Game 10: Michigan at Arizona Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Limping and slumping, Michigan ran head first into a buzz saw at the McKale Center in Tucson on Saturday afternoon.

The Wolverines were met by a bigger, stronger, more athletic and simply better opponent. While Michigan was able to hold on for parts of the first half, trailing by just 11 points at the break, eventually the Wildcats ran the Wolverines out of the gym for an 80-53 victory.

Michigan just didn’t have any answers for Arizona’s size inside or its defensive abilities on the perimeter.

Caris LeVert was rendered ineffective by the defensive combination of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson, finishing with just 8 points on 2-of-9 shooting with 5 turnovers in 35 minutes and his supporting cast wasn’t any better. Derrick Walton showed flashes in the first half, but only made two shots in 34 minutes. Zak Irvin finished with 14 points didn’t make a real impact on the game until it was out of hand.

Arizona’s domination of the game was due to its ability to control the rim. The Wildcats outscored Michigan 42-16 in the paint for the game and dominated the offensive glass in the second half.


This Arizona team is very good, especially on the defensive end of the floor, and is easily one of the elite teams in the country. But that doesn’t excuse Michigan’s lackluster performance.

This is a game that Michigan probably would have lost nine times out of ten, but it didn’t even look like Michigan belonged on the same floor on Saturday afternoon.

John Beilein is known for his team’s reliance on the three-point shot, but the often-forgotten barometer of whether ‘Beilein ball’ is working properly is two-point shooting percentage. The offense is reliant on the three to create enough spacing to create easy two-point opportunities. When those opportunities aren’t there — either via cuts, ball screens or transition — it becomes ugly quickly.

Michigan has only shot better than 50% on two-point attempts in one game this season, a blowout win over Nicholls State. Last year’s team shot 52.7% on twos and managed to shoot 50% or better in an impressive 11 out of 18 Big Ten games (H/T: John Gasaway)

Michigan has only shot better than 50% on two-point attempts in one game this season

Simply put, Michigan doesn’t have anyone that can finish around the basket. LeVert isn’t getting layups, he’s getting 8-foot jumpers. Kameron Chatman doesn’t have the strength or bounce to finish at the basket and Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal aren’t reliable enough to finish against Arizona’s massive frontcourt.

Last year when Nik Stauskas would struggle – it feels like ages ago, but remember he went 0-2 from the floor in a blowout loss at Duke last fall – Michigan had Caris LeVert to pick up the slack. This year’s team doesn’t have that secondary option. Derrick Walton has done it in stretches, but generally needs transition play to make his impact, while Zak Irvin has the occasional hot shooting game. But Michigan needs to find another way to generate offense or the Wolverines could be in for more long nights like this.

The offense was bad, but the defense simply fell apart. Arizona started strong, but Michigan’s defense actually made enough plays to stay within striking distance in the first half. The Wolverines cleaned up the defensive glass in the first half (rebounding all of Arizona’s misses) and created just enough turnovers to generate some easy offense. In the second half? Arizona rebounded half of its misses and the Wolverines unraveled. The mistakes in the second half were rudimentary for a team at this level: botched switches, not stopping the ball in transition, missed box outs. Michigan just wasn’t good enough defensively to win and the 1.22 points per possession that Arizona scored feels generous.

Michigan has been punked on the road plenty of times before and has figured out a way to bounce back. This team isn’t as bad as it looked over the last seven days, but there’s not a lot of time to get better. In his post game, Beilein stressed how important it was for this team to get better day-by-day to start to ease the gap between teams like this and Michigan. The Wolverines have a week off to wrap up exams and try to figure things out against an inconsistent, yet talented SMU team at home.


Player Bullets:

  • Caris LeVert: LeVert just couldn’t crack Arizona’s defense. He could beat the first man, but he constantly settled for off balance jumpers just outside the paint. We’ve profiled in the past that this is a shot that LeVert struggles with and we’ve seen a lot of it this year. The Wolverines dialed up ball screen after ball screen for LeVert, but just couldn’t get things going.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton gave Michigan a real spark (and his 5 assist to zero turnovers were impressive) in the first half, but the missed free throws were backbreakers. Walton finished 2-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-7 from the stripe. Walton’s half court offense is still far behind his transition offense and I think he needs to be more aggressive pushing the offense and utilizing his quickness. In the post-game, Walton said his toe is getting better, but he doesn’t look nearly as explosive as he was early in the season.
  • Zak Irvin: Michigan needs a lot more from Irvin and most importantly, he needs to stop letting his shooting woes affect him on the other end of the floor. It’s happened often enough this season to become a trend and it was unsettling to see him get yanked just seconds into the second half after botching the first play. Beilein said he was impressed with how he recovered, but Michigan needs more from the 6-foot-6 sophomore.
  • Kameron Chatman: Chatman continues to a show a few flashes. He made an early three and looked alright out of the gate, but then picked up two quick fouls. His length (three steals) is valuable on defense, but he struggled a few times against Brandon Ashley in one-on-one situations. The key for Chatman is being able to finish around the basket and his problem is different than LeVert’s. Instead of pulling up from 12 feet, Chatman tries to get all the way to the rim and generally ends up throwing up an off balanced attempt.
  • Ricky Doyle: Doyle was no match for Tarczewski on the low block, but he did managed 8 points and three rebounds. It feels like Michigan could work the ball to Doyle on the block (especially against teams that aren’t so massive) a bit more often because he looks comfortable down there. He’s not there yet, but he still looks to be the most promising of Michigan’s post players.
  • Mark Donnal: Ricky Doyle and Max Bielfeldt played the lions share of the minutes in the second half, but Donnal made a few nice plays – mostly in garbage time – including a three-point jumper and a nice catch and lay-in in transition.
  • Spike Albrecht: His three late in the first half helped Michigan stay within striking distance and broke a big Arizona run, but he wasn’t able to do much more. Those were his only points of the game and he also handed out three assists.
  • Max Bielfeldt: At 6-foot-7, it was always going to be tough for Bielfeldt to hold his own inside against Arizona so by playing him Michigan was hoping for some offensive punch. He couldn’t find the basket finishing 0-4 from the floor with two missed triples and a turnaround jumper attempt.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins got some solid run, recording 12 minutes, but he missed all three of his long distance attempts. They were open, and pretty good looks, but they just didn’t fall. If he can get, and make those shots, he could be a weapon. However, his roughness around the edges was still evident as he turned it over twice and drifted out of position for a drive-and-kick to cause another turnover.
  • mikey_mac

    It’s been a few years since UM has been so outclassed in both size and talent.
    The offense is reminding me of the Stu/Zack years, where you felt like the paint was just walled off, and grinding out a low-possession game was the only way to stick with quality teams. Unfortunately, the defense isn’t as good as those teams (it’s easy to forget how good Stu and Zack became defensively).
    I’m hoping the guys can shrug off the confidence issues. It’s not helping that most of their on-court personalities are relatively passive. Spike is by far the most outspoken, so let’s hope he’ll have a Zack-at-Breslin moment soon and get some spark back.

    • MAZS

      I disagree that the defense is worse than the Zack/Stu years–at least on the perimeter. Because he was undersized, Zack had defensive limitations despite his smarts and effort. And I simply do not consider Stu anything more than an average defender–certainly not better than Walton. Irvin’s perimeter defense has actually been quite good. And usually, Levert’s defense is better than anyone on those teams. Now down low, that is a very different matter.

      • mikey_mac

        Stu as a senior was absolutely better defensively than Derrick is now. Derrick has the ability to surpass him eventually, but Stu took on every team’s best perimeter player and was always solid. Derrick is not even close to that right now.
        Novak was limited only in that he was forced to play out of position, but he still was more effective than Irvin/Chatman are right now against big 3s and 4s.

        • MAZS

          Stu’s defense was hugely over-rated. He worked hard, I grant, and moving from a supposed 3 point shooter, he got better. But Walton is better defensively on his worst day.

          • mikey_mac

            I guess we’ll agree to disagree. Stu had very good initial lateral quickness, and was much longer than Derrick. By his senior year, he also had a very good sense for staying ahead of the offense, avoiding screens and such.

    • Champswest

      Agree about the passive personalities. That was one of my pre-season worries. Who was going to be that guy (Novack, Hardaway, Burke, Stauskas) who just refused to lose and was able to inspire his teammates to play harder.

