Mike Lantry, 1972
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Purdue|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||6 PM Eastern, 2/25/2012|
|LINE||Michigan -6 (Kenpom)|
Saturday's game represents Senior Night at the Crisler Center and—depending on what you think of a rapidly-imploding Illinois squad—Michigan's toughest matchup over their last three games. If the Wolverines can handle the Boilermakers, a
13-5 14-4(!) conference record becomes not just a real possibility, but the likely season outcome, as does at least a share of the Big Ten title (shakes fist at Minnesota for their Minnesota-esque choke job against Michigan State).
Brian has already previewed Purdue once, so be sure to check that out for reference, but a couple things have changed since Michigan eked by the Boilers last month. Namely, starting guard Kelsey Barlow was booted off the team for allegedly assaulting a bar bouncer after leaving his wallet inside said bar and attempting to re-enter (forcibly, it appears). He was a relatively efficient player with a knack for getting to the line, but the Wolverines no longer have to worry about that.
At this point, you are intimately familiar with the star of Purdue, 18th-year senior Robbie Hummel. Hummel plays over 80% of the available minutes for Purdue and, at 6'8", is their starting center; he's a very efficient player for his sky-high usage, can step out and knock down the three (34.8%), rarely turns the ball over, and cleans up the defensive glass at a high rate. He'll be a tough defensive assignment for Jordan Morgan, though Morgan and Smotrycz held Hummel to 16 points on 14 shots in the first matchup (he did manage to dole out six assists).
Point guard Lewis Jackson is the other focal point of the Purdue offense, and he's nearly as efficient as Hummel. Jackson gets to the line at an extremely high rate and hits over 50% of his two-pointers, but he's not at all a threat from the outside (5-24 on the season from three). Trey Burke's job will be to keep Jackson in front of him and stay out of foul trouble, a difficult proposition in combination.
The Boilers have a pair of dangerous outside shooters besides Hummel, as starting guard Ryne Smith and sixth man D.J. Byrd connect at over a 40% clip from three. Neither poses a threat inside the arc—of their 358 combined FGA, 276 have come from three—but Tim Hardaway Jr. and Stu Douglass must make sure to stay at home and close out hard when they're on the floor. 6'2" Terone Johnson is the other starting guard and is by far Purdue's least efficient backcourt member with significant playing time outside of Anthony Johnson, who may be forced into a slightly larger role off the bench after Barlow's dismissal.
Stepping into the starting lineup these past two games—Byrd was suspended against MSU, so we'll see if he starts tomorrow instead—is low-usage forward Travis Carroll, who provides solid offensive rebounding, a shot-blocking presence, and little else. Purdue will stick with that seven-man rotation.
Since the first game against Michigan, Purdue has beaten Northwestern twice, Illinois on the road by 5, and Nebraska at home by 18, while dropping home blowouts against Indiana and Michigan State and nearly upsetting Ohio State on the road. That last game stands out as a bit of a fluke, but a three-point loss at OSU is a three-point loss at OSU.
The Boilermakers currently sit at 18-10 (8-7 B1G), placing them on the bubble but likely in the NCAA tournament as long as they take care of Penn State at home and get out of the first round of the BTT. This game could ensure them a spot in the tourney, however, so the Wolverines must be prepared to face a fired up squad.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||49.0 9||53.7 11||49|
|Turnover %:||12.2 1||18.0 9||20.5|
|Off. Reb. %:||29.8 8||31.5 8||32.2|
|FTA/FGA:||33.8 7||37.5 9||36.4|
Purdue has not shot the ball particularly well—especially from inside the arc—in conference play and their field goal defense has fallen off a cliff. While they don't turn the ball over, they're not great at forcing turnovers, and their lack of size hampers their rebounding. Their effective height is actually lower than Michigan's, a rare sight indeed when not playing Northwestern.
Obligatory Hardaway. I thought he had turned the corner after the Illinois game but he regressed against Northwestern; nothing highlighted his recent shooting struggles quite as much as a 2-8 performance from the line in an arena half-full of Michigan fans. Purdue has no true center to speak of and without Barlow they lack athleticism, as well; Hardaway should be on a mission to get to the basket at all costs.
Many of you will hate me for saying this, but keep shooting the three. I know Brian highlighted the potential uselessness of defensive 3FG% recently, but the Boilermakers are second-to-last in the conference, allowing a 39.2% rate from beyond the arc. I don't want to see the Wolverines jack up 38 threes again, but they shouldn't be afraid—outside of Hardaway, who should drive at all times—to put up some outside shots. I don't think that needed to be said, but there it is.
Get it inside to Morgan and Smotrycz. The two bigs combined for 22 points on 8-12 shooting in the first game as Purdue struggled to defend the interior. Morgan even notched a pair of assists, and Hammer & Rails is afraid of the Wolverines continuing to attack with the inside-outside game:
This team is a difficult matchup for us because we proved the last time we cannot stop Morgan in the paint, and he can kick out to Evan Smotrycz or Zack Novak for threes. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. can get their own shots too. In their last five victories they have been defensively stifling, holding those defeated opponents under 61 points.
Also, like, please don't miss layups, Morgan. The dwindling number of hairs on my head will thank you for it.
