- The seating chart for The Big Chill at the Big House has been released. My initial impression is that hockey season-ticket holders are going to have great seats, but it looks like student hockey season-ticket holders may get the shaft. The student section is going to be the same as it is for football games, and there is no indication that students with hockey season tickets will get to sit in the “Hockey Season Ticket Holder Seating” section, which are really the best seats in the stadium for this event. I’d imagine that all students will sit in the student section, which I will just say right now as a hockey season-ticket holder that I am not thrilled with that news. I would much rather sit in the seats that will have a great view than off in the corner, and I’m sure the rest of the hockey student section would agree.
- The public sale of tickets to this game begins on April 21.
- Bryan Hogan missed practice on Monday, meaning Shawn Hunwick will start for Michigan this weekend. I just hope Michigan makes it to the next round and Hogan is healthy enough to return by then.
- Sunday’s game against Lake Superior State, which will only be played if the first two games of the series are split, has a start time of 7:35 p.m. It doesn’t appear that Sunday’s game will be televised.
- Seniors DeShawn Sims, Zack Gibson, and Anthony Wright will be honored tonight before the Minnesota game. (Although Wright has a year of eligibility left, this is apparently going to be his final season since he is technically a senior and will graduate in a couple months.)
- Originally it was reported that Ben Cronin would be spending his spring break in Haiti, but as it turns out he is in New Orleans instead. Also part of this mission trip are football players Craig Roh and Jordan Reilly. You can read Cronin’s thoughts on the trip on MGoBlue.
- AnnArbor.com sat down with former Michigan kicker Philip Brabbs, who is battling multiple myeloma.
- Brandon Graham was one of two players this year to win the Chicago Tribune Silver Football, which goes to the league’s MVP as voted on by the conference’s coaches. Daryll Clark was the other player to win the award.
- Zoltan Mesko talked to AnnArbor.com about the Ray Guy Award, which will be handed out tomorrow night on ESPN.
- This week’s BlogPoll is out.
- UM Hoops put up a post making a case for Zack Gibson to get more playing time. I couldn’t agree more, especially with the size that Michigan will have to go up against tonight at Utah.
- Zack Gibson was spotted wearing a boot and revealed that he will be sidelined for a few weeks with an injury.
- It appears Michigan has new hockey jerseys again, and this year it looks like they are all the same basic design.
- Had anyone looked at Georgia’s future schedules from the very beginning, the rumor that Michigan was going to schedule a home-and-home with them probably wouldn’t have gone very far. Thankfully MGoBlog did just that, revealing that the chances of Michigan and Georgia playing aren’t all that likely, at least not in 2010 and 2011. If it were to still somehow happen, Georgia would have to rearrange its schedules quite a bit to make the matchup feasible.
- WolverineHistorian uploaded highlights of the 2006 Central Michigan game, which will always be memorable to me. It was the first and only time in Michigan Stadium history where there was a weather delay, and I happened to be in the press box with a media credential that day. Talk about perfect timing to watch a game in person while being indoors.
In the wake of a meltdown in Iowa that put Michigan one step closer to having its bubble burst, the Wolverines needed to make a statement with a win over Purdue on Thursday. Thanks to a career-high performance by DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris emphatically responding to his benching on Sunday with a great game last night, Michigan beat Purdue by a surprisingly high score of 87-78.
Usually Big Ten games lack offense and are about defense more than anything, but this was not your usual Big Ten game. Michigan exploded offensively to its highest-scoring conference game since 2000 thanks to a variety of reasons.
Part of this offensive explosion was because of the tempo of the game (not a whole lot of defense was played by either team), but most of it was Michigan’s shooting. In the second half, Michigan shot 81% from the field, which is simply astounding. For the game, Michigan shot 63% from the field and 50% from three-point land. With John Beilein’s offense you will usually get one of two extremes: shooting on fire or shooting very cold. Last night, Michigan went above and beyond their usual performance when they are on fire. I think the best way to describe Michigan last night is by using the phrase en fuego, as Dan Patrick used to say.
