Michigan 72, Central Michigan 65

Submitted by Ace on November 13th, 2017 at 10:04 PM

Bench Mob, activate. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

It's me again, the guy who tells you not to pay too close attention to the final score.

This time we're talking basketball. Michigan went to 2-0 this evening with a win over Central Michigan that never felt particularly alarming nor particularly comfortable. While it wasn't pretty in the moment, however, there were some promising signs for the future of this young team.

Much like North Florida in the first game, the Chippewas came out in a zone defense that kept the Wolverine attack stagnant. They also started off hot from beyond the arc, making five of their first ten three-point attempts to jump out to an early 22-14 lead.

Then the Wolverines got some good things going. Zavier Simpson calmly sunk a three over the zone, then worked his way to the hoop for a layup. Moe Wagner took ownership of the defensive boards. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman salvaged a possession with a hard driving layup to beat the shot clock. After an 0-for-4 start, Duncan Robinson drilled a triple. Jon "Big Nasty" Teske checked in for Wagner, blocked two shots, and got hit with a terrible foul call on a third. Teske combined with Simpson for a textbook shutdown of a pick-and-roll that led to an Abdur-Rahman three that gave Michigan a one-point halftime edge.

MAAR kept a sometimes-stagnant offense going with some tough shots. [Campredon]

Frustratingly, Michigan couldn't hit enough of their open looks to really pull away in the second half; on the game, M would go 10-for-34 on three-pointers. Instead, they had to grind out a win with defense and timely transition buckets. That began early in the stanza, as blocked or altered shots by Matthews and Wagner begat five fast break points for Abdur-Rahkman, capping a 15-3 Michigan run.

The offense had its moments breaking down the CMU zone. While Matthews didn't look confident in his three-point shot, he was able to get into the lane and get the defense moving to set up a couple baskets, then showed off his athleticism with a hanging jumper in the lane. Jaaron Simmons, who was mostly quiet as the backup point guard, got a three-pointer to go in rhythm after some nice ball movement. Abdur-Rahkman, who led the team with 17 points, saved another late-clock situation with a slick step-through scoop that rattled home. With some late fast break points helping out, Michigan eventually clawed to 1.13 points per possession.

But it was the defense, which held CMU to 1.01 PPP despite 10-for-24 three-point shooting, that stood out for Michigan. Simpson's constantly pesky approach, which resulted in two steals and multiple other knockaways tonight, will make him hard to unseat as the starting point guard if he continues making open threes (2-for-3 tonight). Matthews generated some points all on his own by jumping a passing lane and going coast-to-coast for a dunk. Wagner looked improved as both a rebounder and defender—he's noticeably stronger and putting in a greater effort on that end. Teske made some impressive plays on the boards and looked surprisingly fluid; less surprisingly, he proved difficult to shoot over.

While it's not safe to assume that Michigan will be as good of a shooting team as last year, they'll certainly be better than they were tonight; Robinson and Wagner won't combine for too many 3-for-13 nights from downtown. Meanwhile, there are some early signs that Wagner and the rest of the squad have improved in the expected problem areas of defense and rebounding. That's a tradeoff I think John Beilein will take this early in the year.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]



November 14th, 2017 at 12:17 AM ^

I wonder if we think about starting Teske at the 5 for games against teams like Purdue that have a huge Ivan Drago esque mofo at center.  Start it as Teske-Mo-Matthews-MAAR-Z.  This would mitigate the risk of Mo picking up quick fouls right out of the gate and would make Haas work for those baskets over someone who can match his size.  Then you can get Mo in more advantageous situations when Drago has to sit.

The only problem is that you really would like your 5 to shoot 3s to draw Haas away from the basket, and I dont think Teske or Davis will be a threat to do that.


November 14th, 2017 at 1:18 PM ^

because we have a major rebounding problem at the four spot right now.  Duncan had one (!!!) rebound in 34 minutes yesterday.  Plus, he shot poorly.  He's a massively minus player if he isn't shooting well or at least getting a few rebounds.

We were outrebounded by CMU fairly signficantly because outside of Wagner, not a single starter had more than two.  All of our guys that went pro were solid (Wilson, Irvin) to good rebounders (Walton) and they're missed right now.

The problem is that I don't think Wagner can stay with wings on defense.  So against Purdue, he might have a hard time with Edwards.   MSU might be the best team for this.  Teske on Ward and Wagner on Jackson.


November 13th, 2017 at 10:22 PM ^

They have huge potential. I think we'll really miss Walton but if his points and assists can be split between Zavier and Simmons then great. Matthews is clean as any shooter I've seen, natural at every point, hopefully he doesn't decide to leave after one year here.  He and Wagner are the clear go-to scorers when we need a bucket. I think this team has a good chance to challenge the top of the big ten.


November 14th, 2017 at 10:35 AM ^

Like all the other early departures, he probably shouldn't but might.  He has the athleticism of gr3 and the own shot creation ability of the late Stauskus.  I'm purly speculating here but he is already better than every player on this team and some of those will be going pro this year (Mo and Maar), he very likely could and noone should be suprised if he does, though we all hope he won't.


