Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On Michigan Basketball and Schizophrenia


After starting the season with two upset victories over top-5 teams, a couple appearances in the top-25, and being recognized as one of the most surprising teams in the nation, the Michigan basketball team has dropped seven of their last nine and is perilously close to becoming irrelevant in the NCAA Tournament picture. Obviously, scheduling had a large part to do with Michigan's slide ... the Big Ten is tough top-to-bottom this season. However, I had the privilege of attending John Beilein's press conference before Feb. 5 victory over Penn State, and this quote really stuck out to me:
"As a team we've got to find different combinations on the floor that will flow better right now. There are just these little things – a defensive assignment and an offensive assignment – that we're mixing. We're going to continue to try different rotations. Having Zack [Novak] out one game and Manny [Harris] out a game, it showed some things, positively and negatively, on what we've got to do."
This wouldn't have much cause for concern if that quote came from, say, November or December, as the team tries to set a constant rotation before the Big Ten season. However, this is February, and the Wolverines need to make a run down the stretch to avoid another NIT appearance. I realize that missing Novak and Harris over the course of two games affected the regular rotation, except that there has been no regular rotation to speak of.

Kelvin Grady went from a 25-minute per game guy to playing eight minutes combined over the last three games (including a DNP-CD against UConn). Jevohn Shepherd started the season as a benchwarmer, played 32 minutes in the victory over Duke, fell out of the lineup completely, and now gets anywhere from 3-18 minutes per game. Besides Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims (and possibly Zack Novak), it doesn't seem like any player is sure how many minutes they're going to play during any given game.

Yes, the team is young, and the team's lack of size also means having to adjust the lineup based on the opponent. Still, I'm becoming a bit disturbed by the lack of a set rotation on Beilein's squad. I trust his judgment, and he has done an incredible job of turning around the program in less than two years. However, one has to think that the lack of consistency by the team has to stem in part from a lack of consistent playing time. I hope Beilein is able to figure out the right rotation before the team digs itself too deep a hole to climb out of.

No comments: