The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
The main reason Michigan lost a heartbreaker to Indiana on Sunday—yes, even more than their late-game free throw misses—was their inability to keep the Hoosiers off the offensive glass. Indiana rebounded 24 of their 40 missed shots; once second in the country in defensive rebounding, the Wolverines are now eighth in their own conference.
What's odd about this at first glance is that Michigan boasts a trio of centers who are all proficient rebounders. Jordan Morgan (#9) and Mitch McGary (#5) both rank among the top Big Ten players in defensive rebounding percentage, and Jon Horford would rank just ahead of Morgan if he played enough minutes to qualify.
After looking at the film, it's apparent that Michigan's bigs lack the support they need to defend the boards; the team's overall inexperience and poor perimeter defense are most apparent in this area. One play in particular from the Indiana game bears this out:
Let's look at this frame-by-frame, starting with the defensive lapse that begins the sequence—Tim Hardaway Jr. falling asleep in the corner and allowing Victor Oladipo to beat him on a backdoor cut:
Zeller has no problem getting the ball to Oladipo in great position for a shot. With Zeller and Jeremy Hollowell (#33, on the other side of the FT line from Zeller) at the top of the key—drawing Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III way from the basket—Hardaway must fend for himself:
Here's where Michigan's rebounding issues begin in earnest. This is the point where Oladipo releases his shot. Note that Zeller, Morgan's man, has stayed on the perimeter, while Hollowell is crashing the paint behind Robinson. Hardaway is accounting for Oladipo and Robinson should be responsible for Hollowell; both are in decent position right here, while Nik Stauskas has been beaten to a good rebounding spot by Will Sheehy:
At the moment before Oladipo secures his own rebound, however, it's clear that Michigan's perimeter players haven't done their job. Hardaway first goes for the block and then reaches for the ball instead of putting a body on Oladipo, who will easily step by him and get the board. Robinson has watched the ball the entire time and allowed Hollowell a free pass to the basket. Stauskas is lucky not to give up a putback after letting Sheehy get right under the basket. Morgan is in solid position but the ball doesn't bounce his way. This is not good:
Oladipo kicks the ball out to Jordan Hulls, who gets a wide-open look from three after Trey Burke drifted away from the play. At the moment Hulls releases his shot, most of Michigan's players have at least partially recovered—Burke is attempting to close out, Morgan is on Zeller, and Hardaway and Stauskas have found their men. Robinson, however, is still watching the ball, unaware that Hollowell is on the complete opposite side of the lane:
As the shot comes off the rim, you can see three Wolverines—including Robinson—trying to box out two Hoosiers on the left side of the lane, while Morgan is left with the unenviable task of being one guy having to guard two guys:
This, predictably, does not go well. Zeller taps the rebound to Hollowell, who's able to gather the ball and go up for a layup despite Morgan's best efforts to be two Jordan Morgans.
To sum up, on this play we've got:
- Hardaway falling asleep on a backdoor cut
- Stauskas getting beat along the baseline
- Hardaway not boxing out Oladipo
- Robinson not boxing out Hollowell
- Robinson not boxing out Hollowell again, nor even being in the same general area
Watch Robinson throughout the play, here in handy gif form:
He never leaves an area covering about 15 square feet until it's far too late. You know how coaches say the key to a freshman succeeding is having the game slow down for him? On defense, at least, the game is going about 200 mph for Robinson, who's trying to defend with his eyes instead of his feet—while he's watching the ball, he's losing his man.
One play doesn't make a trend, of course, but there were several other instances of Michigan's non-centers being the culprit for an offensive rebound.
[For more rebounding pain and suffering, hit THE JUMP.]
"When you are winning a war almost everything that happens can be claimed to be right and wise."
~ Winston Churchill
Trey Burke works the ball up the court, and crosses mid-court with just under nine seconds left. Jordan Morgan sets a high screen on Oladipo, and in an instant the much ballyhooed pre-game narrative is wiped out of the picture. This will no longer be a symbolic battle for the Big Ten Player of the Year. Indiana's best defender is a bystander. Instead it is Cody Zeller on Burke 30 feet from the basket.
