Goodness, that was a basketball game.
A game that at first looked like a clunker, eventually turned into one of the more exciting games in recent memory. Michigan did everything it could to keep up with the high-powered Cowboys, and did so, despite an underwhelming game from Moritz Wagner, and an explosive performance from Oklahoma State guard Jawun Evans–who probably made himself a ton of money after this game.
Here’s what we learned from Michigan’s opening round win against the Cowboys.
What We Learned:
1. Michigan needed to make adjustment on the fly, and did.
Early on in the game, Michigan played right into Oklahoma State’s game plan; they were successfully lured into a sloppy game by settling for bad shots; the Cowboys were looking to get easy transition buckets and push the pace.
The Wolverines slowed things down as the game went on, and looked for better shots. Late in the game, they did seem a bit rushed, but their shooting continues to be so hot that they were finding the bottom of the net more than they weren’t.
One of the most celebrated Michigan fan-isms of the last few seasons has been yelling “no no no no” every single time Zak Irvin raised up for a long shot. This afternoon, though, they fell when they had to. That was because the shots were better and Beilein’s adjustments were effective.
2. What’s up with Moritz Wagner?
It’s hard to know what’s wrong with Mo. He battled through a bad issue during the Big Ten Tournament and the residual effects of that injury might account for his diminished minutes and his poor play. In this game, he got into early foul trouble which obviously affected his aggressiveness on defense.
He only ended up playing 14 minutes in the game. Is this going to be an issue for Michigan moving forward? After the conference tournament, I think everyone figured it wouldn’t be. He’d have plenty of time to recover from whatever’s nagging him, and he’d be fine. Clearly, though, whatever has been ailing his, if anything at all, has lingered.
What that does is that it forces Beilein to bring Donnal in early, and I don't think that’s what he wants to do. Now, the exciting residual development here is that D.J Wilson has gotten extended minutes at the five. Disclaimer: Michigan fans, do not read the following few sentences: If D.J can show that he’s able to man both the four and five spot, he’s going pro. No if’s, and’s, or but’s.
Still, for Michigan’s chances at making a run, they’ll need Wagner. The Wolverines just do not have the personnel on their roster to sustain this strong play without him on the court.
3. Zak Irvin is finally playing exactly how we all want him to:
Late in the game, Irvin had a chance to chuck up the very type of contested three Michigan fans have affectionately loved to hate. He pulled it back, and used his athleticism to find an easier shot. It was perfect, and it was the very play we have all been waiting for.
Zak Irvin has been such a polarizing player on Michigan’s roster ever since he became the alpha in 2014. His role isn’t to be the spot up shooter he was as a freshman. Now, he’s being asked to play within the flow of the offense.
That has led to him getting far more quality looks, and has given him the type of confidence he probably hasn’t had since he was a freshman. He went four for six from deep today, which Michigan will take any day.
If he keeps this up, and if Wagner can get healthy, you have got to like Michigan’s chances in this tournament.
Michigan was impressive today. They played the type of basketball they needed to against an explosive squad like the Cowboys, and they did it with minimal involvement from Moritz Wagner. Now, the question is, can they get him out of this funk he’s been in? We’ll see.