November 13th, 2017 at 10:33 PM ^

I assume CMU will be decent this season, despite ranking at 265 on Kenpom going into the night (admittedly early rankings are based mostly on last year with so little info available from the current season). If they are not then uh-oh. I'm sure we'll get better as the season rolls along, but we're a long way from being good at this point. Interested to see how we fare against an uptick in competition which will come next week.


November 14th, 2017 at 9:48 AM ^

have been calls for a two-big lineup for years with different combinations, and thus far Wagner/Wilson was the closest we have come.  After watching last nights game, this team has a lot of potential but it is going to take Beilein a while to figure out his rotation.  Regardless of the depth of the team, Beilein will routinely have it down to about an 8 person rotation.  Due to the platoon at point,  I think we could see it stretch to 9 this year but I doubt that two bigs will be a routine feature.  I think we will see about this:

5 - Wagner (25) Teske (15)

4 - Matthews (25) Robinson (5) Wagner (5) Livers (5)

3 - Robinson (25) Matthews (10) Livers (5)

2 - MAAR (30) Watson (5) Simmons (5)

1 - Simpson (20) Simmons (15) MAAR (5)

I don't think we will see much Brooks and I don't think I have seen Poole yet.  It would not suprise me if he redshirts to take shape a little bit.

I loved the defense they played in large chunks yesterday.  I think both Robinson and MAAR (especially) are settling way to much for deep bombs but this is likely due to the zone that they have faced.  I hope that Matthews does not drift that much out by the three point line because he clearly has a versatile offensive game and can score in a lot of ways.

Despite two games that been competitive into the second half (due in large part to Central just draining some impressive contested threes), this team looks on schedule to meet or exceed the expectations I had for them which was Top 4 BIG with a nice look at the second weekend of the NCAA tourney. 


November 13th, 2017 at 11:14 PM ^

Needless for me to say, but I really enjoyed you adding the box score to the write up. I hope this will be a permanent addition to these game reviews.

The Denarding

November 14th, 2017 at 12:09 AM ^

Turnovers drive statistical variance in football, three point shooting does that in basketball. This will be either a consistently good CMU team or they hit a lot of contested three pointers they will likely not hit the rest of the year. I think Beilein is right - I think CMU is good. But the discrepancy in three point shooting was the big difference in margin and that appears aberrant both ways.


November 14th, 2017 at 12:21 AM ^

He is the biggest (literally and figuratively) story of this young season. Kid has clearly worked hard to reshape his body (and there is still room for improvement).

He looked confident shooting that little elbow jumper. He sank his free throws. He altered or blocked everything in the paint.

The most shocking improvement to me, though, is how well his feet are moving. He looks like a fluid athlete out there instead of an ent. And the energy that came with it. He's not just a guy who is huge and eats space and minutes. He still does that, but he's already much better than the placeholder I thought he'd be this season.

If he continues improving at this rate, look out.


November 14th, 2017 at 12:25 AM ^

Not buying the narrative trying to be spun in the column. 10/24 shooting is not some ungodly unbelievable performance. CMU got a lot of open shots and hit a reasonable amount of them. 1.01 PPP isn't an impressive defensive performance against a bottom feeding MAC team either.

The team played bad after playing bad two nights ago. It doesn't mean we're gonna be bad all season, but it's okay to say that they played bad.


November 14th, 2017 at 10:07 AM ^

does not win these games in that fashion.  Aside from the season of the Fresh 5 plus Burke, Michigan spends most of the pre-conference evolving into what they are going to be.  Beilein does not care if he wins these games by 5 or 50, he wants to see how the peices fit together and how the team can take shape.  Despite some unwarranted criticism on this Board, Beilein is a phenomenal basketball coach and a lot of Michigan's late season success results directly from him assessing what he has and doesn't have and adjusting his methods accordingly.  Last night was a promising game, not a reason for concern.


November 14th, 2017 at 7:05 AM ^

For concern, especially early in the season. They just don’t have anyone that can consistently create shots other than Mathews. Beyond Charles, they have a bunch of nice roll players and Mo, who as we know can be very streaky.

I think this team will be a bubble team that improves as the season goes on, but I would not expect them to turn into a sweet 16 squad like last year without multiple players breaking out.


November 14th, 2017 at 8:44 AM ^

Charles and Mo will both take over a game if no one is making shots, so will maar actually.  Charles is certainly the new go-to guy and has almost anyone beat on skill and athleticism except for the top, top players in the country.  As for cause for concern...do you watch Michigan basketball? Beileins teams never look great in the begining of the year (except the year with Trey as a sophmore).  If anything, this just fits in to the usual.  His offense is incredibly complicated and it takes 10 games for kids to understand it in live action.  It will click at around the begining of Big Ten play as usual.


November 15th, 2017 at 4:15 PM ^

Pretty much all of the point guards, teske, Davis and a few others are getting their first meaningful minutes (even Matthews can be in this group). They will grow rapidly and by time we get to middle of big ten season I think we will have a decent squad here. Definitely not world beaters, but I think they could finish top half of big ten and maybe squeeze in tourney. The Beilein B line.