Do Not Touch The Curtain

Submitted by Brian on January 29th, 2009 at 11:22 AM

1/29/2009 – Michigan Not That Many, Ohio State Many – 14-7, 4-5 Big Ten

wizardofoz1 wizardofoz

You're just an old man. And you don't appear to be a 6'10" shotblocking menace, either. Jerk!

Well, that appears to be that. Other than Iowa and Northwestern there doesn't appear to be a game on the schedule Michigan should win. Michigan's schedule is way backloaded and they could not afford to lose to Penn State or get swept by Ohio State and lose at home to Wisconsin.  It's asking too much of them to win another five Big Ten games and arrive at the magic .500 conference record: it's the NIT for us.

And that's disappointing, sure, but they were supposed to be an NIT team when the year started and will be one when it finishes. Ekpe Udoh's transfer left… well, you know the deal. You've seen the team play in the Big Ten. Sometimes it looks like a really good AAU team has wandered onto the court in Michigan's uniforms. Sometimes Kelvin Grady ends up trying to check a seven-footer under the basket. They're too small and young and all that.

There isn't that much more to say. The problems are glaring. The starting power forward is a 6'4" freshman. They were 0-11 from 3 in the first half and are now 222nd in the country in three-point shooting at a measly 32.5%. They're sixth in number of threes launched and that number keeps going up. (It's now at 47.3%.) Whatever mojo they had earlier is obviously gone and doesn't seem like it's coming back. The defense is really terrible for obvious reasons.

I feel like I'm repeating myself. Does it feel like I'm repeating myself? I don't have much to say about the team other than "well, obviously." That Indiana game was a clear as day warning, and I said this then and said it now. I appear to be out of things to say re: this team.

It's just too bad it was a mirage.


  • Novak should be suspended a game for the elbow.
  • Harris is proving he's a good player who's nowhere near ready for the NBA of late: 3-18 in his last two games and though he put up 22 and 12 against Ohio State those came with ten(!) turnovers. The ultimate crap scenario is for Michigan to miss the tourney and then for one (or even both) of the stars to leave. I think that's getting less likely as we continue and they play more and more poorly, but stranger things have happened.
  • I guess I don't understand the offense when it so often finds one guy inside the arc and four guys spaced around the three point line. Other teams will cut to the basket with much greater frequency. Is that by design? Or does it just reflect on the general youth of the team?
  • I don't even know if the team is going to be any better defensively next year. They'll get Morgan and McLimans and Cronin and should return everyone except the sparingly-deployed Jevohn Shepherd, but man, all three of those big men are major projects.
  • What happened to LLP? Yeesh.



January 29th, 2009 at 11:41 AM ^

I keep telling myself that if they put up those two stellar games, surely they can put together a little run in the Big Ten tourney and earn themselves a place amongst the NCAA field.

Then I remember how very little this team resembles the one that beat Duke and was a dark horse candidate to rival Purdue and Michigan state for big ten supremacy.

That's what I get for trying to watch basketball.

Promote RichRod

January 29th, 2009 at 11:57 AM ^

and it's not a double standard. As with everything else, context matters. I know we want to feign outrage because we recently called for the head of the MSU idiots, but have some confidence in your ability to distinguish the 2 situations.

Novak was not well aware of a terrible, potentially paralyzing face injury (if such a thing existed) on the other player.

He did not knock him unconscious THEN hover over him and hit him where he knew this mythical injury was.

He was using his elbows, not a stick. He also used an amount of force such that the worst case scenario would be a bruise. MSU goons could have easily paralyzed a kid.

When things get heated players get ejected. That's a proper penalty. Coaches can handle further punishments internally at practice. Players get suspended for egregious behavior and IMO this doesn't qualify.

chitownblue (not verified)

January 29th, 2009 at 12:10 PM ^

1. Speaking definitively of what Tropp and Conboy thought prior to attacking Kampfer is meaningless. It's, as you lawyers would say, "speculation". I think it's exceedingly likely that Conboy went after a Michigan player who hit his teammate (cleanly) - he did not go after Kampfer specifically. He would have done what he did to ANY Michigan player in that situation. Further, I think it's exceedingly likely that the words "That guy recently had a serious kneck injury, I will attack him" didn't cross his mind. What I'm saying is that I would tend to believe that Kampfer was attacked for his hit (wrongly) - not for a perceived infirmity.

