Game 11: SMU at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan is a broken team.

After watching the best offense in the country for two years running, it’s a painfully harsh realization to remember what bad offense looks like.

For the third game in a row, Michigan’s jump shot heavy bricked its way into another loss.

The Wolverines were able to put together flashes of strong play on Saturday afternoon at the Crisler Center, but those stretches never lasted and they were never able to maintain any sort of consistent effort on offense and defense.

Michigan came out flat and fell behind, then clawed back into the game and trailed by three at halftime. Michigan came out of the halftime break with even less effort, execution and focus and fell behind by ten.  But the Wolverines put it together once again, made a run and showed some fight on the back of Mark Donnal, who finished with 13 points.

Michigan managed to take a 48-45 lead inside of eight minutes and looked like it could be on verge of a needed win. Then the Mustangs broke the game open.

The Wolverines scored just more three points over the game’s final seven minutes and change as SMU reeled off a 17-0 run to walk out of the Crisler Center with an easy 62-51 victory.

Michigan couldn’t score and its defense finally gave way. Michigan missed jump shot after jump shot as the Mustangs finally stopped turning the ball over and answered Wolverine misses with easy layups at the rim. The Wolverines were beaten into submission for the fourth consecutive game and continue to fall further behind the eight-ball before the calendar can even reach 2015.


Michigan’s offense is worse than anyone could have imagined before the season started — or even imagined two weeks ago.

The Wolverines failed to top .8 points per possession of offensive output for the third consecutive game. The last time Michigan was that bad on offense in a single game was March of 2010. Even that 2010 team, which finished 15-17, only failed to reach .8 points per possession twice for the season.

The following graph helps illustrate just how bad Michigan’s offense has been over the last three games by plotting the Wolverines offensive output over the last six seasons (including this year) compared to a 1.00 point per possession benchmark.


Simply put, the Wolverines have lost their confidence, fire and belief. In November at the Barclays Center, this team believed it was good enough to beat Villanova. A month later? This group is probably wondering whether they can beat Coppin State on Monday night.

Offensively, Michigan kept firing up three-point attempts and kept missing them. Two-thirds of Michigan’s field goal attempts were triples and it made just 22% of them. When you shoot 36 threes there are always going to be a few bad ones – but Michigan missed them all. Open, guarded, off the dribble, early in the clock or late in the clock.

While there have been times that Michigan hasn’t been able to get good shots, or takes too many early shots, there have also been a whole lot of missed wide open shots.

Free throws were yet another concern. SMU got to the free throw line more often despite Michigan entering the bonus half way through the second half and the Wolverines missed a pair of critical front-ends of one-and-ones in the second half. Michigan was also plagued by uncharacteristic turnovers, giving the ball away on 21% of its offensive possessions, and was just never able to get on the same page.

Michigan held SMU to .92 points per possession, but that was primarily due to SMU’s tendency to just throw the ball away. The Wolverines used some good traps and double-teams, but the Mustangs gave the ball away on 30% of their possessions and many of those were self-inflicted wounds. Michigan’s inability to deal with any competent big man continued to rear its ugly head as Yanick Moreira finished with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting and the Mustangs rebounded 37% of their misses on the night.

Michigan was held without a fastbreak point once again, despite SMU’s turnover problems, and the Mustangs outscored the Wolverines 34-10 in points in the paint.

Is there a fix? I don’t know.

The players that aren’t ready right now aren’t going to become ready overnight. The ball screen offense is non-existent. Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht are both visibly injured. LeVert might be a first round pick in time, but he’s just 7 of his last 29 from the field. There don’t appear to be any legitimate options off the bench waiting for an opportunity. The only way Michigan is going to get any better is to have the players that are playing now start playing a lot better.

The biggest question is who is going to lead this team? Right now there’s nobody that seems to even want that responsibility.

Is it possible for Michigan to turn it around and reel off a winning streak? Sure, but there’s not really a great reason to believe it’ll happen any time soon.

