to play football, not to play trumpet
1/10/2013 – Michigan 2, Wisconsin 5 – 10-5-2, 2-1 Big Ten
1/11/2013 – Michigan 1, Wisconsin 3 – 10-6-2, 2-2 Big Ten
Well… I suppose we have to talk about what is going on with the hockey team. On December 11th they had a fun, uptempo game with a very good Ferris State outfit that ended in a 2-2 tie. They were 10-2-2 on the season, and while it was obvious they'd been the beneficiary of some good fortune they seemed like a pretty good team.
Fast forward… wow, over a month, and Michigan has lost four straight games in extraordinarily difficult to watch fashion.
- In the opener of the GLI they failed to cover about a dozen WMU players plunging into the slot and were lucky to even be in the game when Josh Pitt went right through four Michigan players to score with 19 seconds left.
- The next night Michigan made a pathetic Michigan State outfit look like the Spartans of old, allowing 40 shots in a 3-0 loss and barely mustering a scoring chance until the third period.
- Michigan did not score until there were five minutes remaining in Friday's game at Wisconsin, and when they pulled to within 3-2 it took 40 seconds for them to give up an empty-netter.
- Michigan got one goal on Saturday, that on the power play from Copp, in a 3-1 loss that featured a huge scrum with 30 seconds left. At least they're mad, I guess?
the only entertaining thing about the last four games
Since the Ferris game, Michigan's gotten two even-strength goals, one from Copp, one from Travis Lynch. Compher added a shorthander and Moffatt is credited with two power play goals on College Hockey Stats, thought one of them should be Copp's. That's it. If, say, you turned off the Friday Wisconsin game with six minutes left like I did the only even strength goal you've seen in a month and a half was Travis Lynch firing a shot from the top of the circles that hit the square inch necessary for it to go in the net.
Problems. Michigan has them. We knew that they weren't the 10-2-2 outfit their record said they were, but this correction is brutal.
The problems are twofold. One was obvious to everyone from the moment Trouba and Merrill both announced departures: the defense is miserable. I've seen Kevin Clare try to make a neutral zone pinch this year; I've seen Downing blown through in overtime like he was playing in a never-ever league; I've seen converted forward Andrew Sinelli step into a regular shift and thought "well, at least he's not several other options". While it's disappointing that the only veteran who's developed one iota over his time at Michigan is Mac Bennett, anyone staring at this year's line chart on D knew it was going to be a problem. It is.
The secondary scoring was not supposed to be, but we're 18 games into this season and Moffatt, Guptill, Di Giuseppe, and Nieves have 9 even strength goals between them. I guess you could throw Compher in there, but Compher carries so much weight and is a freshman so I'm inclined to give him a pass. Those four guys are supposed to be the team's skill players and at even strength they're scoring at the same rate as Travis Lynch.
Why? I don't really know. Michigan finds itself reduced to throwing shots at the net through defensemen most of the time because they don't have the skill to get around people, so the bulk of their shots are attempts from outside the circles that have little chance of going in or even causing a rebound. Copp actually drives the net and drives play with his effort level; the other guys are just kind of out there, with the exception of Guptill's ability to flip pucks up high from tight angles. That's acceptable if you're a random fourth-liner, but three of the four scoring types mentioned are high NHL draft picks who've been around the block. When Copp's out and Compher's playing on a broken foot they have to step up; at this point it's obvious they can't.
Michigan has yet another bye week (hooray one-weekend conference tournament) and what should be an easy series against a Michigan State team that can't beat anyone but American International, Princeton, and Michigan to find its footing; if they can't come out firing against MSU, oxygen masks will deploy from the ceiling as the downward acceleration becomes stomach-clenching.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Wisconsin|
|WHEN||2:30 PM Eastern|
Ah, Wisconsin. Tempo-clubbing, basketball-imploding, infuriating-non-call-generating, desperation-three-point-chuck-heaving, Kenpom-enthralling Wisconsin. How your presence enfouls all that is good about Big Ten basketball this year. Chernobyl: the basketball team. And so forth.
