Michigan 75, Indiana 63 Comment Count

Ace February 12th, 2017 at 3:49 PM

In one sense, this felt deeply unfamilar. Michigan entered today's game with zero road wins on the season and one victory in 17 tries at Assembly Hall since 1996, that an overtime win over a terrible 2008-09 Indiana squad. They never trailed the Hoosiers or even came particularly close to relinquishing their lead.

In another sense, this felt pleasantly familiar. Michigan turned up the defensive intensity, forced 15 turnovers—ten in the first half—and rode hot perimeter shooting and another tremendous game from Derrick Walton for a comfortable victory over the Hoosiers.

If this wasn't a must-win game, it was damn close to it, and Walton once again played with an intensity that matched the stakes. He scored 25 points, going 7-for-13 from the field and 9-for-9 from the line, while adding five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. It was a masaterful performance that had the CBS announcers full-on fawning over his play:

Much like in the first contest, Walton's main scoring support came from big men Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson. Wagner overcame a series of extremely questionable calls to post an 11-point, ten-rebound double-double while helping keep star IU center Thomas Bryant (8 points on 8 shots, 3 turnovers) in check. Wilson did a little bit of everything on both ends; he showed off an NBA-caliber array of shotmaking to net his 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting and his NBA-caliber combination of size and coordination to tally three blocks and three steals.

Other than Zak Irvin (5 points, 1-for-8 FG), whose offensive woes continued, the supporting cast had another strong outing. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman needed only four shot equivalents for his seven points and once again made James Blackmon Jr. a relative non-factor; Blackmon scored only six points, three of which came on a meaningless garbage-time shot. Duncan Robinson hit a couple timely threes, playing his part in making sure IU paid dearly for their live-ball turnovers. Xavier Simpson followed his breakout MSU game by converting a strong take the hoop on his only shot attempt and chipping in two assists and a steal in 12 minutes.

The first road win of the season couldn't have come at a better time. Michigan is now 16-9, 6-6 in the Big Ten, and they'll be in the field in the next round of NCAA tournament projections; in many of them, they'll be taking Indiana's place. A 3-3 finish down the stretch, which features four road games and tough home contests against Wisconsin and Purdue, should have the Wolverines in position for an at-large bid. That looks a whole lot more realistic this afternoon than it did a week ago.



February 13th, 2017 at 1:15 AM ^

because it seems like the opposite to me.  

TL;DR: We've finished the regular season strong three times under Beilein, four if you're generous with 2009.  Finished badly three times.  Neutral twice (and both were bad but they were equally as bad as we were all year).  Finishing strong is definitely NOT necessarily a Beilein tendency. He does about as often as he finishes poorly.

The one thing that does bode well is the great finishes came with strong, upperclass/experienced leadership: Lee and Merritt in 2009, Stu and Novak in 2011 and 2012, Jmo and an experienced soph class in 2014.  Walton looks like he might will this team to the second weekend of the NCAA tourney.

Sorry, this ended up being longer than expected but fun to go through the past seasons.


2016: Lost 6 of our last 9 regular season games to go from 29th in kenpom to 49th.  Had to win two games in the BTT (the first against a not good NW, the second on a buzzer beater from Kam Chatman) to make the tourney, only to lose in the first round anyway.  Disappointing ending after a 17-5 start and top 30 ranking.  Verdict: Poor finish.

2015: Lost 7 of last 9.  Missed NIT.  Had injuries all year.  Disaster season all around. Verdict: Poor finish but no worse than the poor play all year. 

2014: Won last 5 games to run away with the conference title by three games.  Verdict: Great finish, but on par with season overall.

2013: Lost 5 of last 10 games after starting 20-1 to lose conference title with most talented Michigan team since fab five. Dropped from #2 kenpom to #10.  Lost first round of BTT and were popular pick to be upset going into the tourney, but ended up making the finals thanks to miraculous Trey Burke Kansas game and otherwise stellar play. Verdict: Poor finish to regular season. At least regrouped for an excellent tourney run.