Don't let Hummel go off. Self-explanatory. Michigan did a fine job of this in their last matchup, but Hummel is the type of player who can explode at any time, and I think that's necessary for Purdue to win this one.
Keep Jackson from getting the lane on the pick-and-roll. Purdue's other dangerous option is getting the lightning-quick LewJack into the paint via the pick. Burke's been very effective defensively in conference play and he's going to have to keep them up; the last thing Michigan needs is for him to get into foul trouble. Same goes for Morgan—if he picks up a couple of cheapies while trying to corral Jackson, Michigan's effective height becomes much the same as Purdue's and the team loses one of their biggest advantages.
Give Novak and Douglass the biggest standing ovation in the history of standing ovations. It's senior night. I can't remember a pair of seniors who deserve your undying love as much as the two unheralded white boys from Indiana. If the roof doesn't blow off of the Crisler Center when these two are introduced for the last time at home, I will be waiting outside after the game with a machete. You would not like this, and neither would I, as I value my freedom mightily; however, I also value upholding ridiculous statements I make on the internet. Don't test me.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 6. Also, biggest standing ovation ever.
With 258 games and 185 starts between them, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass will take the Crisler Center floor for the final time on Saturday night. The duo committed to Michigan with little fanfare and, bit by bit, have reestablished the program. Neither player ever averaged double digits or posted glamorous numbers but Zack Novak broke the 1,000 point plateau and Stu Douglass is likely to graduate as Michigan’s all-time leader in games played. Most importantly when all is said and done they will have taken the program, which hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in a decade, to the Big Dance in three of their four seasons. Both players would tell you that the memories can wait as Michigan hosts Purdue with a chance to remain perfect at home and within striking distance of a Big Ten championship.
The memories can wait during the game, but if doesn't get pretty damn dusty in Crisler afterwards, regardless of the result... machete.
Also, the_white_tiger with a stat-heavy look over at Maize n Brew, and the aforementioned Hammer & Rails preview. The Daily's Ben Estes on Zack and Stu. AnnArbor.com's Nick Baumgartner with a list of the top five Zack and Stu moments—you'll be pleased with the placement of the aneurysm of leadership.
The weekend. Via MGoVideo:
The Axe effect. Remember these guys?
Since they executed the above, Michigan is 18-7 in the Big Ten. Thanks Axe guys! Thanks, Tony Gerdeman! (Attention Tony: please don't do that again in the next couple weeks. Ace's blood will be on your hands.)
A brief digression into faulty math. By the way, Gerdeman, your numbers are horsecrap since they include a bunch of players who list offers from Michigan who Michigan had ceased recruiting. No one buys your head fake about Tommy Schutt when you include a guy (Pittman) who tried to commit to M and was rebuffed plus a bunch of OL Michigan had moved on from by the time Meyer was hired. 2012 head to head Meyer wins: Armani Reeves. End of list.
Of course, the head to head thing is beside the point. Ohio State is always going to win most of its recruting battles with Michigan because most of them will be for Ohio kids. This has not prevented Michigan from being good at football.
And this will be the future. Via WH, the future of the M-MSU rivalry if recruiting keeps going like this:
Look at the mauling on the line. Also cough cough infinite Desmond Howard bubble screens.
The bracket of storyline. Lunardi's latest has Michigan on the three line playing the Drexel Dragons in the first round. After that, the bracket is all storylines:
- If high seeds win the second round opponent would be Notre Dame
- Hypothetical Sweet 16 matchups would be against Duke (played earlier, semi-rival), San Diego State (Steve Fisher), or Alabama (footbaw matchup).
He's got us in Nashville right now; Marquette is the protected seed in the other Columbus pod. I'd hope we land either there or Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Northwestern fans are pointing at tomorrow's game as perhaps their make-or-break moment for a first-ever NCAA bid. Bill Carmody is scoffing at the idea this is the biggest game in program history. Welsh-Ryan will be hyped.
Five star bump. Glenn Robinson is getting one. He's #1 on a recent Rivals list of the top ten players likely to move up when Rivals releases its final 2012 basketball rankings:
1. Glenn Robinson III
School: St. John (Ind.) Lake Central
The Buzz: The 6-foot-7 wing was knocking on the door of five-star status coming out of the summer. This winter, he appears to be well on his way to busting that door down. He has size, a complete game and high level athleticism that all translates at a high level. His impact at Michigan should be immediate and sizable.
Someone learned their lesson about John Beilein's talent evaluation skills after dropping Burke in their final rankings last year.
Brief position paper on "chink in the armor." ESPN fired the staffer who wrote the headline and suspended the anchor that spoke it aloud, causing some folks to question the inconsistency. I think it's the right call: a headline is something that is written down and considered. More importantly, it is also a place where double meanings and puns are crammed in as often as possible. A headline invites you to read it in all ways possible. If the staffer is too dumb to know this, he should be fired. If he's not, he should be fired.
The anchor probably should have gotten off with nothing other than a clarification that he was using the "chink in the armor" idiom in a way that is completely natural. They're talking about a big hole (turnovers) in Jeremy Lin's game. The idiom fits that conversation like a glove. These days a lot of folk use "unfortunate" to mean "awful" but in this case it is appropriate: the anchor's choice of words was unfortunate but not offensive.
