Instant Analysis: Michigan Beats Minnesota to Keep Bubble Hopes Alive

darius-layupHere are a few early thoughts from Joe. We’ll have some more tempo-free centric thoughts from Dylan posted later tonight or early tomorrow.

It’s safe to say that Michigan’s game against Minnesota in Ann Arbor was the turning point of the season. After playing perhaps their worst game of the year against the Gophers on Jan. 22, the Wolverines held a team meeting before traveling to East Lansing and beating the Spartans. They haven’t looked back since, and Michigan’s 70-63 win against Minnesota at The Barn couldn’t have been a more prominent display of how much this team has improved over the final third of the regular season.

Michigan started the game in a similar fashion to many recent games, getting off to a blazing-hot start from beyond the arc in the opening minutes. Tim Hardaway Jr. was unconscious, nailing four 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the game. But after building up a 12-point lead, the Wolverines went scoreless for the last 5:38 of the first half, during which time Minnesota crawled back with a 10-0 run to cut Michigan’s halftime lead to 35-33. After halftime, it was a dogfight. Michigan simply made the big plays down the stretch that they needed to make to leave with a win.

Darius Morris kept the Wolverines alive with 11 of his 17 points in the second half when nothing was falling for anyone else. Jordan Morgan, Zack Novak and Matt Vogrich all came up with some huge defensive rebounds late in the game. Zack Novak carried the team down the stretch: he nailed an NBA-range 3-pointer at the shotclock buzzer to put Michigan up two with 1:39 to go, then made a great play to steal an entry pass to Ralph Sampson III on the other end and threw a pinpoint pass to a streaking Darius, who finished at the rim and got the foul. Novak has really struggled on the offensive end in recent games, but there’s no doubt that his heart and sheer determination not to lose inspires the rest of this young roster.


Michigan has been great on the road all year with wins at Clemson, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa and this game proved no different (all coming after a loss). The Wolverines played with toughness and moxie in the face of a very impressive effort by Minnesota. This season is actually the first in which Michigan has won four Big Ten road games since 2002-03. Michigan and Minnesota were both coming off of heartbreaking losses at home, but neither played like it. Each team got the other’s best shot, but Michigan landed the final punch. We saw great performances from Tim Hardaway Jr. (22 points), Darius Morris (17 points and seven assists) and Stu Douglass (12 points). And while Zack didn’t fill up the box score, he had six points and five rebounds, as well as the two biggest Michigan plays of the game. Novak was clearly outmatched physically against Minnesota’s bigs but he battled the whole night and made a huge steal at the end. With this win, Michigan keeps NCAA tournament bubble scenarios alive and sets up what could be the biggest game against Michigan State in recent history, at home next Saturday.

  • umhoopsreader

    Regardless of the outcome of this season, this win certainly bodes well for this young team. I was still finding pieces of my heart to put back together from Wednesday, I can only imagine how hard that was on this team. To respond in this fashion, in a must-win situation on the road in conference…speaks to the coaching and leadership of this team. Speaking of leadership…Novak. That is all

  • Tweeter

    Way to respond young men. These kids sure are growing up fast. did we really need to put up Novak getting posterized? that was pretty sick though

  • ToBlav

    One thing I noticed that is a huge positive for the future was Metrics getting in and mixing it up more than he used to.

  • lordfoul

    Michigan actually went scoreless for 5 minutes to start the second half. I noticed because I turned on the game with Michigan up 35-25 and had to wonder if doing so had cursed the Wolverines.

    Great win on the road. No question our Freshmen > Minny’s Freshmen.

    • lordfoul

      For a total of ~ 10 min scoreless FTR.

  • AC1997

    5 Keys to the Game:

    I thought one key to the game on a negative note was the last 3 minutes of the first half. Michigan went scoreless, but they were getting GREAT open looks. I think there were 4-5 wide open three point shots thanks to great ball movement. The shots just didn’t fall. Every one was a good look, though McLimans (and Horford) need to stop taking deep shots.

    • Kenny

      I am sure these are shots that they would make in practice. It is about confidence for those young players. Vogrich missed most of his shots last year and Hardaway was streaky at the best at the beginning.

  • JimC

    Dylan is the king of tempo free centric thinking!

    • Beast1530

      You mean Ken Pomeroy. He has done it for years and it picked up steam for a few years. I’m pretty sure that it’ll be in the mainstream down the road.

  • jmblue

    Two big numbers from the box score: only five team turnovers, and 8-9 free throw shooting. We did the little things.

  • Rob Pelinka

    This TEAM is better than the tourney team of two years ago. Great things are on the Horizon!

