Michigan 75, Iowa 68

Submitted by Ace on January 2nd, 2018 at 9:30 PM

The first six minutes of the conference re-opener against Iowa were an ugly slog. Eli Brooks committed a turnover on the team's first possession trying to fit an entry pass to Charles Matthews. Moe Wagner coughed up two turnovers and committed a foul, hitting the bench early. Wagner and Duncan Robinson had a tough time containing Iowa forward Tyler Cook, who opened the game with a Wagner-like behind-the-back dribble and dunk.

As Charles Matthews split a pair of free throws to cut Iowa's lead to 10-8 with 13:43 to go in the first half, John Beilein sent in Zavier Simpson and Isaiah Livers to replace Brooks and Robinson. It paid off immediately. Jon Teske, in for Wagner, rebounded the second free throw; the ball found its way to Livers, who dropped it off to Teske for an open midrange jumper.

Livers or Simpson were involved in Michigan's next four baskets to give the Wolverines a comfortable lead, and the two maintained a high level of play for the duration. Simpson was a bona-fide scoring threat, leading the team with 15 points on ten shot equivalents as he kept Iowa off-balance with aggressive forays to the basket and smooth spot-up threes. He also ran the offense beautifully, dishing out seven assists with no turnovers, and came up with two steals while playing his usual intense defense.

Livers, meanwhile, had the best game of his young career. While he scored 13 points, made all three of his three-point attempts, and added two rebounds, three assists, and two steals, his impact went beyond his stat line. While Michigan never slowed down Cook, who scored a game-high 28 points on 10-for-15 shooting, the presence of Livers greatly improved the overall defense. With Livers also shooting better than Robinson, Beilein went with the freshman for most of the game, playing him 27 minutes. While one-game plus-minus stats can be misleading, it's impossible to ignore that Livers finished a game-high +23 while Robinson was -18. There was a similarly sizeable split (+14 to -7) between Simpson and Brooks.

With those two leading the way, Michigan pushed the lead as high as 15 points in the first half and 17 in the the second. They took their foot off the gas early, allowing the Hawkeyes to get within single digits in the very late going, but they were never in danger of losing.

There is some danger in taking too much away from this game; Iowa is now 0-3 in the conference and, beyond Cook, looked to be at a significant talent deficit. That said, Simpson wasn't doing this kind of stuff against anyone last year, and Livers finally getting his outside shots to fall could be the key to getting Robinson back to the sixth man role to which he's best suited.

The team's ball movement tonight was as good as it's been all season; they had 18 assists on 28 field goals and ripped apart Iowa's zone when they attempted a defensive changeup. They won on the road in a conference game despite getting almost nothing (4 points, 2/6 FG, 2 TO) from Wagner. The reliable playmaking of Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman (15 points, six assists) and Charles Matthews (14 points) went a long way towards covering for that lack of production.

Those are significant developments, even against a team that doesn't look like it'll get any sort of postseason action. A John Beilein team with a true score-pass threat at the point is a dangerous thing indeed; ditto one that can field a lineup with the athleticism and defensive potential of, say, Simpson-MAAR-Matthews-Livers-Teske without seeing a significant drop in shooting ability. This team is taking shape, and they're looking dangerous.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]


LS And Play

January 2nd, 2018 at 9:38 PM ^

Livers is like Duncan except for being a better shooter, defender, athlete and all-around basketball player. Duncan's a good kid but I think Livers made the leap tonight. He should start moving forward or at the very least split minutes equally with Duncan. 


January 3rd, 2018 at 11:42 AM ^

Crean was saying that Duncan Robinson was a good help defender, so the best way to attack UM was to isolate Robinson and attack him directly. I dunno if Robinson is a good help defender or not, but Crean was definitely saying that you needed to attack Robinson one on one, which is what we all already know and are afraid of.


January 3rd, 2018 at 1:37 PM ^

While Crean did qualify his praise of Robinson's defense as being a great "help defender", he doubled down on the point by saying how much Michigan misses his role as a defender when they have to take him out.  He thought McCaffery should go right at Duncan in order to get his second foul, get him on the bench, and therefore put Michigan in a big bind.

