Three thoughts as Michigan’s roster shuffle continues

Dylan Burkhardt

For what feels like the third time in the last six years, Michigan has seen an eventful offseason.

We saw this in 2010 when the assistant coaching staff was completely re-tooled after a lackluster 2009-10 season and we saw this the very next season in 2010-11 after a first round upset to Ohio when three players left the program the next week.

Now after two terrific NCAA Tournament runs, an injury-ridden disappointment and a lackluster 2015-16 season, the Wolverines are reshuffling their roster and coaching staff once again.

Bacari Alexander and LaVall Jordan are off to the Horizon League with head coaching jobs in hand. Spike Albrecht is headed to Purdue to play as a graduate student and three members of Michigan’s 2014 class will be playing basketball in different colors next season.

The Wolverines still return five starters next season, but there’s little doubt that next season will feel very different. Here are a few thoughts on the departures and shifts over the last few weeks and what they mean going forward.

Recruiting misses come home to roost

The story of Michigan’s three non-graduate transfers is one of recruiting misses. Most recruiting classes have misses, but the five-man class is down to two after two years in the program.

Kameron Chatman was lauded as a massive recruiting success for Beilein, but he showed signs that he couldn’t live up to his five-star status early in his career. His role has gradually decreased over the last two years after he started his freshman year as a starter.

Aubrey Dawkins never clicked on the defensive end and jumped on an opportunity to join his father at Central Florida, a move that’s hard to blame him for after his role regressed as a sophomore.

Ricky Doyle showed the most promise of his career during the November of his freshman year and has battled conditioning issues and sleep-apnea en route to a transfer.

The bottom line is that Doyle, Chatman and Dawkins were recruiting misses. It is hard to argue seriously that any of them would provide starter-quality minutes over the next two years, let alone come close to playing at an All-Big Ten level.

To put the departures into perspective, Aubrey Dawkins played 279 minutes in Big Ten games, Ricky Doyle played 171 and Kameron Chatman played 51. Together that’s 501 minutes out of 3600 total. The players who accounted for 3051 of the other 3099 minutes are returning next season and four freshmen are joining them.

The writing was on the wall for these departures and the reality is that Michigan already needed to be looking for immediate impact replacements in the 2017 class.

‘Big wing’ needed

Michigan has two scholarships available and it has to act. I’m not sure who the primary options are, but the transfer and late recruiting market is ever-changing and depth is necessary.

Before Chatman’s transfer, Xavier Simpson was slotted in as a rotation player and one of Jon Teske or Austin Davis as the third big man. Now the depth on the wing — with Irvin and Robinson starting — looks mighty thin. DJ Wilson is really the only player on the roster capable of backing up the four and freshman wing Ibi Watson is the only backup three.

The Wolverines need reinforcements at the wing position, preferably a graduate transfer that can play the four and finish around the rim. The Glenn Robinson III role has been sorely missing in the offense for the last two years and Michigan needs to find someone that can fill it.

Adding a forward that can play the four on both ends of the floor fixes several problems. First, it provides the depth that Michigan needs in the front court, but almost more importantly it would allow Zak Irvin to slide down the rotation and play more of his minutes at the three while spending less time banging against stronger players in the post.

The problem is that this isn’t create a player mode in NBA 2k and a combo forward that can hit threes and finish isn’t just going to magically appear. The college basketball transfer list is long and is likely to still grow, but as of right now there aren’t any combo forwards that have been linked to Ann Arbor. But Beilein spoke this week about adding a forward to the roster who “can get buckets off the bench and guard people,” per MLive.

Coaching front-runners feel like natural fits

It’s hard not to get on board with the rumored front runners for Michigan’s assistant coaching vacancies, Billy Donlon and Saddi Washington.

Billy Donlon is a young coach who ran his own program for the last six years. His firing came out of left field and left coaches, fans and media howling that he got a raw deal in the process. He’s known for his defense and Donlon had three top 100 defenses in the past three years, including two in the top 50. Donlon’s teams have pack-line fundamentals — the same system that has given Wisconsin, Virginia and Xavier so much success — but are aggressive forcing turnovers, cleaning up the defensive glass and actually commit fouls at a fairly high rate (FTA/FGA allowed over 40 in every season).

John Beilein has spoken several times since the season ended about bringing in an assistant coach to bring new ideas on the defensive side of the ball. Donlon fits the need for a defensive specialist about as well as any assistant coaching candidate could.

Oakland’s Saddi Washington was a finalist for the Michigan job the last time around and has the deep connections to the state of Michigan that the Wolverines lost in Bacari Alexander. He’s coached big men and coordinated recruiting for an Oakland program that has thrived over the last decade. A runner up for the Wolverine assistant coaching job in 2010, Washington appears to be a natural fit.

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  • JeremyS

    This feels like Alabama football now. “I’m sorry, you’re not really working out as we had hoped. We’re going to have to revoke your scholarship now. Best of luck to ya.”

