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Posts Tagged ‘Zak Irvin’

Short of a storybook ending, Michigan basketball season a tale of redemption, resiliency

Friday, March 31st, 2017


(Rob Carr, Getty Images)

Spring has arrived, but a dark emptiness seems to permeate through the thick, sticky air. Mother Nature has thrown a curveball at us with dreariness and cold, rain and clouds in lieu of the sunshine and crisp air we have come to expect this time of year as the calendar turns to April.

It’s not just the weather, of course, that’s brought this darkness. It’s the end of Michigan’s wild basketball season that felt like a never-ending story, if only for a moment, before we found that the final pages were missing.

(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

We feel robbed of the beauty we’ve waited for Spring to arrive with for so long, and likewise, we feel robbed of the dream finish that destiny would so surely, we thought, bring for John Beilein’s 10th team in Ann Arbor.

But as with everything else in life, finality is the only certainty, if even it comes prematurely.

At least it was a very good thing while it lasted.

For a long time, this season was not shaping up to be a memorable one, a season that all of us fans hope goes on forever. Michigan sprinted out of the gates with an impressive run through a 2K Classic field that included future NCAA Tournament teams in Marquette and SMU, both of whom were throttled on the way to the Wolverines’ preseason tournament title.

That showing saw Michigan rocket its way into the national polls, but was followed by an underwhelming performance at South Carolina and a rapid return to earth for the season’s expectations. Although, if we had the benefit of foresight at the time, that loss in Columbia wouldn’t seem nearly as bad.

A couple games later, Michigan choked away a home battle versus Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and had another poor performance in a win over a bad Texas team shortly thereafter. The Wolverines would hang with UCLA in Westwood for one impressive, firework-laden half before taking an 18-point loss out West and would later proceed to sweat out a holiday win over a far-better-than-expected Furman squad before conference play kicked off in the New Year.

We all know the story from there. Michigan seemed to run out of gas in what should have been a favorable starting conference schedule, dropping three of their first four and four of their first six with their only two wins coming in home nail-biters over Penn State and Nebraska.

Uncertainties in the latter half of the non-conference season turned into message board maniacs calling for this to be Beilein’s final year.

Two home blowouts over Illinois and Indiana calmed the seas temporarily before a tough loss at Michigan State and a lackadaisical home loss versus Ohio State heard those earlier calls turn into cries for the head coach to be gone — and fast.

(MGoBlue.com)

On that night, Saturday, February 4, Michigan found itself at 14-9 overall and 4-6 in conference play with very few standout wins on their resume. It would take a massive turnaround and a long look in the mirror for the team to fight its way into contention for an NCAA Tournament berth, and no one – not even those closest to the team, I reckon – saw it coming.

But come it did. Derrick Walton Jr. turned into a man possessed, knocking down everything from deep and rekindling his freshman year ability to finish at the rack. Moe Wagner realized his potential after only brief flashes as a rookie, spinning, shuffling, shooting, and driving his way to buckets. D.J. Wilson blossomed from cast-off to potential pro with athletic dishes, drained shots, and opponent shots rejected. And Zak Irvin, whose critics would make you believe he could not compete at the local YMCA, embraced his role as a senior leader and scorer, if merely as a third or fourth option at times.

The team that once left everyone guessing what would happen every time they ran onto the floor began ferociously dispatching each opponent that dared challenge them.

Michigan State was handed its worst loss in years. Indiana was dismantled on its vaunted home court. Wisconsin and Purdue, the clear frontrunners for the Big Ten title, met their fate at the hands of a team on a mission.

By the time March had rolled around, Michigan had pulled off the wholly unexpected, nearly impossible transition from conference also-ran to surefire dancer. Broadcasters still wondered what the team was made of, but those following closely knew that a seismic change had taken place.

The Wolverines were no longer prone to falling apart at the end of a game. They did not let inferior competition dig under their skin. They would not cede a game’s worth of points in a half – not any more, at least.

In reality, this new team could compete with anyone in the country, and in so many different ways. The offense was no longer great – it became otherworldly efficient. The defense was no longer passable – it became a solid unit that forced turnovers and prevented clean perimeter looks.

This team could feel as good about their chances as any other.

And so, with that edge, this team would travel to Washington, D.C., wheels rolling, to give its conference brethren a lesson in basketball.

There’s not much Michigan needed at that point to make a magical March run, the stuff legends are made of. If there was one thing, however, it was a captivating headline.

That story would be served up on a platter in a most harrowing way, as Michigan’s charter plane destined for the Big Ten Tournament skidded 400 yards off the runway, through a fence, and into a field, coming to a startling rest in a shallow ditch after the pilot decided to abort takeoff in extremely high winds.

Still, the team pushed forward with no recognizable timidity. The crash had perhaps brought them closer together, had given them a greater sense of their cause, but it did not change their play. Michigan once again blew through an Illinois team that had labeled the Wolverines as “white collar” in early January, this time in rag tag practice gear because their regular jerseys were stuck on the capsized plane.

Purdue, Minnesota, and Wisconsin would all provide different puzzles throughout the weekend, but the Maize and Blue solved each of them with a veteran mindset and plenty of talent.

With the Big Ten Tournament trophy in hand, Michigan was sent to Indianapolis as a 7-seed in the Big Dance to take on an Oklahoma State team powered by purely offensive fuel. The Wolverines took a dose but returned an even bigger dose of that medicine to the Cowboys to outlast their first round foe in an instant classic with firepower supplied by Walton.

Two days later, the Wolverines faced a Louisville squad that provided a completely different look, with length, athleticism, and defense in spades. Once again, Michigan prevailed, this time behind the sophomore duo of Wagner and Wilson, despite trailing by eight at the halfway point. March would not stop this team’s march, and another classic was in the books.

(MGoBlue.com)

Destiny was still on their side – for one more week, at least.

Unfortunately, that magic ran out too soon and too abruptly. Michigan went toe-to-toe with 3-seed Oregon for 40 minutes but made some uncharacteristic mistakes late in the game, as if their hourglass stepped in the way of what could have been. Derrick Walton’s last shot, a step-back that we had seen him hit so often over the last two months of the season that he may as well have filed for a patent, came up a couple rotations short.

Just like that, the buzzer sounded to signal the end of Michigan’s season. Destiny left the building with a new team in tow.

And that’s how – and why, perhaps – Mother Nature mourns with us today. She, like all of us, was not ready for the suddenness of it all. Storybooks are not supposed to end like this.

But that story, while it was being written, was grand. It was thrilling and exhilarating, mysterious and heartbreaking. It was frustrating at times and, yes, slogging at others. More than anything, though, this story was a memorable one that we won’t soon want to stash away to collect dust, lest we question the power of John Beilein’s teaching prowess paired with the ability of a bunch of talented, fun, good, strong-minded college basketballers.

Just as soon as the final words were penned in this story, however, a new volume’s pages are opening up, waiting to be scribbled upon.

Let’s hope this one is as enjoyable as the last.

(MGoBlue.com)

In? Out? What’s the deal with Michigan basketball?

