1/25/2014 – Michigan 80, Michigan State 75 – 14-4, 7-0 Big Ten
Keith Appling had just jumped on Caris LeVert's back from behind as LeVert was going up for a layup. Using LeVert's back as leverage, Appling raked his hands across LeVert's, sending both LeVert and the ball flying. The ref on the baseline looked on dumbly and did nothing as Michigan State took the ball upcourt.
On the sideline, John Beilein executed a sort of rage-squat as he barked at the guy who had evidently been placed on the sideline without any instructions as to what the shiny silver thing in his mouth did. MSU got a layup on the other end; Michigan dumped the ball down to Robinson and got a whistle for an extended hand-check by Russell Byrd.
This did not mollify Beilein. He'd seen enough. He'd had just about enough of being the corny high school chemistry teacher kids roll their eyes at.
artist's impression of MSU lineup
In the aftermath we got the usual press conference from Tom Izzo in which he specifically enumerated all the things he wasn't blaming the loss on. Payne's out. (You may have heard of Mitch McGary, though maybe I shouldn't bring him up since he outcoached Izzo.) Dan Dakich trolled Dawson. (Izzo's the one who recruited Punchy McAngerIssues.) Harris and Appling got tired. (Because they had to play fewer minutes than Stauskas and LeVert.) Appling got his wrist dinged a month ago and can't shoot. (Selected Appling scorelines since injury-type substance: 27, 14, 14, 20, 24. Three point shooting in Big Ten play: 31%, right in line with last year's 32%.) He had to play the crappy players behind his starters. (They are crappy because he hasn't brought in a premier player other than Harris in three years.)
And, of course, the piece de resistance: "curious calls" that happened when the game was tied at 60.
The nerve of this guy.
Midway through the second half, Spike Albrecht was informed that to receive a timeout from the officials he has to submit a 20-page research paper on the semiotics of the term "timeout" and submit seven different forms of identification, three of which do not exist. Gary Harris's brilliant perimeter defense on Nik Stauskas was greatly aided by constant jersey tugs and in a couple cases just flat out grabbing the dude as he tried to cut. Travis Trice's attempts to stay in front of anyone on the floor via arm, shoulder, trip, or pathetic mewling would have been hilarious if they had not been uncalled and therefore enraging. Jordan Morgan fouled out on a series of ghost calls, including a double technical acquired after Russell Byrd, of all people, taunted Glenn Robinson. That was Morgan's fourth; Izzo managed to complain that Appling picking up his third with under eight minutes left was a great strain because it forced him to the bench.
Yes, in the same press conference in which he bitched about Appling not getting enough rest. The nerve of this guy.
By the end of Izzo's self-pity-fest you could feel the dim bulbs in the room composing their 30 for 30 pitches:
What if I told you that a team with a lottery pick shooting guard playing out of his mind stayed within five points of a team down the Naismith winner, another first round NBA draftee, and a preseason All-American?
What if I told you they were playing at home, but there was that one time a referee was not utterly petrified of someone in the stands calling him a bad name?
What if I told you that the first team had actually won two of the previous seven games against the second team?
ESPN 30 for 30 presents "THE GREATEST COACH IN THE UNIVERSE OF FOREVER."
Tuesday, January 25th, 2014.
Post-loss Izzo press conferences are IQ tests for Lansing-oriented sports reporters, and they all fail, always. A Mike Griffith gentleman writing for MLive used these sentences back-to-back:
There was no mention of the Spartans having to use a 10th different starting lineup on account of Dawson's injury.
"In the 30 years I've been here, I've never been more proud of a team,'' Izzo said. "I played guys I haven't played in a month.''
Someone remind Griffith to breathe regularly, because it's clear that he doesn't have enough cells to spare for autonomic brain stem functions.
I know. I know that our nation is built on brazenly lying to each other. Cigarettes and organic food and the waiting list for Michigan football season tickets, it's all the same. Some person thinks they can make money on some activity and just lies and lies until the jig's up. But at some point self-respect has to kick in with the observers. I mean. At least you'd think so, right?
This is why I don't go to press conferences. I would just laugh, and laugh, and throw in some derisive snorts and eventually I would just start asking questions like unedited versions of the things I write and eventually I wouldn't get to go to press conferences. I am not a sports journalist because I can't smile when someone deposits a plate of poop in front of my face and calls it pâté.
AND GODDAMMIT JOHN BEILEIN ISN'T CALLING THAT PATE ANY MORE EITHER.
He exploded! With just over four minutes left there was some sort of mutual in-our-grills screaming session, followed by Beilein explaining to one of the other refs that the other end of the Breaking Beilein drama had in fact bumped him—there was a lot of pointing at Beilein's nose in this section, to indicate that someone had impacted this section of Beilein's all-encompassing rage—followed by the ref who had apparently taken aggressive physical action against a coach coming forth to apologize.
