Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
Well, the college football season isn’t going as well as we would have hoped, but there’s always college basketball! Yes, it’s that time already. The first game is this Friday (11/03/2017) in Crisler Arena at 7:00. It’s an exhibition vs. Grand Valley State. In fact, the team has already had an open practice this past week (Tuesday, 10/24/2017) in Crisler. That went pretty well, and gave us a quick look at this season’s team.
Here’s my standard description of this weekly column:
Yeah, it’s time for University of Michigan men’s basketball, and this is the place to read all about it: “Nothing But ‘Net” on UMGoBlue.com. Check back every Monday morning between now and the end of the season for a quick, concise wrap-up of the previous week, and a look ahead at the upcoming week, all in one easy-to-read article.
As always here at UMGoBlue.com, the perspective is “by fans, for fans”. I’m a fan (since 1974), and I go to all the home games, and watch/listen to all the away games. I don’t have any special access (other than being an usher in Sections 209-210), I don’t go to the press conferences, and I don’t interview high school recruits. I see the same things you do, and write about them as a fan.
Once again, let’s get right to the big question:
How good is the 2017-2018 team going to be? The quick answer: not quite as good as last season.
So, how was last season? In my preseason preview last year, I predicted “pretty good”, and that was a little off. Last season’s team was better than predicted, winning the Big Ten Tournament, and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. I expect this season’s team to be OK, but not as good as last season’s team. They’re not ranked in the Coaches Poll, and they’re picked to finish anywhere from 5th to 8th in the Big Ten.
Read on for more details.
Michigan ended last season with a record of 26-12 (10-8 in the Big Ten). They went 10-3 in pre-conference play, with some good wins (Marquette and SMU in the 2K Classic, and Texas at home), some understandable losses (at South Carolina, and at [#2] UCLA), one bad loss (Virginia Tech, at home), and a bunch of unsurprising wins against cupcakes. They did win the 2K Classic in Madison Square Garden, in convincing fashion, but they were manhandled in the losses to South Carolina and UCLA.
In Big Ten play, Michigan won a couple games that they weren’t supposed to win (at home vs. [#11] Wisconsin, and at home vs. [#14] Purdue), lost a couple games that they were expected to lose (at [#17] Wisconsin, and at Michigan State), and lost a few games that they really should have won (at Iowa, at home vs. Maryland, at Illinois, at home vs. Ohio State, at Minnesota, and at Northwestern). The Ohio State loss was particularly depressing. Still, they finished above 0.500 in the Big Ten, which was better than expected.
In the Big Ten Tournament, things really got interesting. Before they even got to Washington (DC) for the tournament, they had a big scare when the team plane slid off the runway on (aborted) takeoff. They flew to DC the next morning, and they got to the Verizon Center for their game less than 2 hours before tipoff. Michigan’s game uniforms were trapped on the damaged plane, so they had to play their first game in their practice uniforms. Michigan was the #8 seed, and they beat the #9 seed (Illinois) handily in the 2nd round game, which earned them a shot at the #1 seed (Purdue) the next day. Michigan beat Purdue in an overtime thriller, and advanced to the semifinal game vs. the #4 seed (Minnesota). Michigan won that game convincingly, and earned the right to play the #2 seed (Wisconsin) for the Big Ten Tournament Championship. They beat Wisconsin soundly, and won the title. It was very exciting.
In the NCAA Tournament, Michigan was a #7 seed in the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis (IN), and barely beat the #10 seed (Oklahoma State). Two days later, they played the #2 seed ([#10] Louisville), and won another tight game to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, in Kansas City (MO). They played the #3 seed (Oregon), and lost by one point. Still, it was a successful and thrilling tournament run.
Michigan lost 7 players from last season’s roster:
Andrew Dakich – Andrew redshirted last season (his senior season), so he could graduate and use the “graduate transfer rule” to transfer to a school where he might get more playing time. At first, it looked like he was going to Quinnipiac, but he suddenly changed his mind, and went to Ohio State instead. He played a small but important role on the team 2 seasons ago, when Michigan suffered a rash of injuries to key players, but he never really got much playing time besides that period. We all wish him well, except when Ohio State is playing Michigan.
Mark Donnal – Mark graduated, but has one year of eligibility left, and is using the “graduate transfer rule” to transfer to Clemson. In his career at Michigan, he had some monster games, and a whole bunch of really quiet games. With all the depth at center/strong forward, he wouldn’t have played much at Michigan this season, so he went some place where he’ll get more playing time. We probably won’t miss him, and we all wish him well.
Zak Irvin – Zak graduated. He was one of the most polarizing players at Michigan in recent memory. He had some huge games and big moments, but almost as often, fans were upset with him. We’ll miss him, but we won’t miss the drama.
Sean Lonergan – Sean graduated, although he still has one year of eligibility left. He is no longer on the team, and he doesn’t appear to have transferred anywhere to use the “graduate transfer rule”. He never played much, and we all wish him well.
Derrick Walton, Jr. – Derrick graduated. He was a key player on several successful teams. We’ll definitely miss him.
