Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
Finally! It’s time for college basketball! After the disappointing UM football season, I’m ready for some basketball. The first game is tonight (11/10/2014) in Crisler Arena at 7:00. It’s an exhibition vs. Wayne State. The team also had an open practice last week (Wednesday, 11/05/2014), which I went to and enjoyed.
Here’s my standard description of this weekly column:
Yeah, it’s time for University of Michigan men’s basketball, and this is the place to read all about it: “Nothing But ‘Net” on UMGoBlue.com. Check back every Monday morning between now and the end of the season (hopefully the National Championship game again) for a quick, concise wrap-up of the previous week, and a look ahead at the upcoming week, all in one easy-to-read article.
As always here at UMGoBlue.com, the perspective is “by fans, for fans”. I’m a fan (since 1974), and I go to all the home games, and watch/listen to all the away games. I don’t have any special access (other than being an usher in Sections 209-210), I don’t go to the press conferences, and I don’t interview high school recruits. I see the same things you do, and write about them as a fan.
Once again, let’s get right to the big question:
How good is the 2014-2015 team going to be? The quick answer: pretty good.
The last couple of years, my answer has been “really good”, not “pretty good”. Last year, I was right: UM won the Big Ten title outright (by 3 games), and made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. This year, I don’t have my expectations set as high. For the third or fourth year in a row, Michigan has the same problem: extreme youth. That makes it hard to predict how good (or bad) Michigan will be. On the one hand, UM will lean heavily on 6 new freshmen, which can be a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, Coach Beilein has proven time and again that he can get great results from a young, inexperienced team. Michigan is ranked in the mid-20’s in all the preseason polls, and picked to finish 4th or 5th in the (newly expanded) Big Ten.
Read on for more details.
Michigan ended last season with a record of 28-9 (15-3 in the Big Ten). They went 8-4 in non-conference play, with some good wins (Florida State, in San Juan, and Stanford, in Brooklyn), some understandable losses (at Iowa State, at Duke, and home vs. Arizona), and one disappointing loss (Charlotte, in San Juan). They won their first 8 Big Ten games, including big wins at Nebraska (their only home loss last year), at Wisconsin, home vs. Iowa, and at Michigan State, before they hit a rough patch. They lost 3 out of their next 5 games (at Indiana, at Iowa, and home vs. Wisconsin), before winning their last 5 games, which works out to 15-3 in league play.
They entered the Big Ten Tournament as the #1 seed, and made it to the championship game, where they got crushed by Michigan State.
They entered the NCAA Tournament as a #2 seed, and they made it to the Elite Eight, where they lost on a last-second shot to Kentucky.
The trouble with having a good team with good players is that those good players are enticed by the NBA to leave early. After the 2012-2013 season, UM lost Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., who both got drafted in the 1st round. After last season, they lost 3 more stars: Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas. Stauskas (8th pick) and McGary (21st pick) went in the 1st round, and GR3 (40th pick), went in the 2nd round. Those 5 players were the starting 5 for Michigan when they played in the National Championship game in April 2013. That’s a lot of talent to lose.
Besides McGary, GR3, and Stauskas, Michigan lost 4 other players from last season’s team: 2 freshmen, 1 graduating senior, and 1 transfer:
McConnell and Anlauf were freshmen walk-ons on the practice squad, and they only played in “garbage time”. Other than a brief mention on UMHoops.com, I can’t find out anything else about their departure from the team. McConnell did have injury problems last season. He also wrote an amusing official blog for the team last season, and I’ll miss that.
Even though Horford was a senior, he had junior eligibility, due to a redshirt season (his sophomore season, with a broken foot). He is the 2nd player in as many years to use the “graduate transfer rule” that allows graduating seniors with a year of eligibility left to enroll in grad school at another school (as long as the new school has a program that the previous school doesn’t offer) and have instant eligibility, without having to sit out a “transfer year”. So, that’s what Horford is doing. It’s a shame he decided to leave, since he would have been the featured big man this season, with Morgan graduating and McGary leaving for the NBA.
Finally, there’s Jordan Morgan. What a great guy! He didn’t just graduate, he got his BS in Engineering, then got his Masters in Engineering. He was a mainstay defensively, and he always played hard, kept his mouth shut, and was a quiet leader. He will be missed.
Michigan has a very talented group of players returning this season. Here they are, by class year (eligibility):
Mark Donnal #34 (6’9″, 240 pounds, F) – Mark voluntarily redshirted last season, so he still has freshman eligibility. He practiced with the team all last season, and the word out of practice was that he gave Morgan and Horford all they could handle. He didn’t show much of that ability in the open practice, but he did show a lot of potential. He is certainly the best outside shooter that Beilein has had in a “big man” since he got to Michigan. He’ll be the starter at center, at least until someone beats him out.
