2/28/2016 – Michigan 57, Wisconsin 68 – 20-10, 10-7 Big Ten
I try to avoid putting certain thoughts on twitter during basketball games because the replies they draw tend to send me into a "someone is wrong on the internet" pit. This didn't go so well yesterday, in both directions.
I expressed frustration at Michigan's horrendous defense in the first half, when Wisconsin bricked a huge array of wide open threes. I got a couple responses about how it was better to give up wide open threes than to let Nigel Hayes eat in the paint, with one guy offering up Hayes's shot chart as evidence. Evidence of what, though?
Hayes isn't actually an efficient offensive player this year in any way except one: he gets to the line a lot. He's suffered with the extra usage heaped on him in the absence of Dekker and Kaminsky; Wisconsin has a lot of bad possessions and Hayes ends up taking a lot of 15-footers as a result. He's good at those, which is like being good at writing about Rutgers sports.
As a whole, Wisconsin is decent at threes (4th in the league) and mediocre at twos (7th). They are not a team that you should be constantly doubling until they get a launch off. This is what Michigan did in the first half; they got lucky. So I got into a fight about that despite the fact that Hayes wasn't even taking the open threes.
Later, I expressed further frustration at Michigan's defense and got an array of FIRE HIS ASS and PATHETIC replies. I have only myself to blame.
But it's true, and playing Wisconsin is designed to highlight everyone's frustration with this year's basketball team. At halftime I predicted a ten point Wisconsin win in our slack channel, and there was grunting agreement. UMHoops felt the same way:
Michigan is hanging around in Madison, but a Wisconsin run almost feels inevitable. pic.twitter.com/mQRJmD60DQ
— Dylan Burkhardt (@umhoops) February 29, 2016
It was, with Wisconsin staking itself to a seven point lead by hitting six straight shots. The threes versus twos discussion became moot as Michigan failed to defend either well. Then you look over at Wisconsin's collection of athletes. Wisconsin features a guy Mark Donnal wrecked in high school and a variety of gentlemen who seem like ringers grabbed from the Plattville YMCA. Their main post is a freshman. They are 18th in defensive efficiency.
It's pretty tough not to be sour at Beilein after watching a bunch of try-hard types with excellent organization stifle Michigan. It's pretty tough not to be sour when Vitto Brown, the guy that Donnal worked in high school, goes 4/6 from three on six uncontested looks.
I don't expect Michigan to be actually good at defense for a lot of different reasons, but there's a difference between Michigan's usual meh and this. The trend is worrying. Defensive efficiency in the Beilein era:
- 2008: 100th
- 2009: 69th
- 2010: 58th
- 2011: 37th
- 2012: 61st
- 2013: 48th
- 2014: 109th
- 2015: 107th
- 2016: 145th
This is the third straight year of a triple-digit ranking. While you may remember things as "not good" even when the larger picture was much prettier, this is a whole new era of ineptness only matched by Beilein's first team of castoffs and runaways. This year's team is in fact considerably worse despite than those guys despite having a reasonable amount of experience. For the first time in a while Michigan doesn't have a freshman playing major minutes; for the first time in a while they've crawled out of the 300s in Kenpom's experience stat. This was the first year in a while you could reasonably expect year to year improvement, and yet.
The reason that the world expected Wisconsin to pull away in the second half is because they had a guy where Michigan was when their shots went up and Michigan did not do this. There is no reason for this based on the guys on the court. That is what's scary about this team and those down the road: something appears to have left the program over the last three years. The 2014 team managed to paper over it with Nik Stauskas and his merry band; Michigan outfits that do not have the ability to finish #1 in offensive efficiency have not found a plan B.
This is in no way a plea to fire anybody. Michigan has lost an NBA first round pick to injury each of the last three years, along with their starting PG last year and backup PG this year. If a Tom Izzo player gets a hangnail it gets a special edition of SportsCenter on which Izzo weeps and quavers; Michigan has suffered the insult of injury stoically.
But there's no reason that losing Caris Levert would send the defense into a tailspin. There's no reason that Ricky Doyle should go from promising freshman to afterthought in a year. There's no reason that Michigan should find itself 11th in defense in a league featuring luminaries like Penn State, Rutgers, Northwestern, and Illinois. This is our concern, dude.
I mean like whatever. I am super not into this basketball team for the reasons detailed above, which I why I haven't written about it much. Whatever motive force was behind the back to back elite eight teams left the building with Stauskas and has not given a hint of a return.
I would not be surprised to see a coaching shakeup after the year. Beilein did it once before, and since he's clearly not going to be the guy who fixes the defense he's got to get someone in who can give it a shot.
