Nothing But ‘Net – Week #21 – 04/12/2021 – Season Wrap-Up, Final Grades, Looking Ahead

The season is over for the University of Michigan men’s basketball team, and it was a good one.  Not quite as great as it could have been, but way beyond the preseason expectations.  Michigan won the Big Ten regular season championship, and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.  They ended up with a record of 23-5.  It was a good season.

Season Wrap-Up

Preseason expectations were mixed for Michigan.  Most of the experts picked Michigan to finish 5th or 6th in the Big Ten, although a few picked Michigan as a “dark horse” contender for the title.  Here are the results.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season started about three weeks later than usual, and the schedule was smaller than usual.  The last few years, teams were allowed to play 31 games, but this year most teams played 25-27 games.  Michigan played five non-conference games, along with 20 Big Ten games.  Michigan started the season ranked #25 in the polls, but quickly dropped out after a couple underwhelming victories over outmatched opponents, including an overtime win over Oakland.  Still, they were victories, as Michigan tried to develop team chemistry on the fly.  The only interesting non-conference game was going to be against North Carolina State, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19 issues on the NC State team.  Fortunately, Michigan managed to hustle up a last-minute replacement (Toledo), and they got in all five non-conference games, and won them all.

UM started the Big Ten schedule with six straight wins, including three 19+ point victories in a row over Top 25 teams: (#19) Northwestern, (#16) Minnesota, and (#9) Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin game in particular was a good, old-fashioned butt-whipping, probably the best game of the season.  By this time, Michigan had climbed to #7 in the polls, with an 11-0 (6-0 in Big Ten) record.  Despite having crushed Minnesota in Ann Arbor (82-57), Michigan lost the rematch in Minneapolis badly, 75-57, for their first loss.  This was easily the worst game and the low point of the season.  They won their next two games, to raise their record to 13-1 (8-1 in Big Ten), and then … the whole UM athletic department shut down for two weeks, even the teams with no COVID-19 problems, like the basketball team.  That forced them to postpone five games, including one that had already been postponed once before.  They ended up rescheduling two of these five games, so they only played 17 of their 20 Big Ten games, which became an issue later.  Read on.

When UM finally returned from their two-week shutdown, they won their next five games, which gave them a new seven-game winning streak, and pushed them up to #2 in the polls.  At this point, the Big Ten realized that a few of the Big Ten teams, including Michigan, weren’t going to be able to play all 20 games, so they announced that the regular season champion would be decided by winning percentage.  Based on the standings at that point, it meant that Michigan had to win just one of their three remaining games to win the regular season championship outright.  The good news is that Michigan did win one of the games.  The bad news is that they lost the other two games.  One of the losses was a 23-point beatdown by the 2nd place team, (#4) Illinois.  The other loss was a heartbreaker on Michigan State’s Senior Night.  Sandwiched in between was a 19-point thrashing of MSU in Ann Arbor.

Michigan stumbled into the Big Ten Tournament with 2 losses in their last 3 games, and didn’t do very well in the tournament, beating the #8 seed (Maryland) and losing to the #5 seed (Ohio State).

On to the NCAA Tournament.  Michigan was the #1 seed in the East Region, and they won 3 games (16-seed Texas Southern, 8-seed LSU, and 4-seed Florida State) before losing to the 11-seed UCLA.

So, what was the issue mentioned above?  The final Big Ten standings showed:

Michigan 14-3 (0.824)

Illinois 16-4 (0.800)

The Illinois team, fanbase, and even athletic director got it into their heads that they were the regular season champions, since they beat Michigan head-to-head and won more games.  They didn’t seem to understand the concept of “winning percentage”.  As it happened, Illinois won the Big Ten Tournament, so they got their championship, but not the regular season crown.

Karma is a b*tch.  Illinois went into the NCAA Tournament convinced that they were going to beat up everyone, but they were upset in the 2nd round by Loyola-Chicago.  Actually, other than Michigan, the Big Ten laid an egg in the Big Dance.  All of the other Big Ten teams in the field were eliminated in the first week (first two rounds):

  • Michigan State (11-seed) lost to UCLA (11-seed) in a “First Four” game on Thursday
  • Ohio State (2-seed) lost to Oral Roberts (15-seed) in a 1st round game on Friday
  • Purdue (4-seed) lost to North Texas (13-seed) in a 1st round game on Friday
  • Illinois (1-seed) lost to Loyola-Chicago (8-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Wisconsin (9-seed) lost to Baylor (1-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Rutgers (10-seed) lost to Houston (2-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Iowa (2-seed) lost to Oregon (7-seed) in a 2nd round game on Monday
  • Maryland (10-seed) lost to Alabama (2-seed) in a 2nd round game on Monday

Of those eight losses by the Big Ten teams, one of them was a “toss up” (MSU), three of them were expected (Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Maryland), and four of them were upsets (OSU, Purdue, Illinois, and Iowa).

