Nothing But ‘Net – Week #13 – 01/21/2019 – Gargling Peanut Butter

The (#2) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game last week, and they lost it. On Saturday (01/19/2019), they lost at Wisconsin 64-54. The loss lowers Michigan’s record to 17-1 (6-1 in the Big Ten).

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: Gargling peanut butter?

A: They choked. They let the pressure get to them. They played scared. They played “to not lose”, instead of playing to win. The long winning streak. The great start to the season. The chance to move up to #1 in the AP poll. The loud, hostile crowd. It all got to them. They choked.

Maybe in the long run, this loss will turn out to be a good thing. Maybe, now that the pressure has been eased a little, they’ll just play some hoops instead of worrying about the future. Maybe they’ll start hitting the wide open shots that they’ve been missing. Maybe they’ll stop throwing the ball away in crucial situations. Maybe.

Q: What happened?

A: Michigan played poorly, and they lost. Wisconsin played well, and they deserved to win.

Q: Was Michigan overrated?

A: Maybe. They certainly didn’t play like the #2 team vs. UW.

Q: What was the problem?

A: Shooting, poor shooting. At its very heart, basketball is a game about putting the ball in the basket. Michigan played decent defense for most of the game, but they just couldn’t put the ball in the basket, especially when they most needed to. They shot terribly overall (22-for-54 = 40.7%), they shot 3-pointers terribly (5-for-18 = 27.8%), and they shot free throws terribly (5-for-11 = 45.5%). That’s how to lose a game. The complete stats are here.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when Michigan is hitting their 3-pointers, everything else seems to fall into place, and the game looks fun and easy. When Michigan can’t hit their 3-pointers, everything is a struggle, and the game looks terrible.

Q: Any other problems?

A: Yup, turnovers. Michigan threw the ball away 16 times, tied for their worst performance of the season, and way over their average. Once again, many of those turnovers were at the exact worst time for momentum purposes.

Q: Any problems with the officiating?

A: It was fine, for the most part, but the refs did get a crucial call wrong in the last minute when they called an intentional foul against Michigan that wasn’t. It tipped the game toward Wisconsin. However, if Michigan had played a decent game up to that point, it won’t have mattered. They only had themselves to blame for being in a situation where one bad call could cost them the game.

Q: Did anyone look good for Michigan?

A: It’s tempting to say “no”, but it wasn’t that bad. A few players had decent games:

  • Jon Teske was high scorer, with 15 points. He was the only Michigan player to hit more than one 3-pointer (2-for-4). He did his part, he just didn’t get enough support.
  • Jordan Poole scored 14 points, but he took 15 shots to get them. He shot pretty poorly (6-for-15 overall, 1-for-5 from deep), he committed 4 fouls, and he had 3 turnovers.
  • Zavier Simpson actually had a double-double, with 11 points and 10 rebounds. He played very hard, but it wasn’t enough.
  • Isaiah Livers did his best to pick the team up when they were floundering around out there, but he only scored 5 points, against 3 turnovers.

Q: Who looked not-so-good?

A: A couple players had a bad game:

  • Ignas Brazdeikis was the main reason Michigan lost. He had a horrible game: 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting (0-for-3 from deep), 3 fouls, and 2 turnovers. He was one of Michigan’s main scoring threats coming in, and he let the team down badly.
  • Charles Matthews also let the team down, with only 5 points, 2 fouls, and 3 turnovers.

Q: Who else played?

A: It was a very short bench again:

Q: What did we learn this week?

A: We learned that Michigan isn’t as good as they appeared to be. We learned that they won’t be able to just “turn it on” whenever the going gets tough. They got away with that in their two close games so far (Western Michigan and the away Northwestern game), but they dug themselves too deep a hole this time.

Q: What’s next for Michigan?

A: Michigan plays two games this week, one at home and one on the road. On Tuesday (01/22/2019, 7:00 p.m., BTN), they play Minnesota in Crisler, then on Friday (01/25/2019, 6:30 p.m., FS1), they play at (#25) Indiana.

