Friday, November 27, 2009
GBMW: Michigan Basketball -- Creighton Wrap-up
PRETTY, UGLY, OR PRETTY UGLY? UM BEATS CREIGHTON
That question concerns the cosmetics of the UM Creighton game. The outcome was a win and most coaches will trade beauty for wins.
Creighton played hard, very hard. The Bluejays played like a well-prepared team, and indeed they were. The intensity and scrappiness put Michigan in the corner of the ring and the knees got a little wobbly, but a second wind saved the day. Another item saved the day, two key injuries to hard playing Creighton players, Carter and Young.
Tournaments like this can cause weird effects. The guys are away from home on a holiday, there are no warm-up patsies, and the pressure of one loss and the tournament championship is over creeps in. Sometimes the officials act like they were out later than the players. Always, something does not go to plan and teams must turn to mental toughness and focus as much as physical talent. Coaches see who can get the job done in a somewhat simulated pressure cooker as the toll mounts over the three games. Some teams fall flat and some teams get stronger as the tournament advances.
Enter Michigan, ranked number 15 and Creighton unranked. Rankings at this time of the year are for talk show discussion and hold little relevance. The truth is, anymore in college basketball, number 15 and number 55 have little difference. What counts more is who prepares the best, who plays the best, and the all-important match-ups on the floor, the games within the game.
Michigan came out executing well on offense, after which the team went a little soft on defense. Creighton wanted the ball more in the rebounding war. After UM lost the lead early in the second half, it took Manny Harris and a tough nosed Sims to right the ship. And Novak’s three pointers were critical as well.
Some old bugaboos reoccurred. First, the guards must have again thought that Sims was a decoration on the floor and not an offensive weapon. This team is trained to take threes and here is a group of guys who dearly love their training. Strategic three pointers turned into a mid-game group of poorly selected shots. As noted in yesterday’s preview, Creighton would almost certainly press to harass UM’s offense. The strategy worked as UM’s offense went from watch-charm to haphazard. The purpose of a pressing defense against a good team is more to alter an opponent’s rhythm than to just make a bevy of steals. The UM offense definitely became out of kilter and shots came often and quickly.
The defensive rebounding was just adequate, guys need to get to a spot and just get the ball, and there has never been much sophistication to rebounding.
The defensive rotation was late or broke down several times. When a team plays a trap defense and the other team makes one or two good passes for a lay-up, the strategy becomes non-contributing. Several times Creighton players were trapped on the wing and passes to cutters running cuts down the lane resulted in easy baskets, too easy. One or two times, the trap was on top and a pivot player made a flash cut to the middle of the three second lane getting easy buckets. Several Creighton players enjoyed wide-open shots as a result of slow rotation.
Down the stretch some of the Creighton shots were well off and Manny played a big part in putting the game away.
Michigan has itself to blame for the game going into overtime, committing two cardinal errors. Foul shots are like bunts in baseball, they must be successful or consequences may result. Today the Wolverines were not a good foul shooting team. This group has enough shooters that 80% should be the target, not 60%. Letting a guard take a ball the entire length of the court one on five for a lay up is pretty much a major no-no.
In any win there are bright spots. Novak played well and tough as usual, Manny showed he can control a game, and Sims just decided to get the ball on his own if no one wanted to give it to him. Even though there were soft moments, the team did not pack it in and came back strong in the last three minutes albeit with injury help to key Creighton players.
Things can change quickly in tournaments like this; worldbeaters to whimps and vica versa. But likely the Wolverines will have to play much better tomorrow to be in the game. Marquette whipped a good Xavier team today. This team is quick, pressures the ball very well, and will mix it up. Unfortunately Marquette is also good at dribble drive penetration. I was hoping for a Xavier win, since the opinion here is that Marquette is a tougher matchup for Michigan. Marquette played hard, but their legs should still be fresher than UM’s. Last year Michigan had trouble on the backside of back-to-back type games.
Let us hope for sunny and mild versus cold and wet in the game tomorrow.
Thanks for stopping by Go Blue Michigan Wolverine
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Written by Doc4blu