The Badgers' calling card is defense, and how, but we'll discuss their abilities in that department in the Tempo Free section. On offense, they've got one of the most bizarre breakdowns I've seen in many years of clicking refresh on Kenpom. Senior power forward Ryan Evans is Wisconsin's highest-usage and lowest-efficiency player. As statistical anomalies go, that's pretty amazing. Evans absorbs 26% of Wisconsin shots despite shooting 42% from the floor; he also shoots 42% from the line. He gets to the line rather frequently, but since that's to Wisconsin's detriment it's not a particularly good representation of his game, which is midrange jumper after midrange jumper. He is an excellent rebounder and, like almost everyone on Wisconsin, turns the ball over rarely.
Three players provide what offensive firepower the Badgers have, most prominently center Jared Berggren. Berggren is yet another 6'10" upperclassman who has three-point range and can beast you on the inside. Berggren is more beast and less sniper than, say, John Leuer; they all come from the same mold. Berggren rebounds at both ends, blocks shots without fouling, and has an incredibly low TORate for a guy his size. The main flaw in his game is 25% shooting on 75 threes. He's terribly underrated.
You probably know Ben Brust, a perimeter-oriented shooting guard hitting 40% from three. He is much less effective inside the line (48%; very rare trips to the line), and Michigan should close him out ferociously.
The third offensive cogs doesn't even start: freshman Sam Dekker. He's getting barely over half of Wisconsin's minutes despite shooting 55%/43% on quality usage. He's not the rebounder Evans is and isn't the defender; he's a much, much better offensive option.
Point guard Traevon Jackson is a high-turnover player who shoots 41%/30%. Michigan might well encourage him to shoot; Mike Bruesewitz tells you all you need to know about him with his last name. He's there to D up, rebound, and put up a small number of high quality looks. Like Berggren, he takes threes when they present themselves despite hitting well under 30%.
Wisconsin had a weird finish to their season after that prayer by Brust. They lost in OT at Minnesota the next night, had consecutive whompings of Ohio State(!), Northwestern, and Nebraska, and then finished the year on a depressing slide. They lost to Purdue by 13 at home and at Michigan State by 15 in a game in which they put up a measly 43.
They finished the year with another desperation three, this one at Penn State. While Michigan had their own, worse struggles at Penn State, that ain't good. The Badgers finished the Big Ten season with the same 12-6 record Michigan did and won the tiebreaker for the fourth spot thanks to the Brust prayer and Michigan's lack of a return game.
Four factors, now conference-only (small sample, yes, but numbers are equally skewed by various cupcakes on the non-conference schedule):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||46.9 (6)||16.2 (3)||30.3 (8)||29.5 (10)|
|Defense||42.2 (1)||15.4 (11)||27.0 (1)||23.5 (1)|
The Badgers are a funhouse mirror version of Michigan. Both teams take care of the ball, force very few turnovers, never get to the line, and never put their opponents on the line.
The distortions come in defensive rebounding—Wisconsin is great and Michigan progressively worse—and eFG% at both ends of the floor. On offense Michigan is great, with Wisconsin scraping out a middling existence. On defense Wisconsin is great, with Michigan scraping out a less-than-middling existence.
Run two guys off the line only. Preventing three pointers is a skill that Wisconsin has and Michigan should try to emulate. Dekker and Brust should be closed down with extreme predjudice; everyone else you can chill on save backup PG George Marshall.
Get handsy on D. If you're putting Wisconsin on the line that's only a slight downgrade in expectation, one that should be offset by an increased ability to get those stop things. Obviously, Evans is the main issue for the Badgers here.
For pants sake don't hedge the pick and roll hard. Look man, if Traevon Jackson wants to pull up, let him pull up. Don't unbalance your defense and invite Jared Berggren to beast on Trey Burke. Just go under the damn screen. This will not happen.
