Nothing But ‘Net – Week #17 – 02/17/2020 – Two Solid Wins

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they won both of them.  On Wednesday (02/12/2020), they beat Northwestern 79-54 in Evanston (IL), then on Sunday (02/16/2020), they beat Indiana 89-65 in Crisler Arena.  The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 16-9 (7-7 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is now tied for 8th place in the Big Ten.

What Happened?

After starting the season 0-5 in true road games, Michigan has now won 2 in a row, with a virtual road win in there when they beat Rutgers in Madison Square Garden, technically a neutral site game.  Sure, the two teams they beat are the bottom two teams in the league (Nebraska and Northwestern), but any road win is a good win this season.  And, Michigan didn’t just win the game at Northwestern, they dominated.  Michigan had their traditional slow start, trailing 4-0 at the 14:29 mark, 9-3 at the 13:55 mark, then 13-6 at the 12:26 mark, before they finally got going.  They ripped off a quick 14-2 run, to go up 20-15 with 8:24 to go, then pushed the lead to 15 points (33-18) with 2:42 left.  They still led by 15 (38-23) at halftime.  They opened the 2nd half with a nice 10-2 run to put the game out of reach, 48-25, with 16:01 left, then they just toyed with Northwestern the rest of the way.  The closest NU got was 12 points (58-46) with 7:00 to go, but Michigan pushed the lead back into the 20s, and kept it there until the final horn.  It was a dominating victory.

In the IU game, the lead seesawed back and forth for the first 6 minutes, before Michigan went ahead for good at the 13:32 mark.  Michigan pushed the lead as high as 12 points a few times in the 1st half, settling for a 7 point lead (41-34) at halftime.  IU got it down to 5 points (41-36) in the opening minute of the 2nd half, but that was as close as they’d get.  UM pushed the lead into the 10-12 point range, then into the 18-20 point range, and kept it there the rest of the game, winning by 24 points.  It was also a dominating victory.

Stats  

The stats for the Northwestern game are solid.  Michigan shot well overall (30-for-64 = 46.9%), they shot 3-pointers well (7-for-20 = 35.0%), and they shot free throws well (12-for-15 = 80.0%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (45-32), as well as the turnover battle (8-10).  They dominated in every phase of the game.

The stats for the IU game are impressive.  Michigan shot very well overall (31-for-54 = 57.4%), they shot 3-pointers very well (9-for-17 = 52.9%), and they shot free throws well (18-for-22 = 81.8%).  They won the rebounding battle convincingly (37-21), but lost the turnover battle (8-7).  Michigan won this one with 3-point shooting, holding IU to 3-for-12 from deep.

Who Started?

The starters for both games were Eli Brooks, Isaiah Livers, Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske, and Franz Wagner.  This is the “real” starting lineup, when everyone is healthy.

Who Looked Good?

Brooks hit double figures in both games (18 and 13 points), and was the leading scorer in the NU game.  He shot a good percentage from 3-point range in the NU game (4-for-8), but not so good vs. IU (1-for-4).

Livers was the only other Michigan player in double figures for both games (17 and 12 points).  He had a rough time shooting 3-pointers in the NU game (0-for-5), but he got better in the IU game (2-for-4).

Wagner had a mediocre game vs. NU (5 points), but he was the leading scorer in the IU game with 16 points.

Simpson also had a mediocre game vs. NU (4 points), but a good game vs. IU (12 points).  He also had 11 assists vs. IU, for a double-double.

Brandon Johns, Jr. was another player with a mediocre game vs. NU (4 points), but a good game vs. IU (14 points).  He shot 3-for-3 from 3-point range vs. IU.

David DeJulius had a decent week, with 7 and 2 points.  He played a lot of point guard, and he did a nice job.

Austin Davis is getting better every game.  He is now the most effective big man on the team, ahead of Teske.  He scored 9 points in each game this week, and he played solid defense.  He shot 4-for-4 vs. NU and 4-for-6 vs. IU.  For the season, he is shooting 37-for-51 (72.5%), the 2nd best percentage on the team.

Colin Castleton played in both games, and he contributed.  He had 5 points vs. NU and 2 points vs. IU.