Minnesota is currently 13-4 (3-3 in Big Ten), with wins over Texas A&M, Washington, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, and losses to Boston College, Ohio State, Maryland, and Illinois. They’ve got a 7-footer and a 6’10” guy, and a couple good players. This is a game that Michigan should win, but they can’t play like they did against Wisconsin.

Indiana is currently 12-6 (3-4 in Big Ten), with wins over Marquette, Louisville, and Butler, and losses to Arkansas, Maryland, Nebraska, and Purdue. Michigan has already played them once, two weeks ago (01/06/2019), and beaten them solidly (74-63). It will be harder to beat them on the road, but Michigan can do it, if they play their “A” game.

That’s it for this week. Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #12 – 01/14/2019 – Best. Start. Ever.

The (#2) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won them both. On Thursday (01/10/2019), they beat Illinois 79-69 in Champaign, then on Sunday (01/13/2019), they beat Northwestern 80-60 in sold-out Crisler Arena. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 17-0 (6-0 in the Big Ten).

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: What’s this about “best start ever”?

A: This season’s Michigan team just set a new school record for the best start ever. The previous record was 16-0, shared by the 1985-86 and 2012-13 teams. Michigan is now one of only two undefeated teams left in the country, along with (#4) Virginia. Going back to last season, which ended with a 14-game winning streak before the loss in the National Championship game vs. Villanova, Michigan has now won 31 of their last 32 games, which is quite a record.

Q: So, were these good, solid wins?

A: Yes, they were. Illinois and Northwestern aren’t contenders for the Big Ten title, in fact Illinois is likely to end up 14th this season, but a 10-point road win and a 20-point home win are both good, solid wins.

In the Illinois game, Michigan led from start to finish, but never quite put the game on ice. They had their chances, but they always missed the crucial shot that would have put the game out of reach. On the other hand, every time Illinois started creeping up, Michigan answered with enough offense to keep them at arm’s length. Michigan kept the lead in the 6-8 point range for most of the game, occasionally stretching it to 10-12 points, and occasionally letting it dwindle to the 3-5 point range.

Michigan also led wire-to-wire in the Northwestern game, but they got the lead up in the 18-20 point range just before halftime, and kept it in the 16-18 point range for most of the 2nd half. Northwestern put on a furious comeback attempt in the 2nd half, but that only got them within 12 points, and Michigan pushed it back up to 20 points pretty quickly. The key stretch in the game came in the last 1:55 of the 1st half. Northwestern had just hit a 3-pointer to pull within 12 points (40-28), when Michigan just exploded. Jon Teske hit a pair of 3-pointers, just 19 seconds apart, Charles Matthews had a steal that led to a breakaway dunk, then Zavier Simpson had another steal that led to a short jumper with 7 seconds left. Those 10 points just crushed any hope Northwestern had of getting back in the game. It was very exciting, and very impressive. It really got the sold-out crowd going.

Q: Any complaints about the officiating this week?

A: Nope. They were mediocre, but in a balanced way.

Q: What do the team stats tell us?

A: The stats weren’t bad this week:

In the Illinois game, Michigan shot pretty well overall (28-for-62 = 45.2%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (5-for-19 = 26.3%), and they shot free throws very well (18-for-22 = 81.8%). They won the rebounding battle (38-30), and they tied in the turnover battle (14-14). The extra 8 possessions due to rebounding made the difference in this game.

In the Northwestern game, Michigan shot very well overall (31-for-59 = 52.5%), they shot 3-pointers well (11-for-27 = 40.7%), and they shot free throws very well (7-for-9 = 77.8%). They won the rebounding battle (33-28) and the turnover battle (9-13). All those extra possessions + good shooting = a 20-point win.

Q: Who looked good for Michigan?

