Work in Progress

Submitted by Tim on November 29th, 2009 at 10:07 PM


Marquette 79, Michigan 65
Alabama 68, Michigan 66
Michigan (3-2, 0-0)

Michigan fans hoping to lean on the success of the basketball team to fill the void left by a subpar football season might have to re-think things. The Wolverines, favored to win the Old Spice Classic, went just 1-2 in the event, falling to Marquette and Alabama after beating Creighton in round 1. Time for everyone to adjust some expectations.

When the 3-point shots aren't falling, this team is going to have some difficulty beating teams with comparable talent. Even when Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims both have decent performances, a third player will have to step up with a good game in support. Against Alabama, it looked like Manny was the only one who had any interest in winning the game. Though they may not have the talent of this year's players, CJ Lee and David Merritt were able to pull the team up by its bootstraps and gut out some wins. Somebody needs to step up for this Michigan team and fill a much-needed leadership role.

Of course, this is basketball, not football. Simply losing a couple games isn't going to mean that the Wolverines are removed from national contention. However, it's a pain to see such glaring weaknesses exposed this early in the season. John Beilein is known as one of the best coaches in America for a reason, and he should be able to help the team bounce back. Hopefully, that can come sooner rather than later, since Boston College definitely won't be an easy out on Wednesday.


  • Darius Morris really seemed to struggle in the past two games. Hopefully, he can learn quickly how to adapt to the mental requirements of this level of basketball. Playing LLP more at the 1 and easing Morris in a bit might help... except for the fact the 2-guard has no depth. Stu Douglass can shoot the hell out of the ball, but Marquette exposed his lack of quickness on Friday.
  • Anthony Wright continued to show why he shouldn't get as much playing time as he does. Every time he gets the ball, he wants to shoot. Most of those times, he misses.
  • DeShawn Sims is lacking consistency at this point in the year, but he shows flashes of why he has potential to break out and become a major NBA prospect. I don't think much more needs to be said about what the other superstar, Manny Harris, means to this team.
  • The free throw shooting wasn't particularly bad against 'Bama, but it was a horrorshow earlier in the weekend. Michigan was a great free throw shooting team last year, so hopefully this is just a speed bump that the team can get through.
  • Not a ton of bench players, beyond Douglass, Gibson, and Wright (grumble grumble) got much playing time. Even Matt Vogrich only got a few minutes in the last two games. Michigan's bench needs to be able to bring out a couple contributors if this team is going to have any success.
  • On that note, Michigan was pretty bad last year coming of short rest. Part of that was likely due to lack of depth. Hopefully, the weak efforts against Marquette and Alabama were partially related to a lack of game shape, with no practice time in between to recover. That would give Michigan much more upside.


Michigan will take on Boston College on Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Previews of the Challenge and the Eagles coming up later this week.



November 29th, 2009 at 10:16 PM ^

not the way Michigan fans expected to start the season. The hype was there, the confidence was back. Lets just hope its a slow start to the season, not an indication of how things will go this season.


November 29th, 2009 at 10:20 PM ^

In the two losses Michigan was a combined 9-for-45—20%— from behind the arc. That's putrid. Teams that are truly #15 in the country don't shoot 20%. With shooting the three being such a major component of our offensive approach, shooting that poorly will not only frequently mean losses to teams with comparable talent, but it will also mean losses to many teams of inferior talent.

For the last two seasons, Michigan has been at or near the bottom of the conference in shooting percentage. More often than not, that will mean you're really going to struggle to win.


November 30th, 2009 at 10:17 AM ^

i don't really see us as a team that lives and dies by the three. We have players that are very capable of penetrating inside and putting up some points. That being said, i wont argue that the three isnt a very big part of our offense. I just cant stand seeing Manny take a three like he did at the end of the game v Alabama. He should know better than that. there was plenty of time and he has the skills to get to the basket.


November 29th, 2009 at 10:22 PM ^

Missed quite a few bunnies in this game as well. Team has to finish as the rim.

Game against Boston College is almost a must win. Nonconference is extremely important for the NCAA resume, it's what pushed us into the tournament last year.


November 29th, 2009 at 10:38 PM ^

The whole league had a subpar feast week.

Only Purdue and Northwestern won multiple games (not counting some of those prelim layup games that dont really matter due to auto advancement).

I didnt see too many league teams better than Michigan than last 10 days. Those BC and Utah games really loom large now, however.

