Monday, January 18, 2010

Manufacturing wins

Everything now-a-days has a story line. A statement win and the students rush the court. A statement win against an 11-6 Big East squad. Michigan is 10-7 and considered a massive disappointment.

When I saw students rushing onto the floor, I sat in my apartment awkwardly laughing and muttering to myself, "Why? No, don't. For what?" It's grandiosity was ridiculous. An 11-6 Big East squad. At what point do the expectations of this basketball team, a team that finally snapped its NCAA Tournament drought and was ranked in the Top 20 preseason, at what point do our expectations become higher than this? A statement win? No. A good win? You bet your ass.

That looked like an entirely different basketball team, didn't it? They looked prepared for UConn's size and fast breaks. It looked prepared to run its offense. It looked prepared to win. I've been railing against Beilein for a while now, and I think with good reason. At times this season, Michigan has looked lost on both sides of the court. Regardless of the team's shooting troubles, Beilein hadn't done much to inspire confidence this season. But this game looked completely different. He was switching up defensive schemes, keeping UConn off balance. And more importantly, for the first time this season, Michigan looked prepared.

But was this really a different team or just Beilein finally doing what he's been praised for and what I've been lamenting the loss of: manufacturing wins. The team shot an awful 37.3% from the floor and only 32.1% from three point--they shot only 13-31 from inside the arc, almost a whole 15% worse than they have on the year. On the game, the team shot 9-28 from three-point range, literally one make away from their season average. They were out rebounded, albeit not by the margins you'd think against a team with the size and athleticism of UConn. And they turned the ball over 13 times, only two less than the noted suckfest against Indiana. The point being, the Michigan team you saw today was, statistically, the exact same team you've seen and considered massively disappointing this season.

So what was the difference? In a word, Beilein. As I said, they looked ready for that game, they were inspired and effective. They manufactured that win yesterday, and it was a hell of a victory.


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