Dec 3, 2013, 11:26 PM EST
DURHAM, N.C. — Caris LeVert is a good basketball player.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that there aren’t five players in college basketball that are more improved than No. 22 Michigan’s 6-foot-6 sophomore, and nothing about the 24 points he had against No. 10 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday night changes that opinion.
He was awesome, sparking a stagnant Michigan offense and keeping the Wolverines within striking distance as the Blue Devils slowly but surely vented their frustration stemming from last Friday’s tough loss to Arizona at Madison Square Garden. He beat Duke to the rim time and again in the second half, enough so that Duke’s defense changed who they were keying in on.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski agreed.
“He was terrific,” Coach K said. “Instead of just shooting outside, he drove it. He gave them a huge lift. They were having a hard time scoring and he just put them on his back.”
But LeVert’s performance touches at the heart of just what ails this Michigan team. When your roster includes names like Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III and a kid that was supposed to be a redshirt last season is the focal point of your offense, that’s a problem.
Looking over the box score of Duke’s 79-69 win over the Wolverines, it wouldn’t be difficult to assume that the Blue Devils have officially cured the defensive woes that nearly cost them wins over East Carolina and Vermont. They held the Wolverines to 30.8% shooting and just 22 points in the first half. With 1:59 left in the game, before Michigan’s late flurry, the Wolverines were shooting 39.1% from the field and had all of 50 points. Two of their three threes came in the final 1:59, when the game was already decided. Simply put, Duke executed their game-plan to perfection.
But that only tells half the story. John Beilein is an offensive mastermind. I never saw him coach when he was at the NAIA or the Division II level, and I never saw him when he was the head coach at Canisius, but I watched him at Richmond and West Virginia before he made his way up to Michigan, and I think it’s safe to say that he’s never had a team that had this much trouble running offense.
“We didn’t get a lot of easy shots,” Beilein said. “We did get a few early that we missed that could have kept it where it wanted to me.”
“We had a couple turnovers there from young players. They learn from it. It’s difficult, I don’t care if you’re home or away, you’re playing a really good team. They’re guarding you, and you’re going to make some mistakes. We made some mistakes in areas where you don’t get those possessions back.”
We knew this would happen, but the degree to which Michigan misses Trey Burke this season cannot be overstated. Losing a player Burke’s caliber, the National Player of the Year and a lottery pick, would hurt any team and any program in the country. Players with that kind of ability don’t come around often, and it doesn’t matter whether you reside in Ann Arbor or Lexington or Durham, taking a piece like that out of the equation is not an easy thing to overcome.
But Burke was so much more to the Wolverines. He was their go-to guy and their primary ball-handler. He was the leading scorer, the guy that initiated the offense and the guy that every offensive possession ran through. He was an excellent pick-and-roll point guard playing in an offense built around the pick-and-roll. And most importantly, he made each and every player on the floor better, whether it was by getting McGary open looks at the rim or Robinson wide-open rhythm threes.
They don’t have a replacement for that this season.
Derrick Walton is the guy that was expected to take over for Burke, and he is talented. He wasn’t ready for this kind of atmosphere. He needs more seasoning than a well-done steak from Costco. Robinson’s supremely athletic, but he either doesn’t have the confidence or the ability to be more than a spot-up shooter and a finisher in transition. He disappears on the offensive end far too often for a guy that is supposed to be a lottery pick. McGary is a double-double waiting to happen, but he’s not the kind of low-post scorer that commands a touch every possession; he’s not Julius Randle or Joshua Smith, and that’s a problem for a guy that’s essentially a below-the-rim player.
The most talented player on Michigan’s roster, the guy that they need to run their offense through, is Stauskas, but between being hobbled by a bad ankle and the kind of defensive pressure that he faced from Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones all night, he was completely ineffective.
“We were missing Nik’s normal game,” Beilein said of his star guard who finished with four points and three turnovers on 0-for-2 shooting from the floor in 34 minutes. “We had trouble scoring points without him.”
Stauskas clearly wasn’t at 100%, but he’s going to have to find a way to be effective when defenses are keyed in on him. He’s going to be the focal point of every opposing coach’s game plan going forward, and if he can’t be a playmaker, if the offense can’t run through him, than we should be very concerned about the Wolverines.
