NCAA 2014: Michigan vs. Kentucky Recap

Dylan Burkhardt
on
Kentucky 75, Michigan 72-41

Kentucky 75, Michigan 72. Photo Gallery. Player Reactions. Beilein ReactionPress Conference. Photo: Dustin Johnston

This was always how Michigan’s season was going to end.

The Wolverines were going to go out in a shootout. They would go out playing beautiful offense, but eventually their fatal flaw, poor defense, was bound to catch up to them.

Michigan couldn’t handle Kentucky’s size, length and surprising shooting ability on Sunday night, but that hadn’t mattered all season. This was a Michigan team that had mastered the escape. The list of 50-50 plays that went Michigan’s way this year is almost too long to count. The Wolverines won their last nine games decided by five points or less and had flourished in pressure situations all season. But in a game that featured three lead changes and seven ties, it was Kentucky that made the big shot.

Aaron Harrison buried a 24-foot three with 4 seconds to play that was eerily similar of the shot that Trey Burke hit in Dallas a year ago.

This game had everything that we love to see in March basketball. Both teams made momentum seizing runs, hit big shots and played a clean game. The Wolverines battled back and forth with the Wildcats for 40 minutes of nearly flawless NCAA tournament basketball.

Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Caris LeVert and Jordan Morgan all turned in one more great performance together, similar to what they’ve done throughout the NCAA tournament, but this was Kentucky’s night.

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This was Michigan’s second worst defensive performance of the season and the Wolverines were hopeless on the defensive glass against Kentucky’s front line. Seldom used reserve center Marcus Lee came into the game and gave Michigan fits with his length (he had seven offensive rebounds). It wasn’t just Lee as five different Kentucky players grabbed at least one offensive board. The Wildcats rebounded 63% of their missed shots and scored 17 second chance points. It was Kentucky’s three-point shooting that made the biggest difference. The Wildcats were 7-of-11 from long range and Michigan’s defense just wasn’t strong enough to withstand the hot shooting.

Michigan shredded one more defense before hanging up its jerseys for the season. The Wolverines scored more points per possession against Kentucky than any other team managed this season. Michigan can say the same thing about ten teams that it played this season, including its final three NCAA tournament games. The Wolverines’ NCAA tournament performance was strong enough to push them into the top spot in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency for the second year in a row. Michigan will have to revamp and reload next year, but John Beilein’s offensive brilliance has been kicked into overdrive with the talent he has at his disposal the last two years.

The Wolverines had an average shooting night by their standards – 51% on twos, 39% on threes for a 54% eFG% – but won the free throw and turnover battle to equalize the game. Michigan actually outscored Kentucky 23-17 in second chance points and that was a big reason that the Wolverines were still able to keep pace.

Michigan’s season was a success. The Wolverines went from 6-4 to outright Big Ten Champions – by three games – without Mitch McGary. A return trip to the Final Four would have been the ultimate validation, but there’s no denying what this group accomplished.

Kentucky 75, Michigan 72-9
Dustin Johnston

Player Bullets

  • Jordan Morgan: The only thing that could stop Jordan Morgan in this NCAA tournament was foul trouble and he was limited to 22 minutes today. Despite a few fouls he capped off a stellar NCAA tournament with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting with 4 offensive rebounds (and a critical part in Michigan’s three team offensive boards). Michigan has had a Big Ten Player of the Year, National Player of the Year, a handful of pros and an incredible leader over the past five years, but what Jordan Morgan has brought to this program has been simply incredible. He left playing the best basketball of his career after finishing last season at his lowest point.
  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas was nearly unstoppable in the first half and Kentucky was forced to face guard him in the second. The defensive strategy worked for the most part, he was  5-of-7 from the floor in the first and 1-of-7 in the second. But Stauskas still finished with 24 points on 6-of-13 shooting in 39 minutes and didn’t hesitate to pass the ball even in the biggest situations.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert carried Michigan’s offense in the second half with 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting and three assists. He made several highlight defensive plays, managed to grab two offensive rebounds in Michigan’s final offensive possession, and threw a number of great ball screen passes. His contest on Harrison’s game-winning three was as good as you can ask for, it just wasn’t enough.
  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson had struggled to finish a couple times at the rim, but he hit two critical threes late in the second half. Overall he was 6-of-14 from the floor for 14 points and an assist in 37 minutes. Robinson’s season was tumultuous but he closed the year playing his best basketball of the season.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton faced a difficult size disadvantage against Kentucky’s trio of 6-foot-6 guards. He was just 1-of-7 from the floor (0-2 2-point) and totaled just 3 points and 1 assist in 33 minutes. Walton had made 9 of his last 15 three-point attempts leading into Sunday’s game, but he just couldn’t find his range.
  • Zak Irvin:  Irvin scored 5 points on 2-of-2 shooting including a rare driving two-point shot. There’s so much more to Irvin’s game that we didn’t see this season and he’ll have the opportunity to prove that next year. As it was he finished the season as a 43% three-point shooter – not bad for a freshman.
  • Jon Horford: Horford really struggled on the defensive glass, but he scored 6 points on 3-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes. His improvement this offseason could be one of the most important storylines to follow because the Wolverines will need him without Jordan Morgan.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht was 0-of-1 from the floor in seven minutes and didn’t record an assist. Like Walton, he faced a difficult cover against Kentucky’s 6-foot-6 guards and never found much of a groove.
  • Alex

