Reviewing Michigan basketball's 65-62 win over Harvard
John Beilein said before the season he'd always know where the Michigan basketball team's offensive production would come from. He said that was a good thing, because it made the Wolverines more unpredictable.
It showed again Saturday in Michigan's 65-62 win over Harvard, when Stu Douglass scored 19 points off the bench. That was the unexpected, to go along with the typical good game from Darius Morris (13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists).
Seven games into the season, Michigan is starting to do things more consistently and trends are beginning to emerge.
A review of the win over Harvard:
Starters: Guards Darius Morris and Zack Novak; forwards Tim Hardaway Jr., Evan Smotrycz and Jordan Morgan.
OBSERVATIONS: Stu Douglass: His teammates said after the game that when Douglass hits his first shot, he is in for a huge night. When he made a step-back jumper from the top of the key following a 3-pointer, you could sense it. By the 12:43 mark of the second half, he was having arguably the best game of his career. His shot has always looked smooth with no hitches. The difference between this year and last is that the ball is going in and the junior has more confidence.
Darius Morris: He’s gotten good with the drive the lane, jump and dish maneuver. However, against better opponents, it won’t work nearly as well. While his shot has improved, he shouldn’t be taking many 3-pointers, like he did on Michigan’s first possession. It just isn’t a strength for him. Inside of the 3-point line, he’s become close to automatic. When he drives, he has become of the better point guards in the Big Ten.
Jordan Morgan: The redshirt freshman found himself in good spots to grab offensive rebounds Saturday. He’s gotten better at that in each game this year. He also appears more comfortable in the pick-and-roll with Morris. Right now, though, he appears to lose some of his aggressiveness when he picks up a foul early in the first half because he doesn’t want to get into foul trouble.
Defense: Michigan has gotten a lot better at taking charges. Last year, they were a big deal whenever they happened. This season, it feels like the Wolverines take two to four per game.
Zack Novak: The junior’s shot, like he talked about in the preseason, is much more compact than a season ago. He’s not fading back nearly as much as he used to and is getting it off much quicker, whether he’s open or covered.
Tim Hardaway Jr.: During practice for the team's pre-season European trip, the freshman was Michigan’s most explosive player getting to the basket. He also has shown the ability to drive and split defenders during games. But too often this season -- and again Saturday -- he settled for 3-point shots from the corner instead of trying to drive and create, which seems to be his more natural game.
Matt Vogrich: The sophomore looks a lot more comfortable in his short spurts off the bench this year, especially shooting the ball. His shot selection has also improved dramatically. Unlike a year ago, an open shot for Vogrich is almost an automatic three points. He displayed this both in the first and second halves.
Interior defense: Harvard’s Keith Wright, probably the second-best post-player Michigan has played this season, really beat up Michigan’s interior defense. He’s much more like what the Wolverines will see starting with Purdue on Dec. 28, which should be cause for concern.
Shortened bench and lineup shift in second half: Beilein likes Douglass coming off the bench. So do I, especially with a young team that you never really know what you’re going to get from day-to-day. In Douglass he has a consistent player off the bench, one who will give you defense and more consistency in the backcourt. However, starting the second half with Douglass in the lineup may be a look Michigan wants to continue with in the future.
TRENDS: Pick-and-roll: It’s a play Michigan didn’t run -- at least not with much success -- last year, but the pick-and-roll with Morris and, well, anybody has been a staple for the Wolverines this season. Michigan used it early with Morgan and it got an and-one situation. Morris is effective with it because he is able to draw the double-team up top.
Evan Smotrycz at the 5: Michigan went a stretch of the first half with Smotrycz, the starting four, at the five position paired with Colton Christian. Defensively in that stretch, Michigan took a hit. With that front-court lineup, the Wolverines have no strong interior defense, which will pose problems in the Big Ten. The Crimson went on their major first-half run with this lineup in.
Backdoor cuts: Michigan went away from the backdoor cut a lot last season, partially because teams took it away and partially because the Wolverines seemed unable to run it well. For the second straight game, Michigan took advantage of the cut a lot. Both Novak and Douglass had great cuts-and-scores off the play in the second half. It is usually the sign of a smart basketball team.
Michigan Player Impact Chart (courtesy Statsheet.com):