"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
Isaiah Taylor almost exclusively shoots floaters. Related: he's a 40% shooter.
A real opponent in the NCAA Tournament means it's time for a special hoops edition of FFFF. In addition to catching most of last night's Arizona State game, I watched film of Texas against a common opponent—Iowa State—to get a better read on their strengths and weaknesses. After seeing how little resistance they provided defensively against the Sun Devils and how poor their offense looked against the Cyclones, I'm pretty optimistic about Michigan's chances.
Texas's first offensive possession sums up Texas's offense.
The Longhorns's statistical profile—terrible shooting, great offensive rebounding—showed up right away against ISU. Texas went 0/5 with four offensive rebounds on their first possession, despite playing five-on-four for most of it after DeAndre Kane got a stinger and stopped playing defense. Their general offensive philosophy also shows up in that video: play from the inside out. When they're not on the run, Texas looks to post up a big on just about every trip.
That big is usually Cameron Ridley, a behemoth who dominated ASU (17 points on 15 shot equivalents, five offensive rebounds) and struggled against ISU (4 points, 0/4 FG, 3 OR). He's a monster on the boards; he doesn't have great touch, however, and relies a lot on drawing contact. Ridley also gets gassed—he's 285 pounds, after all—which keeps him from sustaining a high effort on both ends for long stretches. While his overall turnover numbers are good, I think that's largely due to the number of quick putback chances he gets; Iowa State brought a hard double team on him when he posted up, producing three turnovers:
Backup center Prince Ibeh is another strong offensive rebounder, but he's otherwise not much of a factor on that end. Also crashing the boards with aplomb is starting four Jonathon Holmes, a good post scorer who can also stretch the floor. His matchup against Glenn Robinson III is the most worrisome to me because of his size—6'8" with long arms—and rebounding ability.
Isaiah Taylor gets the highest usage on the team, and he's liable to go off or be an offensive anchor due to his unusual style. Taylor is very quick, able to blow by most guards with ease, but instead of taking pull-up jumpers or layups he almost exclusively shoots right-handed floaters, especially from the right baseline. It took him 26 shot equivalents to score 26 points against Iowa State; he had 11 on 14 against the Sun Devils.
Brian suggested in the preview that the 1-3-1 could be a nice curveball to throw in this game, and I agree. Not only does that defense take advantage of Texas's lack of outside shooting, it puts Derrick Walton on the baseline, where he can cut off Taylor's favorite shot—he'll take it regardless, but that's why he's shooting just 40% from two.
About the shooting thing: they're awful. Texas generates a lot of three-pointers for Javan Felix (33% 3-pt) that are as likely to miss the rim completely as they are to go in—he really tests the integrity of the backboard—and they also take a ton of two-point jumpers. Against Iowa State, they airballed five(!) two-pointers, four in the first half alone. Of course, jump shot chaos is part of what allows them to rebound well; they rebounded three of those, with two leading to immediate putbacks.
While Felix jacks up by far the most threes on the team, the sweetest shooting stroke belongs to stretch four Connor Lammert, a backup who plays over half the team's minutes. He drilled 2/3 triples against ISU; when he's open, he's dangerous, and his misses are far less wild than Felix's.
[Hit THE JUMP to see how Iowa State took advantage of Texas's bigs on defense, and how Michigan can do the same.]
|WHAT||Michigan (26-8, 15-3 B1G) vs.
Texas (24-10, 11-7 B12)
|WHEN||5:15 pm Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan -4 (KenPom)|
YOU PICKED THE WRONG CANADIAN, RICK BARNES. THE WRONG, WRONG CANADIAN.
