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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan Basketball’

Michigan hoops preview: Coppin State

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

UM-Coppin State
Michigan (6-5) vs Coppin State (1-9)
Monday, Dec. 22 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 8 p.m. EST | Big Ten Network
67.3 Points/gm 69.1
(256-604) 42.4 Field Goal % 37.1 (246-663)
(94-259) 36.3 3-pt FG % 32.2 (95-295)
(134-179) 74.9 Free Throw % 65.8 (104-158)
12.2 FT Made/gm 10.4
31.1 Reb/gm 32.0
13.0 Assists/gm 11.6
9.9 Turnovers/gm 13.7
62.9 Points/gm 90.9
(259-570) 45.4 Field Goal % 51.8 (322-622)
(77-204) 37.7 3-pt FG % 44.8 (86-192)
33.1 Opp. Reb/gm 45.7
6.8 Steals/gm 6.9
1.8 Blocks/gm 3.4
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (15.5), Zak Irvin (15.5) Points/gm Arnold Fripp (13.0), Taariq Cephas (10.8)
Caris LeVert (5.2), Derrick Walton Jr (4.4) Reb/gm Arnold Fripp (5.0), Sterling Smith (4.0)


Michigan stayed cold on Saturday afternoon, dropping their fourth straight games, this time an 11-point loss to Southern Methodist. On its own, it wouldn’t have been a bad loss per se as Larry Brown’s Mustangs are a talented and athletic group that will contend for an NCAA Tournament berth. But following home losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan and a road blowout at the hands of Arizona, Michigan has seen its own NCAA Tournament hopes swirl down the drain, save a huge turnaround in conference play.

Tonight, Michigan closes out its non-conference schedule with a great chance to get back in the win column before an eight day Christmas break. Coppin State comes to town with a 1-9 record and winless against Division 1. Coppin State’s lone win was a 103-50 blowout of Goldey-Beacon College, a Division II school of 1,300 students locate in Wilmington, Del. The Eagles have played one common opponent as Michigan, their season opener against Oregon, which they lost 107-65.

The biggest reason for Coppin State’s struggles has been defense. The Eagles allow 90.9 points per game, which ranks last nationally. Five of 10 opponents have broken 100 including 114 scored by Illinois on Nov. 16. Notre Dame beat Coppin State 104-67, Hofstra won 105-64, and UConn topped the Eagles 106-85 a week ago.

Coppin State is led by 6’7″, 210-pound senior forward Arnold Fripp, who averages 13 points and five rebounds per game. He has reached double figures in seven of 10 games and had his best game of the season last time out against UConn with 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting and nine boards. He’s the team’s second-best three-point shooter at 37.5 percent and made 6-of-8 in that UConn game.

Senior Taariq Cephas is the only other Eagle averaging double figures. The 5’10″, 165-pound senior guard averages 10.8 points and leads the team with 3.2 assists per game. He had a season high of 16 points against Norfolk State two weeks ago and has made at least two three-pointers in six of 10 games.

Sophomore Christian Kessee is the third-leading scorer at 8.5 points per game. The 6’2″, 180-pound guard is the team’s best three-point shooter, averaging 44.4 percent, having made 16-of-36. Like Fripp, he had his best game of the season against UConn last Sunday with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting and 5-of-9 three-point shooting.

The other wing is 6’4″, 185-pound junior Sterling Smith, who averages 8.3 points and is the second-leading rebounder with 4.0 per game. After averaging just under six shot attempts per game in the first five, he has increased that to nearly nine per game in the last five. And that has paid off with double-figures in four of his last five games with a high of 16. He’s not a good three-point shooter, despite having attempted the most threes on the team. He has made just 16-of-54 (29.6 percent).

Joining Fripp in the frontcourt is junior center Lawrence Fejokwu. The 6’9″, 260-pound Nigeria native has started eight games, but plays just 13.9 minutes per game and averages just 1.5 points and 0.4 rebounds.

Senior guard Daquan Brickhouse (5’8″, 160) plays the fifth-most minutes and averages 6.8 points and 2.6 assists per game, but is shooting just 32.1 percent from the field. Fellow senior guard Jahvari Josiah (6’4″, 185) averages six points per game, but has made just 3-of-23 three-point attempts. Junior guard Shomari Triggs (5’9″, 190) and senior forward Dallas Gary (6’5″, 210) are the only other players averaging double-digit minutes. The two average a combined 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

As a team, Coppin State shoots just 37.1 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from three-point range while allowing opponents to shoot 51.8 and 44.8 percent, respectively. The Eagles also have a minus-13.7 rebound margin, giving up 45.7 opponent boards per game. By comparison, if it seemed like Michigan allowed SMU to grab every rebound on Saturday, the Mustangs totaled 44. Coppin State allows more than that on average.

Coppin State is essentially a team full of guards that won’t pose a huge size advantage over Michigan like most teams do. They let opponents shoot extremely well and turn the ball over a lot. If there was a game set up for Michigan to break out of its slump, this is it. Michigan should get back in the win column and head into Big Ten play at 7-5.

Ice cold: SMU 62 – Michigan 51

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

UM vs SMU(Duane Burleson, Getty Images)

Coming off three straight losses, two of which were shocking home losses, Michigan had a week to prepare for an increasingly important non-conference matchup with Southern Methodist this afternoon. The week would surely provide rest, rehabilitation, and some renewed confidence after a tough skid that saw poor defense, putrid offense, and all around bad play.

One week wasn’t enough.

The Wolverines struggled right out of the gates, getting outscored 11-10 in the first six minutes of the game by star Mustang point guard Nic Moore alone, then continued to lag closely behind throughout the rest of the first half.

Much like in their losses against Arizona and Eastern Michigan, Michigan simply could not buy buckets, finishing the first half at a lowly 34.6 percent mark from the field and just 25 percent from deep, yet still only trailed by three.

The beginning of the second half continued the inept offensive display, as missed buckets and box outs led to a quick 7-0 spurt and a double-digit lead for SMU.

Then, out of nowhere, Michigan finally started to pick it up on offense after falling behind. Mark Donnal, after coming off the bench for the first time all season, scored five straight points during a 15-3 Michigan run that saw the Wolverines take a 44-42 lead with 9:30 left.

