What Is This... Win?

Submitted by Tim on February 12th, 2010 at 2:09 PM

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Michigan 71 Minnesota 63, Michigan 12-12 (5-7 Big Ten)

With Michigan mired in the depths of a tailspin that included five straight losses to teams other than Iowa, the majority of them noncompetitive, it was easy to forget that this team is actually capable of playing basketball. Beating a Minnesota team playing for its tournament life on its home court was enough to remind us of what could have been. With the next two games coming up against Iowa and Penn State, these Wolverines may be capable of putting together the mythical "win streak." If they can defend the home court the rest of the way (while taking care of Iowa on the road), it's NIT all the way, baby.

[Editor's note: you're advised not to think about Michigan's record in close games at this point.]

There were a few interesting storylines in the game, with the most encouraging for Michigan fans being the continued maturation of Darius Morris at point guard . He played 33 minutes, made two of his three shots, collected one rebounds, and grabbed one steal while dishing out five assists to only two turnovers against Minnesota's pressure defense. As I've been saying over the second half of the season, if he improves his shooting (1/3 from the free throw line, 0/1 from behind the arc), he will be a very dangerous player in the Big Ten.

Another great story from the game, oddly, was Zack Gibson. DeShawn Sims was benched early in the game, and Gibby took advantage of the opportunity, nailing all three shots that he took—two from behind the arc—and snagging a couple rebounds. He did all this in just nine minutes.

Despite what it may seem like, I seriously don't like to whine about officiating. However, when even Bobby Knight (who pulls no punches in his commentary, thankfully) expressed his shock that Michigan was getting called for ticky-tack fouls on one end of the court (at least 2 or 3 times with literally no physical contact between players), while Minnesota was getting away with seemingly everything on the other end, something ain't right. Games must be officiated fairly, end of story. The Wolverines did end up getting the benefit of a couple bad calls that could probably fall under the "make up" category, everyone on both sides would probably be a lot happier if all the call were good, instead of an even impact of bad calls going both ways.

BULLETS

  • [Editor's note: while I agree with Knight/Tim about the calls, man was that the worst charge ever when Anthony Wright set up almost literally underneath the basket and got a call. They just put in a rule change that makes that a clear block. When the Minnesota player got up hopping mad, I had to agree with him. The Minnesota crowd wanted blood, and the refs then spent the rest of the game calling BS on Michigan, further confirming that every conspiracy theory you've ever had about basketball referees is true.]
  • Michigan... shot... well? The more I think about this game, the less it makes sense for the 2009-10 Wolverines.
  • Despite his early benching, DeShawn Sims, continued to show why it is he, not Manny Harris, who is the lifeblood of this team. It's going to be hard to replace him next season.
  • Argh free throw shooting. This team was #13 in the nation last year, shooting over 75%. They shot 12/19 (63%) in this game, and are under 72% on the year. This year they barely crack the top 100 in FT%.
  • Turnovers were the name of the game. Michigan committed just 8 against Minnesota's defense (which excels in creating turnovers), and forced 15.
  • This is more like the defense we had come to expect out of Michigan than the last two games. They're playing almost all man (while occasionally mixing in 1-3-1 or 2-3 zones), with a lot of switching on screens. I think this performance is more indicative of their ability than the Northwestern or Wisconsin games.
  • I saw Anthony Wright pass up an open look from three. It was weird.
  • I questioned whether the long rest between games would help Michigan enough in my preview. I guess I shouldn't underestimate John Beilein's ability to gameplan - nor should the rest factor be ignored with Michigan's small rotation.
  • Club Trillion watch - Minnesota's Bryant Allen joined the club last night.

Up Next

Michigan has the weekend off before traveling to Iowa City for the chance to sweep the Hawkeyes. Though the Wolverines could have played me at center the entire second half and still beaten Iowa last game, Iowa has been able to win a couple games against low-end Big Ten competition. The team will have to be on their game to ensure that they don't become the latest victims. The game is a late tip (9PM/8 local) on Tuesday night.

Comments

UMaD

February 12th, 2010 at 3:12 PM ^

"Despite what it may seem like, I seriously don't like to whine about officiating."

As a reader of your twitter feed, I can say confidently that this is untrue. I don't think there has been a game this season that you haven't complained about Michigan getting hosed by the refs.

BlueNote

February 12th, 2010 at 3:55 PM ^

Okay, so I don't know when to give up, but let's not forget that U of M could still make the NCAA Tourney if:

1) They win the Big Ten tournament; or

2) They win out the rest of the regular season and have a decent showing in the Big Ten Tourney.

