Michigan Basketball: The Power Forward Position

For the second straight game, Michigan basketball will face a team that starts two traditional post players. The Tennessee Volunteers feature two 6’8’’ players in their frontcourt.  Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon have been dominant on the boards in their three tournament games, pulling in a combined 23.7 rebounds. They also combine for 28 points, but this is less worrisome than their rebounding statistics.

Michigan isn’t a stranger to playing teams with more size. The Texas Longhorns also had a couple of behemoths down low, but Michigan was able to limit their impact. Cameron Ridley and Jonathon Holmes scored a 15 combined points, which Jordan Morgan was able to score by himself. However, the two posts each grabbed nine rebounds as the Longhorns outrebounded the Wolverines 41-30.

A big reason for the discrepancy was Michigan’s lack of size on the inside. Morgan and Glenn Robinson III are elite max bielfeldtdefenders, but they often give up a couple of inches and twenty pounds to other players.

Morgan has made the most of his talent through work ethic, getting in suberb shape this season. The center position is not that big of a concern.

However, the power forward has been interesting position for Beilein during his time at Michigan. On offense, players like Zack Novak and Robinson have functioned essentially as wings, and rarely find themselves on the block. On defense, the players usually have to guard players bigger than them.

Before the season, John Beilein said that Robinson would be installed at the small forward position, his natural position. Due to the emergence of Caris LeVert, Beilein went back to the norm: trying to get all of his best players onto the court.

Robinson accepted moving back to the four, and it was clear that Michigan’s offense worked much better with him there. However, it also came with a consequence: Michigan finished 303rd in the nation in rebounds per game.

It raises an interesting question for next year: how will Michigan utilize the power forward slot? Jordan Morgan will be gone, and Robinson and McGary may return to school after falling out of the first round on many mock drafts.

If Robinson returns, Beilein will most likely use him again at the four. The sophomore is too athletic and too good of a shooter to keep off the floor, and Beilein will again try to get all of his best players on the floor. Michigan has had one of the most efficient offenses with this formula, and who would argue with a lineup of McGary, Robinson, LeVert, Nik Stauskas or Zak Irvin, and Derrick Walton?

If McGary and Robinson leave, things get a little more interesting. Senior-to-be Jon Horford would be the starter at the center position, but the power forward slot would be up for grabs.

Redshirt freshman Mark Donnal would be the likely starter. The Ohio native is more of a traditional post player at 6’9’’ and 235 pounds, but has shooting range out to the three point line. He lacks Robinson’s speed and athleticism, but could offer an upgrade for post defense.

Beilein would likely redshirt incoming 6’9 post player Ricky Doyle, instead offering Max Bielfeldt backup minutes. Beilfeldt, known as the Moose, is a solid shooter and a wide body in the post. The 6’9’’ redshirt sophomore played great defense against Stanford and Michigan State when Horford and Morgan got into early foul trouble.

It all depends on Michigan’s personnel next year, but the power forward position could be drastically different on defense. In a traditional, stretch four like Donnal, Beilein may have found a bigger player to bang down low while being able to play on the perimeter on offense.

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