Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
2015 University of Michigan Football Season Predictions
16 August 2015
Time for my annual UM football predictions. Sure, I’m the “basketball guy” at UMGoBlue.com, but I’m also a big football fan, and I’ve been going to UM games since 1974.
Last season, I did another terrible job at predicting the games. I thought we’d go 9-3, and we were a miserable 5-7.
This season is really hard to predict, even harder than when we hired Rich Rod. On the one hand, Harbaugh! On the other hand, offensive line. Just to make it even tougher to predict: new coaches, new systems, lots of new personnel, and a weird non-conference schedule.
Enough excuses, time to predict. I’m thinking that the two State games (MSU and OSU) are probably not going to be pretty, even though they’re in Ann Arbor, and the opener on the road at Utah might be disorganized. That’s 3 losses. The other 3 non-conference games (Oregon State, UNLV, and BYU) look winnable, and we should win the other 2 home Big Ten games (Northwestern and Rutgers). If we can split the 4 Big Ten road games (Maryland [loss], Minnesota [win], Indiana [win], Penn State [loss]), that would work out to 7-5 (4-4 in the Big Ten).
That should be good enough for 4th place in the Big Ten East division, and a pre-New Year’s Day bowl game. Better than last year, but still not what we’re hoping for, eventually.
The 2014-2015 University of Michigan men’s basketball team is done for the season, so it’s time to wrap things up. The Executive Summary: it was a disappointing season.
UM ended the season with a record of 16-16 (8-10 in the Big Ten). After several seasons of Top-25 finishes, Big Ten championships, and deep NCAA Tournament runs, this was not what we’re used to. We’ve gotten used to young teams, and teams with losses to the NBA Draft, but those teams have managed to overcome those losses and play beyond their years. Not this team. UM just lost too many good players in the last 2 NBA Drafts, and had too many significant injuries, to ever really recover.
Let’s start with the NBA Draft. Two years ago (04/08/2013), Michigan played in the National Championship Game in Atlanta. Their starting lineup was (National Player of the Year) Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas. All 5 of those players are now in the NBA, although all but one of them would have had eligibility to play this season. That is a LOT of talent lost. Burke and Hardaway left after the 2012-2013 season, with Burke giving up his junior and senior seasons, and Hardaway giving up his senior season. After last season (2013-2014), McGary, GRIII, and Stauskas all left for the NBA, each giving up their junior and senior seasons.
Still, things looked promising coming into this season. Michigan still had three promising returning players (the “Big 3”: sophomore Zak Irvin, junior Caris LeVert, and sophomore Derrick Walton Jr.), some upperclass leadership (junior Spike Albrecht and senior Max Bielfeldt), and a large crop of promising freshmen (Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Kameron Chatman, Aubrey Dawkins, redshirt freshman Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle, and DJ Wilson). Coach Beilein had proven that he could take a young, inexperienced team and get the most out of them. What could go wrong?
Well, the biggest thing that went wrong was injuries and illnesses. The biggest injury was to Caris LeVert, when he broke a bone in his foot in the last second of the home win against Northwestern on 01/17/2015. He was done for the season. At the time of his injury, he led the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and minutes. He’s projected as a 1st round pick in this year’s NBA Draft, so, yeah, it was a big loss.
Still, Michigan buckled down and overachieved, and did their best without LeVert. Just when they were starting to adjust to “the new normal”, they suffered another big injury, to another member of the Big 3: Derrick Walton Jr. He had stubbed his toe way back in the Villanova game on 11/26/2014, and he played with “turf toe” for 15 more games. The toe injury slowed him down a bit, and limited his explosiveness at driving to the basket and jumping. As he continued to play through the injury, he changed the way he ran, and that injured his foot, even after his toe finally healed. He played his last game of the season on 01/24/2015 vs. Wisconsin, just a week after LeVert suffered his season-ending injury.
It wasn’t just the Big 3 that suffered injuries: Spike Albrecht played the whole season with a hip injury that slowed him down and made every step painful. He’ll have surgery, and be back for his senior season, hopefully in better shape.
