Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Michigan-Virginia: B1G-mas in November

A brief departure from post-Ohio euphoria. 

Michigan 58, UVA 70

The Wolverines traveled to Charlottesville last night to face Tony Bennett's Cavaliers, hoping to build on the momentum of a 2-1 showing in Maui. The game was relatively even more than three quarters of the way in, but foul trouble and the inability to rebound killed Michigan in this one, as they fell 70-58 in the first game of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

This one was tough to lose on a number of fronts. For one, Michigan was yet again hampered by foul troubles, leaving you with the sense that we weren't even playing with a full deck for large segments of the game. This time it wasn't even Morgan, as Hardaway picked up two in the first six minutes of the game (leading him to miss the rest of the first half, ending it with 1 FG attempt and 0 points) and Smotrycz, who picked up a 4th about halfway through the second half. Michigan only had points from Burke, Morgan, Smotrycz, and The Gritty One in the first half. That's not good.

Of course, it also gives the conference a loss, but, you know, whatever. Sorry B1G. This doesn't kill Michigan's tournament chances or anything; UVA will at minimum be a bubble team, much like their in-state counterparts at Virginia Tech circa the entire Seth Greenberg era (seemingly). However, this could really hurt if Michigan is also a bubble team (which, I hope not, but it could definitely happen). They play solid defense and their offense is somewhat uninspiring but very B1G-like: tough defense; a big guy that manufactures some points of off grit-based rebounding, little post-moves, and the occasional mid-range shot, and your array of generic three-point bombers. You could say it was sort of a preview of what league play will be like, giving this one an added layer of disappointment.

The first half had a decidedly BIG TEN BASKETBALL feel to it: low scoring, tough defense, and offense that, if it was a person, would probably dress like somebody from Des Moines. Somewhere Bo Ryan was watching this game in a dark room going GOOD GOOD. Earlier I said that despite Burke's early season performance, UVA would be a solid test for him even after Maui. The Cavs got into Burke's face early and often. Evans was a quick little guy (who went to the same high school as Allen Iverson and therefore is subject to comparisons every time he crosses anybody over) and he disrupted Burke to a level that he had not been subjected to thus far this year. UVA mixed up it up occasionally, putting the bigger #22 on Burke. In any case, with Burke getting extreme pressure and Hardaway out most of the first half, you can understand why Michigan was pretty much unable to generate much going to the hoop. Thankfully, Novak hit a couple shots from outside, as he is wont to do.

The second half bumbled along at a similar pace until things started to pick up slightly; Michigan went up 5 at one point, but it was not to last. After having 1 shot in the first half, Hardaway took quite a while to get his second in the second half, and he ended the game with only five points. Michigan cannot really beat anybody of consequence if Hardaway produces so little in addition to not really getting to many good shots in the process.

Michigan hung in there for a while because the Cavs weren't exactly shooting the lights out either. Michigan actually shot a higher percentage from three and overall than UVA, but the game was lost on the boards and at the free throw line, where Michigan went 4/7 and the Cavs went 17/22. Likewise, Michigan got dominated on the boards 33 to 24: Harris, Scott, and Sene (off the bench) had no trouble going right over our undersized interior. As far as Michigan has come as a program, it's still painfully obvious that we lack athleticism or enough bodies, period, down low. Come on down Mr. McGary.

Some scattered thoughts in bullet form:

  • Hardaway--Probably one of the most frustrating games of his career. Foul trouble killed him in this one, and he never really got involved. He's obviously best when attacking the basket and going mid-range as opposed to outside the arc, but it was tough sledding with the way UVA was playing D. In short...a good learning experience on the road against a solid, well-coached team. 
  • Burke--Despite the start to the season (including a very impressive stint in Maui), the Burke hype train somewhat came down to earth. He had trouble making anything happen due to the pressure, which led to a lot of dribbling and a lot of late shot clock clunkers. He's definitely better than freshman Morris but for the people on the Internets saying he's already better than last year's Morris...let's just hold off that one for a second. It's hard to imagine last year's Morris not having success against a slot ninja-sized (okay, not quite) guy like Evans. 
  • Novak--A true hero, as usual. Making timely threes, taking charges, being awesome. Unfortunately, other than "being taller," there's only so much he can do. 
  • Smotrycz--A work in progress. He made some things happen (he did chip in 10), including a nice take in the first half after being left uncovered on the perimeter. He countered that in the second half by traveling while trying to make a post move. I like what he brings to the table and I think he'll be pretty good eventually, but right now he's still trying to figure out what he can and can't do. 
  • Douglass--Meh. Save for one three, limited impact in this one. 
  • Morgan--A pair of buckets and a trip to the free throw line. He did make a nice play on his second basket, sort of play-actioning his way away from the hand-off to Burke and shooting through the lane for a wide open dunk. 
  • Horford--Still just kind of a guy. He did attempt one little baby hook in the first half and it was all backboard and wide right like a Seminole field goal. It wasn't pretty but at least he has the green light to try these sorts of things; eventually he'll start making them.

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