Friday, February 10th, 2017


(MGoBlue.com)

If there is one thing that every Michigan basketball fan, coach, player, or other affiliate of the program can agree on, it’s this: absolutely no one can get a read on this team.

The 2016-17 squad had an incredible break from the gates, easily dispatching Howard and IUPUI in their regional of the 2K Classic before making quick work of both Marquette and SMU – two victories that still look solid today – to take home the preseason tournament championship.

But since then, it’s been more topsy-turvy than a slinky falling down a staircase. There have been highs – take the two home drubbings of Michigan State and Indiana, for example – and there have been lows (see: a listless loss at South Carolina, a miserable second half faltering versus Virginia Tech, an annihilation by a bad Illinois team, etc.). And then there have been the classic play-to-the-level-of-the-competition heart palpitations against Iowa (loss), Penn State (win), Nebraska (win), Wisconsin (loss), and Ohio State (loss).

So what is the deal with this team? Well, you’d need to find a person willing to sell ice to an Eskimo to have the gall to answer that question with a straight face. The absolute truth is that no one knows what to expect. In fact, I don’t even really know if this team is more likely to finish 0-7 down the stretch or 7-0. It’s just been that type of year.

Derrick Walton Jr has averaged 22.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists the past four games (MGoBlue.com)

On the other hand, there is plenty of information we can glean from watching this team. As most John Beilein-coached teams have been in the past, these Wolverines play exceptional offense, score an inordinately high number of their points from three-point land, make their free throws, and hold onto the ball. They also play poor defense, don’t crash the offensive glass, and don’t see very many free throws taken on either end of the floor. These are pretty hard-and-fast facts.

What makes this team so hard to get a read on, however, is the game-to-game uncertainty of who is going to show up and what character the team is going to display.

We’ve seen Zak Irvin put the team on his back against Virginia Tech, Nebraska, and Wisconsin by attacking the basket (7 made 2pt. FGs in each of those three contests), fighting for rebounds (16 in those three games), and finding his open teammates. But we’ve also seen (or not seen, for that matter) the senior falter in important matchups against South Carolina, Texas, Ohio State, and Michigan State (twice).

Likewise, the team has ridden fellow senior Derrick Walton over the course of the last four games to the tune of his 22.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists during that stretch, but fans seem to forget about the three game stretch in December where the Detroit native failed to crack double digit points, or the 10 games that he’s made three or fewer field goals, or even the nine games that he’s recorded fewer than seven combined assists and rebounds (four of which were losses).

Similar Jekyll/Hyde performances can be found in the game-to-game outputs of the two other Wolverines who have led the team in scoring in at least three games a piece – sophomores Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson.

Rarely has more than one player had a bona fide game on any given night. Add to that a defense that has allowed opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the field on seven different occasions while also forcing seven or more turnovers in seven different games and you have a recipe for uncertainty with a side of unease.

If this team can put together a stretch run to give themselves solid footing on Selection Sunday, the individual players are going to need to start producing with some consistency. No more can we see Derrick Walton look like the only interested party in Maize and Blue. No more can we see Wagner get into foul trouble or fade away from his strengths as a skilled inside-out big man. No more can we this team put it together with an invisible Zak Irvin.

A little help from juniors Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (who’s scored seven or fewer one more game than he’s reached double digits) and Duncan Robinson (double digits 10 times and seven or fewer nine times) could go a long way as well. Combine that with a sprinkling of Xavier Simpson (who looked like the solid point guard prospect that he was for the first time on Tuesday night) and you just might have yourself a recipe for success.

Forget to add a couple of these ingredients, however, and Michigan fans could be left with a bad taste in a month’s time.

Quick Hitters

My Oh My, the Inconsistency

How’s this for some mind-boggling numbers: As of today, Michigan has four wins over teams that should be dancing, according to BracketMatrix.com, in SMU (100% of brackets), Michigan State (92%), Marquette (92%), and Indiana (72%). Those four wins all came in blowout fashion by a combined 99 points, or about 25 points per game.

Michigan’s nine losses, on the other hand, have come by a total deficit of just 78 points, or just more than 8.5 points per game. Six of the losses have come by single digits and three of those were by four points or fewer. This is a team that has talent and can beat up on some pretty good teams but is also susceptible to taking a close loss on any given night as well.

Speaking of Brackets…

Right now, Michigan is the fifth team out of the Big Dance according to BracketMatrix.com (in on only 33.3% of the 105 submitted brackets. Note, however, that more than half of those brackets were last updated prior to Tuesday’s win over MSU) and the third team out in my good friend and trusted bracketologist Joe Cook’s projections at 131 Sports (updated daily – and better than Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm, and every other national guy since he started a few years back. He is an actuary, after all.). So, that means that Michigan would probably have their bubble popped if today were Selection Sunday. Today is not Selection Sunday.

Looking ahead

Michigan has an opportunity to easy play themselves into the tournament, easily play themselves out of the tournament, or to stay teetering on the same ledge they are staring off right now. There are seven games remaining on the Wolverines’ regular season schedule, including two home games (Wisconsin and Purdue) and five road games (Indiana, Minnesota, Rutgers, Northwestern, Nebraska), before the Big Ten Tournament kicks off for the first time ever in Washington, D.C. (hooray for adding Maryland?).

To me, this looks like a whole lot more good news/bad news. Michigan’s two toughest opponents must travel to Crisler, where the Maize and Blue have been mostly pretty good, with only three losses in the books at home and a couple of their mercy killings coming in Ann Arbor as well. On the other hand, Wisconsin and Purdue are going to be tough outs regardless of what floor they are playing on.

Meanwhile, Indiana has already felt Michigan’s wrath, Minnesota has lost five of seven, Rutgers is…Rutgers, Northwestern has lost two straight and is probably feeling the weight of one million Northwestern fans waiting to be let down once again on Selection Sunday, and Nebraska’s early season Big Ten exploits feel older than the age of the dinosaurs. On the flip side, Michigan has been…let’s just say not good on the road, with an 0-6 record to date.

Now the question we all want answered: What does Michigan have to do to Dance? My guess is that Michigan would be in the Tournament, historically weak bubble and all, with a 4-3 close to the regular season and a first-game win in the Big Ten Tournament. If none of those four wins are over Wisconsin or Purdue and if one or two of those three losses is to Rutgers/Nebraska, then I’m not putting money on it.

I know you want a prediction, but only a fool would be wise enough to give in to those demands.

Actually, who am I kidding? I’m a fool for college basketball: Michigan to finish out the regular season 5-2 with a first round BTT win and a second round loss to get pegged as a 10-seed.

Michigan 77 – Armstrong State 49: Wolverines win exhibition in Cazzie’s return

Saturday, November 5th, 2016


wagner-vs-armstrong-state(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

Michigan easily dispatched of their first opponent of the 2016-17 college basketball season, the Armstrong State Pirates, on Friday night with former Wolverine great Cazzie Russell – a Pirates assistant coach – in the house. Despite a slow start to the second half, which featured a 13-4 Armstrong State run over a four-minute period, the Wolverines never panicked and coasted as one might expect against a Division II opponent. Given the nature of the game, the strength of the opponent, and the tendency to mix lineups quite a bit in exhibition matchups, a recap will probably not add much value, so let’s hit on some player observations and some general thoughts after seeing the Maize and Blue take the floor for the first time.

