Posts Tagged ‘Zack Novak’

Inside the Numbers: The fifth golden era of Michigan basketball

Friday, April 11th, 2014


Michigan(MGoBlue.com)

The college basketball season officially has ended. Accordingly, this will be the final entry of my “Inside the Numbers” series for the 2013-14 athletic season. This hiatus will last a few months until I begin previewing the 2014 Michigan football team this summer. But I still will write for Maize and Go Blue in the meantime. I am starting a bimonthly mailbag. If you have any questions about Michigan football and basketball that you want answered, please tweet them to me (@DrewCHallett) or email them to me (drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com), and I will answer them here. On that note, I hope you enjoy my last “Inside the Numbers” piece on the 2013-14 Michigan basketball team. 

Michigan is a “football school.” Always has been. Always will be. This is expected when Michigan is the winningest football program of all-time, leads the Big Ten with 42 conference championships, owns 11 national championships, has three Heisman Trophy winners, plays its home games in the nation’s largest football stadium, and has made more television appearances than any other college football program. But this “football school” label should not overshadow the achievements of the Michigan’s basketball program. Especially right now.

Michigan basketball is not some poor or substandard program. Michigan has won 14 Big Ten regular-season championships, which is one more than the number Michigan State has won. The Wolverines have appeared in the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight 13 times each. Michigan has participated in the Final Four seven times. Only nine schools in the nation have advanced to the Final Four more often. And the Wolverines have celebrated one national championship. Indiana and Michigan State are the only Big Ten programs with more than one national title.

Unlike the football program, though, Michigan’s basketball program has experienced only sporadic success. Historically, Michigan has not always been one of the best basketball programs in the nation. Michigan has not competed for Big Ten or national championships on a consistent basis. When the Wolverines have competed at such a level, they have not been able to sustain it for an extended period of time. This is why, from the inaugural NCAA Tournament in 1939 to 2011, there had been only four brief stretches during which Michigan was near the top of the college basketball landscape.

A-Maize-ing Stretches of Michigan Basketball (1939-2011)

Years

Overall
Win Pct.

Conference Win Pct.

B1G Titles

Sweet Sixteens

Elite Eights

Final Fours

1964-66

79.27%

83.33%

3

3

3

2

1974-77

79.31%

79.41%

2

3

3

1

1985-89

78.31%

72.22%

2

2

1

1

1992-94

78.43%

72.22%

0

3

3

2

Other 58 Years

52.65%

43.46%

1

0

1*

0

*Michigan appeared in the 1948 NCAA Tournament when the field had only eight teams

When John Beilein arrived in Ann Arbor in April 2007, it had been 13 years since Michigan had last been considered elite and nine years since Michigan had participated in the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines were in a rut and in need of a new leader to rebuild their program. The first few seasons under Beilein were slightly rocky. Yes, Michigan overachieved in 2009 with a 21-win season and its first NCAA Tournament since 1998. But a disappointing sub-.500 record in 2010 and underwhelming start in 2011 gave the impression that Michigan was still a long ways away from the top of the mountain.

Then, suddenly, everything began to click a few weeks into the Big Ten season in 2011. With a worrisome 1-6 conference record, Michigan traveled to East Lansing, a place where it had not won since 1997, to play rival Michigan State. With the program trending downwards, Michigan seemed destined to suffer yet another loss at the Breslin Center. But Zack Novak and Stu Douglass had different plans. Novak buried a career-high six triples, and Douglass drilled a three-point dagger with 20.2 seconds left to secure a surprising victory for the Wolverines. The win turned around the season. Michigan closed with a 10-5 record and pushed No. 1 seed Duke to the brink in a promising NCAA Tournament appearance.

Thanks to Beilein's ability to identify under-the-radar recruits and develop them for his system, Michigan is amid another golden era (MGoBlue.com)

Thanks to Beilein’s ability to identify under-the-radar recruits and develop them for his system, Michigan is amid another golden era (MGoBlue.com)

While this was happening on the court, Beilein was striking gold on the recruiting trail. In August 2010, Beilein landed an undersized point guard, whom Rivals ranked No. 136 in the 2011 class when he committed. His name was Trey Burke. One month later, Michigan received a pledge from an athletic wing whose father played in the NBA. The commitment earned little fanfare, though, because Rivals ranked the prospect only No. 118 in the 2012 class. His name was Glenn Robinson III. In March 2011, a Canadian sharpshooter, whom Rivals ranked No. 106 in the 2012 class at the time, decided he wanted to be a Wolverine. His name was Nik Stauskas. Then, after Beilein landed the highest-ranked recruit of his career in the form of five-star Mitch McGary, Beilein added a last-second commit, whom Rivals did not rank nationally, to the 2012 class. His name was Caris LeVert.

The combination of Michigan’s end-of-the-season turnaround in 2011 and Beilein’s superb recruiting of under-the-radar prospects ushered in what can now be considered the fifth golden era of Michigan basketball. Since 2011, Michigan has posted an 83-27 overall record (75.45 win percentage). The Wolverines’ 83 wins are the most they ever have had in a three-year span. U-M’s 59 total wins in 2013 and 2014 are the most ever by the school in consecutive seasons. With this type of on-court success, Michigan recently has accomplished goals and records that it has not done been able to do since the Fab Five era.

For starters, Michigan has been the best Big Ten basketball program during this timeframe. Since 2011, Michigan has a 40-14 conference record (74.07 win percentage). No Big Ten school has more conference wins or a higher conference win percentage in that span. The closest is Michigan State with 38 conference wins. Accordingly, the Wolverines won a Big Ten regular-season championship in 2012 and 2014. These were Michigan’s first conference championships since 1986. Further, Michigan ran away with the title in 2014, winning the Big Ten by three games. This was a feat no team had achieved since Michigan State in 2009. For the first time in almost three decades, Michigan sits atop the Big Ten without an equal.

Michigan’s success has translated to the postseason, too. Michigan has been no lower than a No. 4 seed in each of the past three NCAA Tournaments. Its No. 2 seed in 2014 was its highest since it was a No. 1 seed in 1993. Yes, the Wolverines fell unexpectedly to Ohio in the Round of 64 in 2012. But they have more than made up for it since then. Michigan has advanced to the Elite Eight each of the past two seasons, doing so in consecutive years for the first time since 1992-94. This included a magical run to the national championship game in 2013, where Michigan finished as the national runner-up. In these two NCAA Tournaments, the Wolverines accumulated eight wins. No other school in the nation can claim more in this span.

Michigan is amid this golden era of regular-season and postseason success because it has become the nation’s gold standard for offense. The Wolverines have finished in the top 20 in adjusted offensive efficiency in each of the past three seasons. Michigan actually led the nation in this category in both 2013 and 2014. In fact, Michigan’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 124.1 in 2014 was the highest by any team in the nation for the 12 seasons this stat has been tracked. Therefore, Michigan’s offense this past season was the most efficient in the nation since at least 2002. Beilein’s offensive system is predicated on having four guards or wings on the court, spacing, constant motion, and outside shooting. With the proper weapons at Beilein’s disposal, few teams, if any, can score at a rate like Michigan.

Regardless of who goes pro, Michigan should remain elite next season (MGoBlue.com)

Regardless of who goes pro, Michigan should remain elite next season (MGoBlue.com)

And Beilein has found the proper weapons. Beilein has hauled in some of the best talent Ann Arbor has seen in decades, even if those players were not considered blue-chip recruits by other elite programs. In 2013, Burke was named the consensus National Player of the Year. It was the second time ever a Wolverine had received such an honor and the first time since Cazzie Russell in 1966. Additionally, Burke also was honored as a consensus first-team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year. Burke was Michigan’s first member of an All-America first team since Chris Webber in 1993 and first Big Ten Player of the Year since Glen Rice in 1989.

There were some outsiders who claimed that Michigan was a one-man program and would return to mediocrity with Burke’s departure. This was far from case. The following season, Stauskas became Michigan’s go-to player and blossomed into a star. Stauskas, like Burke in 2013, was named to an All-America first team and the consensus Big Ten Player of the Year. It was the first time a Wolverine had been a first-team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year in consecutive seasons since 1964-66 and 1988-89, respectively. McGary was a preseason first-team All-American in 2014, but his season was derailed by a lower back injury. LeVert was selected as a member of the All-Big Ten second team in 2014 after having a minimal role as a freshman the previous season. And Robinson III has been a two-time All-Big Ten honorable mention and projected to possibly be a first-round draft pick.

