Big Ten Tournament: Michigan vs. Wisconsin Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Wisconsin 68, Michigan 59-30
Dustin Johnston

MICH 59 .87 23-57 40% 20-44 46% 3-13 23% 10-17 59% 9 29 7 11 6 4 18
WISC 68 1.00 22-57 39% 14-35 40% 8-22 36% 16-21 76% 9 28 13 9 9 5 14

Michigan’s long weekend in Chicago was cut short as the Wolverines fell to the Wisconsin Badgers, 68-59, in Friday afternoon quarterfinal action.

The half-court shot heroics and overtime drama of the two teams’ first meeting was absent as Michigan fell victim to the Wisconsin machine and  John Beilein lost his 11th game in 12 tries to Badger head coach Bo Ryan.

For the most part, this game was filled with hearty doses of the very best and worst that both teams can bring to the table.

The first half was a vintage Wisconsin basketball on both ends; suffocating defense and dismal offense. The Badgers made just 5-of-29 shots from the field but prevented the Wolverines from pulling away because the usually efficient Wolverines couldn’t muster much more offensive firepower. The Badgers pulled within three points at the break, trailing 20-17, and shots began to fall in the second.

While Michigan was unable to make the Badgers pay for their inept offense in the first half, Wisconsin exploited a struggling Wolverine defense in the second. The Badgers scored 51 points in 33 second half possessions; more second half points than the Badgers scored total in five Big Ten games this season. Michigan’s offense rediscovered itself and was able to keep pace for a while but eventually the Badgers pulled away for the nine point victory.


Michigan’s offense was bad, scoring just .87 points per possession, but this game was decided by a dreadful defensive stretch in the second half. Jared Berggren missed three layups to open the second period but then the Badgers rattled off 39 points over their next 20 offensive possessions – that’s 1.95 points per trip. That offensive explosion spanned from the 18:46 mark to 6:01 and over that time period Michigan recorded three defensive stops while Wisconsin made six three pointers.

That defensive stretch would be troubling in any context but stretches of the sort have almost become commonplace in recent weeks as Penn State and Indiana both had at least comparable periods of offensive perfection over the last month.

The half by half efficiency numbers are staggering but not surprising.

Points Per Possession by Half

Team First Half Second Half
Wisconsin 0.50 PPP 1.54 PPP
Michigan 0.59 PPP 1.18 PPP

Michigan is simply unable to play consistent defense for a 40 minute game. The final game numbers don’t look that bad, especially Michigan’s impressive defensive rebounding, but those metrics are skewed by just how awful the Badgers were in the first half. Wisconsin’s 46% effective field goal percentage looks solid but look closer and you see that Bo Ryan’s team had a 21% eFG% in the first half and a 71% eFG% in the second half.

Michigan’s offense wasn’t much better than Wisconsin’s in the first half and was unable to generate much offense in the half court at all. Michigan found a couple nice transition opportunities in the first half but couldn’t get the stops to trigger that secondary break game in the final 20 minutes. For much of the second half, Michigan still managed to play shot-for-shot with Wisconsin but eventually a couple opportunities rimmed out and the Badgers pulled away.

Burke and Hardaway did most of the heavy lifting in the second, combining for 25 of Michigan’s 39 points. Wisconsin’s defense essentially reduced Michigan’s offense to isolation as just 3 of 13 second half field goals (and 7 of 23 for the game) were assisted. Trey Burke was the only Michigan player to record an assist in the game. Frustration with the poor shooting, lack of threes and assists, and the high quantity of mid to long-range jumpers is fair but it’s also important to remember that Wisconsin is the Big Ten’s best in most of those statistics. The Badgers lead the Big Ten in lowest percentage of assisted field goals and three point attempts allowed as well as inside and outside field goal percentage defense.  Michigan isn’t likely to see another defense that good until late in the NCAA tournament.

Now the question is what seed does Michigan end up with on Selection Sunday? If the Wolverines were flirting with the boundary between a 2 and 3-seed entering today’s game they are most likely going to find themselves on the lower end of the 3-seed range after this loss. That should still be strong enough to open tournament play at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Michigan will have 6 or 7 days off before its tournament opener and the rest could provide a perfect opportunity to regroup.

Rattle off a handful of wins over the next two weeks and Michigan’s late season swoon will be forgotten but if the Wolverines are sent home packing during the first weekend there will be a lot of head scratching trying to figure out what happened from February onward.

