Following the Michigan Wolverines’ 67-65 defeat to Seton Hall Tuesday evening, it’s easy to nitpick what went wrong. A missed free throw here, bad three-point defense there, and an inability to hit the three ball all contributed to a deflating night in Ann Arbor. But all is most certainly not lost.
This is the most youthful team we have seen in a while in Ann Arbor, especially during Juwan Howard’s tenure, and growing pains were bound to happen. Several moving screens by Moussa Diabate and poor perimeter defense by Caleb Houstan proved costly on Tuesday. However, Howard has veteran leadership in place to lead this team in the form of Eli Brooks.
The senior leader has gone from a bench afterthought to a star at Michigan in just a few years. Last year, he quietly led the Wolverines and provided a steadying presence on the court. Brooks will need to rally the troops and slow the game down for the freshmen, especially Kobe Bufkin and Caleb Houstan, who have both flashed potential but struggled to provide any sort of consistency or late-game effectiveness. This will come with time, but that timeline can be accelerated with enough veteran leadership.
We know what Brooks can provide himself on the floor: a lethal mid-range game and floater, along with lock-down perimeter defense against smaller guards. His intangibles and ability to bring the rest of the team up to his level will determine how far the Wolverines go this year in Big Ten play.
And make no mistake about it, Seton Hall is a very good team. They were ranked No. 33 by Kenpom coming into the game and No. 30 after all was said and done. I would not be surprised to see them ranked in the AP Poll come next week. They hit the shots that they needed to down the stretch to come back against the Wolverines. This will not go down as a bad loss for Michigan, but a learning experience for the young guys and an opportunity for Brooks to rally the troops and guide them along the rest of the way.
Next up for Michigan is a trip to Las Vegas to play UNLV on Friday night/Saturday morning at...12:30 a.m. Eastern time. NCAA scheduling continues to be an absolute nightmare.