But as quickly as the run came, a heavy drought arrived in Ann Arbor, a far too common occurrence so far this year. One minute Michigan looked ready to take control and grab a much-needed home win just prior to the start of conference play. The next minute, Michigan found itself down nine with 2:31 left.

Four Factors
Michigan SMU
38.9 eFG% 50.0
19.5 OReb% 36.7
20.8 TO% 29.7
25.9 FTR 30.8

Any confidence the young team had mustered up was drained in an instant, and SMU used an extended 20-7 run over the final nine-and-a-half minutes to come away with a 62-51 win.

Michigan seemed to find some answers today, but even more questions were raised. The Wolverines found plenty of open looks throughout the game, but knocked down a measly 31.5 percent of their shots, with a whopping two-thirds of them coming from downtown (which they hit at an even-uglier 22.2 percent clip). Too often, players are settling for threes and long jumpers without so much as trying to traverse the lane and draw contact, or at least collapse the defense.

Ricky Doyle earned his first start of the season over Mark Donnal after looking like the superior option throughout the non-conference season only to raise further question marks while being severely out-played by the redshirt freshman. Doyle finished with just three points on 1-of-3 shooting and four rebounds while mishandling a number of passes and getting burned multiple times defensively. Donnal, on the other hand, poured in a career-high 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting and 2-of-3 from downtown while collecting four rebounds in five fewer minutes than Doyle. Beilein mentioned after the game that he thinks bringing Donnal off the bench made him play more relaxed, and he is seeing him as more and more of an outside shooter who can spread the defense. Donnal also said that his first bucket off the bench – an open triple from the wing just seconds after he walked onto the floor – came on a drawn-up play.

Lastly, Irvin seemed to start emerging from a slump while Caris LeVert, who had been carrying the team throughout a difficult December, had his worst game of the year with four points (1-of-8 FG, 0-of-5 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds, five assists, and five turnovers – a few of which were extremely costly and downright inexplicable. Irvin led the team with 17 points on 15 shots and made a few nice plays on the defensive end with three steals.

At some point, you have to assume that this dreadful shooting and these long periods of nothingness on offense will come to an end, but that day looks to be a far way down the dark tunnel at this point.

The Wolverines’ season, of course, is not over, but the impending bump in the road just became a mountain.

Luckily, most mountains are scalable, and Michigan’s next game against Coppin State should get them off the pavement before Big Ten season starts a week later.

John Beilein remained calm in the post-game press conference, and has always said that Big Ten teams are fortunate to have three chances to win a bid to the Big Dance – the non-conference season, the conference season, and the conference tournament.

Michigan has already blown their first chance. Can they learn from their mistakes and rebound?

Quick Hitters:

 Perhaps the most entertaining part of today’s game came while both Michigan and SMU were in their respective locker rooms at halftime. Back on the Crisler Center floor, one Michigan student was given a chance to win $10,000 after winning a mini free throw contest. In order to win, this student had to make a layup, a free throw, a three-pointer, and a half court shot all in 25 seconds. In what could go down as one of the more memorable fan contests of all time, the student made the layup with ease, hustled after a free throw miss to rattle home his free throw, drained a three, then swished a half court heave only to find out that he had released his half court shot a half-second after his time ran out and would not be taking home $10,000. During the second half, however, Michigan announced that they would give the student a consolation prize of $1,000 for his heroics.

• SMU’s size and strength down low was too much for Michigan to handle throughout the game. Center Yanick Moreira was dominant with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 5-of-9 free throws while grabbing five rebounds, leading the way for the Mustangs to destroy Michigan by a 17-to-25 mark in the paint and out-score the Wolverines 34-10 down low.

• Both of Michigan’s point guards are clearly playing injured right now, and both Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht had to receive medical attention at different times throughout the game. The sophomore-junior tandem combined for just 13 points on 17 shots while turning the ball over five times.

• Michigan’s contingent of true freshmen had a very rough day in all. Kam Chatman continued to struggle shooting the ball while Doyle couldn’t capitalize on his first career start, and Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman only saw three minutes of garbage time apiece. The freshmen combined for three points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Three Stars:

***Mark Donnal***
13 points (4-of-6 FG, 2-of-3 3pt, 3-of-4 FT), four rebounds (two offensive), one assist, one turnover in 14 minutes

**Zak Irvin**
17 points (6-of-15 FG, 3-of-11 3pt, 2-of-4 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), three steals, two turnovers in 38 minutes

*Derrick Walton, Jr.*
11 points (4-of-13 FG, 3-of-10 3pt), two rebounds, two assists, three steals, two turnovers in 38 minutes

Final Game Stats
03 Kameron Chatman* 0-3 0-2 0-0 1 2 3 2 0 1 1 0 0 14
32 Ricky Doyle* 1-3 0-0 1-2 2 2 4 2 3 1 0 0 0 19
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 4-13 3-10 0-0 0 2 2 1 11 2 2 0 3 38
21 Zak Irvin* 6-15 3-11 2-4 2 3 5 2 17 0 2 0 3 38
23 Caris LeVert* 1-8 0-5 2-2 0 5 5 2 4 5 5 0 2 37
02 Spike Albrecht 1-4 0-3 0-0 0 1 1 1 2 1 3 0 2 27
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 3
34 Mark Donnal 4-6 2-3 3-4 2 2 4 4 13 1 1 0 0 14
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-1 0-1 1-2 1 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 7
Totals 17-54 8-36 9-14 8 19 27 15 51 12 14 0 11 200
SMU 23-50 4-14 12-19 11 33 44 16 62 9 20 0 4 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch:
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan hoops preview: SMU

