Nothing But ‘Net – Week #23 – 04/04/2022 – Season Wrap-up, Final Grades, And Looking Ahead

The 2021-2022 season is over for the University of Michigan men’s basketball team, and it was a mixed bag.  It’s time to look back on the season, hand out final grades, and look ahead to next season.

Season Wrap-Up

Michigan ended the season with a record of 19-15 (11-9 in Big Ten).  They came in tied for 8th place in the Big Ten regular season standings, lost their only game in the Big Ten Tournament, won their first two games in the NCAA Tournament, then lost in the Sweet Sixteen.  On the one hand, this performance is well below pre-season expectations, but on the other hand, it exceeded most expectations from early February, when their record was 11-9 (5-5 in Big Ten).  Most of the pre-season “experts” picked Michigan as a Top-10 team, and I bought into it.  Things didn’t work out that way.

The season started out well enough, with solid wins in the (away) exhibition game (Wayne State) and the first 2 non-conference games (Buffalo at home and Prairie View A&M at a neutral site), then the first hints of trouble showed up: a 2-point home loss to Seton Hall.  At the time, Seton Hall wasn’t ranked, and Michigan had climbed to #4 in the AP Poll, so this was a shocking result.  By the end of the season, Seton Hall was a respectable 21-11, they were ranked for part of the season, and they were a #8 seed in the Big Dance, so this loss isn’t as bad as it looked at the time.

Michigan went out to Las Vegas for a pre-Thanksgiving tournament, the Roman Main Event.  They beat a pretty good UNLV team in their home town, but they looked terrible in losing to Arizona 80-62 two days later.  Once again, Arizona wasn’t ranked at the time, but they sure were by the end of the season.  They ended the season 33-4, ranked #2 in the final AP Poll, and a #1 seed in the Big Dance.  In hindsight, this was not a very bad loss at all, but it sure felt like it at the time.

Michigan returned home, beat a mediocre Tarleton State team by only 11 points, then they went back on the road, for an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at North Carolina.  UNC throttled them, 72-51.  Do you see the pattern yet?  At the time, UNC wasn’t ranked, but they sure were for much of the season.  They are currently 29-9, they’re a #8 seed in the Big Dance, and they are playing in the National Championship game tonight.  So, another loss that doesn’t look so bad in the rearview mirror.

Michigan returned home again, and beat a pretty good San Diego State team handily, 72-58.  This was one of Michigan’s better wins.  SDSU ended the season 23-9, and they were a #8 seed in the Big Dance.  Michigan followed up this win with another solid win, 102-67 at Nebraska.  Sure, Nebraska wasn’t predicted to be very good this season, but winning by 35 points on the road is pretty impressive.  Just when it looked like Michigan had finally turned the corner, they played their worst game of the season, losing 75-65 to lowly Minnesota in Crisler Arena.  This was one of the most embarrassing losses in the last 10 years.  Minnesota was dreadful this season, finishing 13-17 (4-16 in Big Ten), tied for last place in the conference with Nebraska.

Michigan returned home yet again, and beat a decent Southern Utah team, 87-50.  They were supposed to play Purdue-Fort Wayne in Crisler just before Christmas, but Fort Wayne had to cancel due to COVID-19 issues in their program.  There was no wiggle room in the schedule to reschedule the game, so it was just canceled.  Michigan’s final non-conference game was at Central Florida, and it was terrible.  Michigan led by 12 points midway through the 2nd half, then they fell apart and lost 85-71.  If the Minnesota loss a few weeks earlier was the worst loss of the season, this one was close behind.

On to the Big Ten!  Michigan was a perfect 12-0 all-time against Rutgers, so they should be able to beat them, even on the road, right?  Wrong.  Another disheartening loss.  However, as with several other opponents this season, Rutgers turned out to be a lot better than expected.  They ended up 18-14 (12-8 in Big Ten), and were a #11 seed in the Big Dance.

As if the Rutgers loss wasn’t bad enough, Michigan had COVID-19 issues in their program, and they had to postpone their next two games, both at home, against two of the tougher teams in the conference: (#10) Michigan State and (#4) Purdue.  At the time, it wasn’t clear when, or even if, the games would be rescheduled, but they were.  Of course, that made for a couple really busy weeks late in the season, but we’ll get to that.

Michigan went on the road again, and lost big at (#25) Illinois.  They beat Maryland in Ann Arbor, Indiana on the road, and Northwestern in Ann Arbor.  Ladies and gentlemen, that was Michigan’s longest winning streak of the season: 3 games in a row.

Back on the road, another loss, this time at (#10) Michigan State.  Back home, playing a team that they beat by 35 points on the road earlier in the season, Nebraska.  No problem, right?  Wrong!  They struggled mightily, but managed to squeak out a win, 85-79.  Back on the road, another Top-10 opponent, another loss: at (#4) Purdue.  The next game was a rare road win, at Penn State.  The season was hanging in the balance.

Look at the emerging pattern: besides the “awesome” 3-game winning streak, Michigan had almost always followed a win with a loss.  The next game was at home, but it was against (#3) Purdue.  This was one of the two rescheduled/make-up games from earlier in the season.  On paper, it looked like Michigan stood no chance.  On the court, it was Michigan’s best game of the season.  They dominated Purdue, 82-58.

Unfortunately, this 2-game mini winning streak was the last time Michigan won two games in a row until the NCAA Tournament.  The rest of the season looked like this:

A few comments on this batch of games:

The win at Iowa was one of Michigan’s better road wins this season, second only to their win at Ohio State to close out the regular season.

The win over Rutgers was nice revenge for their early loss to them on the road.  Ditto for the MSU game.

It makes no sense that Michigan could beat Iowa on the road, then lose to them at home.  Same idea for the Indiana game – Michigan beat them on the road, then lost to them on a neutral court.  It makes no sense.

