The Michigan Wolverines came away with an important victory against the Indiana Hoosiers in the middle of a grueling portion of their schedule and open the Big Ten slate 1-0. After getting dismantled against UNC earlier in the week, Michigan shot over 47 percent from the field and forced 11 turnovers to dominate the Hoosiers for most of Saturday’s contest.
There were many takeaways from the Wolverine’s decisive victory. Let’s take a look at some of them.
What We Learned:
1. Michigan may have something in Eli Brooks.
The freshman point guard has not been a stat-stuffing machine, however he has made a big enough impact on the offensive end that coach John Beilein inserted him into the starting lineup for the fifth straight game.
Let’s face it, the Wolverines were not getting what they needed offensively from Zavier Simpson. It was time to make the change at point guard as Simpson would be better utilized coming off of the bench for a defensive boost.
Brooks did not put up eye-opening numbers against the Hoosiers but did score five points on 50 percent shooting from the field (2-for-4) in 22 minutes of playing time. What was more noticeable was how the Wolverines’ offense flowed much better with him on the court compared to Simpson. Brooks has not scored in double figures yet this season but that is surely on the way with his continued extended playing time and experience.
2. They may have even more in Jordan Poole.
Just as it was time for the Wolverines to move on from Simpson from the starting five, it may be time to do the same with Duncan Robinson in favor of freshman Jordan Poole. There may not be a hotter shooter in the Big Ten right now than Poole.
Against the Hoosiers on Saturday, he scored a team-high 19 points with five 3-pointers…..coming off of the bench. With Robinson struggling to get into an offensive rhythm, Poole has stepped up by scoring in double figures for the second time in the last three games (scored 11 against UC RIverside). He is now making 42 percent of his 3-pointers and his confidence is clearly starting to grow.
Unless Robinson starts to kick his offensive production into high gear, it may not be long until Beilen inserts Poole into the everyday starting five.
3. If Michigan wants to make Big Ten impact, Duncan Robinson needs to be apart of it.
Duncan Robinson is the only senior on Michigan’s roster and his performance this season has been lackluster at best...especially in the past week. In the last two games ( at UNC, vs. Indiana) Robinson has scored a total of nine points on 3-for-16 shooting.
When he is not hitting shots, he becomes a liability on the court. Since coming into Michigan in 2015 his three-point shooting percentage has decreased after every year (2015-16: 45%, 2016-17: 42%, 2017-18: 38%). However, he has never really seen a decrease in playing time in his career. That may be because there has never been anyone to challenge him behind the arc.
Now with Poole right in his rear-view mirror, it is time for Robinson to step-up and be the senior leader Michigan needs. If Robinson can get back to somewhat of a consistent shooting level and give the Wolverines a “one-two punch” at the three-guard position with himself and Poole, Michigan becomes a much more dangerous team and could sneak up on some teams in the conference.
4. Indiana needs to figure out its backcourt.
Despite an impressive performance from Juwan Morgan on Saturday afternoon (24 points, eight rebounds), Indiana found itself on the wrong side of its first Big Ten game this season. That came in large part due to underwhelming backcourt play. Indiana continued to turn over the ball, which killed its chances in this one.
Not only did the turnovers derail the team’s offensive production, but it continually put the Wolverines into great transition opportunities. Considering that Michigan is one of the league’s best teams in transition so far this season, that’s bad news. Indiana needs to figure out this issue going forward.
Regardless of how they got it done, Michigan is 1-0 in Big Ten play. With a trip to Columbus followed by a home game against UCLA it was crucial for the Wolverines to pick up this win against well….a mediocre Indiana team.
Most of the pieces are there for Beilein's group. Moe Wagner continues to play at a high level, Charles Matthews continues to be a go-to guy, and Poole continues to emerge as a shooter. The next step for the Wolverines is to get these guys to play as a more cohesive group. If that happens, they may finish much better in conference play than most expected.
[Editor’s Note: The final point was added by Thomas Beindit.]