DJ Wilson – DJ had a breakout season last season, and decided to enter the NBA Draft. Good choice: he was drafted 17th by the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s the player who could have come back that we’re going to miss the most this season.
Fred Wright-Jones – Fred left the basketball team to concentrate on his studies. He never played much, and we all wish him well.
Once again, an alarming number of players are voluntarily leaving the Michigan team. While none of them were projected to be key players on this season’s team, it is still a disturbing trend. Of course, it’s not limited to Michigan: the “graduate transfer rule” is getting more popular every season, and I expect the NCAA to make some modifications to the rule soon.
This is a very young team. Irvin, Walton, and Wilson were all starters and key players on last season’s team, and they’re all gone. Only two starters return. Subs from last season and new players will have to step up. Here’s a look at the returning players, by class year (eligibility):
Austin Davis #51 (6’10”, 245 pounds, F) – Austin was voluntarily redshirted last season, due to the logjam at center/power forward. The coaching staff had to pick one of the two freshman “big man” players to redshirt, and they chose to redshirt Austin and play Jon Teske. Later in the season, they questioned their decision, and said that Austin was really blossoming on the scout team. This season, we’ll get to see what we missed last season. Austin is reported to be a good scorer, a beast on the boards, and a good defender. He’s an old-fashioned, back-to-the-basket, physical center.
Brent Hibbitts #0 (6’8″, 220 pounds, F) – Brent voluntarily redshirted his freshman season, and played sparingly last season, so he’s a redshirt sophomore. He will probably play sparingly again this season, mostly in “garbage time”.
Charles Matthews #1 (6’6″, 200 pounds, G) – Charles is a transfer from Kentucky, where he did pretty well as a true freshman. He sat out last season, due to NCAA transfer rules, so he’ll have redshirt sophomore eligibility. He has the potential to be one of the most exciting players in recent memory, if Coach Beilein can get his shooting stroke fixed.
Zavier Simpson #3 (6’0″, 185 pounds, G) – No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, Zavier changed the spelling of his first name from “Xavier”. He’s back for his sophomore season, after a pretty low-key freshman year. He had a few moments of brilliance, but most of the time he was out there, he didn’t seem very comfortable. He is still “the point guard of the future”, but maybe not the point guard of the present. Coach Beilein brought in a graduate transfer point guard (see below) as the main point guard for this season, to give Zavier another season to get up to speed. I expect him to play more than last season, and to be encouraged to play a little more fearlessly. We’ll see how that works out.
Jon Teske #15 (7’1″, 255 pounds, C) – Jon was the freshman “big man” that Coach Beilein and the coaching staff chose to play last season, while Austin Davis was redshirted. It didn’t work out very well. Jon had a very unimpressive freshman season, and often looked lost out there. He’s got all the tools he needs to be successful, he just needs to get his mental game in order. Just like Simpson, I expect him to play more than last season, and to be encouraged to play a lot more fearlessly.
Ibi Watson #23 (6’5″, 200 pounds, G/F) – The third member of last season’s freshman scholarship class that got to play, and the third member that needs to work on his mental game. As with Simpson and Teske, he has all the tools he needs to be successful, he just needs to go out there and play smoothly and fearlessly. He had a horrible freshman season, and there’s nowhere to go but up for him.
Moritz Wagner #13 (6’11”, 245 pounds, F) – Moe is the undisputed star of this team, and the centerpiece that the whole team is built around. He was awesome last season, and big things are expected of him this season. He flirted with the NBA Draft after last season, but chose to come back. He won’t be coming back after this season, so Michigan needs to get the most out of him while they can. He presents a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. If the opposing center comes out to guard him on the 3-point line, where he’s deadly, he has the moves to blow right past him for the dunk. If the opposing center gives him a couple feet to keep him from driving, he can easily pop in a 3-pointer. Just ask Louisville and Purdue. He schooled them.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman #12 (6’4″, 190 pounds, G) – MAAR is the quiet senior leader on the team this season. He’s a steady player, and a very good on-ball defender. He’s the best player at slashing to the rim, and he has shown 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.
Duncan Robinson #22 (6’8″, 215 pounds, G/F) – Duncan proved that he belongs in Division I basketball, after transferring from a Division III school. He can be a deadly 3-point shooter, but his shot has a bad habit of abandoning him at inopportune moments. He has worked hard on the rest of his game, and while he will never be a great defender, he has steadily improved on the defensive end. If he can consistently hit his shots, the team can withstand any defensive liabilities he brings to the table. If his shot cools off, his playing time could go down.
Coach Beilein brought in another great recruiting class this season, with three scholarship players, one “graduate transfer rule” player, and two preferred walk-on players:
Eli Brooks #55 (6’0″, 170 pounds, G) – You’ve gotta love a 6-foot freshman point guard wearing a center’s number (#55). Eli is another “point guard of the future” on this team, which now has 3 point guards (along with Simpson and Simmons).
Jordan Poole #2 (6’4″, 190 pounds, G) – Jordan is a good-sized shooting guard with a nice 3-point stroke. His high school team won the national championship.
