Big Ten Tournament: Michigan vs. Wisconsin Recap

Dylan Burkhardt
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Michigan didn’t have enough to beat Wisconsin on Friday, but once more it showed that it should have the pieces to be formidable next year.

The Wolverines played Wisconsin to a 54-54 tie for 34 minutes, but – as we’ve seen all season – just couldn’t finish off their bigger, older and better opponent. Wisconsin answered Michigan’s valiant effort and closed the game on a 17-6 run and potentially ended Michigan’s season.

While the Wolverines managed to go shot for shot with Wisconsin for impressive stretches, they couldn’t get the stops, and more importantly rebounds, to overcome Wisconsin’s size and skill. The Badgers put the game away by scoring on three consecutive second-chance possessions to stretch their lead from two points to seven inside of four minutes.

Michigan players and coaches have harped on individual and team growth since Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton were injured because they had little other choice. But after a long two months, growth isn’t just a talking point — it’s obvious.

Zak Irvin, Aubrey Dawkins, Spike Albrecht and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman have all reached heights that no one, even their coaches, would have expected entering this season.

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This game came down to Michigan’s inability to stop the Badgers. It’s hard enough to force Wisconsin to miss the first shot of a possession. It’s impossible to stop the Badgers if you give them two chances to score. Wisconsin rebounded 44% of its misses and scored 17 second chance points including three critical possessions to seal the game.

Michigan faced countless matchup disadvantages, but it was Sam Dekker (17 points on 7 of 12 shooting with 6 rebounds and 6 assists) and Duje Dukan that seemed to make the decisive plays in the game. Dekker’s personal spurt came late in the first half to return the lead to the Badgers while Dukan knocked in two triples and had a dunk in the second half.

Michigan’s offense took another big step in the right direction, scoring 1.14 points per trip. The Wolverines still had a scoring drought to close the first half, but the offense was as fluid and crisp as we’ve seen this season.

Mid-range jumpers are always critical against Wisconsin and Michigan hit plenty of them. Zak Irvin excelled offensively with his ability to shoot off the dribble, but others chimed in as well.

In the first half, Michigan was aggressive as we’ve seen in quite some time looking for early offense and it helped build a big lead, but a couple of those ‘loose’ plays that got them this far ended up costing them in the second half. Spike Albrecht had a rushed three and a poor entry pass during critical minutes late in the game while Zak Irvin tried an ill-advised behind the back pass when Michigan was still right in the game.

John Beilein and the team were very hopeful to continue their season in the NIT after the loss and it would be a great opportunity for a team that is quite obviously still growing on a daily basis. Their chances may be long with just a .500 record, but a top ten strength of schedule and an RPI of 77 could bolster their argument. They’ll learn their fate on Sunday evening at 8:30 p.m. during the NIT Selection Show on ESPNU.

Wisconsin 71, Michigan 60 -23

Player Bullets

  • Zak Irvin: If there’s one thing that Michigan fans should really feel good about after this season, it’s Zak Irvin. Irvin looks like a completely different player than he did three weeks ago. There was a point in January where he looked like he might have hit a wall in his development, but he’s smashed through it and suddenly looks like a viable option to grow into a two-guard in this offense. He finished with 21 points on 9 of 18 shooting – drilling mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper against Wisconsin’s defense – and grabbed 11 boards and three assists for good measure.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht scored 10 points in the first half, but Wisconsin did a great job of bottling him up in the second. He finished with 10 points on 4 of 9 shooting, but had just one assist in 40 minutes. Wisconsin’s defense did a great job of making him into a shot taker rather than a distributor. His mistakes late in the game make me wonder if the 5-foot-11 point guard playing 40 minutes per game on a bum hip might have finally ran out of gas, both mentally and physically.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman continued to impress with his ability to get to the cup and finish. He was 4 of 7 from the floor and handed out an assist in a solid 35 minute outing. The degree of difficulty on some of his finishes was incredible and this will be a big summer for him to refine his game. Defensively, I was surprised to see Bronson Koenig beat him off the dribble so cleanly a few times, but he’s still shown promise on that end of the floor.
  • Ricky Doyle: Doyle had been in a funk and it took facing off with the possible National Player of the Year for him to reach double digits for just the third time in the 2015 calendar year. Doyle was 6 of 6 from the floor, finishing around Kaminsky and even going at him with a nice up and under move in the post. Defensively he only grabbed one rebound in 18 minutes, but he took a major step forward offensively.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins had a quiet day with just 5 points on 2 of 7 shooting. He had some highlights including a smooth pick and roll feed, a monster tip slam and a late three that kept Michigan close, but he also struggled to finish when he attacked the basket (1 of 5 on twos).
  • Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt had a rough game defensively against Wisconsin’s versatility. He gave up a few threes on poor closeouts, but also was beaten easily off the dribble by Nigel Hayes. The matchups he was faced with were as tough as it gets, but Max struggled on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively he handed out four assists and went 2 of 4 from the line in a solid showing.
  • Kameron Chatman: Chatman missed his only shot attempt and also let a late rebounding opportunity slip away, but he made a terrific pass to find Irvin in the corner after driving baseline in the first half.
  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    You have to grab and secure rebounds and loose balls that you are the first man to to win a game like this. Too many 50/50 plays that we did not spin our way late.

    Regardless, this was a terrific effort. All you can ask for is a chance to win in the last few minutes and we had it. Just a few plays short against a top 3 team.

