coaches say you can't, so don't sign a loi
They played their asses off.
Despite Derrick Walton's tying three-pointer in the waning moments of the second half, Michigan couldn't quite pull off a colossal upset against Wisconsin. The ovation from the Crisler Center crowd after the game said it all, though—the fight was well worth the price of admission.
As early as the opening five minutes—in which time Michigan had fallen behind 7-2, their only bucket an implausible Spike Albrecht floater—there were any number of opportunities for the team to pack it in. After all, Albrecht was occasionally defending Wisconsin's superstar seven-footer, Frank Kaminsky, as Michigan frequently switched on defense in a sometimes comical effort to slow him down.
When Wisconsin went on a quick 9-0 run to end the half up seven, it felt like the excitement was over. Ditto when Sam Dekker extended that lead to 11 with an uncontested dunk four minutes into the second, prompting a Michigan timeout. After the Wolverines fought back to tie on a run sparked by the unlikely trio of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Mark Donnal, and Kameron Chatman, the Badgers landed another series of blows, going up by as much as seven and maintaining the edge until the final moments of regulation.
But Michigan never quit. Walton charged to the hoop time and again, absorbing hit after hit to get to the line; he'd finish with 17 points, going 7/8 from the line. Adbur-Rahkman turned in his finest performance in a Michigan uniform, scoring nine (3/4 FG), playing solid defense, and keeping a couple crucial loose balls alive.
Walton took full control at the end of the half. With M down four and 0:31 on the clock, Josh Gasser missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Walton quickly capitalized with a Euro-step layup through contact. After Bronson Koenig split a pair of free throws, Walton sunk two of his own. Koenig went back to the line, this time drilling both with ten seconds remaining.
At first it appeared Aubrey Dawkins would be forced into a heavily contested heave over two defenders; instead, he dropped a nifty pass to Walton as he found an opening and swished home the tying triple. Crisler got as loud as it's been all season.
Kaminsky dominated the overtime session, opening it with an and-one on Ricky Doyle; he'd score eight points in the decisive period. That Michigan made it that far at all, though, felt like a win in and of itself. They've been written off by just about everyone since Caris LeVert went down for the season, but tonight they showed that when they're on their game, they can hang with the very best in the conference.
1/20/2014 – Michigan 54, Rutgers 50 – 12-7, 5-2 Big Ten
BENCH MOB NO MORE [Bryan Fuller]
At one point last night Michigan's lineup consisted of two walkons, two freshmen who had been snatched off the who-dat heap right before the late signing period, and redshirt freshman Mark Donnal. At another point it was Walton, three freshmen, and 6'7" center Max Bielfeldt. To paraphrase the increasingly rat-faced gentleman to the west, Michigan was playing a lot of weird guys. This is how weird: they yoinked a redshirt off a walk-on. It's not going to plan, you guys.
And they won! They won because Rutgers is a basketball team in the same way North Korea is a tourist destination, but Sean Lonergan played 13 more minutes than Caris LeVert did. Michigan is a basketball team in the same way London after the black plague was a city. I'll take it.
In fact Michigan is a zombie in the same way a zombie is a zombie: lurching forward despite taking a staggering amount of damage. They've got their grobbly little teeth into five Big Ten teams already largely because Beilein has deep experience taking the undersized and faintly ridiculous farther than seems possible. I bet a small part of him thinks it's kind of fun he's throwing out a zillion different zones and deploying a rotation that occasionally grabs chemistry students out of Orgo lab. A part much smaller than the eyerolling demon that controls most of his precincts, but an extant one nonetheless.
It is this tiny part of our rage-filled selves we should seek to cultivate.
Against teams that don't yield 25 uncontested threes against a team that barely hints at activity in the paint, the projection is rougher. Michigan's projected to win four of their remaining 11 games on Kenpom and it's hard to dispute that as pessimistic, what with Kenpom unaware that Caris has gone away.
It's going to be ugly. And… I guess, fine, let's just get to it and move on. Michigan saw Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas depart for the NBA. Jon Horford followed his family's insane NBA dream to 18 minutes a game on a 10-8 SEC Team. (Note to Michigan basketball: if Tito Horford shows up with a babe in swaddling clothes, put it in the river and run.) Caris is kaput and there's obviously something bothering Walton when he's not rebounding his ass off. Irvin is not quite in a Hardaway-esque sophomore funk (still 35% from three) but he's rarely able to generate anything that isn't provided.
You can rip that pile of talent away from a Duke or a Kentucky and they will plug it back in because the next wave of seven-footers from the Nike tanks is just around the corner. Michigan, not so much.