Graduate Transfer Rule Players
Jaaron Simmons #5 (6’1″, 185 pounds, G) – Jaaron is the first “graduate transfer rule” player to play for Coach Beilein. He graduated from Ohio University with one year of eligibility remaining, and he is an experienced point guard. As opposed to the two “point guards of the future” (Simpson and Poole), he is the “point guard of the present”. He will play the most minutes at point guard, while Simpson and Poole get up to speed.
Preferred Walk-On Players
Naji Ozeir #25 (6’8″, 225 pounds, F) – Naji is a freshman scout team player.
Luke Wilson #11 (6’0″, 165 pounds, G) – Luke is a freshman scout team player.
Let’s take a look at Michigan’s schedule for this season:
|11/03/2017 (Fri)||Grand Valley State (exh)||Ann Arbor, MI||7:00 p.m.|
|Maui Jim Maui Invitational – Maui On The Mainland|
|11/11/2017 (Sat)||North Florida||Ann Arbor, MI||7:30 p.m.|
|11/13/2017 (Mon)||Central Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||7:00 p.m.|
|11/16/2017 (Thu)||Southern Mississippi||Ann Arbor, MI||7:00 p.m.|
|Maui Jim Maui Invitational – Championship Games|
|11/20/2017 (Mon)||LSU||Lahaina, HI||12:30 a.m. (Tue)|
|11/21/2017 (Tue)||Notre Dame/Chaminade||Lahaina, HI||9:00/11:30 p.m.|
|11/22/2017 (Wed)||Finals/Consolation||Lahaina, HI||TBA|
|11/26/2017 (Sun)||UC Riverside||Ann Arbor, MI||4:00 p.m.|
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|11/29/2017 (Wed)||North Carolina||Chapel Hill, NC||7:30 p.m.|
|12/02/2017 (Sat)||Indiana||Ann Arbor, MI||12:30 p.m.|
|12/04/2017 (Mon)||Ohio State||Columbus, OH||6:30 p.m.|
|12/09/2017 (Sat)||UCLA||Ann Arbor, MI||12:00 p.m.|
|12/12/2017 (Tue)||Texas||Austin, TX||9:00 p.m.|
|12/16/2017 (Sat)||Detroit-Mercy||Detroit, MI||12:00 p.m.|
|12/21/2017 (Thu)||Alabama A&M||Ann Arbor, MI||9:00 p.m.|
|12/30/2017 (Sat)||Jacksonville||Ann Arbor, MI||6:00 p.m.|
|01/02/2018 (Tue)||Iowa||Iowa City, IA||7:00 p.m.|
|01/06/2018 (Sat)||Illinois||Ann Arbor, MI||12:00 p.m.|
|01/09/2018 (Tue)||Purdue||Ann Arbor, MI||9:00 p.m.|
|01/13/2018 (Sat)||Michigan State||East Lansing, MI||12:00 p.m.|
|01/15/2018 (Mon)||Maryland||Ann Arbor, MI||6:30 p.m.|
|01/18/2018 (Thu)||Nebraska||Lincoln, NE||9:00 p.m.|
|01/21/2018 (Sun)||Rutgers||Ann Arbor, MI||12:00 p.m.|
|01/25/2018 (Thu)||Purdue||West Lafayette, IN||7:00 p.m.|
|01/29/2018 (Mon)||Northwestern||Ann Arbor, MI||7:00 p.m.|
|02/03/2018 (Sat)||Minnesota||Ann Arbor, MI||2:30 p.m.|
|02/06/2018 (Tue)||Northwestern||Evanston, IL||7:00 p.m.|
|02/11/2018 (Sun)||Wisconsin||Madison, WI||1:00 p.m.|
|02/14/2018 (Wed)||Iowa||Ann Arbor, MI||6:30 p.m.|
|02/18/2018 (Sun)||Ohio State||Ann Arbor, MI||1:00 p.m.|
|02/21/2018 (Wed)||Penn State||State College, PA||7:00 p.m.|
|02/24/2018 (Sat)||Maryland||College Park, MD||12:00 p.m.|
|Big Ten Tournament|
|02/28/2018 (Wed)||Opening Round||New York, NY||TBA|
|03/01/2018 (Thu)||1st Round||New York, NY||TBA|
|03/02/2018 (Fri)||2nd Round||New York, NY||TBA|
|03/03/2018 (Sat)||Semifinals||New York, NY||TBA|
|03/04/2018 (Sun)||Championship||New York, NY||TBA|
Some comments on the schedule:
I like to divide the games up into 3 categories (“Should Win”, “Should Lose”, and “Toss Up”):
If UM can win all 13 of the “Should Win” games, and just over half (6) of the 11 “Toss Up” games, that would give them a record of 19-12 (10-8 in the Big Ten). That might be good enough to get UM into the NCAA Tournament, depending on how they do in the Big Ten Tournament.
