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1/12/2016 – Michigan 70, Maryland 67 – 13-4, 3-1 Big Ten
those people didn't even know us [Bryan Fuller]
This was always going to happen at some point. A marquee win was going to stroll onto the court and get bombed back into the Stone Age by Duncan Robinson and the Enola Gays. Even as the team was getting hammered by various opponents featuring large angry people, I had this faith. (Probably. Shut up.)
They just had to, you know, do it. They had to take the three point shooting and shape it into a win with the other bent and misshapen tools at their disposal. The math had to add up. It had not done that so much this year. But basketball's math is changing.
John Beilein hasn't changed much in the 86 years he's been a college head coach. He will play four, preferably five, people who can shoot three-pointers and try to get away with everything that implies. The 1-3-1 has come and gone but the core has always been the Beilein Long Range Strategic Bombing Initiative.
It's worked. Beilein scrapped his way up the ranks by overachieving everywhere he's ever been. But there was always thought to be a ceiling past which this kind of basketball could not go. Early skeptics noted that Beilein's attention-grabbing tourney runs at West Virginia were paired with mediocre regular seasons. He'd never sniffed a conference title in a major league. Players who could shoot from deep were limited role players. They were Just A Shooters.
The game of basketball has changed, gradually and now radically. With Steph Curry currently redefining what NBA efficiency means as statheads in the background furrow their brows over any shot between the arc and the rim, the zeitgeist has finally come around to the idea that three is more than two.
Meanwhile Beilein has been a whisker away from a national title, a whisker away from another Final Four, and won three Big Ten championships. It's been a little rough so far this year since the post play has been… uh… well…
is there any way to say this diplomatically
if I am not diplomatic will I be arrested
I seem to have been given a choice between being massively dishonest and being banned from speech forever
Also Michigan's recent propensity for injury has bit hard as Spike exited for good and Zak Irvin scuffled through a big chunk of the season during which the fact he was about to miss a three was more obvious than the plot of The Force Awakens. Oh, and Caris Levert has missed three games and counting.
But as ways to play basketball go it seems like people are just now catching up to Beilein. The team is catching up to expectations. Now if we can just get some additional Mitch types in here.
Yesterday they did it. Set aside the bigs going 0/5; they are not members of the backing band here. Robinson and company went 12/24. That's 50%. That is good. That is enough to overcome a lot of things. It's enough to overcome Diamond Stone using 40%(!) of Maryland possessions efficiently, for one.
And it's not a fluke. Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman hit his lone three against Maryland and has joined the club: Michigan has five players hitting 40%+ from three. That does not count Irvin, who seems to be recovered from the back-injury-induced early season funk and is hitting 44% over his last five. They have two players, Walton and Robinson, above 50%.
This deep into the season thoughts that Michigan might reclaim their Burke/Stauskas form have been shelved. But if they can poke their nose inside the line enough to avoid the kind of drought they suffered midway through the second half, they can be a fatally flawed team that goes down in a technicolor blaze of glory.
BULLETS FROM ABOVE
Goddamn, Duncan Robinson. Here are the top ten three point shooters in the country.
Robinson has 42 more attempts than the next-closest guy. The only player I found with significantly more, Oakland's Max Hooper, has 133 and is shooting at a 45% clip.
And is it just me or has he improved defensively? I have not been frustrated by a bunch of blow-bys of late. He seems to be able to stay in front of PF types and is even bothering the occasional person with his length. He's by no means good, but the opposition has stopped targeting him over and over again as the clear weak spot.
Robinson is developing—or probably just displaying—the ability to Not Just Shoot as well. The drive and pretty reverse layup late in the second half was an eye-opener; he's putting up shot fakes and then repositioning as well. He was the alpha dog on Williams two years ago with a diverse all-around game; he should be able to grow into that as he gets more comfortable on a D-I court.
weird face sometimes too [Bryan Fuller]
Derrick Walton is a weird player. Walton is rebounding like a 6'11" guy. His 21.7 DREB rate is almost top 100 nationally. Many of those are of the mansome variety where he launches off both feet and secures a ball a 6'1" guy definitely should not secure. Meanwhile He's hitting 33% of his two-pointers and 53% of his threes.
I am desperately disappointed that Kenpom stopped showing you similar players based on stats*, because what does that spit out for a guy with that DREB rate, assist rate, and shooting profile? Jan Jagla, but good?
*[I assume Pomeroy dumped it because it didn't work, but in this situation that only makes it better. Other possibility: Pomeroy saw Walton's sophomore year and pulled the plug in case his junior year caused his computer to emit smoke and shut down, moaning "why Ken whyyyyyy" as it did.]