It was completely insane. Every neutral I follow on twitter who was watching the game immediately tweeted "I have never seen John Beilein anything like this," echoing the play by play announcer and your brain. Beilein took 30 years of goodwill built up by not being Bo Ryan or Tom Izzo to referees and cashed every last scrap in, somehow avoiding a technical throughout this sequence.
And, of course, it was completely for naught. The very next Michigan possession saw Nik Stauskas thunder in for a transition dunk; Keith Appling again attempted to make a defensive play from behind. This was the result.
SEEMS LEGIT [Dustin Johnston/UMHoops]
This was adjudged to be all ball; Michigan did not score on the ensuing possession. Beilein could do nothing but laugh bitterly on the sideline.
If we're being honest with ourselves, yeah, Horford was moving on the first "curious call" and Appling got hit by a non-stationary defender as he took a shot. In a basketball game, that is a foul. Whatever happens in the Breslin Center is not a basketball game, though, and maybe John Beilein screaming BE A MAN or IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT BASKETBALL TO BE or I USUALLY GET A FOOTLONG TURKEY WITH THE CHIPOTLE SAUCE AND EXTRA OLIVES WHAT IS YOUR PREFERENCE reminded the men with whistles that road teams are people too. Or maybe it was just continued incompetence. I'm betting on incompetence.
Either way, nearly three years to the day after Zack Novak's Aneurysm of Leadership propelled Michigan to its first win at Michigan State since the Harding administration, another spittle-flecked unhinged rant propelled Michigan. Two minutes of game time later, Michigan had gone on an 8-0 run featuring two wild Keith Appling drives on one side of the floor and perfectly executed transitions on the other.
Beilein sucked all the anger out of his team and unleashed it on those who deserved it, and all that was left was cool execution. In the ensuing parade to the free throw line Michigan took deep breaths and drove the nails deeper, until Izzo was wiping away tears in the press conference and imagining an alternate reality where he was the put-upon underdog.
Bad news, everybody! Technical issues blew up the first half of our podcast. We are trying to reschedule and retape; upshot is no podcast today.
Double point us the way to victory [Bryan Fuller]
Wow. Going into Gauntlet #1, Michigan fans were demanding one win, hoping for two, and not even thinking about three. Three wins later, Michigan is clearly in the driver's seat for the Big Ten title. Not only have they disposed of three top ten opponents, they've taken out two of them on the road. They've also put away road games against a third tourney-bound B10 team in Minnesota and Increasingly Dangerous Nebraska™.
Meanwhile, as Indiana and Illinois continue to struggle* future trips to the Big Ten's sundry Assembly Halls seem significantly less ominous than they did a couple weeks ago. Because basketball is basketball, Michigan's going to have a night where they shoot ARGH from three they're still going to drop a game or two against teams that are clearly beneath them in the Big Ten pecking order. Even so, all they have to do is split Gauntlet #2…
- @ Iowa
- @ OSU
…and it's hard to see anyone passing them. Catching, maybe. Passing… nyet.
If Iowa can beat MSU at home tomorrow, Michigan will be two games clear, and their primary chasers have a schedule that's just as difficult. MSU has games at Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State plus a home game against Iowa; Iowa has home games against OSU, Michigan, and Wisconsin plus trips to Minnesota and MSU.
*[Indiana is now just ten spots ahead of Nebraska in Kenpom and Illinois is 15 spots back. BTW, I am officially claiming Nebraska as my Most Interesting Big Ten Team of 2014-15.]
Chunkums. Yes. Yesssssss. Yesssssssss.
Hitting things with your hand is bad. Appling's wrist is barely attached to the rest of his body and therefore he can't shoot. This is known. It is gospel.
Idea: maybe you should stop hitting things with your hands. Desks, floors, engineers in Rather Hall: these are all objects that should not have force applied to them with hands. Appling and Dawson should have taken NO HIT HARD THINGS WITH SELF 101, but they heard it was a lot harder than BANG THING BANG BANG LOUD 100.
This was slow and weird and distorted. This game featured a full two minutes of intentional fouling and no-threes defense, seriously distorting the stats. Michigan had a whopping 16 free throws on intentional fouls, and then their intentionally crappy interior defense made the game look more offensively oriented and faster than it was.
This was going to be a snail-tastic 56 or 57 possession game if either team had gotten clear by the two minute mark; it eventually got to a still-slow 63. At the point the fouling started, Michigan had 66 points on 54 possessions (1.22 PPP) and MSU had 60 (1.11). By game's end those numbers had been pushed to 1.27 and 1.19.
So… still offensively oriented, and no wonder with Michigan blazing the nets from deep and MSU following suit with a 50%/41% shooting. A great deal of this was acquired with difficulty since the refs were in a whistle-swallowing mode.
