Guest Blogging: The 2007-2008 Season

Dylan Burkhardt

Thomas McCanna is going to be helping out around the site in various ways and he agreed to write a review of the season. I figured that you have heard what I have to say on the season every game so it would be good to get an outside perspective. After this I am going to work on putting together a report card/review of each players season and what they need to work on. But here’s Thomas’ recap:

Going into the 2007-2008 season, there was a sense of rebirth in the Michigan Basketball program.  Tommy Amaker had done an admirable job of putting some respectability back into the Michigan Basketball program after the Ed Martin scandal and the failure of his predecessor Brian Ellerbe.  Unfortunately, restoring a clean image was the best Amaker could do in his 6 year run at Michigan.  Amaker seemed to always be on the fringe of getting the program back to national relevance, but whether it was injuries, poor performance on the floor at the worst possible times, or some tough luck in recruiting, Amaker just could not get the program over the hump.

John Beilein was hired in April of 2007 and he came to the Michigan program with a reputation as a rebuilder of ailing programs.  His track record at Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia suggested that given time, Beilein could get Michigan back to national relevance.  In his early days after his hire, Beilein made it clear that he was no miracle worker and getting Michigan back to the NCAA’s would be a process.  Beilein also said in no uncertain terms that he came to Michigan because he thought he could recruit the kind of talent that could bring UM back to an elite level.

The situation Beilein inherited at UM in terms of talent, facilities and fan support was far from ideal. In terms of roster composition, there were certainly some talented pieces, but it was not a match made in heaven.  The upshot for Beilein was he came into a situation where he would be coaching the highest ranked recruits of his career. The bad news was, the talent on the roster was extremely inexperienced and the rest of the roster was comprised of mismatched pieces that didn’t blend well together, regardless of the style of play Beilein choose to implement.

Beilein’s most experienced player was Ron Coleman who averaged a little less than 6ppg the 2006-07 season.  His second most experienced player was Jerrett Smith who had similar numbers to Coleman.  Epke Udoh played solid minutes for most of the 2006-07 season and Deshawn Sims after dealing with a personal tragedy early in the his freshman year, started to show why he was such a coveted recruit putting up decent numbers for UM the last few games of last year.  Beyond that, Beilein was putting a lot on the shoulders of incoming freshman Manny Harris, Kelvin Grady and an assortment of other guys who had yet to contribute at UM either because they were transfers sitting out or coming off a redshirt year.

Needless to say, Beilein had some challenges ahead of him.  He not only had to deal with inexperienced talent, he had no returner who could be considered a true floor leader.  The returners in the UM program had some abilities, but it certainly didn’t mesh very well with what Coach Beilein wanted to do in terms of offensive and defensive scheme.

Beilein had a tough choice going into the season.  He could implement his systemwith a bunch of guys not recruited to play that style, or he could try and figure out a different style, one that would mesh better with the skills the team he inherited possessed.  Right or wrong, Beilein felt is was prudent to implement his system. 

After game 2, the early returns were positive.  Although UM had mopped up on a couple of cream puffs, it looked as if the players took really well to the new style and they seemed very comfortable and confident in what they were doing.  Beilein cautioned that there was still a lot more room for growth and that was clearly evident when they headed to Georgetown in their 3rd game of the year.  Georgetown really took it Michigan and in many ways, this was the start of what would be a very long 3 months.

After the Georgetown game, UM would really struggle.  The trip to Alaska while a great experience for the kids, was extremely tough and probably did very little to help the confidence of the team.  Losses to Butler and Western Kentucky were tough to take, especially considering both teams are classified as mid majors.  Now, anyone who knows anything about college basketball understands losing to both of those teams is nothing to be ashamed about, but for a team looking to build confidence and a fan base looking to get behind the team, it was a tough to take.

The month of December was a month to forget as UM played its share of big boys (Duke, UCLA) and despite hanging in with UCLA for about 33 minutes, UCLA was just too much for UM to handle.  UM did have a few winnable games scheduled during the month of December but unfortunately, a couple of those games didn’t turn out well for Michigan.  The Harvard and Central Michigan losses were especially disappointing.  Those performances did little to enhance the faith UM fans had in the program(and even Beilein to a certain degree) and it was clear the team was really struggling from a number of perspectives.

The non-conference schedule did not go as most fans expected. UM went into Big Ten Conference play with a 4-8 record.  Clearly, there wasn’t a lot of reason to expect much out of UM going into Big Ten play and other than an early road win vs. Northwestern, UM really struggled early in conference play. February proved to be a much better month, UM was able to secure some nice wins including a win on the road vs. Iowa and home wins vs. PSU, OSU and Illinois.  But, just when everything seemed to be on the upswing, UM had a couple of disappointing losses to NW at home and PSU on the road.

