"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Sponsor: Draft Street, our fantasy sports partner. They host a ton of various fantasy games you play against other users over weekly or daily scoring periods. I like it because I don't have time anymore for long-term fantasy leagues but when I have an off week it's fun to have a few bucks down on something. For those interested in doing more than our freerolls, they're offering 20%-30% on top of your deposits right now.
Read the Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post.
3/21/2012 – Michigan 71, South Dakota State 56 – 27-7, entry to second round of tourney
This game turned into a Mexican standoff of "if you told me before the game" stats: Trey Burke has six points versus Nate Wolters has ten points versus Tim Hardaway is 5/7 from three. That's two for Michigan, one for South Dakota State, and even if the way everyone got there was a little weird the end result was basically as expected.
What does the "how" suggest about the remainder of Michigan's tourney run? Well.
Michigan can shut down a star dude and simultaneously reduce quality looks from three. Wolters had few quality opportunities and Michigan still managed to hold SDSU to 4/19 from three. The number is dead on SDSU's season average, but few of those looks were top quality. Pair that with holding Wolters to ten points and that's a nice tradeoff.
Of course, Michigan may not be able to do those two things and prevent themselves from getting chewed up on twos. SDSU held themselves in this by hitting 58% inside the line. Concern? Possibly. Michigan's various exertions to reach the Wolters/3P% numbers above left Tony Fiegen open for a series of medium to long range twos, all of which he knocked down. But if that's what your defense gives up, like… okay.
Glenn Robinson may be able to up his production. With SDSU sagging off of Burke, Robinson got three near-identical corner threes in the second half, all of which he took, and all of which he knocked down. Please just do that instead of clutching and driving for an off-the-dribble long two. At least, more often. More than the sheer efficiency of his production I enjoyed the fact that he got 10 shot opportunities, many of which were not simple putbacks that may or may not be there.
Robinson will be critical against VCU as a converter of open-court opportunities. He and Hardaway are Michigan's most effective finishers at the rim (73 and 72 percent, respectively). Those ten to fifteen points of eFG will add up.
Mitch McGary is the starter. Rebounding was dead even in this one, and you'd like something a bit better against a smallish Summit team. One game is two small a sample to extrapolate from, though, and we have a season-long statistical record indicating that McGary is a vacuum, particularly on the offensive end. Add that to a steal-and-dunk on a lazy post pass per game and various other harassments and it's hard to get him off the court once he's on it, as Morgan found out. His turnover rate isn't even that bad: 18.7. Usually any big under 20 isn't a problem.
Michigan's probably going to need to haul Morgan out against VCU, though. Whether it's foul trouble or running up and down the court all the time, McGary will have to sit for longer than he did in the last one.
Head in game, please Mr. Morgan. The aftermath of Thursday's game seems to have shaken Morgan's always-fragile psyche:
"I think I was in for like two possessions, and got two stops," said Morgan, who was named to the Big Ten's all-defensive team this year. "I guess, I mean, that's what I do."
Will he play more Saturday, when the Wolverines face the winner of No. 5 VCU/No. 12 Akron for a bid to the Sweet 16?
"I'm not sure," he said. "It's not my job."
Michigan will need him. Someone dispatch the sports psychologist.
Michigan could end up going super-small. I wouldn't expect a single two-big lineup tomorrow what with the press and all. Michigan will be able to substitute a little more liberally than usual since this is a game in which Hardaway could plausibly run the 4, especially during the 13 minutes or so per game that VCU sits 6'5" Treveon Graham and brings in a 6'3" guy in his place. That would pave the way for extra Spike/Caris action as Michigan tries to get more ballhandling on the floor and avoid a late-game exhaustion slide.
That would make Michigan's four-out, one-in setup almost impossible to sag on. If Burke turns the corner off of a pick and roll, instead of sagging off GRIII and his relatively infrequent threes (62 this year), it's Hardaway or Stauskas. GRIII is still going to be hugely important, but they can rest him more than they usually do and not get pounded on the boards while still giving VCU a defensive conundrum.
