Chicago Sun-Times
With Sun-Times sports reporter Herb Gould

The Michigan debacle, and other BT tourney thoughts

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Michigan's defense looked so passive against Evan Turner's game-winning shot Saturday that John Beilein may be wishing the Wolverines lost 99-68 instead of 69-68.
My thought: You have to contest in the backcourt, and you have to pay special attention to Turner. Let somebody else beat you.
Afterward, even Turner was surprised, saying, ``I thought they were going to crash or something like that. The whole game they were swarming me. I guess being open, it felt a little bit free. I had a lot of time to shoot the ball. I felt like I was in the gym by myself.''
And while I like Beilein--as a coach, as a gentleman and as a mentor who put together some excellent teams at West Virginia--I can't argue with the growing unrest in Michigan.
Here's what Drew Sharp had to say in the Detroit Free Press:
``The Clipboard Genius blew this one.
``Coach John Beilein offered no apologies, expressed no regrets in the aftermath of an emotionally wrenching finale to an especially disappointing season. He stood by his decision of no defensive backcourt resistance with U-M leading by two with 2.2 seconds left and Ohio State needing to advance the ball quickly just to launch a desperate, half-court moon shot for a 69-68 Big Ten tournament win.
``I don't think it would've made any difference [what defense used],'' Beilien said afterward. ``A half-court shot is a half-court shot.''
``You don't let the best player in the conference beat you that effortlessly -- even if it required a 37-foot shot barely before the buzzer. This was defensive passiveness reminiscent of U-M football.
Instead, Turner's incredible moment officially stamped the expiration date on Beilein's free pass.''

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Hats off to Northwestern for not backing down from physical Purdue. But once again, I find myself wondering if the Boilermakers, who push the mugging envelope on defense, will run into trouble with the wrong set of NCAA tournament referees. In a sense, that's less of a deal with Robbie Hummel, because Purdue figures to have trouble in many places. But if they try to guard harder to make up for losing Hummel, they'll need to be careful.
To a lesser extent, the rough-and-tumble defense is an issue for virtually all of the Big Ten's likely NCAA teams, because the league accepts physical defense throughout the season. With the right refs and plenty of common sense, it could be a plus for the Big Ten teams. But that's less likely than foul meltdowns.

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Minnesota's upset of Michigan State gives the Big Ten a shot at six NCAA teams. I believe Illinois' win over Wisconsin put it in. And the Gophers will be looking like an NCAA team if they can beat Purdue in the semi-finals.
Northwestern's NIT prospects, which were enhanced by the Thursday win over Indiana, also are looking good--especially with Illinois unlikely to be in the NIT mix.
Things can change. Depends on other upsets. But this hasn't been a big year for teams playing their way in. Around the country, seems like it's been going the other way.

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This page contains a single entry by Herb Gould published on March 13, 2010 10:49 AM.

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Expanding (ugh) the field of 65 is the next entry in this blog.

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