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Posts Tagged ‘Caris LeVert’

2015-16 Michigan basketball season review: A season of what-ifs

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

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It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. A year after struggling to a .500 record while two potential stars watched from the bench nursing injuries, Michigan was supposed to bounce back this season. This would finally be the season that John Beilein had some seasoning in his team, with senior leaders that had been to the National Championship before and a pair of juniors who played key roles on an Elite Eight team the following year.

The Michigan Wolverines entered the 2015-16 basketball season primed to show what their healthy, veteran squad could do in a college basketball landscape that lacked any team that clearly stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Senior Caris LeVert was returning from injury after deciding to forego a likely guaranteed NBA paycheck for an opportunity to prove himself.

Fellow senior Spike Albrecht was also coming back after a junior season that saw him sometimes spectacularly lift a shorthanded team to victories that should have never been possible – and he was also supposed to be healthy and ready to roll with a pair of new hips.

Junior Derrick Walton, like LeVert, entered the season at 100 percent after missing the majority of his sophomore season with an injury. And classmate Zak Irvin was back to show everyone that his end-of-year evolution from Just A Shooter to All Around Threat was real.

Sprinkle in a promising group of sophomores that included an eye-popping athlete in Aubrey Dawkins, a quiet but creative playground-style baller in Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and a promising big man on the rise in Ricky Doyle, and it looked as if the 2014-15 season could be just a blip on the timeline of a dominant five-year run for Michigan basketball.

Alas, sometimes the world of basketball is a cruel place.

Perhaps Irvin’s offseason back injury and ensuing surgery should have been a bigger omen than it was perceived to be at the time.

If that wasn’t, then a couple early drubbings at the hands of Xavier and UConn would prove to be all the foreboding necessary.

Sure, Michigan bounced back with an impressive win over Texas and managed to squeak into the NCAA Tournament with a few big time conference home wins and a heart-pounding win over Big Ten champion Indiana in the conference tournament – the season’s unquestionable highlight – but the season certainly didn’t meet some lofty expectations.

A nail-biter victory over Tulsa in the First Four of the Big Dance preceded a season-ending loss to Notre Dame that could not have been a better microcosm. After jumping out to a 12-point halftime lead behind crisp offense, hot shooting, and an efficient fast break attack, the Wolverines faded just as fast in the second stanza with defensive miscues, a brutal scoring drought, and a lack of a killer instinct.

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Unfortunately, the team we all thought was going to help us forget last season ultimately became almost a mirror image of that group.

LeVert, an All-American candidate who looked every bit the part in the non-conference, went down at the end of Michigan’s first Big Ten game and missed all but 10 minutes of the rest of the season.

Albrecht, a vocal leader, an excellent passer, and a tremendous shooter, shut it down much earlier on after realizing that his hips had not healed nearly enough to allow him to play effectively or pain-free.

Walton remained healthy for the most part, and his three-point shooting returned to freshman form, but his tantalizing finishing ability from two seasons ago continued to lag behind all year without LeVert around to distract opposing defenses.

Irvin, a deadeye shooter just two seasons ago who blossomed into a big-time athlete and passer as a sophomore, started the season in a major funk and never fully developed into the go-to guy many expected. Certainly his offseason procedure didn’t help matters there, as his athleticism took a noticeable hit and his shooting became increasingly sporadic. After shooting 42.5 percent from deep as a freshman and 35.1 percent last season, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball failed to crack 30 percent by season’s end, while his free throw shooting followed the same mysterious downward spiral (71.4%, 68.9%, 65.8% year-to-year-to-year).

In turn, what everyone saw as a memorable season in waiting became a year that may soon be forgotten.

But it’s hard to put the disappointment on any one player or coach. Beilein was once again dealt a hand that few, if any, coaches around the country would have been able to compete with.

Think about it. Take two veterans – one the undisputable star player and another an ultra-reliable vocal leader, ball-handler, passer, shooter, and all-around charmer extraordinaire – away from any team in the country in a year dominated by upperclassmen and try to find one that marches on to the same beat. Many, I would venture to guess, would run straight into a brick wall while others would struggle to power their proverbial engine up the side of a mountain.

In many ways, the job that Beilein and these players did to even play their way into the Big Dance was remarkable. A team lacking its biggest sure things managed to take down the likes of Maryland and Purdue in the regular season before grinding out a win over the class of the Big Ten in a virtual road game. Sure, there were a number of losses mixed in, and many of them not pretty, but by season’s end, Michigan would have wins on its resume over three five seeds and a six seed.

Likewise, it’s hard to criticize a group of players that had to adapt to completely unfamiliar circumstances midway through the season. One day the do-it-all senior was there to carry the torch and the next day he was done. How do you adjust to losing a guy that leads the way in scoring, assisting, and rebounding overnight — the guy that runs the show and has the ball in his hands with the shot clock winding down?

Quite simply, you don’t.

Yet again, a promising year faded into a chorus of what-ifs. There’s no denying that it was a disappointing season in many ways, but there’s also no denying that much of it was out of the team’s power.

For better or worse, the group that ended this season together should be back almost in its entirety come fall. And while the what-ifs of this season pain Michigan fans now, they will eventually fade and make way for newfound excitement and frustration, more expectations and heartbreak, and more promise and surprise on the horizon.

‘Tis the game of college basketball.

The Far-off Season
Reasons for Optimism

1. Everyone is Back!
For those fans who think college basketball revolves around the freshmen sensations at Kentucky every year, take a look at the remaining 16 teams left in the Tournament today. Nearly every team relies on a junior or senior to be the key cog, or at least to be one of the prime performers. From Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden at Kansas to Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes at Virginia to Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige at North Carolina to Elgin Cook and Chris Boucher at Oregon (oh, those are all 1 seeds? interesting…), experience is the name of the game.

Experience has been a foreign concept to the past few Michigan squads until this last one, when much of the experience disappeared somewhere between a quarter and halfway through the year. For the first time in what feels like forever, the Wolverines figure to start all upperclassmen, including seniors in Walton and Irvin. And while the improvement hasn’t been as rapid as hoped in those two, I expect another leap.

For a couple quick examples, feel free to look at Denzel Valentine and Buddy Hield’s numbers over their first three seasons before emerging as the top Player of the Year candidates as seniors (hint: Hield has nearly doubled his free throw rate and 3pt% since his freshman season while Valentine went from shooting liability and turnover machine to…well, we all know how good he was this year). Rising junior Duncan Robinson should also figure to improve now that he has a full season of live ball under his belt at the highest level.

2. The Newbies
Michigan welcomes a four-man class in 2016 that includes an undersized point guard recently named Ohio Mr. Basketball (NO I AM NOT TRYING TO DRAW PARALLELS TO TREY BURKE), a lanky wing from Pickerington Central in Columbus who looks to do a bit of everything (NO I AM NOT TRYING TO DRAW PARALLELS TO CARIS LEVERT), and a pair of big men to add to the mix at arguably the weakest spot in the lineup (see? No parallels).

Xavier Simpson figures to back up Walton at the point and should add some creative scoring punch after averaging 27.2 points per game in high school (buoyed by a couple of ridiculous scoring nights) while Ibi Watson should be in the minutes mix on the wing. Bigs Austin Davis and Jon Teske are both probably a season away from getting big time minutes but will add competition down low. Teske in particular could develop into a nice rim protector not seen around Ann Arbor since Ekpe Udoh swatted anything within five feet of him.

3. A More Manageable Big Ten
The Big Ten should be strong as usual next season, but take a quick glance at some of the top teams and there’s reason to believe Michigan should be able to make up some ground. League champion Indiana loses Yogi Ferrell, Max Bielfeldt, and Nick Zeisloft (and possibly Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams as well); Michigan State waves goodbye to Valentine, Matt Costello, and Bryn Forbes; Maryland will see Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman depart (almost certainly along with Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone); Purdue graduates A.J. Hammons and Raphael Davis, etc. Yes, other players will also come and go, but there is rebuilding to be done in almost every Big Ten city but Ann Arbor.