How they do it. This Sporting News article on a mock bracket selection various members of the media went through is a fascinating insight into how the sausage gets made:
They stressed, time and time again, that there must be a way to organize the data — a true, valid point — and the RPI is just the way they chose. The relationship with the RPI dates back to 1981, when it was first used to provide “supplemental data” for the evaluation of potential at-large teams. As individuals, committee members have access to whatever ratings are available — including but not limited to the Pomeroy ratings, the Sagarin ratings and the LRMC results. But, the fact of the matter is everything dealing with ratings that was provided to the media members in the mock exercise was filtered through the RPI. The team sheets showed records vs. RPI top-50 teams, vs. teams ranked 51-100 in the RPI and so on. The RPI isn’t the gold standard and it might not even necessarily be the preferred ranking, but it’s the way the NCAA chooses to organize the information, so it’s definitely the most front-and-center data.
I think the committee generally does a good job at picking out serious RPI outliers; at points where they disagree with Kenpom seriously I tend to side with the committee. That Wisconsin bank shot last year was devastating because the committee mostly considers wins and losses. If it was just an infinitesimal hit to Michigan's defensive rating a lot of the drama gets sucked out of the season. Kenpom is designed to be predictive, which is not necessarily the best model for making a bracket that makes the sport entertaining.
Kovacs! Jordan Kovacs headlines Andy Staples's all-two-star (and under) team:
S Jordan Kovacs, Sr., Michigan (Zero stars in Class of 2008): Kovacs, another walk-on who came out of nowhere, joins Whaley as a co-captain. I first wrote about Kovacs in 2009 after he filled in admirably during the Wolverines' win against Notre Dame. Since then, Kovacs has developed into one of the Big Ten's best safeties. The kid who made the team from a student-body tryout has started 33 games, and he still has one more season to play.
Patrick Omameh and Nathan Brink also feature. Get your fill of this stuff now, because Michigan is about to be a rumor to this annual exercise.
Also let's keep the RR walk-on program going strong, yes? Even in a year where Michigan has a lot of guys on the line a Heininger would have ended up being a useful rotation piece. Kovacs starts on damn near every Michigan D in the past 20 years.
In your head. Michigan's weekend got not one but two coaching-type guys on the OSU staff to indirectly reference it. First someone who seems like their Singletary equivalent:
Slow and steady wins the race
Old coach told me one time... Don't trust false enthusiasm. Don't worry, I'm not. I trust
Again with the "these guys don't really mean to commit to Michigan." I'm sure it's an accident, yes. Don't forget "long way to signing day."
Program culture. Beilein on his seniors and the baseline they've established:
"I think in recruiting, people don’t understand the part about those four years, how much better they’ll get if they have really good work habits. Their work habits have not only made them better, it’s made the rest of our team better. Trey Burke comes into the gym and he sees Stu or Zack working extra before or working extra afterwards, he then realizes well, that’s what I’m supposed to do, and he’s always done that. But if he came in and saw two seniors that were late for practice or complaining about practice or didn’t work in the off-season, he may go more toward that way. They’ve helped us create a culture here that I hope is everlasting."
I cut the evaluators a break there because that's impossible to judge. Also it's not like a bunch of colleges were banging down Douglass's and Novak's doors. In any case, the point about the work ethic of the program is one that looms large in the aftermath of the Lee/Merritt departures blowing up the program. I think Burke will be a guy who helps keep that around this time. Morgan, too.
Etc.: SI declares the Big Ten the best conference in college basketball. DGDestroys has a miraculously-still-relevant recruiting post from before the weekend about the WR recruiting landscape. Surprise: Gordon Gee says something dumb.
2/19/2012 – Michigan 56, Ohio State 51 – 20-7, 10-4 Big Ten
There will never be a "Trey Burke photo spectacularrr" tag on this blog, and that's the way Michigan likes it. There are under ten seconds on the shot clock against the top defense in the country, and Trey Burke is wearing an expression of nonchalant determination.
If he smiles at points they are normal-person smiles, not the arm-flailing, mouthpiece-threatening HRRAAAAAAHHHHs of Tim Hardaway Jr or Jared Sullinger. If you're not exactly calm, the sight of Burke bringing the ball up at least dampens your anxiety—whether you're fan, coach or teammate. He is the fastest and slowest player on the court.
As a group, basketball players cluster on the hysteric end of a continuum of public displays of emotion. Burke is a rare data point on the stoic side of things. He'll never have an Aneurysm of Leadership. He may clap his hands a bit, if he's feeling strongly. At some point someone will make one of those images showing the hilariously unchanging moods of an impassive individual featuring Trey Burke.
Trey Burke eating ice cream: nonchalant determination. Trey Burke taking a calculus exam: nonchalant determination. Trey Burke roaring at the basket with a three-point lead in the final minute of a game against the #1 defense in the country with a foot-taller-than-you opponent who knows your darkest childhood secrets leaping at you…
…nonchalant determination with a touch of premature aging.
Not shown on the jpeg will be the sweet kiss off the high glass and the ball arcing in for the game-sealing bucket, or the previous possession's not-quite-but-pretty-much-sealing blow-by and layup. They will only be implied.
