2020 University of Michigan Football Season Predictions

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 (2019)

My Prediction: 9-3 (6-3 in Big Ten)

Actual Results: 9-3 (6-3)

Comments:  After doing a decent job predicting the 2018 season, I was perfect last season, including predicting which 3 teams Michigan would lose to.

This Season (2020)

My Prediction: 5-3 (5-3 in Big Ten)

Comments:  The big story, of course, is the COVID-19 pandemic.  That’s why I’m making these predictions in mid-October instead of mid-August.  For a while, it looked like there wasn’t going to be a Michigan football season at all for 2020, but now there is a conference-only 9-game schedule, starting October 23-24.  The first 8 weeks are against scheduled opponents, 4 at home and 4 away, and the 9th week is called “Big Ten Championship Week”, where the #1 team in the East division plays the #1 team in the West division, the #2 team in the East plays the #2 team in the West, and so on.  Since I have no idea who the opponent will be in Championship Week, I’m only predicting the 8 scheduled games.  Just like last season, I’m predicting losses to Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #22 – 03/23/2020 – Season Wrap-Up, Final Grades, Looking Ahead

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team finished their season last week, when all NCAA sports were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  They didn’t get to play in the Big Ten Tournament or the NCAA Tournament, so their final record is the same as their regular season record: 19-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten), 9th place in the Big Ten.

Season Wrap-Up

The 2019-2020 season was a rollercoaster for Michigan.  The ride to the top of the biggest hill started with wins over three “cupcakes”, along with an impressive win over a team that finished the season ranked #7 (Creighton), for a 4-0 start.  The top of the biggest hill was the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.  Michigan wasn’t picked to do much in the tournament, but they won three games in three days, beating a good Iowa State team and two Top-10 teams [(#6) North Carolina and (#8) Gonzaga], winning the championship, and moving to 7-0 and a #4 ranking in the AP poll.  The championship game was on 11/29/2019, and that was the top of the hill, the high water mark, the best moment of the whole season.  It didn’t last long.  From that point on, Michigan was a 0.500 team: 12-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten).

The very next game was four days later, at (#1) Louisville, and it didn’t go well.  In fact, Michigan lost three of the next four games after the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament: the loss to Louisville, a home win over Iowa, a loss at Illinois, and a home loss to (#10) Oregon.  None of these losses were particularly surprising, but none of these teams were any better than Creighton, North Carolina, or Gonzaga.

Michigan finished up their non-conference schedule with a couple more “cupcakes”, then they resumed Big Ten play, and it was a disaster: a lopsided loss at (#14) Michigan State, a home win over Purdue, an embarrassing loss at Minnesota, a so-so loss at Iowa, a home loss to Penn State, and a home loss to (#21) Illinois.  That’s a 1-5 stretch, and it knocked Michigan out of any chance of contending for the Big Ten title.  This was the bottom of the biggest hill, the lowest point, the worst moment of the season.  A closer look at the season at this point will show a couple disturbing trends:

  • An 0-5 record at this point in true road games (Louisville, Illinois, MSU, Minnesota, and Iowa).  Sure, it’s tough to win on the road, but Michigan probably should have won two or three of those games (Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa).
  • Three home losses at this point (Oregon, Penn State, and Illinois).  Michigan went 17-1 at home in the 2018-2019 season and 15-1 in the 2017-2018 season.  Having three home losses at this point in the season was not a good sign.

Michigan finally won a true road game in their next game, at Nebraska, and they followed it up with a very impressive win on a (not so) neutral court (Madison Square Garden) over (#25) Rutgers.  They were robbed by the officials in the next game, another home loss, this time to Ohio State, but they bounced back with five wins in a row: home vs. (#16) Michigan State, at Northwestern, home vs. Indiana, at Rutgers, and at Purdue.  Things were looking better, but this was just the top of another hill on the rollercoaster.

The last four games of the season were another disaster.  Michigan lost badly at home vs. Wisconsin, lost badly at (#23) Ohio State, beat lowly Nebraska at home for Senior Night, and lost badly at (#9) Maryland.  This was the bottom of the final hill on the rollercoaster, and that’s where we get off.

