Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
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:
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, 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.
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, 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.
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.
With 16 games played, and at least 15 left to go, it’s time for mid-term grades:
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.
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 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.
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.
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, 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.
Happy New Year!
The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won one and lost one. On Tuesday (12/30/2014), they beat Illinois 73-65 (overtime) in Crisler Arena, then on Saturday (01/03/2015), they lost at Purdue, 64-51. The win and the loss leave Michigan with a record of 8-6 (1-1 in the Big Ten).
This is going to be a real rollercoaster of a season for UM. They looked terrible for the first 29 minutes of the Illinois game, then they suddenly woke up, erased a big deficit, forced overtime, and looked dominant in the overtime period. They started out strong in their next game at Purdue, built up a 10-point lead in the 1st half, and led by 8 at halftime. Then they just fell apart. They went for over 12 minutes without a basket, and only managed 4 baskets (18 points total) in the 2nd half. It was miserable. They missed 13 shots in a row: layups, mid-range jumpers, and 3-pointers. They got very few second chances, and played lousy defense. It’s the “perfect storm” for losing a basketball game.
So, what’s up with this season’s team? How can they beat quality opponents (Oregon, Syracuse, Illinois) one game, and look so lost out there the next? Youth, certainly, but Coach Beilein has managed to win with young, inexperienced teams the last few years. It appears to be a void in leadership on the floor, and the lack of a consistent big man. I’m sure they’ll work it out, and improve as the season goes on, but I’m afraid they’ll lose too many winnable games in the process. The goal this season is making the NCAA Tournament, not contending for the Big Ten title. Maybe next season.
Let’s look at the stats for both games. The stats for the Illinois game aren’t very impressive: Michigan shot pretty poorly overall (27-for-66 = 40.9%), they shot poorly from 3-point range (10-for-28 = 35.7%), and they shot free throws pretty poorly (9-for-14 = 64.3%). They barely won the rebounding battle (39-36), but they won the turnover battle handily (5-12). They won the game with 3-point shooting. Even though they didn’t shoot a very good percentage, they made more 3-pointers than Illinois (10-6).
The stats for the Purdue game are even worse: UM shot poorly overall (15-for-47 = 31.9%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (8-for-20 = 40.0%), and they shot free throws pretty poorly (13-for-20 = 65.0%). They got hammered on the boards (44-22), and they barely won the turnover battle (11-14). They lost this game on the boards, and at the free throw line.
Individually, no one had a good week, but a couple players had good games. 3 starters (Ricky Doyle – 13 points, Zak Irvin – 13 points, and Caris LeVert – 19 points) hit double figures in the Illinois game, but none of the starters hit double figures in the Purdue game. The real story this week was bench players: Aubrey Dawkins had a career-high 20 points in the Illinois game, including 6-for-7 shooting from 3-point range, and Spike Albrecht tied his career high with 17 points in the Purdue game.
However, no one had 2 good games this week: after their good games vs. Illinois, Doyle had 6 points vs. Purdue, Irvin had 8 points (on 2-for-12 shooting) vs. Purdue, and LeVert had 6 points vs. Purdue. Dawkins played 18 minutes against Purdue, took 2 shots, and didn’t score. Albrecht had 4 points vs. Illinois. The other 2 starters didn’t do much either game: Kameron Chatman had 2 and 0 points, and Derrick Walton Jr. had 0 and 8 points.
Besides Albrecht and Dawkins, the bench didn’t contribute much this week: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Mark Donnal both played in both games, but failed to score, and Max Bielfeldt had 2 and 6 points.
This week, Michigan continues Big Ten play with two more games. On Tuesday (01/06/2015, 7:00 p.m., BTN), they play at Penn State, then on Saturday (01/10/2015, 1:00 p.m., ESPNU), they play Minnesota in Crisler. These are both games that UM can win, and if they want to stay in the race for the Big Ten title, they need to win both of them. If they play like they did in the 2nd half of the Illinois game, they’ll be fine. If they play like they did in the 2nd half of the Purdue game, they’re doomed.
Check back here next week to see what happened, and why.
The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game last week, and they won it. On Monday (12/22/2014), they beat Coppin State 72-56 in Crisler Arena. The win raises Michigan’s season record to 7-5.
After losing 4 games in a row, including 2 major upsets, any win is a welcome win. Coppin State is not a very impressive opponent, but this was a win that UM needed desperately. This was Michigan’s final non-conference game; the Big Ten schedule starts this week.
The CSU game was relatively straightforward and stress free. Michigan came out fast, and got an early 11-0 lead. They made it 21-3, and never looked back. It was 42-26 at halftime, and the lead got as high as 27 points (62-35) before the subs came in, and CSU poured it on to make the score respectable. Michigan was just trying to “dribble it out” with 10 seconds left when CSU pressed hard, and got a steal and a 3-point basket. Bush-league stuff.
For once, the stats are worth looking at. Michigan shot pretty poorly overall (25-for-53 = 47.2%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (8-for-26 = 30.8%), and they shot free throws poorly (14-for-26 = 53.8%). So, how did they win so handily? Rebounds. They won the rebounding battle 43-31, which lead to more shots. They actually lost the turnover battle (12-11), but the 12 extra rebounds made the difference.
Individually, only 2 players hit double figures: Ricky Doyle (16 points, a new career high) and Zak Irvin (13 points). The other 3 starters all got close to double figures: Kameron Chatman (9 points), Caris LeVert (8 points), and Derrick Walton Jr. (9 points).
When UM had a comfortable lead in the 2nd half, Coach Beilein emptied the bench, so everyone who isn’t being redshirted got to play, and almost all of them scored. Mark Donnal did the best (8 points), and Aubrey Dawkins did well (5 points). Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (2 points) hit a pair of free throws, and Max Bielfeldt (1 point) hit one. Spike Albrecht and Sean Lonergan played but didn’t score. Then there’s Austin Hatch: he scored his first official point (as opposed to the point he scored in the exhibition game) on a free throw. It was an emotional moment, and he got a standing ovation. Good for him!
This week, Michigan begins Big Ten play with two games. On Tuesday (12/30/2014, 3:00 p.m., ESPN2), they play Illinois in Crisler, then on Saturday (01/03/2015, 2:15 p.m. EST, BTN), they play at Purdue. These are 2 of the lower-division Big Ten teams, and if Michigan is going to be a contender this season, they need to win both of these games. The way they’ve been playing the last 3 weeks, they could easily lose them both. We’ll see which UM team shows up: the one that beat Oregon and Syracuse, and almost beat Villanova, or the one that lost at home to NJIT and EMU.
Check back here next week to see what happened, and why.