May 17, 2016
May 17, 2016
Just as it was a year ago, the theme of the 2015-16 Michigan men’s basketball season was youth contribution. After early injuries to the only two seniors — Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert — the Wolverines looked once more to the young players on the team for important minutes, culminating in a strong run down the stretch that saw Michigan play its way into the NCAA Tournament courtesy of gutsy performances in the Big Ten Tournament.
The season began brightly for the Wolverines, especially in the form of dominating play from LeVert. However, after playing in just 15 games, LeVert’s season was cut short due to injury for the second year in a row. The future NBA draft pick averaged a team-leading 16.8 points a game along with 5.3 rebounds per game and 74 assists, good for third-best on the team at year’s end.
U-M earned the No. 8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, and the Wolverines’ postseason run began with Zak Irvin‘s overtime game-winner against Northwestern in the first round and was followed by an upset win over Indiana in dramatic fashion. After the top-seeded Hoosiers tied the game at 67 with under a minute to play, Derrick Walton Jr. found Kameron Chatman on the baseline in front of the Wolverines’ bench and Chatman splashed a buzzer-beating three-pointer with a defender draped all over him, sending the Wolverines into the semifinals against Purdue.
After falling in the semifinals, Michigan had to wait until Selection Sunday to know if its performance was enough to earn a place in the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines received one of the final places in the tournament as an 11 seed and a date with Tulsa in the First Four in Dayton. Behind a double-double from the sharpshooting Duncan Robinson and 16 points each from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Irvin, Michigan took down the Golden Hurricane, 67-62, to advance to the first round against Notre Dame. Against the Irish, the Wolverines led midway through the second half, but Notre Dame stormed back to end Michigan’s season with a 70-63 defeat.
• The No. 8 seed Wolverines advanced to the semifinal round in the Big Ten Tournament. U-M held off No. 9 seed Northwestern, 72-70, in overtime in the second round (March 10). The Maize and Blue then upset top-seeded Indiana, 72-69, in a quarterfinal (March 11) after a last-second shot by Kameron Chatman fell to give the Wolverines the dramatic win. The Wolverines lost to No. 4 seed Purdue, 76-59, in the semifinals (March 12) to end their Big Ten Tournament run.
• U-M returned to the NCAA Tournament and defeated Tulsa, 67-62, in the First Four (March 16), becoming the East Region’s No. 11 seed. The Wolverines moved on to face No. 6 seed Notre Dame (March 18) and were defeated by the Irish, 70-63, to end the 2015-16 season.
• Michigan recorded two triple-doubles this season as Caris LeVert (13 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) posted the fourth in U-M history against Northern Kentucky (Dec. 15), while in the very next game Derrick Walton Jr. (10 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists) added his name to the record books against Youngstown State (Dec. 19).
• U-M continued to show its strength in Crisler Center this season with a 13-4 record, giving the Wolverines a 70-14 record at home over the last five seasons.
• Zak Irvin proved to be the anchor down the stretch for the Wolverines, pulling in the second-most rebounds on the team (4.5 rpg). Irvin’s biggest moment came in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament against Northwestern with Michigan needing a win to be considered for the Big Dance. With three seconds to play in overtime, Irvin curled off a screen and buried a 15-footer to win the game and keep the Wolverines’ NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Irvin became the 50th Wolverine to score 1,000 career points, ending the season with has 1,115 (41st). Irvin also moved into U-M’s top 10 all-time for three-point field goals made with 187, good for eighth.
• Derrick Walton Jr. had another solid season running the Michigan offense, averaging 10.7 points per game while adding 147 assists (4.5 apg). The 6-foot-1 Walton blossomed into one of the nation’s best rebounding guards, averaging a team-best 5.4 boards a game despite often being the shortest player on the court.
• Duncan Robinson had 12 games with four or more three-pointers and six games with five-plus threes. He had a season-best six three-pointers — all in the first half — against Northern Kentucky (Dec. 15). Robinson just missed becoming the second Wolverine to reach the century mark for long-range buckets in a single season, finishing the season with 95.
• Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman played important minutes again this season, showcasing his ability to fight to the bucket and score inside. The versatile guard averaged nearly 10 points per game (9.8 ppg) in conference games after playing his way into the starting five.
Zak Irvin (left) and Derrick Walton Jr.
Honors and Awards
Big Ten Conference
All-Big Ten Third Team: Derrick Walton Jr. (Coaches)
All-Big Ten Honorable Mention: Derrick Walton Jr. (Media), Zak Irvin (Coaches & Media)
All-Big Ten Tournament Team: Zak Irvin
Big Ten Sportsmanship Award: Caris LeVert
Big Ten Player of the Week
Caris LeVert (Dec. 21, 2015)
Michigan Team Awards
Bill Buntin Most Valuable Player: Zak Irvin
Wayman Britt Outstanding Defensive Player: Derrick Walton Jr.
Travis Conlan Sportsmanship Award: Sean Lonergan
Rudy Tomjanovich Most Improved Player: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
Sixth Man Award: Aubrey Dawkins
Steve Grote Hustle Award: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
Thad Garner Leadership Award: Zak Irvin
Iron Man Award: Zak Irvin
Award for Outstanding Free Throw Shooting: Duncan Robinson
Gary Grant Award for Most Assists: Derrick Walton Jr.
Loy Vaught Rebounding Award: Derrick Walton Jr.
Morgan/Bodnar Award for Academic Achievement: Sean Lonergan
Communications Contact: Tom Wywrot