This is an exciting time to be involved with Michigan basketball. In each of the past three seasons, the team has competed for conference and national championships. The players have run Beilein’s offensive system to perfection, showing the rest of the nation how offense is supposed to be played. As a result, the players have received multiple national and conference honors to recognize their performances. Additionally, there have been so many other awards, honors, records, and accolades that Michigan and its players have attained since 2011, but there are too many to recognize all of them in this piece. It would be a stat overload. But the message is clear: this is the fifth golden era of Michigan basketball.

The logical follow-up question is, “How long will this fifth golden era of Michigan basketball endure?” Will Michigan drop from its lofty perch in the college basketball world quickly as it has historically? Or has Beilein built this program into a consistent contender that will be among the nation’s best for another decade-plus? This is anyone’s guess. If I had to give mine, I would lean toward the latter, even if one or two Wolverines declare early for the NBA Draft in the next week or so. Nonetheless, Michigan fans should not take this success for granted. Michigan may be a “football school,” but, at the moment, its basketball program is superior and may be for quite some time.

Derick’s 3 thoughts: Indiana

Saturday, March 8th, 2014


Michigan-Indiana header2

Michigan’s final regular season game comes against the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday at the Crisler Center. On paper this game means very little for the Wolverines, who clinched an outright Big Ten championship with a dominating win at Illinois on Tuesday. But finishing the season on a five-game winning streak would put Michigan in prime position to ride a hot streak into postseason play.

Indiana could have put itself in position to steal an NCAA Tournament bid with a winning streak to end the season, but Nebraska beat the Hoosiers in Assembly hall on Wednesday to virtually extinguish their chances to earn an at-large bid. Their only hope at this point is to win the Big Ten Tournament, and Tom Crean’s squad will look to get the momentum going today.

Here are three keys to consider during the final game of the regular season.

Put the Hoosiers in their place: Despite receiving a preseason top-25 ranking, Indiana played dreadful basketball during the majority of the Big Ten season. In fact, Indiana lost to all four of the worst teams in the conference, including an 82-64 waxing at Purdue on Feb. 15.

But on Feb. 2, when Michigan visited Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers put on a shooting clinic, shooting over 61 percent from three-point range. The 63-52 final gave Indiana its third win in a row over Michigan, which lost two close battles with the top-5 Hoosiers in early 2013.

Michigan surrendered a six-point lead with under a minute to play in a heartbreaking senior day-loss to Indiana last season, when a potential share of the Big Ten title slipped from the team’s grasp. This season, the Wolverines must make sure to write a different story.

Yogi Ferrell shot Michigan out of the gym in the last meeting. Can he do it again? (IUHoosiers.com)

Yogi Ferrell shot Michigan out of the gym in the last meeting. Can he do it again? (IUHoosiers.com)

The outright Big Ten champions boast a much more talented team than Indiana does this season, so Saturday offers the perfect chance to end this losing streak to Indiana. Michigan can put Indiana in its place on the final game of the regular season and avenge not only this season’s loss, but also the one that soured senior day for so many Wolverines in 2013.

Take the drive away from Yogi Ferrell: Michigan fans remember Yogi Ferrell for the unbelievable stroke he demonstrated in the first matchup February. The sophomore guard recorded his best shooting percentages of the season both overall (80 percent) and from beyond the arc (87.5 percent).

The numbers expose Ferrell’s impressive shooting against Michigan as an outlier. In the eight games since the unbelievable performance, the Hoosiers lost all three games in which their starting point guard shot double digit three pointers. Ferrell shot a total of 67 longballs in those games and connected on just 22 of them (32.8 percent).

Ferrell rarely stepped inside the three-point line against the Wolverines, but his real value does come inside the arc. He’s shooting a much higher percentage from short range in his past five games (50 percent), and when he gets to the free throw line he is one of the best shooters in the conference at over 81 percent.

Michigan allowed Ferrell and Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble to catch fire from three-point range during its first two Big Ten losses, but that doesn’t mean that the Michigan guards should overcommit to Ferrell as a shooter on Saturday. As one of the lowest fouling teams in the country, Michigan neutralizes the youngster’s automatic stroke from the charity stripe. If he struggles to connect on his first few three point attempts, the Wolverine defenders can erase any memory of the 27 points he recorded back in February.

End the senior night woes: The Crisler Center has posed one of the most difficult places for opposing basketball teams to play during the past two seasons. In 2012, Michigan held a perfect home record going into the final game in Ann Arbor, only to fall to an unranked Purdue team during Zack Novak and Stu Douglas’s senior night celebrations.

Last season No. 2 Indiana provided a much more formidable test, but the results were the same as Michigan suffered its only home loss of the season on senior night. This season, Jordan Morgan hopes to reverse that unfortunate trend.

Morgan’s five-year journey as a Michigan Wolverine takes another step closer to the end as he plays his final home game on Saturday. His leadership and willingness to do whatever the team needs made him a strong leader for Beilein throughout the reconstruction of this basketball program.

Michigan lost two tough games in Ann Arbor over the course of the season, so the pressure to polish off a perfect home slate has long since evaporated. If the Wolverines play at a level anywhere near that of their conference-clinching demolition of Illinois Tuesday, senior night should take care of itself and Morgan will walk off the court with career win number 114.

Prediction:  Michigan 80 – Indiana 67

Jordan Morgan was there and tomorrow he gets the spotlight

Friday, March 7th, 2014


J-mo and team vs Minnesota(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

It seems like a century ago. A vastly underachieving Michigan squad watched its enormous upset bid against the top-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes crumble as Evan Turner’s half-court heave found the net in the 2010 Big Ten tournament.

Michigan couldn’t bounce back from that devastating loss. Back then, Michigan basketball teams didn’t generally earn trips to the NCAA Tournament. In fact, after Turner’s 37-foot prayer sent the Wolverines home from the conference tournament, their 15-17 record left them without an invitation to even the NIT.

That season belonged to a different era of college basketball in Ann Arbor. It was before Michigan contended for Big Ten championships, Wooden Award winners and Final Four appearances.

But Jordan Morgan was there.

Morgan miraculously played in the shadow of four different generations of Michigan basketball. During his freshman season (in which he redshirted), Morgan watched the lackluster final edition of DeShawn Simms and Manny Harris from the bench. His actual playing days began alongside Darius Morris, whose ability to find Morgan wide open under the basket helped the young forward mature.

During the next two seasons, Morgan established himself as a consistent starter for the Wolverines, who earned back-to-back No. 4 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Still, players like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. commanded the spotlight while Morgan quietly minded his business.

Jordan Morgan has seen it all throughout his five-year Michigan career (AnnArbor.com)

Jordan Morgan has seen it all throughout his five-year Michigan career and gets to go out a champion (AnnArbor.com)

Now his journey nears its end. In his final few weeks of college basketball, Morgan finds himself mentoring a brand new generation of Wolverines. Freshmen Derrick Walton, Jr. and Zak Irvin continue to mature throughout the conference season. Meanwhile, Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert stepped up and accepted larger roles in the absence of Burke and Hardaway.

And how many seniors do these young players learn from? Just Jordan Morgan, the only senior on John Beilein’s championship team.

The Detroit native’s career credentials speak for themselves. He has played on four straight NCAA Tournament teams, winning six of nine games so far. He won two Big Ten championships, including the school’s first outright title since 1986. Entering his final game in the Crisler Center, he’s compiled 103 wins during his college career.

Despite all of the program’s success, it wasn’t always easy for Morgan.

During his junior season, Morgan shared time with five-star super-recruit Mitch McGary, who chose to play for Michigan over many other high-profile schools, mainly Duke. Though Morgan welcomed the presence of such a talented player on the roster, McGary cut deeply into his minutes. After averaging 24-plus minutes per game in the previous two seasons, Morgan spent just as much time on the bench during the magical Final Four run, playing just under 16 minutes per game.

An average 22-year old player would protest losing over a third of his minutes after two productive seasons, but Morgan continued to play hard when Beilein called upon him. Now he reemerged as a consistent starter in 2013-14, doing Michigan’s dirty work by rebounding, taking charges, and playing tough inside defense.

The redshirt senior plays more minutes than he did last year, but for the fourth year in a row, his field goal attempts have decreased. Still, as he’s done his entire career, when opportunities come he takes advantage of them. He’s currently shooting a career high 67.4 percent from the field.

Morgan’s role in Michigan basketball history has been grossly understated. Former guards Zack Novak and Stu Douglas receive much of the credit for turning around the basketball program, but Morgan was the only player to step foot on the court during the National Championship game that survived a losing season as a Wolverine.

Morgan arrived in Ann Arbor to play in the dark, unfinished Crisler Arena for a team that struggled to make the NCAA Tournament every season. He leaves the Wolverines as perennial Big Ten contenders and defending champions.

