2011 Maui Invitational: Five Pre-Tournament Thoughts

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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.

Overrated Field?

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.

Interior Woes

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 CurryDuke
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 RobinsonKansas
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 ThompsonGeorgetown
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 JacksonMemphis
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.

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Slowing the Pace

Team Pace Rank
Duke 70.92 37
Kansas 69.95 60
Memphis 69.57 71
Tennessee 67.54 168
UCLA 67.02 199
Georgetown 65.63 263
Michigan 62.85 331

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.

  • ZRL

    Can’t wait for the game tomorrow! I can see the game going one of 20 different ways. November bball games being played at 10am local time have a tendency to be very fluky. Hopefully we can catch the Tigers napping.

    • JimC

      yeah hopefully Memphis is out drinking Mai Tai’s tonight.

      Now I have to figure out how to get out of work early !

  • MaizenBlue

    Here’s one thought. UM is going to get smoked. This team needs time to jell as I don’t get the feeling they are playing in unison. Hope I am wrong but I think tomorrows game is going to be UGLY for Michigan.

    • Flwolve

      How many ugly games has UM played in over the past 4 years?  No matter how bad the team is, UM seldom gets blown out.  Even when we played Kansas a few years ago, we managed to keep it close.  I expect the same thing tomorrow.

  • C_weezy

    MICHIGAN WILL INDEED UPSET #10 MEMPHIS TOMORROW!!

  • Alex Glick

    If it’s a choice I’d rather finish the season strong than start out strong and then flounder. As much as I hate to admit it MSU has proven time and again that it’s not about how you start the season but how you finish. Of course we also proved this last year.

    That said let’s go get us some Tigers.

  • Mscany

    Hate to say it,but you guys will get DESTROYED.

  • Mattski

    Going on seeding alone, we should come fourth or fifth, right? There won’t be any shame in losing to some of these teams. Beilein teams don’t get usually run out of gyms, but even if we lose big, It’s all about getting better right now. 

    The fact that these tend to be running-and-gunning affairs does not play into Michigan’s hand.

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