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January 13, 2010 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2010-01-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

8A - Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

What is wrong with Michigan basketball?

On Monday, I wrote a column
addressing the Michigan
basketball team's need to
focus on what it is about the team
that causes it to
shoot itself in
the foot.
I said tack-
ling those
internal strug-
gles should be
the Wolverines'
main focus JOE
right now.
In response, STAPLETON
I received
plenty of comments on the article
asking the same relevant, obvious
question: so what are these internal
It's a good question, and one
that's extremely tough to answer.
But let me outline for you what I
think the problems are, and what I
think the problems aren't.
Defensefrom offense
This is a generalization, but
really good teams - teams that go
to the NCAA Tournament - create
offense from their defense.
If shots aren't falling, good teams
buckle down on defense and create
fastbreak opportunities and easy
buckets through steals, blocks, or
long rebounds.
Why do great teams operate this
You can't have an off day on
defense - you're either trying or
you're not, and that holds true with
the even talent level in the Big Ten.
Even if you're shooting poorly, you
can rely on your defense to create
Yeah, I know, sounds like some-
thing you heard from your 4th-
grade YMCAbasketball coach, but
it's true.,
Unfortunately, the Wolverines
appear to be working on the oppo-
site premise-their at times lacka-
daisical defense seems to stem from
When their offense isn't work-
ing, their defense breaks down.
This was painfully apparent against
Northwestern on Sunday. As Michi-
gan began to have serious trouble
cracking the Northwestern zone
in the second half, the team's frus-
tration showed on the other end.
In the first half, the Wolverines

allowed the Wildcats to shoot just
34 percent from the field.
The second half? 56 percent.
"Because (Northwestern's zone)
took us out of rhythm (on offense),
our defense in the second half was
not good," Michigan coach John
Beilein said after the game. "We
just got distracted by our lack of
offense, and that's the story of this
So, there's the major problem
with the defense. But if the defense
is lacking when the offense slips
up, why has the offense been strug-
gling so much this season? If the
Wolverines could find consistency
on offense, they presumably would
play much harder on defense and
they'd be a pretty good team -'
maybe the team people expected to
see at the beginning of the season.
The pointguards
I'm pretty sure you know who
I'm talking about, but I'll say it
anyway. The freshman, Darius
Morris and the shooting guard,
sophomore Stu Douglass.
Morris was declared the starter
at the beginning of the season
because of the promise he showed
in high school. He's quick, has great
vision, can penetrate and can dish.
But he's still a freshman, and we
can't all be John Wall.
He has shown flashes of bril-
liance, and fans can see him devel-
op every game, but he's not quite
ready to lead a college team at that
spot yet. I'm confident he will be
capable, just not yet.
So instead of Morris, Beilein
went with his next-best, and safer,
option - Douglass.
Douglass handled the transition
from shooting guard very well, cut-
ting down drastically on his turn-
overs during the season, improving
his defense and providing the Wol-
verines with a steady, experienced
hand on offense.
Unfortunately, Douglass is not
a point guard - he doesn't slash
and he doesn't drive-and-dish. He's
simply a shooting guard who was
'asked to play point guard.
The result? Michigan is still
without an experienced point
How important is having an
experienced point guard? Ask
almost any recent NCAA Tourna-

ment Champion: 2009 North Caro-
lina - Ty Lawson, junior; 2008
Kansas - Mario Chalmers, junior;
2006 and 2007 Florida - Taurean
Green, sophomore and junior; 2005
North Carolina - Raymond Felton,
The position is a lot like quarter-
back in football, and Michigan fans
know all too well what it's like play-
ing with a freshman quarterback.
Starting an inexperienced point
guard leads to two intertwined
issues: not only is there no one who
can get the ball in to DeShawn Sims
in a way that puts him in a posi-
tion to score, but there is also no
one who can penetrate, draw the
defense and kick out for wide-open
shots. Good entry passes are abso-
lutely essential to a player like Sims,
who goes one-on-one in the post
with bigger players most nights.
And when there's no point guard
who can penetrate and draw the
defense away from the shooters,
the Wolverines end up taking more
contested shots, which leads nicely
to my next point...
3-point shooting
To be fair, Michigan's shooting
has improved lately, but the team
is still shooting a mediocre 29 per-
cent for the season. The shooting
woes on this team have been so
widespread that I'm going to tackle
the worst offenders on the team
player-by-player. For the sake of
brevity, I'm making a SO-shots-or-
more rule.
Stu Douglass (32 percent from
3-point line, 33 percent from the
field) - Here's my argument, with
little statistical or anecdotal back-
up: playing point guard threw off
Douglass's shot. As a spot-up shoot-
ing guard, it's critical to develop
a catch-and-shoot rhythm during
games. It's a mentality more than
anything - "IfI get the ball and
I'm open, I'm shooting it." Douglass
being forced into a playmaking role,
one that doesn't suit him switched
his mentality from shooter to dis-
tributor, and all of a sudden, he
started missing open shots. He just
stopped looking comfortable.
Manny Harris (28 percent, 46
percent) - Hamstring. Hamstring,
hamstring, hamstring. I know it
sounds like a convenient excuse,
but it's much more than that. Imag-

