alternate headline: man does job
That locks up an NCAA bid no one saw coming, and possibly the title for most over-achieving Michigan team in a long, long time (seriously, does anyone know what the last Michigan team like this was?). Muppets:
Because you can't have one without the other.
I think they were in either way but it would have been harrowing on Selection Sunday; now they've probably played themselves out of Dayton. I have no idea how. Does anyone know how that happened?
I had this post drafted last night. Michigan played poorly in the middle third of the game, and I deleted it. Michigan wins. CAUSALITY!
...and you can't have one without the... whaaaaa?
|WHAT||Michigan v. Illinois|
|WHEN||2:30PM EST (appx)|
KenPom: 33% W
|TELEVISION||ESPN (Dave O'Brien, Dan Dakich)|
This Is The Most Important Game Of The Season. It's the last one of those, too. If the Wolverines win this afternoon in Indianapolis, they'll participate in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. If not, they'll sweat it out on Sunday.
In the teams' lone meeting this season, Illinois emerged victorious in a heartbreaker for fans of the maize-and-blue, as Evan Smotrycz and Stu Douglass missed potential game-winners from 3. Not a bad result, considering Michigan had an uncharacteristically terrible shooting night, but you play to win the game. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Etc.
Since that game, Michigan has continued their strong late-season form, winning three of four, with the only loss coming on a banked buzzer-beater to Wisconsin. The Illini lost three of five, with the only wins coming at home against Iowa and Indiana - by far the worst teams in the league.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy:
|Michigan v. Illinois: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Illinois Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. UI Def eFG%||49||24||I|
|Mich Def eFG% v. UI eFG%||155||31||II|
|Mich TO% v. UI Def TO%||13||259||MMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. UI TO%||254||108||II|
|Mich OReb% v. UI DReb%||327||157||II|
|Mich DReb% v. UI OReb%||67||169||MM|
|Mich FTR v. UI Opp FTR||336||67||III|
|Mich Opp FTR v. UI FTR||35||329||MMM|
|Mich AdjO v. UI AdjD||52||20||I|
|Mich AdjD v. UI AdjO||51||34||I|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
The numbers are slightly more skewed in Illinois's favor than they were last time these squads played, though part of that is because the Illini closed the regular season with a trouncing of hapless Indiana (and a big boost to the Illini's field goal defense comes from unforced misses by Michigan last time around).
The keys for Michigan will primarily be based on the bigs. Michigan's post players must stay out of foul trouble. They did a decent job last time, but that's more the exception than the norm, especially against a huge team like Illinois. Keeping Illinois honest defensively will also be a key, and the Jordan Morgan pick-and-roll should be among the ways they do that.
The battle of the point guards will also be a factor. Demetri McCamey used the last game against Michigan to morph from a cancer in the locker room into the senior leader he's supposed to be. He was more scorer than distributor, but he did what he needed to do in order to win.
Finally: HIT YOUR SHOTS. Michigan's shooting had been steadily improving before last time these teams played, but 2/18 certainly isn't an encouraging factor. It's not going to be easy sledding against Illinois, so when Michigan can get an open look, they must hit it. Aside from preventing opponents from putting the ball in the net (at which they excel), the Illini are just an OK team. Take advantage when you can.
The loss in Assembly Hall left a bad taste in the mouth of Michigan's players and coaches, and they knew that a lot of their struggles were unforced. They're out to change that, and as one of the hottest teams in the country since the end of January, I think they will. Tim Hardaway Jr. will lead Michigan in rebounds and scoring, with Darius Morris close to matching his numbers (with assists instead of boards). Michigan pulls away to end the game, earning the 70-63 win.
3/5/2011 – Michigan 70, Michigan State 63 – 19-12, 9-9 Big Ten
[KIDS! Due to the exact content of the quote this column is built around there are a couple of swears included herein. You should read something else right now.]
right: Marissa McClain/Daily
Set aside the fact that the coach complaining about a last-second layup left his starters in with his team up 50 points against Michigan once. Look past the game two years ago in which Durrell Summers threw down a dunk with 11 seconds left and the shot clock turned off in a 17-point game. Try to forget that the last second layup put Michigan up seven, not 19, and came on a possession that started with 16 seconds on the clock in a two possession game, and that Darius Morris had passed up a similarly open layup with near-disastrous results earlier in the year. Squint hard and pretend that Michigan State doesn't currently features a high master of on-court whine and trash-talk in Draymond Green, that Kalin Lucas didn't chuck the ball at Morris after his layup, that Lucas wasn't the first guy to open his mouth in the handshake line and probably wasn't offering salutations to Morris's mother.
