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Posts Tagged ‘John Beilein’

Near upset: #6 Wisconsin 69 – Michigan 64 OT

Sunday, January 25th, 2015


Michigan vs Wisconsin(Teresa Mathew, UMHoops)

ESPN’s College Gameday was in Ann Arbor for Michigan’s matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday night, but that doesn’t mean anyone was really expecting a good game between the two teams at opposite ends of the experience spectrum.

The Badgers, led by the eccentric but outstanding Bo Ryan, came in as the 6th-ranked team nationally, boasting a lineup replete with size, experience, talent, and cohesiveness. Frank Kaminsky, a preseason All-American 7-footer, is arguably one of the three best players in the country, but he’s joined by fellow senior Josh Gasser, junior (and surefire first-rounder) Sam Dekker, and experienced sophomores Nigel Hayes — a skilled big man — and Bronson Koenig. Coming off the bench, Ryan prefers another senior and another pair of sophomores being weaned into a handful of minutes per game. On Saturday night, not a single visiting freshman checked into the game.

Wisconsin returned just about everyone coming off a trip to the Final Four last season, and they’ve looked the part so far this year, with their only losses coming to Duke and a puzzling fall at Rutgers, where Kaminsky sat out and point guard Traevon Jackson injured himself in the second half.

Compare that to this season’s Michigan outfit, which is now down to nine scholarship players and starts two freshmen, two sophomores, and a junior – along with a bench full of more freshmen and walk-ons – and you see why the Badgers entered the evening as double-digit favorites. And though the Wolverines were just one round away from dancing in Dallas with the Badgers, injuries and NBA attrition have forced coach John Beilein into playing multiple lineups with almost no experience; on Saturday night, five freshmen and two sophomore walk-ons logged minutes for the home Maize and Blue.

For much of the night, the inklings of the Badgers’ superiority proved accurate, with Wisconsin jumping out to an early seven-point lead, enduring Michigan’s first-half run, then bringing it back to seven at the break before opening the lead up to 11 four minutes into the second half.

Dekker used his 6’9″ frame and athleticism to shoot over and drive past the defense on his way to eight first-half points, Koenig knocked down three of four shots for seven, and bigs Hayes and Kaminsky pitched in six a piece before the break. Michigan also displayed some nice balanced scoring, with six different players getting on the board in the first half, but no one scored more than Max Bielfeldt’s six. The Wolverines stuck in the game by taking advantage of an uncharacteristic six first-half giveaways from the Badgers – prompting Bo Ryan to quip that he was pondering opening a bakery because of so many turnovers in one of the more bizarre jokes I’ve ever heard in a press conference – and an even more surprising five offensive rebounds, including three for Bielfeldt that were all put back up and made.

The sloppy play for the Badgers wouldn’t continue forever, though, as the visitors turned it over just once in the second half, allowing them to use their full possessions and dominate with their size. A couple times, Spike Albrecht was comically caught trying to body up Kaminsky, who had his way in the post for much of the game to the tune of 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting without a single triple attempt.

Four Factors
Michigan Wisconsin
49.1 eFG% 53.9
36.7 OReb% 29.0
15.4 TO% 13.7
22.2 FTR 37.3

Despite the odds, Michigan still fought back as they have so many times this season. Missing leader Caris LeVert for just the second game, the Wolverines seemed to move the ball a little better around the perimeter with less reliance on the three. After falling down early in the game, Bielfeldt stepped up down low for three offensive boards and buckets to help the home squad take a 17-16 lead before fellow big man Mark Donnal checked in to score four more quick points, including one bucket on a pretty 15-foot turnaround fadeaway baseline jumper to keep Michigan up two with 3:13 remaining.

The Maize and Blue wouldn’t score the rest of the half, however, while Wisconsin quickly reeled off nine points courtesy of a Hayes and-one and buzzer-beating three and a ferocious dunk from Dekker, who had to leave the court after converting the three-point play due to a sizable amount of blood coming from his hand.

Early in the second half, it looked like Wisconsin would finally escape the ties of Michigan’s dizzying array of defenses and run away with it, but four straight buckets from four different Wolverines and a pair of Derrick Walton free throws tied things up at 38 midway through the second half. A Bronson Koenig three finally halted Michigan’s 11-0 run, but Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman stepped right up and nailed a three of his own to knot it up again.

With a veteran savvy that is becoming increasingly rare in college basketball, however, the Badgers remained unfazed and immediately scored seven in a row to go up 48-41 with just 7:33 remaining. It looked like the book would finally be closed on the evening, but Michigan fought back valiantly with five straight from Zak Irvin and a huge pair of makes from Rahk and Walton to cut things to two with 22 seconds left right after Josh Gasser missed the front end of his 1-and-1 try.

Michigan, with no choice but to foul, sent Koenig to the line for a 1-and-1 opportunity, and happily saw the second miss. Walton quickly got fouled, drained a pair to cut the lead to one, then Aubrey Dawkins put Koenig back to the line for two.

This time, the sophomore made good on both to give Wisconsin a three-point lead with just 10 seconds remaining.

The Wolverines would have one chance to send it to overtime, and with Bo Ryan electing not to intentionally foul, Dawkins caught a pass from Walton on the left wing, went up to shoot – drawing two defenders – and deftly laid it back off to an open Walton on the left.

The shot hung in the air for a few memorable moments before finding nothing but net, causing Crisler to erupt in a deafening roar as Michigan took it to OT.

Unfortunately for the terrific crowd and the scrappy Wolverines, the dream comeback died shortly after. Frank Kaminsky started off the extra period with an incredible and-one finish over Ricky Doyle, then Josh Gasser hit a three after a Michigan turnover to put Wisconsin up six before Beilein’s team knew what hit them.

And although the Wolverines had mustered up comeback after comeback all night long, this lead proved insurmountable. Kaminsky would finish the overtime period with eight of his game-high 22 while Gasser pitched in the three and Dekker made one free throw, giving Wisconsin the 69-64 win.

After the epic battle, Beilein said there would be no moral victories taken despite the encouraging performance, but that Michigan will certainly learn from the loss and continue to key in on what they did well.

It’s hard to not see this game as a positive for Michigan performance-wise, though, even if they let another potential season-changing win fall through their grasp.

Nine different Wolverines scored, led by Derrick Walton’s 17, while only Wisconsin’s starting five got on the scoreboard. Particularly encouraging for Michigan also was the collective output of bigs Doyle, Donnal, and Bielfeldt, who combined for 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 13 rebounds, including six offensive, while doing about as well as you could hope against the likes of Kaminsky and Hayes down low. That pair scored 32 points, but it took them 23 shots to get there.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (Rahk) was another bright spot, as the freshman scored nine points on four shots and showed positive signs for the third straight game, according to Beilein. Rahk continues to display a better grasp of the offense and greatly increased confidence, but perhaps most impressive has been the drastic improvement in his outside shot. The knock on the Philadelphia native coming in was his inability to provide a deep threat, and he certainly struggled shooting earlier this year, but his shot looks terrific right now, and he has not been afraid to take the big ones.

The Wolverines will now face a Nebraska team this Tuesday coming off a home win over Michigan State before a gauntlet of games awaits in February.

At this point, Michigan has lots of catching up to do in order to have even an outside shot at making the Big Dance, but if they can play like this on a nightly basis, there should be a few reasonable opportunities for big wins in the near future.

The first step has been taken. Now the effort must be sustained.

Quick Hitters:

• In his press conference, Beilein confirmed that Michigan was fouling on purpose at the end of the first half, but that, looking back on it, they executed very poorly. The Wolverines had two fouls to give, but the confusion started when Walton, who already had one foul on the night, picked up a second foul some 30 feet from the hoop with 19 seconds on the clock. Michigan fouled again with nine seconds remaining, but that still gave Wisconsin plenty of time to score, which they capitalized on with a corner three from Nigel Hayes.

The controversial strategy from Beilein is designed to take advantage of “free” fouls at the end of the half in order to give the other team very little time to get set up and finish with a bucket, but in order to work, Michigan would like to leave the team with four seconds or fewer to operate. By fouling with 19 seconds left, the strategy was destined to fail, as Michigan couldn’t possibly utilize just one more foul to give effectively with so much time left.

