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!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #23 – 04/01/2019 – A Bad Day To Have A Bad Day

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game last week as the 2-seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament in Anaheim (CA), and they lost it.  On Thursday (03/28/2019), they lost to (3-seed) (#9) Texas Tech 63-44.  The loss leaves Michigan with a final record of 30-7.

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: A bad day to have a bad day?

A: That’s what Coach Beilein said, and I can’t disagree.  In a single-elimination tournament like the Big Dance, you can’t afford to have a bad day, but that’s what Michigan had.  Texas Tech played great defense, but Michigan still got enough good looks to win this game, they just didn’t hit them, at all.  A wide-open 3-pointer is a wide open 3-pointer, regardless of who your opponent is.  If you can’t hit the shot, you’re probably going to lose.

Q: So, what happened?

A: Michigan played the worst half I’ve ever seen them play offensively, and it put them in a deep enough hole that they couldn’t climb out.  TTU held UM to 16 points in the 1st half, and that was the game.  It was the earliest I’ve ever seen a Michigan team fall behind with no chance to come back.  It was embarrassing.

Q: How were the game stats?

A: Absolutely horrible.  Michigan shot terribly overall (16-for-49 = 32.7%), they shot 3-pointers the worst I’ve ever seen (1-for-19 = 5.3%), but they shot free throws decently (11-for-17 = 64.7%).  They won the rebounding battle (35-31), but they lost the turnover battle badly (14-8).  These stats are ridiculous.

Q: Who looked good for Michigan?

A: No one?  Actually, two UM players hit double figures, and a third got close:

  • Ignas Brazdeikis was high scorer for Michigan with 17 points.  He also had 13 rebounds, for a double-double.  He shot 2-pointers very well (7-for-11) and 3-pointers very poorly (0-for-5).
  • Charles Matthews had 12 points.  He also shot 2-pointers pretty well (3-for-5), but couldn’t hit a 3-pointer (0-for-4).
  • Jordan Poole actually had a decent game, with 8 points on 4-for-8 shooting, but he was 0-for-3 shooting from deep.

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

A: Everyone else:

  • Zavier Simpson had the worst game of his life: 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting, 1 assist, 4 turnovers.
  • Jon Teske was a non-factor in this game.  He had 4 points on 1-for-4 shooting, and only played 22 minutes.  He also had 4 turnovers.
  • Isaiah Livers played 21 minutes, took 3 shots, all 3-pointers, and missed them all.  That’s right – 0 points.
  • Eli Brooks played 18 minutes, took 2 shots, and missed them both.  Another 0 points.

Q: Who else played?

A: Coach Beilein emptied the bench in the last minute of the game: Colin Castleton, Austin Davis, David DeJulius, Brandon Johns, Jr., and Adrien Nuñez all played, but didn’t score.

Q: Wait a minute.  Who had the lone 3-pointer?

A: Our hero, C.J. Baird!  He was only in there for 1 minute, but he took and made his only shot.

Q: What did we learn this week?

A: We learned that Michigan can’t win it they can’t shoot.  They played good-to-great defense all season, and it kept them in some games when the shots weren’t falling, but even great defense won’t keep you in a game where you shoot 1-for-19 from 3-point range, and only score 16 points in the 1st half.

Q: What’s next for Michigan?

A: Clean out their lockers.  The season is over.  It’s going to be a long off-season, especially given the success of That Other Team.

That’s it for this week.  Check back next week for the season wrap-up.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #22 – 03/25/2019 – Sweetness

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week as the 2-seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines (IA), and they won both games. On Thursday (03/21/2019), they beat (15-seed) Montana 74-55, then on Saturday (03/23/2019), they beat (10-seed) Florida 64-49. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 30-6.

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: Sweetness?

A: Hey, it’s the Sweet Sixteen again, baby! Sure, both wins were against teams that Michigan was supposed to beat, but that doesn’t mean much in the NCAA Tournament. Ask (4-seed) Kansas State (lost to 13-seed UC Irvine) or (5-seed) Wisconsin (lost to 12-seed Oregon). Upsets happen all the time in the Big Dance, and as a 2-seed, Michigan’s job is to avoid upsets and live to play another game.

