I did not make this headline up
1/6/2012 – Michigan 95, Iowa 67 – 15-0, 2-0 Big Ten
the desolation of the Fran (Bryan Fuller)
Less than a minute into the second half, an Iowa post fumbled what would have been an easy dunk into the stands. The television cut to Fran McCaffery, a rising star when it comes to volcano-coach sideline outbursts. He obliged, roaring out "TWO HANDS TWO HANDS TWO HANDS" as he quiveringly pantomimed catching a basketball with, yep, two hands. Ace is GIFing this as we speak.
Exactly a minute later, Iowa closed out Nik Stauskas hard, so he drove past his defender and threw down a rim-rattling dunk like he was not, in fact, a freshman 6'6" three-point specialist. On the next possession, same thing except nastier: closeout, Stauskas drives past his man except this time he's in good position, lane-covering audacious spin move for a finger roll. Gus Johnson's voice hit a questioning falsetto pitch as he exclaimed "OH?!," because he is in our brains too.
Nik Stauskas did this, and the camera did not cut to Fran McCaffery because directors aren't that eager to put resigned shrugs on camera. What are you going to do? What can you do?
I've got this Burke guy to check, three star my ass, and he's playing with two sons of NBA players, and they're raining in threes, and that Robinson guy is dunking on anyone I send out there, and now this guy with the ears, the one shooting 55% from three and also being the dunking guy. Screw it. The guy with the ears tears it. I will save my rage for another time, when there is the vague semblance of a point. For right now I'm just going to—
—watch their freshman center block Aaron White's face.
It's okay. I didn't really like his face to begin with.
—watch their freshman center start a break with a half-court outlet pass to Burke. I can deal. That doesn't seem any fairer than finding Canadian Larry Bird but whatever.
—watch their freshman center do the same thing after dribbling three times in the open court… aaaaaaah…
They are going to lose. It is going to happen. They are seventh in Kenpom, and Kenpom's pretty good. Everyone loses, even the really good teams, and it's not like the Big Ten is an SEC-like trip through the daisies. It is brutal. Michigan has nine of their ten toughest games left to play.
Have you seen Trevor Mbakwe? That guy. Victor Oladipo. That guy. Michigan will go on the road, and get it from the refs, and boy this conversation with myself is only indicating the deluded heights expectations are reaching.
If this team bows out in the first round to a MAC team, there will be no "good try you guys, thanks for the banner." There will be wailing, and rending of garments. Because this doesn't come along too often unless you're a Duke or North Carolina type team. Illinois had it back in 2005, and they still talk about that team in a reverenced hush despite its narrow demise in the elite eight. They had it back in 1989, and the MGoWife reports from an undergrad tenure spent in Champaign that they still aren't over losing to Michigan in the Final Four. The rest of the time they've wobbled around good, not great. Even the powers don't always have it all come together.
It has come together for Michigan, and every game starts out with the same doubt—what if they're not that good? What if this is all a mirage? What if I wake up and Nik Stauskas is in fact Gavin Groninger?
Those persist for anywhere from one to 15 minutes, whereupon the nature of this year's team causes the opponent coach to smirk wryly as his guys fall behind by lots. So far. One more whipping, and then the acid test.
From Bryan Fuller:
I know the McGary stuff happened before the Stauskas stuff. Artistic license! It's a nicer way to say "lies!"
GUS. Follow us around, Gus Johnson. You and Raftery, follow this team around, going "uh" and saying "onions" and literally just squeaking in the best way possible. National treasure, Gus Johnson is.
Gus Johnson and the fact that when I check out Big 12 conference games half the time I find they're only on ESPN3 make me almost not bitter that the BTN ended up making the Big Ten grab Rutgers and Maryland.
Big Puppy. McGary had a great game, probably his best at Michigan so far. I mentioned the block and the outlet pass hockey assist stuff above, but I think my favorite play of his was a defensive rebound he corralled in the first half where he had little shot at the ball, so he tipped the thing off the backboard to himself. That kind of thing is one of the reasons he's got the ridiculously high rebound rates he does*. He's got a huge rebound radius.
