NIK STAUSKAS THA GAWD
I apologize in advance for my inability to form complete thoughts. That game was excruciating right up until the point when it was glorious, which was... the very end, basically.
After quickly losing an early eight-point lead, Michigan fell behind Michigan State by as much as eight points at the 13:29 mark of the second half, mostly due to the heroics of Gary Harris. While hounding Nik Stauskas on the one end, Harris was unstoppable on the other, pouring in a game-high 27 points while adding five rebounds, two assists, and three steals.
The Wolverines clawed back thanks to some remarkable guard play of their own. Nik Stauskas hit five of his six three-point attempts, scored 19 points, dished out four assists, and capped off the effort by trolling the Izzone. His triple with 3:12 remaining gave Michigan a three-point lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Michigan didn't lose that lead in large part due to Derrick Walton, whose 19 points matched Stauskas for the team lead. Ten of those came in the final 2:29, beginning with a fast-break and-one layup after Caris LeVert threaded a perfect outlet pass that hit Walton in stride. Walton also knocked down both of his three-point attempts, 2/4 of two-pointers, and 9/10 from the stripe—8/9 in the game's waning moments. On defense, he helped limit Keith Appling to ten points on 3/11 shooting. If the freshman point guard was nervous, it didn't show.
LeVert scored 17 of his own and pulled down eight rebounds. There was bad with the good—Harris often had his way with LeVert offensively, though that's not a huge knock, and LeVert's three assists were canceled out by three turnovers—but his ability to snake into the lane proved critical, as did his free-throw shooting down the stretch.
Jon Horford also stepped up big, connecting on all three of his field goals and contributing three boards and three blocks. Jordan Morgan rebounded well—four of his five came on offense—but was limited severely by foul trouble. Glenn Robinson III scored nine but struggled with his shot. Mitch McGary, meanwhile, provided valuable coaching advice in the late stages:
WIN THE GAME (via)
In the end, Michigan's total team effort overcame a remarkable performance from Harris and a shorthanded Michigan State squad (I'm required to mention this by law). It also finished off a three-game gauntlet that the Wolverines improbably got through unscathed:
KenPom gave Michigan only a 3.89% chance to beat all of Wisconsin, Iowa & MSU during this stretch. U-M's one win away.
— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) January 25, 2014
Like, really improbably.
— Zack Novak (@novak3159) January 26, 2014
The end result: Michigan is alone in first place in the Big Ten, the last undefeated squad standing, and the schedule eases up significantly during the next three games—Purdue, at Indiana, and Nebraska. Despite breaking in a freshman point guard, dealing with the loss of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., and losing Mitch McGary before conference play began, Michigan is in the driver's seat on the road to the conference title.
Michigan State's seniors will finish with a losing record overall against Michigan. They're currently 2-5.
— Bry Mac (@Bry_Mac) January 26, 2014
Michigan's now alone in first place in the Big Ten, has won three straight games against top ten opponents, and won on the road in Madison and East Lansing. Muppets, if not posted, would spontaneously appear.
And you can't have one without the other…
Hail Triplor, god of threes.
Come on guys, do you know there's a basketball game tonight?
Anyway: along with Thomas Rawls, Michigan has announced that Josh Furman and Richard Ash are exiting the program. Both would have been fifth year seniors and can presumably transfer and be eligible immediately as long as they have graduated.
Both Furman and Ash were pressed into the first extensive duty of their career late in the year, with Furman getting a couple of starts due to injury in the safety corps and Ash being rolled out to see if he could somewhat delay the runaway train that was the OSU rushing offense. The answer there was NOPE, and Furman was also not too good in his limited time.
Michigan now has 85 slot allotted for next year's roster, and there are a couple of other players in unfavorable depth chart situations who might look for greener pastures themselves.