The newbies

Ibi Watson – Most probably expected to see Xavier Simpson as the first freshman off the bench, but with an injury to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, it was actually Ibi Watson that was the first new face to see action. He wasted very little time – 22 seconds, to be exact – to score his first bucket in a Michigan uniform on a fast break and generally acquitted himself well throughout the evening.

After the game, Watson said that the pace of basketball at the college level has just started to really slow down for him in the past week or so, and his calmness seemed to bear that out on the floor. Watson looks to be all of the 6-foot-5 he’s listed at and has a very smooth stroke despite going only 1-of-4 from deep. His third and final bucket came on an easy dunk that showcased some of the athleticism the Ohio native will look to bring to the table, and Watson’s four assists and three steals in 18 minutes are certainly a welcome sign. He even ran a successful pick-and-roll once with Mark Donnal that saw the senior convert a somewhat iffy pass from the freshman for a bucket.

Watson was very aggressive on both ends of the court – maybe even a bit too aggressive at times offensively – and should carve out a niche for spot minutes if his game continues to evolve. For now, John Beilein said that he envisions Waton’s role this season similar to what Tim Hardaway, Jr. looked to do as a freshman – knock down shots, play defense, don’t try to do too much. Beilein agreed that the game has certainly slowed down for Watson, but with the amount of information being thrown at him, there’s still plenty of work to do.

block-m-maize Final Team Stats  armstrong-state-logo
77 Points  49
32-63 (50.8%) FGM-FGA (Pct.) 17-63 (27.0%)
6-19 (31.6%) 3PM-3PA (Pct.) 5-27 (18.5%)
7-11 (63.6%) FTM-FTA (Pct.) 10-12 (83.3%)
13 Turnovers 19
42 Total Rebounds 38
9 Offensive Rebounds 13
33 Defensive Rebounds 25
25 Bench Points 10
5 Blocks 1
8 Steals 5
20 Assists 8

Xavier Simpson – Considered the jewel of the class, Simpson played a perhaps surprisingly low 14 minutes in the exhibition matchup and missed his only two attempts from the floor while recording a Walton-esque five rebounds along with a pair of assists and turnovers. The 2016 Ohio Mr. Basketball winner is almost certainly smaller than his listed 6-foot-0, 180 pounds, but he is built solidly and plays with a low center of gravity that allows him to weave decisively on offense and play pesky on-ball defense. We didn’t see as much Simpson/Walton two-guard time as Beilein led us to believe, but Simpson appears to be an able ball handler with fine court vision. For now, Simpson will likely remain a pass-first point guard looking to set his teammates up with open looks.

Jon Teske – As has been rumored in recent weeks, Teske appears to be ahead of fellow freshman Austin Davis in the rotation at the moment, and his play tonight probably only helped his case. Teske is a big, big body at 7-foot-0, 245 pounds, but his most impressive clip of the night was a 15-foot baseline jumper that was as pure as Gus Johnson’s game calls are exciting. Beilein mentioned after the game that he loves the rotation Teske gets on the ball (if you’ve ever seen the trademark Beilein Ball, you’d know this), and the jumper certainly looked natural for the big fella.

Teske also had a nice, ridiculously easy put-back dunk on a missed layup off the glass to give him four points in four minutes. He’ll never be the quickest guy on the floor, but if Teske can provide spot minutes in the case of foul trouble, be a threat from outside the paint, and box out, he should fill his role just fine.

Austin Davis – The only non-Ohio native in the freshman class, Davis didn’t get into the game until the waning minutes, but managed to catch a quick pass from Xavier Simpson and finish the easy lay-in for the last Michigan points of the game. Beilein praised Davis’s hands after the game in what felt like an unintentional shot at former Michigan center Ricky Doyle’s ability to catch any sort of pass, and the finish Davis had showed that. The pass appeared to be of the no-look variety in close quarters that came in quick and a bit high. Davis was able to secure it after a tiny bobble and go up for the finish.

The returners
dj-wilson-shorts

(Dustin Johnson)

D.J. Wilson – Wilson provided the most welcome play of the evening, showcasing a smooth offensive game that we had yet to see from him while being his normal disruptive self on defense. Wilson, now a redshirt sophomore, has always had the size and natural athleticism to be a gifted basketball player, but in his Michigan career to date he’s often resembled a headless chicken. Tonight, it was a whole different story.

Wilson looked comfortable operating in the offense while knocking down a short turnaround jumper and a three to go along with a high-flying dunk and seemed to contest just about anything in his vicinity defensively (two blocks) with his ridiculous length while also using that length and his newly added strength to grab a game-high nine rebounds (including four offensive).

The Sacramento native will probably never be a natural ball-handler, but he showed enough to provide some relief to Michigan fans worried about this team’s depth on the wing. Beilein has been praising Wilson’s offseason effort consistently, and it came to fruition tonight in what was easily Wilson’s best game in a Wolverine uniform. I felt that Wilson showed a strong urgency tonight on the court that I haven’t seen before – he was consistently running from one end to the other looking for the ball and trying to get stops on defense. And his short shorts are absolutely on point.

Moritz Wagner – The sophomore from Germany picked up on Friday night where he left off at the end of his freshman campaign, showcasing an arsenal of offensive moves that could make him a unique offensive weapon in the Big Ten. Wagner finished naturally on both sides of the rim with either hand, used his quickness and plus handling skills to get a number of very easy looks right at the basket, and even swished a trey from the left side of the top of the key.

At this point, Wagner looks to have a pretty strong grip on the starting 5 spot and thinks he’s playing the best ball of his life after spending the summer working on his game in Ann Arbor. Wagner figures to have gained about 30 pounds of muscle since arriving at Michigan and is just now beginning to realize how to use that added weight to his benefit. He said after the game that he now knows what it feels like to initiate contact and wants to continue to develop all facets of his game. Perhaps most encouraging for Wagner was only getting two foul calls against him in 25 minutes of play after he often found himself taking careless fouls as a freshman.

Derrick Walton – Walton showed well tonight and quickly put to rest any talks of his job being overtaken by a freshman. The senior Detroit native knocked down a pair of triples and dished out a game-high seven assists to just two turnovers (one clearly not his fault) in 31 minutes of action. He also made all four of his free throws and tied for the team-high with five defensive rebounds – something we’ve become very accustomed to. Walton very much looks to be on track for a solid bookend to his career should he stay healthy, and some more off-ball minutes afforded him by Simpson can only help his dead-eye shooting.

Zak Irvin – Like Walton, there wasn’t too much of note on Irvin that we aren’t already very familiar with. Irvin made half of his 12 shot attempts but only one of his four three-point tries, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out four dimes while grabbing a pair of steals. Irvin’s bounce appeared to be back on the rise when he threw down a fast-break dunk early on after a back injury took some inches off his vertical leap, but Irvin later missed another wide-open dunk that was either blocked by the rim or slipping out of his hands. The senior Indiana native will need to make his free throws (only 2-of-5 tonight) and threes to reach full potential, but he should be in for a solid season.

