Saturday, February 20, 2010

Michigan Basketball: Heading Down the Stretch Run

Posted at 8:00am -- 2/20/2010

Big Ten Basketball – Heading Down the Stretch Run

In late December a series of articles previewing the Big Ten basketball season and predictions was offered. First, a look at how the predictions have held up as the regular season heads into the final dash.

The first group, of three teams, was presented as contenders and shoo-ins for NCAA spots. Michigan State was picked to win the league and this prediction is on target. If not for the injury to Kalin Lucas, the Sparties would be close to sewing up the title. The injury quickly brought a 9-0 start team back to the pack and Michigan State will now have to earn the title with some key wins heading down the stretch.

Purdue and Ohio State were picked as the 2nd and 3rd teams, and this prediction is also on target. It was stated that the only reason Ohio State was not picked first was the injury to Evan Turner. Turner’s injury, although severe, kept him out of action weeks less than anticipated. With Turner, the league’s likely MVP, back in the fold, Ohio State becomes the most talented team in the conference, and one of the most talented in the nation. The quick three losses may be too much for Ohio State to overcome, but the Buckeyes are only one game out of first in the loss column, hardly an insurmountable obstacle. Ohio State has three NBA talent level players, a 6’6 inch shooting guard and an NFL tight-end type in the middle making up the starting line-up. Ohio State should do well in the league tournament, but big physical teams have hurt the Buckeyes inside.

Purdue has recovered from an injury, and like Ohio State and Michigan State, a down surge. The Boilers won a monster game at Ohio State and the team play has been excellent. Purdue is super at isolating defensive weak-links on opposing teams and has a starting five that just plays for wins, not personal point totals.

The next group of three teams, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota, were referred to as being at the top of the brutal cement mixer of teams that needed to play to the max to get into the tournament, but likely would. Wisconsin was referred to as the one team that could rise to the level of the top three, and that prediction is pretty much dead on, albeit the Badgers also have a key injury. Wisconsin has been ranked quite high recently and should be a shoo-in for the tournament. Illinois and Minnesota are falling into fifth and sixth place as predicted. But neither team is a shoo-in and plenty of blood, sweat, toil, and tears need be put forward to make the tournament. The next two or three games should tell for Illinois and Minnesota is in some trouble. Against Michigan, Minnesota showed shockingly weak inside defense.

The bottom of the cement mixer included the next three teams, Penn State, Northwestern, and Michigan. Northwestern and Michigan are on target to match the prediction. Penn State has fallen to a status of the league’s biggest 2009-2010 disappointment. Northwestern and Michigan have both likely played themselves out of the Big Dance. Northwestern could still make a late run and win two conference games and get in. But that ship is upping anchor and Northwestern may need some severe Minnesota bad luck to get back into the big picture (along with getting on a roll). Michigan will almost certainly continue to surprise followers, both ways with unexpected wins and losses.

The last two predicted teams, Indiana and Iowa have unfortunately held to form and have no chance of anything this year.

And so a few comments about Michigan, none of which are glowing. Little has changed as:

• This team continues to play soft inside and out. Three point shooters can drink a cup of coffee and then shoot with little pressure.

• The guys are not strong with the ball and that costs a few points a game.

• Sims continues to be Michigan’s best and most valuable player and I hold to the belief he may be drafted before Harris.

• Michigan continues to miss lay-ups and cannot finish the old-fashioned three-point play.

• The bench continues to be an enigma in the form of L-L-P and Gibson.

• There are guys on the roster that cannot contribute, and it will take a while until more talented players replace them.

• This is still a very small team and excluding Sims and Harris, not very athletic.

• Michigan can run and can get the ball inside, but still falls in love with the quick three point shot. More of them have gone in lately.

• Michigan can rise up and burn a big name team in the tournament, but this is a team that just cannot play well without two or three days rest.

And by the way, Coach B is doing a decent job with the limitations he has. The bad news is the limitations appear to not be addressed.

It was not the best of times, or the worst of times, 2009-2010.

Written by Doc4blu

Go Blue -- Wear Maize!

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