UM Hoops.com http://www.umhoops.com Michigan Wolverines Basketball Recruiting, News & Video Thu, 18 Dec 2014 23:36:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 With SMU clash looming, Michigan coaching staff ‘not jumping off a cliff right now’ http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/18/smu-clash-looming-michigan-coaching-staff-not-jumping-off-cliff-right-now/ http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/18/smu-clash-looming-michigan-coaching-staff-not-jumping-off-cliff-right-now/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 23:36:36 +0000 http://www.umhoops.com/?p=67288 “You can’t shade the truth,” Beilein said. “You have to tell them where we are and what we have to do and have them believe in our plan: That through daily development, we can get there."

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It’s finally winter break at the University of Michigan, which means one thing to John Beilein: finals are over, so his players have more time to focus on their game.

And because his Wolverines are 6-4 entering what has become a crucial non-conference contest against SMU on Saturday, the coach knows there are plenty of challenges ahead. Before focusing on improvement, though, he’s making sure his team is aware of upcoming obstacles.

“You can’t shade the truth,” Beilein said Thursday on WTKA-AM’s Michigan Insider.  “You have to tell them where we are and what we have to do and have them believe in our plan: That through daily development, we can get there.

“It’s like the stock market. If there’s a really great stock, it will go down from time to time. But if you believe in that stock, it will come back up. That’s who we are right now. We’re in a transition — that’s a great word for the type of year we’re in — and we’ll get through it. Everybody’s going to have to have a lot of patience. I’m going to have a ton of patience that we’ll get better. You don’t think we have an edge to us in practice? You’re crazy. But we’re also not jumping off a cliff right now, because we know exactly what’s in front of us.”

As he has all season, Beilein pointed to Michigan’s inexperience, explaining that junior guard Caris LeVert is the only starter this year who has been in that role, of a go-to player, before. The coach said the Wolverines “have a good component of defense every day” in practice, though he warned transition defense “is still not going to be there.” And offensively, Beilein admitted execution has been poor, particularly with setting screens and making hard cuts.

“Last year when we played Arizona, Zak Irvin did not score and played five [minutes], because he was not ready at that point to do that,” Beilein said. “Derrick [Walton] played 10 minutes when we played Arizona. Derrick’s time grew, but he had incredible leadership around him. This is a little different situation.”

Part of the Wolverines’ struggles have resulted from a lack of production by the team’s big men, Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal and Max Bielfeldt. According to ShotAnalytics, Michigan is shooting just 46.5% on two-point attempts and 57% at the rim (8% lower than a season ago).

Beilein said the problem isn’t entirely on the centers — the team needs to make sure they get the ball on open looks, too.

“They’re making good progress in practice. What we have to do is look for them in games,” Beilein said. “They’re not open for layups that often, but when they are, we have to hit them. And we haven’t. We have to get those easy points. We’re not getting easy points. That’s a big focus of not only throwing the ball to them, but certainly when they’re open and they can just lay it in, we can’t be shooting a contested shot at that point.”

“Here’s Ricky at 18 years old — and Mark is just 19 — playing against guys that are 22 years old. It’s going to be all year long. … That’s the way it’s going to be over and over again.”

And although the Wolverines aren’t firing at all cylinders quite yet, Beilein explained he doesn’t really mind the task of navigating a rebuilding year, either.

“This might be the third one [at Michigan] as far as just rebuilding, reconstructing — whatever anybody want to call it,” he said. “We’re in the middle of that again. I actually embrace it and I love the challenge.”

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Notebook: Ricky Doyle could start versus SMU http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/17/notebook-ricky-doyle-start-vs-smu/ http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/17/notebook-ricky-doyle-start-vs-smu/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 19:20:52 +0000 http://www.umhoops.com/?p=67265 Ricky Doyle could start against SMU on Saturday, Caris LeVert is holding his ground as a consensus first-round pick and the status of SMU stars Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy is up in the air ahead of Saturday's matchup.

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Michigan big man Ricky Doyle could be set to make his first start of the season on Saturday.

John Beilein said his freshman big man “will probably start the next game,” while discussing Doyle on his weekly radio show last night.

Statistically, Doyle has been Michigan’s best big man. He’s averaging 17 minutes, 7 points and three rebounds per game, all best among Michigan’s bigs. He’s also shooting an impressive 67% on twos and has been Michigan’s lone presence on the offensive glass.

