"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.
Derrick Walton dishing pic.twitter.com/5HEI9LlBx1
— Dustin Johnston (@DJPhotoVideo) November 17, 2015
It's safe to say Michigan sorely missed a healthy Derrick Walton.
After the Wolverines got out to a slow start against Elon, finding themselves in a 15-12 hole midway through the first half, Walton spearheaded an offensive explosion. First he excelled in transition, getting his teammates going with quick runouts and timely passes. Then he found his own shot, kickstarting M's halfcourt offense as they pulled away.
Walton posted a stat line of 24 points (2/3 2P, 6/7 3P), six rebounds, and seven assists, and he created offense in a multitude of ways. If he wasn't springing a fast break, he was spotting up for a corner three, or driving the baseline before kicking it out to a shooter, or pulling up from midrange, or going coast-to-coast for a Euro-step layup. This was the most aggressive he's looked in a Michigan uniform and the results could hardly have been better.
Duncan Robinson also lit it up from beyond the arc, hitting all five of his three-point attempts and adding a transition dunk and a pair of free throws to score 19 points without missing a shot. While his defense still has a ways to go, his shooting ability is an asset that affects more than his own scoring—when he's on the floor it stretches opposing defenses thin.
and then the blood starts pouring pic.twitter.com/MyoK3s3r2l
— Dustin Johnston (@DJPhotoVideo) November 17, 2015
The exploits of Walton and Robinson allowed the Wolverines to weather an underwhelming shooting night from the rest of the team, which was a combined 2/12 from three-point range. Zak Irvin played his first minutes of the season and didn't look comfortable coming off his back injury; he went 0/5 from the field, though he still managed to contribute with three assists. Caris LeVert was quieter than normal, scoring 11 points on 3/8 FGs and 5/6 FTs. Like Irvin, he found other ways to create offense, dishing out seven assists with some nifty work to create open looks in late-clock situations; he also swiped four steals.
The big-picture takeaways from this game will focus on the center position. Mark Donnal got the start but struggled, to put it kindly, on both ends in his 15 minutes on the floor. Ricky Doyle looked like he should be the clear-cut starter with eight bruising points in 13 minutes; three fouls limited his time but he looked far superior to Donnal.
DJ Wilson moonlighted at the five but mostly stuck to the four. Mo Wagner, meanwhile, got in early and played seven eventful minutes, pulling down an offensive board and helping M grab at least one more, then taking a charge before triumphantly exiting with a Novak-esque stream of blood running down his face. Donnal's hold on a rotation spot may be tenuous, especially as the season goes on.
There were signs of the rotation forming on the wings, too. Aubrey Dawkins, Kam Chatman, and Robinson have seemingly distanced themselves from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who only saw eight minutes, most of them late, despite Dawkins and Robinson struggling on defense.
While Michigan's team defense wasn't as good as the box score would indicate, they managed to work through some very tight officiating—which seems to be the trend this season—and come up with eight steals, a point of emphasis for them in the early going. With Walton fully operational, the offense came together as soon as the open looks from outside started falling, and the Wolverines didn't look back.
Now Michigan must hope that Irvin gets more comfortable and someone outside of Doyle steps up in the middle, as the first big test of the season looms on Friday when Xavier comes to Crisler.
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.
This was sorely missed last year.
Basketball season is nearly upon us. Unlike previous years, it isn't a much-needed respite from a miserable football campaign, and instead should serve as a delightful second helping of good sports feels as we head into the winter.
As Michigan learned the hard way in 2014-15, it all starts with the point guard in John Beilein's system. Derrick Walton is healthy again after a foot injury derailed and then prematurely ended his sophomore season; now he's poised for the patented LaVall Jordan second-year leap a year later than expected. Spike Albrecht is recovering from surgery on his hips but should be a full go early in the season, giving the Wolverines a starter-quality backup.
This is where the turnaround starts.
[Hit THE JUMP.]
Upchurch – MGoBlog
Michigan’s first stroke of bad luck came late in November: the Wolverines had just lost a hard-fought contest to eventual 1-seed Villanova in Brooklyn, but starting point guard Derrick Walton suffered some sort of toe injury – one that would affect him for the remainder of the year, eventually sidelining him for good in late January. It was evident that the injury sapped Walton of his explosiveness, both vertically and running in the open floor, but he played through it until his other foot was injured, most likely due to overcompensation for his original injury.
After a disappointing sophomore campaign, it’s prudent to recall exactly how good Walton was as a freshman. He started all but one game for a team that would come to the brink of a return trip to the Final Four and excelled in a modest role on offense. Derrick got better throughout the season: he posted a gaudy offensive rating (120.8) on a not-insignificant usage rate (18.4) in conference play while posting the fourth-highest free throw rate of qualifying players in the Big Ten; he was arguably Michigan’s best perimeter defender; he shot 41% from three on the season on 105 attempts. Expectations were naturally quite optimistic for the highly-touted Detroit point guard entering his sophomore season.
It’s hard to quantify exactly how much of Walton’s struggles were due to his injury, the stark decline in talent around him, or the burden of an increased role on offense, but the drop-off was so severe that the injury is the best explanation. After shooting an impressive 59% at the rim as a freshman, he shot 41% inside the restricted area as a sophomore – evidence that his toe was clearly bothering him. Derrick was still called on to play just shy of 40 minutes a game (barring auto-bench foul trouble in the first half) and, even though Spike Albrecht played well down the stretch, Walton was clearly Michigan’s first option at the point guard spot before his season-ending injury.
* * *
[After the jump: let's go back to the beginning]