"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.
Chaos in the old barn. Minnesota beat Indiana last night, turning the Big Ten title race from Definitely Indiana into a free-for-all between IU, MSU, Michigan, and—ugh—Wisconsin*. If you're betting that Trevor Mbakwe beasting on Cody Zeller was the key, yup: Krang had 12 rebounds, 6 offensive, and went 8/10 from the floor en route to 21 points. Zeller was 2/9.
As for that suddenly open Big Ten race, here are the contenders' closing stretches:
- INDIANA: Iowa, OSU, @ Michigan
- MICHIGAN STATE: @ Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern
- MICHIGAN: @ Penn State, MSU, @ Purdue, Indiana
- WISCONSIN: Purdue, @ Michigan State, @ Penn State
Michigan controls their own fate for a share; Indiana has the toughest schedule but also a one-game lead. The MSU game this weekend is probably an eliminator. Go Iowa Awesome.
Meanwhile, the Gophers also secured their place in the tournament with that win, not that many people had them anywhere near the bubble. With a closing stretch of Penn State, @ Nebraska, @ Purdue they should reach 9-9 easily, and with wins over Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan State they'll probably be in that 6-7 range.
*[Ryan Evans is now shooting jump shots from the line:
This is why the Big Ten sucks at football?]
Turns out they SEC, too. Elsewhere in good news that went down last night, Florida got beat by Tennessee and will be off the one line everywhere once people get around to updating their brackets. Michigan will move back up to a #1 at Lunardi's bracket the next time he updates it, and the Gators are only a hair in front of Indiana on Kenpom now. This would be very good if Michigan could keep that spot.
Not that I put much credence in Lunardi's brackets. He's finally managed to keep Michigan away from teams they've already played in the first two rounds, but right now Michigan is slotted with Duke and #3 Louisville. Since Michigan is presumably #5, that's only S-curve order in his deranged brain. He's got Gonzaga with one of the top two seeds, which… I mean. Come on. Gonzaga does not have the schedule strength to be a one seed. They're 10th in RPI despite their record because their SOS is 66th—84th on Kenpom, but that's not what the committee will look at—and some school in a major conference is going to get hot and swoop past them.
LOLRUS. Michigan State went the somewhat shady route with their disposal of Dan Roushar, waiting until after Signing Day to deport the guy to the NFL position job that is apparently the birthright of any crappy college-level coordinator. (At least he's not assistant to the offensive line coach.) They are about to reap a whirlwind of karma, though:
Former Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman will be taking the same position with Michigan State, according to Football Scoop. Bollman worked as offensive line coach and run game coordinator at Boston College in 2012 after spending 11 seasons with the Buckeyes and was hired by Purdue as O-line coach for 2013.
And everyone who ever heard of Ramzy Nasrallah thought "I wonder what his twitter feed looked like in the immediate aftermath of this?"
Jfiekslemddkskwmemmfrmdkkwkdkdmdmdkoeoedmdmle RT @footballscoop: Sources tell us Jim Bollman is expected to accept the Michigan State OC job
— Ramzy Nasrallah (@ramzy) February 27, 2013
Bollman's not even a retread—he was OSU's OL coach until Tressel got canned and had one year as the head guy. He thought Joe Bauserman was basically on the same level as Braxton Miller. And OSU fans had been bitching about him for years for various OL issues from recruiting to performance. The only way in which this makes sense is if this was designed as a social media stunt.
If it's that, great job Mark Hollis. If it is Mark Dantonio's inner Oscar the Grouch overwhelming all reason, great job Mark Dantonio. Either way the forecast for Michigan State football in the near future is lots more years like this one, except with more mustache.
BONUS: Ohio State bros yukking it up about the Borges/Bollman matchup betray their Michigan obsession by not immediately going to Bollman/Greg Davis. Borges may have tried to use Denard Robinson as a dump truck, but one of the main complaints so far in his tenure is that everything is a deep ball. These guys aren't on the same plane.
BONUS II: Big Ten football programs have hired John Shoop, Jim Bollman, and Greg Davis over the last two years. To coordinate offenses, not pick out bagel toppings. I will not be breaking new rhetorical ground here by asserting this is why the Big Ten sucks. Northwestern is good at offense every year despite having no recruiting base. Take that, add draftable athletes on defense, and then find out what happens. In the worst case it looks like your offense is coordinated by… Greg Davis.
BONUS III: from an Eleven Warriors reader:
Very Big Ten move. I mean seriously SI, what?
Spring football '13 is the Jim Bollman OC of SI covers.
Etc.: Columbus wins "team I'd least like to go to" and "worst road trip" in Grant Wahl's survey of MLS players. Michigan won't wear the short-sleeved basketball jerseys the only incompetent Germans dreamed up. I've heard they will be wearing something. Here's this guy. Bacon on hockey's history. You like basketball graphs, right? Michigan has an abnormally low transition rate off of makes for how frequently they go on rebounds.