History may be written by the winners, but in sports the winners rarely read the history they write. For the victor, the simple fact of the victory can obscure whatever came before. The foibles and missteps were merely a part of the rich tapestry that was their inevitable triumph. It is the character-building fire that forges their mettle. It is for the loser, rather, to lament the components of their fate. Almost exactly a week before Jordan Morgan set his screen, Keith Appling was dribbling the ball up that same court, in a tie game, with the shot clock off, when Trey Burke stole the ball and turned the tables on all the percentages. And when a second Burke steal sealed the game, no one cared that Michigan had frittered away a ten point lead in the last four minutes, or that they had missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Michigan State one last chance. It was Sparty, rather, who spoke with the bitter tinge of "what if" of their blown opportunity to win on what should have been a final possession.
Burke gains the corner on Zeller, but only by a bit. Yogi Ferrell starts to sag off of Stauskas, but thinks better of it. Ferrell knows full well that Burke is taking this one to the rack, but Stauskas is not to be left. Christian Watford is under no such restriction on the far side against Glenn Robinson III, and he helps down. Burke isn't going to leave this one in the hands of a jump shot from a freshman, no matter how talented that freshman may be. Zeller extends an impossibly long arm over Burke, who responds in kind with a fully extended flip of the ball. Jordan Morgan has reached the free throw line.
If you are anything like me, dear Michigan fan, then there is a part of you that is relieved that it got this far. The recent history of Michigan basketball is one of repeated crashes to reality. A first NCAA berth in a decade is followed by a 15-17 season. A first Big Ten title in centuries and a four-seed leads to an early exit against Ohio (YTO). So when Michigan came out of the gates this year as an unstoppable hell-beast, there remained a little voice in your head that urged caution. Like the slave used by Julius Caesar to ride on his chariot to remind him of his mortality, the little voice kept whispering in your ear, "they are not Gods. They are merely human." When Ben Brust hit a half-court heave and Michigan was run out of the Breslin Center and utterly collapsed in Happy Valley, those whispers became screams that could not be ignored. And when Michigan went down 10-3 early, there was a part of you that said, "please not this again."
[After the jump, not this again]
3/10/2013 – Michigan 71, Indiana 72 – 25-6, 12-6 Big Ten
One of my earliest memories of basketball was brooding over a narrow loss. I have no memory of who may have been playing but since at this point in my life I lived in Denver and regarded the Alex English-era Nuggets as a curiosity, it must have been some Michigan game that my dad put on.
What struck me is the infinite variety of moments I had to brood on. This free throw here, this missed layup there, that egregious foul call: 40 to 48 minutes of opportunities to not lose by a point. Basketball is weird in that way. Most sports come with thunderclaps from God. If you're caught on the wrong end of a scoreline you brood over, oh, I don't know, a friggin' Honduran defender with one goal to his name at any level being momentarily possessed by the spirit of Pele. Something titanic. A keystone kops attempt to tackle in the secondary, eight blown tackles on one play, somehow giving up a 5 on 3 shorthanded breakaway, etc. That goal. That massive refactoring of the world from something in which pleasure beckoned into one containing only sand and dust. THAT.
On Sunday, mere hours after Michigan had choked away a second consecutive Big Ten title, we were treated to the NBA equivalent of the bicycle kick linked above when DeAndre Jordan caused twitter to explode into a panoply of jokes about the murder and death of one Brandon Knight.
Like you 1) haven't seen it and 2) won't watch it again:
The Clippers were awarded two points! That is a lot of points to get on one basketball possession! The Clippers acquired a third thanks to a free throw! That made the Clippers lead by 22 points instead of 19, so it was super helpful in their efforts to victory.
Basketball is weird in this way. It's the highlight thing. Baseball highlights are hugely important near-replicas of every other baseball highlight you've ever seen (man swings bat, ball goes far). Basketball highlights are unique snowflakes with almost no impact on the outcome. Except, of course, in those odd situations when the things are balanced on a knife edge right at the end, and everything that goes wrong is one of the thousand papercuts that did you in.