A: Several players had a good week:

  • Zavier Simpson was the high scorer for Michigan in both games, with 16 points vs. Illinois and a career-high 24 points vs. Northwestern. He was brilliant in the Northwestern game, shooting 9-for-17 overall, and 5-for-10 from 3-point range. Those five 3-pointers are a career high for him.
  • Jon Teske was the other big star this week, with double figures in both games (13 and 17 points), and 11 rebounds in each game, for two consecutive double-doubles. He shot very well: 5-for-8 (1-for-3 from 3-point range) vs. Illinois, and 7-for-11 (3-for-5 from deep) vs. Northwestern. He hit all three of his 3-pointers vs. Northwestern in two and a half minutes just before halftime, igniting the offense and the crowd.
  • Charles Matthews also hit double figures in both games (14 and 13 points), and fired up the crowd in the Northwestern game with a couple thunderous dunks. The only downside: poor 3-point shooting (0-for-1 and 0-for-2).
  • Ignas Brazdeikis was the fourth starter who hit double figures in both games (15 and 11 points). He also had trouble with his 3-point shooting (1-for-2 and 0-for-2).
  • Jordan Poole was the only starter who didn’t hit double figures in both games (10 and 7 points). He didn’t shoot 3-pointers well either (1-for-6 and 1-for-3).
  • Isaiah Livers was back, after missing two games with back spasms, and he looked fine out there. He didn’t hit double figures in either game (9 and 8 points), but he provided the spark that he usually brings. He had a mixed week shooting 3-pointers (0-for-3 and 2-for-2).

Q: Who looked not-so-good for Michigan?

A: A couple players had an “off” week:

  • Eli Brooks had another ineffective week, with 2 and 0 points.
  • Austin Davis played a minute or two in each game, but didn’t take a shot.

Q: Who else played?

A: Coach Beilein went with his very short bench (8 players) in the Illinois game, which was close, but put several of the scout team players into the Northwestern game in the last two minutes: David DeJulius, Brandon Johns, Jr., Adrien Nuñez, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson. None of them scored.

This was the first time that Ozuna-Harrison has played this season, and I didn’t even realize that he was on the roster. He was a player on the team last season, and at the beginning of this season I reported that he had switched to being a manager, but I guess he’s back on the playing roster. Sorry I didn’t have a short bio of him in the Season Preview, and he certainly would have gotten a solid “Incomplete” in the Midterm Grades. I’ll keep track of him from now on.

Q: Who didn’t play?

A: A couple of the scout team players didn’t play this week: C.J. Baird and Colin Castleton.

Q: What did we learn this week?

A: We learned that Michigan can maintain their solid level of play against the non-contenders in the Big Ten. That’s important. Michigan is tied for 1st place in the Big Ten with the Little Brothers, and they can’t afford to lose a game to any of the non-contenders. They need to win all the games that they’re supposed to win, and play their best games against the other contenders. Those games are coming up soon.

Q: What’s next for Michigan?

A: Michigan only plays one game this week, one on the road. On Saturday (01/19/2019, 12:00 noon EST, ESPN2), they play at Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is currently 11-5 (3-2 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over Xavier, Stanford, Oklahoma, N.C. State, and Iowa, and less-than-impressive losses to Marquette, Western Kentucky, and Minnesota. They have some height (two 7’0″ guys, a 6’11” guy, and a 6’10” guy), and one of the best players in the Big Ten: Ethan Happ. They were ranked for most of the non-conference schedule, until they lost to Western Kentucky and Minnesota in consecutive games. It used to be nearly impossible to beat Wisconsin in the Kohl Center, but the last few seasons have been different. Michigan will have to play very well to beat them, but they are beatable.

That’s it for this week. Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #11 – 01/07/2019 – Good Basketball, Bad Officiating

The (#2) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won them both. On Thursday (01/03/2019), they beat Penn State 68-55, then on Sunday (01/06/2019), they beat (#21) Indiana 74-63. Both games were in sold-out Crisler Arena. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 15-0 (4-0 in the Big Ten).

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: I get the “good basketball” part, but what’s up with the “bad officiating” bit?

A: I’ve been watching Big Ten basketball since the 1974-75 season (44 years), and I’m still not used to how bad the officiating can be. This week was particularly bad. In both games, the refs took over in the 2nd half, determined to keep the game close. I counted 12 bad calls in the PSU game, and 10 in the IU game. The really frustrating part was that 8 of the bad calls in the IU game were in a row, all against Michigan, just when UM was about to put the game out of reach. They showed the replays on the scoreboard, and they were all terrible calls. With fair officiating, Michigan wins this game by 25 points.

Q: You’re really going to complain about the officiating when Michigan won both games by double figures?

