Exhibition: Wayne State at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 86, Wayne State 43. Photo Gallery. Press Conference. Austin Hatch Video. Box Score.

Michigan dominated Wayne State on the stat sheet, but head coach John Beilein was quick to reiterate that the Wolverines still have a long way to go before their season opener on Saturday.

“It’s hard to believe we went to Europe and we’re still not further along,” Beilein said after the victory. “But I’m not moving as quickly as maybe I would’ve in past years. I just don’t think we’re there yet.”

Ten different Wolverines saw game action in the first 10 minutes of Monday’s exhibition game, and the Michigan roster continues to be riddled with a unique blend of intriguing options and uncertainty.

“They’re getting better, but it’s so slow.”

“We’re just creeping along,” Beilein said. “I probably over-analyze it and want things to be running perfectly before we move on. We’re moving in the right direction, but it’s really slow.”

Sooner or later, Beilein will have to implement his entire offense and throw his young team into the fire head first and that moment is coming sooner than later. But the good news for Michigan’s head coach is that it’s clear that he has several talented pieces to work with.

Caris LeVert looked every bit the star that most expect him to be, finishing with an easy 16 points and six assists, while Zak Irvin had more above-the-rim finishes than he managed throughout last season. But at the end of the day, the Wolverines were clearly a team with plenty to work on before the season opener.


While Michigan played well, Wayne State was blatantly overmatched. Michigan and Wayne State are both rebuilding rosters that lost most of their top players from last season, but the Warriors are rebuilding a .500 level GLIAC team while Michigan has been deep in the past two NCAA tournaments. Michigan’s statistical domination has to be taken with a grain of salt considering the circumstances.

Statistically, this game was won by Michigan’s defense, something rarely written in this blog last season regardless of competition. The Wolverines held Wayne State to just a 29.6 eFG% and forced turnovers on more than a quarter of its possessions. Michigan cleaned up the glass well — guards and wings combined for 26 of 40 rebounds — and showed promise on the perimeter. Wayne State managed just .63 points per possessions, and most of its turnovers led to easy points on the other end.

Michigan outscored the Warriors 11-2 in points off turnovers, a big reason that the Wolverines were able to score 1.26 points per trip despite shooting just 32% from three-point range. Michigan shot 62% inside the arc with most of those baskets coming at the rim on open dunks and layups — a sure sign that the Wolverine offense is working fairly smoothly.

But all eyes were on the big men, and while they probably deserve a passing grade, Beilein isn’t going to be sleeping soundly at night quite yet.

DJ Wilson was perhaps Michigan’s most impressive player off the bench, finishing with nine points, two rebounds, two assists and a block.

“They’re getting better, but it’s so slow,” Beilein explained after the win. “We just got to keep working, be strong and be efficient with the ball. I love coaching them every day. I think their defense has come a long way, and as their defense gets better, than their thinking will come along.”

All of the bigs can do one or two things well, but it’s clear that at this point no one has the complete package and is ready to pull away. Michigan’s defensive rebounding numbers were solid, but Wayne State simply didn’t have the horses to challenge them on the offensive glass.

John Beilein didn’t pull any surprises in his starting lineup, sticking with Derrick Walton, Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin, Kameron Chatman and Mark Donnal – the same group that started all four exhibition games in Italy over the summer. Spike Albrecht, Aubrey Dawkins and Ricky Doyle were the first three subs off the bench, but 6-foot-9 forward DJ Wilson was perhaps Michigan’s most impressive player off the bench, finishing with nine points, two rebounds, two assists and a block.

