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Posts Tagged ‘Spike Albrecht’

Xavier 86 – Michigan 70

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Beilein vs Xavier(

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Stars

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

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

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

Season Three-Stars Standings

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

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

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

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

Beilein Coachspeakometer

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

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

Verdict: 8

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

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

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

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

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

UM BBall(

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

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

The first few lines went something like this:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After all, their time has come.

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

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

Michigan basketball 2015 season preview: The seniors

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Spike and Caris(Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

While we’re in the midst of football season – a season of rebirth and return of the Michigan of old – college basketball is here! With the year now underway, let’s take a look at the most experienced of the Wolverines – the seniors.

#2 Spike Albrecht
Class Senior Spike headshot
Major General Studies
Measurements 5’11”, 175
Hometown Crown Point, Ind.
High School Northfields Mount Hermon (Mass.)
Position(s) Guard (1, 2)
Committed April 6, 2012
Fun Fact Earned nickname “Spike” after he wore baseball spikes everywhere as a kid
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2012-13 2.2 0.8 0.7 0.3 0.4 8.1 47.5 54.5 83.3
2013-14 3.3 1.1 2.0 0.5 0.4 14.7 40.4 38.7 77.8
2014-15 7.5 2.3 3.9 0.9 1.3 32.0 40.4 36.5 91.3
Career 4.1 1.4 2.1 0.6 0.7 17.2 41.5 39.9 81.4

Career Highs: 18; Rebounds: 6; Assists: 9 (twice); Steals 4: Turnovers: 4; Minutes: 47
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Michigan State

Career to Date: Spike Albrecht came to Ann Arbor as the over-shadowed no-name prospect in a class replete with a trio of stars who all moved on to the NBA after two seasons. After failing to earn any major college interest while playing for his hometown high school in Northwest Indiana, Albrecht decided to take a prep year in the elite New England Prep School Athletic Conference, where he played against the likes of Mitch McGary and plenty of other top-notch prospects. And though the under-sized point guard held his own – even earning MVP honors in a major tournament – he went largely unnoticed.

When it came time to choose a school, Albrecht’s options were Appalachian State and no one else. But Albrecht didn’t want to play outside of Division I; following a conversation with his father, he decided that he’d go to Indiana University to be a regular student.

That is, until John Beilein stepped in with the unlikeliest of offers – an offer that, reportedly, Beilein thought would potentially make or break his career.

The rest, as they say, is history that many of us are aware of. Albrecht has never been a star player – outside of a first-half outburst in the National Championship game his freshman year – but he’s been a steadying force for three seasons. He’s a guy that can be called upon to run the offense efficiently, make smart passes, and not turn it over. Albrecht will never be a world beater because of his lack of size and elite athleticism, but he makes up for it with heady play. Every coach would love to have a veteran point guard to bring off the bench who knows the offense like the back of his hand, will knock down a good deal of threes, and doesn’t try to do too much. That is Albrecht in a nutshell.

Now back for his senior season, Albrecht is still getting back to full strength after a pair of offseason hip surgeries (he’s the oldest guy on the team at 23, but managed to play through the pain last season) following a junior year in which he was asked to carry much of the load later on with Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert sitting out injured. He has likely seen his last career start barring further injuries, but should prove to be an invaluable spark off the bench and will undoubtedly be a leader both on and off the floor. For a kid who will most likely be the only recruit of his five-man class to not be drafted into the NBA, that’s just fine.

Area to Improve: Defense

I know, I know – Spike Albrecht is never going to be a plus player defensively, but if he can just be average in man-to-man defense, he’ll see a lot more of the floor. John Beilein loves the leadership, confidence, and shooting that his veteran guard brings to the game, but quick opposing players will make it difficult to play Albrecht big minutes night in and night out. With strong positioning, Albrecht can at least minimize his defensive deficiencies and bring his playing time from a floor of around 15 to around 20-25.

Stat Predictions: 6.0 points (45.0 FG%, 41.0 3-PT%, 88.0 FT%), 2.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists in 20 minutes per game

#23 Caris LeVert
Class Senior Caris headshot
Major General Studies
Measurements 6’7″, 205
Hometown Pickerington, Ohio
High School Pickerington Central
Position(s) Guard/Wing (2, 3)
Committed May 11, 2012
Fun Fact Nickname is “Baby Durant”
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2012-13 2.3 1.1 0.8 0.2 0.3 10.8 31.5 30.2 50.0
2013-14 12.9 4.3 2.9 1.2 1.7 34.0 43.9 40.8 76.7
2014-15 14.9 4.9 3.7 1.8 2.2 35.8 42.1 40.5 81.0
Career 9.5 3.2 2.4 1.0 1.3 25.8 41.9 38.9 76.6

Career Highs: Points: 32; Rebounds: 11; Assists: 9; Steals: 4 (three times); Turnovers: 5 (three times); Minutes: 42
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Wisconsin

Career to Date: Much like classmate Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert was a very late addition to Michigan’s 2012 recruiting class after the coach he originally signed with, John Groce, left Ohio University for the University of Illinois. Groce wasn’t interested in bringing his former commit to the Big Ten, but his peer, John Beilein, saw something in him and decided to take a flyer on the young, lanky shooter.