Cole Bajema also played in both games, and made a 3-pointer in each game.  His shot vs. IU was from about 26 feet to beat the shot clock.  He is the leading shooter on the team this season, shooting 8-for-10 (80.0%) overall, and 3-for-5 (60.0%) from 3-point range.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Teske had a quiet week, with 6 points in each game.  He did have 8 and 7 rebounds.  The team needs him to get back to playing the way he did in the first half of the season.

Who Else Played?

Adrien Nuñez played in both games, and scored 1 point vs. NU.

C.J. Baird played in the IU game, but failed to score.

Who Didn’t Play?

The rest of the practice squad (Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t play in either game.

What Does It Mean?

This was a good week for Michigan.  True, they were favored in both games, but they played well, and won convincingly.  These results helped their chances for making the NCAA or NIT Tournaments, and improved things in the Big Ten race.  There are 6 games left in the regular season, and they need to win at least 4 of them to make the NCAA Tournament.  They have now won enough to make the NIT Tournament.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays two games, both on the road.  On Wednesday (02/19/2020, 7:00 p.m. EST, BTN), they play at Rutgers, then on Saturday (02/22/2020, 2:00 p.m. EST, ESPN), they play at Purdue.

Michigan has already played, and beaten, Rutgers this season.  Back on 02/01/2020, Michigan beat (#25) Rutgers 69-63 in Madison Square Garden, which was technically a neutral site game, but actually a home game for Rutgers.  Now, Michigan gets to play them in the RAC (Rutgers Athletic Center), where they’re 17-0 this season.  They are currently 18-8 overall (9-6 in the Big Ten).  This will be a challenging game.

Michigan has also already played, and beaten, Purdue this season.  Back on 01/09/2020, Michigan beat Purdue 84-78 in 2OT in Crisler Arena.  They are currently 14-12 (7-8 in the Big Ten).  This will also be a challenging game.  Michigan has had a hard time winning in West Lafayette.

Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!

By the Numbers: Comparing Harbaugh’s First 5 Seasons

Last January, Phil and I discussed a comparison of Jim Harbaugh’s 4-year coaching record to the last 4 years of Lloyd Carr’s coaching career (Harbaugh and Carr each had an advantage in 7 metrics, with 3 ties).  My general feeling was that Harbaugh had returned Michigan to the level at which Lloyd had left it. In my eyes, that made the 2019 season pivotal for the Harbaugh era.  Phil and I wondered whether the program would continue to rise, and I was certainly optimistic.

Now, in February of 2020, we have more information to process, and we can complete a 5-year analysis.  After Michigan completed a frustrating 9-4 season in 2019, and the 2003 Big Ten Championship season (10-3) gets added to the Carr side of the ledger, the comparison swings in Lloyd Carr’s favor.   Carr has an advantage on 7 metrics, Harbaugh in 4, with 2 ties. The advanced metrics were ignored for lack of 2003 & 2004 data, but Lloyd’s 3-year average would have been 3 more wins for him. This seemed like bad news for a Harbaugh optimist like myself.  So, I wanted to extend the comparison to see how the Harbaugh era, as it stands right now, compares to some other notable college football coaches.

METHOD

In addition to Lloyd Carr, I chose these coaches to compare to Harbaugh: Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio, Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Brian Kelly, James Franklin, & Chris Petersen.  From the Carr comparison, my curiosity immediately jumped to Jim Tressel’s final five seasons at Ohio State.  After completing that comparison, I wanted a better apples-to-apples comparison so I wanted to use the first five seasons (of their current tenure) for the rest of the coaches I selected.  In addition to comparing the coaches’ records through their first five seasons, I also wanted to be able to use consistent metrics. The advanced statistical rankings didn’t exist back into the early 2000s, and recruiting has also changed significantly since then.  Each metric was compared head-to-head with Harbaugh’s results to create an Advantage %. Records and stats came from Sports-Reference.com.  Recruiting rankings came from 247sports.comF+, FEI, & S&P+ rankings come from FootballOutsiders.com.   Here are the 17 metrics that I compared:

  • Final Rankings in F+, FEI, & SP+  systems (SP+ now on ESPN in 2019)
  • Overall W-L record
  • Offensive Pass Yds / Game & Rush Yds / Game
  • Points Scored / Game
  • Defensive Pass Yds / Game & Rush Yds / Game allowed
  • Defense Points Allowed / Game
  • Big Ten W-L record (if applicable)
  • W-L Record vs. OSU (or record vs. Michigan for OSU coaches)
  • W-L Record vs. MSU (record vs. Michigan for Dantonio)
  • W-L Record vs. Notre Dame (record vs. Michigan for Kelly)
  • W-L Record in Bowl Games
  • Number of NFL Draftees
  • Recruiting Class Rank (cycle following the season)