Photo: Dustin Johnston

Player Bullets:

  • Caris LeVert: The game looked easy for Caris LeVert in the same ways that it started to look easy for Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas in the past two seasons. LeVert opened the game with a ball screen dish to Mark Donnal, then he hit a pull-up jumper off the elbow, then he buried a three off the pick-and-roll, then he found DJ Wilson rolling to the basket for a dunk a few minutes later. LeVert finished with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting and handed out a team-high six assists in a game where he never had to push the pace past cruise control.
  • Kameron Chatman: Chatman only made two baskets, but he left his fingerprints all over the game in his 25 minutes of playing time. The 6-foot-7 freshman was just 2-of-6 from the floor, but he also grabbed six rebounds and handed out four assists. The scoring will come – he missed his first two threes way long before knocking down one on the secondary break in the 2nd half – but the little things that he does on the court make a huge difference. There was one stretch in the first half where Chatman grabbed four rebounds in close to four possessions and finished the final one off with a terrific outlet pass which led to an alley-oop. Chatman played major minutes, especially in the first half before Beilein started to experiment with more combinations, and he looks like he’ll be a fixture at the four position this season.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin was just 1-of-4 from three-point range, but his physical improvement was evident. His development this season is going to be more similar to Tim Hardaway Jr. than Nik Stauskas. Irvin is significantly more explosive, and his offense this season is going to come off of catch and shoot situations, transition leak outs, back door cuts and straight line drives. The good news for Irvin is that there are a lot of points available in Beilein’s offense by simply doing those four things. Irvin was 4-of-7 on 2-point attempts and also hauled in five rebounds in 29 minutes.
  • DJ Wilson: He’s raw and at times a bit unorthodox, but he’s dripping with potential. DJ Wilson’s development over this season (and the next few years) is going to be a treat to watch. He had a few rough moments (a missed layup, a blocked mid-range jumper and a couple of rough three-point attempts), but he also had plenty of bright spots, including a dunk rolling to the basket, several nice passes, a block helping on a ball screen drive, a made three-pointer and even a ball-screen assist. He’s very skinny and isn’t a true five, but Michigan is going to have to find playing time for him somewhere this season.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton provided a scare when he fell hard on a transition layup attempt, but he returned to the game and Beilein reported that he was only dealing with cramps. Overall, Walton’s performance was fairly nondescript. He was just 1-of-4 from long distance despite some open looks and didn’t record an assist on his way to 11 points. He did grab four rebounds and 6-of-7 free throw shooting, but he didn’t look like a player ready to grab control of the offense.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht provided a great spark off of the bench and demonstrated why Beilein has discussed a two point-guard lineup so often. He took a charge and had three steals including one of his patented swipes after a made basket. He tossed a behind-the-back pass for a transition dunk and even finished a little Eurostep of his own.
  • Mark Donnal: Donnal is the starter until someone takes the job from him, and he is probably the safest option of the bunch — he moves better than Doyle, is stronger than Wilson and taller than Bielfeldt — but he needs to continue to be more assertive physically. He did have a few highlights, including a roll to the hoop, a drawn charge and a steal on a weak entry pass.
  • Ricky Doyle: Doyle showed that he can play physically, hauling in a nice offensive rebound and putback and finished with four points, three rebounds and a turnover which came off of a set play out of a timeout.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins was the first wing player off of the bench, but he played just three minutes and didn’t check back in until there were seven minutes to play in the second half. He looked tentative with the ball in his hands in the half court, but in the second half, he knocked down a pair of open threes.
  • Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt has been the forgotten man in Michigan’s frontcourt rotation, and that wasn’t going to change after he sat the duration of the first half. Then he was the first big man off the bench in the second half and had a put back, a block, a steal and a turnaround jumper.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Rahkman appeared to revert to some of his high-school tendencies and let the game speed up on him just a bit. He had a handful of hard drives to the basket, but was 0-of-3 from the floor in 12 minutes. He still has a unique skillset that I think Michigan will need at some point this season, but there will be some growing pains along the way.
  • Austin Hatch: Hatch’s incredible recovery continued on Monday with another powerful moment as he scored his first point in a college game.

