Nothing But ‘Net – Week #16 – 03/08/2021 – Big Ten Champs!

The (#2) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played three games this past week, and they lost two and won the other one.  On Tuesday (03/02/2021), they lost to (#4) Illinois 76-53 in Crisler Arena, on Thursday (03/04/2021), they beat Michigan State 69-50 in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (03/07/2021), they lost to Michigan State 70-64 in East Lansing, MI.  The losses and win leave Michigan with a final regular season record of 19-3 (14-3 in the Big Ten).  Michigan won the Big Ten regular season championship outright.

What Happened?

Talk about a good news/bad news week.  The good news is: Big Ten Champs!  Michigan led the race for the title from wire to wire, and formally clinched the title when they beat MSU in the Thursday game.  Not only did they beat their arch-rival, on national TV, to win the Big Ten title, but they did it on Senior Night.  It was a wonderful moment.

The bad news is: Michigan lost two games, after going 18-1 for the rest of the season.  Michigan looked very ordinary in their home loss to Illinois, and pretty weak in the away MSU game.  Losing two out of three games is no way to end the season.  Ugh.

As I predicted/feared, the Illinois game came down to the battle between Hunter Dickinson and Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn, and Cockburn was too much for Dickinson to handle.  The key moment was when Dickinson picked up his 2nd foul with 5:09 left in the 1st half.  At that point, Illinois was up by 7 points (21-14), and Michigan managed to get within 3 points (21-18) at the 4:11 mark, but then Dickinson came out for the last 3:58 of the half, and Cockburn and Illinois went wild.  They finished the half on a 12-4 run, to lead by 11 (33-22) at halftime.  Dickinson picked up his 3rd foul with 17:51 to go in the game, and that was it for him.  He played the rest of the game like a freshman, and Cockburn owned him.  Michigan never got closer than 20 points the rest of the way.  Once the game got away from them, they didn’t stand a chance.

The home MSU game was much better.  Michigan led the whole way, and they played well.  Michigan led early, 7-0, with 17:04 to go in the 1st half.  Michigan kept the lead in the 5-7 point range until the 7:43 mark, when MSU crept to within 2 points (18-16).  Michigan finished the half strong, up 11 points (39-28).  State scored the first 4 points of the 2nd half, to get within 7 points (39-32), and then Michigan went on a beautiful 10-0 run to push the lead up to 17 points (49-32).  The teams traded baskets, then Michigan went on another great 10-0 run to push the lead up to 28 points (64-36) with 6:20 to go, and the game was over.  Michigan could have won by 35-40 points, but Coach Howard emptied the bench with 3:19 left, and MSU made the score look a little more respectable.

The away MSU game was miserable.  Michigan played like they had nothing to play for, and MSU was fired up for their Senior Night.  That’s a bad combination.  Michigan only led a couple times, and never by more than 4 points.  They were ahead 21-17 with 5:21 to go in the 1st half, when the wheels started coming off.  They let State go on a 13-5 run to end the half, up 30-26.  Michigan got within 1 point (30-29) early in the 2nd half, but they never got the lead back, and once the game started slipping away, Michigan was unable to catch up.  MSU pushed the lead into the 8-10 point range until the last 2 minutes, when Michigan got back within 2 points (61-59, with 1:13 to go), but Michigan couldn’t get a stop, and MSU made their free throws.  It was a very disheartening loss.

Stats

The stats for the Illinois game are sad.  Michigan didn’t shoot very well overall (17-for-49 = 34.7%), they shot 3-pointers very poorly (2-for-7 = 28.6%), and they shot free throws decently (17-for-24 = 70.8%).  They were crushed on the boards (42-26), but they did win the turnover battle narrowly, 11-12.  They lost this game with poor shooting and rebounding.

The stats for the home MSU game are pretty good.  Michigan shot well overall (26-for-52 = 50.0%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (7-for-16 = 43.8%), and they shot free throws decently (10-for-14 = 71.4%).  They won the rebounding battle (34-28), but lost the turnover battle (14-12).  They won this game with 3-point shooting, especially since they held MSU to 0 made 3-pointers (0-for-9).  That’s my favorite stat from this game.

