Saturday, December 17, 2011

Michigan-Alabama A&M: All Over But The Shoutin'

Michigan 87, Alabama A&M 57

Before the day of glorious bottom-tier bowl games began, Michigan took on the Alabama A&M Bulldogs, who hail from my former hometown, the sprawling metropolis that is Huntsville, AL. They came into the game with an 2-3 record, their closest loss being a 9-point defeat at the hands of Tulane (their other two losses were smashing defeats against fellow Yellowhammer State opponents, South Alabama and Alabama). One of their 2 wins came against "Talladega," which I'm convinced is simply a roving band of Talladega Superspeedway-goers looking for something to occupy their time until the next race.

This wasn't a very good basketball team. I'm not sure if it's quite on the level of the 2009 Michigan-Delaware State game in the Big House as far as tomato cans go, but it's not a game you'd write home about either way. Obviously. But, with the Sugar Bowl still a ways away, I'll take any form of Michigan sports and I will not complain. 

Michigan took care of business against the Golden Lions despite stretches of reckless and/or lackadaisical play. However, with these types of games, as long as nobody gets hurt and you're not sweating it out in the final seconds, it's all good. If the game is in the final minute and your overmatched opponent isn't trying to foul, you've probably done enough to put the "sky is falling" rhetoric on ice until the next game.

Like APB, the Bulldogs played hard with great TOUGHNESS for 40 minutes but were simply unable to account for Burke's ability to create and Michigan's perimeter shooting, which was tremendous (45.5% from 3). This was pretty much what the APB should've looked like. Michigan didn't really seem to play all that well in the first half, yet still went into the break with a 41-27 lead. Coming out of the half, Michigan unleashed the 1-3-1 on A&M, resulting in a Morgan charge call; from that point forward it was all over but the shoutin'. Five minutes or so into the second half, the Wolverines found themselves up 25. Michigan is still turning the ball over a little too much, but that will improve with time as the level of competition forces the level of play into a certain pared down mode (see "B1G-ball"). In the end, as Bo would say, it was a smashing victory. 

And yes, for the second game in a row I think some band respect is due..feel free to let the following sound dramatically in the background as you read through this recap of the most obviously critical game in Michigan's season:

Player Notes, Also Known As "Trey Burke and Those Who Are Not Trey Burke": 

  • Burke--Man, that crossover behind the back dribble three pointer was something. Not to tear Darius Morris down, but I don't think that's a thing that he had in his arsenal, as great as he was. Burke lead the Wolverines with 19 points on 6/10 shooting (3/3 from 3). Also, despite being in the game with about 5 minutes to go for some reason, he "only" logged 30 minutes, which is good. Then again, with only two games between now and New Year's Day, it's reasonable for Beilein to feel comfortable giving Burke and others these minutes. 
  • Hardaway--Still trying to find his game a little bit, but when you score 13 points and people are still thinking of even slightly negative things to say, you know the expectations are pretty high. If Smotrycz can continue to be a reliable third option and Hardaway plays like we all know we can, this team will seriously challenge for a conference title, even without much of an inside game. 
  • Novak--True Grit got a little Hollywood on us this afternoon, doin' some fancy dribblin' and whatnot. Again, Novak's ability with the ball in his hands is the biggest improvement in this team other than the outside shooting from the 1 spot. Yes, it's A&M but Novak wasn't really ever able to use the dribble for any purpose before this year, even against cupcake opponents with lower level athletes. the one play where Novak took it coast to coast, hesitating for a split second at the three point line before blowing by the defender to the hoop for an easy layup, was amazing. Plus, he continues to utilize the dribble to effectively set-up his mid-range game. These are the types of things that are developed by years of practice and technical coaching that lead, eventually, to having the confidence to try and execute these skills in a game. Also, a 4:0 assist to turnover ratio continues his streak of sparkling assist to turnover ratios. 
  • Smotrycz--After a pair of almost double-doubles, The Smoshtrycz finally got one today, dropping 17 points and 11 rebounds. He even grabbed 3 steals, doing all of this in a mere 22 minutes of playing time. The Smoshtrycz is slowly but surely evolving from X-factor to reliable contributor. He's obviously not there yet based on three games against Oakland, APB, and Alabama A&M, but the progress is obvious. Only negative continues to be turnovers; he had 3 in this one. 
  • Morgan--Morgan is Morgan...he'll get set up for some layups/dunks and grab some garbage points or he won't. He ended the game with 6 points, although early foul trouble yet again cut into his minutes. 
  • Douglass--A solid game off the bench; 7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and no turnovers is a good stat line for him. 
  • Vogrich--Took a couple of threes, missed them both. Did have four rebounds...he's only averaging 1 a game but every time I watch I feel like he's grabbing a few more than that despite being Matt Vogrich. 
  • McLimans--Got a haircut. Had a nice tip in for 2. Also had two blocks...he is tall. 
  • Akunne--AKUNNE MATATA...sorry, had to. Five points for Eso, a veritable offensive explosion. 
  • Brundidge--Got a solid chunk of playing time today (13 minutes); 3 points, 2 boards, and an assist for the freshman. It's still way too early to make any predictions about his career. Was called "thick" by Eric Collins, which would be good if you're a Wisconsin tailback and not a guard of the basketball variety. I'd like to see more of him against Bradley and even PSU if possible. 

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