A little too much of this on Saturday. - USA TODAY Sports
Michigan walked into the madhouse that is Assembly Hall last night and slumped out on the wrong side of an eight point game.
1. Let's hope that this kind of thing isn't a trend. Michigan goes on the road to impossibly hard venue X and sputters offensively while falling behind big. It has already happened against Ohio State and Indiana, and with road trips to Michigan State and Wisconsin coming up, Michigan cannot continue to fall back early and expect to stay in games. Both losses have unfolded the same way -- Michigan's offense is good enough for the runs that will get the team back within a few points, but not consistent enough to get over the hump. The Wolverine offense played a pretty solid game for most of it. Michigan didn't turn the ball over (just eight all game, less than 15% of possessions ended in a TO) and capitalized on those times when Indiana did (Michigan scored 21 points off turnovers). The shooting numbers were down -- 50 percent from two and 30 percent from three -- but not something that couldn't be overcome in most games.
2. That being said, this wasn't most games. Watching Indiana's offense work the ball in transition was a real treat -- and this is coming from a Michigan fan that gets to watch his own team execute pretty well in transition. I hadn't watched much of Indiana before this game, but it was pretty clear just minutes in why everyone talk so highly of Indiana's ability to run. The ways that the Hoosiers found to score in transition were really impressive. There were impossibly accurate (and long) passes to streaking cutters, kickouts to wide open shooters, and all of it seemed like it happened instantaneously.
And really, that was the story of the whole game: Indiana making things look easy. Every Michigan run in the second half was answered by an even more emphatic and highlight packed run by the Hoosiers. Every time Indiana needed a big play, in came Cody Zeller for another putback dunk, or Jordan Hulls with another long three. Michigan's offense can be otherworldly at times, but I don't think I've ever seen it play as physically devastating as Indiana flashed at times.
3. The Hoosiers aren't perfect. I think Michigan will have a good chance to get revenge at home in March. For the Wolverine's struggles, Michigan kept the game within striking distance despite Indiana doing its best Showtime Lakers impersonation at a few points. Michigan also held onto the ball very well, something that Michigan has done all year and was a worry coming into the game.
Meanwhile, Indiana turned the ball over a lot, and at some points pushed the ball too hard or too sloppily, which led to stupid turnovers. Indiana lacked the ability to close the game out early for the same reason the Hoosiers have struggled twice this season: Indiana can't dominate games at a slow pace.
4. If Michigan wants to win the next matchup, John Beilein will have to find a way to continue to limit fouls (Indiana shot one FT for every two FG attempts, but a lot of those attempts came in the waning minutes) and put his team in a better position to rebound on defense. Cody Zeller's cavalcade of ridiculous tip slams didn't do Michigan any favors, and the only things that got the Assembly crowd going at more of a fever pitch were because of Victor Oladipo.
5. Yes, that man gets his own section.
I've been lobbying pretty hard for Burke as the POtY, but after watching that game, I might be swayed. There were a few plays in that game where it seemed like everyone else in the building just stopped moving for an instant to give Victor Oladipo a head start. He threw down the dunk of the year, only to follow it up with what might have been the dunk of the century if it went down. If Oladipo doesn't send that dunk careening off the back of the iron, it gets the same internet treatment as the Clowney hit from a month ago.
And the other end of the court? Sublime. Truly great defensive basketball players seem to transcend their athleticism. It isn't so much that Victor Oladipo is impossibly quick -- the only player on the court that can get from point A to point B that quickly -- but that even impossible quickness can't explain that jump or this deflect. Great defenders make it seem as if they exist in a different universe, or at least that they exist under a different set of physical laws.
I'm ready to give Oladipo the lead -- by a nose -- in the POtY race.
6. On the other side of the court, Trey Burke seemed to revel in the spotlight of a nationally televised game between two of the top three teams in the country. However, the same thing that makes Burke great is always going to hamper Michigan's chances a little bit.
Burke -- more than anyone else on the team -- has a killer instinct on par with some of the greats. Burke is the kind of player that not only wants the ball when the moment is big, but wants to wring the maximum "wow" out of the moment. He had a few of those this game. Huge shots timed perfectly and falling despite a history of basketball knowledge telling you that "yes, anyone other than Trey Burke shooting that would make it a horrible decision." Yet, a couple of those shots fall each games.
The thing about those shots? They won't always fall, and when they don't the possessions that end with a wild caroom off the iron look even more hollow. This team is great offensively because of the interplay. The rotation as it stands is a collection of hyper-effective offensive weapons and role players, and the whole thing is capable of working in harmony near or at some of the best stretch runs we saw from Indiana last night. Still, there will always be a few shots a game that you just have to shake your head and say "it's just Trey being Trey." You'll get some points out of those shots. You'll groan too. However, you wouldn't be better off without him, and those shots are as much a part of him as the dimes and fast break buckets.
7. At one point Michigan had four freshmen on the floor. Against Indiana. At Assembly Hall. Michigan depended on four true freshmen. The "experience" thing is going to hang over this team's head all the way until the last horn sounds and then the team goes out and gets even younger. Glenn Robinson III struggled mightily in this one; Light Rob was uncharacteristically light on impact. Stauskas didn't find much offensive rhythm until late, despite spending most of the game checked by not-Oladipo. Meanwhile, Mitch McGary was a bustling ball of energy and chaos. He grabbed seven rebounds, scored ten points on seven shots, added two steals, an assist and a block, all without one turnover. Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht both got a few minutes as well.
At points Michigan's experience hampered the team. The Wolverine offense struggled early as Stuaskas and Robinson couldn't get comfortable. But the team still lived as much as it died with the freshmen in the game, and given some of the tough road environments that this team has played in so far this year, one has to hope that Michigan's youngest players will start to put the "lack of experience" meme to rest.
8. Not much rest after thie one either. Michigan has a visit from Ohio State scheduled for Tuesday,a game in Madison on Saturday, then a trip to East Lansing the following Tuesday. Not an easy slate of games, but If Michigan can win two of the next three, a shot at the conference title is still very good.