Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
Nothing But ?Net ? Week #11 ? 01/17/2011 ? Remember When This Season Looked Promising?
There?s still a lot of basketball left to play for the Michigan men?s basketball team, but if they don?t play a lot better than they did Saturday at Indiana, it?s going to be a long, sad season.They played two games last week, and they lost both of them, but one of them wasn?t a surprise.On Tuesday, they played very tough against (#2) Ohio State in Crisler Arena,, and they lost 68-64.That was the third of their three games in a row where they didn?t stand much chance, the other two being at Wisconsin, and home vs. (#3) Kansas.Well, they lost all three, but they played very well against the ranked teams.Then came the game at Indiana.What a disaster!They got down early, and couldn?t do a thing to get back into the game.They ended up losing 80-61.The two losses drop Michigan?s record to 11-7 (1-4 in the Big Ten).They have now lost 4 games in a row.It?s hard to remember that 3 weeks ago, Michigan was 10-2, and the season looked very promising.
The OSU game was very encouraging.Michigan controlled the tempo for most of the game, and managed to slow down (but not stop) OSU?s star freshman center, Jared Sullinger.If they could have done something (anything!) to stop Ohio State?s 12-0 run in the 2nd half, they would have been in position to win the game at the end, instead of just trying desperately to tie it up.
After UM had played so well in back-to-back games against Top-3 teams, they should have been able to dominate a weak IU team.Sure, it?s tough to win on the road, but UM made IU look like the LA Lakers.It was the most discouraging game since the UTEP game back in November.
Looking at the stats for the OSU game, they were pretty much even except for one key category: free throws.OSU shot 17-for-25, while UM shot 5-for-7.That?s 12 extra points.Sure, OSU had a couple more rebounds (26-23), and a couple less turnovers (12-10), but the real difference was at the free throw line.
In the Indiana game, the problem was rebounding.IU had more than twice as many rebounds as UM: 37-18.That?s embarrassing.Shooting percentage was also a problem: IU shot 29-43 (67.4%), while UM shot 20-55 (36.4%).That?s how you get blown out by almost 20 points by one of the worst teams in the Big Ten.
Individually, there were several players with good stats.Michigan had 4 players in double figures in both games: Darius Morris(18 points), Zack Novak(16), Evan Smotrycz(14), and Tim Hardaway, Jr. (11) in the OSU game, and Morris (22), Hardaway (10), Novak (10), and Jordan Morgan(10) in the IU game.That?s the good news.The bad news was Morgan with 0 points against Ohio State, Smotrycz with 3 points against Indiana, 5 bench points vs. OSU, and 6 bench points vs. IU.
So, is this season in the toilet?Not yet, but it?s teetering on the rim.Michigan sure doesn?t look like an NCAA Tournament team, so we should be thinking more in terms of the NIT, but it?s hard to see them staying above 0.500 at this point.At 11-7, with 13 games left in the regular season, they would need to go 5-8, then 1-1 in the Big Ten Tournament to stay above 0.500.It?s hard to see 5 more wins, the way they?ve been playing.They should beat Iowa at least once, maybe twice, and maybe Indiana in Crisler, but the rest of the games look pretty bleak.Even Penn State, who Michigan beat in Crisler, is looking much better, and so is Northwestern.
As you can imagine, the Nothing But ?Net Expectation-O-Meter (NBNEOM) will have to be reset down to ?Not Meeting Expectations?.
The Big Ten season grinds on.This week, Michigan plays at Northwestern on Tuesday (01/18, 9:00 EST), then at home vs. Minnesota on Saturday (01/22, 7:00).Both of these teams are improved over last season, and both games will be a tough test for Michigan.A win in either game would be a major boost.
Nothing But ?Net ? Week #11 ? 01/10/2011 ? Welcome To The Meat Grinder
Yeah, it was a meat grinder for the Michigan men?s basketball team last week.They played two games against tough teams, and they lost them both.On Wednesday (01/09/2011), they lost at Wisconsin, 66-50, then on Sunday (01/09/2011), they lost in Crisler Arena to (#3) Kansas, 67-60, in overtime.As I said last week, I don?t know which was a tougher task: beating Wisconsin in Madison, or beating the undefeated #3 team in the nation at home.As it turned out, Michigan had a tougher time vs. Wisconsin, but they were both very difficult games.The two losses lower Michigan?s record to 11-5, 1-2 in Big Ten play.
