Dylan from UMHoops.com generously agreed to answer a few questions about tomorrow night’s must win match-up between two of the more disappointing teams in the country. I also answered some questions of his. Fair warning, go elsewhere for boundless optimism.
FTB: I hate to start with the obvious question, but what the heck happened? Where is the team that was ranked in the top 10 in some pre-season polls?
UMHoops: We’re wondering the same thing in Ann Arbor. It’s clear that this team was overrated from the start. For starters, top 10 teams don’t have 6-foot-4 power forwards. Michigan got off to a bad start and never really could rebound from it. They haven’t shot the ball well all year and really just haven’t improved.
Couple the lack of improvement with Michigan inability to win close games and you have a disaster. Michigan is 1-6 in games decided by 6 points or less and it seems that each loss has taken a bigger chunk out of their spirit.
FTB: Much has been made this season about leadership in the Big Ten. What role has lack of leadership played in Michigan’s struggles?
UMHoops: The lack of leadership has been painfully obvious. CJ Lee and David Merritt weren’t world beaters but they were 5th year seniors who were mature beyond their years (Lee is now involved in politics and Merritt has already started his own company). These two kids held the team together from the point guard position despite their lack of world class talent.
The lack of leadership is evident in Michigan’s bad record in close games and also played a huge part in Michigan’s inability to defend early on this season. DeShawn Sims and Zack Novak are the captains on this year’s team. Sims is not very vocal and Novak is only a sophomore. When the going gets tough, this team doesn’t know where to look.
FTB: Gopher fans are already cringing at the prospect of Michigan’s three-pointer filled offense and Minnesota’s poor three point defense. Do we have reason to worry?
UMHoops: Well, you can expect a barrage of three point attempts but Michigan is the 324th worst three point shooting team in the country. Worse than any other major conference school. Michigan is a shooting team that just can’t shoot.
FTB: What is the mental make-up of Michigan at this state of the season. What is left to play for?
UMHoops: The CBI? This team is at the point where they have to play their way into the NIT. They appeared to be playing better basketball after a win versus Connecticut but they spoiled a great effort in Madison and then the collapse versus Michigan State probably broke the back of this team. At this point, there aren’t even mildly ridiculous situations that push this team into the NCAA tournament and they know it.
FTB: How annoying is it to lose to Kalin Lucas in the closing seconds?
UMHoops: Annoying isn’t the word I’d use. It’s worse than that.
FTB: Where does Michigan go from here? Manny Harris might be on his way out the door, and Deshawn Sims certainly is. Is the future bright in Ann Arbor?
UMHoops: Manny Harris might be out the door but his season has taken a turn for the worst. I’m not sure that he’s anything more than a second round pick at this point. There’s still a very real chance that he does make the jump.
Going forward Michigan has a roster of complimentary players that don’t look ready to make a major impact. They have all of their recruiting eggs in the Trey Zeigler basket but if they don’t land him they are probably in for a long season next year.