chance of bowl: 13.6%
A Google search for “sports as escape” produces about 300 million results. A similar query for “sports as entertainment” reveals over 3.5 billion.
A search for “sports as inspiration” generates 296 million—a lofty number, sure, but it’s telling that (at least by this wholly unscientific method) we tend to view sports as a way to avoid our problems instead of a source of motivation from which we can better ourselves.
I include myself in that number. Normally, when watching sports, it's for entertainment, or to take a break from whatever pressing real life issue I don’t want to deal with at the moment. Through circumstances largely outside of my control, however, covering Michigan basketball this season became an exercise in understanding and appreciating why we really care and what can be produced through a deep connection with sports.
In my junior year of college, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a less common name for the illness that better captures its severity—and I’ve suffered from symptoms going back to my senior year of high school. It’s a disorder about which much is still unknown, including both its cause and cure. In fact, it's still the subject of controversy, especially regarding the CDC (a story that is both too unrelated and too lengthy to detail here, but I’d strongly encourage you to read this article).
The primary symptom of ME is “post-exertional malaise,” or what ME patients often refer to as the “push-crash” phenomenon. It is exactly what it sounds like. The amount of energy available to an ME patient varies greatly on a case-by-case basis, but we’re all in the same boat—if an ME patient uses more than their allotted energy (whether over the course of a day, week, month, or even year), they will pay for it dearly, with compound interest, in the form of worsening symptoms.
I’ve experienced crashes before, but mostly in the years leading up to my diagnosis. Without knowing what I was dealing with, I spent my first three years of college taking 16 credits per semester, working as a receptionist at the Michigan Union, and living the social life of your typical liberal arts major at a state school. My family and I realized I was dealing with something more than a sleep issue when I was fired from my job for repeatedly calling in sick and put on academic probation for failing, of all things, an intro-level stats class—one I probably attended twice, choosing much-needed sleep instead.
Pretty shortly thereafter, I went to see a world-class ME specialist in North Carolina, Dr. Paul Cheney, and received my diagnosis. In the aftermath, I slowly but surely made significant alterations to my lifestyle. I took fewer classes, pushed off graduation for a semester, and moved back home (for those who aren’t familiar with me, I grew up in Ann Arbor and attended U-M) for my final year-and-a-half of school.
Upon graduating in December of 2010, I did not go searching for jobs. Instead, I stayed home, enjoying my new-found freedom to spend more time with friends and posting on my old blog. I turned down a chance to interview for a PR position at GE in Cincinnati; on its face, because that wasn’t the field I was interested in, but mostly because I wasn’t in a position to take a demanding job away from my support system.
When Brian posted the MGoBlog job opening in August of 2011, I leapt at the opportunity to continue blogging—a profession that allows me to mostly work from home, with flexible hours and the opportunity to write about my hometown school and alma mater. For my first year on the job, I continued to live with my parents, and despite the new work demands my health improved markedly.
At both my parents’ and my own behest, I moved out last September, renting a place with two close friends just down the street from Michigan Stadium and the Crisler Center. Dealing responsibly with ME while still trying to live a normal life is a constant game of testing one’s own (constantly changing) limits, and it was time to find out where mine were. Through the end of football season, things couldn’t have gone better—work was going well, I had a sufficient social life, I got to live away from home with a pair of great roommates, and I even resumed some level of physical activity, playing co-ed soccer over the summer at Fuller Park and working out in a gym we set up in the basement. When basketball season rolled around, I took the chance to expand my coverage and applied for a season credential, looking to attend every home game and some handpicked away games.
As it turned out, I added a little too much to my plate. As Michigan raced out to a 20-1 start, I felt my health start to decline. Nowhere was this more apparent than at Crisler, incidentally. While I hunched over my laptop, my lower back ached, a signal that my body was tapping into my adrenal glands for an unsustainable source of backup energy. I became increasingly sensitive to sound and bright light—pregame player introductions were particularly uncomfortable, even painful. But I wanted to be there, and not only because of my job—I savored every second of watching the Wolverines electrify a building transformed from gray obsolescence to modern basketball mecca.
