I think now would be a good time to review the road to 21 wins. When Michigan started the season 13-3 the projection was looking good. Now that they have lost 5 of their last 6 it would seem like the projection is in jeopardy. Actually it is not.
To quickly review my projection was based on breaking the schedule down into two categories; projected wins and remaining games. I projected 17 games as wins and there were 14 remaining games of which I said Michigan had to win 4 to get to 21 wins.
So far Michigan has played 13 of the games I had projected as wins and they have won 12 and lost one (at PSU).
They have played 9 games from the remaining 14 games category. Michigan has won 2 of those games (UCLA and Duke) and lost 7.
Based on my projections Michigan should be 16-6 or 15-7 and their record is 14-8. How do I come up with this? They should have won 13 games from the projected category and 2 or 3 of the remaining games.
So you see they are not that far off the pace.
There are 4 more games I had projected as wins; Penn State, at Northwestern, Minnesota, at Minnesota.
There are 5 games left from the remaining games; at Connecticut, Michigan State, at Iowa, Purdue, at Wisconsin.
The other factor is the Big Ten Tournament.
Those projections were made before the season started. I realize now that sweeping Minnesota is unlikely.I also think they have a good chance to win 3 of the games in the remaining group. I think they have a good chance to win these games; Michigan State, at Iowa, Purdue.
Plus you still have the Big Ten Tournament where they could pick up some more wins. Let us know what you think my submitting a comment.
Michigan still has one remaining non conference game and that is February 7th at Connecticut. As some of you will remember before the season started I projected Michigan would win 21 games and I came under fire for that prediction. I had conservatively projected they would come out of the non conference at 8-4 so they are already 2 games ahead of my 21 win pace. Their only loses were to Duke on a neutral court and at Maryland.
So they don’t have any bad loses and they have two signature wins. They are ranked in both polls coming in at 23 in the AP and 24 in the Coaches Poll.
Sure they nearly lost to Savannah State, but they won. They won ugly against Florida Gulf Coast and North Carolina Central. But seriously think about it. This is a young team that won 10 games last year and people are complaining when they beat North Carolina Central by 20 points and Florida Gulf Coast by 17 points? If that is all we have to complain about after 12 games I think things are looking great.
Manny Harris has probably exceeded expectations through the first 12 games. Harris is averaging 19.0 points per game to go along with 7.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 47% from the field and 89% at the free throw line. He has already flirted with a triple double twice and has set single game career highs in rebounds (16) and assists (13) in the last 3 games.
DeShawn Sims has emerged as an All Big Ten type player as he is averaging 17.2 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game he also averages 1.1 steals per game while shooting 54% from the field.
Harris and Sims are the top scoring duo in the Big Ten and have played so well that some analysts have speculated about them jumping to the NBA.
Laval Lucas-Perry has not disappointed. He appears to be Michigan’s best three point shooter as he is 9 for his first 13 from deep and has looked good doing it.
I can’t say enough at how impressed I am with the play of Kelvin Grady. He is really pushing the tempo for Michigan by playing fast and under control. Grady has 24 assists against 9 turnovers on the season. He is also averaging 43% on three pointers.
Zack Novak and Stu Douglass have drilled 14 three pointers each and have both sparked the team at different times. They are both smart players who can handle the ball. Novak has actually been logging minutes at the 4 position recently.
David Merritt has been solid in the minutes he has played. I have to think that Merritt might see his minutes drop a bit as Lucas-Perry continues to get worked into the rotation. If that happens then you have to wonder how much playing time will be left for CJ Lee.
Anthony Wright began the season as a starter but has recently been stuck on the bench only getting a couple of minutes against NCCU and getting some DNPs in other games.
Zack Gibson has not played well recently. He is going to be needed in the Big Ten season because Sims can’t do all the big man work by himself.
Jevohn Shepherd has been starting recently and has had a couple of big games this year. His development has been remarkable.
