at least it's not just us?
2/27/2013 – Michigan 78, Penn State 84 – 23-5, 10-5 Big Ten
zero: searching "Penn State Michigan" on google image search gives you all stuff like this
ONE! Though I compared Penn State to Gopherquest, I did not start a NittanyQuest. Therefore I have not wasted a lot of effort and brought disaster on the basketball team with hubris.
TWO! Vegas lines will adjust to something that is more in line with reasonable expectations for the tourney.
FOUR! Now not making the Final Four will be okay, if it comes to that. We'll all be like "okay, Sweet Sixteen or whatever pretty good, program keeps moving in the right direction let's get some age up in here."
FIVE! Pat Chambers is having a pretty good day, and he seems like a nice dude.
SIX! why do i have these sores all over my body
SEVEN! If you don't remember what you did I'm pretty sure you can't be prosecuted for it. Michigan's defense in this game should start hitting itself on the head with mallets tout suite.
EIGHT! I was going to be out of town for that Indiana game anyway.
NINE! Kenpom stopped doing his weekly recaps so I don't have to see Michigan featured in both the "biggest upset" and "unlikeliest comeback" categories.
In related news, FUUUUUUU
That doesn't start moving off of 90% Michigan win until the game tied, at which point Kenpom thought Michigan was… 80% likely to win.
TEN! In this trying time I have discovered a terrific support group of people who will come through for me in the event that I become addicted to heroin to forget this game.
ELEVEN! that aint even close to true im just talking about my wifes cats one of whom is a dick
TWELVE! I am fulsome in the glow of life today. Yea, truly the miracle of my existence is made clear, because now I can compare that to something precisely as unlikely as random chemicals coming together in a self-sustaining, evolving process that leads to intelligent life in a empty, cold, hostile universe full of nuclear explosions and little else.
THIRTEEN! The team shot 66% from two!
FOURTEEN! I have a job that is rather flexible when it comes to hours kept, so I did not have to wake up at seven this morning to go into work. This would have been awkward because I was boxing a donkey at that time.
FIFTEEN! Allegedly boxing a donkey.
SIXTEEN! Officer, I have never seen that donkey in my life, nor did I kick its donkey ass six ways to Sunday at seven AM, but if I had I would like you to trust my judgment as to how necessary this alleged vicious beating was.
SEVENTEEN! It may have been Tom Zbikowski in fact.
EIGHTEEN! Basketball is stupid anyway, and is for stupids, and this is not at all a reaction to the events presented me. I am totally in control of my brain.
NINETEEN! also butt
So… that happened. The offense was basically fine except for some crappy three-point shooting and excessive turnovers. Kenpom shows Burke with six(!), which seems vastly wrong. As mentioned, they shot 66% from two, and against Penn State 1.13 PPP should be enough to win the game. /Northwestern 2000'd
The defense. Jebus. Even if you want to set aside the 50% three-point shooting, which you probably shouldn't since Jermaine Marshall didn't have a bad look, Michigan forced just nine turnovers and put Penn State on the line 27(!!!) times to their 20. Jordan Morgan's return did little to staunch the bleeding; it was in fact Morgan going gonzo trapping a guy who shoots 44%/25% that opened up many of the floodgates.
I'm sure that Morgan was told to do this. I don't have any idea why. Those traps did nothing except force Michigan to play 4 on 3 once they were broken, as they always were. This led to fouls and open threes. It's asinine. It is a Tubby Smith substitution pattern. Morgan is outside the three point line—way outside—and this unbalances the defense to such an extent that it's almost impossible to recover. The alternative is a softer hedge that maybe gives up a pull-up jumper more often but… this is Newbill we're talking about. That's a shot you're trying to get.
Meanwhile, Stauskas caused Beilein to channel Bo Ryan momentarily. As I've been saying for a while, Michigan's lack of fouling is actually a symptom of a passive defense that does not force the issue much. Stauskas is the king of not fouling, and that's to the team's detriment. He could have put a Penn State player on the line in transition; instead he just got out of the way and gave up the layup.
In this one we got the passivity (9 TOs for PSU) and put the opponent on the line.
Zone. Michigan should have at least tried to go zone in the first half when Penn State was shredding that hedge. Penn State is not good at basketball and teams like that tend to have no idea what to do when they are faced with a different defense. Sticking with man to man seemed like a thing Michigan was trying to practice in the home game against Penn State; here it ended up costing them.
The wrong direction. Michigan's defense is definitively headed in it. That doesn't make sense given the youth of the team—they should be improving faster than more veteran outfits. The Morgan injury may have something to do with it, but he played 24 minutes in this one and Michigan still got torched. The problems are many.
Hello. I went away, and did not tell anyone because I thought to myself "I'll have plenty of time to put some posts together in the evenings," which was not true. I should just admit to myself that sometimes I am actually on vacation. Anyway, on with talking about things.
2/24/2013 – Michigan 71, Illinois 58 – 23-4, 10-4 Big Ten
I did not have the privilege of taking in the Dan Dakich Trollganza, since I had no audio. I may have missed some things. Thing I didn't miss: Dakich's Trollrankings having Illinois in front of Michigan despite Michigan having beat them by 74 at Assembly earlier this year.
That's just cheap heat; I bet Doris turned him down and now he's taking out his anger at any available target. Doris, why?
Photos. From Eric Upchurch.
Trey Burke is kind of good, and in this one he was kind of Deshaun Thomas. On the one hand, Burke had a game that will rank with his statistical best no matter when he leaves: 26 points on 15 shot equivalents, eight assists, and the obligatory solitary turnover. Commence the waving of flags and blasting of trumpets.