Brust P&R is another matter, but even then Michigan has to stop pointlessly getting its big well outside the three-point line, whereupon disaster occurs.
Make your midrange jumpers. Wisconsin's defense is so good because they get away with subtle murder. Refs don't want the bad man to yell at them. But also they cut off good shots. Hoop Math shows that nearly half of shots Wisconsin faces are two point jumpers, AKA The Devil's shot. Points per shot on the three categories:
- RIM: 1.1
- TWOS: 0.7
- THREES: 0.9
Michigan got off more threes than Wisconsin usually allows in the first game. They hit only five of 18.
I don't have much hope that Michigan is going to break Wisconsin tendencies here, so the answer is Hardaway and Burke making their pull-ups. Pull-ups suck, but you can't get a blocking call on Wisconsin to save your life and Burke's floater is deadly. In the last game, Wisconsin continually sagged off Burke on the pick and roll; Burke hit 6 of 13 twos. That was almost good enough.
This is a terrible matchup for Stauskas, who may be Not Just A Shooter™ but has very little midrange game. In the first game he had five points on seven shots.
McGary: fight Berggren to a standstill on the boards. Self explanatory.
Do something, GRIII. Ditto.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1.
2/9/2012 – Michigan 62, Wisconsin 65 (OT) – 21-3, 8-3 Big Ten
Bear with me here. What if Bo Ryan is actually from a small swampy planet in the general vicinity of Rigel?
His homeworld is a dire place full of pincered things with sensory appendages strongly reminiscent of tentacles covering their heads. If you carefully prepare the tentacles such that they are held in place they can resemble hair. They are an angry species, prone to fits of helpless rage. They have a legalistic bent; they take immense pleasure in exploiting their system of justice to temporarily soothe their seething hearts by jailing enemies on technicalities while escaping their crimes on other technicalities. Their only ethic is victory, no matter how appalling the method of its acquisition. Placed in the earthly taxonomic system they are technically bugs. They have a swampy game called swampball.
Bo Ryan is here on a mission. He is here to prepare the planet for eventual conquest by making viewers of his particular brand of swampball clones of himself: legalistic raging things who feel like their hair cannot be real, who can only clasp and unclasp their grasping apparatuses helplessly in the face of an unfeeling monolith of miscarried justice. Once prepared adequately, victims of this process will hardly notice when the nations leaders shed their disguises and reveal themselves as horrible chittering pedants from another world.
I'm not saying this admittedly fanciful scenario is true. I'm saying that if it was, not one damn thing about Wisconsin basketball would be any different. To watch the Badgers is to both hate and become Bo Ryan.
This game made me crazy. Michigan acquired all of two free throws in forty-five minutes and Dan Dakich had spent most of the last minute pleading for anyone to use their bounty of spare fouls; both teams tried and neither could. In Michigan's case, they screwed up. In Wisconsin's, they hacked away but could not get the refs to acknowledge it.
For the bug-people to lose on that would have been justice. There is no justice.
Instead Michigan got that running half-court to force overtime and a spectacular series of no-calls—Nik Stauskas getting hacked from the side and then not touching the ball, getting neither a foul or the out of bounds call, Jared Berggren slapping at Mitch McGary's arms so hard it was audible on the broadcast—continued until finally Michigan slunk off the Kohl Center court, grasping their suddenly unreal hair and wondering how to do anything other than clench their fists.
I felt paranoid watching all of this. It was a temporary window into the world of a 9/11 truther, seeing what looked like an insane conspiracy by Big Ten refs to keep Bo Ryan in their ears, screaming unprintable things about their mothers. A full half-dozen of the calls they made seemed literally impossible, from the two mentioned above to another breakaway layup that Burke missed because a dude hit him on the head and the charge Burke took on Berggren late that went the other way for a critical three-point play. Am I sane? I thought we got a fair whistle at Indiana. I did think that.