In January, I was granted a credential for the February 2nd game at Indiana. A few days before the game, I asked Brian if he’d like to go in my stead; I’d spent the week feeling flu-ridden and unable to think clearly, and even though he declined to take the press pass I didn’t make the trip down to Bloomington. For the past two months—except for the week when Brian mercifully granted me sick leave—I’ve mostly worked from my bed, and in this final push before the offseason everything in my life has taken a back seat to work. This week, I came back to my parents’ place in order to make matters easier on myself, and we’ve decided that it’s best for me to move back home when my lease is up in the fall.
I promise that there’s a non-depressing point to writing all this, but first I feel the need to say something about what I’ve just revealed. The reason I’ve only told a small group of family, close friends, and co-workers (actually, just Brian) about my illness is that one of the worst aspects of being sick—for anyone, in my experience—is being related to as a sick person by other people.
I am not defined by my illness. I do not need your sympathy, which could be better directed towards any number of other places. I live a rich and fulfilling life. I love my job. I have a very understanding boss. I have a great group of close friends. I have access to world-class, cutting-edge medical care. Most importantly, I have a wonderful, supportive family. As soon as I’m able to get some rest, I’ll be back to my normal self, and even if my normal may not fit your definition I happen to really enjoy it.
The reason I’m writing about this, and writing about it now, is to illustrate a larger point. I should probably get around to that now, shouldn’t I?
Sports were an escape for me before they became my job, and even then the, let’s say, wide-ranging nature of blogging versus more traditional media has allowed me to continue relating to them as a fan. I’ve never been one to focus too much on the Sports As Microcosm Of Life, Big Picture stuff (except to convince my father that I’d chosen the right career path). I simply love watching them, and am endlessly fascinated by humans pushing their bodies to unseen heights, as well as the intricate strategies and minutiae that drive team sports—hence my gravitation towards football, perhaps the most violent and entertaining version of chess. When Tom Rinaldi appeared on my TV screen, poised to tear at my heartstrings over a soft piano soundtrack, I almost always changed the channel.
When searching for inspiration, I never turned towards sports, instead looking to any number of other things: music, beer, friendship, traveling, beer, family, school, job hunt, beer, etc. These last two months, however, I’ve either been cooped up in my room or covering Michigan basketball—alternative options have been limited.
If this were a Michigan hoops team from another year—especially any of the years of my childhood—perhaps I’d be feeling different about my life right now. I’ve been so fortunate to cover this particular team, in person for all but a couple of home games and from home for the rest. Their success alone has been a source of considerable joy, of course, but it goes far beyond simple wins and losses. Even given the same success, a different team with a different coach probably wouldn’t affect me the way the 2012-13 Wolverines have.
It hasn’t been hard to muster the energy to write about these guys, and frankly that’s not the case when it’s time to put together a football recruiting roundup. Getting to watch this crew, whether I’ve been in the press seats at Crisler or glued to my couch, has been a true pleasure. They’ve made my job easy at a time when that can’t be said for much else in my life.
I’ve drawn inspiration from Trey Burke’s unflappable will, the way his expression never changes regardless of circumstance*. The same goes for John Beilein’s genuine decency and mastery of his profession; Mitch McGary’s infectious enthusiasm for, well, everything; the sacrifices players like Jordan Morgan, Matt Vogrich, and even Tim Hardaway Jr. have made in the name of the team; the love these players show for each other. I wouldn’t change a thing about these last two months, crash be damned, and those guys deserve much of the credit.
Sports can be an escape, sure, or simply a source of entertainment. But there’s a deeper level, too, and looking back I think it’s influenced me more than I’ve ever acknowledged until recently.
Yeah, I write about kids playing games for a living. That may not sound fulfilling to most, but it works for me. I’ll feel no shame about my maniacal fandom this weekend, allowing this team to grab my emotions and take them where they take them. They’ve earned that right. Whatever happens in the next four days, I’ll never forget this team and what they’ve unknowingly taught me—about perseverance, loving what I have, and appreciating being a part of something greater than myself—in the course of their being kids and playing a game.
*Celebrating miraculous 30-foot game-tying jumpers excepted, of course.
