Can Perimeter Depth Carry Michigan?

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 2nd, 2015

After a run to the National Championship game in 2012-13 and an Elite Eight appearance a year later, Michigan slumped to a 16-16 record a season ago. Injuries were the biggest obstacle to another postseason jaunt last year, but in a roundabout way they may have helped set the Maize and Blue up for success this year. Aubrey Dawkins averaged 11.4 PPG and shot 46 percent from behind the arc in his last 14 games; Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman averaged 7.9 PPG in his last 14 contests; and leading the way, Zak Irvin scored 14.7 PPG, grabbed 5.6 RPG and dished 2.4 APG. With Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert both sidelined by injuries, Irvin stepped up and performed as the primary option for the first time in his collegiate career. His emergence along with that of the freshmen didn’t lead to much success a year ago, but it does set things up nicely for John Beilein‘s team this season. Michigan’s perimeter attack is one the most talented and deepest in the B1G; is it good enough for the Wolverines to contend for the league title and return to the NCAA Tournament?

Aubrey Dawkins emerged as a diamond in the rough for Michigan last season (Rick Osentoski, USA Today).

Aubrey Dawkins emerged as a diamond in the rough for Michigan last season (Photo: Rick Osentoski, USA Today).

When a Beilein-coached team (including stops at both Michigan and West Virginia) has finished the season with an adjusted offensive efficiency at 113.9 or greater, it has averaged 26.4 wins per season. It has happened five times now, with accompanying postseason results including a trip to the National Championship game, two Elite Eight appearances, a Sweet Sixteen appearance, and an NIT championship. KenPom projects the Michigan offense as the ninth-best outfit in the country this preseason. Last season, Indiana boasted the ninth-best offense in the country with an adjusted offensive efficiency of 116.7.  With Michigan’s injured set to return and their former backups now bolstered by the confidence and experience of playing featured roles last season, the pieces are in place for another Beilein offensive juggernaut.

When asked about Michigan’s perimeter depth at Big Ten Media Day two weeks ago, senior point guard Spike Albrecht (who closed the year averaging 12.5 PPG and 4.8 APG in his last 11 games) noted that it was critical that Abdur-Rahkman and Dawkins were able to step in and perform well. “You can do all the practicing you want, but until you get that game experience, it’s a whole different animal,” he said. “They got game experience in some very crucial games and they performed well. Now we’re coming back this season with those guys, and still Caris, Derrick, myself, Zak. We’ve got a lot of guys that are capable of making plays.”

A lack of size could hurt Michigan on the defensive end of the floor, but Rickey Doyle and Marc Donnal should be able to maintain some semblance of order on the low blocks. Teams with threats down low could certainly hurt them in the paint, but a lack of shot-blockers won’t matter much if Michigan is making it rain from deep. Keep an eye on that 113.9 adjusted offensive efficiency number this season — if the Wolverines can get things rolling again offensively, they’ll be playing deep into March.

Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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