I thought that myself when I read that article that talked about a Data Scientist(tm)
I HAVE THE POWER
1. Indiana (21-3)
LAST WEEK clobbered Nebraska and Purdue at home.
THING Neither of these games was even remotely competitive; Indiana put up 0.4 more points per possession than their opponents in both.
OTHER THING Will Sheehey was Indiana's leading scorer against Purdue, shooting 9/9 with a couple of threes mixed in. That guy only went 2/5 from the line so is probably not good at basketball.
OTHER OTHER THING This week in Indiana basketball is not really worth talking about.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Hulk Hogan versus guy in black trunks going by his real name.
Yes, that does appear to be a shirt that reads "suck it Hoff." I was working on a complicated metaphor in which Michigan State—Indiana's latest Game Of The Century opponent—is David Hasselhoff. It didn't work.
2. Michigan State (22-4)
LAST WEEK Destroyed Michigan at home. Had more difficult time with Nebraska. Which, like, cumong man.
THING I am dead certain that MSU let Nebraska score 64 points in 63 possession days after holding Michigan to 52 in 65 just to piss Michigan fans off.
ADRIEAN PAYNE THREE POINT SPECIALIST WATCH Zero attempts against Michigan, two misses against Nebraska, 7/15 on the year.
OTHER THING Maybe if Tom Izzo wasn't Michigan State's coach this assertion wouldn't be seen as a shot at Michigan…
"If we had played Northern Michigan and Eastern Michigan, we would have been ranked fifth, sixth, the whole time — like Michigan has, they've been a top five, seven team. Indiana has been that. You almost act like they aren't getting better. Maybe they are getting better, but you don't see it as easy as ours."
…but it will be. Michigan nonconference opponents include three teams that have been ranked most of the year: Pitt, NC State, and K-State. Michigan State has two of those, Kansas and Miami. Instead of Northern and Eastern, State played Tuskegee and Nicholls State.
THIS WEEK IN STOP ASKING FOR POST TOUCHES This is mostly a section designed to get Michigan fans stop asking for post touches to Morgan and McGary based on the success of the older, larger, more involved post guys on Michigan State, and I think we've seen enough of Michigan's attempted post touch routine to know that's not a good idea. Anyway: against Michigan, 8/14 from the floor with two FT attempts, both makes, 5 assists, 2 TO. Against Nebraska, similar shooting with a bunch of trips to the line as Nebraska proved incapable of handling those dudes.
THING THEY ARE LIKE annoying. Yes, I MAD, U MAD guy.
3. Michigan (22-4)
LAST WEEK Run off the court by Michigan State. Struggled on defense against Penn State but did end up winning relatively comfortably.
THING Michigan's 35 free throw attempts against Penn State were more than they had in their previous four games combined.
OTHER THING Pick a thing Michigan did against MSU and they did it horribly. Rebound? 37% OREB for MSU, 18% for M. Take care of the ball? They lost the turnover batle 16-8. Shoot? 44/32 versus 55/35. The game was only as close as it was because Michigan won the scrubwar at the end and MSU was under 50% at the free throw line.
OTHER OTHER THING Almost as damaging in the realm of possession-by-possession tempo-free ranking bits was the Penn State game, an eventual eight-point win that Michigan was predicted to take by 25. Penn State put up 1.08 points per possession, which is scary.
While the Nittany Lions' previous outing against Iowa was efficient, before that Penn State put up 0.84 against Nebraska and 0.75 against Purdue. Penn State is tenth or worse in three of the four factors and seventh in rebounding, dead last in the league in offense by a good margin. Michigan's defense was porous against those guys and seems to be going backwards as the season progresses.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Manny Pacquiao.
Penn State was a tentative outing against a meatball to recover.
4. Wisconsin (15-7)
LAST WEEK Third consecutive OT game ended in a loss, this one at Minnesota. Destroyed Ohio State at home.
THING Wisconsin is currently 9th in the Big Ten at shooting twos even after tearing up OSU for 61.
OTHER OTHER THING …and they shot 36%/25% against the Gophers in an OT loss. Their defense is impressive even if it seems impossible that they get such a nice whistle.
OTHER OTHER OTHER THING Jared Berggren now owns a majority share in Amir Williams after holding him to this line: 9 minutes, one missed 2, four fouls, no other stats.