Three Stars:

***Derrick Walton Jr.***
17 points (4-of-12 FG, 2-of-5 3pt, 7-of-8 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), two assists, one steal, one turnover in 39 minutes

**Max Bielfeldt**
9 points (4-of-6 FG, 1-of-3 3pt, 1-of-2 FT), five rebounds (three offensive) in 13 minutes

*Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman*
9 points (3-of-4 FG, 1-of-1 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), two rebounds in 23 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
21 Zak Irvin* 5-15 2-6 0-0 1 1 2 0 12 2 1 0 1 40
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 1-3 1-3 0-0 0 3 3 4 3 2 0 1 0 24
32 Ricky Doyle* 1-3 0-0 2-2 1 4 5 3 4 0 0 0 0 23
02 Spike Albrecht* 1-4 0-2 0-0 0 1 1 0 2 2 1 0 0 25
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 4-12 2-5 7-8 2 3 5 4 17 2 5 0 1 40
03 Kameron Chatman 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 2 2 0 0 0 0 22
04 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 3-4 1-1 2-2 0 2 2 4 9 0 0 0 0 23
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
34 Mark Donnal 3-5 0-0 0-0 2 1 3 0 6 0 0 0 0 11
44 Max Bielfeldt 4-6 1-3 0-0 3 2 5 3 9 0 0 0 0 14
Totals 23-54 7-20 11-12 11 22 33 20 64 8 9 1 2 225
Wisconsin 24-51 7-21 14-19 9 21 30 12 69 12 8 1 4 225
Full Stats

Stepping up: Michigan 54 – Rutgers 50

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015


Walton vs Rutgers(Jim O’Connor, USA Today Sports)

It’s no secret that Michigan’s basketball team has struggled mightily this season after losing three players to the NBA and two big guys – one to graduation and a second to transfer – off a roster that made it to the Elite Eight last season. But it would have been hard for anyone to predict just how bad it would get.

After slogging through a non-conference schedule that saw home losses to the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Eastern Michigan, among a handful of other defeats, the Wolverines entered Big Ten season not looking to do much. Somehow, though, Michigan managed to stitch together a 3-2 record – albeit with two blowout road losses – heading into Saturday’s home showdown with Northwestern. Again, the struggles continued, but the young Wolverines managed to pull out an ugly and unencouraging two-point victory.

But one day later, the season that seemed to have already hit rock bottom fell further into the ground with the announcement that star junior wing Caris LeVert, who led Michigan in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and minutes per game, would miss the remainder of the season with a broken foot suffered on the last play against Northwestern.

Fast-forward to tonight. Michigan would have to take to the road to face a team that defeated then-#4 Wisconsin two Saturdays ago and had given both Maryland and Minnesota good games on the road.

Michigan, clearly missing their star player, shoots 34.7 percent from the floor, 30.8 percent from downtown, and records 11 turnovers. Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, and Spike Albrecht – what now must be considered the new “Big Three” – combined to make nine of 25 shots and just four of 15 triples while turning it over seven times. The Maize and Blue, as has become the norm this season, also suffered through nearly nine and a half minutes in the second half in which they could only manage one bucket, and five times went scoreless in three-minute periods.

And, oh yeah, at one point in the first half, Michigan’s lineup consisted of a sophomore walk-on who had played zero meaningful minutes to-date, another sophomore walk-on who was planning to redshirt so that he could eventually transfer to a smaller school for a fifth year and had not played a minute all season, a sparsely used freshman guard, another freshman who had lost his spot in the starting lineup due to increasingly poor play, and a third freshman who had fallen from first-game starter to third-string big man. Having trouble coming up with the names? That would be Sean Lonergan, Andrew Dakich, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Kameron Chatman, and Mark Donnal, respectively.

As expected, Michigan got blown out by 30…won? Don’t ask me, I’m just as confused as anyone else.

But yes, you read that correctly – the Wolverines inexplicably pulled off a 54-50 road win at Rutgers despite a bevy of injuries, illnesses, and ineptitude to move to 5-2 in Big Ten play.

No Michigan player scored more than 12 points, but nine different Wolverines scored for just the sixth time all year and just the second time in conference play.

Michigan also managed to hold Rutgers to a putrid 35.8 percent mark from the floor and 29.4 percent from three.

The difference, however, might have been at the free throw line, where the Wolverines knocked down five more free throws (12) than Rutgers despite both having 14 total attempts. Derrick Walton, Jr. led the way there with a perfect 6-of-6 mark to ice the game away while finishing with a team-high 12 points.

Four Factors
Michigan Rutgers
42.9 eFG% 40.6
31.3 OReb% 35.1
19.2 TO% 19.2
28.6 FTR 26.4

It’s been a season of mostly downs for the Maize and Blue, and compounding the loss of the core of last year’s impressive team has been a rash of injuries and ailments. Both Walton and Albrecht have been suffering through lower body injuries throughout the majority of the season, LeVert is now done for the year with a broken foot (the same foot he broke last summer), Zak Irvin has been beat up in a couple games and is apparently ill, Albrecht missed Saturday’s game with an illness, and starting center Ricky Doyle once again could not go in the second half after looking completely worn out in just a couple minutes of play.

Rather than fold, though, Michigan has battled, and never more so than tonight. The Wolverines managed to hold onto a lead for the majority of the first half even with Zak Irvin glued to the bench with two fouls and a lineup that Tom Izzo would most certainly refer to as ‘weird’, and entered halftime up two behind five points and six rebounds from senior Max Bielfeldt and five points from freshman Aubrey Dawkins.

Irvin then came out of the break on a mission, netting five straight points in a minute and a half to put Michigan up four before Dawkins made a pretty driving layup and a free throw to give the Wolverines a seven-point lead – what would end up being the biggest of the evening.

Following the promising second half start came the all-too-familiar offensive drought for Michigan, however; after going up seven, the Wolverines scored exactly two points over the next 9:12 and suddenly found themselves down six to the equally listless Scarlet Knights.

I, though usually optimistic, simply could not envision a scenario in which Michigan could scrounge up enough offense to stage a comeback; in fact, I’ll even admit to doubting whether or not the visitors would score six points the rest of the way.

Yet within those final eight minutes, a light came on. Dawkins drained a huge three from the left wing to cut Rutgers’ lead in half before Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht made back-to-back buckets – the first of the night for both – to tie it up at 42 with just under six minutes remaining.

After a couple more empty possessions on both ends, Walton knocked down his second triple in as many tries for Michigan and Bielfeldt unhesitatingly drained a trey of his own to mirror their earlier six-point deficit.

With three minutes left to make a final run, Rutgers had no chance of mustering up enough offense, and the Wolverines escaped.

Sure, the victory was far from pretty, and few problems appear to be truly solved, but John Beilein will certainly take a road win given the extreme circumstances. The win also marks the second time of Big Ten play in which Michigan has been able to take two of three games.

That’s a ratio that Beilein and squad would lovingly live with the rest of the way, but unfortunately the schedule is about to get a lot tougher.

Coming up this Saturday is a home tussle with Big Ten beasts Wisconsin that will feature as ESPN’s College GameDay contest. Another home game against lowly Nebraska closes out January before a brutal January consisting of at Michigan State, vs. Iowa, at Indiana, at Illinois, vs. Ohio State, vs. Michigan State, and at Maryland arrives.

For now, the Wolverines will enjoy the improbable victory, hope to heal up quickly, and focus on the Badgers. According to my friend and bracketologist Joe Cook, a win there would put Michigan near the bubble.

Perhaps it’s not what Michigan had planned on going into this season. But it’s certainly refreshing to see these Wolverines – no matter how young and battered they may be – continue to battle to stay alive.

Quick Hitters:

• One game after freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman earned his first start in place of the ill Spike Albrecht on Saturday, classmate Aubrey Dawkins started his first career game tonight and made it count with 11 points on eight shots, three rebounds, and one block. Dawkins’s game continues to progress slowly after his coming out party against Illinois, and though he doesn’t do any one thing spectacularly yet, he’s shown enough to overtake the struggling Kam Chatman’s spot in the rotation. Dawkins’s shot looks good, his hops have propelled him to a couple nice rebounds, and his comfort level on both ends of the floor appears to be on the rise.