I thought I'd be better by now; I'm not. I hated every minute of watching that, don't understand most of those calls, and find it impossible to believe that this has been happening for years. It sucks for the league, both aesthetically and when a team that got worked by every decent nonconference opponent suddenly starts winning a ton of Big Ten games.
I feel irrational about it and incapable of not being irrational about it, and then something else happens and I feel that the only thing irrational here is the ENTIRE DAMN CONSPIRACY and feel like finding a town hall meeting about building an apartment complex proposal and telling them all about the things I know to be true about the Wisconsin Illuminati.
At least I'm not alone. Anonymous Big Ten coaches are also considering informing their local governments about the threat:
If you set a pick, they take a dive. They cheat the game. Everybody raves about this defensive juggernaut, but that's bull. They dribble the clock out and mug you out of the building. Part of the reason they lost to Cornell and Davidson is because when you get into the tournament, refs outside the Big Ten don't fall for that.
I found that randomly looking for a picture of Bo Ryan, and this is what Google Image Search looks like for Bo Ryan:
A window into a twisted soul.
I don't understand anything about this and don't want to talk about it anymore; I can't imagine being a ref in a game coached by the above guy and actually being on his side, and yet here we are, considering a half-court shot and two free throws. Take me, swamp people of Rigel. You win.
Haters. You know who invented "haters gonna hate"? Hitler. Don't even get me started, Badger fans. Hate is a critical emotion that keeps things like Wisconsin basketball in check.
Yeah, I Godwin'd myself. Necessary.
THE BO RYAN INDEX. Take the first three rows of Google Image Search and calculate in what percentage of those shots is the coach looking enraged, incredulous, furious, or otherwise unpleasant to referees or his team. Bo Ryan's Bo Ryan Index: 65%, and I think some of the misses could be sarcastic smiling.
…checks in at 25%, give or take a shot of Glenn Robinson III and how you interpret the pointing picture second from the left on the top (I filed that as a hit).
Tom Izzo's BRI is shockingly low:
I've got that at 19% and there are a couple borderline shots filed under rage with no borderline ones going the other way.
I love Bill Carmody's BRI:
It is zero, has a half dozen shots that remind me of Conan O'Brien, and includes a photoshopped Magnum PI mustache.
Like assist rate, BRI is something you want to be in the middle of possible distributions. Too high and you are a bug-man from Rigel; too low and you're not winning a lot of games.
THE BILL CARMODY INDEX: how many times on Google Image Search does your coach make a gesture of helplessness—for instance palms-up pleading or facepalming? Bill Carmody's BCI: 30%.
The prayer. In college basketball there is no reason for that ball to even get inbounded. The NBA rule where fouling on the out of bounds is two shots and the ball does not exist, so grab away on the out of bounds and send the opponent to the line. Also Beilein has to start guarding the inbounder. Mitch McGary would have been a lot more useful obscuring vision and making passes more difficult than ending up at the free throw line and then under the basket.
That said, most of that stuff gets filed under shit happens. That's, what, a 2% shot? Kenpom has Wisconsin's win probability there at 1.2%. Double that for successfully getting the ball to halfcourt, and…
To me the real error in the last minute of regulation was Burke stepping in and trying to draw that charge. Setting aside that he absolutely did, Michigan was up three and the shot clock was about to turn off. In that situation, anything other than a three puts you on the line trying to secure the win. The play there is to prevent all potential threes and if they get a drive to the hoop, just let them score.
The other option on that possession was refusing to let the Badgers even get into their offense by eating up a bunch of fouls and then putting Evans on the line, but that would require precise timing to not give Wisconsin a two-for-one. That possession started with around a full minute on the clock, and Wisconsin used most of the shot clock before getting their rage-inducing block/charge coinflip.
