Nothing But ‘Net – Week #17 – 02/17/2020 – Two Solid Wins

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they won both of them.  On Wednesday (02/12/2020), they beat Northwestern 79-54 in Evanston (IL), then on Sunday (02/16/2020), they beat Indiana 89-65 in Crisler Arena.  The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 16-9 (7-7 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is now tied for 8th place in the Big Ten.

What Happened?

After starting the season 0-5 in true road games, Michigan has now won 2 in a row, with a virtual road win in there when they beat Rutgers in Madison Square Garden, technically a neutral site game.  Sure, the two teams they beat are the bottom two teams in the league (Nebraska and Northwestern), but any road win is a good win this season.  And, Michigan didn’t just win the game at Northwestern, they dominated.  Michigan had their traditional slow start, trailing 4-0 at the 14:29 mark, 9-3 at the 13:55 mark, then 13-6 at the 12:26 mark, before they finally got going.  They ripped off a quick 14-2 run, to go up 20-15 with 8:24 to go, then pushed the lead to 15 points (33-18) with 2:42 left.  They still led by 15 (38-23) at halftime.  They opened the 2nd half with a nice 10-2 run to put the game out of reach, 48-25, with 16:01 left, then they just toyed with Northwestern the rest of the way.  The closest NU got was 12 points (58-46) with 7:00 to go, but Michigan pushed the lead back into the 20s, and kept it there until the final horn.  It was a dominating victory.

In the IU game, the lead seesawed back and forth for the first 6 minutes, before Michigan went ahead for good at the 13:32 mark.  Michigan pushed the lead as high as 12 points a few times in the 1st half, settling for a 7 point lead (41-34) at halftime.  IU got it down to 5 points (41-36) in the opening minute of the 2nd half, but that was as close as they’d get.  UM pushed the lead into the 10-12 point range, then into the 18-20 point range, and kept it there the rest of the game, winning by 24 points.  It was also a dominating victory.

Stats  

The stats for the Northwestern game are solid.  Michigan shot well overall (30-for-64 = 46.9%), they shot 3-pointers well (7-for-20 = 35.0%), and they shot free throws well (12-for-15 = 80.0%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (45-32), as well as the turnover battle (8-10).  They dominated in every phase of the game.

The stats for the IU game are impressive.  Michigan shot very well overall (31-for-54 = 57.4%), they shot 3-pointers very well (9-for-17 = 52.9%), and they shot free throws well (18-for-22 = 81.8%).  They won the rebounding battle convincingly (37-21), but lost the turnover battle (8-7).  Michigan won this one with 3-point shooting, holding IU to 3-for-12 from deep.

Who Started?

The starters for both games were Eli Brooks, Isaiah Livers, Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske, and Franz Wagner.  This is the “real” starting lineup, when everyone is healthy.

Who Looked Good?

Brooks hit double figures in both games (18 and 13 points), and was the leading scorer in the NU game.  He shot a good percentage from 3-point range in the NU game (4-for-8), but not so good vs. IU (1-for-4).

Livers was the only other Michigan player in double figures for both games (17 and 12 points).  He had a rough time shooting 3-pointers in the NU game (0-for-5), but he got better in the IU game (2-for-4).

Wagner had a mediocre game vs. NU (5 points), but he was the leading scorer in the IU game with 16 points.

Simpson also had a mediocre game vs. NU (4 points), but a good game vs. IU (12 points).  He also had 11 assists vs. IU, for a double-double.

Brandon Johns, Jr. was another player with a mediocre game vs. NU (4 points), but a good game vs. IU (14 points).  He shot 3-for-3 from 3-point range vs. IU.

David DeJulius had a decent week, with 7 and 2 points.  He played a lot of point guard, and he did a nice job.

Austin Davis is getting better every game.  He is now the most effective big man on the team, ahead of Teske.  He scored 9 points in each game this week, and he played solid defense.  He shot 4-for-4 vs. NU and 4-for-6 vs. IU.  For the season, he is shooting 37-for-51 (72.5%), the 2nd best percentage on the team.

Colin Castleton played in both games, and he contributed.  He had 5 points vs. NU and 2 points vs. IU.

Cole Bajema also played in both games, and made a 3-pointer in each game.  His shot vs. IU was from about 26 feet to beat the shot clock.  He is the leading shooter on the team this season, shooting 8-for-10 (80.0%) overall, and 3-for-5 (60.0%) from 3-point range.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Teske had a quiet week, with 6 points in each game.  He did have 8 and 7 rebounds.  The team needs him to get back to playing the way he did in the first half of the season.

