The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
Between game-winners, Showtime-esque fast breaks, the alley-oop bonanza, and the many other plays of note from Purdue and Minnesota, OFAAT is split into two parts. Part one belongs to Glenn Robinson III.
GRIII dunk photo via @umichbball
Glenn Robinson's alley-oop finish over two Minnesota players elicited reactions normally reserved for Cirque du Soleil, the Top Thrill Dragster, or the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The above screencaps come from one replay of GRIII's slam. So does this:
The man on the left reacts to this spectacular feat with a golf clap. The woman on the right is... dead? Even her reserved husband(?) appears concerned:
"Honey? Honey? ... Well, it was a hell of a way to go."
Keep this clearly deceased woman in your thoughts as you watch GRIII inflict pain and suffering upon all who dare cross his path, after the jump.
[JUMP, but not as high as GRIII or your knees will literally explode into a confetti of ligaments and bone shards.]
3/1/2014 – Michigan 66, Minnesota 56 – 21-7, 13-3, guaranteed share of Big Ten title
He moved it with his mind [Eric Upchurch]
Let us recalibrate ourselves.
I'm 34. Growing up, it was expected that Michigan won things. In football. And therefore in everything else, because football is everything except at, like, Kansas. (Kansas hired Charlie Weis on purpose. Basketball focus is kind of a disease.) That bled into other things, and then success was expected. This Is Michigan.
Success is still expected, in rhetoric and increasingly anachronistic Michigan-directed hate from fanbases around the Big Ten. Rivalry things I get. I don't get Iowa being livid about everything after taking five of six because of Bo, basically. Even after the key thing was eminently humbled, the new guy came in saying This Is Michigan, and yours truly and everyone else ate it up.
But the reality is that Michigan is in an increasingly demographically unfavored situation, waiting until water scarcity and global warming drives the people back into its bosom. Reputation and momentum worked in tandem to forestall the impact of these trends, and then: kaboom. First basketball, then football, and then sort of but pretty much hockey.
The dominion of Michigan is increasingly hard to see sustained. There is a lot of money and fanbase and these things should keep them above middling; Michigan fans expect any program fielded to be mentioned in the same breath with the elites. We are ill prepared to deal with anything but, what with infinite bowl streak that still defines our self-perception. 13 years into the post-Cooper era at OSU and it still feels like a cruel surprise.
Here's the thing.
Birthright fandom kind of sucks. You expect thing X and you must have thing X and anything slightly short of thing X is terrible. Being around OSU fans talking epic crap about every slightly deficient player on their team is both revelatory and probably a glimpse into what I thought in the immediate vicinity of 1997. See Kentucky basketball.
Hoping not to die is more fun. Ask an MSU fan about this, in re: Rose Bowl.
These things are inevitable historical trends that catch entire fanbases up and cannot be resisted. Success begets the expectation of more of that. What I am saying is that Michigan is now a hope-not-to-die set of programs with a birthright fanbase. We should recalibrate ourselves, for good fun.
When Michigan hired John Beilein they hadn't been to an NCAA tournament since 1998, when Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock were team leaders. The year before, Maurice Taylor joined those gentlemen on a team that didn't make it at all; Taylor left for the NBA draft, where the Knicks drafted him because they are the Knicks. He tooled around the NBA for a decade, shooting long twos and flinching from any loose ball that came within three feet of him.
John Beilein hates no one and makes self-depreciating jokes about subs being crazy and brings in Novaks and Burkes and Stauskases and Morgans. It is in fact cute when he loses his mind at the latest refereeing outrage he's been exposed to, even as it seems to get results these days.
He picks out random post-grad point guards from Indiana and leads them to double-digit A:TO ratios, and even when Michigan does happen to have a pile of NBA players on their roster it's by accident and development. Nobody's rushing to give these gentlemen shoe contracts until Beilein (and Alexander and Meyer and Jordan) reconfigure them.
