this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Let's enumerate the wonderful things about this GIF:
- The Orange Crush is very bad at casting spells, judging by the two dudes right behind Nik Stauskas.
- Stauskas staring down 6'11" Nnanna Egwu for a couple seconds, going "yeah, I got this," and coldly hitting a three in his face.
- Derrick Walton meandering back on defense as soon as he sees Stauskas is going to shoot.
- Andrew Dakich beginning his roll the dice flourish while the ball is still mid-flight.
- Andrew Dakich, period.
- Exasperated Orange Crush girl throwing up her WTF hands at the very end.
- The Illini fans in the far corner whose will to move/exist has been completely destroyed.
This GIF, by my highly scientific ratings, comes in at #6 for the Illinois game. You're gonna want to hit the jump and watch the rest.
[JUMP and make Tracy Abrams bail the heck out]
RPI Effect Only Teams
If you care, Michigan played the following teams: UMass-Lowell (10-18), Houston Baptist (6-23), South Carolina State (9-19), Coppin State (10-19), Long Beach State (13-15), and Charlotte (15-13). But while I don’t want to say these games didn’t MATTER, they didn’t, you know, matter. Except the Charlotte game, because blerg. Michigan’s fate will be determines by larger narratives. Not many people are going to hammer too hard on RPI when you’re talking the difference between a 2 seed and a 3 seed. So, let us move along.
Big Sorts of Teams
Iowa State (22-7, 10-7 Big 12)
This week: Lost @ Kansas State (80-73); Lost @ Baylor (74-61)
Michigan probably moved ahead of Iowa State for good by virtue of Iowa State’s rough week. Bracketmatrix has them as the last 3 seed, it’s unlikely a home win over bubble team Oklahoma State (side note: how did THAT happen?) would get them past Michigan.
Florida State (18-11, 9-8 ACC)
This week: Beat Georgia Tech (81-71); Won @ Boston College (74-70)
Florida State met two necessary conditions for an NCAA bid this week. Losing to either of those teams would’ve probably been the end of things for the Seminoles. The good news is that Syracuse also seems very beatable, so it’s possible for Florida State to close strong. The problem is that now a win over Syracuse wouldn’t bring the cache it would have two or three weeks ago, so they might still need to do some work in the conference tourney.
From a Michigan standpoint, though, FSU doesn’t really matter all that much anymore. No one cares about your 6th best win, and pretty much Michigan's entire seeding case rests in its conference schedule. So if you’d really like to see some more #Nebrasketball, you might be hoping they drop their last couple of games to clear some room at the bubble.
#4 Dook (23-7, 12-5 ACC)
This week: Lost @ Wake Forest (YTWF) (82-72)
This was a gift on a number of fronts. Duke’s loss potentially leaves some wiggle room for Michigan to move up to a 2-seed. Also, Duke’s loss was a loss for Duke, which is a win for Not Duke. We are Not Duke. So, let’s compare the two teams right now:
|Record||KenPom||Losses (KP ranks)||Best wins (KP)||Is Duke?|
|MICHIGAN||22-7||10||1, 8, 11, 12, 28, 69, 182||11, 12, 13, 17, 17||No|
|DUKE||23-7||8||1, 6, 14, 23, 51, 92, 113||2, 10, 14, 15, 25||Yes|
I dunno, that’s close.
#3 Arizona (28-2, 15-2 PAC 12)
This week: Beat Stanford (79-66), Beat Arizona State (74-69)
It's hard to blame Arizona for a less-than-dominant performance against ASU. They'd clinched pretty much everything there was to clinch (PAC 12 title, #1 seed in the PAC 12 tourney, likely #1 seed, helped RichRod kill the 10 second rule), and sometimes it's hard to get up for games that don't much matter.
One potential cause for concern is depth. Arizona is really only rolling about 6 guys deep, which is working fine for them now, but if they run up against a team that draws a lot of fouls, it could be an issue. But no, Michigan isn't one of those teams.
Stanford (18-11, 9-8 PAC 12)
This week: Lost to Arizona (79-66); Lost to Colorado (59-56)
According to Bill Walton (who called the Stanford/Colorado game), Stanford's loss is a lot like the Punic War if it was fought by Muppets; you're not sure where they got the weapons, but you can't expect them to be back in time for lunch.
