Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Look Ahead

Michigan Basketball: Ending the Drought in 2006-2007

Now comes the fun part of the basketball season. The part where we over analyze who's going to do what next year. Will so-and-so have a break out year? Can we make the tournament? Is it possible for Courtney Sims to grow a Ben Wallace/Dr. J like fro'? Would he look like a baseball glued to the top of a bic pen if he did it? All questions that need answers, and here intrepid reader, you shall find those answers.

Borrowing from my earlier post here's who's coming and going:

Who's Gone: Horton, Hunter, Brown, Grooms, Ba, Sanchez and Harrell.

Who's Staying: Harris (G), Petway (F), Abram (F/G), Sims (C), Smith (G), Coleman (F/G), Shepard (G), and red-shirt frosh Kendric Price.

Who's Coming: DeShawn Sims (PF) (Detroit Pershing), K'Len Morris (SF) (Grand Blanc) and Anthony Wright (SF/PF) (Oak Hill, VA) are committed.

Recruiting Efforts: No word yet on Patrick Beverly, general google searches haven't turned up anything new. GBW has a great free posting on the status of our recruiting efforts as of March 21, 2006. According to Scout's prospect listing we're still in the running for Bellville's Leon Freeman, but he's got an offer in hand from Michigan State and that looks like his prefence. There is also the possibility of a Prep School year in case he doesn't academically qualify. Another possibility is Ekpe Udoh of Edmond, OK, but based on what I've seen he looks to be prep school bound next year. So look to 2007 to see if he commits.

Where does this leave us?

Probably somewhere near the top of the Big Ten. Fourth or fifth. Michigan State graduates its two best players. Iowa's losing some talent. Indiana will take a little while to adjust to a new coach. Purdue is still in the toilet since Katy left. We'll see. There's a world of possibility, but there're also an ocean of questions. Allow me to serve as your life raft through this perfect storm of uncertainty.

10 Questions/10 Answers

1. Coaching: Tommy Amaker is here to stay according to Billy Martin. So put away the pitchforks and torches. I'll admit to calling for Tommy's job. In his support, I will grant the following things: Great guy. Great public face of a program. Clean as a NASA satelite lab. Even tempered and fair. Legitimately cares about his players. Nathan Fenno just did a great look into who Tommy is, a quiet intense man. His players love him. He's the type of guy I'd probably want coaching my kids... in high school.

My knock on Amaker is not him personally, it is the way he does his job. Just look below to anything I've written on him. I maintain the guy is an awful in-game coach and is horrible at game planning. My biggest problem is that he seems soft. While his even tempered demeanor is a welcome change from the hysterics we see on Sportscenter, his normal in game appearance borders on a coma. And it shows in the way his team plays. From the performances of talents such as Sims and to some extent Petway, a little tough love would go a long way. Tommy showed some fire and anger during the NIT final after his team was completely out of it. If he does that all year next season, perhaps I'll change my tune. Until then, because Herrmann's gone, he's at the top of my "gotta go" list.

2. Recruiting: This has been a major problem. Part of it has been the scandals that have rocked the program since a baked Chris Weber was rollin' up a doobie or in his free Benzo. Part of it has been the facilities. Crisler's old, dank and dark. The weight room's a joke compared to other Big Ten programs. Part of it has been Amaker. Other than his first recruiting class which included Abram, Hunter, Brown and Horton, Tommy has been able to snag any true top flight talent. While Harris, Petway and Sims were all considered 4 star talent, only Harris has shown any consistency at the college level. Of that class only Harris was an in-stater.

Tommy has not been successful recruiting in state. Amaker's failure to make in roads to the talent-laden Detroit Public school leagues has really crippled his efforts. This is highlighted by Amaker's 2004 recruiting class of Ronald Coleman. Only Ronald Coleman. The last four recruiting classes, including Horton's (who is a Texas native) have only included 1 Michigan native per class. Michigan state however has snagged two a year, with that talent usually being four stars or better. With all the talent in Michigan, Tommy needs to loosen up the turtleneck and get to know some of these kids.

