Luckily this game was just a dress rehearsal. Playing its first game with a freshman point guard in a newly renovated Crisler Arena, nothing seemed to go smoothly for Michigan. From the game on the court, to the scoreboard lacking any stats, everything was just slightly misaligned. The lack of any stats throughout the game might have made the game slightly more tolerable because the post game box score is tough to digest.
Michigan seemed to make every mistake that it could, turning the ball over (14), missing free throws (4-12), missing shots (42% eFG%) and getting outrebounded (65% defensive rebounding rate) by a smaller team. Exciting plays, let alone highlights, were rare and the Wolverines never managed to string together any consistent series of positive offensive possessions. Michigan looked like a team that could use every last hour of practice before its season opener next Friday. The Wolverine defense was good, good enough to hold an offensively challenged Wayne State squad to a meager .64 points per possession.
It’s worth noting that despite the Warriors cutting the lead to four points with 12 minutes to play, the result never truly felt in doubt. However, the four factors prove just how ugly this game was:
|Pt Per Poss||0.77||0.64|
We’ll stick to team bullets and player bullets for the exhibition game, first some macro thoughts:
- There’s been a lot of talk about how deep this Michigan team is but only four different players scored in an exhibition game against Wayne State. Michigan played nine players but this was a pretty strict eight man rotation with Burke, Vogrich and Morgan playing all significant minutes off the bench.
- Michigan’s man-on-man post defense was underwhelming. Wayne State’s post players scored the ball relatively easily on the block, split double teams and just looked far too comfortable. Jon Horford made some good plays (two blocks) but he also got beat by some elementary moves.
- There are obvious questions about the Darius Morris-less Michigan offense and tonight’s exhibition did little to alleviate those concerns. The Wolverine offense looked directionless and lifeless for long stretches with various players trying their hand at being “the guy”, with most being unsuccessful.
- Against a team like Memphis, Michigan will see heavy doses of full court press with a backcourt of Stu Douglass and Zack Novak. The Wolverines looked shaky against Wayne State’s halfhearted full court press at times in the exhibition and that’s something that will have to be worked out before facing a deeper and more athletic team like Memphis.
- The left to right pick-and-roll set that Tim Hardaway Jr. ran so well down the stretch last season was not all too effective. Hardaway had just one assist to five turnovers and forced the issue once or twice while trying to dish to the rolling big man.
- The crowd was surprisingly strong for an exhibition game, a good sign that Michigan might have some nice crowds this season if it can keep up the positive momentum.
Obviously Michigan isn’t that bad of an offensive team. In the 2010-11 season, the Wolverines rolled through exhibition play before falling flat on their faces in Orlando. Winning an easy exhibition game tells you about as little as winning an ugly one. John Beilein and his staff will be the first to tell you that Michigan needs to play better basketball but there’s no better time to have a performance like Friday night’s than an exhibition opener.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway looks stronger and more confident on the floor and it showed in his rebounding. He grabbed nine rebounds on Friday night, a total that he only matched in one game last season, and he feels he can do better. He scored 20 points on 17 shots, far from efficient, and never really seemed to find an offensive groove with five turnovers to just one assist. Still, he looked the part of lead offensive player and looks more than ready to carry the Michigan offense.
- Trey Burke: Assertive and aggressive with a smooth shooting stroke – Burke played as advertised. He wasn’t perfect but he hit a three, forced a five second violation, hit a pull-up jump shot and had a couple of highlight passes. There was a spark to the Michigan offense with Burke on the floor that was painfully absent when he was on the bench. Burke is a playmaker and his playing time is only going to increase as he earns John Beilein’s trust – ideally he’ll make significant progress by the time the Wolverines head to Maui.
- Zack Novak: Novak was still Novak – taking charges and grabbing loose balls (3 steals) and rebounds – but he seemed much more comfortable with the ball than in past seasons. He shot the ball pretty well (6 of 12) and attempted more than just wide open threes (4 of 6 on twos). It’s just one (exhibition) game but the early sign is that Michigan needs Novak on the floor and he might be the most likely candidate for No. 2 scorer.
- Stu Douglass: Beilein mentioned that Douglass “controlled the game” but he didn’t create a whole lot with 0 points, three assists and no turnovers in 31 minutes. Douglass is going to play significant minutes this year – the key is consistent three point shooting to negate his weaknesses as a true lead guard.
- Evan Smotrycz: Evan was 0 for 5 from the field and got off to a very tough start which seemed to hang with him throughout the night. He looked noticeably bigger but grabbed just four rebounds in 23 minutes and was still underwhelming defending on the block.
- Jon Horford: Horford is capable of making nice post moves when he gets the ball on the block but he’s still a bit too methodical, allowing the double team to catch him off guard. He rebounded well but his hands really let him down as he dropped a number of dump offs, passes and rebounds.
- Jordan Morgan: I still think Morgan has a better feel for the game than Horford but today wasn’t his best game. He seemed a step late defensively and caught the ball in an awkward spot on his best pick and roll opportunity on offense.
- Matt Vogrich: Vogrich is just getting back in the swing of things after a knee sprain but he got the first shift off the bench at both the two and the three – a sign that he’ll be the No. 8 man in the rotation at this point.
- Carlton Brundidge: Brundidge was a bit loose with the ball and got his minutes at the two position in the first half. He didn’t have much opportunity but did have a steal-turnover-steal.