It wasn’t just upperclassmen who got injured: DJ Wilson sprained his knee in the same Villanova game, and missed 4 weeks of practice. He could have played again starting in January, but he and the coaching staff agreed that he would be better off voluntarily staying on the bench, so he could get a medical redshirt for this season.
It wasn’t just injuries either: a wave of flu swept through the team , starting around the time Walton went out after the Wisconsin game. So, on top of the injuries to the starters, the backups who were supposed to step up and replace them were sick. It was pretty grim for a while.
Enough about injuries and illnesses. They explain a lot about the disappointing season, but not all of it. Some of it was mental, specifically a lack of confidence. You can never predict how a team will react to adversity, and this team had a bad stretch where they hung their heads and let adversity crush them. I’m speaking of course about the single most embarrassing and depressing loss in Michigan basketball history: 12/06/2014 to NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology). UM took them way too lightly, and when NJIT refused to just lay down and die like most of the other “cupcake” non-conference opponents, Michigan panicked, then caved. It was ugly to watch, and even uglier because of the “upset hangover”: 3 days later, UM played an aroused EMU team that smelled blood in the water, and they lost to them as well. This was not even a particularly good EMU squad, but they managed to play UM at the perfect time to beat them, when UM’s confidence was shot, and a good high school team could have beaten them. Those two games ruined Michigan’s season. Period.
Still, it wasn’t all injuries, illnesses, and bad losses. Michigan did win 16 games, and some of them were pretty impressive. Certainly, the most impressive was a home win (64-57) against (#24) Ohio State on 02/22/2015. Other big wins:
There were also some encouraging losses, where Michigan played much better than expected, and almost pulled off an upset:
Besides the horrible losses to NJIT and EMU, there was one more loss that ruined any hope of an NIT bid: a gut-wrenching double-overtime loss at Northwestern on 03/03/2015. What was so frustrating about this loss was that it didn’t have to happen. Instead of letting NW fire up not one, not two, but three desperation 3-pointers in the closing seconds, all of which went in, just FOUL SOMEONE, and make them shoot 2 free throws. They can’t score 3 points on 2 free throws. Sigh.
Oh well. If Michigan had stayed healthy for the whole season, they certainly would have gotten an invitation to the NIT, and maybe to the Big Dance, but that’s not what happened. This season was the perfect storm of bad luck, and there’s no reason to be worried for the future. In fact, due to all the injuries, lots of young players got lots of game experience this season, which should help in the future.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – B (Midterm = C)
Wow, what a difference! Once he was thrust into the starting lineup by injuries, MAAR responded admirably. He’s fast, he’s fearless at driving to the basket, and he finishes well. He has a decent outside shot, and he plays good defense. He needs to work on shooting a better percentage, getting to the line a little more, and his court vision.
Kameron Chatman – C (Midterm = C)
Kameron started the season as a starter, but failed to impress. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Spike Albrecht. As the season went on, he showed some improvement, and the game started “slowing down” for him. He had impressive stretches in a few games, but consistency was still a problem. As the highest-ranked recruit in his class, a lot more was expected from him.
Aubrey Dawkins – B+ (Midterm = B-)
Aubrey is another player who improved dramatically once he was forced into the starting lineup by injuries. He was Michigan’s main offensive weapon in a few games, and he showed tons of potential for the future. His defense is just OK, and he needs to work on getting a few more assists, but he’s going to be a key contributor next season and beyond.
Mark Donnal – D (Midterm = C-)
Mark also started the season as a starter, but played his way onto the bench. He was expected to be the starting center, but he has proven to be too “soft” for banging underneath. He’s more of a finesse player, with a nice 3-point stroke. He needs to play tougher, especially on post defense and going to the rim on offense.
Ricky Doyle – B+ (Midterm = B)
Ricky improved steadily as the season went along. He started as an out-of-shape reserve, and worked his way into condition and a starting spot. He’s good at banging underneath with the big guys, and he’s gotten better and better at finishing under the basket. He gets fouled a lot, so he needs to work on his free throws.