OTHER THING Ben Brust had a double-double in that game with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
WISCONSIN PREVENTS THREE POINTERS WATCH Minnesota went 4/17, OSU 3/12. It's a skill.
RYAN EVANS FT WATCH 2/8 against Minnesota—they finally lost a game because of it—and 1/2 against OSU. Now at 40% on the season.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Lawyers.
5. Ohio State (18-7)
LAST WEEK Fairly rote ten point win against Northwestern. Destroyed by Bo Ryan's flaming eyes at the Trohl Center.
THING remember how you felt as a Michigan fan before the Penn State game? That's where OSU is right now, having lost 3 of 4, with one loss an OT gut punch, another a not-very-competitive outing against Indiana, and the most recent a depressingly uncompetitive road blowout.
A slight difference between Michigan and OSU: the Buckeyes have Minnesota and MSU up next instead of Penn State. Thanks, Penn State.
OTHER THING The script has flipped from earlier in the year. Previously a defensive juggernaut without the ability to score, OSU has seen opponents put up 1.2, 1.2, 1.1, and 1.2 points per possession in their last four games, one of which was against Northwestern. The normally incapable Badgers shot 61% from two the last time out.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Ditto Manny Pacquiao.
6. Illinois (17-8)
LAST WEEK Continued streak of playing like basketball team instead of collection of geese in heat, wiping out Purdue and Northwestern by 20+ points.
THING They're in you guys. It's not even a question. Home games against Penn State and Nebraska will be enough to do it, and while the rest of their schedule is pretty brutal—@ M, @ Iowa, @ Ohio State—they're not even on the bubble anymore and those teams are in various states of reeling.
TYLER GRIFFEY WATCH Followed up monster Indiana-game-winning week by going 0/7 from three. He did put up 12 points against Purdue and acquire four offensive rebounds in each game, so there's that.
NNANNA EGWU WATCH Only 22 minutes against the Boilers; 2 and 2 as far as rebounds go. 18 minutes against Northwestern, in which he acquired one defensive rebound and fouled out. DREB rate has slipped behind DJ Richardson.
OTHER EGWU WATCH Sam McLaurin's impossibly low DREB rate is still dropping! He's down to 6.4%. What an amazing player.
THE ENNUI QUESTION GTFO
THING THEY ARE LIKE power donut. Inexplicable first image hit for "power donut": Gerald Ford.
It appears to be a GQ article about Picard-esque bald haircuts. You will agree that all of this is very Illinois.
7. Minnesota (18-8)
LAST WEEK Received rousing huzzah from league for beating Wisconsin in OT; put Iowa on the bubble with massive loss to them.
THING Tubby's tendency to give scads of minutes to terrible players was somewhat reduced against Wisconsin, with the Hollinses playing 43 minutes each and all starters going at least 34 in a 45 minute game. He's learning!
OTHER THING …or he's giving Oto Osenieks 20 minutes against Iowa. I guess his entire team was playing like death so maybe that's understandable. Also, Rodney Williams went out with a shoulder injury and only played ten minutes. Maybe this is all easily explainable by common sense. Except it is a Tubby Smith substitution pattern, so it is not.
THIS WEEK IN MINNESOTA INTIMIDATION FACTOR Actually got beat up by the Badgers on the boards thanks in no small part to Team, which was credited with six Badger OREBs. But Mbakwe was held to one offensive rebound. Jared Berggren can put that in his pocket, too.
Meanwhile in the game they lost by a billion, they outrebounded Iowa 37%-30%.
THIS WEEK IN NO ONE EXPECTS RANDOM MINNESOTA PLAYER INQUISITION Andre Ingram had all three of Minnesota's blocks in the Badger game; Elliott Eliason had four of their five against Iowa.
ENNUIWATCH Q: Is Minnesota on the bubble? They're under .500 in the league and their best nonconference win is against Memphis—they have no other Ws over at-large teams.
A: Absolutely not? I feel like they are a bubble-ish team looking at their accomplishments but no one else in the world does. The worst I can find for them on Bracket Matrix are a few eights; overall their seed average is dead on 6. Crashing the Dance also has them in that range. I guess wins over MSU/Illinois/Wisconsin in the league are good, but there's also a loss to Northwestern and one to Iowa in there.
I believe what the world is saying here, but it feels to me like Minnesota should be at least somewhat fearful of dropping out; they aren't anywhere near it.
