Game 3: Xavier at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

There were a few signs of trouble in Michigan’s opening games, but Xavier walked into the Crisler Center and put everything out in the open on Friday night.

Every question that we’ve thrown around this offseason about this Michigan team was evident.

Xavier overpowered Michigan’s big men in man-to-man post isolations, dominating the points in the paint statistic 34-14. The Musketeers rebounded 45% of their missed shots and outscored Michigan 16-5 in second chance points. Xavier abused the Wolverine wings and guards off of close outs and off the bounce to consistently draw fouls or make layups. The Musketeers even won the turnover battle and outscored Michigan 16-9 in points off of giveaways.

Michigan’s offense looked eerily reminiscent of last year’s early season offense with Caris LeVert carrying the majority of the heavy lifting, he was the only Wolverine to reach double figures with 29 points.

Any one of these problems would probably be expected in any game, especially early in the season, but it was disappointing to see the whole gamut on display in Game 3.

But despite all of the stats, mismatches and flaws on display in this November game, it was toughness that decided the outcome. Twice Michigan cut the deficit to two points in the second half and both times the Musketeers answered with statement three-pointers.

Xavier was the bigger and tougher team an eventually they wore down the Wolverines to the point where JP Macura’s three-pointer extended the lead once and for all. From that point on, Xavier seemed to win every loose ball and rebound. The Musketeers outscored Michigan 25-11 in the final ten minutes after LeVert hit a three-pointer to bring the game to 59-61 and the Wolverines were beaten.

“We have to learn to play harder and smarter and that’s on me,” Beilein said after the loss.

four factors- x final

Michigan regressed to a few of its old habits offensively, but still topped a point per possession. The Wolverines settled for too many jumpers and just couldn’t generate any offense at the rim. Just 12 of Michigan’s 52 field goal attempts were at the rim and it made only five. The Wolverines shot the ball well in the mid-range (6 of 14) and from three (10 of 27), but the true test of this offense is whether it was creating easy baskets. There were no easy chances tonight.

One of the underrated disappointments of this game was that Michigan couldn’t control the tempo. This team doesn’t want to play 69 possession games and Xavier killed the Wolverines in transition. Xavier’s 86 points were the most Michigan has allowed since December 2007 and they managed 1.25 points per trip in the track meet.

For much of the first half, Michigan relied on its man-to-man defense and actually held its own on the defensive glass. The problem was that it still couldn’t get many stops. Eventually it started experimenting with the 1-3-1 zone (beginning late in the first half) and a 2-3 zone (midway through the second) and the defensive rebounding went by the wayside. Xavier rebounded 55% of its misses in the second half and the majority came against zone looks.

It was the guards that grabbed almost all of Michigan’s defensive rebounds. The four players who logged the 40 minutes at the five position combined to grab two defensive rebounds. Aubrey Dawkins, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton grabbed 17 defensive boards. I realize that part of that is by design, but at some point Michigan’s five men have to be able to grab a rebound.

The post play seemed to get a lot of attention, but Michigan’s undoing was its inability to stop anybody off the dribble. Xavier has great drivers that know how to attack, but on the wings the Wolverines had no answer. There are basically five rotation players that have little chance of stopping anyone off the dribble and they combined for 83 minutes. Sure Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht will get a bit more healthy. Maybe Duncan Robinson will catch up to the pace of the game and Aubrey Dawkins can certainly be more consistent. But it’s going to be tough to get stops (or rebound) when your big man is having to help (usually late) on drivers every possession or you are sending them to the free throw line.

Given Michigan’s roster makeup, I think that the Wolverines need to change some of their approach defensively to focus more on limiting penetration. Having the big man hedge ball screens out to midcourt and recover with his back to the guard just isn’t working. Time and again Xavier ball handlers would get past their man on the recovery and drive right at Michigan bigs without them even seeing the ball. They were taking away the roll, but giving up a layup anyway. Soft hedges and forcing guards to shoot over the ball screen are all the rage in basketball these days because they prevent penetration and it might be time for a more cautious approach.