One of the bigger stories this season came right after the loss at Wisconsin.  Coach Howard was upset by the behavior of some of the Wisconsin coaches and players during the game, and he lost his temper and slapped one of the Wisconsin assistant coaches in the post-game handshake line.  A small brawl broke out, and in the aftermath, Howard was suspended for the last five games of the regular season, two Michigan players (Moussa Diabate and Terrance Williams II) were suspended for one game, one Wisconsin player was suspended for one game, and the Wisconsin head coach (Greg Gard) was given a slap on the wrist.  While Howard was suspended, associate head coach Phil Martelli coached the team, and did a fine job.

The loss to Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament was right up there in the “sad” category.  Once again, Michigan had a nice lead (17 points) midway through the 2nd half, when they just stopped playing.  That game, along with the Minnesota and UCF games, were the only three really bad games Michigan played all season.  The rest of their losses were all explainable and forgivable.

That brings us to the NCAA Tournament.  As the #11 seed, Michigan was not expected to beat the #6 seed ([#24] Colorado State) in the first round, and they certainly were not expected to beat the #3 seed ([#5] Tennessee) in the second round.  Losing to the #2 seed ([#6] Villanova) is nothing to be ashamed of.  Villanova went on to play in the Final Four.

So, what happened?  How did pre-season #6 Michigan end up unranked and a #11 seed in the Big Dance?  I think all of the experts were way too optimistic about the new players, including incoming freshmen and a transfer player.  They eventually all contributed, but not at the beginning of the season, and not consistently.  The freshmen often played like freshmen.  It took longer than expected to develop the right team chemistry.  The schedule also turned out to be a lot more challenging than it looked before the season.

Final Grades

Here are the final grades, with mid-term grades listed first.

Freshman Eligibility

  • Isaiah Barnes (Inc./Inc.) – Isaiah played in 2 games, and didn’t attempt a shot.  He might be eligible for a redshirt, but probably not.
  • Kobe Bufkin (C+/C+) – Kobe played in 28 games, and scored 85 points.  He looked good in a few games (Prairie View A&M, Southern Utah, Central Florida, and away Iowa) and like a freshman in the rest.  He didn’t shoot very well from 3-point range (8-for-36 = 22.2%), and he had more turnovers (15) than assists (8).
  • Ian Burns (Inc./Inc.) – Ian was on the scout team, and he only played 2 minutes in 2 games.  He missed his only shot attempt.
  • Frankie Collins (C+/B-) – Frankie played in 31 games, and scored 88 points.  He looked good in a couple games (San Diego State and Colorado State) and like a freshman in the rest.  He shot horribly from 3-point range (3-for-18 = 16.7%), and he had too many turnovers (35).  However, he did have more assists (43) than turnovers.  He played good defense, and he ran the team fairly well when he played point guard.
  • Moussa Diabate (B/B+) – Moussa played in 32 games (started 26) and scored 289 points.  He has also grabbed 92 rebounds and blocked 11 shots.  He is very athletic, and brings lots of energy to the team when he’s out there.  He also fouls too much.
  • Caleb Houstan (B+/B+) – Caleb started all 34 games this season and scored 343 points.  He shot pretty well from 3-point range (60-for-169 = 35.5%) and he snagged 135 rebounds.  He had several very good games, and a few very bad games.  Even when he had a good game, he was too quiet out there.  He needs to show some emotion to get the rest of the team fired up.
  • Will Tschetter (Inc./Inc.) – Will was voluntarily redshirted.  He didn’t play in any games this season.  He was the Most Valuable Cheerleader on the bench.

Sophomore Eligibility

  • Hunter Dickinson (A-/A) – Hunter’s stats were actually up from last season, but it didn’t feel like it.  He started out slower this season, almost appearing disinterested during some of the non-conference losses, but he picked up steam as the season went along.  One aspect of his game is definitely better this season: 3-point shooting.  Last season, he was 0-for-4.  This season, he was 21-for-64 (32.8%).  He led the team in scoring (18.6 points/game), rebounding (8.6 rebounds/game), and blocks (49).  Unfortunately, he also led the team in fouls and turnovers.
  • Jace Howard (C-/C-) – Jace played in 14 games and scored 16 points.  He even hit a 3-pointer.  He was often brought in for defensive purposes, and he contributed to a mean full-court press.
  • Terrance Williams II (C/C+) – Terrance played in 31 games (started 1), and scored 146 points.  He’s had a couple great games (Buffalo, at Nebraska, at Indiana, and at Ohio State) and a bunch of forgettable games.  He was the 2nd best 3-point shooter on the team (20-for-52 = 38.5%).  He’s a good defender, and a good rebounder for his size.

Junior Eligibility

  • Brandon Wade (Inc./Inc.) – Brandon was on the scout team, and he didn’t appear in any games this season.

Senior Eligibility

  • Eli Brooks (B/A-) – Eli started all 34 games this season.  He had a real up-and-down season.  He started out strong, as the only Michigan player scoring in double figures for the first 10 games, then he hit a rough patch, with only 2 decent games in the next 6.  He got back on track, and finished the season well, with double figures (or very close) in 17 of his last 18 games.  He was the 2nd leading scorer on the team (12.8 points/game), the leading 3-point shooter (56-for-142 = 39.4%), 2nd on the team in assists (100), and 1st on the team in steals (40).  He ended his career with a couple all-time Michigan records:  most wins (124) and most games played (159).
  • Jaron Faulds (C/C) – Jaron played in 15 games, and scored 13 points.  He provided valuable minutes when Dickinson wasn’t available.
  • Brandon Johns, Jr. (C-/D+) – Brandon was the biggest disappointment on the team this season.  As a senior with some starting experience, a lot was expected from him, and he didn’t deliver.  In fact, after starting the first 6 games, he lost his starting role to Diabate.  He played in 31 games (started 9), and scored 100 points.  He had one good game (at Nebraska) and a bunch of forgettable games including 10 games with 0 points and 11 games with less than 5 points.
  • DeVante’ Jones (B/B+) – DeVante’ started every game this season but one (Colorado State), and was the main point guard.  He started the season slowly, but once he got the chemistry going, he did fine.  He was the 3rd leading scorer on the team (10.3 points/game), and he led the team in assists (151), against 71 turnovers.  His 3-point shooting was also pretty good: 27-for-79 = 34.2%.
  • Adrien Nuñez (Inc./Inc.) – Adrien played in 10 games, and scored 8 points.  For someone who was recruited as a 3-point specialist, his numbers were lousy: 1-for-6.