This is one thing. This is a good thing. I supported Beilein's hire because I thought his floor was what he would do at West Virginia and Richmond and wherever he'd ever been, bringing in guys who would outperform recruiting expectations and enter many NCAA tournaments as the team you don't want as a Sweet 16 seed.
Then there is the other thing. Beilein won a Big Ten title with Novak as his power forward, and went to the championship game the next year on the back of a Penn State decommit and an NBA legacy no one really seemed to want. And this year, down both of those first-round draft picks he and his assistants identified and developed, down the one super-blue-chip recruit Beilein has ever acquired, Michigan won the Big Ten. They are just about a lock to win it outright for the first time in almost 30 years.
I know you are inclined because of that drought, and I think I probably don't have to tell many people this thing, but I kind of have to tell myself. This is not normal. This is not something that can be expected. This is not Michigan, not in that sense.
It seems to be Michigan. And the Michigan it posits is a different, bizarre, wondrous thing. Not because of anything inherent. There are places better able to recruit with athletic departments better at creating an environment. This has nothing to do with institutional momentum, because there was none. This is whole cloth, from which they've made three banners in three years. And counting.
This is not This Is Michigan. This is better.
Randomness is random. Very frustrating start from behind the line as Michigan goes 2/12 on mostly high quality looks (there were a couple Stauskas jacks that were tough). Irvin in particular went 0/3 on three must-take shots. But things evened out with a hot streak that saw Michigan finish the game at 39%, just about on their season average.
I was about to start rage-shaking about another impossibly slow offensive start when Michigan kicked it into gear. So there's that.
GRIII doin' things. Figures that as soon as I say Robinson should basically never take anyone off the bounce he starts doing that rather effectively. He drove to the lane and dumped a pass off to Morgan for an and-one. I was all like "urk?" Then he drove Buggs to the baseline and set up Stauskas for the triple in Stauskas/LeVert Corner, and I was like "guuuurk?"
That is real progress. He's had three assists in consecutive games, a feat he only achieved once before this year, against Penn State, and he's generated at least a few of his own shots. It's still a work in progress, as the frustrating turnovers when he brings the ball up indicate, but at least the last four games (averaging 6/9 from two) provide a indication of that progress stuff.
And then there were the usual GRIII-is-destroying-Tokyo things. He re-enacted his game winner against Purdue and brought the house down on 1) a Stauskas alley oop and 2) a bang bang bang transition oop that had me waving myself with an elaborate hat and moaning "mercy!"
I do think he needs to have more impact on the boards on both ends. The OREB/putback after Minnesota had closed in the second half was awesome; it reinforced his ability in that department and the unfortunate rarity of things like that. He's got close to the same athleticism Braden Dawson does (Dawson is thicker) but is nowhere near Dawson's spectacular 13.2 OREB rate.
The zoom in. Ace pointed out that if you zoom in on one of Eric's GRIII-destroys-Tokyo images you get magic:
This contains the Horford/McGary dichotomy, the bench mob going off, Andrew Dakich like crane-kicking a dude, and John Beilein reacting exactly how I did, with a sort of stiff "okay hurray GET BACK ON DEFENSE."
Long twos! Argh! I don't mind a long two with 12 or 10 or 8 seconds on the shot clock. Once the clock gets much under that people start overplaying the shot you have to take, and your chances of finding something super is not great. Even 15 is tolerable. 25 sends me into conniption fits, especially against one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten, and it certainly seemed like Michigan was taking a ton of 'em.
That Stauskas aggressiveness thing does lead to a bunch of questionable shots, and I'm okay with it when the payoff is 3 points at like a 30 or 35 percent rate, two at a 35 or 40 percent rate drives me nuuuuuuts.
The elbow jumpers are fine, the threes are fine, it's just those shots a step inside the line that make me hear Bo Ryan cackling in the background.
