Thursday, April 2, 2009

C-ya Kelvin Grady

The Michigan basketball team got some sad news in the aftermath of their first tournament appearance in over a decade. Their point guard Kelvin Grady is leaving the program. Largely seen as a potential successor to Fifth Year Senior Captain CJ Lee, Grady's loss will have a huge impact on the team next season.

Although he did not start much this past season after starting his whole freshman season, he was a crucial figure in some games. Against Duke in the regular season he assisted on two key three pointers to Zack Novack by getting the ball up court and driving to the lane before kicking it out to him. Those two plays were the six point swing that the Wolverines needed to be able to pull off the upset, because before that happened Michigan was trailing by three with six minutes left in the game, less than a minute later thanks to Grady and Novack they led by three.

Another game in which Grady was a huge help was in the NCAA tournament in which Grady relieved starter Lee and was able to get the ball past Clemson's full court press in the first round, without his ball handling skills, it's quite possible that Michigan's tourney appearance would have been one and done.

Which begs the question: who will be Michigan's point guard next year? For now the answer will probably be either be redshirt sophomore Laval Lucas-Perry or incoming freshman and four star recruit, Darius Morris.

Perry is generally a shooting guard despite his point guard size, he is not generally the one to bring the ball up the court, although he can do it. Morris is highly regarded as the top point guard out of his home state of California and it was a steal for Michigan to get his commitment before their tournament run, but he's also a freshman and can be expected to make freshman mistakes.

Morris has the potential to be the best point guard at Michigan since Jalen Rose, but he will need some space to grow, which is where the loss of Grady hurts. Without another true point guard on the team, Coach John Beilein will have to scramble to find somebody to give him that growing space.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All good things come to an end

Michigan's basketball team has exceeded any kind of expectations that any rational person who had been observing them in recent years could make. They were coming off of a 10-22 season in which they finished tenth in their conference and lost their starting center Ekpe Udoh transferred to Baylor. The Wolverines had two largely unheralded guards coming in as freshman from Indiana, the 2007 Michigan Mr. Basketball in Manny Harris, an undersized center in Deshawn Sims, two walk on point guards, and a coach who has over 30 years of experience who decided it was time to go to work.

Wins over UCLA and Duke began to peak some interest in the program as the Wolverines got out to a great non conference start with only two losses. Michigan needed to make an impressive showing in the conference schedule to get a NCAA tournament berth. It looked like the team would falter especially after consecutive 18 point losses to Purdue and Ohio State on the road. Michigan needed a spark, and they got it with late season home victories over Minnesota and Purdue at home, before finishing off the season with a dramatic come from behind victory against Minnesota on the road.

The Wolverines finished the regular season 19-13, on the bubble for the tournament, needing one more win to get that precious 20th win to get them over the hump for certain. They played Iowa, a team that had beaten them two weeks before. With that in mind Deshawn Sims stepped up to the plate and hit a home run in basketball terms. Scoring the first 14 points of the game, Sims would finish with 27 as the wolverines coasted to a 28 point victory.

Despite a loss in the next round of the Big Ten tournament to Illinois, Michigan was in the dance for the first time since 1998 (when i was 10 years old). WOLV TV went gaga for the Hoops team and there is video coming for it.

Michigan would face Clemson in the first round of the tournament. The Tigers had size and a stifling full court press that had frustrated most of their opponents. What the Wolverines had was heart, and when they saw a 16 point second half lead dwindle to one, Manny Harris drove to the lane got the lay in and the foul and converted it to put on ice with less than 40 seconds in the game.

They faced their end against Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners, and while the national media may focus on Griffin's great performance. I personally admire how the young and grossly undersized Wolverines went about trying to stop him and for some periods of the game managed to slow him down without having to resort to taking charges. It was a great effort by a young team that will be back in the tournament next year.

I believe in my heart that if John Beilein does not receive the National Coach of the Year award he should be given another one, the Lemonade Maker of the Year. Because he took the lemons that he was given by the previous tenure and he made tournament quality lemonade in two years, not many coaches can say that they turned around programs that quickly.



Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dance Preview of Michigan vs. Clemson

As everybody should know the Wolverines are in the NCAA tournament for the first time since i was a ten year old going on eleven. I recently got an internship for Bleacher Report and i have a link for my preview of the game that i had to write for them right here.

Just so you know, this might mean that i have to update this blog less often.



Go Blue beat Palin's Money.

Michigan's playing that school that's really close to Russia, in the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, I would post a picture of Sarah Palin on this blog, but my parents read it and I don't want to offend them. I'll have a more in-depth preview up later in the week, because i've had a busy week and i need some relaxation to catch up on.

FINALLY!!!!!!!!! Here's the video i promised of fan interviews at Yost Ice Arena which I said I was going to do last year.

Check out the old guy i interviewed.



Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Michigan hockey fan's longest week of the year.

With the bye week going on there has been plenty to occupy the mind of the typical obsessive Michigan hockey fan for the week. Namely the fact that Michigan has gotten not one but two outdoor hockey games next year. On top of the fact that Red Berenson will be back for at least one more season. And this doesn't take into account the fact that the Michigan basketball team is playing their biggest game in years on saturday, which i will get back to later.

