It took almost all 40 minutes, but the Michigan Wolverines came out on top in the Motor City, defeating the Eastern Michigan Eagles 88-83.
The Eagles are certainly no slouches between Emoni Bates and Noah Farrakhan, but it’s clear the Wolverines have a lot to learn before the season shifts to a higher gear.
Here are some of the most prominent takeaways:
The defense needs a lot of work
With all credit due to Ferris State and Purdue Fort Wayne, this was Michigan’s first test against players at their level. It feels strange to be saying that about a MAC team that finished with 20+ losses last season, but the ball doesn’t lie — Emoni Bates is a very, very special player and Noah Farrakhan is no slouch either.
That being said, the results of the aforementioned test were shaky, to say the least. It’s true the Wolverines made some pretty significant second-half adjustments, but a large part of that was Eastern Michigan getting into a significant amount of foul trouble as the game neared it’s end. Against a team both skilled and highly disciplined, this year’s Michigan squad may be in some trouble.
Free throws, free throws, free throws
The last time Michigan had notable struggles at the charity stripe, it was one game away from the National Championship. But this isn’t that team.
All told, the Wolverines left a stunning 15 points off the board due to their free throw troubles. With the final score being what it was, making even half of those would’ve changed the perception of this game on its head.
Michigan can’t be dragged into a mudfight
A major reason this game played out the way it did can be chalked up into one word — chippiness. The Eagles lured Michigan into a physical game, and the Wolverines took the bait.
With so much of the team’s makeup either slightly undersized or very young, those kinds of physical slugfests are just simply not in the Wolverines’ wheelhouse — especially this early into the season.
Hunter Dickinson is th heartbeat of this team
With 31 points, an almost 80% clip from the field, and a presence on defense that won’t be recorded on the statline, but felt in a seismic way especially deep into the game, Hunter Dickinson is clearly this team’s anchor. Curiously, the impact he had on the game probably wasn’t most felt when he was in it; the near six-minute stretch he was off the court in the first half gave Eastern Michigan a momentum they carried even through halftime.
Jett Howard, for all his skill, is still a freshman
There’s no question Jett Howard is gonna be a key factor in the success of Michigan basketball, but after Friday let’s pump the breaks on calling him the guy just yet. Finishing with 9 points, a third of which from free throws, Howard had more moments of learning than moments of brilliance in this game.