He’s not only seen the construction of facilities that compete with college basketball’s finest, but also the commitment of two five-star recruits (McGary and Glenn Robinson III) to Michigan. The culture of this basketball program completely evolved over the past five years, and the only player to witness the entire process plays in Ann Arbor for the final time on Saturday.

You’ll never see Morgan’s jersey hanging in the rafters of the Crisler Center, but when the longtime Wolverine leaves the court for the final time on Saturday, he’s left an amazing legacy in his wake.

Morgan is the only Michigan player celebrating senior night on Saturday — a fitting end for a player that will finally own the spotlight.

Michigan at Minnesota quick thoughts

Thursday, January 17th, 2013


#5 Michigan at #9 Minnesota
Thursday, Jan. 17 | 7pm ET | ESPN
16-1 (3-1) Record 15-2 (3-1)
Slippery Rock 100-62
IUPUI 91-54
Cleveland State 77-47
Pittsburgh 67-62
Kansas State 71-57
NC State 79-72
Bradley 74-66
W. Michigan 73-41
Arkansas 80-67
Binghamton 67-39
West Virginia 81-66
E. Michigan 93-54
C. Michigan 88-73
Northwestern 94-66
Iowa 95-67
Nebraska 62-47
Wins American 72-36
Toledo 82-56
Tennessee State 72-43
Richmond 72-57
#19 Memphis 84-75
Stanford 66-63
Florida State 77-68
North Florida 87-59
S. Dakota State 88-64
USC 71-57
N. Dakota State 70-57
Lafayette 75-50
#18 Michigan State 76-63
Northwestern 69-51
#12 Illinois 84-67
#15 Ohio State 53-56 Losses #5 Duke 71-89
#5 Indiana 81-88
79.1 Points Per Game 76.3
58.6 Scoring Defense 61.4
498-for-981 (50.8%) Field Goal % 450-for-957 (47.0%)
385-for-956 (40.3%) Def. Field Goal % 370-for-957 (38.7%)
144-for-356 (40.4%) 3-point % 95-for-268 (35.4%)
108-for-350 (30.9%) Def. 3-point % 93-for-206 (30.4%)
205-for-286 (71.7%) Free Throw % 302-for-428 (70.6%)
12.1 FT Made/Game 17.8
37.9 Rebounds Per Game 40.6
28.6 Opp. Reb. Per Game 30.7
15.8 Assists Per Game 16.5
9.5 Turnovers Per Game 14.6
5.1 Steals Per Game 9.6
2.7 Blocks Per Game 6.4
G – Trey Burke (18.0)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (16.1)
Leading Scorer G – Andre Hollins (14.4)
F – Rodney Williams (12.5)
F – Mitch McGary (5.9)
F – Glenn Robinson (5.8)
Leading Rebounder F – Trevor Mbakwe (8.1)
F – Rodney Williams (5.9)

By now, everyone knows the story of Michigan’s first loss of the season that came at the hands of Ohio State on Sunday. After falling down by more than 20 points in the first half, a second half effort fell just short and the Wolverines failed to set a record for best start in school history, only managing to tie the 1985-86 outfit that matched the 16-0 of this year’s team.

There is good news and bad news for Michigan tonight. The good news is that Michigan has a chance to avenge their first Big Ten loss with another big-time battle on the home court of a nationally-ranked opponent in Minnesota (7pm on ESPN). The bad news is that Michigan has a serious chance of losing its second straight game tonight as well.

While neither outcome would drastically change the course of the season, there is no denying this game’s importance. With that in mind, let’s analyze tonight’s keys of the game:

1. Get off to a Fast Start: In Minnesota’s two losses to date – an 89-71 beating from Duke in a preseason tournament and an 88-81 loss at Indiana last Saturday – the Golden Gophers started trailing big early on, falling behind by double digits fewer than 12 minutes into both games. The Blue Devils had a comfortable six- to 11-point lead throughout the first half before taking a seven-point lead into the halftime break while the Hoosiers continuously stretched their own lead over Minnesota to 23 points by the break.

It was no secret that Michigan’s loss to Ohio State was caused in some part by a lackadaisical first half that saw the Wolverines trail by as many as 21 points before cutting the Buckeye lead to 12 at the 20-minute mark. And even though the Maize and Blue staged a beautiful and methodical comeback that eventually saw the game tied at 46 with six minutes remaining, Michigan just didn’t seem to have the execution needed down the stretch to win a big-time road game.

Former Wolverine Zack Novak surmised that the comeback effort probably drained a lot of the energy out of Michigan throughout the game and at least played a factor in their struggles to close it out in the end in a recent interview on UMHoops.com.

Rodney Williams is Minnesota's second-leading scorer and rebounder (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

In Minnesota’s biggest win to date, an 84-67 victory at Illinois just last week, the Gophers fell behind by a couple points early on but recovered to take a nice seven-point lead later in the first half and maintained a four-point margin at halftime. If Michigan lets the home team get off to another hot start and looks flustered early on, the Barn is going to jump all over the Wolverines and Michigan will be well on its way to back-to-back losses.

2. Play Smart Defense: Neither Michigan’s offense nor its defense was up to par in that ugly first half in Columbus on Sunday, but most concerning to me was how easily Ohio State scored to take their big, early lead. Aaron Craft was getting one screen and finding wide open lanes to the basket, turnovers were leading to easy fast-break points, and the Buckeyes exploited a number of mismatches before some adjustments were made and the Wolverines eventually held Ohio State to 56 points, its second-lowest output of the season. When Mitch McGary was on the floor, John Beilein often had his team switch to a 2-3 zone defense when it was a viable option to help hide his poor help defense, and I expect a little more of the same tonight.

Look for Beilein to show Minnesota a couple different looks for at least a few possessions each, including some 1-3-1 and 2-3. When Michigan deploys their standard man defense, they should be sticking to the scouting report as much as possible. The Wolverines simply cannot let a non-big guard monster Trevor Mbakwe in the paint and they can never lose Rodney Williams in the lane or either Hollins (Andre and Austin) from behind the arc. Minnesota doesn’t have the number of offensive weapons that a team like Michigan touts, which means that Beilein should do everything he can to make sure these key players don’t beat Michigan.

3. Run, Run, Run: The final key to Michigan’s loss to Ohio State was its inability to score easy points. It sounds ridiculous to say that Michigan had trouble scoring for once this season after being in the top 15 in the country in both shooting percentage and points per game, but the 53 points Michigan managed were nine points fewer than their lowest output up to that point, a 62-point performance in their previous game against Nebraska. One of the biggest reasons for this was the lack of a transition game.

Tubby Smith has the Gophers in contention for the Big Ten and national championships (Darron Cummings, AP)

Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. are lethal in the open court, providing pretty much guaranteed points on any fast break attempt, but Ohio State successfully shut down that aspect of Michigan’s game in not allowing the Wolverines to put up a single fast-break point. When playing against Minnesota, one thing is certain: there are points to be had. The Gophers have given up an average of 88.5 points per game in those two losses and coughed the ball up 32 times combined, which would put them just slightly above their season average of 15 turnovers per game.

It will be absolutely crucial for Michigan to take advantage of the turnovers Minnesota will hand over and to rebound the ball well to start the break as often as possible. Obviously John Beilein wants to play the smart game, which means Michigan will set up a half-court offense whenever running is not a strong option, but he will assuredly encourage Burke and Co. to push the ball up court whenever the floor looks open.

Prediction: Sunday’s game was the first in which Michigan did not look like a sure-fire Final Four team at this point in the season, and tonight’s game is not any easier on paper. Minnesota has two of the best athletes in the country in Williams and Mbakwe and will surely be looking to ride those two and their crowd to a huge victory tonight, but Michigan is also certain to be taking out their anger on Tubby Smith’s team. I expect the game to be close throughout with Michigan jumping out to a nice five- to seven-point cushion in the first half before holding on in the second to win 80-73.

Michigan basketball season preview: the time is now

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012


Five years ago, the University of Michigan basketball program was going through some changes after a dark period in which the Wolverines failed to make an NCAA Tournament field for more than 10 years. Tommy Amaker did his best in six seasons leading the team, but he never seemed to get the program over the hump, only finding his team nationally-ranked twice, and never in the top 20. Michigan was simply irrelevant nationally and hardly competitive in their own conference.

As the 2006-07 season ended in yet another missed Tournament, Bill Martin had a big decision to make at the top. He could either retain Amaker and give him one last shot, considering the heralded recruiting class he had signed that season, or he could cut ties once and for all and start over with a new head coach.

Tommy Amaker could never turn the corner in Ann Arbor

Many, including I, wanted to see Amaker get that final audition; a class of Alex Legion, Manny Harris, and Kelvin Grady was one of the best Michigan had seen in years and figured to at least get Michigan out of the Big Dance funk, away from the NIT for good. Martin, however, in one of his final significant acts as the Athletic Director at Michigan, decided to move in another direction, hiring John Beilein away from West Virginia.

