Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Observations from Michigan/Illinois

Very large man shooting over not-so-large man. An unfortunately common sight tonight. (AP Photo)

My winter break extended a little longer than planned. However, I've still been keeping up with the U-M hoops team, so here are some thoughts from tonight's 66-51 loss against the Illini.
  • After watching that game, I had a hard time coming up with how we even scored 51. Manny scored a very quiet 20 points (I know that sounds strange, but trust me on this), and DeShawn Sims only had 7 points on 3-14 shooting. As a team the Wolverines shot only 32.2%.
  • I'm actually somewhat encouraged by the fact that we could play so poorly offensively on the road and still be in the game up until the waning minutes. The transition defense was great, and there's nothing you can do when a 7-1 center steps out and drills a three.
  • The interior defense left something to be desired. I know this is a flaw in Beilein's defensive system (and playing four guards in general), but it's still frustrating to see the ball go to Illinois' 7-1 center and see C.J. Lee and Kelvin Grady trying to stop him from laying it in.
  • The Big Ten Network announcers touched on this, and I agree: the NCAA really needs to follow the NBA's example and adopt the semi-circle underneath the basket for charging calls. Both teams were the beneficiaries of a charge being called when the defender established position directly under the basket.
  • Speaking of charges, Big Ten officials might do better to just flip a coin every time there's a charge/block foul to be called. Let's just say if I was a Big Ten coach I would probably be averaging a technical foul every five minutes. Just ask my upstairs neighbors.
  • I've been a pretty vocal detractor of Zack Gibson, but I actually though he played a relatively decent game, especially in the first half. However, he still needs to learn how to go up strong. I'm tired of seeing him get layups blocked by guys a half-foot shorter than him.
  • Even though he only had five points, I really thought Zack Novak was the second-best playing on the floor tonight for Michigan (behind Manny, of course). He pulled down nine rebounds, and always seemed to be near a loose ball. He also didn't force his shot, which cannot be said about fellow freshman Stu Douglass.
  • Someone still needs to explain to me how L-A-V-A-L is pronounced "Luh-vell".
Michigan drops to 13-4 (3-2 Big Ten), and hosts Ohio State on Saturday. The Wolverines really need to pull out a victory this weekend and hold serve at home. I don't expect the offense to struggle as mightily at home, especially with a potential NCAA Tournament bid at stake.

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