THING THEY ARE LIKE A guy who plays Mastermind by putting in random guesses until the game is over. BONUS: mustache.
8. Iowa (17-9)
LAST WEEK Almost blew it all to hell at Penn State but eked out a two-point win. Come home and put the spurs to Minnesota in a 21-point win.
THING Basketball is weird.
OTHER THING It's strange to me that Iowa's defense is better than their offense, except then I think about Iowa's offense and this makes sense.
THIS WEEK IN WHERE'S ROY DEVYN WALDO He's back. A high FTR guy, he was always going to have a lot of fun playing the hackers at Penn State, and he put up 22 points thanks to 11 FTAs. Success was less assured against Minnesota, but he got to the line 8 times in that one and put up 15 points.
He's still turning the ball over too much and not shooting that efficiently overall. If it's a choice between that and not existing, Iowa will take existing.
ENNUIWATCH The Minnesota game gave them a bit of a boost—they now appear on five Bracket Matrix brackets—but they're actually below Arkansas on CTD. They've got two left against Nebraska and a home game against seemingly done-for-the-year Purdue. Win those—no sure thing—and lose at Indiana—yup—and it comes down to two things:
- Can Iowa beat Illinois at home?
- Can Iowa pick up a quality win in the Big Ten Tourney?
Two "yes" answers and they're in. One and they're sweating it out for Dayton. Zero and it's NIT all the way.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Steve Ballmer.
Sweaty, kind of crappy, prone to be a yelling freak in a suit, not entirely ready for the job they've been put in.
Now with actual line
9. Northwestern (13-10)
LAST WEEK Ten point loss at OSU; blown out by Illinois.
THING Northwestern shot 33%/19% against Illinois.
OTHER THING But they had kale!
THING THEY ARE LIKE Trying to eat kale.
10. Purdue (12-14)
LAST WEEK Lost by 2 and 28 to Illinois and Indiana, respectively.
THING In their last eight games, Purdue has either won (in OT by 3 against Iowa, by 9 against Penn State) or lost by 15+. If Iowa doesn't make the tourney, that's going to be… well, one of five games they kick themselves over. This kick will be quite a bit harder than the others.
AJ HAMMONS WATCH Terrible week, with 10 points against Illinois (point Egwu, admittedly) and six against Indiana. Indiana was never going to let him blow up again. No FTAs and few blocks.
RONNIE JOHNSON THREE POINTER WATCH 0/2 against Indiana; 15%.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Mike Samples.
11. Nebraska (12-14)
LAST WEEK Clubbed by Indiana. Vaguely competitive against Michigan State.
THING I have no idea how Nebraska kept in contact with MSU looking at the box score. Oh, I guess Dylan Talley had 28 points. He could develop into… oh, he's a senior. Never mind.
RAY GALLEGOS BOMBS AWAY WATCH Ten three pointers launched in both games. Two makes against Indiana, zero against MSU.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Scott Bailey.
12. Penn State (8-12)
LAST WEEK Almost got off the schneid versus Iowa and had a decent shot against Michigan.
THING At the rate Northwestern is losing players, this winless Big Ten season thing is not in the bag. Kenpom doesn't know that Northwestern is operating down half its team and still has the Nittany Lions with a 20% shot at winning in that one
THING THEY ARE LIKE GopherQuest, still GopherQuest.
Tourney locks sans Illinois-2011-style implosion
projected seeds included
#1 Indiana, #2 MICHIGAN, #2 Michigan State, #4 Wisconsin, #6 Ohio State, #6 Illinois, #7 Minnesota
Northwestern Memorial wrong side of the bubble award
Rutgers Memorial what's a bubble award
Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska, Purdue
Two photos by Upchurch made into one.
I've been spending much of the last week going through last year's photos by Eric Upchuch (ChewerD on the site) to find the good stuff for this year's HTTV. Ninety-five percent just gets deleted, several hundred make it to folders I can access for various players and stuff. Then there's the shots and sequences that I can't, for whatever reason, use in the book but can't in good conscious throw out. So here you go.
You know those guys who stick their heads in lions' mouths? We've got a cameraman who'll stick his lens inches from Jake Ryan. Peer into the soul of the Viking.
[The rest after THE JUMP]
NOTE: these posts ballooned to 3500 words, so I'm chopping them in half. The Big Ten Power rankings will become a separate post running Tuesday since the Big Ten never plays on Monday; seedwatch, nonconference updates, and viewing guide will run today.
