Statement Win

Submitted by Tim on January 17th, 2010 at 10:11 PM

novakuconn.JPG

Michigan 68 UConn 63, Michigan 10-7 (3-2 Big Ten)

At some point during the game, I tweeted something to the effect of, "In a game like this, I have a really hard time not bursting out in cheers." This may have confused some people, who didn't realize that press row is supposed to be a fully non-partisan portion of the arena. By the time there were just a couple minutes left in the game, I didn't have to hide my excitement, because most of the journalists right around me were drawn into the excitement as well.

The Indiana game was a sloppy, unappealing contest for the viewer. A lot of people said afterwards that they wished it hadn't even been a nationally-televised game. To me, a win on national TV is a win on national TV, especially when it comes by 24 points, but that's not my point here. The game against UConn, to me, seemed to be redemption for the national audience, and a chance to see what Good Michigan can look like when the Wolverines actually play well.

Against a huge team like UConn, Michigan isn't supposed to stand a chance. The Huskies are supposed to bang it down low, get Michigan in foul trouble, and come away with a comfortable win, even on the road. Michigan didn't get the memo, as they harassed men much bigger than them into missed shots and turnovers down low, and barely lost the rebounding battle to a squad much bigger than them at nearly every single position.

This is the Michigan team we saw last year. It may have showed up too late into the year to make it to the tournament again, but they weren't going down without a fight. This UConn team isn't what their top-15 ranking would imply (and after dropping their last three game, they can kiss that ranking goodbye), but the Huskies are no pushover. This might be the Wolverines' best win of the year, and though it probably won't be enough to get them into the tournament without an insane run through the Big Ten, it certainly re-opens the NIT as a possibility, even likelihood.

The next few games no longer look like a curse, but rather an opportunity.

BULLETS

  • To those clamoring for a third scorer to emerge from the team, I think you got your answer today: It's not necessary to have a 1-2-3 (Manny/DeShawn and another go-to guy) as long as there are several guys scoring. Sims was only the 4th leading scorer, but Michigan pull off a win against a ranked squad.
  • Matt Vogrich almost became a member of Club Trillion, but played two minutes without accruing any other stats, which I guess makes him a member of Club Two Trillion.
  • Michigan... has... bench? Zack Gibson and Anthony Wright came up big today, when the team really needed them because of foul trouble for Novak and Sims. I've been hard in Wright in the past, but I'll also give him props when he earns them. Hats off to both of those guys.
  • Also from the bench, Darius Morris comes in for a round of praise after the past couple games, and practically disappears. 0/4 with 1 turnover, 1 steal, and 1 assist. Can't blame him too much as these are probably some of the best opposing guards he's faced, but he has to play up to the competition if Michigan wants to continue having success.
  • Zack Novak is capable, more than almost any basketball player I've ever seen, of turning in a mediocre statistical performance, but looking like one of the biggest factors to his team's success. The 3-ball at the end was huge.
  • The shooting performance was mediocre, but UConn is also a pretty good defensive squad, with a ton of quickness on the perimeter. I'll take 44.9 eFG% against them, with hopes it'll continue improving.
  • Dude, a UConn player airballed a free throw. I haven't seen that since the first time Ben Wallace played for the Pistons.
  • I really liked the presentation for BRandon Graham at halftime. It was a shame there was some booing directed at Rich Rodriguez. I would have loved to see the students respond with a chant in support. Next Tuesday is another opportunity, I guess.

Photo Gallery

Additional important photo from the Detroit News.

Postgame Quotes

"I don't care about nothin' else but the win." DeShawn Sims, on having a quiet day on the statsheet.

"That's the whole joke, I just chill on the rest of the games, and just play whenever it's a big game." Anthony Wright, comparing his performance to the NCAA tournament loss against Oklahoma last year, in which he led the team with 14 points.

"This is just the first game of a big four-game series we have coming up, and it's always great to get that first win." Anthony Wright, on looking to the Wisconsin game.

"It's cool, its cool. Just to have that support from the football team and Coach Rich Rod, you know, kind of a Michigan family atmosphere type of thing." Stu Douglass, on having the football team in the stands.

"It's definitely a step in the season, and it could be a turning point, I don't know. But I know from here on out, the team's gonna come out with a lot more hunger." Manny Harris, on whether this game should be considered a turning point for the team.

"The crowd was big for us today, I think a sellout. The Maize Rage was awesome, even our other fans, everyone was into it." Zack Novak, on the crowd support.

"Especially from a defensive standpoint right now, we're really learning a lot more of what it takes to do this." John Beilein, on the team's improved defense and overall play over the past few games.

Up Next

Michigan begins (or continues, if you count the UConn game) a brutal stretch, traveling to Madison to take on the Badgers Wednesday, then turning right back around to face Purdue in West Lafayette. Following that road swing they'll return to Crisler Arena to take on in-state rivals Michigan State in another Maize Out game.