Austin Hatch – Inc. (Midterm = Inc.)
Austin only played in a couple of games, and only for a few minutes, scoring one point. He’s still recovering from his plane crash, and may never get to the point where he can play significant minutes. In the meantime, everyone is rooting for him, and cherishing every minute and point that he earns.
DJ Wilson – Inc. (Midterm = Inc.)
DJ only played a little bit in a few games before he injured his knee, ending his freshman season. He is eligible for a medical redshirt, so he’ll be back next year with freshman eligibility. In the brief glimpses we had of him before his injury, he looked athletic but raw. He’s too thin/wiry to play center, but he can be a successful shooting forward. He showed us great “bounce” and hustle.
Andrew Dakich – C- (Midterm = Inc.)
Andrew was being voluntarily redshirted this season, until LeVert and Walton went out with injuries. Andrew volunteered to “burn his shirt” and play this season, even though it cost him a year’s eligibility. He played in 13 games, and scored 5 points, including a 3-pointer, but he was never much of an offensive threat, so Michigan was essentially playing 4-on-5 when he was out there on offense. He did his best, but he was hopelessly outmanned trying to guard some of the elite players in the Big Ten.
Zak Irvin – B+ (Midterm = B)
Zak was one of the 3 main players (along with Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr.) on this team, and a lot was expected of him. When the other 2 went down with injuries, Zak was forced to try to carry the team by himself, and he had a tough time. He disappeared in several games, and didn’t get the job done. Then, in the last month of the season, he suddenly woke up. His play became much more consistent, and he started shooting and scoring the way he was expected to. By the end of the season, he was the leader that Michigan needed. It’s just a shame that he didn’t get to show off his improved game in a postseason tournament. Oh yeah, he went the whole season (32 games) making at least one 3-pointer in every game. That’s quite an accomplishment.
Sean Lonergan – Inc. (Midterm = Inc.)
Sean has only played a few minutes in a few games, so we don’t know what he’s capable of.
Derrick Walton Jr. – B (Midterm = B)
Derrick was playing pretty well before he injured his foot, due to the toe injury that slowed him down for most of the season. He was missed out there.
Spike Albrecht – B+ (Midterm = B)
Spike was another player who stepped up when injuries to the rest of the team forced him into a more important role. He really improved his scoring, and he did a very good job running the offense. He’s not the quickest player out there, and he has trouble keeping up with some of the bigger, faster opposing players on defense, but he’s a steadying influence on the rest of the (young) team when he’s out there, and he usually hits his 3-pointers when he decides to shoot them. He has a great assist/turnover ratio, and he’s great at the sneaky steal on the other team’s inbounds play after a made basket.
Caris LeVert – B+ (Midterm = B+)
Caris was the best player on the team, until he broke his foot. He’s very athletic, and he uses his athleticism to score well in transition. He has a nice 3-point stroke, and he can play good defense. Sometimes he tries to do too much.
Max Bielfeldt – B (Midterm = C)
Max is yet another player who improved his game dramatically when injuries turned him into a mainstream player. He’s a couple inches too short to play center, but that’s his position. He has a very nice 3-point shot, and he can be a matchup problem for the other team when he drifts out to the top of the key and hits a few 3-pointers. He’s a smart ballplayer, and he’s strong and powerful underneath, but he’s just a little too short to play with the big boys.
The bad news is: Michigan had a disappointing season. The good news is: lots of players got lots of great game experience, and almost all of them will be back. The only “senior” on the team is redshirt junior Max Bielfeldt. As of now, it isn’t clear if he will be invited back for his 5th year. The way he played in the 2nd half of the season would certainly suggest that he’d be a valuable component on next season’s team, but there’s a scholarship shortage. A lot of it depends on whether or not Caris LeVert decides to return for his senior year, or enter the NBA Draft. The latest projections have him as a 1st round pick, but he seems to be enjoying his college experience, and his decision could go either way. If he decides to come back for his senior year, there may not be a scholarship open for Bielfeldt, and he may go elsewhere as a “graduate transfer” player.
