this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Max out. Max Bielfeldt heads to Indiana unless he gets cut before the season starts, which is about 50/50 given Tom Crean's roster ADHD.
It'll be interesting to see how that works out for both teams: Michigan knows exactly what went down in practice and did not ask Bielfeldt back even after it became clear they had an open scholarship slot. Since Bielfeldt was out-performing Donnal late last year (Doyle was almost always the first option when he was not sick as a dog), the confidence expressed by that decision seems to be about newly-strapping DJ Wilson. Wilson is certainly going to be more of a defensive presence than the ground-bound Bielfeldt.
Rebounding? Eh… leave it to Walton. I may actually be serious about that. In any case, rebounding is the most replaceable skill.
That is a frequently-injured, pre-Sanderson, freshman Doyle outperforming everything with reasonable sample size except senior Jordan Morgan. (Donnal's numbers should be taken in context: there were a half-dozen roll attempts last year that looked good on which Donnal didn't even attempt a shot, kicking back to the perimeter instead of opting for what should be one of the most efficient shots in basketball.) Bielfeld had 12 pick-and-pop possessions, FWIW—on actual rolls to the basket he was at 23 points on 21 buckets. That's 1.09 PPP.
Doyle was on par or better than Bielfeldt at just about everything you can do on a court other than grab defensive rebounds. He should improve a great deal as he ages, and then you've got Wilson and Donnal… minutes are going to be scarce.
Speaking of Walton. Any fears you may have had that his foot thing was going to be a problem this fall should be put to rest:
— spike albrecht (@SpikeAlbrecht) May 22, 2015
Walton joins a Camp Sanderson field that includes almost the entire team plus guys like Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. Word is that one of the most impressive guys there is… Aubrey Dawkins. Going to be a good year.
Meanwhile, Spike's projected return:
Beilein also offered an update on Albrecht on Monday, saying that both of the guard's offseason hip surgeries were successful. Albrecht is still on crutches, but projects to a having a full return by the fall.
"In September, yeah, there's no question," Beilein said.
He should be ready for the season no problem.
A smart guy. Beilein on what the rules changes might mean:
Most focus on the offensive impact of the shot clock change, but the reverberation will reach the other end of the floor. Beilein noted that defenses will likely be more prone to shift from man-to-man to zone defense late in shot clocks.
"I think you'll see more teams flipping stuff and going zone later on because the ballscreen becomes so prevalent at that time," he said.
That would be interesting.
A litmus test. The NCAA just about gave up on serious punishments for anything short of child rape negligence after they threw the book at USC. OSU took a bowl ban and had to get rid of Jim Tressel after Tressel repeatedly lied to the NCAA, but they were spared the kind of scholarship restrictions that put a serious long-term dent in a program. Other than that it's been a series of wrist-slaps.
If anything is going to upset the current "do whatever it's fine" state of affairs, it is the situation at North Carolina. The NCAA at first decided to ignore it, but when forced to revisit the issue they seem to have done so with force. The notice of allegations has just been released, and it contains five separate "severe" violations, most of which are backed up by assertions of dozens of different incidents they encompass.
This will be the first truly major case since the NCAA moved away from calling everything from SMU to stretchgate "major" violations and implemented a four-level system. North Carolina is likely to admit lots and lots of "severe breach of conduct." The penalty guidelines for level 1 violations include:
- 1-2 years of postseason ban
- loss of 12.5% to 25% of scholarships
- up to a half-year ban on a head coach
If the violations are deemed to have induced "aggravation" those penalties can double, and if they stack… hoo boy. The NCAA would be well within its rights to bomb UNC's major sports into the stone age.
Will they? I doubt it.
I'm not really paying attention to this any more. Phil Steele's All Big Ten teams are… well, there's a lot of them. They don't seem that accurate:
The Wolverines did have a few All-Big Ten honorees, however, led by senior linebacker Joe Bolden. Bolden, who broke the 100-tackle mark last season, is a second-team All-Big Ten pick, per Steele.
Linebacker Desmond Morgan (third), offensive guard Kyle Kalis (third), wide receiver Amara Darboh (fourth), defensive back Jabrill Peppers (fourth) and punter Blake O'Neill (fourth) also received mention.
