No. 10 Michigan has won games with Derrick Walton struggling. They’ve won when Caris LeVert doesn’t play well or when Zak Irvin is having one of his off-nights. Most importantly, they’ve survived the loss of Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III’s periodic disappearances.
What they can’t survive, however, is a no-show performance from Nik Stauskas, and that’s exactly what happened on Saturday at No. 17 Iowa.
Roy Devyn Marble put on a show, finishing with 26 points in an 85-67 win, but the story for the Wolverines was Stauskas, who finished the night with just 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting. Against Indiana last Sunday, Stauskas had six points on 1-for-6 shooting from the field. In the loss at Duke earlier this season, Stauskas had four points and missed both of the shots that he took.
The loss drops the Wolverines a game behind Michigan State in the loss column in the Big Ten standings, but that’s not the biggest news of the day. There is now a blueprint for how to slow down what had been a powerful Michigan offense. Stauskas is a talented playmaker and scorer that can make a lot of different things happen when he’s allowed to take advantage of his playmaking ability, but he’s not a strong ball-handler, doesn’t have a post-up game and isn’t overly quick.
What that means is that crowding him with small guards can eliminate his penetration without the risk of getting burned on the block. As a result, Stauskas ends up getting chased around screens and forced into a role where he almost plays as a decoy. It obliterates any offensive rhythm that the Wolverines have, as their last couple of games have featured far too many isolations and far too much one-on-one play.
“It just falls on me right now,” Stauskas said. “I’ve got to be more aggressive and find ways to make it happen.”
How will Stauskas and head coach John Beilein adjust?