Nothing But ‘Net – Week #14 – 02/09/2015 – Out Of Gas

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they lost both of them. On Thursday (02/05/2015), they lost to Iowa 72-54 in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (02/08/2015), they lost at Indiana 70-67. The two losses drop Michigan’s record to 13-11 (6-6 in the Big Ten).

This team is just plain out of gas. Between the injuries (Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr.) and the illnesses, everyone who can play has been playing too many minutes, with too little support, and they’re just running on empty. They put up an impressive fight in a losing effort vs. Indiana, but they were embarrassingly docile in the home loss to Iowa. There was no fire in anyone’s eyes. They were whipped, and they knew it.

The Iowa game started OK, with UM going ahead 12-6 and 14-8. Iowa tightened things up, but UM still had a small lead (21-19) with 6:58 left in the 1st half, when the wheels fell off. Iowa went on a 12-0 to end the half, making the halftime score 31-21. The first 5:35 of the 2nd half were almost as bad, with Iowa going on a 13-5 run, and that was the game. That made the score 44-26 with 14:25 left, and Iowa managed to keep the lead in double digits for the rest of the game, except for one faint flickering hope when UM cut it to 9 points (52-43) with 8:07 to go. Iowa pushed the lead right back up to 14 points (57-43) in the next minute, and coasted home.

The IU game was a little more encouraging. Other than a brief 3-2 lead in the first 2 minutes of the game, IU led the whole way. Usually, the lead was 4-6 points, but a couple times IU pushed the lead up to 11 points (44-33 and 51-40), and it looked like they were going to turn it into another blowout. However, UM never let them get any farther ahead, and cut the lead back down to 4-6 points. In the final minute, they got the deficit down to 2 points (69-67), and got off a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer, but it missed, and that was the game.

The stats for the Iowa game are pretty sad. UM didn’t shoot very well overall (19-for-47 = 40.4%), and they shot pretty poorly from 3-point range (7-for-24 = 29.2%). They shot free throws very well (9-for-11 = 81.8%), but they got pounded on the boards (33-17), and they tied in the turnover battle (6-6). They played lousy defense, allowing Iowa to shoot 72% in the 2nd half. That’s what cost them the game.

The stats for the Indiana game are much more impressive. UM shot pretty well overall (23-for-46 = 50.0%), they shot 3-pointers very well (6-for-13 = 46.2%), and they shot free throws pretty well (15-for-20 = 75.0%). As usual, they lost the rebounding battle badly (32-21), but they did win the turnover battle (11-14). It was a close game at the end, and the stats show it.

Individually, only Spike Albrecht hit double figures in both games, with 10 in the Iowa game and 12 in the IU game. The other 4 starters each had one good game and one sub-par game: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had 11 and 2 points, Aubrey Dawkins had 16 and 7, Ricky Doyle had 0 and 15, and Zak Irvin had 7 and 23.

The bench didn’t chip in very many points this week. Max Bielfeldt had 4 and 0, Kameron Chatman had 6 and 1, Andrew Dakich had 0 and 0 (but he did take 1 shot in each game), Mark Donnal returned from illness and had 0 and 7, and Sean Lonergan didn’t take a shot in the Iowa game, and didn’t play in the IU game. Austin Hatch didn’t play in either game.

This Week

This week, Michigan only plays one game. On Thursday (02/12/2015, 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN), they play at Illinois. They beat Illinois way back in December in their first Big Ten game of the season, 73-65 in overtime, but that was in Crisler Arena, with LeVert and Walton. It’s always hard to win on the road in the Big Ten, and even tougher when your team has so many injuries. It would be quite an upset if UM won this game.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #13 – 02/02/2015 – Overachieving, Just Not Enough

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won one and lost one. On Tuesday (01/27/2015), they beat Nebraska 58-44 in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (02/01/2015), they lost at Michigan State 76-66 (overtime). The win and the loss leave Michigan with an overall record of 13-9 (6-4 in the Big Ten).

