here's one vote for "John Beilein's head in a Futurama jar"
|WHAT||Iowa at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan –13 (Kenpom)|
Right: Yours for only $17.99!
After a tune-up of sorts against a shorthanded Northwestern squad, Michigan tips off conference play in earnest at home against 11-3 Iowa. With the Hawkeyes coming off a narrow four-point loss to Indiana (albeit at home), Michigan can't afford a letdown performance.
Iowa is led by 6'6" wing Roy Devyn Marble, the team's highest-usage player and a threat both inside (65% shooting at the rim, per hoop-math, with a high FT rate) and outside (36.4 3P%). It'll be interesting to see who matches up with Marble defensively for Michigan—I'd guess they go with Hardaway over Stauskas.
The matchup with point guard Mike Gesell should be a bit more lopsided, though that's not a knock on Gesell. The freshman has held his own so far this year, knocking down over 50% of his twos with a solid assist rate (24.7%), though he's turning the ball over at nearly the same clip (24.3%). He's flanked by fellow 6'1" freshman Anthony Clemens, who's made a surprising ascent into the starting lineup on the strength of a sky-high assist rate (39.8%, 16th among national qualifiers)—he's an inconsistent shooter and prone to turnovers but clearly a playmaking threat.
The most efficient Hawkeye is 6'8" power forward Aaron White, who's connecting on 61.4% of his twos and attempting a ton of free throws—drawing 6.8(!) fouls per 40 minutes. White also takes good care of the basketball, though he'd be even more efficient if he learned to stop shooting threes (5-23 this season).
Manning the middle is 7'1" freshman Adam Woodbury, a four-star recruit providing a strong interior presence—57.6 FG% with solid rebounding and block rates. Woodbury is another Hawkeye who gets to the line frequently, but unlike White and Marble he doesn't convert once he gets there (51.9 FT%).
Iowa is able to go nine deep with relative ease. You may remember forward Melsahn Basabe from his stellar freshman season two years ago—he's regressed and now mans a spot on the bench, but still has the potential to put up solid rebounding and scoring numbers. Fellow forwards Zach McCabe and Eric May both have starting experience as well, while guard Josh Oglesby is a high-volume outside shooter looking for his stroke (19-62 on threes this year, 4-9 on twos).
Iowa giving Indiana a scare may be the most impressive game on their resume; aside from a nine-point home win against #47 Iowa State, all of their wins are against teams ranked #150 or below, and seven of those are ranked #228 or worse. They've struggled away from home, losing by 12 in a neutral-site game against #20 Wichita State and by 16 at #132 Virginia Tech.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||49.2 (138)||19.5 (114)||38.0 (35)||45.3 (18)|
|Defense||41.6 (9)||21.3 (150)||30.5 (113)||26.9 (32)|
The above numbers are impressive, no doubt, though they do require a caveat: Iowa currently boasts the #320 strength of schedule this year. While their defense has held up well against quality competition, the offense has regressed significantly—twice they've been held well below one point per possession against top-50 teams. Offensive rebounding in particular takes a big hit against their better opponents.
Iowa relies on getting to the rim—and the line—to create most of their offense. According to hoop-math, they shoot 71% at the rim, but just 37% on two-point jumpers and 31% from three. Their FT rate ranks 18th nationally, however, and the Hawkeyes knock down a respectable 71.5% of their attempts from the charity stripe.
Defensively, that eFG% numbers should regress to the mean—Hawkeye opponents hit just 27.9% of their threes despite getting them off at a national-average rate. They are tough inside, however, with a 13.3% block rate making opponent two-pointers difficult to come by.
Collapse inside. As said above, Iowa relies on getting to the hoop to generate their offense, either through layups or drawing fouls. The good news is that they don't have a dead-eye outside shooter to make teams pay for collapsing inside—Marble is the team's best shooter but also their best threat on the drive. Michigan is ranked #2 in the country at opponent free throw rate, so they should be able to keep Iowa from getting to the line frequently, but the lack of a true shot-blocking presence is a concern.
Hit the glass. Iowa's other main option for scoring—the putback—also plays into a Michigan strength, as the Wolverines are 7th nationally in defensive rebounding. Tough break, Iowa.
Attack Woodbury. Iowa's two-point defense has been stellar this season in large part due to the presence of Woodbury. The seven-footer hasn't cracked 20 minutes in any of their losses, however, and fouled out of the Indiana game. At this point, Michigan opponents are wise to avoid playing zone lest they face a three-point barrage. The Wolverines should be able to run plenty of pick-and-roll action, which would accomplish two things: get Woodbury away from the basket—and out of shot-blocking position—and potentially get him into foul trouble, forcing Iowa to go small.
Keep doin' what you've been doin'. I mean, yeah.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 13
Well, last night certainly produced the most gif-able game of the season. Trey Burke crossovers alone were enough for a post—this one, in particular, just ain't right:
[The Trey Burke Crossover Series continues, plus much more, after THE JUMP.]
There were four of them, concerned—and perhaps a bit captivated—by Trey Burke's presence. Before the ball even reached his hands they converged, four Northwestern players ignoring the basic tenets of basketball defense in a desperate ploy to stop this whirling dervish.