Wisconsin 68, Michigan 59-18
Dustin Johnston

Player Bullets:

  • Trey Burke: Burke scored 19 points on 8-of-22 (1-3 3pt) shooting and handed out seven assists to four turnovers. He wasn’t at his best in terms of efficiency or turnover woes but he still put the Wolverines on his back late in the second half and carried them back into the game. Burke is a great player but he’s not invincible and if the Wolverines’ post season strategy is to just go as far as he can take them then they could easily be headed home early.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: The lone bright spot of Michigan’s defensive performance was on the defensive glass and Hardaway played a key part of that, grabbing nine defensive boards. His offense performance was efficient, scoring 14 points on 5-of-9 (2-4 3pt) shooting, and he hit two big threes and took a charge in the second half which helped Michigan stay close. Hardaway said he felt fine after the game despite a scary looking ankle sprain early in the first half and this was one of his more complete games in a while.
  • Mitch McGary: McGary had another solid outing, scoring 9 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in 23 minutes of play. He had two steals, and remains great at defending entry passes, but also turned the ball over twice. Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament performance isn’t going to leave much in the way of positive feelings but McGary’s strong play could be critical next week in the NCAA tournament.
  • Jon Horford: Horford played another solid game, scoring five points off the bench in 10 minutes. He failed to grab a rebound and was a bit foul happy, especially late in the first half, but his offensive ability around the bucket has been a welcome surprise.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan has a case of the yips. One of Michigan’s most experienced players, Morgan went 2-6 from the field for four points in 18 minutes over two games at the Big Ten Tournament. He played just eight minutes against Wisconsin and struggled to catch and finish in the lane once again finishing with 3 turnovers and zero field goal attempts. I would have liked to see him matched up with Ryan Evans defensively earlier in the second half but it’s clear that something isn’t right with Morgan.
  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas had a rough offensive performance and went 1-of-8 (0-4 3pt) from the field for four points with five rebounds. He couldn’t find his three point shot and was sent packing most times that he drove the lane against Wisconsin’s physical interior defense. Stauskas had played three really strong offensive games after being knocked out of the Michigan State game but this was a step backward.
  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson played a really strong first half and then was pushed around in the second. He scored six points and grabbed three rebounds in the first half but totaled just two points and zero rebounds in the second. It was defensively where Robinson really struggled in the second. He played very well against Ryan Evans in the first, holding him to 3 points on 1-of-6 shooting with 2 turnovers to one assist, but was abused in the second. Evans scored 9 points (3-6 shooting) and handed out five assists to just one turnover in the second half. The Big Ten Network GameTracker tracks rebounding percentage based on “chances” and Robinson’s 27% (3 rebounds on 11 chances) lags well behind the rest of the Michigan roster where only Burke (50%) was under 60%.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht, not Robinson, was on the floor down the stretch. That decision appeared to be because John Beilein wanted Hardaway guarding Evans at the four spot and needed another guard. Albrecht didn’t leave his finger prints on the game either way, only recording two fouls and no other statistics in seven minutes of play.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert only played four minutes and still hasn’t scored since his big performance against Michigan State. He missed a pair of free throws and a jumper while also getting beat for a Ben Brust three on an out of bounds set.
  • Wayman Britt

    I have been trying to stay positive over February and March, but let’s face it this team is not that good. They are terrible on defense, soft and inconsistent. Besides a few exceptions the top 8 players lack competitiveness and toughness.

    We keep saying wait for the next game their defense and interior offense will get better, but never does. Early exit from the NCAA tournament is coming.

  • robpollard

    This loss is worse than the IU loss in some ways. While that loss is ultimately worse (blowing late lead; losing B1G title) at least we were very competitive (granted, at home) against a legit, multifaceted, multitalented top 3 team.

    Wisconsin, while well-coached and with players that fit their system, is a perennial 2nd/3rd round tops NCAA tourney team. Losing to them–again–makes it apparent we really haven’t taken a step forward this year. That feels odd, when we were ranked #1, but rankings are subjective-on true measures, namely performance in the conference and in the conference tourney, we either stayed the same or took a step back.

    Hopefully, we will get a good draw as a #4 seed, but I’ll be surprised if we make the sweet sixteen. Not shocked, but surprised, which is a bit depressing after a great first couple of months.

    Here’s to pleasant surprises.

    • Mattski

      Well, we’ve won 10% more of our games, to start. If you say we haven’t taken a step forward–even as you’re pointing out how well we played against some teams–how can you say we haven’t taken a step forward? I’d say that we plateau’d a good way back, that the rigors of the B1G took their toll on our young squad, and that the D failed to coalesce down the stretch. But “never took a step forward” doesn’t resonate for me.

      • Guest

        Can someone please tell me why we don’t play two big guys at the same time like every other team in the big ten but Northwestern?

        • FL Wolve

          How many teams in the Big 10 play two, interior big guys at the same time? I know MSU does. Indiana has Watford but he’s more of a perimeter player. Is there anybody else?

      • robpollard

        We haven’t taken a step forward for the simple reason what matters to me

        is, in order:

        1) NCAA Tourney results (obviously hasn’t happened yet, but our seed will be no better than last year),

        2) B1G regular season (worse than last year) and way down the list

        3) B1G tourney (same as last year

        I really don’t care too much about the non-conference — it is good to win against quality programs like KSU and NCSU, but all those games should be about is getting ready for Feb and March.

        Hopefully, the team will get to the 2nd weekend and we can take a real positive step forward. But we’ll have to see.

    • Hops

      The sky is not falling. Everyone needs to relax. The Big Ten is stacked and there is no shame in any if the recent losses outside of PSU. U-M is going to be fine when pace and officiating open up in tourney.