Reasons for Pessimism

1. Everyone is Back
Sure everyone is back…but everyone is back from that. Will a team with ultimately the same core be able to make a big enough jump? Only time will tell, but there is certainly improvement needed in the offseason.

2. Defensive Woes
I’m not sure how Michigan’s defense will take a substantial step forward with all the same personnel and the same coaching staff short of a miracle. LeVert probably had the most potential on that end, and while I generally like Walton and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s defensive skill set, there are still some giant holes that have no apparent quick fix.

3. Where is the Improvement?
Unfortunately, one could make an argument that Rahk and Mark Donnal were the only two Wolverines to take major steps forward. Arguments could be made that a handful of other players actually regressed (Irvin, Dawkins, Doyle) while some merely treaded water. If the team is going to improve greatly a season from now, the individuals on the team are going to need to improve along with it; unfortunately we don’t have too much to go off in that regard. The big man problem could be solved if Donnal continues to make strides and Moritz Wagner emerges as a consistent option as well, while there should be plenty of options on the wings to find serviceable parts.

A Couple Offseason Happenings to Make Note Of

1. On the way out?
With four freshmen coming in and only three scholarship spots opening up, someone is going to need to leave town to make room. I won’t speculate too much on individual players, but one might presume that a jumbled big man or wing rotation, declining minutes, and/or a sense of homesickness could influence a Wolverine or two to seek greener pastures.

Alternatively, Austin Davis could hypothetically take a prep year to even out the numbers, but I expect to see some attrition instead. To make things a bit more complicated, Spike is eligible for a medical redshirt and could also figure into scholarship discussions. If he and the coaching staff agree on his return, one fewer scholarship would be opening up.

2. A New Look Coaching Staff?
Some are calling for a shakeup in Beilein’s assistant coaching staff of Jeff Meyer, Lavall Jordan, and Bacari Alexander, and I think we will see some movement in that department – but not necessarily by way of firing. Meyer is approaching the end of his career and could foreseeably step down if he thought it was best for the team while Jordan and Alexander will certainly get looks from mid-majors looking to fill head coaching vacancies. My best bet would be that Bacari leaves for a head job while Jordan and Meyer remain – but that’s merely a guess. Regardless, if at least one assistant does not return, expect Beilein to scour the coaching ranks hard for a defensive-minded assistant.

3. Donnal Reclassifying?
Early on this past season, John Beilein abruptly changed Mark Donnal’s class standing from redshirt sophomore to true junior, meaning he was at the very least considering the Max Bielfeldt treatment for the third-year big that was struggling to meet expectations despite considerable opportunity. Just as abruptly, Donnal then emerged as Michigan’s no doubt top option at the five spot with a 26-point, nine-rebound, three-block performance at Illinois in the conference opener. And while Donnal’s head-scratching mistakes and mysterious aversion to dunking the ball did not fully disappear, he was a generally reliable finisher and rebounder throughout the season. As Brendan Quinn from MLive quipped a few weeks ago, I believe Donnal is due to be reclassified back to his redshirt status.

(6) Notre Dame 70 – (11) Michigan 63: Second half letdown ends Michigan’s season

Saturday, March 19th, 2016

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Michigan survived Tulsa in the First Four on Wednesday night, but couldn’t carry the momentum to Brooklyn, where the Wolverines’ season came to an end with a 70-63 loss to Notre Dame on Friday night.

Unlike Wednesday’s game, Michigan came out firing on all cylinders and playing tough defense, holding a lead the entire first half. It took more than three minutes for Notre Dame to score its first point, but Michigan had only amassed five. Over the next seven minutes, however, Michigan outscored the Irish 21 to 11 to take a 26-13 lead.

Notre Dame pulled within five, but Michigan scored the final seven points of the half, capped by a Moritz Wagner layup at the buzzer. Michigan took a 41-29 lead into the locker room.

Four Factors
Michigan Notre Dame
48 eFG% 67
28 OReb% 26
11 TO% 26
8 FTR 35

But that was as good as it would get for the Wolverines. Notre Dame scored the first eight points of the second half before Mark Donnal finally got Michigan on the board at the 17:49 mark. Unlike the first half, every time Michigan scored, Notre Dame had an answer. Duncan Robinson hit a three, but the Irish scored four straight. Donnal made anther layup, but Notre Dame scored five straight. And suddenly, with 12:18 to play, the game was tied at 48.

Neither team scored for nearly three minutes until Notre Dame’s V.J. Beachem hit a three to give the Irish their first lead. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman answered with a three of his own and Zak Irvin followed to put Michigan back on top. A 6-2 Notre Dame run gave ND the lead, but a Donnal layup with 4:55 to play put Michigan back on top 58-57. It was the last lead Michigan would have.

The Wolverines managed just three points — a Donnal foul shot and layup — over the next three and a half minutes as Notre Dame 66-61 lead. An Irvin layup brought Michigan within three, and after a defensive stop, Michigan had a chance to tie the game in the closing minute. But Irvin missed a three and the Wolverines were forced to foul. Notre Dame sealed the game at the free throw line.

Michigan shot 39.7 percent for the game, but just 28.1 percent in the second half. After making 7-of-14 three-point attempts in the first half, the Wolverines made just 3-of-13 in the second. Meanwhile, Notre Dame shot a blistering 58.1 percent from the field and made 8-of-15 three-point attempts.

Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting and 3-of-4 three-point shooting. Derrick Walton was the only other Michigan player in double figures with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting to go along with eight assists. Donnal, Irvin, and Robinson added nine points apiece.

Beachem led Notre Dame with 18 points, while Bonzie Colson added 12, Demetrius Jackson 11, and Zach Auguste recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Michigan’s season ends at 23-13, while Notre Dame (22-11) advances to the Round of 32 to face Stephen F. Austin on Sunday.

Final Game Stats
34 Mark Donnal* 4-9 0-1 1-2 3 0 3 3 9 1 0 1 0 29
10 Derrick Walton* 4-13 2-6 0-1 1 3 4 1 10 8 2 0 6 38
21 Zak Irvin* 4-16 1-9 0-0 1 3 4 0 9 4 0 0 1 36
22 Duncan Robinson* 3-7 3-5 0-0 0 4 4 3 9 2 1 0 0 38
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 5-12 3-4 2-2 2 2 4 0 15 3 0 0 1 38
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
13 Moritz Wagner 3-3 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 4 6 0 2 0 1 8
24 Aubrey Dawkins 2-3 1-2 0-0 0 0 0 0 5 0 1 0 0 7
32 Ricky Doyle 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 4
Totals 25-63 10-27 3-5 11 14 25 14 63 18 7 1 10 200
Notre Dame 25-43 8-15 12-15 5 28 33 9 70 12 16 8 3
Full Stats

The 10 best moments of Michigan’s season (so far)

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

(Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

It has been a long ride for the 2015-16 Michigan basketball team, one with many highs but an unexpected number of lows. John Beilein’s team fought through injuries, shooting slumps and far too many defensive lapses to ultimately land right where it wanted to be: The NCAA Tournament.

The Wolverines certainly didn’t take the traditional route to the Dance. Up until the moment the official bracket leaked on Twitter, it looked like Michigan’s odds of playing in the tournament were only slightly better than 50-50.

Most importantly, Michigan is one of 66 teams that still have a non-zero chance to win it all. But before we turn our attention fully to the NCAA Tournament, let’s take a look back at the top moments that landed the Wolverines in this position.

10. Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht honored on Senior Night

Okay, so Senior Night wasn’t exactly what Michigan envisioned at the beginning of the season. For one, neither LeVert nor Albrecht scored a single point for the Wolverines in 2016 due to injury. The seniors didn’t play on Senior Night, instead watching their teammates get trounced by an Iowa team that arrived on a four-game losing streak.

But it wouldn’t seem right leaving Senior Night completely out of the top 10. Michigan hasn’t had a truly meaningful Senior Night since Zack Novak and Stu Douglass said their goodbyes, and LeVert and Spike at least gave Beilein two great seasons.

Spike also held up his framed jersey the wrong way when saluting the crowd, a cherry on top of an endlessly entertaining college career.

LeVert and Albrecht were added to the Fresh Five as afterthoughts, joining Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas in a loaded recruiting class. But Albrecht turned into a solid backup point guard in his freshman year and exploded for 17 points in the school’s biggest game in over a decade. LeVert, on the other hand, became the team’s best all-around player for an Elite 8 run and will continue his career in the NBA.

The last two years have been frustrating, but Michigan still got more than it could have hoped for out of the two lightly-recruited guards. Good luck, fellas.

9. John Beilein wears a ChadTough T-shirt during game

Since Beilein took over as the top dog in Ann Arbor nearly 10 years ago, he’s stuck to his two-trick wardrobe combinations: Shirt and tie — or polo — and dressy pants. But he made an exception on Feb. 13, sauntering out of the Blavin Tunnel with his maize ChadTough Foundation T-shirt.

It was the final push for Beilein to win the Coaches Charity Challenge and raise $100,000 for the ChadTough Foundation, an announcement that came the very morning Michigan was named to the NCAA Tournament field.

Beilein has since reverted to his business casual ways, but the T-shirt game did happen, coach. We have pictures.

8. Mark Donnal drops 26 points (yes, twenty-six) at Illinois

6, 6, 0, 0, 7, 4, 0, 2, 0, 0, 11, 0, 7

If I asked you to pick the outlier in the group of numbers above, you respond with something like, “Well, 11 sure is quite a bit higher than the rest of those numbers.”

You would be correct. Mark Donnal had quite an explosion against Northern Kentucky, scoring 11 points and grabbing two rebounds. It was by far his best performance in Michigan’s first 13 games of the season.

Then on Dec. 30 Donnal embarrassed Illinois’ weak defensive front court and made 11 of 15 field goal attempts for 26 points. He also grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots.

Oh yeah, and he didn’t even start. Ricky Doyle did.

There was not a full moon on Dec. 30, 2015. I checked. And it wasn’t Donnal’s birthday, either. He was born in May. The only explanation for his stat line is that college basketball is amazing and pretty much anything can happen any time two teams hit the court.

For Michigan, Donnal’s outburst halted the revolving door at center and cemented the sophomore as the team’s starter. Doyle and Donnal went back and forth a bit during the first half of the year, but at the turn of the calendar, it was Donnal all the way for Beilein.

7. MAAR gets new life, and runs with it

At the beginning of the season, one had to wonder if Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman would be in the Maize and Blue for much longer. He was planted firmly behind Derrick Walton, Albrecht and LeVert in the guard rotation and even lost some minutes to the Duncan Robinson-Aubrey Dawkins duo early.

With such a loaded group of guards and Xavier Simpson set to join the team for 2016-17, it looked like MAAR’s minutes would take a massive hit, despite his excellent contributions down the stretch in 2015.

But then a hobbled Albrecht called it a career and LeVert went down with the secretest injury in Michigan history and the door of opportunity swung open for Abdur-Rahkman.

It didn’t take long for MAAR to lock up the fifth starting spot. In his second game filling in for LeVert in the back court, Abdur-Rahkman scored 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting in West Lafayette and almost single-handedly kept Michigan alive for 30 minutes against a heavily-favored Purdue team. He scored from beyond the arc, he scored from the free throw line, and most importantly, he scored off the dribble, giving Michigan a legitimate attacking threat in the paint.

Here we are, two months later, and he’s still the team’s best offensive player off the dribble. Instead of watching from the (albeit extremely comfortable-looking) folding chairs on the sideline, Abdul-Rahkman could be an integral part of the NCAA Tournament.

6. Caris LeVert makes his return! Well, sort of

It seems cruelly ironic to look back on LeVert’s return to the court and think, “That was actually the beginning of the end.”

After game after game after game (11, to be exact) of LeVert being ruled out following ‘game-time decisions,’ he actually participated in warmups on Feb. 13 and caused quite a buzz in Ann Arbor.

The team as a whole wasn’t giving fans much to be excited about. After losing back-to-back home games by half a hundred and nearly blowing a huge lead to winless Minnesota, the Wolverines returned to a less-than-optimistic crowd at the Crisler Center to battle an enormous Purdue team that won the previous meeting by 17 points.

I remember looking around before tipoff and wondering how the stands could be so empty with a top 20 team in the building. Sure, the ChadTough T-shirts generated a bit of excitement in the Maize Rage, but the overall feeling of the fanbase was one of defeat.

Then Caris jogged out of the tunnel and joined the layup lines. You’d think he shot himself out of a cannon and landed at midcourt after a perfect flip by the cheer that ran through the crowd.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but for the first time since halftime of the Indiana debacle, fans around Crisler perked up.

When the game started, LeVert was on the bench, when Beilein pointed at him and he ripped off his warmup, the crowd really did erupt. He took only shot — a shot-clock hurried jumper near the elbow — and didn’t score in the game, but his return energized the fans and the team.

Nobody knew that would be the last time they’d see Caris LeVert play in a Michigan uniform. At that time, it was just great to see the team’s leader in nearly every major category back with the ball in his hands.

5. Zak Irvin’s elbow jumper saves Michigan in overtime

The No. 1 moment on this list will get most of the credit for sending the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament, but that might not have even happened if not for Zak Irvin’s dagger with three seconds left in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

After clawing and scratching their way to overtime, Michigan managed to earn itself a chance to take the last shot in a tie game. Beilein called on the team’s streakiest player, Irvin, to take a contested jumper off the dribble.

It worked. Irvin pulled up just beyond the right elbow and nailed the go-ahead jumper. Northwestern got another crack at a last-second prayer (two cracks, actually), but in the end, it was Irvin’s shot that sealed the deal and kept Michigan’s bleak NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

4. Wolverines return to the NCAA Tournament

When Michigan failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in 2015, it was a disappointing, but understandable pill to swallow.

LeVert, Walton and Albrecht were all injured. Dawkins and Abdur-Rahkman were leading the team as unknown freshmen and Beilein had just lost a small army of players to the NBA draft.

But in a year when the Wolverines began ranked in the Top 25, with players like Walton and Robinson added to the rotation, missing the 2016 tournament would have been a much bigger blow for the program to swallow. Sure, LeVert and Albrecht missed the most meaningful half of the season, but for a program that was trending toward elite in 2014, two straight absences in March Madness seemed unacceptable.

Luckily, those concerns were squashed for good Sunday. Contrary to what many of the ‘bracketology experts’ predicted, Michigan got into the Big Dance. The big wins were there, the bad losses were not, and the Wolverines got what they deserved: An outside chance to make some noise.

Some might argue that Michigan’s season won’t be a success unless it gets past the First Four. To you I say, “Rubbish!” The First Four isn’t a 16 versus 16 play-in game like it used to be. Plenty of teams have made runs after winning in Dayton, including a Tennessee team that nearly knocked Michigan out of the Sweet 16 in 2014.

When Michigan was flirting with another tournament-less season, the program seemed to be trending sharply downwards. But now that Beilein has his players back on the national stage, it’s a step in the right direction.