McGary took a relatively big fall from one-and-done territory to pretty good prospect territory late in the rankings cycle, and that was justified. You can see a version of McGary peeking through the lack of polish that could be the #2 high school basketball player in the country. The rebounds, of course, and then the outlet passing, ability to lead a break for a couple dribbles, what looks like a pretty smooth stroke, and just size in general. Give him a couple inches more vertical leap so he doesn't occasionally leave a dunk on the rim and blocks more shots, and… yeah.
Caris arriving. So we got 32 minutes of LeVert against Central with Hardaway out. Here's what his next two games look like squeezed into one:
30 minutes, 15 points, 1/3 twos, 4/5 threes, 1/2 fta, 3 reb, 2:1 A:TO, a steal, 5 fouls
The three point shooting distorts that a bit, but it's pretty nice to have a guy who's 8/17 so far coming off the bench, and he's got a 3:1 A:TO rate. Dumping the redshirt was the move to make. He's starting to do some of the stuff I expect Burke to do with his ability to shake people with his change of direction.
It is almost redundant to talk about Trey Burke. 19 points on ten shots, 12 assists, one TO. Just another day at the office.
He's got to be the best point guard in the country, bar none. People in the Michael Carter-Williams camp have to explain why having the #4 assist (MCW) rate versus the #11 (Burke) makes up for MCW shooting 42%/28% versus Burke's 62%/41%. There is no amount of defense that can make up for that, especially when Burke is turning the ball over at less than half the rate MCW is.
Two things leapt out about a couple of possessions in the second half after Michigan had blown the lead out big. On the first, he cleared everyone out and went at Iowa's Anthony Clemmons. Clemmons did a great job, first cutting him off and forcing Burke to pick up his dribble, then hounding him on a couple of shot fakes; Burke finally went up and under for an easy two, and the color guy was all like "I don't know what you're supposed to do about that if you're Anthony Clemmons." On the second, he loosed himself with a crossover and launched an eighteen-footer, AKA The Shot Brian Hates More Than Any Shot Ever.
On neither of these possessions did I think what was going on was a bad idea—okay maybe there was a moment in the Clemmons one—and I was not mad at either shot. Because it was just going down.
*[If-he-was-averaging-40%-of-minutes checkin: 7th nationally in defensive rebound rate, 4th in offensive.]
Remember when we were worried about Tim Hardaway Jr. sliding back to his sophomore form? A quaint concern at the moment. Hardaway's coming off 19 points on 13 shots against Iowa and 21 on eight(!) against Northwestern. Against the Hawkeyes he added five assists and five rebounds; Morgan has passed him in DREB but only barely.
Hardaway hasn't had fewer than three assists since the Bradley game, BTW.
Fouls: none. All of Michigan's starters are in the top 200 in terms of fouls committed per 40 minutes, with Stauskas's 0.9 sixth nationally. The bigs will get in trouble from time to time, especially McGary, but once Horford's back—which I imagine will be soon since he dressed yesterday—that concern is not, uh, concerning.
That's the other bedrock of Michigan's defense. They give up the second-least free throws of anyone in the country, and they go together. By not challenging a ton of shots they're in position when and if you miss.
It's also a help for the offense. To date, Michigan hasn't had a period of time where they had to sit a starter for more than a few minutes. I hope that in the event a Michigan non-post picks up a couple quick ones that Beilein will consider the situation and be a little more flexible than he usually is with these things. If it's Stauskas I'm not sure he should even change the rotation.
Philosophy. Michigan's defense isn't good, sure, but the philosophy they've taken is: let's make this a shooting contest. We won't get fouled, and you won't get fouled, and we won't let you have any second chance opportunities, and we won't turn the ball over so you can have transition buckets. Let's see who's better at HORSE. Oh it's us yay.