Even though they did the best of the Big Ten teams, Michigan still was eliminated earlier than their #1 seed suggested.  They really should have beaten UCLA in the Elite Eight and gone on to the Final Four.

Final Grades

Here are the final grades, with the mid-term grades included for comparison:

Freshman Eligibility

  • Hunter Dickinson (A/A) – Hunter was the heart of this team.  He led the team in scoring (14.1 points/game), rebounding (7.4 rebounds/game), and blocked shots (40).  He was 2nd on the team in shooting percentage (59.8%).  He played in all 28 games, and started the last 23.  He scored in double figures in 23 games, and broke 20 points in 5 of them, including 26 and 28 points.  On the “minus” side, he did lead the team in turnovers (64) and fouls (71), and he went 0-for-4 for the season from 3-point range.  Still, he was the undisputed MVP, and he earned 2nd team All America honors on all four of the major teams.
  • Jace Howard (Inc./Inc.) – Jace is on scholarship, but he wasn’t part of the main rotation of players this season.  He played in 11 games, for a total of about 32 minutes, and scored 12 points.  He did have an exciting moment when he scored 3 points in the closing minutes of the Florida State game in the NCAA Tournament on an “and-one”.
  • Zeb Jackson (Inc./Inc.) – Zeb is on scholarship, but he wasn’t part of the main rotation of players this season.  He played in 16 games, for a total of about 86 minutes, and scored 16 points.  He also had an exciting moment in the NCAA Tournament, when he hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the 1st half of the Texas Southern game.  He’ll get his chance at point guard next season.
  • Terrance Williams II (C/C) – Terrance is on scholarship, but he wasn’t part of the main rotation of players this season.  He played in 21 games, for a total of about 159 minutes, and scored 40 points.  He looked good in some of the non-conference games (7 points vs. Oakland, 10 points vs. Central Florida), but he had way too many 0-point games.  He’s learning.

Sophomore Eligibility

  • Brandon Wade (Inc./Inc.) – Brandon is a preferred walk-on.  He played in 3 games, for a total of about 3 minutes, but didn’t take any shots.  He’s part of the scout team.
  • Franz Wagner (B+/A-) – Franz was very good defensively, but inconsistent offensively.  He was 3rd on the team in scoring (12.5 points/game), 2nd on the team in rebounds (6.5 rebounds/game), 2nd on the team in blocked shots (29), and 1st on the team in steals (35).  He never quite found his 3-point shot this season (35-for-102 = 34.3%).

Junior Eligibility

  • Jaron Faulds (Inc./Inc.) – Jaron is a preferred walk-on.  He played in 10 games, for a total of about 29 minutes, and scored 4 points.  He’s part of the scout team.
  • Brandon Johns, Jr. (B/B+) – Brandon played a lot at center when Michigan played “small ball”, and the results were uneven.  He picked up a lot of the slack when Isaiah Livers went down with an injury at the end of the regular season.  He didn’t score much (4.9 points/game), and he didn’t rebound as well as he did last season (2.3 rebounds/game).
  • Adrien Nuñez (Inc./Inc.) – Adrien is on scholarship, but he wasn’t part of the main rotation of players this season.  He played in 10 games, for a total of about 32 minutes, and scored 6 points.

Senior Eligibility

  • C.J. Baird (Inc./Inc.) – C.J. is a walk-on.  He played in 4 games, for a total of about 11 minutes, and scored 2 points.  He was part of the scout team.
  • Eli Brooks (B+/A-) – Eli mostly played shooting guard, with occasional stints at point guard.  He was 4th on the team in scoring (9.5 points/game), 1st on the team in free throw percentage (90.9%), 2nd on the team in steals (29), and he hustled when he was in there.  He’s a very good defender, and he’s what’s known as a “glue guy”.
  • Chaundee Brown Jr. (B/B) – Chaundee was the “6th man” on the team this season, and he had some great games and a lot of mediocre games.  He was 6th on the team in scoring (8.0 points/game), and 2nd on the team in made 3-pointers (39) and 3-point shooting percentage (41.9%).
  • Austin Davis (B/B) – Austin was the starter at center for the first 5 games, until he injured his foot.  Dickinson started in his absence, and did well enough to keep starting, even when Austin returned after missing 5 games.  Austin was very smooth and efficient scoring in the paint, and he played good defense.  He led the team in shooting percentage (70.5%).
  • Rico Ozuna-Harrison (Inc./Inc.) – Rico is a walk-on.  He played in 1 game, for about 3 minutes, attempted 2 shots, but didn’t score.  He was part of the scout team.
  • Isaiah Livers (A/A) – Isaiah is the other MVP on this team.  He’s a senior leader, and a fierce competitor.  Unfortunately, he broke a bone in his foot midway through the season, played on it despite the pain, re-injured it late in the season, and missed the last 5 games. He was 2nd on the team in scoring (13.1 points/game), 3rd on the team in rebounds (6.0 rebounds/game), 3rd on the team in blocked shots (17), 1st on the team in 3-point shooting percentage (43.1%), and 2nd on the team in free throw percentage (87.0%).
  • Mike Smith (B/A-) – Mike did a very nice job running the team as the main point guard.  He had some very good games offensively, and a lot of mediocre games offensively.  Michigan didn’t really need him to score much, so any points he chipped in were a bonus.  He led the team in assists (149), but was 2nd in turnovers (59).  He was 3rd on the team in 3-point shooting percentage (41.8%).
  • Luke Wilson (Inc./Inc.) – Luke is a walk-on.  He played in 2 games, for a total of about 4 minutes, but he didn’t attempt a shot.  He was part of the scout team.

