"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
Michigan 80 Iowa 78 (OT), MIchigan 13-12 (6-7 Big Ten)
It wasn't pretty, but at this point in the season it would be improper to take any win for granted, right? If Michigan was in position to grab an NCAA tournament bid, this would have been a scary game. However, the Wolverines are closer to missing the NIT than they are to making the Big Dance. Let's just enjoy the win.
After steady improvement throughout the month of January and the beginning of February, it's clear that Michigan's defense is not at a level that will win basketball games when the offense isn't working right. Like Wisconsin and Northwestern before them, the Hawkeyes shot the ball well, finishing with a 55 eFG%. Had Michigan not matched that number in one of their better shooting performances of the year, this game could have gotten ugly. Michigan opened up a 10-point lead late in the first half, but let Iowa claw back to tie it up by the break. Play was much more back-and-forth in the second half, but Iowa led by five with only 22 seconds to go, before Michigan managed to force overtime.
There were some bright points. On top of the newly-found shooting competence, this team actually showed some heart for the first time in quite a while, gutting out a win when it looked like all hope was lost. If they'd been able to do that a couple more times this year, maybe we'd be talking NCAA Tournament fringe instead of NIT fringe. A number of players stepped up that one probably wouldn't expect (primarily Laval Lucas-Perry), and seven whole players got double-digit minutes!
- Rough game for Manny Harris despite decent numbers on the scoresheet. He had six turnovers, and nearly fouled out. A couple of his fouls were borderline calls, but they were also plays he should be smart enough not to make. He shot just 7 of 17.
- DeShawn Sims, as we've come to expect, was this team's leader. He struggled making some layups through contact, otherwise he would have had a stellar outing. Very interesting for Beilein to (finally, in the eyes of some) play him with Gibson.
- Darius Morris was super-quiet. Two assists, three missed shots, and two personal fouls isn't a statline that shows off how much he's improved over the course of the year. He still needs lots of work on his shot, but this game wasn't as big a step backwards as it might seem.
- If we're criticizing LLP for being invisible most of the time, let's also give him props when he shows up to play. His 3/3 shooting from behind the arc to start the game got the offense moving, and though he didn't do a whole lot after that, he was the catalyst for Michigan's big run.
- Man, the Big Ten Network presentation was awful. We constantly got shots of the lights or the back of someone's head instead of, you know, the game. We got about 10 seconds of ridiculously loud music, presumably off someone's iPod in the production truck (I kid). The commentary was often too quiet to hear, but it doesn't matter, because the announcers had no interest in talking about the game. The Big Ten Network doesn't have a great reputation to begin with, and it's painfully clear that they have no interest in correcting that.
- [Editor's note: anyone else notice Jim Jackson's somewhat disturbing morph into Hubie Brown? I heard "blank is the best blank we have have in our league" a dozen times.
- It's nice to see Stu Douglass and Zack Novak find something of a shooting stroke. Both only shot 3-pointers, but if they can continue shooting well, Michigan might be able to surprise a team at the end of the year, and get some confidence for the future.
- Michigan still has a chance to go on a bit of a run here, with Ken Pomeroy favoring them to win three of the last five, including the next two. Dylan is hinting that Michigan is capable of sneaking into the tournament, but I wouldn't get so far ahead of ourselves quite yet.
- Getting back to the officiating for a second, I think Oops Pow Surprise said it best:
We're not stupid enough to think that Hightower and Valentine were somehow actively conspiring against Iowa; not only is Michigan plainly unworthy of a conspiratorial effort (see: not a tournament team), but that theory would require the supposition that the two men are actually capable of calling a good game and just choose not to. That's a fantasy.
Further, it's not the case that all the calls went against Iowa for the balance of the game. There were several calls that seemed to be a whistle just blown at random, and a good amount of them were in Iowa's favor. This is what happens in a Hightower/Valentine game.
