photo Michigan-Display-Ad-728x90-Die-Hard-Fans-only_zpskcnarkrk.jpg  photo MampGB header 2015 v6_zpsdluogxnr.jpg

Posts Tagged ‘Mark Donnal’

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

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

UM BBall(

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UM BBall 2(

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quite simply, you don’t.

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

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

‘Tis the game of college basketball.

The Far-off Season
Reasons for Optimism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons for Pessimism

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

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

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

A Couple Offseason Happenings to Make Note Of

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

UM vs Iowa(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisconsin 68 – Michigan 57: Badgers hand Michigan 10th loss

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

UM vs Wisconsin(Max Siker,

Michigan continued its limp to the regular season finish line Sunday evening with a 68-57 loss to Wisconsin. The Wolverines have now dropped five of their last eight as they try to hang onto an invite to the NCAA Tournament.

Four Factors
Michigan Wisconsin
53 eFG% 58
10 OReb% 29
18 TO% 20
14 FTR 31

Michigan hung with Wisconsin for about 27 minutes, but went six and a half minutes with only a Duncan Robinson three while Wisconsin broke open a nine point lead. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin both missed open layups that could have kept the Wolverines in the game, while the biggest drama of the last few minutes centered around whether or not little-used Wisconsin senior Jordan Smith would get in the game on Senior Night. He did and thanks to two free throws in the closing minute his point total equaled that of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

Michigan shot 48 percent from the field, but made just 5-of-13 three-point attempts. Wisconsin made 8-of-21 and held an eight-point advantage at the free throw line. Wisconsin also out-rebounded Michigan 33-20.

Irvin led Michigan with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting, in addition to eight rebounds, but he also turned the ball over five times. Walton struggled from the field, going 3-of-13, but recorded 10 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Robinson and Ricky Doyle  both also added 10 points, while Mark Donnal faced foul trouble most of the game and scored just six.

Bronson Koenig led Wisconsin with 19 points, while Nigel Hayes added 16, Vitto Brown 14, and Ethan Happ 12.

The Wolverines get six days off before hosting Iowa to close the regular season. At 20-10 overall and 10-7 in the Big Ten, Michigan may need to beat the Hawkeyes to secure a spot in the Big Dance. Iowa (20-8, 11-5) has lost three in a row, including a 68-64 loss to Ohio State this afternoon, and gave away the Big Ten title to Indiana.

Final Game Stats
34 Mark Donnal* 3-4 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 4 6 0 0 0 0 21
10 Derrick Walton* 3-13 1-4 3-4 0 5 5 2 10 8 2 0 2 38
21 Zak Irvin* 6-13 1-2 1-2 0 8 8 1 14 1 5 0 2 35
22 Duncan Robinson* 4-7 2-4 0-0 0 1 1 2 10 2 0 0 1 29
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 1-5 0-1 0-0 1 3 4 0 2 2 2 0 0 39
03 Kam Chatman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 8
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 3
11 Andrew Dakich 2-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-2 1-2 0-0 0 0 0 1 3 0 1 0 0 10
32 Ricky Doyle 5-5 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 2 10 0 1 0 0 16
Totals 24-50 5-13 4-7 3 17 20 16 57 14 11 1 5 200
Wisconsin 24-49 8-21 12-15 7 26 33 12 68 14 12 4 6
Full Stats

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

Sunday, February 21st, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters

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

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

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

Michigan’s Three Stars

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

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

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

Season Three-Stars Standings

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

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

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

UM-OSU(Kyle Robertson, Columbus Dispatch)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan’s Three Stars

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

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

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

Season Three-Stars Standings

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

Michigan 68 – Rutgers 57

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Irvin-Robinson vs Rutgers(

Remember last week’s message from Richard Pitino to his own team that Michigan enacted by winning ugly? Well…Michigan did it again, this time against the cellar-dwelling Scarlet Knights of Rutgers in a 68-57 win.

