"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
2/16/2011 – Michigan 52, Illinois 54 – 16-11, 6-8 Big Ten
Bear with me: if Michigan's basketball season was a hockey game, last night's basketball game was a really good scoring chance blown when you're down one with five minutes left. At that point you write the game off, because that was it. Objectively, your chance of winning hasn't changed much, if at all, but it feels like a door just closed.
Michigan's NCAA tournament hopes aren't much worse than they were 24 hours ago. Since Kenpom loves Illinois and Michigan outperformed expectations, its season prediction hardly moved. The evaporation of Michigan's 16% chance of winning in Champaign was made up for by significant positive moves in Michigan's four remaining games. But if Michigan's watching the NCAA selection show with a jaundiced eye, thinking about what could of been, they'll be thinking about ball after ball clanging off rims in Assembly Hall.
God, did anyone else scream horrible profanity at the world in general at that point in the second half when Zack Novak set up for yet another wide open three pointer that bashed the front of the rim? It's one thing if Michigan's firing awkward, contested threes deep in the shot clock and another when open look after open look isn't even close to going down. What's Stu Douglass—before yesterday a 40% three point shooter—supposed to do when he's standing still with the ball in his hand and no Illinois player within three feet? Shoot. He shoots, and this goes horribly, and Michigan still almost pulls off a statement win* and we're left to wonder what would have happened if they had just been miserable from three instead of abominable.
And then there's this: 4-28. That's what Michigan shot against Kansas in a game that went to overtime. Sometimes basketball makes you want to punch a wall even when you're in the bonus on the road with 14 minutes left in the half.
In the long view Michigan exceeded expectations again, if slightly, and has managed to stay in games even when threes aren't available or falling. Hope for next year increments slightly again. Right now, argh.
*[Statement is "hey, seriously guys we're on the bubble, seriously." That qualifies for the 335th-most experienced team in D-I]
Non-bullets that do not go in at all ever
Bruce Weber: not so much. That was a terribly coached basketball team that let Michigan hang around despite their inability to throw the ball in Tim Doyle's bad nickname repository by making inane turnovers and taking terrible shots. I'd be pretty upset if I was an Illinois fan. They are huge, veteran, talented, and headed for a second-round matchup with a one-seed.
Tim Doyle: not entirely horrible. I still cringe at "The Butterfly" and believe we should start calling Doyle "The Argyle Sock" in retaliation, but after listening to Stephen Bardo fire out two hours of inane cliches I appreciate Doyle a bit more. Anyone wondering what the hell Michigan could do to stop Tisdale from catching the ball two inches from the basket got some great analysis when Doyle pointed out that Zack Novak was way too far from the guy throwing the entry pass—far enough away that the guy could chuck a chest pass.
Doyle needs to realize his bid to nickname Michigan's point guard has failed and start using an outrageous Russian accent when he makes his Rounders references, but I'm slowly warming to him.
The rack: terrifying. Illinois's length started bothering Michigan immensely towards the end of the first half. After getting a couple shots blocked and seeing a couple others altered beyond recognition, Michigan players were extremely hesitant to take driving lanes and started settling for meh midrange stuff. Morgan was the lone exception, which was good—he was productive in the second half—and bad—a couple of the shots he put up were poor decisions early in the shot clock. Still mostly good.
This tendency had its worst expression on the back-to-back possessions late where Douglass and Morris both took step-back jumpers from the women's three point line. Those were bad shots for a lot of reasons, and it's hard to imagine either of them getting launched against, say, Penn State.
Final shot. Saw some e-complaints about Smotrycz not driving to the hole on Michigan's final possession but don't understand them. Smotrycz may not have been lighting it up from three but he also got blocked when he tried to go to the hole that one time and is not shooting a great percentage from inside the arc. Help defense would have arrived, and time's running down. You get an open three to win and you're a 38% shooter I think you should take it.
Bit before the final shot. The look on Beilein's face as he called timeout after Michigan had run 17 seconds off the clock when a two-for-one opportunity was staring them in the face was not exasperated enough, but for it to be exasperated enough he would have had to break the laws of physics. File under "young team" unless it happens again.
Seriously, make a shot. I have nothing useful to add. Just argh.
