David Merritt is a former Michigan basketball captain and played on the 2008-2009 NCAA Tournament Team. David is also the founder of I Miss You, Inc. & The IMU Brand, an apparel company focused on offering high quality product while spreading happiness and bettering communities.
This one hurts and not just because of the agonizing nature of final seconds. It was painful because Michigan had a chance to win despite playing an excruciatingly poor offensive game and just couldn’t find the big play necessary to steal a win. In a way, Stu Douglass’ desperation heave was a microcosm of Michigan’s season: so close but just not quite enough.
I’m not going to focus much on the final play. Michigan tried to get Hardaway in an isolation situation and, as the Illinois defense overplayed him, he found Smotrycz for about as clean of a look as you could ask for. The argument as to whether Smotrycz should drive or shoot could go on for ages but I don’t think he could have got to the basket very easily. He’s more comfortable shooting the three and the percentages are close, 38% on threes and 43% on twos. The biggest problem was that Smotrycz seemed to rush a bit and never really got set after the pump fake.
|Who: Michigan (16-10) at Illinois (16-9)|
|Where: Assembly Hall, Champaign, IL|
|When: Wednesday, February 16th, 8:30 PM ET|
|TV: BTN (Eric Collins & Tim Doyle)|
|Radio: MGoBlue / WWWW 102.9 FM|
|More: Beilein video, Morris & Morgan video, Pick to Click|
Michigan has been relatively successful on the road this season. The Wolverines have already won games at Clemson, Michigan State and Penn State – three of their biggest wins this season. The challenge gets tougher as Michigan heads to Assembly Hall, a venue where Michigan hasn’t won since 1995, to face off against a very talented Illini squad.
A quick rundown of the Illini schedule leads to the immediate conclusion that Illinois is struggling. Bruce Weber’s senior laden squad entered Big Ten play on a 2-game losing streak and is just 6-6 in conference games. When you dig a little deeper, one thing becomes very clear: Illinois is a great home team. The Illini have just two home losses and they were to Purdue and Ohio State, two of the league’s top three teams. Things aren’t perfect in Champaign, far from it, but they certainly could be worse.
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