Today's recruiting roundup covers last weekend's All-American games, high profile names emerging (or re-emerging) as targets, and a potentially wavering 2014 commit.
Spill The Beans, Green
Five-star linebacker Reuben Foster: visit on tap?
Michigan didn't land one of their remaining high-profile targets over the weekend when FL S Leon McQuay III committed to USC. They appear poised to get better news regarding VA RB Derrick Green, however—the nation's top running back has maintained Michigan as his leader in recent weeks and told Rivals($) after the Army All-American Game, "I know where I'm going." Green plans to announce sometime this month and it's safe to expect good news barring a sudden change of heart.
While USC snagged a Michigan target, it's possible the Wolverines return the favor after CA WR Sebastian LaRue decommitted from the Trojans; the four-star told 247's Clint Brewster that he plans to talk to Coach Ferrigno about a potential visit to Ann Arbor ($). LaRue currently has a visit to Notre Dame scheduled and is also looking at Miami, Arkansas, and Texas A&M.
The Wolverines may also have suddenly found themselves in the mix for the nation's top linebacker recruit, Alabama prospect Reuben Foster, after he connected with commit Henry Poggi at the Under Armour game. Poggi reportedly alerted Foster to Michigan's potential interest and convinced him to get in touch with the coaches, and Foster looks to be following through, per Sam Webb ($):
Once Foster and Michigan begin having more conversations, the 6'1, 240 pounder says it’s likely he'll get up to Ann Arbor for a visit at some point before signing day.
"I don't know but the odds are pretty darn good cause I'm cool with [Poggi's] dad that I just met this week --- very cool with him," said Foster.
With a month to go until signing day, it's very late in the game to enter into the recruitment of such a high-profile player, but the former Auburn commit seems to have genuine interest. It's early yet to harbor serious hopes of a commitment, but if a visit materializes it would obviously be fantastic news for Michigan.
A more likely candidate for one of the final few spots is CA OL Cameron Hunt, who spent time with Michigan's contingent of commitments at the UA game. Hunt will take his official to Michigan next weekend, followed by visits to Oregon and Cal, and he told Sam Webb that those three schools comprise his leading trio ($).
[After THE JUMP, video and evaluations of Michigan's All-Americans, the latest on Denzel Ward, and more.]
I'm going so far as to move Michigan above Indiana in the power rankings thanks to the relative performances of those two teams against Iowa, so Michigan stays a #1.
The only notable difference these days is that Sagarin's score-based predictors has moved Michigan up to #2, behind only Duke. Kenpom and RPI forecast have Michigan around eighth. Michigan is third in RPI itself, having fallen behind Kansas.
Projected ones: Michigan, Duke, Kansas, Louisville
The Nonconference Folk
Pitt: cumong, man
We will further compress this section into teams whose individual performance may help or hurt Michigan when seeding time comes around (ie, potential "quality wins" considered by the committee) and those who will only matter insofar as their performance pushes Michigan's RPI hither and thither.
IUPUI, EMU and Binghamton continued losing to everyone. Cleveland State is not going to be any help. They lost their first conference game against Valpo by 24 and are sliding further down the Kenpom rankings with every game. Now sitting at 242. WMU and CMI haven't played.
Bradley continued to suggest that it's decent, getting off to a 2-1 start in the league with a six-point loss to 14-1 Wichita State, the #20 team in Kenpom.
Big sorts of teams
@ Rutgers: L, 67-62
A five point loss to Rutgers is an alarm bell even if it was on the road. Rutgers led by 14 at the half; Pitt made a push to get within three with about ten minutes left but could not close the gap entirely.
The Panthers' issues were twofold: poor shooting and terrible defensive rebounding. Rutgers grabbed nearly half their misses, which is ominous for both Pitt and Michigan (to a lesser extent). You could excuse a loss against top-ten Cincinnati as a thing that can happen. Rutgers maybe not so much.
