Caris LeVert hype-train: Continue
Michigan 69, UMass Lowell 42
First, the most important thing:
Michigan raised their 2013 Final Four banner today, and if I can say so myself it looks pretty damn good up there. Josh Bartelstein, Corey Person, and a late-arriving Eso Akunne were in attendance to receive their rings; Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. had some pressing business matters to attend to, I'm told. (Burke's parents were here, though, and got a large ovation when shown on the jumbotron.)
Nothing that could happen against UMass Lowell, a Division I newcomer, was going to top that. For the first 20 minutes, however, Michigan looked like they were trying their best overshadow the ceremony in the worst way possible. From the opening possession, during which Jon Horford missed a what-are-you-doing three early in the shot clock, to the final first half possession, when Horford ignored a wide-open Glenn Robinson III on a backcut and jacked up a long two, the Wolverines looked totally flat offensively. (This makes it seem like it was all Horford's fault; it was very much a team effort.)
The Crisler Center crowd could only look on in shock as the Wolverines went into the tunnel tied 23-23 at halftime. Michigan hit just 6/23 field goals (1/9 threes) and 10/15 free throws while turning the ball over five times to just two assists. While the team looked good defensively, they played disjointed basketball on the other end, never able to get much momentum going. Even when they put in points, it wasn't necessarily pretty; Robinson scored six of his ten first-half points from the free-throw line, Stauskas four of his seven, mostly on forced dribble-drives that ended in hacks.
In the second half, it was a totally different story. The Wolverines opened the second stanza on a 21-2 run that took nearly 11 minutes; from there, they cruised to victory, again with a big push on the defensive end—an aggressive Michigan D forced ten second-half turnovers while the offense coughed it up just twice.
Caris LeVert (above, Fuller) led the way with 17 points, 11 coming in the second half, on 6/11 shooting—he hit all five of his second-half attempts—while also chipping in five rebounds, a nifty assist on a pick-and-roll with Horford, and two steals. LeVert's assist total belied his impressive passing, as Michigan bungled good looks set up by his passes on multiple occasions in the first half. He once again worked his way into the lane with regularity and hit a couple nice pull-up jumpers—if that shot is consistently falling this season, he'll be a very dangerous player.
Robinson finished with a workmanlike 15 points (4/8 FG, 7/10 FT), seven boards, four assists, and three steals. While his on-and-off aggression didn't result in many made baskets, it got him to the line frequently, and his teammates missed a few opportunities to hit him on backdoor cuts that should've resulted in thunderous dunks.
Derrick Walton once again started at point guard, and while he didn't look to create his own offense too much (6 points, 1/4 FG, 4/4 FT), he dished out four assists and was a disruptive defensive force, tallying four steals in addition to forcing a jump ball—he knew the right times to get aggressive and go for the ball, and it paid off handsomely. Fellow freshman Zak Irvin also played a big part in Michgian's second-half run, scoring all of his ten points (1/3 2P, 2/4 3P, 2/3 FT) in the final 12 minutes of play.
Nik Stauskas didn't have his best shooting night, going 1/5 from the field, but he grinded out nine points due to his willingness to drive and absorb contact—he ended up 6/8 from the line and played with the right amount of aggressiveness. While Horford also had a hard time putting the ball in the hoop (5 points, 2/8 FG), he still looked like the team's best center option without Mitch McGary, hauling in 12 rebounds (5 offensive), blocking a shot, and generally making life difficult for Lowell players trying to get clean looks in the lane.
Jordan Morgan, meanwhile, played just 12 minutes, putting up two points and three rebounds but also drawing two fouls—the change in the way charges are being called is a major negative for his defensive style if early returns hold. Max Bielfeldt fared worse, making a four-minute cameo as a center in the first half that included this sequence: missed layup followed immediately by a turnover, then a late rotation on the other end resulting in an easy bucket.
While it took a full half to gel, Michigan eventually got their act together offensively, and it was nice to see the defense carry the day even against an overmatched opponent—Lowell finished with just four fast-break points and rebounded only ten of their 35 missed field goals while yakking up 15 total turnovers. Let's go ahead and chalk up the first half performance to post-banner malaise and never speak of it again.
Guess those are on the other side of the court?
Five Times banners from 1992 and 1993s go back up.
Jimmy, Jalen, Ray, Chris and Juwan will always be Michigan basketball
This will end well.
Bet it doesn't....again.
I agree. I don't care what people say. I miss those banners being there and I mentally add them to the list everytime I look up at them.
I stopped paying attention in the second half and we started playing better. May try this out on the football game tomorrow.
Best option here is not to overreact to the first half, and I was as frustrated as anyone while watching it last night. Even last year's team played some really ugly ball at times (Penn State, anyone?) and still put it together enough to make a near-title run. So let's look at the upside:
1. The almost-certainly best player on the team hasn't played let: If he's healthy (PLEASE!) he will be easily our best rebounder, our best offensive rebound-putback guy, someone that brings a lot of energy to a team that may based on last night be prone to some lackadaisical periods, our best passing big by a mile - valuable especially on his outlet passes for a team that, even without Burke, is probably better in transition than running half court sets. I could go on. With McGary on the court, this team is much, much better.
2. Robinson has come along as far as creating his own offense is concerned. He could still stand to turn up his aggressiveness as a penetrator, but he's much better at creating his own shot than he seemed last year.
3. LeVert is an entirely different player. Playing with more confidence, control... the game looks to have slowed way down for him. He can drive, dribble, shoot, and harass guys defensively. You never know for sure until we're playing a big game against a good team. But right now he looks better than it would have been reasonable to expect in his sophomore year. Really impressed so far.
4. Stauskas is playing more aggressively - again, we don't know until we see it against a real D - will he still be able to get to the basket as easily? But he is attacking and he's strong enough now to handle a little more contact.
5. Walton plays good D and is unselfish offensively. He's doing exactly what he needs to do so far. He's not going to score like Burke - that responsibility is going to fall on his teammates. But he looks comfortable out there, like he belongs and then some. I love his craftiness picking his spots on when to go after the opponent's dribble.
6. Horford has some defensive ability when he's not occasionally standing flat-footed (or making that opposite but seemingly once-a-game awful decision to jump smack into someone he had no reason to leave his feet to defend.) He's not McGary, but is a legit option at the 5 if MM is playing at the 4. Our interior D could be as strong as it's been in some time if both guys are holding it down out there. Just make some better decisions on O, big guy.
7. It's a luxury to have the guys coming off the bench that we do. Albrecht could be a quality starting PG for an awful lot of teams. Morgan is a senior with a ton of starting experience. Irvin is a good shooter playing for a team that likes to shoot. So we have a solid nine man rotation, ten if you count Bielfeldt (he can at least spot the other bigs a few minutes here and there.) There have been times in the recent past where we didn't even have a quality starting five. I don't know if we're the most talented team out there, but we're one of the deepest.
At some point, things are likely to start clicking. I don't know if we're as good as last year - McGary will have a lot of say in that. But this should still be a very good group and (most of the time) a lot of fun to watch.
positive yet reasonable analysis
Freshman, athletic, talented, good defensively and offensively, but a little like e dear in the head lights. I expect he will make a LeVert like jump and his may come later this year due to his size and ability.
Put the fab5 banners UP!!!