I thought that myself when I read that article that talked about a Data Scientist(tm)
hoops game recaps
I don't have much to say here, because nobody is going to want to read this.
Michigan went into halftime with an eight-point lead after Spike Albrecht drilled a contested three over AJ Hammons. A long two by Zak Irvin kept the lead at eight with 19:11 left in the second half.
The Wolverines would not hit a shot for the next 12:34. They'd finish with just three second-half field goals.
The big three of Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert, and Derrick Walton combined to hit just 6/31 shots. Irvin managed to miss all four of his layups, and he accounted for nearly half of M's total attempts at the rim. If not for Albrecht scoring 17 and Ricky Doyle going 3/3 from the field, this game somehow could've gone worse.
Aubrey Dawkins, the hero of the Illinois game, scored a basket for Purdue on an accidental tip-in. He did not score for Michigan.
A Big Ten road loss is not a death knell, of course. The fashion in which Michigan acquired it, however, is deeply troublesome. The Boilermakers crushed them in the paint, owned the glass, and on the rare occasion they gave up half-decent looks, the Wolverines rarely converted.
Whether it's inexperience, injuries, the lack of a viable big man, or—most likely—some combination of the three, there's something deeply wrong with this team. They're running out of time to figure it out.
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.
Michigan dropped their fourth straight game, unable to Harbaugh themselves past SMU. Their three-point shots wouldn't fall through the Harbaugh; the Fightin' Harbaughs hit just 8/36 shots from beyond the arc.
A nice stretch by Mark Donnal, who finished with 13 points, briefly got Michigan back into the Harbaugh in the second half, only to see the Mustangs pull away late. Caris LeVert couldn't hit the broad side of a Harbaugh, scoring four points on 1/8 shooting. Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton required far too many Harbaughs to tally 17 and 11 points, respectively.
The Wolverines are really going to have to Harbaugh in Big Ten play to have any hope of making the NCAA tournament. With only Monday's game against Coppin State left before conference play beings, they must get their Harbaugh together soon.
In the face. (GIF via Vice Sports.)
For a reeling, young, undersized Michigan squad, Arizona represented one of the worst possible matchups.
The Wolverines fell in a laugher, unable to deal with the Wildcats' imposing combination of size, skill, and athleticism. Michigan's inability to generate shots inside the arc or hit them from beyond it led to an early deficit that only grew as Kameron Chatman and then Zak Irvin found themselves in foul trouble.
At one point in the first half, John Beilein threw out a lineup of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Caris LeVert, Aubrey Dawkins, Max Bielfeldt, and Mark Donnal; Beilein subsequently relented on his usually rigid foul policy and reinserted Irvin late in the half despite his two fouls.
The situation only got more dire in the second stanza, as M failed to score a point until the 14:55 mark; the Arizona faithful stood until that moment, displaying impressive adherence to tradition. The Wolverines remained unable to get into the paint, get out on the break, grab offensive rebounds, or defend the interior; adding to the blowout, Arizona got numerous second-chance buckets after failing to record an offensive rebound in the first half—not as much of a surprise as it may seem, as they only missed nine shots in that span.
The individual issues are barely worth noting; such is the nature of a bloodbath. Zak Irvin's shooting woes continued, and a mental lapse of some sort earned him a benching from Beilein mere moments into the second half. Caris LeVert, repeatedly denied even a sniff of the rim, couldn't carry the offense as he has in the past. The bigs were helpless against Arizona's impressive front line of Brandon Ashley, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Kaleb Tarczewski.
Without context, this game may not be cause for sounding the alarm; after all, this was an extremely tough matchup—especially for a young Michigan front—against a very good team in the first true road game of the season. Coming off back-to-back upset losses at home, however, it's time to acknowledge the possibility that the Wolverines will have to claw their way into the NCAA tournament picture, even with Beilein on the bench. This team is better than it looked today, but it's also got a long way to go.
NOTE: Given Ace’s current situation, I volunteered to write the game wrap. I regret everything.
The stages of a shocking upset are predictable. It starts with amusement. Then it moves to concern about the effects on KenPom or the polls. Then it becomes a mild concern that this might actually become a problem. Then there’s a moment when you realize, “uh oh.” And it stops being fun.
When NJIT hit an uncontested layup with less than 12 minutes left to take a 46-44 lead, it stopped being fun. When they took a seven point lead with 9 minutes left, it became terrifying. And when Damon Lynn hit yet another three point bomb to give the Highlanders a 4-point lead with under 3 minutes left, you stared at the calendar and thought to yourself “I thought football season was over.”