Perhaps the best play of the evening came on a terrific drive from Abdur-Rahkman midway through the second half in the middle of Michigan’s brutal scoring drought. The Philadelphia native was pressured all the way down the court and left to handle it on his own, nearly drew a 10-second violation, then blew by his defender without help and laid in a layup (something that hasn’t come easily to many Wolverines this season). Rahk also continues to earn more minutes, tallying four points in 14 minutes tonight.

 Ricky Doyle was clearly winded early on in the first half again as he continues to deal with an infection of some sort, but still managed three blocks in just seven minutes.

Three Stars:

***Derrick Walton Jr.***
12 points (2-of-8 FG, 2-of-7 3pt, 6-of-6 FT), seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, three turnovers in 30 minutes

**Aubrey Dawkins**
11 points (4-of-8 FG, 2-of-5 3pt, 1-of-2 FT), three rebounds (one offensive), one block in 31 minutes (career high)

*Max Bielfeldt*
8 points (2-of-7 FG, 1-of-3 3pt, 3-of-4 FT), eight rebounds (four offensive), one assist, one turnover in 22 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
21 Zak Irvin* 3-9 2-5 2-2 0 2 2 2 10 0 2 0 0 24
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 4-8 2-5 1-2 1 2 3 2 11 0 0 1 0 31
32 Ricky Doyle* 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 3 0 7
02 Spike Albrecht* 1-4 0-3 0-0 0 2 2 0 2 3 2 0 2 32
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 2-8 2-7 6-6 0 7 7 0 12 3 3 0 1 30
03 Kameron Chatman 1-3 0-0 0-0 2 0 2 1 2 0 2 0 0 8
04 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 2-4 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 1 4 1 1 0 0 14
20 Sean Lonergan 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 13
34 Mark Donnal 1-4 1-2 0-0 2 5 7 1 3 0 0 1 0 15
44 Max Bielfeldt 2-7 1-3 3-4 4 4 8 2 8 1 1 0 0 22
Totals 17-49 8-26 12-14 10 24 34 12 54 9 11 5 3 200
Rutgers 19-53 5-17 7-14 13 22 35 17 50 8 11 3 4 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Rutgers

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015


UM-Rutgers
Michigan (11-7, 4-2) vs Rutgers (10-9, 2-4)
Tuesday, Jan. 20 | Piscataway, N.J. | 6:30 p.m. EST | Big Ten Network
Offense
65.5 Points/gm 60.2
(408-984) 41.5 Field Goal % 40.0 (408-1,021)
(148-415) 35.7 3-pt FG % 30.3 (124-400)
(215-295) 72.9 Free Throw % 67.8 (220-331)
11.9 FT Made/gm 12.4
31.7 Reb/gm 35.8
12.6 Assists/gm 10.6
9.8 Turnovers/gm 12.9
Defense
62.3 Points/gm 62.7
(416-946) 44.0 Field Goal % 40.2 (424-1,055)
(120-345) 34.8 3-pt FG % 31.0 (124-400)
34.0 Opp. Reb/gm 36.5
6.2 Steals/gm 5.7
1.7 Blocks/gm 4.4
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (14.9)*, Zak Irvin (13.9) Points/gm Myles Mack (14.7), Kadeem Jack (12.8)
Caris LeVert (4.9)*, Derrick Walton Jr (4.5) Reb/gm Junior Etou (7.1), Kadeem Jack (6.5)
*Out for season

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan’s 56-54 win over Northwestern on Saturday night was a costly one. The Wolverines lost their leading scorer, rebounder, assister, stealer, and shot blocker when Caris LeVert re-injured his foot on the final play of the game. The injury will require season-ending surgery, leaving an already hobbled Michigan squad looking for someone to step up. Rutgers is next on the docket, so let’s take a look at the Scarlet Knights.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Myles Mack (G) 36.2 14.7 40.9 33.3 84.7 4.6 4.5 2.8 0.1 1.8
Kadeem Jack (F) 31.4 12.8 40.5 29.0 61.8 6.5 1.1 2.5 0.7 1.2
Bishop Daniels (G) 21.6 8.1 41.8 33.3 70.2 2.0 1.5 2.4 0.5 0.7
Junior Etou (F) 30.4 7.7 40.2 31.0 75.0 7.1 0.4 1.3 0.5 0.3
Greg Lewis (F/C) 25.0 5.4 47.8 00.0 64.3 4.8 0.8 1.5 1.3 0.8
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Mike Williams (G) 24.3 7.3 34.4 23.1 80.0 2.1 1.2 0.7 0.7 0.8
D.J. Foreman (F) 13.9 2.7 43.8 40.0 28.0 2.1 0.5 0.9 0.2 0.1
Malick Kone (G/F) 11.7 2.0 31.0 22.2 50.0 1.8 0.8 0.4 0.2 0.3
Kerwin Okoro (G/F) 9.1 1.7 24.0 18.2 100.0 1.2 0.6 0.9 0.0 0.1
Shaquille Doorson (C) 9.6 1.6 51.9 00.0 25.0 2.2 0.1 0.4 0.5 0.0
The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 16 George Washington L 53-70
Nov. 19 Fairleigh Dickinson W 61-44
Nov. 23 St. Francis (N.Y.) W 76-73
Nov. 25 Saint Peter’s L 50-68
Nov. 28 Vanderbilt* W 68-65
Nov. 29 #8 Virginia* L 26-45
Dec. 1 at Clemson^ W 69-64
Dec. 6 at Seton Hall L 54-81
Dec. 9 New Hampshire W 60-56
Dec. 14 Manhattan W 63-55
Dec. 20 St. Francis (PA) L 68-73
Dec. 23 Sacred Heart W 79-54
Dec. 28 at Monmouth W 59-58
Dec. 30 Northwestern L 47-51
Jan. 3 Penn State W 50-46
Jan. 8 at Nebraska L 49-65
Jan. 11 #4 Wisconsin W 67-62
Jan. 14 at #14 Maryland L 65-73
Jan. 17 at Minnesota L 80-89
Jan. 20 Michigan
Jan. 24 at Penn State
Jan. 27 Michigan State
Jan. 31 at #23 Indiana
Feb. 3 at Illinois
Feb. 8 Ohio State
Feb. 12 Purdue
Feb. 19 at #25 Iowa
Feb. 22 #23 Indiana
Feb. 26 at Purdue
Mar. 3 #13 Maryland
Mar. 7 at Michigan
*Barclays Center Classic, ^ACC/Big Ten Challenge

What an interesting case study Rutgers is this season. The Scarlet Knights have lost to two Saints — Peter’s and Francis — by an average of 11.5 points, they were held to just 26 points in an entire game against Virginia, but they handed fourth-ranked Wisconsin their second loss of the season. The other? Duke.

The Series

Michigan is 5-0 all-time against Rutgers, but the teams haven’t played since the 2004 NIT championship game which Michigan won 62-55. Michigan is 2-0 in Piscataway, having won 97-69 on Dec. 21, 1983 and 32-22 on Dec. 20, 1933. John Beilein is 4-2 against Rutgers during his career.

Notes

• Seven of Rutgers’ 10 wins have been decided by five or fewer points

• Rutgers is the lowest scoring team in the Big Ten, averaging just 60.2 points per game, and the only conference team with a negative scoring margin (minus-2.5)

• Rutgers is the third-worst free throw shooting team in the Big Ten (67.8 percent), the worst field goal shooting team (40.0 percent), and the worst three-point shooting team (30.3 percent)

• Rutgers ranks second to last in the Big Ten in turnover margin (minus-0.89)

• Kadeem Jack ranks second in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds per game (2.5)

• Junior Etou ranks tied for third in the Big Ten in defensive rebounds per game (5.6)

• Myles Mack ranks second in the Big Ten in minutes player per game (36.2)

Discussing Michigan’s NCAA Tournament outlook with 131 Sports

Monday, January 19th, 2015


Beilein vs Northwestern(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

My good friend and fellow college basketball junkie Joe Cook (@JLeeC33) from 131 Sports agreed to do a Q&A about Michigan’s challenging season to date. Joe’s specialty is in predicting the NCAA Tournament field, and he has done an outstanding job in doing that over the past few seasons, as seen below. Given this expertise, I asked Joe some questions about the Wolverines’ skimpy resume, what it will take for John Beilein’s squad to rally for a berth in the Big Dance, and the overall state of the Big Ten. [Note: This interview was conducted before it was announced that Caris LeVert would miss the remainder of the season.]