2012: Won 6 of last 7 to win a share of big ten reg season title for first time in forever.  Massively overacheiving team flamed out in the first round to 13th seeded Ohio.  Verdict: Great finsih, poor tourney.  Basically the opposite of 2013.

2011: Won 8 of last 11 to make tournament after 1-6 start to big ten play.  The glorious Darius Morris "get-off-my-court" to Kalin Lucas kicked it off.  Solid showing in tournament to nearly knock off Duke in second round.  Verdict: Great finish.

2010: Lost 9 of last 13 to miss NIT.  Bit of a head scratcher after making the tourney the previous year with mostly the same players.

2009: Won 4 of 6 (5 of 8 counting BTT) to make the tournament for first time in forever.  Verdict: Not exactly a hot streak to end, more like they held on to make the tourney after a 13-3 start.

2008: Bad first season all around under Beilien, let's just not talk about it.

snarling wolverine

February 13th, 2017 at 6:56 AM ^

Injuries were a factor in 2015 and 2016.  Both years, we lost two guards to injury and I think some of the others wore down due to playing too many minutes.  

Beyond those two years, the general trend looks positive (though 2010 is certainly a head-scratcher).  BTW, in Beilein's first season we were 5-17 through 22 games, then finished 5-5, so that was a good finish for that team.

We can perhaps phrase it this way: in years where Beilein's teams have needed a strong finish to secure an NCAA bid and/or the B1G title, they've gotten it.  2013 was ranked in the top 10 all year and could afford a slipup.  Incidentally, we didn't lose in the first round of the BTT that year; we beat PSU.  I don't think Beilein has ever lost an opening BTT game.





February 13th, 2017 at 1:06 PM ^

definitely a big factor in 2015 to lose both Caris and Walton, and we showed a lot of heart under Spike's leadership to put a lot of those losses into OT at least, which is why I called it neutral despite losing 7 of last 9. In 2016 we held on for a while without Caris before the late season swoon - it did contribute, you're right.

Beilein's first season was so bad thanks to massive transition costs that the bar wasn't high for "improvement".  Just because the big ten sched eased up a bit and we beat a 145th ranked Iowa team twice and a 130th ranked PSU team, I'm not really inclined to call it a strong finish when we also lost to 191st ranked NW at home. I'd keep it as "inconclusive/neutral".

2013 could "afford" a slip up?  We blew the conference championship (so no we didn't finish strong when we needed that), put ourselves in a very tough seed situation and if not for a miracle against Kansas, we'd have gotten no champioships from the most talented team in college basketball that season.  But yes, I stand corrected that we beat PSU to get to the quarters. We finished poorly that regular season any way you objectively look at it, which was the point of the analysis: how do Beilien's team's finish before NCAA championships? Results are mixed.

I do agree that it is impressive (I guess) that in all the years we've been on the bubble, whether we played badly down the stretch to get on the bubble (last year), we've never been on the wrong side of it.  We've amazingly never played in the NIT with Beilien despite not making the tourney three times.  It's either been bad (losing record) or we do enough to get in.

That brings us to your point about BTT:  Beilein is indeed 9-0 in first games of the big ten tournament.  He is 2-7 in second games. and 0-2 in third games.  He's only made the finals of the tournament once and lost in 2014.  Glad no one really even cares about BTT titles (committee included).


February 13th, 2017 at 9:01 AM ^

Two years ago, I thought the team actually did improve down the stretch, though it didn't show in the record.  After we lost LeVert and Walton, I frankly expected us to tank, but we were competitive - except that we kept losing games in overtime.  That was when MAAR suddenly emerged as a playmaker, and Irvin also stepped up his game.  

Last year I felt worse about the season, at least pre-BTT.  We did put it together at the very end to sneak in the tourney.


