The rebirth of Daniel Horton and Courtney Sims?
Let's recap some (valid) criticisms of Horton's and Sims' games heading into this season (courtesy of Big Ten Wonk, Hawkeye Hoops, and MGoBlog):
- "a streaky shooter who will take bad shots outside of the context of the offense"
- "not much of a ball distributor and will turn the ball over more than a starting point guard should"
- "not an all-Big Ten type player"
- "He has never shot better than 39% from the field. He has never had an assist-to-turnover ratio above 1.2. This is unlikely to change."
- "If he defers to his teammates, there's potential for a very nice offense to emerge"
- "It becomes very difficult to have a good team offense when a fourth of your possessions go to a player as inefficient as Horton."
- "Unless his shot selection significantly improves, it's hard to see Horton as a net positive for this team."
- "is OK on the boards but not better than anyone of note"
- "turns the ball over a lot"
- "is inconsistent"
- "has shown little fire or competitiveness in his first two years at Michigan, often getting dominated by players with half his physical gifts but twice his determination"
- "The disturbing number for Sims was his shot attempts: 200, only eight more than his freshman year"
So those were the criticisms. I shared many of them. But how have they done so far on the season?
Horton - 34 mpg, 15.0 ppg, 5.2 apg, 2.7 rpg, 51.7% fgs, 43.5% 3s, 87.0% fts, 2.6 asst/to ratio
Sims - 28 mpg, 17.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 67.7% fgs, 64.3% fts
Horton has simply elevated his game to a level it has not seen during his 3 years in Ann Arbor. Looks like he did a lot of growing up during his suspension (and later death of his son) last year. He is playing like a man on a mission right now and there simply is not a better PG in the Big Ten right now. His D has always been excellent, but he is now shooting a high percentage and has a great asst/to ratio. Exactly what Michigan needs out of him for the team to do well this year.
As for Courtney, he did put on a show last night with 33 and 13, but he was off to a nice start before that. He has hit double figures in 5 of 6 games and has 6+ rebounds in every game. He's also gone over 20 three times thus far. He shows brief stretches of dominance, but he is becoming a much more consistent threat which is great news for the team. Points will be tougher to come by in conference play, but 13 points and 8 boards a night out of him would be very nice.
As for the team? Yep, they are 6-0. And don't let the "Michigan" name fool you. The Wolverines built a rep from the days of the Fab Five through Ellerbe as having very skilled offensive players that just weren't tough. Well, Amaker's boys win with toughness and heart despite their relative lack of offensive execution. They've been beating people up with defense and rebounding and look to continue to do so.
Michigan has outrebounded their opponents by a 36.3-26.3 so far. That means Michigan has pulled down roughly 58% of the rebounds in their games compared to 42% for their opponents. You don't need a math major to figure out that gives them a lot of extra possessions each game. It has also helped them limit their opponents to 58.2 ppg on 39.6% fgs and 30.3% 3s. Those defensive numbers will win a lot of games, but alas the competition will heat up significantly later on this year as well. And how about assist/to ratio? Still nothing to write home about at 94/89 for the team, but that is a hell of a lot better than the 74/95 ratio they had through 6 games last year. I guess progress comes in stages.