Report Card: Zack Novak

Dylan Burkhardt

Previously: Stu Douglass (B-)

Zack Novak

106.0 14.0% 28.7 6.7 3.5 1.4 50.5% 34.4%

The Good

  • Shooting
    Zack can definitely shoot the three and he hit enough big shots this year to prove it. Zack shot the ball well at the beginning of the year and then hit a wall through the middle of January. The Big Ten season clearly wore him down but he bounced back well down the stretch. Zack loves the corner three and when he’s open he’s a good bet to knock it down. I don’t think he is quite as good at creating a good look for himself as someone like Stu Douglass but he did shoot a higher percentage than Stu.
  • Hustle Plays
    It’s hard to quantify something like this but there is no denying that Zack has a nose for the basketball. It seemed like Zack was always the first one to a 50-50 ball or would manage to tip out a rebound despite giving up half a foot to the opponent. These hustle plays are the reason that Zack led the team in minutes per game during conference play (13th in the conference, 2nd highest average for a freshman) and continues to see the floor despite match-up problems.
  • Mental Toughness
    This is a bit hard to distinguish from the hustle plays but Zack was tough. He had the attitude that he wasn’t going to take crap from anyone and he was going to leave it all on the floor. He begged to go back in the game after Alex Legion bloodied him and he was a key cog in both of Michigan’s miracle comebacks. Not to mention the fact that most 6-foot-4 freshmen don’t play 30+ minutes per game in the most physical conference in the country at the power forward spot. Zack has the attitude that the coaching staff loves and I have no doubt that he will become a leader on this team.

The Bad

  • Versatility
    Similar to Stu Douglass, Zack needs to add a few more elements to his game. Right now on the offensive end he isn’t much more than a spot up shooter. Zack showed flashes of a little bit of mid-range game here and there but it really isn’t in his repertoire. He doesn’t need to be Manny Harris but if he can do just a little more he will be much more dangerous.
  • Physical Ability
    It’s hard to point to negatives on the production side when you look at Zack. He basically did about everything that you could expect. The bottom line is that his ceiling is limited by his height and athleticism. If he was a little taller, faster, or quicker you would have a completely different player. Instead he is stuck at 6-foot-5 — hopefully with some work in the S&C program he can continue to improve athletically.
  • Position
    Zack can probably play the 2, 3, or 4 on this team but he probably isn’t a good fit for any of them. The mantra goes: you are what you can guard. Right now I’m not sure Zack can guard any of those positions that well. He’s too short to guard the four and probably too slow to guard the two or three. This is going to be the biggest problem for Zack going forward — where does he play?

Shining Moments

  • vs. Duke – 14 points, 26 minutes, 4-7 3pt FG
    This was Zack’s coming out party with four three point makes on the biggest stage. The most important shots were the back-to-back threes that turned a three point deficit into a lead that Michigan would never relinquish. DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris carried the team that day but Zack Novak gave them the lift that pushed them over the top.
  • vs. Minnesota – 36 minutes, 18 points, 6 rebounds, 6-10 3pt fg, and 2 assists
    Michigan was in a familiar position, their backs were up against the wall and Minnesota was headed to Ann Arbor. A loss would have ended likely Michigan’s NCAA tournament chances and Minnesota was no slouch. Zack came to play and knocked down a season high six three point shots for a game high 18 points in a smooth Michigan win.

The Future

Where does Zack play down the line? I would assume that he will get some minutes backing up Manny next year at the three, 5-10 minutes per game. I would also assume that he still plays some four, especially against smaller teams, maybe 15 minutes per game. There is also the chance that Zack could play the two-guard where he played for the first half of last year. Essentially his versatility in terms of position is his greatest strength as well as his greatest weakness.

Zack seems unlikely to play 30+ minutes per game next year but I just have a hard time picturing the coaches keeping him off the floor. I don’t care what influx of talent Beilein brings in, it will be hard to knock Zack out of the starting line up and at least the rotation. It seems like there is always a spot for hustle, heart, and shooting in the John Beilein system.

Final Grade

Some people were a little surprised that I only gave Stu a B- but I think when everything plays out it will make sense. I don’t want to be accused of grade inflation and while I mentioned expectations in the first post but it’s more or less a comprehensive measure and expectations are just one part.

Final Grade: B. Even though he didn’t produce in the scoring column every night I don’t think this team wins nearly as many games without him in the lineup. Zack essentially was expected to be a spot contributor at best and by the end of the year you couldn’t pull him off the court.

