we need at least one victory in these two. doesn't sound like that'll be easy though. i feel like were going to need some big wins to prove to our team and everyone else that we are a good team.
Michigan vs UCLA: Hoop Expectations the Next Two Nights
Oh, UCLA, Michigan cant seem to quit you. Just when you're off the schedule, you reappear as an opponent in this pre-conference tournament. Luckily, the Bruins survived a spirited effort out of Miami Ohio last week to advance to tonight's semifinal game against Michigan.
Previously, the teams had played for six straight seasons, but that series ended last year. The first couple of years of this head to head worked out well for Michigan as they notched wins over the Bruins. Of course, those were the final two years of the Stevie Lavin era. Since BEN Howland took over, things have bee much different in this series. The Bruins won and covered each of the final four meetings, at times dominating the Michigan squad. Remarkably, as recently as 2005, Michigan was favered by seven points to win in this matchup. Since then, UCLA has played in three Final Fours. Michigan, meanwhile, uh, has not. Tonight, the Bruins are favored by 12 points.
Michigan advanced to this game with a pair of smooth wins over Michigan Tech and Northeastern. The Wolverines played good D, shot the ball reasonably well and Manny Harris showed All-American potential in those games. That was nice. Step forward and take a bow. Now, forget about it. The next two nights, the competition takes a major step up with the Bruins tonight and either Duke or Southern Illinois tomorrow.
It begs the question of not only how will Michigan perform, but what should Michigan fans' expectations be for their squad during the rest of this tournament?
A third place finish--meaning a win tomorrow night--would set the bar a little bit higher for UM this season. If they can get out of this foursome with one win, considering the other three squads are perennial tournament teams and each season rank among the best defensively in the country, it would signal a tougher Michigan squad than what they've shown in recent years. It could set them up for a run at the upper half of a pretty watered down Big 10.
Its hard to see Michigan getting by UCLA tonight. I would be happy just to see Michigan compete, give the Bruins a run for their money and cover the spread.
You have to wonder how Michigan is going to score against UCLA tonight. In the last three matchups with the Bruins, Michigan has averaged just 56.6 ppg and shot a combined 38.9% from the field. While the operation looked smooth last week, no secondary scorer emerged after Harris. The Bruins specialize in taking out the other team's best guy and making others beat them. Dont expect that scorer to emerge tonight against the stingy Bruins who have been ranked in the top-10 nationally in scoring D each year during their Final Four run. Can Harris overcome the Bruin D? Can he score 30 tonight? More importanly perhaps, is can he score the ball tonight with efficiency and help set up his teammates?
The Bruins counter with Darren Collison at point guard. Its unclear how much Harris and Collison will match up head to head, but you have two of the best guards in the country tonight. That alone will make this quality viewing. If Collison stands out over Harris, this will be a blowout. If Harris has the upper hand, then Michigan might be in the ball game the whole way through.
Overall, the jury is out on this year's UCLA team. They are not as talented and fine tuned as other Howland squads. Other than Collison and Josh Shipp, they are relying on a lot of freshmen. And, while its a great freshmen class, they looked out of sorts in their game with Miami last week. Miami is a tough team to play. They play in your shorts D and have a goofy, half court style of O, that always seems to surprise the big name out of conference foes. Collison and Shipp starred against Miami, but they needed every bit they got out of them to advance. The rest of the club, however, shot less than 40 percent against Miami. If Michigan can keep the ball out of Collison's hands, the Wolverines can probably thwart the young Bruins with their 1-3-1 defense. Of course, keeping the ball out of Collison's hands is a lot easier said than done.
Beyond the win-loss expectation, I think there is an intangible element of success or failure that hangs in the air the next two nights for the Michigan basketball program. Can they come out of these two games with their confidence intact? Even if they go 0-2, do they do it in close affairs, or, under the pressure of some of the best D they'll face all year, do they wilt and get blown out?
Lets assume they go to the consolation game and play SIU tomorrow. The Salukis are a great program coming off a down season. Despite that, Chris Lowery's crew was right up there with UCLA in most defensive categories last year. If you can score 60 or more against the Egyptian Dogs, then you are doing better than most. In a span of 24 hours, Michigan will be playing a pair of teams that have the best defensive systems in the country. For a team that has no consistent secondary scoring, it could get ugly.
Aesthetics may be as important as the actual scoreboard results for Michigan the next two nights. Last year, the team came out looking OK, but then struggled mightily against some cupcakes. The team never recovered their confidence until late February. By that point, any possible postseason berth was off the table. UCLA and then Duke/SIU can destroy this team's confidence. Would anybody be totally shocked if Michigan failed to score a combined 100 points the next two nights? Disappointed, yes. But, totally out of left field shocked? No.
