somehow we're only 124th
Officiating that even closely approximated what could plausibly described as normal, a breeze from a passing mosquito on a rim-balancing rock, a half-court prayer by the last guys you'd expect to get one of those answered…pick any two things that should or could have happened this year and that's the difference between the 1 seed in the Big Ten Tourney and the 5th.
As I lay in the middle of the B1G's final season standings, trying to will my defense out of entropy, I could see the faces of the weasels that did this to me and the hair cream aficionados responsible. When fortune smiles on something as violent and ugly as revenge, it seems proof like no other, that not only does God exist, you're doing His will.
Michigan shouldn't by all rights be taking the long way through the Big Ten Tournament. But fortune has seen fit to at least make that path go right through those whose ledgers with us are most in the red: Penn State yesterday, Wisconsin today, and pending survival there, almost certainly Indiana. That's our worst loss and then the only two teams who finished with winning records against us. In Indiana's case that won't change unless we meet in the NCAAs.
Can Wisconsin beat us again? I mean it's basketball: weird things happen even without the increased chaos of fewer possessions. Like for example sometimes the stripes inexplicably side with the harbingers of Rigelian swamp ball:
I felt paranoid watching all of this. It was a temporary window into the world of a 9/11 truther, seeing what looked like an insane conspiracy by Big Ten refs to keep Bo Ryan in their ears, screaming unprintable things about their mothers. A full half-dozen of the calls they made seemed literally impossible, from the two mentioned above to another breakaway layup that Burke missed because a dude hit him on the head and the charge Burke took on Berggren late that went the other way for a critical three-point play. Am I sane? I thought we got a fair whistle at Indiana. I did think that.
At this point a clunky start and a million defensive breakdowns by the freshmen and THJ wouldn't even be filed as weird things. Another weird thing would be an an outfit as attuned to profit margins as this Big Ten allowing a Rigelian sympathizer any kind of access to a whistle. If you need more than "it wouldn't fit the Kill Bill narrative" for reasons to be optimistic, Wisconsin in their own building needed probably the worst complete ref job in the conference's history and an impossible half-court buzzer shot to fall to beat us the first time. Those are thoughts. Here are diaries:
History lessons. Remember the funny Year in Review (with pics) things that saveferris used to write? Here he goes back to 1989, a time when the Simpsons was that new cartoon your mom didn't want you to watch, lest you turn into a spiky-haired scamp child who tells people to not have a cow, man. Most hilarious thing in the world in 1989 according to 1989 me: a nose tackle named Teeter. Teeter you all! Bad memories: the Tigers, kicking it to Rocket Ismail, and Phil Collins. Good memories: Berenson was just beginning to turn the hockey program around. Yzerman scored 155 points for the Wings, who won the Norris Division. The Pistons were at the peak of the Bad Boys period. Bo's last squad (and one of his best) with that backfield of Tony Boles, Leroy Hoard, Jarrod Bunch and Burnie Legette. And Glenn Rice, obvs.
Speaking of Bunch, he just popped up on the blog this week after someone noticed he was in the latest Tarantino film…
[After the jump]
- TE Nate Allspach, S Drew Offerdahl, and DL Kenny Wilkins have left the team.
- Everyone who was injured last season (Blake Countess, Chris Wormley, Fitz Toussaint, Chris Bryant) will participate in spring practice in some capacity. Wormley seems pretty far along and may be able to do everything. Fitz is recovering faster than expected.
- Will Hagerup is still suspended.
- Manball is still happening, even with Devin at QB.
- Interior linebackers will be expected to practice at both positions. Earlier I tweeted that Desmond Morgan will switch to MIKE and Joe Bolden will switch to WILL. Ignore that for now -- they'll be doing both.
“It’s exciting. I like how we worked during the winter and the winter conditioning and that phase of it. Excited for Saturday to get started. Spring ball’s for a lot of different things. You find out your competitiveness. You find out the guys -- who’s made the biggest improvements since fall and winter. [We’re excited to] have a great competition positionally on offense and defense. And just excited. Really, we all like how we’ve come to work every day and what the guys have done from a genetic (?) standpoint and what they’ve done in the weight room with Aaron Wellman. So we’re excited.”
Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Mitch McGary snatched the rebound out of the air, turned towards the Michigan bench, and let out a guttural yell that could be heard from across the court.