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  • DingoBlue

    While I can’t say my hopes for the season have been raised by this exhibition alone, I 100% believe this team will be fun to watch as the season progresses. Sounds like Beilein is not planning on redshirting anyone, maybe a wait and see approach at worst. From the little I observed,

    – Wilson will find playing time. Either at the 5 or the 4, I think he will find playing time because he can contribute or because he needs to step in from foul trouble, and that will be great to watch.
    – Dawkins is the “hidden gem” of this class. He already seems to know his role, and from what little I saw (I only caught the last 10 min of gametime on stream, rest was audio), he knew his role and filled it perfectly. Seemed to make generally good decisions, although also played perhaps a bit too aggressively on D, though I won’t really fault that.
    – MAAR will get into the lane regularly, a good role player. I think he has a lot to learn at the college level though. Do think if he’s a 4 year player he will go the Jordan Morgan path of underrated 4 year player.
    – Sean Lonergan has the potential to be a great senior leader as a walk-on. Between the interviews we’ve had, and what little I’ve seen in game, he fills a great spot as a walk-on.
    – Caris, Zak, and Derrick all seem to be comfortable enough to be able to help lead the team. One game is not much, but whatever their roles end up being this year (distributor vs. scorer) I think they have enough chemistry to help carry us through some close games early in the nonconference season.

    • John

      Agree. I want to see more of this team…need about 5-7 games to get an idea of what each player can do at this level. Wilson shouldn’t necessarily bulk up but get stronger.
      He can play some at the #5 depending on the opponent but I see him basically as an athletic #4 who looks like he can do a bit of everything. Glad to have him healthy. I hope JB doesn’t just get him worn down playing on the block. I think he is a gazelle and should be used accordingly.
      Agree on MAAR. Agree on Dawkins but need to see more. Going to be fun to watch but expect this team to take a few non-conference lumps against the elite.

      • Seth B

        The only issue with Wilson at the 4 is that he looked INCREDIBLY lost on defense. He really had no idea how to rotate or who to guard.

        That will definitely come, but it was painfully obvious that he’s not ready to play the 4 at that end. 5 he wasn’t fantastic but he knew his assignments for the most part.

        • Trask

          really tough to learn multiple positions as a freshman.

          usually coach B likes to slide players in to only one position as a freshman, and then teach them a 2nd position in year 2.

          Saw burke play the 1/2 in year 2.
          stauskas play the 2/3 in year 2.
          McGary play the 4/5 in year 2.

          I think this year coach B just has so many versitile players that he’s really pushing player to learn multiple positions. so DJ is seeing 4/5, MAAR is seeing 1/2. wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Donnal is learning the 4 as well this year.

  • kam

    DJ wilson is gonna be gooooooood..

  • Kenny

    I would assume that Doyle is not 100% yet and he will push Donnal. Wilson looks good and he has chance to be really good in a couple of years.

  • GregGoBlue

    Also, lest we forget this player bullet: Andrew Dakich showing great promise as the undisputed leader of the Bench Mob once again this season.

  • DJ Wilson does a real nice job keeping his head up and seeing the court. He’ll be a lot better player with some meat on those bones. You can easily see that he doesn’t want contact with anything that he can see coming.

    Having been real skinny myself ….. many years ago ….. i’m empathetic.

    • Nick

      Is DJ really that skinny? I understand he has to get a lot stronger, but he’s not like Nik his freshman year. He’s got a little bulk.

      • Yeah, I think he is. He’s way broad across the shoulders, but that jersey will become a lot more filled out than it is now. I also think that when it’s all over, out of this class, Wilson will be the guy everyone mentions first with Chatman a close second.

  • Champswest

    Wilson is quick and can elevate without a running start. He definitely has some skill.
    Max didn’t get much playing time, but he looked very comfortable and was quite productive.
    Irvin looks like a combination of Stauskas and Robinson.

    • kam

      I don’t see any glenn in irvin… He’s not half the athlete. Tim imo is a better comparison.

      • John

        I think Irvin, GR3 and THJ are all good athletes but they are all different. Irvin isn’t a high player but he has pretty good quickness for his size. His skills overall as a basketball player seem more impressive than both THJ and GR3.
        If I wanted a track and field athlete then I would pick GR3. Athleticism doesn’t necessarily translate into high jumping. LeVert is a great athlete but he ins’t as impressive leaping as GR3 & THJ.