Ignore the many reasons why the epic post-game meltdown about "class" currently underway on the Michigan State internets is ridiculous. If you can't—understandable—at least run off somewhere else to get your fill and then come back when you're ready.
That dispensed with: Michigan State basketball fans, even the elaborately reasonable ones, are whining about class on the internet. Since a Vick isn't involved, this can only mean one thing: they lost, and it wasn't that close, and they can't say anything else. Basketball! The game with the ball that you bounce and attempt to throw through a hoop and if you're Michigan you never do it quite as much as Michigan State, certainly not twice in one season. It is in this sport that a Michigan team with no seniors and approximately 45% freshman usage has reduced the Michigan State fanbase to a blubbering collection of brahs with zeroes on their chest looking up the Queensberry Rules and fainting at rough language. In other news, Michigan fans did the same after a football game in fall and earth's magnetic poles have flipped.
Michigan didn't even play that well. They shot poorly and Stu Douglass took two NBA threes for no reason and every shot that wasn't a delicately executed easy bucket was a flung prayer. But State played worse, especially right at the beginning, and most of the game was played in a six to eight point range that would have been comfortable if we weren't talking about a team that Michigan hadn't swept since Charles Woodson was walking around with a rose in his teeth and another that had seen simply massive leads against tourney no-hopers Northwestern and Indiana dwindle alarmingly down the stretch.
But after the usual dwindling and a brief moment of alarm Michigan just felt… better. While they had to use Evan Smotrycz as a center again and Blake McLimans made a cameo appearance they didn't have walk-ons on the court for most of the game and didn't spend offensive possessions running the three man weave in a desperate attempt to generate something other than a long two off a curl screen. Michigan's best players seemed better than Michigan State's, and so did the role players.
To get to the previous sentence from hoping for double digit wins in the preseason and staring at a 1-6 Big Ten record before the first MSU matchup is almost incomprehensible. I spent most of the second half of the game at Breslin terrified that this would be the moment the vastly superior Spartans blew the doors off and showed us our hopes were foolish. If wasn't exactly serene on Saturday*, second half thoughts were at least things like "don't blow this" and "OMG Hardaway." When the Spartans cut it to two, Michigan treated them like Indiana or Northwestern by throwing down a dunk and immediately pushing the margin back out. Michigan didn't make a whole lot of shots—Jordan Morgan is the only guy coming out of the State game with a high FG%—but it didn't matter. Somewhere, there is a commentator talking about how good teams win even when they don't play well who does not know he's actually talking about Michigan.
Yes: good. No qualifiers. Right now they are good. Since the last Michigan State game Michigan has won eight of eleven. Two of the losses were by two and one to tournament teams; the other was by nine to a one-seed on the road. Only the Iowa game qualifies as an escape—Michigan's kind of unlucky to have won only eight of eleven. They got up from an all-time gut punch to beat Minnesota and MSU and have probably punched their ticket no matter what happens in the Big Ten Tournament.
They're good. Full stop. They'll be better next year. Anyone who can remember a time in which the future was brighter for Michigan basketball that hasn't been vacated in retrospect is probably thinking of the first time they saw Glen Rice shoot.
Kalin Lucas said something to Darius Morris. Whether Morris actually did or not, the rivalry's legends will now include the fact-type substance that he responded "get the fuck off my court."
Depending on what side of the rivalry you're on that's either a shocking violation of the Queen's English or something you've been waiting ten years for a Michigan player to say. But if interpreting that comment is a matter of perspective, what happened after is not: Kalin Lucas got the fuck off Darius Morris's court. Again.
*[In part because I was watching the game at 1 AM because I had been travelling literally the whole day; by the time I got home I could have seen my grandmother and thought she was a loud, stupid, slow person I wished did not exist. Air travel from obscure locations inflates your natural level of misanthropy 1000%.]
Official restatement of trash-talk policy. Entirely in favor. Makes game spicier for fans without doing anything negative other than spawning I'm-looking-over-my-hornrims comments about "ugly scenes" from newspaper folk. I dislike opposing players who are annoying, but like that I dislike them, if that makes any sense. I miss David Boston and think Ohio State fans secretly love Mike Hart.
