...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
1/30/2013 – Michigan 68, Northwestern 46 – 20-1, 7-1 Big Ten
There was no look-ahead from either Indiana or Michigan last night, or maybe both these teams are too good to let a Purdue or Northwestern hang around even if they're spending most of the night playing mind Tetris. The casualness of both wins left an impression: these teams are that good.
Michigan dissected the Wildcats in a way the final stats don't quite show because that was the slowest game they'd played all year, 53 possessions. They didn't have a turnover until the game was almost three-quarters done and finished with two. Meanwhile, Indiana put up 1.45 points per possession against Purdue, hitting 50% from 2, 48% from three, and 19% from the line, rebounding more than half their misses, and suffering just eight turnovers.
All right then. Let's git it awn.
Photos. Via Bryan Fuller:
A perfect half of a half. I tweeted at halftime that it felt weird that Michigan was only up 15 after blazing the nets the entire time and not committing a turnover, and then I saw UMHoops issue its traditional halftime PPP with Michigan at 1.5(!!!). One division later and the reason the game was vaguely close was obvious: the first half featured an extremely low 24 possessions. If they'd played that well over a normal possession count they would have been more than 20 points clear.
I'm not sure that's possible, because I mean gol' dang. When Stauskas knocked down his third three I got an odd look from the wife because I was waving my hands around and giggling insanely. In retrospect the second-half dropoff was inevitable.
Okay, maybe not inevitable—see Indiana PPP above—but pretty dang close to such. Things that pretty don't last. Northwestern defense, I salute you!
good. good. good. (Fuller)
Trey! Burke had a day more in line with outsized player-of-the-year expectations than his previous outing: 18 points on 11 shots, 8 assists, 1 TO, 2 steals, and even a few rebounds. In this one the long stepback shots were excellent backup plans executed late in the shot-clock (with one exception, IIRC) and he facilitated the rest of the offense beautifully. Northwestern's accommodating defense disclaimers apply; you can't ask for much more from a point guard no matter who they're playing.
Since McGary is getting his McGary minutes and doing his McGary things this section will restrict itself to comparing Horford and Morgan. So let's do that.
I'm of two minds. The downside: Michigan got beat on the boards by a not-very-good Illinois outfit when Morgan went down and in this one they allowed Northwestern to exceed their OREB season average by a couple points.
You'd expect them to be under their average if they're going up against the #12 DREB team nationally, so that indicates something of a swing. Also, in Michigan's first game against the Wildcats Morgan had 13 rebounds, five of them offensive, and M held Northwestern to 25% OREB. That's far, far short of anything definitive; it's all we have to go on statistically and suggests… well, mostly noise. But what is not noise suggests there is some rebounding dropoff.
On the other hand, I'm inclined to exonerate the centers for any OREB issues in this one. Wildcat center Alex Olah had one. A couple went to Northwestern PF-type substance Jared Swopshire, and the rest were from guards.
It didn't seem like Horford was deficient on the boards. The rest of it was unambiguously good: he put up ten points on five shots, hitting 4/5 from the line and blocking three shots. Northwestern shot 47% from two—meh, a bit better than their season average—and only acquired 8 FTs. They're surprisingly good at getting to the line for a team with their athletic limitations, so that's a positive. One of Horford's fouls was a late hedge, which in the context of this team (tons of depth at the five, rarely gets up to seven fouls in a half) is meaningless. He had a couple of nice finishes on the pick and roll.
Eyeballing it, there's not much difference between Horford and Morgan.
BONUS. It was pretty cool to see Morgan in Horford's ear coaching him up at virtually every commercial break. This team, man.
Welp. Let's zoom in on that Wildcat observing Horford's pending layup:
maybe if I point my finger… (Fuller)
McGary minutes, McGary things. It would be McGary who broke a 28-minute streak without a turnover. It would also be McGary who ripped down a third of Michigan's rebounds in just 15 minutes of playing time. It would also also be McGary who flung himself to the floor and backhanded a ball back into play that eventually turned into a Michigan three-pointer.
His main weakness is picking up pug-like…
I spent far too long finding this video. People of the internet: please have higher standards for what qualifies as "insane" or "psycho" behavior from pugs.
…psycho fouls, but since most of those are loose ball/on the floor things they have about the same impact as Horford's hedge foul: none.
Tough day for Tim, or maybe not. Hardaway was 2/8 from inside the arc—not his best day. There were a couple of shots interspersed in those eight that were clearly frustration shots.