It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t all that encouraging. But it was a win. That’s the message the Wolverines seemed to be preaching in the aftermath of a sloppy victory that saw the home squad stumble, brick, and crawl its way to an 11-point win with only 20 made field goals (and only nine two-pointers) in a game they were favored to win by 25.

After the win, John Beilein did not hide his displeasure with the way things went, saying that he saw a big family hanging out by the main staircase and hoped that they had a good time, because Beilein “did not”.

“So somebody had to have a good time today,” he went on. “You have those games where we’re fortunate to get a win based on your performance, but we’ll just grow from it and learn from it and see where we go moving forward.”

Fortunate is a pretty apt word to use in this case, given that Michigan very well may have lost to any other team in the Big Ten with the way they played this evening. To say that Rutgers is bad this season would be putting it kindly. Eddie Jordan’s Scarlet Knights are undermanned, undersized, and in over their heads. They are now 6-15 on the season and 0-8 in conference play, with not much hope of pulling a win out of their hats before the end of the year. Rutgers sits at a woeful #274 on, flanked by the almighty New Hampshire Wildcats and Fairleigh Dickinson Knights, and a whopping 74 spots behind the next-worst team in the Big Ten in Minnesota (also winless in conference play). They shoot a lowly 45.6 percent from inside the three-point line and an even lowlier 30.9 percent outside the arc. You get the point – Rutgers is a poor excuse for a Big Ten basketball team this year.

Four Factors
Michigan Rutgers
52 eFG% 47
17 OReb% 17
15 TO% 22
41 FTR 28

And the Wolverines could not slam the door on them all night.

Duncan Robinson led the way in the scoring column with 18 points on 14 shots, but was just 1-of-5 from two-point range with a pair of ugly turnovers.

Derrick Walton added 14 on 10 shots while missing all four of his attempts inside the arc and also coughing it up twice.

Zak Irvin did well to tally eight assists and 12 rebounds, but he too struggled to knock down shots, going 1-of-6 from distance on his way to just eight total points and two turnovers.

Mark Donnal was the beneficiary of many of those assists, finishing with 10 points on six shots, but also gave it away twice.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman rounded out the starting lineup and did not turn the ball over, but he remained quiet offensively, missing all three of his shot attempts (all triples) and collecting a single assist in 29 minutes.

Perhaps Aubrey Dawkins was the best overall performer for the Maize and Blue with an efficient 11 points (1-of-2 2pt, 3-of-4 3pt) in just 19 minutes. But even he missed a wide open, violent tomahawk jam attempt down the heart of the lane when he tried to finish with a one-handed flourish and instead sent the ball clanging off the heel all the way back to half court.

There’s good reason to believe that Michigan took this one lightly, and it’s hard to blame them for it given the competition level. A loss here, however, would have been absolutely devastating. And though tonight’s matchup had all the makings of a trap game, Rutgers is not quite good enough yet to win on the road versus a talented Michigan squad even when they are off.

Still, this one never felt in great doubt despite Michigan trailing for 14+ minutes of the first half and never leading by more than 14 throughout.

So the Wolverines will march on with another ‘W’ notched on their resume – no asterisk needed – for the third straight game to bring their conference mark to 6-2 and their overall record to 16-5, already reaching last year’s win total with 10 regular season games to play.

At the end of the night, a win, as they say, is a win. No matter how it comes.

Quick hitters

• Following the win, John Beilein said he got an ominous feeling when, before the game, he could not find his scouting report on Rutgers for one final pre-game read through, as he does so every game day. As of press time, he had yet to locate it, but he claims this was the first time it had ever happened to him (perhaps unsurprisingly, given the level of competition) in his many years of coaching.

• Speaking of bizarre and unique happenings tonight, Rutgers made a mental mistake that John Beilein also never remembers having seen in his career that started when, late in the game, Zak Irvin stepped to the free throw line for a one-and-one opportunity and bricked the first attempt off the rim. A Rutgers player nonchalantly caught the carom, glanced around briefly as everyone looked confused and sat still (including Irvin, it should be noted), and proceeded to toss the ball to a referee sitting out of bounds on the baseline, giving Michigan the ball back. Four seconds later, Derrick Walton drew a foul and made both his freebies.