Michigan had looked listless—yes, again—to begin the game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 14-3 lead after Jordan Morgan couldn't finish three layup attempts and the Wolverines as a whole couldn't slow down Penn State's pick and roll. Enter McGary, who ended PSU's run with a layup, then overcame a missed breakaway dunk to record a first-half double-double.
The McGary Growl came with the score tied at 16, and his histrionics immediately lifted the spirits of the players on the bench—and on the court. On the next possession, Nik Stauskas sunk a three, and the Wolverines wouldn't trail for the remainder of the game, pulling away late for a comfortable 17-point win. When called upon to infuse energy to a team that couldn't shake their previous struggles against Penn State, the freshman big man did that and more, finishing the game with ten points on 5/6 shooting (all in the first half) and 11 rebounds, five of them offensive.
After McGary kept the team afloat in the first half, the rest of the team stepped up in the second. Trey Burke led all scorers with 21 points, pouring in 13 in the second half on 4/6 shooting. Stauskas contributed nine of his 15 points in the latter stanza, including a "Game ... Blouses"-style dunk and nifty and-one layup. Jon Horford tallied all 11 of his points in the final 20 minutes, going 4/4 from the field in that span.
Gradually, over the course of the second half, Michigan's lead grew—after PSU's Jermaine Marshall tied the game at 39 with 17:25 left, the Wolverines outscored the Nittany Lions 44-27. Some added defensive intensity certainly helped; after Michigan ceded 14/26 two-point shooting in the first half, Penn State hit 12/26 from inside the arc in the second half. That may be just a two-shot difference, but the makes were more difficult to come by, at least.
Michigan moves on to play Wisconsin in the second game of the day tomorrow (~2:30 EST), and this game brought up some concerns for the rest of the tournament. Interior baskets were far too easy to come by for PSU, especially Sasa Borovnjak, who scored 15 points on 7/10 FG despite no offensive rebounds. The Wolverines looked lost defending the pick and roll, and offensively they biffed more than their fair share of layups.
They finally beat Penn State handily, however, outdoing KenPom's prediction by a point. Blemishes or no, that's taking care of business, and the team's first double-digit win since February 24th was a welcome sight.
Mitch McGary may not play pretty, but his contributions were also a delight—both to the fans and his teammates, apparently.
Beilein's time out management. In light of almost blowing it at the end of MSU, he did the same thing on Sunday and it cost us. The first one in the second half,, the trey on the floor one, and the the THJ in bounds at the end (even though he jumped the gun a few sec early) were all legitimate but the other was a total waste and should have been banked.
Also, do you think having a t.o at the end, w 10 sec left, would have really mattered? or is the quality of the look Trey and Jordan had high enough to negate whatever impact the t.o would have had?
DB [ed: not that DB]
Not having timeouts at the end of a couple of close games doesn't move my coaching-issue needle. UMHoops just posted some data on baseline out of bounds and sideline out of bounds plays; Michigan is tops in the league at those two combined at 0.95 points a possession. They score 0.96 in their generic half court sets—there is no difference. After a timeout they score 0.93, and given the rarity of timeouts relative to other possessions that's probably just sample size.
Having a timeout for the last possession would have given Michigan a sideline OOB throw in with six or seven seconds left, at which point Trey would have probably done the exact same thing he did without one. The defense would have been at least as set, and possibly better prepared to challenge. Michigan got a meh look for Burke that came paired with a high chance of a Kobe assist since Zeller abandoned Morgan. It's hard to criticize that outcome anecdotally, and if the numbers show any trend it's towards timeouts being slightly advantageous to the defense.
You mention that Michigan's lack of timeouts nearly cost them against State when Michigan was stuck inbounding to 44% FT shooter Mitch McGary. That's true, but it cut the other way in that one when Tom Izzo called timeout on MSU's last possession. That turned a transition opportunity into a set defense and set up a Trey Burke steal when a prepped Michigan team denied a screen for Harris and trapped him on the perimeter.
Basketball coaches call timeouts to give themselves the illusion of agency late. It's their equivalent of pushing the "close door" button on an elevator that doesn't have it hooked up.