3. Facilities: I touched on this a second ago. The good news is, Martin has finally realized it too. Apparently there has been a seven-figure capital campaign for the renovation of Cristler. We'll see if it bears fruit. In addition, Amaker has been lobbying hard, behind the scenes, for a new practice facility. That too is apparently on Martin's wish list. The Michigan Sports Center has a great look into the status of the Crisler renovation.

4. Follow the Leader: For the last four years its been Horton. With him gone, that void will need to be filled by someone. My immediate guess, based on games played and ability, is that you'll seen Dion Harris running the show next year. Until Harris wrecked his ankle he was shooting above 40% from the floor and provided a steadiness to the Michigan backcourt. After he went down, so did our NCAA chances. A healthy Harris, who has played since his freshman year, will give Michigan a veteran presence and a solid outside shot.

5. On point: Say hello to Jarret Smith. Yes the human turnover factory/alley-opper will most likely be doing the majority of the ball handling next year. What I constantly forget is that Smith was a true freshman this year. Out of high school he was considered a talent on the rise. For a young man who only played 10-15 a game (maximum), he did remarkably well. His biggest weakness is his shooting. But off the dribble he's quick and does see the court very, very well. He gets himslef in trouble when he tries to be too cute with the ball and force a pass that makes no sense. A summer of working on his jumper and a little time to grow will pay huge dividends for him. Remember, when he and Petway are on the court together Petway usually ends up scoring 6 to 8 points in a short time span. If they're on the court for a majority of the games together, we could see a lot of points out of both of them.

6. The Big Man Question: Next year Courtney Sims will be the only legitimate center on Michigan's roster. The 6'11 Senior to be, who has played in every Michigan game since he can in as a freshman, is Michigan's main low post threat. Where that leaves us is anyone's guess. Sims has shown the ability to dominate a game. He has also shown the ability to sleep walk through large portions of the schedule. When Sims played during the NIT, the only thing that kept him from scoring was our game plan. When actually fed the ball he made aggressive, quick movements to the basket. Dials is gone. Paul Davis is NBA bound too. If that Sims shows up we're in business. He's going to have his hands full with Ohio State man-child Greg Odom. But, even so, I see him as the third best returning big man in the Big Ten.

7. The Air Up There: Brent Petway. The inigma. Flies like a bird. Shoots like a blind guy. For a young man who can jump the he can, he seems to get blocked an awful lot when he takes a jump shot or tries to post someone up. On the plus side, great defender and electric offensive player above the rim. Downside: see above. If Petway can work on his shot and develop a little ball handling savvy, he could end up all Big Ten. Maybe playing time will fix that. I've got him inked in as a starter.

8. The Bench: Ron Coleman has looked both great and lost on the court. He's got a smooth stroke from three, but looks a little overmatched on defense. I'm not sure what to make of Shepard based on his limitted playing time, but he and Price will be counted on for heavy minutes next year. We'll have to see how they react, but htey were both three star recruits coming out of high school so there is talent there. Of the Freshman coming in, look to DeShawn Sims to make the biggest impact immediately. 6'7" and lanky. He dropped 32 in a high school playoff game. We'll see how he reacts to the college game, but he's a solid recruit and a feather in tommy's cap. If Patrick Beverly commits, we'll add another feather.

9: Who's Playing: If the season started tomorrow our lineup would look liek this: (C) Sims; (F) Petway; Abram (F); Harris (G); Smith (PG). To be honest, that's a pretty good lineup. Everyone's got serious game experience and its a senior heavy class. If they can control the ball and limit turnovers, Michigan's going to score a lot of points.

10: Prediction? On paper, based soley on who's committed, I'd say 10-6 in the Big Ten, finishing fourth. We'll see how the out of conference games shape up once I can find a schedule.

There's talent here. There's some spirit. Hopefully, there'll be some new facilities as well. The Detroit News seems to think Michigan's on the up swing. Michigan's got a legitimate shot at the NCAA's next year. However, we've said this before. Even so, I'll be watching the calendar for the first midnight practice.

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