Win or go home.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||1||Isaiah Taylor||Fr.||6'1, 170||75%||25%||Very|
|Super quick PG shoots 40% from 2, does not take 3s. Main strength is getting to line.|
|G||3||Javan Felix||So.||5'11, 195||64%||23%||Sort of|
|Volume jump shooter hits 38%/34%. Takes ton of iso two point jumpers.|
|G||2||Demarcus Holland||So.||6'2, 185||74%||16||Very|
|Lots of TOs, miserable FT% for guard, shoots 45% from two.|
|F||10||Jonathan Holmes||Jr.||6'8, 240||54%||24||Sort of|
|Stretch-ish 4 is OREB guy and decent 3 threat. Low min despite high ORTG.|
|C||55||Cameron Ridley||So.||6'9, 285||63%||22||Very|
|Post widebody is rebound machine, draws tons of fouls.|
|F||21||Connor Lammert||So.||6'9, 235||52%||14||Sort of|
|Typical post backup, but does have range to 3. Efficient, but low usage.|
|G||24||Martez Walker||Fr.||6'4, 185||29%||18||Sort of|
|Emerged into 20 min/G backup lately. Decent shooter, no standout skill yet.|
|C||44||Prince Ibeh||So.||6'10, 250||35||16||Very|
|Generic large man.|
Texas is an oddity in the college basketball world, an old-school, throwback two-post outfit that usually has two 6'8+ guys on the court at all times. NCAA teams have increasingly moved away from this paradigm in favor of a smaller, more offensively efficient one, and Texas's stats reflect their interior orientation. They're rebounding monsters who can't shoot.
As far as individual players go, the guy who makes things go is center Cameron Ridley, a Traylor-like post who has his own gravitational pull.
Ridley crushes the boards at both ends and has a top 25 free throw rate. Unfortunately, he's mediocre at best once there (62%) and is only decent from the floor at 55%. He does take care of the ball well for a big guy.
Texas splits its minutes at the four about down the middle between Jonathan Holmes and Connor Lammert. They're similar players statistically, both monsters on the defensive boards and very good on the offensive boards. Both guys have three point range (34% for both) that they don't use very much and shoot decently from two. They're Texas's most effective players at shooting, full stop.
When a post isn't taking a shot it's usually not good news for the Texas offense. Their two high-usage guards are not particularly efficient. Point guard Isaiah Taylor is a flash in the lane but has limited ability to finish once there. He's shooting just 40% on his 327(!) two point attempts, and he has only 19 three point attempts on the year. When he is on, though, he is scary:
He assists, of course, but his A:TO ratio is mediocre at best. Taylor's best asset is his ability to get to the line. That asset is one usually nerfed by Michigan's passivity on defense, but the tradeoff is that Taylor might be getting way better shots than he usually does.
Meanwhile, to envision Felix Javan, strip eight inches off of Zak Irvin and make him shoot 38%/34%. Oh and give him a bunch more assists. But basically short bricklayer Irvin. Only 14% of his shots are at the rim and most of his twos are not assisted; he dribbles himself into two point jumpers. He is Texas's primary three point threat. At 34%, yes.
The third guard, Demarcus Holland, is a really bad offensive player who must be on the floor solely to D up. He shoots 57/45/29 and turns the ball over a ton.
Texas opened the tournament with a dramatic buzzer-beater win over Arizona State in a game that was shockingly efficient for the Horns, which put up a Michigan-like 1.24 PPP thanks to low turnovers and efficient two point shooting. That Holland guy I just trashed had 14 points on 7 shot equivalents, IE the maximum you can acquire without taking a three. He didn't try a three.
Before that game Texas was on a hell of a skid, 3-5 in their last eight with one of the wins over basketball nonentity TCU, and with all but one loss by 9 points. They went 11-7 in a very deep and tough Big 12, though, and boast wins against Iowa State, Baylor (twice), Kansas, and Oklahoma State.
Texas didn't have a lot of high quality opponents in the nonconference slate. They beat autobids Mercer and Stephen F Austin early, lost to BYU on a neutral floor, and go run by MSU at home. Their main selling point a road win against mercurial North Carolina in an 80 possession game.
Texas shoots miserably from everywhere and tries to make up for it by crushing the offensive boards. They also get to the line a fair bit, though they're only 67% there. Texas is relatively uptempo and not particularly efficient when they go uptempo, so that's a push with Michigan's problematic transition D.
Keep it tight and slow. Texas tries to get out in transition because their half court offense is poor. This doesn't go that much better (Texas transtion eFG%: 52%; Michigan: 64%; Michigan halfcourt eFG%: 53%), but the increase in their efficiency is approximately as large as Michigan's increase in efficiency. If Michigan can make this into a shooting contest, the only thing that will save Texas is a blizzard of offensive rebounds.
When in doubt, help. Texas's best three point shooter is mediocre and the rest of the team is hesitant to even launch one. The Horns are in the 300s at taking threes and 251st at hitting them. Texas's bigs have miniscule assist rates. Double the post every time.