A: You bet! The refs are supposed to officiate the game without looking at the score, but they really tried hard to keep both games close. UM couldn’t buy a decent call for over 7 minutes in the 2nd half of the IU game. It was ridiculous. The Big Ten has always had mediocre officiating, but these two crews really took it to the extreme. They were just horrible.

Q: Enough of that; let’s hear about the “good basketball”.

A: Michigan played very well in both games, despite the poor officiating (that’s the last time I’ll mention it). Michigan was supposed to beat PSU, probably by more than 13 points, and they played a good solid, unimpressive game against them. Michigan was also favored in the IU game, by 8 points, so they actually beat the point spread. IU was ranked, and they have two very good players, so UM had to play well to beat them.

In the PSU game, Michigan only trailed twice (5-4 and 7-6) before they got the lead for good, and kept it in the 6-8 point range for the rest of the 1st half, and in the 10-12 point range for most of the 2nd half. PSU did get within 8 points a few times in the 2nd half (51-43, 53-45, and 55-47) before UM pushed the lead up into double digits for most of the rest of the game.

In the IU game, Michigan led for the entire game, although it was only a 2 point lead early (11-9), before UM went on a quick 12-0 run to make the lead a little more comfortable. UM got the lead as high as 19 points (32-13, with 8:29 left in the 1st half), but generally kept the lead in the 12-14 point range. IU crept a little closer in the 2nd half, but UM kept them at arm’s length.

Q: What do the team stats tell us?

A: Actually, the stats were much less impressive than I expected.

In the PSU game, Michigan shot pretty well overall (25-for-55 = 45.5%), they shot 3-pointers decently (5-for-14 = 35.7%), and they shot free throws decently (13-for-19 = 68.4%). They lost the rebounding battle (37-29), but they won the turnover battle (10-18). Michigan won this game because PSU couldn’t hit 3-pointers (1-for-14 = 7.1%). Was that good defense by Michigan, or ineptness by PSU? A little of both.

In the IU game, Michigan shot well overall (29-for-58 = 50.0%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (4-for-16 = 25.0%), and they shot free throws pretty well (12-for-16 = 75.0%). Once again, UM lost the rebounding battle (34-31), but they won the turnover battle (3-7). Look at those turnover numbers: 10 turnovers total between the two teams! Those 4 extra possessions were key to Michigan’s win. Not-so-fun fact: UM started the game 4-for-6 from 3-point range, and missed their last 10 attempts.

Q: Who looked good for Michigan?

A: A few players had a good week:

  • Jordan Poole was the high scorer for Michigan in both games, with 17 vs. PSU and 18 vs. IU. He had a little trouble with his 3-point shot (1-for-4 and 2-for-6), but he managed to score in other ways to help Michigan to victory.
  • Charles Matthews hit double figures in both games (14 and 18 points), and even grabbed a few rebounds (5 and 6). He shot 3-pointers very well this week (1-for-1 and 2-for-3), and played great defense, especially in the IU game.
  • Ignas Brazdeikis hit double figures in both games (16 and 10 points), and grabbed 11 rebounds vs. PSU for his first career double-double.
  • Zavier Simpson almost hit double figures in both games (8 and 12 points), and he did a great job running the offense and playing tough defense.
  • Jon Teske didn’t hit double figures in either game (9 and 6 points), but he was very important defensively in both games. He couldn’t stop either of the opposing centers completely, but he did his best to slow them down. He had 2 blocked shots in each game.
  • Brandon Johns, Jr. had one forgettable game (no shots taken in 2 minutes vs. PSU) and one breakout game this week (8 points and 8 rebounds in 13 minutes vs. IU, both career highs). He looked very comfortable and poised out there vs. IU, and helped hold the fort when both Teske and Davis had foul problems.

Q: Who looked not-so-good for Michigan?

A: A couple players had an “off” week:

  • Eli Brooks had one of his least effective weeks, with 2 and 0 points.
  • Austin Davis scored 2 points in each game, but committed too many fouls to stay out there for long (2 and 4).

Q: Who else played?

A: Only one of the scout team players got into a game:

  • David DeJulius played 1 minute in the IU game, but didn’t attempt a shot.

Q: Who didn’t play?