Looking Ahead

There are five main considerations for next season’s roster:

  • Who’s graduating?
  • Who’s leaving early for the NBA Draft?
  • Who’s transferring?
  • Who are the incoming freshmen?
  • Who will join the team from the transfer portal?

Let’s check out each of these considerations.

Who’s Graduating?

The question of who’s graduating used to be simpler, but with the new COVID-19 rules, it’s a little trickier.  The only player on the roster who has used up all his eligibility (5 years!) is Eli Brooks.  The other four members of the senior class (Jaron Faulds, Brandon Johns, Jr., DeVante’ Jones, and Adrien Nuñez) are all eligible to return for one more season, thanks to the COVID-19 rules.  Jones has already announced that he is not returning, and will be entering the NBA Draft.  The other three players have not announced their intentions, but I would be surprised if any of them returned.

Who’s Leaving Early For The NBA Draft?

There are a few important dates related to the NBA Draft:

  • 04/24/2022 – The deadline for underclassmen wishing to declare for the draft.
  • 06/01/2022 – The deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft and maintain their collegiate eligibility.
  • 06/23/2022 – The NBA Draft.

At this point, only one player from this season’s team has declared that he is entering the NBA Draft: DeVante’ Jones.  However, there are three more players who might consider joining him: Hunter Dickinson, Moussa Diabate, and Caleb Houstan.  None of the “mock” drafts I have seen show any Michigan players, including Jones, so it is hard to imagine any of the three underclassmen staying in the draft, although they might all put their names in so they can be evaluated, then withdraw from the draft by 06/01/2022.  Dickinson did this last season, and he returned for this season based on the feedback he got from the process.  Aside from wanting them all back for next season’s team, I didn’t see NBA skills from any of them this season.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Who’s Transferring?

At this point, no one from this season’s team has announced their desire to enter the infamous Transfer Portal.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two players decided to transfer.  The most likely is Kobe Bufkin, but I haven’t heard anything concrete.

Who Are The Incoming Freshmen?

There are 4 incoming freshmen committed to Michigan for next season:

  • Gregg Glenn III (6’7”, 210 pounds, F) – Gregg is a 4-star power forward.  He’ll be a force in the paint, but his outside shot needs some work.
  • Jett Howard (6’7”, 220 pounds, G) – Jett is a 4-star shooting guard.  Yes, he’s the younger of Coach Howard’s two sons, and probably the more talented.  He’s a good defender, and he’s got a nice jump shot.
  • Dug McDaniel (5’11”, 155 pounds, G) – Dug is a 4-star point guard.  He’s kind of short, but very quick, with good court vision and a decent outside shot.
  • Tarris Reed, Jr. (6’10”, 230 pounds, C) – Tarris is a 4-star center.  He appears to have all the moves for a back-to-the-basket center, but his jump shot is suspect from mid-range and out.

Who Will Join The Team From The Transfer Portal?

At this point, Coach Howard hasn’t snagged anyone from the Transfer Portal, but there are plenty of possibilities out there.  The big problem is that there aren’t any open scholarships.  However, Coach Howard has some flexibility, since he can afford to take one or both of his sons off scholarship and switch them to walk-on status.  Also, it wouldn’t be too surprising if one or two players left for the NBA Draft, and/or one or two players entered the Transfer Portal.

Projected Roster And Lineups

Putting all of the above together, my best guess at the roster for next season is:

  • Gregg Glenn III – Freshman eligibility
  • Jett Howard – Freshman eligibility
  • Dug McDaniel – Freshman eligibility
  • Tarris Reed, Jr. – Freshman eligibility
  • Will Tschetter – Freshman eligibility (redshirt)
  • Isaiah Barnes – Sophomore eligibility
  • Kobe Bufkin – Sophomore eligibility
  • Frankie Collins – Sophomore eligibility
  • Moussa Diabate – Sophomore eligibility
  • Caleb Houstan – Sophomore eligibility
  • Hunter Dickinson – Junior eligibility
  • Jace Howard – Junior eligibility
  • Terrance Williams II – Junior eligibility

Based on this roster, the positional lineups look like this:

  • Point Guard: Collins, Bufkin, McDaniel
  • Shooting Guard: Bufkin, Collins, Jett Howard, Barnes, McDaniel
  • Small Forward: Houstan, Barnes, Jett Howard, Tschetter, Jace Howard
  • Power Forward: Diabate, Reed, Glenn, Tschetter
  • Center: Dickinson, Diabate, Reed

As you can see, there are lots of possible combinations.

Check back in mid-October for next season’s “Nothing But ‘Net”.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #22 – 03/28/2022 – Sweet, But Not Elite

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this past week in the NCAA Tournament, and they lost it.  Since the Big Dance is single elimination, they’re done, and the season is over.  They were the #11 seed in the South Region, and they played this game in San Antonio, TX.  On Thursday (03/24/2022), they lost to the #2 seed (#6) Villanova 63-55.  Michigan’s final season record is 19-15 (11-9 in Big Ten).

