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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 72 – #10 Indiana 69: Bench leads Michigan to upset win over top-seed Indiana

Saturday, March 12th, 2016


Chatman vs Indiana(MGoBlue.com)

When the day started Michigan was staring a second straight NCAA Tournament absence square in the face. Now, the Wolverines are being fitted for their dancing shoes.

It took a near miracle for Michigan to survive Northwestern on Day 2 of the Big Ten Tournament, but 24 hours later, John Beilein’s crew knocked off the outright conference champs to advance to the semifinals.

For Friday’s win, the Wolverines certainly took the route less traveled.

On a day when point guard Derrick Walton went without a field goal and scored just two points, a pair of rarely-used bench options stepped up to salvage the season.

Moritz Wagner gave Michigan a huge boost off the bench, scoring nine points on a perfect 3-of-3 from the field and 2-of-2 from the charity stripe. He also ripped down a pair of offensive rebounds and played solid defense against an Indiana team that makes a living inside the paint.

Four Factors
Michigan Indiana
52 eFG% 49
29 OReb% 48
16 TO% 24
29 FTR 40

But Wagner’s effort may have been for naught without the last-second heroics of Kam Chatman, a former five-star recruit and starting forward turned bench warmer. Chatman, who forced his way back into the rotation with solid play down the stretch, found himself with the ball in his hands as the clock sped toward triple zeroes.

So he shot, and it’s a good thing he did.

Chatman’s contested three-pointer went in with 0.2 seconds left on the clock and gave Michigan a 72-69 lead.

His final line — 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal and 1 block — won’t jump off the box score, but the sophomore made the only play he needed to: The biggest shot of Michigan’s season in likely the program’s most important game since Aaron Harrison’s miracle shot bounced the Wolverines from the Elite 8 two years ago.

As fate would have it, Chatman was only in the game after Teddy ‘TV’ Valentine’s crew bounced Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman from the game with just over a minute to go. MAAR left the game with 15 points, second only to Zak Irvin, who scored 17 points on 5-13 shooting.

Irvin, a 61.8 percent free throw shooter, went a career best 6-of-6 from the line.

Walton, who made a field goal in all 28 of his regular season games this year, is without a bucket in 77 minutes during the Big Ten Tournament. Instead, he dished out a Big Ten tourney record 12 assists in the win over the Hoosiers, giving him 17 in the two games combined.

Duncan Robinson also had a tough shooting day — just 4 for 12 total and 1 for 6 from beyond the arc — but his last make was a big one, tying the game at 69 with under a minute to play. It was the second straight game Robinson hit a triple with Michigan trailing in the final minute.

Now Michigan will turn its attention to a Purdue team that obliterated Illinois by 31 points in Friday’s second matchup. The Wolverines split two meetings with the Boilermakers this season, but the inside trio of A.J. Hammons, Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Hass will give a much smaller Michigan team fits.

Michigan allowed Indiana to grab 15 offensive rebounds Friday. Beilein will need to shore up that aspect before Saturday’s 1pm tip.

Another upset victory over Purdue would almost guarantee Michigan a spot in the NCAA Tournament. As it stands, the Wolverines are right on the cut line, along with teams like Syracuse, Florida, UCONN and Saint Mary’s.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 6-6 0-0 0-1 1 3 4 4 12 0 2 2 1 20
10 Derrick Walton* 0-3 0-3 2-2 1 2 3 1 2 12 2 0 2 36
21 Zak Irvin* 5-13 1-4 6-6 0 5 5 2 17 2 2 0 1 35
22 Duncan Robinson* 4-12 1-6 3-3 0 1 1 3 12 3 1 0 0 34
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 6-13 2-4 1-2 2 0 2 5 15 0 1 0 1 34
03 Kam Chatman 2-3 1-2 0-0 1 0 1 2 5 0 0 1 1 8
11 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4
13 Moritz Wagner 3-3 1-1 2-2 2 0 2 2 9 0 0 0 0 16
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-2 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 9
32 Ricky Doyle 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 4
Totals 26-56 6-21 14-16 9 16 25 20 72 18 10 3 7 200
Indiana 24-53 4-17 17-21 15 22 37 17 69 13 15 7 6
200
Full Stats