  • Tom Too

    Loved watching this guy battle this year. When Griffin dunked on him in KC, I gave more props to Zack than Griffin because of what it took to stand there and attempt to take the charge. Really enjoyed the hustle…more than the clutch threes.

  • JDS

    A shot of Novakaine!!!!

  • Ken in Vegas

    With Grady gone, Zach is my new favorite player. He truly plays like a junior or senior already, and I’m sure that he has gained the respect of everybody on that team. I look forward to seeing how Zach improves his game and how he will continue to contribute as depth builds. Either way, I’m very proud to have him on our team and know he will set an example in grit, hustle, and tenacity for the incoming freshman to follow. I do think that Vogrich is going to be a more athletic and versatile version of Zach though and could eventually take his minutes.

  • Dave

    i noticed a lot towareds the end of the year that zach would get the ball at the top of the key off a nice pick hand off from one of the bigs, especially noticed it with gibson and it looked like he had a decent opening to drive to the lane off the curl but never truly did, he would just pass it along…………im sure thats something that the coaching staff has noticed and has or will be addressing…meaning that he needs to drive hard to the lane and get some points attacking the bucket, and i feel he can be affective because he is a big body and should be able to fend off any pressure after the curl….

    if driving doesnt work then maybe the mid range game comes into play here……….and i did here beilein talking about people working on mid range games…….it sounds like beilein has addressed some very important needs for people to work on over the off season

  • Josh B

    It’s great to see that Novak is the type of kid Beilein will recruit. Dylan really said it all, but I was impressed with how Novak competed all year. He came in a played PF…PF! That’s just unreal for a 6-4/6-5 freshman.

    Novak showed great aptitude in the 1-3-1 and his ability to guard multiple positions was extremely beneficial in the switching man-to-man defense. He’s not going to win any defensive player of the year awards, but I felt like he was our most competent defender last year.

    Just an opinion on Vogrich: I would be surprised to see him take too many minutes from Novak. Vogrich for Stu, maybe. LLP, sure. Vogrich (and plenty of guys on the current roster) lack the defensive tenacity and physicality of Novak.

  • Ken in Vegas

    I think it’s too early to predict the physicality of Vogrich. Sure you can look at his high school film, but we weren’t exactly talking about Novak in that way before he showed up.

  • Giddings

    Actually Ken, I started getting curious as to Zack’s physicality after reading the interview he did for UMHoops last summer ( The part about guarding Luke Harangody really caught my eye, especially since Zack managed to outscore him 33-27! If there’s one guy that uses his body and physicality better than anyone in the nation, it might be Harangody.

  • Walt

    Anybody else reminded of Dane Fife when you watch Zack? If Zack turns out like Dane that would be cool (and we would be even with Indiana).

  • Alex G

    I’d like to demand a recount:) Novak was great and I have a lot of praise for what he brought to Big Blue this year, but I think his grade should be flipped with Stu’s and the reason is defense. I think for the most part their offense was a wash but on the defensive end Zack was outmatched in size and athleticism most nights and the way he tried to counteract that with sheer determination and grit was admirable & inspiring, but in the end, despite his best efforts, I think he struggled a bit on the defensive side of the ball. On the other hand, I felt like Stu was one of the better defenders on the team by the end of the year…he was fairly solid in man, and in particular I thought the 1-3-1 was Michigan’s best D when it was clicking and that it was at its best when Stu manned the top of the key making it really difficult for teams to reverse the ball. Because of that, I just think Stu was the more complete player this year and therefore deserving of the better grade. Can we find some extra credit for Stu so he can bring that grade up??? Again, I’m thrilled Novak is a Wolverine and I love what he brings to the team, but since we are talking grades I just thought I’d throw my two cents in…

  • Tom, Also

    I agree with Alex G. Novak is a warrior. However, he got a little worn down and rightly so – no 6’4″ freshmen should be guarding B10 PFs. But, Novak did, and it wore him down, not his fault but that’s life.

    Something I don’t understand is the assertion that Stu/Zack’s “lack of versatility” is such a bad thing that must be improved upon.

    These guys are what they are. They aren’t going to be slashers that finish at the rim. They aren’t going to develop post games. They aren’t going to put on 30 pounds of muscle. I just don’t understand these expectations and I worry that it is going to lead to drastic disappoint next season.

    Wanting Manny to develop a mid-range game – that’s an expectation. Wanting Stu to continue to work on his handle in preparation for some PG minutes – that’s an expectation. But wanting these guys to turn into different players?! That’s an unrealistic expectation.

    And Novak is such a unique case. He played out of position all year long. None of us really know how he can or does perform in his natural position and thus what he really should be working on (other than growing 4 inches to continue to play the 4).

