Still Kicking

Submitted by Brian on February 20th, 2009 at 12:19 PM

2/19/2009 – Michigan 74, Minnesota 62 – 17-10, 7-7 Big Ten


Last year's Minnesota game, an uncompetitive loss in a lost season and a game in which the bulk of the noise came from a bizarre collection of Minnesota students adrift in the upper deck, was so completely dire that in the aftermath I scolded Michigan for reminding Cazzie Russell that he Built This House:

So he stood with his bearing, and listened to his accomplishments -- which are many -- and was then told he stood in the House Cazzie Built and that seemed like kind of a cruel thing to tell a nice old man who never did you any harm. The House Cazzie Built is half-empty, overrun by bums from half a continent away, and home to a team likely to set records for futility.

I titled that monument to self pity "It's only dark in your hearts," though I did have the self-awareness to tag that post "emo," at least. It was pretty bad. You might have been there, in which case you know.

Here is where the flash forward goes: this time when they played Minnesota, Michigan was up twenty with ten minutes left instead of down that many, and instead of leaving before the atmospheric pressure caved my skull in I was… uh… enjoying… the… basket-ball(?). It remains a bizarre concept even months after UCLA and Duke and the generalized creeping respectability. Michigan has completed step one of their three-part plan towards a long-overdue return to the NCAA tournament.

It's nice to be able to care again. That opinion is liable to reverse itself on a dime, especially if something equally inexplicable and foreboding and ridiculous as an uncontested Courtney Sims dunk goes awry and Michigan flails its way into the NIT one more time, but for the moment I'll take relevance in late February. If we are being honest with ourselves this was an NIT team that shot well in two critical games and twice managed to avoid season-killing awful losses by dint of grit and luck and many, many inadvisable three pointers.

Here they stand ahead of all reasonable projections, needing to split the next four and lift that ever-heavier burden on the program, thanks to a backdoor pass from Jevohn Shepherd and a rain of Zach Novak threes and a Laval Lucas-Perry three that caught the front rim and feathered its way home. Things could be much worse.


  • Beilein should find some way to platoon CJ Lee and Kelvin Grady with Lee playing all the defense and Grady all the offense. I heard tell the Northwestern game featured some absolutely comical attempts to break a press that resulted in turnovers. Against Minnesota Grady just shredded it. But he couldn't stay in front of his guy on D again, giving up some easy buckets.
  • The thing that really, really bothers me about basketball officiating is how demonstrative the refs are. This can best be seen on charges and continuations, when 90% of refs take the opportunity to let their inner Siegfried or Roy loose with hopping, pointing, slithering dance moves. No. You are supposed to be a robot. If you show more emotion than the Terminator you are failing at your job.
  • The world makes much more sense when the three-pointers are falling, doesn't it?
  • I hesitate to get ahead of myself here because for every ridiculous game Novak or Douglass turns in there's a clunker or three—see Novak's 21.5% on threes the last five games—but after a game like last night it's hard not to get excited about the program's future. Unless there's attrition Michigan will be replacing a few role players with Morris, Vogrich, McLimans, Morgan, and Cronin next year, and if you want to throw in Eso Akunne as a walk-on replacement go ahead. Even if the bigs are projects they should help immensely on the defensive end; Morris fills a big hole at point guard, and Vogrich will put heat on Douglass and Novak for playing time.



February 20th, 2009 at 12:56 PM ^

we are being honest with ourselves this was an NIT team that shot well in two critical games.

True for the Duke game, but against UCLA we shot just 5-20 from three. We won that game 55-52. That was just the kind of gritty win-when-you-don't-play-your-best efforts that we haven't had much of in recent years.


February 20th, 2009 at 12:57 PM ^ mention of the Red Panda Acrobat!?!?!

That stuff still has me talking about it today.....although, word to the wise, do not try those tricks at home.

I'm sure some of you will sign my cast, right?


February 20th, 2009 at 1:09 PM ^

Whoa - the red panda acrobat did the halftime show? Was it the girl on the unicycle who flipped bowls onto her head? If so, I saw that at Staples when the Pistons came to play the Clippers. And it's one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. I spent the whole show going "what? there's no way she can do another one! OMG!!!"


February 20th, 2009 at 1:12 PM ^

And thats pretty much how the crowd reacted as well.

Early on, we felt like the hockey team from slapshot watching a boring ice capades show as she biked around the court.

Then, she started flipping bowls....and, holy crap, it was surprisingly entertaining. Good stuff, almost as good as four guys in double figures en route to a blowout win.


February 20th, 2009 at 3:27 PM ^

She's famous (kinda sorta). I saw her at a Milwaukee Bucks halftime show. My friend asked what was up with the weird music, and I told him to just wait until she started flipping bowls onto her head.