Well, it finally happened. Going 1-3 in their tough stretch has moved Michigan out of the ranks of the one seeds in the circuits of computer formulas and minds of bracket projectors. The Matrix has Michigan fifth, on the verge of a top seed, but that has a lot to do with lag. The vast majority of 1 votes come from brackets that haven't been updated since Michigan got demolished by State. Almost everyone who's update since has moved them down a line.
The news is grimmer on Crashing The Dance, which has hurled Michigan all the way down to eighth. They're still a spot ahead of MSU. Miami is the main beneficiary, sliding up to the top line virtually everywhere after a narrow escape against Clemson yesterday.
Michigan still has the ability to play themselves back into a top seed. To be there by the end of the regular season they would probably have to win out; if they split their upcoming home games against MSU and Indiana they could probably wrest a one seed away by winning the league tournament. The bet here is they end up a 2.
Projected ones: Florida, Indiana, Duke, Miami.
ark bid: remote possibility
Last win for IUPUI: December 27th. Binghamton: January 19th. Central Michigan: also January 19th. All of these are unchanged since last week.
Cleveland State crammed in 3 games this week, two losses, and is a bad Horizon team. Bradley remains a 500-ish MVC team. Eastern is the same in the MAC. They're fourth nationally in block rate, though. They're sending back 17% of opponent twos! And 341st in defensive rebounding.
Western is going to win their division of the MAC but still cannot crack the KP 100 because they do things like lose to BGSU and not blow out that Northern Illinois team that infamously had four points at the half against Eastern.
Big sorts of teams
@ Marquette: L 79-69
Pitt gave up 60% on twos and sent Marquette to the line 29 times; they also allowed the Fightin' Wades to rebound 48% of their misses. Result: 1.27 PPP allowed and defeat despite playing a lot better on offense than they usually do. That's an aberration from a usually very good Pitt defense. Marquette may be a team to keep an eye on in your brackets.
SEEDWATCH: Still a five on CTD; four on the Matrix, but they're a hair away from five as well.
Kansas State (20-5)
@ Kansas: L 83-62. Baylor: W 81-61
Reeling Kansas got off the mat in a big way in a game K-State was never really in. The usually stout Wildcat rebounding got destroyed 45%-18%, and Kansas shot 54% from two.
K-State then turned around and blew out a Baylor team that's on the bubble despite losing to Charleston and Northwestern; in that one it was an avalanche of Baylor turnovers that did them in, mostly late. A six minute scoring drought whittled away a large K-State lead to two seven minutes into the second half. From there, K-State blew the doors off.
SEEDWATCH: Status quo. Four on both sites.
North Carolina State (18-7)
Virginia Tech: W 90-86 (OT)
We have to stop complaining about bad luck ruining what could have been a truly impressive nonconference win for Michigan, I think. Yeah: the last two NC State outings have been a one point win over Clemson and an OT win over Virginia Tech. They're still a little short on the luck end of the ledger, but they are who they are right now, a team that can get in a one-point game with any-damn-body.
MCHOBBIT UPDATE: Seems to have earned a bunch of playing time even with the healthy return of Lorenzo Brown. In 21 minutes he had 13 points on 8 possessions used. I take it back, McHobbit.
SEEDWATCH: Five on CTD, Six on the Matrix.
@ Auburn: W 83-75. Missouri: W 73-71.
Hey, two wins in a week for Arkansas, one of them against a team headed for the tourney in Missouri, the other on the road, where Arkansas is horrible. Road wins this year for Arkansas include at Auburn, and at Auburn, and also at Auburn.
Arkansas is now on the bubble to get on the bubble. They'll have to go at least 4-2 down the stretch to get in the conversation. With one of those games at Florida, that's a tall order. NIT looks good, though.
SEEDWATCH: nyet. CTD has them 12 teams away from a bid; Bracket Matrix doesn't even know their name.
West Virginia (13-12)
@ Baylor: L 80-60. Texas Tech: W 66-64.
Bob Huggins looks like a ragecomic drawing. That is all.
SEEDWATCH: ain't no seed
Games relevant to your interest that are on the TV and may be worth watching after the first ten minutes. Bolded teams are suggested teams to root for, calibrated for …
1) helping M win conference title
2) best chance for quality-win pile-up to help M seeding
3) greatest number of tourney teams from league
4) eff Michigan State
5) also Wisconsin
Notre Dame at Pitt, 7PM, ESPN
West Virginia at K-State, 9PM, ESPN
Indiana at Michigan State, 7PM, ESPN (I punt on rooting interest.)
