I did not make this headline up
1/29/2012 – Michigan 49, Ohio State 64 – 16-6, 6-3 Big Ten
No one expected Michigan to go on the road against Kenpom's #1 team and come back with a victory, so frustration and alarm was kept to a low simmer as Michigan tried and generally failed to find a way through the thicket of arms and athleticism that Ohio State presents. While OSU also goes "small" by deploying just one post-oriented player at a time—6'7" Deshaun Thomas is the second-tallest player OSU starts, and he's an NBA-sized wing slasher who rebounds at a lesser rate than Trey Burke—there is small, and there is "small."
Michigan is the former, Ohio State the latter. Kenpom has OSU's effective height 78th. They're not huge but they're well above average while still getting to play four-out, one-in. So if a game in which an insurmountable three-point halftime deficit ballooned to 15 by the end is dispiriting, it's also an indication of Michigan's future, in which a post is surrounded by a point guard and bouncy guys ranging from 6'4" to 6'7". Just now, that seems like a pretty good recipe for success.
But Michigan's post guy is not Jared Sullinger and with the exception of Tim Hardaway, Jr., their bouncy guys range from 6'2" to 6'2" and have a tendency to bounce their arms into fastbreaking opponents' heads because they're not bouncy, so expected outcomes come out as expected. At the half, it seemed like Michigan's point total was about what you would expect and Ohio State's was a ton of missed putbacks. That proved itself in the second half.
Oh well. This one was house money anyway.
Down the road, the team keeps scraping out narrow wins against good competition and is on track to meet expectations. The overall picture has some concerns. Ubiquitous Michigan basketball messageboardist MHoops1 compiled some stats on three pointers in league play that point to a burgeoning problem:
Tim Hardaway Jr., with 55, has taken more 3s in conference games than anyone else--he is second in 3s per game to Illinois' Brandon Paul (who is shooting just under 40% from 3). …
There are 8 guys who are shooting 20-29% from 3 in conference play--two are Hardaway at just under 22% (2nd worst overall in the conference…), and Smotrycz at just over 24% (4th worst overall, ahead of Walker, Hardaway and Keith Appling of MSU, who is shooting just under 23% from 3.
[Only players with 20 or more attempts are considered.]
I just don't know what happened to Hardaway's stroke. Last year it was the key component driving Michigan to their bid—they took just about as many threes but were third in the conference at hitting them. You can poke at all the psychological explanations you want; I don't buy them and am left with helpless shoulder-shrugging and an increased appreciation for Darius Morris's ability to create shots from everywhere.
No matter what the reason is, Michigan has the most prolific and least efficient three-point shooter in the conference now. This is a trend that extends to the team as a whole. Kenpom's conference-only numbers have Michigan first in three-pointers attempted (43%) and tenth (31%) in makes. Often poor percentages from three aren't that harmful since threes are worth more points (SCIENCE!). Here, though, each three point shot taken is 10% less effective than an average two*. That's a big difference when you consider the standard deviations involved here.
And then there's the free throws. There aren't any. (You may have noticed.) Michigan is dead last at getting to the line. Add it up and it's a parody of Beilein's reputation for perimeter-oriented fooferah.
No one is turning their nose up at 6-3 halfway through what seems like the slightly tougher half of the conference slate, or what looks like a third tourney bid in four years. Playing Ohio State drives home what looks like a ceiling for this edition of Michigan. To compare them, just line Zack Novak up next to DeShaun Thomas. Sometimes your physical limitations catch up to you, like when you're playing a Final Four contender. So it goes.
*[By this I mean the average three pointer is worth more than the average two. The D-I average 3 is worth 1.03 points; the D-I average two is worth 0.95 points. So you can be below average from three and still not hurt yourself too badly if you take a lot. Michigan far exceeds this margin of error.
I know fouls and getting to the line argue in favor of going inside and complicate this analysis considerably.]
And to think you could have pissed off Valpo's conference opponents. Man, do people hate Zack Novak. While in OSU's case it's standard "you elbowed our dude" lingering bitterness, it seems like 75% of previews express some sort of distaste for the gritmaster. That as much as anything else is a tribute to his career. If he ever has a plaque somewhere in Crisler he should be bleeding profusely and it should read "booed at every arena in the Big Ten for obscure reasons."
