Michigan played its second game of the season on Monday night in a matchup with Elon. Heading into the game, the Wolverines were expected to get an easy win. Playing well would be key as Michigan prepared for its showdown with Xavier in the Big Ten - Big East Challenge on Friday night.
Ultimately, the Wolverines were able to move on by a final score of 88-68 in a relatively dominating performance. The game wasn't all that competitive after the start of the game as Michigan moved on pretty easily.
With that, let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Michigan Has The Shooting It Didn't Have Last Year.
The Wolverines were not a great team last season. Overall, Michigan had just a 16-16 record and finished at No. 75 nationally in team KenPom rating. Along with that, Michigan didn't even qualify for last year's NIT. By just about any measure, it wasn't a great team. Even the offense - an area where Michigan has dominated under John Beilein - was ranked at just No. 66 nationally in efficiency.
Admittedly, it's hard to tell how this offense will compare at season's end to last year's Michigan team, but from the results so far, Michigan undeniably appears to have more offensive firepower than it had last year. Though this isn't surprising considering most of last year's team returns, it is significant.
Arguably the biggest issue for last year's Wolverine team were the stretches in virtually every game where Michigan would go long durations without a single bucket. Michigan had one of those in the first half of its game on Monday against Elon. However, unlike last year, Beilein was able to move around the lineup and get Duncan Robinson and Derrick Walton onto the floor, who went a combined 11-for-12 from three point range.
There's no doubt that things will get tougher down the stretch for Michigan, but the team's offense does look like it has something it didn't have last year and that's consistent outside shooting. The ball movement was solid all night and it seems likely that the Wolverines will finish above last year's season average of 35.3 percent from long range.
2. The Frontcourt Still Needs Work.
There isn't much debating that the positional group that was the biggest question mark for Michigan this season would be the frontcourt. The team had a few options, but none were proven and definitely none had performed at a high level consistently. The hope was that among a few options, somebody would emerge.
Though Ricky Doyle had a really nice second half for Michigan and finished with eight points and three rebounds, there still are a lot of question marks. Mark Donnal started on Monday night, but has been relatively underwhelming overall. He hasn't been able to finish consistently inside and has not been able to be a consistent post threat, even against some small opponent frontcourts.
Additionally, though Ricky Doyle, Mortiz Wagner, and DJ Wilson have all had moments of success, none has shown the consistency to demand starting minutes either. Doyle has still been up and down on defense, Wagner is a bit undersized, and Wilson just looks a step or two away at this point. Doyle appears to be the frontrunner at this point and really did get into a nice rhythm in the second half, but still needs to show a bit more to end the questions.
3. Zak Irvin Is Starting To Round Into Form.
The Wolverines had to deal with a few offseason injuries, but perhaps the most notable was the injury to Zak Irvin which sidelined him for the majority of fall practice and the preseason. Maybe Irvin's name doesn't pop as much as Caris LeVert, but Irvin actually led Michigan in minutes, points, rebounds, steals, and total win shares last season. As such, there isn't much debating that is absence is significant for the Wolverines.
On Monday night, Irvin saw his first game action. In total, Irvin had a relatively quiet night, but he did play a15 minutes with three assists and one rebound. He clearly didn't do a lot with the ball in his hands, but it was a big step for the Wolverines to see him back on the court.
The win certainly wasn't surprising for Michigan on Monday night, but the Wolverines did meet or exceed expectations. In fact, KenPom predicted a 19 point win and Michigan was beat that with a 20 point victory. Though outperforming a predicted final score by one point isn't all that noteworthy, it does show Michigan played about as well as expected.
Now, the Wolverines will move on to a challenging home game with Xavier. With a win on Friday, Michigan could help legitimize its preseason projections.