Thursday, January 25, 2007

Michigan or Michigan't?

Michigan basketball has been quite odd under Tommy Amaker. He seems to attract talented basketball players, and they're very capable of beating (even up) on lesser teams. But when they get into games against tough opponents, particularly in unfriendly environs, the Wolverines wilt. The blowing of the lead at NC State this year. The absolute pounding by UCLA. And this is on a team with a bunch of seniors-- guys you'd think would be experienced and tough competitors, but apparently, ummm, aren't.
And so it goes...Michigan started out 4-1 in the Big Ten, beating Illinois, Penn State and Purdue at home, and taking down Northwestern on the road, but suffering a double-digit loss at Purdue.
So predictably, Michigan comes into Madison, feeling optimistic and a little pleased with its 4-1 record, and gets spanked. The final margin was 13, 71 to 58, but the Badgers were up 24 points with eight minutes left and 21 with 3 minutes left. A bit of a beatdown.
The Big Ten Wonk notes a core reason for Michigan's problems--they can't stop turning the ball over. They turned the ball over 19 times Wednesday night, nearly a third of their possessions ended not with a shot, but by handing the ball back to les Badgers. Not particularly impressive, and something that doesn't speak well for Coach Amaker. And it's not all the young players. Senior PF/C Courtney Sims turned the ball over 7 times last night. If kids that have been in your program for several years are turnover machines, I'll just let that one sit.

It's interesting that Wisconsin actually performed better on offense without Alando in the game, which they had to do since he was out for the majority of the game due to foul trouble. Normally that's not the case. I was trying to figure out how that might be, and my theory is this-- other teams spend much of their defensive preparation planning for ways to stop A-Tuck, so when he's not in the game, their defensive gameplan breaks down a bit. But it's probably a one game anomaly. Small sample size and all.
Anyhow, we shot absurdly well last night, partly because almost all of it was within the three-point line (we only shot six threes). Thus, a very solid 1.09 points per possession for the game, while holding turnover-prone Michigan to a less than stellar .89 PPP. Excellent.
Other thoughts--
Did anyone see 6' 2" Michael Flowers block 6' 11" Courtney Sims? That was quacktastic.
As were the unusually high number of successful drives to the hole (Flowers, sure, but the Hoft, Landry, and, of all people, Butch? Fantastic!) If we can't shoot the "three-ball" consistently because Bo won't play Boyannyon and Pop Hughes, than I guess we should take it to the rack. Wait a minute, if we don't shoot the three well, then why in God's name would Michigan be guarding our guys so closely on the perimeter? My guess is that it's an attempt to slow down our perimeter passing, which is one of the key facets of the swing offense. So it becomes a matter of picking your poison. You either let us blithely and quickly rotate the ball from side to side, or your come out and get burned as we drive to the hole. Or your have Oden rotate over, and your shot gets partially blocked, but lets not think about that. (No more years! No more years!)
Also, did anyone notice Packer's play-by-play man Wayne Larrivee repeatedly attribute Michael Flowers' accomplishments to other players? I swear he did that multiple times.
Atmosphere note--during the Petway freak out/technical foul/fouling out five minute break, it was great to hear multiple repetitions of H-cock's favorite basketball cheer-- the immortal, dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum, "Drop the Puck!"
Finally, I leave you with the video footage of Bo Ryan doing the "Hambone;" first shown during the Illinois broadcast. Alternately amusing and disturbing.

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