  • jlustig22

    I agree about Walton needing a lot of improvement in the halfcourt. He’s really good in transition but not much of a difference maker in the halfcourt. He’s not much of a attacker and hasn’t shown an ability to make his teammates better like Morris and Burke did. He seems really good at shooting the corner 3 but not so much above the break. He’s an unbelievable rebounder for his size which this team needs but for them to be a really good team, they need him to be a difference making PG.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      I think Walton and this team should push the tempo at every opportunity. I don’t think the stats necessarily show it, but I think we are more successful when we get out in transition or it just seems that way.

      Everything is just far too difficult right now. Beat the defense down the court and get easier looks.

    • mikey_mac

      Walton is shooting an anemic 33% from 3 so far this year, which makes him ineffective as a threat to drive, since defenses can go under screens without being punished for it.
      If he gets his outside shot back, I would expect that to open up the court for him and we’ll start seeing more playmaking in the half court.

  • AADave

    I was pretty high on this team after 7 games. I have to admit that my high expectations were premature. Michigan’s decline in talent and experience over the last 2 years is finally becoming evident. At the PG position, Walton is very good but he’s not a playmaker like Burke. Stauskas filled that role last year but he’s gone now too. Neither Levert nor Irvin has been able to fill that role. We also lost GR3 and Chatman hasn’t come close to filling his shoes. GR3 was very athletic and a great finisher while Chatman is lacking in both areas. In the front court, we lost all two solid essentially senior players and we’re replacing them with freshmen. Walton, Irvin, Donnal, Doyle, Chatman and a healthy DJ Wilson should continue to improve but it will take more time. And until they improve, it will be hard for Levert to get good looks and maximize his talent.

    Even with more experience, we could use more size to match up with a team like Arizona. We were crushed 44-16 in the paint, 42-8 before garbage time. And we were soundly beaten on the boards. In a couple years, we should have experienced size and more size coming in. Until then, it will be hard to compete with bigger teams.

    I’m still hopeful we’ll prove enough to make the tourney but as a bubble team or lower seed.

    • itsjustaherb

      I think the tournament is out of the question for this team this season. The big ten is just too solid even though they’ve been struggling late out of conference. There will be no easy wins and the only games I see them having a great chance of winning are against Rugers and Northwestern. All the other teams they will play in conference will be tough to win especially on the road.

      • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

        I don’t think the Big Ten is solid. I think its average.

        Our schedule luckily avoids trips to some tough venues. You can’t really think we will lose every game besides Rutgers and Northwestern.

        • mikey_mac

          Agree, I actually think the B1G will get fewer teams in the tournament than average, or at least in terms of percent of teams, now that B1G has more teams. The tier below UW and OSU is not impressive. UI, IU, other UI, Minn, Neb — none are close to shoe-ins at this point. No reason UM still can’t emerge ahead or near the top of this group.

    • ChathaM

      It’s frustrating to watch our relative lack of athleticism, then flip to a T’Wolves boxscore that showed that GR3 barely played again, if at all. I’m sure that he made the right decision for him by leaving, but man, that’s frustrating.

    • mikey_mac

      Size is a real issue, but let’s all not forget, there was very good reason to expect McGary and/or Horford back for this season. Beilein simply can’t recruit for the completely unexpected.
      Since there won’t be any big infusion of talent next year, guys like Dawkins and Donnal really need to step it up. We’ve already seen signs that Doyle and Chatman can play.

  • Chris De Sana

    Well pretty much got what I expected from this game, completely out matched in every way possible, and it could happen a few more times before the season is over. We all have to keep in mind that other than Kam who got offered by Arizona and UConn we do not have another player on this roster that was even considered by any of the current crop of basketball factories. Zak would have been the next highest recruit being offered by Indiana, Butler and Xavier.

    With that in mind we are going to be often over matched when it comes to depth of roster and pure athletic ability.

    Yes coach B has found lightening in a bottle in the past with fast rising stars that flew under the radar but this team is going to take some time, in fact we could very well see a lot of the same through this year and next.

    All said I mirror what others have already said which is it amazes me that with all the success Michigan has had that we still struggle to land big name recruits, especially skilled and athletic BIGS who can deliver on the low blocks at both ends of the court.

    • itsjustaherb

      It does surprise me that Michigan wasn’t able to land any big name recruits with the recent success they’ve had, but it doesn’t surprise that they haven’t landed and big time low post players. If your a traditional 5 or a back to the basket big I don’t know why you would want to go to Michigan. The 5 doesn’t shoot the ball much in Michigan’s offensive and spends the majority of time setting high ball screens, working the pick and roll, or crashing the glass.