    • BeileinsBricks

      I wouldn’t go that far…that team had really big non-conference wins, and multiple players that could handle the basketball. This year’s team has been a pleasant surprise, but to match that team’s performance they would’ve had to beat Kansas and Syracuse for equivalent wins to that year’s Duke and UCLA wins. Plus they smoked a really good Purdue team at home.

      Here’s hoping they win 3 more, as I think that gets us on the bubble nearly looking in.

      • Mith

        Agreed, this squad doesn’t have the same resume as two years ago, but I do think they are better.

        If they win 3 more I think they’ll be a stone cold lock. I seriously think 2 is probably going to get the job done.

      • Adam

        3 more and I think they are IN easy… 2 more and they are riiiight on the bubble

      • George

        Come on guys. They don’t need 3 more wins. I think if they beat State they are in. Unless they lose their first game in the Big Ten Tournament….which that would only be a negative if it is Iowa or Indiana.

  • Brian W

    Zak Irvin is going to visit Louisville with Gary Harris…

    Jordan Hare got into foul trouble against Detroit Country Day, but had 19 points and 14 rebounds. Amir Williams had 32 points.

  • Rob Pelinka

    Yes, they don’t have the big wins but i’ll take this roster over that roster. Duke lost in the sweet sixteen and UCLA lost in the second round, the same round Michigan lost two years ago. Somehow I think Kansas and Syracuse are better than those teams and will go farther in this years tournament. Michigan lost in the beginning of the season to Syracuse playing with a very young inexperienced team and they are much better now. Missed free throws and bank shots happen but I’ll take this team anyday!

  • ZRL

    2008-2009 had some big wins, but they also got blown out a lot. This year’s team is much more consistent, and Ken Pomeroy agrees this is a better team.

    • Nick

      actually as of now.. this team isn’t better. They have a higher Pomeroy rank, but not a higher rating (the number). 2011 PYTHAG = .8410 while 2009 PYTHAG = .8585

      The distribution is different as this years bubble is relatively weaker.

      That said, you can argue that some of our wins this year (NW, IND, CLEM) were actually bigger beatdowns than the score would indicate, but to state that they are flat out better in terms of that metric is false

  • BeileinsBricks

    I guess Virginia Tech’s win against Duke probably gets them off the bubble and in. I wonder if Colorado’s win gets them in the bubble now…things are going to get very interesting. I guess it’s just a matter of the team taking care of business and there’s really no use worrying about what’s happening with the other teams on or near the bubble.

  • AG2

    In my opinion, if Michigan beats MSU, we’re getting a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament, probably end up playing Illinois in the 4-5 game. Beat Illinois to get to the semifinals, and we’re in.

  • Rob Pelinka

    For whatever it’s worth Lunardi just put UM as one of the last four in – just win baby! Thinking of making the road trip from the Baltimore to Chrisler next weekend to see the clincher, hopefully it’s in the cards for or all of us! Go Blue!

    • gpsimms

      just saw that–weird how lunardi was all “michigan’s resume is terrible, they’re nowhere near the bubble” and then a win against a team which has lost 6 of its last 7 or 5 of 6 or whatever suddenly propels us to in…

      anyway, i’ll take! i would give anything to sweep sparty and punch our ticket in indy. i live here, and hope to get to conseco for our games.

      • um basketball fan

        Where is it?

    • Giddings

      Did Lunardi say that on Sportscenter or something? I don’t see it on at all.

      • SteinerBlue

        @ Giddings.

        I saw this while watching SportsCenter. Michigan was definitely listed as Last Four In along with Richmond, Alabama and Baylor.

        • grandchamp

          Yeah Lunardi always rips on us saying that Harvard is our best win and they just lost to a bad team today and now he has us in all of a sudden. RPI is so outdated and needs to stop being referred to constantly. Kenpom and Sagarin ratings are far far more accurate than that outdated RPI crap.

          • SteinerBlue

            Yeah, this represents quite a big jump in Lunardi’s opinion of our chances. I’m guessing that he moved us onto the S-line where Minnesota was prior to today. They were the second team out prior to our W, and some other Bubble teams lost today.

            I’m also guessing the 5-5 record in true road wins contributed as well.

          • Jeff

            Yeah, it’s kind of funny that he acted like we weren’t not even worth discussing and then one win later he has us in. Same with the bubble watch guy, hasn’t put us on the watch yet. Ah well, those guys aren’t on the committe anyway, although Lunardi’s bracket is usually pretty accurate.

  • Kainkitizen

    Please do Rob. The alumni needs to show some love especially against the team to the west and what’s on the line with this game. It would be great to see you and hopefully others from the players alumni of our great university at the game cheering on this year team. Help this team be inspired.

