The Improvement of Jordan Morgan

Submitted by chitownblue2 on February 24th, 2011 at 10:10 AM

In the pain of last night's preposterous loss, and (another) good performance from Hardaway, I think the excellent play of Jordan Morgan may have gotten lost.

Morgan scored 12 points on 7 shots, and successfully pushed John Leuer (one of the conferences five best players, and an All-American Candidate) out of the lane - where he shot poorly, and stayed off the offensive glass (1 offensive rebound, compared to 4 in our last meeting). Morgan has shown offensive flashes consistently - 18 points against Iowa, a solid second half against both Illinois and Ohio State. It's true that many of his baskets come on pretty passes, but Morgan has shown excellent footwork to get free for lots of his easy looks, and has even converted some solid contested post-moves in the past few game.

I'm not sure he'll ever be the "star", but Morgan is already giving the team 70% of what DeShawn Sims did, when Sims was senior. He's going to be a good player for us for the next three years.



February 24th, 2011 at 10:23 AM ^

I agree completely.  I feel like it has been a long time since we have seen players develop in front of us over the course of a season.  He and Hardaway have made huge strides from early in the year.  

I think Morris has developed a bit more of a touch in the lane which is good.  If he can develop an outside shot this offseason he will be an incredible player.  


February 24th, 2011 at 10:27 AM ^

He's got a deadly jump hook, too.  Morgan's development has been fun to watch and it's really awesome watching his teammates find him underneath and zinging him the ball for a dunk.  This team is guard-heavy, so no disrespect to Morris or Hardaway or them, but Morgan's going to be the team's most important player going forward.


February 24th, 2011 at 10:28 AM ^

But that drop step baby hook towards the end of the game was a thing of beauty. For a guy who was just supposed to be another big stiff up front, with the upside of equaling "scrappy big white guy", the fact that his ceiling, while not a go-to guy, is certainly a presence at BOTH ends of the court may be the first break this program has gotten in ages. In a world of injuries, NCAA acceptance problems, and 3 -point shooters who can't really shoot all that well, this is the first surprise to go our way, and could make a big difference in the direction of this program.

South Bend Wolverine

February 24th, 2011 at 10:30 AM ^

I was debating a couple weeks back with a friend who had the bigger long-term upside, Morgan or Horford (I was arguing Morgan).  My friend concluding thought was 'it's nice to be able to argue over who the better big man is!'  I think Morgan's performance recently has made my case in that argument pretty well, of course.  It's great to see us have a real inside presence to complement the passing & shooters.

Naked Bootlegger

February 24th, 2011 at 10:38 AM ^

Morgan has already proven to be a solid Big 10 player, so we have 3 more years of development to look forward to.  Sims provided more of an outside threat than Morgan, but I also remember wishing Sims would do more work around the basket like Morgan is doing brilliantly this year.  I absolutely loved it when Morgan beat the WI bigs down the court for an easy transition basket early in the game.   He's done this consistently throughout the year...nothin' like rewarding the bigs for hustling up court for an easy bucket.

I was pleasantly surprised by Morgan's "D" effort against Leuer.  Leuer is a true inside/outside threat, and Morgan was comfortable guarding him on the perimeter.  Very encouraging.

Morgan has good footwork on offense, but there were a couple of times last night where he made one-too-many moves in the post and got himself in trouble.   On one occasion, the UW defender was totally favoring Morgan's right side.  A quick drop-step would've created an easy left-hand lay-in/dunk.   He instead made a move back into the center of the lane and got tangled up in UW's help defense.  Coach Bacari needs to tie his right hand to his side over the summer and get him to use the left on occasion (or is this training method a possible NCAA infraction?).   This is nitpicking, though.  He has far-exceeded my expectations this year.




