Broke doesn't begin to describe the way Michigan is shooting the ball this season.
One of the most dangerous 3-point shooting teams in the Big Ten last year, the Wolverines have been terrible from behind the arc in 2009.
Michigan enters conference play last in the league in field-goal (42.2) and 3-point percentage (29.0), and coach John Beilein has canceled the green light on some of his shooters.
Star guard Manny Harris isn't shooting particularly well from long distance -- 27.3 percent from 3-point range -- but he's doing enough of everything else that his misfires aren't that big a concern. He leads the Wolverines in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.
The biggest culprits, and in turn the biggest reason for Michigan's underachieving 6-5 start, have been guards Stu Douglass and Zack Novak, guys who were recruited primarily for their 3-point ability.
Douglass broke out of his season-long funk with 20 points on 6-of-10 3-point shooting in a 30-point victory over Coppin State just before Christmas break.
Novak scored 11 against the Eagles, but missed 17 straight December 3-pointers before burying one in the second half. He's shooting just 23.3 percent from behind the arc, down 11 percent points from last year.
Beilein insists he's not panicking over his team's shooting woes, but the Wolverines need to find their stroke if they have any chance of making the NCAA tournament.
"We've been doing the same things we've been doing for years, they just need to make these shots in games over and over and over again and get used to it again," Beilein said. "For all of us, believing you can make them in a game had to happen."
--He won't have much of a shot unless Michigan improves its record, but Manny Harris is on the short list of contenders for Big Ten Player of the Year. A returning first-team all-conference selection, Harris leads the Big Ten in scoring as of Christmas Day and is the only player in the country averaging more than 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game.
--While poor shooting has been Michigan's biggest downfall this season, it's far from the Wolverines' only concern. Michigan also ranked last in the Big Ten in rebound margin as of Dec. 27 and was outboarded in 8 of its first 11 games. To stress the importance of rebounding, Michigan spent part of one mid-December practice working with a lid on the rim.
"Coach is really emphasizing that right now," guard Darius Morris said. "He's not really worried about the offensive end, just if we do our part on the defensive end everything else will fall into place."
JANUARY AT A GLANCE: To make the NCAA Tournament, Michigan will have to reverse the current trend and start winning on the road. The Wolverines won at Minnesota in the final game of the regular season last year, but overall they're just 5-13 in conference road games under Beilein. This year, they've played their worst basketball away from Crisler Arena, losing at Utah, Kansas and dropping two of three games in the Old Spice Classic. With winnable road trips upcoming at Indiana and Penn State, there's no reason Michigan can't start the conference 5-0 heading into a tough seven-day stretch against Wisconin, Purdue and Michigan State.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we were overrated in the beginning. We finished seventh in the Big Ten (last year). There's 11 teams in the Big Ten. We finished seventh. Teams that should be in the top 20 are teams that finish first or second in the Big Ten, third, and they got everybody coming back. So it wasn't like we were a juggernaut last year." -- Michigan coach John Beilein on his team's preseason No. 15 ranking.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Coming off its first NCAA Tournament berth in 11 years, Michigan will be lucky to make the NIT this year. The Wolverines have lost to every halfway decent team on their schedule and have one tough non-conference game remaining against UConn. With an RPI in the 200s and a win against Division 2 Northern Michigan weighing down its NCAA resume, Michigan might need 11 wins in a good Big Ten to go dancing again.
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 75, Detroit 64
Kansas 75, Michigan 64
Michigan 76, Coppin State 46
at Indiana, Thursday, Dec. 31
vs. Ohio State, Sunday, Jan. 3
at Penn State, Thursday, Jan. 7
vs. Northwestern, Sunday, Jan. 10
vs. Indiana, Thursday, Jan. 14
IN FOCUS: Aside from rival Michigan State, Indiana has been Michigan's biggest nemesis in recent years. The Wolverines lost 15 of 17 to the Hoosiers before erasing a 20-point second-half deficit to win in overtime last year. The two teams played just once each of the last two years, but meet twice last year by the middle of January.
--After starting the first nine games of the year, freshman point guard Darius Morris came off the bench in mid-December games against Kansas and Coppin State. Morris played better as a sub -- he had nine points, four assists and no turnovers against the Jayhawks -- and said his new role as sixth man allows him to get a better feel for opponents' tendencies and offensive sets.
--Harris is still dealing with a nagging hamstring injury he suffered early in the preseason. Beilein said the injury has affected Harris' jump shot and ability to get by defenders on the drive. He gave Harris a precautionary day off in mid-December, and is trying to strike a balance between rest and reps. "He needs reps and he really, since probably Midnight Mania, he has not had enough reps to really be consistent because of this nagging injury," Beilein said.
--One player who could be in line for more playing time is Zack Gibson. The 6-foot-10 center, who started in Novak's absence against Utah, is averaging 5.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 12 minutes a game. Gibson isn't a huge threat in the paint, but as Michigan's biggest body his role should expand against teams more imposing teams like Illinois and Wisconsin.
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