It's back, it's being Kickstarted, and we're totally doing a second book this year: a basketball/hockey combo mag that will launch in September. Note: this is what's called a "stretch goal" if we make 50k—which we did last year—the basketball/hockey book will be paper. Otherwise, eBook.
Here's the spiel:
Hail To The Victors is a yearly magazine from MGoBlog that previews football. It's like Athlon or whatever, except instead of two pages by an intern who doesn't know who Dennis Norfleet is you get 128 pages from the kind of internet obsessives that start their own websites just so someone might read what they have to say.
As an independent publication, we can do things like have a beautiful cover with Denard Robinson or Taylor Lewan on it unencumbered by "TEN WAYS TO MAKE YOUR PUNTER BEHAVE," or have heartfelt personal memoirs that made our previous publisher break out in hives. This is indie, which means it can be weird, which means it can be good in ways other previews can't.
Each edition comes with:
FULL TEAM PREVIEW. Written by Brian Cook of MGoBlog; goes down the roster in excruciating, unbowdlerized detail. Yeah, Athlon, put "unbowdlerized" in your magazine.
OPPONENT PREVIEWS. Each scheduled opponent is previewed; you can know how much fear and hope to have.
TWISTED BLUE STEEL. Michigan's players and coaches profiled. We say goodbye to Denard.
TECHNICAL DOSSIER. Nitty-gritty details on Michigan's schemes, recruiting, and prospects. Stats and diagram heavy. This year's focus: what is an Al Borges offense going to look like?
OLD BLUE. 20 or so pages about Michigan's history. This year's section features Ron Kramer stories. Unedited Ron Kramer stories.
This year's Kickstarter exclusive shirt plays off the awesome "Sports" GIF Ace put together of Facepalm Guy and Rapture guy.
Not quite final. We're tweaking it to look better.
Many thanks to both Facepalm Guy and Rapture Guy for being cool about this.
You can also get last year's Photobomb shirt:
If neither of those strike your fancy we'll have a half-dozen popular MGoShirts available.
WHY IS THE GOAL 30K INSTEAD OF 20K?
We anticipated we'd sell a significant amount of books post-launch last year, which was not really the case. 30K is basically what it costs--it's actually still a little short--and we'd like to not lose our shirts. If this year's like last year we won't have a problem.
NEW BONUS NEW NEW NEW BONUS BONUS
Basketball! Hockey! We're launching a second book covering basketball and hockey. We project it will be 2/3rds to 3/4ths basketball given the level of interest in the two sports -- oh and that whole Final Four thing. We are committed to doing the book either way. But here's one of those Stretch Goal things: if we don't hit 50k, it'll be an eBook. If we do hit 50k, it'll be a real magazine and everything.
Risks and challenges
Last year we had issues collating and shipping effectively; this year we plan to address those by using a custom solution at UGP's storefront instead of the many-points-of-failure system we used before.
One thing we learned: we can't accommodate unique requests (ie, I want ten books sent to these addresses) effectively. Hopefully you find something to your interests in the offerings; to better fulfill the promises we're making here we have to hold it to just the listed options.
Hoke said you talked to Shane Morris after Russell Bellomy’s injury. How does the injury impact Shane, and how does this impact how you coach him?
“Really not as much as you might think. He was going to come in and compete anyway. There’s one less slot there to go through, so that’s really all it impacted. He knows there’s one less body. Doesn’t affect him as much as you might think.”
Does Shane come around a lot?
“Oh yeah. All the time. He’s been around for a couple years, actually. He committed early, so he knows everybody on the team and they all know him. He’ll hit the ground running when he gets here.”
Any excuse to post this again is a valid excuse.
Trey Burke continues to pile up the hardware, adding the AP National Player of the Year—Michigan's only other recipient: Cazzie Russell—and the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year awards today. Begin press release:
ATLANTA, Ga. -- University of Michigan men's basketball sophomore guard Trey Burke (Columbus, Ohio/Northland HS) received the Associated Press Men's Basketball National Player of the Year and Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year awards today (Thursday, April 4).
