Wolverine Hoops at 11-6

Submitted by Tim on January 14th, 2011 at 2:48 PM

MHuddle.JPG

Wisconsin 66, Michigan 50
Kansas 67, Michigan 60
Ohio State 68, Michigan 64
Michigan 11-6 (1-3 Big Ten)

Michigan emerges from a brutal stretch in their schedule having lost 4 of their last 5 games, but the reality of the situation may not be as dire as it sounds. The last two teams to beat them, Kansas and Ohio State, are both undefeated on the year, certain to be ranked #1 and #2 in next week's polls. With a combined margin of victory of 11 points (7 of them in overtime), Michigan has shown it can play with the big boys, if not necessarily beat them.

That makes the upcoming stretch of the schedule critical. Winnable road contests against Indiana and Northwestern follow the brutal stretch. Then there is a 3-day layoff before a home game against Minnesota. Ken Pomeroy predicts a win only against the Gophers, but the Wolverines must steal at least one of the other two to keep the season--and the hope of an NIT bid--on track.

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Learning lessons from a close loss only counts so much. The Wolverines want to start winning games. Probably, anyway. A reporter asked Zack Novak this after the Ohio State loss: "Would you rather have won this game?"

Bullet-y Things

  • As much of a revelation as Jordan Morgan was early in the season, consistently good competition down low will wear on him. He was held off the scoresheet against Ohio State. He's finding it difficult to stay on the court because of foul trouble.
  • As for other post options, Jon Horford improves game-by-game, but is good for a couple more silly fouls each time out, reducing his playing time. Instead of more Blake McLimans, that means we've seen Evan Smotrycz see serious time at the 5. He stretches the floor offensively, but needs a lot of help to guard talented bigs down low. He managed to contain Sullinger surprisingly well.
  • Zack Novak is shooting the ball much better of late, whereas Stu Douglass has seen his 3-point percentage dip. Those two and Matt Vogrich have the "green light" to shoot. Beilein said today that teams are keying on Stu a little more, and Ohio State in particular was willing to give up the lane a little bit in order to lock down the perimeter.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. is close to getting the green light to shoot, but needs to continue adjusting to the speed and length of college defenders.
  • Darius Morris's production has slipped a little bit, but Beilein insists that it's more a product of very tough competition (Michigan's last three opponents are in Kenpom's top 11), than anything Darius is doing wrong in decision-making.

Indiana

For most of the year Michigan has faced teams that rarely send opponents to the free throw line, but rarely get there themselves. That changes with Indiana, as the Hoosiers play a physical interior game that draws plenty of shooting fouls. They are also among the worst in the country at not sending opponents to the line. Something has to give, and Michigan is likely to shoot more free throws than they're used to against IU as long as the game remains competitive.

Michigan and Indiana have comparable offenses (in terms of adjusted efficiency), but the Wolverines have a much better D. Since they've just faced three top-15 offenses in a row, the less-effective competition may be welcome. Similarly, Michigan hasn't forced many turnovers this year, but the Hoosiers are one of the sloppiest teams with the ball that they've faced in a while.

Key players for IU include 6-9 Christian Watford, 6-5 Verdell Jones, and 6-0 Jordan Hulls. Hulls is a sharpshooter, in the top 5 nationally in eFG%. Watford is IU's best at getting to the free throw line, and Jones leads the Hoosiers in assist rate. Jeremiah Rivers (yes, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers) plays plenty of minutes, but is practically invisible on the court, averaging just 3 points and under 2 assists per game.

The Hoosiers and Wolverines are both struggling as they enter tomorrow night's contest, as IU is winless in their last six. They last tasted victory December 19th against South Carolina State.

Elsewhere

The Big Ten Geeks review the Ohio State loss. UMHoops breaks down some of Michigan's stats and interviews IU bloggers from Inside the Hall. For their part, Inside the Hall takes a look at the Wolverines.

Comments

psychomatt

January 14th, 2011 at 3:15 PM ^

UM has shown it can play reasonably well away from Crisler (e.g. Syracuse, Clemson) and we match up better against IU and NW than MN. UM's primarily weaknesses are its youth and lack of size/depth inside. IU is nearly as young as UM and NW is similar to UM in that it has limited size/depth on the interior. Not saying we will win all three games (and, in fact, I worry more about MN than the other two), but we are due to have the calls go our way in a close game or two and both IU and NW should be close.

