Posted at 12:00pm -- 1/30/2010
Basketball Reviews and Previews
The past 10 days or so have not been nice to Michigan basketball. But it may be more accurate to say that Michigan basketball could be nicer to itself as an entity.
The team has played better, as one would expect. However, this team has many chinks in the armour and the current version of Wolverine basketball must play at a very high level to beat top ranked teams. That (winning against a top team) almost happening against Michigan State; almost is the operative word.
First, a run-through of Wisconsin and Purdue will be presented. Michigan caught Wisconsin at just the right time, coming off a tough loss and on the road. The Badgers got off to a horrible start, missing the first eight shots. As well as the Badgers are coached; they were clueless and ripe for a blowout. Michigan helped by playing just all right and kept the Badgers in the game. In an all too familiar scenario, a nice lead evaporated and the game became a 4:00 shoot-out going down the stretch. Hughes took over for Wisconsin and single-handedly pulled victory from possible defeat. No one could stop Hughes; he is physical, knows what is going on, and is a clutch performer. Michigan had no one take over, and quite the opposite, such an attempt yielded no results. Again, key missions of guarding a key opponent and shutting down the inside were not accomplished.
Purdue put on a clinic and again showed how two perfect passes can beat about any defense. The final score was not indicative of the Boiler dominance. The bombs away approach and the soft defense helped seal the near slaughter.
Clearly, Michigan would play better against Michigan State, and the Wolverines certainly did. One could say good enough to win, with the great job of taking care of the ball and having few turnovers the entire game. MSU made some sloppy passes that resulted in really unforced turnovers. The Spartans did get some cheap, easy points in the outstanding transition game, but overall Michigan did a very nice job of containing this part of the Spartan arsenal.
In a familiar scenario, Michigan worked hard to build a lead and then in the middle of the second half took four three pointers, none of which hit bottom. As a result, the lead evaporated. Finally, at the end, Michigan State went to its game-maker, and Lucas came through. Everyone in the building and both benches knew that if there was a chance Kalin Lucas would control the ball and the destiny of the night. He lost one Michigan defender and Novak jumped harmlessly by Lucas for an easy horse game 15 footer (a lay-up for a scorer of this nature).
The one-point loss was tough to swallow, but the game showed three things: (1) Michigan was very well-prepared by Coach Beilein; (2) the last four minutes of the game remain problematic for Michigan; (3) the same weakness still exist and will continue to exist. Foremost, may be the failure of Michigan players to finish lay-ups. The positive is that the passing and ball handling has improved, allowing turnovers to decrease. This team is not blessed (or stocked) with great talent, the players reach for the ball instead of moving the feet (a sign of lesser athleticism or poor knowledge of rebounding geometry). This team is showing some frustration and that is both good and bad. But also, this team has now demonstrated that it can compete with the big boys, at least at home. Michigan will likely win a couple of surprises, lose a couple of surprises and play about half the remaining schedule as predicted. And now let us go on to the Iowa preview.
The Hawkeyes are 2-6 in the Big Ten and the Wolverines are 3-5. The Wolverines are at home and obviously better win, since this is on of the most winnable games left on the schedule. Contrary to what many in Iowa City spout, Iowa is well coached by Todd Lickliter. Iowa is not stocked with great talent either, but like Indiana, Iowa will scrap and stay around. So, an upset can easily happen if the Wolverines are asleep at the wheel today.
Iowa has had some adversity to add to the already difficult situation. Matt Gatens, likely Iowa’s current best player, has a bad wheel and how well he plays is now down to the grit level (he has plenty). Anthony Tucker is still suspended but is now practicing with the team. Iowa news sources predict he will not play at Michigan. Eric May and Jarryd Cole are bright spots as freshmen. Aaron Fuller may be the key to the game. He can get hot and has been playing much better lately.
Iowa struggles with 3’s; the team is shooting at about Michigan’s pace. But Michigan better not concede the three point shots and give Iowa a run. Rebounding in this game will be Sims getting his on athleticism and everyone else will fight for the ball. Who will have the most fight? Michigan will need to beat the Hawkeye pressure over the top, and the Wolverines should, since Iowa will not be able to put big fast monsters on the floor to trap.
Michigan should win if the team shoots well. But we all know how that goes. Even with the deficiencies, the writer still finds the Wolverines a fun team to watch. Enjoy what you see, because next year could be brutal and next year becomes the first real rebuilding year in the Beilein era. The injuries to the inside guys means Michigan must land some big time talent inside to evolve up the NCAA food chain, a need Beilein thought he had somewhat covered before the injuries.
Thank you for reading and continue to visit GBMW.
Written by Doc4blu
Go Blue -- Wear Maize!