Beilein felt it was a critical possession, given that Michigan was up just eight points with 45 seconds remaining when the gaffe occurred. It seems highly unlikely that Rutgers would have pulled off the miraculous last-minute comeback á la Virginia, but we’ll never know.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Derrick Walton Jr.***
14 points (0-of-4 2pt, 3-of-6 3pt, 5-of-5 FT), three rebounds (two offensive), four assists, one steal, two turnovers in 38 minutes

**Aubrey Dawkins**
11 points (1-of-2 2pt, 3-of-4 3pt), one rebound, one assist, zero turnovers in 19 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
8 points (1-of-2 2pt, 1-of-6 3pt, 3-of-5 FT), 12 rebounds, eight assists, two turnovers in 38 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Derrick Walton Jr – 21
Duncan Robinson – 16
Caris LeVert – 15
Zak Irvin – 7
Aubrey Dawkins – 5
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 3
Mark Donnal – 1
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
34 Mark Donnal* 4-6 0-0 2-2 0 4 4 2 10 1 2 1 1 31
10 Derrick Walton* 3-10 3-6 5-5 2 1 3 1 14 4 2 0 1 38
21 Zak Irvin* 2-8 1-6 3-5 0 12 12 2 8 8 2 0 0 38
22 Duncan Robinson* 5-14 4-9 4-4 1 3 4 3 18 2 2 0 0 34
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 0-3 0-3 3-4 0 2 2 1 3 1 0 1 1 29
03 Kameron Chatman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 4-6 3-4 0-0 1 0 1 2 11 1 0 0 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle 2-2 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 1 4 0 0 0 0 7
Totals 20-49 11-28 17-20 5 24 29 13 68 17 10 2 3 200
Rutgers 22-50 3-18 10-14 5 25 30 18 57 11 14 0 6 200
Full Stats
Beilein tie watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan 70 – #3 Maryland 67

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Walton vs Maryland(

With seven minutes and 33 seconds left on the clock last night, Michigan came face-to-face with its season. The Wolverines could see the opportunity right in front of them, they could taste it in the beads of sweat running down their faces, they could feel it in their thumping hearts and hear it in the deafening roars of the crowd.

With 7:33 left against No.3 ranked Maryland, Michigan was tied up at 54 on their home floor. They had let the Terrapins chip away at a 13-point second half lead, but the victory could still be wrested from the hands of their foes.

They almost let it slip away. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman would re-take the lead 33 seconds later before Maryland’s freshman sensation Diamond Stone muscled his way to an and-1 – and Maryland’s first lead of the second half – on the other side of the floor.

Down their star senior, Caris LeVert, and struggling to keep their legs under them after a comfortable cushion was so quickly removed, the Wolverines had every reason to give up.

Instead, juniors Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton embraced their squad’s “Next Man Up” mantra, put the team on their shoulders, and led the Maize and Blue to a nerve-racking, season-defining 70-67 win.

When the going got rough, Irvin and Walton stepped up like John Beilein hadn’t seen before to ensure that this game would not fall through the cracks and be another “so close” in the loss column.

A few minutes after Stone’s three-point play, Walton swished a gutsy step-back triple from the right wing to give his team a five point edge, then Irvin took matters into his own hands on the following possession with a no-no-no-YES triple off the bounce from the top of the key to bring the lead to eight. Rasheed Sulaimon quickly nailed a three for Maryland before Walton hit another difficult jumper – this time a two – to go up seven with 2:11 to play.

Another three from Sulaimon would start the serious jitters in the crowd at Crisler, and a missed front-end of a one-and-one from Irvin felt like pandemonium waiting to break out.

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

Mark Donnal wouldn’t allow it. After getting called for a questionable shooting foul on Stone, who hit two free throws to make it a two-point game, Donnal secured a crucial offensive rebound off a missed layup from Walton with fewer than 20 seconds to play. Walton corrected his mistake by calling a heads-up timeout to secure an inbounds play, which went to Donnal, who immediately was sent to the line for a one-and-one opportunity of his own. For all those free throws stood for, Donnal remained calm.