Although the first half of this game had a much slower pace than the second, there was still more offense than usual. Michigan had a 37-34 lead after the first 20 minutes, and that easily could have been a larger margin. Michigan botched a few fast breaks both because of poor execution and a questionable charging call on Manny Harris. That call actually led to a technical foul after assistant coach John Mahoney lost it on the sidelines. John Beilein tried to calm him down and lead him back to the bench, but Mahoney wasn’t done sharing his thoughts on the call with Ed Hightower, who proceeded to “T” him up. The technical allowed Purdue to cut the lead down to a single point, and the Boilermakers tied things up soon after. Michigan did take a 3-point lead into halftime, though, which was important.
In the second half, Michigan’s offense was nearly flawless. The gameplan, for the most part, was to get the ball to DeShawn Sims in the paint, where he was flat out dominate. Sims quickly caused JaJuan Johnson to leave the game with 4 fouls, leaving Purdue with a lack of height in the paint since another big man wasn’t playing due to flu-like symptoms. When Johnson was out of the game, Sims was dominating inside. When Johnson was in the game, Sims was no different, as Johnson didn’t want to foul out of the game. That allowed Sims to remain aggressive and blow by Johnson on more than a couple occasions.
With Sims playing so well in the paint, this opened up the floor for Manny Harris. I was worried that Harris would struggle to shake off what happened on Sunday, but I thankfully couldn’t have been more wrong. Harris drove to the basket quite a bit and confidently shot the ball from beyond the arc. Some of his threes still seemed a bit forced, but that was okay on this night since he was making them. Harris went 3-5 from three-point land and scored a total of 27 points. Normally a performance like that would make you the player of the game, but as I hinted at already, this night belonged to DeShawn Sims, who ended up scoring a career-high 29 points.
After Michigan jumped out to a 10-point lead seven minutes into the second half, Purdue made a run and cut the lead down to only 3 points. Manny Harris knocked down a huge three-pointer to stop the run, but it was Sims who helped Michigan take over this game for good. He kept blowing by Purdue defenders in the post, leading to high-percentage shots right at the basket. Then, as Michigan was starting to open up a large lead again, Sims delivered the knockout blow.
Sims first had an emphatic dunk after making another nice move to get past a Purdue defender. Then, Manny Harris outletted a pass down to Zack Novak for a mostly uncontested layup after E’Twaun Moore missed a three-pointer. Robbie Hummel then missed a three, and Sims blew the roof off Crisler on the next possession. He found himself wide open with the ball behind the three-point line and decided to shoot. Although Sims has been a decent three-point shooter in the past, he appeared to think about this one before he let it go. I imagine he was thinking about whether or not to shoot from so far away from the basket considering how easy it was for him to score in the paint. Given all the momentum on his side, though, Sims decided to shoot the ball, and the shot was perfect. Michigan suddenly led by 16 points.
For the final four and a half minutes of the game, Purdue tried to battle its way back by putting Michigan on the free throw line. This strategy proved to be effective, as Michigan struggled mightily from the charity stripe. Remember how great their shooting percentages were from three-point land and from the field in general? Well, they actually shot 60% from the free throw line, which was worse than what they shot from the field.
The poor free throw shooting down the stretch allowed Purdue to cut the lead all the way down to 7 points, but they simply ran out of time. Manny Harris put the exclamation point on this huge win by throwing it down after receiving a pass from Kelvin Grady. Harris was all by himself, and although I’m sure John Beilein would have rather seen Harris pull up and run out the clock, Manny wasn’t thinking anything but a dunk, which made the final score 87-78.
With such an impressive win over a ranked Purdue team, Michigan has put itself back in serious discussion of making the NCAA tournament. This win unfortunately doesn’t erase what happened against Iowa, but it gives Michigan a very good chance of making the Big Dance. .500 in the Big Ten is only a single win away, meaning Michigan will have to find a way to get at least one win in its final two games of the regular season, both of which are on the road. If they can win one more regular season game, I think a win in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament would punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament. An additional two wins would give them 20 for the season, and with a solid resume aside from the loss to Iowa, that should be more than enough to keep them out of the NIT.