What Happened?

The #11 seed isn’t even supposed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, so losing to the #2 seed is not surprising or embarrassing.  In fact, Villanova went on to beat the #5 seed (Houston) in the Elite Eight, and they’re now in the Final Four.

Michigan played Villanova even for most of the game, with just a couple short scoring droughts that cost them the game.  Michigan led (very) early, 5-1, with 18:02 to go, and still led 9-8 at the 14:33 mark, when Villanova started to pull away.  They led by 7 points (18-11) with 10:30 to go in the half, before Michigan clawed their way back.  UM led 22-20 at the 3:58 mark, and the score was tied (22-22) at the 3:42 mark, but then Villanova went ahead for good.  They only led by 3 (31-28) at halftime, but that was as close as Michigan got in the 2nd half.  Villanova kept their lead in the 6-8 point range for the rest of the game, winning by 8.  Michigan missed several point-blank shots that could have gotten them back into the game.  It was very frustrating.

Stats

The stats for the game are just plain sad.  Michigan shot poorly overall (21-for-61 = 34.4%), they shot 3-pointers poorly (6-for-18 = 33.3%), and they shot free throws horribly (7-for-14 = 50.0%).  They won the rebounding battle (41-38), but lost the turnover battle (8-7).  They lost this game with poor shooting, especially in the paint and at the free throw line.

Who Started?

The starters were Eli Brooks, Moussa Diabate, Hunter Dickinson, Caleb Houstan, and DeVante’ Jones.

Who Looked Good?

Dickinson was the leading scorer for Michigan, with 15 points.  He also had 15 rebounds, for a solid double-double.  Unfortunately, he was the main offender in the “missing point-blank shots” category, especially in the last few minutes.  He shot 6-for-16, which is way below his season shooting percentage.  If he had had his normal efficient shooting performance, Michigan would have won.

Brooks was the only other Michigan player in double figures, with 14 points.  He also shot poorly (5-for-14), and he missed his share of layups and short jumpers in crunch time.

Jones had a decent game, with 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Diabate had a decent game, with 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots.

Terrance Williams II hit a big 3-pointer, made both of his free throws, and that was it, for 5 points.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Houstan scored Michigan’s first 5 points, all in the first 2 minutes, then he didn’t score again.

Frankie Collins scored 2 points on 1-for-3 shooting.

Brandon Johns, Jr. was worthless out there, with 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

Isaiah Barnes, Kobe Bufkin, Jace Howard, Adrien Nuñez, and Will Tschetter are the scholarship players who didn’t play.

Ian Burns, Jaron Faulds, and Brandon Wade are the players on the scout team who didn’t play.

What Does It Mean?

It was a rollercoaster season for Michigan, with high expectations in October, despair in February, a slim glimmer of hope in the first 2 rounds of the Big Dance, and an unceremonious exit last week.  More about that in the season wrap-up, next week.

What’s Next?

Clean out the lockers.  The season is over.

Check back next week for the season wrap-up, final grades, and a look ahead at next season.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #21 – 03/21/2022 – Sweet Again, Times Five

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this past week in the NCAA Tournament, and they won them both.  They are the #11 seed in the South Region, and they played the first two rounds in Indianapolis, IN.  On Thursday (03/17/2022), they beat the #6 seed (#24) Colorado State 75-63, then on Saturday (03/19/2022), they beat the #3 seed (#5) Tennessee 76-68.  The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 19-14.  They are now in the Sweet Sixteen.

What Happened?

These were two huge wins, especially since Michigan was the lower seed in both games.  It’s a big deal that Michigan is moving on to the Sweet Sixteen, and it’s even more impressive that Michigan has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the last five NCAA Tournaments.  No other team in the Big Ten can come close to this achievement.  In fact, since Michigan was the only Big Ten team to reach the Sweet Sixteen last season, no other team is close to five in a row.  Purdue is the only other Big Ten team to make it to the Sweet Sixteen this season.

The other big story this week was Michigan FINALLY breaking “The Pattern”.  Starting with the home Purdue game on 02/10/2022, Michigan had gone W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W.  When they won the CSU game, things didn’t look good for the UT game, but Michigan finally won two games in a row, at the right time.

Both games were close and exciting, and Michigan came from behind in both games to win in the last few minutes.  CSU missed their first 3-point attempt, then made their next four in a row, along with a 2-point shot, and they jumped out to a quick 14-7 lead at the 15:18 mark.  Michigan hung around, and got within 5 points (18-13) with 9:25 to go, when CSU went on a bruising 10-0 run to go up by 15 points (28-13) at the 4:44 mark.  Michigan could have packed it in at this point, but they responded to adversity with poise, and slowly fought their way back.  They outscored CSU 16-8 to close out the half, down 36-29.  Michigan came out hot to start the 2nd half, and went on a 6-2 run to get within 3 points (38-35) at the 18:02 mark.  CSU pushed the lead back up to 6 points (44-38) with 15:27 to go, but Michigan answered with a 7-0 run to take the lead for the first time in a while, 45-44, with 12:53 left.  CSU took the lead back, pushed it up to 4 points, and had their last lead (49-47) at the 11:03 mark.  Michigan went ahead for good, 50-49, with 10:30 to go, pushed the lead up to the 6-8 point range, and made their free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.  It was a solid, impressive win over a good CSU team.

