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Posts Tagged ‘Max Bielfeldt’

After a horrid week for Michigan hoops, is it time to panic?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016


Beilein vs MSU(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

I didn’t write about Michigan’s two basketball games this past week; I simply couldn’t bring myself to. We all know what happened – Michigan got romped twice in their own gym and looked lifeless outside of about five minutes against Indiana and a few moments when the Wolverines’ bench warmers made some brutal losses look just a little better on the final stat sheet.

I’ve never tried to hide that I’m a very passionate Michigan basketball fan first and a Michigan basketball blogger second. After all, I used to be the president of the Maize Rage and have been going to games at Crisler since some time around the turn of the century.

So when the Wolverines suffer a gut-wrenching loss (think Josh Gasser’s banked three at the buzzer in 2011 or Evan Turner’s last second heave in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament) or get their asses flattened like pancakes pounded by a spatula after being removed from the griddle (think, well, both those “games” last week), I usually struggle to bring myself to settle my emotions enough to bring fingers to keyboard.

But I thought I should ramble a little about how I feel now after digesting those losses, throwing them up, and taking some antacid.

By the way, the final deficits against Indiana and Michigan State were 13 and 16, respectively, but probably would have more accurately reflected the nature of the games if those numbers were doubled.

Hopefully the Selection Committee takes a look at the final score of each game and says “well those are bad losses but not that bad!” and then proceeds to put Michigan somewhere other than Dayton, Spokane, or Oklahoma City (if they make it, I’m hoping to go to their first round game, but I would rather it not actually be a First Round game, if you know what I mean).

In reality, we all know that those losses were that bad. Like really that bad.

As Rafiki says, however, “it doesn’t matter, it’s in the past!” Michigan can’t change the disaster that happened last week, but they can hopefully learn a bit from them and pave the way for a brighter future.

So what’s to learn about those two games that people are certainly, definitely, NOT AT ALL panicking about?

Well, let’s rationalize a bit to begin. Indiana and Michigan State are two very good teams that played excellent games (I’m not going to reference many stats in this column because of how skewed the numbers are over the stretch, but any time two teams combine to make 56 percent of their shots in a given week, that’s some good play). They have combined to win 81.3 percent of their matchups so far this season and have beaten some good teams. They are both shoo-ins for the Big Dance, and they’ll probably embarrass a couple other teams not named Michigan going forward (do not pay any attention to Indiana’s game at Penn State).

For those rough games, Michigan still does not have a bad loss to show on their record – and I honestly don’t expect margin of defeat to come into play on Selection Sunday. They also have a couple very good wins on their resume and could add to their two top-100 RPI wins with victories they have already acquired earlier this season, should Penn State or North Carolina State climb up a few spots. For now, the Wolverines still look like relatively safe bets to make the Tournament.

If you are one of the many Michigan fans teetering on the edge right now, please take a step back, then another. It’s not time to panic just yet. If Michigan comes home from Minneapolis with a loss on Ash Wednesday, though, I give you full permission to run forward and jump.

Bench vs MSU(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

Anyway, about those games.

The Wolverines actually came out looking very good against Indiana last Tuesday, jumping out to an early 11-point lead and threatening to run away from the Hoosiers. Things quickly erupted though, and before the halftime horn mercifully blew in a dead silent Crisler Center, Michigan found itself on the wrong end of a 25-0 run and a 21-point deficit.

Before they could throw a counter punch, the Wolverines were knocked out by a savage Indiana offense. So what happened? Ultimately, the Hoosiers took advantage of Michigan’s poor transition defense, the Wolverines panicked and began turning the ball over and missing ill-advised shots so bad that they may as well also have been turnovers, and by halftime, the Wolverines were in a complete state of shock. Effectively, it was game over. To rub salt in the already gaping wound that caused the knockout, Tom Crean quickly mentioned former Michigan player Max Bielfeldt as a reason for Indiana’s terrific play. That, of course, was mostly garbage – Bielfeldt finished with just five points on 2-of-8 shooting (the worst percentage for any Hoosier that attempted a shot) in 18 minutes – but stung nonetheless. The stated reason Crean praised Bielfeldt was for his excellent first half plus/minus rating, which was absolutely comical given that just about every Indiana player had a through-the-roof first half plus/minus.

As soon as that panic set in, Michigan’s offense – which, again, came out firing on all cylinders – devolved into what looked like a typical eighth grade offense, with guys trying to play hero ball and failing miserably. Indiana capitalized, with six of their buckets (good for 15 points) down the stretch in the first half coming within 10 seconds of a Michigan miss or turnover, and a couple others coming off of terrible looks or turnovers as well.

Michigan is simply not good enough to overcome a shocking run like that, and Indiana simply could not miss for quite a long stretch. Further, the Wolverines are lacking their best individual playmaker, their primary facilitator, and their presumed leader. That recipe, combined with a seeming lack of confidence once things get bad for the Maize and Blue, is a recipe for disaster, and disaster is what descended upon Ann Arbor. In my opinion, it was one of those games where you almost have to say “it happens” and move on. Obviously it was a poor, poor result and an even worse performance, but I don’t place too much blame on the coaching staff.

I can’t say the same for the Michigan State loss. Coming off the tough-pill-to-swallow beatdown against Indiana, Michigan was certainly going to be a bit wary and perhaps high-strung or nervous with their in-state rivals coming to town playing much better than them (as an aside, players will never admit to paying close attention to other teams, or to keeping track of their ranking, or to listening to talking heads’ opinion of their team, but they absolutely do).