As you can see in the schedule above, Michigan’s first (exhibition) game is Friday (11/03/2017, 7:00 p.m., BTN Plus) vs. Grand Valley State. Of course, UM will win handily and get to try all kinds of combinations of players out there. Come on down to Crisler Arena to check out this season’s edition of Michigan Basketball, and stop by sections 209/210 to say hi.
2017 University of Michigan Football Season Predictions
10 August 2017
Yeah, it’s me, the “basketball guy”, back for more. It’s time for my annual attempt to predict how the University of Michigan’s football season is going to go.
I am very proud of my predictions for last season: I got all 12 games right (10-2 overall, 7-2 in the Big Ten), and I even predicted the correct bowl game scenario (no Big Ten Championship game, but a “New Year’s Six” bowl game). It’s the best I’ve ever done at predicting a football season.
This season, I’m feeling about the same level of optimism. There were a lot of graduations and departures to the NFL, but there’s a lot of talent coming back. It just might take some time to get everything squared away. There are four games that stand out this season, and only one of them is at home: Florida (in Arlington, TX), at Penn State, at Wisconsin, and home vs. Ohio State. I’m always worried about the first game of the season, especially if it’s on the road, so I’m picking the Florida game as a loss. We beat Penn State (handily) and Wisconsin (barely) in Ann Arbor last season, but it’ll be a lot tougher on the road. I’m picking a split (beat Penn State, lose to Wisconsin). That leaves our arch-rival, Ohio State. We got really close last season, and we probably would have won the game with some better officiating on the crucial 4th down spot in overtime, but that’s water under the bridge. I’m going to go out on a limb and pick Michigan to finally beat OSU this season. The other 8 games look pretty straightforward, including our other arch-rival (Michigan State), which leaves Michigan with a final regular season record of 10-2 again, but 8-1 in the Big Ten, which might just get us into the Big Ten Championship game. Win that, and we might be looking at the College Football Playoff. If not, we’re still looking at a “New Year’s Six” bowl game again.
Well, we won a ring. We survived a plane crash. We played to the best of our ability in a couple games. We put the world on notice. It was special.
– Moritz Wagner
The University of Michigan Men’s Basketball team’s 2016-2017 season is over, and it was an unexpected success. Michigan finished with a final record of 26-12 (10-8 in the Big Ten), which was good enough for a tie for 5th place in the Big Ten, but that’s not the whole story. UM caught fire in the 2nd half of the Big Ten season, and strung together 7 wins in a row to win the Big Ten Tournament, and make it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. This was more than all but the most optimistic fans and “experts” predicted for Michigan. One of the biggest factors, and something I never mentioned during the season for superstitious reasons, was that no Michigan player missed a single game due to injury. This is a remarkable departure from the last few seasons, which have seen far too many significant injuries.
Before the season, I divided the games up into 3 categories (“Should Win”, “Should Lose”, and “Toss Up”):
If UM can win all 13 of the “Should Win” games, and half of the 12 “Toss Up” games, that would give them a record of 19-12 (9-9 in the Big Ten). That might be good enough to get UM into the NCAA Tournament, depending on how they do in the Big Ten Tournament.
So, how did they do?
That worked out to 20-9 (10-8 in the Big Ten), which was slightly better than I predicted. They did it by winning 2 “Should Lose” games to make up for the 2 “Should Win” games that they lost, and doing one game better than half of the “Toss Up” games.
There were quite a few significant games along the way:
South Carolina (11/23/2016) – As good as Michigan looked in the 2K Classic, they looked that bad in their very next game, a thorough butt-whipping in their 1st true road game. Of course, South Carolina made it to the Final Four, so the loss doesn’t look quite as bad.
Texas (12/06/2016) – A big win for Michigan, in an ugly home game. It was close and tense, but “a win is a win”.
UCLA (12/10/2016) – Another road loss, but a spectacular one. UCLA was ranked #2 in the nation at the time, and UM hung with them for the entire 1st half, which was a 50-50 track meet. UCLA pulled away in the 2nd half, but UM looked pretty good in an 18-point loss.
Iowa (01/01/2017) – Yet another road loss, in Michigan’s Big Ten opener. This was a close game, and Michigan had a chance to win it in regulation, but they let it slip away, then lost in overtime. Not a very good way to start league play.
Illinois (01/11/2017) – This game was the turning point of the season. It was yet another road loss, dropping Michigan to 1-3 in the Big Ten. The game was tied until Illinois went on a 17-2 run in the last 4:04 of the half, and that was the game. The game was a depressing loss, but there was a “silver lining”. The Illinois center, Maverick Morgan (great name!) called Michigan a “white collar” team in a postgame interview, and that woke them up. From that point on, Michigan went 15-6.
Wisconsin (01/17/2017) – Yet another road loss, but a close one. Since Wisconsin was ranked #17 at the time, this was a minor “moral victory”.
Illinois (01/21/2017) – Michigan wore their blue (away) uniforms for a home game, to show Maverick Morgan that they could be “blue collar”, and they kicked Illinois’ butts. The “revenge tour” was on!