Michigan continues to overachieve, but not enough to win the games they’re supposed to lose. Two weeks ago, they took (#6) Wisconsin into overtime, then ran out of gas and lost by 6. Last week, they took favored MSU into overtime on the road, then ran out of gas and failed to score, losing by 10. Taking both of those games to overtime is a big achievement, especially with Michigan’s injury/illness ravaged roster, but they still need to “get over the hump” and win one (or more) of these “marquee” matchups. At this point, an NCAA tournament bid seems unlikely, but they might still get into the NIT.

The Nebraska game was probably the most impressive game Michigan has played this season. They played hard, they played smart, and they controlled the game. After exchanging baskets in the early going, the score was tied (6-6) with 15:03 left in the 1st half. UM went on a quick 7-0 run to make score 13-6, with 10:28 left in the half, and they never trailed again. They let Nebraska creep within 2 points (20-18) with 1:52 left in the 1st half, but they pushed the lead back up to 5 (23-18) at halftime. They opened the 2nd half with a beautiful 15-2 run, which gave them an 18 point lead (38-20) with 15:15 to go, and that was the game. The lead only slipped under 10 points once (47-39, with 5:53 to go), but UM pushed it back up to 17 points (58-41) with 2:00 left, and coasted home. It was the first comfortable Big Ten win of the season.

The MSU game was anything but comfortable. Neither team was able to pull away in regulation, although UM did build up a few small leads in the 1st half. They didn’t last, and MSU led by 5 (29-24) at halftime. Michigan opened the 2nd half on fire, and managed to build up another small lead (45-40) with 13:19. Once again, it didn’t last, and they found themselves down 5 points (66-61) with 1:24 to go. They scored the last 5 points in regulation, and tied it up 66-66. Overtime was a nightmare. Michigan missed all 5 shots, and even a free throw, while MSU went 3-for-6, and added 4 free throws. It was a sad way to cap off an inspired comeback.

The stats for the Nebraska game are pretty solid. Michigan shot pretty well overall (22-for-46 = 47.8%), they shot pretty well from 3-point range (6-for-14 = 42.9%), and they were perfect from the free throw line (8-for-8 = 100.0%). They crushed Nebraska on the boards (34-26), but they lost the turnover battle (13-10).

The stats for the MSU game are not nearly as impressive. Michigan shot pretty well again overall (27-for-62 = 43.5%), but they shot poorly from 3-point range (6-for-20 = 30.0%). They also shot poorly from the free throw line (6-for-10 = 60.0%). They lost the rebounding battle badly (43-29), but they (barely) won the turnover battle (11-12). I’ve said it before: this UM team looks good when the 3-pointers are going in, but they look terrible when they aren’t. 30% is not good.

Individually, there’s only one player left from the original “Big 3”: Zak Irvin. He’s the only player to hit double figures in both games, with 14 points vs. Nebraska and 11 vs. MSU. He also had a career-high 12 rebounds in the Nebraska game, for his first career double-double.

What happened to the other two players from the “Big 3”? Caris LeVert injured his left foot a couple weeks ago (in the Northwestern game), and he’s done for the season, and Derrick Walton Jr. missed both games last week with a foot injury related to the “turf toe” injury he suffered way back in November in the Villanova game. Walton will be back sometime this season, but the official word is “not in the foreseeable future”. This is bad news.

While we’re on the subject of injuries and illnesses, Mark Donnal also missed both games last week, with a respiratory illness, presumably the flu. This is the worst season I’ve ever seen for injuries and illnesses.

Back to the individual stats: the rest of the starters had a mixed week. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had 9 points vs. Nebraska and a career-high 18 points vs. MSU. Spike Albrecht had 6 points vs. Nebraska and a career-high 18 points vs. MSU. Aubrey Dawkins had 13 and 7. Ricky Doyle had 4 and 3. The real story last week has been the emergence of MAAR as an offensive weapon.

