Saturday, December 8, 2007

Beware the Cameron Crazies

The Michigan Wolverines dropped to 3-6 on the season after their 95-67 loss today to #6 Duke as the Blue Devils stayed undefeated, improving their record to 9-0.

Both teams came out of the gate as cold as ice from the field and that allowed Michigan to hang around for the first seven or eight minutes of the game. Duke started heating up, however, and Michigan simply couldn't keep pace and the game's outcome was never really in doubt after that.

Whenever you go on the road in college basketball, particularly to an arena as intimidating as Cameron Indoor Stadium, you have to be efficient with the basketball if you want to win the game. Michigan was not today; they turned the ball over 15 times compared to just 8 for the Blue Devils, and they only shot 38% from the field (and 32% from downtown) while Duke was close to 50%.

Chalk this game up as another tough learning experience for John Beilein's young team. The Wolverines have already went to Georgetown and played Butler on a neutral court and will play UCLA at the end of their nonconference schedule, and the lessons learned in these kind of games will prove to be beneficial come Big Ten season, if not next year, although I know the long-suffering fans of Michigan don't want to hear about seasons to come. Six of Michigan's first nine games have come away from the friendly confines of Crisler Arena, and there aren't many top-caliber, nationally ranked teams that can say they've gone on the road as often as the Wolverines this season.

There were a few bright spots for Michigan, namely the performances of DeShawn Sims, Ekpe Udoh, and Kelvin Grady. Manny Harris, Michigan's star freshman and best player so far this season, was largely invisible throughout this game, partly due to foul trouble, but largely because he was simply guarded well and when he got free, the shots weren't falling for him. John Beilein will also undoubtedly be pleased with the fight his squad showed even when they were behind by double figures; they didn't pack it in early but Duke was just too much this afternoon.

For the Blue Devils' fans, Coach K has a team that has Sweet 16 (at the very least) written all over it. They run the floor extremely well, spread opposing defenses out to allow penetration and kickouts, have much-improved depth in being able to bring Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek, Taylor King, and Nolan Smith off the bench, and boast the best home-court advantage in the country. Duke is the second best team in the relatively down ACC behind North Carolina but both teams have the potential to go deep in the NCAA Tournament once again.

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