Mar 1, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Spike Albrecht (2) dribbles the ball down the court in the first half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Crisler Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Basketball: Minnesota at Michigan -- Wrap-Up

GBMWolverine Basketball TidbitsPosted at 7:30am — 2/27/2014

Michigan Basketball: Minnesota at Michigan — Wrap-Up

Minnesota came to Ann Arbor on plenty of bubble lists. It is by now a foregone conclusion that Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State are in March Madness. Nebraska and Minnesota are mentioned alternatively as the other potential entries. Lately, most of the bubble talk has been going with Minnesota. Michigan has its own vested reasons for winning: a league championship and protecting a higher final seed when the tournament selection commences. So, this was not a routine run out the schedule type of game deal: both teams had bacon on the table.

Mar 1, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines forward Glenn Robinson III (1) dunks on Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Charles Buggs (23) in the first half at Crisler Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota scored 95 points the last time out, is on a somewhat mini hot streak, and is a team much better than two months ago. The Hollins brothers and Deandrea Mathieu are threats to score big, and inside, well, Mathieu, small as he is hurt Michigan the first time around with easy penetration and lay-ups. Minnesota has enough height to score inside if Michigan makes it easy on defense. Eliason and Walker are big guys that can do enough to hurt an opponent.

Michigan State has lost to Illinois, so before the telecast that begged the question of how Michigan would approach this game mentally. Would the thought of the candy visions overcome the focus needed to play well and win? This should not happen, one may say, but it does!

Mar 1, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Nik Stauskas (11) shoots the ball over Minnesota Golden Gophers center Elliott Eliason (55) in the first half at Crisler Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The first half can best be described as a combination of pretty good defense by both teams, a failed three-point exhibition by Michigan, and a collection of turnovers that can best be described as unforced. But, Minnesota returned the favor giving back to Michigan a few turnovers late in the half that resulted in a nice and necessary run that took the Wolverines to the locker room with a 31-20 lead. It did not hurt that Robinson had a Godzilla quality dunk and Stauskas and LeVert finally hit the bottom of the net in succession.

One other thing to mention: it was painfully obvious why this author calls Coach Beilein Father Flanagan. Talk about patience, this is how Beilein gives the reins to his troops, for the good or the bad. Some would term (with substantiated argument) the first part of the game as a total lack of discipline, but Beilein would counter that sooner or later he can pull in the reins and dictate a new, usually more effective style, that is, work for a closer, better shot.

The second half starts, and again a bad combination of soft passes, unnecessary passes, and turnovers prevents Michigan from taking full control; the shots from the outside did not have the GPS turned to the on switch. Minnesota makes a small dent and the game remains in Michigan’s favor.

Then Minnesota goes on a run fueled again by the willingness of Michigan to throw up poor shots and a decline in defense. Minnesota scores on fast breaks and easy lay-ups as the Wolverine defense starts to crack.

No inside game can be found with a search warrant for the Wolverines and unfortunately Morgan and Horford are playing like their hands have been duct-taped. Michigan hits a few tough shots and then, of all people, Spike hits a lay-up. But Minnesota continues to play tough and the outside game is starting to click for the Gophers.

Mar 1, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Maurice Walker (left) and Michigan Wolverines forward Jordan Morgan (right) tie up the ball for a jump ball in the second half at Crisler Arena. Michigan won 66-56. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Things started to get intense around the eight-minute mark. Hollins gets away with a push and Michigan gets a block call against Morgan that must go down as a candidate for worst call of the week, anywhere. But, it reinforces the obvious conclusion that officials do not give even remote consideration to Michigan’s two inside players. Instead, when in doubt the call goes the other way.

Morgan, clearly upset, gets a little mean and ties up the ball, giving Michigan another chance. He then scores on a second very nice play by Spike Albrecht who rescued the ball on the base line and got it to Morgan for an inside bucket.

Stauskas makes another pressure shot and Morgan takes another charge. This time it would be hard to imagine the call could not go Michigan’s way after the last faux pas.

Spike gets pushed and sinks two foul shots, and then Morgan gets a minor push, takes the floor, and forces the official to make a call. After Minnesota scores at the foul line, Morgan gets his tenth rebound of the game, supporting the theory that some of the duct tape fell off as the game came to a conclusion.

Then, Michigan’s Spike put a concluding spike in Minnesota’s hopes by hitting a dagger: a pure dagger, three-pointer. Michigan gives up the perfunctory gift lay-up and Caris is fouled. He gladly contributed more points to the cause. Hollins missed a tough three- pointer and young Richard Pitino did the right thing in not dragging the game out another ten minutes by calling off the dogs.

This game was another wild ride for Mr. Toad; up and down, and all around went the Wolverines. The team did not dig a big hole and made nice runs at the end of both halves. Morgan overcame bad hands, bad calls, and hung in like a senior is supposed to react. The lack of anything inside has to be a big concern for Michigan going forward.

Beilein knows that the philosophy of Yogi enters the formula: it ain’t over. Michigan has to go to a basketball happy Illinois, where finally John Groce has the Illini playing much better. From watching Illinois, the two biggest differences appear to be superior defense and improved guard play. John Groce is an excellent defensive mind and will guard the perimeter with toughness and intensity. Michigan will face a team that is improving on offense as a result of better guard play that has improved the efficiency of the entire offense.

Spike Albrecht mentally plays like a junior or senior. He did not give up much on defense and is one of those guys that finds a way to win. Larry Bird was like that. Spike is not Larry Bird, but having a guy that finds a way to win is a minor blessing in the coaching world. Some guys get it through experience and some guys just have it, period.

Feb 23, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein celebrates a three point shot by guard Caris LeVert (23) in the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Crisler Arena. Michigan 79-70. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The 66-56 win was not without warts, but the grit was present. Stauskas stepped up on the two-pointers, LeVert was an impact, Robinson set off the team’s plate tectonic movement, and the final score yielded no worse than a share of the Big Ten title.

The Big Ten now hopes to sneak in one of Minnesota or Nebraska. One team plays much better away from home, and that is where the tournament takes place. If the Big Ten only gets five teams in the hunt, the exalted brass will wonder what went wrong.

Well, enough, Michigan is now in the anxious position to delay any celebration until next week. Let us wish the team well in the remaining two tough games.

I have been asked- what happened to Michigan State? I do not know, but believe it or not the Spartans may have tightened up. I may be right or I may be wrong. Strangely, Michigan will play the two teams back to back that currently are slated to fit the slots that play Michigan in the conference tournament.

The preseason prediction for Michigan was 22 wins before the tournament started; this prediction is certainly on track.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu

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