“Basically I just gotta focus on making it. You shoot free throws every day in practice and I basically just shut everything out.”

He hit the all-important first free throw and missed the second, but was able to play good enough defense on Sulaimon in the closing seconds off a defensive switch that the Duke transfer couldn’t hit a tying three.

Michigan held on and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Irvin, who finished with a game-high 22 points on 14 shots and made three of his seven triples, was the star of the night, while Walton’s 12 points all seemed to come at the perfect time despite a poor shooting night inside. Duncan Robinson chipped in with what’s becoming a routine game of five triples to help him pour in 17.

Without LeVert, taking down Maryland seemed like a very tall task. But the defense and distance shooting were just good enough to slay the giant.

That defense, which struggled against an array of bigs from Mark Turgeon’s team, limited star Maryland point guard Melo Trimble to two points on seven shots and forced four turnovers from the First Team All-Big Ten lead man. Perhaps more impressive, however, was the Wolverines’ ability to keep Trimble off the free throw line, where he does plenty of damage. It was just the fifth time in his career that the sophomore did not get a single freebie attempt. Equally impressive was Michigan’s defense on Sulaimon, who needed 10 shots to reach eight points despite being one of the best shooters in the country.

Irvin in particular came up huge offensively with an array of mid-range jumpers, threes, and a few assists as well, prompting Maryland coach Mark Turgeon to call him “unguardable”, and helping him continue to forget about his shooting struggles in the non-conference season.

Asked about where his confidence stands now, Irvin admitted, “I had a little rough patch at the beginning of the season, but I definitely think it’s coming back, especially beating Maryland tonight was huge for us,” as he cracked a smile.

It’s hard to understate the importance of just how huge it indeed was. The Wolverines had a handful of decent wins before turning the calendar to the New Year, but none was of the hat-hanger variety.

Now, they have one locked up in their back pockets.

Another opportunity is right around the corner with a difficult road trip to Iowa City coming this weekend. For now, though, the Wolverines can take a breath and smile. The season has begun.

Quick Hitters

• I thought this was the best Michigan has played as a team in any real game this season. Without LeVert, multiple players needed to step up – and they did just that. In addition to the three stars, I thought that Rahk played within his game despite only posting five points, Donnal had another solid, if unspectacular, performance, and Aubrey Dawkins played spot minutes and got a couple momentous buckets in 12 minutes of action.

Rahk was also tremendous on defense, and his four assists tied a career high. On one fast break, he did an excellent job of cutting to the middle of the floor as soon as he saw Duncan Robinson wide open on the wing, which served to give him a better passing angle that he used perfectly to record a beautiful dime. In a similar fast-break opportunity, Derrick Walton could have found a slasher or Robinson open on the wing and instead bumbled his way right into the defense to give the Terps a fast break the other way.

Additionally, Donnal kept up his solid play. He’s clearly the best option at the five on both ends of the floor right now, and he’s finishing inside better than he ever has before. I was surprised to see him miss two open threes (that was really his forte in high school), but his effort on the glass was spectacular against a ferocious frontline. At the end of the first half, he had a sequence in which he blocked two sure-thing Maryland layups that erased four points and then got his fingers on a tip-in at the buzzer to give Michigan an eight-point lead at the break.

• Against Maryland’s tall and big front line, Beilein said he inserted three different double-down packages into the game plan to help Irvin, Robinson, and Donnal deal with their matchups, but the Wolverines got confused as to who to double-down on at different times, so they eventually scrapped the plan and went all man-to-man down low.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Zak Irvin***
22 points (5-of-7 2pt, 3-of-7 3pt, 3-of-6 FT), three assists, two rebounds, two steals, one turnover in 37 minutes

**Derrick Walton Jr.**
12 points (1-of-6 2pt, 3-of-7 3pt, 1-of-2 FT), 10 rebounds (one offensive), four assists, one steal, two turnovers in 38 minutes