This will be Michigan’s third trip to the Sweet Sixteen in a row, and the fifth time in the last seven years. Only two other teams (Purdue and Kentucky) have been to the Sweet Sixteen in each of the last three years.

Q: So, what happened?

A: Michigan played two good, solid games this week, and won both games convincingly.

In the Montana game, Michigan jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead with 14:26 to go in the 1st half, then kept extending it, until it was 17 points (25-8) with 6:22 left. Montana got as close as 11 points (32-21 with 2:00 to go), but Michigan still lead by 13 (34-21) at halftime. Montana scored the first 5 points of the 2nd half, to get within 8 points (34-26), but that was as close as they got. Michigan went on a 10-0 run to put the game comfortably out of reach (44-26 with 16:12 left), and kept building on the lead, peaking at 27 points (66-39 with 6:01 to go). It was still 26 points (72-46 with 3:24 left) when Coach Beilein emptied the bench for three and a half minutes of “garbage time”.

The Florida game was much closer, especially in the 1st half. Florida was ahead by 2 points (6-4) with 17:11 to go, when Michigan went on a nice 11-0 run to lead by 9 points (15-6) with 13:59 left in the half. Florida fought back, and got the lead back (23-21) with 6:47 to go in the half. Michigan closed the half on an 11-5 run to lead by 4 points (32-28) at halftime, then came out and started the 2nd half with an 11-0 run to push the lead up to 15 points (43-28) with 17:46 to go. Florida hung around, and got as close as 6 points (43-37), but Michigan kept the lead in the 7-9 point range for the next 12 minutes. Michigan finally pulled away at the 5:10 mark (55-44), and kept the lead over 10 points the rest of the way.

Q: How were the game stats?

A: OK, nothing earth-shaking.

In the Montana game, Michigan shot well overall (25-for-51 = 49.0%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (5-for-17 = 29.4%), and they shot free throws quite well (19-for-24 = 79.2%). They won the rebounding battle handily (39-30), but they uncharacteristically lost the turnover battle (12-10). They won this game with defense, holding Montana to 33.3% shooting (20-for-60).

In the Florida game, Michigan shot decently overall (24-for-57 = 42.1%), they shot 3-pointers decently (7-for-21 = 33.3%), and they shot free throws pretty well (9-for-12 = 75.0%). They crushed Florida on the boards (42-29), but they lost the turnover battle again (10-9). Once again, they won the game with defense, holding Florida to 34.5% shooting (19-for-55).

Q: Who looked good for Michigan?

A: All the mainstream players had a good week:

  • Jordan Poole was the only Michigan player to hit double figures in both games, with 10 points vs. Montana and a team-high 19 points vs. Florida. He didn’t shoot particularly well in the Florida game (5-for-15), but he shot often.
  • Charles Matthews was finally back to 100%, after playing hurt in the Big Ten Tournament two weeks ago. He was the high scorer for Michigan in the Montana game with 22 points, and he almost hit double figures in the Florida game, with 9 points. He had 10 rebounds vs. Montana, for a double-double. He played some great defense.
  • Jon Teske only hit double figures in one game (11 points vs. Montana), but he got close in the Florida game (8 points). He also contributed on the glass, with 9 and 10 rebounds, and with solid defense.
  • Ignas Brazdeikis had a good game vs. Montana (14 points) and a lousy game vs. Florida (5 points). He did play good defense.
  • Isaiah Livers almost hit double figures in both games, with 8 and 10 points. His soaring dunk vs. Florida with 4:42 left in the game was the “dagger”. It was brutal.
  • Zavier Simpson didn’t score a lot of points (4 and 9), but he did have a lot of assists (10 and 9). He also played excellent defense. He did have more turnovers than usual (4 and 3), but he still had 19 assists. He came close to a triple-double in the Florida game with 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. A triple-nine.
  • Eli Brooks contributed 3 and 4 points off the bench, and gave the starters some valuable minutes of rest. He also played some good defense, and ran the offense pretty well while Simpson was on the bench.

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

A: Nobody! Iggy didn’t look great in the Florida game, but everyone else looked pretty good in both games.

Q: Who else played in the tournament?