Michigan's sweep and Morris's layup/swearin' raises the stakes for next year, and there's nothing bad in that.
The great disaster. Here it is as captured by WXYZ:
Newspapers see an "ugly scene," I see games worth investing in. Seriously: Rollerball. Too bad Lucas won't be around.
On the other hand. Izzo has got to be the worst loser on the planet. After the game:
Lucas took exception to whatever Morris yelled at the visiting team, following his game-ending coast-to-coast layup with the Spartans appearing to lay off. Lucas responded by throwing the ball at him, causing a small tussle that Michigan's Jordan Dumars broke up as the teams shook hands.
“I'm not for that, so I'll straighten that out," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the game. "But at the same time, going for a layup with three seconds left — (Morris) talked a lot of stuff all game, including at our place, so maybe he deserved it.”
"Going for a layup with three seconds left"—what a hypocritical asshat. Again: Durrell Summers dunk to go up 19 two years ago. Criticizing another player for talking trash when you have the team you do—hypocritical asshat.
Paint by mouthguard. The other side of the now-infamous picture of Hardaway after the Wisconsin game:
Oh snap. I don't think MSU AD Mark Hollis's tweet in the aftermath of the game about a "great program" being preferable to a "great season" had anything to do with Michigan. (People who do have lowered their expectations well beyond reason.) So whatever… except for one of the great zingers in the history of MGoBlog:
That's pretty rude to his football team
In the aftermath, I consulted the flowchart.
If you haven't gotten your fill of Lloyd Brady versus Michigan State, BlueBarron's thread has you covered.
Emergence. Everyone's focused on Hardaway exploding over the second half of the Big Ten season—and with good reason—but another player is quietly emerging as we move along here: Matt Vogrich. Vogrich is never going to be a star but you've probably noticed a few defensive MANBOUNDS in the last couple games that came from a surprising source. After one against State the amiably incompetent color guy called Vogrich "Novak," which was wrong but at least understandably so. Vogrich hasn't seemed like a huge liability on defense and is currently shooting 40% from 3—48% in the Big Ten. As Michigan adds slashers like Brundidge and Burke and hopefully gets more driving action from Hardaway and Smotrycz there will be more open threes to be had, and Vogrich is probably the best guy on the roster to take them.
Smotrycz. Obviously had himself a day despite not getting any rebounds. One of his fast break layups was a gift but he made the other one by poking the ball out; his fake and drop step on Roe was Morgan-like. Also hit a three. He obviously does not have a long term future at the five so the biggest thing Michigan needs from him is a leap forward on defense.
Nosesplosion. The Lucas "intentional foul" that gave Michigan the ball and two free throws was a major turning point in the game. Some bits on it. One: Lucas nailed LLP in a previous game. Two: after the Manny Harris debacle against Purdue the Big Ten has been pretty consistent about their reaction to similar plays. No ejections but the opponent gets two shots and the ball. Lucas's elbow got above his neck and nailed a 6'5" guy in the face—it was clear as day that they were going to call the harsher version of the foul. Three: they really should change the lingo from "intentional," which confuses everyone, to something like "severe."
Morgan. Have we not been giving him enough credit for his FG%? He gets a lot of help, sure, but he's got that baby hook and a variety of other shots that turn Morris passes into baskets. He's not just a dunk machine. He's been hesitant from time to time this year and has spun into trouble some; I think the improvement we get from him is not in efficiency but time on the court—must stop taking nothing fouls—and usage.
Eamonn Brennan awards Michigan his "best bubble win":
Considering where the Wolverines started -- getting blown out by teams in Belgium in the summer and being picked to finish close to the Big Ten cellar -- and considering this win came over a hated in-state rival that's dominated Michigan for a decade-plus ... well, let's just say it was a good day for the Maize and Blue. Enjoy it, folks.
Izzoface? Izzoface. Also the comments after the State News story are amaaaazing. Daily game story. News game story. Wojo column. Five Key Plays from UMHoops. Player interviews. Torrent. Tourney bracket features Michigan's first bye in seven years(!). Um… Kesha? Alex Legion is in the wilderness again. Blame crazy mother? Um… maybe.