"It's a lot easier being a drug dealer than an AAU coach" - this guy. Tell me something I don't know. I mean, don't think but have never tried either.
Michigan 76 Coppin State 46, Michigan 6-5 (0-0 Big Ten)
Make no mistake about it, Coppin State is a horrible team. But for the first time since the very beginning of the year, Michigan did what they were supposed to do to an overmatched opponent, and completely ran them off the court. For a basketball team that had (and, in all fairness, probably still has) a lot of ills, the Eagles definitely treated most of the symptoms at the very least.
The shooting woes were dramatically improved, and although making a third of 3-point baskets is nothing to stop the presses over, it's a hell of a lot better than Michigan had been doing. Stu Douglass, in particular, was finally able to get going from beyond the arc, nailing 6 of 10 from long range. Zack Novak, on the other hand, struggled to the tune of 1-7 from 3-point land. If he can get into the same rhythm as Douglass, this team will get a lot better very quickly.
At times, the team seemed to be overly deliberate in running the offense, as they made passes instead of taking marginal looks, and got the shot clock well below 15 on most trips down the court. It didn't make for an exciting game of basketball most of the time, but it resulted in 25 assists on 30 made shots - and a 30-point win.
As good as Michigan looked last night, it's hard to take too much away from the performance. This was basically the basketball edition of Baby Seal U. But if the basketball team can do what the football team didn't, and regain some confidence and polish their game, it certainly looks a whole lot bright for the future.
- Manny Harris ended the game with 5 points. That's a tie for his second-worst scoring output since he's been at Michigan. He still had 7 assists, and would have had more if Michigan's shooters would have made a couple good looks. With more than a week to rest the hamstrings, this performance isn't too discouraging, right?
- In a 2-game sample size against teams at the opposite end of the "quality" spectrum, it appears safe to say that Michigan is better with Darius Morris coming off the bench. He had another solid performance in limited minutes.
- Speaking of Morris's minutes, I was a little disappointed to not see some of the bench guys get a little more time. The game was out of hand within a few minutes, so I would have liked to see Manny and the starters play less than 32 minutes, and get Gibson, Wright, Vogrich, and the depth players that will be needed during Big Ten play to get a little more comfortable on the court.
- It's nice that DeShawn Sims scored 18 points, and that's not even notable enough that I wouldn't have mentioned him except in this bullet, right?
- In a similar vein, it was nice to get a couple walkons and Cronin some playing time at the end. It was not nice, however, to see that Cronin is still very, very hurt.
- Sam Coleman for the Eagles played very well. He also received chants of "A-va-tar!" from the student section, because he looks like a character from the movie.
- The student section was tiny, by the way, and even those who were there were only half-hearted. It's hard to complain too much during Christmas Break, but it was a poor showing.
- The rest of the fans, however, showed up in strong numbers considering the timing and the opponent. There seemed to be at least as many people as were at the Detroit game.
"All I can say is it felt good, and basically everything that was going up I thought was going in." Stu Douglass, on his shooting performance.
"They were playing the zone, and I kinda felt bad sometimes I was so wide open up top. I didn't wanna shoot, I wanted to get the clock going a little bit. It was going in if I was gonna shoot it that wide open though." Stu Douglass, on his shooting.
"Kansas definitely helped. We kinda got our edge back and we kept it going here. It's huge for our confidence going into the Big Ten." Stu Douglass, on being prepared for conference play.
"I think it's more mental. I just gotta step up and shoot it and not think about it." Zack Novak on his shooting troubles.
"This is the right time for us to be shooting the ball a little better. We shot 33%, and it's sad to say that's improvement, but it's a big improvement" Zack Novak.
"I've got a lot of friends that go to school there, and it's almost like a high school game again for me, having all my friends in the stands. It'll be cool." Zack Novak, on travelling to Indiana next week.
"I come in every game trying to get guys involved... guys like Stu and DeShawn was making shots, so I just was driving and trying to set them up in good position to keep making shots." Manny Harris, on his distributor role.
"The main thing is I'm just happy that our defense was there tonight, and I know that's going to carry oer into the game with Indiana." Manny Harris.
"As far as our shooting woes, I don't think 33% answers the question, but it's double what we did at Kansas, so it's a step in the right direction." John Beilein.
