1/28/2006 - Michigan 85-76 Wisconsin - 15-3, 5-2 Big Ten
Well, this is different. If you had told me in September that the best team on campus would be the basketball team, I would have punched you and called you Sparty. So it is, though. On Saturday Michigan leapt out of the gate, controlled the game from start to finish, and was never seriously threatened by a team that is in the top twenty of the RPI. At home, sure. Wisconsin's missing three guys due to academics, sure. Still: a comfortable victory over a team in the top twenty of the RPI and on top of the league, right after beating Michigan State. Thees... how you say... happy fun.
It says something when the only negativity in comments of this very blog is directed at a player who went 8 of 10 from the field and scored 18 points in 15 minutes on the floor. It says something good.
Update! Whoops. I forgot that I promised video of Graham Brown's thunderous screen from the heavens on Wisconsin's Guy Who Looks Exactly Like Chris Rock Guy. And, thanks to Tony of Have You Met Tony fame, here is the Graham Brown Screen Of Doom.
Now with non-pejoratives! Big Ten Wonk's "Is Michigan back?" test: fill in "As expected, Michigan _________" with something non-pejorative. We now have some non-pejoratives (all stats from Ken Pomeroy, hero of the proletariat):
- battered their opponents senseless on the boards. This isn't quite "As expected, Michigan." It's more "As expected, Graham Brown," but he's on the team, isn't he? Michigan rebounds 35.7 percent of its misses and allows its opponents only a 29.1 percent o-rebound rate, a significant gap that translates into several possessions a game. This helps mitigate the vast quantities of turnovers the team produces.
- powered through injury and the omnipresent Big Ten foul trouble with unexpected contributions from the bench. Seriously. Though Petway and The Riddler have a multitude of flaws, they're both productive players. (Hunter had 15 points against Wisconsin.) How many Big Ten teams can say that about posts #3 and #4? I think Michigan State's fourth post is Drew Naymick or The Gods Must Be Crazy-refugee Idong Ibok.
Couple the post depth with Ron Coleman's emergence as--I swear to God I'm not kidding--something of a defensive stopper and Jerrett Smith's uncanny ability to provide assists slightly more often than he turns the ball over and that's like a bench and stuff.
- shot the freakin' lights out. Pick a number that corresponds with Michigan's nationwide rank in effective field goal percentage. Wrong. Try five more times. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. The answer: 13th of 334 teams.This is not entirely attributable to Courtney Sims going all Brobdingnag on the Delaware States of the nonconference schedule, either. Michigan has four players above 40% on threes: Lester(s) Abram(s) (45.5), Jerrett Smith (42.9), Daniel Horton (41%), and Dion Harris (39.7... crose enough!). Plus they have Hunter and Coleman hovering around 35 to 37 percent.
This puts Michigan's 3PCT well into the range where Big Ten Wonk would probably sign off on it being a Perimeter Oriented Team with a couple of exclamation points and a reference to Michigan's Edvard Munch-level horrific turnover rate, but only 31% of Michigan's shots are its undeniably effective threes because they're shooting 55% on two-pointers. The mind! Boggling!
- played pretty OK defense. Despite not having any particularly outstanding features save the aforementioned rebounding, each portion of the defense is at least okay. The parts of it that are good (two-point field goal percentage, defensive rebounds, blocked shots) lift the meh parts to a place that's fairly secure: 69th in schedule-adjusted efficiency.
So, there you have it. A team that doesn't suck. I held back on the swanky new Horton/Cazzie Russel banner until after the Wisconsin game... you know, just in case. I've long been emotionally disengaged from the basketball team for obvious reasons, but at one point on Saturday I swore at the TV and I meant it. Long live inappropriately prioritized sporting events!