Nothing But ‘Net – Week #03 – 11/11/2019 – Disaster Averted

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this week, and they won it.  On Tuesday (11/05/2019), they beat Appalachian State 79-71 in Crisler Arena.  Michigan’s record is now 1-0.

What Happened?

As the title says, a disaster was (barely) averted.  Michigan almost blew a 30-point lead in the 2nd half against an obviously inferior opponent.  Almost.  The 1st half went smoothly, with UM opening up a nice 20-point lead (41-21) with 3:54 left, and pushing it up to 23 points (46-25) at halftime.  The first 5 minutes of the 2nd half were fine as well, with UM building up a nice, safe, solid 30-point lead, 63-33.  The lead was still 30 points (67-37) with 12:59 left in the game, when the bottom fell out.  Michigan went to sleep on both ends of the court, and allowed ASU to go on a miserable 27-3 run over the next 10:36, which made the score 70-64 with 2:23 left.  During that stretch, Michigan went 1-for-12, with 9 turnovers.  Fortunately, UM woke up in the last 2:23 to seal the victory that almost got away.

Stats

Michigan shot reasonably well overall (29-for-61 = 37.5%), they shot 3-pointers reasonably well (9-for-25 = 36.0%), and they shot free throws pretty well (12-for-19 = 63.2%).  They (barely) won the rebounding battle (34-33) and the turnover battle (17-19).

Who Started?

The starters were Zavier Simpson, Eli Brooks, Adrien Nuñez, Isaiah Livers, and Jon Teske.

Who Looked Good?

Brooks was the leading scorer, with a career-high 24 points.  He shot a decent percentage overall (7-for-15) and from 3-poiht range (5-for-11).

Teske had a double-double (17 points, 13 rebounds), but was only a factor in the 1st half, when he had 15 points and 11 rebounds, which means he only scored 2 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in the 2nd half.

Livers was the only other Michigan player in double figures, with 14 points.  He played hard, but just wasn’t very hot.

Colin Castleton almost hit double figures, with 8 points.  He looked pretty comfortable out there.

Nuñez had 5 points, including a 3-pointer that was the only points UM got in the 27-3 ASU run.

Brandon Johns, Jr. had 5 points, and looked OK out there.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

David DeJulius played 28 minutes, and scored 0 points on 0-for-3 shooting.

Who Else Played?

When Michigan got ahead by 30 points with 13 minutes left in the game, I expected to see a bunch of subs, but then UM frittered away almost all of that lead, and Coach Howard had to keep his starters in the game until the very end.  So, this game featured a “short bench”.

Who Didn’t Play?

Franz Wagner still has a broken wrist, and didn’t suit up.  He’s out for at least another month.

Cole Bajema and Austin Davis were the only 2 “regular” players who didn’t get in.

The practice squad (C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t get in.

What Does It Mean?

The good news: Michigan is good/talented/poised enough to dominate a lesser opponent and open up a 30 point lead in 27 minutes.

The bad news: Michigan is young/inexperienced/fragile enough to lose most of a 30-point lead in 13 minutes.

The games are going to start getting tougher very soon, and the “good” Michigan team better show up.  The “young” Michigan team will get spanked.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays 2 games, both in Crisler Arena.  On Tuesday (11/12/2019, 6:30 p.m., FS1), they play Creighton, then on Friday (11/15/2019, 7:00 p.m., BTN), they play Elon.  The Creighton game is part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games, which is essentially the Big East/Big Ten Challenge.  The Elon game is associated with the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament that Michigan is playing in over the Thanksgiving break.  Elon is in what they call the “Mainland Bracket”, which means that they play one game “on the mainland” (as opposed to the Bahamas, where the “Championship Bracket” is played) against one of the “Championship Bracket” teams, in this case Michigan, and then they play 2 other teams in the “Mainland Bracket” at home.

Creighton was 20-15 last season, and went to the NIT.  They have some height (2 players at 6’11”), they have 5 of their top 6 scorers from last season returning, and they shoot a lot of 3-pointers.  This will be a good test for Michigan.

Elon was 11-21 last season, and they don’t look to be much better this season.  They don’t have much height (2 players at 6’8”), and they’ve got a pretty young team.  Michigan should handle them pretty easily, but that’s what I said about Appalachian State.

Come on down to Crisler to check out this season’s team, and stop by Sections 209-210 to say hi.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #02 – 11/04/2019 – The Exhibition Game

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played their first and only exhibition game on Friday (11/01/2019) in Crisler Arena, and they pounded poor Saginaw Valley State University 82-51.  Since it was only an exhibition game, Michigan’s record is still 0-0.

What Happened?