My most recent basketball memory is brooding over a narrow loss. Also there are a couple additional narrow-loss broodings in there ranging from 10th to 4th most recent. I don't know, man. Michigan probably wouldn't have grabbed that share of the Big Ten title if the conference season was 1800 games long. If Morgan's tip goes down their collective margin of victory over the teams they hypothetically would have shared with would have been 4; their collective margin of loss was 34. They were 3-3 in conference games decided by five or fewer points. They lost to Penn State. In the end, they got a fair result.
That does not stop a man from running his fingers through his hair and thinking of a half-court shot at Wisconsin and Jordan Morgan's putback hanging on the rim, hanging on the rim, hanging on the rim. Change a brush of the finger on those, and Michigan is the team raising a banner all by themselves. There are many things to brood on, things that make no sense and can be blamed on no one except bloody fate.
This is why I basically shrugged when Michigan went out in the first round last year—they'd come from a much more fortunate place than they did this year and still got that banner up. They don't give banners for falling valiantly in the Sweet Sixteen. I'm not sure we should be talking about salvage after Michigan's best season that counted in a long, long time, but after Sunday a lot more rides on the single elimination portion of the schedule. If the season was a game, it's one against a very good opponent coming down to the wire.
Make a macro free throw maybe?
REBOUND. Ugh, ugh, ugh. A cripplingly bad defensive rebounding performance is finally what doomed Michigan. Indiana recovered 57%(!!!) percent of their misses, with Oladipo snagging seven OREBs by himself. It's kind of hard to figure how Indiana didn't score more with that sort of second-chance rate. The end result of that bombing was to drop Michigan's defensive rebounding to 80th—they entered Big Ten play second in the country—and 8th in conference. They're actually worse this year in Big Ten play.
Much of this has happened just lately. This space was talking about how Michigan was in the upper echelon halfway through the conference season and holding their own as recently as a couple weeks ago. As mentioned after the Purdue game, the fives are a big issue: Morgan had six offensive rebounds but only two on defense; Michigan rolled out five different guys at that spot and got three defensive rebounds. Also, when Oladipo is going off like that someone isn't boxing him out: Tim Hardaway, who had two rebounds.
Generic mutterings about getting that fixed before the tourney go here.
Make your free throws, etc. I think it would have been good if Michigan had made the front ends of one and ones late. #strongtake
Good thing you didn't change the outcome of the game you guys. If a guy is gone for a dunk and someone prevents that from behind, is there a rule against that or not? A: yes, lol jk no. Even Clark Kellogg, last seen accusing his grandmother of fouling Cody Zeller, thought the obvious intentional foul was obvious. Michigan got neither the dunk or intentional call and ended up losing by a point. But at least they looked at it on the monitor!
The other ref bitches are the usual except for the blatant goaltend on a Burke shot that hit the backboard before being rejected. Missing that call should be grounds for termination. It is black and white, and of course cannot be reviewed.
Death to timeouts, Part MCMVII. The last ten seconds were a terrifying whirlwind because Michigan had no timeouts. Michigan couldn't go to the sideline, decide their play would be "Trey, do something" and then see if Trey could do something. Instead Trey just got on with the doing of things. A neutral observer probably enjoyed that quite a bit. It amplified my terror, to be sure.
This is what all basketball games could be like if timeouts were drastically slashed. In these situations there would not be ten-minute stretches of financial service commercials occasionally interspersed by basketball midway through the second half.
Zeller. Despite putting four fouls on Mitch McGary in eight minutes of play plus five more on other Michigan centers, Zeller's ORtg was just an ok 108 because of six turnovers. And some of those came against McLimans and Biefeldt, both inexplicably inserted late in the first half despite Horford not having any fouls. It's a small thing, but all small things are important in a one point game.
