I don’t usually do round tables or Q&As with other bloggers due to the extra time involved. But regular readers know that Dylan of UMHoops and I have a special relationship, akin to that between the U.S. and Great Britain. That is, despite a long, and often hostile, relationship between our respective sides, we’ve formed a unique bond and share intelligence with one another.
Ahead of tomorrow night’s in-state rivalry game, Dylan and I have both answered some questions about our teams with the goal of enlightening each other’s readers. Below are Dylan’s answers to my questions. I’ll post a link a little later when my answers are up on Dylan’s site. Update: Here’s the link.
Given MSU’s struggles against the 1-3-1 zone in games against Northwestern and Penn State, how much do you foresee Beilein using the zone against us? Do the Michigan players finally seem to be picking up the nuances of playing the scheme?
Michigan typically starts out with the 1-3-1 zone and if they have success they stick with it. The success of the zone fluctuates dramatically from game to game and Beilein isn’t afraid to scrap the whole thing if its not working. I am hopeful that it will work against Michigan State because of their recent struggles but I also am afraid that they have seen it a couple times now and I’m sure they are practicing for it quite a bit.
The zone works best when it is causing turnovers and Michigan State isn’t the best in the world at holding onto the ball so I am hopefully in that sense. The scary part is that Michigan State has some size and some teams have been able to exploit the zone with their size. I’m sure your readers know how dominant of an offensive rebounding team you guys have so that is something to watch as well.
Manny Harris has struggled in conference play, with an eFG% of 43.5% and an average of 3.7 turnovers per game. How hopeful are you that he can turn thing around for Tuesday’s game and the rest of the season?
Manny has struggled in conference play but he is showing signs that he is turning it around. Manny played one of his best games of the season against Penn State last week and was solid against UConn as well. The key for Manny is keeping his composure and getting to the line. He has struggled to get to the line in conference play and that is when he starts forcing things.
If Michigan is going to make the dance they are going to need Manny to bring his ‘A’ game night in and night out so hopefully these last couple games are a pattern and not a fluke. Michigan State is no slouch defensively so I’m sure that Manny will have to work for every point he gets on Tuesday night. As a Michigan fan I’ll be feeling alot better about our chances if he gets to the line early on in the game.
One thing about Manny that I don’t think he gets enough credit for is his improvement in areas besides scoring. Last year Manny was pretty much a one dimensional player but he is averaging 7.3 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game this year. Both of these numbers are dramatic improvement’s from the freshman version of Manny Harris and Michigan needs his contributions in all aspects of the game.
How big a boost has Laval Lucas-Perry’s addition to the playing rotation been?
Laval’s addition has been a struggle. I think part of the problem is that everything started so smoothly. Laval scored in double figures in his first 6 games while shooting 45% from three point range. Since then the wheels have fallen off. Laval hasn’t reached double figures once in the last 9 games and is shooting just 17% from behind the arc. Laval has seen his playing time basically disappear, he has only played 4 minutes in each of the last three halves.
It is really too bad because Michigan needs more scoring options than just Manny and DeShawn Sims. Other guys have stepped up but no one has been consistent. Freshmen Zack Novak and Stu Douglass have both had big games occasionally and to beat good teams Michigan needs at least one of their role players to step up and become a legit scoring option. The original plan was for Laval to develop into that consistent third scorer but that just hasn’t happened.
Which Wolverine has improved the most over the course of the season?
This one is really tough. Going up and down the roster you could say most players have improved dramatically since last season. But looking for improvement over the course of this season is a lot tougher. This season has really been a roller coaster on individual level as well as for the whole team. A guy like Jevohn Shepherd puts together a string of good games but then ends back up on the bench. Kelvin Grady plays above his head against Duke and then slowly regresses back to his old self and has only played one minute over the last 2 games.
If I have to pick someone I’ll go with Stu Douglass. Stu had a hot start and hit some huge shots against UCLA but then he kind of disappeared. Zack Novak started making some plays and Laval became eligible and everyone forgot about Stu. Now those two have disappeared a bit and Stu has started to come into his own. Douglass has a smooth stroke and a ton of range and the biggest knock on him is that he sometimes over estimates his range. Stu is also an underrated passer that might end up a point guard down the road in this system. The facet his game that he’s improved the most is, surprisingly, his defense. He’s never going to be a lock down defender, but he is becoming much less of a liability on that side of the ball.
A loss would drop Michigan to 5-7 in Big Ten play. How important is this game to the team’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament?
This game is huge for Michigan’s tournament dreams. It is a chance to add another top 10 team to the resume and get closer to that 9-9 mark that most fans think Michigan needs to make the tournament. There are winnable games left on the schedule but not many easy games. Michigan needs to protect home court and win a few on the road — beating Michigan State could be just what the doctor ordered in terms of picking up some momentum down the stretch.
Luckily I think Michigan is playing some of the best basketball they have played since December. The defensive intensity is up and while the three point shots aren’t all falling, Michigan is at least running their offense much better.
Let’s hear a score prediction for Tuesday night. Will the Wolverines that have showed up against previous highly-ranked opponents (UCLA, Duke, UConn) show up again?
Michigan 68 – Michigan State 62
As I said above, Michigan finally looks like they are starting to get back to their early season form and it is make or break time. Michigan State will dominate the boards but Michigan will win the turnover battle and get just enough offense to knock off the Spartans.