Well, That Could Have Gone Worse

Submitted by Tim on December 19th, 2009 at 3:09 PM

stuKU.jpg

Kansas 75, Michigan 64. Michigan 5-5 (0-0 Big Ten)

Allow me to bang my head against the wall for a few moments and scream about how this team can't shoot, despite open looks.

*BANG*SMASH*SPLAT*DRIP*

Now that my brain is a wet pile of mush on the floor, what just happened?

Michigan played with the #1 team in the country on the road for about 35 minutes. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks built a big first-half lead in the other five minutes. The Wolverines kept chipping away, but could never get to single digits. If being down 11 was a good thing, this team would have won all sorts of awards today. It's not, so they don't. They just lose.

The shooting problems continue. At this point it is clear that shot selection isn't the problem. Maybe some of the guys have lost confidence, maybe there are inconsistencies with the form of their shots, maybe they're not in great shape, but it can't be attributed to bad luck anymore. Somehow these guys actually forgot how to shoot. In the second half, I was ready for Matt Vogrich to get thrown into the fire.

Kansas's scoring was independent of Michigan's defense much of the time, and Michigan's lack of scoring was definitely independent of Kansas's defensive play, so you might as well put in the guy who's most likely to make those open looks.

There's no such thing as a moral victory, but this game could be a positive indicator for future performance. Despite their worst shooting game of the year (in a year filled with poor shooting), they went on the road and didn't let the #1 Jayhawks run them off the court. There were opportunities to let the game get away with them, but a timely defensive play would keep the game manageable. The creepiest chant in college sports didn't get started until there were under 2 minutes in the game.

Jay Bilas, in the face of all available evidence, was claiming Michigan is probably still a tournament team. That's doubtful at this point, but if they can play this well against teams that don't have quite the roster that Kansas does (and nobody in the country has that talented a roster), maybe they can come away with a winning record in the Big Ten and give themselves a chance on Selection Sunday.

BULLETS

  • Rough game for Zack Gibson. He wasn't bad the whole time, but he made a couple easily-avoidable errors that really prevented Michigan from completing any sort of comeback.
  • Darius Morris... good? Hopefully this is the game that helps him permanently turn the corner.
  • All the cliches about Zack Novak are true. Plus he cuts hair.
  • Seriously, give Vogrich a little more run. If Darius Morris can play one of his best games of the year against Kansas, you have to give Vogrich a chance to bomb away and keep the Wolverines in the contest.
  • I hinted at this above, but the announcers at the end were making statements like "despite playing their worst game of the year, Kansas comes away with a win!" Dude, Michigan gave the game away just as much as Kansas.
  • If Michigan shoots their season average (a still-horrible 28.9%) from three, instead of 17.9%, they have approximately 4 more points over the course of the contest, and this is a ballgame into the last minute. If they shoot like they did last year (33.4%), there's a legit shot of winning.
  • I don't know how Kenpom's formulas are created, but I wouldn't be surprised if this performance made his season outlook for Michigan a little less grim than 11-19.
  • Ugh shooting. [Editor's note: word.]

Comments

V.O.R.

December 19th, 2009 at 3:25 PM ^

Michigan comes in this year with a "better" team than last year, but last year they were hungry to prove themselves. This year they are confused and clearly not ready to play many of these teams they should easily compete with. Until they get their heads straight, it's going to be a long season. They should have worked harder over the summer to prepare themselves mentally for the game.

matty blue

December 20th, 2009 at 11:06 AM ^

...i hate this.

i'm sorry, but you're going to bear the brunt of a rant here.

you have no idea - none whatsoever - if they were "mentally prepared" or not, nor whether they should have "worked harder over the summer to prepare themselves mentally." and by the way - what the hell does that even mean? how you "work to prepare yourself mentally," anyway? visualization? meditation? xbox? what? if you can explain that to me, i'll take some of this back.

and let's be serious here - we stuck with them for the first ten minutes. it wasn't like we came out with a deer-in-the-headlights look. would that not be a trait of being unprepared, mentally? getting blown out of the gym in the first five minutes?

mbee1

December 19th, 2009 at 3:27 PM ^

Morris impressed today. Showed a lot of character after his first shot was an air ball and had to fight thru the chants. I think it's apparent why Belien still has confidence in him. Hopefully Vogrich can earn Belien's trust. Turning the ball over in 30 sec. of action won't help.