The team has some quality depth this year and that is something that was severely lacking last year. The depth is only going to increase next year when they bring in their very good recruiting class of 4 quality players.
I’m obviously a big John Beilein fan and love what he is doing with the team. He has said several times that if you believe in what you are doing you can beat anybody.
When I had the privilege of meeting Coach Beilein this summer he commented on how his teams were the first to go with 4 shooters on the floor at the same time and that maybe they would go with 5 shooters on the floor together this year. At times already this season he has put line ups on the floor that feature 5 shooters. It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments the coaching staff makes as they head into Big Ten play.
Overall to be sitting at 10-2 and ranked in both polls I don’t think we could have asked for much more. This team is poised to reach their goal of an NCAA tournament bid. Could it fall apart during the Big Ten season, sure it could. Do I think it will? No. The reasons are the same reasons I cited for projecting 21 wins.
Here is the lowdown on LLP. Lucas-Perry played his high school ball for Flint Powers where he was a two time AllState selection. Lucas-Perry enrolled at Arizona last year where he played 49 minutes in 5 games and scored 20 points. He transferred from Arizona to Michigan and practiced with the team most of last season.
Lucas-Perry petitioned the NCAA and was granted a season of competition waiver to regain one season of eligibility. That was huge because if that request had been denied he would have only had 2.5 years of eligibility. Now he has 3.5 years to play for Michigan.
He is listed at 6-3, 185 pounds. He can play either guard position but figures to play a lot of point guard for Coach Beilein.
We have heard glowing reports about his play in practice since last year. Tim McCormick said LLP would be the best point guard at Michigan since Rumeal Robinson. Lucas-Perry is said to be a very good defender and possibly the best defender on the team. McCormick also said that Lucas-Perry has a unique ability to separate and that he “gets it”.
Jay Williams did the color commentary for the Michigan Tech game and said, He said he had talked with Jerryd Bayless about LLP and he told Williams that Lucas-Perry was one of the toughest guys for him to guard. Williams later said that when LLP was eligible to play it was going to really improve Michigan’s team.
I had the chance to speak with Lucas-Perry after the SavannahState game and asked him if he was ready to go. He quickly responded with Maryland, Duke, Eastern and then I can play.
I will be in attendance at the Palace for his debut and am really looking forward to seeing him play.
I have noticed a number of people are confused and/or upset as to why Michigan is not ranked. I’m not concerned about this. If Michigan keeps winning the rankings will come.
Michigan ended up 28th in the AP poll and 31st in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll. It should be noted that in the coach’s poll they had 1 vote last week and 29 this week.
The only teams with 2 loses that are ranked are; Notre Dame, Purdue, and Michigan State. All 3 of those teams were ranked in the Top 10 to start the season.
Perhaps more important then those two polls are the RPI and strength of schedule. CBS Sportsline has a good breakdown here and Michigan is 11th in the RPI and has a strength of schedule that is ranked 3rd.
I was widely ridiculed for projecting Michigan to get to 21 wins. One person even said the prediction put my credibility in doubt. I cited as one of my reasons why I thought they could get to 21 wins was because of what a tremendous coach John Beilein is. The guy is a proven winner and teacher. His players actually improve each year and they develop as players both mentally and physically.
Take DeShawn Sims for example. He has developed his game by leaps and bounds since John Beilein took over at Michigan. Coach Beilein has described Sims as a warrior and commented on how hard he has worked. Sims took over the game in the win against Duke and scored 28 points and hauled down 12 boards. He helped lead Michigan to its biggest win in at least the last 10 years.
Listen to what Sims has to say about his coach, who by the way many said when Beilein was hired that Sims would not “fit his system”, “Coach Beilein believed in me. He’s building a foundation and I’m glad I’m a part of it. He puts the c, the o, the a, the c and the h in coach. And he coaches you on an interpersonal level. It’s amazing. I’m a better player than I’ve ever been and I know more than I’ve ever known.”
