Going into the game against UCLA, I figured it would be a idea to play a drinking game where you take a drink for every field goal made. For the first few minutes it looked like a good call as UCLA appeared to be creeping out to a big lead at 9-1. Then something weird happened.
The team last year at times looked confused in the 1-3-1 defense. They didn’t get to their spots in time, couldn’t recover on the swing. It looked like it wasn’t going to work. Against UCLA the 1-3-1 allowed Michigan to aggressively trap and force a ton of turnovers.
The hardest part about watching the Amaker years was the complete lack of fundamentals coaching, especially on the offensive end. Lazy passes, bad spacing, and no movement were the norm rather than the exception. In this game we saw great bounce passes to back-cutting players, exceptional spacing for our players to get to work, and good shooting from the outside. Beyond that, there were a lot of good shots that the players just couldn’t finish. Soon they’ll be able to get those shots to go down and we’ll have a very potent offense on our hands.
At the end of the game I was waiting for UCLA to come back and win. Being a Michigan fan, my experience in the recent past is often “get a glimmer of hope; get that violently beaten to death.” After UCLA made the 3pt shot to get it within one I could feel myself thinking “OK. This is it.” Then, Michigan was able to inbound the ball, not just to anybody, but to a very legitimate closer in “Manny” Harris (quick aside: is it weird that out of Corperryale Manny Harris it’s the Manny that gets the quotes?). I jumped up and started cheering. This was before Manny nailed the two free throws. From my years watching Amaker “coach” Michigan, I fully expected either a 5-seconds call or the ball being taken away on the inbounds. Instead, they got to Manny who got fouled with 4.6 seconds left. He walked to the line and sank two huge free throws like it was practice. UCLA gets a great inbounds pass almost all the way to half court and gets to the arc. The whole time I was yelling “foul him! for the love of all that is good and holy in this world foul him!’ Instead, Harris decides he’ll just block the attempt. Game over.
Sure, UCLA is probably overrated. They lost a ton of production last year, but they are still one of the better defensive teams out there and Michigan only had 10 turnovers. 10 turnovers to 15 assists against a team that usually plays lights out man-to-man defense. This team is turning the corner. I have no reason not to believe they have a shot at the tourney come March. If they can hang with and beat UCLA, there’s very few teams they don’t have a shot to beat. Before the UCLA game, I would have been happy with a barely above .500 season where the team looks good and hangs in tough against the big dogs, but now I think Michigan has a chance to do a lot of damage, especially in conference play once they get Lucas-Perry playing.
The kids seem like they believe they can make the Tournament. I know Beilein believes they can do it. They know a hell of a lot more about their chances then I do. So, I guess get ready for March Madness.
Posted under Football