The tourney-shattering jinx preview for this final got posted a few days ago, and duly caused a Michigan loss. Despite that, they play Louisville for the national title tonight. That thing is approaching 3000 words but in brief:
Louisville is relatively small. Starting guards are both 6'0", starting 4 is 6'6". Dieng has an inch on McGary; other than that the height matchups are basically equal save whichever of Hardaway/Stauskas gets checked by Siva. Chane Behanan, the four, will be a challenge for GRIII on the boards even though they're the same height.
They thrive on pressure defense. It's not always an all-out press. It is often enough for the Cardinals to end up #2 in the country at forcing turnovers and acquiring steals. VCU was #1 in both of those categories.
They are not VCU, though. They're much better at avoiding fouls and have a top 30 eFG defense. VCU was all TOs and could not back off a press if it did not work. With more size and depth plus an excellent shotblocker, the Cardinals have other options.
They're basically Syracuse when it comes to shooting. Both starting guards are around 30% from deep; they have a designated corner gunner who hits 38%; that's it. If you leave Dieng open he can hit a jumper. The rest of the team is either not too good at two point jumpers or doesn't shoot an appreciable number.
Russ Smith is their alpha and omega. He absorbs an incredible 33% of UL shots, converts at a reasonably efficient rate, forces a ton of turnovers, and gets to the line over and over again. His 5/12 performance there yesterday was an aberration. He is normally an 80% shooter at the line.
They don't post up. Okay every once in a while but it is rare.
They have a Syracuse-like rebounding profile. IE: crushing on offense, poor on defense. Unlike 'Cuse you can't blame a zone—much, anyway, as UL did zone Wichita quite a bit. The source of this disparity is Chane Behanan, it seems. He's a top 100 OREB guy who isn't nearly as good on the other end.
Post-Wichita State Updates
The Ware effect. The game against the Shockers was Louisville's first close one without Kevin Ware. UL responded by upping minutes for Smith and Siva; walk-on and savior Tim Henderson got ten minutes. He knocked down 2 of 3 corner threes to bring his season totals to exactly 30% and got a couple rebounds. That was the entirety of the rotation at the two guard spots.
There was a palpable difference in the pressure levels UL could apply when Henderson was on the court. Smith and Siva are a couple of the quickest, most athletic guards in the country. Henderson isn't. He's a walk-on. When he was on the court and UL tried to dial up the pressure, Wichita just dumped it to the guy not being checked by Siva or Smith and had no problem. Before a late spate of TOs that doomed them, the Shockers had gone 30 or so minutes with 4 TOs. Even with the spate they ended with 11, actually below their season average.
That's one part fluke, one part ten minutes of Henderson, one part Smith and Siva being a bit more cautious with their energy levels. If Michigan can repeat WSU's feat and end up under their TO levels for the game that bodes well.
which guy will make the other team's fans go "I can't believe that guy beat us?"
Spike. Spike versus That Dude is going to be an important matchup. Both will get ten to fifteen minutes. Dollars to donuts Michigan puts Albrecht out there when they see Henderson check in, at which point he'll take some of Trey's burden in the hopes of keeping him fresh down the stretch. Albrecht has also been hitting threes of late, while also adding various you-little-bastard plays like the most hated guy at the YMCA.
In the battle of tiny usage three-point shooting, Spike wins with 14/28 down to Henderson's 6/20.
Hack-a-McGary? What UL lacks in guard depth they have in post depth, and how. Like Michigan, Louisville has three plausible post-type substances. Dieng got 30 minutes despite foul trouble against WSU; Montrezl Harrell and Stephan Van Treese both got ten. Harrell contributed four dunks/putbacks to the cause. Van Treese was immediately targeted as a defensive weak spot.
Van Treese has usage rates under 10% and gets 10 minutes a game. He's five walking fouls to deploy against Mitch McGary if the situation calls for it.
How transition-dependent are these folks actually? John Gasaway has been banging the drum($) about UL's effective offensive performances in the tournament, most of which have come without bundles of turnovers gift-wrapping points.
WICHITA STATE: 11 opponent TOs, four fast break points, 1.16 PPP.
DUKE: 12 opponent TOs, six fast break points, 1.25 PPP.
OREGON: 12 opponent TOs, six fast break points, 1.12 PPP.
COLORADO STATE: 20 opponent TOs, six fast break points, 1.3 PPP.
NC AT&T: overwhelmed, not considered
SYRACUSE: 20 opponent TOs, eight fast break points, 1.2 PPP.