Andrew Dakich #11 (6’2″, 190 pounds, G) – Andrew was the leader of the practice squad (“The Bench Mob”) last season, especially during the games, when his reactions on the bench were often as exciting as the plays on the court. He only played in “garbage time” last season, but he looked pretty good in the open practice, and he might get some mainstream playing time this season. Note, he changed his number from 5 last season to 11 this season.
Zak Irvin #21 (6’6″, 215 pounds, G/F) – Zak put on 15 pounds of muscle in the off-season, and you can’t miss the new look. He was “just a shooter” last season, and he was very good at it, but we’re expecting to see a more complete game from his this season. He should be one of the stars, and one of the leading scorers in most games.
Sean Lonergan #20 (6’5″, 200 pounds, F) – Sean is the other returning member of last season’s “Bench Mob”. He only played in “garbage time” last season, and I expect more of the same this season. He looked good in the open practice, but there’s a lot of talent ahead of him.
Duncan Robinson #22 (6’8″, 190 pounds, G/F) – Duncan is a transfer from (Division III) Williams College. He’ll have to sit out this season, and he’ll have sophomore eligibility next season. He was a great scorer at Williams. We’ll see how that translates to Division I basketball next season.
Derrick Walton Jr. #10 (6’0″, 185 pounds, G) – Derrick had a very good freshman season, but he was following a tough act (Trey Burke), and he was on a team with 3 future NBA players. I expect him to be a bigger part of the offense this season, and if he shows the same improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons that previous players have under Beilein (Darius Morris, Trey Burke, and Nik Stauskas, for example), he’ll be another star and leading scorer on the team.
Michael (“Spike”) Albrecht #2 (5’11”, 175 pounds, G) – Spike is one of the oldest and most experienced players on this team, and one of the leaders. He’ll back up Walton at point guard, and chip in the occasional big 3-pointer.
Max Bielfeldt #44 (6’7″, 245 pounds, F) – Max was voluntarily redshirted his freshman year, so he has junior eligibility. He’s a big, strong player, and he did pretty well last year. He is the only big man on the team with any experience in a college game, so he’ll get some playing time, especially early in the season, while the young big men are learning the game.
Caris LeVert #23 (6’7″, 200 pounds, G) – Caris grew another inch and put on another 15 pounds since last season, for the second year in a row. He’s certainly the most versatile player on the team, and he should be one of the stars and leading scorers.
None. Bielfeldt is listed on the official roster as a senior, but he still has junior eligibility. Listing him as a senior just means that he probably won’t be invited back for his redshirt senior year. Maybe he’ll use the “graduate transfer rule” next year?
Coach Beilein brought in another interesting recruiting class. While it isn’t as highly-ranked as the last couple classes, it fills in the gaps on the roster quite nicely:
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman #12 (6’4″, 175 pounds, G) – From here on, he’s either going to be “MAAR” or “Rahk” (his nickname on the team). Rahk was a late signing by Coach Beilein. He looked good in the open practice, and he should be part of the regular rotation.
Kameron Chatman #3 (6’7″, 210 pounds, G/F) – Kameron is the highest-ranked recruit in this class. He has already earned a starting spot, and he showed us why in the open practice. He looked “college ready”.
Aubrey Dawkins #24 (6’6″, 190 pounds, G/F) – Aubrey has been a nice surprise. He was another late signing by Coach Beilein, and it’s hard to figure out why so few other schools were interested in him. He’s got good size, a sweet shot, and great basketball IQ. The other players say that he’s the best leaper and dunker on the team. He continues the recent trend of sons of former NBA players coming to UM (GR3, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jon Horford, and Jordan Dumars). Aubrey’s father is Johnny Dawkins, who played at Duke and in the NBA, and now coaches Stanford.
Ricky Doyle #32 (6’9″, 245 pounds, F) – Ricky is yet another big man, giving Michigan lots of depth and options at the power forward and center positions. He has a 7’2″ wingspan, and can play with his back to the basket. He looked OK in the open practice, and he’ll get his chance at center. He’s a “banger” underneath, where Donnal is more of a “finesse” player.