Like most major decisions having to do with sports, Beilein’s hiring was questioned by many, accepted by some, and heralded by few. He was seen as a coach that made the most of lesser talent, a guy that couldn’t recruit at the level necessary to compete on the national stage. The common wisdom was that his three-point-heavy offense was less intricate than it was fluky – sure, it would win some games when the team was hot, but it would never be consistent enough to win a conference title or to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. In fact, Beilein’s Elite Eight run at West Virginia was seemingly shadowed by the fact that he failed to guide his Mountaineer team to the NCAA Tournament in his final season in Morgantown.

For the first year, Beilein’s critics were out in full force as Michigan stumbled its way to a 10-22 overall record, including an abysmal 5-13 mark in Big Ten games. The season included a more-than fair share of blowout losses, an embarrassing six-game losing streak in the middle of the conference season, and defeats at the hands of Central Michigan, Western Kentucky, and, worst of all, Harvard, who had just hired Amaker after he packed his bags and headed out of Ann Arbor. Beilein was able to convince Harris and Grady to stick with their commitments and don the Maize and Blue, but he was unable to retain Legion, the once five-star talent. The future did not look bright.

The following season, Beilein brought in his first recruiting class at Michigan, a class that may have been the lowest-ranked in the history of Michigan basketball. It featured 7’0” big man Ben Cronin, who ended up flaming out because of injuries, along with Stuart Douglass and Zack Novak, both no-names out of Indiana that were far from recruiting coups for Beilein. Douglass was reportedly considering Harvard before Michigan came calling, while Novak’s well-publicized story saw his Valparaiso offer pulled. His decision was likely to come down to walking onto the baseball team at Indiana and pleading to get a shot on the basketball court or suiting up at the Division II level somewhere, until once again Beilein saw something in him that no one else did.

Michigan got back into the Big Dance and laid the groundwork for today (photo by Melanie Maxwell, AnnArbor.com)

Needless to say, there was not a lot of hype for the Wolverines going into Beilein’s second season. Manny Harris would return after leading the team in scoring his freshman season alongside fellow Detroiter DeShawn Sims, who was starting to emerge as another scorer on the team, but it was quite evident that Beilein still did not have the personnel that he needed to operate his system most effectively.

Then something funny happened. In a game that was hardly talked about at all beforehand, Michigan upset No. 4 UCLA at Madison Square Garden before losing to Duke the following night in the finals of the 2K Sports Classic. Perhaps Beilein truly did have something that no one else new about quite yet.

Just two weeks later, Michigan welcomed the Blue Devils to Crisler Arena and shocked them to the tune of an 81-73 upset, the second win for Beilein over the No. 4 team in the country in fewer than three weeks. The Wolverines experienced their fair share of bumps in the road the rest of the season, but when it was all said and done, Beilein had brought Michigan back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 seasons, and much sooner than anyone had predicted. A first-round win over Clemson was just icing on the cake.

Finally, after being out of the spotlight for years and years, Michigan was back, ranked 15th in the country entering John Beilein’s third year. Recruiting had started to pick up slowly as well, with Beilein securing a commitment from four-star Californian point guard Darius Morris and a trio of three stars in Jordan Morgan, Blake McLimans, and Matt Vogrich. At least this time around about half the class had options besides Michigan.

Upsetting UCLA, and Duke a week later, signaled the beginning of the return of Michigan basketball

There was only one problem – leadership. Michigan got off to a terrible start, losing five games before Big Ten season even began, and simply looked lost. They had the talent to compete, but the players didn’t play together, and at times, they didn’t seem to care. By the middle of Big Ten season Michigan was all but out of it, and a halfcourt dagger from Evan Turner in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament ended any shot the Wolverines once had of playing in any postseason tournament. The No. 15 team in the country going into the season ended the year with only 15 wins and a losing record. Beilein’s job was far from safe just a year after people were praising him for a quick turnaround.

Something had to change in the next offseason or the Michigan basketball program was in serious danger of reverting to the dark ages. That something was leadership. Sims graduated and Harris followed him out the door, meaning Beilein’s team would probably have to rely on his system to out-perform expectations yet again.

There is no doubt that Sims and Harris laid the foundation for the turnaround, but perhaps their departure came at the right time, as Novak took the team into his hands and led the way as Darius Morris bloomed into an All-Big Ten talent at point guard, leading the team in scoring and assists. Meanwhile, Tim Hardaway, Jr., though not highly-recruited, was another Beilein player making an impact, scoring double digits his freshman year. Jon Horford and Evan Smotrycz, a four-star, 6’9” shooter joined Hardaway as late bloomers that Beilein banked on turning into serviceable players on the biggest stage. The trend was starting to become clear: Beilein still couldn’t recruit with the big boys, but by getting guys that flew under the radar and fit his system, success was within reach.

The 2010-11 season was a success indeed, as the Wolverines got back on track after a scare at the beginning of Big Ten season in which Michigan lost six straight and was in danger of reeling out of control. The game that could have been the seventh loss in a row instead turned out to be the signature win of the Beilein era to date, as his struggling squad went into East Lansing and shocked Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans. The win got the team in the groove, and only a two-point, last-second loss to Duke in the third round of the NCAA Tournament kept Michigan from reaching the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in well over a decade.

A heralded recruiting class has Michigan in the preseason top 5

The following offseason there was further concern, as Morris bolted for the NBA, but as everyone knows by now, a relatively unknown freshman point guard by the name of Trey Burke did his best to make everyone forget about that last season. Another successful season last year ended in a disappointing second-round loss to Ohio in the NCAA Tournament, but at this point it is clear that Beilein finally has a team full of his players, a team that he and most others feel can compete and win at the highest level. The Wolverines shared the Big Ten title for the first time in more than 20 years, a huge accomplishment for everyone involved, but perhaps even more is expected now.

Novak and Douglass were the heart of the Michigan team last season, and while their numbers didn’t jump off the page, one only needs to think back to that dubious 2009-10 season to realize that leadership will be one of the focal points early on in this season. Josh Bartelstein will be asked to lead as captain of the team off the court, but Beilein welcomes a bevy of talent in the form of both veterans and newbies, enough to see experts pegging the Wolverines in the top five teams in the country.

Without a doubt, this is unchartered territory for John Beilein, and while Ann Arbor has seen basketball teams that were thought of this highly in the past, it’s been at least 15 long years of suffering since that was the case. Looking over the past five seasons, this team has been on a roller coaster ride, but things have been looking up for three years straight. Beilein has silenced many of his doubters by continuing to eye top-level talent that goes under the radar (Glenn Robinson III), and more surprisingly, he has now shown that he is able to compete with the big boys on the recruiting trail now, grabbing the likes of Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas away from Kansas, Kentucky, Florida, and Kentucky.

The time for Beilein to show that he can bring a highly-regarded team to the promised land has come. If the Wolverines are to compete for Final Fours and National Championships into the future, they need to show this season that they can live up to lofty expectations. The talent is here, and Beilein has depth, size, and versatility in amounts he could have never imagined only two seasons ago. An All-American will run the team on the court, a seasoned junior will shoulder much of the scoring load, and two star freshmen should be ready to make an immediate impact. Will this team realize its potential and reach Atlanta in March, or will it all come crumbling down as it did three long years ago? No one knows for sure yet, and there will certainly be bumps in the road again. But for Michigan basketball, the time is now.

Season Predictions

Record:
26-6 (13-5 Big Ten)

Big Ten Finish:
T1

Postseason Finish:
Final Four

MVP:
Tim Hardaway, Jr.

Newcomer of the Year:
Glenn Robinson, III

2012-13 Michigan basketball player preview: Matt Vogrich

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012


Now that we have previewed the entire freshman class, we will begin looking at Michigan’s returning players starting today with senior Matt Vogrich.

Matt Vogrich

Number: 13
Class: Senior
Major Business
Measurements:

6’4″, 200 pounds

Hometown: Lake Forest, Ill.
High School: Lake Forest High School
Position(s): Shooting Guard, Small Forward
Career Stats:

PTS REB AST STL TO MIN FG% 3PT% FT%
2009-10: 1.5 0.6 0.3 0.3 0.3 5.5 40.5 39.3 33.3
2010-11: 3.2 1.6 0.4 0.3 0.4 14.0 42.9 38.7 66.7
2011-12: 2.3 1.3 0.4 0.4 0.3 10.7 38.2 30.2 66.7
Career Avg: 2.4 1.2 0.4 0.3 0.3 10.3 40.7 35.7 61.9

Career Highs: Points – 15, Rebounds – 6, Assists – 2 (4 times), Steals – 2 (3 times), Minutes – 23

Career to Date: Matt Vogrich came to Michigan after winning the Gatorade Player of the Year for Illinois in his senior year at Lake Forest High School, having broken former Wolverine Rob Pelinka’s school scoring record with 1,494 career points. He was touted by many as the best pure shooter in his high school class, but was also known as more than just that; he made headlines after competing with now-Illinois guard Brandon Paul in a head-to-head matchup and out-scoring him with all sorts of moves.

