Ann Arbor — Trying to put the brakes on a three-game slide, Michigan coach John Beilein is ready to try something new.
Beilein is leaning toward giving freshman big man Ricky Doyle his first start, in Saturday's matchup against Southern Methodist at Crisler Center.
"I think that's where we'll go," Beilein said Friday afternoon. "We watched film today and he's really played very well. He's improved in a lot of areas, so that would be good to assume."
The Wolverines (6-4) are coming off an 80-57 loss last Saturday at No. 3 Arizona and are looking to snap their longest losing streak since 2011.
Doyle, a 6-foot-9 forward, has been the most consistent big man and had scored in double figures in three of the four games before the skid, including a season-high 15 points against Nicholls State on Nov. 29.
But with Mark Donnal struggling in recent games, Beilein is looking to add a spark to the starting lineup with Doyle.
"He's played the best of any of the big guys so far and we tried one thing," Beilein said, "So let's try it with the five guys that have played the best on the court right at the beginning and see if we can get Mark more comfortable with a role of going in and doing what he does and doing it well, playing as many minutes as coach will put me in there for."
Doyle had eight points and three rebounds at Arizona and is averaging 6.9 points and 3.0 rebounds in 10 games. So far this season, his conditioning has been an issue, but he's played more minutes than Donnal.
Beilein said the trick is finding a way to manage the minutes and find consistent roles in the rotation for them.
"He plays really hard, he's in good shape and he's improving every day," Beilein said. "The way his body is, it's tough to be an antelope, so just running up and down the floor for him is just more difficult than it would be for Caris (LeVert), just because of his body type."
Rest soon for Walton
Walton also is hampered by a toe injury, but is improving steadily. The compacted schedule hasn't helped his recovery, but the break after Monday's game against Coppin State will help.
"I don't think he's at 100 percent but hopefully with the Christmas break, he'll have three days with nothing," Beilein said. "He's practiced and he's wanted to practice. He's not like he was when he first injured it."
Walton told Beilein that he was tiring more quickly because he hasn't practiced fully and Beilein pointed to some mistakes that Walton made in recent games as "plays that tired players make."
"He's got to be a bigger factor offensively and defensively," Beilein said. "His steal numbers are not where they should be. Caris has almost twice as many as he does — I think he can steal the ball but hasn't been as assertive."
With a quick turnaround between Saturday's game and Monday's game, the Wolverines aren't looking to change the rotations or playing time. The young players need the confidence from playing well and winning.
"We have to go after a win (Saturday) and worry about the next game after that. It's very important for our young guys to go home for the break and be home three full days, which is good for all our young guys.
"The Italy trip was good for all our guys; at the same time they haven't been home in a long time. I'd love to go out of here with some momentum, going into what is going to be a very challenging Big Ten year."
Michigan vs. SMU
Tip-off: Noon Saturday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
Outlook: Larry Brown, the former Pistons coach, returns at the helm in his third season at SMU. The two schools never have met.