Thursday, February 19, 2009
I had completely forgotten. Good thing I heard it on the radio. I, once again, don't have time for a real in depth preview, but I at least want to put a little something down.
As I'm sure you are aware, Michigan was a great story early in the season after knocking off both Duke and UCLA and rushing to a 13-3 record, but has since collapsed on itself going 2-7 after that start before winning in overtime at Northwestern on Sunday. They are now on the outside of the bubble at 16-10 and 6-7 in the conference. A very strong strength of schedule, 18th in the country, and an ok RPI (58th) say they still have a shot. With that SOS, a 9-9 finish in the conference might be enough to get them in. They'll have to go just 3-2 to get there, but with three road games and a home game against Purdue, tonight is an absolute must win.
Michigan leads the Big Ten in 3-pointers made and attempted, but are last in 3 point shooting percentage at just 31.7% and don't have a single player who hits more than 36%. Talk about your all-time failures. Hey Beilein, I don't want to tell you how to coach but you might want to at least consider waiting on breaking out your crazy Rick Rickert-esque West Virginia "everybody shoot a three pointer every time you touch it no matter where or who you are" offense until you, you know, get some guys who can actually shoot.
Interestingly, the Gophers defend the two point shot very well, and actually are the best in the country in blocking shots, but aren't particularly stout against the three pointer, allowing opponents to shoot 34% - about the nation's average.
They will also have to worry about Michigan's killer NBA Jam tandem, Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, who score almost 50% of the team's points. Harris was defending well by Westbrook last season, but L-Dub seems to have inexplicably lost the fire he seemed to have for most of his Gopher career, and almost seems to be going through the motions at this point. Sims is about 1,000 times better this year than last, so it's irrelevant to even look at his past performance. He will be a good test for Ralph and Colton, although it wouldn't surprise me to see Damian on him at times.
Defensively, Michigan is pretty much an average team for the NCAA, which means they are a poor team to Big Ten standards. Their biggest weakness would be defending the two point shot, and they are slightly better than average against the three.
Talent-wise, this should be no contest. Outside of Manny and Sims, the Wolverines are pretty bare, while the Gophers can legitimately go 9.5 deep. Even so, Michigan does have the two best players in this game, home court advantage, and desperation on their side. I would love to pick the Gophers based on what I've seen, but their last three road games have been a blowout and two would be blowouts if not for huge, fluky shooting nights from the Hoff and then Devoe.
This team gives me zero reason to believe in them. I'm terrified Al Nolen is going to turn it over 7 times, and one (or more) of those three point chucking jackass sidekicks for Michigan is going to get hot. Michigan 73, Minnesota 60 (although Sampson should have a good game).
From the Barn did a nice Q&A collaboration with the Michigan blog UM Hoops, so go read it.