NCAA 2016: Michigan vs. Notre Dame Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

The first 20 minutes of Michigan’s first round loss to Notre Dame were what this season was supposed to be. Free-flowing offense, active help defense, forced turnovers, transition play, effective ball screens and three-point shooting. For those 20 minutes, everything was clicking and the Wolverines looked like they had it all figured out.

Michigan racked up 41 points in 32 first half possessions and only allowed 29. The Wolverines made 9-of-17 twos and 7-of-14 threes for a 63 eFG% as they cruised to the locker room with a double-digit lead. There’s a legitimate argument to be made that it was the best half Michigan played this season, maybe beyond.

But the second half was a reminder of everything that went wrong this season. The Wolverines allowed Notre Dame to score 41 points in 29 second half possessions (that’s 1.41 points per trip for those still counting) and could only muster 22 of their own (.76 per possession).

Michigan shot just 6-of-19 on twos (31%) and 3-of-13 on threes (28%) for a 32.8 eFG% in the second half while Notre Dame could barely miss, recording an eFG% over 71% in the final frame. Slowly but surely the lead slipped away and the Wolverines just couldn’t muster the late game heroics to keep their season alive for another game as Zak Irvin’s game-tying three rimmed out in the final minute.

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Turnovers were the great equalizer for Michigan despite facing a Notre Dame team that doesn’t usually give the ball away. The Wolverines did a masterful job of scraping down on Notre Dame’s big men and driving guards and forced giveaways once every four possessions. Unfortunately, the Irish scored 70 points in the 45 possessions that they didn’t turn the ball over — that’s 1.55 points per turnover-free possession.

Notre Dame just didn’t miss many shots. The Irish scored at the rim (11-of-15), in the mid-range (6-of-14) and from beyond the arc (8-of-14) and went to the free throw line 15 times to Michigan’s 5. Everyone knew this was a great offensive team before Friday’s game, but Michigan just didn’t have the answers to slow down Notre Dame — and VJ Beachem in particular, who finished with 18 points on 7-of-7 shooting including 13 in the second half — if it couldn’t record a steal.

That has to be frustrating for Michigan because it created so many looks at the basket that it couldn’t convert. The Wolverines had 27 shot attempts within 5 feet, but only made 14 of them. Mark Donnal struggled to finish a handful of rolls to the basket that he’ll be kicking himself about all offseason, Moritz Wagner was whistled for a charge that could have gone either way and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman wasn’t his usual finishing self either.

Did Michigan run out of steam? We’ll never know, but there’s no denying the fact that the Wolverines were playing their fifth game (in the third state) in eight days while Notre Dame hadn’t played since last Friday. Beilein credited the shift in the second half to Notre Dame’s physicality to deny dribble hand-offs and ball screens to his team’s playmakers, but as has happened all too often this season, the made shots just dried up.

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It’s hard to find a concise way to define Michigan’s season. The Wolverines finished 23-13 with quality wins over Maryland, Purdue, Indiana and Texas and while it feels a lot better to finish the year in the NCAA Tournament, even winning a game in Dayton, it’s hard to deny that it always felt like this season could have been something more.

The injuries to Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert hurt, but perhaps this taste of the NCAA Tournament could be what the Wolverines need to take the next step in 2015-16.

Player Bullets:

  • Derrick WaltonWalton played a phenomenal first half — scoring 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting — but went 0-of-6 from the floor in the second. even when his shooting legs left him, he continued to do everything else, finishing the game with 8 assists, 6 steals and 4 rebounds.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan’s prime finisher, was just 2-of-7 at the rim tonight, but knocked in 3-of-4 three-point attempts. He seemed to reach a new level of consistency down the stretch this season, recording 8 double-digit performances in the lsat 9 games, and turning the ball over only 3 times in that span.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson finishes the season with 95 made threes on 210 attempts. He hit three triples tonight, but the big question going forward is just how much can he improve physically and defensively.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin started the night 1-of-10 and finished 4-of-16. He hit a couple big shots down the stress, but of course he missed the shot that could have tied the game in the final minute. That wasn’t a good possession by any stretch and was a great example of where the rule change preventing the head coach from calling timeout comes into effect. If the shot goes in, as it has several times over the past few weeks, maybe Irvin’s a hero, but instead the Wolverines are heading home.
  • Mark Donnal: I thought Donnal did some really good things and he did draw at least two or three charges and grabbed a few putbacks, but he also lost composure finishing around the rim all night. He was 4-of-8 on two-point attempts and just couldn’t catch and finish effectively down the stretch.
  • Moritz Wagner: If Wagner can make the necessary strides this offseason, I think he ends up as Michigan’s starting big man next season. He’s just too versatile, too dynamic and too energetic to leave off the court. His play in the Bahamas, Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament are as encouraging as his disappearance in the rotation is mysterious during conference play.
  • Ricky DoyleDoyle also struggled offensively, but in the second half he managed to record a steal and then draw a charge on back-to-back possessions.
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  • Chris De Sana

    As Chuck said, at half time. Michigan simply does not scare anyone when they walk on the court. The problem is based on current roster and next years additions that really does not change.