The bench continued to chip in a few points. Max Bielfeldt had 12 and 7 points, Kameron Chatman had 0 and 2 points, Andrew Dakich had 0 and 0 points (he finally took a shot vs. MSU, but it was blocked), Austin Hatch played 7 seconds vs. Nebraska (but didn’t touch the ball), and Sean Lonergan didn’t attempt a shot. Bielfeldt and Chatman are the only subs left on the bench that are a threat to score.

This Week

This week, Michigan plays two more games. On Thursday (02/05/2015, 7:00 p.m., ESPN), they play Iowa in Crisler, then on Sunday (02/08/2015, 1:00 p.m., CBS), they play at (#22) Indiana. Iowa isn’t unbeatable, and if UM can play with the same intensity that they showed in the last 4 games, they should be able to keep the game close, and hope for good things at the end. Playing in Bloomington is never easy, and it would be quite the upset for this shorthanded, patchwork Michigan team to win there.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #12 – 01/26/2015 – Hanging In There

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won one and lost one. On Tuesday (01/20/2015), they won at Rutgers 54-50, then on Saturday (01/24/2015), they lost to (#6) Wisconsin 69-64 (overtime) in Crisler Arena. The win and the loss leave Michigan with an overall record of 12-8 (5-3 in the Big Ten).

Even though UM “only” went 1-1 this week, it was actually a fairly encouraging week. After losing their best player (Caris LeVert) to a season-ending foot injury 2 weeks ago, they could have easily lost both games, including a blowout loss to Wisconsin. Instead, they played hard in both games, and managed to win a road game, which is not easy, and take Wisconsin to overtime before running out of gas. Coach Beilein managed to patch together a makeshift lineup out of the available players, and he did a great job of substituting them in and out to keep them fresh. He managed to get significant contributions from former benchwarmers and lightly-used subs, and it was enough to beat Rutgers, and almost enough to pull off the huge upset vs. Wisconsin.

The Rutgers game was close all the way. Michigan led for much of the game, but never by more than 8 points, and often just 2 or 3 points. UM led by 2 (24-22) at halftime, and pushed the lead up to 7 (32-25) with 17:00 left in the game. At that point, UM went cold, and Rutgers caught fire, and they went on a 15-2 run to go up by 6 (40-34) with 9:04 left. UM could have just given up then, but they fought back, and managed to tie it up (42-42) with 5:51 left. They went ahead (45-45) with 4:09 to go, and they never trailed again. They got the lead up to 8 (52-44) with 33 seconds left, and managed to hang on for the win.

The Wisconsin game was also pretty close for most of the game, but Wisconsin led for most of the game. The start of both halves, the start of the overtime period, and the end of the 1st half were all disastrous for Michigan. Wisconsin started the 1st half with a 9-2 run in the first 4:38, before UM finally got going. Michigan got their first lead (17-16) with 8:53 left in the 1st half, and were only down 1 point (24-23) with 0:50 left before halftime, when Wisconsin poured it on again. They went on a 6-0 run, to end the half with a 7-point lead (30-23).

The start of the 2nd half wasn’t quite as bad as the start of the 1st half, but it was still bad. Wisconsin went on another mini-run, this time 8-4, to push their lead up to 11 points (38-27) with 16:04 left to go. Once again, UM could have given up at this point, but instead they fought back. They went on an 11-0 run of their own, to tie it up (38-38) with 11:15 to go. They exchanged 3-pointers, so it was still tied up (41-41) with 9:51 to go, then Wisconsin started pulling away again. They got the lead up to 7 points (48-41) with 7:33 to go, but UM hung around, and the Wisconsin lead was 2-3 points the rest of the way. Derrick Walton Jr. hit a huge 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to tie the game up (57-57), and Wisconsin couldn’t get off another shot in regulation.

After all the effort UM used to get to overtime, it wasn’t too surprising that they were running on fumes in the extra period. Once again, Wisconsin started the period with a run, this time 6-0. They never trailed again, and Michigan never got closer than 4 points.