Unfortunately, I do not believe the coaching staff put the Wolverines in position to win.

Now don’t get me wrong. Michigan State is a very good team, and has been for many seasons. They are a tough, physical team, and perhaps not the best matchup for a Michigan team that usually plays with more finesse than physicality.

But the Spartans are also fairly easy to gameplan for in my opinion. This year, Michigan State has one guy who can do it all on offense and is dangerous any time he’s on the floor. That player, of course is Denzel Valentine. He’s an All-Everything senior that is a phenomenal passer, a very good shooter, and an excellent rebounder for his size as well. There is one other player, Eron Harris, who is fairly multi-dimensional, with the ability to drive, pass, shoot, get fouled, etc. But Harris is also prone to fits of erraticism and is not quite the shooter, finisher, or passer that Valentine is, and turns the ball over more than Valentine while handling the ball less.

Meanwhile, the Spartans also boast some excellent offensive complementary pieces that, while key to their success, are a little more one-dimensional. Bryn Forbes is an outstanding spot-up shooter that doesn’t do much more than shoot the three-ball. Matt Costello and Deyonta Davis are a load to handle down low, but neither is a threat to score from more than 12 feet away. Matt McQuaid is a plus shooter but does not shoot much while big men Kenny Goins and Gavin Schilling are basically the same players as Costello and Davis but both significant downgrades.

How do you beat, or at least challenge, the Spartans then? If Valentine proves too difficult to handle, so be it – you have to grin and bear it. He’s one of the best players in the country and can break down any defense. If Harris drives his way into some fouls and knocks down a couple deep shots, shrug your shoulders. But you absolutely CANNOT let Bryn Forbes get wide open and kill you from deep.

And that’s exactly what happened. Forbes had 23 points – seven triples and another long two – by halftime to Michigan’s 28 total. Of his eight makes, Forbes may have had a Wolverine within three feet of him once or twice.

Bryn Forbes(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

That is a lack of effort, a lack of effective defense, and also a lack of a competent defensive gameplan. Michigan came out in a soft man defense that showed little urgency in sticking with Forbes – again, one of the more lethal shooters in the country – and paid dearly for it. Duncan Robinson was a primary culprit, running under screens and getting completely stone-walled by picks, but the coaching staff deserves equal blame for allowing Michigan State to come out and drain 10 very mildly contested threes in a single half.

About midway through the first half, when it was clear that the Wolverines had completely missed the mark on the scouting report, Beilein switched to a 1-3-1 zone in an attempt to keep another game spiraling quickly out of control within striking distance.

It was fine for a change of pace, and it even managed to flummox the Spartans into making a couple dumb mistakes. But Michigan went back to it after those couple mistakes, which Michigan State was ecstatic to see. The Spartans promptly drained a triple, and when the Wolverines inexplicably went back to the zone yet again, they made another. And another. And another.

I have never seen Beilein look so helpless, but the answer in slowing Michigan State’s offense was never going to come by playing zone for an extended period of time. Michigan State is simply too good of a shooting team to fall prey.

Perhaps most frustrating about the decision to play zone for so long is that the 1-3-1 zone is not designed to limit shooting whatsoever. Rather, it’s designed to confuse the offense, create turnovers, and prevent easy driving buckets. Michigan State was not killing Michigan with easy buckets at the hoop; they were killing the Wolverines from beyond the arc. So instead of switching up the gameplan and sticking the best perimeter defender Michigan has – probably Derrick Walton at this point – onto Forbes and instructing him to not let the senior transfer touch the ball, Beilein inexplicably switched to a zone that is prone to giving up wide open shots from deep. And give up shots the zone did.

By the time halftime arrived – again again by the grace of God – Michigan was pretty much out of the picture and sapped of any confidence that once existed. Of course, the Wolverines moved to a more aggressive man defense in the second half, with Walton face-guarding Forbes, to open the second half. But it was too late. The lack of a first half adjustment failed the team.

In the aftermath of the second straight embarrassment at home, Michigan fans across the blogosphere at Twittersphere began (yet again) calling for Beilein’s head.

To that, I merely say this: stop it. Yes, Michigan got beat bad twice in a row. And yes, perhaps it could have been mitigated by some better coaching decisions.

But if you want people to take you seriously, you must first think and act rationally. John Beilein is one of the best things to happen to the Michigan basketball program in quite a long time. I don’t need to run through his list of accolades and accomplishments since taking over the program in the 2007-’08 season.

So I pray that many of those calling for his firing are uninformed tweens that have known nothing but success over the majority of Beilein’s tenure in Ann Arbor, and expect Michigan to be dominant each year. Unfortunately, those are unrealistic expectations for all but a few fan bases in the country.

It’s even more unrealistic to expect that when a team is missing their unquestioned best player and a key secondary piece. Both of those guys, of course, are seniors – Michigan’s only seniors heading into this season. And if you don’t understand the value of seniors in this day of overhyped freshmen in college basketball, I suggest you listen to what Tom Izzo had to say after his team’s triumphant victory on Saturday.

Take a look at any top team in the country and you’ll likely find that a senior (or two or three) is the driving force behind the success. Guys like Buddy Hield, Isaiah Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Jared Uthoff, Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello, Bryn Forbes, Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Rasheed Sulaimon, Jake Layman, Perry Ellis, Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez, and so many more are guys that make teams tick.

Michigan’s two seniors are currently watching from the bench. Hopefully they get one of them back soon, but in the meantime, patience and understanding are highly advised.

Crappy performances happen in college basketball. Shots fall and don’t fall, players make mistakes and lose confidence. Teams lose, sometimes badly, and coaches make mistakes too.