On the other hand, where did everyone else go? Robinson and Hardaway edged into double digits, Stauskas was 0-fer, and the supporting scoring was a step back. I guess this is mostly Stauskas's off night, as if he gets off his requisite ten this is not even a conversation; as it was, Michigan still managed 1.15 PPP. To me that largely seemed like…
Illinois did not prevent Michigan from getting into transition. Doing that was always going to be difficult since Illinois relies on jumpers so much, and the Illini exacerbated their usual slate of ready-made breakaways off of long rebounds with a ton of open-court turnovers. Though turnovers were nearly equal—Illinois 13, Michigan 10—Michigan tripled Illinois's steals with 9, and it seemed like every one of those
- came at a junction where Illinois was pressing to extend their lead to an unmanageable distance or fight their way back into the game, and
- led to an uncontested layup.
Thus a 61% shooting night from two and Robinson's customary 5/6 line on which most of his makes required no dribbles. Burke, too, had two or three freebie layups. Those transition opportunities provided most of the distance between Michigan's twos and Illinois's twos, so provided most of the final margin in a game statistically even otherwise.
It's back: post-half run. Hypothesis about beating people with half-time adjustments took some hits over the ugly four-game run earlier, but it was golden in this one as Michigan went from down 31-28 to up 43-34 over the course of the first five minutes of the second half.
This did not compare to Michigan's blitz a few minutes later. Illinois hit a three to bring it to within four and then suffered a four-minute barrage spurred by those open-court turnovers. When it was over they were down 17 and it was all over but the pointless timeouts.
Morgan's defense: ninja impact. McGary started and after Michigan gave up 11 quick points Horford got a crack; those two alternated until Michigan found itself down eight with eight minutes left, whereupon Morgan came in. Morgan would play 17 of the remaining 28 minutes; Michigan would outscore the Illini by 21 in that time. Morgan's first stretch of PT from around 8 minutes to around 4 was a big chunk of that, as Michigan went on a 13-3 run on which the Illinois points were a Tyler Griffey free throw off of a GRIII foul and an unassisted Nnanna Egwu jumper. I know that's Morgan's man but like okay.
Morgan suffered the banked end-of-half three, and then came in a minute into the second half when McGary picked up a third foul. This was of course the second-half run; by the time Morgan left Michigan had made up a two-point deficit and led by seven. Morgan gave up a foul to get Tracy Abrams a couple FTAs; the only other make in that sequence was a DJ Richardson jumper.
So… yeah, if you want to point to Morgan as the guy who subtly swung the game from extreme danger to comfort you go right ahead. At this point it's clear his ankle is still bothering him but Michigan needs him; hopefully that's a good sign for Michigan's chances down the stretch as he gets healthier. He is clearly a better option than anyone else when McGary isn't acting as a possession fountain. In this game, McGary wasn't, with just one OREB and a steal. In that case the hedge-and-respond game Morgan has going is something the other two guys can't match.
Minutes: an issue? Burke went his customary 39; Robinson and Hardaway had 36 each. Against Penn State(!) Burke went 39, Stauskas 34, Robinson 33. The debacle at MSU obscures what the numbers might have been in a game where Michigan was within 20 for big chunks of the second half; Burke went 40 in the OT game at Wisconsin with Stauskas at 39, Hardaway at 37, Robinson 33.
You get the idea. Michigan plays all starters except their five big minutes. Burke's minutes have been especially big. Is this going to catch up with Michigan come tourney time as Burke turns into a walking corpse?
As best as I can figure, it's not an issue. A lot of good teams ride their starters hard. Last year's final four featured Kansas (314th in bench minutes), Kentucky (323rd), Louisville (340th), and Ohio State (308th). Michigan's currently 328th in that stat, which is either "a troubling lack of depth" or "a ticket to the Final Four" depending on your half-empty/half-full status.
At 35 minutes a game Burke is 88th nationally and on another level from the other guys, who range from about 200th to about 400th in minutes averaged. He's not that far in front of the various point guards from last year's FF, though. UK's Marquis Teague and KU's Tyshawn Taylor averaged 33; Craft was at 32. Only Peyton Siva was a significant step back.
Last year's FF strongly suggests that the best teams in college basketball are heavily dependent on their starters and that PGs can handle minutes in the mid-30s without much problem. If Michigan goes out and Burke has an aberrantly bad game, his heavy minutes over the home stretch of the season will get a lot of blame. But he'll probably just have had a bad game.
First episode Walter White, part infinity. Beilein yo:
would you like to hear about covalent bonds they're super exciting (Upchurch)
Free throws! Michigan had some of them, and had most of them before a brief period of end-game fouling on which Burke was 3/4. (The previous possession ended with a Burke shooting foul but one after 35 seconds had expired—definitely not on purpose.) 17 is not a huge number, but after the last month or so where trips to the line have been beyond rare it's nice that Michigan can put together some FTAs even if they're against two of the hackiest teams in the league.
Rebounding lockdown. After a frustrating start in which Illinois picked up 6 offensive rebounds as they built a 21-13 lead, Michigan locked it down. After the first 12 minutes Michigan allowed two more OREBs and finished the game in a dead heat with the Illini on the boards. Still not great against one of the poorer rebounding teams in the league; we'll live with it.
There was a point at which I thought Nnanna Egwu had read the blog and was super mad about its season-long obsession with the fact that he can't grab a ball to save his life; this faded somewhat as the game progressed. We can add another 22 minutes without a defensive rebound to Sam McLaurin's ledger; the man is a miracle.
I HAVE THE POWER
1. Indiana (21-3)
LAST WEEK clobbered Nebraska and Purdue at home.
THING Neither of these games was even remotely competitive; Indiana put up 0.4 more points per possession than their opponents in both.