UMaD

December 19th, 2009 at 3:28 PM ^

Have to disagree about putting him in there. Against any team with the type of athleticism Kansas have he's going to get picked apart and hurt the whole team defensively. Maybe Beilein can scheme to cover him up at some point but it doesn't seem we're there yet. He seems really far away on that end to the point that I wonder if he can ever become a viable player against elite athletes. Putting him in would be pure desperation.

enlightenedbum

December 19th, 2009 at 4:16 PM ^

Does Beilein need to like, take down the rims, attach a hula hoop with a net there instead, just so the kids see the ball going through the hoop in practice? I mean, they're obviously capable of shooting a basketball, we saw it last year. It has to be confidence, right? I'm all for psychological gimmicks at this point.

jamiemac

December 19th, 2009 at 4:24 PM ^

I didnt hear the rockchalk chant until well into the final minute, so thats a morale victory. As is the fact that Michigan backers cashed a winning ticket for the first time in a marquee in a while.

The last three halves of hoops from a defensive standpoint and from a Sims standpoint have been much better than the rest of the season. Its good to have found that in time for league season. As a Michigan fan, I feel much better now about this team going into IU on 12/31 and hosting OSU on 1/3 in the first weekend of Big 1o play and getting off to a good start in the Big 10.

BleedingBlue

December 19th, 2009 at 8:15 PM ^

They get a nice break after the Coppin State game and before taking on your Hoosiers! I think they can get the shooting straightened out and rip off 7 straight wins to get to 12-5 going into the Wisconsin Game in Madison Jan 20th...

MechEng97

December 19th, 2009 at 4:40 PM ^

So frustrating to see them miss time and time again. In big games you obviously have to hit your shots and I'm waiting for the breakout game. I was hoping today would be the day. I still have hope, but it's getting late to salvage things this year.

Don

December 19th, 2009 at 4:59 PM ^

isn't there just the wee chance that the reason they're so horrible at shooting the ball as a team is that—with the obvious exceptions of Harris, Sims, and the yet unproven freshmen—they're just not that talented? If you judge basic basketball talent, don't you have to include being able to put the ball in the freaking basket with some reliability—in games, not just practice—as one of the fundamental skill sets that comprise basketball talent?

Other Chris

December 20th, 2009 at 8:41 AM ^

Douglass and Novak shot a lot better last year. Maybe being on the floor with the seniors took pressure off them/put them in better positions in other ways so they were freer just to shoot, but it's unlikely they are less talented than when they were mercilessly raining threes down on Duke, for example.

TomW09

December 19th, 2009 at 5:19 PM ^

Vogrich is not the answer. Anytime he is in the game is time that I want to turn away. He's terrible on defense. He's Anthony Wright except he actually has a chance to make a 3 but has no chance of defending anyone.

BleedingBlue

December 19th, 2009 at 8:19 PM ^

Considering Vogrich was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Illinois last year and broke Rob Pelinka's HS scoring record, I think this statement is quite a bit off. Ant Wright didn't even start for his HS team and redshirted his freshman year.

Vogrich will get it together and start contributing on a consistent basis by the middle of the Big 10 season and be a big asset by the end of the year.

Kilgore Trout

December 19th, 2009 at 5:19 PM ^

At this point, I think the only thing we really need to focus on goal wise is getting a top 5 Big Ten finish. The reality is that without a 12 or 13 win Big Ten season, this team isn't getting an at large bid to the tournament. They just didn't do what they needed to do to build up the resume. BUT, there is the other obvious way to get into the Big Dance, and that is by winning the Big Ten tournament. I think the chances of any team winning four games in four days are extremely small, so getting a first round bye is really an essential thing to do. Top 3 would be even better so you play a team on Friday that played on Thursday, but that might be getting a little greedy. So let's get out to a strong start in the Big Ten with some winnable games, show up against UConn and get in position to make a run in the BTT. I think that's pretty much where we're at.

A2MIKE

December 19th, 2009 at 11:52 PM ^

most definitely would get them in. It's not like 20 wins is a magic number or something. It's all about how you play down the stretch and how many quality wins you have. If M goes 11-7 in conference they will have just as many quality wins as they had last year.

zlionsfan

December 21st, 2009 at 12:50 PM ^

it definitely would have helped. 20 wins from a major conference is about as close as you get to automatic without winning your conference tournament.

Plus right now, the quality win bank is empty, and it would be possible to get to 17 wins and have the bank contain these gems:

sweep of Northwestern
sweep of Minnesota

And that assumes that neither team self-destructs in conference play, although I suppose Illinois could benefit and perhaps turn that game into a quality win.

Seven conference losses could be:

loss at Purdue
sweep by Wisconsin
sweep by Ohio State
sweep by Michigan State

That seems almost a certainty right now. Add a road loss at Northwestern or Minnesota and suddenly it's 16-13, 10-8 in conference play, and now you're rooting for every conference favorite in every tournament. (Hell, we'll probably have to do that at 17-12.)