*Duncan Robinson*
17 points (1-of-1 2pt, 5-of-9 3pt), one rebound, one assist, one steal, one turnover in 35 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Caris LeVert – 15
Duncan Robinson – 13
Derrick Walton – 10
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 3
Zak Irvin – 3
Aubrey Dawkins – 2
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
34 Mark Donnal* 3-7 0-3 2-3 3 6 9 4 8 0 0 2 2 33
10 Derrick Walton* 4-13 3-7 1-2 1 9 10 1 12 4 2 0 1 38
21 Zak Irvin* 8-14 3-7 3-6 0 2 2 1 22 3 1 0 2 37
22 Duncan Robinson* 6-10 5-9 0-0 0 1 1 3 17 1 1 0 1 35
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 2-3 1-1 0-0 1 2 3 1 5 4 1 0 0 34
03 Kam Chatman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
05 D.J. Wilson 0-2 0-2 2-2 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 2 0 5
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 2-4 0-0 0-0 2 0 2 0 4 0 0 0 1 12
32 Ricky Doyle 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2
Totals 25-53 12-29 8-13 7 20 27 12 70 12 8 4 7 200
Maryland 26-58 6-24 9-11 11 25 36 16 67 8 12 2 3 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch
Beilein vs Maryland

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan hoops 3 thoughts: #18 UConn

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Michigan vs #18 UConn
Wednesday, Nov. 25 | Paradise Island, Bahamas | 9:30 p.m. EST | AXS TV
76.0 Points/gm 89.3
(79-164) 48.2 Field Goal % 51.0 (98-192)
(29-66) 43.9 3-pt FG % 36.7 (29-79)
(41-56) 73.2 Free Throw % 76.8 (43-56)
13.7 FT Made/gm 14.3
31.0 Reb/gm 44.3
14.3 Assists/gm 19.3
11.3 Turnovers/gm 8.0
66.0 Points/gm 60.0
(67-167) 40.1 Field Goal % 33.5 (60-179)
(23-61) 37.7 3-pt FG % 30.9 (25-81)
35.3 Opp. Reb/gm 35.0
8.0 Steals/gm 5.7
2.7 Blocks/gm 7.7
Individual Returning Leaders
Caris Levert (19.3), Derrick Walton (10.7) Points/gm Sterling Gibbs (15.7), Rodney Purvis (14.3)
Aubrey Dawkins (5.0), Caris Levert (5.0) Reb/gm Daniel Hamilton (8.3), Shonn Miller (6.3)

Coming off of an embarrassing home loss to Xavier, the Michigan basketball team earned the enviable task of spending the week in the Bahamas for the school’s first Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

The Wolverines already missed their best opportunity for a quality nonconference win, so now they’ll need to pull a big upset in one of these games to right the ship. The first round pits Michigan against the 18th-ranked Connecticut Huskies, who’ve started the season with a trio of home wins over cupcake opponents.

What will it take for John Beilein to get things moving in the right direction?

1. Stop the bleeding

For a team that didn’t really know what to expect heading into this season, Friday’s blowout loss was a huge wakeup call. Xavier is a talented, physical basketball team, but Michigan should never lose by 16 points in the Crisler Center.
There’s no way around it: As of now, Michigan is not an NCAA Tournament team.

But Beilein is the right guy to help the Wolverines learn from the loss and continue to grow. The most valuable resource for this group is time; time for everyone to learn their roles and develop a better rhythm. Injuries to Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht robbed this talented group of an offseason that most teams spent getting comfortable playing with each other.

What Michigan can’t afford is a nonconference slide like it experienced last season. After dropping consecutive home games to N.J.I.T. and Eastern Michigan, the Wolverines got blasted in Arizona and lost a fourth straight to SMU.

If Michigan hopes to get back into the field of 68, it’ll need to avoid another long losing streak and pick up a few quality wins in the nonconference. As I said last week, those opportunities are few and far between in the upcoming schedule.