OTHER THING Will Sheehey was Indiana's leading scorer against Purdue, shooting 9/9 with a couple of threes mixed in. That guy only went 2/5 from the line so is probably not good at basketball.
OTHER OTHER THING This week in Indiana basketball is not really worth talking about.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Hulk Hogan versus guy in black trunks going by his real name.
Yes, that does appear to be a shirt that reads "suck it Hoff." I was working on a complicated metaphor in which Michigan State—Indiana's latest Game Of The Century opponent—is David Hasselhoff. It didn't work.
2. Michigan State (22-4)
LAST WEEK Destroyed Michigan at home. Had more difficult time with Nebraska. Which, like, cumong man.
THING I am dead certain that MSU let Nebraska score 64 points in 63 possession days after holding Michigan to 52 in 65 just to piss Michigan fans off.
ADRIEAN PAYNE THREE POINT SPECIALIST WATCH Zero attempts against Michigan, two misses against Nebraska, 7/15 on the year.
OTHER THING Maybe if Tom Izzo wasn't Michigan State's coach this assertion wouldn't be seen as a shot at Michigan…
"If we had played Northern Michigan and Eastern Michigan, we would have been ranked fifth, sixth, the whole time — like Michigan has, they've been a top five, seven team. Indiana has been that. You almost act like they aren't getting better. Maybe they are getting better, but you don't see it as easy as ours."
…but it will be. Michigan nonconference opponents include three teams that have been ranked most of the year: Pitt, NC State, and K-State. Michigan State has two of those, Kansas and Miami. Instead of Northern and Eastern, State played Tuskegee and Nicholls State.
THIS WEEK IN STOP ASKING FOR POST TOUCHES This is mostly a section designed to get Michigan fans stop asking for post touches to Morgan and McGary based on the success of the older, larger, more involved post guys on Michigan State, and I think we've seen enough of Michigan's attempted post touch routine to know that's not a good idea. Anyway: against Michigan, 8/14 from the floor with two FT attempts, both makes, 5 assists, 2 TO. Against Nebraska, similar shooting with a bunch of trips to the line as Nebraska proved incapable of handling those dudes.
THING THEY ARE LIKE annoying. Yes, I MAD, U MAD guy.
3. Michigan (22-4)
LAST WEEK Run off the court by Michigan State. Struggled on defense against Penn State but did end up winning relatively comfortably.
THING Michigan's 35 free throw attempts against Penn State were more than they had in their previous four games combined.
OTHER THING Pick a thing Michigan did against MSU and they did it horribly. Rebound? 37% OREB for MSU, 18% for M. Take care of the ball? They lost the turnover batle 16-8. Shoot? 44/32 versus 55/35. The game was only as close as it was because Michigan won the scrubwar at the end and MSU was under 50% at the free throw line.
OTHER OTHER THING Almost as damaging in the realm of possession-by-possession tempo-free ranking bits was the Penn State game, an eventual eight-point win that Michigan was predicted to take by 25. Penn State put up 1.08 points per possession, which is scary.
While the Nittany Lions' previous outing against Iowa was efficient, before that Penn State put up 0.84 against Nebraska and 0.75 against Purdue. Penn State is tenth or worse in three of the four factors and seventh in rebounding, dead last in the league in offense by a good margin. Michigan's defense was porous against those guys and seems to be going backwards as the season progresses.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Manny Pacquiao.
Penn State was a tentative outing against a meatball to recover.
4. Wisconsin (15-7)
LAST WEEK Third consecutive OT game ended in a loss, this one at Minnesota. Destroyed Ohio State at home.
THING Wisconsin is currently 9th in the Big Ten at shooting twos even after tearing up OSU for 61.
OTHER OTHER THING …and they shot 36%/25% against the Gophers in an OT loss. Their defense is impressive even if it seems impossible that they get such a nice whistle.
OTHER OTHER OTHER THING Jared Berggren now owns a majority share in Amir Williams after holding him to this line: 9 minutes, one missed 2, four fouls, no other stats.
OTHER THING Ben Brust had a double-double in that game with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
WISCONSIN PREVENTS THREE POINTERS WATCH Minnesota went 4/17, OSU 3/12. It's a skill.
RYAN EVANS FT WATCH 2/8 against Minnesota—they finally lost a game because of it—and 1/2 against OSU. Now at 40% on the season.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Lawyers.
5. Ohio State (18-7)
LAST WEEK Fairly rote ten point win against Northwestern. Destroyed by Bo Ryan's flaming eyes at the Trohl Center.
THING remember how you felt as a Michigan fan before the Penn State game? That's where OSU is right now, having lost 3 of 4, with one loss an OT gut punch, another a not-very-competitive outing against Indiana, and the most recent a depressingly uncompetitive road blowout.
A slight difference between Michigan and OSU: the Buckeyes have Minnesota and MSU up next instead of Penn State. Thanks, Penn State.
OTHER THING The script has flipped from earlier in the year. Previously a defensive juggernaut without the ability to score, OSU has seen opponents put up 1.2, 1.2, 1.1, and 1.2 points per possession in their last four games, one of which was against Northwestern. The normally incapable Badgers shot 61% from two the last time out.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Ditto Manny Pacquiao.
6. Illinois (17-8)
LAST WEEK Continued streak of playing like basketball team instead of collection of geese in heat, wiping out Purdue and Northwestern by 20+ points.
THING They're in you guys. It's not even a question. Home games against Penn State and Nebraska will be enough to do it, and while the rest of their schedule is pretty brutal—@ M, @ Iowa, @ Ohio State—they're not even on the bubble anymore and those teams are in various states of reeling.
