Game 30: Michigan at Wisconsin Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

John Beilein is now 2-15 against Wisconsin and loss number 15 followed a familiar script.

Michigan plays well enough to lead for long stretches early on, but can never take control because a few mistakes, bad breaks, hustle plays and late clock shots allow Wisconsin to hang around. Eventually Michigan cools off from the field and Wisconsin snatches the game away down the stretch with a few backbreaking plays

The first 30 minutes of Michigan’s 68-57 loss at Wisconsin were agonizing because there was an aura of inevitability surrounding the final 10. Michigan fought, scratched and clawed its way to a 40-39 lead at the Kohl Center on Sunday night, but was outscored 29-17 over the final 13 minutes of play, including a stretch where it missed 8 of 9 field goals as the game slipped away.

wisconsin flow

Wisconsin is a good team that’s playing great basketball, winning 10 of its last 11 games, but there’s no doubt that the Wolverines will fly back to Ann Arbor with a bitter taste in their mouth after dropping a game that could have been there down the stretch with some better execution.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the loss, is that this isn’t just a Kohl Center script — it’s a 2015-16 Michigan script. Loose balls and 50-50 chances went Wisconsin’s way and the late field goal drought and ensuing run have been par for the course in many of Michigan’s losses this season. That game flow chart above looks eerily similar to at least half of Michigan’s losses.

Junior guards Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton made their first four shots of the game in the opening 6 minutes, but were just 4-of-22 over the final 34 minutes. Both missed critical, open, transition layups in crunch time and it’s hard to win games on the road when your go-to scorers can’t score consistently down the stretch.

wisc factors

Michigan’s offense managed just .93 points per possession in the loss, its worst offensive performance of the conference season. Wisconsin minimizes opponents’ three-point attempts as well as anyone in the country and the Wolverines only managed to attempt 13 threes (making 5). But unlike typical games against Wisconsin, Michigan actually shot far more attempts at the rim (26) than in the mid-range (13). The only problem was that the Wolverines didn’t make them (14-of-26 inside five feet) and didn’t get to the free throw line (7 FTA to 52 FGA).

Defensively, Wisconsin wore down the Wolverines in the second half. Michigan blitzed the Badgers with an array of double and triple teams in the post early on which led to some early Wisconsin made threes. In the second half, Michigan seemed to focus more on taking away the perimeter and was overwhelmed inside. Happ and Hayes were 4-of-11 from the field with 2 turnovers in the first half compared to 7-of-10 in the second half.

For all intents and purposes, it looks like Michigan’s season will come down to whether it can beat Iowa on Saturday night. The Hawkeyes are reeling — dropping four of their last five games — and still have to play Indiana in a mid-week showdown that could give the Hoosiers the outright Big Ten title. The week off over spring break couldn’t come at a better time for this Michigan group, which will be fighting for its bubble life on Senior Night, presumably with both seniors watching from the sidelines in street clothes.

Player Bullets:

  • Derrick Walton: Walton was the KenPom MVP in 6 of Michigan’s 10 Big Ten wins. He’s also failed to post an offensive rating over 101 in Michigan’s last 6 losses. He made plenty of positive plays, but Michigan needs him to be a shot-maker and he’s just not doing that consistently enough. He deserves credit for his great defense and eight assists, but 2-of-9 2-point shooting and 1-of-4 3-point aren’t going to get it done on the road.
  • Ricky DoyleI give Doyle a lot of credit for stepping up with Mark Donnal struggling and in foul trouble, and playing very well in the ball screen game. He was 5-of-5 from the floor (he did miss an alley-oop but it was termed a turnover as an offensive goal tend. Some of the catches and finishes were very impressive and he even had a big alley-oop in the second half. On the negative side of the ledger, 0 rebounds in 16 minutes is a bit disappointing and he had his hands on a few late that slipped away.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman’s only basket of the game was a nice put-back off of his own miss in the second half. He was 1-of-5 from the floor with two nice pick-and-roll assists and two turnovers. Like Michigan’s other guards, he just couldn’t seem to get anything going offensively. I thought the Badgers defended him smartly on the pick-and-roll, going under and forcing him to shoot the three, a shot he’s not quite comfortable with off the dribble at this point.
  • Duncan Robinson: Duncan got involved early on with a few nice curls and cuts to the rim and then knocked in a couple threes including one with a generous roll. He missed a critical one late, but I think this was a (small) step in the right direction for him after a bit of a cold stretch
  • Zak Irvin: Head-down drives and early pull-up 18 footers are becoming the norm for Irvin and he just looks like a player who has predetermined what he’s going to do with the ball rather than reading defenses. Five of Irvin’s 13 field goal attempts were long twos (he made 2) and he gave the ball away 5 times in the loss.
  • Mark Donnal: Donnal had 6 points and an offensive rebound, but was whistled for 4 fouls in 21 minutes. The foul he picked up in the opening minutes of the second half for reaching in on the other end of the court is the sort of play that Michigan just can’t afford from him.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins hit a late three, but his defensive switching has been killing Michigan. He never seems to be on the same page with his teammates and ends up leaving shooters or switching onto the wrong man consistently. He also struggled badly in the second half when switched into Bronson Koenig in isolation situations.
  • Kameron ChatmanI thought Chatman gave Michigan some quality minutes in the first half, as he handed out an assist and was active defensively, but he didn’t earn any time in the second half.
  • DJ WilsonWilson had a nice block in the first half, but he also let a 50-50 ball get away that he thought was going out of bounds on the possession before.
  • A2MIKE

    Win or lose Saturday, I see this team as very similar to the 2011 team. That team struggled early and then peaked in the 2nd half of the conference season. Opposite scenario for this team, but the similarities are in the roster makeup. I look at Walton/Irvin as Douglass/Novak reincarnated. Undersized at the 4 and wildly inconsistent on offense. I think this team needs more talent, and that starts next year with Xavier Simpson hopefully.

    • bobohle

      Agree 100% with needing more talent, hoping X Simpson being the start.

    • Coltrane

      I think right now I’d rather have Stu and Novak. I just don’t think Irvin and Walton have command of the offense or communicate on defense. Finally Beilein acknowledged that this team doesn’t pass well. His scheme is famous for the multiple options off each read but this team is so painfully one dimensional.

      • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

        I don’t think Irvin is intelligent (Basketball IQ wise). The careless mistakes have become a theme and they haven’t stopped. Turnovers are one thing, but very weak turnovers are another. A lot of his giveaways aren’t even that highly stressed situations – its just carelessness.

        Levert, Irvin, and Walton just never took that next step to lead this team. First of all, you can’t be “the guy” and then get hurt and sit out the season. If its your team, you have to will yourself to stay healthy. Some guys aren’t cut out to handle the stress of being “the guy”. We have hoped that one would step up and do it consistently – but none have.

        • Jake

          I agree, Irvin has been a huge disappointment after it looked like he was finally putting it all together at the end of last year. So has Walton though, even though it looks like at times he tries to lead he just isn’t a natural leader and you can see it in his body language. Not to mention his lack of being able to run the offense. Speaking of disappointment Dawkins is behind Robinson on the depth chart because his defense is beyond atrocious. Robinson was supposed to be instant offense off the bench not a starter. Or how about stud recruit Kam Chatman who barely even plays. Or Donnal who flashes greatness then doesn’t even show up next game. Or Beilien( see my comment above). This whole team has and season has been a major disappointment. And don’t even get me started on Levert and Albrecht…Those guys are seniors and they both just completely gave up in my eyes. Man up and play even if it hurts. There’s no leadership from players and coaches and until that changes this team is going nowhere

          • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

            I agree on Levert. You can’t get your foot stepped on and sit out the season two years in a row.

            You are “the guy”. You have to navigate yourself to staying healthy.

            Our strength training program is pretty much garbage in my mind at this point.

          • A2MIKE

            I am not in the “fire Beilein” camp, but I do think that there needs to be some cleaning of the house (i.e. assistants finding new gigs, Sanderson finding a new home). To miss the tournament 2 years in a row is unacceptable in the 9th year of his regime. I don’t care if we had 10 underclassmen declare for the draft, one year missing the tourney happens. Two years in a row should never happen, ever.

