Thursday, July 1, 2010

The things I love are starting to smolder again

Following the Michigan football spring game, I went into a brief stage of panic followed shortly by the moderate level of panic I've been experiencing since. The football team is either going to be awful or mediocre or great, and at this point, I've sent myself into a Buster Bluth-like self-induced coma so as to not talk about the team save moments of excessive need. (For example, my cousin-in-law--is this a thing?--who is apparently an MSU fan went into a brief bout of righteousness at the family's Easter dinner table about Demar Dorsey. I did my best to reasonably defend the kid but my parents later chastised me for being loud and inappropriate at a family dinner. But I digress.) And in all honesty, I had tried to forget our basketball team existed; on-court results openly questioned their existence, why shouldn't I?

And then word comes down that Laval Lucas-Perry has been booted from the team and well...

It becomes clearer by the day just how much of a rebuilding year we are bracing ourselves for. Douglass, Morris, Novak, and Vogrich are the only returning players with college experience. Blake McLimans is dealing with playing at a new weight. Jordan Morgan is still recovering from injury. Evan Smotrycz and Tim Hardaway were likely to play significant roles but this ups the ante.

I Tweeted that the loss of LLP would be a huge hit for the program despite his sub-par production but I didn't dare look at just how scary the depth chart might be. UMHoops looked and, well, it's just as bad as anyone could've imagined.

I have long bemoaned the death of the John Beilein-led Wolverines, but I can think of no clearer symbol of, well, utter failure than in his fourth year to have only 1/3 of the team entering the season with any game experience at all, one of whom averaged only 5.5 minutes per game in his freshman season--and let's note that a) Beilein isn't recruiting one-and-dones; b) he didn't necessarily take over a program chocked full of upper classmen; and c) it's not like the team succeeded last year and graduated their talent a la UNC 2009.

As Dylan at UMHoops says, this is a rebuilding year, but is that even acceptable in the fourth year of the program? The four game-experienced players Michigan has returning combined for 30.59% of the team's scoring last year on 44.35% shooting (31.06% from beyond the arc) and an assist/turnover ratio of 1.87, all of which, surprisingly, are at or slightly above the team's season averages (though if you ask anyone, I'm sure they'd tell you that having only these players return is not the most promising proposition). The rest of Michigan's team now is inexperienced and undersized (mostly), and is going find themselves led by Novak and Douglass as the team's returning "veterans".

I trust Beilein, or at least I'm trying to. He took the team to the Tournament in his second season and should be awarded some sort of leniency for that, but it's difficult not to look at the current state of the program and think it's headed downward. One bad break (Ben Cronin) and one early departure (Manny) should not send an entire program into a tailspin of crippling youth and, let's face it, mediocre players, but they have. If Rich Rodriguez didn't exist, Beilein would be feeling a lot more heat for this, but Michigan will always and forever be a football--and hockey, lots of people forget this--school. I'm about at the end of my rope with Beilein. If we don't see anything this year, you can expect me to be leading the torch and pitchfork crew into Crisler.


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