"I still think he's a little slow trying to get by people, and they really packed it in on him, so one of his things was to make that extra pass. If we make a few more shots, he's got 10 assists a game." John Beilein, on Manny Harris.
"They just need to make these shots in games over and over and over again to get used to it again." John Beilein, on team shooting.
The Wolverines have a nice long break to rest and get healthy before they kick off Big Ten play. They'll head to Bloomington on New Year's Eve to face the Hoosiers. Indiana is improved from last year (when they nearly beat the Wolverines in Assembly Hall), but lost to Loyola Maryland last night, and trailed by 18 points at half. They are definitely a beatable squad.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Coppin State|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
December 22nd, 2009
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
Michigan finally looked like a competent team again against Kansas, dropping an 11-point decision on the road to the #1 team in all the land. However, the shooting deficiencies continued. Though I said last week that it may just be a slump that players might snap out of, John Beilein said that this team may just not have the personnel necessary (though Zack Novak's illness affected his shooting stroke, so hopefully there's a bit of upside there, and if Manny's hamstring injury ever gets resolved, that could help as well). The solution, according to Beilein, may be to put up fewer threes. A game against an overmatched opponent like Coppin State may provide enough open looks for the players to regain some confidence, but we'll have to see.
Defensively, Michigan looked as good against Kansas as they have all year. Beilein said that the team is still working on implementing a few new wrinkles, and the coaches are coming up with new ways to teach the players to get the defense working properly.
Darius Morris came off the bench against Kansas on Saturday, and Beilein said the lineup will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future. Morris didn't have a problem with it, saying it gave him some time to get into the groove of the game before he was actually expected to contribute. In other personnel news, walkon Eric Puls has quit the team in an effort to get his engineering degree finished in 4 years, and Beilein grimly replied "we certainly hope not" when asked if Ben Cronin's injuries might threaten his career.
Just because the Eagles haven't been lighting the world on fire, the Wolverines are still going to take them seriously. Beilein said that they're a team who will do whatever it takes to stay in a game, which generally means play at a snail's pace to reduce the number of possessions. If they can stay in the game to the end, said Beilein, they're a definite threat to come away with the upset.
So far Coppin State has beaten only two opponents that hail from Division 1 in Maryland-Baltimore County and Loyola-Maryland. They have lost to Colorado, USC, Morgan State, and West Virginia. Guards Lenny Young, Vince Goldberry, and Kareem Brown are 1-2-3 on the team in scoring and Branden Doughty is a forward leading the team in rebounding.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Coppin State: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||CSU Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. CSU Def eFG%||259||155||CC|
|Mich Def eFG% v. CSU eFG%||249||312||M|
|Mich TO% v. CSU Def TO%||3||141||MM|
|Mich Def TO% v. CSU TO%||41||204||MM|
|Mich OReb% v. CSU DReb%||233||346||MM|
|Mich DReb% v. CSU OReb%||300||319||M|
|Mich FTR v. CSU Opp FTR||300||275||C|
|Mich Opp FTR v. CSU FTR||14||272||MMM|
|Mich AdjO v. CSU AdjD||136||242||MM|
|Mich AdjD v. CSU AdjO||128||300||MM|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
As you can see, Michigan is better than Coppin State in just about every category. Aside from the Wolverines' inability to shoot and get to the line, Michigan has a huge advantage. Coppin State is surprisingly good at defending the three pointer, but so was Kansas and Michigan got a ton of open looks against the Jayhawks. It's a matter of actually hitting the looks that they get.
With Coppin's lack of size and Michigan's ongoing shooting troubles from the outside, you may see a heavy dose of DeShawn Sims scoring inside, or at least trying to draw the defense in to open things up from the outside. A number of backcuts may be available against an aggressive perimeter defense as well.
This looks like a similar game to Detroit on the face. For some reason though, I think it will get out of hand a little quicker than the contest against the Titans. It should be a low-scoring affair, with both teams playing at a slowwww pace (Unless you're a diehard hoops guy, or you aren't too interested in scoring, don't waste the 3 bucks to watch this one online). It should be played in the high 50s or low 60s, with Michigan getting a comfortable 15-point win.
Since it's unlikely Michigan is upset by the Eagles and it's going to be tough for people to watch on TV, I'm considering a CIL chat during the game. Vote for/against in the comments, and e-mail me if you're interested in helping moderate.