2. Find an offensive flow

When you look at Michigan’s team on paper, you can’t help but think ‘this group could be an offensive juggernaut.’ It has everything a team needs to put up huge point totals: Sharpshooters, slashers, great passers, even a couple of strong offensive rebounders.

But the team we’ve seen on the court has been absolutely stagnant through three games. Yes, they can get out in transition and put together a few nice scoring runs, but that’s more representative of the pure athletic prowess of guys like LeVert and Walton.

Take Aubrey Dawkins as an example. He emerged as one of the team’s best players late in the 2014-15 season because he can shoot, he can finish and he can really clean up shots around the rim. But Dawkins was a complete nonfactor against Xavier, spending most of his court time standing in the corner around the three-point arc. Yes, he grabbed six defensive rebounds, but five points on 1-6 shooting? That’s indefensible for a guy as explosive as Dawkins.

Irvin was the other no-show. The junior is coming off a long layoff because of injury, but he doesn’t look ready to play on the offensive end. In February and March, Irvin looked like a new man, evolving into Michigan’s best passer and improving off the dribble. But on Friday, it was more of the catch and shoot that Irvin displayed early last season. Settling for deep jumpers is part of what got Irvin, and the Wolverines, in trouble.

It’s up to Walton, who struggled greatly against Xavier, and Albrecht, who’s trying to get back into game shape himself, to kick start this offense in the Bahamas. Everyone needs to be moving without the ball instead of standing around the outside while LeVert tries to make a 1-on-1 move late in the shot clock.

Barring another avalanche of injuries, I expect Beilein’s offense to get much better as the players settle in. Remember, most of these guys, like Dawkins, Kam Chatman, Duncan Robinson, Ricky Doyle, D.J. Wilson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, haven’t spent much time on the court with a healthy LeVert or Walton. It’ll take a big leap from what we saw Friday to come out on top of UCONN.

3. Off the Mark

If it wasn’t completely obvious last season, it is three games into the new campaign: Mark Donnal simply isn’t ready for a major role on this team.

I’m not going to crush the guy. He’s never done anything wrong off the court and he seems to be a quiet kid who just goes about his business.

But I think that’s part of the problem.

Michigan, which has a glaring weakness at the center position, can’t afford to be soft in the paint. And there’s no way to deny that Donnal simply hasn’t been the force inside that the Wolverines need.

Donnal started the game against Xavier but played only six minutes because he picked up four fouls. He gave up two dunks on defense and couldn’t hold on to a few rebounds that were basically right in his grasp.

On offense, he won’t go up strong at the rim. Even when he takes a pass off the screen-and-roll, Donnal flips it up toward the backboard and often gets blocked or, unfortunately, flat-out misses.

There was one sequence during the game on Friday when Donnal checked into the game in the 2nd half with Michigan on defense and trailing by a few possessions. When I saw him at the scorer’s table, I turned to my dad and said, “Here comes a dunk.”

Xavier inbounded the ball, missed a three-point shot from the corner, grabbed the offensive board, missed a short put-back and tip-slammed the second rebound. The second rebound wasn’t Donnal’s fault, but it struck me how the team lacked an inside presence with anyone but Doyle on the court.

The Big Ten isn’t a soft league, and Connecticut isn’t a soft team. Maybe Beilein needs to light a fire under Donnal to get him going. But for now, he’s not getting the job done and Doyle, Wilson and even Moritz Wagner have emerged as better inside options.

Xavier 86 – Michigan 70

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Beilein vs Xavier(

Last night was supposed to be the start of a season-long comeback party for Michigan after underperforming last year. It was supposed to be a game to help the team, coaches, and fans start forgetting about some of the horrors of a season ago.

Instead, it was anything but the start of that comeback party. All last night’s loss to Xavier did for the Wolverines was bring back those same demons.

After cruising to two easy victories against overmatched competition to open the gates on the new season, Michigan took one massive step back against a very good Musketeer squad that made the Crisler Center feel like their home away from home, dumping the Wolverines 86-70 with a balanced attack that saw four Musketeers score at least 14.