Michigan’s first test on the road comes this Sunday at Wisconsin. The Badgers have had quite a roller coaster ride since beating Michigan with ease on New Year’s Eve. Wisconsin went on a six-game losing streak in the month of January but countered that with a five-game winning streak that was just snapped by Michigan State on Sunday. The Badgers are fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament just as Michigan is, so this will be a very tough test, especially since it is at the Kohl Center. Tip off for this game is set for 2 p.m. ET.
The most winnable game left on the schedule in my opinion is on March 7 at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers once seemed like a lock for the NCAA tournament, but they have lost five out of their last seven games. Just a week ago yesterday, Minnesota lost to Michigan at Crisler by double digits. With a 20-8 record they are still in decent shape when it comes to the Big Dance, but they need to finish strong to make sure their postseason tournament isn’t the NIT. That means that this game will especially be important, making for a tough test for Michigan since it is at Minnesota. Still, I think this is more winnable than the game at Wisconsin.
It would have been nice if Michigan had taken care of business against Iowa, because we would currently be talking about how the Wolverines are in the tourney as long as they take care of business in the Big Ten tournament. On top of that, Michigan would currently be in fourth place in the Big Ten if they had won at Iowa.
As nice as that scenario would have been, that isn’t reality. What is reality is that Michigan is on the cusp of making the NCAA tournament, but it will take some work. If Michigan can ride the momentum of the Purdue game and come away with one more win in the regular season, they will be on the positive side of the bubble. A win in the Big Ten tournament would cement their NCAA tournament bid, and a loss would leave them sitting on the edge of their seat on Selection Sunday. Either way, at least they still have a chance.
Before wrapping things up and heading out for the weekend, here are some notes from the Purdue game:
- Zack Novak and Stu Douglass scored 4 and 7 points, respectively. They each did as much as they needed to since DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris had things under control. Sims and Harris combined for 56 of Michigan’s 87 points, showing you just how dominate both players were on Thursday.
- I will point out that Douglass made an awesome pass over his head after making a steal. He was on the ground and threw it backwards over his head to Zack Novak, who got it to Manny Harris, who finished the play with a basket and drew a foul as well. It was a thing of beauty; that’s for sure.
- All three seniors scored in what hopefully was their final game at Crisler Arena (if Michigan ends up in the NIT they will have at least one more home game). C.J. Lee, who suffered from foul trouble, scored 4 points during his 14 minutes on the floor. David Merritt, who played for 17 minutes, scored 2 points off of a jumper from inside the three-point line. Finally, Jevohn Shepherd scored 4 points thanks to a free throw and a three-pointer.
- After not playing at all against Iowa, Kelvin Grady got 11 minutes of playing time last night and made 3 free throws at the end of the game.
- Laval Lucas-Perry continued to struggle. He only played for 8 minutes and scored 3 points on free throws, but he committed a few dumb fouls and left his man wide open at least once that I noticed. I liked that he drove the ball to the hoop and drew a couple of fouls, but it still looks like he is lacking the confidence to play like he did in December.
- Zack Gibson also struggled during his 6 minutes of action. Gibson had a careless turnover and was getting dominated in the post. I’m sure Purdue welcomed the time when Gibson was on the floor, because for the other 34 minutes they had to deal with DeShawn Sims, who, as mentioned, scored a career-high 29 points.
Michigan absolutely had to win on Sunday if it wanted to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive. Knowing that, Manny Harris put Michigan on his back and led the Wolverines to a 70-67 win over Northwestern in overtime. Harris scored 26 points during Sunday’s game, and all but 1 of them came in the second half and overtime. Despite Harris sitting for around eleven minutes of the first half due to foul trouble, Michigan kept the game close, setting up Harris to go off in the second half and overtime.
