Michigan Basketball: Lack of Balance Will Hurt Wolverines in NCAA Tournament

Ben ChodosCorrespondent IIMarch 8, 2013

March 6, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Trey Burke (3) drives during the 1st half  in the game against Purdue at Mackey Arena.   Mandatory Credit: Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

When Michigan gets out in the open floor and pushes the tempo, it is one of the best teams in the country. But if the Wolverines are forced to go to Plan B, they are all too ordinary, and this will be a problem in the NCAA Tournament.

Trey Burke is the nation’s premier floor general and the most deserving candidate for this year’s Player of the Year awards. He is putting up 19.1 points and 6.9 assists per game while shooting 49 percent from the floor. 

These are eye-popping numbers, and he has excellent players on the wing to help him. Tim Hardaway Jr. is a lengthy, athletic two-guard, while Glenn Robinson III is an explosive forward and Nik Stauskas is a knockdown shooter from deep.

All four of the players just mentioned are averaging above 10 points per game, but they are the only Wolverines who can claim this.

None of the Michigan big men are offensive threats. Freshman Mitch McGary leads the post players in points with 6.1 per game, and he gets most of his baskets from hustling on the glass.

For all the talent on the Wolverines roster, John Beilein has a jump-shooting team that does not have a low-post scorer. Michigan ranks second in the nation in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, but when the team fails to hit jump shots, the results are often disappointing.

This was the case in a 75-52 blowout loss to Michigan State this season. The team shot just 39.6 percent from the floor, with McGary and Robinson—who started in the frontcourt—combining for just six points. 

While the Wolverines’ one-dimensional offense is concerning, it is not nearly as worrisome as the team’s inconsistent defense.

Michigan ranks 60th in KenPom.com’s defensive efficiency rating, and provided a recent example of the type of lapses it is capable of on this end of the floor. The team allowed Penn State, which ranks 189th in offensive efficiency, to put up 84 points and earn an upset victory. 

This is the type of performance that can be looked over when it happens at the beginning of the season, but the loss to the Nittany Lions came on Feb. 27. 

When the NCAA Tournament arrives, the Wolverines will try to play their style and force the opposition into a wide-open, up-and-down game.

But if the Wolverines face a disciplined defensive team with physical big men, they will be in trouble.

The team’s lack of defense and inability to score in the post are two massive problems that will cause the Wolverines to disappoint in the Big Dance.