Joe, let’s start off with the basics. You don’t have the Wolverines even sniffing a Tournament berth right now (in your latest bracket, Michigan doesn’t even crack the next four out). Just how far out are they from the field of 68?

I think you captured my feelings perfectly when you said that I don’t have the Wolverines “even sniffing” a berth in the big dance right now. It’s hard to really quantify just how far out of the field the Wolverines are because of how flat and wide the topography of the tournament bubble is this year. I think the easiest way to answer this question is to say that they are one marquee win away from at least being on the radar; think home game against Wisconsin with ESPN College GameDay in town on the 24th of January.

For those of us who are hoping that your projections are way off and Michigan is much closer than that, can you give us an idea what your projection model is based off and just how your projections have stacked up to the likes of Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm, and other so-called experts in the recent past – both in terms of correctly called teams and relation to actual seed line?

I’m an actuary by profession, so it’s really a part of my nature to try to find a way to numerically quantify any sort of sports analysis I perform; bracketology projections are no exception to this rule. Without revealing too much, I’ve developed a couple of minor algorithms using statistical regression that roughly project a team’s seed-line based on factors that the committee has used to seed teams in the past. In the seed projection process, I use this as a baseline measure, and adjust teams up or down based on my own personal “eye test”. As for how my projections stack up…

I’ll just say they stack up very well. You can see for yourself. The bracket matrix website aggregates the projections of all the bracketologists across the internet, and creates composite projections, while also ranking the bracketologists for accuracy. The blurb at the top of the aforementioned link explains the scoring and ranking process. Looking at the results, I have been the second most accurate bracketologist out of more than 100 over the past three years.

Obviously a lot has gone wrong with this Michigan team’s season so far, from a lack of quality to wins to some very bad losses, but if you had to pinpoint one thing holding the Wolverines’ resume back right now, what would it be?

It’s tough to really narrow it down to just one thing, but gun to my head, I would say it’s the lack of quality wins more than anything else. In general, I’ve noticed the committee is willing to overlook bad losses in the face of truly quality wins, because it demonstrates that a particular team has the potential to beat anybody. Michigan has played the likes of Villanova, Arizona, SMU, and Ohio State – four teams that are firmly in the tournament field. They’re 0-4 against these teams, with an average margin of defeat of more than 15 points per game.

What are the factors that you see contributing to these bad losses? Is there a player or two to blame? Is it bad coaching? Are injuries and/or inexperience taking a toll?

I would never say it’s bad coaching when Johnny B. is involved. In my one year as head coach of my former high school’s boys basketball junior varsity team (Yes, I played that card), I was (and still am) one of the firmest Beilein disciples you will find. I think you are on the right path in saying that injuries and inexperience are taking a toll on this team. It’s obvious to me that Walton’s toe injury is still plaguing him. His quick first step was one of his best weapons, and now that it has disappeared, he can’t generate as much space and respect from defenders as he needs to get off clean jumpers. Caris hasn’t taken on the lead “get me the ball and watch what I do with it” role quite like Nik did last season. The bigs are inexperienced and haven’t developed enough athletically to replace J-Mo and Horford.

As it stands today, what is Michigan’s best win and what is Michigan’s worst loss?

The best win has to be the early season W against the Orange, as that’s the only victory the Wolverines have over a team I currently have truly near the field. Frankly, that’s just grasping at straws, as Syracuse just lost a rather embarassing game at Clemson. I don’t think there is much of an argument from any fans of the team that the worst loss this season was the NJIT game.

Certainly the chances don’t look good for the Wolverines to storm their way into the NCAA Tournament, but is there at least a shot (outside of winning the conference tournament)? What is it going to take?

It’s going to take a miraculous finish that I currently don’t envision happening, but I think Michigan definitely still has a shot, albeit a long one, to make the tournament field. Even with the bad losses, I still think 19 wins is probably enough to allow Michigan to go dancing. That being said, I would worry if none or only one of those wins come against Wisconsin, Maryland, Ohio State, or Michigan State. As I mentioned above, quality wins tend to be a heavily-weighed factor in the committee’s mind when it comes to making a decision on a bubble team’s fate.

Last year, we saw just half of the Big Ten (six teams) go dancing, while the year before that saw a whopping eight (75 percent of teams) make it. In your latest projection, you have six Big Ten teams in the field (Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, Iowa). How many of those teams would you consider locks right now, how many Big Ten teams would you consider to likely make it, how many will be on the bubble, and how many will certainly be left out in the cold?

You can book it now: the Badgers, the Terps, the Spartans, and the Buckeyes will be in the tournament field in March. Some might question me putting the Spartans in this category, but I’ve seen enough from them to know that they’re going to have no problem getting to 20-plus wins. In fact, I see all these teams being on the 8-seed line or better when all is said and done. In all honesty, I don’t think I can put any teams in the “likely to make it” category, because I think the gap between these four and the rest of the league is distinct.

I’m going to skip to the locks to miss the tournament (i.e. the teams Michigan must win all remaining games against to have a chance to be dancing). Those teams include Nebraska, Northwestern, Rutgers, and Minnesota. That leaves the Big Ten teams that are squarely on the bubble, and it’s half of the conference! Indiana and Iowa currently sit relatively firmly in the field, but one bad loss could change that in the blink of an eye. The boys from Champaign are right in the thick of things, but if the tournament started today, I think they’d be watching from home – just barely. Then you have the other three bubble teams, who fall into the category by default only because I’m not ready to say they’re locks to be out. This is where Michigan sits, along with Purdue and Penn State.

Both you and I agree on many things, but one area of college basketball that we’d like to see altered slightly is the pace of play. I, for one, like a slower game compared to the NBA, but has college basketball gotten too slow for your tastes? How do you think the powers that be should go about changing it and do you think pace of play can predict success at all?

When I initially heard rumblings of men’s college basketball potentially moving from its current 35-second shot clock to a 30-second shot clock, similar to women’s college basketball, I was definitively opposed to the idea. However, the more editorials I read, the more statistics I analyzed, the more college basketball I watched, the more I started to believe that the 30-second shot clock is right for the game. The tempo of men’s college basketball has become sluggish, and possessions per game numbers have consistently decreased since the turn of the century.

I feel that the NCAA missed an opportunity in recent years by choosing to increase focus on guaranteeing space for the offensive player in possession, rather than focusing on speeding up the pace of play. This misguided decision has led to officials blowing the whistle more on ticky-tack fouls, and players going to the free throw line more frequently than they deserve.

Thanks so much to Joe for his time and expertise in answering these questions, and be sure to check out his blog at 131 Sports and follow him on Twitter (@JLeeC33). You can always tweet your questions to me (@SamSedlecky), email me at sedlecky@umich.edu, or leave a comment. If you enjoyed this piece, let us know!

Rahk on: Michigan 56 – Northwestern 54

Saturday, January 17th, 2015


MAAR vs Northwestern(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

On Muhammad Ali’s 73rd birthday, Michigan’s freshman guard who bears his name delivered the knockout blow to Northwestern. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, starting in place of Spike Albrecht who was out with a respiratory infection, recorded a career high nine points and five rebounds, but none was more important than his three-pointer in the final minute that served as the game-winning basket in Michigan’s 56-54 win over the Wildcats on Saturday night.

Michigan also started the game with a three, this one by Derrick Walton Jr, and jumped out to a 25-11 lead just over 10 minutes into the game. But the lead would be short-lived as Northwestern outscored Michigan 21-6 the rest of the half. Vic Law put the Wildcats on top with a jumper at the buzzer. Northwestern led 32-31.

