Saturday afternoon, Michigan forward Chris Young, normally a very outspoken member of the basketball team, was so disgusted with the Wolverines” 18-point loss to Minnesota that he refused to speak with the media at all.
Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe called the team immature and said that “mentally, I don”t think we were in the game and ready to play.”
Later, when posed with the question, “How do you account for this type of immaturity at this point in the season?” Ellerbe said to ask the players because he didn”t have an answer.
“It”s pretty damn frustrating,” he said. “I understand we are young and a little immature, but it”s pretty frustrating.”
The answer to the question is pretty simple though. Aside from a few individuals, this team has given up on this season. The Wolverines played on Saturday afternoon as though they couldn”t care less whether they win or lose the rest of their games all year.
And if the players don”t care, the coaches can scream until they turn red in the face something they did often on Saturday and it won”t make a difference.
“The problem (on this team) is with people”s willingness to listen. They don”t want to hear negative things, and they don”t want to take criticism,” sophomore Gavin Groninger said. “We need to have people that want to be led.”
Playing against a team with no starters taller than 6-foot-7, the Wolverines still only racked up 16 defensive rebounds Saturday their second lowest output of the season. Michigan only had 11 against Michigan State, but the Spartans shot 58 percent from the field.
While Minnesota didn”t miss much either, shooting 55 percent from the field, the Gophers still grabbed 11 offensive rebounds. That means Michigan, which had three starters as tall or taller than the Gophers” biggest starter, only beat an undermanned opponent by five rebounds on its own glass.
Another problem Michigan struggled with Saturday, that has plagued it all season, was its perimeter defense. The Wolverines simply did not put in the effort necessary to fight through screens and stay with their man on defense.
The result was a 14-for-24 shooting performance for Minnesota from behind the 3-point line. The first six field goals the Gophers connected on were 3-pointers. They led the game 21-14 through the first eight minutes, having attempted just two shots from inside the arc.
“We didn”t do a good job fighting through screens, and we didn”t do a good job hedging,” Groninger said. “That”s not the first time this has happened too.”
The Wolverines show nary an inkling towards remedying the problems that have tormented them and their fans all season. And Saturday, both the players and fans looked as though they couldn”t wait for things to end. When Minnesota forward Tavarus Bennett fouled out with 4:32 to play in the game, a scant number of fans noticed and even fewer broke into the regular taunt reserved for such an occasion.
With more jeers and catcalls than cheers coming from the stands these days, I”m sure the season can”t end quick enough for the Michigan coaching staff either.
So maybe the Wolverines should do us all a favor and spare themselves the trouble by simply forfeiting the rest of their games this season. That”s essentially what they did Saturday anyway.
Michael Kern can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org