The stats for the away MSU game are miserable.  Michigan didn’t shoot very well overall (25-for-60 = 41.7%), they shot 3-pointers poorly (7-for-22 = 31.8%), and they shot free throws poorly (7-for-11 = 63.6%).  They lost the rebounding battle (38-32), and tied in the turnover battle (8-8).  They lost this game with poor shooting and rebounding.

Who Started?

The starters for all three games were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Isaiah Livers, Mike Smith, and Franz Wagner.

Who Looked Good?

Since almost no one looked good in the Illinois game and the away MSU game, no one looked good for the whole week.  So, “who looked good” is relative this week.

Brooks was the only Michigan player to hit double figures in the Illinois game, with 11 points, and he almost hit double figures (9 points) in the home MSU game.  He had a decent game going early in the away MSU game (5 points), but he twisted his ankle at the 15:36 mark of the 1st half, and didn’t return to the game.  At this point, his status is unknown.

Wagner had a terrible game (2 points, on 1-for-9 shooting) vs. Illinois, but he was the star of the home MSU game, with 19 points.  He had a decent game in the away MSU game (10 points, on 4-for-12 shooting), but he was a non-factor for most of the game, coming alive in the last few minutes.  If he had contributed earlier, his late-game heroics wouldn’t have been necessary.

Dickinson had a lousy game (6 points, on 1-for-8 shooting) vs. Illinois, but he did much better in the home MSU game: 14 points, on 6-for-8 shooting, and 10 rebounds, for another double-double.   He had a decent game at MSU (12 points), and, like Wagner, he was too quiet for most of the game, getting most of his points when Michigan was in “desperation mode” at the end.  His poor shooting in the first 35 minutes put Michigan too far behind to come back in the final 5 minutes.

Smith hit double figures in the away MSU game (11 points), but not in the other two games (5 vs. Illinois, 9 in the home MSU game).  Once again, his scoring is secondary; he did a decent job running the offense: 5 assists in the home MSU game, 7 assists in the away MSU game, but 0 assists vs. Illinois.

Chaundee Brown, Jr. was Michigan’s leading scorer in the away MSU game (13 points), but he was a non-factor in the other two games (3 points vs. Illinois, 0 in the home MSU game).  He played a lot in the away MSU game, replacing Brooks when he injured his ankle.

Austin Davis played quite a bit this week, since Dickinson was playing like a freshman.  Davis was one of the few bright spots in the Illinois game (9 points, on 4-for-4 shooting), but he only had 1 point in the home MSU game, and 4 points in the away MSU game.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Livers had a lousy game (7 points, on 2-for-7 shooting) vs. Illinois, and he didn’t do much better in the home MSU game: 9 points, on 3-for-7 shooting.  He also had 9 points in the away MSU game.

Brandon Johns, Jr. chipped in 4, 6, and 0 points.

Zeb Jackson played in the Illinois game (0-for-1) and the away MSU game (0 shot attempts).  He played more than usual, and earlier than usual, in the away MSU game due to Brooks’ injury.   

Who Else Played?

Coach Howard emptied the bench at the end of the Illinois game and the home MSU game, so a lot of players got in.

Among the scholarship players who aren’t part of the main rotation:

Jace Howard played vs. Illinois, and scored 2 points (2-for-4 shooting free throws).

Adrien Nuñez played vs. Illinois, and scored 2 points (1-for-1 shooting).

Terrance Williams II played vs. Illinois, and scored 2 points (2-for-2 shooting free throws).

Among the scout team players:

C.J. Baird played in the home MSU game, and missed his only shot attempt.  He’s a senior, and he got to play on Senior Night.

Jaron Faulds played in the Illinois and home MSU games.  He didn’t attempt a shot vs. Illinois, but he made his only shot attempt in the home MSU game.  He’s a senior, and he got to play on Senior Night.

