Listen, let me start by saying I love The University of Michigan. I especially love me some John Beilein. I will be the first to defend the university and the basketball program. Now I have a little bias(Maybe a little more than a little), but it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to express my genuine concerns I have with the Men’s Basketball team going forward as March Madness is just around the corner.
John Beilein and crew just recently lost to Northwestern in Evanston, now I’m not gonna rant and rave about how Michigan is the worst team ever after one loss. In my opinion almost every power 5 conference school is gonna have a game like Michigan recently did against Northwestern. Honestly after watching that game I tip my hat to Northwestern, they played a gritty game and were locking us down defensively to the point where we looked lost at times. Now of course there is two sides to every story, Michigan was capable of winning that game seeing as they had just beaten this exact same Northwestern team 9 days prior. One of the things that stands out to me from that game is Michigan shot 22% from three… Yes you read that right. Now of course Beilein loves teams that live and die by the three. Teams that are shooting hot going into conference tournaments or even the NCAA Tournament can cause some serious damage in big moments. So that stat may be a little bit of an outlier as the team regularly shoots at a 36% rate on the season. But the one thing that will absolutely determine Michigan’s success in the postseason is Free Throws.
In the game in Evanston, the Wolverines shot a 68% free throw rate. Not to mention most of those misses came down the stretch toward the end of the game in crucial moments. This is where my major concern comes from this team going forward. The team is shooting 65% on the season from the line. For those who thought getting a D grade in your highschool biology class was fine you’re probably pretty happy with that rate. (Wait didn’t you get a D in biology in High School Tanner?). But for a team like Michigan to be shooting 65% is absolutely terrible. If you watch basketball on even a somewhat consistent basis you know to beat big teams you gotta hit your free throws.
I saw a stat the other day that among the top 5 power conferences, Michigan is third worst in free throw percentage… SHEEEEEEEEEESH. Now the weird thing is they weren’t doing this terrible from the line all season, hell free throws is what sealed the game for them against #4 MSU at the Breslin Center. So this team is capable of hitting free throws ( I think… I hope) and these struggles from the line are somewhat recent. Zavier Simpson the starting Point Guard has a whopping 47% free throw percentage and that rate seems to drop every time I check (look there it goes again!). A lot of this season is going to ride on that mans shoulders, seeing as he goes to the line at a higher rate than almost anyone on the team.
Realistically this team has a bunch of talent. Beilein year in year out somehow puts a team on the court that can contend with the best when he doesn’t always get the best recruits. Beilein is one of the most underrated/underappreciated coaches in the nation. But he’s also one of the best, if there is any coach I would want to solve this problem and get this team to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament it would be that man. This team still has 4 games left on the regular season, 3 of which against NCAA tournament quality opponents in Ohio State, Penn State and Maryland so there is time to right this ship. But as of right now, I got Michigan making it to the 2nd weekend of the big dance and that’s it. Unless some changes are made and this team can start producing from the free throw line and show me they’re capable of being a team to make a deep run.