I'm okay with that. He only had a couple, and those sorts of "I NEED TO GET IN THE GAME" attempts are inevitable whenever you're a high-usage alpha-dog sort like Michigan wants Hardaway to be. He stepped back after missing those and let the offense run. He picked up three assists and a steal and his burgeoning shut-down defender rep was burnished by holding Reggie Hearn to 7 points on 8 shots with a 0:2 A:TO ratio. I still question that—the announcers brought up the DJ Byrd thing again and I was all like "more than half of DJ Byrd's points against Stauskas were from Indiana". I think he's obviously improved a great deal.
It's a broken record at this point: this year Hardaway contributes in columns other than total points, consistently. When he's crushing people's heads like he did at Minnesota he's an All-American; when he's not he's still a major asset.
He should be prepared to be shut off by Oladipo, though. His improved handle is still not enough to do much against that guy.
now I'll make a dog on the overhead projector (Fuller)
"Not Just A Shooter" Watch. I counted five—we are including slight variants of the sentiment—throughout the course of the evening: one pregame, two in-game, and two in BTN postgame coverage. I think we might make a shirt.
Other Stauskas news. The usual. A game… blouses dunk, a couple of sweet assists, 3/5 from three. The unusual: twice in this game he was singled up one-on-one with a pretty good scorer and dominated the guy. On defense!
Those two possessions were the first I can remember where Stauskas made an impact on the defensive end of the floor, and with Northwestern going 4/19 from three you can't dog the closeouts too much. Stauskas went under some screens against Alex Marcotullio early and paid for it, but the guy puts up 70% of his shots from three and hits 29%—I wouldn't be surprised if that was the gameplan against the guy. Keep your defense balanced and if he hits he hits.
I tell you what: he's not just a shooter. thatsracist.gif.
Light Rob. It has come to my attention that I rarely even bother to talk about GRIII, whether it's here or in the podcast, and this is kind of an incredible thing. I know I cannot contain myself about how exciting Stauskas is as a player, and why not: he's 8th nationally in ORTG as a freshman.
Robinson is sixth. At the end of every game he has somewhere between 12 and 20 points and Michigan has run no plays for him and he's taken about three dribbles to acquire those points and you're just like "oh, right… that incredibly efficient guy." In this one, 13 points on 7 shots. Another day at the office. GRIII's office is at the top of a beanstalk.
Ace reports that the players on the team have nicknamed him "Light Rob" because of that effect when you look at the box score: "oh right, GRIII had a light 20 points." He is shooting 67% from the field and 40% from three. Kind of good.
Unfortunately for GRIII, this in no way translates to skills the NBA finds attractive. Being able to do this is a detriment because sometimes you get stuck in the rafters and have to be fished out at great expense:
Oh well, three more years at Michigan.
Spike doing things. Just four minutes for Albrecht but the thing about the guy is that he'll get those four, five, six minutes and do something with them. In this one he missed an open three—good shot from a good shooter so still counts to the good—and had a lovely push up the floor that turned a situation that did not necessarily look like a developing transition opportunity into an easy bucket.
Like LeVert, Albrecht is not likely to have a huge impact on the big games Michigan is about to embark on. Also like LeVert, he is capable of giving you a play or two that may make the difference. Both were late pickups from nowhere, and if Michigan finishes this year 5 to 1 against there will be at least one play featuring those guys that we'll point to as crucial.
This is John Beilein's Dumars moment. I'm not saying he's going to go out and recruit college versions of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva at ruinous expense right after this. I am saying that there was a point in time during which Joe Dumars seemed like the smartest GM in the history of the NBA, and that this inevitably faded as his luck regressed to the mean, and that Michigan has just metaphorically traded Chucky Atkins for Rasheed Wallace.
John Beilein is a great, great basketball coach, and possibly an even better identifier of talent. But no amount of skill can guarantee this kind of team. Look at Calipari, sporting another shot-blocking monstrosity at center who will go in the top three picks in the draft. This year he's cruising towards the bubble, not the championship. This is the point at which Beilein seems impossible. Long may it last, but here's your biweekly unnecessary reminder to savor this.
Somebody asked what a Hoosier is. I know the answer! It's a cabinet. Seriously.
You doubt me? Look it up. Back in the day—like during those 50 years between when Indiana joined the Big Ten and finally won a championship—kitchens didn't come with the cabinets and countertops and stuff all in place. They were just rooms. So you'd put a "Hoosier" in there. The Hoosier had cabinets and drawers and a spice rack and came with its own flower sifter and grinder so you can bake your own bread, which is an important thing to have in pre-industrial nations like Indiana.
How it works:
- Wednesdays I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of this weekend's designated game (football or hoops, depending on the season), and put it in the comments. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
- Seriously, you don't have to actually guess a basketball score to get this shirt. You can buy it.
