The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
RPI Effect Only Teams:
It was actually a pretty good week for the non-abysmal non-conference foes. Long Beach State (5-11) beat Cal Poly. Holy Cross (7-9) beat Lehigh. Charlotte (12-5) beat Tulsa and North Texas, and may actually compete in Conference USA. All three are in the mid-100s to KenPom (158, 156, and 138, respectively). It won’t matter much on the surface, but it could provide some RPI support to balance out the dregs.
The dregs, as their name would seem to indicate, did NOT have a pretty good week. UMass-Lowell (4-13) lost to Stony Brook and Hartford. Houston Baptist (4-14) lost to McNeese State to fall to 1-5 in the Southland Conference (and yes, the Southland Conference was named after the police drama on TNT) South Carolina State (6-12) lost to Florida A&M but beat Bethune Cookman. Coppin State(6-12) beat Hampton and lost to Norfolk State, but in doing so they moved into the top 300.
Big Sorts of Teams
#16 Iowa State (14-3, 2-3 Big 12)
This week: Lost @ Texas (86-76)
The Cyclones completed the first three rotations of the Ohio State Quadruple Salchow; that is, an effort to take an undefeated record into conference play and then rip off four straight losses. They go for the landing on Saturday, when they take on Kansas State at home.
|Still better than the sleeved jerseys the NBA has been wearing|
Florida State (13-5, 4-2 ACC)
This week: Lost @ Virginia (78-66), Beat Notre Dame (76-74)
The Florida State win isn’t as important to Michigan given the recent win at Wisconsin [ED: and the win over Iowa, because I obviously wrote this earlier on Wednesday], but they remain arguably Michigan’s
second third-best win to date. You could make a case for a road game at Minnesota over a neutral court win over FSU, but to the Bracketology folks Florida State is a 7- to 9-seed and Minnesota is barely hanging onto a spot. The Notre Dame game was fascinating; I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a two point win in which KenPom says the win probability never dipped below 76%.
#18 Dook (15-4, 4-2 ACC)
This week: Beat NC State (95-60); Won @ Miami (67-46)
Relatively drama-free week for Duke, especially considering they were playing two top-100 teams. Jabari Parker averaged 20 points and 11 boards.
#1 Arizona (18-0, 5-0 PAC 12)
This week: Beat Arizona St (91-68)
The other other other nice thing about the Wisconsin and Iowa wins is that they replace the Arizona loss as Michigan’s ‘best outing’ of the year. Both Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon are in the early KenPom Player of the Year Top 10, and Johnson is in the 25-man Wooden Award midseason whatever list.
Stanford (12-5, 3-2 PAC 12)
This week: Beat Washington (79-67)
Stanford has worked its way onto the bubble with wins over Oregon, Washington State, and Washington. Arizona is going to win the conference walking away, but the PAC 12 is good enough to warrant a 4th tournament team, so if Stanford gets to 10 or 11 conference wins, that should be good enough to grab an at-large.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Big Ten Country is surprisingly mitten-shaped]
Position: Weakside Defensive End
Ht/Wt/40: 6'6" / 218 lbs. / 4.70
Location: Lutheran High School (2015) – Orange, CA
Offers: Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, California, Colorado, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oregon State, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington
Ranking: ★★★★ .9783 (247 Composite)
In a move that everyone expected, although most thought it should’ve happened already, the Michigan coaches offered defensive end Keisean Lucier-South today while sweeping through California. Lucier-South is rated very highly by all four major sites with Scout having him the highest as a 5-star recruit.
I talked with Keisean and he was very passionate when I asked him how he felt about receiving the Michigan offer. “I was just in shock. (Laughs) I mean I felt like it might be coming but I didn’t know for sure. I didn’t actually see the coach (Ferrigno) but my coach told me about the offer.”
Early on in his recruitment Lucier-South referred to Michigan as his “dream offer.” That may still be the case but he wasn’t so quick to call the Wolverines his outright leader after receiving the offer. “I don’t have a leader right now but Michigan is up high on my list.” Being a California kid Lucier-South has never been to Michigan and says he definitely plans on making a trip to Ann Arbor whenever he can. He told me that will go a long way to see how much he really likes the Wolverines.
