Nothing But ‘Net – Week #12 – 01/17/2022 – More COVID-19 And A Moral Victory

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team was supposed to play two games this past week, but they only played one, and lost it.  On Tuesday (01/11/2022), they were supposed to play (#3) Purdue in Crisler Arena, but it was postponed due to COVID-19 issues in the UM program, then on Friday (01/14/2022), they lost at Illinois 68-53.  The loss lowers Michigan’s record to 7-7 (1-3 in Big Ten).

What Happened?

The postponement of the Purdue game was not too surprising, after Michigan had to postpone their previous game, against Michigan State.  Even though Michigan had enough scholarship players to play the Illinois game, they were missing two key players, which made for some crazy lineups and unusual minutes for rarely-used players.

Wait a minute, I thought that Michigan fans didn’t believe in moral victories.  Well, maybe in a good season, but this isn’t a good season.  Even though the Illinois game ended up being a 15-point loss, it was much closer than that for most of the game, with Illinois pulling away in the last couple minutes.  Looking at the lineups that Michigan was forced to cobble together, and the huge size advantage that Illinois had, this game should have been a blowout from the opening tip, with Illinois leading by 30 and 40 points early in the 2nd half.  That’s not the way it went.  Michigan played gritty, solid defense for the first 35 minutes, and it was only their anemic offense that kept them from pulling ahead and possibly sneaking out a victory.

The game was close for most of the 1st half, although Michigan never led.  The score was tied 4 times (2-2, 4-4, 6-6, and 10-10) before Illinois pulled away for good.  The Illini pushed the lead up to the 7-9 point range for a while, but Michigan fought back, and were within 2 points (24-22) with 1:54 left in the 1st half.  Illinois scored another basket, to make it 26-22 at halftime.  Illinois widened their lead in the 2nd half, going up by 8-10 points for most of the half, but never pulling away.  Once again, Michigan fought back, pulling to within 1 point (45-44) with 7:27 left.  They even had the ball, with a chance to go ahead for the first time, but they missed a layup, and that was the ball game.  Illinois quickly pushed the lead back into double digits, and won by 15.

Stats

The game stats are horrible.  Michigan shot terribly overall (22-for-60 = 36.7%), they shot miserably from 3-point range (1-for-10 = 10.0%), and they shot free throws poorly (8-for-14 = 57.1%).  They lost the rebounding battle (33-32), but won the turnover battle (12-13).  They lost the game due to their horrible overall and 3-point shooting.

Who Started?

The starters were Eli Brooks, Moussa Diabate, Caleb Houstan, and DeVante’ Jones, and Terrance Williams IIHunter Dickinson and Brandon Johns, Jr. were out with COVID-19 complications, so Diabate started at center, and Williams started at power forward.  It was not an optimal lineup against an Illinois lineup with Kofi Cockburn and several other big, strong players.

Who Looked Good?

Jones was the only Michigan player to hit double figures, with 17 points.  He also hit Michigan’s only made 3-pointer.

Diabate gave it a good effort, scoring 9 points, but he only played 20 minutes due to foul trouble.  He was no match on either end against Cockburn, giving up 45 pounds.  When he was out, Michigan was really at a height disadvantage.

Kobe Bufkin had a solid game off the bench, with 6 points on 3-for-5 shooting.

Frankie Collins also had a solid game off the bench, with 5 points on 2-for-3 shooting.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Brooks had a lousy game, with 7 points on 3-for-11 shooting.

Houstan also had a lousy game, with 5 points on 2-for-9 shooting.

Williams also had a lousy game, with 2 points in 31 minutes of “action”.

Who Else Played?

Jace Howard scored 2 points in 15 minutes.

Jaron Faulds scored 0 points in 12 minutes.  With Dickinson and Johns out, and Diabate in foul trouble, Faulds had to try to contain Cockburn for 12 minutes.  He did his best, but that’s a big ask.

Who Didn’t Play?

Isaiah Barnes, Zeb Jackson, Brandon Johns, Jr., Adrien Nuñez, and Will Tschetter are the scholarship players who didn’t play.  Jackson stayed in Ann Arbor, for “personal” (non-COVID-19) reasons, but the rest of them were on the bench.  At this point, it’s obvious that Barnes and Tschetter are being voluntarily redshirted, and Johns was still recovering from COVID-19.  I’m surprised Nuñez didn’t get a few minutes.

Ian Burns and Brandon Wade are the scout team players who didn’t play.

What Does It Mean?

