The Michigan basketball team will be without Derrick Walton for the foreseeable future, and the offensive ramifications of being without a skilled veteran have been widely discussed.
However, the sophomore guard was one of the Wolverines’ best defenders, and, according to John Beilein, one of their best resources on that end of the court.
“I love the way he’s playing [defensively],” Beilein said of Walton in early January.
Walton grades out as Michigan’s best overall defender according to Synergy Sports, allowing just .595 points per possession.
Against Michigan State on Sunday, though, the Walton-less Wolverines had no answer for Denzel Valentine, who finished with 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting. The Spartan guard’s biggest buckets came in clutch situations and included a layup to begin overtime and the dagger with a minute left in the extra period.
“We have to get stops,” Beilein said Tuesday. “We’ve got to have a guy that can shut down their best guy. When Valentine had it going, [someone] who we can go to and say, ‘You’ve got Valentine. Keep him away.’
“We don’t have that yet.”
Michigan’s various zone defenses have helped, but the Wolverines still need to improve on the defensive end. Beilein said several players have the potential to become a shutdown defender, but “they have to learn a lot about moving their feet” and getting better leverage on attackers.
Beilein stands by ‘auto bench’ decision
With 10:31 remaining in the first half of Sunday’s game, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman picked up his second foul of the afternoon while fighting for a rebound.
The Wolverines were up 15-8 at that point, thanks largely to the freshman’s seven points and a pinpoint assist. Following his customary policy, though, Beilein benched Abdur-Rahkman, and the guard didn’t return to the court until the second half.
Tuesday, Beilein defended his decision to bench players with two fouls in the first half, and the coach made no indication that he’s planning to change that tactic.
“Yeah as long as the game is close,” Beilein said. “Even when a guy gets a third, we don’t want to get him back in until the 10-minute mark of the second. If the game starts going the other way quickly, then we’ll have to change. … It wasn’t until the last two or three minutes that they made a run and got that five-point lead.”
Jaylen Brown official still on, date to be determined
Five-star wing Jaylen Brown had to postpone his planned official to Michigan in late January, but the highly touted class of 2015 prospect still plans to visit Ann Arbor this winter.
“We are DEFINITELY going to visit Michigan!” Mechalle Brown, Jaylen’s mother, said in a text message to UM Hoops. “We want to get there for a basketball game if possible, but it depends on Jaylen’s playoff schedule.”
Jaylen Brown has taken official visits to North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA. His fifth and final visit will be to Michigan.