3. Michigan uses 11-0 run in final 3 minutes to beat Purdue

As we make our way through the top three moments of the season, keep in mind that Michigan needed EVERY single one of its four top 30 wins to get into the NCAA Tournament. Even with those wins, and no bad losses, Michigan just barely slipped into the Field of 68.

Perhaps the most unlikely of those three victories came against a team that presents the worst matchup problems for Michigan in the Big Ten. Purdue came into Ann Arbor with its top three players flourishing near the rim.

A.J. Hammons (7 feet tall) led the charge and fellow center Isaac Haas (7-foot-2) and dynamic freshman Caleb Swanigan (6-foot-9) weren’t far behind. The trio posed the greatest inside threat in the conference and figured to dominate a Michigan team that tries to make due inside with a pair of 6-foot-9 forwards.

For most of the game, Purdue was like a high school senior holding the charging freshman back with a hand on his forehead. Michigan would close to within five points, and Purdue would push back, keeping the game from getting within a possession.

It wasn’t until the final 2:45 of the game, when Irvin nailed a triple on the left wing, that Michigan really sent the building into a frenzy. Then Walton made a fast-break layup. Then Irvin hit another shot, and Michigan was in front.

Four Walton free throws later, Michigan polished off an improbable win with an 11-0 run to close out the game. With such a tough week in the rearview mirror, and an even more brutal stretch ahead, it was a win the program sorely needed.

2. Michigan upsets No. 3 Maryland

Remember when Maryland was one of the best teams in the country?

At one point, the Terps were 15-1 and ranked in the top five in both major polls. Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone were looking like one of the best duos in the country and Michigan hadn’t stayed within 14 points of a ranked team all season.

Needless to say, it looked like it would be a rout.

Instead, Michigan completely shut down Trimble and Irvin was the star of the show. He scored 22 points on 8-14 shooting and Walton added a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) as Michigan led for almost the entire first 30 minutes.

Maryland erased a couple of 10-point deficits in the second half and tied the game at 54 with 7:37 left. Michigan called timeout, but two possessions later, the Terps took a one-point lead on the heels of Stone’s and-one layup.

The Wolverines wouldn’t be denied that night, and buckets from Donnal, Robinson and Walton stretched the lead back out to five. An Irvin three-pointer with 3:08 left all but sealed the deal.

With Dickie V screaming “That’s a big time three, baby!” Michigan rode to its first ranked win of the season.

1. “It’s good! At the buzzer! Meeeeechigan wins!”

You don’t have to go back very far to find Michigan’s top moment of the season. With everything — An NCAA Tournament bid, a chance to advance in the conference tournament and a win over the Big Ten champions — on the line, Kam Chatman found the ball in his hands with the clock racing toward zeroes.

Some members on the team reportedly thought it was Aubrey Dawkins standing in the corner with the ball. I bet they were surprised when the shot went up with his left hand.

Chatman buried the contested corner triple, sending the bench into a frenzy and vaulting the Wolverines into the NCAA Tournament. It came after Michigan trailed by five with two minutes left. It came after MAAR fouled out of the game, allowing Chatman to check in.

It came after almost everyone had buried the Wolverines, who were forgotten on the wrong side of the bubble.

Michigan went 19 minutes without a three-pointer in the second half, but Robinson and Chatman hit two of the biggest triples of the season in that final minute. That’s why Michigan is playing tonight. That’s why they made the Dance.

Going forward

Almost every big play Michigan makes going forward will be worthy of this list, as everything is magnified in the NCAA Tournament. But with 34 games in the books, and more ups and downs than most tournament teams experience in a season, Michigan has already given fans a year to remember.

Michigan hoops preview: (9) Northwestern

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Michigan vs Northwestern
Thursday, March 10 | Indianapolis, Ind.. | 12 p.m. ET | Big Ten Network
Line: Michigan -3.5
74.9 Points/gm 72.1
(827-1,751) 47.2 Field Goal % 45.3 (812-1,792)
(302-774) 39.0 3-pt FG % 35.6 (267-749)
(367-500) 73.4 Free Throw % 66.5 (343-516)
11.8 FT Made/gm 11.1
32.2 Reb/gm 36.2
15.0 Assists/gm 16.5
9.9 Turnovers/gm 10.5
67.1 Points/gm 65.8
(766-1,720) 44.5 Field Goal % 40.2 (694-1,726)
(221-639) 34.6 3-pt FG % 34.2 (215-629)
32.2 Opp. Reb/gm 34.3
5.5 Steals/gm 3.9
2.2 Blocks/gm 3.8
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Derrick Walton (12.3) Points/gm Tre Demps (15.5), Bryant McIntosh (13.6)
Derick Walton (5.7), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Alex Olah (5.3), Sanjay Lumpkin (4.9)

Michigan’s NCAA Tournament hopes will be on the line when they face Northwestern in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament in the first game of the day on Thursday. A win may still not be enough, pending the outcome of a quarterfinal matchup with Indiana, but a loss will surely send the Wolverines to the NIT.

The two met just once during the regular season, which Michigan won 72-63 in Ann Arbor, just two weeks ago. Michigan hasn’t won since then, dropping games to Wisconsin and Iowa, while Northwestern hasn’t lost, winning three by an average of 20 points.

Senior center Alex Olah (7-foot-0, 275) has had his way with Michigan the past three meeting dating back to last season, averaging 22 points and eight rebounds per game. He scored a game-high 19 points on 8-of-17 shooting in the meeting two weeks ago.

Fellow senior Tre Demps (6-foot-3, 202) has also given Michigan fits the past couple meetings, scoring 20 and 14 points, respectively, while making six of his 12 three-point attempts. The guard has been one of the Big Ten’s best scorers during the second half of Big Ten play, averaging 19.9 points and shooting 42.5 percent from three-point range over the last nine games.

Freshman forward Aaron Falzon (6-foot-8, 213) scored 14 points in the first meeting on 5-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-8 three-point shooting. Unlike Demps, that performance was out of character, one of only 11 double-digit games this season and his fourth-highest point total of the season. It was, however, the seventh game he has made four or more threes.

Sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh (6-foot-3, 185) has been hot and cold during the second half of the Big Ten schedule with five games of 14 or more points and six games of eight or fewer. One of the latter was against Michigan two weeks ago when he managed just four points on 2-of-7 shooting. But he has had games of 33, 32, and 28 points this season.

The fifth starter is redshirt junior wing Sanjay Lumpkin (6-foot-6, 220), who didn’t attempt a single shot in 20 minutes of action in the first meeting and fouled out. He’s not a big scorer with just two games in double figures all season — none in Big Ten play — but he is the team’s second leading rebounder, averaging 4.9 per game.

Sophomore forward Gavin Skelly (6-foot-8, 225) came off the bench to score eight points in Ann Arbor two weeks ago, his second-highest scoring game of the season. Freshman center Dererk Pardon (6-foot-8, 230) and sophomore wing Scottie Lindsey (6-foot-5, 205) are the other main contributors off the bench and each scored two points in the first meeting. Pardon poured in 28 points against Nebraska on Dec. 30, while Lindsey has a season high of 26 against New Orleans on Nov. 28. Lindsey is the team’s best three-point shooter (40.7 percent) among those who shoot them regularly.

Michigan came out flat two weeks ago and dug itself a 17-4 hole early on. The Wolverines trailed most of the game until Aubrey Dawkins hit back to back second half threes to tie the game and Kameron Chatman hit a free throw to give Michigan its first lead with 9:15 to play. Another Dawkins three with 4:26 remaining gave Michigan the lead for good and they held on with free throws down the stretch.

