Michigan State Preview

February 9, 2009

leeMichigan (15-9, 5-6) will host #9 Michigan State (19-4, 9-2) on Tuesday night. The game will tip off at 7pm and be televised on ESPN. This will be the only match up between these in state rivals this season, barring a match up in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan State is led by point guard Kalin Lucas who averages 14.8 ppg and 4.9 apg. Raymar Morgan is not expected to play as he continues to battle an illness, click here for more on Morgan’s status. The Spartans have 3 players that average 9 points per game; Durrell Summers 9.7, Chris Allen 9.6, and Goran Suton 9.5.

Michigan is coming back home after losing a close game at Connecticut. The Wolverines played a strong game against the nations #1 team and look to build on the positives that came out of that game.

I would expect that Crisler will be a full house for this game and the Maize Rage should be out in full force.

We talked about the boiling point for a basketball team in the Purdue Preview. The good news is Michigan has been playing at or near the boiling point recently. They boiled in the second half of the Penn State game and during the entire Connecticut game. Let’s hope they can keep bubbling enough to launch them on a run to close the season and to get them off the dreaded Bubble Watch.

Obviously a win over a ranked Spartan team would help. What doesn’t help is that Michigan is 2-6 in their last 8 games. The good news is there are 7 games left before the Big Ten Tournament. So there is time to put that skid in the rearview mirror. With a win over the Spartans Michigan will have won 2 out of their last 3 and have 5 days to prepare for their next game at Northwestern on Sunday.

For us Michigan fans this is going to be a nerve racking stretch. The last time they played in the NCAA Tournament was 1998 and that seems like a lifetime ago. I have completely forgotten what it is like to have the excitement and anticipation that comes with a NCAA Tournament bid.

All we can do right now as take it one game at a time.


Connecticut Preview

February 6, 2009

beilein500Less then 48 hours after tipping off at home against Penn State Michigan (15-8, 5-6) will be tipping off on the road against #1 Connecticut (21-1). This game will be televised on ESPN with a 6pm tip.

This is a difficult assignment anyway you look at it. The Huskies have 4 players averaging double digits; Jeff Adrien 14.3, Jerome Dyson 13.5, Hasheem Thabeet 13.0, and A.J. Price 12.2. All 4 of those players are also upperclassmen. So this is an experienced and balanced team that is very well coached.

Hasheem Thabeet who checks in at 7-3 creates a serious match up problem for Michigan on defense. Gibson and Sims are going to have their hands full.

For Michigan it will be essential that Manny Harris play patient and composed like he did in the second half against Penn State. They are a much better team when he does that.

I keep saying this but every time they play well they are active defensively and creating easy buckets off of turnovers. When they don’t play well that is not happening.

The team definitely reached the boiling point in the second half against Penn State and they will need a similar effort to contend with Connecticut.


Penn State Preview

February 4, 2009

83742129NL034_2K_SPORTS_CLAMichigan has been off since Saturday’s debacle in West Lafayette. The extra day of practice should be a good thing. The Wolverines (14-8, 4-6) host Penn State (17-5, 6-3) in a critical match up on Thursday. The game is set to tip at 7pm and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

The Nittany Lions are riding a 4 game winning streak, including a win at East Lansing on Saturday. We know all about Talor Battle and Jamelle Cornley.

The question for us Michigan fans is how will the Wolverines respond to being backed into a corner?

Zack Novak will be back in the line up after sitting out the Purdue game, due to suspension. Manny Harris will be playing after getting ejected from the Purdue game.

Michigan is coming in having lost 5 out of their last 6 games. They really don’t want to make that 6 of 7 heading to #1 Connecticut on Saturday.

As a fan I am really getting antsy about this game. A win would be huge. Their NCAA hopes are still alive but they have to get this season turned back around quickly before it all slips away.

Coach Beilein has said all along that this season would be a roller coaster. We are currently experiencing a downhill trend. Let’s hope this roller coaster starts climbing again. I still believe in this team but I would sure like to see them come through with a win against Penn State.

