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?
11/20/2014 - Michigan 71, Detroit 62 - 3-0
Blow-by. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Apparently necessary perspective. Hoo boy, I guess making the point that having three players account for over three-quarters of the team's points may not be ideal in the long run equated to PANIC for many. It's admittedly difficult to make a nuanced point in a gamer written moments after the final buzzer, so allow me to flesh this out a little more.
It's November. The team has five scholarship non-freshmen. Of course there are going to be growing pains, areas of concern, and the like at this juncture. That's far from saying those issues won't be resolved, or at least mitigated, as the season progresses; on the flip side, that doesn't mean those areas aren't worth pointing out. Michigan is too reliant on their three starting guards right now. The freshmen centers and Kameron Chatman do have to step up, or there will be too many ways to exploit this team, especially when they face larger opponents.
John Beilein still coaches this team, though. In-season improvement isn't just the hope, it's the established expectation, and one only has to think back to the Charlotte game last season for perspective; every basketball team is going to have their share of ugly outings, and Michigan just beat a team with a pulse by nine in such a game.
Another helpful tack. Take a look at the recent scores of the upcoming marquee opponents on Michigan's schedule.
- Oregon, Michigan's opponent next Monday, went into halftime tied at home against this same Detroit team four days ago. They pulled away and won by 17; if the Titans had decided to start fouling at a reasonable time last night, Michigan's final margin might've been very similar.
- Villanova, the most likely opponent if Michigan advances to the final of the Legends Classic (it'll be 'Nova or VCU), nearly lost to Bucknell—the squad M whomped by 24 points—at home last night, needing a late run to win by a misleading seven points after the Bison took a 65-63 lead with 1:51 remaining. 'Nova also had a six-point second-half deficit against #237 Lehigh in their season opener before pulling away.
- VCU, for their part, had a lot of trouble at home against #113 Toledo on Tuesday. The Rockets held a four-point lead midway through the second half and were as close as one point back with three minutes to play before VCU's press forced a few critical turnovers to close it out.
- Syracuse played Cal in Madison Square Garden last night, a neutral-site game that essentially functioned as a home game. The Bears entered the evening as KenPom's #63-ranked squad. Cal won by 14.
- SMU is now 1-2 thanks to a tough schedule and some ugly play; after losing by 16 at Gonzaga on Monday, they committed 19 turnovers on their way to losing by six at Indiana last night, coughing up a 12-point first-half lead in the process.
So let's not freak out just yet.
Derrick Walton! I think this is something that often comes through better in person than on TV, but Walton's court vision in transition is something to behold. It's tough to run a 3-on-2 break better than this:
The move to initiate the break is slick, but the real moment of excellence here is the little dive into the lane just before the pass; even though Max Bielfeldt's spacing here isn't ideal, Walton forces the two Detroit defenders to collapse into the paint, and in doing so he also shortens the pass to Irvin. Walton could've easily stayed wide to the left and tried a cross-court pass to Irvin, but that would've given the far-side defender time to get out and contest the shot. Instead, he hits Irvin in rhythm, and Detroit can only contest the shot late, which is doom against Irvin.
Walton and Caris LeVert are both rebounding very well—both, in fact, have top-200 defensive rebound rates at this very early juncture—and that's allowing Michigan to get out in transition, where they're absolutely lethal.
A quiet 21-9-3. LeVert's final stat line looked darn impressive despite a very uneven performance. I'd still like to see him finish more of his drives at the rim instead of settling for pull-up jumpers, but he managed to knock down a couple of those shots last night, and at some point you just shrug and let the NBA prospect take NBA shots; LeVert's 46% shooting mark inside the arc matches his percentage from last season, and that's while shouldering a bigger offensive load without Nik Stauskas around to stretch defenses thin.
Meanwhile, LeVert's got a 25.6% assist rate against just a 11.1% turnover rate, his defensive rebound rate ranks 83rd(!) nationally, and he's been very active on defense. When his outside shot starts falling, and it will, he's going to post some absurd stat lines.
