Does Beilein Need Post Players?

Dylan Burkhardt

I wrote in my preview of the center position about the lack of depth at the post position but I’m starting to wonder if John Beilein is that worried. I took a look at players 6’8 or taller on Beilein’s teams at West Virginia to see how many post guys were on the roster each year. I haven’t seen a lot of these guys play but D’Or Fischer is one of the only guys who seems to be a “true big man” in terms of size and rebounding.

2003 (14-15; 5-11)

  • 22    Josh Yeager    F    6′ 8″ (14.2mpg,4.8ppg,1.2rpg)
  • 34    Kevin Pittsnogle    F/C    6′ 11″    Fr (26.6mpg,11.6ppg,4.8rpg)

2004 (17-14; 7-9))

  • 34    Kevin Pittsnogle    F/C    6′ 11″    So (22.7mpg,10.2ppg,3.7rpg)
  • 40    D’or Fischer    C    6′ 11″    Jr (27mpg,10.8ppg,6.2rpg)

2005 (24-11; 8-8)

  • 1    Luke Bonner    C    7′ 0″    Fr  (4.2mpg,1ppg,1rpg)
  • 34    Kevin Pittsnogle    F/C    6′ 11″    Jr    (19.3mpg,11.9ppg,3.7rpg)
  • 40    D’or Fischer    C    6′ 11″    Sr (19.2mpg,7.8ppg,4.3rpg)

2006 (22-11; 11-5)

  • 33    Rob Summers    C    7′ 0″    Jr (3.8mpg,0.5ppg,0.4rpg)
  • 11    Joe Alexander    F    6′ 8″    Fr  (3.6mpg,1.3ppg,0.7rpg)
  • 34    Kevin Pittsnogle    F/C    6′ 11″    Sr  (36mpg, 19.3ppg, 5.5rpg)

2007 (27-9; 9-7)

  • 11    Joe Alexander    F    6′ 8″    So   (25mpg,10.3ppg,4.3rpg)
  • 33    Rob Summers    C    7′ 0″    Sr (21.6mpg,4.4ppg,4.6rpg)
  • 43    Jamie Smalligan    C    7′ 0″    Jr  (14.4mpg,5.4ppg,3.2rpg)
    (Side bar: It’s almost shocking that Smalligan started for Huggins last year and saw his minutes only decrease by 3 per game while his scoring and rebounding numbers were basically cut in half. The drops in his shooting percentages are also remarkable: 50% to 30% and 45.6% to 18.3% on three pointers)

Beilein never had more than 3 guys 6’8″+ on his roster at West Virginia, for comparison Michigan State has 6 this year (Gray, Herzog, Ibok, Morgan, Roe, Suton). Michigan has four on the roster this year Cronin, Gibson, Puls, and Sims (Puls is only a walk on so maybe this could be considered 3). Of course there are still questions swriling about Cronin’s health and whether he will be cleared to play. If he is not cleared, there is only one true center on the team.

First off these lists prove that he has never really had a stable of big men. And even then there are a lot of names on this list that I wouldn’t even call true post players. If you cross Pittsnoggle, Alexander, and Smalligan off the list as not “true big men” you are left with one or two true post players per year.

The argument of course is that the Big Ten is a more physical conference than the Big East which tends to be more of a guards conference. This may be true to an extent, but what dominant big men are in the Big Ten this year?  B.J. Mullens at Ohio State and Michigan State’s stable of big men come to mind. DJ White, Sean Pruitt, Kosta Koufas, Brian Butch, and Dan Coleman are just a couple of the dominant post players that moved on. While there are certainly other post players that will step up this year, 8 of the top 15 (6 of the top 7) rebounders in the Big Ten last year  have moved on.

So would it be optimal to have more depth in the post? Probably. Will it be critical that this team can master Beilein’s 1-3-1 zone to negate some size concerns? Definitely. It will also help that Michigan has two solid rebounders on the wings in Manny Harris (4.2/game) and DeShawn Sims (5.4/game).  Overall I think Beilein is in a situation that he is more familiar with how to adapt to than last years problems and we should get ready to see a lot of 1-3-1 zone this year.