        • BHJ

          Did you see Aubrey Dawkin’s springs? There was one play where we got a quick glimpse. I really think he and Wilson are going to surprise folks

        • kam

          Glenn is much more of a high flyer. And yes Irvin is far more skilled than Glenn and Tim. caris just is veryyyyyyyy quick.

        • NorthernBlue

          Caris is more of a long jumper than a high jumper… He has a herky jerkyness and change of direction ability the others were not capable of.

  • BHJ

    My thoughts:

    Overall Team: Though they were a little lax vs perimeter
    shots they defended the dribble well making it hard for Wayne State to
    get into their sets. Their team defense looked really good overall.
    They may drop off a bit on their perimeter shots depending on how well
    Dawkins shoots, but that may make them rely on Steve’s favorite dribble
    and kick plays and that’s a good thing IMO. They look like they already
    have good chemistry.

    Irvin: Looks like he
    expanded his game. His handle looked better and he seemed stronger,
    trying to rebound more and not just hang out on the perimeter. His shot
    is still streaky but he’ll likely make the expected jump in his
    sophomore year.

    Dawkins: Might out play
    Irvin. His stroke is pure, even on his free throws….He seems to
    understand the game and is very athletic. Steve, did you notice his
    hops??? I’m super excited about this kid.

    Rahkman: Was
    playing way too fast and doesn’t seem to have an outside shot
    whatsoever. He needs the most improvement. He’s lucky we’re light on
    ball handlers because he looked like a potential red-shirt guy to me in
    this first game.

    Spike and Walton were solid with spike
    showing a great feel for getting in passing lanes and getting rips.
    Walton still rebounds incredibly well for a guard of his size and he’s
    worked on his outside shot too. He shot over 40% from 3 last year and
    looks like it’s even better.

    Caris held back a bit and
    will be as good as advertised. He didn’t rush ANYTHING and led in
    scoring without forcing the issue. He creates his own shots, showed
    great outside stroke and great athleticism on a couple dunks.

    Wilson: Looked super shaky at the beginning but once he settled
    down, I was VERY EXCITED about his potential. He’s rail thin but super
    long and has a serious desire to block shots. Like Steve said, he has
    some nice athleticism and can shoot the three, put the ball on the floor
    and dribble and if he works on his timing, he’ll be able to finish at
    the rim. People keep saying the team is short but with Wilson has the
    potential to play taller with his popping 7’3″ wingspan. Don’t be
    surprised if he’s the starter before year’s end cuz I think his upside
    is tremendous!

    Donnal and Doyle: might surprise a lot of
    people. Doyle looks very big and has a quicker jump than Mitch McGary.
    He doesn’t run the floor as well but he took up a lot of space. Donnal
    seemed to have a tiny bit more upside than Doyle because he moves
    better, especially in the defensive post. Doyle might be more
    physical.especially Doyle. I think our front line has potential to be a
    good bit better than it has been in a few years. We won’t miss Horf as
    much as I feared when he decided to transfer.

    Played solid but was a little underwhelming based on all the hype.
    Maybe it was nerves but he air balled a couple threes badly before he
    swished a beautiful three in the second half. I can’t tell how well he
    shoots based on this performance. He’s better than I thought off the
    dribble though with a nice first step for his size especially going
    left. He’s undoubtedly the starter at the 4 and I’m keeping my eye on

    There’s not a lot to mention about the bench
    guys but Max B moved a lot better than I expected given his offseason
    surgery, the Austin Hatch story is cool, Dakitch got zero PT though and I
    thought Coach B should have hooked him up with at least 30 seconds!

  • Mattski

    Three things standing out for me as huge signs of hope that the team exceeds expectations. One, there is defense. Two, Kamchat is very for real. Three, DJ Wilson, who a number of the pundits derided, has all the immediate promise and more that a FEW people thought they saw in his videos. With the center-by-committee sweepstakes expanded to four players, I begin to believe that despite Beilein’s nervousness, things may be alright.

    • Mattski

      Lotta great posts here, btw. Appreciate everyone’s observations.