The UConn team that Michigan will face next has a roster designed like Xavier’s. The Huskies have three guards that can drive and shoot, a 6-foot-7 combo forward with a 7-footer to anchor the middle. There’s no hiding it now. Michigan knows where it needs to improve, but its opponents will too. Early season losses can be forgotten or compound quickly during a conference tournament and the clock is ticking until 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday night.

Player Bullets:

  • Caris LeVert: Chris Mack quipped after the win that he was astounded that Michigan had been able to keep Caris LeVert around for four years and he has a good point. LeVert scored 29 points on 16 shots, grabbed seven rebounds (all in the first half) and made 5 of 8 triples in the win. Was it a perfect effort? Far from it — his man that hit one of the biggest triples of the night and he also committed a backbreaking foul to close the first half — but LeVert looked every bit himself, maybe even a step quicker.
  • Derrick Walton: This Michigan needs Derrick Walton to play like he played on Monday on a consistent basis. Not that he’ll go for 24 & 7 on a nightly basis, but the player that hit those tough shot clock shots (we only saw one today) and got his teammates involved while playing down hill in the ball screen game. That’s the Walton that Michigan needs and he was absent on Friday night: 4 points, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 5 rebounds on 1 of 5 shooting.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: After an offseason of buzz as Michigan’s most-improved player, Dawkins disappointed. He was 1 of 6 from the floor and seemed rattled on both ends. He missed a pair of open threes to start the game and even missed an open transition layup in the second half.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin showed a few more flashes, including a big step back three, but overall he still looked a half step slow and his jumper wasn’t quite on. He got beat to a brutal 50-50 rebound late in the game which was almost the final nail in the coffin.
  • Ricky DoyleIn early games I wrote that Ricky Doyle hadn’t shown much to emerge as Michigan’s starting five, but he showed some more today. He had a couple of nice baskets and probably should have had two more as a pair of LeVert daggers went through his hands and he was about the only one player that could battle in the post in isolation situations. On the other hand, zero defensive rebounds in 22 minutes just isn’t acceptable for a big man.
  • Mark Donnal: Donnal got schooled defensively on the first possession of the game and finished the game with four fouls in six minutes. Beilein wasn’t blunt about his performance after the game and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a switch in the starting lineup when Michigan takes the floor in the Bahamas.
  • Duncan Robinson: I thought he passed up a couple of jumpers that he could have shot, but he still knocked down 2 of 4 off the bench. If his shot off of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s moving screen counts then maybe it is a different game.
  • DJ Wilson: Wilson was the third man off the bench at the five and didn’t record any minutes at the four. He’s not quick or versatile enough to play the four against a four-guard look with Bluiett at the four and he clearly wasn’t strong enough to hold his own down low against Reynolds or Farr. He did bank in an 18-footer, but he was overpowered down low.
  • Kameron Chatman: Chatman had a great hustle play for an offensive rebound of his own miss and then got the ball back for a nifty finish, but he played only eight minutes. When you’re chasing a game, it’s tough to find minutes for him given his lack of perimeter shooting ability.
  • Spike Albrecht: Spike just isn’t healthy. He can’t move laterally nearly as quick as he needs to stay on the court in a game like this and he still managed to score five points and hand out an assist in 8 minutes of play. He can be invaluable offensively to provide a jumpstart to the offense, but until he’s moving against he’s major liability defensively.
  • Mortiz Wagner: We saw the tantalizing potential of Wagner with a driving left-hand layup through contact late in the first half, but also the frustration when he committed fouls on back-to-back possessions for using his off arm when battling in the post.
box score xavier
  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    It looks really bad when Levert scores 30 points and we lose by 16.

    The game felt over after Robinson had that 3 negated for what seemed like the 100th dumb thing we did.

    No clue why Dawkins didn’t dunk that one wide open fast break play. He works on dunking in the offseason and does a layup there?