I realize the collective chance of 1 and/or 2 happening is exceedingly remote (worse than the chance of the Saints winning the Superbowl, for instance), but as a fan I am allowed to maintain unrealistic hopes in order to distract myself from daily life.

Gustavo Fring

February 12th, 2010 at 8:40 PM ^

If there's one thing we know about Michigan, it's that they are capable of beating anyone and they are capable of losing to anyone.

If anyone noticed, UConn just gave #2 Syracuse the fight of their lives. They are a good team and we beat them. We should have beaten State. We can hang with anybody.

And the most encouraging thing about last night was Darius Morris for a plethora of reasons. One, he could be the third playmaker Michigan thought it had with LLP last year. He showed a nice jumpshot on a couple of plays, great penetrating ability, and sharp instincts. He could really be a weapon down the stretch.

In addition, perhaps this will finally get Stu Douglass going. How many times have we seen shooters blow up when freed of ballhandling responsibilities (Gerry McNamara comes to mind for anyone who watches Big East basketball). The kid has a great stroke and maybe he'll start knocking down those threes.

Of course optimistic people and Michigan fans have been mututally exclusive sets for a while now. But all we need to do is win three games. Beat the 8th/9th seed, beat the 1st seed, beat the second seed. Easy? No. Likely? Maybe not. Possible? Definitely

Muttley

February 13th, 2010 at 10:08 PM ^

at the Big Dance.

10-8 Big Ten, 17-13 regular season, 19-14 overall, and a 7-2 finish down the stretch, including a win at either OSU or MSU.

That would be quite a feat, of course, but as long as we've got a shot at finishing above .500 in the B10, I think the nails have yet to be pounded on the Michigan Big Dance At-Large Invitation.

SpartanDan

February 13th, 2010 at 10:26 PM ^

For one, the committee will see you as 18-14. Beating NMU doesn't count at all. Your RPI is in the 120s right now. And you'd be 7-12 against top 100 teams (assuming Iowa, Indiana, and PSU all stay outside of that category). Stranger things have happened (Arizona last year, who didn't beat a single top 100 team on the road), but if you made it with that resume some mid-major would have a legitimate gripe about an all-time hose job.

Your only shot at an at-large bid is to win out until the title game, IMO. That gets you to 20-13 (assuming you're the 6 seed; 19-13 if you're the 5) with a 9-11 record against top 100 teams, which gives you a shot. Anything less, and I don't think it's happening. Teams don't make the tournament with 13-14 losses unless they have an otherworldly SOS, and yours to this point is a solid but not spectacular 60.

rdlwolverine

February 12th, 2010 at 4:25 PM ^

had five steals and was after every loose ball. He came with several (some of which are probably included in the steals count and some others that were not). He deserves some major kudos.

goody

February 12th, 2010 at 9:39 PM ^

Morris was very good last night. He controlled the game and didn't force anything. Like Tim wrote: if he can develop a consistent shot he's going to be a game changer.

Blue Balls

February 13th, 2010 at 8:35 AM ^

Yes, the bench is thin but we only need five players to win. This season has been more of finding out what Michigan players can and can't do. With young players, things can change from game to game. Hopefully, things will come together for this team and a "run" will set the table for next year-Go Blue.

champswest

February 13th, 2010 at 12:25 PM ^

One impressive win and we think anything is possible. The trouble is, wtih this team it has been one big win then 3 unimpressive loses. Just when you think that they have turned the corner, it is another relapse.
The good from the Minnesota win is that it shows once again what we can do when we play defense. This team needs to play in-your-face D ALL OF THE TIME. However, most of the time we play slow, shuffle your feet, wave your arms D.
I have been waiting for the "it's now or never" Morris at the point guard move. With Stu at the 2 we now only have 2 guys playing out of position. Why not try a little Peede & Gibson together for short stretches and then we wouldn't have anybody playing out of position. (For example, at the first TV timeout, replace Novak with Gibson and let him play with Sims for 6-10 minutes and then bring Novak back in to spell Peede).
Finally, when certain players work within the offense instead of trying to force things or take over the game, the whole team gets involved and operates much more effectively.

OHbornUMfan

February 13th, 2010 at 7:01 PM ^

The game was great to watch, but I really enjoyed the avalanche of positivity here that followed. It was great! I don't recall being hearing so many positive opinions after an actual game result since, I don't know, September. It's nice to be Michigan fans who smile once in a while.

And as for the above comments about the possibility of us making a run: if we get one or two shooters hot, play solid D, and hustle like we've shown we can, anything's possible.

learmanj

February 15th, 2010 at 7:21 AM ^

close losses. The Northwestern, MSU, and Wisconsin losses are going to kill us in the end. Those all should have been victories over solid clubs. Not to mention our dumb losses to Alabama, Boston College, Etc.