Michigan’s long weekend in Chicago was cut short as the Wolverines fell to the Wisconsin Badgers, 68-59, in Friday afternoon quarterfinal action.
The half-court shot heroics and overtime drama of the two teams’ first meeting was absent as Michigan fell victim to the Wisconsin machine and John Beilein lost his 11th game in 12 tries to Badger head coach Bo Ryan.
For the most part, this game was filled with hearty doses of the very best and worst that both teams can bring to the table.
The first half was a vintage Wisconsin basketball on both ends; suffocating defense and dismal offense. The Badgers made just 5-of-29 shots from the field but prevented the Wolverines from pulling away because the usually efficient Wolverines couldn’t muster much more offensive firepower. The Badgers pulled within three points at the break, trailing 20-17, and shots began to fall in the second.
While Michigan was unable to make the Badgers pay for their inept offense in the first half, Wisconsin exploited a struggling Wolverine defense in the second. The Badgers scored 51 points in 33 second half possessions; more second half points than the Badgers scored total in five Big Ten games this season. Michigan’s offense rediscovered itself and was able to keep pace for a while but eventually the Badgers pulled away for the nine point victory.
Michigan’s offense was bad, scoring just .87 points per possession, but this game was decided by a dreadful defensive stretch in the second half. Jared Berggren missed three layups to open the second period but then the Badgers rattled off 39 points over their next 20 offensive possessions – that’s 1.95 points per trip. That offensive explosion spanned from the 18:46 mark to 6:01 and over that time period Michigan recorded three defensive stops while Wisconsin made six three pointers.
That defensive stretch would be troubling in any context but stretches of the sort have almost become commonplace in recent weeks as Penn State and Indiana both had at least comparable periods of offensive perfection over the last month.
The half by half efficiency numbers are staggering but not surprising.
Points Per Possession by Half
|Team||First Half||Second Half|
|Wisconsin||0.50 PPP||1.54 PPP|
|Michigan||0.59 PPP||1.18 PPP|
Michigan is simply unable to play consistent defense for a 40 minute game. The final game numbers don’t look that bad, especially Michigan’s impressive defensive rebounding, but those metrics are skewed by just how awful the Badgers were in the first half. Wisconsin’s 46% effective field goal percentage looks solid but look closer and you see that Bo Ryan’s team had a 21% eFG% in the first half and a 71% eFG% in the second half.
Michigan’s offense wasn’t much better than Wisconsin’s in the first half and was unable to generate much offense in the half court at all. Michigan found a couple nice transition opportunities in the first half but couldn’t get the stops to trigger that secondary break game in the final 20 minutes. For much of the second half, Michigan still managed to play shot-for-shot with Wisconsin but eventually a couple opportunities rimmed out and the Badgers pulled away.
Burke and Hardaway did most of the heavy lifting in the second, combining for 25 of Michigan’s 39 points. Wisconsin’s defense essentially reduced Michigan’s offense to isolation as just 3 of 13 second half field goals (and 7 of 23 for the game) were assisted. Trey Burke was the only Michigan player to record an assist in the game. Frustration with the poor shooting, lack of threes and assists, and the high quantity of mid to long-range jumpers is fair but it’s also important to remember that Wisconsin is the Big Ten’s best in most of those statistics. The Badgers lead the Big Ten in lowest percentage of assisted field goals and three point attempts allowed as well as inside and outside field goal percentage defense. Michigan isn’t likely to see another defense that good until late in the NCAA tournament.
Now the question is what seed does Michigan end up with on Selection Sunday? If the Wolverines were flirting with the boundary between a 2 and 3-seed entering today’s game they are most likely going to find themselves on the lower end of the 3-seed range after this loss. That should still be strong enough to open tournament play at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Michigan will have 6 or 7 days off before its tournament opener and the rest could provide a perfect opportunity to regroup.
Rattle off a handful of wins over the next two weeks and Michigan’s late season swoon will be forgotten but if the Wolverines are sent home packing during the first weekend there will be a lot of head scratching trying to figure out what happened from February onward.
- Trey Burke: Burke scored 19 points on 8-of-22 (1-3 3pt) shooting and handed out seven assists to four turnovers. He wasn’t at his best in terms of efficiency or turnover woes but he still put the Wolverines on his back late in the second half and carried them back into the game. Burke is a great player but he’s not invincible and if the Wolverines’ post season strategy is to just go as far as he can take them then they could easily be headed home early.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: The lone bright spot of Michigan’s defensive performance was on the defensive glass and Hardaway played a key part of that, grabbing nine defensive boards. His offense performance was efficient, scoring 14 points on 5-of-9 (2-4 3pt) shooting, and he hit two big threes and took a charge in the second half which helped Michigan stay close. Hardaway said he felt fine after the game despite a scary looking ankle sprain early in the first half and this was one of his more complete games in a while.
- Mitch McGary: McGary had another solid outing, scoring 9 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in 23 minutes of play. He had two steals, and remains great at defending entry passes, but also turned the ball over twice. Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament performance isn’t going to leave much in the way of positive feelings but McGary’s strong play could be critical next week in the NCAA tournament.
- Jon Horford: Horford played another solid game, scoring five points off the bench in 10 minutes. He failed to grab a rebound and was a bit foul happy, especially late in the first half, but his offensive ability around the bucket has been a welcome surprise.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan has a case of the yips. One of Michigan’s most experienced players, Morgan went 2-6 from the field for four points in 18 minutes over two games at the Big Ten Tournament. He played just eight minutes against Wisconsin and struggled to catch and finish in the lane once again finishing with 3 turnovers and zero field goal attempts. I would have liked to see him matched up with Ryan Evans defensively earlier in the second half but it’s clear that something isn’t right with Morgan.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas had a rough offensive performance and went 1-of-8 (0-4 3pt) from the field for four points with five rebounds. He couldn’t find his three point shot and was sent packing most times that he drove the lane against Wisconsin’s physical interior defense. Stauskas had played three really strong offensive games after being knocked out of the Michigan State game but this was a step backward.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson played a really strong first half and then was pushed around in the second. He scored six points and grabbed three rebounds in the first half but totaled just two points and zero rebounds in the second. It was defensively where Robinson really struggled in the second. He played very well against Ryan Evans in the first, holding him to 3 points on 1-of-6 shooting with 2 turnovers to one assist, but was abused in the second. Evans scored 9 points (3-6 shooting) and handed out five assists to just one turnover in the second half. The Big Ten Network GameTracker tracks rebounding percentage based on “chances” and Robinson’s 27% (3 rebounds on 11 chances) lags well behind the rest of the Michigan roster where only Burke (50%) was under 60%.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht, not Robinson, was on the floor down the stretch. That decision appeared to be because John Beilein wanted Hardaway guarding Evans at the four spot and needed another guard. Albrecht didn’t leave his finger prints on the game either way, only recording two fouls and no other statistics in seven minutes of play.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert only played four minutes and still hasn’t scored since his big performance against Michigan State. He missed a pair of free throws and a jumper while also getting beat for a Ben Brust three on an out of bounds set.