Who: Le Moyne (D-II) (0-0)
When: Friday, November 6th, at 7:00 p.m. ET (BTN Plus)
Where: Crisler Center -- Ann Arbor, Mich.
Spread: N/A (exhibition)
Basketball is back!
Tonight, Michigan will get its first and only warmup before it takes its mulligan and begins its quest to erase last season's injury-riddled disappointment. The Wolverines will host Le Moyne, a Division II program from Syracuse, in an exhibition that won't count in the record books but will give us a peek at what Michigan has in store for this season.
The biggest storyline on the court will be discovering whom John Beilein starts and how he handles his rotations. Beilein has a reputation for giving his starters heavy minutes and using a short bench, and that's been fine because Michigan hasn't had talent rotting at the end of the bench in recent seasons. However, this season, all 12 of the Wolverines' scholarship players are skilled enough to crack Michigan's rotation, so many have wondered how Beilein will distribute the minutes. We'll get our first look at that tonight.
Of course, how Beilein distributes the minutes should be taken with a grain of salt. We must account for injuries. Zak Irvin still is recovering from his back surgery and won't play tonight. Spike Albrecht is coming back from two offseason hip surgeries and will participate in the exhibition. However, Beilein said on Thursday that Albrecht is further away than he wanted to be at this point, so I wouldn't be surprised if Beilein limited his minutes to preserve his health. Also, because this is an exhibition, Beilein will want all of his players to get their feet wet. That's why we should see true freshman Moritz Wagner receive a good chunk of minutes even though Michigan may put him on the shelf and redshirt him this season. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who could be the odd man out, should get more run than he might this season. And Beilein likely will try to get the walk-ons, Andrew Dakich and Sean Lonergan, out on the hardwood for some minutes. So we should not overreact too much to Beilein's lineups or rotations in this scrimmage.
The biggest storyline off the court will be the coaching duel. John Beilein vs. Patrick Beilein. Father vs. son. In June, Le Moyne, where John coached from 1983 to 1992, named Patrick as its new head coach. Not long thereafter, John approached Patrick about scheduling a preseason game between the two programs, and Patrick said that the answer was a "no-brainer." I'm glad that was the case because it's rare to see a father and son coach against each other, though it's happened twice recently with Louisville's Rick Pitino squaring off against Richard in 2012 (FIU) and 2014 (Minnesota). According to Louisville, before the first Pitino vs. Pitino showdown, there had been 16 prior games in NCAA Division I history when a father had coached against his son, and the dads were 14-2. So, assuming no other father-son coaching battles have transpired in that time, there have been 18. Ever. Even though tonight won't count as the 19th time that it's happened because it's an exhibition and Le Moyne is D-II school, it's still pretty neat.
It also must be an awfully proud moment for the Beilein family. This week, Alejandro Zuniga spoke with Patrick about coaching against his father, and, though he'll be focused on trying to outsmart and outwit his old man, Patrick knows that tonight will be a special, unforgettable experience. The Beilein family knows it, too, which is why many of them have traveled to Ann Arbor to witness it in person. John told the media that 12 to 15 of Patrick's 43 siblings and first cousins will be in attendance, and he expects most will root for Patrick. And for whom will John's wife, Kathleen, root? John's not sure.
Either way, the post-game handshake (or embrace) will be more emotional than usual.
In case you have amnesia, Le Moyne is a D-II school that is headed by first-year coach Patrick Beilein, John's son. Beilein was hired in the summer after Steve Evans, who was the Dolphins' head coach for 15 years, was promoted into the front office to be an associate athletic director. Strange, huh? I've seen coaches resign from their post and transition into front-office jobs in the AD. But labeling it a "promotion"? That's a first.
Le Moyne has been a middle-of-the-pack program in its conference, the Northeast-10, for the past half-decade and should be that again this season. Though, to be honest, I'm not really sure. I can tell you that I don't watch any D-II basketball, and there's not too much coverage of it on this Internet-webby thing we have here. However, I did stumble across HERO Sports, which ranks the Dolphins at No. 120 out of 317 in its preseason D-II power rankings and No. 11 in the 15-team Northeast-10 -- I see the Northeast-10 enjoys counting as much as the Big Ten and Big 12 do. I don't know how credible HERO Sports is, but, for the purpose of previewing an exhibition, this will more than suffice.
Plus, Le Moyne scrimmaged in-city rival Syracuse on Monday, and the Orange blew the Dolphins out, 97-58. So don't expect Le Moyne to make things too interesting tonight.
