Michigan Basketball: 10 Lessons Learned from the Win Over Michigan State

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIMarch 4, 2013

Michigan Basketball: 10 Lessons Learned from the Win Over Michigan State

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    The Michigan Wolverines were determined to avenge their 23-point loss to the Michigan State Spartans earlier this season, and thanks to sophomore point guard Trey Burke's heroics, the Maize and Blue pulled out a 58-57 victory in a thriller at the Crisler Center on Sunday.

    After giving up 84 points to the Penn State Nittany Lions on Wednesday, who have the worst offense in the Big Ten Conference, the Wolverines finally showed they could play defense well enough to take down a top-10 opponent.

    The victory also extended Michigan's school record for consecutive home wins to 17 games, and the Wolverines kept their record at the Crisler Center unblemished for the 2012-13 season.

    What else did we learn about the Wolverines from their win over the Spartans, though? Click ahead to find out!

Michigan Can Play Defense After All

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    Throughout the entire month of February, the Michigan Wolverines made some of the worst offenses in the Big Ten look like juggernauts. Fortunately, the Maize and Blue battened down the hatches defensively just in time for their clash with the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday.

    The Wolverines only allowed the Spartans to convert 35.6 percent of their field goal attempts, and forced 18 turnovers.

    Michigan also did a better job of limiting Michigan State's scoring opportunities near the basket. In the first meeting, the Spartans scored 36 points in the paint. This time around, Michigan State was only able to rack up 26 points inside.

    Perimeter defense also helped the Wolverines slay the Spartans at the Crisler Center. Michigan State only knocked down 6-of-22 three-pointers. Several of those looks were contested and the fact that the Spartans took so many deep jumpers means Michigan did a much better job of keeping them out of the paint.

    There are still some issues the Wolverines need to work out defensively, but they did make some great strides forward against Michigan State. 

The Wolverines' Interior Defense Still Needs Work

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    Yes, the Michigan Wolverines did manage to play much better defense than they have in over a month, however there is still cause for concern in the interior.

    Redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan frustrated Derrick Nix inside and held the senior big man to just seven points on 2-of-9 shooting. 

    Junior center Adreian Payne did have success inside, though. The 6'10", 240-pounder scored 17 points and shot better than 50 percent overall. Head coach Tom Izzo did not exactly praise Michigan's defense for its performance against his bigs either.

    "I give them credit, but don't give them too much," Izzo said after the game, according to John Borton of TheWolverine.com. "We didn't throw it in (the post). We just got away from our game plan. I don't know why. We didn't post as deep. We couldn't keep Payne in there at all."

    The biggest issue Michigan has defensively, though, is rebounding. The Wolverines were out-rebounded by the Spartans 41-28, and allowed Michigan State to pull down 17 offensive boards.

    If Michigan wants to have any chance at beating the Indiana Hoosiers next weekend, the Wolverines have to do a better job of boxing out.

Three-Pointers Are No Longer Michigan's Key to Victory

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    For the first time in head coach John Beilein's tenure with the Michigan Wolverines, his team failed to make a single three-pointer. The lack of perimeter shooting did not doom the Wolverines on Sunday, though.

    In the past, Michigan has lived and died by the three, but Michigan's victory over the Michigan State Spartans showed everyone it no longer needs to score from beyond the arc to beat quality opponents.

    The Wolverines did an excellent job of recognizing that their outside shots were simply not going to fall and looked elsewhere for points. Michigan's guards drove through the lane with great success, which led to 44 points in the paint.

    The days of the Wolverines needing to make three-pointers at will to win games have come and gone. Michigan is far better off now that it has plenty of other ways to outscore opponents.

The Wolverines Are Still at Their Best in Transition

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    The biggest improvement the Michigan Wolverines were able to make from their blowout loss to the Michigan State Spartans last month was scoring in transition.

    The Wolverines did not record a large amount of fast-break points, but the Maize and Blue did turn 18 Michigan State turnovers into 18 points, most of which came in transition. 

    Michigan is a much better team when it can turn the game into a track meet. The Wolverines did not get out in transition in losses to the Ohio State Buckeyes, Wisconsin Badgers or Spartans earlier this year. 

    Sunday's win proved once again that when the Maize and Blue are wearing down their opponents by igniting the fast break with outlet passes on defensive rebounds. Forcing turnovers will also help the Wolverines get out and run more in their remaining games.

Tim Hardaway Jr. Has Not Broken out of His Slump Yet

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    It appeared as though Tim Hardaway Jr. ended his shooting slump last Wednesday evening, but after a 3-of-12 performance against the Michigan State Spartans over the weekend, the junior shooting guard is clearly not back on track yet.