A: The big story this week was the absence of Isaiah Livers. He missed both games with back spasms. He warmed up in both games, but didn’t play. His availability going forward is “day to day”/”game time decision”. UM needs him back and healthy, as soon as possible. He’s become a very valuable 6th man, subbing in at either the 4 or 5 and giving Michigan a spark.

Other than DeJulius, the rest of the scout team players didn’t play this week: C.J. Baird, Colin Castleton, Adrien Nuñez, and Luke Wilson.

Q: What did we learn this week?

A: We learned that Michigan can elevate their level of play when the Big Ten schedule rolls around. In the five December games after the Purdue game (at Northwestern, home vs. South Carolina, Western Michigan, Air Force, and Binghamton), Michigan didn’t look particularly sharp, although they were sharp enough to win them all. If Michigan had played the way they did vs. WMU this week against PSU or IU, they probably would have lost, but they elevated their game to match the competition.

We also learned that Brandon Johns is starting to “get it”, and that he can be a viable sub at the center position.

Q: What’s next for Michigan?

A: Michigan plays two games this week, one on the road and one at home. On Thursday (01/10/2019, 8:00 p.m. EST, FS1), Michigan plays at Illinois, then on Sunday (01/13/2019, 7:30 p.m., BTN), they play Northwestern in Crisler Arena.

Illinois is currently 4-11 (0-4 in Big Ten), with no impressive wins, and losses to Iowa State, Nebraska, Florida Atlantic, and Northwestern. They have some height: two 7’0″ guys, but no true “stars”. It’s tough to win any game on the road in the Big Ten, but this is a game that Michigan should win convincingly, if they focus and play their “A” game.

Northwestern is currently 10-5 (1-3 in Big Ten), with one decent win (Georgia Tech) and losses to Fresno State, Indiana, and Oklahoma. They have a little bit of height (three 6’10” players), and a few decent players. Michigan has already played Northwestern once this season (in Evanston on 12/04/2018), when they won a close game 62-60. This game should be a lot like the UM/PSU game last week. If UM plays a decent game, they should be able to beat Northwestern by double digits.

That’s it for this week. Come on down to Crisler for the Northwestern game.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #10 – 12/31/2018 – Ho-Ho-Ho-Hum & Midterm Grades

Happy New Year! Forget about the Peach Bowl, Michigan is a basketball school now.

The (#2) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game last week, and they won it. On Sunday (12/30/2018), they beat Binghamton 74-52 in Crisler Arena. The win raises Michigan’s record to 13-0 (2-0 in the Big Ten).

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: Wait, #2?

A: Oh yeah, I haven’t mentioned Michigan’s AP ranking this season. They started the season ranked #19, and have steadily climbed the rankings (#18, #9, #7, #5, and #4) to get to this point. The #1 team, Duke, has lost once, but they have looked very good. While all the other teams ahead of them in the rankings have lost a game or two, Michigan has managed to remain undefeated, including impressive wins over Villanova, North Carolina, and Purdue. Michigan is now one of only four teams that are still undefeated. The other three are: (#4) Virginia, (#6) Nevada, and (#22) Houston.

By the way, Michigan ended the calendar year 2018 with a record of 34-5, including a 14-game winning streak near the end of last season, and a 13-game winning streak to start this season. Wow! They’ve won 27 of their last 28 games.

Q: Why “Ho-Ho-Ho-Hum”?

A: It was a “ho-hum” kind of win, with some “Ho Ho Ho” thrown in for the Christmas/holiday break. Once again, Michigan “played down” to an obviously-inferior-but-pesky opponent in a guarantee game for all but the last eight minutes. The game started out looking like a rout, with UM hitting their first three shots, all 3-pointers, and leading 9-3. Then, they missed their next nine shots in a row, over a six-minute period, and trailed 11-9. The game was tied up 14-14 and 16-16 before UM went ahead for good, 19-16, at the 9:06 mark. Although they never let Binghamton catch up, they sure took their time shaking them off. The lead shrunk to 2 points a few times in the 1st half, and was only 5 points (34-29) at halftime. Binghamton was still within 3 points (46-43) with 11:49 to go in the game, and only down 7 points (50-43) with 8:36 left. That’s when Michigan finally woke up, outscoring Binghamton 24-9 in the last eight minutes to win comfortably.