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Michigan (6-4) vs SMU (7-3)
Saturday, Dec. 20 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 12 p.m. EST | ESPN2
68.9 Points/gm 71.4
(239-550) 43.5 Field Goal % 48.8 (250-512)
(86-223) 38.6 3-pt FG % 36.6 (48-131)
(125-165) 75.8 Free Throw % 75.1 (166-221)
12.5 FT Made/gm 16.6
31.5 Reb/gm 37.4
13.1 Assists/gm 15.2
9.5 Turnovers/gm 14.1
63.0 Points/gm 62.8
(236-520) 45.4 Field Goal % 38.4 (213-555)
(73-190) 38.4 3-pt FG % 33.5 (83-248)
32.0 Opp. Reb/gm 30.1
6.4 Steals/gm 5.9
2.0 Blocks/gm 4.1
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.7), Zak Irvin (15.3) Points/gm Nic Moore (14.5), Yanick Moreira (12.3)
Caris LeVert (5.2), Derrick Walton Jr (4.7) Reb/gm Yanick Moreira (6.8), Ben Moore (6.5)


A reeling Michigan squad returns to action on Saturday afternoon against a solid Southern Methodist team coached by a Hall of Fame coach and getting one of its best players from 2013 back. That’s not a good formula for a young team that has lost three straight to NJIT, Eastern Michigan, and Arizona. The latter was expected, but the 27-point margin of victory wasn’t, and the first two were downright embarrassing for a program that has exploded onto the national scene in recent years.

Former Bobcats, Knicks, Pistons, 76ers, Pacers, Clippers, Spurs, Kansas University, Nets, and UCLA head coach Larry Brown returned to college in 2011 and turned a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 2002 into a ranked team for the first time in 19 years in just his second season. The only head coach to win an NBA championship and an NCAA national title has done wonders in Dallas and he’s done so with recruiting classes ranked no higher than 34th.

Last season, SMU went 27-10 and barely missed the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Mustangs earned a 1-seed in the NIT and reached the championship game where they lost to Minnesota. This season, SMU has started 7-3 with losses to the best three teams they’ve played, 13th-ranked Gonzaga, Indiana, and 25th-ranked Arkansas. The first two were the only road games the Mustangs have played this season, which means today will be their last chance to pick up a resume-boosting non-conference road win before conference play begins.

Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown needs a win in Ann Arbor if he wants to guide SMU back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years (SMU)

Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown needs a win in Ann Arbor if he wants to guide SMU back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years (SMU)

Four players average double figures through the first third of the season, led by redshirt junior Nic Moore. The 5’9″, 170-pound guard is averaging 14.5 points per game and leads the team with 4.9 assists per game as well. He’s shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 48.8 percent from three-point range with 20 threes made.

Moore’s backcourt mate, Keith Frazier, is the third-leading scorer at 11.4 points per game. The 6’5″, 190-pound sophomore followed up a scoreless outing against Wyoming two weeks ago with a 20-point performance against UC Santa Barbara. Like Frazier, he’s shooting well, averaging 48.7 percent overall and 38.3 percent from downtown.

Senior center Yanick Moreira averages 12.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. At 6’11″, 220, he’ll be a tough matchup for freshman Ricky Doyle, who is making the first start of his career. Since being held to 10 points combined in the losses to Gonzaga and Indiana, Moreira has scored in double figures in six of the last seven with a high of 20 against Arkansas.

Sophomore Ben Moore has started all 10 games and is the fourth player averaging double figures. The 6’8″, 205-pound forward averages 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 45.3 percent. He started the season with games of 22, 11, and 16 points, but has reached double digits in just two of the last seven. In those first three games, he made 21-of-33 shots (63.6 percent), but has cooled off since.

Senior guard Ryan Manuel (6’4″, 185) has started five games and averages the fifth-most minutes, but contributes just 5.3 points. Interestingly, he’s not a three-point shooter — he hasn’t attempted one yet this season and has shot just 32 in the past three.

Canne Cunningham is the backup center. The 6’10″, 225-pound senior averages 7.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in 18 minutes a game.

The big addition to the roster is junior Markus Kennedy, who was academically ineligible to start the season. The 6’9″ forward averaged 12.4 points and led the team with 7.1 rebounds per game a year ago. He carried the Mustangs through the NIT last spring with 13 points against LSU, 19 points and 10 rebounds against California, and 21 and nine against Clemson.

SMU’s size and length will be difficult for Michigan to manage, but the two teams stack up pretty evenly statistically. SMU has a big edge on the boards, averaging six more per game, and holds opponents to seven percent lower shooting percentage. However, SMU turns the ball over five times more per game than Michigan, so Michigan will need to take advantage of those opportunities. Even though conference schedules haven’t yet started, it’s a must-win game for both teams’ hopes of reaching the Big Dance come March.

Blown out: #3 Arizona 80 – Michigan 53

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

UM vs Arizona(Rick Scuteri, AP)

Following back-to-back home losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, a reeling Michigan squad had the unenviable task of traveling to Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday to face the third-ranked Arizona Wildcats. And unlike the close game Michigan played against Villanova in the Legends Classic three weeks prior, the Wolverines were wiped off the floor by Arizona, 80-53.

Arizona scored the first two points of the game, but Michigan answered with a Zak Irvin three-pointer. Arizona big man Kaleb Tarczewski responded with a jumper and Michigan never led again. The Wolverines were able to hang around in the early going thanks to a three by Kameron Chatman to tie the game at six, but after a Chatman free throw and Derrick Walton jumper, Michigan went on a three-and-a-half minute scoring drought. It allowed Arizona to jump out to a 20-9 lead before Walton scored again.

Four Factors
Michigan Arizona
37.3 eFG% 46.4
16.7 OReb% 41.0
21.2 TO% 25.7
29.4 FTR 33.9

A Caris LeVert three got Michigan within six, but that was as close as Michigan would get the rest of the way. Arizona took a 36-25 lead into the half.

The Wildcats put to rest any hope of a second half comeback, scoring the first 12 points of the half to break the game open. Irvin scored Michigan’s first basket of the half over five minutes in, but Arizona answered right back with a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson three. The Wildcats continued to widen the lead, getting as high as 36 points with four minutes to play, and finishing with a 27-point win.

Irvin was Michigan’s only player in double figures with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He made 2-of-6 three-point attempts. LeVert, Chatman, and Ricky Doyle each scored eight, while Walton contributed seven. Chatman led the team with four rebounds, while Walton led with five assists.

