Life Above the Rim
Michigan 66 Old Dominion 43
It was bound to happen. I told you it would. Courtney Sims would explode and give us all false hope for the coming year. Well. Last night it happened. Sims became SIMS for an evening, leading Michigan with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and two blocks. SIMS dominated, Michigan won. Whether this is a permanent transformation or not won't be determined until next year. But, at least for a night, it was fun to watch.
For another game, everything seemed to go right for Michigan. Brent Petway even made a jump shot. Leading early, Michigan allowed Old Dominion to go on 9-0 run to take the lead 21-14. Then the clamps were applied. Michigan smothered the Monarch ball carriers. Even though it appeared the smaller, perhaps quicker, OD guards got open for an outside jumper, every shot was rushed. Every shot was contested. Every open space filled quickly with a white jersey that read "MICHIGAN" across the chest.
Once the clamps were applied, Sims went to work. Sims scored 8 points during an 18-3 Michigan run to close the first half. Believe it or not, he showed some post moves. Old Dominion apparently did not watch any of the Ohio State or Indiana footage because Sims was left one on one in the post most of the night. Honestly, as much as I hammer on Sims, one on one, there are not a lot of people who can guard him. He took advantage of what the Monarchs gave him. He had nifty little moves for easy lay-ins and he snatched up boards like they were covered in chocolate. Near the end of the first he grabbed a Daniel Horton miss out of the air and slammed it back home all in one motion. Watch that play again. I'm convinced Horton pulled a Jason Kidd and bounced that off the backboard intentionally. In the lead. In control. Michigan headed into the locker room up 8, 32-24.
The second half began with a 3-9 run in Old Dominion's favor. Tommy, doing something he hasn't done all year, called a quick timeout to settle the team and break the Monarch's momentum. Surprise. It worked. Note to Tommy. Do this next year too. Dion Harris came out of the huddle and drained a three to put Michigan up five, and from that point on the game was basically over.
It was not over enough to prevent you from seeing what an incredible talent Brent Petway is. From the 14 minute mark on, Michigan spent its time trying to find ways to get the ball to Petway mid flight. Petway actually drew a charge trying to leap over Old Dominion's center for an 'oop on a poorly thrown Harris pass. A few minutes later you realized why Michigan recruited Jarret Smith. In addition for hitting a three, Smith had four assists, including a beautiful alley oop to Petway. Jumping from the first row of seats Petway caught Smith's feed and attempted to send the ball through the earth to China, hoop first. In doing so, Petway jumped over a Monarch defender, kneed him in the head, and hung on the rim long enough to sing an aria from Carmen. It was beautiful. You have to wonder if Petway pays Smith cash money for every oop that gets him on sportcenter. If thats the case, hopefully next year Petway will make Smith a rich man.
As further evidence Michigan had broken Old Dominion's spirit I present exhibits A and B. Exhibit A: With 10 minutes left, Graham Brown bricked a pair of free throws, with the second bouncing high in the air to the right of the rim. Somehow it stayed up long enough for a totally out of control "that's my baby" akward dive/jump by Brown to retain possession. Exhibit B: Sims squared up from just inside the three point line and drained a long two pointer. Seriously, that shot had as much arc on it as a pool cue. But it went in.
No matter the box score. No matter the fact that this team beat Big XII member Colorado. No matter the fact that the Monarchs come from the CAA just like George Mason. No matter the fact that Old Dominion BEAT George Mason earlier this year. It was still Old Dominion. So, the victory was nice, but this is a team Big Ten teams are supposed to beat (please note, UConn did not beat CAA team, hence, not Big Ten).
It means we get to play one more game. It means we could possibly have another banner in the rafters. It means one more game of watching Petway scrape the ceiling and watching Daniel Horton in a Michigan jersey.
I can live with that.
Michigan plays S. Carolina in the NIT final on Thursday at 7pm. The Gamecocks beat Louisville 78-63 to advance to the finals. This will be the second straight year S. Carolina has made the finals, winning it last year. They get to defend their "crown". Paul Westerdawg over at the Georgia Sports Blog wondered aloud if winning the NIT twice in a row is akin to being Crash Davis. S. Carolina's coach Dave Odom has already won two NIT's and a third, well that might be like being the all time minor league home run champ. I will submit for consideration that If Tommy wins his second in three years, he should be Nuke LaLoosh.
Jack Johnson has told the Michigan Daily that he will remain at Michigan for another year. Brian, hopefully, has come back in off the ledge.
Football Recruiting Needless and Unwarranted Speculation Update
IBlogForCookies, perhaps one of the best thought out and written blogs on the web, has an update on uber recruit Ryan Mallett. According to a Texas message board, Mallett was issued an ultimatum by Texas on accepting his scholarship offer. Basically, take it or leave it, right now. Mallett apparently refused, and if this is true, Michigan remains the last man standing among is favorites. None of this has been verified by "reputable sources", but if true its a good sign for next year's class. I'm crossing my fingers, but not holding my breath.