Season Finale

Submitted by Brian on March 23rd, 2009 at 12:22 PM

3/21/2009 – Michigan 63, Oklahoma 73 – 21-14, 9-9 Big Ten

monster_dog-1

The narrative of Michigan's basketball season was one of gritty, gutty, Eckstein-like overachievement, what with walk-ons at point guard and a 6'4" freshman at power forward and mismatched pieces in many places. It's not like this was a secret. I've typed "walk-ons at point guard" and "6'4" freshman power forward" probably a dozen times over the past couple months, often with exclamation points(!) in proximity.

But series finales are often overwrought things that take thematic overtones and bash them into your forehead, so Michigan drew the most un-Eckstein of opponents: Oklahoma and their THOG SMASH team. Then Manny Harris disappeared—maybe he's an angel—five minutes into the game and was replaced by Anthony Wright.

Death! Deeaaaaaaaath!

Wright proceeded to grit his way into 12 first-half points and Michigan went in behind by a single point at the half. They would have had a lead if not for the demands of the narrative, which caused them to blow a couple of easy fast break opportunities and the front-end of a one-and-one that would have pushed their lead to something substantial. 

Halftime was spent in shocked contemplation of what had transpired. A brief attempt to calculate the probability of "Anthony Wright is Michigan's leading scorer at halftime of a second-round NCAA tourney game and the team is down one" was abandoned when one particular exponent was too large to fit in a 32-bit integer. A similar calculation for "Manny Harris plays five minutes in the first half and the team is down one" met a similar fate. ("Tim Brando is an abomination" came out to 1.)

So all this was clearly too good to be true, and Michigan duly proved that at the beginning of the second half when Harris emerged from the bench. But just as reality set in and began to harden, CJ Lee took a bite of his grit sandwich and gritted a gritty pair of gritballs, which in gritspeak are three pointers, three being the grittiest number and "balls" being the grittiest way to say "points."

Calculations begun! And hastily abandoned when Oklahoma threw it into Griffin and someone looked sideways at him and was whistled. Or something. Michigan loses, exeunt season.

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And so. Here we are. This is going to be an embarrassing confession, but I remember standing in Crisler Arena on another Senior Day a few years ago and choking up a bit as the names along the lines of Chris Young were announced and the whatnot went on.

And I remember thinking that they should retire Lavell Blanchard's jersey, if only for sucking it up and staying home and enduring all the stuff you had to endure during that portion of Michigan's basketball history. At that point, anyone who managed to stay in school for four years without beating anyone with a belt or rolling an SUV or being Gavin Groninger seemed like a hero. I wanted to credit Blanchard with changing the culture of the program.

He actually which he may have done this, but the culture instituted was just a different kind of horrible. A much, much less horrible kind of horrible, but horrible just the same.

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Thanks to Anthony Wright, we've all permanently lost our ability to criticize Beilein's rotation. This means we have to consider the walk-ons, and consider what it means when Jerrett Smith is deposited on Grand Valley State's bench and Kelvin Grady on Michigan's in favor of the above-pictured. In Smith's case, it just means he's bad at basketball. In Lee's case it just means he's better than Grady.

In Merritt's case… well. Merritt brought very little on the floor. His playing time is most easily interpreted as a rebuke to whatever Grady was doing that Beilein hated. Merritt is the culture Beilein wants, and he's going to get it, but a half-foot taller and able to pass and maybe score more than a couple points a game. This is just the end of the beginning.

BULLETS

  • Michigan fans can't even assert that it was Harris' two quick fouls that doomed them since the guy soaking up the vacated playing time was Wright.
  • As obliquely referred to above: Michigan had an opportunity to push its lead out to seven or eight points in the first half, which would have made the final, post-CJ-Lee-apocalypse minutes frenetic as hell. But they blew two fast breaks when guys pushing up the floor just had to catch the ball and lay it up, one of which led to a fast break the other way, and Douglass clanked the front end of a one and one. That's probably a seven-point swing,—you have to credit Oklahoma with about a point for their possession—enough to turn that five point deficit that was the closest Michigan came after their disastrous first few minutes of the second half into a two point lead.

    These are the kind of opportunities you have to take if you're the ten seed, I think.

  • I see I wasn't the only one to dub Griffin's treatment the Full Tebow. What perfect misfortune to draw the loathsome Tim Brando for this game. I mentioned this on Saturday, but at one point when it was declared Griffin had a "quiet" 30-15 I enjoyed a brief, dark laugh.
  • The 400 shots of Griffin's parents may have made me want to claw my eyes out but at least they explained that weird ginger ubermensch effect going on. Over and over again. In the most annoying way possible.
  • Also explained: why Griffin's opponents occasionally suplex him. He, Devendorf, and Vasquez should let their powers combine ("Ginger!" "Domestic Violence!" "Inadvisable Media Handling!") to summon forth Captain Douchebag.

Comments

WCHBlog

March 23rd, 2009 at 12:49 PM ^

I think even worse than the "quiet 32-15" was in the first half after Griffin plowed over little C.J. Lee--a foul on Lee, naturally--and Griffin came up from the floor in tears and the announcers said something to the effect of "Those are the types of things Blake Griffin will have to deal with" Deal with what??? Every fricken call went his way!

Also, completely agree that by the end of the game I was thinking "Yeah, I can see why people would suplex him".

jamiemac

March 23rd, 2009 at 1:08 PM ^

Too funny. Yeah, I dont know what Greivas Vasquez had in mind, but it certainly backfired on him.