Who Else Played?

Adrien Nuñez played in both games, and scored 1 point vs. NU.

C.J. Baird played in the IU game, but failed to score.

Who Didn’t Play?

The rest of the practice squad (Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t play in either game.

What Does It Mean?

This was a good week for Michigan.  True, they were favored in both games, but they played well, and won convincingly.  These results helped their chances for making the NCAA or NIT Tournaments, and improved things in the Big Ten race.  There are 6 games left in the regular season, and they need to win at least 4 of them to make the NCAA Tournament.  They have now won enough to make the NIT Tournament.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays two games, both on the road.  On Wednesday (02/19/2020, 7:00 p.m. EST, BTN), they play at Rutgers, then on Saturday (02/22/2020, 2:00 p.m. EST, ESPN), they play at Purdue.

Michigan has already played, and beaten, Rutgers this season.  Back on 02/01/2020, Michigan beat (#25) Rutgers 69-63 in Madison Square Garden, which was technically a neutral site game, but actually a home game for Rutgers.  Now, Michigan gets to play them in the RAC (Rutgers Athletic Center), where they’re 17-0 this season.  They are currently 18-8 overall (9-6 in the Big Ten).  This will be a challenging game.

Michigan has also already played, and beaten, Purdue this season.  Back on 01/09/2020, Michigan beat Purdue 84-78 in 2OT in Crisler Arena.  They are currently 14-12 (7-8 in the Big Ten).  This will also be a challenging game.  Michigan has had a hard time winning in West Lafayette.

Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #16 – 02/10/2020 – A Tough Loss, And A Glorious Victory

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, both at home, and they lost one and won the other.  On Tuesday (02/04/2020), they lost to Ohio State 61-58, then on Saturday (02/08/2020), they beat (#16) Michigan State 77-68.  The loss and win leave Michigan with a record of 14-9 (5-7 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is still tied for 11th place in the Big Ten.

What Happened?

The OSU game was close and exciting for the first 39 minutes and 27 seconds, then the refs hijacked it and gave it to OSU.  Michigan had a slow start, and OSU led 16-7 with 8:52 to go in the 1st half.  Yes, that means that Michigan scored 7 points in the first 11 minutes.  Ouch.  They finally woke up, and actually grabbed the lead, 22-21, with 3:31 left in the half.  OSU took the lead back, and led by 1 point (28-27) at halftime.  Michigan got the lead back to start the 2nd half (30-28 at the 17:53 mark), then the lead seesawed back and forth, with neither team able to get more than 3-4 points ahead.  Michigan trailed by 1 point (57-56) with 33 seconds left, when the refs took over.  Zavier Simpson drove to the basket, and was fouled hard.  As he fell to the floor, he grabbed the jersey of the OSU player who fouled him.  The refs called a shooting foul on the OSU player, which was correct, then called a “flagrant 1” foul on Simpson for grabbing the jersey, which was BS.  Simpson made both free throws, so Michigan momentarily led 58-57, but the OSU player got to shoot 2 free throws for the flagrant foul, and then OSU got the ball.  With only 33 seconds left, Michigan was forced to foul intentionally, and OSU made their free throws.  Still, UM had a last shot to tie it up, but they missed.  The “flagrant 1” call ruined the game.

Actually, the officiating for the OSU game was terrible the whole game, but the “flagrant 1” call was the icing on the cake.  The OSU players were traveling all over the place, and refs missed it.  The refs also allowed a lot of pushing and shoving both ways and didn’t call it.  It was a really poor job.

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

The popular narrative is that MSU coach Tom Izzo is a coaching god, one of the all-time greats, a master tactician, but he sure wasn’t any of those things in this game.  He’s got one of the best players in the country (Cassius Winston) on his team, but Izzo subbed him out repeatedly for the weakest point guard in the Big Ten, Foster Loyer.  Loyer played 10 minutes, sometimes along with Winston, but often with Winston on the bench, and he did nothing but foul: 0-1 shooting, 1 rebound, 4 fouls.  I can’t believe Izzo actually recruited this guy, and I can’t believe he actually plays him in a non-cupcake game.  But, “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”.  Sparty on, Tom.

