Lets take a look at the performances of the key players in Michigan Basketball’s Big Ten championship claiming destruction of Illinois Tuesday and how their recent form lends to the NCAA tournament. The Wolverines’ tied a school record with 16 3-pointers en route to a 84-53 victory. The championship is Michigan’s first outright since the 1986 season and earns them the number one seed in the Big Ten tournament next week. With the win the Wolverines improves to 22-7, 14-3 and will close out the regular season at home against Indiana on Saturday.
Derrick Walton Jr.: A-
Played a solid game all around with 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Went 1-1 from three point range and 4-4 from the line. Those kinds of stats are something Wolverines’ fans can be happy about heading into tournament time as a solid all-around performance by a point guard generally lends itself to a solid team performance as it indicates solid ball movement and scoring distribution. There is still a bit to be desired in terms of his shooting but the current offensive rotation allows him to play more of a supplemental scoring role than a primary scorer.
Caris LeVert: B+
Seemingly always gets in the lane with his slippery frame and ball handling. Despite his lanky Kevin Durant like frame, he consistently shows an ability to be strong and finish around the basket even with contact. Despite his sometimes frustrating shot selection, LeVert is the second most important player in terms of how the Wolverines’ play behind Nik Stauskas. His 15 points and 4 rebounds were a solid contribution along with his steal but he did shoot 50% from the line. Come tournament time, almost nothing is as essential as free throw shooting as almost every game comes down to 5 points or less. LeVert has grown into an integral part of the offense that will be crucial for Michigan down the stretch.
Nik Stauskas: A
Stauskas gets my vote for Big Ten Player of the year and proved his worth with his performance tonight. The epitome of his performance came at the buzzer of the first half when he endured the now common “U-S-A!” chants hurled his way on the road and calmly drilled an NBA range three. He finished 7-9 from three with 24 points total. Despite his rut in the middle of Big Ten play where he seemingly disappeared, it now seems that Stauskas is back heading into postseason play.
Glenn Robinson III: B+
Not an outstanding performance but also not a poor performance. Unfortunately, this description could be used for far too many of GRIII’s performances for Michigan. He seems to lack the confidence in his shooting ability to demand the ball, not necessarily a bad thing as he does not play the role of a shooter in the rotation. He has become more effective in pulling down rebounds and defending so that is a definite improvement from last year’s postseason GRIII. He has also developed into a very confident finisher which bodes well for this team as the chemistry and distribution has improved throughout.
Big Men: B
Hopefully Jordan Morgan’s injury is nothing too serious as he was effective in the post offensively in his limited minutes going 2-3. Jon Horford stepped in and grabbed 10 solid rebounds but did struggle going 1-4 from the field. These two will be essential in how far the Wolverines can go in the tournament as rebounding has been a key indicator for how successful this team is in games. They do not need to score often but they do need to play an integral part in the offense in terms of screens and distribution.
Standard solid performance from the two rotation players Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht. These two are also essential in determining how far this team can go in the tournament as they provide essential minutes and play a key role in scoring as both can effectively shoot. Irvin seems to have gotten his stroke back as he went 3-5 from deep, Albrecht did have two consecutive uncharacteristic turnovers which Wolverines’ fans can only hope was a one time regression.