Michigan took part in the annual Maui Jim Maui Invitational, playing three games over the last three days. What looked like a chance to gain experience and play some tougher opponents may not have lived up to expectations. Michigan was able to come away with a 2-1 record, but they left good opportunities on the table.
Strength of schedule
The Wolverines were able to tack two more wins on to their resume, while suffering their first loss of the season as well. Although, a 2-1 record at the tournament is nothing to be ashamed of, especially with some of the teams in the field, Michigan would have helped their resume if they had taken care of business in their first game against LSU.
On opening night of the tournament, the Wolverines lost to LSU, 77-75. Michigan was up late against the Tigers, but couldn’t close out the game. Instead of getting a win against a team slated near the bottom of the SEC and a match-up with a ranked Notre Dame squad, Michigan suffered a ho-hum loss and instead got to face off against Division II host, Chaminade. Yes, they took care of business, with a final score of 102-64, but a win over a DII school does nothing for the team. Thankfully, Michigan was able to win their highly contested third game against a hard-nosed VCU squad, 68-60 and pick up a respectable neutral court win.
Now, let’s say the Wolverines hung on against LSU, lost to Notre Dame, and then beat Marquette in the third place game. Yes, that is still the same 2-1 record as they have now, but the Notre Dame loss looks a lot better than one to LSU, and a win over LSU is loads better than against a DII squad. It may not seem like much of a difference, but these wins and losses will be scrutinized at the end of the season when Michigan is looking for a ticket to the NCAA tournament.
Matthews at home in Maui
No player on Michigan’s team looked more comfortable over the three days than Charles Matthews. He poured in a career-high 28 points against LSU the first night, had 22 against Chaminade (going 8-8 from the field), and despite dealing with a quad injury, still managed 11 tough points against VCU. Against Chaminade, he also collected 10 rebounds, to record a double-double. Matthews is now leading Michigan with an average of 17.8 points a game on the season. Expect him to be their leading scorer on most nights this year.
Although saddled with foul trouble at times, Moe Wagner would score 46 points over the three games combined. Duncan Robinson had 35, while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman over the three days. Michigan relies on those three and Matthews, who combined for a total of 61 points, for most of their offense. And on night when one of those four can’t score (see Robinson against LSU), other Wolverines need to fill in the scoring role.
Live by the three, die by the three
When Michigan’s offense is on, their team is fun to watch. That was the case when the Wolverines sank 15 of their 28 three pointers against Chaminade. Jordan Poole, Isaiah Livers, and Matthews each had two in the game, while Abdur-Rahkman had three, and Robinson added four. However, on nights when those shots aren’t falling, Michigan can struggle to put the ball in the hoop. Against strong pressure from LSU and VCU, the Wolverines shot just 11-43 combined from beyond the arc. At least against VCU, they were able to attack the basket down the stretch to get the necessary points to win. Robinson had two and-one layups that kept Michigan in striking distance before Wagner’s and-one would give Michigan the lead for good. If Michigan can’t find their range, they need to be able to attack the basket like they showed they are capable of doing against VCU.
Zavier Simpson started Michigan’s first game against LSU, but it would be Eli Brooks who got the call against Chaminade and VCU. Coach Beilein decided to juggle his lineup to see which guard could create as well as score for the Wolverines. Simpson had just four points combined over the three games, while Brooks had 14.
Against Chaminade, Beilein was able to empty his bench, but the other two games were more telling in what the rotation may look like moving forward. Against LSU, eleven Wolverines saw the floor, while ten did in their win over LSU. Beilein has said he would like to have a shorter rotation as they enter conference play, and the VCU game may have been a glimpse of who will back up the starters moving forward. Simpson, Livers, Jaaron Simmons, Jon Teske, and Ibi Watson are the primary backups. For now.
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