I was actually imressed by some of Crean's analysis, but that one was laughable.



January 2nd, 2018 at 10:12 PM ^

Nah. He’s definitely an NBA prospect, but this is his de facto Freshman year considering how blah and short lived his Kentucky career was. I think both he and the NBA are gonna recognize that another year of development would be in his best interests. He looks like a solid second round pick right now, but it also seems like he has the capability to work his way into that 15-20 range in the 1st round. All that to say my money is on Charles Matthews being in Maize and Blue next year, not the G League


January 3rd, 2018 at 10:45 AM ^

I would agree, he’s got things to work on that might be a turn off for GM’s. I think what REALLY holding his stock back is his ability as a takeover player. There’s times where he looks like a dude and times where he fades into the background. Once he shows consistent scoring/passing/ rebounding (which he is completely capable of) then he’ll get those NBA calls

Frank Chuck

January 4th, 2018 at 8:00 AM ^

He has improved considerably in such a short time but he's unlikely to contribute on a projected deep team as a true freshman. Odds are he'll be redshirted. Rather than redshirt, he can go to one of the prep schools where he'll receive some very good coaching, play a lot, and come in more ready to contribute as a freshman in the 2019-2020 season.


January 3rd, 2018 at 9:30 AM ^

Matthews IMO needs to improve his ball handling a lot before making the jump to the NBA where he will most likely play a 2 position rather than a 3. If he was a better catch and shoot guy similar to Rip Hamilton was with the Pistons I could see the NBA being a good idea, but as it stands, I think there is too much he needs to improve on. 


January 2nd, 2018 at 10:13 PM ^

Is there a chance everyone comes back next year? (Matthews comes back for one more year to improve his game, same for Moe??) If that's the case Beilein Ball will be Elite in 18-19..


January 2nd, 2018 at 10:25 PM ^

then Michigan is one over the limit in scholarship count. I think JB pretty much planned for Moe to leave after this season. Foot injury doesn't help Moe at all.

Next season, we should see the lineup of:

PG: Zavier Simpson

SG: Jordan Poole

SF: Charles Matthews

PF: Isaiah Livers

C: Jon Teske

That's a pretty solid lineup and that's not counting a good recruiting class coming in like Ignas, Johns, Castleton, DeJulius and Nunez. Next year, Michigan will be really good if players can continue to progress.

matty blue

January 3rd, 2018 at 8:48 AM ^

...that's what makes me so excited - beilein has had a couple guys that just never really showed up (chatman), but he's had very few that became contributors but never developed beyond that point.

i really like this team right now, but i really really really like the way it's setting up for next year.


January 3rd, 2018 at 11:20 AM ^

that'd be the best path for a freshman to start (Ignas maybe).  Only other possibility at this point is if DeJulius wins the PG spot but with the way Z is playing the past few games, he seems to be taking control of it.

Poole, Livers and Teske are as close to locks to start next year as you can get.


January 3rd, 2018 at 11:51 AM ^

I think the odds that Ibi Watson transfers after this year are very high no matter what happens. I don't wish the kid ill, nor do I like transfers, but look at it from his point of view: he's behind Matthews, he's basically been passed by Poole, and then there's a whole incoming class with real talent. There's just not a clear path to playing time in the future if he hasn't broken through already, and John Beilein is not one to just roll veterans out there. If a young guy and a veteran are close, he often likes to roll with the young player who has more room to improve.

Davis is also a possibility, I would think, especially if Moe returns, as Teske would be the clear second big, and Castleton is coming in. This transfer would suck, as he got the redshirt instead of Teske. It would be so much nicer if senior Moe were being backed up by RS sophomore Teske. Oh well.


January 2nd, 2018 at 10:33 PM ^

Time to roll with Livers as the starter, with Duncan off the bench. Freshman caveats apply, but we're much better with Livers in there....

Make the right call, JB, and increase the potential of your team!