Looking back on the season, there were some high points and some low points:

High Points

  • The Battle 4 Atlantis championship was definitely the highest point of the season.  At the time, the win over (#6) North Carolina looked huge, although UNC ended up with their worst season in years.  The win over (#8) Gonzaga ended up being much more impressive, since Gonzaga ended up 31-2 and ranked #2 in the final AP poll.
  • Wins over a few other teams that ended up ranked in the final AP poll: (#7) Creighton, (#9) Michigan State, and (#25) Iowa.
  • An emotional Senior Night win, sending Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske off in style.

Low Points

  • The lowest point of the season was the loss at Minnesota.  Sure, Minnesota can be tough to beat in The Barn, but they ended up with a 15-16 record, including 5 home losses.  Michigan should have won that one.
  • The home loss to Penn State really stung.  This was one of the better teams that PSU has had in the last 20 years, but they didn’t end up with a record much better than Michigan’s (21-10, 11-9 in the Big Ten).  Michigan should have won that one as well.
  • The home loss to Ohio State was a travesty.  The officials called a ridiculous “flagrant 1” foul on Simpson in the last minute, and it was just enough to hand the game to OSU.
  • The home loss to Illinois was very depressing.  Once again, this was one of the better Illinois teams in a while, but they weren’t any better than teams Michigan beat earlier and later in the season.  They just caught Michigan in a slump.

Final Grades

I handed out mid-term grades in early January, after the last non-conference game, when Michigan had a record of 10-3 (1-1 in the Big Ten), and were still in the AP Top 25.  Those grades, listed first for each player, are mostly better than the final grades.

Freshman Eligibility

Cole Bajema (Inc./Inc.) – Cole only played in 10 games, and scored 26 points.  He led the team in overall shooting percentage (10-for-13 = 76.9%), 3-point shooting percentage (4-for-7 = 57.1%), and free throw percentage (2-for-2 = 100.0%).  He just didn’t play much, mostly in “garbage time”.  He could be a valuable player next season.

Jaron Faulds (Inc./Inc.) – Jaron only played in 5 games, and scored 4 points.  He’s on the practice squad, and only played in “garbage time”.

Franz Wagner (B/B) – Franz missed the first 4 games of the season with a broken wrist, but he played pretty well the rest of the season.  He had some very impressive games, and several games where he was no help at all.  He was the #1 option for firing up a 3-pointer, and he shot a mediocre percentage (41-for-132 = 31.1%).  If he can get his 3-point shooting straightened out, he’ll be the most valuable player on the team next season.

Sophomore Eligibility

Colin Castleton (B/C) – Colin got his chances this season, and he rarely took advantage of them.  He had too many games where he just drifted around aimlessly out there.  He showed that he has the tools to contribute, he just didn’t have the mental aspect worked out.

David DeJulius (B+/B-) – David had a strong first half of the season, but he cooled off in the second half.  He was a pure scorer in high school, and he showed flashes of that at times this season.  He just needs to be more consistent.

Brandon Johns, Jr. (B/B) – Brandon filled in nicely for Livers when he was injured, but he still had too many games where he didn’t contribute much.  He is very good at offensive rebounding.

Adrien Nuñez (C-/D) – Adrien just isn’t working out.  He’s gotten his chances, and he hasn’t delivered.  He played in 22 games this season, and started in 4 games when Wagner was injured, but only scored 44 points.  He was brought in as a “sniper”, but his 3-point shooting has been anemic: 11-for-43 (25.6%).

Junior Eligibility

C.J. Baird (Inc./Inc.) – C.J. only played in 7 games, and scored 8 points.  He’s on the practice squad, and only plays in “garbage time”.

Eli Brooks (A-/A-) – Eli is a great candidate for “most improved player”.  He did a good job at shooting guard, and even played some point guard when needed.  He led the team in 3-point attempts and makes, and shot a nice percentage (52-for-143 = 36.4%).  He was a distant 2nd on the team in assists (59).

Austin Davis (C+/B+) – Austin is another candidate for “most improved player”, especially during the second half of the season.  It took 2.5 seasons, but he finally started playing with smoothness and confidence.  He shot a nice percentage (52-for-75 = 69.3%), and he cut way down on his silly fouls.

Isaiah Livers (A/A-) – Isaiah is the most versatile player on the team, and arguably the most valuable.  Before he went out with a groin injury near the end of the non-conference season, he was leading the team in scoring (13.6 points/game) and 3-point shooting percentage (29-for-58 = 50.0%).  When he came back, he was good-but-not-great.