Kansas 75, Michigan 64. Michigan 5-5 (0-0 Big Ten)
Allow me to bang my head against the wall for a few moments and scream about how this team can't shoot, despite open looks.
Now that my brain is a wet pile of mush on the floor, what just happened?
Michigan played with the #1 team in the country on the road for about 35 minutes. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks built a big first-half lead in the other five minutes. The Wolverines kept chipping away, but could never get to single digits. If being down 11 was a good thing, this team would have won all sorts of awards today. It's not, so they don't. They just lose.
The shooting problems continue. At this point it is clear that shot selection isn't the problem. Maybe some of the guys have lost confidence, maybe there are inconsistencies with the form of their shots, maybe they're not in great shape, but it can't be attributed to bad luck anymore. Somehow these guys actually forgot how to shoot. In the second half, I was ready for Matt Vogrich to get thrown into the fire.
Kansas's scoring was independent of Michigan's defense much of the time, and Michigan's lack of scoring was definitely independent of Kansas's defensive play, so you might as well put in the guy who's most likely to make those open looks.
There's no such thing as a moral victory, but this game could be a positive indicator for future performance. Despite their worst shooting game of the year (in a year filled with poor shooting), they went on the road and didn't let the #1 Jayhawks run them off the court. There were opportunities to let the game get away with them, but a timely defensive play would keep the game manageable. The creepiest chant in college sports didn't get started until there were under 2 minutes in the game.
Jay Bilas, in the face of all available evidence, was claiming Michigan is probably still a tournament team. That's doubtful at this point, but if they can play this well against teams that don't have quite the roster that Kansas does (and nobody in the country has that talented a roster), maybe they can come away with a winning record in the Big Ten and give themselves a chance on Selection Sunday.
- Rough game for Zack Gibson. He wasn't bad the whole time, but he made a couple easily-avoidable errors that really prevented Michigan from completing any sort of comeback.
- Darius Morris... good? Hopefully this is the game that helps him permanently turn the corner.
- All the cliches about Zack Novak are true. Plus he cuts hair.
- Seriously, give Vogrich a little more run. If Darius Morris can play one of his best games of the year against Kansas, you have to give Vogrich a chance to bomb away and keep the Wolverines in the contest.
- I hinted at this above, but the announcers at the end were making statements like "despite playing their worst game of the year, Kansas comes away with a win!" Dude, Michigan gave the game away just as much as Kansas.
- If Michigan shoots their season average (a still-horrible 28.9%) from three, instead of 17.9%, they have approximately 4 more points over the course of the contest, and this is a ballgame into the last minute. If they shoot like they did last year (33.4%), there's a legit shot of winning.
- I don't know how Kenpom's formulas are created, but I wouldn't be surprised if this performance made his season outlook for Michigan a little less grim than 11-19.
- Ugh shooting. [Editor's note: word.]
|WHAT||Michigan v. Kansas|
December 19th, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan +13.5*|
*Lines brought to you by the best sportsbook on the internet.
The Wolverines finally stopped the bleeding on Sunday with a win over Detroit, but the task won't be so simple to duplicate in Lawrence. Traveling to face the number one team on the road is seen by the Wolverines as an opportunity. "I don't think it's different from the UConn trip [last year]," said DeShawn Sims, "We definitely need it. There's not going to be too many opportunities besides the best teams in the Big Ten."
A win Saturday would not only redeem a lackluster non-conference performance from the Wolverines, it would also prove something to the team itself. "It would just show that we've made some adjustments since the early part of the season," said Sims, "We're becoming more comfortable with what we have now, and coach made some great adjustments this week and last week. We're just finally coming along, coming around the corner."
Beilein, whose teams have performed their best when they have a lot of time to prepare for a single game, says he doesn't change anything in the team's preparation: "We do the same thing that we've done for any game we ever play, really. We don't go in there to do anything except to do our best. Whether we're playing one of our early season games or we're playing the #1 team in the country, we just expect to try to play our best."
What, specifically have the Wolverines been working on in practice over the long week? "We've been working on a lot of different things. A lot of man-to-man defense, a lot of boxing out," said Beilein.
The return of a fully healthy Zack Novak, who played against Detroit at less than 100% and missed the Utah game entirely, should be some help to Michigan.