Michigan led the whole game, jumping out to a 10-point lead right away, and stretching it to 14 points (26-12) midway through the 1st half.  Then they fell asleep, and let SVSU creep back into the game with some sloppy offense and indifferent defense.  With 2:13 left in the half, Michigan’s lead was down to 2 points (31-29), and the crowd was getting uneasy.  Fortunately, Michigan woke up and finished the half with a 10-0 run, to make the score more comfortable (41-29).  They continued the run into the 2nd half, and pushed the lead to 20 (58-38), then 30 and more.  The 2nd half was never close.

Stats

Michigan shot pretty poorly overall (25-for-61 = 41.0%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (9-for-31 = 29.0%), and they shot free throws pretty well (23-for-30 = 76.7%).  They won the rebounding battle (44-40) and the turnover battle (11-20).

Who Started?

The starters were Zavier Simpson, Eli Brooks, Adrien Nuñez, Isaiah Livers, and Jon Teske.

Note: I missed it when Livers switched his number from #4 (the last 2 seasons) to #2 (this season).  He wore #2 in high school, and it was his preferred number, but he let Jordan Poole wear it the last 2 seasons.  Now that Poole is in the NBA, Livers got it back.

Who Looked Good?

Livers was the leading scorer, with 20 points.  He shot a good percentage overall (7-for-11) and from 3-poiht range (4-for-8).

Brooks had a double-double, with 13 points and 10 rebounds.  He had a terrible overall shooting percentage (1-for-7), but the only shot he hit was a 3-pointer (1-for-4).  He was tremendous from the free-throw line (10-for-10).

Brandon Johns, Jr. was the only other Michigan player in double figures, with 12 points, on good shooting (4-for-5 overall, 2-for-3 from deep).

Simpson didn’t hit double figures in points (7), but he did have 11 assists.

Nuñez was the only other Michigan player to make a 3-pointer.  He had 7 points on poor shooting (2-for-6 overall, 1-for-5 from deep).

Teske didn’t score much (6 points), but he did have 9 rebounds.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Cole Bajema only played 5 minutes, missed his only shot (a 3-point attempt), and made a free throw, for 1 point.  He didn’t play badly, he just didn’t do much.

Colin Castleton played 17 minutes, and scored 6 points on 2-for-5 shooting.  He had 3 rebounds.  He didn’t play badly, he just didn’t do much.

Austin Davis only played 6 minutes, and made his only shot (a dunk) and a free throw, for 3 points.  He didn’t play badly, he just didn’t do much.

David DeJulius played 24 minutes, and scored 5 points on 2-for-9 shooting.  After his performance in the “secret” scrimmage and the open practice, I expected a lot more from him.

Who Else Played?

Coach Howard emptied the bench for the final 3 minutes, so 4 players from the practice squad got to play: C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson.  Rico made the only basket, for 2 points.

Who Didn’t Play?

Franz Wagner has a broken wrist, and didn’t suit up.

What Does It Mean?

It’s hard to learn much from an exhibition game against an overmatched opponent.  We saw improvement from last season for some players (Johns and Nuñez), and unimpressive outings from others (Castleton and DeJulius).  We saw about what we expected from the upperclassmen (Simpson, Teske, Livers, and Brooks).  We didn’t see enough of the lone healthy freshman (Bajema) to make any judgement.

What’s Next?

Michigan’s first real game is Tuesday (11/05/2019, 7:00 p.m., BTN) vs. Appalachian State, in Crisler Arena.  ASU was 11-21 last season, and they don’t figure to be much better this season.  They don’t have anyone taller than 6’9” on their roster, and they’re pretty young.  Michigan should be able to handle them pretty easily.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #01 – 10/28/2019 – Season Preview

Yes, it’s that time already: college basketball season.  The University of Michigan men’s basketball team’s first game is this Friday (11/01/2019) in Crisler Arena at 7:00 p.m.  It’s an exhibition vs. Saginaw Valley State.  Also, the team has an open practice tonight (Monday, 10/28/2019, 6:00 p.m.) in Crisler.

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.

This is a special season for me, since this is my 20th season writing for UMGoBlue.com.  My first article was posted on 12/04/1999, describing Michigan’s victory over Chattanooga.  I’ll post a special article on 12/04/2019, looking back on the last 20 years in Michigan basketball.

In the meantime, there’s a LOT to talk about.  It was a very busy off-season, with lots of surprises and changes.  Let’s get to it.

Executive Summary

The big question: how good is Michigan going to be this season?

The big answer: it’s hard to guess, with all the changes (see below), but I’m going to say “not as good as last year, but not bad”.

What’s New?

Wow, there’s so much to talk about:

  • A new head coach
  • Several new assistant coaches
  • Several semi-unexpected player departures
  • One unexpected incoming freshman de-commitment
  • One unexpected incoming freshman commitment

Head Coach

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 5 months, I’m sure you’ve already heard that Michigan’s former coach, John Beilein, suddenly announced on 05/13/2019 that he was leaving his job at UM to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA.  It was a huge surprise, and no one saw it coming.  Even though it was a big, shocking surprise, he left the University on good terms, and I’m sure most fans will join me in wishing him well.  I know that I’m going to miss him.  He did things the right way, and he represented the University with honor and class.