Rico Ozuna-Harrison played in the home MSU game, and missed both of his shot attempts.  He’s a senior, and he got to play on Senior Night.

Brandon Wade played in the home MSU game, but didn’t attempt a shot.

Luke Wilson played in the home MSU game, but didn’t attempt a shot.  He’s a senior, and he got to play on Senior Night.

Who Didn’t Play?

Everyone got to play in at least one game this past week.

What Does It Mean?

Michigan won the regular season Big Ten title.  In terms of the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan is the #1 seed, and gets a double bye, starting play on Friday.

In terms of the NCAA Tournament, Michigan is looking OK for a #1 seed.  Of course, a lot depends on how they do in the Big Ten Tournament.  Losing 2 out of 3 this past week sure didn’t help.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to play in the Big Ten Tournament, in Indianapolis, IN.  As mentioned above, they’re the #1 seed, and they start play on Friday (03/12/2021, 11:30 a.m., BTN) vs. the winner of the (#8 seed) Maryland/ (#9 seed) Michigan State game that will be played on Thursday.

If they win that game, they’ll move on to the semifinals on Saturday (03/13/2021, 1:00 p.m., CBS), vs. the winner of the game between the #4 seed (Purdue) and the winner of the quarterfinal game between the #5 seed (Ohio State) and the winner of the 1st round game between (#12 seed) Northwestern and (#13 seed) Minnesota.

If they win the semifinal game, the championship game is on Sunday (03/14/2021, 3:30 p.m., CBS).  See the bracket here.

As the #1 seed, Michigan should be favored to win the tournament championship, but they will have to play their “A” game all three days.  During the regular season, Michigan beat each of the other Big Ten teams at least once, except for Illinois.  Illinois is the #2 seed, and they are certainly Michigan’s biggest hurdle to winning the tournament title.  Once again, it will all come down to Dickinson vs. Cockburn.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #15 – 03/01/2021 – Closing In On The Title

The (#3) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they won them both.  On Thursday (02/25/2021), they beat (#9) Iowa 79-57 in Crisler Arena, then on Saturday (02/27/2021), they beat Indiana 73-57 in Bloomington, IN.  The wins raise Michigan’s record to 18-1 (13-1 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is still all alone in 1st place in the Big Ten standings.

What Happened?

The Iowa game was a huge showdown between two of the best teams in the league, and it was a see-saw battle for the whole 1st half, with neither team getting ahead by more than 4-5 points.  Michigan managed to score at the buzzer, to take a 3-point lead at halftime, 32-29.  The start of the 2nd half was more of the same, and Iowa took the lead for the last time, 37-36, with 17:30 to go.  Michigan went on a quick 7-0 run to go up by 6 points (43-37) at the 16:08 mark, then they pushed the lead up to 11 points (50-39) with 13:48 to go.  Iowa didn’t give up, and got within 7 points (53-46) at the 11:59 mark, but that was as close as they got.  Michigan pushed the lead up into the 16-18 point range for the rest of the game, and won by 22.  This was a very important win, and they did it by stifling the leading offense in the Big Ten, and one of the leading offenses in the nation.  They also kept potential national player of the year Luka Garza in check.  He was clearly frustrated.

The Indiana game was a classic “trap” game, and Michigan managed to avoid the trap.  Coming between two huge games for Michigan (Thursday vs. [#9] Iowa and Tuesday vs. [#5] Illinois), Indiana was hoping to catch Michigan looking ahead or taking them lightly.  Instead, Michigan took care of business.  It certainly wasn’t Michigan’s best game of the season, but it was a good solid win.  The game was close early, tied up (12-12) with 13:38 to go in the half, and just a 1-point Michigan lead (22-21) at the 8:36 mark.  Michigan went on a quick 10-0 run at that point, to make it 32-21 with 5:53 left in the half.  Michigan kept the lead in the 9-11 point range for the rest of the half, leading by 9 at halftime, 42-33.  It was still 9 points (51-42) at the 14:36 mark, when Michigan pushed the lead up into the “comfortable” range, up 17 points (59-42) with 11:23 to go.  Indiana never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way, and Michigan won by 16.

