Michigan Basketball: Pittsburgh vs. Michigan — NIT Tournament — Wrap-Up
Preseason ratings in college basketball are sometimes ridiculous. What may make the predictions look ridiculous is that any number of 40 or 50 plus teams can beat a team that is truly not elite on a good night.
Last year, Michigan was given a puzzling rank of number 11 by some to start the season. This year an athletically better but still young team was assigned a rank of number four.
Pitt was unranked but has been a major power for more than a decade. Pitt is physical and knows how to play defense.
Michigan is a little more physical this year, and the rebounding and gaining loose balls have both improved. Still, Michigan lacks good defense, especially perimeter defense. Pitt hit five first half three pointers when Michigan left the perimeter shooters to guard inside on Pitt penetration.
On offense, Michigan dribbled into traffic creating turnovers that resulted in easy Pitt points going the other way. Burke was moving the ball well, getting inside but it was not enough to counteract what was not going right for Michigan.
Stauskas did not flinch on the big stage playing very solid the entire game. And as with most shooters, he does not have a full feeling of guilt. This is good in his case. He did not give up much on defense and it seems to be a good move by Coach Beilein to bring him in off the bench.
In the second half, Michigan mixed up the defense well to get back in the game. The offense worked much better in transition than in a half-court setting. After a nice defensive run, Michigan’s perimeter defense once again let down for an easy three.
The game turned a little rough and ugly, just like Big East teams like it in the Garden. Part of the roughness did not help Michigan in one Mitch McGary. Not much doubt that Michigan has one guy who loves to be physical, although this unbridled wild thing did cost the team a few times. As we said last week, he is not yet housebroken, but could be a real asset in the near future. Some kids need to speed up at the next level, not McGary.The game remained close as both teams tightened down on defense. Foul shooting started to become critical and Robinson missed two and Hardaway made two mid way into the second half. Pitt remained physical and Michigan tried to run. Michigan again left a three-point shooter alone on the perimeter and Pitt again took advantage with the made shot. Hardaway came down soon after in transition and returned the three.
The game goes under eight minutes with both teams playing at a high level. Not much has been earned inside for either team. The points are coming on drives or shots away from the paint.
As the second half progresses, Michigan plays tougher and gets important offensive and defensive rebounds. Of all the Michigan returnees, Hardaway seems the most improved physically and from a toughness standpoint.
Michigan makes a nice stop playing in a trap zone but the next time down gives away part of a lead by fouling for a three-point play on a deflection, more bad luck than anything.
Coach Beilein called time out and Burke took a poor shot with time left on the clock. Pitt hit another three-pointer as Michigan’s Robinson did not guard in a situation in which Pitt had to shoot from behind the line. This put Pitt back into the game with 30 seconds left.
Michigan gets the ball inbounds but gets the ball to Robinson, probably not the first choice. But little dog hit both shots. Michigan again refuses to play defense in a critical spot letting Pitt score a lay up with almost no time coming off the clock. Burke hits two free throws this time around to regain a five-point lead.
Michigan nearly messes up the next inbounds but Stauskas hits two more free throws. Then Michigan again messes up on endgame defense as Burke fouls allowing a three-point play. After a near fall pin on a rebound, a jump ball was called. Somehow Burke was chosen by Pitt to foul as the ball was inbounded. Burke hit the free throws and that was that.Michigan won in spite of youth, a bad first half, and poor end game defensive decisions. It was the foul shooting that provided the eventual difference. Morgan made one bad pass but other than that may be the unsung hero since Pitt did not dominate inside or on the boards.
Like all teams Michigan has things to work on and playing the perimeter tough remains number one, perhaps number two is not playing soft with an end game lead. The freshmen, even considering Wild Thing McGary, passed a tough road test. Robinson will have better shooting games but Hardaway picked up the slack. When a team has several options to score, games can be won when one option goes cold.
Friday is the championship game against Kansas State. Bruce Weber’s teams play tough defense as well, so more of the same for Michigan. Kansas State can get the ball inside better than Pitt did, so again Michigan will be tested for toughness and an inside game.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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