Tuesday, November 4, 2008

UM Basketball '08-09: Get Pumped! (No, seriously...be excited.)

The Michigan Men’s Basketball team will take the floor in their exhibition opener this Thursday against the Cardinals of Saginaw Valley State University (Side note: I have been to SVSU and their campus is literally the size of the Diag, or the distance from the Flagpole to the Grad. And that’s including their entire student housing complex, too. I’m not kidding. It’s that small.).  Now, things haven’t exactly been great for this program in the past few years.  Sure, they lost to Harvard and their former coach (Tommy Amaker) last season... Yeah, they lost to Duke by almost 40 points last year...OK, so the leading shot blocker in the Big Ten last year (Ekpe Udoh) decided to transfer to Baylor, the incoming recruiting class doesn’t have a Top 50 player, and their big foreign recruit wasn’t actually allowed to play in the NCAA.

….But you should still be excited for 4 big reasons which will have you watching and cheering (and maybe even buying tickets?!?!) by season’s end.

(And let’s get the obvious out of the way for the cynics out there: I am not going to cop-out and use the old “At least it’ll give us something to watch other than gut-wrenching Michigan Football.”  I’ve made my peace with this season. So should you).

The Big Ten is weak and there will be parity:  At Big Ten Media day, Purdue was voted the pre-season favorite with MSU and Wisconsin behind them.  While I do think there is something to be said for Matt Painter returning 5 starters, I just don’t see Purdue being all that great.  I think Robbie Hummel received the pre-season MVP because…well, I’m still trying to figure that out.  The guy wasn’t even voted MVP of his TEAM last year (that award went to Keaton Grant).  I think Purdue will be good, but there isn’t much that separates the top tier teams from each other. Throw in OSU and you have your legitimate top 4.  This leaves the rest of the Big Ten to fight it out.  I think Michigan (if they can get some key wins on the road) could sneak into the top 5. Three of the remaining teams (PSU, NU, and Iowa) don’t look like they have a shot, Indiana’s program is still trying to get out of “3-Ring Circus” mode, leaving Minn, Illinois, and Michigan to fight it out. I like the Wolverines in that case.


A Star Is Born: People have ripped UM for not having a star player with NBA-type talent since Jamal Crawford.  That ends this year with the emergence of Manny Harris.  The Detroit native averaged 16 points as a freshman and only looks to get better with a year’s experience in John Beilein’s system already under his belt.  If the Wolverines can get consistent contribution from behind the three-point line (look for newcomer Stu Douglass to prove his value here), that will spread the floor and “Manny Fresh” will average close to 20 points for the season.


If you give them free stuff, they hopefully might come:  The Men’s Basketball program has pulled out all the stops and are giving prizes to kids willing to buy tickets/attend games this season.  Prizes include tickets to the OSU football games, MDen gift cards, and even free books for the semester.  They are giving away just about everything but the keys to Rich Rodriguez’s car.  This (in addition to a winning record through the pre-season) will hopefully bring people to the games and create an arena atmosphere that goes along with a winning program.  If the Athletic Department can get 8,000 people in Crisler on a consistent basis, that will be good for at least 2 wins against one of the top four teams).


The Big House isn’t the only thing under construction:  Coach Beilein is building a program.  His players have not always been the most highly recruited, but they act as pieces to the puzzle that is their intricate offensive system.  Beilein is big on role guys, and the guys he brought in at WVU (guys like Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey, neither who made it big in the pros) were role players but were the reasons his 2005 team made it to the Elite Eight.  He has a track record that shows his ability to do great work with “adequate” talent.  A winning record will give him more than his fair crack at good recruits in the state in the coming years.

This year’s team will be a solid one and, if all else, an interesting one to watch.  Michigan Basketball won’t return to the prominence of its teams of the 90’s overnight, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself at Crisler Arena cheering on this team in your brand new Adidas hoodie.


RBB said...

Great post. I think the 1-3-1 will be much more effective in year 2 of Beilein's system.

Anonymous said...

Parody: an imitation exaggerated for the sake of humor.

Parity: equality.

Don't make us look bad.

M grad 02

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