Nothing But ‘Net – Week #05 – 12/21/2020 – A Bye Week

The (#25) University of Michigan men’s basketball team didn’t play any games this week.  They had a “bye” week.  Michigan’s record is currently 6-0 (1-0 in the Big Ten).

What Happened?

Everything is crazy this season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Instead of the normal 31 games (11 non-conference, 20 Big Ten), Big Ten teams are only allowed to play 25 games (5 non-conference, 20 Big Ten).  The start of the season was delayed from early November to November 25th.  Michigan scheduled, and played, their 5 non-conference games by December 9th, and played their first Big Ten game on December 13th.  Now they have a 12-day break before their next Big Ten game, on Christmas Day, at Nebraska.

Even though Michigan made it through their 5-game non-conference schedule undefeated, they faced a little adversity along the way.  They played all 5 games in Crisler Arena, and they looked good in most of them, but they had a couple bad halves mixed in.

They looked very solid in their opener against Bowling Green on 11/25/2020, winning 96-82.  Bowling Green is picked to win the Mid American Conference this season, so they were a good opening test.  The new starters looked good, and Michigan got good support from the bench.

The next game, against Oakland on 11/29/2020, was not so good.  Michigan trailed for much of the game, managed to tie the game in regulation, then woke up and won handily in overtime, 81-71.  Michigan looked disorganized and sluggish for much of the 1st half, but they did look better in the last 10 minutes of the 2nd half and overtime.

Michigan looked sharp and focused in their next game, beating Ball State 84-65 on 12/02/2020.  They led for most of the game, and everyone played well.

Once again, after playing a good game, Michigan came out flat and played a lousy 1st half vs. Central Florida (UCF) on 12/06/2020.  The 2nd half was much better, and Michigan won easily, 80-58.

The final non-conference game on 12/09/2020 was supposed to be against North Carolina State, as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but NC State had COVID-19 issues, so that game was cancelled.  Michigan scrambled and found a very acceptable replacement on very short notice: Toledo.  It was a good game, and Michigan won easily, 91-71.

Michigan played their first Big Ten game of the season on 12/13/2020, beating Penn State 62-58 in Crisler Arena.  It was a close game, and Michigan had to play well to win.  Penn State isn’t a title contender this season, but they’re a good solid team that could knock off a few of the top-division teams along the way.

Who Looked Good?

He may only be a true freshman, but the best player on the team so far has been Hunter Dickinson.  He came off the bench in all 5 non-conference games, with Austin Davis getting the start, but he became the starter when Davis suffered a foot injury in the Toledo game.  He leads the team in scoring (15.7 points/game) and rebounding (7.3 rebounds/game).  He’s shooting a great percentage (38-for-55 = 69.1%), he’s scored in double figures in all 6 games, and he was the leading scorer in the last 2 games.  He looks very composed out there.

Isaiah Livers has also looked very good out there so far this season.  He’s 2nd on the team in scoring (15.2 points/game), and leads the team in made 3-pointers (13) and free throw percentage (16-for-17 = 94.1%).  He’s scored in double figures in 5 of the 6 games (only 5 points vs. UCF), and he was the leading scorer in 2 games.  He has provided good leadership out there.

Chaundee Brown, Jr. is the only other player averaging double figures, at 10.0 points/game.  He is 2nd on the team in made 3-pointers (12).  He has had 2 great games (Bowling Green and UCF), 2 good games (Ball State and Toledo), and 2 miserable games (Oakland and Penn State).  He was the leading scorer in the Bowling Green and UCF games.  He has come off the bench in all 6 games.

Eli Brooks is almost averaging double figures, at 9.7 points/game.  He has started all 6 games, and has scored in double figures in 4 of the 6 games.  He’s 2nd on the team in assists.  He has shared point guard duties with Mike Smith, and done a good job running the offense.