It's a minor miracle that they've done what they have over the last few years without recruiting one-and-done types. Michigan effective experience over the last five years, out of about 350: 335, 207, 342, 330, 326. The only team in that bunch to not win an NCAA game was the 207 squad, which went out early against Ohio. They went to a national title game and nearly another final four in there. And the NBA swooped in on guys who nobody had heard of before they put on the block M.
At some point the wrong combination of guys was going to pop out and Michigan would be pretty bleah. That's this.
Thanks to the two horrendous nonconference losses Michigan would probably have to get to 11, maybe 12 conference wins to get a bid. I guess that's not impossible, but neither is it likely. Against the easiest part of their Big Ten schedule Michigan has five wins that were one-basket games sometime in the last five minutes and two decisive losses.
The only reason anyone is holding out a faint modicum of hope is that 1-6 team that wandered into Breslin and sprayed blood all over the place. If that happens, great. I'm resigned to the NIT and looking for blips of improvement whenever Dawkins skies over everyone or Doyle, like, plays. I was throwing things earlier this year when this improbable scaffold collapsed on itself; now I'm trying to have fun watching it go back up.
Oy. I guess it evened out a little by the end but man, the three point shooting was something else. Rutgers somehow conspired to give Michigan open look after open look and Michigan could not convert. Walton hit a couple key late ones to get Michigan to 8 of 26, 31%.
That's much less of a problem than going 39% from within the arc, but if that happens against non-Rutgers teams it's curtains. Most of them aren't going to give up anywhere near as many open looks, though.
Rutgers. Just fire Eddie Jordan now. To be that disorganized with two seniors and two juniors in your starting lineup is a spectacular condemnation of coaching ability even in year two.
Two pointers. There aren't any. Doyle is getting an acceptable number up at a good rate (66%), and that is it. Irvin is at 42%, Chatman a stunning 34%, Walton even worse at 33%… it's night and day from last year when Michigan got a ton of good looks and converted them.
Why that might be. Walton's inability to step forward and become a high-usage, high-efficiency guy is killing the offense. I don't think anyone really expected Irvin to drive a lot of shot-generating, so the burden from the departed Stauskas was bound to fall on LeVert and Walton. LeVert stepped up insofar as he could—big usage, big assist rate, poor efficiency inside the arc. Walton's TO rate is almost as high as his assist rate and he's not effective as a shooter.
I believe that turf toe is a major problem, but we'd better hope so because any renaissance starts with Walton being an all-conference level player.
Chatman versus Dawkins. If you had no idea who was the touted recruit you would pick Dawkins 100 times out of 100. He can leap out of the building, he's decently efficient shooting, and he does not do the very strange things Chatman does multiple times per game. And yet Dawkins was picking between Michigan and Dayton while Chatman was a top 50 recruit everywhere. Very strange.
We're going to explore the boundaries of what Dawkins can do now over the rest of th season, as he's showing some promise. He even had a take to the basket last game out.
This is how you know it's not your year. Spike's TO rate is over 20, and the second highest on the team. Last year he went through a big chunk of the Big Ten season with an infinite A:TO ratio.
Caris LeVert is out for the year. Several players were sick. Zak Irvin sat most of the first half with foul trouble. Derrick Walton didn't hit a shot until the game's waning minutes.
Sean Lonergan and Andrew Dakich played—at the same time. Aubrey Dawkins led the team in made field goals—with four. The Wolverines were 8/26 from beyond the arc—and 9/23 inside of it.
Michigan beat Rutgers on the road.
It wasn't aesthetically pleasing. It didn't make a whole lot of sense. It was... kinda fun?
The plucky underdog role suits this team, unburdened from expectations. The missteps are much more understandable, while stuff like "WALK-ON LAYUP OUT OF NOWHERE" provides genuine joy. The offense remained disjointed and relatively ineffective, but there's hope to be found in Aubrey Dawkins scoring an efficient 11 points, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman finishing a couple strong drives to the rim, Max Bielfeldt—Max Bielfeldt!—posting 8 and 8. While M didn't shoot the ball well from the outside, they generated a lot of good looks, and the defense—albeit Rutgers-aided tonight—continued to be pleasantly decent.
Losing the lead in the second half felt expected, not disastrous. Then Spike Albrecht scooped in a running layup, Walton drilled back-to-back triples, and Bielfeldt extended the lead with a three moments after he pulled down an offensive rebound. Walton and Irvin iced the game at the line, and just like that, Michigan is 5-2 in the Big Ten.
It's probably not going to last. Wisconsin comes to town on Saturday, and they're easily the best team in the conference. Then again, they lost to Rutgers last week. For tonight, let's celebrate the weird guys, in all their weird glory.
John Beilein's still got it.
