- Thinks Michigan is coming off its best win of the season. Had time to watch some of the game and thought the Wolverines played very well. Looked confident and shot the ball well, will “certainly be a handful for us.”
- With the talent Michigan has, should be a team that does well this year.
- Not worried about crowd reception, doesn’t think about and doesn’t notice it.
- The game was scheduled before he got to Harvard. Had it not been, playing at Michigan probably wouldn’t have been “high up on anybody’s list,” but “these things happen.”
- Thinks his team is playing well and is coming off their own “best win of the season thus far.” Thinks this game could be very competitive.
- His team has some experience against “BCS opponents”, having already played Colorado at home and beaten them badly.
- Looks at the Michigan game as an opportunity for his team to make a statement early in the season and also looking for the Crimson to gain some confidence.
- Said his team needs to play well in order to win — not good enough yet to play poorly and still eke out a victory.
- He feels no bitterness toward Michigan, understands how the business works. Always loved the opportunity to represent Michigan. His Michigan teams tried their best, that’s all anyone could ask for. Feels good to have had a chance to be at Michigan.
- Harvard is young (like Michigan), still trying to find themselves. Feels like they’re gaining ground and getting better.
- Need junior forward Keith Wright’s production in the post in order for them to have “good balance.”
Michigan’s young front line has surpassed early expectations and controlled the defensive glass. Photo credit: isportsweb
It’s obviously too early, with just six games in the book, to provide concrete statistical observations. Michigan has faced three “good” teams (rated in the Pomeroy top 76) and three “bad” teams (rated in the bottom 100) but not many middle of the pack teams. Despite sample size concerns, here are some quick notes observations from early season play.
- Defense. I shared some thoughts on the Michigan defense before the season and noted that they have improved every year under John Beilein. Early returns point to this season being no different. Michigan has played stifling defense, holding opponents to just .84 points per possession (24th/4th) and an effective field goal percentage of 41% (20th/1st). The FG% defense has been driven by Michigan’s three point defense, which is allowing opponents to shoot just 24.4% from behind the arc.
- Defensive Rebounding: Michigan is the 23rd best defensive rebounding team in the country, rebounding 74% of their opponents misses. To put this stat into perspective, as things stand today, Michigan’s the best defensive rebounding team in the Big Ten. Surprisingly it’s Novak, not Morgan that has been Michigan’s top defensive rebounder.
- Darius Morris: A statistical gem at this point, Morris is averaging 14 points, 7 assists, and four rebounds per game. The turnover numbers (3 per game) are still too high but Morris’ improvement is obvious. When Morris is on the floor, he has assisted 50% of Michigan’s made field goals — for comparison Demetri McCamey led the country in assist rate with a mark of 48%.
As promised last week, we asked several players questions that were submitted in the comments of my last post. In order to do it again in the future, you can submit questions in this post and we’ll try to get them answered down the road in another video.
On Saturday, we experienced the agonizing side of inconsistency. Tuesday night, we saw the other more exciting side, as Michigan knocked off Clemson, 69-61, at the Littlejohn Coliseum. For the first twenty minutes Michigan looked, dare I say, dominant. They were stifling defensively, forcing Clemson to shoot under 30% from field, and ran their free flowing offense to perfection.
It remains to be seen how good Brad Brownell’s 5-1 Clemson squad will end up, but Michigan fans are all too familiar with how hard it is to win on the road. In the preview, I pointed out that Michigan hadn’t won a non-conference road game since December 2006. Conversely, Clemson has lost just one November or December nonconference home game since that season.
Michigan jumped out to a double digit lead early and managed to keep the Tigers at arms length throughout the contest. Clemson made spurt after spurt, trimming the lead to single digits on multiple occasions, but the Wolverines had just enough answers to stay on the safe side of the ledge – no small feat for a team who saw 48% of their minutes provided by freshmen.
Michigan cooled down offensively in the second half, as Clemson ramped up the pressure defense, but their offense was good enough to win. The shooting wasn’t gaudy (51 eFG%), the turnovers left something to be desired (21.2 TO%), and the offensive rebounding (27 OR%) wasn’t spectacular. The one thing that Michigan did do well – boosted by Clemson’s late game fouling – was get to the free throw line. Michigan posted a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 57% as they attempted 28 freebies. Morris, Hardaway, and Smotrycz were all outstanding, 18 of 22, at the line while Novak and Douglass were just 1-6. The ball movement was significantly better in the first half, giving Michigan fans a glimpse of how the offense is meant to look. In the second half Clemson went to a similar pressure scheme at UTEP, something that Michigan is likely to see a lot of until they prove they can handle it consistently.
The key to the game for Michigan on the defensive end was the keep Clemson off the foul line, and they certainly did a good job of that. The Tigers attempted just 13 free throws for a free throw rate of 21%, well below their season average of 56%. Michigan’s defense was probably even better than the .92 points per trip that they allowed per possession, as Clemson scored 20 points in the final five minutes. The Wolverine game plan appeared to be to dare the Tigers to shoot the three ball, and it worked. Clemson shot just 36.5% from the field — 47% from two (34 att.) and 24% from three (29 att.). Michigan might not have played any offensive juggernauts this year but they have yet to allow an opponent to score over .96 points per possession.
Beilein continues to tinker with the lineup. His small ball lineup late, with Novak at the four and Smotrycz at the five, was extremely effective today but was useless versus UTEP. It’s an intriguing lineup because Evan has the ability to put the ball on the floor and get past so many fives (and fours), an ability we got a taste of today. In the last game recap I questioned a couple coaching decisions that Beilein made, today he deserves credits for using his timeouts properly in the second half, sitting Morris down just long enough in the 2nd half, and keeping this team poised on the road.
It’s tough to complain about road wins against high-major teams and you won’t hear any complaints from me. It wasn’t always perfect but any road game where you leave the gym with a ‘W’ is a good one – especially just a couple days after a pair of disappointing losses. Michigan will regroup back in Ann Arbor before they face Harvard at home this weekend. Player bullets after the jump.
Image Credit: Michigan Basketball Facebook Page
Tip off is 9:00 p.m. but feel free to use this thread to discuss other Big Ten/ACC Challenge games taking place beforehand. The game preview is in the post below this, or is linked here.