Welp, that was infuriating.
In a game that wasn’t even televised, Michigan lost to Central Michigan, 63-61.
It’s not like CMU is supposed to be some sort of juggernaut in the MAC either. With a 4-8 record entering the game, the Chippewas were toward the bottom of the MAC. This was CMU’s first road win of the season. They have faced two schools that Michigan beat earlier in the year, losing to Minnesota by eight and beating Purdue Northwest by seven.
Michigan needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror after this stinker of a performance. The Wolverines lacked urgency and couldn’t score at all, their defense was lethargic, and they couldn’t figure out how to beat the most common zone in the sport of basketball.
Here are some takeaways from what has to be the most embarrassing loss of Juwan Howard’s tenure.
Michigan plays up, and down, to the competition
This is such a bizarre basketball team, and it struggles with something that many young teams struggle with.
They have no problem getting up for big games, as they had close losses to Virginia, Kentucky and UNC earlier in the year. At the same time, they never seem to play with much energy when they face an opponent that they are supposed to blow out.
We saw it against Ohio, we saw it against Lipscomb, and we saw it again tonight. This team plays up and down to their competition, which makes for a frustrating experience for Michigan fans. They play with no energy, they have way too many scoreless stretches, and they play with whatever the opposite of intensity is on defense.
Simply put, the Wolverines can’t afford to look this lethargic on both ends of the floor with Big Ten play ramping back up next week.
The Wolverines HAVE to rebound better
Michigan got outrebounded by double digits in this one, 44-32. There’s no sugar coating it, that’s disgusting.
Getting outrebounded should never happen for a team with an All-American center, but they’ve had issues on the boards all year long. Central simply wanted it more, which is inexcusable.
Thank God for Kobe Bufkin
If we’re being honest, Bufkin was really the only Michigan player you could say played well on offense in this one. He led the Wolverines with 16 points and made a lot of tough shots in the second half to keep fighting.
If Bufkin wasn’t in this game, Michigan very well could have lost by 10. He was the only Wolverine who seemed to play with any sense of urgency. He’s improved dramatically as a scorer this year, but the team as a whole is way too inconsistent on offense for that to matter.
A game of zones
This is as much on the coaching staff as it is on the players. Central Michigan played a 2-3 zone — the most basic zone in the sport — for the majority of the game and the Wolverines didn’t have a solution for it.
It didn’t smother the Wolverines by any means, but they tried to shoot themselves out of the zone and forced a lot of deep threes, doing exactly what the Chippewas wanted them to do. Way too many possessions, especially in the second half, ended with the Wolverines missing a three.
Inconsistent college basketball teams live and die by the three, and this Michigan team that went 6-of-22 (27.3%) is as inconsistent as they come.
The Wolverines needed to be more creative with creating offense. They settled with way too many deep threes, and needed more guys to cut and move off the ball.
They didn’t put somebody like Dickinson, a good passer, in the middle of the zone to create openings. They didn’t move the ball much. They just jacked up threes, and they only made two of their 12 attempts in the second half.
High school teams with competent point guards can beat a 2-3 zone, and Michigan somehow couldn’t. That’s a coaching issue, and the Wolverines can’t let a zone beat them again.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Wolverines from here. In the next 10 days, they have matchups with Maryland (Jan. 1), Penn State (Jan. 4) and Michigan State (Jan. 7).
If Michigan played like it did in the first half of this one, it could lose all three of those games handling. Something needs to change between now and then, or we’re in for a long season.