ine going up for a jumpshot, except
when you jump, you can only jump
off of one leg. You think that would
throw you off a little bit? That's
what Harris has had to deal with,
especially at the beginning of the
season. And while it is healing, he's
still dealing with it now. Now, you
may be thinking, "But Joe, that's
not really Manny's game. He's a
slasher, right?" You're right, per-
son I just made up, but consider
this: When Harris has the ball,
defenders usually have to think
about three things -1) is he going
to shoot? 2) is he going to drive? 3)
dang it. When Harris can't hit his
shots, all defenders have to think
about is his ability to drive, which
allows them to play off him, making
him easier to guard.
Laval Lucas-Perry (35 percent,
39 percent) - Tough to criticize,
since he's been the team's best
shooter, but at the same time he did
barely cracked the 50-shotbarrier
with 54. And while Lucas-Perry
started the season strong, notching
18 points in Michigan's first game
of the Old Spice Classic against
Creighton, his shooting has disap-
peared in some important games.
Utah - zero points, 0-1.
Kansas - two points, 0-2.
Indiana - zero points, 0-2.
Of course, against Penn State he
had 16 points and led an improb-
able comeback effort. Lucas-Perry's
problem is consistency, and, as
weird as it sounds, his problem is
not shooting enough. Take another
look at those stats - lots of 0-i's and
0-2's up there. Generally, when he
shoots more, he makes more. His
best games?
Creighton -18 points, 4-6.
Penn State - 16 points, 4-8.
More shots seem to lead to more
makes. Lucas-Perry needs to adopt
more of a shooter's mentality. The
only way to make shots is to take
them, so when the redshirt sopho-
more catches the ball at the 3-point
line, just fire away. That way, he
gives himself a chance to develop
an in-game rhythm. Lucas-Perry is
simply not aggressive enough, and
the numbers show that when he
asserts himself, he makes shots.
Zack Novak (28 percent, 38
percent) - OK. Him I'm having
trouble with. Last year, Novak shot
34 percent. This year, he's tied with

Harris for last in this group. And
I'm just as stumped as he is. He
does have an unorthodox shooting
motion, one that leaves him fad-
ing away almost every time, but
he doesn't need to change up his
form justbecause he's having a bad
year-it's obviously worked for him
in the past, it will work for him
again. Fortunately, my inability to
make sense of Novak's poor shoot-
ing leads us to my next point.
While Michigan is shooting the
ball very poorly frombeyond the
arc this year, they didn't exactly
shoot the lights out last year. Thir-
ty-three percent? Not great.
The bigger difference is that last
year, the Wolverines made shots
when they absolutely needed them.
Remember Douglass's two huge
triples against UCLA? Or the four
from Novak againstDuke? While
Michigan didn't light the world on

fire frombeyond the arc, they made
them when they needed to. For
some reason, that's not happening
this year.
No, it doesn't appear to me that
there is any sort of internal conflict
on this team. It's not like I hang out
with these guys every day, but I do
have more access than most, and
this does seems like a group of guys
that like each other. After games,
nobody complains about touches,
the play of their teammates, the
coaches or anything like that.
These guys seem to havebought
into Beilein's philosophy, and
they're just as confused as the fans
are about what has happened s6 far
this season. The really unfortunate
part of all this is that while I believe
this outline pretty clearly explains
the troubles Michigan is experienc-
ing this year, time may have already
run out.

Join the Daily in "The Duel of Disappointment"
a two-part analysis of the men's basketball and hockey teams.
Which season has been more painful?

Wash your hands for O
at least 20 seconds..
Cover your cough.
and sneezes.
Stay home if
you're sick.
Get the flu vaccine.

