Basketball As a Series of GIFs
Remembering how to watch a young team in November, featuring flashes of brilliance from Hunter Dickinson, Moussa Diabate, Caleb Houstan, Eli Brooks, and more.
The 2013 Final Four team lost a late-February game at Penn State that eventually cost them a share of the Big Ten title.
Before the 2014 squad came within a shot of back-to-back Final Fours, they dropped a horrid game to mediocre mid-major Charlotte in the Bahamas.
The 2017 Big Ten Tournament champions fell at home to KenPom #50 Virginia Tech at home in November in addition to faith-shaking losses against Illinois and Ohio State.
Prior to making Michigan’s second national title game appearance under John Beilein, the 2018 team blew a late nine-point lead to an LSU team that’d finish the season 18-15.
Just last year, Oakland took the Wolverines to overtime before Juwan Howard’s squad pulled away in the extra session. The Grizzlies went on to win zero of their seven non-conference games.
Even the best teams tend to explore their floor, particularly early in the season. Michigan did just that on Tuesday night, allowing a 45-34 second-half lead to evaporate against #30 Seton Hall by playing sloppy defense, missing open shots, and committing eight of their 11 turnovers in the game’s final 12 minutes.
After three games, Michigan has some obvious areas of improvement to address. DeVante’ Jones fouls too often; Caleb Houstan makes too many defensive errors; Moussa Diabate misses too many free throws; Hunter Dickinson gets caught too often in no-man’s land when Michigan isn’t in drop coverage against high screens; Brandon Johns needs to pull it all together, again, or risk losing his job to Terrance Williams, who needs to hit his dang free throws.
Before the Seton Hall game slipped away, though, I’d slipped into a different mode of game-watching. Sweating every possession is for the coaches in November and for me in March. Right now, I want to see moments of promise more than anything, even if the team drops a couple games that feel painful at the time but are often forgotten in Spring.
Right now, I want to see Eli Brooks play like an all-conference point guard:
Brooks had many moments, scoring 17 points on 16 shooting possessions — including a 6-for-11 performance inside the arc — with six rebounds, four assists, three steals, and only two turnovers. He showed off improved playmaking ability and confidence finishing at the rim.
Freshman Kobe Bufkin, who’s emerging as the top guard off the bench, made a double-clutch layup through contact after a pump fake:
He looks athletic, ready for the moment, and capable of scoring at a high level.