Burke is of course one of many Michigan players who should be in over their heads. Jordan Morgan, Zack Novak, and Stu Douglass are the kind of guys who end up at Penn State and valiantly try to make an NIT. Even Hardaway did not have the recruiting profile you'd think—one and only one recruiting service (ESPN) stashed him at the end of their top 100. Burke himself was once a Penn State commit; after he reopened his recruitment his other finalist was Cincinnati.
Michigan is not valiantly trying to make an NIT. As of February 18th, 2012, Michigan is contending for a Big Ten title. Douglass and Novak are busting out their Kobe impersonations on step-back jumpers it's unbelievable they're even attempting, let alone making. Morgan is outplaying Jared Sullinger, if only for one game.
As I've sampled Big Ten message boards and blog comment sections over the course of the season, one theme continually re-emerges: I don't know how they're winning with these players. We're closer observers and can piece together a story about grit and surprising defense and making up for bad rebounding with transition points, but even that comes to a stuttering, unconvincing conclusion when the subject of Hardaway's three-point shooting comes up. And how is this lineup the fourth-best defense in the league anyway? Michigan has one post player!
Not even we can explain it. It just is.
If you're in the mood for some advice, here's mine: savor this. If this is Michigan's year of re-establishing itself—Michigan's This Is Michigan year—the things that come afterwards will feature a lot of wins and exciting times and fun. They'll also be burdened with expectations that aren't currently encumbering Michigan's motley crew of players rescued from the mid-major humane shelters of America. You know what it's like to have expectations. You're a Michigan football fan.
Here there is a rare opportunity to play with house money for big stakes. It will be the farthest thing from a disappointment if Michigan doesn't quite break their drought this year; if they do, that banner we know we can't give to Novak (and Douglass) despite wanting to will read "Big Ten Champions 2011-2012."
I'll be twitching uncontrollably as Michigan attempts this over the next two weeks. Trey Burke will eat ice cream and fly by in slow motion.
Our own Eric Upchurch's gallery:
And then I was like…
I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL DUDE
Titlewatch(!). The chance Michigan ends its 25 year Big Ten title drought is still slim but after Saturday it is extant. Unfortunately, Purdue blew a five point halftime lead against MSU by coming out for the second half and throwing up thirteen straight bricks, so MSU has a one-game edge on OSU and M for the conference lead. Wisconsin is another game back.
- MSU: @ Minnesota, Nebraska, @ Indiana, OSU
- OSU: Illinois, Wisconsin, @ NU, @ MSU
- M: @ NU, Purdue, @ Illinois, @ Penn State
- UW: @ Iowa, @ OSU, Minnesota, Illinois
Despite the home-road split, Michigan has a considerably easier road than anyone else. They'll probably get at least a share if they win out, which Kenpom thinks has a 15% chance of happening. Winning 13(!) is the most likely scenario, though, and that would require MSU dropping two and OSU one of their last four to get a three-way tie. That's a tall order.
"The pride of Columbus, Ohio." I've never been a fan of the Crisler PA guy ("WHO WANTS FREE PIZZZAAAAA") but I have to give it up: dubbing Trey Burke the Pride of Columbus was A+ trash talk. Sixty-five points awarded.
Matta WTF. I've had to shut up about my theory that Matta is as dumb as a rock as his team has annihilated everyone on defense, but Saturday provided a great flashback to the days when OSU was only pretty good and Matta seemed like a major impediment to them being better.
The situation: Michigan is up three with 42 seconds left on the clock as they inbound the ball. Matta doesn't foul, betting on a stop and OSU hitting a three after getting the ball back with seven seconds left. WTF?
You got Morg-owned. Jordan Morgan outplayed Jared Sullinger head to head. Full stop. This is a big component of how:
AnnArbor.com; Dustin Johnston/UMHoops
On two tightly-spaced second half possessions he ran the floor well ahead of Sullinger and threw down explosive dunks as Sullinger looked on in disgust.
Morgan may not be very tall or an explosive leaper but he has no equal in the league when it comes to running the floor as a center. He may have missed his true calling as a tight end.
[INTERMISSION: let's take this opportunity to Homer-drool over the prospect of a 6'8" tight end who can run like Morgan.]
Anyway, Morgan: 11 points on 5/8 shooting, 11 rebounds (2 offensive), 0 TOs. Sullinger: 14 points on 6 of 14 shooting, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 TOs. Michigan has to react to Sullinger a lot more than vice versa, granted, but Morgan was efficient offensively and stellar defensively. Sullinger cannot say the same.
Also, damn that's a pass right there. Also also, if Morgan keeps missing absolute bunnies one of these days I'm going to pass out. He and Douglass had groaners in the first half I dwelled on.
Please, please please let Hardaway get what he wants this time. 13 points on 5 shots, 2 of 2 from three. Four turnovers and zeros most everywhere else on the stat sheet are less appealing but I'll take that efficiency.
Step-back step-ups. I wasn't quite right that Michigan needed to shoot significantly better from three than Ohio State to win—Michigan had a narrow edge with three makes on 13 shots; OSU needed 16 attempts to match—but that's because most of Michigan's long-range makes came from just within the three-point line. Hardaway had a couple of "no no no… YES" long twos with a bunch of time on the shot clock early; late Michigan got critical buckets from Douglass and Novak on NBA-style step-backs.