Etc. You get the idea. You look at the hoop math stats and think keeping UL out of transition is going to be a major hindrance, but if there's a case to make for that you have to go back a ways to find it.
Maybe they are free-throw dependent? FTAs over that stretch: 29, 36, 26, 18, 36. I could go in and hack out intentional fouls at the end of the game but only one of those games—Wichita State—was competitive enough to feature them. Louisville gets to the line a ton, Smith especially. Dude has a whopping 273 FTAs on the season.
This goes up against another Michigan strength-type substance. They're #1 at preventing FTAs by a mile. The cost has been crappy FG defense, but if Louisville is kept away from the rim and the foul line, their offense will slow down. That's kind of the trick against Siva and Smith, though.
Michigan has no history against a guard pairing like this. The massive free-throw generators they've played have been posts (Zeller, Withey) for the most part. NC State's Lorenzo Brown and Indiana's Yogi Ferrell are probably the closest analogues. IU got 15 FTAs at Assembly Hall before Michigan went intentional at the end and just nine in the Crisler rematch (all but one from Zeller). NC State was also limited to nine FTAs.
UL's only played one team in Michigan's foul-averse stratosphere, Notre Dame. I don't think we can take UL's 48 FTAs in the 5OT game seriously since ND had 49 of their own—woo 30 minutes of double bonus. In a 12-point UL win in the Big East Tourney, UL got to the line 17 times, but twelve of those were intentional. The cruised away in that one by holding ND to 39% from two and hitting half of their threes.
So… I think in the battle between getting fouls and preventing them, the edge here seems to be with Michigan. But I also thought Michigan wouldn't end up heaving half their shots from half-court against Syracuse. Michigan has not seen a Russ Smith yet.
Not Just A Shooter™. Luke Hancock is UL's designated corner gunner, but against Wichita State he also added 3 swooping layups off of perimeter drives that made all Michigan fans think "not just a shooter, drink." FWIW, he was driving on a 6'2" or 6'3" guy instead of one who matches him inch for inch.
BTW, if that name sounds familiar, Hancock transferred to UL from George Mason. Michigan was high on his list at one point.
Strength versus strength. Even if UL's offense hasn't depended much on its defense of late, their TOs forced have been a major asset. Michigan has neutralized the #1, #45, and, #23 TO defenses in their tourney run. They coughed it up 19% of the time against VCU, 15% of the time against Florida, and 17% of the time against Syracuse. They were just about even in TOs with all those teams. If they can match that a major UL advantage disappears.
The other strength versus strength is the FT line, as described above. While I'm pretty confident that Michigan will do fine against UL's pressure, I have no idea if they can keep Russ Smith off the line.
Kobe assist. If there was a shot near the paint Dieng did not try to block against Wichita State, I don't remember it. That's a major reason UL's defensive rebounding sucks. When in doubt, put your pass off the glass or shot fake and pass.
Peyton Siva's not shooting too well of late. He's 1 of 12 in the tourney from three, which didn't really matter until Wichita induced him into 5 attempts.
McGary versus Dieng fight. Goodman says be excited. This guy says Michigan wins. Andy Glockner flips to Michigan from a pre-tourney UL prediction. Breaking down the Kansas comeback from a different perspective. Spike Albrecht and such. Eamonn Brennan provides keys. Dribble penetration is bad you guys. Beilein adapts. Tim Hardaway profiled. Floyd Mayweather is going to bet money on things. Jon Horford is an eastern philosopher.
Bacari Alexander is preparing for the "speech of his life." HEY YOU GUYS GO EAT SOME BIRDS.
This will make you punch a wall or vomit or both.
AHHH WALL PUNCH VOMIT
When you're at a game and then spend an hour and a half walking around aimlessly afterwards because the closest bar to the Georgia Dome is in Alabama and exiting that place is like finding your way through an MC Escher painting, and then you laugh incessantly until they tell you there is no more beer to be had and you go to bed at like 4 AM and spend the next day writing stuff and watching Otto the Orange die over and over again, you can miss some developments in the narrative of said game.
Does that paragraph count as a one-sentence paragraph? I mean technically, sure. But come on. This paragraph is important philosophically because we are talking about block/charge calls. Some things are technically blocks, but come on.