Comments

the_white_tiger

January 18th, 2010 at 12:13 AM ^

A couple of thoughts:

1.) @ Wright: Thank you! Please do this more.

2.)

...kind of a Michigan family atmosphere type of thing." Stu Douglass

, hmmm...

3.) Zack Novak is a fantastic player, even when his shot isn't falling. he brings hustle and intensity to this team, on top of having to guard players much bigger than he is. the sequence where he rejected the alley-oop and got down for an offensive board and put back is just a small example of how good he is. He is the third best player on the team, IME.

4.) The tournament isn't impossible, I've managed to talk myself into them going 8-5 from here on out, and then making it in. Optimism will ultimately fall to disappointment when this doesn't happen, but one can hope, right? The NIT is all but assured if the team doesn't implode.

5.) Rushing the court, whatever man. I just hope it happens at the next home game too.

6.) As for Wisconsin, I think they are much mopre manageable without Leuer, and while winning in the Kohl Center is unbelieveably hard, I wouldn't put it past us. Purdue isn't looking to strong right now, and Michigan did beat them last year pretty handily and were hanging in tight in West Lafayette when Harris got ejected. We'll see...

Tater

January 18th, 2010 at 12:37 AM ^

Wiscy is still a nightmare matchup for the Wolverines. They are big and play very patiently. It's like their "Princeton with Big Guys" offense is the worst possible matchup for JB's "Princeton on Caffeine" offense every time.

The victory over UConn was a huge upset. Maybe the team can come up with a little "surprise" for Wiscy, too. I think we finally have our "don't ever count us out" Wolverines back.

jmblue

January 18th, 2010 at 8:20 AM ^

Wisconsin just lost Leuer to injury. That could be a big break for us. At any rate, we nearly beat them in their place last year, so we should come in with confidence.

BlueVoix

January 18th, 2010 at 12:52 AM ^

I really tried to find Club Trillion funny, but it really is just, well, not. Not particularly well written and though the concept is solid, I feel like a few Harvard pine-riders are more suitable conveyors of information than a bunch of OSU scrubs.

Other Chris

January 18th, 2010 at 10:24 AM ^

This is Ohio State. Any glimpse behind the curtain of a notoriously humorless, very successful, athletic program, and any sign of self-mockery (and let's face it, advanced literacy) from a college athlete, even a sub, is considered novel.

I personally find it amusing, though he does sometimes try too hard to come up with a topic when there really isn't much to say. Nothing wrong with the writing, ime. But I liked the Fat White Guy UConn football blog, too.

quakk

January 18th, 2010 at 1:55 AM ^

or voluntary?

It's cool, its cool. Just to have that support from the football team and Coach Rich Rod, you know, kind of a Michigan family atmosphere type of thing." Stu Douglass, on having the football team in the stands.

Emphasis mine.

jamiemac

January 18th, 2010 at 8:29 AM ^

Of course this win doesnt make them tourney worthy, but it opens the door to a legit road map to get into the field.

8-5 the rest of the way really puts Michigan in the thick of the ballgame. Win a BTT game from there and I think they're in business.

I dont think its that impossible of a task. More and more I am beginning to feel the team has the chops to pull it off.

They big key is getting one win in the next three. Its the toughest stretch they got and after that they will be favored in 6-7 of their last 10 games. Should be an interesting nine days. 3 games to get one win. That's the task to stay in contention.

Go Blue

dahblue

January 18th, 2010 at 2:07 PM ^

I'm as happy as anyone with the UConn win, but the storming of the court was maybe a bit sad. I don't often agree with TV commentators who can't get LLP's name right, but they were right that the storming of the court wasn't warranted. Maybe if we were a D-III school it would have made more sense, but we didn't win a title. They weren't a top ranked team. It was just an important win.

Anyway, if rushing the court makes people feel good then so be it. It just seems a little weak to me.

bryemye

January 18th, 2010 at 2:42 PM ^

To be fair it's been a brutal, brutal... god it hurts.

This year has sucked and over-enthusiasm at something good happening is fine with me.

Plus rushing the court is free and doesn't really hurt anyone (usually). And the student section definitely deserved it, they were really fired up the whole game.

Does it make us look a little small-time? Maybe. Whatever.

Ann Arbor Cardinal

January 18th, 2010 at 10:34 PM ^

Concur. I think it's been said before: the only bright spot in the revenue sports' seasons of late was a win in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I've sat through games in Crisler which felt like away games. It's nice to finally have a crowd cheering for UM in that arena and to finally have something for which to cheer. Not being in the local area, I rarely get to see UM on TV, so it was great to see both a live game but also a win against a quality opponent. When the white, non-athlete part of the announcer team had to get all pretentious and wonder aloud why the idiots were storming the court for a relatively insignificant win, I wished a few of the students had stormed the press-box (or table or whatever) instead.