Trailing by 4 early on in the second half, Harris went on a 9-0 run in only three possessions. He nailed a three and followed that up with back-to-back three-point plays to give Michigan a 5-point lead. Northwestern didn’t let Michigan storm away, however, and actually regained the lead a few minutes later. The Wildcats led for the next ten or so minutes, but that lead was never more than a few points. Because of that, when Michigan went on a 9-0 run late in the second half, the lead shifted to 5 points in the Wolverines’ favor.
With less than two minutes remaining in the second half, Michigan had a few opportunities to close the door on Northwestern but couldn’t because of a few crucial mistakes. First, following a Northwestern basket, Stu Douglass failed to get the ball over half court before the referee counted to 10 seconds, meaning it was the Wildcats’ ball. NU’s Michael Thompson missed a three-pointer, but a C.J. Lee turnover with the shot clock running down on the following possession allowed Kevin Coble to tie the game on an awkward-looking three with 21 seconds left. Lee turned the ball over again as the clock ticked down, sending the game to OT.
In overtime, following an emphatic DeShawn Sims dunk and a couple Kevin Coble free throws, Manny Harris took over the game first by nailing a shot from just inside the arc. He followed with a layup on the next possession and then made a pair of free throws to give Michigan a 6-point advantage. Coble wasn’t about to let Northwestern go down without a fight, though, and scored 5 straight points. Coble first hit a pull up jumper to cut the lead down to one possession. After Stu Douglass turned the ball over, Coble was fouled by Sims on a three-point attempt. The foul was complete BS, as replays showed that Sims made no contact with Coble that affected his shot. Regardless, Sims fouled out and Coble made all of his free throw attempts, making this a 1-point game.
Harris returned to the free throw line on Michigan’s next possession and nailed both attempts to increase the lead to 3. Northwestern got a layup with 15 seconds left to again make this a 1-point game. C.J. Lee was fouled immediately on the inbounds pass, sending him to the line for a couple of critical free throws. Lee nailed both of them, putting the Wildcats down by 3 yet again. Northwestern didn’t make any circus threes this time around, and Zack Gibson came down with a rebound on the miss. He was quickly fouled and only made a single free throw, but this was no longer a one-possession game.
Northwestern made a layup with around a second left in the game, and before Michigan could even inbound the ball Zack Novak was fouled. Novak, like Gibson, made only 1 free throw. That meant that the lead was 3 points with only a second left, giving the Wildcats a chance to tie the game on a miracle three-pointer. Coble fittingly took the shot from three-quarters court, but unlike his shot to tie the game near the end of regulation, this heave did not go in. I don’t think he got it off in time, so it likely wouldn’t have counted anyways. Regardless, Michigan’s mostly clutch free throw shooting at the end of the game allowed them to hang on to a 70-67 victory, keeping their slim hopes of going to the Big Dance alive.
Some notes on this game:
- The referees were downright awful. Ed Hightower and company were whistle happy and called a whopping 45 fouls in this game. In total, Michigan and Northwestern shot 50 free throws. One team didn’t have a big advantage over the other in fouls or free throws, so that was good. But still, swallow your whistles once in a while.
- Because of foul trouble, DeShawn Sims only played in 26 minutes of this game. He ended up finishing with 8 points and 6 rebounds, which was a little disappointing. Michigan should have gone to Sims more in the post, as Northwestern is a team that can be taken advantage of in the paint. Being in foul trouble probably hindered that a bit, and his teammates didn’t do a very good job of getting the ball to him inside.
- Zack Novak had a solid game with 7 points and 7 rebounds.
- The same can’t be said for Stu Douglass offensively since he didn’t score at all, but he did a great job defensively.
- C.J. Lee also played another great game defensively. He also made 4 free throws and hit a three-pointer for a total of 7 points.
- Kelvin Grady played for about a minute in the later stages of this game in order to break the full-court press. Beilein went back to Lee shortly after, though, as his defense was simply too valuable to not have on the court.