Like a wide receiver coming out of his break, Burke planted, hard, exploding off his left foot. There was a man there harboring vague hopes of impediment, hopes that were dashed as Burke deftly whipped the ball behind his back. Screeching to a halt with one last dribble, he rose above the three remaining Wildcats and hit Nik Stauskas with a pass so pinpoint it seemed to initiate the Canadian's shooting motion.
Stauskas, naturally, drilled the corner three—a disturbing reminder to the Northwestern Four that, my god, Trey Burke has accomplices.
At this point, Burke had already scored 13 points on 5-6 shooting—his only miss a Kobe Assist—and recorded two steals. He'd just committed two turnovers so uncharacteristic that ESPN's cameras later caught Burke in the huddle looking less angry than befuddled. Retribution was swift, and Michigan now led 25-9.
The rest of the proceedings were purely academic.
Burke's final stat line—23 points, four rebounds, five assists, four steals—somehow belies his dominance. If he so desired, he could've scored 40; just ask Dave Sobolewski, victimized by so many Burke crossovers I'd no less blame him for quitting the game than Vincent Smith after the Clowney hit.
Instead, all five Michigan starters finished in double figures while shooting a combined 64.5%, a number that would've been even higher had Stauskas not surprisingly missed a few wide-open looks. Burke had done what he needed to secure victory with his opening foray; for the rest of the game he played the role of setup man, interspersing attacks to remind Northwestern whom they had to focus their attention upon.
2012-13 was supposed to be the Year of Prodigious Talent, the convergence of a pair of future NBA players with Michigan's best freshman class since the Fab Five. It still is, of course. But more than that, it's the Year of Trey Burke, Virtuoso. Come for the potential Final Four team, stay for the once-in-a-generation point guard.
Burke, quite literally, brought Northwestern to their knees. Ever the merciful killer, it took him a matter of minutes to put the Wildcats out of their misery. Surrounded by a fearsome gang—The Mississauga Sniper, Spawn of Killer Crossover, Spawn of Big Dog, The Big Puppy—he prepares to rampage through the Big Ten.
Consider the Massacre at Welsh-Ryan a warning.
Don't listen to anyone in the Netherlands who says otherwise: "Dennis Bergkamp neemt de bal aan" is Dutch for "Denard Robinson picks up a block!"
Between the WMU run and this week's bitterly unsatisfying conclusion we coined and created new uses for words like "Shoelace", and "Dilithium", and "ERMAGHERD", and "Eating" and "Robinson to Roundtree." Every sharp cut and rocket acceleration by his gangly, graceful legs created another moment pregnant with so much meaning you could utter gibberish about it in another language and the guy next to you would understand exactly what you're trying to say.
Think back on the Michigan you knew the moment before the camera first panned to 'Lace's shoes. Think how utterly un-Michigan it all looked: a Floridian freshman who couldn't throw the ball stepping into a role occupied by artillery pieces and disciplined option men since as far back as any reader of this site can remember, dropping the snap, wandering over toward the sideline, then hyperdriving through a field full of men bigger than he is. It used to be other teams' little jet mites doing that to our colossuses.* It was too astounding to be repeatable. How are we to crush souls if every few plays this sprite is jetting off to the end zone, then smiling at everybody? Doesn't he realize scoring touchdowns is just giving the other team more time of possession?
Here at the end we're all not sure what it is we just saw. The thing that turned some practice observers in 2010 into raving lunatics on these boards never stopped being a source of some sort of controversy, from spreadvocates who'd rather Borges run an offense he doesn't know than see him waste such a talent, to insufferable puritans who called him a running back.
To those last to whom circumstances and mankind's ill-planned brachial nervous system ultimately gave them their wish, I give you 100-ish yards on 23 carries, and a ho, and a hum, and a little secret…gonna have to lean closer…a bit closer…I need to whisper…DENNIS BERGKAMP! DENNIS BERGKAMP! DENNIS BERGKAMP! AAAAAAAHHHHH!
*If I'd said "it used to be other teams' Vins doing that to our army of Koloss" would anyone have gotten the reference?
CHRISTMAS IS STILL RELEVANT. Enough so at least that there remains much to be gained in mistersuits's X-mas Eve basketball roundup, which does things like compare this team to last's, and compare this team to the Fab Five, and publishes the schedule reorganized by expected KenPom difficulty, and lots of analysis and good formatting and stuff. I was out on holiday (and watching SEC football) and missed the chance to bump it—even now it's front page material by a good margin, just a little bit outdated. The diary describes an SEC-like gauntlet of Top 15-ish teams that Michigan and Indiana will both have to navigate.
FILE UNDER NO FRIKKIN WAY: TSS has found an NCAA rushing stat that Michigan leads the country in. Seriously. He calls the statistic "open field rushing yards" and it tracks how many yards you got on top of every rush of 10 positive or more yards. Indeed when Michigan managed to get the ballcarrier into the secondary this year, more often than not he'd be going full DENNIS BERGKAMP! Or losing a shoe. Minnesota was second-to-last.