I love the Memphis player after the game saying all they know about Maryland is they would be no better than 2nd in C-USA.

Otherwise, nice post Brian....End of the Beginning.....I like it.

See everyone next year at the Old Spice Classic. Thanksgiving. Weekend of. Orlando

Duncan

March 23rd, 2009 at 1:09 PM ^

It's one thing to constantly show their parents. But, wow, is she a train wreck to look at. I'm sure she was somewhat attractive in her earlier years. But I had to look, if only a brief second, then turn my attention to some lady bartender who looked just as weathered. Sick stomach.

marco dane

March 23rd, 2009 at 1:10 PM ^

just the first half alone. By the the way! I found it fascinating that none of the Michigan parents/family or coaches wives made the trip to KC. How else can you explain no cut away shots of them?

sigh

March 23rd, 2009 at 1:16 PM ^

The team had a great year - better than anyone could have expected.

It's too bad that rather than talking about that, we're going to complain about refs and talk about the attractiveness of Blake Griffin's mother. All she did was show up and cheer for her two sons. I'm glad that the mother of everyone here looks like a super-model.

Bleedin9Blue

March 23rd, 2009 at 1:34 PM ^

I know it's not Michigan basketball but it is in this post and I've got to ask, is "Then Manny Harris disappeared—maybe he's an angel—" a reference to Battlestar Galactica or something more obvious that I'm missing?

mdblue

March 23rd, 2009 at 2:13 PM ^

I post in defense of Grievis Vasquez. If you listen to Gary Williams after Grievis makes silly comments, he attributes it to poor translation. I love Gary Williams, and therefore he is always correct.

Or not.

More like, I find Grievis Vasquez to be entirely hilarious, because he's probably one of the best trash talkers in college basketball. It makes him so easy to hate. At the midpoint of the season, he had a bad run, leading to a home loss to Morgan State. At the next home game, the fans booed him, and he gave them all the finger. It was awesome.

In Maryland's first round game against Cal, Grievis airballed a three and was showered with "AIRBALL! AIRBALL!" chants. Next posession he drains a three, makes a steal at midcourt and takes it to the rack for a lay in. He then puts his hands up to his ears to let the crowd know he can hear them.

Point being: total asshole. Totally fun to watch. Great theater. Much less douchy than Psycho T and Tim Brando and Ed Hightower. Well, maybe less douchy than the three combined. Definitely less douchy than JJ Redick.

allezbleu

March 23rd, 2009 at 6:24 PM ^

I love Greivis Vasquez for the same reasons. He's got that completely douche-y swagger about him but he's the type you laugh off because he's just that hilarious.

My favorite Vasquez moment this year was when he called Cameron Indoor "his house" lol

then after they beat UNC, and I think he had like a triple double and they interviewed him and he was like "o i cant wait u know i said it was my house but it's coach k's house and i respect that and i just want to say hi to my people in venezuela te quiero mucho"

mth822

March 23rd, 2009 at 10:14 PM ^

* I think a lot of times Manny Harris frantically plows into people and gets silly fouls simply because the other rotation of guards are unable to create off the dribble. Manny wants to win and he wants the sure two. He also is a great FT shooter. So when no one in the rotation has any abilities to drive he just plows in hoping for anything. This will have to change. But in this game he just never got into a rhythm. The box out foul against the big guy( Griffin ) was not his fault either. He had position near and or under the hoop. The three was shot from the right side and it ricocheted to the left wing(which is natural). Griffin jumped back into over Manny and blindly I might add. Now if Manny does the Bill Laimbeer Flop he's got another Griffin foul. But Manny, being Manny holds his ground and the flip occurs. This at best should have been a no call, simply because of Griffin's position. Which is, given the trajectory and him being underneath the hoop, he had none. Zero chance of getting that rebound, unless he does one thing, flops. And the referees eyes were tricked twice into calling flop rebound fouls for OK. And this happens a lot in Hoops. The other,"Flailing," was by an Oklahoma player(believe it was the other Griffin), and he just threw up his left arm to look as though he had been pushed. The ref saw the arm flail and called it a foul. Jeff Capel played for Duke I might. Flop central there.

* Wright's performance does make you think(and I do think JB is the man, please stay at UofM forever Mr. Beilein!) that he should have been out there more though. Does it not? Maybe he was and I do not remember. I just remember Stu and Zach in there for a stretch where it went really wrong. And once again this was at a time when Manny went cold because he was just getting used to playing again. The ebb and flow of the game showed MI needed to stay close to maintain that inner confidence. They wanted to be validated and anything that hinted they were not would cave them in. Or so it seemed. In basketball you feed the fire and Wright was paying the bills thats all. I'll be honest, I'm hard pressed to think of a tourney game where a guy like Wright goes bananas and sits. And I've seen alot of them.And this is Manny as a SOPH. He is a fighter. He gave a hard foul on the other Griffin in a return for his hard foul on Manny.

* Tournaments are fun and it was fun for MI. They made it! You really cannot ask for more all things considered. I'd renegotiate Beilens contract today if I was in the ath. dept. We as fans thank you Sir. And to the players, from Mr. Basketball Deon Sims to Ben Cronin I thank you. Hopefully you will all age gracefully and be back for another fun year of Hoops at the Beilein Center ;)