- Laval Lucas-Perry had his best game in quite some time. In eight minutes on the floor, LLP scored 10 points on 5 free throws, a three-pointer, and an awesome fast-break layup that he made despite being fouled.
- Zack Gibson scored 6 points and had 4 rebounds in another solid performance.
- David Merritt and Anthony Wright each made a three-pointer in this game.
Michigan’s next game is on Thursday at home against Minnesota. This is the first of two meetings with the Golden Gophers in a two week or so span. Since Michigan’s chances of winning at Minnesota aren’t all that good, Michigan has to get a win on Thursday. Plus, this is the second contest in a huge four-game stretch that very well could determine whether or not Michigan makes the NCAA tournament. I would say Thursday’s game is another must-win for the Wolverines. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. on the BTN.
- Michigan may not have defeated #1 UConn on Saturday, but it was probably the closest thing to a moral victory you’ll ever see. Rather than get blown out by 20 or more points like many (myself included) thought would happen, Michigan pushed UConn to the limit and had them on upset alert. Not only that, but Michigan actually led for a good portion of this game and showed that despite being at a clear matchup disadvantage, they weren’t about to go down without a fight.
After trailing 8-1 early on, Michigan stormed back and went on a run that made this a close game. That run gave Michigan momentum to take the lead in the final seven minutes of the first half when they went on another run. Michigan actually led 29-21 with about four minutes left in the half before UConn made a comeback of their own. After Stu Douglass missed a layup that would have given Michigan a 10-point lead, UConn answered back with a 10-2 run that resulted in a tie game. Douglass made up for his mistake by draining a three-pointer with a minute left to put Michigan ahead 34-33 at halftime (UConn made a two-pointer with about 22 seconds left).
In the second half, UConn got off to a slow start and trailed Michigan 43-39. Michigan’s lead wouldn’t last for too long, though, as the Huskies went on an 18-4 run and looked like they were going to pull away for good. Stu Douglass, who had the best game of his career, wasn’t about to let that happen. Douglass nailed back-to-back three-pointers to cut the lead from 10 to 4 points and gave Michigan a chance to pull off the upset. UConn only scored a single point in the following three or so minutes, but Michigan’s offense struggled even more. Michigan couldn’t score at all during that span, allowing UConn to pull away and eventually win 69-61 thanks to good free throw shooting in the final minutes of the game.
- Even though Michigan was unable to pull off the upset, I am very impressed with how they played. Despite having to matchup against 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet with 6-foot-8 DeShawn Sims and 6-foot-10 Zack Gibson, both of whom got in foul trouble during this game, Michigan made the most out of what it had and managed to almost take a double digit lead in the first half. What’s even more impressive is that when UConn went up by 10, Michigan didn’t quit. Stu Douglass made two clutch threes to put Michigan within reach and made the final minutes of the game very interesting.
- In total, Stu Douglass had 6 three-pointers and 20 points. He led Michigan in scoring and was one of only two Wolverines to score in double digits. The other was Manny Harris, who had 15 points and only turned the ball over twice. As a team Michigan only turned the ball over 9 times. UConn, on the other hand, had 17 turnovers as a result of both sloppy play and good defense by Michigan.
- No offense to Laval Lucas-Perry, but I think it’s time he leaves the starting lineup. He only played for eight minutes on Saturday and scored 1 point. He missed three shots during his time on the floor and simply doesn’t look good at all. I don’t know if he is just lacking confidence or what right now, but unless he suddenly starts playing well again, it’s time for someone else to start.
- Kelvin Grady didn’t play at all, which is probably due to the fact that C.J. Lee did a great job defensively for the second straight game. Lee may not have scored in his 31 minutes on the floor, but he played a large role in containing UConn’s big men.
- Zack Gibson and DeShawn Sims both did a great job defending Hasheem Thabeet as best as they could. Thabeet did score 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but those numbers could have been much better if it wasn’t for the defense played by Gibson and Sims.
