"The devil's in the details," said John Beilein after the game, describing the difficulty of winning against good teams.
For 38 minutes, Michigan did enough of the little things to hold a lead against top-ranked Arizona. They shot the ball well, played tough defense on the interior, and didn't allow an athletic Wildcats squad to get into transition at all. Throughout the game, however, they couldn't keep Arizona from owning the offensive boards, and once they started converting putback opportunities down the stretch the Wolverines couldn't hold on—after scoring just two points off nine first-half offensive rebounds, the Wildcats had six critical second-chance points from their eight second-half opportunities. Boxing out, as it turns out, is a critical detail.
Michigan led by 11 points after the first possession of the second half on the strength of an outstanding performance by Glenn Robinson III (right, Fuller), who had 16 points on a perfect 7/7 mark from the field at halftime. For the first time all season, Robinson consistently created his own offense, beginning with a nifty head fake in the post that led to a layup for his first points of the game. Robinson was a non-factor in the latter stanza, however, adding just three points on 1/2 shooting, and the team managed just 12 points—three on a desperation Spike Albrecht shot with two seconds left—in the final 7:55.
The Wolverines still had their opportunities in the late going. The teams played dramatic back-and-forth basketball in the final couple minutes. After Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's three-point play gave Arizona their first lead since the opening minutes with 2:32 to play, Mitch McGary retook control with a pair of free throws, then Brandon Ashley and Nik Stauskas traded quick baskets. Then, when Michigan looked to have the Wildcats scrambling for a good look, McGary picked up a very questionable touch foul on the perimeter; Arizona's Nick Johnson, who played outstanding defense against Stauskas all afternoon, rattled both free throws home with 24 seconds left.
Michigan then tried pushing it up the court for a quick shot; Stauskas got a decent look at a long two but couldn't get it to fall, and the Wildcats had the possession arrow when McGary tied up Aaron Gordon for the rebound. Johnson sunk another pair of free throws, Albrecht managed just a split after Arizona intentionally fouled him with seven seconds left, and Johnson essentially iced the game with a third consecutive perfect trip to the line. While Albrecht made it interesting with a pull-up three with two seconds left, the last-gasp prayer by Stauskas after a missed Arizona free throw only found backboard.
Despite the loss, there were many encouraging signs for Michigan. Robinson's first half certainly qualified, as did another strong second half from Caris LeVert, who finished second on the team with 15 points on 6/15 shooting, ten of those coming after the break. Jon Horford played 25 strong minutes, tallying four blocks—all in the first half—and throwing down a huge dunk on Gordon for his only points of the game. While Derrick Walton was limited to one point in just 14 minutes, Albrecht ran the offense well, dishing out four assists in addition to hitting three of his four attempts from downtown.
In the end, though, Arizona's size and athleticism simply overwhelmed; seven different Wildcats had an offensive rebound (five with 2+), and the massive front line of Gordon, Brandon Ashley, and Kaleb Tarczewski combined to score 46 points on 21/37 shooting.
"It gives us great confidence," said Beilein, referring to hanging in there against a team he praised highly. "But also an attitude to come back and get better now."
The path to improvement, of course, begins with the details.
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Arizona|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan –1 (KenPom)|
Right: Is Arizona enormous and athletic? Well, this guy comes off the bench, if that answers the question.
Michigan welcomes 10-0, #1-ranked Arizona to Crisler tomorrow; the Wildcats ascended to the top spot after following an NIT Tipoff title (beating Duke in the championship game) with three wins in the last ten days. KenPom's metrics are slightly less bullish than the national polls, ranking them sixth; this is still pretty darn good, obviously.
Any look at the Wildcats should start up front, as this team takes full advantage of a huge lineup (15th nationally in effective height). 6'9" freshman Aaron Gordon, a consensus top-five overall recruit, is living up to the prodigious hype; while he's first and foremost a great rebounder (11.4/20.7 OR%/DR%), he's a very effective finisher around the rim who can also stretch the floor (6/16 3-pt). Thanks to a proclivity for taking two-point jumpers that he rarely hits (16.2%, per hoop-math), he's Arizona's least efficient rotation player despite an offensive rating over 105—again, this team is good. Gordon also has 13 blocks in ten games. Aside from the iffy jump shot, his only apparent weakness is free-throw shooting (44.7%).