RESULTS

ANALYSIS

The summary table above lists the coaches from least favorable comparison for Jim Harbaugh (Jim Tressel – final 5 seasons) to most favorable (James Franklin) sorting by ascending Harbaugh Advantage Percentage.  Using this method, Jim Harbaugh falls between Lloyd Carr (final 5 seasons) and Chris Petersen’s 5-year tenure at Washington. 

If we only look at the initial 5-year start for each coach (removing Tressel & Carr), it’s clear that Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are in a league of their own.  Urb won a national title during the first playoff season in year 3, and made a return to the playoff in year 5. Saban won his 2nd national title at Alabama in year five, and went back-to-back in year six.  

Once you move past those two historically successful coaches, there is a very tight grouping between Jim Harbaugh and the other 5 coaches I selected.  Each coach averaged a 9-4 record through his first 5 seasons. I was surprised that using my Advantage Percentage, Harbaugh compares favorably to all 5 of those coaches, despite Brian Kelly reaching the BCS Championship game in year 3.  I also included each coach’s Year 6 record for a possible glimpse into the future. Year 6 results range from unacceptable (7-6 for Dantonio) to achievable (11-2 in 2019 for Franklin).  

One other interesting note on Big Ten record: If Harbaugh had managed one more B10 victory, his average record would have rounded up to 7-2, and it would have been +1 over Carr.  Had he suffered one more loss, the average record would have rounded to 6-3 and been -1 to Carr. The program has clearly returned to the Carr level. I think we’re all very anxious to take the next step forward.

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #16 – 02/10/2020 – A Tough Loss, And A Glorious Victory

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, both at home, and they lost one and won the other.  On Tuesday (02/04/2020), they lost to Ohio State 61-58, then on Saturday (02/08/2020), they beat (#16) Michigan State 77-68.  The loss and win leave Michigan with a record of 14-9 (5-7 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is still tied for 11th place in the Big Ten.

What Happened?

The OSU game was close and exciting for the first 39 minutes and 27 seconds, then the refs hijacked it and gave it to OSU.  Michigan had a slow start, and OSU led 16-7 with 8:52 to go in the 1st half.  Yes, that means that Michigan scored 7 points in the first 11 minutes.  Ouch.  They finally woke up, and actually grabbed the lead, 22-21, with 3:31 left in the half.  OSU took the lead back, and led by 1 point (28-27) at halftime.  Michigan got the lead back to start the 2nd half (30-28 at the 17:53 mark), then the lead seesawed back and forth, with neither team able to get more than 3-4 points ahead.  Michigan trailed by 1 point (57-56) with 33 seconds left, when the refs took over.  Zavier Simpson drove to the basket, and was fouled hard.  As he fell to the floor, he grabbed the jersey of the OSU player who fouled him.  The refs called a shooting foul on the OSU player, which was correct, then called a “flagrant 1” foul on Simpson for grabbing the jersey, which was BS.  Simpson made both free throws, so Michigan momentarily led 58-57, but the OSU player got to shoot 2 free throws for the flagrant foul, and then OSU got the ball.  With only 33 seconds left, Michigan was forced to foul intentionally, and OSU made their free throws.  Still, UM had a last shot to tie it up, but they missed.  The “flagrant 1” call ruined the game.

Actually, the officiating for the OSU game was terrible the whole game, but the “flagrant 1” call was the icing on the cake.  The OSU players were traveling all over the place, and refs missed it.  The refs also allowed a lot of pushing and shoving both ways and didn’t call it.  It was a really poor job.

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

The popular narrative is that MSU coach Tom Izzo is a coaching god, one of the all-time greats, a master tactician, but he sure wasn’t any of those things in this game.  He’s got one of the best players in the country (Cassius Winston) on his team, but Izzo subbed him out repeatedly for the weakest point guard in the Big Ten, Foster Loyer.  Loyer played 10 minutes, sometimes along with Winston, but often with Winston on the bench, and he did nothing but foul: 0-1 shooting, 1 rebound, 4 fouls.  I can’t believe Izzo actually recruited this guy, and I can’t believe he actually plays him in a non-cupcake game.  But, “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”.  Sparty on, Tom.