Still, it was a gutty performance by Michigan, and it showed that they still have the talent and ability to play with any team in the country (except Kentucky), but it’s a delicate balancing act. They don’t have enough depth or raw athletic talent to beat the big boys consistently, but they do have enough talent to hang in there, and hope for some luck in the end game. It was almost enough vs. Wisconsin, but not quite.

Time for some stats. First the Rutgers game: Michigan shot terribly overall (17-for-49 = 34.7%), they shot pretty poorly from 3-point range (8-for-26 = 30.8%), but they shot free throws very well (12-for-14 = 85.7%). They (barely) lost the rebounding battle (34-35), and they tied in the turnover battle (11-11). The difference in the game was free throw shooting: Rutgers also shot 14 free throws, but they only made 7 of them. That’s 5 points less than UM, in a 4-point win.

The stats for the Wisconsin game are actually better, although they’re still not great. Michigan shot OK overall (23-for-54 = 42.6%), they shot poorly from 3-point range (7-for-20 = 35.0%), and they shot free throws extremely well (11-for-12 = 91.7%). Stunningly, Michigan won the rebounding battle (33-30), but they (barely) lost the turnover battle (9-8). It was close game, and the stats show it.

Individually, the two remaining players of the “Big 3” had good weeks. Zak Irvin had 10 points vs. Rutgers, and 12 points vs. Wisconsin. Derrick Walton Jr. had 12 and 17. The only other starter to hit double figures this week was Aubrey Dawkins, with 11 points vs. Rutgers, but only 3 vs. Wisconsin. The other 2 starters didn’t do much: Spike Albrecht had 2 and 2, and Ricky Doyle had 0 and 4. It should be mentioned that Albrecht, Doyle, and Irvin all played while sick with the flu, and Walton is still battling the effects of his “turf toe” from back in December.

The bench chipped in more than usual this week, which will be very important for the rest of the season:

  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman played very well, contributing important minutes on offense and defense. He only had 4 points vs. Rutgers, but he had 9 big points vs. Wisconsin. He’s looking much more confident and explosive out there.
  • Max Bielfeldt also stepped up his game this week, on both ends of the court. He went up against 7-footer Frank Kaminsky from Wisconsin underneath, and he fought hard. Kaminsky has 7 inches on him, but Bielfeldt didn’t back down, and he won a decent percentage of the battles for position and loose balls. He had 8 points in the Rutgers game, and 9 points in the Wisconsin game.
  • Kameron Chatman continues to struggle out there. He looks tentative on offense, and a step slow on defense. He only scored 2 points in each game this week. To be fair, Chatman played both games on a gimpy knee. There are a lot of injuries and illness on the team right now.
  • Andrew Dakich was planning on voluntarily redshirting this season, but he agreed to “burn his shirt” and start playing in the rest of the games this season, even though he missed more than half of them. He played 4 minutes vs. Rutgers, and 2 minutes in the Wisconsin game, and he didn’t take a shot in either game. It was fun watching him check Kaminsky a couple times when UM was in a 2-3 zone.
  • Mark Donnal is improving every game, and is starting to look more comfortable out there. He had some fierce battles underneath with Kaminsky, and he played tougher than he’s played so far this season. Once again, he didn’t win many of the battles, but he didn’t back down either. He had 3 points (on a 3-pointer) vs. Rutgers, and 6 points vs. Wisconsin.
  • Sean Lonergan is playing more, now that UM is shorthanded. He played 13 minutes, and scored 2 points, vs. Rutgers, but he only played 1 minute vs. Wisconsin, and didn’t attempt a shot.

For those keeping count, that’s 19 bench points vs. Rutgers, and 26 bench points vs. Wisconsin. Those are good numbers.

By the way, that’s everyone who’s eligible on the roster except Austin Hatch and DJ Wilson. Hatch just isn’t ready for Big Ten play, and the plan is still to get a medical redshirt for Wilson, unless there’s a real injury problem in the forecourt.