Despite struggling against Arizona’s massive and athletic front line, but has showed promise during his first nine games. Doyle has slumped a bit in the last three games, averaging just five points per game, and inserting him into the lineup could help spark his production going forward.

Markus Kennedy status unknown

6-foot-9, 245 junior Markus Kennedy was one of the best players in the American Conference last season. Kennedy was a dominant rebounder, shot blocker and defender and a major reason that SMU was picked as a preseason top 25 team – even after news the Emmanuel Mudiay would be playing basketball in China not Dallas this year.

Kennedy was ruled ineligible for the first semester due to academic reasons and has been sidelined ever since. SMU’s exam schedule runs through December 17th, but the official close of the term is December 20th — when the Mustangs will face Michigan. Kennedy wasn’t at practice on Tuesday and there’s been no official word as to when he’ll make his return.

There are still questions about not only when, but if, Kennedy will be eligible this season. However, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he could make his return against Michigan as SMU’s exams will be complete.

Yanick Moreira, a 6-foot-11, 220 pound senior, has stepped up in his place. Moreira is playing major minutes at the five position, rebounding well and blocking his fair share of shots. He’s been happy for the opportunity, but hopes Kennedy can return soon.

“Every time I’ve made a mistake I’ve had Markus (Kennedy) in my corner telling me to just keep playing, move to the next play, and that’s helped me a lot,” Moreira said. “We feel comfortable right now. We’ve won four games straight but we’re trying to get to five, six and keep going. I hope we get Markus back before we go for Christmas break.”

Nic Moore recovering from bone bruise

While Markus Kennedy’s suspension has been highly publicized, the Mustangs’ leading scorer, point guard Nic Moore, is also recovering from an injury.

Moore suffered a bone bruise in an overtime win over UC Santa Barbara and is still recovering. Moore is questionable for SMU’s game against Illinois Chicago this evening.

“I don’t know (if he’ll play against UIC). We’ll see how he does today. Luckily we had time off between games,” SMU head coach Larry Brown said on Tuesday. “If there ever was a possibility of him playing after his last injury, this was the only time in the schedule for that possibility to happen. We’ll see how he does today.”

The Mustangs will face UIC tonight at 8:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network) in what should be a good opportunity to gauge Moore’s health. Moore may be limited on Saturday, but it would be surprising if he sits given that Saturday’s game will be nearly two weeks after the original injury.

Draft notes

Chad Ford has Caris LeVert slotted at No. 19 in his latest mock draft. Ford praises LeVert’s passing ability and notes that he is lacking the supporting weapons he had last season.

LeVert is having a nice season for Michigan, but not a lot of people are going to notice unless Michigan starts winning some basketball games. Statistically he’s been pretty remarkable when you consider that he doesn’t have much offensive help on the court. His assist total would be much higher if he actually had anyone to pass it to. As arguably the best passing wing in the draft, LeVert will draw interest regardless of how poorly Michigan plays, but it’s a shame that he doesn’t have Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III to flank him anymore.

Ford also has Zak Irvin ranked No. 48 on his latest rankings. DraftExpress has LeVert projected in the lottery as the No. 13 pick in the 2015 Draft.

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Big Ten Power Rankings: Non-Conference Edition http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/17/big-ten-power-rankings-non-conference-edition/ http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/17/big-ten-power-rankings-non-conference-edition/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:28:23 +0000 http://www.umhoops.com/?p=67253 The start of Big Ten play is just two weeks away, so we’re tipping off our 2014-15 Big Ten Power Rankings a bit early. In this week’s rankings we run-down how various Big Ten teams have performed throughout the non-conference season and attempt to sort out the confusion in the conference pecking order after the first two spots while focusing on Ohio State's zone defense, Michigan's timeout efficiency, Purdue's post-up game and Indiana's halfcourt offense.

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The start of Big Ten play is just two weeks away, so we’re tipping off our 2014-15 Big Ten Power Rankings a bit early. In this week’s rankings we run-down how various Big Ten teams have performed throughout the non-conference season and attempt to sort out the confusion in the conference pecking order after the first two spots while focusing on Ohio State’s zone defense, Michigan’s timeout efficiency, Purdue’s post-up game and Indiana’s halfcourt offense.

