Dribbles and Drives from inside the House that Cazzie Built
THURSDAY, NOV. 13 - Mission Accomplished On to the Big Apple
Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today
I want to be a part of it: New York, New York
Frank Sinatra sang those lyrics over 20 years ago, but they could also be applied to the Michigan basketball team, except that the Wolverines won't be leaving for New York until next Wednesday.
For now, the Maize and Blue have a moment to reflect upon its first two wins of the season and accomplishing its first small goal -- making it to New York for the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.
"We're really happy with the way we have come out to start the season," said David Merritt. "Our first goal was to get to New York City and to play the way we've played the first two games, mostly on the defensive end, we're pretty excited."
Wolverine fans were certainly excited with the performance of Manny Harris in the first two contests. Harris earned Ann Arbor Regional Most Valuable Player honors after posting 56 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists in the first two games of the season. But for Harris, the performance was just a small step.
"I think we played good, but we can play better," said Harris. "It was just two games; we've got a lot more to go."
Next up for the Wolverines is a date with either UCLA or Miami (Ohio). The Bruins and RedHawks play tonight in Los Angeles, Calif., to determine who will advance to play U-M and, while UCLA is certainly the favorite; the Wolverines are taking nothing for granted.
"It should be an interesting game," said Merritt. "Miami is also a pretty good team, so that should be a pretty good game. We'll definitely be keeping an eye on it."
Regardless of the outcome of that game, Michigan knows that it will be playing next Thursday at 9 p.m. at Madison Square Garden. It will be the first time Michigan has appeared at "The World's Most Famous Arena" since the 2006 Postseason NIT. Merritt has never played at MSG, but he remembers the times he has been to the building.
"I went to the Garden a couple of times a couple of summers ago when I worked for the NBA as an intern," said Merritt. "You feel the aura outside the arena and then when you are in the arena, so it should be pretty fun."
While Madison Square Garden may be the grandest stage in sports, Manny Harris knows that U-M's trip to New York isn't about sightseeing, it's about business.
"Me, personally, I'm not really into all of that stuff, I just want to win."
Court Vision with C.J. Lee
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 12 -- Coming Full Circle
We kicked the season off with two victories in the Ann Arbor Bracket for the Coaches versus Cancer Tournament. As players, it was wonderful to put that jersey on again and play in front of our home crowd.
Playing two games is a unique situation this early on during the season so I am pleased with how we responded. I don't think I have ever played two regular season games back-to-back in the middle of the week like we just did. Usually this only happens in your conference tournament or some other postseason situation.
Both Michigan Tech and Northeastern competed and played very hard. We can take a number of good things from both games. Our ability to run and push the tempo is something that I think can separate us as the season progresses. Our ability to create turnovers in the 1-3-1 throughout the first two games also helped us win. Everyone contributed to these games but Manny (Harris) played two incredible games for us. He was the playmaker that we needed him to be and by him playing the small forward, it gives our opponents a different look to scout for. His ability to rebound and use his quickness on defense was very noticeable.
With a week to prepare for our next opponent, it is important that we come to work every day and press even harder now. We will watch film on both games and correct the things that need to be corrected. Our coaching staff I'm sure is anxious for us to get back to practice so we can build upon what we have done so far. Going on the road is a totally different experience in college basketball. We need to respond to the challenge by putting in a week's worth of preparation.
Going back to New York City for me is special because it is where I spent my first two years of college. Madison Square Garden speaks for itself, and I know our team will be motivated to play well in that building. I can't wait to see the look on the players' faces that have never been to New York when we get there.
Ironically, I never played at Madison Square Garden while attending Manhattan so I am thrilled to be playing there for the Coaches versus Cancer Tournament. In a sense, my college career is coming full circle and it is nice to have the opportunity to play in the same city where I started my college career.
Maize and Blue Game Prep
MONDAY, NOV. 10 - This Time It Counts
Special decals representing the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer adorn the floor at Crisler Arena as the Wolverines are just hours away from opening the 2008-09 campaign. Opening with the 2K Sports Classic gives the Maize and Blue a national stage to begin the regular season, it also creates a tangible goal for the Wolverines to start the season, as the winner of the Ann Arbor Regional will advance to Madison Square Garden next week for the championship rounds of the 2K Sports Classic.
"It is better for us because it puts some pressure on us to win and it makes everyone focus because we want to go to New York," said Manny Harris. "It's good to have this tournament for the first couple of games."
"It's a great way to kick off the season, with the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament," added Anthony Wright. "It's a very prestigious tournament and it's a great way to play our first game."
For the Michigan freshmen, Tuesday night represents their first official appearance in the Maize and Blue, but even though that special moment creates excitement, they remain focused on the task at hand.
"It's exciting but right now we are focused on just beating a good Michigan Tech team," said Zack Novak. "We have a good test tomorrow and we're ready to get it going."
Michigan Tech finished 13-14 under head coach Kevin Luke last season, but lost an exhibition contest by just six points at Michigan State last year. The Huskies are led by 5-10 senior guard Robby Springborn who averaged a team-high 12.8 points per game last season. Springborn was named to the Preseason All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) North Division team. Michigan Tech was predicted to finish second in the GLIAC North Division.
Prior to Michigan's contest Tuesday night with Michigan Tech, IUPUI and Northeastern will meet in the other matchup in the Ann Arbor Regional. Both the Jaguars and Huskies bring impressive credentials to Ann Arbor.
IUPUI is coming off a 26-win campaign and a second-place finish in the Summit League. Despite their 26-7 record, IUPUI was not invited to post-season play and enters this season with a hunger to prove their doubters wrong. The Jaguars have been picked to finish fourth this season in the Summit League and 5-10 senior guard Gary Patterson was chosen to the preseason All-Summit League Second Team.
Northeastern finished last season 14-17, but returns all five starters and 11 lettermen from a season ago, losing just two players from last season's squad. The experienced Huskies have been picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), behind Virginia Commonwealth. Northeastern's 6-4 junior guard/forward Matt Janning was named preseason first team all-conference.
While a matchup with IUPUI or Northeastern looms on Wednesday, the young Wolverines' focus remains on Tuesday night's opening contest. "Everything is Michigan Tech right now," said Harris. "It's going to have to be a quick recovery to think about one of those teams, but right now it's Michigan Tech."
Dribbles and Drives
Signing Day Special airs Wednesday: The next class of Big Ten mens basketball stars will be introduced on the Big Ten Network at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12, during Big Ten Tonight: Signing Day Special. Dave Revsine and Jim Jackson will discuss the incoming players and break down which university's recruiting class will make the biggest impact in 2009-10 and beyond. The two will be joined for the hour-long show by recruiting expert Dave Telep of Scout.com.