Meanwhile, when someone's driving, perimeter players should feel free to sag off most Texas players in an effort to get the driver to pull up and kick it back out or take a floater. Allowing the driver to engage the big is bad news, as a missed shot that draws Morgan or Horford over looks to be as good as an assist against the burly Longhorns.
This may be a situation where a zone can help you out. Tight turnaround, lots of drivers without much shooting, team that couldn't really prep much for you with a 7/10 game looming, coach regarded as a bit of a lightweight… this could be a situation where the 1-3-1 can make a major impact. The threat of the offensive rebound veritably looms, but it's a curveball you can test out some to see if it works. The rarely seen 2-3 also seems like an option if Michigan can't stay in front of Texas's waterbug guards.
Crash the boards a bit yourself. Texas is mediocre at defensive rebounding because their bigs try to block everything. While there's not much hope Michigan can hold Texas off the offensive boards, they can mitigate some of that possession advantage by having Morgan/Horford mitigate that.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 4.
3/20/2014 – Michigan 57 – Wofford 40 – 26-8, reach round of 32
It's nice to be a two seed. Michigan played an ugly game by its standards. They turned the ball over on almost 20% of their possessions, got to the line just nine times, and allowed a SoCon team to hit half their twos. But since that SoCon team put up an epic brickfest from three, they ran away with a near 20 point victory in a short 56-possession game.
The privilege of being way high up in the seeding is you can have a crappy first game and still not sweat it much. (Usually.) Contrast that with tourney darling Louisville, which found itself down two to Manhattan with two minutes left. There's a big difference between a 15 and a 13 even for a team that is arguably underseeded. Hooray playing well enough in the regular season to draw Kenpom's #184 team.
Yes, that is going up. There was a point in the first half when Zak Irvin had the ball and a relatively open three and did not take it. I fainted at the shock and when I came to apes had taken over the planet. If Irvin gets a look, any kind of look, the ball is being shot. In this one he missed his opportunities; he's still 41% on the year.
Must get it together. That turnover rate is like Amaker's turnover rates before he got to Harvard and became our secret agent. It is against the principles of HORSE basketball and must be fixed up before tomorrow, when a much tougher opponent comes calling. It was probably just one of those things. There seems to be no particular reason that Michigan turned it over a bunch. They were just sloppy, which can be attributed to a lack of focus or randomness depending on your druthers.
The Walton alley-oop that should have had Bob Uecker on the call at right (via Dustin Johnston) was emblematic. Michigan was just kinda off. It happened at an opportune time. Here's hoping it doesn't happen at an opportune one.
Wither the back door? More alarming is that Michigan struggled to get to the rim. Their offense just got over a point per possession—awful by their standards—and it wasn't particularly surprising when I checked the box score. Michigan's offense seemed less purposeful than it usually does.
It shows up in the hoop-math box score. Michigan struggled to create shots, period. Thirteen of their attempts came in the last five seconds of the clock; they got just six shots at the rim in their half court offense, two of those putbacks by GRIII. Because they are Michigan they can waddle through by hitting 57%(!) of their two point jumpers in the halfcourt and put up an eFG% of 81%(!!!) on must-jack shots late. This is always their safety valve.
That they always have a safety valve is lovely, but the offense didn't seem particularly flowing. Wofford pressured the perimeter and Michigan did not have much of a way to punish them for doing so. The general lack of backdoor action (PHRASING) has been a frustration. It was nice that one time against Michigan State when it got them a series of easy buckets early, and then it went away. With Duke and their perimeter overplay potentially looming in the Sweet 16, the ability to get some offense off the backdoor is critical. It really seems like you shouldn't be able to chase a team as skilled as Michigan well past the three point line without suffering something in return.
Wither the dumpoff? I know that Morgan and Horford combined for their usual 6/9 from the floor, but it does seem like these days Michigan's pick and roll game is struggling to get those gentlemen the parade of flushes they've been accustomed to. Opponents are rolling wing defenders underneath, making things more difficult and threatening block/charge decisions that can go in any direction against Michigan's already foul-prone bigs. Hopefully we'll see Michigan look for that kind of defensive action and kick to the corner for threes.
Part of that lack of rim attack. Stauskas picked up two highly debatable charge calls that looked like they could easily have gone the other way or not drawn a whistle. In general it felt like the refereeing swung back to last year's block/charge standards, which is probably good for Michigan if that is at all consistent. It obviously will not be because obviously.