Gordon is flanked by another former five-star, 6'8" forward Brandon Ashley, whose statistical profile is quite similar to Gordon's except with significantly better shooting numbers—Ashley's 2P/3P/FT splits are an impressive 62/58/73, though that three-point number is based on just 12 attempts. His rebounding rates are nearly as impressive as Gordon's, though he's not as much of an interior defensive presence. Oh, and then there's the seven-foot center, sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski, another excellent rebounder on both ends who finishes very well around the basket. While the offense doesn't run through Tarczewski much, he's the team's top interior defender, tallying 15 blocks already this season.
Now we get to the team's leading scorer, 6'3" shooting guard Nick Johnson, whose shooting splits are a very efficient 61/36/82 despite being the team's highest-usage player. There doesn't appear to be an easy way to defend him, as he's both a solid jump-shooter (40% 2-pt jumpers, 36% 3-pt) and a great finisher at the rim for a guard (77%, which includes going 17/19[!] in transition). Despite the front line of basketball Hoovers, he manages to tally nearly four rebounds per game in addition to his nine total blocks; even the guards play big.
The man to pull it all together offensively is 6'1" junior point guard T.J. McConnell, whose 36.8% assist rate ranks 21st nationally. McConnell takes the fewest percentage of shots out of anyone in Arizona's rotation; when he takes them, however, he does fairly well, hitting 55% of his twos and 35% of his threes this season. He's also a defensive pest with 18 steals this year, and like everyone on this dang team he pulls in defensive rebounds at a high rate for his position (12.4%).
Arizona mostly sticks to a seven-man rotation, so there are just two bench players of note. The man pictured terrorizing two poor souls from New Mexico State at the top of this post is 6'7" forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the other five-star freshman. He's a 55% shooter—mostly on attempts around the basket—and good offensive rebounder who's capable of doing this. 6'3" sophomore guard Gabe York shoots 40% from beyond the arc and otherwise doesn't add a lot—he's also a 40% shooter from inside the arc.
Arizona certainly earned their spot at the top of the polls, having posted four wins over KenPom top-100 teams: a road win over #40 San Diego State, NIT Tipoff triumphs over #57 Drexel and #19 Duke, and Wednesday's home blowout of #81 New Mexico State. The Drexel and Duke games both were relatively close affairs, with Drexel actually holding an early 27-8 lead in their game.
Four factors, with obvious sample size caveats applying (national ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||55.3 (27)||18.7 (186)||42.7 (8)||44.0 (117)|
|Defense||40.4 (4)||17.1 (250)||24.7 (12)||32.3 (45)|
Why yes, a team full of skilled giants does rebound exceptionally well, as it turns out. You probably gleaned this from the individual numbers: the Wildcats are one of the best teams in the country at not only crashing the offensive glass, but preventing opponents from doing the same. The defense in general is posting extremely good numbers: #5 nationally in defensive efficiency (91.4), #11 in two-point defense (40.3%), and #23 in three-point defense (27.2%).
The offense is good but not lethal, with most of their points being generated inside the arc. While Arizona is 26th in offensive efficiency, they've struggled in some of their tougher games:
Not counting laugher @ home vs Texas Tech, Arizona scored 0.99 points per trip vs. Drexel, Duke, UNLV; 26% on 3s, 48% 2s. Fret accordingly.
— John Gasaway (@JohnGasaway) December 8, 2013
If Michigan can keep Arizona out of transition and force them to settle for outside shots, they can hold their own. While this is easier said than done, Michigan has been very good at not turning the ball over and the Wildcat defense doesn't force many themselves.
