The five factors that will determine our ceiling this year

Here are what I think are the five most likely points that will determine our ceiling this year:

(1) How good will Walton and Irvin be. They will be the leaders on the team - the seniors, the PG, the first scoring option, the ones who’ve been to the Elite 8 and a B1G championship. Can Irvin keep the playmaking going, keep his 3pt% in the high 30s (like in B1G play last year)? Can Walton be that aggressive offensive force he was in the first half at ND consistently? Can either of them improve at the rim? Can either be more consistent and active on D, where they’ve both shown flashes of good play but been very inconsistent? Did injuries contribute to their uneven play or did they hit their ceilings?

Confidence meter: medium. They’ve looked really great at times and the injuries provide good explanations as to why they haven’t been better. On the other hand, it’s been three years already…

(2) Can Donlon and more experience improve the defense significantly? We won’t be a top Kenpom 20 defense, but we could be in the 30-50 range. Another finish lower than 75 would be pretty disappointing.

Confidence meter: pretty high that we’ll be better than 75, pretty low we’ll be better than 40.

(3) Will Duncan Robinson’s shooting be more like the first or the second half of last season, and can he continue to expand a bit more offensively? He could be a tremendous weapon.

Confidence meter: pretty high.

(4) How good can Wagner/Donnal be? If Donnal is a bit more consistent and Wagner lives up to some of his better moments, the center spot could actually be a big advantage for us against most teams. But that’s far from certain.

Confidence: medium. Both showed a lot of progress but never put it all together consistently. If even one does, we’re going to be pretty good at center.

(5) What can we get from Wilson and Watson at the back up forward spots. We need to get quality minutes to allow Irvin and Robinson to rest. At best, Wilson could provide real height at the 4 and Watson athleticism and a different look at the 3.

Confidence: low. It certainly could happen, but we haven’t seen Watson play and he wasn’t a particularly highly regarded recruit, and Wilson wasn’t able to put it together last year.


(3) Robinson’s shooting will likely be somewhere between last year’s conference and non-conference numbers. I would expect most players to drop against the better B1G competition.

I have high expectations for his continued improvement. He will be one of our biggest weapons.

Yeah, I’m not expecting to shoot the same percentage he did in last year’s nonconference, but I think his drop in % was more than just the improved competition (and focus on him). I agree that somewhere in between is most likely, but if he can shoot 42-43% with the kind of attention he’s going to get that’d be pretty big.

To me the teams ceiling will be predicated on how much of the bench is used. If JB has to run both Walton and Irvin into the ground again that will not bold well for the team. This in my estimate also affects their defense. We will need contributions from X, Ibi and DJ Wilson to compete at the level everyone would like the team to compete. And of course any injuries would be very problematic.

1 Like

I’m really interested to see a healthy Walton & Irvin in their senior years. As mentioned, they have both battled injuries throughout their career and have flashed potential so hopefully they can finish their careers at Michigan on a high note.

I really hope DJ Wilson can provide something at the 4. I’m not too confident in Watson there (I hope he surprises me) but that backup 4 could be a major issue in big ten games, especially in the physical ones where fouls rack up pretty quickly.


I’m not sure bench play will be so key in the team’s ceiling, but I do think it will be pretty important as to how well the team performs overall, which point (5) goes to. I’m pretty confident that Simpson will be able to provide quality backup minutes in the backcourt.

Agree, Wilson is a huge key. He doesn’t have to be great at the 4, just good enough that it isn’t a weak spot.


5 preseason questions facing Michigan basketball as 2016-17 gets underway

Our top six players a basically known entities. Assuming our top 6 stay healthy we still need 2 more players to contribute. At least 2 of DJ, X and Ibi must be ready and able to contribute.

My guess is DJ and X will be more or less ready.

I’d be fairly surprised if Wilson were much of a contributor this year, and I don’t know that we’ll even need him to be. If Wagner shows any decent improvement, he and Donnal will be the main guys at the 5, and Wilson will get the leftover minutes, along with Teske. Beilein will not play Wilson at the 4 at the same time he plays someone else at the 5, so unless one of the top two guys gets hurt, Wilson and Teske will likely get no more than 10 mpg between them.

We’re a lot thinner this year at SG/W. If Watson can shoot the 3 and shows a decent handle, he will be more important and get more minutes than Wilson. If he can’t, we will probably not go 8 deep in our regular rotation.

Wilson is our backup at the 4 right now. Other than Irvin, we don’t have anyone that can play it (not saying that anyone else won’t play it, but I don’t see DRob, Watson or any of the 5s being capable of playing it effectively). He will certainly get minutes while someone else is at the five. At least early on. His role as the season goes on is up to him.

That’d be great if it happened, but it won’t. I’d love to see Irvin get most of his minutes at the 3, but Wilson isn’t good enough to be more than a spot player at the 4. He just isn’t. If anyone were going to take significant minutes from Irvin at the 4, it’d be Donnal, but Beilein has consistently avoided playing two bigs at once. I don’t see us having the talent for that to change this year.

I believe JB has revealed his plans for Wilson many times: Wilson will be playing his minutes at the 4 and not the 5.


But there’s a big difference between “spot minutes” and no role. If DJ plays 8 minutes per game at the 4, gets some rebounds, and is active on defense, then that’d be what everyone is hoping for. Go all out, for a few minutes at a time, whenever Zak needs a breather. The only “significant minutes” that DJ will ever play is when foul trouble strikes and we aren’t playing an opponent that we can play small-ball against.

You can call it whatever you want when Wilson is out there, but I’ll say it again…Beilein is not going to play two bigs at once, except in very limited situations.

Disagree that Donnal is a likely candidate to play power forward. I think DJ will be fine but in the case that he does horribly then I think it would be more likely to see MO giving Irvin a rest rather than Donnal. In any case, for this season,we really need DJ to be adequate. I believe DJ has a lot of potential and he might surprise some doubters…

I don’t think that Donnal is very likely to play PF either. But Wilson is even less likely to be a contributor there.

That’s still nothing that’s going to matter, even if it happens. In the Big Ten last year, Irvin played 35 mpg and Wilson played 5. Wilson was not noticeable. I saw nothing from Wilson last year to make me think he has the potential for much more.

Ooops. I misread your post, sorry about that.

If Watson is great then he will probably play a bigger role than DJ. Hard to tell. I am surprised when people do not see the potential of DJ but I guess different opinions make these forums interesting…

1 Like

Yes, he was…but he played him there anyway, because he won’t play a power forward and a center at the same time. As I said, it doesn’t matter much whether you call Wilson a center or a power forward when he’s the only big out there, because he isn’t particularly good at either.