Coach

  • Juwan Howard (A+) – Juwan has done a fabulous job as head coach, in only his 2nd season.  He has recruited well (see below), he does a great job preparing the team before the game, and he does a great job during the game.  He was voted Big Ten and National Coach of the Year by several organizations, and he deserves it.

Looking Ahead

Here comes the hard part: predicting who will even be on the team next season.  In years past, this was a lot easier, with only the seniors leaving, and all the incoming freshmen lined up and ready to join the team.  Now, it’s chaos.  Here’s why:

  • It is much more common for underclassmen to leave school early for the NBA Draft.
  • Many of the incoming freshmen change their minds and go to a different school, or skip school all together and go to the G-League or play overseas.
  • For this season only, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA has a new rule allowing players with senior eligibility to return to their current team (no transferring) for a “free year” of  eligibility.  These “free year” players won’t count against a team’s scholarship limits.
  • The infamous Transfer Portal.

With all these complications, it’s almost impossible to guess what Michigan’s roster will look like next season.  So, here’s what we know or can assume at this point:

Graduating

  • Baird – Probably won’t come back for his “free year”.
  • Brooks – Has announced that he is coming back for his “free year”.
  • Brown – Has announced that he’s entering the NBA Draft.
  • Davis – Hasn’t announced his plans, but would be a good candidate for a “free year”.
  • Ozuna-Harrison – Probably won’t come back for his “free year”.
  • Livers – Hasn’t announced his plans, but would be a good candidate for a “free year”.  If he hadn’t injured his foot, he would be a lock for the NBA Draft, but his recovery time after surgery is 6 months, well past the draft.
  • Smith – Has announced that he’s entering the NBA Draft.
  • Wilson – Probably won’t come back for his “free year”.

Leaving Early for the NBA

  • Dickinson – Hasn’t said anything about the NBA Draft, but he’s certainly good enough to be drafted.  I expect him to return for his sophomore season.
  • Wagner – Hasn’t officially announced his NBA Draft intentions, but he’s projected to be a lottery pick, so he’s probably gone.

Transfer Portal

No one on the team has entered the Transfer Portal at this point.  Coach Howard might try to pick up a seasoned point guard in the Transfer Portal to replace Smith, and maybe a backup center.

Incoming Freshmen

Michigan signed a fabulous class of incoming freshmen for next season, the #1 recruiting class in the nation.  Whether they will all show up on campus in the fall remains to be seen.  Several of them are good enough to skip college and go right to the G-League or play overseas, and some of them may look at Michigan’s crowded roster and decide to play elsewhere.  As of right now, the incoming class looks like this:

  • Isaiah Barnes (6’7”, 195 pounds, F) – Isaiah is a 4-star small forward, and the #25 small forward in his class.
  • Kobe Bufkin (6’4”, 185 pounds, G) – Kobe is a 4-star combo guard, and the #4 combo guard in his class.
  • Frankie Collins (6’1”, 180 pounds, G) – Frankie is a 4-star point guard, and the #10 point guard in his class.
  • Moussa Diabate (6’10”, 220 pounds, F) – Moussa is a 5-star power forward, and the #6 power forward in his class.
  • Caleb Houstan (6’8”, 205 pounds, F) – Caleb is a 5-star power forward, the #3 power forward in his class, and the highest ranked of the incoming freshmen.
  • Will Tschetter (6’8”, 235 pound, F) – Will is a 3-star power forward.

My best guess at the roster is:

Freshman Eligibility

Barnes, Bufkin, Collins, Diabate, Houstan, Tschetter

Sophomore Eligibility

Dickinson, Howard, Jackson, Williams

Junior Eligibility

Wade

Senior Eligibility

Faulds, Johns, Nuñez

Free Year Players

Brooks, Davis, Livers

Of the players listed, only Faulds and Wade are not on scholarship, which adds up to 12 out of 13 possible, so Coach Howard will have at least one scholarship to play with.  His son, Jace Howard, could easily move to “preferred walk-on” status to free up another scholarship, if necessary.