Also distorted: individual stats. If you were shocked that Derrick Walton ended up with 19 points you are not alone. He had nine before the and-one that put Michigan firmly in the drivers seat and then acquired 8 FTAs in desperation time. He hit seven, which was greatly appreciated by Michigan fans and their cardiologists.
This still didn't warrant the BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE WOW reaction the media provided. Walton was good; he did not drive much offense. He picked his spots and fulfilled the niche this site talked about a couple weeks back. This is good and important, of course. It's just not quite as impressive as the box score makes it seem.
FWIW, the other eight intentional FTAs were distributed equally between Robinson and LeVert.
okay this is a two but you get the point [Dustin Johnston/UMHoops]
Except the threes. On my re-watch the thing that leapt out at me was the fact that Michigan's blazing three point shooting was a direct result of MSU giving Michigan a ton of great looks. Caris's game-tying bomb late was a great example. MSU was so concerned about giving up penetration and so aggressive about disrupting Michigan's offensive flow that they plain forgot to defend a corner three from a 38% shooter.
Meanwhile, screens were gone under on Nik Stauskas, or bigs did not aggressively hedge, allowing him to get quality looks that were at best semi-contested. Peripheral shooters took almost entirely wide open looks—IIRC one or two of Irvin's were contested.
Board war: in which a stalemate is declared victory. Michigan actually out-rebounded Michigan State. Yes. Michigan grabbed 11 of 31 opportunities on the offensive boards and held Michigan State to 10 of 33. Michigan's output is thanks to Jordan Morgan and a whopping four OREBs credited to "team."
The main disappointment. Robinson had a pretty miserable night all around. He was hit on the arm without calls on three or four of his shots, but he's got Kenny Kaminski and Denzel Valentine on him. He should be able to get things that are not jumpers. He did only once with an awkward but effective up and under to kick off the second half. When Michigan was looking to generate secondary offense, they turned to LeVert. Robinson did well against Iowa after some early issues on the defensive boards; Michigan wanted more from him in this game.
Nope. Some M fans are trying to make a big deal out of the incident with about two minutes left where Harris and LeVert both ended up on the ground. LeVert ended up there because Valentine came in and whacked him either in the stomach or the viagras; that contact was certainly not intentional.
It was about as bad as the event earlier in the game where Horford was going for a rebound and accidentally brushed/whacked Trice, who went down in a heap because it is really hard to not be in a heap when you're Travis Trice. He's just heap-oriented.
I'd like to thank The Free Press for being a wretched hive of scum and villainy that naturally induces Michigan fans to seek out content not designed to enrage them.
Oh man this guy:
— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) January 27, 2014
This is why you shouldn't get up in arms about Richard Sherman, because then you start complaining about a lack of class while wishing someone would get maimed for blowing you a kiss. This spurred a long twitter discussion about the practicality or lack thereof of maiming someone in an alley. Twitter thinks it is not very practical since Nik Stauskas probably goes to, like, basketball gyms instead of hanging out in alleys.
Five key plays. The dagger:
Unlike in football, where you have a game a week and, thus, all carry a pretty high significance, basketball has far more games with varying levels of import. Last year I basically started this column with the tourney run, and so far the season has been just disjointed enough that it was hard to get a bead on what this team was capable of. So it wasn’t until this week’s games against Wiscy, Iowa, and MSU did I feel like I could do justice to a full-fledged Best and Worst on a series of games. Note that while I can at least impersonate someone who knows a couple of things about football, I am an avowed fanboy of basketball who begged his mom for a Charlotte Hornets Starter jacket and Bobby Hurley’s ITZ so that I could ball in the Michigan winters all day long.
Also, there might be wrestling references in here. To paraphrase Mel Gibson to Joaquin Phoenix, “Neg away.”
Best: Wrecking Ball
Even the most optimistic fan looked at this slate of games and said “2-1 would be fantastic, but just get 1 win and survive.” Then came the signature win at the Trohl Center, and everyone rejoiced for a day until the Ent Globtetrotters were seen emerging from a fertile Plains state. Then UM felled it’s second top-10 team of the week and the mood turned pure Lloyd Christmas with the possibility of a sweep at the Breslin, but for most that fantasy was quickly snuffed out by the realties of playing against a third top-10 team, on the road, before a rabid crowd that could easily sway the officials in ways both great and small. And it’s not like MSU is a pushover; led by the lilliputian Tom Izzo, one of the nation’s top coaches and 18-time winner of the Frances Pomeroy Van Gundy award for coaching, he’s the reason Cedar Village’s Google Image Search is virtually indistinguishable from that of London’s during World War 2.
