Michigan Basketball: How Worried Should Weary Wolverines Be About Latest Loss?

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 Michigan Basketball: How Worried Should Weary Wolverines Be About Latest Loss?
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Michigan lost to Charlotte 63-61 on Sunday in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship.

On paper, the Wolverines should have easily handled the 49ers and flown back to Ann Arbor with a tournament title in their back pocket.

After an intense four road games in eight days, though, Michigan played like a group of zombified sleepwalkers who just wanted to get home and go to bed.

Should UM head coach John Beilein be concerned about this latest loss?

Does the team have a reason to be anxious about another "L" before Christmas with games against Duke (in Durham on Dec. 3), Arizona (at home on Dec. 14) and Stanford (in Brooklyn on Dec. 21) in the near future?

The best answer to those questions is, "Probably not."

If you are a hardcore Michigan hoops fan, you might not want to hear that type of glass-half-full response. You might be looking to light up someone for this substandard start to the 2013-14 season.

After all, the Wolverines didn't lose their second game last year until a hard-fought road loss to Indiana on Feb. 2.

Even though it would have been nice to leave the island with three wins and a championship trophy, several factors should be taken into account as to why nobody around Ann Arbor should be looking for panic buttons to push.

Leon Halip/Getty Images

 

Tiring Travel

MLive.com's Brendan Quinn pointed out that the Wolverines have logged around 4,900 miles of travel over the last 10 days.

With the trip to Puerto Rico on the horizon, putting this young Wolverines team on the floor against Iowa State in Ames last Sunday was scheduling overkill.

Even if the game against the Cyclones had been played at the Crisler Center, I'm not sure that it was the best idea to go up against a team that would require an all-out effort to be competitive right before a major trip.

The round trip to Iowa State followed by travel to Puerto Rico alone was taxing, but then, when you mix in four games in a little more than a week, you have a formula for physical and mental fatigue.

Charlotte, on the other hand, played its last game at home on Nov. 15 against Elon before arriving in Puerto Rico.

That sounds like a better plan.

David Purdy/Getty Images
Head coach John Beilein works hard to help the Wolverines against Iowa State.

 

Major Minutes

Michigan not only played four games in eight days, but the team's main players logged major minutes during this compressed schedule.

The Wolverine's leading scorer, Nik Stauskas, averaged 39 minutes per game during this intense stretch.

Sophomore wings Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert played more than 36 minutes per game in the three contests leading up to Sunday's championship game.

Power Forward Mitch McGary, who is still getting back into playing shape, logged 33 minutes in Friday's overtime win against Florida State and then played 30 more on Sunday.

When it came to the end of the game against Charlotte, the Wolverines just did not have much left in the tank.

Stauskas did not make another shot from the field after a dunk with 15:07 to play in the game.

Robinson tried to go in the second half but had to be removed from the game as a precaution because of a back injury, according to The Detroit News.

Through the rest of the season, playing 30 minutes or more per game will not have nearly the same impact as it did in this exhausting tour of duty.

 

Gaining Experience

Michigan head coach John Beilein may be one of the best teachers of the game in terms of leveraging the ups and downs of a season.

In his postgame comments, released by the Associated Press, Beilein said:

Another March game played in November. Charlotte was really good. We're embracing this and saying, 'What a great opportunity to grow.' We had adversity tonight like we hadn't had, and we just kept plugging away.

It's all good. I know that sounds crazy, but it's all good to come into that environment, play as hard as we did and fight back to have a chance to win.

With nonconference games with Duke and Arizona ahead, how will the Wolverines respond?

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Facing adversity gives a young team like Michigan a chance to grow up.

Other than Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan, this squad is entirely made up of underclassmen.

Stauskas and Robinson are the only players with extensive experience coming into this season.

McGary started two games in the 2012-13 season prior to being inserted into the starting lineup during the 2013 NCAA tournament.

LeVert, now a starter, averaged less than 11 minutes per game a year ago as a freshman.

Starting point guard Derrick Walton Jr. has performed well in his first six collegiate games, but he is still working hard to get settled into his role as floor leader.

 

Learning Lessons

As the Wolverines return, they will have a few days to rest and recover before they play Coppin State at home the day after Thanksgiving.

They will also have the chance to go back to work on what they learned about themselves throughout the last four games.

Demanding road tests in November are good teachers for a talented but untested squad like this Michigan team.

Beilein will make sure that those lessons are not wasted.

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