- Michigan’s most important game on the rest of the schedule is tomorrow night in Ann Arbor. Michigan State comes to town to play Michigan in the Wolverines’ third game in six nights. Aside from the fact that this is a rivalry game, this is so important because it will really set the tone for the remainder of the season for Michigan. A win would put them one step closer to an NCAA tournament berth, whereas a loss would make their bubble one step closer to bursting. Also, a win would give them the momentum necessary for a strong finish, which is vital to having any chance of making the Big Dance.
Tip off for the MSU game is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
- Michigan swept Lake Superior State over the weekend in hockey despite trailing 1-0 in both games. On Friday, Michigan tied the game up with six seconds left in the first period, giving them the momentum to take over the game and win 6-2. On Saturday, Michigan went down 1-0 with 47 seconds left in the first period but answered back with a goal of its own just 19 seconds later. Michigan added another goal in the second period to win 2-1.
- Michigan is currently in third-place in the CCHA standings and is only six points behind first-place Notre Dame. That makes the blown calls in the loss to Notre Dame two Saturdays ago even more frustrating, as a win would have put Michigan only two points back of first-place. Even so, Michigan is in second-place Miami’s rear-view mirror since only two points separate the Wolverines and RedHawks. Michigan has another two-game homestand this coming weekend (against Nebraska-Omaha), and another sweep could move them up in the standings to at least a tie for second if Miami doesn’t sweep Lake Superior State.
- MGoBlue posted interviews featuring Will Campbell and Vlad Emilien.
- MVictors has an update on the repairs done to Yost Arena. The exits that were affected by the damage in early January were reopened for the Notre Dame game on January 31, so the work done recently on Yost seems to have cleared up the issue for now.
- Gordie Howe is going to be at Yost before the Ferris State game on February 28 to autograph a limited edition picture featuring him and Red Berenson.
- Lane Kiffin either makes a fool out of himself, pisses a large number of people off, or does both every time he opens his mouth. Now that his comments about recruiting players from Pahokee are out, I think he has done both, but also inadvertently complimented Michigan coaches for their recruiting success.
“Let me break this down so that you guys understand in recruiting what this means to get this done,” he said. “Pahokee is probably the hardest area in Florida to ever go into as an out-of-state school or a school not named Florida Gators and get a guy. And for (assistant coach) Eddie Gran to be hired only less than three weeks ago to go down in there. … For those of you who haven’t been to Pahokee, there ain’t much going on.
“You take that hour drive up from south Florida, there ain’t a gas station that works. Nobody’s got enough money to even have shoes or a shirt on. This is an area that great players have come from for years, but you’ve got to have the right guy to go in there. If we didn’t have Eddie Gran on our staff, we probably don’t get in the school.
To get three players from Pahokee in two years, I guess Michigan must have some pretty amazing recruiters. I realize recruiting anybody from that region is tough, but why Kiffin feels the need to share every detail about it is beyond me. I get that he enjoys inflating his ego, but when it comes to the world of recruiting, the less said the better. Kiffin needs to learn that.
- After taking a beating against Penn State in Happy Valley just a couple weeks ago, Michigan had to flip the script and do the same thing to the Nittany Lions to get its season back on track. Another loss would pretty much end all NCAA tournament hopes, whereas an impressive win would keep the possibility of going to the Big Dance alive for another few days. Thankfully, last night the latter happened, as Michigan won 71-51 after an impressive second half.
At halftime, Michigan actually trailed 31-29 to Penn State. It’s not like U-M was playing bad, though. Penn State just ended up with a slim lead after a strong finish to the first half. The story in the second half would be much different, though. Michigan stepped up its defense and shut down Taylor Battle, who is actually a candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year. C.J. Lee covered Battle for most of the night and did an awesome job.
Offensively, Michigan shot 63.6% from the field in the final 20 minutes, which is the best shooting performance in a half by this team in recent memory. The combination of great defense and great shooting led to Michigan outscoring Penn State 42-20 in the second half, which ultimately led to a 20-point victory.
- One of the main reasons Michigan played so well is because Manny Harris returned to his old self. Harris scored 28 points and went 7-13 from the field. He nailed 3 three-pointers and made 11 free throws.
