The period since the Wolverine’s win in the Citrus Bowl has been an outstanding Coach Harbaugh success on behalf of his Wolverines.
It is widely recognized that Harbaugh favored circus entertainment as a youth, and Michigan’s sometimes quirky, but always effective and intense second year head coach, has a natural touch of Ringling Brothers or Barnum and Bailey at times, as he invokes his innovative football ideas. It is predictable that he will set one trap and then another as the rules allow to enhance his charges position. Even so, he is no snake oil salesman, but honestly is totally dedicated to his winning ways, and enjoys his job.
The first week of practice at IMG in Florida provided a vehicle to tweak some of the SEC coaches who argued laughable concerns, as well as keeping the program in a national attention spotlight, and perhaps establishing a Florida recruiting presence.
How much it actually will help recruiting is to be seen, but the net benefit appears outstanding in all regards. That Harbaugh donned a Tigers uniform and coached first base, at a Detroit Tiger’s spring training game, was another nice touch.
The acquisition of one of the most highly touted defensive players in the country, Rashan Gary, was the cherry on the sundae of this year’s recruiting cycle. Gary was introduced at half time as were the rest of the 2016 recruits. He will be on board in the fall. It will be interesting to watch his progress on defense. He has the physique to immediately contribute.
So the beat went on through the end of spring training. It went nothing but well.
The unpredictable Harbaugh did not hold a post-game presser according to reliable reports. I must admit that I was unable to be there because of a recent total knee replacement. Hopefully, that is all I have to miss of the 2016 season.
There appears to be a real competition at Quarterback. Wilton Speight and John O’Korn had success both passing and running. Both scored a running TD. Shane Morris threw a TD from the wide receiver position, and an interception, but will likely also be in the QB competition. Shane threw an ill-advised jump ball late in the first half, after a nifty scramble, but Dymonte Thomas made him pay via an athletic interception. Shane’s use at WR was interesting.
Intensity levels and team enthusiasm were great.
This looks to be one of the best defenses in recent memory as it matures. While there were defensive bright spots Friday, they were being reigned in. For example, Peppers usage. Those usages will likely be more multiple later. It is predictable that Don Brown’s defense will be hell for leather. It will be all out. More evidence of that is to come.
John O’Korn quarterbacked the Maize, and was responsible for the first and last TDs of the game. Losing 14-13, O’Korn’s Blue team could not punch in what would have been the winning points on a failed two point conversion. The Henry Poggi dive was stopped short, as confirmed by an official and Harbaugh on review.
To me it seemed as though O’Korn won the QB day, but only by the slimmest of margins. He hit Drake Harris on a nice 30-yard out to the 11 as part of a 70-yard, 15-play drive to the game’s first 6.
Drake Harris had a good afternoon, as did defender Mike McCray, who had a 6-yard TFL during the drive. Hope this oft injured pair can stay on the healthy side for a change.
Ty Issac was very productive at running back. He has a couple of years left, so it is critical he make a move now or become addicted to pine. Looks like he has now established an appropriate mindset, and is in better physical shape.
A lateral to wide out Shane Morris set up a TD pass to a wide open Drake Johnson. It was Blue 7, Maize 0. They had already matched last year’s spring game TD production.
Winton Speight’s Maize fought back. Speight was 3 of 4, with a 31-yard TD completion to Jake Butt to make it 7 up in the second quarter.
Shane Morris threw an ill-advised bomb that was athletically intercepted by an alert DyMonte Thomas to end the half.
Winton Speight was productive in the second half too, managing a nifty 6-yard run for six and the Maize had the winning points. He also ran another for 9-yards.
Brandon Peters got some time at the QB throttle. He looks good.
Late in the game a roughing the passer penalty facilitated a TD run by the Blue team. Morris caught a short pass and motored 25-yards to the 13-yard line. John O’Korn scrambled and ran for the score, and it was Blue 13, Maize 14. The dive for two from the two failed. Game over.
While one has to be careful leaping to conclusions after a spring game as talent is split between teams and for other reasons, it seems safe to say the both offense and defense are improved over last year at this time. It is appears there will be encouraging answers for problems and shortcomings.
I am really looking forward to fall camp, and know you are too.
