Team Review After 1/4 Season

Just wanted to get my (and your) thoughts about the team/players out there since we have a decent sample size against high major opponents at this point 7 games through the season. Anyway…


Offense - we are still a good offense, but we lack the penetration/creation we had with Nik last year and Caris as a sidekick. We have great shooting from 3 as always, and we’ve been able to compensate for that missing creator with Doyle finishing great around the rim. Don’t know if the stats will back this up, but we seem to be getting more easy buckets in transition off of live ball turnovers, which kind of masks our half court offense that can be stagnant at times. All in all, I think we’re an above average/good half court offense, not on last year’s level, but good enough. But if we can compensate but getting more buckets in transition by jumping passing lanes on defense, it will be just as effective.

Defense - we seem to have taken a step forward in terms of perimeter defense, not as many space cadet moments getting lost on screens. I’d say our perimeter D is average/slightly above average. Again, we’ve been able to generate more live ball turnovers by jumping passing lanes, notably Caris and Kam. Our post defense is just downright awful, doesn’t matter who it is in terms of personnel, if the opposition gets near the bucket, they are going to score. Would really like to see our bigs fight for position or front the post on defense. Pushing the opposition out 2-3 feet could mean the difference. Overall, I think we’ve taken a step forward on defense, I actually think we’re going to be an average defensive team…and a big part of that is forcing more TOs.


Walton - pretty much improved on everything he did from last year, but hasn’t added anything to his game to be honest. Good on ball defender, although he doesn’t force as many TOs as I’d like. Absolutely great in transition. As I always say, I think he’s the best rebounder in the country at his size. Good spotup shooter in the half court set. Not getting penetration in halfcourt sets or effectively running PnR. Can’t help but to think he could be getting more out of his abilities, but I understand he’s going to have limited opportunities in the half court because Caris is the de facto PG unless Spike is out there. Overall I think he’s played well this season, but not great.

Caris - I know most will disagree, but Caris doesn’t look like a lottery pick to me, his game simply isn’t lottery pick worthy in my opinion. Not to say he isn’t a very good college player, because he is. Caris has made notable improvement on the defensive end, the space cadet moments are much more rare this year. He jumps the passing lanes better than anyone on the team and that creates easy buckets for Irvin. He still closes out on shooters soft at times, but he’s definitely taken a step forward with his defense. Really good defensive rebounder from the wing spot. Offensively is where I’m slightly disappointed relative to expectation. Caris has definitely done a great job creating for others, but creating good looks for himself is where he can improve. Caris’ shot selection leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion, he takes a LOT of off-balanced shots that are wild. He’s made some of those, but those are not good shots. He’s had trouble finishing around the rim, and making mid range shots off the bounce. Still a great catch and shoot player from distance. I think I was looking for Caris to be the next Nik, he simply isn’t that guy yet. No doubt a good player, but a downgrade from sophmore Nik. Would love to see him trying to dunk everything around the rim instead of up and under reverse layups. Overall, improved on D, pretty much the same on offense, but with more opportunity.

Irvin - first thing that jumps out to me about Zak is the improved lateral movement and commitment to defense. He’s no longer getting blown by on D. He’s not a great on ball defender, but he is now adequate in that regard. Doesn’t create TOs like Caris, Spike, Walton, but he’s staying in front of his man for the most part. One area I’ve been slightly disappointed…his rebounding, in particular his defensive rebounding. Offensively, the guy can just flat out shoot…doesn’t matter if its catch and shoot or off screens, he puts it in the bucket. His shot selection can be questionable at times as well, but you have to give him the green light. His creation ability has improved, but still leaves a lot to be desired. He’s fallen over himself several times trying to get by a defender with the ball, and turned the ball over in several instances as well. Ballhandling is probably never going to be his strongsuit, but on this team, it doesn’t have to be. Definitely finishing much better around the basket, he’s looking to dunk most times (WHY DIDN’T HE DUNK AGAINST NOVA AT THE END!!!) Overall, quite satisfied with Zak’s improvement on D, finishing around the rim, and marginal improvement for ballhandling, to go along with more opportunity to shoot from distance.

Kam - we all know he’s struggled tremendously with his off ball defense…he has several space cadet moments each game. BUT, they seem to be decreasing by the game. At the game yesterday, I watched him closely for this exact reason, he was probably beat with off ball movement 2-3 times all game…big improvement from 2-3 weeks ago where he was literally getting beat 8-12 times a game. Great defensive rebounder, he pursues the basketball very well for a freshman. Once Sanderson gets an off-season with Kam, I can honestly see him averaging 7-9 rebounds per game…going to be a big improvement from GR3 in that regard. Kam has active hands and creates a decend amount of live ball TOs as well. Offensively, Kam has tremendous skill, but he’s just soft and can’t shoot consistently…that really sums it up. When Kam is able to get by his defender he looks to lay the ball up rather than dunking…and that’s a huge problem with our team in general outside of Doyle and Zak. On one notable transition opportunity yesterday vs. Syracuse Zak dumped him a bounce pass that put him in perfect position to just catch and dunk…and he chose to go up for a soft layup with the right hand in slow motion. He is very weak with the ball at times when pressure is applied in the half court as well. Great passer that can make the game easier for others. Again, he seems to be getting more comfortable by the game with his outside shooting, but he needs to finish much stronger around the rime and be stronger with the ball in general.

