Michigan Basketball: Northern Michigan Postgame Summary and Team Analysis — Renovation Crisler and Freshmen
As you all know, Michigan got off to a very satisfactory start last week (November 1) taking an easy 83-47 win over Northern Michigan. Northern spread the floor, passed well, but did not have near enough talent to hang with the revamped Wolverine team.
The outcome was never in doubt after an impressive 17-0 start and things went the way most such games are meant to go: teams working on what is needed to become stronger for the openers; a free and casual atmosphere that eliminated pressure but provided for some fast play, and two teams just enjoying basketball without the stigma of winning or losing having much meaning.
There was one pregame snafu that placed the game into a greater interest sphere: the one-game suspension of Trey Burke and the correlated opportunity to view Michigan’s new back-up point guard, gym rat Spike Albrecht.
There is historical reason not to place much meaning to games like this against early, sub Division 1 opposition (not meant to disparage the thousands of kids who play below major college basketball level, graduate, and have great college experiences as true student athletes). The season is long, there are ups and downs, and not much can be extrapolated from the final score of preseason exhibitions.
In the case of Thursday’s exhibition against Northern Michigan the above disclaimer may not hold as much validity and several themes can be supported with clear evidence, and so this article will address the team in general and players in specific comments.
The first team statement may seem obvious but it is a lynchpin for opening discussion. This Michigan team is far more talented than the 2011-2012 version. The primary reason for that is the influx of the not quite fabulous but pretty darn good five freshmen. They will all play, with the possible exception of Caris LeVert, who is rail skinny, but was undervalued until the end of his high school career. Caris is very athletic and will not have trouble fitting into the Michigan offense.
The addition of these five well-matched recruits gives Michigan what has been sought out for the last five years, more athleticism, more flexibility, and better players. It is a little dangerous to have a team dependent on extreme youth, but Kentucky has made it work quite well, selling the formula that the most talented players come to Kentucky, play right out of the gate, are highly coached, and go on to the NBA as early draft picks. Perhaps grabbing hundreds of hours of college instruction along the way.Michigan does not have that type of plan and will not draw a Kentucky NBA preparation class year after year. But hear this, these guys are good, very good, and Michigan fans just need to be seated and delight in their play. The 2012-13 team should have an even higher entertainment value than last year. Coach Beilein recruits players that fit the Michigan culture and system very well, and his early identification and strong recruiting of this group will now pay dividends.
Second, the team already plays well together and seems to have an air of anti-egotism. Veterans and rookies alike understand the plan and support it. They are willing to collectively have success at the expense of gaudy numbers for a few.
Coach Beilein has stated that he wants better defense and better rebounding. There is plenty of work to do in both areas. Mongoose like defensive intensity could have yielded a game where Northern Michigan scored only in the high 20’s or thirties, but that would be in bad form. There will be games that Michigan must play much tighter defense, especially on the perimeter. As mentioned in the GBMWolverine preview of the Ohio University game, the team that played the toughest on the perimeter would win, and that is exactly what happened. Michigan still needs to improve in this area and not provide uncontested shots.
Third, the rebounding still needs work. Players were a little lazy getting to the ball and did not box out effectively all the time, letting smaller players grab inside position and offensive rebounds. That reportedly has been a point of emphasis in practice and the technique is still lacking. This team has better athletes, but no team can count on size and quickness alone to grab rebounds.Fourth, the passing game against Northern Michigan was team strength. Coach Beilein was proud of the seventeen assists, led by Spike Albrecht with six. Coach Beilein even put forth a conclusion that Hardaway Junior needed to be a little more unselfish.
Here is the second part of the article, a capsule summary and analysis for individual players. Keep in mind the formation of a team is always fluid and the generalities offered may come and go like the wind on any given day.
A good place to start is with Spike Albrecht, a player that peaked everyone’s curiosity with the one game suspension of Trey Burke. Spike will never win the “pass the eye test” contest. He is not a jumper, he is not fast, and he cannot go one on five like some premium point guards can. But Spike knows basketball and is probably the type of player every street game would love to pick up.
Spike is not a shooting machine, but forget about him on the perimeter, and give him a wide-open shot, Spike will put a hurt on an opponent. He cannot push the ball up the floor like Morris or Burke, but he can show patience and find the open guy with good vision and a very strong understanding of the game of basketball. Spike cannot carry a team but he will not be a liability if he can give 5-10 strong minutes on the floor without being a turnover machine. The scholarship Beilein expended on Spike will pay at least moderate dividends.Spike is not near as effective on defense and could get toasted by a team that isolates him one on one with point guard play. On defense Spike will need team help and can only be successful if he moves his feet better. In short, he plays defense a little like Evan Smotzy. Hard work can make for improvement, and Spike will have to guard a premium point guard in practice, but in this area there are clear limitations. The same was said about Larry Bird’s defense.
Spike’s only offensive errors in Thursday’s game involved deep penetration into the lane where he was surrounded and committed his only turnovers.
