HHHHYARRRR! A reminder from BHGP why you should generally root for Iowa basketball:
Avast! Mizzen the wizzenhench and agglomerate the septicules! NAVAL SPEAK MEANS GET OUT OF MY BANNNNNNNNK
Our good feelings are not helping them reach the tournament, unfortunately.
I dare you to release that Big Ten Network poll, then. In other Big Ten Expansionfiasco news, athletic directors claim that everyone likes having to figure out which division they're in via mnemonic:
"When the Leaders and Legends were first announced, people were like, 'What the heck does that mean?'" said Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner. "I think people are starting to learn it, though. … I don't hear much from fans writing in and saying, 'You've got to change the names now,' or anything like that."
Some ADs, like Barta and Purdue's Morgan Burke, say they actually like the Leaders and Legends monikers.
We have a "faintest praise imaginable" winner. Men responsible for deciding to call something something admit—in public and everything!—that they like what they did. I bet 90% of the people who responded to the BTN's survey Strongly Agreed that "Leaders" and "Legends" were as good an idea as bringing Jim Bollman back to the Big Ten, but Morgan Burke probably likes that too.
Slight pessimism from Evanston. Rodger Sherman is not feeling the Wildcats' chances tonight. Reasons:
Even though Northwestern doesn't help heavily, Northwestern has a tendency of losing shooters: Hey, it's Nik Stauskas! Announcers like to mention that he's "not just a shooter!", because he sometimes does other stuff effectively, but that's like saying Rambo isn't "just an unkillable death machine" because he has lines of dialogue.
Northwestern's best defensive weapon is running the 1-3-1 to throw teams off: MICHIGAN RUNS THE 1-3-1 AND WILL DESTROY IT LIKE THE TASMANIAN DEVIL RUNNING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE BIGASS HAMS WITH THE BONE STICKING OUT OF IT. Even if they didn't run the 1-3-1 and know exactly what to do against it, they're one of the best teams in the nation at not turning the ball over and have a lot of guys who can shoot, so this would be an awful idea.
They do have Reggie Hearn tonight, and unlike last time the Michigan starter who's supposed to be out (Hardaway then, Morgan now) is actually going to be out. Even so, it's an extreme uphill battle that awaits them.
Power rankings. Luke Winn's latest power rankings have Michigan #1, leaping a Jayhawks team that had a close call against West Virginia, and focus on Trey Burke's jumpers off the dribble. Turns out he's good at basketball:
If Michigan wasn't the killer offensive team it is, the step-back twos that rubbed me the wrong way against Illinois might not be bad shots. 124 > 111, so they remain a little frustrating. Especially since there are threes going in at approximately the same rate as the twos mixed into the above chart that prop up the overall PPP.
If you've already run your offense and that's what you've got with five seconds on the clock, it's a great backup option. If you've got other avenues to try, like Nik Stauskas pick and rolls dumping in 1.6 PPP, you should try them.
When I rewatched the Illinois game it did seem that Burke adjusted more quickly than it felt live. He was robbed of a few assists by fouls, fumbles, and Jordan Morgan going down in a heap. Winn includes the step-back at the end of the first half as a GIF, which was both pretty and strategically a better idea than certain other shots since Michigan was holding for the last shot.
Other bits from Winn's power rankings:
- Tim Hardaway is the nation's second-most-efficient scorer in transition.
- Burke is ninth when it comes to transition possessions used per 40 minutes, which is pretty impressive given the pace Michigan plays at. I expect to see Arkansas's BJ Young at the top of that ranking; not so much the point guard for a team hovering in the mid-200s of pace rankings.
- Duke's defense has collapsed without Ryan Kelly.
- Somewhat indirectly: Winn mentioned a stat put together by TeamRankings that averages offensive and defensive rebounding together to get you an overall rebounding stat. Michigan is outside of the top ten, but only just, at 12th.
- #HotCaochTakes. Jeff Goodman assembles the always-entertaining anonymous opposing coach evaluation article on the Wolverines. Ace points out we have a Not Just A Shooter™ reference:
"Burke, but don't sleep on (Nik) Stauskas. He's not just a shooter. He much more than that. But Burke is the guy for them. You can't shut him down, but you need to find a way to slow him down."
The article is filled with lots of praise and some wishful thinking:
“They're not a very deep team. And if you take away their wide-open shots, and make them execute, that's when they'll struggle.”
“Try to get them in foul trouble. They don't want to have to think about picking up an early foul or two.”
The equivalent of telling someone you're going to stop the run when that run comes from Alabama: easier said than done. There's also a lot of stuff about how they are either tough enough or not as tough as last year. Winning ugly and that.
It is a concern, IME. Take that Nebraska game and make the opponent a Michigan State or a Wisconsin and I can see things going down to the wire.
Er. Nyet. GRIII is up to 18th on Chad Ford's NBA draft board. That's a rise from 25th and starting to get into that guaranteed-first-round area that gets scary. Ford still acknowledges he could benefit from another year:
Robinson is still scratching the surface as a basketball player. But his elite athletic ability (YouTube his 360 dunk versus Minnesota last week), rebounding ability and improved shooting touch all have scouts drooling. If teams are looking for a player who could be a home run down the road, Robinson could easily end up in the lottery. He's not ready yet, but all the pieces are there.
Hardaway doesn't show up in Ford's first round or his "next five in," FWIW.
Etc.: Top tailbacks seem to have two outcomes: great and headcase. I'll take those chances when the average NFL draft slot is a second-rounder. Kenpom continues crusade to have three-point defense recognized as pretty dang random. Michigan State is not their usual selves this year.
Hockey : (
At that moment, Iowa's bench decided they'd seen enough. Fran turned to call them back, then thought better of it. Run, my children. Run while you can.
[For the rest of the Iowa game in gifs, hit THE JUMP.]
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.