Stopping all of this has proven quite difficult. [All photos: Bryan Fuller]
Generally, opposing coach press conferences after losses are brief and uninformative. After the Moe Wagner-Derrick Walton pick-and-pop obliterated Purdue's defense to the point they had to entirely change strategies, however, Matt Painter went into great detail on the problems posed by Michigan's offense, specifically those that result from facing two big men that can shoot.
To set this up: Purdue started the game with Caleb Swanigan defending Wagner. Michigan exploited the matchup by forcing Swanigan out to the perimeter, usually with high screens. Wagner feasted.
Wagner went 9-for-12 in the first half, hitting 5-of-6 twos and 4-of-6 threes. Michigan fielding a lineup with five viable outside shooting threats wreaked havoc on Purdue's defense and their rotation. 7'2" center Isaac Haas usually plays 20 minutes per game, often pairing with Swanigan to form an imposing frontcourt duo. Here's what happened when Purdue put both big men out there:
If Michigan's big men can't shoot, Swanigan wouldn't be in no-man's land, and Haas would be in position to block Simpson's shot into the tenth row if he manages to get into the paint anyway. The threat of Wilson and Wagner instead opened a cavernous lane for the quick point guard to bolt through.
As a result, Haas played only seven minutes in the first half, and just two with Swanigan also on the court. The adjustment Painter had to make in the second half forced his second-best player off the floor almost entirely:
We just went and switched everything, knocked them out of their [pick-and-pop] action. The downside of that is now you have your bigs guarding their guards and they can break you off the dribble. Then you have to help, now you’ve got to get to their shooters. When you have a good point guard and you have bigs that are skilled that can shoot and spread you out, you have to pick your poison. We can flip it on them, but when you don’t score the ball at the rim—and I thought we had a lot of opportunities for Haas in there, missed dunk, layups, a hook, that he normally makes—if we could’ve made those plays, we could’ve lived with all of it, because we wouldn’t have been out of the game, and now we put them in a bind because they’re eventually going to foul us and get out of the game. But if we can’t keep you in the game because [of defense], that gets hard for us. We just decided at half that we had to switch, and then when Donnal came in the game we could play Isaac [Haas]. But obviously we didn’t play well enough to be able to get back in.
Haas played four second-half minutes, entering the game after Michigan inserted Donnal and exiting at the first stoppage after Beilein lifted Donnal and put DJ Wilson at center. The combination of Wagner and Wilson in Beilein's offense rendered the second-best player on the Big Ten's best team effectively unplayable.
[Hit THE JUMP to see how Michigan took advantage of Purdue's new defensive tack.]
The Thompson-Robinson Conundrum
Michigan's QB board consists of NV QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the end*. Thompson-Robinson has publicly stated that UCLA will be very hard to beat, and nobody believed him. The last seven crystal balls have been to Michigan, including a number of 24/7 contributors and Lorenz. Combine those facts with an impending commitment...
Recruitment isn't fully shutdown but is getting pretty close. One of these schools will have my word soon ... God bless. pic.twitter.com/M6Wdlaugae
— DTR. (@DoriansTweets) February 28, 2017
...and you've got one of those intriguing recruitments that make everyone nervous. Mom is in Michigan's corner.
— DTR. (@DoriansTweets) December 23, 2016
UCLA's coach is on the hot seat. Thompson-Robinson has a hyphen. He knows Harbaugh's rep:
"Coach Harbaugh is a quarterback guru," Thompson-Robinson said on Sunday during the Pylon 7v7 National Championships in Vegas. "With Pep Hamilton there now, that's put the icing on the cake in my opinion. They've really made me a priority throughout the process as well."
You'd think this would be a perfect situation for Michigan, but for whatever reason UCLA just keeps poking its nose in. Boo, UCLA. Go away.
Thompson-Robinson's teammate, NV TE Brevin Jordan, might help out here. Jordan's an H-back type who could be Khalid Hill 2.0, and not every school has a hammer panda:
"Michigan, that's big time," Jordan told 247Sports on Sunday. "The way they run their program is like a professional team with Coach Harbaugh there. They have the Jordan brand, the area is beautiful. I see them as "Tight End U" out there."
They're coming up together this spring.