Moving forward in his recruitment Lucier-South said he just wants to take his time and enjoy the process. He wants to take some unofficial visits this spring and summer and with the way his list looks right now his main focus is trying to see what the right school is for him and if he fits at each school.
That plan sounds like a well-calculated idea but there could be an issue with Lucier-South’s approach when it comes to Michigan’s tendency to fill up the class early. Keisean told me that he’d like to wait until National Signing Day before he commits. The problem with that is that Michigan’s 2015 class could potentially be even smaller than the 2014 class and running out of space could be a concern if Lucier-South does indeed wait that long to make a decision. I asked him about that and he said, “I honestly just don’t know how that will factor in.”
Lucier-South likes Michigan quite a bit, make no bones about it, but he has a lot of very high-level offers and lives in California. Those two factors are usually quite tough for Michigan to overcome. I fully expect Lucier-South to check out Michigan in person and if he does that the Wolverines as as good a shot as anybody, but if he really plans to wait all the way until NSD 2015 it’s hard to imagine that the recruiting class for Michigan won’t already be full. If the coaching staff aggressively pursues Keisean now that he’s offered his timeline could be sped up or Michigan might save a spot for him (as they've done for similarly-rated McDowell). It will be interesting to see what direction his recruitment takes now that he’s got an offer.
It's beginning to feel like last year.
Not necessarily the potential Final Four part, not just yet, even though an eight-point win over Iowa following a triumph at the Kohl Center is a major statement. The realization that we're witnessing something special, though? Something to treasure while it lasts? Oh, it's here.
From the jump, Nik Stauskas was on. He tied a career high with 26 points, shooting 4/5 from two, 4/9 from three, and 6/7 from the line; he also chipped in five rebounds, five assists, a block, a steal, and even shut down Iowa's Aaron White—an apparent mismatch on paper—in the first half. He's playing at a level that more than justifies the NBA talk, and he knows it.
"Offensively, I just think there are very few people that can stay in front of me right now, so I just tried to attack [White]," Stauskas said after the game. "My confidence has been on another level since the beginning of the season. Just with the games I've been playing and the success we've been having, it just keeps growing and growing."
His coach knows it, too.
"I watch him every day and he just has an ability right now that's very rare to get his own shot, to get to the rim, to make foul shots, to draw fouls," said John Beilein. "I don't know if I ever get surprised too much. I love his growth. You know what I am surprised [about] a little bit? For a shooter and a scorer, he's really embraced defense. He did a great job on Aaron White in the first half."
So does the opposition.
"The amazing thing about him has been his consistency all year," said Fran McCaffery. "He's obviously somebody that everybody marks when they're getting ready to play Michigan, yet he's still able to get shots out of the offense, get shots on his own. He's really doing a lot off the dribble, his length helps him there, and he's got great range, obviously."
The shot-making—and shot-creation—of Stauskas didn't just put points on the board for Michigan; it took away Iowa's hope for a high-tempo game. The Hawkeyes entered the game as the fastest-paced major-conference team in the country, averaging 73 possessions per game. Michigan, which averages 64, imposed their pace on Iowa, keeping them out of transition enough to make this a 66-possession game. The reason was simple, according to McCaffery.
"They were making shots. It's harder to run on makes than misses."
While Stauskas led the way, it takes a total team effort to defeat such a quality opponent, of course. With Derrick Walton limited to just three minutes, all in the first half, due to flu-like symptoms, Spike Albrecht had to play 35 minutes in his first career start. He thrived, scoring seven points, dishing out seven assists to zero turnovers, and making perhaps the play of the game. With under four minutes to go, Iowa had cut the Michigan lead to just four points when Roy Devyn Marble corralled a loose ball at halfcourt. Albrecht was the only Wolverine back on defense, facing a two-on-one, when he jumped Marble's crosscourt pass and immediately got the ball upcourt to Glenn Robinson III, who found Zak Irvin in the corner for a game-altering three.