Austin Davis looked smooth and solid out there for the first 5 games, then he got injured.  He only played 12-13 minutes/game, because Hunter Dickinson looked so good when he replaced Davis.  The only estimate I’ve heard about Davis’ return from the injury is “extended weeks”.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Franz Wagner still hasn’t really gotten going this season.  He’s had a couple good games (Ball State and Toledo), a couple decent games (Bowling Green and UCF), and a couple mediocre games (Oakland and Penn State).  Much was expected of him, and so far, he hasn’t delivered.  He’s got a bunch of 25-30 point games in him, and he just needs to get his confidence back.  If he misses his first shot of the game, he tends to sulk for the rest of the game.

Mike Smith has started all 6 games at point guard, and done a very nice job running the offense.  He plays good defense, but his offense has been streaky.  He looked good in the opener (Bowling Green), with 16 points, and he had 10 points vs. Ball State, but the rest of the games haven’t been as good.  He needs to get his 3-point shot going again.

Brandon Johns, Jr. hasn’t really had a good game yet.  He’s averaging 4.8 points/game.  He can be an important part of the team, once he gets going.

Terrance Williams II has shown flashes of what he’s capable of, but he’s lacked consistency.  He’s only a true freshman, so it isn’t a big surprise if he takes some time to get up to speed.

Who Else Played?

Jace Howard, Zeb Jackson, and Adrien Nuñez are the remaining scholarship players.  Jackson has played in 5 games so far, and Howard and Nuñez have played in 3 games.  Nuñez has a basket, Jackson has 3 free throws, and Howard hasn’t taken a shot yet.

Of the scout team players (C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson), only Faulds has played so far this season.  In 2 games, he has 1 basket.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays one game: on Friday (12/25/2020, 6:00 p.m. EST, BTN), they play at Nebraska.  Yes, they play on Christmas Day in beautiful Lincoln, NE.  The glamour!

Nebraska is currently 4-3 (0-0 in Big Ten).  They haven’t beaten anyone noteworthy, they lost at home to a mediocre Nevada team, and they got crushed on the road by a decent Creighton team.  They don’t have any superstars on their roster, and they don’t have a lot of height.  They do have one of the best names in the league: Thorir Thorbjarnarson, from Iceland.

This will be Michigan’s first road game of the season, against a capable Big Ten team.  Since it’s on the road, it’s a “toss up” game, and it would be a nice win for Michigan if they can pull it off.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #04 – 12/14/2020 – End Of The Warm Ups, Start Of The Big Ten Schedule

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they won both of them.  On Wednesday (12/09/2020), they beat Toledo 91-71, then on Sunday (12/13/2020), they beat Penn State 62-58.  Both games were in Crisler Arena.  Michigan’s record is now 6-0 (1-0 in the Big Ten).

What Happened?

First of all, Toledo?  In last week’s article, I said that Michigan would be playing North Carolina State on 12/09/2020, as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  Well, NC State had COVID-19 issues, so they couldn’t play, and Michigan scrambled to find a replacement.  They found a very acceptable replacement on very short notice, and the game went on.  Toledo is the highest (Kenpom) ranked team in the Mid American Conference, and they gave Michigan a good game.  The NC State game will not be rescheduled, since Michigan has played the maximum number of non-conference games allowed (5).  By the way, the Big Ten won the Challenge again this year, 6-5.

The Toledo game started out close, with Toledo up by a point (9-8) with 15:36 to go in the 1st half.  That was the last time Toledo led.  Michigan pulled out to a comfortable 11-point lead (25-14) with 10:37 to go, and pushed it as high as 21 points (42-21) with 1:23 left.  The lead was still 18 (44-26) at halftime.  Toledo started the 2nd half with a 10-3 run to get back within 11 points (47-36) with 17:36 to go, but that was their last gasp.  Michigan pushed the lead back up into the 20s, getting it as high as 26 points, and won by 20.  Michigan looked good.