Kansas State (12-2)
Oklahoma State: W 73-67
On the other hand, Kansas State picked up a nice win against the Cowboys. If you haven't been paying attention, Okie State has a potential lottery pick in freshman Marcus Smart and blew out NC State early this year; they also lost to Gonzaga by a measly point.
KState beat them by doing what they do: clobbering the defensive boards and altering a lot of shots from within the arc. Rodney McGruder went off, hitting 6/10 from 2 and 5/9 from three. I was impressed with Jordan Henriquez (yes, the guy Dan Dakich called out as a human black hole when Michigan played them). While he only got 14 minutes and didn't do a whole lot that stood out on the box score, he blocked a couple of key bunnies late and altered several other shots.
North Carolina State (12-2)
@ Boston College: W 78-73.
Supbar outing against a bad BC team in which the Eagles actually led until the five-minute mark. BC is another good O/bad D outfit, so maybe that's to be expected, but it seems alarming that BC went to the line 37 times in this one. They get Duke at home this week.
MCHOBBIT UPDATE: five minutes, missed a three, got a couple rebounds.
Delaware State: W 86-51.
One last rote blowout before conference play starts. Kenpom has them going 10-8 in the SEC, which is an NIT berth since they're 1-4 against major opponents so far.
West Virginia (7-6)
Oklahoma: L 67-57
Bad, ugly team now outside of Kenpom 100 and therefore not really worth tracking.
CONFERENCE OF POWER RANKING POWER POWER
LAST WEEK Put Northwestern and Iowa in its mighty chaws and chewed. I'm moving 'em up given the relative strength of their performance against those two teams versus those of the other two prime contenders:
- Minnesota had 17 points at halftime versus Northwestern (and led by three!) before turning on the gas in the second to win by 18 at home; Michigan beat the Wildcats by 28 on the road. Northwestern did have Reggie Hearn back for the game against Minnesota.
- Indiana was in a game-long dogfight against Iowa, eventually pulling it out 69-65. The Hawkeyes hung with Michigan for 15 minutes before Burke and company blew the doors off, essentially ending the game at the first TV timeout in the second half. In this case, Michigan had the home advantage in the comparison, but that doesn't cover 4 points versus 28.
I held off as long as I could, guys. Don't blame me when they lose to Nebraska by 80.
THING Do not thwack Mitch McGary in the nose. With Jordan Morgan on the bench with two fouls, Adam Woodbury accidentally did so right before a Roy Devyn Marble four-point play. The following is an artist's impression of what happened after.
McGary blocked three shots, brought down 11 rebounds, had two assists, thundered down two dunks, screened like a mother, and had a couple of outlet pass hockey assists*.
*[obligatory Wes Unseld reference]
OTHER THING The ruthless bombing from three is not just Nik Stauskas. In addition to all of Trey Burke's other qualities, he has cracked 40% from three. Tim Hardaway is up to 40% himself after going 8/10 to start Big Ten play. Glenn Robinson III is at 38%, Caris Levert 47%, Spike Albrecht, 38%. I'm deeply surprised they're not #1 in three point shooting—they're actually ninth.
OTHER OTHER THING Michigan passed its first Big Ten DREB test with flying colors, holding Iowa to just six offensive rebounds in 37 opportunities. That's the bedrock of their relatively mediocre defense. That and not fouling, which also check.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Princess Vespa.
2. Indiana (13-1)
LAST WEEK Haven't played since the aforementioned Iowa game.
THING The first truly titanic Big Ten matchups of the season drop this weekend with Michigan going to Ohio State and Minnesota heading to Assembly Hall. For the three contenders, the plan is to win at home and anything on the road is a bonus. Since Michigan doesn't get the Gophers at home, you want Indiana to win this one.
THING THEY ARE LIKE John Candy watching Princess Vespa.
LAST WEEK Had world's ugliest first half against Northwestern, then put up 52 in the second half to ease their way to a comfortable victory.
THING Minnesota's blazing second half obliterated any traces of the ugly first half in the box score. They hit almost 48% of their shots overall.
