from the get-go. Either way, I believe the move will come eventually, and if it does, the timing seems right to do it sooner rather than later.

Prediction: On paper, this is a game that Michigan should dominate, and I think they will do just that. I can see a close game holding early on before Michigan’s guards and Ricky Doyle take control as the Wolverines coast to a 73-53 win to move to 7-1.

Syracuse postgame player video: Ricky Doyle and Spike Albrecht

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014


Ricky Doyle

Spike Albrecht

Orange Spiked: Michigan 68 – Syracuse 65

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014


Michigan vs Syracuse(MGoBlue.com)

Just last week in New York City, the Michigan basketball team clawed back from a second half double-digit deficit to take the lead, only to give it back and let Villanova escape with a win.

Tonight, the tables were nearly turned.

A ferociously long, but very young, Syracuse Orange squad made the trip to Ann Arbor for the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge and proved to be up for the fight, causing the Wolverines all sorts of difficulty with coach Jim Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone defense and eventually taking a two-point halftime lead.

Four Factors
Michigan Syracuse
46.9 eFG% 56.3
39.5 OReb% 41.7
11.3 TO% 30.6
18.5 FTR 29.2

After a little halftime tinkering, however, Michigan got back on track and started to inch away from the ACC newbies after the break.

The Maize and Blue slowly built a lead, first by a single point on a ridiculous behind-the-back dish from Spike Albrecht to freshman Ricky Doyle, who authoritatively dunked it in Syracuse star Rakeem Christmas’s face and completed the and-one, then on triples from Albrecht, Zak Irvin, and Caris LeVert to bump it to seven, and later on another deep Irvin three (assisted by Spike, of course) to bring it to double-digits.

Syracuse, not to be outdone, staged a run of its own, cutting into Michigan’s lead on the back of a pair of Trevor Cooney threes and a handful of buckets from freshman Chris McCullough, who could do no wrong in the second half.

But just after tying things up at 63 with under a minute to play, Syracuse shot itself in the foot multiple times, saving the Wolverines from what would have been an equally embarrassing race to the finish.

Out of a late Michigan timeout, it was Spike Albrecht playing the role of hero once again, knocking down a trey from the top of the key to get the crowd, which was easily the loudest of the season, on its feet. Syracuse quickly answered with a wild drive and shot off the glass from junior Michael Gbinije to cut the Wolverine lead to the smallest of margins with 20 seconds to play.

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

In an obvious foul situation, the Orange sent sophomore point guard Derrick Walton, Jr. to the line for a one-and-one for the Maize and Blue. Walton missed short, with the carom going to McCullough. The freshman, looking to push things, hastily threw the ball directly to Michigan’s bench, giving the home crowd a short sigh of relief.

With no choice but to foul again, Syracuse hacked Caris LeVert. LeVert then also proceeded to miss the front end, which McCullough rebounded again. This time, McCullough was able to get it to fellow freshman Kaleb Joseph…who promptly coughed it up on Michigan’s baseline to give it back to the Wolverines with four seconds left. LeVert was fouled again and converted both for a 68-65 lead that would go final.

Following the nightmarish finish, legendary Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim showed frustration – “(It was) two freshmen, but whatever” – but understood that dumb errors come with the territory of playing such a young team.

For his part, Boeheim thought it was a “good effort overall” and “the best we’ve played all year”, but credited a Michigan offense that’s hard to stop.

John Beilein was perhaps more relieved than anything, but also surprisingly serene for such a heart-pounding finish. After an ugly first half in which Michigan made just three of their 17 three-point attempts and 36.1 percent of their shots overall, the coach simply entrusted his players to continue shooting with confidence – and they did just that, knocking down half of their 16 triples after the break. Beilein also encouraged his guards to “get two feet in the paint offensively”, making it easier to dish down low to Doyle, who finished with another terrific and efficient performance of 12 points (4-of-6 FG, 4-of-5 FT) and six rebounds (five offensive) against Syracuse’s rangy bigs. Spike was also a primary beneficiary of the halftime tweaks and a not-quite-100 percent Derrick Walton, as he finished with 11 points – seemingly all at crucial times – and a remarkable nine assists to zero turnovers.

The ball, and many calls, seemed to be going Syracuse’s way most of the night, but the young Wolverines were able to prove their mettle against a team that will, much like Michigan, almost certainly continue to improve leading up to March.

You can say that Syracuse threw the game away by not getting a shot off on two critical late possessions, but Michigan got the win. Right now, that’s all that counts.