Throughout the night, Xavier simply looked like the better, stronger, and more prepared team. They dominated the paint from just after the opening tip, when Detroit native Jalen Reynolds cleared out the lane, posted up starting Wolverine center Mark Donnal, and blew by him for an easy and-1 finish just 10 seconds into the game.

Four Factors
Michigan Xavier
50 eFG% 48
19 OReb% 45
16 TO% 13
50 FTR 39

That would be an ominous sign for the four Michigan big men who saw minutes Friday, as they struggled to contain Reynolds and fellow Musketeer big James Farr – who combined for 23 points on 15 shots and 22 rebounds (eight offensive) – and racked up fouls left and right. By halftime, Donnal, Ricky Doyle, D.J. Wilson, and Moritz Wagner all had at least two fouls but only combined for five points and one rebound in an opening stanza that saw Michigan trailing 45-36 at the break.

The visitors also looked like they simply wanted the win more. Time and again, 50-50 balls ended up in Xavier’s collective hands, and by the end of the blowout, it seemed that Michigan might never get another rebound, with the Musketeers more than half of their misses in the second half.

Michigan showed some promise early on, grabbing a 16-12 advantage nine minutes in after Reynolds was tagged with a technical foul for hanging on the rim, but they lost that lead within the next minute and never got it back.

Caris LeVert showed off an impressive array of drives to try to keep the Wolverines afloat, and he had his shot all night on his way to 29-point outburst, but none of his teammates were able to crack double digits. LeVert’s seven rebounds and three assists also led the team.

It looked as if Michigan would take control of the game a couple times midway through the second half, twice cutting Xavier’s lead to two points behind a pair of triples (I dare you to see how many variants of two you can use in one sentence), but every time the Wolverines showed life, the Musketeers answered with triples of their own.

At one point, Duncan Robinson made two straight threes, and had a third would-be go-ahead trey go down only to be taken away by an illegal screen call.

But it wasn’t meant to be. For his part, Robinson looked like he should ably fill the role of instant microwave off the bench, but he’s never going to be a dynamic playmaker – he recorded just one rebound to go along with his nine points, zero assists, zero steals, and zero blocks.

The production simply wasn’t there from the rest of this potentially deep squad, and the defense struggled to get any stops. Zak Irvin, back in the starting lineup after missing offseason time following back surgery, was clearly a step slow and only managed seven points, while fellow starters Aubrey Dawkins and Derrick Walton Jr. had five and four points, respectively. No other Wolverine had more than five points, and only LeVert and Walton had multiple assists.

From here, the road doesn’t get much easier in the near term, but it’s clear that Michigan’s defense must improve if they are to be competitive in next week’s Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will open up with Connecticut on Wednesday and could potentially see Syracuse in the second game. As LeVert repeatedly said after the game, Michigan needs to lock down its defense and limit the fouls going forward – they had 23 called against them in this one that led to 23 made free throws for Xavier. It’s unusual for a John Beilein-coached team to have such a high foul rate, but new emphasis on contact rules will take some adjusting. LeVert also thought that Michigan should win most games when they put up 70 points, but they may not be at that point yet.

Luckily, Michigan is far from the only squad to lose an early season matchup, and this one shouldn’t hurt the resume too much, as Xavier looks to add to an impressive run in March Madness from last season with a more dynamic, experienced squad.

At the same time, the Wolverines will need to show that they can win some of these big games in the near future – or else memories of last year just might creep up on them again.

Three Stars

***Caris LeVert***
29 points (8-of-16 FG, 5-of-8 3pt, 8-of-10 FT), seven rebounds (one offensive), three assists, two steals, three turnovers in 36 minutes

**Duncan Robinson**
9 points (2-of-5 FG, 2-of-4 3pt, 3-of-3 FT), one rebound, zero turnovers in 19 minutes

*Spike Albrecht*
5 points (1-of-1 FG, 1-of-1 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), one rebound, one assist, zero turnovers in eight minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Caris LeVert – 4
Duncan Robinson – 4
Derrick Walton – 3
Spike Albrecht – 1
Quick Hitters

• This isn’t the first time Michigan has lost a game despite a scoring outburst from LeVert. The Wolverines fell to NJIT last season despite 32 points from their star, while also dropping games against Duke and Wisconsin two seasons ago when LeVert scored 24 and 25 points, respectively. In all of these cases, LeVert scored more than one-third of the team’s total points.

