The Situation: Basketball Comment Count

Brian February 23rd, 2009 at 11:38 AM


In a word: ugh. You probably know the story: Michigan led by four with a minute left, then Iowa got back to back trips to the line, one of which was a 50-50 play on a drive, the other a loose ball foul on Sims after Manny Harris didn't get the exact same call Iowa just got. The number of calls Manny Harris doesn't get continually astounds me. My favorite in this game was the charging call he got when some Iowa guy planted himself under the basket.

Then Michigan's attempt at a buzzer-beater degenerates into Harris launching an off-balance three from four feet behind the line, Harris is benched for the entirety of overtime, Iowa hits a wide array of circus shots, and Michigan's bid is on serious life support. I blame myself for hosting a liveblog.

Beilein in the aftermath:

"I didn't think (Harris) was really playing well. He didn't look fresh, he wasn't himself, and so we decided to go in another direction," Beilein said. "We really thought it would help us, but (Iowa) went on a run just like they did at the beginning of the game when he was in there.

"I wouldn't be too concerned about (Harris not playing in overtime). We needed to score some points and Manny wasn't in a good rhythm at that time."

That might make sense if the guy you stuck in the lineup in Harris' stead wasn't David Merritt, with whom I am developing the exact same relationship I had with Pat Massey: though he must be a tremendous individual I want his eligibility to expire immediately so the coach can't keep throwing him out there and causing me psychic distress. (I will never understand this year's rotation, specifically the inability of Jevohn Shepherd to get minutes over the two tiny walkons despite playing pretty well when he gets on the floor. Lord knows if he was closing out three-point shooters in the corner that Iowa guy named Bullwinkle would have had more difficulties.)

But setting aside the choice of replacement, was Beilein 100% wrong? I don't think so. Harris takes terrible shots in every game when he gets frustrated or complacent or feels he won't get a call (which he won't, but eh) and has moments of defensive laxness and is just generally a really frustrating player. Having Harris out there wouldn't have helped that much, anyway. Iowa couldn't miss in overtime, and Harris was not going to bring Michigan's offensive efficiency up to a level at which it could compete.

Beilein's obviously not 100% right, either. If he thought Michigan had a better chance to win with David Merritt on the floor, he's nuts. More likely he had about reached his limit and sat him in what appears to be a fit of pique. I get that: Harris at the moment is a basketball doppelganger of Braylon Edwards in his afro phase, when he was benched because he and Carr weren't "on the same page" despite his clear superiority to Michigan's other receiving options. Edwards wised up and blew up. Harris? We'll see.

I would have preferred the teachable moment had not come in overtime of a crucial road game, though. You know.

Okay. What now? The prevailing assumption was that Michigan had to split its final four games and then not die against Indiana or, uh, Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament to assure itself a bid. That still holds, but winning two of Purdue, @ Wisconsin, and @ Minnesota is a vastly tougher proposition than winning one. Kenpom has us at 32% against Purdue, 18% against Wisconsin, and 25% against Minnesota. 8-10 isn't going to do it without an improbable Big Ten Tourney run, especially because the committee has been de-emphasizing conference tourneys in recent years.

In short: we're screwed.

Elsewhere. UMHoops has the game recap, pointing out that Manny's been benched like this a couple times before. A commenter sums up the refereeing fiasco pretty well:

First and foremost, Big Ten officiating is a joke. As someone mentioned, all those moving screens called on us, but when Merritt is running the baseline in the 1-3-1 and the Iowa post player is in the middle of turning his back and knocks Merritt completely off his route to the shooter, there’s no call. The last foul that they called on Sims to put Gatens to the line was just flat terrible. And Manny still isn’t getting calls in the lane. The charge they called on him early was pretty bad; he was already in the air by the time the Iowa player slid over and got set.




February 23rd, 2009 at 12:33 PM ^

The Big Ten officials' credo seems to be "We don't call shooting fouls but we'll call the smallest of moving screens every time (and we like charges too)." This is a big reason why conference games are routinely in the 50's...I could live with just the above if it weren't for the fact that the same refs get whistle-happy at the end of games.

All of that said, U of M left the Iowa game wide open and I don't think we can complain that they lost...I just think we can complain that the overall officiating leads to a frustrating league to watch.

Also, I humbly submit that Manny Harris needs to learn a 10-ft pull-up jumper.


February 23rd, 2009 at 12:43 PM ^

I know Manny has been frustratingly inconsistent. But that suit he's wearing in the pic w/ Beilein is FANTASTIC. And I'm not even being sarcastic. That is the best fashion statement made by a UM athlete since the Fab Five introduced the yellow jerseys and super-long shorts. Actually, the light blue and yellow plaid may even trump the fab 5.