It didn’t take Michigan long to find a very interesting replacement for Beilein: on 05/22/2019, former Michigan player Juwan Howard was hired as the new head coach.  Juwan was a member of the famous “Fab Five” teams from 1991-1994, before playing for 19 seasons in the NBA, then working as an assistant coach in the NBA for 5 seasons.  Even though he has never been a head coach at any level, I’m expecting him to do very well as Michigan’s new head coach.

Assistant Coaches

When you get a new head coach, you usually get some new assistant coaches, and that’s what happened this off-seasonCoach Howard hung onto Saddi Washington, but he lost DeAndre Haynes and Luke Yaklich, replacing them with Phil Martelli and Howard Eisley.  Martelli was the head coach at St. Joseph’s for the last 24 years, and Eisley has 10 years of assistant coaching experience in the NBA.  I’m sure they’ll both do a fine job.

Player Departures

This is what I hate most about college basketball: the coaches work hard to evaluate hundreds of high school players, sometimes even abroad, and carefully pick out the players that they think will work out the best for their team.  They spend years chasing these players, and finally get them on the team.  They teach them and develop them, and finally get them to perform at an elite level, and “poof”, off they go to the NBA Draft with 1-3 years of eligibility left.  I hate that.  Beilein was the best coach I’ve ever seen at finding underappreciated talent and developing it, and he was rewarded over and over again by players leaving school early for the NBA.  I’m sure that was one of the reasons he finally left college basketball for the NBA.

So, who left early this off-season?  Well, Charles Matthews, but that was expected.  The two other players who left early were not particularly expected: Iggy Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole.  Iggy was the first “one and done” in a long time at Michigan, and Poole still had two years of eligibility left.  If Iggy and Poole had come back for the 2019-2020 season, Michigan would be a Big Ten and national contender.  Without them?  Not so much.

De-Commitment

When Beilein announced that he was leaving for Cleveland, one of the two players committed to Michigan for the 2019-2020 season de-committed: Jalen Wilson.  He eventually chose Kansas, where he will probably sit and watch the postseason if the Jayhawks are banned from postseason play.

Commitment

The only good news in the off-season was the surprise signing of Moe Wagner’s younger brother, Franz, as an incoming freshman for the 2019-2020 season.  He may or may not be as good as Jalen Wilson, but he’s going to be pretty good, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Who’s Coming Back?

After all the talk about who left, it’s time to talk about who’s coming back.  Michigan has the core of a very good team, but much will depend on the development of the returning role players.  The Wolverines are all set at point guard (Zavier Simpson), center (Jon Teske), and power forward (Isaiah Livers), but the other two positions (shooting guard and small forward) are up in the air.  There are good candidates for both positions, and decent backups for all five spots, but the key this season is going to be the incoming sophomores.  Other than Iggy, they didn’t contribute very much very consistently, and they need to step up now.

Let’s look at the returning players on the team:

Sophomore Eligibility

Colin Castleton #11 (6’11”, 235 pounds, F/C) – Colin played in 19 games last season, and scored 21 points.  He hit double figures once (11 points vs. Nebraska), and missed all 3 of his 3-point shots.  He looked like he was starting to “get it”, then he regressed back to “lost freshman” mode.  He really needs to step up this season.  With Teske graduating after this season, Colin is going to be the starting center next season, and he needs to get ready.  Hopefully, with a former center (Juwan Howard) as a coach, he’ll develop into a solid Big Ten center.

David DeJulius #0 (6’0”, 190 pounds, G) – David played in 25 games last season, and scored 14 points.  He only scored more than 2 points once (4 points vs. Villanova), and shot 1-for-15 from 3-point range.  He looked fairly comfortable out there, but he never did anything impressive, he just filled up space.  Just like Castleton, he needs to step up this season, because he’s going to be the starting point guard next season.  A lot will depend on how quickly he can pick up Coach Howard’s new offensive system.

Brandon Johns, Jr. #23 (6’8”, 235 pounds, F) – Brandon played in 28 games last season, and scored 22 points.  He had one good game (8 points vs. Indiana), and shot 1-for-3 from 3-point range.  Like Castleton, he looked like he was starting to “get it”, then he regressed back to “lost freshman” mode.  He was supposed to be the second most “college-ready” of the freshmen, after Iggy.  He’ll get another chance this season.  With his height, he’s more of a small forward than a center.

Adrien Nuñez #5 (6’6”, 210 pounds, G) – Adrien played in 20 games last season, and scored 3 points.  His only points were vs. Indiana, on a 3-pointer.  He was supposed to be the best 3-point shooter in the freshman class, but he shot 1-for-13 from deep.  He needs to be a dependable shooter or he’s going to slide to the end of the bench.

