Duke 73, Michigan 71

Dylan Burkhardt
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Photo: Detroit News

It’s only fitting that Michigan’s season ended in this fashion. Not with heartbreak at the buzzer, but with a second half comeback that nobody more than a couple steps away from the Michigan bench would have deemed possible. Duke was the bigger, stronger and quicker team and held a 14-point lead with 11:40 to play, even a 12-point lead with 6:25 to play. This game was supposed to be over. These are the defending national champions playing a psuedo-home game with a roster full of NBA draft picks and senior All-Americans. 12-point Duke leads are supposed to grow into 20-point leads rather than dissolve down the stretch.

Not against this Michigan team. This team has far too much fight and poise to go down without lasting every round. No fighter is perfect and the Wolverines have certainly taken their fair share of head shots but they always get back up and fight again. You can question their athleticism or ability but you better not question this team’s moxie. No deficit is too great or situation too dire for this team to fold.

Michigan was left for dead before the season even started. The Wolverines were picked last in the conference and every sign of improvement was met with skepticism.  If a conference opening beat-down derailed optimism, a 1-6 Big Ten start eliminated hope. Making the NIT appeared to be an impossible goal. I was dreading the idea of blogging about 10 more losses and vividly remember searching haplessly up and down the schedule for games that Michigan could steal. I found one, maybe two.

Michigan won 10 more games, finished fourth in the Big Ten and won an NCAA tournament game. I challenge you to show me a more impressive turnaround at any other Division I school. What this team accomplished down the stretch wasn’t just impressive, it defied logic.

Michigan played its best basketball with its back to the wall. There’s no question how the 15 guys in the Michigan locker room – five of which averaged double figures in the NCAA tournament – will react to this adversity. They will face it head on like they have for the last 35 games and become better players. The rest of the Big Ten is expected to take a step back next year but they better watch out because this group won’t take one step forward, they’ll take two.

** If you really want the tempo-free analysis. Duke won this game because they got to the free throw line and dominated the offensive glass. Michigan stayed in the game with the second best shooting performance against Duke this season. Four factors here.

  • Dylan Burkhardt
    • Dylan Burkhardt

      And with that, I’m on the road. Thanks guys, it has been a really really fun season. This site is nothing without you guys.

      • Tweeter

        Dylan thanks as always. You guys did an unbelievable job this year with content and analysis. Its going to be a long offseason but next year could be very special. Travel safe.

        • Gary

          Great season – thanks Dylan, Joe, and everyone else who contributes to this site for helping make it so much fun.

        • maizeandbluebasketball

          Thank you for a great season. This was a great post, and was very well written. I’ve followed this site ever since the upset against UCLA two years ago and I’m so glad I found it

      • Thanks Dylan, you did a great job this season. Thank you very much.

      • grandchamp

        Thanks for all the hard work Dylan. What an enjoyable season for us all. Looking forward to being here during the off season downtime.

        • Mattski

          This site has added immeasurably to the pleasure of a fantastic season, Dylan. Thanks so much!

      • Dylan

        Thanks for all the kind words guys and remember there is a donate button in the sidebar if you are looking for a way to express gratitude. ;-)

        • Chris

          think ive looked at this site everyday since playing usc upstate. appreciate all the time you put in to it. great analysis of the final game. travel safe

        • Joel

          You, Joe, and everyone involved with the team did a great job this season, Dylan. BTW if we donate enough will you remove those ads that automatically expand if you move the mouse over them?? :P

        • CHris in NC

          Done! Worth every penny!

      • Thanks Dylan. Your blog has been a mainstay of us Meech Hoops fans, and it’s been a pleasure to watch it blossom along with our young team. I am a better fan because of your site, and for this I humbly thank you and Joe for all the work you guys put into it.

      • JR

        i just discovered this site recently, but now it’s on my main bookmarks.. Thanks for your extremely professional analysis and insight Dylan.. combined with all our shared love for Michigan Basketball, this site is something special and awesome.. GO BLUE, 6 long months until college football season, 8 months until our fantastic basketball team returns .. next year is Michigan’s for the taking! let’s win the whole damn thing next year!

