vs. Minnesota - This was a game of runs. The first, a 22-5 Globetrotter-ian romp through Crisler, put Michigan up by double digits at the half. Then came Minnesota's answer, pulling the score back within single digits.
MIchigan survived, and like happened so many times over the last couple years, it was two of Michigan's program players coming up with big plays in crunch time. With the Wolverines up just two points with just over four minutes left in the game, Jordan Morgan fought off two Minnesota players for a rebound and the ensuing jump ball went to Michigan. On the next play it would be Spike Albrecht coming up big when he tipped a loose ball away from a Minnesota player and got it to Jordan Morgan for the basket. Spike and Morgan combined for eight of Michigan's 12 points in the last four minutes, and quite a big part of why a two point lead turned into a 10 point win.
As worrying as the youth on next year's squad is, it is comforting to know that John Beilein continues to be able to mine the outer reaches of the national recruiting scene for guys that don't get high marks. Before it was Spike and Morgan it was Douglass and Novak. Next it could be Dawkins and Abdur-Rahkman.
at Illinois - Eleven for fourteen. That was what Michigan was shooting from three when it went into the break, right after this happened:
No one had scored more than 50 on Illinois in the previous four games. Michigan surpassed 50 before halftime.
vs. Indiana - The biggest highlight is the final one: Glenn Robinson's corner three to break the tie late in the game.
But in this one, the game ball goes to Jordan Morgan. The senior big man quietly worked his way up in importance on this team through the year, first not playing much as Mitch McGary got a lot of time before injury, then Morgan split time with Jon Horford for a spell, before finally asserting control of the starting center spot. Up until this point in the season Morgan had only scored 15 points once before this game (he would do it twice more in the NCAA tournament) and only pulled down double digit rebounds twice. But this game doesn't have the feel of him vastly outplaying his normal contribution. Instead, this game just felt like another natural Jordan Morgan game in which he quietly sat back and picked out holes in the defense that allowed Michigan's guard to get him the ball. It was the last game of the regular season,, but also the perfect swan song for Morgan. He spent four years at Michigan doing the same things, individual numbers be damned. It is comforting to know that he got to go out on top in his final home game. Nobody deserved that more.
BTT vs. Illinois - This game couldn't have gone much different from the first matchup, and it strangely flips the script of Michigan's normal issue of a slow stretch to start the game.
In this one Michigan slowly built a 13 point lead midway through the second half before nearly allowing it to slip away late as Illinois clogged things up with a 2-3 zone. Michigan's final stat line shows just how effective this was as the Wolverines took just 17 shots from inside the arc and 30 from outside of it. Meanwhile, Illinois made 19 of its 36 attempts from two, consistently attacking Michigan's interior defense.
It was a game largely devoid of positive highlights for Michigan. Instead of closing things out down the stretch Michigan went into the tank and hoisted up a lot of long, contested threes without ever threatening to get the ball inside.
BTT vs. Ohio State - More of the same from Michigan as the Wolverines built a nice first half lead that Ohio State cut into before halftime, then another lead on the other side of the break that Michigan eventually gave up entirely.
Michigan's offense was one of the top statistical units in the nation last year, but the Wolverines' penchant for long scoring droughts was a problem a few different times. Usually Michigan snapped out of things quick enough to either hold or retake the lead, but looking at next year Michigan could be in for some problems.
Outside shooting shouldn't be much of an issue as Michigan brings back a few proven shooters and adds a few more guys with some ability to step out and hit the three. The biggest issue that could be facing Michigan is the one that hurt the Wolverines in these last two BTT games: an inability to consistently challenge inside.
Without a true post presence, Michigan relied heavily on ball screens, handoffs, and isolation to get Michigan's wings the ball moving toward the basket. This was how Michigan forced the defensive rotation that opened up a variety of outside shots. Next year the Wolverines will be without two big pieces in that facet of its offense. Nik Stauskas was a big pick and roll option and his passing skill was only slightly overlooked because the rest of his offensive game was so polished and effective last year. However, it was often this passing off screens that allowed Michigan's offense to get shots at the rim by giving those dump off passes to Jordan Morgan (the other big piece). Caris LeVert is back and was another option to attack the paint last year, but Michigan will need to get a big step forward from Derrick Walton or Zak Irvin if the offense is to remain as effective. It isn't easy for one player to take on the bulk of the load as facilitator and primary slasher, and Michigan's offense showed this year that it can be even better when there are more options to attack rather than just one really great one (like, say Trey Burke in 2012-13). Without a few guys that can do damage, Michigan will lose some of the offensive versatility it had a year ago. That doesn't mean a huge drop off in effectiveness, but it could mean a bigger load for Caris if Michigan doesn't have anyone else to turn to.