By Dylan Burkhardt | Big Ten | Posted on November 29, 2010 at 12:26 am
The Big Ten finally notched their first Big Ten/ACC Challenge win last year season and now will try to make it two in a row. The majority of the media have been touting the Big Ten as the nation’s best conference and at this point it’s hard to debate. Talented and experienced players line the rosters of the top two thirds of the conference. By the end of the week, one conference will have that feather in their cap come Bubble season in February and March.
Interestingly enough, the Big Ten has already knocked off three ACC teams this year: North Carolina (Minnesota), Maryland (Illinois), and Boston College (Wisconsin). Unfortunately, these games don’t count in the challenge and we’ll start with a 0-0 scorecard. Here are our projections of how the games will play out:
Monday, November 29th
Virginia (3-3) at Minnesota (6-0) – ESPN2 – 7:00 PM Pomeroy: Minn 73-62, 88% chance
This game has the potential to be one of the most lopsided games of the entire competition. Minnesota has played extremely well early on, with wins over North Carolina and West Virginia, while Virginia has already dropped three games with their best win coming over an Oklahoma squad that lost to Chaminade.
Gophers that Big Ten fans are familiar with, including Blake Hoffarber, Ralph Sampson III, and Al Nolen, have all been playing very well early on. However the difference maker has been athletic four man Trevor Mbakwe. The athletic four man is averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds for the Gophers.
The only bad news for Minnesota is that they are dealing with a handful of injuries and suspensions. Athletic wing man Rodney Williams is doubtful with an ankle injury and Nolen is out with a foot injury. Sophomore DeVoe Joseph, who has been suspended this entire season, may make his return on Monday evening.
By Dylan Burkhardt | Uncategorized | Posted on November 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm
First, here’s another video from the Nike All Ohio City Series earlier this fall. The video features Michigan commitment Trey Burke (wearing #2) and Ohio commitment Stevie Taylor (wearing #0). Burke was named MVP of this event and led his Columbus based squad to win the whole thing with a win over a Cincinnati squad featuring Florida State commitment Aaron Thomas.
Michigan had played surprisingly well in their first four games but they finally hit the wall. Playing in their second game in as many days, the Wolverines were beaten in almost every phase of the game. After the Syracuse loss I wrote that Michigan would probably have a handful of plays they wanted back, today they probably only have a handful of plays that they wanted to keep.
We knew this team was going to be inconsistent. We knew they were young and we knew they had were going to have problems scoring the ball. But this was the first time we were forced to see it with our own eyes. Michigan didn’t execute on either end and were painful to watch. It was UTEP’s 13-0 run, which coincided with Michigan’s 13 minute field goal drought, that ended Michigan’s chances.
UTEP played tight man-to-man defense, face guarding the wings and completely denying the ball, and completely shut down Michigan’s offense. Beilein’s offenses have typically fared reasonably well against some pressure defenses (UCLA and Minnesota come to mind) but today there were unable to get anything going on that end. Michigan continued to try to run their offense through the big man in the high post but UTEP refused to guard him.
The UTEP offense was powered by Julyan Stone, Randy Culpepper, and John Bohannon, the trio combined to shoot 19 of 26 from the field and score 44 points. Culpepper scored off screens, scored off turnovers, and just couldn’t be stopped. Perhaps the most painful part of Michigan’s defense was their inability to defend, seemingly routine, inbound plays. UTEP had at least 10 points that came off wide open looks from out of bounds plays.
Despite their lethargic play, Michigan was able to at least stay reasonably close because they won the turnover battle and got to the free throw line. They couldn’t get anything going on the offensive glass but did a great job on the defensive glass. The difference in the game was quite obvious for anyone that watched it, Michigan (35 eFG%) couldn’t shoot and UTEP (54 eFG%) could. UTEP did most of their scoring on the interior, scoring 42 points in the paint to Michigan’s 12.
There were several coaching decisions that are worth debating but two of them stood out. First, Michigan went with their small lineup often in the second half, even playing Smotrycz at the five for a stretch. Douglass (37), Novak (37), and Morris (35) all played major minutes, which I suspect is due to Michigan’s inability to get stops and cope with UTEP’s ball pressure. Second, Michigan went to a pressing and trapping defense in the middle of the second half. This created a faster tempo, 68 possessions, which seemed to lead to far more easy UTEP baskets than turnovers.
