Guard Manny Harris did not travel to last week's 69-59 loss to Purdue. Harris, who most expect to leave for the NBA after the season, and Beilein have had their run-ins before. Last year, Beilein benched his star guard for overtime of a 70-60 loss to Iowa.
That move paid dividends when Michigan made the tournament, but the Wolverines don't have the same cushion to play with this year. Recall last season they had eye-catching nonconference wins over Duke and UCLA. This season, they are sputtering and struggling to stay around .500.
Without Harris, the Big Ten's leading scorer, Michigan looked downright putrid for most of the Purdue game. DeShawn Sims scored Michigan's first 13 points and was the only Wolverine to score for the game's first 12 minutes, and the Boilermakers opened a 27-point lead before shutting it down in the second half.
For the Wolverines to make any postseason tournament this year, they need a fully committed Harris playing at his best.
--PG Kelvin Grady might rejoin the team, though Michigan coach John Beilein said Grady likely would be used only in a scout-team capacity. Grady, a junior, played two seasons of basketball, starting 33 games, but left the team after his role diminished last year to play football. With no NCAA tournament bid on the horizon, it's doubtful Beilein would want to take developmental game time away from his point guard of the future, Darius Morris.
--Anthony Wright made his first start of the season in Manny Harris' absence, scoring three points and grabbing a season-high five rebounds against Purdue. Wright scored nine points in a win over UConn earlier this month, but hasn't been a factor otherwise. He has not scored in Michigan's other six Big Ten games.
ON THE SPOT: With or without Harris, Michigan has one of the thinnest benches in the Big Ten. Wisconsin's reserves outscored Michigan's 19-1 in a six-point win last week when no Wolverines bench player even attempted a shot. Wright and Zack Gibson have shown very occasional scoring spurts. At some point, Beilein may have to consider starting freshman point guard Darius Morris and bringing a scorer like Laval Lucas-Perry off the pine for instant offense.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "(We) all would have wanted him there, but the situation was complicated. It definitely didn't affect a win or a loss." -- Forward DeShawn Sims to AnnArbor.com, on Manny Harris's suspension and the Wolverines' loss to Purdue.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Ranked in the top 15 to begin the season, Michigan isn't even in the bubble discussion now. The Wolverines lost all their big games in November and December, and blew double-digit leads to Northwestern and Wisconsin in January. Their lone win of significance against UConn was followed by that missed opportunity at Wisconsin and the suspension of guard Manny Harris against Purdue. Leadership has been a problem.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Manny Harris, G Laval Lucas-Perry, G Zack Novak, G Stu Douglas, F DeShawn Sims. Key Subs -- C Zack Gibson, G Darius Morris, F Anthony Wright.
Michigan 68, UConn 63
Wisconsin 54, Michigan 48
Purdue 69, Michigan 59
vs. Michigan State, Tuesday, Jan. 26
vs. Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 30
at Northwestern, Tuesday, Feb. 2
vs. Wisconsin, Saturday, Feb 6
at Minnesota, Thursday, Feb. 11
IN FOCUS: It was a generation ago, but Michigan used to own its rivalry with Michigan State. From 1992 to January of '98, the Wolverines won 10 of 13 games in the series. Then came the fallout of the Ed Martin scandal, and things haven't been the same since. MSU has won 16 of the last 19 rivalry games -- 14 by double digits.
The stretch of games ending Feb. 6 vs. Wisconsin gave Michigan a chance to make a move in the standings with three home games in the two-week span.
--DeShawn Sims ended his 3-pointer drought with treys last week against Wisconsin and Purdue. Before a 2-for-5 week from behind the arc, Sims had gone 0-for-11 during a 37-day, eight-game stretch. The 6-foot-8 forward is best playing close to the basket, taking bigger defenders off the dribble and posting up inside.
--Sims is averaging 9.0 rebounds over Michigan's last seven games, easily the best stretch of his career. He has six double-digit rebounding games this season -- as many as he had in his first three college seasons combined.
--Manny Harris moved into the top 20 on Michigan's all-time scoring list with 11 points against Wisconsin. He has 1,451 career points, tied for 19th place with Loy Vaught. Assuming he returns soon, Harris should move into the top 10 by the end of the year.
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