Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is it 2010 yet?

With about six minutes left in the game yesterday and Michigan down by four points, Stu Douglass ran to the top of the key to take a handoff screen from DeShawn Sims. He got the ball, turned the corner, and his defender went under the screen. In almost every instance, especially for a three-point shooter like Douglass, this is an immediate cue to shoot the ball. Douglass, however, hesitated and didn't take the shot. Instead, he took two steps forward and pulled up for a long two pointer that clanged off the rim. This was the closest Michigan got to a comeback and they never recovered.

That one play speaks to all the ills of Michigan this season: poor shooting, worse decision making, and stagnant offensive play. Douglass' hesitation to shoot an open three because he's afraid of missing, only to take a worse shot (a few feet closer, but it's only worth two points), shows just how out of sync the team is. Darrius Morris, who had a decent night, is clearly not suited to run this offense yet. It's become obvious that he doesn't know quite what to do, and you can see the team physically confused on the offensive side of the court--everything runs through Harris, about whom more later.

I knew the defense was playing poorly, but in the past, the defense hadn't expicitly lost Michigan any games. The defense lost them this one. You know things have been going poorly when 31% (7-22) from three-point range is a marked improvement and isn't the most glaring weakness in your game. The defense was slow and soft, the transition defense was completely nonexistent--watching this game makes me realize just how badly Michigan State is going to beat Michigan with their fast break--and although the 1-3-1 worked at times, it was inconsistent at best.

So at this point, do we close up shop? Yeah, kind of. Barring a miraculous upset against Kansas or UConn, and an 11-7 (or better) run in the Big Ten, Michigan is NIT-bound this year--if that. With the losses they have and the lack of any nonconference resume, it's going to be nearly impossible to get in the dance this year.

  • Someone needs to yell at this team. Beilein has never struck me as the kind of get-in-your-face coach that will really lay into someone, but I'll be damned if he doesn't need to. This team just looks like they don't care. There's absolutely no effort. At least five times yesterday after a Michigan basket, a Utah player streaked down the court completely untouched for an easy layup. This team just looks like it doesn't care. At all.
  • To that end, I would've been happy to see Manny Harris benched for much of that game. He turned it on late and started to lead a comeback, but his atrocious defense and shot selection was the reason Michigan was in that hole to begin with. Hampered by a hamstring injury or not, Harris looks lazy, uninterested, and sometimes downright bad on the court. He gave up constant backcuts and drives to the hoop, took some of the worst shots I've seen in a long time, and just generally seems not to want to play for this team.
  • I said after the Big Ten/ACC challenge that Harris had a long way to go but couldn't exactly pinpoint what it was until this game. Despite his full stat sheet, Harris is simply a really good role player forced into the star's spotlight because Michigan lacks one. Sure, triple doubles and gaudy numbers and all that, Harris is kind of an everyman; he's a more talented Zack Novak (or an NBA equivlanet, and a personal favorite of mine, JR Smith--capable of exceptional highs but also "He did what?"-inducing lows), which is great if that's what he's supposed to do. But Harris is supposed to be the leader and the stud of the team. He's not that.
  • Sims looked bad, but understandably so. He was playing against someone who had fully seven inches on him, and was forced to play as an outside shooter. When Sims goes to the NBA (through free agency, by the way), he's going to be a small forward. I wish in a game like this, Michigan would've used him a bit more in that NBA small forward role, getting more action out of him: moving him through the lane and getting 15 footers. This would've done a few things, but namely, it would've gotten the 7'3" center away from the basket and opened the floor a bit.
  • Zach Gibson started, like I assumed. And Ben Cronin got a few minutes. neither did anything of particular note but did do a decent job containing the big men of Utah.
  • Most infuriating part of the game: Free throw shooting.


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