The Jayhawks are the number one team in the nation for a reason. They've run roughshod over every team they've played except for Memphis and, oddly, UCLA. "There's certain times when you'll go into some of these arenas, and I would expect I'll look around and go, 'so this is Kansas,'" said Beilein said. Sims knows the crowd will play a huge factor. "I've seen Kansas on TV and you can definitely hear the crowd through the TV," he said.
The Jayhawks' roster is loaded. Two of the top players in the country, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, roam the floor in Lawrence. They get Xavier Henry a lot of good looks, helping him to one of the top eFG% numbers in the nation. "You've got the great combination of inside-outside threats," said Beilien. "You've got Collins, who by by himself can win a game. Aldrich inside, he's just a mountain with really long arms. And now Henry's shooting over 50 percent? He's getting some pretty good looks because he's got a great point guard and a great center." Adding, uh, injury to more injury, guard Brady Morningstar will make his season debut for the Jayhawks after serving a DUI suspension.
For a team struggling like the Wolverines, Kansas will be a difficult matchup. Beilein: "They rebound and they guard and they have assigned tasks and they're just difficult to stop."
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Kansas: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Kansas Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Kansas Def eFG%||236||2||KKK|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Kansas eFG%||231||6||KKK|
|Mich TO% v. Kansas Def TO%
|Mich Def TO% v. Kansas TO%||36||18||K|
|Mich OReb% v. Kansas DReb%
|Mich DReb% v. Kansas OReb%||319||10||KKKK|
|Mich FTR v. Kansas Opp FTR
|Mich Opp FTR v. Kansas FTR
|Mich AdjO v. Kansas AdjD||156||6||KK|
|Mich AdjD v. Kansas AdjO||153||2||KK|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc. I swear I'm not a Klan member.
Commence the fetal position and whimpering. Kansas is better than Michigan at almost everything. The Wolverines might get a couple turnovers, but they haven't had to defend a player like Cole Aldrich yet, and the opponent free throws might be misleading in this instance. Michigan's worst aspect, defensive rebounding, is one place Kansas really excels. This is a major statistical mismatch.
The only way to see Michigan coming away with a win is to make a couple assumptions. 1) Michigan has been playing well below their potential this season (something most observers would agree with). 2) Michigan is capable of turning around and playing well above that potential in a road game against the top team in the country.
Zack Novak thinks that's a possibility, saying "It's gotta bring the best out of you. We're looking forward to the challenge." There's something to be said for a John Beilein-coached team playing very well with a long break between games to rest up (Manny Harris didn't practice on Wednesday, according to Beilein) and prepare a gameplan. Still, the task may be too tall to accomplish.
This is a game that Michigan should be lucky to keep close. If the 3s start falling, like they did in last year's upsets over UCLA and Duke, there's a chance to be within striking distance in the second half. More likely, the team has a couple of those offensive slumps that we've come to know and despise and the Jayhawks capitalize with big runs and an eventual 20-point win.
Also, not Kansas-related, but 2010 MI SG Trey Zeigler talked to WDFN yesterday about various topics, including his recruitment. If Manny leaves following this season, Zeigler becomes a must-land prospect. Duke is getting involved.
The Michigan basketball team has struggled mightily so far this season, especially given the top-15 expectations that were (probably unfairly) heaped on them in the preseason. With two superstars returning and only two walkons, a backup point guard, and a Canadian leaving the team this was supposed to be a tournament team at the very least, and more likely a Sweet 16 squad.
So, uh, what happened?
There are two primary culprits for Michigan's struggles: defense and three-point shooting. Figuring out the defense is a task for another day (and for someone who knows much more about basketball strategy than I do), but shooting is a little simpler. It's also very important for Michigan, since the Wolverines hoist 42.9% of their shots from behind the arc.
There are two primary factors that play into a shot's likelihood of going in. The first is shot selection. If a player manages to shoot only when he is wide open, it's more likely that he will make those shots, no? Last year at Varsity Blue, I UFRed basketball games, and graded shot selection 1-3 based on how open the shooter was. Manny Harris was the only player who was consistently putting up shots from bad positions, and based on purely anecdotal evidence, I'd say that's probably the case again this season.
