The Wolverine

April 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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APRIL 2022 THE WOLVERINE 65 C onsistently inconsistent. It has been the theme of Michigan basketball's season. It has also been the theme of Caleb Houstan's season. Each has been con- sistently inconsistent in different ways. But it may be upon the freshman wing to break his pattern to snap U-M out of its pattern and ignite a March Madness run. From mid-February to mid-March, the Maize and Blue were not able to string two quality performances to- gether. In one game, the Wolverines look like a top-15 squad that could be contending for titles. In the next game, they look like a team hoping to qualify for a bid to the NIT. As a result, they have alternated wins and losses in each of their last 10 contests. Seriously. These are Michigan's last 10 results: Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. It was enough to sneak into the NCAA Tournament and a spot in the first round as a No. 11 seed. But it won't be enough to advance to the second weekend. Es- pecially, with another win and loss. However, Michigan can clinch a Sweet 16 berth. Its fifth straight. The elements are there. The Wolverines have a favorable matchup in the round of 64. So favor- able, in fact, that they are the favorite despite being an 11 seed. Their opponent is No. 6 seed Colorado State, which lost only five games all season but is also 41st on T-Rank, which uses an algo- rithm to calculate a team's adjusted of- fensive and defensive efficiencies, and assess that team's chance of winning against the average D-I team. For the re- cord, Michigan is 26th on T-Rank. The Wolverines will also have to travel less distance to Indianapolis for a tipoff time that is 10:15 a.m. in Fort Collins, Colo. If Michigan can beat Colorado State, which may be a certainty given the trend of the Wolverines' results the past 10 games, an under-seeded Ten- nessee team most likely will be waiting for them. Tennessee would be a much stiffer test for Michigan than Colorado State, but each opponent has a similar vulner- ability: three-point defense. The Rams are 337th in defensive three-point rate (44.3), which is the percentage of an opponent's field goal attempts that are threes, and the Volunteers are 238th (39.4). Although both rank better in three-point percentage allowed (the Rams are 122nd and the Vols are 53rd), the rate of three-point attempts allowed is a better indicator of long-range de- fense because the rate of three-point makes allowed is generally luck. Therefore, Michigan will need to light up the nets from downtown if it wants to generate some magic this postseason, even if Hunter Dickinson has a signifi- cant height advantage down low against Colorado State's smaller frontcourt lineups and DeVante' Jones has turned up his game. Enter Houstan. As a five-star prospect heading into his freshman year, Houstan was billed as a sharpshooter. A marksman. A deep threat that would stretch the defense and give Dickinson room to breathe underneath. On the surface, it would appear that Houstan has performed de- cently. He has averaged 10.5 points per game by making nearly two threes per game at a 36.6 percent clip. However, Houstan has not been doing that in every game he has participated. Far from it. Houstan has been two very different players depending on the game's loca- tion. At home, he has been automatic. In 15 games at the Crisler Center, he has drilled 47.7 percent of his threes (31 of 65). He clearly feels very comfortable with the rims, nets and sight lines at Crisler, especially since he has had the opportunity to practice shooting there throughout his first year. Houstan has not felt that comfort away from home whatsoever. In 12 road contests, he has made just 29.0 percent of his treys (18 of 62). He transforms from being feared to being fearful from deep. So the question is, what Houstan will arrive with Michigan in the NCAA Tournament? Houstan has actually been worse from behind the arc at neutral sites than on the road, albeit on a much smaller sam- ple size (26.9 percent, 7 of 26). How- ever, his stats are anchored by a 1-of- 10 showing in the two-game Roman Main Event in Las Vegas in November. A more positive sign is that he went 3 of 8 against Indiana in the Big Ten Tourna- ment in, of all places, Indianapolis. So Houstan has been consistently inconsistent. His shooting stroke has thrived in Ann Arbor but has disap- peared everywhere else. However, if he can find a way to bring it to Indianapo- lis with him, hit some critical bombs from downtown and open space for Dickinson and others to operate down low, Michigan may be able to do what currently seems unfathomable for this team: Win, and then win again. ❑ INSIDE THE NUMBERS   DREW HALLETT Caleb Houstan Is Michigan's X-Factor Staff writer Drew Hallett has covered Michigan athletics since 2013. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @DrewCHallett. Houstan hit 47.7 percent of his threes in 15 home games, but that percentage dipped to 29.0 on the road and 26.9 in neutral-site contests. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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