Duncan Robinson – Beilein mentioned after the game that Robinson has been in a bit of a shooting funk in practice lately, and that showed tonight, as the sharpshooter missed all three of his wide open attempts from deep and seemed a bit hesitant to let it fly – never a good sign for a pure shooter. Hopefully Robinson will get over his confidence issues right now and start to knock them down like we’re used to before getting into the meat of the schedule, because he is easily Michigan’s best shooter and the best threat to stretch the defense.

Mark Donnal – Donnal has lost his starting spot to Moritz Wagner, but he’s still going to be a crucial piece for this team to succeed. Wagner has shown a tendency to foul a lot and big men will rarely get more than 25-30 minutes per game in Beilein’s offense. Tonight, Donnal was less than impressive early on, getting backed down easily for a layup on his first defensive possession then mishandled a loose ball right after, but he made up for it quickly with a couple rebounds and blocks. He finished with just two points but grabbed four rebounds (two offensive) in a short 7-minute outing.

Sean Lonergan – Lonergan got the start with Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman sidelined with what Beilein described as a minor ankle twist that occurred in the last minute of Michigan’s practice yesterday and made both of his shots in 20 minutes of play. The senior walk-on doesn’t figure to get much time once Rahk is back, but he showed a couple nice finishes Friday night while also recording two blocks with his underrated athleticism.

Quick takes

Defense – Much has been made of Beilein’s decision to fill one of his two vacant assistant coach slots with former Wright State head man Billy Donlon, a man known for his gap-style defensive philosophy, but we’ll give it some time before reading too much into the defense. Armstrong State shot just 27.6 percent from the floor, but it’s hard to tell how much of that was due to being overmatched in general. What is clear, however, is that Michigan appears to be going away from the hard hedge on ball screen defense, as noted by MGoBlog’s Ace Anbender.

Michigan’s defense will be designed to limit easy penetration while also focusing on strong close-outs for three-point attempts – generally speaking, the gap defense Donlon employs is similar to a pack-line style defense, which is predicated on stopping penetration and forcing opponents into long mid-range jumpers. The only potential issue I saw tonight was a lack of defensive rebounding on a couple of possessions, but I expect that to be addressed moving forward.

Turnovers – Everyone knows it, but John Beilein said it himself after today’s game: “I hate turnovers”. He made it especially clear that he cannot stand turnovers that result from “lazy” passes on failed alley-oop attempts, of which Michigan had two tonight. At one point, Beilein noted that highlights are highlights because they are rare, and he doesn’t want his team trying to fill the highlight reel every time down the floor. Ultimately, I don’t think the 13 giveaways Michigan had Friday night will become a trend, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Beilein sees turnovers as a primary driver of losses, and his teams normally value possessions more than most, but with a couple freshmen that figure to see rotation minutes, turnovers must be limited.

Final Individual Stats
Michigan
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
13 Moritz Wagner* (f) 7-9 1-1 0-0 0 2 2 2 15 0 1 0 0 25
20 Sean Lonergan* (f) 2-2 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 2 4 1 1 2 0 20
21 Zak Irvin* (f) 6-12 1-4 2-5 0 4 4 2 15 4 1 0 2 31
10 Derrick Walton * (g) 3-6 2-4 4-4 1 5 6 2 12 7 2 0 1 31
22 Duncan Robinson* (g) 3-7 0-3 0-0 0 3 3 3 6 1 1 0 0 17
00 Brent Hibbitts 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
03 Xavier Simpson 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 5 5 1 0 2 2 0 1 14
05 D.J. Wilson 4-10 1-2 1-2 4 5 9 1 10 1 2 2 0 24
14 Fred Wright-Jones 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
15 Jon Teske 2-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 1 4 0 0 0 0 4
23 Ibi Watson 3-8 1-4 0-0 0 2 2 1 7 4 3 0 3 18
34 Mark Donnal 1-2 0-0 0-0 2 2 4 1 2 0 0 1 1 7
51 Austin Davis 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 3
Totals 32-63 6-19 7-11 9 33 42 16 77 20 13 5 8 200
Armstrong State
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
04 Francisco Williams* (f) 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 3 4 2 0 0 1 0 0 15
23 KJ James* (f) 5-10 0-1 6-6 2 5 7 2 16 2 3 0 0 29
02 Montrel Goldston* (g) 4-8 1-3 0-0 4 2 6 2 9 0 4 0 1 23
03 Corey Tillery* (g) 3-14 2-8 0-0 0 1 1 1 8 0 2 0 0 27
10 Jamison Jeffers* (g) 2-11 2-9 0-0 0 6 6 2 6 3 3 0 2 34
00 George Brown 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 3
01 Denzel Council 1-6 0-2 2-4 2 2 4 1 4 2 0 1 0 26
05 Kalen Clifton 1-1 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 0 1 8
15 Logan Ballard 0-0 0-0 2-2 0 0 0 4 2 0 0 0 0 8
32 Larry Spicer 1-11 0-4 0-0 1 3 4 2 2 0 3 0 1 25
33 Matthew Beatty 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
41 Demarcus Cunningham 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Totals 17-63 5-27 10-12 13 25 38 17 49 8 19 1 5 200
Full Stats

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

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016


UM BBall(MGoBlue.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UM BBall 2(MGoBlue.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quite simply, you don’t.

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

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

‘Tis the game of college basketball.

The Far-off Season
Reasons for Optimism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons for Pessimism

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

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

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

A Couple Offseason Happenings to Make Note Of

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

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

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

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

(6) Notre Dame 70 – (11) Michigan 63: Second half letdown ends Michigan’s season

Saturday, March 19th, 2016


Irvin vs ND(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan survived Tulsa in the First Four on Wednesday night, but couldn’t carry the momentum to Brooklyn, where the Wolverines’ season came to an end with a 70-63 loss to Notre Dame on Friday night.

Unlike Wednesday’s game, Michigan came out firing on all cylinders and playing tough defense, holding a lead the entire first half. It took more than three minutes for Notre Dame to score its first point, but Michigan had only amassed five. Over the next seven minutes, however, Michigan outscored the Irish 21 to 11 to take a 26-13 lead.

Notre Dame pulled within five, but Michigan scored the final seven points of the half, capped by a Moritz Wagner layup at the buzzer. Michigan took a 41-29 lead into the locker room.

Four Factors
Michigan Notre Dame
48 eFG% 67
28 OReb% 26
11 TO% 26
8 FTR 35

But that was as good as it would get for the Wolverines. Notre Dame scored the first eight points of the second half before Mark Donnal finally got Michigan on the board at the 17:49 mark. Unlike the first half, every time Michigan scored, Notre Dame had an answer. Duncan Robinson hit a three, but the Irish scored four straight. Donnal made anther layup, but Notre Dame scored five straight. And suddenly, with 12:18 to play, the game was tied at 48.

Neither team scored for nearly three minutes until Notre Dame’s V.J. Beachem hit a three to give the Irish their first lead. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman answered with a three of his own and Zak Irvin followed to put Michigan back on top. A 6-2 Notre Dame run gave ND the lead, but a Donnal layup with 4:55 to play put Michigan back on top 58-57. It was the last lead Michigan would have.