Free throw non-perturbation. To me it didn't seem like Michigan had a case for many more than the zero free throws they acquired before 37 minutes were gone. Maybe two or three—Craft obviously got Burke's follow through on a three he made anyway—but not so many that it would have had even a slight impact on the game. There was just little way through for most of Michigan's players. It's not hard to not foul a guy like Douglass when you can just follow him to the hoop and block his shot.
Sullinger attention == board obliteration. Michigan did an excellent job of rotating to Sullinger but all that defensive attention unbalanced Michigan's defense and allowed various Buckeyes to hammer the boards. OSU rebounded nearly 50% of their misses, which was death. Not sure what was the cause of the sudden inability to get the damn ball. Let's check!
Culprits in order: Hardaway, Douglass, Smotrycz, Sullinger double, Morgan, McLimans. Well… crap, try to fix that. I can't even claim that the Sullinger doubling was a major factor. It was just guys getting pushed out of the way and out-athleted by a 6-4 dude. Guh.
Smotrycz hat tip. Those possessions when he was matched up against Sullinger could have gone much, much worse. Still not contributing much on offense except in spurts. The small-ball lineup seems very effective defensively but lacks a certain something on offense.
Slightly tougher half in the rearview? I'd say so. Michigan had five at home and four away in the first half and must invert that in the second, but you can call the MSU, OSU, Indiana, Purdue, and PSU and Northwestern games a wash since Michigan will flip home and road with all those opponents. So then you've got:
- DONE: Minnesota, Wisconsin, @ Iowa,
- TO COME: @ Nebraska, Illinois, @ Illinois
Minnesota and Illinois at home are a wash. @ Nebraska is easier, and I'm not sure whether I'd play Wisconsin at home or Illinois on the road. Kenpom says definitely Illinois but it's been a little gaga for Wisconsin's nonconference blowouts all year. Anyway, I said slight. This section has been excessively defensive.
Iowa State watch. The Hoiberg Home for Lost Big Ten boys took out Kansas, which serves as a big, tourney-bid-validating win as long as they perform as expected down the stretch.
LAST WEEK ON "JARED SULLINGER AND TIM HARDAWAY JR SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER"
AND NOW… OUR THRILLING CONCLUSION!
YAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH YA YA YA YA YA
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHH!
I still can't believe it's called "The Journey," which should by rights be a Hallmark Channel series about entering puberty. But it's talking Michigan-Michigan State. Cazzie Russell gets his eyebrow on and Novak rains threes in Breslin:
The Aneurysm of Leadership is discussed.
It's the… uh… economy? This is unbelievable:
Once regularly an asylum for 1,200 Crazies, Section 17 at Cameron Indoor Stadium now rarely plays host to a student-only crowd.
Student attendance at men’s basketball games has fallen consistently over the last five years, even dropping after Duke won its fourth national championship in 2010. This season, approximately 650 undergraduates have attended each game, 150 fewer than during the 2008-09 season. As a result, Duke Athletics has begun to sell an increasing number of general admission tickets in the student section on a regular basis.
“It has nothing to do with the revenue. We just want it to be full,” Director of Marketing and Relations Mike Forman said. “If there were 1,200 students every game we would love it.”
I've given Michigan students crap for late/spotty attendance at football and hockey (basketball seems immune for some reason) but, like… Jebus. If Duke can't sell out their student tickets it is a nationwide epidemic.
The article goes on to describe a couple of reasons for the decline: the prevalence of online streaming (which seems ludicrous since I'm sure all Duke games are televised in Durham) and "the students' misconception of the time commitment involved." Apparently it's first-come, first-serve and you show up for a game sans ticket and hope to get in. That's a little nuts.
Even if Duke is too far at one end of the scale, Michigan could slide closer to them without incurring the same effect. Offer incentives for having your tickets scanned on time or early and revoke student ticket privileges for people who don't bother to show up.
Attacking the symptom. Bowls are out of control but this does not attack the matter at its heart:
There is "growing support" among conference commissioners, athletic directors and bowl officials to increase the difficulty of becoming bowl eligible by requiring teams to have seven victories, or a winning record, when the new BCS cycle begins in 2014, multiple sources have told CBSSports.com. The seven-win requirement would also mean a handful of bowls likely would be discontinued because there would not be enough eligible teams to fill all of the current 70 berths. In the past two years alone, 27 teams with 6-6 records were needed to fill all the bowl slots, meaning nearly 20 percent of the bowl field didn't have a winning record.
