Game 8: Houston Baptist at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

It was around this time last year that Michigan’s season went down the drain. The Wolverines had just won an emotional Big Ten-ACC Challenge game and were 6-1, ranked 20th nationally according to KenPom and looked to be on their way to another successful season. Then almost exactly one year ago to the day, the Wolverines suffered a catastrophic upset to NJIT and never looked the same.

That loss turned into four in a row and the Wolverines’ season was essentially over by Christmas — the January news of Caris LeVert’s injury would only compound Michigan’s problems.

When Houston Baptist cut Michigan’s lead to just two points late in the first half on Saturday afternoon on a quick barrage four quick three-pointers — the Huskies were a 28% three-point shooting team — the NJIT flashbacks were inevitable. There’s no question that a bit of doubt crept into the minds of fans and players alike — not again.

But Michigan regrouped with a run of its own, stretching its lead back to nine points at the half, before coasting to the 25 point victory. The script was the one that Michigan fans were supposed to see last season in a similar game and while a win over Houston Baptist by itself says very little, it was encouraging to see Michigan take care of business in a potential trap game.

four factors- hbu

This didn’t feel like an extraordinary offensive performance by Michigan given the competition, but that’s an important sign that this offense is a lot better than last year’s. Michigan topped 1.2 points per possession in just three games last year — Hillsdale, Nicholls State and Rutgers. Tonight’s 1.25 points per possession marked the fourth time that Michigan has reached that mark in eight games. The Wolverines shot 48% on threes, but also made 14 of 21 shots at the rim in the victory. Michigan isn’t going to lose many games when it gives the ball away on just 9% of its possessions and hits almost half of its threes.

Defensively, Michigan did a great job of forcing turnovers and cleaning up the defensive glass. The Huskies gave the ball away on over a fifth of their offensive possessions — many of which were unforced — and rebounded only 18% of their misses on the night. Houston Baptist actually had more attempts at the rim than Michigan, but made only 8-of-24 shots near the basket. Michigan bigs, especially Ricky Doyle, did a surprisingly good job of contesting and using their bodies to bump shooters just enough to make those attempts just uncomfortable enough.

KenPom predicted an 83-60 victory and Michigan rolled to an 82-57 win so this was pretty much an as-expected win against a decidedly over-matched opponent. Michigan heads on the road again Tuesday for the last remaining ‘swing game’ of its non-conference season against undefeated SMU. The Mustangs don’t have many quality victories this year, but are one of the favorites to win the AAC this year. A road win for the Wolverines against a team that won on their court last season could salvage an up-and-down non-conference season.

Player Bullets

  • Caris LeVert: LeVert is playing some of the best basketball of his career. His improvement this season stems from his dedication to attacking the basket rather than settling. He’s raised his 2-point shooting percentage 9% and is attempting almost twice as many free throws per game. With Walton out, LeVert didn’t really step up as a distributor (just one assist), but he got to the basket early and often (5-of-7 on twos) and finished with 10 free throw attempts and eight rebounds en route to 25 points on 13 shot attempts.
  • Duncan Robinson: Duncan Robinson’s shooting ability is a game-changer in this offense. When he started the game cold, Houston Baptist crept back in as fans wondering how it was possible that he missed three shots in a row. When he heated up, he got Michigan back to a solid lead at the half and then blew the game open in the second. Robinson scored 19 points on 12 shots (5-9 3pt) and the more shots he can get the better.  Robinson has already made five threes in three different games and is 17 of his last 26 since the UConn loss. Those shooting numbers are ridiculous.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin’s jumper still doesn’t look close (his one three-point make came after he got a mid-range shot blocked), but I was impressed with his floor game overall. He handed out a team-high five assists and had a couple of strong drives to the basket. Michigan needs him to find his shooting stroke again (there were too many lineups with multiple non-shooters on the floor given Walton’s injury today), but some of those ball skills that flourished last year are still evident.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman provided a steady dose of hard drives to the basket and was 3-of-7 on twos. You’d like to see him make a few more, but the intention was good and several setup offensive rebounding opportunities as well. I loved his perimeter defense, he does a great job of using his chest against driving players, in a solid, but unspectacular night.
  • Spike AlbrechtIt was great to see Spike Albrecht get into the game and make a few vintage Spike Albrecht plays. He got on the floor after a loose ball despite two injured hips and also handed out four dimes in just 12 minutes. Seeing his feel for the offense and ability to find guys in the right spots is a reminder of just how valuable he could be this year if he’s able to get a little healthier.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: This was an up-and-down game for Dawkins. He had a handful of plays that looked to be the start of something good that were immediately followed by plays that earned him a quick seat on the bench — defensive woes or awkward moments traveling with the ball. He padded his stats effectively in garbage time by knocking down a few threes and getting to the line. Hopefully seeing the ball go in a few times will build some confidence moving forward because the Wolverines will need him sooner or later.
  • Ricky Doyle: Doyle only had two points on 1 of 3 shooting, but I thought he played a pretty strong game. He was very solid defensively against HBU players that have legitimate size and grabbed 7 rebounds (3 offensive, 4 defensive) in the win — a major reason the Huskies shot 33% at the rim.
  • Moritz Wagner: Sometimes freshmen look like freshmen. Wagner was whistled for a few tick-tack fouls hedging early on and his pick-and-roll defense was disappointing overall. He had a strong take off the bounce, but missed the finish and scored his only point on a nice catch near the basket before getting fouled.
  • DJ WilsonWilson saw 6 minutes of playing time and scored 4 points on a turnaround jumper in the post and a big dunk that was setup by a few tipped balls by Aubrey Dawkins and Spike Albrecht. There are some things that Wilson can bring to the table, but right now I think he’s pigeonholed into that No. 3 big man role if Doyle and Wagner are struggling or hampered by fouls
  • Kameron ChatmanThe game seems to still be moving too far for Kam. He was whistled for three fouls in four minutes, but the mistakes continue to outweigh the positive plays — like his nice backdoor feed to Duncan Robinson.
  • Mark Donnal: Donnal split two of four free throws and was always stuffed at the rim in seven minutes.
  • JJ3ball

