Notebook: “Anything’s possible” for 2016-17 roster

Zach Shaw

In just over a week, Michigan coach John Beilein went from having too many scholarship players to one too few.

But according to Beilein, that number could change again soon.

On Wednesday morning, the team announced that sophomore forward Aubrey Dawkins would leave the program to play for his dad, Johnny, who recently took the head coaching position at Central Florida. Dawkins’ departure is the third transfer release Beilein has granted since the offseason began, as sophomore forward Ricky Doyle and graduating senior guard Spike Albrecht are also seeking to transfer.

Speaking with reporters for the first time since the Wolverines’ 70-63 loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament, Beilein expressed that, though departures are never ideal, the attrition frees up opportunities for all parties involved. He understands Dawkins wanting to play for his father, and that Doyle could use a fresh start on a team with less competition down low.

“The last time we had three transfers, the next year we went to the National Championship game,” Beilein said. “Sometimes it works out well for everyone. It really does. Teams can sort of retool themselves and the young man gets a chance to redshirt and go on and have a really good year.”

While next fall’s team doesn’t return the amount of talent that the 2012-13 unit had, it now has the potential to bring back one player from that squad in Albrecht, who has one year of eligibility left after missing most of his senior season to injury.

Initially, Albrecht didn’t have the opportunity to return, and he and Beilein made plenty of waves when the coach attempted to block Albrecht to transferring to other Big Ten schools. But Beilein removed all transfer restrictions last Friday, and now has a scholarship spot to spare.

Beilein — who noted Wednesday that no teams have contacted him to ask about Albrecht yet — said that his staff is considering all options when it comes to filling that final spot, and Albrecht will be considered.

He also noted however, that Dawkins and Doyle’s roles need to be filled as well, and that might not come from the 5-foot-11 Albrecht, who — though a fan favorite for years — would be the team’s third point guard if he returned.

“I’m always going to measure everything twice so I can cut once and find out what is the best for Michigan basketball,” Beilein said. “The long range of the program, the short range of the program. I’ll make those decisions. If we take hits either way, we take hits either way. I’ve got to do what’s best. That’s the job of the Michigan basketball coach. Not to go against public sentiment, to do what’s best for Michigan basketball.”

Beilein said that, beyond Albrecht, any graduate transfers or even incoming recruits will be considered.

“Anything’s possible,” he said. “We are open to any possibilities that come forward now.”

Recruiting winners

With the Wolverines’ 2015-16 season in the books, the attention turns to next season. Barring an additional recruit, Michigan will bring in four freshman this summer — Xavier Simpson, Ibi Watson, Jon Teske and Austin Davis. Beilein said Wednesday that he’s excited with what all of the recruits bring, and Simpson garnered extra praise.

“He plays the game the right way, he’s an elite passer, and we’re counting on him to come in (to contribute) right away,” Beilein said. “We hope he’s ready to do that.”

Beilein said that Simpson would help relieve Derrick Walton Jr.’s workload at point guard, and has the talent to find his way to the court at the shooting guard position as well.

Hailing from Ohio, Simpson’s drive to compete and take games over reminds Beilein of another guard he got from Ohio five years ago — Trey Burke

“I see the ‘dog’ in him, and I mean that as a positive,” Beilein said when asked if the two share common traits. “We don’t always get that when they come in the door, but I think with him we are with those competitive instincts.”

While the Wolverines’ other three incoming freshmen might not have shown as much ‘dog’ as Simpson, Beilein explained that such a trait is rare. Everyone wants natural winners on their team, but Beilein is also looking for players that, at the very least can become natural winners.

“We try to get to know a kid really before we decide that, but as I said, so few have come in the door with that,” Beilein said. “They come in thinking they know what it takes to win, well they’ve never played in the Big Ten. Just look at the number of freshmen and sophomore that really excel in the Big Ten, that’s not a big number.”

Assistant coaches eyeing upgrades

In addition to Michigan’s three transfers, Beilein admitted that there may be more departures coming for the Wolverines — albeit in the coaching staff.

Multiple members of Michigan’s assistant-coaching trio of LaVall Jordan, Jeff Meyer and Bacari Alexander — which has worked for Beilein for a highly unprecedented six seasons — have been contacted by teams about head-coaching positions. And according to Beilein, such attention is well-deserved.

“There’s some interest from other universities, and I’m thrilled about it,” Beilein said. “I think it’s long overdue. They are really ready to be coaches. If they have the opportunity, I think it’s wonderful.”

Alexander appears to be the most likely of the three to leave. Though nothing is set, Alexander is the most logical candidate for the recent vacancy at Detroit. Alexander played for Detroit and worked on the Titans’ staff from 2001-07.

