Ann Arbor — There’s no shortage of questions beyond the top six of Michigan’s rotation.
But there’s also a shortage of answers.
During last week’s loss at Iowa, Michigan’s lack of depth was on full display and prompted coach John Beilein to dive deeper into his bench for possible solutions.
It led to center Colin Castleton, forward Brandon Johns Jr. and guard David DeJulius each receiving meaningful minutes in the first and second halves that have become a rarity for any freshman not named Ignas Brazdeikis.
Yet, Beilein said he doesn’t expect that to become the norm and has no plans to simply throw the younger players out there to see what they can do.
“I do not want to just experiment with them in the games when we don't need to,” Beilein said on Monday. “I don't buy into, 'Hey, they're gamers,' when I see it every day in practice. I see it every day in practice, so I want to see more in practice. But there's going to be those opportunities and whoever gets it done, all right, he is a gamer.
“But I haven't seen it yet and that's what we're hoping that we will see it either in practice or when they do have those opportunities.”
Beilein said he’s going back and taking a deeper look at all the numbers from the team’s summer exhibitions in Spain to every single scrimmage to see who should be playing “given where we are right now when the bench has been inconsistent.”
Last week, he said DeJulius is constantly pushing sophomore guard Eli Brooks for minutes at the one and two, whereas playing time between Johns and redshirt sophomore center Austin Davis at the five is more matchup-driven. But Beilein noted Castleton is also "under consideration" for minutes at the backup center spot.
Beilein added even when foul trouble has given guys chances to prove themselves this season, all they’ve done is show their youth.
“That's the difference with our depth and other people’s depth, Iowa's depth,” Beilein said. “When Iowa went to their bench I think maybe one guy was a freshman. When we go to our bench, we're basically putting our freshmen in there and they're going to make some switches. It can cost you in games.
“I mean, it shows you how little that they know when they came down and they were going to dribble the ball out when we were down in the game…It just shows in that game their minds have still got to be developed and that's my job to get that done.”
Two and done
Beilein has typically held firm on his auto benching for players who commit two first-half fouls.
But against Iowa, Beilein said his stance wasn’t the sole reason junior center Jon Teske didn’t re-enter the game and played only 1:25 of the opening 20 minutes. He also had an issue with the way Teske picked up the fouls.
“J.P. (Jordan Poole) and (Teske) had really poor fouls to start the game,” Beilein said. “We fouled them on something — I say on the board every day, ‘Avoid bad fouls.’ We went out and I'm going to make a bad foul. That was a big point of it.”
Beilein noted he did play several Wolverines with the two fouls late in the first half, including sophomore forward Isaiah Livers, Brazdeikis and Poole. But only Poole was on the floor for the majority of Iowa's 21-2 run put Michigan in a 13-point halftime hole.
“You can’t trust your player because he's playing, and you can't trust the officials because sometimes it's just going to be a 50-50 call,” Beilein said. “You just can't trust it and now you've got him out the whole half. You have no chance. And you don't think the other coach knows he's in foul trouble? I’m driving it at him. He's not playing any defense while he's got two fouls on him, so what's the point?”
On the move
Former Wolverines Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas were all shipped out before the NBA trade deadline last week.
Burke and Hardaway were part of a deal that sent them from the New York Knicks to the Dallas Mavericks, while Stauskas was traded from the Portland Trail Blazers to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
According to Beilein, he sent all three players the same text: Sudden change and new opportunity for you.
“I'm sure they'll do their best,” Beilein said. “These guys are sort of settled in – Trey is married, Tim has been in New York for two years, Nik had settled in on the West Coast, and all of sudden that changes.
“It's just a shock to their bodies what they have to go through. I'm glad to have Nik back east. I'm thrilled that both Tim and Trey can play for — there's nothing wrong with the Knicks situation other than the injuries that hurt them — but they're a little closer right now than the Knicks are and maybe they get in the playoffs. They could really help them.”
Brazdeikis was one of 20 named to the late-season watch list for the Wooden Award, which goes to the nation's top college basketball player.
He was one of three freshmen (Duke's RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson) and one of four Big Ten players (Michigan State's Cassius Winston, Purdue's Carsen Edwards and Wisconsin's Ethan Happ) to make the cut.
... Junior guard Zavier Simpson wasn't one of 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, which recognizes the nation's top point guard.
However, the Big Ten had two players up for the award: Winston and Edwards.