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

Sunday, February 21st, 2016


UM-Maryland

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
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
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
200
Full Stats

Their time is now: 2015-16 Michigan basketball season preview

Thursday, November 19th, 2015


UM BBall(MGoBlue.com)

A few years back when I was just a young college student in the then-miniscule Maize Rage, Michigan was coming off John Beilein’s miserable first season in Ann Arbor. No one thought much of the young Wolverines’ chances in Beilein’s second year either, but that didn’t stop them from believing in themselves.

The song that blasted throughout the Old Crisler Arena* before games that year was one that could be applied to just about any team playing any sport, but it seemed to carry extra weight for Michigan that season.

The first few lines went something like this:

“Go hard, today
Can’t worry bout the past cause that was yesterday
I’ma put it on the line cause it’s my time
I gotta stay on my grind cause it’s my time.”

It’s certainly not one of the best songs of the last decade, but it always gives me chills when it unexpectedly comes on the radio or blares out of some party’s speakers.

MGoBlue.com

(MGoBlue.com)

The Wolverines had to forget about the struggles of their first season under their new head coach, and though nearly every outsider doubted them, they grinded out one of the most memorable basketball seasons of my life, earning their way to a berth in the Big Dance and upsetting Clemson in the first round before bowing out to an over-powering Oklahoma squad.

You won’t hear Fabolous’s “My Time” any time soon at the new Crisler Center, but the message once again holds weight in Ann Arbor.

When I was walking down the Crisler tunnel to pick up my press pass earlier this week, getting the same tingly excited feeling I always do at the start of the college basketball season, an usher greeted me with a warm smile at the credentialing table and quipped “another season, huh?” in a mostly blasé tone.

Yes, it’s just “another season”, but it’s a season of renewed opportunity for the Michigan Wolverines. It’s a season of not worrying about the past and working to make the most out of an extremely talented and deep roster. In many ways to me, it’s also a season that represents the end of a mini-era.

That’s not to say that the Wolverines’ last chance to win the Big Ten and make the Final Four hinges on this year alone; nay, the future certainly appears bright under Beilein and a handful of talented sophomores and juniors.

But it wasn’t until this season’s senior class was in its first year that the Maize and Blue truly found its way back on the college basketball map with a magical run through the NCAA Tournament that ended in heart-breaking fashion in the championship game.

LeVert

(MGoBlue.com)

The only two members of that storied five man class who hung around long enough to see their time as seniors arrive are Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht. Their old classmates have all gone on to the bright lights and superstardom of the NBA, leaving two of the unlikeliest heroes carrying the team back in Ann Arbor.

If Michigan can make another deep run in the postseason this year, Albrecht just might break Jordan Morgan’s total games played record at the University, which would be quite the consolation prize for the under-sized point guard who will likely be the sole 2012 recruit to not play at the next level.

The past for those two, of course, has been a bit of a bumpy ride. Three seasons ago saw the wondrous tournament run, the year after that saw Michigan fall just a basket short of another Final Four appearance, while last season saw the Wolverines stumble early on in the non-conference before the wheels completely fell off with LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. missing a significant portion of the season with foot injuries.

There’s always a silver lining, though, and it seems to be shining brightly so far. As a result of the season-ending injuries, a number of freshmen were forced into big minutes and played about as well as could be expected. One of those freshmen, Aubrey Dawkins, seems to be a shoo-in to start this year after coming on strong in February on the offensive end, while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has the potential to be a lock-down defender. Kameron Chatman is another sophomore that will be competing for minutes after struggling to find his way last season, while Ricky Doyle and D.J. Wilson are big men that appear primed for breakout seasons. Duncan Robinson, a sophomore transfer from the DIII level, should also shoot his way into plenty of action.

Perhaps no player looked better carrying the decimated Wolverines teammates, however, than Zak Irvin. Now a junior, Irvin blossomed from being a knock-down shooter his freshman season to an all-around offensive threat to close an otherwise disappointing campaign a year ago.

