Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Michigan needs to toughen up


Dear friends who haven't seen a second of Michigan basketball this season:

Let me update you on the state of affairs in Ann Arbor during John Beilein's first go-around as coach of the Wolverines.

After losing 77-64 to Boston College Wednesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Michigan is 3-4. In its defense, Michigan's losses have been to ranked teams Georgetown and Butler, the ACC's Eagles and strong mid-major Western Kentucky.

But, I digress, they're losses, and at a place like Michigan, a loss is a loss.

Here's Michigan's biggest problem. It's not tough. It doesn't rebound well. And it's streaky.

OK, actually those are three problems. Again, I digress.

In Beilein's complicated offense — where four players are stationed on the perimeter — the Wolverines shoot loads of 3-pointers. When they're making them, like in the first half Wednesday, they're never out of a game regardless of what happens on the other end of the floor.

Michigan trailed just 34-33 at halftime after making 5-of-10 triples.

But when the Wolverines struggle from behind the arc, like they did in the second half (4-of-15), games against good opponents tend to get away from them. That was the case Wednesday, when the Eagles pulled away in the final eight minutes.

Another problem is rebounding. To begin with, Beilein's 1-3-1 zone is not privy to rebounding acuity, but that's no excuse for getting dominated 50-32 on the boards, as was the case Wednesday.

Boston College left Michigan in the dust in a mere 2-minute stretch. First, there was 6-foot-1 point guard Tyrese Rice stealing an offensive rebound and scoring for a 56-52 lead. Then Michigan's Manny Harris tried an ill-advised baseball pass, which was intercepted by the Eagles.

Seconds later, Biko Paris was fouled. He made the first and missed the second — which was snared by BC's Corey Raji.

Raji proceeded to put the ball back up and in and draw a foul. His free throw made it 60-52, just like that.

Three more baskets — one aided by another offensive rebound — and the Eagles were sitting comfortable, up 66-52.

Of course another thing you — and the people who decided to leave early after the Eagles' 12-0 burst — should know is that these Wolverines can never be counted out of a game. On Wednesday, the late 3-pointers didn't fall, and a made one was waved off because of an offensive foul.

But there were a plethora of open looks, and Michigan had many opportunities to get back into the game. And there are several Wolverines who can shoot the three (five made at least one).

So there you have it, friends. The current countenance of the 2007-08 Wolverines.

Are they a great team?

Definitely not.

Are they a good team?

Not yet.

Are they an exciting bunch to watch?

You betcha. Considering that Michigan, despite looking far from stout defensively (especially in allowing the multi-dimensional Rice to score 28 points, including five 3-pointers), blocked nine shots, there is potential to build on defensively.

Michigan just needs to learn how to close out on 3-point shooters (B.C. was 8-for-14 from downtown) and, yes, limit second-chance opportunities. Oh, and there were a few times when the Eagles shredded the 1-3-1 setup by passing over it for easy layups.

Yep, these Wolverines have a lot to work on. But as the television announcers pointed out, plenty is being worked on during each and every Michigan practice. These kids should be granted an additional major in "Beilein's System."

But until the hard labor starts translating into quality wins, it will remain difficult to judge the progress this team is making.


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Sportsattitude said...

I always liked John's teams at West Virginia and hope he can continue to be successful at Michigan.

zekejennings said...

Beilein said before the season that his teams normally get outrebounded. But I agree, 50-32 is inexcusable.

I said before the season that with this schedule, finishing above .500 and earning an NIT bid would be a decent season. Considering the youth of the team, a new coach with a new system and the fact that the starting backcourt is two freshmen, I don't think they're too far from what I expected.

Jerret Smith is finding his way out of the rotation.

Jake Lloyd said...

Smith losing minutes = a good thing. I like Kelvin Grady, and he'll only get better.