1/7/2009 – Michigan 72, Indiana 66 – 12-3, 2-1 Big Ten
image via jcmcmann @ flickr
Maybe Assembly Hall does have some sort of weird voodoo hex power that it uses for evil whenever Michigan shows up. After all, the last time Michigan won at Indiana there were actual Fab Five members still on the floor.
But it's more likely Michigan fans were just handed a harsh dose of reality made barely palatable by a Laval Lucas-Perry three that caught the front iron only to bounce straight up and through. Moments before Michigan had been down six to the worst team in the Big Ten and were fortunate to be that close. Then Manny Harris launched an ill-advised three, one of eight on the night, that went in, and Lucas-Perry launched a desperate three, one of nine, that got a friendly roll, and overtime was a mélange of more deep chucks and many, many missed IU free throws. At the end of everything they were up six, somehow.
Don't ask me how. It got so bad at one juncture in the second half when back-to-back possessions ended in horrible contested threes at the end of the shot clock that I thought to myself "this looks like an Amaker team." (I then immediately crossed myself and said four Hail Marys in penance.)
At one point they had launched 27 threes and made six. By the end of the game they had chucked up a prodigious 40—to only 21 two-pointers!—and made twelve. If they weren't playing the basketball equivalent of this year's Michigan football team they would have lost by double digits.
You can play this off as a hiccup, I guess, like rough games against Eastern Michigan and Savannah State and a housing at the hands of Wisconsin, but, man, has it ever occurred to you that maybe Michigan's shocking leap forward was at least somewhat illusory, man?
No. No, that had probably not occurred to you, unless it had. This is the same point I was trying to make about Michigan State football last week: we've been damn lucky. I didn't want to bring this up because it seemed like an unnecessary, party-pooping move, but Ken Pomeroy hates us. It's nothing personal, I promise. But the following graph from Big Ten Geeks, which measures the difference between a team's Pomeroy Rank and its average rank according to voters, was assembled before Michigan failed to achieve even in the modest goal of outperforming Lipscomb at Assembly Hall:
Yea, verily, on a difficulty-adjusted per-possession basis Michigan is one of the most overrated teams in the country. Two stellar games against UCLA and Duke coupled with a nonconference schedule featuring a wide array of teams not merely bad but outright awful have obscured the game-in, game-out struggles of the team. How many times has the general opinion after a game been "well, they won, but they really need to play better in the future?" By my count, about six.
Things get grimmer still when you focus on the Big Ten, where Michigan is not dancing with the angels, or the committee:
See, this is why I didn't want to bring it up. I sound like a negative old crank. Michigan is 12-3 with its first tourney bid in a decade in its sights and I'm sitting here telling you to turn off the lights, turn down the music, and go to bed.
And there are, of course, many disclaimers to that go here. Kenpom ratings are not perfect, they don't predict particularly strongly, and you can quickly pick out a half dozen "but what about…?" results if you want to. However, I do think they reveal something box scores and win/loss doesn't, and what it reveals is scary for Michigan fans dreaming of an eight seed in March.
What I'm trying to get at is this: this team is still painfully young, and is not as good as their record. They were extremely fortunate to scrape by a couple of very poor teams and also fortunate to catch Duke on a day when they were ice-cold from outside. They've not lost a close game and have won four. Brace yourselves, because it's going to be bumpy. I'm telling myself this as much as anyone reading this. I caught myself checking out Bracketology this week and thinking to myself "only a nine seed?"
Only a nine seed? Who am I, Jay Jacobs? The only senior who did anything yesterday was CJ Lee, a walk-on. Underclassmen sucked up 73% of the minutes. There are two players taller than 6'5". With Cronin redshirting, Michigan is playing short four scholarships.
"Only a nine seed." Does Michael Douglas sit around thinking to himself "if only I could have hooked up with Scarlett Johannsson?"
Bullets of EXTREME REASON
- I freakin' knew I shouldn't have talked up Manny Harris, because he's fallen apart since the Big Ten season hit. Yeah, 17 points yesterday but a lot of those were end of game free throws. He was 4/12 with four TOs. He's shooting 33% and has an A:TO ratio of 10:12. In this game he took a whopping eight threes and just four two-pointers, which is at least reversed. If Harris takes twelve shots nine of them should be twos.
What happened? You could see the frustration building in the Wisconsin game and after the third time he drove the lane and got hacked with no call he started going nuts, driving wildly and forcing the issue. Similar things happened against Wisconsin, and then tonight he gave up and started chucking. Late in the game Harris got yanked for CJ Lee and the team's performance actually picked up.
I'm not sure what you do if you're Beilein other than jump down the ref's throat every time they miss a foul call on a Harris drive. Harris really needs a 8-10 foot pullup jumper, because without it you just pack the lane and wait for chaos.
- One thing Harris hasn't fallen off in is rebounding. Eleven against IU, the last a monster board that sealed the game after a turnover and comical blocking call brought Indiana within three.
- What happened to Shepherd? I don't get it. People say he wasn't performing offensively; the stats don't bear it out. Small sample size and all that, but Shepherd has a higher offensive rating with more usage than either Novak or Douglass. He's 20-30 from 2 and almost 70% of his shots are from there. In a game where Michigan couldn't or wouldn't go inside, his game could have been used.
- Sims was the only player with more than two two-point baskets; he was 7/11 from inside the arc.
- I agree with The Hoosier Report's take: "I would have rather [Indiana] lost by 20." Also, this is nice:
As I was going to say in my gracious post-game victory post, it's an odd sensation to have a 17 point home lead and yet fear that Michigan's coach might engineer a comeback. I didn't feel that way when Michigan was good, let alone the last 10 years.
That may say more about Indiana's team this year than Michigan's, but I'll take it.
- No, the picture above isn't from the game. You can tell because of Thad Matta. And it's at Crisler. And David Merritt's wearing #11—apparently he changed numbers, who knew? I usually try to find an appropriate image from the game itself but I couldn't find one that summed the game up very well. At least the opponent is wearing red.