Work in Progress

Work in Progress

Submitted by Tim on November 29th, 2009 at 10:07 PM

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Marquette 79, Michigan 65
Alabama 68, Michigan 66
Michigan (3-2, 0-0)

Michigan fans hoping to lean on the success of the basketball team to fill the void left by a subpar football season might have to re-think things. The Wolverines, favored to win the Old Spice Classic, went just 1-2 in the event, falling to Marquette and Alabama after beating Creighton in round 1. Time for everyone to adjust some expectations.

When the 3-point shots aren't falling, this team is going to have some difficulty beating teams with comparable talent. Even when Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims both have decent performances, a third player will have to step up with a good game in support. Against Alabama, it looked like Manny was the only one who had any interest in winning the game. Though they may not have the talent of this year's players, CJ Lee and David Merritt were able to pull the team up by its bootstraps and gut out some wins. Somebody needs to step up for this Michigan team and fill a much-needed leadership role.

Of course, this is basketball, not football. Simply losing a couple games isn't going to mean that the Wolverines are removed from national contention. However, it's a pain to see such glaring weaknesses exposed this early in the season. John Beilein is known as one of the best coaches in America for a reason, and he should be able to help the team bounce back. Hopefully, that can come sooner rather than later, since Boston College definitely won't be an easy out on Wednesday.

BULLETS!

  • Darius Morris really seemed to struggle in the past two games. Hopefully, he can learn quickly how to adapt to the mental requirements of this level of basketball. Playing LLP more at the 1 and easing Morris in a bit might help... except for the fact the 2-guard has no depth. Stu Douglass can shoot the hell out of the ball, but Marquette exposed his lack of quickness on Friday.
  • Anthony Wright continued to show why he shouldn't get as much playing time as he does. Every time he gets the ball, he wants to shoot. Most of those times, he misses.
  • DeShawn Sims is lacking consistency at this point in the year, but he shows flashes of why he has potential to break out and become a major NBA prospect. I don't think much more needs to be said about what the other superstar, Manny Harris, means to this team.
  • The free throw shooting wasn't particularly bad against 'Bama, but it was a horrorshow earlier in the weekend. Michigan was a great free throw shooting team last year, so hopefully this is just a speed bump that the team can get through.
  • Not a ton of bench players, beyond Douglass, Gibson, and Wright (grumble grumble) got much playing time. Even Matt Vogrich only got a few minutes in the last two games. Michigan's bench needs to be able to bring out a couple contributors if this team is going to have any success.
  • On that note, Michigan was pretty bad last year coming of short rest. Part of that was likely due to lack of depth. Hopefully, the weak efforts against Marquette and Alabama were partially related to a lack of game shape, with no practice time in between to recover. That would give Michigan much more upside.

UP NEXT

Michigan will take on Boston College on Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Previews of the Challenge and the Eagles coming up later this week.

Liveblog: Michigan v. Marquette

Liveblog: Michigan v. Marquette

Submitted by Tim on November 27th, 2009 at 11:32 AM

I didn't manage to put up a preview, so we'll liveblog instead. For all your previewing needs, check out UMHoops. Game is on ESPN at noon. Read the Chaos Mitigation Post if you're wondering why your post isn't showing up. Inkster is on FSN Detroit at 1, so we can talk about that during breaks in the game, or if it gets overly frustrating. Other topics are OK, but please try to stay on topic as much as possible, because I'm modding this bad boy solo, and it's really tough to sift through comments.

Thankful

Thankful

Submitted by Tim on November 26th, 2009 at 3:18 PM

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Michigan 83, Creighton 76. Michigan 3-0

Bullets only, since it's a holiday. Hell, I'll even make them holiday-themed.

I'm Thankful For:

  • The win. It seemed like it wasn't going to happen for a while there, as I was tearing my hair out in frustration. It would not have been a happy holiday if Michigan hadn't pulled this one out.
  • Manny Harris. Just one rebound away from another triple-double. At the end of the game, I wanted Michigan to chuck up a bad shot, just so he could get the offensive rebound and acheev dream. It looks like he and Evan Turner are going to battle all year to see who can finish with more triple-doubles. At least Harris isn't likely to get the quadruple-double by turning it over all the time.
  • Zack Novak. Dude. Novak rules. End of discussion.
  • A talented rotation. Michigan only played 6 guys extensively, bringing Stu Douglass off the bench. However, Morris is a talent upgrade over last year's walkons, and it probably helped Michigan win this game.

