I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Have a banana. You'll feel better.
I'm writing up the fourth game of some sort in four days and it's after 10 p.m. on a Sunday, so this will be brief. Michigan lost by two points on a last-second defensive breakdown after trailing for most of the game, only to tie it up late on a Mitch McGary layup off a brilliant inbounds play. Caris LeVert couldn't stay in front of his man on the next possession, McGary had to contest a layup, and Terrence Williams was all alone for the putback with 0.4 seconds left.
Because, based on the Twitter reaction, this is necessary to do, here are some reasons not to freak out and abandon all hope:
- The odds of Michigan shooting 31% from the field again—27% if you excise Nik Stauskas's 6/13 performance—are exceedingly low.
- Glenn Robinson III played all of nine minutes after falling hard on his back in the first half. His absence led to Michigan having to play a lot of two-big lineups, which really bogged down the offense. It also forced them to rely on freshman Zak Irvin, who struggled offensively (3/14 from the field on mostly open looks) and made a couple critical defensive errors.
- Stauskas, who single-handedly carried the offense for most of the game, rolled his ankle badly on a fast break right around the midway point of the second half. He was clearly hobbled for the rest of the game.
Michigan lost by two points against a team that, while not great, is by no means terrible; they did this despite missing a ton of open shots they'd normally make and playing without one of their best players—losing lineup versatility and the ability to switch up defenses—for most of the game. To top it off, the one guy who'd been playing well was clearly limping through much of the second half.
It's one game in a long season. The sky is still intact. Once these seemingly-minor injuries heal up—and Michigan is off until Friday—so is Michigan basketball.
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Charlotte|
|WHERE||Coliseo Roberto Clemente, San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|WHEN||6:30 p.m.* Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan –10 (KenPom)|
Right: THERE'S ECSTASY IN THEM THAR HILLS.
After pulling off a seven-point upset in the opening round against Kansas State, Charlotte earned their spot in today's title game with a nine-point triumph over Northeastern. It's worth noting that, according to KenPom, the 49ers are now ranked ahead of KSU; that may not have been as much of an upset as initially thought.
6'4" lead guard Pierria Henry averages 14.4 points and 5.4 assists per game; while he hasn't shot particularly well from the field this year (19/40 2-pt, 1/10 3-pt), he gets to the line at a remarkable rate, drawing 7.4 fouls per 40 minutes. With his size and ability to get to the basket, Henry provides a difficult test for Michigan's point guards; the last 6'4" point they faced, Iowa State's DeAndre Kane, had 13 points and six assists against the Wolverines. Michigan was able to harass Kane into five turnovers and Henry has coughed the ball up 19 times in five games, so Derrick Walton's quick hands could come into play here.
6'3" senior Ben Cherry, a grad-year transfer from Tulane, is the nominal starter at shooting guard—he's a career 43% three-point shooter who doesn't add much else offensively. His role has been mitigated significantly by the emergence of sophomore sixth man Shawn Lester, who leads the team with 16.6 points per game after being academically ineligible last season. Lester's been remarkably effective scorer at the basket, hitting 91% of his shots at the rim despite tallying zero offensive rebounds and getting assists on just 30% of those makes, per hoop-math.com; he's a serious threat off the dribble, and adds to that threat by shooting 46% on two-point jumpers and 37% on three-pointers this season.
6'4" junior Terrence Williams is the third guard in this three-guard lineup; he's been brutally bad from the field this year (12/44 2-pt, 3/9 3-pt) but, like Henry, has made his hay from the line; he's drawing north of six fouls/40 and is 24/32 from the line. Williams shot just 39% from two and 21% from three last season, so his shooting woes don't appear to be an anomaly. He does function as something of a second point guard for Charlotte with 17 assists already this season, though he's balanced those out with 17 turnovers.
6'9" sophomore forward Willie Clayton and 6'11 sophomore center Mike Thorne round out the starting lineup; both are excellent offensive rebounders who should give Michigan's bigs another stiff test on the boards. Both also finish very well around the basket; Clayton shoots 76% at the rim and Thorne is even better at 86%. While Thorne has a much better jumper (40% on two-point jumpers, where he takes over half his shots, vs. Clayton's 18%), Clayton gets to the line at a much higher rate, nearly on par with Henry, though his 56% mark on free throws is actually an improvement over a sub-50% freshman season. Thorne also provides a solid shot-blocking presence defensively with eight so far this year.