About Last Time:
The lowballing mbrummer guessed "67-52 and its [sic] not that close" so he gets the really comfy basketball tee for managing to get closest to the 68-53 final score by actually picking fewer points to be scored by either team.
This Week's Game:
Michigan @ Indiana on Saturday February 2. Please note that "Michigan @ Indiana on Saturday February 2" is not "Michigan versus Northwestern at Crisler tonight." Not that the people who guess the wrong game ever read this part, but I like putting warnings in anyway so we can make fun of them later. Watch, some tool will still guess Northwestern…
And the Prize:
Wishing for Muppets over an Indiana game; it must be basketball season.
Fine print: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (make it easy on me and write your score in digits with a hyphen between them. No, don't—why would you want to make my life easy? Wait, I'm a professional Michigan fan—okay my life is pretty easy). Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game. MGoEmployees and Moderators exempt from winning. We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm spent 10 years as the Indiana of basketball, if that makes sense. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm is not just a shooter.. This is not the algorithm. This is close.
Illinois: defeated. Burke's halfcourt performance is gently prodded with many nods towards his inherent Burke-ness.
Stauskas: more than just a shooter(tm). Obligatory. I call him "Darius Morris who shoots 50% from three." Note that I just rewatched the Illinois game and my assertion that he did not take a jumper was wrong--I was misremembering a LeVert Kobe assist as Stauskas's. Stauskas left a floater short, which Illinosi rebounded. Just for the record.
Morgan's absence: problem? Doesn't seem like it so far.
Caris LeVert: future? Getting that feel despite his lack of outburst.
Everything is falling into place. All things are as you would have them be to maximize this team's performance. Enjoy it, as this sort of serendipity is uncommon.
Indiana looms. Looms.
Talking Big Ten with
Jamiemac John Gasaway. It was Monday at noon so we figured Jamie would be at that "work" stuff and dialed up the man formerly known as Big Ten Wonk, John Gasaway. We talk about his status as a battered Illinois fan, I get shot down talking about Jordan Hulls's defense, he expresses confidence in Michigan basketball, and Yogi Ferrell is talked up as a guy who has an impact outside of the box score.
Music. "The Switch and the Spur," the Raconteurs.
The usual links:
A picture of the conference. Michigan's defense isn't that much of an issue so far:
It's pretty good, and then the offense is off the charts. It's only in the context of the super-elite teams vying for a national title that it seems deficient. And with that offense… well… Gasaway's latest Tuesday Truths puts it in perspective:
It may turn out to be the case that Michigan is not in fact excellent at defense, that they're merely very good at it. But that needs to be seen in the proper context. First, this isn't a case like, say, Missouri last season, where a good many people chose to overlook the Tigers' vulnerability on D. (There was a push to give that team a No. 1 seed. I still shudder at the memory.) John Beilein's defense this season is day-and-night better, thus far, than Frank Haith's was last season.
Second, whatever Michigan's level of performance has been on defense, the Wolverines have been able to plug that in as one half of an equation whose result has been outscoring the best conference in the country by nearly a quarter of a point per possession. The Wolverines' only loss this season has come not to an offensive juggernaut that was able to exploit UM's worrisome deficiencies on defense, but to the hapless-on-offense Ohio State Buckeyes, who shut down Michigan's offense beautifully.
Lastly, the past 10 years can be ransacked profitably not only for prerequisites (and I'll be joining Luke on this beat soon -- watch for it!) but also for weirdness. I've seen a team rank No. 8 in its 12-team league in two-point accuracy and then go on to win a national championship. I've seen a team rank No. 103 in the nation in offense and then go on to make the Final Four. And do I even need to drag Gordon Hayward into this?
The most likely outcome of March is that Michigan will indeed lose to some other team in the tournament, because they are only amongst a leading group of teams. If and when that happens, people will point to the defense; I'll just be like "Michigan was the Vegas favorite and still 5 to 1 against."
Slightly more favored in the league. Michigan's huge scoring margin in the league sees them favored to win the Big Ten in SpartanDan's Bradley-Terry projection system*, which may not be a huge surprise. What is surprising is how much they're favored by.
Dan's basic system that does not take margin of victory into account says Michigan has a 69% chance of an outright title and an 85% chance of sharing. The margin-aware numbers are 80%(!!!) and 92%(!!!).
Those numbers are probably too high since Michigan is likely to have outperformed its real level of skill significantly in the opening third of the conference schedule, but… wow.
BONUS: Penn State has a 30% shot at going winless in the margin-aware system.
*[College hockey fans: this is KRACH.]