I suppose things could change, the lid could come off the basket, and we could see things like Jim Calhoun spontaneously combusting after a good call by Ted Valentine ... but at this point I am hoping UM can make the NIT.

It was so frustrating watching them chip into the lead, get the ball down 11, and then brick-rebound-brick-rebound-brick ... down to 11 again ... brick-rebound-brick ... this game was definitely there for the taking, but then Alabama and BC were as well.

This is not a good year to be needing a bunch of Big Ten wins and not a good schedule against which to do it, although I suppose it's a break that Michigan gets Iowa twice and Purdue only once. (Conversely, as a Purdue grad I confess I would rather play this Michigan team twice and Michigan State once.)

matty blue

December 22nd, 2009 at 1:29 PM ^

would probably put us at third in the conference (last season it would have tied for second place). it would be unprecedented for us to miss the tournament after finishing third (or even fourth) in the big ten.

i would also remind everyone, however, that there's probably one more loss in the conference tournament...let's say we go 11-7 in conference, we're still more likely to be 18-13 or 19-13 when the committee meets.

A2MIKE

December 19th, 2009 at 5:43 PM ^

This team is starting to gel on the defensive end. The second half was the best defensive performance of the year. That's two games in a row, I have been able to say that with confidence, which is a sign that things are starting to come together. This team will make shots. It should also be noted that Kansas is an extremely tough place to play during the day because of the natural light in the arena. This team will find their stroke at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later. Go Blue!

dahblue

December 19th, 2009 at 6:29 PM ^

I never knew much about Bill Self other than that his team was very good and a traditional superpower, but I now think he's a piece of shit:

Here's what he said about UofM:
"We let them think they could play with us."
http://www.detnews.com/article/20091219/SPORTS0201/912190392/U-M-falls-…

Really, Bill?
We missed a boatload of open threes. You had double the FTAs. You shoot over 50%. And, we "thought we could play with you"? What if we made a few more three's? Maybe we would have thought we could win. What a dick.

I thought the KU players seemed like bitches, crying about any call. I guess it comes from the top.

Blue Balls

December 19th, 2009 at 7:22 PM ^

It's easy to say that the three point shooters aren't getting it done but when the defense can play so far outside, the shooters get "pinched" by the defense. The open looks just aren't' there and when they are Michigan seems to miss. I also sense this team is wrapped tighter than a banjo and not just playing against Kansas.
While I did find it encouraging that Michigan did not get blown off the court, certainly someone has to step up and make the inside presence felt. The young players need to step up if Michigan is going to have any kind of hope for a descent season. Go Blue-I still have hope for this Big Ten season.

toasterhands

December 19th, 2009 at 8:20 PM ^

live by the three, die by the three. This team just doesn't get enough easy baskets game in and game out.

Get a stress free win against Coppin State and then get a nice road win at Indy and the team might start to feel confident heading into the Ohio State game (w/out Turner).

If the D does continue to improve, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Michigan could start the conference slate 4-1 (even 5-0) before playing @wiscy after the UConn game. Indy twice, NW at home and @PSU... all winnable games, of course all are "losable" too.

There's still time for the offense to get it together, but the D seems to be improving and that bodes well for the grind it out type games of the Big Ten.

HAIL 2 VICTORS

December 19th, 2009 at 10:12 PM ^

I live in Leawood Kansas (suburb of KC-Kansas side). Well as a fan base we represented well. My daughter is a So. at KU so I did not travel over with the KC Alum group but there were more Michigan fans at the game then other OOC KU games I have been too. Before the game KU does a really impressive pregame intro that darkens the Field House and as I have seen by so many visiting teams before our guys were mesmerized by the pre game spectacle. I was not suprised when we started the game just flat-happens so often for the visitors at Allen FH. The lack of Senior Leadership (Sims and Manny just not compelling charismatic leaders) is just killing us for now.

KU fan was not happy with what he watched tonight. They thought it was going to be another 30 point romp the way it started. Finally we played a decent 1-3-1 though I can hardly blame Belien for lacking the confidence it is too bad we did not start the game in it. This was the first time KU has ever beaten Michigan in hoops. Made my daughters night... FML!