    You know I just took a look at the photo of his shot and it really is similar to the shot Trey made last year. I just wanted to thank you and your staff for tremendous coverage and the access that makes me feel so connected with this team. They really seem like amazing people which is the most important thing. As many of them said and as you pointed out this year was a fantastic success and though this season is over it was a very special chapter in the book that is this program.

    Go Blue.

  • jsquigg

    Dylan, you say Belein will have to “revamp and reload” next year. Do you foresee major roster turnover? I personally think Robinson needs another year at Michigan and even see Stauskas as 50/50 to stay. Am I off base in my assumptions?

    • kam

      yes far off. I think Most have Nik for sure leaving and glenn made a comment the other day saying this would be the last time playing in front of his fans. They’re both most likely leaving.

      • AlwaysBlue

        Glenn’s post-game comments don’t seem as certain though. He seems to take his leadership role pretty seriously. If his good friend Mitch stays (who said tonight he came to Michigan to win a national championship), I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Glenn want to lead that charge with him.

        • robpollard

          Glenn (IMHO) is 95% gone. His play over the last few weeks, while still not quite as good as we hoped, showed why he’ll get drafted towards the end of the first round. Plus, he accomplished a lot – B1G champ, natl runner-up.

          The only reason he’d come back is if a) McGary stays and talks GRIII into it and b) Glenn wants to have it be “his” team but I don’t see him as that type of player (for good or ill) and also, that might not happen anyway with the great growth of Levert.

      • Brandon

        Actually you could understand his statement another way. Reread his quote. He said one more time not the last time. He could have been implying that they would for sure get to play one more time in the tournament this year in front of the fans. I think he will likely go, but I don’t think that was the context.

    • Nevin

      The return of Mitch seems much more plausible than GR3 or Nik.

    • Tom

      All 3 will almost certainly (like 99.999999%) declare for the draft and see what response they get. Based on what the draft projectors have been saying about where Stauskas will land, it’s super likely he’s gone. GRIII is a bit of a tougher call, but I think there’s a good chance he goes as well. McGary’s choice will be especially dependent on the feedback he gets– he’s pretty old by NBA ideal rookie standards, so if they project him in like the first round, he’s probably gone (and probably should go, in terms of risk/reward). But scouts may be nervous about him, with his relatively brief playing time and injury, so who knows.

      • ShamrockCat

        Agree with your assessment: I think all 3 will declare, forego getting agents until they see where the draft committee projects them to go, and then decide. There are good arguments for why each of them should stay or should go and it’s always a very individual decision. I think Stauskas is certainly gone; scenario is similar to Trey Burke’s last year. After earning B1G POY & All America honors, his stock is at the highest it’s going to be; can’t risk injury (as with McGary) or a less stellar year next year. As an older sophomore, I think McGary will go as well if he’s projected high enough; he’ll need a great combine performance, but if he does that, it’s best for him. GRIII is the one I think needs to and should come back; he is an awesome athlete but has yet to really achieve his full potential, mostly by having to play the 4 instead of the 3 where he belongs and would totally thrive. I think he can still vastly improve his upside in the draft and be B1G POY and possibly Nat POY if he really goes after it. But he’s been talking like he’s eager to leave and if Mitch goes, I expect Glenn does too. They came in together, decided to stay together and probably want to leave together. I don’t think that’s the best way to approach it, but that’s up to them. Glenn and Caris would be a formidable nucleus for the team next year, with or without McGary and Stauskas. Michigan faithful will feel it hard if all 3 leave at once; hope they don’t, but understand if they do.

