So, this season kinda took a turn for the worse, didn't it? Michigan followed up a fairly impressive 2-1 run against Oregon, Villanova, and Syracuse, only to stumble and fall in back to back home games against NJIT and EMU.
Michigan is much too reliant on its big three of Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin. If one or more of those players has an off game, as has happened recently, the Wolverines just don't have enough to pick up the slack. With just one backup, Spike Albrecht, for those three, Michigan has no margin for error. Youth all over the frontcourt rotation has led to defensive lapses (NJIT) and offensive slumps (EMU) as the freshmen struggle to play complete games forcing Michigan to go small and play Max Beilfeldt at the five.
All is not lost. Michigan is still the team that went 2-1 in those aforementioned challenging games earlier this year, and both recent losses are of the "wow, how much else can go wrong?" variety, something that could get better as these younger players come along.
The problem is, this next game against Arizona looks to challenge Michigan in all the ways it looks prone to breakdown. Consider:
- The starting rotation at the four and five spot for Arizona is Kaleb Tarczewski, a seven footer with top-200 eFG% (61.4) and FT rate (63.6) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, an impressive rebounder and scorer with an offensive rating of 121.5, OR% of 10.5, DR% 20.6. These two will be quite a load for Donnal/Doyle and Chatman.
- Arizona is ranked in the top-20 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, and the Wildcats don't give up a lot of fast break opportunities — something that Michigan hasn't gotten working for it much the last couple games, and a good source of quick scoring bursts that Michigan has relied on the past few years when things stall.
If Michigan's offense shows up, Zak Irvin gets his groove back, and Ricky Doyle has another promising outing, Michigan can compete in this game. But expecting a win on the road when this team has been so inconsistent as of late would be a tad too optimistic. However, I still trust John Beilein has the ability to right the ship.