Aside from Derrick Walton, Michigan couldn't hit an outside shot to save their lives against Minnesota, and for most of the game the offense stagnated. With a heavy dose of the 1-3-1 zone down the stretch, however, the Wolverines hung in the game with their defense, ultimately forcing 17 Gopher turnovers.
The master stroke from Beilein, though, came with 38 seconds left, when he called a timeout after a timely Caris LeVert steal with M holding a tenuous two-point lead. The play he drew up couldn't have worked better. Derrick Walton doubled back to take a Ricky Doyle screen, Doyle slipped to the basket unimpeded, and Walton tossed a lob that Doyle threw down with screaming emphasis on top of Minnesota's Maurice Walker. A Crisler Center crowd that spent most of the afternoon library-quiet followed Doyle's lead.
"He was the guy that was making us go," Beilein said of Walton. "Today was all about Derrick Walton." Walton's strong play down the stretch led to Beilein putting the ball in his hands on the game's critical play; with four options, including shooting it himself, it's safe to say Walton rewarded his coach's trust.
The Gophers couldn't recover, and a few Zak Irvin free throws provided the final margin. Despite all their struggles, Michigan now stands at 3-1 in the Big Ten, and just sent Minnesota reeling to 0-4.
While Michigan looked resplendent in their 1989 throwback uniforms, their play was anything but attractive for most of the game. They went 0/8 from three in the first half, allowed the Gophers far too many open looks from the perimeter, and eventually fell behind by as much as nine in the second half.
Then Walton took over in the latter half of the second stanza, scoring five straight points to cut the lead to seven, then throwing a fast break lob to Zak Irvin after crossing up a defender in the backcourt off a Spike Albrecht steal. A few minutes later, Walton gave Michigan the lead with another triple, assisted by a cross-court pass from LeVert, who'd later stretch the margin to five when he drew a foul on a three-point try of his own, then buried every free throw. Shortly after Andre Hollins, who scored a game-high 18 points, answered with a triple, LeVert stole a Hollins pass on the sideline; the fateful timeout ensued, and Doyle drove the final nail into the coffin.
Walton and LeVert each tallied 15 points to lead the Wolverines, though Walton did so in much more efficient fashion; he added five rebounds and three assists, while LeVert came away with four steals, three coming in the second half. Doyle, by far M's best big man on the day, scored 12 on 5/8 FGs, including a pivoting, Olajuwon-esque and-one to key the second-half rally; he also pulled in four offensive rebounds. Zak Irvin, who continued to struggle with his shot, chipped in 12 points. Spike Albrecht (six) and Kam Chatman (two) were the only other Wolverines to score on the day.
Even though Michigan continued to have a hard time getting their shots to fall, they found a way to pull out a tough game against a Minnesota squad whose conference record belies their quality. Active zone defense bailed the Wolverines out time and again down the stretch. Add in a little Beilein clipboard wizardry, and suddenly Michigan is riding back-to-back wins into a showdown in Columbus on Tuesday.
LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR
Michigan easily dispatched an overmatched Coppin State squad to snap their four-game losing streak, coasting to a 16-point victory that wasn't as close as the score would indicate. The above GIF is more representative.
Ricky Doyle led the team with a career-high 16 points, going 6/7 from the field; he could've had even more if not for a 4/9 mark from the free-throw line. Derrick Walton recorded a career high in assists for the second straight year against CSU, dishing out nine in addition to scoring nine points.
Zak Irvin hit 3/7 three-pointers on his way to 13 points while hauling in seven boards. Caris LeVert did solid work on the glass as well, pulling down eight rebounds on top of his eight points. Kam Chatman added nine points, Mark Donnal eight, and the bench got plenty of run.
That included Austin Hatch, who tallied his first official career point at the line after getting fouled on a three-pointer that he very nearly sunk. After Hatch narrowly missed another opportunity from the corner, John Beilein called timeout to sub him out and allow the crowd a chance to give him a standing ovation. It was quite a moment to cap off a much-needed win.
11/24/2014 – Michigan 70, Oregon 63 – 4-0
Tight all the way. Announcers will proclaim basketball A Game Of Runs. This was a game of ambles, or strolls, or little rabbit hops. The entire game was played in a narrow window between tied and Michigan +8, causing maximum tension throughout. Michigan would push out to five or six or that lovely 8 that one time and then Oregon would hit a three or get a rebound putback and the tension would ratchet up again.
This was a nice reminder that it is possible to have feelings about sports.
I'm soaked in joy [Joseph Dressler]
Hello Ricky Doyle. The obvious story of the game: after a paltry two minutes against Detroit, Doyle came off the bench to register 24 of the game-winning variety.