    Just an endless amount of mistakes and a team that has no clue how to take advantage of momentum.

    • LeVert could have scored 50 and Michigan still wouldn’t have gotten a stop. Sooner or later you have to get stops.

      • John miller

        Why in the world is Michigan’s center hedging all the way to half court? My god that’s dumb. Doyle and donnal are slow enough as is, they don’t need to be put in a disadvantage from the start. Donnal needs to stop playing. Period.

      • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

        Very true. Just so upset about this performance. This group seems incapable of defending our home court.

      • Corperryale

        When they counted the Xavier basket despite an official review that clearly showed a shot-clock violation, it really hurt any momentum we might have had. At the very least, we should have only lost by 14.

  • John miller

    I wish I knew why donnal still owned a Michigan jersey, it’s so embarrassing that he is so terrible and Michigan coaches don’t see it but everyone else does including Xavier in That the first possession of the game was an and 1. He cannot freaking okay and how many games is it going to take to realize that. At least play guys that want to try and be better and actually have potential. My god it’s hard watching with him out there.

    • itsjustaherb

      Yeah I said it all last year, Donnal is a weakling. Toughness isn’t in his DNA. It’s too bad that Moe is thin and still learning the system because otherwise I’d give all of Donnal’s minutes to him.

      • John miller

        It’s pretty pathetic the writers for Michigan still defend him like he has earned something. He has freaking been in beilein a system for 3 years. Still gets lost and still can’t finish layups. It’s embarrassing this has to be talked about still. Play the freshman and let them develop. No way in the world are they worse than donnal.

  • Mike Bee

    Everyone wants to shrink the rotation, but eventually guys have to outwork the competition and demand playing time. Too many one dimensional players right now.
    Really impressed with Chris Mack. Loved his set at the start of the game and how they attacked the 1-3-1. His kids not only played hard, but very skilled and cohesive especially this early in the season

  • Wayman Britt

    Great analysis Dylan. I agree it may be time to change the way UM plays defense, no more center hedges. Might have to play MAAR more because of defense. It’s not perfect but we have to find somene who can guard.

  • Wayman Britt

    We all know Donnal’s playing time will be reduced and should be. But, I sure would like Dawkins to take off his skirt. This is his second year and he has to use his phyiscal traits to play defense and be tougher. Donnal does not have the talent, Aubrey does, he just needs to man up.

    • Kool Breeze

      Well said Wayman. I’m afraid if we continue to show no interest in having even a modest post game, we will continue to get project type post recruits. Look at the 2 we have coming in, more of the same. We need bigs that are more athletic and can compete at the Big Ten level.

      • itsjustaherb

        It’s not just about players who are athletic, you need players that play with passion on the floor. Donnal looks like he doesn’t even want to play when he’s out there. He doesn’t show any grit or effort when he’s on the floor.

  • Corperryale

    Disappointing game that I hope we won’t see replayed next week in the Bahamas.

    Offence looked stagnant for long stretches (including the traditional Michigan opening drought) and nobody really stepped up except for LeVert. That said, Robinson has a pure stroke and really should be launching it more often. Still would like to see MAAR drive it and get to the line more — he did this a lot last year, wonder if he has a red light or something.

    Defense and rebounding was very poor. None of the bigs did an adequate job although Wagner shows some promise due to his motor and willingness to absorb contact. Not to pile on but Donnal was especially poor — and to those who point out that he only played 6 minutes, this was only because he picked up fouls instantaneously. If he hadn’t been a foul magnet, he would have played more, but the results would have been the same. At least Doyle looks like he’s trying out there.

    • mikey_mac

      MAAR looks like a shell of himself circa January. He’s really struggling to find a role on offense, since he’s not playing lead ball handler. He needs a few plays called for him at the 2, a la the screen from the left wing, freeing up a right-handed drive — the play THJ and Manny Harris used to excel at.