Mar 7, 2014, 2:54 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Northwestern State 119, Central Arkansas 102 Central Arkansas scored 52 points in the first half and 50 in the second…and still lost by 17 points. Why? The Demons scored 72 points in the second half, shooting 70.3% from the field and assisting on 19 of their 26 made field goals. Northwestern…
Mar 7, 2014, 1:13 AM EST
Offensively No. 24 Iowa enjoys the luxury of having multiple scorers capable of reaching double figures on any given night. Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White are the only players averaging double figures for Fran McCaffery, but six different players have led the team in scoring in at least one game this season. In their…
Mar 7, 2014, 1:05 AM EST
There are 11 days left until Selection Sunday. Every morning from now until the bracket comes out, we’ll help you get caught up on the happenings with impact on the bubble from the night before. You can see NBCSports.com’s latest bracket here. Xavier finished up their regular season on Thursday night, and it wasn’t a…
Mar 7, 2014, 12:32 AM EST
The biggest storyline at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament this weekend is clearly No. 2 Wichita State, with the Shockers currently 31-0 on the season. But it should be noted that this is traditionally an entertaining event, and the second first-round game on Thursday night provided the drama. Loyola-Illinois guard Milton Doyle hit a three-pointer…
Mar 7, 2014, 12:30 AM EST
Marko Gujanicic scored 15 points, including a game-winning layup, as George Mason knocked off La Salle in Philly on Thursday night. The Patriots have now won four of their last seven league games after starting off conference play 0-10. La Salle is now ensured to finish below .500 in the A-10, a disappointing finish for a…
Mar 7, 2014, 12:12 AM EST
Keith Appling scored all 12 of his points in the second half, including eight points in a 12-4 surge that sparked a massive second half run as the No. 22 Spartans knocked off No. 24 Iowa, 86-76. Those eight points from Appling came in a flurry, and the hope is that they will change the…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:48 PM EST
Lacey Holsworth is an eight-year old battling cancer that just so happened to form a beautiful, heart-warming friendship with Adreian Payne, Michigan State’s star center that she calls ‘Superman’. Thursday night marked the Payne’s final home game as a member of the Michigan State basketball team, and as you might have expected, Lacey was Payne’s…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:33 PM EST
Entering Tuesday night’s date with No. 20 Memphis, offensively-challenged No. 15 Cincinnati had scored more than 80 points in a game just five times. Their victims? Campbell, Kennesaw State, USC Upstate and Chicago State all lost to the Bearcats before Christmas. Temple, one of the bottom-feeders in the American, managed to score exactly 80 points…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:49 PM EST
When the American Athletic Conference coaches made their preseason picks back in October, the Cincinnati Bearcats received nary a sniff in regards to which team would win the league. No. 11 Louisville was the unanimous choice and rightfully so, with the Cardinals returning most of their key contributors from last season’s national champion squad. But…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:46 PM EST
There was a weird sequence just now in the UCSB-Hawaii game. Gib Arnold had just gotten a technical foul when a UCSB fan sprinted onto the court from the student section and got into his face on the sideline before backpedaling and challenging a Hawaii player to a fight. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen…
Mar 6, 2014, 8:12 PM EST
On the heels of their 73-64 loss to No. 10 San Diego State on Wednesday, UNLV announced Thursday that guard Bryce Dejean-Jones has been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. Dejean-Jones will miss the Runnin’ Rebels game at Nevada on Saturday as a result of the suspension. Dejean-Jones had a frustrating night against the…
Mar 6, 2014, 6:50 PM EST
Maryland’s 64-47 win over Virginia Tech on Tuesday night was full of positives, with one notable exception: sophomore forward Charles Mitchell did not play in the second half after getting into a heated exchange with assistant coach Scott Spinelli. Head coach Mark Turgeon asked Mitchell to return to the locker room, with the forward returning…
Mar 6, 2014, 4:59 PM EST
In what has been a tough season for South Carolina (11-19, 4-13 SEC), the Gamecocks will conclude regular season play on Saturday without their head coach. On Thursday South Carolina announced that Frank Martin has been suspended for one game due to “inappropriate verbal communication” with a player. “The one-game suspension is a result of…
Mar 6, 2014, 4:28 PM EST
One day prior to his team beginning a run towards a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, Iona head coach Tim Cluess has been rewarded with a contract extension through the 2018-19 season. Currently in his fourth season in New Rochelle, Cluess has won 90 games and led Iona to two MAAC regular season…
Mar 6, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
During the preseason the expectation of many was that the Southern Conference race would provide suspense throughout the season, with at least five teams having realistic hopes of winning the regular season title. Ultimately this would not be the case, with perennial juggernaut Davidson winning the league title by three games. However the Wildcats, who…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:51 PM EST
WASHINGTON, D.C. – For three weeks every spring, as the country thaws out from another long, cold winter, the nation’s eyes turn towards the NCAA tournament. The attention it generates is unlike any event in sports, thanks in large part to the over-saturation of games, the one-and-done nature of the event and the fact that every…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:24 PM EST
Adidas unveiled the uniforms that nine teams with sponsorship contracts will be wearing in March. I like them, but Adidas is really married to this idea of sleeves on a uniform, aren’t they? UCLA, Baylor, Louisville and Cincinnati will all be wearing jerseys that look like a bit too much like a cheap, church league…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:06 PM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 20 Memphis at No. 15 Cincinnati, 7:00 p.m. Earlier this season, Cincinnati made a name for themselves when they went into FedEx Forum and put a whooping down on the Tigers. Might it be time for Josh Pastner’s club to exact their revenge? At this point, the only thing on…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:38 AM EST
New Hampshire has fired a basketball staff member on allegations of voyeurism. Scott Weitzell, the Director of Men’s Basketball Operations, was relieved of his duties amid allegations that he recorded the team in the locker room during their trip to play at Vermont on January 20th. Weitzell allegedly hid the cell phone in the locker…
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