Quick Hitters:

 If there was any doubt who Michigan’s go-to big man is, Ricky Doyle erased it tonight with his defining, crowd-pleasing performance. Just over a month ago, Doyle looked slow on defense and often out of position on offense, but he has made vast strides on both ends of the floor and continues to show more every game.

Tonight, Doyle impressed with his hands, his positioning on defensive rebounds against the lengthy zone (though he only grabbed one defensive board, his box outs cleared the way for Michigan’s guards to clean up the glass), and his overall toughness down low. He was not afraid to call for the ball in the right spots and knew right where to go when catching it in the post. On one late attempt, he knew he missed and immediately jumped to lay it back in among two Syracuse defenders to put Michigan back up by four with 1:50 to play.

After the game, Beilein said that post minutes are far from settled, but it’s clear that Mark Donnal is a starter in name only after logging just eight minutes tonight, and Max Bielfeldt’s time continues to dwindle, with only six minutes – all in the first half – to 25 from Doyle. Beilein credited much of Doyle’s improvement to his gym rat attitude, saying he’d be surprised if the freshman big man was not shooting free throws in the Player Development Center after the game, while Doyle pointed out his work with Jon Sanderson leading to a nearly 15 percent cut in body fat and huge gains in the weight room.

• Kameron Chatman had perhaps his best performance of the season to date, finishing with 10 points, including a momentous late corner three, and nine big rebounds in 28 minutes of play. Chatman was the only Wolverine to consistently find the vulnerable elbow spot against the 2-3 zone, and knocked down a couple smooth-looking mid-range jumpers to go along with a couple dimes.

 Caris LeVert had a pretty quiet night, going just 4-of-14 from the floor and 2-of-8 from distance for 12 points, but he did dish out six assists to just one turnover – helping Michigan to a terrific 19:7 assist-to-turnover margin – while grabbing a couple steals in 40 minutes of action. Sophomore Zak Irvin also went the distance and led all scorers with 18 points on 17 shots, including a 4-of-11 mark from three-point land. Irvin’s strength is still in his outside shot, but he’s taking positive steps on his dribble-drive game, finishing one very nice weave through a host of Orange defenders for a tougher-than-it-looked layup, while also throwing down a couple monster one-handed slams – one that even saw him land squarely on his behind after jumping out of the gym.

 Michigan recorded a stunning 17 offensive rebounds to Syracuse’s 26 defensive boards (good for a 39.5 percent offensive rebounding rate) while grabbing just 14 defensive rebounds to Syracuse’s 10 offensive (allowing the Orange to grab 41.7 percent of their misses).

• Freshman D.J. Wilson is out for a few weeks with a knee injury and may explore the redshirt route – which would make a lot of sense, given his relative lack of playing time and meshing within the offense so far, while fellow freshmen Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins didn’t see game action. I’m not sure if either will be considered potential redshirt candidates at this point, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on as the rotation continues to tighten against top-level competition.

Three Stars:

***Spike Albrecht***
11 points (4-of-8 FG, 3-of-5 3pt), nine assists, three rebounds, two steals, zero turnovers in 27 minutes

**Zak Irvin**
18 points (7-of-17 FG, 4-of-11 3pt), two rebounds, one steal, one turnover in 40 minutes

*Ricky Doyle*
12 points (4-of-6 FG, 4-of-5 FT), six rebounds (five offensive), one block, zero turnovers in 25 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 4-11 1-3 1-2 4 5 9 3 10 2 2 0 1 28
34 Mark Donnal* 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 2 0 1 0 0 8
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 1-7 1-6 0-1 1 2 3 1 3 2 0 0 1 26
21 Zak Irvin* 7-17 4-11 0-0 2 0 2 2 18 0 1 0 1 40
23 Caris LeVert* 4-14 2-8 2-4 0 2 2 1 12 6 1 0 2 40
02 Spike Albrecht 4-8 3-5 0-0 0 3 3 1 11 9 0 0 2 27
32 Ricky Doyle 4-6 0-0 4-5 5 1 6 3 12 0 0 1 0 24
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 7
Totals 25-65 11-33 7-12 17 14 31 14 68 19 7 1 7 200
Syracuse 24-48 6-17 11-14 10 26 36 15 65 13 19 5 5 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch:
Beilein tie - Syracuse

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Veteran led: Michigan 71 – Detroit 62

Thursday, November 20th, 2014


LeVert-Irvin vs Detroit(MGoBlue.com)

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

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

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

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

It started a theme that would last throughout the night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Maximized: Michigan 77 – Bucknell 53

