On Wednesday evening, Michigan tipped off in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge against a talented Virginia Tech squad with hopes of adding another nice win to the team’s resume. It was also a key opportunity for the Wolverines to get back on track after a rough outing against South Carolina last week.
Unfortunately, things would end poorly for the Wolverines.
Despite a fast start to the game and a 39-30 lead at halftime, Michigan faded down the stretch. While some of this was due to foul trouble, most of it was due to questionable jumpers on offense and poor interior defense. Ultimately, Michigan fell by a final score of 73-70 and dropped to 5-2 on the year.
Let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Zak Irvin Continues To Kill Michigan In Clutch Possessions.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Zak Irvin had a solid night for Michigan on Wednesday and finished with 23 points and five rebounds. He’s also one of the best players on the roster and will play a massive role in whatever the team accomplishes this season.
But his clutch play so far has been awful.
Michigan might have one of the nation’s best and most consistent offenses, but Irvin routinely opts to play hero ball in the final minutes of key games. It’s killed Michigan the last few years and was devastating to the team’s chances on Wednesday. It’s predictable and fails far too often for Irvin to continue doing it so much.
Irvin will remain a key player for the Wolverines as long as he’s on the roster, but until he starts valuing possessions in the final minutes, his impact in Ann Arbor will have its ceiling.
2. Michigan’s Frontcourt Still Needs Work.
While Moritz Wagner had an impressive night with 11 points on six shot attempts, the rest of Michigan’s frontcourt came up pretty small on Wednesday. DJ Wilson fouled out of the game and neither Mark Donnal or Jon Teske scored all night.
Michigan’s frontcourt isn’t the only reason the team lost to Virginia Tech, but it’s hard not to think it played the key role. After all, it was the underwhelming play from Donnal and Teske that contributed to Virginia Tech’s second half comeback. This group has the talent, but still needs some development.
3. Duncan Robinson is Starting to Heat Up.
One of the bright spots for Michigan on Wednesday was Duncan Robinson. Although the start of the season has been pretty rough for Robinson, he had a nice performance against Virginia Tech and finished with 15 points and made a plethora of key plays on defense, including some of the charge calls that kept Michigan in the game.
Although Robinson still has many of the issues he had last season (trouble driving and on ball defense), Michigan needs him to return to the shooting he displayed last season. It will be interesting to see if it holds up, but this was at least a good time.
Michigan was hoping to score a marquee win and get back on track on Wednesday, but unfortunately, that’s not how things were meant to unfold. The Wolverines will now have to hope to get back on track against Kennesaw State before facing Texas and UCLA next week. It will be a vital stretch for a Wolverines team that projects to be sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble at season’s end.