Thanks in part to Loyer’s “contributions”, Michigan led almost the entire game.  It was 0-0 for quite a while, before MSU took their only lead of the game, 1-0, with 17:30 to go.  Michigan went up 3-1 at the 16:41 mark, then MSU tied it 3-3 with 15:53 to go.  It was still 3-3 at the 13:53 mark, which means a combined 6 points scored in 6+ minutes.  Wow.  Michigan took the lead back for good at this point, with a 3-pointer, and hit 2 more 3-pointers in the next 2:31 to go up 12-3 at the 11:22 mark.  At this point, State had 3 points in 8 minutes and 38 seconds.  Impressive!  Both teams finally started scoring, and the UM lead was in the 5-7 point range for most of the half.  It got as high as 10 points (25-15) with 5:06 left in the half, and should have been 8 points (29-21) at halftime, but Michigan committed a dumb foul with 1 second left that gave MSU 2 free points, so it was 29-23 at halftime.  Michigan kept the lead in the 4-6 point range for the first few minutes of the 2nd half, then MSU made their move.  They got within 1 point several times (31-30, 33-32, 36-35, and 39-38), and were within 2 points (42-40) with 13:27 left in the game.  That was their last gasp, though, as Michigan pushed the lead back up to 8 points (48-40) at the 12:09 mark, and kept it in the 8-10 point range the rest of the way.  The closest State got was 6 points (72-66) with 40 seconds left, but Michigan made enough free throws to win comfortably.  It was a great win over a ranked team.

Let’s have a little talk about sportsmanship.  I usher sections 209 and 210 in Crisler Arena, and there were a fair number of State fans in both sections.  When it became obvious that Michigan was going to win, the State fans started leaving early, usually with their heads down as they headed for the exits.  Most of them had behaved just fine, with the occasional “Go Green”, but nothing objectionable.  Then there was the State fan sitting in Section 210, Row 22, Seat 1: he got more and more agitated as the game went on, and he really didn’t like it when the Maize Rage started their “Little Brother” chant.  When he and his female companion got up to leave with 22 seconds left, he threw his drink cup at me, walked over and got in my face, then punched me in the stomach and hustled for the exit.  I was more stunned than hurt, but it sure surprised me.  He never said a word, just punched and ran.  So, I notified my supervisor and filed a police report, but I doubt anything will come of it.  I’d like to see him banned from coming back to Crisler, if the authorities can identify him.  He was a big guy (6’3”, 230 pounds), about 55-60 years old, with short gray hair.  If you think you know him, send me a message (dmontag@umgoblue.com), and I’ll pass it on to the police.

Stats  

The stats for the OSU game are confusing.  Michigan shot poorly overall (20-for-60 = 33.3%), but they shot 3-pointers decently (10-for-31 = 32.3%), and they shot free throws very well (8-for-9 = 88.9%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (42-31), but they lost the turnover battle (12-8).  These stats are good enough to win most games, and they might have won this one if the refs hadn’t hijacked it.

The stats for the MSU game are pretty good.  Michigan shot just OK overall (24-for-64 = 37.5%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (11-for-28 = 39.3%), and they shot free throws well enough to win (18-for-23 = 78.3%).  They won the rebounding battle (46-40), but lost the turnover battle (10-7).  Michigan won this game because they controlled the boards and shut down MSU’s 3-point shooting (6-for-23 = 26.1%).

Who Started?

The starters for the OSU game were Eli Brooks, Brandon Johns, Jr., Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske, and Franz Wagner.  Johns started in place of Isaiah Livers, who missed 3 more games because of a groin injury.  Livers was healthy enough to start in place of Johns in the MSU game.

Who Looked Good?

Simpson was the leading scorer in both games, with 15 and 16 points.  He also had 5 and 8 assists, and 7 and 4 rebounds.  He had a very good week shooting 3-pointers: 3-for-7 and 4-for-7.

Brooks almost hit double figures in both games, with 8 and 11 points, including two big 3-pointers in the MSU game.  He had a rough week shooting: 3-for-12 (2-for-8 from deep) vs. OSU, and 2-for-10 (2-for-5 from deep) vs. MSU.  He did a nice job guarding Winston in the MSU game.