Wolverine0056

January 14th, 2011 at 3:21 PM ^

Aside from the horrible officiating against tSIO, I was impressed by the way Michigan played. Hopefully we are able to get some much needed wins with the games coming up. GO BLUE and keep working hard boys!

ijohnb

January 14th, 2011 at 3:44 PM ^

"the NIT' path is underselling this team. 11-6 right now, after watching much of this conference intently for the last two weeks, I think they beat IU, I think they can steal Northwestern, and Minnesota at home is not Kansas at home or OSU at home both of which they could have won.  This conference will get 7 in, Michigan stacked up some good non-conference wins, particularly a road ACC tilt against Clemson and again nearly knocked off the Orange.  I think they learned a lot from this last two weeks, and I think they are going to start winning games that Michigan has not in some time, at Indiana and NW being two of them.  They get this thing to .500 on the season and finish 7th alone in conference, put your dancing shoes on, I am telling you.

jamiemac

January 14th, 2011 at 4:22 PM ^

Good post, Tim. Wait, it's Tim, right?

I actually think these next three games are important for a possible NCAA berth. We'll start talking about NIT if they go 1-2.

I mean we have 2 bracketologists out of 30 in the Bracket Matrix slotting Michigan. Of course, this was before the OSU loss, but after the KU result.

But, if Michigan does win its next three games, for example, you're going to see a lot of NCAA chatter pick up regarding the Wolverines. Long season, though. Hopefully they can be road warriors here.

Braylon 5 Hour…

January 14th, 2011 at 5:00 PM ^

I think the 'moral victories' we have had against Syracuse, kansas, and OSU will gain a lot more credibility if we get some wins on the board against the less elite caliber of competition in the Big 10.  If we find a way to go .500 in conference, I think we would at least get talked about. Remember, 4 extra teams this year...

The Man Down T…

January 14th, 2011 at 7:01 PM ^

I was going to say the same thing.  I don't thing struggling is accurate.  We lost to the 2 top teams in the country by close margins and then to one of the top B10 teams.  We were supposed to lose those games and by a lot bigger margins than we did.  And we had good chances to win the last 2 but our youth bit us. 

If we take care of the teams in the middle and bottom we can qualify for the big dance.  If we don't then I don't think the NIT would tell us no if we can be 3-4 games above .500 heading into the B10 tourney.

zlionsfan

January 15th, 2011 at 12:27 PM ^

and no, I don't think they're playing worse now than they were in non-conference play; they're just not very good. They played three top-100 teams in NC play: beat #100 Wright State handily, lost at BC in what was probably their second-best effort this season, and lost at Kentucky.

They lost to Northern Iowa (not so good) and Colorado (reasonable) and then have gone into their conference tailspin ... but that's essentially consisted of games they're unlikely to win, with the exception of the Penn State game, and after losing that, their conference outlook is bleak.

A number of my IU friends are not pleased with how things have gone so far under Crean ... obviously the first season hardly counts, given the massive personnel losses, but by now most people thought they would be at least competitive, and, well, they're not.

This is probably the road game Michigan's most likely to steal in conference play.

stmccoy

January 14th, 2011 at 4:58 PM ^

What kind of reporter asks "would you have rather won this game?"  What is Novak going to say?  "No liked the outcome."  Terrible job.  Talk about rhetorical.  I like the fight this team exhibits and have high hopes they can win the next three.  They have hung tough against pretty ridiculous competition.  I can't see any team outside of the Big East playing a tougher 4 game stretch. 

champswest

January 14th, 2011 at 6:22 PM ^

Thus far, Michigan seems to play up against the good teams and play down against lesser competition.  We need to win at least 2 of the next 3 and tomorrow at IU would be a great place to start.

Rasmus

January 15th, 2011 at 2:33 PM ^

They play with a sense of purpose that I really like. The games against quality opponents have been getting closer and closer as the season goes on -- I call that progress.

danieldel55

January 15th, 2011 at 11:17 PM ^

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