Rico Ozuna-Harrison (Inc./Inc.) – Rico only played in 4 games, and scored 2 points.  He’s on the practice squad, and only plays in “garbage time”.

Luke Wilson (Inc./Inc.) – Luke only played in 6 games, and scored 3 points.  He’s on the practice squad, and only plays in “garbage time”.

Senior Eligibility

Zavier Simpson (A/A) – Zavier was the undisputed leader of this team, and he did a good job at it.  He led the team in scoring and assists, and finished 3rd in the nation in total assists and assists per game.  He even shot a decent percentage from 3-point range (31-for-86 = 36.0%).

Jon Teske (A/B) – Jon was a beast for the first half of the season, then he all but disappeared.  He had a few good games in the second half, but nothing compared to the games he had in the first half.  Opponents figured out how to neutralize him offensively, and he let several opposing big men run wild, especially Luka Garza of Iowa.

Looking Ahead

Here’s where things get tricky: who will be on the team next year?  Here are all the moving parts as of now:

The two seniors (Simpson and Teske) are graduating.  They’re gone.

Two players with eligibility remaining could possibly leave early for the NBA (Livers and Wagner).  Who knows what they’ll decide to do.  Livers missed 10 games due to injuries, and Wagner was really up-and-down.  I don’t think the NBA will be too excited about either of them.

Davis has already been offered a spot for his redshirt 5th year, and he accepted.

Brandon Wade (6’2”, 185 pounds, G) transferred from Duquesne to Michigan after playing for one year there (2018-2019).  He had to sit out this season (2019-2020), but he’ll be eligible to play with sophomore eligibility next season.  He’s a “preferred walk-on”, and he’ll mostly be a practice squad player.

The great unknowns are the incoming freshmen.  Only one recruit (Zeb Jackson) has signed a Letter Of Intent, but four other recruits are considered “hard commits”: Hunter Dickinson, Jace Howard, Isaiah Todd, and Terrance Williams.  If all five of these players actually show up on the team next season, Michigan will be a legitimate contender for the National Championship.  They’re that good.

However.

However, I would be surprised if Todd actually plays college basketball.  He and his father have given vague hints that he might play for a year overseas, then enter the NBA Draft.  If that happens, Michigan will still be a contender for the Big Ten title, but not the National Championship.  Todd is the key.

Regardless, here’s a quick look at all five of them:

  • Hunter Dickinson (7’2”, 255 pounds, C) – Hunter is a 4-star center, the #6 center in his class.  He’s a big, tough kid, a traditional “back to the basket” center.  I can’t wait to see him play.  I expect him to be a starter on the team next season.
  • Jace Howard (6’8”, 210 pounds, F) – Jace is Coach Howard’s older son, and he’s a 3-star forward.  He could end up as a preferred walk-on, due to the big scholarship crunch (see below).  He’s definitely going to be on the team next season.
  • Zeb Jackson (6’2”, 160 pounds, G) – Zeb is a 4-star point guard, the #10 point guard in his class.  He’s definitely going to be on the team next season.
  • Isaiah Todd (6’10”, 195 pounds, F) – Isaiah is the crown jewel of this recruiting class.  He’s a 5-star power forward, the #2 power forward in his class.  If he goes to college, he’ll almost certainly be a “one and done”.
  • Terrance Williams (6’6”, 215 pounds, F) – Terrance is good friends with Hunter Dickinson (above), and the two of them were a “package deal”.  He’s a 4-star forward, the #15 power forward in his class.  I expect him to be on the team next season.

Besides those five commits, there are at least five more players interested in Michigan:

  • Bryce Aiken (6’0”, 175 pounds, G) – Bryce is a grad-transfer from Harvard.  He’s a good “shoot first” point guard, but Michigan is set for point guards, so ???
  • Brendan Barry (6’2”, 180 pounds, G) – Brendan is a grad-transfer from Dartmouth.  He’s a very good shooting guard, but Michigan has a good shooting guard (Brooks) returning, so ???
  • Greg Brown (6’9”, 195 pounds, F) – Greg is a 5-star power forward, the #1 power forward in his class.  The current predictions have him going to Texas, or maybe Memphis, but not Michigan.
  • Joshua Christopher (6’5”, 215 pounds, G) – Josh is a 5-star shooting guard, the #3 shooting guard in his class.  The current predictions have him going to Michigan.
  • Mike Smith (5’11”, 180 pounds, G) – Mike is a grad-transfer from Columbia.  He’s a good “shoot first” point guard, but Michigan is set for point guards, so ???

