Media Day 2016-2017

I agree that Walton and Donnal were near their peak last season but I can not agree with the rest at all with regard to players “peaked-out”.

The flaw you point out in MAAR’s game strikes me as a very odd criticism. MAAR gets to the places on the floor he wants to get to and does not rely upon change of direction to do so because he can. Everyone knows he needs to pass out of penetration better, which is relatively easy skill to learn. Everybody knows he needs to shoot 3’s a little better. Even if he improves those two things a little–it will make his taking it to the rim game even easier for him…MAAR will be better because everybody now knows, after two years of proving it, he is an important player who can get things done. The empowerment factor alone pretty much guarantees he will be an improved player in my opinion.

Irvin coming off back surgery is not a small thing. He was anchored down last year.

If the playmakers around him are healthy then Robinson will likely do more because he will need to do less. And honestly, He was a capable ball handler last year–cautious but capable.

DJ? I think he will be good but, for the sake of argument, even if he turns out to be pretty bad then he will be tons better than last year if he just doesn’t shoot constantly. Not shooting constantly is a pretty easy thing to improve on right?

I don’t think we were peaked out at the backup point guard spot last year either. X will probably be an improvement over Dakich.

Were our players peaked out as defenders? If so, with the reports of more focus on defense, It seems like the coaches might be wasting their time…

I think this is a pretty fair assessment. It is too bad that a team which, for several years, was held back by its “youth,” is now relatively experienced but doesn’t project to be a serious contender due to inherent limitations of talent and athletic ability. (Usually Big Ten teams with a solid core of upperclassmen are seen to be quite intimidating.)

That said, I think you are selling MAAR and Wagner a bit short. I think that if MAAR can improve his passing, he can be dangerous out of the PNR, and that Wagner can flourish with a longer leash and his work with Sanderson. Unfortunately, those are the only guys you are selling short.

Agree on MAAR. Even though he started for much of last year, he was kind of a placeholder for Caris and didn’t seem like he was empowered to generate as much offence as Walton or Irvin. This year, I think he gets more opportunities to lead and that should help his confidence. But his passing does need to improve.

I really hope we don’t see walk-ons playing outside of garbage time.

On Wagner, whether he makes a big jump remains to be seen, but how he performed in a summer league on makeshift teams in a completely different than normal game setting means absolutely zero to me. Blake McLimans was a terror in informal workouts and scrimmages. Others, who were much better, not so much.

Robinson can improve in a lot of ways. He certainly can improve materially defensively, and while he’s not athletic enough to be a stopper, he has the length and smarts to be a decent defensive player, which is about 100 times better than he was last season. And he can become a more efficient offensive player in the half court, and learn to move better without the ball to get shots.I think a year of knowing the athleticism at this level will help.

Rahk can improve mightily just by learning to better recognize pass out situations off penetration, something he started to do late last season. Irvin started the same progression at the end of his sophomore year (he was older as well), and became a very good passer last year.

Wilson–I said IF he can play. He hasn’t, to date. He has also spent most of his time at center, which is not his position. You may be right that he has reached his peak and it’s not much higher than his floor, but I can’t say that until he has been given the opportunity to play real minutes at his real position and has come up short.

I think you’re underselling Irvin. He’s not a great athlete by any means, but he was a lot more explosive as a soph before the back injury. His handle, while certainly not crisp, was enough to make him the #4 guy in P&R efficiency in the conference among high usage players (per Dylan’s recent article), and that was in a year where he shot the ball badly.

Walton–we’ll see. If he hadn’t finished well as a freshman, I’d agree with you, but since he did (and did early in his soph year before the injury), I’m inclined to think that the inability to finish is related to the foot injury. If it is permanent, you’ll be right. If not, I think there’s a lot of upside, especially if he doesn’t have to play an absurd amount of minutes, and can play some off the ball, things Simpson should provide.


Passing is most definitely not an easy skill to learn (tbh very few skills are easy to learn, with shooting probably being the easiest). It requires an immense amount of spacial awareness and quick analyzation that is not easy. For example you’ll often find that many players in the NBA barely (if at all) improve as passers. In fact, it might be the most difficult skill to improve besides athleticism, IMO. I also think his style is a very strange. Kind of a slow, methodical penetration but it gives the defense more time to react and set up correctly. I like Rahk the most out of everyone for significant improvement, but his age and a few other factors make me hesitant.