Just from a Michigan perspective, no Jourdan Lewis, no Jarrod Wilson, and Kalis over Glasgow make me wonder if Steele does much more than look at stats and recruiting rankings and guess. (He also does the irritating thing where he throws corners and safeties into the same bucket of defensive backs.)
Ratings up. If softball seems like a bigger deal than it did a few years ago, you aren't alone:
ESPN saw record viewership for the 2015 Women’s College World Series, notching its top two most-viewed Women’s College World Series bracket round games ever this past weekend. LSU/Michigan on Sunday averaged 1,950,000 viewers for the company while UCLA/Auburn on Saturday drew 1,612,000 viewers. Overall, the 2015 Women’s College World Series bracket round (May 28-31) averaged 1,055,000 viewers. Meanwhile, the 2015 Women’s College World Series Championship Finals Game 1 on Monday drew a 1.0 overnight rating, which is tied for the highest-rated WCWS Championship Finals Game 1 on record (since 2007) and a 43% increase (0.7 overnight) from 2014 WCWS Championship Finals Game 1.
The final two games may have beat that admittedly short-lived record.
Bracing? ISS has its final draft rankings out:
Final @ISShockey rankings for upcoming NHL draft: U-M D Zach Werenski is No.11 and F Kyle Connor (U-M commit) is No.13.
— George Sipple (@GeorgeSipple) June 2, 2015
Hopefully neither of those guys ends up in the wrong place. IE: The Kings or a like organization that doesn't want their guys to play college.
Etc.: In expected news, JT Compher is your hockey captain. Incoming forward Brendan Warren profiled. I could describe a great deal of commentators as "continual boofheads." AFC Ann Arbor origin story. You can chat with Stauskas and Beilein, get autographs and the like, for #chadtough.
I thought I'd revisit the basketball roster now that it seems set. We covered similar ground in the Always Next Year post on the team, but now that the Minutes Crunch™ is official, let's look at how things might shake out.
Starter: Derrick Walton (Jr.)
Backups: Spike Albrecht (Sr.), Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman (So.)
Albrecht's hips and Walton's foot are lingering issues hovering over this spot. Derrick Walton was shut down in January and should be back from just about anything by November. His issues massively blunted his effectiveness. Walton went from a 45/41 percent shooter to 32/34. It's never good when a shooting line forces me to remind readers that the first one is twos and the second is threes.
Just about every part of Walton's statistical profile was static or regressed save his reliably mansome defensive rebounding; how much of that was the injury? How much was disorientation in an environment far more focused on his output? How much was just flat-out poor play?
We're hoping the answers to those questions are "lots," "some," and "not too much considering." Michigan and LaVall Jordan's point guard track record should mean that is close to the truth.
Still, the version of Derrick Walton Michigan gets is a major question mark for the season. Point guards have universally played above expectations since Darius Morris's freshman year. I just don't know what expectations are for Walton anymore.
Meanwhile, Spike Albrecht's presence would have certainly mitigated any downside here if he wasn't in the midst of dual hip surgeries. Instead he just probably mitigates any downside. The media has been told that he should be back in five or six months, no problem, but there are whispers he might be forced to redshirt. Albrecht was low usage and could not sustain his ludicrously low TO rates when forced into extensive action; he also led the post-LeVert team in assist rate by a huge margin and maintained shooting efficiency in a more difficult environment.
Spike was a major reason Michigan managed to remain competitive without Walton and Irvin. In the twelve games Michigan played without those two stars, Spike scored in double digits nine times, shot 45/43%, and had a stellar 60:19 assist:TO ratio. Even before the injuries Michigan was leaning on him heavily for minutes until the freshmen were somewhat more prepared. A senior reprise would have been most excellent. Is that still possible?
If not, MAAR steps into the breach. There are worse backup plans to your backup plans than a guy who put up 18 at Michigan State as a freshman and harassed DeAngelo Russell into an awful game. MAAR needs to work on his deep shooting (29% on fewer than two threes a game) and passing, but Michigan hasn't had a guy who can get to the basket like him since Trey. A bit more on him in the next section.
Minute projection: Fuzzy with injury issues. Call it Walton 25, Albrecht 15.
[After the JUMP: Caris, Dawkins, and the cavalry behind.]
See also: hockey.
a shruggie of a year [Bryan Fuller]
Despite a lot more playing time than anyone expected, Michigan seems content to allow Max Bielfeldt to graduate and move on. As a 6'7" center it seems unlikely he can feature on a team with major aspirations.
