Michigan opened the Big Ten season with a 73-61 loss to Wisconsin. The Badgers did what they do and methodically ground Michigan down. They took a 20-9 lead about 7 minutes into the game and never really looked back. Wisconsin shot 59% from the field and they made their 3 point attempts count as they went 6-14 from deep.
Zack Novak started the game and Jevohn Shepherd was back to coming of the bench. Novak responded by playing one heckuva game. He scored a career high 20 points on 7-11 field goals, including 5-8 on three pointers. Novak also corralled 8 rebounds. DeShawn Sims chipped in 14 points but did not secure his first board until there was 4:53 left in the game.
Manny Harris was frustrated by a fundamentally sound Wisconsin defense and some not so favorable no calls from the officials. He ended up with 9 points on 3-13 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 turnovers.
As a team Michigan shot 39% from the field and was 8-24 on three pointers.
Marcus Landry and Trevon Hughes scored 16 points a piece for the Badgers.
Inside the numbers: Michigan had 12 assists on 24 field goals and only turned the ball over 7 times. Wisconsin turned it over 8 times and out rebounded Michigan 30-26.
Notes:Michigan will be back in action on Sunday (Jan. 4) when the Wolverines host Illinois at Crisler Arena. Game time is scheduled for noon and will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.
The road to 21 wins: This was not a game that I had Michigan projected to win. It would have been a good win but it does not derail my projection. With that being said I projected Michigan to win their next 3 games; Illinois, at Indiana, and Iowa. So this will be a critical 3 game stretch coming up.
Michigan still has one remaining non conference game and that is February 7th at Connecticut. As some of you will remember before the season started I projected Michigan would win 21 games and I came under fire for that prediction. I had conservatively projected they would come out of the non conference at 8-4 so they are already 2 games ahead of my 21 win pace. Their only loses were to Duke on a neutral court and at Maryland.
So they don’t have any bad loses and they have two signature wins. They are ranked in both polls coming in at 23 in the AP and 24 in the Coaches Poll.
Sure they nearly lost to Savannah State, but they won. They won ugly against Florida Gulf Coast and North Carolina Central. But seriously think about it. This is a young team that won 10 games last year and people are complaining when they beat North Carolina Central by 20 points and Florida Gulf Coast by 17 points? If that is all we have to complain about after 12 games I think things are looking great.
Manny Harris has probably exceeded expectations through the first 12 games. Harris is averaging 19.0 points per game to go along with 7.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 47% from the field and 89% at the free throw line. He has already flirted with a triple double twice and has set single game career highs in rebounds (16) and assists (13) in the last 3 games.
DeShawn Sims has emerged as an All Big Ten type player as he is averaging 17.2 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game he also averages 1.1 steals per game while shooting 54% from the field.
Harris and Sims are the top scoring duo in the Big Ten and have played so well that some analysts have speculated about them jumping to the NBA.
Laval Lucas-Perry has not disappointed. He appears to be Michigan’s best three point shooter as he is 9 for his first 13 from deep and has looked good doing it.
I can’t say enough at how impressed I am with the play of Kelvin Grady. He is really pushing the tempo for Michigan by playing fast and under control. Grady has 24 assists against 9 turnovers on the season. He is also averaging 43% on three pointers.
Zack Novak and Stu Douglass have drilled 14 three pointers each and have both sparked the team at different times. They are both smart players who can handle the ball. Novak has actually been logging minutes at the 4 position recently.
David Merritt has been solid in the minutes he has played. I have to think that Merritt might see his minutes drop a bit as Lucas-Perry continues to get worked into the rotation. If that happens then you have to wonder how much playing time will be left for CJ Lee.
Anthony Wright began the season as a starter but has recently been stuck on the bench only getting a couple of minutes against NCCU and getting some DNPs in other games.
Zack Gibson has not played well recently. He is going to be needed in the Big Ten season because Sims can’t do all the big man work by himself.