I’m still not sure whether Wagner looked “good” or “not-so-good”.  On the one hand, he almost hit double figures in both games (8 and 8), and he was the leading rebounder in the OSU game (14).  On the other hand, his shooting percentages continue to trend downward: 2-for-12 (2-for-8 from deep) vs. OSU, and 2-for-5 (0-for-2 from deep) vs. MSU.  He is a key component in the offense, and he needs to start hitting his 3-pointers.

Livers looked good in the one game he played (MSU): 14 points on decent shooting (5-for-10, 2-for-5 from deep).

Johns had a solid week, with 8 and 7 points.  He shot 3-pointers well, just not often enough: 2-for-3 vs. OSU, and 1-for-2 vs. MSU.

David DeJulius had a pretty good week, with 5 and 10 points.  He played some solid defense against Winston in the MSU game.

Austin Davis continued his strong play this week.  He scored a career-high 11 points (on 4-for-4 shooting) vs. OSU, and chipped in 4 more points (on 2-for-3 shooting) vs. MSU.  He played very good post defense, without committing silly fouls.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Teske had a quiet week, with 3 and 7 points.  He did have 6 and 8 rebounds.

Colin Castleton only played in the OSU game, and failed to score.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

As mentioned above, Livers was injured and didn’t play in the OSU game.

Adrien Nuñez didn’t play in either game.

The practice squad (C.J. Baird, Cole Bajema, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t play in either game.

What Does It Mean?

Michigan kind of held even this week.  They should have won the OSU game, but it was an upset that they beat MSU.  These results helped their chances for making the NCAA or NIT Tournaments, but didn’t change much in the Big Ten race; they’re still in 11th place, and they still stand no chance of contending for the title.  It would be nice if they could move up to 10th place or better, so they won’t have to play on Wednesday in the Big Ten Tournament.  There are 8 games left in the regular season, and they need to win at least 6 of them to make the NCAA Tournament, or 2 of them to make the NIT Tournament.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays two games, one on the road and one at home.  On Wednesday (02/12/2020, 9:00 p.m. EST, BTN), they play at Northwestern, then on Sunday (02/16/2020, 1:00 p.m., CBS), they play Indiana in Crisler Arena.

Northwestern is currently 6-16 (1-11 in the Big Ten).  They are all alone in last (14th) place.  They have a few quality wins (Providence, Bradley, and Boston College), but have lost to the likes of Merrimack, Radford, and Hartford.  They have some height (three 6’10” players), but no real star.  This is another rare opportunity for Michigan to win a true road game, but they’ll have to play well.

Indiana is currently 15-8 (5-7 in the Big Ten).  They are tied with Michigan for 11th place in the Big Ten standings.  They have impressive wins over (#17) Florida State, UConn, Notre Dame, (#11) Ohio State, and (#11) Michigan State.  Their significant losses are to Wisconsin, Maryland (twice), Rutgers, Penn State, and Purdue.  They have some height (one 6’11” player and one 6’10” player), and no real star.  This is another game that Michigan can win, if they play well.

Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!

Stripe Out Game vs. OSU

Stripe Out Game

Prior to Tuesday’s ‘stripe out’ themed game, maize and blue shirts were placed on the back of every seat in the stadium, alternating sections to create a stadium-wide stripe effect. The concept was generally a success, as most fans wore the free shirt over the outfit they arrived in, and honestly, who doesn’t love a free shirt. However, the 5 students in the front row of the maize rage decided that instead of a stripe out, they were going to wear spots. Cow spots to be exact, with matching cow onesies.

This was my first game sitting in the press box, and honestly the noise level of the crowd was shocking. Last year, I spent every game in the middle of the Maize Rage, screaming along with everyone, completely oblivious to the sheer volume that that can ring inside Crisler for a close game. Sitting above the court, being able to see everything without cheering along was super difficult, and I would constantly find myself holding back from yelling or clapping during certain moments. 

And after Tuesday’s game, I can definitively say that the best part about being a Michigan fan is the energy that everyone has. On a Tuesday night, in the middle of midterms for most students, everyone was on their feet cheering and screaming for the Wolverines up until the very end. With four minutes left in the game, and during a full media timeout, everyone remained standing.

