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Posts Tagged ‘Spike Albrecht’

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

Just short: Indiana 70 – Michigan 67

Sunday, February 8th, 2015


Irvin vs IU(Jamie Owens, UMHoops)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stalled: Iowa 72 – Michigan 54

Thursday, February 5th, 2015


UM vs Iowa(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The battery sputtered before ultimately dying tonight.

Now, the Wolverines need to re-charge quickly.

Quick Hitters

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

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

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

Three Stars

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

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

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

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

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Stepping up: Michigan 54 – Rutgers 50

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

Three Stars:

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

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

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

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

Rahk on: Michigan 56 – Northwestern 54

Saturday, January 17th, 2015


MAAR vs Northwestern(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

On Muhammad Ali’s 73rd birthday, Michigan’s freshman guard who bears his name delivered the knockout blow to Northwestern. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, starting in place of Spike Albrecht who was out with a respiratory infection, recorded a career high nine points and five rebounds, but none was more important than his three-pointer in the final minute that served as the game-winning basket in Michigan’s 56-54 win over the Wildcats on Saturday night.

Michigan also started the game with a three, this one by Derrick Walton Jr, and jumped out to a 25-11 lead just over 10 minutes into the game. But the lead would be short-lived as Northwestern outscored Michigan 21-6 the rest of the half. Vic Law put the Wildcats on top with a jumper at the buzzer. Northwestern led 32-31.

Four Factors
Michigan Northwestern
42.2 eFG% 47.1
23.1 OReb% 28.6
5.3 TO% 20.5
19.0 FTR 11.5

The second half began the same way the first half ended as Northwestern scored seven of the first ten points and took a 39-34 lead. Max Bielfeldt hit a jumper and then a three to tie the game at 39 with 13:13 to play.

The rest of the game went back and forth, neither team able to pull away by more than four points. A Zak Irvin three — his only basket of the game — put Michigan ahead 53-49 with 3:48 left, but Michigan was held scoreless for the next two minutes and 51 seconds. A three by Scottie Lindsey cut the lead to one with just over a minute left, but Abdur-Rahkman hit the dagger, a three from the right wing. Alex Olah followed with a jumper, and after a Caris LeVert miss, Northwestern had one final chance to force overtime. But Bryant McIntosh missed a layup in the closing seconds and Michigan hung on for the win.

Michigan shot just 34.5 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from downtown and was out-rebounded 38-29. But the Wolverines made four more three-pointers and committed nine fewer turnovers than their counterparts. Michigan converted 12 Northwestern turnovers into 19 points.

LeVert led Michigan with 18 points on 7-of-19 shooting and also led the team with six rebounds and seven assists. But he left the arena on crutches with what John Beilein said after the game was likely a sprained ankle. Walton was the only other player in double figures with 14 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting. Rahkman added nine and Irvin six. Olah led Northwestern with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

Michigan makes its first trip to Piscataway, N.J. on Tuesday to face Big Ten newcomer Rutgers (10-9, 2-4) at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised by Big Ten Network.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
02 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman* 4-7 1-3 0-0 1 4 5 2 9 1 1 0 1 26
32 Ricky Doyle* 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 10
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 4-11 4-6 2-2 0 5 5 2 14 0 0 0 3 40
21 Zak Irvin* 1-6 1-4 3-5 2 2 4 0 6 2 1 0 1 37
23 Caris LeVert* 7-19 2-4 2-3 0 6 6 1 18 7 1 1 0 38
03 Kameron Chatman 1-3 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 9
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 1-6 1-5 0-0 1 0 1 0 3 1 1 0 0 15
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 10
34 Mark Donnal 0-2 0-1 0-1 1 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 11
44 Max Bielfeldt 2-6 1-3 0-0 2 0 2 1 5 0 0 1 1 19
Totals 20-58 9-23 7-11 9 20 29 11 56 10 3 2 6 200
Northwestern 22-52 5-20 5-6 8 30 38 16 54 12 12 2 1 200
Full Stats

What’s wrong with Michigan basketball and what it will take reach the Big Dance

Thursday, January 15th, 2015


LeVert-Irvin-Beilein

Coming off an NCAA Championship game appearance and, last season, an Elite Eight finish that was inches from back-to-back Final Fours, Michigan basketball was thought to have climbed the hump from the scrappy opponent who gives the superior teams a run for their money now and again to a year-in, year-out bona fide contender.

After all, going into this season, it felt eerily similar to the start of the 2013-14 season that saw the Wolverines run away with the Big Ten title outright and earn a 2-seed in the Big Dance.

