Basketbullets: Indiana Comment Count

Brian February 9th, 2015 at 12:55 PM


You should really look at the big version for the background faces [Patrick Barron]

We have a theme, a palpable theme. Michigan plays about as well as they can, is right in it with a team headed to the tournament, and cannot finish the job. Three of Michigan's last four losses have followed that pattern, with the exception a home blowout against suddenly incandescent Iowa.

That was also going to happen—the ugly blowouts against teams that can exploit the various holes in Michigan's roster—but overall it's a familiar theme: Michigan's got a bunch of guys trying their best and not quite making it. This is also known as "the Amaker tenure."

In this case Michigan had to get raided by the NBA draft, lose their top two players, and have their touted freshman spectacularly underperform. They'll be a lot better next year. Take this team, add Walton, Duncan Robinson, DJ Wilson, and a year of experience for literally everyone and you're back to being a tourney team.

Levert? FWIW, I was talking to Sam Webb during my weekly WTKA thing (Thursdays, 9 AM) and LeVert came up; he said that it wasn't a slam dunk he'd go, and I was like "er, what" and he said he likes school, loves the team, and might stick it out. He is very young for his grade. Obviously, the prospect of a guaranteed seven-figure contract is and will remain tempting.

It would be nice to finally get a guy who could go back.



Irvin bust out. Indiana does not have a good defense. Let's stipulate that. But Michigan actually saw a good deal of, you know, offense. Michigan's 13 assists were the most they'd had since the Penn State game, and rarely have they cracked double digits. That's symptomatic of an offense that's struggling and resorting to a lot of heroball.

Nobody has been more negatively impacted by this than Zak Irvin, who was an excellent microwave last year and has struggled to initiate his own offense or find kickouts from his teammates. This leads to a pattern of frustration followed by contested shots off the dribble—not good eats for your offensive efficiency.

Irvin shook that against Indiana, finishing a few buckets around the basket that were set up by his teammates and finding small windows of space for his threes. He initiated a little offense himself. He was efficient. After, Beilein praised his improved "acumen for the game," and that's about right. This was also right, unfortunately:

But if there was one nagging frustration with Irvin on Sunday, it was his struggles to finish at the rim. With eight minutes left and Michigan down nine, the forward missed a fairly routine layup. A minute later, he went up for a layup with his right hand despite being on the left side of the rim, and the shot was blocked as a result.

“He’s got his head on right, and he knows that everybody has parts of their game they need to work on,” Beilein said. “He realizes what some of those are, and he’s working on them.”

Major points to the color guy for pointing that latter problem out immediately and informatively.

Anyway, priority one for the rest of this year is for the rest of the offense to pose enough of a threat to opponents that Irvin can either find open threes or, at the very least, closeouts. He can attack those; when he's just trying to straight up beat a guy he doesn't have the lateral mobility to do that without a bunch of spins and other such moves that bring help defenders into play.


[Patrick Barron]

MAAR bust. Freshmen are up and down and hoo boy was MAAR down in this one. His missed bunny after a steal was followed by another Irvin missed bunny and those buckets combined to rankle the remainder of the game, no more so than when Michigan ended up three points short on the scoreboard.

This is no doubt an adjustment period. Teams have seen what MAAR can do and have a scouting report on him; now it's up for Michigan to get MAAR playing better than he's scouted. One priority needs to be moving him from a guy who seems to make up his mind whether it's pass or shot before the drive to one who can find the open guys under the hoop when he draws help.

And then Doyle surges. (Also Donnal.) Meanwhile, Michigan's bigs kept moderately-big Max Bielfeldt (three minutes) on the bench for the first time in forever. Donnal put up seven points on four shots; Doyle had 15(!) on 8 shot equivalents. He was one made FT from having as many points as you can without an and-one or three pointer, on 19% usage in 27 minutes.

This has a lot to do with Indiana, which got a total of five minutes from guys bigger than a willowy 6'7".

Negative: even so they still got crushed on the boards. Doyle's trying to block shots that are not good shots to block: in the first half Irvin or Dawkins or MAAR had successfully contested a drive, forcing Indiana into difficult runner from five feet. It missed, but Doyle had tried to block it and his guy was there for an easy putback. Unless you are a pterodactyl man like Anthony Davis, that's a bad idea.

16288510958_1ac48e7c28_zEvidence of offensive improvement. Michigan's last shot went through all five Wolverines before landing in MAAR's hands in the corner for a wide open look. It didn't go down, but to be able to execute that is something resembling progress.

Also, an alley-oop! It seems like forever ago when Michigan got two or three of those a game from Robinson.