Match this depth up with somewhat proven commodities in LeVert, Walton, and Albrecht and you could be staring at another offensive juggernaut in Ann Arbor. Defensively, there may be some questions, but John Beilein has always been one to out-score with offensive fireworks.

A new season has dawned, and things are looking up for Michigan. It might not all go according to plan, as last year clearly did not. It might not look like the runner-up team from these seniors’ freshmen year. But it most certainly will be fun. Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht deserve a wonderful sendoff, and the supporting cast will grind hard to make sure it happens.

After all, their time has come.

*Unless it was the 2009-10 season – either way, the song still applies

Predictions:
Top Five Scorers Top Five Rebounders
Caris LeVert Caris LeVert
Zak Irvin Ricky Doyle
Derrick Walton Jr. Derrick Walton Jr.
Aubrey Dawkins Mark Donnal
Spike Albrecht D.J. Wilson
Top Five Assists Top Five Three-Point Shooters (%)
Derrick Walton Derrick Walton Jr.
Caris LeVert Spike Albrecht
Spike Albrecht Duncan Robinson
Zak Irvin Zack Irvin
Kameron Chatman Caris LeVert
Superlatives
Most improved player: D.J. Wilson
Most valuable freshman: Moritz Wagner
Most valuable player: Derrick Walton Jr.
Final record: 27-10 (12-6 Big Ten)
Conference finish: 2
Postseason: NCAA Tournament, Elite Eight

Michigan basketball 2015 season preview: The sophomores

Monday, November 9th, 2015


Sophomores(Melanie Maxwell, Ann Arbor News)

While we’re in the midst of football season – a season of rebirth and return of the Michigan of old – college basketball is surprisingly just around the corner. Michigan Basketball tips off their own season later this week with a team that is looking to prove that last year’s mediocrity is firmly in the past. As usual, we will begin to preview the season looking at the newest and youngest players first before finishing with the seniors (they exist this year!). Starting today, we will take a look at the returning players by class, beginning with those with just one year under their belts.

#12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
Class Sophomore MAAR headshot
Major Undecided
Measurements 6’4″, 185
Hometown Allentown, Pa.
High School Catholic Central
Position(s) Guard (1,2)
Committed April 19, 2014
Fun Fact Dad is coach at Muhlenberg College (D-2)
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2014-15 4.5 1.7 0.9 0.6 1.0 19.0 41.9 29.3 93.3
Career 4.5 1.7 0.9 0.6 1.0 19.0 41.9 29.3 93.3

Career Highs: Points: 18; Assists: 4; Steals: 3; Rebounds: 8; Turnovers: 4 (twice); Minutes: 47
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Michigan State

Career to Date: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was one of a couple recruits in his class that flew under the radar and struggled to generate much college interest before John Beilein swooped in at the last minute with an offer. It’s become somewhat of a Beilein trademark at this point, with the likes of Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert, Aubrey Dawkins, Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, and others sharing a similar path. And like some of those before him, Rahk (as he’s called by teammates) was asked to take on a much larger role than what might have been expected before the season started with injuries to two of Michigan’s top guards.

For the most part, Rahk acquitted himself in that expanded role. He’s somewhat old for his class at 21 years of age and displays a calm demeanor on the court despite the first name he carries, and Rahk affords some flexibility to the Wolverines backcourt with a skill set that could see him run the point or the off-guard position.

In nearly 20 minutes per game last season – minutes that for the most part did not come until Big Ten season – Rahk showcased great quickness, plus handles, and an aggressive style of man defense that has been missing in many of Beilein’s Wolverine squads. He nearly took down Michigan State single-handedly in East Lansing with a cool 18 points and had a standout defensive performance on future lottery pick DeAngelo Russell of Ohio State in one of the few big victories of last season. This year, Rahk will almost assuredly see his minutes average dip with the return of Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert, but he has a skill set that is unique to this team and could see more time against teams with ultra-athletic and dangerous scoring guards. With his size, Rahk can match up well with a number of different opponents.

