The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Three ranked teams lost Sunday. How worried should each of them be?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Michigan players walk off the floor after Sunday's loss at Iowa State (AP)

No. 8 Michigan, No. 12 North Carolina and No. 21 Notre Dame each fell on Sunday to unranked foes. Below is a look at how concerned each of them should be after their losses.

Michigan (2-1)
Result: Lost at Iowa State 77-70
Why did they lose: For all the concern about the point guard position post-Trey Burke, that wasn't the culprit on Sunday. Freshman Derrick Walton and sophomore Spike Albrecht combined for an efficient 20 points, five assists and only three turnovers, production Michigan would gladly accept if they could duplicate all season. Where issues arose were at other positions. Though Nik Stauskas scored 20 points and flashed an improved ability to get to the rim, Mitch McGary looked rusty in his return from a back injury, Glenn Robinson missed 10 of 14 shots and Caris Levert shot poorly and struggled at times defensively, especially when pressed into guarding forwards bigger and stronger than him.
How worried should they be: Frankly, a narrow loss at Iowa State is not cause for panic. The Cyclones are well-coached, have a tremendous home-court advantage and boast a roster more than capable of returning to a third consecutive NCAA tournament and perhaps even doing some damage. A road loss against a team of this caliber is very understandable for a Michigan team that lost Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. and is still working McGary back into the lineup. This is not the Michigan team we will see in March -- or even in January. As Robinson grows into his go-to scoring role, Levert becomes more consistent, McGary gets back into game shape and Walton gains John Beilein's trust to play in the final five minutes on the road, Michigan will eventually develop into a team worthy of its preseason top 10 ranking.

North Carolina (2-1)
Result: Lost to Belmont 83-80
Why did they lose: The Tar Heels lost on Sunday because they missed 26 of 48 free throws, they didn't adequately defend the 3-point line, they got little wing scoring and they collapsed in the final two minutes. Having built an eight point lead with less than three minutes to play, North Carolina committed several key turnovers and became more interested in milking the clock than extending its lead. Belmont's J.J. Mann made the Tar Heels pay with a trio of threes including the game-winner from the top of the key with 13.1 seconds to go, a shot made possible when North Carolina didn't switch the screen and gave him space for a clean look.
How worried should they be: The abysmal free throw shooting will continue to be a concern as long as Tokoto and James Michael McAdoo are the two guys taking most of the foul shots. Tokoto (4 of 16) sank only 10 of 26 free throws last season in limited minutes. McAdoo (11 of 19) was about on pace with his 57.8 percent free throw shooting from last season. Issues defending the 3-point arc and late-game mental miscues are fixable, but concerns about production at wing will continue until P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald return. Nate Britt and Luke Davis bring little to the table offensively and Tokoto is a terrific athlete but lacks any semblance of shooting touch. Hairston is by far North Carolina's best wing because he can shoot from the perimeter, get to the rim and adequately defend his position. Nobody will confuse McDonald for Michael Jordan but his outside shooting and experience would be an asset for a team lacking in both. Until those two are back, North Carolina is probably a fringe top 25 team at best and certainly not good enough to contend in the ACC.

Notre Dame (2-1)
Result: Lost to Indiana State 83-70
Why did they lose: The Irish's problems began on defense. Indiana State guards consistently beat Notre Dame's off the dribble, which left Irish defenders unsure whether to help off torrid Sycamores shooters or not. The result was Notre Dame getting burned both ways: Indiana State sank 11 of 20 threes and got enough open layups at the rim to shoot 62 percent from the floor in the second half, enabling the Sycamores to pull away during the final 12 minutes. Notre Dame's offense kept pace at times due to the scoring prowess of its vaunted backcourt, but the Irish need more from their frontcourt. Five big men received playing time on Sunday, with only reserve forwards Zach Auguste and Austin Burgett making much impact.
How worried should they be: Defense may be a season-long issue for Notre Dame because the Irish aren't especially long and athletic on the perimeter and they don't have a proven rim protector in the paint. Sophomore Cameron Biedscheid's ability to contest jump shots with length might have helped Sunday, but the highly touted 6-foot-6 forward has opted to redshirt this season. It's also no surprise that Notre Dame's frontcourt remains a work in progress as Brey struggles to find a replacement for the graduated Jack Cooley. The play of Auguste and Burgett suggests both may need more playing time because they're showing the most early-season promise. Between Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton and freshman Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame is loaded enough at guard to still be solid no matter what this season. The only way the Irish contend in the ACC, however, is if the defense improves and one or two guys emerge to solidify the frontcourt.

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