The look he gave me was priceless. It's just something that must be experienced in order to really appreciate it.

I've also wondered: how do you pick that up? Do you wake up one morning and say, "you know, I think I'm going to get a really tall unicycle and flip bowls onto my head while rocking back and forth. Yes, that's what I'll do for a living."


February 20th, 2009 at 3:56 PM ^

The unicycle part is cool in itself. She was rocking back and forth, with one foot, on a giant unicycle. If that's all she did it would be impressive. The fact that the bowls were stacked alternating upside down and right side up, then she flipped them all into each other, even if she caught them with her hand would be amazing. The whole thing together, I don't even know. If I saw it on TV I would bet you a million dollars it was fake.

Tha Quiet Storm

February 20th, 2009 at 1:07 PM ^

I thought I was the only one who can't stand overly zealous refs. Nothing is more annoying than seeing a player on your team get called for a block and have the ref smack his hips and give a pelvic thrust, or on the other hand having a guy called for a charge and watching the ref shuffle forward and throw his arm towards the opposite end of the floor like he's a black belt trying to bust thru a stack of concrete blocks.


February 20th, 2009 at 1:21 PM ^

I think the refs are taught to be so animated when they make their calls to appear confident. If they meekly made their hand signals, players/coaches would think they were unsure of themselves and would jump all over them. Flailing your hands around and slapping your hips defiantly makes everyone think you're 100% sure of your decision. Try it at your own job sometime!


February 20th, 2009 at 11:24 PM ^

Once refs get to the college and NBA level, proper mechanics get thrown out the window. I'll say this much: the longer a ref has been "established" the more and more he strays from proper mechanics. It's because they can get away with it.

Yes, there's times when you are supposed to be somewhat demonstrative. When a call needs to be "sold" more than the standard mechanic is proper. An emphatic block signal is appropriate when it appears a person took a charge (side note; nobody knows what the actual definitions of a block and a charge are. That's a whole other story).

On that side note: one common misconception: once an offensive player is airborne, he has the right to land. Therefore, a player that appears to get set for a charge but really wasn't there until the player was in the air is committing a blocking foul. In order to take the charge, the defender must establish his position before the offensive player becomes airborne.

I actually thought the officials did a fairly good job last night. Although it did appear that Jim Burr could collapse and die at any moment. That guy is going to have a heart attack on a Big Ten court. Book it.

His Dudeness

February 20th, 2009 at 2:46 PM ^

I was taught early on in my reffing career that the perfect game for a ref is when nobody talks about you after the game or even notices you during it. When nobody remembers you were there is when you have reached your pinnacle as a ref.

Sgt. Wolverine

February 20th, 2009 at 1:20 PM ^

Yeah, I'm not a fan of overly demonstrative basketball refs. I'm also not a fan of baseball umpires who are overly demonstrative and loud with their calls. They all get old pretty quickly. I'm not there to be entertained (or, more often, horrified) by the moves of the officials.

Also, the photographer in me would like to see proper credit displayed with the photos used in these posts.

Blue Durham

February 20th, 2009 at 1:55 PM ^

The shooter was often open because of the ball making it inside (either by pass or dribble-penetration), then kicked out.

Is it me, but did anyone notice that or in the games/losses when we had poor shooting, there was a lot of passing the ball around the arc? That tends not to generate too many open 3's, and hence the poor shooting percentage.

Let's hope this game against Minnesota is the first of many such games.


February 20th, 2009 at 1:57 PM ^

I was at a Minnesota Timberwolves game when the Red Panda Acrobat performed at halftime. I don't remember one thing about that basketball game, but the halftime show is still a vivid memory. Fantastic.

Michigan Arrogance

February 20th, 2009 at 3:05 PM ^

"... this was an NIT team that shot well in two critical games and twice managed to avoid season-killing awful losses by dint of grit and luck and many, many inadvisable three pointers."

The John Beilein system of basketball, ladies & gentlemen.

sometimes, teams only need a game or 2 here or there to get into the tourney (see 2-3 years under amaker). chuck a bunch of 3s, a couple games you hit them, and you;re in the tourney when otherwise not. othertimes a decent teams just needs to get hot to steal a game or 2 to get to the sweet16 or elite8 (see 2-3 years under beilein at WV). chuck a bunch of 3s... maybe you get hot for a weekend.


February 21st, 2009 at 6:09 PM ^

That phenomenon has been happening in the NBA for years. A friend once likened it to Leslie Nielsen posing as the umpire in Naken Gun - "Steee-riiike Three-ee-ee-ee!"