The Michigan Wolverines are one of the most interesting teams in the Big Ten. They have a terrific backcourt, led by Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton, and are, perhaps, the wild card team in this conference.
On Tuesday night, they picked up an easy, confidence-boosting win over Central Arkansas, who fell to 1-9 on the young season. Given that, this was obviously not a resume-building win, but the game did still show that this Michigan team is capable of staying focused during these types of games.
That is something that is expected of teams, but we have seen highly ranked teams slip up in these situations. Hi there, Indiana.
But Michigan did not do that. And they also exploded for 97 points.
Here is what we learned from Tuesday night’s performance.
What We Learned:
1. Michigan has Three Ultra-Reliable Players.
Yes, this was against putrid opposition. But we saw a Wolverine starting lineup that has a good balance of skills from one through five.
Four of the five members of their starting lineup scored in double-figures in this game, with point guard Derrick Walton being the only one in single figures with nine points.
Zak Irvin was his normal self, scoring 16 points, grabbing 6 rebounds, and dishing out 3 assists. He did that on only 7 shot attempts and his ability to do a little bit of everything is something that Michigan will need going forward.
Forward Moritz Wagner continued his super efficient start to the season with an 18-point outing on 8-of-9 shooting. Fellow forward DJ Wilson is the player that Michigan needs to grab rebounds. He is, by far, the team’s leading rebounder and he was right on average in this game with 7 boards.
2. Two Guards will Determine Michigan’s Ceiling.
The guard duo of Walton and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman are the two erratic players of Michigan’s starting five.
Abdur-Rahkman was very good in this game with 14 points and 4 dimes, providing some ball distribution that this team needs. Walton also racked up 6 assists and showed the ability to be a more pure point guard.
The Wolverines need Walton to step up big if they are to contend in the Big Ten. He needs to improve on his 36% shooting, but he also needs to be a better facilitator. Tonight was an improvement in the latter.
These two players need to compliment each other well in order for Michigan to be a serious NCAA Tournament team. Walton needs to be a pure floor general and Abdur-Rahkman must be able to act as a primary ball-handler when Walton is on the bench, or struggling.
But above all, they must shoot more efficiently from the floor. They combine to shoot about 36%, which is not good enough for what is a good backcourt. They will need to step up for coach John Beilein if they want this team to fulfill its potential.
3. Duncan Robinson will be the Bench Scoring Punch.
Every good basketball team needs a guy who can come off of the bench and get buckets.
Duncan Robinson will have to be that guy for Big Blue.
The senior guard from New Hampshire has great size for a guard at 6-foot-8 and has the ability to hurt teams from the outside.
Currently, Robinson is shooting a very solid 38% from downtown and averages 7.8 points per game. He can be up-and-down though, as he shoots only 41% from the floor this season.
That clip, though, makes him more efficient than Walton and Abdur-Rahkman. If he can also sharpen up his shot selection and efficiency, then he will be a dangerous scorer that can average double figures off of the bench.
That could make Michigan much more dangerous.
We do not need to overreact to this game. This was against a bad mid-major team in Central Arkansas, but it still can tell you some things about a team. Consistency can waiver in cupcake games like this, and these games can show who can be counted on going forward for these teams.
We saw some promising signs from Michigan, but they still have a ways to go as a team. But if Wilson, Wagner, and Irvin can continue to be reliable, they will be solid.
If Robinson can become an electric bench scorer, also, then they can be very good.
But if Walton and Abdur-Rahkman sharpen up, as well, then Michigan could be great and among the elite of the Big Ten.
Stay tuned regarding the Michigan Wolverines. They are a real wildcard.