Doyle - after 3 games against high-major opposition, I’m on the Doyle bandwagon…he should be starting. Guess it doesn’t really matter though, as long as he’s getting the bulk of the minutes. Doyle is the only big we have that looks to finish with authority around the rim…and I love that. He has the ‘it’ factor where his buckets are worth more than 2 points because they energize the team and the crowd. He’s a great offensive rebounder that consistently pursues the ball and looks to go up strong. On defense, let’s face it, he’s pretty bad. He consistently allows the opposition to catch the ball in deep position on the block, and he doesn’t hedge and recover very well either. Would love to see him front the post or fight for position more. He’s a very poor defensive rebounder as well, which is odd because he’s so great as an offensive rebounder. I watched him fail to box out on the defensive end several times last night vs Syracuse. Overall, I think Ricky has exceeded expectation level, he just needs to continue finishing around the rim and improve his defensive rebounding and I can see him averaging 7-8 points a game and 5 rebounds…not bad for a freshman. If Sanderson can improve his vert by 3-5 inches, he could be a real weapon in the future.

More I told you so from the leader of the I told you so’s. You are going to talk about what is irritating on here? That’s funny.

For the record, I agree that recruiting is of utmost importance. I just know it’s difficult to get the kinds of kids we were getting and to keep on getting them. I was also willing to see how it played out with this group, and I still am.

Hey…I didn’t say I told you so, I simply said JB’s coaching last night was pathetic, and it was. It was a few others that took the “recruiting has not been good” approach. Difference is I’ve been vocal about it all along…you know why, because it’s true. I’ve just refrained from saying so the past few weeks because I realized that no matter what I said, logical or not, most would not see it that way unless we started losing…guess what, that time has arrived.

I could say you are the leader of the “Benefit of the Doubt/Let’s make Execuses for JB” gang, but I’m gonna take the high road here. Let the season play out, and we’ll see who’s credible and who isn’t.


Spike - I’ve never been a huge Spike fan, never been a Spike hater either, just been indifferent to him…UNTIL this year. Now that Spike has legit opportunity and minutes, we can see just how effective he is. He is the best backup PG in the country, bar none. I mean, seriously, how many backup PGs will give you 6pts, 5assts, 3rebs,1 steal a game, while shooting 38% from deep? Spike is never going to be a great on ball defender, and he got lost a few times on screens vs Cooney last night, but he does a GREAT job of jumping passing lanes for easy buckets. Offensively, I don’t he’s capable of playing better. He orchestrates the offense to creat open looks for teammates better than anyone on the team, including Caris. He is superb at probing the lane, drawing a defender, and dropping it off for an easy bucket around the rim. His only downfall is his inability to finish. Great catch and shoot player from distance. More than anything though, the kid just has balls…he simply embraces the big moments and thrives under pressure. I think he may be the single biggest reason this team exceeds expectation. He is essentially the equivalent of a second starting PG.

Donnal - rotates well on helpside defense, but his man on man defense in the post is horrible. He concedes position far too easy and just doesn’t impede the opposition once the entry pass is made. If an opposing big gets the ball on the block, you might as well just give em’ 2. Mark is soft…very soft. He just doesn’t look to finish strong around the rim, and is VERY tentative with the ball when receiving an entry pass. I don’t think he’ll play major minutes going forward, he’s just too soft too play in B10 conference play. Does have a decent jumpshot, but he doesn’t get the opportunity to use it, so there is no sense in playing him more than 6-8 minutes per game unless Doyle is in foul trouble in my opinion.

Max - what can I say, I love the guy’s effort and determination…but he’s simply too small and unathletic to play the 5. Really not much else to say. Against smaller teams, he’s a decent option.

Wilson - long term project. I was wrong about him on a few fronts. I thought he would really struggle with lateral movement in hedge and recover situations. Instead, he’s the best hedge and recover man on the team in my opinion. I also thought he was a much better vertical athlete than he is…he’s really below average in that regard, he’s just long. His attempted dunk against Nova really displayed his lack of jumping ability. Very raw as a player, has lots to work on. Not a good shooter, very soft around the rim. Do love him as a helpside defender to block shots and perhaps he would be a good defender for a 2-3 zone look to mix up the opposition. I’d be pretty surprised if he is playing major minutes before his junior year, and he won’t be an impact player until at least then in my opinion. We simply have better players at every position.

After the game last night I was also wondering if Spike is the best backup PG in the country. He’e basically been playing starters minutes, but what an asset to have off the bench. Like Matt said, he just has balls. The shots he takes and passes he makes take some serious confidence. The 3s he hit last night were from so far away. Seems like he is better shooting from further away than just at the arc.

I think Caris just still needs to get used to being the guy, he has shown already he can take over a game just needs to do it more often. Doesn’t get himself into as much trouble overdribbling into the middle of the defense as he was doing last year, but that may also be why he is settling for some mediocre shots.

