2011-12 Player Previews: Bench Depth

Dylan Burkhardt
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It’s still early but Michigan appeared to have a pretty defined top eight players during its exhibition game on Friday evening. That group included Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Tim Hardaway Jr., Evan Smotrycz, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, Trey Burke and Matt Vogrich.

Carlton Brundidge was the ninth man on Friday and headlines the bench group that could play a role in the upcoming season. With foul trouble, injuries and shooting slumps, anyone in this group could become an important contributor at any moment. For example, Colton Christian’s shot clock buzzer beating jump shot in East Lansing was one of the biggest shots of the season for Michigan. This is also a group where John Beilein could plan to the future look to use a redshirt. Here’s a closer look at Carlton Brundidge, Blake McLimans, Max Bielfeldt, Colton Christian, Eso Akunne and Sai Tummala.

Carlton Brundidge

Brundidge didn’t get much of an opportunity in Michigan’s exhibition game, playing just two minutes, so it’s tough to judge how his role may play out this season. An undeniable talent, Brundidge’s game is predicated on attacking the basket with the ball in his hands — a trait that the Michigan backcourt is mostly lacking. He’s been working on developing his point guard skills, a position that he has rarely played up to this point in his career. He’s perfectly suited to play a microwave type role off of the bench, providing a spark of energy to the Wolverine offense. That being said, Michigan coaches might prefer to use a taller, stronger and more experienced shooter like Vogrich in that role.

Blake McLimans

Last year McLimans was the shooting big man that couldn’t shoot, making one of 19 three point attempts on the season. He has a relatively smooth and quick release, and is reportedly an extremely consistent shooter in practice. Whether it’s a case of the yips or the game moving too fast in live action, McLimans needs to find that three point stroke in games if he wants to make an impact. His offensive and defensive rebounding numbers are both underwhelming for a 6-foot-11 player and his style of play is almost best suited for the four position in Michigan’s offense.

Max Bielfeldt

If McLimans is the oversized four man, Bielfeldt is the stereotypical undersized five. Max is officially listed at 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, but reports out of high school are that his height could be ever so slightly exaggerated. Every Michigan player will tell you that his strength is far from exaggerated. Bielfeldt plays like Beilein wants a five to play, setting screens, rebounding and with the ability to hit a mid range jumpshot. I’m not sure where he fits in the front court mix with Morgan, Smotrycz, Horford and Novak involved but perhaps he’s a guy that Michigan looks too for a more physical style of play. On the other hand, John Beilein hasn’t denied that he could look to redshirt someone this season and Bielfeldt could be a potential candidate.

Colton Christian

Christian was a rebounding specialist at the four position last year when Novak and Smotrycz were unavailable. Christian did a good job on the boards in limited time, grabbing 22 percent of opponent misses and 13 percent of Michigan’s misses, but he was anemic offensively. Christian made just two shots all season – from inside, outside or the free throw line – one of which happened to be this:

Christian spent the summer playing in China with Athletes in Action and could see spot duty for his rebounding once again but, similar to McLimans, he’ll need to prove himself offensively to make any progress up the depth chart.

Eso Akunne

Akunne, a 6-foot-3, 220 pound guard, is now a junior and has the ability to play various spots in the Michigan backcourt in a pinch. He’s not a prototypical fit for any one position but reports are that he’s been productive in practice. If Michigan has to go deep in the bench, he’s a more experienced backcourt option than Brundidge but his ceiling is also a bit lower.

Sai Tummala

A walk-on from Arizona, Tummala should help improve the quality of practices. He’s 6-foot-7 and likely would have had several low to mid-major or Ivy League opportunities had he not chosen to walk-on at Michigan. As a freshman, it’s still unlikely that he plays meaningful minutes this season.

  • Kenny

    Eso also made a critical shot against Iowa last season on the road. 

  • Mattski

    Would like to hear your speculation about redshirting, Dylan. If Vogrich is going to get the minutes over Brundidge, would it make sense to redshirt the latter? How would they stagger him with incoming guards, assuming-say–Stauskas takes a year to develop?

    Looks like Bielfeldt is the prime nominee beyond this, no? But will we need him next year if Horford and Morgan continue to develop, and if we’ve got McGary? 

    Apropos of McGary–what do you think is the likelihood of him needing two years in college to really dominate, but staying only one?  

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      Redshirt situation is tough to guess right now. We’ll figure out more in the next week.

      With Mitch, I think he’ll make an instant impact. I think the chances of him staying for more than one season are greatly limited by the fact that he’s already a year older.

    • mikey_mac

      If Bielfeldt redshirts, he will be in a very tough situation next season as the fifth wheel in a four-man rotation at 4/5. If Eso is really an option this season, Brundidge may be on the outside looking in this year. Novak can play more 2, with Bielfeldt, Morgan, Smot, Horford taking the 4/5 minutes.

  • ColinNer

    Could Colton Christian be red-shirting as a sophomore? It may seem like a stupid question but he wasn’t in uniform for the exhibition and is probably buried on the depth chart.  He was a “full go” at the open practice and didn’t hear of any suspension. Unless if he got injured late in the week, I can’t see why he wasn’t in uniform.

  • Quick Darshan

    I think Brundidge will get minutes because besides THj and Burke, he’s the only one who can create his own shot.

    I think I saw Bielfeldt walking next to Sai Tummala.  They looked about the same height.

    • mikey_mac

      the photo at the top of this post shows their relative heights pretty well.

  • mitch

    From everything I’ve heard CB is not even close to being a Big Ten guard.  I would expect a red shirt.

    • Mattski

      Wonder if you mean not close to being a B1G POINT guard. If he holds serious promise as a player, that might work out just fine.

    • Billiam

      Not a knock on you, but I’d like to know from whom you heard that.  I might be the only person thinking this way, but next time please cite the source.

      My reason for disbelief is that CB was a top 25 player as a sophomore, then top 50 junior year, and still top 100 last year.  No, he’s not THJ, MM, or GRIII.  Nevertheless, dude is rated around where THJ and D-Mo were rated.  This, obviously, tends to contradict your proposition. 

      • Billiam

        Upon further thought, sometimes it is improper to cite a source.  IE, if the source is not supposed to be telling you any information.  In that case, please don’t say anything.

        Again, not trying to come off snarky.  I just want to know your source (if possible).

      • mitch

        a former player of mine is at practice everyday.  i don’t want to say anything else.  i do hope he’s wrong though

  • dustindbo

    No love for Bartelstein or Person?

  • Rkwboo

    Mitch where did you here that cb is not close to being BIG ready?

  • Gotguts33

    one of the managers told me the best player on scout team is constantly Bartelstein and even said you could make an argument he is the best shooter on the team. Dylan have you heard any similar thoughts?