Florida State at NC State, 9PM, ESPN2
Virginia at Miami, 9PM, ESPNU
Florida at Missouri, 9PM, ESPN
Minnesota at Ohio State, 7PM, BTN
Wisconsin at Northwestern, 9PM, BTN
Penn State at Illinois, 8:15, BTN
Iowa at Nebraska, 9PM, ESPN2
Duke at Virginia Tech, 9PM, ESPN
Miami at Wake Forest, 1PM, ESPN3
NC State at North Carolina, 4PM, ESPN
Arkansas at Florida, 7PM, ESPNU
Illinois at Michigan, 1PM, ESPN
Michigan State at Ohio State, 4PM, CBS
Northwestern at Purdue, 6PM, BTN
2/17/2012 – Michigan 79, Penn State 71 – 22-4, 9-4 Big Ten
Y U NO PLAY DEFENSE (Bryan Fuller)
A home game against Penn State is supposed to be a laugher, and on one side of the ball it was. Michigan put up 1.2 points a possession even without the participation of their centers—literally. McGary, Horford, and Morgan combined for zero points in 43 minutes. No one really noticed because Glenn Robinson III spent most of the day playing NBA Jam and Nik Stauskas was so much more than a shooter that it took five or six drives before something akin to "Not Just A Shooter" got exhumed by the announcers. Michigan did what it does, on one side of the ball.
On the other side of the ball, raise your hand if DJ Newbill's umpteenth only vaguely resisted drive to the basket in the first half caused you to exclaim a variant on "you have got to be kidding me." That's everyone.
Now raise your hand if that exclamation included a swear word you invented on the spot. That's probably just me, but it got bad. Michigan turned to Matt Vogrich in the second half. Since Stauskas was going off this was presumably a move to shore up the defense; Vogrich promptly lost his guy and gave up open corner threes on consecutive possessions. The first one was a reaction to a bad McGary gamble, sure. The second… dot dot dot. At many points Penn State should have been down 15, and the scoreboard said they were down by 3 or 5.
This felt bizarrely familiar to me, and I figured out why: I've watched a lot of NC State this year. This game was disturbingly reminiscent of watching the Wolfpack play. This is not good. You get a window into the psyche of another fanbase when you adopt them as Michigan-by-proxy, and I think NC State fans are pretty pissed off that their combination of players is barely over .500 in a weak ACC. I kind of hate them myself because they combine some breathtaking talent with total indifference on defense. They can beat Duke; they can give up 86 points to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.
Finding a shadow of that team in this Michigan outfit that was until recently cruising towards a one-seed is not fun. This is analysis! This is Thunderdome!
Oh, but that shadow is there. Click the conference-only checkbox on Kenpom and you get a shocking splash of red:
Michigan is easier to shoot against than anyone in Big Ten play. Easier than Nebraska. Easier than Iowa. Easier than Penn State. Easier than Illinois despite Illinois playing with big men that may in fact be ghosts. Easier than the crippled husk of Northwestern.
Northwestern is the Rasputin of the Big Ten: shot, stabbed, poisoned, shot again, trampled by horses, chucked in the river. Finally dead and bloated, they are aimlessly floating towards the next life. It's harder to shoot against them than Michigan.
It gets worse when you consider the low number of transition opportunities Michigan provides since they're so responsible with the ball on offense. It has nothing to do with possibly-meaningless three-point shooting, at which Michigan is perfectly average at defending. It is entirely because they are also dead last at keeping twos out of their basket. It's repeatable stuff that the stats are probably not fully encapsulating. It is Not Good. (This is analysis this is Thunderdome.)
Earlier in the year a few people sounded the alarm about Michigan as a national contender, citing its defense. I said "but look at the outlying offense and wait for the defense to maybe move up a bit, Michigan is for real." That's a tough case to make right now. The offense has given up its massive lead and slid back to third; the defense has gone the wrong direction.
When DJ Newbill has a band in ten years they will be called The Unresisted Forays Into The Crisler Lane, man. Sound the alarm. It's time for a hard look at drastic actions, whatever those might be. Waving your hands in the general direction of a shooter is a start.