Indiana (01/26/2017) – Michigan crushed IU 90-60 in Crisler, and fans were starting to get excited about the team.
Michigan State (01/29/2017) – Another close road loss. The game was close and tight until the final minutes. The final score (70-62) is deceptive. Not quite a “moral victory”, but it was encouraging.
Ohio State (02/04/2017) – This was the low point of the season. Just when it looked like UM was finally getting things figured out, they came out flat at home vs. OSU, and lost an ugly game to a mediocre team. They allowed 16 offensive rebounds, and that cost them the game. At this point, most fans, including me, jumped off the bandwagon. I wrote the team off as “no chance for the NCAA Tournament, think NIT instead”. Wrong.
Michigan State (02/07/2017) – This was the high point of the season, at least for me. A win over MSU is worth any 2 other wins. This win was another good old-fashioned butt kicking. UM led from start to finish, and got the lead up as high as 30, before putting in the scrubs and winning by “only” 29 points. Another “revenge” win.
Indiana (02/12/2017) – Michigan FINALLY won a true road game, in one of the toughest places to win: Assembly Hall. They didn’t just win, they won convincingly, and swept IU.
Wisconsin (02/16/2017) – Another big win, over a ranked (#11) team. Another “revenge” win. The fans were back, and thinking NCAA Tournament.
Minnesota (02/19/2017) – Another road game, another loss. This one was also close and tense, and went to overtime. The officiating was terrible, and Michigan shot free throws terribly, for the only time this season. Ugh.
Purdue (02/25/2017) – This game was Senior Night, and Michigan played their best game of the regular season, beating the Big Ten regular season champs. They were ranked #16 at the time.
Northwestern (03/01/2017) – Another road game, another loss. Northwestern probably had to win this game to guarantee their first ever NCAA Tournament bid, and it was a good, close, tense game. It was tied with 1.7 seconds left, and it looked like it was going to overtime, but NW threw a perfect full-court pass for a buzzer-beater layup. It could have been a crushing defeat for Michigan, but they shook it off nicely, winning their next 7 games.
Nebraska (03/05/2017) – Michigan bounced back from the heartbreaking loss at Northwestern with one of their best games of the season. They thrashed Nebraska on their Senior Night, winning by 36 points. Another (rare) road win!
Illinois (03/09/2017) – Illinois, again. This time, Michigan played them in the Big Ten Tournament, in Washington (DC). Any tournament game is a big deal, but this one was even bigger, since Michigan’s charter plane had a “rejected takeoff” during the 63-mph windstorm, and ended up sliding off the runway, through a security fence, across an access road, and into a field just short of a ravine. Everyone on board was basically safe, but there were some cuts and bruises, and everyone was shaken up. If the plane had slid into the ravine, there could have been serious injuries and even deaths. The team flew to DC the next morning, and got to the arena at 10:40 for a noon tipoff. Their game uniforms were trapped on board the crashed charter plane, so they played in their practice uniforms, with very little warmup. It didn’t matter: they crushed Maverick Morgan and his merry band again, 75-55. More revenge.
Purdue (03/10/2017) – Michigan was the #8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, so they had to play the #1 seed, Purdue, if they won their 1st game. Purdue was the regular season Big Ten champions, ranked #13, playing their 1st game of the tournament, since they had a double bye. Didn’t matter. Michigan beat them again, this time in overtime. At least they finally had their game uniforms.
Minnesota (03/11/2017) – Michigan played their 3rd game in 3 days, and they played well. They continued their “revenge tour” with a win over Minnesota. This time, they shot their free throws well.
Wisconsin (03/12/2017) – Wisconsin was the #2 seed in the tournament, and they were ranked (#24). Didn’t matter. Michigan finished up their “revenge tour” with a very convincing 15-point win (71-56), for the Big Ten Tournament championship and the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Oklahoma State (03/17/2017) – These two teams had the two best offenses in the country, and they matched each other shot for shot the whole game. Michigan managed to pull ahead in the final minutes, then hung on to win by one, 92-91. Whew!
Louisville (03/19/2017) – This was probably Michigan’s most impressive win of the season, although I’m partial to the 29-point win over Michigan State. Louisville was the #2 seed in the Midwest Region, and they were ranked #10. It was a close, hard-fought game, with Louisville ahead most of the time, but UM grabbed a small lead in the closing minutes, and hung on for the huge win. On to the Sweet Sixteen!
Oregon (03/23/2017) – This was another nailbiter, against another high seed (#3) team that was ranked in the Top 10 (#9). It all came down to the final shot, at the buzzer, with Michigan down one point. It didn’t drop, and Michigan’s fairy tale run in the Big Dance was over.
Austin Davis (Inc.) – Austin was voluntarily redshirted this season, since UM had so much depth at center.
Brent Hibbitts (Inc.) – Brent only played in “garbage time” this season: 22 minutes in 10 games. He scored 3 points (on a 3-pointer), and he grabbed 4 rebounds.