Yes, John Beilein would have to find a way to replace Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas, but Trey Burke was the Wooden Award winner the year before that, and Michigan bounced back just fine.

And yes, Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan would no longer be donning the Maize and Blue, but McGary hardly played at all last year and Morgan was a solid, if unspectacular, big man who rarely wowed offensively.

And sure, Glenn Robinson III decided to pursue his NBA dreams after two years in Ann Arbor, but Little Dog never seemed to live up to his monstrous hype anyway and was an inconsistent shooter and competitor.

Certainly some new faces would be playing the majority of minutes and plenty of shots would open up, but Beilein has elevated this program to one that can simply reload, not replace — right?

It turns out that maybe we were all a little bit ahead of ourselves – national pundits, local journalists, and Michigan fans alike – in thinking that the Wolverines would once again dominate offensively with another incredibly youthful and inexperienced team. It’s not every year that you see players the caliber of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr, Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, and, yes, even Jordan Morgan, sport your team’s colors.

Last year's Big Three formed one of the most efficient offenses in the nation (Detroit Free Press)

Last year’s Big Three formed one of the most efficient offenses in the nation (Detroit Free Press)

And Michigan fans are finally beginning to appreciate the glory those youngsters brought to the program rather than to expect it.

Today, the Wolverines find themselves well out of the NCAA Tournament picture at 10-7 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play, with a couple of unbelievable losses and even fewer marquee wins.

So what went wrong?

In short, a lot went wrong.

The offense has disappeared for long stretches, the defense has been porous against lowly competition, and the replacements that were expected to be reinforcements have a lot of learning to do.

I don’t think there is any one player to point a finger at for all of Michigan’s shortcomings, and I don’t think John Beilein went from coaching the best offense in the country for two years straight to forgetting how to coach at all (resulting in an offense that’s outside the top 100 in offensive efficiency).

Instead, there are a bevy of problems coming from a number of different areas.

To start, let’s take a look at Michigan’s “Big Three” returning guards: Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr, and Zak Irvin.

Those three players were largely expected to take on the bulk of the Wolverines’ offense, and while they are contributing nearly 60 percent of Michigan’s points – a slightly higher percentage, in fact, than Michigan’s Big Three of Stauskas, Robinson III, and LeVert contributed last season – the points are down overall by a whopping eight per game. To put that number into a bit more perspective, this team is scoring more than 0.2 points fewer on every possession.

The reasons for that dramatic drop-off are numerous, but probably stem from the top. Michigan lacks a go-to scorer with a killer instinct. Scoring droughts have seemingly become the norm for this team rather than the rare exception, and that falls onto the veteran leaders of the team.

LeVert is certainly a capable scorer, and his 14.8 points per game are nothing to scoff at, but I think he is much better suited for the role of Robin to Stauskas’ Batman that he played so adeptly last season as opposed to the alpha dog spot. When Michigan falls down by a handful of points and starts struggling to score points of any kind – as they did the other night at Ohio State for the first seven minutes of the second half, effectively sealing their blowout – they need a leader to step up and demand the ball. But LeVert is not that kind of player. He’s a quiet assassin with no shortage of moves or skills, but a killer that doesn’t quite know exactly when or how to move in and take over.

When he does take matters into his own hands, the young junior from Columbus makes things happen. LeVert single-handedly kept Michigan alive against NJIT with 32 points and led the Wolverines with three straight crucial buckets to secure a big win at Penn State last week. But for as many times as LeVert has taken over, Michigan has gone on long scoring droughts that have buried them – against Villanova, Eastern Michigan, SMU, Arizona, Purdue, and Ohio State. With Stauskas at the helm and LeVert as a second option, that wasn’t an issue last year.

This year's Big Three has struggled with consistency and battled injuries (Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

This year’s Big Three has struggled with consistency and battled injuries, resulting in an offensive efficiency in the 100s nationally (Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

Irvin, like LeVert before him, was expected to go from freshman role player to sophomore sidekick. That transition has proved a bit tenuous for the former Indiana Mr. Basketball.

Undoubtedly, Irvin has taken his game to another level this season, upping his scoring average by nearly eight points per game and adding many inches to his vertical leap, but he is simply not the creator this team so desperately needs. Irvin was comfortable in his role as an off-the-bench sniper, and he thrived to the tune of 42.5 percent from downtown, even though opposing defenses knew he was only going to shoot threes. Now, Irvin has attempted to shoulder a bigger load and his shooting has suffered. He’s still capable of big, efficient scoring nights – take, for example, his first four games in which he poured in 20.3 points per game on 51.9 percent shooting from downtown – but the pressure and increased usage have seen his three-point shooting percentage drop more than six points while his overall field goal percentage is down nearly three points.

