Michigan’s Zak Irvin in search of his stroke
John Beilein swears he’s not concerned.
But Zak Irvin’s shooting is off — a lot — as he tries to work his way back from September back surgery.
Irvin, who shot 42.5 percent on 3-pointers as a freshman, is shooting 17.1 percent as a junior.
In Saturday’s blowout win over Youngstown State, he was 0-for-3, and they weren’t really even close.
Beilein believes Irvin just needs to make one or two to get his confidence rolling, and then all will be just fine.
“It’s like a golfer who all of a sudden isn’t making the putts,” Beilein said. “It can grow on you a little bit.”
Irvin still is making shots inside the 3-point line; there, he’s 31-of-50, for an impressive 62-percent clip.
But his outside game has gone missing — and appears to be gnawing at him. After missing a couple of 3s early against Youngstown State, he passed up some open looks later in the game.
His vertical leap isn’t what it was before the back surgery, so that could be partly to blame for the inaccuracy from deep.
The good news for Michigan: With Duncan Robinson now in the fold, and Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert able to connect on 3-pointers, Irvin doesn’t have to be the long-range threat he once was.
He’s still doing a lot of things well, dishing out nine assists in one game, and grabbing eight rebounds in another.
Beilein calls him his “point forward,” and is widely considered the best bet for the latest triple-double after LeVert did it Tuesday, before Walton did it Saturday.
“He’s seeing the floor really well,” Walton said of Irvin.
He’s just not seeing those 3s go through.
Beilein said he had hoped to get Irvin some extra shooting time in practice, especially before Big Ten play starts Dec. 30 at Illinois.
Game moves fast for Wagner
It might be tough for the average fan to figure out just what kind of team Michigan is, especially during the stretch of four nonconference games against competition that isn’t exactly very good.
But Beilein said he’s learning a lot.
That’s not to say he’s got a finished product.
Freshman Moritz Wagner, for instance, is one guy the coaching staff is trying to figure out. His minutes have fluctuated the last five games, from 10 to eight to 19 to three to 16 on Saturday night against Youngstown State.
“For an 18-year-old young man, this game is moving very fast for him,” Beilein said earlier this month. “He’s really performed well some days, some other times he still looks like he’s a young colt out there trying to figure things out.”
The biggest issue, as it is with so many Michigan players, is defense and rebounding.
He did have five rebounds Saturday, for his best total in that department this year.
“I still have a long way to go,” Wagner said.
Michigan’s three big men, Ricky Doyle, Wagner and Mark Donnal, are averaging 3.3, 1.9 and 1.7 rebounds, respectively.
Bryant’s Burns draws praise
Michigan hosts Bryant on Wednesday night, for the last of four home nonconference games before Big Ten play starts.
Bryant, out of the Northeast Conference, made some news over the offseason when assistant coach Chris Burns came out as gay.
He became the first openly gay basketball coach in Division I, earning applause from all corners of the basketball community, including from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“The work of all the people who’ve come before me makes sharing my true self something that is a responsibility, not just a choice,” Bryant wrote on OutSports.com in October.
He wrote that the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage convinced him it was time to share his story.