Monday, January 4, 2010

Everything I love is terrible

Michigan did a bad thing and then they did a good thing over my holiday break. The bad thing: losing to an upstart Indiana team that is not going to be as bad as everyone might think. I see them finishing somewhere around the middle of the Big Ten. Still, it was a game Michigan needed to win (as most of them are from here on out) and they blew it by way of early foul trouble in the second half--if I can recall correctly, they were in the penalty with about 15 minutes left in the half, ugh--and Beilein's insistence on using the 2-3 zone when it was being absolutely torched to the tune of 47% shooting on the night.

Why Beilein has moved away from the 1-3-1 so drastically is beyond me. It was abysmal early in the year, but ended up being wildly effective in the second half against Kansas. Since then, it's looked like Michigan's best defensive set. But for whatever reason, Beilein seems to have lost faith in it, at least temporarily. Indiana was having zero trouble with the 2-3 Michigan was running and, if my memory serves me well, shot somewhere about 50% in the half. This may or may not have actually happened (I can't find by-half stats from the game anywhere).

More to the point, though, the 2-3 more or less emphasized all of Michigan's defensive troubles without maximizing anything. Time and again, Sims was pulled into the high post to cover a man in the lane, leaving rebounds and drives open, while the guards seemed too slow to face up and contest any shots. What's worse, they couldn't force turnovers out of the 2-3 and looked like they were scrambling around the court on most possessions. It was not encouraging.

But then they did something good and beat a ranked Ohio State team that was probably going to drop from the rankings anyway after a thrashing at the hands of, IMO, the conference's best Wisconsin. Without Evan Turner, Ohio State is still good but not quite the highly ranked squad everyone had expected. It was a good win, but Michigan is going to need to win a whole lot of games in the Big Ten schedule to have any chance at all at the Tournament in March. Sims and Harris were excellent in the game. The rest of the team was mediocre at best. It's going to be a long year.

(As a brief follow-up on my Manny Harris Isn't That Good So Please Stop Treating Him Like a God post: My brother told me he didn't think my Manny vs. JR Smith comparison was very good. I understand where he's coming from, but I think their games look a little disparate because of the systems they're put in. Manny fills up the stat sheet a lot more than JR Smith does, but I think a lot of that is because Michigan lacks anyone who fills up any category in the box score, namely rebounding. I think if Zach Gibson were, um, better and played more, or if Ben Cronin was in the game and not broken and sadface on the bench, Harris' rebounding numbers would drop significantly. His numbers would then dictate Good Guard and not All-World Talent. Also, Harris' tendency to take plays off and throw up terrible shots continues to be problematic. If someone were to do an in depth UFR on basketball games, I think Harris would grade out much worse than his box score indicates. A little Obi Ezeh syndrome, only not as significant a difference in on-paper production vs. real-world contributions.)

Chad Henne broke his brain against the Steelers and couldn't see straight so he left the game. And then Pat White severely broke his brain or whatever they're calling instant unconsciousness and dangerous head injuries. This was sad. But Mike Hart got his first NFL touchdown in a noncompetitive Curtis Painter-led Colts game this weekend. His day otherwise was mostly unremarkable: 10 carries for 28 yards and a TD, and two receptions for 16 yards. Good to see that he's getting a few snaps, but when the Colts are healthy again next year, expect him to get waived or demoted to the practice squad again.

The more interesting news was something I didn't see. But judging by the mass of MGoBlog forum threads on the topic, I assumed it happened. In the intros for Sunday night's game between the Jets and Bengals, Braylon Edwards introduced himself as such: "Braylon Edwards, Lloyd Carr's University of Michigan". I've stuck by Braylon for a long time now. I've been a big supporter and still think he can get out of this funk he's been in. I live in Cleveland and I've taken enough flak for him from friends and coworkers. I think I'm done with all of that though.

It's one thing not to be happy with Rodriguez or to be mad about the #1 jersey "scandal" when he first came, and to be angry that the team has been performing poorly. But to go on TV and publicly take shots at the program is a little childish. Because now, Sparty Nation and Buckeyes everywhere and Michael Wilbon added a little more foil to their tin hats and are rocking back and forth in their chairs, twiddling their thumbs and mumbling to themselves about Michigan and Rodriguez parting ways and the University swirling into an abyss. Wilbon may or may not be sacrificing Northwestern co-eds. Frankly, Braylon might want to downplay the whole Carr thing when he's dropping sure touchdowns and challenging Roy Williams for Most Ineffective #1 Receiver in the NFL.


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