Nothing But ‘Net – Week #14 – 02/22/2021 – Two Huge Wins & Rescheduled Games

The (#3) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they won them both.  On Thursday (02/18/2021), they beat Rutgers 71-64 in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (02/21/2021), they beat (#4) Ohio State 92-87 in Columbus, OH.  The wins raise Michigan’s record to 16-1 (11-1 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is still all alone in 1st place in the Big Ten standings.

What Happened?

The Rutgers game was a see-saw battle in the early going, before Michigan pulled ahead for good.  Rutgers led early (11-6 with 13:50 left in the 1st half), Michigan tied it (13-13) at the 11:01 mark, and led for the rest of the game, up by 9 points (37-28) at halftime.  UM pushed the lead as high as 17 points in the 2nd half, and still led by 14 points (63-49) with 3:01 to go.  Rutgers made one last push, and got the deficit down to 7 points at the end, but couldn’t get any closer.

The OSU game was very close the whole way.  OSU led in the early going, by 2-4 points.  Michigan finally got ahead, 20-19, with 9:02 left in the 1st half.  They led by 3-5 points until the 2:47 mark, when OSU went back ahead, 38-37.  The lead went back and forth, with UM scoring at the buzzer to lead by 2 points (45-43) at halftime.  The 2nd half was more of the same, with the lead going back and forth.  With 13:09 left, Michigan was up by 1 point (59-58), then OSU went ahead for a while.  The game was tied (69-69) with 6:30 to go, when Michigan went ahead for good.  They pushed the lead as high as 9 points (88-79) with 0:23 left, then hung on to win by 5.

I try really hard not to complain about the officiating, especially in a big win, but the officials were terrible in the OSU game.  They’ve been spotty all season, but they were especially bad in this game.  I’m just glad Michigan was able to overcome the “home cooking”.

Stats

The stats for the Rutgers game are just OK.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (24-for-52 = 46.2%), they shot 3-pointers well enough (6-for-15 = 40.0%), and they shot free throws pretty well (17-for-23 = 73.9%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (40-27), but lost the turnover battle badly (11-30).  Michigan won this game with rebounding and defense.

The stats for the OSU game are pretty good.  Michigan shot well overall (31-for-58 = 53.4%), they shot 3-pointers well (11-for-23 = 47.8%), and they shot free throws well enough (19-for-24 = 79.2%).  They won the rebounding battle (30-26) and the turnover battle (7-9).  Michigan won this game with 3-point shooting, but there’s more to that story: Michigan shot a blazing 10-for-13 (76.2%) from 3-point range in the 1st half, then went cold in the 2nd half, shooting 1-for-10.  That still works out to 47.8%, but if they could have just hit 40% in the 2nd half, the game would have been much less tense.

Who Started?

The starters for both games were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Isaiah Livers, Mike Smith, and Franz Wagner.

Who Looked Good?

Smith hit double figures in both games, with 12 points vs. Rutgers and 11 points vs. OSU.  As usual, he did a fine job running the offense, with 7 assists in the OSU game.

Dickinson also hit double figures in both games, with 10 points vs. Rutgers and 22 points vs. OSU.  He was the high scorer for Michigan in the OSU game.  It was good to see him back in double figures again, after a few sub-par scoring games.

Wagner almost hit double figures in both games, with 20 points vs. Rutgers and 9 points vs. OSU.  He was the high scorer for Michigan in the Rutgers game.

Livers had one good game (12 points vs. OSU) and one mediocre game (7 points vs. Rutgers).  He shot very poorly in the Rutgers game (3-for-10 overall, 0-for-4 from deep).

Brooks also had one good game (17 points vs. OSU) and one mediocre game (4 points vs. Rutgers).  He also shot very poorly in the Rutgers game (1-for-5 overall, 0-for-1 from deep).

Chaundee Brown, Jr. was one of the heroes in the OSU game, with 15 points, including 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range.  He chipped in 6 points in the Rutgers game.

Austin Davis spelled Dickinson in both games, and chipped in 7 and 4 points.

Brandon Johns, Jr. chipped in 5 and 2 points, including another 3-pointer vs. Rutgers.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Terrance Williams II played for 6 minutes in the Rutgers game, but didn’t do anything.  He didn’t play in the OSU game.

Who Else Played?

No one else played in either game.

Who Didn’t Play?

3 of the 4 scholarship players who aren’t part of the main rotation (Jace Howard, Zeb Jackson, and Adrien Nuñez) didn’t play in either game.

The scout team players (C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, Brandon Wade, and Luke Wilson) didn’t play in either game.

What Does It Mean?

