"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
2013-14 purdue #1
1/30/2014 – Michigan 75, Purdue 67 – 16-4, 8-0 Big Ten
Albrecht is one of six Wolverines hitting 38% or better from three [Bryan Fuller]
When your friend asks what Purdue is like this year and you tell him that they are the same bunch of inexplicable bricklayers they were a year ago, there's always that trepidation in the back of your mind. Did I just doom Michigan to witness the Johnson and Johnson and Johnson three point spectacular first-hand?
For one, one of the Johnsons is gone. For two, if you spent this game looking exclusively at the rim Purdue was shooting at you'd come away with the impression that their form was borrowed from Rory Delap.
Michigan struggled with the ensuing rebounds because the normal rules about how to position yourself no longer applied. Missed shots generally pop off the top of the rim and go to the back side. These were going anywhere; on one memorable occasion Michigan gave up an offensive rebound because the shooter left a ten-foot floater so short that it bounced right back to his chest. On several other occasions Michigan players had to snap their head back lest a basketball travelling at speed ricochet into their faces. I'm pretty sure at one point Jordan Morgan asked a Boilermaker "you know we're not playing squash, right?" He responded by flinging a ball really hard in the general vicinity of the backboard.
That's just how it goes for Purdue these days. They're 10th in the conference at making twos; tenth at making threes; dead last at making free throws. They were much the same last year save for the presence of DJ Byrd, who vaguely propped up their three-point percentage. That solitary bit of green in Purdue's shooting stats in the post-Hummel era comes with a massive caveat, though: Purdue took fewer threes than all but six of the 345 D-I basketball teams.
Threes are good shots. Very successful bug people masquerading as humans have built entire programs around not allowing them to be launched while launching many themselves. Purdue regards them as poison, because for them they are.
Meanwhile, when Nik Stauskas comes off a screen and takes a pull up long two I'm not even mad anymore.
I feel this deserves a group hug of some variety. I hate long twos. They are odious rejection of math, unless Michigan is shooting them. Nowadays I just think "well, that's probably going in." Michigan shot over 60% from two for the fifth time(!) in eight conference games and stroked over half of their three pointers for the second consecutive outing. The following players launched jumpers that I felt were probably going in as soon as they left their shooters' hand: Stauskas, Robinson, LeVert, Horford, Morgan, Albrecht, Irvin, Walton. That is everybody.
Purdue fans must have looked on at this like cavemen discovering fire, or amoebas recently out-evolved. As a Michigan fan I remember what it was like, and think there but for the grace of six to eight players on Michigan's roster go I.
You keep telling yourself that the thing is unsustainable and then they keep proving you wrong. At some point is the expectation that Michigan can beat just about anyone by launching whenever they get a window of space? You keep waiting for that game where their shooting fails them and they collapse in a heap, but Michigan just banged in 11 of 19 threes at the Breslin Center. When is it going to get, you know, hard?
At some point, surely. This is the belief required both by reason and superstition. But every time Stauskas goes from velocity to perfect airborne stillness it gets a little harder to remember that.
But Mitch, I am contemplating the duality of existence. Ask for Mitch/Horford shots and ye shall receive.
HI JON DID YOU KNOW I USED TO BE A MUPPET [Fuller]
Aside from the shooting, how did you like the play? Not very much at all, old-timey newspaper reporter of legend. This was a very frustrating game to watch when Michigan was not banging in everything they threw up. Which wasn't that often. But still.
Michigan's sixteen turnovers would have done them in against many opponents, and they kept Purdue vaguely in it after Michigan had pushed out to a double-digit lead midway through the first half. A number were extremely sloppy. I can live with Stauskas trying to thread the needle for an assist and getting picked off; not so much LeVert having his pocket picked at the time line. A return of Morgan's hands issues was also unwelcome.
Turnovers both robbed Michigan of opportunities to continue making it rain and propped up Purdue's miserable offense by giving them transition opportunities; without that spate in the first half this game is a laugher by halftime.
The weird, lost rebounding war. The board war was significantly distorted by the fact that there were so many more opportunities for rebounds underneath Purdue's basket (41) than Michigan's (21), so 16 OREBs to 5 isn't quite the enormous blowout it seemed like at the time.
