On Saturday, Michigan got another guaranteed win under its belt with a game against Houston Baptist that was a little too close for comfort in the first half before it became an 82-57 laugher in the second. My five takeaways:
1. Houston Baptist Is Bad.
Houston Baptist just isn't anywhere near the level where Michigan is. In the opening minutes, the Huskies threw an errant pass into the crowd and fumbled an uncontested defensive rebound out of bounds as the Wolverines leapt out to an 11-0 lead. It did get somewhat interesting later in the first half when Houston Baptist closed the gap to two points by draining their first four shots from downtown despite being 315th in three-point shooting. But the Huskies cooled off, made less than 40 percent of their twos, and turned over the basketball on almost one-quarter of their possessions. Simply, they never had a chance, and this was nothing more than a glorified scrimmage for Michigan.
Accordingly, it's hard to take much away from this game.
2. No Surprise: Derrick Walton Sat This One Out.
This was expected. Derrick Walton sprained his left ankle against North Carolina State, and, because Saturday was not going to be more than a glorified scrimmage and Michigan takes on SMU, who's #24 on KenPom, on Tuesday, there was no need to push Walton. The hope is that Walton will be able to go against the Mustangs, but that's uncertain:
Beilein asked what Walton's status is: "He didn't play today." (He's day-to-day)— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) December 5, 2015
Walton would contribute in many areas if he plays tomorrow, but where Michigan may need him the most is on the glass. He's been the Wolverines' best defensive rebounder (20.2 DR%), and SMU is sixth in offensive rebounding rate (42.2 pct.) in the nation. Caris LeVert has stepped up in this regard in Walton's absence, pulling down 16 defensive boards in the past two games, but Michigan's asking LeVert to do everything right now. I'm sure Michigan would like to take a bit off of LeVert's plate, and Walton would help.
3. We Saw a Flash of Vintage Spike Albrecht. It Was Fun.
Remember when Spike Albrecht did this last season?
Well, we haven't seen much of Albrecht this season -- he's averaging 8.8 MPG -- as he recovers from two offseason hip surgeries, and, when we have, we haven't seen the dazzling Albrecht who looked like an upper-tier Big Ten point guard at the end of last year. He's looked slow and uncomfortable on the floor, and John Beilein even noted before the North Carolina State game that he wanted to rest Albrecht for the month of December so Albrecht could heal before Big Ten play. Of course, not even a half passed before Derrick Walton hurt his ankle and forced Beilein to scrap that plan. Albrecht earned 12 minutes against Houston Baptist and tapped into his vintage self with this play:
You do you, Spike. pic.twitter.com/kzQeW93BxQ— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) December 5, 2015
Albrecht had three other assists and dove after a loose ball in his limited time out there.
I hope Albrecht will have the chance to fully recover and be 100 percent. He's so much fun to watch when he has the ball in his hands. His ability to create shots for his teammates while taking care of the basketball -- he has 11 assists to one turnover this season after posting a 3:1 assist-to-turnover rate last year -- is masterful. Plus, he has a knack for hitting big shots in big situations. We forget how important of a piece that he can be for this team when he's healthy because we've seen so little of him. Michigan wishes that it could play Albrecht more right now with Walton hurting, but Albrecht isn't all the way back yet. However, it was nice to see Albrecht still can show off the pizzazz.
4. Duncan Robinson vs. Aubrey Dawkins.
Behind Caris LeVert's 25 points, Duncan Robinson (19) and Aubrey Dawkins (16) were Michigan's second- and third-leading scorers against Houston Baptist, respectively. Dawkins may be the starter, but Robinson earned more minutes on the floor (25 to Dawkins' 20). In fact, Robinson is averaging more minutes per game than Dawkins (22.0 to 21.1), and I wouldn't be surprised if Robinson continues to cut into Dawkins' time. Both players are threats from the three-point line, but Robinson is a machine. He's made 59.5 percent of his threes, including 14-of-21 (66.7 pct.) in his last three games, and owns the third-best offensive rating (155.5) in the country. Dawkins' three-point percentage (47.8 pct.) is nothing to scoff at, but he's disappeared against Michigan's top-100 opponents, averaging only 5.3 PPG and not posting an offensive rating higher than 100 against Xavier, UConn, Texas, or North Carolina State. Further, Robinson has been much better dishing the ball to teammates for assists -- he really likes the backdoor bounce pass -- and not turning it over. He's been the better wing for Michigan's offense so far.
However, how the minutes will be distributed may be determined on the other end:
Robinson & Dawkins combined for 35 points today, but Beilein said whichever one of them masters defense first gets more minutes in future.— Zach Shaw (@_ZachShaw) December 5, 2015
5. Speaking of Wings, Kam Chatman ...
It's not happening. Kam Chatman has played a grand total of 11 minutes in Michigan's last three games and no more than five minutes in four of Michigan's last five games. He earned only four minutes in the 25-point blowout win over Houston Baptist. While some of that can be blamed on the three fouls he picked up in such a short period, it's still pretty telling. I'm not going to say that Chatman is a bad player because there are some things that he does well. He's a very good defensive rebounder and has great vision with the ball in his hands, and, in another system, he could be a nice piece. But, ultimately, his inability to shoot the ball from the outside kills Michigan's spacing on offense, and he's a foul magnet on the other end (7.7 fouls committed per 40 minutes). I just don't see how Chatman will crack this rotation when Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin, Aubrey Dawkins, and Duncan Robinson are in front of him, and it's getting to a point where I'm starting to wonder if the former top-30 recruit will begin to search for a new home after this season.