Michigan 66, Minnesota 56

Submitted by Ace on March 1st, 2014 at 9:05 PM


GRIII: Pretty, pretty good at the whole "jumping" thing. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]

I'm at a loss for words.

Michigan just secured their second Big Ten title in three years with two games remaining on the schedule. The year the Wolverines didn't win, they made the national championship game. At least four plays tonight were more spectacular than anything I witnessed Michigan do in the entire Ellerbe/Amaker era—good lord, Glenn Robinson—and this wasn't a good offensive effort by this team's standards.

The novelty of Michigan basketball being a legitimate national powerhouse hasn't worn off in the slightest. I still can't help but blurt out "oh my god" on press row when Nik Stauskas throws a lob to GRIII and he throws it down on two people without regard for gravity or human life. Ditto when the backup point guard with one scholarship offer sparks another highlight-reel alley-oop with an Unseldian outlet pass, then follows it up with a leaping high-wire act to tap keep a critical possession alive. Or when Caris LeVert, one-time Ohio commit, continues to develop into an all-B1G player before our very eyes.

I'm still trying to comprehend last year. Now this? Without Trey Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr. or Mitch McGary? My brain is a 404 error. The page you are looking for does not exist. Please return to the front page and continue staring at the banners above you until you're 100% sure this is reality.

Adding to my confusion is the manner by which Michigan won tonight. Their shots weren't falling in the early going; unlike the last handful of games, however, the Wolverines weathered an early opposition run with quality defense. Minnesota led 15-9 at the ten-minute mark of the first half. At halftime, Michigan led 31-20, even providing a signature defensive moment during their 22-5 run, a spectacular Robinson block of an Andre Hollins fast break layup.

The offense eventually found its rhythm thanks to the exploits of Michigan's three stars. Stauskas knocked down 5/8 three-pointers en route to a game-high 21 points. Though LeVert (13 points) struggled outside the arc (1/5), he hit 4/8 two-pointers, dished out five assists, and used his three defensive rebounds to ignite transition opportunities. Robinson added 12 points, half of which came on alley-oops, seemingly touched the rafters to pull down a critical late offensive rebound before finishing the job himself, and knocked home one of his signature 18-footers.

Jordan Morgan scored five points on three shots, but that only scratches the surface on his contributions tonight. He drew a huge charge call in the second half, played his usual excellent defense, and pulled in ten rebounds. Morgan's final board, on a Stauskas miss with 1:45 remaining, led to Spike Albrecht sinking a dagger to put Michigan up ten, capping a high-impact outing for Michigan's backup point guard. Derrick Walton only played 18 minutes; in that time, he scored eight points on five shots.

Michigan will raise their third banner is as many years when the 2014-15 season begins. Several of tonight's key figures won't be in uniform—Morgan, definitely, and who knows what will happen with the pro prospect sophomores? It'll be a familiar feel to start a Michigan season, and that alone is astounding to this child of the late '90s and early aughts.

Better yet, this season isn't over, and once again the Wolverines are rounding into form as the calendar flips to March. I think this Beilein fellow just might work out.

Comments

AlwaysBlue

March 1st, 2014 at 9:24 PM ^

myself (from other Morgan comments) but the fact he came back after losing his confidence and minutes says so much about him. The fact that he did so saying he wanted to contribute any way he could says even more. The fact he was voted captain says it's not just some fans who notice what kind of man he is.

Ponypie

March 2nd, 2014 at 12:30 PM ^

There is a multi-faceted good character thing going on with him that goes beyond the basic "grit" thing - tons of gritty types out there, but not many with the kind of unselfish, truly team- oriented, gracious, etc. expressions that Morgan displays.

Someone you really like to see as the face of our program, and also a tribute to Beilein's own character.