Burke says he feels fine. He's fine enough to drop zingers, anyway:
"I'm fine, I'm ready to go for Saturday," Burke said. "I was a little over-dramatic out there, but I got about 30 seconds of rest, so that felt good."
Burke was going about 100 mph, a pace your average Jackrabbit doesn't mind. Since gaining so much national acclaim, he has struggled a bit, as if the attention was wearing. Michigan shadowed Wolters and South Dakota State shadowed Burke. So naturally, that launched a one-on-one showdown between Hardaway Jr. and Brayden Carlson. Huh? Hardaway Jr. is not a surprise, but Carlson was the only Jackrabbit starter not averaging double figures, and he had 16 in the first half.
As you're probably well aware by now, Michigan will face one of the country's most distinctive, attacking defenses when they play VCU on Saturday. While saying a game comes down to one factor is oversimplification, of course, in this case it's not unfair to say that how the Wolverines handle VCU's press will largely determine the outcome. With that said, let's take a deeper look at Havoc.
What Is It?
From VCU's official YouTube account. They like their RAWK, apparently.
Brian already blockquoted one Luke Winn article on VCU's press—a must-read before Saturday—in the game preview. Here's another description from Winn in a full-blown SI feature on Havoc from last month:
When VCU reached the Final Four as a No. 11 seed in 2011, Smart's second season as coach, its defense was not nearly as turnover-crazy, forcing takeaways on 22.1% of possessions. "That," Smart says, "was only half-Havoc." Full Havoc is now in place, complete with a full array of jargon: double-fist is VCU's man-to-man trap, which it uses roughly two thirds of the time; diamond is its 1-2-1-1 zone; a madman guards the inbounder and makes sure, Smart says, "he can smell your breath"; a jammer is occasionally employed to keep the ball from being inbounded to a point guard; heating up the ball means putting the dribbler under duress.
Ball-combusting guards are what make the double-fist deadly, and the Rams have three excellent ones in senior Darius Theus (steal percentage: 5.9), junior Rob Brandenburg (2.9%) and sophomore sixth man Briante Weber (8.3%, which leads the nation). As a pack they are called the Wild Dogs.
Although Smart graduated magna cum laude from Kenyon College, Wild Dogs is an inadvertent reference to Marcus Antonius's line from Julius Caesar: "Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war." The nickname has primal, rather than Shakespearean, roots.
VCU's athletic department put together a lengthy highlight reel of all the chaos their press created a couple years ago—as you can see above, "Havoc" is an apt description. This is an aggressive, trap-heavy press designed to create maximum chaos, both in creating turnovers and forcing teams to play at an uncomfortably fast tempo.
Have We Seen It?
Well, kind of. Michigan played one press-heavy team this year: Arkansas, a team that gave them a world of issues the previous year at their place. This season, in Crisler, the Wolverines handled the Arkansas press with relative ease, turning the ball over only 11 times en route to a 13-point victory.
The difference between Arkansas and VCU is apparent on film, however. The Razorbacks place far less emphasis on the trap, and deployed the press less frequently in general than VCU will—Arkansas pressed after some made baskets, but VCU will trap after all of them.
How Do You Beat It?
Against Arkansas, Michigan used the inbounder as a safety outlet when the Razorbacks trapped the point guard or denied him the ball entirely. This is a common strategy and one that worked out well, at least as long as Tim Hardaway Jr. wasn't losing his dribble after breaking the pressure:
The going won't be as easy against VCU, but it's clear that this is Michigan's go-to move to break the initial trap. There's no magic bullet for navigating the press, however; instead, a few general rules:
- Get the ball in quickly. The less time VCU has to set up their press, the better. Michigan took their sweet time in the above clips, but Arkansas was also far less aggressive than the Rams will be.
- Avoid the corners. Getting the ball to the corner—either in your own end off the initial inbound, or just after crossing halfcourt—is asking for a quick trap and a turnover.
- Make quick, easy passes. Keep it simple—you can see in the VCU-produced video just how often long outlet passes result in disaster, even if the intended target is open.
- Always look ahead. VCU is looking to incite panic, and nothing is more of a panic move than turning your back and covering the ball instead of looking up for a quick pass.