Let’s look at positions:

Point Guard

Brooks, Bufkin, Collins, Jackson

Shooting Guard

Brooks, Bufkin, Jackson, Nuñez

Small Forward

Barnes, Howard, Johns, Livers, Williams

Power Forward

Diabate, Houstan, Johns, Livers, Tschetter

Center

Davis, Diabate, Dickinson, Johns

The two forward positions seem well stocked, if Livers returns, but both guard positions are a little thin on experience, other than Brooks.  The center position is in great shape, IF both Davis and Dickinson actually return to the team.  Look for Coach Howard to try to find an experienced point guard or combo guard in the Transfer Portal, and maybe a backup center.

Very early (way-too-early) preseason predictions for 2021-2022 all have Michigan as a Top 5 team, based on their performance this season and the great incoming class.  Those predictions could easily change, depending on who actually shows up in the fall.  If the players mentioned above all show up, Michigan could have a special season.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #20 – 04/05/2021 – A Sad End To A Great Season

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this past week in the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis, IN, and they lost it.  On Tuesday (03/30/2021), they lost to the #11 seed (UCLA) 51-49.  The loss leaves Michigan with a record of 23-5.  Michigan’s season is over.

What Happened?

UCLA is a good team, but Michigan is much better, and should have won this game handily.  UM played one of their worst games of the season, and still had a chance to win the game in the final seconds.  Unfortunately, they picked the absolute worst time to go completely cold, and it cost them the game and the chance to move on to the Final Four.  It’s a real shame.

The game started out fairly well, but slowly, with Michigan getting a 7-point lead (11-4) with 10:47 to go in the 1st half.  Michigan still led by 3 points (17-14) at the 6:12 mark, when the momentum shifted.  UCLA went ahead by 3 points (20-17) with 3:01 left, and led by 4 points at halftime (27-23).  They quickly pushed the lead up to 9 points (34-25) with 18:15 to go, then Michigan rattled off 8 points to pull within 1 (34-33).  Michigan actually got the lead back a couple times (43-42 with 7:06 left, and 47-46 at the 4:30 mark), but they missed their last 8 shot attempts, with only a pair of free throws in the last minute.  Several of those shots were wide open, and a couple were layups.  If any one of them had gone in, Michigan could have won the game, or at least forced overtime, but no.

Stats

The game stats are horrible.  Michigan shot terribly overall (20-for-51 = 39.2%), they shot 3-pointers terribly (3-for-11 = 27.3%), and they shot free throws terribly (6-for-11 = 54.5%).  They won the rebounding battle (38-28), but lost the turnover battle (14-8).  They lost this game with terrible shooting.

Who Started?

The starters were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Brandon Johns, Jr., Mike Smith, and Franz WagnerIsaiah Livers missed his final game with a broken bone in his foot, so Johns started in his place.

Who Looked Good?

Dickinson was the only Michigan player in double figures, with 11 points.  He had more turnovers (4) than rebounds (2).

Brooks almost hit double figures, with 8 points.  He out-rebounded Dickinson, with 5.

Johns also almost hit double figures, with 8 points.  He was one of the few Michigan players to shoot a good percentage, 4-for-5.

Chaundee Brown, Jr. also scored 8 points, on decent shooting (3-for-5).  He led the team in rebounds (9), and hit 2 of Michigan’s 3 made 3-pointers.

Smith had a miserable day shooting (3 points, on 1-for-7 shooting), but he did a fine job running the offense.  His only basket was Michigan’s other made 3-pointer.  He did miss 2 important free throws right before halftime.

Austin Davis did a good job spelling Dickinson, with 7 points.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Wagner had a terrible day shooting (1-for-10 overall, 0-for-4 from deep), but he did have 8 rebounds.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

None of the non-mainstream scholarship players (Jace Howard, Zeb Jackson, Adrien Nuñez, and Terrance Williams II) played.

None of the scout team players (C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, Brandon Wade, and Luke Wilson) played.

What Does It Mean?

Michigan is done for the season.  It was a sad end to a very good season.  Michigan greatly exceeded pre-season expectations, they made it to the Elite Eight, but they lost a game they should have won.

On the other hand, if they had made it to the Final Four, they probably would have lost to (#1) Gonzaga in the semifinal game.

What’s Next?

Pack up the lockers, the season is over.

Check back next week for the Season Wrap-Up, Final Grades, and A Look Ahead.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #19 – 03/29/2021 – Sweet And Elite

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this past week in the NCAA Tournament, and they won both of them.  Both games were in Indianapolis, IN.  On Monday (03/22/2021), they beat the #8 seed (LSU) 86-78, then on Sunday (03/28/2021), they beat the #4 seed ([#14] Florida State) 76-58.  The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 23-4.  Michigan is now in the Elite Eight.

What Happened?

These two wins are HUGE!  The first (LSU) put Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen for the 4th tournament in a row, and the second (FSU) put Michigan in the Elite Eight for the 4th tournament in the last 8 years.  Michigan played good, solid ball in both games, and didn’t let the pressure faze them.