As a team, Michigan shot just 35.2 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from downtown. Arizona shot 58.2 percent and 35.3 percent from three-point range. Arizona out-rebounded Michigan 40-26. The Wildcats were led by Stanley Johnson’s 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting and had four others in double figures. Tarczewski and Gabe York each scored 15, while Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley chipped in 10 apiece.

Michigan fell to 6-4 on the season and has a week off before it hosts SMU (6-3) next Saturday. The Wolverines will close out the non-conference portion of the schedule with Coppin State the following Monday before beginning Big Ten play on Dec. 30. Michigan faces an uphill climb to make the NCAA Tournament and will certainly need to win the next two to have any chance.

Final Game Stats
03 Kameron Chatman* 3-8 1-4 1-2 0 4 4 4 8 2 2 0 3 19
34 Mark Donnal* 2-2 1-1 0-0 1 0 1 2 5 0 0 0 0 10
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 2-7 0-2 3-7 0 3 3 0 7 5 0 0 1 34
21 Zak Irvin* 6-13 2-6 0-0 2 0 2 2 14 0 1 0 0 24
23 Caris LeVert* 2-9 2-5 2-2 0 3 3 2 8 2 5 0 1 35
02 Spike Albrecht 1-3 1-3 0-0 0 3 3 1 3 3 0 0 1 26
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-3 0-3 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 12
32 Ricky Doyle 3-5 0-0 2-2 1 2 3 3 8 0 1 0 0 23
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-4 0-2 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 1 1 11
Totals 19-54 7-26 8-13 6 20 26 18 53 12 12 1 7 200
Arizona 32-55 6-17 10-20 9 31 40 15 80 19 11 3 5 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview & Sam’s 3 thoughts: #3 Arizona

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Michigan (6-3) at #3 Arizona (8-0)
Saturday, Dec. 13 | Tucson, Ariz. | 5:15 p.m. EST | ESPN
74.2 Points/gm 76.0
(206-453) 45.5 Field Goal % 49.8 (235-472)
(75-176) 42.6 3-pt FG % 36.8 (50-136)
(107-139) 77.0 Free Throw % 67.5 (164-243)
13.4 FT Made/gm 18.2
32.8 Reb/gm 35.6
13.9 Assists/gm 14.8
8.8 Turnovers/gm 11.6
63.9 Points/gm 60.1
(189-419) 45.1 Field Goal % 39.6 (183-462)
(61-154) 39.6 3-pt FG % 34.5 (48-139)
30.5 Opp. Reb/gm 29.1
6.0 Steals/gm 8.9
2.3 Blocks/gm 3.9
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (18.6), Zak Irvin (16.1) Points/gm Stanley Johnson (13.8), Hollis-Jefferson (12.7)
Caris LeVert (5.6), Derrick Walton Jr (4.7) Reb/gm Hollis-Jefferson (6.7), Stanley Johnson (6.4)


A college basketball season is often likened to a roller coaster ride. There’s plenty of ups, plenty of downs, lots of twisting and turning, and sometimes sick stomachs. If Michigan’s season is anything like Millennium Force, the Wolverines are nearly touching the sidewalk. Just one week ago, Michigan welcomed the New Jersey Institute of Technology to Ann Arbor, only to be stunned by the team matching up with a top-25 squad for the first time ever. A few days later, the Wolverines looked to bounce back against Washtenaw county co-habitants Eastern Michigan, but again left the home crowd in a state of shock after what can only be described as a rancid offensive performance.

Today, the going gets a lot tougher, as the Maize and Blue face their first true road test against the third-ranked Arizona Wildcats (5:15pm, ESPN). Michigan is already at the bottom of the hill, but a third straight loss could see the cart begin to rattle off the rails. A win, of course, would do wonders for the young squad trying to figure it all out. Here are my three thoughts on today’s battle.

1. Battle at the 4: If Michigan is to have any hope today against Arizona’s stacked roster, they are going to need something out of the four spot. For my money, the Wildcats’ 6’7″, 220-pound Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is one of the most fearsome college players in the country, and though he doesn’t even start for Sean Miller, he is an absolute wrecking ball, averaging 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 26.4 minutes per game. The sophomore can jump out of the gym, drive to the rim with no concern for safety, and crash the glass with an intensity rarely seen on the basketball court. To make matters worse, the four has been Michigan’s biggest cause for concern in what has been a shaky start to the year.

True freshman Kameron Chatman, who most thought was destined to play at Arizona before he surprisingly committed to Michigan last fall, is a talented player, but has a long way to go before fully grasping John Beilein’s offensive and defensive concepts. Chatman has been beat far too often on off-ball defense, has looked lost at times offensively, and appears to be struggling with his confidence. In Tuesday’s loss to EMU, Chatman made a nice move to drive baseline and would have had an easy layup or dunk with one more dribble, but instead decided to skip pass over to Spike Albrecht behind the three-point line, resulting in yet another empty possession for the Wolverines. When Chatman has been off, Albrecht has come in to give Michigan a smaller but more veteran two-point lineup.

Today, I’m not sure how feasible that will be with Arizona’s size. In addition to Hollis-Jefferson, the Wildcats also run out 6’7″, 245-pound super freshman Stanley Johnson, 6’9″, 230-pound Michigan wrecker Brandon Ashley, and 7’0″, 245-pound behemoth Kaleb Tarczewski. A Michigan lineup featuring both Albrecht and Walton, who are each dealing with injuries, could see one of them giving up six inches and 50 pounds if Miller takes advantage with substitutions of his own. Today, Chatman needs to grow up a little bit and focus on defense, box out, and play with confidence.

2. Mix it Up: This piece of advice goes for both ends of the court today for the visiting Wolverines. Against Eastern Michigan, Michigan was baffled offensively against the 2-3 zone for almost the entire 40 minutes, and only managed 42 points on 43 shots. Of those 43 shots, only a handful were good looks around the basket, and nearly half of them came from long range, where Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin combined to make all four of Michigan’s triples. I can guarantee that if Michigan only makes 19 percent of their threes again today, it is going to be an ugly loss. Arizona will not play much zone, but Michigan still needs to vary their offense and look for a variety of shots. Whether that means working the back door, focusing more on the pick-and-roll, or even trying to mix in some pick-and-pop with Mark Donnal, the Wolverines need to keep the Wildcats honest to open up the looks both inside and outside. Look for Beilein to draw up a couple plays from the get-go to try to get some open looks from downtown for LeVert, Irvin, and Walton. If they knock them down, the confidence should rise and Michigan will have a fighter’s chance.