MLive reporter Eric Woodyard has tweeted that Thomas Rawls is transferring to Central Michigan. The writing was on the wall for Rawls after being passed by not only two freshman tailbacks but—at least in the land of depth charts—Drake Johnson. Rawls didn't see a carry after the opener despite the chaos at tailback, and wasn't going to next year. This has likely been in the works for a while, as Michigan started pursuing a tailback in the 2014 recruiting class a couple months ago.
Rawls was a Signing Day add in the Rodriguez/Hoke transitional class with generic three star hype from everyone except Fred Jackson, who made ludicrous comparisons to Mark Ingram because that's what Fred Jackson does.
I'll wait until spring practice is over to update the Attrition Watch fully; for now just know that Rawls is the eighth member of the 21-man 2011 class to depart. With Desmond Morgan, Frank Clark, Blake Countess, Brennen Beyer, and Raymon Taylor looking like starting-quality players, the 2011 outfit is marginally better than 2010. Marginally being your key word there.
Michigan will go into spring with a tentative depth chart like so:
- Derrick Green
- DeVeon Smith
- Justice Hayes
- Drake Johnson
Previously: MSU From 1000 Feet
|WHAT||Michigan at Michigan State|
|WHERE||Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan|
|WHEN||7 pm Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||MSU -5 (KenPom)|
|TV||ESPN/WatchESPN (PBP: Dan Shulman; Analyst: Dick Vitale)|
Right: Zack Novak, delightfully unhinged.
As has been covered here extensively, Michigan State is definitely without the services of power forward, rebounding terror, and excellent defender Branden Dawson (broken hand), and it's looking highly unlikely that center, athletic marvel, and inside/outside scoring threat Adreian Payne (plantar fasciitis) will be able to play at all—even if Payne gives it a go, his nagging foot injury should sap a lot of his effectiveness.
[UPDATE: Payne is officially ruled out, per ESPN's Jeff Goodman.]
Starting in their place will be 6'9" sophomore Matt Costello and 6'8" redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski. Costello hits the offensive glass at a rate just above Payne; otherwise, this is a huge rebounding downgrade for MSU, as Kaminski is an okay offensive rebounder and almost-nonexistent defensive rebounder while Costello's DREB% is a full eight points lower than Payne's. Non-rebounding defense also takes a hit even with Costello's excellent shot-blocking. Kaminski isn't in the same league on that end as Dawson—look for Glenn Robinson III to attack early and test if Kaminski can stay in front of him.
State's offense also looks very different sans Payne and Dawson. Costello finishes at the rim at the exact same rate as Payne (69%) but far more of his looks inside are assisted; while Payne provides excellent outside shooting, Costello is 0/7 this season on shots outside the paint. Dawson takes over 75% of his shots at the rim, many on putbacks or in transition; Kaminski is a pure spot-up shooter, shooting 17/31 from three this season while attempting just eight twos. Brian covered the other options up front in his 1000-foot view:
[Gavin] Schilling, Costello, and [Alex] Gauna are all the same guy. This guy is 6'9", has usage in the Matt Vogrich range, fouls a lot, and gets rebounds. The most notable statistical outliers are a bunch of blocks from Costello and the fact that Schilling is on pace to foul out in 18 minutes, should he get that much PT.
6'7 shooting-specialist-who-can't-really-shoot Russell Byrd could also see a few minutes, though his impact should be minimal; he's played nine minutes in Big Ten play and put up a five trillion in his last outing.
Expect 6'5" wing Denzel Valentine to also get some run at the four, especially since he's a very good defensive rebounder for his size. Valentine is the guy most likely to give Tom Izzo an aneurysm of the non-leadership variety; he makes a lot of Sportscenter-caliber plays—especially with slick passes—and offsets a lot of those with hilariously dumb turnovers. He's not a very good finisher around the basket and isn't a quality shooter, either—his shooting splits are 44%/30%/71% with a low free throw rate. He does his best work as both a passer and finisher in transition; in halfcourt sets he's much less effective.