"To be honest, because they had a two-on-one going, I was like, 'I'm too little, we're kinda screwed either way,' so I just went for a steal and luckily I was able to jump it and Zak knocked down a huge shot for us," Albrecht said.
Iowa would get the lead down to three with 2:32 left when Spike struck again, beating the Hawkeye zone with a lob that Robinson just barely managed to stuff into the basket; from there, Michigan pulled away. Albrecht also pulled off the same trick he did to Florida in last year's tournament, sneakily pilfering an Iowa inbounds pass and hitting a quick jumper just a split-second after a GRIII dunk to give the Wolverines a big four-point swing early in the second half.
To seal the win, Jordan Morgan capped off a stellar performance—12 points, 5/6 FG, 7 rebounds in 32 minutes—by using every inch of his vertical to block Melsahn Basabe's layup attempt with 46 seconds left and the Wolverines clinging to a six-point lead.
Zak Irvin (11 points, 3/7 3-pt) also chipped in a couple critical plays; before capping off Spike's steal with a triple, he followed up a three-pointer with a fast break layup in addition to keeping a possession alive with an offensive rebound in the corner. Glenn Robinson III added 14 points despite struggling with his outside shot (6/10 2-pt, 0/5 3-pt); he did his best work defensively in the second half, limiting Basabe to two points after he'd poured in 15 in the first stanza. The only player who had a really rough game was Caris LeVert (5 points, 2/9 FG, three turnovers), who almost single-handedly brought Iowa back into the game with an inbounds turnover that led to a White layup followed on the next possession by an awful crosscourt pass that Iowa easily picked off and turned into another layup to make the deficit just six.
After White and Stauskas traded baskets, Irvin sank a dagger to put Michigan up seven, then the lob to GRIII put the game away. Michigan had successfully forced Iowa to play their game; in fact, they did even more than that, outscoring the Hawkeyes 12-4 in transition, beating them at their specialty while playing at a more comfortable pace.
"I thought we had a good pace," said John Beilein. "We ran when we wanted to run. We had a lot of trust in this team that they would really understand what the plan is ... I liked our pace today."
Now it's on to East Lansing for a titanic matchup with the Big Ten lead at stake. Michigan is playing with house money after consecutive wins over top-ten teams. They're also playing with Nik Stauskas, which may be the biggest advantage of them all.
Previously: Iowa From 1000 Feet
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Iowa|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||7 pm Eastern, Wednesday|
|LINE||Michigan -2 (KenPom)|
|TV||BTN (PBP: Eric Collins; Analyst: Stephen Bardo)|
Right: Fran McCaffery, delightfully unhinged.
THE LAW OF GUS
Is canceled, unfortunately. The Big Ten went so far as to send out a press release last Thursday letting us know Gus Johnson would be joining Stephen Bardo on the BTN broadcast. However, Johnson's flight was canceled today (damn you, weather), so instead Eric Collins will be on the call. This shouldn't prevent the game from being wildly entertaining:
Tonight's doubleheader on BTN is not to be missed. Iowa/Michigan has the 2nd-highest thrill score of the season, per @kenpomeroy (UL/UK 1st)
— Josh and Mike (@bigtengeeks) January 22, 2014
KenPom's thrill score doesn't even account for the inevitable Fran McCaffery tantrum. Speaking of...
Last year, Brian created the Bo Ryan Index:
THE BO RYAN INDEX. Take the first three rows of Google Image Search and calculate in what percentage of those shots is the coach looking enraged, incredulous, furious, or otherwise unpleasant to referees or his team. Bo Ryan's Bo Ryan Index: 65%, and I think some of the misses could be sarcastic smiling.
John Beilein checked in at 25%, Tom Izzo a shockingly low 19%, and since-fired Bill Carmody registered a zero. How you lookin', Fran? [click to embiggen]
Using the first-three-rows method (I couldn't help but include a fourth), Fran's Bo Ryan Index is at 52%, and that's giving him the benefit of the doubt regarding some incredulous-looking stares. Equally remarkable is that there's zero in-between for McCaffery—he's either chewing out an official or locked in a tearful embrace. Fran McCaffery may not be emotionally stable.