SMU 62, Michigan 51-3

Player Bullets:

  • Mark Donnal: Donnal was benched this week and received a black-eye in practice from Ricky Doyle, but he responded with one of the best games of his career. He had 13 points on 4-of-6 (2-3 3pt) shooting with four boards. Foul trouble plagued him down the stretch, and Beilein waited far too long to go back to him, but he showed that he’s capable of providing an offensive spark. Michigan ran some really nice sets to get him involved in the first half and then he gained confidence as the game wore on and played as tough as he has all season around the bucket.
  • Derrick Walton: Give Walton credit for his toughness, he’s clearly playing hurt and he was Michigan’s only player that looked like he had any interest in sticking with Nic Moore defensively. He was just 4-of-11 (3-10 3pt) from the floor and he never looked quite comfortable getting all the way to the rim – perhaps because of his lack of explosion? While Walton played hard, he’s also struggling to create offense in the half court. He had just two assists for the game and two turnovers.
  • Zak Irvin: It wasn’t a breakout game, but it was a step in the right direction for Irvin. He was the only Michigan player to make more than one shot in the first half and he finished with 17 points on 6-of-15 (3-11 3pt) shooting with five rebounds. He still missed a lot of shots and didn’t look all that confident, but he provided at least a few sparks.
  • Caris LeVert: Say what you want about his supporting cast, LeVert simply didn’t play well on Saturday. He finished 1-of-8 from the floor and turned the ball over five times. He’s taking bad, early shots and he’s missing them. He’s forcing the issue and just can’t find any comfort zone. LeVert is capable of playing like one of the best players in the conference, but his last three games have been among the worst in his career as he’s failed to manage an offensive rating over 67.
  • Ricky Doyle: Doyle earned his first start and played one of his worst games. He missed two key layups and was burned badly on a pair of critical late defensive rotations.
  • Kameron ChatmanChatman missed all three field goal attempts badly and made little other impact in 14 minutes of playing time. Michigan needs to get something from the 6-foot-7 freshman, but he’s not trending in the right direction.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht knows the offense and it runs better with him on the floor than Kameron Chatman, but he needs to hit open threes to make up for some of the other weaknesses introduced when he’s on the floor. He was just 0-of-3 on long range efforts today.
  • Max BielfeldtMax is slightly more likely to make the proper rotation defensively, but he’s not big enough to make an impact even if he beats his man to the spot.

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  • Wayman Britt

    Well I guess we can stop worrying about UM making the NCAA tourney , now we have to worry to see if they can even make the NIT.

    It’s very troubling that MAAR, Dawkins cannot even get any playing time over a hurt Spike and a currently bad playing Chatman. Chatman does nothing when he is on the floor and makes others worse. He is not ready for D1 basketball. If Dawkins and a 19 year old MAAR cannot get playing time over the last two weeks it’s time to worry about the bench and future years. With no 2015 recruits, let’s just pray Thornton and Battle commit to UM.

    • jlustig22

      Yeah, Chatman is flat out terrible. He really shouldn’t be playing except we have no one else who can play at the 4. Clearly, Beilein doesn’t believe Dawkins is ready to play.

      Looks like it’s going to be a really long year. Haven’t seen any evidence that they can turn it around. Right now, we will be battling with the worst teams in the Big 10. We can’t win being a bad offensive team. We know the defense will be subpar but they have nothing on offense to rely on. LeVert looked great early in the season but he has been bad recently. I just don’t think Walton is that good. Irvin is strictly a jump shooter.

      • jr_ewing93

        Ok everybody right now are playing bad but to say players are not good. what type of fan are you? listen , these guys are out there playing their butts off for one of the youngest teams in college basketball. Walton not good? We as fan wasn’t saving that when he was helping us win games. Walton is hurt and this team has 6 freshmen. its no burke, hardway here but staukaus and robinson should still be here. Season is still early , so everybody needs to stop crying and let the season play out please.

        • Indiana_Matt

          I think it is wild to think we couldn’t go .500 in the conference.

          I feel like this stretch for the team could be like Donnal losing his starting spot and then getting a black eye. Tough circumstances but it evidently did something for him and he had his best game of his young career (at least I gather, I did not watch the game yet).

        • Justin

          Voicing their displeasure is not a bad thing. I have never been high on walton. He is a pass first guard under 6 foot. Sorry that doesnt get me excited. I would take dion harris, darius morris and daniel horton over him any day of the week. Can he be a really good college player yes, but nothing more. Its okay to expect more and to expect a lot. We have first class facilities and have finished among the top 8 teams in the country in each of the last two years after claiming titles in conference. I mean come on this is michigan. We are about winning. The leaders and the best? We win championships it’s expected and thats one of the readons why its so great.

          • jr_ewing93

            Hardway and burke are the only ones that are really playing in the Nba current . Walton will be alright and make it to the league. Last season nobody wasnt saying anything when he won games for us. Neb, Mi state, and Ohio st. 6’0 u right little pg but he is one of the best rounding pg in the country.

