I don't do the diary thing often so as not to take space from those who are better at it, but I have what I think is at least better than average insight having played basketball on a somewhat organized level and as someone who has helped coach the game and wishes to do so in the future. The mgocommunity response will dictate whether this becomes more than a "once in a great while" thing or if I decide to break things down more consistently in the future. Now that I feel better about that disclaimer, on to the meat of the diary which will be broken down into two parts: The Michigan Defense and then Manny Harris. Keep in mind these observations may be old news and obviously wouldn't take a genius to figure out.The Michigan Defense
There have been a lot of complaints from Michigan fans regarding John Beilein, his recruiting (won't cover this today), his coaching style, that he doesn't adjust enough and the fact that he seems to favor offense over defense (people complain similarly about Rich Rodriguez). I believe that last part in particular to be a myth. Let's explore coach Beilein's preference defensively before I jump to this year's results (this part will be obvious to those who have watched college basketball a long time).
Coach Beilein prefers to play man to man except after a made bucket in which he will switch to a 1-3-1 trap. He has also occasionally thrown a 2-3 defense into the mix (he did this more often before Michigan, probably because he didn't think his kids were quick enough to play man to man consistently). In fact, while John Beilein's offenses have been consistently excellent in offensive efficiency, his defensive schemes are arguably just as creative. But like everything in sports, creativity doesn't mean anything if things aren't executed properly and/or a team gets predictable.
In terms of this year, I have made comments here and there on game recaps as well as on the board that Michigan's defense has improved significantly. To give evidence of this, I'd like to compare the FG% from the first 10 games to the last 6, excluding cupcakes (Northern Michigan, Houston Baptist, Arkansas PB, Detroit, and Coppin State). After that, I'll share my observations of what I've seen done differently from a defensive standpoint.
Over the first 10 games Michigan played 6 legitimate opponents and those opponents shot 50% on average! That is atrocious put bluntly.
Over the last 6 games of which the last five have been legit (conference play), those opponents have shot 42.6%.
That's a significant drop and one reason why I think Michigan can still have a decent year, although it will definitely be an uphill battle.
Now I'm well aware that anyone can compare these numbers and reach a simple conclusion when obviously it's more complicated than just FG%. Michigan hasn't been blowing opponents away with the improved defense, and part of that may be the team practicing defense more heavily recently since they have been significantly less efficient offensively. I may cover the offense in general later, but for now I'll just pass along my observations on the change in defensive strategy.
In the first 10 games of the season, Michigan was playing man to man with the usual 1-3-1 trap after a made bucket and only a little had they sprinkled the 2-3 in the mix. Their man to man was atrocious, and I'm being generous. They weren't pressuring ball handlers well and the help side was often non-existent. When they happened to get on even a little bit of a roll offensively, they would throw the 1-3-1 out there and it actually was often worse than their man to man defense.
I'd like to interject here and say that in high school one of our main rivals played a 1-3-1 trap. The goal of this defense is to get into passing lanes and trap every corner. Michigan's problems with this defense have been at the top of the defense. They weren't trapping aggressively enough and because of that there was a lot of space in the gaps of the defense for open shots or lay ups. I'd like to mention that this defense worked much better last year.
So what has improved lately? Coach Beilein has reeled in the 1-3-1 trap for the most part (except for a few possessions a game) and played man to man almost exclusively. They've still had some trouble with the help side, but they are pressuring the ball much better as well as limiting open shots. I would speculate that coach Beilein has emphasized the defense a lot more in practice as well as simplifying the defense (something my high school coach did as well). I am of the opinion that coach Beilein isn't the problem with the inconsistency of our team because I have seen numerous adjustments in all facets of the game just this season. Now on to a brief observation on Manny.Manny Harris
To be honest, as I was watching the Indiana game last night, my opinion of Mr. Harris seemed to change frequently throughout the game as it has all season (to clarify, I'm referring to his play and not him as a person). In my opinion, he has the most potential and talent on the team. The problem is that he doesn't seem to play hard all the time and his mental errors have proven to be killer at times. If he isn't dominating off the dribble, he seems to get lost too easily.
Let me elaborate a bit on that last point; It was noticeable the change in fluidity of the offense when Harris was benched for Vogrich last night, so the greater question might be what was Vogrich doing differently? I would answer by simply saying: hustle. Vogrich cuts as hard as he can and moves much better without the ball, and because of that finds himself making plays where Manny almost never has.
Manny can sometimes clog the offense by just "hanging around" the wing or by dribbling into trouble and I've rarely seen him cut hard to the bucket this season. I may sound a little harsh, but Coach Beilein has actually adjusted the offense to accommodate his skills. In Beilein's core system the ball will rarely touch the floor, but with Manny and Sims there have been a lot more isolation, pick and roll, and post up plays. I'm glad he did because it would have been stubborn not to, and as a result Manny has been able to take over games.
In terms of the future, I think Manny will need to develop better habits in some of the gritty aspects of the game. Whether he's vocal or not his teammates view him as a leader and his play is contagious. The key to the season is to keep up the defense they've played lately and getting their offense back to the efficiency they had at the beginning of the season (basically less turnovers).
Well, hopefully this wasn't a waste of space and let me know if I can evaluate other topics surrounding basketball in the future. At least I enjoyed it.