Michigan faces Oregon at the Barclays Center tonight in its biggest test of the young season. The Ducks and Wolverines are set to tip-off at 9:00 p.m. (or 30 minutes after the VCU/Villanova game) and the game will be broadcast online by ESPN3/WatchESPN. Join in the open thread before, during and after the game to discuss Michigan’s Legends Classic opener or the early semifinal featuring VCU and Villanova.
|Who: Oregon (3-0) at No. 22 Michigan (3-0)|
|Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY|
|When: 9:30 p.m., Monday, November 24th, 2014|
|Radio: 950 AM, 102.9 FM|
Eight months ago, Michigan and Oregon were both in the BMO Harris Bradley Center playing some of the most important basketball of their seasons. The Ducks had rattled off an impressive 24 win season and were getting set to face Wisconsin while Michigan would beat Wofford and Texas along its eventual path to the Elite Eight.
Both programs appeared to be trending in the right direction at the time, but now neither program looks the same. Much has been made about Michigan’s attrition – the Wolverines lost three players to the NBA, one to graduation and one to transfer – but Oregon lost ten players from its roster last season.
Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin were dismissed from the team amidst sexual assault allegations. Starters Jason Calliste and Johnathan Loyd both graduated and two others, Ben Carter and A.J. Lapray, opted to transfer. Highly touted recruits Ray Kasongo and JaQuan Lyle weren’t admitted into school and two others, Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit, were charged with shoplifting but are still on the roster.
When you only have 13 scholarships to give, ten departures is almost unheard of, but despite all of the roster turnover and ugly headlines, the Ducks have hit the ground running this season. They blew out Detroit by 17 points after being tied at halftime and also beat Coppin State (107-65) and Toledo (78-68). Like Michigan, this will be the Ducks’ first game against high-major competition.
Kameron Chatman has struggled to begin the season, but expect to keep seeing plenty of him.
The freshman has started the year shooting just 18.8% (3-for-16) from the floor and has yet to hit a three-pointer. John Beilein, though, has no plans to take the 6-foot-7 wing player out of his starting lineup.
“We’re not thinking about any changes in [our starters] right now at all,” Beilein said Saturday morning in a teleconference.
Though Chatman played 30 minutes in Michigan’s opener against Hillsdale, he was limited to 20 minutes against Bucknell and then just 12 on Thursday against Detroit.
The Titans gave the Wolverines their biggest test of the young season. After a slow start to the second half, Beilein elected to use a veteran-heavy lineup to help clinch the win.
But that doesn’t mean you should anticipate Spike Albrecht starting over Chatman anytime soon.
“Just continue to give [Chatman] more and more opportunities to grow at that position, the game will slow down more for him,” Beilein said. “Usually, it’s more defense than offense for freshmen. But he’s really played well in practices. Games, he has a great attitude. Just, the shot hasn’t fallen, and we’ll keep working on that, because it is in practice.”
Michigan pulled away from Detroit in the final minutes Thursday night to claim a 72-61 win. Here are Five Key Plays from the Wolverines’ first close game of the year.
1) In-and-out threes highlight poor shooting start
The Wolverines shot just 10-of-29 (34.5%) in the first half, and they entered the break down 28-27. The poor performance wasn’t a result of bad opportunities — Michigan had plenty of open looks. Things just weren’t falling.
Nowhere was that more apparent than a pair of back-to-back three-point attempts in transition early in the first half. On the first, Walton grabbed a defensive rebound — one of six on the night — and drove into the paint before dishing a difficult bounce pass to Kameron Chatman. The freshman forward had time to corral the low pass and take his shot, but it rattled out.
On the following possession, it was Chatman who grabbed the defensive board and found Walton. The guard created a look with a stepback crossover, but the ball rolled around the rim twice before falling out.
“We had — and probably a good thing — we had probably six three-pointers go in and out,” John Beilein said after the game. “And that’s a good thing because we now we know that’s going to happen sometimes. You still have to win with your defense.”
When Michigan needed a spark against Detroit on Thursday night, it didn’t turn to Kameron Chatman or Aubrey Dawkins, its two most athletic freshmen. The Wolverines didn’t look to Mark Donnal or Ricky Doyle, either.
In fact, they didn’t rely on any of the freshmen. Instead, they put the game in the hands of their veterans: the reliable core of Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton, the improvisation of Spike Albrecht and the disciplined understanding of Max Bielfeldt.
And when the Titans took a four-point lead early in the second half, that group got to work. Albrecht assisted on a Bielfeldt layup, then LeVert got a steal for an easy bucket, then Albrecht dished to LeVert for a three-pointer — and then again for a layup.
After going down 34-30, the Wolverines went on a 13-0 run, holding the Titans scoreless for more than five minutes of game time.
“Coach Beilein just went with the veteran group. We’re a little more comfortable. These guys know the system a little bit more, the defensive concepts, things like that,” Albrecht said. “I like playing with those guys. We all have the chemistry.”
Learning on the job is good, but sometimes it’s better to sit and watch.
Michigan’s freshmen are all promising players, but trailing Detroit early in the second half, John Beilein had no choice. He went with his veterans.
Much has been made about the fact that Beilein only has five scholarship players on his roster that aren’t freshmen, but that doesn’t mean he can’t put them all on the floor at once.
Derrick Walton played all 40 minutes while Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin both registered 38. Michigan’s freshmen combined for just 34 minutes of playing time, just eight in the second half, while Spike Albrecht and Max Bielfeldt tallied 32 and 20 minutes respectively off the bench.
There’s a message in there and it’s not hard to figure out. This is how we play and this is how we win.
But beyond the message, there’s a problem. Michigan’s freshmen are going to be critical to this team’s eventual success or failure, but they just aren’t ready yet. A win is a win, but it’s a troubling red flag that Michigan’s big three played 116 minutes and scored 55 of 71 points in a home game against Detroit. It’s troubling that Max Bielfeldt, who has led Michigan’s big men in points and minutes the last two games, still has to play on the scout team in practice because he’s the only player that can run the team.