NJWolverine

December 19th, 2009 at 10:36 PM ^

I normally don't follow basketball as much, but I watched the game closely today and I do see some encouraging signs. First, for all his hype, Aldrich was thoroughly outplayed today by Sims. If he didn't get into foul trouble, it would have been 25-30 points for him. Aldrich had zero field goals and Sims easily beat him on inside moves. This was one of the first games where both Sims and Harris played relatively well. They weren't perfect, but both need to play well at the same time because the other players are liabilities. Novak and Douglass are absolutely worthless unless they hit 3s. They probably know that. You could see they feel the pressure. Their 3s didn't go in, but there were a lot of rim outs and close shots. They're misses, but I can easily see them regaining form. Another positive was Morris. He more than held his own out there and made some shots. I wonder if he should be given more looks.

Harris and Sims need to carry the team now. Even with Novak and Douglass making shots, they're still clearly the best players on the team. I liked what I saw today from both of them. If they continue to play well together, I can see 10+ conference wins.

They really need to beat UConn now. The non-conference has not been going well.

G Money

December 19th, 2009 at 11:10 PM ^

This is what games look like when one team is clearly better than the other (yes, I know we all know this). But the statement that we "played with" them implies we could be considered on par with them on some level.

No.

Your implication that if UM hits a couple more 3's, Kansas doesn't step it up (and plays the same) is incorrect IMO.

This was OSU vs UM 2007 and 2009. They were better, and when they needed to score, they did.

Good teams build lead then not let the other team ever get close.

Think of big brother holding his hand against little brother's forehead while little brother feably attempts to hit big brother (only to miss).

That was Kansas and UM after they built a lead.

This type of game happens all the game.

Now we didn't embarrass ourselves and I certainly liked how Sims, Morris and Manny played.

dahblue

December 19th, 2009 at 11:18 PM ^

We shot 5-28 from three. You really think that if we shot...say...10-29...it wouldn't have been different?

KU wasn't daring us to shoot open 3's. We created open shots and missed. Over and over and over again. Kansas is the better team and deserved to win, but they didn't score "when they needed to". We missed when we needed to score.

Contrary to Bill Self's asshole comment, they didn't let us play with them. We played with them. We just failed to make open shots.

G Money

December 20th, 2009 at 2:18 AM ^

Sure. I'm sure if Kansas would have played better, things would have been different as well.

You can't assess a hypothetical change in one team and assume the other team plays the same.

There are so many games where a team goes up by 10 early and the game essentially stays around that difference for the rest of the game.

I'll tell you this: We played more like we have this year more than Kansas played like they have this year.

We are not a good shooting team. We are especially not a good 3 point shooting team. They have been one of the worst 3 point shooting teams since Beilein arrived (not saying he's the problem). And we shoot more 3 point shots than most teams do.

We saw, and got, exactly what we had coming to us. This game was not some sort of a weird "why did this happen?" type game.

dahblue

December 20th, 2009 at 12:38 PM ^

You say that Kansas didn't play like they have this year...
You think that might have had anything to do with our defense?
Maybe the 1-3-1 forced turnovers and bad shots? Kansas (I don't believe) faced anything like that this year. They also weren't playing Central Kansas Community College.

Still, they shot over 50%...got to the line twice as much as us...and could have lost that game if we made a couple more threes.

I can assume what would have happened with a "hypothetical" change...because I can look at what happened on the floor. The 1-3-1 worked (finally) and allowed us to claw back. Had we made a couple more 3's, we would have had more chances to show the 1-3-1. Since KU couldn't deal well with it...we would have cut even closer.

You say we "got what we had coming" but your comments indicate we should have lost by 30+. There is no question "why this happened". It happened because we shot 17% from three despite ~30 attempts. That is why we lost. Not because KU had a bad game.

G Money

December 20th, 2009 at 9:40 PM ^

Actually, had Kansas played like they normally did, they would have won by 20.

You see? It works both ways.

Our 1-3-1 all season has been poor for the most part. You acknowledge this ("finally" worked). It's been bad. This season. UM's 1-3-1 has been bad.

In the Kansas game, it worked better than it had all season. Or maybe Kansas played worse than they normally do.

You can assume whatever you want to....But b/c every team's fans have an inherent bias that if THEIR team had only "done this" or "done that", we "could have...". Sure, I guess. I'm just saying it's silly to think that Kansas could have played better as well.

And if you ask Kansas fans, I'm sure they feel their team played below par.

And if you ask the announcers of the game, well, they said it well to.

dahblue

December 20th, 2009 at 10:23 PM ^

Maybe we're just not Alcorn State, Hofstra, Tennesse Tech or Central Arkansas. Of course KU fans expected a blowout...They're used to their squad played garbage competition at home.

If I were a Kansas fan, I'd be very concerned that Michigan came into my house, shot 5-28 from three and still kept things tense to the end. I'd realize that the shots missed were open shots, and maybe Kansas is more vulnerable than thought.