Not many people gave Michigan much of a chance against UT.  Unlike the CSU game, Michigan started this game hot, and led 10-2 at the 17:03 mark.  That didn’t last long, and UT cut the lead to 2 points (10-8) with 15:53 left in the half.  Michigan held onto a slim lead until the 9:36 mark, when UT went ahead, 18-17.  UM went back ahead, then the game was tied a couple times.  Michigan pulled ahead again (24-22) with 6:27 to go, and kept the lead until the 3:02 mark, when UT went back ahead, 31-30.  UT closed out the half with a 6-0 run, to lead 37-32.  Once again, Michigan opened the 2nd half with strong play, and managed to tie the game up (45-45) at the 15:03 mark.  For the next 4 minutes, the lead bounced back and forth, with Michigan up 54-53 with 11:29 to go.  Michigan went cold, and UT got hot, and suddenly UT was ahead 60-54 with 8:27 left.  Once again, Michigan patiently crept back into the game, and tied it up (60-60) at the 5:03 mark.  It was still tied (62-62) with 4:01 left, when Michigan took the lead for good.  Their lead was only 2 points (68-66) with 1:27 to go, but Michigan closed out the game with an 8-2 run, including 6 free throws, to win by 8.  It was a glorious victory over a Top-5 opponent.

Stats

The stats for the CSU game are solid, but not gaudy.  Michigan shot well overall (26-for-48 = 54.2%), they shot 3-pointers poorly (4-for-14 = 28.6%), and they shot free throws very well (19-for-22 = 86.4%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (36-25), but lost the turnover battle (15-11).  They won this game at the free throw line, where CSU only shot 5-for-7.

The stats for the UT game are very similar to the CSU stats.  Michigan shot well overall (27-for-54 = 50.0%), they shot 3-pointers decently (6-for-16 = 37.5%), and they shot free throws well (16-for-20 = 80.0%).  They won the rebounding battle (36-33), but lost the turnover battle (15-7).  They won this game with defense, especially 3-point defense, holding UT to 2-for-18 shooting from deep.

Who Started?

The starters for the CSU game were Eli Brooks, Frankie Collins, Moussa Diabate, Hunter Dickinson, and Caleb Houstan.  Collins started in place of DeVante’ Jones, who missed the CSU game with a concussion.  Jones was back as a starter for the UT game.

Who Looked Good?

Dickinson came to play.  He was Michigan’s leading scorer in both games, with 21 and 27 points.  He was very efficient in both games: 8-for-10 shooting vs. CSU, and 8-for-13 vs. UT.  He contributed a lot more than just points though: He had 6 rebounds and 4 blocked shots vs. CSU, and 11 rebounds (for a double-double) and 4 assists vs. UT.  He even shot 3-for-5 from 3-point range in the UT game.  He was awesome.

Brooks is playing like a 5th year senior who doesn’t want his Michigan career to end.  He was Michigan’s 2nd leading scorer in both games, with 16 and 23 points.  He also had 7 rebounds and 6 assists vs. CSU, and 5 more assists vs. UT.

Diabate had one good game (13 points, 6 rebounds) vs. UT, and one decent game (7 points, 9 rebounds) vs. CSU.

Houstan was one of the heroes of the CSU game (13 points, 3-for-8 shooting from deep), but he was a complete non-factor in the UT game (0 points on 0-for-4 shooting).  His three 3-pointers in the 2nd half of the CSU game got Michigan back in the game when it was slipping away.  It’s too bad he couldn’t get anything going in the UT game.

Collins had one great game (14 points, 6 rebounds) vs. CSU, and one mediocre game (2 points) vs. UT.  He was another of the heroes of the CSU game.  His 14 points were a new career high, and he even hit another 3-pointer, his first since mid-December.  He did a very nice job running the offense in Jones’ absence.  He wasn’t nearly as effective vs. UT.

Terrance Williams II had a quiet game vs. CSU (2 points on free throws), but he was a big reason that Michigan won the UT game.  He hit a huge 3-pointer, but his biggest contribution was a pair of offensive rebound-putback baskets late in the 2nd half, when UT was trying to come back.  Those were very important points.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Jones only played 11 minutes in the UT game, all in the 1st half, and only scored 2 points.  He apparently hurt his wrist, and he banged his head against the floor, and that was it for him.

Brandon Johns, Jr. was worthless out there, with 0 points in both games.

Who Else Played?

Kobe Bufkin only played in the CSU game, and scored 2 points on free throws.

Who Didn’t Play?

Isaiah Barnes, Jace Howard, Adrien Nuñez, and Will Tschetter are the scholarship players who didn’t play in either game.

Ian Burns, Jaron Faulds, and Brandon Wade are the players on the scout team who didn’t play in either game.

What Does It Mean?

Last week, we were holding our breath and crossing our fingers, hoping Michigan would be in the Big Dance.  This week, we’re celebrating two solid victories and looking for more in the Sweet Sixteen.  At the beginning of the season, Michigan was ranked #6 and the Sweet Sixteen was taken for granted, but as the season went on and Michigan underachieved, just making the tournament became the new goal.  Now, Michigan is “playing with house money”.  Winning the first round game vs. CSU was the break-even point, and beating UT was gravy.  Any further wins are all beyond what was expected going into the NCAA Tournament.

What’s Next?

This week Michigan continues play in the NCAA Tournament.  As mentioned above, they are the #11 seed in the South Region.  Their next game is on Thursday (03/24/2022, 7:30 p.m. EDT, TBS) vs. the #2 seed (#6) Villanova, in San Antonio (TX).  If they win and advance to the Elite Eight, they’ll play the winner of the (#1 seed) Arizona/(#5 seed) Houston game on Saturday (03/26/2022, TBA, TBS) for a trip to the Final Four.  Here’s the full bracket.

Villanova is currently 28-7 (16-4 in Big East).  During the regular season, they had impressive wins over (#17) Tennessee, (#15) Seton Hall (twice), Creighton, (#17) Connecticut (twice), and (#9) Providence.  They lost to (#2) UCLA, (#6) Purdue, (#2) Baylor, Creighton, Marquette (twice), and (#21) Connecticut.  A couple of those losses were pretty bad: 57-36 to Baylor and 79-59 to Creighton.  So far in the Big Dance, they have beaten (#15 seed) Delaware and (#7 seed) Ohio State.  They have one noteworthy player (Collin Gillespie), but no height (no one over 6’9”).  If Michigan can get the ball inside to Dickinson, he could have a field day.