The LSU game was close and tense for most of the game, with LSU leading most of the time, controlling the tempo, and having the momentum.  UM actually led early, 2-0, but LSU quickly went ahead and stayed ahead by 5-7 points for most of the 1st half.  Michigan tied the game (40-40) with 1:02 to go in the half, and led by 1 point (43-42) at halftime.  The 2nd half was more of the same: Michigan led early (45-44 at the 18:17 mark), then LSU went ahead.  The lead went back and forth, but the momentum was still lousy for Michigan.  LSU went up by 5 points (63-58) with 10:48 to go, and things looked grim.  Michigan called a timeout, regrouped, and started their final push.  They pulled back ahead for good (64-63) with 9:13 left, pushed the lead up into the 6-8 point range, and kept it there the rest of the game.  It was a big, important win.

The FSU game was not as close.  Michigan led for most of the game, except for the first 5 minutes.  The early going was close, with FSU leading 4-2 with 18:44 to go in the 1st half.  Michigan tied it up (4-4), and went ahead for good (5-4) at the 15:13 mark.  They pushed the lead as high as 13 points in the 1st half, keeping it in the 10-12 point range for most of the half.  Michigan led by 11 (32-21) at halftime.  Michigan kept the lead in the 9-11 point range in the early part of the 2nd half, until FSU finally starting hitting their 3-pointers.  FSU missed their first 10 3-point attempts, then hit 3 in a row, to cut the Michigan lead to 5 points (41-36) with 14:51 to go.  Michigan kept their composure, and pushed the lead back into the 9-11 point range, then up to the 16-18 point range for the rest of the game.  With 1:35 left, both coaches emptied their benches and let the scrubs battle it out.  It was a dominant victory.

Stats

The stats for the LSU game are pretty good.  Michigan shot well overall (28-for-52 = 53.8%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (10-for-25 = 40.0%), and they shot free throws well (20-for-25 = 80.0%).  Michigan won the rebounding battle (37-30), but lost the turnover battle badly (12-3).  Michigan won this game with overall shooting, rebounding, and defense.

The stats for the FSU game are not very good.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (29-for-59 = 49.2%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (3-for-11 = 27.3%), and they shot free throws pretty poorly (15-for-23 = 65.2%).  They won the rebounding battle (37-31) and the turnover battle (9-14).  They won this game with defense.  If you had told me before the game that Michigan would only make three 3-pointers, I would have predicted a double-digit loss.

Who Started?

The starters for both games were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Brandon Johns, Jr., Mike Smith, and Franz WagnerIsaiah Livers is out “indefinitely” with a broken bone in his foot, so Johns started in his place.

Who Looked Good?

The hero for this week isn’t a starter, it’s Chaundee Brown, Jr.  He tied for high scorer in the LSU game, with 21 points (his season high), and scored another very important 12 points in the FSU game, including 2 of Michigan’s 3 made 3-pointers.  He really helped make up for the absence of Livers.

The other hero of the LSU game was Brooks, with 21 points, a career high.  However, he had a sub-par game vs. FSU, with only 6 points, on 3-for-9 shooting.

Wagner had two solid games, with 15 points vs. LSU and 13 points vs. FSU.  He also had 10 rebounds in the FSU game, for a double-double.

Dickinson also had two solid games, with 12 points vs LSU and a team-high (tied) 14 points vs. FSU.  He had 11 rebounds in the LSU game, for a double-double.

Smith was a warrior out there, especially in the FSU game.  FSU played an aggressive full-court press the whole game, and Smith was the guy who had to bring the ball up court, often against a double-team.  He wasn’t perfect (2 turnovers), but he did a very good job.  He also chipped in 5 points vs. LSU and 8 points vs. FSU.

Johns had a decent game vs. LSU (7 points), and a great game (tied for team-high 14 points) vs. FSU.  He did a very good job filling in for Livers.

Austin Davis did a good job spelling Dickinson, with 1 point vs. LSU and 6 points vs. FSU.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Terrance Williams II played in both games, scoring 4 and 0 points.  He still plays too fast, and makes too many unforced mistakes.  Of course, he is still a freshman…

Who Else Played?

Jaron Faulds played in the closing minutes of the FSU game, and didn’t attempt a shot.

Jace Howard played in the closing minutes of the FSU game, and scored 3 points on an “and-1”.

Zeb Jackson played in the closing minutes of the FSU game, and missed his only shot attempt.

Adrien Nuñez played in the closing minutes of the FSU game, and missed his only shot attempt.

Who Didn’t Play?

Most of the scout team players (C.J. Baird, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, Brandon Wade, and Luke Wilson) didn’t play in either game.

What Does It Mean?