Jevohn Shepherd has been starting recently and has had a couple of big games this year. His development has been remarkable.
The team has some quality depth this year and that is something that was severely lacking last year. The depth is only going to increase next year when they bring in their very good recruiting class of 4 quality players.
I’m obviously a big John Beilein fan and love what he is doing with the team. He has said several times that if you believe in what you are doing you can beat anybody.
When I had the privilege of meeting Coach Beilein this summer he commented on how his teams were the first to go with 4 shooters on the floor at the same time and that maybe they would go with 5 shooters on the floor together this year. At times already this season he has put line ups on the floor that feature 5 shooters. It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments the coaching staff makes as they head into Big Ten play.
Overall to be sitting at 10-2 and ranked in both polls I don’t think we could have asked for much more. This team is poised to reach their goal of an NCAA tournament bid. Could it fall apart during the Big Ten season, sure it could. Do I think it will? No. The reasons are the same reasons I cited for projecting 21 wins.
Michigan started the game with a quick 7-0 run. Manny Harris started things off on the opening possession by draining a three. On the next possession Manny missed a three then he stole the ball on the defensive end and lobbed an alley oop to DeShawn Sims and that is how the 7-0 run started. After a North Carolina Central free throw made the score 7-1 DeShawn Sims hit a three to put Michigan up 10-1.
Michigan was up 13-5 when we all got a scare as DeShawn Sims rolled his ankle and limped off into the tunnel. Thankfully he returned to the court a few minutes later.
The Eagles had trimmed Michigan’s early lead to 13-9 when Laval Lucas-Perry checked in and promptly nailed back to back triples to open the lead up to 19-9.
Moments later Lucas-Perry would hit another triple to put Michigan up 24-9. After back to back lay ups from Zack Gibson and DeShawn Sims Michigan was up 28-12 and seemed ready to roll. The North Carolina Central went on a nice run to cut the lead down to 36-31 at one point and 38-31 at the half. Jamar Briscoe keyed the Eagles run while doing his best Earl Boykins impression.
Michigan came out of the locker room with a purpose and 4 minutes into the second half opened the lead back up to 55-35. Stu Douglass scored Michigan’s first 5 points of the half.
Michigan had another lull and allowed the Eagles to creep back to within 8 points at 59-51.
North Carolina Central would only score 6 points in the final 9 minutes of the game. While that was happening Kelvin Grady pushed the tempo for Michigan and the Wovlerines pulled away to secure a 77-57 victory and improve to 10-2.
Manny Harris had another monster night scoring 29 points, grabbing a career high 16 rebounds to go along with 7 assists and 1 turnover. DeShawn Sims scored 17 points and hauled down 9 boards to go along with 3 steals. Laval Lucas-Perry scored 10 points and was 3-4 on three pointers. Kelvin Grady did not score but in 27 minutes he dished out 4 assists and did not turn the ball over.
Inside the numbers:Michigan had 17 assists on 24 field goals and turned the ball over 11 times. Michigan was 9-30 on three pointers.
Notes: Sims didn’t play the final few minutes and appeared to be limping a bit as he ran down the tunnel.
Michigan is now ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, coming in at #24 and they moved up to #23 in the AP Poll. Click here to see both polls.
Meanwhile Duke and UCLA continue to keep winning. Duke is 10-1 and ranked 5th in both polls. UCLA is 10-2 and ranked 9th and 12th in the polls. The better those teams do the better those wins look for Michigan.
Michigan (9-2) will play North Carolina Central (0-14) on Monday (12/29) at 7pm with the game to be televised on the Big Ten Network.
North Carolina Central is in their second season in Division 1. The Eagles are an Independent and went 4-26 last year. They play 21 road games this season. Their leading scorers are Jamar Briscoe who averages 14.4 points per game and Vincent Davis who averages 12.2 points per game.
Michigan will be playing a team nicknamed the Eagles for the third time in four games.