Anyway. After that I caught up on what the rest of the world was saying. I was surprised to find out the play above generated a ton of muttering while I was wandering around Atlanta wondering if the Georgia Dome was in fact part of the city or connected to it by a wormhole I could no longer access. You gotta talk about something, I guess. A block/charge call is as good as anything because nobody in the world knows what a block or charge is anymore, even the refs hopping on one leg 40 times before pointing. Personally, the brain went CHARGE and wasn't even worried about which way the call would go. The ref making the call did not bother with the Cirque De Soleil routine. His body language read "bro you just charged" so matter-of-factly that I fell in love with whoever that guy was and wished we had ejected Ed Hightower into a hyperbolic orbit around the sun.
My favorite view is in fact the Otto-slaying GIF, which is in real time and repeats incessantly. At that speed you can only see Triche's "chest"—in this case a euphemism—plow head on into Morgan's. Even complaints about "sliding under" seem ridiculous since Triche is still on the way up when contact is made.
THE FINGER OF DEATH
But I've seen enough basketball to know that completely random things are decided to be charges and other completely random things are decided to be blocks.
I don't know man. I feel that you don't have much of a complaint when you plow a guy in the dead center of his chest. Feet trembling or not, someone square to you outside the circle is going to get that call almost every time. He got there first, and it's not like he was invisible before you jumped. The only situations in which the jumping complaint seems legit to me are those like that dubious charge McGary took against VCU, where the defender eats contact just as the shooter lands. Any "charge" where they also award the basket should be a block.
Suggestions for making this less of an unsolvable debate:
- Charges can only be committed by a shooter who still has the ball. If it's gone, any contact he receives before landing is a block. This may not be entirely fair but it is relatively easy. (Those rare charges that come after a guy has passed the ball still have to be called, I think.)
- The main point of determination is how the contact occurs. Forget the feet. Is the defender getting nailed directly in the chest? If yes, charge. If it's glancing, block.
- Whether the defender is moving should only be relevant if it changes the impact from head on to glancing. At the moment of contact, is the defender square and getting plowed in the chest? If yes, charge, if no, no charge. Determining motionlessness is basically impossible. If the combined vector of motion is the offensive player's plus or minus 10%, it's a charge.
- Outside the circle, obviously.
Right now the charge is some combination of technicality and feel that results in all charge/block calls being debatable because lawyers. It would be nice to move to a world where you could show someone this picture:
has ball, "chest" going into chest of squared up, vertical defender, no debate
And they would have to be like "right, well I'm obviously a twit, carry on." We don't live in that world. We live in one where every charge call gets put under a microscope that anyone can see however they'd like to.
In any case, live that was CHARGE to everyone and it was only once each frame got the Zapruder treatment that anyone other than 'Cuse fans thought otherwise. Therefore Jordan Morgan is cool. The end.
Jordan Morgan done killed a
man large citrus fruit.
[HT: MGoUser shorts]
According to all of Twitter, Trey Burke just finished his clean sweep of the national player of the year awards, adding the Naismith and NABC player of the year honors to a trophy case that already included the Wooden and Robertson awards. For a point guard, this is not a common occurrence:
The sweep of the major awards is only the third since 1977 for a point guard, joining Jameer Nelson and Jay Williams.
— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) April 7, 2013
All that and we get to watch him play for Michigan one more time. Not bad.
Image via UMHoops
"Bright youth passes swiftly as a thought." — Theognis
Mitch McGary scored in double figures twice in his first 21 games for Michigan. Before last night, he had 18 assists... all season.
Nik Stauskas had made just two of his previous 16 three-point attempts when he took the floor against Florida.
Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Glenn Robinson III's season high in offensive rebounds was four.
Caris LeVert, expected to take a redshirt year, didn't play in Michigan's first six games. He'd scored a grand total of zero NCAA Tournament points heading into Saturday night.
Going into the last two games, Spike Albrecht had scored 54 points this season, 627 fewer than the man he backed up, Trey Burke.
Before the season began, I wrote about the lofty expectations for this team, and how much they had to rely on a talented but enigmatic group of incoming freshmen:
While the hype may be slightly overblown, anything less than the program's first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1994 would be considered a disappointment.
How the team reaches that point is still very much in question. Hardaway, plagued by a balky jumper, ceded the role of lead dog to Burke as the season wore on in 2011-12; if he regains his stroke, he could emerge as the top scoring option. The presence of Jordan Morgan, McGary, and a healthy Jon Horford up front gives Beilein new-found depth and versatility with his lineup—Beilein spoke at media day of an offseason spent studying NBA film to see how the pros utilize two post players, a luxury he hasn't been afforded during his time in Ann Arbor. For their part, McGary and Robinson must live up to sky-high recruiting hype if this team hopes to deliver on their potential.
