Michigan Isn't Making Much Noise Anymore

Juwan Howard and Michigan have hit a rough patch.
Juwan Howard and Michigan have hit a rough patch. / Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines were the story of college basketball early on, securing wins over Iowa State, North Carolina, and Gonzaga to go from unranked to No. 4 in the AP Poll. Juwan Howard's transition from the NBA to Ann Arbor appeared seamless and smooth. Hopes abounded that there would be no drop-off after the stunning departure of John Beilein.

But reality has set in a bit. A torrid 7-0 start has made way for a bumbling 4-7 stretch. Howard's side has been on the wrong side in three straight and four of the last five. Last night, the Wolverines allowed Penn State to come into their gym and dominate wire-to-wire. The loss dropped Michigan to 2-5 in the Big Ten.

The mission has turned from securing a top seed in the NCAA Tournament to getting back on track before the bubble approaches too rapidly on the horizon. Perhaps the most surprising element contributing to the rapid downfall is a porous defense.

Under Beilein, the Wolverines were perennially one of the least generous units. This season, early success in that department has been negated by conference struggles.

From the Detroit Free Press:

"Wednesday featured yet another disappointing performance from Michigan's defense, which has struggled mightily over the past month. In conference play, the Wolverines have the Big Ten's worst adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. Through Michigan's first six conference games, the Wolverines allowed opposing centers to average 30.3 points per game. It was the result of a defensive strategy that focused on defending big men one-on-one, without providing help. Michigan struggled in other facets, too, such as foul rate. "

Howard's frustration last night focused on his team's inability to communicate. The lack of talking has led to lack of stops. Lack of stops has led to mounting figures in the loss column.

It's certainly not too late for Michigan to find their voices. The loss of Isaiah Livers has had a ripple effect on both ends of the floor. Getting him back will help a lot.

It's clear that Howard has a message worth listening to. So too does Zavier Simpson, the immaculately accomplished floor general. Turning things around will take everyone pushing in the same direction. That, of course, requires loud direction.

In order for Michigan to continue to make noise in the conference race down the stretch, they'll need to figure out a way to make more on the court.