After being recognized at a special awards presentation in Atlanta, Ga., Burke becomes just the second Wolverine in program history to receive the AP award, joining U-M legend Cazzie Russell, who also earned the nation's top honor in 1966. Burke also becomes the first Wolverine in program history to earn the Cousy award, which has been given annually to the nation's top point guard since 2004.
Burke is U-M's fifth consensus All-American, having earned first team honors from the John R. Wooden All-America Team, the Associated Press, the NABC, the USBWA, the Lute Olson All-America team, the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and CBSSports.com.
The winner of the Wooden Award—for which Burke is of course a finalist—will be announced tomorrow at 11:15 am EDT on ESPN.
Darren Heitner, a sports business writer for Forbes as well as a sports and entertainment attorney, reports via Twitter that both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are headed to the NBA after this season:
Source: Trey Burke will leave MICH early. Will interview 5 agents: Jeff Schwartz, Arn Tellem, Henry Thomas, Bill Duffy, Alonzo Shavers.
— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) April 4, 2013
Source: Tim Hardaway Jr. will leave MICH early & very strong chance he signs w/Henry Thomas of CAA.
— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) April 4, 2013
Burke's reported departure, of course, comes as no surprise. Hardaway was considered a 50/50 shot—even though he's been projected as either a late first-round or second-round pick, the upside (from an NBA perspective) of him returning for a senior season seemed marginal at best.
Of course, we learned last year that one report (or several, even) does not guarantee a player's departure. In this case, though, Heitner appears to be going on a lot more than an empty dorm room—he's tweeting a considerable amount of specific information about potential agent choices.
UPDATE: Burke's mother issues a denial of the report, saying that her son has yet to make a decision:
Just spoke with Trey Burke's mother, Ronda, who says "He has not made any decision" about going pro.
— Eric Adelson (@eric_adelson) April 4, 2013
UPDATE II: The plot thickens:
@zhelfand spoke to my (trusted) source. Call from Hardaway Jr.'s father does not sway his position.
— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) April 4, 2013
UPDATE III: As reader SFBlue points out, Heitner has a bit of a checkered history when it comes to his journalistic credibility. Considering it's pretty clear he didn't do his due diligence in reporting this story—a call should've been placed to the Burke and Hardaway families, at the very least—perhaps it's best we pretend this never happened.
JINX FEARERS: Look man if Michigan makes the national title game I don't want to have to write a preview that I can have done beforehand, because then I can write about the game they just played. This does not assume victory over Syracuse.
YES I AM DOING WICHITA GAWD
THE HYPOTHETICAL ESSENTIALS
Michigan vs Louisville
|WHEN||TBA (srs), Monday|
|LINE||I DON'T KNOW PANIC|
If you're having Hotline Miami flashbacks, you are not alone. [Via Card Chronicle.]
THE HYPOTHETICAL TEMPO-FREE
Four factors. Ranks are in parentheses and out of 347.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||50.4 (94)||18.5 (90)||38.2 (16)||39.6 (77)|
|Defense||44.4 (24)||27.5 (2)||33.2 (236)||34.3 (131)|
Okay, so. Remember Piston Honda? VCU is Minor Circuit Piston Honda. Louisville is World Circuit Piston Honda.
left: VCU. Right: Louisville.
On defense Louisville is VCU… with Jeff Withey at center. As a team, anyway. While Gorgui Dieng isn't quite in Withey's stratosphere as a shotblocker, UL's defensive numbers are basically VCU plus near-elite eFG% defense and fewer free throws ceded. That latter isn't likely to be relevant against FT-averse Michigan, which acquired just 11 attempts against the Rams. The former most certainly is.
The VCU comparison holds on offense, as well. The Cardinals have a decent eFG% offense propped up by defense-created fast breaks. (The next section attempts to quantify how much that ballhawking defense impacts their offense.) They're okay at turnovers. They crash the boards like whoah. They struggle behind the line, so they don't shoot many threes. The main difference is free throws, which VCU was poor at acquiring; UL is good at it mostly thanks to Russ Smith.
THE VCU THING
I SMELL YOUR FEAR
Michigan gets about 8% of their shots off of steal-generated fast breaks, which they convert at a lovely 71% eFG. Based on my ballparking of the various teams I've hoop-mathed this year, that's a pretty standard quantity. VCU was exceptional because they got 50% more of their shots in that extremely profitable situation.
