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Posts Tagged ‘Zack Gibson’

MICHIGAN BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Novak and Douglass Lead Wolverine Youth Movement

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010


Every year, I find mid-November to be an odd juncture in the world of sports. Baseball, the sport that kept us going through the football off-season, just came to climax a few weeks ago, and now football season is in full swing with teams gearing up for the conference title. But just as teams are trying to position themselves for bowl season, basketball throws its hat back into the ring as if to say, “I’m back. Remember me?”

Zack Novak (left) and Stu Douglass (right) are the elder statesmen of John Beilein's squad

Now we have the Tip-Off Marathon to get us through the week until the next football game, but until football season is over, basketball seems to remain just that: something to get us through until Saturday.

We’ve poured our fandom into the men of the gridiron since August, and now, just as it’s getting interesting with the Ohio State game looming, we’re required to shift our focus to the hardwood every now and then.

For me, it’s hard to get into basketball until after The Game signals the culmination of the football regular season. But tomorrow I’ll turn my gaze to the Big Ten Network as Michigan basketball hosts Bowling Green.

It’s not the official season opener. That was Saturday when Michigan throttled South Carolina Upstate 66-35. But in many ways it is since it’s played mid-week instead of right after a Michigan football game, and it’s the first televised game of the season. So what can we expect from Michigan this year?

Unfortunately, in many ways, it looks like it’s going to resemble this year’s football team: exciting to watch at times, but it has to depend so much on youth that we’ll be left thinking “can’t wait ’til next year.”

The heart and soul of last year’s team is gone, Manny Harris to the Cleveland Cavaliers and DeShawn Sims to graduation. And while Zack Gibson, Anthony Wright, and Lavell Lucas Perry were never mistaken for the trio down in South Beach, their experience will be missed as well. The roster now looks much like the football team’s secondary: a lot of “So.”s and “Fr.”s.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s still a lot of talent there. Zack Novak and Stu Douglass are now the leaders – the current juniors who electrified Ann Arbor with their gritty play and long-range shooting, helping Michigan break its decade-long tournament drought as freshmen, but suffered through a sophomore slump last season. Then there’s point guard Darius Morris who started 19 games as a freshman a year ago, averaging 4.4 points, 2.6 assists, and 1.8 rebounds a game, and giving Michigan its first true point guard with size in quite a while. And there’s also the three sons of former NBA players, Jordan Dumars, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Jon Horford.

While there’s room for optimism, we also must remember that Novak and Douglass struggled to find the net last season, shooting a combined 31.8 percent from three-point land. And we must remember that Morris was prone to turnovers and got too far ahead of himself at times. And we also must realize that, pedigree or not, Dumars, Hardaway, and Horford are all in their first season of collegiate action*.

One thing is certain: it’s officially John Beilein’s team. With Harris and Sims gone, every player on the roster is a Beilein recruit and will aim to run his system the way West Virginia did with a team of scrappy no-names. It’s a system predicated on shooting and last year that was a struggle. I would never call the departure of Harris and Sims a good thing, but perhaps the team will epitomize the word team with no go-to guy to rely on. Perhaps Novak and Douglass will have no second thoughts about whether to jack up a three or dish it off to Manny, and that, in turn, will make them better shooters.

They’ll have help on the inside with Jordan Morgan and Blake McLimans. Morgan redshirted last season after dominating high school basketball in Detroit and is a athletic, thick body in the middle. McLimans also redshirted last season and is the tallest player on the team at 6’10″. He used the redshirt season to add 25 pounds of weight to his previously thin frame and should be ready to man up underneath this season while occasionally stepping out to hit the outside shot.

Sophomore guard Matt Vogrich, who got some playing time last season, will also be asked to contribute. Against Northern Michigan last season, he scored 15 points, all on three-pointers, and shot 39.3 percent from three-point range for the year.

The Newcomers
Tim Hardaway Jr. Jon Horford Evan Smotrycz
Colton Christian
10 15 23 45
G F F F
6’5″ 6’9″ 6’9″ 6’6″
185 lbs. 220 lbs. 225 lbs. 215 lbs.
Miami, Fla. Grand Ledge, Mich. Reading, Mass. Bellevue, Wash.
Palmetto Senior H.S. Grand Ledge H.S. New Hampton Prep (N.H.) Hargrave Military Academy

The season officially started last Saturday as Michigan handled South Carolina Upstate and Novak and Douglass went a combined three-for-six from long range, but it was Morris and Hardaway who stepped up.

Hardaway led all scorers in the first game of his career, scoring 19 points in 25 minutes, including three threes. Morris made seven-of-ten shots for 17 points. If Michigan can get that kind of production from those two all season, it will win plenty of games.

The non-conference portion of the schedule has a mix of cupcakes and quality opponents. Two should-win games are up next, Bowling Green tomorrow and Gardner-Webb on Sunday, before the first big test of the season, Syracuse, next Friday in Atlantic City, N.J. The Wolverines travel to Clemson for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Nov. 30 and host Utah on Dec. 10. Michigan also hosts Kansas on Jan. 9 after three Big Ten games and before closing out the season with the rest of the conference slate.