It was encouraging to see Michigan fight back repeatedly against Illinois, and to hang with them for most of the game, especially with the makeshift lineups they were forced to use.  If they can get this kind of effort against some of the lower division teams in the Big Ten, they might actually win another couple games.  Getting the whole team back from COVID-19 would really help.  Hitting some open 3-pointers would also help.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to play two games.  On Tuesday (01/18/2022, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2) they are scheduled to play Maryland in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (01/23/2022, 12:00 p.m., CBS) they are scheduled to play at Indiana.

Maryland is currently 9-8 (1-5 in Big Ten).  Their only impressive win was over (#20) Florida, and they have unimpressive losses to George Mason and Rutgers.  They have a couple noteworthy players (Eric Ayala and Donta Scott) and decent height (a 6’10” guy and a 6’11” guy).  This is one of the few games that Michigan stands a chance of winning, but they’ll have to play their “A” game.

Indiana is currently 12-4 (3-3 in Big Ten).  They have impressive wins over Notre Dame and (#12) Ohio State, and less-than-impressive losses to Syracuse, Penn State, and Iowa.  They have a few noteworthy players (Rob Phinisee, Miller Kopp, Tracye Jackson-Davis, and Race Thompson), and they have a 7-foot center.  This will be a very challenging game for Michigan, especially on the road.  UM has a lousy record in Assembly Hall, and this season’s team is not exactly firing on all cylinders.

Check back next week to find out what happened and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #11 – 01/10/2022 – More COVID-19 Issues

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team was supposed to play two games this past week, but they only played one, and lost it.  On Tuesday (01/04/2022), they lost at Rutgers 75-67, while the game scheduled for Saturday (01/08/2022) at home vs. Michigan State was postponed, due to COVID-19 issues in the UM program.  The loss lowers Michigan’s record to 7-6 (1-2 in Big Ten).

What Happened?

The postponement of the MSU game was the most obvious COVID-19 issue, but COVID-19 also played a big factor in the Rutgers loss.  Five UM players missed the Rutgers game, four of them due to COVID-19.  While none of the missing players were starters, several were key bench players, and UM gave unusual minutes to a couple rarely-used players in their absence.

Before the loss this week, Michigan was a perfect 14-0 vs. Rutgers.  That streak ended with a thud.  Rutgers watched the video of the Michigan/UCF game from last week, and saw that all they had to do was make three 3-pointers in a row against Michigan and the game would be over.  UCF waited until midway through the 2nd half to hit their three-in-a-row, but Rutgers hit theirs right out of the gate.  They hit their first three 3-point attempts, along with a layup and a free throw, and the score was suddenly 12-4 with 16:00 to go.  That was all the lead they needed, winning by 8 points.  In between, Michigan never led, and spent most of the game behind by 10-12 points.  It was a miserable, depressing performance.

Stats

The game stats are sad.  Michigan shot decently overall (27-for-59 = 45.8%), but they shot terribly from 3-point range (3-for-15 = 20.0%).  They shot free throws well enough (10-for-13 = 76.9%), but they lost the rebounding battle (37-32) and won the turnover battle (8-10).  Once again, they lost the game due to their bad 3-point shooting and above-average 3-point shooting by Rutgers (11-for-23 = 47.8%).  They seem to be doing everything right in defending 3-point shots, but their opponents just have their best 3-point shooting performances vs. Michigan.  It’s very frustrating.

Who Started?

The starters were Eli Brooks, Moussa Diabate, Hunter Dickinson, Caleb Houstan, and DeVante’ Jones.

Who Looked Good?

Just like the UCF game, 4 of the 5 starters scored in double figures, led by Dickinson (25), Diabate (15), Houstan (12), and Brooks (11).  Dickinson in particular did his part, shooting 10-for-16 overall.  Diabate also played hard, shooting 6-for-9 overall and grabbing 9 rebounds.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Jones had a terrible game, scoring 0 points.  He shot 0-for-3 from the floor in 31 minutes of “action”.

Kobe Bufkin also had a lousy game, with 2 points on 1-for-5 shooting (0-for-2 from 3-point range) in 15 minutes of playing time.

Who Else Played?

Jace Howard scored 2 points in 9 minutes.

Adrien Nuñez didn’t attempt a shot in 4 minutes.

Who Didn’t Play?

Isaiah Barnes, Frankie Collins, Zeb Jackson, Brandon Johns, Jr., Will Tschetter, and Terrance Williams II are the scholarship players who didn’t play.  Collins, Johns, and Williams didn’t travel with the team, due to COVID-19 issues.  Jackson also stayed in Ann Arbor, for “personal” (non-COVID-19) reasons.

