Michigan Basketball: Arkansas vs. Michigan — Wrap-Up — Enjoyable Basketball
Arkansas returned last year’s visit by Michigan by traveling to Ann Arbor for a noon national broadcast on Saturday. The game highlighted some of Michigan’s season long strengths and areas of concern.
The visit to Crisler afforded the author to see if the perception of the team seen on television matched that in person. The answer is indeed, what you have seen on the screen pretty well matches what can be seen in person.
One large item that was seen for the first time was the newly renovated Crisler Center. It is indeed very nice and has the atmosphere of a place that is comfortable and lending to having a nice game experience. The renovation may have secured some hyperbole, but it is impressive.
Players from both teams were out shooting well over an hour before the game. The game started tight, but Michigan slowly gained control. Some may point to a certain player as the cause, but Michigan had more bulk and hit Arkansas hard on the boards. This was a difference maker.
The pressure of Arkansas yielded mixed results. Michigan did not have much trouble getting the ball across mid-court, but many players did get trapped and did not receive much help resulting in turnovers. Some of the second half turnovers were sloppy ball handling, sloppy passing, and sloppy focus. There seemed to be a lack of anticipation that resulted in a lack of knowing what to do. Any player that lets up for just a single second against the Arkansas pressure may pay the price.
Arkansas indeed may have appeared to place extra pressure on Robinson III and Stauskas. But any player on the deep wing received pressure from the Razorbacks. The pressure was paying off early in the second half, but with some bench rest, Michigan forced Arkansas into some late turnovers that decided the game.
The game crew allowed some hard hitting and grabbing among the bigs and getting a rebound was not always as simple as normal. Ted Valentine was on the scene and accomplished his usual histrionics, but for this day he was mostly harmless.
While other players such as Robinson, Burke, and Hardaway will probably grab most of the headlines, the threesome of Morgan, McGary, and Horford did some stellar work. On several occasions one of the three lost the ball after securing it, but frankly, the Michigan centers had help in looking like they had bad hands. As mentioned there was plenty of good old-fashioned hand smacking and grabbing in play. Morgan had a very nice double double. Horford had some hard earned rebounds and held his own inside for the most part. McGary was a physical presence that gave up some points, but the Arkansas players that scored on him, and the other centers for that matter, had to work hard and make some very tough shots.
The bookends of Robinson and Hardaway Jr. had a solid game, and the duo was improved offensively from Tuesday’s effort.
The perimeter shooters did enough to make Arkansas pay for chasing the ball. Leaving Stauskas, Robinson, Burke, and Hardaway free to launch standing threes is just not a good strategy. Michigan made some sloppy passes to the perimeter players that probably cost the Wolverines two or three three-pointers as the players had to regroup and launch a little off timing and balance.
Michigan again brought the centers out to chase and double players past the foul line, but this time the results were better. Several traps, turnovers, and bad shots by Arkansas were the overall result.
The defense played well for the most part, there were still bad instances of leaving hot three point shooters and some of the Arkansas guards did get inside a little too easily. Arkansas has talent, passes with purpose and can play one-on-one options pretty well. The primary differences were bulk and rebounding, both clearly favored Michigan. Michigan can still do much better at getting back post haste on defense. Too many time guys are hunting others to congratulate or are just a little lazy or slow in getting back on defense.
In the same old news category, Michigan can still work on some defensive fundamentals, become tougher, and eliminate almost silly mistakes. While the defense may not look like a bunch of MSU strongmen, the overall result was above average, especially against a team as quick and athletic as Arkansas, a team that may be the best 4-4 team in the nation. The biggest difference between the three champs of last year in the Big Ten is that Michigan is not as tough and physical. But sometimes this is good as Michigan had no real foul trouble on Saturday, due in part to smarts and the way the game was called. On the other hand, softness invites exploitation from other teams.
Michigan ran some very nice baseline cuts that Arkansas could not stop. As mentioned in previous discussions, this team is very good at running an offense. The only exception is moments of mental lapses that cost turnovers.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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