Michigan Basketball Weekly: All Good Things

At long last it has happened. The magical streak of conference wins has finally come to an end. The impressive streak, which featured monumental team wins, including at Wisconsin and at Michigan State, comes to an abrupt halt at 8 games after a heartbreaking suppressing at the hands of Indiana.

The Week That Was:
The Wolverines came into the week with a full head of steam, fresh off a shocking upending of Michigan State at the Breslin Center. Eager to show off their new 10th overall ranking, Michigan swiftly handled Purdue Thursday night 75-66. The convincing win highlighted Michigan’s offensive prowess, featuring four Wolverines in double figures, including a double-double from Caris LeVert. Michigan would finish at an extraordinary 61% from the field on almost 54% from behind the arc. Sunday’s showdown in Assembly Hall would not prove nearly as fruitful for the Wolverines’ offense. Merely two players cracked double-digit scoring, as the struggling offense sputtered to 40% shooting from the field and an abysmal 23% from downtown. Formally fastening the final nail in the coffin was Indiana sensation Yogi Ferrell, who finished with 27 of the team’s 63 total points and a downright jaw dropping 7-of-8 from three-point land. Ferrell was also chiefly responsible for the consistent stifling of Nik Stauskas, co-leader in Big Ten scoring, who only managed to fire off six shots from the field, converting one of them en route to a disconcerting 6 points.

caris levert

Caris LeVert

Last week, through a still-relevant Home Alone reference, I described the potential tailspin into which the Wolverines could fall if they were not careful this week against, frankly, a very underrated Indiana team on the road. Well, here we are, but things are not as bad as they seem. Luckily, five of the Top 10 teams in the nation lost this weekend. Read that sentence again. Arizona, Kansas, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, and now Michigan, all fell to lower ranked opponents, and now brace for the impending rankings slide. The collective free fall could mean a bit of leniency expressed toward the Wolverines.

This Week:

Ironically enough, the past week signified arguably the easiest stint in Michigan’s Big Ten schedule. Now anxious to dispel the rumors of their incapacity, the Wolverines will look to bounce back strongly against conference bottom-feeder Nebraska Wednesday night, before a sizeable challenge on the road in Iowa on Saturday.  The scoring presence of Nik Stauskas has emerged as a must-have if the Wolverines want to win, but there are a number of trends that must also be maintained in order to label the Indiana loss as a surmountable speed bump, and move forward into the tournament. First, Jordan Morgan will need to keep up the stellar rebounding numbers. Still no word concerning McGary injury timetable, so Morgan and Horford (which Bill Raftery insists people are calling ‘Morford’, though I’ve never heard the term) must continue to fill the void left by McGary, especially against lengthy teams like Iowa. Morgan has been a staple on the boards, though essentially a nonfactor on offense. Second, Derrick Walton Jr. must continue to play at a high level. The free-throw hero against Michigan State and the leading scorer at Indiana, Walton has emerged as a legitimate offensive threat from anywhere on the court. His reliability has become a crutch for the Wolverines late in games, and should only increase as teams increasingly start to key in and lockdown on Stauskas. The Wolverines face off against Nebraska Wednesday at 6:30 in Ann Arbor, followed by a 2 PM showdown Saturday in Iowa.

  • WOLVERINE

    ^The Snake^,
    AGREED!!!! WHERE WAS THE GLENN “THE BIG DOG, JR.” ROBINSON III. THAT HAD PASSION, FIRE, EMOTION, DETERMINATION, AMBITION, HEART, FEARLESSNESS, SWAG FROM THE MINNESOTA, WISCONSIN, MICHIGAN STATE, NEBRASKA AWAY GAMES THIS SEASON???!!!! YOU WOULD THINK THAT AFTER THE PUNK MOVE THAT AN INDIANA PLAYER (IN THIS CASE NOW GRADUATED-CHRISTIAN WATFORD) COMMITTED A BLANTEDLY THUGGISH PUSH IN THE GR3’S LOWER BACK INTENTIONAL FOUL (MADE NO PLAY ON THE BALL AT ALL WHATSOEVER) IN LAST SEASON’S HOME GAME AGAINST INDIANA THAT GLENN ROBINSON WAS WILLING, READY, AND CAPABLE OF GOING H.A.M. ON INDIANA (NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT GR3 IS FROM THE STATE OF INDIANA!!!!) AND WOULD DISPLAY THE AFOREMENTIONED CHARACTERISTICS IN THOSE AFOREMENTIONED CONFERENCE ROAD GAMES (ZAK “ATTACK” IRVIN DID, THANKFULLY WHO IS ALSO FROM THE STATE OF INDIANA)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    HE NEEDS TO BRING IT ALL-AROUND — REGARDLESS OF OPPONENT, WHERE THE GAME IS BEING PLAYED AT, AND VENUE!!!! WE LOOKED LIKE WE WERE STUCK IN CEMENT PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY (FOR WHATEVER REASON [WHY, I DON’T KNOW]) AND SOMEWHAT LETHARGIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ****^^^^THANKS & PEACE!!!!^^^^****

  • The Snake

    GR111 better pick it up. He should have been benched Irving should have played more. I don’t get GR111 not coming to play at a high level every game. If he thinks he’s ready for the NBA not this year.