It's been said before but it's worth repeating: Lavall Jordan has worked miracles with both Novak and Douglass. Those guys now have the ability to get their own shot off the bounce when they have to or they sense an opportunity. Neither produced shot one last year. The development of the two seniors is akin to Michigan's defensive coaches turning Will Heininger into a pretty good player over the course of a single year—evidence that Michigan's player development is top notch. Combine that with the waves of talent in both major sports and you're cooking.
Offensive board obliteration measuration. Not incredibly horrible: OSU rebounded a third of their misses. That's only slightly above the national average of 32.2%. Also it seemed like a lot of them came on a couple of possessions where OSU got three or four putback attempts; patterns like that bother me less because I'd rather have the opponent have one possession with a very, very high rate of success than four with a less-but-still-very-good rate. Also at some point there are just a ton of dudes around the basket and they're all taller than you.
Obligatory reffing section. After trolling OSU message boards for some schadenfreude and discovering the reaction of the Michigan internet to Jay Bilas, I'll abort my planned ref-railin'. Not necessarily because I'm wrong but because I'm obviously so partisan that I can't be trusted in these matters.
Also, I was waiting for the whistle on this late Craft layup attempt and one never came:
Whether or not this event was actually quality D, it's one on which whistles are all but certain. I do question a bunch of calls but whatever.
Okay, it's just a conceit above. It's a pretty good conceit but this AnnArbor.com photo exposes its limitations:
ALL CAN BE FORGIVEN. I'll never say a bad word about Dave Brandon again if
1) Michigan wins at least a share of the Big Ten title and
2) the resulting banner bleeds like this:
Just the trickle down the side.
(Also, that's an excellent demonstration of the differences between Maize and our current yellow.)
"He played like a beast," Tim Hardaway, Jr. said. "He played like a man against the best big man in the country. And he took that to heart all week. All he heard was, 'Jared Sullinger, Jared Sullinger, Jared Sullinger,' and he wanted to come out here and show he could compete. He did a great job of that and took care of business."
Baumgardner on Morgan and other matters.
This morning, the state of Michigan must be rubbing its collective eyes, because look at the Big Ten standings now. Michigan State, which hammered Ohio State on the road earlier, is at the top with a 10-3 mark (21-5 overall) and could create space with a win at Purdue on Sunday, or create a three-way tie with a loss. Michigan (20-7, 10-4) and Ohio State (22-5, 10-4) are just behind, and who would have dreamed up this scenario?
With two weeks left, Michigan and Michigan State are grappling for a title, and go back to the preseason and try to envision that. While you're at it, go back five years when John Beilein arrived and imagine the Wolverines being here.
"To walk into that arena (before the game) was a bit moving," Beilein said. "I felt it wasn't just a rivalry game. It was a team playing for contention for a Big Ten championship, and I thought it was special. When you're rebuilding a program, there's a lot of little moments, a lot of small victories. This was one of them."
Meinke on Burke. Daily on Morgan. Beard on the hyped-up atmosphere at Crisler. Daily on Novak. Daily on GREATEST FEBRUARY 18TH EVER. Does The White Tiger have a giant head of himself? He's in the right area. Holdin' The Rope not at Holdin' the Rope.
In preparation for Michigan's College Gameday-featured extravaganza against Ohio State on Saturday, I asked Sarah Hardy of Eleven Warriors a handful of questions about the Buckeye hoops squad. For a Buckeye, she provided some very insightful answers, which you can find below. I did a similar Q&A over at 11W; you can check that out here. Thank you to Sarah—who you can follow on Twitter @sarbucks—for taking the time to provide the OSU perspective on the game.
Other than free throw percentage (9th in the Big Ten), the Buckeyes don't appear to have a weakness. OSU's record supports this. Am I missing something?
Jon Diebler. Or, I should say, Ohio State is missing Jon Diebler. With him, this team could easily be undefeated. Instead, there’s no reliable outside shooter, and without that threat, it allows the defense to focus most of their efforts on Sullinger and, to a lesser extent, Buford. By forcing the opponent to account for him at all times, Diebler’s mere presence opened up the floor for his teammates.
Now, Ohio State’s most accurate three-point “specialists” are Sullinger (11/23) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (19/47), neither of whom attempts enough treys to make a significant impact. That really levels the playing field against a team with less talent but one that can score from behind the arc with regularity.
I'd ask about the Michigan State loss, but the Spartans are about as different a team as possible from the Wolverines. Illinois and Indiana did manage to beat Ohio State. What did they do to make that happen?
The Illinois game was one of those situations that OSU falls victim to at least once a season: an opposing player (Brandon Paul in this case) turns into an evil sorcerer for the night, and no matter how closely he is guarded, his black magic will not allow him to miss.
Still, it was a close match throughout and it ultimately came down to Ohio State’s Achilles’ Heel: three-pointers. They hit just 5/15 from downtown while the Illini were 11/18 (the Dark Lord alone was 8/10). At the end of the game, Paul came through with key shots and no one for the Buckeyes stepped up to do the same.
Against Indiana, they again couldn’t close it out, but the circumstances leading up to those final minutes were different than in the loss to Illinois. Visiting Assembly Hall, where refs must have PTSD from the days of Bobby Knight, Ohio State was getting called for ticky tack fouls that ended up dictating the game. Sullinger and Craft were both in foul trouble early, and in the second half, everyone was too scared to play defense, so they gave up an unusual amount of easy baskets.
