Night And Day Comment Count

Brian December 8th, 2008 at 1:19 PM

12/6/2008 – Michigan 81, Duke 73 – 6-2


A little under a year ago I wrote one of MGoBlog's top five emo posts ever after a midweek loss to Minnesota in an mostly empty Crisler arena. About 100 Minnesota students with way too much free time were present and responsible for the only noise in the arena.

At halftime, there was a big to-do about Crisler's 40th anniversary and brought back most of the guys from the 1968 team, including Cazzie Russell. Crisler is sometimes called "the house that Cazzie built" and they told him this and I had this reaction:

So he stood with his bearing, and listened to his accomplishments -- which are many -- and was then told he stood in the House Cazzie Built and that seemed like kind of a cruel thing to tell a nice old man who never did you any harm. The House Cazzie Built is half-empty, overrun by bums from half a continent away, and home to a team likely to set records for futility.

Michigan has not so much as reached the NCAA tournament since 1998, an impressive feat matched by an ever-dwindling list of maybe ten major-conference teams. Being there is an act of masochism. But hey... new lights!

Beaten down by it all, I left halfway through the second half. Michigan trailed by 20.


On Michigan's last possession of the first half, DeShawn Sims got loose—barely—on a back cut and Jevohn Shepherd zipped a seeing-eye bounce pass through two Duke (Duke!) defenders. Sims threw it down with a roar, Crisler exploded, and Jay Bilas exclaimed "that is Michigan basketball!"


Wait… what?

This is Michigan basketball:

avery-queen reed-baker ellerbe

This is Michigan basketball: 226, 283, 199. That's Michigan's rank in turnover percentage in the final three years of the Amaker era. This is Michigan basketball: 1998.

I know this. I have seen my share of the stuff. I've created rules like "I stop this liveblog once we go down 20." I've specifically avoided any sort of drinking game involving number of turnovers or possessions that aimlessly pass it around the perimeter until someone has to chuck up a contested three as the shot clock expires because dying of alcohol poisoning after watching a Michigan-Boston U game seems like the most pointless way you could possibly go. Michigan basketball doesn't beat Duke, it starts a game down 34-2.

When you find a guy who can coach, things change. DeShawn Sims and, even more remarkably, Jevohn Shepherd have changed for the better. Crisler is on its way. It was sold out and raucous on Saturday. In January the regents will vote on first-stage approval of a practice facility. Next year the program will use its allotted 13 scholarships for the first time in recent memory. Shepherd is the only senior on the roster.

When you get a win like Duke a couple weeks after a win like UCLA, people call it a "program building" win. Programs are all about perception. What is Michigan basketball? Back door dunks and the 1-3-1 and wide open threes and great turnover margins and horrible rebounding. Floppy-haired white kids from Indiana and inexplicably faithful black kids from Detroit. Brandon Graham rushing the court…


…and DeShawn Sims finding his mother afterwards to hug her and cry.

This is Michigan basketball. That other stuff is the past, finally. 


  • Okay, now for the coldly rational section of the post: this whole tourney thing isn't in the bag. I think you're going to see this team gack up a couple Big Ten games it "shouldn't" because Manny has an off day and the interior defense gets crushed and the rebounding gets crushed and so on and so forth. I think we've seen Michigan play over their head a couple times and reality will settle in at Illinois or Iowa or Wisconsin or whatever.

    They can go .500 in conference now, though, and probably get a bid, and 10-8 with a BTT win is a lock. 20-10 major conference teams with wins over Duke and UCLA get in.

  • Those of you who took the under on patently false Bilas accusations that Tommy Amaker wasn't given enough time at Michigan get a dollar. I don't know if he just got over it or he was told, point-blank, to get over it, but there wasn't a peep about it all game.

    And, like, good. Bilas occasionally latches onto something and just won't let go but other than that he's the best color analyst in college basketball outside of Bill Raftery (onions!).

  • Sims and Harris were obviously brilliant. Somewhat less hyped: that was Kelvin Grady's best game ever. No one on Duke could stay in front of him and he used that to set up the back-to-back ONIONS threes from Novak, a Sims dunk when time was running out, and a sweet layup on which he looked off a Duke defender. Of course, there were also about three missed layups in there. If the guy can just learn to finish…
  • Speaking of back-to-back ONIONS threes: Novak can play. He and Douglass are those guys who start for Butler for three years and are the stars of the show when they're seniors and everyone's like "how did this mid-major get so good?" Or they're Mike Gansey. Or Joe Alexander. I cannot stress this enough: when it comes to talent evaluation Beilein is as many standard deviations above the mean as Amaker was below it.
  • Anthony Wright's second-half contribution was brief: comes in game, gets extremely unwise loose-ball foul that sends Duke to the line, exits game. The rotation changes I was complaining for (Shepherd for Wright, Grady for Merritt) were mostly executed, though Merritt continued starting.
  • Football Muppet posts: 2. Basketball Muppet posts: 2. I think basketball is going to win.