We're not done yet, either. The woman giving the proverbial WTF hands in the last row is, you guessed it, Mrs. McCaffery. They're quite a match:
Margaret McCaffery first made headlines in 2006 when she and her husband were ejected from a game at Hofstra. After Fran McCaffery was tossed for what he said was the first time in his career, his wife was ejected later in the game after a tirade at officials that included profanity. She was escorted from the arena by a security guard.
Long live the McCaffery dynasty.
Oh, right, the actual game. Iowa is a very deep squad that can throw out a variety of looks without losing effectiveness; 11 Hawkeyes have scored in double figures in a game this season—eight of them at least five times—and they'll roll out each of those 11 guys at some point in the game.
The straw that stirs the drink is 6'6" guard Roy Devyn Marble, who starts at shooting guard but also gets plenty of run at the point. He's the key to Iowa's transition game—more than a third of his shots and well over half his assists come in the first ten seconds of the shot clock, per hoop-math. While his shooting percentages are an underwhelming 44%/37%/65%, he's a solid passer, rarely turns the ball over, gets to the line frequently, and scores 19 points per game by virtue of carrying much of the halfcourt load—he's attempted almost twice as many non-transition shots as any other Hawkeye. Marble also boasts the #27 steal rate in the country, generating a lot of his own fast break opportunities.
Iowa's most efficient offensive player is 6'9" forward Aaron White, who will inevitably be called "deceptively athletic" because he's a white guy with mad bounce—YouTube features a preseason dunk-filled highlight mix set to DMX(!!!):
White averages 14 points per game despite picking his spots carefully, attempting just over seven field goals per game. He does this by being incredibly efficient, ranking second nationally in true shooting percentage thanks to a 69% mark from two and 86% rate on a considerably high number of free throws. Not only is he a great finisher at the tin (75%), he shoots an excellent 53% on two-point jumpers. Splitting time between the three and the four, White also rebounds quite well.
The obvious choice would be to stick Glenn Robinson III on White for the duration, but 6'7" rebounding machine Melsahn Basabe complicates matters greatly. Despite being two inches shorter than White, Basabe is the nominal starting power forward—yes, this team is big—and his primary attributes are stellar rebounding, shot-blocking, and a pretty decent post game, albeit in a low-usage role. He's enough of an interior presence that Iowa will occasionally play him at center.
6'1" sophomores Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons split time at the point, with Gesell starting and playing ~50% of the team's available minutes. Gesell's assist rate is just outside the top 100 and, unlike Marble, the vast majority of his dimes come in halfcourt sets. He doesn't add much else offensively—his 46.4 eFG% is not very good—but is second on the team in steals to Marble. Clemmons has seen his minutes wane in Big Ten play; over the last four games, he's played 28 minutes and scored one point—Gesell and Marble are absorbing most of his playing time against quality competition.
Iowa features three solid bigs in addition to Basabe. 7'1" center Adam Woodbury is the starter, though his rebounding and shot-blocking have taken a surprising plunge into mediocre territory after a solid freshman campaign last season. He's not much of a factor on offense, averaging 3.3 points against Big Ten teams not named Northwestern.
6'10" junior Gabriel Olaseni gets just about the same number of minutes; he'd rank third nationally in offensive rebounding rate (19.1%[!]) if he played just a tiny bit more to qualify, and his block rate would place within the top 50. While he's shooting just 46% from the field, he gets to the line at a very high rate and shoots 70% at the stripe.
6'9" sophomore Jared Uthoff plays over half of Iowa's minutes coming off the bench at both the four and the five; he's basically what Aaron White would be with more range and slightly less touch inside the arc, posting a 57%/52%/85% shooting split while getting to the line at a high rate. He's also an excellent defensive rebounder and shot-blocker.
The Hawkeyes also have plenty of depth on the wings. 6'7" small forward Zach McCabe is a 35% three-point shooter who crashes the boards well. After missing the team's first 12 games with a foot injury, 6'5" junior Josh Oglesby has shot a lights-out 12-for-20 from beyond the arc, though he could fall back to earth hard considering his career 31% mark; thus far this year he's thrived as a spot-up gunner in transition. He's taken a lot of minutes away from 6'6" freshman Peter Jok (just 16 minutes in Big Ten play), who hasn't done anything particularly well aside from making free throws.
