John Beilein says "forks up" to his NCAA tourney bid
Pensive Dave Ablauf is not so sure
Trends. Tennessee is coming at this 8-9 game from a totally different place than Michigan: once entrenched in the top ten in the polls, Tennessee's season started off a cliff after a home loss to Oakland and never really recovered. Where Michigan has won 9 of 13 and was only beaten solidly by national #1 seed Ohio State during that stretch, Tennessee enters the tournament having lost 7 of 11 with two of those wins against terrible South Carolina. (To be fair, two of the losses were by one point, one against two seed Florida.)
That win against Pitt seems like a decade ago.
Defenses. Dylan points out that national commentators still hung up on the idea that Beilein is primarily running a 1-3-1—something that hasn't been true for two years—could have backed their way into some correct analysis.
What's the thing Michigan is guaranteed to give up when they switch to the 1-3-1? An open corner three. What's a shot you're comfortable with Tennessee taking? An open corner three not from Scotty Hopson. No Vol other than Hopson is shooting better than 32%. They've got a guy (Cameron Tatum) with 119 attempts who's shooting 28%—imagine what your reaction would be if half of Darius Morris's shots were threes.
So okay fine. Then add in the main benefit of the 1-3-1: turnovers generated. Tennessee has a tough defense and brutally effective offensive rebounders. Getting turnovers helps mitigate both advantages, and if they're settling for threes long rebounds are at least less likely to result in immediate putbacks.
OTOH, Tennessee's much bigger than Michigan and the 1-3-1 really prefers long guys who can make skip passes arc enough for the defense to recover so they don't give up open corner threes. Also the primary weakness of the defense is allowing (drumroll) tons of offensive rebounds. There's a chance it could backfire spectacularly.
I bet Beilein gives it a whirl at some point just in case it turns UT into a gibbering mess. Judging from the internet, Vols fans aren't impressed with their team's basketball IQ. And if you're not judging from the internet, you're on the wrong internet.
Sign those scrubs up. I'm not sure if this is real or just motivational but I'm hoping it's the former:
In Monday's practice, the Vols' scout team enjoyed eye-popping success against the starters while running Beilein's offense. Reserves Jordan McRae and Renaldo Woolridge buried numerous open 3-pointers off passes from guards Tyler Summitt and Michael Hubert.
"Just putting it in today on our scout team, those guys were successful running that offense against us,'' UT senior center Brian Williams said. "That offense is tough to check.''
I checked the comments and sure enough there's a wag suggesting that if either of the scrubs can hit threes they should replace Tatum.
If this is a real thing Tennessee has trouble with in the game, it will be up to Novak to take advantage. Woolridge was playing the perimeter four and "messed [them] up good." I'm a little concerned about this since Novak's also got the toughest defensive assignment as he attempts to check 6'8" Tobias Harris. Novak's shooting slump earlier coincided with a lot of tough defensive work against guys bigger than him. I'll take open threes, though.
Tobias. The aforementioned matchup is high on Tennessee's radar:
“We’re ready for Tobias to have a big night in there, ya feel me?” junior guard Scotty Hopson said. “Obviously we want to expose that, because Tobias is obviously one of the best players on our team. We’re looking forward to getting the ball inside more and taking advantage of (Michigan’s) lack of posts.”
Harris is a freshman with approximately Hardaway-level usage shooting 49% from two and 31% from 3. He's got a Morris-like distribution between the two. (IE: he takes a ton of twos and the occasional three.) Zack Novak is short. On the other hand, Michigan can double off anyone not named Hopson and what's Tennessee going to do, have Tatum shoot a three?
Michigan's gotten a lot of experience dealing with a post guy matched up with one shooter—three games against OSU's Sullinger-Diebler combo—and has frequently doubled from the baseline to force long skip passes. That burned Michigan against OSU's better-than-competent non-Diebler shooters (Lighty, Buford, and Craft are all around 40(!) percent from three). Maybe not so much against the Vols.
Etc.: Beilein gettin' forky with it comes from his personal site's "behind the scenes" post on Selection Sunday. Dylan and I used a bunch of the same links but he's got some extra at UMHoops. Tennessee fans say Michigan reminds them of a Pearl team, which… um… thanks? Oriental Andrew collects links too. The Fab Five's '93 matchup against GW.
in case you missed it, or in case you didn't
Assorted items off the top of the head.
Kenpom or conspiracy. The Big Ten got a wet sloppy kiss from the committee this year. While they scored the expected Sweet Sixteen seeds, where eyebrows cocked was about the other four teams. Michigan got an eight, Illinois a nine, Penn State and Michigan State tens. For all the bubble talk over the last month when it came down to it no Big Ten team was one of the last seven(!) in, and Michigan wasn't even on the bubble.
Talk radio in Boulder, Colorado will center around the fact that OSU's AD was the head of the committee, but I wonder if people in the room actually paid attention to how well the Big Ten represented in Kenpom and other computer rankings. They definitely didn't do this on a team level—Kenpom #17 Utah State got rewarded with a 12 seed, #19 Belmont a 13—so maybe it's just a coincidence and the conspiracy theorists are closer to right.
As far as Michigan specifically, I also wonder if Michigan's narrow losses to Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse, and Wisconsin were an influence. At first blush they look way overseeded. Narrow losses and a blazing finish might explain the difference between Michigan's resume and its seed.
The opponent. It's "hey, look at this coach who should definitely be fired" week on MGoBlog as Michigan draws dead man walking Bruce Pearl and his Tennessee probably-not-Volunteers.