Louisville is like that, only moreso: 14% of their shots are steal-generated fast breaks, a 75% bonus. What's more, VCU was a good bit less efficient than Michigan in those situations (63%). Louisville is at 68%.
If you've watched them in the tournament, you have felt this. Louisville doesn't look like anything too amazing until a three minute stretch in which Smith and Siva are going YOINK YOINK YOINK YOINK and the next time you look up Louisville is up 15 and the game is over. Duke and Syracuse, to name two teams kind of good at basketball, are all like "WHA HAPPEN" after Louisville transformed competitive games into laughers in the second half.
Meanwhile, Louisville does not run that much off misses, or at all effectively. The transition gap goes the other way: Michigan gets 19% of their shots in transition off misses, Louisville 14%. What's more, UL is hardly better than their halfcourt offense in that situation (52% versus around 45%). Michigan is at a crushing 65%.
Stage one of taking down the end boss is crippling their fast break points, bringing their iffy shooting into focus and fueling their own transition game. Michigan is better-prepared than any team in the country to do this.
THE HYPOTHETICAL THEM
Soon-to-be Kenpom Player of the Year Russ Smith shoulders a huge proportion of the UL offense—almost a third of UL shots are his. Here is a pile of waffles that represents Smith's importance to Louisville.
THAT'S A LOT OF WAFFLES I TELLYA
His efficiency is only decent, but given his sheer volume that's still impressive. His main asset is a ton of FTAs he hits at 82%. Shots from the floor are only eh—he hits 47/33. He converts at exactly the same rate 'Cuse's Michael Carter-Williams does on two point jumpers: 30%.
Smith's efficiency is dependent on going to the rim, and going to the rim, and going to the rim. Largely in transition. As of 22 games into the season, Smith was averaging 7.5(!!!) transition possessions per game, which is second only to Jimmer Fredette over the last four years:
Note that Smith's efficiency on these transition possessions is much higher than Fredette's. He was probably just launching threes with 30 seconds on the shot clock.
With Michigan a hugely foul- and turnover-averse team, this is an irresistible force versus immovable object matchup. Hypothetically.
On defense, Smith is an in-ur-base nightmare. Via Luke Winn:
Louisville is a nightmare in general, but if you're wondering who's going to hypothetically get Trey Burke it's Smith. If you want additional data, Smith had the same TO rate through nine games, almost all of which are out-and-out steals.
Point guard #3 Peyton Siva is a mini-Smith. He's not much of a shooter (48/30 with a 32% mark on two point jumpers); he gets to the rack; he has the exact same steal rate but doesn't appear to be quite the chaos machine overall; he is dead-eye on free throws but only gets there at half the rate Smith does. Since he's the point guard his assist rate is considerably higher, in fact only a hair lower than Burke's. He has a TO rate approaching 25, though. Burke is about half of that.
Siva is super-quick and can tear up defenses by getting past the first guy. In the Duke game he was 6/8 from inside the line and had a 4:0 A:TO ratio, but against the super-quick Dominic Artis Siva barely got a shot off. It'll be important for Trey to hypothetically stay in front of him.
SF #11 Luke Hancock is corner gunner du jour. With "just" 70% of his shots from three, he's a bit less extreme than some of the guys Michigan has run across recently. Helping the corner gunner diagnosis: only 15% of his shots are at the rim. If he's not taking a three, he's taking a two-point jumper. At 6'6" he can match Nik Stauskas inch for inch, but Not Just A Shooter Stauskas has a 45-37 edge on threes.
Louisville's power forward is #21 Chane Behanan. The good news for Michigan: he's 6'6", just like GRIII, and doesn't post up. Behanan's an OREB menace but not much else. He gets most of his looks at the rim, hits 52%, gets fouled a lot, hits 53%. He is another ballhawking UL defender, but assuming he gets GRIII, GRIII hardly even dribbles so whatever.
PROTIP: Don't let him do this.
At 253—basically Mitch McGary weight—Behanan is a load to box out. GRIII is going to have his rebounding challenged. He has been better lately at this sort of thing. he D-ed up a 6'10" Euro-style forward in the Florida game in the last game and did help Michigan blow out Kansas on the boards the game before even if he got shredded on D.