Nevertheless, Vogrich’s perceived place under John Beilein was to be a dead-eye shooter that would be deadly in Beilein’s offensive system. The first time he stepped on the court in a regular season game, Michigan fans’ collective jaws dropped to the floor as Vogrich put on a shooting display unlike anything seen before, going 5-of-5 from downtown to score 15 points in 13 minutes in a 97-50 blowout of Northern Michigan. A true shooter had been found. Beilein’s offense would flourish.

Vogrich has proven to be a good outside shooter

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last. Vogrich made only one of his next 15 attempts from behind the arc over a nine-game period and only six more total over the remainder of the season. Obviously his minutes were severely limited, and he did bounce back to shoot nearly 40 percent from three by the end of his freshman season, but he still has not emerged as that go-to shooter that Beilein can count on to consistently bury two or more threes per game.

With his senior season left, Vogrich has just one more year to leave his mark on the program. Will he become the sharpshooter that everyone saw three years ago coming into college, the guy that is looked to at the end of games to drain the three, or will his shooting percentages continue to drop as his minutes dwindle and Nik Stauskas takes over his spot in the line-up? All we can do is wait and see.

What He Will Provide:

  1. 1. Shooting: The scrawny shooter clearly has the pretty stroke to provide a scoring spark, whether that be from the starting five or from the bench. When Vogrich is feeling it from downtown, there are few shooters in the country that will make a higher clip of their deep shots. The rotation on his ball is a thing of beauty when his shot is on, and he can throw daggers left and right with his quick release.
  2. 2. Leadership: While Vogrich has never been an extremely vocal player on or off the court, he is perhaps the most experienced on the team, and at 22 years of age, Vogrich will need to help mentor his younger teammates and make sure that everyone is on the same page, even if he isn’t playing a ton of minutes. Beilein and the rest of the team will look to Vogrich and the rest of the seniors to help replace the leadership lost last season in the form of Stu Douglass and Zack Novak.
  3. 3. Hustle and Smarts: Zack Novak always got the credit for being the junkyard dog the past four years, and deservedly so. But when Matt Vogrich finds his inner energetic spark, he can turn heads himself with some “That was Matt Vogrich?!?!” plays. He is not a terrific athlete and certainly isn’t very fast, but Vogrich always seems to have a couple big plays every now and again that completely turn the tide of a close game, whether in grabbing a big rebound among the trees down low, poking a ball out from behind when least expected, or making a backdoor cut for an easy lay-in.

What He Will Have to Improve On:

  1. 1. Defense: The one player that has come the farthest in the last three years on the defensive end of the court? Matt Vogrich. The one player that has the farthest to go in improving on the defensive end of the court? Matt Vogrich. The first time Vogrich suited up in a Michigan uniform, in an exhibition game against Wayne State, Vogrich was crossed over and ended up on his rear out of bounds, resulting in both “oohs” and “ughs” in the stands. Since then, Vogrich has certainly improved on that end of the floor, but he still has a ways to go. Stu Douglass was one of the better man defenders in the Big Ten over the past couple years, and Vogrich will at least have to hold his own one-on-one against quick guards if he is to see consistent playing time.

    The senior will need to continue to improve his defense

  2. 2. Handles: In high school, Vogrich was more of an all-around scorer than the stand-still shooter he often turns into on the court at Michigan. If Vogrich can improve his ball-handling, gain some confidence, and drive to the hole on occasion, he would help immensely. He often looks hesitant to put the ball on the floor even when he has a clear driving lane, but a couple quick dribbles to the hoop could collapse the defense or draw a trip to the charity stripe, which has been a foreign concept to Vogrich. In three seasons, Vogrich has shot only 21 free throws compared to 209 field goal attempts, good for an absolutely abysmal free throw rate of 10 percent. A reasonable jump up to 20-25 percent could do wonders.   
  3. 3. Consistent Production: Want an interesting, and somewhat disappointing, stat? Matt Vogrich has never made at least one three-pointer in more than three consecutive games, and has only done that two times (both in his sophomore season). His best three-game stretch was going 5-for-6 in the non-conference season in 2010, and he has never made more than five threes over a three-game stretch, having done that just twice. Granted, this probably has something to do with limited minutes and inconsistent playing time from game to game, but Vogrich needs to prove that he deserves those minutes by scoring consistently before Beilein can give him the court time.

Burning Question: Will Matt Vogrich start?

There are a couple factors that go into this question, but it needs to be asked. Vogrich has never started a game in his career, but with the graduation of Douglass and Novak, two starting spots open up. One of those spots probably already has Tre Robinson marked on it in permanent marker, but the other is likely up for grabs among Matt Vogrich, Nik Stauskas, Jon Horford and Mitch McGary. Obviously if Beilein feels a two-big lineup gives Michigan the best chance to win then McGary or Horford will get that spot, but if he chooses to play small, Vogrich will need to prove that he deserves the spot over a threatening freshman. Keep in mind that the line-up will most likely change once or twice before Beilein settles on one for the majority of the season, but the opportunity is there for Vogrich. Will he seize it or let it slip?

Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Penn State – averages 3.3 points (6-of-14 FG, 5-of-12 3PFG. 3-of-3 FT), 1.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.2 turnovers, 12 minutes per game

Going Forward: I actually have Matt Vogrich pegged into the starting two-guard spot at least to begin the season. Beilein has shown a propensity to play experienced players over freshmen early on and will likely put out his safest five at the start of the year. By the time Big Ten season rolls around I think we will have transitioned to a two-big starting lineup, but Beilein has never played that style before and will require some time to adjust to its quirks.

Stat Predictions: 4.3 points (44 FG%, 41.3 3-PT%), 1.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals in 13 minutes per game.

End of season player profiles: the starters

Monday, April 2nd, 2012


Last week, we presented the final individual and team statistical breakdowns, all nicely color-coded to illustrate each player’s contribution to the team. Today, we’ll take a look at end of season profiles of each player, the highlights of his season, his contributions, and what he can improve for next season.

Before we get started, let me explain some of the numbers. The stat line at the top of each player’s profile is taken straight from last week’s stats post. The darker the maize, the higher his ream rank in that category. The darker the blue, the lower his team rank. At the bottom of each profile are more advanced metrics, such as effective field goal percentage (eFG%) and true shooting percentage (TS%), with my own twist on them to adjust for minutes played in relation to the total available minutes. That way, a player like Eso Akunne who only took eight shots all season and made seven, and played just 3.5 percent of the available minutes, doesn’t blow away everyone else on the team.

The Starters

Trey Burke
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-33 1227 36.1 177-409 .433 57-164 .348 93-125 .744 22 96 118 3.5 156 94 13 31 504 14.8

Burke led the team with 14.8 points per game and will be crucial to Michigan's success if he returns next season

Nobody knew what to expect from the gaping hole that was the point guard position prior to the season, but by season’s end, it’s hard to picture what the team would have looked like without Trey Burke. The fabulous freshman who was plucked from behind enemy lines in Columbus, helped Michigan fans forget about Darius Morris and turned point guard into a position of strength.

He didn’t start the season opener against Ferris State and scored just three points in 18 minutes. But in his next four games, he scored 13, 14, 14, and 17 points, respectively while starting and playing 30-plus minutes each game.

On New Years Day, he racked up 27 points against Minnesota and two weeks later he scored 20 to lead Michigan to its third straight win over Michigan State. In February, he more or less shut down Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and scored 17 of his own to earn the win, and in the first game of the Big Ten Tournament, Burke lit up Minnesota once again, this time for a career high 30 points.

He was the floor general who played well beyond his freshman status. He played 89.2 percent of the possible minutes, averaging 36.1 minutes per game and it seemed to show in the final two games when he didn’t have legs against Ohio State and had trouble keeping up with the guards of Ohio University.

Burke is considering entering the NBA Draft but if he does return next season, Michigan will be poised to make a run for another Big Ten title.