The go-to lineup. This is where those lingering concerns come to the forefront. Michigan's best lineup for the past couple games has been Albrecht-Walton-LeVert-Irvin-Bielfeldt, and I don't think that's going to hold up in the long run—the lineup has its considerable upsides but also some major shortcomings.
The positives: Spike Albrecht has been fantastic thus far this year at generating offense for others, and he found his shot last night, too. With him out there, Walton can crash the defensive boards a little more—and subsequently get M out on the break in a hurry—and spot up for those killer corner threes on the other end. This is also Michigan's most experienced lineup, so their halfcourt offense runs smoothly; these guys know where to be, which isn't the case at the moment with the freshmen.
The negatives: Michigan hasn't faced a big, strong-rebounding team yet, and I'm skeptical of how well this lineup will hold up in that regard once they do. That would be a huge problem, as this lineup would have to continue rebounding at a phenomenal rate to make up for the fact that there's zero rim protection with Bielfeldt at the five and Irvin at the four. Detroit had a few disturbingly easy layups against this group when they were able to get past a perimeter defender; once that happened, they didn't face any resistance.
I think this is a stopgap while the freshmen figure it out, and nothing more than a situational lineup against better teams. Detroit didn't have the size or post skill to attack them at their weakest point; that won't be the case in a week, and definitely not in Big Ten season.
Beilein has been visibly frustrated with his freshmen. [Fuller]
Withholding judgment. Kameron Chatman is struggling out there. DJ Wilson has no clue where he's supposed to be on the court. Mark Donnal blew a layup last night. Ricky Doyle put up a two trillion. John Beilein is unhappy with their development, and it's not hard to see why.
Here's where I scream IT'S THREE GAMES INTO THEIR FRESHMAN SEASONS. Chatman has played the most out of any of these guys, a whole 60 minutes across three games. There are people drawing big-picture conclusions about him and the others from seeing them play basketball for an hour or less. One. Hour. These guys get more burn in a single practice than they have so far this season.
TOTALLY RANDOM ASIDE: In Trey Burke's first official game, against Ferris State, he shot 1/7 from the field with a 0:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Chatman's offensive woes have been disconcerting, sure, but he's also missing shots that are going to start falling; he's 1/5 at the rim this season. His field goal misses from the free-throw area have often come off awkward drives; when he had the chance to catch-and-shoot last night, he stroked an 18-footer from the right elbow, a shot that very much looks repeatable. He's shown flashes of being a very good passer. His rebounding rates are passable and should only improve.
Chatman has a ways to go on defense, but he's already advanced in his ability to disrupt passing lanes. Looking at what guys like D'Angelo Russell and James Blackmon Jr. are doing as true freshmen—in less complicated offenses, with entirely different roles—isn't fair to the kid, and a slow start doesn't mean he won't flourish as early as this season.
The bigs have barely played enough to even have a half-baked opinion, let alone a fully-formed one. Just because Beilein finally has the luxury to put a senior, however limited in terms of size and athleticism, out there to show them how it's done doesn't mean Donnal/Doyle/Wilson won't be critical parts of the rotation going forward.
— Sactown Royalty (@sactownroyalty) November 21, 2014
It's gonna be okay, everyone.
Derrick Walton led M's late charge with great transition play. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
They should've known.
Detroit hung with Michigan for most of a rather ugly game, thanks to the hot hand of Juwan Howard Jr. (24 points) and the cold first-half shooting of Michigan. With just 5:38 to play, the upset watch remained in effect with the game tied at 52.
Then Detroit slapped the floor.
Michigan put the game away with an 11-0 run.
If you're confused about the correlation, ask a State fan.
The Wolverines couldn't buy a bucket in the first half, going 10/29 from the field, including an uncharacteristic 3/12 mark from beyond the arc. Neither team looked very good, nor did the officials, who couldn't decide whether to call the game tight or let everything go. The Titans scored on the half's final possession to take a 28-27 lead into the locker room.
The second half didn't begin so well, either, as Detroit extended their lead to four points during a rough stretch for Michigan freshman Kameron Chatman. John Beilein wasted little time going to what would be his best lineup of the night, lifting Chatman for Spike Albrecht and inserting Max Bielfeldt at center. Both provided the support Michigan's three backcourt stars needed; Albrecht dished out four assists, knocked down two threes, and added a steal, while Bielfeldt hauled in five boards and even dished out a couple assists himself.