      • Dirtgrain

        Thanks Dylan. This season was much more enjoyable thanks to your efforts–and the efforts of all the contributors here.

    • Ian

      Thanks for all the great analysis. I don’t comment much but that doesn’t mean I’m not reading. I’ll be needing this blog to help get through this loooong offseason.

  • Cyrus Ernesto “Ernie” Zirakzadeh

    Thanks for helping us follow the team, Dylan. This is a great site. And you are right about the team: all of them — the starters, the highly used reserves, and the enthusiatic members of the scout team — have courage, play with the right mix of wisdom and daring, and never give up. Go Blue — the best is ahead!

  • SS

    I like everyone else am so proud of this team! I grew up in the early 90’s and remember when UofM was relevant in bball and I feel like we’re back and I credit Beilein with much of it. I am looking at my bracket now and it’s amazing to think about how high this team’s ceiling is for next year compared to other teams in the bracket. This team is so much different than last year’s team that returned with high expectations…when is the last time we had this much depth (thinking about next year)…I know in the 2000s we have not had this much depth.

    Thanks, for all your hard work Dylan! Go Blue!

  • matt d

    I say this in all honesty……..this is perhaps the toughest group of kids I have seen on a basketball court. What they lack in athleticism and pure talent, they overcome with mental tenacity and teamwork. How can you not root for this team? I am usually a glass half empty kind of guy, but I must say that I truly believe this team will be ready to win a B10 championship next year pending Sullinger’s draft status(and part of me wants to say that Sullinger’s draft status isn’t a factor). The progress of the team, and the job Coach B has done is simply amazing. I love this team, they have the heart of a champion. Corny, but true. Good season boys, you’ve earned the respect of any objective basketball fan, regardless of team affiliation. Let’s get it next year. Go Blue!

  • “Not against this Michigan team. This team has far too much fight and poise to go down without lasting every round. No fighter is perfect and the Wolverines have certainly taken their fair share of head shots but they always get back up and fight again. You can question their athleticism or ability but you better not question this team’s moxie. No deficit is too great or situation too dire for this team to fold.”

    And that’s why I think that the inevitable comparisons between the 11-12 team to the 09-10 team will be completely wrong. Yes, they both return tons of talent/production from overachieving teams, but this team just has something that Manny and Deshawn’s Wolverines did not. Grit, heart, moxie, whatever, this team has it.

    • JD

      They also will have a ton of guards that can handle the ball.

      There were other issues but losing Grady, Merritt and Lee after our last tourney run doesn’t get mentioned enough.

      • So true. It’s extremely telling that Douglass was our undisputed number one point guard last year, and he’ll be third-string next year behind Morris and Burke (but he’ll still see plenty of minutes off of the ball, I’m sure).

        • MATTIZ

          I think Douglass will still start next year, playing guard but not the point. He’ll have too much experience and leadership qualities to not start.

          • cner16

            Douglass came off the bench every game until the second NW game. I think if Smot can improve his defense on oposing 4s, stu would provide a great spark off the bench next year. That being said, Stu will still get his minutes as he is our best perimeter defender.

          • He’ll play a lot, but I don’t think he’ll start ahead of Morris, Hardaway, Novak, Smotrycz, and Morgan now that Smotrycz can move to the four full time.

  • mac

    I cannot thank you enough Dylan.You guys did a fantastic job!Now the question is what am I gonna do now?

  • Jon

    What a year. I remember going to the USC Upstate game, seeing how we played, and thinking “man, this team is gonna struggle to get to the NIT”. We have watched a group of young men come together right before our eyes, and they have been impressive in doing so.

    The future is bright for this ballclub, and I can’t wait to see what else they will accomplish. Only 208 more days until October 14, 2011: the first day of fall practice.
    Go Blue.

  • Vinay

    Thanks for another great year of coverage, Dylan! Beilein is building something very special in Ann Arbor. Look out Sparty, here we come. Go Blue!