This Week

This week, Michigan continues Big Ten play with two more games. On Tuesday (01/27/2015, 7:00 p.m., ESPN), they play Nebraska in Crisler, then on Sunday (02/01/2015, 1:00 p.m., CBS), they play at Michigan State. Nebraska isn’t unbeatable, especially on the road, and if UM can play with the same intensity that they showed in the Rutgers and Wisconsin games, they should be able to keep the game close, and hope for good things at the end. Playing in East Lansing is never easy, and even though MSU isn’t quite the powerhouse they usually are, it would be quite the upset for this shorthanded, patchwork Michigan team to win there. However, if UM can play Wisconsin tough enough to force overtime, they stand a small chance vs. MSU in East Lansing.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #11 – 01/19/2015 – Disaster

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won one and lost one. On Tuesday (01/13/2015), they lost at Ohio State 71-52, then on Saturday (01/17/2015), they beat Northwestern in Crisler 56-54. The win and the loss leave Michigan with an overall record of 11-7 (4-2 in the Big Ten).

Sounds good; what’s the disaster? With 2 seconds left at the end of the Northwestern game, a Northwestern player drove the lane and put up a shot that would have sent the game into overtime. He missed, and Michigan came up with the loose ball to preserve the win. In the scramble for the loose ball, Michigan’s best player and leading scorer, Caris LeVert, came down wrong on his left foot and injured it severely enough to require surgery. He’s done for the season, and, presumably, his career, since he will probably enter the NBA draft in the spring.

This is a crushing blow to an already shaky team. LeVert was not only the leading scorer on the team, he also led the team in rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes played. With the lingering effects of the toe injury to Derrick Walton Jr., and the recent slump that Zak Irvin has been in, Michigan now has no “go to” player on the roster. I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost the rest of their games. It’s certainly hard to imagine them beating any of the upper division teams, and they only have 3 games left against lower division teams (at Rutgers, at Northwestern, and home vs. Rutgers). They might be able to win 1 or 2 of those games.

Aside from the LeVert Disaster, this was a very predictable week. It seemed very unlikely that UM would upset OSU in Columbus, and it was a good bet that they’d beat Northwestern in Crisler, and that’s what they did. Of course, they looked terrible in both games, but they got away with it vs. Northwestern.

I have no interest in the stats. If you do, here they are: Ohio State and Northwestern. The only interesting thing about either game was that Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman got his first career start in the Northwestern game, since Spike Albrecht was out with an “upper respiratory illness”. MAAR played pretty well, and even hit the game-winning 3-pointer.

This Week

This week, Michigan continues Big Ten play with two more games. On Tuesday (01/20/2015, 6:30 p.m., BTN), they play at Rutgers, then on Saturday (01/24/2015, 7:00 p.m., ESPN), they play (#7) Wisconsin in Crisler. The Wisconsin game is going to be covered as Game Day by ESPN.

As I mentioned above, the game at Rutgers is one of only 3 left on Michigan’s schedule that they stand a chance of winning, but it will be tough. Rutgers beat Wisconsin a couple weeks ago, and they’re tough at home. Michigan will still be getting used to playing without Caris LeVert, and a lot of freshmen are going to be playing a lot of minutes. The Wisconsin game is going to be even tougher. Wisconsin has been ranked as high as #2 this season, and they have the probable Big Ten Player of the Year in Frank Kaminsky. He’s a 7-footer, and UM has had a tough time defending big men this season. Don’t be surprised if UM loses both games, and gets blown out by Wisconsin.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #10 – 01/12/2015 – Sweeps Week & Mid-Term Grades

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won both of them. On Tuesday (01/06/2015), they beat Penn State in State College 73-64, then on Saturday (01/10/2015), they beat Minnesota in Crisler 62-57. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 10-6 overall (3-1 in the Big Ten).

These were two very big wins for Michigan. Sure, PSU and Minnesota are teams expected to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten this year, but given the problems that UM has been having lately, any win is a big win, and a sweep, including a road win, is huge.

