David Merritt stopped by to discuss Michigan’s win over Bowling Green. Check out the chat transcript after the jump.
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|Who: Michigan (1-0) vs. Bowling Green (1-1)|
|Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI|
|When: Thursday, November 18th, 7:00PM|
|Radio: MGoBlue, 1050 AM/950 AM/Sirius Ch. 127|
|Pre-Game Video: Beilein, Novak & Morris|
Michigan welcomes the Falcons of Bowling Green, who will make the quick drive up US-23 to Crisler Arena. Bowling Green, projected to finish near the bottom of the MAC East (which is coincidentally significantly stronger than the West), is just two years removed from a MAC Championship.
Early season prognosticators tend to be down on Bowling Green due to the graduation of Otis Polk, Erik Marschall, and Marc Larson, the Falcons’ three best post players. The good news is that BGSU still returns three experienced guards and wings that started last season in Scott Thomas, Joe Jakubowski, and Dee Brown. Of the trio, Thomas is the most proficient scorer and best returning defensive rebounder. Jakubowski is the Falcons’ best setup man and his three point shooting last season (39.4%) was only topped by Brown’s 42.7%. The bad news is that Jakubowski and Brown were benched after the Falcons’ season opening loss.
Things have yet to shakeout in the Bowling Green frontcourt. 6-10 freshman center Cameron Black is one of just two players to start both of Bowling Green’s games; averaging 9.5 points and 8.5 rebounds on 69.2% shooting. He should provide a more substantial test for Michigan’s young and inexperienced front line. Sophomores A’uston Calhoun and Danny McElroy, who started versus Ohio Dominican, will provide depth in the front court.
Under coach Louis Orr, who played for Jim Boehim at Syracuse, Bowling Green has been known primarily for running the 2-3 zone. However, Orr has mixed in heavy doses of man-to-man defense this season, opting to play man for the entire exhibition game and for the first half of the Falcons’ loss to Howard. From a Michigan perspective, it’d be great to get a look at a 2-3 zone similar to the Syracuse zone they’ll see next week in Atlantic City.
Offensively, Bowling Green has struggled a bit coming out of the gate. They managed just .81 points per possession in their season opening loss at Howard and only scored 51 points versus Adrian in their exhibition game. After shooting a combined 36% in those first two games the Falcons were marginally better versus Ohio Dominican, shooting 44% from the field en route to 81 points. All in all, this is a team that clearly hasn’t found their game offensively at this time.
Michigan stifled South Carolina Upstate in their season opener but it remains to be seen how good of a defensive team John Beilein has on his hands. Bowling Green should pose a more stringent, yet very passable, test for Michigan’s defense. Bowling Green prefers to play a slow tempo game similar to Michigan so we shouldn’t see much more than 64 or 65 possessions in this one.
Bowling Green plans to hang their hat on their defense this year and they have played very good defense in their first two contests. With Michigan’s history of inconsistent three point shooting I think you can expect to see the Falcons at least experiment with their 2-3 zone, daring Michigan to shoot over it. Zone defenses can pose problems for young teams that often times settle for the subpar shots instead of attacking the zone properly.
Overall this is obviously a winnable game for Michigan. But guessing what you are going to get from a team that has only faced Saginaw Valley and South Carolina Upstate is a risky business. The next two games will provide a slightly better taste of what we have but will still leave plenty of question marks. Pomeroy projects Michigan to win 65-55, I’ll take Michigan 68, Bowling Green 54.
EXTRA! We’ll be hosting our first live post game chat with David Merritt after tonight’s game. Head to the blog after the final horn and join in on the fun. Be sure to follow along the comments during the game as well. When we’re all done tune in for all your post game coverage — including videos and analysis.
Darius Morris and Zack Novak met with the media today to talk about Thursday’s game versus Bowling Green.
With so many questions surrounding Michigan’s ability to replace the production of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims on the offensive end, there has been very little talk about the defensive end of the floor. With one relatively meaningless cupcake game under our belts, here are five thoughts about Michigan’s defense before we make it further into the non-conference season.
1. Michigan’s defense has improved every year under John Beilein
Despite the confounding results on the court, on a per possession basis, Michigan’s defense has improved every year that John Beilein has been in Ann Arbor. The numbers don’t lie:
|PPP Def Rank||2008||2009||2010|
|Big Ten Rank||9||6||6|
Despite Michigan’s improvement, they continue to lag far behind the top dogs of the conference. Last season Wisconsin, Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan State gave up anywhere from .04 to .07 points per possession less than Michigan — a pretty wide margin. Michigan is stuck in that middle ground where their defense is better than other teams in the middle to bottom half of the conference but is far behind the elite defensive teams of the league.
It will be interesting to see whether Michigan’s defense can continue improve but, with so many freshman in the mix, it will be a struggle.
2. Will we see more 1-3-1 zone?
Beilein’s West Virginia teams were widely known for the 1-3-1 defense that they used consistently after made field goals, however in recent years Beilein’s teams have used the zone sparingly — even making a point to abandon it late last season.
We have seen very little of the 1-3-1 so far this year, as it’s still being implemented, but it looks like the roster is beginning to have the personnel to run more of it. A potential lineup of Darius Morris, Zack Novak, Tim Hardaway Jr., Evan Smotrycz, and Blake McLimans provides the length that makes the zone dangerous. Smotrycz gives you a 6-foot-9 guy on the wing (even with his below average wingspan) joined by Hardaway, who looks to be pushing 6-foot-6. Morris is a good fit to run the baseline because he has decent size at 6-foot-4 and is quick enough to run sideline to sideline. Novak might not be quite as long or athletic as you would want to play the top of the zone, but he has had some success there (notably versus Duke during his freshman year). In the middle, McLimans is intriguing with his length and shot blocking ability.
The problem with the 1-3-1, as we’ve learned over the last several years, is that it’s very unstable. Sometimes it works perfectly and others, for sometimes inexplicable reason, it doesn’t work at all. The biggest worry with so many underclassmen is that little mistakes are critical and almost always lead to easy layups or wide open threes.