Morgan: missed. Horford killed Michigan in the opening minutes, going 0/3 from the floor and turning the ball over. Wisconsin was playing off the bigs and inviting them to shoot; Morgan is good at converting those opportunities and McGary came in to hit a couple buckets, forcing Wisconsin to adjust. Add in Glenn Robinson's continued struggles and not having Morgan as an option was probably decisive.
Bielfeldt did provide Michigan with some production; he was only 1/3 from the floor but picked up a couple of offensive rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes split about two thirds at the four and one third at the 5—it said volumes about Horford's rough night that Michigan put Bielfeldt out there as Michigan's only big for crunch-time minutes against Jared Berggren. Bielfeldt did about as well as he could against his much bigger defensive assignment, forcing a couple of tough jump shots that went down.
McGary: the usual plus a bonus. 6/10 from the floor and at least a couple of those were jumpers that looked smooth as they went down. Adding that to his arsenal is a minor bonus. Michigan won the board war and picked up another 2-0 advantage in team rebounds; McGary picked up a block and three steals. I wonder if the minutes will revert to a 50/50 split when Morgan returns.
Sure that's likely. Burke and Hardaway combined for 28 two point attempts and got two free throws out of them.
Robinson: scuffling. Four points on five shots and just three rebounds in 33 minutes. This is now a trend, a worrisome one. Shut off Michigan's transition and rebound and Robinson goes away. Not sure what Michigan can do about it—this is the downside of a guy who scores a quiet 15 points every night. When he goes actually quiet you can either change the stuff you do or live with it.
Wisconsin prevents threes? Michigan got off 18, which is a reasonable number, but OT + low turnovers means they also put up 53 twos—acquiring two free throws on these attempts. 25% of Michigan's shots came from behind the line then, and that's where they lost the game, hitting just five. Wisconsin was 9/23 on reasonable attempts and of course had the prayer.
Stauskas's reversion to the mean is getting rough. He was 1/5 on the night and IIRC they were all at least decent looks. He did carry Michigan through a rough spot in the first half with a couple of assists and his one make; just five points from him in 39 minutes, though. Michigan is leaning on Burke and Hardaway hard as the defenses toughen up and it's hard for two guys plus bigs rolling to the basket to be an elite offense.
"Unfortunately, we could not get to our other creatively homophobic cheers." Aaand on Michigan's two free throw attempts the student section "Trey Burke swallows." Just imagine what they would have had in store had Michigan gone to the free throw line more than twice.
HORSE: you failed us. In a shooting contest, Michigan did not win. I have sadness.
Caris: HANDS UP. The decisive Brust three featured a closeout by Caris LeVert with his hands at his sides late in the shot clock against Ben Brust, who shoots more threes than twos, was 0/3 from two in this game, and 3/6 from three including the game-tying prayer against one Caris LeVert. Cumong man.
|WHAT||Michigan at Wisconsin|
|WHERE||Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan –2 (Kenpom)|
Right: Bo Ryan feels no remorse for ruining the game of basketball.
Michigan is playing to retake the #1 spot in the polls on Saturday, but to do so they must win at Wisconsin for the first time since 1999, when I was 12 and Y2K was a thing. Yeah, it's been a while.
Wisconsin plays the same ungodly slow tempo—dead last even in a slow conference—that you're used to seeing from Bo Ryan squads, but without the ruthless offensive efficiency of his recent teams—they're just eighth in the conference in that category, though they're holding down first in defensive efficiency.
Their highest-usage player is 6'6" forward Ryan Evans, a guy who's never been a stellar shooter but has fallen off a cliff this year, putting up a 43/9/43 2P/3P/FT split this year. That's, well, bad. On the good side, Evans is a very good rebounder, doesn't turn the ball over, and gets to the line frequently (though, again, 43% free-throw shooter).
While Evans takes more shots, the real scoring threats on Wisconsin come in the form of starting center Jared Berggren—a 55% shooter inside the arc who can step out and hit the occasional three—and freshman sensation Sam Dekker, who comes off the bench and hits 51% of his twos and 41% of his threes. Berggren is also a force on the defensive end, while Dekker is easily the most talented player on the team.
