Michigan’s lone senior wasn’t supposed to be playing his last game at the Crisler Center until next year. A reclassification means the center’s time in Ann Arbor will end Saturday, but it comes with quite the perk: Max Bielfeldt will start against Rutgers and likely command a majority of minutes at his position.
Ricky Doyle has been held out of practice with an illness, meaning Bielfeldt will again have a chance to star during a winter that has featured numerous big moments — especially for a player who was expected to spend most of the season backing up Doyle and Mark Donnal.
There was the offensive rebound and putback against Michigan State in East Lansing to send that contest to overtime, for instance, and when Bielfeldt dove to the court for a loose ball on a possession that sealed Michigan’s win over Ohio State.
“No tears rolling out — yet,” Bielfeldt said. “It’s going to be special.”
Saturday may be Caris LeVert’s last gameday at Criser, too, though that won’t be revealed until after the season. That process has become somewhat of an uncomfortable trend for John Beilein — they’ve had just 15 seniors on the roster over his eight years, fewest in the Big Ten over that span according to Michael Spath of TheWolverine.com.
“It has been a challenge, and it has been a wonderful challenge because I’ve seen guys have to grow quickly,” Beilein said. “Aside from this year, I think we had the best Big Ten record over the last three years going into this year despite that lack of seniors. It has been a challenge, one that sort of snuck up on us. We didn’t expect this, ever.”
“You always worry about retention at this level,” Beilein said. “No matter how happy the team seems, you get surprised some years. … We’d love to have everybody back, including Caris. But if it doesn’t happen, then you’ve got to be able to adjust quickly.” twitter
Beilein said he hopes to limit attrition this offseason. In 2015-16, Wolverines are expected to return Derrick Walton and a strong sophomore core, in addition to the return of D.J. Wilson from redshirting and Duncan Robinson, who sat out this season due to transfer rules.
“You always worry about retention at this level,” Beilein said. “No matter how happy the team seems, you get surprised some years. … We’d love to have everybody back, including Caris. But if it doesn’t happen, then you’ve got to be able to adjust quickly.”
Walton’s season may be over
Derrick Walton won’t dress against the Scarlet Knights, and Beilein said it’s “doubtful” the sophomore guard will return during the Big Ten Tournament.
Walton hasn’t played since Jan. 24 and has been limited for much of the year with foot injuries. He suffered his initial turf toe injury against Villanova in just fifth game of the season and aggravated the foot by overcompensating for the initial sprain.
Though Walton is no longer wearing a boot and participated in warmups before the Maryland and Northwestern games, he hasn’t yet come close to returning to action.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me to put him out there in pain,” Beilein said. “I don’t think any coach would do that.
“I do not think surgery is an option. I think rest and rehab is an option, but I’m not a doctor. I just wish — you don’t know how long it’s going to be. It could be two weeks, it could be three weeks, it could be six weeks — we would’ve put probably a different plan in. … In hindsight, we’d like to do a lot of things.”
Rutgers enters on 13-game losing streak
The Scarlet Knights began their inaugural Big Ten campaign with two wins in their first four games — including a stunner against Wisconsin — but they haven’t won since.
Since topping the Badgers, Rutgers has lost 13 straight, most recently a 10-point home defeat to Maryland.
Michigan won the first meeting between the programs this season, 54-50, in its first game without LeVert. Coincidentally, Doyle missed much of that game with a different illness, one that eventually plagued much of the team.
Deals, activities for fans on appreciation day
The Athletic Department is thanking fans with several perks during Saturday’s game.
Season-ticket holders may purchase additional upper-bowl tickets for $15, a $10 discount, and will receive discounts on M-Den merchandise and pregame concessions.
A face-painting and sign-making station will be open for children on the southwest concourse, and five randomly selected students will have a chance to make a halfcourt shot for $10,000.