  • Corperryale

    Also, putting aside the defense for a moment, a few offensive plays really hurt to watch (told as I remember them):
    1- Doyle catches nice pass inside, goes up for dunk and gets blocked from behind
    2- Wagner catches nice pass inside, decides to dribble for some reason, and then ends up losing it
    3- Dawkins has fast break and misses dunk
    4- Robinson’s corner three waived off due to “moving screen” (debatable)

    • itsjustaherb

      Yeah it looked like Rahkman got pushed on that moving screen and backed up as a result.

  • ChathaM

    I’m really battling the urge to overreact to this game. After not being able to see the first couple of games, I was excited to watch this one, with a healthy Caris and Walton, and some interesting newcomers. So, it was beyond frustrating. Maybe I’m being a little too glass-half-full here, but it was the 3rd game of the season, the distribution of playing time will change dramatically as the season goes on, and Xavier is likely a top 3 team in the Big East. Yes, there is a relative lack of athleticism in certain parts of the roster. Yes, there was a relative lack of effort at times last night. But, you need to get exposed in order to get better, and last night was part of that process. I’m going to be patient.

    How Reynolds’ shot clock jumper was counted baffles me. Officials can now go to the monitor to confirm shot clock situations at any point in the game, and that’s a great change, because now they’ll get everything correct. Yet, even with access to video (I assume, the same video we saw at home) they mis-call a clear violation. I don’t understand that at all.

    I hate to ever give up on a player, but Donnal simply cannot compete at this level. He must be very smart, and understand the systems perfectly, to continue to start games. I think that he plays hard (he wasn’t part of the relative lack of effort last night), but he just doesn’t have the physical tools to compete here. Maybe he could contribute if he developed some kind of scrappy floor presence, but I don’t know. I don’t see it.

    • It’s definitely just one game. As bad as so many things looked it’s one November game. Hit a barrage of threes against Uconn and the whole outlook changes.

      I’ll be curious to see how they react moving forward.

    • itsjustaherb

      Donnal is so soft. He shows no passion or energy when he is on the floor.

      • ChaseGoBlue

        I couldn’t agree more. We need either Wilson or Wagner to step up at the 5 and get better. Doyle and Donnal are horrible. I liked what I saw from Wagner .

    • Indiana_Matt

      “But, you need to get exposed in order to get better, and last night was part of that process. I’m going to be patient.”

      Right on.

  • Chezaroo

    Refreshingly honest, frank, and candid opinion. It’s dead on. This team has no desire to dig in and defend, rebound, or outcompete its opponent. I’ve always maligned our defensive rebounding ineptitude, but our perimeter defense has surpassed that concern. Atrociously inept. Even more alarming regarding that 25-11 closing run was that Reynolds was on the bench for almost all of it. Never gonna beat good teams constantly flaying away from the perimeter and depending on elite shooting to survive. Long year, but the lack of athletic defensive stoppers will be exploited all season long. Only consistently above average 3 point shooting will allow this team to compete. I am not optimistic going into next weeks gauntlet.

    • Thought Farr was almost better than Reynolds on the offensive glass. He’s a big boy.

      • Chezaroo

        Reynolds is a stud, and to have them punk us while he sat for 8+ minutes is very very revealing.

  • Corperryale

    Man it would be so nice to recruit a Reynolds-type heavy hitter to clean up the boards. Doesn’t even need to a Bryant-level beast, just a Funderburk-level guy would be great.

  • Corperryale

    A win against UConn takes on greater importance since as loss will almost certainly lead to a match-up with a horrible Charlotte team (a team that lost to Elon by 11). While I don’t have great expectation for the Bahamas trip, I think a 1-2 record with only a win against Charlotte would likely destroy any hopes of a solid non-con résumé.

    • On the other hand I think the schedule sets up fairly well to go 2-1. Even if UM loses the opener could rebound with wins over Charlotte and another decent HM on Friday. Or beat UConn and then have to split the next two games.

