2011-12 Report Card: Jordan Morgan

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Michigan 56, Ohio State 51- 31
Jordan Morgan started the 2010-2011 season with very low expectations. A redshirt freshman at the time, Morgan had yet to step foot in a Michigan uniform and was a relatively unknown commodity out of University of Detroit Jesuit. But after outperforming nearly anybody’s expectations his first year in blue — he averaged nine points and 5.4 rebounds and started every game — expectations rose tremendously for the 6-foot-8 redshirt sophomore this season.

In reality, with the departure of Darius Morris, it was unfair to assume that Morgan would improve by leaps and bounds offensively as a sophomore. Morris and Morgan had obvious chemistry on the pick and roll, and Morgan was the benefactor of countless highlight-reel passes from Morris. It would take some time to gel with a new point guard in Trey Burke. Fair or not, Morgan was still expected to produce at a high level and to take strides forward. His season was a bit tumultuous but when all was said and done, his numbers didn’t look too different from last season — 7.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

The Good

Two point shooting: While Morgan did take 49 fewer shots this season than he did last season, he was equally proficient around the basket. Morgan shot 61.9 percent from inside the 3-point arc, good for second in the conference. Last season, he was at 62.7 percent. Also like last season, a majority of his buckets were either dunks or layups. Still, Morgan has continued to prove that he can finish around the basket — a quality that the Wolverines certainly needed from their only true post player this season and one they will continue to benefit from in the coming years.

Discipline & Fouls: With fellow big man Jon Horford out for the season with a foot injury, Morgan became Michigan’s only true option at center. In other words, if Morgan got in foul trouble, the Wolverines interior offense and defense was in trouble. That was unfortunate news given Morgan’s freshman track record with foul trouble.

Morgan averaged 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes as a freshman, fouling out of two games and finishing 14 with four fouls. As a sophomore he brought that average down to 3.9 fouls per 40 minutes, never fouled out and picked up four fouls in just six contests. Morgan still picked up some cheap ones – who doesn’t in the Big Ten? – and his block numbers regressed somewhat but he made definite improvement on a team that values avoiding fouling as much as any.

High energy:  It’s no secret that Jordan Morgan isn’t the biggest of big men in the Big Ten. Most nights, he’s the smaller man in the middle. John Beilein stressed more than once this season that in order for Morgan to be most effective, he’s got to bring high energy. High energy can mean anything from aggressive rebounding on the offensive glass to tough defense. This year, Morgan took strides in those and many other intangibles that can’t be seen on the stat sheet. His offensive rebounding numbers were up from last season, and his defense, which was average at best during his freshman campaign, showed signs of serious improvement against some of the nation’s best centers.

Room for Improvement

Scoring variety: Morgan wasn’t recruited as a guy who would receive the ball in the paint and score on a regular basis. Still, Michigan would like to see him develop some type of post game. In his freshman season, nearly all of his buckets came on layups or dunks. This year wasn’t much different. Morgan doesn’t need to be a jack-of-all trades post player in the mode of Jared Sullinger but just one consistent go-to move could be a game changer. If Morgan is going to become an elite big man in the Big Ten, he has to improve on his ability to score in different ways in the paint whether it’s a face up jumpshot, baby hook or anything else.

Free Throws: Morgan shot just 56.2 percent from the line as a freshman. As a sophomore, he shot just 50.8 percent and 46.2 percent in Big Ten games. On top of that, Morgan got to the line 12 times fewer (61) than his freshman season (73). Most would figure that a full year under Morgan’s belt would only help improve his confidence at the line. That wasn’t the case this year. Expect Morgan to spend plenty of time at the charity stripe this offseason.

Pick and Roll Chemistry: With Darius Morris at the point, Morgan thrived in the pick and roll. The two made it look easy. Michigan’s pick-and-roll was effective throughout the 2011-12 season but more of the scoring load was shouldered by Trey Burke. Morgan showed flashes of chemistry but never seemed to get the ball on the roll quite as often as he did with Morris. Morris and Burke are very different players both in style and stature but there’s little doubt that an off season in the gym will improve the Burke to Morgan connection.

Michigan 56, Ohio State 51- 23

Shining Moment: On a night where all eyes of the college basketball world were focused on Ann Arbor, Morgan had arguably the best game of his career. Morgan poured in 11 points and collected 11 rebounds en route to his first career double-double against Jared Sullinger and No. 6 ranked Ohio State. Morgan held Sullinger to 14 points on just 6-of-14 shooting and the 56-51 win was pivotal in Michigan’s late-season run to a conference title. (Runner Up: A season-high 16 points [7-of-11 shooting] and six rebounds in a valiant 66-64 comeback loss at Arkansas.)