Four Factors
Michigan Northwestern
42.2 eFG% 47.1
23.1 OReb% 28.6
5.3 TO% 20.5
19.0 FTR 11.5

The second half began the same way the first half ended as Northwestern scored seven of the first ten points and took a 39-34 lead. Max Bielfeldt hit a jumper and then a three to tie the game at 39 with 13:13 to play.

The rest of the game went back and forth, neither team able to pull away by more than four points. A Zak Irvin three — his only basket of the game — put Michigan ahead 53-49 with 3:48 left, but Michigan was held scoreless for the next two minutes and 51 seconds. A three by Scottie Lindsey cut the lead to one with just over a minute left, but Abdur-Rahkman hit the dagger, a three from the right wing. Alex Olah followed with a jumper, and after a Caris LeVert miss, Northwestern had one final chance to force overtime. But Bryant McIntosh missed a layup in the closing seconds and Michigan hung on for the win.

Michigan shot just 34.5 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from downtown and was out-rebounded 38-29. But the Wolverines made four more three-pointers and committed nine fewer turnovers than their counterparts. Michigan converted 12 Northwestern turnovers into 19 points.

LeVert led Michigan with 18 points on 7-of-19 shooting and also led the team with six rebounds and seven assists. But he left the arena on crutches with what John Beilein said after the game was likely a sprained ankle. Walton was the only other player in double figures with 14 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting. Rahkman added nine and Irvin six. Olah led Northwestern with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

Michigan makes its first trip to Piscataway, N.J. on Tuesday to face Big Ten newcomer Rutgers (10-9, 2-4) at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised by Big Ten Network.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
02 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman* 4-7 1-3 0-0 1 4 5 2 9 1 1 0 1 26
32 Ricky Doyle* 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 10
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 4-11 4-6 2-2 0 5 5 2 14 0 0 0 3 40
21 Zak Irvin* 1-6 1-4 3-5 2 2 4 0 6 2 1 0 1 37
23 Caris LeVert* 7-19 2-4 2-3 0 6 6 1 18 7 1 1 0 38
03 Kameron Chatman 1-3 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 9
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 1-6 1-5 0-0 1 0 1 0 3 1 1 0 0 15
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 10
34 Mark Donnal 0-2 0-1 0-1 1 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 11
44 Max Bielfeldt 2-6 1-3 0-0 2 0 2 1 5 0 0 1 1 19
Totals 20-58 9-23 7-11 9 20 29 11 56 10 3 2 6 200
Northwestern 22-52 5-20 5-6 8 30 38 16 54 12 12 2 1 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Northwestern

Saturday, January 17th, 2015


UM-Northwestern
Michigan (10-7, 3-2) vs Northwestern (10-7, 1-3)
Saturday, Jan. 17 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 8:15 p.m. EST | Big Ten Network
Offense
66.1 Points/gm 65.2
(388-926) 41.9 Field Goal % 43.1 (395-916)
(139-392) 35.5 3-pt FG % 34.4 (115-334)
(208-284) 73.2 Free Throw % 72.9 (204-280)
12.2 FT Made/gm 12.0
31.8 Reb/gm 35.3
12.7 Assists/gm 14.6
10.2 Turnovers/gm 11.5
Defense
62.8 Points/gm 62.4
(394-894) 44.1 Field Goal % 41.3 (375-907)
(115-325) 35.4 3-pt FG % 35.9 (98-273)
33.8 Opp. Reb/gm 32.7
6.2 Steals/gm 3.2
1.7 Blocks/gm 4.0
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (14.8), Zak Irvin (14.4) Points/gm Bryant McIntosh (12.4), Tre Demps (12.2)
Caris LeVert (4.8), Derrick Walton Jr (4.5) Reb/gm Alex Olah (7.2), Vic Law (5.0)

___________________________________________________________________________________

After winning both games last week, Michigan got demolished by Ohio State in Columbus on Tuesday and is in danger of falling to .500 in conference play with a loss tonight. Northwestern comes to town with an identical 10-7 overall record, but the Wildcats have just one Big Ten win so far. Michigan is going to have to play itself into the NCAA Tournament at this point, which means games like this are must-wins the rest of the season. Let’s take a look at Northwestern.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Bryant McIntosh 32.9 12.4 32.9 42.2 85.7 2.7 4.5 2.9 0.3 0.2
Tre Demps 31.9 12.2 38.7 28.7 64.1 3.6 2.6 1.2 0.1 0.4
Alex Olah 27.9 10.3 46.8 35.0 72.5 7.2 1.5 1.8 1.7 0.4
Vic Law 24.5 6.6 36.2 20.5 80.6 5.0 1.5 1.6 0.6 0.4
Sanjay Lumpkin 27.4 6.4 57.4 36.4 71.0 4.8 1.2 0.8 0.3 0.8
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
JerShon Cobb 21.9 5.8 35.9 31.6 68.8 2.8 1.5 1.0 0.1 0.3
Nathan Taphorn 9.2 4.3 59.1 52.0 66.7 4.4 0.4 0.4 0.0 0.1
Scottie Lindsey 11.4 4.2 45.3 44.0 72.7 2.1 0.4 0.6 0.3 0.2
Dave Sobolewski 8.0 2.1 37.5 38.9 81.8 0.6 0.5 0.2 0.0 0.3
Gavin Skelly 8.4 1.9 50.0 00.0 54.5 2.4 0.4 0.4 0.8 0.3
The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 14 Houston Baptist W 65-58
Nov. 17 at Brown W 69-56
Nov. 20 North Florida W 69-67
Nov. 22 Elon W 68-67 OT
Nov. 25 Miami (Ohio)* W 55-46
Nov. 26 Northern Illinois* L 42-61
Dec. 3 Georgia Tech^ L 58-66
Dec. 6 at #23 Butler L 56-65
Dec. 14 Missouri Valley State W 101-49
Dec. 17 Central Michigan L 67-80
Dec. 20 Western Michigan W 67-61
Dec. 22 UIC W 63-46
Dec. 27 Northern Kentucky W 76-55
Dec. 30 at Rutgers W 51-47
Jan. 4 #4 Wisconsin L 58-81
Jan. 11 at Michigan State L 77-84 OT
Jan. 14 Illinois L 67-72
Jan. 17 at Michigan
Jan. 22 Ohio State
Jan. 25 at #14 Maryland
Jan. 31 Purdue
Feb. 3 at Nebraska
Feb. 7 at #7 Wisconsin
Feb. 10 Michigan State
Feb. 15 Iowa
Feb. 18 at Minnesota
Feb. 21 Penn State
Feb. 25 Indiana
Feb. 28 at Illinois
Mar. 3 Michigan
Mar. 7 at Iowa
*Cancun Challenge, ^ACC-Big Ten Challenge

The only common opponent so far this season is Illinois. Michigan beat the Illini 73-65 in overtime to open Big Ten play, while Northwestern lost to their in-state rival 72-67 on Wednesday. The Wildcats don’t have a good win yet this season, having lost to the only ranked teams they have played, 23rd-ranked Butler, 65-56 on Dec. 6 and seventh-ranked Wisconsin 81-58 two weeks ago. They also lost their ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup to Georgia Tech, 66-58.

The Series

Michigan leads the all-time series 108-56 and has won the last six matchups. Michigan also leads 62-20 in Ann Arbor. Last season, Michigan beat Northwestern 74-51 in the teams’ only meeting. The last time Northwestern beat the Wolverines was a 74-60 decision in Evanston on Jan. 18, 2011, and the last time Northwestern won at Crisler was on Jan. 10, 2010.

Notes

• Caris LeVert is the only player in a Power 5 conference (and one of six nationally) to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, and blocks

• Northwestern is the second-lowest scoring team in the Big Ten, averaging 65.2 points per game. Michigan is the third-lowest.