We whine about the "down in front" people at football games. I'd much rather have people too excited about a win than not enough. If you remove the passion (i.e., irrationality) from sports, all you have left is a pasty talking-head sitting through a basketball game and criticizing fans because it's his job and he's better than you.

buckley

January 18th, 2010 at 9:33 AM ^

I thought UM was in trouble when UConn took the lead 47 - 45 with about 10 minutes to go. UM seemed unable to stop Dyson off the dribble, and UConn had just scored as many points in 10 minutes as they had the entire 1st half. How big does the NW loss look right now? Still a tough road to make the NCAA tourney, but this enables us to have a little more optimism.

Wolv54

January 18th, 2010 at 12:07 PM ^

Who let Tim in the pressbox or the press table? Tim, did you wear the white rimmed sunglasses or did you try to look more like that guy from "My Three Sons" that Ben Cronin was channeling?

ijohnb

January 18th, 2010 at 12:11 PM ^

on an insane run through the rest of the Big Ten to make the tourney, a solid big ten campaign is necessary, but 11 losses puts them squarely on the bubble, and put that with two wins in the Big Ten tourney and I think they are an inside the bubble team given periods of play like the first half yesterday afternoon. Michigan's performance in the tourney last year will result in the selection committee erroring on the side of letting them in. The NCAA tourney is very much like a "club," once you have made it in and impressed, you essentially have to play yourself out as opposed to the other way around. If Michigan can finish the season up to and including tied for forth in the Big Ten, hit their stride at conspicous times, and not lay an egg in the Big Ten tourney, I think they will be dancing. A split against Purdue/Wisconsin and a take down of the Spartans, as unlikely as it seemed at 1:29 PM yesterday, would put Big Blue back in the thick of things.

Kilgore Trout

January 18th, 2010 at 1:35 PM ^

I think they're further away than you say. According to realtimerpi.com, UM's RPI sits at 122 at the moment. That's not even remotely close to the discussion. On the surface, 11 losses doesn't seem that bad, but they need to have good wins in there to get to that point. So to end with 11 losses, they can only lose four more. Here's how I see the remaining games.

Must win:

Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State, @Iowa, Illinois

Little chance of winning:

@ OSU, @ MSU

The rest:

@ Purdue, @ Wisconsin, @ Northwestern, @ Minnesota, MSU

So, to stay at 11 losses or less, they must win all of category 1, and find a way to win five of the seven in categories two and three. I just don't think that's particularly likely. So basically, winning one of the next three is an absolute necessity and grabbing two would be a great idea to give them a tiny margin for error.

EDIT:

I have failed at math... They need to win three of the seven in categories two and three. That seems more reasonable, so maybe there's a chance...

champswest

January 18th, 2010 at 5:19 PM ^

rather than a certain won loss record or number of wins. The selection committee would have a hard time not taking the #4 Big Ten team. I know that they have skipped over teams in the past to take a lower finishing team (like UM last year), but I doubt if they could skip over UM at #4 (especially with the UCON win).

zlionsfan

January 18th, 2010 at 8:33 PM ^

position is mostly irrelevant. Especially when you consider other teams around that position right now. If we agree that Illinois will drop back to the pack, a 4th-place finish for UM will leave one from Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Purdue behind them, and I find it difficult to believe that any of those three would have a resume weaker than Michigan's. (Unless, of course, Purdue continues to play as they are now, in which case the Boilers will finish under .500 in the conference and I will go park my car on my head.)

Besides, the committee says pretty much every year that they do not consider the number of teams from a conference when looking at teams on the bubble. (Even if this usually is in response to the coach of the 9th- or 10th-place Big East team.)

Anyway, I think if we're talking about 4th place, it won't be with a 9-9 or 10-8 conference record ... and even 11-7 might not make it if the extra wins are against Minnesota and Northwestern. Now, a win in Columbus or East Lansing in March or a strong tournament showing in Indy might push a 12-loss Michigan team (13 if they don't win the Big Ten tourney) into the dance, but right now the big home wins are UConn and ... well, maybe OSU at the end of the year, but that would mean they'd have to finish strong. A big road win would help.

SpartanDan

January 19th, 2010 at 1:01 AM ^

Well, in a three-way tie for 4th anyway. Wasn't enough for them.

Granted, PSU last year didn't have a non-conference win even as good as UConn (which is not all that incredible this year), but the number of ugly non-conference losses (which PSU didn't have last year) may cancel that out.

Really depends on who you beat and where. 11-7 has a shot because it'll be impossible to do without a quality win or two in conference and because of the ineptitude of the entire Pac-10 (it's not out of the realm of possibility that they get only one team in, though two is more likely), but given the bad losses and lack of road wins to date I wouldn't feel comfortable there without a big-name win in the conference tourney.

MC Hammer

January 18th, 2010 at 3:48 PM ^

I compare this team's tourney prospects to Kentucky's two years ago. They started 5-6 and ended 18-12 and squeaked into the tourney as a 12 seed despite a loss to Georgia in the first round of the SEC tournament (IIRC)