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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Michigan vs. St. John’s rating, takeaways: Wolverines spoil Rick Pitino’s return to Madison Sq. Backyard Specific Instances

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NEW YORK — It had been 20 years since early season buzz surrounded St. John’s l like this. Twenty years since optimism was so potent, it warranted the Crimson Storm renting out the constructing within the preliminary portion of the nonconference schedule. SJU final performed at Madison Sq. Backyard this early within the season manner again in 2003. 

Hiring Rick Pitino modifications lots.

On Monday, although, it did not change the result. Michigan simply dished Pitino his first loss at St. John’s, successful 89-73 after a laugher of a second half. It was U-M’s eleventh consecutive win on the Backyard.

Earlier than it completed in a whimper, the Backyard was buzzing for the Johnnies in a manner it seldom has over the earlier 15-plus years. A devil-red glow lit up the world pre-game. On the videoboard, a pre-recorded Pitino hype clip included the declaration: “St. John’s goes to be again, I assure it.”

“Run This City” blared over the audio system as pyrotechnics introduced hundreds of SJU followers to their toes. This was to be the primary large second for the Crimson Storm of their new period. It was time for St. John’s to announce its first main assertion of the Pitino Period.

Michigan wasn’t eager about any of it. 

Maybe later this season, or two or three years down the way in which, we’ll witness St. John’s successful an NCAA Event recreation or two and look again on this dud of a debut at Madison Sq. Backyard with amusing. It is a humble begin, little doubt.  

“They performed clever basketball. And we didn’t,” Pitino mentioned. “We performed like a workforce in early November. And that was a distinction within the recreation.” 

Listed below are my three large/prolonged takeaways from Michigan’s Monday night time mauling at MSG.

It appears most everybody was improper on Michigan

Time for a mea culpa. I had Michigan 62nd heading into the season. Nobody was actually in on U-M — the Wolverines had been picked eleventh within the Large Ten — but few power-conference groups have been extra spectacular by way of three video games than this group. 

Credit score to Michigan interim coach Phil Martelli for guiding the ship. With Juwan Howard nonetheless not able to return after current coronary heart surgical procedure, Martelli (a person with practically 450 wins, I will remind ya) has comfortably coached Michigan to a 3-0 begin with a median win margin of 24.7 factors over 2023 NCAA Event workforce UNC Asheville, Youngstown State and St. John’s. 

“I am appropriately drained, and it feels good,” Martelli instructed me afterward of briefly resuming his former position of operating a program.

The Wolverines aren’t overloaded with expertise, however they appear like a decent unit to date. At 18-16 final season, Michigan was a letdown (partly due to accidents). This workforce’s an offensive machine in the meanwhile, dropping 89 or extra in all three video games; on Monday, it scorched St. John’s to the tune of 1.24 factors per possession. 

“They’re gonna have an incredible season,” Pitino mentioned. “I do not comply with the Large Ten an excessive amount of, however there’s not too many groups higher than Michigan, I can guarantee you of that. As a result of they rating so nicely. They rebound the ball. They share the ball.”

It is nonetheless unclear when Howard will come again, however between Martelli operating the day-to-day, Howard Eisley enjoying offensive coordinator and Saddi Washington operating the protection, that trio has quite a lot of basketball brainpower. It is why I picked it as among the finest teaching teams in school basketball this offseason

As for the win and the setting, Martelli, a bona fide don of Philadelphia basketball, could not assist himself.

“You are gonna get pissed, however (Madison Sq. Backyard is): the second finest basketball area within the nation,” he instructed the media minutes after the win. “You are nicely conscious the Palestra is the perfect basketball constructing in America.”

There could no be quick-fixing this St. John’s D

After I sat down with Pitino at Large East Media Day in October, he was ebullient on all issues besides one. Pitino instructed me his workforce’s defensive prowess was nowhere close to the extent it wanted to be with a view to have NCAA Event credentials. He mentioned he was bracing for the primary few weeks of the season, as a result of he sensed there was much more work to be finished. A serious cause for that was he introduced on quite a lot of mid-major transfers from groups who weren’t above common final season.

With practically 5 a long time {of professional} basketball expertise, the person is aware of what he is speaking about. The Crimson Storm was imponent defensively a lot of the night time. That may even be placing it too properly. In reality, I will let Pitino’s phrases inform the story — succinctly. In his first postgame MSG presser in ages, he was rational however blunt.

