2/25/2017 – Michigan 82, Purdue 70 – 19-10, 9-7 Big Ten
GERMAN DURANT [Bryan Fuller]
For months I'd chalked the Purdue game up as a loss. Michigan has certain deficiencies, you see, and Purdue has 7'2" Ivan Drago and a guy better at rebounding than 7'2" Ivan Drago. These gentlemen aimed a dagger straight at Michigan's primary weakness. Therefore, pessimism.
That pessimism was well founded. Purdue grabbed 11 offensive rebounds, 36% of those available. Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan had five of those. Swanigan went 7/8 from inside the arc. And it didn't matter. Mo Wagner summoned the spirit of Stauskas and spearheaded a run-away-and-hide first half that was reminiscent of the good ol' days when official Twitter accounts had no recourse from posting shruggies during NCAA tournament games.
Purdue fans must have felt the same creeping helplessness Texas's social media wrangler during Wagner's barrage. Wagner posted up the dead-certain Big Ten POY successfully. He took him off the dribble. Somewhat later he hit three straight triples like he was Kevin freakin' Durant at Rucker Park. On defense he was... acceptable? Swanigan scored a bunch but some of that was very late during Michigan's no-threes period and some of it was when Wagner went out briefly in the first half. Swanigan got his but he also got got by Wagner's Mitch McGary impression, as Ace helpfully clipped:
Wagner knew he couldn't win the strength battle so those little gambles are making the best of a bad situation. Five turnovers drove Swanigan's game ORTG down to 109 despite his hot shooting. That's below his season average, and that's a massive win, one that led to a massive win.
Wagner, meanwhile? 148 ORTG. Like the turnover embedded above, it's a trap(!).
People get the Death Star all wrong. When a real life thing is compared to fiction's most well-trodden trope it's a supreme thing. A thing of tremendous power at the top of the game. That's not right. Whenever a Death Star shows up—and it shows up in every Star Wars movie because it's not called New Idea Wars—it is immediately and spectacularly destroyed by someone throwing a can of soup at it.
I submit that this year's Michigan basketball team is a real Death Star kind of team. Charge 'em up and point 'em in the right direction and they will turn a bucolic, pastoral world into rubble.
MSU—By 29 to Michigan
Indiana—By 30 to Michigan
Purdue—By 12 to Michigan
Marquette—By 18 to Michigan
SMU—By 22 to Michigan
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) February 25, 2017
Penetrate their flimsy defenses with some chunky clam chowder or, like, whatever Ohio State purports to be this year* and you'll be rewarded with a gradually expanding cloud of pine-scented debris. They put the thermal exhaust ports at backup center and for some unfathomable reason created nine-foot-high neon signs that blink SHOOT HERE. It doesn't have to make sense, because Ewoks.
It is possible that Michigan has turned the blinking signs off. That awful period at the beginning of conference play when every Michigan basketball observer except Ace gave up is now firmly in the rearview mirror. Michigan's defense is... acceptable? Both Dylan and our entire Slack chat took note of a particular play in the second half on which Michigan looked like they knew what they were doing:
Purdue's been very good this year not only because of their big guys but because they've surrounded them with shooters. Almost 40% of their shots are threes and they go down at a 40% clip. Michigan held Purdue to just 16 attempts, barely more than a quarter of their shots. They hit barely more than 30%, because a lot of them were contested jacks like the above.
That's a trend that's taken them off the bottom of the conference in most stats. Michigan actually hasn't given up significantly more than a point per possession since their win against Nebraska in the middle of January. That's an 11 game stretch of 1.01 PPP, which would be good for fifth in the league. Pair okay defense with an offense that is as scorching as any Beilein's had...
Michigan's adjusted offensive efficiency is now 120.3 - the team that made it to the title game a few years ago was 120.2
— bauncey chillups (@bauncechill) February 26, 2017
...and you're looking at the proverbial Team Nobody Wants To Play In The NCAA Tournament. Per this guy on twitter, Michigan was the best team in the Big Ten during February. One that nearly lost to Rutgers, just in case anyone was getting cocky.