Needs to improve: Turnovers. There’s really not much Burke wasn’t able to do as a true freshman. He played well beyond his years, hit clutch shots, led the team in scoring, and set the Michigan record for assists by a freshman. It’s nitpicking to suggest turnovers, but what else is there? He ranked tied for eighth in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio, but 10 Big Ten guards averaged fewer turnovers per game. If he can cut it down under two to the same level as Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor or Northwestern’s Dave Sobolewski, he’ll be a sure Big Ten player of the year candidate.

eFG% – 44.8
TS% –  48.0

________________________________________________________________________________________

Tim Hardaway Jr.
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-34 1162 34.2 167-400 .418 53-187 .283 101-151 .715 26 104 130 3.8 73 66 11 16 495 14.6

Tim Hardaway Jr struggled from the field in Big Ten play but was the team's second leading scorer

Hardaway was the star of the team last year and had high expectations heading into his sophomore campaign. He began the season right where he left off, averaging 16.2 points per game and shooting 47.8 percent overall and 34.3 percent from three-point range through the first 13 games.

But once conference play began, his scoring average dropped nearly three points to 13.5 and his shooting dipped to 37.7 and 25 percent the rest of the way, respectively.

He had a 2-for-14 night against Minnesota, 2-for-13 against Iowa, and 1-for-10 against Michigan State. He had a six-game stretch in which he hit just 7-of-35 threes.

Despite his struggles, he was still able to get his points and seemed to come alive at season’s end. Against Illinois on March 1, he scored 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds while hitting 6-of-7 shots, 4-of-4 threes, and 9-of-10 free throws. Against Minnesota in the first game of the Big Ten Tournament, he poured in 20.

He led the team in free throws made and attempted, averaging 4.4 attempts and three makes per game.

Needs to improve: Shot selection and consistency. The root of his shooting woes this season was shot selection as he often forced up off-balance jumpers late in the shot clock or early threes not within the offense. He was at his best when he was driving to the basket off the dribble, drawing fouls and creating plays. The return of Trey Burke would really help Hardaway’s consistency, as will more of an inside presence with Jon Horton coming off of injury and Mitch McGary joining the team. Hardaway shot 36.7 percent from three-point range as a freshman while taking 20 more threes, so he’s capable of hitting them. If he can get back to that level next year, he’ll be tough to stop.

eFG% – 40.9
TS% –  44.4

________________________________________________________________________________________


Zack Novak
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-34 1145 33.7 110-231 .476 52-127 .409 42-49 .857 42 112 154 4.5 61 33 3 26 314 9.2

Zack Novak was arguably the most consistent player on the team, ranking in the top three in nearly every stat category

Four years ago, Novak was a barely-recruited prospect and one of John Beilein’s first commits. As a senior this season, he was one of Michigan’s most important all-around players. He started every game, averaging the third-most minutes per game (33.7), ranked third on the team in scoring with 9.2 points per game, third in rebounding (4.5), third in overall shooting (47.6) percent, second in three-point shooting (40.9), and first in free throw shooting (85.7).

He scored a season-high 22 in Michigan’s Maui Invitational win over UCLA and also scored 17 and pulled in eight rebounds in a midseason loss at Arkansas. He made multiple threes in 14 games and hit at least one three in 26 of the 34 games. He also pulled down five or more rebounds 16 times.

However, he struggled in his final game, Michigan’s season-ending loss to Ohio, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting. But throughout his career, Novak’s legacy was defined by more than just scoring. While he averaged 8.1 points per game throughout his four years, his main contributions don’t show up on the stat sheet. He played more minutes than any Michigan basketball player in history and his was the body often diving after loose balls and jumping in front of potential layups, drawing charges. Novak also became Michigan’s first academic all-american in 30 years and was just the second three-year captain in Michigan history.

Novak graduates in May with a business degree from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. He won’t play in the NBA, but he has a bright future ahead and all the tools to succeed in life beyond basketball.

eFG% – 49.1
TS% –  51.4

________________________________________________________________________________________

Stu Douglass
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-17 1037 30.5 91-224 .406 48-142 .338 26-31 .839 7 80 87 2.6 78 34 4 26 256 7.5

Stu Douglass played in more games than any Michigan player in program history

Like Novak, Douglass was scarcely recruited coming out of high school but became one of Beilein’s first commits. All he did was go on to play in more games than any player in Michigan basketball history, never missing a game throughout his career.

This season, he averaged 7.5 points per game, good for fifth on the team, and 78 assists, which was second to Burke. His best game of the season was the opener against Ferris State when he scored 14 points on 3-of-7 shooting from three, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out four assists. He also scored in double figures six other times and scored the game-winning layup in Michigan’s January 17 win over Michigan State.

Through his first three years, Douglass was known as a good three-point shooter, but this season he developed an ability to get to the rim and create a shot off the dribble. Several times, he set up his defender and hit a turn around jumper, something that was hard to imagine in years prior. He also became one of Michigan’s best defenders on the perimeter.

He finished his career fourth all-time in threes attempted (603) and fifth in threes made (205). He started the season coming off the bench, but made his way into the starting lineup for the final 16 games.

He graduates in May with an economics degree and will likely pursue a basketball career overseas. Next season, his steadiness will be missed and Michigan will have to find a capable ball-handler to spell Burke at times.

eFG% – 38.7
TS% –  40.4

________________________________________________________________________________________

Evan Smotrycz
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-18 716 21.1 89-185 .481 40-92 .435 45-58 .776 45 120 165 4.9 30 46 11 27 263 7.7

Evan Smotrycz was the team's best three-point shooter, hitting 43.5 percent of his attempts

Smotrycz was the type of big man that John Beilein loves: able to step outside and create a mismatch for a slower big guy, capable of knocking down threes or driving to the basket. This season, his minutes were down, but his offensive productivity increased from his freshman campaign.

He led the team in three-point percentage, hitting 40-of-92 attempts, was second in overall field goal percentage (48.1), led the team with 120 defensive rebounds, and was the team’s second-leading overall rebounder, averaging 4.9 per game.

He had a four-game stretch to end the non-conference portion of the schedule in which he scored 20, 16, 17, and 20, but scored in double figures just four times in the final 21 games. In one of those, his 17-points helped Michigan beat Penn State to clinch a share of the Big Ten title. In another, his 15 points helped keep Michigan in the NCAA Tournament game against Ohio. He hit 6-of-7 shots from the field and both three-pointers and also pulled in seven boards.

Smotrycz began the season in the starting lineup, but lost his starting job to Douglass for the final 16 games. He averaged 21.1 minutes a game and was efficient on the offensive end, but was often a liability on defense.

At season’s end, he announced he was transferring to a yet-to-be-named school. In hindsight, it explains some of the frustration with Smotrycz all season. His on-court demeanor and lack of effort at times were frustrating but his ability to knock down shots somewhat made up for it. Had he returned next season, his minutes may not have increased but if his offensive production remained the same, he would have been a crucial player to Michigan’s success.

eFG% – 30.7
TS% –  32.2

________________________________________________________________________________________

Jordan Morgan
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-33 831 24.4 109-176 .619 0-0 .000 31-61 .508 75 116 191 5.6 11 53 9 22 249 7.3

Jordan Morgan led Michigan in FG percentage and rebounding

While Morgan’s scoring numbers were slightly down this season from his redshirt freshman year, he remained an important piece of the puzzle inside. Read: only pice of the puzzle inside. When fellow big man Jon Horford was lost for the season, Morgan’s inside presence became all the more important as the only guy big enough to defend opponents’ bigs.

He led Michigan and finished second in the Big Ten in shooting percentage (61.9) and led the team in offensive rebounds (75), total rebounds (191), and rebound average (5.6). His offensive rebound average (2.2) was good for sixth in the Big Ten.

Though his scoring average fell from 9.2 to 7.3 this season, he had a few great games offensively. His season high was 16, which he scored twice, against Iowa State on December 3 and Arkansas on January 21. He also had three double-digit rebounding nights, one of which was the highlight of his season when he recorded a double-double, grabbing 11 boards and scoring 11 points in helping Michigan defeat Ohio State. In that game, he virtually shut down Jared Sullinger.

Needs to improve: Playing like a big man. One of the most frustrating things to watch all season was Morgan grab an offensive rebound or get the ball under the basket, take a dribble, and get the ball stolen by a guard. If I had all the game tape to count, I bet it would tally at least a dozen times. He has the ability to score and once he has some help next season with Mitch McGrady and Jon Horford, should be able to excel as an upperclassman with a couple of years under his belt.

eFG% – 37.4
TS% – 36.7

Final basketball stats as periodic tables

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012


The cross-eye-inducing periodic table below is the final statistical breakdown for your 2011-12 Michigan basketball team. For the sake of analysis, I took the liberty to color-code each statistical category based on the player’s final ranking on the team in that category. The darker the maize, the higher he finished, with the leader represented in dark maize and the number bolded. The darker the blue, the lower he finished, with the low man in dark blue and the number white.