Xavier Simpson (B-) – Xavier played in all 38 games, averaging 8.7 minutes/game. He scored 59 points, and dished out 37 assists. He didn’t shoot very often, or very well, but he did give Derrick Walton a rest every now and then. He did play pretty good defense.
Jon Teske (C-) – Jon played in 20 games, averaging 3.1 minutes/game. He only scored 5 points (1 basket and 3 free throws), and grabbed 12 rebounds. He was very tentative out there. Whenever he entered the game, the opposing center went right at him, backed him down, and scored over him easily. He just wasn’t ready this season.
Ibi Watson (C-) – Ibi played in 19 games, averaging 4.4 minutes/game. He scored 24 points, but he really struggled with his 3-point shooting: 1-for-18. He seemed pretty confident out there, but he just couldn’t buy a basket.
Fred Wright-Jones (Inc.) – Fred only played in “garbage time” this season: 18 minutes (lowest on the team) in 13 games. He scored 5 points, on a 3-pointer and 2 free throws.
Charles Matthews (Inc.) – Charles had to sit out this season after transferring to Michigan from Kentucky. He’ll have sophomore eligibility next season.
Moritz Wagner (A) – Moe was easily the most improved player on the team this season. He started all 38 games, and he was 3rd on the team in scoring, averaging 12.1 points/game. He cut way down on his fouls and turnovers from last season. His defense still wasn’t as good as his offense, but he got better as the season went along.
DJ Wilson (A) – DJ is another vastly improved player. He played in all 38 games, and started all but the first 2. He averaged 11.0 points/game, and he led the team in rebounding with 203, and blocked shots with 57 (more than the rest of the team combined).
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (B) – MAAR had an up-and-down season. He played in all 38 games, and started 37 of them. He averaged 9.1 points/game, but he had several mediocre games scattered among his normal productive games. When he’s “on”, he’s fine out there, but he disappeared several times this season.
Mark Donnal (C) – Mark regressed from his first 2 seasons, especially last season. It’s hard to believe that this is the same player who put up 28 points vs. Illinois last season. He almost acted disinterested out there at times. He played in all 38 games, and he averaged 3.9 points/game, but he also disappeared several times this season.
Sean Lonergan (Inc.) – Sean mostly played in “garbage time”, but he had a few brief appearances in significant game situations. Still, he only played 36 minutes in 17 games, and only scored 11 points.
Duncan Robinson (B-) – Duncan is another player who regressed from last season. He played in all 38 games, and he even started 3 of them, but he quickly lost his starting spot to DJ Wilson, and the rest of the season he came off the bench to provide “instant offense”. He averaged 7.7 points/game, which isn’t bad, but his 3-point shooting percentage was way down from last season. He also had a tough time staying in front of his man on defense, which limited his playing time.
Andrew Dakich (Inc.) – Andrew was voluntarily redshirted. It’s odd to see a senior be redshirted, but Andrew voluntarily “burned his redshirt” the last 2 seasons to help the team when injuries sidelined point guards. He’ll graduate on time, and play a “grad transfer” year somewhere smaller where he can start and contribute.
Zak Irvin (B+) – Zak was the 2nd leading scorer on the team (13.0 points/game), 2nd in assists (113), and 3rd on the team in rebounding (172). He had a terrible shooting slump in the middle of the Big Ten season, but he broke out of it, and played some of his best basketball down the stretch. He still had a habit of taking too many long 2-pointers, and playing “hero ball” in crunch time, but overall he helped the team more than he hurt it.
Derrick Walton Jr. (A) – Derrick led the team in scoring (15.5 points/game), led the team in assists (189), and was 2nd in rebounding (182). He had a mediocre start to the season, but from the “white collar” game on, he was the best player on the team, and one of the best in the Big Ten. He carried Michigan on his back for the last 10 games or so.
Michigan is losing at least 4 players from this season’s team:
There is also a chance that Sean Lonergan will use the “grad transfer” rule to play elsewhere next season. If so, I’m sure he can find a team that will let him play and contribute a lot.
Irvin and Walton will definitely be missed, and the other 3 guys played important roles either as backups or practice players, but Michigan has another good recruiting class coming in:
I hate to say too much about incoming freshmen until I’ve seen them play in an actual game or two. It’s easy to get excited about high school seniors, but they are usually a lot less exciting as college freshmen. Ibi Watson and Jon Teske are this season’s prime examples.
In addition to the 3 incoming freshmen, there will be 2 more new players on next season’s roster:
In summary, the future looks very promising for Michigan for next season and beyond.
Be sure to look for the first article for next season on the Monday before the first game.
The (#23) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game last week in the NCAA Tournament in Kansas City (MO), and they lost it. They were the #7 seed in the Midwest Region. On Thursday (03/23/2017), Michigan lost to the #3 seed, Oregon, 69-68. The loss eliminated Michigan from the tournament, and left them with a final record of 26-12 (10-8 in the Big Ten).
The game was every bit as close as the final score would indicate. Michigan played one of their worst games in the last 2 months, but still had a shot at the game-winning basket as time expired, but it didn’t drop. Game, and season, over.