The PSU game was much closer.  Michigan led for the entire 1st half, by as many 15 points (36-21, with 2:14 left), but PSU fought back, and took their first lead (39-38) with 16:36 to go.  From that point on, neither team got more than 6 points ahead.  In fact, PSU only led a few times, usually by 1 point, and once by 2 points, but they never let Michigan pull away.  The last 5:06 of the game was particularly dramatic.  At that point, Michigan led 56-50, but PSU strung together an 8-0 run to take their biggest (and final) lead, 58-56, with 2:53 left.  Michigan scored the last 6 points, and won by 4.  It was a big, important win, and Michigan handled some serious adversity to get it.

Stats

The stats for the Toledo game are very good.  Michigan shot well overall (34-for-59 = 57.6%), they shot 3-pointers very well (9-for-16 = 56.3%), and they shot free throws well (14-for-18 = 77.8%).  They won the rebounding battle (35-30) and the turnover battle (8-14).  They won this game with 3-point shooting.  Any time Michigan shoots over 50% from 3-point range, they’re going to stand a great chance of winning.

The stats for the PSU game are pretty good.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (20-for-45 = 44.4%), they shot 3-pointers decently (5-for-14 = 35.7%), and they shot free throws very well (17-for-20 = 85.0%).  They (barely) won the rebounding battle (36-35), but lost the turnover battle badly (16-8).  This was a close game, and the stats show it.  Michigan won because of overall shooting.

Who Started?

The starters for the Toledo game were Eli Brooks, Austin Davis, Isaiah Livers, Mike Smith, and Franz Wagner.  Davis got hurt in the Toledo game, so Hunter Dickinson started for him in the PSU game.

Who Looked Good?

He may only be a true freshman, but this is Dickinson’s team now.  He was the leading scorer in both games, with 18 vs. Toledo and 20 (a new career high) vs. PSU.  He was also the leading rebounder in both games, with 7 in each game.  He is playing like a veteran, and the team is leaning on him for key baskets in crunch time.  After 6 games, he is leading the team in scoring (15.7 points/game), rebounding (7.3 rebounds/game), and blocked shots (10).

Livers had one good game (16 points vs. Toledo) and one decent game (10 points vs. PSU).  He shot very well vs. Toledo (5-for-7 overall, 3-for-4 from 3-point range), but terribly vs. PSU (1-for-7 overall, 0-for-3 from deep).  He scored most of his points vs. PSU at the free throw line (8-for-8).

Brooks had a good week, with 12 points in each game.  He didn’t shoot very well, especially vs. Toledo (5-for-12 overall), but he helped run the offense.

Wagner had another week with one good game (14 points vs. Toledo) and one mediocre game (6 points vs. PSU).  As I mentioned last week, he still hasn’t found his 3-point shot, which ignites the rest of his game.

Smith also had another so-so week, with 7 and 8 points.  I think that’s what we should get used to with him: not bad, but not flashy.

Davis only played in part of one game this week, injuring his right foot (plantar fasciitis) with 16:08 left in the 2nd half of the Toledo game.  At that point, he had scored a career-high 12 points, including Michigan’s first 10 points of the game.  He’ll be out “indefinite weeks” due to the injury, so Dickinson is the only true center left on the roster.

Chaundee Brown, Jr. had a good game (9 points) vs. Toledo, but he disappeared vs. PSU (0 points).  He shot perfectly (4-for-4 overall, 1-for-1 from 3-point range) vs. Toledo.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Brandon Johns, Jr. had 3 and 6 points this week.  He did hit a 3-pointer vs. PSU.

Terrance Williams II played in both games, but failed to score.  He missed a pair of clutch free throws with 24 seconds left in the PSU game, but UM still won.

Who Else Played?

Jace Howard, Zeb Jackson, and Adrien Nuñez all played in the last 4 minutes of the Toledo game, but they didn’t score.

Who Didn’t Play?

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

What Does It Mean?