But, 1-2 in this tourney wont hurt the RPI. Look at Okie State and Siena last year. They played in the last place game in this field last season and were strong at large contenders all season long despite no legit quality ooc wins. Cowboys got a bid. Saints didnt need one after winning the MAAC, but they're #9 seed suggests they had a shot at an at large.


November 29th, 2009 at 10:42 PM ^

Manny's hamstring injury has not impeded him from driving into the lane at will, something that many of us were concerned about after early injury reports.

Something worth being very thankful for this holiday weekend.


November 30th, 2009 at 8:09 AM ^

They are the worst. This one especially, they lose on Friday, and have to wait until Sunday to play a losers bracket game in front of 9 people. I feared this one and am not surprized they lost at all. Bullets of my own:

- DeShawn Sims. First, I am a big fan, he is multi-talented and a very likable player. But the fact is, he has to get "big." Not in the physically big sense, but in all other senses. DeShawn needs to fight for that rebound, dive on the ground for a tie up, muscle some people around, demand the ball when the other team is on a run. He plays very soft, and I know he is not a really rough and tough player, but he needs to be to a certain degree. M's interior defense has been, not poor, but non-existent thus far in the season.

- Morris is good, he is just very tentantive and understandably so. He is a very good penetrator but is still figuring out when and where to do it. He will mature as the season goes along and I believe will be a very good point guard by years end.

- I like Novac and believe he is a BIG contributor, but I think Gibson should start. I did not see all of the action last night, so I cannot comment on that game too much. However, he is big, physical, and can pull the defense out leading to penetrating lanes. More minutes for Mr. Gibson please.

Go Blue.


November 30th, 2009 at 8:53 AM ^

The largest issues are size and on-the-ball defense. Right now, we haven't really found a single guy who can stop penetration from outside - which, again, is where we miss CJ Lee, and even Merritt. Both of them were solid on-the-ball defenders, though Merritt was a little too small. Novak gets abused on the wing horrifically, and Douglass/Perry/Morris haven't stopped many people either. Further, once we let the other team into the lane, we really have no backside help, the only person capable of blocking shots only plays 10 minutes a game (Gibson). I think Morris will actually end up being a pretty good defender - he's tall, rangy, athletic, and seems to have the desire. Right now, however, he's clearly not won the faith of Beilein, as he's been getting pulled for Douglass down the stretch.


November 30th, 2009 at 9:40 AM ^

I would like to see more two forward sets. Zach Gibson has been a real bright spot so far and I think we could look really good with both he and DS in the game.

At guard I would like to see either LLP or Morris on the court all the time; Stu has shown himself a liability. I think we should rotate in Stu or Vogrich from time to time to bomb threes, but it's clear that LLP and DM can handle the ball and play defense far better than the others.


November 30th, 2009 at 9:45 AM ^

i think the one thing overlooked here in the losses is that these two losses came against very young coaches in their second season (buzz williams @ marquette) and first season (anthony grant @ bama) at each school. while i think a lot of the loss can be easily blamed elsewhere: poor defensive play, execution down the stretch, shooting, i can't help but think these two young coaches simply outcoached beilein and whatever schemes he could throw at them.


November 30th, 2009 at 11:40 AM ^

While I agree that Buzz and Grant are excellent young coaches, I think it is overreaching to say that JB was outcoached this weekend. The issues this weekend were poor shooting and poor defense. The shooting will come since very few of the misses were due to poor shot selection. The defense will be a bit trickier as they are seeing how much they miss CJ Lee on that side of the ball.


November 30th, 2009 at 3:14 PM ^

While I'm disappointed with the L's, we have a couple of simple areas for improvement (other than the obvious shoot-better issue).

First, as mentioned, introduce Anthony Wright to the bench. I remain baffled that he sees any time on the floor as the coaches have never been high on him. He is a chuck-and-miss-it machine.

Second, hammer that low post with DeShawn. When he gets the ball low, good things happen. Whether it's a low-post score or a dish for a triple, it seems that our momentum begins in the post when we need it.

I expect a big win on wednesday. This is a team that loves the home game, and it should be a fun one.


November 30th, 2009 at 3:52 PM ^

My biggest problem that I have from the weekend was our lack of defensive toughness. I like Deshawn Sims as a player and really think that he has major NBA potential but he is one of the softest big men I have seen. He needs to get tougher with the defensive rebounding.