Area to Improve: Consistent Shooting

Rahk’s shooting numbers last season were lower than what you like to see out of a rotation player, and he’ll have to improve his shot selection and stroke to truly compete for minutes with Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht in his path. I do think the poor shooting percentages were largely a product of some early season jitters (Rahk would regularly throw up wild shots in which it didn’t appear that he could see the hoop) and a stroke that needed some refining, but he will need to shoot consistently better this go-round. Beilein has already seemed to work some magic with the sophomore’s long ball form, so I do think Rahkman will have a spot in the rotation – albeit not a huge one.

Stat Predictions: 3.0 points (43 FG%, 34 3-PT%, 85 FT%), 1.5 rebounds, 1 assist, 0.5 steals, in 8 minutes per game

#3 Kameron Chatman
Class Sophomore Chatman headshot
Major Undecided
Measurements 6’8″, 215
Hometown Portland, Ore.
High School Jefferson H.S.
Position(s) Wing (4)
Committed October 1, 2013
Fun Fact Left-handed
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2014-15 3.6 2.5 0.7 0.4 0.9 15.2 31.8 26.3 67.7
Career 3.6 2.5 0.7 0.4 0.9 15.2 31.8 26.3 67.7

Career Highs: Points: 13; Rebounds: 9; Assists: 3 (twice); Steals: 4; Turnovers: 3; Minutes: 30
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Rutgers

Career to Date: As a high four-star recruit with prototypical size for the 4 position in John Beilein’s offense, Kameron Chatman immediately graded out as a rotation player during the last offseason in the coaching staff’s eyes. Chatman began the year in the starting lineup playing big minutes, but his production on the court left much to be desired. After injuries created plenty of unexpected available minutes and some fellow sophomores saw their minutes increase seemingly by the game, Chatman found his own playing time shrinking. In fact, the 30 minutes he played in the season opener against Hillsdale ended up being his most of the entire year, and of the nine times Chatman saw at least 20 minutes, five of them were before Big Ten play began.

The biggest flaw in Chatman’s game was his dismal shooting. He was billed as a do-it-all offensive player with an easy left-handed stroke and range out beyond the three-point line along with a smooth finishing ability around the basket. None of that translated to the college game early on for Chatman, however, and with every missed shot seemed to come more frustration and less confidence. By the time the season came to a close, classmates Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins were consistently seeing 30 minutes per game while Chatman was just as likely to see seven minutes as he was 20.

The good news for the tall southpaw is that he’s just a sophomore with plenty of time to prove himself. And he presumably still has all the tools that saw him courted by a number of top programs around the country.

The bad news is that if his game doesn’t take a significant step forward this year, Chatman is likely to be buried even further down the bench with the depth that Michigan figures to have. Beilein has options aplenty at Chatman’s 4-spot, and whoever hits shots and plays solid defense is going to rise to the top.

Luckily, Chatman did seem to be putting things together better later on in the season, displaying some good ball-handling ability, a strong grasp on rebounding, plus passing, and a couple nice finishes around the hoop that evaded him earlier on. Now’s the time for him to start doing that on a consistent basis, and perhaps no one’s future will be as clear based on this season’s breakdown than Chatman.

Area to Improve: Shooting

Beilein’s system is predicated on shooters – or at least the threat of the open guy hitting triples. If you can knock down shots consistently, you’ll probably find your way into the coach’s heart and rotation – and especially so at the four position, where the Wolverines always look to space and stretch the floor. Last year, Chatman simply could not find the bottom of the net often enough to merit big-time minutes. His shooting stroke has apparently improved significantly this offseason, and Chatman’s natural left-handed stroke does play well into the offensive setup, but a couple missed open looks in any game and Chatman will likely be headed to the bench to watch Zak Irvin and company take over.