      • JeremyS

        The sky is not falling because it already came crashing down. There is shame in losing all of the games when you expect to win them. What do you have no expectations for this team?

        Let’s face it, this team is just not very good. Boy does it hurt to say that, but it is reality. They can’t stack up against the better teams in the league. Offense, defense, free throws, take your pick. Here we all were convinced that they were one of the elite teams in the country and they prove again and again that they are just an average team in the Big Ten. Boy does that #1 ranking seem like a complete joke now. They are a good team – definitely not great.

        They could win a couple games in the tourney, but there is no chance they get past the sweet 16.

        • Jeff

          Even when Michigan briefly got the #1 ranking, I felt that fans were fooling themselves if they believed this was a top-5 team. I wasn’t even sure if they were a top-10 team. As it turns out, they weren’t. They are still one of the top 20 teams in the country though. The only question now is whether they can salvage something out of this season with a little run in the tourney. IMO, anything short of the Sweet Sixteen will mean this season was a big disappointment. But I agree, anything beyond that is unlikely.

          • Hops

            Why is it unlikely? U-M had the best team in the country (IU) dead to rights a week ago. There is no elite team this year and U-M can beat anyone out there on any given night. Yes, they could also lose to any of those teams but they haven’t lost yet. Chill out until they do and enjoy the one in a lifetime PG and watching the talented Fr development. College bb is supposed to be enjoyable and many of you do not sound like you are enjoying a 26-7 squad – the beat team UM has had in 20 yrs – at all.

          • Jeff

            I’m enjoying the season because I kept my expectations realistic. And it sounds like you agree with me that going beyond the sweet sixteen is unlikely, just not impossible. Yes, they are capable of beating anyone, but they’ll have to rise to the occassion multiple games in a row, which hasn’t been their strong suit this year.

          • Hops

            I’m not sure that getting to the elite 8 is “likely” for anyone outside of maybe Duke/IU and probably not even them. So yes, I do agree. But I’m also not writing this team off as capable of making a long run as a lot of people seem to be.

  • AG

    Its days like this that remind me of two things: 1. Ken Pommeroy’s quote that John Beilein has never coached a Top 25 defense, and 2. Bob Huggins remark that the first thing he did when he got to West Virginia was that he had to teach Beilein’s players how to play defense.

    I’m seriously worried that Wisconsin is going to snatch that spot in Auburn Hills from us, sending us out west to face some white-hot mid major like Davidson or South Dakota State or even Ohio again.

    • jemblue

      Let’s not forget that UW, as recently as one week ago, was in a bad slump. This is a nice win for them but I don’t think they’re in a position to bump us off the 3-line unless they win the BTT. Anyhow, would they definitely be slotted to Auburn Hills?

      • rlcBlue

        Roughly the same (driving) distance to Kansas City or Dayton.

      • AG

        That is true, Wisconsin is still *far* behind us in the RPI, and thus the S-Curve. We have fewer losses, better wins, and “better” losses. That being said, watch out for Cuse. If they win the Big East tournament they could steal Auburn Hills.

    • FL Wolve

      I’m not sure that you should ever quote Bob Huggins. After all of JB’s players graduated from WVU, his teams have stunk. JB has rebuilt UM from a disastrous program to a conference contender and Huggins took a WVU power house and turned them into a cellar dweller. I’m not sure that Huggins has anything on JB.

      • Mattski

        I’m not sure the Pomeroy quote is all that meaningful, either. If Beilein remains at Michigan for another ten years and that’s still the case, okay.

      • Adam St Patrick

        He’s been past the Sweet 16. Multiple times. Been to a Final Four. Better career winning percentage than Beilein. I wouldn’t choose him over Beilein, especially at Michigan, but the man knows the game.

        Beilein did a great job at WVU, an absolute great job. But WVU was not a powerhouse when he left — it had made the NCAA tournament twice since 1998, and kudos to Beilein for getting them there. Again, he did a great job. Since Huggins arrived however, WVU has been to the tournament 5 straight times. Its regular-season winning percentage in 2010 was its best since 1989. I don’t know how you reconcile that with “Huggins took a WVU power house and turned them into a cellar dweller”.

  • fred

    Wisconsin style of basketball kills our D if they get hot. No turnovers means no transition points which means no baskets from GRIII. And whats with Morgan. Guy is in a funk.

  • MikeInOhio

    Another frustrating game to watch. I know John Beilein is a good coach. It’s amazing where he’s taken this program. They’ve been good this year, esp. considering the youth. However, I think what bothers most UM fans is his style. When Michigan is winning, fans view him as cool and calm, a great offensive mind. His teams play smart and don’t turn the ball over. But when losing, he’s not intense enough, his teams are soft, can’t play defense and don’t rebound. What makes this even more frustrating is the style of the other top coaches in the Big Ten…Matta, Izzo, and Ryan (Crean can’t belong in this group; he’s got 2 lottery picks and 2 seniors starting). Each of these 3 are fiery, in your face, defense first coaches. All coaches are tough and passionate, but these 3 display it more, as do their players.

