After a few narrow losses to ranked teams, the Michigan Wolverines started the Big Ten game with a 90-75 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. It was a dominant win, with Minnesota never leading and Michigan in double figures for much of the game.
True newcomer Dug McDaniel played a big part; In his first career start after Jaelin Llewellyn’s season-ending ACL injury, he had 15 points, gave out seven assists and shot 5 of 6 from the field.
The Wolverines had to find a replacement at 1 and if McDaniel keeps playing like this Michigan will be fine.
Here’s a breakdown of McDaniel’s first start as Wolverine.
(If you’re more of a visual learner, I recommend this video Dan Plocher made for us that breaks down how McDaniel and Bufkin dealt with themselves in this video.)
Confidence was key going forward
One thing young players often lack is confidence; We saw it last year with Caleb Houston and Kobe Bufkin. McDaniel is not lacking in that, as you can see here in his first basket of the game just before the first TV break.
All five Minnesota defensemen are rightly focused on the pick-and-roll between Hunter Dickinson and Jett Howard. Dickinson already had seven points at this point, and Howard is Michigan’s top shot maker to come off a screen. Covering a pick and roll between these two should be the main priority for any defense.
Once Howard turns back and takes a few dribbles toward the lane, he sees McDaniel open up near the top of the key and hand it to him. McDaniel doesn’t hesitate at all and lets it fly at three.
Freshman Dug McDaniel had 15 points and 7 assists in his first college start yesterday. With Jaelin Llewellyn injured at the end of the season, McDaniel will play a very important role for Michigan, particularly with his playmaking skills. Prior to the Llewellyn injury, he only averaged 4 & 2. pic.twitter.com/Kj4DWDG2MB
— Clay (@ClayAtki) December 10, 2022
The Wolverines’ scouting report is out – Dickinson and Howard are clearly Michigan’s two primary offensive options, so you have to be able to count on players like McDaniel to play when defense is so nil.
McDaniel nailed another three near the end of the first half (7:46 mark in Dan’s video), which was key as the offense looked pretty stagnant. McDaniel came off a screen of Terrance Williams II before waiting for another screen of Dickinson. Once he sees his defender take a half step toward the screen, McDaniel dribbles away from it before powering up and firing a dagger to give Michigan a 15-point lead.
We saw similar action in the second half (24 second mark of the video below).
As McDaniel dribbles the ball up, Dickinson puts a pin-down screen on Howard’s man and gives Michigan’s top scorer the ball past his defenseman towards the basket. The Golden Gophers are lasered back at him and he quickly passes them back to McDaniel for a deep three.
The young point guard made all three of his three-point attempts, giving the Wolverines a tremendous boost of momentum.
Was that a perfect performance from McDaniel on offense? Far from it; He plays a little too fast in certain sets and still has a lot of work to do in terms of mid-level scoring. But at least he showed a willingness to let it fly from the deep and score when called upon.
Dug was really solid defensively
McDaniel had three steals and did a great job pressuring the ball with his fast hands and turning and closing as the defense recovered.
His anticipation on defense has led to these takeaways as he has very active hands and is fast enough to steal the guy he’s guarding. On top of that, he did a great job getting hands on the fast lane to deny cutter while turning his head on the assist side.
One of the best examples of this came in the second half. As Minnesota moves the ball around the arc, McDaniel remains in an exchange with Bufkin toward the three-point line. The man switches to cuts almost immediately, but Bufkin immediately reaches out his arm to close the window for a cut to the edge.
This puts McDaniel in a prime position for a theft. With that pass unavailable, the Minnesota great tries to push Dickinson back before McDaniel takes the ball away. After that it’s off to the races and McDaniel gets an easy swap.
One thing that will add more minutes to McDaniel is his defensive anticipation. He clearly has a high basketball IQ as he always positions himself to make the right play.
The game of the game
If you had to go to bed to get up for work and didn’t fully catch this game, this was probably the game you saw the most on social media. And rightly so, because it was wonderful.
After a quick handover from Howard, McDaniel dribbles down the left wing, giving Dickinson time to prepare for a screen. McDaniel patiently waited for the screen to set before splitting the defenders with a quick crossover to get the edge.
Minnesota’s Joshua Ola-Joseph sat on the edge waiting for him, but McDaniel is hanging in the air and switching hands to get what little space he needs to finish the left-hand layup.
For things like that, McDaniel was a highly touted four-star graduating high school candidate. He can knock out three and has nimble hands, but his cunning and skill once he gets full steam is quite remarkable.
Much like Frankie Collins last season, McDaniel had a bit of a problem playing a little too fast as a true freshman. But if he stays in control on such rides, it will help his development in the long run.
We have to remember that this was just a game against one of the worst teams in the Big Ten. Don’t expect this to happen for him in every game.
But to play like that as a true freshman on your first career start on the road is still impressive and something to build on. If McDaniel can continue to produce performances like this, Michigan’s cap will increase dramatically in these conference games.