Another emailer had a similar complaint about the timeouts, which I omitted. Here is a second potential issue:
Why put in McGary at the 8 minute mark? I thought this was a huge mistake
when it happened and it ended up allowing Zeller a couple of easy inside
buckets for fear of foul trouble. At this point Morgan still had 2 to give
and I felt he should have been the one on the court with 8 minutes to go.
Then, Indiana subs Zeller out at 5 mins and Morgan goes in.
Personally, I feel like this should have gone the other way. Zeller has an uncanny ability to have things go his way in a basketball game so I don't think sending someone with 4 fouls onto the court against him with 8 minutes left was the best move.
Thanks for your time. Go Blue!
I've always been a play 'em zealot since in some sense fouls you don't use are wasted resources. If McGary has four fouls and his mean time to fouling out is six minutes, you might as well throw him in there at eight minutes if you think he can help.
The thing that destroys those assumptions is the fact that basketball players like staying on the floor and once they get in foul trouble it affects their game negatively. Did that happen with McGary? Not to my mind. McGary stuck his chest in for a charge, got Zeller to turn it over once more, and did fairly well against a guy who was pretty rampant against Morgan, too. The PBP shows this Zeller/McGary related stuff starting at eight minutes:
- Zeller turnover
- McGary missed layup
- Zeller layup
- McGary OREB
- McGary missed layup
- McGary OREB (of own miss)
- McGary layup
- Zeller missed jumper
…and then Morgan is back in. Except insofar as everyone on the floor was hurting Michigan by not acquiring offensive rebounds, it doesn't look like McGary's entry at 8 minutes was detrimental.
Generally I'm in favor of playing guys. The worst thing that happens is they foul out, and by putting them on the bench for huge stretches of the game you're kind of fouling them out yourself. Now, in McGary's case the frequency he was racking up whistles demanded he hit the bench. When it's Burke or Stauskas or whoever, benching them drives me nuts.
Any chance that Michigan starts Pipkins and Washington in a similar way that they used Washington and Campbell this year?
Today, after I posted on that possibility yesterday:
Just sayin... haha
FINE DANIEL HERE WE GO
I've been skeptical that Pipkins will start at the three tech* for a couple reasons. One is that Pipkins was pretty far away from being a quality option last year and he would have to make a major leap to go from meh backup to starter quality in an offseason. It is possible; if I had to bet I'd guess he ends up behind someone else, and at that point you may as well have him back up the nose.
The second is that defensive tackles rotate so extensively that the second nose is going to get up to 40% of the snaps if he's good. Pipkins is the only non-freshman available to back Washington up unless you think Richard Ash is going to surge to playing time. At this point, that's unlikely, so moving Pipkins away from the nose damages your depth chart at that spot more than it helps at a fairly well-stocked three-tech.
If Pipkins does play the three that's probably good since it means Ash or Willie Henry is pretty good and/or you can't keep Ondre off the field. It just seems unlikely either of those things is true just yet. Wait until 2014.
*[I assume Washington, having established himself a quality Big Ten NT, will stay there; Hoke certainly made it seem like he was a given. ]
The Borges difference
Howdy Brian -
Man, when it comes to gutshots, Michigan's b-ball games against Wisconsin and IU have got to be in the top 5. A missed lay-up here, a missed free throw (or five) here and we're talking smack on a grand scale to our midwestern friends. Ah well. Beer.
Anyway, I randomly came across this today:
[ed: The Garden of Forking Paths is a Jorge Luis Borges short story inside several other short stories that… well…
Borges conceives of "a labyrinth that folds back upon itself in infinite regression", asking the reader to "become aware of all the possible choices we might make."… You "create, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times which themselves also proliferate and fork".
Borges (not that Borges) was a weird guy, brilliant guy.]
I challenge you to work that into a blog post, what with the author clearly being a long lost distant relative of Big Al Borges. Or maybe make Lorne do it. Call it initiation or something. :)
Hope all is well. Go blue!
Oh man. I would if I could but Borges (not that Borges) was a genius and any imitation would be terribly pale. It is exactly right though, and I wish I had thought of it when trying to talk about the infinite opportunities for brooding that basketball provides when it goes awry. Fork not that many paths this year and Michigan is your outright Big Ten champs. Makes you appreciate last year all the more, as that team was well below the other two co-champs in efficiency margin and still managed to pull it off.
