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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Michigan hung tough against Illinois, easily beating the 15 point spread. Michigan led by six with about nine minutes to go when Dee Brown stole the ball from poor Ashtyn Bell three or four times and went coast to coast each time, erasing the lead in the blink of an eye. Then UI's three-pointers started falling and Michigan was toast.

Encouraging, none the less. Michigan decided they were going to play #16 seed basketball, running every shot clock down to ten before even attempting to get any offense. They also spent a large portion of the game in a 2-3 zone, which kept Harris fresher than he would have been otherwise, shut down penetration, and forced Illinois to settle for a slew of three pointers which they couldn't knock down until about midway through the second half. Those two excellent adjustments by Amaker had Michigan actually leading for about half the game.

Weber made an excellent adjustment of his own. Amaker had no answer when Weber decided to extend his defense out to the half-court stripe. There's not a whole lot he could have done when his backcourt had one player who could create his own shot, or even handle the ball well enough to force a defender to back off a little bit. Michigan's turnovers shot up in the second half (miraculously, they only had five in the first half), and Dee Brown sprinted to a series of easy layups. What can you do? Ashtyn Bell probably never thought he'd see the floor against High Point, let alone #1 Illinois. The season is a disaster, and nothing's going to change that. All I'm looking for during the rest of the season is reason to hope.

And there might be. Four additional scholarship guards (Horton, Abram, Jerret Smith, and Jevohn Shepard) will take a lot of the pressure off of Harris. Abram was the team's best player last year. Walk-ons will not be heavily featured in the rotation next year. Everyone should return. I have doubts about Amaker's ability to develop players, but they should at least be marginally better. Is Michigan 2005-2006 a tourney team? What do you think our record would be with Horton and Abram? We'd probably be a solid mid-seed projection at this point. Next year is the key year. If we don't move forward significantly, eyebrows will raise. Amaker has rebuilt the program and this year he was snakebit by the Crawford debacle and all the injuries. Next year the excuse meter is reading very low.


Anonymous said...

This was a great game. Michigan played awesome even though they lost. This game proves that they can hang with the best of them.

Dan from

Chris said...

Amaker not developing players is RCMB Myth #27. Don't believe the hype.

Lester Abram went from a guy that was afraid to shoot as a freshmen to an all-Big Ten player in one year. Graham Brown couldn't play 2 minutes as a freshmen without getting into foul trouble, now he's good for the occassional big game, and he's learned to knock down free throws. Chris Hunter went from a 6th man to a legitimate Big Ten starter. Brent Petway's shooting range as a freshmen was 6 inches out, and now it's up to like 4 feet. That's like a 300% improvement. Ron Coleman is much better than he was at the beginning of the year, and he looks like he'll develop into a solid player.

I think the jury is stil out on Harris and Sims, but I think they'll come back with huge years next year when they've got a supporting cast that can shoulder some of the load.