DetNews opine: Is Michigan on road to Final Four?

Submitted by markinmsp on December 22nd, 2012 at 8:27 AM

 Maybe a bit early for the headline, but still pleasing to read impressions of UM basketball beat writer Rod Beard for DetNews on UM hoops this season. Discusses 5 things learned about team at this juncture prior to opening B1G season.

LINK:  Is Michigan on road to Final Four?

Six weeks into the season, Michigan has risen to from fifth to second in the national polls and looking like a squad that will challenge for the title in a stacked Big Ten — and certainly get past the first weekend when March rolls back around.

 Quick listing of his "5 Things" for those not able or desirous of clicking; though each has an interesting synopsis in the article.

Burke's even better

No one-man show - Strong rotation

Fresh faces - Freshman play

Hitting the boards - Rebounding

Going for it - Beilein


 Love the last paragraph. Hoping we are in for a special season also.

Beilein won't talk about the good start or the No. 2 ranking, but in his mind, he knows this is a special group and he probably won't have all of the pieces back next year — so he'll look to seize the opportunity now.



December 22nd, 2012 at 8:44 AM ^

I think this team does have an excellent opportunity to make a deep run this spring. The one thing I keep thinking with this team is that they're so young. And with that, they haven't even fully adjusted to the college game or even reached their full potential/meshed as a team yet. I think GRIII will start coming up big during league play on the score sheet. But to truly see how great this team is, they need to be trailing and have to fight back in the game. If they show that ability to fight back in the game, this could be an even more special season.

Blue boy johnson

December 22nd, 2012 at 9:10 AM ^

If you recall, M was down 7, in the 2nd half, to a very tough and determined Pitt team in "The Garden", and came roaring back in a heartbeat, taking control of the game. Thankfully, so far this season, M has been too good to fall far behind in a game. When M does face a double digit deficit this season; they have the talent and make up to respond, of this, I have no doubt. For me, regarding bouncing back from a deficit, it's a question of when, not if.


December 22nd, 2012 at 11:07 AM ^

so the youth issue doesn't necessarily hold up, especially with two upperclassmen in the starting lineup (THJ and Morgan) and Burke's maturity as a sophomore.

I was concerned that we don't have a dominant inside presence like Zeller, but Beilien's strategies doesn't require one. We do need to improve our 3-pt defense though.

Very excited about the team - go blue


December 22nd, 2012 at 11:31 AM ^

If I remember right, Kentucky wasn't dominant at the start of the year. They gelled as the season went a long and were on fire in March. My argument was that with as good as Michigan has been so far, they haven't totally gelled yet. And come spring they could be even more dominant. Also, I forgot about being down 7 to Pitt.

Blue boy johnson

December 22nd, 2012 at 9:02 AM ^

Very exciting team to watch and they have even taken it up a notch with moving LeVert into the rotation.

I think, Beilein was experimenting early in the season, starting Vogrich, playing Akunne in the first half of games, in hopes of preserving Levert's RS. When it became apparent this team was a NC contender, Beilein went all in and burned LeVert's RS, and the team is much better overall with LeVert in the rotation.

I would love to watch practices; You have two top 25 teams going at it everyday in practice. Bo's teams always said "the games are easy, if you can make it through the practices, the games are fun". I've heard a couple members of M's Bball team say something similar regarding practices being tougher than the games. I can believe it. Max Bielfeldt and Mitch McGary would make a nice frontcourt on many teams, but can't start at M, and in Bielfeldt's case, can't hardly get minutes on this team. Future is bright; this team is not a one year wonder.

As an aside, EMU's coach called M the best shooting team he's ever seen.

Blue boy johnson

December 22nd, 2012 at 9:39 AM ^

You don't need to do this, because this team is clearly capable of a run to the Final Four. It is beyond dispute. Whether they get there or not is a different question, but there should be no doubting this is one of the best and most complete teams in the nation. This team is absolutely loaded.

Michigan is on the short list with teams like Duke, IU, Ohio State, Florida, Syracuse, and a few others, as the most talented teams in  the country. Our friends down the road in East Lansing might make a run at the Final Four, wouldn't surprise me, but they are clearly not as talented and skilled as this M team.


December 22nd, 2012 at 11:13 AM ^

I think you'd want to add Arizona and Kansas will probably be there at the end of the year.  Missouri and Cinci,  are maybes.  If you go any deeper, then I think Minnesota comes into the conversation.  Of course, a darkhorse has a decent chance to get in, but that would be 20 or so more teams.


December 22nd, 2012 at 10:36 AM ^

It would depend on who's answering the question, I suppose, but I don't think many writers with national profiles (e.g., SI's Luke Winn) would say there are 40 teams with Final Four potential.

Also, even a team with realistic F4 aspirations might be *expected* to lose on the road this year at OSU and IU. Very possibly MSU and Minnesota, too, depending on how well the other team happened to play that night.

