Michigan vs Creighton: Takeaways and Thoughts from Game Two

In his first real test of his head coaching career, Juwan Howard and his Michigan Wolverines welcomed KenPom’s 31st rated team, Creighton into Crisler.

Creighton 69 – Michigan 79

You watched the game. You know what happened. Let’s get into it:

  • Be proud of this one, if you’re a Michigan fan. Creighton’s going to be an NCAA Tournament team, and is a well-coached, legitimately fun team to watch, with a balanced, attacking offense that plays quick and gets good looks. It’s easy to watch the Bluejays and think that this is the type of offense Juwan Howard wants to bring to Ann Arbor. In that case, let him.
  • Wolverines shooting lines: 70 from two, 39 from three, 83 from the line. That will get the job done.
  • Isaiah Livers looked like the Wolverines’ go-to guy tonight, which is an obvious good sign. I think a lot of people assumed that his 44 percent 3-point shooting last year was a bit of a fluke because of low volume and having mostly wide-open looks, but he’s shown slightly more versatility and most importantly, more aggression. It’s clear Howard’s up-tempo offense plays to his strengths, and you’ll see that on highlight reels, but what stood out to me most was a jumper at the 13-minute mark, where Livers used a screen, probed and hit an intermediate-range jumper. He didn’t really do anything as a pick-and-roll ball handler or midrange shooter last year, and that has to be the next step in his game if Michigan is to reach its ceiling.
  • That was more like it for Zavier Simpson. 17 points, nine assists, three rebounds and a couple threes (including this):
  • Ummmm…..
  • The fact that Simpson’s sky-hook is a thing that exists, and a thing that he is good at, will never fail to amaze, nor will it cease to be the primary thing people talk about when they talk about his offensive game. But that shot doesn’t happen by accident. Simpson, in general, has unbelievable body control at the rim. He combines his strength with the ability to use any part of the backboard because of his exceptional touch. Simpson’s three layups in the first two minutes of the second half are a good example of this.
  • Adrien Nunez looked like a statue on the first possession as Mitch Ballock drove past him for a layup and it went from there. The Bluejays made a point of attacking Nunez whenever he was in the game, and they did so quite successfully, using a ton of off-ball screens for Ballock, their best shooter, that Nunez couldn’t fight through. This isn’t something that is just going to go away.
  • In two games for Nunez: 24 minutes, eight points, nothing else. He’s all zeroes in everything except for fouls (four) and turnovers (one). But at least to me, this is more confirmation of what we already knew about Nunez and less a worrying trend. Franz Wagner will take his starting spot as soon as he’s healthy.
  • Concerning things: Creighton, which didn’t start anyone taller than 6’7, had 18 offensive rebounds and won the overall battle, 38-27. 6’11 Kelvin Jones, its only player above 6’8, had nine boards in 16 minutes. The Bluejays mostly made up for their size disadvantage by creating a numbers advantage, totally surrounding Jon Teske and Michigan’s other bigs with bodies and just generally making things as tough as possible for Teske. They hustled after their own misses and made it to 50-50 balls. Allowing 18 offensive rebounds isn’t excusable against anyone. Much less Creighton.
  • Not-concerning things: defense after the break. Michigan held a really good offensive team to 28 points, mostly contesting every shot and keeping up with the Bluejays’ parade of back-cutters. It was a revelation and a reminder that for the last couple years, if the Wolverines hit their threes, they’ve been basically unstoppable.
  • Michigan shot 27 percent from 3-point range in losses last season, and never higher than 36 percent in any of those defeats. It looks like that should be the case this season, maybe to a lesser extent. This is still a top-two defense from 2018-19 that returns its best two defenders. That being said, there are a few more individual trouble spots than in years past.
  • The Wolverines didn’t really look to Teske until late in the game, and he scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting with two and-ones in the final five minutes. It seemed they waited until they cooled off a bit from outside, and until Creighton seemed tired, to really exploit their size advantage.
  • The Teske 3-point experiment has to be nearing an end. This isn’t to say he shouldn’t take them when he’s open, but he missed all of his attempts today and is shooting 17 percent from there on three tries per game. It’s not just that he’s missing, but that all of his shots are missing the same way — this isn’t a product of luck, this is a product of him having a ceiling as a shooter. Teske can aim, but consistently lacks lift on his jumper, meaning he short-arms nearly everything. With more viable shooters on this team than last year it’s hard to justify drawing up more than one or two pick-and-pop scenarios a game for him.
  • The three-guard lineup in the second half with Simpson, Eli Brooks and David DeJulius really impressed. All three are tough, aggressive and can get to the rim.
  • Creighton shot two free throws. It missed them both.
  • Neither team took a free throw in the first half, for that matter.
  • No context needed:

Photo Credit: Marc-Grégor Campredon/MGoBlog

Jacob Shames