This blog could nary be afforded a more perfect litmus test for its constant refrain of "Manny. Meh." than the situation that occurred over the weekend wherein he was suspended for "unsportsmanlike conduct" in practice (about which, more later) and missed the entire game against a good-to-great opponent. The results? Mixed.
Michigan lost to #15 Purdue by 10 points in a game that probably wasn't quite as close as the final score would indicate. Anthony Wright started in place of the suspended Harris and did about as well as you'd expect Anthony Wright to do, which was not great. The guards turned the ball over constantly and Purdue was simply too much for Michigan to handle.
The defense of Michigan was absolutely atrocious, the worst it's looked all season. Now, that feeling can be tempered a bit, because they were playing a really really good team in a difficult environment, but that can't excuse all of it. Purdue got anything they wanted on just about every possession. Michigan had no defensive answer for anything Purdue was doing and they looked terribly outmatched the entire game. Worse still, Beilein decided to go back to the 2-3 zone, which, well, it turned out about exactly how it has the rest of the season: forcing no turnovers, slow rotations, a vacated paint, etc. It did very little to stop the hot shooting of Purdue and generally made Michigan look lost and inept of defense (Purdue shot 50% from the field!!!).
But what of the offense, my main contention in the Manny saga? Well, for starters, the team had their best three-point shooting game of the season, shooting 7-17 from beyond the arc (by my spot checking, the only 40%+ shooting game all season). Now obviously, this isn't an indictment of Manny, but I think it does speak to the fact that the ball moves better when he's off the floor--small sample size (one game) noted, but i think it still holds some merit, especially playing in a tough environment. But then again, there was nothing going toward the basket that wasn't Sims-driven. (Sims had another amazing day and, as it should be clear to everyone now, is far and away the most talented player on the Michigan roster.) The turnovers were once again symptomatic of the team's lack of depth and inexperienced guards. And rebounding, despite the loss of Harris' gaudy rebounding numbers, did not really fall off in any unexpected way: Michigan was only out-rebounded by 6, a number you'd probably expect to see whether or not Harris was in the game.
The one player that suffered the most from the loss of Manny was Stu Douglass. He had an off night all around: couldn't shoot, couldn't hold onto the ball, couldn't defend. On the offensive side of the ball, Douglass is too slow to create his own shot and relies pretty heavily on Harris' kickouts for his good looks. For most of the game, Douglass couldn't get any open looks because he doesn't come off of screens fast enough, nor can he create off the dribble for himself.
Beilein is going to have a press conference in about 20 minutes and will likely answer all of the speculation I'm about to throw into the Internet, but man, this sounds like an open insubordination/"I'm the star" kind of suspension to me. From the sound of it, he did something that attacked the team, rather than punching someone or personally attacking one player/coach.
This is another reason I've been kind of down on Harris this year: He just doesn't look like he cares. He seems to be biding his time before he declares for the NBA (which will be at the end of this year). But with his performance this year, and this suspension now on the national radar, dude is seriously hurting his NBA stock. We'll see what happens at 2 pm today, but this is all pretty discouraging.