Lastly, Walton looked to improve on a very solid freshman campaign to become more of a scoring point guard this season, but a toe injury suffered early in the season is clearly hampering the Detroit native’s play all over the floor. Last year, Walton’s quickness and deft play on the break were crucial to Michigan’s ridiculous offensive output, but this year, Walton is a step and a half slower because of his toe. If you don’t believe me, watch Michigan’s win at Ohio State from last season and then re-watch the Wolverines’ loss at Ohio State from a couple nights ago. Like Irvin, Walton’s shooting numbers are drastically worse than last year, but the cause is much different.

With these Big Three struggling to produce with the same efficiency as last season, Michigan’s role players would need to pick up the slack, but that’s been far too big a task for Spike Albrecht and a company of freshmen who were probably forced into action before they were ready.

Kam Chatman, the jewel of Michigan’s six-man recruiting class, was expected to come in and seamlessly replace Glenn Robinson III. That, more than anything, has turned out to be the biggest single shortcoming on this squad. Robinson III, though sometimes inconsistent from long range and almost always quiet in his ways, was an incredibly efficient and reliable scorer and a terrific finisher around the basket. Chatman, on the other hand, has been almost the exact opposite, to the point where Beilein has decided to replace him in the starting lineup with the 5’11” Albrecht.

The Portland native was seen as a high four-star from most recruiting publications, and his basketball savvy was projected to translate into a solid, if unspectacular, freshman season. But Chatman has struggled to pick up the offense, his confidence appears to be wavering, and his shooting has been downright miserable – mothers, cover your children’s eyes – to the tune of 31.5 percent on twos and 25 percent on threes for 4.1 points per game. Contrast that with Robinson’s freshman season (65.2 percent 2-pt, 32.4 percent 3-pt, 11 ppg on nearly three shots more per game) and you see where things really start to go awry.

Robinson’s biggest strength was his ability to finish everything around the bucket with his strength and athleticism. If GRIII caught a pass sitting open within five feet from the hoop, it was two points guaranteed. If he rebounded a teammate’s miss, it was an easy deuce for him. If he received an alley-oop, there was no doubt about the finish. The same cannot be said of Chatman, who doesn’t have the strength or hops to work magic in the lane like his predecessor at the 4-spot and whose confidence is waning (never more clearly than in a missed alley-oop layup attempt against Penn State in which there wasn’t a defender within 15 feet of him).

Fellow wing man Aubrey Dawkins has had one shining game against Illinois, but he’s also been fairly quiet the rest of the way despite flashing signs of tantalizing potential, while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is just starting to get consistent playing time and looks to be a couple seasons away from being an offensive threat.

Down low, Ricky Doyle has performed admirably for a freshman big man, but his defense has certainly made Michigan fans yearn for the days of Jordan Morgan manning the post, and his free throw shooting has been curiously poor of late. Doyle also needs to work on improving his hands, fighting for rebounds, and learning the offense (as does every other freshman). Redshirt freshman Mark Donnal has gone from starter to backup, and while he’s also shown some nice glimpses, he’s probably a season or two away from being a consistent scorer. Lastly, D.J. Wilson – my pick for freshman MVP – was unimpressive early on before falling prey to the injury bug, making a redshirt season (pretty please!) seem like a reasonable outcome for the high-potential California native.

As a whole, this Michigan team is lacking in more ways than could have been imagined, and while the defense is actually significantly better than last season, the offense has collapsed into a rocky mess. What was expected to be around a top-20 squad competing in the Big Ten once again looks instead to be a team that has a steep and treacherous path to simply earn a ticket to the Big Dance.

The good news for Michigan is that there’s still a long way to go until March, and anything can happen in the wonderful world of college basketball – especially when your average player on the court has just over one year of experience. And of course, there’s always the chance to win an automatic bid with the conference tournament, but I certainly wouldn’t bet on the Wolverines’ chances there.

Instead, the Maize and Blue will need to quickly improve on a resume that sports two black eyes and little muscle. Michigan has two terrible losses – NJIT and EMU – that are really hurting and only two top-50 KenPom home wins – Syracuse and Minnesota (neither of which is in the top 40) – that leave much to be desired. Right now, Michigan’s players are certainly kicking themselves over those two December losses, but perhaps even more crucial was the neutral court game against Villanova that the Wolverines let slip away after a crazy comeback. Change that L into a W and Michigan is squarely on the bubble already.