The second factor that plays a big role in shooting is the ability to actually knock down shots. If you left Ben Wallace wide open at the top of the key on every play, he wouldn't make many shots (and that's why teams do this). The same is not true for, say, Dirk Nowitzki. Talent is not something that varies from game to game. Players go through hot and cold streaks, but Stu Douglass is as good as he is, and isn't likely to get much better or much worse at shooting the three in one offseason. So is there reason to believe that anyone has shot below his ability so far this year? Sounds like time for a—
Chart. Players are sorted by 2008-09 percentage
|Michigan 3-Point Percentages|
|Player||2008-09 %||2009-10 %|
So what does it mean? On the face, it would appear that Michigan lost most of its best shooters, but that isn't actually the case. Puls, Lee, Grady, and Merritt all had few attempts (Manny and the two Indiana guys were the only people to shoot over 100 3-balls, and LLP would have gotten there if he'd played the whole season), so there is something to be said for sample size. The better takeaway is that Only Laval Lucas-Perry and DeShawn Sims are shooting better right now than they did last year, and most guys have seen a precipitous dropoff. It would be nice to get Matt Vogrich more attempts, but his defense has been poor so far this year.
Unless guys are exclusively taking horrible shots this year (and John Beilein said Wednesday that poor shoot selection may play some role in the shooting struggles), the bad shooting is an anomaly. They're sometimes painful to watch, but stick with this team, and things will probably turn around.
Michigan 75, Detroit 64. Michigan 5-4 (0-0 Big Ten)
At halftime, this game was looking like it might be just the latest in a series of disappointments in this young basketball season. Detroit led the Wolverines 36-33, and Michigan couldn't make a defensive stop to save their lives. If you had told me that it would be Michigan's defense that would carry the second half, I would have laughed in your face. The team put in a great defensive effort in the second half though, and the Wolverines were able to capitalize and get the 11-point victory.
Zack Novak, despite a poor day offensively, came away with a huge block on a transition play for the Titans. Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims carried the offensive torch for Michigan, and it was the first game in a while that they were both able to really get going at once. Manny finished with 27 points, and was a single rebound away from the double-double.
The outside shooting is still not where it should be, but 33% from behind the arc was a definite improvement over the past few weeks. If the defensive intensity can continue over the rest of the season, Michigan may have turned an important corner today. When opponents don't score, Michigan can keep games close and the shooting will come around eventually.
- Deshawn Sims was spectacular today. He scored 23 points on just 12 shots. Defensively, he was a little weak in the first half, but he was one of the guys who really turned it on after halftime.
- Rough day for freshmen. Darius Morris and Matt Vogrich both get very little run. Vogrich was in for just a minute, and still managed to commit a turnover. Eso Akunne was the best freshman on the court.
- The rotation was really small today. 5 players played 30 minutes or more, and only two other guys (Morris and Zack Gibson) had double-digit minutes.
- As mentioned above, the shooting was much better than it has been lately, but there's still some room for improvement. Stu Douglass and Zack Novak are just going to tear up the nets at some point.
- Michigan outrebounded the opponent(!) but didn't force too many turnovers (7). Bizarre day, given the style that the Wolverines usually play.
- How in the world did Detroit land two transfers from Indiana? That should be a pretty good team in the near future.
"He knows we need him. That's something we talked about, and he just picked it up." Manny Harris, on Deshawn Sims's defensive effort in the second half.
"I think we're just a step slow right now... We've gotta be a little bit quicker." Zack Novak, on the team's defensive struggles this season.
"I just timed it up. You didn't know I could do that, I bet." Zack Novak, on his shot block in the second half.
"We've kinda been trying to play out of what we're capable of. Just stay solid. Stay solid on defense, don't gamble, run the offense. Just do what we've been practicing for the last 2 months." Stu Douglass, on how the team can improve its play.
"I just don't wanna be part of the losing side of that conversation." Deshawn Sims, on playing in-state opponents.
"Down three at the half, I think the guys felt a sense of urgency." John Beilein, on the defensive renaissance in the second half.
"Usually the last thing that comes to young players is defense, not just individually, but also off the ball." John Beilein, on giving freshmen onl limited playing time.
The Wolverines have this week off to take their exams, and then have a date with Kansas on Saturday. The Jayhawks are the consensus #1 team in the nation, and Michigan will need a small miracle to come home from Lawrence with a win.