Michigan (20-11, 10-8 B1G) vs
Illinois (18-13, 8-10)
A Mostly Empty Arena
Updated tipoff: 12:20 pm ET
Michigan -6 (KenPom)
Michigan -6.5 (Vegas)
PBP: Kevin Kugler
Analyst: Jon Crispin
Right: Michigan's co-MVP turns away as DJ Wilson celebrates his authoritative dunk. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Michigan enters the Big Ten Tournament in a good spot. They're one of the hottest teams in the conference and have moved into the "lock" section on pretty much any bracket you can find; after fighting their way off the bubble, they're playing for seeding.
At the moment, Michigan is a nine-seed on most brackets, and they'd probably need a deep run in the conference tournament to have a shot at avoiding an 8/9 game—the winner of which, of course, gets a one-seed in the second round. That's the bad news. The good news, according to ESPN's John Gasaway, is Michigan fits the profile of a giant killer:
Beilein's men finished conference play with easily the best offense in the league, and the UM defense looked much better once opponents stopped making well over half of their 3-point attempts. Derrick Walton Jr. is far and away the best point guard that no one ever brings up as one of the nation's best point guards, and Michigan loves to torment opposing defenses by stretching the floor with five legitimate 3-point shooting threats. The Wolverines would be the underdog in a round-of-32 game against Villanova, Kansas, North Carolina or Gonzaga, but this group could definitely keep things interesting.
While Michigan would like to avoid those teams, they've got a better than than most at springing a major upset.
UPDATE: Michigan's team plane was involved in an accident caused by the extreme high winds in the area. Everyone, thankfully, is fine. Statement from SID Tom Wywrot:
The Michigan men's basketball team plane was involved in an accident Wednesday afternoon. After attempting to take off in high winds, takeoff was aborted and, after strong braking, the plane slide off runway. The plane sustained extensive damage but everyone on board was safely evacuated and is safe. The team is making alternate travel plans.
Let's hope they make it to DC without any further incident. Driving isn't much of an option given the early tipoff tomorrow.
UPDATE 2: More on the travel situation:
That was crazy,glad everyone is ok! Coach B's leadership was great, he helped everyone off the plane as they slid down the emergency slide. pic.twitter.com/sDWz6DWEoE
— Jon Sanderson (@CampSanderson) March 8, 2017
The option of Michigan busing to Washington D.C. is not being considered at this time.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) March 8, 2017
Big Ten waiting on Michigan's official finalized travel plans to make any decision per ESPN.
— Dylan Burkhardt (@umhoops) March 8, 2017
Spoke with Big Ten officials. There's no procedure in place for moving games or rescheduling, should it have to come to that. New territory.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) March 8, 2017
For those asking. I can confirm that Austin Hatch, who remains a part of the Michigan program, was not on the plane today. He was in class.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) March 8, 2017
I'll keep this post updated.
UPDATE 3: The team will take an early flight to DC and play the game as scheduled.
Here is a travel update for #GoBlue
We can't wait to get to D.C. on Thursday and compete for Michigan! pic.twitter.com/HqZYiEoM7b
— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) March 9, 2017
UPDATE 4: Michigan didn't arrive at the arena until 10:40 am and the Big Ten somehow didn't have a contingency plan in place. After some negotiation, the game will tip off at 12:20 pm. Thanks, Delany.
THE LAST TIME
The first matchup between these two teams was the debacle in Champaign that prompted Illini center Maverick Morgan to describe Michigan's program as "white collar."
The second matchup went a bit different:
Michigan won 66-57 in a game that wasn't as close as that score would indicate. DJ Wilson led the way with 19 points, six offensive rebounds, and five assists; he also scored 19 in the game at Illinois. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin both had double-digit point totals, while a more motivated defense held the Illini to 0.86 PPP.
This, of course, was the genesis of Michigan's midseason turnaround.
Derrick Walton Jr. was asked yesterday if, in hindsight, Michigan got the boost it needed from Maverick Morgan's "white collar" comment: pic.twitter.com/YhAQj3t9Eq
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) March 8, 2017
I would not be against Michigan fans chanting "MVP" when Morgan touches the ball.
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||3||Te'Jon Lucas||Fr.||6'0, 170||42||18||95||Not Really|
Became starter in late Jan for defense. Pass-first PG, rarely shoots, TO-prone.
First matchup: 23 mins, 5 pts (1/1 2p, 1/1 3p), 1 reb, 8 ast, 1 to, 1 stl
Second matchup: 15 mins, 8 pts (1/1 2p, 1/1 3p), 1 to, 1 stl
|G||13||Tracy Abrams||Gr.||6'2, 185||64||19||106||No|
Robbie Hummel, Guard Edition. Learned how to shoot while hurt, somehow.
