Former Michigan point guard David Merritt has been kind enough to answer a few questions from time to time over the course of the season. He graciously agreed to answer a few questions one more time as we begin to wrap up the season.
This season was obviously a major disappointment… Expectations for the program hadn’t been this high in years but the results left plenty to be desired. If you had to choose three reasons for Michigan’s struggles this year what would they be?
Shooting – for a system that relies heavily on outside shooting, Michigan just didn’t shoot the ball well enough plain and simple. There’s probably valid arguments about the offense and shot selection, however, I watched a number of games where we just couldn’t make wide open shots.
Lack of Edge/Chip/Toughness- I think the #15 ranking really hurt. The previous year, we really went about things with a chip on our shoulder because no one expected anything from us. I never felt that from this year’s team. The sense of urgency came and went way too often.
In fact, let’s just go with inconsistency as a whole. You just never knew what Michigan team was going to show up. Some nights they played really hard, and then other nights it looked like they weren’t there. I really don’t know what you attribute that to.
What needs to be done to regroup? How does this team pull themselves off the mat to prepare for next season? Does something need to be done differently in the off-season?
In terms of regrouping, I think Michigan should approach this off-season exactly how we did coming off our 10-22 season. I’m sure expectations will be a lot lower next year so this team should prepare with a chip on their shoulder everyday they enter the gym and weightroom. It’s really going to come down to accountability. Every single player must work extremely extremely extremely hard in this off-season, and if they’re not, someone needs to make them.
A lot has been made about the effect of "team chemistry" on this year’s team… As someone that played on last year’s team (one that was consistently praised for good chemistry) and covered this year’s team (where the opposite was true), what are your thoughts on the chemistry issue?
Not too sure about chemistry but I sure hated looking at the bench during games this year. They seemed like they were barely into it. Even if you are not playing, every single player should be involved in the game, up off the bench, and rooting the guys on.
Darius Morris’ season was filled with ups and downs. 17.9% three point shooting is the glaring weakness but what do you see in Morris? Is he the point guard of the future? What does he have to do to take the next step?
I really like Darius. He’s a keeper in my book because of his athleticism and strong point guard skills. In the second half of the season, I felt he greatly improved and matured as he learned more and more of the system. However, he’s going to have to improve his outside shot. It’s a must. And if he doesn’t, it’s going to be tough for Coach to always have him in there because teams didn’t respect his shot enough to guard him away from the ball.
The 1-3-1 zone didn’t seem to work for much of the year and similar to last year it was basically scrapped before season’s end. What problems do you see in the 1-3-1? Does Michigan not have the personnel to run the 1-3-1 or is there something else that just isn’t working?
The 1-3-1 is a quirky defense. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. One night, you can use it to force 15 turnovers. The next night, you can switch to the 1-3-1 and the opposing team will hit 3 straight three pointers and you don’t use it the rest of the night. I don’t have any answers in terms of personnel, but I know it’s a defense everyone must buy into 100% for it to work.
If you had a magic wand and could add two players to this roster with any skill-set of your choosing what type of players would you take?
An athletic 7 footer that was tough, could bang down low and step outside and shoot. A 6-8 power forward that could shoot the 3 pretty well but also got down and dirty. I would really take some players that added height, toughness, grit, and the ability to create shots for themselves. I know I’m asking for a lot.