From Bryan Fuller:
Threes. They feel not random. The numbers say they are. Opponents' three point shooting since the start of Michigan's brutal stretch:
- Indiana: 7/18, 39%. Season average: 42%.
- OSU: 7/16, 44%. Season: 37%.
- Wisconsin: 10/24, 42%. Season: 34%.
- MSU, 7/20, 35%: Season: 35%.
- Penn State: 6/18: 33%. Season: 30%.
It has felt like Michigan is giving up open look after open look and is getting scorched from deep. The result of this feeling: approximately three extra makes across five games, so far within the province of random noise that Autechre is jealous.
Way back in the ur-blogging days when Big Ten Wonk was an anonymous man with a large vocabulary and not John Gasaway we had a conversation about whether or not the fact that Michigan's opponents were raining in threes at a hellacious clip during a particular Amaker campaign was luck or not. I said yes, he said yes but only partially, and I eventually came around to his point of view. Any short-term blazing above 40% will regress.
Lately, Kenpom has been on a crusade to declare three-point shooting defense to be totally random. I entered this section planning to write that I felt streaks like Michigan's recent one were earned, and now I don't know what to think.
- Michigan is average at defending three pointers (7th in the league, 99th nationally) but gives up a lot (10th in the league, 293rd nationally)
- Their eFG% on threes is 50.4, which is in fact worse than their horrible 2-point defense, so the combination of these two things does make their eFG D worse.
Inside the line or out, pick your poison.
Another thing that doesn't seem right. Newbill ended up 3/10 from two. The guy who hurt Michigan was Sasa Borovnjak at 7 of 9, mostly on uncontested rolls to the basket. Michigan's rotations were late and sometimes the pick and roll guy was making the dump inside, which is a big no-no. When Michigan hedges, they play it such that if the guy getting the ball screen can toss it to the big, they're done. Too much of that in this one.
Trey. Dang man, 29 points on 16 shots—and four extra possessions with free throws, something we actually have to adjust for after this one—five assists, and zero turnovers. A couple of shots bugged me, as they were taken with no hope of an offensive rebound, but the efficiency speaks for itself.
Stauskas. Not Just A Shooter was in full effect as Stauskas picked up 12 points inside the line on perfect shooting—3/3 from the floor and 6/6 at the line, though IIRC one of those trips to the line was a non-shooting foul at the end of the first half. He also added four assists. The only thing he didn't do well was shoot the J, going 2/6.
I did have further frustrations with him on defense, and it seems like Beilein did too since we got to see Vogrich unearthed. That was the equivalent of a frustration foul.
GRIII: hello again. A series of highlight-reel dunks against a porous defense and Robinson is back. His success in this one only highlighted the reasons he'd disappeared in the previous few games: he's a top-quality finisher who rarely takes a bounce to get a shot. If put in a situation where he has to make his own shot, he defers. Once or twice a game he will go at the basket himself. That's all.
That's fine, but after the tough stretch it seems like far too much of Michigan's shot creation is on Burke's shoulders. Stauskas does a good amount for a third option; Hardaway not so much and then Michigan gets almost none from the 4 and 5 aside from putbacks.
Not so good: Hardaway, centers. Hardaway didn't shoot well. Okay, it happens.
The centers were a little bit more alarming. The shooting is one thing. They went 0/5 in 43 minutes. The rebounding is another: just 3 and 3 as Penn State outrebounded M 31% to 22%. Defensive rebounding is the only thing that Penn State actually does well (5th in conference; they have no other above-average factors) so I guess that's expected. But combine those numbers with Penn State's frequent dump-ins to Borovnjak—which are usually the hedger's fault for providing a passing lane or not getting back once the ball screen recipient tosses it to another perimeter player—and it was rough day.
I'm torn on Morgan. On the one hand, I'm hoping that Morgan's ankle is still bothering him extensively and he shouldn't be playing because then the fact that he seems like he's not offering any help to the beleaguered defense has an explanation. On the other, I'd really like him to be full strength posthaste. At least Michigan doesn't have a midweek game coming up. Hopefully he'll be ready by Illinois.
End of half heroball update. Burke was forced into the backcourt by his man, then trapped as he crossed the line, causing him to dump the ball with time running out and getting Michigan another terrible shot. Because Burke wasn't taking it, it did not go in.