And while the 16 OREBs given up was frustrating, there was no one thing you could point to as the cause. No Boiler acquired more than two of those sixteen offensive rebounds and about half were weird bounces off bricks or scrums in which four or five players touched the ball until it popped out to someone or another.
Result of previous two bullets. Michigan easily won a game in which they had a whopping 19 fewer FGAs than their opponents. (This was not an MSU/Iowa thing where fouls distort that. Michigan shot 17 to Purdue's 15.) That's cool and all, but let's not try that again.
dunk courtesy Derrick Walton [Bryan Fuller]
Okay, Walton, okay. I was trying to pump the breaks a little bit after Walton's 19-point performance against MSU because I wasn't seeing a whole lot of activity in the half-court offense and the free throws distorted his stats.
I am full speed ahead after this one: 14 points on 7 shots, a couple of steals, and a number of nice assists, none prettier than the wrap-around to Jordan Morgan for an uncontested dunk. Moreover, the transition takes were finishes that featured impressive body control against good defenders—not Travis Trice—and he generated offense in the half-court. He may officially be Coming On, and if so that is bad, bad news for the Big Ten.
Come on guys, think of the computer rankings. Major Kenpom-time failure in this one, as the under 4 timeout saw Michigan up 15 with an excellent chance to hit the 17 point KP spread. Two missed front ends and a couple turnovers later Purdue walked out with their heads held high, because there's something about Purdue that makes them super interested in making final scores look good. (Remember Michigan versus Purdue during the Danny Hope era? Onside kicks down 4 scores with two minutes left, etc.)
As a result, Michigan slips to tenth in the all-important Kenpom rankings. If you guys are just going to do that I don't even know why you bother winning the game in the first place.
What is the opposite of the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars? Because Basil Smotherman is on it. I have been envisioning Basil Smotherman in my head for years, because his name is Basil Smotherman, and at no point did it cross my mind that he was a black guy.
I don't miss Glenn Robinson… yet. I may at some point in the future. Robinson was near invisible for the second straight game. He took a few threes and had one nice post move into a short jumper, and that was it. For almost the entire game he was stuck on one rebound; he had no assists. He was a ghost on the offensive side of the ball.
This is basically fine right now since Michigan can get any shot they want, but it's a bit worrisome that Lottery GRIII that showed up in flashes for the Big Ten season has gone into hibernation again. Just a bit. Maybe the next step on the pick and roll is incorporating the GRIII dive to the basket?
Caris carrying things. For the first time in a while it was someone other than Stauskas who seemed to have the primary offensive burden, and that was LeVert. It wasn't by much with Walton and Stauskas helping out significantly; it did seem like LeVert had stepped forward in this one.
The results weren't incredible: 14 points on 13 shot attempts, two assists against four turnovers. His issues were a main sticking point in the first half as Michigan strove and failed to truly blow the doors off. The eyeball test was kinder. Beilein afterwards:
“He can get to places that you can’t figure out, how’d he just get there?'
if he can cut down on the mistakes he can take the heat off Stauskas significantly.
On to the next team of Indiana bricklayers. Indiana, up next, is just like Purdue when it comes to shooting except their point guard can actually do it and they've got a guy (Will Sheehey) who believes he can but cannot, at least not this year. Think sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr.
I don't get it, man. You're in Indiana! You are within the most fertile ground of corner gunners in the country. Hell, Michigan has plundered Indiana for who-dat snipers for years now. Are you telling me there's not one Novak/Douglass/Albrecht around for these teams to pick up? More for Michigan, I guess.
Derrick Walton played perhaps the best game of his career [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Michigan fans worried about a sloppy, letdown performance after the Wolverines emerged unscathed from a brutal three-game stretch had a portion of their worst fears realized. They committed an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers tonight, including gaffes on three straight first-half possessions to give Purdue a brief one-point edge.
That didn't last long, however, as the home team simply couldn't miss against a porous Boilermakers defense. The final numbers: 21/33 from two and 7/13 from three for a remarkable 68.5 eFG%. Purdue managed to win the turnover and rebounding battles but few teams could've kept pace with Michigan's shooting this evening.
"We did just a wonderful job of getting good shots and doing just enough to win," said John Beilein in the postgame radio interview, and he may have been understating matters.
