Wolverines battered going into Illinois contest
As Michigan head coach John Beilein steps back after his team's 62-46 domination of Nebraska, he likely had just a passing interest in the details of the tussle with the Cornhuskers, then directed his attention to critical upcoming home dates with Illinois and then Big Ten leader Ohio State.
Beilein is not so worried about the individual battles that make up each conference affair, because he is confident his team can prevail in most cases. His concern now is about simply running out of soldiers as the Big Ten wars take their toll on his team.
Michigan took only 11 players on this first trip to Lincoln to face the Big Ten's newest member. The Wolverines have 16 names on their roster, but injuries and long-term plans have culled five players from the active list.
Sophomore forward Jon Horford, who has now missed 16 straight games with a stress fracture in his foot, has yet to practice full-court and his availability becomes more iffy day by day since a medical redshirt is still a possibility.
Guard Eso Akunne has played in 35 games in his career, all coming off the bench, but Michigan likely will be without his services for the rest of the season after Akunne fractured a bone in his foot against Purdue and needed surgery to repair the injury.
Freshman guard Carlton Brundidge, who has played in a dozen games this season, missed the trip to Nebraska while he is being treated for complications related to his asthma. F Sai Tummala and fellow freshman F Max Bielfeldt have been designated to redshirt this season and were left back in Ann Arbor to attend classes while the rest of the Wolverines flew to Lincoln.
The Wolverines (18-7) put on a solid all-around performance in their win over Nebraska that pushed them to 8-4 in the conference and kept them on the heels of the Big Ten leaders, but Michigan has to be concerned about the impact the recent rash of attrition will have.
If the Wolverines face numbers problems down the stretch in the Big Ten race, they are not always going to be related to the scoreboard.
Novak hits scoring milestone
--G/F Zack Novak's 14 points in the Wolverines' 62-46 win at Nebraska on Feb. 8 pushed him over the 1,000 point mark for his career at Michigan. Novak is already a member of the 500 rebound club, and he became the 28th player in Michigan basketball history to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds. Novak is just the second player in Michigan history to serve three seasons as a team captain.
--F Evan Smotrycz entered the Feb. 8 game at Nebraska mired in a deep scoring funk, and it only got worse as he played 13 minutes and did not score, not even attempting a shot. Smotrycz had hit only 4-of-26 from three-point range over a nine game stretch prior to the Nebraska trip. After starting the first 18 games of the season, Smotrycz had his role changed to a supporting one as his shooting tailed off. His playing time has dwindled as the slump lingers, with Smotrycz playing more than 15 minutes just once since being removed from the starting lineup.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Michigan senior G/F Zack Novak played 33 minutes in the recent Big Ten road loss to Ohio State, and failed to score for the first time all season, missing all four shots he took from the field. Novak averages around 10 points per game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know it flies by; I know we've got five weeks left and six if you count the tournament. With four practices a week, that's 24 times to get better, which is what I focus on, and then the games just take care of themselves." -- Michigan coach John Beilein on how his team needs to continue to improve
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. Illinois, Feb. 12
KEY MATCHUPS: The Illini present a troubling inside-outside combination with seven-foot C Meyers Leonard in the middle and dynamic G Brandon Paul either on the perimeter or slashing toward the basket. Paul exploded for 43 points in the Illini's shocking upset of Ohio State early in the Big Ten schedule, and Michigan will probably have G Tim Hardaway Jr. take the first crack at defending Paul. The battle inside will have to be a dual effort, with F Jordan Morgan getting help each time the ball goes into the physical Leonard.
TRENDING: Michigan G Stu Douglass played his seventh straight game in the starting lineup when the Wolverines pounded Nebraska and finished with 13. Douglass had been Michigan's sixth man for the first 18 games of the season, but the severe shooting slump that F Evan Smotrycz is suffering forced Michigan coach John Beilein to alter his lineup and give Douglass a starting role. Douglass, who has appeared in 127 straight games, has averaged 7.8 points, 3.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds over the past seven games as a starter.
FUTURES MARKET: The Wolverines just might be able to dress the stubborn injury to F Jon Horford with a silver lining, if the sophomore remains on the sideline for the remainder of the season. Since he has been out since mid-December, Horford can gain another full season of eligibility via a medical redshirt, should he not play again in 2011-12. Michigan has serious depth issues this season without Horford, but each time he has appeared ready to return over the past couple of weeks, a false start has developed. Either the stress fracture in his foot has not healed adequately, or the Wolverines are playing it safe and banking a year of eligibility for Horford. If he stays off the court the rest of the way, Horford will have three seasons at Michigan left to play.
--G Eso Akunne's surgery turned out to be a bit more complicated than expected. In a procedure done at the University of Michigan Hospital, the junior had a screw inserted in his foot to stabilize the injury. He will likely be lost for two months, effectively ending his season.
The TSX Files: Michigan Hoops
The Michigan Insider Top Stories
RECAP: Michigan cruses against IlliniTMI's Josh Newkirk and Sam Webb breakdown Michigan's 41-8 win against Illinois.
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 5:27 PM
Watch: Harbaugh 'Impressed' with Illini winWatch Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh's opening statement after U-M's 41-8 win against Illinois.
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 4:35 PM
Watch: U-M players looking forward to MSUWatch Michigan's Wilton Speight and Dymonte Thomas address rivalry week with Michigan State.
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 4:15 PM
TMI Takeaways: Michigan defeats Illinois 41-8TMI takeaways: Behind U-M's balanced offensive attack, No. 3 Michigan cruised to an easy 41-8 victory against Illinois.
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 4:00 PM