That would hack out about seven of the existing bowls, none of which would be missed in the slightest. It would still allow a dozen or more bowls that are net negatives to exist. The way to fix the current system is to get rid of ticket and hotel guarantees and let the bowls, not the schools, assume the risk of a crappy matchup.
Slicing out the bottom of the barrel is better than nothing, I guess. And at least athletic directors and presidents are getting wise to the scam:
"The 7-5 proposal is getting serious support," a non-BCS bowl official said. "They're telling a coach [that] 6-6 doesn't cut it, but then the coach gets a $50,000 or $100,000 bonus for a bowl game that none of the fan base wants to see. Athletic directors feel like they're pouring money down a hole and they're getting frustrated with it. The only people making out on 6-6 bowl games are the coaches."
…and the dudes in blazers, of course.
Burn. The Daily profiles Brian Wiseman by featuring his ridiculous peewee campaign:
You’ve probably heard about Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson’s phenomenal six-goal game with the St. Louis Blues in 1968. But what about the record-breaking season of one of his assistants, who averaged over five goals per game en route to a 413-goal campaign?
“They didn’t even keep those stats when I was a kid,” Berenson said.
Alex Guptill says no sale.
Wiseman can only say "keep scoring" at the moment, but don't find yourself in a drought, Alex.
I'll take f-bombs for 1000. David Molk is interviewed by Kyle Mienke:
He's certain of one thing, though: He has doubters. And he knows exactly where they can go.
"It's just, stuff like that pisses me off," Molk said, voice rising. "Any scout who denies me pisses me off. 'Oh, this is what you got. You’re not good enough.'
"Well, (to hell with) you, let me show you what I got."
For the record, I have never doubted Molk and move around constantly so my location cannot be pinned down. Also, Molk's Sugar Bowl injury was a severed tendon. Competition for center of the 2010s is now closed.
Here are the statistics for the percentage of minutes played by the bench (Bench Minutes/Total minutes) under John Beilein since 2005:
Year Bench % Rk 2012 22.3% 327 2011 19.3% 337 2010 22.1% 327 2009 35.6% 66 2008 31.6% 147 2007 24.7% 282 2006 20.0% n/a 2005 31.2% n/a Average 25.9%
Beilein has high expectations and he’s going to play who he trusts at any given time.
The last three years Michigan has been incredibly thin. I'm hoping that changes next year. Michigan's not going to shoot up into Arkansas territory but if they can get into the middle of the pack injuries get a lot less frightening and players having off nights can spend more of them on the bench.
Random old game. Michigan-Illinois 2002, via WH:
Beilein knows talent. This is a meme that's been gone over before in this space and Trey Burke is an obvious addition to Beilein's list of who-dat finds. But do you remember Kevin Pangos? Michigan was after the Ontario point guard and possible marsupial early($) despite his low recruiting profile; other offerees at that time were UNLV, Temple, and Portland.
Pangos ended up at Gonzaga, where he's been statistically better than Trey Burke, albeit against considerably weaker competition. He's shooting 40% from 3 on 105 attempts, 51% from two, has excellent assist and turnover rates, gets to the line, and has pretty good usage. It all adds up to the #47 player in O-rating as a freshman point guard.
Pangos is another of Beilein's many low-rated targets that ended up tearing it up wherever they ended up. See also: Joe Trapani, Kyle Kuric (low usage but a 45% three point shooter a year ago), Klay Thompson (who shot a ludicrous third of WSU's attemps last year and still managed to hit 40% from 3), and Robin Benzing, not to mention the players he's actually recruited like Burke, Hardaway, Novak, etc. Add in the increased profiles of Stauskas and Robinson and it seems like mid-majors should be following Beilein around to see who he doesn't end up with. This will be a tough task since Michigan's 2013 class is already full.
FWIW, Casey Prather is a rare Beilein evaluation miss. He's struggling to get on the floor at Florida and is just 8 of 33 from two this year.
This section inspired by the Big Ten Geeks post on M-MSU.