The Wolverines managed just three points — a Donnal foul shot and layup — over the next three and a half minutes as Notre Dame 66-61 lead. An Irvin layup brought Michigan within three, and after a defensive stop, Michigan had a chance to tie the game in the closing minute. But Irvin missed a three and the Wolverines were forced to foul. Notre Dame sealed the game at the free throw line.

Michigan shot 39.7 percent for the game, but just 28.1 percent in the second half. After making 7-of-14 three-point attempts in the first half, the Wolverines made just 3-of-13 in the second. Meanwhile, Notre Dame shot a blistering 58.1 percent from the field and made 8-of-15 three-point attempts.

Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting and 3-of-4 three-point shooting. Derrick Walton was the only other Michigan player in double figures with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting to go along with eight assists. Donnal, Irvin, and Robinson added nine points apiece.

Beachem led Notre Dame with 18 points, while Bonzie Colson added 12, Demetrius Jackson 11, and Zach Auguste recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Michigan’s season ends at 23-13, while Notre Dame (22-11) advances to the Round of 32 to face Stephen F. Austin on Sunday.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 4-9 0-1 1-2 3 0 3 3 9 1 0 1 0 29
10 Derrick Walton* 4-13 2-6 0-1 1 3 4 1 10 8 2 0 6 38
21 Zak Irvin* 4-16 1-9 0-0 1 3 4 0 9 4 0 0 1 36
22 Duncan Robinson* 3-7 3-5 0-0 0 4 4 3 9 2 1 0 0 38
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 5-12 3-4 2-2 2 2 4 0 15 3 0 0 1 38
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
13 Moritz Wagner 3-3 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 4 6 0 2 0 1 8
24 Aubrey Dawkins 2-3 1-2 0-0 0 0 0 0 5 0 1 0 0 7
32 Ricky Doyle 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 4
Totals 25-63 10-27 3-5 11 14 25 14 63 18 7 1 10 200
Notre Dame 25-43 8-15 12-15 5 28 33 9 70 12 16 8 3
200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: NCAA Tournament vs (6) Notre Dame

Friday, March 18th, 2016


UM-ND2
Michigan (23-12, 10-8) vs Notre Dame (21-11, 11-7)
Friday, March 18 | Brooklyn, N.Y. | 9:40 p.m. ET | CBS
LineNotre Dame -3
Offense
74.1 Points/gm 75.7
(922-1,985) 46.4 Field Goal % 47.1 (869-1,844)
(332-874) 38.0 3-pt FG % 36.9 (235-637)
(417-564) 73.9 Free Throw % 73.5 (450-612)
11.9 FT Made/gm 14.1
32.2 Reb/gm 36.1
14.8 Assists/gm 13.5
9.7 Turnovers/gm 9.7
Defense
67.3 Points/gm 70.6
(896-1,952) 44.5 Field Goal % 42.8 (821-1,918)
(243-710) 34.2 3-pt FG % 37.6 (246-655)
33.1 Opp. Reb/gm 33.8
5.5 Steals/gm 5.6
2.3 Blocks/gm 3.9
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Zak Irvin (11.9) Points/gm Demetrius Jackson (15.5), Zach Auguste (14.4)
Derick Walton (5.5), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Zach Auguste (10.8), Demetrius Jackson (4.8)

Less than 48 hours after their season came within a minute of ending, the Michigan Wolverines will take on Notre Dame in the Round of 64 Friday night.

Michigan survived a late Tulsa run Wednesday thanks to a game-winning three-pointer by Zak Irvin in the final minutes. Afterwards, John Beilein told anybody who would listen that he hasn’t seen a single look at the Fighting Irish and would start watching film on the plane to Brooklyn.

For the Wolverines to keep their season alive, they’ll have to greatly improve their shooting from beyond the arc. Michigan made just six of 25 attempts Wednesday and might need to double that total to beat a much stronger Notre Dame team.

Luckily for Michigan, Notre Dame is one of the worst defensive teams in the NCAA Tournament and struggles to defend the three-point line. Duncan Robinson will be a major key for a Michigan team that hasn’t shot particularly well for the better part of two months.

Notre Dame is led by senior forward Zach Auguste, one of the few college players to average a double-double this season. Auguste is second on the team with 14.4 points per game and leads the Irish with an average of 10.8 rebounds.

In the back court, Derrick Walton will be tasked with slowing down leading scorer Demetrius Jackson. Jackson 15.5 points and 4.8 assists per game. Walton will have to play like he did against Yogi Ferrell in the Big Ten Tournament, and not like he did against Tulsa’s back court, to slow down Jackson.

With Walton in foul trouble Wednesday, Michigan nearly watched their tournament lives slip away.

Auguste will be a major issue for a Michigan front court that got dominated on the defensive glass in the second half against Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane is undersized, but Mark Donnal struggled to keep it out of the paint.

If Donnal comes out stagnant again Friday, look for Beilein to stick with freshman Mo Wagner, who gave Michigan excellent minutes Wednesday. He doubled his career high with four blocks and grabbed eight rebounds.

With a win, Michigan would earn a third elimination game in five days against the winner of West Virginia and Stephen F. Austin.

(11) Michigan 67 – (11) Tulsa 62: Wolverines survive First Four behind Wagner spark, Irvin three

Thursday, March 17th, 2016


Irvin vs Tulsa(MGoBlue.com)

In March, the name of the game is survive and advance, and Michigan did just that on Wednesday night. It was far from pretty, but the Wolverines broke into the field of 64 with a 67-62 win over 11-seed Tulsa in Dayton, Ohio.

Duncan Robinson opened the game with a three, but it would not be a sign of things to come as Michigan would make just 6-of-25 three-point attempts for the game.

When the Wolverines were struggling to score in the first half, freshman big man Moritz Wagner provided a spark, recording three of his four blocked shots and keeping them in the game. By the time halftime arrived, Michigan held an eight point lead.

But Tulsa came out more aggressive in the second half and quickly took the lead thanks to three offensive rebounds in the first three minutes. The rest of the game went back and forth with neither team able to pull away by more than a few points. With Derrick Walton in foul trouble for most of the game, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman took control, driving to the basket consistently, finishing at the rim or drawing fouls.

With the game hanging in the balance in the closing minute, Zak Irvin drilled a three, and Michigan made its free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

Michigan shot 40.7 percent from the field and just 24.0 percent from three-point range, but made three more threes than Tulsa outscored the Golden Hurricane by four at the free throw line.

Irvin and Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 16 points apiece, while Duncan Robinson collected a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Walton contributed a quiet 12. Wagner stuffed the stat sheet with four points, eight rebounds, four blocks, a steal, and an assist in 22 minutes.

Michigan’s defense limited Tulsa to just 3-of-15 from three-point range, and the Wolverines out-rebounded the Golden Hurricane 38-36. Shaquille Harrison was the only Tulsa player in double figures with 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting. The rest of the team went just 15-of-43 from the field.