Purdue Preview and Boiling

January 29, 2009

2009-0104-ad-umbball2372Michigan (14-7, 4-5) heads to West Lafayette on Saturday for a 1pm tip against the Boilermakers (16-4, 5-2). The game will be televised on CBS. Michigan comes in having lost 4 of 5. Purdue is riding a 5 game winning streak that includes back to back road wins at Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Purdue has three players averaging over 12 points per game; E’Twuan Moore 14.2, Robbie Hummel 12.9, and JaJuan Johnson 12.6. They are a tough team and will play very tough defensively.

Michigan is fresh of the disaster in Columbus. John Beilein has suspended Zack Novak for one game as a result of the elbowing. I have heard a wide range of opinions on what people think of that elbow. I know it looked bad but there are two sides to every story and so far we have only heard half the story. I would suggest to some that maybe they should wait before making hasty proclamations. By all accounts Zack Novak is a great young man who has been playing his heart and guts out for this team. I have heard analyst after analyst heap praise on Novak for the way he plays the game. One errant elbow doesn’t change that.

I think by now we all know what needs to happen for Michigan to win this game. They have to come out of the gates with more effort and intensity. They need more consistency on the three point shooting. They must avoid the turnovers that plagued them in Columbus. The one thing that I notice is Michigan wins when they are active defensively and creating turnovers which leads to transition points and momentum swings. In this recent skid that has really been missing. There were flashes of it in the second half against Ohio State.

The quick start that was launched by the UCLA and Duke wins has certainly raised the expectations for this team. An NCAA birth is still within reach. It was mentioned during the telecast of the Penn State game that Coach Beilein told the team water boils at 212 degrees and they needed to play at that level of intensity not 211 degrees but a steady 212 degrees.

Consider this: When heated to 212 degrees F the molecules which make up water are moving at a high enough speed that they overcome the air pressure above the water.   As additional heat is added to liquid water at 212 degrees, the water begins to boil.  As the water boils it is changing state from a liquid to a gas.  In addition, during the boiling process the temperature remains the same (212 degrees F). There is no change in temperature during a change of state. 

So what does that have to do with Michigan Basketball? What was Coach Beilein talking about? When a basketball team plays at 212 degrees the individuals which make up the team are moving at a high enough speed that they overcome good teams and win tough games. As additional heat is added to that team at 212 degrees, the team begins to gain momentum and confidence. As the team continues to boil it results in execution and people making plays. Can the Wolverines reach the boiling point against the Boilermakers? We saw them do it before. There is no reason they can’t do it again. Believe in what you are doing and you can beat anybody. 

Go Blue

Ohio State Preview

January 26, 2009

simsosu11Michigan (14-6, 4-4) travels to Columbus on Wednesday night to take on the Buckeyes (13-5, 3-4) for the second time in 11 days. The game will tip off at 6:30 and be televised on the Big Ten Network. Ohio State beat Michigan at Crisler 65-58 since then the Buckeyes have lost at Illinois and at home to Michigan State.

Michigan did not play well back on January 17th when they hosted the Buckeyes. Michigan really seemed to struggle with Ohio State’s length and athleticism in that contest. The Wolverines seemed to have righted the ship on Saturday when they beat Northwestern. Hopefully they can roll into Value City Arena and steal a road win. A win would put Michigan two games ahead of Ohio State in the Big Ten standings. As of today Michigan is in 6th place in the conference just a game ahead of OSU and Wisconsin.

This is the first in a key 5 game stretch for Michigan. They have the opportunity to secure some impressive, NCAA Tournament resume building wins. During the 5 game stretch Michigan will play at Ohio State, #16 Purdue, and #2 Connecticut as well as host Penn State and #9 Michigan State.

Michigan enters the game with 4 players that have made at least 26 three pointers (Novak 29, Harris 28, Douglass 27, Grady 26).

This game will feature three of the top 5 scorers in the Big Ten in Harris, Sims, and Turner who check in at 2, 4, and 5 respectively. Sims continues to lead the Big Ten in rebounding, Harris checks in at third in rebounding.