Michigan will have to shoot better from three-point range than it did in that first meeting if they want to advance to face Indiana. The Wolverines made just 4-of-15 three-point attempts, but outscored Northwestern 20 to five at the free throw line. While Michigan made nine or more three-pointers in its first eight Big Ten games, they’ve managed to do that just twice in the final 10. Not surprisingly, they went 6-2 in those first eight and just 4-6 in the last 10.

Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, and Duncan Robinson combined to make just 1-of-9 three-point attempts in the first meeting and that won’t happen again today. Michigan should win a close one and keep their Big Dance hopes alive for another day.

#16 Iowa 71 – Michigan 61: Senior Night loss leaves Michigan with work to do

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

UM vs Iowa(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Needing a victory to feel comfortable about an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, Michigan couldn’t find consistent offense or make enough stops defensively to hand Iowa its fifth straight loss. Instead, Michigan lost for the fourth time in five games to close the regular season 20-11 overall and 10-8 in Big Ten plan.

Duncan Robinson opened the game with a three-pointer, but Iowa scored the next seven and then pulled out to a 15-5 lead by the first media timeout. Michigan played catch up the remainder of the half, pulling within 30-28 at one point, but going into the locker room with a 36-30 deficit.

Four Factors
Michigan Iowa
44 eFG% 52
28 OReb% 11
16 TO% 11
19 FTR 16

Iowa’s Anthony Clemmons opened the second half with a three and by the midway point of the half, Iowa held a 15-point lead at 59-44. A nearly 11-minute scoring drought by the Hawkeyes allowed Michigan to crawl back into it, but the Wolverines were only able to pull within five with 6:13 remaining.

In the span of three possessions, Zak Irvin missed a long three and then turned the ball over, the latter leading directly to an Iowa basket. Derrick Walton followed with a layup, but Iowa caught Michigan sleeping with a wide open three-pointer. After two scoreless minutes, a Mark Donnal layup brought Michigan within six with 1:34 remaining, but Iowa found senior Jarrod Uthoff on a runout inbounds play for an and-one to effectively put the game away.

Walton led Michigan with 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds, while Irvin added 11 and eight. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 10 points on a 4-of-13 shooting night. Donnal contributed nine points and 10 rebounds, while Robinson added eight and eight.

As a team, Michigan shot just 35.9 percent from the field and 23.5 percent form three-point range. Irvin, Robinson, and Abdur-Rahkman combined to make just 2-of-18 three-point attempts. Michigan held a 43 to 35 rebounding edge, and both teams made seven free throws, but Iowa simply made more shots. The Hawkeyes shot 45.2 percent from the field.

Michigan heads into the Big Ten Tournament as the eighth seed and will need to win at least two to earn an NCAA Tournament berth. The Wolverines face nine-seed Northwestern on Thursday afternoon, and if they win, will face top-seeded Indiana the next day in the quarterfinals. Michigan won the season’s only meeting with Northwestern, 72-63, two weeks ago.

Final Game Stats
34 Mark Donnal* 4-10 1-3 0-0 4 6 10 0 9 0 0 0 1 28
10 Derrick Walton* 5-11 4-9 0-0 1 4 5 3 14 6 1 0 0 38
21 Zak Irvin* 4-13 1-6 2-4 1 7 8 0 11 3 4 0 1 35
22 Duncan Robinson* 2-9 1-6 3-4 3 5 8 4 8 2 3 0 1 28
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 4-13 0-6 2-3 0 4 4 3 10 2 1 1 0 36
03 Kam Chatman 2-3 1-2 0-0 0 1 1 0 5 0 1 0 0 8
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
11 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-3 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 1 2 0 1 0 0 13
32 Ricky Doyle 1-1 0-0 0-1 1 1 1 2 2 0 0 0 0 11
Totals 23-64 8-34 7-12 12 31 43 13 61 13 11 1 4 200
Iowa 28-62 8-28 7-10 4 31 35 15 71 19 8 3 7
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: #16 Iowa

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Michigan vs Iowa
Saturday, March 5 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 8 p.m. ET | Big Ten Network
Line: Iowa -1
75.4 Points/gm 78.8
(804-1,687) 47.7 Field Goal % 45.2 (802-1,774)
(294-740) 39.7 3-pt FG % 38.6 (239-619)
(360-488) 73.8 Free Throw % 71.8 (441-614)
12.0 FT Made/gm 15.2
31.9 Reb/gm 38.4
15.0 Assists/gm 15.8
9.9 Turnovers/gm 10.2
66.9 Points/gm 69.0
(738-1,658) 44.5 Field Goal % 41.5 (739-1,779)
(213-611) 34.9 3-pt FG % 31.0 (210-678)
32.1 Opp. Reb/gm 37.1
5.6 Steals/gm 6.8
2.2 Blocks/gm 5.0
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Derrick Walton (12.2) Points/gm Jarrod Uthoff (18.4), Peter Jok (16.0)
Derick Walton (5.7), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Adam Woodbury (8.4), Jarrod Uthoff (6.4)

The regular season isn’t the only thing that comes to a close tonight when Michigan host the 16th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. So too do the careers of Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert. The only two seniors on the team will be honored for their contributions to the program the last four years, but despite all they have accomplished they’ll be in street clothes rather than tying up the laces one last time in the Crisler Center.

Albrecht’s senior season came to an end in December when hip injuries — for which he had surgery last offseason — became too much to bear. LeVert injured his left foot — which has nagged him since his sophomore season — during the first Big Ten game on Dec. 30, and although he tried to return against Purdue on Feb. 13, he played just 11 minutes and ultimately decided to hang them up.

Without their two senior leaders, Michigan has struggled with consistency during Big Ten play. On one night they beat Maryland or Purdue. The next night they lose by double digits. At 20-10 overall and 10-7 in the Big Ten, they desperately need a win over Iowa to make the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa has had its own struggles as of late, dropping four straight and five of their last six since starting the season 19-4 overall and 10-1 in conference. After the first week of February the Hawkeyes looked to be the clear-cut Big Ten title favorite. But the losses have piled up, first at Indiana, who will win the Big Ten, and then Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Indiana again. The only win since Valentines Day was a four-point home win over bottom-feeder Minnesota.

Senior forward Jarrod Uthoff (6-foot-9, 221), a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, leads Iowa and ranks second in the conference, with 18.4 points per game. He’s also the team’s second-leading rebounder, averaging 6.4 per game, and leads the team and conference with 2.7 blocks per game. He scored 23 in the season’s first meeting on 9-of-20 shooting.

Junior guard Peter Jok (6-foot-6, 205) is the only other Hawkeye averaging double figures with 16.0 points per game. He has taken (166) and made (69) the most three-pointers on the team, shooting at a 41.6 percent clip. Since scoring 16 in the first meeting, he has six games of 20 or more points and is averaging 18.8 points in that 12 game span.

Senior guard Anthony Clemmons (6-foot-2, 200) averages 9.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. He managed just five points in the first meeting, but followed it up with a season-high 20 against Rutgers four days later.

Senior guard Mike Gesell (6-foot-2, 190) averages 8.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, and a team-high 6.0 assists per game. He’s not a big-time scorer with just five games in double figures during Big Ten play, but he can when needed as he did with 25 points in a Dec. 29 win over Michigan State.

The fifth and final starter is senior center Adam Woodbury (7-foot-1, 250), who averages 7.9 points and leads the team with 8.4 rebounds per game. He scored 12 against Michigan the first time around, but hasn’t scored more than six points in any of the last five games.

Sophomore forward Dom Uhl is the only other player who has started a game for Iowa’s veteran squad this season. He averages 6.4 points and 3.8 assists per contest and leads the team with a 47.1 percent three-point rate.