Q: how many tournament appearances do you have left
A: plenty, ask Tim Floyd
Q: AT TENNESSEE SMART GUY
Despite seeming to be overseeded, Michigan caught an opponent that's equally, if not more, uninspiring on paper. Tennessee was 8-8 in the crappy SEC and had a violently mixed nonconference schedule that features wins over Pitt, Villanova, VCU, and Belmont (twice, albeit the second time by just one) and losses against Oakland, Charleston, and Charlotte. In the SEC tournament they beat Arkansas before losing to Florida.
Kenpom has them 55th. Michigan's up to 40th after splitting their pair at the BTT, so Michigan will be about a 60% favorite according to the system. Tennessee's most outlying statistical points are great offensive rebounding (12th nationally at almost 38%) and terrible three point shooting (30%, 315th). They're vaguely in the middle of the pack in everything else, above average at most things except getting their shots blocked.
crap, he can drive past white guys
The stars. Tennessee's offense revolves around SF Scotty Hopson and and PF Tobias Harris to about the same extent Michigan's revolves around Harris and Hardaway, except for the fact that Hopson and Harris actually get some time on the bench. They're kind of meh as far as efficiency goes; Hopson is a good three point shooter (38%) but no one else on the team is much of a threat.
The guy you're going to be screaming "AAAARGH REBOUND" at is Brian Williams (not that Bison Dele), who's ninth nationally in OREB%. He's a foul machine averaging 5.5 per 40 minutes and only gets about 20 per game but his backup is just a slightly worse version of him: John Fields is a foul machine averaging 7.2 per 40 who vacuums up offensive rebounds at only a slightly less monstrous rate.
The best team ever, for a given definition. Yes: right now this team is better than the Sims/Harris '09 team that slid into the tournament for the first time in forever by both Kenpom and tourney seeding metrics. This has been a remarkable job by Beilein; if he can build on it the next couple years Michigan will have an actual program again.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Ohio State|
KenPom: OSU -11 (89% win)
Once more for good measure? Once more for good measure:
Ahem. Now that we have that out of the way, on to the game. The Wolverines lost the season series to the Buckeyes in a pair of close games (OK, that's a bit of a stretch for the second one, but the Wolverines led at half and were within 7 with a minute left on the road). I'm not sure if there's data to support the "can't beat a team three times in one season" meme, but I sure hope it's true.
As you're well-aware, the Buckeyes host two of the top three candidates for B1G freshman of the year in Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft, and they're surrounded by a host of senior contributors in sharpshooter Jon Diebler, prematurely bald guy Dallas Lauderdale, and Brooks Bollinger Memorial 8th-year Senior Award recipient David Lighty.
Let's get right into the...
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy:
|Michigan v. Ohio State: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Ohio (YTO) Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. OSU Def eFG%||46||139||M|
|Mich Def eFG% v. OSU eFG%||156||3||OO|
|Mich TO% v. OSU Def TO%||16||22||-|
|Mich Def TO% v. OSU TO%||252||8||OOO|
|Mich OReb% v. OSU DReb%||327||24||OOOO|
|Mich DReb% v. OSU OReb%||66||64||-|
|Mich FTR v. OSU Opp FTR||336||1||OOOO|
|Mich Opp FTR v. OSU FTR||28||173||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. OSU AdjD||45||11||O|
|Mich AdjD v. OSU AdjO||50||1||O|
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.
I've made this joke a hundred times already this year, but: Hide ya kids, hide ya wife. Ohio State is the best team in the country, and I don't care what Kansas, Duke, and Pitt have to say about it. In personal e-pinion (and e-pinion of one Ken Pomeroy), it's not really close.
So, what is the underdog strategy in college basketball? No easy baskets for the opposition (which also means don't allow offensive boards), make your shots when they're open, and don't turn over the ball. Getting the opponent's best players into foul trouble - while not getting into the same predicament yourself - certainly doesn't hurt. Easy, right?
Taking a look at the chart, the Wolverines should be able to get off some good shots against an Ohio State team that's not as good as Illinois in forcing opponent misses. They should also at least be able to stalemate in turnovers - though Darius Morris had more giveaways than assist last time against the Buckeyes. They should even have an OK chance to keep the Buckeyes from getting second-chance points.
It's the fouling that becomes an issue. Aside from the free-throw rates (in which Ohio State has an advantage still), Michigan's bigs have been known to get themselves into foul trouble early in games. Against Jared Sullinger, keeping Jordan Morgan in the game is going to be of the utmost importance. Northwestern learned in overtime yesterday that having a second or third option on Sullinger is going to spell your doom.
Dylan previews the game on UMHoops. Along the Olentangy previews the game and doesn't understand offensive rebounding, and Eleven Warriors doesn't so much preview the game as run down player stats from the last two games and yesterday's OSU/Northwestern contest.
I don't know where to go with this prediction. Ohio State has looked vulnerable, and Michigan (in fits and starts) has been playing some of their best ball all year of late. Still "looking vulnerable" is not the same thing as "losing basketball games," and the Buckeyes have only done the latter on the home court of some really good basketball teams.
Kenpom and Vegas aren't keen on Michigan's chances... and there's a reason for that. I think Michigan is capable of beating Ohio State, but I'll believe it actually happens as soon as the clock hits all zeroes. Ohio State wins a closer-than-expected battle, and the Buckeyes emerge with a 69-67 victory.
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?