In both games, Michigan had their opportunities to pull away for a comfortable victory, and in both games, they wasted those opportunities. In the PSU game, UM had a 10-point lead (51-41) with 11:40 left in the game, then they fell asleep and let PSU go on a 12-2 run over the next 4 minutes. Fortunately, UM closed out the game strong and never let PSU get the lead, outscoring them 20-11 down the stretch.

In the Minnesota game, Michigan had a chance to build up a nice lead in the opening minutes, and they wasted the opportunity. Minnesota missed their first 4 shots, and had a couple turnovers, but Michigan didn’t do much better, missing 3 shots and 2 free throws, along with a turnover. So, instead of leading 12-0 or so at the 15:30 mark, they only led 4-0. Minnesota stayed cold, and only had 6 points with 11:45 left in the half. Unfortunately, Michigan couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity, and only led 11-6. They managed to hold the 5-point lead for another couple minutes (17-12, with 9:09 left), then Minnesota finally woke up. They outscored Michigan 15-8 to close out the half, and led 27-25. In the early part of the 2nd half, Minnesota went into another bad stretch where they missed 6 shots in a row, along with 2 more turnovers. Once again, Michigan didn’t take advantage of Minnesota’s mistakes, and missed 2 shots and had 2 turnovers. From that point, Minnesota slowly built up a 9-point lead (49-40) with 8:56 left. Fortunately, Michigan finally woke up, and outscored Minnesota 22-8 down the stretch to win by 5.

Time for the game stats. First, the PSU game: Michigan shot pretty well overall (24-for-45 = 53.3%), they shot 3-pointers really well (9-for-15 = 60.0%), and they shot free throws very well (16-for-19 = 84.2%). They won the rebounding battle (31-26), but they lost the turnover battle (15-10). That’s a really large number of turnovers for Michigan, and that was the reason the game was as close as it was. Michigan shot well enough to win comfortably, but they kept throwing the ball away, often with little pressure.

The stats for the Minnesota game are miserable: Michigan shot poorly overall (21-for-52 = 40.4%), they shot very poorly from 3-point range (4-for-18 = 22.2%), but they did shoot free throws well (16-for-20 = 80.0%). They lost the rebounding battle (31-37), but they did win the turnover battle (9-17). The big problem was the 3-point shooting. This team looks terrible when the 3-pointers aren’t falling, and they look great when they are.

Individually, it was the “Big 3” this week. Zak Irvin had 17 points vs. PSU and 12 points vs. Minnesota. He also had a career-high 9 rebounds vs. PSU. Caris LeVert had 18 and 15 points, and Derrick Walton Jr. had 12 and 15 points. It was great to see Walton play a little better. He’s still recovering from the toe injury he suffered in the Villanova game.

The other 2 starters had a mixed week. Spike Albrecht is now starting in place of Kameron Chatman, and he had 0 and 6 points. Ricky Doyle is starting to become an offensive presence underneath, with 8 and 12 points.

The bench contributed nicely in the PSU game: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had 3 points, Max Bielfeldt had 2 points, Kameron Chatman had 5 points, and Aubrey Dawkins had 8 points. Mark Donnal played in both games, but failed to score. Actually, Chatman was the only bench player to score in the Minnesota game, with 2 points.

Mid-Term Grades

With 16 games played, and at least 15 left to go, it’s time for mid-term grades:

Freshman Eligibility

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – C

MAAR has had his opportunities in both non-conference and Big Ten games, and he hasn’t shown us much. He’s not bad, he just doesn’t do much. He was a late addition to the recruiting class, so not much is expected from him.

Kameron Chatman – C

Kameron started the season as a starter, but failed to impress. He has now been replaced in the starting lineup by Spike Albrecht. He still seems tentative out there, and he hasn’t really shown us his athletic ability. As the highest-ranked recruit in his class, a lot more was expected from him.