Actually that stat is just a byproduct of his real effort, which removes the Bergkamping after 5 and 10 yards and gives credit for the first bits back to the O-lines. Relevant results cropped:
Note Michigan's the huge outlier in "AOFY" which is "adjusted open field yards" to the OP, yet still hanging at the bottom of the conference with "AALY" which is basically how many yards per play the offensive line might take credit for. Of course they're also hindered by RBs missing cuts or being too small to carry momentum through a linebacker. Yeoman's work here, with scatterplots and a lot more than the above. Diary of the Week(s). Read it.
[The Jump: lots more diaries, and stuff, and stuff, and by now you should realize I always leave something nice for my clickers-through.]
|WHAT||Michigan at Northwestern|
|WHERE||Welsh Ryan Arena, Evanston, Illinois|
|WHEN||7:00 PM Eastern, Thursday|
|LINE||Michigan –8 (Kenpom)|
Right: Willie the Wildcat, presumably in happier times.
Poor Northwestern, man. The team that has never made an NCAA tournament appearance wasn't expected to make a ton of noise after losing all-time leading scorer John Shurna; slim hopes for postseason play were dashed entirely when Drew Crawford was lost for the season after tearing his labrum last month.
Now the Wildcats must open Big Ten play against Michigan without the services of leading scorer Reggie Hearn, who will miss the game with an ankle injury. Even though Tim Hardaway Jr. likely won't play tonight with an ankle issue of his own, this bodes unwell for Northwestern's upset hopes.
Sophomore point guard Dave Sobolewski is the team's only healthy double-digit scorer, not to mention the lone returning starter from last year's team in the lineup. Sobocop takes a little over half his shots from beyond the arc, hitting those at a 49% clip; he's decent on the drive (52 FG% at the rim) but hasn't found his stroke on two-point jumpers, connecting at a 12% rate per hoop-math.com.
Hearn should be replaced at the two by senior Alex Marcotullio, a career role player who can knock down the three and otherwise doesn't stand out as doing anything very well or very not-so-well. Freshman Kyle Abramson steps in for Crawford at the three; he's another decent outside shooter (35.3 3P%) that doesn't do a whole lot else.
BONUS POOR NORTHWESTERN: Marcotullio has been limited by back spasms.
The Wildcats do have some size up front in 7'0" freshman center Alex Olah and 6'8" senior forward Jared Swopshire. Neither is a stellar rebounder, though Olah at least is a good shot-blocker. Neither hits 50% of their twos, though Swopshire contributes(?) 30.8% three-point shooting. Olah does boast an unusually high assist rate (26.2%); he also shoots 41.7% from the line. Advantage up front: Michigan.
The bench no longer really exists because of injury. Only seven Wildcats average over 15 minutes per game—two of those are Crawford and Hearn.
Northwestern currently boasts a 9-4 record with quality wins over KenPom #28 Baylor (by four on the road) and #43 Illinois State (in overtime, neutral site). Losses have come to #53 Maryland, #139 Illinois-Chicago, #41 Butler, and #50 Stanford, all at home.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||50.6 (96)||17.5 (34)||29.7 (242)||36.5 (140)|
|Defense||45.2 (77)||20.8 (173)||29.9 (92)||32.9 (125)|
These numbers are probably highly misleading with the absence of Crawford and Hearn, who have missed just four combined games, not to mention a schedule with seven opponents ranked #235 or worse on KenPom. Michigan can expect Northwestern to take care of the ball and shoot well from outside; without their two top players, it seems unlikely the Wildcats will be able to threaten inside the arc.
Defensively, Northwestern will break out the 1-3-1; while they've done well limiting opponent shooting, especially inside the arc, they're not forcing the turnovers one would expect from an aggressive zone defense. While the rebounding numbers are decent on their surface, Dylan points out that the Wildcats were abused on the boards by Stanford, Maryland, and Butler—the closest comparables on their schedule rebounding-wise to Michigan.
Key on Sobocop. The only conceivable way I can see Northwestern winning this game is by catching fire from three, and Sobolowski is by far their best outside shooter. If the Wildcats set a screen for him, Michigan should be going over the top and hedging like crazy—let anybody else on that team try to beat them.
Attack Sobocop. Hell, why not foul the guy out—he's committing 3.2 fouls/40 and hasn't faced a Trey Burke. If Sobolewski reaches a point where he can't commit to contesting Burke's drive because he's worried about fouling out and leaving the Wildcats with nothing, it's game over, man.
Do not contract Northwestern Injury Curse Virus. Please and thank you.
Keep doin' what you've been doin'. I mean, yeah.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 12, which is not KenPom's prediction because KenPom is accounting for data from Crawford and Hearn. This number would be higher if not for Big Ten road game.
How many injured players are there on Northwestern's stat sheet with more points per game than Dave Sobolewski, Northwestern's top leading healthy scorer?: That would be two.
How many teams in the country are ranked higher than Michigan: That would be one.
How many conceivable ways could Northwestern win a game in that scenario?: That would be zero.