somehow we're only 124th
1/6/2012 – Michigan 95, Iowa 67 – 15-0, 2-0 Big Ten
the desolation of the Fran (Bryan Fuller)
Less than a minute into the second half, an Iowa post fumbled what would have been an easy dunk into the stands. The television cut to Fran McCaffery, a rising star when it comes to volcano-coach sideline outbursts. He obliged, roaring out "TWO HANDS TWO HANDS TWO HANDS" as he quiveringly pantomimed catching a basketball with, yep, two hands. Ace is GIFing this as we speak.
Exactly a minute later, Iowa closed out Nik Stauskas hard, so he drove past his defender and threw down a rim-rattling dunk like he was not, in fact, a freshman 6'6" three-point specialist. On the next possession, same thing except nastier: closeout, Stauskas drives past his man except this time he's in good position, lane-covering audacious spin move for a finger roll. Gus Johnson's voice hit a questioning falsetto pitch as he exclaimed "OH?!," because he is in our brains too.
Nik Stauskas did this, and the camera did not cut to Fran McCaffery because directors aren't that eager to put resigned shrugs on camera. What are you going to do? What can you do?
I've got this Burke guy to check, three star my ass, and he's playing with two sons of NBA players, and they're raining in threes, and that Robinson guy is dunking on anyone I send out there, and now this guy with the ears, the one shooting 55% from three and also being the dunking guy. Screw it. The guy with the ears tears it. I will save my rage for another time, when there is the vague semblance of a point. For right now I'm just going to—
—watch their freshman center block Aaron White's face.
It's okay. I didn't really like his face to begin with.
—watch their freshman center start a break with a half-court outlet pass to Burke. I can deal. That doesn't seem any fairer than finding Canadian Larry Bird but whatever.
—watch their freshman center do the same thing after dribbling three times in the open court… aaaaaaah…
They are going to lose. It is going to happen. They are seventh in Kenpom, and Kenpom's pretty good. Everyone loses, even the really good teams, and it's not like the Big Ten is an SEC-like trip through the daisies. It is brutal. Michigan has nine of their ten toughest games left to play.
Have you seen Trevor Mbakwe? That guy. Victor Oladipo. That guy. Michigan will go on the road, and get it from the refs, and boy this conversation with myself is only indicating the deluded heights expectations are reaching.
If this team bows out in the first round to a MAC team, there will be no "good try you guys, thanks for the banner." There will be wailing, and rending of garments. Because this doesn't come along too often unless you're a Duke or North Carolina type team. Illinois had it back in 2005, and they still talk about that team in a reverenced hush despite its narrow demise in the elite eight. They had it back in 1989, and the MGoWife reports from an undergrad tenure spent in Champaign that they still aren't over losing to Michigan in the Final Four. The rest of the time they've wobbled around good, not great. Even the powers don't always have it all come together.
It has come together for Michigan, and every game starts out with the same doubt—what if they're not that good? What if this is all a mirage? What if I wake up and Nik Stauskas is in fact Gavin Groninger?
Those persist for anywhere from one to 15 minutes, whereupon the nature of this year's team causes the opponent coach to smirk wryly as his guys fall behind by lots. So far. One more whipping, and then the acid test.
From Bryan Fuller:
I know the McGary stuff happened before the Stauskas stuff. Artistic license! It's a nicer way to say "lies!"
GUS. Follow us around, Gus Johnson. You and Raftery, follow this team around, going "uh" and saying "onions" and literally just squeaking in the best way possible. National treasure, Gus Johnson is.
Gus Johnson and the fact that when I check out Big 12 conference games half the time I find they're only on ESPN3 make me almost not bitter that the BTN ended up making the Big Ten grab Rutgers and Maryland.
Big Puppy. McGary had a great game, probably his best at Michigan so far. I mentioned the block and the outlet pass hockey assist stuff above, but I think my favorite play of his was a defensive rebound he corralled in the first half where he had little shot at the ball, so he tipped the thing off the backboard to himself. That kind of thing is one of the reasons he's got the ridiculously high rebound rates he does*. He's got a huge rebound radius.