Thanks in part to Loyer’s “contributions”, Michigan led almost the entire game.  It was 0-0 for quite a while, before MSU took their only lead of the game, 1-0, with 17:30 to go.  Michigan went up 3-1 at the 16:41 mark, then MSU tied it 3-3 with 15:53 to go.  It was still 3-3 at the 13:53 mark, which means a combined 6 points scored in 6+ minutes.  Wow.  Michigan took the lead back for good at this point, with a 3-pointer, and hit 2 more 3-pointers in the next 2:31 to go up 12-3 at the 11:22 mark.  At this point, State had 3 points in 8 minutes and 38 seconds.  Impressive!  Both teams finally started scoring, and the UM lead was in the 5-7 point range for most of the half.  It got as high as 10 points (25-15) with 5:06 left in the half, and should have been 8 points (29-21) at halftime, but Michigan committed a dumb foul with 1 second left that gave MSU 2 free points, so it was 29-23 at halftime.  Michigan kept the lead in the 4-6 point range for the first few minutes of the 2nd half, then MSU made their move.  They got within 1 point several times (31-30, 33-32, 36-35, and 39-38), and were within 2 points (42-40) with 13:27 left in the game.  That was their last gasp, though, as Michigan pushed the lead back up to 8 points (48-40) at the 12:09 mark, and kept it in the 8-10 point range the rest of the way.  The closest State got was 6 points (72-66) with 40 seconds left, but Michigan made enough free throws to win comfortably.  It was a great win over a ranked team.

Let’s have a little talk about sportsmanship.  I usher sections 209 and 210 in Crisler Arena, and there were a fair number of State fans in both sections.  When it became obvious that Michigan was going to win, the State fans started leaving early, usually with their heads down as they headed for the exits.  Most of them had behaved just fine, with the occasional “Go Green”, but nothing objectionable.  Then there was the State fan sitting in Section 210, Row 22, Seat 1: he got more and more agitated as the game went on, and he really didn’t like it when the Maize Rage started their “Little Brother” chant.  When he and his female companion got up to leave with 22 seconds left, he threw his drink cup at me, walked over and got in my face, then punched me in the stomach and hustled for the exit.  I was more stunned than hurt, but it sure surprised me.  He never said a word, just punched and ran.  So, I notified my supervisor and filed a police report, but I doubt anything will come of it.  I’d like to see him banned from coming back to Crisler, if the authorities can identify him.  He was a big guy (6’3”, 230 pounds), about 55-60 years old, with short gray hair.  If you think you know him, send me a message (dmontag@umgoblue.com), and I’ll pass it on to the police.

Stats  

The stats for the OSU game are confusing.  Michigan shot poorly overall (20-for-60 = 33.3%), but they shot 3-pointers decently (10-for-31 = 32.3%), and they shot free throws very well (8-for-9 = 88.9%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (42-31), but they lost the turnover battle (12-8).  These stats are good enough to win most games, and they might have won this one if the refs hadn’t hijacked it.

The stats for the MSU game are pretty good.  Michigan shot just OK overall (24-for-64 = 37.5%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (11-for-28 = 39.3%), and they shot free throws well enough to win (18-for-23 = 78.3%).  They won the rebounding battle (46-40), but lost the turnover battle (10-7).  Michigan won this game because they controlled the boards and shut down MSU’s 3-point shooting (6-for-23 = 26.1%).

Who Started?

The starters for the OSU game were Eli Brooks, Brandon Johns, Jr., Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske, and Franz Wagner.  Johns started in place of Isaiah Livers, who missed 3 more games because of a groin injury.  Livers was healthy enough to start in place of Johns in the MSU game.

Who Looked Good?

Simpson was the leading scorer in both games, with 15 and 16 points.  He also had 5 and 8 assists, and 7 and 4 rebounds.  He had a very good week shooting 3-pointers: 3-for-7 and 4-for-7.

Brooks almost hit double figures in both games, with 8 and 11 points, including two big 3-pointers in the MSU game.  He had a rough week shooting: 3-for-12 (2-for-8 from deep) vs. OSU, and 2-for-10 (2-for-5 from deep) vs. MSU.  He did a nice job guarding Winston in the MSU game.

I’m still not sure whether Wagner looked “good” or “not-so-good”.  On the one hand, he almost hit double figures in both games (8 and 8), and he was the leading rebounder in the OSU game (14).  On the other hand, his shooting percentages continue to trend downward: 2-for-12 (2-for-8 from deep) vs. OSU, and 2-for-5 (0-for-2 from deep) vs. MSU.  He is a key component in the offense, and he needs to start hitting his 3-pointers.

Livers looked good in the one game he played (MSU): 14 points on decent shooting (5-for-10, 2-for-5 from deep).