    • Chezaroo

      Sure looks like both are long gone. :(

  • jemblue

    “The Wolverines scored more points per possession against Kentucky than any other team managed this season.”

    Amazing that, once more, we achieved this. Our offensive system is phenomenal. Great game, just an unfortunate ending.

    • gobluemd16

      and ended up #1 in the country in offensive efficiency via Kenpom

  • kam

    Great season. I was just sad our season was ended by a CRAZY lucky shot. oh well, so proud of everyone

  • a2sk

    Zak Irvin looked great on his drive to the basket and I hope it was a sign of things to come. Maybe next year, we will all be saying he’s not just a shooter.

  • Indiana_Matt

    Wonderful team to watch grow all year. Prediction for next season: Michigan will make it 3 in a row for B1G Player of the Year. Either LeVert or, if he stays, possibly McGary.

  • robpollard

    That photo, beyond showing the shot, shows why our defensive rebounding, even when we have good man on man assignments, is not great (to say the least). Morgan’s looking to box out, but GRIII? If Harrison missed, Randle had a clear lane to his right to go in for the tip; GRIII is not even looking at Randle nor is he starting to turn around to get his behind into him.

  • Joe

    Good recap– this was a fun and likable team that had a pretty charmed season– lots of good bounces and outcomes, and I don’t think we should be too bummed that we finally had an unlikely event (the last second 3) go against us. I’m really impressed that UM stayed with Kentucky when Kentucky was hitting over 60% from 3. I think that UK team is nearly unbeatable when they’re hitting from range, since they’re so massive inside, and for UM to hang with them is a real testament to the team. Hope the guys end up being happy with the run they’ve had here.

    • ShamrockCat

      If Kentucky plays next 2 games like it did Sunday, I see them winning it all.

      • jakelam2116

        No doubt about it.

  • Mattski

    Great write up, as always. I held my breath with the the faithful all year–it’s almost a relief to start breathing again. Maybe I’m getting old and more philosophical, but so many of the tourney games featured dubious reffing, could have produced different results. . . go back over video of any game and you see fouls uncalled, botched ones, too. But as with Trey’s block last year, it’s impossible to put out of my mind that there was at least one more clear goal-tend, that Caris hit a three not a two in the first half, and there you are: at a tie, overtime, whatever. That we played a team like that to a virtual deadlock is testimony to Beilein–Michigan’s going to be a fixture on the national stage for a long, long time to come. Going to miss three or four wonderful players, though: Morgan, Stauskas, GRIII. . . Also feel very appreciative of this site and the community here.

    • Indiana_Matt

      This team proved they could play with anyone in the country. Right there with Arizona. Beat MSU twice. Beat Final Four team in Wisconsin. I feel we would have taken down Duke if we’d had the 2nd chance. And right there against this team made up of all McDonald’s All-Americans. What a mentally tough group.

  • Tony DeMaria

    What goes around comes around I guess….

    • A2JD

      I was thinking that photo was from an eerily similar angle. Such a bummer of an ending to a great season.

      Here’s to next year! GO BLUE!

  • Truth

    I turned the game off immediately after Stauskas’ Hail Mary and didn’t care for any post-game commentary, especially with the announcers (and probably TV execs in the background) shamelessly cheering for Kentucky.

    Harrison’s shot was Burkesque heroism fair and square, but the officiating in the previous 39.8 minutes was heavily tilted towards the Wildcats: the four goal-tends, the cheap 3rd foul on Morgan (when Johnson, Randle, and Poythress were physically assaulting our guys), Caris’ three called as a two, and the lame makeup calls (such as the non-call on Horford’s dunk attempt followed by a silly travel call to make things look fair). Might makes right, I guess.

    Rather than speculate on who will stay and who will stay (although it should be fairly obvious), let me just say thank you to Jordan Morgan, Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Caris LeVert, Jon Horford, Derrick Walton Jr., Spike Albrecht, and Zak Irvin for a great and thrilling season. It is also great to see Irvin smiling out there.

    I, for one, do not see 2014-2015 as a “rebuilding year”: we will still have (at least) three great wings, two battle-tested point guards, and (at least) one senior big. Not bad. And that is even assuming the incoming bigs don’t immediately dominate. I think U-M under John Beilein is once again among the blue bloods, the Big Ten royalty, a program that reloads rather than rebuilds. Next year should be no exception. Great season. Go Blue.

