Four takeaways from Michigan’s exhibition opener

Michigan 117, Concordia 44-29_thumb[7]_thumbConsidering the score of last night’s exhibition victory for Michigan, the only “key play” was Michigan showing up for the game. So in lieu of Five Key Plays, we’ll take a look at some takeaways from the lopsided 117-44 win over Concordia.

Derrick Walton can play

At the 16:27 mark in the first half, Derrick Walton stepped on the court as a Michigan Wolverine for the first time. And promptly took his worst shot of the night, according to John Beilein.

“He didn’t hit his first shot,” Beilein said after the game. “It was actually one of the few bad shots we took at the beginning.”

But it’s what Walton did after that first miss that impressed the coach.

“He hit his next shot and then he hit his next one,” Beilein said. “It’s usually a good sign when guys come off the bench and start shooting it right away.”

Walton appeared confident and fluid during his time on the court, eager to pass and quick on defense. Although slow on a few close-outs, the point guard appears to have the ability to stay in front of anyone.

The Detroit native’s impact on the game was quiet until late in the first half, when he put together a stunning run of plays. First, he knocked down a 3-pointer. Then, he hit a fallaway on the baseline under a minute later. On the defensive possession following that make, Walton stole the ball and cruised to the hoop for a lay-in. After the game, Walton assessed his play.

“I think I played fairly well for my first game,” he said.

Glenn Robinson III can still shoot

John Beilein said Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke left about 25 shots per game in their wake when they left for the NBA — shot opportunities that are left for the remaining Wolverines to gobble up.

Glenn Robinson III feasted on them Tuesday against Concordia. The sophomore took 15 shots and made 12 of them. When Robinson wasn’t flying to the rim, he was letting it fly from beyond the 3-point line — he made four of his six attempts from deep, finishing with 33 points

“It felt great,” Robinson said of his shooting. “I told Spike [Albrecht], if you see me open, just get it to me. I’m feeling it right now. That’s what he did, he and Caris.”

But Robinson’s shooting wasn’t the only aspect if his evolved offense on display. He was playing mostly on the perimeter, handling the ball and creating shots in space. This was all according to plan.

“We’re trying to put him in so many situations, just playing ball but making the court real big for him so he can use that athleticism,” Beilein said. “He really is comfortable. You’ll see him on both sides of the floor. You’ll see him in the middle, you’ll see him all over the place. We all have known he can shoot it.”

In describing the team’s mindset going into this season, it’s evident Robinson was talking about his own personal mindset, as well:

“We want to dominate right from the start.”

Michigan 117, Concordia 44-26

Caris LeVert is the most improved player on the roster from last season

Last season, Caris LeVert played marginal minutes, mostly as a defensive specialist.

This season, Michigan will be relying on him for scoring, rebounding and occasionally running point guard. A lot can change in one offseason, especially when a player puts in as much work as LeVert did. During Michigan’s exhibition win on Tuesday, LeVert finally got to show off the fruits of his labor.

The sophomore finished the game with 16 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and three steals in a little over 20 minutes. LeVert hit one 3-pointer, but most of his other points came off drives to the hoop.

“When you don’t have a lot of weight on your body, it’s not fun to go in and crash and go to the basket,” Beilein said of LeVert after the game. “I think he feels better that way.”

The Pickerington, OH native certainly looked more comfortable, especially when Concordia brought pressure. LeVert has point guard-level handle, displayed most effectively in a nasty crossover-eurostep combo late in the first half.

LeVert also showed off some improved athleticism, throwing down a couple of nice dunks on the fast break.

“That’s really a tribute to coach Sanderson, our strength coach,” LeVert said after the game. “I was really in there a lot this summer, working with him. That really helped us.”

Nik Stauskas is a more versatile player than last year

Nik Stauskas scored 24 points on Tuesday. Only six of them were from beyond the arc.

His box score was an indication of Stauskas’ improved versatility, as he manned ballhandling duties for much of the game and looked very comfortable creating opportunities on the perimeter.

According to Stauskas, that development has been a joint effort by him and Robinson.

“With Trey and Tim leaving, those were guys who got a lot of shot-clock plays, created off the dribble,” Stauskas said after the game. “Glenn worked a lot on his jumpshot in the offseason, and I worked on my jumpshot and getting to the basket. The fact that we were able to show that today is great.”