Kam just playing with too much indecision, once he stops overthinking and gains some more confidence he can be really good.

Doyle plays with the fire that McGary did. His dunks are what will get the team and crowd excited like Irvin’s threes did last year.

Much better D than last year, post D is not good but they are doing a good job of getting the bigs some help down there.

Don’t think the shots are falling for these guys like they have the potential to. Seems like they are missing some open looks that they should be hitting. If they can start to hit more watch out, especially if Kam can hit more of those 3s like he did against Cuse.

I think even being where they are now they are a very good team that has the potential to fight for the upper tier of the conference. But if they continue to improve like they already have they will have a chance to make a splash in March.

I think that’s a good post for our team 1/4 through the season.

Spike is shooting extremely well right now as well, but my biggest knock on his aside from man to man defense is his inability to get a shot off quick. Nonetheless, he can bury deep threes and his assist to turnover ratio is absolutely unreal.

Chatman is going to be very very good. He can rebound, handle, pass, and is gaining confidence. He will improve a ton.

I also think you cannot redshirt Wilson. Max is just not a good enough option.

I also think you cannot redshirt Wilson. Max is just not a good enough option.

I think the problem with that is Wilson was still just not ready to play, and with missing another month no way he can be ready to play in conference.

Wilson just looks lost out there…not trying to knock the kid, but he’s not ready to play. Should play a backup role next year

I agree with you and maybe I am being pessimistic, but I just think he needs to be available if necessary.

Good thoughts by Matt. I am more optimistic at this point than a month ago.

Spike and Doyle are the bright spots of the season. Our best lineup at this time is Spike-Walton-Levert-Irvin-Doyle. Spike plays fearless and knows how to attack the defense. Doyle will only gets better both offensively and defensively as his confidence grows.

So far Irvin exceeds my expectation as he shoots with such a confidence on the par with Nik and Trey. IMO Levert has the skills but not the personality to carry the team; Irvin has the personality but lacks the skills. Maybe some adjustment on the offense will get the right mix between the two. I think that both benefits with Spike running the show.

Our wild card moving forward is Chatman, who could gets better once he finds rhythm and gains confidence. A good sign as pointed out by Matt is that his defense has already improved tremendously.

Interesting notes about the team also, we are 317th in adjusted tempo via kenpom, and 304th in bench minutes. We are 293rd in FTA/FGA. Contrary to those poor stats, we are 7th in adjusted offensive efficiency on kenpom, 8th in turnover percentage, Overall we seem to be a team of extremes, on both sides of the spectrum. Some more middling stats include our adjusted defensive efficiency ranks 47th in the country, and our effective field goal percentage is 66th, at 52.6%. Lastly, our strength of schedule so far via kenpom is 160th, but expect that to improve drastically once we face Arizona and SMU.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with our perimeter defense thus far…post defense, not so much. I think we’ll end up in the 60-80 range by end of year. Certainly an improvement from last year, but I think we want to be in the 35-45 range to be a true title contender moving forward.

Wilson should red-shirt now that he actually has chance to do so. He is not necessarily better than Max as the third option at 5.

Our main rotation will be Spike-Walton-Levert-Irvin-Chatman-Donnal-Doyle. Max is the 8th, and Dawkins might see a few minutes too.

Adjusted tempo being 317th is not a poor stat. They were 334th last year and had the most efficient offense in the nation. Wisconsin currently sits 311th in tempo and we know how deadly that attack is.
Don’t get confused with the football team which is painfully slow in both tempo and efficiency.
Tempo and efficiency are the foundation of advanced statistics. There’s another post on this board that really digs into detail about tempo statistics.

I don’t necessarily buy that…Wisconsin can afford to play at a slower tempo because they have true post threats and a slower pace will benefit them to the extent thta their lack of perimeter athelticism won’t be exposed. It is the opposite for us, our advantage is on the perimeter, creating open 3s and one on one opportunities for Caris to finish and Walton to use his speed.

Michigan has had the most efficient offense in the country the last two years with no post threat and an advantage on the perimeter. We have done this with tempos in the 200s and 300s. Our tempo, along with Wisconsin, is effected by our lack of turnovers

Further, it is obvious that our tempo will suffer from the fact that our guards have to crash the boards all the time. That’s what we HAVE to do. We would LIKE to run more, but it’s hard when the guys who can get to the hoop (Walton, Levert) are key rebounders and the guys who can spot up and shoot (Irvin added to those two previously) play the 4 and have to crash.

Tempo and turnover are positively correlated. We won last night mainly because of the huge advantage in the turnover category.

Correct, Kenny. The other stat that really effects tempo (amount of possessions) is fouling. Wisconsin and Michigan among the fewest in fouls called per 40 every season. There are several trade offs like this one

I simply disagree, I actually think the opposite is true, you should be able to push tempo more adequately because our guards are rebounding the ball. They don’t have to wait for an outlet pass or come back to get the ball. Also, I understand there can be a theoretical correlation between tempo and turnovers, but it doesn’t have to be that way in practice. In other words, you can push tempo without turning the ball over.