• I thought Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht looked close to 100 percent on Monday, and Irvin said himself that he felt he was at 100 percent physically, but they clearly both have a ways to go. Albrecht only got eight minutes on the night, and though he threw his body around for loose balls, he’ll be seeing a lot more time when Beilein feels the senior point guard is fully back. Irvin was noticeably slow on the floor, at one point just jogging to a crucial long rebound late in the game that he was easily outrun for despite having perfect position.

• The rotation once again included all 12 scholarship players on the team, but that won’t last much longer. Mark Donnal struggled all night, recording zero points and zero rebounds while committing four fouls and turning it over once in just six minutes of time. Kameron Chatman and Albrecht only got eight minutes a piece (I expect Albrecht’s minutes to go up, but Chatman’s may disappear), Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman only saw 10 minutes, and D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner played just seven and five minutes, respectively.

Beilein Coachspeakometer

John Beilein is always quick to praise Michigan’s opponent – whether playing against the worst team in the country or one of the best. Here’s a look at a Beilein quote from this game’s press conference followed by a rating from Completely Objective and Fair (1) to Pure and Utter Coachspeak (10) on the John Beilein CoachSpeakometer

“We’ve seen good teams come (to Crisler Arena). Sometimes we were able to win, sometimes we weren’t, and that was as good a team as I’ve seen come in here at any time. They got all the pieces, they’re just really good. They hit the backboards obviously much better than us, they got loose balls, they got tremendous grit, and then they got a great mix of guys that can drive the ball, guys that can shoot the ball, (along) with the big men. So they’re sitting on something great right now, and they have for a long time at Xavier. They have a really experienced team that knows how to win…they’ll vie for a Big East Championship is what I think and they’ll be a team that is very good all year long.”

Verdict: 8

John Beilein is right to a certain point here – Xavier is a really good team that should be in the thick of the Big East race along with Villanova, Providence, and Butler. But to say that they are as good a team as he’s seen play at Crisler is quite the stretch. Along with a handful of excellent Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State teams (and many other very solid conference foes in the past eight years), Michigan has also welcomed #1 Arizona (2013), #3 Kansas (2011), and #4 Duke (2008) to Ann Arbor in Beilein’s tenure, not to mention plenty of other very good ranked and unranked conference and non-conference foes. Xavier will most likely be ranked in the next poll (and rightfully so), and coach Chris Mack has established a program that can compete with any team on any night, but they are certainly not on the same level as other recent home opponents. Excellent coachspeak yet again.

Final Game Stats
34 Mark Donnal* 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 4 0 0 1 0 0 6
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 1-5 0-3 2-2 0 5 5 1 4 2 2 1 4 31
21 Zak Irvin* 3-6 1-4 0-1 0 1 1 3 7 0 2 0 0 22
23 Caris LeVert* 8-16 5-8 8-10 1 6 7 2 29 3 3 0 2 36
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 1-6 1-5 2-2 0 6 6 2 5 1 0 0 1 36
02 Spike Albrecht 1-1 1-1 2-2 0 1 1 0 5 1 0 0 0 8
03 Kameron Chatman 1-3 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 8
05 D.J. Wilson 1-2 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 2 3 0 1 1 0 7
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 1 1 0 0 10
13 Moritz Wagner 1-3 0-0 0-1 1 1 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 5
20 Duncan Robinson 2-5 2-4 3-3 1 0 1 2 9 0 0 0 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle 2-3 0-0 0-3 1 0 1 3 4 0 1 0 0 22
Totals 21-52 10-26 18-26 7 22 29 23 70 8 11 2 7 200
Xavier 27-66 9-21 23-26 18 29 47 25 86 13 9 2 3 200
Full Stats
Beilein tie watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)