  • Jimmy

    Interesting point. Maybe the loss of Epke/recruitment of bigs is less of a priority after all. That said, I still would like to recruit some marquee post players…honestly, Lubick was my ideal post recruit. Big, and skilled in every aspect. Hopefully we’ll get another like him someday.

  • Brick

    Did something get announced regarding Cronin? Apparently he has some sort of hip injury but there is all sorts of internet chatter that he is redshirting. How you don’t diagnose a problem until the day practice starts is beyond me.

  • The problem has been talked about all summer. He’s had hip issues, no one is sure if he’s going to be cleared or not. Or whether he will red shirt or not.

  • College basketball is a guards game. If you play zone and your big guys draw charges you will do good against most teams. The real key for michigan is outside shooting. Last year especially late in the season teams knew they could collapse on Manny snd michigan would not score much. Hopefully the freshmen like Zack and Stu can hit when Manny and Grady drive and draw the defense. If this happens there should be fewer scoreless stretches which killed us last year. Having good bigs always helps but a great inside out offense wins games. Teams have to pick their poison. A good zone helps too.

  • Blazerine

    You make a great point cocerning the lack of bigs.
    I can’t wait to see the team this year and witness the improvement. Losing Coleman…was probably addition by subtraction in the grand scheme of things. Manny, DeShawn, Kelvin, Anthony, Gibson, Merritt, Lee, all have a year in the system under the belt and you add in some guys who can shoot the ball (Douglass & Novak) and don’t forget Laval at half-way and the conference isn’t exactly loaded this year…I don’t think 15-17 wins is out of the question.


  • BBall

    Great breakdown! Thanks Dylan. Hadn’t really thought about this team in those terms.

    2 Cents: It sounds like part of Bielien’s philosophy is if you shoot a great percentage, rebounding becomes less important. Also, if you can shoot well from the perimeter and make effective cuts, you can create space for ‘smaller’ more agile/athletic post players to operate effectively down there. Plus, long shots tend to have longer rebounds, making the 3 and 4 spots more important rebounders.

    All that said: Paging Angus Brandt! Please come to Michigan!

    OT: Speaking of the zone, how does the 1-3-1 work? i.e. who lines up where/what is the theory behind it?

  • Pingback: Will Barrett to Princeton | UM

  • *BBall* —

    contrary to popular belief, Rebounding is important in Beilein’s philosophy/philosophies (I WILL NOT SAY THE WORD “SYSTEM”!!!! — FOR OBVIOUS AND NOT SO OBVIOUS REASONS!!!!). I have personally researched this going back to the 2002-03 season and as far as Defensive Rebounding is concerned IT ACTUALLY IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT (HIS TEAMS HAVE A SICK WINNING PERCENTAGE WHEN THEY WIN THE DEFENSIVE REBOUNDING BATTLE AND AN ATROCIOUS WINNING PERCENTAGE WHEN THEY LOSE THE DEFENSIVE REBOUNDING BATTLE!!!!)!!!! Offensive Rebounding has been a mixed-bag as far as effect is concerned (least “important”) and Overall Rebounding stat. is the second most important indicator/correlation/causation behind the Defensive Rebounding one (I have the numbers to prove it). It is true obviously the better you shoot (i.e. more shots you make) then not surprisingly the less frequent the Rebounding opportunities come. Peace.


  • BBall

    seriously? Did I say anything about defensive rebounding?
    obviously rebounding helps you win games.
    So does dribbling without traveling and passing well and playing good defense.
    “If you shoot well, rebounding becomes less important”
    Any stats on opponents shooting percentage? If they shoot poorly, whether that is because you are playing good defense or they just can’t shoot, there are more defensive rebounds available. Not sure why you are so fired up about this.

    It has been widely publicized that Beilein has focused in the past on low turnovers and shooting a high percentage while employing a 1-3-1 zone on D.

    Tom Izzo he is not.

    Also – we’re talking about the impact of a true center in Beilein’s offensive and defensive philosophies. Any insight, or just angry about defensive rebounding?