Photo: Dustin Johnston
Michigan 76, Saginaw Valley State 48
There’s been more than enough off-season debate as to whether Michigan is overrated as the fifth best team in preseason polls. Only time will tell, but through two exhibition games the Wolverines look every bit like John Beilein’s most talented team to date. Michigan cruised to a Monday night exhibition win over Saginaw Valley State by a final score of 76-48. The Wolverines scored inside and out, dominated the glass on both ends of the floor and overpowered the Cardinals.
Glenn Robinson III set the tone early with 10 quick points, finishing with 17 on nine field goal attempts, while Trey Burke was clearly the best player on the floor. Burke racked up 16 points and eight assists in just 21 minutes. While Burke and Robinson were the only Wolverines to reach double figures, the offensive attack was balanced as ten players scored at least one field goal and 23 of Michigan’s 29 made shots were assisted.
This was an extraordinarily slow 54 possession game as Saginaw Valley State attempted to take the air out of the ball offensively. The strategy didn’t pay off as Michigan’s offense was even more efficient than we saw in the season opener, cruising along at 1.40 points per trip, and its defense wasn’t far behind.
The new-look Wolverine offense still relies on the three point shot – 53% of Michigan’s field goal attempts were threes – but the addition of an offensive rebounding punch has been deadly. Michigan rebounded over 40% of its misses for the second consecutive game and turned 11 offensive rebounds into 13 second chance points. Most of all, Michigan shot the ball extremely well from inside and out, connecting on 75% (18-24) of its twos and 41% (11-27) of its threes.
The Wolverines were solid defensively except for one Achilles’ heel: three point defense. Saginaw Valley shot 50% on 20 three point attempts which marred an otherwise dominant defensive performance. The Michigan defense forced the Cardinals to shoot just 33% on two point attempts, rebound a meager 12% of their misses and turn the ball over on nearly a quarter of their possessions.
After the game, Beilein reiterated that Michigan is experimenting to a radical degree early in the season and emphasized that there are still many parts in motion (especially due to Horford’s absence). We saw some new wrinkles from the man in charge including signs of tightening the rotation. Caris LeVert and Blake McLimans played limited minutes while Max Bielfeldt appeared to be squeezed out almost entirely. Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary appear to be the clear first options off the bench with Spike Albrecht spelling Burke.
Beilein experimented with several different looks including two posts (Morgan-McGary) and two point guards (Burke-Albrecht). With two posts in the game, it was encouraging to see Michigan make a dedicated effort toward throwing the ball into the post – something that has been a rarity in recent seasons. McGary and Morgan both had a couple post isolations and also played a little two-man high-low game on several occasions. The end result wasn’t there in terms of production, but the potential is there along with a plan from players and coaches alike. Defensively, this was a tough situation to play two big men because Saginaw Valley State was smaller than most Division I teams. Morgan generally guarded the four position, to mixed results. Michigan also experimented with a 2-3 zone with both big men which didn’t have much luck either – surrendering a corner three.
Michigan has only played two games that don’t count so it would be ludicrous to jump to conclusions. However, the excitement feels a little more real after watching the Wolverines take care of business in early exhibitions. Slowly but surely we’ll find out more about this team shortly as real games begin with Slippery Rock (Friday), IUPUI (Monday) and Cleveland State or Bowling Green (Tuesday) all scheduled to visit Crisler in the next week.
Photo: Dustin Johnston
- Trey Burke: Burke was in complete control while he was on the floor. He got to any spot and got any shot that he wanted. His hesitation game was in full effect and had an 16 points and eight assists in just 21 minutes. Burke looked a better player than a year ago and should only build momentum as the season kicks into high gear. He threw everything on the table including filthy hesitation moves, solid perimeter shooting (2-5), transition passing and mid-range scoring.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson makes the game look easy. There’s no wasted movement or motion in his game and he fills up the stat sheet quickly: 17 points on 7-of-9 (3-5 3pt) shooting with two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 26 minutes. That’s a monster stat line from a player that wasn’t expected as a shooter coming in. Sure, it’d be nice to see him more aggressive on the glass but his ability to score so effectively without dominating the ball is extremely impressive for a kid so young. Backdoor cuts, open threes, alley oops in transition, drive and dish, Robinson simply put on a show.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway’s role is different at the off guard but he seems to be adjusting well. He’s not forcing shots (his five field goal attempts against SVSU match a season low from 2011-12 vs. Ohio State) and he’s passing the ball like we haven’t seen before. The 6-foot-6 junior tallied five assists twice last year, in two exhibition games he’s already handed out 11 dimes to two turnovers in exhibition play. Beilein praised Hardaway for making the extra passes and assured that he’d still have his fair share of 20+ point games this season.
- Mitch McGary: McGary is a rebounding magnet on the floor. He grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with six points in 20 minutes. He had a strong take from the high post, putting the ball on the floor and finishing and also had a steal to runaway slam in transition. He picked up a couple of fouls in the first half but played well with them in the second.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan had another great performance on the offensive glass (6 off. reb) and seems to be making a concerted effort to go back up with the ball rather than kick it out. Overall it was a strong 7 point, 7 rebound night from Morgan as he seems to have more freedom to play hard and aggressively without the responsibility of being Michigan’s only big man.
- Nik Stauskas: Beilein mentioned that he loves to bring a shooter off of the bench and Stauskas fills that role. The freshman guard finished with 8 points on 3-of-6 (2-5 3pt) but his most impressive take was a strong drive and finish at the hoop. After missing his first two threes, he rebounded to hit two of his final three long range attempts. Beilein has already drawn up a couple inbounds plays for Stauskas in the first couple games which got him wide open looks, an encouraging sign headed toward the season.
- Matt Vogrich: Vogrich started again, and Beilein reported he was comfortable with that starting lineup going forward. He started cold from three but heated up and hit his last two triples for an 8 point, 3 rebound, 1 assist performance in just 14 minutes. Vogrich’s experience and ability to make heads up plays on both ends really shines through. But the key will continue to be how well he shoots the ball from three point range.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht was the surprise hero of game one but couldn’t quite find his three point stroke this game. He still looked comfortable running the offense in Burke’s absence and should serve as an able back-up point guard.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert looks destined for a redshirt. His potential is obvious but there just don’t appear to be enough backcourt minutes to go around and Albrecht looks likely to get the nod in the rotation as a true backup point guard.
- Blake McLimans: McLimans got minutes at the back-up four before Bielfeldt this game and did knock down a quick three. For McLimans to play a role on this year’s team, he would probably have to emerge as a 45-percent type of three point shooter and be a quick sub option to knock down triples.