Michigan Basketball: Breaking Down the Wolverines After Recent Losses

Lee Schechter@@leeschechterContributor IIIFebruary 13, 2013

Michigan Basketball: Breaking Down the Wolverines After Recent Losses

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    Michigan is coming off brutal road losses to Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State and desperately needs to regroup.  

    The Wolverines fell behind early against Indiana and Michigan State with tentative, unmotivated play and failed to closeout Wisconsin on the road.  

    Luckily, the toughest patch of the season is behind them.  The worst is in the past now.  

    The Wolverines need to push forward, learn from their struggles and find their winning ways in time for the Big Ten tournament and March Madness.

    Ultimately, star point guard Trey Burke needs help from his teammates and the Wolverines have to discover an edge to win big games, which is crucial come tournament time.  

    This team has too much talent to falter down the final stretch of the Big Ten season.

    Michigan is still a top team in college basketball and will make a strong push to close out the season.

1. The Schedule Gets a Little Easier

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    The Big Ten is not an easy conference to play basketball in these days.  

    Michigan understands this after going 1-3 in their last four games.  

    In the final six games for the Wolverines, they play four home games and two road games (at Penn State, at Purdue) against weaker Big Ten opponents.

    Michigan still has to deal with both Indiana and Michigan State at home, which should result in very different games than the first showdowns.  

    The Wolverines are undefeated at home with a record of 14-0, so they have the confidence to get back on track and take care of business in the Crisler Center. 

    With Michgan's next two games being at home against Penn State and Illinois, then on the road at Penn State, the Wolverines should be able to walk away with three wins.

    If Michigan can win out, which is still a daunting task, they can make a push for a tie for the regular season Big Ten title and set themselves up for a successful conference tournament.  

    The Wolverines are done with the toughest stretch of road games, while Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan State all still have difficult road tests remaining.  Michigan can dish out key defeats to Indiana and Michigan State, which can turn the tables in the Big Ten.  

    The Big Ten is proving to be a powerhouse of a conference from top to bottom, but the Wolverines do get a much needed break from the high pressure, big stage road games for now.  

2. Where Is the Help for Trey Burke?

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    Michigan, Trey Burke needs help.  

    Burke receives a lot of defensive attention and needs players around him to step up.  He was Michigan's only bright point in an overall horrific night against Michigan State. 

    Burke finished with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 3-of-5 from three-point land.  

    Freshman guard Nik Stauskas provided some help with 10 points, but everyone else struggled with shooting, defensive intensity, turnovers, and the list goes on.  

    Tim Hardaway Jr. was coming off three huge performances against Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin, but had one of his worst nights in recent memory.  

    Hardaway Jr. scored a measly two points on 1-of-11 shooting.  That will not cut it for a team that needs him to play big in every game.  

    ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein points out the key stat from Michigan's loss to Michigan State:

    Zero first-half points for Tim Hardaway Jr. After scoring 18, 23 and 18 points in the previous three games, respectively, Hardaway couldn’t find anything in the first half. He missed all six of his shots, including all four 3-pointers. This from a player who brought Michigan back a week earlier against Ohio State by making six 3-pointers, then followed it up by making what was almost the game-winner at Wisconsin on Saturday. Without Hardaway's production, Michigan struggled to shoot 27.3 percent from the 3-point line in the first half. Hardaway would finish with 2 points. 

    Hardaway Jr.'s shooting woes spread to other players on the Wolverines against the Spartans.

    Glenn Robinson III only had two points on 1-of-5 shooting and Mitch McGary had four points on 2-of-5 shooting to go along with four turnovers.   

    The Wolverines cannot afford to shoot poorly in big games like this; they are too talented to struggle this much.  

    As a team this season Michigan has shot 49.8 percent—good enough for sixth in the nation.  

    The Wolverines need Hardaway Jr., Stauskas, Robinson III, and McGary to all step up with high percentage shooting.

3. Improve Defensively

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    Michigan's offense ranks amongst the tops in the country, but defensively, the Wolverines have struggled.

    Offense can only take a team so far.  

    According to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, "Michigan's offense is still ranked No. 1 in KenPom's offensive efficiency category, which is outstanding. But the defense is now sitting at No. 37 -- which isn't exactly incredible, but not terrible either."

    In Michigan's losses, especially the one to Michigan State, they struggled with interior defense and making defensive plays that translate into fast transition offense.  

    The Spartans dominated Michigan on the glass as they chalked up 40 rebounds, 14 of those being offensive rebounds, which turned into a plus-12 margin over the Wolverines. 

    Michigan gave up second chance opportunities and failed to assert an inside defensive presence.  

    The injury to Jordan Morgan limited his minutes and thinned out the Wolverines' big man rotation, which opened the door for Michigan State's Derrick Nix and Branden Dawson to score in the paint.  

    Nix finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and Dawson got into the lane repeatedly and contributed 10 points.   

    The Wolverines' defensive woes showed against the Spartans and need to be fixed immediately for this team to have success. 

4. Don't Show Intimidation, Play Michigan Basketball

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    The Wolverines have looked very intimidated by other good teams during their recent road games. 

    Michigan players need to reestablish their confidence and realize that they are just as talented, if not more talented than many other Big Ten teams.  

    This team cannot keep falling behind in games.

    Michigan faced a deficit of 21 points in the loss at Ohio State, a deficit of 13 points at Indiana and an astonishing 31 point deficit at one point at Michigan State.    

    The Wolverines cannot afford to play with complacency and fall behind early.  Playing catch up in every game is far too difficult to do and win games. 

    The freshmen duo of Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas have looked quiet, timid and lost in Michigan's losses in difficult road games.  And with four tough road losses, they should have enough experience now to shake off the nerves and play their games.  

    The Wolverines stepped into the Breslin Center on Tuesday night and were out-motivated, intimidated and were frankly outplayed in every aspect of the game.  

    Yes, the loss was brutally devastating, but the team needs to put the game behind them. 

    Play with confidence Michigan.  

    Beilein will find a way to motivate his players and work them back into playing energetic, intense Michigan basketball.  

    While Michigan is battered and down right now, they have faced adversity.

    Overcoming obstacles is key in a long season, and Michigan should make a strong finish in the Big Ten regular season, contend in the Big Ten tournament and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.