Your point seems to only be that we had no business assuming we could beat Kansas. Good for you.

G Money

December 21st, 2009 at 5:59 PM ^

Actually, with a team that shoots as many 3's as we do, I think we can beat anyone (if you get hot), especially b/c we have 2 outstanding players (Sims and Harris). Hey, we even got a very good performance out of Morris.

When we hit the 3's, we can beat anyone.
When JB gets those sharpshooters game-ready, we will be great. There is a huge advantage to having a great 3 point shooting team (get 50% more points per made basket).
But it is a harder shot. And you will miss some open ones. And (despite what I've read), even the 'open' ones aren't as easy, when the Kansas guys running at you are 6'4"- 6'7" instead of 6'0" - 6'2" of a Houston Baptist or Arkansas Pine Bluff...

My point is:
If you suck at 3 point shooting, and shoot a lot of them against a team that defends the 3 point shot well,...where is the surprise that we didn't shoot well?

And I disagree there was any tension as to the outcome of this game. Big brother...hand on forehead...never got close.

But I agree with your point that had we gone 10-29, all things being equal, we win that game.

dahblue

December 21st, 2009 at 6:24 PM ^

My main bone to pick is that there's no way this was your big-brother-hand-on-forehead game. KU didn't do anything to defend our threes other than watching them bounce off the rim. They weren't "running at us". They were wide open shots. We just missed. A ton.

If KU were big-brothering it as you claim, they likely wouldn't have cried with every foul. Bill Self wouldn't have been storming the sideline screaming. Normally, the big brother is relaxed because he's knows he will not lose. KU sure didn't look so at ease to me as Michigan had chance after chance after chance.

Last note...there's nothing JB can do to get them shooting straight. We either shake the funk, or we don't. Maybe a little Vogrich to light a fire under Stu? Not sure what it will take, but eventually we will hit the shots.

dahblue

December 20th, 2009 at 10:33 PM ^

Holy shit, I just realized you're sourcing Jay Bilas to support your statement that we were merely a little brother pathetically swinging and missing at big brother Kansas???? Jay Bilas?

Beilein-needs-to-get-his-team-under-control-Bilas? Nice pick. That's like defending the Iraq war by citing George W. Bush as an authority!

G Money

December 21st, 2009 at 6:04 PM ^

UM is bad at 3 point shooting (260th in the country).
Kansas is 17th in the country in 3 point defense.

UM had been bad at the 1-3-1 going into the game against worse competition than Kansas going into the game.
-Kansas is # 2 in the nation in scoring offense.
-We are 105th in scoring defense.

I would think an objective viewer would say, "Hey, UM was bad at 3 point shooting, and did even worse against a very 3-pt FG defense. UM was bad on defense and Kansas was great going into the game."

Is it not likely that it was KANSAS that underperformed?

dahblue

December 21st, 2009 at 6:27 PM ^

I'll just reply with...KU has played dogshit teams (with the exception of Memphis). Their stats are meaningless. It'd be like taking Michigan's stats from the Delaware State game and applying those to...anything.

mdngoblue

December 20th, 2009 at 2:04 AM ^

Self does sound kind of arrogant with some of his comments, but I don't think he's totally wrong when he says that they let us believe we could play with them. If they had really played like the #1 team in the country, then this game gets up to 35 point dominance territory. That we were able to cut the lead down shows that we have character, and there's value in that. But if you can't shoot the ball, character isn't going to get it done against a team that's as loaded as they are. (What Self didn't do, which makes him seem like a self-absorbed, narcissistic blowhard, is admit that we were part of the reason his team struggled.)

I'm disappointed in the way things have gone so far, but also still believe that we can turn things around this year. Beilein knows what he's doing and anyone who thinks he's the reason we're doing poorly should go watch another one of our many sports teams play since you're probably never going to be happy with where the basketball program is now.

wiscwood

December 20th, 2009 at 1:35 PM ^

Yes, I know, when people say this it is because they are consoling someone. Michigan fans want wins, not consolation. Kansas tested Michigan's meddle. I saw a team that tried to step up to Kansas. I saw effort. They need a 3rd scorer to step up. Michigan's needs some athletic big man that rebounds too.

I happen to think that Michigan may do well in B10 play. Here is why I think this is so. First of all Harris and Sims are playing well. UM is very young. UM's effort is pretty good. Shooters can't stay cold for long. I can't see them shooting near 20% all season. Point three, Beilein's system is different enough that it will get wins because teams don't see it often.

Lastly, we're Michigan and poor performance won't be tolerate by this team. They'll get it together!