1. Wisconsin (10-1)

Wisconsin lost its marquee home game against Duke in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, but the Badgers have otherwise lived up to their preseason billing. A Championship at the Battle 4 Atlantis and a pair of quality mid-major wins over Green Bay and Boise State have Wisconsin sitting in the same spot where it was in the preseason: at the top of the standings.

2. Ohio State (8-1)

I scratched my head when I saw the headline this fall that Thad Matta wanted to switch to  zone defense this year. Ohio State has played almost exclusively man-to-man for the last five seasons and the Buckeyes were ranked 30th, 16th, 7th, 12th and 3rd nationally in defensive efficiency. Defense hadn’t been much of an issue in Columbus, but Matta felt like playing a zone could allow more practice focus on offense.

Offseason talk can often turn into little more than just talk, but Matta wasn’t kidding. The Buckeyes are a zone defense through and through this season, the only one in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have used their zone defense on 91.5% of their offensive possessions this season and are surrendering just .744 points per zone possession. That makes the Buckeyes one of 11 teams in Division I that run a zone defense on over 80% of their defensive possessions and they grade out well through nine games, trailing only Syracuse, Eastern Michigan and Baylor.

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The early returns are favorable… but it’s time for Thad Matta to help his team work up a bit more of a sweat in the non-conference season. According to Ken Pomeroy, the Buckeyes have played the 317th most difficult schedule in Division I basketball this season. Ohio State’s only non-conference road game was a part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge (a loss at Louisville), but Saturday’s game against UNC at the United Center should provide a better judgment of how good this Buckeye team might be.

3. Maryland (10-1)

Maryland is perhaps the biggest early surprise in the Big Ten conference. The Terrapins are 10-1 with their only loss to a very talented Virginia team and they have quality wins over Iowa State and Arizona State on a neutral floor. They’ve also manage to accomplish all of that with star player Dez Wells playing in only five games and Evan Smotrycz playing in just three.

Perhaps the biggest reason for Maryland’s early season success is 6-foot-3 freshman Melo Trimble. Trimble is leading the Terps with 15.8 points and three assists per game and is already one of the best ball screen players in the Big Ten. According to Synergy Sports, only Terran Petteway has created more points on ball screens this season

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4. Michigan State (7-3)

Michigan State is the best three-point shooting team in the country. When we discuss Tom Izzo’s teams we always focus on the rebounding and the defense, but this team can flat out shoot it. Three-point shooting has actually been a recent trend for the Spartans over the last two years. This year’s group of Spartans are on pace to be Izzo’s best shooting team since 2002 and his last two teams have shot more threes than any of his teams in the last decade.

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As it stands, the Spartans have done everything that could be expected of them in the win-loss column, but nothing more. Michigan State lost all three of its games against top-100 opponents (Duke, Kansas and Notre Dame), but has been coasting past other competition without breaking much of a sweat.

5. Minnesota (8-2)

Before the season I asked whether this would be the year we see Richard Pitino’s real defense. The answer through ten games is an unequivocal yes. The Gophers are ranked third in the country in forced turnover rate and are averaging 71.4 possessions per game, making them the fastest team in the Big Ten and the 16th fastest in the country. Imposing your style of play is one thing in the non-conference season, but it will be interesting to see if the Gophers can create a similar style game throughout the rigors of Big Ten play.

6. Iowa (8-3)

Iowa continues to be one of the most difficult teams in the conference to analyze. There were times last season where the Hawkeyes looked like one of the Big Ten’s top teams, then they lost seven of their last eight games. This year’s Hawkeye team is much better on defense than offense thanks to its size — the Hawkeyes are the sixth tallest team in Division I — but continues to be inconsistent. Iowa scalped one of the biggest road wins of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge by knocking off North Carolina, 60-55, but was drubbed at home by an Iowa State team playing without its No. 2 scorer on Friday night.

7. Indiana (8-2)

The first words that come to mind when thinking about last year’s Indiana offense are turnovers, transition, poor shooting and Yogi Ferrell.

Now Ferrell has help and the Hoosiers have the makings of one of the elite offenses in the country. Indiana’s is shooting the lights out — 56% on twos and 42% on threes — and has eliminated its turnover woes while maintaining its offensive rebounding prowess. The Hoosiers still push the tempo, but they are more than capable of scoring the ball in half court sets. In fact, Indiana is the most efficient half court offense in the Big Ten thus far, averaging 1.041 points per half court set according to Synergy Sports.