The University of Michigan men’s basketball team finished their season last week with a loss in the 2nd round (after the “First Four”) of the NCAA Tournament. They finished the season with a final overall record of 23-13 (10-8 in the Big Ten), which is decent, but not as good as hoped for or expected.
For the second season in a row, UM was hampered by big injuries to key players. Last season, it was Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert. This season it was LeVert again, and Spike Albrecht, the only 2 seniors on the team. Albrecht played a total of 69 minutes in 8 games before he finally retired on 12/11/2015, so he missed 28 games, including the entire Big Ten season and postseason play. LeVert played a little more (15 games, missing 21 games), but only played 48 minutes in Big Ten play, and none in the postseason. In both seasons, LeVert was leading the team in most offensive statistical categories when he went down. They were big injuries, and it took a while for the team to adjust and recover.
At the beginning of the season, I divided the games on the schedule up into 3 categories: “Should Win”, “Should Lose”, and “Toss Up”. Here was my initial guess that those games:
- Should Win (14) – Northern Michigan, Elon, Houston Baptist, Delaware State, Northern Kentucky, Youngstown State, Bryant, Penn State (home), Minnesota (home), Rutgers, Penn State (neutral), Purdue (home), Northwestern (home), Iowa (home).
- Should Lose (3) – Ohio State, Maryland (away), Wisconsin.
- Toss Up (14) – Xavier, UConn, 2nd round Battle 4 Atlantis, 3rd round Battle 4 Atlantis, NC State, SMU, Illinois, Purdue (away), Maryland (home), Iowa (away), Nebraska, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota (away).
I was way off in listing Purdue and Iowa as “Should Win” games, even though UM did beat Purdue in Ann Arbor. So, of the 12 true “Should Win” games, Michigan won all 12 of them.
Michigan did indeed lose all 3 of the “Should Lose” games.
Moving the Purdue (home) and Iowa (home) games to the “Toss Up” category, UM did pretty well, beating the 2nd round opponent in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament (Charlotte), the 3rd round Battle 4 Atlantis opponent (Texas), NC State, Illinois, Maryland (home), Nebraska, Purdue (home), and Minnesota (away). That’s 8 out of 16.
In fact, Michigan beat every team they were expected to beat, and only lost to teams that they were expected to lose to. They beat a few of the teams that they weren’t expected to beat: Texas, NC State, Maryland, Purdue, and Indiana (Big Ten Tournament). The only problem was that when they lost to a team they were expected to lose to, they often lost big, and looked bad doing it. In particular, the Xavier, UConn, SMU, Indiana (home), and Michigan State games were depressing.
Here are the final grades for the team, with mid-term grades in parentheses:
Brent Hibbitts: Inc. (Inc.)
Brent was voluntarily redshirted. I expect him to be a practice squad player for his whole career.
Moritz Wagner: B (B-)
Moe started strong early, especially in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, then disappeared for most of the rest of the regular season. He came alive again in the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. When he played with confidence, he looked great, but when he played tentatively, he looked lost. A summer in the weight room will do wonders for him.
DJ Wilson: C (B-)
DJ showed some promise early in the season, then faded from view. He showed flashes of potential, but there were many times that he just seemed to run up and down the court without wanting to get involved. He can still find a role on this team going forward, but he needs to focus a little better.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: A- (B-)
MAAR got better as the season went on. He was the best player at slashing to the rim, and he showed great athleticism against bigger players. He doesn’t have the court vision of a point guard, and he doesn’t have the 3-point touch of a shooting guard, but he is fast and fearless.
Kameron Chatman: C- (C+)
Kam had a hard time getting into the games, but once he did, he either did very well or very poorly. After a horrible 3-point shooting slump to start the season, he hit some big shots down the stretch, including the dramatic game-winner against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament. He has boatloads of potential, he just needs to get some consistency.
Aubrey Dawkins: B- (B)
For a while, Aubrey looked like he was going to be “the best 6th man in the Big Ten”. He is a great 3-point shooter, rebounder, and dunk artist, but he’s a liability on the defensive end. He went into a shooting slump at the end of the season, and that limited his minutes and effectiveness. He can still be a great 6th man, and even a starter, but he needs to work on his defense, and get more consistent with his 3-point shot.
