2/19/2017 – Michigan 78, Minnesota 83 (OT) – 17-10, 7-7 Big Ten
I was pretty mad last night for obvious reasons, and it occurred to me that I hadn't been actually mad at a Michigan sporting thing since football ceased. Hockey's fallen into the abyss to the point where the poor damn SID for that sport is issuing game recaps like this:
Michigan's Comeback Bid Falls Short at Wisconsin
MADISON, Wis. -- The University of Michigan ice hockey team fell, 5-2, to Wisconsin on Friday night (Feb. 17) in a Big Ten Conference matchup at the Kohl Center.
Juuuust a little short. Now that their record has caught up with their play (they're 1-7-2 in their last ten games, including an 0-2-2 record against Michigan State, the worst power conference team in RPI) it's been hard to even pay attention. Even when I am at a game I come away from it with few opinions other than "they are bad but Lockwood is good." It happens in front of you and then it is gone. Hockey isn't even interestingly bad.
Michigan's big three sports have endured seasons like this before, of course, but football's so short and their 3-9 was such an anomaly that it still held some interest, as a historical artifact if nothing else. I did get used to ignoring various basketball teams because they started walk-ons at point guard and their game strategy was to hold the ball for 30 seconds and then get the one half-decent player on the team to heave up a heavily contested jumper.
Ignoring hockey (hockey!) is weird to me, but here we are. We sold our tickets to the most recent Michigan State game because 75 bucks sounded better than a punch in the gut, and when I tried to turn the game on only to find it was not televised, I was relieved. So that's where we are in 2016 with hockey: I can legitimately be surprised when a game is not televised, and I can be fine with missing the saddest has-been rivalry in sports.
In that light, getting mad on twitter about TV Ted Valentine is actually kind of nice. Don't get me wrong: I'd rather watch a college basketball game not run by people so deranged they might end up on CNN attacking the independent judiciary. I'd rather watch a college basketball game in which Michigan does not set a Beilein-era record for free throws allowed (41!). I'd rather have guys who don't give Michigan a tech from halfway across the court for no apparent reason. I nonetheless choose fist-clenching impotent fury over the listless apathy hockey's induced.
And that is a little something after Michigan's early conference swoon looked fatal. This chart is the change in teams' efficiency margins since conference play started; Michigan is the line that flirts with becoming Indiana 2.0—remember when they beat Kansas and UNC?—before reversing:
Here's the change in B1G teams' efficiency margins since the opening of conference play. Maryland is on fire. pic.twitter.com/Las2y7cgtB
— snwman (@bkbtNUmbers) February 20, 2017
Now I have a reason to silently hope people I've never met get a mildly debilitating disease that renders them unable to referee basketball games without having much impact on the rest of their lives and suddenly realize that this has already happened. Possibly twice.
So I've got that going for me. A silver lining.
Eh, I'm kind of fine with Wagner fouling out like that. Michigan's down one with about a minute left and Wagner tries his Mitch McGary poke. It works, but in the process of it working Wagner hits the guy in the face and fouls out. Shon Morris immediately starts bemoaning how dumb that was.
I don't know about that. Michigan only got to overtime because Wagner was successful at prying the ball loose at half court and getting a quick two points. Repeating that in overtime down one swings your victory percentage way up—at least 30-40 percent, I'd guess. It's a risk but it might be a good one.
This style matchup. Watching Michigan play Minnesota is always an interesting contrast in styles. Beilein recruits a ton of skilled shooters and has them run an intricate offense; Pitino recruits guys chiseled out of marble who have never seen a basketball and has them run wildly at the basket in case that works out.
I greatly prefer Beilein's approach for a number of reasons, with one exception: gol dang it would be nice to have a Reggie Lynch at center. Lynch was not highly recruited and in fact played his first two years at Illinois State; he was #1 in block rate both of his two years there and is #1 this year. My kingdom for a guy who can affect shots. Maybe Jon Teske will figure out which bits are his knees and which are his elbows next year.
In all other ways, Minnesota basketball looks painful.
