Michigan breezed to a 117-44 exhibition win against Concordia on Tuesday night to kick off its 2013-14 campaign. The Wolverines couldn’t have played much better in an empty gym as everything went right in their first live action since the Final Four.
There were fresh faces but the results looked eerily similar to Michigan’s sterling start to last season. The Wolverines forced turnover after turnover and pushed the pace for easy baskets. Michigan shared the ball, knocked down open shots and looked the part of a top-ten team against a very overmatched opponent. And they did it all without Mitch McGary, who remained sidelined (nice suit) with an undisclosed back injury.
Turnovers were Concordia’s undoing as it coughed the ball up nearly once every three possessions. The Cardinals’ 23 turnovers led to 38 Wolverine points and Michigan’s talented wing players finished relentlessly against an undersized Concordia frontline.
The tempo free numbers are as lopsided as the final score. Michigan’s offensive stats were nearly flawless: 74 eFG%, 8.2% turnover rate, 41% offensive rebounding rate and a 52% free throw rate. Add it all up and the Wolverines scored 117 points on 73 possessions, 1.6 points per trip, despite missing their last five field goal attempts once the freshmen walk-ons checked in. There’s no room to nitpick Michigan’s offense as the Wolverines scored 50 points in the paint, 22 points in transition and had an impressive 26 assists to just six turnovers.
Michigan’s defense was active, especially on the perimeter, and overwhelmed Concordia with its length. As previously mentioned, the Wolverines forced 23 turnovers, 10 of which were live ball steals. There were a few typical early season missed rotations and close outs, especially from freshmen, but overall the defensive performance was about all that can be expected in a blowout exhibition win. Concordia simply didn’t have the talent to compete and the shooting, free throw and offensive rebounding numbers all reinforce that fact.
Some high-level observations:
- Albrecht, Stauskas, Robinson, Morgan and Horford started the game and while I’m okay with that group starting I don’t think it’s the best five man group. Add in LeVert, Walton, Irvin and McGary and you have your likely nine man rotation.
- We saw the big lineup of LeVert-Stauskas-Robinson-Irvin-Horford for stretches and it worked fairly well. LeVert at the point guard spot appears to be a legitimate option and he gets my game ball for the night. He was everywhere on both ends, finished with a double-double and appeared to be the most improved player on the roster.
- Michigan’s front line needs Mitch McGary. The current options are adequate but not enough to make a difference in big games. I’m just not convinced that a Morgan-Horford frontcourt provides enough firepower to justify playing one of the two over another guard. With McGary on the floor, that equation changes completely.
- Derrick Walton is going to be the guy at the point guard spot sooner than later but Spike Albrecht will be a nice luxury, especially with a (potential) early season game against VCU looming in Puerto Rico.
- Offensively, Robinson spent significantly more time at the (real) three than the four (“other three”) position. It will be interesting to see how this manifests defensively against teams with varying options at the four spot. Michigan has a lot of switching flexibility defensively given how many 6-foot-6 players are in the rotation along with Jordan Morgan who looks as comfortable on the perimeter defensively as ever.
Concordia was an average NAIA team last year and there’s not much real information to pull out of a blowout exhibition win. Games against Wayne State, UMass-Lowell and South Carolina State probably won’t tell us much either but they are necessary to get this team prepared to travel to Ames in just over two weeks. From that point on, this team is going to be tested regularly leading up to Big Ten play.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert looked like the player that his offseason press clippings promised. His shooting stroke was improved and his defensive activity was well beyond anyone else on the roster. But offensively he’s a different player. LeVert tallied 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting with 10 assists to one turnover and three steals (and a drawn charge). His hesitation drives were excellent and he was able to get to the rim or dish to cutters and shooters. He was also very comfortable starting the break off of turnovers or defensive rebounds and finding his teammates in transition for easy looks.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas was the most active Michigan player early on and looked very comfortable initiating offense at the two position. He was very aggressive attacking the basket (5 of 8 FGAs were inside the arc and he had 7 FTAs) but he still knocked down two triples. 23 points, 3 assists to zero turnovers and an eFG% over 100% makes for a solid evening.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson’s performance was off-the-charts efficient as he scored 33 points in 25 minutes on 12-of-15 (4-6 3pt) shooting. What did we see from Robinson? Great three point shooting, a willingness to pass (4 assists), a nice pull-up jumper and the usual athleticism in transition. What didn’t we see? Any ball screen action or the willingness to put the ball on the floor and take it all the way to the rim in half court settings. That might not be a problem if LeVert, Stauskas and Walton can fill that role but it’s a question that remains unanswered in Robinson’s game.
- Jon Horford: Horford got the most minutes among Michigan’s bigs at 22 but he scored just four points on 1-of-4 shooting (he did have a backdoor pass to Robinson for a dunk). He was a presence defensively, grabbing a team high 12 rebounds (10 def.), two blocks and a steal. He provides more length than Morgan defensively at the five spot but could still show some more aggressiveness.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht got the start at point guard and was quiet but effective. He missed an easy opportunity at the rim early on but had a couple nice passes including a drop off to a trailing Glenn Robinson for a dunk. He knocked down a deep three, and continues to be a legitimate shooting threat with time and space.
- Derrick Walton: One first half stretch demonstrated just how impactful Walton can be: He knocked down his first triple, had a strong take to the rim in transition for a layup, pick-pocketed Concordia’s point guard at midcourt, and found Morgan wide open under the basket for an open layup – a 9-0 U-M run powered by a freshman in his second shift. His quickness and vision were obvious throughout the game but he still had a few freshmen mistakes. He struggled shooting off the bounce (but was very good off the catch) and seemed to force a few attempts and also had an ugly turnover in the first half against Concordia’s three-quarter court pressure.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan moved pretty well at the four spot, made all four free throw attempts and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes. He botched a bunny with his left hand in the second half but you pretty much know the sort of solid production that you’ll get from Morgan on any given night. His ability to guard fours might be the key to his playing time this season.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin looked like a freshman in his first start. He was 4-of-7 from the floor but it took him a while to find a rhythm. He’ll play the wing position and actually spent his time on the left side of the offense at the four spot when he shared the floor with Robinson. 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting isn’t a bad night but he looked like he was still trying to find his niche in the offense at this point.
- Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt was solid but he doesn’t really have the size or length to be a difference maker. He played more of his minutes at the five than the four which is going to be difficult at his height although he does provide a better option hedging screens at the five spot. He made a nice layup through contact and missed a three, finishing with 2 points and three rebounds in 11 minutes.
- Mark Donnal: Donnal didn’t check in until the 5:25 mark of the second half but he did knock down his first jumper from just inside the three-point line. His limited playing time is pretty strong sign that he’s in line for a red-shirt trailing McGary, Horford, Morgan and Bielfeldt in the frontcourt rotation.