His defense was worlds better than anyone else available at center. He was capable of hedging hard, Morgan-style, and recovering. He brought a shot-altering presence. There were a number of opportunities to compare him directly to Donnal as Oregon attempted to post both guys up as likely weaknesses. Doyle gave up a series of difficult attempts that ended in misses and took multiple charges; Donnal gave up buckets and gave fouls. There was a particularly revealing sequence midway through the second half when Michigan tried to steal a few minutes with Donnal and had to lift him after Oregon went right at him on back-to-back possessions.
Doyle also displayed a knack for finishing around the rim, going 4/5 on the night. He went up strong when provided the opportunity to, and as described in the game recap his savvy on the sealing putback was beyond his years. I was like KICK IT OUT, he was like KICK IT OUT, Oregon was like HE'S GOING TO KICK IT OUT WE HAVE TO STOP THIS, and Doyle was able to recognize a lack of options in that department and deliver a mansome finish against three guys.
And about two minutes into the game he was leaving a trail of sweat behind him, hair plastered to his head. That shot on the right makes him look like the world's largest Rascal. I can't find this to credit it but someone suggested we call him "Ice Bucket" because he perpetually looks like he just took the Ice Bucket Challenge. Big, big night.
Eclipse of the Beilein. I would be surprised to find another game in Beilein's tenure at Michigan—or anywhere—with as few three-point attempts as that one. Michigan launched just 13, hitting 5, compared to 33 two-point attempts. Oregon refused to sag and their zero-center lineup featuring a lot of quick guys provided few opportunities to get them out of alignment.
The cost for Oregon was allowing a ton of driving lanes. That is normally not a huge problem for a Michigan opponent, but LeVert was able to get to the basket and draw a whopping 13 FTAs; as a team Michigan had 29, with only a few due to late-game fouling.
The contrast in LeVert's game between long shots—3 of 13 on the night from the field—and drives was stark. LeVert had a number of Long Contested Isolation Jumpers that banged off the back rim and set up Oregon's transition game. The drives got Michigan vital points and set Oregon against a half-court defense. This was no doubt the message Beilein was sending with an unusually fiery rant during a late timeout.
YOUTH IS WASTED ON THE YOUNG [Bryan Fuller]
Chatman starts strong, then wobbles. We saw Kam Chatman's best burst of play as a Wolverine in the first few minutes of the game. He set up Mark Donnal for an easy dunk and had a sinuous finish of his own. Then things got rough, on both ends. Michigan eventually yanked him after some defensive breakdowns; before that he'd bricked another three and missed two of his four FTAs wildly.
There hasn't been much to indicate that anyone else is ready to take those minutes, so Michigan is going to have to keep rolling with him and hope he can be more like that guy early instead of that guy late.
Irvin: not just a shooter. Zak Irvin joined the parade of guys heading to the bucket, drawing a couple fouls and finishing some swooping drives smoothly. Early yet, but so far he seems to have a good feel for when he can attack closeouts and looks much more comfortable doing so than GRIII or THJ ever did. I've been wary about the idea Irvin is going to become a complete offensive player because of those two antecedents; so far, so good.
Beilein autobench ack. Walton was limited to six points in 24 minutes as the Beilein autobench saw him out for most of the first half and for five or so minutes in the second. I love John Beilein but… Walton averaged 2.5 fouls per 40 last year. Michigan voluntarily fouled him out of this game.
Silver lining is that he'll be relatively fresh for tonight's game. Michigan had its usual early-season-tourney spate of weird lineups in the first half, but with the game on the line and no bench players other than Doyle distinguishing themselves, Michigan had to go with a heavy, heavy dose of LeVert (39 minutes) and Irvin (38 minutes). Hell, Spike got 35 himself. If Michigan's going to win against 'Nova, Walton's going to have to have a huge game.
Rebounding issues. Oregon came in averaging big piles of OREBs, as you might expect from a team with a lot of bouncy 6'6" guys who crash the boards. You'd want Michigan to do better than they did, though. Oregon rebounded almost half their misses.
The fives were overwhelmed not by length but by numbers. Neither Donnal nor Doyle pulled in a DREB—Doyle did have three on the other end—but with 11 OREBs between the three main Duck forwards it's hard to put the blame on them exclusively.
One issue: another rough night for Chatman forced Michigan to use a Spike lineup featuring Irvin at the 4 for most of the second half.
The damage. Via hoop-math, 10 of the 18 Oregon OREBs were immediately put back up, with seven buckets resulting. That's the only reason this game was close. Can Michigan do anything about it is the question.
Physics is a dead end, Shon. How is the wreckage of the Indiana program going, Tom Crean?