6'1" guard Ben Brust provides most of the volume for Wisconsin's outside shooting—he's attempted 123 three-pointers this year, nearly double any other Badger, and is hitting them at a 39% clip. He's also a surprisingly good defensive rebounder and one of two main distrubutors for the Badgers on offense. The other is 6'2" guard Traevon Jackson, who is struggling: a 52:43 assist-to-turnover ratio isn't so good, and neither is shooting 39% from two and 28% from three.
Rounding out the starting five is 6'6" forward Mike Bruesewitz, extremely low-usage player and bane of copy editors everywhere. He shoots a remarkably efficient 66% inside the arc—again, in very low, often garbage-bucket usage—and a less stellar 30% from outside.
Wisconsin only goes seven or eight deep. Aside from Dekker, 5'11" guard George Marshall gets the most PT off the bench—he takes cares of the basketball and is a solid outside shooter. 6'11" big man Frank Kaminsky should see a few minutes—he's the best outside shooter among Wisconsin's bigs, but also a major downgrade on the boards.
Wisconsin currently stands at 16-7 overall, 7-3 in the Big Ten, with a signature road win at Indiana and KP100 victories over Minnesota, Illinois (twice), Iowa, Cal, and Arkansas. Aside from the Indiana game, however, they've struggled against top-tier opponents, and that includes losses at the Kohl Center against #23 Virginia and #15 Michigan State.
Four factors, conference only.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||45.5 (8)||15.1 (2)||31.1 (7)||31.4 (6)|
|Defense||42.7 (1)||16.4 (10)||27.6 (1)||27.6 (5)|
The numbers paint a pretty clear picture here. Wisconsin is a mediocre (at best, really) offensive team, but their issues are mitigated somewhat by never turning the ball over. On the other side of the court, they're a shutdown unit, allowing the fewest attempted threes and the lowest three-point percentage in the conference while also ceding just a 43.5 2P% against. Like Michigan, they don't force many turnovers but are extremely proficient at keeping opponents from getting second-chance shots.
LONG TWOS ARE THE DEVIL'S WORK. Wisconsin is going to try to grind the game out, force Michigan into late shot-clock situations, and limit them to one shot per possession. Given Wisconsin's ability to rebound defensively, Michigan is going to have to make sure their initial shot is a quality one—chuck up a bad one, and you're probably not getting another chance. This would be a bad game for Trey Burke heroball, especially given the extremely limited number of possession there should be in this game.
Let Evans do his thing. Hack if necessary. Wisconsin is a pretty crappy offensive team in large part because their highest-usage player is doing a pretty terrible job of efficiently getting the ball in the basket. If Ryan Evans wants to play his own game of heroball, by all means, go for it. It helps that if he beats his man, hacking him puts a 43% shooter on the free-throw line. Michigan would much, much prefer Evans is the focal point for Wisconsin instead of Dekker or Berggren.
Work the pick and roll. Wisconsin doesn't give up many looks from outside at all, so Michigan has to find a way to get to the basket. The P&R was much-improved against Ohio State and appears back to being rather unstoppable; in this game, it has both the benefit of getting guys to the hoop and hopefully drawing Berggren—a great shot-blocker—away from the paint.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 2
Wisconsin's defense is scary, especially since they rarely cede the outside shot. However, they really don't have much going on offense, and Michigan has... Michigan's offense. This game will almost certainly take years off your life, but I think the good guys pull it out in the end.
UMHoops preview. Maize & Brew preview. I did a preview Q&A with MadTown Badgers, as well (yes, there's some confusion there as to where I work, but I'm a big fan of MnB too). You can find my answers to their questions here, and below the jump, check out what Andy Coppens has to say about Wisconsin's chances.
[HIT THE JUMP, yo]