In the 1st half, the game was tied 8 times, and there were 8 lead changes. Oregon’s biggest lead of the half was 5 points, Michigan’s biggest lead was 4. Oregon led by 2 points at halftime, 35-33. The 2nd half was much the same. There were 8 more lead changes. Oregon’s biggest lead in the 2nd half was 6 points, Michigan’s biggest lead was 3 points. Michigan had that lead (68-65) with 2:02 left in the game, and it looked like they were going to pull the game out again in the closing moments, like they have so many times in postseason play. Instead, they didn’t score again. An Oregon player missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw attempt with 1:49 left, but Michigan couldn’t grab the rebound, and Oregon made a basket instead. Michigan missed their last 3 shots, and Oregon made one more basket, and that was the game.
The stats for the game are mediocre. Michigan didn’t shoot very well overall (25-for-58 = 43.1%), they shot 3-pointers fairly well (11-for-31 = 35.5%), but they did shoot free throws perfectly (7-for-7 = 100.0%). They lost the rebounding battle, but not badly (36-31), but they also lost the turnover battle (8-5), which is a big surprise. While 8 turnovers isn’t bad at all, they were the difference in this game.
Who Looked Good
Derrick Walton Jr. carried Michigan on his back again, in his final game as a Wolverine. He scored 20 points, had 8 assists, and even grabbed 5 rebounds. He was the player who took the last “win or lose” shot at the buzzer, and it was a good and reasonable shot, it just didn’t go in. Bummer.
Zak Irvin also played hard in his last game as a Wolverine. He scored 19 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and had 3 assists. He hit crucial shots in “crunch time” to keep Michigan in the game. It was good to see him go out on a high note.
DJ Wilson had an interesting game. He scored 12 points, all on 3-pointers. He shot 3-pointers pretty well (4-for-8), but missed both of his 2-point attempts, including a point-blank uncontested layup in the closing minutes that could have sealed the game. Still, it’s hard to complain about his effort and his defense.
Duncan Robinson scored 8 points, which was good, but didn’t help out much on defense.
Who Looked Not-So-Good
Moritz Wagner picked a bad time to have an “off” game. He only scored 7 points, and he only played 24 minutes. He got open for 4 good 3-point attempts, and he bricked all 4 of them. He missed a contested layup on Michigan’s first possession, and he never seemed to get in sync after that.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman also picked a bad time to have an “off” game. Unlike Wagner, he played a lot (38 minutes), but he only scored 2 points on 1-for-6 shooting (0-for-4 from 3-point range). He had 3 of Michigan’s 8 turnovers, and was also out of sync for the whole game.
Mark Donnal played 4 minutes, and didn’t take a shot.
Xavier Simpson played 5 minutes, and didn’t take a shot.
Who Else Played
No one else played.
Who Didn’t Play
The Big Picture
The season is over. No more “Big Picture”.
It was a good season that far exceeded expectations. It could have been ever better.
The season is over, so nothing is “Next”.
Check back next week for the last article of the season, including a Season Wrap-Up, Final Grades, and a Look Ahead.
The (#23) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week in the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis, and they won both of them. They’re the #7 seed in the Midwest Region. On Friday (03/17/2017), Michigan beat the #10 seed, Oklahoma State, 92-91, then on Sunday (03/19/2017), they beat the #2 seed, (#10) Louisville, 73-69. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 26-11 (10-8 in the Big Ten), and put them into the Sweet Sixteen!
Both games were tight, tense, and exciting, and in both games Michigan had to hang onto a slim lead in the closing minutes to win the game. We knew that Oklahoma State (OSU from now on, but not THAT OSU) had a great offense, but it was kind of a surprise how well they defended Michigan in the early going. It was also kind of surprising how poorly Michigan defended them in the early going. For a game that got into the 90s, it was low scoring for much of the first half. With 12:10 left in the half, it was tied up 11-11. OSU went on a quick 9-2 run, and Michigan was down 7 (20-13) with 9:52 to go. It was still a 7-point OSU lead (27-20) with 7:22 left in the half, when Michigan finally woke up and went on an 8-0 run, to lead 28-27 with 5:03 to go. The teams traded baskets and free throws for the rest of the half, with neither team ever leading by more than 2 points. Michigan led at the half, 41-40.
OSU was hot to start the 2nd half, and they quickly pulled out to a 6-point lead (52-46) with 15:51 to go in the game. Michigan fought back, and tied it 59-59 at the 13:04 mark. It was still tied (64-64) with 10:52 left, when Michigan pulled away for good. They got the lead up to 8 points (76-68) with 6:47 to go, but let the lead shrink to 2 points (79-77) with 4:12 left. They pushed it back to 7 points (88-81) with 0:23 left, and that should have been enough, and it was, but just barely. OSU put on a frantic comeback, including a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to finish within 1, but Michigan made just enough baskets and free throws down the stretch to win. Still, a win is a win, especially in the NCAA Tournament, where the only rule is “survive and advance”. You don’t get any “style points” for winning big.