Turned that off. Morgan and Horford got beat up a bit early as Elliot Eliason went 4/5 and got another layup that Horford had to foul on (he missed both FTs). And then Eliason ceased existing. Major credit to Morgan for preventing entry passes and ripping down several critical MANBOUNDS late.
Morgan didn't get many opportunities on the offensive end, partially because he had a rough game catching passes and the occasional offensive rebound, but the brief second-half section where Horford came in and got crushed by Mo Walker hammered home how well Morgan was cutting off the things Minnesota was trying to do inside. I am slightly worried that there will be a chemistry breakdown next year without him even if McGary comes back, and while that's probably an irrational fear borne of recent Merritt/Lee and Glendening departures, it is real.
Title chance update! Secured. Win @ Illinois or against Indiana and it's outright.
Seed update. The three seed is now unanimous amongst serious prognosticators. Algorithmic source Crashing The Dance was the last holdout, as it still has Creighton and Iowa State ahead of M, items which do not seem true to humans with good track records. Michigan's chance at a 2 is pretty slim, though. They are not likely to pass Syracuse or Duke, Villanova would have to drop some unexpected games, and Wisconsin is hard to pass with their wins over Florida and UVA. If only Michigan could have gotten six more points against Charlotte and Arizona they'd probably be a one, but alas and alack.
GRIII: Pretty, pretty good at the whole "jumping" thing. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
I'm at a loss for words.
Michigan just secured their second Big Ten title in three years with two games remaining on the schedule. The year the Wolverines didn't win, they made the national championship game. At least four plays tonight were more spectacular than anything I witnessed Michigan do in the entire Ellerbe/Amaker era—good lord, Glenn Robinson—and this wasn't a good offensive effort by this team's standards.
The novelty of Michigan basketball being a legitimate national powerhouse hasn't worn off in the slightest. I still can't help but blurt out "oh my god" on press row when Nik Stauskas throws a lob to GRIII and he throws it down on two people without regard for gravity or human life. Ditto when the backup point guard with one scholarship offer sparks another highlight-reel alley-oop with an Unseldian outlet pass, then follows it up with a leaping high-wire act to tap keep a critical possession alive. Or when Caris LeVert, one-time Ohio commit, continues to develop into an all-B1G player before our very eyes.
I'm still trying to comprehend last year. Now this? Without Trey Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr. or Mitch McGary? My brain is a 404 error. The page you are looking for does not exist. Please return to the front page and continue staring at the banners above you until you're 100% sure this is reality.
Adding to my confusion is the manner by which Michigan won tonight. Their shots weren't falling in the early going; unlike the last handful of games, however, the Wolverines weathered an early opposition run with quality defense. Minnesota led 15-9 at the ten-minute mark of the first half. At halftime, Michigan led 31-20, even providing a signature defensive moment during their 22-5 run, a spectacular Robinson block of an Andre Hollins fast break layup.
The offense eventually found its rhythm thanks to the exploits of Michigan's three stars. Stauskas knocked down 5/8 three-pointers en route to a game-high 21 points. Though LeVert (13 points) struggled outside the arc (1/5), he hit 4/8 two-pointers, dished out five assists, and used his three defensive rebounds to ignite transition opportunities. Robinson added 12 points, half of which came on alley-oops, seemingly touched the rafters to pull down a critical late offensive rebound before finishing the job himself, and knocked home one of his signature 18-footers.
Jordan Morgan scored five points on three shots, but that only scratches the surface on his contributions tonight. He drew a huge charge call in the second half, played his usual excellent defense, and pulled in ten rebounds. Morgan's final board, on a Stauskas miss with 1:45 remaining, led to Spike Albrecht sinking a dagger to put Michigan up ten, capping a high-impact outing for Michigan's backup point guard. Derrick Walton only played 18 minutes; in that time, he scored eight points on five shots.