  • Coach Schiano

    yes, great job to the team, and great job to this site. particularly enjoyed the “five key plays” pieces – those are great ways to relive a game. well done!

  • SJWolv

    I feel Trey Burke is going to help this team more than people think. This kid is a player and we got a steal, Sullinger hid him from everyone and this year he is balling. If Stu plays 40 minutes in a game next year I will be shocked.

    • bskurtz

      I agree,its gonna be very tough to keep burke and brundidge off the court next year.Ime curious how coach b is going to divvy up the minutes.With the whole team back and the addition of two outstanding, underrated guards the sky is the limit with this team.I also expect Horford and Smotrycz to make big jumps next year too.I think Morgan is going to be a guy we can throw it down to consistantly and make a move and get a nice shot off.That would be a huge dimension added to this team next year.

  • ToBlav

    Thanks, I mean THANKS! to Dylan, Joe, and the rest who contributed to this site. And also to Darius, Zach, Stu, Jordan, Tim, Evan, Matt, Jon, Colton, Blake, Eso, Josh, Corey, and the redshirted Jordan, and who ever I’ve left off that should have been on the list.

    • ToBlav

      I knew I’d forget someone, but how could I leave out Coach Beilein.

      • ToBlav

        Or coaches, Bacari, Jordan, and Meyer.

  • Mattski

    outside of OSU–“after January 22, when D Mo called the player’s meeting after the Minn loss”–Michigan didn’t lose another game by more than 2 points. Unbelievable. And to think that we were all squinting at the schedule–after the out-of-conference sked–to imagine an NCAA berth; after the 1-6 start to try to conceive an NIT berth; then, as we inched back, all telling one another not to get our hopes up. . . all the way to an 8-seed and inches from dethroning Duke!!!!

  • jw44

    Hell of a season. A disappointing ending, but how can you not be proud of this group? No team had bigger balls this year. And, great work as always Dylan.

  • kinglouie

    Dylan, let me add my thanks for the wonderful job you did for all of us Michigan basketball fans. You developed an outstanding site–worthy of this terrific team that we saw come together this year. What a treat it was to watch such a fantastic effort by a young team that knew how to learn from both victory and defeat, that does not have the word “quit” in its vocabulary, that made the most of the talents of every one of its members, and which refused to accept anything less than excellence by playing great team basketball. Michigan Basketball is back! GO BLUE!

  • JT

    Great Job, as always, Dylan!! Awesome stuff all season long. Next year is going to be fun!! GO BLUE!!

  • Alex

    Thank you Dylan, Joe, David and Michigan Men’s Basketball for a great season.

  • CAW

    HEY MICH GREAT JOB AWESOME SHOW

    can’t wait for next season!

    • Joel

      lol Tim & Eric reference?

  • Romeowolv

    Thanks Dylan. Been here since this thing got first started. Its never been better.

  • JD

    I look forward to reading about us landing one more big for this year’s recruiting class!

  • wayman britt

    Just like the basketball team, this website never gave up, thanks Dylan, Joe and fellow posters. UM’s basketball program is definitely heading in the right direction – thanks to Beilein for that.

    Look forward, on this site, to look over the past season, analyzing the players, strengths & weaknesses, top five games/plays and hopefully welcoming more recruits.

  • Fred_Ex

    Thanks for all the write ups Dylan you’re the man. The site is so much fun and it’s nice to know that there are still some die hard Michigan hoops fans out there, what a season. It’s only right that it ended this way. See you guys next season I hope.

  • JD

    Echo the props to Dylan & Co. Great site here- Keep up the good work!

  • Paul

    Thanks Dylan for all the hard work this year. The future looks bright. I told my wife to get ready for next season – emotional investment will be sky high for the first time in a long, long time. This team is just so easy to root for on so many different dimensions. We are finally emerging from the dark ages of M basketball.