Junior Eligibility

C.J. Baird #24 (6’5”, 225 pounds, F) – C.J. played in 13 games last season, and scored 9 points, all on 3-pointers.  He shot 3-for-8 from deep.  He’s on the scout team, and will only play in “garbage time”.

Eli Brooks #55 (6’1”, 185 pounds, G) – Eli started last season as the most pleasant surprise of the season, but he really tailed off once the Big Ten season started.  He played in all 37 games, and scored 91 points (2.5 points/game).  He shot pretty well (37.8% overall, 29.2% from 3-point range), but he had way too many 0-point games.

Austin Davis #51 (6’10”, 250 pounds, F/C) – Austin started last season slow, and went downhill from there.  He played in 25 games, and scored 25 points, with a high game of 6 points vs. Chattanooga.  He did shoot a nice percentage for the season (12-for-19 = 63.2%), but he had problems with committing silly fouls, and seemed a step slow out there.  He was supposed to be a solid backup for Teske at center, but he was passed by a pair of true freshmen (Castleton and Johns) and Isaiah Livers on the depth chart.

Isaiah Livers #4 (6’7”, 235 pounds, F) – Last season, Isaiah was a big contributor to Michigan’s success.  He played in 35 games, and started 3 of them, but he was really Michigan’s sixth man, and he usually sparked the team when he came in.  He played center much of the time, which allowed Michigan to play “small ball” and push the tempo a little more.  He scored 278 points (7.9 points/game), and had the best 3-point shooting percentage on the team (52-for-122 = 42.6%).

Rico Ozuna-Harrison #14 (5’11”, 175 pounds, G) – Rico didn’t play in the 2018 portion of last season, and he only played in 2 games, took 1 shot, and missed it.  He’s on the scout team, and will only play in “garbage time”.

Luke Wilson #32 (6’0”, 175 pounds, G) – Luke only played in 10 games last season, took 3 shots, and missed them all.  He’s on the scout team, and will only play in “garbage time”.

Senior Eligibility

Zavier Simpson #3 (6’0”, 190 pounds, G) – Last season, Zavier didn’t score much (8.8 points/game), and his shooting percentages weren’t very good (43.4% overall, 30.8% from deep), but he did have the most assists (244) and steals (53) on the team by far.  He does a great job running the offense, and he is tenacious on defense.  This is his team, and his leadership will determine how they do.

Jon Teske #15 (7’1”, 260 pounds, C) – Last season, Jon did a good job taking over as the starting center, and he does some things very well, but he’s not a complete player.  He was the 4th leading scorer on the team (9.5 points/game), and he shot very well overall (52.1%) and pretty well from 3-point range (29.9%).  He led the team in rebounds (259) and blocks (75).  On the other hand, he’s not as quick or nimble as Isaiah Livers, and he had trouble defending smaller, more agile “stretch 5s”.  Still, it’s nice to have a 7’1” guy out there protecting the rim.  He’s the other “leadership guy” on the team.

Who’s New?

Michigan brought in two scholarship freshman (Cole Bajema and Franz Wagner), and gets the services of a transfer player who sat out last season (Jaron Faulds):

Cole Bajema #22 (6’7”, 175 pounds, G) – Cole is a 4-star forward from Lynden, WA.  He’s got a sweet 3-point shot, and he can score in bunches.  At 175 pounds, he needs some time in the weight room to play in the Big Ten.

Jaron Faulds #44 (6’10”, 240 pounds, F) – Jaron had to sit out last season as a transfer player from Columbia.  He played one season at Columbia, so he’ll have sophomore eligibility.  He is a preferred walk on, not a scholarship player, and he’s on the scout team, and will probably only play in “garbage time”.

Franz Wagner #21 (6’8”, 205 pounds, G) – Franz is the younger brother of Moe Wagner, and he’s got Moe’s “basketball IQ”, but not Moe’s body or skillset.  He’s a different kind of player, more perimeter-oriented, with a nice 3-point shot.  We’ll have to see how quickly he can adapt to US college basketball.  Unfortunately, Franz broke his wrist in preseason practice, so he’ll miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season.  Maybe he’ll be ready by early December.

Starting Lineup/Depth Chart

As I mentioned above, three of the positions are pretty solid, with two up in the air.  My guess:

Point guard: Simpson (backups: DeJulius and Brooks)

Shooting guard: Wagner (backups: Brooks, Bajema, and Nuñez)

Small forward: Johns (backups: Bajema, Livers, and Wagner)

Power forward: Livers (backups: Johns and Castleton)

Center: Teske (backups: Castleton, Livers, Johns, and Davis)

Last Season

From last season’s Wrap-Up article:

Michigan started strong, winning their first 17 games, a new program record.  Along the way, they won some big games impressively: at (#8) Villanova 73-46, vs. Providence 66-47 on a neutral court, at home vs. (#11) North Carolina 84-67, at home vs. (#19) Purdue 76-57, and at home vs. (#21) Indiana 74-63.  Villanova, UNC, and Purdue all went on to have good seasons, so these wins held up as impressive.