Still, Michigan is probably going to be okay. They had a couple big hiccups and they have some recovering and rebounding to do, but it’s not the end of the world, and it’s certainly not time to overreact after losing two games in which the projected outcomes were pretty much coin flips.

There are more opportunities on the way, and I believe that John Beilein will have an answer.

I, at least, have a good feeling about the two games this week.

The past is over. Let’s play on.

Indiana 80 – Michigan 67: Hoosiers overwhelm Michigan in Bielfeldt’s return

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016


Irvin vs IU(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan started strong, racing out to a 17-6 lead, but went ice cold over the final nine minutes of the first half. Indiana closed the half on a 25-0 run and added a three to start the second half. Michigan couldn’t stop the bleeding. The final score of 80-67 doesn’t reflect how wide a margin the game really was.

After cruising through the easy portion of the conference, Michigan clearly missed its star, Caris LeVert, against perhaps the best team in the conference. A celebrity cast in the crowd — on hand for Wednesday’s Signing of the Stars — wasn’t enough to will Michigan to victory and Max Bielfeldt got revenge over his former team.

Indiana shot 50 percent from the field despite making just 10 of 30 three-point attempts. Michigan had no answer for the Hoosiers’ offense as they made 23 of 36 from inside three-point range. Michigan, meanwhile, shot just 28.1 percent in the first half, digging a hole that was too deep to crawl out of.

Michigan looks to bounce back against rival Michigan State on Saturday.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 1-1 0-0 0-1 1 2 3 3 2 1 1 1 0 30
10 Derrick Walton* 3-10 1-3 0-0 0 3 3 1 7 3 2 0 2 28
21 Zak Irvin* 6-16 3-6 1-3 1 3 4 1 16 4 3 0 0 37
22 Duncan Robinson* 6-11 1-5 1-1 0 4 4 3 14 0 3 0 0 31
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 3-8 1-3 0-2 0 4 4 1 7 1 0 0 0 34
03 Kameron Chatman 1-2 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 2
05 D.J. Wilson 3-4 0-0 0-0 2 1 3 0 6 0 0 0 0 5
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 2-2 0 1 1 1 2 2 1 0 0 4
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 2-7 1-5 0-0 0 3 3 1 5 0 0 0 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle 2-3 0-0 2-2 2 0 2 1 6 0 0 1 0 8
Totals 27-62 7-23 6-11 7 23 30 13 67 11 10 2 2 200
Indiana 33-66 10-30 4-8 14 30 44 17 80 18 12 5 6
200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: #22 Indiana

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016


UM-Indiana
Michigan vs Indiana
Tuesday, Feb. 2 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 9 p.m. EST | ESPN
Line: Michigan -3
Offense
77.4 Points/gm 85.2
(600-1,234) 48.6 Field Goal % 51.7 (667-1,291)
(233-565) 41.2 3-pt FG % 43.2 (220-509)
(269-361) 74.5 Free Throw % 71.8 (321-447)
12.2 FT Made/gm 14.6
32.8 Reb/gm 38.2
16.0 Assists/gm 16.7
9.8 Turnovers/gm 14.6
Defense
64.4 Points/gm 68.5
(518-1,221) 42.4 Field Goal % 43.4 (558-1,287)
(151-451) 33.5 3-pt FG % 33.3 (125-375)
31.6 Opp. Reb/gm 30.0
5.7 Steals/gm 7.4
2.5 Blocks/gm 4.3
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.5) Points/gm Yogi Ferrell (17.5), James Blackmon (15.8)
Derick Walton (5.9), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Troy Williams (6.5), Thomas Bryant (5.5)

After sweeping its easiest four-game stretch of the Big Ten season, Michigan returns home Tuesday to kick off a much more difficult second half of the conference slate against Indiana. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers come into the game after a pretty worry-free first half of their own.

Seven of Michigan’s last nine games will come against teams with a winning conference record, and none will be bigger than Tuesday’s matchup against an Indiana team currently tied at the very top. The Hoosiers, though they’ve yet to play any of the Big Ten’s top six teams, are 8-1 and winners of 13 of their last 14 games.

With top-five duo Maryland and Iowa setting the pace, Michigan will have to put together a string of quality wins in February to earn a double bye in next month’s Big Ten Tournament. That journey begins Tuesday night.

Here are three keys to the game.

1. Bielfeldt is back

It’s been a wild ride for former Michigan forward Max Bielfeldt over the last 12 months, going from bench warmer to rotation center to starting big man at Indiana.

Calves came out of nowhere in 2015, playing more than 20 minutes in eight of Michigan’s final 14 games. The redshirt junior topped 20 minutes only once in the team’s first 18 games: A four-point effort against Detroit.

But now Bielfeldt is a major contributor for the Hoosiers, averaging 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 17 minutes per game. He’s also raised his field goal percentage by more than 10 percentage points, shooting a stellar 58.2 percent from the floor.

As a graduate transfer, this will be Bielfeldt’s last game at the Crisler Center, but Michigan fans will see a much different player than the one who came off of John Beilein’s bench with a minute left in blowouts. Bielfeldt is more involved on both ends of the floor with the Hoosiers and has scored in double figures nine times this season.

Beilein said on Monday that he didn’t agree with the NCAA allowing Bielfeldt to transfer to another Big Ten school. That quote alone will tell you Bielfeldt’s old coach understands the veteran’s value on the court.

2. To Caris, or not to Caris?

While the mysterious absence of Caris LeVert in Michigan’s backcourt continues to drag on, both sides of Tuesday’s matchup are focused squarely on one question: Will he play?