Johns had a solid week, with 8 and 7 points.  He shot 3-pointers well, just not often enough: 2-for-3 vs. OSU, and 1-for-2 vs. MSU.

David DeJulius had a pretty good week, with 5 and 10 points.  He played some solid defense against Winston in the MSU game.

Austin Davis continued his strong play this week.  He scored a career-high 11 points (on 4-for-4 shooting) vs. OSU, and chipped in 4 more points (on 2-for-3 shooting) vs. MSU.  He played very good post defense, without committing silly fouls.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Teske had a quiet week, with 3 and 7 points.  He did have 6 and 8 rebounds.

Colin Castleton only played in the OSU game, and failed to score.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

As mentioned above, Livers was injured and didn’t play in the OSU game.

Adrien Nuñez didn’t play in either game.

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?

Michigan kind of held even this week.  They should have won the OSU game, but it was an upset that they beat MSU.  These results helped their chances for making the NCAA or NIT Tournaments, but didn’t change much in the Big Ten race; they’re still in 11th place, and they still stand no chance of contending for the title.  It would be nice if they could move up to 10th place or better, so they won’t have to play on Wednesday in the Big Ten Tournament.  There are 8 games left in the regular season, and they need to win at least 6 of them to make the NCAA Tournament, or 2 of them to make the NIT Tournament.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays two games, one on the road and one at home.  On Wednesday (02/12/2020, 9:00 p.m. EST, BTN), they play at Northwestern, then on Sunday (02/16/2020, 1:00 p.m., CBS), they play Indiana in Crisler Arena.

Northwestern is currently 6-16 (1-11 in the Big Ten).  They are all alone in last (14th) place.  They have a few quality wins (Providence, Bradley, and Boston College), but have lost to the likes of Merrimack, Radford, and Hartford.  They have some height (three 6’10” players), but no real star.  This is another rare opportunity for Michigan to win a true road game, but they’ll have to play well.

Indiana is currently 15-8 (5-7 in the Big Ten).  They are tied with Michigan for 11th place in the Big Ten standings.  They have impressive wins over (#17) Florida State, UConn, Notre Dame, (#11) Ohio State, and (#11) Michigan State.  Their significant losses are to Wisconsin, Maryland (twice), Rutgers, Penn State, and Purdue.  They have some height (one 6’11” player and one 6’10” player), and no real star.  This is another game that Michigan can win, if they play well.

Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #15 – 02/03/2020 – 1.5 Road Wins

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, both on the road, and they won both of them.  On Tuesday (01/28/2020), they won at Nebraska 79-68, then on Saturday (02/01/2020), they beat (#25) Rutgers in Madison Square Garden 69-63.  The wins raise Michigan’s record to 13-8 (4-6 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is still tied for 11th place in the Big Ten.

What Happened?

After starting the season 0-5 in true road games, Michigan finally won one.  Well, maybe one and a half, since the Rutgers game was a neutral court game in name only.  The crowd in Madison Square Garden was distinctly pulling for Rutgers.  Sure, Nebraska is having a down season, but a road win is a rarity in the Big Ten this season.  The win over Rutgers is even more impressive, since Rutgers is ranked for the first time in several decades.

In the Nebraska game, Nebraska led for the first 7 minutes, but only by 2-4 points.  The lead seesawed for the next few minutes, and the game was tied 27-27 with 5:05 left in the 1st half.  That’s when Michigan went ahead for the rest of the half, opening up a 5-point lead (40-35) at halftime.  Michigan led for all but one minute of the 2nd half, when Nebraska caught up and went ahead 52-50 with 13:49 left in the game.  In all Michigan’s previous road games, that would have been the beginning of the end, but UM didn’t fold this time, and took the lead back for good 53-52 at the 12:44 mark.  They got the lead as high as 15 points (71-56 with 5:47 to go), and kept the lead around 9-11 points the rest of the way.  It was a good, solid win.

In the Rutgers game, the lead seesawed for the first 5 minutes, then Michigan pulled ahead, leading by 10 points (24-14) with 7:17 left in the 1st half.  Rutgers fought back, and got within a point (35-34) with 0:27 left in the half.  Michigan got a layup at the buzzer, and led 37-24 at halftime.  Michigan came out stone cold to start the 2nd half, and didn’t score for the first 4:26 of the half.  By then, Rutgers was back in front, 38-37.  Once Michigan got the lead back, they pushed it up to 14 points (60-46 with 9:17 to go), and it looked like they had the game under control.  Nope.  Rutgers fought back again, and got within 5 points (63-58) with 2:50 left, within 3 points (63-60) with 0:27 left, and within 2 points (65-63) with 0:19 left.  Michigan made their free throws, played some defense, and finished strong to win by 6 (69-63).