Also, the Bucks were uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball, especially Craft with a career-high six turnovers.
In the first matchup, Michigan effectively limited Jared Sullinger by playing a lot of zone, which is unusual for the Wolverines. Have other teams deployed this strategy with any effectiveness, or do you see that as a one-time occurrence? Do you think Sullinger bounces back in this game?
Against Minnesota on Tuesday night, Tubby Smith switched to the zone after the Buckeyes went on an early 20-0 run. After that, Ohio State finished the first half with 8 points on 2/10 shooting. I checked with one of our lead basketball writers at 11W, Chris Lauderback, and we agreed that the main reason they struggle against the zone is because they start jacking up 3s, often unsuccessfully.
In January when these teams met, the zone helped limit Sullinger to 13 points and 5 rebounds. He was also in foul trouble early, so I have to believe Beilein will employ it again. It’s Michigan’s best bet to counter against someone who presents the kind of matchup problems that Sully does.
However, if the Minnesota game was any indication, he will play better this time around against the Wolverines. On Tuesday, he notched 23 points and 8 rebounds and even when Andre Hollins tossed an inbounds pass off his crotch, he wasn’t as visibly frustrated as he was versus the likes of Michigan and Michigan State.
I think most Wolverine fans are aware of Sullinger, Aaron Craft, and William Buford as being the main stars for OSU. Who else should Michigan watch out for on Saturday?
Lenzelle Smith Jr. came up huge the first time these two teams met (17 points, 12 rebounds). He has that jack-of-all-trades quality that made David Lighty such an invaluable member of the Buckeyes for all his 20 seasons. Like everyone except Sullinger and Craft, Smith is not always consistent, but he will the ability to emerge when his teams needs him.
While Deshaun Thomas is still a gunner, his shot selection is better this season than last, when his sometimes poor decision-making cost him playing time. His defense leaves a lot to be desired, and he’s erratic from behind the arc, but he’s proficient around the basket, grabbing boards and putting back missed shots.
Although Matta has gone with a deeper rotation than in years past, there’s usually not a lot of production from the bench unless the game is a blowout. Lately, freshman Sam Thompson has been the first one off the bench. Similar to almost every other player on the roster, he needs to work on his jump shot, but he’s extremely athletic and can block shots, hit the glass, and throw down glorious dunks. Even other teams’ fans seem to enjoy his gravity-defying moments.
How do you expect the Buckeyes will try to neutralize Michigan's offense, which is mostly predicated on getting to the hoop with screen-and-rolls and creating open three-pointers?
Last week, Mark Titus wrote a Grantland article that discussed how Ohio State’s defensive weakness is defending ball screens. Depending on the opponent, Matta uses a variety of strategies, which sometimes leads to information overload. Then, the defenders become out of sync with one another. In that case, they’re most susceptible to allowing open 3s or easy layups.
Still, Ken Pomeroy ranks them #1 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. Matta will probably stick with the same strategy he used the first time against UM, when they only put up 49 points. He’s a simple Midwestern man, so for him, if It ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I'll ask the same potentially-blasphemous question you asked me: If you could add one Wolverine to the Buckeye roster, who would it be?
I want to say Trey Burke, just so Michigan wouldn’t have him on the roster for another three years, but I don’t know where he’d play. While Aaron Craft does not have the same offensive production as Burke, I wouldn’t trade him for any other PG in the country. His inimitable defense means that Matta trusts him more than anyone else, so he doesn’t come off the floor much.
Really, what Ohio State needs is someone who is experienced and can make shots from long range. As difficult as this is to admit, and I may be ostracized from the OSU community for doing so, I guess I’d have to go with Zack Novak. He’s a senior utility man connecting on 43.3% of his three-pointers, and he’s stout on the defensive end, too.
Piggybacking off that last answer, do you think Thad Matta made a huge error by not recruiting Trey Burke? Note: Michigan fans will believe this regardless of your answer.
Again, I’d love it if Burke were wearing Scarlet and Gray, if only to keep him away from the Wolverines, but I don’t think Matta had much of a choice in the matter. There are only so many spots on the roster, and Craft, just a sophomore, is a four-year player. Shannon Scott pledged to become a Buckeye early on, and it wasn’t until after when Burke really started making a name for himself.
At this point, it’s hard to compare Scott and Burke because Michigan has asked the latter to do much more, and to his credit, he’s responded. In the offseason, Scott needs to work on his offensive game, and then maybe we’ll see him on the court with Craft more next year.
Even though he decided to play for The Team Up North, an epithet I guess we have readopted, I harbor no ill will toward Burke. He’s a hometown kid who probably would have played for Ohio State in a heartbeat. There was just no room for him.
Is there really any way you see Ohio State losing this game? What's your prediction, and how do you expect the game to play out?
Especially on the road, Ohio State is hardly infallible. Michigan absolutely has a chance of winning, particularly if they’re hitting their 3s because most likely, Ohio State won’t be able to counter from distance.
At Minnesota, Buford and Sullinger each came up huge, and while I’m not predicting 20+ points from them, I think both will score more than they did last time against the Wolverines. As for UM, I imagine they’ll also be more effective on the offensive side. Someone, probably Hardaway or Novak, will decide to shoot lights out.