    • AA7596

      Yep. It says a lot that after pouring three years into Donnal’s development and two into Doyle and Wilson, we’re hoping that Wagner will take over up front next season.

      The past two years are a lot easier to take if Michigan is building toward something, but it’s unclear that they are. Experience-wise, this roster ought to be contending for the B1G next season—they’ll have four seniors (by academic class)—but talent-wise, they still may not be up to it. The second half last night exposed a big question: How does this team beat decent man-to-man?

      As presently constituted, I’m not sure this roster has that answer. It’s imperative that Simpson is what we hope is, and that Wagner takes a big step forward.

      • Stephen Chang

        I look forward to next year, hopefully everyone that returns becomes stronger and motivated to make a run in the dance again.

    • MAZS

      Except for the rosters of all but 5-6 teams, one could say that about everyone. The Villanovas, Oklahomas, Miamis and West Virginias etc aren’t throwing a bunch of top 50 players out there. Yes, it would be nice to have top 10 recruiting classes–but it isn’t essential to being a top 25 team year-in-and-year-out.

      • Chris De Sana

        Other than Nova which of the schools you mentioned has as much to offer as Michigan or has the history of Michigan?

        • MAZS

          I could have named 20 more–many with comparable academics, better geography and/or a better basketball atmosphere. [We can’t sell out even when we are a Top 10 team–we are first, second and third, a football school} But I named just 5 to make the point. Moreover, the kind of players you (and I) are seeking–top 20 players–typically aren’t swayed much by Michigan’s academics.

          • Chris De Sana

            So the next questions are do we just settle for lightening in a bottle now and then when multiple mid level recruits exceed expectations? Or is Coach B one of those coaches that turns around a program but can never get you to the promise land thus finding someone that can becomes the next move by the new AD?

          • MAZS

            We’ve been to the promised land under Beilein–unless you only count a NC.

          • Chris De Sana

            And as mentioned we had lightening in a bottle where lesser ranked recruits over achieved (Trey & THjr). So it appears based on your comments that you are good with this formula which is fine. I feel we have under achieved on the recruiting trail is all and if we did better we would more consistently be in the top 10 nationally and more often be thought as a threat to run the table in March.

  • Bigrange

    Even though this season is not the type we envisioned in November, these boys played through the struggles and trials.
    ND came out with more energy in the 2nd half. Even with the lead, Michigan was playing catch up.

  • Wayman Britt

    The second half scoring drought, like it has been all year, killed UM. Along, with letting the opponent shoot one of their highest percentage nights, like it has let opponents all season, did UM in.

    Looking forward over the next two months for Dylan’s and other posters discussions about:

    1. grading players for this season
    2. roster maintenance
    3. head coaching vacancies for Beilein’s staff
    4. recruiting
    5. program changing moves

  • MAZS

    I don’t really mean to nitpick, but Doyle’s steal was 95% bad pass and 5% Doyle simply being where it was thrown. Kudos on drawing the charge, but Doyle’s issues with slow rotation and finding his man after a hedge were still very apparent.

    • Wayman Britt

      Agree. With Doyle and Donnal you have two players who are almost exactly alike. They both are slow, poor hands, short vertical and not tough. It would be okay if you had one of these players, and the other had different weaknesses, but two of the same brings no variance to the roster. You need diversity in your roster to play different styles of ball at different times.

      • malcolm bolt

        I really don’t understand the recruitment of Doyle. So many mid major teams have better players than him. At least Donnal was a top 100 recruit.

  • umnyc

    Disappointing we couldn’t pull that one out because it was very much there for the taking. After some mid-season glimmers of progress, Donnal’s inability to finish around the rim killed us at the end. I think coach waited too long to come back with Wagner, even with the 4 fouls. Ball also stayed in Irvin’s hands way too long towards end of the game with the game on the line. Not sure if it was noticeable on tv but there was definitely a little tension between MAAR and Irvin towards the end of game when ball wasn’t being shared. I agree, a timeout to set up a better shot would have been ideal.