Including the Kansas game, I’d say an 8-5 non-conference record is likely, meaning Michigan will have to have a winning record in conference in order to make it to the Big Dance this season. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen this year with Ohio State and Michigan State on the schedule twice, as well as Illinois, Purdue, and the always tough Wisconsin. The Big Ten may not be as tough as it has been the past few years, but it will still be solid from top to bottom, and with such a young team, Michigan is a year away from really challenging for a title.

As much as it pains me to say it, this looks to be a season similar to last year’s, although it won’t feel as much of a letdown this year as it was after coming off a trip to the tournament prior to last season. I predict a 15-16 regular season record (7-11 in the Big Ten), but let’s hope I’m wrong. Go Blue!

*Dumars played in six games last season for South Florida before transferring to Michigan and sitting out the rest of the season.

Michigan Basketball Preview: Harris, Sims Look to Lead Wolverines to Big Ten Title

Thursday, November 5th, 2009


With the football team entering the last month of the season, Michigan’s basketball team takes the court in Friday’s exhibition with Wayne State looking to be the toast of Ann Arbor for the second straight year.

*Junior guard Manny Harris hopes to lead Michigan to a Big Ten title

*Junior guard Manny Harris hopes to lead Michigan to a Big Ten title

Michigan basketball has enjoyed success over much of its history and won a National Championship in 1989, but has still always been considered second-rate on campus behind the boys on the gridiron.

But with the recent growing pains of the football program, the rejuvenated basketball program in its third year under head coach John Beilein, enters the season with high expectations. Michigan ranks 15th in the preseason Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls, the first time in 12 years it enters the season ranked.

And for the first time in recent history, Michigan fans look forward to the end of football season and the beginning of basketball season.

With a 22-14 record last year, and a return to the NCAA Basketball tournament for the first time in 11 years, a pair of John Wooden All-American candidates and another year of experience for last year’s youth should help the squad challenge for the Big Ten title.

The team:

Guard Manny Harris is the star after leading Michigan in scoring (16.9), rebounding (6.8), assists (4.4), steals (1.2), minutes (32.9) and free-throw percentage (86.3 percent) last season as a sophomore.

The junior from Detroit opted to forego the NBA Draft and return to help Michigan build upon its success.

Harris was named to the 2009-10 Naismith Preseason Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year Watch List in addition to being a candidate for the John Wooden Player of the Year award.

Senior forward DeShawn Sims led the team in blocks (27) and field goal percentage (50.5) and was second on the team behind Harris in points (15.4), rebounds (6.8), steals (1.1) and minutes (30.7) last season.

A true team player, Sims has embodied Beilein’s unselfish system, coming off the bench for nine of Michigan’s games last season, yet still earning All-Big Ten Second Team honors.

Sophomores Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Laval Lucas-Perry give the backcourt experienced returning talent.

Novak was Michigan’s best three-point shooter last season at 34.4 percent and had perhaps his biggest game in leading Michigan to an upset over No. 4 Duke.

Lucas-Perry also shot 34.4 percent from downtown, though on about half as many attempts as Harris and Novak. Lucas-Perry gives Michigan size and quickness at the guard position.

Douglass is a slightly smaller version of Novak, a streaky sharpshooter who averaged 6.1 points per game last season.

Another wing player with a lot of experience is redshirt junior forward Anthony Wright. While his numbers won’t blow anyone away (he averaged just 2.7 points per game last season), Wright came up big in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, scoring 14 points against Oklahoma. His experience should pay off this season.

Senior center Zack Gibson returns to fill the middle. The 6-10 forward averaged 3.9 points and 2.2 rebounds a year ago and gives Michigan a big man that can occasionally step out and hit the three, although not as well as he seems to think he can. Michigan fans would prefer him to stay inside.

The Newcomers
Darius Morris Eso Akunne Matt Vogrich Josh Bartelstein Blake McLimans Jordan Morgan
DariusMorris EsoAkunne MattVogrich JoshBartelstein BlakeMcLimans JordanMorgan
4 5 13 20 22 52
PG G G G F F
6-4 6-3 6-4 6-3 610 6-8
180 220 180 190 220 240
Los Angeles, Calif. Ann Arbor, Mich. Lake Forest, Ill. Highland Park, Ill. Hamburg, N.Y. Detroit, Mich.
Windward Gabriel Richard Lake Forest Phillips Exeter Academy Worcester Academy Univ. of Detroit Jesuit

Newcomers Darius Morris, Matt Vogrich, Blake McLimans and Jordan Morgan more than make up for the players Michigan lost to graduation (C.J. Lee, Jevohn Shepherd and David Merritt).

Morris is a hotshot point guard recruit out of Los Angeles, Calif. He averaged 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists and was named the John Wooden State Player of the Year as a senior.

Vogrich is another sharpshooter that fits the mold of Beilein’s program perfectly. A 6-4 guard, Vogrich averaged 16.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists in earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors for the state of Illinois.