Given that Michigan has a perfect home record this season and has played Ohio State tough in recent years in Ann Arbor, I’ll call a close game. A loss is certainly possible, but I already said something complimentary about Novak and I’d have to turn in my Buckeye card if I picked the Wolverines, too: Ohio State 66, Michigan 62
2/8/2012 – Michigan 64, Nebraska 46 – 18-7, 8-4 Big Ten
First half, second half
I cannot pretend that last night's game inspired soaring emotions in me. It was (eventually) a routine blowout of a very bad basketball team and the most interesting bit was the three minutes at the beginning of the second half when Michigan pushed the lead out to an insurmountable margin.
While it's nice to be irritated about a seven-point halftime lead and despondent at what the late flurry did to Michigan's Kenpom rankings, let's just hit the bullets/analysis section posthaste.
Always Hardaway first. Hardaway was 0/7 in the first half with five of those from three; in the second half he was 3/4 with the miss also from three and added three assists. He's still not rebounding much, though a single-game sample there is not reliable. Bad shots were significantly reduced. Most of his missed threes were good looks, and if there was a frustrating long two there was only one.
Progress or just playing Nebraska? We'll call the second half progress if only because the preceding 60 minutes were such poo. The nice thing about that half was the way Hardaway was used in the offense: catching off screens and diving to the basket without having to rely on his handle to beat a defender.
That should be a primary component of the offense going forward. Hardaway finished at the rim on a couple of those and hit Morgan for easy buckets on a couple others; the catch off the screen limits the time opponents have to sag off three point shooters and rake at Hardaway's dribble. Defenses will of course adjust to this, and then Michigan will have to move to something else in the cat and mouse game, but they'll be able to.
As for the shooting, I don't know. On WTKA this morning Craig Ross was advocating hypnosis, Ira was saying he needs to hook up with the hockey team's sports psychologist, and I declared Hardaway needed to commit a spine-shattering charge before being allowed to take a three. Then we decided all three should be implemented.
Beilein's offense is constructed such that Hardaway is going to have to take his share of threes, and as long as they're within the context of the offense that's fine. Eventually, one will go down.
Measuring the difference between Morris and Burke. Theory: Jordan Morgan usage is highly correlated with shot generation in general and especially by the point guard. Morgan's shooting percentage is unnaturally high because the vast bulk of his attempts are GRAAAA thunderdunks generated by the point guard (and Morgan's movement) or Morgan's ability to run the floor.
I was thinking about this during the game because the correlation between Morgan shot attempts and the efficiency of Michigan's offense was glaring. First half: one Morgan shot attempt (missed). Second half: four (all makes). Morgan usage is not only a sign of GRAAAA thunderdunks but an offense that is generating shots off of movement and penetration; it seems like it is correlated with increased eFG% from the rest of the team.
Anyway, Morgan-Morris-Burke survey says:
- Morgan w/ Darius Morris: 20% of shots @ 63%, 10.7 OREB rate, 19.2 TORate.
- Morgan w/ Trey Burke: 16.4% of shots @ 65%, 11.9 OREB rate, 25.7 TORate.
[OREB rate and TORate included because it seems like he should get more putbacks this year and that Morris apparently got him touches less likely to end up as turnovers.]
Burke has a ways to go before he's as Morris-level freakish shot-generating machine. He may never get there, which is okay since he's a much better shooter. This section primarily designed to wonder at what a meteor of a college player Morris was, and to shake a fist at his early departure.
Burke, though. Efficient day with 12 points on 7 shots and a 5-2 assist to TO ratio. If he improves as much as Morris did from freshman to sophomore year he will be a twenty-foot tall robot who shoots 130% from three.
Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, the usual. Between them: 5/9 from three, 5/7 from two, 5 assists, five steals, 0 turnovers, three fouls, and a partridge in a pear tree. The senior leadership here is damned tangible.
Anyone still talking crap about Douglass is an inveterate complainer. He has been okay to good on the offensive end of the floor and a great perimeter defender on the other end. Bo Spencer went 4 of 12, 1 of 6 from three.
As for Novak, he's hitting 43% from three and in the top 50 of various Kenpom stats; he's also providing the usual torrent of grit. Quality players who will be missed.
Vogrich. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes. Let it ride. Please, please, please let that be a sign that Vogrich can be a useful role player down the stretch. Going six deep is asking for it.
Paging Smotrycz to aisle things that exist. The only things separating Smotrycz from a 13-minute trillion were:
- A defensive rebound.
- Two fouls.
- A turnover.
Not so good, there. Remember when we were complaining about Smotrycz's tendency towards silly fouls because Michigan was crippled without him on the court? Yeah… long time ago. Just as long as "oh God, the hockey tourney streak is dead."
Playing at the five is clearly uncomfortable but Michigan has few other options with Horford sidelined. I actually think they should roll with McLimans a bit more in situations where opposing bigs can't shoot free throws, if only for the defensive rebounding. Smotrycz was ripping them down as a 4 and things have fallen off considerably now that most of his minutes are backing up Morgan.
Even that's not much of a solution. Michigan's just going to have to suck it up and pray that Morgan doesn't get inappropriately handsy in the wrong game. He's been doing a much better job of staying on the floor of late, FWIW. His fouls per 40 is down to 4.0.