Note that Michigan has a special relationship with Villanova.  They met in the National Championship game back on 04/02/2018, in San Antonio, and Villanova won 79-62.  Three players from that Villanova team who played in that game are still playing on this season’s team: Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Collin Gillespie, and Jermaine Samuels.  For Michigan, Eli Brooks is the only player on this season’s team who played in that championship game.  Michigan will be out to avenge that loss.

Michigan has played Villanova since that loss in the championship game, the next season at their place, and Michigan throttled them 73-46 on 11/14/2018.

Check back next week to find out what happened and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #20 – 03/14/2022 – A Non-Fatal Collapse

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this past week in the Big Ten Tournament, and they lost it.  On Thursday (03/10/2022), they lost to Indiana 74-69 in Indianapolis, IN.  The loss lowers Michigan’s record to 17-14 (11-9 in Big Ten).

What Happened?

First things first: Despite losing in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan was still selected to play in the NCAA Tournament, starting this week.  They are the #11 seed in the South Region, which seems about right.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that Michigan collapsed in the last 12:52 of the IU game, although this collapse proved to be non-fatal, since Michigan still made it to the Big Dance.

On paper, this is just another loss in a season full of them.  It was expected to be a close game, and it was.  Michigan was the #8 seed in the tournament, and Indiana was the #9 seed.  Michigan had beaten IU at their place by 18 points back in late January, and UM was favored by 3 points in this game.  Losing by 5 points in a tournament game, that’s not so bad, is it?  Well, it is when you give up a 17-point lead in the last 12:52 of the game, and lose by 5.  The game was close for the first few minutes, and was all tied up (10-10) with 13:54 to go in the 1st half.  Michigan went on a nice 11-0 run, and led by 11 (21-10) at the 8:48 mark.  They kept the lead in the 11-13 point range for the rest of the half, and led by 13 at halftime, 41-28.  IU started the 2nd half strong, and got back within 8 points (43-35) with 18:05 to go.  Michigan promptly regained control, and pushed the lead up into the 13-15 point range.  They kept it there until the 12:52 mark when … they just stopped playing.  At that point, the score was 60-43, and Michigan had been scoring regularly.  They went completely cold, and IU got hot, and the last 12:52 were just plain miserable.  IU went on a 9-0 run to get within 8 points (60-52) with 9:19 to go, then Michigan made 2 free throws to momentarily stop the run.  IU went on another run, this one 11-0, to lead 63-62 at the 5:39 mark.  Michigan made 2 more free throws, for their final lead (64-63) with 4:37 left.  Michigan finally made a basket at the 1:42 mark, to pull within 5 points (71-66), and a 3-pointer at the 0:44 mark to pull within 2 points (71-69), but IU made their free throws to win by 5.

Take a good look at that: from the 12:52 mark to the 1:42 mark (11 minutes and 10 seconds), Michigan only scored 4 points, all on free throws.  In that miserable stretch they did the following on offense:

  • 12:08 – Turnover
  • 11:08 – Missed jumper
  • 10:42 – Missed layup (in the paint)
  • 10:19 – Missed jumper (in the paint)
  • 10:00 – Turnover
  • 09:42 – Turnover
  • 09:01 – Missed jumper (in the paint)
  • 08:59 – Turnover
  • 08:36 – 2 made free throws
  • 07:46 – Turnover
  • 07:13 – Missed jumper
  • 06:39 – Missed jumper (in the paint)
  • 06:28 – Missed 3-pointer
  • 06:27 – Turnover
  • 05:51 – Missed 3-pointer
  • 05:15 – Missed jumper
  • 04:37 – 2 made free throws
  • 04:06 – Missed 3-pointer
  • 03:57 – Missed jumper
  • 03:16 – Missed jumper (in the paint)
  • 03:09 – Turnover
  • 02:19 – Missed 3-pointer

That’s 7 turnovers, 8 missed jumpers, 1 missed layup, and 4 missed 3-pointers, for a total of 13 missed shots in a row.  5 of the 8 of those missed jumpers were in the paint.  It was horrible.

Stats

Not surprisingly, the stats for the game are lousy.  Michigan shot poorly overall (22-for-58 = 37.9%), they shot 3-pointers poorly (6-for-20 = 30.0%), but they did shoot free throws well (19-for-21 = 90.5%).  They won the rebounding battle (34-32), and they tied the turnover battle (12-12).  They lost this game with that 0-for-13 shooting collapse.  Up to that point, Michigan was shooting decently: 20-for-45 = 44.4%.  If they had kept that up, they would have made 5 or 6 shots in that stretch of 13 shots, for 10-12 points, more than enough to win the game.

Who Started?

The starters were Eli Brooks, Moussa Diabate, Hunter Dickinson, Caleb Houstan, and DeVante’ Jones.

Who Looked Good?

Jones was the leading scorer for Michigan, with 18 points on decent shooting (5-for-10).

Brooks scored 17 points, but he didn’t shoot well: 4-for-13 overall, 2-for-5 from 3-point range.

Dickinson had a strong 1st half, with 13 points, but he only had 2 points in the 2nd half, with 15:26 to go.  He disappeared when Michigan needed him the most.

Houstan almost hit double figures, with 9 points.  After going scoreless in the 1st half, he hit three 3-pointers in a row in a 4-minute stretch early in the 2nd half, as Michigan built up the 17-point lead, then he went cold again.  He ended up shooting 3-for-10 overall, 3-for-8 from 3-point range.

