Skip to content

Michigan’s offensive struggles in 79-69 loss to Duke a major concern

Dec 3, 2013, 11:26 PM EDT

20131203-233400.jpg Getty Images

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Former Georgia Tech head coach recuses self from Syracuse’s NCAA hearing

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    bobby-cremins AP

    Bobby Cremins says that his relationships with other coaches has led to his having to recuse himself from other cases in the past.

  2. Transfer guard dismissed from Minnesota program

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT

    Zach Lofton, Zach Lofton,

    Zach Lofton was expected to develop into a more efficient player during his year sitting out per NCAA transfer rules.

  3. Long Beach State, head coach Dan Monson agree to contract extension

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Dan Monson AP

    Monson is four wins away from becoming Long Beach State’s winningest coach.

  4. Buffalo-area programs to wear special jerseys for Big 4 Basketball Classic

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    Big 4 Basketball Classic Big 4 Basketball Classic

    Buffalo, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure will wear Buffalo Braves-inspired uniforms for their doubleheader November 29.

  5. ACC releases its preseason media poll, all-conference team

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    AP AP

    North Carolina’s Marcus Paige was the media pick to win ACC Player of the Year.

  6. St. John’s loses key power forward to academic scandal at Junior College

    Oct 29, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT

    lavin AP

    Keith Thomas was expected to start for the Johnnies.

  7. 2014-15 Season Preview: Toledo looks to end a 35-year NCAA Tournament drought and rep the MAC

    Oct 29, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Julius Brown (AP Photo) Julius Brown (AP Photo)

    The MAC is sure to be one of the more intriguing mid-major leagues during the 2014-15 season.

  8. Top 25 Countdown: No. 8 Texas Longhorns

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

    Isaiah Taylor (Getty Images) Getty Images

    How can Texas build off of last seasons surprising success?

  9. The American releases their preseason poll

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT

    Kevin Ollie AP

    Who would you pick in first, UConn or SMU?

  10. 2014-2015 Season Preview: Stanley Johnson, Sam Dekker lead wing forward rankings

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Stanley Johnson (Arizona Athletics) Stanley Johnson (Arizona Athletics)

    CBT’s rankings of the best wings in college basketball heading into the 2014-15 season.

  11. Jeff Newberry throws down 360 dunk at Oklahoma State’s Hoops and Homecoming (VIDEO)

    Oct 28, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT

    Jeff Newberry

    The JuCo transfer guard is expected to have an impact in his first season in Stillwater.

  12. Jim Boeheim on Syracuse center DaJuan Coleman: ‘If we get him, it will be a bonus’

    Oct 28, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    Jim Boeheim DaJuan Coleman AP

    The Syracuse big man was limited to only 12 games during the 2014-2015 season.

  13. Top 10 2016 recruit cuts his list to 10

    Oct 28, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Derryck Thornton Derryck Thornton

    Arguably the top point guard in the junior class, and a consensus top 10 recruit in the Class of 2016 has narrowed his list of offers to just 10.

  14. Hawaii head coach, assistant coach fired

    Oct 28, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT

    Gib Arnold AP

    Gib Arnold was entering his fifth season at Hawaii

  15. Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes maintains the chip on his shoulder

    Oct 28, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    One of the nation’s top lead guards — on one of the best mid-major teams — is as hungry as he is entertaining.

  16. UConn guard injures right knee, out a week or so

    Oct 28, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The 6-foot-5 junior guard is looking to bounce back after a sophomore slump.

  17. Storm water floods Illinois’ new court inside the State Farm Center

    Oct 28, 2014, 5:05 PM EDT

    Twitter/IlliniHoops Twitter/IlliniHoops

    The University of Illinois opens the 2014-2015 season against Georgia Southern on Nov. 14.