Stats

The stats for the Iowa game are pretty good.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (33-for-70 = 47.1%), they shot 3-pointers well (8-for-17 = 47.1%), and they shot free throws very well, just not enough (5-for-6 = 83.3%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (41-32), and the turnover battle (7-9).  Michigan won this game with shooting, rebounding, and defense.  It was a great all-around performance.

The stats for the Indiana game are OK.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (24-for-53 = 45.3%), they shot 3-pointers decently (8-for-21 = 38.1%), and they shot free throws very well (17-for-19 = 89.5%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (37-27), and tied in the turnover battle (11-11).  Michigan won this game with defense.

Who Started?

The starters for both games were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Isaiah Livers, Mike Smith, and Franz Wagner.

Who Looked Good?

The big story this week as Wagner, who scored a career-high 21 points vs. Iowa, then matched it with another 21 vs. Indiana.  He was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the Indiana game.

Livers was the second-leading scorer for Michigan in both games, with 16 in each.  He also had 10 rebounds vs. Indiana, for a double-double.  He shot very well from 3-point range: 4-for-5 vs. Iowa and 4-for-7 vs. Indiana.

Dickinson also hit double figures in both games, with 14 vs. Iowa and 13 vs. Indiana.  Garza of Iowa outscored him by 2 points (16), but Dickinson had twice as many rebounds (8 vs. 4) and twice as many blocked shots (2 vs. 1) as Garza.  Dickinson either outplayed Garza, or it was at least a tie.

Smith had one very good game (14 points vs. Indiana) and one pretty good game (6 points vs. Iowa).  His value to the team isn’t necessarily scoring, since he does a great job running the offense.

Brooks had 7 and 6 points, which is OK, but his value to the team is more running the offense and playing tough defense.

Chaundee Brown, Jr. had a pretty good game vs. Iowa (7 points), but not so much vs. Indiana (3 points).  He was the only bench player to score vs. Indiana.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Austin Davis spelled Dickinson in both games, and chipped in 6 and 0 points.

Brandon Johns, Jr. chipped in 2 and 0 points.

Who Else Played?

Coach Howard emptied the bench at the end of both games, so a lot of players got in.

Among the scholarship players who aren’t part of the main rotation:

Jace Howard played vs. Iowa, but didn’t attempt a shot.

Zeb Jackson played in both games, but didn’t attempt a shot.

Terrance Williams II played in both games, but didn’t do anything.

Among the scout team players:

C.J. Baird played in the Indiana game, and missed his only shot attempt.

Jaron Faulds played in both games, and missed his only shot attempt, in the Indiana game.

Brandon Wade played in both games, but didn’t attempt a shot.  These were the first two games of his Michigan career.

Who Didn’t Play?

Only 1 of the 4 scholarship players who aren’t part of the main rotation (Adrien Nuñez) didn’t play in either game.

Only 2 of the 5 scout team players (Rico Ozuna-Harrison and Luke Wilson) didn’t play in either game.

What Does It Mean?

Michigan is closing in on a regular season Big Ten title.  With 3 games left (see below), Michigan has a 1-game lead on Illinois, percentage-wise.  Michigan’s “magic number” to clinch the title is 1; if Michigan wins one more game, or Illinois loses one more game, Michigan clinches the title.

In terms of the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan will certainly get a double bye, and start play on Friday.

In terms of the NCAA Tournament, Michigan is looking good for a #1 seed.  Of course, a lot depends on how they do in their last 3 regular season games and the Big Ten Tournament.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to play three games, two at home and one on the road.  On Tuesday (03/02/2021, 7:00 p.m., ESPN), they are scheduled to play (#5) Illinois in Crisler, on Thursday (03/04/2021, 7:00 p.m., ESPN), they are scheduled to play Michigan State in Crisler, then on Sunday (03/07/2021, 4:30 p.m., CBS), they are scheduled to play at Michigan State.  Yes, Michigan is playing MSU twice in three days.  These are the last three regular season games for Michigan.