2. I would agree that what Novak did is nowhere near as bad as what Tropp did. I do, however, struggle to distinguish between what he did and what Conboy did.


January 30th, 2009 at 2:08 PM ^

The foul was excessive, but in the course of play and didn't look like it was really malicious. The call of a flagrant foul and ejection was right, but I think that's enough. Big difference between being a bit too free with your elbows boxing out and, say, stepping on a guy after you knock him down (some Houston player did that against Arizona) or clobbering someone from behind in retaliation for a clean hit.

Rush N Attack

January 29th, 2009 at 11:45 AM ^

should get 1 game. There's no excuse for that. (I think the Houston kid that stepped on Budinger's face got 1 game, so that was the recent precedent I was looking at).

IMO, it was not accidental, but I could be wrong. Even if it was an accident, and he gets 2 or 3 games...I would have no problem with that.

marco dane

January 29th, 2009 at 12:02 PM ^

boxer...why do you suppose LLP didn't get more minutes the second half? After all he hit duce treys coming out and for some unkown reason...he went to the bench. Wassup with that?


January 29th, 2009 at 12:26 PM ^

You can't be a team that relies on the 3-pt shot and not be able to hit them. What is so discouraging is that they DO get pretty good looks at the basket, but they're not hitting them. I think the three biggest issues we've seen since the conference season have been:

1. Manny not getting any fouls called. He lived at the FT line in the non-conference season and the refs just aren't bailing him out. While I hate the Dwayne Wade style of play (crash into the lane and let the refs save you), that's a big part of his game and Michigan's recipe for success.

2. No shooters. Some combination of Douglas, Novak, and LLP needs to hit threes consistently. Harris and Grady can shoot from time to time, but that's not their game. The other three guys are tasked with hitting open shots and right now none of them are. At all. (It probably isn't a coincidence that they're all freshmen.)

3. Size. Having Udoh would help a ton on defense, but it would help on offense too because Sims is exerting too much energy. He's often the only guy anywhere near the basket and has to do everything down there. If he were 7-ft tall maybe he'd dominate. But he's 6'8".

Item #3 can't be fixed. It sure doesn't seem like item #1 is going to change, but last night Harris did go to the line, even if he combined it with a ton of TO's. So that leaves item #2 as this team's only chance. If they can hit outside shots (like they did early in the year), they can beat anyone.

Example - they lost to PSU by 15 points. They went 5/30 from three. If they go a measly 10/30 it is a tie game. That's a big difference, but is 30% from long range too much to ask?


January 29th, 2009 at 12:46 PM ^

Was that entire post made to be a reverse jinx to help the three-pointers starts falling? Because one thing this team has proven is that if the shots fall it can beat anyone. And since shots tend to fall (and not fall) in streaks, I don't see why a mini-run in the latter part of the schedule is impossible.

It's like playing blackjack, which you could easily write an entire post about destroying as the game with the worst odds in the casino. Once you hit a "good" shoe you press your bets and suddenly your up a couple of grand. Sure this team has so many holes it will fail in the long term, just like you'll probably lose at Blackjack over the long-term unless your counting, but it has already had one nice run early in the season and I don't think it is outlandish to hope for one five-game stretch over the next ten games.

Snidely Doo Rash

January 30th, 2009 at 1:20 AM ^

This team should still make the tournament. No reason we won't beat Purdue if others step up with Novak's minutes. Even with an L we can play into the NCAAs before OR during the Big Ten Tourney--simple facts of the schedule.

Novak got pissed off by the rough treatment. With his body size, I'm glad to see the effort and "scrappy-dooness" he has as a freshman. Beilein needs Novak in there and with a quick hook if he's off page as per the OSU fiasco. Reverse Polarity cosmic respect for buckeye fans in that game.

M squad lost it's chemistry over past few weeks. If it comes back sooner than later, we are dancing. Basketball is not the albatross football is.

Through being cool.