TYLER GRIFFEY WATCH Followed up monster Indiana-game-winning week by going 0/7 from three. He did put up 12 points against Purdue and acquire four offensive rebounds in each game, so there's that.
NNANNA EGWU WATCH Only 22 minutes against the Boilers; 2 and 2 as far as rebounds go. 18 minutes against Northwestern, in which he acquired one defensive rebound and fouled out. DREB rate has slipped behind DJ Richardson.
OTHER EGWU WATCH Sam McLaurin's impossibly low DREB rate is still dropping! He's down to 6.4%. What an amazing player.
THE ENNUI QUESTION GTFO
THING THEY ARE LIKE power donut. Inexplicable first image hit for "power donut": Gerald Ford.
It appears to be a GQ article about Picard-esque bald haircuts. You will agree that all of this is very Illinois.
7. Minnesota (18-8)
LAST WEEK Received rousing huzzah from league for beating Wisconsin in OT; put Iowa on the bubble with massive loss to them.
THING Tubby's tendency to give scads of minutes to terrible players was somewhat reduced against Wisconsin, with the Hollinses playing 43 minutes each and all starters going at least 34 in a 45 minute game. He's learning!
OTHER THING …or he's giving Oto Osenieks 20 minutes against Iowa. I guess his entire team was playing like death so maybe that's understandable. Also, Rodney Williams went out with a shoulder injury and only played ten minutes. Maybe this is all easily explainable by common sense. Except it is a Tubby Smith substitution pattern, so it is not.
THIS WEEK IN MINNESOTA INTIMIDATION FACTOR Actually got beat up by the Badgers on the boards thanks in no small part to Team, which was credited with six Badger OREBs. But Mbakwe was held to one offensive rebound. Jared Berggren can put that in his pocket, too.
Meanwhile in the game they lost by a billion, they outrebounded Iowa 37%-30%.
THIS WEEK IN NO ONE EXPECTS RANDOM MINNESOTA PLAYER INQUISITION Andre Ingram had all three of Minnesota's blocks in the Badger game; Elliott Eliason had four of their five against Iowa.
ENNUIWATCH Q: Is Minnesota on the bubble? They're under .500 in the league and their best nonconference win is against Memphis—they have no other Ws over at-large teams.
A: Absolutely not? I feel like they are a bubble-ish team looking at their accomplishments but no one else in the world does. The worst I can find for them on Bracket Matrix are a few eights; overall their seed average is dead on 6. Crashing the Dance also has them in that range. I guess wins over MSU/Illinois/Wisconsin in the league are good, but there's also a loss to Northwestern and one to Iowa in there.
I believe what the world is saying here, but it feels to me like Minnesota should be at least somewhat fearful of dropping out; they aren't anywhere near it.
THING THEY ARE LIKE A guy who plays Mastermind by putting in random guesses until the game is over. BONUS: mustache.
8. Iowa (17-9)
LAST WEEK Almost blew it all to hell at Penn State but eked out a two-point win. Come home and put the spurs to Minnesota in a 21-point win.
THING Basketball is weird.
OTHER THING It's strange to me that Iowa's defense is better than their offense, except then I think about Iowa's offense and this makes sense.
THIS WEEK IN WHERE'S ROY DEVYN WALDO He's back. A high FTR guy, he was always going to have a lot of fun playing the hackers at Penn State, and he put up 22 points thanks to 11 FTAs. Success was less assured against Minnesota, but he got to the line 8 times in that one and put up 15 points.
He's still turning the ball over too much and not shooting that efficiently overall. If it's a choice between that and not existing, Iowa will take existing.
ENNUIWATCH The Minnesota game gave them a bit of a boost—they now appear on five Bracket Matrix brackets—but they're actually below Arkansas on CTD. They've got two left against Nebraska and a home game against seemingly done-for-the-year Purdue. Win those—no sure thing—and lose at Indiana—yup—and it comes down to two things:
- Can Iowa beat Illinois at home?
- Can Iowa pick up a quality win in the Big Ten Tourney?
Two "yes" answers and they're in. One and they're sweating it out for Dayton. Zero and it's NIT all the way.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Steve Ballmer.
Sweaty, kind of crappy, prone to be a yelling freak in a suit, not entirely ready for the job they've been put in.
Now with actual line
9. Northwestern (13-10)
LAST WEEK Ten point loss at OSU; blown out by Illinois.
THING Northwestern shot 33%/19% against Illinois.
OTHER THING But they had kale!
THING THEY ARE LIKE Trying to eat kale.
10. Purdue (12-14)
LAST WEEK Lost by 2 and 28 to Illinois and Indiana, respectively.
THING In their last eight games, Purdue has either won (in OT by 3 against Iowa, by 9 against Penn State) or lost by 15+. If Iowa doesn't make the tourney, that's going to be… well, one of five games they kick themselves over. This kick will be quite a bit harder than the others.
AJ HAMMONS WATCH Terrible week, with 10 points against Illinois (point Egwu, admittedly) and six against Indiana. Indiana was never going to let him blow up again. No FTAs and few blocks.
RONNIE JOHNSON THREE POINTER WATCH 0/2 against Indiana; 15%.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Mike Samples.
11. Nebraska (12-14)
LAST WEEK Clubbed by Indiana. Vaguely competitive against Michigan State.
THING I have no idea how Nebraska kept in contact with MSU looking at the box score. Oh, I guess Dylan Talley had 28 points. He could develop into… oh, he's a senior. Never mind.
RAY GALLEGOS BOMBS AWAY WATCH Ten three pointers launched in both games. Two makes against Indiana, zero against MSU.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Scott Bailey.
12. Penn State (8-12)
LAST WEEK Almost got off the schneid versus Iowa and had a decent shot against Michigan.