Austin Hatch #30 (6’6″, 215 pounds, G) – Austin is an interesting story. He committed to Michigan on 06/15/2011, then was in a plane crash 10 days later that killed his father and stepmother, and critically injured him. He was in intensive care for a couple months, and missed a lot of high school, so he was given an extra year of high school eligibility, and moved his college commitment to 2014. He has recovered enough to play limited minutes on his high school team, but it remains to be seen if he will ever be able to play Division 1 basketball. He’ll get his chance at Michigan. He had very limited participation in the open practice, and he didn’t look ready to play yet. He may end up with a career-long medical redshirt.
DJ Wilson #5 (6’8″, 200 pounds, F) – DJ sounds like another GR3. He’s athletic, he can shoot the 3-pointer, and he runs the floor well. He was a crowd favorite at the open practice, especially when he swatted a shot in the lane, which is his specialty. He’s another player with a wingspan much greater than his height: 7’3″
The key freshmen are Chatman, Donnal, and Doyle. They will need to grow up quickly.
Let’s take a look at Michigan’s schedule for this season:
|11/10/2014 (Mon)||Wayne State (exh)||Ann Arbor, MI||7:00 p.m.|
|11/15/2014 (Sat)||Hillsdale College||Ann Arbor, MI||2:00 p.m.|
|Legends Classic – Ann Arbor Regional|
|11/17/2014 (Mon)||Bucknell||Ann Arbor, MI||8:00 p.m.|
|11/20/2014 (Thu)||Detroit-Mercy||Ann Arbor, MI||6:00 p.m.|
|Legends Classic – Championship|
|11/24/2014 (Mon)||Oregon||Brooklyn, NY||9:00 p.m.|
|11/25/2014 (Tue)||Villanova/Virginia Common.||Brooklyn, NY||TBA|
|11/29/2014 (Sat)||Nicholls State||Ann Arbor, MI||4:00 p.m.|
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|12/02/2014 (Tue)||Syracuse||Ann Arbor, MI||7:30 p.m.|
|12/06/2014 (Sat)||New Jersey Inst. Of Tech.||Ann Arbor, MI||12:00 p.m.|
|12/09/2014 (Tue)||Eastern Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||9:00 p.m.|
|12/13/2014 (Sat)||Arizona||Tucson, AZ||5:15 p.m.|
|12/20/2014 (Sat)||SMU||Ann Arbor, MI||12:00 p.m.|
|12/22/2014 (Mon)||Coppin State||Ann Arbor, MI||8:00 p.m.|
|12/30/2014 (Tue)||Illinois||Ann Arbor, MI||3:00 p.m.|
|01/03/2015 (Sat)||Purdue||West Lafayette, IN||2:15 p.m.|
|01/06/2015 (Tue)||Penn State||State College, PA||7:00 p.m.|
|01/10/2015 (Sat)||Minnesota||Ann Arbor, MI||12:00/1:00 p.m.|
|01/13/2015 (Tue)||Ohio State||Columbus, OH||7:00 p.m.|
|01/17/2015 (Sat)||Northwestern||Ann Arbor, MI||8:15 p.m.|
|01/20/2015 (Tue)||Rutgers||Piscataway, NJ||6:30 p.m.|
|01/24/2015 (Sat)||Wisconsin||Ann Arbor, MI||4:00/7:00 p.m.|
|01/27/2015 (Tue)||Nebraska||Ann Arbor, MI||7:00 p.m.|
|02/01/2015 (Sun)||Michigan State||East Lansing, MI||1:00 p.m.|
|02/05/2015 (Thu)||Iowa||Ann Arbor, MI||7:00 p.m.|
|02/08/2015 (Sun)||Indiana||Bloomington, IN||1:00 p.m.|
|02/12/2015 (Thu)||Illinois||Champaign, IL||9:00 p.m.|
|02/17/2015 (Tue)||Michigan State||Ann Arbor, MI||9:00 p.m.|
|02/22/2015 (Sun)||Ohio State||Ann Arbor, MI||1:00/3:00/5:15|
|02/28/2015 (Sat)||Maryland||College Park, MD||TBA|
|03/03/2015 (Tue)||Northwestern||Evanston, IL||9:00 p.m.|
|03/07/2015 (Sat)||Rutgers||Ann Arbor, MI||12:00/2:15 p.m.|
|Big Ten Tournament|
|03/11/2015 (Wed)||Opening Round||Indianapolis, IN||TBA|
|03/12/2015 (Thu)||1st Round||Indianapolis, IN||TBA|
|03/13/2015 (Fri)||2nd Round||Indianapolis, IN||TBA|
|03/14/2015 (Sat)||Semifinals||Indianapolis, IN||TBA|
|03/15/2015 (Sun)||Championship||Indianapolis, IN||3:30 p.m.|
Some comments on the schedule:
I like to divide the games up into 3 categories (“Should Win”, “Should Lose”, and “Toss Up”):
That’s a lot more “Toss Up” games than usual, due to the unpredictable nature of a team that will lean on freshmen so heavily. If UM can win all 15 of the “Should Win” games, and half of the 12 “Toss Up” games, that would give them a record of 21-9 (12-6 in the Big Ten). That won’t be good enough to win the Big Ten, but it will get UM a good seed in the NCAA Tournament.