The Wolverines have a quick turnaround from this game as they will open the Big Ten season against Wisconsin on Wednesday.
With a win Michigan will have equaled their win total from last year. Hopefully they will play better then they did last Monday against FloridaGulfCoast.
Notes: Ben Cronin will have surgery and redshirt this season. Laval Lucas-Perry will be playing in his third game as a Michigan Wolverine.
Michigan did not play their finest half of the season in the opening stanza. However, against a wild and sloppy FloridaGulfCoast team it was good enough to take a 39-18 lead at the break.
DeShawn Sims led the first half charge scoring 9 points and grabbing a career high 13 rebounds. Laval Lucas-Perry chipped in 7 points and 3 rebounds.
Michigan shot a miserable 6-22 on three point attempts in the first half. In the first half 7 Michigan players scored. Manny Harris and Kelvin Grady each shot 2-6 on three pointers in the opening half. Michigan shot 7-8 on first half free throws to build upon their Big Ten leading free throw shooting percentage. The Wolverines also out rebounded the Eagles 28-16 in the first half including 11-1 on the offensive glass.
FloridaGulfCoast scored the first 5 points of the second half. Michigan finally got on the board on 2 CJ Lee free throws. Soon thereafter DeShawn Sims and Stu Douglass hit back to back three pointers and Michigan had opened the lead back up to 49-25. Michigan continued to kind of coast along in front of a lackluster holiday crowd. The Wolverines were holding the Eagles at bay but not really playing that well. Then all of sudden FloridaGulfCoast bangs a couple of threes and goes on a little run to cut the lead all the way down to 8 points. DeShawn Sims, who was the player of the game with 20 points and 20 rebounds, hit a three ball and then scored on a dunk to keep Michigan up by 10.
Then finally some three balls started dropping for Michigan as they closed out the game with 3 point daggers courtesy of Laval Lucas-Perry and two from Kelvin Grady. Grady scored 8 points in the closing minutes and Stu Douglass sealed it with a dunk to score Michigan’s final points. Michigan won 76-59 and that is the important thing. However they did not play that well and certainly there will be some teaching points for the coaching staff on the film.
Kelvin Grady scored 14 points, Stu Douglass scored 12 and Laval Lucas-Perry chipped in 10 points. Manny Harris scored 6 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal, and 4 turnovers.
Inside the numbers:Michigan was 12-42 on three pointers for 28.6%. After the back to back games of exceptional assist to turnover ratios the Wolverines only picked up 15 assists and turned the ball over 15 times. FloridaGulfCoast turned the ball over 26 times.
Notes:Michigan will be off until next Monday when they play North Carolina Central and follow that up with the Big Ten opener at home against Wisconsin on New Years Eve.
DeShawn Sims is the first Wolverine to post a 20-point, 20-rebound performance in 31 years. The last Wolverine to accomplish the feat was Phil Hubbard, who had 22 points and 26 rebounds vs. Detroit (March 17, 1977).
With his 20 rebounds, DeShawn Sims posted the most rebounds by a Big Ten Conference player this season. The previous best for U-M and in the conference was by teammate Manny Harris, who had 15 against Norfolk State (Nov. 25).
Michigan played 10 players with the lowest minutes going to Zack Gibson and Jevohn Shepherd who both played 13 minutes. I would expect that Coach Beilein is going to want to trim down the rotation a bit as they head into Big Ten play. He has said in the past he likes to use 7 or 8 guys in his rotation.
Michigan is now ranked 24th in the AP Poll. The Wolverines are still unranked in the Coaches Poll, checking in at #28.
Michigan is ranked 21st in the Parrish Poll and 7th in the CBSSportsline RPI. Click here for a breakdown on the polls. Michigan checks in at #25 in the ESPN Power Rankings.
I told you after the Duke game not to worry about the polls. I still say you don’t need to worry about them right now. However, it is nice to see Michigan ranked!