A: Coach Beilein emptied the bench in the closing minutes of the Montana game, and in the last minute of the Florida game:

  • C.J. Baird only played in the Montana game, but didn’t attempt a shot.
  • Colin Castleton played in both games, and attempted one shot vs. Montana. It missed.
  • Austin Davis played in both games, and attempted one shot vs. Montana. It missed.
  • David DeJulius played in both games, but didn’t attempt a shot.
  • Brandon Johns, Jr. played in both games, and attempted one shot vs. Montana. He made it, making him the only “deep bench” player to score this week.
  • Adrien Nuñez played in both games, but didn’t attempt a shot.
  • Luke Wilson only played in the Montana game, but didn’t attempt a shot.

Q: What did we learn this week?

A: We learned that Michigan can win the games they’re supposed to win in the Big Dance. This is more important than it might seem. There are so many upsets, big and small, in the NCAA Tournament, and avoiding them is crucial. Michigan has all the talent they need, they just need to work on the mental side of the game. Winning these two games convincingly should help their confidence.

Q: What’s next for Michigan?

A: Michigan continues play in the NCAA Tournament, as the 2-seed in the West Region. The next two rounds for Michigan are played in Anaheim (CA) on Thursday and Saturday. On Thursday (03/28/2019, 9:39 p.m. EDT, CBS), they play (3-seed) (#9) Texas Tech. If they win that game, they’ll play on Saturday (03/30/2019, TBA, CBS/TBS) against the winner of the (1-seed) Gonzaga/(4-seed) Florida State game.

Texas Tech is currently 28-6, with impressive wins over West Virginia (twice), Kansas State, Oklahoma (twice), Kansas, and Iowa State, and losses to Duke, Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State, Kansas, and West Virginia. They’ve got a couple 6’10” guys, but no real superstars. This is a game that Michigan can win, but they have to play with the same intensity they’ve shown in the first two games of the tournament.

Q: How’s the rest of the NCAA Tournament going?

A: Pretty well. The Big Ten is doing fairly well, with 3 of the 8 teams that started play still alive in the Sweet Sixteen:

Eliminated

Iowa (10-seed in the South Region) – Beat (7-seed) Cincinnati, lost to (2-seed) Tennessee

Maryland (6-seed in the East Region) – Beat (11-seed) Belmont, lost to (3-seed) LSU

Minnesota (10-seed in the East Region) – Beat (7-seed) Louisville, lost to (2-seed Michigan State)

Ohio State (11-seed in the Midwest Region) – Beat (6-seed) Iowa State, lost to (3-seed) Houston

Wisconsin (5-seed in the South Region) – Lost to (12-seed) Oregon

Still alive

Michigan (2-seed in the West Region)

Michigan State (2-seed in the East Region)

Purdue (3-seed in the South Region)

In the first two rounds, some of the medium seeds have been knocked off:

  • (4-seed) Kansas in the Midwest Region
  • (4-seed) Kansas State in the South Region
  • (5-seed) Marquette in the West Region
  • (5-seed) Mississippi State in the East Region
  • (5-seed) Wisconsin in the South Region
  • (6-seed) Maryland in the East Region
  • (6-seed) Villanova (the defending champs) in the South Region
  • (6-seed) Iowa State in the Midwest Region
  • (6-seed) Buffalo in the West Region

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #21 – 03/18/2019 – Hey, 10 Out Of 11 Ain’t Bad

The (#10) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played three games last week as the 3-seed in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago, and they won two and lost one. On Friday (03/15/2019), they beat (5-seed) Iowa 74-53 in the quarterfinals, on Saturday (03/16/2019), they beat (7-seed) Minnesota 76-49 in the semifinals, then on Sunday (03/17/2019), they lost to (1-seed) (#6) Michigan State 65-60 in the championship game. The two wins and one loss leave Michigan with a record of 28-6.

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: 10 out of 11?

A: Despite coming up short in the last minute of the championship game, Michigan set a new Big Ten record when they won their first two games of the tournament. Combined with a 4-0 record in 2017 and a 4-0 record in 2018, they are the only Big Ten team to ever win 10 Big Ten Tournament games in a row, which is quite an accomplishment. But, oh how that last one would have been sweet…

Q: So, what happened?