That allowed the big three to flourish. After a rough first half, Caris LeVert went on a tear in the second stanza, scoring 17 of his team-high 21 points in the final 20 minutes; he also pulled down nine rebounds to nearly tally a double-double. Zak Irvin became the main beneficiary of Walton's fast break exploits, knocking down a couple second-half transition threes on his way to 18 points. Walton finished with 16 points of his own, grabbed three rebounds, and handed out three assists.
Outside of Howard, who needed 24 shot equivalents to score his 24 points, and an usually efficient Brandon Kearney (14 points on 5/6 FG), nobody on Detroit could get much going offensively; Michigan kept the Titans almost entirely off the offensive glass and forced most of their shots to originate from the perimeter, and eventually the Titans flat-lined, going through long stretches of the second half without being able to score.
Michigan managed to weather a bad shooting night to eventually come away with the win, but concerns are mounting as the three stars have been forced to bear what could be an impossible load to carry long-term. The Irvin/LeVert/Walton troika scored over 77% of the team's points tonight, and the freshmen expected to fill major roles either looked lost on the court (Chatman, DJ Wilson) or were disturbingly absent from the rotation as the game wore on (Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle).
That's to be expected, in part, on such a young team with such obvious go-to players, but when the competition steps up significantly on Monday—when Michigan faces an Oregon team in Brooklyn that beat these same Titans by 18 earlier this week—the lack of secondary options is going to become a serious problem.
For now, Michigan's survived unscathed, and there are encouraging signs—one of those, somewhat surprisingly, on defense, where they've owned the boards. Sometime soon, though, this team is going to need one or two of their freshmen to grow up in a hurry.
You may have noticed, especially during the second half of Monday's thumping of Bucknell, that Michigan's offense has looked a little different this season. This season's shot chart, via Shot Analytics, puts it in picture form (green dots are makes, red misses):
A little over 34% of Michigan's shots this season have come from midrange, compared to just over 25% last season. It's not a good change, either; midrange jumpers are by nature the game's most inefficient, and the Wolverines are hitting just 33% of such shots this season, down from 39% in 2013-14. A higher volume and lower efficiency is obviously not a good thing.
A closer look reveals that there may be something here worth sticking with, however. With the usual sample size caveats applying, here's a simple breakdown of what's working and what's not:
(If you're wondering why it looks like a three is included in Irvin's chart, he had a foot on the line.)
Simply put, Zak Irvin is working, and a look at the tape reveals that this may be no fluke, especially since Irvin wasn't bad on midrange elbow jumpers last season (8/19). Here are all of Irvin's midrange attempts from this season:
He's getting these shots primarily in two ways: catch-and-shoot jumpers (3/3) and step-ins when defenders overplay his outside shot (2/4). The aborted drive to the rim off a curl-cut stands as the exception, not the rule.
[Hit THE JUMP for a look at why the rest of the team isn't shooting like Irvin, as well as a picture pages of how M is getting Irvin good midrange looks.]
11/17/2014 – Michigan 77, Bucknell 53 – 2-0
then he served Bucknell pancakes [Eric Upchurch]
That was rather impressive. The Bison are not a SWAC pushover. Historically they're one of the best teams in the Patriot League, and while they fell off a bit last year they were still good enough to put scares into Stanford and St. John's and beat Penn State by ten.
Michigan blew 'em off the court, opening up a 48-19 halftime lead and coasting from there.
We never think of the Kenpom. Speaking of the coasting: it got sloppy in the second half, with Michigan settling for a ton of long twos off the dribble with 25 seconds on the shot clock. These went clang, as dictated by Karma, and the blistering hot start petered out into a less than blistering 1.15 points per possession.
Broken record time: I don't mind open jumpers taken in rhythm, especially after you've gotten past a guy on a closeout and know you've got space to elevate without being harassed. I really do not like low-efficiency long twos that come without exploring your possession for better shots. There's a reason you can get those whenever you want. It's hard to yell at guys when you're hammering the opposition, but hopefully that's one of them coaching points that can be deployed.