Youth is wasted on the green. John Niyo has a column on the Michigan-Michigan State game that repeats a few of Izzo's hangdog assertions in the aftermath of the M win, most prominently in the headline (which Niyo, of course, did not write):
Michigan State hurt by lack of experience
…Lost in their surprising 15-game winning streak and run to a top-10 national ranking was the fact the Spartans' depth and chemistry -- both vastly improved over last year's dysfunctional bunch -- still are reliant on what Izzo not-so-affectionately calls his "three-and-a-half freshmen."
That'd be first-year players Travis Trice, Branden Dawson and Brandan Kearney, as well as senior transfer Brandon Wood. And with the exception of Kearney's cameo, none of them looked the slightest bit comfortable as they stepped into the fray Tuesday against a Michigan squad that's no longer afraid of its in-state sibling.
Wood had the most disastrous showing, starting with some wild 3-point attempts early and ending with a crucial defensive breakdown late. But he was hardly alone.
"I thought our young guys really looked young," said Izzo, who wasn't in the mood to say much about the young guy for Michigan (freshman guard Trey Burke) who really looked great. "The inexperience hurt us."
Niyo does nod to Michigan's general lack of Grizzly Adams beards, but just to clarify, Michigan is actually younger than Michigan State this year. Kenpom ranks M 222nd in average age*; Michigan State is 198. The difference is negligible. If you want to argue Brandon Wood is "half a freshman" that still doesn't make him younger or more likely to have eligibility next year, when Michigan loses Novak and Douglass versus State losing Green, Wood, and Thornton. The age thing isn't going to be much different next year.
*[This is adjusted for minutes, so Brundidge's existence doesn't count for much since his minutes are few. Burke, on the other hand…]
The balm of Payne. A guy named Chris Mackinder does defensive box scores that are pretty interesting, if difficult to interpret. His output for the MSU game:
And explanation of his numbers can be found at the Audacity of Hoops. The numbers don't make total sense to me. Novak was largely tasked with Draymond Green. Green takes 27% of MSU shots when he's on the floor; in this game he managed only 17%, scoring seven points on eight shots with five turnovers to three assists. Even if those turnovers were largely forced by other players it doesn't make much sense that the numbers claim he was the worst Michigan defender. Apparently he got blamed for over-helping. Meanwhile Hardaway makes out okay because he guarded Thornton for half the game. We'll see what Ace says.
Even so, it's interesting to look at 1) the abject cluelessness of Payne, who was charged with 3.5 baskets against a fifth of a stop (that a missed FTA—another way in which this system is pretty weird) in just 14 minutes, and 2) Keith Appling losing his matchup with Burke. Also, the extremely low defensive usage applied to Douglass would seem to confirm everyone's eyes in re: Douglass's perimeter defense. The good shots are elsewhere.
(HT: TOC contributor and gap-maintainer KJOnTheBanks.)
Brick city. UMHoops looks at Michigan's three point issues both for and against. Prepare for an ugly chart covering Michigan's three-point shooting in conference:
|Tim Hardaway Jr||8||42||19.0%|
Yuck. That Hardaway leads the team in attempts and is making 19% of them should mean he is no longer given a green light unless someone else creates the shot for him.
This is the opposite trend from last year, when Hardaway went nuts from deep during the Big Ten season. Shot quality is a big part of this—not many of Michigan's looks in the Big Ten have been clean. Hopefully a larger part is just a random slump. Michigan's not going to win many games from here on out without making their share of threes.
Inroad. Cato June is apparently the new head coach at Anacostia in DC. It would be nice for Michigan to get an in somewhere in that city, which pumps out prospects yearly.
Etc.: Hockey picks up a 2015 forward commit from Kyle Connor. As per usual he's too young to really know how good he is but he does lead his team in scoring by a considerable margin and is supposed to be a NTDP lock. Shawn Conway article from the Seaholm High School(!) newspaper finds him at a JUCO on the West Coast, Arizona offer in hand. Bama fans can make excuses for anything. You're paying $70 per year for ESPN.
[Tardy thanks to MRI, about which more later, and Stonum going poof. Please excuse any datedness that may appear.]