- Kelvin Grady not only didn’t start in this game, but he only played for 1 minute. While at the game, I figured Grady was injured or something, but apparently he is not. John Beilein simply benched him because of his recent play. Grady came into the game late in the second half when Penn State switched to a full-court press, but he was benched a minute or so later after letting Taylor Battle shoot an open three-pointer. Lee definitely played a better game defensively just from the minute we saw Grady on the floor, so I guess it made sense that Beilein kept Kelvin on the bench so much last night.
- I don’t know when a change will be made, but I doubt Laval Lucas-Perry will be starting for very much longer. He went 0-4 from the field last night and continued to struggle. For starting so strong when he returned in December, Lucas-Perry is really struggling right now, so I would expect his playing time to be reduced until he gets his game turned around.
- Zack Gibson started but only played 13 minutes. He scored 4 points and had 3 rebounds while in the game, which was a decent contribution for the most part. The reason his minutes were so limited even though he was a starter is because of the next bullet point.
- DeShawn Sims came off the bench in this game and scored 9 points and had 7 rebounds in 26 minutes. John Beilein brought Sims off the bench at the very start of the season to give the team a spark, and the strategy seemed to work last night. I would expect to see something similar in Michigan’s next game since it seems like Beilein may have finally found a lineup that he can stick with (sans LLP).
- Speaking of Michigan’s next game, they take a quick break from the Big Ten schedule to play at #1 Connecticut on Saturday. Honestly, I just hope Michigan can keep it somewhat respectable. I know this team has already upset UCLA and Duke, but UConn provides perhaps the worst matchup of any team on the schedule.
The Huskies have lots of height (their best player is 7-3), meaning we should expect a high percentage of their points to come in the paint. On top of that, rebounding should be interesting to watch when you consider that Michigan’s tallest player in the rotation is Zack Gibson at 6-10. The next tallest player is DeShawn Sims at 6-8. UConn has seven players that are 6-8 or taller and has three that are at least 7 feet tall. My heart says that an upset is possible, but let’s be realistic, Michigan will probably be lucky to not get run out of the gym.
Tip off for the UConn game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on ESPN (ESPN360.com as well). Remember, Michigan State comes to Crisler Arena on Tuesday, so it will be important for Michigan to escape Saturday’s game with only a few bruises. The MSU game will be Michigan’s third in six days, but it is perhaps the most important of all of them.
- Michigan plays Lake Superior State in hockey tonight and tomorrow at Yost. Both games start at 7:35 p.m. ET, but only Saturday’s game will be televised (on Comcast 900). Tonight’s game is going to be streamed live on MGoBlue.com, so that’s better than nothing.
- The Blog That Yost Built has a preview with 10 things to should know about LSSU.
- Will Campbell wants to be a starter this season, and he is going to work hard to put himself in position to crack the starting lineup.
- Via The Big House Blog, two linemen from Holland Christian are going to walk-on at Michigan.
- Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He accused Urban Meyer of cheating for calling Pahokee recruit Nu’Keese Richardson while Richardson was on a visit to Tennessee. Richardson actually ended up signing with Tennessee, even though he had been committed to Florida since May. Less than a day after the comments were made, the SEC and Florida announced that what Meyer did was not illegal, and Kiffin was basically forced to apologize for what he said.
What’s really interesting about this whole story is what is now coming out about Kiffin. After Richardson received a message from his high school coach at a Tennessee basketball game asking how his visit was going, Kiffin took the phone and pretended to be Richardson when he texted back a reply saying “Yes. I love it. My decision is made.” On top of that, Kiffin was apparently paranoid about Richardson’s letter of intent not making it to Tennessee, so he basically took a shot at Pahokee by orchestrating this whole thing where the LOI was sent from the elementary school instead of the high school, where people apparently couldn’t be trusted in Kiffin’s mind.