I'm not sure exactly what he meant by that, but Stanford's bid is in real trouble. Bracketmatrix had them as a 10-seed before the loss to the Buffs, so they still have some work to do. And not that it matters, but it would be nice for Michigan to have at least ONE win over a tournament team from its non-conference schedule.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Michigan, and all the teams that finished behind Michigan because Michigan finished ahead of everyone who isn't Michigan]
A couple GIFs to tide you over until tomorrow. First, a new entry in the Andrew Dakich Celebration Pantheon:
Also keep an eye on Stauskas, busy trolling the entire Illinois student section, and if you're of legal age you're allowed to look at the Orange Crush and their variety of inappropriate hand gestures.
The second GIF requires a jump, because it contains every Michigan three-point make from the game. Yes, all 16 of them.
[Ed-Ace: BUMP. GIFs coming either late this afternoon or tomorrow, depending on whether this three-point supercut breaks Photoshop.]
Rooting against this guy shouldn't be too hard.
Last night was a great night of basketball, not only because of Michigan's win, but because a number of well-established teams lost. Tuesday night was just a microcosm of what has been seen in the past 7-10 days as about a dozen ranked teams lost (and some more than once). For example, Creighton, Syracuse, Iowa State, Ciny and St. Louis have all lost two straight games. MSU fell to Illinois while Kansas and Louisville lost games as well.
The rash of losses by top teams has placed Michigan firmly on the 3-seed line, with an outside shot at a 2-seed. According to the Bracket Matrix, Michigan is the second 3-seed behind Virginia. With Duke, Wisconsin, Villanova and Syracuse as twos and Kansas, Florida, Arizona and Wichita State as the one seeds.
Of course, there's still a lot of basketball to be played and if this frantic, unpredictable nature of college basketball continues its course over then next week and a half, anything can happen. Let's recap the top seeds and how they have performed overall and in recent games to see who/what we should hope for down the stretch.
One Seeds (these teams aren't going anywhere)
Wichita State - 31-0. Not going anywhere.
Florida - 28-2 and 17-0 in SEC. Not going anywhere.
Arizona -27-2 and conference champs. Could slip to a 2-seed if they lose final two games and tournament opener. Highly unlikely. Not going anywhere.
Kansas - Dropped a game against Oklahoma State this past week. And while they have a favorable schedule against Texas Tech and West Virginia. Anything can happen. At 22-7, Kansas is ranked No. 8 in the nation. They are however, 2nd in RPI compared to Michigan at 13. I'm no Ken Pomeroy, but I think Michigan would need a bit of help or luck to pass Kansas in the brackets.
What to root for: Kansas to lose any and all remaining games. Unless they play Iowa State, which we will visit later in the article.
Two Seeds (longshots to drop, but it could happen)
Syracuse - Lost two more games in their last two outings including last night's game versus lowly Georgia Tech. Syracuse only has four losses on the season but have quickly played themselves out of the 1-seed. Currently without Jerami Grant, Syracuse is at risk of losing against Florida State this weekend. Additionally, two of Syracuse's losses are against bottom ACC teams Boston College and Georgia Tech which are as bad or worse as Michigan's losses to Charlotte and Indiana. Syracuse is currently ranked No. 7 in the nation, but will likely drop when the polls are re-released on Monday.
What to root for: Syracuse to lose out, or lose against FSU and perform poorly in conference tournament.
Duke - The Blue Devils have been on auto pilot most of the season with no back to back losses or particularly troublesome stretches. RPI is 7, SOS is 9. They would need to lose to Wake Forest and North Carolina to lose their standing as a solid two seed. Of course, one of those teams, North Carolina, is on the 4-line.
What to Root For: Duke to either beat North Carolina to get them off of Michigan's heals, or for Duke to lose out. It is never a bad idea to root against Duke.
Villanova - No recent upsets or losses. All three losses are against top 25 teams. Two regular season games left (against Georgetown and Xavier). And like Duke, probably not a legitimate candidate to move too far south.
What to Root For: Villanova to lose out. Like Duke, Kansas and Syracuse, that's the only way they will drop far.
Wisconsin - Top non-conference RPI. Fifth overall when factoring in conference games. Two conference games remaining versus Purdue and Nebraska.
What to Root For - Wisconsin losing games is always fun so lets root for them to lose out. In reality, the Badgers need to lose one regular season game and their first tournament game.