BOOOOXXXXXX OUUUUUTTTTTTT. This really cannot be emphasized enough. It won't be enough for Mitch McGary to hold down the fort on the defensive glass while the rest of the team looks to break out; with so many good offensive rebounders on Arizona, everybody needs to account for their man or this will turn into a parade of putbacks.
Fall back. On the other end of the court, however, Michigan will be chasing a unicorn if they think the path to winning involves anyone besides McGary going all-out for second-chance opportunities. Arizona is just too big and athletic up front for the Wolverines to risk allowing them easy breakout opportunities, especially since the Wildcat offense can bog down in the halfcourt. If you're getting the sense that a Michigan win relies heavily on McGary having a huge performance ... yeah, that sounds about right.
Establish a secondary scorer early. Michigan's recent struggles have in large part stemmed from having no immediate answer when opponents expend most of their energy making sure Nik Stauskas doesn't beat them. I don't know about the how, I'm not even entirely sure about the who, but somebody—my guess: Caris LeVert—needs to establish themselves early as a legitimate scoring threat in the halfcourt.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1
KenPom has decreed it, and I have learned my lesson several times over. On paper this doesn't look like a great matchup for Michigan; however, if they can find a way to get out in transition—and Arizona isn't great at taking care of the ball—then they should be able to find a way to put up enough points against a stout defense to make this a very tight game; from there, I have more confidence in Michigan's shooters than Arizona's down the stretch.
Stauskas' ankle is "pretty close" to 100%, while McGary and Morgan are dealing with quad contusions that shouldn't limit them at all.
Alex Kile's pointless game winner [Bill Rapai]
And it was the most pointless of all events. Michigan got a 2-2 tie out of a tightly contested game against a quite good Ferris State outfit on Wednesday, and fans were treated to a shootout at the end. The shootout decided nothing and meant nothing and took about 85 shooters to complete, but it was superficially fun all the same. Wow experience.
Anyway, Michigan staged an epic comeback in the shot department after a first period that Ferris dominated there and on the ice. M went from 14-4 down to 22-22 after two and went toe-to-toe; in the third they were held without a shot for a long time mostly because they kept tipping the puck two inches wide of the post, agonizingly. Ferris's tying goal came on a screened shot where it looked like Nagelvoort was unaware of who even had the puck and was badly positioned; other than that he was pretty damn good.
Michigan needs Kevin Lohan back, and soon, so they can sit Clare. Clare saw a potential two-on-one developing at center ice and decided to charge it, for the rare center-ice pinch. Upside: Clare gets the puck just outside of the blue line with three M skaters in the offensive zone. Downside: two on one featuring Sinelli as the last guy. Completely insane decision, one of many.
Other than that, a damn good game between two good teams without a lot of offensive wizards on their roster.
GO AWAY. EVERYBODY GO AWAY. Pat Narduzzi turns down the UConn job, which makes perfect sense. Bob Diaco then takes it, which doesn't but does mean Notre Dame has lost both its coordinators this offseason. Offense hardly matters since that's Brian Kelly's show; Diaco's departure might put some wobble in a unit that's been pretty good ever since he figured out how to defend Navy.
ND players certainly freaked out about it. Stephon Tuitt in a since-deleted tweet:
It is called that, Mr. Tuitt, and my suggestion to you is to do the same.
As for Narduzzi, he seems to be holding out for a job that is not an AAC death trap. This is probably the right idea. Unfortunately for Michigan fans hoping for some shakeup in the MSU program, with all the heads on the table save Mack Brown it doesn't look like there's going to be an opening of appropriate attractiveness this offseason unless someone gets poached by the NFL late. I'll pencil him in as Illinois's coach starting next year.
Coaching trees. Diaco is the third Brian Kelly assistant to get a head job (Charlie Molnar is at UMass and Chuck Martin was just hired at Miami). Current head coaches from Carr/Hoke era assistants after Ron English (understandably) lost his mind at EMU:
- Brady Hoke, Michigan
- This is not a tree.
- You need branches for that.
- It's a coaching line.