Free throws. In addition to the ref rogering, Michigan went through a stretch last night where Derrick Walton and Duncan Robinson went 1-5 from the free throw line. Robinson is 81% and Walton 88%. There's a divide here between the kind of person who goes all MAKE YOUR FREE THROWS as if this was a moral failing deserving of a loss and persons like myself who look at an event like that as an improbable statistical event that is worth no more than a shrug and a shake of the fist at Gamblor.
Minnesota's troubles evaporated in the second half; by the end of the game they were right on their 68% season average. Michigan was at 50%, which I don't have to tell you is not what they average. That is one of the reasons they lost.
Same. [Patrick Barron]
Michigan could've overcome it, either with better rebounding or free-throw shooting or Derrick Walton's overtime three going a quarter-inch the right way or any of the dozens of little moments that ultimately tilt a close basketball game one way or the other.
It, in this case, was as much officiating as Minnesota. This was one of those unfortunate games in which you can either sound like a bitterly sore loser or sound like you're ignoring the big story. In a game that started slow and never got much of a rhythm, the officials made their presence felt, as crews featuring TV Teddy Valentine are wont to do. It's difficult, after an overtime loss, to ignore such sequences as the phantom foul and ensuing phantom technical—called, apparently, on assistant Saddi Washington for getting into position to talk to his team—that resulted in a four-point Minnesota possession instead of a Gopher turnover.
Walton gutted out 16 points and five assists and DJ Wilson had two huge threes—including a bomb to send it to overtime—among his 16 points. Moe Wagner had an efficient 15 points before fouling out in overtime. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had a strong 14-point game marred by a pair of missed free-throws in the extra session. Jordan Murphy led the way for Minnesota with 16 points and 15 rebounds; Michigan had a tough time keeping him and center Reggie Lynch off the offensive glass.
The loss drops Michigan to 7-7 in Big Ten play and leaves them squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble. More to come tomorrow when I'm less of a bitterly sore loser.
#28 Michigan (17-9, 7-6 B1G) at
#39 Minnesota (19-7, 7-6)
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Sunday|
Minnesota -2 (KenPom)
Minnesota -2 (Vegas)
PBP: Brian Anderson
Analyst: Shon Morris
Right: Richard Pitino, who definitely doesn't eat brains for dinner. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
The tournament outlook is looking good: Michigan is on all but two brackets in the matrix, and the pair that omitted the Wolverines haven't been updated to account for the Wisconsin win.
This game will impact both NCAA tournament positioning and Big Ten Tournament seeding. Minnesota is tied with Michigan for sixth in the conference at 7-6, one game behind Northwestern and Michigan State heading into the weekend. By KenPom's projections, this is the second-toughest of the five remaining games of the schedule, but Michigan has owned this series lately: they've won 13 of the last 14 against the Gophers, including six straight at The Barn.
With three teams at 10-3, Michigan isn't going to win the conference, but it's well within the realm of possibility for them to claw their way to a top-four seed and a double-bye in the BTT. They have a decent amount of control over their own destiny, too, between tomorrow's game and the March 1st matchup at Northwestern.