THING At the rate Northwestern is losing players, this winless Big Ten season thing is not in the bag. Kenpom doesn't know that Northwestern is operating down half its team and still has the Nittany Lions with a 20% shot at winning in that one
THING THEY ARE LIKE GopherQuest, still GopherQuest.
Tourney locks sans Illinois-2011-style implosion
projected seeds included
#1 Indiana, #2 MICHIGAN, #2 Michigan State, #4 Wisconsin, #6 Ohio State, #6 Illinois, #7 Minnesota
Northwestern Memorial wrong side of the bubble award
Rutgers Memorial what's a bubble award
Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska, Purdue
2/17/2012 – Michigan 79, Penn State 71 – 22-4, 9-4 Big Ten
Y U NO PLAY DEFENSE (Bryan Fuller)
A home game against Penn State is supposed to be a laugher, and on one side of the ball it was. Michigan put up 1.2 points a possession even without the participation of their centers—literally. McGary, Horford, and Morgan combined for zero points in 43 minutes. No one really noticed because Glenn Robinson III spent most of the day playing NBA Jam and Nik Stauskas was so much more than a shooter that it took five or six drives before something akin to "Not Just A Shooter" got exhumed by the announcers. Michigan did what it does, on one side of the ball.
On the other side of the ball, raise your hand if DJ Newbill's umpteenth only vaguely resisted drive to the basket in the first half caused you to exclaim a variant on "you have got to be kidding me." That's everyone.
Now raise your hand if that exclamation included a swear word you invented on the spot. That's probably just me, but it got bad. Michigan turned to Matt Vogrich in the second half. Since Stauskas was going off this was presumably a move to shore up the defense; Vogrich promptly lost his guy and gave up open corner threes on consecutive possessions. The first one was a reaction to a bad McGary gamble, sure. The second… dot dot dot. At many points Penn State should have been down 15, and the scoreboard said they were down by 3 or 5.
This felt bizarrely familiar to me, and I figured out why: I've watched a lot of NC State this year. This game was disturbingly reminiscent of watching the Wolfpack play. This is not good. You get a window into the psyche of another fanbase when you adopt them as Michigan-by-proxy, and I think NC State fans are pretty pissed off that their combination of players is barely over .500 in a weak ACC. I kind of hate them myself because they combine some breathtaking talent with total indifference on defense. They can beat Duke; they can give up 86 points to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.
Finding a shadow of that team in this Michigan outfit that was until recently cruising towards a one-seed is not fun. This is analysis! This is Thunderdome!
Oh, but that shadow is there. Click the conference-only checkbox on Kenpom and you get a shocking splash of red:
Michigan is easier to shoot against than anyone in Big Ten play. Easier than Nebraska. Easier than Iowa. Easier than Penn State. Easier than Illinois despite Illinois playing with big men that may in fact be ghosts. Easier than the crippled husk of Northwestern.
Northwestern is the Rasputin of the Big Ten: shot, stabbed, poisoned, shot again, trampled by horses, chucked in the river. Finally dead and bloated, they are aimlessly floating towards the next life. It's harder to shoot against them than Michigan.
It gets worse when you consider the low number of transition opportunities Michigan provides since they're so responsible with the ball on offense. It has nothing to do with possibly-meaningless three-point shooting, at which Michigan is perfectly average at defending. It is entirely because they are also dead last at keeping twos out of their basket. It's repeatable stuff that the stats are probably not fully encapsulating. It is Not Good. (This is analysis this is Thunderdome.)
Earlier in the year a few people sounded the alarm about Michigan as a national contender, citing its defense. I said "but look at the outlying offense and wait for the defense to maybe move up a bit, Michigan is for real." That's a tough case to make right now. The offense has given up its massive lead and slid back to third; the defense has gone the wrong direction.
When DJ Newbill has a band in ten years they will be called The Unresisted Forays Into The Crisler Lane, man. Sound the alarm. It's time for a hard look at drastic actions, whatever those might be. Waving your hands in the general direction of a shooter is a start.
From Bryan Fuller:
Threes. They feel not random. The numbers say they are. Opponents' three point shooting since the start of Michigan's brutal stretch:
- Indiana: 7/18, 39%. Season average: 42%.
- OSU: 7/16, 44%. Season: 37%.
- Wisconsin: 10/24, 42%. Season: 34%.
- MSU, 7/20, 35%: Season: 35%.
- Penn State: 6/18: 33%. Season: 30%.
It has felt like Michigan is giving up open look after open look and is getting scorched from deep. The result of this feeling: approximately three extra makes across five games, so far within the province of random noise that Autechre is jealous.
Way back in the ur-blogging days when Big Ten Wonk was an anonymous man with a large vocabulary and not John Gasaway we had a conversation about whether or not the fact that Michigan's opponents were raining in threes at a hellacious clip during a particular Amaker campaign was luck or not. I said yes, he said yes but only partially, and I eventually came around to his point of view. Any short-term blazing above 40% will regress.
Lately, Kenpom has been on a crusade to declare three-point shooting defense to be totally random. I entered this section planning to write that I felt streaks like Michigan's recent one were earned, and now I don't know what to think.
- Michigan is average at defending three pointers (7th in the league, 99th nationally) but gives up a lot (10th in the league, 293rd nationally)
- Their eFG% on threes is 50.4, which is in fact worse than their horrible 2-point defense, so the combination of these two things does make their eFG D worse.
Inside the line or out, pick your poison.
Another thing that doesn't seem right. Newbill ended up 3/10 from two. The guy who hurt Michigan was Sasa Borovnjak at 7 of 9, mostly on uncontested rolls to the basket. Michigan's rotations were late and sometimes the pick and roll guy was making the dump inside, which is a big no-no. When Michigan hedges, they play it such that if the guy getting the ball screen can toss it to the big, they're done. Too much of that in this one.