Illinois is currently 18-6 (14-4 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over (#10) Duke, (#7) Iowa, and Wisconsin (twice), and less-than-impressive losses to Missouri, Maryland, and Michigan State.  They have a couple superstars (Trent Frazier, Ayo Dosunmu, and Kofi Cockburn), and they have plenty of height: Cockburn is 7’0”, and they have another 7-footer, along with a couple 6’10” guys.  Cockburn scares me more than any other player in college basketball.  He is a big, strong, muscular, aggressive beast of a player, and this will certainly be Dickinson’s greatest test of the season.

Michigan State is currently 13-10 (7-10 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over (#6) Duke, (#15) Rutgers, (#5) Illinois, and (#4) Ohio State, and less-than-impressive losses to Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue (twice), Rutgers, and Maryland.  They have had a real rollercoaster season: they started out 6-0 in non-conference play, and were ranked as high as #4, then they lost their first three Big Ten games.  They won two games, then lost another four in a row.  Two more wins, then two more losses, and everyone was writing them off as “no chance to make the Big Dance”.  At that point, they woke up and won three games in a row, including the wins over (#5) Illinois and (#4) Ohio State.  Just when it looked like they were “the hottest team in the Big Ten”, they went to Maryland and got trounced.  Now, they’re “on the wrong side of the bubble” for the NCAA Tournament.  If they can beat Michigan, even just once, they’ll have an outside shot at making the tournament.  They have a few good players (Aaron Henry, Rocket Watts, Josh Langford, and Joey Hauser), but they have a roster problem: they don’t have a consistent point guard and they don’t have a big center.  The guy they play at center is only 6’9”, and he’s a freshman.  If Dickinson is still alive after playing against Cockburn of Illinois, he’ll have a distinct advantage against MSU.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #14 – 02/22/2021 – Two Huge Wins & Rescheduled Games

The (#3) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they won them both.  On Thursday (02/18/2021), they beat Rutgers 71-64 in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (02/21/2021), they beat (#4) Ohio State 92-87 in Columbus, OH.  The wins raise Michigan’s record to 16-1 (11-1 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is still all alone in 1st place in the Big Ten standings.

What Happened?

The Rutgers game was a see-saw battle in the early going, before Michigan pulled ahead for good.  Rutgers led early (11-6 with 13:50 left in the 1st half), Michigan tied it (13-13) at the 11:01 mark, and led for the rest of the game, up by 9 points (37-28) at halftime.  UM pushed the lead as high as 17 points in the 2nd half, and still led by 14 points (63-49) with 3:01 to go.  Rutgers made one last push, and got the deficit down to 7 points at the end, but couldn’t get any closer.

The OSU game was very close the whole way.  OSU led in the early going, by 2-4 points.  Michigan finally got ahead, 20-19, with 9:02 left in the 1st half.  They led by 3-5 points until the 2:47 mark, when OSU went back ahead, 38-37.  The lead went back and forth, with UM scoring at the buzzer to lead by 2 points (45-43) at halftime.  The 2nd half was more of the same, with the lead going back and forth.  With 13:09 left, Michigan was up by 1 point (59-58), then OSU went ahead for a while.  The game was tied (69-69) with 6:30 to go, when Michigan went ahead for good.  They pushed the lead as high as 9 points (88-79) with 0:23 left, then hung on to win by 5.

I try really hard not to complain about the officiating, especially in a big win, but the officials were terrible in the OSU game.  They’ve been spotty all season, but they were especially bad in this game.  I’m just glad Michigan was able to overcome the “home cooking”.

Stats

The stats for the Rutgers game are just OK.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (24-for-52 = 46.2%), they shot 3-pointers well enough (6-for-15 = 40.0%), and they shot free throws pretty well (17-for-23 = 73.9%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (40-27), but lost the turnover battle badly (11-30).  Michigan won this game with rebounding and defense.