Eskabeaner

March 1st, 2014 at 9:16 PM ^

Love your post-game writing Ace.  Combines excellent journalism with my own sense of mind-blown wonder that this is all real and actually happening... GO BLUE!

turd ferguson

March 1st, 2014 at 10:14 PM ^

Izzo has had a ton of success being the whiny clown he is, so I don't want to over-interpret based on one year, but it seems to me that Izzo's demeanor rubs off on MSU's players and Beilein's demeanor rubs off on Michigan's players.  Partly for that reason, I'm skeptical of this idea that MSU is going to get it together and roll through the tournament while we're an obvious upset candidate.

creelymonk10

March 1st, 2014 at 10:18 PM ^

This was after Valentine went in for a layup and an Illinois defender went straight up, Valentine missed, no foul call, and Izzo goes apeshit. Worst part is that Illinois got called for 2 fouls in a row right after this. Hate that they payoff his whining.

MGoBender

March 1st, 2014 at 9:20 PM ^

At least four plays tonight were more spectacular than anything I witnessed Michigan do in the entire Ellerbe/Amaker era—good lord, Glenn Robinson—and this wasn't a good offensive effort by this team's standards.

 

I mean, it's one thing to be enthusiastic and exaggerate a little - and I'm a huge GR3 backer and love it when people get off his back.

But, let's not throw the Amaker era totally under the bus.  It was during the Amaker era I became a die-hard hoops fan during high school and then a Maize Rager.

Dion Harris' game winner against Notre Dame?

Any half-court alley-oop to Brent Petway?

Daniel Horton outdueling media darling Dee Brown and scoring 39 (THIRTY NINE!) to upset #8 Illinois?

This was a great game and the conference championship is all that matters - but the extreme hyperbole is a little much.

And I hate throwing Amaker's teams under the bus.  They came up short in the end, but it was an important bridge to get from Ellerbe to "back".

El Jeffe

March 1st, 2014 at 9:38 PM ^

I mean, I sort of agree. I'm not a huge fan of throwing any M player or coach under any bus. But if RR is viewed as a colossal failure on this board after three years, Amaker has to be considered way more of a failure after 7. Being one of the 65 best teams in 'Murica for 7 straight years just isn't a very high bar. And many of those teams had late season swoons that were pretty demoralizing.

But let us come not to bury Amaker but to praise Beilein. Hail.

Raoul

March 1st, 2014 at 10:32 PM ^

Amaker didn't exactly leave a roster full of four stars for Beilein.

But when I compare Amaker's tenure at Michigan vs. Beilein's, the biggest difference is player development. Almost every player gets better—many markedly better—during their time under Beilein. That could hardly be said about those playing for Amaker, some of whom had their best years as freshmen and then regressed.

umchicago

March 1st, 2014 at 9:45 PM ^

amaker had 6 years.  SIX.  and never made the dance.  imo, he deserved at least 4 but should have been can a couple years earlier.  i guarantee beilein makes at least 3 ncaa tournys if he coached amakers teams.  amaker was a better coach than ellerbe but that was a low bar.

UMfan21

March 1st, 2014 at 9:53 PM ^

One of his last two seasons we should have made the dance but for an injury that just ruined the teams chances. We didn't have the depth back then that we enjoy now.

I agree about the hyperbole though. Half court alley oops to Petway were amazing. LaVell Blanchard had some amazing plays. Horton, Harris, Abrams and BRob all made some great plays. Even Manny and DeShawn pre-Beilein. Certainly some spectacular plays.

snarling wolverine

March 1st, 2014 at 10:13 PM ^

Amaker's teams had plenty of talent/depth.  His last two teams actually were more experienced than any team Beilein has coached here, with tons of upperclassman contributors.  But they didn't play as a cohesive unit the way Beilein's teams do (they were always extremely turnover-prone), and individually, most guys didn't develop that much over the course of their time here.  

Amaker was a nice guy and had to deal with some hardships like a pre-renovation Crisler and no practice facility, but he still had the players to end the tourney drought, at the least, and didn't get it done.

 

Mr Miggle

March 2nd, 2014 at 6:39 AM ^

I'll add that Amaker did have a team that would have made the NCAA in his 2nd season, but had to stay home because of sanctions.