Michigan is still alive in the Big Dance, which is all you can ask.  Survive and advance.  All of the other Big Ten teams in the field were eliminated in the first two rounds:

  • Michigan State (11-seed) lost to UCLA (11-seed) in a “First Four” game on Thursday
  • Ohio State (2-seed) lost to Oral Roberts (15-seed) in a 1st round game on Friday
  • Purdue (4-seed) lost to North Texas (13-seed) in a 1st round game on Friday
  • Illinois (1-seed) lost to Loyola-Chicago (8-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Wisconsin (9-seed) lost to Baylor (1-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Rutgers (10-seed) lost to Houston (2-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Iowa (2-seed) lost to Oregon (7-seed) in a 2nd round game on Monday
  • Maryland (10-seed) lost to Alabama (2-seed) in a 2nd round game on Monday

Of those eight losses by the Big Ten teams, one of them was a “toss up” (MSU), three of them were expected (Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Maryland), and four of them were upsets (OSU, Purdue, Illinois, and Iowa).  The Big Ten hasn’t looked very good in this year’s tournament.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to continue play in the NCAA Tournament, in Indianapolis.  They play on Tuesday (03/30/2021, 10:00 p.m. EDT, TBS) vs. the #11 seed (UCLA).  If they win that game, they’ll move on to the Final Four, and play the winner of the West Region, either the #1 seed (Gonzaga) or the #6 seed (USC), on Saturday (04/03/2021).  The full bracket is here.

UCLA is currently 21-9.  So far in the NCAA Tournament, they beat 11-seed Michigan State in a “First Four” play-in game, beat 6-seed BYU in the 1st round, beat 14-seed Abilene Christian in the 2nd round, and beat 2-seed Alabama in the Sweet Sixteen.  During the regular season, they had impressive wins over Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon State, and less-than-impressive losses to San Diego State, Stanford, Washington State, and Oregon State.  They don’t have any superstars on the roster, and they don’t have much height: one 6’10” guy.  On paper, it looks like Michigan should be able to handle them, but they have played very well in the tournament so far.  This could be a tough, challenging game.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #18 – 03/22/2021 – Win And Advance

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this past week in the NCAA Tournament, and they won it.  The game was in West Lafayette, IN.  On Saturday (03/20/2021), they beat the #16 seed, Texas Southern, 82-66.  The win raises Michigan’s record to 21-4.

What Happened?

Michigan is the #1 seed in the East Region, and they were heavily favored to beat the #16 seed in the first-round game, which they did.  These 1-16 games are almost always an easy win for the #1 seed, except for that one year when it wasn’t (sorry, Virginia).  Even the 2-15 games are usually pretty winnable for the #2 seed, except for this year (sorry, Ohio State).  This year’s tournament has lots of upsets, so the battle cry for the top seeds is “win and advance”.  That’s what Michigan did.  Sorry, Illinois.  And Texas.  And West Virginia.  And Purdue.  And Virginia (again).  And Oklahoma State.  Those are all top 4 seeds that didn’t make it to the Sweet Sixteen.

The Texas Southern game wasn’t a dominating win, but it was a comfortable win.  Michigan led the entire game, and kept the lead in the “comfortable” range the whole time.  They led 7-0 early, and kept the lead in the 8-10 point range for the first 10 minutes, then pushed it into the 13-15 point range for the rest of the 1st half.  They led by 18 points (42-24) at halftime, and pushed the lead up into the 20-22 point range for the first 13 minutes of the 2nd half.  They seemed to lose interest at that point, and they let TSU creep as close as 12 points (73-61) with 3:40 to go, before closing out a 16-point win.

Stats

The stats for the game are solid.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (26-for-54 = 48.1%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (9-for-26 = 34.6%), and they shot free throws well enough (21-for-26 = 80.8%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (38-28), but lost the turnover battle (14-10).  They won this game with solid shooting and rebounding.

Who Started?

The starters for the game were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Brandon Johns, Jr., Mike Smith, and Franz WagnerIsaiah Livers is out “indefinitely” with a broken bone in his foot, so Johns started in his place.  Michigan didn’t miss Livers in this game, but they are likely to as the competition gets stronger.

Who Looked Good?

Smith was the high scorer for Michigan, with 18 points.  He also did a nice job running the offense, with 5 assists.

Dickinson had a good game, with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting.  On the down side, he only played 24 minutes, due to foul trouble, and he fouled out.

Brooks had 11 points, including 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range, along with 5 assists.

Johns also had 11 points.  He filled in nicely for Livers.

Wagner almost hit double figures, with 9 points.  He also had 9 rebounds and 6 assists.

Austin Davis did a good job spelling Dickinson, with 7 points.  However, he had foul trouble of his own, with 4 fouls in 10 minutes.  Yikes.

Zeb Jackson had his best game to date as a Wolverine, with 6 points in 8 quality minutes of action.  He hit his first two shot attempts, both 3-pointers.  He looked cool and confident out there.