A: Michigan played two of their better games of the season in the wins over Iowa and Minnesota. In the Iowa game, they trailed early (6-4 with 18:35 to go in the 1st half), then went ahead for good, 7-6. The lead was in the 4-6 point range for most of the 1st half, with a quick 11-4 run in the last 4:37 to make it a comfortable 40-27 lead at halftime. Iowa got within 10 points (40-30) in the first minute of the 2nd half, then Michigan pulled away and got the lead as high as 26 points (72-46 with 4:25 to go) before clearing the bench. It was a fun, low-stress game.

Michigan did even better in the Minnesota game. Michigan never trailed, although Minnesota did tie the game twice (11-11 and 13-13) early in the 1st half. Once Michigan started pulling away, the game was over. They were doubling Minnesota (38-19) at halftime, and they pushed the lead as high as 35 points (74-39) before clearing the bench again. It was another fun, low-stress game.

The MSU game was anything but low-stress. It was close and tight for most of the 1st half, with MSU leading by 3-5 points. Michigan tied it up (17-17) with 7:01 left in the half, then went on a beautiful 14-6 run to end the half up 8 points (31-23). Michigan extended the lead to 13 points (39-26) with 17:12 to go, and still led by 12 points (41-29) with 15:40 to go, when they hit another dry spell. MSU went on a slow 15-5 run to cut the lead to 2 points (46-44) with 10:33 to go. They tied it up (48-48) with 7:15 left, but Michigan clung to a slim lead until the 1:19 mark, when MSU tied it up again (60-60). MSU went ahead for the first time in 26 minutes (62-60) with 28 seconds left. Michigan tried a shot with 13 seconds left, missed, and the ball went out of bounds. The original (correct) call was “Michigan ball”, but the miserable refs looked at the replay for a while and gave the ball (and the game) to MSU. The last 3 points for MSU were inconsequential. The game was decided when the refs gave MSU the ball.

Now, I’m not saying that Michigan would have scored 2 (or 3) points in the last 13 seconds to tie it up or win it, but they stood no chance once the refs gave MSU the ball. It was a disgraceful way to end an exciting game.

Q: It sounds like you’ve got some complaints about the refs?

A: The refs didn’t matter in the first two blowout wins, and they were mostly OK for most of the MSU game, but when the chips were down, they sucked. They blew that last call, and there’s no other way to put it.

Q: How were the game stats?

A: Actually, the stats were good-to-very-good in all three games. Better in the two wins, of course.

Because there was extended “garbage time” in both of the wins, I’ve removed the parade of missed shots by the deep bench players in the two wins. Michigan had very good stats in those two games, and the garbage time numbers really make the final stats look way worse than they really were. If you want to see the official stats, follow the links.

In the Iowa game, Michigan shot well overall (27-for-56 = 48.2%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (10-for-26 = 38.5%), and they shot free throws decently (8-for-12 = 66.7%). They won the rebounding battle (40-37) and the turnover battle (7-11). By the way, in this game, the garbage time players contributed 1-for-6 shooting overall, 0-for-4 from 3-point range.

In the Minnesota game, Michigan shot very well overall (32-for-55 = 58.2%), they shot 3-pointers very well (10-for-21 = 47.6%), and they shot free throws perfectly, if not very often (2-for-2 = 100%). They won the rebounding battle handily (37-27) and the turnover battle barely (7-8). The garbage time numbers for this game were even worse: 0-for-7 overall, 0-for-5 from deep.

In the MSU game, Michigan didn’t shoot very well overall (21-for-51 = 41.2%), they didn’t shoot 3-pointers very well (8-for-25 = 32.0%), but they did shoot free throws well (10-for-12 = 83.3%). As usual when they play MSU, Michigan got hammered on the boards (38-29), but they did win the turnover battle (6-9). Looking at the stats, this was an incredibly close game that was decided by the refs, not the players.

Q: Who looked good for Michigan?

