John Beilein was on WTKA’s Michigan Insider this morning to look back on Michigan’s 23 win season and also discussed where the program will have to go moving forward. Here are some notes from the head coach on everything from roster breakdown to defensive woes to Moritz Wagner’s improvement.
It’s no secret that Michigan is over signed by one for the upcoming season and some attrition might be inevitable. Beilein noted that conversations about roles — both last year and going forward — would be addressed immediately.
“We (have those discussions) immediately after the season,” Beilein said. “As we get into it we start telling everybody where they have to work at, what their role is and what their role is in the future. It usually works itself out.”
One other offseason storyline will be the health of Spike Albrecht. Albrecht was sidelined by his hip surgery last summer and his ability to play remains unclear.
“His health and long-term health is our number one priority right now,” Beilein said. “Forget about basketball, we don’t want this man going around the rest of his life with two bad hips.
“His rehab is really important and I know that during the spring here we’ll talk more about his future including his graduation and all of the things that are so important to him right now. I really feel bad for him and we really, really missed him.”
Moritz Wagner taking next step
Moritz Wagner emerged down the stretch as a playmaker in the front court for the Wolverines after disappearing for large stretches during the regular season.
Wagner has shown a ceiling that Michigan’s other big men simply haven’t displayed and John Beilein was excited about his still 18-year-old German forward.
“He really played well down the stretch,” Beilein explained. “We saw some of that earlier, but during the middle of the year he was still struggling with a lot of defensive concepts. He didn’t block any shots and all of the sudden he’s blocking three or four in one game.
“He’s a young kid and as he develops, we think he has the chance to be a very very good player. We put him on the scout team for a couple of weeks to see if he could get his swag back and then he went 9-for-9 in the postseason with a rebound every six minutes.”
Wagner’s defensive improvement might have been the most promising as Beilein compared him to Iowa big man Adam Woodbury for his ability to move his feet in the pick-and-roll hedge.
“He was impacting the ball screen in that game (vs. Tulsa) and in the Notre Dame game better than our other guys were,” Beilein said. “Woodbury really bothered us from Iowa and he’s got feet like Woodbury where he can play in those spaces like that.”
Defense must improve
It’s no secret that Michigan had defensive issues this season and John Beilein preached that improvement on that side of the ball would be a primary focus this offseason.
“We were more connected (on defense) this year, this was more of an individual type (of struggle),” Beilein said. “The shot clock led everybody toward driving more. Absolutely everyone was driving more and we just did not guard the ball well.
“The team knows this and we have to get better in that area. It’s an individual thing, it’s a coaching thing, it’s an everybody thing. We’ve gotta get better guarding the ball one-on-one.”
Beilein added that he didn’t see the Wolverines shifting away from their overall goals defensively, or making a drastic shift to a zone defense, but he understood that improvement must come sooner than later.
“We’ve gotta get better individually. The Wisconsin model of where they aren’t giving up the three and they guard the ball really well,” Beilein said when asked how he envisioned Michigan’s defense. “Our ball screen defense ended up being one of the top in the league as well, but it was just individual ISO breakdown is where people picked on us and found matchups they like and went after it.”
Guards expected to make early impact
Beilein sounded enthused about all four incoming freshmen, but noted that he’s been watching the guards in-person this season because of how important they are to Michigan’s future.
“I watched to see how ready they were to play, knowing that Spike and Caris were seniors, and really was encouraged by what I saw. I think that the guards, obviously where we’re losing the most, that’s where we have to have the most immediate impact.”
Simpson earned Mr. Basketball honors in Ohio while Watson was named to First Team All-State by the AP.
Abdur-Rahkman growing into playmaker
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman improved in almost every statistical category from his freshman year to his sophomore season. By the end of the year, he was also one of Michigan’s most effective playmakers.
“He had the exact same number of turnovers he had last year but with two or three times more assist. That was a huge thing,” Beilein said. “That area continued to grow. He’s still not a point guard, he’s still not a guy that sees the game like some of our great point guard have.
“His biggest thing is that he just finishes at the rim. He didn’t do that that well when he first got here, but he’s gotten a lot better. He lofts the ball, he floats it, he does different things to get around – I don’t care who the shot blocker is he scores.”
Abdur-Rahkman shot 51% on two-point attempts while Michigan’s other guards and wings were all comfortably under 50% on a roster that had 10.3% of its two-point shot attempts blocked.