Some progress. Over the summer the SEC further clamped down on oversigning by reducing a Houston Nutt-induced cap of 28 signees in any particular year—a fig leaf—to an actually impactful 25. You only have to look at Michigan's projected 2012 class of 27 or 28 to know there's at least some teeth in the SEC's latest cap, but if you want more direct evidence, Georgia running back Justin Taylor provides it:
One of Georgia’s top running backs said that was told by Alabama’s Nick Saban this weekend that he will have to wait until next year to sign with the Crimson Tide. …
Coach Saban just said I’m the 26th commitment. I would be the 26th signee. I guess he went and picked up somebody else. He said I make 26 and they only get 25. They talked about bringing me in next January.” [Note: Alabama has 27 commitments]
That somebody else was Auburn decommit and five-star TJ Yeldon. Taylor, a generic three star who lost his senior year to a knee injury, is now adrift two weeks before signing day after spending almost a year committed to the Tide.
In a hilarious effort to create a binding commitment between a party with no power and College Football Stalin, Saban proposed they deploy a +5 Napkin of Ultimate Bonding:
"He said he was going to sign me with the next class. But he also said he would sign a piece of paper to show that they are keeping their word – they are going to sign it and they want me to sign it to make sure I know I still have my scholarship"
You have to hand it to Saban. That is weaselry worthy of Magnetar. The HSR suggests a T-shirt:
So Saban is still a disingenuous weasel. Here he does exactly what Sevon Pittman did to MSU, except he's a millionaire adult instead of an addled 18-year old with two dollars to his name. He is still committed but looking at options, which means he's trying to find a landing place as fast as possible.
At least Taylor found that out before he signed a document that committed him to Alabama but not vice-versa. This is still not ideal since 25 x 4 = 100 and it seems like a reasonable number to average on a yearly basis is 22, but it does forcibly hack the worst oversigning offenders' practices in half.
To repeat the brilliant suggestion of an Oversigning.com commenter, the best way to fix the problem is to do away with an 85 player limit entirely in favor of a yearly limit on letters of intent somewhere between 22 and 26. This removes any incentive to take kids off the team. Unfortunately, Title IX probably makes this impossible.
Indiana State could not be reached for comment.
Decline and fall. Virginia Tech's special teams looked surprisingly weak in the metrics tracked by the NCAA, but that fails to account for blocks and whatnot that were a large portion of the "Beamerball" free touchdowns. I wondered if that had evaporated recently. Survey says:
One blocked kick with major upside per year each of the last three, with a couple of blocked PATs thrown in there. Foster's defense is keeping them afloat these days. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just thought it was interesting.
We're really mad now, you guys. The NCAA is going to get serious… just in time for Ohio State to get off mad easy. I'll believe this when I see it:
"We were damn mad and not going to take it anymore," Ed Ray, Oregon State president and chair of the Enforcement Working Group, said.
Given Miami AD Paul Dee's comeuppance after the "high profile compliance" shot against Reggie Bush, expect Oregon State to be swallowed whole within the year. The working group has created a penalty matrix that provides two different violation levels with a total of eight tiers between them. No one seems to know what goes in those categories but hoo boy, getting hit with a Significant Level I violation would net you a 2-3 year postseason ban and a loss of 38-50% of your scholarships. Dang.
Apparently even Michigan's piddling violations would have netted a four-scholarship loss "per year"—not sure how many years we're talking about here—which is more than OSU's massive year long head-coach-lying carnivale got them. Again, believe it when I see some athletic department burned to the ground.
At least they didn't take dumb action. The totally outrageous proposal to hack down scholarship numbers in an era when TV networks can't throw enough money at schools was voted down. Also it sounds like the 2,000 stipend may return in some other form and the board of the directors is going to make schools who want to override the multi-year scholarship proposal get a 5/8ths majority to vote it down.
So okay. The Indiana States of the world can stew.
Guh. A portion of a paywalled interview with Brandon on playoffs brings up an old canard that's annoying when bloggers deploy it and doubly so when it's your athletic director($):
"This whole notion of a playoff is ridiculous because I don't care what you come up with, it's not going to be a fair playoff. You've got a bunch of teams that don't play one another and play different competition and in different time zones in different conferences in different stadiums in front of different crowds and different weather and suddenly at some point in the year you are trying to arbitrarily decide which one is better and which one deserves to be in a four-team playoff or a six-team playoff."
This is a downside of a playoff that the current system doesn't have? Except infinitely worse because you can literally win all your games and still get passed over? Are these even questions? No?