Fran McCaffrey doesn’t rely much on his bench, but aside from Uhl, redshirt freshman Nicholas Baer (6-foot-7, 200), freshman forward Ahmad Wagner (6-foot-7, 225), and freshman guard Christian Williams (6-foot-6, 200) get the minutes. Baer scored seven against Michigan in the first meeting, the second most he’s scored in Big Ten play, while Wagner scored five.

Iowa is the Big Ten’s third-best scoring team at 78.8 points per game. The Hawkeyes rank seventh in shooting (45.2 percent), fourth in three-point shooting (38.6 percent), and seventh in free throw percentage (71.8 percent). Defensively, Iowa gives up the ninth-most fewest points per game (69.0). They rank sixth in field goal percentage defense (41.5 percent) and second against the three (31.0 percent).

Iowa is favored by one point, and although they’re squarely in the Big Dance, they would like to gain some momentum heading into it. Michigan, meanwhile, is playing for its postseason life. A win would likely give Michigan enough of a resume to earn an at-large bid, especially if the Wolverines win their first Big Ten Tournament game. A loss, however, would leave Michigan with considerable work to do in Indianapolis next week. And that’s not an enviable position to be in.

Michigan announces Caris LeVert’s career is over

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Caris LeVert(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

The heralded Michigan career of Caris LeVert has come to an end, John Beilein announced Tuesday morning. The senior from Pickerington, Ohio suffered a lower left leg injury in the Big Ten opener against Illinois on Dec. 30 and tried to return to action against Purdue on Feb. 14, but was limited to just 11 minutes. Ultimately, the injury ended his career.

“After some prayer and talking it over with my family, Coach Beilein and the medical staff, we all feel it is best for me to concentrate on getting fully healthy,” said LeVert in a statement released by the program. “There is still some discomfort that does not allow me to help this team the way I want.”

“I am so thankful for what Coach Beilein, the assistants and the medical staff have done for me during my collegiate career and in particular while I have dealt with these injuries.

“U-M has provided me the chance to live my dream of playing college basketball and to earn a Michigan degree. There are really no words to express my gratitude for that as well as my love for all my teammates. I am so blessed to be part of this wonderful university and will forever represent the Maize and Blue.”

In 103 career games, LeVert scored 1,070 points, becoming the 49th Wolverine in program history to top 1,000. He was named to the All-Big Ten second team following the 2013-14 season, in which he started all 37 games and averaged 12.9 points per game, leading Michigan to a Big Ten title and Elite Eight appearance.

His junior season was cut short after 18 games with a left foot injury, but he chose to return to Michigan for his senior season instead of entering the NBA Draft, where he would have been a likely first round pick. This season, he led Michigan with 17.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists through the first 14 games before his injury. He also recorded just the fourth triple-double in program history on Dec. 15 against Northern Kentucky when he scored 13 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, and dished out 10 assists.

In the statement released by Tuesday morning, Beilein issued high praise for the final member of his heralded 2012 recruiting class.

“This has been a tough two months for Caris,” said Beilein. “He has worked so hard to get back to this point, and Caris’ long-term health is what is most important.

“Caris has been a pleasure to coach; he is a wonderful young man with a brilliant future. I am confident he will have a very successful professional career because his talent, attitude, quickness and versatility make every team better.

“He has always carried himself and handled these situations with such class and a level of maturity that is unmatched. This is not how he wanted to finish his career here; however, we know he can hold his head high for how he has represented this great university and our basketball program.”

If LeVert can make a full recovery, he will still be a likely first or second round pick in this June’s NBA Draft.

#6 Maryland 86 – Michigan 82: Wolverines come up short of Maryland sweep

Sunday, February 21st, 2016


A loss is always a tough pill to swallow, whether inevitable or unexpected, in blowout fashion or nail-biting.

Today’s 86-82 Michigan loss to Maryland stings just a little more though. Perhaps that’s better than the numbness felt after some of the blowouts handed to the Maize and Blue earlier this year.

Few Wolverine fans were giving the visitors much of a shot at even competing on the Terrapins’ home floor this afternoon – let alone stealing a victory – but Michigan fought valiantly despite missing Caris LeVert once again. A win would have all but guaranteed a berth in the NCAA Tournament while a loss pushes Michigan ever closer to the bubble.

For the better part of the first half, it seemed that another lopsided, lightly contested loss was in order for a Michigan squad that’s been drubbed a bit too often this season. Before 10 minutes had passed after the tip, the Wolverines trailed by double digits and couldn’t get a shot to fall. A couple minutes later and the deficit had ballooned to 16 points on a Robert Carter and-1, completing a 17-1 run for Maryland that brought back nightmares of Indiana’s similarly devastating 25-0 first half blitz not long ago.

Michigan had every reason to fold this afternoon as they did against the Hoosiers. They were close to double digit underdogs and not supposed to be able to battle with the top-10 Terps.

But Derrick Walton didn’t want any of it. After trailing by 16, the junior orchestrated a 17-6 run for the visitors with some unlikely help from Kam Chatman.

Seemingly dead in the water midway through the first half, Michigan clawed back to make it a five-point deficit at the break.

Four Factors
Michigan Maryland
58 eFG% 50
22 OReb% 35
13 TO% 19
25 FTR 19

After halftime, the Wolverines continued to chip away at Maryland’s lead and eventually tied things up at 47 three minutes into the second half. What Walton had started, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Mark Donnal were finishing.

The redshirt sophomore Donnal (officially listed as a junior on Michigan’s roster) started dominating all over the floor, scoring 20 points less than 13 minutes into the second half while true sophomore Abdur-Rahkman sneakily dished out five dimes in the same time period while pouring in a few points of his own.

Still, Maryland would use their offensive firepower to take an eight-point lead just a few minutes after Michigan had tied things up. The Wolverines battled back yet again to take a 75-72 lead (tying their largest lead of the game) with just 5:51 to play, but the Terps finished the fight with a 14-7 finishing spurt to KO Michigan.

It’s not a loss to be disappointed in to be sure, considering Maryland is one of three teams in the country to be ranked in the top 10 for the entire season to date, but it’s a tough one to see slip away – even if it was never fully within Michigan’s grasp.

We saw tenacity from the Wolverines today that’s been all too absent in other losses, and we saw the offense get back on track following a rough shooting stretch over the last few games and in today’s first half. We also saw the reemergence of Donnal, who nearly matched his career high set in the first game of the Big Ten season with 25 points today on 10-of-13 shooting against an excellent Maryland front court. Donnal has now clearly separated himself from a shaky big man rotation after losing his starting job in each of the past two seasons to Ricky Doyle, who has struggled mightily this year, and is finishing bunnies, competing on the boards (two offensive/three defensive rebounds today), and providing some defensive resistance for a team sorely lacking on that end of the court (career high five blocks today). The Ohio native also showed off the three-point shot this afternoon that made him a four-star high school recruit with three straight triples to stretch the defense.

Walton’s 14 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals were also crucial to keep Michigan afloat, but his five turnovers were costly and his fifth foul late sealed the Wolverines’ fate.

That foul, which came on a push-off while driving to the rim with 18 seconds remaining and Michigan trailing by three, is not one you see called often, especially down the stretch in a close game. It wasn’t the strangest whistle of the afternoon though, unfortunately. That came a few minutes earlier with a one-point Maryland lead when Zak Irvin was chasing after a loose ball side-by-side with a Maryland player around halfcourt and puzzlingly called for a push as he reached to pick up the ball. It felt like a big momentum swing even though no free throws were involved, as did an earlier call on Walton for slapping at the ball – and getting what looked like all ball – against a big man.

Michigan’s bench play also left plenty to be desired. The six Wolverines to get minutes off the bench combined to score six points on 2/8 shooting with one rebound, two assists, a steal, and a turnover in 25 minutes. All those points came from Chatman, as did the rebound, the steal, and the assists.