Three Seeds (Michigan needs to pass Virginia and a 2-seed to move up)
Virginia - Haven't lost in nearly two months and only one regular season game left (against Maryland). They are close to Michigan and Michigan needs to pass them and one more team to reach that two line.
What to Root for: Maryland to beat Virginia on Sunday and for Virginia to lose early in conference tournament. Since they are closest to Michigan seed-wise, maybe even one loss and perfection by the Wolverines could spring Michigan to the top 3-seed. Still, Michigan needs to pass two teams to earn that 2-seed.
Iowa State - Top 10 in RPI, but now below Michigan in polls after back to back losses to Kansas State and Baylor. Still on the 3-seed line according to Bracket Matrix but behind Michigan.
What to root for: Iowa State to lose to Oklahoma State to give Michigan some wiggle room. Also, root for the Cyclones to not run the table in the B12 tournament. They could pass Michigan if they outplay the Wolverines between now and selection Sunday.
Creighton - 11th in RPI but fading hard in the polls after back to back losses to Xavier and Georgetown. Bracket Matrix has them as a three seed but below Michigan.
What to root for: A loss to Providence in regular season finale or an unconvincing tournament run in the Big East Tournament.
Four Seeds (Don't Get Jumped)
North Carolina - They play Duke in their conference finale and with a win, could finish second in the ACC. A strong performance in the conference tournament could push them to the 3-line.
What to root for: North Carolina not getting to that 3-line.
Michigan State - They are a hot pile of garbage right now but get to play Iowa and OSU, plus the B10 tourney. What if they go 4-1, or even win damn conference tournament? If that happens, I will punch a desk. Let's not think about that happening. Seriously, if Michigan can't win the conference tourney, they sure as hell don't want MSU or Wisconsin winning it. Standard complaints about OSU apply, but if you are a Michigan fan, you would rather have the Buckeyes or any other team win over Wisconsin and MSU.
What to Root For: More excuses out of East Lansing.
Cincinnati - Lost two in a row to UConn and Memphis, but can still win their conference. Could also get quality win over Louisville in conference tournament.
What To Root For - Cincinnati to lose another game. Or not win their conference title. Louisville is on the 5-line so Michigan fans really don't want them to run the table either. Let's just root for Southern Methodist to win the conference title. *(Craig James Killed A Hooker.)
San Diego State - Hi Steve Fisher! The Aztecs have two games left. One versus 21st ranked New Mexico. Likely not enough to get them jumping up spots.
What to Root For - You root for Steve Fisher, because he's Steve Fisher god dammit. He's a nice man!
Conclusion: Michigan is all but certainly a 3-seed, but crazy things can happen. A bad run by a few others could spell a 2-seed for Michigan. Conversly, losing to Indiana and dropping the first round of the B10 tourney could leave Michigan susceptible to losing the 3-seed. Of course, 2-3 of the following: ISU, Creighton, MSU, NC would have to right the ship.
3/4/2014 – Michigan 84, Illinois 53 – 22-7, 14-3 Big Ten – Outright champs
Good. In your face, Nanna Egwu. Good. [Bryan Fuller]
Before Ace took over full-time basketball preview duties, I wrote many of them. I eschewed "preview" to call these posts "Death From Above," because I thought it sounded cool. I fielded regular questions as to what the hell that meant.
If you want the deep background, "death from above" was a maneuver you could execute in walking-robot-wargame Battletech wherein your giant man-shaped robot would take off and attempt to land on the head of an opposing giant man-shaped robot. The goal was to crush the cockpit and pilot, rendering the exoskeleton inert, dripping ominous fluids.
I can only assume that all has been made clear after Michigan's high-arcing deep shots proved laser-guided at Illinois. John Beilein basketball is death from above.
Complete Illinois game notes, updated:
GRIII starts with layup
LOL STAUSKAS I’M DEAD
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) March 5, 2014
Assembly Hall (not that Assembly Hall) drips today.
The three pointer has always been the great leveler in college basketball. Poke a random NCAA tourney upset and you're likely to find a bunch of short guys firing in threes as the favorite struggles outside the arc.