  • coachbsj

    No way he only gets 5-10 minutes next year. No one brought their lunch pale and did more of the dirty work than Zack. He will be one of the glue guys next year and I have no doubt his mid range game will be an emphasis this summer. Love this kid, a true gamer.

  • All fair points about Zack versus Stu. It was really close, and maybe I was a bit harsh on Stu… I still think Zack was a little more important to the team though.

    RE: Versatility — No Zack or Stu are not going to become different players. They still need a little more to their game. Stu made 19 2pt shots, Zack made 20. Even for a three point specialist that’s a tiny number. I look at a guy like Matt Gatens, who you think of as a shooter, he does a remarkable job getting to the line. I’m not saying they need to redefine themselves but they certainly can improve in other areas.

    Also, I wasn’t saying Zack would get 5-10 minutes. I was talking about at each spot on the floor specifically. Essentially he will force himself onto the floor — somewhere, somehow.

  • hambone

    i think the two consecutive threes he hit against duke were the two biggest shots of the entire season – – frankly, if we don’t beat duke, i don’t think we have the ncaa tourney chatter that we did… I do realize we made other “big” shots down the stretch (see LLP Minn. and Manny in Clemson) but without that season-defining W, I think at that point a 9-9 michigan gets snubbed for 10-8 penn state… so id agree w the B grade

  • Kenny

    Novak did an incredible job for his assignment, co sidering what he was asked to do. I still think that Beilein could’ve played Wright and Sheppard a little more at 4, maybe 10 minute total per game and given novak a bit more rest. And he could’ve been more effective on offence and defense.
    Next season I however expect him still playing mostly at 4, since I don’t see peedi being moved to outside and shoots 3s as he did the season before, at least for the majority of the time. I hope that mclimans can contribute 5-10 minutes and wright a little bit too. If novak plays 20-25 minutes he will be more effective when he is on the court.

  • Sheryl

    I found this clip of the end of Zack’s last game his hs junior year. It’s the last few seconds of the game. The game is tied in overtime at the start of the clip. Chesterton in maroon. Watch Zack’s ‘you gotta be kidding me’ look in the replay. Double click the picture to go full screen.
    Also found a video from a baseball game also junior year. #3 maroon.

    Anyone heard of Sandi Marcius? I’m debating whether to stay home and watch the final four or go to a game where he’s on one team and McGary’s on the other. All I know is that he’s a hs senior and athletic big that came here from Croatia less than a year ago. He hasn’t committed as far as I know but I think Purdue is one of the schools high on his list as well as a few out of state. He’s from a LaPorte, IN school which is not far south of New Buffalo, MI.

    Have a great weekend all!

  • Josh B

    Ken – The Matt Vogrich I saw play this year needs a TON of work on the defensive end of the floor. You’re absolutely right though, it is just high school basketball.

  • Alex

    I personally think Novak ends up becoming the perfect 6 man by the end of next season. He will come in first for whoever needs a breather, is in foul trouble or isn’t playing well. His energy and skills are perfect to provide a spark off the bench. Additionally his versatility helps for this as well, he can basically come in for any player on the court (given one of the bigs can slide to the 5 or one of the guards can slide to the 1). Over the years I think he could really do some damage for us in this role.

  • Tom Too

    Nice point. He would be a great six man and could spell Stu, Manny, Gibson, or Peedi (if JB decided to go with those starters). He would probably still get 25 minutes off the bench. Real tough to speculate how the rotation will work when this college basketball season isn’t even over yet…but it IS fun!!

  • Sam

    You don’t miss much, Dylan, but I’m gonna have to be a bit hard on you here. How could you forget Novak’s career- and season-high 20-point game against Wisconsin (well, that is a rhetorical question, as it was an ugly loss to start Big Ten season)? Maybe you are only choosing two highlights per player, but I still think that ranks in the top two, right behind Duke. I believe he hit 6 threes in that game, tied for his career high.

  • Sam: I’m only going with 2 “shining moments” for each player. He hit 5 threes and pulled down 8 boards in that one for 20 points. I actually had started to write up the Wisconsin game but decided to switch to the Minnesota one because it in a winning effort. They were essentially 2a and 2b.