That is all.
And this isn't graduating yet but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that Austin Hatch may transition to a medical scholarship at some point.
NBA PIRACY AHOY
The looming unresolved question of the offseason is "wither Caris LeVert?" LeVert would be a mid-to-late first round pick if he decided to enter the draft, but chatter from Scout and Rivals holds that LeVert seems to be favoring a return. I don't have to explain how huge that would be. Fingers will be crossed until the deadline.
Other attrition is unlikely. Zak Irvin's late diversification has not piqued the interest of NBA evaluators just yet; Derrick Walton has not shown the kind of meteoric rise necessary for a guy of his stature to leave early.
technically incoming is the best kind of incoming [Bryan Fuller]
Technically, nobody right now. Michigan has two guys who are functionally incoming, however. D-III transfer Duncan Robinson spent his redshirt year testing Nik Stauskas's practice marksmanship records and gathering hype:
"I texted Nik (telling him the record fell)," Beilein said of Robinson's record on WTKA 1050-AM on Thursday morning, adding that he didn't witness it personally. "(Stauskas) was happy, but he was also sad that the record went down. Duncan can really shoot the ball and as he learns the other parts of the game, he's tough to stop in practice." …
"He can help us against that zone anytime," said Beilein, who kept the record to himself, later saying, "I'm not going to disclose the numbers and maybe it will come out at some time, because I'm not sure I'm supposed to do that."
Robinson should be Just A Shooter, always a handy thing to have around. He could be something more.
Meanwhile, DJ Wilson took a redshirt after a second injury in a few months. Prior to that he'd offered hints that he could be an impact defender and skilled 4/5 man. He'd also struggled immensely in brief spurts of playing time against grown-ass men. (Not Eddie Johnson. Others.) Wilson was a solid four star recruit after an impressive senior season in California and could play either post-type position.
Michigan is also active in the spring recruiting period. Uber-prospect Jaylen Brown just took a visit, and Sam's saying there's a chance; German Moritz Wagner took a visit and seems set to choose Ann Arbor unless his pro team can convince him to change course; late-rising instate post Mike Edwards was just on campus; Seton Hall point guard transfer Jaren Sina, who Michigan recruited a bit a couple years ago, is listing Michigan amongst his options.
Edwards is 6'10" instate player who blew up as a senior, going from a lonely Akron offer to high-major offers from Nebraska and Georgia. Michigan is poking around but has not offered.
Will they? I'd be a bit surprised. Michigan has Donnal and Doyle plus 2016 7-footer Jon Teske; DJ Wilson may play the 5 for them as well. Even if you assume Wilson is a full-time 4, that would be a post per year for four straight. On the other hand, an incessant parade of senior Cs sounds okay by me.
Michigan has at least one slot from Bielfeldt's graduation and may have up to three depending on Hatch and LeVert. It seems like the most likely outcome here is Wagner, and only Wagner, comes.
USELESS BUT MANDATORY MINUTE BREAKDOWNS
After a year in which we fussed about auto-bench and a couple of walk-ons got meaningful playing time in most games, here is a happy about-face: it's difficult to find minutes for everyone if LeVert comes back.
remember me? [Eric Upchurch]
POINT GUARD: Walton 25, Spike 15.
Hard to imagine Walton getting fewer than 30 a game even with Albrecht establishing himself a very good offensive player in trying circumstances last year, but 1) Walton only got 26 as a freshman when he was fully healthy and 2) all of the remaining minutes went to Spike.
Meanwhile Albrecht ended up playing over 30 this year and maintained a healthy 112 ORTG thanks to lots of assists and excellent shooting. There are going to be games and matchups where he may be the preferred option. When Michigan goes up against Bennie Parker or Lourawls Tum-Tum Nairn Jr, Spike's size deficiency isn't going to be, you know, deficient.
Walton could blow up a la Morris/Burke and relegate Albrecht to more bench time. The above is a best guess at a position that's relatively uncertain despite having two upperclassmen.
SHOOTING GUARD, LEVERT EDITION: LeVert 30, Spike 5, MAAR 5.
There will be some dual-point lineups. Spike's five minutes here are a representation of that. Past that, if LeVert's around he's playing a lot of minutes. Surprise!
