Juwan Howard says it would take an hour to explain Michigan basketball’s rotation, and he just didn’t have enough time to do that during his video conference call with reporters on Tuesday night.
He did, at least, attempt to summarize his approach.
“I would just leave you with a few words: All hands on deck,” Howard said.
Howard has certainly adhered to that mantra.
In looking back through the box scores of Michigan’s games against Bowling Green and Oakland, Howard used 26 different lineups. Ten of the team’s 12 scholarship players have seen action thus far.
Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard on the sideline in the second half against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies on Nov. 29, 2020, at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.
“We’re gonna need each and every guy on our roster this season,” Howard said. “It’s great to see all our guys, especially our freshman, getting a chance to play early.”
Howard didn’t get into specifics on how how he is sorting through Michigan’s rotation, but it’s clear he is still sorting through things.
The Wolverines (2-0) have opened each game with the same starting lineup of Mike Smith, Eli Brooks, Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers and Austin Davis. In both games, the first players off the bench were Chaundee Brown and Hunter Dickinson, replacing Smith and Davis.
After that is where things diverge.
Michigan played 15 lineup combinations in the first game against Bowling Green. Twelve of those lineups featured Livers, the senior do-it-all forward, and nine featured Wagner, expected to be the team’s most complete player as a sophomore.
In the first half of Michigan’s second game, against Oakland, Smith and Livers picked up two first-half fouls. Howard tendency is to replace starters (or significant contributors) who pick up two of the five allotted fouls in the first half and sit them until after halftime. Thus, while you would expect a significant decrease in the number of unique lineups used in the second game, Michigan ended up using seven in the first half alone, with extended run given to freshman point guard Zeb Jackson and freshman forward Terrance Williams.
Howard and Michigan again ran into challenging circumstances in the second half against Oakland, with the Wolverines trailing against the Grizzlies — a 31-point underdog — and in need of a spark. With 11:23 remaining in regulation and Michigan down by four points, Howard inserted a 24th different lineup this season which featured Smith, Brooks, Brown, Williams and Dickinson.
Williams and Dickinson, two freshmen known as the “DMV boys” because they played on the same AAU team in the Washington, D.C., metro area, were the key components of that group.
“I think we just have chemistry doing this for a long time,” Williams said Sunday night after Michigan’s 81-71 overtime win over Oakland. “Coach Howard said that in the locker room, ‘You guys have been doing it since Team Takeover days and elementary school,’ and that’s why he put us both in at the same time, get the good high-low in, make the right play, make the right pass.”
Still, despite all the variation, Howard already has a couple preferred lineups.
He has used the same starting lineup for both games, and that group has opened up each second half. The lineup featuring Brooks, Brown, Wagner, Livers and Dickinson has been a favorite of Howard’s, as he used it to close regulation in the back-and-forth Oakland game, then stuck it for the first four minutes of overtime, as Michigan opened up a commanding lead.
General rules of permutation tell us there are 6,188 different lineups that Howard can choose from, based on the 17-man roster. If you consider just the 12 scholarship players, there are still 792 different lineups.
So while 26 lineups through two games may seem like a lot of variation, Howard has really only used a small fraction of the combinations at his disposal.
And with the uncertainty of playing during the COVID-19 pandemic — “This is COVID rules, fellas,” Howard said Tuesday — he doesn’t seem inclined to trim his rotation.
“Every guy on our roster, we’re gonna need them all,” Howard said.
Contact Orion Sang at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Michigan Wolverines content.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball’s rotation strategy going according to plan
Published: 2020-12-02 11:01:02
Tags: #Michigan #basketballs #rotation #strategy #plan #hands #deck