Note: Updated to
show correct recruiting class (2019 instead of 2020). Oops.
University of Michigan men’s basketball team finished their season last week
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.
for more Questions & Answers:
Did this season pan out the way you expected?
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.
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.
the other hand, I closed my Season Preview with this:
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.
didn’t play out the way I expected.
Michigan was better in November than March this season.
Was there a season-long pattern for this team?
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
How did the season go?
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.
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
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:
at Iowa 74-59, won
at Rutgers 77-65, won
at home vs. (#19) Wisconsin 61-52.
at Penn State 75-69, won
at home vs. (#24) Maryland 65-52, won
at Minnesota 69-60.
at home to (#10) Michigan State 77-70, won
at home vs. Nebraska 82-53, won
at (#17) Maryland 69-62.
at (#9) Michigan State 75-63, beat
Iowa on a neutral court 74-53, beat
Minnesota on a neutral court 76-49.
to (#6) Michigan State on a neutral court 65-60, beat
Montana on a neutral court 74-55, beat
Florida on a neutral court 64-49.
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.
What was the problem?
There were two main problems this season: 3-point shooting, and the mental part
of the game.
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
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.
You said something about Final Grades?
Here are the final grades, with the mid-term grades listed first.
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
(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,
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.