          • Justin

            Walton has no chance at the league. Too small and doesnt do any one thing great. Stauskas is playing and left when his stock was high and made the right choice. Mcgary had to leave and is injured again. Lets not forget jamal crawford, he counts too. Like i said before i would take horton harris or morris over walton any day of the week. They had the ability to score and were much bigger guards.

          • jr_ewing93

            You have your right to your opinion. I think Walton will make as me being a true Michigan fan and i think he did things great: Michigan state, ohio st Nebraska, and etc. Before you jump on kids , uplift them Michigan fan

          • Justin

            Im giving my honest opinion. This is big time division 1 basketball, they signed up for it and im bot saying he isnt a good player. He is a good 4 year player for the wolverines and im glad he is on the team. Having said that he isnt playing in the nba. He isnt as good as horton, harris, and morris. Thats all im saying.

          • Walton#1fan

            thanks for your opinion. Please next time or when Walton get back right, don’t cheer or comment on him please because you don’t think he’s good

    • Chezaroo

      They won’t commit to UM.

  • Mattski

    We’ve seen Walton get penetration, and against good teams. I think that a lot is resting on his toe. Wonder if Beilein should just rest him until he is healthy.

    • Wayman Britt

      Mattski – I agree it would help to rest Walton you can tell he is hurting, but UM has got nobody to sub. If Dawkins and MAAR cannot get any playing time while Walton and Spike are hurt what does that tell you about thier game.

      • Chris De Sana

        At this point or even earlier why not rest them, in fact rest them both. May as well get healthy because not being so is not working at all.

  • gobluemd16

    Caris can’t do it all himself, so when the going gets tough he resorts to super hard pull-ups and contested jump shots, often very early in the shot clock. Walton is hurt and can’t really drive. Irvin is basically a shooter, good if he is hitting, really harmful if he isn’t because of the volume of shots he takes. Spike is clearly hurt as well and thus, has been ineffective. The big men will show flashes, but will all be inconsistent (Donnal good tonight, Doyle was awful) throughout the year. Kam is a huge negative on both sides right now, he is clearly not ready. Nobody else from the bench is providing anything at all. NCAA tournament is almost impossible after all of these home losses unless we play incredibly in conference, which, to be frank, looks almost impossible at this point. We are in for a very, very long year — and with no help coming in next season, and Levert likely going pro, this is a bad situation. I am as optimistic as they come, and I trust Beilein, but this is looking very bleak.

  • arete

    I have heard it said that basketball is a game of confidence. I wonder if this team frittered away all the hard earned confidence by sleep-walking against NJIT. Right now any college team can kick them in the teeth. They may struggle to get to 10 wins.

  • Chris De Sana

    I missed most of the game on TV but listened to a lot of it on the radio, Terry Mills could not be more right when says ZERO inside game is killing this team. He was saying even if it is penetration for a kick out it would help….. even if it was a dump down only to be kicked out it would help….. his point was that teams only have defend the 3 pt line at this point and that simply is not going to be a winning strategy.

    Donnal finally………….. showed he can hit a jumper so why not try the two big offense? What do they have to lose? Maybe have Caris come off the curl cut using Donnal as the screener for a pick and pop? And if they go to the two big line up if he hits them it may free up Doyle in the low post.

    As for Kam I wish he could do the above but he just seems lost at this point on both ends of the floor.

    Last may as well play MAAR and Dawkins, their minutes may help the others get healthy quicker.

    • ChathaM

      The scary thing about that Mills point is that I didn’t get the impression that SMU was even particularly concentrating on guarding the 3-point line. If anything, they were OK with allowing some open looks from 3, and didn’t do anything special to track Irvin, who figured to be a real threat from 3 this season. So, that leaves us with a weak shooting team without any inside presence, which is precisely the type of team that can, and does, lose to anyone.

    • Champswest

      We can’t do anything about the bigs that are no longer on the team, but it is too bad that Wilson isn’t healthy. I know he isn’t D1 ready, but if he could play enough to back up Doyle and Bielfeldt, we could move Donnal to the 4 where he could give us a lot more than we are getting from Chatman.

  • ChathaM

    I was able to stubhub some very good seats to today’s game a few weeks ago, but I think I now know why the price was so reasonable. There were a couple of chronic whiners/complainers beside and behind me, and I was tired of listening to them by the end of the 1st half. They weren’t the typical loudmouths; just constant, level-toned complaining. Man, that was tough to take for 40 minutes. Realistically, that was probably happening all over the arena, but I don’t get it. It’s obvious that we’re weak right now. I don’t need to hear it all game from people I don’t even know.