Rothstein challenges Brandon on his arguments, to his credit, but you'll have to have Insider to see the result. Spoiler: it's the usual pastiche of academics and wear and tear that apparently only applies to I-A, with an added bonus of "kids love bowl games." CBS surveyed players on the four teams in the Fiesta Bowl and SEC West Division Championship Game. They found 19% favored a bowl game and 43% a playoff with 38% abstaining.
The thing that bothers is not the opposition to a playoff, which is a somewhat tenable position as someone who believes the current system benefits his schools. It's that the arguments put forth are all logically inconsistent.
BONUS: Weird that he went from four teams to six instead of eight, eh? MGoPlayoff's tentacles extend.
Winter Classic: official? Not officially official but someone is now saying it is a done deal instead of something discussed in nonbinding chats over tea:
The NHL, the Detroit Red Wings and the University of Michigan have finalized a deal to hold next season’s Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, a source told MLive.com.
They're going to build a rink at Not Tiger Stadium as well to "appease Mike Ilitch." Maybe the GLI will be there. Or something. I don't know. It's weird.
Michigan may now lose its own record for hockey attendance and force a bunch of people to choose between that and the inevitable New Year's Day bowl Michigan will find itself in unless it manages the same at-large BCS trick it did this year or makes the MNC game. But, hey: incremental revenue.
Star turn. CBS's Jeff Goodman was in the house yesterday; he profiles Trey Burke:
"I knew pretty quick in the summer," Novak said. "Trey was doing things right away that it had taken me four years to pick up. He has such a high skill level -- and you can tell he wasn't fazed by anything."
Speaking of things it took Novak four years to pick up, how about the shots he's generating off the dribble now? Needs more usage.
Head: removed. Entertaining board thread on Hardaway's emotive pictures notices that… uh… he has opted out this time.
Photos via UMHoops
I don't like the socks either, trueblueintexas.
If you'd like to revisit the old bad thing, BHGP has put up their Fran Graphs on the Michigan-Iowa game.
Recommended. It was interesting hearing Beilein talk about the five games in thirteen days thing as a major factor… but in retrospect Michigan has shot like total crap from the outside lately. Hopefully they can get their legs before facing down the all-press all-the-time Arkansas runs (even when it's just giving Anthony Davis dunks).
Personal note that may affect you at some point. If you follow the mgotwitter account you may know that Michigan is bad at scheduling MRIs. This is because I had one. I had one because ten months ago a guy put his spikes into my knee when I was playing indoor soccer. I went to the doctor; the doctor said "walk it off," basically. I tried that but the knee was obviously unstable even after the swelling and whatnot had gone away.
Since I was getting married, going on a honeymoon, and not missing football games there wasn't much point in finding out until now. I'm in the process as we speak. In all probability I'm going to find out my ACL is no longer extant and get the surgery, which means there is going to be a period of time I'll be taking an involuntary vacation.
Yes, the "Michigan Difference" commercials are currently making me peevish. BONUS: I am passionately arguing for red cards whenever I watch anything, especially NASCAR.
Etc.: New soccer coach Chaka Daley on WTKA. Michigan lax is taking on Detroit-Mercy in Warren if you're from around there. Van Bergen's Sugar Bowl foot injury was a lisfranc sprain. I would bet on Van Bergen in a fight with a bear.
1/17/2012 – Michigan 60, Michigan State 59 – 15-4, 5-2 Big Ten
It was stomach-churning when Draymond Green conjured a pretty good shot out of thirty-five seconds of Michigan State panic, and that moment when the ball hung in the air was heart-stopping. In the vast aeons before its fate was determined, the observer had plenty of time to remember how much he hated backboards.
Oh, backboards. Scourge of the 2011 Wisconsin game at Crisler. Failed Andrew Jackson assassins. Uncooperative gits, backboards. When Josh Gasser had thrown an eyes-closed prayer up last year, a backboard answered his call. I had vowed revenge after it worked this alchemy on Crisler:
Being in Crisler was to viscerally understand the cliche about the air going out of the building. The transition from a standing, raucous crowd to a bunch of pissed off people looking for their jackets was instant, and the ride home was mostly silence.
But Green had not stopped his side-to-side momentum before getting the shot off and when it bounced off the backboard it did so too far to the left; it glanced off the rim. Green's putback attempt was well short, and that was that. Rather than the Gasser shot we'd just witnessed a replay of Deshawn Sims's improbably good look at the end of the 2010 game against State at Crisler.