Bottom Line

Overall, it wasn’t quite the year most — including Morgan himself — would have hoped for. Morgan was slightly less efficient offensively, used fewer possessions and turned the ball over more often than a year ago. His rebounding numbers on both ends saw a slight up-tick and he avoided foul trouble but that led to a rather insignificant increase in playing time. The (slight) offensive regression can be attributed to the loss of Darius Morris but also Morgan’s inability to expand his offensive game. Morgan and Burke did make strides throughout the year, and the two should continue to do so heading into next year.

Jordan Morgan will be one of the only returning pieces in a 2012-13 front court that will feature a multitude of fresh faces. Zack Novak and Evan Smotrycz are gone and they’ll be replaced by Jon Horford, Mitch McGary, Max Bielfeldt and Glenn Robinson III. The frontcourt dynamics will shift but how much Morgan’s role shifts remains to be seen on a number of internal and external factors.

With so many question marks in the front court, it’s probably safe to bet that that Morgan can provide a solid rebounding presence and finish at a 60% rate around the basket. There’s room for that player in just about any rotation.

Grade: B

  • Nickpelham

    Good detailed analysis. However, I think Morgan has been the most valuable player on the team for the previous two seasons. Think about it – what if he hadn’t come through with his rebounding, defense, and maybe most importantly his screening during the last two years? There is no one else on the roster who can do what he does and as unselfishly as he does them. I think you undersold his defense as well. For me, his most valuable asset that goes unnoticed is his screening. How many jump shots have went in the last two years because of his screening off the ball either at the top of the key or on the wing prior to ball reversal? A+ for JoMo.

  • Bosstothemax88

    Dylan, are there going to be season highlight videos for each player again?  Those were great and I am hoping that you will have them this year.  I believe that Jordan Morgan has played better than anyone has expected, however, he missed a TON of layups and short shots that will prevent him from being a good big man in the best conference in the nation. Grade- C+

  • section13row15

    I’m with Nick. Not only his defense and screening but Trey Burke flat out missed J-Mo on flashes to the hoop that D-Mo would have hit him on everytime. He’s unselfish and gets himself into good position, to me it’s on the rest of the team to get him the ball more. 60% of the time he touches it, it goes in-that’s smart basketball in my mind.

  • Mattski

    Love Jordan Morgan and agree that–great piece here notwithstanding–his D deserved more mention. Looking forward to seeing next year’s squad outrun other team–should really help with reliance on the three. Also looking forward to night where it rains 3s from every spot on the floor, with JoMo and McGary challenging other teams to pick their poison should they cheat outside. Hey, we are even going to be hauling down rebounds! 

    • Mattski

      Alright–HOW do I edit a piece that I’ve sent off? Did someone say that was possible?

  • Mac

    @Dylan:disqus  Is Horford going to be granted the redshirt?

  • Wayman Britt

    I like the grade of B, seems fair. 

    Morgan To Do List This Summer
    1. Practice going up strong
    2. Do the Mikan drill 1 hour a day so to not miss puppies
    3. Develop stronger wrists so to not lose balls in the paint
    4. Practice drop step move

    • Grant_Garde_Judge

       The Mikan Drill?!   I love it.   I just demonstrated this drill to my 8 year old son and didn’t miss a shot.   I gave up after 50.   My muscle memory is still good after doing this drill repeatedly as a kid.   Practice does indeed make perfect.

      Jordan has a lot of things to work on to increase his offensive productivity, but I will give him tons of credit for developing his left hand over last year’s off season.   Last year at this time I claimed that Bacari should duct tape Jordan’s right hand to his body and make him shoot with his left hand near the basket.    He must’ve done it.   Jordan utilized his left hand a lot more around the basket and looked comfortable doing it.   A little lefty jump hook would be a nice addition to his skill set to complement his righty jump hook.   As Wayman B. mentions, a strong drop step move would also be a very effective low-post move to practice. 

      He’s developing, so I’m sure we’ll see another step forward next year.

  • ForeverBlue

    I think I’d give Morgan a higher grade than a B.  As noted, his lack of offense was directly related to Burke’s game.  More importantly, he kept himself on the floor while playing, for the most part, tough physical basketball and knowing that he couldn’t get in foul trouble.  With a little more depth next season, Morgan won’t have to play “careful.”  I think he’s going to surprise people, especially if paired with Mitch who is a willing passer.

    • MichiganMan23

      Yes I agree.  We also forget that Morgan has been at Michigan for 3 years due to the fact that his freshman year he redshirted.  His sop year was his offical first year as a player and played so well with Morris because he had been praticing with morris his freshman year.  So when you saw him out there with morris that was with a whole year of pratice between morris and morgan.

  • P-nickel

    D-, he did not grow any from the previous season.

  • Anthony Graham

    He’ll be a double double guy next year in points and rebounds.

    Keep working on your game big fella and at the end of your senior year you’ll hear your name called in New York!!!!