Michigan is a flawed basketball team. The Wolverines don't shoot particularly well, don't rebound much, and, besides Manny Harris, they don't have anyone who can consistently get his own shot.
But the Wolverines' biggest problem this year has been a glaring lack of leadership.
"The biggest thing we got to continue to do is leadership, leadership, leadership," Michigan coach John Beilein said after his team's 68-62 loss to Northwestern. "When things are going south, the leadership has to come from more than just me."
Michigan doesn't have many natural leaders this year.
Harris is a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, the Wolverines' leading scorer and rebounder, but he's not an in-your-face guy. Second-leading scorer DeShawn Sims gave a rousing locker room speech earlier this year, but has remained mostly quiet otherwise. And fiery sophomore Zack Novak is a year away from taking a leadership role.
Though they didn't average many points, Beilein said Michigan misses walk-on guards C.J. Lee and David Merritt, respected players who helped will the overachieving Wolverines to the NCAA tournament last year.
"Every time down the court one of them would have been clapping and yelling at everybody saying, 'This stop. We can do this. We can do this,'" Beilein said. "That hasn't grown as much. I think Manny and Zack do a real good job at that. Others got to continue to do that. It's not everybody."
--DeShawn Sims, a 6-8 forward, has been playing more to his strengths lately, taking bigger defenders off the dribble and posting up inside. He's missed his last eight 3-point tries, including a heave at the end of the shot clock in a Jan. 10 loss to Northwestern. Sims hasn't made a 3-pointer since a Dec. 13 win over Detroit.
--G Laval Lucas-Perry is Michigan's light switch -- he's either on or off. In Michigan's last eight games, the junior transfer from Arizona has scored zero points four times and reached double digits three times. He scored 16 in a Jan. 7 win at Penn State, and has not scored in Michigan's three other Big Ten games this year.
ON THE SPOT: It's not a huge surprise considering John Beilein's system and the fact the Wolverines start one player over 6-foot-5, but Michigan ranks last by a mile in the Big Ten in rebound margin. The Wolverines were outrebounded in 10 of their first 15 games, and the stats haven't been pretty even in wins. Michigan allowed 18 offensive boards in a January win over Ohio State.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I felt that some of us got a little complacent with the lead. Starting the second half, we gave up open looks. I was looking at it from the bench and we were giving up open 3s." -- PG Darius Morris on Michigan squandering a 17-point first-half lead in a loss to Northwestern.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Michigan began the year ranked in the top 15, but quickly proved to be overmatched. The Wolverines lost to every halfway decent team on their schedule in non-conference play, and need a stellar final two months to make the NCAA Tournament. The Big Ten leader in made 3-pointers last year, the Wolverines have struggled from behind the arc most of this season.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Manny Harris, G Laval Lucas-Perry, G Zach Novack, G Stu Douglas, F DeShawn Sims. Key Subs -- C Zack Gibson, G Darius Morris, F Anthony Wright.
Michigan 73, Ohio State 64
Michigan 64, Penn State 55
Northwestern 68, Michigan 62
vs. Indiana, Thursday, Jan. 14
vs. UConn, Sunday, Jan. 17
at Wisconsin, Wednesday, Jan. 20
at Purdue, Saturday, Jan. 23
vs. Michigan State, Tuesday, Jan. 26
IN FOCUS: Michigan closes its season series with Indiana this week, a team it has struggled to beat in recent years. The Hoosiers have won 16 of 19 in the series, including the Big Ten opener for both teams last month. Zack Novak scored a season-high 18 for Michigan in the loss, when Manny Harris sat a large chunk of the first half with foul trouble.
--Freshman G Eso Akunne is academically ineligible for the winter semester. Akunne, a walk-on, played in seven games off the bench for the Wolverines this year. He played a career-high 17 minutes against Utah, but was not a fixture in the rotation.
--G Jordan Dumars, the son of Pistons president Joe Dumars, has transferred to Michigan as a walk-on. Dumars, a 6-foot-5 wing, played in five games at South Florida as a true freshman. He won't be eligible until after the 2010 fall semester.
--Redshirt freshman C Ben Cronin is out for the season with continued complications from hip surgery. The 7-foot Cronin played 16 minutes in five games this year. He underwent hip surgery last January, and still walked with a noticeable limp. Michigan coach John Beilein said Cronin's injury will most likely end his career.
NEXT UP: Getting Inside Michigan
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