Mike Lantry, 1972
The Great White Wallace
Basketball 12/3/2005 - Michigan 71-67 Notre Dame - 5-0
I mean the following sentence in the nicest way posssible: Graham Brown, the beating heart of the Michigan basketball team, has no discernible basketball skills whatsoever. Generally basketball players can be described in terms of what they can do--shoot threes, break down defenders off the dribble, post up, find the open man, etc--but not Brown. Attempt to describe him: "er, uh, he's sort of tall... and when a rebound comes to him he secures it and when he doesn't get his shot blocked he can, uh, hit a layup. Sometimes." No, Brown is better defined thus: despite not having any of said abilities, he is still "a legitimate baskeball player" according to Bill Raftery during Saturday's ND game. That sums it up perfectly: he is a legitimate basketball player, but of the sort where you have to be told about it constantly to remember.
This was the rare game in which Brown's contribution were obvious on the box score--13 points on 6 shots, 10 rebounds--and his three late baskets were clearly integral to Michigan's victory, but there will be times in the future wherein his production is not measured in easily identifiable numbers. If, and I'd like to stress "if," Michigan has an unexpectedly strong year and the stat wonks throw up their hands and claim bafflement, it will be time to bring up the Moose in the room. Who does that sound like?
Yeah, him. A commenter below called Brown "Michigan's Ben Wallace," which is precisely correct aside from Wallace's ability to leap higher than two inches off the ground. Remove the outrageous athleticism of the NBA and kindly ignore that Brown and Wallace's respective skins have melanin contents about as divergent as possible, and the comparison is eerie. I'm not going to dip into the refrain of the Typical Middle-Aged White Sportswriter and declare him to be underappreciated because of the hip-hop's pernicious effects on our society or whatever--Graham Brown is exactly the type of player who is a TMAWS encomium magnet--but I would like to revisit something I said earlier...
He'd be a good 10-15 minutes a night role-player for any Big Ten team, but Michigan will probably be forced to use him more.
...and take it back. Brown played 34 minutes against Notre Dame and Michigan needed every one. His performances down the road will be as important to the team's success as those of Sims, Horton, and the rest of the guys who actually have those discernible basketball skills. So call him blue-collar or lunchpail or a roleplayer or apply whatever backhanded compliment is appropriate in your native language (Icelandic: "man who is good at running away from polar bear"), but don't forget the "legitimate." Moose can play.
Magically Delicious Bullet Points:
- Brown's shot-stuffed-to-charge-taken ratio: 0:1, FYI.
- Color me concerned about Dion Harris and his oft-errant, oft-used jumper. While he has been granted amnesty from Big Ten Wonk himself for last year's shudder-worthy PPWS, it does not appear to be moving in a positive direction. Many of Harris' shots are Horton-esque in their audaciousness, though the game-winner was an open look.
- That last sentence is totally unfair to Horton, who is operating at totally unprecedented levels of efficiency. Against ND Horton had 19 points on 14 shots and a 7:2 assist to turnover ratio. Through five games he's shooting 56% with 22 assists and just 8 turnovers. Notre Dame resorted to a box-and-one against him down the stretch. He's been flippin' sweet.
- Our prospects for next year are iffy. Minus Brown, Hunter, and Horton, Michigan will be dangerously thin on the frontline and will be facing a major dropoff at the point. Given that this year's team is a borderline tournament team... well, Alex Legion's commitment may be the one thing that keeps Michigan fans off of Amaker's back.
- This Notre Dame win is probably going to be a good one at the end of the year. They had the best player on the floor in Torin Francis and an impressively annoying array of ugly white guys who can shoot threes. They are likely an NCAA bubble team if not a little better and a win over them on the road is going to be a moderate feather in the cap come committee time.
- Abram: 0-5 from the floor (though he was robbed of a foul call in one instance)... and we win? Great googly moogly. That can't continue. Horton's done a very good job of finding open guys--especially in the post--but he has to get Abram more involved. Remember the PPWS!