Finally, it's not like Michigan has played all scrubs this year. There's at least some data suggesting that they're pretty good. Maybe not F4 good, but good enough to be in the conversation. We'll see.

One other thing while I'm here: It's probably fair to say that Michigan (given its youth) is farther away from its season ceiling than the average team. In particular, I think GRIII, McGary, and (especially) Levert have room to grow.


December 22nd, 2012 at 9:06 AM ^

I prefer to temper expectations due to the fact that we haven't played a single conference game. The Big10 will be a nice gauge for how good we really are.

Until then, I personally won't be mentioning any Final 4 appearances or repeat titles.


December 22nd, 2012 at 9:06 AM ^

Great team? Yes.  This team is actually fun to watch.  It is not the boring shoot-3s-and-hope-to-win kind of team.  We can score up top, down low and all places in between.

I have not had this much fun since Jalen and the boys were on campus.  Izzo and company are really strarting to get scared.


December 22nd, 2012 at 9:14 AM ^

Think this team has some talent but it's still early for me, I want to see them against better competition, the B1G will answer that request for me...they haven't played anybody that is as good as MSU, Ohio, Indiana, or probably's clear they have talent, but 'ships are won in March and April, not November and December...Go Blue!


December 22nd, 2012 at 9:20 AM ^

Their strength of schedule is 14th at the moment. They haven't played against an elite team yet, but it isn't like they have been feasting on a schedule full of cupcakes either. I think people underestimate how solid of a schedule they have played compared to a lot of schools by how easy they have made it look.


December 22nd, 2012 at 9:48 AM ^

Remember when everyone got excited when our football team beat up on Purdue?  Turns out that everyone else beat up on Purdue as well.  Wait till the play teams like Ohio rather than Eastern Michigan.  If they can sweep the B1G, I'll start talking about championships.  


December 22nd, 2012 at 9:50 AM ^

Pitt is a very good team and can be considered a national power. Just because they had one bad season doesn't take away the fact that they've been a top four seed several times in the past decade, including one or two #1 seeds. They are good this year and will prove it in a tough Big East conference.

Also, let's not get all high and mighty like the SEC here. The Big Ten is a great conference, but the conference as a whole needs to prove it in March.


December 22nd, 2012 at 10:24 AM ^

But pull up their schedule, I don't need a SOS rating, all I need to do is look at the actual schedule. MAC teams, schools from small conferences, and with exception of Pitt and NC State, mediocre schools from bigger conferences, PItt may turn out to be a good win eventually, right now though it is a victory against a team that needed OT to beat Oakland. Again, don't mistaken, I think UM has talent and could make a tremendous run, I'm just going to temper down some until I see them beat some quality opponents in the B1G.


December 22nd, 2012 at 10:49 AM ^

The real meat on that ranking all lies on the second half of the season.  All of the teams we haven't played yet.  So far, (in keeping with your food analogy)  it has only been pigs in a blanket and stufffed mushrooms as we work or way to the T-bone and roast beef.  


December 22nd, 2012 at 11:04 AM ^

I don't think you understand how non-conference SOS rankings work. That SOS (which the two places I've found have it at 19 and 21 so take that FWIW) is the ranking RIGHT NOW compared to other schools, not a projected one.  While there are a few national contenders ahead of us (Duke, Florida, Louisville), the only Big Ten squad ranked ahead of us on that metric is Minnesota. So we've performed better than pretty much every Big Ten squad (except probably Indiana) against an at best equally strong schedule. I see no reason not to say we're final four contenders.


December 22nd, 2012 at 11:24 AM ^

If we can't discuss things we don't definitely know, then what's the entire point of this board (outside the Cat pics and Kate Upton gifs)? I think some are really underselling Pitt and that's coloring their view of our non-conference. If you disagree with that assessment of Pitt (as it seems you do), then I can see why you'd think we haven't beaten anybody.


December 22nd, 2012 at 12:10 PM ^

Necessarily disagree Pitt could be good, but I'm not sure how anybody could come to that conclusion right now, look at their schedule. At this point to assume Pitt is going to be good, you are basing it more on what they've done in the past. I'm not trying to flame/troll like some on here think. We have a very good team, all I said, I want to see how they do against better opponents, which the B1G will definitely tell us. I'm not saying we "suck" or we won't have success in the B1G, all I'm saying is I'm not going to make that judgement yet based on our OOC schedule that includes a win against Pitt who nobody knows anything yet based on their cupcake schedule.


December 22nd, 2012 at 6:04 PM ^

Who has played a "real", "tough" schedule?

No one goes out there and plays 10 OOC world beaters. Sounds like you're saying you can't talk about anyone yet. But you're doing a lot of talking about something we can't talk about yet.


December 22nd, 2012 at 12:02 PM ^

Arkansas and WVU. Both aren't playing up to their usual standard but it's a power conference team on neutral court. Michigan beat Arkansas with relative ease at Crisler.