Unfortunately, the Wolverines didn’t cinch the win against Ohio State. It was a close game up until the very end, and it came down to the last play of the game. However, at the press conference, Coach Howard, Wagner, and Davis all seemed to be ready to move past this loss and get ready for Michigan State on Saturday. At several points during the game, and on social media afterwards, videos played on the jumbotron getting fans hyped up for the big game Saturday, with a huge emphasis on the ‘maize out’ aspect. And if the response to the stripe out game was any indication, Saturday’s color theme should be a success.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #15 – 02/03/2020 – 1.5 Road Wins

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, both on the road, and they won both of them.  On Tuesday (01/28/2020), they won at Nebraska 79-68, then on Saturday (02/01/2020), they beat (#25) Rutgers in Madison Square Garden 69-63.  The wins raise Michigan’s record to 13-8 (4-6 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is still tied for 11th place in the Big Ten.

What Happened?

After starting the season 0-5 in true road games, Michigan finally won one.  Well, maybe one and a half, since the Rutgers game was a neutral court game in name only.  The crowd in Madison Square Garden was distinctly pulling for Rutgers.  Sure, Nebraska is having a down season, but a road win is a rarity in the Big Ten this season.  The win over Rutgers is even more impressive, since Rutgers is ranked for the first time in several decades.

In the Nebraska game, Nebraska led for the first 7 minutes, but only by 2-4 points.  The lead seesawed for the next few minutes, and the game was tied 27-27 with 5:05 left in the 1st half.  That’s when Michigan went ahead for the rest of the half, opening up a 5-point lead (40-35) at halftime.  Michigan led for all but one minute of the 2nd half, when Nebraska caught up and went ahead 52-50 with 13:49 left in the game.  In all Michigan’s previous road games, that would have been the beginning of the end, but UM didn’t fold this time, and took the lead back for good 53-52 at the 12:44 mark.  They got the lead as high as 15 points (71-56 with 5:47 to go), and kept the lead around 9-11 points the rest of the way.  It was a good, solid win.

In the Rutgers game, the lead seesawed for the first 5 minutes, then Michigan pulled ahead, leading by 10 points (24-14) with 7:17 left in the 1st half.  Rutgers fought back, and got within a point (35-34) with 0:27 left in the half.  Michigan got a layup at the buzzer, and led 37-24 at halftime.  Michigan came out stone cold to start the 2nd half, and didn’t score for the first 4:26 of the half.  By then, Rutgers was back in front, 38-37.  Once Michigan got the lead back, they pushed it up to 14 points (60-46 with 9:17 to go), and it looked like they had the game under control.  Nope.  Rutgers fought back again, and got within 5 points (63-58) with 2:50 left, within 3 points (63-60) with 0:27 left, and within 2 points (65-63) with 0:19 left.  Michigan made their free throws, played some defense, and finished strong to win by 6 (69-63).

Stats  

The stats for the Nebraska game are mixed.  Michigan shot well overall (28-for-56 = 50.0%), they shot 3-pointers poorly (7-for-24 = 29.2%), and they shot free throws poorly (16-for-24 = 66.7%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (41-27), but they lost the turnover battle (17-14).  Michigan won this game by controlling the boards.

The stats for the Rutgers game are amazing.  Michigan shot well overall (22-for-47 = 46.8%), they shot 3-pointers well (9-for-19 = 47.4%), but they shot free throws poorly (16-for-24 = 66.7%).  They were crushed in the rebounding battle (51-37), and they lost the turnover battle as well (16-10).  Of those 51 rebounds, Rutgers had 26 offensive rebounds, which is amazing.  Between the -14 in rebounds and the -6 in turnovers, Rutgers had 20 more possessions than Michigan.  Michigan won because they shot well and Rutgers didn’t.

Who Started?

The starters for the Nebraska game were Eli Brooks, David DeJulius, Brandon Johns, Jr., Jon Teske, and Franz Wagner.  DeJulius started in place of Zavier Simpson, who was suspended for one game due to “violation of team rules”.  He started in the Rutgers game. Johns started both games in place of Isaiah Livers, who missed 6 games because of a groin injury, returned to the starting lineup for the Illinois game, then re-injured his groin in that game.  Once again, he’s out indefinitely.

Who Looked Good?

Johns had a great week.  He hit a new career high with 16 points in the Nebraska game, then hit another career high with 20 points in the Rutgers game.  He was the star and the high scorer in the Rutgers game.  He shot a nice percentage from 3-point range: 1-for-1 vs. Nebraska and 4-for-7 vs. Rutgers.  He also had 7 rebounds in each game.