Besides the Bielfeldt/LeVert situation, everyone else is back next year, including DJ Wilson, who will still have freshmen eligibility, and a transfer player who sat out this season, Duncan Robinson. He’s a 6’8″, 190 pound wing, and he’s a transfer from (Division III) Williams College. He sat out this season, and he’ll have sophomore eligibility next season. He was a great scorer at Williams, and the word from practice this season is that he’s perhaps a better shooter than Nik Stauskas. He broke Stauskas’ shooting records in practice.
After bringing in a huge freshman class this season, Beilein doesn’t have a single commitment for next season. The only offer he has extended so far is to a German player, Moritz Wagner. Wagner is trying to decide between playing pro ball in Germany or studying in the United States. The word is that if he decides to come to the U.S., he’ll probably choose Michigan. Beilein is also chasing a couple other players for next season, but he probably only has one scholarship to work with, so he can’t make a lot of offers.
So, the future looks bright, and there’s no reason to expect another season like this one next year. Michigan might not contend for the Big Ten title, but it is reasonable to expect them to finish near the top of the standings, and get back to the Big Dance.
Check back here in early November, a week before the first game, for another season of Nothing But ‘Net.
The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week in the Big Ten Tournament, and they won one and lost the other. They were the #9 seed. On Thursday (03/12/2015), they beat (#8 seed) Illinois 73-55, then on Friday (03/13/2015), they lost to (#1 seed) Wisconsin 71-60. Both games were played in Chicago. The win and the loss leave Michigan with a final record of 16-16 (8-10 in the Big Ten). Michigan was not invited to the NIT, so their disappointing season is over.
The Illinois game was very impressive. UM played very well, and beat Illinois convincingly. The game started with a few runs by each team, with Illinois leading 19-17 with 8:12 to go in the 1st half, when Michigan went on a 23-4 run to end the half. That made the score 40-23, and UM never looked back. They started the 2nd half with an 8-2 run, and that put the game out of reach. Michigan kept the lead up over 20 points for most of the rest of the game, and were never challenged.
Playing the #5 team in the nation on one day’s rest is a tall order, but UM gave Wisconsin all they could handle for most of the game, before running out of gas down the stretch. UM actually led 44-41 with 12:28 left in the game, and had the score tied up (54-54) with 6:09 left. Wisconsin was just too big, too well-rested, and too talented. It was a noble effort, but UM couldn’t come up with the stops on defense in the last 6 minutes.
Time to look at the game stats. First, the Illinois game: UM shot pretty well overall (29-for-59 = 49.2%), then shot 3-pointers very well (7-for-15 = 46.7%), and they were perfect from the free-throw line (8-for-8 = 100.0%). They lost the rebounding battle (32-36), but they won the turnover battle, barely (9-10). The 3-point shooting won the game.
On to the Wisconsin game: UM shot very well overall (27-for-52 = 51.9%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (6-for-15 = 40.0%), but they didn’t make a single free throw (0-for-2 = 0.0%). They got crushed on the boards (19-34), but they did win the turnover battle (5-7). They lost the game at the free-throw line, since Wisconsin went 14-for-16 (87.5%).
Individually, only one player hit double figures in both games: Zak Irvin, with 14 vs. Illinois, and 21 vs. Wisconsin. He also pulled down 11 rebounds vs. Wisconsin, for a double-double.
Only one bench player hit double figures in one of the games: Ricky Doyle had 12 points (on 6-for-6 shooting) vs. Wisconsin. He scored most of them with Big Ten Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky all over him. He only played 5 minutes vs. Illinois, scoring 2 points (on 1-for-1 shooting; he was 7-for-7 in the tournament).