Tommy was a good recruiter and did a great job cleaning up the mess he inherited. The difference between having him over Ellerbe as the face of the program was as big as the difference between him and Beilein in coaching abillity. I'll never complain about keeping Amaker a little too long if that's what led to us getting Beilein.

champswest

March 1st, 2014 at 9:48 PM ^

he deserves.  He pulled us out of the sanctions period and restored honor and respectability to the program.  He had a winning record (109-83), had 3 NIT appearances in 6 years and won a NIT Championship.  He wasn't a bad coach.

Beilein, to his credit, has taken it up several notches.  Two B1G championships, 5 NCAA appearances and a NCAA championship game appearance.  Our talent (and character of men) hasn't been this good in a long time.  I only wish coach was about 45 years old.

snarling wolverine

March 1st, 2014 at 10:18 PM ^

I don't want to pile on the guy, but it's not that hard to have a winning overall record as a college basketball coach, given that everyone plays a lot of cupcakes in December - and Amaker's teams really loaded up on cupcakes, more than Beilein's teams typically play.  In B1G play,  Amaker was 10 games under .500 (43-53).  

 

MGoBender

March 2nd, 2014 at 9:20 AM ^

My point was that Ace was being ridiculously hyperbolic when he said there were "4 plays from [yesterday's] game that were more spectacular than anything he'd seen in the Ellerbe/Amaker days."

I can't even name 4 spectacular plays from yesterday's game.  I can name one. 

I can name many spectacular plays from the Amaker days.

My point was that the Amaker days had guys that were fun to cheer for, that worked hard, that represented Michigan very well.  They didn't make the tourney and came up short, but they made me a college basketball fan and I'll never count them as a failure.

freejs

March 2nd, 2014 at 9:49 AM ^

Do we really need a debate about Amaker right now? 

Let it fucking go. 

We have the best coach we could possibly have, and I don't want to think about anything depressing today. 

Michigan basketball is back after a ten year sojourn in the wilderness. I just want to enjoy this land of milk and honey. 

WolverineHistorian

March 1st, 2014 at 9:26 PM ^

I'm at a loss for words as well. It's still hard to believe that 3 years ago, after back to back blowout losses to bottom dwellers Northwestern and Indiana, many of us, myself included, thought it was time to get rid of John Beilein. But ever since Stu Douglass hit that 3 at Breslin, this program has gone through an unreal transformation.

And who would have thought this team would start to play better AFTER Mitch McGary was lost for the year? It boggles the mind.

I'm beyond happy they have a share of the conference title. And I'm going to be greedy now and say I want us to have it outright.

GO BLUE!!!!

snarling wolverine

March 1st, 2014 at 11:57 PM ^

Before:

2007-08: 10-22 (5-13) - no postseason

2008-09: 21-14 (9-9) - NCAA round of 32

2009-10: 15-17 (7-11) - no postseason

2010-11: 11-9 (1-6) entering the game at Breslin

Total: 57-62 overall (22-39 B1G), one NCAA bid

 

After:

2010-11:  10-5 (8-3) - NCAA round of 32

2011-12:  24-10 (13-5) - B1G champs, NCAA round of 64

2012-13:  31-8 (12-6) - NCAA national runner-up

2013-14: 21-7 (13-3) - B1G champs

Total: 86-30 overall (46-17 B1G), two B1G championships, four NCAA bids, one Final Four

freejs

March 2nd, 2014 at 9:53 AM ^

He was the best coach for us from Day One. I'm sorry some people couldn't see that, but from the very start we finally had a coach who had a damn PLAN, and that was evident to some of us basketball heads. The football heads in the fanbase, well, you should have trusted us!

I remember the day he was hired, and, in light of the things I had heard from top shelf coaching minds about how good he is at what he does - it was the day I knew we were finally going to have a guy with the chops at the helm. 

 

 

Shop Smart Sho…

March 1st, 2014 at 9:30 PM ^

These last three years were what I was always going to have when I was 11 and the Fab 5 were there.  I honestly feel like I'm 11 again watching this team the last three years.