Michigan soared to the top spot of the polls last week, but once there, in a severe test at Indiana Saturday night, they didn't pass for the same reason they lost at Ohio State earlier this season: Two of their prized freshmen had subpar games.
Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas are tremendous players. When they play well, so do the Wolverines collectively. When they don't play well, Michigan struggles.
Glenn Robinson III
At Indiana, Robinson played 40 minutes and took just six shots. He didn't score until a meaningless breakaway dunk late in the game. It was almost as if he wasn't on the floor. At Ohio State, he played 38 minutes and had just one rebound. In 78 minutes at Ohio State and Indiana, Robinson has taken only 14 shots. Part of the reason is he must move better without the ball. Part of it is getting him more involved in the offense. That falls on Michigan's coaches and point guard Trey Burke, who has played brilliantly, but there have been too many instances when his teammates are standing around at tight times of these tough road tests, expecting Burke to just do it. The Wolverines will perform much better in these situations if there is flow in their offense.
Stauskas is one of the most-gifted 3-point shooters ever in the Big Ten.. That much, already, is evident, but he hasn't hit his shots in these big road games (1-for-8 behind the 3-point line at Ohio State and at Indiana, combined).
Freshman Mitch McGary has performed admirably in these games, running the floor exceptionally well for his size and finishing near the basket.
But if the Wolverines are going to win the Big Ten regular season and/or Big Ten Tournament titles, or take a deep run in the NCAA tournament, they need much better production than they received from Robinson III and Stauskas in their first severe Big Ten road tests. The next such game: A week from Tuesday at Michigan State, which follows a relatively testy encounter Saturday night at Wisconsin. The Wolverines play Ohio State at home Tuesday, but Stauskas and Robinson have played much better at home against similar competition.
Pat Caputo is a sports columnist for The Oakland Press. Caputo covered the Tigers from 1986-98, and Lions from 1998-2002 for The Oakland Press before becoming a columnist. Caputo was raised in Birmingham and played baseball and football at Groves High School. His photograph playing high school sports appeared in The Oakland Press. He has won numerous writing awards, including first place in column writing from the Michigan Associated Press and the Michigan Press Association, and from the Detroit Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has been named among the Top Ten sports columnists in the nation by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), and has won honors in four of the APSE's six national award categories. He has garnered top national honors for his column writing and sports writing from the Local Media Association. Caputo, who has resided in Oakland County since he was nine years old, currently lives in Lake Orion. Caputo has a radio show weeknights and weekends on 97.1 FM, The Ticket, which is the flagship station for the Tigers, Lions and Red Wings. He also appears regularly on FOX 2 television on "SportsWorks."