    On to Selection Sunday…here are teams currently slotted above Michigan: Indiana, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Georegetown, Louisville, and Miami (Fla). I’m guessing both OSU, Sparty, Florida, and New Mexico will also be higher. That’s 11 teams, saving the last 3 seed for Michigan. Earlier in the season we rooted against these teams so UM could have a higher seed. Now we have to pull for them and beat the likes of Syracuse, Kansas St, and even Wisconsin so Michigan doesn’t slip to a 4 seed.

    • Mitch

      I agree with the first paragraph of your post completely. Adding to it, Beilein today lost us this game by being out coached. Once again, we stuck to his kill 10 seconds off the shot clock and get no where motion offense or pick and roll with Trey and everyone else watch offense. Bo easily adjusted to it by clogging the lane and easily guarding our wing players while they stood still at the 3 point line. In the second half, Bo dismantled Beilein by feeding the ball into the post with Evans and sending the big men to the perimeter so there was no help defense. When we helped, they were wide open for three. Beilein made zero adjustments, besides subbing in Spike for RGIII and going to the 1-3-1 way too late. Beilein has been out coached terribly all big ten season. We all love what he’s done to get our program to this point, but if he can’t coach a skilled team like we have now then he’s gonna be gone sooner than later.

      • Hops

        Overreact much? The hysteria is a little much.

        • Mitch

          I’ll admit saying hes been out coached all big ten season is unfair, but no question in my mind he was out coached today badly and ive been talking all season with people about his learning on the fly how to coach a team with this much talent. In any case, it’s just my opinion, anyone is welcome to disagree with it.

          • ForeverBlue

            I don’t think he’s out-coached, his teams are out-experienced. The roster is out of balance, relying far too much on Freshmen and a Sophomore. Yes, they are talented but they aren’t a bunch of 5* either. The key is going to be keeping guys like Stauskas, LeVert and Albrecht around for 4 years to develop and provide a core that understands the schemes and can lead. They just don’t have that now.

          • Adam St Patrick

            I don’t think the coaching that determined this game happened yesterday. It happened in October and November, in training camp. Ryan’s players hang their hat on defense. It works for them and it conforms to what we know about what it takes to win big basketball games. They’ve known for a long time now that they’d be grinding out ugly wins in February and March. That’s why they’re where they are today and Michigan isn’t.

    • Mr_Sledge

      Well said… especially about “when losing, he’s not intense enough, his teams are soft, can’t play defense and don’t rebound”

      • Hops

        Yes let’s fire the coach that has turned the program around and led it to its best season in 20 years. Brilliant.

        • Mr_Sledge

          No one said anything about firing JB… we all think he’s a good coach and are happy with the turnaround.

          But let’s not act like everything is perfect with this team. We have some serious issues with intensity, defense, and rebounding. From a spectator’s view, we all have opinions on what needs to be done.

  • snoopblue

    Any coach who decides to play aggressive and is not afraid to foul a little bit will have a chance against us. If they can attack inside and knock down shots, they’ll have a great chance. In college sports, I won’t blame players for anything. We live and die by the outside shot and also by Trey Burke. He is an great player but it’s just too much for one person. When those shots aren’t falling, rarely can we get a rebound (due to size) so it just compounds that problem. Defense is not very good, but I really expected that. John Beilein may be a creative offensive mind, but that reputation only applies if the shots are falling. It seems in his creativity of cuts, screens and shots, he has forgotten how to teach a) rebounding/boxing out b) inside post moves for bigs. We’ve seen this before, and it’s clear he doesn’t seem to think anything needs to change. I really feel like as the talent level of his players rises, he has to start adding/stressing different concepts and adjusting his system.

    • Mattski

      I just don’t think this is historically accurate. For the last two years he had much less athletically talented teams overachieving wildly, in very strong part because of great defense. The difference? A lot more veteran experience on those squads.

      • Adam St Patrick

        I’m not sure what it is you think is historically inaccurate, but I get the poster’s argument and see that he’s trying to make it. Your response is an unsupported assertion.

        We’re gonna have differences of opinion; it’s cool. Back your assertions with a bit of evidence maybe, though. This seems to be a pattern with the lot of you who aren’t minded to cricicize Beilein. It’s been noticed, on my end, that there’s more assertion than supporting evidence in your mix.

    • Champswest

      Let me see if I have this right. If our opponent knocks down shots, we will lose. If we don’t knock down shots, we lose. Got it.

  • Indiana_Matt

    Wisconsin’s top three scorers are upperclassmen. They only have one freshman in their top 6 rotation players and he was in the doghouse at times this year. Michigan is just young. Except for only the best freshmen (D. Rose, K. Durant, A. Davis, etc.), there is a huge learning curve. They typically aren’t mature enough mentally. It is just how it is. Burke is outstanding of course but even he makes underclassman mistakes at times. Kansas, Syracuse and Duke are teams that come to mind where they have a mixture of young talent and then guys that barely play their first two years before blossoming as juniors. Same thing for MSU and OSU. It is just a fact of life and I’m more than pleased that with no seniors and five freshman in our rotation we’ve won 26 games. We’re still a program in development, as frustrating as that is to watch.

