The Michigan Wolverines basketball team got blown out by the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday. No one could slow down Cassius Winston as the Spartan point guard dropped 32 points and 9 assists, and he made it look easy.
Right now, that’s the difference between a good team like Michigan and a great team like MSU. No one wearing the Maize and Blue this year has shown they can have the kind of performance Winston had against legitimate competition, and the only player that has that potential is the injured Isaiah Livers.
With the offensive star being out, someone else has to step up consistently to make up for the scoring output that will be missed while Livers. There was hope Eli Brooks could be that guy, but there are times he disappears.
When he scored 24 points against North Carolina, it seemed like Brooks was going to be the go-to guy. Then in the following weeks, he went 2-for-17 with a combined 6 points against No. 1 Louisville, No. 10 Oregon and No. 14 Michigan State.
Then there is Jon Teske, but he is every team’s focal point on defense. You can tell in every game the opponent’s goal is slowing down the big man. Every time he gets the ball in the paint, the defense usually double-teams him. If not, he dominates the one-on-one’s.
Whether it be a great post move or a slick hook shot, Teske is the focus of Juwan Howard’s offense. But, since everyone knows that, it’s tough for him to have big offensive explosions. Nonetheless, he is one of the steadiest players on the team, and you know what you are going to get out of him every game.
Zavier Simpson is also exactly that kind of player. He’s going to go out and get you around double-digit points, rebounds and assists and be an anchor on defense. But he isn’t ever going to be a guy that racks up points.
Along those same lines, Franz Wagner has not quite earned his wings yet in college. Wagner was supposed to be a sharpshooter, but has only shot 33 percent from deep this season. He averages 8.4 points per game and could be a legitimate candidate for some quality offensive outputs if he can perform better as he continues to grow into his role. His defense, however, is a completely different story.
Let’s be honest, there is no one on the bench with enough experience or confidence to enter the starting lineup and routinely be the No. 1 scorer on this team. Brandon Johns Jr. is probably the closest to doing it, and has played well in Livers’ absence. He, Colin Castleton (who has taken a step back so far this season) and David DeJulius all have the potential to be that guys in the coming years. But this season, realistically it has to come from one of the aforementioned players.
I really don’t think anyone outside of Livers can be that guy, and the Wolverines will likely struggle through the Big Ten until he comes back or someone proves me wrong. I’m extremely hopeful this issue will not be around for long with the star-studded recruits Howard has nabbed so far, and with the class of 2018 that will be juniors next season. For now, Wolverines fans will have to rely on patience and have to swallow a bit of pride as the team continues to play without their best player.