Aside from Lester, only two reserves get significant playing time for the 49ers. After missing the first three games with a foot injury, 6'0" guard Denzel Ingram is averaging 22 minutes in the Puerto Rico Tipoff, contributing eight points and 2.5 rebounds per game; he started 28 games as a freshman last season and struggled mightily from the field. 6'7" freshman forward Marcus Bryan is 7/17 from the field, all two-pointers, this year and hasn't added much to the box score otherwise.
Charlotte is now the #97 team on KenPom after tallying home victories over #218 East Tennessee State and #160 Elon along with their neutral-site win over #106 Kansas State and #139 Northeastern. They do have a bad loss on their resumé, a one-point road defeat at #218 College of Charleston.
Four factors, with obvious sample size caveats applying (national ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||49.5 (168)||19.7 (243)||35.6 (89)||56.6 (35)|
|Defense||49.4 (175)||18.6 (161)||28.2 (86)||31.4 (47)|
Aside from their high tempo (75 possession/game, #17 nationally) and ability to get to the line, very little about this team stands out—for good or for bad—on either side of the ball. While it hasn't come back to bite them yet, they do allow a significant number of three-point attempts, which usually is the sign of a sub-par perimeter defense; if that's the case, there's an area that Michigan should be able to exploit in a big way.
BOX OUT. Keeping this the same from the FSU game, as Michigan players not named Mitch McGary still aren't doing a great job getting bodies on potential offensive rebounders. McGary can only block out one of the Clayton/Thorne duo; given that both are very good at attacking the offensive glass, he's going to need some help. This is mostly focused on Glenn Robinson III, though Michigan's wings have also fared poorly in this regard; Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton are having to do way too much work on the defensive glass to cover for their teammates not boxing out. If Michigan can stay about even in the rebounding battle, their shooting should win out over Charlotte's.
Stay calm, young Walton. Hey, kept this one, too. While Walton played a solid game overall against Florida State, shooting well from the outside and playing very good defense on the back end of the 1-3-1, he also forced the action at the rim and wasted possessions when he appeared to get caught up in Florida State's fast pace. Charlotte is looking to make this another high-tempo game; Walton calmed down as the FSU game went along, and hopefully he starts from that point tonight instead of needing a half or so to settle in.
Keep attacking the basket. If their statistical profile is at all telling, Charlotte is going to get their fair share of free throws; if Michigan wants to keep the foul count close, they need to attack the basket like they did during the second half and overtime against FSU. With the 49ers lacking a pair of seven-footers or a fleet of 6'7"-or-taller wings like the Seminoles, getting to the hoop with Stauskas/Robinson/LeVert seems like a good idea regardless.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 10
*NOTE: The early games in Puerto Rico went long, so the start of the game has been delayed. Tipoff will be shortly after the finish of FSU/Northeastern; best guess is sometime between 7:15 and 7:30 Eastern, barring overtime.
I started writing this post at Heiko's apartment before my laptop battery mercifully bailed out, giving me a few minutes to think on the drive home. Time heals all wounds, they say; this wasn't nearly enough time.
Michigan got an early gift when Jake Ryan's crushing hit on Iowa QB Jake Rudock on a play-action rollout—sound familiar?—led to a fluttering pass that Brennen Beyer intercepted and took back seven yards for a touchdown. The defense came away with two other interceptions in the game; Blake Countess baiting Rudock for his second pick led directly to the second Wolverine touchdown, a two-yard pass to A.J. Williams that Iowa had completely dead to rights until Devin Gardner comically stiff-armed Tanner Miller to the ground in the backfield.
Left to its own devices, the Michigan offense could muster just one more score in the game, a nine-yard pass to Jeremy Gallon to give them a 21-7 halftime lead.
The Wolverines finished with 158 yards on 57 plays (2.8 ypp); the Greg Davis-coached Iowa offense managed to tally 407 yards (5.5 ypp) despite freezing temperatures and a howling wind. At one point in the second half, Al Borges called for back-to-back reverses—the first one worked; the second predictably failed miserably. Iowa adjusted to Michigan's fake-bubble-based run game and that was all she wrote; the defense, down both starting linebackers by the end of the game, couldn't stop the inevitable comeback.
Eight three-and-outs. Eight.
Gardner fumbled on a draw play on Michigan's final offensive possession, their first turnover of the game; it was unfortunate, to be sure, but at this point it's pretty tough to blame the guy:
Gardner walked in holding his right arm in his pant loop. Like a self made sling. He's absolutely injured, just a question of how severely
— Everett Cook (@everettcook) November 23, 2013
I watch him play and feel no anger, just sadness. Michigan is left with no reasonable option but to put him out there despite the fact that he's obviously not close to the same player he was last year or at the start of this season, clearly hurt, and being put in a position in which few—if any—quarterbacks could succeed. Gardner gives this team the best chance to win; he's also battered, skittish, and quite possibly flat-out injured.