    • Jeff

      The problem is that with early entrants every year and transfers, we are always young. After this season, Burke will be gone for sure, and if Hardaway and/or GRIII decide to leave early, we’ll be young again next year. Attrition has been a problem since Beilein has been here.

      • Champswest

        What is your point? Before Beilein got here, we didn’t have anyone good enough to leave early.
        They accomplished a lot this year given their youth. Hopefully, next year we won’t have to rely so much on Freshmen.

        • Jeff

          The point is that all the early entries and transfers are causing his teams to be perpetually young. If Hardaway and Robinson leave early after this season we’ll be young once again. If they both come back, for the first time under him, we’ll have a team with both a significant amount of talent and experience (I sort of excepted Sims and Harris’s last year because they weren’t his recruits). I’ve been concerned about his inability to keep players the last couple of years. Hopefully, I’m wrong and everyone other than Burke is back.

      • Indiana_Matt

        True. I will be really thrown if anyone other than Burke leaves. That would be a set back for sure and ruin my hypothesis. But I don’t see that happening and I think Walton will be the only freshman we have to really lean on in Burke’s absence. As talented as the other two freshmen will be, I think they will be able to learn at a more reasonable rate and not be thrown into the fire as much.

  • Mattski

    Bad D, yeah. But I don’t know how you rationalize 20 points in the first half. Their defense is good but we missed a hell of a lot of good looks. With 17 for Wisconsin in the first half, for me this was the year’s most deflating loss.

  • Wayman Britt

    Beilein is a good coach and has the program going in the right direction, but like he has in the past (asst. coach changes in 2010, limiting 1-3-1) he needs to change some of his tendencies:

    1. improve his teaching of defense (maybe hire defensive consultant)
    2. needs to add some form of post offense
    3. realize it’s okay for some players to get fouls (hard fouls are okay)
    4. tweak recruiting that it is okay to get a player or two who are quick good defenders but maybe cannot hit threes

    • Mr_Sledge

      Since Ryan Evans is graduating maybe we can hire him as a coach for post offense because (at 6’6″ like quite a few of our guys) HE WAS GOING TO WORK in the second half…. smh. Put on a clinic!

    • Adam St Patrick

      Agree with all four. My hope is that he gets it. I think after his comments in EL that he gets that when you have kids with talent you have to make stress grit a little more. I also think he understands that a system ideal for a scrappy underdog isn’t what’s suitable here anymore. Plus he’s got McGary and Morgan next year, presumably. You can’t not start both of them. He’s got an Izzo-like lineup next year.

      • Hops

        Perhaps the problem is that M has six freshman in the rotation, not Beilein. Just thought I’d throw out an unsupported assertion.

        • Adam St Patrick

          There are five freshman and a redshirt. I think youth is a very common thing for people to look at. But if you think that youth is a bigger problem then getting outrebounded and outhustled every game and playing mediocre defense then you’re more than welcome to explain why. I’ve explained why I think those other things are the problem.

  • Mattski

    I have not enjoyed watching MSU fight their way back into this Iowa game tonight. The word is fight, and I did not see that in the team today. Listless.

    • jemblue

      They fought, but I thought they also got a VERY friendly whistle.

      • Mattski

        You mean MSU. Yes, they did. A game-changing one. But Iowa also folded.

  • Vince

    It’s been a fun ride this season and regardless how far these kids and JB go in the tourney it’s still one of the best bball season I’ve experienced.

    A few observations on the game and the state of the team in general:

    1. Most of the team is tired, especially GR3. I think the biggest issue with our youth is not experience but their body condition. None of them are athletic endurance freak and the B1G grind took its toll. Our team will be in much better shape if it played in a mid major conference or even the ACC/Big East. Until we get more players who had spent enough time hitting the iron, the same trend over a season will repeat.

    2. GR3 was overrated to begin with at the start of the season, and the heavy minutes killed his legs and then his confidence. We all remember how Burke fare late last season as a true freshman. Most players rely on fire/emotion/swag to overcome fatigue but unfortunately this is not a strength of this team

    3. Burke is managing his body better this season but you can tell very early in this game he is not himself missing those mid range jumper/floater which he makes all the time. As the game went on he is visibly more

    4. Morgan had improved tremendously throughout the years but he was never expected to be anything more than what he has become. Rather than being in a “funk”, I’d see him overachieving earlier this season and now regressing to the norm with his earlier injury and the B1G grind.

    5. Hardaway and Stauskas will determine how far we can go in the tourney. As much as we looked better than previous JB teams, we still live and die by our 3-pt shootings. The offensive philosophy and team construct basically determined the 3-ball game give us the best chance to win. If we continue to be cold, we will bow out to the first physical team that can control Burke we face.

    6. Bench = McGary and air at the moment. Not to slight the rest of the bench players but they aren’t ready to be a major factor on the big stage and shouldn’t be expected to do so.