Bad officiating is frustrating for all, even when it's not heavily slanted in one direction or another
[Editor's note: UMHoops pointed this out about the refereeing: DeShawn Sims says he complained to the refs about his game-tying three and the ref said he would have called a foul if he had missed, which just goes to show that every conspiracy theory you've ever had about basketball refereeing is true. Bastards.]
Did Anthony Wright get in a bar fight or something? Beilein:
“The facts are, over the last day, I believe that Anthony had done nothing wrong to what the facts that were presented to me,” Beilein said. “If the facts change, then I will make appropriate action. But the facts are the facts that we discussed.”
People, don't punch Ant Wright please.
The Nittany Lions of Penn State travel to Crisler Arena Saturday, looking to win their first game in the Big Ten this year(!). This is a good opportunity for the Wolverines to get a win against a pretty bad team, and it's also a football junior day (about which more in Wednesday Recruitin'), so let's get this team some fan support to close out the year.
Michigan 71 Minnesota 63, Michigan 12-12 (5-7 Big Ten)
With Michigan mired in the depths of a tailspin that included five straight losses to teams other than Iowa, the majority of them noncompetitive, it was easy to forget that this team is actually capable of playing basketball. Beating a Minnesota team playing for its tournament life on its home court was enough to remind us of what could have been. With the next two games coming up against Iowa and Penn State, these Wolverines may be capable of putting together the mythical "win streak." If they can defend the home court the rest of the way (while taking care of Iowa on the road), it's NIT all the way, baby.
[Editor's note: you're advised not to think about Michigan's record in close games at this point.]
There were a few interesting storylines in the game, with the most encouraging for Michigan fans being the continued maturation of Darius Morris at point guard . He played 33 minutes, made two of his three shots, collected one rebounds, and grabbed one steal while dishing out five assists to only two turnovers against Minnesota's pressure defense. As I've been saying over the second half of the season, if he improves his shooting (1/3 from the free throw line, 0/1 from behind the arc), he will be a very dangerous player in the Big Ten.
Another great story from the game, oddly, was Zack Gibson. DeShawn Sims was benched early in the game, and Gibby took advantage of the opportunity, nailing all three shots that he took—two from behind the arc—and snagging a couple rebounds. He did all this in just nine minutes.
Despite what it may seem like, I seriously don't like to whine about officiating. However, when even Bobby Knight (who pulls no punches in his commentary, thankfully) expressed his shock that Michigan was getting called for ticky-tack fouls on one end of the court (at least 2 or 3 times with literally no physical contact between players), while Minnesota was getting away with seemingly everything on the other end, something ain't right. Games must be officiated fairly, end of story. The Wolverines did end up getting the benefit of a couple bad calls that could probably fall under the "make up" category, everyone on both sides would probably be a lot happier if all the call were good, instead of an even impact of bad calls going both ways.
- [Editor's note: while I agree with Knight/Tim about the calls, man was that the worst charge ever when Anthony Wright set up almost literally underneath the basket and got a call. They just put in a rule change that makes that a clear block. When the Minnesota player got up hopping mad, I had to agree with him. The Minnesota crowd wanted blood, and the refs then spent the rest of the game calling BS on Michigan, further confirming that every conspiracy theory you've ever had about basketball referees is true.]
- Michigan... shot... well? The more I think about this game, the less it makes sense for the 2009-10 Wolverines.
- Despite his early benching, DeShawn Sims, continued to show why it is he, not Manny Harris, who is the lifeblood of this team. It's going to be hard to replace him next season.
- Argh free throw shooting. This team was #13 in the nation last year, shooting over 75%. They shot 12/19 (63%) in this game, and are under 72% on the year. This year they barely crack the top 100 in FT%.
- Turnovers were the name of the game. Michigan committed just 8 against Minnesota's defense (which excels in creating turnovers), and forced 15.