Trey. Dang man, 29 points on 16 shots—and four extra possessions with free throws, something we actually have to adjust for after this one—five assists, and zero turnovers. A couple of shots bugged me, as they were taken with no hope of an offensive rebound, but the efficiency speaks for itself.
Stauskas. Not Just A Shooter was in full effect as Stauskas picked up 12 points inside the line on perfect shooting—3/3 from the floor and 6/6 at the line, though IIRC one of those trips to the line was a non-shooting foul at the end of the first half. He also added four assists. The only thing he didn't do well was shoot the J, going 2/6.
I did have further frustrations with him on defense, and it seems like Beilein did too since we got to see Vogrich unearthed. That was the equivalent of a frustration foul.
GRIII: hello again. A series of highlight-reel dunks against a porous defense and Robinson is back. His success in this one only highlighted the reasons he'd disappeared in the previous few games: he's a top-quality finisher who rarely takes a bounce to get a shot. If put in a situation where he has to make his own shot, he defers. Once or twice a game he will go at the basket himself. That's all.
That's fine, but after the tough stretch it seems like far too much of Michigan's shot creation is on Burke's shoulders. Stauskas does a good amount for a third option; Hardaway not so much and then Michigan gets almost none from the 4 and 5 aside from putbacks.
Not so good: Hardaway, centers. Hardaway didn't shoot well. Okay, it happens.
The centers were a little bit more alarming. The shooting is one thing. They went 0/5 in 43 minutes. The rebounding is another: just 3 and 3 as Penn State outrebounded M 31% to 22%. Defensive rebounding is the only thing that Penn State actually does well (5th in conference; they have no other above-average factors) so I guess that's expected. But combine those numbers with Penn State's frequent dump-ins to Borovnjak—which are usually the hedger's fault for providing a passing lane or not getting back once the ball screen recipient tosses it to another perimeter player—and it was rough day.
I'm torn on Morgan. On the one hand, I'm hoping that Morgan's ankle is still bothering him extensively and he shouldn't be playing because then the fact that he seems like he's not offering any help to the beleaguered defense has an explanation. On the other, I'd really like him to be full strength posthaste. At least Michigan doesn't have a midweek game coming up. Hopefully he'll be ready by Illinois.
End of half heroball update. Burke was forced into the backcourt by his man, then trapped as he crossed the line, causing him to dump the ball with time running out and getting Michigan another terrible shot. Because Burke wasn't taking it, it did not go in.
What is the point of those end of half timeouts? All of them seem to consist of "Trey, go do something" and 28 seconds of staring at each other. I would prefer something with a second option like "Nik, go do something" or "Tim, go do something."
This week's refereeing outrage! Er, it actually went in Michigan's favor as Newbill picked up a critical third first-half foul on something that was not even close to a charge.
How do you fix charges? I don't know. Newbill's first charge was legit, as he plunged his shoulder into Stauskas and knocked him back with an arm, but this caused Pat Chambers to have a conniption fit because Stauskas didn't collapse into a Duke-like pile of flop and shame. His second was not, but did feature a guy getting bowled over. I think I'd change the rule so that feet had nothing to do with it except when it comes to getting outside the circle. It's a charge if the guy nails you directly in the chest, and a block if it's to the side. Expand the no-charge circle a bit and make the reform that Jay Bilas is always on about where if you move under a guy who's already in the air it's a block. And explicitly make simulating a charge a foul.
Anyway: Michigan got to the line a whopping 35 times after games of 2 and 6 FTAs. This is because Penn State is not at all subtle in their hackathon, for which I commend them. Unmissable foul perpetrators of Happy Valley, the honesty in your illegality is award-worthy.
Here is an award.
Uniforms. I liked them.
After Michigan's first outing against Ohio State Zack Novak gave an interesting interview to UMHoops in which he described how the Buckeyes shut down Michigan's pick and roll game:
Well for the first 10 minutes of the game, it seemed like everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Coach has referred to “locking the rails” in describing what OSU does to guard sideline ball screens, a huge staple of the offense. They do this better than anyone else. Many teams will take away a ball screen by having the defender on the ball play with his butt to the other sideline and bringing a big man in front of the ball handler. They take it to another level. They pretty much play the ball handler not to go to the opposite corner of mid court, essentially taking away any chance for the ball handler to still use the screen. This takes away all uncertainty a big man would have in playing in front of the ball handler.
In other words, big men usually hedge after a ball handler uses a ball screen. Even if the plan is to deny the ball handler from using it, the big still must be ready to hedge in the event the defender does not prevent the screen from being used. This uncertainty can cause big men to be just a fraction late, which in basketball is enough time for a good offensive player to exploit it.
In my eyes, it seemed like their big men were in position every time because they knew there was no chance the guard could use the screen.
Michigan sputtered to an 0.88 PPP outing, one of their worst of the season. In the offense-heavy rematch that moved up to 1.19, thanks in no small part to 58% shooting from three. But Burke also got free on a number of P&R possessions in the first half, with a rolling Mitch McGary the frequent beneficiary. Here's an example from early in the game; this is actually McGary's first offensive possession.
Michigan initiates the offense with a pass from GRIII to Burke and then flashes McGary to the top of the key.
By the time he gets there, Craft has set up shop such that there's no way for McGary to screen him.
This is "locking the rail." If Burke goes anywhere, it is right, and the big no longer has any hesitation.
McGary backs off, taking Williams with him, and then Burke attacks the basket, getting Craft outside of him with a crossover.