    Thank you to Dylan for providing a great forum for us Michigan fans. The sky is the limit.

  • Truth

    I would just add that when this offence was clicking (e.g., against Nebraska, Illinois, and in various first-halves throughout the season, including Sunday), not even the 1993-1996 Chicago Bulls could have stopped it.

    • A2JD

      Jordan wasn’t playing for 1 1/2 of those years so you’re probably right. :-)

  • David

    Just one thing to add: this year’s team offense is the highest ranked Oeff in the history of KenPom. Let that sink in for a second. Without Burke, Hardaway, and McGary. Truly historic.

    • gobluemd16

      Wow, that is unbelievable

    • Davester

      Let’s hope Wisky doesn’t put up 100 on Saturday to take that away from us. But yeah, 2 straight #1 offenses with mostly different rosters… we’re really lucky to watch this team.

  • Justin Harbin

    You know if Mitch Glenn and Nik want to go than let them. We thought we needed Trey and Tim to come back and look what happened. We won the Big Ten Title and we had a nice Tourney run to the Elite 8. Im not really concerned anymore who stays or goes to be honest. Beilein will get guys to step up like Levert and Irvin and we will be just fine.

    • kam

      Let them? lol we dont have a choice really.. if they wanna go they have earned it. Had so much fun watching those guys!

      • gobluemd16

        Wish we could watch Mitch for a full season of starting, though. Really only got to see him at his full potential for about 8 games last season

  • Tony DeMaria

    I wonder if the last possession would have ended differently if that Caris “2” was called a 3 as I think it should have. Would UK have approached the last possession differently if they were down 1 instead of tied? Frustrates me that there were multiple reviews in Indy that looked to me like they were called incorrectly.

    • jakerblue

      and some pretty bad misses on offensive goal tending

    • Chris De Sana

      The better question is does it end differently if they wait for the hand off before fouling which would have meant probably a few less seconds to get off the shot.

  • Mr_Sledge

    I know Dylan will probably have another post on draft declaration scenarios, but here’s my two cents. If Nik goes, Robinson will stay. I seriously think Robinson is tired of playing the 4. I think part of the reason he came back this year was the thinking that he’d be playing more 3 with McGary at the 4. If Nik goes, that will free up Robinson to play the 3, Walton 1, Caris 2, then some combination of McGary/Horford/Irvin at the 4/5. I honestly think Robinson wants to stay like someone mentioned before about stepping in as the leader. That leadership quality and mentality is exactly what he needs to be a top 10 draft pick.

    • kam

      so im guessing you think mitch will come back too? that would be nice having two back! although i think we will be lucky to get one. you do make great points though which makes me wonder.. although irvin seems more suitable for the 3 than glenn

  • Chris De Sana

    So what is the answer to our lack of length and or ability to play above the rim at the 4 and 5 spot?

    • AADave

      A healthy McGary would have been the answer this year and his injury was the only obstacle to a repeat Final Four.

      Going forward, It would be great if we had a healthy McGary next year but I suspect he’s gone unless he gets a really bad draft projection. Even then, he might want to leave due to the chance of another injury hurting his draft prospects further.

      Otherwise, I’m asking the same question. Who will our bigs be and how good will they be on the interior with defense and rebounding? Horford is a solid inside player but has his limitations. Maybe he can make further improvements in the offseason. Mainly, we need more depth inside preferably with some muscle if not length. Donnal is 6’9″ and added muscle in his redshirt year. Will he be as good as his top 100 rating? Then, there’s Doyle at 6’9″ and Wilson at 6’8″. Will they be the top 100ish players they seem to be? Will they need redshirt years? We really need to be able to go 4 deep with genuine post players who can rebound and alter shots. This year we only really had 2 after McGary’s injury. Beilfeldt is decent for his size but is undersized for the post and lacks athleticism to make up for his lack of height. If all of the above pan out, we should be ok next year (even without McGary) but there are a lot of ifs. I think we really need a bona fide big body in the 2015 class.

      • ChathaM

        For what it’s worth, Dakich has said that Donnal is going to be really, really good.

  • jakelam2116

    The greatest thing about Beilein’s system is how quickly players progress from year to year. Remember Caris at this time last year? I’m excited to see how Irvin and Walton make strides over the summer, not to mention Horford. He’s already taking his new leadership role seriously.