John Beilein came of age as a coach in a milieu of random players barely recruited. He found success by taking spare parts and arranging them into a machine that rained in threes. This was generally effective but not as much as legend would have it. Beilein won regular season conference championships twice in ten years at Richmond and Canisius, and finished third in the gargantuan Big East in 2005-2006. His reputation rested on an upset of South Carolina as a 14-seed with Richmond and the Pittsnogle-era WVU team's runs into the Elite Eight and Sweet 16.
But he'd lifted teams without structural advantage. He made every team he'd had competitive after a one-year adjustment period, though, and that seemed like gold to a Michigan fan. At the time the prospect of a consistently .500 Big Ten team with the occasional third-place finish followed by tourney upsets seemed like heaven. I was stridently in favor of Beilein's hire because I thought he'd turn Michigan into the kind of program that pushes Duke to the brink in the second round.
In that post I asserted that 21-14, 9-9 Michigan would be a one seed in an "exceeded expectations" tournament. I also asserted this:
I've been searching for a Michigan equivalent and in my memory can only come up with the '97 national title team. Unless there was a basketball team that outdid this year's—unlikely—I think you have to go back to 1969 to pull another team that so wildly exceeded what was expected of them.
To find a team with as good a claim to exceeding expectations as this 14-3 outright-Big-Ten-champs outfit that lost Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Mitch McGary you have to go back… uh… one year, when Trey Burke blew up into a Naismith winner and Michigan reached the national title game. The next potential candidate makes you reach back all the way to a team that shared a Big Ten title with Zack Novak at power forward… two years ago.
This is all very strange, not only to us, but to the guy who assembled this unlikely powerhouse.
"I don’t know what to think. I have this funny, quiet feeling where you set out to accomplish a goal and you accomplish it. It’s strange." [ed: –John Beilein]
— Joe Stapleton (@joe_stapes) March 5, 2014
The warmness inside you right now is thanks to the arc on the court that separates two from three.
The great leveler levels because threes are great shots, amongst the best shots. Beilein structured his entire basketball career around that intuition, constructing small-ball outfits everywhere he's gone. Sometimes he had four shooters; sometimes he had five. One guy probed inside as the other four created space around the arc, giving everyone space and time to find shots at the rim.
While the mechanism has shifted as Michigan acquires ball-screen maestro after ball-screen maestro, the overall pattern remains the same. The bigs shoot 70% because the opponent can't let Michigan get threes off. The threes come when they come and go in at a high clip, and something Beilein is in charge of floats higher than they have been in a long time.
It's only right that at the pinnacle of Beilein's regular season career the threes would rain in at will. Dan Dakich keeps saying "the ball knows." While this is normally irritating to your engineering-oriented author, as Michigan rained in death from above yesterday it did feel a little like the three point line sought to repay him for the long years of faith and devotion.
Well, then. There is very little to say about that game except "please Stauskas don't hurt 'em (except do)." Michigan shot 70% from three, goodnight, analysis over.
Other than the swelling three-point percentages from Michigan's shooters the main takeaway here was that Spike needs to take care of the ball better in the late stages of laughers when he is pursuing a double-digit A:TO ratio across the Big Ten season.
[Speaking of Spike, and since there's not really much to talk about game-wise, remember this site's obsession with NC State hobbit PG Tyler Lewis last year? Lewis was a McDonalds All-American despite being the same stature as Albrecht, and then he proceeded to do very little.
Lewis vs Spike, year two:
Lewis is stuck on a team that doesn't assist on many shots, stats are not the be all and end all, etc., but there's not much question who you'd rather have on your team. Hail this staff's talent identification. This has been Brian's Ongoing Obsession With Random College Basketball Players theater.
There will be no Nnanna Egwu section this time since he's pulled his DREB rate into the solid double-digits.]
But seriously. Strugging to say much of anything… oh, okay.
Jon Horford is really into Camus. There is just a shower of post-title photos featuring members of the team smiling an Jon Horford being Jon Horford, and thinking about things and stuff, deep things and hard stuff.
Not even a locker room shot can rouse the corners of Horford's mouth from their slumber:
That's not his postgame photo role, and that's why having Andrew Dakich around is crucial.
MAKE 'EM SAY UNH
Like father, like son.
If I make a joke here I will get a nasty tweet from the man himself [Bryan Fuller]
Non-trivial Horford business. One game ago, Horford got a quick hook in the second half after Mo Walker went to work on him. In this outing, Morgan hurt his back trying to take a charge and was limited to seven minutes. Horford stepped in and picked up ten rebounds; Illinois was limited to five offensive rebounds. On the year, Horford's DREB rate is a McGary-like 26.1.