Manny Harris = my favorite Michigan basketball player ever (though I do wish he'd drive the lane more and kick to open players).

UPDATE: His real first name is Corperryale? Holy crap, if he had a last name even close to Biakabatuka, he'd be giving Tshimanga a run for his money.


February 23rd, 2009 at 12:49 PM ^

was his own damn fault. he had a wide open layup and instead decided to try and draw a foul instead of just making it straight up. if he makes that layup we go up 4 and shoot free throws the rest of the way.


February 23rd, 2009 at 1:18 PM ^

I think he was trying to absorb the contact on that play and overshot it when the defender was jumping out of the way to avoid the contact. IMO he needed to do this since he couldn't count on getting a call there. And I don't think he was fouled on the layup, but definitely was shoved when he turned the corner to get into the lane.

The Squid

February 23rd, 2009 at 1:04 PM ^

I am completely at a loss to explain why Harris was on the bench for the entire overtime. Beilein's explanation that Harris's game was off makes no sense. Yeah, his game was off. But he's your best freakin' player! And even if he couldn't throw it in the ocean off a rowboat, maybe he could have played a little defense, an aspect of the game which completely eluded Michigan during the overtime when Iowa's *2nd string* point guard carved them up like a fatted Christmas goose.

And while I agree that Big 10 officials suffer from a mysteriously inability to blow the whistle in his favor (that charging call mentioned above was hilariously bad), Harris doesn't help himself with his poor shot selection and his lack of a mid-range game.


February 23rd, 2009 at 1:22 PM ^

I think Brian is way too nice in his assessment of JB in OT. Sitting Manny is fine to start OT if he really felt that way, but when Iowa scores 7 quick points you need your best streak scorer (not to mention a better defender than Merritt) to come in an try and stop the momentum. If nothing else it gives Iowa more to think about on the defensive end. Very disappointed in how JB handled OT and his "defense" of his decision.

New Kid On The Blog

February 23rd, 2009 at 3:29 PM ^

We've got enough money to own our own network but not enough to bother with competent officials. If I was Manny I wouldn't take it to the lane either, he won't get a foul called no matter what. That "charge" Brian wrote of was a six point swing. Instead of a bucket and one Iowa hit a 3 pointer at the other end. Thanks Big Ten for sucking the life out of me.

Bando Calrissian

February 23rd, 2009 at 3:40 PM ^

There is no such thing as "Big Ten officials." NCAA basketball officials are not restricted to conference boundaries. For instance, Eddie Basketball officiates in 3 or 4 different conferences.


February 23rd, 2009 at 4:27 PM ^

It's one thing to want a defensive lineup to start OT, but once the Wolves fell behind by 2 scores we needed points. JB should have gone with Manny and maybe even Grady. What does Merritt ever add?

Also, this game turned into a "bow down little brother show" as Jake Kelly (Carmel High School 07), put the screws to Stu (CHS '08)


February 23rd, 2009 at 6:09 PM ^

First of all, Beilein has shown flexibility through his insertion of CJ Lee over Kelvin Grady. No one needs to repeat the obvious fact that Grady is a far superior offensive player than Lee, but now Grady gets playing time only when Michigan is leading. I find Lee's playing time reassuring because defense always wins championships at any level.

Second, Shepherd is not playing simply because you need to at least be able to shoot somewhat decently in order to play for Beilein (notice how Lee can give you an occasional three or a nice drive to the basket). That much is for sure. That is his system and it won't change anytime soon.

Third, while both Harris and Sims do not necessarily fit Beilein's offense, the use of Sims is a good example of Beilein's willingness to adapt. I remember Beilein saying something about how Sims loves the middle of the court and that is why he is getting more time inside this year. Beilein could have easily insisted that Sims play from the perimeter (the preferred spot for the PF in his system), but since Sims was willing to take the time to develop a previously non-existent three point shot, Beilein adapted to his strengths, all for the better of this team.

These observations lead me to believe that what happened with Harris is personal. These are the moments that can turn a team for better or worse. You either take the punishment or you leave. Sims needs to really assert some leadership here and rally the team around Beilein. A disaster scenario looms if Harris tries to divide the team and ends up transferring. That is the last thing this team needs. Remember, these new guys (Douglass, Novak) have come a long ways in one season. Their confidence can only be visible shaken if they fail to the make the tourney. An inspired, united team should beat Purdue at home and maybe they can muster one at Minnesota (most likely).

The incident extends far beyond just one game. It could define Beilein for better or worse.