No Walton or LeVert, no problem! Which of the "next men up" impressed the most this time around? This will likely be the narrative the rest of the season: guys filling the void, but a mystery as to who it will be game-by-game.
Drew: Aubrey Dawkins, though Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Max Bielfeldt made strong challenges for the honor. While Abdur-Rahkman inflicted most of his damage in transition and Bielfeldt hauled in his nine boards against a poor rebounding team in Nebraska, Dawkins was the only reason Michigan's offense stayed afloat in the first half. Dawkins drained 5-of-6 shots, including all three triples, for 13 points in the opening 20 minutes, whereas every other Wolverine on the floor combined for 4-of-16 shooting and only 10 points. He also added a new shot to his repertoire: the elbow jumper off of a curl cut. Game by game, he improves a bit more, and, if it wasn't for Dawkins' first half, the second half could have been a much different story for Michigan.
John: Dawkins looked pretty good in the first half against the Huskers but I would have liked to have seen him do a little more in the second. As such, I'll give the honor to one Max "Moose" Bielfeldt whose mighty calves carried him to within a rebound of a double-double. If Moose can be the consistent veteran up front for when Ricky Doyle is ineffective or Donnal has a cold, Michigan will benefit.
Kevin: Bielfeldt did the most with his minutes on both ends of the court, but I was impressed with MAAR's speed to create turnovers and quick baskets. He had four rebounds, shot 50% from the floor. That breakaway layup in the second half was a pretty, Burke-esque bucket.
How in the world did Michigan shut down Terran Petteway? He took plenty of shots, but hardly any dropped. 1-3-1 defense or guards Nebraska wasn't prepared for?
Drew: Michigan shut down Terran Petteway (seven points, 1-of-11 FG) because U-M ran zone defense and let Petteway be Petteway. You see, Petteway is the Kobe Bryant of the Big Ten. He loves to shoot the ball -- a lot! -- but his shot selection can be appalling. So, with Michigan in its 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones often, Petteway settled for midrange jumpers rather than attack the rim -- only one of his 11 shots was within five feet of the rim. While Petteway is capable of knocking down those jumpers, he doesn't make them at a high percentage, and Michigan was just fortunate that he was ice cold from the field.
John: You know how with a John Beilein team you know you're gonna win 3 games a year when the whole team is lights out and lose a game a year when they can't hit anything? So Nebraska is the same way except it all depends on Petteway. Obviously Michigan had a great game defensively, Spike was especially pesky down the stretch, but when a guy like Petteway is 1-11 from the field there's something else going on. Tim Miles said the team laughed when they heard Walton was out, assuming they would win. Maybe Petteway thought he could just take the night off.
Traveling to East Lansing on Super Sunday. What does Beilein have up his sleeve for his lineup and for how to stick with a physical team in a hostile building?
Drew: Michigan should abandon its recent strategy of switching up its 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone defenses and stick to man-to-man against Michigan State. Though Michigan's 2-3 zone would tempt the Spartans to fire more three-pointers, which are shots MSU hasn't made nearly as often in Big Ten play as it did against non-conference competition, it could also weaken its defensive rebounding, which needs to be Michigan's top priority against Michigan State. Rebounding is the only thing the Spartans have done extremely well on the offensive end of the floor in conference play. They have the second-best rate in the Big Ten (36.4 pct.) because Branden Dawson, Gavin Schilling, and Matt Costello are monsters on the offensive glass. But Dawson is the power forward at 6-foot-6, and Schilling and Costello will rotate at center, meaning Michigan has the size to matchup with them and box them out effectively as long as Zak Irvin puts as much effort into rebounding as he did against Nebraska on Tuesday (12 rebounds). If the Wolverines do this, they should be able to stifle MSU's offense enough to give their offense, which will struggle to score at the rim, an opportunity to earn an upset victory in a hostile venue.
Of course, this is under the assumption that Ricky Doyle and Max Bielfeldt can guard Schilling and Costello in the post and Irvin can stick with Dawson. This may not be a reasonable assumption. If Michigan allows a few easy looks down low in man early, the Wolverines should revert to their rotating zone defenses, force Michigan State to shoot (and hopefully miss) from deep, and make a concerted effort to box out on the rebound.
John: Drew knows a lot more about basketball strategy than me so I'm just gonna say that Beilein should give Spike and Irvin whatever he gave Stu and Zack four years ago. I think we'll see a return of #TitleGameSpike and it won't matter how physical the boys in green get.
Last chance to talk about any kind of football for many months. Seahawks or Patriots? Which former Wolverine will make a game-deciding play?
Drew: I think the Seahawks will win, but I'll be pulling for "Touchdown" Tom Brady to acquire his fourth Super Bowl championship ring in his sixth Super Bowl start -- six more than every former Ohio State quarterback combined! -- and further cement his already-illustrious legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Kevin: I'm leaning Patriots not solely because of their veteran players, but also because it'll be a hilarious sight to see which NFL pundit questions whether they cheated to win first. It's also slightly more enjoyable to watch Pete Carroll lose than it is to watch Belichick lose. If you don't think Brady has been stewing about losing to Eli Manning since 2012, you shouldn't be watching the game on Sunday. Here's hoping for an Alan Branch QB smush too!
John: The Patriots will win and I have 100 reasons why. #1 Tom Brady is 3-0 in the Super Bowl against teams not from New Jersey. #2 Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time. #3-100 Gronk. Just Gronk.