Louisville is exactly the wrong kind of team for Michigan to beat. They play “bully ball”, like the vintage Michigan State teams of the last 20 years, and they have 4 solid front line players that Michigan had to contain, somehow. Louisville manhandled Michigan for most of the game, and they led for most of the game. They scored much more easily than Michigan did, and they bottled Michigan up with their interior defense. There were several times when it looked like UL was going to run away with the game, but Michigan hung around. Louisville pulled out to a quick 6 point lead (12-6) with 15:17 to go in the 1st half. They pushed it up to 7 points (21-14) with 9:59 left. Michigan scrapped and worked really hard to finally get it tied (28-28) with 1:40 left in the half, when UL went wild. They hit 2 quick 3-pointers, along with a couple free throws, and held Michigan scoreless, so they led by 8 (36-28) at halftime. Things did not look very promising.
The 2nd half was even for the first 6 minutes, and UL still led by 7 (47-40) with 13:49 to go in the game. Michigan finally got their game in gear, and pulled to within 1 point (50-49) with 10:33 to go, tied it (51-51) with 9:16 left, and went ahead by 2 (53-51) at the 8:54 mark. It was still tied (55-55) with 7:12 to go, when Michigan pulled ahead for good. They got the lead up to 6 points (67-61) with 1:18 left, and hung on for the big win. The last minute was very tense, but Michigan played with confidence and poise, and deserved to win.
The stats for the OSU game are pretty impressive. Michigan shot very well overall (29-for-56 = 51.8%), they shot 3-pointers very well (16-for-29 = 55.2%), and they shot free throws very well (18-for-22 = 81.8%). They got crushed on the boards (40-21), but they won the turnover battle (4-10). OSU had 16 offensive rebounds, which was almost enough to win the game, but Michigan’s 3-point shooting made just enough of a difference. Michigan’s 16 made 3-pointers tied the Big Ten record for NCAA Tournament games.
The stats for the UL game are not nearly as impressive. Michigan shot pretty well overall (28-for-57 = 49.1%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (6-for-17 = 35.3%), and they shot free throws well enough (11-for-14 = 78.6%). They lost the rebounding battle (37-30), but they won the turnover battle (6-11). The turnovers and poor 3-point shooting (5-for-20) cost UL the game.
Who Looked Good
In both games, 4 of Michigan’s 5 starters hit double figures. This scoring balance is crucial.
Derrick Walton Jr. was the hero of the OSU game, with 26 points and 11 assists, for a huge double-double. He hit 6-for-9 from 3-point range. He also had 10 points (on terrible shooting: 3-for-13) vs. UL.
DJ Wilson had a great week. He scored 19 points vs. OSU, including a couple clutch free throws in the closing seconds. He also had 4 big blocked shots. He had 17 points vs. UL, including 4 clutch free throws in the closing seconds, and 3 blocked shots. He played great defense against the monster UL front line.
Zak Irvin quietly had a great week. He scored 16 and 11 points, and hit some big shots in both games. He was efficient on offense, and did a nice job on defense.
Moritz Wagner had one very good game (career-high 26 points) vs. UL and one quiet game (6 points, in only 14 minutes) vs. OSU. He sat for most of the 2nd half vs. OSU, in favor of a shorter, faster lineup with DJ Wilson at center, but he carried Michigan on his back in the 2nd half of the UL game. He shot an amazing 11-for-14 vs. UL, with only one 3-point attempt (which he made).
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman also had one good game (16 points vs. OSU) and one quiet game (6 points vs. UL). He was a key contributor in the OSU game.
Who Looked Not-So-Good
Michigan got very little bench scoring this week.
Duncan Robinson scored 8 points vs. OSU, and 0 vs. UL.
Mark Donnal scored 1 and 3 points.
Xavier Simpson played 2 minutes vs. OSU and 4 minutes vs. UL, and failed to score in either game.
Who Else Played
No one else played.
Who Didn’t Play
The Big Picture
Unless they have a lousy/cold game, Michigan has proven that they can play with the big boys. There isn’t a team left in the tournament that they can’t beat, but they will need a combination of luck and skill to keep advancing. That’s the nature of a “lose and go home” tournament: you’re only as good as your last game. One “off” game, and you’re done.
Still, Michigan has already way overachieved for this season. Everything from here on is gravy.
On to the Sweet Sixteen! The next round of games is in Kansas City (MO) for the Midwest Region, with the winner going on to the Final Four. On Thursday (03/23/2017, 7:09 p.m. EDT, CBS), Michigan plays (#9) Oregon, the #3 seed. If they win, they will face the winner of the (#1 seed) Kansas vs. (#4 seed) Purdue game, on Saturday (03/25/2017, Time TBA, CBS).
Oregon will be another tough game. They’re 31-5, with several impressive wins along the way (UCLA, USC, and Arizona) and a couple less-than-impressive losses (Georgetown and Colorado). They’ve got 6 players who are 6’9″ or taller. They are beatable, but Michigan will have to play another great game to get by them.
Here’s the complete bracket.
Check back next week to see what happened, and why.