That shredding doesn't seem too likely to repeat:
While Behanan finds most of his offense around the basket, less than 20% of his shots come out of traditional post up situations. Behanan does an excellent job of carving out space and holding his position while showing solid hands reigning in errant passes. He struggles with his footwork, as he really only has a handful of consistent moves, a running jump hook with his right hand or a fadeaway jumper. Improving here, given his lack of ideal size, is obviously very important.
That was his freshman year but from my observations of the Cardinals it doesn't seem like a whole lot has changed. Two-thirds of his makes are assisted, and most of the rest are putbacks. Mission one for GRIII: keep Behanan off the boards. Mission two: get his putback game on against Louisville's weak DREB. Hypothetically.
Center #10 Gorgui Dieng is projected in the first round of the NBA draft because he's nearly seven feet tall and can jump really high. Bad news, man:
At 6'11 and 245 pounds with a 7'4 wingspan, Dieng has prototypical size for an NBA center. He's long and explosive enough to play above the rim, strong enough to hold his ground on the block and quick enough to move his feet and defend in space. Generally, even the best collegiate centers will be lacking in one of those categories.
Hypothetical Mitch McGary matchup does sound a little bit better than these dudes, at least:
On Sunday, Dieng was matched up with the 6'10, 235-pound Mason Plumlee, a stringbean with a high center of gravity who lacks the raw strength to be a high-level starting center at the next level. In the Sweet 16, it was Oregon's Tony Woods, an explosive 6'11, 245-pound center without the fluidity or feel for the game to play in the NBA. In the Round of 32, it was Colorado State's Colton Iverson, a 6'10, 260-pound rebounding specialist who can't play above the rim.
McGary is heavier than Plumlee, more skilled than Woods, and more athletic than Iverson. Because his last four games are his entire career. Shut up, Chad Ford thinks so. I don't see why I can't.
The whole enormous-jumping-guy thing results in top 100 rates in OREB, DREB, and blocks on Kenpom. He gets to the line a fair bit, shooting 65% there; he is an eh 53% from the floor. He does have range—40% of his shots are away from the rim and he hits almost 40%. In the Duke game, Dieng knocked down a number of open jumpers as Duke picked that poison when Louisville went pick and roll. Michigan might actually want to let the guards shoot in those situations. One thing Dieng isn't going to do much is post up—while Michigan is by far the least post-oriented team in the country, Louisville is in or around the bottom ten.
THE BENCH: EXTANT
Unlike, uh, the rest of the Final Four, Louisville does have a bench. It's shorter now; you are of course aware that Kevin Ware suffered the most horrific injury on a basketball court in basically forever. He was playing almost 20 minutes a game down the stretch. While he wasn't much of a factor on offense—lowest ORTG on the team—he was an important component of the defense, both directly (an almost 4% steal rate, the second-best TO generator on the team in the tourney) and in allowing Smith and Siva to rest enough to keep up their defensive intensity. Siva is the only Cardinal to crack the top 500 players in minutes played, and that's barely.
In his absence, walk-on Tim Henderson got seven minutes. It's unclear whether that would happen in a closer game. It appears all but one of his minutes came towards the end of the game with Louisville up 18. He has 20 FGA on the year, 17 of them threes. He's hit four. I doubt he plays this weekend unless things get out of hand.
Even without Ware's contributions Louisville goes eight deep. Wing #20 Wayne Blackshear gets about half of UL minutes. He has corner gunner tendencies—incredibly low TO rate, not many OREBs or FTs—but does shoot effectively inside the line (55%) and not so much outside of it (32%). Despite that a slight majority of his shots are from three.
Freshman post #24 Montrezl Harrell is a fairly generic backup bug who blocks a fair number of shots, rebounds, and shoots twos at a 56% clip. He doesn't turn the ball over, like, at all, and is a significant downgrade on Dieng on the defensive boards. Junior Stephan Van Treese has a McGary-level OREB rate and essentially only shoots putbacks, with just 40 attempts on the year in about 10 minutes a game.