Stats  

The stats for the Nebraska game are mixed.  Michigan shot well overall (28-for-56 = 50.0%), they shot 3-pointers poorly (7-for-24 = 29.2%), and they shot free throws poorly (16-for-24 = 66.7%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (41-27), but they lost the turnover battle (17-14).  Michigan won this game by controlling the boards.

The stats for the Rutgers game are amazing.  Michigan shot well overall (22-for-47 = 46.8%), they shot 3-pointers well (9-for-19 = 47.4%), but they shot free throws poorly (16-for-24 = 66.7%).  They were crushed in the rebounding battle (51-37), and they lost the turnover battle as well (16-10).  Of those 51 rebounds, Rutgers had 26 offensive rebounds, which is amazing.  Between the -14 in rebounds and the -6 in turnovers, Rutgers had 20 more possessions than Michigan.  Michigan won because they shot well and Rutgers didn’t.

Who Started?

The starters for the Nebraska game were Eli Brooks, David DeJulius, Brandon Johns, Jr., Jon Teske, and Franz Wagner.  DeJulius started in place of Zavier Simpson, who was suspended for one game due to “violation of team rules”.  He started in the Rutgers game. Johns started both games in place of Isaiah Livers, who missed 6 games because of a groin injury, returned to the starting lineup for the Illinois game, then re-injured his groin in that game.  Once again, he’s out indefinitely.

Who Looked Good?

Johns had a great week.  He hit a new career high with 16 points in the Nebraska game, then hit another career high with 20 points in the Rutgers game.  He was the star and the high scorer in the Rutgers game.  He shot a nice percentage from 3-point range: 1-for-1 vs. Nebraska and 4-for-7 vs. Rutgers.  He also had 7 rebounds in each game.

Wagner was the only other player to hit double figures in both games, with 18 and 10 points.  He continues to shoot poorly from 3-point range: 1-for-5 vs. Nebraska and 1-for-3 vs. Rutgers.  If he starts hitting his 3-pointers, Michigan will be deadly.  He’s getting the open 3-pointers he needs, he’s just not hitting them.

Brooks almost hit double figures in both games, with 20 and 9 points.  He was the leading scorer in the Nebraska game.  He hit a lot of big 3-pointers in both games, shooting 4-for-10 vs. Nebraska and 3-for-6 vs. Rutgers.

Teske also almost hit double figures in both games, with 9 and 13 points.

Simpson didn’t play in the Nebraska game (suspension), but he almost had a double-double in the Rutgers game, with 9 points and 10 assists.  On the negative side, he did have 6 turnovers, several of them “silly” or “unforced”.

Austin Davis is on track to be the Most Improved Player this season.  He has gone from being a liability to being a positive force out there.  He’s gotten his silly fouls under control, he’s playing great defense, and he chips in some points every now and then.  He had 3 points vs. Nebraska and 8 points vs. Rutgers.

Colin Castleton only played in the Nebraska game, but he did pretty well, scoring 5 points on 2-for-2 shooting.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

DeJulius didn’t make much of his first starting assignment, with 5 points (on 1-for-7 shooting) vs. Nebraska.  He came off the bench vs. Rutgers, and failed to score.

Adrien Nuñez played in both games, and didn’t do much.  He scored 3 points (on 1-for-6 shooting, all 3-pointers) vs. Nebraska, and failed to score in the Rutgers game.

Who Else Played?

C.J. Baird played for 8 minutes in the Nebraska game, but didn’t take a shot.  What’s the significance of this?  He wears number 24, and he played for 8 minutes, both a tribute to Kobe Bryant.

There was one other tribute to Kobe in the Nebraska game: Michigan won the opening tip, and intentionally held the ball in the backcourt for 10 seconds, getting a backcourt violation.  Nebraska inbounded the ball, and intentionally held the ball for 30 seconds, getting a shot clock violation.  These are the college versions of the tributes from the NBA, where their backcourt violation is 8 seconds (a Kobe number), and their shot clock violation is 24 seconds (Kobe’s other number).

Who Didn’t Play?

As mentioned above, Livers was injured and didn’t play in either game.

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

What Does It Mean?