With Mattison and Borges not candidates for head jobs due to a variety of factors, that's not going to change. Hell, the only Michigan guy under 50 to have reached a coordinator spot is Scot Loeffler, who may not be long for that role after one-year stints at Temple and Florida were followed by a miserable opening year at Virginia Tech.
That's alarming. Compare Carr's coaching tree to Bo's… actually don't even bother doing that, compare it to Gary Moeller. It's not good that the only major school still willing to hire Michigan coaches is Michigan.
YES GO AWAY. Braxton Miller's looking at the NFL:
“It’s tough,” Miller told the Tribune. “I just don't know. I’ve really got to sit down and go through the pros and cons. I’ll talk to my parents, take it slow.
"Hopefully ball out on January 3rd and see what the scouts are looking at.”
The NFL is looking at Braxton Miller and seeing a guy who's nowhere near an NFL quarterback right now, so this probably won't come to anything. But it should. Go away!
I like big Butt. Sorry. Inevitable that was going to happen at some point. It couldn't be helped, really. Here's why it happened:
Butt entered his first year at Michigan as a scrawny, 6-foot-6, 209-pound prospect with potential.
He'll leave it some 37 pounds heavier, at 6-foot-6, 246-pounder with 11 percent body fat and an appetite for much, much more.
"(The coaching staff) wants me at 255, but I think I can get to 260, I'm a skinny 246 right now," Butt said. "I can put on more."
That is a crazy amount of weight in one year. Contrast that to Devin Funchess, who was listed at 235 as both a freshman and sophomore. While that lack of weight gain was mostly due to the roster lying its ass off about Funchess as a freshman, hey look one of those guys is a tight end and the other one is a wide receiver who occasionally puts his hand down.
If Butt can get to 260 by next fall, Michigan could have an actual dual threat tight end. This would make everyone happy: Borges would have a guy who's an actual matchup issue and I wouldn't have to watch Borges put tight ends on the field over guys like Dileo when that makes no sense at all.
Come on baby.
You wouldn't even recognize my blocking (back in the spring compared to know), I didn't know which foot to step with or where to put my hands, it's night and day," Butt says. "I look at the film and wonder 'who is that kid?' The coaches here put a complete transformation on me."
They're going to play tight ends; hopefully they'll have one worth playing.
This used to happen all the time! Michigan's safety play was not great this year but got a lot worse once Michigan started futzing with their starters, inexplicably at first and then apparently injury-forced, and I still don't get why Michigan was so down on Thomas Gordon. Was he great? No. Did he do this?
For instance, below Michigan State packages mesh with a smash variation combining a corner and swing route. The goal is to put a man beater to the boundary and a hi-lo stretch to the field against a cover 2 corner.
At the snap, Cook reads cover 2, so he knows he is going to the wide side of the field, where he has the 2 on 1 against the squat corner. Cook knows that the corner must cover the swing to the wide side flat, and he can throw the flag pattern before the cover 2 safety can react.
So Michigan State has a good call against the Buckeye coverage. But a completion is one thing. Throwing gasoline on the fire, Corey Pitt Brown takes a horrible angle, coming under the throw and violating a cover 2 safety's primary rule, which is not get beat deep. Seventy-two yards later Michigan State was up 10-0.
No. He was a boring person who did boring things like be a step late on well-thrown corner routes. This is pretty good in the grand scheme of things.
Given what we saw out of Avery and Furman when they were inserted it's clear no one was pushing through; messing with the safeties was a counterproductive move likely borne out of panic about the offense making the defensive coaches try anything that might improve the defense. By the OSU game their hand was forced by Wilson's injury, which is one of about ten things that may have cost Michigan that game.
Compare and contrast. Michigan State got inundated with Rose Bowl ticket requests to the point that they had a choice: cut out some low end folks or reduce available tickets for big ballers from 6 to 4 and medium ballers from 4 to 2. They went with the latter.
"At some point, you have to be true to the character of your institution, your history and fanbase. We're not elitist. We realize we have tremendous fan support and we know the sacrifices people make to be donors.