There's your 11-man rotation. I need a Gatorade.
[11-man rotations require a jump. So... JUMP.]
Ace will have your official preview in a bit, but Iowa's such an interesting team and important game that I thought I would go over some high-level stuff. Iowa goes 11 deep—seriously—so Ace might need a bit of a breather anyway.
They're fast. This is a major contrast in styles, as Iowa is 12th in adjusted tempo while Michigan is 307th. This is because Iowa gets shots off faster than anyone in the country save BYU and Northwestern State.
Opponents tend to take a lot of time to get their shots off, in contrast. Iowa's defensive possession length for Iowa is actually identical to Michigan's.
fee fi fo fum
They're huge. The starting lineup is a seven-footer, two 6-9, guys, a 6-6 shooting guard, and a regular ol' point guard. While that lineup doesn't stay on the floor together that much because Iowa's got 'em working in shifts, they bring a 6-10 guy and a 6-9 guy off the bench. The overall largeness has them in the top ten in Kenpom's effective height stat, and this shows up in the places you'd expect it to: offensive rebounding, blocking shots, and two point defense.
Their defense may be more questionable than it appears on paper. Iowa is benefiting from a weird combination right now: opponents are taking a ton of threes (37% of FGAs) and making a horrible percentage (28%). Kenpom posted about this for much of the last couple years, finding that with certain limited exceptions basketball teams are better off preventing threes from being launched than relying on their ability to defend them, because it appears that teams have about as much control over three-point makes as they do free throw makes.
Now, it is possible that the aforementioned hugeness prevents teams from getting good looks from inside the line and results in a lot of late shot clock jacks, but against reasonable competition that doesn't appear to be the case. Two point shooting by major conference opponents against Iowa this year:
- vs Xavier: 48% (Iowa W 77-74 in OT)
- vs Villanova: 52% (Iowa L 88-83 in OT)
- Notre Dame: 53% (W 98-93)
- @ Iowa State: 52% (L 85-82)
- Nebraska: 31% (W 67-57)
- @ Wisconsin 32% (L 75-71)
- Northwestern: 51% (W 93-67)
- @ Ohio State: 51% (W 84-74)
- Minnesota: 50% (W 94-73)
The Nebraska and Wisconsin games seem like outliers amongst a general trend of Iowa giving up a lot of good shots from within the line. Meanwhile, Wisconsin was 10/22 from three and Nebraska 5 of 18. Conclusion: Iowa is benefiting from a healthy dose of luck when it comes to opponent three point shooting. Also, despite the height this defense looks like it can be had by Michigan's eviscerating pick and roll game.
Obvious statement of the week: stay out of transition. This is a game in which clichéd color commentator bloviating will actually be right on. Michigan's transition defense is weak. So weak as to be nearly nonexistent:
The Wolverines are allowing a 66.1% eFG% in transition situations, the second worst in the country. Michigan’s half-court eFG% allowed is a more impressive 43.7%, but that leaves a 22.5% gap between Michigan’s halfcourt and transition defenses. That transition defense drop-off is the largest in the country.
Michigan has responded by abandoning the offensive glass; that combined with their inherent Michigan-ness (lot of makes, vanishingly few turnovers) has prevented that weakness from crushing their overall defensive numbers.
Iowa, meanwhile, is fast. Almost 40% of Iowa's shots come in the first ten seconds of the shot clock and their eFG% on those shots is 61%. Those numbers are sixth nationally and in the top 50. That's crazy impressive.
Michigan's transition offense is even more efficient, just used a lot less; meanwhile, Iowa's extensive experience with open-court basketball sees them check in with an impressive 50% transition eFG% on defense. Discretion may be the better part of valor on two on two breaks and the like. Also, you might want to be a little more cautious in that department because…
Michigan needs to do a better job on the defensive boards than they did against Arizona [Fuller]
You're probably going to want to fling everyone at the defensive boards. Iowa crushes the offensive boards and gets putbacks and fouls off of their rebounds. They've got 88 putback attempts on the year to Michigan's 51 and are much, much better at converting them; this is also where big chunks of the White/Olaseni/Basabe free throw parade comes from. Everyone who's not contesting the shooter should head right for the defensive glass.