MAAR looks like he might be the odd man out in the musical chairs of next year's lineup: his handle won't be needed to spot PG minutes, he didn't shoot anywhere near Dawkins's numbers, and he doesn't bring the rebounding others might. Ace pointed out on a podcast that MAAR showed hints that he might be a lockdown perimeter defender (D'Angelo Russell had a terrible game against him) and that this might be a ticket to playing time. That's probably his best hope for PT next year.
SHOOTING GUARD, NBA PIRACY EDITION: MAAR 20, Spike 10, Robinson 10
In the unhappy event LeVert decides on the draft, dual-point lineups increase, MAAR gets a healthy chunk of playing time, and Duncan Robinson finds more time as a floor-stretching kickout option even if that's the extent of his game.
It'll be disappointing if LeVert does enter after these positive noises, but this hypothetical SG lineup is far from ominous.
SMALL FORWARD: Dawkins 25, Robinson 15
Dawkins's late shooting surge—he shot 48% from 3 in Big Ten play as part of a larger improvement in his game has everyone hype, as does the addition of the alley-oop dunk to his arsenal late in the season. This minutes breakdown is looking at Dawkins as 3 defensively but envisions his role on offense similar to that of GRIII: shoot corner threes, cut to the basket for explosive dunks, drive off closeouts.
Meanwhile, Robinson is a wildcard. It seems like his floor is a knockdown shooter off the bench. Robinson hit 45% from three as a freshman at Williams, and if he's given similar quality shots there's no reason to expect a dropoff. Readiness won't be an issue after a redshirt year, especially since highlight videos of his year in D-III demonstrate he's running Beilein's offense down to the cut.
If Jaylen Brown does come to Michigan—knock on wood—he would suck up 30 minutes here, leaving Dawkins and Robinson in a situation similar to MAAR's.
HELLO THIS IS ZAK [Fuller]
"POWER" FORWARD: Irvin 30, Chatman 10, Wagner?
Irvin will be the non-post most suited to bang in the paint on defense and rebound so he goes here. Michigan hopes to get the playmaking ability he demonstrated late last year. He could be the alpha dog; that could be LeVert; hopefully we get something like the Trey/Tim/Nik or Nik/Caris/Derrick teams in which the shots are spread out such that focusing on any one player just makes his assist totals go up.
Chatman struggled for most of last year. Like Irvin and Dawkins, he did come on late with a number of skilled drives to the basket and the first flashes of the passing ability he was noted for in high school. It does not seem likely he will push through anyone to field extensive playing time in year two, but if he can start giving consistently quality minutes off the bench that would set the table for a starting job as a junior if Irvin's improvement carries him to the draft.
Wagner's not even on the team yet; if he comes he will compete at the 3 and 4. He is not coming to redshirt but he's super skinny so playing time in year one might be scant.
CENTER: Doyle 24, Wilson 8, Donnal 8
Bigs develop. Repeat this mantra until you feel good.
Either Mark Donnal takes a quantum leap forward on defense or Ricky Doyle eats up most of the minutes in the post next year, fouls permitting. Doyle has a much larger frame than other options and held his own against the posts of the Big Ten. Since Doyle is also a year younger than Donnal you would expect him to develop more quickly.
Doyle has a terrific ability to finish around the basket and actual post moves. he needs to work on his hands, mostly, and reduce the foul rate that is inherent in project freshman bigs. He hedges pretty well and he gets a lot of offensive rebounds Meanwhile I wonder what the team defensive rebounding rates are with Doyle on the floor versus other options with shinier DREB numbers. Michigan is utilizing a boxout-focused style that often results in a guard skying for the rebound as Doyle butt-shoves his man out of the way.
In any case, I've been a bandwagon member since the start and think he will develop into a very solid option. He shot 61% this year in a finishing environment leagues tougher than that faced by any Michigan post since the Beilein effect kicked in; with more assisted buckets he could scrape Jordan Morgan efficiency levels while providing a bit more size on D.
Donnal, meanwhile, needs to spend the offseason gluing sand to his jaw and making mean faces in the mirror. (Also lifting weights but mostly the first two.) He averaged 6.4 fouls per 40 last year (Doyle and Bielfeldt were around 4), which was indicative of his overall struggles on D. Offensively he was efficient but low-usage.
Wilson could figure in at the 4; the guess here is that Michigan deploys him as a skilled, skinny 5, hoping his promising shot blocking makes up for what figures to be a rebounding deficiency.