Mark Donnal: B (B-)
Mark voluntarily redshirted his first season, so he had sophomore eligibility, even though he was listed as a junior on the official roster. He began the season as a starter, lost his spot to Doyle, and almost disappeared. When he got into the non-conference games, he didn’t do much. Then the Big Ten season started, and he suddenly woke up. He had several 20+ point games in league play, and became the clear choice for the starting center. If he can start from that point next season, he could be a force in the Big Ten.
Ricky Doyle: C (B)
Ricky began the season as the backup center, played his way into starting, then regressed back to the backup position, and below. It turns out he had undiagnosed sleep apnea and asthma issues. Maybe once his medical issues are addressed, he’ll get back to his previous level of play.
Duncan Robinson: B+ (A-)
Duncan started the season red hot from 3-point range, then cooled down as the wear-and-tear of the long Big Ten schedule ground him down. On the positive side, as his 3-point shooting cooled off, he got much better at other phases of his game, especially rebounding and driving to the basket. His defense could still use some work, and another summer of Camp Sanderson will certainly help. If he can build up his conditioning and endurance, he could be one of the elite shooters in the Big Ten (and the nation) next season.
Andrew Dakich: C (Inc.)
Andrew has voluntarily “burned his redshirt” the last two seasons, and has certainly helped the team when it needed him. He plays hard when he’s in, but he’s obviously a step slower and a lot less athletic than the scholarship players on the other teams. The opposing defenses get to play 5-on-4 when he’s on the floor, since he refuses to shoot, even when he’s wide open. Still, he provides valuable rest for the main rotation guards when he’s in, and he can “hold the fort” for a few minutes.
Zak Irvin: B (B-)
Zak had a slow start to the season as he recovered from pre-season back surgery. When both seniors (Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert) went down to injuries, he and Derrick Walton Jr. stepped up as on-floor leaders. Zak wasn’t particularly efficient, but he managed to score a lot of points when his team needed them. He played hard, and he provided good leadership.
Sean Lonergan: Inc. (Inc.)
Sean was voluntarily redshirted this season. I expect him to play sparingly next season as a redshirt junior.
Derrick Walton Jr.: A- (A)
Derrick was the other on-court leader, once the seniors went down to injury. He played pretty well all season, but he was obviously running out of gas near the end. He was asked to carry a heavy load, due to the injuries, and it took a toll on him. He should have much better support next season (see “Looking Ahead”, below).
Spike Albrecht: Inc. (Inc.)
Sure, Spike played in parts of 8 games, but usually only 8-10 minutes. He had double hip surgery in the off-season, and he never looked comfortable out there. He finally “retired” on 12/11/2015, ending this season, and possibly his career. A medical redshirt season is still possible, so he might be back next season, but there’s a problem – UM is out of scholarships for next season. So, maybe Spike will play a “grad transfer” year somewhere else. I hope he’s back at UM, healthy and ready to play.
Caris LeVert: A (A)
I saved the best for last. Caris only played half a season, but he played it well. He missed all but a few minutes of the Big Ten season, and all of the postseason, but he still contributed before his injury. He will be missed.
I’m an optimist, and I usually wrap up every season with all the reasons that next season will be better, but there are several reasons to be more excited about next season than usual:
- Once the team adjusted to “the new normal” (both senior captains out indefinitely), they played pretty well. They had a couple bad stretches, but they also beat some teams they weren’t expected to beat. All those players are coming back.
- A couple of the first-year players (Duncan Robinson and Moe Wagner) stand an excellent chance of making the big leap forward that Coach Beilein often gets out of his players.
- MAAR was one of the most improved players I’ve seen in many seasons. If he can continue that trajectory, he’ll be an NBA-level player next season.
- Coach Beilein has an excellent recruiting class coming in next season.
Let’s take a quick look at the incoming freshman for next season (courtesy of UMHoops.com):
- Austin Davis (6’10”, 240 pounds, C/F) – Austin finished as runner-up for Mr. Basketball in Michigan. He’s an old-fashioned, back-to-the-basket, physical center. He’s a good scorer, rebounder, and defender. He could use some conditioning. Hello, Camp Sanderson.
- Xavier Simpson (6’0″, 170 pounds, G) – Xavier was Mr. Basketball for Ohio, and he’s the point guard of the future. He’s not very tall, but he can run an offense, and he can score.