The Michigan hockey team itself aside from dealing with post break stresses of every other student in Ann Arbor is also wondering who they are going to be playing next week at the great cathedral of college hockey, Yost Ice Arena. There is a possibility that the winged helmets on ice will be playing the now extremely hated Michigan State Spartans. However it is a remote possibility because the Spartans are the No. 11 team in the conference which would mean in order for them to play the Wolverines they would not only have to beat Northern Michigan in Marquette, they would also need Bowling Green to upset Ohio State.

The former might actually be possible, MSU got three points against the Wildcats in October, but that was before a wave of injuries and suspensions swept over the Spartans and reduced them to the laughingstock of the CCHA. The latter is highly unlikely due to the fact that the only quality win BGSU has had all year is against Michigan on a friday which shouldn't count because at that point in the year it seemed unlikely Michigan wanted to play anybody on friday at home for some strange reason.

The realistic teams that Michigan could face are Northern Michigan, Western, and Nebraska Omaha (UNO to those who care). They could also face Ferris State and Lake Superior State, but i'm not going to talk about them because it would involve some really weird upsets.

Northern and Western are the most realistic teams that the Wolverines will face next week, and they lost to both teams earlier in the year. In both games they lost with Billy Sauer in goal when the team was refusing to give him goal support. If Bryan Hogan is in goal they should have no such problem and advance to Joe Louis Arena with goals to spare.

Go Blue.



Friday, February 27, 2009


It's incredibly hard for me to find words that describe the performance of the Michigan basketball team against Purdue without having to dip into some of the great literary geniuses like Shakespeare and Dickens. Shakespeare wrote with eloquence that has been unmatched by any speaker of the English language and Dickens wrote of struggles that any human could go through and live to tell the tale about.

In essence that's what this team is about, it's about beauty and eloquence at home in front of your own fans, and struggle and hardship on the road. The wolverines have been high as Mt. Everest at times this season like when they beat Duke in December, and they have been low as Death Valley as recent as this past sunday when they lost to Iowa in overtime. But they have managed to get through it and for most of this past night they achieved perfection on the hardwood for a program that has been kicked while it was down for the past 11 years.

They've dealt with scandal, shame, probation, bad coaching, and under performing overachievers. But now they have something, something that feels right, it's not perfect but it might be enough for them to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They're hoping it isn't a train, but they feel if they make it out of the darkness they will be ready for whatever challenges may await them, because boy did they go through some stuff in that darkness.

The road to the NCAA tournament is neither completed nor easy for the Michigan Wolverines but it is getting closer to its end, and they will soon find out if that road will get them inside the big dance or not.

according to the daily this was the video they showed the team before the game.



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Are we going dancing?

Michigan's basketball team is about as bubble-licious as they get right now. They have wins over three currently ranked teams in Illinois, Duke and UCLA. They are not ranked and sit at a 16-10 overall record with a 6-7 mark in the Big Ten. Something that could help the Wolverines make their first tournament appearance in over a decade is the fact that this year, the Big Ten is absolutely crazy as far as who's beating who. For example, today Penn State beat Illinois and Northwestern beat Ohio State. Michigan split with both Illinois and Penn State winning both games at Crisler and losing both road games, they swept Northwestern and got swept by the Buckeyes.

They face a test to their hopes at Crisler Arena tomorrow in the Minnesota (mini-pop) Golden Gophers coached by the legendary Tubby Smith, a man who i initially wanted to take the job at Michigan when it became open. The Gophers, like a healthy chunk of the conference has been in and out of the rankings for much of the year. They had their greatest start in school history in the non-conference schedule, going 12-0. Since then they have won 7 of their past 13 games and look like if they maintain their pace they're going to make it into the NCAA tournament. But like Michigan they have been streaky, they have lost three out of their last four games.

The Wolverines have split their last four games, but the two wins came against traditionally lowly opponents in Northwestern and Penn State. The Gophers only win came against Indiana, the traditional power in the Big Ten who's going through the same thing Michigan's football team went through this past season, more on that later.

Neither team can afford to lose this game and stand a chance at staying in the good graces of the tournament selection committee. They're both on thin ice and if they slip up on the hard wood they could fall through the cracks. Michigan has to be hungrier in order to win this game, they don't just have to play bigger than the guys they have. They have to be bigger then the guys they have. They have to play like their scared to lose. A former Green Bay Packer under Vince Lombardi once said it best,
whenever we played a great team like the Cleavland Browns with Jim Brown we played out of fear that we had to stop him because his performance would determine the outcome of the game, and he played his last game against us in the championship and lost, so that means he didn't have a good day.

The Packers weren't always as big as Jim Brown but they played bigger than him and they felt that they were bigger than him. To bring this football analogy to the point, Michigan has been getting outsized in big ten games so far this year, and when they've beaten teams it's because they didn't try to be bigger than their opponents, it's because they felt bigger than their opponents. It's because Zack Novack felt that he could stretch his 6'5" frame out just enough to get that rebound against Illinois, it's because 5'10" David Merritt made the extra effort to knock a ball away from an opponent against Duke. That's what it takes to win games, that's what it takes to make it to the big dance, hopefully that's what Michigan will do tomorrow night.

(preview of hockey series vs. OSU tomorrow)