Terrance Williams II looked pretty good out there, with 4 points and 3 rebounds.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Chaundee Brown, Jr. played 16 minutes, took one shot, and missed it.  Zero points.  He is one of the key players who needs to step up to help replace Livers, and he didn’t do it in this game.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

Two of the scholarship players who aren’t part of the main rotation (Jace Howard and Adrien Nuñez) didn’t play.

None of the scout team players (C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, Brandon Wade, and Luke Wilson) played.

What Does It Mean?

Michigan is still alive in the Big Dance, which is all you can ask.  Six of the nine Big Ten teams in the field have already been eliminated:

  • Michigan State (11-seed) lost to UCLA (11-seed) in a “First Four” game on Thursday
  • Ohio State (2-seed) lost to Oral Roberts (15-seed) in a 1st round game on Friday
  • Purdue (4-seed) lost to North Texas (13-seed) in a 1st round game on Friday
  • Illinois (1-seed) lost to Loyola-Chicago (8-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Wisconsin (9-seed) lost to Baylor (1-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Rutgers (10-seed) lost to Houston (2-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday

That leaves only three teams from the Big Ten left alive: Michigan (1-seed), Iowa (2-seed), and Maryland (10-seed).  They all have 2nd round games on Monday.

Of those six losses by the Big Ten teams, one of them was a “toss up” (MSU), two of them were expected (Wisconsin and Rutgers), and three of them were big upsets (OSU, Purdue, and Illinois).  The Big Ten hasn’t looked very good in this year’s tournament, but there’s still hope.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to continue play in the NCAA Tournament, in Indianapolis.  As mentioned above, they play on Monday (03/22/2021, 7:10 p.m. EDT, CBS) vs. the #8 seed (LSU).  If they win that game, they’ll move on to the Sweet Sixteen, and play the winner of the #4 seed (Florida State) vs. #5 seed (Colorado) game on either Saturday (03/27/2021) or Sunday.  The full bracket is here.

LSU won their 1st round game vs. the #9 seed (St. Bonaventure) 76-61.  Their record is 19-9, with quality wins over Arkansas, (#16) Tennessee, Missouri, and (#8) Arkansas, and less-than-impressive losses to St. Louis, Kentucky, and Georgia.  They don’t have any superstars on their roster, but they do have decent height: a 6’10” guy and a 6’11” guy.  They play fast and they score a lot, but they don’t play much defense.  This will be a serious challenge for Michigan, especially in a Big Dance full of upsets.  All Michigan needs to do is win and advance.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #17 – 03/15/2021 – Nice Win, Tough Loss

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this past week in the Big Ten Tournament, and they won the first and lost the second.  Both games were in Indianapolis, IN.  On Friday (03/12/2021), they beat the #8 seed, Maryland, 79-66, then on Saturday (03/13/2021), they lost to the #5 seed, (#9) Ohio State, 68-67.  The win and the loss leave Michigan with a record of 20-4.

What Happened?

The Maryland game was a nice win, but the OSU game was a heartbreaking loss.

The Maryland game didn’t start out very well.  Michigan led briefly, 2-0, then Maryland took control.  They were ahead 15-6 with 13:13 to go in the 1st half, when Michigan got back within 2 points (17-15) at the 11:05 mark.  Maryland pushed the lead back up to 12 points (36-24) with 4:45 left in the half, but that’s when Michigan woke up.  They ended the half on a 16-2 run, to lead by 2 at halftime, 40-38.  Maryland tied the score up (40-40) to start the 2nd half, then Michigan went ahead for good.  They pushed the lead up to 9 points (51-42) with 15:50 to go, and kept it in the 8-10 point range for the rest of the game.

The only dicey part came at the 10:44 mark: Maryland was down 10 points (57-47), and shot a 3-pointer that missed.  The ball went out of bounds, and it sure looked like it should have been Michigan’s ball, but the refs gave it to Maryland.  There was a media timeout, so Coach Howard headed out onto the floor on the Maryland side of midcourt to talk to the refs about the call, and somehow he got into a yelling match with Maryland’s head coach (Mark Turgeon).  Turgeon got a technical, and Howard got two technicals and was ejected from the game.  After the timeout, Maryland shot two free throws and got the ball.  They cut the Michigan lead to 5 points (57-52) with 9:49 to go, but Michigan shook it off, and pushed the lead back up to 13 points (65-52) at the 7:23 mark, and that was the game.  Maryland got as close as 6 points once (67-61 with 5:15 to go), but Michigan quickly pushed the lead back into the teens, and won by 13.  It was a good, solid win.

The OSU game was close for the entire 1st half, and well into the 2nd half.  OSU led for much of the 1st half, but Michigan went ahead (22-21) with 4:06 left in the half, and still led by one point (27-26) at halftime.  The 2nd half was more of the same, with OSU leading for most of the half, but Michigan finally getting a 1-point lead (43-42) with 11:40 to go.  That was Michigan’s last lead.  OSU went on an 11-0 run, to push the lead up into the 8-10 point range, and kept it there until the 1:55 mark, when it was 68-60.  That’s when Michigan made a final push, outscoring OSU 7-0 in the last 1:55, but they couldn’t get the last basket that they needed to win.  They had the ball, with no shot clock, and ran the clock down to 2 seconds before taking a low-percentage shot for the win.  It missed, and the clock ran out.  It was heartbreaking.