If he does lose an assistant or two, Beilein said he will be happy for them, and will also embrace the opportunity to get a fresh perspective on the coaching staff in the departing assistant’s place.

“I do not want that to happen, but I understand it,” Beilein said. “It’s almost like putting your roster together — who best fits what we need to fill this team? To recruit, positional development, what do we need?

“The game is changing, what do we need to do to get better?”

Quick notes

  • Beilein said that Moritz Wagner is committed to returning for another season, but may consider playing for the German Junior National team this summer.
  • The coach confirmed that, as of now, every player on the roster is committed to spending July at the well-known ‘Camp Sanderson’ development program run by strength-and-conditioning coach Jon Sanderson.
  • Beilein said that the program is still looking to add at least one more high-major opponent to next season’s offseason schedule, and may consider playing fewer low-major Division-I teams and Division II teams, citing a lower-than-expected RPI at the end of the season as the cause.
  • James Ryan Robinson

    Guess we need a wing now. Josh Jackson?

  • Wayman Britt

    Must give a lot of credit to Beilein. He has shown consistently throughout his career that he will change. He needed to make changes to his roster – check. Needed to change up his assistants – very likely to be checked. He needs his roster to get more athletic – have to wait and see, but I believe he will.

  • NorthernBlue

    Really excited to see what they do with the extra ship. I hope it is Spike, Mullins or an athlete to groom as the next four man. Wouldn’t mind seeing a player with Dawkins ability but much more defensive awareness.

  • AC1997

    Lower than expected RPI? I think RPI is pretty out dated, but the formula is simple. Play crappy teams, get a crappy RPI. Been a problem for a while.

    • The big change this year was a) all of the crappy teams in the Big Ten b) getting Charlotte in the Bahamas. If there aren’t 200+ ranked teams in the Big Ten and Michigan plays another high-major in the Bahamas then the schedule works out fine. Given that Michigan will have to play Rutgers at least once every year, shifts in the schedule are probable necessary.

      • AC1997

        I think the teams that are up for debate are the Houston Baptist, Delaware State, Northern Kentucky, and Bryant. Could some of those be against middle of the road MAC teams? Schools like Bradley?

        • Corperryale

          What people don’t want to admit is that scheduling a middle of the road MAC team could have been deadly. This year’s team, plus a bad loss to Ball State, would not have made the tournament. The dregs of the MEAC and Southland are chosen deliberately to bolster the cop-out “no bad losses” argument come tournament time. They are prepared to take their chances with RPI if it means avoiding an embarrassing NJIT Redux. I’d like to see them play Oakland or Detroit again.

          • AC1997

            Valid point that our resume got a slight boost from “no bad losses”. But at the same time, we only lost to one team outside the top 50 (OSU). From that point of view, they should look at teams ranked 75-150 in the RPI and try to schedule them. While I don’t mind a couple of tomato cans to start the season as a warm-up, here’s what hurt our season:

            — Houston Baptist = #234
            — Delaware State = #345
            — Bryant = #320
            — Northern Kentucky = #296

            Replace even two of those guys with a couple of fringe top-100 teams and suddenly that arbitrary but important “record against top 100 RPI” factor goes way up. I think we could be the likes of UAB, Hawaii, Evansville, etc.


          • I definitely agree that more games in the 75-150 range are important.

            My point is just that you expect the game against Charlotte to be a game against a top-100 team and you expect every Big Ten game to be a top-150ish game. Together that’s two extra sub-200 games.

            Every school is going to play a few of those guarantee games under 200 (MSU played FAU, Ark Pine Bluff, Binghamton, Maryland Eastern Shore) and sometimes it’s hard to get a team in the 100ish range to come to town for a home game.

            I think they’ll look at it though and realize that they made some mistakes this year and try to correct them. They also are only playing a 2 game exempt tourney rather than 3.

          • UMHoopsFan

            Minnesota also was terrible this year, 250+ RPI, and we played them twice. NC State finished a little lower than probably expected. Overall, I’m not convinced that your goal should be top 100-150 teams. Wins against those teams aren’t top-100 wins, a stat that the committee seems to look at. You probably want to play some top 25 teams and a bunch of top 100 teams, then try to avoid too many teams in the 275-350 range. Anyway, some tweaks would be good, but this is also the kind of thing that doesn’t matter so much when you have really good (or really bad) teams.

          • Corperryale

            We are in agreement on this. I wasn’t saying I supported the invariably poor quality of cupcakes they schedule — quite the opposite. I was just stating my interpretation of why they do it. They want to inflate their record and have something to hang their hat on if they otherwise under-perform. There is a big difference between a sub-300 team and a team around 150. And we have 5 decent mid-majors in the state of Michigan — not sure any of them would object strenuously to a bus ride to Ann Arbor.