Ian Burns, Jaron Faulds, and Brandon Wade are the scout team players who didn’t play.  Faulds didn’t travel with the team, due to COVID-19 issues.

What Does It Mean?

Losing the Rutgers game is a disaster.  If Michigan can’t beat Rutgers, there are few possible wins left on the schedule.  They could realistically lose the rest of the games on the schedule, although they might sneak out 2-3 more wins.  Regardless, they are almost certainly going to miss the NCAA (and NIT) Tournament this season.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan was supposed to play two games, but one of them has already been postponed.  On Tuesday (01/11/2022) they were scheduled to play (#3) Purdue in Crisler Arena, but that game has been postponed due to continuing COVID-19 issues in the UM program.  On Friday (01/14/2022, 9:00 p.m. EST, FS1) they are scheduled to play at Illinois.

Illinois is currently 11-3 (4-0 in Big Ten).  They have solid wins against Kansas State, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, and Maryland, and puzzling losses to Marquette and Cincinnati (by 20 points).  They have several noteworthy players: Trent Frazier, Alfonso Plummer, and (especially) Kofi Cockburn.  I think Cockburn is the most powerful basketball player I’ve ever seen in person, and I’m afraid he’s going to crush Dickinson.  Illinois thrashed Michigan in their only game last season, and they’re still upset that Michigan won the Big Ten title over them by winning percentage, not total wins.  They’ll be out for blood, playing at home in front of a wild and delusional crowd, and Michigan is hurting, both physically and mentally.  This game could be a bloodbath.

Check back next week to find out what happened and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #10 – 01/03/2022 – Unhappy New Year

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this past week, and they lost it.  On Thursday (12/30/2021), they lost at Central Florida (UCF) 85-71.  The loss lowers Michigan’s record to 7-5 (1-1 in Big Ten).

What Happened?

Between the UCF basketball game and the Orange Bowl football game, in was a lousy week in Florida for Michigan athletics.

Michigan should have won the UCF game, but once the momentum started swinging the wrong way, it was over.  Michigan led for all but the first few seconds of the 1st half, with a 3-5 point lead.  They led by 4 points (35-31) at halftime, and they quickly stretched that lead to 12 points (44-32) with 17:34 left in the game.  The lead was still 12 points (49-37) with 16:01 to go, when the roof fell in.  UCF went on a dizzying 13-0 run in less than 3 minutes, and led 50-49 at the 13:12 mark.  In that stretch, UCF made back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers, followed by a dunk-steal-dunk.  UM was completely frazzled, their confidence was shot, and the momentum was lost.  They got the lead back one last time, 51-50, and that was it.  UCF pulled ahead, and never trailed again.  UM got as close as 2 points (64-62) with 7:26 left, but UCF pushed their lead up to 10 points, and never looked back.  It was a humiliating loss to a non-Power 5 team, even if it was on the road.

Stats

The game stats are weird.  Michigan shot better from 3-point range (11-for-27 = 40.7%) than overall (25-for-63 = 39.7%), and they shot free throws pretty well (10-for-13 = 76.9%).  They won the rebounding battle (37-32), but lost the turnover battle (9-6).  The difference was that UCF was on fire from 3-point range: 12-for-20 (60.0%), including 8-for-8 in the 2nd half.  That flurry of three 3-pointers in 67 seconds in the 2nd half just broke Michigan’s will.

Who Started?

The starters were Eli Brooks, Moussa Diabate, Hunter Dickinson, Caleb Houstan, and DeVante’ Jones.

Who Looked Good?

4 of the 5 starters scored in double figures, led by Brooks (18), Jones (17), Diabate (13), and Dickinson (12).  Jones in particular did his part, shooting 6-for-10 overall and 4-for-5 from deep.  Dickinson almost had another double-double with 9 rebounds.

Kobe Bufkin also had a good game, with 8 points on 2-for-4 shooting (2-for-3 from 3-point range).

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Houstan had a terrible game, scoring 1 point.  He shot 0-for-7 from the floor (0-for-4 from deep) in 24 minutes of “action”.

Frankie Collins had a lousy game, with 0 points in 6 minutes.

Brandon Johns, Jr. had a lousy game, with 0 points in 9 minutes.

Terrance Williams II had a lousy game, with 2 points in 14 minutes.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

Isaiah Barnes, Jace Howard, Zeb Jackson, Adrien Nuñez, and Will Tschetter are the scholarship players who didn’t play.