• Northwestern ranks 11th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (43.1 percent) and field goal percentage defense (41.3 percent)

• Northwestern ranks 9th in the Big Ten in three-point shooting (34.4 percent) and 13th in three-point shooting defense (30.8 percent)

• Northwestern ranks last in the Big Ten with just 55 steals (3.2 per game). The next closest team, Wisconsin, has 91 (5.1 per game). Michigan ranks 6th with 106 (6.2 per game)

• Northwestern ranks last in the Big Ten in turnover margin, averaging 0.94 more turnovers than their opponents per game

• Alex Olah ranks third in the Big Ten with 7.2 rebounds per game

What’s wrong with Michigan basketball and what it will take reach the Big Dance

Thursday, January 15th, 2015


LeVert-Irvin-Beilein

Coming off an NCAA Championship game appearance and, last season, an Elite Eight finish that was inches from back-to-back Final Fours, Michigan basketball was thought to have climbed the hump from the scrappy opponent who gives the superior teams a run for their money now and again to a year-in, year-out bona fide contender.

After all, going into this season, it felt eerily similar to the start of the 2013-14 season that saw the Wolverines run away with the Big Ten title outright and earn a 2-seed in the Big Dance.

Yes, John Beilein would have to find a way to replace Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas, but Trey Burke was the Wooden Award winner the year before that, and Michigan bounced back just fine.

And yes, Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan would no longer be donning the Maize and Blue, but McGary hardly played at all last year and Morgan was a solid, if unspectacular, big man who rarely wowed offensively.

And sure, Glenn Robinson III decided to pursue his NBA dreams after two years in Ann Arbor, but Little Dog never seemed to live up to his monstrous hype anyway and was an inconsistent shooter and competitor.

Certainly some new faces would be playing the majority of minutes and plenty of shots would open up, but Beilein has elevated this program to one that can simply reload, not replace — right?

It turns out that maybe we were all a little bit ahead of ourselves – national pundits, local journalists, and Michigan fans alike – in thinking that the Wolverines would once again dominate offensively with another incredibly youthful and inexperienced team. It’s not every year that you see players the caliber of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr, Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, and, yes, even Jordan Morgan, sport your team’s colors.

Last year's Big Three formed one of the most efficient offenses in the nation (Detroit Free Press)

Last year’s Big Three formed one of the most efficient offenses in the nation (Detroit Free Press)

And Michigan fans are finally beginning to appreciate the glory those youngsters brought to the program rather than to expect it.

Today, the Wolverines find themselves well out of the NCAA Tournament picture at 10-7 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play, with a couple of unbelievable losses and even fewer marquee wins.

So what went wrong?

In short, a lot went wrong.

The offense has disappeared for long stretches, the defense has been porous against lowly competition, and the replacements that were expected to be reinforcements have a lot of learning to do.

I don’t think there is any one player to point a finger at for all of Michigan’s shortcomings, and I don’t think John Beilein went from coaching the best offense in the country for two years straight to forgetting how to coach at all (resulting in an offense that’s outside the top 100 in offensive efficiency).

Instead, there are a bevy of problems coming from a number of different areas.

To start, let’s take a look at Michigan’s “Big Three” returning guards: Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr, and Zak Irvin.

Those three players were largely expected to take on the bulk of the Wolverines’ offense, and while they are contributing nearly 60 percent of Michigan’s points – a slightly higher percentage, in fact, than Michigan’s Big Three of Stauskas, Robinson III, and LeVert contributed last season – the points are down overall by a whopping eight per game. To put that number into a bit more perspective, this team is scoring more than 0.2 points fewer on every possession.

The reasons for that dramatic drop-off are numerous, but probably stem from the top. Michigan lacks a go-to scorer with a killer instinct. Scoring droughts have seemingly become the norm for this team rather than the rare exception, and that falls onto the veteran leaders of the team.

LeVert is certainly a capable scorer, and his 14.8 points per game are nothing to scoff at, but I think he is much better suited for the role of Robin to Stauskas’ Batman that he played so adeptly last season as opposed to the alpha dog spot. When Michigan falls down by a handful of points and starts struggling to score points of any kind – as they did the other night at Ohio State for the first seven minutes of the second half, effectively sealing their blowout – they need a leader to step up and demand the ball. But LeVert is not that kind of player. He’s a quiet assassin with no shortage of moves or skills, but a killer that doesn’t quite know exactly when or how to move in and take over.

When he does take matters into his own hands, the young junior from Columbus makes things happen. LeVert single-handedly kept Michigan alive against NJIT with 32 points and led the Wolverines with three straight crucial buckets to secure a big win at Penn State last week. But for as many times as LeVert has taken over, Michigan has gone on long scoring droughts that have buried them – against Villanova, Eastern Michigan, SMU, Arizona, Purdue, and Ohio State. With Stauskas at the helm and LeVert as a second option, that wasn’t an issue last year.

This year's Big Three has struggled with consistency and battled injuries (Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

This year’s Big Three has struggled with consistency and battled injuries, resulting in an offensive efficiency in the 100s nationally (Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

Irvin, like LeVert before him, was expected to go from freshman role player to sophomore sidekick. That transition has proved a bit tenuous for the former Indiana Mr. Basketball.

Undoubtedly, Irvin has taken his game to another level this season, upping his scoring average by nearly eight points per game and adding many inches to his vertical leap, but he is simply not the creator this team so desperately needs. Irvin was comfortable in his role as an off-the-bench sniper, and he thrived to the tune of 42.5 percent from downtown, even though opposing defenses knew he was only going to shoot threes. Now, Irvin has attempted to shoulder a bigger load and his shooting has suffered. He’s still capable of big, efficient scoring nights – take, for example, his first four games in which he poured in 20.3 points per game on 51.9 percent shooting from downtown – but the pressure and increased usage have seen his three-point shooting percentage drop more than six points while his overall field goal percentage is down nearly three points.

Lastly, Walton looked to improve on a very solid freshman campaign to become more of a scoring point guard this season, but a toe injury suffered early in the season is clearly hampering the Detroit native’s play all over the floor. Last year, Walton’s quickness and deft play on the break were crucial to Michigan’s ridiculous offensive output, but this year, Walton is a step and a half slower because of his toe. If you don’t believe me, watch Michigan’s win at Ohio State from last season and then re-watch the Wolverines’ loss at Ohio State from a couple nights ago. Like Irvin, Walton’s shooting numbers are drastically worse than last year, but the cause is much different.

With these Big Three struggling to produce with the same efficiency as last season, Michigan’s role players would need to pick up the slack, but that’s been far too big a task for Spike Albrecht and a company of freshmen who were probably forced into action before they were ready.

Kam Chatman, the jewel of Michigan’s six-man recruiting class, was expected to come in and seamlessly replace Glenn Robinson III. That, more than anything, has turned out to be the biggest single shortcoming on this squad. Robinson III, though sometimes inconsistent from long range and almost always quiet in his ways, was an incredibly efficient and reliable scorer and a terrific finisher around the basket. Chatman, on the other hand, has been almost the exact opposite, to the point where Beilein has decided to replace him in the starting lineup with the 5’11″ Albrecht.

The Portland native was seen as a high four-star from most recruiting publications, and his basketball savvy was projected to translate into a solid, if unspectacular, freshman season. But Chatman has struggled to pick up the offense, his confidence appears to be wavering, and his shooting has been downright miserable – mothers, cover your children’s eyes – to the tune of 31.5 percent on twos and 25 percent on threes for 4.1 points per game. Contrast that with Robinson’s freshman season (65.2 percent 2-pt, 32.4 percent 3-pt, 11 ppg on nearly three shots more per game) and you see where things really start to go awry.

Robinson’s biggest strength was his ability to finish everything around the bucket with his strength and athleticism. If GRIII caught a pass sitting open within five feet from the hoop, it was two points guaranteed. If he rebounded a teammate’s miss, it was an easy deuce for him. If he received an alley-oop, there was no doubt about the finish. The same cannot be said of Chatman, who doesn’t have the strength or hops to work magic in the lane like his predecessor at the 4-spot and whose confidence is waning (never more clearly than in a missed alley-oop layup attempt against Penn State in which there wasn’t a defender within 15 feet of him).

Fellow wing man Aubrey Dawkins has had one shining game against Illinois, but he’s also been fairly quiet the rest of the way despite flashing signs of tantalizing potential, while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is just starting to get consistent playing time and looks to be a couple seasons away from being an offensive threat.