This should get a lot better next year with no departures and McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt all suddenly available for post minutes. It's actually going to be hard to find minutes for everyone next year. And they'll be tall. It's going to be weird.
Trillion watch. Colton Christian picked up a two trillion; Bartelstein and Person were missed FGAs away from the same.
2/5/2012 – Michigan 54, Michigan State 64 – 17-7, 7-4 Big Ten
Playing in Breslin without any tall people was exactly as frustrating as you would expect; Kenpom nailed that particular game down to the point. The way things played out was equally as easy to predict. Michigan struggled immensely to generate shots after Izzo locked down most of Michigan's tricks and niblets. Easy buckets reduced, State annihilated Michigan on the boards, and that was that.
It's hard to get worked up about that after the fact. It was painful during; after it was obvious. The four factors graph might as well read "chalk":
Michigan lost this game on the boards.
This is the kind of thing I was talking about after the Ohio State game. There's only so much you can do when you're running out one guy taller than 6'5" against very large men in a hostile environment. Michigan is at a severe disadvantage against teams with elite size and athleticism.
That's no shame. It does make games like Sunday's uphill battles dependent on lighting it up from three. If this was part of, say, a decade-long slump with no light at the end of the tunnel it might be an occasion to rend the garments a little further. In the context of the last two years of Michigan basketball it's just another indication that Michigan isn't quite there yet.
Since the direction is clear, patience is easy. Two or three hours after the game, anyway.
Michigan has pulled through their brutal Kenpom stretch 3-3 with only the first ten minutes against Arkansas a real disappointment. At this point a tournament bid is basically in the bag. They need two more wins to hit .500 and have seven opportunities to do so, two of which are against Nebraska and Penn State. After fighting through six games against Kenpom top ten opponents in the first 11 games, they have just one in their final seven. Realistic goals include a 12-6 conference record—Beilein's best ever in a power conference—and a Sweet 16 seed.
I'll take it.
Oh, Hardaway. That game was the tipping point when the internet stopped whispering about what's going on with Tim Hardaway Jr. and started yelling uncomplimentary things. And… after going 1 for 10 and meekly saying "thank you sir" on a first-half MSU layup in the midst of months and months of clanged long shots it's hard to disagree with even the foamiest internet commenters.
Hardaway has been a huge disappointment. Burke is a freshman and not Darius Morris. He can only do so much. He needs help and he's getting more of it from Stu Douglass than Hardaway over the past six or seven games. It would be one thing if Hardaway was just in a shooting slump; add in the bad defense and bad shot selection and it's… well, it's not good.
I'm at a loss as to where to go from here: Hardaway is hugely inefficient and his defense is indifferent at best but the main option off the bench in his stead is a three-point specialist shooting 21%. There's nothing you can do except ride the lightning and hope some of those twos from right inside the three point line go down. Michigan just has to live with it and hope he starts finding a scoring touch.
At least the NBA isn't a threat, amirite?
BONUS disappointment: Michigan really needs Hardaway to rebound in this small lineup since he's the second-biggest and most-athletic guy; he had one offensive and one defensive as MSU grabbed almost half of their misses. On the season he's rebounding almost exactly as well as Trey Burke. I just don't know, man.
Novak and Douglass. Nails in this game just like they've been in virtually every other game. Novak was 5 of 8 for 14 points; Douglass only had five points but put up five assists and no turnovers. That's especially impressive when Michigan only had 19 made field goals.
Novak had a hand in Green's face as he knocked down a ton of tough fallaway jumpers; not much you can do about that.
There is small and there is too small. The Smotrycz at the five thing is maybe something you can get away with for a few minutes per game. It is not suited for all of Evan's minutes. Blake McLimans may not be great but at least putting him out there is less of a hilarious mismatch against whoever the post dude is.
Assuming the OSU game is a longshot this will not be hugely relevant down the stretch except against Illinois, whose best offense is tossing it to seven-footer Myers Leonard in the post and seeing what happens. The rest of their offense is Brandon Paul running around being inefficient. Michigan needs to find a way to neutralize the Leonard matchup, and that's not putting Smotrycz on the block.
Well fine then. Draymond Green backed it up.
It is difficult enough to win on the road, but with the current makeup of this team, we will lose to teams like Michigan State and Ohio and even some lesser teams--like Arkansas--that are able to surgically pinpoint our major weaknesses via their own specific approach to the game of basketball. I realize that is a little bit of an unfair (and crude) point to make, as teams like MSU and Ohio are very good teams; most teams lose to them. That is why they are ranked so highly. With that said, after these sorts of games have ended, I've been fairly at ease. As fun as this season has been, we are not even close to being on the same level as these sorts of opponents. Perhaps that will change next year when talented reinforcements will bring skills sets that Ann Arbor hasn't seen in some time. I guess this is all a roundabout way of saying that the way the Spartans beat us was not at all surprising, and that I guess this isn't so negative after all since I'm not all that upset. If you can't tell, sometimes I devote many more words to a simple concept than are probably necessary; it's a personal flaw of mine.
UMHoops recap. I don't think "chemistry" is the problem with Hardaway's play. It doesn't take chemistry to rebound and play D, or choose good shots. Photos from UMHoops. Baumgardner on how MSU slowed Burke. UMHoops rounds up Big Ten action.