Game 31: Iowa at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

When the schedule cards were printed this summer, March 5th was supposed to be a coronation for Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert. Instead it shaped up to be a final exam for the new era of Michigan basketball.

The old guard was watching from the bench in suits as highlights of their NCAA tournament exploits played on the big screen as the new guard had a chance to play their way into the NCAA tournament on their home floor.

They came up woefully short.

Michigan didn’t play well by any stretch of the imagination, giving away possessions and falling behind early, and it was also clear from a few minutes of play that the Iowa Hawkeyes were the better team. Every Michigan run was answered by a critical Jarrod Uthoff jumper. Most Iowa runs were answered by a rushed shot or a poor possession as the game snowballed away.

The Wolverines don’t have a run-stopper and frankly just didn’t have the offensive firepower to score against an Iowa defense that had been beaten up over its last six games. Michigan made the inevitable runs that you expect from a home team in a conference, but it never led again after Duncan Robinson made a three-pointer on its first possession of the game to push the score to 3-2.

Both halves followed similar scripts as the Hawkeyes jumped out to double-digit leads before Michigan chipped away cutting the deficit to one or two possessions. But every time that the Wolverines narrowed the lead, Iowa made the plays to pull away.

four fac iowa

Michigan’s offense managed just .87 points per possession, its worst offensive outing of the season.

The diagnosis of the Wolverines’ offensive woes is pretty simple. The Wolverines settled for jump shots all night and couldn’t make them. Michigan made 10-of-13 shot attempts within five feet of the basket, but was just 5-of-17 (29%) in the mid-range and 8-of-33 (24%) from three. John Beilein credited Iowa’s hard-hedge of the pick-and-roll for taking away much of his team’s production around the rim, but it was an all-around poor offensive performance.

It felt like there were close to a dozen possessions that Michigan just gave away with sub-pay execution, over-subbing, or poor shot selection. Michigan gave the ball away on baseline inbounds plays, fired up a handful of airballs and just had too many empty possessions in a game that was too important to afford any.

The only area of the game that Michigan controlled was on the backboard as it grabbed 28% of its missed shots and 89% of Iowa’s misses to outscore the Hawkeyes 15-4 in second chance points.

Defensively, Michigan had no answer for Jarrod Uthoff as the senior wing finished with 29 points on 19 shots to snap his recent slump of form.

Considering that the Wolverine defense has allowed 1.08 points per trip in league play, allowing 1.02 points per trip to Iowa doesn’t necessarily seem like a bad performance. It was Michigan’s defense that finally strung together stops in the first half and 1-3-1 zone turnovers in the second to narrow the gap in each half, but it was also the Michigan defense that made enough mistakes to never get over the hump.

Iowa got enough production in the areas where it’s most effective — Jarrod Uthoff jumpers, off-ball screens for Peter Jok and transition opportunities — to pull away with the win.

I don’t think this team has necessarily gotten worse over the course of the season, but it certainly hasn’t gotten any better.

Michigan isn’t the only team in the country that would limp to the finish line playing 7 of its last 9 games against top-50 opponents adjusted for strength of schedule, but it’s a legitimate question to ask why this team hasn’t been able to improve over a 31 game season.

It’s also an important one considering the entire roster that took the floor makes up next year’s team (plus four freshmen).

At this point, the Wolverines need to win their first game against Northwestern or Penn State and then come back on a day’s rest and knock off Indiana to make the NCAA tournament. After watching Saturday night’s performance, it’s hard to imagine that scenario unfolding in Indianapolis.

Player Bullets:

  • Derrick WaltonWalton hit his threes (4-of-9) to snap out of a slump and also threw 6 assists to 1 turnover in 38 minutes. He still has the tendency to throw his body out of control when driving or in transition, just hoping for the foul call, and not getting it. The biggest area of opportunity for him this summer is going to be to watch film of guys like Melo Trimble or see how they are able to draw fouls rather than missing tough twos.
  • Mark Donnal: I thought Donnal gave Michigan pretty solid minutes overall. He was critical in the first half run that got Michigan back into the game and made a few nice plays. He still missed a few bunnies, but finished with 9 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort.
  • Zak IrvinIt’s no secret that Michigan goes as Zak Irvin goes and he’s just not giving them enough, consistently. His shot selection continues to frustrate and he was just 3-of-7 on two-point attempts and 1-of-6 on threes while turning the ball over 4 times — including a baseline out-of-bounds pass that led directly to a layup for the opposing team. At the end of last season and at times this season, there were legitimate signs that Irvin could be turning the corner. But his performance down the stretch in 2016 has been frustrating. He’s turned the ball over 20 times in the last five games while making just 5-of-22 three-point attempts.
  • Duncan Robinson: While Irvin’s importance is critical to the offense, the biggest difference between this offense in the first and second half of the Big Ten season is Duncan Robinson. He’s gone from elite shooter to plainly average shooter and just isn’t impacting other elements of the game in ways that Michigan needs. Robinson turned the ball over three times, went 1-of-6 from three and 1-of-3 from two in a disappointing effort.
  • Kam Chatman: I’m not sure anyone drew up Chatman checking into the game and shooting a late-clock, off-the-dribble three, but give him credit for knocking it down. 5 points in 8 minutes is a solid effort for a guy who has had a few nice performances down the stretch. 
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-RahkmanAbdur-Rahkman had a couple nice drives to the basket, but he just couldn’t knock in the three-point shot despite several open chances. He missed all 6 three-point attempts, while making 4 of his 7 attempts inside the arc.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins’ off-ball defense continues to lag behind the rest of a roster that isn’t very good defensively to begin with. The back-to-back possessions late in the first half when he was guarding Jok and gave up back-to-back triples was a back-breaking sequence.
  • Ricky Doyle:  Doyle scored 2 points in 11 minutes and grabbed a pair of rebounds and took a charge, but there’s still a pretty significant drop-off from Donnal to Doyle — something which would have sounded crazy in November.
  • Wayman Britt

    I know that UM did have have their two seniors this year, but not making the tournament is unacceptable for a program with the resources (new faciliites, coaches salaries, etc.) like UM. Some posters may think this is too harsh. but coach John Beilein, needs to look at his whole program and make tough decisions:

    1. One of the assistants needs to take a head coaching job, it’s time for them to make a name on their own merit. Accordingly, bring in a defensive teaching specialist. Beilein has to improve his team’s defensive. Beilein needs to be self aware and realize he needs help teaching defense.

    2. Follow Harbaugh’s lead and practice roster maintenance. Ask 1 -3 players to leave/transfer, this doesn’t say that these players are bad people, they just don’t have the talent to play in the Big Ten and definitely not to be a top 4 team in the Big Ten. All top programs do this. You can politically do this the right way. Why sit for two years when you can start at another program.

    3. Recruit quicker, speedier players. You can still recruit unathletic three point shooting players, just not all the same type player in the same class.

    4. Ensure Poole stays committed to UM. By all accounts he has real talent and other programs will come calling.

    5. Bring a player or two who are a bit nasty and have some swagger. Somebody who is not afraid to get dirty and wants to use basketball to improve themselves.

    6. Get rid of the automatic benching at two fouls in the 1st half. If you know you are going to be benched you are not going to play tough defensive after one foul. You will lighten up on playing aggressive defense, its just natural.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      There is absolutely no way this team and coaching staff can return in its same form next season.

      It is absolutely ridiculous the series of events (both self inflicted and just plain bad luck) that has gone on with this program.

      There needs to be some fresh air/fresh voices brought in in some shape or form.

      Beilein ABSOLUTELY hates to adapt and change some of his practices. He is a smart man and has to know this.

      You cannot handicap yourselves and play a different game than everyone else with regards to roster management and recruiting.

      My hope is that the new AD and him sit down and discuss various ideas and approaches to improve every aspect of the team and program.

    • Carl

      Agreed.. 2 years in a row without the tourney.. That was our 4th loss at home and not to mention by double digits. This team just lacks leadership and halftime adjustments.

    • malcolm bolt

      Well said Wayman. I especially like bullet number 5. This team has no nasty, hungry, blood thirsty player seen throughout the landscape of college hoops.

  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    “Michigan’s offense managed just .87 points per possession, its worst offensive outing of the season.”