On the surface, the hot start looks like a big accomplishment, but when you dig a little deeper, you can see that it cost UM dearly in the long run.  Instead of building up Michigan’s confidence, the 17-game winning streak really messed with their heads.  The pressure got to them, and they started playing “not to lose”, instead of “playing to win”.  It all came crashing down when they went into Madison and looked terrible against a so-so Wisconsin team, losing 64-54.  They were still shaken the next game, barely beating an even less talented Minnesota squad 59-57 in Ann Arbor.  They looked a little better the next two games, beating Indiana on the road 69-46, and Ohio State in Ann Arbor 65-49, but that was their last 3-game winning streak.  The rest of the season they went L-W-W, five times:

That takes us to the Sweet Sixteen loss vs. Texas Tech.  Michigan just couldn’t get any momentum going after the loss at Wisconsin.  The win in Ann Arbor over Wisconsin was satisfying, and the wins over Maryland (twice) and Iowa were impressive, but the loss at Penn State was devastating, and the three losses in three weeks to MSU were very deflating.

This Season

Let’s look at Michigan’s schedule for this season:

Date Opponent Location Time (ET)
11/01/2019 (Fri) Saginaw Valley State (exh) Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
11/05/2019 (Tue) Appalachian State Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
Gavitt Tipoff Games – Big East/Big Ten Challenge
11/12/2019 (Tue) Creighton Ann Arbor, MI 6:30 p.m.
Battle 4 Atlantis – Mainland Bracket
11/15/2019 (Fri) Elon Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
11/22/2019 (Fri) Houston Baptist Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
Battle 4 Atlantis – Championship Games
11/27/2019 (Wed) Iowa State Paradise Island, Bahamas 12:00 p.m.
11/28/2019 (Thu) Alabama/North Carolina Paradise Island, Bahamas 1:30/6:30 p.m.
11/29/2019 (Fri) Finals/Consolation Paradise Island, Bahamas TBA
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
12/03/2019 (Tue) Louisville Louisville, KY 7:00/7:30 p.m.
12/06/2019 (Fri) Iowa Ann Arbor, MI 6:30 p.m.
12/11/2019 (Wed) Illinois Champaign, IL 9:00 p.m.
12/14/2019 (Sat) Oregon Ann Arbor, MI 12:00 p.m.
12/21/2019 (Sat) Presbyterian Ann Arbor, MI 12:00 p.m.
12/29/2019 (Sun) UMass-Lowell Ann Arbor, MI 2:00 p.m.
01/05/2020 (Sun) Michigan State East Lansing, MI 1:30/4:30 p.m.
01/09/2020 (Thu) Purdue Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
01/12/2020 (Sun) Minnesota Minneapolis, MN 1:00 p.m.
01/17/2020 (Fri) Iowa Iowa City, IA 9:00 p.m.
01/22/2020 (Wed) Penn State Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
01/25/2020 (Sat) Illinois Ann Arbor, MI 12:00 p.m.
01/28/2020 (Tue) Nebraska Lincoln, NE 7:00 p.m.
02/01/2020 (Sat) Rutgers New York, NY 4:30 p.m.
02/04/2020 (Tue) Ohio State Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
02/08/2020 (Sat) Michigan State Ann Arbor, MI 12:00 p.m.
02/12/2020 (Wed) Northwestern Evanston, IL 9:00 p.m.
02/16/2020 (Sun) Indiana Ann Arbor, MI 1:00 p.m.
02/19/2020 (Wed) Rutgers Piscataway, NJ 7:00 p.m.
02/22/2020 (Sat) Purdue West Lafayette, IN 2:00 p.m.
02/27/2020 (Thu) Wisconsin Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
03/01/2020 (Sun) Ohio State Columbus, OH 4:00 p.m.
03/05/2020 (Thu) Nebraska Ann Arbor, MI 6:30 p.m.
03/08/2020 (Sun) Maryland College Park, MD 12:00 p.m.
Big Ten Tournament
03/11/2020 (Wed) 1st Round Indianapolis, IN TBA
03/12/2020 (Thu) 2nd Round Indianapolis, IN TBA
03/13/2020 (Fri) Quarterfinals Indianapolis, IN TBA
03/14/2020 (Sat) Semifinals Indianapolis, IN TBA
03/15/2020 (Sun) Championship Indianapolis, IN TBA

Some comments on the schedule:

  • There are several good teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis: Iowa State, North Carolina, Gonzaga, and Oregon.  It will be a challenging tournament.
  • Playing at Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is going to be extremely challenging.
  • The two Big Ten games (Iowa and Illinois) early in December are a result of a 20-game Big Ten schedule.
  • The home game against Oregon is the best home non-conference opponent.  It will also be a challenging game.
  • The rest of the non-conference opponents are cupcakes.
  • The toughest stretch in the Big Ten schedule is the Michigan State (away), Purdue (home), Minnesota (away), Iowa (away) section, the first four games of 2020.  If Michigan can win 3 of those 4 games, they should be in good shape.
  • Each Big Ten team plays 6 teams once (3 home/3 away) and 7 teams twice, for a total of 20 games.  This season, Michigan plays:
    • Once: Minnesota (away), Penn State (home), Northwestern (away), Indiana (home), Wisconsin (home), Maryland (away).
    • Twice: Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Nebraska, Rutgers, Ohio State.