Stat Predictions: 2.0 points (41 FG%, 31 3-PT%, 70 FT%), 1.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, in 5 minutes per game

#24 Aubrey Dawkins
Class Sophomore Dawkins headshot
Major Undecided
Measurements 6’6″, 205
Hometown Palo Alto, Calif.
High School New Hampton Prep (N.H.)
Position(s) Guard/Wing (2, 3, 4)
Committed April 28, 2014
Fun Fact Dad is Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2014-15 7.0 2.1 0.4 0.3 0.6 20.7 47.8 43.8 87.0
Career 7.0 2.1 0.4 0.3 0.6 20.7 47.8 43.8 87.0

Career Highs: Points: 31; Rebounds: 5; Assists: 2 (three times); Steals: 2 (twice); Turnovers: 2 (four times); Minutes: 49
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Rutgers

Career to Date: A couple years ago, Aubrey Dawkins was playing his final season of prep basketball at New Hampton in New Hampshire while searching for interest from college programs. Much like Abdur-Rahkman, Dawkins simply could not get the calls and offers he was looking for. But unlike Rahk, Dawkins did not play high school in small town Pennsylvania – he played in perhaps the most prestigious prep league in the country for New Hampton and, oh yeah, his dad just so happens to be Johnny Dawkins, a former All-American at Duke and the current head coach at Stanford. And despite a solid shooting stroke and undeniable athleticism, Dawkins was left deciding between Dayton and, well, pretty much no one else.

That is, until once again John Beilein stepped in. Seeing Dawkins’ translatable skills and some room in a roster that just lost Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III to the pros, Beilein reached out late in the recruiting cycle with an offer that didn’t take long for Dawkins to accept.

The offer certainly looks like it was a good idea one year into Dawkins’ Michigan career. Dawkins saw very little playing time in the non-conference season before dropping 20 points on eight shots in the Big Ten opener against Illinois and eventually developing into a starter and an integral piece of the offense. By the end of the year, Dawkins was consistently playing 30-plus minutes every night and proved to be quite capable of filling in for his injured teammates.

Dawkins’ shooting stroke was the primary reason for this – he shot a ridiculous 47.4% from deep during Big Ten play – but his athletic finishing ability was also a positive. In perhaps the highlight play of the season, Spike Albrecht had a half-spin, behind-the-head pass to an open Dawkins, who easily skied for the thunderous dunk.

Now, all signs point to Dawkins maintaining his role in the starting lineup even with a healthy lineup after being pegged by John Beilein as the most improved Wolverine from last year to this year. If that is even close to true, Dawkins is primed for a breakout season that should see plenty more triples and a few sky-high throwdowns as well.

Area to Improve: Versatility

Last season, Dawkins was very much a shooter and a finisher, but he didn’t do much else. Going forward, Dawkins will have to develop a couple other aspects of his game if he’s to reach his astronomical potential. He needs to be able to put the ball on the floor and drive more (which he did a couple times in the exhibition opener), he needs to rebound the ball better given his size and athleticism, he needs to be able to create for others, and he needs to upgrade his defense. If Dawkins can do all those things, he will be an All-Big Ten level player and a future contender to be an All-American. Fortunately, he doesn’t need to put it all together this season, as Michigan has a number of other dynamic creators on the team, but there is definitely room for this sophomore to improve his overall game.

Stat Predictions: 11.0 points (47 FG%, 40 3-PT%, 85 FT%), 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, in 28 minutes per game

#32 Ricky Doyle
Class Sophomore Doyle headshot
Major Undecided
Measurements 6’9″, 250
Hometown Cape Coral, Fla.
High School Bishop Verot
Position(s) Center (5)
Committed March 11, 2013
Fun Fact Used to be a decorated club swimmer
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2014-15 6.1 3.2 0.3 0.4 0.6 18.2 61.2 0.0 60.9
Career 6.1 3.2 0.3 0.4 0.6 18.2 61.2 0.0 60.9

Career Highs: Points: 16; Rebounds: 9; Assists: 2 (twice); Blocks: 3; Turnovers: 2 (twice); Minutes: 33
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Indiana

Career to Date: As has happened a few times before, Ricky Doyle committed to Michigan under the belief that he would have a year or two to develop as a backup before taking over a starting job as an upperclassman; that all changed when former center Mitch McGary declared for the NBA Draft following what would have been a full-season suspension levied on him as well as Jon Horford transferring to Florida for his senior season.