Crazy things happen in football, which is why we keep watching. It'll take something beyond any reasonable expectation of crazy for Michigan to even stay competitive in The Game on Saturday.
that is a BHGP thing obvs
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
by Nick RoUMel
Observations from Evanston:
1. I was there with ex-Punt and two friends. I hear Heiko and Brian were there as well, but I did not see them. I have met Heiko once, and Brian twice. Brian is sort of like the guy in Charlie’s Angels, where you only see the back of the chair and his hands. Or the guy who played George Steinbrenner in Seinfeld, when he was George’s boss:
2. We went to a bar before the game, and 95% of the people there were Michigan fans. Was it a special, Michigan ex-pat bar? No. They just happen to live there. Remember the Chicago area hosts perhaps the largest contingent of Michigan alums in the world. There were so many people at the game in Michigan gear that people didn’t even bother saying “Go Blue” to each other. Most of the east side and south end of the stadium were blue.
3. They apparently don’t allow parking on people's lawns near Ryan Field. You can park in a driveway and that’s it. We enriched a family by an extra $20 by surreptitiously going in the back alley way and parking by the swing set and trampoline.
4. Ryan Field is a glorified high school stadium. The concessions area basically consists of a volunteer organization grilling burgers on open grates, with folding tables in front. There is one bathroom per 40 yards of field. The video screen is essentially a 72” large screen TV at the north end and shows commercials. And despite the modest crowds, there is a ferocious bottleneck, because there is only one tunnel - no wider than Rob Ford - that serves six sections as well as the visiting locker room.
“Get cracking and beat Iowa!”
5. As we were lingering by the bottleneck at halftime, Al Borges walked right past us. We could have easily taken him out. He’s short, and no wider than Rob Ford.
6. Devin Gardner is a gamer. He takes a beating and wills himself to lead the offense in spite of the aforementioned Mr. Borges. He’s the kind of guy who would run out of the foxhole to divert the gunners while you and your sorry ass retreat into the woods.
7. While we’re on the subject of combat analogies, I have to comment on Northwestern’s military uniforms. I am here to report that “Integrity” committed a personal foul, “Courage” ducked a couple of blocks, and “Duty” forgot an assignment.
8. Going for it on 4th down late in the game, instead of kicking the tying field goal, was stunningly wrong. This from a person who thinks teams should go for it on 90% of 4th downs. This was one of the other ten percent. That thrilling game tying field goal could have been the game winner, and we were fortunate to skate out of there with the win.
[ed: YOU ARE WRONG, AND I THINK YOU ARE WRONG]
9. As we exited through that bottleneck, after four hours in the cold, windy rain, there were no boasts of “It’s great – to be – a Mich-i-gan Wolverine.” However, I did hear a few “It’s a relief – to be –” and “It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye – to be –”
“It’s Great! (OW) To Be! (OW)”
10. There is an old Punt-Counterpunt trick, that when you have nothing clever to say about the upcoming game, to instead write about the week before. I for one think it is a fine trick.
But if you want my take, here it is. Iowa will beat us on both sides of the line. Our defense will keep them from making big plays, but they will plod us to death. Those hayseed homers will jeer at us mercilessly, and make us wish we hadn’t driven 450 miles to die in a cornfield. Not even the courageous Devin can save us this time:
IOWA 19, MICHIGAN 14
By Heiko Yang
Observations of the Northwestern game from Ann Arbor:
Yeah, I watched the game in Ann Arbor. Why does Punt think I’m in Evanston? Oh. He asked me if I was in town, and I said yes. I assumed “in town” meant Ann Arbor. Sorry, Punt, but just know that if Michigan wins this game, it’s because Ace and I took one for the team and decided not to go.
Boy, watching this game is a lot more bearable in a living room than it would be in a press box. I miss being able to swear loudly.
Isn’t it some kind of a felony to tackle an American flag to the ground?
Oh my god, a bubble screen! Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that Funchess of all players is the guy catching these? The whole point of getting the ball out quickly to an uncovered slot receiver is that he can make a guy miss in the open field. Lining up a humongous quasi tight end in the slot is just so indicative of Michigan’s attachment to manball. Even when they spread things out, they still plan on running right into you.
I’m watching the game with a Northwestern fan. He was supposed to be playing a drinking game. Now he’s just drinking. Northwestern fans are the best.