- Stay calm. Even when teams break the VCU press, they often play too fast and cough up the ball in the ensuing halfcourt possession. Getting across halfcourt is step one. Step two is looking for an easy bucket, and settling into the normal offense if one isn't available.
Keys For Saturday
I'm expecting to see a few things tomorrow:
- More Spike. VCU doesn't have the size to punish Michigan for going small, so expect to see Albrecht on the court a fair amount—not in place of Trey Burke, of course, but alongside him.
- More LeVert, too. Tim Hardaway Jr. is good at a lot of things, but dribbling in the open court is not one of them. LeVert is a much better ballhandler, even at this stage in his career, and could see a lot of time if Hardaway becomes a liability in his own end. Burke, Albrecht, Stauskas, and LeVert give the team four reliable players with the ball in their hands, which should be enough to minimize turnovers.
- Burke tearing up the sideline. While breaking the press is very much a team effort, one player can break a trap if he's particularly quick. Trey Burke, well, he's pretty good; if he can split a double or find an opening up the sideline, he's obviously the best option for breaking the press and immediately getting into the offense. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Burke as the inbounder, especially when Albrecht is on the floor—that keeps Burke out of the corner and, with a quick return pass, gives him the entire width of the court to work with.
- Smart counters. Brian pointed out that VCU's halfcourt defense in the first few moments after teams break their press is not very good, which isn't a huge surprise—that's the time when they're scrambling the most to get set. The Wolverines should be able to get some very nice looks right after they cross halfcourt. The key is to take what's there and not try to force the issue—and play right into VCU's preferred tempo—if there isn't a good shot to take right away.
These are words I may regret, but I think this matchup is actually a good one for Michigan. Unlike last year, they have multiple guys who are trustworthy to be the primary ballhandler—along with Burke, I trust Albrecht, LeVert, and Stauskas to successfully get the ball up the court against pressure. They don't turn the ball over much. They have the shooters and transition finishers to make VCU pay dearly when they can't force a turnover
As long as the young guards don't get flustered—both in getting the ball up the floor and settling into the offense once they get there—then Michigan should handle the press, well, at least a whole lot better than Akron did. If they can break even, or come close, in the turnover battle, the other matchups with VCU strongly favor the Wolverines.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Virginia Commonwealth|
|WHERE||Palace Of Auburn Hills
Auburn Hills, Michigan
|WHEN||12:15 PM Eastern, Saturday|
…er… let's come back to this later.
Surprise! VCU goes fast. They make you go fast, too, by pressing your ass off like the ghost of Nolan Richardson has given them a quest to let his weary soul rest.
Almost 40% of their shots come in the first ten seconds of the shot clock, which isn't actually that much more than Michigan (32%). The eFG gap is about the same for each team, except VCU is six points lower in each situation.
- MICHIGAN: 64% fast, 52% slow
- VCU: 58% fast, 46% slow
However, Michigan runs off rebounds a lot (20% of shots) and effectively (66% eFG). Their eFG on steals is 69%. VCU is at 57% on quick rebounds (14% of shots) and 64% on steals (12%).
The upshot: VCU's half-court offense is poor and they make up for it with the havoc. Their transition game is not as efficient as Michigan's, and they try to get you in transition as much as possible.
Note that the havoc does not stop once you cross halfcourt. VCU's defense is turrible in the first ten seconds when their press is broken; afterwards they recover well enough to hold opponents to 47% eFG.
WHAT IS THE HAVOC
A standard 1-2-1 trapping full court press… a third of the time. Michigan has faced this intermittently so far this year, usually when leading late against Big Ten teams. None of these teams has dedicated itself to the art of the press, nor have they reconfigured what they put on the floor to bend to its will… even so, Michigan has generally broken it easily by passing it between Hardaway, Burke, and Stauskas until such time as Burke has a sliver of a gap on someone.
The rest of the time, well:
[VCU's] go-to look is a trapping man-to-man called "double-fist." The double-fist only works if you have quick guards who can, in Rams parlance, "heat up the ball" in a one-on-one situation. This means getting the ballhandler out of control and blinding him from the impending trap, which comes from a secondary defender who's lurking near halfcourt.
