According to Spike Albrecht, Ricky Doyle doesn't have a nickname yet, though he's "a bit of a wild man."
As for Doyle, when asked what it feels like to be a fan favorite, he said he didn't even hear his name chanted in high school.
One of those has already changed. The other should any moment now.
While Zak Irvin led the team with 18 points, it was Albrecht and Doyle who made the difference in the signature win of Michigan's season thus far. Spike broke the Syracuse defense in the second half time and again, doing what you have to do to beat the 2-3. His three three-pointers, including the go-ahead bucket with under a minute left, hit them over the top; when he weaved his way into the heart of the zone, he dished out nine assists, including a Sportscenter-worthy behind-the-back feed to Doyle for an and-one dunk.
Doyle did what Michigan's other centers could not: finish, with authority at that, while matching up physically with Syracuse star Rakeem Christmas, who feasted in the first half with Doyle in foul trouble and cooled in the second when Doyle played all but four minutes. After the game, Doyle discussed the physical progress that made this night possible; since getting to campus, he's cut his body fat from 18% down to 10%. It's hard to say who played a bigger part in Doyle's performance: Albrecht or Jon Sanderson.
In front of a raucous Crisler Center crowd, it appeared as though the Wolverines would pull away in the second half after a tightly contested opened stanza; with seven minutes to go, back-to-back threes by Albrecht and Irvin put Michigan up ten. Syracuse responded, however, spearheaded by hot outside shooting from Trevor Cooney, who made four second-half threes; Christmas knotted the game at 63 with just under a minute to play.
After Albrecht's three put Michigan ahead, then Syracuse's Michael Gbinije cut that lead to one with an impressive runner off the backboard, what had been a well-played game took a turn for the ridiculous. Derrick Walton missed the front end of a one-and-one, only for Cuse's Chris McCullough to chuck the ensuing outlet pass out of bounds. Caris LeVert had another opportunity to put Michigan up three at the line, only to miss the front end of his potential pair; after Syracuse rushed up the court, Kaleb Joseph lost the handle and had to foul LeVert after a wild scramble.
This time, LeVert calmly knocked down his free throws, and Joseph's desperation attempt to tie fell well off the mark as the buzzer sounded.
As the four factors indicate, Michigan won this game not with their shooting—though that perked up quite a bit after they went 3/17 from beyond the arc in the first half—but by taking care of the ball, something Syracuse, with 19 turnovers, couldn't accomplish. Equally important was Michigan's rebounding; facing a big Syracuse team that crashes the glass with aplomb, the Wolverines essentially matched their rebounding rate.
The effort of freshman Kameron Chatman should also be noted; he hit a few critical jumpers en route to 10 points and did yeoman's work on the boards, finishing with nine rebounds. LeVert struggled with his shot, netting his 12 points on 16 shot equivalents, but he helped keep the offense going with six assists. Irvin's three-point shooting (4/11) proved critical, and his first-half breakaway dunk—which, yes, should've been an and-one after he got undercut—provided an early highlight.
Returning from a toe injury, Walton struggled, going just 1/7 from the field. So did Mark Donnal and Max Bielfeldt, neither of whom could slow down Christmas. Albrecht and Doyle had them covered, though, and that was enough to take down a very strong opponent.
Now, about that nickname...
Duke brings its collection of highly-touted freshmen to Madison, WI (source)
*I had my wisdom teeth pulled on Friday, so getting this together took longer than expected. Apologies. – Alex
Table of Contents
Major ACC – Big Ten Challenge storylines
Game previews: Tuesday
Game previews: Wednesday
Nebraska and Rutgers bring home wins
Tom Crean’s seat might be getting warmer
Holiday hoops recap – Part I
Holiday hoops recap – Part II
Holiday hoops recap – Part III
1. Major ACC – Big Ten Challenge storylines
As usual, the annual competition between the Big Ten and the ACC brings some of the most intriguing non-conference fixtures on the college basketball schedule. Unlike early-season tournaments or games at one-off neutral site venues, these will be played on campus – intersectional matchups between some of the most talented and prestigious teams in all of college hoops. As an added bonus, it provides 14 more data-points in the comparative analysis of conference strength.
The headliner of this slate of games is one of the best college basketball games of the year, on paper: two top five teams—Duke, led by possibly the best pro prospect in the country (Jahlil Okafor) travels to face Wisconsin, a veteran team coming off of a Final Four bid. Okafor, a mammoth center with precocious skill and coordination, matches up against Preseason All-American Frank Kaminsky, a versatile inside-out scoring five. Duke’s Justice Winslow meets Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker – both will likely be future NBA players, both are athletic, long wings who can score, defend, and rebound. Senior point guards Quinn Cook and Traevon Jackson form an intriguing matchup. This game – televised Wednesday at 9:30 E.T. on ESPN – is simply a must-watch.
With 14 games total, there are plenty more compelling matchups: Ohio State’s young squad faces its first real trip with a trip just south to face a vaunted Louisville team; Michigan welcomes an unusually inexperienced Syracuse team to Ann Arbor and will look to crack its characteristic 2-3 zone; Illinois and Miami – both undefeated – have a chance to enhance their upstart status; in a matchup of former conference foes, Virginia – and their unaesthetic brand of basketball – heads to Maryland (who will unfortunately be without the injured Dez Wells); Iowa has an opportunity to steal an upset at North Carolina; and Michigan State rekindles a football rivalry with Notre Dame – now a basketball member in the ACC.
This is one of the best short stretches of college basketball in terms of unique, high-level matchups, with the added element of conference camaraderie thrown in. Other leagues have since replicated the ACC – Big Ten Challenge, but this is still one of college basketball’s marquee events.
[AFTER THE JUMP: ACC—B1G analysis, recapping holiday tournaments]
Michigan (5-1) vs.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||7:30 pm Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Michigan -3 (KenPom)|
PBP: Mike Tirico
Analyst: Dan Dakich
It's B1G/ACC Challenge season, and the good guys have jumped out to a surprising 2-0 lead after two road victories last night: Nebraska over Florida State in what was expected to be a toss-us and Rutgers over Clemson in LOLOLOLOL (seriously, RU had a 19% chance at winning, according to KenPom). Before last night's hilarity, the ACC was a slight favorite to win the challenge; that is no longer the case.
Also, it'd be quite nice for Michigan to tally one of those signature non-conference wins that always helps with eventual NCAA seeding. This is their best shot, as the road trip to Arizona in a couple weeks looks much less winnable.
Derrick Walton will be a game-time decision after missing the Nicholls State contest with what is either a sprain or turf toe. DJ Wilson is out for 3-4 weeks with a sprained knee; Michigan is exploring the possibility of a redshirt, which would probably be best for all involved given how unready he's looked in limited minutes so far—a hypothetical fifth year for Wilson would serve this program much better than what he's likely to provide this season.
Syracuse isn't injury-free, either. Starting three Tyler Roberson's status is up in the air due to a "strained muscle" that's kept him out of the last two games. I'm including him in the lineup card in case he can go but Jim Boeheim has "no idea" if he'll play tonight.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. %Min and %Poss figure are from this season now—yes, there will be a fair amount of noise in these numbers for a while. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open.
|G||14||Kaleb Joseph||Fr.||6'3, 165||82||20||Yes|
|Top-50 recruit off to rocky start; high assist rate but huge turnover rate.|
|G||10||Trevor Cooney*||Jr.||6'4, 195||83||15||Kinda|
|Mostly a 3-pt shooter, but iffy one; has been getting to rim and converting well.|
|F||21||Tyler Roberson||So.||6'8, 212||35||20||Very|
|Rebounds well; otherwise struggled before injury. Bit player as freshman.|
|F||5||Chris McCullough||Fr.||6'10, 212||82||23||Yes|
|5-star, great shot-blocker, nice steal rate, good rebounder, finisher with a midrange game.|
|C||25||Rakeem Christmas*||Sr.||6'9, 250||71||27||Very|
|Beast. Huge rebound #s, top-50 block rate, shooting 57% with a high FT rate.|
|F||0||Michael Gbinije||Jr.||6'7, 200||53||17||Yes|
|Will start if Roberson can't; struggling with offense (esp. 3-pt shooting) but good on D.|
|F||2||BJ Johnson||So.||6'7, 185||53||19||Yes|
|Good rebounder, can block shots, also really struggling to put the ball thru the hoop.|
|G||4||Ron Patterson||So.||6'2, 200||25||16||Yes|
|Playing limited minutes as backup PG; okay AST/TO, woeful shooting (3/17 FG).|
Syracuse is currently a team that does a couple things quite well while otherwise struggling, although one of those things they do quite well is "defense," which is rather important; the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone is still vaunted indeed. They're #5 in defensive efficiency on KenPom with top-50 marks in all of the defensive four factors. They're not nearly so good on offense, as the lineup card might've led you to believe, but they've managed to avoid turnovers and crash the glass with aplomb, so despite horrendous outside shooting they're the #86 offense nationally at the moment—not great, but certainly good enough with that defense.
The dangerman is undoubtedly Rakeem Christmas, last year's starting center who's slid down to the four, taken on a larger role, and thrived. Offensively he does almost all of his damage at the basket, either by bulling his way to the hoop or putting back one of his many offensive rebounds; as you'd expect from a burly rim-crasher, he also draws quite a few fouls, and he shoots a respectable 70% at the line. On defense, he's also very good on the boards, and he's recorded 15 blocks through six games (though six of those came agaisnt lowly Loyola). One potential area to exploit: Chrismas has committed four or more fouls in all but one game this season, when he had... three. Getting him off the floor would be huge, obviously.
Unfortunately, Syracuse has a five-star freshman standing at 6'10" to help Christmas off the wing or slide into the middle as need be. Chris McCullough also has 15 blocks on the year with impressive rebounding rates (especially on offense). He's hitting 58% of his shots, and unlike Christmas his range extends beyond the paint; he's even hit his lone three-point attempt this year, though most of his shots come at the basket. He's drawing fouls at nearly the same rate as Christmas, but he's hitting only 62% of his free throws and he's also more turnover-prone.
The team's third player designated as a significant offensive contributor is top-50 freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph, who's had a somewhat rough adjustment to the college game. While he's hitting half his shots (almost exclusively twos) and dishing out nearly six assists per game, he's also turning the ball over at a very high rate—his only games with fewer than four turnovers have come against Hampton and Loyola.
Shooting guard Trevor Cooney is a player you may remember from Michigan's Final Four victory over the Orange in 2013; a high-volume, low-efficiency outside shooter off the bench then, he's now starting, and while he's diversified his game a bit—he's getting to the rim more than he used to—his shot is still quite iffy; including his 9/33 mark this year, he's a career 34% three-point shooter.
There's the aforementioned uncertainty at the three. Starter Tyler Roberson may or may not be able to go with an abdominal strain; in very limited action over the last two years, he's been a good rebounder and a very inefficient scorer. If Roberson can't play, Michael Gbinije should start; he's not remotely on Roberson's level as a rebounder, and while he's hit 10/19 twos this year, he's off to a very rough 2/16 start from beyond the arc.
The Syracuse bench doesn't factor in much at all; despite Roberson's starting-when-he's-healthy minutes getting counted as bench minutes on KemPom, the Orange still rank 304th in bench minutes. BJ Johnson is another lanky wing who's struggling offensively. Ron Patterson will briefly spell Joseph at the point; he's been a little more responsible with the ball but can hardly hit a shot to save his life this season (3/17 FG). That's as deep as Jim Boeheim has reached into his bench against the two major-conference foes they've faced this season.
Sample size caveat still applies.
So, yeah, that 2-3 is liable to tear your face off. Opponents are hitting just 38.5% of their two-pointers against Syracuse (19%[!!!] of shots inside the arc are blocked by the Orange), second-chance oppotunities are scarce, and turnovers are abundant. Michigan has the two keys to beating that zone, however: excellent outside shooting and an aversion to turnovers. The Orange have allowed a very high number of three-point attempts, and while opponents are hitting just 26.6% of them, that number's not going to hold even if Cuse is guarding the perimeter well.
The Syracuse offense, at this point, is predicated on second chances; that eFG% is ugly, but the rebounding rate should be a concern, especially since M struggled mightily to keep the other excellent offensive rebounding team they've faced (Oregon) from getting putback opportunities. Cuse is actually shooting the ball pretty well inside the arc (52.4%), but have been beyond bad from outside of it (19.8%); that latter figure should rise even though Syracuse doesn't boast much at all in the way of shooters.
Work from the middle. As we learned when Mitch McGary played like Magic Johnson in Michigan's Final Four triumph, the best way to break down the 2-3 zone is to get the ball into the middle, cause the defense to collapse, and find open shooters. The big issue for Michigan is how they'll accomplish this; Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle aren't ready to fill that McGary role, so they'll have to get creative, most likely by having their wings—especially Caris LeVert—cut to the middle and distribute from there.
Collapse inside. Syracuse is going to have to prove they can hit an outside shot. Michigan is probably going to need to give defensive help on Christmas and McCullough, not to mention throw everything they have at the boards to make sure those guys don't get second chances. Against this team, giving up open looks from the outside isn't the worst thing in the world; more important is making sure they go one-and-out on as many possessions as possible.
Pressure Joseph. Syracuse doesn't turn the ball over much with the notable exception of their freshman point guard, who's doing so quite a bit. Whether or not Walton is available, M should be able to turn up the heat on Joseph—or unleash Spike Albrecht on the passing lanes, as he does—and getting some easy transition points would be huge against a team that doesn't give much up in the halfcourt.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 3.
If Walton can't play, that obviously changes things, but Michigan's decided edge in shooting ability could make the difference either way.