Bullet of stats-enthusiasm-dissing hypocrisy incoming. While I'm generally a fan of Big Ten Geeks, their latest foray into stat assemblage is goofy to me. They use "stops," which is a Dean Oliver formula that crams steals and blocks and rebounding statistics into a number. As with all attempts to create a catch-all defensive statistic, it waves its hand at who is in fact responsible for team defensive rebounding and how replaceable they may or may not be. Also unaccounted for is a player's contribution to the opponent's shot quality.
But they've compiled the numbers and shown you the results:
Let’s look at Stops:
Player Stops per 40 minutes Adam Woodbury 11.35 Mitch McGary 10.94 Jordan Morgan 10.47 Branden Dawson 10.21 Trevor Mbakwe 10.20 Cody Zeller 10.20 Ryan Evans 9.45
Well, this is interesting—we have a couple of freshmen leading the way. Both Woodbury and McGary are tremendous rebounders (as is Jordan Morgan this season), which explains why they rate so high. And to those who complain that Stops unfairly rewards good rebounders, I think that’s about as valid a point as the complaint that offensive rating unfairly rewards efficient scorers. Rebounding is defense—a big part of it.
So this works if rebounding is, in fact, defense. It's not. It has an impact but the top ten teams in defensive rebounding are 54th, 144th, 162nd, 147th, 103rd, 171st, 240th, 64th, 18th, and 25th in defensive efficiency. As I mentioned when pooh-poohing Mason Plumlee's KPOY candidacy, rebounding is the least important of the four factors. It's only its trackability that makes it so prominent. It's easy to say who got a rebound. It's really hard to credit someone for an effective rotation.
This metric thinks Jordan Morgan is a lot better this year because the team is better at rebounding. His personal DREB rate is a tick better this year, but it's still just 257th. He gets credit that other players don't because Tim Hardaway is mansome this year.
Morgan is then declared the best defensive player in the league because he fouls less often than the other guys at the top of the list, with this capper:
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Jordan Morgan has been the best defensive player in the Big Ten so far. Unbelievable. And in case you’re wondering, Oladipo fouls quite a bit—4.42 fouls per 40 minutes. Talk about the eye test all you want, but the numbers suggest he’s not the best defensive player (or even the best defensive perimeter player) in the Big Ten.
I accuse Big Ten Geeks of gross misuse of stats. Yes, it is unbelievable. Thus you should disbelieve it.
Victor Oladipo isn't a high-end defensive rebounder because he's frequently sticking his hand in the face of the highest-volume shooter the opposition has. His role defines his numbers. You can cram defensive rebounds into a slightly modified form all you want—notice that not one perimeter defender appears on this stops list—but all you get is a comparison between yourself and David Berri. Deployed.
Sometimes you have to go by the eye test because the stats compiled are inadequate, and until basketball stats get crazy detailed individual defensive performances are in that bucket.
BONUS WONKY STATS COMPLAINT. Most attempts to compile defensive numbers underrate the value of a steal, by the way. A defensive rebound is just the successful conclusion of a defensive possession ending in a missed shot. A steal ends a possession by itself—it's the miss and the rebound rolled into one—and frequently leads to a transition opportunity at the other end. That latter part is not well accounted for.
Morgan's ankle. Nothing broken, just a sprain, AP got a totally gross picture of it, if he can play basketball on Wednesday he will play basketball on Wednesday—I bet he cannot play basketball on Wednesday.
Zak Irvin continues rain of destruction. Last week: 26 points and 30 points in wins. One was over Arsenal Tech, both the best-named and top-ranked team in the state until Zak Irvin declared his school was now named Sharkfin Elfin 3000 and scored almost half of his team's points in a 64-59 win.
You want to watch the whole game, you say? You have free time.
If you are going to do this you probably want to start at halftime. Irvin scored 26 of his 30 after the break.
Zing. John Niyo on the Nobody Remembers #1 thing:
"It's Jan. 27," Beilein said after a 74-60 victory at Illinois last weekend, "and not one of you can remember who was No. 1 last Jan. 27."
Well, actually many of us can. It was a 20-1 Kentucky team that went on to win the Southeastern Conference and the SEC tournament and eventually the NCAA title.
But point taken.
5 to 1 against, 5 to 1 against, 5 to 1 against, repeat until you internalize the likely outcome of the season is not cutting down nets…
Etc.: You can be happy about being #1. Via UMHoops, the view on Bielfeldt from Peoria. Being back on top is nice and you should be happy. Here's an excellent primer on Beilein's 1-3-1 from the man himself.
Everyone said stuff about the Fab Five next, and a few people bugged me for muppets. I'm not going to celebrate sportswriters voting on something, but…
Ace and I were doing a podcast and it came up that the Illinois game came on the anniversary of the Aneurysm of Leadership from which a line straight up to this point can be drawn. Ace suggested this should be memorialized.
It shall be so.
The font of all excellence.