Hey, how about that. Karl Cochran picked up his second personal foul with 11:41 left in the first half. Terriers coach Mike Young sat him for a few minutes, as required to by the coaching Illuminati manual, and then brought him back in. Cochran immediately made some aggressive defensive plays that could have brought a third whistle but didn't and ended up playing 34 minutes. He got just one foul the rest of the way, landing almost precisely on his season average of 2.9 fouls per 40.
A salute to Mike Young. Yeah, he may have been forced into his decision because Cochran is his offense. Hopefully the object lesson there keeps one of Michigan's stars in the game at a point in the future.
Peak bench McGary. Via Dustin Johnston, McGary pew pew pew:
At a later juncture, McGary and Dakich had an albatross-off.
For those of you who don't have twitter. Or for those of you who do and still giggle a little even when it comes up for the 30th time in your timeline. (I have the same relationship to this newspaper cover as I do the tiny kangaroo saying "I love work" in that commercial.)
Oh now you've gone and done it, OSU. Just try any Ohio Bobcat cracks and you will get snapped back at with THE University of Dayton. Trolling has to be limited to… oh, right. That. WELL OTHER THAN THAT YOU'VE GOT NOTHING. NOOOOOOOOOTHING.
Exit Aaron Craft. I'm actually going to miss the bastard. There was nothing quite like the "oh shit Aaron Craft" thing he could do to the unprepared, and nothing quite like Michigan's stars getting pwned by Craft in their first matchup and then coming back to pwn in return. I thought he was a fun player for all the reasons announcers fell all over themselves about him, but turned down about 90%. He was also a terrific nemesis. That he was vanquished at the last is the narrative of the John Beilein era in a one on one matchup.
I won't miss people talking about Aaron Craft, of course. I love Raftery and Lundquist but their eulogy for Craft was the perfect ending to a four-year love affair: kind of gross and way over the top. Will Leitch has a great article about Craft and the backlash and oh by the way Lenzelle Smith might be a nice guy too but who really cares if Lenzelle Smith stopped existing.
jonvalk's Wallpaperpalooza (1/4)
Things in the Past. There were some great diaries that would have been required reading if this was yesterday. Paps previewed Wofford (this you saw on the front page), Erik_in_Dayton tackled the history of 15 seeds upsetting two seeds; it's happened seven times since 1991. That may be more fun to visit now that the danger is passed, if only to relive 2012 Duke.
The game was played only 55 miles from Duke’s campus, but it was also the site of the first round game for UNC. Tar Heel fans gladly joined in rooting for the Mountain Hawks.
Oh man, Duke. That was two years ago. Is it still acceptable to laugh about it?
It is considered acceptable to still laugh about this game.
Speaking of way-back, remember the Big Ten Tournament? LSA has stats on that.
Meanwhile MGoBlueline put a ton of effort into reintroducing the hockey team for the Big Ten Tourney and then who-knows in the plinko playoff system. But those guys lost to Penn State in double-OT (finishing 2-3 on the year against the hockey equivalent of our lacrosse team) and will need to be lucky to earn a tourney bid. There were plenty of things to go wrong, including really bad turnovers and the now-requisite game-winner that almost went in but didn't.
The hockey guys (Brian, Center Ice and Blueline) will cover the most unsurprising upset ever in more detail, but there was one thing that infuriated me all game, and that was Penn State's defensemen were pinching despite being rather bad backwards skaters, and only a few times did Michigan challenge this by speeding through the neutral zone. When they did move up-ice with any kind of urgency in the 3rd period, DeBlois and Nieves split defenders and got off great scoring opportunities.
Since we're now left watching tourneys and hoping the unworthy don't steal autobids, here's a handy graphic of the tournaments.
Things in the Future or Never. Interesting, quickly consumed diary by saveferris looks at the history of 1-4 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Survey says:
I just stole his lede here, so I'll tell you that there's a Burke gif at the top if you take the link. My guess is the closer seeds are to each other the more this will look like 50-50, i.e. the reason two-seeds won just 4 of 12 Finals games since 1985 is only 12 two-seeds have made the Finals.
|The other Sierra (soph. OF Sierra Lawrence) has a .462 OBP going into Big Ten play.|
And Softball. I could probably say this about the softball team most years, but I really really mean it this year: pay attention because they're on a new level of awesome fun awesome. They've carried a 19-6 record so far through an epic brutal schedule. South Bend Wolverine provided the update as the team is (finally) going into Big Ten play.
