Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tuesday Basketball Roundup

Michigan Basketball Improves to 14-3 (2-0) With Victory Over Cats

Michigan stayed relatively lukewarm after posting a 58-46 victory over Nortwestern in Evanston on Saturday. After topping Illinois in Michigan's Big Ten opener, the Northwestern game was a mild trap for the Wolverines before they venture to West Lafayette and their veritable Rodeo Drive of fast food and chain eateries this weekend.

I'm not takin' her to the Olive Garden.
It's not like we're dating.

To Michigan's credit, there only seem to be two shooters who can't find the rim (cough Dion Harris cough). Everyone hovered around 50% from the floor except Baker and Harris. Harris went 2-10 but dished out 8 assists with only a single turnover. Baker, despite leading the team with 11 points, went 3-8 and fumbled the ball 4 times the most on the team and three more than Courtney Sims (if that's believable). Everyone else was at 50% or better and the only other person with more than one turnover was Ron Coleman who had 2 in 20 minutes of playing time. That type of ball protection is something that has been missing from almost every Michigan game to date.

The problem is Michigan again allowed a clearly inferior team to hang around far too long. It wasn't until 6 minutes left in the game that Michigan finally put the Cats away. Michigan's inability to crush weak teams like the cockroaches they are is troubling as the tourney committee will evaluate Michigan on its total body of work. With Michigan's "schedule" the Wolverines need to show they are clearly better that road kill they've been playing.

Still, a 12 point win is a 12 point win. Especially on the road where Michigan has played TERRIBLY up to this point. I'll take it. Adding to the semi-sweet morsel that is victory is the lingering inclination to believe that Lester Abram is finally coming around. After torching Illinois for 25, Abram had a quiet game until sticking the final dagger into the Cats with a 3 pointer to seal the win. This team desperately needs an Iceman. With two strong games under his belt and a 4-8 shooting night, Lester gets my newest award for basketball excellence: The Iceman Helmet

Lester, you can be my wingman any time.

Despite my still lingering concerns about Michigan's coaching and the play of its seniors (save Abram), I am very very pleased with the play of its freshmen. Ekpe Udoh is fast becoming the best player on this team. In the win Udoh went 4-5 with two more blocks, two more assists and NO turnovers. He also grabbed 7 boards. Baker, despite his turnover problems (which seem to be a result of him trying to do too much), is playing over and beyond what ANYONE thought he'd be capable of. Sims has already had a pair of monster games and if Morris hadn't injured himself, he'd be contributing too.

Finally, one major thing to note is Jerret Smith played 8 minutes compared to Coleman's 20 and Baker's 26. Maybe this is just because they were playing Northwestern, but with Smith's turnover and shooting problems, I think Amaker is erring on the side of offense with Baker. If Baker can shoot his way out of however many turnovers he commits it's a vast improvement over Smith's inability to contribute offensively or defensively as a sub.

No matter. Michigan is 14-3 with a critical early conference game against Purdue on the horizon. Keep your fingers crossed, but at this point, it's still too early to get your hopes up.

Other Basketball/Recruiting Related Information:

- Manny Harris went for 50 or more for the second time this season. Harris dropped 52 on Detroit Henry Ford before Christmas and recently put 50 in on Grosse Point North. To assuage your fears, he has signed his letter of intent.

- Michigan PG commit Kelvin Grady scored 25 in East Grand Rapids dismantling of Wayland. Of serious note in the piece is Amaker took in another game of Delvon Roe's, the 5 star-top 5 power forward Michigan is coveting like the Hope Diamond. Roe scored 30 in front of Izzo and Amaker. At this point Roe has narrowed his choices to Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Kansas and North Carolina. Anyone else a little nervous looking at that list?

- As you probably noticed in the aboved linked articles, Alex Legion continues to play well.

- Along with Delvon Roe, one of Michigan's top 2008 targets is top 4 player and 5 star Ohio center Kenny Frease. Frease injured his right wrist in a pre-New Years game and will be out three weeks. Frease continues to list Xavier as his top choice and has mentioned repeatedly that Michigan is "tied" with Xavier for tops on his list. Talking about his recruiting, Frease said the following:

"Right now I’m hearing from Xavier, Michigan and Notre Dame a lot. Kentucky has just recently offered and Tubby Smith has called the school to talk to my coach recently. I’d have to say Xavier is probably at the top of my list along with Michigan. I just feel real comfortable with the Xavier staff. I’ve been down there seven times and it’s a great place. I’m not ready to make a decision yet. I’ll probably be ready to announce my decision in late June or early July. I’m still considering Notre Dame and I want to see Michigan State. I’m really impressed with Tom Izzo and what he’s done there. Tommy Amaker at Michigan is a great guy too. It will be hard to tell some of these people that I won’t be coming to their school.”

Frease visited Michigan back in September and came away very impressed. However, I think the time that's passed since his visit made his memory a little lax. Another visit would help, but unless Amaker pulls a rabbit out of his hat my gut is telling me Frease will end up at Xavier. Still, the fact that Michigan is still up there has to be taken as a good sign.

- Finally, the Women's Basketball team notched its first Big Ten win since 2005 when it defeated Penn State. Ta'Shia Walker led the way with 15 points in 24 minutes. This is the first time in almost two calendar years that the Lady Wolverines claimed a win in Big Ten play and they did it convincingly. Michigan topped PSU 55-41 in Ann Arbor to even their conference record at 1-1. They sit 8-9 on the year. Congratulations to the women's team on a hard fought victory.


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