October 29, 2013

Borton's Blog: Hoop dreams…

In some ways, it seems like a long time since Spike Albrecht was lighting up Louisville in the first half of college basketball's biggest game. Some six months later, they're back at it.

Here are some running thoughts on the return of Michigan basketball…

  • Starters for the game: Spike Albrecht, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, Jon Horford, Jordan Morgan. Michigan featured an extremely tall new assistant coach, one who looks good in a suit and tie … but will look much better once he trades that look in for No. 4 in days or weeks.

  • Michigan brings out the slickly produced pregame video and "Let's Get Ready To Rumbllllllllle…" clip blasted through the Crisler speakers. The arena is half full, but they're enthusiastic … with some help.

  • Glenn Robinson III takes it hard to the hole the first time he gets his hands on the ball. Pull-up in the key and a miss. And Albrecht with an early turnover … Final Four teams aren't built in an opening night.

  • Albrecht makes amends by taking a charge, and Derrick Walton makes his first court appearance at 16:27 … and promptly fires a quick pass to Stauskas in the corner for a three. Oh yeah … Walton will have no issues at all making friends among the scorers.

  • This team will be extremely fun to watch if it maintains unselfishness. Robinson gets the ball under the basket and in one motion whips it to the right corner to Caris LeVert, who drains a three. Movement and sacrifice work nicely together.

  • Zak Irvin comes in at the 14:33 mark. Misfires on his first three, but sure looks the part. The reports on him putting on some good weight were not exaggerated.

  • This will be a deeper team than last year, if John Beilein wants it to be. Jon Horford, Albrecht, LeVert … lots of players looking like they're ready to contribute at a high level right away, beyond the more recognized front-liners. That wasn't the case a year ago. Albrecht is an incredible four-year luxury for a program still able to pull in early exit point guards. Horford is relentless, and will help plenty, and LeVert is going to have a big year.

  • Thinking back to the speculation about Jordan Morgan bolting after he lost his starting job last year. Not only is he in grad school, he'll help this team in a variety of ways. With a healthy Max Bielfeldt, this team has a lot of frontcourt depth.

  • Concordia isn't going to scare any NCAA Tournament teams this year. But from Michigan's standpoint, it's good to see a team that finished 2012-13 on such a high (final half of final game notwithstanding) not come in and "just slop around" (in the famous words of one Gary Oscar Moeller) in an opening exhibition game. Mix lineups, come out flying, get off to a 33-9 start and just roll.

  • Walton provides some help-side defense around 7:30 of the first half. Shows some awareness and early learning, which will make Beilein even more comfortable about using him. Then drains his first three at the 7:13 mark, followed by an athletic layup, pickpocket steal and breakaway layup. Someone on press row says, "He's got a little swagger," and nobody's disagreeing.

  • Walton follows with another easy layup opportunity … that he promptly foregoes to put one on a platter for LeVert, who scores and gets fouled. The freshman can, and will, dish it.

  • The chemistry looks very good early. The unselfishness, the effort and effectiveness on defense … again, it's Concordia. But there are plenty of aspects you can pick up here that make the opponent irrelevant (which is what Michigan did anyway, outscoring the visitors 60-19 in the first half).

  • McGary's having a ball, playing or not. Robinson goes on a breakaway slam, and No. 4 is on his feet, celebrating like he made the shot.

  • Shooting 81.5 percent (22-for-27) for a half is never a bad thing. And Beilein will appreciate the 13 assists, although he'll say four turnovers is a little high, including slightly sloppy lobs from Walton and LeVert.

  • There might be more slam dunks in this game than in Beilein's entire first season as head coach. Robinson and LeVert are going to be sending some down this year … not to mention McGary, upon his return.

  • Walton with another three. Handle … check. Passing … double check. Darius Morris discount from the perimeter … nope.

  • Second half, more of the same … this crew is going to have a lot of fun together this year. Walton will lead this team in steals, going away … quick, quick hands.

  • Irvin drops a smooth three at the 10-minute mark, giving Michigan a ridiculous 98 points. Everybody have fun tonight … Stauskas drives to the hole for a three-point play to make it 101-29 with 9:12 left. Is there mercy rule? Running clock?

  • Albrecht, Walton, Stauskas on the floor to close out games will be pretty darned solid, especially with Robinson mixed in.

  • Mark Donnal scores at the 4:20 mark. It would be great all the way around if this freshman could redshirt, but at least he's on the board in the exhibition season.

  • Remembering all the years that included all-too-ugly exhibition and non-conference struggles when (given the opposition) you'd think it would never happen. It will be a shocker if this team endures many of those moments, even on a down night.

  • Still waiting to see what this team does as the shot clock winds down, with no Trey Burke bomb available. They didn't come close to that situation in this game.

  • Michigan slacks off in the second half … and only scores 57 in the second half, for a 117-44 win. You get better or you get worse, and well …

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