But regardless of LeVert’s status, the more appropriate question for Michigan fans might be, “Should he play?”

That’s no knock on LeVert. The senior guard is clearly the team’s most valuable player, leading the way in points, assists and rebounds before his “lower leg” injury. But it’s worth wondering if such a big stage is the right time for Beilein to pull the trigger.

Since LeVert hit the bench, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton have really stepped up their play. Irvin is making a concerted effort to drive to the basket and find his teammates while Walton is filling LeVert’s absence on the defensive boards.

With the offense starting to click in its current rotation, is it the right time to reinsert a player like LeVert, who not only demands the basketball in his hands on most of the team’s possessions, but also might be knocking off a month’s worth of rust?

The obviously problem is that, with Michigan’s upcoming schedule, there’s really no good time to make the transition. The Wolverines only have two opponents left on their schedule — Northwestern and Minnesota — that they can beat without playing a solid game. With having LeVert ready by March as Beilein’s primary goal, he might have to bite the bullet and accept the growing pains that’ll come from putting LeVert back on the court.

Would the future first-round draft pick agree to come off the bench? If so, that might be a good way to ease him back into the flow of things. LeVert has never suggested to be a player with a huge ego, but coming off the bench would definitely be a transition for the third-year starter.

Michigan has been very vague about the nature of LeVert’s injury, so we probably won’t get an answer to our questions until he trots onto the court.

3. Protect this house

Michigan will play perhaps the most difficult second-half schedule in the Big Ten, but it can at least watch its destiny play out on its own turf.

Over the next five weeks, Michigan will host Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern and Iowa at the Crisler Center. That means before the conference title is decided, four of Michigan’s five greatest competitors for the conference crown will take a trip to Ann Arbor.

If the Wolverines can take care of business on their home court, the path to the Big Ten championship will run along Stadium Boulevard.

The Hoosiers didn’t make the trip north last season as the only meeting between these two teams came at Assembly Hall. In fact, last time Indiana saw Crisler, Michigan was cutting the nets and getting ready to raise another banner.

Michigan’s 84-80 win over the Hoosers on March 8, 2014, put the cherry on top of another Big Ten title for Beilein’s squad. Michigan polished off a 23-7 regular season with a 9-5 run in the final minute to hold off Tom Crean’s upset attempt. After a Stanford Robinson bucket tied the game at 75 with under 90 seconds to go, a Glenn Robinson 3-pointer and six perfect free throws sent Michigan into the conference tournament with a No. 1 seed.

Tuesday night’s game will begin with a much different feel. Michigan, for one, is unranked and expected to be a middling seed when it heads to Indianapolis. Meanwhile Indiana, at 18-4 overall, has its eyes set on a top-three seed in the Big Dance.

But those differences don’t change the importance of this game. Michigan can’t afford to drop home games like this if it hopes to emerge as a true contender. This appears to be a bit of a validation game for two teams hoping to keep pace with loaded rosters like the Hawkeyes and Terps.

Michigan’s guards will have their hands full with Ferrell on defense, but Indiana’s athleticism in the front court might be the biggest deciding factor in this contest. With eyes on LeVert, Bielfeldt, Crean and Ferrell in his last trip to Crisler, it should be an entertaining matchup to kick off February in the Big Ten.

The M&GB HAIL Awards: Basketball 2014-15

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015


UM Bball HAIL Awards

Michigan’s basketball season has been over for more than a month and the Wolverines just held their annual awards celebration a couple weeks ago, but we’ve finally gotten around to handing out our M&GB HAIL Awards. Better late than never, I guess.

After reaching the national title game in 2013 and coming just short of the Final Four last season, the 2014-15 season was a major disappointment. Everybody knew Michigan was due for a letdown after sending five players from those two NCAA Tournament teams to the NBA, but no one expected it to be as bad as it became.

Early season wins over Oregon and Syracuse were fun, and nearly topping eventual No. 2-seed Villanova in the Legends Classing championship game gave Michigan hope for a successful season. But it all came unravelled with back-to-back home losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, followed by a 27-point loss at third-ranked Arizona and an 11-point loss to SMU. To make matters worse, Michigan lost its two best players, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton for the season with injuries.

The Wolverines opened Big Ten play with an overtime win over Illinois on a celebratory night in which new football head coach Jim Harbaugh was honored for his triumphant return. But Michigan had trouble stringing together wins in conference play, beating the teams they were expected to beat — Penn State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Rutgers — and falling to the teams in the top half of the league. Even so, Michigan had its share of near misses, taking Wisconsin and Michigan State — both Final Four teams — to overtime, but couldn’t pull out either of them. Michigan found some fire in the Big Ten Tournament, topping an Illinois squad that was on the NCAA Tournament bubble by 18 points, but Wisconsin ended Michigan’s season the next night.

It wasn’t the type of season John Beilein, the players, or the fans wanted or expected, but when all was said and done there was plenty to be excited about heading into next season. For one, Michigan shouldn’t lose anyone save senior Max Bielfeldt who likely won’t get a fifth year. Secondly, the emergence of freshmen Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman should give the Wolverines quality depth in 2015-16, something that likely wouldn’t have happened with a healthy LeVert and Walton.

Let’s take the time to honor the top players, plays, performances, and moments of the 2014-15 Michigan basketball season.

To revisit last year’s HAIL Awards: 2014-15 or our football HAIL Awards: 201420132012, 2011.

