Game 2: Bucknell at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 77, Bucknell 53. Photo Gallery. Player Reaction. Beilein Presser. Box Score.

Max Bielfeldt wasn’t even in the conversation.

For the last six months we’ve picked apart seemingly every player and lineup combination that Michigan could feature. We wrote stories about returning stars, freshmen and returning stars. Bielfeldt’s name was mentioned only in passing, or when he underwent hip surgery.

He didn’t see the floor in Michigan’s season opener and it’s safe to say that more than a few eyebrows were raised when No. 44 got the call off the bench rather than Ricky Doyle or DJ Wilson.

Max Bielfeldt? The same player that managed just a 36% eFG% last season and recorded more than twice as many fouls as made baskets?

Bucknell freshman Nana Foulland appeared to feel the same way, immediately leaving Bielfeldt wide open for a pick-and-pop three-pointer from the top of the key. Then it went in. Then another went in. By the time halftime rolled around Bielfeldt had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting. At the final buzzer Bielfeldt had a career high 18 points and had topped last year’s season totals of 15 points and six made field goals.

The 6-foot-7 Peoria native’s spark off the bench helped Michigan cruise to an easy 77-53 victory over Bucknell was never in doubt and added yet another layer to Michigan’s array of unproven frontcourt options.


Michigan’s offense was scalding hot in the first half, running out to 1.44 points per possession before cooling off in the second. The Wolverines shot 47% on twos and 44% on threes for a 52% eFG% on the night. Michigan turned the ball over on less than 10% of its offensive possessions for the second consecutive game and were also able to score 15 second chance points against what was the second-best defensive rebounding team in the country last season.

The Wolverines set the tone early on with their defense. Michigan recorded stops on Bucknell’s first five possessions and turned them into an early 10-0 lead. The start was just the opposite of the Hillsdale where Michigan came out flat and gave up a handful of easy baskets and starting quickly was an obvious focus for the Wolverines.

Beilein hinted the offseason that he wasn’t quite sure where this team would make its mark on defense. It’s only two games, but the Wolverines look like a team that could force more turnovers than any of Beilein’s recent groups. Bucknell gave the ball away on over a quarter of its offensive possessions and Michigan recorded seven steals. The more aggressive Michigan defense has also translated to easy offense, Bucknell’s 12 first half turnovers in 33 first half possessions led to 10 easy Wolverine points.

If it weren’t for a torrid five minute stretch by Chris Hass late in the second half, this would have been an even more impressive defensive performance. As it was, Michigan held the Bison to just .78 points per trip, controlling the defensive glass and holding Bucknell to just 30% three-point shooting and 46% two-point shooting. There were still some missed rotations and early season hiccups from a young team, but it was a clear step in the right direction just 48 hours after a disappointing defensive performance in the season opener.

Michigan’s big men all struggled at least once in one-on-one post-up isolations that resulted in either fouls or made baskets. The young bigs need to do a better job of using their lower body to force opposing big men out of the lane, but the fact remains that Michigan is almost always going to have to double-team the more skilled post-players on its schedule.

I questioned in the preview whether Bucknell could give Michigan a little more than it bargained for, but there was never any doubt in the outcome. Next up for the Wolverines is a Thursday night game against a Detroit team that is likely more talented, but less structured than the Bison.

Michigan 77, Bucknell 53-11

Player Bullets:

  • Derrick Walton: Bucknell didn’t have anyone that could stay in front of Walton and he was in attack mode from the opening jump. This was who Walton was as a prep player and now he’s added the explosiveness to allow him to play at that level in college. Walton led Michigan in FTA for the second consecutive game and finished with an efficient 15 points on nine shot attempts. He was only credited with two assists, but that number didn’t do him justice as he had a number of good passes that resulted in free throws. He also might be the best 6-foot rebounder in the country, leading Michigan with eight rebounds on the night.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert played one of the best 2-of-11 shooting games possible. He just couldn’t find the bottom of the basket with his jumper, but he set the tone with six assists in the opening 20 minutes. LeVert struggled in the mid-range game, a recurring problem from last season, but his ability to facilitate and rebound was critical. He also landed Bucknell’s ace defensive stopper, Ryan Frazier, on the bench with early foul trouble.
  • Max Bielfeldt: We laughed when Beilein said that Max was ‘unguardable’ in practice last year at the Big Ten Tournament, but Bielfeldt’s jumper looked very good. He gives up a lot of size down low which causes Michigan some issues on the defensive glass, but as a change of pace stretch big man there’s a chance he could find a niche.
  • Zak Irvin: Michigan has done a terrific job of dialing up simple wrinkles in the offense to get Irvin the ball for easy jump shots. It doesn’t take much space for him to get open and he’s been essentially automatic so far this season. After a 4-of-5 three-point shooting night on Monday, Irvin is 7-of-11 from long-range for the season with a 78% eFG%. Seth Davis was harping on the importance of Irvin attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. While that would be nice, Irvin has managed to show off his increased athleticism plenty. There wasn’t a better example of Camp Sanderson paying off than his strong and-one layup transition for Michigan’s third basket of the game.
  • Kameron Chatman: Chatman struggled for the second straight game, going 1-of-5 from the floor and still appearing to be a step slow on many of his defensive rotations. His talent and ability was still evident, and he did tally 3 assists and two steals, but he’s stuck in a bit of a limbo between one step forward and two steps back. For instance, on back-to-back possessions in the second half Chatman was able to come away with a steal only to follow with a poor alley-oop pass and an offensive foul. If he continues to struggle, it’s clear that the alternative that Beilein is most comfortable with is inserting Albrecht (29 minutes) for Chatman and sliding the other guards and wings up a spot.
  • Mark Donnal: Donnal only played 11 minutes, but he did some nice things on the floor. He had several good help side rotations, blocking two shots, and also had a very nice offensive rebound and putback. His ability to move and rotate better than Doyle seems like it will keep him ahead in the pecking order for now.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht was able to play the sort of game that he loves to play as he kept his dribble, rejected screens and weaved along the baseline before rattling off laser passes. He finished with six assists in 29 minutes, but it will be much more difficult to play that sort of game against better competition. Albrecht’s early season shooting has been something of a concern as he’s just 3-of-12 from the floor, failing to find his touch at the bucket or from long-range.
  • DJ Wilson: Wilson’s versatility on the defensive end should continue to earn him situational minutes this season. He had a very nice help-side block and he continued to show very good footwork hedging the high ball screen. He doesn’t have the strength to hold his own inside against stronger five-men, and he missed his only jump shot attempt badly, but he’ll be on the floor against perimeter oriented offenses as he improves.
  • Ricky Doyle: Doyle is comfortable playing physically offensively, but he didn’t always have the quick lift to be able to finish even when he grabbed an offensive rebound. That being said, he did have two highlights: a nice half hook and a powerful pick-and-roll finish.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins didn’t get much of a chance to make an impact, registering one offensive rebound and a turnover in five minutes.
  • Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman: It looks like it’s going to take some time for Abdur-Rahkman to find his way in Michigan’s offense. The transition from a high school offense that was predominantly isolation to a structured offense like Michigan’s isn’t easy, especially when you’re thrown into the game as a primary ball handler when you’re on the floor.
  • kam

    Great Job Max and walton!! irvin makes everything haha Also when caris sets picks for someone one coming up he kinda like half posts up on the block and moves away. Im not sure why they don’t give him the ball at times. He doesn’t even need post moves.. At 6’7 they had a 6’3 guy on him today. Back down one hard dribble and just rise up and put it off the back board. That would be really nice.. And Chazeroo said i just don’t think MAAR is ready.

  • Burke_Does_Work

    Unrelated to the game, but is it possible to get Seth Davis to commentate more of our games? His commentary was not only on point, but hilarious. You could tell he did his homework too because he knew something about every player on our roster.

    • Tom

      He was really annoying, IMO.

      • Mitchigan

        I agree Burke_Does_Work. I thought Seth Davis was fantastic – he through out so many great quips. Would love to see him again

    • JP

      He needed to stop with the maximus stuff, that was abrasive towards the end

    • Mattski

      Annoyed the crap out of me. Limit one cliched man-crush comment per game, please.

    • Truth

      I am fairly tolerant of announcers (for example, I was never bothered by that BTN guy who called Darius Morris a “delicate butterfly” or something… which riled a lot of people). However, the “Maximus” and “man crush” stuff last night was pretty idiotic. That said, that kind of silly, baseless praise is sometimes preferable to grumpy Dakich explaining why guys today don’t know how to do things like they did in the old days.

  • Yeah, Bucknell seemed to be actively disrespecting Bielfeldt early. I can’t say that I really blame them, but it was fun watching him make them pay. Max’s reverse layup off an offensive board was the real thing.

    The game looked to be moving pretty fast for all the freshmen last night. That’ll fix itself in time. But then it will accelerate on them again in a big way come conference season. Who is gonna gear up with it?

  • I’m sure everybody saw this, but we are extraordinarily quick around the perimeter. All of Bucknell’s guys were nervous with the ball in their hands and even when they started hitting some threes they were all hurrying to their detriment.

  • Mattski

    Walton was fabulous, and Zak is nothing short of amazing. I like that we got four guys to try out on teams at center, though I wish just one was going to be lights out. And there is defense! But there are some growing pains ahead. I see that Oregon is putting up a lot of points.


    Anyone else think that MAAR should get the shirt? I think we do have options to play at the point other than Walton/Spike with LeVert and even Chatman. As tough as it has been for Chatman, you can’t deny his confidence with the ball in his hands, he will get more comfortable in the offense as the year goes on.

    • Indiana_Matt

      I don’t know. I feel you only redshirt if you feel a strong sense that their physical development will pay off down the line. The fact that he doesn’t seem ready for high level D-1 basketball as a freshman who was not highly recruited seems unremarkable to me. Seems expected. I feel like if he gives us good bench minutes in his junior and senior years that would be very good. If he gives us more that would be outstanding.