- Jon Teske (6’11”, 210 pounds, C/F) – Jon is often listed as 7’0″ or 7’1″. He’s a rim-protector, which Michigan hasn’t had in years, and he can score. He’s another player who could use some time in the weight room, in his case to bulk up a little.
- Ibi Watson (6’5″, 180 pounds, F/W) – Ibi will remind us of Caris LeVert, once he gets the hang of the college game. He’s got the same tools.
Be sure to check back in late October for the season preview.
The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, both as the #11 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament, and they won the first and lost the second. On Wednesday (03/16/2016), they beat the other #11 seed, Tulsa, 67-62 in a play-in (“First Four”) game in Dayton, then on Friday (03/18/2016), the lost to the #6 seed, Notre Dame, 70-63 in Brooklyn. The win and the loss leave Michigan with a final overall record of 23-13 (10-8 in the Big Ten).
While it was great for Michigan to win an NCAA Tournament game, even if it was a “First Four” game, it was a shame that they lost the Notre Dame game. They showed that they were the better team, and they could have made a good run in the Big Dance, but they just ran out of gas in the 2nd half. Between the 3 games in the Big Ten Tournament last week, and the 2 games in the NCAA Tournament, they played 5 games in 8 days in 3 different cities. It finally caught up with them.
The Tulsa game was close and exciting, but it shouldn’t have been. Michigan was clearly the better team, but once again they “played down to the opposition”. They fell behind early, then finished the 1st half on a long (9 minute) 19-4 run to lead 28-20 at halftime. It only took Tulsa 2:30 in the 2nd half to tie the game up, then it was a seesaw battle for the rest of the game. UM outplayed Tulsa in the last 2:00, and earned the win.
The Notre Dame game was very similar to the Tulsa game, except that Michigan built an even bigger halftime lead (12 points: 41-29), and held onto it longer in the 2nd half (8 minutes). Once ND tied it up (48-48) with 12:18 left, it was another seesaw game, with ND pulling ahead by 5 points (66-61) with 1:36 left. UM got within 3 points (66-63), and had a shot at tying it up with 13 seconds left, but a 3-pointer rattled out, and that was the ball game.
The stats for the Tulsa game are not very impressive. UM shot pretty poorly overall (24-for-59 = 40.7%), they shot 3-pointers terribly (6-for-25 = 24.0%), and they shot free throws well (13-for-16 = 81.3%). They won the rebounding battle (38-36) and the turnover battle (8-11). They won the game at the free throw line, since Tulsa was only 9-for-15.
The stats for the Notre Dame game are actually a little better than the Tulsa game. UM shot a little worse overall (25-for-63 = 39.7%), but they shot 3-pointers better (10-for-27 = 37.0%). They didn’t get to the line enough (3-for-5 = 60.0%), they got hammered on the boards (33-25), but they did win the turnover battle (7-16). They lost the game at the free throw line, since ND was 12-for-15.
Individually, here’s how the starters did this week:
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – MAAR was the leading scorer in both games, with 16 and 15 points.
- Mark Donnal – 2 and 9 points. Donnal just wasn’t very effective in either game.
- Zak Irvin – 16 and 9 points. Irvin didn’t shoot very well against ND, going 1-for-9 from 3-point range. He’s the one who took, and missed, the shot to tie the game up with 13 seconds left.
- Duncan Robinson – 13 and 9 points. Robinson had his first (UM) career double-double in the Tulsa game, with 13 points and 11 rebounds. The also shot 50% from 3-point range for the tournament (2-for-5 and 3-for-5).
- Derrick Walton Jr. – 12 and 10 points. Walton was the player who looked the most “out of gas” in the 2nd half of the ND game.
The bench didn’t chip in very many points this week:
- Kameron Chatman – 0 points and DNP. Chatman fired up 5 shots vs. Tulsa, and none of them went in. He sat for the ND game.
- Andrew Dakich –0 and 0 points. Dakich didn’t take a shot in either game.
- Aubrey Dawkins –0 and 5 points. The team really could have used a spark from Dawkins, especially in the ND game.
- Ricky Doyle – 4 and 0 points. Doyle wasn’t very effective in either game.
- Moritz Wagner – 4 and 6 points. Moe also had 8 rebounds in the Tulsa game, and was the most effective big man for UM in the tournament.