Player of the Year Zak Irvin

Irvin vs WisconsinWhen Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III departed for the NBA following last season, a void needed to be filled and most expected junior Caris LeVert and sophomore Zak Irvin to fill it. And for the most part they did just that. But when LeVert went down with a broken foot midway through the season Irvin had to step up and take on a larger role.

But Irvin hit a month-long slump in which he shot just 34.9 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from three-point range while averaging just 10.8 points per game. Over the final month of the season, however, Irvin hit his stride, averaging 16.9 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from downtown.

“After both Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton went down with season-ending injuries, Michigan had to rely on everyone to step up,” said Sam. “It took a little bit longer for anyone to rise to the occasion and seize the opportunity, but by the end of the year, Zak Irvin was undoubtedly the most dynamic player on the team and the one that kept the Wolverines in most games even though the postseason was always going to be a tough proposition.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Aubrey Dawkins (1)

Guard of the Year Zak Irvin

Irvin dunk

Irvin scored in double figures in all but five games this season and scored 20 or more points five times, including in three of the last nine games. He led the team in points 12 times and in rebounds nine times. He finished second in scoring (14.3 points) behind LeVert, second in rebounds (4.8) behind LeVert, and led the team with 33 steals.

His shooting percentage of 40.2 percent ranked seventh on the team, although he took 184 shots more than anyone else and 212 more shots than anyone other than LeVert. Likewise, his three-point percentage of 35.5 percent ranked sixth, but his 217 attempts were 121 more than the next closest, Spike Albrecht’s 96 attempts.

“Last season, Zak Irvin recorded three assists in a game just one, and tallied zero dimes more often than not,” said Sam. “This season, it looked like it might be the same Irvin with better hops early on, as the sophomore reached that magic number of three only once over the first three months of the season. Then, the light switch went on, and the Just a Shooter label came off. Over the last 12 games of the year, Irvin dished out at least three assists eight times (including the last six games of the season), while reaching double digit point totals in 10 of those games (with a low of seven points).”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Aubrey Dawkins (1)

Big Man of the Year Max Bielfeldt

Max Bielfeldt

Losing Jordan Morgan to graduation and Mitch McGary to the NBA left a huge hole in the Michigan frontcourt entering this season. Most figured redshirt freshman Mark Donnal to be the logical replacement, but while he began the season as the starter it was obvious he still had a long way to go. True freshman Ricky Doyle succeeded him, and while he had his flashes, his youth and inexperienced was evident. By season’s end, it was senior Max Bielfeldt who proved to be the most reliable.

Despite starting just three games — the final three of the season — Bielfeldt took Donnal’s minutes and improved as the season went on. He finished seventh on the team in scoring, averaging 5.1 points per game, and fourth in rebounding with an average of 3.6. Despite playing 130 fewer minutes than Doyle, he grabbed 10 more boards to lead all big men. Over the final eight games, Bielfeldt averaged 7.8 points 4.9 rebounds and he went out in style with a 14-point, 11-rebound performance against Rutgers on senior night.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Bielfeldt was the most consisten center for Michigan down the stretch,” said Derick. “The same guy that couldn’t guard a stationary post early in the year became a confident player around the rim and an above average rebounder for Michigan. Though Bielfeldt was never a focus for Michigan on offense, he developed a small, but effective, arsenal of moves and improve dramatically on defense.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Ricky Doyle (1)

Defensive Player of the Year Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman

MAARPrior to the season, unheralded freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman didn’t figure into many projections of significant contributors. But the Allentown, Pa. native who — along with Aubrey Dawkins — filled out Michigan’s 2014 class, was thrust into action when Derrick Walton Jr. went down for the season with a foot injury.

He made his first career start on Jan. 17 against Northwestern and finished with nine points, five rebounds, two assists, and made the game-winning three. Two games after Walton went down, Abdur-Rahkman broke out with 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting at Michigan State. In Michigan’s first Big Ten Tournament game against Illinois, Abdur-Rahkman nearly missed a double-double with 15 points and eight boards.

But it was his defensive prowess that earned him playing time, and by season’s end he was called upon to clamp down on the opponent’s top guard.

“Defense looked to be the surprising strength of this disappointing season early on before the offense started to flow near the end of the season,” said Sam. “John Beilein has still yet to find one of those pesky defensive stoppers throughout his time in Ann Arbor, but it looks like Rahk might have a shot at being the first. The unheralded freshman out of Allentown, PA showed terrific poise in his head-to-head matchup with future lottery pick D’Angelo Russell and was easily the best player on the team at making a simple step-in to stop a potential fast break. I remember watching in awe a few times as Rahk stopped an opponent in his tracks multiple times when it looked like a layup was a sure thing.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Ricky Doyle (1)

Game of the Year 64-57 win over #24 Ohio State

Spike vs OSUThere were plenty of near-misses that could have been game of the year had they swung the other way. Early in the season, Michigan nearly topped 12th-ranked Villanova in the Legends Classic championship game. In Big Ten play, the Wolverines took both Michigan State and Wisconsin to overtime, but fell both times. And in the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan again took Wisconsin to the wire, but couldn’t pull it out.

But the one game that Michigan did impress in was a 64-57 win over Ohio State on Feb. 22. Michigan was struggling, losers of five straight, when the Buckeyes came to town, but that didn’t stop John Beilein’s squad from dominating their rivals. Michigan raced out to a 23-9 lead and led by as many as 20 at 31-11, cruising to a 39-23 halftime margin. Ohio State cut the lead to 10 a few minutes into the second half, and then pulled within three with 6:59 remaining, but a timely Zak Irvin three put a stop to the Buckeye run and Michigan held on for a big win.