Stringer Bell

February 12th, 2017 at 3:56 PM ^

Nice game, but games like this and MSU just make you wonder why they can't play with this kind of intensity night in and night out.  This is a veteran team, they should be able to.  But if they can manage to win one of Wisconsin or Purdue at home and not gack it up on the road they should be able to get in.


Oh, and if Zak Irvin wants to get his head out of his ass any minute now that would be just great.


February 12th, 2017 at 4:36 PM ^

Honestly, good couple of wins, but a week ago everyone thought Beilein was gone. Now Michigan's back on the positive side of the bubble (probably) and we're all happy for the moment.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. This is the sort of team with the experience and the developing underclassmen that coaches at non-KU/UK/UNC schools work for to make good tournament runs. It should be a solid 5 or a 6 seed right now, a real threat to make the Sweet Sixteen, based on Beilein's own development and coaching style.

And all it takes is a rough game here or there and we're back out.

I think Beilein comes back next year, and I think it is better if the "fire" crowd (whose objections are not without merit) accept that as reasonable, assuming Michigan doesn't totally collapse here. But, whether they make the tournament this year or not, I think next season should be a very hotseat season for Beilein in which a bubble year followed by either the NIT or a low-seeded round-of-64 departure is grounds for firing. 

An afternoon after a good game like this is a good time to make that determination, IMO. 


February 12th, 2017 at 4:50 PM ^

Do you ever make comments under 5 paragraphs and 200 words? Its post game after a big win, LIVE a little and give me the HOT TAKES. Save the rational analysis for tomorrow. 

Somebody just compared Walton to Kemba Walker in the other thread lol. MORE OF THAT. 

I'll come to grips with the fact we still probably miss the tournament tomorrow when I sober up from drinking all this Kool-Aid. 

snarling wolverine

February 12th, 2017 at 4:53 PM ^

If we make the tournament, I don't think he'll be on the hotseat at all.  In order for us to be in the tournament (which is still probably a 50-50 proposition at the moment), we'll have to have finished the season strongly, and it's hard to be too upset with a coach whose team showed growth over the course of a season.  

With Simpson starting to show us something, you can see the pieces for next season beginning to fall into place.  If both Wilson/Wagner are back (not sure if they have any draft prospects or not), MAAR and Robinson returning, the kid from UK becoming eligible, and this year's freshmen hopefully maturing further, we could have a pretty good team next year. 


February 12th, 2017 at 11:44 PM ^

Being a perennial bubble team isn't what we should strive to be.  

This is a team with highly touted (as recruits) senior guards, extremely talented bigs and six of the top eight players are 4-stars.  We started out the season blowing out a very good SMU team to get into the kenpom top 15.  I wouldn't say we're "finishing strong" so much as getting our early season form back and once again playing to our potential.  And it's only been two games of that.  Just last weekend we lost our worst game of the year and it looked like it was over.

Beilein isn't getting fired even if we miss the tournament, and he's not on a "hotseat" per se (and he shouldn't be yet), but if we top out at only squeaking into the tournament for a couple more years, it will be about time to move on.

snarling wolverine

February 13th, 2017 at 9:22 AM ^

In a couple of years' time, JB will probably call it a career. 

I'm not sure where I said we should strive to be a bubble team annually.  Beilein's been to the national title game, so obviously I'd hope for more.  In the context of this season, though, making the tournament would represent a good finish to the season.  I do think that next year's team, barring unexpected attritition, should aim to be a B1G contender.

I disagree that it's been only two games of improvement.  I think we've generally played pretty well since the "white collar" Illinois game, with the notable exception of OSU (which was a poor argument, no argument there).   We're 5-3 since that first Illinois game, which doesn't sound all that great, but we're +70 over that stretch.  I think we are better than our current record shows and will finish with a winning B1G record.






February 13th, 2017 at 2:50 PM ^

were in response to you saying it's hard to be too upset with a team that showed growth over the season.  So I was merely saying that at some point "growth" relative to previous underacheivement is something I would be disappointed with. I would be disappionted just making this tournament as a 9 or 10 seed and losing in the first or second round given the talent and experience we have.  I am disappointed that in a weak Big Ten, we didn't compete for a title.  