A: A few players had a good tournament:

  • Ignas Brazdeikis had a great tournament. He was the leading scorer in two games (Iowa and MSU), and the 3rd leading scorer in the other game (Minnesota), with 15, 13, and 19 points. He hit lots of big 3-pointers, and he played good defense.
  • Isaiah Livers also had a great tournament. After starting the last three games of the regular season in place of the injured Charles Matthews, he came off the bench in these three games, and he delivered. He scored 13, 21, and 8 points, and was the high scorer in the Minnesota game. Those 21 points are a new career high for him. He shot very well in that game (8-for-10 overall, 4-for-6 from deep).
  • Zavier Simpson had a good tournament, although he had a tough time against MSU. He hit double figures in the two wins (10 and 15 points), but he only had 6 points vs. MSU. Even more than his scoring, he set a new Big Ten Tournament record with 30 assists in three games (11, 9, and 10), against only 2 turnovers. He had a double-double in the Iowa game, with 10 points and 11 assists.
  • Jordan Poole almost hit double figures in all three games: 11, 9, and 13 points. Unfortunately, his poor 3-point shooting in the MSU game (2-for-9) really hurt.
  • Jon Teske also almost hit double figures in all three games: 12, 5, and 10 points. He had 10 rebounds each in the Iowa and MSU games, for two double-doubles. He played excellent defense.
  • Eli Brooks contributed off the bench, with 6, 5, and 2 points. He also played some good defense, and ran the offense pretty well while Simpson was on the bench.

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

A: Only one player had a rough tournament:

  • Charles Matthews was back from his ankle injury, and it didn’t seem to bother him, but he just didn’t do much out there. He just kind of drifted around, and shot a mid-range jumper every now and then. He did play good defense, but he didn’t score many points: 5, 8, and 2.

Q: Who else played in the tournament?

A: Coach Beilein emptied the bench in the closing minutes of the two blowout wins:

  • C.J. Baird attempted two 3-pointers vs. Iowa, and one more vs. Minnesota. They all missed.
  • Colin Castleton played in all three games, and attempted one shot vs. Minnesota. It missed.
  • Austin Davis attempted one shot in the Iowa game, and made it. He attempted one shot in the Minnesota game, and missed it. He was the only “deep bench” player to score.
  • David DeJulius attempted one 3-pointer vs. Iowa, and two 3-pointers vs. Minnesota. They all missed.
  • Brandon Johns, Jr. attempted two shots against Iowa, one of them a 3-pointer. They both missed. He didn’t attempt a shot vs. Minnesota.
  • Adrien Nuñez didn’t attempt a shot vs. Iowa. He attempted two 3-pointers vs. Minnesota. They both missed.
  • Luke Wilson didn’t attempt a shot vs. Iowa. He attempted one shot vs. Minnesota. It missed.

Q: What did we learn this week?

A: We learned that Michigan is as good as MSU, but can’t overcome bad officiating.

Q: What’s next for Michigan?

A: Michigan plays in the NCAA Tournament, starting this week. Despite coming in 3rd in the regular season Big Ten standings, and losing to MSU in the Big Ten Tournament championship game, Michigan is still a 2-seed, in the West Region. They open play on Thursday (03/21/2019, 9:20 p.m. EDT, TNT) vs. (15-seed) Montana in Des Moines, IA. If they win that game, they’ll play the winner of the (7-seed) Nevada/(10-seed) Florida game on Saturday (03/23/2019, TBA, TBA) for a trip to the Sweet 16.

Montana is currently 26-8 (16-4 in the Big Sky). They won their conference tournament for the 2nd year in a row, and they’re facing Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the 2nd year in a row. Last year, Michigan beat them 61-47 in a game that was a lot closer than the final score would indicate. They didn’t beat anyone noteworthy in the regular season, and they lost to some not-too-impressive opponents: Georgia Southern, Creighton, UC-Irvine, Arizona, Portland State (twice), Eastern Washington, and Northern Colorado. They have a little height (a couple 6’10” guys) and no superstars. Michigan should be able to beat them, as long as they play a reasonable game.

Q: What do you think about Michigan’s seed/placement in the NCAA Tournament?

A: I think that it’s great! After losing to MSU three times in the last three weeks, I was expecting a 3-seed or even a 4-seed, so a 2-seed is very generous. It’s the same seed that MSU got. It’s obvious that the tournament committee realized that Michigan and MSU are dead even this season, despite the game results.

As far as placement, I’d much rather be a 2-seed in a region with Gonzaga than Duke. The other teams in Michigan’s half of the West Region aren’t particularly scary: (3-seed) Texas Tech, (6-seed) Buffalo, and (7-seed) Nevada.

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

Go Blue!