The stats for the OSU game are pretty good.  Michigan shot well overall (31-for-58 = 53.4%), they shot 3-pointers well (11-for-23 = 47.8%), and they shot free throws well enough (19-for-24 = 79.2%).  They won the rebounding battle (30-26) and the turnover battle (7-9).  Michigan won this game with 3-point shooting, but there’s more to that story: Michigan shot a blazing 10-for-13 (76.2%) from 3-point range in the 1st half, then went cold in the 2nd half, shooting 1-for-10.  That still works out to 47.8%, but if they could have just hit 40% in the 2nd half, the game would have been much less tense.

Who Started?

The starters for both games were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Isaiah Livers, Mike Smith, and Franz Wagner.

Who Looked Good?

Smith hit double figures in both games, with 12 points vs. Rutgers and 11 points vs. OSU.  As usual, he did a fine job running the offense, with 7 assists in the OSU game.

Dickinson also hit double figures in both games, with 10 points vs. Rutgers and 22 points vs. OSU.  He was the high scorer for Michigan in the OSU game.  It was good to see him back in double figures again, after a few sub-par scoring games.

Wagner almost hit double figures in both games, with 20 points vs. Rutgers and 9 points vs. OSU.  He was the high scorer for Michigan in the Rutgers game.

Livers had one good game (12 points vs. OSU) and one mediocre game (7 points vs. Rutgers).  He shot very poorly in the Rutgers game (3-for-10 overall, 0-for-4 from deep).

Brooks also had one good game (17 points vs. OSU) and one mediocre game (4 points vs. Rutgers).  He also shot very poorly in the Rutgers game (1-for-5 overall, 0-for-1 from deep).

Chaundee Brown, Jr. was one of the heroes in the OSU game, with 15 points, including 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range.  He chipped in 6 points in the Rutgers game.

Austin Davis spelled Dickinson in both games, and chipped in 7 and 4 points.

Brandon Johns, Jr. chipped in 5 and 2 points, including another 3-pointer vs. Rutgers.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Terrance Williams II played for 6 minutes in the Rutgers game, but didn’t do anything.  He didn’t play in the OSU game.

Who Else Played?

No one else played in either game.

Who Didn’t Play?

3 of the 4 scholarship players who aren’t part of the main rotation (Jace Howard, Zeb Jackson, and Adrien Nuñez) didn’t play in either game.

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

What Does It Mean?

Wow!  These were two huge wins!  Rutgers was unranked by the time Michigan beat them, but they had been ranked for much of the season, as recently as 2 weeks ago.  Ohio State was ranked #4, and they had won 7 games in a row coming into their game against Michigan.  They were projected as a #1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.  They were the toughest opponent that Michigan has faced so far, and UM played them tough.  It was very encouraging.

In terms of the Big Ten title race, these were very important wins for Michigan.  They keep them all alone in 1st place, two games ahead of Illinois and four games ahead of Ohio State and Iowa in the all-important loss column.  It has been officially announced that the league champion will be determined by win percentage, since several teams (including Michigan) are not going to have enough time to play all 20 scheduled Big Ten games.  At this point, Michigan has a 0.5 game lead over Illinois in the standings, a 1.5 game lead over OSU, and a 2 game lead over Iowa, based on win percentage.

The big news this week was that the Big Ten rescheduled a bunch of postponed games, including 2 of the 5 that Michigan missed.  They also moved a few games to make this new schedule possible, including one of Michigan’s games.  Here is Michigan’s schedule for the last 2 weeks of the regular season:

02/25/2021 (Thu) vs. Iowa (home) – moved from 03/04/2021

02/27/2021 (Sat) at Indiana (away) – original schedule

03/02/2021 (Tue) vs. Illinois (home) – rescheduled from 02/11/2021

03/04/2021 (Thu) vs. Michigan State (home) – rescheduled from 02/06/2021

03/07/2021 (Sun) at Michigan State (away) – original schedule

There are a couple 2-day turnarounds in there (Iowa/Indiana and Illinois/MSU) that could be tricky.

