1. Beating Ohio State in Columbus was a long shot ...
This was not a game Michigan was supposed to win. Unlike Michigan's first four Big Ten games, this was not a tossup. Las Vegas bookkeepers labeled the Wolverines as a double-digit underdog, and KenPom gave them only a 15-percent chance to beat the Buckeyes.
And for good reason, too.
For the past six weeks, Michigan had not played a beautiful brand of basketball. When the Wolverines weren't piling up losses, whether it be against high-majors (Arizona, Purdue, SMU), mid-majors (EMU), or low-majors (NJIT), they were winning ugly, twice needing remarkable second-half comebacks against Illinois and Minnesota at home.
On the other hand, Ohio State had been performing like a top-25 team. Though the Buckeyes had their difficulties on the road against quality opponents, they were steamrolling through inferior competition thanks to a sharpshooting offense and a pressure-crazy defense. Especially at home, where, as MGoBlog's Ace Anbender noted in his game preview, Ohio State had owned a 100-9 record since the 2009-10 season.
The Wolverines weren't expected to be the victors last night.
2. ... but that was embarrassing from Michigan.
But that doesn't excuse an absolutely embarrassing effort from Michigan.
A hot shooting start from the outside from Michigan masked what was soon to be a total trainwreck. After Michigan took a 12-9 lead at the 14:30 mark of the first half, Ohio State throttled the Wolverines to the tune of a 43-12 run in the next 21 minutes to leap out to a 28-point advantage early in the second frame. That's not a spree that can be achieved unless a team overpowers the other in every facet imaginable, which is exactly what Ohio State did. While Michigan missed contested jumper after contested jumper or, on the rare occasion, drove to the rim like chickens with their heads cut off, Ohio State attacked Michigan's poor defensive rotations for easy buckets and open threes. And, when those shots didn't fall, the Buckeyes just nudged the Wolverines to the side and corralled their misses with ease. Add in that Ohio State racked up more fastbreak points than the ridiculous number of references ESPN announcers Mike Tirico and Dan Dakich made about the Buckeyes' football national championship, and this is the carnage you get:
|Points Per Possession||0.558||1.209|
|Effective Field Goal Percentage||31.6%||52.3%|
|Offensive Rebounding Rate||25.9%||40.9%|
|Free Throw Rate||0.0%||16.3%|
But what was embarrassing wasn't Michigan's lack of production but how they looked (not) doing it. The Wolverines' minds were off in La La Land as the Buckeyes trampled all over them. There was the time when Ohio State ran in transition off a Michigan basket because Ricky Doyle slowly jogged back on defense. There was the time when Shannon Scott stripped Zak Irvin after a lazy dribble move in Michigan's end of the floor. There was the time when, after a Sam Thompson jumper, an unfocused Caris LeVert threw an inbounds pass directly to Thompson standing right in front of him, and Thompson swiftly dished it to Scott for a layup and a quick four points. There was the time when Michigan committed back-to-back turnovers and surrendered points to Ohio State without hustling back on defense. And there are numerous other examples.
It was embarrassing, humiliating, pitiful, pathetic, or whatever negative adjective you prefer to use. This wasn't some whatever game against Penn State or Northwestern or Rutgers. This was a rivalry game against Ohio State! On the road! In an environment that wasn't very hostile because Columbus was still hungover from celebrating into the wee hours the night before! If there was ever a chance for Michigan to be fired up and ready to battle on the road, it was this game! And, instead, we got whatever the heck that was.
3. And John Beilein seemed to agree, too.
If there's any comfort for Michigan fans, it's that John Beilein was just as displeased with his team's piss-poor effort as they were. Beilein will never throw a temper tantrum on the bench and rarely is one to get into a screaming match with a player, coach, or official (yes, I'm looking at you, Tom Crean), but it didn't take a rocket scientist to determine that Beilein was furious last night. And, as Ohio State pushed its lead to 28 points early in the second half, he had enough, sending in a lineup of Derrick Walton, Aubrey Dawkins, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Kameron Chatman, and Max Bielfeldt, and placing his two best players, Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin, who usually play almost every minute of every game, on the pine for the next seven minutes. Though LeVert and Irvin would reenter, the message had been sent: you're not going to play if you give that type of effort.