    • Don’t think that’s it at all. I think you play 50 minutes in three months of the conference season after you were a five-star and realize there might be better opportunities.

      • gobluemd16

        Do you have any insight that you can share about how “two-day” each of the transfers this season were? I feel like Doyle may have had more pushing than the other two.

    • Mattski

      I think we want to be super-circumspect before we make allegations like this. If you have some inside information let us know, but otherwise it’s irresponsible.

      • JeremyS

        Point taken. No insider information here. And the word “revoke” was too harsh. But you really don’t think there was any gentle nudging from the coaching staff? You want players that perform on your team, and these 3 were not performing. One or two players transfer and you can understand individual circumstances. But, it happens 3 times, and it raises some eyebrows, doesn’t it?

        • mikey_mac

          This was more of an issue when UM was over-signed and needed to make room. But with Chatman, at this point in the offseason? Makes little sense — now UM is basically trying to replace him. (Some bench buckets and defense? Sounds familiar.)

  • Colby

    Agree with you about the create a player mode, JB must have a plan with the comment about the wing off the bench who can score and defend. He must have someone in particular in mind, he is smart enough to know that those players don’t grow on trees. Otherwise we are going to be grabbing another longshot who is going to take a spot away from 17 cause as of right now the grad transfer market is thin.

  • maxwells_demon

    I do think Kam had potential still, especially for a bigger role his senior season. I find it hard to believe we could find a forward prospect this late that will be much of an upgrade over him or Dawkins for that matter. At this point, any grad transfers would be fine, but I’m not so sure about unsigned HS seniors. Might be better to eat a scholarship and save it for ’17 then to give it out in desperation.

  • Champswest

    Individually, none of the transfers hurt. We have better options at PG and the five. Dawkin’s was always going to be a liability on defense. I had hopes that Chatman could earn a bigger role going forward, but maybe he just wasn’t up to it.
    We need to land a grad transfer or 2016 recruit that can contribute meaningful minutes this year at the 2,3 or 4. I would be fine with letting one spot roll over to 2017 (or take two grad transfers).
    Even if we don’t add anyone, we still have a solid 9 man rotation. We just wouldn’t have comfortable depth or the flexibility to play everyone at their best position.

  • bobohle

    Dylan; Good points about the transfers. Also thanks for the added info on the two probable assistants coming in. I am much more comfortable with the Donlan choice now. I just hope they bring excellent selling tools for the recruiting end.

  • Nick

    “DJ Wilson is really the only player on the roster capable of backing up the four and freshman wing Ibi Watson is the only backup three.”

    Donnal is a better option at the 4 than Wilson and I think that’s the route they’ll go, with Wagner/Teske/Davis manning the 5.

    Agree that they could use someone else to play the 3 but think they’ll be fine if they don’t add anyone else. Lonegran can certainly contribute a few minutes a game at that spot.

    • What have you seen from Mark Donnal that he can play the four on either side of the floor?

      • Nick

        I’ve seen far more in general from Donnal than Wilson. Donnal has shown the ability to make threes, at least he can stretch the floor. Maybe he can’t create off the bounce but can Wilson? I honestly don’t know. He hasn’t shown it.

        What have you seen from Wilson to think he’s a better candidate? He’s probably quicker, but other than that I don’t really understand the basis for Wilson over Donnal.

        • mikey_mac

          Wilson has shown nothing, but Donnal will be necessary at the 5 … We’ve seen what happens if you’re relying on a true freshman big for significant rotation minutes. Wagner/Donnal is looking like finally a serviceable rotation. Keep in mind, Wagner is a fouling machine, and counting on him to fix that so he can play a majority of minutes is a big expectation.

          • Yeah I think Wagner/Donnal at the five with Austin Davis or Teske backing them up and the other redshirting.

            Wilson hasn’t shown a lot, but Donnal has shown that he’s not a four. He can’t guard fours, he can’t handle the ball on the perimeter.

  • Carl

    Is the door shut on Antetokounmpo? 247 has no mention of Michigan.

    • As far as I know, Kostas Antetokounmpo hasn’t visited anywhere other than St. John’s. It seems hard to tell who is even recruiting him honestly. For example, Marquette isn’t even looking at him despite him being around the corner and spots to fill. Something doesn’t seem to add up.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    I’m fine with our rotation – Walton, Rahkman, Robinson, Irvin, Wagner…Donnal, Xavier, Watson, Wilson….Beilein typical like an 8 man rotation – I can meet Wilson transferring next – with incoming bigs potentially taking minute away

  • Mattski

    I feel like there’s a slightly more assertive Dylan at work here, speaking a bit more confidently than in past, and I applaud that, even if it’s a critical perspective. You have earned it.

  • Wayman Britt

    MSU, IU, Cuse, Purdue & Cal all pick up quality graduate transfers, why can’t UM get one? I guess there is still time, but each day UM waits another good grad. transfers is gone. A graduate transfer would be a perfect fit for both parties. Plenty of playing time for the player, and UM then can use the 4 year ship in 17 to get a top 120 player.