      • Nick

        This should just be a standard response to every MAAR post this year. Goodness, can we give this kid (and all the freshmen) time to develop and adjust? Can you guys even imagine what its like to be 18/19 and playing in front of thousands of people? A big part of this is just overcoming nerves. RELAX.

        • Two years ago Caris didn’t even convince JB he was good enough to not RS until Dec. 1.

          He only made 28 shots that year but the experience was obviously important judging by last year.

          • Truth

            I actually think MAAR looks pretty good even though he has yet to make a field goal. He is lightning fast, a good defender and solid ball handler. He is trying to do too much in his limited minutes and forcing up some out of control shots. But he is good. If anything, playing him more would help his confidence and thus, his improvement. It hope he can adjust to the system while still retaining his nice qualities. The Brundidge comparison that some people have made bothers me because I think MAAR can do a lot for this team.

        • JBIII

          It was a question, easy killer haha. If you read my entire post I talk about a freshman (Chatman) just needing to get more comfortable. This isn’t about him, it’s more about our team having the ability to redshirt him because we have 4 great options at the point. Thought it might make sense long term… RELAX NICK!

    • MChem83

      No, don’t see any reason why having him sit on the bench for a year will make him better next year than if he gets even limited game time this season. He clearly has a lot of room for improvement, but get him into actual competition when you can.

  • MGoTweeter

    Really happy to see the team take a step forward on defense. Bucknell did not have many scorers but they did run some good action with lots of movement and screens/cuts. Michigan handled it well, with only a few situations of guys getting lost. Even bigger development was the perimeter D. Walton, Levert and Irvin were tremendous on the ball. All of them look vastly improved as perimeter defenders. Perhaps that increased ball pressure covered up some of the mistakes elsewhere, but that is sort of the point of pressuring on the perimeter. It will be interesting to see if they can keep that up. Detroit, while not a very good team, should at least test them a bit more in terms of on the ball D.

    The most interesting trend I am seeing on offense, is the increased post looks. Michigan has been crazy adverse to both posting up and throwing the ball into the post for a long time (maybe since D Sims graduated). Through two games, I am seeing lots of guys try to post up and guards actually looking to get them the ball. Now, the entry passing is still pretty poor and most times guards decline to make the entry, but they are looking more than they ever have in recent years. And its not just the 5 men who are posting, its Chatman, Levert, and a little bit of Irvin as well. Just being able to get the ball into the paint via the post up, would be a nice wrinkle to add to an already diverse offense and if nothing else a great way to further collapse a defense to free up shooters.

    • gobluemd16

      Rather than create my own post, I’ll just respond here because I agree with everything above. I think Beilein clearly trusts the 5 of Walton, Spike, Caris, Zak, and Donnal the most. Especially early in the year, I think Beilein runs with these 5 against the high-major teams for the majority of the time. Hopefully Bielfeldt provides a consistent added boost; then you could add him to the list above. I don’t really trust Kam at all so far, on both ends. He has definitely shown flashes, but his playing time will be a lot less than people anticipated if he can’t find his man on defense and makes poor decisions on offense (transition, primarily). You could see Beilein losing hairs with Kam’s mistake on that 4-on-1 fast break. Growing pains are to be expected, so he will definitely improve, but especially early in the year I think Spike will continue to get big minutes. I am not worried about Spike’s shooting either, I bet we see an improvement over the next few games.

    • Chris De Sana

      I have been trying to pay special attention to post play and feeds and do not see it the same way. I see both Donnal and Doyle picking and rolling to hoop ala Morgan in the past accept the ball never shows. I also see them at times trying to post up on the block yet rarely if ever get the feed. I realize all the bigs are a work in progress but in blow out games they could certainly concentrate on building confidence by feeding the big fellas more often.

  • ChathaM

    Plenty of great specific points have already been made, so I’ll just share my one big-picture takeaway from the game. It hit me midway through the first half, after watching the leaner, quicker Walton and Bielfeldt, and the stronger, quicker Irvin, and the potential of some of the freshmen, etc. This program is one of the premier programs in the country. I think a lot of us felt this way last season, but it was tough to be sure, since we pretty well knew we’d be losing Stauskas, Robinson, and McGary. But now, after witnessing multiple years of early departures of key players, and never seeming to really break stride, Michigan basketball is back to where we’ve hoped for 20 years that it could be.

  • Chris De Sana

    Bravo to Max for having a career game, hopefully it will lead to quality minutes when he is called on again. My one big take away is that as our talent improves year after year we truly develop more of a motion offense rather than one that at times looks like a 1 on 5 challenge. Yes the dribble drive can create opportunity around the three point arc but our talent level has improved to the point that many of our players are multi talented enough to create or hit the open jumper. I would also like to test a few minutes with both Donnal and Doyle playing some sort of high low post game.

    • MAZS

      Don’t see it (Donnal and Doyle) happening. Wilson looks more likely to get a few minutes at the 4. If Beilein ain’t doing it now, history says it is unlikely to be added later.

  • Champswest

    None of the freshmen have really shown much yet. Oh, the joys of having upper classmen. With the way Max is playing with poise and confidence, can you imagine Wilson, Doyle, Chatman, et all as seniors? There is no substitute for experience.