- DJ Wilson – DNP in both games.
Michigan’s season is over, but there’s still one more week of Nothing But ‘Net. Check back next week for the Season Wrap-Up, Final Grades, and a look ahead to next season.
The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played three games this week, all as the #8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, and they won the first two and lost the third one. On Thursday (03/10/2016), they beat the #9 seed, Northwestern, 72-70 (in overtime), on Friday (03/11/2016), they beat the #1 seed, (#10) Indiana, 72-69, then on Saturday (03/12/2016), they lost to the #4 seed, (#13) Purdue, 76-59. The 2 wins and 1 loss leave Michigan with an overall record of 22-12 (10-8 in the Big Ten).
Michigan came into the Big Ten Tournament needing two wins to get into the NCAA Tournament, and they got them. Michigan earned a First Four berth as a #11 seed in the East regional, playing the other #11 seed, Tulsa. More about Tulsa and the play-in game below. Michigan played a decent game against an underrated Northwestern team on Thursday, but they played a great game against a powerful Indiana team on Friday. They were tired by the time they played their third game in three days against Purdue on Saturday, and that did them in. Still, it was a good run, and Michigan played better than they have in a month.
The Northwestern game was frustrating. Michigan is obviously a better team, but they kept shooting themselves in the foot any time they had a chance to build a comfortable lead and put Northwestern away. UM started the game on fire. Northwestern hit a quick 3-pointer to lead 3-0, then Michigan rattled off 16 straight points in 5 minutes to go up 16-3 with 15:00 left in the 1st half. They traded baskets with Northwestern for the next few minutes, and still led by 12 points (23-11) with 10:38 to go in the half. Instead of putting Northwestern away, they allowed them to go on a quick 12-2 run, and suddenly UM only led by 2 points (25-23) with 5:44 left in the half. Fortunately, UM went on a nice 9-2 run to end the half, leading 34-25. Michigan pushed the lead back up to 12 points (37-25) early in the 2nd half, but let the lead slip back down to 3 points (37-34) at the 15:59 mark. UM kept the lead, around 4-6 points, until the 5:49 mark, when Northwestern tied it up (52-52). The teams traded baskets down the stretch, and Northwestern tied it up at the buzzer (60-60). In overtime, UM went up by 4 early (67-63, with 2:59 left), fell behind late (70-67, with 1:02 left), and scored the last 5 points to win, 72-20. It wasn’t a very impressive win, but it was an important one.
The Indiana game was close and exciting the whole time. The lead seesawed back and forth all game, with 12 ties and 18 lead changes. Neither team led by more than 6 points, and the game was tied with 46 seconds left, 69-69. IU had the ball, but UM stole it with 21 seconds left and held for the last shot. Kameron Chatman was the unlikely hero who buried a contested corner 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left, and Michigan had the win they needed.
Even though Michigan was tired, playing their third game in three days, they hung with Purdue pretty well, EXCEPT for the first 3 minutes of each half. Purdue jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first 2:42 of the 1st half, and led by 8 points at halftime (38-30). The start of the 2nd half was even worse, as Purdue started with a 9-0 run in the first 2:41, to make the deficit 17 points (47-30). That was the final margin of victory. Other than those two scoring runs, Michigan played Purdue dead even.
So, what did we learn about this season’s UM team this week? We learned that they still had one more big win up their sleeves. We’ll see how they do in the Big Dance.
The stats for the Northwestern game aren’t very impressive. UM shot pretty poorly overall (22-for-58 = 37.9%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (12-for-29 = 41.4%), and they shot free throws well (16-for-20 = 80.0%). They lost the rebounding battle (45-39) and the turnover battle (8-7). They won the game at the free throw line. Northwestern was only 9-for-12 at the line. Those 7 extra points made the difference.
The stats for the Indiana game are surprisingly mediocre for a win over a Top-10 team. UM shot pretty well overall (26-for-56 = 46.4%), they shot pretty poorly from 3-point range (6-for-21 = 28.6%), and they shot very well at the free throw line (14-for-16 = 87.5%). They lost the rebounding battle again (37-25), but they won the turnover battle (10-15). UM won because IU shot even worse: 24-for-53 (45.3%) overall, 4-for17 (23.5%) on 3-pointers, and 17-for-21 (81.0%) from the free throw line.