Walton is a weird defender. I was very frustrated with him in the Purdue game. He started well and then kept getting beat off the dribble by drives that didn't look like anything other than a meh Purdue guard putting his head down. So of course he comes out against Melo Trimble and crushes him.
didn't go well, could have gone worse [Fuller]
Donnal as the "Evolution of Man" poster. I dunno, man. I assume every Michigan fan had written off Mark Donnal for good. There was certainly a lot of grousing about wasting minutes on him during the cupcake games in December, grousing that I agreed with. And then he got a ton of layups and is… well, he's not good but he is middling with frightening outburst of Mutumbo.
I never thought I would say this but the defensive downgrade when DJ Wilson came in was obvious. Wilson got wreckt on a couple of pick and rolls where he let the PG around him; Donnal got over and cut off penetration. He of course had that sequence towards the end of the first half where he had two spectacular blocks* and looked as surprised as anyone that he had just had two spectacular blocks.
While Diamond Stone more or less had his way with Donnal for much of the day the progress there is undeniable.
*[The first of which caused Tiricio and—ugh—Vitale to rant about how Donnal had committed a foul. Not that I expect Vitale to pay attention to the rules of the game or even the things happening in front of his face, but Donnal "getting [opponent] with the body" was Donnal leaping vertically as opponent rammed into him. That is a major emphasis with the refs this year.]
DJ Wilson is still baking. Clearly very bad in this game, as his brief chunk of playing time in the second half resulted in a 10-2 run for Maryland that he was almost singlehandedly responsible for. Also he floats to the perimeter to shoot threes way too much. But you can see flashes of an effective player in there; he has super-long arms and length, so he gets his hands on a lot of balls and has a future as a shot blocker.
The redshirt was clearly the best idea. He's got a long way to go; he has a very high ceiling.
Speaking of Max Hooper. Hooper has 133 three point attempts that he's hitting at a 45% rate. Pretty good, Max Hooper! How are you doing inside the line?
Wow. Hooper is a junior; in his career he has attempted 11 two-point shots and 344 three.
This has been "Brian and Ace find a freakish basketball player on Kenpom of no interest to you and tell you about it anyway."
I'm trying and failing to process this game in the immediate aftermath.
Despite playing at home, Michigan seemingly had no business hanging with the third-ranked team in the country, not with their best player wearing sweats on the bench. Even the most cock-eyed optimist had to feel the other shoe looming overhead as Maryland whittled into what once stood as a 13-point Michigan lead. That feeling held as Mark Donnal missed the back end of a one-and-one, giving Rasheed Sulaimon an opportunity to send the game to overtime in a most devastating fashion.
Sulaimon weaved back and forth at the top of the arc, but Donnal shadowed him step for step, and while Sulaimon's heave cleared Donnal's fingertips, it didn't hit home. With that, Michigan had a signature win in hand.
Recounting how the two teams reached that point requires a play-by-play worthy of a boxing match. Donnal hit the first significant blow at the end of the first half, blocking consecutive Maryland shots before tipping in a Zak Irvin miss at the buzzer to give the Wolverines an eight-point halftime margin.
Michigan extended that lead behind jumpers from Duncan Robinson, Zak Irvin, and Derrick Walton—in Walton's case, a four-point play after holding his form with center Diamond Stone barrelling through him—but the combination of Stone and Jake Layman countered in a big way. Stone bullied Maryland back into striking distance; Layman tied it up with a smooth midrange stroke; Stone gave the Terps a one-point lead at the 6:33 mark with an and-one.
On the ropes, Michigan fought back, retaking the lead with an and-one of their own from Donnal. Robinson hit a spectacular lefty reverse. Walton drilled a step-back from the elbow. Irvin connected from long range. The lead stood at eight with three minutes remaining.
Sulaimon, who'd been off all night, knocked consecutive three-pointers through, leading to a furious finish as Michigan couldn't put the Terps away at the line. When Sulaimon's final attempt bounced to the corner and the clock hit zero, the Crisler Center crowd unleashed 40 minutes of pent-up nerves.
Irvin finished with 22 points on 17 shot equivalents, Robinson made 5/9 three-pointers on his way to 17, and Walton posted a 12-10-4 line while contributing to a season-worst performance from star Terps guard Melo Trimble, who mustered only two points. Donnal cemented himself as the team's top center with eight points, nine boards, and two blocks; his rebound of a Walton miss with 17 seconds left gained Michigan a critical point while burning a few seconds off the clock.
After little went right against Purdue, everything came together for a Michigan squad missing Caris LeVert, and the schedule eases up considerably after Sunday's trip to Iowa. This may well be the victory that pushes Michigan to the right side of the tourney bubble when all is said and done; it took a true team effort to obtain it.
1000 South State Street • Ann Arbor, MI • 48109 • [email protected]
OBJECTIVE: Tournament bid.