One thing is clear: when Michigan takes the court a fireball will soon follow.
*[Ohio State Basketball 2016-17: "We Take A Comparison To A Can Of Soup As A Compliment."]
The cost and the benefit. Credit to John Beilein for rolling with Wagner for the vast bulk of the first half. He got an early foul and the bench time that results; Donnal came in and did what you'd expect against the Purdue front line for a few minutes in which Michigan was –7; Wagner returned and did not exit the rest of the half. This allowed Michigan to race out to a huge halftime lead.
Wagner's quick fouls in the second half were not the Bad Mo Whistle coming back out; they seemed to be sheer tiredness, especially the third, on which he grabbed Swanigan so blatantly that he did the sheepish hand raise thing. Every Michigan beat writer noted the time of his departure (14:58) but Michigan managed to extend their lead during the nine minutes he was out. This was largely because...
DJ Wilson functioned as the five. A few more Donnal minutes that were headed in a very bad direction and then Michigan went with their smallest possible lineup: DJ at the five. This had the same offensive benefits that Wagner did against Purdue's bigs, and Wilson did an admirable job using his tremendous length to deny entry passes to Swanigan. It's a stopgap, but I'm way on board with stopgaps at backup center.
Peak Derrick Walton. In a game featuring Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan, Derrick Walton led all rebounders with 11. He had literally half of Michigan's defensive rebounds. This is kind of a problem but not a huge one—Michigan is 9th in DREBs in the league.
Also in Derrick Walton news, 17 points on 13 shot equivalents, five assists, zero turnovers, and a steal. Find me a better point guard in the Big Ten. Melo Trimble has one thing on him: volume. Nobody else is even in the conversation.
Pretty good refereeing! There was only one thing that was insane.
The above is Wagner getting clocked in midair by Haas without a call. Nothing else stood out at bad either way; even the second half foul-fest looked to be entirely initiated by the players.
Third banana time. Zak Irvin was a perfect third banana as a freshman during the good ol' days. With Walton and Wagner blowing up Irvin's back to being #3, and that's fine. Sometimes he hits some shots and pulls Michigan over the hump—his 16 against Rutgers were desperately needed—and sometimes he throws up bricks and dribbles it off his foot and fades into the background. Michigan can live with Irvin scoring just four, as he did against Purdue, if he's only taking eight shots.
It would be really nice if he could get back to that 40% three point clip he had early in his career.
The late slowdown. With about six minutes left Michigan took the air out of the ball and proceeded to give everyone a near-heart attack. It's obvious when that slowdown took place on the Kenpom probability chart:
Michigan in blue
The Walton heave at the buzzer starts off Michigan's final scoring flurry. There has been a lot of consternation in the aftermath. I'm of two minds. I was freaking out like everyone else, and I hated those four minutes of bleeding the clock and shooting your offense in the foot. It's especially grating because Michigan has one of the nation's slowest and most efficient offenses. If they just act normally they are likely to run a bunch of time off the clock and get a good look.
On the other hand, the defensive end of the floor was close to the worst case scenario...
The Boilermakers scored on 10 of 11 possessions after DJ Wilson hit a three to put Michigan up by 21 points with 8:50 to play. That’s 25 points in 11 possessions or 2.3 points per trip. That’s more than a basket every trip down the floor and Purdue scored just 45 points in the other 54 possessions of the game.
...and Kenpom was almost entirely unmoved.
Whittling it down to six with just over two minutes to go got Michigan down to a 95% win percentage, and Walton's dagger shut the door again. So it was probably the percentage play to shut down the variance.
Still felt like a couple minutes too early.
Bubble watch turns into something else. Michigan's punched their ticket and is now trying to get out of the 8-9 game, but there is significant bubble intrigue left in the league: Northwestern. At the beginning of February the Wildcats were 18-4 and cruising towards a bid. After losing five of seven—oddly one of the two wins in there is at the Trohl Center—they're 20-9, 9-7, and solidly on the bubble. They finish with Michigan and Purdue at home. Both those games are near coinflips to Kenpom.