The Wolverines finished the season at the Big Ten Tournament with aconvincing (but ugly) win vs. Iowa and then got completely stoned vs. Wisconsin only managing 34 points.  Michigan finished the season 10-22 overall, 5-13 in the Big Ten.

The question then becomes, what does this year tell us about this team going forward.  If you want to look at the positives, once the roster settled the team seemed to begin to form a bit of an identity.  While still deficient in many areas, UM was feisty and was competitive in almost every BT game (especially road games).  While just being competitive is not enough, it is a start.  Add to that, while they did finish February on a little bit of down note, they did manage a 3 game Big Ten Conference winning streak and from February on, they were 5-6.  Again, these numbers aren’t exactly dominating, but it is clear improvements were made.

Looking at it from the other side, UM had some atrocious losses to teams they were clearly more talented than.  Harvard, CMU and Northwestern stick out like sore thumbs and those are performances that will eat at the UM for the foreseeable future.  Also, UM really struggled in the areas of shooting the 3 and defending the 3, which has many concerned going forward.  Finally, those who voice concerns point to a 2008 recruiting class that isn’t well thought of by the recruiting services and given the struggles last year, optimism is something in short supply.

Fans should take solace in the fact that Beilein is known to bounce back after tough first years in a newprogram and considering all the quality talent returns to this roster, there is some reason for hope.  Additionally, even though the gurus aren’t fawning over the ’08 UM recruiting class, Beilein is adding in pieces that will fill specific holes that should go along way in complimenting the talent on the current roster.

There are still questions abound going into next year.  Beilein still has his work cut out for him, but the combination of a “better” schedule and an infusion of players that can help balance this roster, there is reason to believe UM fans can expect marked improvement for the 2008-09 campaign. That certainly doesn’t mean improvement is guaranteed, but Beilein’s track record indicates UM fans have seen to the bottom of the barrel and things will only get better from here.

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  • Agree that Beilein made a decision from the beginning to implement his system (on offense, in particular) this season for better or worse. The incompatability of the roster with that system led to some of the bad losses, but it also sets up the returning players to mesh with Beilein’s own recruits to begin to take advantage of the system over the next couple years. DeShaun Sims, in particular, benefited by improving his perimeter shooting.

    Not sure Michigan picked up the 1-3-1 as much as Beilein would have liked, but they did seem to improve on defense (or defensive rebounding, at least) over the course of the season.


  • P.S. Feels much better to analyze someone else’s team today than my own.

  • Pingback: Wildcat for a day « Spartans Weblog()

  • Ky Fox

    john in 1 of his interviews just this past season claimed that UM did not defend the 3 point line that well. He claimed(which makes sense) that since really no one on the team could shoot real well(scout team or anyone who started)…it didnt force them to have to gaurd anyone out to, and beyond the 3 point line that often! He said they were a little confused as to how far out to gaurd some of theyre opponents! Well I think JB took care of that problem by grabbing two really goood shooters for next year! Not only will UM be a better shooting team on offense….but they will also be more adapted to defend a 3 point shooting butler, western kentuck, NW, so on and so forth! I believe that you have to have balance! you need a few guys that can shoot, but you also need guys that can really get up and down the court and play smothering defense as well as block shots! I think Jb will build that!
    My preditcions for next year are a 15 win season, give or take 1 or 2! Maybe three if we get a couple upsets!

  • Ky Fox

    15 wins is only 5 more wins from a year ago! And with losses to teams like central M, western kentuck(even tho they are a tourney team), harvard, NW, and penn state…it looks very realistic in my eyes! We can get some momentum going by beating those teams and really protect crisler, we could even upset some higher ranked teams!! Next season should be very interesting!

  • a2matt

    At orst I see 10 games. That would rewuire us to look alot like this year, with losses to teams we shouldnt lose to.

    At best, 20 wins (bubble team). Everything clicks and we beat who we should along with some upsets.

    My guess (if I had to bet on it) 15. Improvement, just not drastic improvement.

  • Ky Fox

    ya! Thats what im banking on! You have to think that we should do a lot better in the big ten as well! Indiana will be in shambles..losing white, likley gordon, stemler, and i think a couple others. Minnesota wont be that good..i mean they had a decent recruiting class come in but i dont expect anything. Penn state will be worse, iowa might be a little better, NW will be pretty bad as I think it could go…
    5-11. Everyone else
    realistic in my eyes! Call me a tad overly optimistic, but we shall see…..
    I agree with you tho matt!