Michigan (23-12) will travel to Brooklyn tonight to face 6-seed Notre Dame (21-11) in the Barclays Center on Friday. The game will tip at 9:40pm Eastern and will be televised by CBS.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman***
16 points (5-of-16 2pt, 0-of-3 3pt, 6-of-8 FT), three rebounds, two assists in 38 minutes

**Moritz Wagner**
4 points (2-of-2 2pt), eight rebounds, four blocks, one steal, one assist, one turnover in 22 minutes

*Duncan Robinson*
13 points (5-of-10 2pt, 2-of-5 3pt, 1-of-2 FT), 11 rebounds (one offensive), four assists, two blocks, one steal, one turnover in 35 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Derrick Walton Jr – 30
Duncan Robinson – 18
Caris LeVert – 15
Zak Irvin – 15
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 15
Mark Donnal – 8
Aubrey Dawkins – 7
Moritz Wagner – 3
Spike Albrecht – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 1-1 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 13
10 Derrick Walton* 4-10 2-7 2-2 0 0 0 4 12 1 3 0 2 29
21 Zak Irvin* 6-12 2-5 2-2 0 2 2 0 16 2 3 0 1 36
22 Duncan Robinson* 5-10 2-5 1-2 1 10 11 2 13 4 1 2 1 35
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 5-16 0-3 6-8 0 3 3 1 16 2 0 0 0 38
03 Kam Chatman 0-5 0-3 0-0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 5
13 Moritz Wagner 2-2 0-0 0-0 3 5 8 2 4 1 1 4 1 22
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-2 0-2 0-0 1 3 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 13
32 Ricky Doyle 1-1 0-0 2-2 1 0 1 1 4 0 0 0 0 5
Totals 24-59 6-25 13-16 12 26 38 14 67 10 8 6 5 200
Tulsa 25-56 3-15 9-15 10 26 36 15 62 10 11 6 5
200
Full Stats

The 10 best moments of Michigan’s season (so far)

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016


(Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

It has been a long ride for the 2015-16 Michigan basketball team, one with many highs but an unexpected number of lows. John Beilein’s team fought through injuries, shooting slumps and far too many defensive lapses to ultimately land right where it wanted to be: The NCAA Tournament.

The Wolverines certainly didn’t take the traditional route to the Dance. Up until the moment the official bracket leaked on Twitter, it looked like Michigan’s odds of playing in the tournament were only slightly better than 50-50.

Most importantly, Michigan is one of 66 teams that still have a non-zero chance to win it all. But before we turn our attention fully to the NCAA Tournament, let’s take a look back at the top moments that landed the Wolverines in this position.

10. Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht honored on Senior Night

Okay, so Senior Night wasn’t exactly what Michigan envisioned at the beginning of the season. For one, neither LeVert nor Albrecht scored a single point for the Wolverines in 2016 due to injury. The seniors didn’t play on Senior Night, instead watching their teammates get trounced by an Iowa team that arrived on a four-game losing streak.

But it wouldn’t seem right leaving Senior Night completely out of the top 10. Michigan hasn’t had a truly meaningful Senior Night since Zack Novak and Stu Douglass said their goodbyes, and LeVert and Spike at least gave Beilein two great seasons.

Spike also held up his framed jersey the wrong way when saluting the crowd, a cherry on top of an endlessly entertaining college career.

LeVert and Albrecht were added to the Fresh Five as afterthoughts, joining Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas in a loaded recruiting class. But Albrecht turned into a solid backup point guard in his freshman year and exploded for 17 points in the school’s biggest game in over a decade. LeVert, on the other hand, became the team’s best all-around player for an Elite 8 run and will continue his career in the NBA.

The last two years have been frustrating, but Michigan still got more than it could have hoped for out of the two lightly-recruited guards. Good luck, fellas.

9. John Beilein wears a ChadTough T-shirt during game

Since Beilein took over as the top dog in Ann Arbor nearly 10 years ago, he’s stuck to his two-trick wardrobe combinations: Shirt and tie — or polo — and dressy pants. But he made an exception on Feb. 13, sauntering out of the Blavin Tunnel with his maize ChadTough Foundation T-shirt.

It was the final push for Beilein to win the Coaches Charity Challenge and raise $100,000 for the ChadTough Foundation, an announcement that came the very morning Michigan was named to the NCAA Tournament field.

Beilein has since reverted to his business casual ways, but the T-shirt game did happen, coach. We have pictures.

8. Mark Donnal drops 26 points (yes, twenty-six) at Illinois

6, 6, 0, 0, 7, 4, 0, 2, 0, 0, 11, 0, 7

If I asked you to pick the outlier in the group of numbers above, you respond with something like, “Well, 11 sure is quite a bit higher than the rest of those numbers.”

You would be correct. Mark Donnal had quite an explosion against Northern Kentucky, scoring 11 points and grabbing two rebounds. It was by far his best performance in Michigan’s first 13 games of the season.

Then on Dec. 30 Donnal embarrassed Illinois’ weak defensive front court and made 11 of 15 field goal attempts for 26 points. He also grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots.

Oh yeah, and he didn’t even start. Ricky Doyle did.

There was not a full moon on Dec. 30, 2015. I checked. And it wasn’t Donnal’s birthday, either. He was born in May. The only explanation for his stat line is that college basketball is amazing and pretty much anything can happen any time two teams hit the court.

For Michigan, Donnal’s outburst halted the revolving door at center and cemented the sophomore as the team’s starter. Doyle and Donnal went back and forth a bit during the first half of the year, but at the turn of the calendar, it was Donnal all the way for Beilein.

7. MAAR gets new life, and runs with it

At the beginning of the season, one had to wonder if Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman would be in the Maize and Blue for much longer. He was planted firmly behind Derrick Walton, Albrecht and LeVert in the guard rotation and even lost some minutes to the Duncan Robinson-Aubrey Dawkins duo early.

With such a loaded group of guards and Xavier Simpson set to join the team for 2016-17, it looked like MAAR’s minutes would take a massive hit, despite his excellent contributions down the stretch in 2015.

But then a hobbled Albrecht called it a career and LeVert went down with the secretest injury in Michigan history and the door of opportunity swung open for Abdur-Rahkman.

It didn’t take long for MAAR to lock up the fifth starting spot. In his second game filling in for LeVert in the back court, Abdur-Rahkman scored 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting in West Lafayette and almost single-handedly kept Michigan alive for 30 minutes against a heavily-favored Purdue team. He scored from beyond the arc, he scored from the free throw line, and most importantly, he scored off the dribble, giving Michigan a legitimate attacking threat in the paint.

Here we are, two months later, and he’s still the team’s best offensive player off the dribble. Instead of watching from the (albeit extremely comfortable-looking) folding chairs on the sideline, Abdul-Rahkman could be an integral part of the NCAA Tournament.

6. Caris LeVert makes his return! Well, sort of

It seems cruelly ironic to look back on LeVert’s return to the court and think, “That was actually the beginning of the end.”

After game after game after game (11, to be exact) of LeVert being ruled out following ‘game-time decisions,’ he actually participated in warmups on Feb. 13 and caused quite a buzz in Ann Arbor.