FORWARD [Patrick Barron]
A major rebound beckons. This is a team that was a few points away from being 10-8, even 11-7 in the Big Ten despite not having the two guys expected to be stars before the year. If LeVert returns Michigan adds him, Walton, Robinson, Wilson, and possibly a recruit to that team. Meanwhile subtract only Bielfeldt.
Michigan also gets a year older all around. This should see them rise to approximately average in Kenpom's "experience" metric. Michigan has been hovering in Kentucky territory for a while now. It is a Beilein miracle that they've had the results they have despite that.
It'll be nice to have some guys who are a bit older. Michigan started Getting It on offense late last year as the posts realized when they should roll to the basket and the wings figured out their cuts. It wasn't just Zak Irvin knowing he should pass that helped his assist numbers go up; there were also options for him to pass to.
The LeVert version of this team can be really good, especially if Irvin is going to continue to progress and Walton regains the explosion he lost as a sophomore. They would be a Big Ten contender—and depending on what happens with the rest of the league possibly the favorite—and an easy Sweet 16 seed.
The No LeVert version of this team could still hit that ceiling but it seems more reasonable to project them as a second-tier Big Ten team that gets a seed from 5 to 9.
Five Star Characters. Vincent Smith's event happened. In a Q&A Smith shared his favorite block ever was getting concussed by J.J. Watt, and led us to believe for about a minute he was going to make comparisons between Rodriguez and Hoke. Sometime after Brian left to catch a bunch of highly padded MSU students stand lazily in front of a net and get a hundred pucks shot at them, a bunch of former and current players showed up: Willie Henry, Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes, Al Backey, Christian Bryant, and Floyd Simmons, with whom I shared the Never Forget banner. Campbell was a hit. The shot above is Big Will making a show of excitement over Thomas "Jimmy" Rawls. Then he acquired a newborn, because every iphone collection needs a giant teddy bear in a casquette holding a baby.
More importantly Vince and Will and the rest helped raise several thousand to go toward a new community garden in Flint.
You Might Remind Us Of Such Former Players as…From the diarist who brought you "I wonder if Ole Miss is doing something different" and "20 years without good basketball" comes the latest in postseason player analysis approach technology, as AC1997 reviews the 2014-'15 cagers by which former Michigan guy they ought to watch on YouTube. Sample for the biggest X factor next year:
- FMPHSWOYT: Trey Burke
- Clips: 2012-2013 Highlights, 2011-2012 Highlights
- Explanation: Again with the all-time great, but there’s a specific reason. As much as Burke was our best player in ages, he actually struggled at times as a freshman with running the ball screen offense in part due to his size. I think that was what we hoped to see Walton adjust to as a sophomore but he struggled in some of the similar ways that Burke did (height, explosiveness, inconsistent big men, etc.). Watching how Burke adapted and ran a masterful offense as he became a sophomore is what Walton should look at – with realistic expectations obviously being far short of POY results.
- Also Considered: Daniel Horton, Gary Grant, Demetrius Calip
It's kinda like "YMRMFSPA" in the recruit previews. The usefulness is limited since we're restricted to a small sample size of Michigan players people other than Craig Ross remembers. Burke comparisons for Walton are bountiful, and still unfair. Trey came in a scorer who liked going to the rim, and became an excellent distributor (and Kobe Assist-er) as a natural extension of his ability to attack the basket more so than mastery of the two-guard offense. Watch where these assists come from:
Also the subs we had. That was so crazy you guys.
Walton came in better at distribution and I think with a leap forward from his scoring game that'll really shine. His handle is fantastic but that toe kept him from being able to attack the lane; the same second he would have to stop and make a pass is when the shooting pain would hit.
A penny for a shot at a twenty. The other diary this week was Lanknows arguing with me about burned redshirts. After much discussion I declare points 1, 2, 3, 8, and 11 ancillary considerations that shouldn't affect the decision except in extreme situations, and all the other points wholly incorrect, and he conceded that it's okay to redshirt quarterbacks and offensive linemen if you don't need them. There's no need to go in there if you're planning to call his stupid points stupid—MaizeandBlueWahoo has the official fisk in the thread—but I'm all for attempts to pick holes in my arguments.