Diabate had a lousy game offensively (4 points), but he did haul in 12 rebounds and block 2 shots.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Frankie Collins scored 2 points.

Brandon Johns, Jr. scored 4 points.

Terrance Williams II was scoreless.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

Isaiah Barnes, Kobe Bufkin, Jace Howard, Adrien Nuñez, and Will Tschetter are the scholarship players who didn’t play.

Ian Burns, Jaron Faulds, and Brandon Wade are the players on the scout team who didn’t play.

What Does It Mean?

If Michigan had just hung on and beaten IU, they wouldn’t have had to worry about making the NCAA Tournament, but they still managed to sneak in, even with the heartbreaking loss.  Now that they’re in, they need to start winning a few games in a row.  Starting with the home Purdue game on 02/10/2022, Michigan has gone W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L.  In the Big Dance, one loss and you go home.

What’s Next?

This week Michigan is scheduled to play in the NCAA Tournament.  As mentioned above, they are the #11 seed in the South Region.  They’re scheduled to play their first game on Thursday (03/17/2022, 12:15 p.m., CBS) in Indianapolis, IN, against the #6 seed, (#23) Colorado State.  If they manage to win that one, they’re scheduled to play again on Saturday (03/19/2022, TBA, TBA) against the winner of the game between the #3 seed (Tennessee) and the #14 seed (Longwood).  The other high seeds in the South Region are (#1 seed) Arizona, (#2 seed) Villanova, and (#4 seed) Illinois.  Here’s the full bracket.

Colorado State went 25-5 (14-4 in the Mountain West).  They didn’t play many games against ranked opponents, so they don’t have many impressive wins.  They did beat Creighton and St. Mary’s, but they also lost to San Diego State (twice, by 30 and 5), to UNLV (twice, by 14 and 21), and to Wyoming.  They don’t have any noteworthy players, but they do have some height: a 6’10” forward and a 7’1” center.  It’s worth noting that Michigan beat UNLV in Las Vegas in the Thanksgiving tournament, and UNLV beat Colorado State twice.  This is a game that Michigan can win, as long as they don’t have any 11-minute meltdowns.

Check back next week to find out what happened and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #19 – 03/07/2022 – Two Out Of Three Is Pretty Good

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played three games this past week, and they won two and lost one.  On Tuesday (03/01/2022), they beat (#25) Michigan State 87-70 in Crisler Arena, on Thursday (03/03/2022), they lost to (#24) Iowa 82-71 in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (03/06/2022), they beat (#23) Ohio State 75-69 in Columbus.  These were the last three games of the regular season.  The two wins and one loss leave Michigan with a final regular season record of 17-13 (11-9 in Big Ten), tied for 7th place in the standings.

What Happened?

Before we look at this week’s games, a quick note on an omission:  In the last two articles I’ve talked about Coach Howard and his 5-game suspension for his role in the handshake debacle after the Wisconsin game, but I failed to mention that the Associate Head Coach, Phil Martelli, has been the acting head coach for those five games.  He has done a wonderful job filling in for Coach Howard, going 3-2.  Now that the regular season is over, Coach Howard will be back as head coach.  Back to the game descriptions.

Take a look at those dates in the first section: Tuesday 03/01, Thursday 03/03, and Sunday 03/06.  Add in the previous game, a home loss to (#15) Illinois on Sunday 02/27.  That’s four games in eight days, including a stretch of three games in five days.  That stretch was exhausting just to watch (and usher), so you can imagine how tiring it was for the players.  The Michigan players looked like they were running on fumes in the Iowa game, which was their third game in five days.  Winning two of the last three was quite an accomplishment, especially against three straight ranked opponents, including one of the road, in Columbus, on their Senior Day.

The MSU win was a thing of beauty.  Except for maybe the home win over (#4) Purdue in mid-February, it was the best game Michigan played all season.  The game was close early, until Michigan went ahead for good (12-11) at the 16:33 mark.  They pushed the lead up into double digits, and led by 16 points (44-28) at halftime.  They grew the lead even further in the 2nd half, up to 21 points (62-41) with 12:51 to go.  Michigan stalled, and MSU crept to within 12 points (67-55) at the 8:00 mark.  Michigan pushed the lead back to 14-16 points, but MSU hung around, and it was back to 12 points (75-63) with 4:34 to go.  Michigan finished strong, and won by 17 points.  It was a solid, dominating win.

The Iowa game was miserable.  Iowa hit their first three 3-pointers, all in the first 4 minutes, and Michigan missed their first six shots, and Iowa was up 11-4 at the first media timeout (15:33 mark).  The pattern continued: Iowa was hot and Michigan was not, and the Iowa lead grew to 15 points (26-11) with 10:07 left in the half.  It got as high as 18 points, and was 17 points (47-30) at halftime.  Michigan tried to creep back into the game early in the 2nd half, and got within 13 points (49-36) at the 18:12 mark, but Iowa answered the small Michigan run, and kept the lead in the 16-18 range.  Michigan finally got the deficit down to single digits (71-62) with 5:34 left, and then down to 7 points (73-66) with 3:00 to go, but that was as close as they got.  Iowa led wire-to-wire, and won by 11.  Michigan looked tired and flat out there.  It was a lousy Senior Night.

The OSU game was a miracle.  Michigan has had a tough time recently in Columbus, and it was Ohio State’s Senior Day.  To make things even worse, Michigan had to play without their star player, Hunter Dickinson, who was a last-minute scratch with food poisoning.  It looked hopeless, but Michigan managed to hang around with OSU for much of the 1st half.  The lead went back and forth, and OSU was only up by one point (29-28) with 3:16 left in the half.  Unfortunately, OSU went on an 8-2 run to end the half, up 7 points (37-30).  The 2nd half is when the miracle happened.  Michigan tied the game (39-39) at the 15:50 mark, and the lead went back and forth a couple times, then Michigan went ahead for good (45-43) with 14:18 to go.  They pushed their lead as high as 12 points (56-44 with 10:18 left), and still led by 11 points (60-49) with 7:31 to go.  OSU came storming back, and got within 4 points several times, but never any closer.  Michigan played tough in the last 2 minutes, made their free throws, and won by 6 points.  It was an amazing, unlikely victory.