OTHER THING Twelve players scored for the Gophers.
THIS WEEK IN MINNESOTA INTIMIDATION FACTOR Rebounded exactly half of their (many, many, many) misses, got 85% of Northwestern's, blocked seven shots, gave up just six free-throws, had ten different players record offensive rebounds.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Jim Brown's acting career.
4. Ohio State (11-3)
LAST WEEK blew doors off Nebraska by 26. Had doors blown off @ Illinois by 19(!!!)
THING The time to be alarmed by Ohio State's offense is now. If you didn't see the game and are expecting that Illinois did what they usually do and half of their copious threes went down, nope: Illinois hit under 30% of their copious threes but ran away with it because OSU scraped out 0.74 points per possession.
OTHER THING This does not appear to be a huge trend yet but the dropoff in scoring from Deshaun Thomas to his teammates is alarming. He had 24 on 21 shots; Aaron Craft had 11 points, and Lenzelle Smith hit a couple threes. No other Buckeye had more than three points.
Add in the fact that a couple of Craft's buckets were fast break opportunities created by his steals and it's staggering how little of OSU's half-court offense came from anyone other than Thomas.
THING THEY ARE LIKE a man being dragged into his grave by four zombies, one of whom is really good at getting steals
5. Michigan State (12-3)
LAST WEEK had a bit of a hairy time with Purdue, then did to the Boilers what Minnesota did to them by running away and hiding late.
THING Hiding aided by 6/8 three-point shooting from Gary Harris. Yes. Slightly.
OTHER THING In the first two games after Brandan Kearney's departure, he was replaced by Nobody (four minutes allotted to players outside the top seven) and Alex Gauna or Russell Byrd. Since the former was the Minnesota game and the latter was the eventual Purdue blowout, the guess here is MSU rotates through seven guys only when they are in dogfights.
THIS WEEK IN STOP ASKING FOR POST TOUCHES Nix/Payne: 3/11 from the floor, 1 assist, 3 TO, albeit with eight free throws and seven makes this time around. Still, the worst ORtgs on the team against Purdue.
I for one am happy that Michigan's offense regards a post touch as heresy. The big guys still get fed, except they are efficient.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Derrick Nix after losing some weight: thinner, not appreciably better.
LAST WEEKs Lost to Purdue! Blew out Ohio State! Chaos!
THING Neither of last weeks' unpredictable events was because of the three point lottery. Illinois hit 39% in the loss and 30% in the win.
NNANNA EGWU WATCH This was all set up to be diabolical after Egwu managed three rebounds in 26 minutes versus the Boilers as Purdue severely outrebounded the Illini, but then the kid had to go and play very well against OSU. His DREB rate moves up a few tenths to 10.6, which is still second-to-last on the team.
OTHER EGWU WATCH Egwu had five blocks against Purdue and was 7/9 from two against OSU with no TOs. Credit where due; he was a big help in the OSU win.
THING THEY ARE LIKE I hear there's an opening for a Norse god of chaos
7. Iowa (11-4)
LAST WEEK Currently being digested by Michigan's mighty stomach.
THING The thing is I didn't think Iowa really played that badly, or was a bad basketball team. They came out with a nice plan to get the ball away from Trey Burke, used Aaron White to facilitate some early offense, and maintained a lead through much of the first half. They shot okay, didn't turn it over, and didn't get absolutely crushed on the boards or anything.
They just gave up 65% shooting from two and 50% from three (pre-Trillion time). It would be one thing if that was a trend, but they just held Indiana to 43/29 and are still the #33 eFG D in the land even after the Michigan bombing. I still think these guys get enough quality wins in the league to make the tourney.
OTHER THING We should keep Fran McCaffery around as long as possible. His teams play an attractive style of basketball—or at least try to—and his sideline spastic fits are bar-none the best in the conference. The fact that he looks like a bank manager adds to the hilarity a thousand-fold. NO GODDAMMIT THAT IS CONTINUALLY COMPOUNDED ALREADY THERE'S A FORMULA GET OUT OF MY BAAAAAAANK
For this reason, root for Iowa to make the tourney.