It was great that Michigan finally won 1.5 road games, and it certainly helped their chances for making the NCAA or NIT Tournaments.  It didn’t change much in the Big Ten race; they’re still in 11th place, and they still stand no chance of contending for the title.  It would be nice if they could move up to 10th place or better, so they won’t have to play on Wednesday in the Big Ten Tournament.  There are 10 games left in the regular season, and they need to win at least 7 of them to make the NCAA Tournament, or 3 of them to make the NIT Tournament.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays two games, both at home.  On Tuesday (02/04/2020, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2), they play Ohio State, then on Saturday (02/08/2020, 12:00 p.m., FOX), they play (#14) Michigan State.

Ohio State is currently 14-7 (4-6 in the Big Ten).  They are tied with Michigan for 11th place in the Big Ten standings.  They have impressive wins over Cincinnati, Villanova, North Carolina, Penn State, Kentucky, and Indiana, but they have lost to Wisconsin, Minnesota (twice), Penn State, and Indiana.  They started the season ranked #18, got as high as #2, then lost 7 out of 8 games to drop out of the rankings.  They don’t have much height (two 6’9” players), but they do have the Wesson brothers, Andre and Kaleb.  This is a game that Michigan can win, and has to win, but they need to play their “A” game to do it.

Michigan has already played MSU once this season, back on 01/05/2020 in East Lansing, when State won 87-69.  They are now 16-6 (8-3 in the Big Ten), in 2nd place.  Since that game, MSU has gone 4-3, with wins over Minnesota (twice), Wisconsin, and Northwestern, and losses to Purdue (71-42!), Indiana, and Wisconsin.  They’re not unbeatable, but Cassius Winston had a great game the last time they played Michigan, and Michigan will have to play like they did in the Bahamas to beat MSU.

Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #14 – 01/27/2020 – Voyage To The Bottom Of The League

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, both at home, and they lost both of them.  On Wednesday (01/22/2020), they lost to Penn State 72-63, then on Saturday (01/25/2020), they lost to (#21) Illinois 64-62.  The losses drop Michigan’s record to 11-8 (2-6 in the Big Ten).

Michigan has gone from 1st place (1-0 on 12/06/201) to a tie for 11th place in the Big Ten.  They have now lost 4 games in a row, and 5 out of the last 6.  It is a stunning turnaround from the team that started the season 7-0, won the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, and was ranked #4 for one week.

What Happened?

Michigan played fairly well for parts of both games, but they allowed their opponents to go on devastating runs, and they just couldn’t hit the key baskets (or free throws) to win either game.  They were behind almost the whole time in both games, and made some runs to get back in the game, but they always came up short.  They led early in both games (21-16 with 10:31 left in the 1st half vs. PSU, and 9-4 with 16:42 left this the 1st half vs. Illinois), but frittered away both those leads.  They trailed at halftime in both games (37-28 vs. PSU, and 34-30 vs. Illinois).  PSU never trailed in the 2nd half, although UM did get within 5 points (62-57) with 3:50 left in the game.  That was as close as they got, though.  Michigan actually led a couple times in the 2nd half vs. Illinois, as late as the 0:51 mark, but they badly misplayed the final minute, and let Illinois take (and make) their last shot with 0:00.5 left.  Michigan missed their last 5 free throws, and it cost them the game.  It was very sad.

Stats  

The stats for the PSU game are terrible.  Michigan shot terribly overall (24-for-68 = 35.3%), they shot 3-pointers horribly (5-for-28 = 17.9%), and they shot free throws decently (10-for-14 = 71.4%).  They won the rebounding battle (38-35), and they tied in the turnover battle (13-13).  PSU won this game with their own 3-point shooting: 8-for-19 = 42.1%.

The stats for the Illinois game are even worse.  Michigan shot a little better overall (23-for-59 = 39.0%), they shot a better percentage from 3-point range (4-for-17 = 23.5%), but they shot terribly from the free throw line (12-for-21 = 57.1%).  Again, they won the rebounding battle (37-34), and they had a remarkable 2 turnovers (vs. 8 by Illinois).  They lost the game at the free throw line, and by only making four 3-pointers.

Who Started?

The starters for the PSU game were Eli Brooks, Brandon Johns, Jr., Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske, and Franz Wagner.  Johns started in place of Isaiah Livers, who missed 6 games with his injury, but returned to the starting lineup for the Illinois game in place of Johns.

Who Looked Good?

Simpson was the leading scorer in both games, with 18 points vs. PSU and 17 points vs. Illinois.  However he shot a terrible percentage in the PSU game: 8-for-23 = 34.8%.  He also missed 2 of the 5 crucial free throws at the end of the Illinois game.