Q: What was the problem this time?

A: That’s where the “Ho Ho Ho” comes in: Michigan looked like they had just gotten back from a few days off for their Christmas/holiday break. They looked rusty and distracted and just out of sorts. They didn’t exactly “look past” Binghamton, but they didn’t take them very seriously. Once again, I don’t think it’s a real problem, and I expect them to be much more focused when the Big Ten schedule resumes next week.

Q: What do the team stats tell us?

A: Actually, the stats were much better than I expected. Michigan shot pretty well overall (30-for-63 = 47.6%), they shot 3-pointers very well (11-for-18 = 61.1%), but they shot free throws poorly (3-for-6 = 50.0%). They won the rebounding battle (37-31) and the turnover battle (8-14). The 3-point barrage won the game for Michigan.

Complete stats here.

Q: Who looked good for Michigan?

A: A few players had a good game:

  • Ignas Brazdeikis had a real up-and-down-and-up-again game. He hit one of the early 3-pointers (at the 18:53 mark), then couldn’t buy a basket until the 3:37 mark in the 1st half. He was more consistent in the 2nd half, finishing with 21 points and 8 rebounds. He shot a decent percentage overall (9-for-18), but he was perfect shooting 3-pointers (3-for-3).
  • Jordan Poole scored 18 points, all on 3-pointers (6-for-10). His six 3-pointers is a new career high for him.
  • Zavier Simpson only scored 2 points, on free throws, but he contributed in other ways. He was Michigan’s leading rebounder (9), and had 10 assists.
  • Isaiah Livers wasn’t the leading scorer for Michigan, but he was probably the reason Michigan won. He came off the bench and scored a career-high 17 points on fantastic shooting (8-for-10 overall, 1-for-2 from 3-point range), and he gave the team a much-needed spark every time he came in.

Q: Who looked not-so-good for Michigan?

A: A couple players had an “off” game:

  • Charles Matthews had a miserable game, with 7 points on 3-for-12 shooting.
  • Jon Teske had an “off” game as well, with 4 points. With his height advantage, he should have had 18-20 points, not 4. He kept settling for 8-foot jumpers instead of dunks, and he missed most of them (2-for-6 shooting).
  • Eli Brooks had one of his least effective games, with 3 points on 1-for-4 shooting.

Q: Who else played?

A: Most of the scout team players got into the game:

Q: Who didn’t play?

A: C.J. Baird and Luke Wilson didn’t get into the game.

Q: What’s this about Midterm Grades?

A: Even though Michigan isn’t quite to the halfway point in the season, with 13 games played and 18 left to go, the end of the non-conference portion of the schedule is a logical time to look back on the first (almost) half of the season and assign midterm grades. Here goes:

Freshman Eligibility

  • Ignas Brazdeikis (A) – Iggy has been sensational so far this season, with only one “off” game (Western Michigan). He leads the team in scoring (16.5 points/game), and is shooting with pretty good accuracy (50.7% overall, 42.9% from deep). He’s been Michigan’s high scorer in 6 of the 13 games so far.
  • Colin Castleton (Incomplete) – Colin has only played in 7 games so far, and scored 6 points. He hasn’t appeared ready to play regularly and contribute yet.
  • David DeJulius (Incomplete) – David has only played in 9 games so far, and scored 6 points. He hasn’t appeared ready to play regularly and contribute yet.
  • Brandon Johns, Jr. (Incomplete) – Brandon has only played in 9 games so far, and scored 7 points. He hasn’t appeared ready to play regularly and contribute yet.
  • Adrien Nuñez (Incomplete) – Adrien has only played in 9 games so far, and hasn’t scored yet. He hasn’t appeared ready to play regularly and contribute yet.