Stats

The stats for the Maryland game are very nice.  Michigan shot well overall (31-for-60 = 51.7%), they shot 3-pointers well (10-for-22 = 45.5%), and they were perfect shooting free throws (7-for-7 = 100.0%).  They won the rebounding battle (32-26) and the turnover battle (8-11).  They won this game with all-around play: overall shooting, 3-point shooting, rebounding, and defense.

The stats for the OSU game are terrible.  Michigan shot poorly overall (20-for-57 = 35.1%), they shot 3-pointers poorly (6-for-19 = 31.6%), but they did shoot free throws well (21-for-23 = 91.3%).  They barely lost the rebounding battle (37-36), and they won the turnover battle handily (2-9).  They lost the game with poor shooting, compounded by very hot 3-point shooting by OSU: 12-for-22 (54.5%).

Who Started?

The starters for the Maryland games were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Isaiah Livers, Mike Smith, and Franz Wagner.  Unfortunately, it turned out that Livers had been playing with a broken bone in his foot since the Illinois game (03/02/2021), and he didn’t play in the OSU game.  Instead, Brandon Johns, Jr. started in his place.

Who Looked Good?

Smith was the star of the Maryland game, with a team-high 18 points and a tournament-record 15 assists.  He also hit double figures in the OSU game (10 points), but he was ice-cold in that game: 1-for-11, including the terrible final shot that missed badly.  He scored 7 of his 10 points in the OSU game from the free throw line, to go with a 3-pointer.

Brooks hit double figures in both games (16 vs. Maryland, 12 vs. OSU), which was even more impressive because it wasn’t clear whether or not he’d even be able to play, due to an ankle injury in the away MSU game last week (03/07/2021).  He not only played, he played well.

Dickinson was the leading scorer in the OSU game (21 points), but he had a sub-par game vs. Maryland (6 points).

Wagner had a solid game vs. Maryland (16 points), but he had a miserable game vs. OSU (8 points, on 2-for-10 shooting).  He was held scoreless in the 2nd half of the OSU game.

Chaundee Brown, Jr. had a good game vs. Maryland (10 points), but didn’t do much vs. OSU (3 points, on 1-for-6 shooting).

Austin Davis had a solid week, with 6 points in each game.

Johns also had a solid week, with 7 points in each game, one off the bench (Maryland) and one as a starter (OSU).

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Livers only played in the Maryland game, and he was lousy: 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting.  Of course, we now know that he was playing with a broken foot.

Terrance Williams II only played in the OSU game, and he looked like a freshman, with 0 points.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

None of the scholarship players who aren’t part of the main rotation (Jace Howard, Zeb Jackson, and Adrien Nuñez) played in either game.

None of the scout team players (C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, Brandon Wade, and Luke Wilson) played in either game.

What Does It Mean?

Michigan didn’t win the Big Ten Tournament, which is disappointing.  They played very poorly for much of the OSU game, and OSU played better than they have all season.  That’s a bad combination.  On the other hand, it’s kind of impressive that Michigan managed to stay in that game, and have a chance to win it at the buzzer, without Livers.

On to the NCAA Tournament.  The good news is: Michigan is a #1 seed, in the East Region.  The bad news is: Michigan is staggering into the playoffs.  They have lost 3 of their last 5 games, and they haven’t won 2 games in a row in a couple weeks.  They are the weakest #1 seed I can remember.  I think anything beyond the Sweet 16 would be a pleasant surprise.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to play in the NCAA Tournament, in the Indianapolis area.  As mentioned above, they’re a #1 seed, and they start play on Saturday (03/20/2021, 3:00 p.m. EDT, CBS) in Purdue’s Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, IN, vs. the winner of the (#16 seed) play-in game between Mount St. Mary’s and Texas Southern, which is scheduled for Thursday (03/18/2021).  They should be able to win that game, regardless of the opponent, even without the services of Livers, who is questionable.

If they win that game, they’ll play on Monday (03/22/2021, TBA, TBA), vs. the winner of the game between the #8 seed (LSU) and the #9 seed (St. Bonaventure), which is also on Saturday.  This game will be trickier, but Michigan can still win it and move on to the Sweet 16.  Maybe by the next weekend Livers will be back at full strength, and Michigan will be able to play with the big boys sure to be around in the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

The other top teams in the East Region are: (#2) Alabama, (#3) Texas, and (#4) Florida State.  The other Big Ten teams in the East Region are: (#10) Maryland and (#11) Michigan State, but MSU has to win a play-in game vs. UCLA to get in the main bracket.  The full bracket is here.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!