      • Wayman Britt

        I know its very early, but if UM has goals to have a successful late season they really need to come out of the Bahamas 2-1. Doable but need to play better defense.

  • k

    Maybe I missed this but can someone explain how the greens and reds are determined on the box score?

  • itsjustaherb

    That “50-50 ball” that Irvin didn’t get was more like a 80-20 ball that he was simply too lazy to get to. I couldn’t believe he didn’t get that rebound. Beilein yanked him right out of the game after that play.

  • Wayman Britt

    Okay, time for the football team to pick up the basketball team.

  • Indiana_Matt

    Glenn had 17, including an alley-oop and 4-4 from 3pt in the Pacers blowout win tonight!

  • NbobBis

    Xavier isn’t the wrecking ball they showed tonight. We just are very, very bad right now.

  • AA7596

    One thing to remember about Beilein’s teams this time of year: The level of athleticism and physicality they’ve faced in practice is nowhere near what they saw Friday. Beilein talked about this once years ago when playing Ohio State–he was referring to how their length is a shock to the system–but it’s applicable more broadly. We just don’t have the size or tenacity to remotely simulate that level of competition in practice.

    Michigan will adjust. They may indeed have been overrated, but they also just weren’t ready. For instance, Donnal playing the 5 evidently is a reasonable idea in practice against our roster, but we should now be disabused of that idea.

    • MAZS

      Your speculation of why the coaching staff would think that Donnal can play the 5 strikes me as spot on. In Wilson and Wagner, we have two (talented) but inexperienced 4s playing the 5. And Doyle is simply not much of an offensive weapon. Add in that, at practice, we are mostly defending against our own offensive (non-post) schemes. There Donnal may well be able to acquit himself acceptably. But that, of course, is not who we actually play.

      Doyle simply has to become a factor in the middle–at least on the boards–or Wilson and/or Wagner have to become better at the 5. We’ve seen enough of Donnal to suggest that he won’t be the answer.

  • bobohle

    I think maybe our players don’t take defense seriously. When John Beilein says some days in practice Dakich and Lonegran have there way on the court against the rotation players that IS a problem. Of course if we had big guys at the 5 spot capable of playing against power 5 competition wouldn’t hurt either. I think Wagner will get there as well as Doyle. As stated by almost everyone else Donnal and Wilson are out of position at the 5 spot.

  • Lavell Jordan Albion Teamate

    Its simple, when you don’t have NBA guys on your team, this is what happens. Xavier has NBA players it comes back to recruiting, when you cant out recruit teams like Florida St., Texas A&M, Texas, Penn St., ect, and then lose key recruits to the likes of Illinois (Jalen Coleman) South Carolina (P J Dozier) California (Jaylen Brown) Villanova (Jalen Brunson). Just imagine the three head JALEN MONSTER we could’ve had WOW! Every body keep saying Beilein turns unranked recruits into NBA players is false. Every last Michigan player in the NBA right now was Top 100. Burke 84, Hardaway Jr. 93, GRIII 18, McGary 27, Stauskas 76. Doesn’t matter how far down some was, their the 100 best players in the country of thousands of players. Bad recruiting+Soft players=Losing simple.

  • Lavell Jordan Albion Teamate

    Players are a reflection of their coach, for example look at the Spartans and Tom Izzo. His best recruiting class he has ever had is coming to Lansing next year, plus they are in the lead for Josh Jackson (i.e 24/ O.o look at all the accomplishments he has gotten before and now his best ever, SCARY! Beilein n staff have too recruit better its that simple. No multiple Top 100 players=No NCAA Chips. Simple Math

  • mikey_mac

    Thank you, Dylan, for finally speaking up about the hard hedge. If JB wants to play that style, recruit for it! In what world can he realistically expect recruits like Donnal, Doyle, and the future 5s (Davis, Teske) to move laterally like a Chris Bosh? In retrospect, Morgan was a real anomaly.
    Xavier fully exploited UM both strategically and tactically. Really disappointing, considering none of UM’s rotation players is a freshman.