A relatively weak nonconference schedule is highlighted by wins over Missouri and Memphis; Louisville also beat NIT one-seed Kentucky and lost narrowly to Duke. The Cardinals went 14-4 in the Big East. Three of their four losses were consecutive in late January; the fourth was the nutso 5OT game they dropped to ND a couple weeks later.
Louisville hasn't lost since that game. Only a March 2nd matchup against the Orange was even close. Other than that five-point win, they've blown out opponents. Their S16 matchup against Oregon is the closest game they've played in that stretch, and that was 8 points.
Their last outing was a 22-point win over Duke, which rightfully should have been the one seed in Gonzaga's region. Yipes.
Don't turn it over! For the love of God, don't turn it over! Sweet hot pickles, don't turn it over. Easier said than done against the #2 turnover-generating defense in the country, but Michigan came out of a matchup with #1 with 12 turnovers, almost none of which led to fast-break points. They are currently #1 at avoiding turnovers, and have had that tested.
With Burke running the show and guy-with-ball-magnet-in-hand Spike Albrecht poised to get 15 pressure-relieving minutes (hypothetically), Michigan has a shot of turning off the transition spigot that pushes the UL offense from bleah to fifth nationally.
Try to keep Siva out of the lane. I'm not sure if Michigan's been actively giving up routes into the lane for opposing guards in an attempt to shut off the efficient three-point shooting of their tourney opponents or if they just can't stay in front of dudes. If it's the former, it seems like the strategy in this game is similar to the one they would hypothetically deploy against Syracuse: lay off the guards for the most part until one of them gets hot.
I can't confirm or deny my impressions with those stat things but from watching UL play it seems like Siva's eh two point shooting conceals a lot of Kobe assists as Dieng and Behanan cram home misses they've rebounded.
Meanwhile, Siva and Smith have a total of 19 unassisted three-pointers between them on the year. (Trey Burke has 36 by himself.) If you go under a screen, they're not inclined to rise up in response.
Zone backup plan? Yes this again. It's not too hard to see the above bullet going poorly. In that case this is a team in which you can maybe zone up effectively. The Cards will rip you on the boards when you go to that, but I look at Louisville versus Syracuse and I see:
- 70-68 home loss in which UL shoots 44/35 despite 16 Cuse TOs
- 58-53 road win in which UL shoots 37/35 despite 16 Cuse TOs
- 78-61 neutral win in which UL shoots 45/32 and gets 20 Cuse TOs.
Louisville was propped up in all those games by a ton of foul shots. Michigan's no Syracuse when it comes to length, but they're also no Syracuse when it comes to FTs allowed or TOs suffered. It's a backup plan Michigan's already working on what with the Syracuse game pending.
Again with the Minnesota assertion. If you have a shot, take it. Louisville is another high-TO, good-eFG%, bad-rebounding team. Don't turn down open threes and for the love of pants don't take that infuriating dribble inside the line off your shoulda-been-catch-and-shoot.
I have no idea if transition is good or bad. Normally this is about Michigan being secretly inclined to up-tempo offense and absolutely lethal at it. Against Louisville, things get a bit more difficult, because they're just as deadly in the open court. Trying to check Siva and Smith without a structured defense around you—forget it. On the other hand, transition is good and this is the #1 defense in the country.
Michigan's going to push when they think they have an advantage, and if they do screw up they will get it in their face on the other end. I guess you have to dance with who brung ya. They should…
Control transition. Effective UL transition is dependent on Michigan turning it over in the open court. Effective Michigan transition is dependent on UL missing shots. Make-it-take-it aspects are in play, but Michigan is in a much better position to shut UL off than vice-versa.
Burke versus Craft (Not That Craft, The One Who Plays For Louisville And Is Named Smith). This is a matchup in which Michigan has to get a win from their Player of the Year against Louisville's Player Of The Year. Michigan survived seven Burke TOs against VCU because the rest of the team combined for five. Not likely that repeats, and anyway Burke made up for his TOs by facilitating the press break that broke the Rams.
Michigan won't survive a crappy Burke Versus Craft output; they can get by with a good one.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
segfault divide by zero error
but they could totally hypothetically do this