Expectations

I like to divide the games up into 3 categories (“Should Win”, “Should Lose”, and “Toss Up”):

  • Should Win (12) – Appalachian State, Creighton, Elon, Houston Baptist, Presbyterian, UMass-Lowell, Penn State, Illinois (home), Nebraska (twice), Rutgers (twice).
  • Should Lose (4) – Louisville, Michigan State (twice), Purdue (away).
  • Toss Up (15) – Iowa State, Atlantis 2nd round, Atlantis 3rd round, Iowa (twice), Illinois (away), Oregon, Purdue (home), Minnesota, Ohio State (twice), Northwestern, Indiana, Wisconsin, Maryland.

If UM can win all 12 of the “Should Win” games, and just over half (8) of the 15 “Toss Up” games, that would give them a record of 20-11 (12-8 in the Big Ten).  That should be good enough to get UM into the NCAA Tournament, depending on how they do in the Big Ten Tournament.

This Week

As you can see in the schedule above, Michigan’s first (exhibition) game is Friday (11/01/2019, 7:00 p.m., BTN Plus) vs. Saginaw 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.

Go Blue!

2019 University of Michigan Football Season Predictions

2019 University of Michigan Football Season Predictions
Drew Montag
20 August 2019

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.

Last Season (2018)

My Prediction: 8-4 (6-3 in Big Ten)
Actual Results: 10-2 (8-1)
Comments: After doing a terrible job predicting the 2017 season, I was a little better last season. I was a little pessimistic, and I thought we’d lose to Notre Dame (correct), Wisconsin (wrong), Penn State (wrong), and Ohio State (correct).

This Season (2019)

My Prediction: 9-3 (6-3 in Big Ten)
Comments: This season is a really tough one to predict. Michigan could finish anywhere from 12-0 to 5-7. The new offense (and offensive coordinator) and reloaded defense are both big question marks. The national “experts” are predicting good things for Michigan, and it’s tempting to join them, but the bitter taste from the beatdown in Columbus last season makes me hesitate. Michigan has a very tough schedule this season, and while many of the toughest games are in Ann Arbor, Michigan still has to prove they can win the big games. I’m still feeling pessimistic and predicting losses to Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #24 – 04/08/2019 – Season Wrap-Up, Final Grades, and Looking Ahead [UPDATED]

Note: Updated to show correct recruiting class (2019 instead of 2020).  Oops.

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team finished their season last week when they lost to Texas Tech in the 3rd round (Sweet Sixteen) of the NCAA Tournament.  Michigan finished the season with a record of 30-7 (15-5 in Big Ten).  They finished 3rd in the Big Ten.

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: Did this season pan out the way you expected?

A: Strangely, yes.  Here’s what I said in my Season Preview, way back in late October:

Q: How good is the 2018-2019 team going to be?

A: Not quite as good as last season’s team, but close.

And that’s about the way it played out.  On the one hand, Michigan had a better record in the Big Ten than last season (15-5 vs. 13-5), and they earned a higher seed in the Big Dance (#3 last season, #2 this season), but on the other hand, UM won more games last season (33 vs. 30), and made it to the National Championship game last season, but only to the Sweet Sixteen this season.  So, almost as good as last season.

On the other hand, I closed my Season Preview with this:

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: After their amazing finish last season, it’s important to be patient with this young team this season.  They may not look very polished early in the year, but once they’ve got some games under their belt, and Coach Beilein has had some time to work with them, watch out.  I expect them to be much better in March than they are in November.

That didn’t play out the way I expected.  Michigan was better in November than March this season.

Q: Was there a season-long pattern for this team?

A: There sure was: great defense, erratic offense.  The defense finished #2 in the nation, but the offense went from great to lousy and back again, sometimes during a single game.  It was bad offense that knocked UM out of the NCAA Tournament.

Q: How did the season go?

A: Last season, Michigan finished strong, winning 14 games in a row before losing in the National Championship game.  This season, Michigan started strong, winning their first 17 games, a new program record.  Along the way, they won some big games impressively: at (#8) Villanova 73-46, vs. Providence 66-47 on a neutral court, at home vs. (#11) North Carolina 84-67, at home vs. (#19) Purdue 76-57, and at home vs. (#21) Indiana 74-63.  Villanova, UNC, and Purdue all went on to have good seasons, so these wins held up as impressive.