The rest of the bench didn’t contribute much. Andrew Dakich had 2 points vs. Illinois, but didn’t play in the Wisconsin game. Mark Donnal had 4 and 0 points. Kameron Chatman played in both games, but failed to score. Sean Lonergan played in the Illinois game, but failed to score.
There is no “this week”. The season is over for Michigan.
Check back here next week for the season wrap-up, final grades, and a look ahead to next season.
The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they lost one and won the other. On Tuesday (03/03/2015), they lost at Northwestern 82-78 (2 overtimes), then on Saturday (03/07/2015), they beat Rutgers 79-69 in Crisler Arena. The loss and the win leave Michigan with a final regular season record of 15-15 (8-10 in the Big Ten). They finished in 9th place.
The loss to Northwestern was one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking sporting events I have ever seen. Yes, including the UM/Appalachian State football game and the UM/NJIT basketball game. Michigan had not one, but two excellent chances to win the game, and NW managed to defy incredible odds to tie the game up twice, then finally win in the 2nd overtime. Each of the three highly-improbable 3-pointers that NW made in the closing seconds of regulation and the 1st overtime were 1-in-1000 chance shots, and all three of them went in, making the odds 1-in-1,000,000,000 (that’s one in a billion). Of course, Michigan could have put the game out of reach if they had hit one more free throw, or if they had fouled NW instead of allowing any of the 3-pointers, but that’s another matter. Let’s just say that everything that could go wrong for Michigan did. That’s the kind of season this has been.
The Rutgers game was much better. It was Senior Day, and Michigan only has one “senior”, who’s really a redshirt junior: Max Bielfeldt. Max had himself quite a day, getting his first career start, then his first career double-double, with 14 points and 11 rebounds (also a career-high). Michigan pulled away from Rutgers early, built up a comfortable lead at halftime (47-28), built the lead up to 29 points (79-50) with 8 minutes left, and watched Rutgers score the last 19 points to make it look like a close game. It was a 30-point win disguised as a 10-point win.
Let’s look at the stats. First, the miserable Northwestern game. Michigan actually shot well overall (25-for-56 = 44.6%), shot very well from 3-point range (11-for-24 = 45.8%), and shot free throws very well (17-for-21 = 81.0%). They (barely) lost the rebounding battle (35-36) and the turnover battle (8-11). They should have won this game.
The stats for the Rutgers game are even better. UM shot very well overall (29-for-57 = 50.9%), they shot very well from 3-point range (14-for-31 = 45.2%), and they shot free throws pretty well (7-for-10 = 70.0%). They did lose the rebounding battle (25-33), but they won the turnover battle (6-12).
Individually, only 2 players hit double figures in both games: Aubrey Dawkins and Zak Irvin. However, they didn’t just hit double figures in both games, they did it in impressive fashion. Dawkins had 21 points vs. NW, which was a new career high, then he followed it up with 31 points against Rutgers, which was obviously another new career high. Irvin had 28 points vs. Northwestern, which was a new career high for him, and he also had 11 rebounds, for an impressive double-double. He only had 12 points against Rutgers, but it was still a good week for him.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Spike Albrecht were the other 2 players to start both games. MAAR had a quiet week, with 6 points vs. NW and 2 points vs. Rutgers. Albrecht had 16 and 7 points, but he did dish out 9 assists in the Rutgers game.
Ricky Doyle started in the NW game, but didn’t play in the Rutgers game, due to “a stomach illness”. He didn’t look very good in the NW game, scoring only 1 point. In his place in the Rutgers game, Max Bielfeldt had his big game (14 points, 11 rebounds), but he didn’t do much when he came off the bench in the Northwestern game (4 points, 0 rebounds).
The bench didn’t chip in much in the Northwestern game, with the 4 points from Bielfeldt and 2 points from Mark Donnal. Donnal played, but failed to score, in the Rutgers game. Kameron Chatman played in the NW game, but failed to score, then he exploded for a career-high 13 points in the Rutgers game. Andrew Dakich played in both games, but failed to score. Austin Hatch and Sean Lonergan both played in the closing moments of the Rutgers game, but failed to score, although Hatch almost hit a 3-pointer.
