The Michigan Wolverines have not been the same team since they returned from the Bahamas from the Battle for Atlantis back in November. Since then, Michigan has lost six of its last 10 games. The biggest reason for that? Some of the worst big man defense in college basketball.
Big men have had some incredible games against the Wolverines over the past four games. A combination of Luka Garza (Iowa), Daniel Oturu (Minnesota), Trevion Williams (Purdue) and Xavier Tillman (Michigan State) have scored 119 points against Michigan over the last four games, an average of 29.75 points per game on a 72 percent conversion rate (54-of-75).
Michigan is 1-3 in those games — the only win being at home against Purdue in double-overtime.
With that kind of output from any individual player, the Wolverines will not win many games. If that doesn’t send sirens screaming in every fan’s ear, I don’t know what will. It’s obvious this is the way to beat the Wolverines right now, because they have had no answer for it.
The most shocking part of all this is Jon Teske was one of the best defenders in the Big Ten last season, but for whatever reason he has been abysmal in one-on-one matchups in the post this year. Time and time again he is either being fooled in the paint or doesn’t have the foot speed to keep up with guys heading to the rim.
The pinnacle of that was against Iowa this past Friday. Not only did Garza have a career night against Teske, giving him fits both inside the key and beyond the three-point line, but they rotated Ryan Kriener off the bench who had 14 points of his own in 22 minutes.
Juwan Howard realized the problem, so Austin Davis and Teske spent some time on the floor together. Still, Iowa was able to convert from inside the key with its big men.
One game is an anomaly, but when you get owned in the paint for three straight games — and arguably four if you include Tillman at Michigan State — it becomes common knowledge.
For the first time in his head coaching career, Howard has to make some game-breaking changes in his coaching philosophy. If he is not careful, the Wolverines will not even sniff the top of the conference.
If they can’t find a solution, matters will only get worse. This schedule is not going to get any easier, especially considering nearly every member of the Big Ten has a star forward who could continue to cause similar issues.
This is the best the Big Ten has looked in a long time. There are legitimately 12 teams that could compete for the top team in the conference. If Michigan wants to be one of those teams, Howard and his players have to sort out this detrimental issue of defending the post.