"The decision was made to be in line with the inclusive character of our university," Schager added. "The bottom line is Michigan State University wants to accommodate as many people as possible (for) this experience that everybody wants to be a part of."
As soon as Michigan got a good basketball team, they reseated Crisler such that people who had put in the time to watch ten years of dreck got booted upstairs if they weren't huge donors.
And there's not going to be a pep band on Saturday… for some reason. The pep band people are irritated, so it's not them, but it seems insane for even Dave Brandon to try to milk some 100 extra seats out of one regular season basketball game. That appears to be the case, though.
One of these athletic directors is making decisions based on building loyalty with his whole fanbase; the other is still running a company that markets cardboard as pizza.
Amir Williams! Oh man I feel your pain, Amir Williams.
This is how Brady Hoke sees an 'M'. [Upchurch]
Recruits: if you are reading this, do not believe the man in the red/crimson track suit telling you that criticism of Brady Hoke or his staff means Michigan is going to lose him anytime soon. Those are very bad men who are likely to have you downsized to Southern Alabama or regularly featured in photographs and articles that highlight how bad you are at tackling. You also should pay no attention to bloggers who suggest you should ride pine until 2016 and that your future coach needs to win X amount of games until then to even be his coach. Also I shouldn't be talking to you.
Fifth-year seniors >>>>>>> freshmen on special teams. That's why I strongly disagree with the conclusions of AC1997's assessment of this year's redshirting, while appreciating the hell out of the diary (quick read, too). The only one he's mad about is Da'Mario Jones, while Bosch and York are "questionable." I know we did this recently in a roundtable but my take is different:
- Obviously play him: Smith, Butt, Gedeon. All were effective and needed.
- Not mad but needed a shirt: Shane—we've discussed this. Green but you kind of have to play five-stars. Bosch but chances are good there's still two decent 2017 starting guards out of Samuelson, Dawson, and Mason Cole and other 2014/15 recruits.
Me in 2017 is (probably) very upset about this. [Fuller]
- Mad: The safeties and receivers and here's our big disagreement. Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill are perfect examples of the reason we have a tag about burning redshirts on special teams. Jones & York—Mathlete keeps telling us that returning experience at receiver is a strong indicator of a good offense and vice versa, and unless a receiver has a massive talent lead on the DBs trying to cover him WR effectiveness is about route running and blocking and reps reps reps.
- Pick ONE cursed freshman corner: Both Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling played, both were pretty good for freshmen, one was needed. Theory: Uber recruits tend to cast a shadow on recruiting their positions, so it's important to have good stocks ahead of them (see: Russell Bellomy/Shane Morris situation). Peppers doesn't fill a depth chart by himself, and if he really is Woodson reincarnate* he'll be gone to the NFL after winning the 2016 Heisman and then we're left with Whitley and Howard.**
At the risk of sounding like every NFL columnist who thinks every franchise needs to adopt the strategy of whichever team just won the Superbowl, the reason Michigan State and Wisconsin have been to Indianapolis twice apiece, despite recruiting classes that top out like our (mediocre-for-Michigan) 2011 haul, is because they redshirt almost everybody and keep them around.
It's a luxury of stable programs, and Michigan is still paying for not being one of those for the latter half of the 2000s. Denard would have been nice to have this year, obviously. How badly did you wish for Vincent Smith when the RBs were getting Gardner killed? How's Michigan's pass rush if you add fifth years from Roh and Campbell to it? Brandin Hawthorne could have let you put a shirt on Gedeon. Developed talent is good. Fifth year seniors are good. Leastways they're better than a marginal improvement in kickoff coverage for a team that rarely scores touchdowns.
*[Nobody is Woodson reincarnate. The thing about the greatest players in the history of the game is they don't grow on trees.]
** [I mean who wants 1998 Todd Howard starting? He's a true freshman. He's short. He doesn't know how to press yet. He's…he's right behind me isn't he?
Nope, he's over there by Brian.]
