It was bound to happen eventually.
Seton Hall handed the Michigan Wolverines their first loss of the season Tuesday evening, as the Wolverines fall to 2-1 after the two-point loss. Seton Hall needs big wins like this to get into the NCAA Tournament, as it is among the first four teams on the outside looking in according to bracketologist Joe Lunardi.
Michigan went through a few scoring droughts and had a few crucial defensive lapses down the stretch.
Here are a few takeaways from the loss.
Eli Brooks really is that dude
When the Wolverines needed a basket, Brooks got it for them, pouring in 17 points while hitting several key shots down the stretch.
The senior guard helped create a lot of Michigan’s baskets as well, whether it be working a lethal pick-and-roll game with Hunter Dickinson (18 points, nine boards, 8-11 shooting) or finding DeVante’ Jones for slashing and kicking.
The Michigan offense went from the 13:59 minute mark to the 8:06 mark of the first half without a basket, and Brooks was able to get them some key buckets to end that stretch. He was also able to consistently knock down midrange jumpers down the stretch, and never looked afraid in a close game. As our Matt Eifert covered, he can be a leader for this young squad.
Dickinson is Michigan’s main source of points on offense, but it’s nice to have Brooks as a calming presence who can get a bucket when called upon.
Defense was good, not great
Michigan looked good defensively in that first half, living up to their KenPom rating as the second-best adjusted defense in college basketball, rotating well and guarding the basket well. The Wolverines forced Seton Hall to take a lot of tough shots; the Pirates just made quite a bit of them, even with a hand in their face.
As a Michigan fan, you love to see the active hands from Brooks, Jones and Kobe Bufkin, all of whom were able to force steals thanks to aggressive on-ball defense.
Juwan Howard was not pleased with his squad’s defense at points in the game, as Seton Hall shot 11 free throws down the stretch, nine if you take out the two from intentional fouling. The newly-extended Howard told reporters after the game he wants to see his guys play with more discipline on defense and execute for the entire 40 minutes.
“There were a lot of mistakes made defensively throughout 40 minutes of play,” Howard said. “It was not just down the stretch.”
Michigan has all the pieces to be a great defensive team thanks to its length, defensive savvy and ability to rotate seamlessly. It just may take some time to put it all together.
Michigan looked sloppy offensively, and could use a tertiary scorer
Aside from Dickinson, Brooks, and Jones getting some buckets thanks to his quick first step, the Michigan offense looked ugly for most of this game. You could see Howard was livid about the turnovers, as most of their 11 turnovers came at crucial points in the second half.
The phrase “live by the three, die by the three” is used too much in college basketball coverage, but the Wolverines can’t expect to win any game if their first made three comes nearly halfway through the second half. But Howard mentioned he was happy with the team’s shot selection, and missing their first 11 threes didn’t prevent them from climbing to an 11-point lead five minutes into the second half.
Dickinson is going to get his buckets in the post, and Brooks is a good enough scorer to be relied upon when needed, but Michigan could use a third go-to scorer who can play off the duo and get a basket when the Wolverines desperately need it.
Jones could be that guy, especially if he gets going with a few transition buckets. He had a double-double (11 points and a team-leading 12 rebounds), used his quick foot speed to score at the rim and made a huge corner three after the last media timeout.
That third scorer could also be Caleb Houstan, who struggled to score on 1-9 shooting and went 0-4 from deep. He seemed to check out at times offensively after missing his first few shots, which hopefully isn’t a repeated pattern for the talented young shooter.
We can’t rule out Terrance Williams or Moussa Diabate eventually developing into that guy, too. And while it is a very small sample, Bufkin has made some flashy plays to get to the rim and could be called upon more as the year goes along.
As teams focus most of their game plan around Dickinson and Brooks, someone else needs to step up offensively to help the offense become more balanced and less predictable.
Michigan can’t expect to shoot 20% from three every game, but I’d like to see the Wolverines run more off-ball action and perhaps a few more sets with that and showcase Dickinson’s abilities as a passer to help the half-court offense not look so stagnant.