Michigan Arrogance

December 8th, 2008 at 1:31 PM ^

hockey muppet post? beat Minn (who was #1 )at their place and then sweep (an admittedly horrendus) sparty. summers moving up the the front w/ the return of kamfer will help a lot. if we win the gli or sweep Miami in Jan, that is muppet-level stuff too.


December 8th, 2008 at 1:44 PM ^

The polls are out. We're in the 30s with two exceptions -- CBS' basketball writer expanded his top 25 because UM deserved to be mentioned AND we're 11th in the RPI. That may mean a week from now, the writers and coaches may notice and we'll start to make the top 25 -- if we don't take that step back against EMU.


December 8th, 2008 at 1:51 PM ^

The good - everyone on this team, save Gibson, has improved considerably from last year (Wright has always been this bad). JB is an excellent coach and has been keeping everyone's heads in the game. There were many times in the UCLA/MD/Duke games that they could have been blown out, but they have hung in there in all of them. Quite a change.

The bad - as improved as the defense is, it still gives up wide open 3s. They will lose a few games simply because the other team gets hot (it almost happened once already). I am not setting myself up to be let down this early, as encouraging as everything has been. I am simply glad to not have an embarrassing team anymore.

Dan Man

December 8th, 2008 at 1:52 PM ^

I think it's AWESOME that he rushed the court. Another thing I loved about the game: we seemed to be out hustling Duke and getting to a majority of the loose balls.


December 8th, 2008 at 1:56 PM ^

Seriously, well done, Blue. Incredibly well played game, great defense, good ball movement, and boy oh boy did the crowd show up. Great game to watch, even though my team struggled all the way through. Good on ya.

As a warning for B10 conference play, I think tbliggins was right - your D did allow a LOT of open 3's, which (frustratingly) we couldn't nail, which might have turned the game - but, nothing but applause. Best wishes in conference play.

Now, if you'll excuse us, we're going to go back into our cave in Durham to figure out what the hell happened and just how on Earth we're going to beat Carolina this year.


December 8th, 2008 at 2:04 PM ^

He did make up for that weak foul by picking a Duke player's pocket and sending a nice pass up court to Manny, I believe. He also didn't take any ill-advised shots (or any shots I believe). His impact was at worst neutral, and he gave Sims some rest. That being said, I don't like when he gets the ball because I assume he'll shoot it.


December 8th, 2008 at 2:05 PM ^

I was at the game, and therefore obviously couldn't hear the postgame interview with Beilein (speaking of which - what great recruiting material), but I managed to see it later on sportscenter (or a halftime report or something). The first question Bilas asked was something along the lines of "What do you have to say about how Manny Harris, DeShawn Sims, and Kelvin Grady played today?"

Beilein's response started with a turn away from the camera towards Bilas, says "First, I have to thank Tommy Amaker for recruiting three great players..." He pauses, turns back to the camera, and answers the rest of the question. It ruld.

gpsimms not to…

December 8th, 2008 at 2:32 PM ^

people don't realize duke shot awful from 3 against us in the first game at MSG. the difference was the zone was porous then (duke got was more inside looks in the first game), and rebounding. this time duke could not penetrate and took many more threes. (last time they shot poorly from 3, but only half as many, i think this zone is causing teams to take deeper/more difficult 3s than people are saying)

also, i'm surprised brian has not yet mentioned how much manny has improved with regards to being responsible with the ball. his TOs have decreased dramatically, and that was brian's major beef with him.

i think that is credit to manny's being more of a wing than a guard this year. last year, he had to handle the ball so much more, and it just wasn't fair to ask him to do that, as he doesn't have true guard skills. with stu, grady, and novak helping with the ball handling, manny has been able to take his game to a new level, and really focus on being the pure slasher/scorer wing that he is.

chitownblue (not verified)

December 8th, 2008 at 3:03 PM ^

I think, honestly, Douglass and Novak are the keys to this team's improvement - not so much that they're so awesome, but that their presence allows our two best players (Harris and Sims) to go back to doing what they're good at.

Last year Sims shot 150 three-point shots, and hit less than 30% of them. Well, now that we have Novak and Douglass, Sims doesn't need to shoot those - he can play in the post, where he is better.

Last year, Harris was saddled a lot with handling the ball. With Grady's improvement, and the ability of Douglass and and Novak to bring the ball up the court there's not nearly as much emphasis on his ability to handle the ball.

marco dane

December 8th, 2008 at 2:42 PM ^

No mention of Novak back to back treys? Like Stu (hitting the trey in the UCLA game when Michichan needed it) Novak shots were HUGE when Michigan needed to keep Duke off balance. Novak didn't hesitant putting up those water run thru his & Stu veins.