Aubrey Dawkins – B-

Aubrey has had a couple good games, especially his 20-point outburst against Illinois, but he has had other games where he just ran up and down the court without doing anything. He still seems a little lost out there on defense. He has a great 3-point touch, but he needs to figure out how to get open better.

Mark Donnal – C-

Mark also started the season as a starter, but played his way onto the bench. He was expected to be the starting center, but he has proven to be too “soft” for banging underneath. He’s more of a finesse player, with a nice 3-point stroke. He needs to play tougher, especially on post defense and going to the rim on offense.

Ricky Doyle – B

Ricky has been steadily improving as the season has gone along. He started as an out-of-shape reserve, and worked his way into condition and a starting spot. He’s good at banging underneath with the big guys, and he’s gotten better and better at finishing under the basket. He gets fouled a lot, so he needs to work on his free throws.

Austin Hatch – Inc.

Austin has only played in a couple of games, and only for a few minutes. He’s still recovering from his plane crash, and may never get to the point where he can play significant minutes. In the meantime, everyone is rooting for him, and cherishing every minute and point that he earns.

DJ Wilson -Inc.

DJ only played a little bit in a few games before he injured his knee, ending his freshman season. He could conceivably come back sometime in February, but it doesn’t make sense, since he will have missed so many games. Instead, he is eligible for a medical redshirt, so he’ll be back next year with freshman eligibility. In the brief glimpses we had of him before his injury, he looked athletic but raw. He’s too thin/wiry to play center, but he can be a successful shooting forward. He showed us great “bounce” and hustle.

Sophomore Eligibility

Andrew Dakich – Inc.

Andrew is being voluntarily redshirted this season.

Zak Irvin – B

Zak is one of the 3 main players (along with Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr.) on this team, and a lot is expected of him. He has shown us that he has progressed from being “just a shooter” last season to a more complete player this season. He still has his deadly 3-point shooting touch, but he’s been taking the ball to the basket with authority, and hitting more 2-pointers. He rebounds well, but he’s not generating many assists yet. He still has games where he can’t find the range on his shots.

Sean Lonergan – Inc.

Sean has only played a few minutes in a few games, so we don’t know what he’s capable of.

Derrick Walton Jr. – B

Derrick is another of the “Big 3” on this team, and he’s done pretty well, especially considering that he’s still recovering from a toe injury he suffered in the Villanova game. He’s been shooting 3-pointers pretty well, he drives to the basket well, he’s been handing out a reasonable number of assists, he shoots free throws well, and he’s been rebounding very well.

Junior Eligibility

Spike Albrecht – B

Spike is usually a steadying influence on the rest of the (young) team when he’s out there, and he usually hits his 3-pointers when he decides to shoot them. He has a great assist/turnover ratio, and he’s great at the sneaky steal on the other team’s inbounds play after a made basket. His biggest liability is speed; he has trouble staying in front of faster point guards on defense.

Caris LeVert – B+

Caris is the third of the “Big 3” on this team. So far, he’s been the best player on the team. He’s very athletic, and he uses his athleticism to score well in transition. He has a nice 3-point stroke, and he can play good defense. Sometimes he tries to do too much.

Senior Eligibility

Max Bielfeldt – C

Max is a couple inches too short to play center, but that’s his position. He has a very nice 3-point shot, and he can be a matchup problem for the other team when he drifts out to the top of the key and hits a few 3-pointers. He’s a smart ballplayer, and he’s strong and powerful underneath, but he’s just a little too short to play with the big boys.

This Week

This week, Michigan continues Big Ten play with two more games. On Tuesday (01/13/2015, 7:00 p.m., ESPN), they play at Ohio State, then on Saturday (01/17/2015, 8:15 p.m., BTN), they play Northwestern in Crisler. Winning in Columbus is a tall order, so I wouldn’t be worried or upset if UM loses on Tuesday, but they should definitely be expected to beat Northwestern on Saturday.

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

Go Blue!