Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: MichiganPosted by jnowak on April 25th, 2012
John Beilein continues to bring Michigan basketball back into the upper echelon of the Big Ten, and this past season was another major step forward. The Wolverines had a group that included important upperclassmen (Stu Douglass and Zack Novak), as well as steady, talented young players (Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Trey Burke). Things are only getting better for the Wolverines, who will be lucky enough to have Burke returning for another season (he flirted with the NBA Draft) and established a strong home-floor advantage this year during Big Ten play. A first-round NCAA Tournament exit is a tough pill to swallow given that the Wolverines were Big Ten regular season co-champions, but Ohio proved to be more than a flash in the pan. To take the next step, though, those postseason games have to be victories. Before looking ahead to next year, here’s an evaluation of the year that was:
- In a nutshell: This was a talented Big Ten team that could give opponents inside or outside the conference fits with its style of play. The Wolverines had leadership, scoring and could defend. Their Achilles heel was consistent interior play and their play on the road never matched their performance in Ann Arbor. They didn’t have as difficult a schedule as co-Big Ten champs Michigan State and Ohio State, but the bottom line is that they did everything that was asked of them to share the title and that can not be taken away.
- Overachievement: Burke was highly touted coming out of high school but few thought he could immediately become an All-Big Ten type of player who could take over late in games. He ran Michigan’s offense well and knew when to take it upon himself to create for himself. The Wolverines should consider themselves lucky he snubbed the NBA Draft, because they could be looking at a contender for Big Ten Player of the Year sometime in the near future.
- Underachievement: The Wolverines’ shortcoming was something they hope to remedy right away. Michigan simply did not have the bigs to compete in the paint with the rest of the conference, as Jordan Morgan‘s progress remains slower than hoped. Michigan was 10th in the conference in rebounding offense, eighth in rebounding defense, and last in blocked shots. If super-recruit Mitch McGary can help give give UM a solid inside-outside presence next year, look out.
- Defining moment: There are plenty of positives to take away from this season (the Big Ten title, wins against Memphis, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, just one home loss overall), but it’s hard to look past the tough loss that ended Michigan’s promising season. The Wolverines had possible Final Four potential if they could put it all together, but could hardly get anything going against a pesky Ohio squad. Novak and Douglass combined for just seven points when it mattered most and, as was the problem most of the season, Michigan didn’t get much production in the paint against the Bobcats. And, just like that, it was the end of the road. All those “Ohio” quips from Michigan football coach Brady Hoke won’t be quite so funny for the next year or so.
- Final grade: It’s hard not to let the final game define the season, so you have to consider all the things Michigan was able to do this year. They did well in the non-conference (with the exception of a bad loss at Virginia and a loss at Arkansas) and got wins against the best teams in the Big Ten. They’ve developed great young players and received contributions from program guys like Douglass and Novak as well. It was definitely a step forward and into the top tier of the Big Ten for the Maize and Blue. Give the Wolverines a B+.