Bright spots? Michigan had a bunch of tight curl screen action that we hadn't seen much of before that was effective; they also made a number of interior passes to their bigs in situations they had not attempted much previously. Those resulted in a few turnovers but also a number of shots at the rim that were generally effective.
I wonder how much of the problem with the offense is that there aren't many good passers on the team. MAAR and Irvin are getting better but had to come up from absolutely zero assists; Walton is so bad inside the arc that there's not much reason to overplay him. This is no longer a bright spot. Sorry.
I'm shocked. Jon Crispin does not like dabbing.
On the roundtable this week:
- Basketball stuff: tourney seeding, bubble stuff, MAAR is good.
- Man that IMG trip is just free content, isn't it?
- That dude in New Mexico advocating Gentry transfer.
THE USUAL LINKS
No. Don't do it.
Don't do what? Whatever it is you have thought to do next. Hand shoes. Don't do that. Nobody will like them. Foot hands. Nobody wants to replace their feet with hands via a brutal surgical procedure. Just leave the feet and hands as they are now. The feet will be shod. The hands will remain unshod. Critically, both feet and hands will remain feet and hands. Nobody needs or wants four dextrous but fragile appendages. Save it for zero G science fiction, buddy.
No. Don't do that, either.
Do not invent a cuisine based on rotting food. Yes, I've heard of that Scandinavian rotted shark thing. No, I don't think you should extend that concept to the ground beef I forgot about and is now alarmingly brown. Nobody wants to eat rotted food. Okay, yes, Scandinavians. Nobody who isn't a Viking wants to eat rotted food. Millions of years of evolution have resulted in people with strong aversions to food that could make you sick. Stop trying to make a smoothie out of everything the local Kroger is trying to throw out.
Don't do that. Whatever it is. Stop.
Look, I know you need some bullet points on a resume so that when you leave for another job you'll get a title better than "guy who can change the lights without a stepladder," but have you considered the fact that maybe you fit right in there as a man who stands in the corner with his eyes closed until a lightbulb needs changing and then impresses everyone around him with his femur len—DON'T EAT THE LIGHT BULBS
doesn't that hurt?
you are scaring your coworkers
there is blood all over the floor YES IT'S YOUR BLOOD WHO ELSE IS EATING LIGHTBULBS AROUND HERE
don't do that
i can't stop you
nobody can stop you
the sickening crunch
the guttural lip-smacking
i'll never be able to be around anyone else eating without thinking of this insanity
susan is vomiting
roger has stapled his eyes shut
is this hell
i suppose you're going to put this on your resume as an innovative recycling initiative
if i may offer a suggestion, maybe replace the thing where you showed two hours of ref butts with this
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Ace doesn't know about gravitational waves. He does know about basketball. Michigan's win over Purdue was very strange. But it was a win. Caris return, Irvin going ham, Walton closing it out.
Gimmicky Top Five: Things The SEC Will Ban Next
starts at 24:30
This segment is frosty. Ace has never seen Hunt For Red October, which is just… that seems impossible to me.
Ace's Hockey Podcast
Starts at 36:29
The worst goal ever. Segue from there into general league competence stuff, of which there doesn't seem to be much. The team is the team is the team at this point.
"Across 110th Street"
THE USUAL LINKS
pick me up [Eric Upchurch]
So that was odd. For some reason during this game I thought to myself that this team was a stereotype of Beilein teams, a stereotype of the variety that gets passed around message boards that always, always call Michigan "scUM."
It more or less is. Michigan is 146th in defensive efficiency even after a strong outing against Purdue. They're 12th in the league in two point defense. They don't get to the line and don't get to the offensive boards. All of these things are more or less true every year. They're less easy to stomach when you get hammered over and over by teams that can exploit Michigan's various and sundry flaws. Michigan's been blown out of the building in every loss save Iowa*, often because they've resembled a grim parody of John Beilein basketball.
So I am thinking this and then Michigan wins a game by holding Purdue to 56 points. Michigan is 5/20 from three and significantly outrebounds a gigantic Purdue outfit. Okay. Whatever. In this very stereotypical Beilein year this was a genre-defying game.
*[That game was reasonably competitive despite the 11-point final margin.]
Doubly odd. Meanwhile there was a period in the second half when Michigan's offense devolved into ridiculous heroball. Walton, Irvin, and Robinson all took very bad shots on which they tried to beat guys off the dribble, failed, and shot anyway. This was during a 2/20 run from the floor. It was deeply unpleasant, and then Michigan won anyway.
Walton ain't wiltin'. Takes some cojones to drive in the vicinity of Hammons when you're 0/9 for the game and then aim for contact, but Derrick Walton has always been an assassin at the end of games. As a freshman he closed out wins against MSU and Nebraska with and-one drives; here he pushed Michigan in front on their 11-0 closing spurt. He then made four free throws down the stretch to seal it. I'm not a big fan of "clutch" but in his case I'll allow it.