Best of the Board
Offseason threads are a good opportunity to catch up the newcomers and remind ourselves of things like Fck Lyons and Tacopants and the pain Alan Branch leaves in his wake.
Still needs a lot of filling in.
RULES FOR WEARING A JERSEY
Same guy who started the above thread also asked whether adults should be wearing team jerseys, which, and when. I have given this a lot of thought over years of mainstream sports fandom and have come up with a few personal tastes.
Everyone likes the kid who wears team gear, at least until high school demands a higher level of sophistication. For adults however I have created this handy formula: Take the number of times you thought the player is awesome while he's playing for your team, plus the number of times you expect you'll think the player is awesome in the future while playing for your team times 0.5. For college player also do this again for his pro career divided by 30. Divide the result by the number of people you will ever encounter who own that jersey. Then multiply by the percentage of people you expect to be around that day who are fans of that team, and subtract from this a percentage point for every year you've lived past 14. Add and subtract circumstantial percentage points as you choose.
The highest score on the Seth-o-Meter ever achieved was a guy who wore a Brookens jersey (and accompanying handlebar mustache) to Comerica Park before Tommy was re-hired by the Tigers. The lowest score ever was a 400-pound dude wearing a Yankees A-Rod jersey to a Mets game. The highest score at a Michigan game is:
Your Moment of Zen:
The encouraging strides Michigan took late in the season have been discussed quite a bit around here, often by picking out specific plays representative of individual improvements. To add to that, I dug into the team's final season statistics to pull out some numbers that point to a whole lot more success in 2015-16.
Zak Irvin's rebounds per game before and after Michigan shut down Derrick Walton for the season. Walton somehow managed to haul down nearly five boards a game this season despite his lingering toe injury; he finished with M's second-best defensive rebound rate. When he went out of the lineup, Irvin made a concerted effort to pick up the slack, and in doing so he made it apparent that he can play the four in the Big Ten—he's not going to be Branden Dawson, of course, but Irvin brings a lot more potential to the other end of the floor. Add in Irvin's significant uptick in assists and suddenly he looks like he'll routinely stuff the stat sheet next season.
Michigan's season-long turnover rate, good for tenth in the country. John Beilein's squads have been so careful with the ball that we now take this for granted, but to pull that off while losing two of the team's three primary ballhandlers and replacing them with freshmen is astonishing. Much of the credit here goes to Spike Albrecht, who guided the team with a steady hand throughout; even more encouraging was Zak Irvin taking on a much bigger role handling the ball and still posting a top-25 turnover rate in the Big Ten.
Aubrey Dawkins' eye-popping 2P/3P/FT% splits in conference games, which led to him leading the Big Ten in both effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage (the latter factors in free throws). The three-point percentage is probably not sustainable long-term, but even with some regression, whatever the coaching staff did to tinker with Dawkins' shot clearly worked. His season-long shot chart shows a great spot-up shooter who can finish his forays to the rim:
Look closely and you can even spy the potential to add a lethal midrange game to the repertoire. That may take a while to bear out, especially if LeVert comes back, but if Dawkins simply comes close to replicating his freshman shooting numbers he'll be a valuable floor-spacer who occasionally swings games with huge point totals.
Derrick Walton's FTM/FTA in conference games, a figure as unsustainable as Dawkins' three-point percentage, so if you'd prefer, take comfort in his 82% clip for the season. While Walton's other shooting numbers took a significant hit due (mostly) to his injury and (somewhat) to fewer open jumpers created by Nik Stauskas and LeVert, his free throw percentage improved a few points while he continued to get to the line at an impressive rate. The best-case scenario for Walton next year has him becoming James Harden Lite, an efficient creator who's going to hit threes or get to the basket for layups and plenty of chances from the charity stripe. With two healthy feet, he's got a chance to be just that.
Spike Albrecht's two-point percentage in the Big Ten. Spike attempted 63 such shots in conference play this season; in his first two full seasons at Michigan, he took just 58 two-pointers combined and made 41% of them. Most everyone assumed Spike's game wouldn't evolve too much from there; he'd spend two more seasons Harlem Globetrotting around the lane before dishing the ball off, and that was fine. Instead, he honed that funky scoop layup and turned it into a legitimate weapon. Spike may never be a true threat to attack the hoop with efficiency, but teams have to respect him in the lane now, and that opens up a lot when he comes off a screen.
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.