THE CALVES THAT ATE THE AMERICAN WEST. So… remember that time someone asked why Max Bielfeldt keeps taking threes and Beilein responded that he was an assassin in practice? I guess that's accurate. On a night where one of the Big Three was struggling with his shot and Michigan got little production out of the four spot, Bielfeldt laid waste to the Bison. He hit all three of his attempts behind the arc and scoring 18 on 10 shot equivalents. Max was a one-man Manifest Destiny out there.
Does this mean something going forward? Maybe. Bielfeldt is still way undersized for the 5 spot in the Big Ten, and in this game there were a couple of post buckets by the spectacularly-named Nana Fouland that Bielfeldt could barely contest.
But maybe the four would work? If Bielfeldt is a credible threat in the corner and the matchup doesn't seriously expose him defensively that could be an option, Kenny Kaminski style. Bielfeldt is a decent matchup against Brandon Dawson types who aren't going to blaze by him to the basket, and Michigan's not getting much production out of that spot.
I still don't think you can build a Big Ten defense around a 6'7" post.
[After THE JUMP: rebounding strategy, HULK SMASH, Irvin "not bad" face.]
They stuck to the script.
Michigan raises banners on opening day now. They did so again today, hoisting the 2014 Big Ten title banner to the rafters and handing out rings in a pregame ceremony. Continuing tradition, the biggest names from that championship squad weren't able to attend due to professional obligations; Glenn Robinson III was absent, and the parents of Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, and Jordan Morgan stood in for their sons who've taken the next step.
After all the hubbub before tipoff, a familiar scene for the returners but not for the squad's six freshmen, the Wolverines came out flat, allowing Hillsdale to ride hot outside shooting to a 15-6 lead. Then Michigan roared back by doing what they do best: shooting the rock. Three consecutive triples tied the score before M took the lead for good with a Kameron Chatman basket with 8:59 to go in the half.
Michigan leaned heavily on their veterans for production, and they came through in a big way. Caris LeVert flirted with a triple-double, posting a 20-8-9 line while hitting 4/6 three-point attempts. Derrick Walton may have been even better, leading the team with 22 points (5/8 FG, 9/10 FT), dishing out four assists, and masterfully running the Michigan fast break. Zak Irvin diversified his shooting a bit, adding several midrange buckets and even a few strong drives to the hoop on his way to 21 points on 8/12 field goals. The three stars lived up to the billing.
The rest, as expected, is a work-in-progress. Hillsdale knocked down 10/23 three-pointers in large part because the new faces in the lineup struggled on defense, especially working through the myriad off-ball screens set by the Chargers.
The freshmen showed their talent and their youth. Mark Donnal earned the start at center, had a couple nifty layups, worked hard on the offensive glass, hit a nice-looking mid-range jumper in the second half, and defended quite well for the most part, but also allowed a couple of easy buckets. Kam Chatman went 1/7 for 4 points in 30 minutes and allowed too many open shots; he also passed the ball well and had a stellar crossover in transition that led to an and-one opportunity.
Aubrey Dawkins sunk a three and seemingly reached into the upper bowl to rip down an offensive board in his limited time on the court. Ricky Doyle scored seven points in eight minutes but didn't look as quick to rotate on defense as Donnal. DJ Wilson played the entirety of his nine minutes at the five and pulled down four boards but didn't make a major impact otherwise. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman missed his pair of shots in four minutes of play, though he did display the ability to blow by defenders.
While the victory was hardly in doubt for most of the game, Michigan wasn't able to truly put it away until around nine minutes remained, and the Wolverines extended a 12-point lead all the way out to 30 over the course of the next several minutes.
In the end, it felt like an early-season cupcake game should for such a young team. The team won comfortably while getting enough of a test to have several areas of improvement to emphasize before Monday night's game against Bucknell, this squad's first against D-I competition. In the meantime, Michigan fans can rest comfortably knowing that this team can still shoot (11/19 from three) and the stars look ready to shine.