    No shame in losing by 2 to Duke, but man, as Coach K said, we played winning basketball today. Had the seeds fallen a bit differently it’s no stretch to think we could have put together a very nice tourney run. The luck of the draw – sometimes you just run into a buzzsaw.

  • Steve

    Great job on this site!!, I’ve never seen a site that can even touch this for Michigan Basketball fans. I’m so proud of these young men, I hurt for them because they were so close but am so excited to see how this will payoff for them come next year, Big Ten Champs!

  • Hathachips

    Can’t wait to see what MICH can do next season. Great team with unlimited potential. Excited to see the new recruits out there as well. You gonna have any updates about Crisler? I hope they put in new seats. those things they got now are ‘BARRASSING!!! HALOL!

  • Thanks for all your work. This blog is an amazing resource.

  • JeremyS

    Thanks a lot Dylan and Joe. Reading this site has made this season so much more enjoyable. I read the preview before each game and really look forward to the analysis after each game. Dylan, your use of statistics provide so much more information that you don’t get in the mainstream media. Great, great job.

    As with everyone else, I didn’t think this season would amount to much. We lost most of our offense when Harris and Sims left. Where would we get our offense from? Morris, Hardaway, Morgan were an awesome surprise.

    I can’t wait to see if all of these freshman can make a leap like Morris did this year. Next year has the potential to be soooo much fun.

    I am so proud of this team. GO BLUE!

  • TheYooper

    Thanks for all the updates and info. I was worried into coming this season, I thought if we played Detroit we were going to get destroyed. Great to make it back to the tourney. Will you be doing write-ups on the HS state finals this weekend?

  • Kainkitizen

    Every Michigan Basketball Fan should be excited and expressed with enjoyment. Coach K showed respect to us in a post-game interview even though we made him take his sport jacket off during a 2nd half time-out. The boys will be in the weight room getting bigger, stronger, and quicker the next 7 months as they continue playing pick-up open gym games with each other. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to see if some player alumni run with them a few times a week. Carlton and Trey should get to Ann Arbor as soon as they are done with High School graduation. I’m ready to see if Max commits this week to us. If he doesn’t where does Coach go with the last scholarship for next season? Does he wait and go after a decommitment from a coachless school?
    Inside the arena will look appetizing with new seats, new aisles, new roof, the list goes on and on with major improvements. We also need to celebrate the Player Development Center being ready and open for use when the new school year starts. Great things have started in motion, now it is time for ultimate success.
    one last thing, Excellent Job Dylan, Joe, and all of the Michigan Basketball Fans.

    98% of America was a Michigan Fan today for couple of hours. What a special feeling and thought!!!!

    • Rb

      Great job with the site Dylan. My favorite website bar none. Can’t wait for next year.

  • JD

    I have a feeling I’m going to be going through Wolverine Hoop Withdrawal Syndrome.

    I haven’t been this into an offseason since maybe the days of wondering if Kevin Garnett was going to pass his SAT’s in time before he had to declare for the NBA.

    Hopefully, there will be some bread crumbs on U of M hoop (good) news here and there over the summer to make November not seem so far away.

    Of course I’m looking forward to the football season as well.

    There’s a lot to be optimistic about for Maize & Blue sports.

  • MATTIZ

    Thanks for everything, Dylan. I love this site and your coverage and analysis is fantastic. Also, thanks to this team. They gave their all in almost every game and in every important situation. I’ve never watched a team with such heart. Very proud of how far they got and next year is looking so good. They were never afraid to give their all to teams who were supposed to beat them, and proved they could stick with them, both against Ohio State, Kansas and Duke. Nothing short of making that shot at the last second in today’s game could make me happier with how this season turned out. I can’t wait for next year.

  • jmblue

    Great effort by the team, and great job Dylan for getting all this up so soon.

    One question: how many different zone defenses did we play today? I thought I saw 1-3-1, 2-3, and even 2-1-2.

  • AG2

    Coach Beilein never ceases to amaze with his teams’ ability to overachieve. I had forgotten how much fun pulling for your team in the tournament was like. I’m very happy to see this team play and succeed, and I can’t wait for next year. We might get another shot at Duke and Kansas in Maui next Thanksgiving.

