Michigan took to the road in a tough non conference tilt, in a neutral site (Brooklyn, NY) this evening against a Stanford Cardinal team that was coming off a very impressive W against a #10 ranked UConn team. Michigan was without Mitch McGary due to the back problems that have held him out much of this early season. Michigan was still able to get solid contributions off the bench from Zak Irvin who was seemingly given the “Green Light” tonight from beyond the arc, and RS-SR big man Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan (although both fouled out and faced foul trouble all throughout the game). Also, Max Bielfeldt gave good minutes on both ends of the court by attacking the glass and giving the team life on the boards. This goes without saying that Michigan bigs struggled against the size of Stanford all night.
GRIII continued to look to seemingly be back to the form we saw him in last season with 17pts and 6 boards. Stauskas looked to also be back to his dominate ways, leading all scorers with 19 points, a majority coming in the second half. Without further a due, here is my 3 quick takeaways from tonight’s big win against Stanford.
-McGary is the key
Mitch McGary plays a key role in the Michigan offense that nobody else can marginally fill. McGary brings energy that no one else can match, and is a different breed of athlete when it comes to big men. He adds a dynamic to this offense, that when accompanied by a GOOD GRIII and a reliable Stauskas, makes them a strong threat in the tournament. The back injury continues to take away from the development of Mitch, but it also allows Coach Beilein to see what he has off the bench and ultimately will help this team grow. When you have a player as special as McGary, you must give him the utmost time to get better. When that time comes, this team takes off to another level.
-Zak Irvin Is a Sniper
I will keep this one short, and it is something I have shared publicly for quite a long time. Zak Irvin was Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana for a reason. The Wolverines and Beilein need to give this young man more time and minutes. When on he is a sharpshooter to the likes of Stauskas and can take a game over with his game on the offensive end. Tonight Irvin stepped in and knocked down 4 threes to lead the bench with 12 points and showed that he can get hot, and get hot in a hurry. Think of Irvin as a Tim Hardaway in terms of ability to take over from outside the arc, but overall the potential to be a more consistent player from within the perimeter and the potential to grow into a more well rounded college player.
-It may be time for Spike to shine
Now, I know, I said that Derrick Walton had the potential to behold similarities that Trey had when he was a freshman but with a more consistent passing suave, and yes I still stand by that; but right now if Big Ten play started today I would have to give the nod to Spike. When Spike enters the game he brings a sense of energy that is only matched by Mitch and he can take over from the perimeter. Nonetheless, I saw Derrick play in high school and all throughout his 4 years at Chandler Park Academy, he demonstrated the ability to shoot the daylights out of the ball and take over a game in all facets. I am a firm believer that as D-Nice gains experience he will harness the confidence and ability to shoot like he did much of his high school career, but for this team to be successful I would not mind Spike switching roles with Derrick so that the team can play at a higher level and Derrick can learn the speed of the college game while coming off the bench. Walton did show a sign of promise tonight, when he showed he could step just inside the arc and knock down a 16 foot jumper and also great vision that scouts raved about coming out of CPA on the alley oop to GRII.
This team is a work in progress, but if the signs that the progress are showing are valid, this team WILL be a threat in March and throughout the strenuous run of Big Ten play. This team, when on, is as dangerous as any team in America. If GRIII can stay on , Stauskas keeps being Stauskas, McGary gets healthy, and the youth of Irvin, LeVert and Walton continue to develop.. the sky is truly the limit.