The Michigan Wolverines entered Saturday’s game against NJIT with a win probability of 97.5 percent, per KenPom. Despite numbers and logic being on their side, however, John Beilein’s young team stumbled at home and fell in a shocker to the Highlanders, 72-70. That gave Michigan its second loss of the young season.
Panic mode commenced for some after that numbing loss.
How can THIS team lose to THAT team?
And we’re wanting to compete in the Big Ten?
What could possibly follow this performance?
Michigan is one of the least experienced teams in the country, according to the same KenPom metrics, with an average of 1.12 years of experience. Comparing that to the rest of the Big Ten, only Purdue and Indiana are working with less experience, with 1.02 and 1.00 years, respectively. Purdue just lost to North Florida and Indiana lost to Eastern Washington. Both of those games were at home.
Before you say Michigan should be far above these two programs, think again. Youth is youth; that’s the way it works almost completely across the board. Most players are not developed at this point, and coaches are forced to work with less than they’ll have in February and March. That is what has made John Beilein’s legacy at Michigan—his ability to develop young talent and turn it into its absolute most.
Beilein is a tremendous teacher of young people, mostly because he understands that not every player works and operates in the same way. The perfect example of that: Kameron Chatman, the highly touted freshman, didn’t start his career on the highest of notes. He struggled mightily from the field, only hitting one shot in each of the Wolverines’ first three games (four, if you include the scrimmage against Hillsdale). Instead of trying to put the clamps on him, though, Beilein allowed Chatman to shoot his way out of the slump. That wouldn’t have worked for anyone, but Beilein knows how to deal with these things; he has been doing it for years.
That’s the kind of coaching that turns every player into the best version of himself.
Another reason to remain just as optimistic as before is the leadership Michigan takes with it on the court. Guys like Derrick Walton Jr. and Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert and Max Bielfeldt—they’re veterans in this system, and it’s not by the number of years they’ve been doing it, but by the amount of exposure they’ve had to it.
Those players are consistently some of the most intelligent players on the court at any given time. They have each been through at least one growing experience during their time at Michigan, and they understand perfectly well how things are supposed to happen. You can’t peak in December or January; and these guys understand that this is all part of a process that takes time and patience.
Michigan has absolutely no reason to fear here in this young season. The pieces are in place; now it’s time to watch them fall into the places they need to be.
Tyler Fenwick is the managing editor of The Big House Report. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.