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||2||Nate Mason||Jr.||6'2, 190||83||24||110||Not At All|
|Good passer, volume scorer who shoots better on threes (39%) than twos (37%).|
|G||0||Akeem Springs||Sr.||6'4, 220||60||19||108||Not At All|
|Just A Shooter™ makes 39% of threes, 38% of twos.|
|G||5||Amir Coffey||Fr.||6'8, 195||77||19||108||No|
|After ugly start, shooting 43% on threes in B1G. Decent finisher w/ high FT rate.|
|F||3||Jordan Murphy||So.||6'6, 240||67||22||96||Very|
|Good rebounder, shot-blocker, inside finisher. High FT rate, bad FT shooter.|
|C||22||Reggie Lynch||Jr.||6'10, 260||53||20||99||Very|
|Excellent rebounder and shot-blocker. Struggling with shot and turnovers.|
|G||1||Dupree McBrayer||So.||6'5, 190||67||20||104||No|
|Can handle point, but not scoring efficiently and turning it over too much.|
|F||24||Eric Curry||Fr.||6'9, 235||49||18||101||Very|
|Good rebounder, decent inside scorer, takes bad-idea jumpers.|
|C||21||Bakary Konate||Jr.||6'11, 235||25||12||98||Very|
|Good shot-blocker, foul-prone, only offense is putbacks.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Before and after. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
At the 17:35 mark of the second half last night, Ethan Happ backed Moe Wagner down from just inside the three-point line all the way to the charge circle and hit a baby hook. That marked his ninth field goal in ten attempts; he had 20 points, five assists, no turnovers, and no fouls. Up to that point, Michigan had been content to let their big men try to handle Happ on their own, as they'd done much more successfully in the game in Madison. It wasn't working. John Beilein adjusted (thanks to UMHoops' Orion Sang for saving me the transcription work):
“We looked at our numbers last time that we played this — Northwestern just double-teamed him the whole game and it was a point per possession, and when we didn’t double team him last time it was 0.6. So we said we can have it in our package, but we’re not going to do it unless we need it. Not all of those were post-ups — he blew by Mo a couple times. Mo’s 21 points, I’m really happy about that. He’s got to improve his defense too, he got sloppy a few times. He’s just got to get better there. Happ is really good. Part of where Wisconsin is so successful with us and others is there’s just so little low-post game in college basketball. … It’s unique for people to guard.”
“(Happ’s) good. He missed some shots from four or five feet. He didn’t miss them this time. He’s a good player. But we weren’t going to change just to change knowing we had our package, and save it for the second half. Just save it for the second half and see if we need it.”
From that point forward, Happ went 1-for-3 from the field with one assist and three turnovers. He also committed five fouls, two of which came on the offensive end of the floor. His fourth foul came after Moe Wagner and Zak Irvin combined to force a miss; Happ was visibly frustrated after unnecessarily hacking Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman on the rebound.
Eric Coughlin of the Detroit News tweeted a useful chart displaying how Michigan's defensive adjustment—and Wisconsin abandoning the pick-and-roll—had an enormous impact on Happ's output:
— Eric Coughlin (@EricCoughlin1) February 17, 2017
Mark Donnal looked overmatched in the first half; in the second, with some impressive help defense from Zak Irvin, he more than held his own. Irvin's offensive resurgence would've been for naught if Michigan didn't make, and execute, a mid-game scheme change on defense. It led to one of the most unexpected plays in recent memory:
My coverage of Donnal has been rather harsh at times; last night was his most encouraging game in a long time. Yes, he struggled to guard Happ one-on-one in the first half, but so did all of Michigan's big men; Jon Teske's disastrous two-minute stretch put a serious damper on the #FreeTeske movement. Donnal's seven minutes in the second half were impressive, even more so because he made a positive impact without taking a shot, which isn't exactly his norm. In addition to the block on Happ, he had a nice tipout offensive rebound and perhaps the most forceful blockout of his career:
If that's the version of Donnal we get going forward, there won't be any more controversy about who should back up Wagner.
[Hit THE JUMP for MAAR the quiet killer, updated bracket watch, and more.]
Let’s see what did we discuss: Well this hadn’t happened yet but…
’Pete Finebaum, the unabashed SEC water carrier, really needs to get his facts straight. #AlternativeFacts— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) February 17, 2017
It was discussed.
- What do you do with trolls? Ignore them, or make them the joke.
- NCAA’s associated persons rule will lock IMG, other power school coaches out of college jobs. Legislating against capable people getting jobs because they may be good at those jobs is as petty as it is stupid.
- Harbaugh vs The World: Harbaugh is winning—how can the NCAA block him from showing it to his players. The world that is.
- Athletic departments and how they police themselves—Colorado example brought up because MSU is too near and too ugly for rivalry ha-ha’s.
- Wisconsin—Liked the man-to-man-ups and the chance to get a marquee win with Koenig not around to shoot the Badgers out of a hole.
- What gets Michigan into the dance? Is it 9-9? 10-8? Because Kenpom thinks we can go 10-8 now.
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.