Crisler blew up, as you might expect. Then something strange happened: nothing. No student or fan set foot on the court. Izzo rushed the referees to plead something or other, the teams shook hands, and then they left the court. No mosh pit. Crisler was loud but something short of delirious.
And there you go: the infamous "gap" is pretty much closed. Novak in the aftermath:
"We're to the point now where (beating Michigan State) is something we expect to do," Novak said. "My first two years, it was like, you've got to do it first -- you've got to do it one time.
"After you get that first one, you get a taste of it, but then you've got to learn how to win."
The last three years Michigan is 3-2 against Michigan State with one failed buzzer-beater on each side, an MSU blowout at the tail end of the disappointing 2010 season, and two solid Michigan victories during the regrettably short Get Off My Court era. If they haven't reached talent parity with State just yet it won't take long for Robinson, Stauskas, McGary, Irvin, Donnal, et al., to make that distinction a hard one to make. The PDC is complete; planned Crisler renovations will bring Michigan's arena in line with the best in the country. John Beilein is pretty good at coaching basketball.
Michigan's at the start of a long Big Ten grind that will probably spit them out significantly bruised, but at this point it's hard to see them chewed up enough to miss the tourney. If things fall right they could even sneak a seed with which it's plausible to make a Sweet 16. That's three of the last four tournaments and at least a .500 record against State over the last three years, and then the cavalry arrives. The moment when Beilein's program goes from building to built is fast approaching.
Zack Novak doesn't care about that. He cares about February 5th in Breslin, when he'll have the opportunity to go out with a winning record against Michigan State. The last four-year player to accomplish that was… I have no idea.
Next year is the one everyone's pointing to as the one when big things happen; this year is Novak's last. He is thinking about titles and tournaments and somehow keeping all of the blood vessels in his head intact for another three months. Fans can sit back and wait for help; Novak only has a few urgent months left.
Here they are.
Photos from Eric Upchurch:
These are Creative Commons licensed, as always.
Via MGoVideo, Denard and Roundtree executing the Can't Turn You Loose dance next to a shirtless dude and an engineer:
What a knob.
Last 31 seconds:
Also there are BTN highlights.
The trenchant analysis! So of course after I point out Smotrycz's ability to stay on the floor as a key to the game Michigan starts Stu Douglass and plays 90% of the game with Novak on Draymond Green. Smotrycz gets ten minutes. At least I said Green was a more plausible matchup than most Novak-vs-PF outings.
But so anyway, point Beilein for running out the small lineup and not getting extensively punished for it on the boards… actually, wait. Michigan rebounded one of 23 opportunities on the offensive end and allowed MSU to rebound 39% of their misses. So they did get pummeled on the boards. They eked it out because…
Uh… They eked it out because…
Uh… Okay. They were ferociously effective from two-point range. This continues a season-long theme but was not expected after a couple of rough outings. I think MSU five-star Adreian Payne was a major factor in this. Michigan sliced open the MSU defense early with un- or not-very contested layups largely because Payne's help defense was nonexistent despite having a matchup against Jordan Morgan. Morgan is not a guy you have to worry about taking jumpers, but Payne consistently failed to show at the basket when Michigan's various six-nothin' white guys would drive to the hoop.
As a result, Payne played only 14 minutes and finished with one rebound, that defensive. He should be awesome—dude is a physical marvel—except he's Mike Cox mentally. He got yanked a few minutes in. In the aftermath Izzo would bemoan a lack of "toughness," but what MSU lacked was between their ears, not their legs.
When Payne was out Nix didn't seem much better. For whatever reason the intimidating doom-bringers on the interior took yesterday's game off.
Uh… Also fouls and turnovers. The Valentine crew decided there were no fouls, much to my frustration in the first half when it seemed like various over-the-backs and Hardaway jumpers would have been fouls anywhere else on planet Earth. I know Hardaway is struggling, but there is no way he flat airballs two three-pointers in a short period of time.
HOWEVA, when it came to things actually called, Michigan had the advantage with just 8 fouls to MSU's 12 and 13 FTA to MSU's 5. This did not appear to be a home court effect. Even Michigan State people were unsurprised State had zero FTA at the half.
