Tommy Amaker never beats Indiana and Michigan never wins in Williams Arena. Those are virtual absolutes that any Michigan-basketball fan who's been paying attention can tell you. Tonight, UM gets its latest crack at the latter. And for those who haven't been keeping track, Michigan has lost its last nine in Minneapolis.
The Golden Gophers have yet to win a Big Ten game this season and have already suffered the ignominious distinction of losing to Northwestern at home (sorry, Buckets). Which, of course, means that Michigan will probably lose tonight. You think I'm joking, but this is exactly the sort of game Michigan usually loses: When presented with a chance to seize some momentum and handle the business that it must (especially with a visit from the kicked-the-shit-out-of-Iowa Spartans looming on Wednesday), Michigan typically fails. And it's regularly failure of an embarrassing nature. And things are usually really bad in Williams Arena. I don't know if it's the Vanderbilt-like seating or all the white people or what, but that place is not good to UM.
If the Wolverines want to win, they need to find balance on offense. In its 68-51 win against Northwestern this past Wednesday, UM saw perimeter players attempt 36 of its 47 shots, with Lester Abram, Dion Harris, and Daniel Horton attempting 31. Alleged big man Courtney Sims took two shots; Brent Petway took three; Chris Hunter took four; and Graham Brown didn't shoot (and there was much rejoicing). When you shoot 65% from the field, 41% from three and hold the other team to 41% shooting overall for the game, you can win like that. Even as you are out-rebounded by three, don't make it to the line, and commit 14 turnovers.
But that doesn't work when the outside shots aren't falling and the other team has a pulse. Two years ago in Williams, Michigan lost a close one to Minnesota as 2/3 of its shots came from perimeter players, UM turned it over 19 times, and it barely won the rebounding battle. Minnesota may not be a very good team, but Michigan always plays down to the level of inferior opponents, and I am already fighting off acid-reflux disease as I envision lots of missed threes and careless passes and ball handling.
I hope we see a smart, balanced team that at least tries to get the ball inside tonight. I think the semblance of structure and balance is an imperative in Williams because, well, everything else hasn't worked.