First matchup: 24 mins, 4 pts (1/2 2p, 0/1 3p), 2 reb, 3 ast, 1 to, 1 stl
Second matchup: 23 mins, 2 pts (1/3 2p, 0/2 3p), 2 reb, 3 ast, 3 to
|G||21||Malcolm Hill||Sr.||6'6, 225||84||26||114||No|
High-usage and efficient, versatile scorer. Draws a ton of fouls.
First matchup: 32 mins, 15 pts (3/5 2p, 1/3 3p, 6/7 ft), 4 reb, 2 ast, 1 to
Second matchup: 32 mins, 16 pts (5/8 2p, 0/2 3p), 2 reb (1 off), 7 ast, 2 stl
|F||12||Leron Black||So.||6'7, 220||44||23||101||Very|
Excellent rebounder on both ends. Decent finisher who gets to line.
First matchup: 17 mins, 10 pts (5/9 2p, 0/1 3p), 5 reb (1 off)
Second matchup: 13 mins, 4 pts (2/2 2p), 4 reb (2 off), 1 to
|C||22||Maverick Morgan||Sr.||6'10, 245||63||21||105||Very|
Good finisher and shot-blocker, not much of a rebounder. Elite motivator.
First matchup: 29 mins, 16 pts (8/9 2p), 1 reb, 4 ast, 3 to, 1 blk, 1 stl
Second matchup: 22 mins, 6 pts (3/5 2p), 2 reb (1 off), 1 ast, 3 to, 1 blk
|G||5||Jalen Coleman-Lands||So.||6'3, 190||61||17||98||Not At All|
Just A Shooter™ made 43% of 3P in B1G play.
First matchup: 31 mins, 12 pts (0/3 2p, 4/5 3p), 3 reb, 4 ast, 2 to
Second matchup: 20 mins, 2 pts (1/3 2p, 0/1 3p), 1 reb (1 off), 1 stl
|F||43||Michael Finke||So.||6'10, 230||49||17||109||Not At All|
Stretch four with career 52/38/62 shooting splits. Good offensive rebounder.
First matchup: 12 mins, 10 pts (2/2 2p, 2/2 3p), 3 reb (1 off)
Second matchup: 13 mins, 4 pts (1/1 3p), 3 reb
|F||2||Kipper Nichols||Fr.||6'6, 225||21||19||101||Not At All|
Crushed M on boards in first matchup, earned way into 8-man rotation.
First matchup: 19 mins, 13 pts (5/8 2p, 1/1 3p), 8 reb (5 off)
Second matchup: 17 mins, 4 pts (2/5 2p, 0/2 3p), 3 reb, 2 to
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
[Bryan Fuller – MGoBlog]
With the unfortunate news that Derrick Walton didn’t make First-Team All-Conference, I decided that I should jot down some thoughts on the best players in the Big Ten this season. While I leaned on a lot of data to justify these picks, I also have probably watched way more Big Ten basketball than the average person should, so I’m pretty well acquainted with the impact and style of these respective players. Instead of naming All-Big Ten “teams” – which inherently places a huge gap between the fifth- and sixth-best players in the league – I’ll rank the top ten.
10.) Nate Mason – Minnesota
Instead of Walton, Minnesota’s Nate Mason was named First-Team All-Big Ten. Mason’s team finished a game ahead of the Wolverines in the conference standings, and he had better counting stats than Walton did (15.5 points and 5.1 assists per game to Walton’s 14.5 and 4.5); Mason was markedly less efficient as he shouldered the load for the Gophers’ inelegant offense. Aside from impressive assist and turnover rates, Mason’s statistical profile isn’t as impressive. Shooting splits of 39 / 39 / 80 (2P% / 3P% / FT%) aren’t bad, but he did hoist more than his fair share of poor mid-range jumpers and drives into too much traffic, which sunk his eFG% to just 44.9.
Mason deserves credit for his role in helping bring together Minnesota’s new players and being the best* player on a team that finished top four in the Big Ten – one that will be headed to the NCAA Tournament. Aside from Northwestern’s historic bid, the Gophers are one of the biggest storylines in the conference: they were 8-23 last season and sit at 23-8 right now. While Mason was one of the better point guards in the league (and made this list instead of Bryant McIntosh, Tai Webster, and others), his middling efficiency prevents him for ranking more highly.
*Shot-blocking menace Reggie Lynch might be better, but plays <2/3rds as much of the time as Mason does, which limits his impact.