    7. Beilein has been instrumental in bring us back. As some other posters mentioned, however, his personality and/or coach philosophy is just not conductive to hyping up college kids to get that extra ounce of energy and emotion squeeze out in tight games. As much as we talked about Novak’s grit and leadership, it is more his ability to light a fire under his teammates that we missed this year.

    I really bought into the early season hype and thought we are better than what we expected before the season, but reality is we are the fifth best team in the B1G. Chances aren’t look good for us to suddenly catch fire with the fatigue and doubts looming big for the players both physically and mentally.

  • MGoTweeter

    obviously very disappointing way to end the B1G season; choking away the title and then failing to get out of the quarters in the tourney . That said, I think I am coming to the acceptance stage on what this team is. I have been looking for answers and begging for changes on certain things, but I don’t think any answers are there nor do I think any changes are coming.

    The fact is that this team is just limited in a number of ways, as are almost all college basketball teams. I think as fans we saw this team beat-up on bad to average teams and then struggle against some good teams but still win and thought that those struggles were just off nights. I think the reality is that this team has a lot of offensive talent especially in the open court that can absolutely overwhelm the majority of college basketball. However, they are extremely average on offense in the half court and probably below average on defense. That shows up when they face an opponent that can negate their full court advantage either due to exploiting michigan’s defense or simply over playing on transition defense.

    It is hard to know where to start with the issues on this team because I do think there are issues on both ends of the floor. That said, the offensive issues really do not bother me that much because all college teams, especially this year, have pretty big offensive issues. Defensively, however, the issues do bother me. The problem is I do not think this team can fix them. I have often thought that there were solutions (e.g. playing two bigs, going zone full time, getting super aggressive to force turnovers or packing it in on man to man), but at this point I do not think Michigan has the personnel to support any of these changes.

    Michigan really cannot go with two bigs full time since Morgan is really the only other big with the ability to guard the 4 spot, not to mention that McGary and Horford cannot stay out of foul trouble and both are liabilities on D in differing ways. Bielfeldt shows signs of being able to give minutes but there is a reason he does not play more. Michigan cannot get super aggressive because their wing players are just way to slow laterally. You can see this in how long it takes a guy like Robinson or Hardaway to close on a shooter from only a few feet away. Michigan cannot go zone full time or even at all it seems, as their zone has been worse than the man to man (which is usually the case with all teams that are bad on defense).

    That leaves packing it in and playing man. I would like to think that this is an option but I think we saw a variety of this today in the second half. The issue becomes that if they have to help, which is undoubtedly the case when Robinson is at the 4, they just cannot close out on anyone. This leads to overhelping and eventually wide open shots.

    At this point, this team is what it is. A team that has the capability of being great on offense when they can run and open the floor or when they get real hot from the outside. At the same time, they are extremely limited on defense and almost have to hope for the other team to either miss shots or play bad offense. They are what most of the teams who will be in the tournament are and that is flawed. The question now becomes when they play, which team is going to expose more of the other teams flaws.

    • ChathaM

      Excellent post; thanks.

    • JeremyS

      Excellent post. Really well developed arguments.

      I would like to add a couple of points. Intensity and drive are a major issue with this team. I think the 2nd MSU game was the only time I really witnessed passion from this team. They just don’t have it, except for McGary and spurts from Burke.

      In terms of offense, Michigan’s free throw shooting over the last two games has really cost this team. Also, all those missed bunny shots from the bigs is another seriously frustrating aspect that continually cripples this team. I don’t understand why they miss so many of them. If these two aspects were fixed, we would be looking at a completely different record.

      But unfortunately, this team cannot compete with the better teams because of these flaws. And I completely agree, they will not and cannot be fixed this year. Big Dramatic Sigh.

      • umhoopsfan

        What you guys are saying sounds right to me, although I can’t follow the game at the same technical level.

        I would add that Beilein seems not to know how to nurture toughness and leadership inside the team. I fail to see what his thinking was in making Bartelstein the captain. The significance of the captaincy came out pretty well when Burke said that McGary would be a future captain after the Penn State win—obviously Burke cares quite a bit about who is the captain.

        Perhaps Beilein is trying to groom future community/business leaders. Perhaps he drove away Manny Harris from the team by failing to acknowledge his role as a leader on the court. If these surmises are true, I think Beilien is too old to change implying a low ceiling for his teams at UM.

        • MGoTweeter

          I really think you are over emphasizing the importance of being named captain. Burke knows he is the leader of the team and more importantly the team knows that. He is the one that always gathers them up right before tip and during stoppages of play. I am sure that he is the one in the locker room doing most of the talking. I don’t think the fact that he was not named a captain has any impact on the team.

          However, I would say that there is definitely a toughness issue with this. I think some of that can come from coaching but personally I’ve always thought that toughness starts with the player. Some guys just do not have that attitude and there is nothing wrong with that. But if the whole team does not have that attitude, it can be a problem. I have said this before, but I think it is worth mentioning again, this is a team full of nice guys. They could use a few a**holes.