Tom Crean: pretty much. I can't believe this guy is this guy:
At least he lets you know by looking like Dwight Schrute, and by saying "whoops, Ron Patterson, you are vaguely ineligible because we don't have a scholarship.*" Apparently Meyer's work in the state of Indiana is a source of conflict:
There have been unfriendly recruitments between Indiana and Michigan in last year. Major source of issues between staffs. Will leave it at that.
Beilein is getting his punches in between the lines:
“Michigan’s always going to win with class, and it’s going to lose with class,” Beilein said. “I’m proud of the way Jeff [Meyer] showed great poise.”
YEAH KILL 'EM PILOT WALTER WHITE
*[He was so ineligible he ended up at Syracuse.]
Damn you rock. Damn you.
|WHAT||Indiana at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||4:00 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Indiana –2 (Kenpom)|
Michigan hosts Indiana on Sunday afternoon with a chance to grab a share of the Big Ten regular season title. Since the first time these teams met (original preview here), the Hoosiers have established themselves as the clear-cut team to beat in the conference and perhaps the best team in the country.
Indiana is led by not one, but two contenders for national player of the year honors. Center Cody Zeller is an excellent rebounder with deft touch around the basket, and he's easily the best big man in the country when it comes to getting points in transition. He scored 19 points on 8/10 shooting in the first matchup, though Jordan Morgan was limited to just two minutes and will have a much greater impact this time around.
The other big star is wing Victor Oladipo, a spectacular athlete and defender who's turned himself into a lethal finisher from both inside and outside the arc (67.0 2P%, 49.1 3P%). Oladipo didn't put up huge numbers in the first game (15 points on 5/9 shooting), at least by his standards, but Tim Hardaway Jr. had a tough time staying in front of him; there are going to be times that Oladipo gets into the lane, and if Michigan doesn't rotate on defense better than they have lately he's going to get his share of thunderous dunks.
What gives Indiana the best offense in the country is that they'll kill teams that collapse on Zeller and Oladipo. They boast one of the nation's best shooters in Jordan Hulls, who hits 48.3% of his threes—a number that seemingly rises to 100% when he's got a wide-open look—and power forward Christian Watford connects on 48.1% of his triples. Hulls isn't a strong defender and Michigan has to find a way to isolate and attack him on that end. Watford is the team's best defensive rebounder and gave Glenn Robinson III a lot of trouble with his size and skill set in the first game.
Rounding out the starting lineup is freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell, who's still figuring things out offensively—he's got a 42/32 2P/3P split and is prone to turnovers—but is a solid distrubutor and surprisingly good defender. The top backup is 6'7" wing Will Sheehy, a solid slasher who hits nearly 56% of his shots inside the arc, while reserve guard Remy Abell has hit 13/27 three-pointers this season.
Indiana is the #2 team in the country, with their only losses coming to Butler, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio State. Before Tuesday's nine-point home defeat against the Buckeyes, they hadn't lost a game by more than five points.
Four factors, conference only:
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||53.4 (1)||19.1 (9)||37.3 (2)||48.6 (1)|
|Defense||44.8 (2)||20.4 (2)||34.8 (10)||29.0 (4)|
The only real weakness the Hoosiers have on the offensive end is a proclivity for turning the ball over; with their brutal shooting efficiency (49.1 2P%, 41.5 3P%) Michigan is going to have to capitalize on any chance they get to force an empty possession.
Defensively, Indiana doesn't allow a lot of three-point attempts, and as a result have ceded a somewhat-fluky 29.1 3P% in Big Ten play; Michigan hit just 7/23 attempts in the first game while desperately trying to dig themselves out of a big hole.
Get in transition. Indiana is perhaps the only team in the country that Michigan may not want to get into a track meet against, but the Wolverines are going to have to find a way to generate some easy points, and not a lot has come easy lately when Michigan isn't on the break. Farrell is a solid point guard but he's still just a freshman, and Trey Burke has really been turning up the heat lately with his on-ball pressure—expect more of the same in this one.