The stats for the Purdue game are sad. UM shot poorly across the board: 23-for-61 (37.7%) overall, 6-for-25 (24.0%) from 3-point range, and 7-for-12 (58.3%) from the free throw line. They got hammered on the boards (41-26), but they did win the turnover battle (8-12). It was ugly.
Individually, here’s how the starters did this week:
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 14, 15, and 15 points. MAAR had a great tournament, and was the most consistent player this week.
- Mark Donnal – 2, 12, and 7 points. Donnal had foul trouble in all 3 games, with 5, 4, and 4 fouls.
- Zak Irvin – 19, 17, and 11 points. Irvin also had a great tournament, and hit the game-winning basket vs. Northwestern.
- Duncan Robinson – 21, 12, and 3 points. Robinson broke out of his late-season shooting slump vs. Northwestern (4-for-6 shooting 3-pointers), but started a new slump in the next 2 games (1-for-6 vs. IU, and 1-for-5 vs. Purdue).
- Derrick Walton Jr. – 2, 2, and 14. Walton had a baffling tournament. He shot 0-for-7 vs. Northwestern and 0-for-3 vs. Indiana, then scored 14 points vs. Purdue. He did set a new Big Ten Tournament record with 12 assists vs. Indiana.
The bench chipped in some important points this week:
- Kameron Chatman – 3, 5, and 4 points, including the amazing game-winning 3-pointer vs. Indiana.
- Andrew Dakich – 3, 0, and 0 points. Dakich took 1 shot in each game, making a 3-pointer vs. Northwestern.
- Aubrey Dawkins – 2, 0, and 2 points. The team really could have used a spark from Dawkins, especially in the Purdue game.
- Ricky Doyle – 6, 0, and 0 points. Doyle tweaked his ankle in the last second of the Northwestern game, and was hobbled in the other two games.
- Moritz Wagner – 0, 9, and 3 points. After not playing much in the Big Ten regular season, Wagner played a key role in the win over IU, including an unexpected 3-pointer.
- DJ Wilson – 0, DNP, and 0 points. Wilson only played 4 minutes total.
On to the Big Dance. As I mentioned above, Michigan is playing in a First Four game on Wednesday (03/16/2016, 9:10 p.m. EDT, truTV) vs. Tulsa, in Dayton (OH). If they win that game, they’ll move on to play as the #11 seed in the East regional vs. the #6 seed, Notre Dame. That game is on Friday (03/18/2016) at 9:30 p.m. EDT in Brooklyn (NY), on CBS. Finally, if they win that game, they’ll play the winner of the (#3 seed) West Virginia vs. (#14 seed) Stephen F. Austin game. That game is on Sunday (03/20/2016), time and TV information TBA.
The full NCAA Tournament bracket is here.
Tulsa finished the regular season 20-10, and lost to Memphis in the 1st round of the AAC Tournament. They have a few good wins (Oklahoma State, UConn, and SMU), and a few bad losses (Little Rock, Oregon State, and Houston). They’re not particularly tall, but they do have a lot of juniors and seniors on the team. It should be a good matchup, and UM needs to play their “A” game to win this one.
Notre Dame also finished the regular season 20-10, but they won one game in their conference (ACC) tournament. They beat Duke in overtime, then got hammered by North Carolina. They have some impressive wins (at Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, and Duke in the ACC Tournament), and some not-so-impressive losses (Monmouth, Alabama, and Florida State). They don’t have much height at all, but they do have a decent number of upperclassmen. They’re a #6 seed for a reason, and UM will have their hands full if they get that far.
You’re on your own checking out the rest of the teams that UM could potentially play.
Tune by on Wednesday (and hopefully, beyond), then check back next week to see what happened, and why.
The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this week, and they lost it. On Saturday (03/05/2016), they lost to (#16) Iowa 71-61 in Crisler Arena. The loss drops Michigan’s record to 20-11 (10-8 in the Big Ten).
It’s always sad to lose on Senior Night, and it’s even sadder when all your seniors are in street clothes due to injuries. It was a terrible way for Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert to end their Michigan careers.
