With just four games remaining for most Big Ten teams, it’s pretty safe to say at this point: the Big Ten just isn’t that good this season. Of the seven teams with positive efficiency margins in conference play, only three – Purdue, Wisconsin, and Maryland – are locks to make it into the NCAA Tournament; the other four (Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan) will probably total three or four bids, but none are safe with three weeks remaining in the season.
While the top three aren’t likely to receive impressive seeds in the NCAA Tournament (mostly due to a lack of significant non-conference wins and the general mediocrity of their conference opponents), there could be some surprises in March. As of right now, the Bracket Matrix has Purdue as a 4, Wisconsin as a 5, and Maryland as a 6.
- PURDUE: Feature National Player of the Year candidate and likely 1st-team All-American PF/C Caleb Swanigan (as well as 7’2 gargantuan Isaac Haas), one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country, in the top 20 nationally on offense and defense.
- WISCONSIN: Veteran team with five multi-year starters, have one of the most unique big men in college hoops in Ethan Happ (a defensive menace) as well as two key seniors in guard Bronson Koenig and wing Nigel Hayes, have a top 10 defense nationally.
- MARYLAND: Rank much lower than the other two in computer metrics, but have won a lot of close games throughout the season, start three impressive freshmen in Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, and Justin Jackson, offense and defense are outside top 40 nationally.
Maryland is a year ahead of schedule and quite unlikely to make it to the Sweet 16, in my opinion, although Melo Trimble’s record in tight games over his three seasons in College Park have indicated that the Terps possess perhaps more late-game chops than the conventional statistical wisdom of “results of coin flips are random” would suggest. The Cowan / Huerter / Jackson trio is the best young nucleus in the conference, but tournament success will be difficult for such a young team. I’ve been mostly wrong about UMD since they’ve joined the Big Ten though, so who knows.
Wisconsin and Purdue are better equipped to do some damage as part of March Madness: the Badgers made a surprise run to the Sweet 16 last season and the Boilermakers were felled in a 4/13 first round upset. Recent offensive struggles and a hobbled Koenig make me a little more leery of Wisconsin’s prospects, but their experience and the presence of Happ make them a relatively safe bet.
Purdue is probably the best team in the Big Ten; a frontcourt of Swanigan and Haas is a formidable matchup for any team, and Matt Painter has surrounded them with a cast of sharpshooters who enable them to operate effectively inside. Teams with strong offense and defense (as opposed to one or the other) as well as one of the best players in the country are always threats to make a deep run and the Boilermakers could be a Final Four team if things break right – though their guard play is still suspect.
[More on the Big Ten – including the bubble – after the JUMP]
Hey, so you may have noticed that things are slightly busted around here. The site's been in more or less the same state since I cobbled it together some seven years ago, with tweaks here and there and an ever-increasing amount of metal on the back end. This was fine; it's gotten increasingly less fine as time goes on. Let's bring in bolded alter-ego.
Why does your site look like Geocities still?
this was a bad idea
Does Marissa Meyer run this place or what?
Finding good developers turns out to be hard. Twice I've engaged professionals to do a thing, and neither time have the professionals actually managed to do the thing. A revamp of the comment section simply did not work; a planned site overhaul set to launch last summer obviously did not.
I think this is about to change. A few weeks ago I met with a gentleman from Human Element, a local outfit. They're taking over the stalled site revamp. HUEL* has several things going for it. They are local, so keeping in contact is easy. They have 30 people, so they have become good enough at what they do to grow significantly. They're big enough that they've got experience in whatever CMS you would throw at them. Their wifi password is reassuringly nerdy.
For the first time in a while I'm optimistic this will get done and before football season.
*[Referring to them as HE was weirdly religious and quickly discarded. HUEL had much to recommend it.
Internally they go by HEI but you will agree that HUEL is superior morally and ethically.]
But I hate change.
Indeed you do. There will be some changes. The most obvious will be a magazine-style front page. This will require some extra clicking but with the amount of #content on the site, especially during football season, we feel it is required. Not that much else will change, at least at first. The site revamp is a necessary first step before moving forward.
But we can look forward to some new features?
The new design is responsive, which means it'll look good on tablets and phones. It'll be professionally designed, so you'll know that the navigation menu above has useful things that drop down. (Do you know that?) You'll be able to get to the second page of the board without clicking on the mgoboard link above. Points will be exchangeable for Venezuelan bolivars. The site should be much faster and less prone to going down when traffic spikes.
Going forward a continued relationship with HUEL should allow us to implement some larger changes, but let's eat one apple at a time.
What about the app(s)?
Those will also be revamped when the site re-launches. They have to get massively updated anyway since the APIs they ping will change so it'll be a refresh for both. Apologies for the situation with the MGoBlog HD app; I am an Android person and did not know that the standard app had so many problems. Unfortunately the HD app was never authorized and when we were looking for performance improvements before Signing Day it stood out as a big drag.
Please bear with us. That should be fixed when the site re-launches. Your patience will be rewarded. With bolivars, but rewarded all the same.
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.]