    • jlustig22

      Yeah, I thought we played a terrific game with the exception of rebouding. We only had 15 defensive rebounds and Irvin got 11 of them. Kudos to Irvin for developing into a solid rebounder. Now he needs some help. The two biggest culprits are Doyle and Dawkins. They are just non-existent on the defensive glass.

      Irvin really showed out at the end of the season. He made huge leaps in all facets of his game. Carry that forward to next year and he should be one of the best players in the Big 10 next season. I am really impressed with the improvement of so many of the players as the season progressed. That’s really a credit to the coaching staff.

      Now, let’s get back to the NCAA’s next year. It won’t be the same watching the tourney this year without us in it.

  • Corperryale

    Question for discussion: What is the realistic expectation for next year? I realize a lot depends on LeVert, along with any incoming recruits, the play of DJ Wilson and Duncan Robinson, and potential attrition. However, there seems to be a lot of optimism that a core of Irvin, Walton, Dawkins, MAAR and Albrecht — with improvements from Doyle and Chatman — would be a very good team regardless of how other the factors pan out.

    I don’t doubt this at all, but my question is, how good? Do the optimists still think Michigan is squarely in a class below post-Frank Wiscy/post-Russell OSU/post-Dawson MSU and whatever bag-o-players Tom Crean can field (assuming he still has a job)? If so, would that be a cause for optimism? Or can Michigan actually contend? And if LeVert does come back, is Michigan a favorite? And what happens if they’re 16-16 next year?

    Anyway, here’s to a deep NIT run. These players deserve it.

    • JimC_UM

      My completely amateur prediction: this is a Tourney team next year, that finishes 4th in the B1G.

      Very impressed by Doyle today, scoring like that on Kaminsky. Good sign for the future since he will be the starting 5.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      Like JimC_UM said, definite tournament team and top 4 Big Ten team (like we were 2011-2014).

      If Levert comes back, we are probably one of the favorites. I believe quite a few teams will lose players and besides Wisconsin, none of those teams were really that good to begin with.

      I know its hard to see overall, but we kind of started next year’s development the game after Levert got hurt. There were plenty of chances to make the tournament this year, but there were just too many damn obstacles to overcome. I think the inability of Walton to return (when most assumed we would at least see him by the Ohio State game was killer.

      Instead of going into a season with everyone complaining about Dawkins and MAAR being low rated recruits – they both showed they are legit.

  • anonymous

    Depends on whether LeVert comes back and how good is Robinson. With LeVert then contends for the Big Ten title and a deep NCAA run. Without LeVert this team contends for a Big Ten title.
    This team is going to be very deep.

  • Wayman Britt

    I agree UM could be a top four team in the Big Ten next year without LeVert. But, they are one top 20 national recruit away from being an elite eight team. They need that one player who can create their own shot and take over the game in the last 2 minutes. They have the supporting cast.

    • Chris De Sana

      Agreed that they could be a top 4 team in the B1G next year with or without Caris; but that and your elite 8 comment really depends on our ability to get better in the paint on both ends of the court.

  • A2MIKE

    I don’t see us getting in the NIT. Not only has a .500 team never made it, but only 2 teams were selected at 1 game above .500. The precedent has been set, don’t think they will make an exception for us.

    This may sound crazy, but even if LeVert comes back, this is Irvin’s team next year. The growth and potential he has shown over the last month has been impressive, and I think his continued development is the most important factor to next year’s success. He can be a Stauskas like playmaker.

    End of the year always brings varying levels of sadness. I wish next season started tomorrow. I hope that everyone has a great off season and the team can return to the levels of success experienced recently.

    Dylan – do you think jaylen brown’s recruitment woukd be hurt by Caris coming back?

    • MAZS

      First, others have said that there have been .500 teams in the NIT, just not in a long time. Second, it is not necessarily precedent. It could just be. I think we have a very good chance of getting in for reasons I have stated earlier.

    • countourzealous

      Honestly, I think Michigan might get into the NIT based on notoriety alone. We have a huge alumni base, and people would watch the games. They’re always going to factor that in when deciding who makes it. If Illinois makes the NIT then we should also.

  • Chris De Sana

    I was not able to watch the whole game just the last 8 or 9 minutes when everything started to tilt in Wisc. direction and mostly due to second chance points. I know some here feel strongly that we have enough length while others like me feel we don’t. The question is how do we find a way to get stronger in the paint on both ends of the court? Having a player or players that can better rebound on the defensive end of the court will be critical for this teams progression, as will having someone who poses some sort of threat to score in the paint on the other.

    Would a creator that gets into the paint like Trey or Nik could solve some of that problem sure…….. do Irvin and or Walton have that potential? We shall see……

    So what does next years line up look like if Caris does not come back?
    – PG = Walton/Spike
    – SG = Zak/MAAR
    – SF = Dawkins/Zak/Kam
    – PF = Robinson/Kam/Wilson
    – C = Doyle/Donnal/Wilson

    And if Caris does come back I really like the option of going big with him running the point for stretches.

    • Alvin C York

      You think that Duncan Robinson is good enough to start instead of MAAR or Chatman next year?

      • Chris De Sana

        I do but admit making a couple of assumptions along the way. First is that Robinson is really the shooter we are being told as it would be nice to have a stretch 4 who can knock down the jumper. Second this season as he sat out he was not 8 ly getting a year older but his body matured and he got stronger which would be helpful in so many ways.

        • Alvin C York

          Gotcha just seeing what your reasoning was. Hopefully he is the real deal