After 2 games, Michigan is 2-0. They beat Division II Hillsdale College 92-68, and Bucknell 77-53. This much is obvious. There are many positives to take away, and many things that John Beilein and his staff can work on. Besides for this? You might have a better chance with the World Cup Octopus to predict who will score in double figures for Michigan than any real educated guess. We break down what we know and what we still can't wrap our heads around.
Caris LeVert is the most complete player for Michigan, but he's human too
After two games, it is pretty clear that Caris LeVert is the best and most complete player for Michigan. LeVert had a phenomenal game in his first Michigan outing, going for 20 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds and most importantly no turnovers. This is LeVert's most complete game in a Michigan uniform, and while LeVert might not flirt with a triple-double every time he steps on the court, you can be sure he will fill the statsheet with numbers in every category. In his second game, LeVert had his worst shooting performance, going 2-11 and only totaling 6 points. LeVert did have 6 rebounds, 6 assists and no turnovers, but Michigan cannot afford to have LeVert shoot them out of games against tougher opponents.
What on earth is John Beilein going to do with his centers?
Max, Max, Max. After not playing a minute in Michigan's first outing, Max Bielfeldt exploded for 18 points on 7-9 shooting, including 3-3 on 3-pointers and 3 rebounds in only 16 minutes of action. To put this into perspective, Bielfeldt made 3 3-pointers on 9 attempts all of last year, and only scored 15 points for the entire season. Besides for Bielfeldt, starting center Mark Donnal had 4 points and 4 rebounds in 11 minutes, reserve Ricky Doyle had 7 points and 4 rebounds in 9 minutes, and D.J. Wilson played the other 4 minutes at center grabbing a rebound.
29 points and 12 rebounds from the center position is absolutely outrageous in 40 minutes, and Michigan fans should expect a similar figure in the rebounding category but substantially less in the point category. With three true centers and D.J. Wilson (who can play either power forward or center) all vying for minutes, it will be interesting to see what John Beilein chooses to do. Bielfeldt is only 6'7 and is very foul prone against bigger players, and the 18 points on Monday will likely be his season high by a wide margin. Donnal, Doyle and Wilson all bring different skill sets to the frontcourt, but none have become the clear best player in the frontcourt. After Monday night's game, John Beilein is going to have a very tough time distributing minutes among his big guys.
Kameron Chatman is really struggling
You can look at the box scores from the first two games (6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2-12 shooting combined), or you can use the eye test if you're not a stats junkie: Kam Chatman doesn't look ready to be a big time contributor for Michigan. In all fairness, he has tremendous scorers around him, but as the 28th best player in the 2014 class according to 247 Sports, Chatman needs to do more to prove he deserves to stay in the starting lineup. Chatman had one phenomenal move in the first game, dribbling the ball behind his back just inside half court and finished with a nifty floater from 6 feet away. But besides for that, he's looked timid and tentative, hasn't looked confident in his mid-range jumpers, and still hasn't found his flow within the offense. The Michigan coaching staff will help Chatman through these early season woes, but it will be interesting to see when he picks everything up. If he is unable to, maybe Beilein looks to D.J. Wilson to start at power forward. Wilson gives Michigan more of a rim protector, and while his offensive arsenal isn't as complete as Chatman's, Wilson might be a better complement to the three-headed monster of LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin. Speaking of which...
Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton have been phenomenal through two games
Both players often times last season deferred to LeVert, Nik Stauskas, and even Glenn Robinson III in some games. This season, they've both shown extreme flashes of confidence and improvement. Starting with Irvin, Michigan fans must absolutely love what they've seen from the sophomore out of Fishers, Indiana. Irvin was known as a bit of a gunner last season when he came off the bench, but has drastically improved his shot selection and shooting percentage. In two games, Irvin is averaging 22 points, shooting 16-25 overall and a sizzling 7-11 from 3. If Irvin catches the ball from 25 feet and in, he looks ready to shoot the ball. If Irvin can keep up this shooting or something close to it, he could be the leading scorer for Michigan this season. The only knock on Irvin is his ability to do other things than score on the court. He did grab 5 rebounds in Monday night's contest, but only has 1 assist, block and steal on the season. If he can improve in these other areas, he could be one of the best players in the Big Ten by season's end.
If Irvin is the natural scorer, then Walton is the floor general who has been excellent in picking his spots to score. Walton is also scoring at a great rate so far, averaging 18.5 points, but is combining this with 6 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Walton has also attempted 17 free throws so far, showing that he has improved his ability to get to the basket and draw contact on the way up. Coach Beilein clearly loves how Walton has played so far, as he's played 34 and 35 minutes respectively in the first two games. If he can continue to excel in all aspects of his game, Walton will continue to be a great player for Michigan throughout the season.
The rotation is a little clearer... maybe
In the backcourt, the minutes have pretty much figured themselves out. John Beilein has not been afraid to play to play both point guards together, playing Walton 35 and Spike Albrecht 29 in the game against Bucknell. Caris LeVert played 30 minutes in the game as well, adding up to 94 minutes. This means that Beilein will play his three veterans together, and it becomes a luxury when these 3 can play substantial minutes every night. At small forward, Zak Irvin has pretty much locked this spot up, playing 32 minutes on Monday. If Beilein goes with the aforementioned 3-guard offense, Irvin will slide up to the 4 and gives Michigan its 4 best creators on the floor at the same time. As of now, Irvin and LeVert will play the majority of the minutes at small forward. Moving to the frontcourt, it becomes murkier. At power forward, Kam Chatman has been extremely mediocre so far, leaving the door open. I suggested that Beilein play D.J. Wilson at that spot for added size, but Aubrey Dawkins could also get a chance to either play small or power forward depending on where Irvin is. At center, based on the fact that Beilein played no center less than 10 minutes and none more than 20, I think he has no idea. This will be the clear "position by committee" for Michigan, and it might take until February for this issue to sort itself out.
Overall, Michigan fans should be thrilled with how their team has played so far. The second half against Bucknell was a bit of a letdown, mainly because Michigan was winning by over 30 points and Bucknell shooting guard Chris Hass had 14 points in 2 minutes and 30 seconds late in the second half. Watching reserve Max Bielfeldt have the game of his life was both exciting and quite alarming, as Bielfeldt will likely start attempting more three point attempts than he probably should. But it's November. And there's no losses. Sure, there's snow on the ground in Ann Arbor, but it's nice and toasty in Crisler. And if this is any indication, Michigan should have an incredibly fun season.