The team as a whole wasn’t giving fans much to be excited about. After losing back-to-back home games by half a hundred and nearly blowing a huge lead to winless Minnesota, the Wolverines returned to a less-than-optimistic crowd at the Crisler Center to battle an enormous Purdue team that won the previous meeting by 17 points.

I remember looking around before tipoff and wondering how the stands could be so empty with a top 20 team in the building. Sure, the ChadTough T-shirts generated a bit of excitement in the Maize Rage, but the overall feeling of the fanbase was one of defeat.

Then Caris jogged out of the tunnel and joined the layup lines. You’d think he shot himself out of a cannon and landed at midcourt after a perfect flip by the cheer that ran through the crowd.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but for the first time since halftime of the Indiana debacle, fans around Crisler perked up.

When the game started, LeVert was on the bench, when Beilein pointed at him and he ripped off his warmup, the crowd really did erupt. He took only shot — a shot-clock hurried jumper near the elbow — and didn’t score in the game, but his return energized the fans and the team.

Nobody knew that would be the last time they’d see Caris LeVert play in a Michigan uniform. At that time, it was just great to see the team’s leader in nearly every major category back with the ball in his hands.

5. Zak Irvin’s elbow jumper saves Michigan in overtime

The No. 1 moment on this list will get most of the credit for sending the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament, but that might not have even happened if not for Zak Irvin’s dagger with three seconds left in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

After clawing and scratching their way to overtime, Michigan managed to earn itself a chance to take the last shot in a tie game. Beilein called on the team’s streakiest player, Irvin, to take a contested jumper off the dribble.

It worked. Irvin pulled up just beyond the right elbow and nailed the go-ahead jumper. Northwestern got another crack at a last-second prayer (two cracks, actually), but in the end, it was Irvin’s shot that sealed the deal and kept Michigan’s bleak NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

4. Wolverines return to the NCAA Tournament

When Michigan failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in 2015, it was a disappointing, but understandable pill to swallow.

LeVert, Walton and Albrecht were all injured. Dawkins and Abdur-Rahkman were leading the team as unknown freshmen and Beilein had just lost a small army of players to the NBA draft.

But in a year when the Wolverines began ranked in the Top 25, with players like Walton and Robinson added to the rotation, missing the 2016 tournament would have been a much bigger blow for the program to swallow. Sure, LeVert and Albrecht missed the most meaningful half of the season, but for a program that was trending toward elite in 2014, two straight absences in March Madness seemed unacceptable.

Luckily, those concerns were squashed for good Sunday. Contrary to what many of the ‘bracketology experts’ predicted, Michigan got into the Big Dance. The big wins were there, the bad losses were not, and the Wolverines got what they deserved: An outside chance to make some noise.

Some might argue that Michigan’s season won’t be a success unless it gets past the First Four. To you I say, “Rubbish!” The First Four isn’t a 16 versus 16 play-in game like it used to be. Plenty of teams have made runs after winning in Dayton, including a Tennessee team that nearly knocked Michigan out of the Sweet 16 in 2014.

When Michigan was flirting with another tournament-less season, the program seemed to be trending sharply downwards. But now that Beilein has his players back on the national stage, it’s a step in the right direction.

3. Michigan uses 11-0 run in final 3 minutes to beat Purdue

As we make our way through the top three moments of the season, keep in mind that Michigan needed EVERY single one of its four top 30 wins to get into the NCAA Tournament. Even with those wins, and no bad losses, Michigan just barely slipped into the Field of 68.

Perhaps the most unlikely of those three victories came against a team that presents the worst matchup problems for Michigan in the Big Ten. Purdue came into Ann Arbor with its top three players flourishing near the rim.

A.J. Hammons (7 feet tall) led the charge and fellow center Isaac Haas (7-foot-2) and dynamic freshman Caleb Swanigan (6-foot-9) weren’t far behind. The trio posed the greatest inside threat in the conference and figured to dominate a Michigan team that tries to make due inside with a pair of 6-foot-9 forwards.

For most of the game, Purdue was like a high school senior holding the charging freshman back with a hand on his forehead. Michigan would close to within five points, and Purdue would push back, keeping the game from getting within a possession.

It wasn’t until the final 2:45 of the game, when Irvin nailed a triple on the left wing, that Michigan really sent the building into a frenzy. Then Walton made a fast-break layup. Then Irvin hit another shot, and Michigan was in front.

Four Walton free throws later, Michigan polished off an improbable win with an 11-0 run to close out the game. With such a tough week in the rearview mirror, and an even more brutal stretch ahead, it was a win the program sorely needed.

2. Michigan upsets No. 3 Maryland

Remember when Maryland was one of the best teams in the country?

At one point, the Terps were 15-1 and ranked in the top five in both major polls. Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone were looking like one of the best duos in the country and Michigan hadn’t stayed within 14 points of a ranked team all season.

Needless to say, it looked like it would be a rout.

Instead, Michigan completely shut down Trimble and Irvin was the star of the show. He scored 22 points on 8-14 shooting and Walton added a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) as Michigan led for almost the entire first 30 minutes.

Maryland erased a couple of 10-point deficits in the second half and tied the game at 54 with 7:37 left. Michigan called timeout, but two possessions later, the Terps took a one-point lead on the heels of Stone’s and-one layup.

The Wolverines wouldn’t be denied that night, and buckets from Donnal, Robinson and Walton stretched the lead back out to five. An Irvin three-pointer with 3:08 left all but sealed the deal.

With Dickie V screaming “That’s a big time three, baby!” Michigan rode to its first ranked win of the season.

1. “It’s good! At the buzzer! Meeeeechigan wins!”

You don’t have to go back very far to find Michigan’s top moment of the season. With everything — An NCAA Tournament bid, a chance to advance in the conference tournament and a win over the Big Ten champions — on the line, Kam Chatman found the ball in his hands with the clock racing toward zeroes.

Some members on the team reportedly thought it was Aubrey Dawkins standing in the corner with the ball. I bet they were surprised when the shot went up with his left hand.

Chatman buried the contested corner triple, sending the bench into a frenzy and vaulting the Wolverines into the NCAA Tournament. It came after Michigan trailed by five with two minutes left. It came after MAAR fouled out of the game, allowing Chatman to check in.

It came after almost everyone had buried the Wolverines, who were forgotten on the wrong side of the bubble.

Michigan went 19 minutes without a three-pointer in the second half, but Robinson and Chatman hit two of the biggest triples of the season in that final minute. That’s why Michigan is playing tonight. That’s why they made the Dance.

Going forward

Almost every big play Michigan makes going forward will be worthy of this list, as everything is magnified in the NCAA Tournament. But with 34 games in the books, and more ups and downs than most tournament teams experience in a season, Michigan has already given fans a year to remember.

Michigan 72 – #10 Indiana 69: Bench leads Michigan to upset win over top-seed Indiana

Saturday, March 12th, 2016


Chatman vs Indiana(MGoBlue.com)

When the day started Michigan was staring a second straight NCAA Tournament absence square in the face. Now, the Wolverines are being fitted for their dancing shoes.