  • um basketball fan
  • Tweeter

    just got back from the bah, and I was equally stunned to see that Lunardi had put us in. Doesnt make any sense. A few days ago he was dissing UM fans for asking him if a win over Wisky would put us in, yet a loss in that game and a win against a currently poor Minny team, and were in. I think the committtee may have a real tough time deciding this year and a lot of these bracketologists may get it wrong.

    • grandchamp

      Agree, we weren’t even on Lunardi’s radar and now we beat a train wreck of a team and we are in all of a sudden?? Every road win in the big 10 is huge and very tough but it doesn’t really make any sense. Hopefully we win next week and then some games in the BTT so we don’t have to sweat out selection Sunday like 2 years ago.

    • J.D.

      You’re right though Michigan are the Baby blues, no one is more worthy of the title diaper dandies than U of M. If Michigan gets to 9-9 in conference, and finishes 5th in the big ten, sweeping both the 6 and 7 seed. It is going to be hard for anyone including some puffed up selection committee to punch our ticket. Everyone loves an underdog. Did you see Eminem’s super Bowl commercial for Chrysler (If you’re my age you know the song, if not listen to it). we have been “chewed up and spit out and booed of stage” and now it’s time for those other teams to “pay the pied piper”. Our big games have been lost in the worst way for two straight seasons. I have to listen to Sparty talk garbage everyday, I wanna win next week to be so one sided there is no question they are an NIT team and we are NCAA bound (I used to have football).

      Seriously, I don’t think MSU could beat us tomorrow on no rest. We are playing so well right now Novak is hitting BIG game changing threes.

      • George

        you mean not punch our ticket? The “punched ticket” gets you on the bus.

  • AG2

    I think what Michigan benefited from the most was the poor showing by mid-majors today. VCU lost another home game so its looking less likely that there will be 3 CAA teams. Conference USA is an even bigger train wreck than before, and Colorado State just lost to a terrible Air Force team meaning the Mountain West is probably a 3 bid league.

    • Brick

      Colorado State is done. Memphis lost to UTEP by 27.

  • KRN

    There are three clips to watch under the Journey 2011 Bonus tab related to the upcoming episode featuring Morris.

  • Mattski

    Sometimes I long to see an old-fashioned box score from these games. Wonder where one could be had. . .

    • Brian W

      Here’s a boxscore from yesterday’s game:

      • Mattski

        Appreciate it.

        • Mattski

          Two things that stand out: Stu puts in a lot of minutes for this team. And the bench is to a point where they don’t hurt us. Vogrich, Colton, Smotrycz–you would wince when they were in sometimes in the early season. . . guys are rested down the stretch. May help in the B10 tourney.

  • michigancic

    I really hope that we get in. I don’t think a victory against Michigan state gets us in. I really don’t care about all the talk of comparisons from two years ago. Who cares. We need to take things one game at a time. Let’s focus in practice this week and close out the regular season with a . Next year we will b seasoned and in the top twenty with an excellent class coming in. Beilien is doing some excellent coaching.

  • JimC

    ESPNU (Dino Gaudio, who?) says we are in the Last 4 IN right now.

  • Mattski

    Sparty has a large game against Purdue today, two days to prep for Iowa, then they come to Crisler two days later. Hope the Boilers crush them today, but they are rested and playing pretty well:–rested-for-Purdue

  • Kenny

    Some observations after watch the game again,

    1. Christian/Smotrysz combo played very well on defense and was able to push the tempo on offense which neutralized Christian’s less than effective offensive games. It was when we opened the 12pt lead.
    2. Smotrysz continues to show improvement in his interior play
    3. Morgan must have practiced a lot of FTs.
    4. Horford looks as tall as Smotrysz if not taller. He could be still growing, should’ve been red-shirted.

    • Sam

      One observation for me: People still don’t know how to spell Smotrycz correctly, even if they have watched every Michigan game this season.

  • Dirtgrain

    Novak had the last laugh–very inspiring play from him.

  • J.D.

    I like the image for this article, Mbakwe tea-bagging Novak. I think the reason Novak didn’t contest that shot is because it was going down one way or the other, and he didn’t want to get posterized. But he did anyway.

  • Adam Sobczak

    First of all, this is a kick website! nice job with this site! Go Blue! let’s take down the Sparties next Saturday! We got a chance to beat MSU twice in a season! that hasn’t happened in a long time! Come on Ann Arbor…..make some noise Saturday! let’s get rowdy! I must admit, sometimes our crowds at the big house dissapoint me…..let’s get loud! let’s blow the roof off Crisler, so they have to build a new arena!
    Sweet victory against the Gophers. what a clutch three by Novak near the one minute mark! way to be novak! he’s got a great shot! keep shooting!