Michigan Basketball: 10 Things We Learned from the Loss to Wisconsin
One half-court heave by Wisconsin Badgers junior guard Ben Brust may have significantly altered the Big Ten Conference title race and kept the Michigan Wolverines winless at the Kohl Center against head coach Bo Ryan.
The Wolverines were able to take a three-point lead late in the game thanks to a clutch jumper from Tim Hardaway Jr., but Brust's prayer drew nothing but net to send the contest into overtime. Michigan could not generate any momentum in the extra session and was defeated 65-62.
There were plenty of things we learned about Michigan on Saturday. Which lessons were the most apparent after the Wolverines' road loss? Click ahead to find out!
Defensive-Minded Teams Will Give Michigan Fits in the Postseason
On paper, this game should have been a rout by the Michigan Wolverines. But the Wisconsin Badgers managed to once again expose the Maize and Blue's struggles in the half court by taking away transition opportunities.
Getting out in transition is a major reason why Michigan is able to average 77 points per game. The Badgers simply refused to let Trey Burke and Co. pick them apart by creating odd-man rushes and easy fast-break opportunities.
The Wolverines could not even find a way to turn 14 Wisconsin turnovers into a significant amount of points. Michigan only scored eight points off of the Badgers' giveaways.
Teams like Wisconsin and the Ohio State Buckeyes, who nearly swept the Wolverines, are two of the top defensive teams in the nation. They have given Michigan several valuable lessons that will benefit them in the NCAA tournament.
If Michigan is matched up with a defensive-minded team similar to the Badgers or Buckeyes, though, it could lead to another premature exit from the Big Dance.
Trey Burke Is Struggling from Beyond the Arc
Although sophomore point guard Trey Burke is still putting up numbers worthy of the Bob Cousy Award, which is awarded to the top player at his position, the Columbus, Ohio, native is struggling with his outside shot.
The Wisconsin Badgers were able to hold Burke to just 2-of-8 shooting from three-point range on Saturday, and this is becoming more of a trend than a couple of aberrations.
Since the start of Big Ten Conference action, Burke has scored at least 15 points in every game. But his efficiency from beyond the arc has dipped significantly.
After shooting 40 percent or better from distance in all but six of the Michigan Wolverines' non-confernce games, Burke has only managed to accomplish that same feat three times in league play.
In recent contests, he has been able to get several open looks at three-pointers, and it should only be a matter of time before those shots start falling again. Until they do, though, Burke needs to create more open shots in the lane to help the Wolverines win a Big Ten title.
Tim Hardaway Jr. Has Earned the Right to Take the Last Shot for Michigan
When the Michigan Wolverines needed their most important points of the game in the closing seconds of regulation, it was junior shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. that came through, not preseason All-American Trey Burke.
Saturday's loss to the Wisconsin Badgers marked the third time in the past two seasons in which Burke has seen a game-tying, or go-ahead field-goal attempt, make it part of the way down the basket only to rattle out and leave Michigan fans dreaming about what could have been.
Conversely, Hardaway hit nothing but the bottom of the net going to his left with Mike Bruesewitz in his face and the game on the line for the Wolverines.
Hardaway's three-ball put Michigan up 60-57 with less than three seconds remaining, and it would have been the game-winning basket had it not been for Ben Brust's miracle shot from half court.
Burke's crossover step-back jumper will break someone's heart later this year. But for now, Hardaway deserves to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.
Glenn Robinson III Is Fatigued
One of the most difficult things for true freshmen to do in college basketball is play significant minutes for an entire season. The latest example of this is Glenn Robinson III.
The freshman small forward has played 37 minutes or more in six of the Michigan Wolverines' last nine games. Robinson did not sit out at all against the Indiana Hoosiers and played 41 minutes in Michigan's overtime win over the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Fatigue could be a major factor in why his field-goal percentage has been dropping over the past three contests (30 percent).
Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com also pointed out that Robinson is not even finishing off easy plays as strongly as he did earlier in the 2012-13 campaign:
You watch Robinson on that break -- three weeks ago he's at the rim. Kid is completely wiped.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) February 9, 2013
Unfortunately, in the Big Ten Conference, there is no rest for the weary—or, in this case, true freshmen.
Robinson will have to play more than 30 minutes against the Michigan State Spartans on Tuesday, but the Wolverines will get a chance to rest him for much of the four days leading up to next Sunday's tilt with the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Do not expect to see a whole lot of Robinson next weekend after Michigan pulls away from Penn State in the first half.
Mitch McGary's Arsenal of Skills Is Growing Quickly
Say whatever you like about freshman big man Mitch McGary's defense, but there is no question the Chesterton, Ind. native is beginning to look more like an All-Big Ten forward at the offensive end with each passing game.
McGary runs the floor well, has already shown an uncanny ability to step into passing lanes (with nine steals in the past three games) and, as we found out against the Wisconsin Badgers, he can knock down a mid-range jumper as well.
The 6'10", 250-pouner made 6-of-10 field-goal attempts to finish the loss with 12 points and eight rebounds.
