Photo: Michigan Basketball
Here are five thoughts on the 2011 Maui Invitational which tips off Monday afternoon with Michigan’s matinée showdown against Memphis. (2011 Maui Invitational Bracket) The tournament should be among the top preseason tournaments once again this year and will certainly provide an adequate first test for the 2011-12 Michigan Wolverines.
The Maui Invitational is among the most prestigious preseason tournaments and the 2011 field was touted as one of the strongest in tournament history. Duke, Tennessee, Memphis, Kansas, Georgetown, Michigan and UCLA were all in the NCAA Tournament a season ago and the name recognition is certainly as strong as ever.
The field might not be overrated but it’s clear that a number of tournament teams are in varying stages of rebuilding or transitioning. Memphis returns almost its entire roster from a season ago but almost every other team in the tournament will be dealing with major departures or changes. Duke is ranked in the top ten but lost the focal points of last year’s squad – Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving. Tennesseewelcomes a new coach, Cuonzo Martin, while Michigan transitions to a new point guard, Trey Burke. Kansasloses the Morris twins and Josh Selby and will rely on Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor to carry the scoring load. Georgetown will look for Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson to replace the production of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman. As for UCLA, the Bruins are 0-2 after suffering home losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State.
Michigan is going to shoot a lot of threes this season. John Beilein’s teams shoot threes and a majority of the players on the roster are shooters more than scorers. So while I’m not too concerned that Michigan has attempted 47% of its field goals from three point range (that number has fluctuated between 40 and 48 percent throughout John Beilein’s tenure in Ann Arbor), there are a couple of noticeable red flags early on.
Michigan’s defensive rebounding has been average at best, despite facing a number of front lines consisted mostly of 6-foot-7 centers. Can Michigan hold its own on the defensive glass against the athleticism of a team like Memphis or the height of a team like Duke?
Right now, only two Wolverines have been efficient scoring the ball inside the arc. Tim Hardaway Jr. (10 of 16 on twos) and Jordan Morgan (10 of 12 on twos). Morgan’s offense has mostly come off of set plays and put backs but there were finally some signs that the pick-and-roll game with Morgan, Hardaway or Burke was starting to develop. Hardaway, as we documented in Five Key Plays, has shown signs of being a significantly improved slasher thus far.
Michigan has actually done a pretty good job converting the two point shots that its attempted. The issue might be taking more bad threes than good twos as Michigan is shooting just 30% from three point range. When the offense stagnates John Beilein needs to find creative ways to get easy looks. Five or six easy looks for Jordan Morgan off of put backs, out of bounds plays or in transition can be enough to change the complexion of a game.
Four Players to Watch
Seth Curry – Duke
The Blue Devils have five players averaging double figures but Curry leads the team in points, assists and steals per game. He’s not his brother, yet, but he’s shooting nearly 60% on threes and has emerged as the focal point of the Duke offense.
Thomas Robinson – Kansas
Robinson is the anchor in the middle of the Kansas front court. He’s big strong and athletic and has notched a double-double in both of Kansas’s pre-Maui games.
Hollis Thompson – Georgetown
The Maui field features a number of teams relying on young, unproven, or former role players emerging into starring roes. Thompson is no exception as the junior is averaging 16 points and four rebounds per game, almost twice his per game scoring output a year ago.
Joe Jackson – Memphis
As a freshman, Jackson was an inefficient high volume shooter with a knack for turning the ball over. In his first game of the 2011-12 season, he was nearly perfect: 20 points on 6 of 7 shooting with seven assists and just two turnovers.
The Numbers Say
Ken Pomeroy ran log5 projections for the Maui Invitational and the results aren’t generally favorable for Michigan.
Semis Final Champ Duke 86.9 62.5 43.1 Kansas 62.2 52.4 25.4 Memphis 61.5 23.0 11.9 Georgetown 37.8 29.0 10.8 Michigan 38.5 10.8 4.5 UCLA 87.8 18.2 3.3 Tennessee 13.1 3.7 1.0 Chaminade 12.2 0.4 0.01
Pomeroy admits that Michigan’s close win over Western Illinois is negatively affecting Michigan’s ratings more than it should at this juncture. (The Memphis game went from a 50-50 pick-em in Pomeroy’s preseason ratings to a 38% chance for Michigan.) However, the Wolverines have the toughest draw in the tournament having to open against Memphis and face the tournament favorite in the semis if they are able to beat the Tigers.
Slowing the Pace
Run and gun shoot outs seem to be the primary memory when looking back on past Maui Invitational tournaments. Several of the teams in this year’s field are ready to run – namely Duke, Kansas and Memphis – but Michigan wants to play slow. The Wolverines have proven in past seasons that they are plenty comfortable playing in a 55 possession game and they don’t necessarily have the athletes to win in a track meet versus a team like Memphis or Duke at this juncture.