If Michigan acts quickly now, they can get the screen. McGary is waiting for this and Michigan successfully breaks the rail and gets the P&R.
Williams hedges hard as McGary rolls; Burke finds him.
Lenzelle Smith comes over in an attempt to pick up a charge. He may or may not get there in time, but we don't end up finding out because McGary's agility allows him to pull up short and avoid the contact as the arena is bathed in a mysterious rush of light.
A quick two for McGary enroute to 5/8 from the floor in the first half.
Things And Stuff
Burke shakes free. Burke needs help, but even if that drive doesn't get past Craft it necessarily puts him out of position when McGary re-establishes the pick and roll. It takes a little more work to set it up, is all. Burke was also able to shake Craft from the rail at times, like this late-clock move that puts Craft out of the picture and gets Ravenel on his heels, opening up the three:
With everyone on the floor staring down Burke this would be an opportune time for someone to dive to the rim, but oh well.
Planning ahead. Michigan executes a similar set with Hardaway on the next possession, but actually runs it too fast. Hardaway ends up trapped as Williams is much closer to the ball*, but the idea is the same. Next possession: same. Hardaway makes a token drive to the right and then comes back to a McGary screen; McGary gets a roll pass and misjudges how much room he has to attack, throwing up an awkward elbow jumper. After getting very little from the pick and roll in the first game, Michigan adapted, with moderate success inside the arc and Great Success outside.
*[Hardaway gets it to GRIII, who makes an excellent shot for himself against Thomas; Williams throws it back, whereupon Stauskas does his stepback swag in the corner that gets him gif'd.]
McGary skill level. Ohio State gets a defender over in position to take a charge; McGary pulls up short of him and puts up a lane floater that sneaks over the front of the rim. McGary has a high skill level for a 6'10" guy.
Almost inevitable offensive rebound. McGary also pounds Smith under the basket after the shot goes up; Amir Williams is hanging out with Burke well outside your picture, and GRIII has gotten good position on Thomas here. Note also that by the time Burke's three goes down, Craft is trying to box out Horford. That's one vs four, but a relatively high chance of an OREB anyway.
One of the problems against Wisconsin was a relative paucity of shots where offensive rebounds are on the table in the event of a miss.
2/9/2012 – Michigan 62, Wisconsin 65 (OT) – 21-3, 8-3 Big Ten
Bear with me here. What if Bo Ryan is actually from a small swampy planet in the general vicinity of Rigel?
His homeworld is a dire place full of pincered things with sensory appendages strongly reminiscent of tentacles covering their heads. If you carefully prepare the tentacles such that they are held in place they can resemble hair. They are an angry species, prone to fits of helpless rage. They have a legalistic bent; they take immense pleasure in exploiting their system of justice to temporarily soothe their seething hearts by jailing enemies on technicalities while escaping their crimes on other technicalities. Their only ethic is victory, no matter how appalling the method of its acquisition. Placed in the earthly taxonomic system they are technically bugs. They have a swampy game called swampball.
Bo Ryan is here on a mission. He is here to prepare the planet for eventual conquest by making viewers of his particular brand of swampball clones of himself: legalistic raging things who feel like their hair cannot be real, who can only clasp and unclasp their grasping apparatuses helplessly in the face of an unfeeling monolith of miscarried justice. Once prepared adequately, victims of this process will hardly notice when the nations leaders shed their disguises and reveal themselves as horrible chittering pedants from another world.
I'm not saying this admittedly fanciful scenario is true. I'm saying that if it was, not one damn thing about Wisconsin basketball would be any different. To watch the Badgers is to both hate and become Bo Ryan.
This game made me crazy. Michigan acquired all of two free throws in forty-five minutes and Dan Dakich had spent most of the last minute pleading for anyone to use their bounty of spare fouls; both teams tried and neither could. In Michigan's case, they screwed up. In Wisconsin's, they hacked away but could not get the refs to acknowledge it.
For the bug-people to lose on that would have been justice. There is no justice.
Instead Michigan got that running half-court to force overtime and a spectacular series of no-calls—Nik Stauskas getting hacked from the side and then not touching the ball, getting neither a foul or the out of bounds call, Jared Berggren slapping at Mitch McGary's arms so hard it was audible on the broadcast—continued until finally Michigan slunk off the Kohl Center court, grasping their suddenly unreal hair and wondering how to do anything other than clench their fists.
I felt paranoid watching all of this. It was a temporary window into the world of a 9/11 truther, seeing what looked like an insane conspiracy by Big Ten refs to keep Bo Ryan in their ears, screaming unprintable things about their mothers. A full half-dozen of the calls they made seemed literally impossible, from the two mentioned above to another breakaway layup that Burke missed because a dude hit him on the head and the charge Burke took on Berggren late that went the other way for a critical three-point play. Am I sane? I thought we got a fair whistle at Indiana. I did think that.
I thought I'd be better by now; I'm not. I hated every minute of watching that, don't understand most of those calls, and find it impossible to believe that this has been happening for years. It sucks for the league, both aesthetically and when a team that got worked by every decent nonconference opponent suddenly starts winning a ton of Big Ten games.
I feel irrational about it and incapable of not being irrational about it, and then something else happens and I feel that the only thing irrational here is the ENTIRE DAMN CONSPIRACY and feel like finding a town hall meeting about building an apartment complex proposal and telling them all about the things I know to be true about the Wisconsin Illuminati.
At least I'm not alone. Anonymous Big Ten coaches are also considering informing their local governments about the threat:
If you set a pick, they take a dive. They cheat the game. Everybody raves about this defensive juggernaut, but that's bull. They dribble the clock out and mug you out of the building. Part of the reason they lost to Cornell and Davidson is because when you get into the tournament, refs outside the Big Ten don't fall for that.
