Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Part three of this four part series highlighting some of our favorite stuff from the last year. This time, we look back on basketball.
Interstellar Overdrive - HoldtheRope on the Ohio State win at home last season.
Trey Burke stood at center court, sleepy-eyed like Daniel Horton, a ghost of the past. It wasn't a cantankerous understatement or a world-weary apathy being spun at center court, the sort that shames you into reconsidering your own bouts of apoplexy when appliances or entertainment systems confound you in the mundanity of "daily life"; it was resolute calm. In two hours, Trey delivered what was tantamount to an understanding of physics and chemistry, that if you contort your body just so and launch a basketball, aiming for a certain point on the backboard--all while racing with a Denardian prowess betrothed to a jazzy riff--that a universal inevitability comes to be, Newton's Laws applied with an aesthetic verve. He knows that if you mix the elements of silence and a tenacity that not only is apparent but glaringly so, you get an alchemic boon. Trey Burke leaves Aaron Craft in the dust; he's gone and was never there before, anyway. To think that he was was your first mistake.
Does Michigan Actually Live and Die By the Three? - Alex Cook took on the notion that Michigan lived and died by the three a year ago.
I guess Digger Phelps was incorrect when he stated that Michigan needed to shoot the ball extremely well from three to win the game against Ohio State. Michigan hit the fewest three pointers in a game that they've hit all year (3), and did so with the lowest percentage that they've shot all year (23.1%). Michigan won 56-51 over the then - #6 ranked Buckeyes. Apparently they didn't need to make threes to win. In fact, the Wolverines are 8-3 in the games in which they've shot the poorest from behind the arc, and those wins are some of their most impressive: Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Memphis are some of Michigan's best wins. With those games, Michigan proves that it can win without shooting the three ball well, or differently stated: Michigan doesn't necessarily lose if it misses threes. It doesn't die by the three.
The Death of College Basketball: Wherein Chuck Klosterman says it's so because there are only two possible options - I respond to a Chuck Klosterman piece on Grantland that casts Kentucky as an almost evil, perverting force in college basketball.
Players leaving early for the draft is nothing new. It is just that now, in the age of the NBA rule prohibiting high school seniors from entering the draft right away, the NCAA has a glut of hyper-talented freshmen with no other options. What Calipari is doing is simply responding to market forces. If anything, his approach should be celebrated as pure, naked capitalism. Is it good for the game? That depends on what you are looking to get out of college basketball. If it is just some stodgy old ideal about a group of kids playing for school pride for four years, you might want to start watching more low level high school basketball. If you just like watching exciting, unpredictable basketball, the presence of teams like Kentucky ups the former and depresses the latter. The game itself is still largely the same.
The Metamorphosis: The Changing Face of the "Beilein Offense" - HoldtheRope breaks down the stylistic shifts in Beilein's offensive style as his Michigan teams have progressed.
In light of the Trey Burke situation and Smotrycz's departure, I think the most interesting narrative of this offseason is perhaps going unnoticed, and that is the fact that Michigan's offense will look entirely different next year--whether Burke stays or not, and for the record I'm pretty sure he'll stay--and if people don't pay attention now then there'll be some serious cognitive dissonance floating in and around Ann Arbor. In fact, the transition has already begun. Referring to the "Beilein offense" from this point forward will become as precarious a situation for basketball analysts as "the spread offense" has become for college football personalities. Of course, there are many different forms of the spread. Likewise, I think we will find that that are many sides to what Beilein can and/or is willing to do on the offensive end. For all those who lamented Rich Rodriguez's inflexibility re: the offense in 2008, those same people will find reasons to be optimistic about John Beilein's offensive tactics going forward.
Adieu - HtR bids fairwell to Zack and Stu.
Saturday was an unfitting end to what will prove to be the first infant steps of the renaissance of Michigan basketball. It's hard to believe that Zack Novak and Stu Douglass had to leave that floor, one infused with their very sweat and, in Zack's case, blood, under such circumstances. It's been a labor of love for them, partly because it had to be. They were unheralded, dismissed, remote far-flung stars in the sky that were overshadowed to the point of non-existence by their more incandescent peers. Since their arrival, Michigan has advanced to the NCAA tournament three times (including this year), won two tournament games, and infuriated opposing fans who have trouble reconciling the cognitive dissonance of a 6'4'' 4-man checking their star. I don't need to tell you that these accomplishments on the floor far surpass the entire sum of the last 10+ years of Michigan basketball. If everything goes right, Michigan could end up as high as a 3-seed this March; the best is yet to come for these seniors and this team. A Sweet 16 is being talked up as a realistic possibility, and with these seniors, the only response to such a heretofore quixotic notion is why not more? After Zack and Stu had left the Crisler floor for good and the final seconds ticked ticked off with bitter slowness, all I could muster was an effusive, heartfelt thanks. This is a valediction.