1. Duncan Robinson sparks first half run
The first five minutes of this game were ugly. Michigan led just 6-5 when Robinson entered the game over five minutes into the first half and there was a sense of boredom and frustration throughout the Crisler Center. Then Duncan Robinson checked into the game, hit a three and the Wolverines went on a run.
“I usually just try to get a couple minutes under my belt and gel before I start throwing them up,” Robinson said. “But DJ just gave me such an open look…”
Robinson isn’t going to have the luxury of getting a few minutes under his belt before he starts firing. John Beilein has said he wants his 6-8 shooter to be a ‘hunter’ when he’s on the floor and this sequence shows just how effective of an offensive spark can be. Robinson’s triple gave the crowd energy and the Wolverines quickly parlayed it into a run with a DJ Wilson to Caris LeVert fast break alley-oop and an opportunistic putback by Robinson.
2. Caris LeVert finishes at the buzzer
One of the benefits of exhibition games is the opportunity to practice situational plays. As the clock ticked down at the end of the first half, John Beilein called for a timeout and drew up a play for Caris LeVert. Earlier this summer, John Beilein mentioned that he might have multiple options to call at crunch time in a big game this year, but I’d be surprised if anyone other than Caris LeVert hears their number called early on.
There’s nothing secret about this play call. John Beilein dialed up a high ball screen for his future pro and let him go to work. The most encouraging aspect of the play was that LeVert powered his way all the way to the rim, where he finished in traffic and scored. LeVert didn’t settle for an off the dribble three or a mid-range jumper and that needs to be LeVert’s focus in the pick and roll game.
3. Dawkins, Robinson struggle defensively
It’s a lot easier for a coach to send a stern message when he has depth on his bench. John Beilein didn’t have that luxury last year as the Wolverines barely had any bench by the end of the season, but he does this year. Aubrey Dawkins and Duncan Robinson learned all about Beilein’s ability to send a message on Friday night.
“Last year, if (someone) had a blow-by, I wouldn’t have gone to Muhammad-Ali (Abdur-Rahkman) because he wasn’t ready to do it either,” Beilein explained. “Now guys like that are a little bit better. I will not have a quick hook on offense unless they blow up a timeout play, but defensively, we’ve got to hold them accountable.”
Both players botched defensive assignments in the second half and were immediately replaced. Aubrey Dawkins was picked off by a screen in nearly the same set the first defensive possession that he was on the floor in both of his second half shifts while Duncan Robinson gave up an easy blow-by for a layup. After each play, you can immediately see Beilein going to the bench to send a replacement to the scorer’s table.
Neither player is known as a good defender, but they both can flat out shoot the ball. As they battle for playing time this season, the one who can provide more consistent defensive minutes should have the leg up.
4. Kameron Chatman distributes
Kameron Chatman didn’t make a field goal and finished with just one point on the night, but I really liked the way he passed the ball. He had four second-half assists and should have had five after Mark Donnal missed a bunny at the rim. Chatman threw several smooth backdoor passes for layups and even flashed a nice crossover, strong dribble and kick to Caris LeVert for a corner three.
Chatman has his flaws — he had a sloppy turnover and a driving layup swatted below the rim — but he still has some of the best vision and passing ability on Michigan’s roster. That probably isn’t going to be enough to keep him in the rotation on his own, but if he can rebound well and knock down his jumper at a higher clip then he could be a factor. Otherwise, DJ Wilson seems like a candidate to eat into those minutes with his length, athleticism and ability to finish along the baseline.
5. Derrick Walton finds half court groove
We know what Derrick Walton is capable of in transition. He had some terrific fastbreak pushes, finishes and drives on Friday — clearly looking like his old healthy self. But the element that’s been missing in Walton’s game is half court aggression. Walton has generally been content to make a probing dribble or two and then keep the ball moving around the perimeter. The majority of his half court scoring to date in his career has come off of the catch and shoot.
It took until the waning moments of the second half for Walton to flash some of that aggressiveness. Here we see him split and high ball screen and attack in the lane. He gets north-south, draws the defense and then kicks to Duncan Robinson for another triple. This is a great example of a strong ball screen take and the sort of play that Michigan is going to need from Walton offensively. On the next trip down the floor, Walton takes a dribble hand-off and curls to knock down a triple — his only three-point attempt of the game.