It hasn’t been the year Michigan fans expected on the basketball court.
A 9-6 start to the season has included losses to N.J.I.T., Eastern Michigan and Purdue. Now the talk has turned from Caris LeVert being a candidate for National Player of the Year to his team possibly not even making the NCAA Tournament.
Turning back the clock to before the season began, the tides have turned drastically on this team and this player.
A large reason as to why Michigan is having these struggles is because of the play of LeVert, who hasn’t exactly matched the preseason hype given to him. But it isn’t because of the traditional faults that hold a player back from his potential.
Under head coach John Beilein, the Wolverines are supposed to shoot the lights out, especially from behind the arc. That’s how teams from recent past have been able to do such special things. It isn’t a very complicated formula: Work for high-percentage shots and then convert. Players like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas thrived in that system.
Looking at Michigan’s current roster, it would seem the pieces are there to continue that same success in way that may not even need to be toned down. It especially seems true when you look at LeVert.
Work on offense to create high-percentage opportunities and then convert—that seems simple enough. But what if your star player is trying to too hard to be bigger than life?
That has been Michigan’s problem all season. Watching LeVert play is a lot like watching a younger brother trying to prove he’s just as good as his older brother. Or like watching an only son try to fill the boots of his great father.
Often times LeVert appears to be a few steps ahead of himself; it looks like he’s trying to convert before he creates. When he attacks a defender off the dribble, he doesn’t seem in control of himself, and it results in some very ugly looking, low-percentage shots. When coaches say, “We don’t need you to be Superman; we need you to be Clark Kent,” this is case and point.
LeVert’s best intentions are getting in the way sometimes, and even though his potential is through the roof, his journey to fulfill it often hurts this team on offense.
Should Beilein be able to turn this team around through the remainder of the season and save what’s left of it, it would undoubtedly go down as one of his best coaching jobs. But there is no way he can do it without LeVert—his star, the go-to man—coming back down to Earth in order to play within himself.
It will take something special, but that’s exactly what LeVert is—he’s special. He’s a talented player who has worked incredibly hard to put himself in this position.
And there’s no reason this can’t be saved.
Tyler Fenwick is the managing editor of The Big House Report. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.