The extent to which the Wolverines miss Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz depends largely on another freshman, Nik Stauskas, and his ability to connect from the outside. Yet another freshman, Spike Albrecht, will be called upon to replace "timeout" as Burke's backup. One more first-year guard, Caris LeVert, has earned rave reviews in practice and could provide scoring punch off the bench.
When the season began, Stauskas and Robinson managed to make an immediate impact. McGary, however, was simultaneously playing his way into shape and learning how to play his game without bashing into everyone and everything (including, very nearly, the Governor). Albrecht was largely a non-factor all the way through Big Ten season, called upon to keep the ship afloat—and no more than that—when the National Player of the Year needed a quick breather. LeVert appeared at least a year away from being a major contributor, showing flashes of sky-high potential but shooting under 30% on the season.
Heading into the tournament, Michigan was regarded, well, maybe not as a one-man show, but to keep it in-state let's say they were the White Stripes and Trey Burke was Jack White—take him away and you're left with a bunch of unmelodious noise that often strays off-beat. When Burke scored six points on 2/12 shooting in the opening game against South Dakota State, it was a clear case of fortunate timing, the only remaining game in which he could perform below his standard and see the Wolverines advance. That opinion did not change when Burke posted 18 and 7 against the vaunted VCU press, and was cemented during the final minutes of the Kansas game—despite his scoreless first half, and McGary's inspired play keeping the Wolverines within striking distance.
Then came the Florida game. McGary continued his transformation into Evolutionary Tim Duncan, posting 11 points, nine rebounds, and five(!) steals in just 21 minutes. Robinson, who'd struggled all season defensively, held Patric Young to eight points and a lone offensive board. Albrecht scored seven off the bench, broke a press with an absurd baseball pass to Jon Horford, and his three steals included this playground special. And Stauskas, of course, bombed the Gators out of the building with a perfect six-for-six performance from beyond the arc. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined to shoot 8-for-29. The Wolverines won by 20.
Last night, it was McGary—not Burke—facilitating Michigan's most effective offensive possessions, dishing out six assists (including a no-looker to GRIII) and devastating Syracuse's 2-3 zone from the high post. For the second time in the tournament, Robinson recorded five offensive rebounds. Albrecht only played four minutes, but hit two huge threes—including a Burke-esque 30-footer—and helped handle the rock late when Syracuse turned up the pressure. With a migraine-limited Stauskas unable to score, LeVert stepped onto the big stage and immediately connected on a pair of game-changing triples—he played his usual solid defense and recorded four rebounds for good measure. Burke scored seven points, just one more than Albrecht*. Hardaway was 4/16 from the field. Despite a late Syracuse push, Michigan won with relative comfort.
Above all else, this has been the revelation of the NCAA Tournament. It's impossible to understate the importance of Trey Burke, and how his masterpiece of a season got Michigan here. The contributions of Hardaway, Jon Horford, and the Jordan Morgan Redemption Tour have been invaluable all year, including the postseason. The emergence of the Fresh Five—all of them—however, is the biggest reason the Wolverines are playing for a national title on Monday.
John Beilein deserves much of the credit here, of course—not just for an exquisite eye for recruiting talent (usually before anyone else), but for masterfully managing their roles, minutes, and psyche. Before the tournament, there was no doubt that Michigan could pull themselves together and contend for a title if they played up to their potential. At this point, though, they're not just in position for this year—they're set up to reach the same heights on a regular basis. This is from the same article I wrote before the season:
Despite the inexperience and uncertainty, this team represents Beilein's surest bet to take this program to the next level, and could very well be his best shot for a long time. That may sound rash, but the Wolverines have been close to the leap before, only to fall back: the Amaker tenure crumbled despite early promise, the 2009-10 squad faltered despite making the tournament with the same nucleus the year before, and even last year's team tripped up against 13-seed Ohio in the Big Dance. Trey Burke probably isn't walking through that door next year. There's no guarantee Tim Hardaway Jr. will, either. For that matter, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III have one-and-done potential if all goes well (too well, perhaps).
On Monday, we'll watch this team play together for the last time. We know this. They know this. Despite a rotation lacking a single senior, a large part of the team's core won't be back next year, and for damn good reason.
That no longer concerns me. John Beilein will find a way, replacing his bright youth with brighter youth, just as he has during his entire Michigan tenure.
*Though, for anyone who thinks Burke had an awful game, please refer to Michael Carter-Williams' final stat line.