*[Probably. They did toss an offer to 3.5* FL QB Joe Milton a few days ago. One dollar says that's not commitable unless DTR decides to go elsewhere. FWIW, Milton is Anquan Boldin's cousin and Boldin was pro-Harbaugh after their time together with the 49ers.]
Grad transfers are crootin' too
Per Brice Marich, Cal grad transfer Aaron Cochran has not had any contact from Michigan. I'm surprised, since I know the plan to get 85 scholarship guys to fall camp included Devin Asiasi. You'd think Michigan has a spot and you'd think "guy who started most of a Pac-12 season" would be better than air.
Obligatory Daniel Faalele section
This is like seeing the Loch Ness monster pop out of the lake and pancake a dude:
— Gerry Hamilton (@HamiltonESPN) February 26, 2017
Hilariously, Andy Staples met twitter's blunt end because of this video. He's got a piece coming up on Faalele, and after mentioning this he got multiple replies along the lines of "why doesn't he take on someone his own size?" I have bad news about Yokozuna for you, Twitter.
I already made the "little brother" joke months ago
in west philadelphia, born and raised, on the playground is where i spe
4.5* FL OL Nick Petit-Frere isn't close to having a list; Sam catches up with his coach, who has good things to say about both of Michigan's OL coaches and emphasizes that he is a very legit student who doesn't care about distance:
“Nick is a tremendous student and we know academics are important,” said Ciao. “I think Nick knows that he also going to play football and football is important to him. His decision will be based on what’s the right fit for him as a football player and as a student athlete.”
He'll visit a select list of schools before next season begins. Michigan will endeavor to be one of those, and one dollar says they will. Sam not only talked to Petit-Frere's coach but he also had an extensive interview with the recruit in question:
Sam Webb: When I spoke to Coach Ciao he said there were a couple of places that you were going to try to visit during the spring. Do you have an idea of which places you might hit?
Nicholas Petit-Frere: Michigan was a choice I wanted to go up to. I'm also considering Notre Dame possibly too. A lot of schools have contacted me, trying to get me to come up for a junior day or spring practices, so there's a lot of schools I'm looking at for spring break. That's going to be a good amount of time to do some of the visits I can."
This sounds like the kind of recruitment that boils down to Stanford/ND/Michigan, not Michigan/FSU/Alabama.
Various new names
Here's your early-cycle bulleted list of guys who just popped up on the radar:
- 4* TX RB Keaontay Ingram is a new offer who is "definitely interested"; no visit scheduled yet. Texas is on him, so that will be a tough pull.
- 4.5* FL OL William Barnes picked up an offer from Greg Frey. Barnes is at Apopka, Jeremy Gallon's alma mater. Barnes plans a spring visit and says he's "very interested."
- 4* FL OL Curtis Dunlap lists Michigan in a top four. He's at IMG.
- 4* CA OL Tommy Brown says he's "very interested" in Michigan. No visit, etc. Teammate of big time 2019 QB JT Daniels, FWIW. For whatever reason I assume anyone named Tommy Brown will end up at Notre Dame, which went 4-8 last year.
- 4.5* CA LB Solomon Tuliaupupu plans to take in Michigan as part of a swing through various power programs this spring.
- 4* MO CB Mario Goodrich told Josh Newkirk that "Michigan is #1 for sure" after landing an offer. Jordan was cited. Vague visit plans, vague National Signing Day decision plans, rinse, repeat.
- 3* GA CB Chris Jackson named Michigan and Michigan State as his top two. Jackson's dad went to MSU, if you're wondering about the odd geography here. He wants to decide early; unless Michigan thinks Jackson is seriously underrated by the recruiting services that probably means MSU since he's ranked around #800 on the composite and Michigan has a tight class.
- 4* GA CB Chris Smith says Michigan has made him a "priority" and that Harbaugh compared him to the Tasmanian Devil. No top list, vague visit plans, rinse, repeat.
- FL S Sammy Faustin picked up an offer and says he will visit in April. Faustin is currently unranked by everybody.
Grudging 2019 section
OH DB Moses Douglass says Michigan is in his top three with Kentucky and Iowa. Douglas is former NFL player and Springfield HC Moe Douglass's son; Douglass the elder played at Kentucky, which explains the odd list. Douglass is a 2019 kid who missed a big chunk of his sophomore season because of injury and thus could be a big timer or a three-star. TBD.