It took a near miracle for Michigan to survive Northwestern on Day 2 of the Big Ten Tournament, but 24 hours later, John Beilein’s crew knocked off the outright conference champs to advance to the semifinals.

For Friday’s win, the Wolverines certainly took the route less traveled.

On a day when point guard Derrick Walton went without a field goal and scored just two points, a pair of rarely-used bench options stepped up to salvage the season.

Moritz Wagner gave Michigan a huge boost off the bench, scoring nine points on a perfect 3-of-3 from the field and 2-of-2 from the charity stripe. He also ripped down a pair of offensive rebounds and played solid defense against an Indiana team that makes a living inside the paint.

Four Factors
Michigan Indiana
52 eFG% 49
29 OReb% 48
16 TO% 24
29 FTR 40

But Wagner’s effort may have been for naught without the last-second heroics of Kam Chatman, a former five-star recruit and starting forward turned bench warmer. Chatman, who forced his way back into the rotation with solid play down the stretch, found himself with the ball in his hands as the clock sped toward triple zeroes.

So he shot, and it’s a good thing he did.

Chatman’s contested three-pointer went in with 0.2 seconds left on the clock and gave Michigan a 72-69 lead.

His final line — 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal and 1 block — won’t jump off the box score, but the sophomore made the only play he needed to: The biggest shot of Michigan’s season in likely the program’s most important game since Aaron Harrison’s miracle shot bounced the Wolverines from the Elite 8 two years ago.

As fate would have it, Chatman was only in the game after Teddy ‘TV’ Valentine’s crew bounced Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman from the game with just over a minute to go. MAAR left the game with 15 points, second only to Zak Irvin, who scored 17 points on 5-13 shooting.

Irvin, a 61.8 percent free throw shooter, went a career best 6-of-6 from the line.

Walton, who made a field goal in all 28 of his regular season games this year, is without a bucket in 77 minutes during the Big Ten Tournament. Instead, he dished out a Big Ten tourney record 12 assists in the win over the Hoosiers, giving him 17 in the two games combined.

Duncan Robinson also had a tough shooting day — just 4 for 12 total and 1 for 6 from beyond the arc — but his last make was a big one, tying the game at 69 with under a minute to play. It was the second straight game Robinson hit a triple with Michigan trailing in the final minute.

Now Michigan will turn its attention to a Purdue team that obliterated Illinois by 31 points in Friday’s second matchup. The Wolverines split two meetings with the Boilermakers this season, but the inside trio of A.J. Hammons, Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Hass will give a much smaller Michigan team fits.

Michigan allowed Indiana to grab 15 offensive rebounds Friday. Beilein will need to shore up that aspect before Saturday’s 1pm tip.

Another upset victory over Purdue would almost guarantee Michigan a spot in the NCAA Tournament. As it stands, the Wolverines are right on the cut line, along with teams like Syracuse, Florida, UCONN and Saint Mary’s.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 6-6 0-0 0-1 1 3 4 4 12 0 2 2 1 20
10 Derrick Walton* 0-3 0-3 2-2 1 2 3 1 2 12 2 0 2 36
21 Zak Irvin* 5-13 1-4 6-6 0 5 5 2 17 2 2 0 1 35
22 Duncan Robinson* 4-12 1-6 3-3 0 1 1 3 12 3 1 0 0 34
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 6-13 2-4 1-2 2 0 2 5 15 0 1 0 1 34
03 Kam Chatman 2-3 1-2 0-0 1 0 1 2 5 0 0 1 1 8
11 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4
13 Moritz Wagner 3-3 1-1 2-2 2 0 2 2 9 0 0 0 0 16
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-2 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 9
32 Ricky Doyle 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 4
Totals 26-56 6-21 14-16 9 16 25 20 72 18 10 3 7 200
Indiana 24-53 4-17 17-21 15 22 37 17 69 13 15 7 6
200
Full Stats

Michigan 72 – Northwestern 70 (OT): Wolverines keep tourney hopes alive

Friday, March 11th, 2016


Irvin vs Northwestern(MGoBlue.com)

It took an extra five minutes, but Michigan kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive on Thursday afternoon with a 72-70 overtime win over Northwestern in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

In the season’s first meeting, Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Duncan Robinson, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman went a combined 1-of-11 from three-point range. But on Thursday, the four combined to make 10-of-22 from downtown to lead the Wolverines to the win in Indianapolis.

Four Factors
Michigan Northwestern
48 eFG% 45
23 OReb% 32
12 TO% 11
34 FTR 18

In the first meeting, Northwestern stormed out to a 17-6 lead and Michigan had to fight back. This time, Michigan raced out to a 18-5 lead and took a 34-25 lead into the locker room. But Northwestern used a 12-3 run over a span of more than five minutes midway through the second half to battle back and tie the game at 52.

Michigan led 59-55 in the final minute, but Alex Olah hit a three to bring the Wildcats within one. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Michigan had to call timeout twice to avoid five-second calls. On the third try, Robinson caught the pass in the corner near Northwestern’s bench and appeared to travel, but it wasn’t called. Instead, he drew a foul and made one of two. But Olah made a put-back at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

Robinson kicked off the extra period with a three and then tied the game at 70 with another with just 46 seconds remaining. Northwestern guard Bryant McIntosh missed a shot, giving Michigan a chance to win it. Irvin dribbled to his right and pulled up from the right elbow to hit the game-winning shot.

Michigan made 12-of-19 threes for the game and 16-of-20 free throws, outscoring Northwestern from the charity stripe 16 to nine. Robinson led the Wolverines with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 4-of-6 three-point shooting. Irvin added 19 points and eight rebounds, while Abdur-Rahkman scored 14 on 4-of-7 three-point shooting, in addition to eight rebounds. Walton was held to just two points on 0-of-7 shooting, but did add seven rebounds and led the team with five assists.

Northwestern got 21 points from Tre Demps, 20 from Olah, and 19 from McIntosh. Olah also pulled down 13 rebounds. The rest of Northwestern’s lineup combined for just 10 points.

Michigan will face top-seed Indiana in the quarterfinals in a win-and-you’re-in contest. The game tips off at 12pm Eastern on ESPN.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 1-3 0-2 0-0 2 1 3 5 2 1 1 1 0 18
10 Derrick Walton* 0-7 0-3 2-2 0 7 7 1 2 5 3 0 1 41
21 Zak Irvin* 6-16 2-6 5-6 0 8 8 0 19 2 1 0 2 42
22 Duncan Robinson* 6-10 4-6 5-7 0 3 3 2 21 1 1 0 0 37
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 5-13 4-7 0-1 1 7 8 1 14 3 0 1 0 41
03 Kam Chatman 1-2 1-2 0-0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 6
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+
11 Andrew Dakich 1-1 1-1 0-0 1 0 1 1 3 1 0 0 0 6
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-3 0-2 0-0 1 0 1 1 2 1 1 0 0 8
32 Ricky Doyle 1-3 0-0 4-4 2 1 3 1 6 0 0 0 0 24
Totals 22-58 12-19 16-20 9 30 39 15 72 14 8 2 3 205
Northwestern 25-68 11-27 9-12 14 31 45 18 70 16 7 2 2
205
Full Stats