Photo courtesy of UM Photo Services
Michigan beat Notre Dame 71-67 today. I would have posted an open thread for the game but the site's server was down. I apologize.
Please take a look at the box score from the game, located here. Take your time.
Did you look? Ok. Perhaps you noticed that: Notre Dame was 24-58 from the field while UM was 27-58; Notre Dame was 13-18 from the free-throw line while UM was 10-11; Notre Dame had 35 rebounds while UM had 33; Notre Dame committed 14 turnovers while UM committed 13. In other words, it was an incredibly even game, with stats that reinforce its competitive nature. It wasn't one of those games in which a close score belies wildly divergent statistical performance (for instance, one team wasn't on fire but turnover prone while the other wasn't shooting poorly but dominating the glass).
Really, today's game was the sort that Michigan might have lost in the past: On the road against a team that wouldn't go away and was matching Michigan possession for possession. But again, Michigan seemed like a well-prepared outfit. When it needed baskets, the team was patient, getting the ball to people in spots where they were comfortable. When it needed rebounds, it was boxing out and sending a lot of players to the glass. When it needed stops, UM was communicating, switching, and playing with admirable controlled aggression.
Put another way, Michigan looked well-coached. Again. And I have red marks all over my arms because I've been pinching myself since about 3:30 this afternoon. I can't accurately express how improbable this is. I figured that an Amaker-coached basketball team would look organized around the same time that a Carr-coached football team would look excited to be playing. But it actually happened. The Wolverines swung the ball on offense, consistently penetrated, and got big men touches inside early and often. On defense, Michigan took charges, closed out smartly, and pressured perimeter players all game.
Now, I am not getting carried away. Michigan can still be much better; beating Notre Dame probably doesn't mean that much; and it's only been five games. But for now, let me pull a Dick Vitale and salute Tommy Amaker for putting a smarter team on the floor. I've written before that well-coached teams understand critical situations, know how to get good shots under pressure, rotate on defense, box out, and hit their free throws. Michigan did all five of those things, today, and that level of execution was necessary to earn a W.
I'll take a look at some players, strategy, and technique tomorrow.