So, where is Coach Howard going to put all those players?  I have no idea.  There is a real logjam in the scholarship count.  Will any of the returning scholarship players transfer?  I haven’t heard anything concrete, but Castleton and Nuñez are good candidates.  It will be very interesting to see who actually shows up next fall.  Until then, it’s hard to make any worthwhile predictions.

What’s Next?

Michigan’s season is over.  Wait ‘til next year.

Check back in mid-October for another exciting season of Nothing But ‘Net.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #21 – 03/16/2020 – Surprise Ending

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team was supposed to play one or more games in the Big Ten Tournament, in Indianapolis (IN), but it didn’t work out that way.  Just 11 minutes before they were supposed to tipoff against Rutgers on Thursday (03/12/2020), the Big Ten canceled the remainder of the tournament, so Michigan didn’t get to play.  Later that afternoon, the NCAA canceled the NCAA Tournament, so Michigan’s season is over.  They finished with a final regular season record of 19-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten), in 9th place in the Big Ten.

What Happened?

Wow! This is the biggest sports news in my lifetime.  What happened?  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know what happened: the COVID-19 pandemic.  Even though it’s been in the news for a couple months now, most people didn’t expect it to completely cancel all sports the way it did.  CBS Sports has a very informative timeline of COVID-19-related sports announcements:

Wednesday, March 11

12:42 pm ET – 2020 CBI tournament canceled

1:50 pm – Columbus Blue Jackets close games to fans

1:55 pm – Tulsa football players quarantined

2:10 pm – Golden State Warriors close home games to fans following city ban on 1,000+ crowds 

2:35 pm – XFL’s Seattle Dragons announce they’ll host Los Angeles Wildcats without fans in attendance

2:44 pm – Ohio governor says an NCAA Tournament games held in the state will be played without fans

3:00 pm – Ivy League cancels all spring sporting events

4:15 pm – NCAA advises events to be held without fans

4:30 pm – NCAA says NCAA Tournament will be held without fans

5:24 pm – Michigan cancels spring football game

6:00 pm – Juventus’ Daniele Rugani tests positive for COVID-19

6:33 pm – Sharks announce they’ve closed home games to fans

6:38 pm – Big Ten tournament closes along with all spring sports

6:40 pm – Big 12 limits 125 fans per team, cheerleaders and teams at basketball tournament

7:58 pm – ACC Tournament closes games to fans

8:40 pm – Jazz vs. Thunder postponed

8:49 pm – AAC closes tournament to fans

8:50 pm – Ohio State cancels spring football game

8:53 pm – Pac-12 closes tournament to fans

9:11 pm – SEC closes tournament games to fans

9:27 pm – Rudy Gobert tests positive for coronavirus

9:31 pm – NBA suspends remainder of season indefinitely

9:52 pm – Conference USA closes tournament to fans

10:40 pm – Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg taken to hospital

10:44 pm – Big East announces Madison Square Garden will be closed to fans for tournament

10:48 pm – Baylor suspends spring football and recruiting

Thursday, March 12

12:34 am – NBA G-League suspended

12:43 am – Nebraska says Fred Hoiberg has influenza A, not coronavirus

9:35 am – ACC commissioner John Swofford says ACC games are still on

10:00 am – America East says no fans at men’s or women’s basketball title games

10:30 am – Patriot League cancels all spring practices and competitions

10:49 am – Reports that Donovan Mitchell has coronavirus surface

11:15 am – Sun Belt conference says no fans will be at the conference tournament

11:42 am – MLS suspends season for 30 days

11:47 am – SEC cancels basketball tournament

11:48 am – AAC cancels basketball tournament

11:49 am – Big Ten cancels basketball tournament

11:57 am – Atlantic 10 cancels basketball tournament

12:00 pm – WAC, CUSA cancel their men’s and women’s basketball tournaments

12:03 pm – Notre Dame suspends recruiting and spring football practice

12:09 pm – MAC cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments

12:16 pm – CAA cancels women’s basketball tournament and all spring sports contests are suspended

12:16 pm – ACC cancels men’s basketball tournament

12:17 pm – Pac-12 cancels basketball tournament and suspends sports competitions

12:27 pm – USL suspends 2020 season for 30 days

12:28 pm – Southland cancels conference tournament

12:32 pm – SEC suspends all on-campus sports

12:34 pm – Sun Belt cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments

12:40 pm – Big 12 cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments

12:44 pm – Big Sky cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments

12:46 pm – America East cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments

12:53 pm – WAC suspends spring sports

12:57 pm – Big East cancels tournament at halftime of St. John’s vs. Creighton

12:58 pm – Conference USA cancels spring sports competitions

1:15 pm – Jeff Passan reports that MLB will suspend all operations

1:33 pm – NASCAR announces their Atlanta and Miami races will be held without fans

1:35 pm – NHL puts the remainder of its regular season on pause

1:35 pm – Atlantic 10 tournament canceled

1:41 pm – USC postpones spring football practices

1:49 pm – Duke suspends all athletic activities

1:54 pm – Kansas suspends all athletic activities and cancels all athletic travel

1:59 pm – Arizona State cancels all sports competitions

2:01 pm – MWC suspends all spring sports

2:17 pm – MAAC cancels basketball tournament

2:29 pm – West Virginia suspends athletic activities

2:29 pm – Southland Conference cancels all athletic events through March 30

3:00 pm – ACC suspends all athletics activities

3:09 pm – MLB’s 2020 Opening Day delayed two weeks, spring training games canceled and WBC qualifier postponed indefinitely

3:31 pm – Women’s Tennis Association announces Miami Open and Volvo Car Open are “not being held at this time”

3:51 pm – Minor League Baseball announces it will delay the start of the 2020 season

4:16 pm – NCAA Tournament canceled

6:28 pm – Arsenal has closed its London training center after head coach Mikel Arteta tested positive for COVID-19

What’s Next?

Michigan’s season is over.  Wait ‘til next year.

Check back next week for the season wrap-up and final grades.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #20 – 03/09/2020 – The End Of The Regular Season

The (#25) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they won one and lost the other.  On Thursday (03/05/2020), they beat Nebraska 82-58 in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (03/08/2020), they lost at (#9) Maryland 83-70.  The win and the loss leave Michigan with a final regular season record of 19-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten).  Michigan finished in 9th place in the Big Ten.

What Happened?

The Nebraska game was Senior Night for Michigan, and the Maryland game was Senior Day for them.  In both cases, the home crowd was happy.  Michigan has two players with senior eligibility (Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske), and they were both honored before the Nebraska game.  They both played well in that game, and were given standing ovations when they came out in the final minutes.

Nebraska isn’t very good, and after an early 2-2 tie, Michigan led for the entire game.  UM let Nebraska hang around for most of the 1st half, leading by only 4 points (32-28) at halftime, but they started the 2nd half strong, opened up a 16-18 point lead, and kept it there the rest of the way.  The only suspense was whether Simpson would get a double-double; he did, with 11 points and 10 assists.

Maryland was playing for a tie for 1st place in the final Big Ten standings, and they outplayed Michigan.  The game was close for the first 5 minutes, and Michigan actually led briefly, but once Maryland got ahead (8-7, with 15:11 to go), they never trailed again.  They pushed the lead up to 10-12 points in the 1st half, and led by 13 (41-28) at halftime.  Michigan cut into the lead in the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half, and got within 3 points (56-53) with 10:21 left, but that was as close as they could get.  Maryland eventually pushed the lead back into double digits and kept it there.

Stats  

The stats for the Nebraska game are decent, but nothing special.  Michigan shot fairly well overall (32-for-70 = 45.7%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (8-for-27 = 29.6%), and they shot free throws pretty well (10-for-14 = 71.4%).  They lost the rebounding battle (40-38), but they won the turnover battle handily (11-22).  Those 9 extra possessions helped Michigan win the game.

The stats for the Maryland game are about the same as the Nebraska game.  Michigan shot fairly well overall (24-for-50 = 48.0%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (6-for-20 = 30.0%), and they shot free throws well (16-for-20 = 80.0%).  They lost the rebounding battle (29-22) and the turnover battle (9-8).  Those 8 extra possessions helped Maryland win the game.

Who Started?

The starters for both games were Eli Brooks, Isaiah Livers, Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske, and Franz Wagner.

Who Looked Good?

Simpson hit double figures in both games (11 and 13 points), and had 10 assists in the Nebraska game, for a double-double.  He also had 5 turnovers in the Nebraska game, most of them when he tried to do too much and got too fancy.  Fortunately, Nebraska isn’t very good, so it didn’t hurt Michigan.