  • AC1997

    Thoughts from me:
    — Why did Irvin have to go Hero mode late in the game? That’s not his style and hurt us on a night he was cold.
    — I was hoping ND would have been dumb enough to stick with zone in the second half. That was a huge change that we couldn’t exploit like we did in the first.
    — I don’t know what to do with Doyle. He seems so limited as a player right now in that he can’t shoot, has bad hands, doesn’t rebound, and doesn’t block shots. He’s also not quick enough to do a hard hedge.
    — I’m not sure I could question the rotation too much given that awful call on Wagner to give him 4.
    — Our D was bad in the second half, but we lost because we couldn’t generate offense. Irvin needs to go back to the drawing board next year and realize his limitations and strengths. I’d like to see Rahk be the focal point and I hope Simpson is good enough to earn 20 minutes per game.

    • AC1997

      The inability of our players to convert layups is astounding to me. I realize it is a lot to do with their lack of athleticism, but it is appalling. Doyle, Donnal, Irvin, Robinson. We got blocked a lot, we missed some bunnies. One of the biggest advantages of Wagner is that he is able to actually DUNK a ball. Everyone else just settles for weak layups.

    • Mattski

      Irvin was averaging 17 points for a stretch last year. He had done the hero thing two times last week, didn’t get a great look last night. If Donnal makes a few layups; if Wagner isn’t fouled. . .

    • Colin

      To be fair, Irvin hit big shots against Northwestern and Tulsa to win the game. He had a big corner three late in the game that went in and out. His shot on our last possession wasn’t ideal but there wasn’t enough time left in the game down 5 to reset the offense and get a better shot.

      I understand the people’s desire to have Rahk the focal point of the offense: he is the only guy we have that can get the rim and finish on a consistent basis. However, most of his offense is isolation and not much of a distributor at this point. Our offense seems to click when Zak and Walton get in the lane to kick it back out for a three, drop it off down low, or finish at the rim. Our problems this year and the second half of this game have been when the ball sticks in someone’s hands on the perimeter allow the defense to recover and when the big men aren’t setting proper screens.

      • GTFOmycourt

        Irvin received the all with12 seconds. It was an easy pass to Maar. Irvin chose to take the horrible shot atthe end rather than pass to MAAR. I hate that Irvin made that decision. Walton likely would have done the same. Both need to understand their limitations relative to MAAR’s strengths. Roles need to be figured out.

        • Colin

          Watched the replay again, and you are right: Irvin opted to hold on to the ball rather than pass back to Rahk. And as umnyc notes below, there appears to be some tension. Really needed to call a timeout there.

  • jblair52

    Wagner will have a chance to start but Donnal is more consistent. Wagner needs to avoid turnovers and foul trouble if he wants time on the floor. Neither are forgivable with Beilein.

  • MrLG

    @dylan “Robinson finishes the season with 95 made threes on 210 attempts… but the big question going forward is just how much can he improve physically and defensively.”

    Seems like an odd comment to me. DR improved in so many different ways this season, why would his development stop? Just the experience of a full big 10 season will massively benefit Duncan. I expect continued, substantial improvement.

    Next year, I think the team will still be lead by Zach and DW. But these guys have their ceilings. Next year’s big three will be MAAR, DR and Mo.

    • Wayman Britt

      Duncan has to expand his offense game (not just a stand still 3 pt shooter) and become quicker on defense. Those are difficult to do. If Duncan does not learn to dribble drive or even have the courage to do it against top teams he will be shut down in the Big Ten, just like he was this year. He also has to be quicker on defense. I think Dylan was just saying not every player can improve those aspects of your game.

      • Chris De Sana

        The offense needs to get better, too little ball and player movement. Its easy to guard a guy standing still.

      • Coltrane

        What did Stauskas and Irvin do their first seasons beyond being stand still 3P shooters? Robinson is a smart kid with a list of things he wants to improve and I think he will. I look for Beilein to increase his role next season to take advantage of his court vision and passing ability.

      • Chace

        I don’t think Maryland or Indiana will be nearly as good as they were last year. Maryland will lose Layman and Sulaimon, and most likely Trimble and stone to the draft so they have a lot of work to do. Also Indiana will lost Ferrell zeisloft and bielfedt and most likely Bryant and Williams to the draft. I think Michigan is a contender along with msu thanks to their ridiculous recruiting class and Wisconsin if Hayes stays, also Ohio state. And I think the dark horse team is Illinois not to sound crazy but nunn and hill will come back and Tracy Abrams whose been out the past two years due to injuries, but in the past he’s been pretty solid won’t be surprised to see there name in the tournament next year

  • Chace

    I feel like Robinson should of got the ball more when notee dame started making a run in the 2nd half, he took only 2 shots but made 3 triples and he seemed to be more confident I would’ve like to see some set plays for him getting a triple shot off, Irvin’s shot selection struggles continue. I think next year DW needs to finish at the rim better and Irvin needs to be more consistent. I think Maar and Duncan will each have strong seasons next year and I think we have the potential to compete for a big championship. Kind of curious to see who will start at the 5? I think if moe has a good offseason he should, but otherwise I’d say donnal. We’re gonna have a ton of depth at the 5 spot next year which isn’t a bad thing, also curious to see Xavier Simpson and how the bench rotation works out

    • Wayman Britt

      Unless Xavier is as good or better than Trey Burke, I highly doubt UM can win the Big Ten Championship with the current roster. They should be better, but not sure they have enough talent to beat MSU, Maryland or even IU for the Big Ten crown next year.

