This moment was bound to come. The one where everyone says “What the hell? This isn’t a top 15 team!” Pre-season rankings are an extremely inexact science, they are based largely on last year’s results and a quick look over what players are returning. At this point, they probably aren’t a top 15 team but that shouldn’t change your outlook on the season one way or another.
Luckily this isn’t football. You don’t have to run the table and losses not only happen, they are prevalent. A college basketball season is a constantly evolving being with hundreds of variables changing by the second. November games are fun but barring disaster, they have little consequences.
Last November Anthony Wright was starting for Michigan at the power forward. In December, it was Jevohn Shepherd. In conference play, Zack Novak led the team in minutes, playing the same power forward position, while Wright and Shepherd sat on the bench.
The bottom line is, the team we saw today will look nothing like the team that we see by March. They will continue to gel, the freshmen will improve, and everyone will become more accustomed to their roles.
If Michigan can take care of Alabama on Sunday (5 PM, ESPNU), this weekend should still be considered a success. 2-1 was the most realistic result to begin with and a serving of humble pie should certainly do this team good going forward.
Back to the game now. This loss wasn’t about cold shooting, it was about terrible defense.. This was one of Michigan’s worst defensive performances since John Beilein arrived. The 1.27 points per possession that Michigan gave up was the highest mark since January 16th, 2008 in a 75-57 loss at Illinois.
Marquette shot the ball extremely well with a 58.5% eFG%. Not to mention that they didn’t turn the ball over (TO rate of 16.1%), rebounded 39% of their misses, and shot a ton of free throws (FTR 39.6%).
The Golden Eagles dominated the game by scoring at will. Michigan’s offense wasn’t bad but it simply couldn’t match the Golden Eagles offensive output. Yes, the three point shots were not falling (3 of 20) but Michigan managed a respectable 1.05 points per possession.
At the end of the day, Michigan just couldn’t stop Marquette. Marquette’s offensive thrives on penetration and Michigan simply couldn’t keep them out of the lane. Marquette was faster nearly across the board and it was painfully obvious that just about any Marquette player could take their man off the dribble. Marquette’s ability to live in the lane explains not only their high 2 point field goal percentage (61%) but their high free throw rate.
This Marquette team was not supposed to be good, they were even picked to finish 10th in the Big East, but I think they have definitely surprised some people. Perhaps Michigan’s defense is that bad, but I haven’t seen many teams with the skill and athleticism across the board that the Golden Eagles possess. Not to mention, Marquette notched a very nice win over Xavier, who rolled Crieghton in the consolation bracket of the Old Spice.
It might sound sacrilegious but this team really misses CJ Lee. Lee was by far the best on the ball defender on last year’s roster and that was the sole reason this team improved when he was inserted into the starting lineup. He wasn’t Travis Walton but he was the best this team had and it was painfully obvious that they could have used him today.
The perimeter defense is going to have to get better and you can be confident that will be the emphasis over the coming weeks. I’m not too worried about Michigan’s shooting struggles, this team will be able to shoot the ball and those could be attributed to tired legs or just an off night.
Big Ten. It was not a pretty day for the Big Ten. Besides Michigan’s loss, MSU lost to Florida, Minnesota lost to Portland, and Illinois lost to Utah. Northwestern did come away with a nice win against Notre Dame.
- Manny Harris: He might still be nursing the hamstring injury, and it looked like he banged his leg a couple times but it didn’t matter: 22 points (9-16), 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. It was a complete game for Manny but he still can’t find his stroke. He’s now 2 for 17 from behind the arc this season and has already missed 11 free throws compared to the 28 he missed all last year.
- DeShawn Sims: M-I-A. 8 points (3-10) and 6 rebounds with 3 steals, 2 3 turnovers, and 2 blocks. Marquette’s similarly undersized big men won the physical battle down low and DeShawn never really got into it on offense. Michigan also needs much more out of him on the defensive glass, it might be my imagination but I recall a couple rebounds getting ripped right out of his hands.
- Stu Douglass: Despite not starting, I think it is pretty clear that Beilein trusts Stu quite a bit. Not only on the offensive end, but the defensive end. Stu had far from his best performance today and it was certainly magnified by his horrendous shooting. He has the tendency to force it a bit and that showed today. 2 for 7 (0-5 3pt) with 2 assists and a steal.
- Zack Novak: Novak was a huge liability on the defensive end today because he just couldn’t guard Marquette’s fours. Novak is probably the second best defensive rebounder on the roster despite his size. He was only 1 of 2 today but he has been shooting the ball pretty well this year.
- Laval Lucas-Perry: Laval has been shooting the ball very and kept it up today, going 4 for 7 for 12 points. It’s pretty clear that he’s 90% two guard though, he didn’t register an assist today.
- Darius Morris: Darius has an offensive ability to get in the lane that last year’s team lacked but he has to learn to finish. On the defensive side of the ball he has great length and athleticism but still is adjusting to the college game. It’s tough to expect that much in his fourth college game, let’s see where he is in a month.
- Zack Gibson: Give the big man some more minutes. He has his problems, but this year he has produced. Gibson scored 8 points, pulled down 3 rebounds, and even picked up an assist in only 10 minutes. I hesitate to say that Michigan should have gone “big” with Sims & Gibson because Marquette was killing is with their quickness, but Gibson needed more minutes someway somehow.
- Anthony Wright: 2 points, 1 missed three, a rebound, and a turnover in 9 minutes. Not that great of a performance but nothing terrible off the bench.
- Matt Vogrich: It was scary even seeing him on the floor against Marquette’s guards but I thought he played surprisingly well at the top of the 1-3-1.