    Hardaway has shot 36 percent or worse from the field in four of Michigan's last five games. The only exception was Hardaway's 8-of-16 outing in the Wolverines' loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions last week.

    If Michigan has aspirations of advancing to the Final Four, or winning the Big Ten Conference tournament next week, Hardaway will have to start hitting more shots. 

    The Miami, Fla. native's NBA draft stock is also dependent upon his ability to be an efficient shooter. Hardaway may not be able to bolt from Ann Arbor come season's end if he continues to struggle offensively.

Caris LeVert Deserves More Playing Time

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    One of the best things to come out of Nik Stauskas' head injury was the increase in playing time for freshman shooting guard Caris LeVert.

    Although LeVert struggled offensively, he played outstanding defense and deserves a chance to take on a more prominent role in the Michigan Wolverines' rotation.

    The Wolverines would not have been able to win without LeVert's length bothering the Michigan State Spartans' perimeter shooters.

    One of the biggest stages Michigan has played on this season did not seem to bother LeVert much either. The youngster played with poise and confidence throughout the entire contest, despite the fact he only made 4-of-11 field-goal attempts.

    LeVert's development and increase in minutes will bolster the Wolverines' depth come NCAA tournament time, which will help them contend for a national title.

Glenn Robinson III's Success Is More Important to Michigan Than Nik Stauskas'

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    Another takeaway from Nik Stauskas' limited action against the Michigan State Spartans is that the Michigan Wolverines need Glenn Robinson III to be successful in order to win games against marquee opponents. 

    The Wolverines can survive Stauskas' rough outings, but when Robinson is not playing a prominent role in their offense, Michigan tends to struggle. 

    When Robinson scores less than eight points, the Wolverines are just 1-3. The only win in those four contests came against the Binghamton Bearcats, which is far from a quality opponent given their 3-26 overall record. 

    Comparatively, the Wolverines are now 3-2 when Stauskas is held below eight points. Stauskas is a great shooter, and Michigan's offense is much more dynamic with him in the rotation, but the most important freshman on the roster is clearly Robinson.

Trey Burke Is Carrying the Wolverines

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    If Trey Burke continues firing on all cylinders and goes on to win the Wooden Award come season's end, his steal with 24 seconds remaining will undoubtedly be the play that sealed the deal.

    The Michigan Wolverines had just turned the ball over with the score knotted at 56-56, and with less than 35 seconds to play the Michigan State Spartans could have wound the clock all the way down and taken one final shot.

    Burke had other plans. The 6'0", 190-pounder poked the ball away from Keith Appling and threw down an uncontested two-handed dunk for what turned out to be the game-winning basket. 

    The decrease in production from Tim Hardaway Jr. has put more pressure on Burke to perform. The added weight has not slowed Burke down at all, though.

    Since the start of Big Ten play, Burke has not been held below 15 points in a game and has scored more than 20 points in three of Michigan's last four games. Burke dropped 21 points, dished out eight assists, pulled down four rebounds and notched five steals in the win on Sunday.

    Hardaway has to step up and take some of the load off of Burke in order to keep him fresh for postseason play.

Michigan Can Still Earn a No. 1 Seed for the NCAA Tournament

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    Prior to the Michigan Wolverines' loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions, they were a contender for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Those high hopes took a major hit last week, however, Michigan kept hope alive for a top seed with its win over the Michigan State Spartans.

    Michigan is ranked No. 11 in the RPI and now boasts a 7-4 record against the top 50 teams. The loss to Penn State will hurt the Wolverines' case, but if they are able to beat the Indiana Hoosiers this weekend and make a run to the championship game of the conference tournament, Michigan could still be a No. 1 seed.

    Recent losses by the Duke Blue Devils and Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes also aided the Wolverines' chances for the top spot in one of the four NCAA tournament regions.

    It is amazing how much a victory over a top 10 team can change the fortunes of a team. Michigan still has plenty to play for in its two games this week.

The Wolverines Still Have a Chance to Clinch a Share of the Big Ten

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    The Michigan Wolverines no longer control their destiny in the Big Ten title race, but their victory over the Michigan State Spartans has kept them in the hunt for a little while longer.

    The Indiana Hoosiers can end all of the drama and clinch the league championship outright by defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes on Tuesday night. Still, the Wolverines have a puncher's chance and if the Hoosiers falter, everything will be on the line this Sunday at the Crisler Center.

    The Maize and Blue also need to take care of business on the road against the Purdue Boilermakers on Wednesday to keep themselves in the hunt.

    There will either be a four-way tie atop the Big Ten come March 10, or the Hoosiers will be the only ones able to raise a league title banner for the 2012-13 campaign.