"If you watch tape with me," VCU coach Shaka Smart said after the Dayton game, "the possessions where we heat up the ball, something good happens. And the possessions where we don't, where we run and try to trap a guy who's not under pressure? Something bad tends to happen -- an open three, an easy shot."
Can VCU heat up Trey Burke? That's the game.
Also in different order because VCU demands it to be so. Four factors. Ranks are in parentheses and out of 347.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||51.5 (61)||16.9 (22)||37.1 (28)||30.3 (306)|
|Defense||49.6 (214)||28.8 (1)||34.6 (289)||41.1 (282)|
VCU is number one by more than a percentage point in TO% and steals. They are bad at all other defensive things. They're okay shooting the three and defending it, take a lot of threes, give up a dead average number, and all of this is kind of futile because VCU is two different teams depending on whether they're in transition or the half-court.
To facilitate the pressing, VCU deploys a four-guard lineup. Junior post Juvonte Reddic is the only guy over 6'5" to get significant playing time. Partially as a result, he has McGary-like rebounding numbers. In statistics that look nothing like McGary, he has impressively few turnovers for a big who puts up a lot of shots and keeps out of foul trouble (at least for a big) despite having a healthy steal rate.
His shots are split evenly between attempts at the rim and jumpers, with the predictably huge gap between efficiencies: 68% at the rim, 41% on the jumpers. If his university-provided highlight reel of those jumpers is representative, a lot of those successful jumpers appear to be baby hooks from the paint:
If Michigan ends up leaving him open from 15 feet like they did Tony Fiegen, they're probably not going to get 6/6 on their face.
The next-biggest guy is 6'5" wing #21 Treveon Graham, VCU's highest-usage player. He's not a great shooter (73/49/36 with a moderate number of FTAs) but he's a decent one and like most of VCU's players he has a TO rate scraping the low teens. He gets to the rim quite a bit, with the usual split in efficiency between rim and not rim.
Corner gunner du jour is #30 Troy Daniels, a senior in the top 50 in eFG. 88% of his attempts this year have been threes, which he hits at a 41% clip. He never assists, never turns the ball over, and doesn't generate possessions with steals or rebounds. He is just a shooter. A good shooter who Michigan will have to find in transition, but just a shooter.
Senior #10 Darius Theus is a point guard in the traditional sense. He gets the ball to his teammates, has a lot of assists, and doesn't shoot much (just 13% of VCU shots when he's on the floor). He's a little turnover prone, but also there is a big flashy blinky light on his Kenpom profile next to his steal percentage, which is 5.5, #6 nationally.
Junior Rob Brandenberg (enormous disembodied head above) puts up a lot of shots at with mediocre results (69/45/36) and provides not much else peripherally save the requisite steals. He's above evenly split between twos and threes, and hoop-math says he's the worst two-point shooter on the team by a large distance.
VCU gets a lot more minutes from its bench than South Dakota (which played four starters 40 minutes and the last 32 yesterday). When not blowing out the opponent by 40+, it's essentially an eight-man rotation except one of the men is a two-headed backup post. Briante Weber is the primary PG backup, though VCU will run Theus and Weber out there at the same time. He's a statistical clone of Theus except he's a low-quality three-point shooter—Theus is meh—and his outstanding steal rate is a full 2.2 points higher than Theus's and #1 in the country. He does pick up 4.5 fouls per 40 as a result.
Freshman Melvin Johnson is the shootin' backup. He launches a greater percentage of VCU's shots when he's on the floor than anyone save Graham, but he's not particularly efficient. He's a 28% three-point shooter with 82 attempts on the year and hits 49% from two with very few free throws drawn. He doesn't get to the rim much, so he's mostly taking two point jumpers at a mediocre clip.
With DJ Haley oddly leaving the program just before the A-10 tournament, VCU is down to two large-ish dudes to spell Reddic, sophomore Jarred Guest and freshman Justin Tuoyo. Both gentlemen enter the court to play foul-heavy defense and rebound. When the ball comes to them they try to get rid of it as fast as possible. There's a big dropoff when Reddic leaves the game.