Ian Burns, Jaron Faulds, and Brandon Wade are the scout team players who didn’t play.

What Does It Mean?

Losing this game is a disaster.  At this point, Michigan looks like they will finish below 0.500 for the season, and miss out on the NCAA Tournament.  They may get their act together, but they don’t have much margin for error left.

If you’re following Michigan basketball for the wins, this isn’t the season for you.  If you’re following them to see them play, they might still surprise you with some unexpected wins, but be ready for a lot more dreary losses.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays two games, resuming the Big Ten schedule.  On Tuesday (01/04/2022, 7:00 p.m., BTN) they play at Rutgers, then on Saturday (01/08/2022, 2:30 p.m., FOX) they play (#10) Michigan State in Crisler Arena.

Rutgers is currently 7-5 (1-1 in Big Ten), the same record as Michigan.  They have solid wins over Clemson (ACC/Big Ten Challenge) and (#1) Purdue.  They have unimpressive losses to DePaul, Lafayette, and Massachusetts. They have a couple noteworthy players (Geo Baker and Ron Harper, Jr.) and some height (one 6’10” player, and two 6’11” players).  This will be a tough game, especially on the road.  Michigan has never lost to Rutgers, but this could be the season.

MSU is currently 12-2 (3-0 in Big Ten).  Their only impressive win is over Louisville (ACC/Big Ten Challenge), and their 2 losses are against (#3) Kansas and (#6) Baylor.  They have several noteworthy players (Max Christie, Joey Hauser, Malik Hall, and Gabe Brown), and they have some height (a 7-footer at center).  Michigan will probably get blown out in this one, but they have the talent to hang around and maybe pull off a miracle, they just need to play one of their rare “A” games.

An important note: UM is now requiring proof-of-vaccination to attend indoor athletic events, as of 01/01/2022.  That should make the home basketball game on Saturday interesting.

Check back next week to find out what happened and why.

Go Blue!

Michigan 11 Georgia 34 – Orange Bowl (CFP SF) Game 14 Recap

GAME 14 PROJECTION vs. RESULTS

Final Score: 34-11, Georgia by 23 over Michigan
SP+ Projection: Georgia by 5.8 (-17.2)
CD Projection: Michigan by 1 (-24)

FIVE FACTORS

GAME 14 RECAP vs. Georgia – Orange Bowl

This turned into the nightmare scenario for how Michigan was approaching the game. The Wolverines won the toss and deferred. Georgia marched 80 yards in 7 plays for an opening touchdown on a well-scouted and perfectly scripted drive. When Michigan turned the ball over on downs at the Georgia 41 on their first possession, it was clear the Wolverines were going to play from behind. That is not where you want to be against a historically good defense.

Offensively, Michigan had their identity snuffed out. The Bulldogs dominated Michigan’s hard-nosed, smash-mouth running attack. With garbage time removed, the Wolverines managed just a 23% Success Rate on called run plays. When the offensive line did create creases for Haskins, Corum, and Edwards the Georgia linebackers were tremendous tacklers and gave up next to nothing after contact.

The Bulldogs also generated more pressure on Cade McNamara than previously seen this season. McNamara was sacked 4 times, and never settled into a rhythm throwing the ball. He also threw 2 interceptions. This was the antithesis of how Michigan’s offense had functioned in 2021. At the end, Jim Harbaugh inserted freshman QB JJ McCarthy because his scrambling ability was a necessity just to survive down-to-down versus Georgia’s front.

On the defensive side, the Bulldogs also ran circles around Michigan. The first 4 Georgia drives were all scoring opportunities, resulting in 2 touchdowns and 2 field goals, yielding 5.0 points per scoring opportunity. On the fifth drive, Georgia QB Stetson Bennett found Jermaine Burton for a 57-yard touchdown strike that felt like the exclamation point.

To Michigan’s credit, they kept battling despite the lopsided score. Josh Ross again led the team with 11 tackles, and sophomore DL added 7 tackles. Dax Hill returned from an unknown injury or illness and threatened a handful of passes on the edge.

But, in the end this was Georgia’s day. Michigan needed to play another near-perfect game to push this game to the brink. The Bulldogs avalanched the Wolverines early, and gave very little chance for Michigan to claw back.

Instead, most fans turned to a New Year’s Eve mentality for most of the evening. We spent a lot of time reflecting and appreciating the great year that was 2021 for Michigan Football. Then, Michigan started making resolutions to build a better 2022.