First win over Minnesota in the Beilein Era and what it means for Michigan in the Big Ten

Submitted by dankbrogoblue on February 20th, 2009 at 2:52 AM

Not sure why it hasn't been posted yet, but here's the official "WE WON!" thread, which I've now turned into a diary due to the length of what I wrote. Of course UMHoops has all the analysis of the actual game, so go there to read a professional's (or quality amateur's) take on our play. I'm going to examine what this victory means in terms of our competition in the Big Ten standings and our tournament chances based on those standings.
Big win for us. Minnesota is a team with a resume very comparable to ours. They went 12-0 in non-conference play with their only OOC marquee victory coming against a then and now top 10 Louisville team. They have experienced the same difficulties we have in conference play, and now our conference records are even, and with our marquee victories and respectable loses in non-conference play*, our resumes are nearly even. Even though their record is better than ours, the fact that they've won only 3 of their last 9 games might give Michigan the edge.
*That depends on how you view the Maryland loss, FWIW their home record is good. Plus, besides Louisville, Minnesota took on a bunch of cupcakes
There are still games to play though and Minnesota has a favorable remaining schedule of NU, @Ill, Wiscy, and us. (Michigan's is, as we all know, @Iowa, PU, @Wisc, @Minn.) Minnesota has the ability to win 3 of these last 4 games, heck they certainly have the ability them to win all of them if you look at the fact that they beat Illinois by 26 at home (that is a tough road game though) and beat Wisconsin in Madison. But, given their recent struggles it's hard to make a prediction.
Michigan, of course, also has PSU, OSU and Wisconsin to work against in the Big10 standings (the only teams we could potentially pass or tie, at least).
Indiana couldn't pull off the upset tonight against Wisconsin (not that we could expect them to), and Wisconsin could easily go 2-2 in their last remaining regular season games assuming they lose at State, get a win either against us or at Minnesota, and beat Indiana. So, assuming they go 2-2, with a 10-8 conference record, we'd be hard pressed to pass or even tie them.
Ohio State has some tough games coming up against Illinois and Penn State at home, then at Purdue. Their season ends with some games they should win: at Iowa and home against NU, but an away game in the Big Ten is always losable, and they lost at NU last night, FWIW.
I think that no matter who they're playing we root against Ohio State (and not just because they're Ohio State), because Joe Lunardi has Ohio State as a 5 seed right now, and if we were able to pass them in the Big Ten standings that would be HUGE (we're only a half game back). Even if we ended up with the same record, I think our resume might have a slight edge, despite their two victories over us.
Penn State has two toss ups (@OSU and Illinois) and two likely victories left (Indiana and @Iowa), so I don't really know what to say about them. We'll know better in a couple of games who we'll be rooting for in the final two games.
There are obviously many other factors that determine whether we get in the tournament and we're not just fighting Big Ten teams for a spot (see jamiemac's diary for a well-written scoop on all that jazz). I chose to focus on Big Ten teams because A)Being 8th in the Big Ten does not look good on our resume, B)Though a team above us could get passed due to our good Ws, a better position in these rankings is the biggest step towards a bid, and C)A better placement in the rankings gives us a better seed in the Big Ten tournament, which winning at least one of these games is VERY important and a good seed (while we will have extreme difficulty getting a bye) obviously puts us in a better position to go deep there, which could all but secure us a spot in the dance.

It's well known what our team has to look forward to. While we all know that Minnesota can have a tendency to make us look good (see: football at Minn 2008), there is no reason we can't be optimistic after this game. Despite a quiet night for Manny (he did only play 22 minutes), we found weapons everywhere, and our 3-PFG% was much improved over its usually meh number--usually in the 20s, it was a respectable 46.4% tonight. We should all be only cautiously optimistic, though, as we've seen these types of games from our team before and still found a way to struggle afterwards, but this is the first game in recent memory that I (and maybe I'm alone here) feel came from purely outplaying our opponent and not us being more or less handed the victory. Minnesota did struggle from beyond the arc, but both teams' overall FG%s are similar. It came down to us taking advantage of nearly every opportunity they gave us and, as I said, 3 point rain making. It also seems Beilein is getting a good grasp on when and where different players are effective, and that might be the big key to winning more games.
A 2 win streak is good momentum going into Iowa where we will be favored, but where we will have to work to win. Then, of course, is the home game against Purdue where a W, if we win at Iowa, could be the final win on our resume that gets us to the tournament, since that would secure a .500 Big 10 record and add to our list of quality victories.

