"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
[File photo: Eric Upchurch]
Caris LeVert's 11 first-half points were easy to overlook during a spectacular Michigan barrage that featured 11 three-pointers.
When the barrage abated, and a persistent Texas squad nearly knottedd up the score, LeVert's eight second-half points kept the Wolverines out in front. Tasked with taking control of the offense with the Longhorns giving chace, LeVert snaked through defenders to find all manner of ways to create a layup.
The supporting cast is still setting into shape; it did just enough tonight. Duncan Robinson hit 4/5 three-pointers. Zak Irvin went 5/8 for 13 points. Derrick Walton stuffed the stat sheet (13-5-7) and drew a pivotal charge on Isaiah Taylor down the stretch. Moe Wagner looked like he may quickly become the team's best center, putting up six and four in the first half before foul trouble limited him in the second.
The team defense still wasn't good. Texas had plenty of chances to make this a real game but an 8/19 mark from the free-throw line made up the difference and then some. Big man Cameron Ridley was perfect from the field but only took five shots in 28 minutes; not to sound like Seth Davis calling a Michigan game, but he could've used a few more post touches.
Michigan is going to get in some shootouts this year. They're ready for them on one end. On the other, we'll have to wait and see.
Brian's preview is here. Go Blue.
Michigan's defense provided little resistance. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Michigan has a long way to go.
The good news is the season is far from over. In fact, Michigan probably hasn't yet played a game with what will become their standard starting lineup. But there's no glossing over the holes Xavier exposed in Michigan's defense tonight.
None is bigger than the hole in the middle. Mark Donnal gave up a bucket and a foul to Xavier's Jalen Reynolds on the game's opening possession and his night didn't improve from there; despite starting the game, he finished with four fouls, one rebound, and a turnover in six minutes. Ricky Doyle at least provided a little resistance in the post, but his poor hands cost M on both ends of the court, and time and again he found himself too far from the hoop on pick-and-rolls that resulted in open looks. Mo Wagner and DJ Wilson flashes some promise, especially the former, but they're both still getting used to the position; neither was ready for extended time against Reynolds.
Add in Michigan's porous perimeter defense and Xavier simply overwhelmed the Wolverines. Reynolds finished with 15 after getting to the line at will in the first half. The Musketeers hit nine of their 21 three-point attempts, usually wide open looks off the high screen. They missed 39 shots and rebounded 18 of them. Michigan's desperate late attempts to run a 1-3-1 zone only hurt in that regard.
It not for Caris LeVert posting 29 points on 21 shot equivalents, this would've been even worse; LeVert was the only Wolverine who could consistently produce his own shot, and while he sometimes forced it a little too much, someone had to carry the load.
For a brief period in the second half, Michigan looked like it would mount a comeback, getting as close as two points down on two separate occasions after triples by Duncan Robinson and LeVert. Each time, though, Xavier immediately responded with a three of their own and a dunk on the following possession, which aptly sums up the defensive effort from the Wolverines.
While the offense went in fits in spurts, it was at least decently effective, and Michigan easily could've surpassed the 1.05 PPP they posted if a couple open three-point looks didn't rim out. Their effort for most of the game, especially midway through the second half, was good enough to win a lot of games, but not this one given what was happening on the other end. Rough shooting nights from Derrick Walton (1/5 FG) and Aubrey Dawkins (1/6) didn't help matters. Robinson (nine points) and Zak Irvin (seven) were the top scorers behind LeVert, and that simply wasn't enough.
Michigan will have to learn from this game in a hurry. They head to the Bahamas for the Battle of Atlantis next week and will face UConn—featuring seven-footer Amida Brimah and plenty of size across the board—in the opener on Wednesday.
Tonight will hopefully prove to be one of the team's worst performances of this very young season. There are plenty of reasons to expect it to be so; this was a bad matchup given M's still-developing centers—who will have to grow up in a hurry—and uncertain rotation. If the effort on defense doesn't improve by next week, though, this team will take some serious lumps even before conference play begins.
Aubrey Dawkins: still bouncy
In the regular-season opener, Michigan made easy work of D-II Northern Michigan, taking a ten-point lead into halftime before blowing the game wide open in the second half. Since a traditional recap would still read "blowout" and not much else, I'll go with another list of observations.
While the competition remained easy, we learned a little more about the likely rotation in this one. Michigan started the same group as they did against Le Moyne: Derrick Walton, Caris LeVert, Aubrey Dawkins, Kam Chatman, and Mark Donnal. While Donnal got the start, however, he played fewer minutes (10) than Ricky Doyle (15), and DJ Wilson saw his first live action at the five.
To keep it simple, Donnal looked like Donnal, Doyle looked like Doyle, and Wilson looked viable in the middle—arguably more comfortable there than at the four, where he also saw extensive minutes. Wilson's athleticism made it easy for him to hedge on screens and get back on his man, he's got a rudimentary but functional post game, and he passed well from the top of the—he tallied three assists and only a foul on Dawkins at the hoop prevented a fourth.