Three pull-quotes: 

  • “Our frontcourt depth is horrible.”
  • “Our offense shocked the s— out of me. Shocked the hell out of me that we did not share the ball.”
  • “I all the time inform them … the movie by no means lies. It by no means lies. You recognize, once you watch an incredible film, the identical issues are gonna occur in that film. They usually’re gonna watch it tomorrow, they’re gonna be very embarrassed at their play.”

The Johnnies had been listless all through the second half. Pitino acknowledged his workforce did not come near matching the fervor of the St. John’s followers (attendance on Monday night time: 14,188). His largest stunner was how his workforce went limp on the offensive finish within the second half. The Crimson Storm regarded content material to look at Michigan run away with the sport. It might be beautiful to see this type of physique language and collective efficiency from this workforce by the center of convention play. 

However to that time, Pitino mentioned, “We higher watch out now, as a result of this early schedule is hard.”

A pair minutes later, he deadpanned in regards to the schedule: “And the Large East shall be a lot simpler.”

Few groups introduced extra intrigue — or hype — heading into November than St. John’s. We are able to name this precisely what it was: A flop. Pitino has a venture on his palms, maybe certainly one of his more durable assignments of the previous 10 years (Louisville, Iona and the EuroLeague in that stretch). So, in typical Pitino trend, Monday night time didn’t conclude with him leaving MSG to go again residence to his cozy abode on the grounds of Winged Foot Golf Membership. The person is a preparation freak. He made positive a gathering room on the close by Renaissance Resort was booked nicely upfront, in case the coaches wanted it to evaluation video ASAP after a loss. Monday night time introduced alarming defea, which meant a research session was so as. Inside 90 minutes of the sport ending, your complete St. John’s employees was again on the workforce lodge and poring over the tape. 

Dug McDaniel’s profession night time a serious Michigan growth

Michigan could be one of many 25 finest groups within the nation proper now, however St. John’s did not supply up sufficient of a resistance to precisely gauge the Wolverines’ potential. Regardless of that, two gamers provided up a horizon of hope for this season. 

Alabama switch Nimari Burnett opened his night time making his first eight photographs. He completed with 21 factors and was chargeable for conserving Michigan consistent with an excited St. John’s workforce within the first 10 minutes of the sport. He had a career-best 19 factors — with six minutes left within the first half. 

“We settled in as a result of Nimari settled in,” Martelli mentioned. 

The loopy half: Burnett was coming off a bagel a couple of nights earlier. He did not rating in opposition to Youngstown State. For all he did, it was sophomore level guard Dug McDaniel who was the MVP. He scored a game-high 26 factors, plus seven assists and 6 rebounds. McDaniel is listed at 5-foot-11, however I can report that is a traditional beneficiant media information enhance from his college. 

If he’ll be THIS sort of playmaker — a plot level few envisioned — then it may well change Michigan’s calculus. Martelli instructed me McDaniel’s had a giant on-court and off-court maturation course of for the reason that spring. All of it culminated right into a profession night time on Monday. McDaniel is diminutive however demonstrative in his fashion. A enjoyable participant and will develop into among the finest guards within the Large Ten. How a lot U-M has to depend on him shall be key. 

“He actually has to play (virtually) 40 minutes,” Martelli mentioned. 

Michigan’s backup choices to run the offense are Burnett and not-ready-yet freshman George Washington. (Jaelin Llewellyn remains to be recovering from an ACL damage.) 

Earlier than the sport, Michigan gamers had been donning these “MICHIGAN VS. EVERYBODY” shirts which have change into the soccer workforce’s rallying cry. In a manner, it prolonged to the lads’s hoops workforce as a result of low-end projections from throughout the game. Motivation for this workforce? Not a lot, per the gamers. 

“We do not actually pay an excessive amount of consideration to [preseason rankings],” McDaniel mentioned. “We do not take note of the skin noise. It is sort of enjoyable being underdogs.”

A real take a look at to their credentials will come subsequent week, when Michigan travels to the Bahamas to play within the Battle 4 Atlantis. A 2-1 or 3-0 document in that bracket will break this season vast open. This is to hoping Howard is wholesome and again on the sideline in time for that occasion.

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