Major VCU nonconference games:
- Wichita State: L 53-51
- Memphis(N): W 78-65
- Duke(N): L 67-58
- Missouri(N): L 68-65
- Belmont: W 75-65
- Alabama: W 73-54
In these games the answer to "did VCU win?" is the same as the answer to "did VCU force at least 15 turnovers?" This is because of Havoc™.
In conference play VCU went 12-4 in the A10, Kenpom's #8 league. The A10 was virtually tied with the Valley for #8 and a long way behind the SEC, #7. Losses came against fellow bid-acquirers St Louis (twice, once in the A-10 tourney final), Temple, and La Salle plus an eight-point OT loss to John Beilein's old Richmond club. They beat Butler by 32 in early March. That was their only win against the other NCAA teams in the league in five tries. Memphis (a six) and Belmont (an eleven) also made it.
Until Sunday's league final that turnover metric held true. St Louis managed to best VCU despite 18 turnovers. All others kept it under 14. Meanwhile, I checked every win over KP100 teams. Every single one saw VCU reach the magic 15.
We have this formula for beating VCU, then:
- keep your turnovers around 10 or lower
- watch them shoot 42%/17%.
Don't turn it over. I am Jack's complete lack of surprise. VCU's defense is all TO generation, as is a significant portion of their offense. If Michigan and VCU have an approximately equal number of TOs the game comes down to rebounding and shooting. The first should be a push at worst, and if VCU shoots Michigan out of the tournament in the halfcourt, so be it.
If you have to plunge into 50/50 charge/block calls so be it. If a guy is coming over to bother you with a trap, for God's sake just run the guy over if it's even close. If you get half of 'em, that probably means nothing in terms of extra FTAs given up (especially since offensive fouls don't generate them) but will get you in the bonus quicker against a team that always gets into the bonus. It is also unlikely to put Michigan in serious foul difficulty since they do not foul. Meanwhile, VCU has six significant contributors above 3 fouls per 40*, a couple of whom (Reddic, Daniels) bring irreplaceable skills to the table.
Similarly, Michigan should go to the damn basket over and over in the halfcourt. One: Kobe Assists are there for the taking if Reddic is forced to help. Meanwhile VCU's main shooter off the bench is their worst and they hang on the edge of putting in a guy named Teddy Okereafor who has an ORTG < 90.
Do whatever you can to get whistles. If you commit charges, so be it.
Withstand the vicissitudes of fate. This game has a make-it-take-it aspect to it: when VCU scores, they get to press. When they do not score, Michigan gets to run, either off a steal or a rebound. In situations like this, withering runs either way are possible. Don't get too down, just get it across the timeline.
Punish when you break the press. VCU's generally horrible numbers outside of turnovers are an effect of concessions made to it: lack of height, lack of positioning. Even accounting for the former, their defense is not horrible in the half-court. In fact, opponent's eFG numbers when shots go up in the last 25 seconds of the shot clock are identical to Michigan's. Michigan's not great, but that doesn't help Michigan beat a team playing itself.
So: when you're roaring towards the basket with two guys on your back, Trey, do something crushing, or they get free turnovers.
Glenn Robinson: run at the basket with ill intent. The man has a size advantage in this one, and there will be transition. Go to the basket, and leap at passes or rebounds, and then dunk them, and then yell something unintelligible afterwards, preferably at least five times.
Trey: don't have the worst game ever. That's out of the way, I hope.
Akron: get your sweaty germs all over VCU. It could happen?
VCU: don't get your sweaty germs all over Michigan. Er.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by one even though Kenpom doesn't know it moved VCU up ten spaces yesterday for VCU's destruction of a hollow shell of Akron, not actual Akron.
Wallpaper by jonvalk.
Kids who were my age in France all grew up with this song Ce Matin, un Lapin… (this morning, a rabbit…) about a hare who turned the tables on a hunter and thus commenced the bunny revolution. The singer is a lady named Chantal Goya who spent years trying to carve out a niche in pop music by being ironically jejune, then found her calling by dropping the irony and singing kids songs on the French Disney Channel.