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8. Illinois (7-3)

Illinois missed out on an important win over Oregon on Saturday and has dropped three of its last four. But the Illini did beat Baylor on a neutral floor – arguably the Big Ten’s best non-conference win — and should be competitive in the Big Ten. Scoring points has been a problem for John Groce’s offense as the Illini have failed to top 1 point per possession or a 46 eFG% in four games against high-major competition.

9.Purdue (8-3)

Post-up offense is a bit of a lost art in the college game, even in the Big Ten, but Purdue is the exception to that rule.

The Boilermakers throw the ball in the post more often than any other conference team with one out of every five possessions ending in a post-up possession or a possession ending in a post-up pass out.

Isaac Haas and AJ Hammons are by far the Big Ten’s most dominant duo when it comes to low post production. Combined, Haas and Hammons have produced over twice as many points on the low block – either by scoring themselves or finding an open teammate – as Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes. Hayes and Kaminsky are more versatile players overall, but Purdue’s post game leads the conference.

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10. Michigan (6-4)

Everyone wants to ask ‘what’s wrong with Michigan’s offense?’ after the Wolverines were practically perfect on that end of the floor for the last two years. There’s a lot of fodder to discuss there, but I found this stat particularly interesting.

Over the last two seasons, Michigan had the best offense in the Big Ten coming out of timeouts. The Wolverines scored 1.02 points per possession out of timeouts last year and .941 points per possession out of the timeouts in 2012-13. This year? The Wolverines are ranked second to last in the conference in out-of-timeout offensive efficiency and out-of-timeout efficiency margin.

Perhaps its youth or bad luck, but Michigan’s inability to execute out of timeouts has been yet another red flag in the Wolverines’ troublesome start.

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11. Nebraska (6-3)

It’s easy to say now, but Nebraska should have always been an obvious candidate to regress toward the mean. The Huskers finished Big Ten play with an 11-7 record and made the NCAA tournament last season, but they also only managed to outscore their conference opponents by .002 points per possession. Nebraska played great defense last year, but struggled to score as its offense revolved mostly around Terran Petteway hitting deep and difficult jump shots late in possessions.

Petteway’s efficiency has regressed this season (although Shavon Shields continues to improve) and the Huskers still have a good defense and a bad offense (winning a double-overtime game with a final score in the 50s says something about something). Nebraska sits at 6-3 on the season with losses to Rhode Island, Creighton and Incarnate Word. Most troubling is the fact that the Huskers have already dropped two at home after losing only one game within the friendly confines of the Pinnacle Bank Arena last season.

12. Penn State (10-1)

Penn State’s 10-1 record is good enough to match Wisconsin and Maryland, but the Nittany Lions have beaten only one team (George Washington on Sunday) in the KenPom top 150. The Nittany Lions offense is essentially DJ Newbill and everyone else, but the 6-foot-4 senior is playing some great basketball. He’s a lethal mid-range shooter and is having his most efficient season of his career, despite playing major minutes and carrying the PSU offense.

13. Northwestern (6-3)

Freshman guard Bryant McIntosh has been a welcome addition in Evanston. The 6-foot-3 guard is Northwestern’s leading assist man and No. 2 scorer, with averages of 11 points and five assists per game, and should be critical to any Wildcat improvement this season. The Northwestern offense is still well below average, but McIntosh’s addition is helping a Wildcat offense that was historically bad last season.

14. Rutgers (6-4)

The Big Ten’s other newcomers look like a safe bet to battle it out at the bottom with Northwestern. Star players Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack are already having less efficient seasons than last year and we haven’t even reached conference play. On the positive side of the ledger are two decent wins over Vanderbilt and at Clemson.

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Michigan has been here before, but turnaround won’t be easy http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/16/michigan-turnaround-wont-easy/ http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/16/michigan-turnaround-wont-easy/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 19:00:32 +0000 http://www.umhoops.com/?p=67219 The last six years of Michigan basketball have been littered with slumps and tough losses, but it will be difficult for Michigan to dig out from underneath its recent three game losing streak to NJIT, EMU and Arizona.