I absolutely think we're better than our record shows, so that's either bad luck, underacheivement, or both.  If that continues either as this season finishes or next season, the luck aspect won't be an excuse and we'll be left with underacheivement.

I do agree that Beilein will call it quits before too long, I just hope he goes out on a high note with a nice run and that we miss him, rather than trailing off to the point where more people are glad he's gone than not.


February 13th, 2017 at 2:00 AM ^

There will always be a risk of Wagner going to play for a pro team back home. But I think as long as Beilein is here it is more likely he remains at Michigan. I would love to see him stick around campus for another offseason. It would both be great for his strength as well as keeping him further away from the recruiting of professional European clubs.

Year of Revenge II

February 12th, 2017 at 5:23 PM ^

Beilein was not gone after OSU, nor was he on the hot seat.  Anybody who thought that was dreaming.  Two wins do not a genius make, nor two or more losses make you an imbecile.

He has been a good coach, is not a cheater, and was safe even if we had lost out.  He is not on the hotseat this year or next, whether people want that or not.  The question is, when will he retire, and how will that be handled within the AD. The Athletic Department does not respond to opinion trends on this blog.  Do we need a culture change? I believe so, especially in terms of recruiting.  

JB deserves credit for getting this team to play with more effort, and to crank up the defense.  Hopefully he can coach them up to sustain it.

This team might have an achievement ceiling, which is not what we should be satisfied with as Michigan fans, but it looks like a different team, like one who may have learned how to win.  Great game! Great win! Keep it up.


February 12th, 2017 at 5:58 PM ^

He's improved. But didn't he bring in a specialist to improve the defense. Not that I'm in every locker room but who has to do that?

To fire you have to have a better replacement. To not criticize, you have to have been good, which he has not until very very recently. I.e. Frieder was not a good in game coach with 7, maybe 8, NBA players on his roster in 89, getting beat up by Iowa and Illinois at home consecutive seasons.


February 12th, 2017 at 6:14 PM ^

We might want to remember that Beilein "had" to hire Billy Donlon and Saddi Washington because he had two vacancies on the staff- as LaVall Jordan and Bacari Alexander were hired as head coaches elsewhere.  Generally, it speaks well of a coach when other schools are trying to hire his assistants away.


February 12th, 2017 at 7:08 PM ^

That's like us saying grad seniors and transfers are a sign that a coach stinks. Horford. Kam. Beilfelt. Spike. I'll give you that others like Dawkins, Doyle and others didn't fit but spike was so needed this year and beilfelt was made to be a 4 in this system (while zak struggled to guard the 4 on the post).


February 12th, 2017 at 7:42 PM ^

Actually, I don't think you can judge the decision to like Spike transfer until next season.  The biggest reason not to offer Spike a fifth year was the expectation that playing time for Albrecht would come at the expense of Simpson.  These last couple of games, where the light has come on for X?  It's quite possible that it doesn't happen if Spike's still on the team.  The real test, however, will be next season.  If X is ready to be the primary point guard, Beilein probably did the right thing for the program by letting Spike walk.  If he isn't, well... that calls a lot of things into question, including the Albrecht situation.

snarling wolverine

February 12th, 2017 at 7:46 PM ^

On that note, Spike is averaging 1.6 ppg, 1.3 apg and shooting 20% from the floor this season.  He's made six shots all year.

It might not hurt to have him in the locker room, but as a player, it looks like he's not even close to his pre-injury self.  He's basically a warm body to eat up a few minutes a game.





February 12th, 2017 at 11:55 PM ^

he's shooting FTs at 93 percent and has a 4:1 assist to TO ratio in 10 mpg of conference play.  Has a 101 Ortg which is actually amazing given that he's only 3-20 from three.  

You're definitely right that he's just a guy to give a starter a breather and I'm glad that's X for us this year.  Letting him go was the right move, even though it was tough.