EDUCATION: Beilein University, Beyond the Arc, MI
AND YOU CAN'T HAVE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER:
And great shooting by Robinson and Irvin pic.twitter.com/koLqudpxBW
— Bryan Fuller (@FullOfTwitt) January 13, 2016
1/8/2016 – Michigan 9, MSU 2 – 12-3-3, 3-1-1 Big Ten
1/9/2016 – Michigan 6, MSU 3 – 13-3-3, 4-1-1 Big Ten
The denigration of the Michigan State hockey program happened gradually and then suddenly, like bankruptcy. After Ron Mason retired he hired his buddy Rick Comley from Northern Michigan; he turned the Spartans into Northern Michigan. Comley retired and Michigan State hired a program alum whose most recent coaching experience was something along the lines of girl's high school hockey 20 years ago. I forget what it was exactly and, following Mark Hollis's lead, decline to look something like that up.
This has gone about as well as you might expect. MSU has made the tournament once since 2008, that from a 19-16-4 season in Tom Anastos's first year that saw a quick first round exit. Anastos's brand of hockey—Ron Mason, except defensive—has imploded into itself, leaving MSU one of the very worst teams in the country. At the moment they are 54th of 60 D-I teams in RPI. They've been headed in that direction for a decade.
And Michigan keeps losing to them.
Since Michigan's own slide began, time and again they have encountered the Spartans in the second half of a season spent on the bubble and dropped games to crappy teams that came back to haunt them. The collection of problems that killed Michigan's tourney streak is large and frustrating, but the second-most infuriating trademark of the drought squads has been their ability to get your hopes up just before a NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING loss to Michigan State.
Oh, hell, here you go:
- 2015: Michigan goes 3-2, losing a pair of 2-1 games in which a dude with 8 goals all year scores the GWG early in the third. The crippling final loss sees Michigan outshoot MSU 38-19.
- 2014: Michigan eats a humiliating 3-0 loss in the GLI, then blows a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 on the penultimate weekend of the final season. They miss a bid by one game when they lose to PSU in the opener of the Big Ten Tourney.
- 2013: A night after whipping the Spartans 5-1, Michigan loses 7-2. They do win the subsequent three games in the series. /waves tiny "punt" flag
It is very painful to lose to Michigan State because when they do score they spend the rest of the game stacked up like cordwood in the crease. Watching these things happen while envisioning big red down arrows next to Michigan's pairwise ranking has been an unpleasant experience, to say the least.
So here's to that not happening, even a little bit, last weekend.
I've spent most of this year disengaged, as you do when you aren't expecting much. I have been waiting for a sign that I should allow my emotions to get involved with this hockey team, and this weekend might have been it.
It was another rote walkover of a bad team, but let us not turn up our nose at rote walkovers of bad teams. There have been plenty non-walkovers of bad teams in the recent past. There turns out to be something to the art of not losing to teams you should not lose to.
I admit I was worried early on Saturday. @YostBuilt kept tweeting "don't lose 2-1" and I was like "please stop tweeting that" in my head. MSU came out with save-our-season energy; Michigan got one shot in the first ten minutes. MSU scored.
The script goes one of two directions then. It goes either to another hat-eating, silent-cursing loss that looms over your season, or Michigan limbers up the machine guns and makes Jake Hildebrand look like he's singlehandedly fighting World War I again. 18 of the 19 players chose Door Murder Hildebrand, and Michigan has no arrow next to its RPI at all.
That's all you can ask for when you play a team as bad as Michigan State. On to the next opportunity to not blow it.
Player nineteen. If you follow me on twitter it will not be a surprise to you that I thought Michael Downing had a really bad day. Downing gave up two breakaways in the first 21 minutes, one on a bad change, the second when he made a very inadvisable D-to-D pass, managed to recover from that due to MSU incompetence, and then got stripped of the puck at mid-ice anyway. Later he took two penalties, both of which I thought were legitimate; MSU scored on a 5-on-3 resulting from one to bring the game sort of close.
In between he did more of those Downing things where he decides to go nail a player coming out of the zone. A couple of these worked but he gave up at least one odd-man rush as a result. I will never understand why he chooses to do that or why he hasn't been screamed at until he stops doing it—the upsides there are so low and the downsides so high.
Downing is a bad decision machine and I find it inexplicable he hasn't been benched for a wake-up call. That goes double because Michigan skates seven defensemen most nights and there wasn't a detectable dropoff in play during Downing's three-game suspension.
No line shuffles please. Red loves to throw his lines in a blender from time to time just to see what happens. He usually lets it ride when things are going well, and so we've had a long period where the forwards are relatively settled:
Where X is whoever they're double-shifting with the fourth line. I'd like to see Michigan stick with this going forward; Motte and Compher have always seemed to play best together, Connor really benefits from their workrate, and the third line is playing really well together. I'm kind of meh about the second line but with the other two rolling and Dancs and Shuart bringing speed and size to the grinding corps it works.