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In the best of times and the worst of times, it always comes back to the process for John Beilein.

“We’ve been here before and our great teams have been in this exact same spot before,” Beilein said after Michigan’s humbling loss at Arizona. “This is just part of the process. We just have to keep getting better throughout the process.”

Beilein has been coaching for a while now and he’s learned a thing or two along the way. He knows how to build a winning team and program and he’s preached his process for years since he arrived in Ann Arbor.

Early on during Beilein’s tenure at Michigan, there were times when it seemed like his process might have lacked the punch to be successful and, at times, the process hasn’t always worked. But at this point, it’s impossible to argue with the overall results.

Things look incredibly bleak for Michigan’s young team right now. The point guards are hurt, the young big men are struggling and the star players aren’t producing at the level expected. Does Michigan have a vocal leader? Can the Wolverines get any offense created around the basket? How can such a young frontcourt pose a legitimate defensive threat in the Big Ten?

There are far more questions than answers right now. But for better or worse, stretches like this have always been part of the process.

The last six Michigan basketball seasons have all featured weeks or months that were at least somewhat similar. Whether it was a slump in a previously promising season, or a moment where Michigan finally snapped out of a season-long rut. In five of the last six years, Michigan righted the ship in remarkable fashion.

2009 – Michigan loses seven of nine games over a month period starting in mid-January, but the Wolverines manage to finish the year with a .500 conference record and win a game in the NCAA tournament.

2010 – Michigan goes 6-5 in non-conference play and never recovers, finishing the season 15-17 with just a 7-11 conference record.

2011 – Michigan loses seven out of eight games from December 28th onward and sits at 11-9 (1-6 B1G) on January 22nd — only to turn things around and win 9 of its final 13 and win a game in the NCAA tournament.

2012 – Michigan fails to win consecutive games between throughout January and early February, only to bounce back and win six of its final seven en route to a share of the Big Ten Championship.

2013-  Michigan loses six of its final 11 games, including a loss to a Penn State team that was 0-14 in Big Ten play, and loses the Big Ten Championship at the buzzer. Two weeks later the same team puts everything together and advances to the National Championship.

2014 – Michigan loses four non-conference games, including one to an average Charlotte  team in Puerto Rico, and learns that Mitch McGary will be sidelined indefinitely in late December. The Wolverines respond by rattling off 10 straight wins and win the Big Ten by three games and advance to the Elite Eight.

Beilein would swear that those losses were the most important part of the process that led to where those teams ended up. But while Michigan has been here before, it might be facing an even more difficult turnaround than in recent seasons.

The last time Michigan lost three consecutive games was in January of 2011. The last time Michigan lost to two teams ranked outside of the KenPom top-100 was 2010, when Michigan failed to reach .500. Those were both milestones that the Wolverines thought they had left in the past. After snapping that January streak in 2011, Michigan has been arguably the class of the Big Ten since then, accumulating a 48-17 record in conference play and winning two league championships.

While the Wolverines have gone through rough patches before, this scenario looks much more similar to the 2011 team than the ’12, ’13 or ’14 groups, and that season was perhaps the most miraculous turnaround during Beilein’s tenure. Losing to NJIT and Eastern Michigan at home then suffering a drubbing on national TV is up there with this program’s worst weeks in the last few years.

There are problems with this team that aren’t going to be fixed over night. Nik Stauskas, Jordan Morgan or Glenn Robinson III isn’t coming back to help and the Wolverines are going to have to improve from within. On the other hand, Michigan’s players are all capable of playing better basketball than they have over the last week. This is the same team that beat Oregon and Syracuse and battled Villanova to the buzzer.

The talent is there, but there’s not much time left to put it all together.

The good news is that now John Beilein can point to his process and his players have no choice but to listen. There’s little question that the process works and that credibility should count with this young team. While convincing past teams to heed his guidance might have been a chore, Beilein can point to the Big Ten Championship and the Final Four banners in the rafters of the Crisler Center and get this young team’s attention.

A win at Arizona was never likely, but the Wolverines have to start digging themselves out of this hole sooner than later. Saturday’s home game against SMU is a good start. The Mustangs are a good team, but they are a team that Michigan can beat at home – even if All-AAC big man Markus Kennedy returns from his semester-long suspension before the game.