Lynn was insane in the second half, scoring 15 points on 5 of 6 shooting from deep. As a team, NJIT came in shooting 33% from three, but shot 64.7% (11-17 )in this one. It was reminiscent of the Detroit game, with one exception; they never. Stopped. Hitting. Adding to the problem was that NJIT connected on a half-dozen back door layups. All of this added up to an eFG% of 70.7% for the game. But other than a few breakdowns, Michigan’s defense wasn’t obviously bad. NJIT was just better.
[…Nope. Re-reading that last sentence didn’t make any more sense than it did the first time…]
The first half was statistically bizarre. NJIT shot 75% eFG% from the field, but forced almost no turnovers, didn’t record a single offensive rebound, and didn’t shoot a single free throw. Michigan jumped out to an 8-0 lead with NJIT turning the ball over on its first four possessions, and it looked like the expected walk-over was underway. Michigan had a five-point lead at the break, but came out of the locker room stone cold. They were stuck on 44 points for nearly seven and a half minutes, during which time their six point lead became a seven point deficit.
All of this wasted a masterful second half performance by Caris LeVert. He finished with 32 points on 20 shot equivalents (including 6 of 8 from 3), 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. He and Lynn went back and forth trading daggers for much of the second half. Derrick Walton returned to the lineup with 16 points on 11 shot equivalents, though he turned the ball over four times. The problem was that LeVert and Walton didn’t get nearly enough help.
After a couple of solid outings, including a really good day against Syracuse, Kam Chatman came crashing back to earth with an 0-for-6 day. He repeatedly passed up open threes, instead dribbing into the lane (and into traffic). Those are shots Beilein’s offense needs the four-man to take and make at a reasonable clip, but Chatman doesn’t seem to have any confidence in it right now. Zak Irvin also had a rough day, going 2-11 (1-8) from the field for five points.
Possibly the biggest surprise (other than the obvious) was that Michigan’s bigs did almost nothing. Despite facing a vastly undersized Highlanders team, neither Donnal nor Doyle scored in the last 26:32 of the game. Donnal hit twice from the field (including his first three-pointer). Doyle grabbed four rebounds, but couldn’t corral a crucial defensive board
when he was absolutely mauled with no foul call with ten seconds left.
Michigan briefly busted out the 1-3-1 zone in the second half, resulting in one turnover and one wide open lay-up. We didn’t see enough of it to know how well the freshmen have grasped it, but at least we know it exists somewhere.
Sometimes you just have to tip your cap.
After a forgettable first half, Michigan and Villanova put on a show, trading big runs and phenomenal plays in one of the best college basketball games of this young season. Unfortunately, one of them had to lose.
The decisive play was representative. With five seconds left, down by a point, Michigan inbounded the ball from the Villanova baseline. John Beilein drew up a beauty of a play, freeing up Zak Irvin for what looked like an uncontested layup. Out of nowhere, JayVaughn Pinkston contested it, emphatically. The Wolverines were good; the Wildcats a hair better.
What cannot be lost is how encouraging this game became from Michigan's perspective, especially considering the first half and change. From the 7:13 mark of the first half until the 17:21 mark of the second, they didn't score a single point, allowing Villanova to turn a one-point deficit into a 13-point lead. John Beilein rotated through all four centers in the first half to poor results and lots of foul trouble. With 20 points on 30 possession at the break and an ugly start to the second stanza, a young M squad easily could've packed it in; this game would stand as last year's Duke game did, a learning experience via rote blowout.
Instead, they hit Villanova back. Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert, and Derrick Walton made consecutive baskets to make the game tight in a flash, and Spike Albrecht's triple with 11:19 left gave Michigan a lead they would tenuously hold until Dylan Ennis tied it up with a dagger from the corner with 2:36 on the clock.
The teams would trade buckets until Pinkston scored the eventual winning points with a strong—some might say too strong—move down low for a lay-in with 13 ticks left; moments later, his clean block of Irvin all but ended it. Michigan's last hope to tie it up faded ingloriously when Max Bielfeldt threw away a long inbounds attempt, but that shouldn't take away from a tremendously exciting game.
Yes, Michigan let a shot at a signature win slip away. That they were in position to get one in the first place against a much more experienced, and quite talented, Villanova team was a victory in and of itself, however; those bemoaning the loss ... well, "can't see the forest for the trees" comes to mind.
Admit it, that was a hundred times more fun than any football game this season. There will be bumps in the road, but this team is pretty darn good right now, and I can't wait to see what they're going to look like come March.