This list is completely arbitrary and not a genuine analysis of the relative merits of state fossils.
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.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Northwestern|
February 2nd, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan +2.5|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
When Last We Met
Michigan came out of the gates a little sluggish, but raced out to a lead of 17 points with just four minutes left before the break. Freshman Drew Crawford scored 12 points (on 3/3 shooting behind the arc and a trio of free throws) to help Northwestern close to within 9 points by halftime. After the break, the Cats upped the pressure in their 1-3-1 defense, forcing 11 Michigan turnovers. On the other end of the court, Michigan continued to let Crawford light up the nets.
After scoring 28 in the first half, Northwestern scored 40 after the break. They held Michigan to just 25 after the Wolverines scored 37 prior to halftime. Northwestern's defense and Michigan's lack thereof was the story in the second frame, and Michigan limped out of Crisler Arena on the wrong end of a 68-62 decision.
Since Last We Met
Immediately after the choke to Northwestern, Michigan exacted revenge on Indiana for beating them in December, then upset UConn in Crisler. A tough three-game stretch at Wisconsin, at Purdue, and against Michigan State led to a three-game losing streak, but the Wolverines pasted Iowa at home on Saturday to break the streak. Michigan's transformation into a very good defensive team has continued, while the offense has stabilized, and maybe even gotten slightly worse (though the Iowa game is misleading, because Michigan could have scored nearly every trip down the court if they wanted to exert the necessary effort).
In Evanston, Northwestern has fallen from "FIRST TIME EVER NCAA TOURNAMENT BABY WOO!!" to a bubble team that has some serious work to do to ensure a tournament bid. They lost a home game to Wisconsin, while dropping roadies against Ohio State, Michigan State, and an otherwise-struggling Minnesota squad. At home, they've knocked off Purdue and Illinois, keeping the tourney dream alive. They'll be playing with a sense of urgency to keep that going.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Northwestern: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Northwestern Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. NU Def eFG%||203||120||N|
|Mich Def eFG% v. NU eFG%||143||86||N|
|Mich TO% v. NU Def TO%
|Mich Def TO% v. NU TO%||67||25||N|
|Mich OReb% v. NU DReb%
|Mich DReb% v. NU OReb%||221||283||M|
|Mich FTR v. NU Opp FTR
|Mich Opp FTR v. NU FTR
|Mich AdjO v. NU AdjD||100||100||-|
|Mich AdjD v. NU AdjO||38||51||M|
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.
This is a super-even battle statistically, with Michigan barely edging Northwestern in overall efficiency. When you take into account recent play, Michigan is on a much better run than the Wildcats, with improvement all over the board, while Northwestern has stayed mostly stagnant.
Michigan should have a big advantage in holding onto the ball against Northwestern's defense, but we saw how that worked out last time these two teams squared off. It's imperative that the Wolverines don't turn it over, and given recent results against non-baby-seal-esque competition, and the continuing improvement of Darius Morris, that hopefully won't be much of an issue.
Vegas gives the Wildcats 2.5 points on the road, and Ken Pomeroy likes them by 3. IN case the tone of this preview didn't tip my hand, I don't see that being the case. I think Michigan will be able to knock of Northwestern in Evanston.