What the Deuce: Ask Not What Michigan Basketball Can Do For You, but What You Can Do For Michigan Basketball

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ask Not What Michigan Basketball Can Do For You, but What You Can Do For Michigan Basketball

A quick follow up post to my in game blog of Michigan's loss to Butler in the Great Alaskan Shootout. After having a day to review my observations, here's what I think.

Like I said during the game, the difference between this year's team and last year's is telling. Although last year's team had more talent and more experience, I prefer the way this year's team plays:

- Players hustle the entire game. I remember one sequence where Michigan made a solid defensive play under Butler's goal. A Butler player managed to get the loose ball near the basket and the Michigan defender was out of position. Still, DeShawn Sims came over and played help-side defense which resulted in a block. As the ball was going out of bounds, Kelvin Grady chased it and saved it to a teammate. Michigan ball.

- Confidence. In the first half when Butler went up 28-11 and Michigan's offense went cold, the players still looked confident. They managed to make a few baskets, get a couple of offensive rebounds and stops at the defensive end. Halftime score: Butler 40 Michigan 32. Last year, the team would have fallen apart and the halftime differential would have been close to 20.

- 1-3-1 Zone. Kept Butler from easy baskets inside the three point line. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs made a record setting 17 three pointers. The zone keeps the defenders active and pushes the opponent's offense away from the basket.

- Rebounding. On defense, when Butler missed a shot, at least 3 guys were on the glass. On offense, Udoh and Sims were terrific at using their height to get rebounds and tip-ins.

- Three point shooting. Last year, there were maybe 2 guys I wanted taking shots from the perimeter. Epke Udoh was not one of them. Not this year. Udoh looked confident from the perimeter and his shot looked fundamentally sound. When was the last time you heard a sentence about Michigan basketball with the words "fundamentally sound" in it?

- Player development. Yeah, it's early but Sims and Udoh look a lot better than they did last year. Sims looks confident with this back to the basket and has developed a nice little turnaround move. The easiest way to describe "player development" is this: When guys are out on the floor, they look like they know what they are doing and what their roles are as opposed to last year where Michigan basketball looked like a bunch of five year olds playing organized basketball for the first time in their lives.


- Depth. Very little depth on the team but that was to be expected. I will say that Beilein is getting the most out of the guys who do play. Depth will be an issue during the Big 10 season and I'm interested to see how Beilein manages the game when the starters get into foul trouble

- Offense. It's obvious that not everyone has grasped the offense and that its a work in progress. This was expected and we've heard stories about how some players at WVU took at least 2 years to fully understand Beilein's offense. The big problem Michigan had against Butler was getting the ball inside (when Butler was playing a zone). I think part of the problem was that the players are young and the other part was that players aren't completely comfortable in the offense. Right now, in the half court, the offense looks good when it leads to open threes. Otherwise, Michigan looked tentative. Bottom line is that this team needs to really make use of the fast break to compensate for the stretches where the offense goes cold.

- Turnovers. Not a good showing. Eight turnovers at the half. Once again, I think it was a function of the unfamiliarity with the offense. I'm hoping as the season progresses, the offense will look sharper and the execution will be better. Seeing the improvement in this team under Beilein, I would not be surprised if the offense looks 100% better than it did today as Michigan heads to the Big Ten Tournament.

For those of you who gave up on Michigan basketball after Ellerbe and Amaker, I don't blame you. I don't blame you if you don't want to watch this team for another year as this year is going to have its ups and downs. Still, I urge you to watch and even see a game at Crisler. Even if Michigan doesn't win, I guarantee you will be impressed with the way this team plays.

On a personal note, Michigan basketball was what got me to Michigan. It was the Fab 5. Until then, I cheered for Michigan and State. To see the basketball program hit rock bottom was disappointing. Now, under Beilein, I'm very excited and have great hope for the future. Be patient. I know it's hard after waiting for a winner for so long. But most of all, go support Michigan basketball. I promise, it will be worth it.


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