Each time the Michigan basketball team loses for the remainder of the year, they inch ever closer to completely whiffing on the NCAA tournament and earning a bid to the NIT. Midway through the first half in the Ohio State game, the commentator, referring to Michigan’s dismal shooting to start the game, asked, “Is that Michigan, or is it Ohio State’s defense?” Of course, as always, the answer lies somewhere in the middle of those two answers. However, I think, for the most part, Michigan basketball’s current slide can be accounted for by the offensive performances of Michigan and their foes, moreso than either team’s defense.
It’s gotten frustrating starting games in a big deficit, then clawing back to within striking range at halftime (or shortly after, as was the case in this game), and thinking “well, when the team starts making shots, they should be able to run away with this one.” The team hasn’t started hitting those shots in almost any game. The shooting hasn’t improved too much in the last few weeks, and the games have all too often ended up with the Wolverines on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Later in the same game, the announcer came back with another interesting quite regarding Michigan’s offense: “how easy must it be to play for a coach who’s never going to criticize your shot selection?” This is a ridiculous misrepresentation of the John Beilein philosophy. Running an offense that relies heavily on 3-pointers is in no way the same as having a coach who tells his players to shoot whenever and wherever they want. On the contrary, Beilein can often be seen screaming at a player after he takes a particularly reckless shot, and uses the unceremonious substitution as punishment for the same very often. In this game, Beilein got so angry as to earn a technical foul at one point. This isn’t a guy who’s not getting frustrated with his teeam.
So, again BJ Mullens dominated the offensive boards with putbacks, again Michigan couldn’t hit their shots, open or otherwise, and the Wolverines sulked back to Ann Arbor with their tails between their legs. The tournament is going to be a tough task now, with Michigan all-but-requiring wins against the likes of Purdue and Michigan State to make it in. Are they up to the task?