As you can see, Michigan was essentially a six-man team. Matt Vogrich played in every game, getting a fourth of the game’s minutes on average and hit some big threes at times, and Blake McLimans played in roughly three-fourths of the games in a minor role but showed the ability to knock down some shots and pull down some rebounds. However, only six were actually regular contributors.  A healthy Jon Horford all season would have given Michigan seven.

Trey Burke was obviously the star, leading the team in points, assists, threes made, field goals, made, minutes, and blocks. Yep, you read that right; the point guard led the team in blocked shots. Tim Hardaway Jr led the team only in free throws made and attempted, though he did place second or third in the rest of the categories, the obvious outlier being three-point percentage in which he was sixth*. Zack Noak was steady all season long, starting every game, leading the team in free throw percentage, and placing third in virtually every other category. Jordan Morgan shot the best and pulled down the most offensive and total rebounds. Evan Smotrycz was probably the most efficient player on the team, at least offensively, compared to minutes played. He had the best three-point percentage and most defensive rebounds while serving as the team’s fourth-leading scorer and ranking highly in most of the other categories despite playing in barely over half of each game on average.

Final Player Stats
Name GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
Trey
Burke
34-33 1227 36.1 177-409 .433 57-164 .348 93-125 .744 22 96 118 3.5 156 94 13 31 504 14.8
Tim Hardaway Jr. 34-34 1162 34.2 167-400 .418 53-187 .283 101-151 .715 26 104 130 3.8 73 66 11 16 495 14.6
Zack
Novak
34-34 1145 33.7 110-231 .476 52-127 .409 42-49 .857 42 112 154 4.5 61 33 3 26 314 9.2
Evan Smotrycz 34-18 716 21.1 89-185 .481 40-92 .435 45-58 .776 45 120 165 4.9 30 46 11 27 263 7.7
Stu
Douglass
34-17 1037 30.5 91-224 .406 48-142 .338 26-31 .839 7 80 87 2.6 78 34 4 26 256 7.5
Jordan Morgan 34-33 831 24.4 109-176 .619 0-0 .000 31-61 .508 75 116 191 5.6 11 53 9 22 249 7.3
Jon
Horford
9-1 97 10.8 9-17 .529 0-0 .000 6-7 .857 13 19 32 3.6 1 5 9 3 24 2.7
Matt
Vogrich
34-0 365 10.7 29-76 .382 16-53 .302 4-6 .667 10 33 43 1.3 13 9 2 13 78 2.3
Eso
Akunne
12-0 48 4.0 7-8 .875 4-5 .800 2-2 1.000 0 8 8 0.7 1 4 0 0 20 1.7
Corey
Person
10-0 11 1.1 5-8 .625 0-1 .000 1-1 1.000 3 0 3 0.3 0 2 0 0 11 1.1
Blake McLimans 30-0 127 4.2 10-21 .476 5-12 .417 0-0 .000 7 14 21 0.7 1 5 8 0 25 0.8
Carlton Brundidge 15-0 44 2.9 1-8 .125 0-2 .000 4-8 .500 0 8 8 0.5 2 5 0 1 6 0.4
Colton Christian 19-0 51 2.7 3-10 .300 0-0 .000 1-4 .250 3 3 6 0.3 1 4 2 1 7 0.4
Josh Bartelstein 11-0 14 1.3 1-4 .250 1-3 .333 0-0 .000 0 1 1 0.1 3 1 0 2 3 0.3

Further analysis will follow in the individual player season profiles over the course of the next couple weeks, but I also wanted to highlight some overall team stats and how they compared to last season.

Below are the final team stats from this season and the previous year. The column on the far right shows the percent difference for each stat category. Maize highlight means the team improved in that category and blue means it declined. Shockingly, this year’s team was virtually the same as last year’s across the board, but it produced three more wins and four fewer losses (and four more conference wins and five fewer conference losses).

The defense gave up one point fewer per game while defending the three declined slightly, although opponents shot 108 fewer three-pointers against Michigan this year. The team shot one more free throw than it did last season but made 12 more to improve its free throw shooting by 2.3 percent. On the glass, despite pulling down one less rebound per game, opponents grabbed two less per game, so Michigan still came out on top this season rebounding-wise. Assists were down by one per game and turnovers were up by one per game, but at least some of that can be attributed to starting a true freshman point guard and with Burke as the best player on the team, that’s not a huge deal.

The main area of increase was in attendance. The Crisler Center pulled in nearly a thousand more fans per game than it did last year thanks to a nearly perfect home record, staying in contention for the Big Ten title all season, and earning an ESPN College Game Day appearance for the Ohio State game.

Final Team Stats

2010-11 (Last year) Category 2011-12 (This year) Difference
66.5 Points Per Game 66.3 -0.3%
62.5 Scoring Defense 61.5 +1.6%
847-for-1,889 (44.8%) Field Goal % 808-for-1,777 (45.5%) +0.7%
795-for-1,854 (42.9%) Def. Field Goal % 756-for-1,768 (42.8%) +0.1%
283-for-804 (35.2%) 3-point % 276-for-788 (35.0%) -0.2%
222-for-696 (31.9%) Def. 3-point % 203-for-588 (34.5%) -2.6%
351-for-502 (69.9%) Free Throw % 363-for-503 (72.2%) +2.3%
10.0 Free Throws Made/Game 10.7 +7.0%
31.9 Rebounds Per Game 30.8 -3.4%
33.7 Opp. Rebounds Per Game 31.6 +6.2%
13.7 Assists Per Game 12.7 -7.3%
10.0 Turnovers Per Game 10.9 -9.0%
4.8 Steals Per Game 4.9 +2.1%
2.0 Blocks Per Game 2.1 +5.0%
10,640 Average Home Attendance 11,436 +7.5%
G – Darius Morris (15.0)
G – Tim Hardaway (13.9)
Leading Scorer G – Trey Burke (14.8)
G – Tim Hardaway (14.6)
G – Zack Novak (5.8)
F – Jordan Morgan (5.4)
Leading Rebounder F – Jordan Morgan (5.5)
F – Evan Smotrycz (4.8)

Stay tuned in the coming days for the individual player season profiles, where we’ll evaluate each player’s contribution to the season, how it compared to his previous season(s), and the main areas of improvement for next season.

* Category rankings didn’t strictly go based on percentages. In some instances, such as three-point percentage, a player who rarely played had the highest percentage on the team (Eso Akunne) due to such a limited number of attempts (4-for-5). In those cases, priority was given subjectively to the starters and regular contributors before moving on to the role players.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Saturday, March 17th, 2012


It was a season that held such great promise only to culminate in a hollow feeling, the pain of a stinging defeat and an early exit overshadowing the successes that were achieved. However, the pain will soon recess and when we look back on the season, we’ll remember the milestones that were reached.

Beating Ohio State was one of the highlights of the season (photo by MGoBlue.com)

This team accomplished what the 26 Michigan basketball teams since 1986 could not: win the Big Ten, and it did so in a year in which the conference was at its best. Was Michigan truly the best team in the Big Ten? I think we would all by lying if we said yes, but it conquered the conference portion of the schedule well enough to earn a share of the title with two legitimate national title contenders, Michigan State and Ohio State.

This team featured a pair of seniors that will forever be remembered as the foundation of the Michigan basketball resurgence. John Beilein’s first two recruits came to a Michigan program that had just struggled to a 10-22 season, and took the Wolverines to the Big Dance three out of four years. Are Stu Douglass and Zack Novak among the best players in the Big Ten? Again, to say yes would have to be done while wearing maize colored glasses. Yet Douglass started more games in his career than any player in Michigan history and Novak became the first Wolverine to be named an Academic All-American in 30 years.

This team took a big step from being an under the radar bubble team with the ability to pull off upsets to a formidable foe that became the hunted rather than the hunter. It’s not an easy thing to do: live up to heightened expectations, especially when the crux of your team is underclassmen. Yes, the aforementioned senior leadership of Douglass and Novak cannot be understated, but the bulk of the weight was carried by a true freshman and a bunch of sophomores.

After routing Tennessee in its opening round game last season and narrowly missing the Sweet 16 with a near upset of Duke, Michigan looked poised to take another step forward.  But when sophomore point guard Darius Morris declared for the NBA Draft, the prospects of even matching that season’s record appeared dim. Enter Trey Burke. The “pride of Columbus, Ohio,” as he was called by Michigan’s public address announcer during pregame introductions of the Ohio State game, put Michigan on his shoulders and more than filled Morris’ shoes.

Burke quickly became a fan favorite, flashing a solid handle, the ability to knock down big shots, beat the defender off the dribble, and finish around the rim. He set the Michigan freshman assist record and was named Co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year, as well as a Sports Illustrated Second-Team All-American.