It's nice to see him bounce back. There have been a number of games this year when one center or the other was having a rough day until the other guy stepped in. Having that flexibility is a big help; hopefully the Morgan withdrawal was a precautionary measure only.
If push comes to shove the obvious move is to try to get through the last few games without him. The only thing at stake now is a two or three seed line.
Speaking of. Expect Michigan to PLAY SOME WEIRD GUYS in the Big Ten tourney. Beilein has always run out some WTF lineups when faced with the possibility of three games in three days, and with Morgan questionable, Max Bielfeldt may be called on for double-digit minutes. Having a 6'6" center is not conducive to winning the Big Ten tourney title, but I don't think Beilein cares one whit about that.
Nobody seems to. A lot of fanbases openly pine for a second-game exit so as to not have three consecutive games before a potential Thursday/Saturday NCAA tournament weekend. They should really just dump the thing and play a couple more conference games, but I don't think the NCAA would let that fly.
Defense? Illinois is a very bad offensive team (206th on Kenpom) but they got worse after Michigan dealt with them. After 1 PPP in the first half, Illinois couldn't do much of anything in the second. That marks consecutive opponents held under a point per possession. This is not exactly the Goin' To Work Pistons yet, but Michigan doesn't have to make a ton of progress in the D department to look like an (even more) dangerous tournament opponent.
No idea exactly why this improvement is going on. If they can maintain that through the next few games that would be encouraging.
Seed lines. Michigan is still stuck on the three-line with little upward mobility unless they can leapfrog the top ACC teams (Syracuse, Duke, Virginia) or pass Wisconsin by winning the Big Ten Title. Jerry Palm did pump Michigan over Duke given Duke's extremely weak road accomplishments and Syracuse is in a full-on tailspin after losing to Georgia Tech at home. (I told you about Syracuse.) If the Orange lose their season-ender against Florida State, a game that Kenpom predicts will be a nailbiter, they could drop to the three line and open up a slot for Michigan as a two. Virginia will provide competition there.
Not that it matters much this year, as one of the most wide-open tournaments in memory beckons.
Glennwatch. Did some good things—couple steals, good work from within the arc, a three. Drove to the bucket for a basket, too. His steal lead to a fast break on which Tracy Abrams got a contest in that by all rights should have forced a layup attempt. NOPE. Dunk metropolis.
Afterwards Abrams looked like he'd seen the Ark of the Covenant.
ENHANCE [Bryan Fuller]
One negative thing: he's got to stop bringing the ball up when he gets a rebound. His handle is very vulnerable to open-court steals and he doesn't initiate much transition offense.
Also, he took a contested three-point jack. That is vaguely acceptable if you are Nik Stauskas who rains death from above. When you're at 27% on the year, don't take that shot. Taking open ones, okay. Those are still decent to good shots even for a guy locked in a sophomore slump as bad as Tim Hardaway Jr's. That hand-in-the-face stuff not so much.
Still, we can add this to the recent string of encouraging GRIII performances after 13 points on 10 shot equivalents.
Just when you thought he was bottled up. Stauskas is 12 of 17 from three in his last two games, pushing his season average to 46%. One of them was a contested jack in front of 6'11" Nnanna Egwu. Another was from the parking lot right before the half. Good lord.
This is why Michigan should not settle for long twos early in the shot clock, because at any time they can get a switch and have a guy take a pretty decent three point look.
The climb. Remember early in the year when people were projecting Wisconsin would walk away with the title because of schedule imbalance? Well, Michigan's single plays were Northwestern, Penn State, Illinois, and Ohio State. The only team not in the vicinity of the bottom of the Big Ten standings is OSU, and Michigan only got a road game against them. This is the opposite of a fluke.
THIS WENT IN [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
I WAS NOT ALIVE THE LAST TIME THIS HAPPENED.
And you can't have one without the other...
I'M PRETTY SURE MICHIGAN JUST HIT ANOTHER THREE.
(Given the server overload, my desire to celebrate, and the number of words I've already written today, this serves as your postgame recap until Brian's column tomorrow. Short version: they made all of the shots, and they WON THE CONFERENCE.)
(Yes, I double-posted Muppets. I swear I'm sober. For now.)