            I think Beilein’s biggest mistake is not surrounding himself with more opposite minded coaching assistants. He is obviously a brilliant offensive coach, but the defense has been atrocious these last 3 years.

          • Jake

            I don’t think Beilien is a bad coach, even though I’m furious with him about these last two seasons. Is it just me or does this whole team, coaching staff included look lost? There’s no control or leadership right now. I just think it’s time for a culture change, get somebody young and tough minded. I’m sorry this is going to sound horrible but this team reflects their head coach, old looking, slow, weak, and just content with going out there and running the motions. I’m just calling it like I see it…there is no fire with this team coaching staff included. Nothings going to change next year without a coaching change, mark my words we will be right in the middle of the BIG next year battling for the 3rd year in a row to make the tourney. Or second year, last year wasn’t even close

          • GTFOmycourt

            You don’t have JB’s success by being a weak willed pushover. H

          • GTFOmycourt

            JB is not a fiery screamer but honestly, I don’t think effort is the problem. Our players need to be a little more brainy out there. They are making too many bad decision’s. Some of our players don’t seem to know their own strengths and weaknesses.

          • Jake

            I knew my opinion was gonna upset some Michigan faithful, but that’s what it is, my opinion. That’s just the way I see it. Not to further argue with you, because trust me I love Michigan, but what you said just further validates my point. Our players are making bad decisions, they don’t know their own strengths and weaknesses…exactly! I agree, which is where JB needs to take over and provide instruction and direction. I don’t feel he’s doing a good job of that. Yank someone out, let them know they messed up! This team does have depth contrary to what alot of people are saying. The problem is the whole team just isn’t that good. That’s being brutally honest. Is that JB’S fault? Absolutely! If he can’t make it work, bring in someone who can. That’s the way it is for coaches these days, paying him millions time for some damn results!

        • Champswest

          Please explain to me how you can will yourself to stay healthy. I would find that knowledge very useful in my personal life. I could stop using that annoying seatbelt for starters.

          • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

            I meant it in an athletic sense.

            I don’t know how, but if you are “the guy” for a team, you have to find a way to stay on the court because its your team.

            Its definitely a skill in its own right – the ability to stay on the court and get back quickly if you do get hurt.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      The 2011 team was stressful and fun to watch. The season and Beilein’s tenure as our coach looked over before the halfway point of the Big Ten season. Then the Novak freak out happened.

      After that, the team went on an incredible roll and basically the best of the second tier teams (Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin were first tier that year).

      Walton/Irvin should not be Douglass/Novak reincarnated. Douglass and Novak were both no name recruits. I love both guys and both are two of my favorite players. Sure they were inconsistent at times, but that was understandable since they weren’t high level athletes. There are less excuses for Walton/Irvin. Novak and Douglass maxed out their abilities and set the foundation for this program. Walton/Irvin have had the keys handed to them two years in a row and its anyone’s guess whether they “bring it” from game to game.

      The 2016 team is more frustrating to watch because we already went through the rebuilding/retooling crap 4 years ago.

      If the 2016 team played with the grit and desire of the 2011 team.

      I felt we stepped up in 2011 and said this crap is gonna stop. For two years, we have waited for Walton and Irvin to lead this team – and it seems as though they never show up in the same game and are way too inconsistent.

      • Wayman Britt

        Well said and on point.

      • robpollard

        I agree with some of what you said, but I would not bring “high level athletes” into this. Just b/c we played him as an undersized forward on defense (for which he was typically too small) doesn’t mean he wasn’t plenty athletic (remember the midnight madness dunk contest?).

        And Derrick Walton is easily a better player then Stu ever was, “grit” or not.

        The problem is Walton isn’t Burke and Irvin isn’t THJ (or a senior Novak, for that matter). Those are big shoes to fill (particularly Burke) but if you want to contend for titles, that’s what you need.

        So, I’m not sure the problem is “desire” rather than Irvin not being ready to step up and be “the man” once Levert went out. It’s a tough role, game after game. And it is reasonable to expect a 5-star recruit to be able to do it. But he hasn’t, unfortunately, except for a few games.

        • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

          Novak was athletic. I am sorry, I didn’t mean to portray him not being.

          Most of us could live with what Novak and Douglass did because both easily outplayed their ranking and really became 4 year glue program players.

          I guess I just expect more from both Walton and Irvin given the rankings they came in at.

          I think both are better players than what we are seeing, but as a result of Levert never playing, its putting too much of a burden on both.

          • A2MIKE

            They should be better based on their recruiting rankings, but they’re not. And at this point expecting them to be anything more than 4 year glue guys is wishful thinking.

          • robpollard

            Yep, I essentially agree with this post, though I am less down on Walton than others (though I do wish he was a bit better).

            Expectations are a difficult thing. We were, understandably, dazzled by “Best player in Indiana!” and “5-star recruit!” for Irvin and he’s basically just been a good (but definitely not great, or even very good) player. With Levert and Spike out, we needed more to be a no-doubt tourney team and unfortunately he hasn’t done it.

  • gobluemd16

    Believe it or not, I’d be giving Kam bench wing minutes over Aubrey. Dawkins can make shots, but that is it. His defense just crushes this team when he is in. Way way too many mistakes as a team to win on the road, but the effort for loose balls was the most disturbing part — Wisconsin got all of them. As Dylan said, just a typical gsme at Kohl Center. After two golden opportunities at MD and Wisconsin, we have put ourselves in a must-win situation at home against Iowa to have a shot at the dance. I fear we will be on the outside of the bubble this week.

    • Wayman Britt

      I am not sure KAM is the answer, but neither is Dawkins. The problem is that Beileins 2014 recruiting class is just not talented. Not one player out of that large class, is good, let alone be able to play at the next level.

  • bobohle

    After Sunday’s games Joe Lunardi has Michigan in the last four in (the top position).

  • Jake

    I think Beilien’s time here as a coach should be over. Ya I said it and I’ll say it again, this should be it for him. He had a nice run there but his coaching has really taken a bad turn. Ya we’ve had no seniors plus injuries but that’s really only excuses that are not the root of the problem. #1 problem-no toughness and that starts with coaching. Beilien’s teams have always been soft with the exception of a few guys. #2 problem- his 4 guard system in the gritty big ten. This only works when you have great shooters or guys that can get to the rim consistently, we have neither. And #3 problem- ridiculous recruiting for a school that had great success the last few years except last year. He’s still recruiting kids that aren’t college ready and should be playing for teams on the bottom half of the BIG. It’s time for a change, these problems all stem from bad coaching/recruiting not injuries and lack of depth and whatever excuse he will have next year.

  • Wayman Britt

    Inconsistent, inconsistent. Walton, Irvin & MAAR look good one game then bad the next two. This program is at a turning point. With all the resources UM now has we should be able to compete with the Badgers, Hoosiers and Buckeyes (I am not even going to compare to MSU, we are so behind them).

    Getting rid of Beilein is not the answer, but he needs to relect on his style and practices.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    after Ohio State beat Iowa at home…i think its safe to say we should do the same! I think it basically comes down to next weekend at home against Iowa…win and we are in the tourny…lose and we will be holding our breath even depending on what we do in the BigTen tourny…Ohio State beating Iowa is not good for us…we need a WIN…GO BLUE…

  • jr_ewing93

    cry 😢 babies . Give yourself a pack on the back as the best terrible fans. Some of you guys have to nerves to call someone awful, please. Guys are probably the ones that shoot at halftime during home games 😁 LAMES!

    • bobohle


  • MrLG

    Slightly disappointing game for me, but no big deal. I did not expect them to win and they didn’t. With a week to rest/plan, we should be fine against Iowa at home. I expect us to win. Note that Iowa has a tough game this week against Indiana. Michigan will be fresher, for sure.

  • MrLG

    How about those power dunks from Ricky? That was awesome. It was so great to see any Michigan 5 throw it down with authority! Props to Walton for throwing the alley oop, I was surprised that DW even trusted Ricky for that.