Wow!  These were two huge wins!  Rutgers was unranked by the time Michigan beat them, but they had been ranked for much of the season, as recently as 2 weeks ago.  Ohio State was ranked #4, and they had won 7 games in a row coming into their game against Michigan.  They were projected as a #1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.  They were the toughest opponent that Michigan has faced so far, and UM played them tough.  It was very encouraging.

In terms of the Big Ten title race, these were very important wins for Michigan.  They keep them all alone in 1st place, two games ahead of Illinois and four games ahead of Ohio State and Iowa in the all-important loss column.  It has been officially announced that the league champion will be determined by win percentage, since several teams (including Michigan) are not going to have enough time to play all 20 scheduled Big Ten games.  At this point, Michigan has a 0.5 game lead over Illinois in the standings, a 1.5 game lead over OSU, and a 2 game lead over Iowa, based on win percentage.

The big news this week was that the Big Ten rescheduled a bunch of postponed games, including 2 of the 5 that Michigan missed.  They also moved a few games to make this new schedule possible, including one of Michigan’s games.  Here is Michigan’s schedule for the last 2 weeks of the regular season:

02/25/2021 (Thu) vs. Iowa (home) – moved from 03/04/2021

02/27/2021 (Sat) at Indiana (away) – original schedule

03/02/2021 (Tue) vs. Illinois (home) – rescheduled from 02/11/2021

03/04/2021 (Thu) vs. Michigan State (home) – rescheduled from 02/06/2021

03/07/2021 (Sun) at Michigan State (away) – original schedule

There are a couple 2-day turnarounds in there (Iowa/Indiana and Illinois/MSU) that could be tricky.

If Michigan plays all 5 of these games as scheduled, they’ll end up playing 17 Big Ten games, skipping the following 3 games:

01/27/2021 at Penn State

01/30/2021 home vs. Indiana

02/03/2021 at Northwestern

Since they already played (and beat) PSU and Northwestern, and they still have a game scheduled at Indiana, missing these 3 games isn’t a big deal.  In fact, they are all games that Michigan was likely to have won.

Obviously, the last 5 games are all important, but the games vs. Iowa and Illinois are crucial, and it’s always important to beat MSU as often as possible.

Also, for any trivia nerds out there: there are 4 “vowel” teams in the Big Ten (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio State), and Michigan is playing them all in a row.  As far as I can tell, this is the first time Michigan has had this schedule quirk.  They’re not only playing them in a row, they are also playing them just one time each this season, and they’re playing them in reverse alphabetical order.  Weird how it worked out, huh?

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to play two games, one at home and one on the road.  On Thursday (02/25/2021, 7:00 p.m., ESPN), they are scheduled to play (#11) Iowa in Crisler, then on Saturday (02/27/2021, 12:00 p.m. EST, FOX), they are scheduled to play at Indiana.

Iowa is currently 17-6 (11-5 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over (#16) North Carolina, Iowa State, (#19) Northwestern, (#14) Rutgers, (#16) Minnesota, Michigan State, (#25) Rutgers, and (#21) Wisconsin, and less-than-impressive losses to Minnesota and Indiana (twice).  They have probable national player of the year Luka Garza, who has always given Michigan fits, along with 2 long-range 3-point gunners (Jordan Bohannon and Joe Weiskamp).  They have some height: Garza is 6’11”, and they have one other 6’11” guy.  This will be quite a test for Hunter Dickinson.

Indiana is currently 12-10 (7-8 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over (#4) Iowa and (#8) Iowa, and less-than-impressive losses to Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers, and Michigan State.  They don’t have any superstars, and not much height (only one 6’11” dude).  On paper, Michigan should win this game handily, but it’s always tough to win on the road in the Big Ten, especially on one day’s rest.  This is a classic “trap” game.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #13 – 02/15/2021 – Back In The Saddle Again

The (#3) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this week, and they won it.  On Sunday (02/14/2021), they beat (#21) Wisconsin 67-59 in Madison, WI.  The win raises Michigan’s record to 14-1 (9-1 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is still all alone in 1st place in the Big Ten standings.

What Happened?

After over three weeks (23 days) off, Michigan finally got to play another game, and there was a little rust.  The first half was not pretty, especially on the offensive end.  The opening 11 minutes were close, and the score was tied (20-20) with 9:10 to go in the half.  That’s when UM went cold, and Wisconsin went on a 19-7 run to end the half, up 39-27 at halftime.  Fortunately, Michigan finally remembered how to play the game, and they slowly climbed back into it.  They got within 3 points (45-42) with 14:12 left, and within a point (53-52) with 6:27 to go.  They finally went ahead (54-53) at the 5:04 mark, and the game was tied up (59-59) with 2:21 to go.  That’s when Michigan got serious, and went on an 8-0 run to end the game, winning 67-59.  They held Wisconsin without a basket in the last 4:44 of the game.

