Sunday, March 18, 2012

Michigan Basketball Ends Its Season

First thing first.  I realize this is a little bit of a delayed post, but #1, I wanted a little time to "cool down" so I didn't blame one player or one play for the team's loss and #2, it was St. Patrick's Day!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  Michigan showed its flaws on Friday night against Ohio.  As I said in my preview, this  Ohio squad was not a team that should be overlooked.  Michigan was undeniably the better team, but that didn't mean Ohio wasn't talented and capable of upsetting the Wolverines.  D. J. Cooper is certainly a talented player and he brought his skills to the floor on Friday.  He ended the night with 21 points and completed annihilated what had been a good defense up to this point.

Sure, Michigan only gave up 65 points in the game, which would still be pretty good compared to most of the country, but it was the way that they gave up those 65 points that made it so frustrating.  Ohio was well-defended by Michigan at times, but on numerous occasions Cooper or another player would just run around one player for an easy lay-up and 2 points.  One or two of those plays won't kill a team, but when you consistently give up those and are fighting for every point on the offensive side, it's pretty hard to win.

This trend is even more obvious with a quick look at the game stats.  Typically, during these type of "upset" games, the winning team will often have an insane 3 PT percentage or another stat that propels them to victory.  However, Ohio barely shot above their season average from long range.  They did shoot very well from the free throw line, but Michigan was putting some of their best shooters on the line, which doesn't help.  Plus, Michigan shot nearly the same percentage on the free throw line as well.  The fact that Ohio didn't have any insane trends in their shooting shows that they truly defeated Michigan and this wasn't just a fluke game.

Now, fans should be upset with what was a weak team performance.  However, the loss was not the fault of one single play or one single player.  I think the obvious scapegoat seemed was Evan Smotrycz because he had a few key miscues near the end of the game. Somehow, I guess people forgot the 15 points he earned with just 7 attempts and the 7 rebounds he had.  Blaming a guy who only missed one shot with 7 attempts, whether he had turnovers or fouls, just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

So, the game was a massive letdown.  Fans were disappointed and the players seemed disheveled near the end and after the game.  However, that doesn't mean Michigan basketball is dead.  I think after losses like the one the Wolverines had on Friday, it's important to remember the season's accomplishments and potential for next year:

2011-2012 Wolverines

  • 24-10 Overall Record
  • 13-5 Big Ten Record
  • Won Big Ten Championship
  • Received 3rd Bid In 4 Years For The NCAA Tournament
  • Highest NCAA Seeding Since 1998
  • Received A 2 Seed To The Big Ten Tournament
  • Beat 9 Big Ten Teams (didn't beat Iowa)
  • Beat MSU, OSU, Wisconsin, Indiana
  • Finished 3rd In The Maui Invitational
  • Ranked The Entire Season

2012-2013 Wolverines
  • 3 Returning Starters
  • 4 Of Top 6 Team Scorers Return
  • 11th Rated Incoming Recruiting Class
  • All 3 Commits Are In the ESPNU 100

I think a quick look through those facts should make any Michigan fan excited.  Not only has it been a pretty remarkable season, but the team is set-up for a good run next year as well.  The team returns the majority of its talent and is bringing in players that are higher rated than the ones that are leaving or staying on campus.  For instance, for the majority of the season, none of Michigan's starters were rated above higher than a 3* out of high school.  Even Burke and Hardaway were only rated as 3*s coming into Michigan.  Michigan's next incoming recruit class has nobody ranked lower than a 4*.

That's a pretty big upgrade on talent.  Of course, as we've learned time and time again, recruiting does not automatically mean wins.  However, Beilein has been able to accomplish a lot with less "talented" players.  I mean, take a quick look at Ohio State.  Many of their current starters are 5* recruits.  Craft was only a 3*, but Sullinger and Thomas were both 5* recruits.  This is pretty significant because almost everybody on the Buckeyes was more highly sought than any of Michigan's players.  In fact, Thad Matta didn't even really recruit Trey Burke.  The fact that Michigan didn't just compete with the Buckeyes, but split the Big Ten Championship is pretty significant because of the talent disparity.

The bottom-line is that Michigan is in a lot better shape than it has been in a very long time.  Michigan has been and will continue to do some great things on the court, primarily because of Beilein's excellent coaching. I see no reason this team won't at least be a pre-season Big Ten favorite.  If not, they are sure to be predicted in the top two or three teams.  Even though Friday's loss was disappointing, there's a lot to be excited about when it comes to Michigan hoops.

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