Like I said, he was a poor finisher even before his injury (which is what would be most effected). He shot 51% at the rim as a sophomore per Dylan’s numbers.

I’m not sure if Duncan could “do” any less than he did last year. He had maybe 1-2 drives a game (always off closeouts) and very rarely worked off the ball to get open (something that Beilein has openly criticized him for on A LOT of occasions).

Defense could improve, but I’m skeptical. Seems like defense is a year over year culture thing that can’t be fixed over night. People always say that freshmen are always bad at defense. Basically all our players are freshman as far as defense goes right now, since this is the first year we’re having a real emphasis on it.

I think the specific pass that MAAR misses constantly–which is hitting the perimeter player after penetration is one of the easiest passes to make. I agree that learning to be a high level and well rounded playmaker is impossible at this point for MAAR, but with more confidence in his ball handling, he should be able to hit the easy passes (he missed last year) in the normal flow of the offense.

With Levert, Spike, Irvin and Walton last year it is doubtful he was groomed for pick and roll very much. Somehow he outperformed Walton and did about as good as Irvin with less usage. If he did what he did, without being groomed for it, then we can expect improvement–a lot of improvement.

I agree with you that we shouldn’t expect huge improvement from Walton. The fact that JB suggested X and Walton might play together a lot with X as the point guard is telling.

I had high hopes for Walton out of high school. He has exceeded my expectations as a catch and shoot player and he is the best rebounder for his size I have ever seen. Imp, Walton is not a high level playmaker and he doesn’t even make very good decisions in transition. On the bright side I think the coaches and Walton have accepted this fact…Still he is a valuable player…I suppose the only hope for an improvement with Walton is if X pushes him…I am not expecting it but I have always thought Walton needs to play more agressively offensively–he is a chronic settler for the easy pass and and chronic resetter of the offense…Maybe the thought of a Freshman running the offense before him will push him over the edge in a good way? I don’t know.

Duncan exceeded my expectations…He should take more shots…

One of the things you bring up that a lot of posters fail to mention or recognize and I have said it multiple times is that not running Walton and Irvin into the ground will help them tremendously. During end of the game situations when they are probably the go to guys they will have the stamina to make plays.

How anyone would think that Duncan won’t take a step forward I don’t understand. He has skills and length and with added strength and knowledge of the conference and to me is a sure bet. Not saying he will be an all American but better than last year.

MAAR must improve his passing or become a very proficient 3 point shooter. This year everyone will know his strengths and will try to dictate him shooting instead of allowing the drive to the basket.

Can not under estimate having an adequate back up point guard. This was one of the biggest issues last year in my eyes.

Anything from DJ Wilson will be a bonus.


Personnel-wise, a lot of this is best-case-scenario thinking. Walton and Irvin could do this, Wagner and Simpson could become that, etc. Some of these things will happen, but you have to presume that some won’t. That’s why the baseline for this team is roughly where it was last season—middle of the B1G.

Defensively, U-M should improve some through increased effort, but this team just isn’t designed to stop people. There’s no rim protector or athletic wings or ball-hawking guards. It’s great that they’re finally focusing on defense, but if it were as simple as just deciding to be good at it, everyone would be. Recruiting is part of it, and U-M’s recruiting has long favored offensive skill over defensive attributes like athleticism, length and physicality.


I disagree with a lot if that. I expect significant improvement from the whole starting five really.i don’t think Walton has ever put it all together, and I think he could this year. Irvin will improve if he plays wiser, and maybe being fully healthy.

Duncan, Wagner and maar could all be much better. What if Duncan doesn’t hit a shooting slump and shoots like he did early all year? Add in the ability to pass and possibly start to add moves off a pump fake or a pull up.

Maar is going to get better. There no doubt in my mind about that. He’s 22 but who cares? If he improved his shot, he could become a very tough matchup. Also I think he’s very quick. Not sure why you don’t think he can change directions. Guy could be a real problem the next two years. Especially if he develops a go to mentality.

Wagner is self explanatory.

This team has underachieved so far. If they reach their potential, it could look much different this year.

Pessimism? On this board? Seriously?

Lost in the player by player analyses is Beilein’s basketball brain. He knows what he’s got at PG (which is why he’s already talking about getting Simpson on the floor) and that he doesn’t have a Stauskas or Caris. I expect him to adjust accordingly, much more ball movement to create opportunities. That’s why he’s talking about Wilson cutting to the basket, Walton finishing and Robinson playing faster.

Wagner showed up at half time of the summer league game that I saw. He went in cold and struggled at first but played well once he was warmed up. He made a steal and drove the court for a dunk to win his game.

If Robinson just knocks down the open jumpers in B1G play, that will be improvement. He is also an adept passer. First year of high D1 play was a learning experience.

Wilson is hard to evaluate because he was stuck in the 5 rotation and hardly played. He will play 4 this season. I caught him in a summer league game, and I was pleasantly surprised. He rebounded well, looked the part of a B1G forward from a physical standpoint. Jury’s still out on him, IMO.

Irvin’s prospects are completely tied to the health of his back, which cost him a lot explosiveness last season compared to the end of his soph year.

Walton’s foot problem is not permanent. His finishing soph year was hurt by his injury, which occurred in early December. You could see it. This season look for him to get more spot up chances. He really is a good shooter from three if you give him an open look.

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Thank you, Sane. I appreciate that you always add a sense of sanity to a board that I sometimes find unreadable. There are others that I appreciate, too, but you always look at our players and see the good, the potential. You look at our coach and see his wisdom and his strengths rather than only focusing on his weaknesses. I will always read a sane1 post.

I’m with you. I think if it comes together we’re a huge sleeper. I firmly believe we can finish in the top four in the big ten.

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Our big plus is experience. With all starters back, we have an edge in chemistry and cohesiveness. We are not dependent on newcomers to step in and play a key role. Barring any extended injuries, we have sufficient depth to fill a strong rotation that goes 9-10 deep. I think we will finish 5th or better.

We won 23 games last year and we return everyone. That alone could easily get us to 25. With some minor defensive improvement, and some solid improvement from maybe 2-3 guys, we could easily get to 26-27 wins. Just being able to play Simpson instead of Dakich is a huge boost. I’m not surprised certain posters on this board disagree. Par for the course. I do find the psychology of constantly berating a team and staff you claim to root for quite interesting, but that’s a different topic entirely.


The issue a lot of these posters have is they want a certain kind or style of play which they think is more effective. There are many different ways of winning and I don’t care what style it is as long as it’s winning.
What kind of style does coach K have. He is a great coach in most eyes yet most of his disciples have not done as well. The biggest difference is he has players. Coaching becomes easier with studs.

My biggest hope for optimism lies with Donlon and the defense. Emphasis and attention there can have major changes. As a team last year I didn’t think we were good on ball or help defenders, interior d was bad, we didn’t limit threes, we didn’t control tempo, and we didn’t force turnovers. A new coach, given authority can move those areas. I read donlon ran a modified pack-line, which could help cut down on penetration and force more turnovers as there are more contested passes being made.

While our offense hasn’t been elite 8 good recently, it has still been a strength. How many of us have asked for even an average defense? We get the d to that area then we could compete for top part of the big ten. Conference schedule is tough though.

On individual players:
Early in the year Dawkins and Robinson were so lost on defense that if they were involved in a play on that end I was terrified. Dawkins never got better. Robinson did. He can be a non liability without being a stud athlete.

Walton, maar, Irvin are all ok defensively, new system can help them more than individual improvement.

Saying x and Walton will play together says nothing about Walton except he’s tough on d and is a good spot up shooter. Get your best players on the floor!

If Donnal or Wagner become reliable pick and pop 3 pt shooters (>33%). On 2-3 attempts/game and keep up solid finishing work near the hoop, we’ll be singing their praises. I think donnal can be as good as Costello at msu, but he might need a drill sergeant coach who rides him. I think JB alluded to that last year.

I want to believe in Wilson…but I’ve seen very little positive in games from him. Maybe a nice block? Man I hope he steps up.

It’s tough to change your mentality, Walton prefers to dish, Wilson and maar have itchy trigger fingers. Tough to switch that mindset in my experience.

I actually want maar to be more aggressive

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Adding off the dribble threes/speeding up his shot will probably help him more than being told to be a better passer.