    Nice win. Plenty to work on for SMU.
    I want to beat Larry Brown more than SMU.

    • Well.. he’s suspended ;-)

      • JJ3ball

        I forgot about that. That sucks. He’s one of those guys I love to hate

      • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

        :) Need some payback for last season.

  • JJ3ball

    How many 3’s a game does Duncan need?
    He took 1 against NMU, 4 against Xavier and at least 5 in every other game.
    The only 2 games he’s been below 50% are NMU and UConn. Pretty dang impressive.
    He really doesn’t force things either, although Coach Beilein might disagree with me
    Minutes are on an upward trajectory as well. I think he’ll settle in around 25 minutes a game.

    • If he has the best eFG% in the country (83.3%), he’s not taking enough shots. I realize that he can only take so many shots, but the guy is scoring 1.8 points per shot. That’s insane.

      • GTFOmycourt

        Robinson is 2nd in the country in efg% and of those players in the top ten Robinson has the most points. Biefeldt is also in the top ten for efg% and out of the top ten Biefeldt is 3rd in scoring. I wish Michigan could have figured out a way to keep Biefeldt around….Happy he is doing well…

  • umnyc

    Sadly I think both Donnal and Chatman might just need a fresh start at other schools. I don’t see there being much of a role for them on this team, and any future teams. Although Wilson has been slightly disappointing thus far, there is still a significant upside to having him in the rotation because I think he’ll improve with more confidence. He reminds me of a more athletic version of Jon Horford, who towards the end became a solid contributor.

    • 93Grad

      Yup. Neither one can play at this level. Amazing how overranked they were.

      • Steve2081

        I think Kam can but not for a team that emphasizes 3 point shooting as much as we do. Mark is probably a MAC big at best.

        • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

          Yeah I think there is still some hope for Chatman, but Donnal is 100% going to mutually part ways after this season. It is blatantly obvious that Beilein is giving him a million chances to prove his worth, and for whatever reason he just doesn’t have that IT factor – his lack of intensity and assertiveness are appalling at this point.

    • Fab 5 Legends

      couldnt agree with you more…i thought a year of developing would improve there showing…but unfortunately they are the same players from last year…they are not contributing and very much overranked in high school. I hope as the season continues they improve but i dont see it…i would like Chatman to stay 1 more year, with Levert gone next year maybe Chatman can step up…Donnal is getting lost in the rotation, hopefully Wilson continues to improve as the season continues

    • Kenny

      I would definitely give Chatman another year, a lot of minutes to be grabbed next year at 3 wing positions.

      Wilson looks much better than Horford at the same stage and I am pretty confident that he will be a solid contributor next season at 5.

      Donnal is a sad story, he has size and skills but his of mental capacity likely will never catche up. not sure if he will do any better in mid-major. I wish Max Bielfeldt had Donnal’s size.

      • John miller

        Donnal’s skill is very limited and size isn’t overly impressive either.

    • Barth Applefeld

      Wow! I can never believe the negative and judgmental comments that people write about college athletes about whom we know so very little. This is especially painful when describing the future careers (non-careers) of redshirt freshmen and sophomores (19 and 20 year olds). I always think back to myself at 19 and 20. I’m not a huge success, but I’ve done better than most people, including myself, would have expected. Please save some of the harsher comments for the pros who get paid a million dollars to play only a sport.

    • urbanachiever

      I think people are so accustomed to watching Michigan’s guards develop so quickly in Beilein’s system that they forget that most college basketball players take at least 1 year or 2 before starting to realize their potential. While I agree that both have been disappointments, I don’t think we’ve seen enough of either to write them off as future contributors yet. Donnal’s role is likely to always be limited to defense or the occasional minutes in cases of foul trouble, but Chatman still has a lot of potential value because, given his size, he can play roles that not many others on the team can play (rebounding, defense against long, athletic wings).

      Beilein has done a truly remarkable job of developing guards early in their careers – but it’s been just that, remarkable. Not many other coaches can develop talent as quickly as he can. Let’s not hold that against some of the guys who he has less of a track record with, and may take more time and opportunities to develop.

  • jakerblue

    On wilson’s dunk, that was such a vintage savvy spike play, Dawkins tips were just to keep the ball alive, but spike’s was definitely intended to be a pass to Wilson.

    • Steve2081

      That was a thing of beauty from Spike.

  • Champswest

    Considering Walton hasn’t played the last game and a half, Spike isn’t back to full health and Irvin still isn’t back in top form, we are doing quite well. This team should keep getting better.

    • John miller

      As long as donnal doesn’t play, things will continue to get better.

  • Barth Applefeld

    You keep writing better and better! You always have an interesting insight that I never thought of!
    Thank you!