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014


Max Bielfeldt vs Bucknell(MGoBlue.com)

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

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

Those thoughts didn’t last too long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Banner day: Michigan 92 – Hillsdale College 68

Saturday, November 15th, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

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

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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

Michigan basketball 2014-15 season preview: Caris’ turn

Saturday, November 15th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-2014-15Preview

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

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

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

(Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan basketball position preview: The point guards

Thursday, November 13th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-PointGuards

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

The Starter

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

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

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

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

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

The Backups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minute Breakdown:

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

Michigan basketball position preview: The wings

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-TheWings

As we edge toward Saturday’s season opener, let’s take a closer look at each of Michigan’s three position groups, starting today with the wings.

For all intents and purposes, John Beilein really operates his basketball teams with three positions – the point guard, the big men, and the wings. Positions 2 through 4 are very similar offensively and require many of the same actions on each possession. Wings in John Beilein’s offense are expected to be adequate ball handlers, good passers, and primetime shooters. Here are the players who will be seeing time at the wing this season:

The Starters

#21 Zak Irvin – 6’6″, 215 – Sophomore
2013-14 stats: 6.7 pts (43.4% FG, 42.5% 3pt, 71.4% FT), 1.3 reb, .4 ast, .4 TO, 15.4 min/game
Projected 2014-15 stats: 11.5 pts (46% FG, 41% 3pt, 75% FT), 4.2 reb, 1 ast, 1 TO, 33 min/game

Last year, Zak Irvin was about as much of a Just a Shooter as possible, with a full 74.5 percent of his attempts coming from behind the arc. He often looked uncomfortable putting the ball on the floor, and his slashing was almost non-existent. Over the offseason, however, Irvin remained dedicated to improving his game by staying in Ann Arbor over the summer, and the results are apparently already. The former Indiana Mr. Basketball reportedly increased his vertical leap by some five inches without hurting his outside shot, and showed that off last night.

In Italy, Irvin was on fire from downtown and led the team in scoring with a whopping 20.8 points per outing. Perhaps more impressively, he was also the second-leading rebounder on the team, hauling in 7.3 rebounds a game. His bounce and rebounding ability were both on full display in the team’s exhibition season opener in which Irvin slammed it home three times and pulled in an impressive five rebounds – something that will continue to be important given the team’s youth down low.

Going forward, Irvin will continue to work on becoming a threat to take it to the hole, but he doesn’t need to be a world-beater in that department for the Wolverines to thrive. If Irvin can knock down shots at a high clip again, finish in transition, compete for rebounds, and play solid defense, his job is more than accomplished. Look for him to have a very nice sophomore season, the season during which John Beilein likes to see his players make their biggest leaps (think Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert), while playing the bulk of the minutes at the 2 spot.

#23 Caris LeVert – 6’7″, 200 – Junior
2013-14 stats: 12.9 pts (43.9%FG, 40.8%3pt, 76.7%FT), 4.3 reb, 2.9 ast, 1.2 stl, .3 bl, 1.7 TO, 34 min/game
Projected 2014-15 stats: 15.5 pts (45%FG, 42%3pt, 81%FT), 5.1 reb, 4.5 sat, 1.5 stl, .4 bl, 1.5 TO, 35 min/game

There’s no doubt who this Michigan team’s star player is. That would be Caris LeVert, the 20-year-old who was all set to play at the mid-major level for Ohio University until then-coach John Groce left Athens for Champaign and chose to not bring LeVert with him. I guess Illinois’s loss is Michigan’s gain.

After an up-and-down freshman year that saw a young, gangly, skinny, and oft out-of-control LeVert go from surefire redshirt to inconsistent contributor on Michigan’s NCAA Runner-up team, the sophomore exploded onto the scene as a sophomore and played Robin to eventual lottery pick Nik Stauskas’s Batman.

Now, the reins are all his. LeVert has bulked up to a once-unimaginable 200 pounds and has as complete an offensive game as anyone in the country. Standing now at 6’7″ (will he ever stop growing?), LeVert should be Michigan’s go-to scorer from the wing and the secondary general to Derrick Walton. You’ll see plenty of pick-and-roll action drawn up for LeVert at the 3 position that Stauskas thrived in, and LeVert’s size, quickness, shiftiness, shooting, and passing ability make him a dangerous weapon off the curl. He will also be called upon to play solid perimeter defense, where his length and foot speed should lead to further improvements on that end of the floor.

