If you're looking for Ace's Purdue preview, it's right here.
On Thursday morning, a few friends and I woke up early and made the blurry-eyed drive down south to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament. Things looked very bleak for Michigan at the time: Kenpom’s log5 projection gave the Wolverines a 14% chance of reaching the semifinals – and a 14% chance of keeping their dwindling NCAA Tournament hopes alive for Selection Sunday. After Michigan squandered an opportunity to grab a much-needed quality win at home against an Iowa team entering its March meltdown phase, those odds felt even lower.
The Big Ten is still one of the rare college basketball conferences that seems to value its regular season championship more than the conference tournament title – it was one of the last leagues to even adopt the late-season competition. It’s a deeply weird atmosphere: the home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers is a good venue, but seeing so many fans of different programs pack into the arena – seas of Indiana crimson streaked with Illinois orange, flashes of maize in sections of blue, supporters of almost all fourteen programs (no Rutgers, believe it or not) clad in team apparel milling around the concourse – is very disorienting. There are a lot of old people – and many more families with younger kids than college students in attendance. Every team has its band, which fill the stadium with chants, cheers, and energy far better than piped-in music ever could. A lot of Indiana fans show up to Indiana games in Indianapolis, vast hordes of middle-aged men in candy-striped pants.
In the two full days we’ve been here in Indy, we’ve seen six basketball games in person: three blowouts (Michigan State destroyed Ohio State in a classic root-for-the-meteor game in which you’re secretly glad that there probably won’t be a meteor, and two games – Purdue over Illinois and Maryland over Nebraska – pitted weak underdogs that had played 3 games in 3 days run out of gas against fresh teams with much more talent), Illinois’s upset over Iowa, which was somehow extremely baffling and completely predictable at the same time, and, most importantly, two critical Michigan victories. So far, our Big Ten Tournament experience has been a good one. I’m glad we went.
[After the JUMP, thoughts on UM’s Thursday and Friday in Naptown]
#8 Michigan (22-11, 10-8 B1G) vs
#4 Purdue (25-7, 12-6)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
|WHEN||1 pm ET, Saturday|
|LINE||Purdue -6 (KenPom)|
Right: Michigan took the home leg against Purdue in their last matchup. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
Moe Wagner's extended playing time today has been explained, at least in part, by the revelation that Ricky Doyle hurt his ankle late in the Northwestern game. Doyle played four minutes, all in the first half, compared to 16 effective minutes for Wagner, who's likely to serve as Mark Donnal's primary backup given the injury and his strong showing today.
THE LAST TIME
Zak Irvin scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half to lead a late Michigan rally for a 61-56 win over Purdue at the Crisler Center. Irvin was the only Wolverine in double figures, but Michigan held Purdue to only 0.92 points per possession and a 15/41 mark from inside the arc.
Michigan's victory over Indiana took them from clearly outside the field to very much in the at-large conversation, but a bid isn't sewn up yet. ESPN's Eamonn Brennan gives his outlook in ESPN's Bubble Watch:
In situations like these -- when bubble teams grab a huge win in conference tourney play -- it is typical for fans to assume their team must automatically be lifted into the field. Not so fast. As important as a late-season neutral-court tourney win against a top-20 RPI outfit is, and thrilling as it was, Friday was nonetheless Michigan's fourth top-100 win of the season. Its sub-200 nonconference schedule is still dead weight. The Wolverines' lack of bad losses compares favorably to other bubble teams, but a 4-11 top-100 record hardly makes for a sure bet. For now, it's more like a 50-50 bet. One more win like Friday's would do much to strengthen those odds.
With some potential bid thieves still out there, 50-50 seems accurate right now. ESPN's Joe Lunardi still had Michigan out of the field when he gave an update on TV following the game, though he had Vanderbilt ahead of the Wolverines, which I have a hard time seeing after the Commodores lost to a sub-.500 Tennessee squad in their SEC Tournament opener. Yahoo's Brad Evans, on the other hand, currently has Michigan as the last at-large in the field.
A win would seal up a bid. A loss and Michigan might need some help. Pull hard against Tulsa and St. Bonaventure tonight.
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||PJ Thompson||So.||5'10, 188||56||12||No|
|Low usage, decent outside shooter, great assist:turnover ratio, high FT rate.|
|G||35||Rapheal Davis||Sr.||6'6, 217||64||17||Not really|
|Last year's B1G DPOY, iffy shooter but can hit open jumpers. True lockdown guy.|
|F||12||Vince Edwards||So||6'8, 225||66||21||No|
|Solid all-around player, 42% 3P shooter, PG-level assist rate.|
|F||50||Caleb Swanigan||Fr.||6'9, 250||62||24||Yes|
|Beast on boards, playing very well lately, can struggle with turnovers.|
|C||20||AJ Hammons||Sr.||7'0, 250||55||28||Not really|
|Living up to his potential: monster rebounder and shot-blocker, shooting 60%.|
|G||31||Dakota Mathias||So.||6'4, 200||46||14||No|
|39% 3P shooter rarely ventures inside arc. Good distributor.|
|G||1||Johnny Hill||Sr.||6'3, 187||44||18||Very|
|Strong finisher for a PG, TO-prone, no outside shot, surprisingly good off.|
|C||44||Isaac Haas||So.||7'2, 282||37||29||Very|
|Behemoth. Good finisher and rebounder, not nearly Hammons as shot-blocker.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
On the roundtable this week:
- A lot of basketball talk
- Most of it quite discontent
- This was obviously before the Indiana game
- Ed and Craig say things about Michigan's defense that I strenously disagree with
- I'd get in a knife fight with Craig if he wasn't in Hawaii
THE USUAL LINKS
Wow. Michigan wins. pic.twitter.com/GNZLREzdyL
— Simon Kaufman (@sjkauf) March 11, 2016
Wow doesn't even begin to cover it.