Get one of the big four in foul trouble. Indiana's pieces on offense fit so well together that it's nearly impossible to stop them when everything is clicking—Zeller posting up, Oladipo attacking the rim, and Hulls and Watford waiting to knock down open threes. Get one of those guys off the court for extended time, however, and it's a whole lot easier to keep up. Burke, Stauskas, and Hardaway should look to attack the basket and see if they can get a couple cheap ones, either on their man or on Zeller inside.
Don't make mistakes. I know, duh. But this is a game where the margin of error is razor-thin. Michigan can't afford to take bad shots, cough up dumb turnovers, or lose a key player to foul trouble—not to mention continue to blow defensive rotations and get beat off the dribble. Beating the best team in the country means playing like the best team in the country; Michigan's shown at times this year they can put it all together, and they need to bring a complete effort on Sunday.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Indiana by 2. I'm expecting a very close game, and having Morgan back for this one is huge, but I learned my lesson about deviating from KenPom the last time.
So one way to get the shirts we put up in GTGWS is to correctly guess the score. You have about a 1/500 chance of winning. Another is to go and buy them from our store, where you have about a 1/1 chance of winning. If you're planning to do that, do that now since the store's offering free shipping for all of March. As for the other route…
We didn't listen! A few weeks ago when Michigan was looking at a road trip to Wisconsin before the big game in East Lansing I said hell let's not make people guess a 40-possession Bo Ryan game. A guy in the comments said don't do that. I didn't listen.
Last week Michigan was looking at a trip to lowly Penn State on Wednesday with MSU coming to town on Sunday afternoon. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson, but no, I went ahead and asked folks to ignore Penn State and guess the Sparty game. I didn't listen!
And this week? This week Michigan has yet another mid-week visit to a downrated team that ran into a brutal Big Ten schedule before a season-defining matchup over the weekend. I don't want to ruin the fun of Indiana, but I'm not falling for that overlook-the-road-opponent thing again neither. So both. Guess both. Like this:
Boils 78-68 Go Blue!
Whose yers: 71-70 MEEESHIGAN!
If there's a winner for two games I'll give out two shirts. If nobody gets the score this time, no shirts. This way perhaps the gods will let us have our fun without all the nasty smiting.
Also: Indiana liveblog: we're thinking of doing it again. If somebody wants to sponsor that send 'em my way: seth at mgoblog dot com.
How it works:
- I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of the designated game, and put it in the comments, preferably in the format of [M's Score]-[Opponent's Score]. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you guess either game correctly, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
- Seriously, you don't have to actually guess a basketball score to get this shirt. You can buy it.
About Last Time:
Last week in this game,
A user FairleyStUHpid came.
And though he guessed M-59
I guess he did that by design!
(Rah rah rah)
Go hard guess the score,
With honor you may win some more!
Head you to our store,
To claim your MGo-victory!
Rooting for both the biggest local college and the local pro team puts Michiganders in the interesting position of singing the best fight song in the world on Saturdays and the worst on Sundays. Also: MMB vs a fat middle aged guy in a hard hat: reason 5857 that college is better than pro.
This Week's Games:
@Purdue tonight (at 7) and vs. Indiana at home on Sunday. Guess 'em both. To make it easy on me please use the [M's score]-[hyphen]-[Opponent's score] format and specify on that line which game that score's for.
And the Prize:
People who just see the parts of Indiana on the skyway or I-94 don't realize that the state shaped like a spilled sack of beans actually has a lot more going for it. Like there are several bars in Indianapolis. And there's corn fields. And there's gas stations. And the gas is cheaper than in Michigan or Illinois. (You know we should have just made a shirt that says "America's gas station.") Somehow this state surrounded by football enthusiasts ended up being cookoo for basketball. Maybe that's because you can't smell Gary indoors.
Fine print: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (make it easy on me and write your score in digits with a hyphen between them. Deadline for entries is sometime within 24 hours before the start of the game—whenever I can get online in that time and lock the thread. MGoEmployees and Moderators exempt from winning because you can change scores. We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm spent 10 years as the Indiana of basketball, if that makes sense. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm's name has to be spelled wrong. The algorithm is not just a shooter. This is not the algorithm. This is close.