Looks Can Be Deceiving
Looks can indeed be deceiving, but not all of the time. Last night’s game against Montana was past ugly, there was no deception, the game was ugly. The two questions are why was the game so ugly and to what degree was the ugliness.
Both questions are merely academic, although possibly interesting for some inane discussion. Take your pick readers as to the ugliness factors involved. There could be a list of fifteen or twenty reasons offered, some a little valid and some past ridiculous. To the degree of game ugliness, anyone quantifying the construct of ugliness within the sphere of a basketball game would be well served to use descriptive terms.
So, the following cardinal scale of levels is offered:
1 – Almost ugly
2 – Ugly, brutal but still minimally tolerable
3 – Ugly in a manner that is not within the tolerance of a typical observer
4 – A level of ugly not yet defined or experienced. A new bar
I vote a 2.9. If ugly follows the old adage of preparation meeting opportunity, opportunity created an imperfect storm and final product.
There was one salvation for Michigan fans, Michigan won the game. That is the solace and the nightmare will be placed further into the recesses of the mind if Michigan goes forward and makes the Sweet 16. The ugly memory will be compounded if the Wolverines lose Saturday night with poor play.
So, we know what we saw and so did the team and coaching staff. All of us can discuss with some luxury, but players and staff must quickly flush this away and get into another zone, one more positive and not nearly so timid. Forget guilt, fault, circumstance, whatever, move on.
Now when teams get to the tourney, there is a mental nuance attached, primarily from the realization of lose and head on down the pike applies. But even with that, the Wolverines were almost in an alternative universe. What saved the team was a lack of panic, some patience, and a focus on one endgame goal: win. Defense did not hurt either, it certainly can be describe as a group effort with doggedness That came from keeping the focus and end goal paramount and not being consumed with everything else that was negative. That game created tough circumstances for about any player or team to negotiate, only some player related.
A pertinent question is posited, how will Coach Beilein prepare the group for Houston? He will do the normal legwork and sharing of game preparation. But there must be time, energy, and method flowing with positive energy to get this bunch pumped back up, to make this group think nothing is going to take them down after Friday night’s (into Saturday AM) glad to have this done enterprise.
Coach Beilein will be calm, he will not dwell on the negatives. He will tell the team to be themselves, hold no doubts and go after the prize with vigor, energy, confidence and poise. Shots go in and shots miss, but the way Houston shoots threes and the way Rob Gray ripped up the court for 39 points Friday, Michigan must have a strong game on both ends; pretty simple- play hard, play well. Perhaps two missions apply: slowing down Gray and finding rhythm and options on offense.
The slow starts again are puzzling: too many turnovers, too much hesitancy, that borders on confusion. Coach B adjusts and things gradually improve. This was happening last night until the electrical outage; UM finally caught a rhythm and the car was parked with the brake on.
As mentioned, Michigan as a secondary strategy, went to the run game, but created three turnovers on bad passes when the advantage was present; six or more potential points down the drain. All in all, Montana did a very nice job of getting back. The surprise was how easily Montana disrupted Michigan with the traps and as expected pushed the Michigan offense outward, so far that Wagner was somewhere between a spectator and a frustrated bystander. He is not the most patient guy on the squad. But he was open many times, sometimes in mismatch situations. As usual Michigan for some reason ignores or declines the advantage.
Things can sure be different in the space of 24 hours. We have seen Wagner go into a totally different mode. There can be improved mentality, the match-ups and style of the opponent, the personnel, etc., change We will see if the funk is broken or sustained. One thing for sure, few coaches work as hard as Coach Beilein to push players and a team over a hurdle. After the preparation and the mini-psychology course, it will fall upon the players to execute and adjust. I certainly do not want to see a group come out fully out of control, but that energy and cockiness that many basketball fans love about this team (not just Michigan fans) can be useful. But like so many ventures, success will create energy.
Again, looks can be deceiving. The team can come out with swagger on display, but it will be the defense against Houston’s good offense and a dose of shot making and willpower on offense that will eventually decide the issue. A little good fortune never hurts either.