Enter Doyle, the big center from a small Bishop Verot team down in the Fort Myers area. A traditional back-to-the-basket type big man, Doyle played about as well as could have been hoped to during his freshman season. He certainly was not an offensive superstar or a defensive standout, but he finished around the basket, boxed out consistently, and battled favorably with some much more experienced and polished centers during a freshman year that pitted Doyle against the likes of Rakeem Christmas, Frank Kaminsky, and A.J. Hammons.

This season, Doyle will be asked to do much of the same. If his finishing ability stays at or near the level it was a year ago and his defense does not make people remember him, Doyle will have done his job. The 6’9 center continues to learn the intricacies of the offense, and though he’s not a threat to shoot from farther than 8-10 feet yet, Doyle does well by not trying to do too much.

With Mark Donnal, D.J. Wilson, and maybe even Moritz Wagner available at the five position, Doyle should be able to give it his all in five minute spurts like last season to put in about 20 minutes per game. He may look to improve his defensive presence by trying to block and alter more shots, and we might see Doyle step out to the elbow to pop a few more jumpers this year (a skill that Mitch McGary proved to be incredibly value in a Final Four win over Syracuse), but a fitter and faster Doyle should do just fine. If he gets his rear into an opposing defender, Doyle can pull out a vast array of low post moves, and a face-up jumper would make him that much more difficult to deal with.

At the end of the year, though, Michigan doesn’t need Doyle to be a star. They need him to be himself.

Area to Improve: Conditioning

Ricky Doyle struggled to play long shifts last season because he simply got winded too fast. He was also prone to losing an opposing offensive player while hedging on occasion and could not always recover. If Doyle can improve his conditioning and quickness, he should be that much harder to deal with on both ends of the floor while being able to play longer spurts of time when needed.

Stat Predictions: 7.5 points (63 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, 68 FT%), 5.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.7 blocks, in 20 minutes per game

Just short: Indiana 70 – Michigan 67

Sunday, February 8th, 2015


Irvin vs IU(Jamie Owens, UMHoops)

Still shorthanded, Michigan ventured into Bloomington, where it has won just once since 1995 and twice since 1989, and took Indiana to the wire, ultimately falling three points short, 70-67, despite a career-high 23 from Zak Irvin.

Aubrey Dawkins hit a three-pointer on Michigan’s first shot of the game, but Indiana jumped out to a 11-5 lead and then widened it to 20-11 by the under-12 media timeout. But Kameron Chatman made one of two free throws and Mark Donnal scored five straight to keep Michigan in the game. Four free throws by Ricky Doyle and Spike Albrecht pulled Michigan within three, but Indiana responded and took a 36-29 lead into the half.

Four Factors
Michigan Indiana
56.5 eFG% 56.1
26.9 OReb% 48.1
19.0 TO% 24.1
43.5 FTR 40.8

Doyle opened the second half with a layup, and after a steal, Dawkins made two free throws to get back to a three-point defect. But eight straight Indiana points prompted a Michigan timeout. Irvin made a layup and followed with a three, but Indiana pulled back ahead by 11 with 14 minutes to play.

Once again, Irvin responded with a jumper, and Dawkins Doyle followed with back to back dunks to pull Michigan within striking distance. Indiana answered with a  Troy Williams dunk, but Irvin hit another three. Every time Michigan threatened to tie the game, Indiana had an answer, and every time Indiana threatened to run away with it, Michigan responded with a run of its own.

Three times in the final eight minutes of the game, Indiana widened its lead to nine, but even without its two leaders, Michigan refused to die. A three-point play by Albrecht brought Michigan within three at 65-62 with 1:18 to play. Indiana’s Collin Hartman and then Albrecht traded a pair of free throws.

With an eight-second difference between the game clock and shot clock, John Beilein chose to let Indiana play instead of foul, but Yogi Ferrell shredded the Michigan zone with a dish to Williams for a dunk. Irvin answered with a three to pull Michigan within two and the Wolverines sent Hartman to the free throw line. He missed the first but made the second, giving Michigan a chance to force overtime with a three. But Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s attempt from the left corner at the buzzer was all iron and Michigan suffered its third straight loss.