His backcourt running mate, Tim Hardaway Jr., entered the season with high expectations after an outstanding freshman season of his own, but fell into a sophomore slump that he could never quite get out of. He finished second on the team in scoring behind Burke, but while his overall shooting percentage remained about the same, his three-point percentage plummeted from 36.7 percent to an abysmal 28.3.

Evan Smotrycz showed flashes of brilliance throughout the season but was also prone to mistakes, and the season-ending loss to Ohio was a perfect example. His 6-of-7 shooting night kept Michigan in the game, but his mishandling of the ball in the final seconds sealed the victory for the Bobcats.

Even Denard caught the Michigan hoops fever this season, regularly appearing in the Maize Rage (photo by MGoBlue.com)

Jordan Morgan also flashed some ability to dominate the game, such as in Michigan’s 56-51 win over Ohio State on February 18 in which he virtually shut down Jared Sullinger and recorded 11 points and 11 rebounds of his own. Yet, he also had a remarkable ability to disappear at times.

Each of Michigan’s returning contributors has plenty of upside to go along with plenty to improve and the team will get a shot in the arm next season when the nation’s 11th-best (5th according to Rivals) recruiting class comes to town. Michigan should be able to play much bigger next season, which will be key to competing for the Big Ten crown once again.

But before we look ahead to what’s to come, let’s revel in the success of the season that just concluded. Take pride in the accomplishment of a Big Ten title, forget the early loss, and bid Douglass and Novak adieu as they move on to post-basketball careers. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to take pride in Michigan basketball, so soak it up.

Biggest Areas of Improvement:

1. Develop depth. Michigan was mainly a seven-man rotation all season long with the same five starting every game and Smotrycz and Matt Vogrich coming off the bench. Others, such as Blake McLimans and Colton Christian played sparingly, but rarely enough to contribute.

If Michigan is to continue to progress, it will need to build depth to give the starters some rest without significantly decreasing production. Burke played 1,227 of the 1,375 available minutes (89 percent) this season with the majority of his rest coming at the beginning of the year. By season’s end, the grind seemed to have taken a toll, especially after playing 45 minutes in an overtime victory over Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament. Michigan didn’t have a backup point guard to spell him. That blame can certainly fall on Darius Morris for leaving early just to wind up in the NBA’s D League, but the need for depth applies across the board as well.

Getting Al Horford back from injury and Mitch McGary will instantly boost the frontcourt, and Smotrycz’s development and the additions of Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas will bolster the wings. Hopefully Burke’s classmate Carlton Brundidge will be able to develop enough to see the court as well, giving Beilein a solid eight- or nine-man rotation.

Mitch McGary should help solve Michigan's interior woes next season (photo by Jeremy Hogan, Herald-Times)

2. Become less one-dimensional. Early in the season, Michigan had some success inside with Jordan Morgan and Al Horford. But once Horford was lost for the season, Morgan was unable to command the paint and Michigan became very one-dimensional. It worked for the most part, but eventually became the team’s greatest undoing late in the season when opponents figured out how to slow down Burke’s penetration and Michigan’s three-point shooting.

Michigan shot 788 three-pointers this season, 17 more than the Big Ten’s next highest, Northwestern, but converted just 35 percent of them, which ranked eighth in the conference. Too many times, the offense couldn’t even get the ball down low, and when it did, Morgan had very little in the way of a post game. That’s okay when the shots are falling, but late in the season with tired legs, they weren’t.

Michigan is always going to be a three-point shooting team under Beilein, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, without any sort of threat inside, it leaves Michigan prone to losing games it shouldn’t. Horford and McGary will help greatly.

3. Become a better defensive team. Michigan ranked near the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in most defensive categories: scoring defense (4th), opponent field goal percentage (6th), and opponent three-point field goal percentage (5th), which isn’t inherently bad. But with an offene that wasn’t the best shooting offense and ranked eighth in scoring, there wasn’t much room for error. Michigan ranked last in the conference in steals and blocked shots and eighth in rebounding.

What that tells is that Michigan’s defense wasn’t stopping opponents as much as it was opponents just not executing. The one time all season that Michigan’s defense did really step up in an obvious way was the win over Ohio State when it harassed Aaron Craft all night long and made the Buckeyes work for every basket. The way Ohio University pressured Michigan on every possession in the NCAA Tournament game is the way a defense needs to play. Unfortunately, Smotrycz is a defensive liability every time he’s on the floor and Morgan isn’t tough enough or big enough to body most big men. Douglass and Novak, while hard-nosed, simply weren’t athletic enough to keep up with most guards.

Of course, when a team wins a conference title and earns a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament, it’s hard to find too many faults without nitpicking. But fixing those three areas of improvement could be the difference between a 10-loss season and a legitimate national championship contender next season.

Check back in the next few days for a profile and grade of each player’s season and areas for improvement next year.

(13) THE Ohio University 65 – (4) Michigan 60

Friday, March 16th, 2012


Final 1st 2nd Total
(4) Michigan (24-10, 13-5) 29 31 60
(13) Ohio (28-7, 11-5) 35 30 65

With a highly rated recruiting class coming in, Beilein has a lot to look forward to (photo by Kevin C Cox, Getty Images)

Michigan fell behind in the first half of its NCAA Tournament opener against Ohio University on Friday night and was unable to fight back, falling 65-60. And just like that, it’s football season again.

With spring football beginning in the morning, Michigan basketball was hoping to keep its season alive, but ran into a touch matchup with an Ohio team that features outstanding guard play and smothering defense. Despite being just a 13-seed compared to Michigan’s 4-seed, the Bobcats were a tough draw from the get-go, and that’s why it’s called March Madness.

Michigan hung around early on after OU hit the first two shots of the game. Michigan went on a 9-2 run to take a 9-7 lead. The teams then battled back and forth with Michigan taking another lead at 18-17 with 9:35 remaining in the half. But it would be the last time the Wolverines would lead the game as Ohio used an 18-4 run to open up a 13-point lead. Michigan went on a 7-0 run of its own to end the half but still trailed by six.

The second half was much of the same as every time Michigan would pull within striking distance, Ohio would find an answer with a big shot. The Bobcats led by nine with 8:11 to play but Trey Burke scored nine straight for Michigan to cut the lead to three. After an Ohio free throw and layup, Burke hit another three to keep the Ohio lead at three with 4:12 to play.

However, Michigan went scoreless the rest of the way, missing all six of its shots, five of them being three-point attempts. Ohio didn’t score either until two free throws to seal the game with seven seconds left. Prior to that, Burke got a good look at a three but couldn’t connect. Michigan got the ball back but couldn’t get off a shot as Evan Smotrycz mishandled the dribble and OU took it away.

Burke led Michigan with 16 points, but made just 2-of-9 three-pointers and 5-of-15 shots overall. Smotrycz added 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting and Tim Hardaway Jr scored 14.

Ohio shot 51.2 percent from the field – its fifth-best total of the season and nearly nine percentage points higher than its season average – and hit 6-of-16 three-pointers while holding Michigan to 40.7 percent shooting and 7-of-23 from long range.

Michigan’s season ends with a 24-10 record and despite the early exit, it should still be considered a successful season. The Wolverines won the Big Ten for the first time in 26 years and earned a 4-seed in the tournament. Stu Douglass graduates having played more games in the maize and blue than any other Wolverine and Zack Novak graduates having been named Michigan’s first academic all-american since 1982.

Replacing the two will be one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, led by Mitch McGary, ESPN’s 22nd-ranked player who held offers from Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Florida. Also in the class is ESPN’s 27th-ranked player, Glenn Robinson III, and the 79th-ranked player, Nik Stauskas. So remember, as much as it hurts right now, next looks even more promising.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
52 Jordan Morgan* 3-5 0-0 2-2 4 4 8 1 8 0 2 0 0 25
00 Zack Novak* 1-6 0-2 0-0 3 0 3 4 2 1 1 0 0 32
01 Stu Douglass* 2-7 1-4 0-0 0 2 2 0 5 1 0 0 0 36
03 Trey Burke* 5-15 2-9 4-4 0 3 3 1 16 5 2 0 1 40
10 Tim Hardaway Jr* 5-14 2-6 2-4 0 2 2 4 14 3 2 0 0 37
13 Matt Vogrich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 6
20 Blake McLimans 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+
23 Evan Smotrycz 6-7 2-2 1-1 1 6 7 5 15 1 2 0 0 24
Totals 22-54 7-23 9-11 11 18 29 16 60 11 10 0 2 200
Ohio 22-43 6-16 15-17 4 22 26 12 65 13 9 2 6 200