Kids my age who went to Michigan might remember a band called Tally Hall who have followed a similar career path. In 2005 I earned my Level 5 music cred badge by sharing a booth at a New York bar with the Atlantic Records people while Tally tried out for them. The music folk tossed around fancy adjectives like "jejune" to capture how fresh and cool it was to find a rock band that can occupy the antipode of metal the Beatles brushed with An Octopus's Garden. They signed them, but after one album the label forgot about them and that lapsed into that. Recently my best friend reported via Facebook that his three-year-old is a huge Tally Hall fan.
All this week Michigan fans shared a booth with all the really cool basketball people while they circle-talked themselves into the South Dakota State Jackrabbits as the hipster upset pick and Nate Wolters as the best point guard in the country (though you've probably never heard of him).
Nine minutes into the second half the rabbits were finally starting to lose pace with the Wolverines when Burke and LeVert* went up for a rebound and Wolters ran in to give Trey a 'Wisconsin Special' undercut hip check that sent Michigan's own pretty good guard crashing to the floor. As Burke clutched his head the panic claxons went off in yours. There was no foul (of course), the ball was awarded to the Jackrabbits (of course), and they of course went right down the court and scored.
You could imagine the Disney ending from here, a Cinderella advance amidst the cheers of Spartans in brand new turquoise tees. All it would take was 11 minutes of indifferent D, refs that hate us, threes that clang, twos that shouldn't have been shot, and Spike Albrecht running around with the ball like a mad chicken, to end the career of Michigan's greatest player since _____(?) with the prostrate pose above.
Here's how it really went:
- Stauskas drove hard (NJAS!) to the basket and through hard contact to make a layup and collect a rare and-one, which he made. 52-43.
- Wolters forced to take a long two, missed, rebounded by Albrecht
- Albrecht does his running around thing, gets the ball to Hardaway, TIMMMAYY makes a jumpshot. 54-43.
- Wolters misses a three, Horford MANBALLS the rebound out of another contestant's hands.
- Trey Burke returns, drives inside collecting ALL THE DEFENSE, then kicks out to wide open Hardaway for three, buried. 57-43.
That was enough for the Wolverines to finish off the rascally rabbits, final score 71-56.
As it turns out the audience for simple cutesy catchy formulaic music is little kids, rabbits tend to lose to hunters, and Michigan is better at major sports than those guys you've probably never heard of. Who could have imagined? Also as it turns out this little game column was all a prelude to the Diary of the Week by saveferris, who looked at the performance of past 4 seeds and found, well, the higher seed you are the better your prospects for tourney success. File all of this under the kind of duh that takes occasional reminding.
* His surname is French for "The Green" but a "leveret" is a baby rabbit.
Etc. Every goal from hockey's WMU sweep plus a few bad puns of blue/blew from MGoBlueline. The basketball game is at noon on Saturday so you can watch that then still make it to the Joe. LSAClassof2000 looks at run vs. pass balance over recent Big Ten history, finding Wisconsin and Ohio State run a lot. Need to get the 4th quarters and blowouts out of there though if you want to find the meat. Blockhams was drawn before Ryan was hurt, isn't funny anymore.
[Jump, Best of the Boards]
We solemnly swear not to be productive today. Work? What work? It is the basketball day of basketballing, and since we don't want to work today either we shall discuss all of this basketballing.
We shall also play games. Liveblog sponsor Draft Street is hosting a FREEROLL game on their site, with a prize of $$$ to the top finishers. For those who haven't played before, it's just building a team out of the available pool of players. You can pick any player from tomorrow's tournament teams and we'll have the winners by the end of the day. I encourage you to sign up when there's a break in the action—it takes only a minute to make team and hey, free money.
Who's this sponsor? Draft Street, our fantasy sports partner. They host a ton of various fantasy games you play against other users over weekly or daily scoring periods. I like it because I don't have time anymore for long-term fantasy leagues but when I have an off week it's fun to have a few bucks down on something. For those interested in doing more than our freerolls, they're offering 20% on top of your deposits right now.
Prevent Chaos. Before you enter, remember your friendly neighborhood Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post.
If you didn't do it above, take a second to draft your team.