This whole story is very strange, but I think the conclusion we can reach is that Kiffin is a pretty big asshole. I don’t like Urban Meyer and find that some of his recruiting techniques (negative-recruiting a one-time Michigan commit and current player by lying to him after Lloyd Carr retired, for example) are pretty bad, but I really hope Florida pounds Tennessee into the ground next season to put Kiffin in his place. I know things work differently in the SEC, but I don’t know if Kiffin understand the amount of anger he is stirring up in opposing teams by his actions.
With Zack Novak suspended for throwing an elbow at the end of the Ohio State game earlier this week, Michigan’s bench was going to have to step it up for an upset to happen today at Purdue. Despite a terrible start that left Michigan scoreless for almost the first seven minutes of the game, the Wolverines only allowed Purdue to score 4 points during that stretch. The tough defense continued throughout the first half and allowed Michigan to keep it close and even take the lead once the offense started to do something. The offense got a spark from bench players, which was why they ended up playing pretty well by the end of the half. Michigan was outscoring Purdue in the bench points category quite a bit, which was exactly what had to happen.
After trading the lead for the final eight or so minutes of the first half, Michigan put together a great finish to go to the locker room with a 1-point advantage. Manny Harris made a tough shot with 24 or so seconds left to make cut the lead down to 1. Michigan then decided to foul Purdue a couple of times on the next possession since they had a few to give. That decision actually led to a turnover on a Purdue inbounds pass, allowing Michigan to take the lead at the buzzer. Harris drove the ball down the floor and missed a shot, but Zack Gibson was there to tip it in just before the buzzer sounded. At the half, Michigan surprisingly led 26-25.
At the 18:28 mark of the second half, Michigan lost this game. The Wolverines led 29-27, but any hopes of winning went out the window when Manny Harris inadvertently elbowed Chris Kramer in the nose. This wasn’t anything like Zack Novak’s elbow in the Ohio State game, which was clearly intentional. Harris simply swung his arms up to put the ball above his head and caught Kramer in the face with his elbow in the process. Cramer was playing close to Harris and probably got his nose broken on the hit. He was bleeding pretty badly and later returned with a mask.
Here’s the problem: The refs decided to eject Harris for the elbow, even though it was clearly not intentional. It didn’t seem like Harris would be ejected until the refs saw that Kramer was bleeding. After that, a flagrant foul was called and Harris was sent to the locker room. This was a ridiculous call simply because Harris didn’t intentionally hit Kramer. I can’t stress that enough. It was an accident.
John Beilein and referee Jim Burr argued over the ejection for a few minutes, but that didn’t change anything. It was obvious that Michigan was going to lose this game, even though they were ahead at the time of Harris’ ejection. Although Harris had only scored 5 point, Michigan couldn’t afford to lose him, especially with depth already being an issue for this game. Besides, without someone like him to drive to the basket and draw fouls, this game quickly got out of hand. The refs were quick to call fouls on Michigan when Purdue drove to the basket, which I’m sure was a result of Harris’ ejection and Beilein arguing with Burr.
After Harris left the game, Michigan was outscored 40-20 and went on to lose 67-49. Michigan was flat and just couldn’t do anything. Shots weren’t falling for Michigan, and Purdue was making their shots and getting to the free throw line. Add that to the fact that Michigan didn’t have someone like Harris to lead a comeback when the lead hit double digits and this turned into a blowout.
Michigan is now 4-6 in the Big Ten and 14-8 overall. Penn State comes to Crisler Arena on Thursday for the second meeting between the Nittany Lions and Wolverines this season. The first one was a blowout for Penn State, so hopefully things go better for Michigan this time around. Then, a week from today, Michigan heads east to play at Connecticut. The Huskies may be ranked #1 when this game happens, so it certainly has the makings of an ugly day for Michigan.
I’m not going to completely write off the season just yet, but it would take a miracle for Michigan to make the Big Dance now. They have a very tough schedule the rest of the way, and they just aren’t playing well. Although expectations rose greatly after the UCLA and Duke wins, this is more like the team most expected before the season. All it took was Big Ten play to make us all realize that.
|Next Page »|