THING THEY ARE LIKE delicious corn in my belly
LAST WEEK Struggled to iffy wins against the worst two teams in the league, beating Penn State by 9—they led by three with three minutes left—and Nebraska by six—they trailed with six minutes left. At least they've stopped screwing with Kenpom, right?
THING NO THEY HAVE NOT. Nine point win against Penn State didn't drop them at all, and they were only five points off the Nebraska prediction since it was on the road. They've lost a spot as much to the ongoing decay of preseason prediction strength as much as anything else.
OTHER THING Ryan Evans has gone full Knoblach on free throws. He hit 73% last year on a lot of attempts. This year he's at 37%, and things just seem to be getting worse. In Big Ten play he's 3/14. He can't shoot threes and hits 45%, so of course he's putting up as many shots as Trey Burke.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Sinbad in that one movie with Phil Hartman.
HENRI LINE OF ENNUI
LAST WEEK Beat Illinois at home, hung with MSU at Breslin for about 25 minutes. Final 15 didn't go so well.
THING Ronnie Johnson hit a three! Now at 12%.
OTHER THING Won that game against Illinois by holding them to 33% shooting from two, blocking seven shots along the way. Freshman seven-footer AJ Hammons may be rounding into form. He's got 14 blocks over the past six games and was 8/12 from the floor against MSU.
THING THEY ARE LIKE
10. Northwestern (9-6)
LAST WEEK Were the CD to Michigan's microwave on "high"; got me to flip over to the second half of their game against Minnesota and go "wait… what?"
THING Reggie Hearn did play against the Gophers, putting up 11 points in 27 minutes.
OTHER THING Freshman Kale Abrahmson is on his way to being the traditional Northwestern stretch four with a broke-ass shot that goes in anyway, hitting 3/5 against Minnesota (and taking one other shot, a miss).
THING THEY ARE LIKE Breaking Bad starts when again?
11. Penn State (8-5)
LAST WEEK hung tough at Wisconsin, ended up losing by nine.
THING Penn State took one free throw in that game, and eight threes.
OTHER THING They had seven assists and 15 TOs
OTHER OTHER THING they gon' die
THING THEY ARE LIKE "You got what for our gladitorial arena? A hamster?"
LAST WEEK clubbed at Ohio State; hung in against Wisconsin before falling late.
THING Enormous center Andre Almedia injured his ankle early in the OSU game and "could have played" against Wisconsin. Tim Miles decided against inserting him because Wisconsin center Jared Berggren can shoot. He should be ready for the Michigan game.
OTHER THING Not that it will matter. Nebraska hasn't scored more than 63 against a power conference team this year. Michigan hasn't scored fewer than 67 against anyone.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Vincent Smith one-fourth of the way through that event to the right.
Tourney locks sans Illinois-2011-style implosion
projected seeds included
#1 MICHIGAN, #2 Indiana, #2 Minnesota, #4 Ohio State, #6 Illinois
#8 Michigan State
Northwestern Memorial wrong side of the bubble award
Rutgers Memorial what's a bubble award
Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska, Purdue
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
Indiana at Penn State, 7PM, BTN
Ohio State at Purdue, 9 PM, ESPN
Pitt at Georgetown, 9PM, ESPNU
Nebraska at MICHIGAN, 7PM, BTN
Georgia Tech at NC State, 8PM, ESPN3 [streaming]
Minnesota at Illinois, 9PM, BTN
West Virginia at Texas, 9PM, ESPN2
Arkansas at Texas A&M, 9PM, ESPNU
Penn State at Northwestern, 8PM, ESPNU
Michigan State at Iowa, 7PM, ESPN2
Minnesota at Indiana, noon, BTN
Marquette at Pitt, noon, ESPNU
Duke at NC State, noon, ESPN
Kansas State at West Virginia, 1:30 PM, ESPN3 [streaming]
Wisconsin at Illinois, 2:15 PM, BTN
Vanderbilt at Arkansas, 6PM, ESPN3 [streaming]
MICHIGAN at Ohio State, 1:30 PM, CBS
Penn State at Purdue, noon, BTN
Northwestern at Iowa, 5:30, ESPNU
Nebraska at Michigan State, 6PM, BTN
For the first 13 minutes against Iowa, Michigan looked as disjointed and inconsistent on both ends of the floor as they had all season. The Hawkeyes, coming off a four-point loss to Indiana, looked poised to give another top-flight team a serious test, holding a 21-17 edge with seven minutes left in the first half.
Over the course of the next 27 minutes, the Wolverines scored 78 points.
The onslaught actually began on defense, when Mitch McGary electrified the Crisler crowd with a volleyball spike of a block against Iowa's Aaron White—a display of sheer athletic superiority. From that point, Michigan finished the first half on a 27-14 tear featuring three thunderous dunks—one each by Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, and Tim Hardaway Jr., whose one-handed throwdown will assuredly crack the Sportscenter top ten.
In the waning seconds of the half, the Wolverines somehow moved the ball coast-to-coast in under four seconds, capped by a Robinson layup that sent the team running into the tunnel with an 11-point lead.
Iowa had made their upset bid. There would be no upset.
The acrobatics continued in the second half as the Wolverines pulled away; in all, Michigan totaled 11 dunks by five different players. They also connected on 10-of-22 three-pointers. Of their 36 field goals, 24 were assisted. They committed six turnovers.
Robinson, perhaps more representative than any other Wolverine of the new breed, led the charge with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting and ten rebounds. After the game, he revealed one of his nicknames, "Light Rob," for his ability to register so-called quiet points within the framework of the offense. His points weren't so quiet today—five dunks tend to make some noise—but he once again displayed a knack for showing up in the right spot, rarely needing to do so much as dribble to put the ball in the hoop.
Trey Burke did what Trey Burke does: 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, 12 assists, a steal, and a lone turnover. Michigan's other star, Hardaway, also managed 19 points, hitting 3-of-5 threes and stuffing the stat sheet with five rebounds and five assists. Nik Stauskas, working around the margins, scored 13 and threw down a slam of his own, using his lethal three-point shot to set up the drive.
Then there was McGary, doing the grunt work in his best game as a Wolverine. He finished with five points, hitting his only two field goals of the day; more importantly, he hit the glass, bringing in 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes and keying the fast break with quick outlet passes. Continuing to show more explosiveness after starting the year rusty, McGary tallied three blocks and, yes, dunked.
Despite a margin that hung in the neighborhood of 30 points for much of the second half, Crisler didn't begin to empty until the last couple minutes, after the starters had all been (mercifully) pulled. This was a show, the divine intersection of athleticism and skill, and woe be upon the fan who didn't savor every second.
Asked to compare this team to the others he's coached, John Beilein said, "we run a little faster and jump a little higher." In a grand concession given his previous, tongue-in-cheek dodging of such questions, Beilein even went so far as to say "a few" of his past players may even admit this Michigan outfit is superior to his past squads.
Indeed, Coach. Indeed.
|WHAT||Iowa at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan –13 (Kenpom)|
Right: Yours for only $17.99!
After a tune-up of sorts against a shorthanded Northwestern squad, Michigan tips off conference play in earnest at home against 11-3 Iowa. With the Hawkeyes coming off a narrow four-point loss to Indiana (albeit at home), Michigan can't afford a letdown performance.
Iowa is led by 6'6" wing Roy Devyn Marble, the team's highest-usage player and a threat both inside (65% shooting at the rim, per hoop-math, with a high FT rate) and outside (36.4 3P%). It'll be interesting to see who matches up with Marble defensively for Michigan—I'd guess they go with Hardaway over Stauskas.