Wagner was the only other Michigan player to hit double figures in both games, with 11 and 15 points.  After a few weeks of decent 3-point shooting, he fell off this week: 0-for-4 vs. Nebraska and 2-for-5 vs. Maryland.

Livers had an uneven week.  He was the leading scorer (18 points) vs. Nebraska, but he had a lousy game vs. Maryland: 6 points on 2-for-8 shooting (0-for-5 from deep).

Teske had a pretty good week, with 12 points on Senior Night vs. Nebraska, and 8 points vs. Maryland.

Brooks had a decent week, with 8 and 6 points, but he just doesn’t look very comfortable out there with the mask on over his broken nose.

Brandon Johns, Jr. had an uneven week, with 10 points in the Nebraska game and 0 points vs. Maryland.

David DeJulius had a VERY uneven week, with 1 point vs. Nebraska and a game-high (and career-high) 20 points vs. Maryland.

Austin Davis was yet another player to have an uneven week, with a strong 7 points vs. Nebraska, and a mediocre 2 points vs. Maryland.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Look at all those “uneven” weeks above: most of the “bad” games were vs. Maryland (except DeJulius).  So, I guess you could list Livers, Johns, and Davis in the “not-so-good” category as well.

Who Else Played?

Cole Bajema, Colin Castleton, Jaron Faulds, Adrien Nuñez, and Luke Wilson all played in the Nebraska game.  Bajema and Nuñez each scored 2 points.

Who Didn’t Play?

C.J. Baird and Rico Ozuna-Harrison didn’t play in either game.

What Does It Mean?

Well, the regular season is over, and it was a mixed bag.  On 11/29/2019, Michigan was 7-0, and about to go from unranked to #4 in the next AP poll.  Since that time, UM has played exactly 0.500 ball: 12-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten).  They probably already have a good enough resume to get into the NCAA Tournament with a medium seed (8 or 9), but they could sure help their case with a couple wins in the Big Ten Tournament.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays in the Big Ten Tournament, in Indianapolis (IN).  Michigan is the #9 seed, and they start play on Thursday (03/12/2020, 12:00 p.m. EDT, BTN) vs. the #8 seed, Rutgers.  If they win that game, they will play again on Friday (03/13/2020, 12:00 p.m. EDT, BTN) vs. the #1 seed, Wisconsin.  If they survive that, the next game would be on Saturday (03/14/2020, 1:00 p.m. EDT, CBS) vs. one of several teams.  The championship game is on Sunday (03/15/2020, 3:30 p.m. EDT, CBS).

Michigan has played, and beaten, Rutgers twice already this season.  They certainly stand a good chance against them in the 3rd meeting.  On the other hand, Wisconsin beat Michigan in Crisler Arena in their only matchup this season.  Michigan can certainly beat them, but they have to play pretty well to do it.  The other top seeds (#2 Michigan State, #3 Maryland, and #4 Illinois) have all beaten Michigan this season, but Michigan did split with MSU.

Michigan doesn’t need to win the Big Ten Tournament championship to get into the Big Dance, but if they can win 2-3 games, it will sure help get them a more favorable seeding in the NCAA Tournament.  I don’t think Michigan has the mental strength to win 4 games in 4 days in Indianapolis, but they might be able to string together a couple wins.  We’ll talk about how well they’ll do in the Big Dance next week.

Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #19 – 03/02/2020 – Two Sad Losses

The (#19) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they lost both of them.  On Thursday (02/27/2020), they lost to Wisconsin 81-74 in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (03/01/2020), they lost at (#23) Ohio State 77-63.  The two losses lower Michigan’s record to 18-11 (9-9 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is now tied for 8th place in the Big Ten.

What Happened?

Three-point shooting is what happened.  Michigan couldn’t hit theirs, and their opponents couldn’t miss theirs.  It was that simple.  Both opponents were red-hot from outside, and Michigan was terrible.  Michigan kept it close in both games, but couldn’t deliver in the clutch.  The OSU score may look like a blow out, but UM tied the game up (54-54) with 6:51 to go, then fell apart and let OSU finish with a 23-9 run.  In the Wisconsin game, Michigan never led, but got within 2 points several times, and were within 3 points (77-74) with 26 seconds left.  They had a chance to pull within one point, but they missed the front end of a one-and-one, and that was the game.  Wisconsin made their free throws to seal it.

