Illini basketball


Michigan will be better in March.

As Juwan Howard stood to leave the postgame press conference, a youthful visiting reporter turned to another youthful visiting reporter and began verbalizing, at full volume, his talking points.

This cub didn’t notice, a moment later, when Kofi Cockburn & Trent Frazier strode silently into the room, and sat down on the rasied platform. He didn’t hear Kent Brown call for questions. He didn’t hear a question coming from the aide of the room. He just kept talking.

You can hear it in the Room Audio version of the postgame video.


This youngster knows that when Juwan Howard stands up and leaves the room, the press conference is over. That’s when everyone starts talking. He failed to foresee that procedures might differ outside of Crisler Arena.

A moment later, he finally noticed the snapping fingers and glanced to his left, where Brad Sturdy, Jeremy Werner, your humble servant and perhaps a few other more experienced reporters were dagger-eyeing him to STFU.

He STFUed.

DeVante Jones took Da’Monte’s ball

Inexperience bared its ass throughout Friday’s festivities. Michigan’s inexperienced freshmen played their 14th game, and they have a long way to go before acclimating to the realities of B1G basketball.

Caleb Houstan hasn’t competed against defenders of Illinois’ competence, and it showed. Moussa Diabate hasn’t defended 290 lbs. of pure muscle, and it showed.

When confronted with Omar Payne, Caleb Houstan forgot about Da’Monte Williams

DeVante’ Jones is playing his fifth season of college basketball, and it showed.

Jones’s defense against Trent Frazier was a joy to watch, and Trent not exploding in frustration was even more fun.

Kelly Pfeifer was forced to blow his whistle when Jones pushed Frazier over the line.

Less fun was watching Jones abuse Da’Monte Williams. Five years into his college career, Da’Monte should not be susceptible to pickpocketing, or wrestling. But Jones straight up took Da’Monte’s ball.

Yes, ‘Monte is a small forward playing point by necessity. It’s unreasonable to expect him to execute the PG role at the highest P5 level. But as long as Andre Curbelo is out, ‘Monte will handle the ball. His inexperience is morphing into a practiced understanding of the position. But it would be nice to get Belo back.

Experience doomed the Wolverines, eventually.

The Illini coaching staff was certainly aware that Moussa Diabate is a fouling machine. It’s common for a freshman big.

The triple-team was unsustainable.

Without Hunter Dickinson’s five fouls, without Brandon Johns’s five fouls, and with Jaron Faulds (a guy who’d averaged 5 minutes per game going into Friday night’s match-up against the nation’s most dominant interior beast) the remaining option in the paint, Michigan was in grave danger of going small by process of elimination.

Trent Frazier recognized that Diabate simply couldn’t afford to defend his drives. So Trent drove. And Diabate got out of the way.

By this point, the writing was on the wall for the Wolverines. Had Johns and Dicksinson been available, things might have been different.

And so Michigan dropped to 7-7 on the season. They’ll be good when Illinois visits Crisler on the last weekend in February. They’ll be better still by the Big Ten Tournament.

Eli Brooks popped the ball out of Kofi’s hands. That requires strength.

It was kind of stupid for voting media to anoint a youthful Michigan team in the pre-season, especially because its best defender was also new to Ann Arbor.

But a lot of those guys are recruiting analysts. They’re not wrong in thinking Houston and Diabate are going to be pretty fun, eventually.

The Wolverine faithful thinks Juwan Howard is over his head. But Juwan Howard knew he’d be outmatched by the likes of Tom Izzo, Greg Gard, Mark Turgeon and Fran McCaffery. That’s why he hired Phil Martelli, a guy with decades of head coaching experience.

Juwan isn’t an idiot, but he’s inexperienced. Having Martelli gives him a second set of eyes, and 24 years of institutional memory. They’ll be a pain in the ass in March.