If you're getting the impression I've buried the lede, you would be correct. Michigan State's two best healthy players are senior point guard Keith Appling and sophomore wing Gary Harris. Healthy is a relative term here—Appling is playing through a wrist injury that appears to be affecting his shooting and ballhandling. Despite this, he's playing the best basketball of his career, shooting far better than ever before (49%/42%/72% with a high FT rate) and keeping his assist rate up while cutting down on turnovers.
Harris, meanwhile, has become a more efficient scorer while taking on a bigger role despite a big dropoff in his three-point shot (33% compared to 41% last season, though he's back up to a 41% clip in Big Ten play, best in the conference). He's done this by more frequently getting to the line, where he shoots 84%, and hitting 54% of his two-pointers—as UMHoops points out, he's getting a lot of points off of screens:
Harris has improved his efficiency when catching the ball off screens by 31% and he’s even using a few more screens. He’s also using significantly more ball screens this season. Just 11% of his offensive possessions were ball screens (including passes) last season, despite the fact that he was fairly efficient. He’s doubled that usage this season while making a modest improvement in his efficiency. Harris is the Spartans most efficient ball screen player by a wide margin.
Luke Winn highlighted this in his latest power rankings; Michigan State runs Harris off a variety of screens, much like how Michigan frees up Nik Stauskas:
Harris went off in his last two games, scoring 23 points (5/5 2-pt, 2/4 3-pt, 7/10 FT) against Illinois and 24 (4/7, 4/6, 4/4) against his home state squad Indiana. He's averaging 18.3 points and hasn't scored fewer than 13 in Big Ten play. Harris is also the team's best perimeter defender—it's a safe bet he'll be the one guarding Stauskas.
The Spartans feature just two perimeter bench players who see remotely significant time. 6'0" junior Travis Trice is a three-point specialist shooting 42% from beyond the arc, one percentage point better than his two-point rate on 11 more attempts; expect Spike Albrecht to see most of his time when Trice is on the floor. 6'4" freshman Alvin Ellis has attempted just 24 shots in 135 minutes this season while committing 11 turnovers; he could be pressed into more extensive action due to the need for Valentine to play more up front.
Michigan State is 18-1 (7-0 B1G) with their only blemish a surprising 14-point home defeat at the hands of #46 North Carolina, a loss that's looked worse and worse as the season has progressed, especially since the Spartans had their full complement of players in that one. The Spartans do boast an solid list of quality wins: #16 Kentucky and #43 Oklahoma on neutral sites, a blowout at #45 Texas, and an overtime triumph at Breslin over #18 Ohio State (though that win has lost a lot of its luster).
They've also allowed some less-than-stellar teams to hang with them at Breslin: #99 Columbia led them at halftime, #104 Portland was just four points back at the break, and the Spartans needed a late second-half run to dispatch Indiana in their most recent game.
Now that we're partway into conference play, I'll start posting four factors charts for all the games and Big Ten games only, with sample size issues obviously coming into play on the latter for a while.
Four factors, all games (national ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||54.2 (30)||16.4 (61)||32.8 (141)||35.3 (283)|
|Defense||43.7 (16)||20.0 (86)||27.5 (30)||34.1 (56)|
Conference-only (seven games, Big Ten ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||51.8 (4)||17.5 (8)||32.3 (6)||37.4 (7)|
|Defense||44.6 (2)||21.1 (2)||26.8 (3)||37.5 (7)|
As you can see, this wasn't a vintage Izzo offensive rebounding team even before their best player in that regard (Dawson) removed himself from the equation. MSU has been subpar at generating points inside the arc—they're sixth in the B1G in 2-pt shooting, ninth in percentage of points via two-pointers, and ninth in percentage of points on free throws—but have made up for a lot of that with stellar three-point shooting (39.1%, tops in the conference).
