Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Michigan hoops going big? (Utah preview-ish)

Tonight, Michigan takes on the Utah Utes out in sunny Utah. This stands as one of Michigan's last chances to get a statement nonconference win, as it's a road game against a decent team. Biggest problem is, Utah's roster mostly dwarfs the three-point shooting, guard-centric Wolverines. With 7'3" center David Foster and 6'11" Kim Tillie, Michigan's rebounding looks to get even worse, unless they decide to play a big lineup and sacrifice some of the three pointers the team loves so much.

After Michigan lost to Boston College, I said,

Michigan CANNOT rebound and will likely have to rethink their lineup against teams with anything resembling big men. Gibson/Sims/Harris/LLP (maybe Novak)/Morris seems the most likely starting five.

And I stick by that assessment (with a few personnel changes) and, for other reasons, UMHoops is advocating more playing time for Zack Gibson--namely, for his improved skills, team-leading +/-, and yeah, his size.

(Aside: In either my junior or senior year at Michigan, I was playing a pick up game at the IM Building and a newly transfered Zack Gibson joined our game. Fortunately, I didn't have to guard him, but needless to say, we lost. Dude had a good shot and decent handles. Of course he was playing a bunch of scrubs that are in no way as good as players he plays against now, but I digress.)

UMHoops says that it will probably come at the expense of Anthony Wright, which I don't necessarily agree with. Michigan needs to start establishing depth, and unfortuantely, all of their depth happens to be freshmen and sophomores. At some point, you need to stop trying to win now and realize that establishing these players and getting them playing time for the future is what will help this team really excel. If that means playing Ben Cronin for extensive minutes on a night like tonight when you're drastically outsized, so be it.

In my opinion, Michigan's rotation should look something like this:

Power Forward
Small Forward
Shooting Guard
Point Guard
Zack Gibson
DeShawn Sims
Manny Harris
Stu Douglass
Darius Morris
Ben Cronin
Anthony Wright
Zack Novak
Matt Vogrich
Laval Lucas-Perry

This is, obviously, not perfect. For one, the second team is light on scorers and young. But when you're facing the kind of size matchup that Michigan is in this game, you have to do something. Against Utah though, this might actually work.

Utah's backup center is a 7 foot freshman (Hey! We have one of those) who has gotten a lot of time early (almost 18 minute a game). But a freshman he remains. Other than that, Utah doesn't really have a size advantage against Michigan on the bench, allowing Michigan to play multiple three point shooters without giving up too much defensively. Wright would be undersized but not signficantly. And putting LLP on the second team gives a bit more leadership to an otherwise random group of players. Plus, he's one of the only players on the team besides Harris that can create his own shot.

I can say with all but 100% certainty that we're not going to see a lineup like this tonight. But I would be shocked if Gibson didn't start this game. Cronin is also going to have to log a lot of minutes if Michigan is going to have any chance against the bigs of Utah.


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