What is the point of those end of half timeouts? All of them seem to consist of "Trey, go do something" and 28 seconds of staring at each other. I would prefer something with a second option like "Nik, go do something" or "Tim, go do something."
This week's refereeing outrage! Er, it actually went in Michigan's favor as Newbill picked up a critical third first-half foul on something that was not even close to a charge.
How do you fix charges? I don't know. Newbill's first charge was legit, as he plunged his shoulder into Stauskas and knocked him back with an arm, but this caused Pat Chambers to have a conniption fit because Stauskas didn't collapse into a Duke-like pile of flop and shame. His second was not, but did feature a guy getting bowled over. I think I'd change the rule so that feet had nothing to do with it except when it comes to getting outside the circle. It's a charge if the guy nails you directly in the chest, and a block if it's to the side. Expand the no-charge circle a bit and make the reform that Jay Bilas is always on about where if you move under a guy who's already in the air it's a block. And explicitly make simulating a charge a foul.
Anyway: Michigan got to the line a whopping 35 times after games of 2 and 6 FTAs. This is because Penn State is not at all subtle in their hackathon, for which I commend them. Unmissable foul perpetrators of Happy Valley, the honesty in your illegality is award-worthy.
Here is an award.
Uniforms. I liked them.
Michigan looked fresh, resplendent in their 1968 throwback uniforms, several players with Fab Five-inspired fade haircuts. Crisler Center hadn't looked better as the Wolverines took the court in front of a who's-who of former Michigan greats in town for the building's rededication.
Then began the game, an expected blowout win over a hapless Penn State squad, and they didn't look fresh at all.
The Nittany Lions scored more points than they've had in all but two of their conference games, consistently finding gaping holes in Michigan's defense. While it never felt like the Wolverines were in serious danger of losing, neither did it feel like they were in serious danger of playing at their best.
Trey Burke was the only Wolverine who appeared to be playing with full force from the opening tip—no other Michigan player hit a shot from the field until over 11 minutes elapsed. Burke finished with a season-high 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting while doling out five assists with zero turnovers.
While it's expected that Burke will excel every game, Glenn Robinson III's performance this afternoon was a welcome sight after he'd been a non-factor in the last four games. Robinson tied a career high with 21 points (6-6 FG, 9-11 FT), attacking the basket with an array of dunks and adding 10 rebounds for his second career double-double.
Michigan also got an offensive boost from Nik Stauskas, who overcame a 2-for-6 day from beyond the arc by getting to the bucket, hitting all three of his two-pointers and all six of his free throws en route to 18 points. On the other end of the court, though, Stauskas failed to bring the same intensity, and he was repeatedly the culprit when Penn State got an open lane to the hoop.
Stauskas wasn't the only offender, and it was that poor perimeter defense that led to a 32-32 tie at halftime; Penn State shot 50% inside the arc in the first half, and Michigan ceded an uncharacteristic ten free throw attempts. Even as the Wolverines slowly pulled away in the second half, the same problems remained, which is how they allowed a team averaging 0.86 points per possession in Big Ten play to put up 1.06 points per trip this afternoon.
The Wolverines lacked much in the way of secondary scoring. Tim Hardaway Jr. continued to struggle from the field, grinding out eight points on just 3-of-11 shooting. The next-highest scorer was Matt Vogrich with two points, and the three centers—Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary, and Jon Horford—combined for zero points on five shots.
Morgan started for the first time in four games but is clearly still working his way back from an ankle injury—he played just seven minutes, with Horford taking his spot at the start of the second half. Vogrich, meanwhile, got his first meaningful minutes since non-conference play, but after he allowed two open Penn State three-pointers it was clear he's not the solution to Michigan's defensive woes.
The game wasn't all bad. Robinson dazzled the crowd with a series of impressive finishes, including one off an out-of-nowhere no-look pass from McGary. Burke played like he does, which is to say he dominated, hitting several unlikely looks. Stauskas found a way to produce even when his outside shot abandoned him.
Against a Penn State team that's now 0-13 in the Big Ten, however, it's hard to feel good about a few bright spots. The defensive effort Michigan put forth would result in a loss against any other team in the conference; their next opponent, Illinois, would be overjoyed to face the same level of resistance next Sunday.
It was a win, sure, and a much-needed one at that. If Michigan wants to claw their way back into contention for the regular-season title, though, they'll need to fix some glaring issues, and fast.