Michigan played for their tournament lives against Big Ten champions Indiana, a team that ran them off their home court just over a month ago, in front of a heavily pro-Hoosiers crowd in Indianapolis. Heading into the final minute, the perimeter-oriented Wolverines had made only 4/19 three-pointers. Somehow, they were only down three.
Zak Irvin found Duncan Robinson open in the corner; after missing his first five attempts from beyond the arc, Robinson calmly tied the game with 46 seconds left.
Then Kam Chatman stripped IU's OG Anunoby on Indiana's ensuing possession. Irvin secured the ball with 20 seconds left, and as Derrick Walton took the ball up the court, John Beilein allowed the game to play out instead of calling a timeout.
I doubt Beilein imagined Walton would dish the ball off to Chatman in the corner; it's certainly not what he would've drawn up in the huddle. But Chatman—much-maligned, bust-in-the-making, 27%-career-three-point-shooter Kam Chatman—hesitated a moment, then hoisted a picture-perfect shot over Nick Zeisloft that caught nothing but net, beating the buzzer by 0.2 seconds.
With that most unlikely play, Michigan went from very much out of the NCAA Tournament to, at worst, very much in the conversation for an at-large bid; they'll have the opportunity to cement their place in the field when they play the winner of Purdue/Illinois in tomorrow afternoon's semifinal.
Much like the final play, nobody could've guessed how the Wolverines would upset Indiana. Mark Donnal and Moe Wagner combined for 21 points on 9/9 FGs while frustrating talented Hoosier big man Thomas Bryant into going 3/8 from the field with two turnovers; Wagner hadn't tallied a point in over a month. For the second straight game, Derrick Walton didn't make a field goal and didn't score at all until the final minutes, but he dished out a Big Ten Tournament record 12 assists. Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman scored 15 points on 14 shots before fouling out late; Irvin and Robinson combined to go 9/25 from the field in uneven performances for each.
While Yogi Ferrell (14 points, 8 assists) was his usual stellar self, Michigan kept Indiana from their standard perimeter dominance; they went just 4/17 from beyond the arc, and the Wolverines scored 22 points off 15 IU turnovers.
The last of those points may have secured an NCAA bid for Michigan a day after Northwestern pushed them to the brink of the NIT. It's been difficult to guess how this Michigan squad will play on any given day. Today, when it mattered most, they surprised in the best possible fashion.
Wow. Michigan wins. pic.twitter.com/GNZLREzdyL
— Simon Kaufman (@sjkauf) March 11, 2016
Michigan beats Indiana on a buzzer beater to get to the Big Ten semis and punch(?) their ticket to the NCAA tournament. By having Derrick Walton pass up a decent look by passing to Kam Chatman. Chatman, as confused as everyone else, hesitated for a moment before stroking a contested three like he was Nonconference Duncan Robinson. So, here are these muppets.
And you can't have one without the other…
How’s the running back group progressing through six practices?
“Progressing well. Just trying to get certain guys like De’Veon [Smith] and Ty Isaac to what I call a mastery level, meaning that it’s progressing past the things we did last year. Instead of going through the hole and getting tackled by a guy it’s really working some moves, try and improve your game.
“With the younger guys, they’re doing well. They’re right where I’d expect them to be. A little overloaded in some aspects in terms of the information coming in on them, but they all look good. They all look good.”
How do you keep De’Veon healthy for a whole year?
“How do I keep him healthy for a full year?”
Yeah. I mean, that was obviously the challenge last year.
”He was healthy. He was relatively healthy. I mean, any football guy who lines up and takes that first—it’s like a car. Once you take that car off the lot it depreciates. It’s never going to be 100% value. So in terms of De’Veon, I think he was healthy besides the toe. But in terms of being healthy, some of the things we’re talking about now: being able to not run down the middle of guys, taking so many hits, being able to make some guys miss. That will improve his health, but I think relatively compared to last year he was relatively healthy.”
WelpThisWasGoingToBeMyMGoQuestion: What’s a realistic expectation for the two freshmen?
“Expectation? They’re true freshmen.”
So how much would that be?
“They’re freshmen! We won’t know. Right now it’s too hard to put anything on it. I’ll just put it to you this way: it’s freshmen. They’re freshmen. I mean, they’re good freshmen, but the fact of the matter is they’re freshmen. So to put an expectation on it is really unfair right now.”
For Ty [Isaac], who probably didn’t see as many carries as he wanted to last year, getting to the mastery level, has he put in more work? Has he taken to that a little bit differently this year?
“Yeah. I mean, regardless the point of the snaps, it’s still just age and being around and hearing it, so trying to take his game to that next level. So yeah, I mean, he’s working. He worked last year. He’s working this year. Sometimes a guy may just outwork you. That’s just a thing. It’s not that he did anything wrong last year. But he’s working hard. Yes, he is. Putting in the work.”
Do you feel like Drake [Johnson] is finally back to finally maybe 100%? He’s running track, too. He said that’s helping his leg and knee strength.
“Well, unfortunate part about me, I never was here when Drake was Drake Drake. So what I saw last year and just seeing a guy who’s coming off an ACL, he looked pretty darn good. So if we can improve him and get him past that, we should be looking at a much improved Drake, and he is looking good. In terms of track, he has a little more burst to him. But just in terms of football-wise, we’re trying to get Drake to that mastery level as well. It’s moving past little things like getting tackled, little better in pass-pro, things of that nature. So he’s one of those guys we’re trying to get to that mastery level.”
[After THE JUMP: some good news re: fullbacks, more on achieving RB mastery level]