Can I tell you about my unfinished screenplay that's an adaptation of the Library of Babel in which two Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern-type figures wander the library in search of the book that tells them how to get out of the library? I'm titling it "Michigan State Rose Bowl." This concludes today's Jorge Luis Borges joke festival.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Penn State|
|WHERE||United Center, Chicago, Illinois|
|WHEN||~2:30 PM Eastern, Thursday (20 minutes after ILL/MINN)|
|LINE||Michigan –16 (Kenpom)|
I'm fresh off a four-hour drive and Minnesota/Illinois is halfway over, so this will be short and sweet.
Penn State has received the preview treatment twice around these parts: Preview One, Preview Two. In their prior matchups, the Wolverines defeated the Nittany Lions by eight at home, then were upset by six in Happy Valley for their worst loss of the season.
Penn State finished the regular season 10-20 overall and 2-16 in the Big Ten, with their only conference wins coming against Michigan and Northwestern (the latter, surprisingly, on the road).
Four factors, conference only:
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||42.6 (12)||18.9 (9)||28.9 (10)||34.2 (5)|
|Defense||49.7 (11)||16.9 (10)||28.9 (4)||55.3 (12)|
The numbers are still ugly despite Penn State's late-season surge from GopherQuest Hoops Edition to Respectably Crappy.
Box out. For the love of all things sacred and holy, put a body on someone.
Close out. In Michigan's loss to Penn State, the Wolverines allowed the Nittany Lions to hit 10/20 three-pointers—seemingly all blitheringly wide open looks from Jermaine Marshall—despite them shooting below 30% from downtown this season. Michigan's perimeter defense has lacked lately, but all they need to do it get a hand in the shooter's face and they should be able to keep Penn State from putting up big numbers—when contested, their shots tend not to fall.
Get to the paint. Penn State is an undersized squad that allows opponents to shoot nearly 50% from inside the arc despite fouling at an incredible rate (342nd nationally). Good things happen when teams get to the bucket against them.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 16. I continue to believe that Penn State is the team I've seen against every other member of the Big Ten, and not the upset-waiting-to-happen that they've been in their two games against the Wolverines. On a neutral court, with the chance to secure a first-round NCAA tournament game at Auburn Hills, expect Michigan to take care of business.
in the wild
As speculated yesterday, the opening of spring practice brought with it news of departures. None are significant in terms of playing time, as they consist of a couple walk-ons and the uber-buried, but one guy was a scholarship player: Kenny Wilkins.
The writing had been on the wall in regards to Wilkins for a long time. He was left off the fall camp roster last year in favor of walk-ons*; my only memory of him is that one time he got destroyed by walk-on OL in Brady Hoke's first spring game, paving the way for the one offensive play of any significance. He was slated to be a redshirt junior this year.
This does open up a scholarship slot. Michigan is currently at 86 players, and may be at 85 depending on just which of the kickers/snappers have scholarship slots this year.
As a recruit, Wilkins was 3/4 star tweener regarded as an athlete that didn't really know how to play football. His recruiting post prediction is not too wince inducing:
General Excitement Level: Moderate. It will take a lot of development to get Wilkins up to a playing weight, and his lack of technique could hold him back. He's a boom or bust (or meh) sort of guy.
At least he gives us another opportunity to regard the wreckage that was Rich Rodriguez's disastrous 2010 recruiting class. Hard hats required for next paragraph entry.
GONE: Cullen Christian, Kenny Wilkins, Demar Dorsey, Austin White, Carvin Johnson, Terry Talbott, Terrence Talbott, Christian Pace, Davion Rogers, Jerald Robinson, Ricardo Miller, Conelius Jones, Stephen Hopkins, DJ Williamson, Antonio Kinard, Ray Vinopal.
HANGING BY THREAD: Will Hagerup
ON TEAM, <10 MEANINGFUL SNAPS: Jordan Paskorz, Josh Furman, Marvin Robinson, Richard Ash
GUYS WHO HAVE PLAYED SOME FOOTBALL: Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan, Jeremy Jackson, Jibreel Black. UPDATE: Courtney Avery and Drew Dileo as well.
Four Six guys out of 27. Good gravy.
*[You are limited to 105 players, IIRC. Obviously not being in the top 105 players is not a great sign for your viability.]