MSU also had six additional turnovers. Most of those came from Appling and Green as Michigan collapsed on them and they did not find assists to compensate. Appling did somewhat with his five but a 5-4 assist to TO ratio and a couple of charging calls is not ideal.
Tim Hardaway: come on, let's go. While Trey Burke is a fantastic player it doesn't seem disputable that Darius Morris was a much better shot creator last year than Burke is at this point in his career. That's been much to the detriment of Hardaway, who is now taking a lot of bad, contested shots and seeing his numbers drop precipitously. Michigan needs more of his last basket, when he shot by a defender and finished at the rim what with his six-five frame and leaping ability, and less of the shots like the above. Beilein also thinks this. Look at his face.
Hardaway did make an excellent decision to foul Nix on the floor after one of Michigan State's late whip-the-ball-around-until-it's-in-the-post-uncontested possessions. IIRC a turnover followed; those points were the difference (as were all points scored by M or not scored by MSU).
Stu Douglass: hat tip. After 38 minutes versus Iowa Douglass puts in 36 against MSU, plays his usual very good perimeter defense, had nine points on six shots, Michigan's lone offensive rebound, two assists, a steal, and a turnover. Even if I'm probably not going to say "argh where's Stu" next year like I will inevitably do when things are going poorly and Novak isn't around to grit something out, the intangible senior leadership Douglass provides is getting pretty tangible.
Burke. Yes, you're good. That three pointer was still a horrible decision. In all other ways, hurray.
Drive home safely. The visiting Izzone section. We have to talk, visiting Izzone section.
One: you came in a bus. Two: you bought a large section of tickets clearly designated the worst in the building, allowing you to stand as students will. Michigan is clearly complicit in getting you in the building, for whatever reason. Your bus did not appear to have a cloaking device.
Despite this, you sneak into the building incognito as if there are Izzone snipers stationed at the entrances. Then you chant "Daddy's better" at Tim Hardaway Jr., which… like… Tim Hardaway is one of the great point guards in NBA history. You know that, right? That's not actually an insult.
No points, mercy on your soul, etc.
Meanwhile. Does the Maize Rage do this? Could they do this? Why is Michigan selling a huge block of tickets to the Izzone? It doesn't seem likely that is the case. Why is Michigan actively annoying its fans by allowing this to happen?
Mathy Q. This would never happen and this is a conversation destined to remain hypothetical, but… how bad of a free throw shooter would someone on the floor have to be for a foul to be the right move in the situation Michigan was faced with last night?
I think a couple guys on the court were within range. Nix was 53% last year and is at 58% this year. If we give him 60% to make calculations easier, a non-shooting foul on him results in the following outcome after the one-and-one:
- 40%: Michigan with ball up one
- 24%: Michigan with ball tied
- 36%: Michigan with ball down one
That's if Michigan gets the rebound on the free throw, generally a good assumption but maybe less so in a balls-to-the-wall board crashing situation late.
I think there's a case for sending an under 60% free throw shooter to the line with 15 seconds or so left if they're going to get a one and one. Again, no one in the universe will ever try this in a game. But it's interesting to consider.
Random. I think of this as Rasheed Wallace version of "THE GAAAAAME." Do you know what I'm talking about? After the Pistons won their championship Wallace called basketball that in his indefinable 'Sheed way. It is impossible to explain and impossible to google, but I swear some people will know what I'm talking about.
In lieu of providing this, here's Wallace signing along to GNR:
This is your erratic reminder that Rasheed Wallace should succeed the Most Interesting Man In The World.
That is not relevant, but you start looking up Rasheed Wallace videos on Youtube and things get crazy.
Green has guaranteed the return game($):
"They won three. Before that, how many how had they won?" Green said. "They got their little three, but they come to East Lansing in a few weeks.
"They better celebrate this one, because I can guarantee you they won’t get one in East Lansing. You can quote me on that one."
Three straight is of course half of Green's career against Michigan to date (MSU was one-play a couple years ago), but don't ask a State attendee to do math.
RCMB provides the 'freude:
Last year was somewhat understandable. We were bad then. We are pretty good this year. Even a mediocre MSU team should blow Michigan out of the water. Michigan can't be good. It doesn't F---ING HAPPEN. FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
What a knob.
MSU needs better S&C.