      • Chris De Sana

        We agree but both Donnal and Doyle ask for the ball on the block but it never comes. Would they be successful who knows but it would be very difficult to win consistently with zero post action so why not give them the ball even if it comes back out it may open up better looks for the shooters.

        • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

          Neither of them is strong in the post with the ball. Doyle has gotten the ball knocked away quite a bit lately.

          Donnal is a disappointment so far given he has been in the program for a year and was a 4* star recruit. He should be further along than he is.

          There is plenty of talent out there. Sure our recent class had a bunch of lower rated players besides Chatman, but 3 of them are barely playing.

          • Chris De Sana

            So just asking do we just give up or try to bring them up to speed because never giving them the ball is simply giving up and they will never get better.

          • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

            I think you keep trying to get them the ball. But it has to be done with a purpose. I see it a lot when I watch basketball. You can tell when a post guy has no confidence or no intention of making a move on the guy guarding him.
            Bielfeldt and Donnal seem to be this way. Playing this way makes them smaller than their listed size.

            Doyle is the best post presence right now, but just inconsistent.

            I just think everything is keyed by Levert, Walton, and Irvin. If they all start playing better, you will see Doyle get those quick pass easy dunks. We simply have to make shots to extend the defense. We will eventually, but right now the lack of shooting is mucking up the paint.

          • Chris De Sana

            John how did that strategy work with EMU? They simply extended the defense so far out that getting quality shots was impossible. We need some to somehow get teams to at least think there is some sort of interior threat, it will take time but heck our guys do not even have a clue of the right angles from which to deliver the ball.

          • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

            Its a Catch-22. Somehow, somewhere has to step up whether it be the big men or the Big 3.

    • MAZS

      You quite significantly understate the recruitment of Irvin and Chatman by suggesting that Butler was Irvin’s 3rd best offer and that Chatman only got two other top offers. Irvin was a top 25 player and Chatman top 30. There were many other top programs that offered or would have offered both of them, but that doesn’t fit your narrative. That said, it would be nice to get a skilled 5 or at least one who can defend and rebound on the defensive end. None of our 5s do that at all [insert legitimate age and inexperience considerations].

      • Chris De Sana

        I am looking at, other sites may show differently but they are usually pretty good with accurate info.

        • Irvin’s primary offer list around the time he committed was Butler, Baylor, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Miami (FL), Purdue, Tennessee and Xavier… He also committed in August before his junior year, so he would have added more.

  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    Just listened to Beilein’s post game interview. I think he said it best: We have to start making some shots. The offense is generating enough open looks. You can see tell Coach Beilein is frustrated right now, but he has proven he can develop his players into a solid team. I know everyone is frustrated as well, but a light will click with this team eventually. Coach Beilein will get it done.

  • Sorry guys, the four factors chart was all messed up last night. Fixing it now.

  • Wayman Britt

    Boy is it going to be a struggle to watch the remaining games and hope UM can scrape enough wins to even make the NCAA tournament, but chances keep looking bleaker.

    Losing out on our top recruits last year and no prospects for 2015 are going to hurt the program. Let’s just hope some of the great 2016 offers accept. If UM wants to be a top 10 national team you must get top talent.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    this is a building year…its tough to see Michigan lose to small D1 teams but Irvin & Walton have not developed as we assumed they would….with everyone back next year including levert…1 year of experience/development we will be a contender…hope these loses do not mount up…for a young fragile team it could get rough if SMU beats us…
    I believe in Beilein and the season is still young…we will make adjustments and still compete in the big10

    • Fab 5 Legends

      young fragile team vs a national title contender cant expect too much…Arizona has better overall & experienced team…hope our team continues to learn and build for big10 conference play

      • ConfOfChamps

        Next year Arizona is predicted to lose 4 underclassmen starters and several seniors. We will be like this Michigan team next year. It will be ugly for us early but, with the coaching staff we have, we will expect to get better and better as the season goes on.

        I am positive that with the coaching staff UM has, you all will get better this year, youth takes a while to get “IT”.
        Good Luck the rest of the way…

        • itsjustaherb

          The difference is Arizona is going to constantly reload with amazing talent year after year after year. So it doesn’t matter as much when they lose players.