Down low, Ricky Doyle has performed admirably for a freshman big man, but his defense has certainly made Michigan fans yearn for the days of Jordan Morgan manning the post, and his free throw shooting has been curiously poor of late. Doyle also needs to work on improving his hands, fighting for rebounds, and learning the offense (as does every other freshman). Redshirt freshman Mark Donnal has gone from starter to backup, and while he’s also shown some nice glimpses, he’s probably a season or two away from being a consistent scorer. Lastly, D.J. Wilson – my pick for freshman MVP – was unimpressive early on before falling prey to the injury bug, making a redshirt season (pretty please!) seem like a reasonable outcome for the high-potential California native.

As a whole, this Michigan team is lacking in more ways than could have been imagined, and while the defense is actually significantly better than last season, the offense has collapsed into a rocky mess. What was expected to be around a top-20 squad competing in the Big Ten once again looks instead to be a team that has a steep and treacherous path to simply earn a ticket to the Big Dance.

The good news for Michigan is that there’s still a long way to go until March, and anything can happen in the wonderful world of college basketball – especially when your average player on the court has just over one year of experience. And of course, there’s always the chance to win an automatic bid with the conference tournament, but I certainly wouldn’t bet on the Wolverines’ chances there.

Instead, the Maize and Blue will need to quickly improve on a resume that sports two black eyes and little muscle. Michigan has two terrible losses – NJIT and EMU – that are really hurting and only two top-50 KenPom home wins – Syracuse and Minnesota (neither of which is in the top 40) – that leave much to be desired. Right now, Michigan’s players are certainly kicking themselves over those two December losses, but perhaps even more crucial was the neutral court game against Villanova that the Wolverines let slip away after a crazy comeback. Change that L into a W and Michigan is squarely on the bubble already.

So what exactly will it take from here on out for the Wolverines? I think to have a realistic chance at being solidly on the bubble, Michigan needs to go 8-5 the rest of the way and win at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament.

Which eight games do those have to be? I’m not sure if that makes a huge difference. Michigan obviously needs to take care of their matchups with conference cellar dwellers (Northwestern,  at Rutgers, Nebraska, at Northwestern, Rutgers) and win a few marquee games as well. If the other three wins are Iowa, at Indiana, and at Illinois, I’d be a little concerned. To be safe, I think Michigan needs to take at least two from some combination of Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan State, and Ohio State.

With five games left against that group, the opportunity is there. Will the Wolverines seize it?

You may want to temper those expectations again.

Sleepwalking: Ohio State 71 – Michigan 52

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015


UM-OSU(Greg Bartram, USA Today Sports)

After a 3-1 start to Big Ten play, Michigan had its first chance to make a statement on Tuesday night when it visited rival Ohio State. Instead, Michigan turned in a lackadaisical and unfocused performance and left with a 19-point loss.

Ohio State opened the game with a Sam Thompson dunk, but Zak Irvin answered with a three on Michigan’s first shot of the game. But that was about the only thing that went right for the Wolverines. Ohio State scored the next five points, but Michigan went on a 9-2 run to take a 12-9 lead at the 14:27 mark. But then the Wolverines went cold.

Four Factors
Michigan Ohio State
39.0 eFG% 53.5
31.6 OReb% 32.3
20.7 TO% 14.3
10.2 FTR 24.6

Michigan managed just five points over the next 9:45, and by the time Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman hit a three, Michigan was down 30-20. Ohio State closed the half with a 9-4 run to take a 39-24 lead into the locker room.

Michigan has already come back from a double-digit second-half lead this season to beat Illinois, but any hope of repeating that on Tuesday night was dashed when Michigan began the second half by missing its first 13 shots. A Max Bielfeldt tip-in ended the drought six minutes and 36 seconds into the half. Meanwhile, Ohio State had already added 13 points to its total to take a 52-26 lead.

The rest of the game was spent trying to make the final score look a bit more respectable, but the damage had been done. Michigan got within 14 points after a Mark Donnal hook shot with three minutes to play, but OSU’s Marc Loving responded with a three to ice the game.

Michigan shot just 33.9 percent from the field and 23.1 percent (6-of-26) from three-point range, while Ohio State, the Big Ten’s best shooting team, shot 49.1 percent overall, making eight more field goals than Michigan did on two fewer attempts. While the rebounding margin was close (36-33 in Ohio State’s favor) Michigan turned the ball over 13 times and was outscored off of turnovers 19-8.

Columbus native Caris LeVert led Michigan with 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting, while Irvin was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 11 points, also on 4-of-10 shooting. But the duo combined for seven turnovers. The other three starters — Derrick Walton Jr, Spike Albrecht, and Ricky Doyle — combined for just eight points and eight rebounds on 4-of-15 shooting. Donnal scored eight points off the bench and freshman Aubrey Dawkins added six.

Ohio State was led by D’Angelo Russell’s 21 points. Sam Thompson contributed 12 and Amir Williams 10.

Michigan returns home to host Northwestern (10-6, 1-2) on Saturday night. The game will be televised by Big Ten Network at 8:15 p.m. EST.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
02 Spike Albrecht* 2-4 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 3 4 0 1 0 0 29
32 Ricky Doyle* 1-4 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 1 2 2 1 0 0 15
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 1-7 1-3 0-0 0 5 5 4 2 2 1 0 0 27
21 Zak Irvin* 4-10 3-6 0-0 2 3 5 1 11 0 4 0 0 32
23 Caris LeVert* 4-10 2-5 4-4 0 2 2 4 14 1 3 0 1 31
03 Kameron Chatman 0-3 0-1 0-0 0 3 3 2 0 2 0 0 1 14
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 1-6 1-5 0-0 1 0 1 0 3 1 1 0 0 15
24 Aubrey Dawkins 3-6 0-2 0-0 2 1 3 1 6 0 1 0 0 13
34 Mark Donnal 3-7 0-2 2-2 2 2 4 0 8 0 1 0 0 17
44 Max Bielfeldt 1-2 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 6
Totals 20-59 6-26 6-6 12 21 33 16 52 8 13 0 2 200
Ohio State 28-57 5-18 10-14 10 26 36 16 71 20 9 5 11 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: #25 Ohio State

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015


UM-OSU
Michigan (10-6, 3-1) vs #25 Ohio State (13-4, 2-2)
Tuesday, Jan. 13 | Columbus, Ohio | 7 p.m. EST | ESPN
Offense
66.9 Points/gm 81.8
(368-867) 42.4 Field Goal % 51.0 (515-1,010)
(133-366) 36.3 3-pt FG % 38.9 (129-332)
(202-278) 72.7 Free Throw % 70.5 (232-329)
12.6 FT Made/gm 13.6
31.8 Reb/gm 36.6
13.0 Assists/gm 17.3
10.1 Turnovers/gm 11.7
Defense
62.2 Points/gm 60.8
(366-837) 43.7 Field Goal % 38.8 (368-948)
(110-307) 35.8 3-pt FG % 30.9 (119-385)
33.6 Opp. Reb/gm 32.9
6.5 Steals/gm 9.2
1.8 Blocks/gm 5.4
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (14.8), Zak Irvin (14.6) Points/gm D’Angelo Russell (17.9), Marc Loving (12.0)
Caris LeVert (5.0), Derrick Walton Jr (4.5) Reb/gm Amir Williams (5.1), D’Angelo Russell (4.6)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan was one of two Big Ten teams to not lose a game last week — Michigan State was the other — and now gets to travel to the snake pit for the first of two battles with rival Ohio State. The Buckeyes will be in a celebratory mood after the football team beat Oregon for the college football national title last night. Although different sports, Michigan has a chance to spoil the celebration ever so slightly. Let’s take a look at the Buckeyes.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
D’Angelo Russell (G) 32.1 17.9 45.3 43.6 79.4 4.6 4.9 3.0 0.2 1.8
Marc Loving (F) 25.4 12.0 50.0 50.0 79.3 3.9 0.9 1.4 0.4 0.8
Sam Thompson (F) 29.5 10.2 50.0 22.7 63.6 3.8 2.2 0.9 0.8 1.1
Shannon Scott (G) 29.9 8.4 44.5 27.5 76.9 3.6 7.2 2.4 0.1 2.4
Amir Williams (C) 19.5 7.4 71.0 00.0 67.4 5.1 0.2 1.2 2.2 0.9
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Kam Williams (G) 16.1 8.2 52.0 42.3 88.2 1.0 0.8 0.2 0.0 0.5
Jae’Sean Tate (F) 17.2 6.7 58.8 11.1 52.8 4.4 0.2 1.2 0.6 1.1
Keita Bates-Diop (F) 12.6 4.9 45.0 38.5 65.2 2.8 0.6 0.4 0.7 0.4
Trey McDonald (C) 11.2 3.8 66.7 00.0 66.7 3.2 0.2 0.5 0.6 0.2
Anthony Lee (F) 10.7 3.3 57.9 00.0 54.5 2.3 0.1 0.5 0.2 0.1
The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 14 UMass Lowell W 92-55
Nov. 18 Marquette W 74-63
Nov. 23 Sacred Heart W 106-48
Nov. 26 Campbell W 91-64
Nov. 28 James Madison W 73-56
Dec. 2 at #5 Louisville^ L 55-64
Dec. 6 Colgate W 70-50
Dec. 10 High Point W 84-64
Dec. 13 Morehead State W 87-71
Dec. 17 North Carolina A&T W 97-55
Dec. 20 #24 North Carolina* L 74-82
Dec. 22 Miami (Ohio) W 93-55
Dec. 27 Wright State W 100-55
Dec. 30 Iowa L 65-71
Jan. 3 Illinois W 77-61
Jan. 6 at Minnesota W 74-72 OT
Jan. 10 at Indiana L 66-69
Jan. 13 Michigan
Jan. 17 at Iowa
Jan. 22 at Northwestern
Jan. 25 Indiana
Jan. 29 #14 Maryland
Feb. 4 at Purdue
Feb. 8 at Rutgers
Feb. 11 Penn State
Feb. 14 at Michigan State
Feb. 22 at Michigan
Feb. 26 Nebraska
Mar. 1 Purdue
Mar. 4 at Penn State
Mar. 8 #7 Wisconsin
*CBS Sports Classic, ^ACC-Big Ten Challenge