The matchup with point guard Mike Gesell should be a bit more lopsided, though that's not a knock on Gesell. The freshman has held his own so far this year, knocking down over 50% of his twos with a solid assist rate (24.7%), though he's turning the ball over at nearly the same clip (24.3%). He's flanked by fellow 6'1" freshman Anthony Clemens, who's made a surprising ascent into the starting lineup on the strength of a sky-high assist rate (39.8%, 16th among national qualifiers)—he's an inconsistent shooter and prone to turnovers but clearly a playmaking threat.
The most efficient Hawkeye is 6'8" power forward Aaron White, who's connecting on 61.4% of his twos and attempting a ton of free throws—drawing 6.8(!) fouls per 40 minutes. White also takes good care of the basketball, though he'd be even more efficient if he learned to stop shooting threes (5-23 this season).
Manning the middle is 7'1" freshman Adam Woodbury, a four-star recruit providing a strong interior presence—57.6 FG% with solid rebounding and block rates. Woodbury is another Hawkeye who gets to the line frequently, but unlike White and Marble he doesn't convert once he gets there (51.9 FT%).
Iowa is able to go nine deep with relative ease. You may remember forward Melsahn Basabe from his stellar freshman season two years ago—he's regressed and now mans a spot on the bench, but still has the potential to put up solid rebounding and scoring numbers. Fellow forwards Zach McCabe and Eric May both have starting experience as well, while guard Josh Oglesby is a high-volume outside shooter looking for his stroke (19-62 on threes this year, 4-9 on twos).
Iowa giving Indiana a scare may be the most impressive game on their resume; aside from a nine-point home win against #47 Iowa State, all of their wins are against teams ranked #150 or below, and seven of those are ranked #228 or worse. They've struggled away from home, losing by 12 in a neutral-site game against #20 Wichita State and by 16 at #132 Virginia Tech.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||49.2 (138)||19.5 (114)||38.0 (35)||45.3 (18)|
|Defense||41.6 (9)||21.3 (150)||30.5 (113)||26.9 (32)|
The above numbers are impressive, no doubt, though they do require a caveat: Iowa currently boasts the #320 strength of schedule this year. While their defense has held up well against quality competition, the offense has regressed significantly—twice they've been held well below one point per possession against top-50 teams. Offensive rebounding in particular takes a big hit against their better opponents.
Iowa relies on getting to the rim—and the line—to create most of their offense. According to hoop-math, they shoot 71% at the rim, but just 37% on two-point jumpers and 31% from three. Their FT rate ranks 18th nationally, however, and the Hawkeyes knock down a respectable 71.5% of their attempts from the charity stripe.
Defensively, that eFG% numbers should regress to the mean—Hawkeye opponents hit just 27.9% of their threes despite getting them off at a national-average rate. They are tough inside, however, with a 13.3% block rate making opponent two-pointers difficult to come by.
Collapse inside. As said above, Iowa relies on getting to the hoop to generate their offense, either through layups or drawing fouls. The good news is that they don't have a dead-eye outside shooter to make teams pay for collapsing inside—Marble is the team's best shooter but also their best threat on the drive. Michigan is ranked #2 in the country at opponent free throw rate, so they should be able to keep Iowa from getting to the line frequently, but the lack of a true shot-blocking presence is a concern.
Hit the glass. Iowa's other main option for scoring—the putback—also plays into a Michigan strength, as the Wolverines are 7th nationally in defensive rebounding. Tough break, Iowa.
Attack Woodbury. Iowa's two-point defense has been stellar this season in large part due to the presence of Woodbury. The seven-footer hasn't cracked 20 minutes in any of their losses, however, and fouled out of the Indiana game. At this point, Michigan opponents are wise to avoid playing zone lest they face a three-point barrage. The Wolverines should be able to run plenty of pick-and-roll action, which would accomplish two things: get Woodbury away from the basket—and out of shot-blocking position—and potentially get him into foul trouble, forcing Iowa to go small.
Keep doin' what you've been doin'. I mean, yeah.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 13