- This is more like the defense we had come to expect out of Michigan than the last two games. They're playing almost all man (while occasionally mixing in 1-3-1 or 2-3 zones), with a lot of switching on screens. I think this performance is more indicative of their ability than the Northwestern or Wisconsin games.
- I saw Anthony Wright pass up an open look from three. It was weird.
- I questioned whether the long rest between games would help Michigan enough in my preview. I guess I shouldn't underestimate John Beilein's ability to gameplan - nor should the rest factor be ignored with Michigan's small rotation.
- Club Trillion watch - Minnesota's Bryant Allen joined the club last night.
Michigan has the weekend off before traveling to Iowa City for the chance to sweep the Hawkeyes. Though the Wolverines could have played me at center the entire second half and still beaten Iowa last game, Iowa has been able to win a couple games against low-end Big Ten competition. The team will have to be on their game to ensure that they don't become the latest victims. The game is a late tip (9PM/8 local) on Tuesday night.
Michigan 11-12 (4-7 Big Ten). And the FAIL train chugs along.
In the first half of Saturday's game Michigan's offense was out of sync, but it seemed like the defense was playing pretty darn well. Michigan forced a couple shot clock violations by the Badgers, and mostly prevented them from getting very good looks at the hoop.
Of course, despite the decent defense, Wisconsin managed to shoot 69% from three-point range and 68% overall from the field. Sometimes, it's just not your day. Sometimes, the opposition nails a half-court shot at the buzzer, and it doesn't even surprise you. On days like that, there's no way to win.
Once Wisconsin gets a lead, they're masters at choking the life out of the game, slowing it down enough that it looks like everyone is trudging through mud. Michigan's offense was completely lost in the second half. Stu Douglass and Zack Novak were too tentative to take shots, DeShawn Sims was getting double- and triple-teamed every time he got the ball, and Manny Harris couldn't to get a good look at the basket—not that it prevented him from shooting.
As much as it looked like this Michigan team had turned a corner around the time of the UConn game or during the near-miss against Michigan State, these last two games are the final word: this is a lost season. All that's left is to salvage a bit of respectability by finishing with a winning record and scraping into the NIT. Even that looks like a difficult task at this point.
- Seriously, Stu Douglass, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. Dishing it to Manny when you have a clear shot in the lane is something a point guard really shouldn't do. A "point guard mentality" is not about dishing to teammates all the time, but giving the team the best opportunity to score on a given play.
- Darius Morris continues to impress. 3/4 shooting with 3 assists and only 1 turnover is very good, and his defense was good as well. Once he gets some off-season work on his shot, he could become a star over the next couple years.
- The Wolverines had five players go more than 30 minutes, and six others less than 10. Quality bench depth :(.
- This Michigan team isn't good, that much is obvious. I still wonder how different things would be if a couple of the close calls had gone the other way. Confidence has become a huge issue at this point.
Michigan travels to Minnesota for a game that looked winnable a few days ago, but not so much anymore. The Thursday (7PM/6PM Central) contest is now looking more like a cripplefight, with Michigan reeling and Minnesota coping with the loss of Royce White.
John Beilein is one of the better coaches in gameplanning with a long layoff between games, and Michigan's bench situation means a bit of rest could be helpful as well .
"My only hope is that the big Lebowski kills me before the Germans can cut my dick off."
2/6/2010 – Michigan 2, Wisconsin 3 – 16-13-1
When I first started following Michigan hockey, Michigan had this unbelievable streak of not giving up third period leads. It stretched back and back and back and was some ridiculous number that may have been in the triple digits and the last team to actually overcome a Michigan lead in the third period was Illinois-Chicago, a team that didn't even exist anymore.
That record fell by the wayside some time ago and now seems as distant of a memory as UIC hockey itself.
It's not like it's a surprise at this point but I'd really prefer a straight-up stomping to taking the lead in the third, thinking about a manageable stretch run if the team takes care of Bowling Green on Tuesday, dreaming about extending Michigan's record run of tourney appearances to 20, and then giving up two power play goals to the same guy in the same spot within a few minutes of each other.