Irvin and Spike Albrecht combined to score 31 points on 11-of-22 shooting, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman held Ohio State star D’Angelo Russell to just 16 points on 15 shots.

“Despite the awful slide to finish the season, Michigan did give fans one great memory: a wire-to-wire dominating win over Ohio State,” said Derick. “Michigan jumped out to an early lead and never let go, while holding freshman phenom D’Angelo Russell to one of his least efficient games of the season.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None

Play of the Year Derrick Walton three to force OT against Wisconsin

Walton three vs WisconsinWhen sixth-ranked Wisconsin came to town in late January, Michigan’s season was on the verge of collapse. Losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan in non-conference play made Michigan’s postseason hopes slim barring a great performance in conference play, and although the Wolverines won four of the first six Big Ten games, there wasn’t much room for error. To make matters worse, Caris LeVert went down for the season two games prior. A win over the Badgers sans LeVert would be a huge boost.

Michigan started slow, managing just three points through the first six minutes, but took their first lead at 17-16 with 8:53 left in the half. But Wisconsin pulled away to a 30-23 halftime lead. The beginning of the second half was a different story, however, as Michigan used a 15-8 run through the first nine minutes to tie the game at 38. Wisconsin kept threatening to pull away, but Michigan wouldn’t back down.

Trailing by three with under 20 seconds left, Derrick Walton Jr. took over. First, he made two free throws with 11 seconds remaining to pull within one, and then, after Wisconsin answers with a pair of free throws, Walton brought the ball up the court. He handed it off to Aubrey Dawkins who went up to shoot, but with a hand in his face, passed it back to Walton. Walton launched a three at the buzzer from the left wing and it found nothing but net to send the game to overtime. Unfortunately, Michigan couldn’t prevail, falling 69-64, but Walton’s shot was a lone bright spot in a dark season.

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Albrecht behind-the-back assist to Dawkins vs Illinois in Big Ten Tournament (1)

Performance of the Year Aubrey Dawkins’ breakout vs Illinois

Dawkins vs Rutgers

After dropping four of their last five non-conference games, Michigan needed a strong start to Big Ten play. On a festive occasion that saw the Wolverines welcome the return of Jim Harbaugh as head football coach, freshman Aubrey Dawkins led the way.

Dawkins scored 20 points on 6-of-7 three-point shooting and also grabbed five rebounds in a breakout performance. Prior to that game, Dawkins had scored a total of 15 points throughout non-conference play, but his breakout against Illinois set in motion a strong finish to the season for the freshman. From that point on, he averaged 9.7 points per game.

“This is perhaps the most telling category…three of the top “Performance of the Year” options came in losses,” said Sam. “I have to go with the one that resulted in a win, wherein Aubrey Dawkins put the team on his back much to the enjoyment of a packed house celebrating the homecoming of Jim Harbaugh and led the team to a huge victory in their Big Ten home opener. He couldn’t miss and we couldn’t stop oohhing and ahhing.”

 

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Dawkins’ 31 points in regular season finale vs Rutgers

Newcomer of the Year Aubrey Dawkins

Dawkins dunkLosing an all-everything point guard to the NBA is never an easy task for any coach, but John Beilein got a superb season out of Derrick Walton Jr. The freshman from Detroit started 36 of the 37 games, averaging 7.9 points, three rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. Most importantly, he provided a steady presence at the point guard position with nearly twice as many assists as turnovers.

Walton wasn’t always counted on to score, but he could certainly do it when needed. His best performance came in the 80-75 win at Michigan State when he scored 19 points, pulled down six rebounds, and dished out four assists. His clutch free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the win. He also recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the Feb. 11 win at Ohio State and finished the season with a 41 percent three-point rate.

“Zak Irvin had an impactful freshmen season, playing his role to perfection as a scoring threat off the bench,” said Drew. “In most years, he would win this award. But it is difficult not to give it to a freshman starting at a position just vacated by the consensus national player of the year. Derrick Walton, Jr. averaged 7.9 points, made 41 percent of his threes, and had the second-highest defensive rebounding rate among Michigan’s guards and wings despite being only 6’1″. Most importantly, he did not shy away in big moments, making clutch plays in the final minutes of critical road wins against Nebraska, Michigan State, and Ohio State.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None

Those Who Stay Senior of the Year Max Bielfeldt

BielfeldtLike Jordan Morgan a year ago, Max Bielfeldt is the default winner of this award because he was the only senior on the roster. But as we mentioned in the Defensive Player of the Year category, Bielfeldt went from little-used big man to the best big man on the team as the season went along. By season’s end he was the most trusted man inside, able to come up with a key rebound and score when needed.

On his senior night against Rutgers, Bielfeldt put together the best performance of his career, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.

While Bielfeldt has a year of eligibility remaining, he was granted his release and will transfer elsewhere, and per Nick Baumgardner, he’s down to Iowa State, DePaul, Boston College, and Stanford. However, since John Beilein wasn’t able to secure a commitment from his top two targets — Jalen Brown and Kenny Williams — a scholarship remains open for next season and there’s a slight chance Bielfledt could choose to remain in Ann Arbor.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None

Most Improved Player  Zak Irvin

Irvin vs NUWhen Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, and Glenn Robinson III all departed for the NBA following the 2013-14 season, Michigan needed someone to step up and grab the reigns of the team. Last year’s most improved player, Caris LeVert, was the prime candidate with many projecting him a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate. But his season was cut short due to a foot injury. Enter Zak Irvin.