(Click to enlarge. The black & white ones are London)
And yet, it was hard to shake the feeling at halftime that UM was going to sweep the week, or at the very least come damn close. Yes, the shooting has been unsustainably hot, but they were also able to weather some horrible officiating and Gary Harris’s amazing performance to keep the game close, and at some point a short-handed MSU team* wasn’t going to be able to hang with this squad, even if they weren’t at full-strength themselves. And so, like the other two games, UM won a bit going away, hitting their foul shots and playing stout enough defense to salt it. Basically, they followed the same formula MSU and UW have used for years to choke the life out of teams.
So now, midway through a season that started with much uncertainty, pocked with consternation and some despair, UM sits atop the best conference in the country, 7-0 for the first time since before anyone on this team was born. Though this is certainly not the last tough stretch for the team, and you have to expect some type of letdown in the coming weeks, these guys went from safe-if-unspectacular tourney team to one of the most dangerous outs in the country, a designation that seems perfectly appropriate for a Beilein squad. Speaking of which…
* This has been discussed elsewhere, but losing Payne to injury was tough. Losing Dawson to a “Fist Punch of Leadership” is just having an idiot on your team. Everyone loses players throughout the season, and sore wrists and bum shoulders weren’t the reasons UM has won 5 of the last 7 against MSU.
Best: The Beilein Hypothesis…
I’ve always believed that there are two types of successful college coaches: guys who thrive in chaos of new players and transition, and guys who thrive at installing players into a system. The archetypes of the prior are the one-and-done maestros like Calipari, while the patron saint of the latter are guys like Tom Izzo and Bo Ryan. Obviously, most coaches fall somewhere in this spectrum, with guys like Pitino, Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Self, and Williams making do with varying mixtures of near-pros and matriculating talent. But in general, their greatest successes fall into one of these two camps.
John Beilein has always been a system guy. Now, when I hear that term as it relates to college basketball, I think of your defensive taskmasters; your Ryans and Izzos who recruit annoyingly-good offensive rebounders and defense-first guards who want to leave teams looking like Zach Novak and muttering “Jon-a-than!” as they board their bus.
But with Beilein, the focus has always been about his offense, and he’s recruited those players with a very specific set of skills with aplomb since he arrived in Ann Arbor. Sure, he made do with imperfect lineups featuring guys like Morris, Harris, and Sims, talented players who helped carry UM back to respectability even when they weren’t great fits for the system. But you always saw him tinkering at the edges, trying to create the type of team that, well, he’s had for the past 2-3 years (though perhaps still a bit too guard-heavy, with McGary’s injury being a major factor).
Still, it has gotten to the point with Beilein’s team that they can lose one of the best players in the country and another first-round NBA player and really not miss a beat. Sure, Stauskas and Caris have made strides and the Morgan/Horford combo has impressed, but this team is still down 3/5ths of the starting lineup that took them to the championship game last year. And yet, after a couple of early stumbles as the pieces settled into place, the offensive productivity remains elite while the defense remains in line with last year’s acceptable rate. And unlike defense-heavy teams, which seem to be better able to plug in, how do I say this charitably, “high energy” guys with limited offensive games and still come out on top, Beilein’s system requires players to be able to actually score with some consistency, a skill that (I presume) is far less abundant.
It seems that it has gotten to the point with Beilein (and more importantly this team) that players have become largely interchangeable provided they possess certain basic skillsets and a decent level of athleticism. And in some ways, perhaps his best teams are going to be those bereft of a great many “stars” from an NBA perspective. This isn’t meant to invoke the Ewing Theory because losing in the championship game could never be construed as “underachieving”, but I do think that the Burke-Hardaway squad was hurt at times by having two NBA-ready players sometimes vying for the same shots and space; you heard various people complain gently that the “hero ball” at the end of games by Burke and Hardaway felt forced at times. Obviously it didn’t cost them in the end, but his WVU teams weren’t overflowing with NBA talent and yet they held serve in a remarkably tough Big East for years. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to recruit the best kids, but his team seems capable of holding serve without the superstars guys like Calipari need to replenish year-in/year-out.
My only nagging concern is that the defense, perhaps by design or due to the players best suited for this offense, seems to have settled at about average, which puts pressure on the offense to be significantly more efficient than other teams to compensate. It is a relatively minor concern and one that should further shrink as more talent arrives, but it should be noted when discussing Beilein’s successes.
So while I’m not yet ready to consider that any future Beilein team at UM can be penciled in for a certain number of wins and a tourney run, it is safe to say that the era of “fretting” about the state of the program is at an end. Given a reasonable number of healthy bodies and at least some talented offensive players, Beilein’s squads will be highly competitive in the toughest conference in the land, always in the running for conference banners and capable of beating anyone on a given night. That is the best mark of a good system, and given the past two decades of UM basketball, a welcome sign.
[He isn't even close to done with Bests yet. Jump!]
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