Johns had a good game vs. PSU (14 points), and a terrible game vs. Illinois (0 points).

Brooks also had a good game vs. PSU (12 points), and a mediocre game vs. Illinois (4 points).

Teske almost had double figures in both games (9 and 12 points).  He had 11 rebounds in the PSU game.

Livers only played in the Illinois game, and he had 7 points before he left the game in the 2nd half with a possible recurrence of his groin injury.

David DeJulius chipped in a few points (2 and 7).

Austin Davis did a nice job on defense, and scored 2 points in each game.  He did miss the front end of a one-and-one at the end of the Illinois game.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Wagner was the main reason Michigan lost both games.  Sure, he had 6 and 12 points, but he shot terribly: 1-for-9 vs. PSU, 4-for-11 vs. Illinois.  His 3-point shooting was even worse: 1-for-8 vs. PSU, and 1-for-6 vs. Illinois.  He had plenty of open, uncontested 3-point shots, and he bricked most of them.  Still, he had a chance to help Michigan beat Illinois in the closing minutes, but he missed 2 free throws.  Not a good week for him.

Colin Castleton only played for 3 minutes in the Illinois game, and he had 1 point.  Another missed key free throw.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

As mentioned above, Livers was injured and didn’t play in the PSU game.

Adrien Nuñez and 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?

Michigan needed to win both of the games this week to stay in Big Ten title contention, and to keep a solid seed for the NCAA Tournament.  With these losses, Michigan now stands no chance of contending for the Big Ten title, and a very small chance of even making the Big Dance.  At the rate they are falling, they may not even finish above 0.500, which would eliminate them from the NIT Tournament.  A very promising season has gone off the rails.  It’s not too late for Michigan to salvage the season, but they need to start immediately.  They can’t afford to lose many more games.  There are 12 games left in the regular season, and they need to win at least 9 of them to make the NCAA Tournament, or 5 of them to make the NIT Tournament.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays two games, both on the road.  On Tuesday (01/28/2020, 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPNU), they play at Nebraska, then on Saturday (02/01/2020, 4:30 p.m., BTN), they play (#24) Rutgers in Madison Square Garden in New York.

Nebraska is currently 7-13 (2-7 in the Big Ten).  They are 0.5 game behind Michigan in the Big Ten standings.  They have beaten Purdue and Iowa, but lost to lowly Northwestern.  They don’t have much height (one 6’9” player), and no one even close to a star player.  This might be a team that Michigan can beat on the road.  Maybe.

Wait a minute, what’s that “(#24)” thing before Rutgers’ name above?  They’re ranked?  Yup, for the first time in several decades, Rutgers is ranked.  They’re currently 15-5 (6-3 in the Big Ten).  They’re tied with Maryland for 3rd place in the Big Ten.  They’ve beaten (#22) Seton Hall, (#20) Penn State, and Minnesota, but they’ve lost to Illinois and Iowa.  They’ve got some height (a couple 6’11” players), and a couple stars (Geo Brown and Myles Johnson).  Even though this game is being played in Madison Square Garden, Michigan is technically the home team for the game.  Yes, Michigan only gets 9 Big Ten games in Crisler Arena this season, while every other Big Ten team gets 10 true home games.  Even worse, this will be like a home game for Rutgers, since their campus is within easy driving distance of Madison Square Garden, so it’s not even a neutral site game.  The combination makes it very unlikely that Michigan will win this game.

Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #13 – 01/20/2020 – The Season Is Slipping Away

The (#19) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this week, and they lost it.  On Friday (01/17/2020), they lost at Iowa 90-83.  The loss drops Michigan’s record to 11-6 (2-4 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is now 0-5 in true road games this season.

What Happened?

The season is slipping away.  It started with such promise, and peaked on 11/29/2019, when Michigan beat (#8) Gonzaga soundly in the Bahamas to claim the Battle 4 Atlantis championship.  Since then, Michigan is 4-6, with only 2 of those wins against teams with a pulse (Iowa and Purdue).  They have completely lost all the swagger and momentum they had in the Bahamas, and are now utterly helpless in road games.