Michigan Arrogance

December 8th, 2008 at 3:21 PM ^

is also something to consider. we have more quality guys up front, and more of them... grady is a 2nd year player, same with manny. CJ and Merrit are 5th year Srs and can be relied upon to spell the young guys and make good decisions in this offense.

think of next year, when we lose ONE s'ship guy (Air Canada) and gain how many recruits?


December 8th, 2008 at 3:28 PM ^

is everybody forgetting we're about to get stud LLP in less than 2 weeks?

Michigan beat two #4 teams and is about to get markedly BETTER.


December 8th, 2008 at 4:00 PM ^

...were priceless. In addition to Beilein's backhand in Bilas's direction, Krzyawskdfweroihaski had some doozies.

"For us, it's a tough academic week; it's not an excuse . . . This is an unusual situation in that you have two really tough road games in that week before exams. The week before exams for us is harder than exam week just because of all the stuff they have to do with their papers and projects, and we talked about that. We limited practice time and things like that." [TRANSLATION: "At a top tier university like Duke we have to study, unlike at this backwater public school. Whadya mean they're ranked higher in almost every significant way? I mean, c'mon, you guys admit Catholics and Jews."] Also, note the very Weis-like use of "it's not an excuse" immediately following, y'know, an excuse.

"I saw the Savannah State tape and there weren't too many seats full. It's party time every time we come to town, but this is a great school and they deserve this level of support for every game." [TRANSLATION: "If you northern mutants had supported Tommy like this, he would have been contending for NIT championships every year, which is more than you freaks deserve. I mean, it's not like this hellhole has any basketball tradition, like Duke."]

My favorite was from DeShawn Sims, with a volley towards Amaker: "Coach Beilein believed in me. He’s building a foundation and I’m glad I’m a part of it. He puts the c, the o, the a , the c and the h in coach. And he coaches you on an interpersonal level. It’s amazing. I’m a better player than I’ve ever been and I know more than I’ve ever known.” [TRANSLATION: "Tommy Amaker is a pathetic loser who couldn't coach his head out of his own ass and back into his jackhole turtlenecks. It's amazing what a difference it is playing for someone who doesn't crap himself when the other team does something crazy, like switch from man to zone or go on a six point run."]


December 8th, 2008 at 4:17 PM ^

Check out this quote from that emo post from last year:
"They're going to be bad again next year. Lucas-Perry won't be eligible until midseason and the current recruits, while undoubtedly better than Jerrett Smith at all things, are not exactly instant impact types"

I think that was a gross under-estimation of the Beilein effect. Will people make the same mistake of underestimating the effects of another year in the same system for R-Rod next season?


December 8th, 2008 at 4:46 PM ^

...I don't blame anyone who's been watching this team through the Amaker years forgetting that real coaching can result in player development, which is absolutely what we're seeing with Sims, Harris & co. Even if they had they can be forgiven for not expecting wins against UCLA and Duke.

I also caution people to stop comparing the basketball and football situations. Basketball, quite frankly, had nowhere to go but up. A team that goes .500 in the B10 would be a great accomplishment for Beilein, and that's with five returning starters. Football...there's going to be too many new faces yet again. We're in full-on rebuild mode there, but I agree with Ninja: we will be a machine.

I also am not sure why people are going crazy about Lucas-Perry. I hope he's incredibly but there's nothing to indicate that he's going to be a savior. He's also a combo guard, which is the one position that we don't have a major need at, especially if Kelvin continues to play well and the Chesterton/Carmel kids keep stroking.


December 9th, 2008 at 12:29 PM ^

He's not going to score 20 a game, but LLP will have an instant and significant impact on the team. He is better a better shooter than Grady and a much much better playmaker and ballhandler than Novak/Douglass. The most significant impact will probably be on defense. If we need to play man-to-man, he will be a huge upgrade at the shooting gaurd spot with grady at the point. Basically, right now we can only play effective defense out of the zone with novak or douglass in there.

He will add another scoring option, ballhandler, slasher, scorer, defender to the mix and take minutes away from walk-ons and freshman. That is significant.


December 8th, 2008 at 5:40 PM ^

...but I thought beating two Top Five teams was good, and therefore should be rewarded.

Now granted the polls don't mean squat until they announce the tournament bracket, I just would like the basketball program to get the recognition and respect that those wins deserve.

Holding Duke to 7-33 (or whatever it was) from 3-point land doesn't happen without good defense, IMO.

BTW, first time poster, LONG time reader.


December 8th, 2008 at 7:34 PM ^

Novak and Douglass are good shooters. Douglass is a decent ball-handler, and Novak is a terrible ball-handler. Novak is also a slow, poor defender. I guess good shooting might (and I emphasize "might") merit a comparison to Mike Gansey...but Joe Alexander. WHAT, HUH? Ummm, this guy was the #8 overall pick, he's 6'7 or 6'8, can post-up, and shoot the three. Comparing Novak or Douglass to Alexander is just plain...well, inexplicable. This strikes me as quasi-reverse-racism, just lumping white players together because they happen to shoot the ball well.