Stats

The stats for the Wisconsin game are just OK.  Michigan shot decently overall (24-for-59 = 40.7%), they shot 3-pointers well enough (7-for-17 = 41.2%), and they shot free throws pretty well (12-for-16 = 75.0%).  They won the rebounding battle (36-32) and the turnover battle (6-10).  Michigan won this game with defense, holding Wisconsin to 38.9% shooting, 31.6% from deep.

Who Started?

The starters were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Isaiah Livers, Mike Smith, and Franz Wagner.

Who Looked Good?

Livers was the leading scorer, with 20 points, on 8-for-16 shooting (4-for-7 from 3-point range).  He also had 7 rebounds.

Wagner had 14 points, on 6-for-11 shooting (2-for-4 from deep).

Dickinson had another double-double, with 11 points and 15 rebounds.  He also had a career-high 5 blocked shots.

Brooks had 9 points, but he shot terribly: 2-for-11 overall (0-for-2 from 3-point range).


Smith only had 6 points, but he had 6 assists, and only 1 turnover.

Austin Davis spelled Dickinson for 13 minutes, and chipped in 6 points, on 3-for-4 shooting.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Brandon Johns, Jr. played for 4 minutes, but didn’t attempt a shot.

Chaundee Brown, Jr. had 1 point.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

The 4 scholarship players who aren’t part of the main rotation (Jace Howard, Zeb Jackson, Adrien Nuñez, and Terrance Williams II) didn’t play.

The scout team players (C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, Brandon Wade, and Luke Wilson) didn’t play.

What Does It Mean?

This was a huge win, since no one knew how Michigan would respond after a long break with two weeks of no practice.  As I mentioned, they looked a little rusty, especially on offense in the first half, but they shook it off in the second half, and played very well in “crunch” time.  This was Michigan’s first road win against a ranked opponent this season.

In terms of the Big Ten title race, this was a very important win for Michigan.  It keeps them all alone in 1st place, two games ahead of Illinois and three games ahead of Ohio State in the all-important loss column.  At this point, there is still no news about when (or if) the five postponed Michigan games will be rescheduled, so win percentage might be used to determine the Big Ten champion, and Michigan is half a game ahead of Illinois and OSU in win percentage.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to play two games, one at home and one on the road.  On Thursday (02/18/2021, 9:00 p.m., FS1), they are scheduled to play (#25) Rutgers in Crisler, then on Sunday (02/21/2021, 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS), they are scheduled to play at (#4) Ohio State.

Rutgers is currently 12-7 (8-7 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over Syracuse, (#13) Illinois, and Michigan State, and a less-than-impressive loss to Penn State.  They have a couple star players (Geo Baker and Ron Harper, Jr.) and some height (three 6’11” players).  This will be a challenging game.

OSU is currently 17-4 (11-4 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over Notre Dame, UCLA, (#11) Rutgers, (#15) Rutgers, (#14) Illinois, (#10) Wisconsin, and (#8) Iowa, and less-than-impressive losses to Purdue (twice), Northwestern, and Minnesota.  They have a couple star players, but they don’t have much height.  They have beaten some very good teams, but they have also lost to some mediocre teams.  This will be Michigan’s toughest game so far.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #12 – 02/08/2021 – More COVID-19 Shutdown

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team didn’t play any games this week, due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.  Michigan’s record stands at 13-1 (8-1 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is still all alone in 1st place in the Big Ten standings.

What Happened?

This was week #2 of a 2-week shutdown for all University of Michigan sports.  This week, Michigan had 2 more games postponed:

02/03/2021 Northwestern (away)

02/06/2021 Michigan State (home)

Next week, they will postpone another game:

02/11/2021 Illinois (home)

Presumably, the Illinois game was postponed to give the UM team some time to practice together and get back in sync before resuming their schedule.  That would imply that the team will be allowed to start practicing again starting today (02/08/2021).

At this point, there is still no news about when the postponed games will be rescheduled.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan was supposed to play two games: home vs. Illinois on Thursday (02/11/2021) and at (#19) Wisconsin on Sunday (02/14/2021, 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS).  The Illinois game has been postponed, but the Wisconsin game is probably going to happen.

Wisconsin is currently 14-6 (8-5 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over (#23) Louisville, (#12) Michigan State, and (#21) Minnesota, and less-than-impressive losses to Marquette, Maryland, and Penn State.  They have a couple star players on their roster, and a lot of height (two 7-footers and a 6’11” guy).  Michigan thrashed them in Ann Arbor (77-54) on 01/12/2021, but as we saw with Minnesota, beating a team the second time around, on their home floor, can be a lot trickier.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!