Stats

The stats for the MSU game are great.  Michigan shot very well overall (32-for-55 = 58.2%), they shot 3-pointers very well (7-for-12 = 58.3%), and they shot free throws well enough (16-for-22 = 72.7%).  They won the rebounding battle (33-28), but lost the turnover battle (11-10).  They won this game with great shooting, both overall and from 3-point range.

The stats for the Iowa game are deceptive.  Michigan shot well overall (30-for-60 = 50.0%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (7-for-19 = 36.8%), but they didn’t shoot free throws very well (4-for-8 = 50.0%).  They won the rebounding battle (31-29), but lost the turnover battle (13-9).  They lost this game with porous 3-point defense, allowing Iowa to shoot 57.9% (11-for-19) from deep.

The stats for the OSU game are also deceptive.  Michigan shot poorly overall (28-for-68 = 41.2%), they shot 3-pointers decently (8-for-21 = 38.1%), and they shot free throws perfectly (11-for-11 = 100.0%).  They won the rebounding battle (35-34) and the turnover battle (6-13).  They won this game with free throw shooting and low turnovers, which is definitely not Michigan’s brand this season.

Who Started?

The starters for the MSU and Iowa games were Eli Brooks, Moussa Diabate, Hunter Dickinson, Caleb Houstan, and DeVante’ JonesBrandon Johns, Jr. started in place of Dickinson (illness) in the OSU game.

Who Looked Good?

Dickinson only played in two of the three games this week, but he was the star in both of the games he played in, especially the MSU game.  He dominated MSU, with a career-high 33 points.  He also had 9 rebounds, just one short of a double-double.  He played with fire in his eyes against MSU, and even got a talking to for staring and jawing at the MSU bench after some of his bigger baskets.  He shot 13-for-19, including 4 dunks, and he had 4 blocked shots.  He was AWESOME!  Oh yeah, he had a double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds) in the Iowa game, but he didn’t play with the same enthusiasm he had in the MSU game.  He missed the OSU game with food poisoning.

Jones had a great week, with double figures in two of the three games: 9 points vs. MSU, 10 points vs. Iowa, and a team-high 21 points vs. OSU.  He almost had a double-double vs. OSU, with 9 assists.

Brooks had a good week, with double figures in two of the three games: 8 points vs. MSU, 17 points vs. Iowa, and 14 vs. OSU.

Houstan had a feast-or-famine week, with double figures in two of the three games and zero points in the third.  He had 16 points vs. MSU and 11 vs. Iowa, but he was scoreless vs. OSU, shooting 0-for-10.

Diabate had a decent week, with 6, 4, and 14 points.  He had to play center in the OSU game, with Dickinson out, and he did a nice job, with 7 rebounds.

Terrance Williams II had a very good week, with 9, 4, and 17 points.  His 9 points vs. MSU may not look like much, but they were all key points that gave Michigan the momentum.  He came in and hit his first three 3-point attempts, which swung the game Michigan’s way.  He also hit his first three 3-point attempts in the OSU game, once again turning the momentum in Michigan’s favor.  He fired up the rest of the team in both games, and he deserves a lot of the credit in both wins.

Kobe Bufkin didn’t score many points this week (0, 0, and 3), but he gets a mention because his 3-pointer in the closing moments of the OSU game was the dagger that sealed the win.

Frankie Collins also didn’t score many points this week (0, 0, and 4), but he gets a mention because he did a nice job spelling Jones at point guard.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Johns had a quiet week, with 5, 4, and 2 points.

Who Else Played?

Jaron Faulds played in the MSU and OSU games.  He hit one free throw vs. MSU.

Jace Howard played in the MSU and Iowa games, but didn’t score.

Adrien Nuñez played in the MSU game, but didn’t score.

Who Didn’t Play?

Isaiah Barnes and Will Tschetter are the scholarship players who didn’t play in any of the games.

Ian Burns and Brandon Wade are the players on the scout team who didn’t play in any of the games.

What Does It Mean?

With two wins against ranked opponents, Michigan is now on the right side of the “bubble” for the NCAA Tournament.  It would certainly help if they could win a couple games in the Big Ten Tournament.  They have proven that they can hang with the big boys, but they have also shown that they can lose to anyone.

What’s Next?

This week Michigan is scheduled to play in the Big Ten Tournament, in Indianapolis, IN.  They tied for 7th place in the Big Ten standings with Michigan State, but MSU has a better winning percentage against the top teams in the conference, so MSU will be the #7 seed and Michigan will be the #8 seed.  Michigan starts the tournament on Thursday (03/10/2022, 11:30 a.m. EST, BTN) vs. the #9 seed, Indiana.

Indiana is currently 18-12 (9-11 in Big Ten).  They finished in 9th place in the Big Ten standings.  Michigan played Indiana once this season, back on 01/23/2022 in Bloomington, and UM won 80-62.  IU has had a rough end to their regular season, losing 7 of their last 9 games.  This is a winnable game, if Michigan plays their “A” game.

If Michigan gets by Indiana, the next game will be against the #1 seed, Illinois, at 11:30 a.m. on Friday (03/11/2022) on BTN.  Since Illinois beat Michigan twice in the regular season, it will be a stiff challenge.

Here’s the complete bracket.

Check back next week to find out what happened and why.

Go Blue!