While we're talking about weird-ass Derrick Walton, should be noted that he's still the top defensive rebouder on the team, and that is a good sign, not an ominous one. Michigan always does this thing where their defensive rebounding looks pretty good through the nonconference season and then they finish 10th or so in the league; not so this year. Michigan is 3rd(!) in the league at defensive rebounding. They haven't managed that since 2009, when Anthony Wright was tossing bombs at Oklahoma in the second round of the tourney instead of at Dan Dakich on Twitter.
Walton appears to have a tangible positive effect on Michigan's team rebounding, which is huge for a team that plays as small as Michigan does. A 6-foot-nothing point guard led all rebounders in a game featuring Purdue with 7 DREBs. Again, Purdue versus Derrick Walton and Walton wins.
Ticket more or less punched. Michigan needed to find a couple wins in a difficult closing stretch to feel secure about a bid; with the Purdue win they have reached 19 wins against a difficult schedule (SMU, Texas, UConn, and Xavier are all top-25 Kenpom teams). They've got three wins that will go on everyone's "good" list and zero bad losses. One of those wins is against a projected one-seed. Even if they had a season-ending skid that is not a profile that gets left out, especially when two programs that would normally be in the tournament (SMU and Lousiville) are taking postseason bans this year. And that's before the committee accounts for the fact that Levert has barely played during the Big Ten schedule.
Michigan would likely have to lose out to be on the bubble.
This is what I am saying about post offense. It's inefficient. Purdue makes it work better than most because they have simply enormous dudes but as Ace pointed out, all those post ups lead to a barrage of two point jumpers that aren't good at scoring points. This game was a good example of why. Hammons got shut out(!!!) on the offensive boards and Haas got just one. Those two combined to go 9/21 from the field and 3/7 from the line, with two of the makes Hammons 15-footers. Hammons turned it over 3 times. All this was against a very bad defense.
Hammons is 88% at the rim but:
- 71% of his shots there are assisted
- another 18% are putbacks, so
- 11% of his shots at the rim are unassisted non-rebouds, ie, post-ups.
Meanwhile he's hitting 39% on two point jumpers, which comprise the vast majority of shots arising from post ups. Haas is similar but is hitting 48%. And both guys see a lot of assists on their two point makes, which means raw put-it-on-the deck post ups are mostly a waste of time even when you have the biggest damn team in the world against a bad defense.
I am completely fine with the way Michigan has discarded post-ups entirely. I just wish they'd recruit posts based solely on resemblance to Dikembe Mutumbo; all the guy has to do is dunk and wag his finger.
(Other possibility: Purdue is super generous with assists. They're 11th nationally in A/FGM, and I've seen them play. That's not reality.)
Robinson quiet, but occupying people. Purdue has Raphael Davis. Davis is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Raphael Davis spent most of this game checking Duncan Robinson. This resulted in Robinson not doing much and an ugly offensive game for the rest of the team, but Irvin got loose in part because he got a matchup against Swanigan; only after he'd heated up did Purdue try to match Davis on him.
If Levert does get back to full strength either he occupies the ace defender and Robinson gets loose or he gets to attack those wide open lanes. This is one of two reasons getting LeVert back and functional is so critical; the other is that the committee won't give Michigan the benefit of the doubt for his absence unless he does return.
MAAR, ball-hawk. Abdur-Rahkman helped rescue the game with a couple of key steals late. That's a flash of the perimeter defender we hoped we were getting last year after he shut down DeAngelo Russell; for a lot of reasons that has not really manifested itself. He's probably been Michigan's most consistent defender, but that's not saying much.
While he's not exactly a standout statistically, he's piecing it together this year. He's shooting really well in conference (76%/59%/41%), he's inching up that assist rate, and he's getting to the line. Usage is still in the Spike Albrecht range; that's the main hangup when you're trying to project him. He should be a very solid upperclassman; the ten-point bump in his three point shooting percentage is encouraging.
Okay Caris. Just get right by the Big Ten Tournament. Now that he's seen the court the direst predictions are off the table.
1 hour 2 minutes
Nebrasketball is defeated, as was Minnesotaketball. The vagaries of shooting. Zak Irvin, all-around player. Derrick Walton, strange player. Andrew Donnal, serviceable. We play with forces we do not understand and barely come out unscathed.
ACE'S HOCKEY PODCAST
Starts at 19:38. U18 scouting reports from yours truly. Some schedule talk.
INSIDE THE CROOKED BLUE LINE WITH STEVE LORENZ
Starts at 31:41. This segment got outdated somewhat more quickly than we thought it would with three guys dropping between taping and publishing.
"Across 110th Street"
uh... some other stuff