Irvin rose to the occasion after a slow start to the season to steadily improve as the season went along. By season’s end he had taken the team on his back and become the all-around player he was expected to be. He finished the season with double figures in eight of the last nine games, averaging 16.9 points per game during that span with three 20-plus games. He finished his sophomore campaign second on the team in points (14.3 points per game) and rebounds (4.8 per game), and shot 35.5 percent from three-point range.

“While I think Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman were the best suprises of the season, Zak Irvin, in my mind, made the greatest improvement,” said Derick. “The sophomore entered the season with expectations based solely on the one-year improvements fans saw with Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, but struggled early on. He was a volume shooter with little else to offer, and his defense was among the worst liabilities on the team. But by the end of the season, Irvin’s field goal percentage improved, he started finding the big men down low for easy buckets and he even became more active on the defensive end. He became the team’s top rebounder and also picked up 13 steals in his  last nine games. If his improvement continues into next season, Michigan fans will see the Irvin they expected a year earlier.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None

Moving on: Michigan 73 – Illinois 55

Thursday, March 12th, 2015


Spike-Zak vs Illinois(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

After playing a thriller in last year’s Big Ten Tournament and splitting this season’s first two meetings in overtime it seemed natural to expect a closely contested battle when Michigan and Illinois met in the United Center on Thursday afternoon. Instead, Michigan kept its slim postseason hopes alive with a comfortable 73-55 win.

Four Factors
Michigan Illinois
55.1 eFG% 38.1
23.3 OReb% 32.4
14.1 TO% 15.6
13.6 FTR 22.0

Playing with nothing to lose, it didn’t take long for the Wolverines to get going, jumping out to a 14-2 lead through the first six minutes of the game. But a nearly six-minute scoring drought — something Michigan has become accustom to this season — allowed Illinois to come right back and take a 15-14 lead.

Michigan then went on a 15-4 run over the next five minutes to grab a 29-19 lead and cruised into halftime with a 40-23 lead. After the 15-14 Illinois lead, Michigan outscored the Illini 26-8 the remainder of the half.

While this season’s first two meetings featured comeback wins, Michigan wasn’t about to let that happen again. The lead widened to as many as 24 points and the Wolverines finished with an 18-point win.

Michigan shot 49.2 percent from the field and 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from three-point range for the game, while holding Illinois to 37.3 percent and 7.7 percent (1-of-13), respectively. Michigan had four starters in double figures, led by Aubrey Dawkins’ 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman added 15, Zak Irvin 14, and Max Bielfeldt 10. Abdur-Rahkman led the team with eight rebounds, while Irvin added six and six assists. Spike Albrecht contributed eight points and five assists.

Michigan faces top-seeded Wisconsin at 12pm EST on Friday with a trip to the Big Ten Tournament semifinal on the line.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
44 Max Bielfeldt* 4-7 0-0 2-2 2 2 4 1 10 1 0 1 0 31
02 Spike Albrecht* 2-6 2-3 2-2 1 0 1 0 8 5 2 0 0 39
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman* 6-12 1-1 2-2 2 6 8 3 15 2 2 0 2 38
21 Zak Irvin* 6-15 2-5 0-0 0 6 6 0 14 6 1 0 1 38
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 8-12 2-5 0-0 0 3 3 3 18 0 0 1 2 34
03 Kameron Chatman 0-4 0-1 0-0 0 4 4 3 0 1 1 1 0 19
04 Andrew Dakich 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
34 Mark Donnal 1-1 0-0 2-2 1 1 2 0 4 0 0 0 0 4
32 Ricky Doyle 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 3 2 0 0 0 0 5
Totals 29-59 7-15 8-8 7 25 32 13 73 15 9 3 5 200
Illinois 22-59 1-13 10-13 13 23 36 14 55 5 10 5 4 200
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)

Michigan State 76 – Michigan 66 OT

Monday, February 2nd, 2015


UM vs MSU(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan visited rival Michigan State on Sunday afternoon with its two best players sidelined and nearly came away with a win. With Caris LeVert out for the season and Derrick Walton Jr missing a second straight game, Michigan at one point in the first half had a lineup featuring two true freshmen, two walk-ons, and Zak Irvin. Ultimately, the Wolverines fell in overtime, 76-66.

Michigan got off to a hot start, taking a 15-8 lead eight minutes into the game. But Spike Albrecht, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Aubrey Dawkins each picked up a pair of fouls and were forced to the bench the rest of the half. That left walk-on Andrew Dakich to run the offense for the remainder of the half and Sean Lonergan to see extensive minutes.

An 10-2 Michigan State run over the next seven minutes gave the Spartans the lead. Then Denzel Valentine took over, hitting a pair of threes in the final two minutes of the half, and Michigan State took a 29-24 lead into the locker room.

Michigan opened the second half with a 10-4 run to regain the lead less than four minutes into the half on an Irvin steal and breakaway dunk. But MSU’s Bryn Forbes answered right back with a three. Albrecht countered with a circus layup in which he was fouled, and he converted the three-point play. And so the rest of regulation went, back and forth.

Four Factors
Michigan Michigan State
48.4 eFG% 53.4
18.9 OReb% 37.1
15.9 TO% 17.4
16.1 FTR 37.9

Michigan held a 45-40 lead at the 13:19 mark, but Michigan State scored the next six. Michigan State went up 51-48, but Albrecht tied it with a three. An Aubrey Dawkins three-point-play gave Michigan a 61-57 lead with 5:06 to play, but four straight Branden Dawson points tied it up. After Dawkins’ basket and free throw, Michigan went scoreless for four minutes and 24 seconds, allowing MSU to seize a 66-61 lead with a minute left.