Northwestern Preview

January 21, 2009

beilein61Michigan (13-6, 3-4) is going to have their hands full on Saturday night when they host Northwestern (10-6, 2-4). On Wednesday night the Wildcats went to East Lansing and knocked off the Spartans. Maybe they will have a let down coming off such an emotional win. Then again maybe they will be clicking on all cylinders after such a big win.

Northwestern is led by the duo of Kevin Coble (14.6 ppg) and Craig Moore (14.1 ppg). They are a smart team that shoots the ball well and executes their offense and defense sharply.

We all know Michigan is on a 3 game losing streak and desperately needs a win. Less then two weeks ago the Wolverines were ranked in both polls and sitting at 3-1 in the conference. Since then they have lost to Illinois, Ohio State, and Penn State. They have not shot the ball well and according to many observers they look tired. In fact one of Penn State’s coaches told Coach Beilein that his team looked tired on Tuesday night.

This is a young team and perhaps they have hit the wall. Sharp shooters Zack Novak, Laval Lucas-Perry, and Stu Douglass are all playing for the first time. Maybe they are tired.

This is the same team that knocked off UCLA, Duke, and a very good Illinois team. They also nearly lost to Savannah State and Indiana, having to comeback from 20 point deficits in both of those games to secure wins. Coach Beilein said this season would be a roller coaster and he is proving to be exactly right.

I know this feels all too familiar to all of us longsuffering Michigan fans. We have seen this script before; a promising start crumbles as the team gets into the grind of the Big Ten schedule. The one big difference this time is John Beilein. He is a tremendous coach and he is capable of guiding this team through the storm. He knows what he is doing and how he can guide this talented but young team through the growing pains that come with laying a foundation.

I still believe in this team. I believe they can get this going in the right direction again. Will they beat Northwestern? I don’t know. I sure hope so, but as we are seeing the Big Ten is fairly stacked this year, not surprising considering the caliber of coaches this conference has.

So I urge all Michigan Basketball fans to step back from the ledge and get behind this team when they need you the most.



Penn State Preview

January 18, 2009

team11Michigan (13-5, 3-3) heads to Penn State (14-5, 3-3) for a critical game on Tuesday night. Tip off is scheduled for 9pm and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. Michigan comes in on a two game skid. Penn State had lost two straight before winning at Indiana for the first time ever on Saturday. The Nittany Lions have also defeated Northwestern and Purdue at home. They are led by Talor Battle 18.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 5.4apg. Battle gets a lot of help from Jamelle Cornley (14.7 ppg and 6.6 rpg) and Stanley Pringle (14.4 ppg). I watched bits and pieces of Penn State’s last two games and in both contests Talor Battle appeared to be playing through a nagging ankle injury.

I think Michigan matches up much better with Penn State then they did against Ohio State’s long, athletic squad. That being said it will be a difficult task for Michigan to walk into the Byrce Jordan Center and walk out with a win.

The Wolverines will need DeShawn Sims to bounce back from back to back rough games. They will also need somebody else to step up and help out. It could be Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Laval Lucas-Perry, Zack Gibson, Kelvin Grady or anybody. But somebody has to help take some of the load off Manny and DeShawn.

I don’t want to sound overly dramatic here but at certain points in a season teams will be at a crossroad. I think our beloved Michigan Wolverines are at such a crossroad. Three out of the next four games are on the road (at Penn State, at Ohio State, and at Purdue) with a home game against Northwestern coming up on Saturday. I really think a win at Penn State will help launch them down the right road. I think they need to win 2 of those 4 games because once that stretch is over they get Penn State at home, then travel to Connecticut and host Michigan State. The season could fall apart in a hurry if they can’t rally. With all of that being said they simply have to follow the old adage and take them one game at time. I think they can knock of the Nittany Lions but it will take a very good team effort to get the job done. It’s like Coach Beilein has been saying if you believe in what you are doing you can beat anybody.