Irvin tied a career-high with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting and 3-of-5 three-point shooting. Doyle scored 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting and made 5-of-6 free throws in addition to pulling in six rebounds. Albrecht was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 12.

As a team, Michigan shot 50 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from downtown. Michigan held Indiana, the Big Ten’s best scoring team, 10 points below its average. The Hoosiers shot 49 percent overall and 41.2 percent from three-point range. Indiana out-rebounded Michigan 32-21.

Michigan, now 13-11 overall and 6-6 in the Big Ten, visits Illinois (16-8, 6-5) on Thursday. The Illini have won three straight including a 59-54 victory at Michigan State Saturday.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
32 Ricky Doyle* 5-5 0-0 5-6 3 3 6 4 15 0 1 2 1 27
02 Spike Albrecht* 3-5 1-2 5-5 0 2 2 1 12 7 3 0 1 39
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman* 1-7 0-2 0-0 0 2 2 2 2 3 4 0 3 34
21 Zak Irvin* 9-16 3-5 2-5 0 2 2 4 23 2 1 0 3 39
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 2-6 1-3 2-2 1 2 3 0 7 1 2 0 0 34
03 Kameron Chatman 0-1 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 10
04 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
34 Mark Donnal 3-4 1-1 0-0 1 2 3 3 7 0 0 1 0 10
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 3
Totals 23-46 6-13 15-20 7 14 21 16 67 13 11 4 7 200
Indiana 24-49 7-17 15-20 13 19 32 17 70 11 14 4 5 200
Full Stats

Stalled: Iowa 72 – Michigan 54

Thursday, February 5th, 2015


UM vs Iowa(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Tonight’s Michigan basketball game was not unlike the demise of a car’s battery from summer to winter.

The Wolverines, coming off a tough but gritty overtime loss in East Lansing on Sunday, fired out of the gates like a well-oiled machine against Iowa, getting early baskets from Zak Irvin, Spike Albrecht, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Kameron Chatman to take a 9-6 lead, then followed that up with a three from Irvin and a nifty lay-in from Chatman to go up 14-8 just over seven minutes into the game.

But like a car battery will suddenly die in a bitterly cold night like this one, so too did the Wolverines’ offense halt to a stop.

After pouring in six buckets in the opening seven minutes and looking much like the hungry team we’ve seen in recent weeks, Michigan managed just two more made field goals and two free throws over the final 12:59 of the first half against a lengthy Hawkeye 2-3 zone.

Meanwhile, Iowa’s potent offense came alive with threes from Peter Jok, easy lay-ins and put-backs from Adam Woodbury and Gabe Olaseni, and dunk after dunk from Aaron White.

By the time the opening act was through, Michigan’s six-point lead had crumbled into a 10-point deficit, with the visitors scoring the final 12 points before halftime mercifully set in.

Out of the break, however, it was much of the same. The battery looked dead for good with Iowa simply dominating the paint and baffling Michigan with the zone, opening up an 18-point cushion less than six minutes into the second half. White and Woodbury continued to be too much inside against a depleted Wolverine squad, but former Wisconsin Badger Jared Uthoff also decided to join in on the fun with an elbow jumper and a three early in the second half on his way to a game-high 16 points.

When it looked like all hope of driving the old beater this winter was lost, though, freshman Aubrey Dawkins came by to provide a quick jump, knocking down three triples in the span of five minutes on his way to match Uthoff’s game high.

Four Factors
Michigan Iowa
47.9 eFG% 66.7
17.2 OReb% 42.9
11.5 TO% 11.5
23.4 FTR 11.8

The battery began to make some noise at the very least, and an 18-point deficit was cut in half with eight minutes remaining and everything on the line for Michigan’s season.

As quick as the jumper cables started working, however, they were taken off and the battery conked out one final time.

Uthoff followed Dawkins’s final triple with a three of his own before point guard Mike Gesell scored his 10th point of the night and Uthoff made another bucket to put Iowa back up 14; Michigan would never get closer before falling by a final score of 72-54.