That's not what I expected. Okay, reader. Zoom out, cock your head sideways, and tell me with just a glance what you think this diary was about:
Turnover analysis? A deep look inside offensive stats? An estimated timetable for improvement? Nope: try a "when do we fire this guy" post.
Deep, statistical analysis to answer rhetorical fan questions that have simple answers not requiring statistics (Michigan isn't firing Brady Hoke anytime soon): these are my readers tag activated. Really it's a case of bad title—what he's doing is comparing Hoke's coaching stops to those of the most successful coaches in recent history, concluding that Michigan needs to win 20 games in the next two seasons (and probably a national championship) to have his name placed among that pantheon. Expectations are probably around 17, with the fanbase getting mighty grumpy if that number dips below 16.
Your regular etc. LSA tackles (ha!) the defense, which straddled the B+/A- line all year until it faced Miller-Hyde without its middle linebackers.
[After the jump: a very meta board]
Maybe four of these guys will wear that number at Michigan, but go ahead and update your NCAA dynasty anway
With the regular season in the books and almost three weeks until the bowl game the upcoming weekend has turned into a commit party, with almost every committed 2014 prospect planning to be in attendance. There are a couple that can’t make it and with good reason but the coaches are expecting almost every future member of Team 135 on campus.
DT Brady Pallante
DB Jabrill Peppers
OL Juwan Bushell-Beatty
DB Brandon Watson
WR Freddy Canteen
WR Drake Harris
LB Chase Winovich
OL Mason Cole
DE Lawrence Marshall
QB Wilton Speight
TE Ian Bunting
LB Jared Wangler
WR Moe Ways
LB Noah Furbush (was told by other recruits he will be there)
RB Vic Enwere (Currently committed to Cal, was recently visited by Fred Jackson, wants to wait until signing day to make final decision)
LB Michael Ferns – Ferns used his official visit for the Ohio State game and won’t be able to make the trip this weekend. His parents are busy with basketball season for his younger siblings and Michael is very busy finishing up his coursework as he prepares for early enrollment.
DT Bryan Mone – In about a month Mone will also enroll early and has decided that the lengthy trip from Utah isn’t necessary since he’ll be in Ann Arbor on a more permanent basis very soon.
The closeness and camaraderie that this class has developed since Ferns first committed over a year ago has always been apparent from the joke-tweeting back and forth between them and the Project 135 campaign created by Ferns and his family. All of the recruits seemed very excited to be getting together this weekend and the visit should help to solidify that bond as signing day nears.
If anything changes or any other names surface I will update as needed.
Jabrill Peppers Is Fast, Part Whatever
Oh, just Jabrill Peppers fielding a kickoff at the 0:21 mark, hauling down the far sideline—I like that sideline—and reaching the end zone at the 0:32 mark despite high-stepping the final few yards. 96 yards. 11 seconds. In full pads.
He's okay, I guess.
This weekend marks the time when just about every 2014 commit will take their official visit to Ann Arbor, including Peppers, who'll presumably have a nice chat with Brady Hoke about taking other visits—if he hasn't already been talked out of them by the coaches and his family, who've reportedly expressed their desire for Peppers to stick to his commitment.
According to multiple outlets, one uncommitted 2014 prospect will also take his official this weekend: three-star TX RB Vic Enwere, a current Cal commit. Enwere committed to Cal without ever visiting Berkeley—he's slated to visit there in January, and otherwise has no officials set up, so this is looks to be a two-team battle that could go either way. Enwere is now the only feasible target at running back to hold an offer, as CO ATH Kalen Ballage made a surprise commitment to Arizona State this week; he'd been expected to pledge to either Boise State or Michigan State.
The other visitor to keep an eye on is 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, who's recently stated an interest in visiting Ohio State. He's maintained all along that he's "100% committed" to Michigan, so hopefully a quick discussion about Hoke's job security—like Peppers, Crawford cited rumors about a potential coaching change as reason to look around—will dispel any desire to visit the Buckeyes.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, Tim Settle, a couple of four-star 2015 tackles, and more.]