If tonight was any indication, I think Wilson has a great shot at being the backup five before too long.
Moritz Wagner will not redshirt this year. He checked in with around six minutes to play. He looks to be behind Donnal, Doyle, and Wilson in the pecking order at center, but this is clearly a move being made with an eye on the end of the season. While Wagner looked lost at times out there and struggled with his post defense, his potential was apparent—his length contributed to a tip-in for his first career points and a late three-point attempt barely rimmed out. He probably won't play much early in the season, but I wouldn't be shocked if he developed into a contributor for the stretch run.
Aubrey Dawkins bounced back from an underwhelming game against Le Moyne with an impressive, efficient outing: 15 points on 6/7 shots, six rebounds, two assists, a steal, and three dunks, including the insane tip-slam at the top of this post and this alley-oop finish from Walton:
Not only did Dawkins hit 2/3 triples and use his cutting ability to create easy points like he did as a freshman, he also showed off a new wrinkle, hitting a one-handed floater off the dribble at the free-throw line in the first half. He's still a work-in-progress on defense, especially when it comes to fighting through screens, but there's no questioning his ability on the other end.
Duncan Robinson, meanwhile, came back to earth, missing his only shot attempt—which Dawkins would finish with authority—and getting pulled in the second half for missing defensive assignments. He played both the three and the four and was active on the glass, but he'll need to get better with his rotations or he'll max out at the 15 minutes he got tonight.
Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton: still good! LeVert had the superior game tonight, posting a stat line of 18-4-5 on 7/12 shooting with two steals. The offense mostly ran through him when he was on the floor; he had three consecutive assists during one second-half stretch, and he seems to be looking for the dish a little more.
While Walton had a quiet game statistically—four points on four shots, one assist, one steal—he was the primary driver of Michigan's 14 transition points; when he's on the floor, the Wolverines are looking to run, and with their athleticism on the wings (and at center when Wilson is there) that's a good plan. Walton had some hockey assists that don't show up in the box score. I'd like to see him be more assertive in halfcourt sets but with LeVert taking on a big role as a passer/ballhandler that's a minor gripe.
- Chatman looked more comfortable out there. His six points on seven shots isn't great, but he had two layups off sharp backdoor cuts, pulled down four boards, and used his length to affect passing lanes against an undersized NMU squad.
- Spike is a little limited but that didn't stop him from jumping passing lanes—scoring a reverse layup off one steal—and passing out three dimes. He got to the hoop more than you'd expect, too, though that probably has a lot to do with the competition.
- Rahkman still has a place in the rotation. He played 14 minutes, knocked down a corner three, and had a nice lefty finish on a hard drive to the hoop. While his shot is still coming along (2/5 FG), he remains one of the best on the team at attacking the rim.
Previously: Hoops Preview Podcast, MGoRadio 1.6 (wsg John Gasaway), Point Guards (Walton, Spike), Wings Part I (LeVert, Dawkins, Irvin), Wings Part II (MAAR, Chatman, Robinson, Wagner), Bigs (Doyle, Donnal, Wilson), Hoopsageddon.
NORTHERN MICHIGAN PREVIEW
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Northern Michigan|
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Friday|
|LINE||No line (100% WP on KenPom)|
BTN Plus (online stream only, $)
BTN will replay it at 11:30 pm Sunday
Right: Willy the Wildcat could use some time at Camp Sanderson. (via)
Before getting to this season's story, there's a game tonight that should look quite a bit like last week's exhibition. Like Le Moyne, Northern Michigan is a D-II team, and not a particularly good one at that—the Wildcats went 9-19 last season and were picked dead last by some margin in the preseason GLIAC coaches poll.
The Wildcats boast a couple solid outside shooters in guards Jordan Perez and Marcus Hall, but the lineup shouldn't pose much of a threat to Michigan. NMU has one player on the roster taller than 6'7", and he's a 6'10", 200-pound freshman. KenPom gives Michigan a 100% win probability.
On the Wolverines side of things, Zak Irvin will sit out this game because of his back injury; John Beilein said yesterday that while he's healthy he's not back in game shape. Spike Albrecht is still limited from his offseason hip surgeries and will play only spot minutes. The main focus of Michigan fans will be how the rotation shapes up:
- Will Kam Chatman or DJ Wilson look like the superior option at the four?
- Is Mark Donnal really the starting center or is this just like last year?
- Will Moritz Wagner get time, therefore burning his redshirt? Or will Wilson see some time at the five?
- How will MAAR find his way onto the court with Duncan Robinson providing such a quality scoring option off the bench?
Those questions won't all be answered in full tonight, but we should have more of an idea of how this team will look.
[Hit THE JUMP for THE STORY, which is really a health update with a hopefully-not-awkward tie-in to this year's basketball team.]