Mets Maize. Best bit:
Morris and Hardaway Jr. leadership dynamic. At this point, it's pretty clear they're the leaders of the team but it was interesting to watch them communicate between whistles. At one point, Morris yelled at Hardaway Jr. to "chill out". Unfortunately, they just never got on the same page: Morris with at least a half dozen forced penetrations without a single pass in the half court set, Hardaway Jr. hesitant to pull the trigger, pump fakes and generically drives and kicks. Early in the 2nd half, there was an awkward, back-and-forth turnover-fest by both teams that resulted in Tim Hardaway Jr. trying to push the ball, getting it stolen and an Illini cherry-pickin' jam on the other end.
As UMHoops pointed out on the twitters, Illinois has the best eFG% defense in the league for a reason—and Michigan let it get to them.
Dylan also points out that this was Michigan's best defensive game in a while:
Lost in the offensive struggles is the fact that this was Michigan’s best defensive game in Big Ten play. Michigan held Illinois to .90 points per possession and more impressively just .73 per trip in the second half. Michigan was abused by the high-low in the first half but made the right adjustments to negate Illinois’ size advantage in the second half. Illinois posted an eFG% of 48% – 56% on twos & 22% on threes – and only attempted 9 free throws on the game. Most importantly, Michigan did a great job on the defensive glass, grabbing 76% of Illinois’ missed shots.
A chunk of that was due to Illinois's troubles from three, but those rebounding numbers are impressive against a huge team. Michigan's moved up to 41st in defensive rebounding. (The one major misstep from Doyle and the PBP guy last night was repeatedly claiming Michigan was not a good rebounding team. They're well above average defensively; they get zero offensive rebounds but the overall gap is small. They're about average.)
Certainly Michigan is a game to worry about on paper. But the reality is that they're sloppy on offense, they take too many quick shots, they don't value the ball and they play multiple defenses, none particularly well.
Michigan is 19th nationally in turnover margin, 321st in pace, still 19th nationally in turnover margin, and plays 95% man with the occasional 1-3-1 possession. That's amazing.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Illinois|
8:30 PM EST
February 16th, 2011
KenPom: 16% W
|TELEVISION||BTN (Eric Collins, Tim Doyle)|
As I said in Monday's The Path, every game this season is The Most Important Game of the Season Until the Next One. Michigan needs every win they can get from here on out. This one is of particular importance because it's an opportunity for a road win against an RPI top-50 opponent. Winning this game takes the chances at an NCAA tournament bid from "a nice longshot" to "actually possible."
Losing it doesn't doom the chances at a bid, but it makes them unrealistic. They would need at least a couple upsets in their last five games. This is a can't miss any opportunity at one.
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%||48||26||I|
|Mich Def eFG% v. UI eFG%||181||40||II|
|Mich TO% v. UI Def TO%||25||193||MM|
|Mich Def TO% v. UI TO%||239||98||II|
|Mich OReb% v. UI DReb%||313||192||II|
|Mich DReb% v. UI OReb%||39||156||MM|
|Mich FTR v. UI Opp FTR||341||99||III|
|Mich Opp FTR v. UI FTR||64||302||MMM|
|Mich AdjO v. UI AdjD||48||19||I|
|Mich AdjD v. UI AdjO||77||28||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 stats are daunting, and I'm going to add another to the mix: Michigan is #231 nationally in effective height (this happens when you play 6-4 Zack Novak at the 4 spot), and the Illini are #1. Like Michigan, they start a tall point guard in 6-3 Demetri McCamey, but unlike the Wolverines, they have a 7-footer and a pair of 6-9 players in their starting lineup.
Against other tall teams, Michigan has had some struggles (Minnesota is #7 in effective height), but also exceeded expectations (Syracuse is in the national top 40). It's hard to say whether the height difference played a role in the Minnesota loss, as that game was at the end of Michigan's poorest stretch of play on the season, but it's certainly not a good indication that they'll handle size well. Another thing to be antsy about: the Wolverine bigs have had trouble avoiding fouls. That could spell doom in this game.
As for the tempo-free stats, a lot of Michigan's numbers - particularly shooting the ball - have been trending upward lately, so they are probably playing a little bit better than the season-long or even conference-only stats indicate. On the other side, the Illini are slumping (HT: UMHoops), so who knows which team is actually playing better at this point in the year?
Thanks to Mike Rothstein of AnnArbor.com for pointing this out yesterday: only two of Michigan's players (Stu Douglass and Zack Novak) have ever played in Illinois's Assembly Hall. Two years ago, the Wolverines were pounded 66-51 on the Illini's home court. In last year's only meeting, Darius Morris went 1-7 from the field and recorded a 3-2 assist-turnover ratio in a 44-51 Wolverine loss at Crisler Arena. Novak had a decent game, but Douglass went 0-8 from the floor.