[@ right: Patrick Barron]

Evidence they've got a ways to go. Blackmon (sigh) and Ferrell had a great sequence against the 2-3 in which Blackmon attacked, drawing  both high defenders. Ferrell saw this and made a cut to the soft spot of the 2-3, receiving the pass and finishing and and-one against a highly disadvantaged Irvin.

That's not something we've seen much of from Michigan during their extensive opportunities to go up against a 2-3. Very, very rarely does anyone force the zone to react before attempting to get a pass inside the arc, and a lot of the time Michigan spends 20 seconds or so trying to make a pass to initiate their offense against a zone that hasn't been deformed or stretched.

Chatman thing. He did little in his ten minutes. This is something of an improvement. I did wonder what was going on on several possessions where he sat in the middle of the floor like he was flashing to the post against a 2-3. He brought a defender with him, which almost made it look like Indiana was running a 1-3-1. It was a confusing time.

Then I figured out that Indiana was just in man to man and Chatman kept flashing to the post because he didn't recognize that. This happened on three or four possessions and is another ominous sign about how far he has to go.

Must… fight… old man sportswriter… feels. SPOCK. I am not a fan of guys sitting back from their typewriters proclaiming some dude they don't know a scourge of society because he is a bit of a showoff. I think this is more reflective of the person writing it than the subject.

But, man, Troy Williams takes it to another level. Troy Williams flexes at his mom after he successfully pours milk in his cereal. Troy Williams goes to children's hospitals and mean-mugs at cancer patients because he is to date free of same. Troy Williams makes me an old man sportswriter and therefore I dislike him.

Hatch bits. ESPN story and video:

Bring kleenex.

Thing I never want to see again. A Yogi Ferrell pull-up three. I would like him to not be at Indiana, please.


carlos spicywiener

February 9th, 2015 at 1:42 PM ^

LeVert is gone, don't even get your hopes up. 1st round potential in a light class for SG's. Time for him to provide for his family (his father passed away in HS).

Believe me. There is always speculation that a player "might come back'. 95% of the time when the money is right there for the taking...


February 9th, 2015 at 2:38 PM ^

I thought before the season began that there was probably a 50/50 chance that LeVert would come back.  I think that it is even better now (being injured, season incomplete, Dackich burning a redshirt for the team) etc.  Just because you might be a first round pick, doesn't mean that you have to go.

At the end of the day, who knows what any player is going to do?  Even they don't know until the last minute sometimes.


February 9th, 2015 at 1:33 PM ^

I'm sure all the above is very true about loving his teammates, etc.  I also wonder if he's been chatting with his buddy Staskaus about life in the league and not getting many minutes.  Levert might want to have another year to develop his skill set.


February 9th, 2015 at 2:44 PM ^

NBA minutes don't necessarily come with a decision to return to school.  Nik is a perfect example of this--he was not going any higher in the draft if he stayed for one or two more years.  Not everyone is going to be a high-minute NBA player.


February 9th, 2015 at 8:03 PM ^

I don't get it - unless he's getting the Beilein boost and the NBA is starting to think that if JB thinks you're the man you must clearly be the man I didn't see anything this year that would make me think he's NBA ready.

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February 9th, 2015 at 1:57 PM ^

Levert will likely be back, his draft stock dwindled a bit with the injury.

Plus, the team will age another year together and could do wonderful things next season.

El Jeffe

February 9th, 2015 at 2:22 PM ^

Wow, it was really dusty and my room was full of allergens and someone was cutting onions while I watched that Austin Hatch story.

Also I weeped openly because it was so sad and inspiring.


February 9th, 2015 at 3:10 PM ^

The other thing the coming close but not quite there thing reminds me of is the first half of the 2010-2011 season before the Aneurysm of Leadership.  We lost a lot of really close games to good teams that year and were frustrated about it.  Then we started winning those games.

Too late for it to matter this year though if the switch happens, probably.


February 10th, 2015 at 8:30 AM ^

The flashes this team shows are incredible. I know our draft pick potential guys are older than Burke when he made his decision his freshman year, but they need to see the benefit of another year of development and what playing on a top tier team potentially can do for their NBA status.

Low Key Recidivist

February 11th, 2015 at 7:05 PM ^

is still hands down a better defensive player, rebounder, and finisher in the paint than Tim Jr.  

People forget THJ's sophomore slump, but more importantly, while Irvin is struggling from the field (without the two leading assist leaders FWIW), he's still getting it done in other areas while being asked to carry a huge load.

Need to give the kid some slack this year.