McGary took a relatively big fall from one-and-done territory to pretty good prospect territory late in the rankings cycle, and that was justified. You can see a version of McGary peeking through the lack of polish that could be the #2 high school basketball player in the country. The rebounds, of course, and then the outlet passing, ability to lead a break for a couple dribbles, what looks like a pretty smooth stroke, and just size in general. Give him a couple inches more vertical leap so he doesn't occasionally leave a dunk on the rim and blocks more shots, and… yeah.
Caris arriving. So we got 32 minutes of LeVert against Central with Hardaway out. Here's what his next two games look like squeezed into one:
30 minutes, 15 points, 1/3 twos, 4/5 threes, 1/2 fta, 3 reb, 2:1 A:TO, a steal, 5 fouls
The three point shooting distorts that a bit, but it's pretty nice to have a guy who's 8/17 so far coming off the bench, and he's got a 3:1 A:TO rate. Dumping the redshirt was the move to make. He's starting to do some of the stuff I expect Burke to do with his ability to shake people with his change of direction.
It is almost redundant to talk about Trey Burke. 19 points on ten shots, 12 assists, one TO. Just another day at the office.
He's got to be the best point guard in the country, bar none. People in the Michael Carter-Williams camp have to explain why having the #4 assist (MCW) rate versus the #11 (Burke) makes up for MCW shooting 42%/28% versus Burke's 62%/41%. There is no amount of defense that can make up for that, especially when Burke is turning the ball over at less than half the rate MCW is.
Two things leapt out about a couple of possessions in the second half after Michigan had blown the lead out big. On the first, he cleared everyone out and went at Iowa's Anthony Clemmons. Clemmons did a great job, first cutting him off and forcing Burke to pick up his dribble, then hounding him on a couple of shot fakes; Burke finally went up and under for an easy two, and the color guy was all like "I don't know what you're supposed to do about that if you're Anthony Clemmons." On the second, he loosed himself with a crossover and launched an eighteen-footer, AKA The Shot Brian Hates More Than Any Shot Ever.
On neither of these possessions did I think what was going on was a bad idea—okay maybe there was a moment in the Clemmons one—and I was not mad at either shot. Because it was just going down.
*[If-he-was-averaging-40%-of-minutes checkin: 7th nationally in defensive rebound rate, 4th in offensive.]
Remember when we were worried about Tim Hardaway Jr. sliding back to his sophomore form? A quaint concern at the moment. Hardaway's coming off 19 points on 13 shots against Iowa and 21 on eight(!) against Northwestern. Against the Hawkeyes he added five assists and five rebounds; Morgan has passed him in DREB but only barely.
Hardaway hasn't had fewer than three assists since the Bradley game, BTW.
Fouls: none. All of Michigan's starters are in the top 200 in terms of fouls committed per 40 minutes, with Stauskas's 0.9 sixth nationally. The bigs will get in trouble from time to time, especially McGary, but once Horford's back—which I imagine will be soon since he dressed yesterday—that concern is not, uh, concerning.
That's the other bedrock of Michigan's defense. They give up the second-least free throws of anyone in the country, and they go together. By not challenging a ton of shots they're in position when and if you miss.
It's also a help for the offense. To date, Michigan hasn't had a period of time where they had to sit a starter for more than a few minutes. I hope that in the event a Michigan non-post picks up a couple quick ones that Beilein will consider the situation and be a little more flexible than he usually is with these things. If it's Stauskas I'm not sure he should even change the rotation.
Philosophy. Michigan's defense isn't good, sure, but the philosophy they've taken is: let's make this a shooting contest. We won't get fouled, and you won't get fouled, and we won't let you have any second chance opportunities, and we won't turn the ball over so you can have transition buckets. Let's see who's better at HORSE. Oh it's us yay.
|WHAT||Iowa at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan –13 (Kenpom)|
Right: Yours for only $17.99!
After a tune-up of sorts against a shorthanded Northwestern squad, Michigan tips off conference play in earnest at home against 11-3 Iowa. With the Hawkeyes coming off a narrow four-point loss to Indiana (albeit at home), Michigan can't afford a letdown performance.
