So I went to the Northern Illinois basketball game, but about halfway through it I started to get tired of unproductive sarcasm re: the program. Let's pretend there was a lot of hilarious snark, and then here we go:
Sims! Explosivo! Northern Illinois has one really tall guy who's even spindlier than Sims. He was a nice player who came up with a couple blocks, but he was also the kind of defender Sims consumes whole, as he can get set up deep on the block and then use his length, which is lengthy, to finish. He did this a lot, and Michigan fed the post with a skill and intelligence I haven't seen in a while. Sims got the ball in a position to get a shot with one dribble, and when he can do that he does things like score 20 points. His shooting percentage wasn't great but a lot of that had to do with a couple of hilarious sequences that went missed bunny-offensive rebound-missed bunny-offensive rebound-missed bunny-offensive rebound-turnover. Or something like that.
I expect this will go away whenever someone decides it's time to push him away from the basket. The announcers were apparently drooling over a potential Sims-Oden matchup, because thats what ESPN+++ announcers do. Maybe they have a point: I guess it will be interesting to see a 6'11" man attempt to crawl back into his mother's uterus.
Line changes. With Michigan playing kind of stupid in the first couple minutes, Amaker yanked the starters (Sims, Petway, Coleman, Harris, Abram) for, well, the rest of the team (Udoh, D. Sims, Shepherd, Smith, Baker). Oddly, this worked. The scrubs entered with Michigan down four and left with Michigan up around four. There was a brief glimpse of what Amaker's motion offense is supposed to accomplish, as the checking line got D. Sims and Udoh open fifteen-footers, which the freshmen both drained confidently. Courtney Sims would later emphasize this point by taking a shot from just inside the three point line. A "what?" escaped my mouth before the shot ever left Sims' hand; it sailed through the air and smacked down out of bounds having threatened no one except inattentive cheerleaders.
Speaking of cheerleaders, there was one who spent much of the game mournfully watching her compatriots actually, you know, lead cheers. She was suffered to pom-pom away during the game, but whenever the cheerleaders ventured onto the court she was excluded from their reindeer games, hands propping up her chin as she watched the cool kids get on with their cool activities. This might have been understandable if she was new or injured and could not safely participate in any of the various acrobatic stunts cheerleaders do, but she did the mournful puppy-dog thing even when the task at hand was throwing t-shirts into the stands or encouraging the crowd to start the "Go... Blue" call-and-response cheer.
- She had been suspended for conduct detrimental to the squad. What this constitutes I don't know. Probably a refusal to participate in the weekly Sexy Lingerie Pillowfight.
- She has some sort of physical Tourette's syndrome that makes her presence on the floor during cheerleading activities impossibly dangerous. Like, if she gets anywhere near the "GO" sign or the "BLUE" sign the next thirty seconds become one of those cartoon fights where all you see is a hellacious dust cloud of fists and legs and pain-stars and when it's over the rest of the cheerleaders are lying in a moaning heap, clutching their newly-maimed extremities.
- The Michigan cheerleaders really do operate like cheerleaders in movies and Rudolph had displeased the catty leader by wearing the wrong shade of pink.
- Carmelo Anthony was in the arena and may have fled if she approached.
Attendance. I estimate around 400,000.
Reed Baker. I've seen pictures, but it's hard to describe just how hilarious Reed Baker looks on a collegiate basketball court. (This is not a knock on his play. He hit a couple threes and showed that when the other team also sports an elfin player, he can be effective.)
Reed Baker looks like someone who would have this guy very excited:
Attempt at basketball-talkin'. Our inability to get dribble penetration against such a weak team is worrying. I don't know what our offense would have looked like if NIU had the ability to push Sims out from the block, but it probably would have been ugly. That's an issue that's been discussed ad nauseum, but probably the oddest thing about our offense is that we hardly ever screen, instead preferring to use our big men as pressure outlets whenever our passing around the perimeter gets too hectic.
Sometime early in the first half Jevohn Shepherd made that cut where he flashes in front of a guy in the post and presents himself near the elbow, having used the two guys battling for the position as an inadvertent screen. The result was an uncontested layup, and I thought to myself "Richard Hamilton does that all the time," and then my mind wandered to the Pistons offense and the NBA's general obsession with the screen and roll (or pop). Why don't we use our big men to get Abram or Dion Harris either a favorable matchup or a driving lane? This I don't understand, but I also don't pretend to have all the answers here. 1) Is this a figment of my imagination? 2) If not, why don't we do this? 3) With our next two post starters capable shooters might this change in the future?