Sophomore Eligibility

  • C.J. Baird (Incomplete) – C.J. has only played in 7 games so far, and scored 3 points. He’s on the scout team, and only plays in “garbage time”.
  • Eli Brooks (B) – Eli has been the most pleasant surprise so far this season. He had a very quiet freshman season, but he’s much more confident and productive this season. He has played in all 13 games, has scored 56 points (4.3 points/game), and has shot pretty well (44.9% overall, 34.5% from 3-point range).
  • Austin Davis (C-) – Austin has had a slow start to this season. He has played in 10 games so far, and has only scored 15 points. He is shooting a nice percentage though: 7-for-11 (63.6%). He has had problems with committing silly fouls, and seems a step slow out there.
  • Isaiah Livers (B+) – Isaiah has been another pleasant surprise this season. 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 has been a big contributor to Michigan’s success. He doesn’t start, but he’s Michigan’s sixth man, and he usually sparks the team when he comes in. Last season, he played forward, but this season he is playing center much of the time. He’s a different kind of center than Jon Teske, and he allows Michigan to play “small ball” and push the tempo a little more. He has played in all 13 games, he has scored 103 points (7.9 points/game), and has the 2nd best 3-point shooting percentage on the team (20-for-43 = 46.5%).
  • Jordan Poole (B+) – Jordan has definitely improved from last season, but not as much as expected. Still, he is the 3rd leading scorer on the team (13.5 points/game), and the best 3-point shooter (34-for-68 = 50.0%). 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) – Luke has only played in 4 games so far, and hasn’t scored yet. He’s on the scout team, and only plays in “garbage time”.

Junior Eligibility

  • Charles Matthews (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 is the 2nd leading scorer on the team (13.9 points/game), but his shooting percentages aren’t very good: 43.2% overall, 31.1% from deep. He has improved his free throw shooting from last season. He’s up to 61.9%, which is respectable.

  • Zavier Simpson (B) – It’s hard to grade Zavier out there, since many of the things he does don’t show up in the box score. He isn’t scoring much (6.7 points/game), and his shooting percentages aren’t very good (41.7% overall, 27.6% from deep), but he does have the most assists (81) and steals (20) on the team by far. He does a good job running the offense, and he is tenacious on defense.

  • Jon Teske (B) – Jon has done a good job taking over as the starting center, and he does some things very well, but he’s not a complete player. He is the 5th leading scorer on the team (7.5 points/game), he’s shooting pretty well overall (50.0%), and he leads the team in rebounds (82) and blocks (27). On the other hand, he’s not as quick or nimble as Isaiah Livers, and he’s not the 3-point threat that Isaiah is, shooting 3-for-15 (20.0%) so far. Still, it’s nice to have a 7’1″ guy out there protecting the rim.

Q: What did we learn this week?

A: We learned that Michigan can win a guarantee game with a “ho-hum” performance after a distracting holiday break. That’s about it.

Q: What’s next for Michigan?

A: The Binghamton game was Michigan’s last non-conference game. Big Ten play starts this week. Michigan plays two games this week, both at home. On Thursday (01/03/2019, 7:00 p.m., ESPN), Michigan plays Penn State, then on Sunday (01/06/2019, 4:30 p.m., CBS), they play (#23) Indiana.

Penn State is currently 7-6 (0-2 in Big Ten), with no impressive wins, and losses to DePaul, Bradley, and Alabama. They don’t have much height: two 6’9″ guys, and two 6’8″ guys. This is a game that Michigan should win convincingly, but they’ll need to focus and play their “A” game.

Indiana is currently 11-2 (2-0 in Big Ten), with wins over Penn State, Northwestern, and Louisville, and losses to Arkansas and Duke. They have a decent amount of height (three 6’10” guys), and a hotshot freshman guard (Romeo Langford). This game will be every bit as challenging as Michigan’s other games against ranked opponents (Villanova, North Carolina, and Purdue), and Michigan will have to play very well to beat them.

That’s it for this week. Come on down to Crisler for the two Big Ten games.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #09 – 12/24/2018 – An Uninspiring Win

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game last week, and they won it. On Saturday (12/22/2018), they beat Air Force 71-50 in Crisler Arena. The win raises Michigan’s record to 12-0 (2-0 in the Big Ten).

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: What was uninspiring about this win?