Penalty for hitting too hard. While I though the penalty that put Michigan down 5-on-3 was a legit call, the charging penalty that preceded it was… well… on the one hand, as soon as I saw it I expected a call. But I also thought it was not a penalty.
Hockey's fallen into a situation similar to the one college football finds itself in with targeting. Some penalties get called simply because something legal and impactful looks bad. CFB reviews things, which doesn't help in any way whatsoever because nobody knows what targeting is. College hockey does not.
I dunno. I know we want guys to be safe but to me the pendulum has swung too far the other direction when Kile can plow a guy in the chest and the ref 200 feet away immediately puts his hand up for no other reason than "that looked hurty."
Pairwise bits. As always, it's basically RPI these days. Michigan is 8th. This is relatively good news. Michigan's nonconference opponents have been surprisingly good in conference play, which has kept M's SOS level despite the nature of the Big Ten. They don't have much opportunity to move up into truly secure territory unless they just don't lose the rest of the way; it's more about holding serve and generating a buffer.
This weekend against MSU did little other than help Michigan tread water; anything but a sweep would have been a hit. So, despite being a two-seed this instant, a bad weekend or two puts them right back on the bubble. It will be precarious going forward. So far so good. They are scoring an awful lot.
Michigan (12-4, 2-1 B1G) vs
Maryland (15-1, 4-0)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||9 pm ET, Tuesday|
|LINE||Michigan -1 (KenPom)|
PBP: Mike Tirico
Analyst: Dick Vitale
Right: Testudo shows off his hops. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]
Caris LeVert's "lower leg" injury that occurred in the Illinois game is probably going to keep him off the court for a third straight game, according to John Beilein:
“You all want your Caris update, which it seems like we’ve been having the injury report here for three years,” Beilein said on Monday. “So the injury report is that there is less pain every day, less yesterday, we elected to not have him still practice yesterday to let the healing try to complete itself.
“I’m not optimistic about tomorrow. The longer it goes, the more he’s going to need 2 to 3 days of practice, or he won’t be ready of he could risk further injury. That’s all I’ve got to say, and that’s all I prefer to say.”
Decreasing pain levels is a good sign; Beilein pulling LeVert from practice and not putting a timeline on his return is not. If LeVert can't go against Iowa on Sunday, Michigan may want to consider giving him extended time off to fully recover; their subsequent four games are MINN, @NEB, RUT, @PSU, the easiest remaining stretch on the schedule.
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||Melo Trimble||So.||6'3, 185||77||25||No|
|Efficient everywhere, lethal on pick-and-roll, tough to stop w/o fouling.|
|G||0||Rasheed Sulaimon||Sr.||6'4, 190||79||18||No|
|Duke transfer takes half his shots beyond the arc, makes half of them.|
|F||10||Jake Layman||Sr.||6'9, 220||74||17||No|
|Stretch forward can spread the floor, finish inside. Disruptive defender.|
|F||4||Robert Carter||Jr.||6'9, 235||63||25||Yes|
|Burly PF posts great DReb and block rates, hits 64% of his twos.|
|C||35||Damonte Dodd||Jr.||6'11, 250||40||14||Very|
|Good finisher and off. rebounder. Turnovers are a big issue.|
|C||33||Diamond Stone||Fr.||6'11, 255||51||29||Very|
|5-star gets most of C minutes. Great rebounder, finisher, shot-blocker.|
|F||11||Jared Nickens||So.||6'7, 205||54||14||No|
|76 of his 90 FGAs have been threes, making them at 37% clip.|
|C||15||Michal Cekovsky||So.||7'1, 250||27||16||Very|
|Much like Dodd, decent finisher but TOs/fouls limit effectiveness.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
In honor of Ferentz. Last year after neither starting quarterback did much good in their bowl game, Iowa released an unprecedented post-bowl depth chart listing C.J. Beathard as the starting quarterback over Jake Rudock. The PR gesture had two effects: 1) placated Beathard's dad who'd been making threatening transfer noises in a Tennessee paper, and 2) gave Rudock a concrete sign to seek playing time elsewhere.
In honor of Kirk Ferentz's noble and unselfish dick move, I hereby give you a post-bowl Fee Fi Foe Film diagram of just Michigan's guys. Rudock, you'll note, has again been put in his proper place: among the stars.
While we're at it, I figured I might as well clean up the roster data spreadsheets I use to keep track of things like what happened to Michigan's recruiting classes, attrition, redshirts, position switches, and starts, with historical data going back to the 1997 team. Link is here.
Check the tabs for 2016 scholarships, starter data and walk-ons. I'll keep this updated over the offseason if you'd like to use it for diaries or fact-finding. For example if you want to see how attrition cut into Michigan's classes since 1994:
Or with a little more playing around…
— Seth M. Fisher (@Misopogon) January 12, 2016