The game itself was actually pretty entertaining, as long as you weren’t rooting for Michigan to win. It was fast-paced and sloppy, with lots of acrobatic moves and wild loose balls. Other than a brief 3-0 and 3-2 lead for Michigan, Iowa led the whole way. They kept the lead around 10 points for most of the game, occasionally pushing it as high as 15, with Michigan getting as close as 1 point (once) and 2 points (a few times) in the first half. The key moment in the game came with 6:13 left in the 2nd half, when UM cut a 15-point deficit (59-44) down to 5 points (59-54) in 4 minutes. UM was playing hard and smart, Iowa was starting to look rattled, and the sell-out crowd was getting into it. Just when it looked like Michigan might claw its way back into the game, Michigan went cold again, and Iowa pushed the lead back up to 11 points (69-58). That was the game.
So, what did we learn about this season’s UM team this week? Nothing new. This is not an NCAA Tournament team. Maybe next year.
The stats for the game are pretty dismal. UM didn’t shoot well overall (23-for-64 = 35.9%), they didn’t shoot well from 3-point range (8-for-34 = 23.5%), and they didn’t shoot free throws well (7-for-12 = 58.3%). They did a great job rebounding (43-35), including 12 offensive rebounds, but they lost the turnover battle (11-8).
Coach Beilein went with his regular starting lineup: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (MAAR), Mark Donnal, Zak Irvin, Duncan Robinson, and Derrick Walton Jr. Three of the starters hit double figures: MAAR with 10 points, Irvin with 11 (and 8 rebounds), and Walton, with 14. The other two starters did OK: Donnal had 9 points (and a career-high 10 rebounds), and Robinson had 8 points (and 8 rebounds). Robinson played his best all-around game of the season, but is still deep in his 3-point shooting slump (1-for-6 this game).
The bench didn’t contribute many points in this game:
- Kameron Chatman had 5 points.
- Andrew Dakich had 0 points.
- Aubrey Dawkins had 2 points.
- Ricky Doyle had 2 points.
- Moritz Wagner didn’t play.
- DJ Wilson had 0 points.
The regular season is over; on to the Big Ten Tournament, in Indianapolis. Michigan is the #8 seed, and they get a bye into the 2nd round on Thursday (03/10/2016, 12:00 p.m. EST, BTN) vs. the #9 seed, Northwestern. If they win that one, they get to play the #1 seed (Indiana) on Friday (03/11/2016, 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN). The complete bracket is here.
Michigan should be able to beat Northwestern, but beating Indiana on a nearly-home-court is going to be a tall order. The big question is: will one more win be enough to get UM into the NCAA Tournament. I’d put the odds at about 30%.
Tune by on Thursday (and hopefully, beyond), then check back next week to see what happened, and why.
Happy Leap Day.
The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they won one and lost the other. On Wednesday (02/24/2016), they beat Northwestern 72-63 in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (02/28/2016), they lost at Wisconsin 68-57. The win and the loss leave Michigan with a record of 20-10 (10-7 in the Big Ten).
With one game left in the regular season, Michigan is limping to the finish line. They have lost 3 of their last 4 games, and are teetering on the edge of the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.
The win over Northwestern was hard to watch. It was ugly. Michigan started out slow, missing their first 8 shots, along with 2 turnovers, and trailed 10-0. When they finally got going, they managed to get within 2 points a couple times (19-17 and 23-21), but they always failed to score when they had the chance to tie or take the lead. They missed their first nine 3-point attempts before finally making one at the halftime buzzer to pull within 1 point (29-28). They got the ball to start the 2nd half, and promptly threw it away. They let Northwestern go on another 8-0 run, this time with 2 missed shots and 3 turnovers, before they finally got going again. They got back within 1 point again (42-41) with 12:30 left, and finally tied the game up 44-44 with 11:10 to go. They got their first lead (45-44) with 9:15 left, and played even with Northwestern for the next 4 minutes. With 5:01 left, Michigan tied it up 54-54, then went ahead for good on a nice 3-pointer. Michigan should have handled Northwestern easily, but they struggled to get any offensive flow.
The game at Wisconsin was also hard to watch, but for a different reason. Michigan actually played pretty well for most of the game, and led for a lot of the way. They had a 7 point lead (9-2) early, and led by 1 point at halftime (30-29). They still led by 1 point (40-39) with 13:13 to go when the roof fell in. UM missed 4 shots in a row, and let UW go on an 8-0 run to make it 47-40. Wisconsin pushed the lead as high as 13, and Michigan got as close as 5 points, but that 8-0 run was the big difference. Michigan isn’t good enough to come from behind against a good team on the road. They need to manage the game better. They need to have a few “go to” plays that they can run when they really need a basket to stop a crippling run.