As you can see in the schedule above, Michigan’s first (exhibition) game is tonight (Monday, 11/10/2014, 7:00 p.m., BTN Plus) vs. Wayne State. Of course, UM will win handily, and get to try all kinds of combinations of players out there. Come on down to Crisler Arena to check out this season’s edition of Michigan Basketball, and stop by sections 209/210 to say hi.
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 a terrible job at predicting the games. I thought we’d go 10-2, and we were a miserable 7-6.
So, how is Michigan going to do this season? I’m thinking “better than last season”. Instead of breaking the season down game-by-game, I think it’s really simple: UM is playing 3 really tough games (Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State) on the road, and I don’t think they’ll win any of them. I think they’ll win the other 9 games. So, 9-3 (6-2 in the Big Ten).
That should be good enough for 3rd place in the new East division of the Big Ten. It might be good enough for a good New Year’s Day bowl game, though probably not a BCS game.
The University of Michigan Men’s Gymnastics team repeated as national champions this evening, for their 3rd title in 5 years. Michigan now has 56 total team national championships, compared to 26 total for Michigan State.
Here’s the complete list since 1989:
National Championships Since 1989
|Men’s Swimming & Diving|
1999, 2010, 2013, 2014
The season is over for the University of Michigan men’s basketball team, and it was a good one. Not a great one, but certainly better than most. On the positive side, they:
There were a few bumps along the way. On the negative side, they:
Out of the 9 losses, only the Charlotte and Indiana losses were “bad” losses. The others were very understandable/forgivable:
All the wins were important, but some were more impressive than the others:
That’s a lot of big, important wins, including a lot of close games and a lot of road wins in tough arenas. In particular, the 3-game stretch where Michigan beat #3 Wisconsin on the road, #10 Iowa in Ann Arbor, then #3 Michigan State on the road, was very impressive.
So, why did Michigan do so well this season? Shooting, especially 3-point shooting. As a team, they shot 47.7% overall, and 40.2% from 3-point range. They jacked up almost 800 3-pointers (794), and made 319 of them. That’s impressive.
So, why didn’t Michigan win all their games this season? Defense, especially interior defense. Once teams figured out that they could drive to the basket on Michigan, they did it early and often. The biggest problem was the rule change this year dealing with the always-controversial block/charge call. The new interpretation made it very hard to get a charge called, which gave a big advantage to the “bully” offenses (I’m looking at you, MSU).
The other problem Michigan had all year was rebounding. For the season, Michigan barely won the rebounding battle, 1160-1154, and that includes all the non-conference “cupcakes” that Michigan played before they hit the big, bad Big Ten. In conference games, they lost the season rebounding battle, 535-537. Fortunately, the Beilein system doesn’t depend too much on rebounding.
The Beilein system does depend on low turnovers, and Michigan did a good job there. They won the season turnover battle, 345-398. That works out to about 9.32 turnovers per game, which is very good.
The Beilein system also depends on assists, and Michigan did well there as well. They had 525 assists, which is 14.19 per game.
The undisputed star of this season’s team was sophomore Nik Stauskas. He led the team in scoring (630 points = 17.5 points/game), he led the team in assists (118), he led the team in made 3-pointers (92), and the led the team in 3-point shooting percentage (92/208 = 44.2%). He hit double figures in 32 of the 36 games he played in, and he was the leading scorer for Michigan in 23 games. He was named Big Ten Player of the Year, and named to every All-American team. He was awesome.
The biggest (good) surprise on this season’s team was sophomore Caris LeVert. Last season, he was going to be redshirted, then he was un-redshirted after the first 7 games. He was lightly used last season, and he showed moments of potential, but nothing to indicate what was to come. This season, he was easily the most improved player on the team, and possibly in the entire Big Ten. He was the 3rd leading scorer on the team (478 points = 12.9 points/game), he was 2nd in assists (109), 3rd in made 3-pointers (60), and 1st in steals (44).
The most puzzling player on the team this season was sophomore Glenn Robinson III. When he was good, he was very good, but when he disappeared, he was invisible. Still, he managed to be the 2nd leading scorer on the team (484 points = 13.1 points/game), the 2nd leading rebounder, and 2nd in steals (35). He was the leading scorer in 5 games, but he was held under 10 points in 9 of the 37 games he played in.