The starters, meanwhile, all finished in double digits while playing between 29 and 39 minutes.

And the shots started falling, with 13 made threes on 27 attempts. But ultimately, Michigan’s 16 turnovers, 17 fouls (leading to 19 Maryland free throw attempts, of which they made 17), and porous defense were too much to overcome.

The loss certainly stings, and a giant opportunity was lost. I still think there’s reason for some hope and excitement, however, and a win over Northwestern at home on Wednesday would keep the Wolverines in the projected Big Dance field.

Quick Hitters

• Derrick Walton’s five fouls make him the first Wolverine to foul out all season.

• The loss today marks the only game John Beilein has ever lost at Michigan when the Wolverines scored 80 or more points, ending the streak at 50 games.

• Aubrey Dawkins played only four minutes, tying his season low, and did not take a shot for just the third time all season.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Mark Donnal***
25 points (7-of-9 2pt, 3-of-4 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), five blocks, one turnover in 29 minutes

**Derrick Walton Jr**
14 points (2-of-5 2pt, 3-of-7 3pt, 1-of-3 FT), six rebounds (three offensive), five assists, three steals, five turnovers in 37 minutes

*Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman*
16 points (4-of-8 2pt, 2-of-5 3pt, 2-of-3 FT), nine assists, two rebounds, three steals, one turnover in 39 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Derrick Walton Jr – 29
Duncan Robinson – 17
Caris LeVert – 15
Zak Irvin – 15
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 9
Mark Donnal – 8
Aubrey Dawkins – 5
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
34 Mark Donnal* 10-13 3-4 2-2 2 3 5 3 25 0 1 5 0 29
10 Derrick Walton* 5-12 3-7 1-3 3 3 6 5 14 5 5 0 3 37
21 Zak Irvin* 5-12 1-5 0-0 0 2 2 3 11 4 4 0 1 33
22 Duncan Robinson* 4-10 2-4 0-0 3 6 9 2 10 2 3 0 1 37
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 6-13 2-5 2-3 0 2 2 3 16 9 1 0 3 39
03 Kam Chatman 2-5 2-2 0-0 1 0 1 0 6 2 0 0 1 8
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2
13 Moritz Wagner 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
32 Ricky Doyle 0-2 0-0 2-2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 10
Totals 32-68 13-27 5-8 12 18 30 17 82 22 16 5 9 200
Maryland 31-57 7-16 17-19 9 24 33 12 86 11 18 7 7
Full Stats

Ohio State 76 – Michigan 66: Punchless Wolverines fall at Ohio State

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

UM-OSU(Kyle Robertson, Columbus Dispatch)

Michigan’s trek to an NCAA Tournament bid got a bit tougher on Tuesday night. The Wolverines looked like they were going through the motions as they fell 76-66 at Ohio State.

Michigan shot just 39 percent from the field and made just 5-of-24 three-point attempts to drop their third game in the last five. Ohio State, meanwhile, shot 59.1 percent in the second half and 54 percent for the game to pick up their best win of the season.

Four Factors
Michigan Ohio State
43 eFG% 59
26 OReb% 11
13 TO% 13
31 FTR 46

Mark Donnal led the way for the Wolverines with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds. Zak Irvin added 15 points and Derrick Walton Jr 13, but the two combined to make just 10-of-24 shots from the field and 3-of-13 three-point attempts. Irvin became the 50th Michigan player to reach 1,000 points in his career.

It took Michigan nearly three minutes to score their first point, a pair of free throws by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Ohio State jumped out to a 7-2 lead. A Duncan Robinson three — his only points of the game — put Michigan ahead 12-10 at the 12:07 mark, but Ohio State closed the half on a 26-16 run to take a 36-28 halftime lead.

Michigan scored the first four points of the second half, but a 10-1 Ohio State run put the Buckeyes up 10 and Michigan could never recover. The Buckeye lead stayed between seven and 14 points the rest of the way.

Ohio State’s offense was balanced with Marc Loving and Jae’Sean Tate each scoring 13 points and Trevor Thompson and JaQuan Lyle both scoring 12.

At 19-8 overall and 9-5 in the Big Ten, Michigan likely needs to win at least two of its last four regular season games and one in the Big Ten Tournament to get an at-large bid into the Big Dance. One of those must be Northwestern next week; lose that one and they’re NIT bound. Then, Michigan needs to steal one of the games against Maryland, Wisconsin, or Iowa. Maryland is up next in College Park this Sunday. Michigan won the season’s first meeting in Ann Arbor, 70-67 on Jan. 12.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Mark Donnal***
17 points (6-of-10 2pt, 0-of-1 3pt, 5-of-6 FT), seven rebounds (three offensive), one assist, one turnover in 32 minutes

**Zak Irvin**
15 points (5-of-14 2pt, 2-of-6 3pt, 3-of-4 FT), nine rebounds (three offensive), three assists, two steals, four turnovers in 38 minutes

*Derrick Walton Jr*
13 points (5-of-14 2pt, 1-of-7 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds (one offensive), five assists, one steal, one turnover in 37 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Derrick Walton Jr – 27
Duncan Robinson – 17
Caris LeVert – 15
Zak Irvin – 15
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 8
Aubrey Dawkins – 5
Mark Donnal – 5
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
34 Mark Donnal* 6-10 0-1 5-6 3 4 7 2 17 1 1 0 0 32
10 Derrick Walton* 5-14 1-7 2-2 1 4 5 2 13 5 1 0 1 37
21 Zak Irvin* 5-14 2-6 3-4 3 6 9 0 15 3 4 0 2 38
22 Duncan Robinson* 1-6 1-5 0-0 0 6 6 4 3 1 1 1 0 28
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 3-8 0-2 3-4 0 0 0 4 9 1 0 0 0 30
05 D.J. Wilson 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 5
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-5 1-3 0-0 3 2 5 4 3 0 1 0 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle 1-1 0-0 2-2 0 0 0 2 4 0 1 0 0 7
Totals 23-59 5-24 15-18 10 24 34 20 66 11 9 1 3 200
Ohio State 27-50 5-14 17-23 3 28 31 17 76 14 9 4 0
Full Stats

Michigan 61 – Purdue 56: Wolverines honor ChadTough with key win

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

UM vs Purdue(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

After getting blown out at home two straight times within the last two weeks, Michigan needed an answer today as they welcomed another ranked opponent, Purdue, to the Crisler Center. It never looked or felt like that answer would come, but when the final buzzer sounded, the Wolverines had indeed finished on top, 61-56, thanks to an 11-0 run to end the game.

Neither team was able to find any sort of offensive rhythm this afternoon, and both teams shot worse than 40 percent from the floor, but Michigan looked like a team dead-set on defending their home floor after being embarrassed twice.

The Wolverines also looked like a team fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives; this win certainly bolsters their resume and gives them a second top-tier conference win. Paired with no bad losses and a couple other solid wins, Michigan looks the part of a safe bet to be dancing come March.

Perhaps the Maize and Blue looked like a group excited to have their veteran star back on the court too. Caris LeVert, of course, is that long lost star who made his return to the floor after missing 11 straight conference games with a mysterious left foot or ankle injury.

Regardless of the motivations behind the victory, Michigan fought tough in a crucial matchup that turned into a bizarre battle.

Purdue’s game revolves around the play of big men A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas, and Caleb Swanigan, who are all skilled around the rim, shot blocking threats, and good rebounders. In addition to senior guard Raphael Davis, the big trio is the reason Purdue is one of the best defensive teams in the country, limiting the opposition to just 41.4 percent shooting from two-point range and a meager 30.9 percent from distance. They are also the reason the Boilermakers had outgained every single opponent in rebounding this year.