HORSE don't fail me now. Michigan wins this game by imposing their HORSE style of play—I get a shot, you get a shot, no fouls, no possession advantage, no transition—on Iowa. This is obviously easier said than done against this Iowa.
FWIW, last year's single meeting was
- a 67-possession affair (draw)
- in which Iowa shot ten FTs (M win)
- and got crushed on the boards (M win)
- and allowed Michigan to shoot 65%/46% (M win).
That was the game when undefeated Michigan looked their very best in a 95-67 throttling. This Iowa team is much better in all departments and will not go down so meekly, but in general the last couple years when Michigan has come up against teams that draw a lot of FTs and force a lot of TOs, they have imposed their style on the opponent.
Against a team that gives up a lot of threes and healthy two point percentages (for the most part) Michigan just needs to hit shots. Hitting shots both gives you points and slows down the opponent. Make this Adam Jacobi's worst game ever.
On Monday I went in search of hot takes to explain Michigan's win at the Kohl center and put it in context. Those who didn't watch the game thought it a fluke, the kind of thing that just happens to Wisconsin when they have a cold night. Indiana guys wanted to take credit for showing Beilein how to beat those guys. Michigan fans were split over whether this was a peak performance or on the growth chart. So I asked our guys:
What was that?
- A fluke of 2- or 3-point hotness/coldness that happens in Wisconsin (read: low-possession) games
- A gift from Tom Crean, who exposed the weakness of not-as-good-as-people-thought Wisconsin
- A signature road win from an erratic, young team that puts them on the right side of the bubble after an eventual .500 conference season
- A maturation point of a young, fast-improving eventual Final Four contender as its freshman PG gets used to the flow of the college game and its sophomore SG emerges as an alpha dog.
What's your best explanation (or have you another?), and how did this game affect your expectations for the team come March?
BiSB: I'd rule a couple of those explanations out. The respective 3-point make rates (54% for Michigan, 39% for Wisconsin) were obviously a difference in the game, but it is hardly outlandish in context. Michigan got 9 of its 13 looks from Nik Stauskas (arguably the most dangerous 3-point sniper in the conference), who only made three, while Wisconsin's numbers were right in line with their season stats thus far. Sure Caris LeVert going 3-3 isn't terribly likely, but neither is Ben Brust going 4-5. It was also the highest-tempo conference game Michigan has played thus far, so 7 made threes for this team isn't that much of an outlier.
|Get these men a pick and watch 'em roll. [Fuller]|
Second, Wisconsin remains good, so I'd rule out the Tom Crean thing (also because "let's give credit to the genius who just got worked by Northwestern AT HOME" explanation doesn't sound like fun). Third, while the team is certainly young and erratic, they have the look of much more than a bubble team.
I'd say this game reflects a team that is finding its offensive identity, and it turns out that identity is really effective and fun to watch. Wisconsin has a good defensive team (#29 on KenPom coming into the game), and there were points where Michigan was just toying with it. Teams just don't get those kinds of looks at the rim against Wisconsin, but time and again Morgan or Horford would slip a screen and find a wide-open bucket.
Michigan is doing what Brian, Ace, myself, and a bunch of other people were calling for all year; they're running lots of Stauskas pick-and-roll, as well as lots of high ball screens for Stauskas to get a defender on his hip and force the defense to create an opening. Nik has become an alpha dog, but he's done so in a way that is generating looks for everyone on the court. That might remind you of a certain scrappy little guy who ripped the Pistons to shreds on Friday (#FireJoeD)
Right now, this Michigan team feels a LOT like last year's team: a questionable defense but a terrifying offense that won't turn the ball over or give up many transition buckets. Also they're doing lots of Game Blouses stuff and Lottery GRIII stuff. Which is neat. Beilein Uber Alles. 2014 Uber Alles.
[more answers, and more editorial hash tags, after the jump]