Michigan will raise their third banner is as many years when the 2014-15 season begins. Several of tonight's key figures won't be in uniform—Morgan, definitely, and who knows what will happen with the pro prospect sophomores? It'll be a familiar feel to start a Michigan season, and that alone is astounding to this child of the late '90s and early aughts.
Better yet, this season isn't over, and once again the Wolverines are rounding into form as the calendar flips to March. I think this Beilein fellow just might work out.
While you're up there Glenn, go ahead and hang a banner.
These are banner muppets:
And you can't have one without the other…
For the second time in history a team with back-to-back losing records in its conference is probably going to the dance. The last time was Virginia in the brutal ACC of the 1990s. The next will most likely be Minnesota in this year's Big Ten.
This is the conference Michigan just clinched.
|WHAT||Michigan (20-7, 12-3 B1G) vs. Minnesota (18-11, 7-9)|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||6 pm Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan -9 (KenPom)|
|TV||BTN (PBP: Eric Collins; Analyst: Jim Jackson)|
Right: Like father, like son. [via]
While Michigan can't clinch an outright Big Ten title this weekend, they've already moved closer to a share of the title since the comeback against Purdue. This is thanks to respective losses at Indiana and Penn State for Iowa and Ohio State, who have been thusly mathematically eliminated from contention. Even before that occurred, the Wolverines had a 98% chance of winning at least a share of the conference crown. A win coupled with an Illinois upset at Michigan State on Saturday would ensure a banner, though that scenario has just a 12% chance of occurring, per KenPom.
THE PREVIOUS MATCHUP
In both teams' Big Ten openers, Michigan knocked off Minnesota at The Barn, 63-60, thanks to huge contributions off the bench from Jon Horford (14 points, 6/8 FG, 9 rebounds) and Zak Irvin (15 points on 5/8 3-pt). The white-haired woman on the baseline didn't take this well.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||4||Deandre Mathieu||Jr.||5'9, 165||72.9||24.0||No|
|Explosive, gets to rim for majority of shots, solid finisher, lots o' assists & TOs|
|G||1||Andre Hollins||Jr.||6'2, 195||71.1||24.7||Not at all|
|Excellent outside shooter, not great inside arc, draws lots of fouls, 83% FT|
|G||20||Austin Hollins||Sr.||6'4, 190||80.3||20.0||Kinda|
|At best off dribble, jumper failing him this season, top-100 in steal rate|
|F||24||Joey King||So.||6'9, 225||49.5||16.3||Kinda|
|Low usage, takes mostly jumpers, not a great shooter, very low rebound #s|
|C||55||Elliott Eliason||Jr.||6'11, 240||58.0||15.4||Very|
|Great rebounder and shot-blocker, low usage, generates offense w/ ORebs|
|G||30||Malik Smith||Sr.||6'2, 200||49.4||19.6||No|
|Unabashed 3-point gunner, hits 37% from beyond arc, rarely ventures inside|
|F||10||Oto Osenieks||Jr.||6'8, 220||45.3||16.9||Kinda|
|Nondescript backup big missed last game and may not play (knee)|
|F||15||Maurice Walker||Jr.||6'10, 250||32.4||24.3||Very|
|Excellent offensive rebounder, good finisher, draws and commits lots of fouls|
Minnesota is riding high after Tuesday's home triumph over Iowa, but they haven't defeated a team within KenPom's top 70 away from The Barn this season; in fact, their only Big Ten road wins came at the expense of Penn State and Northwestern. They managed to take Michigan State to overtime, only to lose by 13, which is rather remarkable. Other road games against contenders haven't been close.
The Gophers' high-tempo attack is led by their three-guard backcourt, with each player bringing something different to the table. Point guard Deandre Mathieu doesn't let his diminutive stature prevent him from getting to the tin, as shown by this shot chart from UMHoops:
At 5'9", he's hitting 65.5% of his shots at the rim, per hoop-math; color me impressed. He's also hitting 46.4% of his three-pointers, though he's only attempted 28 this season. Mathieu boasts a top-60 assist rate that's unfortunately coupled with a healthy number of turnovers.