The early returns for LeVert are very positive, after posting a team-high 16 points and six assists last night with only one turnover. What the stats don’t show, however, is the ease with which the veteran now operates. The Columbus, Ohio native was like a tub of Jell-O in human form when he arrived in Ann Arbor, sometimes to the point where it looked like he wasn’t even controlling his own extremities. Now, only two years later, LeVert plays with an air of cool and operates incredibly smoothly across the floor without comprising any of his quickness or shiftiness.

#3 Kameron Chatman – 6’7″, 210 – Freshman

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

Kam Chatman arrived in Ann Arbor as one of the few players under John Beilein that chose Michigan over other top-ranked programs. That’s certainly no shot at Chatman; Beilein, after all, is highly selective when scouting high school players and considers off-the-court character perhaps more than any other coach in the country. It’s not Chatman’s fault that Beilein has consistently gotten the job done with more diamond-in-the-rough types.

Now Chatman has a chance to prove his high regard was not a fluke, and after immediately grading out as a rotation player under John Beilein and his assistants’ scouting, the Portland native looks to have locked up the starting 4 spot this season. In last night’s exhibition, Chatman appeared to be the most relaxed freshman on the court, and though his shot didn’t fall consistently (he air-balled two threes and swished another), his stat line was impressive: nine points, six rebounds (one offensive), four assists, and zero turnovers in 25 minutes. The freshman will still have plenty of learning to do and needs to find his stroke consistently as the season gets rolling, but he looks like a nice piece to the puzzle at this point.

The Bench

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

Let’s be clear on one thing: Spike Albrecht is a point guard. The only reason I am including him here is that John Beilein has said on many occasions leading up to this season that Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton will share the floor for some time every game. Last night, Albrecht played 20 minutes while Walton notched 21 of his own (and probably would have had a few more if not for a cramp), and they were both on the floor for approximately 3.5 minutes. During the season, I expect to see Walton running the point for around 32 minutes a night with Albrecht getting all the backup minutes there and another seven or so at the 2-spot.

Albrecht’s role is very clear on this team. Beilein wants him to shoot when he’s open, find the open man, and take care of the ball. Albrecht did those three things very well last season, and with another year of experience under his belt, I expect more (albeit small) improvements. He’s under-sized and not super athletic, as evidenced by his casual layup on a full breakaway last night, but Albrecht is usually very smart with the ball and is adept at finding the open man for the corner three.

#24 Aubrey Dawkins – 6’6″, 190 – Freshman

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

Aubrey Dawkins should provide a nice outside threat and the rare “wow” dunk in limited minutes this season at the 3 and 4 positions. He has all the tools to become a very good player down the line, but he’s at the wrong position to make a huge impact this season. Look for similar output to LeVert’s freshman year but in fewer minutes.

#5 D.J. Wilson – 6’9″, 220 – Freshman

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

John Beilein has made it clear that his long, versatile freshman will end up as a wing forward down the line, and that’s where the majority of his minutes should come this season as well, but he’ll also spotlight at the 5-spot along with Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle.

Right now, Wilson looks more comfortable facing up on the wing, and he should see the majority of Chatman’s backup minutes there. His size and athleticism give him two valued assets defensively, and Wilson’s offensive range and driving ability will make him a very tough guard. His face-up game is in the mold of consensus All-American Frank Kaminsky from Wisconsin, and his varied skillset make him a very intriguing prospect. Look for Wilson to see 10-15 minutes a night at the 4 and another 5-10 at the 5 position.

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

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

Luckily for basketball writers covering Michigan, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman looks to be a year or two away from being a major contributor in Ann Arbor. His quickness and slashing ability give him a skill set that not many on this team possess, but Rahk still needs to get the offense down and finds himself behind the likes of Derrick Walton, Spike Albrecht, and Zak Irvin for minutes.

In looking at Rahk’s profile, one number should stick out too – 175. Despite being five full inches taller than Spike Albrecht, Abdur-Rahkman is the same exact weight. And Spike is no heavyweight. I don’t think Abdur-Rahkman will redshirt this season, as Beilein continues to talk as if all the freshmen will get their opportunities, but he certainly won’t find the court in every game, especially against early heavyweights like Syracuse and Arizona.

Minute Breakdown

2-spot (traditional shooting guard):
32 Zak Irvin
7 Spike Albrecht
1 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
3-spot (traditional small forward):
35 Caris LeVert
2 Aubrey Dawkins
2 Kameron Chatman
1 Zak Irvin
4-spot (traditional power forward):
25 Kameron Chatman
12 D.J. Wilson
3 Aubrey Dawkins