It won’t be this season, but future looks bright for UM basketball

Posted: December 11, 2010 by Jared Field in College

By Gavin Raath | Great Lakes Hoops

ANN ARBOR, Michigan — Plain and simple: Michigan is just OK, but could be really, really good.

Now I know I shouldn’t jump overboard with a win over Utah, but the makings are there. Great young guard play, solid young post play, and a few overachieving veterans. I see them getting their heads kicked in come Big Ten play, but they will probably get a few surprising wins in the process, and if they can keep the nucleus together for the following year or two, then look out.

That nucleus starts with leading scorer Darius Morris. Morris is the guy Michigan fans have needed since Daniel Horton. He’s a big, yet smooth guard, with deceptive explosion and a much better play-maker than I gave him credit for. I’m really interested to see how he will do against MSU’s duo later this year.

If Tim Hardaway, Jr. can continue to shoot the way he did against Utah, then he could actually eclipse Manny Harris. Hardaway, like Morris, is another guy with a very smooth game. Needs to get stronger, but man does he look the part of a high level two-guard. That backcourt could be scary good in some time.

Redshirt frosh Jordan Morgan did well defensively against a much taller Utah post and was serviceable scoring inside. He’s invaluable to Michigan.

True frosh Jon Horford is not his brother, but he’s not bad either. He shot three triples. The first two his form was FAR better than when in high school. He was one for two with that form. His last triple looked like his high school shot, which he missed…bad. If he commits to his new groove, then maybe Horford can be the Pittsnogle that Beilein has been searching for.

And although freshman Evan Smotrycz played awful, it is easy to see his talent. He moves extremely well for a tall youngster and has an almost Euro-feel to his game.

Another freshman, Blake McLimans, may already be the team’s top shot blocker. He could earn a lot of tick in a conference with plenty of good big men.

Was glad to see Eso Akunne get some tick. He’s a tragically undersized power forward that was a terror at the high school level and I’m sure he is an asset to the team in practice.

Novak continued to overachieve, except at shooting. He and Douglass will be nice leadership as two guys that have been to the tournament before, but other than spot-up shooting I’m not sure what else they add. Novak is solid on the boards, but if he’s the Wolverines leading rebounder, then that’s a bad statistic, and Douglass seems to be the back-up point guard, which will be a nightmare against the Michigan State’s of the conference. Love the Hoosier-type story-line of these two, but they are a huge talent vacuum for Michigan.

(Speaking of talent vacuums, Jordan Dumars is on the roster.)

Like in football, defense is the biggest concern for U of M. Michigan will struggle with athletic, slashing wings, not to mention solid big men, which is to be expected I guess with a freshman frontline. Every time, except once, where Utah chose to post up former Battle Creek star Jason Washburn, he scored. Utah should have gone there a lot more. I imagine Purdue, Minnesota and Ohio State won’t make the same mistake.

By the way, Washburn seems like a great kid. He came out after the game and was great to all the fans. Love to see that. I think he will be a pro in two years.

Another Michigan guy, Will Clyburn, was the opposite. Clyburn, Utah’s leading scorer, played soft all night settling for outside shots, and barely acknowledged Romulus’ high school team, who waited after the game to see the former standout. He could have been upset with the loss I guess, but grow up.

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