So what exactly will it take from here on out for the Wolverines? I think to have a realistic chance at being solidly on the bubble, Michigan needs to go 8-5 the rest of the way and win at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament.

Which eight games do those have to be? I’m not sure if that makes a huge difference. Michigan obviously needs to take care of their matchups with conference cellar dwellers (Northwestern,  at Rutgers, Nebraska, at Northwestern, Rutgers) and win a few marquee games as well. If the other three wins are Iowa, at Indiana, and at Illinois, I’d be a little concerned. To be safe, I think Michigan needs to take at least two from some combination of Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan State, and Ohio State.

With five games left against that group, the opportunity is there. Will the Wolverines seize it?

You may want to temper those expectations again.

Sleepwalking: Ohio State 71 – Michigan 52

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015


UM-OSU(Greg Bartram, USA Today Sports)

After a 3-1 start to Big Ten play, Michigan had its first chance to make a statement on Tuesday night when it visited rival Ohio State. Instead, Michigan turned in a lackadaisical and unfocused performance and left with a 19-point loss.

Ohio State opened the game with a Sam Thompson dunk, but Zak Irvin answered with a three on Michigan’s first shot of the game. But that was about the only thing that went right for the Wolverines. Ohio State scored the next five points, but Michigan went on a 9-2 run to take a 12-9 lead at the 14:27 mark. But then the Wolverines went cold.

Four Factors
Michigan Ohio State
39.0 eFG% 53.5
31.6 OReb% 32.3
20.7 TO% 14.3
10.2 FTR 24.6

Michigan managed just five points over the next 9:45, and by the time Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman hit a three, Michigan was down 30-20. Ohio State closed the half with a 9-4 run to take a 39-24 lead into the locker room.

Michigan has already come back from a double-digit second-half lead this season to beat Illinois, but any hope of repeating that on Tuesday night was dashed when Michigan began the second half by missing its first 13 shots. A Max Bielfeldt tip-in ended the drought six minutes and 36 seconds into the half. Meanwhile, Ohio State had already added 13 points to its total to take a 52-26 lead.

The rest of the game was spent trying to make the final score look a bit more respectable, but the damage had been done. Michigan got within 14 points after a Mark Donnal hook shot with three minutes to play, but OSU’s Marc Loving responded with a three to ice the game.

Michigan shot just 33.9 percent from the field and 23.1 percent (6-of-26) from three-point range, while Ohio State, the Big Ten’s best shooting team, shot 49.1 percent overall, making eight more field goals than Michigan did on two fewer attempts. While the rebounding margin was close (36-33 in Ohio State’s favor) Michigan turned the ball over 13 times and was outscored off of turnovers 19-8.

Columbus native Caris LeVert led Michigan with 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting, while Irvin was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 11 points, also on 4-of-10 shooting. But the duo combined for seven turnovers. The other three starters — Derrick Walton Jr, Spike Albrecht, and Ricky Doyle — combined for just eight points and eight rebounds on 4-of-15 shooting. Donnal scored eight points off the bench and freshman Aubrey Dawkins added six.

Ohio State was led by D’Angelo Russell’s 21 points. Sam Thompson contributed 12 and Amir Williams 10.

Michigan returns home to host Northwestern (10-6, 1-2) on Saturday night. The game will be televised by Big Ten Network at 8:15 p.m. EST.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
02 Spike Albrecht* 2-4 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 3 4 0 1 0 0 29
32 Ricky Doyle* 1-4 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 1 2 2 1 0 0 15
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 1-7 1-3 0-0 0 5 5 4 2 2 1 0 0 27
21 Zak Irvin* 4-10 3-6 0-0 2 3 5 1 11 0 4 0 0 32
23 Caris LeVert* 4-10 2-5 4-4 0 2 2 4 14 1 3 0 1 31
03 Kameron Chatman 0-3 0-1 0-0 0 3 3 2 0 2 0 0 1 14
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 1-6 1-5 0-0 1 0 1 0 3 1 1 0 0 15
24 Aubrey Dawkins 3-6 0-2 0-0 2 1 3 1 6 0 1 0 0 13
34 Mark Donnal 3-7 0-2 2-2 2 2 4 0 8 0 1 0 0 17
44 Max Bielfeldt 1-2 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 6
Totals 20-59 6-26 6-6 12 21 33 16 52 8 13 0 2 200
Ohio State 28-57 5-18 10-14 10 26 36 16 71 20 9 5 11 200
Full Stats

Comeback: Michigan 62 – Minnesota 57

Saturday, January 10th, 2015


B7BLldVCEAAiXhx.jpg-large(Teresa Mathew, UMHoops)

With the game slipping away midway through the second half, Michigan turned to the 1-3-1 zone. It was enough to hold Minnesota at bay and allow the Wolverines to turn a nine-point deficit into a five-point win over the final nine minutes.