          • umhoopsfan

            Thanks. I think you are right. Beilein looks like a terrific guy—wise and reasonable.

          • Wayman Britt

            MGoTweeter you are right on about this team having too many nice guys. UM needs a couple of players who are aggressive and have a chip on their shoulder. They need a couple of guys who are trying to use basketball to better their families life (street fighters).

      • Adam St Patrick

        I highly disagree with the idea that the players’ mindset is an obstacle to overcome. TH2 in the OSU game @ home — that was intensity and drive and major, major toughness.

        I think these kids have stepped up and played really hard despite having a system that’s just really flawed. There are going to be different diagnoses and I’m sure all of them have their merits to a degree, but my thing is that you win in basketball with defense, hustle, and winning the paint on both ends, and Beilein’s system is the opposite. I’ve seen players playing in these sorts of systems give up in frustration far faster than this group. This group gave up only once this year. More could have been expected given how unsuitable this system is in the Big Ten.

  • ChathaM

    Nobody should give up on this team yet. Just in the past 2 days, I’ve seen several NCAA Tourney teams play extremely soft defence in general (eg.- Duke), have unbelievably bad defensive breakdowns (eg.- Ole Miss and Missouri, within seconds of each other) and commit incredible turnovers the likes of which you’ll never see UM commit (eg.- Missouri). I’ve seen teams win despite really bad point guard play (eg.- MSU), and I’ve seen good teams self-destruct down the stretch. To echo the comments of a few others, every team has their weaknesses, and this is all relative. Very few teams are anywhere near perfect on a college level this year (IU and Kansas, maybe; are there any others?). UM is simply one of those maddeningly imperfect teams. This ride is not over.

  • Gadfly

    The worthless perceptions and the inability for reactionary fans to see the whole picture is ridiculous. The season isn’t over yet folks. I can’t believe people are actually short-sighted enough to blame JB for being “outcoached”. What does “outcoached” even mean? They were in the Top 10 all season and spent a week at #1 with an extremely young team. U-M finally has a legitimate basketball program that is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was. Anyone who knows anything about the game of basketball realizes that Beilein is one of the very best coaches around. Stop whining about the damn coach already.

    I’ll concede that it is somewhat worrisome that the team has faded in the final stages of the last two seasons, but I’ll argue that has little to do with Beilein’s system. Last March, they just didn’t have the depth to keep playing above their heads like they were and ran into a hot team in the First Round. This year they don’t have the depth excuse, but Nick S and Robinson are freshman and are clearly worn out from a long season. IMO, McGary has been the most consistent of the three and I think could have a breakout in the Big Dance. I think they should start him and bring Morgan and Horford off the bench.

    I think if they make the second weekend, you have to consider this season a success. Sure they got a share of the conference title last year, but a lot of that joy was erased because they were done a week later.

    A lot of talent on this team folks…..They have as good as shot as anyone to make a deep run.

    • Adam St Patrick

      Will start with what I agree with — a deep run is very possible.

      I also appreciate your skepticism — no point in just accepting assertions at face value, as you clearly aren’t with the idea that Beilein got outcoached. You ask what does “outcoached” mean? I think reading the thread here offers you several options. Some obviously think that he’s leaving something to be desired as a motivator. Calling the team “soft” is also an indictment of its coach, as evidenced by the sports cliche that “teams take on the personality of their coach”. People have also cricitized the recruiting, saying that Beilein should recruit more based on a player’s projected defensive ability rather than making three-point shooting a litmus test. Others have, yesterday but more often at other times such as the earlier Wisconsin game, criticized the in-game decisions, like not guarding the inbounds guy on the end-regulation buzzer-beater.

      My own take is that Beilein doesn’t get outcoached on a game-to-game basis but that he is simply an inferior coach to many of the coaches who stress defense before offense. Beilein doesn’t. To me that’s not the only factor in the analysis but it is the active ingredient.

      So I think if you’re wondering what “outcoached” means, look for it here in this thread. Meanwhile, perhaps some of that laudable skepticism should be aimed at your own argument — those look like unsupported assertions to me, such as the entire second paragraph of your post.

      You appeal to common sense in your post — “Anyone who knows anything about the game of basketball realizes…” etc. Thing is, common sense says that a defense-first approach is better. That’s why there’s a million cliches to express that very thought. Offense wins games; defense wins championships. Defense travels; shooting doesn’t. And on and on. I for one would be interested to see one of the group of you appealing to common sense and equating it with “Beilein is a great coach” to actually make an argument in favor of it at some point.

  • AADave

    Tough Loss – probably tougher than the Indiana loss since Michigan actually had won that game against the #2 team in the country before giving it away by missing free throws.

    The loss to Wisconsin was pretty ugly. Michigan was inexplicably out of sync offensively, even shooting miserably from the free throw stripe. Defensively, they played well in the first half and then fell asleep in the second. I counted six completely open threes made by Wisconsin in the second half – that’s the ball game right there.

