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Column: Looking at shot charts, there’s a lot to like about Michigan’s offense

The Wolverines have gotten off to a hot shooting start.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis Fifth Place-Michigan at Texas Tech Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines kicked off the 2023-24 season with a 99-74 win over UNC Asheville, scoring more points than they did in a single game all of last season.

The Wolverines provided us with a preview of their exciting new offense, which uses their versatile personnel to push the pace, while utilizing different types of ball movement to create open shots.

“Playing with each other, I feel like everybody is playing on a string,” forward Olivier Nkamhoua said after the win. “We’re moving the ball, trusting each other, there’s nobody that the ball is sticking to in an unnatural way. As much as we’re still trying to figure each other out and figuring ourselves out in this system, we’re all still trusting each other. We have to have each other’s back, and being on a string on both ends of the floor has been great for us.”

The Wolverines have gone 3-3 since that hot start. While they did earn an impressive win over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, they have a few embarrassing losses, including losing to mid-major Long Beach State at home, and looking like they completely gave up against Texas Tech in their final game in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

This Michigan team needs to get better defensively, and better late in games, to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament two seasons in a row. But in a small seven-game sample size, it has been solid on the offensive end.

The Wolverines average 81.9 points per game (59th in the country, third in the Big Ten behind Iowa and Purdue) and as a team, they have made 37.5 percent of their threes (56th in the country, third in the Big Ten behind Purdue and Ohio State).

They’re even better when you look at advanced statistics. In Adjusted Offensive Efficiency on KenPom (points scored per 100 possessions adjusted for opponent), the Wolverines are at 115.2 points per game, which is 27th in the country and fifth among Big Ten teams.

Let’s take a look at shot charts for half a dozen key players through seven games.

Shot charts of Terrance Williams, Dug McDaniel, Olivier Nkamhoua, Nimari Burnett, Tarris Reed Jr., Will Tschetter (courtesy of CBB Analytics)

It’s important to reiterate this is a relatively small sample size of seven games, but there’s a lot to like about these charts. A few quick observations:

-One of the biggest positive takeaways from this season so far is the transformation of Terrance Williams II. With his new jump shot, his three-point percentage has increased from 25 percent last season to 38.9 percent this season. He’s thrived in transition, and looking at his shot chart, he loves the left wing. He has also been solid shooting from the top of the key and around the left elbow.

If Williams keeps producing at the 11.3 points per game average he’s currently at, he could become the reliable third scorer Michigan has been missing the past two seasons.

-While he’s been fairly average around the rim, Dug McDaniel has been pretty effective from everywhere else, especially the corners and along the left baseline. Michigan has wanted to play at a quicker pace, and having McDaniel at the wheel has helped them do that.

-Nkamhoua also excels along the left baseline, but hasn’t been incredibly efficient anywhere else. Still, he leads all Michigan starters in three-point field goal percentage (40.9 percent on 22 attempts) and he’s worked well with McDaniel so far this season.

-Nimari Burnett has been the streakiest player, but after he makes a few shots in a row, watch out. He’s been his most efficient on the right side of the floor, where a lot of his points came in that 21-point outburst he had in the first half against St. John’s. Michigan should run more actions for him toward that side of the floor, especially with how hot he can get in a hurry.

-Tarris Reed Jr. obviously doesn’t shoot much from outside. He takes the majority of his shots around the rim, and while he’s been slightly above average there (18-of-27, 66.7 percent), Michigan would ideally want him to be making closer to 80 percent of his lay-ups.

-Wow, Will Tschetter has been on fire. His sample size is the smallest, but he’s been firing on all cylinders, especially from beyond the three-point line. While he struggled offensively as a starter late last season, coming off the bench as a spark plug may be the perfect role for him.

As a team, Michigan has been pretty solid offensively; credit to assistant coach Howard Eisley, who serves as U-M’s offensive coordinator, and the coaching staff for switching up the offensive game plan to highlight the strengths of this versatile group.

Being unable to consistently get stops has been Michigan’s Achilles Heel this season, and turnovers are always going to be a concern when playing with a quicker pace. The Wolverines are far from perfect, but they are off to an efficient start offensively. Let’s hope that hot start carries into Big Ten play.