After watching a game like that, it’s tough to muster any positive thoughts. Michigan won’t have time to lick their wounds for long, they’ll head to South Carolina to face Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday. Player bullets after the jump.
Michigan looks to leave Atlantic City with a split, facing UTEP in the consolation final of the Legends Classic. Join the conversation, try to forget that football game, and share your thoughts on the game.
With little more than a night’s rest to recover from last night’s disappointing loss to Syracuse, Michigan is back in action today at Boardwalk Hall. The Wolverines will face a 3-2 UTEP team that has wins over Mercer, Western Carolina, and New Mexico St. with losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech.
John Beilein’s teams have typically been thought of as a coach’s worst nightmare to face on short rest in tournament situations. While that is a common school of thought, it hasn’t necessarily rung true in Ann Arbor, Beilein is 1-8 in “short rest tournament situations” during his three years at Michigan.
Michigan will need a strong performance as a road Big Ten/ACC challenge match-up versus Clemson looms large on Tuesday. Finishing 1-1 in Atlantic City, rather than 0-2, and would give this team a much needed boost of confidence before their first true road game. Unfortunately for Michigan fans, it won’t be easy sledding as UTEP has some very talented pieces.
Some might call it ugly, others might call it a defensive struggle, but anyone that watched the game would admit that Michigan played a tough game. In the end, they didn’t have enough gas in the tank and learned the hard way how important it is the execute down the stretch. I would imagine that Michigan players and coaches are running down a list of possessions that they would have loved to have back as there were just too many mistakes down the stretch to earn a win.
There are certainly plenty of positives. Michigan, a team picked 10th in the Big Ten, battled a Syracuse team picked 10th in country to the final whistle in front of a crowd of predominantly Orange clad fans. Despite numerous second half Syracuse runs, Michigan continually fought their way back into the game. Despite a handful of freshmen, especially on the front line, Michigan outrebounded an extremely tall and athletic Syracuse team. I thought Michigan would lose by 15 and didn’t expect them to be in the game much into the second half, so it is safe to say that they showed me something.
But at the end of the day, hanging tough is just a moral victory. Michigan had chances to win this game and just didn’t come up with the plays they needed. One possession stands out to me — trailing by four points with 1:01 on the clock, Michigan might have played their worst offensive possession of the entire game. Morris dominated the ball and ended up driving the lane and firing up a wild shot. Perhaps Beilein should have called a time out here, but Michigan simply needed a better shot at that juncture in the game. Because this is such a young team, I’m confident that they will be able to build from this experience.
Looking at the stats, the first thing that stands out is that Michigan did a great job controlling the tempo. They wanted to slow the game down to prevent Syracuse from getting easy baskets in transition. The game ended up a 60 possession contest, which is about 10 possessions slower than Syracuse would like to play.
Offensively, the Wolverines obviously had difficulty with Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, scoring just .83 points per possession. There were some possessions that looked good. Early on Michigan did a great job of getting the ball into Morgan behind the zone and most of their first half three point makes resulted from penetration. But too many times the Wolverine offense stagnated and was marred by endless passing of the ball around the perimeter and seemingly desperate shots.
Defensively, Michigan did a tremendous job – holding the Orange to just .88 points per possession. The last time Syracuse’s offense was that inefficient was two seasons ago, February 11th, 2009, versus a UConn team that went to the Final Four. The difference in this game was that Michigan had no answer for Kris Joseph — the career 22% three point shooter hit 3 of 6 threes and finished the game with 22 points on 8 of 13 shooting. The Wolverines also did a good job on Syracuse’s starting guards, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche, who combined to shoot just 5 of 17 with 8 turnovers.
Michigan did an admirable job on the glass, allowing Syracuse to rebound just 27% of their missed shots. They won the turnover battle by a significant margin and weren’t outshot by much. However, the game changing difference was in the free throw column. Syracuse posted a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 31% (15 attempts) compared to Michigan’s 6.5% (4 attempts).
Next up is a UTEP team that lost a back-and-forth game to Georgia Tech tonight. It will be very interesting to see how this Michigan team reacts to the short turnaround after a tough loss. These early season tournament consolation games are monumentally important – look at last year’s collapse versus Alabama – and it’s important to regroup because 1-1 is infinitely better than 0-2. We’ll have a full UTEP preview in the morning. Player bullets are after the jump.