If they'd just get run out of the building you can get over it and move on. The basketball team has had the decency to do so of late, releasing me from the obligations to care about Wisconsin's unconscious three-point shooting aside from instant reactions like "Jesus," "oh come on," "you cannot possibly be serious," and "did someone slip me LSD?" (Have you ever seen a guy launch a half-court shot and thought to yourself "oh God, that's going in too"? At one point in the second half I complained that Wisconsin was shooting 70 percent from three and thought I was wildly exaggerating to make a point; they were actually 11/15 at that point: 73 percent.)
I digress. The hockey team has made a specialty of this sort of thing. A late penalty doomed them against Ferris State. They managed to blow a one-goal lead against a dire Bowling Green team by conceding bang-bang third period goals. Bryan Hogan wandered out of his net to blow a tie with BU with 2:30 left. Hogan got pulled and his backup conceded what I hear was an unbelievably soft goal at the GLI. You've got an Alaska tie and the 5-4 win over State on the other hand, but the State win almost doesn't count since they blew a 3-0 lead to get themselves in the predicament they overcome. Michigan has lost ground late in games.
It's not really a surprise given the way the team has played. They're wildly variable, sloppy, penalty-prone, etc. But when the names get called on Hockey's selection show and Michigan is, in all likelihood, absent, it will be the last ten minutes of the third that did them in.
Michigan's dropped to 19th in RPI and 20th in the Pairwise. They have to win six of seven down the stretch to give themselves a chance, I think. They might be able to win five and then lose in the CCHA final, but that will be touch and go. Probably. The PWR has so much jitter that any prognostication more than a week or two from the end of the season is vague. It comes down to the TUCs.
- Apparently the Michigan coaching staff was very unhappy with the late penalties on Summers. MVictors tweeted Mel Pearson's response: "You won't see that call 9 out of 10 times." I don't know about that. Like Greg, I assumed Pearson was talking about the second call, when Summers was penalized for a routine defensive play when he was in good position. I thought the tripping call was legit.
- My main ref bitch is that Wisconsin should have had at least one guy gone for dangerous plays along the boards: the hit on Hagelin that was called a cross check should definitely been five and a game and the elbowing call Scooter took was borderline at best.
- No Lee Moffie? If you're going to put in Llewellyn, I guess that's fine, but Moffie's been playing really well and I'd think an error-prone Greg Pateryn would be the guy to get the gate. Maybe he got injured against BG.
- At this point how Louie Caporusso ever scored 24 goals is the mystery, not his season-long slump. His dangles don't work and he tries them all the time. He did have some nice forechecking moments against Wisconsin, but that's kind of the point, isn't it? Even if TJ Hensick had some crazy forechecks in a game no one would remember them because he would have done a bunch of other crazy stuff.
- Good for Scooter to get that goal; he's deserved it the way he's played this year. Might be playing himself into an A for his senior year.
- Torrent is here if you're a masochist or Wisconsin fan.
STANLEY CUP BABY PEERS INTO YOUR SOUL
STANELY CUP BABY: Hey.
TOM HAMMOND: Hey.
Michigan 11-11 (4-6 Big Ten)
Yes, it's come to the point in the season where I've run out of pithy, depressing titles to put on basketball posts. "Northwestern 67, Michigan 52" describes it more succinctly than some lame 2-word phrase probably could. I wanted this basketball team to be good, and as an optimist, I am among the last to give up hope. I am constantly looking for evidence that the football team will improve from year to year, evidence that the basketball team is better than their record shows, some sign that good times are coming.
However, it comes to a point where the optimism just runs out. Dylan from UMHoops probably sums it up best in his game recap:
The last month or so has been littered with games where Michigan reminds you how good they could have been. In this one, Michigan reminded us how bad they really are.
