February 21, 2013

McCormick: Change of view

The view of some regarding Michigan's basketball prowess and upcoming fortunes took a bit of a turn after U-M's pratfall in East Lansing. Former Wolverines and current ESPN analyst Tim McCormick weighed in on that subject, and many others.

Here's McCormick…

On whether his view of Michigan has changed lately: "The key thing is, they have lost games in the four toughest environments they've played, four of the toughest in all of college basketball. It's more a function of youth. I don't think they're the best team in the Big Ten right now - I think it's Indiana, and I think that's hard to dispute.

"That doesn't change the fact that they still have many other goals in play. It will be difficult, with four losses at this point, for them to win a Big Ten title, but it could happen. I still they've they have a chance to get a No. 1 seed, and I think they've got a chance to get to the Final Four.

"A lot of good things, a lot of positive goals are still in their future. But the reason I have to reevaluate is because I was wondering if this was the best team in the country. Are they something extraordinary, on the level of a Fab Five, young players who have the ability to win wherever against whomever?

"That's not accurate now. But they're still outstanding."

On whether this team can win out in the regular season: "I think they can. The games that jump out at me are Michigan State and Indiana at home. There are other challenging games, but I believe I would make them a favorite in both of those contests.

"Yes, I think they can. And if they do, I think they will have a great chance of tying for a Big Ten title."

On what the difference will be in Michigan-Michigan State, going from East Lansing to Ann Arbor: "When Michigan was destroyed at the Breslin, they were humiliated and learned many valuable lessons. It was a function of two things - number one, young players who weren't ready for that environment against a very physically intimidating team. Number two, and maybe the biggest, I think they looked really tired, and they looked like they were lacking confidence.

"When you play really good teams, your confidence is going to suffer from time to time. They don't let you get open shots. You don't get layups to get in that feel-good zone. They don't foul you and give you free points. It's a real test of maturity.

"They did fine, competed well, in three of those four road losses. But they looked tired and they looked a little bit shaken in that last game."

On the "toughness" talk emerging from the MSU game, and Michigan perhaps not using its fouls enough: "Michigan State and Indiana played really tough Tuesday night. Neither team had high foul numbers.

"You play tough by closing the paint. You play tough by boxing out and rebounding the basketball. You play tough with physical screens. You play tough by diving on the floor.

"Hard fouls, to me, aren't the sole determinant on if you're a tough team. It embodies a lot of things. It involves not being afraid to take a charge, pushing through your fatigue and getting back in transition defense. There are probably 10 or 15 different toughness categories."

On whether Michigan is at the level of physicality it needs to be: "Jordan Morgan is their toughest interior player. If he's back healthy, then Michigan is a tougher team. Tim Hardaway is tougher this year than he was last year. I've seen more toughness and better defense out of Trey Burke.

"The thing that makes guys tougher and more physical is age and strength and time with [strength and conditioning coordinator] Jon Sanderson, eating that good dorm food and getting a little bit bigger, going through tough match-ups. It's something that happens over time.

"Michigan players are plenty tough, but if you're relying on freshmen and sophomores, you're not going to be as tough as teams that rely on juniors and seniors. I once had a coach tell me that freshmen and sophomores want to score, while juniors and seniors want to defend, and want to win. I think there is some truth to that. When you get a little bit older, you focus more on the winning parts of the game."

On Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas: "They're really good players in a great position. I am so impressed with what they're doing, and you can put [Mitch] McGary in there, too. They are among the best freshmen in college basketball, highly productive.

"I see nothing but positive things from them. Has their productivity dropped a bit? Yeah, a little bit. That's expected when you play against great competition. But I see no worries and no concerns whatsoever with those guys. They're having great, great freshman years."

On Robinson's disappearance on offense for a few games: "It's really simple. Trey Burke, to me, is the most valuable player in the Big Ten. Without his play, Michigan would be middle of the pack in the Big Ten.

"He gets by his guy and he kicks out to Stauskas and Robinson, he pushes the ball in transition and gets them dunks or layups or wide-open threes. He runs pick-and-roll and creates havoc and finds his teammates. Those guys right now are extremely dependent upon Trey Burke.

"When you look at the games when those wings suffered, Trey still got his points, but he just took a few more shots. When you play against [OSU's Aaron] Craft, you're not going to just blow by that guy and create offense. Wisconsin is really good at closing the paint.

"[Indiana's] Yogi Ferrell is an excellent defender. [Michigan State's] Keith Appling is so underrated at the defensive end. You contain Burke, you go a long way in limiting his support staff."

(Tomorrow - McCormick on Illinois, the Final Four, and more).

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