Similar to Michigan’s game against Stanford last season, this is the chance to create some positive momentum heading into conference play. Before the January 1st, Michigan hosts SMU, Coppin State and Illinois.

Win those three games and the Wolverines will have a shot of confidence before heading out on their first Big Ten road trip to Purdue and Penn State. Drop one or two more games before the calendar turns to 2015 and suddenly Michigan finds itself even further behind the eight-ball.

The process hasn’t let John Beilein down yet, but this season might be its biggest test yet.

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Centers ‘still thinking out there’ as Michigan struggles inside http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/15/centers-still-thinking-michigan-struggles-inside/ http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/15/centers-still-thinking-michigan-struggles-inside/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 15:43:01 +0000 http://www.umhoops.com/?p=67210 Assistant coach Bacari Alexander told the trio of Doyle, Mark Donnal and Max Bielfeldt that he hoped they’d combine for 15 points and 15 rebounds per game. But over the last three contests, the group has averaged just 10 points and five boards as Michigan has struggled inside.

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Ricky Doyle’s emergence as a go-to center by the Michigan basketball team’s fourth game of the season was surprising, to say the least.

The last three games have been somewhat of a return to reality — not just for Doyle, but for all of the Wolverines’ big men. In losses to NJIT, Eastern Michigan and then No. 3 Arizona, their inability to establish or maintain an inside presence has proved to be an issue for Michigan.

In the preseason, assistant coach Bacari Alexander told the trio of Doyle, Mark Donnal and Max Bielfeldt that he hoped they’d combine for 15 points and 15 rebounds per game. At the time, Alexander recalled Doyle saying, “Coach, that seems like a low expectation.”

But over the last three contests, the group has averaged just 10 points and five boards.

The struggles against the Wildcats on Saturday were expected. After all, 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski, 6-foot-8 forward Brandon Ashley and 6-foot-7 forward Stanley Johnson are tough matchups for most teams in the country. Still, allowing Arizona to outscore it 42-16 in the paint and rebound half of its misses in the second half was far from  what Michigan needed if it had any chance of pulling off an upset.

“I think we didn’t get enough easy baskets today,” said junior guard Caris LeVert. “I think they got a lot of easy baskets.”

As a team, Michigan has generally struggled to score at all at the basket. The Wolverines are shooting just 46.5% on two-point attempts, which would be their worst two-point shooting percentage since 2008. Michigan is shooting just 37% on mid-range jumpers and an even mode disappointing 57% at the rim, according to ShotAnalytics

If there were one play that symbolized the Wolverines’ rough afternoon, it occurred right at the beginning of the second half — after a first period in which Michigan had scored just four points in the paint. The pick-and-roll and a nice feed from LeVert finally got Doyle a clear path to the basket, but Johnson read the play and made a strong, clean block.

“Ricky and Mark are first- and second-year guys,” LeVert said. “Mark, it’s his first year playing, actually. J-Mo and Jon [Horford] were really fluid running the offense and things like that, and Mark and Ricky are still thinking out there.”

If it were just the Arizona game, there wouldn’t be such cause for concern. But against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 9, Doyle and Bielfeldt managed nine total points, while Donnal was held scoreless. The problem there is evident from the box score: The three centers had a combined four field goal attempts, suggesting the Wolverines were having difficulty getting the ball into the paint against the Eagles’ quick 2-3 zone.

But four rebounds against a team that missed 29 shots isn’t a great number, either.

“Who would think that we would get 17 offensive rebounds against Syracuse and two against Eastern Michigan?” said John Beilein after the Eastern Michigan game.

And against NJIT, the bigs went for 13 and five, still not quite the production Alexander had anticipated. Doyle isn’t yet a commanding back-to-the-basket threat, while Donnal’s midrange game hasn’t been enough of a weapon to establish himself inside, either.

But the Arizona game is troublesome on its own, too. While the Wolverines won’t face many frontcourts as talented as the Wildcats’, Beilein hoped the contest would serve as a barometer for Big Ten play.

The returns weren’t very positive, but they were another step in the development process.