With the shortened season, Michigan only played 5 non-conference games, and they won all 5 of them.  They managed to get some decent competition, and they learned something from each game.  It was very important that they win their Big Ten opener, and they did.  The injury to Davis puts a lot of pressure on Dickinson, but so far he seems to be handling it well.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan doesn’t have any games scheduled!  I’ll still be back next week to wrap up the non-conference portion of the schedule, and to look ahead to the rest of the Big Ten schedule.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #03 – 12/07/2020 – More Warm Up Games

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they won both of them.  On Wednesday (12/02/2020), they beat Ball State 84-65, then on Sunday (12/06/2020), they beat Central Florida (UCF) 80-58.  Both games were in Crisler Arena.  Michigan’s record is now 4-0.

What Happened?

Ball State led the game once, 2-0, before Michigan tied it up (2-2) with 18:42 left in the 1st half.  The score was never tied again.  Michigan led the rest of the way, usually by a comfortable margin.  They steadily increased the lead up to 20 points (34-14) with 5:39 left in the half, then went cold, and let Ball State creep back into the game.  Ball State ended the half on a 19-6 run, to cut the deficit to only 7 points (40-33) at halftime.  They cut it to 5 points (40-35) on the first possession of the 2nd half, then Michigan woke up and took control of the game again.  UM went on a 13-4 run of their own, to push the lead back up to 14 points (53-39) with 16:17 to go.  They kept building the lead, and finally got it up to 25 points (73-48) with 8:50 left.  They kept the lead over 20 points the rest of the way, until Ball State made a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left to cut it to 19, the final difference.  Michigan played a good solid game, and handled the minor adversity at the end of the 1st half well.

The UCF game was very different.  UCF led for most of the 1st half.  The game was close for the first 7 minutes, with UCF up by 1 point (14-13) with 13:13 to go in the half, then they started to pull away.  They increased their lead to 12 points (25-13) with 9:29 to go, and still led by 12 (28-16) with 8:56 left in the half.  That’s when Michigan finally woke up and got serious.  Over the next 5:18, Michigan went on a 15-0 run to take the lead (31-28) with 3:38 remaining in the half.  They pushed the lead as high as 6 points (38-32) with 1:36 to go, and led by 4 points (38-34) at halftime.  They let UCF get within 3 points (40-37) at the 18:31 mark, then they pulled away for good.   They increased the lead steadily, pushing it as high as 32 points before Coach Howard emptied the bench.  The way UCF started the game, it looked like UM would be in a dogfight all afternoon, but once Michigan took control in the 2nd half, they made it look easy.

Stats

The stats for the Ball State game are pretty good.  Michigan shot well overall (33-for-59 = 55.9%), they shot 3-pointers poorly (4-for-15 = 26.7%), and they shot free throws pretty well (14-for-19 = 73.7%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (41-26), and tied in the turnover battle (13-13).  They won this game with overall shooting and rebounding.

The stats for the UCF game are also pretty good.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (32-for-65 = 49.2%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (9-for-27 = 33.3%), and they shot free throws very well (7-for-8 = 87.5%).  They crushed UCF on the boards (44-29), but lost the turnover battle narrowly (10-9).  They won this game with 3-point shooting and rebounding.

Who Started?

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

Who Looked Good?

Hunter Dickinson was the only player to hit double figures in both games, with 12 points vs. Ball State and 14 points vs. UCF.  He also had 11 rebounds vs. Ball State, for his first career double-double.  He is playing with confidence and composure out there.

Livers was the leading scorer in the Ball State game, with 21 points, but he had his first mediocre game of the season vs. UCF, with 5 points on 2-for-9 shooting (1-for-6 from deep).

Wagner finally had a good game, with 14 points and 6 rebounds vs. Ball State, but he slipped back into mediocrity vs. UCF, with 8 points.  He still hasn’t found his 3-point shot, which ignites the rest of his game.

Smith had a decent game vs. Ball State, with 10 points, but he didn’t do much in the UCF game, with only 4 points on 1-for-6 shooting.  He’s running the offense well and playing decent defense, but he’s not contributing much offensively.

Brooks is the only starter who did better in the UCF game than the Ball State game.  He had 7 points vs. Ball State and 10 points vs. UCF.

Davis started both games, but only played 13 minutes vs. Ball State and 12 minutes vs. UCF.  He scored 6 points vs. Ball State and 4 points vs. UCF.