Four Factors
Michigan Purdue
41 eFG% 45
28 OReb% 20
10 TO% 15
40 FTR 26

Michigan, on the other hand, is all about guard play and offense. While their defensive rebounding numbers are pretty solid, the Wolverines are certainly not known to clean up the glass with any consistency, and in fact point guard Derrick Walton is actually their best defensive rebounder. They also can struggle to score inside on occasion, which was evident both in Michigan’s earlier loss at Purdue and in today’s win. And because of John Beilein’s offensive system, Michigan almost always has a size disadvantage at the four position, with 6-foot-6 junior Zak Irvin getting most of their minutes there.

Yet somehow, Michigan today managed to both outscore Purdue in the paint (24-22, 66.7%-45.8% on shots in the paint) and outrebound them overall (39-35). And while I’m of the belief that straight up rebounding margin doesn’t mean much, that is certainly an impressive stat, bolstered by the fact that the difference in rebounding today was with the Wolverines grabbing four more of the offensive variety.

It’s not every day you see a Beilein squad out-physical a high quality team for a win – especially one with such inside prowess as Purdue – but today was not every day either.

In another strange occurrence, Zak Irvin was the only Michigan player to crack double digits, and he couldn’t have done it in a crazier way. The Indiana native was ice cold in the first half, having scored just six (2-of-5 2pt, 0-of-2 3pt, 2-of-3 FT) of his game-high 22 points in the opening 20 minutes before catching fire in the second half with 16 points on 2-of-6 shooting inside the arc and 4-of-6 from long range.

Walton, coming off a career night in a victory at Minnesota earlier this week, could not get a shot to fall until finally ending a 0-of-9 streak with 2:06 to play on a beautiful and-1 finish. He did, however, make his free throws to seal the deal and grabbed a pair of crucial rebounds on Purdue’s final two misses.

You want more strange? How about Duncan Robinson, Michigan’s leading three-point shooter, attempting only one three on the afternoon, and missing that one, but scoring four points inside the arc? And, to make things interesting, he only played 21 minutes because of foul trouble.

Don’t worry, there’s more. LeVert, who was Michigan’s leader in many statistical categories before falling prey to injury and losing so many games, played 11 minutes, all in the first half, and had five more rebounds than he had points – of which he had none on only one shot attempt.

The strange continues on and on: Kameron Chatman and D.J. Wilson, usually seen riding the pine, saw six minutes of combined action and scored two points apiece, but were chosen to lead the team in The Victors following the win in the locker room.

And, oh yeah – did I mention that Michigan won a game making 36.4 percent of their shots and only five of 20 threes? And that the Wolverines pulled it out despite only leading for about 6:30 of playing time, with most of that coming shortly after the tip? How about that Michigan trailed by 10 points roughly halfway into the first half and looked primed for another home beatdown before clawing back?

It was bizarre in many ways, and I never thought Michigan would come out on top until the very end. But the Wolverines deserve plenty of credit. They never seemed to be in the game, but they were almost always within 4-6 points despite their epic shooting woes. There were plenty of times that they could have seen their shot not fall and proceed to wilt away because it wasn’t their day.

So you could look at this game and cry that it was a fluke.

But you could also look at it and see some toughness, some grit, some fight. You could see a team that can win in more than one way.

I’ll choose the latter.

Quick Hitters

• John Beilein said after the game that he didn’t expect LeVert to be ready to play before yesterday’s practice, but LeVert had a good practice where he was able to go full-court for a while and “got gassed” pretty quickly. Following that practice, LeVert told his coach that he wanted to give it a go. Before letting that happen, Beilein wanted to make sure it was the right decision and checked back with him a few times. He also insisted that LeVert participate in regular warmups to see how his ankle/foot held up.

Because of the late decision, Beilein mentioned that there was not much offense drawn up for LeVert, and they were aiming to give him 10-15 minutes of playing time to loosen him up and help him get back in the flow of things. He did not specify whether LeVert sitting for the entire second half was planned, but Beilein also did not seem worried about it at all and said he would have been available in an emergency situation, and seemed to indicate that he will be on track to give it a go again at Ohio State on Tuesday. LeVert was not available to the media following the game, but there were no indications that he aggravated his injury or did not feel well enough to go play in the second half.

• After Derrick Walton missed his first three open looks, Beilein said he gave Walton motivation or confidence by telling him to “make the shots, damn it”. It did not necessarily work, as Walton missed plenty more open shots along the way, but his layup and free throws down the stretch with critical.

• Mark Donnal had another serviceable game, with eight points on 2-of-6 shooting and 4-of-4 free throws. He also dunked for the second straight game, which I believe are his only two dunks in conference play despite seeing drastically increased playing time and a much larger role in the offense.

• I also thought Ricky Doyle had another pretty solid game with four points on 2-of-2 shooting in 14 minutes, but his free throws continue to disappoint. He missed his only two attempts from the line today to bring his average to 60.5 percent on the season.

• Speaking of free throws, you’ll never guess who the only Wolverine to have attempted at least 15 free throws and have a worse percentage than Doyle is. Well, you probably will because if you are reading this you’ve probably seen most of Michigan’s games…but the answer is Zak Irvin, who is inexplicably shooting a woeful 60.4% at the charity stripe. In one of the stranger things I saw today (and it was a strange day indeed – see above), I looked up Irvin’s career numbers at the free throw line after he missed his first attempt today – a front-end of a 1-and-1 – badly and saw a statistical oddity: Irvin’s numbers at the line have gotten worse year-over-year since his freshman season. As a pure shooter in his first year, Irvin made 71.4% of his free throws. As a sophomore, the number dropped slightly to a still-respectable 68.9 percent. Now in his junior season, the mark has plummeted by a whopping 8.5 percent. It’s rare to see a pure shooter have such poor shooting numbers, and even rarer to see someone’s free throw percentage drop two consecutive years.

• A couple won a $500 jewelry gift card during a timeout contest…and then got engaged immediately after at center court. I have never seen a ring purchased so quickly in my life.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Zak Irvin***
22 points (8-of-19 2pt, 4-of-8 3pt, 2-of-3 FT), five rebounds (one offensive), one assist in 35 minutes

**Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman**
9 points (2-of-4 2pt, 0-of-1 3pt, 0-of-0 FT), four rebounds (three offensive), two assists, three steals, one turnover in 36 minutes

*Mark Donnal*
8 points (2-of-6 2pt, 0-of-1 3pt, 4-of-4 FT), one rebound (one offensive), one turnover in 20 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Derrick Walton Jr – 26
Duncan Robinson – 17
Caris LeVert – 15
Zak Irvin – 13
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 8
Aubrey Dawkins – 5
Mark Donnal – 2
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
34 Mark Donnal* 2-6 0-1 4-4 1 0 1 4 8 0 1 0 0 20
10 Derrick Walton* 1-10 0-6 4-5 0 7 7 4 6 1 2 0 2 36
21 Zak Irvin* 8-19 4-8 2-3 1 4 5 1 22 1 0 0 0 35
22 Duncan Robinson* 2-4 0-1 0-0 1 2 3 3 4 2 0 0 0 21
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 3-6 1-1 2-3 3 1 4 1 9 2 1 0 3 36
03 Kameron Chatman 0-2 0-2 2-2 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 4
05 D.J. Wilson 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 1 2 0 0 1 0 2
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
23 Caris LeVert 0-1 0-0 0-1 0 5 5 0 0 1 1 0 0 11
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-4 0-1 2-2 1 3 4 1 4 0 1 0 0 17
32 Ricky Doyle 2-2 0-0 0-2 1 2 3 3 4 0 0 0 0 14
Totals 20-55 5-20 16-22 11 28 39 15 61 7 6 1 5 200
Purdue 21-53 6-12 8-14 7 28 35 18 56 8 9 3 2
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)