Well, I've wasted too much time on this, and I have a paper to finish for tomorrow (hopefully I can find inspiration to write as much there). I'll be leaving for Florida tomorrow where internet is sparse (the place I'll be staying, at least) so I may not be around here much, if at all, for the next week. So even if you won't miss me, I'll miss you guys.

Thanks for reading my novel if you made it all the way here.



February 20th, 2009 at 7:48 AM ^

...this is a young team riding a couple very good players and a host of role players (who are, roughly, inadequate for a NCAA tourney team) and we have no idea which team is going to show up, and the season will be maddeningly inconsistent.

This team could well win 3 of the last 4 and 2 Big 10 tourney games, be an 8 seed that wins its first game and then gives a 1 seed a go... and I wouldn't be surprised.

Or, it could lose the remaining 4 (3 are on the road, after all) and the first-game of the Big 10 tournament.

At least, in the latter case, last night's game guaranteed eligibility for an NIT spot. I think most of us would have taken that (16-15 and 7-11 in the Big 10) at the beginning of the season! But, of course, I/we are hungry for more.


February 20th, 2009 at 9:04 AM ^

The Williams Arena game scares me. If UM wins, it would probably guarantee them a spot in the tournament at Minnesota's expense. But WA is an extremely difficult place to play, partially because the raised floor can be disorienting for visitors.

I have no first-hand knowlege, and this is only a guess, but I am guessing that the floor has a little bit of "give" to it, looking at the design. This would affect most shots, especially jumpers, because of a slight "springboard effect."

It can also produce one or two "joker factor" mistakes while bringing the ball up the floor.

Hopefully, they find a way to win there.

At any rate, I agree that we all would have taken a record over .500 and an NIT berth before the season began. I definitely would have taken upsets over Duke and UCLA before the season began, too.


February 20th, 2009 at 9:44 AM ^

seem to be more pessimistic than us on this board, despite the lack of mid-major teams this year to "take away" at-large spots.

That is, ESPN lists Michigan's chances as "on life-support" and IF the seasons finishes on a "strong note" Michigan "MIGHT [emphasis mine] still have a decent chance." So that is STRONG FINISH > MIGHT > DECENT CHANCE. Despite the huge non-conference victories, the rough road record absolutely needs to improve. I'd say Michigan needs to win two of these last 3 road games (would raise road record to 4-7) and then get a couple neutral victories in the tourney too?


February 20th, 2009 at 1:26 PM ^

I think the recent struggles has made people forget about the early-season victories against Duke and UCLA, and that's why UM needs to pull off a win against Purdue. That would be a big win against a ranked team, and would remind people that this team should be in the dance, provided they don't flame out in the BTT.

With respect to ESPN, they have always been somewhat down on UM. I don't think it is as much a Bilas Effect as the simple fact that the team has been down for a number of years, plays in a conference that is just not that "sexy" like the ACC and Big East, and has been somewhat inconsistent toward the end of the season. If UM is going to crash the Dance, they are going to have to earn it.

El Jeffe

February 20th, 2009 at 9:27 AM ^

the game put together by KG (not that KG). 12 points (3/3 from 3), 3 assists, and one TO in 14 minutes. Tasty. With his wheels and handle he could be consistently really valuable one day, like a homeless man's Ty Lawson, assuming he develops more, you know, consistency.


February 20th, 2009 at 12:30 PM ^

I'm not so sure we want OSU to tank. Remember, we were swept by them, so it would be especially bad for our RPI if they were to bottom out.

BTW, 46% from three is way more than respectable - it's outstanding.