I remember earlier this season John Beilein said, “You can win against anybody if you just believe in what you do”. I have said it before and will say it again, this team believes. They believe in what they are doing, they believe in their coach and they believe in each other.
So here we are 8 games into the season. Michigan is 6-2 and they have defeated the #4 ranked team in the country twice (UCLA and Duke). The loses were to Duke at a neutral site and one at Maryland. Sure this is the same team that was down 20 at the half, at home, against SavannahState. But they came back to win that game in overtime. Michigan has displayed some real mental toughness in the early part of the season. The players have played with desire and have been executing the offense and defense.
We know all about Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims. These guys are playing so well that people are wondering aloud if they will jump to the NBA after the season. I have heard Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas mention that on the air.
The emergence of Zack Novak has been really impressive. Besides Michigan his only other major offer was from Valparaiso. Some even wondered if he was athletic enough to play in the Big Ten. But there he was playing against Duke knocking down 4 clutch triples, including back to back bombs midway through the second half to tie the game and give Michigan a lead they would never surrender. This is the same guy who made a game saving steal with 3 seconds left against SavannahState and almost converted it into a game winning dunk at the buzzer. He has played with toughness and determination.
How about the development of Kelvin Grady? He has made great strides in his game and is becoming a real floor General. His speed was a definite factor in the Duke game. Against the aggressive and long Duke defense Grady played 28 minutes and scored 9 points, dished out 4 assists, and turned the ball over zero times.
Did anybody notice that Jevohn Shepherd not only started the Duke game but he was on the court for the final minutes of the game? Shepherd even dribbled out the clock after Duke decided to stop fouling. This is the same Jevohn Shepherd who struggled to find his role on the team, who in seasons past seemed to be a turnover waiting to happen. Now as the lone senior on this team he is making valuable contributions that are helping this team win. Is there anybody out there who still wants to question what John Beilein is doing?
I have taken a little heat for the 17 games in my “win” category and for my 21 wins prediction. (Let everybody know what you think by voting in the poll at the end of this post) So let’s take another look at those games:
Oakland (at the Palace)
Florida Gulf Coast
North Carolina Central
at Penn State
One comment I heard a couple of times was how hard it is to win on the road in the Big Ten. The road games I have Michigan winning are at Indiana: I know Michigan never wins in Bloomington, but this is going to be a season like no other in Bloomington.
at PennState:Michigan lost here last year but I think they can win this one
at Northwestern:Michigan won here last year.
at Minnesota: This might be the biggest reach of the road games.
Ok, even if you split those 4 road games that is 15 wins with 14 more games to play.
I submit that they will not lose all 14 of those games.
Here are some reasons why I think Michigan can accomplish the 21 wins I predicted.
Coach John Beilein has a history of marked improvement in his second season at a school. He is a very good coach and you can’t disregard that fact.
Manny Harris is a candidate for Big Ten player of the year. He could have a very big season. Coach Beilein has commented on how much he loves the chemistry of this team.
Laval Lucas-Perry will be eligible to play on December 20th against Oakland. All reports on him have been very good.
The Big Ten is down a little this year. Indiana is in a bigger rebuilding situation then Michigan was last year and with less talent. Illinois and Iowa are also a bit down.
So there you have it. I am standing by my prediction of 21 wins. I think they win all 17 of those games listed above and at least 4 of the remaining 14 games. I really don’t see how those projections are that outrageous. Remember this is a new era of Michigan Basketball.
About a month ago I broke down the basketball schedule and came up with the following:
These 17 games are wins, go ahead and log it
Oakland (at the Palace)
North Carolina Central
None of those are outrageous picks. So that leaves us with these remaining 14 games:
Duke/Southern Illinois (MadisonSquareGarden)
Let’s go conservative and say they go 4-10 in those 14 games. That puts them at 21-10 heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Now they might lose one or two of the “wins” and they might win some of the undecided games. Either way you get the idea. Any thoughts?