Notebook: Michigan looks to NCAA tournament after Wisconsin loss

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Wisconsin 68, Michigan 59-15
Dustin Johnston

Michigan’s so-called “revenge tour” turned out to be a rerun after the Wolverines lost to Wisconsin in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament, 68-59. And while they will have to forget this loss quickly as attention turns collectively to the NCAA tournament, Michigan will have to address some season-long issues that were exposed once again against the Badgers.

The mot pressing is the defense. Almost every player mentioned it as the number one thing the team needs to address, and so did John Beilein. It’s not that Michigan’s defense can’t be good — it just isn’t consistent.

“We have to keep looking for defensive consistency,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said after the game on Friday. “Defense goes a long way when you’re in the tournament.”

Michigan’s loss to Wisconsin bore out this need for consistency in defensive effort. In the first half, Michigan’s defense was great, holding Wisconsin to just 17 points on 34 possessions, But things got worse in the second frame as the Wolverines surrendered 51 points on just 33 possessions while allowing the Badgers to make six of nine 3-point attempts.

“There’s so many things you have to continue to get better at and all it takes, a team like this, it isolates you so much, it takes one breakdown here or there and they’re scoring points. The second half they scored at will. So that will be the big thing,” Beilein said during the post-game press conference Friday. “We’ll fix it the best we can. We have been trying all year long. There’s a process that we all have to go through to get better at it and hopefully we can shore up enough to continue playing for a long time.”

“A long time” would presumably mean playing through the early rounds of the NCAA tournament and reaching the Final Four. Trey Burke was clear that that was the team’s goal now and that’s where its focus lies.

While it’s always tough to lose to a team twice in one season, Burke looks forward to playing teams outside the conference, who may not be so intimately familiar with Michigan’s game strategy.

“Now that we’re done playing Big Ten teams, we may be able to run some type of sets and run some things that we’re not really able to execute as well against other Big Ten teams because of their scouting,” Burke said.

Offense a struggle for Michigan in loss to Badgers

A quick glance at Wisconsin’s halftime stats from Michigan’s 68-59 loss to the Badgers could be used to induce vomiting for anyone who loves the sport of basketball.

Wisconsin registered an effective field goal percentage of just 21 percent, good for a mere .51 points per possession. The Badgers couldn’t get anything going offensively and had been completely stymied by Michigan’s defense.

The problem for the Wolverines? Their offense wasn’t much better.

Michigan entered halftime with just a 20-17 lead. However, Trey Burke said after the game he felt like the Wolverines were running the offense and getting good looks — they just weren’t knocking them down.

“It’s difficult (to play Wisconsin). Especially when we shot the way we shot as a team in the first half. We had some really good looks, just didn’t fall,” Burke said during the post-game press conference. “I think that today we didn’t have the best offensive game. I think we got to really, got really a lot of good looks. So it wasn’t really our offense.”

It was Burke especially who had trouble getting shots to fall in the first frame. The point guard, who averages almost 20 points per game, found himself with just four points at the break on 2-of-7 shooting.

If Burke hits a few more shots, Michigan may have gone into halftime with the sort of commanding lead one would expect after an offensive performance like Wisconsin turned in. But Burke said that, once again, he felt he was getting good shots — they just weren’t going in.

“I got really good looks, good five foot to seven foot jump shots, and I was open on a lot of them and they just weren’t falling today,” Burke said. “That’s just something that I have to play through. I have to continue to play through and try to get my teammates going.”

Tim Hardaway Jr. says ankle is “good”

In the first half of the game Friday, Michigan’s ankle curse continued to bite them. Tim Hardaway Jr. went up for a shot and landed awkwardly on his ankle, causing him to head for the locker room. He later returned to the game and seemed not to be hampered by it.

“I’m fine now. It was hurting for a little bit. When I came back out it was hurting,” Hardaway said. “But it loosened up while I was playing on it and it got better while the game was going on.”

Hardaway did his post-game interview with the ankle submerged in a tub of ice.

  • Johnny B Good

    Biggest concern with this article is that Burke thought they had a lot of good looks in the first half. One pass 20 footers aren’t good shots.

    • Mattski

      I agree with Trey. Should have come out with a 20 point lead. If part of the issue is that the youngsters were completely worn down, then there may be a silver lining in having a six or seven day rest now.

    • mikey_mac

      I agree the low-% long 2s are questionable, but UM missed at least three wide open 3-pt looks in the first half.

  • AADave

    All six Wisconsin threes in the second half were open looks – they need much greater effort and intensity on D if they have any hope of making it past more than a round or two.

    • robpollard

      That type of defense is the norm, not the exception. I don’t see how it gets fixed in a week, unfortunately..

