If you gave identical sets of players to Beilein and any other coach in the country and gave them a week to prepare before playing one another, the smart money is on Beilein. From the Clemson game in Michigan's last Tourney appearance, to the throttling of Tennessee on Friday, to the two-point loss to the defending national champs yesterday--a game in which Michigan probably gave up an average of three inches at every position--Michigan's efforts in big games are Herculean, in no small part because Beilein just Gets It. Were the rim just a smidge bigger or the refs not so intent on giving Coach Krzyzewski his 900th win yesterday, Michigan could have very well knocked off a team they had no business being on the court with, in no small part because of Beilein.
But after a somewhat miraculous run (that began just moments after I started wondering if Beilein should even be retained next year), Michigan finishes with their second NCAA Tourney win in three years and will return its entire team next year to make, hopefully, a serious run at the Big Ten title. And while last year, when the team began the season ranked a lofty #15 in the country and sputtered under infighting and lofty expectations, next year's team will have the look of one that, on paper at least, has been there before and is ready for the challenge.
- Officiating. Ugh. There were more touch fouls called against Michigan against Duke than I've ever seen in a college basketball game. Jordan Rules applied to the entirety of their roster and the refs were going to be damned if their names didn't go down in Krzyzewski's scrap book as the guys who whistled their way to his 900th win.
- In spite of that, Michigan found a way to keep the game within reach, largely because of the 1-3-1 that they went to late in the second half. They showed the zone earlier in the game and it was duly shredded because the players weren't aggressive enough. For the 1-3-1 to really work, players have to aggressively attack the ball handler and trap whenever possible. In the first half, it was a passive zone that Duke cut up, but in the second half, Duke started running clock too soon and Michigan could attack and trap causing difficult shots.
- Speaking of zones, that's basically all Michigan did against Tennessee on Friday where they showed the world just how bad the Vols are at shooting round orange balls into metal hoops. That was pure annihilation. Kudos to the team for not just winning another Tourney game, but for handing in the biggest trouncing in the history of the 8-9 matchup.
- That runner by Morris. Should. Have. Dropped. The team deserved it.
- Hardaway, while he ended with a decent stat line, seemed nonexistent against Duke until that ice cold three pointer late in the game. Some of his energy was spent covering Kyle Singler on the defensive end, but when Michigan's offense was sputtering, it would've been nice to see him get a few more looks.
- Though Zack Novak may have a limited skillset, dude is money in big games. Shooting 4-6 against Tennessee and 4-9 against Duke from the outside confirms that Novak is Michigan's go-to three point shooter. Stu Douglass, on the other hand, disappeared from sight during the tournament. Getting him back to his long-range shooting form will be essential if Michigan is able to make the proverbial leap.
- The big men all looked good in the tournament. Jordan Morgan was slipping screens all game against Duke and distributing the ball well. Although he ran into the foul trouble in both games (you can hardly blame him against Duke). Evan Smotrycz had probably his best game of the year against Duke. If that's what we can expect all of next year, look out. Jon Horford even got some burn and in his limited time, managed to posterize a Dukie.