Three takeaways from Michigan’s 80-76 loss to North Carolina

A scuffle between Michigan and North Carolina with just under seven minutes to play in the first half completely shifted the momentum of the game, and the Wolverines were not the same. The scuffle resulted in four technical fouls given to Michigan’s Dug McDaniel and Hunter Dickinson and North Carolina’s Caleb Love and Armando Bacot.

The Tar Heels responded more positively, ending the first half on a 19-7 run to move to a seven-point lead going into halftime.

Michigan could not make up lost ground in the second half, and North Carolina escaped with a win. Here are three takeaways from the close fight.

Hunter Dickinson was essentially a nonfactor

It’s not often that basketball teams win when their best player isn’t playing to his full potential. And that proved true once again Wednesday night as Hunter Dickinson played in, perhaps, one of his worst games in a Michigan uniform.

The 7-footer, who is typically a force in the paint, was completely silenced in Charlotte when North Carolina’s Armando Bacot stole his lunch money. Bacot looked like the better player on Wednesday and Dickinson couldn’t make anything work either side of the court.

Dickinson fouled out late in the game with nine points on 3-9 shooting with eight rebounds. Meanwhile, Bacot finished with 26 points on 11-15 shooting.

Going forward, Dickinson will need to be a lot better, as the Wolverines enter the Big Ten game. He dominated the conference two years in a row, and not every Big Ten team features big men like Bacot, but against players like Zach Edey, Dickinson it will have to be at its best.

Kobe Bufkin continues to show signs of improvement

Throughout the offseason, Michigan fans heard rumblings about Kobe Bufkin showing massive signs of improvement, as the sophomore reportedly added 20 pounds of muscle. During the first month and a half of the season, Bufkin absolutely lived up to the hype.

Bufkin finished Wednesday night’s loss with 22 points on 7-10 shooting, 2-3 from behind the arc, and 6-7 from the charity streak. It was Bufkin’s second straight 22-point game and the 6-foot-4 guard has truly established himself in 11 games this season.

Bufkin has demonstrated his ability to fill up the stat sheet against lesser opponents, but his ability to put together a 22-point night against the number one preseason team in the country is not something to be taken lightly.

Going into the Big Ten game, Bufkin will be looking to keep up that momentum as he continues to prove his worth to Juwan Howard’s team.

Moral victories aren’t going to cut it

Before the season began, Michigan knew it would not be an easy schedule without a conference. The Wolverines hosted top-five Virginia, went to London to face top-20 Kentucky and just played preseason number one in North Carolina.

The Wolverines showed great signs of grit and determination in each of those three games, but failed to win any of them. A two-point loss to Virginia, a four-point loss to Kentucky, and a four-point loss to North Carolina all now plague Michigan’s resume.

If Michigan is to make the NCAA Tournament and have a chance of reaching its sixth straight Sweet 16, it will need to start winning some of these major games. The Big Ten isn’t exactly filled with dominant teams, so chances won’t be easy to come by, but an early opportunity awaits.

Michigan hosts the current top-level Purdue on January 26, which would be a huge resume builder for a team that may very well need all the help it can get when March rolls around.

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