Friday, March 14, 2008

Michigan's Season Ends in Big Ten Quarterfinals

After a sloppy 55-47 win over Iowa yesterday in the First Round of the 2008 Big Ten Tournament, the Michigan Wolverines advanced to today's quarterfinal against Wisconsin, the 6th-ranked team in the country and the #1 seed in this tournament.

I'll be honest. I'm as big a Michigan fan as there is, but I didn't believe for a second that they'd beat the Badgers today. Unfortunately, I was right, and Wisconsin came away with an ugly 51-34 victory.

Michigan finished the season at 10-22 (5-13), which doesn't look too impressive. Trust me though, the team I saw during these final 10 or 12 games of the year was markedly improved from the team I saw during the nonconference and early conference portion of the schedule, and coach John Beilein has a lot to build from for next season.

The only useful senior he'll lose is Ron Coleman, who's been a servant to Michigan basketball for four years and played in 129 games for the Maize and Blue, which puts in the top 10 in that category in school history. Coleman is a wing player and a good shooter, but usually only contributed 6 or 7 points per game and lost his starting spot in the middle of the season.

No, the nucleus of this team will stay intact and it is led by Big Ten All-Freshman First Team and Big Ten All-Conference Second Team star Manny Harris, who averaged over 16 points per game, and sophomore forward DeShawn Sims, who was good for 12-15 points and 5-7 rebounds every night. Ekpe Udoh led the conference in blocked shots this season and is improving his offensive game rapidly, Kelvin Grady experienced his growing pains at the point guard position as a freshman and will continue to develop, and a bench that provided quality depth as the season wore on all returns as well.

Combine that with the fact that Beilein will be able to bring in his first recruiting class with kids that match his style of offense and defense and the fact that as I said already, he'll have another year to teach the current roster, things are looking up for Michigan basketball. I fully expect this team to CONTEND for (not necessarily get) a spot in the NCAA Tournament next season and I think there will be a changing of the guard of sorts in the Big Ten; Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin should all be a little bit down, while Purdue, Michigan, and Northwestern should move up.

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