So, through all the smoke and mirrors of false hope, we now have a pretty good idea what this basketball team is: a bad one. How that happened over the course of one off-season while only losing two walkons and a Canadian is beyond me, but it happened.
At the end of the first half against Northwestern, the team had looked mediocre, but not yet bad. The second half was a carbon-copy of the previous time the Wolverines faced the Wildcats: the defense didn't show up to play, the offense couldn't get a good look (though at least this time it wasn't due to a load of turnovers), and the Wolverines' stars disappeared. Michigan went from down just 5 points at the break, to down by 21 with under 5 minutes to go, and the 15-point margin only looks marginally better.
It comes to a point where there's no explanation besides a complete lack of heart and leadership. It's not like DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris don't want to win. But wanting to win isn't enough. That desire has to turn into effort and smart play (including shot selection - ugh) for victories to go up on the board.
- DeShawn Sims's tweet summed up his game: "I Didn't put in work today. Gotta do better than 4pts with a Lost. Amnesia though Badgers nexts." Hopefully, he can indeed put this game behind him and come out with a fire against Wisconsin.
- Many Harris and... Darius Morris(?!?) were the only Wolverines in double figures, both with 11 points. When Morris gets time to work on his shot in the offseason, he could develop into one hell of a basketball player.
- As noted above, turnovers weren't a serious problem in this game, as the team only committed nine (four of those came from Manny Harris). However, they were jacking up some awful shots. Some of it was freaking out in the face of defensive pressure, but some of it was just mental weakness, and not staying disciplined in picking when to shoot.
- If I had asked you before the game, would you have guessed Stu Douglass would be the team's #3 rebounder? Didn't think so.
- On that note, where was Zack Novak? After he gave up that awful foul at the beginning of the game (on what was an inexcusable missed over-and-back call), he didn't do a whole lot in the game. Part of it may be looking back after a couple days with only a scoreboard to look at, but it didn't seem like he achieved his usual GRIT ratings.
Michigan tries to avenge a road loss to Wisconsin Saturday at 4PM in Crisler Arena. We've moved beyond the point of "must-wins" for the sake of the NCAA tournament, and have moved along to being eligible for the NIT (gulp). The 1984-85 team, which earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, will be honored at halftime.
Michigan 60 Iowa 46, Michigan 11-10 (4-5 Big Ten)
At times in the second half of Michigan's win over Iowa on Saturday, I was literally afraid I would fall asleep in press row. The game had long ago devolved into Michigan's players putting in about 50% effort, and more often than not, trying to make spectacular plays that ended in turnovers. There's almost nothing of value that we can take from that game.
I say almost, because it was a continuation of Michigan's improvement in defensive efficiency since conference play began. Here's a graphical representation of that, in terms of their rank in adjusted efficiency (which takes into account quality of opposition) since conference play began. Each data point comes from the preview for a particular game (so the first IU point is at the end of the non-conference season other than UConn):
The defense has gone from mediocre to quite good. Offensively, there has been some improvement since the Indiana game, but the poor offensive performance against Iowa was at least partially attributable to guys not taking the game seriously when it was clear Iowa couldn't score, at least from this observer's point of view.
- Tons of offensive rebounding for Michigan, but they aren't going to make their living by picking up their missed shots in most games.
- Dude, Iowa is so bad. Michigan could have won by about 40 if they'd played with intensity for the entire game. Yet the Hawkeyes have still managed to knock off Indiana and Penn State, both of whom gave Michigan trouble.
- DeShawn Sims could have dominated in the paint even more than he did. That's scary.
- John Lickliter. Just, wow. Props to the fans for cheering his made 3-pointer.
- Check out Dylan's postgame for a more complete breakdown.
The Wolverines travel to Evanston to take on the suddenly-competent Wildcats tomorrow night. Northwestern is gunning for their first NCAA tournament bid EVAR, and knocked of Michigan in Crisler Arena 68-62 last time these teams met.