Finally, two of the student managers (Ryan Kaputstka and Jon Rubenstein) were added to the roster for the Rutgers game, and they both played in the final minute, but failed to score. Rubinstein did attempt a free throw, but he missed it.
This week, the Big Ten Tournament is being held in Chicago. This is the first season with 14 teams. To accommodate the extra 2 teams, the tournament has been extended from 4 days to 5 (Wednesday – Sunday). The first day (Wednesday 03/11/2015), the bottom 4 teams play, the next day (Thursday), the middle 6 teams, along with the 2 surviving teams from Wednesday, play. Finally, on Friday, the top 4 teams play, along with the surviving 4 teams from Thursday. The semifinals are on Saturday, and the championship game is on Sunday.
As the #9 seed, Michigan starts play on Thursday, against the #8 seed, Illinois. The game is at noon on BTN. If Michigan beats Illinois, they’ll play the #1 seed, Wisconsin, on Friday at noon on ESPN.
Michigan played Illinois twice in the regular season, winning at home (73-65 in overtime on 12/30/2014), and losing on the road (64-52 in overtime on 02/12/2015). It should be another tight, exciting game. If UM beats Illinois on Thursday, they will have a tough time vs. Wisconsin on Friday.
If UM wants to have any chance of playing in the NIT, they need to beat Illinois. After the predictable loss to Wisconsin in the next round, that would leave them with a record of 16-16. While the NIT doesn’t have an actual rule that a team needs to be at or above 0.500 to be selected, no team with a losing record has ever been invited.
Check back here next week to see what happened, and why.
The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one games last week, and they lost it. On Saturday (02/28/2015), they lost at (#14) Maryland, 66-56. The loss lowers Michigan’s record to 14-14 (7-9 in the Big Ten).
This wasn’t a surprising loss, or a particularly depressing loss. Maryland is ranked, and playing for position in the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament. They were playing at home in front of a sold-out arena for Senior Day. No one expected Michigan to beat Maryland, and no one should be surprised that Maryland won. It would have been a major upset if Michigan had snuck out a win.
That said, Michigan actually played pretty well, especially considering their depleted roster. Sure, they had a couple of their now-familiar scoring droughts, and they shot terribly from 3-point range until the game was out of reach, but they played hard and hung with an obviously superior opponent for most of the game.
The stats tell it all: Michigan shot terribly overall (19-for-52 = 36.5%), they shot even worse from 3-point range (5-for-21 = 23.8%), although they did shoot a wonderful percentage from the free throw line (13-for-15 = 86.7%). They lost the rebounding battle, barely (32-30), and they won the turnover battle (10-12). It was 3-point shooting that cost them the game. Maryland shot 11-for-22 (50.0%) from 3-point distance, and those 6 extra 3-pointers more than make up the final deficit. When Michigan shoots 3-pointers well (>40%), they look good, and they usually win, but when the 3-point shooting is off, they look terrible. This was one of those terrible games.
Individually, only 2 players hit double figures: Spike Albrecht and Zak Irvin both had 15 points. The other starters didn’t score many points: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had 7, Aubrey Dawkins had 2, and Ricky Doyle had 4.
The bench didn’t chip in many points either: Max Bielfeldt had 6, and Kameron Chatman had 7. Andrew Dakich, Mark Donnal, and Sean Lonergan all played, but failed to score. In fact, only Dakich even attempted a shot, and that was blocked.
This is the final week of the regular season, and it can’t come soon enough. Michigan has two games left; one on the road, and one at home. On Tuesday (03/03/2015, 9:00 p.m. EST, BTN), they play at Northwestern, then on Saturday (03/07/2015, 2:15 p.m., BTN), they play Rutgers in Crisler Arena. These are both winnable games, although it’s always tough to win on the road. If Michigan can win them both, they should be in good shape for an NIT bid. If they lose either of them, I suspect they’ll miss post-season play.
Check back here next week to see what happened, and why.