February 24th, 2011 at 10:40 AM ^

Granted he had a good game and has been coming on as of late, he is still one of the weakest 6'8'' centers I have ever seen. There were multiple times when he would get outrebounded down low by a smaller player last night. Mulitple times when he would lose the ball going up. He doesn't go up strong all the time...and when you are 6'8'' 240, you need to go up strong


February 24th, 2011 at 11:35 AM ^

I think Morgan has blown away even the most optimistic estimates of his game.  It is so refreshing to have a guy know his role and execute it so well.  And the fact that he is showing at least some post moves means that there's a lot of potential there.  He needs to get stronger and rebound more consistently, but he'll be solid for the future.

But the growth of the team next year will be tied to one guy, in my opinion - Evan Smotrycz.  Here's why:

  • Morgan, Morris, and Hardaway are already playing solid and probably will only improve modestly next season.  Certainly a good thing, but not a game changing thing.
  • Novak and Douglas are what they are at this point.  Ideally Douglas plays less PG with Burke around and Novak plays less PF if Smotrycz improves.
  • Horford might have the potential to be a very good shot-blocker, rebounder, and spark off the bench, but next year he's not going to displace Morgan.  We need him to be able to play 10-12 minutes to spell Morgan, but that's not a game changer.
  • Burke should help spell Morris for a few minutes and maybe Brundige can take some minutes from Stu and Vogrich on their off-nights, but probably won't be huge impact players. 

It comes down to Smotrycz being able to play PF for long minutes.  He needs to drastically improve his defense and rebounding.  He needs to show he has more to his game than a stand-still 3pt shot.  If we can get his height and offense on the floor it could turn us from a bubble team to a contender.  It allows Novak to play the 2, provides more height inside, provides another source of points, and perhaps provides a match-up problem for teams. 

If Michigan just gets luckier than they have been in their 7 crushing close losses this season they'll be a solid tourny contender (even a 2-5 record insteat of 0-7 would have done that).  But if they want to contend for a title it falls on Smotrycz's improvement.


February 24th, 2011 at 12:06 PM ^

The craziest thing to me is that by the end of next season we could have a top 3 team in the big ten without any Sr starters. Its not crazy to think by the end of next year Novak and Douglas are both in the 6-8th man of the bench range. Things are looking up for the future. Now let's win these last 2 games and give the tourny committee something to think about!


February 24th, 2011 at 2:25 PM ^

lose key players. MSU with Lucas and Summers, Wisconsin with Leuer and Nankivil, OSU with Sullinger(still think he'll go pro), Lighty, Diebler and Lauderdale, Purdue with Moore and Johnson, Illini with McCamey, Tisdale and Davis, PSU with Battle, Minny with Hoffarber and Nolen.

MSU and OSU will reload next year with great recruiting class.  There's still an unknown on the incoming freshmen next year.


I would expect Michigan to be top 3 in the Big 10 given they return everybody plus two top 100 freshmen and ton of Big 10 teams lose key players.  Anything less than a NCAA tourney is a disappointment.  I would expect all of the young players to improve.


February 24th, 2011 at 1:01 PM ^

If Michigan just gets luckier than they have been in their 7 crushing close losses this season they'll be a solid tourny contender (even a 2-5 record insteat of 0-7 would have done that). But if they want to contend for a title it falls on Smotrycz's improvement.

A little of it may be luck, but most of it is experience. An older, bigger, more-experienced Michigan team will win those close games, probably as soon as next season.

This team has done great for what it was projected to do this year. The win at Breslin is a sign of great things to come for this team. It's just going to take a little more patience.

Blue boy johnson

February 24th, 2011 at 2:56 PM ^

Landing a player with Morgan's skill set combined with a  willingness to do the dirty work is a  tough find for any team, and a important piece of the puzzle for team ball.

Morgan doesn't need to control the ball and yet can still score 30. Jordan may lead the nation in points per time of possession. Jordan can drop 20 on you while possessing the ball about 30 seconds. Pretty sweet stuff.

It will be  a little bittersweet when Morgan gets more confidence in his pick n pop shot, he then may "settle" for the open 15 footer, instead of the havoc wreaking forays to the basket.