Cold As Ice
Basketball can become a very simple game, depending on your ability to put the ball in the basket.
Unfortunately for Michigan on Tuesday night, it couldn't hit water from a boat. And that's why the No. 4 Wolverines suffered their first loss of the season at No. 1 Louisville, 58-43.
You're not beating anybody with full motor function, let alone the top-ranked team in all the land in their gym, when you only make 15 out of 58 shots (26%). That's the whole game right there, no further analysis needed.
Still, let's make sure to give the Cardinals the credit they're owed here for those anemic numbers. Their defensive length and quickness was next level compared to what Michigan had seen so far this season, and the Wolverines' schedule thus far has obviously been no joke. That Louisville length and quickness frustrated Michigan into bad shots and hero ball most of the night. And then when the Wolverines did seem to get a look in the flow, they inexplicably passed up several three-point shots.
Maybe that's for the best, though, given the fact Michigan only shot 16% from beyond the arc -- almost 30 percentage points below its season average coming in. Sure, some regression to the mean was definitely due after the way Michigan torched the nets in the Bahamas last week, but this was way too drastic.
You know it's not your night when Isaiah Livers and Eli Brooks combine to shoot 1-for-15 from the field. I'd almost be willing to guarantee that won't happen again the rest of the season. Especially since I don't see a team in the Big Ten with that kind of personnel. Jon Teske fought hard all game, and was Michigan's leading scorer with 18 points, but he also needed 18 field goal attempts to get those points.
Anyway, enough about this forgettable effort. Let's look at where Michigan basketball is in the big picture, heading into its Big Ten opener against Iowa back home in Ann Arbor on Friday.
Against one of the toughest schedules in the nation, Michigan is 7-1 with two wins over top 10 teams that are likely to pay dividends all the way to Selection Sunday. The Wolverines just finished one of the toughest stretches in school history -- three consecutive games against top 10 teams. None of which were played at Crisler. To win any of those games, let alone the first two, with a team not even ranked in the preseason top 25 is extraordinary.
Sure, you're never happy about a loss, but every Michigan basketball fan ought to be ecstatic with where this team is right now, and potentially where it could go as players such as Franz Wagner get their sea legs. And developing players like Colin Castleton and Brandon Johns continue to improve.
Tuesday night was the perfect storm. On one hand you had an upstart Michigan team coming off a sugar high from winning the Battle 4 Atlantis. Meanwhile, lying in wait a No. 1 team who hasn't played anybody, anxious to finally announce itself against a name opponent on the national stage. These buzzsaws are going to happen when you play a schedule this tough.
But as we saw in the Bahamas, the Wolverines can be a buzzsaw, too. And something tells me we won't have to wait too long to be reminded of that once more. Maybe as soon as Friday night.