Next up is Nik Stauskas, my type of player. Nik is not physically gifted either, and needs to put on some bulk. But he is an absolute killer. Nik has Larry Bird eyes; he wants to bury an opponent with his shooting and seems to get a little jolt out of his success. The prediction here is that his Thursday success is far from a one game phenomenon. Like all shooters, he will be up and down, but when the oven is cooking his teammates should provide the opportunity for Nik to make strong mini-runs that can make a team change a defense.
Nik has good size and his stroke is quick, albeit a little low on his release. The spin that comes off his shot is very impressive, the type of shot that should yield a good foul shooter given focus and good technique. It was difficult to judge his defense with his limited minutes. Nik has a shooter’s mentality and will get opportunities this year with defenses throwing a lot of effort and attention on Hardaway, Burke, and Robinson.
Glenn Robinson the Third, Little Dog, ended up being Michigan’s highest rated recruit, not that that matters much anymore. It is easy to see why he has climbed up the recruiting boards steadily since his sophomore season. He has grown in height and bulk and is very athletic.
Glenn’s game is not one-dimensional and he appears to like to rebound. Robinson is a good name around Michigan athletics and Glenn will hold up that tradition very well. It speaks volumes about Coach Beilein that he targeted and received a commitment from young Glenn so early in the recruiting process. As an aside, it is a great compliment that former NBA standouts Robinson and Hardaway have entrusted their offspring to the care of John Beilein. The belief here is that Robinson will be the near perfect bookend to Hardaway Junior.
At the start of the recruiting process, Mitch McGary absorbed the greatest attention. He is big, strong, loves rebounding, plays hard, and is an excellent scholar. At one time he was spoken of as an automatic one and done player.
Frankly, much will have to happen for that to occur. Mitch is not going to be a twenty point, ten rebound, and five-block shot type of guy every night. He is the type of player every coach would love to have on a roster, including Kentucky, Duke, and North Carolina. Like all big men he will need to be developed and the fact that Coach Beilein will use Mitch in many ways means a little extra time.
Mitch is still recovering from a foot injury, but when he absolutely turned it loose a few times at full speed the results were impressive. Mitch is still not in elite basketball condition. The best advice I can give his teammates is that when at practice and Mitch is bringing the ball down on the hoop, just get out of the way. His overall foot speed is satisfactory for a player of his size and his hustle factor is very high. Mitch will provide Michigan with a rebounding weapon and it may take more than one player to keep him off the offensive boards. Mitch will not dominate this year but will be a solid contributor at both ends of the floor. Mitch does need to go to foul shooting 101, his balance and knee bend are both way off.Veteran Tim Hardaway Junior looked calm and poised, this was to be expected in the exhibition atmosphere. He played solid. Form your own meaning behind Beilein’s comments about Tim being too kind and needing to be more aggressive. The view here is that means get to the hole and take over a game more.
Matt Vogrich started Thursday’s game and had a little tough luck shooting the ball. Coach Beilein likes to start veterans that can meld into the flow of the game and then bring in the more talented youngster. Coach likes to play veterans in critical end game situations. Matt should be a valuable sub and spot starter this season. Hopefully the shots start falling.
There is nothing new to say about Trey Burke. He continues to show practice improvement and he will run the show. His numbers from last season may or may not rise as Michigan has surrounded him with plenty of talent. Guys like Stauskas are drooling for wide-open dishes off of a Burke drive. Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan will pound down some easy slammers off of Burke dishes as well. Trey’s greatest asset is the ability to produce in high-pressure situations, a task he welcomes and relishes.
Jordan Morgan has to love getting some extra help and rest time. He needs to continue to do what he is good at: hanging around the boards for garbage, using his body to gain rebounding position, and being a solid team player. Hopefully, Jordan can finally stop leading the league in “questionable” personal fouls. He can also attend foul shooting 101.
Max Bielfeldt is a big body that can contribute minutes inside and provide some strategic fouls if Beilein so chooses such a strategy. Max is limited but give a big body a chance and some garbage dividends will result. Max will need to further continue his development if he is to ever be a consistent offensive contributor. It is nice to have three actual bangers on the team versus the one and only of last year’s team.
So, is this team number five in the nation? That depends on what night it is, where the game is being played, and how the freshmen mature and contribute offensively. The good news is that not one of the freshmen will have to carry a team, there is so much veteran help, unlike last year when the team was carried by a 6’0” skinny freshman point guard. There will be days Michigan plays like a number five team and days such rankings will be dismissed. What will matter is tournament time. Michigan needs to kick the door in and get to the sweet sixteen. Anything can happen getting to the sweet sixteen, but once at the sweet sixteen, the same applies, anything can happen.
Michigan is young but should be a better team this year. Someone will need to take over Zak Novak’s role as the defensive enforcer, but the offense will take care of itself. Hopefully, Michigan does not fall in love with the three point offense so much so that the inside game atrophies. Whatever, each game should be exiting and entertaining.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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