It would have been disappointing if Northwestern's first NCAA bid was a cruise to a six-seed. This feels much better. The downside is that Michigan's going into Welsh Ryan against some desperate dudes.
Derrick Walton capped his Crisler career with a vintage performance. [Bryan Fuller]
"We're not done yet," said a triumphant Derrick Walton, addressing the Crisler Center crowd after a Senior Day victory over Purdue that all but locked in Michigan to a NCAA tournament bid.
The Wolverines looked the part of a team capable of making a run in March. They scored on their first possession against the current Big Ten leaders, getting a Moe Wagner layup off a Walton assist. Those two would lead the way in a game Michigan never trailed.
The matchup of Wagner and national player of the year candidate Caleb Swanigan took center stage in the first half. The German big man didn't just hold his own: he dominated. Forcing the burlier Swanigan to defend in space, Wagner poured in 22 first-half points, making five of six two-pointers and raining in four of his six three-point attempts. While Swanigan had an efficient nine points in the half, timely Michigan double-teams forced two turnovers, and he couldn't get the defense to collapse—the normally hot-shooting Boilermakers went only 5-for-16 on threes.
"That's just my guy, man," Walton said of Wagner. "I've got an absurd amount of respect for him. We go through [the pick-and-pop] so much in pregame, that's just our little thing. He knows where I'm at. I know where he's at. With a defense like that, I feel it was my priority to get him the ball in space."
Purdue adjusted in the second half, putting Vincent Edwards on Wagner and switching on every screen, but by then it was too late. Duncan Robinson's corner three-pointer sent Michigan into halftime with a 15-point lead, and the Wolverines would push the margin as high as 22 points before a last-gasp Boilermakers comeback made matters uncomfortable for a couple possessions.
Wagner scored 22 of his 24 points in the first half. [Fuller]
Fittingly, the seniors to play a huge role in fending off that comeback. Zak Irvin struggled to score again today, but he made his mark with a big defensive play, chasing down Carsen Edwards to force a fast break miss when Purdue had a chance to cut the lead to single digits. The Boilermakers subsequently got it to a six-point game with 2:14 to play. Walton ended the threat by ducking under Swanigan to hit leaning three-pointer that beat the shot clock and effectively ended the threat.
"I silently thanked God because there was no reason I should've made the shot," Walton said. "It was probably one of the worst possessions we had all game. You just kind of dribble the ball around for six seconds. It's just one of those times. We had a lot going against us this season. It was one of those moments where it was kind of 'okay then, we finally got a good bounce of the ball.'"
"I was actually about to chase it. It was not a good shot."
Walton finished with a very Walton stat line: 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting, 11 rebounds, five assists, no turnovers, and a steal. Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman both finished in double figures on combined 7-for-9 shooting. DJ Wilson added nine points and a critical stint at center in the second half when Mark Donnal proved ineffective. Xavier Simpson got into the act, hitting both his field goals—a transition corner three and an eye-opening layup after driving past Swanigan—and dishing out a pair of assists.
Xavier Simpson gave the fans a taste of what's to come after Walton. [Fuller]
The team was in high spirits in the aftermath. Asked if Irvin cried, Walton couldn't help but laugh, then said loud enough for his fellow senior to hear, "I think he choked up on the mic. He did. I looked at him."
"No I didn't!" Irvin yelled from across the room.
They know there's still more to accomplish, however.
"We already experienced something like this where we've had some success," Walton said, referring to the wins at Madison Square Garden. "We want to show who we really are by consistently bringing the same effort."
"You've just got to spend a film session with me to know that they know they haven't punched any ticket," said John Beilein. "There's a lot of work to do. You don't know what can happen down the stretch here with teams that are trying to get in there."
Northwestern fits that description. Michigan will head to Evanston on Wednesday in the midst of their best stretch of basketball all season. The team we've seen the last few weeks could make quite a bit of noise in March. Today's win made it much more likely they'll get the chance to do so.