  • a2matt

    Thats what Ive learned as a Michigan Basketball and Detroit Lion fan. If you’re not optimistic, your in for becoming a cranky grouch.

  • Ky Fox

    hope for the best! I really think beilein will bring us back tho! I really do!

  • UMbballDC

    Since we’re predicting, I see 17 wins next season.

    We had 10 this year and we couldn’t even shoot the ball, so we have to get better, which is good for at least 3 more wins. So that leaves just 4 more wins to reach 17.

    Looks like the Hockey team is going to the Frozen Four!

  • MooN

    They will make the tourney next year.

  • a2matt

    The NIT? Plausible.

  • Tom_McC

    Before we make predictions, I think we need to take a good long look at the schedule and play close attention to any of the tidbits we here in terms of how these guys are developing, especially the newcomers.

    As long as this group can stay healthy, they should make some nice strides in terms of comfort with each other and style of play. If the newcomers can step i and contribute, we should see a much better product next year.

  • BL

    I wouldnt underestimate illinois next year…they came on late (tourney) and just seem to be a team that can get better…although they do have the legion disease that has been effecting programs that he is in contact with……see UK after he left.

  • Benjamin

    The schedule will be very interesting. Until I see that I cannot make a prediction.

    Nice post, Thomas. Good job :)

  • Benjamin

    Legion disease. LOL. Hopefully its treatable.

  • old fan

    I posted this at Mgoblog but thought I would see if this crowd had any more comment:

    I had a discussion with a big ten die hard like myself. I wasn’t sure if we were missing someone and thought I would ask the group.

    From our estimation, there is only one sure fire NBA prospect in the entire Big Ten. Eric Gordon and maybe DJ White. Are there others that I am missing. Has there ever been this little talent in our league? How did this happen? Michigan alone used to have two NBA prospects on our teams at all times.

    Are there really only one to two prospects or am I missing someone?

  • a2matt

    The Big Ten’s talent is all underclassmen.

  • Gordon
    Etwaun Moore?
    Trevon Hughes?

    Few names… but in terms of locks… not that many and they are certainly all young.

  • BL

    Coble would get a look in the league…hes thin but can score

  • Jimmy

    DeShawn Sims has the body, if he can continue to develop the shot. Far from a lock but he’s an NBA prospect.

  • hat

    DeShawn can’t get too addicted to the outside shot. He’s got to develop a post game, too. He’s strong enough to establish position in the post.

  • Ky Fox

    exactly hat! In 1 of my other posts i said that the addition of stu, perry, and novak will have to allow deshawn to work at more of his strengths! He became too 3ball happy and while he got better at his outside stroke…i wouldnt count on that as being his bread and butter! Deshawn needs to add some dimensions to his game! I would like to see him face opponents up and be able to hurt them from three or be comfortable driving his defender to the rack! He has the ability…now he needs the attitude and mindset, as well as better shooters around him(which we have now)! But hat is rite…we cannot watch deshawn hoist soo many 3’s next yr like he did last yr! We need the brunt of the shooting to come from stu, novak, perry…and deshawn to shoot when its within the flow of the game and not because he has to or forcing things!

  • Ky Fox

    Im guessing most of you have watched Davidson give kansas all they wanted and then some! Well as im watching guys like Richards, Barr, and Curry….. I cannot help but draw some comparisons between guys like Barr to say a Zach Novak! Or a Richards to a Stu Douglass! If these guys can come in and shoot very well who knows what can happend! I would say UM will even have just as good of a supporting cast as Davidson’s!
    just an interesting comparison! Just goes to show you that you need guys that can stretch the defense! And we have at least a vision of that now!

  • old fan


    Your list is good but optimistic.

    What do you think that Manny would have to do to get a look by the league? He is fairly far away in my opinion. It’s incredible how good you have to be to be a first rounder nowadays. We have to remember that Alando Tucker has been sent to the D league and his bench minutes given to DJ Strawberry. It’s just hard to get a sniff with all of the international players, etc….

    I was also thinking that Lucas was a good call. He has to develop but he should be able to. His quickness puts him ahead of the rest.

    Koufas will also get a look because of size.

    Still, this is clearly the worst I have ever seen the Big Ten. The brutal style of play has finally caught up to us. This style even won in the tournament for a couple of years with mediocre talent (see MSU final four runs), but the general lack of style has led to a dearth of talent throughout the league.

    Maybe Beilien will be able to break the Izzo mold and show a different type of style. Providing an alternative scheme might be one of his great assets.

  • Joe McCune

    Only time will tell if the West Virginia coaches will work out at U of M. Beilein is a class act so I think he will win in a few years. He won at WV with lesser talent.

    I think the story is opposite with football. There is no Pat White on the horizon.