I found that randomly looking for a picture of Bo Ryan, and this is what Google Image Search looks like for Bo Ryan:
A window into a twisted soul.
I don't understand anything about this and don't want to talk about it anymore; I can't imagine being a ref in a game coached by the above guy and actually being on his side, and yet here we are, considering a half-court shot and two free throws. Take me, swamp people of Rigel. You win.
Haters. You know who invented "haters gonna hate"? Hitler. Don't even get me started, Badger fans. Hate is a critical emotion that keeps things like Wisconsin basketball in check.
Yeah, I Godwin'd myself. Necessary.
THE BO RYAN INDEX. Take the first three rows of Google Image Search and calculate in what percentage of those shots is the coach looking enraged, incredulous, furious, or otherwise unpleasant to referees or his team. Bo Ryan's Bo Ryan Index: 65%, and I think some of the misses could be sarcastic smiling.
…checks in at 25%, give or take a shot of Glenn Robinson III and how you interpret the pointing picture second from the left on the top (I filed that as a hit).
Tom Izzo's BRI is shockingly low:
I've got that at 19% and there are a couple borderline shots filed under rage with no borderline ones going the other way.
I love Bill Carmody's BRI:
It is zero, has a half dozen shots that remind me of Conan O'Brien, and includes a photoshopped Magnum PI mustache.
Like assist rate, BRI is something you want to be in the middle of possible distributions. Too high and you are a bug-man from Rigel; too low and you're not winning a lot of games.
THE BILL CARMODY INDEX: how many times on Google Image Search does your coach make a gesture of helplessness—for instance palms-up pleading or facepalming? Bill Carmody's BCI: 30%.
The prayer. In college basketball there is no reason for that ball to even get inbounded. The NBA rule where fouling on the out of bounds is two shots and the ball does not exist, so grab away on the out of bounds and send the opponent to the line. Also Beilein has to start guarding the inbounder. Mitch McGary would have been a lot more useful obscuring vision and making passes more difficult than ending up at the free throw line and then under the basket.
That said, most of that stuff gets filed under shit happens. That's, what, a 2% shot? Kenpom has Wisconsin's win probability there at 1.2%. Double that for successfully getting the ball to halfcourt, and…
To me the real error in the last minute of regulation was Burke stepping in and trying to draw that charge. Setting aside that he absolutely did, Michigan was up three and the shot clock was about to turn off. In that situation, anything other than a three puts you on the line trying to secure the win. The play there is to prevent all potential threes and if they get a drive to the hoop, just let them score.
The other option on that possession was refusing to let the Badgers even get into their offense by eating up a bunch of fouls and then putting Evans on the line, but that would require precise timing to not give Wisconsin a two-for-one. That possession started with around a full minute on the clock, and Wisconsin used most of the shot clock before getting their rage-inducing block/charge coinflip.
Morgan: missed. Horford killed Michigan in the opening minutes, going 0/3 from the floor and turning the ball over. Wisconsin was playing off the bigs and inviting them to shoot; Morgan is good at converting those opportunities and McGary came in to hit a couple buckets, forcing Wisconsin to adjust. Add in Glenn Robinson's continued struggles and not having Morgan as an option was probably decisive.
Bielfeldt did provide Michigan with some production; he was only 1/3 from the floor but picked up a couple of offensive rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes split about two thirds at the four and one third at the 5—it said volumes about Horford's rough night that Michigan put Bielfeldt out there as Michigan's only big for crunch-time minutes against Jared Berggren. Bielfeldt did about as well as he could against his much bigger defensive assignment, forcing a couple of tough jump shots that went down.
McGary: the usual plus a bonus. 6/10 from the floor and at least a couple of those were jumpers that looked smooth as they went down. Adding that to his arsenal is a minor bonus. Michigan won the board war and picked up another 2-0 advantage in team rebounds; McGary picked up a block and three steals. I wonder if the minutes will revert to a 50/50 split when Morgan returns.
Sure that's likely. Burke and Hardaway combined for 28 two point attempts and got two free throws out of them.
Robinson: scuffling. Four points on five shots and just three rebounds in 33 minutes. This is now a trend, a worrisome one. Shut off Michigan's transition and rebound and Robinson goes away. Not sure what Michigan can do about it—this is the downside of a guy who scores a quiet 15 points every night. When he goes actually quiet you can either change the stuff you do or live with it.
Wisconsin prevents threes? Michigan got off 18, which is a reasonable number, but OT + low turnovers means they also put up 53 twos—acquiring two free throws on these attempts. 25% of Michigan's shots came from behind the line then, and that's where they lost the game, hitting just five. Wisconsin was 9/23 on reasonable attempts and of course had the prayer.
Stauskas's reversion to the mean is getting rough. He was 1/5 on the night and IIRC they were all at least decent looks. He did carry Michigan through a rough spot in the first half with a couple of assists and his one make; just five points from him in 39 minutes, though. Michigan is leaning on Burke and Hardaway hard as the defenses toughen up and it's hard for two guys plus bigs rolling to the basket to be an elite offense.
"Unfortunately, we could not get to our other creatively homophobic cheers." Aaand on Michigan's two free throw attempts the student section "Trey Burke swallows." Just imagine what they would have had in store had Michigan gone to the free throw line more than twice.
HORSE: you failed us. In a shooting contest, Michigan did not win. I have sadness.
Caris: HANDS UP. The decisive Brust three featured a closeout by Caris LeVert with his hands at his sides late in the shot clock against Ben Brust, who shoots more threes than twos, was 0/3 from two in this game, and 3/6 from three including the game-tying prayer against one Caris LeVert. Cumong man.