Devin Gardner looks like a guy who fell off his bike and decided to forget how to ride it. What happened to the guy dissecting defenses with ease and was on pace for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns? These days it looks like things have regressed to the point where he’s on the “Denard” plan, where Borges basically gives him one read, and if that guy isn’t open, he’s supposed to run.
The defense is disciplined and rarely caught out of position. Against a team like Northwestern that screws with your keys, that’s a great sign. Unfortunately against Iowa it will be a different story. Iowa’s not designed to get yards by catching a defense off balance. They prefer to win one-on-one matchups, where things like “toughness” and “fundamentals” start mattering more. I’m not sure how well a freshman defensive end playing interior defensive lineman is going to hold up against that.
But hey, Heininger Certainty Principle, am I right?
Michigan has established a positive-yardage running game, which is great. It needs to be able to use that and take some balls downfield against Iowa in order to have a chance to win at Kinnick. The good news is Iowa’s vanilla defense is usually pretty passive and probably not going to blitz the crap out of Gardner on passing downs. The bad news is … Well the bad news is Michigan just has a terrible offensive line and a terrible road offense. Gardner doesn’t need to be blitzed to get sacked.
But I’m supposed to be positive, so I’m going to say Jeremy Gallon recovers from a couple late-game drops to torch B.J. Lowery (against whom I still hold a grudge for the uncalled pass interference on Roy Roundtree on the last play of the game two years ago) for a pair of touchdowns to give Michigan a narrow victory.
MICHIGAN 20, IOWA 17.
Via Diehard Sport
The first half confirmed everyone's worst fears. Michigan couldn't handle Florida State's size on either end of the floor, repeatedly getting caught in mismatches defensively while failing to get to the rim offensively. The Wolverines trailed 37-27 at the break, and a 6-0 FSU run to start the second half had the game on the verge of blowout territory.
Michigan gradually worked their way out of the 16-point deficit, however, thanks to three things: John Beilein's defensive adjustments, Mitch McGary rounding into form, and Nik Stauskas leaving no doubt regarding the identity of this team's go-to scorer.
It started defensively, as Michigan switched from playing exclusively man-to-man in the first half—allowing FSU to exploit their significant size advantage—to a brief dalliance with the 2-3 and a full-blown love affair with the 1-3-1, which led to seven second-half turnovers and got the offense going in transition. It also allowed Caris LeVert, who was attacked repeatedly on the interior in the first half, to become a disruptive force at the top of the zone; he was credited with two steals and generally wreaked havoc defensively.
McGary finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds (7 offensive) with three assists and two blocks, and aside from some trouble finishing at the basket (6/15 from the field) he looked like the McGary of last season's NCAA tournament, crashing the boards with aplomb, affecting shots at the rim, and even leading the fast break. He even tallied an assist with a behind-the-back pass in transition that bounced twice before reaching Stauskas, who calmly sunk a three to cut the Seminoles lead to six; naturally, the fast break opportunity came off a McGary steal.
Then there was Stauskas, who finished with a career-high 26 points despite shooting just 7/16 (3/8 3-pt) from the field. After forcing some questionable perimeter shots in the first half, Stauskas found his rhythm in the latter stanza by repeatedly attacking the basket and taking contact—he finished 9/12 from the line. When Michigan found themselves down by two with 11 seconds to play in regulation, John Beilein entrusted Stauskas to make a play, and his trust was rewarded: Stauskas declined a high ball screen from McGary when he saw an opening, drove hard to the baseline, and finished with a layup to send the game to overtime.
Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, who had a relatively quiet game otherwise, led the way in the overtime period. Stauskas buried a three and added four points from the charity stripe, while Robinson sunk two pull-up jumpers to account for 11 of Michigan's 13 points in the extra period. The Wolverines had to sweat out a desperation heave after Derrick Walton missed two free throws with a chance to ice the game; while FSU's prayer hit the backboard (ack!) it harmlessly bounced well wide of the rim.
The concerns brought forth in the first half still stand, of course; Michigan has traditionally had trouble with very big teams, and Florida State was no exception. The fact that they adjusted so well in the middle of the game this early in the season, however, cannot be ignored; it's entirely possible that the Wolverines just stumbled upon their ideal defense going forward. McGary is doing better than anyone could've reasonably expected while playing his way into shape, Stauskas has taken the mantle as the team's go-to scorer, and a young team showed plenty of fight when they could've simply folded. We may look back at the second half as a critical turning point en route to another special season.
First, however, Michigan must get past Charlotte on Sunday at 6:30 EST to take home the Puerto Rico Tipoff title.