Michigan played two good halves last week; unfortunately, they were in two separate games.They played very well in the first half of the Wisconsin game, and led by 2 points (28-26) at halftime.They controlled the tempo, and made Wisconsin play their game.They managed to push the lead to 4 points (33-29) early in the 2nd half, but then Wisconsin went on a 13-0 run, and the game was over.Once Wisconsin gets a lead in the 2nd half at home, they are virtually unbeatable.The young Wolverines panicked, and the rout was on.
Against Kansas, Michigan played a dismal 1st half (down 25-18 at halftime), but they came back strong in the 2nd half, and managed to force overtime in the last minute of regulation (51-51).They took their first (and only) lead of the game early in overtime (54-51), then Kansas stormed back and dominated the rest of the game.Still, it was encouraging to see UM fight back in the last 11 minutes of regulation, and take Kansas to overtime.
Unfortunately, a loss (or two) is still a loss.It?s nice that Michigan can play a good half against good teams, but they need to play two good halves to beat the big boys.
I?m trying to break my stats habit, but it?s hard.The stats tell the story in both games.Against Wisconsin, the culprit was shooting: UM shot 39.5%, UW shot 47.7%.The rebounding numbers didn?t help: UM was out-rebounded 29-21.In the Kansas game, it was 3-point shooting and fouls that cost UM the game.Michigan shot a miserable 3-point percentage (1-for-10 = 10%) in the 1st half, and it only got a little better in the 2nd half and overtime.They finished shooting 4-for-28 (14.3%).Ugh.The foul situation was the other big factor in the Kansas game: Kansas shot 31 free throws, compared to only 17 for Michigan.That was the difference in the game right there.
Individually, Zack Novak had a very good week.He was one of only two UM players to hit double figures in both games (15 and 12 points), and he was the leading rebounder for UM in both games (5 and 11 boards).That means he had a double-double in the Kansas game.He shot 3-pointers very well vs. Wisconsin (5-for-7), but not so much vs. Kansas (2-for-7).
The other Michigan player who had double figures in both games was Tim Hardaway, Jr., but he had to take a lot of shots to get those points.He had 10 points (on 3-for-10 shooting) vs. Wisconsin, and 19 points (on 5-for-19 shooting) vs. Kansas.He was 2-for-10 shooting 3-pointers vs. Kansas, which really hurt.
Then there was Darius Morris.He had a weak game (8 points) vs. Wisconsin, but came back strong vs. Kansas (16 points).The big problem was that he led the team in turnovers both games, with 4 in each.
?What about the all-important Nothing But ?Net Expectation-O-Meter (NBNEOM)?? you might ask.It stays right where it was last week: ?Meets Expectations?.The Wisconsin and Kansas games were games that Michigan was expected to lose, and they met those expectations.
Speaking of games that Michigan is expected to lose, there?s another one coming right up: on Wednesday (01/12/2011, 6:30 p.m.), Michigan hosts (#2) Ohio State in Crisler Arena.OSU is undefeated (15-0), and they have a really good freshman center (Jared Sullinger), which could be a big problem for Michigan, since UM is a little short on height.
Michigan plays one other game this week: on Saturday (01/15/2011, 8:00 p.m.), they play at Indiana.Now, Indiana isn?t that good this season, but they?re better than they were last season, and Michigan always has trouble playing in Assembly Hall.This is a ?toss up? game, but it?s a crucial toss up game, because Michigan will likely be coming in on a 3-game losing streak.
An Open Letter To The Football Gods
Dear Football Gods,
All right, we get it. We give up. Uncle! You win. We were wrong all these years. It is not enough for us to simply ?be Michigan? and everything will go our way. We admit it. We were arrogant. We believed that just because we had been so successful for so long, we would always be that successful, no matter what we did. We got (very) spoiled. We complained when Bo went 6-6. We groused when Lloyd had a couple 4-loss seasons. Hah! We would be very grateful for a 4-loss season these days. We have seen the worst case (2008), and the next-worst case (2009). We?ve been punished enough. We?ve learned our lesson, twice. We will no longer take ANY win for granted. We will no longer take ANY opponent lightly, except maybe Delaware State. We will no longer assume that OF COURSE we can score a touchdown if we get a first-and-goal on the 1-yard line. We will no longer assume that we can stop a team from going 99.75 yards after we fail to score on four straight blasts on the goal line. We will no longer assume that we are unbeatable if we can just get to overtime. We will turn over a new leaf. Just give us our program back. We?ll be good. We?ll be humble. We promise not to gloat excessively when we start winning again. We promise that we?ll remember all that you have taught us these last two years (and the Appalachian State Disaster as well).
Go Blue (please?)