Saturday, November 6, 2010

College Hoops Prattle

College hoops season is upon us. And I couldn't be more excited. Don't get me wrong, my focus is still going to be on the gridiron, but as we ease into the hardwood, I thought I take a moment to talk about how Productive Sweatpants is going to handle the hoops season, give a couple links and say a few things about the Wolverines.

What is the hoops schedule going to look like here? That is a great question. I really have no idea. Quick Buck Thursday will likely continue (a collective "Really?" just reigned out across the internet) despite my football record. Maybe I can turn it around during hoops season. I will likely do some check-in's on the Michigan squad to see how they are progressing through the year. Dylan over at UMHoops does such a great job keeping tabs on the team I'll likely use a lot of his information and links when checking in on the team.

I'll take a look at the poll on a weekly basis, once the football season closes. Might take a deeper look at the Legend's Classic since Michigan is playing in it. And as the conference tournament and Big Dance approach I'll probably look into those things as well.

A couple of overall college basketball things. If you want a great look into mid-majordom you have to bookmark The Mid-Majority. It's not only one of my favorite hoops stops, it's one of my favorite internet sites.

Side note: Both Dylan from UMHoops and Kyle from The Mid-Majority contributed to the 2010 - 2011 basketball prospectus. If you want to know about college hoops you need to pick it up today. I've got mine and have been curling up with it in bed at night. Just fantastic stuff.

So a quick look at Michigan.

Dylan has done a great job previewing the team and the season. Head over there and spend some time if you are a Michigan basketball fan. Tim at MGoBlog did a season preview, so check that out. You can see Michigan's schedule here.

It's no secret the team is young this year. Losing DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris, who were the majority of the points last year, is a big loss. This year's roster includes just two upper classmen in Stu Douglas and Zack Novak. But, they are both juniors and two-year starters. Morris and Vogrich are the only other players that saw time last year. Take a look at the roster:

Player  year Height position
Zack Novak JR 6-4 G
Stu Douglas JR 6-3 G
Corey Person RS SO 6-3 G
Eso Akunne SO 6-3 G
Josh Bartelstein SO 6-2 G
Jordan Dumars SO 6-5 G
Darius Morris SO 6-4 G
Matt Vogrich SO 6-4 G
Blake Mclimans RS FR 6-10 F
Jordan Morgan RS FR 6-8 F
Tim Hardaway JR FR 6-5 G
Jon Horford FR 6-9 F
Evan Smotrycz FR 6-9 F
Colton Christian FR 6-6 F

So yeah, you can see 12 underclassmen. It looks as if the starting line at least out of the gate is going to be: Morris SO, Novak JR,  Haradaway FR, Smotrycz FR, Morgan RS FR. So yeah, young. The good news is it's not football and you can actually play with mostly underclassmen and not look like the Michigan secondary.

Needless to say the expectations on the team are fairly low. Which in all fairness, they should be. I think the majority of analysts are picking Michigan to finish in the bottom of the Big Ten. Now, they are also saying the Big Ten is stacked this year, so that's something of a comfort.

I think the lack of experience has also provides this team with some depth. I mean if you're going to through one freshman out there, you might as well through the other in his place, right? There is a real possibility we'll see 10 - 11 guys get serious playing time this year. Especially early on as Beilein and the coaches try and figure out who their 5-6 crunch time guys are going to be. Which, again, I think has it's advantages.

One of the things that hurt this team last year, was that they were pretty one-dimensional. They could really only run one line-up out there every night. Hell they had a 6-4 SO G running at the four all year. I think with all these young guys seeing time, it's going to provide Beilein some options and different looks. And I think we saw some of that in the Exhibition game against SVSU on Friday night.

Here is what the "normal" line up looks like:

Player  Year Height Position
Darius Morris SO 6-4 1
Zack Novak JR 6-4 2
Tim Hardaway JR FR 6-5 3
Evan Smotrycz FR 6-9 4
Jordan Morgan RS FR 6-8 5

That's pretty standard. I think that you might see McLimans in for Morgan if he starts to rebound and establish himself inside more as the year continues. But Hardaway and Smotrycz are your scoring threats, Morris is distributing at the point, Novak can shoot and be a solid rebounder on the perimeter and Morgan is a bruiser in there that can control the glass.

Now let's look at the line up if Beilein wants to push the tempo and run a bit:

Player  Year Height Position
Darius Morris SO 6-4 1
Matt Vogrich SO 6-4 2
Tim Hardaway JR FR 6-5 3
Zack Novak JR 6-4 4
Evan Smotrycz FR 6-9 5

So now you bring in Vogrich as another shooter and move Novak to the four. I think this line-up will allow the team to really get out in transition, something Beilein has really stressed early on. You might even see Douglas in place of Vogrich depending on who is shooting the ball better. I could even see bringing in Christian for Smotrycz to help Novak on the glass because he's a very athletic kid.

Now let's look at something that will be new for Michigan this year which is a big line-up:

Player  Year Height Position
Darius Morris SO 6-4 1
Tim Hardaway JR FR 6-5 2
Evan Smotrycz FR 6-9 3
Jordan Morgan RS FR 6-8 4
Blake Mclimans RS FR 6-10 5

Now I'm not sure if Beilein is every going to run with a line up that doesn't include Novak or Douglas out on the floor. I guess it will depend on how well Morris can control the floor when he's out there. But, this line up running the 1-3-1 could be really, really tough. There is a lot of length here. If McLimans can shoot like he's been fabled to, Morgan can keep with glass duties allowing McLimans on the perimeter, he can draw out some of the other teams bigs to open the lane for Hardaway, Morris and Smotrcyz to drive, score or dish. This is something Michigan couldn't do last year.

So aside from multiple line ups, one of the other reasons that I'm excited about this year's team is who's team this is. A team takes on the personality of it's leaders. Look I loved Manny and Sims, I did. Both very talented players. But I never felt that either one of them was a real leader. They both approached the game almost passively and the team played like it at times last year.

Now that they have moved on, this is Novak and Douglas's team. And really, its Novak's team. We've all seen Zack play over the past two seasons, we know what kind of guy he is. More importantly, now he can step up and be that leader. If we believe that a team takes on the personality of its leader, well damn it that just gets me excited. If this team can adopt Zack's toughness and workman attitude, they are going to be in a lot of games this year.

I won't try and make a prediction on wins this season, there are smarter people for that. What I will say is I think this team is going to exceed expectations. I also believe they will out perform last year's team. With different looks and line-up options at Beilein's fingertips, I think this team is going to be tough to prepare for. Early on I believe they will struggle. Basketball teams, especially Beilein-led teams, need to play as a whole. To do that they need to gel and learn about one another. So the early part of the schedule, this team is going to stumble as they figure each other out. But I think they will find a rhythm and when they do we'll see a team that loves to play tough defense that triggers a transition game that will open up the floor and allow for our shooters to stroke the ball.

By season's end I think Michigan fans are going to be excited and proud of this team with a quiet confident eye on the up coming years.

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