Chaundee Brown, Jr. was the leading scorer in the UCF game, with 18 points, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range.  He had a good game vs. Ball State, with 9            points.  He gave the team a great energy boost in the 2nd half of the UCF game when he got hot from 3-point range.

Terrance Williams II hit double figures for the first time in his Michigan career, with 10 points vs. UCF.  He had a quiet game vs. Ball State, with 0 points.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Brandon Johns, Jr. had 0 and 5 points this week.  He was the only “mainstream” player who didn’t have at least one good game.

Who Else Played?

Jaron Faulds played in both games, and made a basket vs. Ball State.

Jace Howard played in both games, but didn’t take a shot.

Zeb Jackson played in both games, and made 3 of 4 free throws vs Ball State, for his first career points.

Adrien Nuñez played in both games, and made a basket vs. UCF.

Who Didn’t Play?

Most of the scout team players (C.J. Baird, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t play this week.

What Does It Mean?

With the shortened season, Michigan is only playing 5 non-conference games, so they need to get as much experience as they can in a short amount of time.  They have won all 4 games so far, but they have faced adversity in 3 of them, especially for most of the Oakland game and most of the 1st half of the UCF game.  The good news is that UM handled the adversity well.  Michigan will face much tougher opponents, game in and game out, once the Big Ten season starts, so they need to prepare for even more adversity.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays two games, both in Crisler Arena.  On Wednesday (12/09/2020, 7:15 p.m., ESPN2) they play North Carolina State, then on Sunday (12/13/2020, 2:00 p.m., BTN) they play Penn State.  The NC State game is part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and the PSU game is the Big Ten opener.

NC State was 20-12 (10-10 in the ACC) last season.  They are 3-0 so far this season, but they haven’t played anyone noteworthy.  Their game against UConn was canceled for COVID-19 reasons.  They have several very good players, and significant height.  This will be Michigan’s first big test of the season, and a good indicator of how they’ll do in Big Ten play.

Penn State was 21-10 (11-9 in the Big Ten) last season.  They are 2-0 so far this season, but they haven’t played anyone noteworthy.  They have a couple good players, but they don’t have much height.  This is an excellent game to ease into the Big Ten schedule: not too hard, but hard enough to keep Michigan on their toes.

Both of these games are “toss up” games, so winning both would be great, losing both would be sad, and splitting would be acceptable.  Of the two, the PSU game is much more important.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #02 – 11/30/2020 – Warm Up Games

The (#25) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they won both of them.  On Wednesday (11/25/2020), they beat Bowling Green 96-82, then on Sunday (11/29/2020), they beat Oakland 81-71 (overtime).  Both games were in Crisler Arena.  Michigan’s record is now 2-0.

What Happened?

Beating Oakland is no big achievement, but Bowling Green is a worthy opponent.  They’re picked to win the MAC, which would make them an NCAA Tournament team.  Michigan handled them calmly and efficiently, leading the whole way, and keeping a solid lead for most of the game.  Michigan led BG by 7 points (43-36) at halftime, and pushed the lead up into the 11-13 point range in the first 8 minutes of the 2nd half, then to the 16-18 point range for the last 7 minutes of the game.  Michigan looked good and confident.

Then came the Oakland game.  Oakland came into the game having played (and lost) games on Wednesday (Xavier 101-49), Thursday (Toledo 80-53), and Friday (Bradley 74-60).  Due to COVID-19 quarantine, they had only practiced for 3 days before their opener.  It looked like an easy win for Michigan, but no one told Oakland.  The game was close early, then Michigan jumped out to a nice 8 point lead (27-19) with 7:15 to go in the 1st half.  That’s when the game turned ugly.  Michigan went stone cold, and Oakland went on a 14-4 run to end the half up 33-31.  The 2nd half wasn’t much better, as Oakland extended their lead to 6 points, and Michigan continued to struggle.  UM crept back into the lead, 57-56 with 8:01 to go, then the teams traded the lead for the rest of regulation.  Michigan had a 2 point lead (67-65) with 2:26 to go, but Oakland tied the game (67-67) with 28 seconds left, and we played overtime.