9.) Vince Edwards – Purdue
A player that’s often forgotten about because of his gargantuan teammates, Vince Edwards was quietly one of the biggest reasons for Purdue’s success this season. With Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas often rotating at center, Edwards was able to slide from the three to a more natural four spot. It paid dividends; the versatile wing scored 12.3 points per game, led the team in assist rate, and shot 42% from behind the three-point line. Edwards’s impact as a secondary threat on the offensive glass also complemented the big men well.
The Big Ten champs lean most heavily on Swanigan, of course, but Edwards has had a considerable influence. In the Boilermakers’ last game against Northwestern, Edwards scored an efficient 25 points and added 5 rebounds and 4 assists, helping Purdue to a narrow win. While most of the players on this list are forced to create their own shots or generate offense for others, Edwards doesn’t necessarily have those responsibilities. As a consequence, he’s one of the most efficient players in the league, finishing third in offensive rating for players in Big Ten play with a usage rate over 20%.
[rest of the list after the JUMP]
Friday, March 3, 2017
Michigan 5, #5 Minnesota 3
Mich 0 Minn 1 PPG 13:21 Assists: Bristedt & Gates
A deflected pass turns into a loose puck and that in turn becomes an opportunity for Minnesota to cycle the puck in the corner. Warren gets his stick into the passing lane and is a fraction of a second from knocking the pass away. The 2016-17 season is, however, a cruel mistress, so the pass gets through and the Minnesota skaters switch spots.
Gates skates into the circle and turns to open up for a pass as Bristedt loops around at the wall. Luce is watching this and understandably becomes preoccupied with saddling up next to Gates.
Cammarata sees the cycling along the wall and steps away from the crease. Boka had just dumped him to that side of the net two frames earlier and has since watching the cycling along the wall and quickly checked behind him to see if a skater was in position for a cross-ice one-timer. A good check, but one that sees him lose sight of Cammarata.
Bristedt doesn’t lose sight of him; he sees Luce take away Gates while the easier pass to Cammarata at the side of the net simultaneously opens up.
Cammarata reaches as far across as possible upon receipt and flings a shot in before Nagelvoort can get his leg extended.
As Sean Ritchlin said on the broadcast, you’re either going to tuck the puck in far-side before the goalie can push off the post or you’re going to get the goalie to kick it and create a rebound for that backside skater who’s been handing out in the faceoff circle (or the one in the slot).
[Much more after THE JUMP]
I’ve had enough requests for advice on the madness of tourney tickets to attempt a Ticket Watch on the subject, though I warn you a week’s worth of research yielded little in the way of fact. It did yield two themes, which were “buy late” and “choose your seats carefully.”
I also started tracking the secondary market for the Jerryworld game vs. Florida, which is looking not equally bearish but still quite buyer friendly.
Let’s address the more immediate event first:
Big Ten Tournament Tickets: Less Than Parking
Lower bowl for $6 is bottoming out. You can still buy tickets from the ticket office, and the building should be empty enough to move down close enough that Duncan Robinson can hit you in the face with a basketball 40% of the time.
You might as well use the sponsor’s site. I spent way too long refreshing Craigslist in hopes of running into a pair of “I bought too many” seats at center court or something, but keep just seeing this guy in section 405 with tickets to Northwestern vs. winner of Rutgers/Ohio State.
The championship game right now is running around $40. Via Ralph Garcia at TicketIQ:
“Saturday's Semi-Finals is currently the most in-demand session, averaging $180 per ticket with cheapest seats $69. Friday's Night Session featuring Maryland is close by, with a $166 average ticket price and cheapest seat clocking in at $74. Cheapest ticket for Sunday's Championship Game is $37.
As you might expect the Maryland side of the bracket is more expensive, since they’re the only contender in reasonable driving distance. Michigan’s on the other side of the bracket, so a Terp loss to Wisconsin can only help the championship game. Michigan has a sizeable DC contingent and Purdue doesn’t, so our side of the bracket will be mostly driven by Michigan’s success. I expect a weak secondary market since nobody is going to buy those unless we upset the Boilers.
Official advice is treat this like a GLI: for the opening rounds just show up and sit wherever you want for the price of a pint, then expect to pay $40-$50 for decent seats if Michigan makes the final game.
Also let’s all hope the Big Ten looks at a map next time they schedule one of these. At least the new Pistons/Red Wings arena is an opportunity to have it in Detroit, i.e. the geographic center of the conference, someday.
[Hit the JUMP for March Madness and the madness of King Jerry]
?? MGoBloggers serving bagels at the Alumni Association’s Welcome Wednesday.
@? The UM Alumni Association Building, 200 Fletcher Street.
ETA? Thing is 8AM to noon tomorrow.
Y? The bagels (+coffee, hot cocoa, tea, blue books) are free.