Defensively, the Wolverines could also stand to throw some different looks at Arizona. NJIT’s offense ripped through Michigan’s porous defense to the tune of 72 points on 64.7 percent shooting from deep and 55.2 percent from inside the arc. Arizona’s size and strength down low has the potential to destroy Michigan’s inexperienced centers and wings defensively, and if the Wolverines play uninspired man defense again, they will wish they had never gotten on the plane to Arizona in the first place. In last year’s thrilling home loss to Arizona, Michigan was torn apart by Ashley, Tarczewski, and future NBA Lottery pick Aaron Gordon down low, allowing them to combine for 46 points on 57 percent shooting inside the three-point line and 20 rebounds. Today, look for Michigan to double down on all of Arizona’s big men while also mixing in some 1-3-1 on occasion to give the Wildcats a little to think about.

3. Dominate the Easy Points: Points are hard to come by, especially when facing a team like Arizona that has the size, athleticism, and savvy to shut down anyone. Beilein’s Michigan teams, on the other end, have been the best scoring team in the country for two years running, but it looks like early attrition to the NBA has finally started to show for the Maize and Blue. Michigan has gone through some long scoring droughts against Villanova, NJIT, and Eastern Michigan already this year, and a few minutes with doughnuts on the scoreboard against Arizona will spell doom. The Wolverines really need to put their heart and soul into each possession on both sides of the floor, but will especially have to take advantage of every “easy points” situation. For me, easy points include free throws and fast breaks. The Wolverines need to make their free throws and win the battle at the charity stripe, and can absolutely not afford to leave points on the table when presented with an odd-man fast break situation off turnovers.

Prediction: As evidenced by these three keys, Michigan will need to do a lot right and hope Arizona does a lot wrong to come out with a head-turning win. The Wolverines need to hit shots, play with intensity on defense, and act like they are competitors on the big stage. Unfortunately, I think Arizona’s size down low and experience at the guard spots will be too much to handle for the visitors, but it will be closer than many expect. I like the Wildcats today, 68-63.

Sam’s 3 thoughts: NJIT

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

Coming off their biggest win of the young season over Syracuse, the Michigan Wolverines now have a couple home games against lesser competition before preparing to take on Arizona and Southern Methodist on back-to-back Saturdays. Today, the opponent is the New Jersey Institute of Technology, an outfit that has been in Division I only since 2006-07 and has struggled mightily in that transition, with only one season of at least 16 wins and three seasons with five or fewer victories – including one with just one win and one with a donut in the win column.

In the early going this year, it hasn’t been much better, as the Highlanders are off to a 2-5 start with wins over Maine and Duquesne. In their defense, however, NJIT did give Marquette a close call in the Golden Eagles’ five-point win in Milwaukee. This afternoon (12:00pm, BTN), the Maize and Blue need to focus on the task at hand, but should have no problems disposing of the visitors with a strong effort. Here are a few quick thoughts on the matchup.

1. Get Walton Going: Derrick Walton is coming off what John Beilein has called a toe sprain and managed just three points on seven shots in somewhat limited minutes Tuesday night against the Orangemen. Spike Albrecht has been a savior thus far and will continue to be a very reliable backup point and wingman when paired with Walton on the floor, but Michigan needs production from its star sophomore if it is to replicate the success of the past couple seasons. Today, pay special attention to how Walton is moving on the floor, penetrating the defense, and running the fast break. He was probably slightly slower earlier this week, cutting down on his easy opportunities at the basket, but a smaller, less athletic defense should cure some of those issues.

2. Dominate the Defensive Glass: Tuesday’s win was an odd one for Michigan on the boards, as the Wolverines actually recorded more offensive rebounds (17) than defensive rebounds (14) and allowed Syracuse to grab nearly half of their own misses. It worked out this time, but it’s a trade-off that Beilein would probably never care to see again. Beilein stresses limiting possessions and second chance opportunities for the opponent while maximizing offensive efficiency on the Wolvereines’ own end; in fact, if the eighth-year head coach could have his way, he’d probably implement a rule where each team was only allowed one shot per possession, with turnovers and made baskets becoming the ultimate measure of success.

Against a smaller Highlander team that only sports one 6’8″ rotation player, Michigan should be able to control this department, but the Marquette game raises a little cause for concern. Against the Golden Eagles, NJIT managed to grab nearly half of their own misses while allowing Marquette to equally dominate their own boards. Luckily for Michigan, if today’s game turns into another feast of second chances, the Maize and Blue should still be able to win the possession battle, as the Highlanders turn it over a whopping 17 times per game, with star sophomore point guard Damon Lynn leading the way – he’s already attempted 79 three-pointers but has coughed up the rock at least four times in each of his last five games.

3. Start Ricky Doyle? I never imagined I’d be writing this, especially so early in the season, but I think it’s time to consider starting true freshman and fan favorite big man Ricky Doyle. It’s been made eminently clear over the past few games that Doyle gives Michigan the best hands, energy, rebounding, finishing, and touch down low, and it’s only a matter of time before his tremendous share of playing time turns into a spot in the starting five. With a couple easier games before a brutal two game stretch and the start of Big Ten season shortly thereafter, now seems like the time to make the change to allow the native Floridian to get comfortable from the tip.

As it stands today, I believe there are three things holding back Beilein from making the move right now. First, he’s said a couple times that he likes to bring some energy off the bench, and Doyle provides that in spades; second, Mark Donnal seems to be dealing with some confidence issues, especially when going up around the rim, and Beilein may figure keeping him in the starting five shows that the team still believes in him; third, keeping Donnal as the starter lets the redshirt freshman pick up the first big man foul of the game, putting less stress on Doyle trying to stay out of foul trouble from the get-go. Either way, I believe the move will come eventually, and if it does, the timing seems right to do it sooner rather than later.