Stats  

The stats for the Wisconsin game are mixed.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (31-for-60 = 51.7%), but they shot 3-pointers terribly (3-for-10 = 30.0%).  30% isn’t too bad, but it’s terrible when you only take 10 attempts.  Michigan shot free throws poorly (9-for-15 = 60.0%), they tied in the rebounding battle (29-29), and they won the turnover battle (5-8).  How did they lose?  Wisconsin shot 11-for-23 (47.8%) from 3-point range.  That’s a 24 point difference right there.

The stats for the OSU game are actually a little better.  Michigan shot worse overall (25-for-56 = 44.6%), but they made more 3-pointers, even at a worse percentage shooting rate (7-for-26 = 26.9%).  They shot free throws well, but not nearly enough (6-for-8 = 75.0%).  They lost the rebounding battle (32-30) and the turnover battle (12-9).  How did they lose?  OSU shot a blazing 11-for-21 (52.4%) from 3-point range.  That’s a 12 point difference.

Who Started?

The starters for the Wisconsin game were Brandon Johns, Jr., Isaiah Livers, Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske, and Franz Wagner.  Johns started in place of Eli Brooks, who was injured with a broken nose.  Fortunately, Brooks was back for the OSU game wearing a mask, so he started in that game instead of Johns.

Who Looked Good?

Simpson had a career game vs. Wisconsin (32 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists), but it was not enough.  He had a good game (12 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists) vs. OSU.  He had quite a week.

Wagner was the only other Michigan player to hit double figures in both games, with 17 points vs. Wisconsin and (team high) 18 points vs. OSU.  He shot a good percentage from 3-point range: 1-for-2 in the Wisconsin game and 4-for-8 in the OSU game.  He was the leading rebounder in both games, with 7 vs. Wisconsin and 10 vs. OSU, for a double-double.

Livers had a decent game against Wisconsin (9 points), but he had a lousy game vs. OSU (6 points on 2-for-11 shooting).

Teske had a decent week: 7 and 8 points.

Brooks had 7 points in the OSU game.  He didn’t play in the Wisconsin game.

Austin Davis had a mediocre game vs. Wisconsin (2 points), but did better against OSU (8 points).

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Johns had another lousy week: 5 and 0 points.

David DeJulius played a lot (21 and 14 minutes), but only scored 2 points in each game.

Who Else Played?

Colin Castleton got 2 points in the OSU game.           

Adrien Nuñez only played in the Wisconsin game, and failed to score.

Who Didn’t Play?

As mentioned above, Brooks didn’t play in the Wisconsin game, due to injury.

The practice squad (C.J. Baird, Cole Bajema, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t play in either game.

What Does It Mean?

This was a terrible week for Michigan.  A week ago, they were projected as a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament; now they’ve dropped to a 9-seed.  There are 2 games left in the regular season, and if they lose them both, they may not make the Big Dance at all.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays their last two games of the regular season, one at home and one on the road.  On Thursday (03/05/2020, 6:30 p.m., FS1), they play Nebraska in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (03/08/2020, 12:00 p.m., FOX), they play at (#9) Maryland.

Michigan has already played, and beaten, Nebraska on the road, 79-68 back on 01/28/2020.  Since then, Nebraska has shown that they are one of the weakest Power 5 teams in the country.  They are 7-22 (2-16 in the Big Ten), tied for last place with Northwestern, who just beat them this week.  This game is Michigan’s Senior Night, and they couldn’t ask for a better opponent to send Simpson and Teske out with a win.

In stark contrast to Nebraska, there’s Maryland.  They are currently 23-6 (13-5 in the Big Ten), all alone in 1st place.  They actually haven’t beaten anybody impressive in non-conference play, and they’ve lost a few head-scratchers in league play: Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.  They have some height (a 7’2” player and a couple 6’10” players), and a bonafide star (Anthony Cowan Jr.).  They will probably be playing for the Big Ten regular season title, and this game will be their Senior Day.  This will be the toughest road game for Michigan since the game at Louisville back in early December.  It’s not unwinnable, but Michigan is going to have to play their best game since the Gonzaga game to beat Maryland.

Don’t get me started on the weird schedules that the Big Ten comes up with: this will be Big Ten Game #20 (out of 20) for Michigan, and the first and only time they play Maryland this season.

Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!