Fellow guards Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins (no relation) are both shooting near the 40% range for entirely different reasons. Andre is the rare high-volume/high-efficiency three-point shooter (38.7% on just over half his FGAs), while he's struggling to finish inside the arc (43.9%). Austin is more of a slasher and converts at a solid clip within the arc (54.5%), though he's mired in a season-long shooting slump that's seen his three-point percentage drop to 30.8. (It's worth noting he went 4/6 against Iowa, so he'll probably knock down every outside shot he takes tomorrow.) Austin is also an excellent rebounding guard, while Andre is adept at both getting to the free-throw line (52.0 FT Rate) and converting (82.9 FT%).
Joey King and Oto Osenieks normally split minutes at the four, but the latter's status is up in the air, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Oto Osenieks is out for the time being with a left knee injury. Basically, he had surgery on it seven years ago and the cartilage has been slowly wearing away. He said it's really bothering him to put pressure on it when he runs and jumps. He was supposed to get a shot for it today. "We'll see how it acts after that," he said
First of all, ouch. Second, even if Osenieks gives it a go, his minutes have waned significantly this month, in which he's 2/11 from two and 1/6 from three; the injury is affecting his play. King's been playing around 30 minutes a game recently; he's a decent finisher with shockingly low rebound rates (5.6 OR%, 9.2 DR%) for a 6'9" big.
Elliott Eliason and Maurice Walker are an effective one-two combo at center. Eliason is one of the nation's best rebounders and a very good shot-blocker. Walker does his best work on the offensive glass and, thanks to his wide frame in the post, he draws a lot of fouls; his inability to avoid foul trouble limits his minutes.
Guard Malik Smith provides an outside shooting specialist off the bench. Before Tuesday, 6'9" redshirt freshman reserve Charles Buggs would've gone without mention; then he scored 13 points on six shots against the Hawkeyes despite attempting just three field goals in the entire rest of the season. There's your name in bold, Mr. Buggs.
Mostly covered above. Minnesota is a totally different team at home—where they've knocked off Florida State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa—than they are on the road; their most recent visit to a quality opponent ended in an 18-point blowout by Ohio State.
While Minnesota shoots the ball fairly well from both inside and outside the arc, their offensive efficiency is right around the D-I average due to their propensity to cough up the rock. It wouldn't be surprising to see Michigan break out the 1-3-1 a little more frequently than normal to try to take advantage—the Gophers are dead last in the conference in opponent steal rate allowed.
The Gopher defense, meanwhile, is a train wreck. They're last in the B1G in efficiency and no better than eighth in any of the four factors. They give up a ton of assisted baskets and allow opponents to shoot nearly 37% from three-point land.
The jump ball means the game has started. Obvious point is obvious: maybe don't let the opponent run out to an early double-digit lead this time, guys. We can't afford to have Brian actually have an aneurysm.
Derrick Walton's defense. Mathieu is a lightning-quick slasher at the point, and Michigan's had some trouble keeping quick guards in front of them—though they did limit Mathieu to nine points on 3/11 FG the first time around. The onus for defending him will fall mostly on Derrick Walton; while Spike Albrecht can do well against Mathieu when Michigan has the ball, that's not a matchup I like very much on defense. Walton has to play on his toes tomorrow on both ends, as Mathieu is also pretty good at stealing the ball and going the other way for an easy bucket.
Run when you can. Minnesota is turnover-prone and generally awful defensively. This sounds like a recipe for easy baskets. If Michigan can do as much in transition as Minnesota, a team that relies far more on generating points on the break than the Wolverines, they should find a relatively easy path to victory.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 9
Houston's D-League affiliate is a John Beilein wet dream. Brian Phillips just published an article on Indiana basketball that I'm gonna go ahead and assume is really good and worth your time.