  • Johnnyumfan

    Dylan, this site was very good at pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the UM team. Great job and I look forward to UM BB 2011, should be an exciting season.

  • Troy

    Tough loss for the guys today, but I have no doubt in my mind that this team is destined for greatness in the near future. Great job Dylan covering this team all season.

  • Kainkitizen

    Hey Ann Arbor peeps, anybody drive past the Player Development Center recently to see how it is going with the construction process? Any current photos of the Player development center ??? Love to see some!

    • Just steele as of last Thursday. They have lots of work to do.

  • DFORD

    Great year we had and great job of keeping everybody up to speed Dylan. You and Joe get it in, so much respect and God bless!!! Go Blue…

  • Peter Sullivan

    Thanks for providing the best way to follow UM BB from afar. Being from Boston, I loved seeing Smots development over the year and was thrilled to see some of his moves to the hoop yesterday. This team won’t fade like last year’s and it looks like we’re in for some great hoop action in the future.

  • CHris in NC

    Thank you again Dylan for a great season. You are easily the best at what you do. Enjoy the break, you deserve it!

    OK, everyone, you know the drill. Tip jar on the side. Great blogging may be free, but it shouldn’t be! Send Dylan off to vacation with some gas and beer money!

    • JimC

      Amen to that brother!

  • Mattski

    Really–basketball savants like Tweeter and Dylan might need to weigh in on this–but the fascinating thing about what happened in the second half was not just the mythical 1-3-1 finally being unleashed like some kind of secret weapon, but the fascinating spectacle of our 1-3-1 against their four corners offense. That was–and I am a basketball neophyte when it comes to strategy–really fascinating.

    • Tweeter

      I don’t think their utilization of a 4 corners look was that rare. Most teams favor an even against odd, or, odd against even approach when facing a particular zone. Meaning if it is an odd front (1-3-1 or 3-2) defense, then they will go even on top (2 up, 1 high post, 2 low) on offense.

      Maybe the fascinating part you are referring to, was the fact that they used the 4 corners similar to how UNC used to use it late in games with the lead. Pretty much as a stall unless they had an open layup. I am not sure why Duke appeared to go this route. Maybe b/c they felt comfortable with the lead and didnt believe we could score enough on them. Maybe they were worried about turnovers if they attacked aggressively. I am really not sure what it was.

      Even though that strategy has been critized by analysts after the game, I am not so sure it was a mistake. Really the issue they had was not so much on offense as it was on defense. Michigan scored on like 8 of 9 possessions prior to the Morris miss at the end. If they play better defense down the stretch, or if Michigan does not make plays, then they probably win the game by 6-10 points.

      If they get really aggressive on offense against the zone, perhaps it leads to more turnovers or poor shots and Michigan ties the game up a lot quicker then they ever could have with the way Duke played it. If I was a Duke player/coach, the real focus of my attention would not be with the way they dealt with the zone but rather with the fact that they gave up some uncontested dunks and open jumpers down the stretch of that game.

  • JimC

    HEY regular readers & commenters, let’s kick-in a season ending bonus for Dylan & Joe.
    I just hit the DONATE button. C’mon you can do it.

    These guys put in a LOT of hours for us!
    This site has become not just an enhancement of the Michigan basketball season, it’s a prime piece of the whole experience, imho.
    (And we don’t want our bloggers to bail like that Sparty blogger who quit recently!)

    • Zok

      I agree. Lets donate $$ people… $1, $5, $10, $20. This site gets 100s of views if not 1000s so every little bit helps.

  • JeffT

    I was at the game. We sat a few rows over and behind the Duke bench. At one point, I thought coach K was going to throw a chair. The funny thing is we were down 6 or 8 at that point. I laughed and yelled to him to ask if he needed therapy. Reminds me of that scene in Die Hard. Only one team can make coach K lose it like that…Meeeechigan!

    I am completly stoked to see the how these young men improve next season.

    JT