So, what did we learn about this season’s UM team this week? We learned that they probably aren’t an NCAA Tournament team. If they can beat Iowa this Saturday, or win a couple games in the Big Ten Tournament, maybe they’ll sneak in, but they’ll be lucky to win a game in the Big Dance. This is a team in disarray.
The stats for the Northwestern game aren’t as bad as you’d expect for such an ugly game. Michigan shot fairly well overall (24-for-49 = 49.0%), they shot 3-pointers terribly (4-for-15 = 26.7%), and they shot free throws pretty well (20-for-25 = 80.0%). They won the rebounding battle handily (33-24), and they tied in the turnover battle (9-9). UM won the game at the free throw line. Northwestern was 5-for-9 shooting free throws, so Michigan outscored them by 15 points at the line.
The stats for the Wisconsin game aren’t bad either. Michigan shot fairly well again overall (24-for-50 = 48.0%), they shot a decent percentage from 3-pointer range (5-for-13 = 38.5%), but they shot free throws pretty poorly (4-for-7 = 57.1%). They got clobbered on the boards (33-20), and they barely won the turnover battle (11-12). Just as they beat Northwestern at the free throw line, Wisconsin beat Michigan at the free throw line. They shot 12-for-15. Those 8 extra points go a long way towards explaining an 11 point loss.
I know this is sounding like a broken record, but once again Caris LeVert didn’t play this week. So far, he has played one full Big Ten game (Illinois on 12/30/2015) and 11 scoreless minutes vs. Purdue on 02/13/2016, and that’s been it. With one regular season Big Ten game left and the Big Ten Tournament and (maybe) the NCAA Tournament, there aren’t many games left for him to play in. Sigh.
With LeVert unavailable again, Coach Beilein went with his regular starting lineup: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (MAAR), Mark Donnal, Zak Irvin, Duncan Robinson, and Derrick Walton Jr. Only one of the starters hit double figures in both games: Walton, with 16 and 10 points. MAAR had a great game against Northwestern, with 19 points, but he had a lousy game against Wisconsin, with 2 points. Donnal was in foul trouble in both games, and only scored 7 and 6 points. Irvin had a quiet game against Northwestern, with 6 points, but was UM’s best offensive threat in the 1st half at Wisconsin. He ended up with 14 points. Robinson had 5 and 10 points.
The bench contributed more points than usual this week:
- Kameron Chatman had 2 and 0 points.
- Andrew Dakich had 0 and 2 points.
- Aubrey Dawkins had 11 and 3 points.
- Ricky Doyle had 6 and 10 points. He did a great job filling in for Donnal in both games.
- Moritz Wagner didn’t play in either game.
- DJ Wilson didn’t play in the Northwestern game, and played but failed to score in the Wisconsin game.
This week, Michigan plays one Big Ten game, the last regular season game. On Saturday (03/05/2016, 8:00 p.m., BTN), they play (#8) Iowa in Crisler Arena. Michigan already played Iowa once this season, and lost 82-71 in Iowa City back on 01/17/2016. Iowa is currently 20-8 (11-4 in the Big Ten), but they have lost 4 of their last 5 games, mostly on the road. They are beatable, but UM must play their “A” game to stand a chance. They can’t allow any of the long scoreless droughts that have cost them so many games this season.
Since this is the last home game of the season, it’s Senior Night. At the start of the season, there were 2 seniors in the lineup: LeVert and Spike Albrecht. Now there are none. Albrecht had double hip surgery in the off-season, and never got back into playing shape. He finally retired on 12/11/2015. LeVert injured his “lower left leg” near the end of the Illinois game on 12/30/2015, and that was the end of the senior class. I don’t know if either of them will try to play for even a minute on Saturday, but I doubt it. Albrecht would qualify for a medical redshirt if he wanted to come back next season, or use the grad transfer rule, but I suspect he could get permission to play on Senior Night without endangering his medical redshirt. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Come on down to Crisler on Saturday, then check back next week to see what happened, and why.