In the Battle of the Beileins, John's Michigan cruised to a 74-52 win over Patrick's Le Moyne in what was a drama-free exhibition -- as they all should be. There's not much to take away from an exhibition like this. Le Moyne is a middle-of-the-pack Division II program whose tallest player stands at 6-foot-6. Conversely, Michigan is a Division I program slotted somewhere in most experts' top-25 rankings.
This never was going to be competitive.
Nonetheless, I will be listing my five key takeaways after each game this season, so I might as well do it for this exhibition. Plus, there were a few things that stood out.
1. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Looked Smooth in Their Return
Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton spent the summer rehabbing and recovering from their foot and toe injuries, respectively, and this was the public's first opportunity to see if each had returned to full strength. It's only one exhibition, but both looked like their former selves, which is something Michigan needs for this team to succeed this season.
LeVert led all scorers with 22 points on 9-of-17 (4-of-9 3P) shooting and took over the game for a five-minute stretch early in the second half, during which he tallied 11 points. Not only did LeVert's outside shot look smooth, he created some of his own chances when the offense sputtered late in the shot clock. LeVert struggled with this last season, so it was nice to see him do it tonight -- even if it was against only a D-II foe. Also, LeVert added four boards, three assists, and two steals. He knows how to stuff the stat sheet.
Walton's impact on the exhibition wasn't as noticeable, but that was because he did an excellent job at picking his spots in the 20 minutes he played. He delivered on a step-back pull-up jumper late in the shot clock, he burst through five Le Moyne defenders in transition before finishing strong with a scoop layup at the rim, and he knocked down his only three. These were the type of plays that Walton made before he sprained his toe against Villanova. And the stat line he posted on Friday resembled that, too: 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting with four rebounds and two assists. That's a promising sign for Michigan.
The third Wolverine recovering from a serious injury that competed on Friday was Spike Albrecht, who had two hip surgeries in the offseason. Before the exhibition, John Beilein said that Albrecht isn't where he wants to be at this point. It was hard to tell one way or the other in the 20 minutes that he played. One of his first offensive possessions saw him swerve through the paint with the ball in his hands, looking for an open teammate on the perimeter, like he did much of last season. However, other than that, I didn't notice Albrecht much, which is fine. My guess is he'll be closer to 100 percent in a few weeks.
2. Duncan Robinson: Yes, He Can Shoot, But That's About It
We've heard all the stories about Duncan Robinson shattering Nik Stauskas' practice shooting records, so it was time to discover if it was truth or myth. Well, it was truth. Robinson poured in three of the six triples that he fired en route to a 15-point effort. He doesn't have the quick release that Stauskas possesses, which aided Stauskas in his ability to launch threes off the dribble, but, as a catch-and-shoot sniper, he won't miss often this season. Defenses will have a tough decision to make when Robinson is on the perimeter: stay with Robinson or help down on the penetrating Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, or Zak Irvin. If those defenders decide to collapse, Michigan will put three on the board.
However, don't expect much else from Robinson. Though he did have a few lay-ins thanks to some great off-ball dives to the rim, those won't be as effective against Big Ten defenses. Robinson seems to be a bit flat-footed and doesn't have that quick step or sudden first jump. This will make it tough for him to score around the rim. This also will make it tough to defend shifty guards on the perimeter, and we saw him have some trouble staying in front of Le Moyne's undersized guards, allowing layups in the process.
But Michigan will live with it because he's too good of a shooter to keep on the bench.
3. Michigan's Big Men Didn't Stand Out Much
I was curious as to how Michigan's big men would perform because Le Moyne's largest player is 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, but no one really stood out. Mark Donnal earned the start at center and had six points and five rebounds. However, Donnal didn't seem like Michigan's best big. Both of his misses were open layups against defenders three inches shorter than him, and he picked up three fouls in 17 minutes. That's not what you want to see from Donnal given that he was stapled to the bench last year because he couldn't muscle through contact at the rim and committed too many fouls on the block. Ricky Doyle looked like his usual self, finishing a turnaround lay-up and grabbing five boards.
We also got our first look at D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner. Wilson played exclusively at the 4 in the exhibition, but I think he'll be better suited at the 5 once Zak Irvin returns. Wilson wasn't shy jacking up shots from the perimeter, but he didn't look comfortable when he did so, missing all four of his threes. On the other hand, his length and motor make him an asset around the basket on both ends, and he did knock down a turnaround 15-footer. Wagner looked like how you would expect a true freshman to look. He had some bright moments -- like when he drilled a three -- and some rough ones -- poor screens, one which led to an offensive foul. I still think a redshirt would do him wonders.
4. Michigan's Offense Was Stagnant, But That Was Expected
Michigan's offense had a slow start, scoring just six points in its first 10 possessions, and endured stretches were points were scarce against an undersized Le Moyne defense. But this was expected. Michigan wasn't at full strength with Zak Irvin on the sidelines as he still recovers from his back surgery, and John Beilein was throwing out a bunch of different lineups to get his players' feet wet -- all 11 available scholarship players received at least 11 minutes of time -- and experiment with the rotations. Thus, players in certain lineups won't have the same chemistry right now as they will later in the season once the rotation is cemented. I think this is why Michigan's offense often broke down into ISOs and other off-ball stuff. Nonetheless, Michigan still finished with 1.25 points per trip, and that would have been much higher if Michigan didn't clank open threes in the first half.
5. Reduced Shot Clock Didn't Speed Up the Game But Had an Impact
The NCAA has reduced the number of seconds on the shot clock from 35 to 30 this season. Many argued that this was done to increase the number of possessions in a game, which, in turn, would up the scoring. However, at least in this exhibition, it did not have that effect. Michigan and Le Moyne played a slow 59-possession game even with the 30-second shot clock. This wasn't too much of a surprise since both Beileins run similar offenses, even calling the same plays, that like to slow it down and cut into the shot clock.
But I do think the reduced shot clock had an impact on Michigan's offense. With five fewer seconds, there's not as much time to run a set all the way through before a player must start thinking about an ISO. Those five seconds may not seem like much, but I think it's one of the reasons why Michigan's offense looked out of sync, particularly early on.
It'll be something on which to keep an eye this season.