The next two nights are not as much about wins and losses for Michigan. Its about can they stand up and play against some of the winningest programs of the decade? Its about can their offensive system manage enough efficiency against some of the best defenses they will face all year? Its about role players like David Merrit, who was a surprisingly steady force in the opening games last week, not being so overwhelmed by the step up in competition that his confidence does not get so shattered. If the team goes 1-1 or loses a pair of competitive games, then feel free to raise your expectations a little. If the team loses its dignity and the coaches have to spend time rebuilding their spirits, then keep your expectations down until further notice.
Enough of what I think. What about you guys? Are you interested at all in these games? What do you expect out of UM in these games? In your mind,what would be a succesful weekend for the hoops team?
man im really looking forward to this year and the next few weeks inparticular. I want to see how wolves do against the nations top teir teams. I want to see if we can expect a NCAA birth or if it will be another NIT year, or worse no tourney at all. I think harris is going to be great if he stays all four years, hopefully they can pull one out in the next few games and give themselves a good confidence boost.
your analysis seems right. I have desperately been hoping our basketball team would become relevant again and am excited to see Beilein make some progress. And yeah, all I am looking for is the team to play well, keep it close. All of these early games are learning opportunities. The Big Ten determines the season, but you don't want the team to get crushed and lose confidence and unity this early.
Michigan will shoot a lot of threes.
I hope some of them go in for us to have a shot. I wonder how we compare up front w/ size against any of these teams.
Rocky III (thousand?)
Last year we actually kept it pretty close with the Bruins until the latter half of the game. If I remember correctly, it was an ugly game with lots of turnovers and some stingy D on both sides. If we can keep it ugly again, and if God of Three-Pointers shines down on Madison Square Garden (which, I'm betting, will have a decent contingent of Michigan alums), then we might make this interesting.
I hope to go to the game tonight! ('Hope' depends on work) I agree- you can't expect a win against UCLA. But I don't expect Michigan to lose by 20 either. I think Harris dropped like 11 last year but didn't shoot well. Presumably he's gotten better, but you never know how someone will shoot on any given day. And to your point, while he seems to be the leader, the team has to play well as a unit!
At any rate, to add to my general commentary, I can see Michigan getting off to a good start, then fading with inability to keep up with UCLA.
What do I expect for this game?
Anything better than 2006's performance.
A lot of guys will get quality ball touches.
OMG LOL its thursday
yeaaaaaa quality ball touches. Nice work.
I think the key to us potentially winning is in how our "other" players (i.e. Douglass, Novak, Wright) shoot threes.
If they can keep UCLA honest with a realistic threat of making 3 pointers, then that will open up the middle for Harris drives and Sims in the post.
I'm going. My only expectations are to drink beer and eat some mediocre Madison Square Garden delicacies.
...someone's going to have to pick it up on offense beyond Manny. Maybe Peedi. Maybe Ant Wright gets hot. Maybe Stu gets some open looks. Collison vs. 1-3-1 concerns me a bit as well.
For whatever reason, Beilein seems to give UCLA fits (2-0 at WVU, played them tight through 30 minutes last year). Haven't been able to watch the first two games, so I'm looking forward to it.
I wound up at the game last night. We looked impressive. I can't really add much since you all probably watched the game on TV (or may have been there as well.) One thing that may not be as transparent on TV, was how comfortable Michigan looked playing in Beilein's system and playing UCLA. The team played very well as a cohesive unit, but I was most excited by the play of Douglass and Sims!
IMO, the difference in the game was TOs. We had 9 TOs to UCLA's 17. We needed that margin, as we were out rebounded by 11.
Not sure what the vibe looked like on TV, but it was definitely a more 'intimate' setting. (My buddy commented that there were about enough spectators to fill Yost. I thought there were more.) Naturally, I got really close to the court. We (Michigan Fans) stood out! In fact, as we were leaving, we over heard someone say "Man, there were a lot of Michigan fans there."
Needless to say, the crowd was into it, and Michigan fans were REALLY into it. During the game, UCLA Fans started their U-C-L-A chant. But they couldn't quite match our noise volume toward the end of the game. When the game ended, we started the "it's great..." chant, which I had mixed feelings about, but then got into it (How could I not?) We also started a "B-L-U-E" Chant which was much better than any anti-UCLA Chant. Overall, we showed class (although the referees tried our patience) and had an overall great time!
Side note: The UCLA dance team was there. As they performed their dance routine, I for some reason, looked over to a "Michigan section" and saw some inebriated Michigan girls almost imitating the UCLA dance team's moves in a drunken stupor. I had this sudden rush of embarassment...and thought "Man, why didn't I apply to..."