“It’s motivation now,” Beilein said of what Doyle could learn from the blowout, “and it’s motivation all year for him to say, ‘This is what the big boys play like, and this is what you have to learn how to be able to do.’ ”

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Five Key Plays: Michigan at Arizona http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/14/five-key-plays-michigan-arizona/ http://www.umhoops.com/2014/12/14/five-key-plays-michigan-arizona/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 00:24:00 +0000 http://www.umhoops.com/?p=67197 On Saturday night, No. 3 Arizona embarrassed the Michigan basketball team, 80-53, and it wasn’t pretty. How did it fall apart so quickly?

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On Saturday night, No. 3 Arizona embarrassed the Michigan basketball team, 80-53, and it wasn’t pretty. How did it fall apart so quickly? Check out Five Key Plays from the Wolverines’ big loss.

1) Stanley Johnson gives Wildcats biggest first-half lead

Michigan had no answer for Stanley Johnson, Arizona’s talented forward, in the first half. In a 20-second span, a pair of athletic plays by the 6-foot-7 freshman pushed the Wildcats to their biggest lead so far.

First, Johnson intercepted what should have been a routine pass around the perimeter from Ricky Doyle to Caris LeVert — the freshman center threw the ball despite Johnson already standing in his way — and took it the length of the court for a dunk.

After a Michigan timeout, Johnson impressed again. Derrick Walton missed a jumper, and the Wildcats ran with the rebound. Only two Wolverines got back in time — Walton fell, while LeVert and Max Bielfeldt began jogging back too late — and no one accounted for Johnson as he sprinted up the weakside for a one-handed alley oop.

“Arizona is so good in transition because they have so many guys who can run and so many guys who can pass,” said coach John Beilein.

2) Drives for free throws help keep Wolverines close

Michigan was only down by 11 at halftime, in part because of its ability to get to the line. It shot 11 free throws in the first half, compared to just two in the second.

Four minutes into the game, freshman Kameron Chatman used a nice jab step to get around Brandon Ashley and draw a foul. He made one of two free throws. Later in the half, LeVert exposed Ashley again, this time getting pushed as he made his way to the basket. And with the half winding down, Ricky Doyle backed down Kaleb Tarczewski and was bumped on the shot.

The problem: Michigan hit just 63.6% of its free throws in the first half, missing out on an opportunity to go into the break down just single digits.

3) Michigan gets little from defensive stops in first half

From the 9:53 to the 6:19 mark of the first half, Arizona didn’t score. The problem? The Wolverines barely did, either. A pair of LeVert free throws were their only points over that span as Michigan missed out on an opportunity to either cut the Wildcats’ lead or take one of their own.

The Wolverines began with a Bielfeldt three-pointer with 24 seconds left on the shot clock — a look they could’ve gotten at any point in the possession. Then, Walton missed a mid-range jumper through a double team, though Aubrey Dawkins was open at the top of the key. An inbounds play then led to a Walton miss from deep with 32 seconds left on the shot clock, and LeVert bricked one of his own with 29 seconds left on the shot clock.

Better shot selection — not settling for contested three-pointers so early into the possession — could’ve helped keep the game close for longer.

4) Michigan offense poor to start second half

The Wolverines didn’t score over the first five minutes of the second half, and they set the tone with a trio of empty possessions.

The pick-and-roll freed Doyle for a good delivery from LeVert to open the half, but the center was blocked from behind by Johnson. Chatman inbounded the ball and then snuck to the top of the key for a good look from deep, but his shot was long. On the next possession, Walton drove and had a good kickout to Dawkins, but the freshman missed the corner three.

Walton and LeVert missed on Michigan’s next two possessions as the Wildcats’ lead ballooned to 20.

5) Arizona gets big offensive rebounds over second-half run

This stat says it all: Over Arizona’s 12-0 run immediately after halftime, it had six offensive rebounds. The Wolverines had one defensive board in that span.

The Wildcats’ size inside was expected to present issues, but not like this. Tarczewski followed his own miss by drawing a foul on an attempted putback attempt over Doyle. Then he got inside position over Doyle for another board, this time following Gabe York’s bricked three.

That forced Michigan to put two players on Tarczewski, which allowed T.J. McConnell to grab his own rebound untouched following a missed runner. And when York was off on yet another three, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson beat Dawkins to tip the ball, and it fell to Ashley, who drew a foul and finished over Bielfeldt.

“I thought we could battle if we kept them off the boards,” Beilein said.

But Arizona won the rebounding battle, 24-15, in the second half.

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