      • Mattski

        You’ve pointed this out a few times, as has Beilein. Rutgers and Penn State being deplorably bad this year also hurt. The coaches are doing quite sophisticated RPI estimates as they put together the sked, but people would rather pile on and assume Beilein is a simpering idiot; gets tiresome. Just who or what is “simple” is sometimes the question.

        • Settle down now, there’s definitely positive scheduling changes that can be made. Why so much hostility?

          • Mattski

            Not being hostile toward you, as is hopefully obvious. The schedule has just become one more blunt instrument to try to bludgeon Beilein with. I’m just pointing out that you and he have patiently noted that the RPI would have been just fine this year under normal circumstances.

        • MH_20

          1) I think you mean Rutgers and Minnesota; Penn State was about where they normally are.
          2) If you’re asserting that Dylan is insinuating John Beilein is “simple” and an “idiot” then you are way off base.

          • Mattski

            I think you used the word simple.

          • MH_20

            This is your last sentence: Just who or what is “simple” is sometimes the question.

          • Mattski

            Apologies–I removed the annoyed remark.

      • Mark Worthley

        No kidding….the B1G took a weird step back last season, and it was like the flagship schools were dragging an anchor around their neck during selection Sunday.

        Boston College was terrible in the ACC, but it didn’t seem to hurt those teams.

      • AA7596

        Respectfully disagree. U-M largely was at fault for its RPI.

        Let’s remove the tournaments and ACC Challenge from the equation (since those matchups are all to some degree outside a team’s control) and compare U-M’s nonconference schedule to Wisconsin’s.

        Michigan had 6 elective games plus a Gavitt Games matchup. They played SMU, Xavier and five low-majors whom they knew full well would be terrible (Houston Baptist, Youngstown, NKU, Delaware State and Bryant).

        Wisconsin had 7 elective games (since they weren’t in the Gavitt Games). They played 3 high-majors (Oklahoma, Temple, Marquette), 2 mid-majors (UWM and UWGB) and 2 low-majors (Western Illinois and Corpus Christi).

        Now, Wisconsin lucked out a bit in that Corpus Christi was actually pretty solid. But is there any comparing those two scheduling philosophies? Wisconsin played an extra high-major and took on 2 in-state mid-majors. Michigan pretty much just filled out its sked with the five easiest teams it could find.

        And regarding this idea that it’s hard to schedule mid-majors: What are we basing that on? MSU played Eastern and Oakland. Why couldn’t U-M?

      • ChaseGoBlue

        Dylan you have to find insight on any options for Michigan for this open scholarship. Also I’m very said I have to change my Aubrey Dawkins picture that I’ve have as my picture..

    • ChathaM

      I was very happy to see the scheduling comments. The home and home with Cincinnati is a good start. I’d like to see some type of home and home series with Milwaukee, now that Jordan is there. If Bacari were to move to UofD, I’d welcome a series with the Titans. I’d also like to see another home and home with a high quality program set up; something like the ones with Kansas, UConn, and Arizona in past years. With all of that in place (and I realize it isn’t always easy to set up those types of games), you could still play a few very weak teams and have a good non-con schedule.

      • I’d be shocked if Beilein setup home-and-homes with Milwaukee or UD because his former assistants went there. Probably hard for everyone and not really his style.

    • AA7596

      RPI obviously is far from perfect, but it actually performs a critical service: It gets teams to schedule tougher.

      The very fact that the RPI can be gamed is beneficial, at least to fans who want to see more competitive matchups. If U-M plays Oakland instead of Bryant in an attempt to juice its RPI, we’re all better off, since we get to see a game instead of a farce. The tradeoff is tourney seed lines are a little less accurate, but I’ll take that in exchange for better games.

  • Champswest

    I just hope he doesn’t go after a three star freshman that is going to tie up a scholarship for four years. If we can’t get a top quality freshman or grad transfer at a position of need, I would prefer banking the scholarship for 2017 and make that a really solid class.

    • bobohle

      I’m with you all the way in not bringing in a three star freshman to tie up a scholarship for 4 years.

    • Chillax

      Teske is 7’1″. Been waiting for this guy for a while…but he’s just too skinny still for most games. He will get some minutes on lower end teams I would think unless they flat out redshirt him which I could see happeneing

      • MH_20

        Once upon a time, Teske was looked as a guy who could contribute right away and Austin Davis was almost assured to be prepping to improve and get in shape. Now, it seems the opposite is true: Davis shed bad weight by committing to conditioning and improving his game while Teske seems bound for a redshirt.

        • Chillax

          Yeah. Moe coming aboard and Donnal’s emergence seems to have sealed the red shirt.

          • Mattski

            Would be okay if Teske ended up a strong contributor.

    • Justin

      Like Caris Levert?