UMHoops's Joe Stapleton has video from yesterday's Darius Morris/Jordan Morgan and John Beilein press conferences. It doesn't come across in Joe's video, but I though Morris seemed very zen about things, FWIW. Dylan previews the game - and points out that Michigan's D is on the upswing in addition to the shooting improvement. Mike Rothstein previews the game for AnnArbor.com.
Michigan is a hungry team at this point, and they know the opportunity that's in front of them. That said, there is more to winning basketball games than hunger. Height throughout the roster is often one of them. I think Darius Morris will win the statistical battle against Demetri McCamey, but at least one of Michigan's big men will foul out. Illinois escapes with a win against Michigan, right around the expected spread. 73-65, Illini.
Had some issues this morning; apologies for the late content.
Ambivalence at maximum. Michigan now has a Chief Marketing Officer, which is a development I meet with trepidation. On the one hand, maybe he'll think that Michigan's main asset is not being a pro sports team and he'll put a replica of Special K's head on a pike outside Michigan Stadium and we will never hear "Let The Bodies Hit The Floor" at a Michigan sporting event ever again. On the other hand, he used to work for the Knicks and might think the thing that's missing from Yost is Saliva.
I have to say the guy's quotes do not fill me with joy:
"Digital marketing is a huge emphasis in the social media world," he said. "How do you take that to the next level?"
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN I LIVE ON THE INTERNET AND THOSE ARE NOT WORDS OF SENSE
There's more like that. Hopefully the guy does more to fill Crisler than to explore "revenue opportunities."
As a side note: There's been some chatter on message boards from people who saw Brandon speak at one of those alumni things about Michigan charging for admission to the spring game and plastering ads all over Michigan Stadium for the event. We'll see if that actually comes to fruition or if it's just idle talk but it sounded convincing, and it was on the internet. So definitely true.
Impending largeness. Michigan's got five games left in the regular season, one against a Minnesota team that escaped Crisler with a narrow win earlier this season. There was a hockey game at the same time so I have no idea what transpired in that game but if it was anything like what happened against Iowa, it was large and lumbering:
That's the zone they played; 45, 50, and 32 are Colton Iverson, Ralph Sampson III, and Trevor Mbakwe, who are all at least 6'8". With 6'7" Rodney Williams getting a bunch of time and Al Nolen out for the rest of the regular season, Minnesota is just an enormous basketball team. They're 7th nationally in Kenpom's "effective height" metric. But wait, there's more: Michigan plays #1 Illinois next. Outside shooting is going to be important, as will the ball movement to exploit some plodders.
This film does not exist. The Fab Five beatiing Illinois in 1993:
The striking thing how Michigan just forces stuff up that goes down, but that might be an effect of Wolverine Historian clipping out possessions that don't end in scores. Also: remember when Chris Webber could jump?
They were totally voluntary, for real. Houston Nutt Roster Katana UPDATE:
Ole Miss releases scholarship numbers; Nutt says departures were voluntary
Houston Nutt Roster Katana UPDATE UPDATE [same article]:
[Nutt] encouraged me to try to talk to the players and ask them if he ran them off. I have tried, of course. Haynes wouldn’t comment when reached on Thursday. And attempts to contact the other players have been unsuccessful.
Houston Nutt Roster Katana UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE:
But soon after losing the competition for the starting job in late August, Bailey was approached by Nutt and (then-Arkansas special teams coach James) Shibest, who told the kicker he would have to pay his own way if he wanted to play football. As they explained at the time, they didn’t realize that Bailey’s partial academic grant would count toward the team’s 85-scholarship limit. …
Bailey and his family couldn’t afford the out-of-state tuition, room and board. His father, Gary, is a production technician at Metal Container Corp. who suffers from chronic rheumatoid arthritis. His mother is a wedding coordinator. So Bailey returned home before Arkansas’ 2006 opener and stayed there for several months. Here was the class valedictorian at Yukon Southwest Covenant, just hanging around doing nothing.
Etc.: Adorable child sings The Victors. I elaborated on the Fanhouse/Bleacher Report post for Dave Kindred, who published an article about sports media remaining relevant in the internet era. In a nutshell, I think guys like Luke Winn doing stuff so good ESPN steals it is the route forward for official journalists. Urban Meyer blasts NCAA corruption, provides no details. Darius Morris numbers: sexy.