I'm not quite sure what happened since my son was just born and I haven't slept in several days and was watching from a janky stream on a laptop in a hospital, so if I just totally hallucinated a German center who goes 4-8 from three while holding Caleb Swanigan to five total rebounds I totally apologize. If not:
And of course, you can't have one without the other.
Derrick Walton has stepped up in the latter half of B1G play [Bryan Fuller]
If you’re looking for Ace’s preview of tomorrow’s contest against Purdue, it’s linked here.
As an addendum to that, here’s how dominant Boilermaker big man and probable All-American Caleb Swanigan is on the glass:
Fortunately Michigan is indifferent to the offensive glass so Swanigan’s dominance in preventing second-chance opportunities isn’t quite as significant; still, he’s a phenomenal rebounder even though he’s not much of an above the rim player. His strength, positioning, and ability to go get the ball (even without a great vertical leap) is impressive to watch.
Swanigan’s player comparisons are pretty insane as well:
Swanigan is a Jared Sullinger who’s 30 pounds lighter, can pass the ball extremely well, and shoots 47% from three. Needless to say, Michigan needs DJ Wilson (and Moritz Wagner, probably) to somehow neutralize him – the Purdue big man is a much more physical player, so staying out of foul trouble is a major key.
Anyways, there are some graphs of Michigan’s scoring and efficiency trends after the JUMP:
#27 Michigan (18-10, 8-7 B1G) vs
#11 Purdue (23-5, 12-3)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||4 pm ET, Saturday|
Purdue -1 (KenPom)
Michigan -1 (Vegas)
PBP: Dave Flemming
Analyst: Dan Dakich
Right: Senior Day has arrived for Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton. [Marc-Gregor Campredon/MGoBlog]
Tomorrow is Senior Day for Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, Mark Donnal, Sean Lonergan, and Andrew Dakich. For those heading to Crisler, the festivities begin at 3:40 pm, and it'd sure be nice to see seats fill in earlier than usual. Yes, Spike Albrecht will be back in the building, too—as a reserve for Purdue.
Michigan is holding strong as a ten-seed listed in every projected field comprising the Bracket Matrix. Purdue provides the Wolverines with one more shot at a top-25 RPI win, something that may be more critical than expected now that Wisconsin has dropped to 27th, leaving SMU (#18) as M's only win to fit that criteria. (Infuriatingly, Minnesota has risen to #15.)
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||11||PJ Thompson||Jr.||5'10, 185||70||12||132||Not At All|
|Very efficient, low-usage PG. Majority of shots are threes. Strong defender.|
|G||3||Carsen Edwards||Fr.||6'0, 190||59||24||95||No|
|Solid outside shooter, poor finisher. Can be turnover-prone.|
|G||31||Dakota Mathias||Jr.||6'4, 200||76||15||124||Not At All|
|Three-point sniper leads B1G in eFG%. Good assist rate but has turnover issues.|
|F||12||Vincent Edwards||Jr.||6'8, 225||68||21||118||Not At All|
|Does a bit of everything on offense, good defender.|
|F||50||Caleb Swanigan||So.||6'9, 250||79||28||114||Not At All|
|NPOY candidate. Beast in post, three-point range, great rebounder.|
|C||44||Isaac Haas||Jr.||7'2, 290||52||30||108||Very|
|Behemoth. Strong post scorer, rebounder, shot-blocker.|
|G||14||Ryan Cline||So.||6'5, 190||45||12||122||Not At All|
|Just A Shooter™, makes 43% of his threes.|
|G||55||Spike Albrecht||Sr.||6'0, 180||24||11||109||Yes*|
|Still not right after hip stuff. Tiny usage, only 4-for-22 on threes this year.|
*Man, that hurt to type.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
1. Brazen. Ole Miss's problem is that they made it blindingly obvious. People are dumb but they ain't stupid, and when a nobody with one year of college head coaching experience shows up in Oxford and acquires
- the #1 player in the country
- a five-star offensive tackle from Florida, and
- most egregiously, a five-star wide receiver from Chicago
it's just a matter of time before the walls cave in. Nobody in the history of Chicago has ever thought to themselves "Yes! Mississippi! Especially the bit where not having a plantation owner as a mascot is controversial!"
