Off topic... But winning the final regular season game the way that we did was one of the top 5 performances of the season in my opinion. First, the Hoosiers are big, athletic, talented and led by one of the better veteran PGs in the country (We know from experience that guards like that can carry teams to victory.). Second, not only did Indiana start the game unable to miss, along with only committing 2 first half turnovers, but we also played terrible ourselves, especially defensively. And finally, nobody on the team just shot lights out. Part of this seasons success depended largely on Stauskas or LeVert one having a great shooting night. Nick recognized the long ball (chics dig it) wasn't falling early and adjusted. He did something very Kobe and Jordanesque in the 2nd half that he hasn't always shown a willingness to do throughout the entire season. He went and parked his ass on the block, scoring regularly from the post, along with taking the ball to the basket early and often. More times than I'd have liked this season, if he was denied the ball or his shot wasn't falling, he'd fade into the background or go camp out in the corner. I think a switch flipped for Glenn as well. The opening tip highlighted a negative attribute that has haunted him in his college career, a certain passivity or lack of fire and will. In the second half he was selectively aggressive and you could see the look on his face, he started to want it as much or more than anyone. We really had nothing to gain in this game aside from finishing strong or the possibility of a 2 instead of 3 seed, and Indiana had everything to gain and possibly their tournament lives on the line... And despite Indiana's great shooting night from the field and FT line (Stanford Robinson 55% on the season, 9-9 Sat), a poor start and very questionable officiating, we gutted out the win anyway against a team that when they're on, are as dangerous as any team in the country. This gives me so much more confidence heading into the tourney. The consensus is that if a team that depends heavily on the 3 has an off night, it will likely be their last come tourney time. I no longer think we are strictly that type of team. My apologies ahead of time for the length of this and many likely grammatical errors. I sent this from my phone while at work.
Most Important Mid-season Improvement/Development?
Personally, I think its too tough to point at one thing, and for that.....I think Bo would be proud. I think its a combination of a lot of things. At the beginning of the season I felt like the team lacked an identitiy. This should not surprise anyone as the backbone of the team was essentially taken away. Replacing Trey Burke,I thought, would be impossibe. Walton started out slow but REALLY grew up fast. Initially I thought he lacked confidence (he probably did...we forget a lot fo these guys just turned 18). To me the turning point for him was the MSU game in Lansing. Knocking down a few big shots and icing the game with his free throws. Impressive.
Or, perhaps the obvious answer.....Nik Stauskas. He grabbed the bull by the horns and stepped up. We all knew Nik could shoot but his ability to be aggressive with the ball, drive to the basket, dunk,etc. really, really surprised me this year. Just past the midway point it seemed as though teams had him figured out. However, he fought through it and with the help of some great coahing he willed himself to be the leader and scorer that this young team needed.
Fianlly, you cant forget Caris LeVert. When our team has not been clicking he seems to be the catalyst that gets things going again. He's aggressive, he hussles, and has become a true offensive threat. I also think his defense has improved throughout the year. (He's the one guy too that gives me hope for next year if everyone bolts for the $ in the NBA).
Combine the above with great character guys like Jordan Morgan and role players like Spike and Horford and what does that remind me of? "The Team, The Team, The Team". A cheesy mgoblog cliche` you might say?? Maybe. But all of the above combined with GREAT coaching, a system that works, player development and team chemistry gave us a season to remember.
Michigan Basketball is back!! (((GO BLUE!)))
I like your assessment of the improvement of the 1-3-1 zone leading to some B1G wins. We are still relatively young and those young players still have to execute a Beilein system. So I am not taking away from your vote, however adding that without the steady improvement and functionality of Morford allowed Stauskas, LaVert, GRIII, Walton to make their improvements. Without Morford, IMO, too much pressure on those players does not allow for them to make the improvements they made?