On the surface, the hot start looks like a big accomplishment, but when you dig a little deeper, you can see that it cost UM dearly in the long run.  Instead of building up Michigan’s confidence, the 17-game winning streak really messed with their heads.  The pressure got to them, and they started playing “not to lose”, instead of “playing to win”.  It all came crashing down when they went into Madison and looked terrible against a so-so Wisconsin team, losing 64-54.  They were still shaken the next game, barely beating an even less talented Minnesota squad 59-57 in Ann Arbor.  They looked a little better the next two games, beating Indiana on the road 69-46, and Ohio State in Ann Arbor 65-49, but that was their last 3-game winning streak.  The rest of the season they went L-W-W, five times:

That takes us to the Sweet Sixteen loss vs. Texas Tech.  Michigan just couldn’t get any momentum going after the loss at Wisconsin.  The win in Ann Arbor over Wisconsin was satisfying, and the wins over Maryland (twice) and Iowa were impressive, but the loss at Penn State was devastating, and the three losses in three weeks to MSU were very deflating.

Q: What was the problem?

A: There were two main problems this season: 3-point shooting, and the mental part of the game.

  • 3-point shooting: For the season, Michigan shot 34.2% from 3-point range (287-for-839), which isn’t bad.  However, in their 7 losses, they shot much worse (44-for-163 = 27.0%), and in their 30 wins, they shot much better (243-for-676 = 35.9%).  They had a much better record (16-2) in games where they shot above than average than in games where they shot below average (14-5).  It was that simple.  Sure, bad Big Ten officiating cost Michigan a game or two, but they could have won those games with decent 3-point shooting.  They could have won the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles with decent 3-point shooting.  They would be playing in the Final Four with decent 3-point shooting.  Complete stats are here.
  • Mental aspect: Michigan led by double digits in the 2nd half of several of the games they ended up losing.  Once the opposing team started coming back, Michigan often folded.  This was often accompanied by scoring droughts of 4-5 minutes or more.

Q: You said something about Final Grades?

A: Here are the final grades, with the mid-term grades listed first.

Freshman Eligibility

Ignas Brazdeikis (A/A) – Iggy was sensational all season, with only a few “off” games (George Washington, Western Michigan, Wisconsin [twice], at Penn State, and Florida).  He led the team in scoring (14.8 points/game), and shot with pretty good accuracy (46.2% overall, 39.2% from deep).

Colin Castleton (Incomplete/C) – Colin played in 19 games, and scored 21 points.  He hit double figures once (11 points vs. Nebraska), and missed all 3 of his 3-point shots.  He looked like he was starting to “get it”, then he regressed back to “lost freshman” mode.

David DeJulius (Incomplete/C-) – David played in 25 games, and scored 14 points.  He only scored more than 2 points once (4 points vs. Villanova), and shot 1-for-15 from 3-point range.  He looked fairly comfortable out there, but he never did anything impressive, he just filled up space.

Brandon Johns, Jr. (Incomplete/C-) – Brandon played in 28 games, and scored 22 points.  He had one good game (8 points vs. Indiana), and shot 1-for-3 from 3-point range.  Like Castleton, he looked like he was starting to “get it”, then he regressed back to “lost freshman” mode.  He was supposed to be the second most “college-ready” of the freshmen, after Iggy.

Adrien Nuñez (Incomplete/D) – Adrien played in 20 games, and scored 3 points.  His only points were vs. Indiana, on a 3-pointer.  He was supposed to be the best 3-point shooter in the freshman class, but he shot 1-for-13 from deep.

Sophomore Eligibility

C.J. Baird (Incomplete/Incomplete) – C.J. played in 13 games, and scored 9 points, all on 3-pointers.  He shot 3-for-8 from deep.  He’s on the scout team, and only plays in “garbage time”.

Eli Brooks (B/C) – Eli started the season as the most pleasant surprise of the season, but he really tailed off once the Big Ten season started.  He had a very quiet freshman season, but he was more confident and productive this season.  He played in all 37 games, and scored 91 points (2.5 points/game).  He shot pretty well (37.8% overall, 29.2% from 3-point range), but he had way too many 0-point games.

Austin Davis (C-/D) – Austin started the season slow, and went downhill from there.  He played in 25 games, and scored 25 points, with a high game of 6 points vs. Chattanooga.  He did shoot a nice percentage for the season (12-for-19 = 63.2%), but he had problems with committing silly fouls, and seemed a step slow out there.  He was supposed to be a solid backup for Teske at center, but he was passed by a pair of true freshmen (Castleton and Johns) on the depth chart.