I'm Not Thankful For:

  • The officials. I'm not going to idiotically accuse them of actively conspiring against Michigan, but they missed a ton of calls, and it seemed like most of the big ones went against the Wolverines. If the NCAA wants to hire me as their referee czar, I'm available. Couldn't possibly be any worse than the guy doing it now.
  • Creighton's hot shooting. The Blue Jays, despite all their turnovers, managed to stay in the game ecause they shot the ball very well, particularly in the second half. They're a damn good team, and don't be surprised to see them in the NCAA tourney.
  • Lack of substitution. After the 6-man rotation, there was very little playing time for backups. That won't fly later in the year, and Michigan needs to get some of these guys game-ready.
  • Zack Gibson. He made his requisite gumpy plays, but didn't play enough to have the opportunity for his requisite awesomely athletic play to make you forgive him.
  • Free throw shooting. What the hell? Michigan was awesome at the line last year. Hopefully most of the struggles can be attributed to not getting a lot of games in early in the year. If not, expect free throws to cost the Wolverines at least one game this year.
  • Away-game atmosphere. AnnArbor.com's Michael Rothstein told me that there were approximately equal numbers of Michigan and Creighton fans in The Milk House, but it definitely sounded like Creighton was the home team. Michigan fans at the next two games (and in general, but that's a story for another day) need to step up the intensity and support their team.

Up Next

The winner of the Marquette-Xavier game will face our Wolverines tomorrow at noon. Preview upcoming when we know who the winner is (at the time of publishing, Marquette leads Xavier in the first half).

Preview: Creighton

Preview: Creighton

Submitted by Tim on November 25th, 2009 at 5:06 PM

The Essentialscreightonuniversity.jpg

WHAT #15 Michigan v. Creighton
WHERE Orlando, FL
WHEN 12:00PM EST

November 26th, 2009
THE LINE Michigan –5*
TELEVISION ESPN2

*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.

Michigan

The Wolverines venture outside the friendly confines of Crisler Arena for the first time this year, as they take on the Creighton Blue Jays in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

The Wolverines have been tested far less than their opponents (and most teams in Division 1 ball), playing only two games on the year so far, and one of those coming against Division II Northern Michigan. Neither team came within 20 points of Michigan.

Manny Harris is still fighting his hamstring issue. He will play against Creighton, but is not 100%. Since playing is a good way to prevent that hamstring from becoming stiff, I would expect him to play extensively unless the game reaches a garbage-time situation. Morris-LLP-Harris-Novak-Sims will likely be your starters until further notice.

Creighton

Creighton will be the first big challenge that Michigan has faced this season, according to John Beilein. Coach Beilein is good friends with Creighton coach Dana Altman, so he's familiar with the Bluejays, and what they try to do on both ends of the floor. As the head coach at West Virginia, Beilein faced Altman and Creighton in the 2005 NCAA tournament, emerging with a 63-61 victory.

Creighton has a deep roster, with 10 guys getting extensive playing time so far this season. Four players have started every game for Creighton: wing Darryl Ashford, center Kenny Lawson Jr., and guards P'Allen Stinnett and Kaleb Korver. Korver (the younger brother of Creighton alum Kyle, currently with the Utah Jazz) is a sharpshooter, and Beilein noted that he has an excellent presence on the court.

They have two offensive styles that they can playing, with a passing-oriented offensive set, as well as a Memphis-style dribble-drive offense. The diversity in Creighton's playbook makes them a difficult team to prepare for. Through 3 games, they have been good at shooting the ball and not having it taken away by the opposition, and have been bad at getting to the line and rebounding on defense. They shoot a bunch of threes, and are a similar team to Michigan, perhaps with a little less size in the reserves.

Elsewhere

UMHoops talks to Creighton blog The White and Blue Review. Sounds like the Bluejays are pretty banged up already this year. While you're at it, check out WaBR for the latest on Creighton. Check out my Old Spice Classic overview. Special thanks goes to PaulVB, who was the MGoPresence at Beilein's press conference yesterday.

Also

I'm going back-and-forth on whether I'm willing to have a CiL chat during the game tomorrow. Cast your votes in the comments, I guess.

Old Spice Classic Preview

Old Spice Classic Preview

Submitted by Tim on November 25th, 2009 at 11:17 AM

The men's hoops teams heads to Orlando this week to participate in the Old Spice Classic. The bracket looks as such:

09Bracket.jpg

Here's a brief look at the teams in the tournament field.

Creighton

So Far: Creighton fell to Dayton in their opening game this season, and came back with a big win over Florida A&M. On Sunday, they beat Arkansas-Little Rock by 15.

Profile: Creighton is slightly above average on both offense and defense. They're certainly not a team that likes to bang in the post, as they've hardly gotten to the line, and haven't sent their opponents to the line much either.