In the years that followed, LeVert has made that look like a fabulous decision on his coach’s part. Once a gangly, stick-thin, and off-balance freshman that resembled a bowl of Jell-O more than he did a basketball player, the senior has blossomed into one of the best wings in the country. The Columbus native is an excellent shooter and a deceptive athlete. LeVert is comfortable driving to the rack and finishing or squeaking through two defenders and finding an open teammate for an easy finish. He’s a terrific finisher in the open court and a quiet leader, but also a top NBA prospect that will look to back up his own decision to return to school for one last season in Ann Arbor.

Following a junior year that was already headed down the wrong path and eventually cut short by injury, LeVert will look to bring his team back to the land of the Big Dance – a tournament in which LeVert has already experienced runs to the Championship game and the Elite Eight.

He’s added the requisite weight for a third straight offseason and appears to be fully healthy. Now, the ball is in LeVert’s court – can he seize one last season of opportunity?

Area to Improve: Decision making

I am not accusing Caris LeVert of being a bad decision-maker or a ball hog, but there were times last season when it felt like the then-junior was trying to do a bit too much. He had talent around him in the form of Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Spike Albrecht, and company, but often dribbled a bit too much and bore too much of the load before going down with a foot injury. This season, LeVert needs to display a comfort level with deferring to his more-than capable supporting cast – a cast that now not only includes the aforementioned veterans, but also a group of sophomores that got plenty of live action a year ago.

Stat Predictions: 15.0 points (44.5 FG%, 40.5 3-PT%, 83.0 FT%), 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals, in 33 minutes per game

New in Blue: 2016 PG Xavier Simpson

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015


Xavier Simpson – PG | 5’11, 165 | Lima, Ohio – Lima Senior
ESPN: 4-star, #12PG, #66ov Rivals: 4-star, #87ov 247: 4-star, #16PG, #86ov Scout: 4-star, #12PG, #55ov
Other top offers: Illinois, Wisconsin, Miami, Iowa State

John Beilein pulled off a stunning upset Wednesday afternoon when Top 100 point guard Xavier Simpson committed to the Wolverines over Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa State, and Miami. The four-star recruit left Michigan off his final list in the morning, but committed to Beilein’s team at a press conference at his school.

Simpson reportedly took a last-minute visit to Ann Arbor over the weekend after visiting Illinois and Wisconsin in the past two weeks.

The 5-foot-11, 165-pound guard is known for his vision and excellent defensive prowess. Though it’s not his calling card, Simpson is an adequate scorer and can shoot from the outside. But his value to Michigan will be in his on-court intelligence and toughness. In high school, he’s developed a reputation for embracing the big moments and coming through in the clutch. Beilein likely sees Simpson as a future leader in the locker room. lists Simpson as the top point guard out of Ohio, No. 12 point guard in the country, and No. 55 overall recruit in the 2016 class.

Simpson is the fourth commit in the 2016 class. He joins forwards Jon Teske and Austin Davis and guard Ibi Watson in what is now a top 20 class for the Wolverines. He will arrive next season when Derrick Walton Jr is a senior and Spike Albrecht departs.

New in Blue: 2016 SG Tyus Battle

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Battle(Gregory Payan, AP)

Tyus Battle – SG | 6‘6″, 205 | Edison, N.J. – Gill St. Bernard’s School
ESPN: 5-star, #4 SG, #14ov Rivals: 5-star, #16ov 247: 5-star, #4SG, #12ov Scout: 5-star, #4SF, #10ov
Other top offers: Duke, Connecticut, Louisville, Syracuse, Ohio State, Notre Dame

Just days after missing out on the No. 2 overall prospect for 2015, John Beilein and the Michigan Wolverines picked up a huge commit for the following season.

Tyus Battle announced via Twitter Monday that he will attend Michigan over a host of other schools, including Ohio State, Duke and Syracuse, who were considered among the front runners.

Battle is the No. 12 overall recruit and the No. 4 shooting guard according to 247 Sports. Scout lists him 10th overall in the 2016 class, while Rivals currently has him the lowest at 16th. His official visit to Ann Arbor this past weekend seemed to be the trump card for Michigan, as he committed just two days later.

Battle gives Michigan an elite guard in 2016 with the coming departures of Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht to graduation. Battle is an elite shooter from all over the floor and can create his own shots with his quickness.

If the high school senior holds onto his top 14 ranking, he’ll move to Ann Arbor as the highest ranked recruit in Beilein’s tenure at Michigan. His previous highest recruit was Glenn Robinson III, who was ranked No. 16 overall.

As a sophomore in 2013-14, Battle averaged 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game for Gill St. Bernard’s School in Edison, N.J. His numbers dipped to 16.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game last season as result of an injury-plagued year in which he played in just nine games. A big senior season in 2015-16 should help keep Battle ranked among the best in the nation before he heads to Ann Arbor.

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
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

Just short: Indiana 70 – Michigan 67

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Irvin vs IU(Jamie Owens, UMHoops)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stalled: Iowa 72 – Michigan 54

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

UM vs Iowa(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The battery sputtered before ultimately dying tonight.

Now, the Wolverines need to re-charge quickly.

Quick Hitters

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

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

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

Three Stars

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

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

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

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

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Stepping up: Michigan 54 – Rutgers 50

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

Three Stars:

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

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

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

Final Game Stats
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