January 29th, 2009 at 12:54 PM ^

"I guess I don't understand the offense when it so often finds one guy inside the arc and four guys spaced around the three point line."

Isn't this the essence of John Beilein's offensive scheme? Have your guys bomb away endlessly from 3-pt land? Unless you have players who are lights-out shooters game in and game out, seems to me that it's a recipe for shooting yourself out of the game far more often that not, at least with this bunch.

It's a strange resemblance to RR's approach to working with what you have, which is to ignore what you have and charge ahead full steam with the only way you know how to do things, results be damned.

I keep reading and hearing fans make comments to the effect of "if only they would come out of their shooting slump." The problem is that a slump is only a slump if it represents a departure from the norm. In Michigan's case, the norm IS a shooting slump.

Last season, Michigan finished dead last in the B10 in FG percentage and 3-pt percentage. This season so far, we're dead last in FG percentage and next-to-last in 3-pt percentage.

They'll be one of the very few teams in history to beat two top-five teams in the same season and not go to the NCAA's.


January 29th, 2009 at 1:53 PM ^

What would you like Mich do pound it down in the post to a um a um our power forward Novak??? Beilien has been referenced as 1 of the best strategists in the game numerous times. He has won every where he has been. Am I supposed to believe he forgot how to coach when he came to Michigan?? His system is designed to get open looks for his players. How about our talent blows..what talent we have is young..and that talent is small. This team needs time and it may not be next year either. There are a lot of ups and downs in a season...we have slipped below 50/50 for the tournament, but this is not over yet.

I said before this team is fun to watch because they scrap even though they are outmanned..they can't shoot right now so it's getting ugly, but this team has no expectations just sit back and enjoy the ride... we're going to upset a few teams before it is over and the bandwagon will fill back up.


January 29th, 2009 at 1:23 PM ^

I don't know why, but I still there's a chance (not a great chance, but a chance) that this team can make the tournament. OSU may be far from the best team in the conference, but with their size inside they may be the worst match up for Mich.

I think that with players like Novak, Douglas, LLP, Manny, and Grady their shooting troubles have to be called a slump, not a a return to the norm. I can't believe that all these guys are that bad from behind the arc.

I also have confidence that Beilein will figure something out.

I assume that the conference tournament counts. I wonder what our chances are if we go 8-10 in league play and win two games in the B10 tournament?

chitownblue (not verified)

January 29th, 2009 at 2:18 PM ^

This team couldn't shoot 3's for shit last year. We added 3 freshmen - 2 of whom were absurdly lightly regarded. We still can't shoot 3's for shit. This is not shocking to me.


January 29th, 2009 at 2:22 PM ^

Teams have figured out on how to defend the backdoor cut. They're daring them to shoot 3's because they aren't hitting it with frequency. They playing players w/o the ball soft so they wouldn't be victimized with the backdoor cut.


Simple, make 3's and they will play it tighter because 3 is worth more than 2(duh!) and is often a momentum changer or stopper. Since Michigan is cold from the outside, expect the other team to play it soft.


January 29th, 2009 at 2:38 PM ^

Most of us agreed that when UM beat UCLA and Duke that we shouldn't get too excited that, especially with Duke, we caught some good teams on weird nights, the shots were falling, quirks, etc., and that this team wasn't at their level. We all took a realistic view of this team, and figured we were playing somewhat above our heads. Now, UM loses some tough games to decent teams, and everyone is looking to dump them overboard. Where is the restraint now? Is it possible that this team is playing a little below its head right now (if that's a phrase)? Somewhere in the middle, between beating Duke by 8 at home and losing to OSU by 18 on the road, is where Michigan resides, and I think that spot is on the cusp of the NCAA tournament, which should have been the ceiling for this club from the beginning.

Sure, this team is shooting too many 3s, but they shot 33 against Duke in the win, and 26 last night in a loss. I didn't catch all the game, but the part I saw featured some decent looks that just rimmed out. That happens, and while I wish this team had more of a legitimate inside-outside game, teams have been shown to be successful playing this way. If you look back at Beilien's old WVU teams, they all seemed to experience similar spurts throughout the year, suffering through at least 1 or 2 skids when the shots just weren't falling. True, those teams probably had slightly better shooters and were more experienced, but they still found ways to make a run through the Big East and into the NCAA tournament. So maybe this is just UM's "rough patch", and maybe a win at Purdue will help turn this team around.