The backcourt essentially called their own shots all night. Nik Stauskas scored 16 points on 5/10 FGs, including an explosive blow-by reverse layup late in the first half and a couple now-signature pull-up jumpers in the second. Caris LeVert recorded his first career double-double with 14 points (5/11 FG), 11 rebounds, two assists, three steals, and two blocks; his highlights included a LeBron-esque jump stop layup plus the foul and a coast-to-coast layup off his own steal.
Then there was Derrick Walton, who built upon his career-high 19 points against Michigan State with a 14-point effort on just seven shots, of which he missed one, while also chipping in three assists and two steals. He looked more confident than ever working the pick and roll, getting to the basket routinely—big man butterfingers robbed him of a couple more assists. After AJ Hammons committed a lane violation on the front end of a one-and-one with three seconds left in the first half, Walton made Purdue pay dearly by covering the length of the court—splitting two defenders in the process—and finishing at the buzzer before Hammons could react to give Michigan a six-point halftime lead.
LeVert [left, Upchurch] and Stauskas [right, Fuller] both got whatever they wanted offensively.
By the second half, it seemed like Michigan's players were trying to one-up each other's plays. Walton dove into the lane and suddenly scooped a pass to a trailing Jordan Morgan, who finished with a layup for two of his 11 points. LeVert followed with his Olympic long jump tryout. Stauskas knocked down a heavily contested jumper from the stripe. Jon Horford worked his way into the paint and hit a turnaround fade away for two of his four points on the night. Zak Irvin responded to a Hammons dunk with a nothing-but-net triple from the wing.
Even though Michigan never played fully within themselves—the split their 16 turnovers evenly between the first and second halves—their ability to create and make good shots* was on full display. They were lucky that their worst turnover performance of the season by both rate and number came against an overmatched opponent; at the same time, it's tough to complain when they still managed to score 1.17 points per possession.
Caris LeVert made up for his four turnovers with some impressive transition defense, including two blocks (though Purdue recovered for a putback after one) and a clean strip that forced the Boilermakers to take the ball out of bounds after a two-on-one break. He used his length exceptionally on both ends in this one, consistently getting his hands on the ball whether it was in an opponent's hands or caroming off the rim.
Glenn Robinson III was a relative non-factor as the only starter to not score in double digits, finishing with eight points on six shots—though he did hit his first three-pointer since January 14th—and three rebounds in 36 minutes. He managed to get to the rim off a nice jab-step in an isolation situation, however, which was a good sign after a couple games in which he created very little in the halfcourt.
Spike Albrecht only played seven minutes due to Walton's superb outing, especially since Walton also played exceptional on-ball defense in this one, holding Terone Johnson to just four points (2/6 FG) and two assists to two turnovers. Spike made the most of his limited time, however, hitting his first layup in Big Ten play and draining a three-pointer on his only attempts.
The defense played well as a unit, forcing Hammons to work hard for his 16 points (7/14 FG), and the combination of Morgan and Horford limited him to just one offensive rebound; the guards contributed some nice help defense on him from the weak side, especially in the first half. (Nik Stauskas had three blocks all on this type of action if memory serves.) The team had issues boxing out, however, as Purdue rebounded 16 of their 37 misses (39%); while that's Purdue's M.O., it was still a weak area in an otherwise strong defensive performance.
*In Stauskas' case, just about any shot is a good shot.
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Purdue|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||9 pm Eastern, Thursday|
|LINE||Michigan -17 (KenPom)|
|TV||ESPN/WatchESPN (PBP: Joe Tessitore; Analyst: Sean Farnham)|
Right: Matt Painter could really use a hug (via)
Despite facing one of the easiest slates of Big Ten opponents thus far, Purdue is struggling mightily in conference play (3-4) after going 10-3 in non-conference action with just one victory over a KP100 squad. Matt Painter is trying just about every possible lineup combination to get things to click, including eight different starting lineups so far this year. How's that going, coach?
Purdue coach Matt Painter, on his rotation: "I'd like our guys to play better, so I'd know who the hell to play."
— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) January 27, 2014
Purdue boasts ten(!) players averaging over 13 minutes per game; all fall under the categories of inefficient high-usage player, low-usage role player, or Guy Named Johnson Who Jacks Up Ill-Advised Shots On The Regular.