On a young team, Jordan Morgan, the only (5th year) senior, provided brilliant leadership. He also had some nice stats: he led the team in shooting percentage (98/140 = 70.0%), and he led the team in rebounding (185), including a team-best 72 offensive rebounds. He only scored 235 points (6.4 points/game), but he scored important points.
The only freshman starter on the team was Derrick Walton Jr. He had a pretty good season, but he had a tough act to follow: last season’s starting point guard, and national Player of the Year, Trey Burke. Derrick isn’t Trey Burke, and he probably never will be, because players like Trey Burke only come around once in a generation. Derrick is a different kind of point guard, and he had a fine season statistically. He was the 5th leading scorer on the team, with 294 points (7.9 points/game). He was 3rd in assists (106), 3rd in steals (21), and 3rd in 3-point shooting percentage (43/105 = 41.0%).
The other scholarship freshman on the team was Zak Irvin. He also had a pretty good season, in his role as 6th man. When he came in, his assignment was clear: shoot 3-pointers. He only averaged 15.4 minutes per game, but he made the 2nd most 3-pointers on the team (62), and had the 2nd best 3-point shooting percentage (62/146 = 42.5%).
Michigan didn’t have much of a bench this season, with only 3 players seeing much playing time besides the 5 starters (Stauskas, LeVert, GR3, Morgan, and Walton): Irvin, Spike Albrecht, and Jon Horford. Spike, another sophomore, was the 2nd string point guard, and he did all right on offense, but he was a step slower than Walton on defense, and had trouble guarding quick point guards. None of his stats jump out: 40.4% overall shooting, 38.7% shooting 3-pointers, 75 assists, only 16 turnovers. Horford was the 2nd string center, and as a junior, he was the only other upperclassman on the team. He did help Morgan with the leadership thing, and he did have a few games where he made a difference, but he wasn’t nearly as consistent as Morgan. His only meaningful stats were that he had the 2nd best overall shooting percentage (62/110 = 56.4%), and he led the team in blocked shots, with 26.
The only other player to play more than a few minutes was redshirt sophomore Max Bielfeldt, who played in 19 of the 37 games, backing up Morgan and Horford when they had foul trouble, which was often. In those 19 games, he scored 15 points and got 20 rebounds.
Finally, there was The Bench Mob: freshmen Brad Anlauf, Andrew Dakich, Sean Lonergan, and Cole McConnell. They were the practice squad, and they played in just a few games, usually in “garbage time” for the last 2 minutes of a blowout win (or loss). They certainly provided lots of enthusiasm on the bench during the games, especially Dakich. Dakich played in the most games (12), McConnell the fewest (4, he broke his foot). Lonergan scored the most points (6), Anlauf the fewest (2, he was also injured).
Since I described each of the players above, I’ll just list their grades:
At this point, Coach Beilein has rebuilt the program so that it’s a matter of reloading, not rebuilding. This season’s team was one of the youngest in the NCAA, with only one junior and one senior. In theory, Jordan Morgan is the only player leaving the team, as he graduates with a BS in Industrial and Operations Engineering and a Masters in Manufacturing Engineering. However, three of Michigan’s sophomores could leave school early for the upcoming NBA Draft:
If all three players return next season, Michigan will be a heavy favorite to get to the Final Four. If only Stauskas leaves, they will still be highly rated. If all three leave, it’ll be a rebuilding year.
Regardless of which of the sophomores leave or stay, Michigan has another top-rated incoming freshman class:
It seems pretty likely that Hatch will redshirt for his freshman year, and if McGary comes back, there will be a real logjam with all the big men. Besides McGary and Horford, there’s redshirt freshman Mark Donnal (6′ 9″, 230 pounds), and incoming freshmen Doyle and Wilson. I wouldn’t be surprised it both of the freshmen big men redshirt as well.
Well, that’s it for this season. Be sure to check back again next fall, a week before the first game of the season, for the season preview.
NIT Semifinals: (#1) Minnesota beat (#1) Florida State, 67-64 (overtime)
NIT Championship: (#1) Minnesota beat (#1) SMU, 65-63. Congratulations!
NCAA Semifinals: (#2 West) Wisconsin lost to (#8 Midwest) Kentucky, 74-73
At this point, all the Big Ten teams are done playing.
The Big Ten’s record in the NCAA Tournament was 10-6, in the NIT it was 6-1, and in the CBI (College Basketball Invitational) it was 1-1, for a total record of 17-8.