Wagner was the only other player to hit double figures in both games, with 18 and 10 points.  He continues to shoot poorly from 3-point range: 1-for-5 vs. Nebraska and 1-for-3 vs. Rutgers.  If he starts hitting his 3-pointers, Michigan will be deadly.  He’s getting the open 3-pointers he needs, he’s just not hitting them.

Brooks almost hit double figures in both games, with 20 and 9 points.  He was the leading scorer in the Nebraska game.  He hit a lot of big 3-pointers in both games, shooting 4-for-10 vs. Nebraska and 3-for-6 vs. Rutgers.

Teske also almost hit double figures in both games, with 9 and 13 points.

Simpson didn’t play in the Nebraska game (suspension), but he almost had a double-double in the Rutgers game, with 9 points and 10 assists.  On the negative side, he did have 6 turnovers, several of them “silly” or “unforced”.

Austin Davis is on track to be the Most Improved Player this season.  He has gone from being a liability to being a positive force out there.  He’s gotten his silly fouls under control, he’s playing great defense, and he chips in some points every now and then.  He had 3 points vs. Nebraska and 8 points vs. Rutgers.

Colin Castleton only played in the Nebraska game, but he did pretty well, scoring 5 points on 2-for-2 shooting.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

DeJulius didn’t make much of his first starting assignment, with 5 points (on 1-for-7 shooting) vs. Nebraska.  He came off the bench vs. Rutgers, and failed to score.

Adrien Nuñez played in both games, and didn’t do much.  He scored 3 points (on 1-for-6 shooting, all 3-pointers) vs. Nebraska, and failed to score in the Rutgers game.

Who Else Played?

C.J. Baird played for 8 minutes in the Nebraska game, but didn’t take a shot.  What’s the significance of this?  He wears number 24, and he played for 8 minutes, both a tribute to Kobe Bryant.

There was one other tribute to Kobe in the Nebraska game: Michigan won the opening tip, and intentionally held the ball in the backcourt for 10 seconds, getting a backcourt violation.  Nebraska inbounded the ball, and intentionally held the ball for 30 seconds, getting a shot clock violation.  These are the college versions of the tributes from the NBA, where their backcourt violation is 8 seconds (a Kobe number), and their shot clock violation is 24 seconds (Kobe’s other number).

Who Didn’t Play?

As mentioned above, Livers was injured and didn’t play in either game.

The rest of the practice squad (Cole Bajema, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t play in either game.

What Does It Mean?

It was great that Michigan finally won 1.5 road games, and it certainly helped their chances for making the NCAA or NIT Tournaments.  It didn’t change much in the Big Ten race; they’re still in 11th place, and they still stand no chance of contending for the title.  It would be nice if they could move up to 10th place or better, so they won’t have to play on Wednesday in the Big Ten Tournament.  There are 10 games left in the regular season, and they need to win at least 7 of them to make the NCAA Tournament, or 3 of them to make the NIT Tournament.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays two games, both at home.  On Tuesday (02/04/2020, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2), they play Ohio State, then on Saturday (02/08/2020, 12:00 p.m., FOX), they play (#14) Michigan State.

Ohio State is currently 14-7 (4-6 in the Big Ten).  They are tied with Michigan for 11th place in the Big Ten standings.  They have impressive wins over Cincinnati, Villanova, North Carolina, Penn State, Kentucky, and Indiana, but they have lost to Wisconsin, Minnesota (twice), Penn State, and Indiana.  They started the season ranked #18, got as high as #2, then lost 7 out of 8 games to drop out of the rankings.  They don’t have much height (two 6’9” players), but they do have the Wesson brothers, Andre and Kaleb.  This is a game that Michigan can win, and has to win, but they need to play their “A” game to do it.

Michigan has already played MSU once this season, back on 01/05/2020 in East Lansing, when State won 87-69.  They are now 16-6 (8-3 in the Big Ten), in 2nd place.  Since that game, MSU has gone 4-3, with wins over Minnesota (twice), Wisconsin, and Northwestern, and losses to Purdue (71-42!), Indiana, and Wisconsin.  They’re not unbeatable, but Cassius Winston had a great game the last time they played Michigan, and Michigan will have to play like they did in the Bahamas to beat MSU.

Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!