They beat Bradley, traditionally tough mid-major school, on the road. Of course, you have your share of cupcakes but every teams have it. What matter is Michigan dominated in every game except Pittsburgh who is an underrated team.

Perkis-Size Me

December 22nd, 2012 at 9:21 AM ^

I'd prefer to wait and see how we do in Big Ten competition before I make any Final Four predictions. The OSU game in a few weeks will be a good gauge for how far we've come.

Shakey Jake

December 22nd, 2012 at 9:47 AM ^

While obvious, Big 10 play will really show what this team is made of as the team will be tested by consistent talent on the other side of the ball.

Here's hoping for growth instead of regression and that the team hits all cylinders just as the tournament starts.

One note in regards to Mitch McGary.

He's a Bill Lambier in the making.

I hope he starts to settle down,  gets a better grasp of the college game, limits the fouls and blossoms as a force under the basket.

We have seen glimpses of that that already but if he can find a level of consistency then UM will have a nice inside combo of Morgan and McGary. The icing on the cake is if Horford can come back healthy and stay healthy. The injury Gods seem to have picked Horford as their whipping boy.

It's an exciting time to be a Michigan Bball fan.

Let's hope the team can shock the world.


December 22nd, 2012 at 10:07 AM ^

regular season or B1G tourney will be a final four team.  Everyone knows that it is better to be HOT than to be good in the tourney.  Look at Izzo, he is one of the luckiest coaches alive.

How many times has all 4 number 1 seeds made it to the final four?  Only once that I can remember int he past 10 years.  So its not how you start, its how you finish.

NCAA Tourney does NOT crown the "best" team, it crowns the "hottest" team.  Finish strong boys.


December 22nd, 2012 at 10:40 AM ^

"By playing all five freshmen in the rotation and pushing back some of his upperclassmen, Beilein is showing that he's going to try to get the most out of this group, which appears to have Final Four potential."

The stretch between the middle of January and the middle of February or so, when we will play Ohio State twice as well as our currently ranked conference compatriots at least once, will tell us much, but the sentence above is key to the whole thing, I believe. If this team continues to maximize its potential as they have and can continue to play an aggressive, opportunistic game (which would hopefully translate to making it through the middle of the conference schedule in good shape), a run to the Final Four would not be unrealistic to consider in that case, at least in my opinion.


December 22nd, 2012 at 10:50 AM ^

They have the 2 most important qualities for a deep run - very strong guards and the ability to play different styles (fast, slow, physical, finesse).

Reaching Final Four takes the right bracket match-ups and a little good luck on the court. It will be fun to watch.


December 22nd, 2012 at 1:00 PM ^

The 1989 team that won the NC had a fairly close game against a low seeded team in the first round, and the 1976 team that made the finals also had a first round squeaker. In any given year, a lot of high quality teams don't make the Final Four or even the Sweet Sixteen, so it's never a guarantee.

We certainly have a legitimate shot at the Final Four this year, but we don't have the kind of dominant talent that a team like Kentucky had last year that made it very, very unlikely that they would lose in an early round. The one piece we're missing so far is a dominant inside player. Without that, we're much more vulnerable to an upset early on.


December 22nd, 2012 at 11:13 AM ^

I don't really see what having to play in Columbus or Bloomington have to do with whether this team has Final Four potential. The 1989 squad that won the national title lost 6 conference games (in admittedly what was probably the most stacked Big Ten ever, but still). The 1992 Final Four squad lost 7. If the question was, is this definitely, 100% a top 5 team, then the wait until Bloomington/Columbus/EL crowd would probably be correct, but you don't necessarily need to win in those places to make Final Four run.

Also Fun Fact, UM is 21-9 in its last 30 conference games, and that's with playing at least half of them without a talent advantage. This year's squad won't have that problem.


December 22nd, 2012 at 12:21 PM ^

Ah the classic strawmen tactic. A favorite of message board posters everywhere. Take my argument (we've already shown we're a really talented team and even if we drop these showcase games that the "wait and see crowd" is waiting for, we still can make a F4 run). Distort it(Yeah brah FInal Four Tix punched brah) and then ridicule the distortion as if it was the original argument.

I don't know exactly how good we are yet. The Big Ten season 100%, unequivocally will tell us a heck of a lot more about where exactly we rank nationally. All I'm saying is that the non-conference season has put us in the tier where a final four is definitely possible if the chips fall right. Losing to a few tough teams in the Big Ten won't change that opinion so it seems irrelevant to this discussion.


December 22nd, 2012 at 12:34 PM ^

The team definitely has the potential.

Another nice bonus is that there are members of the team with Tourney experience to help guide the freshmen. Also, this team knows first hand there are no garuntees (see OHIO) so they'll come out to play.

End of the day they have to work on getting better everyday and if they do that we'll be fine.


December 22nd, 2012 at 4:24 PM ^

Only at Michigan would half of the fans get pissed off because a writer thinks we have a good chance to go to the final four.  I wish our fanbase saw everything as a glass half full and not half empty all the time.