Stauskas was one of Michigan’s most efficient pick-and-roll players last season, and it’s clear Michigan coaches are going to try and place him in more of those situations. But it’s not just on offense that Stauskas appears to be much improved.

Often a liability on defense last season, the sophomore hopes to prove his defensive chops this year. He looked quicker on his feet against the admittedly far inferior Cardinals. That being said, Beilein has noticed a difference.

“Anybody who’s watched Nik can see that, like most freshmen who are now sophomores, he’s at a different level defensively,” Beilein said.

  • Ben Sheler

    Future starting lineup: Walton, Stauskas, Levert, GR3, Mitch. Stauskas, Levert, GR3, and Mitch ideally all average 30+ minutes. That leaves about 30 minutes up for grabs between Morgan, Horford, and Irvin. Then Spike plays what Walton doesn’t (on average), maybe a 25-15 split to start the year between them. My take after watching the Concordia game.

    • Fab 5 Legends

      completly agree with that lineup…even though our upperclassman are on the bench – i feel that would be our most effective lineup…
      when we play a bigger team – slide gr3 to the 3 and add morgan at 4

      • Northern Blue

        That looks like it would be the lineup that would end a game anyways, sans defensive situational subs that Morgan will surely be inserted into the game for. It’s also possible Irvin could be in that lineup for Stauskas or Levert as well. I just feel like Stauskas is going to be too damn efficient to not play most of the game. First time depth has been a problem for JB I think, albeit a good problem.

        • kam

          I just cant see irvin starting this year. The growth of Nik and caris plus the experience just put them above him.

  • Champswest

    My lineup: Walton, Stauskas, Robinson, McGary and Horford. Use Levert to spell the 1,2 & 3, Irvin to spell the 2,3 & 4 and Morgan to spell the 4 & 5. That is an 8 man rotation that gives you interior defense, rebounding (can you imagine McGary & Horford together?) and plenty of scoring.

    • Dr_ZC

      What about Spike? My take is that a single game is tough to determine how many minutes each player starts. I would have Levert come off the bench to provide a spark and energy, Spike to provide stability, and Irvin to provide flavor, athleticism and defense. All bigs after Mitch are interchangeable, with Horford being in the top mix.

    • kam

      irvin wont play the 4

      • geoffclarke

        He played “the other three” last night, but I get that he won’t be defending opposing 4s.

        • kam

          Yeah no way he could defend BIG TEN 4s

  • Wayman Britt

    Well is UM going to get tricked or treated tomorrow night with a 2014 guard?

    • jakelam2116

      I hate to say it, but I think tricked. Hoping I’m wrong.

  • Mattski

    Seems to me that almost every positive sign we might have hoped for with regard to this 2013-2014 team was on display last night: GRIII jumping out of the gym; Stauskas playing with new physicality and confidence; Caris a viable point guard and emerging defensive specialist, opening up the possibilities for a really LONG team when appropriate (likely featuring Irvin down the road); Horford a rebounding vacuum, coming on on offense; and Walton clearly on track to run the team competently at point. Again this year, the fast break is going to contribute to the margin in a lot of games. We’ve got to get out and play the games, obviously. But the one question is McGary. If he’s healthy we’ve got to be seen as one of the nation’s top teams, no? To my eye MSU doesn’t look as far along:

  • jakelam2116

    Regardless of who starts, it’s hard to think that any of the top nine won’t be a part of the rotation any night — all playing more than 10 minutes. I see Biefeldt playing minimal minutes (based on foul trouble) and Donnal redshirting (just no room).

  • Alex

    It is one game (one I unfortunately could not watch). It seems like we are going to find a lot more about this team against a decent team in Iowa State at their place. Definitely reason to be optimistic and there is a lot of talent with some of it still in reserve due to injury. As our coach says if the team takes it one day at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time, then this season could also be special.

  • Mattski

    Off topic, but is it now clear we’re playing VCU in San Juan, or is there still a possibility we play FSU? I live in Tallahassee, and might have a few friends over to watch if we’re playing the Seminoles. Thanks.

    • No, it’s a tournament. Depends who wins between VCU/FSU and whether Michigan beats Long Beach.

      • Mattski

        Thanks. Maybe fans on the board I saw were assuming VCU beats a retooling FSU. . . .