Here’s how you get a job after college. One day near graduation you will think of this brilliant tweet in the subject of your interest. It will get picked up and retweeted by some super highly respected person in that field, which will get hundreds of prospective employers to follow you. When you post your graduation photo they’ll all DM you, say they recognize your genius, and offer you your dream job on the spot, provided you’re willing to work from home and occasionally wear pants.
Here’s how you actually get a job after college. A good connection you made who saw you were super serious about going into their business will recommend you because you’ve stayed in touch. Then you have an interview, at which you will be judged in part on your selection of pants.
Here’s one way if you’re a student at Michigan to score connections to a ridiculous network of successful people. So the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan has this tradition on Wednesdays when school’s in session where you come to their main building on 200 Fletcher Street (like behind the Michigan League) and get free bagels, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Once you have your free food you’re welcome to talk to AAUM people, or sit on a couch with some friends, or meet other students, or just grab a table area and study.
Here’s the hook. Sometimes you get served by someone interesting, like the school president, or the women’s basketball team, or that time Big Jon Falk came with his favorite water bottle.
Other times they have to fill in with local football bloggers. Tomorrow is one of those times, when Brian, Ace and I will be on hand for the bagel-serving/schmoozing. It runs from 8AM to noon. We’ll have at least one of us there the whole time.
Also free blue books. I wish I’d learned of this before senior year: any time you go into their building you can walk out with free blue books. They will also make you a set of 30 business cards.
How do you tell a student from a vagabond blogger type? Only a student can look that exhausted yet carry a backpack so unaware of the treasonous nature of back muscles. But bring your M-Card in case they doubt you.
Why the Alumni Association? Very shortly you’ll be one, i.e. an old person like me who goes around answering “I wish I’d made more connections” to “what do you wish you’d done better in college?” At that point what you know won’t matter nearly as much as who you know, and the Michigan alumni network is so good at this that the football team makes it the centerpiece of their recruiting pitch. All those wonderful goodies that they give us to be members—game tickets, tailgates, local clubs and events, trips, scholarships etc.—are to keep that network engaged. The sooner you tap in, the more you can get out of it.
I prefer the shot on the left. So does Beilein. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
After the Nebraska evisceration, I wanted to take a closer look at something we discussed on this week's podcast. Michigan generated 12 more three-point attempts than the Huskers, which added to the growing pile of statistical evidence that the Wolverines have undergone a fundamental shift—not on offense, but on defense. John Beilein gave the money quote on it after the Purdue game:
We’ve made a conscious decision to defend the three-point line, knowing that a tough two is much better to give up than an open three, which we were giving up like crazy in our earlier struggles.
The key number to look at is 3PA/FGA: the percentage of each team's field goal attempts that come from beyond the arc. The offense is shooting threes at the usual Beilein offense rate: 45.3%, 16th nationally. Before this year, Beilein's Michigan defenses haven't been good at preventing opponent three-point looks; his best finish in 3PA/FGA was 108th in 2014, and most of his M teams have been in the 200 range.
This season, Michigan opponents are attempting just 29.0% of their field goals from beyond the arc. That puts the Wolverines tenth in the country.
The shift in defensive philosophy, likely a product of adding Billy Donlon to the staff, has created a massive gap in points generated from the three-point line between Michigan and their opponents. Critically, the Wolverines aren't forcing shots to make it happen. I put together a video of Michigan's three-point attempts (two garbage-time attempts excised) against Nebraska with freeze-frames just before the point of release; there are only a couple questionable shots among the 25:
I did the same for Nebraska's shots. While they had a few wide open looks, Michigan did a much better job of closing out on Husker shooters than vice versa, and that's not even the most telling part of this video—that would be the length of the video itself. What's not in there is the number of times Michigan defenders ran potential shooters off the line, forcing them to take those tough twos instead.
Even if Nebraska had hit their open looks, they had little hope of keeping up with Michigan's offense. Their second three-point attempt of the game came with under five minutes left in the first half; by that point, M had opened up a 20-point lead while shooting 8-for-12 on triples.
As conference champion Purdue found out, it's hard to close the three-point gap on Michigan with two-pointers, even when they're going in at a relatively high rate. It helps, of course, that Beilein's offense also generates great looks inside the arc; Michigan is 12th nationally in two-point percentage. This leaves opponents in a bind. Do they try to match Michigan three-for-three, even though the Wolverines have superior shooters to almost any team they face? Or do they run their normal offense and hope to either hit twos at a remarkable rate or get an off game from Michigan's shooters?
I'm not sure there's a good answer.
[Hit THE JUMP to see the numbers behind the three-point gap.]