Isaiah Livers (B+/B+) – Isaiah definitely improved this season over last.  While he was nominally a starter last season, he didn’t play much, and didn’t do much when he did play.  This season, he was a big contributor to Michigan’s success.  He played in 35 games, and started 3 of them, but he was really Michigan’s sixth man, and he usually sparked the team when he came in.  Last season, he played forward, but this season he played center much of the time.  He’s a different kind of center than Jon Teske, and he allowed Michigan to play “small ball” and push the tempo a little more.  He scored 278 points (7.9 points/game), and had the best 3-point shooting percentage on the team (52-for-122 = 42.6%).

Rico Ozuna-Harrison (None/Incomplete) – Rico didn’t play in the 2018 portion of the season, so he has no midterm grade.  He only played in 2 games, took 1 shot, and missed it.  He’s on the scout team, and only plays in “garbage time”.

Jordan Poole (B+/B+) – Jordan definitely improved from last season, but not as much as expected.  Still, he was the 2nd leading scorer on the team (12.8 points/game), and the 3rd best 3-point shooter (75-for-203 = 36.9%).  When he’s hot from 3-point range, he’s one of the best in the country, but when he’s cold, it can be painful.

Luke Wilson (Incomplete/Incomplete) – Luke only played in 10 games, took 3 shots, and missed them all.  He’s on the scout team, and only plays in “garbage time”.

Junior Eligibility

Charles Matthews (B+/B+) – Charles can take over a game and be unstoppable, or he can go invisible out there.  When he’s “on” and into the game, he looks like a future NBA player, but he occasionally loses focus, and just drifts around.  He was the 3rd leading scorer on the team (12.2 points/game), but his shooting percentages weren’t very good: 43.1% overall, 29.9% from deep.  He did improve his free throw shooting from last season, to 64.5%, which is respectable.  He played excellent defense, and provided good leadership.

Zavier Simpson (B/A-) – It’s hard to grade Zavier out there, since many of the things he does don’t show up in the box score.  He didn’t score much (8.8 points/game), and his shooting percentages weren’t very good (43.4% overall, 30.8% from deep), but he did have the most assists (244) and steals (53) on the team by far.  He does a great job running the offense, and he is tenacious on defense.

Jon Teske (B/B) – Jon did a good job taking over as the starting center, and he does some things very well, but he’s not a complete player.  He was the 4th leading scorer on the team (9.5 points/game), and he shot very well overall (52.1%) and pretty well from 3-point range (29.9%).  He led the team in rebounds (259) and blocks (75).  On the other hand, he’s not as quick or nimble as Isaiah Livers, and he had trouble defending smaller, more agile “stretch 5s”.  Still, it’s nice to have a 7’1” guy out there protecting the rim.

Q: Looking ahead?

A: As you can see in the grades above, there are no players on the team this season with senior eligibility.  In theory, that would mean that everyone could be back next season.  In practice, however, Michigan will be losing one of their most valuable players, Charles Matthews.  Since Charles transferred to Michigan after his freshman season at Kentucky, he had to sit for a year before he was eligible to play last season with sophomore eligibility.  Charles is an actual student-athlete, and he was serious about his studies, so he’ll be graduating at the end of this term.  Instead of enrolling in grad school at Michigan, or taking a grad-year transfer to another school, he is going to try his luck with the NBA draft.  Based on how he played this season, I’m not expecting him to get drafted in the first two rounds, so he’ll probably sign with someone as an undrafted free agent.  Maybe he’ll make it with an NBA team, maybe not.  He’s a borderline case.

Besides Matthews, everyone else should be back next season.  At various times during this season, the “experts” talked about Iggy leaving for the NBA after his freshman year, but that doesn’t seem likely now.  Iggy is older than most freshmen (he turned 20 in January) and mature enough to play professionally, but he needs to show the NBA scouts more consistency before they’ll take a chance on him with one of their two precious draft picks.

The only other Michigan player with NBA aspirations is Jordan Poole, but he also had enough “off” games to keep him in school for at least another season, again to prove that he can be more consistent.

None of the scholarship players seem dissatisfied enough to transfer out, so almost all of the team should be back next season, with a solid core of upperclassmen and a promising class of rising sophomores.  But, what about new players?  Well, at this point, Michigan only has two commitments for next season:

  • Cole Bajema (6’7”, 176 pounds, F) – Cole is a 4-star forward from Lynden, WA.  He’s got a sweet 3-point shot, and he can score in bunches.  At 176 pounds, he needs some time in the weight room to play in the Big Ten.
  • Jalen Wilson (6’8”, 215 pounds, F) – Jalen is a 4-star forward from Denton, TX.  He is also a good 3-point shooter, with the size and moves to drive to the basket and finish.

However, there is one more player who will be on the roster next season:

  • Jaron Faulds (6’10”, 225 pounds, F) – Jaron had to sit this season after transferring from Columbia.  He will have sophomore eligibility next season.  He had decent stats at Columbia as a freshman, but the level of competition will be a little different at Michigan.

That’s it for this season.  Check back in October for the new season.

Go Blue!