The defense ranks first in efficiency in conference play thanks to excellent two-point defense bolstered by a ridiculous 20.3% block rate (1st in B1G) and the conference's highest steal rate. Like Iowa, they've been fortunate in three-point defense—the Spartans are 290th nationally in 3PA/FGA yet 60th in 3-pt% against. Their interior defense should suffer from the lack of Dawson and Payne, which could also open things up outside.
Run them off the line. The Spartans have become heavily three-point reliant, ranking first in the Big Ten in percentage of points generated beyond the arc, and they'll be even more perimeter-oriented with Kaminski replacing much of Dawson's minutes at the four. Aside from Harris, and to a lesser extent Costello, none of their healthy regulars are very good finishers at the rim. Michigan can afford to close out hard and force MSU to try and keep up with two-pointers, especially now that they're missing a good deal of their offensive rebounding.
Work the high screens. This is going to happen no matter what with Michigan—hey, Nik Stauskas is really good at these!—and it could be emphasized even more in this game as they try to lure Costello, an excellent shot-blocker, away from the rim and hopefully even get him into foul trouble. If Costello has to sit for any length of time, MSU lacks a rim protector and either must go with a very foul-prone replacement, whether that be Gauna or Schilling, or play significantly undersized with Valentine at the four.
Take care of the ball. Michigan State gets out in transition even more than Iowa—35.2% of their shots come in the first ten seconds of the shot clock, per hoop-math—and while they aren't as efficient on the break as the Hawkeyes they're still dangerous. Harris has a top-75 steal rate, Trice sits just outside the top 100, and Valentine can be a ball-hawk, too; Caris LeVert, especially, is going to have to play more carefully or Michigan will cede some very easy buckets.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan State by 5
WHAT'S THAT YOU SAY ABOUT KENPOM NOT ACCOUNTING FOR DAWSON AND PAYNE BEING OUT I CAN'T HEAR YOU LALALALALALALALALALA
I mentioned it a bit above, but [the front line] will be a weakness Michigan will want to exploit. That doesn't mean straight posting up, but ifor a point guard can penetrate, it will open a lot of options. Stauskas looks so good in this role, either going to the hoop, pulling up or dishing to a big man. This will be the biggest key to MSU's defense. In the last two years, MSU has defended U-M's ball screens well, but, if Payne is gone, it leaves big men who don't have much experience with it. MSU's defense struggled with the penetration against Indiana.
UNIMPORTANT ASIDE: Big Ten refs are… trying. The over and back rule requires both the ball and your entire body to be across the line to kick in.
lolver and back
Anyway. On to the Titanic Matchup Of Teams Missing Key Large Persons.
It really does not seem like Payne is going to play. Joe Rexrode keeps assuring everyone that this is not a mind game being played by Izzo so Payne can storm out of the locker room Willis Reed-style. For one:
Rexrode: on Adreian Payne, "he's doing nothing [in practice]... I think it's very unlikely he'll play, and may not play for a few weeks."
I was under the erroneous impression that Payne's thing was an ankle issue; it is instead the nasty and persistent plantar fasciitis.
Even if Payne does dress, having missed so much practice time would leave him rusty and out of shape, matched up against a guy who just loves to run the floor for buckets. I know it's hard to believe MSU will leave the guy on the bench, but despite that it seems like the thing to do is look at this game like he's not available.
Kaminski and Costello step into starting roles.
Meet the new frontcourt, then. State has four large persons available for their frontcourt spots: junior Alex Gauna, sophomore Matt Costello, and freshmen Kenny Kaminski and Gavin Schilling. Kaminski is the only one with any sort of perimeter game* and is likely to get all of his minutes at the 4; the other three guys will split 40 minutes at the 5 and there may be some sections of the game where two are out there.
We discussed Kaminski a bit yesterday: he's 6'8" and sits in the corner hitting threes on offense. That's about all he does; his 6.5 DREB rate is in the Nnanna Egwu realm, and while you would expect that to uptick in the absence of Dawson, Kaminski is usually replacing him and most of his playing time has come recently, with Payne out.