Iowa is led by 6'6" wing Roy Devyn Marble, the team's highest-usage player and a threat both inside (65% shooting at the rim, per hoop-math, with a high FT rate) and outside (36.4 3P%). It'll be interesting to see who matches up with Marble defensively for Michigan—I'd guess they go with Hardaway over Stauskas.
The matchup with point guard Mike Gesell should be a bit more lopsided, though that's not a knock on Gesell. The freshman has held his own so far this year, knocking down over 50% of his twos with a solid assist rate (24.7%), though he's turning the ball over at nearly the same clip (24.3%). He's flanked by fellow 6'1" freshman Anthony Clemens, who's made a surprising ascent into the starting lineup on the strength of a sky-high assist rate (39.8%, 16th among national qualifiers)—he's an inconsistent shooter and prone to turnovers but clearly a playmaking threat.
The most efficient Hawkeye is 6'8" power forward Aaron White, who's connecting on 61.4% of his twos and attempting a ton of free throws—drawing 6.8(!) fouls per 40 minutes. White also takes good care of the basketball, though he'd be even more efficient if he learned to stop shooting threes (5-23 this season).
Manning the middle is 7'1" freshman Adam Woodbury, a four-star recruit providing a strong interior presence—57.6 FG% with solid rebounding and block rates. Woodbury is another Hawkeye who gets to the line frequently, but unlike White and Marble he doesn't convert once he gets there (51.9 FT%).
Iowa is able to go nine deep with relative ease. You may remember forward Melsahn Basabe from his stellar freshman season two years ago—he's regressed and now mans a spot on the bench, but still has the potential to put up solid rebounding and scoring numbers. Fellow forwards Zach McCabe and Eric May both have starting experience as well, while guard Josh Oglesby is a high-volume outside shooter looking for his stroke (19-62 on threes this year, 4-9 on twos).
Iowa giving Indiana a scare may be the most impressive game on their resume; aside from a nine-point home win against #47 Iowa State, all of their wins are against teams ranked #150 or below, and seven of those are ranked #228 or worse. They've struggled away from home, losing by 12 in a neutral-site game against #20 Wichita State and by 16 at #132 Virginia Tech.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||49.2 (138)||19.5 (114)||38.0 (35)||45.3 (18)|
|Defense||41.6 (9)||21.3 (150)||30.5 (113)||26.9 (32)|
The above numbers are impressive, no doubt, though they do require a caveat: Iowa currently boasts the #320 strength of schedule this year. While their defense has held up well against quality competition, the offense has regressed significantly—twice they've been held well below one point per possession against top-50 teams. Offensive rebounding in particular takes a big hit against their better opponents.
Iowa relies on getting to the rim—and the line—to create most of their offense. According to hoop-math, they shoot 71% at the rim, but just 37% on two-point jumpers and 31% from three. Their FT rate ranks 18th nationally, however, and the Hawkeyes knock down a respectable 71.5% of their attempts from the charity stripe.
Defensively, that eFG% numbers should regress to the mean—Hawkeye opponents hit just 27.9% of their threes despite getting them off at a national-average rate. They are tough inside, however, with a 13.3% block rate making opponent two-pointers difficult to come by.
Collapse inside. As said above, Iowa relies on getting to the hoop to generate their offense, either through layups or drawing fouls. The good news is that they don't have a dead-eye outside shooter to make teams pay for collapsing inside—Marble is the team's best shooter but also their best threat on the drive. Michigan is ranked #2 in the country at opponent free throw rate, so they should be able to keep Iowa from getting to the line frequently, but the lack of a true shot-blocking presence is a concern.
Hit the glass. Iowa's other main option for scoring—the putback—also plays into a Michigan strength, as the Wolverines are 7th nationally in defensive rebounding. Tough break, Iowa.
Attack Woodbury. Iowa's two-point defense has been stellar this season in large part due to the presence of Woodbury. The seven-footer hasn't cracked 20 minutes in any of their losses, however, and fouled out of the Indiana game. At this point, Michigan opponents are wise to avoid playing zone lest they face a three-point barrage. The Wolverines should be able to run plenty of pick-and-roll action, which would accomplish two things: get Woodbury away from the basket—and out of shot-blocking position—and potentially get him into foul trouble, forcing Iowa to go small.
Keep doin' what you've been doin'. I mean, yeah.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 13