Thing to Know 1: Pitching is huge in softball; one great one will put a team in the Top 25. Michigan has three(!) such towers. I'll stop comparing junior Haylie Wagner to Verlander because her 0.93 ERA/13-0 record is more like Walter Johnson. Freshman sensation Megan Betsa has 63 strikeouts in 49 innings. Something's been off with junior Sara Driesenga, who was All-Big Ten both previous seasons, and picked up the slack last year when Wagner was out. If Sara returns to form the pitching is just going to be unfair.
Thing to Know 2: Star shortstop Sierra Romero's looks like Miguel Cabrera at the bat and in the field; in the comments Hail to the Blue points out her glove is fine but her arm's been erratic.
[Jump for Best of the Board]
Michigan didn't earn any style points in their NCAA Tournament victory over Wofford, but those don't really matter this time of year. A substandard offensive performance didn't prevent the Wolverines from advancing with relative ease.
The Terriers certainly helped in that regard, erasing any good that came from hitting 50% of their twos by going just 1-for-19 from beyond the arc despite generating good looks. They played like a 15-seed, and on a night when Michigan sat below one point per possession for much of the second half, that was fortunate.
Nik Stauskas cracked the career 1,000-point barrier with a second-half triple en route to a team-high 15 points on ten shot equivalents. Glenn Robinson had 14, albeit on 14 shots, while adding seven rebounds. Jordan Morgan played the best all-around game of any Wolverine, tallying ten points (4/6 FG), ten boards, two assists, a steal, and a block.
The numbers tell the story here. In a very low-possession game—just 56, a slog even by Big Ten standards—the shooting gap made an enormous difference, one that wasn't so easy to see due to the pace and some uncharacteristic turnovers. With the officials letting the teams play (hooray!), it was all about which team could generate buckets, and Wofford was just as likely to get the ball stuck above the backboard—yes, this happened—as they were to connect from the outside.
Michigan can't hang their hat on this defensive performance; Wofford's inability to make shots was due to their inaccuracy more than anything the Wolverines were doing. By the same token, the offensive performance wasn't as bad as it looked at times. Caris LeVert isn't going to get held to six points very often, and Zak Irvin missed all four of his three-point attempts despite getting some decent looks.*
It wasn't a fun game to watch, and Michigan will need to step it up offensively if they want to make a run in the tournament. After they ran out to a double-digit lead against an overmatched opponent in a somnolent atmosphere, however, the ugliness of this game is at least understandable.
Now the Wolverines await the winner of Texas/ASU, which is happening right now on CBS.
*Admittedly, also some not-so-decent looks.
Die, work productivity! Die before the might of The Great Thursday of the Basketballing (also: hockey), and the grilling of former football players on things of interest.
The Celebrity Mods: By seniority, Todd Howard (CB, 1998-'01); Brandon Williams (CB, 1999-'02), who wrangled them all together; Tim Massaquoi (WR/TE, 2001-'05); Jordan Kovacs# (S, 2009-'12); and Michael Schofield (OL, 2009-'13). They'll be in and out throughout the day.
# = never gets to live it down.
The Sponsor: As they did last year, our official fantasy game partner DraftStreet stepped up. If you're getting bored between games today, head on over to their dashboard and sign up for any of their games. That link goes to the NBA one I just started. Or just check in on your team for the $40k (or $20k if you came late) tourney we've been on about all week.
The Cause: We've got a bunch of former players coming by today to answer your questions, yap about the ballgames with you, and support the Go Blue Bowl, on April 4.
Flier (click to see list of players attending, etc.):
It's a series of evening flag football games at Pioneer between teams coached by former Michigan players. Two teams will be made up of sponsors and you can still get in on that. The event benefits Marlin Jackon's Fight for Life Foundation.
The Schedule: As we get going it'll be general discussion time while the Ohio State-Dayton (12:15) and Wisconsin-American (12:40) are on, continuing that through Pitt-Colorado (1:40), and Cincy-Harvard (2:10). At 3pm we'll switch to the hockey game vs Penn State, go to Michigan State's game after that, and that should carry us to the Michigan-Wofford game tonight.
GO BLUE! Always.