If Michigan plays all 5 of these games as scheduled, they’ll end up playing 17 Big Ten games, skipping the following 3 games:

01/27/2021 at Penn State

01/30/2021 home vs. Indiana

02/03/2021 at Northwestern

Since they already played (and beat) PSU and Northwestern, and they still have a game scheduled at Indiana, missing these 3 games isn’t a big deal.  In fact, they are all games that Michigan was likely to have won.

Obviously, the last 5 games are all important, but the games vs. Iowa and Illinois are crucial, and it’s always important to beat MSU as often as possible.

Also, for any trivia nerds out there: there are 4 “vowel” teams in the Big Ten (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio State), and Michigan is playing them all in a row.  As far as I can tell, this is the first time Michigan has had this schedule quirk.  They’re not only playing them in a row, they are also playing them just one time each this season, and they’re playing them in reverse alphabetical order.  Weird how it worked out, huh?

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to play two games, one at home and one on the road.  On Thursday (02/25/2021, 7:00 p.m., ESPN), they are scheduled to play (#11) Iowa in Crisler, then on Saturday (02/27/2021, 12:00 p.m. EST, FOX), they are scheduled to play at Indiana.

Iowa is currently 17-6 (11-5 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over (#16) North Carolina, Iowa State, (#19) Northwestern, (#14) Rutgers, (#16) Minnesota, Michigan State, (#25) Rutgers, and (#21) Wisconsin, and less-than-impressive losses to Minnesota and Indiana (twice).  They have probable national player of the year Luka Garza, who has always given Michigan fits, along with 2 long-range 3-point gunners (Jordan Bohannon and Joe Weiskamp).  They have some height: Garza is 6’11”, and they have one other 6’11” guy.  This will be quite a test for Hunter Dickinson.

Indiana is currently 12-10 (7-8 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over (#4) Iowa and (#8) Iowa, and less-than-impressive losses to Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers, and Michigan State.  They don’t have any superstars, and not much height (only one 6’11” dude).  On paper, Michigan should win this game handily, but it’s always tough to win on the road in the Big Ten, especially on one day’s rest.  This is a classic “trap” game.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #13 – 02/15/2021 – Back In The Saddle Again

The (#3) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this week, and they won it.  On Sunday (02/14/2021), they beat (#21) Wisconsin 67-59 in Madison, WI.  The win raises Michigan’s record to 14-1 (9-1 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is still all alone in 1st place in the Big Ten standings.

What Happened?

After over three weeks (23 days) off, Michigan finally got to play another game, and there was a little rust.  The first half was not pretty, especially on the offensive end.  The opening 11 minutes were close, and the score was tied (20-20) with 9:10 to go in the half.  That’s when UM went cold, and Wisconsin went on a 19-7 run to end the half, up 39-27 at halftime.  Fortunately, Michigan finally remembered how to play the game, and they slowly climbed back into it.  They got within 3 points (45-42) with 14:12 left, and within a point (53-52) with 6:27 to go.  They finally went ahead (54-53) at the 5:04 mark, and the game was tied up (59-59) with 2:21 to go.  That’s when Michigan got serious, and went on an 8-0 run to end the game, winning 67-59.  They held Wisconsin without a basket in the last 4:44 of the game.

Stats

The stats for the Wisconsin game are just OK.  Michigan shot decently overall (24-for-59 = 40.7%), they shot 3-pointers well enough (7-for-17 = 41.2%), and they shot free throws pretty well (12-for-16 = 75.0%).  They won the rebounding battle (36-32) and the turnover battle (6-10).  Michigan won this game with defense, holding Wisconsin to 38.9% shooting, 31.6% from deep.

Who Started?

The starters were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Isaiah Livers, Mike Smith, and Franz Wagner.

Who Looked Good?

Livers was the leading scorer, with 20 points, on 8-for-16 shooting (4-for-7 from 3-point range).  He also had 7 rebounds.