    In regards to some of you saying that Stu, and Zack shouldnt change who they are, you guys are right. But they DEFINITELY need to really work hard on the other aspects of theyre game. To say Novak should continue to play the 4…..aint gunna happen freinds…not if we want to be a very good team, and make a decent run in the tournament next year. I see Novak playing some decent min at the 2, a decent amount at the 3, and very little at the 4, depending on the matchup. The plays that frustrated me the most with Zack were the ones when he would come off a curl screen inside the freethrow line and dash to the rim and get his shot blocked. Zack is 6’5″ and there is no reason why he shouldnt collect and go up strong and possibly try and dunk the ball, if not dunk please go up strong, and or draw a foul. He and Stu will both get much better in the off season, it goes without question with JB on the sidelines.

    With the way JB is recruiting, I would like for this to be kind of the “UM makeup” if you will, a lineup/roster that is a staple look for us. I understand JB loves shooters from IN, and thats great, I think having guys like that is very important, but on the flipside its all about balance, and we cant get carried away in having a team full of them. And by no means am I categorizing Stu, Zack, or Vogrich. I would love to see Stu, or Zack add a dimension to their game and start driving the lane a bit. But I dont feel that its theyre makeup per say. So with that being said I would think a good way to go about it would be to have no more than 2 of our “shooters” on the court at one time, and I know matchups will arise that will demand possibly more, but just speaking in generalities, and thinking about what type of team could do some serious damage in the tournament, its a team that has versatility, and athletic ability. With two of our shooters solidified, then the rest of our positions have to bring some defense, versatility, and especially some athletic ability. Those other three players could still bring very good shooting to the table as well, but they have to have an elevated level of athletic/versitale ability. I think JB is getting there. However I think there is still some work to do at the 5 position. It might be premature to be saying this, but you watch the final four, and the elite eight for that matter, and you see that there is a level of athletic ability that has to be present on your roster to advance. JB has a very unique style, and I think that is a very substantial advantage, but we still need guys sprinkled in there with athletic ability. We need shooters, there is no doubt about it, but we also need everything else to round out our program. JB is getting there, and I have all the confidence in the world in him. Balance is the key.

  • Giddings

    I think that having Manny this year has shown Beilein how valuable it can be to add an athletic player who can create off the dribble in his system. Manny’s ability to drive and kick led to so many open looks that I think Beilein will make it a priority to have a couple guys each year with that ability.

  • Jay

    Most would think I dont like Zack cause how I want more from him, but its far from the truth. Zack has the intangibles that make a good team great. If he wasnt playing out of position, and actually had a lil more confidence coming off the screen he would of contributed even more as crazy as that sounds. In my opinion he is the ultimate 6th man, a shot of energy & hustle and incredible basketball IQ. Most believe Novak should start..I believe with his versatility and energy, he could be a big boost off the bench next year.


    Agreed Giddings…agreed.

  • Harry K

    Zach played as hard as any player in the entire country this year and his blue-collar work ethic should be an example to all the dukies afraid to get their fingernails dirty. I look forward to seeing just how good Zach can get as he matures and improves.

  • bentley

    I agree that Nowak was a player that Michigan has lacked for some time. Fun to watch, gritty and great attitude. Off topic though – anybody think Lucas or Morgan declares for the draft? I would love to see UNC truck State like they did in December and then hear “lucas declares early.” Some people are starting to say he could be a first rounder. Just curious, because it would dramatically change the scope of our rivalry next year.

  • Sam

    I talked to a kid from GVSU that has some ties with some knowledgeable guys at because he interned there or wrote for them, and he said that a guy told him to not be surprised if Lucas declared if state made a run in the tourney. This was probably two months ago. Whether this is accurate or not I have no idea, but it’s encouraging for us. I don’t see him leaving unless they win, but who knows?

  • Jay

    Just HOPE Lucas doesnt declare. Right now State is cap strapped, if they get an extra scholly that might just be a player you thought UM had a chance at

  • JRose5

    Agree with Jay. Let’s hope they don’t have a scholly free up.

  • Sam

    OK, would you rather have state keep a proven player like Lucas who is a pretty good PG or a guy who is unproven and then be left without a true point guard other than Lucious? I can only think of Zeigler as a guy that we are both going after hard, and he’s not going to be filling that PG spot for state, so I’d be more than happy to see Lucas declare.

  • Alex

    I’d rather see us beat State with Lucas

  • Pingback: Report Card: Manny Harris | UM

  • Jerrad

    I agree with the grade because he was only a freshman. Michigan is a way better team with him on the floor though, and I highly doubt he loses any minutes next year. He’s a freshman defending much bigger guys down low, most of the time the other teams best players (for example-Griffen/Suton), and he did an okay job for being undersized. I can’t wait to see this team next year with the new recruits and what we have in place right now.

  • Pingback: Report Card: DeShawn Sims | UM

  • Pingback: Report Card: Zack Gibson | UM