Morgan and McLimans give Beilein a pair of big guys to bolster Michigan’s frontcourt.

Morgan averaged 14.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. He was named to the Detroit Free Press Class A All-State third team as a senior.

McLimans, at 6-10, 220 gives Michigan a much-needed body on the inside. He is somewhat unknown since he didn’t play AAU ball, but appears to be the versatile-type big man Beilein prefers with the ability to shoot from the outside.

Another player that could play a role is sophomore center Ben Cronin. At 7-0, 265, Cronin is the biggest player on the roster and runs the court well for a big guy. If he can stay healthy (he had hip surgery on Jan. 14), Cronin will be a big help, especially once the physical play of the Big Ten season begins.

The schedule:

The schedule stacks up slightly tougher than in recent years and should provide a good barometer of how good this Michigan team really is.

Creighton, Marquette, Xavier, and Florida State all await Michigan early on in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla.

In this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Michigan hosts Boston College on Dec. 2, a team that needs to find its identity after losing Tyrese Rice. This should be Michigan’s first win in the challenge since beating Miami in 2005.

Games to Watch
Date Team Rank Location Time TV
Thu. Nov. 26 Creighton Orlando, Fla. 12 p.m. ESPN2
Sat. Dec. 19 Kansas 1 Lawrence, Kan. 1 p.m. ESPN
Sun. Jan. 17 Connecticut 12 Ann Arbor, Mich. TBA CBS
Sat. Jan. 23 Purdue 7 West Lafayette, Ind. 4 p.m. ESPN
Tue. Jan. 26 Michigan State 2 Ann Arbor, Mich. 7 p.m. ESPN
Sat. Feb. 27 Ohio State 16 Columbus, Ohio TBA ESPN or BTN

Michigan also travels to Utah and Kansas before beginning the Big Ten portion of the schedule, and hosts No. 1 Connecticut on Jan. 17.

Last season, Michigan put up a good fight against Connecticut, losing by just eight on the road after leading 34-33 at halftime. This year, Michigan gets the Huskies at home, where it upset No. 4 Duke a year ago.

Once the Big Ten season starts, the schedule doesn’t get any easier.

Rival Michigan State ranks 2nd in the nation after falling to North Carolina in the national championship game last March, and features the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, Kalin Lucas.

Purdue will also be a formidable opponent as the Boilermakers enter the season ranked 7th in the nation. A Sweet Sixteen team a year ago, Purdue is led by versatile 6-8 forward Robbie Hummel, who averaged 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last season.

Ohio State comes in at No. 16 in the nation, and looks to absolve its early exit from last season’s NCAA Tournament. Jon Diebler, Evan Turner, David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale return to give Ohio State experienced talent all over the court.

Illinois and Minnesota also enter the season in the Top 25, at 23rd and 25th, respectively. Both are very well coached teams that fared well last season. Illinois has to find leadership to replace point guard Chester Frazier and shooting guard Trent Meacham, while Minnesota brought in a highly regarded recruiting class to complement seniors Lawrence Westbrook and Damian Johnson.

Outlook:

Last year’s team lived and died on two things: three-pointers and free throws.

In 22 wins, Michigan shot 36.8 percent from downtown and 76.7 percent from the free throw line, while getting to the line 19 times per game.

*Senior DeShawn Sims averaged 15.4 points and 6.8 rebouds per game last season

*Senior DeShawn Sims averaged 15.4 points and 6.8 rebouds per game last season

In 14 losses, Michigan shot just 29.5 percent from three and 72.7 percent from the foul line, while getting to the line just under 12 times per game.

The ability to knock down the three and get to the free throw line is key for Michigan since its strength is in the backcourt.

Harris is at his best when he’s driving to the basket, picking up fouls. He shot 204 free throws last year, making 176 of them. That’s nearly twice as many made free throws as the next closest player, DeShawn Sims, had attempts (93).

The guys that accounted for many of the three-point attempts, Novak, Douglass, and Lucas-Perry (43 percent combined) were freshmen last season, which according to the Big Ten Geeks is good news for this season.

Their research shows that college basketball players make their most improvement from their freshman to sophomore seasons.

If that holds true, and if freshman Darius Morris can perform adequately at point guard, Michigan should be in for another good season.

Making the NCAA Tournament should not be the goal for this year’s team, as it should be a virtual lock. Challenging for the Big Ten title should be.

While Michigan has the ability to beat anyone in the nation on any given night, it must prove it can win on the road.

I predict a 21-9 season (12-6 in the Big Ten) with splits against Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and losing both games to Michigan State and out-of conference losses to Utah, Kansas, and one of the games in the Old Spice Classic.

Obviously I hope it’s better than this, but I prefer to lean toward the safe side, due to still having a lot of youth in the backcourt and no proven inside presence. That way I can be pleasantly surprised if the team overachieves.

A return trip to the NCAA Tournament as a mid seed and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen should be considered a realistic goal for this team.

All-in-all, it should be an exciting season for Michigan basketball.