In a game Michigan controlled from the outset, the John Beilein's Wolverines defeated Patrick Beilein's Le Moyne Dolphins, 74-52, in the exhibition tune-up before the season tips off for real a week from tonight. Caris LeVert led all scorers with 22 points on 17 shots; Duncan Robinson came off the bench for 15, hitting three of his six three-pointers, and Derrick Walton added 13 on seven shot equivalents.
Some scattered thoughts from the game:
Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton: still good. There's not too much more to say here except that both looked fully healthy. LeVert's ability to create his own offense outside the arc bailed out some stagnant possessions. Walton is back to his normal self; he had a couple strong takes to the hoop in transition and knocked down a pull-up jumper off a late-clock drive—these were the shots he couldn't get last year because of his injury.
Mark Donnal got the start at center, but he still doesn't look like Michigan's best big man. While Donnal hit three of his five shots, the two misses were layups—not a great sign against a woefully undersized opponent. He affected some shots at the rim but still looked a step slow on defense.
Ricky Doyle only played 12 minutes; I don't think that's a reflection of the pecking order as much as Beilein wanting to see what he has in Donnal and Moe Wagner, who played most of his 11 minutes at the five. Doyle looked much like he did last year, scoring on his lone post-up opportunity and grabbing five boards while allowing a couple other rebound chances to find their way to Le Moyne. Wagner was active but a little lost out there, which doesn't come as a huge surprise; he did look like he could contribute this season in a pinch.
Michigan really missed Zak Irvin, who sat out the game with a back injury that shouldn't affect his availability during the season. With Irvin out of the lineup, Kam Chatman and DJ Wilson played most of the minutes at the four, and their inability to hit the outside shot—a combined 0/6, with Aubrey Dawkins also missing his four attempts from beyond the arc—limited the effectiveness of the offense. Michigan couldn't get much pick-and-roll offense going and mostly scored with one-on-one takes and off-ball movement; not having Irvin to spread the floor constricted some space to operate in the paint.
Chatman's scoring output remains frustrating, especially since he can do other things well; he's a good passer an one of the team's more reliable rebounders. If he can't put the ball in the bucket, though, he'll cede minutes to someone else; he's not strong enough as a perimeter defender to justify getting minutes otherwise.
Wilson is an interesting case. He runs the floor really well—he's a weapon in transition—and he alters shots at the rim, but he doesn't look totally comfortable with his outside shot and he got blown by on the perimeter for a couple layups. He hit a face-up jumper on a post-up and may be better suited for the five, especially if Donnal struggles.
Duncan Robinson is going to pose major problems to opposing defenses. He looked great shooting the ball, as expected, hitting 3/6 triples. Encouragingly, he also hit 3/4 two-pointers, with much of that offense set up by him making nice off-ball cuts. He had an up-and-down game defensively playing primarily the three, but he's going to get a lot of time regardless.
Aubrey Dawkins had an off night on both ends. I'm not concerned at all about his offense—we know he'll be fine on that end. The more concerning stuff came on defense; he got pulled a couple times for Robinson when he ran right into screens and gave up open outside shots. Perimeter defense is a work-in-progress on a team-wide basis; Le Moyne got off 28 three-pointers and many of those were solid looks.
For an exhibition game in which the team was missing a critical starter and trying out a ton of different lineups, this went fine. The offense should function much better with Irvin on the court, Robinson looks as advertised as an offensive weapon, and the two stars who played looked like their old selves tonight.
What this is: A best of the Big Ten rundown with a draft gimmick that some people like and some people hate and which happens anyway because the internet cannot win.
Everyone drafts a team of 8 Big Ten basketball players. Standard serpentine draft. As determined by RANDOM.org the order is:
1. Ace, 2. Alex, 3. Brian, 4. Seth
|Now sans Dekker/Kaminsky [M.P. King/Madison State Journal]|
ACE: Round 1, Pick 1: Nigel Hayes, F, Wisconsin
I really didn't want the first pick, but since I have it, I'll go with the NBA prospect who'll step up to lead Wisconsin this season. I nearly chose a point guard but the league is so deep at that spot that I couldn't pass up Hayes, who's a matchup nightmare at the four. At 6'8", 235 lbs., he's got great size at the college level, and he's impressively athletic—he can hold up in the post or on the perimeter on defense. He continues to add to his skill level on offense; he averaged over a point per possession on post-ups last year and shot 40% from three after not attempting a single three-pointer as a freshman.
While there are several point guards who could play at an all-conference level this year, Hayes is a potential All-American, and the drop-off between him and the next comparable player—Maryland stretch four Jake Layman—is sizable. Hayes is a plus in just about every aspect: shooting, rebounding, passing, defending, and drawing fouls. It won't be hard to build a team around him.
[After the JUMP we take bench players in the 2nd round. Seriously!]