It's hard to describe Michigan's season in one succinct sentence. At times Michigan's guard-oriented offense has been crisp, with Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin leading the scoring while Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht playing the role of "quarterback" and maintaining order. Other nights, like Saturday against Purdue, the team resembles a chicken with its head cut off. Despite the erratic play, Michigan still has a fighting chance at making the NCAA tournament.
On Tuesday night, Michigan played a very good Penn State team led by D.J. Newbill. For a team that generally commits very few turnovers, Michigan had 15. Despite being sloppy with the ball, the Wolverines shot the ball exceptionally well from the field. They were 53% overall, including an absurd 9-15 (60%) from 3 and were able to pull off the 73-64 victory.
This is both a good and bad sign for Michigan fans. On the one hand, it is great to see a team bail themselves out by shooting phenomenally well. LeVert was sensational in the final few minutes of the game, hitting nifty mid-range jumpers and becoming nearly impossible to guard. But the defense overall needs to improve, and Michigan has a ton of other areas that need to be addressed.
Big Men: You can point to Ricky Doyle's strong game and say its clear that Doyle is miles ahead of both Mark Donnal and Max Bielfeldt. Donnal only played one minute, and Bielfeldt only played 7. The frightening thing for Michigan fans is that Doyle is going to need someone else to play at least 10-15 a game if he gets into foul trouble. As of now, Michigan doesn't have that.
Aubrey Dawkins: Can John Beilein play him for extended stretches or is Dawkins still too inconsistent to earn big minutes? This is another question that will need to be addressed, especially with Kameron Chatman playing a significantly smaller role. Chatman only played 6 minutes while Dawkins played 16. At this point, neither player deserves to be in the starting lineup. It will likely be a game-by-game decision as to who is earning more minutes.
Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin: LeVert and Irvin were in a bit of a slump by their standards, especially as the two best scorers on Michigan's roster. But on Tuesday night, the combo was absolutely spectacular. LeVert was 6-8 to finish with 18 points and 4 rebounds, and Irvin was arguably better, going 6-9 to finish with 19 points and a season high 9 rebounds. These two will be crucial for Michigan all year, and Tuesday's performance is indicative of how well they both can play.
Michigan picked up a very important conference win in a season where good wins have been hard to come by. They face a very solid Minnesota team on Saturday, led by guards Deandre Mathieu and Andre Hollins, and Maurice Walker has played excellent minutes in the frontcourt. It will be a stiff test for Michigan, but a winnable one and a game that they absolutely need to bolster their resume.