Michigan and Ohio State didn’t play any common non-conference opponents, but both beat Minnesota last week. The Buckeyes beat Minnesota 74-72 in overtime a week ago, while Michigan topped the Gophers 62-57 on Saturday. The other common opponent is Illinois, who Michigan beat 73-65 in overtime to open Big Ten play and Ohio State beat 77-61 four days later.

Ohio State has lost to the only two ranked teams they have played, Louisville on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and North Carolina on a neutral court in the CBS Sports Classic. Michigan has also lost to the only two ranked teams it has played — Villanova and Arizona — but has a chance to pick up a win against a ranked team as Ohio State reentered the USA Today Coaches Poll this week at No.25.

The Series

Michigan trails the all-time series 76-99, but has won the last three meetings. Michigan is 28-56 all-time in Columbus, but won their last trip, 70-60, last February. Michigan also beat Ohio State 72-69 in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal last season.

Notes

• Ohio State ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring offense (81.8 points per game) but leads the Big Ten with a 21-point scoring margin

• Ohio State leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage (51.0), while Michigan ranks last in field goal percentage defense (43.7)

• Ohio State leads the Big Ten in blocked shots (5.4 per game) and turnover margin (plus-5.88)

• D’Angelo Russell ranks third in the Big Ten with 17.9 points per game and is tied with Zak Irvin for the most three-pointers made per game (2.6)

• Shannon Scott leads the Big Ten with 7.2 assists per game and ranks second with 2.4 steals per game

• Marc Loving leads the Big Ten in three-point shooting (30-of-60 for 50.0 percent)

• Amir Williams ranks second in the Big Ten in blocked shots per game (2.1)

Comeback: Michigan 62 – Minnesota 57

Saturday, January 10th, 2015


B7BLldVCEAAiXhx.jpg-large(Teresa Mathew, UMHoops)

With the game slipping away midway through the second half, Michigan turned to the 1-3-1 zone. It was enough to hold Minnesota at bay and allow the Wolverines to turn a nine-point deficit into a five-point win over the final nine minutes.

Michigan trailed just 27-25 at the half, but after hitting three of their first four shots in the second half, the Wolverines went cold. Over a seven minute span, Minnesota outscored Michigan 17-8 to take a 49-40 lead with 8:56 to play.

But Minnesota went scoreless for nearly three minutes, turning the ball over four times in the process as Michigan pulled within two. Michigan finally got over the hump when Derrick Walton Jr hit a three-pointer with 3:24 remaining to give the Wolverines a 54-52 lead.

After a pair of missed free throws by Minnesota big man Maurice Walker, Caris LeVert was fouled on a three-point attempt as the shot clock ran out. He converted all three and suddenly Michigan had a five point lead. Minnesota responded with a three by Andre Hollins.

Four Factors
Michigan Minnesota
44.2 eFG% 46.9
31.3 OReb% 41.7
14.9 TO% 28.1
38.5 FTR 40.8

The teams traded turnovers and Zak Irvin missed a three-point attempt. LeVert stole the ball right back with less than a minute left, and still holding onto a two-point lead, John Beilein called a time out to set up a play. Walton drove into the lane off of a Ricky Doyle screen. Doyle rolled to the basket and Walton flipped the ball up in front of the rim where only Doyle was to reach it. He caught it mid-air and slammed it home to put Michigan ahead by four with 26 seconds to play.

From there, it was just a formality as Irvin converted 3-of-4 free throw attempts down the stretch and Michigan picked up a 62-57 win.

For the game, Michigan shot 40.4 percent overall and just 22.2 percent from three-point range. But after going 0-of-8 in from three in the first half, Michigan made 4-of-10 in the second. Michigan’s defense held Minnesota 23 points below their season average and their lowest scoring output of the season. In addition, Michigan forced 17 turnovers compared to only nine turnovers themselves.

Walton and LeVert led the Wolverines with 15 points apiece. Walton made 3-of-4 three-point attempts and grabbed five rebounds, while LeVert shot 5-of-13 and missed all three of his three-point attempts, but grabbed four steals. Doyle scored 12 points and led the team with six rebounds, while Irvin also added 12 on 3-of-9 shooting. Spike Albrecht contributed six points, two assists, and two steals, and Kameron Chatman scored the only two points of the game for Michigan’s bench.

Minnesota, which has four players averaging in double figures, had just two on this day. Hollins led all scorers with 18 points, while Carlos Morris tallied 16. Walker, the team’s leading scorer, was held to just five on 2-of-7 shooting, though he did tally 10 rebounds. DeAndre Mathieu, who averages 9.9 points per game, was held scoreless.

Michigan has now won four of its last five and stands 3-1 in Big Ten play, but the schedule is about to get tougher. The Wolverines visit Ohio State (13-4, 2-2) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Three Stars:

***Derrick Walton Jr.***
15 points (4-of-7 FG, 3-of-4 3pt, 4-of-5 FT), five rebounds, three assists, one steal, two turnovers in 35 minutes

**Ricky Doyle**
12 points (5-of-8 FG, 2-of-3 FT), six rebounds (four offensive), one steal, one turnover in 26 minutes

*Caris LeVert*
15 points (5-of-13 FG, 0-of-3 3pt, 5-of-6 FT), three rebounds, two assists, four steal, one block, one turnover in 38 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
02 Spike Albrecht* 3-8 0-3 0-0 0 1 1 4 6 2 3 0 2 33
32 Ricky Doyle* 5-8 0-0 2-3 4 2 6 3 12 0 1 0 1 26
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 4-7 3-4 4-5 0 5 5 2 15 3 2 0 1 35
21 Zak Irvin* 3-9 1-5 5-6 2 2 4 2 12 1 2 0 1 35
23 Caris LeVert* 5-13 0-3 5-6 0 3 3 0 15 2 1 1 4 38
03 Kameron Chatman 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 2 2 1 0 1 0 7
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 10
34 Mark Donnal 0-2 0-1 0-0 0 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 11
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-1 0-0 0-0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Totals 21-52 4-18 16-20 10 21 31 14 62 9 9 2 9 200
Minnesota 19-49 8-22 11-20 15 22 37 15 57 10 17 1 6 200
Full Stats