FL LB Anthony Solomon continues to name Michigan his leader after his unofficial to Ann Arbor. He plans to come back for the spring game. If that trip happens we'll start penciling him into the 2019 class—back to back long distance unofficials in a short period of time are always a very good sign.
KY DE Stephen Herron gave Josh Helmholdt some encouraging quotes:
“He has this board in his room showing a bunch of plays and all the kids he has recruited, like Rashan Gary and Donovan Peoples-Jones and Jabrill Peppers. I was impressed that he has that much organization in his life. His desk is not cluttered like other coaches and he knows where everything is at all times.”
Happy trails to NJ QB Arthur Sitkowski, who committed to Miami, and MI QB Theo Day, who committed to 3-9 MSU. Michigan remains focused on DTR to the virtual exclusion of everyone else. Some possibility Michigan would circle back to one or both if DTR's recruitment goes south. Also in happy trails: FL DT Taron Vincent has apparently narrowed his list to OSU and FSU.
Bama offers IN OL commit Emil Ekiyor. "Offer" or OFFER is as of yet unknown; Ekiyor still says he's committed to Michigan. I sort of believe him but if he takes another round of unofficials after this he's 50/50 to stick... at best.
[Note: Yeah, the picture above is from the first time these teams played this season. It’s a good picture, man. It’s also a picture of Evan Allen, who had a great series. Also, the screenshots from the first game are really grainy because the stream was OSU’s scoreboard and the quality was middling.]
Friday, February 24, 2017
#12 Ohio State 4, Michigan 2
OSU 0 UM 1 EV 12:12 Assists: De Jong
De Jong crosses the line just a fraction of a blade’s length ahead of his teammates, just enough to keep the play onside. As they cross, Allen starts to drop back to provide a passing option as the trailer while the other skater goes hard to the front of the net.
The defenders have to play this with a fairly large gap between themselves and the Michigan skaters due to it being an odd-man rush. Allen gets a ton of cushion when he drops back. Even though only one defender is going to carry the netfront skater, they both have to check where he’s going long enough to make passing pack to Allen the best choice for De Jong.
Allen makes the smart play here and pulls it around the defender, which creates the time needed for a screen to begin to take shape in front of the net. Allen shoots at this point and beats Frey…high? Low? Can anyone tell with this jumbotron feed? The puck went in, I know that much.
[After THE JUMP: I understand this season despite not understanding it at all]
Mmmm potential rebound [Bryan Fuller]
Our recording got cut off before we did the intro and outro so David had to record those at home.
We Couldn’t Have One Without the Other
We get to make audio content because we can afford the studio time and equipment to make it happen, and that’s thanks to the people running ads between segments.
The others: Homesure Lending, Ann Arbor Elder Law, the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, the University of Michigan Alumni Association, Deo Bookkeeping, Michigan Law Grad, Defensive Drivers Group, and Peak Wealth Management.
1. Bandwagon Basketball Podcast
starts at 1:00
The bandwagon for this Beilein team has a lot of room, since Ace’s is the only ass to remain in its seat through the bad times, and it’s a rather scrawny one. Defense is alright, offense is as good as the best of ’em. Talk every starter and how each has developed this year. Why two stretch bigs makes Michigan a tough ask to defend.
2. Finding a Seed
starts at 30:00
Disgust over the Minnesota game lingers: what that game could cost this team in the postseason. Appreciation for Northwestern’s commitment to drama (and Econ homework).
3. Gimmicky Top Five Developments You’d Like to See in Spring Football
starts at 46:30
Wilton Speight to the NFL, people saying the best recruit in the country is good, prophesies that might make Penn State fans, and more Glasgows.
4. A Grim Hockey Talk
starts at 1:05:16
David Nasternak, who’s been covering hockey for us this year, sits in to talk about how the bottom finally fell out, and what’s really up with this program right now. Fandom endurance badges to anyone who sticks around for all of it.
- “Secure the Galactic Perimeter”—Soronprfbs
- “Bubble Song”—Spongebob Squarepants
- “Catch 'Em Slippin’”—O.G. Style
- “Across 110th Street”
THE USUAL LINKS
Derrick Walton might be good, you guys.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Purdue game in GIFs.]
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.