Ah, who am I kidding - I'm already booking tickets to the NIT finals here in NYC!


January 29th, 2009 at 3:21 PM ^

the previous trip down the floor was also a free throw situation for osu. Novak clearly got pushed hard from behind and a foul certainly should have been called. possibly even a ref's warning or technical foul to the osu player (might have been hill). that doesn't excuse novak's retaliation but sometimes the refs lose control and they always seem to get the second guy. zac'll get a little punishment but do you really think motta will say anything to the thugs on his team that start this nonsense? i won't hold my breath. bernie madoff is more likeable than motta, tressel or the students that they coach

matty blue

January 29th, 2009 at 4:29 PM ^

there's no excuse. ever. i'm not going to crucify him - freshman, frustration, hostile environment, etc. etc. etc. - but he knows better. AND that crap can cost you a game.

but it's no big deal - he'll do some extra running, miss a game or two, and beilein will use it as a teaching opportunity. it won't happen again.


January 29th, 2009 at 3:32 PM ^

Morgan, and Cronin are more inside presence then anybody we have breathing in a UM uniform right now. McLimans is the project, and I believe he will be more perimeter oriented rather than a down low presence. Just HOPE that Zack Gibson is gone and not offered that 5th year, and that opens up another ship to use either next year or the following.


January 29th, 2009 at 4:50 PM ^

from what I saw in highlight tape from UMHoops, he looks like a solid player who can shoot 3's. If a Center can make 3's alas Pittsnogle, it opens up the inside lane and stretches the defense out thus putting center in out of position and make him uncomfortable by defending the outside.


January 29th, 2009 at 4:27 PM ^

mediocre play. Harris and Sims are top 5 in B10 in scoring, Sims #1 in rebounds, but somehow they can't win these winable games. The first half of the last 4 games (except NW) the shooting % was 20ish. Crazy. I think it will turn around late this season or next year but its gotta be frustrating to the team and Coach B. They still don't have a slash and dish PG. They don't have a consistent or reliable assist leader. That is essential to the 3 pt game. They are very easy to scout. They are young so confidence issues are a factor.


January 30th, 2009 at 1:20 AM ^

brian needs to smoke a bowl.novak should have been more discreet.manny needs to be more on the right wing.grady needs to attack more.stu has to shoot more.

to break down the game with 6 minutes to go michigan thanks to a 7 for 15 3pt. performance in 2nd half had cut into an 18pt halftime lead and were down 8. at this point I will take a moral victory and point to an awakening from our shooters including manny,llp and novak.

this team will make the ncaa tourney and advance to the sweet 16 where the lack of an inside game and experience will end the run.all non-believers, including brian, either chill or get out of the way. there is enuff naysaying coming from east lansing and columbus.


January 30th, 2009 at 10:42 AM ^

Not only are we small in the middle, but neither Gibson or Sims seem to know what to do inside. During the OSU game the announcers emphasized that the hole in the OSU defense was right in the lane, yet on each possession, sims or gibson stood still with their hands at their sides with no thought of actually calling for the ball.


February 2nd, 2009 at 12:51 PM ^

Three things are destroying Michigans chances for finally getting back to the dance:

1. No size - every coach in the Big Ten now realizes we cannot defend the post. When I say cant defend the post I mean we dont even use the "hack-a" strategy when we realize we are oversized. The teams coming up (Minnesota) have size. Epke really hurt us here. Oddly enough, the larger trend in basketball for the last five years has been forcing the other team to MATCH UP with a smaller offensive line-up. Of course we have to score for that to work.

2. No penetration - I have never seen a team this reliant on passing around the horn as the main method of shot selection. I really assumed with CJ Lee, Grady, and Levelle Lucas-Perry someone would understand that penetration is what opens up the shooters.

3. Simms - getting worn down...he is the only low block threat and is clearly not holding up well under the constant beating.