4. Not only was Michigan unfocused, they were slow.
There were too many problems with Michigan's performance to pick out all of them, but, other than Michigan's lackadaisical effort, the most glaring one was how unathletic and slow Michigan looked in comparison to Ohio State. Michigan is one of the worst teams in the nation at attacking the rim, and that was never more evident than last night. The Buckeyes' athleticism, length, and pressure-focused defense harassed the Wolverines all game, whether it was keeping ball-handlers in front of them on the perimeter, affecting close-range shots in the few instances when Michigan did get into the paint, or even making inbounds passes a chore. Accordingly, Michigan's offense consisted of lots of standing around and forced jumpers at the end of the shot clock. When this happens, the Wolverines have an alarming tendency to sink into a significant shooting slump:
Score & Clock
Before FG Drought
|Length of FG Drought||
Score & Clock
|Villanova||20-18, U-M (7:17, 1H)||10:54||0-12||33-20, VU (17:23, 2H)||60-55, VU|
|NJIT||44-38, U-M (15:30, 2H)||7:52||0-7||53-46, NJIT (7:38, 2H)||72-70, NJIT|
|Eastern Michigan||10-2, U-M (15:25, 1H)||13:40||0-12||17-15, EMU (1:45, 1H)||45-42, EMU|
|SMU||48-45, U-M (7:57, 2H)||7:08||0-9||62-48, SMU (0:49, 2H)||62-51, SMU|
|Purdue||35-27, U-M (19:14, 2H)||12:34||0-13||45-39, PU (6:40, 2H)||64-51, PU|
|Ohio State||39-24, OSU (0:38, 1H)||7:10||0-13||52-24, OSU (13:28, 2H)||71-52, OSU|
These slumps are dragging down Michigan's offense. Michigan can't allow them to extend as long as they do, which is why Michigan must find a way to attack the rim for an easy basket or trip to the free throw line. But Michigan doesn't have anyone doing that right now. When healthy, Derrick Walton can penetrate and draw contact, but his nagging toe injury has made him very perimeter-oriented. Caris LeVert can get into the paint, but, despite his length, he can't make it the final six to eight feet to the tin, so he settles for floaters or short jumpers. Zak Irvin essentially is just a shooter. Michigan doesn't feed Ricky Doyle on the roll after he sets a screen nearly enough. And, last night, during the few chances the Wolverines had to get to the rim, they often avoided contact, trying to finish an acrobatic layup rather than absorb the body and finish strong.
Other than poor perimeter shooting, how else do you explain six (!!) field-goal droughts that have lasted longer than seven minutes in the 17 games Michigan has played?
5. Michigan just needs to wipe this from its memory.
But, ultimately, this result means little for Michigan in the long run other than the Buckeyes now hold bragging rights. Let's not play games. Even though Michigan was in a tie for first place before last night, this Wolverines team was not competing for a Big Ten championship. Michigan's main goal is to earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. And, at this moment, that goal is a lofty one. A loss on the road to Ohio State was expected, even if the score and manner in which the game was played were not, and doesn't affect Michigan's NCAA Tournament hopes. The Wolverines were playing with house money. If they won, they would have added a signature win to their resume that would help polish some glaring blemishes. If they lost, nothing changed. This is still a team that likely needs 10 to 11 Big Ten wins to earn an at-large bid. Whether Michigan gets to that threshold will be determined by how many tossup games Michigan wins, not by whether Michigan wins a majority of its road games against top-25-esque opponents.
So what Michigan must do is burn the film and wipe this result from its memory. The blowout loss is done. It's over. It doesn't matter anymore. But what does matter is Michigan's upcoming home meeting with Northwestern. This is considered one of Michigan's easiest remaining regular-season games and not one Michigan can afford to lose after suffering home losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan. So Michigan needs to be ready to play on Saturday and can't allow Ohio State to beat them two games in a row.
Otherwise, Michigan can all but kiss its NCAA Tournament hopes goodbye.