Prediction: On paper, this is a game that Michigan should dominate, and I think they will do just that. I can see a close game holding early on before Michigan’s guards and Ricky Doyle take control as the Wolverines coast to a 73-53 win to move to 7-1.

Syracuse postgame player video: Ricky Doyle and Spike Albrecht

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Ricky Doyle

Spike Albrecht

Orange Spiked: Michigan 68 – Syracuse 65

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Michigan vs Syracuse(

Just last week in New York City, the Michigan basketball team clawed back from a second half double-digit deficit to take the lead, only to give it back and let Villanova escape with a win.

Tonight, the tables were nearly turned.

A ferociously long, but very young, Syracuse Orange squad made the trip to Ann Arbor for the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge and proved to be up for the fight, causing the Wolverines all sorts of difficulty with coach Jim Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone defense and eventually taking a two-point halftime lead.

Four Factors
Michigan Syracuse
46.9 eFG% 56.3
39.5 OReb% 41.7
11.3 TO% 30.6
18.5 FTR 29.2

After a little halftime tinkering, however, Michigan got back on track and started to inch away from the ACC newbies after the break.

The Maize and Blue slowly built a lead, first by a single point on a ridiculous behind-the-back dish from Spike Albrecht to freshman Ricky Doyle, who authoritatively dunked it in Syracuse star Rakeem Christmas’s face and completed the and-one, then on triples from Albrecht, Zak Irvin, and Caris LeVert to bump it to seven, and later on another deep Irvin three (assisted by Spike, of course) to bring it to double-digits.

Syracuse, not to be outdone, staged a run of its own, cutting into Michigan’s lead on the back of a pair of Trevor Cooney threes and a handful of buckets from freshman Chris McCullough, who could do no wrong in the second half.

But just after tying things up at 63 with under a minute to play, Syracuse shot itself in the foot multiple times, saving the Wolverines from what would have been an equally embarrassing race to the finish.

Out of a late Michigan timeout, it was Spike Albrecht playing the role of hero once again, knocking down a trey from the top of the key to get the crowd, which was easily the loudest of the season, on its feet. Syracuse quickly answered with a wild drive and shot off the glass from junior Michael Gbinije to cut the Wolverine lead to the smallest of margins with 20 seconds to play.

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

In an obvious foul situation, the Orange sent sophomore point guard Derrick Walton, Jr. to the line for a one-and-one for the Maize and Blue. Walton missed short, with the carom going to McCullough. The freshman, looking to push things, hastily threw the ball directly to Michigan’s bench, giving the home crowd a short sigh of relief.

With no choice but to foul again, Syracuse hacked Caris LeVert. LeVert then also proceeded to miss the front end, which McCullough rebounded again. This time, McCullough was able to get it to fellow freshman Kaleb Joseph…who promptly coughed it up on Michigan’s baseline to give it back to the Wolverines with four seconds left. LeVert was fouled again and converted both for a 68-65 lead that would go final.

Following the nightmarish finish, legendary Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim showed frustration – “(It was) two freshmen, but whatever” – but understood that dumb errors come with the territory of playing such a young team.

For his part, Boeheim thought it was a “good effort overall” and “the best we’ve played all year”, but credited a Michigan offense that’s hard to stop.

John Beilein was perhaps more relieved than anything, but also surprisingly serene for such a heart-pounding finish. After an ugly first half in which Michigan made just three of their 17 three-point attempts and 36.1 percent of their shots overall, the coach simply entrusted his players to continue shooting with confidence – and they did just that, knocking down half of their 16 triples after the break. Beilein also encouraged his guards to “get two feet in the paint offensively”, making it easier to dish down low to Doyle, who finished with another terrific and efficient performance of 12 points (4-of-6 FG, 4-of-5 FT) and six rebounds (five offensive) against Syracuse’s rangy bigs. Spike was also a primary beneficiary of the halftime tweaks and a not-quite-100 percent Derrick Walton, as he finished with 11 points – seemingly all at crucial times – and a remarkable nine assists to zero turnovers.

The ball, and many calls, seemed to be going Syracuse’s way most of the night, but the young Wolverines were able to prove their mettle against a team that will, much like Michigan, almost certainly continue to improve leading up to March.

You can say that Syracuse threw the game away by not getting a shot off on two critical late possessions, but Michigan got the win. Right now, that’s all that counts.

Quick Hitters:

 If there was any doubt who Michigan’s go-to big man is, Ricky Doyle erased it tonight with his defining, crowd-pleasing performance. Just over a month ago, Doyle looked slow on defense and often out of position on offense, but he has made vast strides on both ends of the floor and continues to show more every game.

Tonight, Doyle impressed with his hands, his positioning on defensive rebounds against the lengthy zone (though he only grabbed one defensive board, his box outs cleared the way for Michigan’s guards to clean up the glass), and his overall toughness down low. He was not afraid to call for the ball in the right spots and knew right where to go when catching it in the post. On one late attempt, he knew he missed and immediately jumped to lay it back in among two Syracuse defenders to put Michigan back up by four with 1:50 to play.

After the game, Beilein said that post minutes are far from settled, but it’s clear that Mark Donnal is a starter in name only after logging just eight minutes tonight, and Max Bielfeldt’s time continues to dwindle, with only six minutes – all in the first half – to 25 from Doyle. Beilein credited much of Doyle’s improvement to his gym rat attitude, saying he’d be surprised if the freshman big man was not shooting free throws in the Player Development Center after the game, while Doyle pointed out his work with Jon Sanderson leading to a nearly 15 percent cut in body fat and huge gains in the weight room.

• Kameron Chatman had perhaps his best performance of the season to date, finishing with 10 points, including a momentous late corner three, and nine big rebounds in 28 minutes of play. Chatman was the only Wolverine to consistently find the vulnerable elbow spot against the 2-3 zone, and knocked down a couple smooth-looking mid-range jumpers to go along with a couple dimes.

