@ Iowa - Michigan ran a back screen for Glenn Robinson III on the first play of the game which allowed him to get free for the alley-oop dunk. That pretty much includes the highlight portion of Michigan's day in Iowa City this year.
One of the disconcerting things about watching Michigan play this year was the team's tendency to come out cold and fall behind by double digits before fighting back into the game. At this point in the season, Michigan is in its worst stretch of that behavior. Iowa comes out of the gate hot with Roy Devyn Marble hit three of four three point attempts in the first four minutes of the game and like that Michigan was already in a hole. Combine that with a quiet night from Nik Stauskas — who was still adjusting to the recent trend of facing a smaller defender that looked to deny Stauskas the ball — where the Canadian took just six shots and had four turnovers, and the Wolverines would struggle through the least competitive loss of the season.
@ Ohio State - Another game and another slow start for Michigan, but this one would turn as the Wolverine offense found a spark.
A big part of that spark was young Derrick Walton, who had one of his best games of the season in Columbus. He scored 13 points — doing a lot of work at the free throw line by hitting all six of his attempts — pulled down ten rebounds, and dished out six assists. With Nik Stauskas hounded by Aaron Craft, Michigan needed someone else to step up and carry more of the offensive load, and Walton was able to do that.
The reason Walton was successful at this was a great deal of aggressiveness with the basketball. Walton flashed a number of impressive drives to the basket in this game and got the ball out to teammates when the defense collapsed. Much of the year it was Caris LeVert and Stuaskas that dominated this role in Michigan's offense, but it is nice to see that Walton has a bit of slasher in him too. That should help open up the offense next year as the Wolverines still look to have a bevy of offensive weapons on the perimeter, which should hopefully allow Michigan's offense to once again be diverse and adaptable.
vs. Wisconsin - What's that, another slow start, you say? Yippee.
The highlight reel here belonged to the Badgers, and one Badger in particular played a big role in the win, something that could become a bigger issue in the future. After largely being marginalized on the boards in the first game, Frank Kaminsky pulled down 11 boards, with as many offensive rebounds (four) as total rebounds in the first meeting between these teams. He hit 10 of 14 from two and one of his two three point attempts. At the four, Sam Dekker had 15 points on ten shots and nine rebounds. Between them, they only had one turnover.
Why do I mention this? Michigan's front court is set to take a large step back defensively next year. I have confidence that offensively, Michigan will be okay. The backcourt generates most of Michigan's scoring opportunities, and all the new players at the four and five are known to be solid offensive players. Michigan will still be able to score. Unfortunately, teams like Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State and others with more experience and/or size up front will be a challenge for Michigan's young post players. The difference that having Jordan Morgan on the court provided was huge, and even Horford, who was a step down defensively, was an integral part in some big defensive plays through the season. The five just went from MIchigan's most experienced position to its least. All of this after Michigan was already fighting to keep its head above water in all matters interior defense.
vs. Michigan State - There are too many highlights in this one. Too many moments that are worth remembering. If you want to distill this game down to one thing that stands out, it would be the play of Caris and Nik. They combined for 48 points, both went 3/5 from the three point line, and each had a number of defining moments in the game.
Stauskas cuts backdoor early for a easy slam courtesy of the pass from Caris. Caris steals the ball in the backcourt and feeds Irvin for the breakaway slam. Nik finds Caris for the runoff three as time expires in the first half. Nik just decides to start shooting over people in the second half. Caris hits a big three late to extend the lead, then follows that up by eschewing another three on the fast break, opting instead to take the ball down the baseline for a dunk over the recovering Spartan defense.
For a 21 minute stretch from about six minutes left in the first half to five left in the second, Michigan scored 45 points, and 37 of those were scored by either Nik Stauskas or Caris LeVert. All season Michigan's offense had run through those two, but few other times did both players play as well simultaneously as they did during that stretch of game that saw Michigan go from a four point deficit to a ten point lead.
While the 2012-13 season had Trey Burke's fireworks, 2013-14 upped the ante by giving us Stauskas and LeVert.
@ Purdue - From a game of so many highlights to a game of just one. Michigan almost walked out of West Lafayette with a loss but for the grace of God and Glenn Robinson III.