Friday, November 30, 2007

Hello Again, Tommy Amaker

After Michigan's disappointing 77-64 home loss to Boston College in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge (won for the 9th year in a row by the ACC), the Wolverines' record now stands at 3-4 heading into a game against another Boston-area school tomorrow (5:30 PM, ESPNU).

John Beilein's team has played like the group of youngsters that they are this season. They were losing to #16 Butler by just three points with 14 minutes to go in both teams' first game in the Great Alaska Shootout before the Bulldogs went on an 18-2 run and went on to win 79-65. Michigan was competitive in that game but one run, one slip of focus was enough to put them in a hole they couldn't climb out of. On Wednesday, BC and Michigan went back and forth all game, trading leads seemingly every possession and with 13:48 left in the game, the score was 46-46. Boston College then went on a 12-0 run and before Michigan knew it, it was 66-52 and the Wolverines couldn't recover. Young teams go through these types of games and they're necessary for growth and maturity. I was really excited to see Michigan battle until the final buzzer despite the fact they were losing by double digits; they didn't quit and the fight was there until the end and those are good signs for the future.

That said, the present brings a trip to suburban Boston to face former coach Tommy Amaker and the Harvard Crimson (3-4). Amaker was let go by Michigan after last season, spending six seasons as the head coach in Ann Arbor. During his tenure, Michigan won the NIT once and were the runner-up another year, but the knock against Amaker is that he never took Michigan back to the NCAA tournament despite having some pretty talented players (Daniel Horton, Dion Harris, Lester Abram, etc.). He compiled a 108-84 record while at Michigan but his teams went just a combined 43-53 in the Big Ten. Personally, I liked Tommy and appreciate what he did to clean up the Michigan program and bring it back to national respectibility, but he was never going to reestablish the national prominence it enjoyed during the late 80's and early 90's and it was just time for him and for Michigan to move on. Michigan's current roster is made up of kids who either played for or were recruited by Tommy Amaker and to be fair, he didn't leave the cupboard bare for John Beilein.

Let's be realistic here. I can't see Harvard beating Michigan tomorrow afternoon. The Crimson are 2-0 at home but those wins came against New Hampshire and Mercer, who hasn't been any good since their upset victory over USC earlier in the season. Michigan is simply too athletic for Harvard, who have three players averaging double figures in PPG. I can't say that I've seen Harvard play at all this season, but what I do know from the traditional Ivy League style of play and from Tommy Amaker's favored style, the Crimson will probably try and slow the pace of the game down and value their possessions. Michigan plays the same way in terms of really focusing on limiting their turnovers, but they play a faster game and will want to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. Amaker's teams are usually good at rebounding the basketball and Michigan's perimeter offense cuts down on their number of offensive boards, so limiting Harvard to one shot and out on the offensive end will be important as well.

My prediction: Michigan wins, though it'll be closer than one may think. 72-60, Wolverines.


Kartik said...

Should be a good one. Did Amaker put his buddy Quinn Snyder on the Harvard staff? Now that would make it even more entertaining!

I hate all things Duke so obviously I'll be rooting for Michigan in this game as I have rooted against Michigan with Amaker the past few years. Amaker did actually do an outstanding job recruiting at Seton Hall, so going back east maybe good for him.

Kartik said...

Amaker gets the win. Beilein is an outstanding coach and it is going to take time for Michigan's kids to understand his system.