  • Stephen Chang

    Well, there needs to be big improvement in the offseason and it starts in the weight room. They need to get stronger down low and be a bigger presence on the glass. I would like Robinson to increase his offensive repertoire so that opponents will respect him and try to stop him inside and outside of the paint and that one of the several areas that I want to see Robinson improve. This was a very frustrating and tough season for us as a fanbase when it comes to our BB team, but I am proud that they overcame so much and they were able to go dancing and win 23 games. Go Blue!

    • Chris De Sana

      It starts with being able to play defense.

      • Stephen Chang

        I agree! Defense has been an issue for this team and that needs to be corrected for next year.

  • Carl

    Good year considering…. ND shot lights out.

  • David DeMember

    I couldn’t be more excited about next season. While it’s a little disheartening to see so many negative comments on here, I don’t understand people who seem ready to throw in the towel on next year.

    We’re going to have 4 seniors (5 if spike comes back) and 2 juniors in the rotation to go along with a really nice incoming class. Ibi and xavier fill gaps in the backcourt immediately, they are both high octane. We lost this game and about 3-5 other games this year simply because our rotation wasn’t deep enough at guard. We ran out of gas in every game this year.

    It seems like the entire nation, especially a small, but vocal part of our fanbase forgot that we lost a POY candidate as well as the underrated spike. All those droughts on offense (like last night, indiana, MSU, etc) wouldn’t have happened with spike and caris. Regardless, with those 2, if we win 3-5 more games, everyone is talking about our successful season and we’re likely a 3-5 seed (which btw, is a seed we’ve made it to the finals a couple times with).

    We get EVERYONE back. You can’t under estimate the growth of 19-21 year old young men. Especially considering we got bullied down low often. Duncan, Wagner, MAAR, Chatman, Donnal all will look like different men next year physically. With Chatman’s new found stroke to go with some muscle and his long arms, he could be that stretch 4 beilein’s offense needs. Heck, Duncan could play that role with 15-20 pounds of muscle added… he’s 6-8.

    btw, what happened with Bielfeldt???? We lacked a stretch 4/5 with strength at times and we had an open roster spot… Experience matters so much in CBB, tough to watch him do well with the Hoosiers.

    • Stephen Chang

      It seems that a lot of critics say that Michigan BB will remain mediocre under Beilein. Sheesh, he has been here for 9 years and has taken Michigan to the NCAA tournament 6 times. 2 Big Ten titles, Coach of the Year in the Big Ten, 2 Sweet 16s, 2 Elite Eights and one Final Four appearance and one NC appearance. Does that even sound mediocre at all? I guess people have very short term memories. People seem to think that we got “lucky” with McGary, etc. No doubt, Michigan has flaws, but to say that they are mediocre is wrong. Next year will be interesting to watch because the guys will be more experienced and hopefully learn from this tournament experience and build on it for next year.

    • Chris De Sana

      Agree that Caris and Spike were sorely missed, but just do not see the same thing you do when it comes to next years roster. Walton and Irvin are too inconsistent game in and game out. Donnal has to be able to hit the open jumper on a regular basis and defend the position. Robinson needs at least one if not two playerswho demands a double in the paint to create enough space needed. And MAAR’s growth will continue to be stunted by Walton and Irvins bad shot clock decisions.

      And your Chatman’s new found stroke made me laugh out loud, much needed thanks.

  • Champswest

    Loved the first half energy and focus, but thought we were flat in the second half. This team has looked tired for the last few weeks. Four starters averaged over 30 minutes in conference play with Walton and Irvin over 35. Way too many minutes, but we had no options at those positions. This should not be an issue next year, plus there will be more competition for laying time.

  • Chillax

    I’m pretty excited for next year. We’ll have Donnal and Wagner on a rotation (hopefully they both bulk up over the offseason). Walton, Ali, Irvin, Robinson as a main rotation. Hopefully Xavier and Teske can come in and provide some support immediately. Robinson works on his D and just general strength. We’ll see if some camp sanderson work can up their levels.

  • bobohle

    Austin Davis finishes a distant runner up to Cassius Winston for Mr. Basketball in Michigan.