Schilling, Costello, and Gauna are all the same guy. This guy is 6'9", has usage in the Matt Vogrich range, fouls a lot, and gets rebounds. The most notable statistical outliers are a bunch of blocks from Costello and the fact that Schilling is on pace to foul out in 18 minutes, should he get that much PT.
Finally, MSU will probably check out a lineup with 6'5" Denzel Valentine at the 4, because Kaminski isn't going the whole way and Valentine provides offense none of the tall guys do.
*[For those that remember the early MSU blitz of Michigan targets in the class that eventually became Stauskas/LeVert/Albrecht/McGary/Robinson, this is an inversion of expectation. Kaminski was the one guy Beilein did not offer and Costello was supposed to be the Beilein-style skilled post who can take threes.]
Goodbye to all boards. Well, not all boards. But lots. When Michigan meets Michigan State, Michigan gets murdered on the boards. The last two years:
2012-13 @ Breslin: M gives up 14 OREB, a 37% rate, loses by 23.
2012-13 @ Crisler: M gives up 19(!) OREB, a 50% rate, wins by one despite hitting zero three pointers. How in the hell did they win that game?
2011-12 @ Breslin: M gives up 12 OREB, a 48% rate, loses by ten.
2011-12 @ Crisler: M gives up 9 OREB, a 36% rate, wins by 1.
In most of these games Michigan responded to this blizzard of second chances with two or three OREBs of their own. It has been an enormous blowout for MSU in this department for four straight games, and it's a miracle Michigan pulled out the two home games by one point despite the bombing. MSU went into each game expecting a massive possession advantage and got it.
A repeat was already looking less likely this year as MSU exchanged Derrick Nix for Denzel Valentine. MSU's OREB rate on the season—one accumulated against a number of tiny nonconference opponents and mostly with the services of Payne and Dawson—is a pedestrian 141st nationally, a big drop from top-50 output the last two years.
Now with Dawson and Payne out MSU has lost more than half of their putback attempts on the year—35 of their 62. The rest of MSU's rebounding numbers are deflated by Dawson and Payne picking up so much of that responsibility, but I think the expectation going in here is that this should be an even matchup. Dawson's OREB rate is elite; they're replacing him with guys who don't provide even half of what he does; they were already just average.
They can D, probably. MSU's defense is tenth in Kenpom and when you click over to just the conference stats they leap to first thanks to huge block and TO rates and excellent two-point defense. Then you look at their schedule.
Big ten offenses come in bands this year.
ELITE: Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin are in the top five.
REAL GOOD: MSU and Minnesota are 26th and 16th, respectively.
GRIM: Penn State is the only other top 100 offense in the league and they're at 88th; OSU, Purdue, Nebraska, Illinois, and Indiana follow, ranging down to 161st.
NORTHWESTERN: The Wildcats are 325th.
MSU has played only teams in the grim zone save one against Minnesota in which they gave up 75 points in a 73-possession OT game. Michigan is on a whole different level from MSU opposition so far, leading the league by five points in eFG%.
And they're now shooting. Previously-reliable bricklayer Keith Appling was 25% from three as a sophomore and 32% as a junior; now he's at 43%. This is the major change in his game from a year ago; he has also incrementally improved his A:TO ratio. That plus Travis Trice and Kaminski's blazing introduction has seen them hit nearly 40% of their threes in Big Ten play, and that seems like a more realistic number than their season average given the increased prominence Kaminski will have going forward.
They still don't take a ton of threes—they are Michigan State, after all—but this is going to look like a four-out-one-in offense that will be extremely disorienting to MSU fans.
Gary Harris is kind of good. Surprise! He's more of a shooter than Stauskas is these days, with more than half of his shots from behind the line. He's only hitting 33%, though. Harris is also their best perimeter defender and can expect to draw Stauskas duty, at least until he picks up a foul. I don't think Izzo wants to match up a foul magnet like Stauskas up against his most critical offensive player all night.