The Iowa game was a game of runs, and Iowa had the decisive run in the last 3:25 of the game to win it.  Both teams had decent leads at one time or another:  Michigan lead by 7 points (16-9) with 13:13 left in the 1st half, then Iowa led by 11 points (33-22) with 7:48 to go in the half.  Michigan whittled away at that lead, and got it down to 4 points (47-43) at halftime.  Iowa kept the lead in the 3-5 point range for most of the early part of the 2nd half, but Michigan made a move, and took the lead back at the 12:46 mark.  They pushed it up to 7 points (72-65) with 9:42 to go, and still led by 6 points (74-68) with 7:44 to go.  Iowa went back in front at the 5:26 mark, but it was still a 1-point Iowa lead (80-79) with 3:25 to go.  Michigan went stone cold, and didn’t score again until the 0:21 mark.  By then, the game was out of reach.

Stats  

The stats for the game are decent.  Michigan shot well overall (34-for-68 = 50.0%), they shot 3-pointers fairly well (11-for-34 = 32.4%), and they shot free throws well (4-for-5 = 80.0%).  They were crushed on the boards (38-25), but they won the turnover battle (8-15).  How did they lose by 7 points with that kind of shooting?  Free throws.  But, wait, they shot 80% from the free throw line, right?  Yeah, but Iowa shot 30 free throws!  30!  And, they made 27 of them (90%).  That’s a 23-point difference.  They earned most of the free throws, but some of them were “homer” calls by the refs.  Still, Iowa had a plan to drive the ball at Michigan in the paint, and it worked.  They either got the basket or got to shoot free throws, and they made them count.

Oh yeah, remember Luka Garza, who I mentioned last week?  He had 44 points the first time Iowa played Michigan (in Ann Arbor), and he had another big game this time, with 33 points,  11 of them on free throws (11-for-13).  He also hit 2-for-3 from 3-point range.  He was the difference in the game.

Who Started?

The starters were Eli Brooks, Brandon Johns, Jr., Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske, and Franz Wagner for both games.  Johns started in place of Isaiah Livers, who is still out with a groin injury.  He has now missed 5 games with his injury, and UM is 1-4 in those games.  Michigan needs him back, now.

Who Looked Good?

Brooks had a monster game, with (career-high) 25 points on 9-for-17 shooting, including 5-for-11 from 3-point range.  He single-handedly kept Michigan in the game, but it wasn’t enough.

Wagner had a good game, with 18 points.  Unfortunately, he was only 2-for-8 from 3-point range.

Teske had a good game offensively, with 14 points, including 2-for-4 from 3-point range, but he couldn’t stop, or even slow down, Garza.

Simpson only had 7 points, but he did have 6 assists.

David DeJulius had a decent game, with 10 points.  Unfortunately, he shot poorly: 5-for-12 overall, 0-for-3 from 3-point range.

Austin Davis didn’t score much (4 points), but he played good defense while giving Teske a rest.  He actually did better guarding Garza than Teske did.

Adrien Nuñez did hit a 3-pointer.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Johns had 2 points and 5 fouls.

Colin Castleton had 0 points.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

As mentioned above, Livers was injured and didn’t play.

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

What Does It Mean?

Michigan is in free fall.  They are almost certainly out of contention for the Big Ten title, they are almost certainly out of the Top 25, and they are in serious danger of missing the NCAA Tournament.  They now have a solid mental block about winning on the road, and they stand a very real chance of going 0-10 on the road in the league this season.  They might be able to sneak past Northwestern in Evanston on 02/12/2020, but that’s their only hope for a road victory.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays two games, both in Crisler Arena.  On Wednesday (01/22/2020, 7:00 p.m., BTN), they play Penn State, then on Saturday (01/25/2020, 12:00 p.m., FS1), they play Illinois.

Penn State?  They’re never good, and Michigan always beats them, right?  Not so fast.  They’re actually good-ish this season.  They have a better record than Michigan (13-5, 3-4 in the Big Ten), and they’ve beaten some good teams this season: Georgetown, Syracuse, Wake Forest, (#4) Maryland, Alabama, (#23) Iowa, and (#21) Ohio State.  They don’t have much height (no one over 6’9”), but they do have a star: Lamar Stevens.  Michigan should win this game, especially since it’s in Ann Arbor, but they’ll have to play very well to do it.

Michigan has already played Illinois this season, back in December (12/11/2019) on the road.  This was the first of a couple road games that Michigan could have won, but didn’t.  Since then, Illinois has done very well.  They’re currently 13-5 (5-2 in the Big Ten), and in 2nd place in the league.  Does the name Kofi Cockburn ring a bell?  It should.  He had 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots in the first game against Michigan, and I expect him to have another monster game this time around.  With all the trouble Michigan has had guarding big men, Illinois would be crazy to not go to Cockburn all game long.

Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!