      The only way Michigan will get to the sweet sixteen is if the offense finds it’s old top gear on a more consistent basis. They just don’t play good enough D to put up long clunker stretches.

      Not saying they have to turn into Loyola Marymount of the early 90s, but they’re going to have to play very low turnover, high FG% basketball–with very few dead stretches–to advance. That’s hard to do, particularly against better teams, but it’s how the team is designed and it’s their only shot. It won’t be b/c they lock down other people’s 3-pt shooters or turn into Dwight Howard on the defensive glass. That’s not this team.

  • Wayman Britt

    I am not putting the blame on one player and a freshman at that, but I really struggle with why GR3 is soft, doesn’t bang more and rebound better. Is he afraid of contact? He is built, muscular and strong, I just don’t understand.

    I can understand with guys like Caris and Nik who are thin, but GR3 is very muscular.

    • It’s a mindset. Zack Novak wasn’t big strong or muscular. There’s a learning curve to playing physically within the rules and it’s not just a switch that you can flip.

      • Mattski

        I know fans are fickle, but I am flabbergasted by the people calling for Beilein’s head and saying he can’t coach D when his last two teams made their bones by overachieving ON D, and when his percentage win curve describes a pretty handsome upward arc. Yeah, if we’re playing bad D next year when we don’t have the NCAA’s third youngest team, get back to us, but the way people get the knives out is amazing. I just want to see someone succeed in the Big Ten that DOESN’T play like MSU or Wisconsin!

        What I’M eager to hear from you, Dylan, is whether you think that Walton will be able to step in and run the offense. Because if the focus is off Trey and on a more mature rest of the squad I see real hope. In fact, the offense looks most like Beilein’s ideal if we’re NOT depending on the point, from what I have come to understand. . . The team is playing the cards that it was dealt.

        • Adam St Patrick

          “I just want to see someone succeed in the Big Ten that DOESN’T play like MSU or Wisconsin!”

          With all due respect, I just don’t get this. There are no style points. Every year brings more examples created for the “defense wins championships; offense wins games” file. Why is there such resentment of teams that pick an effective approach and execute it properly?

    • mikey_mac

      At least this should end the absurd talk about his being a NBA lottery pick this year.

      • Indiana_Matt

        Kid’s going to be really special I think. And had some really good games this year. But that talk was definitely absurd. After his junior year I think he’ll be approaching that status.

    • Mark p

      Should they bench GRIII? The guy doesn’t seem to bring much to the table except for the occasional alley oop. In big games the guy disappears. He’s even afraid to take wide open threes yet all he does is sit in the corner outside of a rebounding position. I feel like even vogrich is a better option at this point. At least he’ll shoot the open shot. Maybe even hit one or two.

      • Adam St Patrick

        I really don’t know, but it seems to be too late. I didn’t want to see GR3 at the 4 spot going into the season. It was clear early on that McGary wasn’t ready, and Horford hasn’t played well enough to seven say that in hindsight he should have been tabbed for a bigger role. I’m pretty confident Beilein’s got some good thoughts on this, and while I’m wondering why nothing has happened this year to address the issue, I bet we will see a different approach next year.

    • snoopblue

      GR3 has some muscle on his body and he doesn’t have a lot of fat so the muscle really shows through. He doesn’t have enough muscle, especially in his legs, which is why average bigs can back him up. So he still has some work to do in the weight room to add more muscle and also on being way more aggressive.

  • Tom

    Dylan – would love to get your thoughts on the team’s mental edge and comparisons to the achievements and letdowns of last year’ team. Last year I thought the team deflated a little after winning a share of the Big Ten Title – they had their worst three game stretch of the season immediately afer. This year the team gets the #1 ranking and they haven’t been the same dominant team since then. It seems to me they reach a pinnacle that they haven’t obtained in a long time and after that the urgency doesn’t seem as strong. I was and am still hopeful that this team can turn it around and regain that edge that they displayed through the end of January.

  • mikey_mac

    The fact that THJ with a bum ankle had to step up to guard Evans was upsetting. I can’t believe Beilein didn’t throw Morgan out there instead at the 4. Sacrificing half-court offense in that case is a problem, but defensive stops/turnovers/transition offense were too few and far between as was. That’s UM’s game … Not trying to match half-court sets against a tough half-court defense.

    • mikey_mac

      I should’ve said, throw Morgan out there sooner at the 4, since he did come in late with McGary.

  • Devin

    As far as yesterday’s jerseys go…… They didn’t turn out to be as bad as I had feared. It wasn’t too noticeable on television.

    I still think we should hang this look up and never use it again…. please.