Meanwhile the players in question were barely trying to hide it.
Ole Miss was dumb and stupid and now they're going to be set on fire.
2. There are only two options for Hugh Freeze. Option A, which is by far the more likely, is that he was fully aware of what was going on from the drop and is a brazen liar. The alternative is that he is so impossibly naïve and delusional that he thought his very presence was sufficient to turn around the history of Ole Miss football. The Machiavellian interpretation is kinder, but this is a guy who compared Ole Miss's struggles to Jesus's trials on the cross so it certainly could be the latter.
3. The more pay-for-play scandals that happen the faster this edifice crumbles. If your main interest in the future of college athletics is dismantling amateurism that no longer makes anything resembling sense, the best case scenario here is that Ole Miss goes nuclear on the rest of the SEC and anyone else they have dirt on. This may be in process already:
Ole Miss, per multiple sources, possesses a recording, and has given the SEC a copy, of (Leo) Lewis’ mother asking Ole Miss for money and detailing incentives she received from other programs, including Mississippi State.
The fact that college football players get money and cars and whatnot is an open secret, but "entire SEC and half of ACC caught violating NCAA rules that everyone thinks are dumb" is the kind of thing that might finally bring the sham of amateurism—both its motivations and the NCAA's current ability to enforce it—down.
4. Dumb and stupid, for real. Ole Miss publicly challenged members of the public to provide evidence that they had violated NCAA rules. They had assistant coaches and associate athletic directors involved in direct cash payments to players and recruits. They ruined their credibility with the media by floating a bunch of outright lies that the more credulous people covering the team related uncritically:
Last year before signing day, Ole Miss leaked to several media members that the allegations weren’t serious, mostly not football. https://t.co/EVWyRGcHuj
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) February 23, 2017
(The same point from #2 stands for those who related it: they can either be hopelessly gullible or bought and paid for by their access.)
These days it takes a school standing up and begging to be punished for that to happen. Ole Miss volunteered. It might have been worth it, but don't be surprised when people dance on your corpse even if you got killed for something that should be legal.
5. Almost everyone does it. I have seen group texts between members of a previous Michigan recruiting class discussing the sudden shift of a player they thought they would get to a Southern school. "They bought his mom a house," per those texts. That revelation was followed by a variety of exclamations. Another recruit simply texted "money talks" when asked about his sudden change of heart.
I've talked to a bunch of people close to the program and heard some pretty astounding things, mostly about the dying days of previous regimes. These people were willing to tell me about players nearly getting in fistfights with coaches after the Gator Bowl that ended Rich Rodriguez's tenure. They've also asserted that Michigan recruits are consistently flabbergasted by the amount of money being thrown around to their compatriots, and that was one reason Brady Hoke's no visit policy could not stand: it was costing Michigan commits thousands of dollars.
Again, I don't think it's wrong that players take a life-changing amount of money in exchange for a valued skill that could cease to exist at any time. I don't think it's wrong that boosters gave him that money. The player in question has a shot at the NFL with some value already banked. He made the right choice.
I do think that everyone would be better off if the system was exposed for what it is and we could all be adults about it. Recruits currently have access to an unofficial and constrained pool of secret money that is far less than they would have if the doors were thrown open, and it's long past time to do so.
6. What grinds the ol' gears. You've got pinhead Pete Finebaum ranting in the national media about how Jim Harbaugh is doing something unethical by attempting to hire a decade-long NFL veteran coach because they may or may not get a 2019 quarterback out of it. Finebaum says nothing at all about the rampant under the table payments in the SEC.
You've got sanctimonious ass Hugh Freeze going on about how Jim Harbaugh is making him take time away from his family because Harbaugh wants to run some satellite camps. At the same time Freeze's program is overwhelming any satellite camp advantage that may exist by simply handing people checks.
If you're Harbaugh how do you not fire back?