Eight games into the season we're slowly starting to get a feel for what the 2010-2011 Michigan men's basketball team is capable. There's no denying the athleticism, raw and refining talent that is Darius Morris. Zack Novak remains the white, college Charles Barkley without the dunks. Stu Douglass is much better off the bench than starting. And there are a lot of young, scrawny, lanky bodies on the Michigan bench. When you're only playing two upperclassmen (Novak and Douglass, both of whom are juniors), your spark and the bulk of your scoring is going to half to come from underclassmen.
It also means that without a steadying hand from older players, you're going to have games that make you want to tear your hair out. Monday night was one of those games.
It wasn't so much that you ever felt Michigan was in danger of losing the game, they weren't. It was Michigan's seemingly incredible ability to make that one mistake during their various (should've been) game clinching runs that let Concordia back in the game. Miss a defensive assignment that ended up as a trey. Miss an open layup that started a fast break the other way. A lazy pass resulting in a turnover. All of a sudden a 13 point lead was down to 5 points, twice, in the second half.
Also troubling was the fact that Michigan seemed incapable of closing the door defensively on Concordia. They gave up 29 points to a Defensive Tackle in red shorts. Their help defense was late or unnecessary. Nothing really seemed to gel on Defense the entire night.
Despite this, Michigan remembered it's still a DI school and put the hammer down on its over-matched opponent as the minutes ticked away. The result was a satisfying 19 point win, where looking at the box score you really wouldn't get the feeling that Michigan struggled in any way to put the game on ice. But they did.
And that will be the theme this year. Spiritted games that Michigan shouldn't win, but does. Sprited games where Michigan should win but doesn't. Gonna be a crazy year.
Good lord does our three point shooting suck during the meat of the game. Michigan was 7-23 from 3 point land and the majority of Michigan's makes came early in the first half and late in the second. And it's not like Michigan was getting pressure on most of these shots. to the contrary, most of them were wide open. The only person shooting better than 50% from three was Douglass. Smotrycz, Hardaway and McLimans combined to go 0-9.
more after the jump...
Jordan Morgan is an impressive young man. MGo compared him to former Wolverine Graham Brown, and I think the analogy is pretty damn good. The only difference is that I think Morgan has better hands around the basket than Brown did. Brown was virtually useless in the post, whereas Morgan dumped in 23 points on Monday and has some some ability around the hoop. The real challenge will come in the form of staying away from personal fouls. Morgan spent 14 minutes on the bench with foul trouble. Against the bigger stronger competition in conference, he's going to have to work on his positioning and hands.
Darius Morris is going to paly in the NBA. I know we're only 8 games in and he was playing against DII talent, but there's a fluidity to his game that I haven't seen from a Michigan player since.... well.... the team that shall not be named was in Ann Arbor. The reach, the quickness, the little pull up jumper in the lane. His two step drive to the hoop and scoop shot was a thing of beauty. 19 points, 12 assists and just 2 TOs. Sledding will get rougher as the season goes on, but for now... man is he fun to watch.
Tim Hardaway Jr., reminds me a bit of Manny Harris. And not in a bad way. There's just a sense of chaotic movement and kinetic energy in him that makes me think of Manny. Maybe it's the staccato footwork, the drives to the lane without much regard for who or what is there, the ungainly three point shot. I don't know. But just liek with Manny you can see there's something special wrapped up in there.
Stu being Stu. It's strange to me how coming off the bench works better for some players than starting does. Stu was Michigan's hero of the bench as a freshman, struggled as Michigan's starting point guard last year, and seems to be thriving as the Wolverines' first guy off the bench this season. If you can explain it, you're a smarter person than I am.
Colton Christian needs to be redshirted. Man is he raw.
Zack Novak is every adjective you can think of for gritty. How he posts two straight double doubles despite being an unrecruited guard forced to play forward is just a testament to his grittiness. Grit.
Evan Smotrycz looks stiff. I know he's a highly rated recruit and played above the rim during his recruitment, but his shot is really, really stiff. No leg bend at all. He's clearly an athletic guy, but in limited play so far I think we may be expecting a lot if we're looking at him as a third scorer.