 Caris LeVert had a pretty quiet night, going just 4-of-14 from the floor and 2-of-8 from distance for 12 points, but he did dish out six assists to just one turnover – helping Michigan to a terrific 19:7 assist-to-turnover margin – while grabbing a couple steals in 40 minutes of action. Sophomore Zak Irvin also went the distance and led all scorers with 18 points on 17 shots, including a 4-of-11 mark from three-point land. Irvin’s strength is still in his outside shot, but he’s taking positive steps on his dribble-drive game, finishing one very nice weave through a host of Orange defenders for a tougher-than-it-looked layup, while also throwing down a couple monster one-handed slams – one that even saw him land squarely on his behind after jumping out of the gym.

 Michigan recorded a stunning 17 offensive rebounds to Syracuse’s 26 defensive boards (good for a 39.5 percent offensive rebounding rate) while grabbing just 14 defensive rebounds to Syracuse’s 10 offensive (allowing the Orange to grab 41.7 percent of their misses).

• Freshman D.J. Wilson is out for a few weeks with a knee injury and may explore the redshirt route – which would make a lot of sense, given his relative lack of playing time and meshing within the offense so far, while fellow freshmen Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins didn’t see game action. I’m not sure if either will be considered potential redshirt candidates at this point, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on as the rotation continues to tighten against top-level competition.

Three Stars:

***Spike Albrecht***
11 points (4-of-8 FG, 3-of-5 3pt), nine assists, three rebounds, two steals, zero turnovers in 27 minutes

**Zak Irvin**
18 points (7-of-17 FG, 4-of-11 3pt), two rebounds, one steal, one turnover in 40 minutes

*Ricky Doyle*
12 points (4-of-6 FG, 4-of-5 FT), six rebounds (five offensive), one block, zero turnovers in 25 minutes

Final Game Stats
03 Kameron Chatman* 4-11 1-3 1-2 4 5 9 3 10 2 2 0 1 28
34 Mark Donnal* 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 2 0 1 0 0 8
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 1-7 1-6 0-1 1 2 3 1 3 2 0 0 1 26
21 Zak Irvin* 7-17 4-11 0-0 2 0 2 2 18 0 1 0 1 40
23 Caris LeVert* 4-14 2-8 2-4 0 2 2 1 12 6 1 0 2 40
02 Spike Albrecht 4-8 3-5 0-0 0 3 3 1 11 9 0 0 2 27
32 Ricky Doyle 4-6 0-0 4-5 5 1 6 3 12 0 0 1 0 24
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 7
Totals 25-65 11-33 7-12 17 14 31 14 68 19 7 1 7 200
Syracuse 24-48 6-17 11-14 10 26 36 15 65 13 19 5 5 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch:
Beilein tie - Syracuse

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan hoops preview: Syracuse

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Michigan (5-1) vs Syracuse (5-1)
Tuesday, Dec. 2 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 7:30 p.m. EST | ESPN
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
76.0 Points/gm 70.2
(158-334) 47.3 Field Goal % 44.4 (159-358)
(53-119) 44.5 3-pt FG % 20.2 (18-89)
(87-113) 77.0 Free Throw % 66.9 (85-127)
14.5 FT Made/gm 14.2
34.2 Reb/gm 42.7
14.0 Assists/gm 15.0
9.2 Turnovers/gm 12.3
61.3 Points/gm 51.7
(138-325) 42.5 Field Goal % 34.1 (110-323)
(44-120) 36.7 3-pt FG % 26.8 (33-123)
30.3 Opp. Reb/gm 33.2
5.8 Steals/gm 9.8
2.5 Blocks/gm 6.3
Individual Leaders
Zak Irvin (17.7), Caris LeVert (17.5) Points/gm Rakeem Christmas (17.5), C. McCullough (15.3)
Caris LeVert (6.2), Derrick Walton Jr (5.4) Reb/gm Rakeem Christmas (9.5), C. McCullough (8.3)


Despite losing to 12th-ranked Villanova in the Legends Classic championship game last Tuesday, Michigan showed it can compete with the nation’s best. The Wolverines rebounded from that loss with a 91-62 win over Nicholls State on Saturday and now host Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The last time Michigan and Syracuse faced off a national championship game appearance was on the line. Michigan topped the Orange 61-56 in the 2013 Final Four to reach the title game. This time, the only thing on the line is a chance to pick up an early-season quality win that will pay dividends come tournament time. Michigan will get another chance for that when it travels to Arizona next week, but getting Syracuse at home on national television is a prime opportunity.

Syracuse comes in with an identical 5-1 record with wins over Kennesaw State (89-42), Hampton (65-47), Iowa (66-63), Loyola (70-37), and Holy Cross (72-48) and a loss to California (73-59). Like usual under head coach Jim Boeheim, Syracuse gets it done defensively, allowing an average of 51.7 points per game, which ranks ninth nationally. In addition, Syracuse is holding opponents to just 34.1 percent from the field (eighth nationally) and 26.8 percent from three-point range.

Three players average in double figures, led by 6’9″, 250-pound senior forward Rakeem Christmas, who averages 17.5 points. He also leads the team with 9.5 rebounds per game and 15 blocks. He has scored at least 15 points in five of six games this season. The only one he didn’t was the loss to Cal in which he was held to eight on 3-of-10 shooting. The last time out, he scored 25 against Holy Cross on 8-of-10 shooting and 9-of-10 free throw shooting.

Freshman forward Chris McCullough (6’10″, 220) is the second leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 15.3 points and 8.3 board per game. He scored a season high 20 points against Iowa and has two double-doubles in six games.

Redshirt junior guard Trevor Cooney (6’4″, 195) is the only other player in double figures, averaging 10.2 points per game, but he has struggled from three-point range, having made just 9-of-33. Freshman guard Kaleb Joseph (6’3″, 165) is the fourth player that has started all six games this season. He leads the team with 6.2 assists per game while scoring 8.5 points, but he has also turned the ball over 21 times. He has only attempted three three-pointers and missed all of them.