    • Scott Freedman

      There are two types of basketball coaches when it comes to players underperforming: The Bencher and The Believer. The Bencher throws a guy on the pine after a few bad plays, the basketball equivalent of giving a misbehaving child a timeout. “You take some time and think about what you’ve done!” The Believer (not to say that Benchers don’t believe in their players) will leave a guy in the game despite myriad instances of bad play, hoping that the increased time on the court will help the player regain confidence (whether on offense or defense) and work through the slump. Fans tend to favor the Bencher because his philosophy spells immediate relief for a noticeably struggling player, which they see as giving the team a better chance to win. If I had a nickel for every time I angrily questioned why a seemingly ineffective player was still in the game, I’d be very wealthy. John Beilein is a Believer. He is the kind of coach that will bench his leading scorer to get some bench guys a little extra game exposure. Perfect example: Zak Irvin. A 5-star recruit coming into his this, his freshman year, he’s struggled to find his groove thus far, averaging roughly 6 points per game on around 16 minutes, and taking the backseat to fellow freshman Derrick Walton Jr. But Beilein has continually shown confidence in the young forward, showing him respectable minutes and emphasizing full confidence in Irvin’s shot. This lasting faith has let Irvin work out a lot of kinks and emerge as a legitimate threat on both ends of the court. Had Beilein simply written him off as an overrated lost cause, there could have been a possibility of seeing Zak Irvin wearing a different jersey next year. But the longstanding confidence that Coach Beilein has for all of his players fosters an environment of positivity and teamwork where every player is a potential threat, and every player has the chance to log serious minutes, despite stints of ineffectiveness. If anything, since the start of Big Ten play, GR3 has been playing incredibly, and Beilein did not want to display a lack of confidence in him by throwing him on the bench at the first sign of trouble. I’ll agree that Irvin was definitely feeling it on Sunday, and probably could have provided an offensive lift. But it’s times like these that we need to take a step back and understand how lucky we are to have a Believer in Beilein on the sideline, providing confidence and positivity to his players which will truly be a benefit in the long run.

  • WOLVERINE

    ****^^^^ALSO, WE MUST RUN WHOEVER IS GUARDING NIK STAUSKAS IN TERMS OF TIRING HIS AZZ OUT WITH HARD, RUGGED FLARE-SCREENS, STAGGERED SCREENS, “SANDWICHED”-DOUBLE SCREENS, TO MAKE HIS DEFENDER “FEEL” IT (AND IDEALLY HAVE IT INVERSELY EFFECT HIS OFFENSIVE GAME). ALSO WHEN THEY WENT TO A ZONE, WE SHOULD HAVE STATIONED TO MICHIGAN PLAYERS (ONE ON EACH SIDE OF THE PAINT) AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAINT (WHERE IT MEETS THE OUT-OF-BOUNDS LINE [A.K.A. “THE ELBOWS”]) TO GET READY TO RECEIVE THE QUICK “FAST” PIN-POINT PASS EITHER WITH BACK TO THE BASKET OR FACING UP TO THE BASKET FROM THE OTHER PLAYER THAT “POSTS UP” IN THE MIDDLE WHERE THE ZONE IS EXTREMELY VULNERABLE, FOR AN EASY BUCKET/LAYUP!!!!!!!!!!!^^^^**** NOTICE HOW INDIANA ATTACKED US WHEN WE WENT TO A 2-3 ZONE (DID IT ONLY ONE TIME IN THE GAME)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    ****^^^^NEED I SAY MORE?????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!^^^^****
    ALSO, SOME COMMENTERS (USUALLY MICHIGAN BASKETBALL BEAT WRITERS) HAVE REFERRED TO MORGAN AND HORFORD AS . . .
    HORGAN
    GOOD ARTICLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    — WOLVERINE

    • Scott Freedman

      That’s a great point. I noticed during the Indiana game that Stauskas seemed to be standing around more than usual, blanketed by Yogi Ferrell. And rather than setting screens (or something similar) to get him open, it was as if the team was content to try to run the offense essentially sans Stauskas, their leading scorer, obviously not the ideal avenue to pursue. This year we’ve seen some instances of Nik being locked down, and guys like GR3, LeVert and Walton have been able to pick up the slack (this year seems to be defined by other guys successfully picking up slack i.e. “Horgan”). But these lockdown stints are usually pretty short-lived and Stauskas ends up producing by the time the buzzer sounds. I think Sunday’s loss shows just how valuable Nik Stauskas and his lethal scoring ability are to the Wolverines.