Wagner had 14 points, on 6-for-11 shooting (2-for-4 from deep).

Dickinson had another double-double, with 11 points and 15 rebounds.  He also had a career-high 5 blocked shots.

Brooks had 9 points, but he shot terribly: 2-for-11 overall (0-for-2 from 3-point range).


Smith only had 6 points, but he had 6 assists, and only 1 turnover.

Austin Davis spelled Dickinson for 13 minutes, and chipped in 6 points, on 3-for-4 shooting.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Brandon Johns, Jr. played for 4 minutes, but didn’t attempt a shot.

Chaundee Brown, Jr. had 1 point.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

The 4 scholarship players who aren’t part of the main rotation (Jace Howard, Zeb Jackson, Adrien Nuñez, and Terrance Williams II) didn’t play.

The scout team players (C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, Brandon Wade, and Luke Wilson) didn’t play.

What Does It Mean?

This was a huge win, since no one knew how Michigan would respond after a long break with two weeks of no practice.  As I mentioned, they looked a little rusty, especially on offense in the first half, but they shook it off in the second half, and played very well in “crunch” time.  This was Michigan’s first road win against a ranked opponent this season.

In terms of the Big Ten title race, this was a very important win for Michigan.  It keeps them all alone in 1st place, two games ahead of Illinois and three games ahead of Ohio State in the all-important loss column.  At this point, there is still no news about when (or if) the five postponed Michigan games will be rescheduled, so win percentage might be used to determine the Big Ten champion, and Michigan is half a game ahead of Illinois and OSU in win percentage.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to play two games, one at home and one on the road.  On Thursday (02/18/2021, 9:00 p.m., FS1), they are scheduled to play (#25) Rutgers in Crisler, then on Sunday (02/21/2021, 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS), they are scheduled to play at (#4) Ohio State.

Rutgers is currently 12-7 (8-7 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over Syracuse, (#13) Illinois, and Michigan State, and a less-than-impressive loss to Penn State.  They have a couple star players (Geo Baker and Ron Harper, Jr.) and some height (three 6’11” players).  This will be a challenging game.

OSU is currently 17-4 (11-4 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over Notre Dame, UCLA, (#11) Rutgers, (#15) Rutgers, (#14) Illinois, (#10) Wisconsin, and (#8) Iowa, and less-than-impressive losses to Purdue (twice), Northwestern, and Minnesota.  They have a couple star players, but they don’t have much height.  They have beaten some very good teams, but they have also lost to some mediocre teams.  This will be Michigan’s toughest game so far.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #12 – 02/08/2021 – More COVID-19 Shutdown

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team didn’t play any games this week, due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.  Michigan’s record stands at 13-1 (8-1 in the Big Ten).  Michigan is still all alone in 1st place in the Big Ten standings.

What Happened?

This was week #2 of a 2-week shutdown for all University of Michigan sports.  This week, Michigan had 2 more games postponed:

02/03/2021 Northwestern (away)

02/06/2021 Michigan State (home)

Next week, they will postpone another game:

02/11/2021 Illinois (home)

Presumably, the Illinois game was postponed to give the UM team some time to practice together and get back in sync before resuming their schedule.  That would imply that the team will be allowed to start practicing again starting today (02/08/2021).

At this point, there is still no news about when the postponed games will be rescheduled.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan was supposed to play two games: home vs. Illinois on Thursday (02/11/2021) and at (#19) Wisconsin on Sunday (02/14/2021, 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS).  The Illinois game has been postponed, but the Wisconsin game is probably going to happen.

Wisconsin is currently 14-6 (8-5 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over (#23) Louisville, (#12) Michigan State, and (#21) Minnesota, and less-than-impressive losses to Marquette, Maryland, and Penn State.  They have a couple star players on their roster, and a lot of height (two 7-footers and a 6’11” guy).  Michigan thrashed them in Ann Arbor (77-54) on 01/12/2021, but as we saw with Minnesota, beating a team the second time around, on their home floor, can be a lot trickier.

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

Go Blue!