Michigan trailed just 27-25 at the half, but after hitting three of their first four shots in the second half, the Wolverines went cold. Over a seven minute span, Minnesota outscored Michigan 17-8 to take a 49-40 lead with 8:56 to play.

But Minnesota went scoreless for nearly three minutes, turning the ball over four times in the process as Michigan pulled within two. Michigan finally got over the hump when Derrick Walton Jr hit a three-pointer with 3:24 remaining to give the Wolverines a 54-52 lead.

After a pair of missed free throws by Minnesota big man Maurice Walker, Caris LeVert was fouled on a three-point attempt as the shot clock ran out. He converted all three and suddenly Michigan had a five point lead. Minnesota responded with a three by Andre Hollins.

Four Factors
Michigan Minnesota
44.2 eFG% 46.9
31.3 OReb% 41.7
14.9 TO% 28.1
38.5 FTR 40.8

The teams traded turnovers and Zak Irvin missed a three-point attempt. LeVert stole the ball right back with less than a minute left, and still holding onto a two-point lead, John Beilein called a time out to set up a play. Walton drove into the lane off of a Ricky Doyle screen. Doyle rolled to the basket and Walton flipped the ball up in front of the rim where only Doyle was to reach it. He caught it mid-air and slammed it home to put Michigan ahead by four with 26 seconds to play.

From there, it was just a formality as Irvin converted 3-of-4 free throw attempts down the stretch and Michigan picked up a 62-57 win.

For the game, Michigan shot 40.4 percent overall and just 22.2 percent from three-point range. But after going 0-of-8 in from three in the first half, Michigan made 4-of-10 in the second. Michigan’s defense held Minnesota 23 points below their season average and their lowest scoring output of the season. In addition, Michigan forced 17 turnovers compared to only nine turnovers themselves.

Walton and LeVert led the Wolverines with 15 points apiece. Walton made 3-of-4 three-point attempts and grabbed five rebounds, while LeVert shot 5-of-13 and missed all three of his three-point attempts, but grabbed four steals. Doyle scored 12 points and led the team with six rebounds, while Irvin also added 12 on 3-of-9 shooting. Spike Albrecht contributed six points, two assists, and two steals, and Kameron Chatman scored the only two points of the game for Michigan’s bench.

Minnesota, which has four players averaging in double figures, had just two on this day. Hollins led all scorers with 18 points, while Carlos Morris tallied 16. Walker, the team’s leading scorer, was held to just five on 2-of-7 shooting, though he did tally 10 rebounds. DeAndre Mathieu, who averages 9.9 points per game, was held scoreless.

Michigan has now won four of its last five and stands 3-1 in Big Ten play, but the schedule is about to get tougher. The Wolverines visit Ohio State (13-4, 2-2) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Three Stars:

***Derrick Walton Jr.***
15 points (4-of-7 FG, 3-of-4 3pt, 4-of-5 FT), five rebounds, three assists, one steal, two turnovers in 35 minutes

**Ricky Doyle**
12 points (5-of-8 FG, 2-of-3 FT), six rebounds (four offensive), one steal, one turnover in 26 minutes

*Caris LeVert*
15 points (5-of-13 FG, 0-of-3 3pt, 5-of-6 FT), three rebounds, two assists, four steal, one block, one turnover in 38 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
02 Spike Albrecht* 3-8 0-3 0-0 0 1 1 4 6 2 3 0 2 33
32 Ricky Doyle* 5-8 0-0 2-3 4 2 6 3 12 0 1 0 1 26
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 4-7 3-4 4-5 0 5 5 2 15 3 2 0 1 35
21 Zak Irvin* 3-9 1-5 5-6 2 2 4 2 12 1 2 0 1 35
23 Caris LeVert* 5-13 0-3 5-6 0 3 3 0 15 2 1 1 4 38
03 Kameron Chatman 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 2 2 1 0 1 0 7
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 10
34 Mark Donnal 0-2 0-1 0-0 0 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 11
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-1 0-0 0-0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Totals 21-52 4-18 16-20 10 21 31 14 62 9 9 2 9 200
Minnesota 19-49 8-22 11-20 15 22 37 15 57 10 17 1 6 200
Full Stats