Matchup: Creighton is the only team that Michigan is guaranteed to play, and they seem to just average. As uncomfortable as it is to say that Michigan basketball should be able to take care of opponents that are simply average, that's the new reality I guess. They shouldn't be an easy out, but Michigan should emerge victorious. UMHoops talked with a Creighton blogger about the Bluejays.

Marquette

So Far: The Eagles have feasted on an easy schedule so far, knocking off Centenary, Maryland-Eastern Shore, and Grambling by at least 20 points a pop. All three games have been at home so far.

Profile: It's hard to determine a team profile based solely on the tempo-free statistics from games against opponents that are so overmatched. Marquette has been very good rebounding the ball on both ends of the floor so far, and is shooting the ball very well. They don't foul a whole lot, nor do they draw a lot of fouls from the opposition.

Matchup: One area that might hold Michigan back should they face Marquette is turnovers. Marquette gets a lot of steals, and the Wolverines start a freshman point guard. Still, it remains to be seen what this Big East squad can do when they aren't operating at a significant talent advantage.

Xavier

So Far: The Musketeers are 3-0 so far this year, with the wins coming against Younsgtown State, Bowling Green, and Sacred Heart. They have yet to play anywhere other than their home arena.

Profile: Xavier currently leads the nation in effective field goal percentage, though it's unclear how much of that is a product of the competition they've played. They're great shooting from behind the arc, and have done a decent job of getting to the free throw line so far this season.

Matchup: For all that they're good at, Xavier is seriously deficient in one area, and that's forcing the opponent into turnovers. That plays somewhat into Michigan's strengths. However, they also haven't been letting opponents rebound their own misses, which Michigan, as a Perimeter-Oriented Team, should be susceptible to.

Alabama

So Far: The Tide lost at home to Cornell, and rebounded to beat Jackson State. Most recently, they beat Providence 84-75 on Friday.

Profile: Alabama is below average in offensive efficiency (despite being above average in the four factors.; figure that one out), and above average in defensive efficiency.

Matchup: It's too bad Michigan is unlikely to face Alabama, because they'd be a good matchup. They've allowed opponents to make a bunch of threes, and although they've blocked a bunch of shots, that was against far inferior opposition, and a perimeter-oriented team that still has some height in the middle should be able to shred them.

Baylor

So Far: The Bears are 4-0, having knocked off Norfolk State, Hartford, and Southern. They also pounded D-3 side Hardin-Simmons, which isn't a very relevant data point.

Profile: Baylor is a very efficient team offensively, coming in 29th per Ken Pomeroy. They're a below-average defensive team, however. They get a ton of offensive rebounds, and block a bunch of shots, both of which are at least partially attributable to erstwhile Michigan Wolverine Ekpe Udoh. They've also held opponents to bad shooting numbers, but not so much with the three-pointers.

Matchup: I'm sure a lot of Michigan's players would like the opportunity to play against their former teammate Ekpe Udoh. The Bears look like a pretty good team on paper, though the numbers have all come at home against questionable competition. The one area that Baylor struggles with is three-point defense, which plays to Michigan's strength.

Florida State

Note: written before Florida beat the hell out of Florida State last night. That certainly rounds things down for the Seminoles.

So Far: Florida State has beaten the hell out of far inferior opposition, with a comfortable victory over Jacksonville and an 80-38 pounding of Stetson. They also dismantled Mercer on Saturday.

Profile: With only three games against bad teams as evidence, it's hard to judge Florida State's style. They seem to be above average in just about everthing, especially two-point shooting on offense and defense. They're also #1 in the nation in blocking opponents field goals.

Matchup: The oddsmakers say Michigan will meet up with the Seminoles in the finals of the tournament, and they look like a formidable opponent from the evidence we have so far. Still, the areas in which they're least excellent are strengths for Michigan. They turn over the ball a bit, and don't guard the three-point line that well. They also haven't stolen the ball a lot, despite the vastly inferior opposition. That could help Michigan, who will play young point guards.

Iona

So Far: Iona has notched wins against Boston University, Hampton, and most recently Norfolk State on Saturday. The game against Hampton was their only away contest so far.

Profile: Iona is a physical team. They are near the top of the nation in drawing opponent fouls, but near the bottom in not returning the favor on the other end of the floor. For all the fouls they draw, you'd think they wouldn't be so bad at making the freebies, but they're shooting just 61% from the stripe.

Matchup: Though it's unlikely that Michigan sees the Gaels during this tournament, they would probably be a good matchup for the Wolverines. They don't stand out in any significant way other than their ability to get fouled, and MIchigan would be one of the taller, quicker teams they'd face, which would neutralize much of that.