Fortunately, Michigan woke up in overtime, scoring the first 9 points, and holding Oakland scoreless for the first 3:46.  Michigan looked good in the overtime, after looking terrible for most of regulation.

Stats

The stats for the BG game are pretty good.  Michigan shot well overall (33-for-61 = 54.1%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (10-for-27 = 37.0%), and they shot free throws pretty well (20-for-26 = 76.9%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (44-34), but lost the turnover battle (10-6).  They won this game with 3-point shooting and rebounding.

The stats for the Oakland game are decent, except for one category: turnovers.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (29-for-62 = 46.8%), they shot 3-pointers decently (8-for-27 = 29.6%), and they shot free throws decently (15-for-22 = 68.2%).  They crushed Oakland on the boards (45-33), but lost the turnover battle in tragic fashion (20-16).  Those 20 turnovers almost cost UM this game.

Who Started?

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

Who Looked Good?

Livers was the only starter to hit double figures in both games, with 17 points vs. BG and 22 vs. Oakland.  He was the leading scorer in the Oakland game.  He was also the leading rebounder vs. BG, with 9.  He shot pretty well: 7-for-14 (3-for-8 from 3-point range) vs. BG, and 8-for-12 (5-for-7 from 3-point range) vs. Oakland.

Hunter Dickinson was the only other player to hit double figures in both games, with 11 and 19 points.  He also had 8 rebounds vs. BG.  He kept Michigan in the Oakland game, and was the reason UM won.  Oakland couldn’t stop him in the paint.

Smith had a great debut game vs. BG, with 16 points and 8 assists, but he didn’t do much in the Oakland game, with only 2 points and 4 fouls.

Brooks also did well in the BG game, with 11 points, but didn’t do as well vs. Oakland, with only 6 points.

Wagner had a below-average (for him) week, with 9 points vs. BG and 6 points vs. Oakland.  He’s 0-for-6 from 3-point range so far.  He did have a monster game rebounding vs. Oakland, with 13 boards.

Davis started both games, but only played 12 minutes vs. BG and 13 minutes vs. Oakland.  He scored 2 points vs. BG and 6 points vs. Oakland.

Chaundee Brown, Jr. was the leading scorer in the BG game, with 19 points, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range.  He came back to Earth in the Oakland game, with 5 points, on 1-for-10 shooting from 3-point range.

Brandon Johns, Jr. chipped in 7 and 8 points, and looked good out there.

Terrance Williams II chipped in 4 and 7 points, including some important points, steals, rebounds, and assists in “crunch time” in the Oakland game.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

No one looked “not so good” this week, although Wagner was a little disappointing.

Who Else Played?

Zeb Jackson played in both games, and failed to score.

Who Didn’t Play?

Of the scholarship players, Jace Howard and Adrien Nuñez were the only ones who didn’t play this week.

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

What Does It Mean?

The good news is that Michigan is 2-0, which is as good a record as they could hope for.  They took care of business.  The bad news is that the BG game exposed some flaws in the Michigan defense, and the Oakland game exposed some flaws in the Michigan offense.  Future opponents will try to exploit these flaws.  We’ll see if Coach Howard can correct these flaws in time.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays two games, both in Crisler Arena.  On Wednesday (12/02/2020, 7:00 p.m., BTN) they play Ball State, then on Sunday (12/06/2020, 4:00 p.m., BTN) they play Central Florida (UCF).

Ball State was 18-13 (11-7 in the MAC) last season.  They have a couple good players, and some height.  This will be another “not your typical cupcake game” for Michigan, similar to the Oakland game.  If Michigan plays poorly, they could be in for a long evening.

UCF was 16-14 (7-11 in the AAC) last season.  They have a couple good players, and they even have some height.  This game should be like the other 3 non-conference games: if Michigan plays well, they should win.  If they bumble around like they did for most of the Oakland game, they could lose.

Go Blue!