It’s tough to say how deflating a loss this could prove to be for the Wolverines.

Beilein said after the game that the loss brought a deflated feel with it, but that the team is not deflated in terms of their goals and getting better every day.

Since Caris LeVert went down a few weeks back and Derrick Walton has continued to rest his injured foot, Michigan appeared to bring their energy to another level, winning at Rutgers and destroying Nebraska at home while giving Wisconsin and Michigan State all they could handle.

Tonight was clearly a different story. The youthful Wolverines looked good right away, but once Iowa sat back in their zone, clean looks disappeared and the defense went with it. Certainly the execution was lacking, but the hustle and determination also seemed to be a step below optimal.

That’s concerning for a team that has some work to do if the Big Dance is going to be in the picture this postseason. Despite an ugly non-conference season, Michigan looked to at least have a fighter’s chance of earning a bid with a 6-4 start to conference play and eight big games left. Additionally, the projected bubble at this point appears to be wide and relatively weak. A big win here and a team just might jump into the Last Four In category.

But as we all know, protecting home court is hugely important for would-be bubble teams; this loss, Michigan’s biggest home blowout in five years, was certainly not exemplary of that.

There are more opportunities to be sure for Michigan, and a couple big wins could still spring them into the tournament, but the schedule will not be getting easier any time soon – road trips to Indiana and Illinois loom next week before rivals Michigan State and Ohio State make the return visit to Crisler the week after.

The battery sputtered before ultimately dying tonight.

Now, the Wolverines need to re-charge quickly.

Quick Hitters

• Michigan’s freshmen guards continue to develop, with Dawkins and Rahk combining for half of the team’s points on 9-of-18 shooting while the rest of the team shot just 10-of-29. Dawkins continues to shoot the ball very well from outside (4-of-7 from deep), but he also appears to be a little bit more comfortable operating within the offense and driving a bit. Rahk, on the other hand, continues to attack the basket when given the opportunity while becoming more comfortable from outside.

• Tonight’s game was lost in the paint for Michigan. Iowa went inside with ease far too often and ended up with a ridiculous 42 points on 21-of-25 shooting inside while the Wolverines only managed eight buckets on 14 attempts in the lane, as they struggled mightily to work the ball inside the three-point line. The Hawkeyes also took advantage of their size advantage to the tune of a 42.9 percent offensive rebounding rate and 13 second-chance points against Michigan’s measly 17.2 percent offensive board rate.

• Aaron White was assessed with a technical foul early in the second half for what Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said was some trash talk after a block (“you can probably guess what he said”) and was handed another technical for hanging on the rim after a dunk a few minutes later, but because of different foul classifications, he was able to remain in the game in a bizarre occurrence.

Three Stars

***Aubrey Dawkins***
16 points (5-of-8 FG, 4-of-7 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), one rebound, zero turnovers in 27 minutes

**Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman**
11 points (4-of-10 FG, 1-of-5 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), three rebounds, one assist, one steal, zero turnovers in 37 minutes

*Spike Albrecht*
10 points (3-of-8 FG, 1-of-3 3pt, 3-of-4 FT), four rebounds, five assists, one steal, three turnovers in 34 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
32 Ricky Doyle* 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 18
02 Spike Albrecht* 3-8 1-3 3-4 0 4 4 0 10 5 3 0 1 34
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman* 4-10 1-5 2-2 0 3 3 4 11 1 0 0 1 37
21 Zak Irvin* 3-10 1-6 0-0 0 1 1 1 7 0 1 0 0 32
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 5-8 4-7 2-2 1 0 1 0 16 0 0 0 0 27
03 Kameron Chatman 3-6 0-1 0-0 1 1 2 0 6 1 0 0 0 20
04 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 9
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
34 Mark Donnal 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2
44 Max Bielfeldt 1-3 0-1 2-2 1 3 4 2 4 0 1 1 1 20
Totals 19-47 7-24 9-11 5 12 17 10 54 8 6 2 3 200
Iowa 32-51 4-11 4-6 9 24 33 10 72 16 6 2 2 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

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

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.

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