...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
2012 northern michigan hoops
File photo, obviously. You'll be happy to know those shoes/socks did not make an appearance.
Spike Albrecht spotted up in the corner and launched a three. Swish.
Albrecht split a double-team, then kicked it out to Glenn Robinson III at the top of the key. Swish.
Albrecht split two defenders again, banked in a layup, and got the foul. His free throw, naturally, swished.
After two more threes—from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Robinson—and a Matt Vogrich layup, Michigan held a 17-0 lead less than four minutes into the 2012-13 season. Though the shooters would cool off a bit, the team never looked back, cruising to an 83-47 exhibition victory over an overmatched Northern Michigan squad.
With a suspended Trey Burke watching in street clothes, it was the freshman point guard, Spike Albrecht, stepping to the forefront to lead the way to victory. The diminutive Indiana native finished with 16 points on 4-7 shooting (3-6 3-pt) with six assists to just two turnovers, knocking down open jumpers, moving the ball with confidence, and showing that unlike last year, Michigan has a backup point guard.
If tonight's game was any indication—and in an exhibition against Northern Michigan, grains of salt are of course recommended—this Wolverine team will spread the ball around with a variety of players putting the ball in the basket. Freshman Nik Stauskas led all scorers with 17 points (5-8 FG, 4-6 3-pt), coming off the bench and netting his first career points on a corner three off an inbounds pass mere seconds after entering for the first time. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III each chipped in 13, with Robinson providing some high-flying acrobatics and Hardaway stuffing the box score with eight boards—all defensive—and five assists.
To the delight of the crowd, John Beilein inserted all five true freshmen—Albrecht, Stauskas, Robinson, Mitch McGary, and Caris LeVert—into the game in the first half; he'd admit post-game that was unintentional, and actually the first time he'd played all five together (though they did team up in a well-publicized offseason scrimmage). In a hopeful sign of things to come, Albrecht was the heady floor general, Stauskas the dead-eye shooter, Robinson the all-around offensive force, and McGary the energetic madman (5 points, 6 off. rebounds, 2 blocks, multiple floor burns). Only LeVert failed to hit full stride in his debut, hitting just one of five shots in ten minutes, though he still managed to connect on a three-pointer as the freshmen combined for 54 of the team's 83 points.
The story of the game will undoubtedly center around Albrecht admirably filling in for Burke; it could just as easily be about a total team effort—the Wolverines had 17 assists on 27 made baskets, swinging the ball around the perimeter in dizzying fashion until a shooter found an opening. Even when Burke returns on Monday, it's clear this team will be far more balanced than they were last season, less reliant on Burke and Hardaway to lead the way night in and night out.
- It's obvious that Hardaway worked hard in the offseason to turn himself into a more well-rounded player. Even though he only shot 3-of-9 from the field, he distributed the ball well—Beilein said he actually had to tell him to play more selfishly—and attacked the basket (7 free throw attempts, of which he hit 5) in addition to playing solid defense and really cleaning up the glass.
- The defensive effort all around, even given the opponent, was encouraging given the team's youth. Robinson executed a switch on a pick-and-roll on the first NMU possession, then stuck with his man before Jordan Morgan came away with a block. NMU shot just 19-for-59 from the field, rebounded just 10 of their 40 missed shots (a few of those coming late with the main rotation players pulled), and only got to the free-throw line for four attempts.
- Morgan and McGary didn't see the floor together, but if they do Michigan could be very difficult to keep off the offensive glass—in addition to McGary's six offensive boards, Morgan hauled in five (of his 12 total) on that end. Beilein noted after the game that Morgan has slimmed down since last season, and he appears to have a little more explosiveness off the floor.
- One area McGary will need to work on: free-throw shooting, as he went just 1-for-5 from the charity stripe. While it's nice that he was able to grab offensive rebounds after two of those misses, he can't be a liability in that regard or opponents will know the formula for stopping him, and Beilein will be limited with his late-game lineups in close contests. Beilein mentioned that he's still working into shape, as well, after an offseason foot injury hampered his conditioning; it wasn't a surprise, then, that Matt Vogrich earned the starting nod tonight with Robinson playing the four.
- Given the distribution of minutes tonight, as well as individual performances, expect a lineup of Burke-Hardaway-Vogrich-Robinson-Morgan on Monday, with Stauskas and McGary getting big minutes off the bench. Albrecht should see a fair amount of time spelling Burke, and Beilein mentioned the potential for playing both in the same lineup, but LeVert could have a tough time finding minutes when the season comes around—he's got skill, but he's clearly pretty raw and had some trouble with defense and rebounding due to his very thin frame.
- Overall, with opponent caveats acknowledged, this went about as well as one could hope for the team's first exhibition game. There's clearly more talent on this squad than Beilein has had at Michigan, and quite possibly at any point in his coaching career, and for a freshman-heavy team they really played well together—I'm sure it helps that McGary, Robinson, and Albrecht played AAU ball with each other. If Stauskas can continue to knock down just about every open jumper, this team also has a lights-out shooter that they haven't quite had yet under Beilein, which could really make this offense lethal. It's early yet, of course, but the potential is apparent.