Michigan Basketball: John Beilein’s rebuilding job a work in progress


After the 2013-14 basketball season, Michigan lost sophomores Mitch McGary, Glen Robinson III and Nick Stauskas to the NBA draft, Jon Horford to Florida and Jordan Morgan to graduation.

Its obvious coach John Beilein has quite a chore if this season’s Wolverines are to contend for its second straight Big Ten title and possibly another run in the NCAA tournament.

Considering all the departures, Beilein had to hope his 2014 recruits could contribute immediately.

Of the five-member class, forward Kameron Chatman, forward D.J.Wilson and center Ricky Doyle (along with redshirt frosh Mark Donnal) were expected to get plenty of early minutes.

Overseas trip a huge help

A huge aid to the youthful Wolverines, of course, �was the trip to Italy over the summer.

With quality wins over Oregon (70-63), Syracuse (68-65) and a tight loss to No. 12 Villanova (60-55), Michigan stands at 6-1 going into Saturday’s (Dec. 6) tussle with NJIT at the Crisler Center (noon).

Thus far, Zak Irvin leads the team in scoring (17.7) while Caris LeVert is the team leader in both assists (4.9) and rebounds (5.6).

Beilein, now in his eighth year at Michigan, has primarily settled on four of the five starters:

Dec 2, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Caris LeVert (23) goes to the basket in the first half against the Syracuse Orange at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Sophomore Derrick Walton, Jr. �is back at point guard, returnees LeVert and Irvin are basically interchangeable at the shooting guard and small forward positions, freshman Kameron Chatman mans the other forward spot while there’s been healthy competition at center.

Competition at center

Freshman Mark Donnal has started all seven games, but another freshman, Ricky Doyle, could unseat Donnal at any time.

“This kid (Doyle) can play above the rim and do some things,” Beilein said. “Today (Dec. 2, vs. Syracuse) he really competed. For us to get 17 (offensive) rebounds against (the Orange), people would never believe that. And he battled and got (five) and gave us extra possessions.”

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Doyle was no match physically for Syracuse’s 6-9, 250 lb. Rakeem Christmas or for that matter 5-star freshman 6-10, 220 lb. Chris McCullough.

The key to Doyle being more competitive is additional strength, and that’s also critical for Donnal and fellow freshman D.J. Wilson (he’s out three or four weeks with a minor knee injury).

With Doyle, Donnal and senior Max Bielfeldt available up front, there’s a chance Wilson will apply for a medical redshirt.

Albrecht stars

Walton missed the Nicholls State win with a sore toe, and that enabled backup point guard Spike Albrecht to show his improvement at the point.

Albrecht, who scored 17 points in the first half of the 2012-13 national title game against Louisville, swished what amounted to the game-winning three-pointer with :31 left Saturday over Syracuse. He’s also taking care of the basketball with 32 assists against only five turnovers.

The solid play by Albrecht allows Michigan to have its most experienced team on the floor, with Walton and Albrecht at guard, LeVert and Irvin at forward, and either Doyle, Donnal or possibly Bielfeld at center.

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Bolded players’ names are linked to sports-reference, an enhance statistical website.