Senior point guard Qwadere Lovell will be the player to watch on Le Moyne. Last season, Lovell led the Dolphins in minutes (37.7), points (18.3), assists (4.6), and steals (1.3) per game. However, he was not an efficient scorer (46.0 eFG%) or a quality outside shooter (26.9 3P%). Lovell scored so many points because he had the ball in his hands all the time, averaging 14.6 field-goal attempts and 6.3 free throws per game -- both of which more than doubled the averages posted by any of his teammates. Most of these shots came inside the arc because he knew that he isn't a sharpshooter. Also, that the six-foot-tall Lovell prefers to dribble and maneuver into the paint among the trees likely explains his sloppiness as he owned an assist-to-turnover rate of 1.26 despite registering nearly five assists per game. But, notwithstanding his small stature, he is a capable rebounder on the defensive glass and can generate steals. Lovell put together a very nice stat line vs. Syracuse (16p, 7a, 6r, 2s, 2t) on Monday and should be the Dolphins' best player tonight.
Just like his father before him, Patrick Beilein is implementing a two-guard offense at Le Moyne, and sophomore guard Tanner Hyland will be the one that joins Lovell in the backcourt. Hyland was one of the first Dolphins off the bench as a freshman but has pushed his way into the starting lineup in his second season. As a reserve last season, Hyland's job was to be an offensive sparkplug by drilling threes. That's it. Over three-quarters of his field goals were from downtown, and he did a nice job knocking them down (39.7 3P%). As a starter, it will be much of the same as seven of his eight shots against Syracuse were from behind the arc, so Michigan must close out on Hyland hard.
There is a common theme among Le Moyne's other three starters, and it's that they are all undersized. The Dolphins' small forward is six-foot-three junior-college transfer Tyquan Rolon, though he'll be one of the two guards at times, too. Rolon earned a scholarship to Le Moyne by averaging 21 points per game and winning the New York region Player of the Year at the junior-college level. He seems to have an inside-outside game, but he struggled against Syracuse, making just 1-of-8 shots and turning over the ball five times. The power forward is six-foot-five senior Connor Mahoney, who averaged 9.5 points and 4.4 boards per game last season. Mahoney is not a forward that likes to bang inside, preferring to hang around the three-point line instead. More than 60 percent of his shots were triples, and he connected on 37.4 percent of them, making him a threat on the outside. And Le Moyne's center is six-foot-six sophomore Daniel Kaigler, who turned in a respectable effort against the Orange with 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting and six rebounds, four of which were on the offensive end. Kaigler didn't attempt a three, but, looking at the highlights, he flashed an ability to connect on pull-up midrange shots.
Le Moyne will bring two six-foot-six forwards off the pine. One is junior Stan Buczek, who started all 29 games last season and recorded 8.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Buczek will do his work in the interior. The other is sophomore Zach Quattro, who is a three-point specialist (38.5 3P% and 76.5 3PA/FGA rate) and decent offensive rebounder.
Yes, I just broke down a D-II program's seven-deep for an exhibition. You're welcome.
- No Injuries: This really is the only thing that matters tonight.
- LeVert and Walton Look Smooth: Speaking of injuries, Caris LeVert (foot) and Derrick Walton (toe) went down with season-ending ones last year. Before Walton sprained his toe early, the Wolverines looked like the top-20 outfit they were projected to be. But, when Walton was left limping up and down the court, LeVert was left to carry the offense by himself, and Michigan tumbled down a cliff. Then, LeVert went out, and any chance for Michigan to rebound and salvage the season disappeared. The word in practice has been that LeVert and Walton are 100 percent and seem to resemble their former, healthy selves. That is imperative to Michigan's success this season, so it would be wonderful to see them moving well on the floor.
- Doyle Domination: One of the biggest questions is how the big men will perform because Michigan is stacked at the 1 through 4 spots. Michigan is looking at Ricky Doyle to be the answer one season after he flashed promise but was inconsistent due to poor conditioning and a frail immune system. Tonight won't tell us if he's the answer, but it could reveal if he isn't one. Why? Doyle is six-foot-nine and 250 pounds. The Dolphins' front line: six-foot-three and 185 pounds, six-foot-five and 190 pounds, and six-foot-six and 195 pounds. Michigan won't run its offense through Doyle, of course, but he should pummel Le Moyne down low with his brute strength. Finishing around the rim. Offensive putbacks. Sturdy defense. This should be easier than finding a toothless Buckeye fan in Columbus. If not, it's a red flag.
- No Upsets: Patrick Beilein beating his father would make for a fantastic story, but Michigan fell victim to NJIT and Eastern Michigan in back-to-back stunning upsets that, in addition to key injuries, derailed last season. Michigan doesn't need to start this fresh, new year with another one, even if it wouldn't count in the loss column.
There are no injuries, the Wolverines win a lot to a lot less, and John Beilein sheds at least one tear when he hugs Patrick Beilein on the sideline after the final buzzer sounds.
It's an exhibition. That's all you're getting.