Mar 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein in the first half in the semifinals of the midwest regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament against the Tennessee Volunteers at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan basketball: A good big man is hard to find

Dec 28, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan basketball forward Jordan Morgan (52) and forward Mitch McGary (4) high five in the second half against the Holy Cross Crusaders at Crisler Arena. Michigan won 88-66. Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Since John Beilein became the Michigan basketball coach prior to the 2007-08 season, the Wolverines have recruited 10 big men.

Other than Mitch McGary (6.64  career rpg) and Jordan Morgan (5.06 rpg), excellent inside players have been few and far between.  Ben Cronin (injury), Blake McLimans (0.76), Jon Horford (2.94) and Evan Smotrycz (3.57)  have already departed (along with Morgan) while the jury is still out on Max Bielfeldt and the three freshmen:  D.J. Wilson, Ricky Doyle and redshirt Mark Donnal. 

Some wonder why Beilein doesn’t get his share of  bulky throwback centers,  it’s actually the elite programs yhat grab the majority of the nation’s top big men.

What Matters most? NBA or SAT

Many of these players are recruited with an eye toward the NBA, while Beilein cares more about the SAT.

“In general terms, you have to be careful at times when you’re talking about getting a degree,” Arizona’s head coach Sean Miller said. “It could be taken as an insult that I’m not good enough or my player or my son isn’t good enough to leave early. Is that every situation? Of course not. But you have to be careful.”

“Where Beilein does a great job is he recruits a certain type of player,” national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels said. “A player that fits his system. He has done a great job of finding those certain type of guys with certain attributes.”

Head coach loses four

Beilein, who might not be looking for that particular one-and-done star,  has still lost four players to the NBA during the last two seasons.

Michigan isn’t the only school having  trouble finding quality big men. There are just not many available.

In the 2014 recruiting class, the nations’ perennial powerhouses  landed the bulk of the highly-rated centers and power forwards 

Fewer big men?

A quick glance at 247sports top 50 lists just two centers and 11 power forwards.

Kentucky: Karl Towns ( 7-0, 250, No. 3 C),  Trey Lyles (6-10, 250, No. 2 PF)

Louisville: Chinanu Onuaku (6-10, 232, No. 7 C), Matz Stockman (7-2, 238, No. 18 PF)

Duke: Jahlil Okafor (6-11, 260, No. 2 C)

Arizona: Dusan Ristic (7-0, 240, No. 22 C), Craig Victor (6-8, 250, No. 7 PF)

Kansas: Cliff Alexander (6-9, 260, No. 1 C)

UCLA: Kevon Looney (6-9, 208, No. 3 PF), Thomas Welch ( 7-0, 245, No. 8 C)

Maryland, who now joins the Big Ten after many years as an ACC power, added Michal Cekovsky (7-0, 210, No. 29 PF) and Trayvon Reed 7-1, 215, No. 8 C) 

Also in the Big Ten, Ohio State  snagged Dave Bell (6-9, 215, No. 47 PF),  Purdue landed Isaac Haas (7-1, 275, No. 9 C)  and Minnesota received a commitment from Gaston Diedhiou (6-9, 240 No. 86 PF).

Michigan actually fared well against the other Big Ten schools, which all came up empty trying to recruit a legitimate center.

McGary to stay? 

Should McGary decide to enter the NBA draft—he has until April 27 to decide—the Wolverines will be challenged inside. Redshirt freshman Donnal (6-9), freshmen Cameron Chatman (6-7), Doyle (6-9) and Wilson (6-9)  will compose Michigan’s front court along with Bielfeldt  (6-7), Zak Irvin (6-6) and/or Caris LeVert (6-6).

The Wolverines are still looking for one or two prospects to fill out the 2014 class, but don’t expect any Chris Webbers, Juwan Howards or even Loy Vaughts.

There are those who argue the three-point shot lessens the necessity of a real big man. A good center today plays a roll in the inside-outside game that features good three-point shooters.  But the argument suffers when shooting becomes cold and the game is forced inside.

The Big Ten championship game might have been a perfect example where Michigan State’s Adreian Payne (18 points, nine rebounds) showed his strength in a 69-55 win over Michigan. ♦

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer


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