    One of the most frustrating things for me was amount of missed open shots. A lot of them weren’t just missed, they weren’t even close to going in.

    Donnal wide open 3, barely hits the backboard. Unbelievable.

    Aside from that stretch 3/4 into the game, this team with a week off didn’t look or seem to treat this game with the urgency necessary.

  • gobluemd16

    I try to stay optimistic, but this about as low as it goes for me for this program. Looking like a second straight missed tournament is not acceptable, even with the injuries, after you come off a championship game and Elite 8. I am very disappointed. I thought the effort was definitely there tonight, but for the offense to look that poor and the shooting to be that off after a week’s rest is not good at all. A lot goes on the players and some should also go on the coaches. We look extremely mediocre, and Dylan nailed it on the head — we honestly look worse than the beginning of the Big Ten season. The lack of improvement is the most frustrating thing to see as a hardcore fan.

  • gobluemd16

    And what has happened to Duncan. His shot has fallen off a cliff. He’s gotten great looks, but is just missing everything. I hope that he is a 6th man, make shots off the bench player in the future. That role suits him much better.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      What has happened to team shooting in general? Open shot after open shot, many not even close to going in.

      I just don’t understand how you can shoot this poorly after a week off.

      Even easy or gimme type baskets aren’t scored.

      The team has gotten so sloppy with the ball – no clue anymore what in the world Irvin is doing.

  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    The worst case scenario just continues to play out with this team whether its team health, recruiting or games.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    interested stat mentioned on bigten broadcast – only 1 big ten team with our exact record has not made the tournament in the past….i do think we do not deserve to make the tournament considering our opportunities we wasted…but hey maybe with a win or two in the big ten tourny and depending on how other teams fare…we could sneak in….even though it would be an early exit…as mentioned this team has no leadership, heart, toughness and unfortunately players have not developed as in past years…much more is expected from Walton/Irvin but they dont have the tools to do it all…this is still a young team – hope we continue to grow for next season, as this is the same team we are putting out there

  • Carl

    Lunardi still has us in last 4 in. Updated today..

    • mpbear14

      Unfortunately that will change as early as after today’s games or as soon as an upset happens in a conference tournament.

      • Carl

        There’s still probably a 50-50 shot with a win in BTN.. We need Cincinnati to lose vs SMU today..

        • mpbear14

          Not looking good

        • bobohle

          Sorry Carl Cincy beat SMU.

  • bobohle

    I know it’s frustrating. Every game usually the same mistakes as previous games. Either not adjusting or not learning from their mistakes. Basically the same team as last year only with minimal improvement in the conference record. Basically same team returning next year. Will team development and improvement be the same? I expect the freshmen class next season to have plenty of opportunity for minutes especially Simpson and Watson. MAAR,Donnal and Doyle showing individual developement but not as a team. Now refuse to lose to Northwestern and IU.

    • To be fair… Spike was arguably the MVP of the team last year.

      • bobohle

        I will concede that. Our conference record still worse last year with him. By the way Spike was my favorite player also.

  • bobohle

    I forgot to mention below: Close the deal on elite targets. We wouldn’t be discussing this if we had Jaylen Brown this year. Even if for one year. We had the open Scholarship.

  • A2MIKE

    Couple thoughts…

    Nobody outside of Rahk can beat someone off the dribble. And when you shoot the way M has this last month, that makes playing offense difficult.

    I have seen a lot of people mention the growth of Donnal, and I agree he has developed. However, his shot is still wildly inconsistent and I think if Michigan is going to take a step forward next year, someone else needs to develop in that spot. Donnal should be a backup for a league contender.

    Duncan needs to probably be the first guy off the bench. He is not athletic enough to play max minutes, would be better suited coming off the bench as a sniper, keep his legs fresh and allow him to focus solely on shooting. He is not going to become stauskas 2.0.

    All that said, I hope the starting lineup 1-5 is X, dwalt, Irvin, kam, Wagner. I think dwalt will be better as a combo guard and let X be the primary ball handler. Hopefully kam keeps developing and platoons at the 4 with Wilson. Donnal and Wagner platoon at the 5 and Robinson and Watson back up the 1-3.