Sophomore forward Tyler Roberson (6’8″, 212) started the first four games and averaged 6.5 points and five rebounds, but missed the last two with a strained abdominal muscle. It is unclear whether he will be ready for tonight’s game. In his place has been 6’7″, 185-pound sophomore forward B.J. Johnson. He has averaged 7.8 points and 7.6 rebounds thanks in large part to a 19-point, eight-rebound performance in the season opener against Kennesaw State. However, he was held scoreless on 0-of-8 shooting in the loss to Cal.

Junior forward Michael Gbinije (6’7″, 200) is the first man off the bench, averaging six points and 3.4 rebounds per game. He ranks second on the team with 10 steals, but has made just 2-of-16 three-point attempts to start the season. Ron Patterson, a 6’2″, 200-pound sophomore guard, is the only other player averaging double-digit minutes per game (10.2), but he has very little production, averaging 1.2 points and 1.7 assists.

Syracuse is shooting just 20.2 percent from three-point range so far this season and averaging 5.8 fewer points than Michigan. But the Orange have a major advantage inside with a 8.5 rebounds per game edge. If Michigan can force Syracuse to settle for long shots and limit Syracuse’s second-chance opportunities, the Wolverines will have an excellent opportunity to pick up a win. But Michigan’s big men — Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, and Max Bielfeldt — will have to control Christmas and McCullough without getting into foul trouble, especially with D.J. Wilson out several weeks with an injury.

Michigan hoops preview & Sam’s 3 thoughts: #12 Villanova

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Michigan (4-0) vs Villanova (4-0)
Tuesday, Nov. 25 | Brooklyn, N.Y. | 10:00 p.m. EST | ESPN2
Legends Classic Championship
77.5 Points/gm 76.8
(103-220) 46.8 Field Goal % 45.3 (106-234)
(33-74) 44.6 3-pt FG % 28.7 (27-94)
(71-92) 77.2 Free Throw % 71.6 (68-95)
17.8 FT Made/gm 17.0
34.5 Reb/gm 35.2
14.8 Assists/gm 15.5
7.8 Turnovers/gm 9.3
Defense (2013-14)
61.5 Points/gm 57.0
(92-218) 42.2 Field Goal % 43.7 (87-199)
(30-81) 37.0 3-pt FG % 27.4 (17-62)
30.8 Opp. Reb/gm 31.3
6.0 Steals/gm 10.5
3.5 Blocks/gm 4.0
Individual Leaders
Zak Irvin (20.3), Caris LeVert (16.3) Points/gm Dylan Ennis (12.5), Darrun Hilliard (11.0)
Caris LeVert (7.0), Derrick Walton Jr (5.5) Reb/gm Daniel Ochefu (9.3), JayVa Pinkston (6.0)


It hasn’t always been pretty, and it hasn’t been particularly clean basketball yet, but the young Michigan Wolverines find themselves off to a 4-0 start after last night’s 70-63 Legends Classic semifinal win over a decimated Oregon squad. John Beilein’s freshmen still have a ways to go, and even the veterans have looked rushed at times, but there’s little reason to complain over an undefeated start. Tonight (10:00pm, ESPN2), the Wolverines face their toughest test thus far, however, in the Villanova Wildcats. Jay Wright has put together somewhat of a basketball powerhouse in Philadelphia, and the crowd at the Barclays Center won’t be as Maize and Blue dominated as it was last night. How can Michigan escape with another win and the preseason tournament title? Here are my three keys.

1. Play Poised: Villanova is considerably more experienced than Michigan, starting two seniors, two juniors, and a sophomore, and will look to control the pace right out of the gates. Last night, the Wolverines allowed Oregon to dictate flow far too often, and despite recording only eight turnovers total, Michigan often looked out of sorts and unimpressive offensively. If the Wildcats are able to dominate the fast break the same way the Ducks did, Beilein’s squad will be in for a long night and an even longer flight home. Villanova only coughed it up nine times against VCU’s aggressive defense in their 77-53 blowout, and their veteran, guard-dominated style will be hard to rattle. Michigan just needs to run their offense, minimize turnovers, and take advantage of fast break opportunities to control the pace.

2. Crash the Glass: I’m still not sure how the Wolverines never trailed last night despite letting Oregon rebound a whopping 45 percent of their own misses, but another miserable performance on the defensive glass is sure to equal a loss against Villanova. Michigan actually led the nation in defensive rebounding percentage before being beat up last night, and they have the size and athleticism to clean up, but the Wolverines need to stop ball-watching and put bodies on the opponent. The problem with last night wasn’t that Oregon was winning 50-50 rebounds consistently; the problem was that Oregon was too often the only team represented in the vicinity of their own misses. On four or five occasions, the Ducks grabbed uncontested offensive boards and laid (or slammed) them right back in. Those are the easy points Michigan cannot afford to give up against a much better team. Tonight, it’s all about positioning. It doesn’t matter if it’s Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Spike Albrecht, or Ricky Doyle grabbing defensive rebounds; all that matters is that Michigan is boxing Villanova out consistently on defense and competing on the glass.

3. Guard the Hot Hand: With Villanova’s bevy of guards comes a significant threat from deep. So far, the Wildcats have been ice cold from downtown, with a team mark of only 28.7 percent, and only two players are shooting better than 33 percent, but that won’t last all season. Junior Dylan Ennis, brother of former Syracuse star Tyler Ennis, is hitting at a 40% rate from downtown while freshman Phil Booth has made two of five attempts in limited minutes; but Michigan will also need to watch out for junior Ryan Arcidiacono, a high-volume sniper who can go off at any time despite his current 23.5 percent connection rate, and senior Darrun Hillard II, who shot 41% from distance last year but is shooting a lowly 19 percent so far this year. The young Wolverines should have the advantage from outside, but they’ll need to play smart defensively and stick to the shooters when the drive-and-kick is on.

Prediction: In my preseason preview, I penciled in a loss in tonight’s Legends Classic finale for Michigan, but I like the way the guards are playing and I was extremely surprised by Ricky Doyle’s strong emergence last night. Villanova was also quite unimpressive against Bucknell last week and has struggled mightily to put the ball in the hoop. Further, Michigan has also been playing some solid set defense despite some baffling freshman miscues on that end of the floor. I like Zak Irvin to have a big game tonight while Mark Donnal is the surprise big, helping Michigan to a 71-66 win.