While I don't necessarily believe in leprechauns, the loch ness monster, bigfoot, or deities that spend their time smiting the Maize n' Blue, there is something to this idea of Karma and things balancing each other out. The problem is, Karma, when associated with Michigan Athletics is a grade-A bitch.
Michigan knocks out MSU's best player, then beats MSU. On Saturday, MSU returns the favor and knocks out our catalyst, then whips our asses. Ager had a light concussion and played the next game. Hunter is out for the rest of the year, and possibly will never play again. Karma, Michigan style.
For the fourth time in five games Michigan's opponent shot the lights out. Every time Michigan looked as though it would go on a run, MSU answered with a steal or a trey. Despite jumping out early, Michigan was out of the game by halftime, down by 11. Losing Hunter, combined with MSU's hot shooting was too much. Again, our defense at the three point line assured a defeat. MSU shot 70% (7-10) from three in the second half. Michigan did not connect for a single three pointer in the second half. Game over.
The sad thing is, Michigan really didn't play that badly on offense. You can debate me all you want on this point, but when four guys (including Courntey Sims) score in double figures its usually a good sign. Hell, Daniel Horton only turned the ball over three (3!) times. Dion Harris obviously wasn't up to full strength, playing only 18 minutes, and Michigan still scored over 70. Looking at the game with a larger, blood shot cynical eye, Graham Brown, despite contributing 15 points, also coughed up the ball a game high six (6) times. How the hell does that happen? Michigan, to its credit, tried to go inside as much as possible. But when Graham Brown's all you got down low, going inside, while a necessary part of the game, is pretty much a death sentence. He needed help, and when Hunter left, there wasn't any.
However, 71 points is usually enough to eek out a win. So the focus should really be on the fact that Michigan is consistently giving up 90 plus points to the bad guys.
Michigan was pounded by MSU on the boards, with MSU grabbing 5 more offensive rebounds and 5 more defensive rebounds. If you don't get the ball back, you can't score. Next, Michigan has shown a complete inability to deal with picks and screens. The team's been torched by pick and rolls (OSU) and high screens (MSU). Whether its the players or the coaching is a nice topic for another day (talk amongst yourselves). I'll stick with precedent. Defensive lapses at Michigan have always been the coach's fault (*cough* jim herrmann *cough*). In all seriousness though, when faced with the high screens they saw from MSU our guards and forwards looked lost. They'd either struggle to get by the pick, or wait for their opponent to do something (which usually meant score three points). Defense is coached, whether its football, hockey, or basketball. So this one falls on Tommy's head.
Looking forward, Michigan still needs 2 wins to lock up a tourney invite. Finishing strong in the Big Ten will actaully speak louder than their near deaffening collapse the last five games. Taking two of tree against teams like Illinois, Ohio State, and Indiana should be enough for the selection committee to finally allow the Karma to balance out and let Michigan dance in March.
Illinois Preview up soon.