To learn
more about
contact your
health care
provider, local
or visit
or call 2-1-1.
cia t eren
Men *ot
JanefGs: w, Directo

Read two Daily Sports Editors' arguments in tomorrow's print edition
and sound off in the Daily's Live Chat
on michigandaily.com @ 6 P.M. on Thursday.


Don't count Blue out

The Michigan hockey team
couldn't have been too
excited when coach Red
Berenson had
his players
to gather at TIM
the south end ROHAN
of the rink
towards the On Ice Hockey
end of Tues-
day's practice.
They knew what was coming.
Berenson held a stopwatch and
made sure that when each group
of players approached the red line,
they understood their goal. The
Wolverines started the workout
rigorously - they had to skate
down and back twice in the time
designated by Berenson - but
exhaustion soon set in.
Players bent over to regain their
breath. And sophomore David
Wohlberg, who missed last Fri-
day's game due to illness, had to
stop and skate to the bench. A trash
can stood in front of him.
When Wolverines began to pour
off the ice, team trainer Rick Ban-
croft stopped Wohlberg to remind
him that he still had to do the last
interval he had missed.
Without hesitation, the sopho-
more forward turned around and
skated the rounds he still owed
Wohlberg and his teammates
know that it's gut-check time for
the Wolverines.
Don't give up on this team just
yet. Michigan (7-7 CCHA, 12-10
overall) still has a chance to turn
its season from ordinary to NCAA
tournament-bound, and it starts
this weekend against Alaska.
In the past four years, four
CCHA teams have made the
16-team tournament each season,
and Berenson has repeatedly made
it clear that one of the team's goals

is to finish the season in the top
four of the conference. But there
isn't much room left for error.
Michigan faced a similar situ-
ation a year ago when it was 14-6
after the Great Lakes Invitational
in December 2008. Granted, the
Wolverines had four more wins,
but they dominated the second half
of the season and lost only three
games the rest of the year.
"They were expecting alot of
things from us (last year)," senior
captain Chris Summers said. "We
expect a lot of things from our-
selves as well. Just fine tuning
things and having the right atti-
tude I think is the most important
Michigan is taking the right
approach to the uphill climb they
face in the last 15 games of the
season - treating each game as if
it's the most important one of the
season. And it's easy to talk the
talk, but now Michigan has three
season-defining chances to walk
the walk.
Currently, the Wolverines are
smack dab in the middle of a tight
CCHA race, in a three-way tie for
seventh place in the conference
with Nebraska-Omaha and Notre
Dame. But Michigan faces a slew of
conference contenders in the next
three weekends: No. 1(tied) Ferris
State, No. 3 Michigan State and
No. 4 Alaska.
The Wolverines have backed
themselves into acorner due to
early-season splits with Ohio
State and Bowling Green. And
getting swept by Michigan State
and Miami (Ohio) sure didn't help.
Now, Michigan cannot afford to
get fewer than four or five wins in
these upcoming six games.
A 23-14 record is within the
Wolverines' reach and would put
them on par with those teams from

the CCHA that have made the
NCAA tournament in recent years.
But that would mean Michigan
could only lose four games the rest
of the season.
The 2009-10 Wolverines haven't
had a winning streak longer than
three games, though. And Michi-
gan hasn't shown that it can per-
form against the conference's best.
Those skeptical of a bigturnaround
have all the evidence they need.
The Wolverines have also been
inconsistent in all phases of five-
on-five hockey this season.
Still, all it takes is one solid
weekend, one sweep - or maybe
three - to turn around a season. It
is still possible.
A top-four finish in the confer-
ence would also give the Wolver-
ines a first-round bye in the CCHA
tournament. The momentum of
a second-half surge could push
Michigan to win the Mason Cup
and an automatic bid to the NCAA
tournament. Now, all the Wolver-
ines have to do is win 11 of their
last 15 games.
Berenson said his freshmen
have grown up and his seniors are
realizing their time is running out.
Like last year, the team is starting
to get it.
And the CCHA is strong enough
this year that Berensonbelieves up
to five teams from the conference
could make the NCAA tournament
"If you finish in the top four at
least you're putting yourself ina
position to do well in the playoffs,
Joe Louis, and then see what hap-
pens," Berenson said. "Because
how we do from here until the end,
every game is just as important."
Crazier things have happened.
With Berenson in charge, we do
know that no one will cut any
corners - or miss a sprint for that





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