Tomorrow”s home game against Boston College was supposed to be the season”s first “real” test for Michigan basketball. Many were excited by this maturing team and its new coach, and were eager to see how it matched up against one of the nation”s top programs. But Michigan is reeling from two straight road losses to MAC teams, and is disheartened by Wednesday”s dramatic loss at Bowling Green, and the ensuing physical frustrations exhibited.
It will be difficult for the Wolverines to change their negative momentum against the fifteenth-ranked Eagles.
“Our team has to improve,” junior LaVell Blanchard said after Wednesday”s loss.
“We are a team right now that (is) still searching for some consistency, and learning how to win being in tough situations and fighting through,” said coach Tommy Amaker.
Michigan has shown little in the way of toughness in its two losses, and now faces an opponent that is bigger, quicker and more talented than any it has faced this season.
The Eagles are led by junior guard Troy Bell, who has won his share of Big East conference honors, and has been recognized nationally as being one of the country”s elite guards.
“Everything starts with Bell,” Amaker said. “We”re going to have our hands full with him.”
The unfortunate irony is that where the Wolverines are lacking for talent the most this season is at the point guard position. Fifth-year senior Mike Gotfredson has been starting, but five-foot-seven sophomore Avery Queen has been playing more minutes. Their defensive assignment tomorrow will be to keep Bell”s scoring under control. The six-foot-one junior has averaged 18.2 points per game so far this season. “I”ve got to guard against Jason (Williams, of Duke, in next Saturday”s game) and Bell, and I”ve just got to come out and play hard,” Queen said. “I”ve played against tough guards all my life. They ain”t nothing. You”ve just got to work hard, just like every game.”
Gotfredson is equally confident in his ability, but Amaker is aware of his starting point guard”s “limitiations.”
“I think his ability to guard a quicker scoring point guard is going to be something that will concern us,” Amaker said. “And you”re talking about one of the best in the country in Troy Bell.”
But Bell is not Boston College”s only weapon. Kenny Walls and Ryan Sidney are both scoring machines, averaging 18.8 and 20.0 points per game, respectively. Amaker is familiar with his former Big East opponent. His Seton Hall team played Boston College in the semifinals of last year”s Big East Tournament and fell, 75-48.
The Wolverines know they need to improve, but it will be difficult to do so against a team with as much ability as Boston College.
“We”ve done some good things,” Amaker said. “We may not have the bottom line results of things to back that up but we”ve made a lot of strides.”
The opportunity for Michigan to make its longest and most impressive stride comes tomorrow.