    Why is Chatman starting? Starts are typically earned in practice, but I can’t imagine Chatman earning a starting role in practice, given how out of place he looks in a game setting.

    At one point in the 2nd half, it looked like Spike could barely stand, let alone play. I don’t know what his leg injury is, but it’s nasty.

    Irvin’s confidence is clearly lacking from the 3-point line. He air-balled at least one 3, and badly missed on a few others. He’s far from a great shooter, but he’s better than that.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      Spike looked to be grimacing at times on the bench (not sure if it was him being upset or the injury).

  • Indiana_Matt

    While this could be a very long year, everyone getting a year better and healthier for next year does not seem so bleak (even without reinforcements coming) to me if the kind of player development we are used to happens to at least some extent. I can be overly optimistic sometimes. Yet I don’t feel like we have reason to doubt this coaching staff. Back to back bad seasons is when I think you start getting concerned. Not a bad stretch of games.

    • Indiana_Matt

      For some perspective I looked back at the comments going into the game with MSU in 2011 when I think we were 1-6 or 1-7 in the conference at the time. You can see the difference in a fan base that isn’t as shaken by individual losses and is just trying to inch its way to the tournament versus a fan base used to a high level of success! As disappointing as a stretch as that was, people still commented that they thought we could beat MSU and turn things around. And they did! Perspective is tough when things are bad but, man, lets pull for these guys. As far as I can tell we have a bunch of high character guys. They are going to get smarter and mentally tougher (in the past the guys who don’t have left and we found new talent). The process is not instant. To be a fan and not lose your head you have to take a marathon view.

      • Indiana_Matt

        Last bit of silver-lining talk. Mike Davis led a low major team to a win over Michigan State. At least that happened, too!

  • Fab 5 Legends

    tough to see Michigan on this losing streak…these players will all grow and develop, there just not there yet….these freshmen are not ready and even the sophmores…this year looks like a growing pains year..even though I still feel Beilein will have them playing well come Big Ten time…look what happened to Michigan State today…the big ten is wide open…Wisconsin is in a class of their own….but I honestly believe we can be in the mix with the rest of the conference considering how bad this team is playing…I feel like it cant get any worse then this 4 game losing streak

    • Fab 5 Legends

      we live and die by the 3, theres no one taking to the basket beside levert/Walton….I honestly thought Irvin would have developed more of a game but he seems like a spot up shooter – despite his great shooting game today…Chatman is not living up to his rank out of high school at this moment…this team will be great NEXT YEAR…

      • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

        The strange thing is Irvin was driving to the hole earlier in the season versus the real teams (Oregon, Nova, and Syracuse).

        He has the ability – not sure why he isn’t doing it.

  • Jon Sohn

    Chatman needs to sit down and watch more, he is not ready for Division 1 basketball. Start Doyle and Donnal together.

  • Richmond_Eric

    Looks like the joy of playing the game has been lost by all. Seems to me that they are playing with fear of losing. However, I believe in the program and these kids. There are injuries that need to heal and the confidence levels (in themselves and teammates) need to return. Yesterday, there were lots of unfathomable turnovers that made the game frustrating to watch. What really puzzles me is that I do not see the extra pass to the open man that I have become accustomed to seeing. Of course, we are missing our share of open looks, but once the confidence returns I expect to see those fall. I understand peoples frustration, but to suggest that our players are terrible is off base and misguided. They would not be in a Michigan uniform if they are terrible. Hard to believe anyone would suggest DW is not good after coming up big on several occasions last year (he is playing hurt right now). These are young college aged kids, let’s enjoy seeing them grow this season and beyond. Go Blue!

    • jr_ewing93

      thank you sir. well spoken

  • Justin

    My question to all is how come michigan hasnt had better luck in recruiting in 13, 14, and 15 classes? Outside of irvin and chatman, um has swung and missed at nearly 20 top 50 players in those years. Am i missing something? Why are they not coming to um?

    Is michigan no longer a strong destination because of the climate?

    Is beilein out of touch with the younger kids? Not hip enough like coach cal?

    Im stretching here, i just cant fathom why not um? Recently, We have sent several guys to the league, one final four and one elite eight, b10 ten titles, an offensive coaching staff that is guard oriented, a state of the art practice facility plus an upgraded crisler. I dont get it.

    • jr_ewing93

      Why is it that everybody skip Walton as a top player in the class of 2013? Espn #30 Rivals #37 He wasn’t not slouch