Albrecht nailed his third three-pointer of the game with 42 seconds remaining to pull Michigan within two. Michigan then sent Valentine to the free throw line and he missed the front end of a one-and-one. Albrecht missed a layup, but Max Bielfeldt was there to tip it in and tie the game with 20 seconds left. A Travis Trice three-point attempt at the buzzer missed and the game went to overtime.

Valentine opened the extra period with a layup and Bielfeldt turned it over, leading to two more Spartan points. Bielfeldt missed a three on Michigan’s next possession and Matt Costello made a layup putting MSU up six. At that point, Michigan was in desperation mode, but the Wolverines were unable to score in the overtime period, falling 76-66.

Albrecht and Abdur-Rahkman each scored 18 points on a combined 14-of-27 shooting and 5-of-8 three-point shooting. Irvin was the only other Wolverine in double figures, finishing with 11 points, but he made just 1-of-6 three-point attempts. Bielfeldt scored seven points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Dawkins added seven points.

As a team, Michigan shot 43.5 percent overall and 30 percent from downtown, while Michigan State shot 46.6 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three-point range. MSU dominated the boards, out-rebounding Michigan 43-29 and shot 12 more free throws than Michigan, converting those into eight more points.

Michigan (13-9, 6-4) returns home to face Iowa (13-8, 4-4) on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
32 Ricky Doyle* 1-1 0-0 1-1 0 1 1 1 3 0 0 0 0 15
02 Spike Albrecht* 6-13 3-6 3-3 0 2 2 4 18 2 1 0 0 37
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman* 8-14 2-2 0-0 0 3 3 2 18 1 1 0 0 32
21 Zak Irvin* 5-14 1-6 0-2 0 4 4 3 11 3 2 0 2 41
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 3-5 0-2 1-1 2 2 4 5 7 1 1 0 1 35
03 Kameron Chatman 1-4 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 2 0 2 0 0 11
04 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 3 0 0 1 0 0 16
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5
30 Austin Hatch 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
44 Max Bielfeldt 3-10 0-1 1-3 2 7 9 1 7 1 2 0 2 33
Totals 27-62 6-20 6-10 7 22 29 19 66 8 11 0 5 225
Michigan State 27-58 8-22 14-22 13 30 43 13 76 19 12 7 10 225
Full Stats

Shuckin’: Michigan 58 – Nebraska 44

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015


UM vs Nebraska(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan is still looking for a signature victory after an overtime loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, but a 58-44 waxing of Nebraska without its two best players was a step in the right direction.

Derrick Walton, Jr. joined Caris LeVert on the bench Tuesday night with Michigan hosting Tim Miles’ Cornhuskers. But three of Michigan’s unheralded role players stepped up to shoulder the load.

Aubrey Dawkins paced the Wolverines in the first half, scoring 10 of the team’s 23 points to carry a five-point lead into the break. An ugly offensive showing by Nebraska was highlighted by a zero from Big Ten leading scorer Terran Petteway.

Michigan came out of the break hot, stretching its lead to 11 with an 8-2 run. Petteway scored his first point with 15:05 left in the game, but it was too late as the Wolverines had already built an 18-point lead.

Four Factors
Michigan Nebraska
54.3 eFG% 34.7
21.4 OReb% 22.2
22.7 TO% 17.5
17.4 FTR 28.6

A Shavon Shields layup cut the lead to eight with under six minutes remaining, but Michigan answered with a Max Bielfeldt layup and never let Nebraska back within 10.

Dawkins finished with 13 points for Michigan, second only to Zak Irvin, who dropped in 14 and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman helped Michigan ice the game with three fast break layups in the second half. He finished with nine points and four rebounds on four of eight shooting.

Bielfeldt put up 12 points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. Starting center Ricky Doyle scored four points and grabbed two boards in the other 14 minutes.

Mark Donnal was sidelined with an upper respiratory infection, which has ravaged through the Michigan locker room this season.
Shields was the only Cornhusker to score more than seven points Tuesday, finishing the game with 14 points on just four of 12 shooting.

Petteway, who finished with seven points, snapped a 30-game streak of scoring in the double digits.

With Michigan up 14, Austin Hatch got into the game for 7.8 seconds.

The Wolverines moved to 6-3 in the Big Ten, good for fourth place halfway through the conference schedule. The wins have come against the six worst teams in the conference standings.

John Beilein will lead his team into East Lansing on Sunday for a matchup with Michigan State.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
32 Ricky Doyle* 2-5 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 3 4 0 1 1 0 14
02 Spike Albrecht* 0-2 0-0 6-6 0 2 2 3 6 7 1 0 0 34
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman* 4-8 0-1 1-1 0 4 4 2 9 1 2 0 1 37
21 Zak Irvin* 5-12 3-7 1-1 1 11 12 0 14 3 1 0 1 38
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 5-7 3-3 0-0 0 2 2 2 13 1 2 1 0 32
03 Kameron Chatman 0-3 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 0 0 8
04 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 0 1 8
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
30 Austin Hatch 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
44 Max Bielfeldt 6-9 0-2 0-0 4 5 9 1 12 0 1 0 0 26
Totals 22-46 6-14 8-8 6 28 34 14 58 12 13 2 3 200
Nebraska 15-49 4-19 10-14 8 18 26 12 44 6 10 2 3 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Near upset: #6 Wisconsin 69 – Michigan 64 OT

Sunday, January 25th, 2015


Michigan vs Wisconsin(Teresa Mathew, UMHoops)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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

Stepping up: Michigan 54 – Rutgers 50

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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