    I think this final loss lowers expectations. Now I think a sweet sixteen finish would be a decent year for this team. I think the achilles heel of this team is it’s youth, not Beilein’s coaching or anything else. Beilein has shown a great ability to develop talent. Given enough time, I honestly think he could continue to develop this collection of players into a solid Final Four caliber team. But he won’t have that time. Burke is gone after this year. And Hardaway is likely NBA bound as well – he’s not completely polished but he has NBA athleticism, quickness and smarts. He has continued to add new facets to his game and developed into a fairly complete player. If Hardaway drops below the lottery, I honestly believe he’s a huge steal. Robinson’s a bit of a wild card – he has NBA level talent but could use more time to develop that talent. Unfortunately, if he projects as a lottery pick, he’s probably gone as well.

    As for Michigan’s youth, I think we’ve seen it in a number of ways this year, most notably on the part of the freshmen on the defensive end. The top freshmen, McGary, Robinson and Stauskas, have shown flashes of brilliance but have been very inconsistent this year as all freshmen tend to be. In addition, Michigan relies significantly on two other freshman, Albrecht and Levert, at times.

    I’m still hopeful that Michigan can put it together again for the tournament. Beilein will have time to work on the defensive lapses and the soft rebounding tendencies. The freshmen may be more at ease since the expectations have come down a bit. Most importantly, this team will have the time (and great motivation) to regain focus and intensity. If they can do so, I like this team’s chances against anybody.

    Go Blue!

    • MGoTweeter

      I really do not think you have to worry about either Hardaway or Robinson leaving. At this point I don’t think Hardaway would get drafted in the first round let alone the lottery. Robinson got his stock inflated off early potential and I would be shocked if any team picked him in the lottery. There is always a chance that guys leave anyway but if they do, I don’t think it will be because NBA teams are ready to snatch them up early in the draft.

      • AADave

        You may be right about Hardaway’s projected draft position but the scouts would be wrong on this one. He’s an elite lottery pick level talent. As for Robinson, I agree that he should stay at least another year – Hardaway’s a far better NBA prospect at this time and he’s not even guaranteed to go in the first round.

  • CDeSana

    I did not see either of the tourney games but after following them online and reading the threads and recaps I come away thinking the same thing as I have mentioned before.

    Defense is about discipline and effort; and although we have far better athletes and athletes with length this year our defense is worse. But to give coach credit he called it before the year started that defense was going to be the issue. Yes he has a team full of youngsters but at this time of year I think we all feel they should be better on the defensive side of the ball.

    In regards to offense I still can not stop shaking my head. We have too many athletes to have an offense so centered around the point guard even if he is in the running for POY. In years past I get it but now we have enough athletes with length that can handle the ball that our offense should be so diverse that no one could stop us. Having Burke dribble the air out of the ball waiting for the high pick so he can drive or try a fade away jumper while THjr, Nik and GRIII sit along the 3 point line simply is not the best use of our talented team.

    I could not be more disappointed that we could not make better use of one of the best young athletes in college basketball GRIII; I have to believe he and his father are as well as he has more to offer than sitting in the corner and never touching the ball most processions.

    I do not think coach has ever had this much talent so maybe he needs to make major changes in his mindset to get all these amazing pieces working better together.

  • Bud

    It is time for some one to grab this team by the collar and get their full attention.

  • mikey_mac

    Wouldn’t it be nice if, against any of the top B1G teams, UM imposed its style of play instead of having it dictated by the opponent?

  • Adam St Patrick

    Some good and thoughful comments here. First, the caveats:

    1. Michigan can still make a great tourney run as long as they don’t face any serious defensive teams and even make the Final four.

    2. These are kids. They’re trying really hard and I admire them. I don’t buy that there’s a lack of passion or leadership among them. The kids haven’t done anything wrong at all. They’ve shown a ton of grit and heart.

    3. John Beilein seems like a good man and he certainly has recruited very well. I don’t know if he’s a good coach or not, but he’s a fine representative of the university.

    That said: IMO this is so very simple. There are no shortage of cliches in basketball about defense, hustle, rebounding, height and scoring in the paint. Those five things are time-tested. The laws of physics as pertain to basketball. Bo Ryan knows it. Tom Izzo knows it. So do Thad Matta and Tom Crean. Beilein may or may not, but his team this year played like it wants to win without respecting how it’s always been done. That’s why Michigan can have the most talented rotation in the Big Ten this year and rightfully be sent packing while the grown-up teams for the conference title. It sucks to have wasted a contender and the best individual basketball player in Ann Arbor in at least 20 years, but its too late now. I suspect Beilein knows it, and that we’ll see a different approach next year. I don’t think he’s a bad coach, but more of a guy that knows how to field a scrappy underdog rather than how to do it as a contender, with the big dogs you get to keep in the kennel. He doesn’t know how to deploy those kinds of weapons yet. He’ll learn.

    In the meantime, there’s still the Big Dance to look forward to for Michigan, and for fans of good basketball there are two games today and one tomorrow in the Big Ten tournament and they promise to be glorious displays How It’s Done. We should enjoy the stress-free entertainment on offer.