The Wolverines will be able to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament this season because of their outstanding backcourt, though McGary is the key to Michigan capturing a national championship.
As long as McGary continues his efficient play on offense and makes major strides defensively in the games leading up to the postseason, Michigan's frontcourt could become a force to be reckoned with.
The Wolverines Need Jordan Morgan Back Immediately
In order for the Michigan Wolverines to shore up their interior defensive issues, redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan needs to return from his ankle injury as soon as possible.
The Wolverines were not battered on the interior as badly as they were against the Ohio State Buckeyes, but the Wisconsin Badgers still piled up 24 points in the paint and had eight second-chance points.
Redshirt sophomore forward Jon Horford has started in place of Morgan for the last four games, though Mitch McGary has seen the most minutes out of any big man the Wolverines have.
There had been reason for optimism about Morgan's ankle on Thursday. Morgan did not show the same abilities during Friday's practice, however.
"Jordan got through practice OK on Thursday, (Friday) it was really slow," head coach John Beilein told Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. "So we just said 'you're not going to get better if we don't just shut you down.'"
If Morgan is not able to go on Tuesday when Michigan travels to East Lansing, redshirt freshman Max Bielfeldt will play extended minutes once again to counter the Michigan State Spartans' rather large lineup.
Bielfeldt played well against Wisconsin, but Michigan State's bigs will present much more of a challenge for the Peoria, Ill., product.
Michigan's interior defense will continue to struggle until Morgan returns to the lineup, so all Beilein and the Wolverines can do is simply hope his ankle finishes healing soon.
Michigan Still Can't Win at the Kohl Center
Whether it was missed opportunities at the rim, poor interior defense, a lack of transition offense or any other reason the Maize and Blue faithful can come up with to explain this loss, the fact remains the Michigan Wolverines have not won at the Kohl Center since 1999.
The Wisconsin Badgers are very good at home, and they have won six of their last seven games against Top Five opponents in Madison, so it is not as if this is a bad loss for Michigan.
Many of the Wolverines' past losses at the Kohl Center were a result of being outclassed in terms of overall talent. This year, though, Michigan clearly had the better team on paper, yet the result remained the same.
Hopefully, the Wolverines will get another shot to end the 14-year drought at Wisconsin next season, but head coach Bo Ryan clearly owns Michigan at home.
Michigan's Youth Reared Its Head at an Inopportune Moment
Due to the Michigan Wolverines' strong start to the season, which has carried over into Big Ten Conference play, many people around the country tend to forget how young this team is.
Everyone found out on Saturday.
With only 2.4 seconds remaining in the game, the Wolverines had fouls to give and could have prevented the Wisconsin Badgers from even getting off a final heave if freshman guard Caris LeVert stayed with Ben Brust.
"We were definitely fouling, wanted to keep everyone in front of us and (Brust) turned the corner on (LeVert) just enough that he couldn't foul him," head coach John Beilein said, per ESPN.com (via the Associated Press). "I thought we had them once they couldn't get their initial guy."
Michigan has played well beyond its years all season long, despite only getting major contributions from two upperclassmen. Unfortunately, the Wolverines displayed some of their youth at the worst possible moment.
This will serve as an important learning experience for Michigan going forward. For now, though, it is simply a reminder of what can go wrong with a relatively inexperienced group.
The Wolverines Let One Slip Away
Despite all of the negatives already discussed in this slideshow, the Michigan Wolverines were still in a position to win this game before Ben Brust's miracle shot allowed the Wisconsin Badgers to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Overall, Michigan shot below 40 percent from the field, only made 5-of-18 three-pointers and squandered potentially 14 points on missed layups. Yet the Wolverines would have emerged victorious if Brusts' desperation heave had been off the mark.
Additionally, Wisconsin had made less than 35 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc entering Saturday's game. The Badgers were 10-of-24 from three-point range in the victory.
Everything seemed to go Wisconsin's way this weekend.
If the Wolverines fail to win their second straight Big Ten Conference title this season, Michigan will look back on this game as the reason why it came up short.
The Maize and Blue were nearly able to overcome a subpar effort against a Big Ten title contender, but this one got away from the Wolverines and could sting even more once the final league standings are unveiled.
The Big Ten Conference Title Race Is Wide Open
The Wisconsin Badgers put themselves in the conversation for the Big Ten Conference title with their victory over the Michigan Wolverines.
As it stands right now, the Indiana Hoosiers and Michigan State Spartans lead the league with 9-2 records in conference play, while Michigan and Wisconsin sit just one game behind at 8-3.
Even the Ohio State Buckeyes are in the mix with four losses in Big Ten games. And the Minnesota Golden Gophers could wind up in a tie atop the standings by the end of the year if they put a run together over the next month.
Things are still far from over in the Big Ten title race, and it looks as if the league champion will have four or five losses when it is all said and done.
Michigan still has as good of a chance as anyone to win the conference, but its loss on Saturday proved the league is as wide open as it has been all year.