A: Air Force is another team that Michigan should beat easily, and they won comfortably, but they sure took their time doing it. They had another slow start, down 10-5 at the 13:35 mark. An 11-0 run put UM on top, 16-10, and they never trailed again, but they had a hard time putting AF away. It was a 7-point UM lead at halftime (28-21), and AF got within 6 points (34-28) with 16:42 to go. Michigan kept the lead in the 8-10 point range for the next 4-5 minutes, then they finally pulled away, although they didn’t really put the game away until they hit a 3-pointer with 4:15 left, which made it a 21-point lead (66-45). Still, it was a win, even if it was an uninspiring win.

Q: Any ideas why Michigan played an uninspiring game?

A: Once again, it looked like the players were distracted by all the holiday happenings, and they were looking forward to a few days off at home. Coach Beilein mentioned in an article this week that having just one game a week doesn’t keep the team very sharp, and it showed. Also, they played about as well as they needed to to beat Air Force, and they didn’t waste any extra effort on beating them by a lot. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.

Q: How were the team stats?

A: Uninspiring? Michigan shot decently overall (28-for-60 = 46.7%), they shot 3-pointers decently (10-for-32 = 31.3%), and they shot free throws pretty well (5-for-7 = 71.4%). They out-rebounded Air Force (32-27), and won the turnover battle handily (11-20). The 3-pointers were the difference in the game.

Complete stats here.

Q: Who looked good for Michigan?

A: A few players had a good game:

  • Ignas Brazdeikis bounced back from his worst game as a Wolverine (last week vs. Western Michigan) with a much better game: 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting, including 3-for-7 shooting from 3-point range.
  • Charles Matthews had a nice game, with 17 points and 7 rebounds. The only downside was his 3-point shooting: 1-for-6.
  • Jordan Poole also hit double figures, with 11 points. He shot pretty well (4-for-8 overall, 3-for-6 from 3-point range).
  • Isaiah Livers broke out of December slump, with 11 points. He had an identical line to his roommate (Poole): 4-for-8 overall, 3-for-6 from 3-point range.
  • Eli Brooks chipped in 6 points off the bench, on 3-for-6 shooting. He also handed out 4 assists, and played 25 minutes.

Q: Who looked not-so-good for Michigan?

A: A couple players had an “off” game:

  • Zavier Simpson only scored 2 points, on 1-for-5 shooting. He did have 7 assists.
  • Jon Teske had an “off” game as well, with 2 points. With his height advantage against Air Force, he should have had 18-20 points, not 2. He even had one of his shots blocked by a 6’6″ guy.

Q: Who else played?

A: Once the lead got up over 20 points with 4:15 left to go, Coach Beilein put in a few subs for some game action: C.J. Baird, Colin Castleton, David DeJulius, Brandon Johns, Jr., and Adrien Nuñez. Actually, Johns made a brief appearance in the 1st half, but fouled a 3-point shooter and was pulled after less than a minute. In any case, a couple subs took some shots (Baird, Castleton, and Nuñez), but only Castleton scored (3 points, on an offensive rebound and a nice “and one”).

Q: Who didn’t play?

A: For some reason, Austin Davis and Luke Wilson didn’t get into the game. I have no idea why.

Q: What did we learn this week?

A: We learned that Michigan can beat a decent team with an uninspiring effort. We also learned that the last game before the Christmas/holiday break is hard to get up for. Finally, we learned the difference between “full” (the North Carolina game) and “sold out” (the last couple games). This game was the 6th in a row that Michigan has technically “sold out” in Crisler, but the number of actual fans in the seats has varied wildly.

Q: What’s next for Michigan?

A: Once again, Michigan only has one game this week, at home, and on the weekend. This week, Michigan plays Binghamton on Sunday (12/30/2018, 12:00 noon, BTN) in Crisler Arena. This is Michigan’s last non-conference game before Big Ten play resumes in January.

Binghamton is currently 4-9, with no impressive wins, and losses to Cornell, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Colgate, Army, Morgan State, and Youngstown State. They don’t have much height: three 6’9″ guys, and a couple 6’8″ guys. This is another game that Michigan should win easily, assuming that they can wake up and play their normal basketball. Statistically, Binghamton is the easiest game on Michigan’s schedule.

That’s it for this week. Come on down to Crisler for the Binghamton game.

Go Blue!