Sophomore seven-foot center AJ Hammons falls into the first category despite shooting 55% from the floor, rebounding nearly 10% of Purdue's misses when he's on the court, and posting a monstrous 91.8 free throw rate. Why? He commits a turnover on over a quarter of his possessions and has just 11 assists all season. He's a superlative rebounder and shot-blocker, but his effort waxes and wanes without much warning; he's scored 16+ points in five games this year and seven or fewer in seven games, including no points against three TOs in 27 minutes against lowly Washington State and a two-point, three-turnover, three-foul performance in Purdue's most recent game, a home blowout loss at the hands of Wisconsin.
In his two starts last season against Michigan, Hammons combined to shoot 2/10 from the field with just four free-throw attempts, six rebounds, five turnovers, and two blocks. He could reverse course and have big game; he's just as liable to be a total non-factor. His backup, 6'10" freshman Jay Simpson, is actually doing better on the boards, but he's not a shot-blocker and is shooting under 45% from the field.
The essence of Hammons: frustration (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
The Boilermakers start a relatively small lineup aside from Hammons; the de facto four is 6'5", 222-pound freshman Basil Smotherman. Yes, his name is really Basil Smotherman. A defensive specialist, Smotherman is also Purdue's most effective scorer inside the arc, shooting 75.6% at the rim and 48.4% on two-point jumpers, to go with solid offensive rebounding and a low turnover rate; naturally, he's the lowest-usage starter.
6'5" sophomore guard Raphael Davis is listed as a probable starter in the game notes, though he normally gets less playing time than 6'6" freshman Kendall Stephens. Davis has a knack for getting to the line but otherwise doesn't add much production; his shot has been iffy this season. Stephens is a pure spot-up gunner shooting 36% on 118 three-point attempts and just 7/21 from inside the arc. Davis has started the last seven games but expect to see plenty of Stephens off the bench.
Brothers Terone and Ronnie Johnson round out the starting backcourt and represent the only two Boilermakers averaging double-digit points this season. Ronnie, the 6'0" point guard, has a very solid assist rate and has hit 12 of his 29 threes; he's also attempted 144 two-pointers, mostly of the jumper variety, and he's connecting on just 43% of those. Terone's two-point shooting line is quite similar—44% on 157 attempts—though he's at least focusing more of his attention on the outside, hitting 36% of his 68 3PAs. Both get to the line relatively frequently; both knock down their free throws in the 63-64% range.
Other backups of note are freshman guard Bryson Scott—a two-point chucker in the Brothers Johnson mold (NTBJ), hitting 36% of his 120 2PA while attempting just seven threes—and 6'6" Cornell transfer Errick Peck, a solid rebounder who posts decent shooting numbers and a high turnover rate in a marginal role. 6'0" Seattle transfer Sterling Carter is also liable to make a cameo; he's another pure shot-up gunner shooting... 19/70 from three this season, well below his career mark.
Purdue's lone KP100 victory came by three points at #63 West Virginia—not exactly a statement game—and they only faced two other such opponents, losing on neutral floors to #16 Oklahoma State and #100 Butler. Despite not facing Michigan, Michigan State, or Iowa so far in Big Ten play, the Boilermakers have gone just 3-4 with close wins at home against Penn State and Nebraska and away at Illinois. They lost a double-OT game at Northwestern despite the Wildcats being down to six available players by the second overtime, got blown out at home by Ohio State and Wisconsin, and dropped a close one against Minnesota at The Barn.
KenPom favors Purdue in just two more games this season. This is not one of them.
Now that we're partway into conference play, I'll start posting four factors charts for all the games and Big Ten games only, with sample size issues obviously coming into play on the latter for a while.
Four factors, all games (national ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||47.6 (258)||16.7 (68)||37.2 (30)||39.2 (209)|
|Defense||45.8 (52)||18.0 (207)||31.0 (152)||40.6 (171)|
Conference-only (seven games, Big Ten ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||42.3 (10)||16.7 (6)||36.7 (1)||36.8 (8)|
|Defense||46.8 (5)||14.6 (11)||24.4 (2)||41.1 (8)|
Despite featuring a talented seven-footer, Purdue is dead last in the conference in two-point shooting (40.7%)(!), and their three-point shooting isn't much better—ninth in the B1G with a 30.7% mark. They're also ninth in free-throw percentage, last in shots blocked, and somehow posting a worse eFG% in transition (47.0%) than in non-transition possessions (47.8%).
Their defense is in the middle of the Big Ten pack, though a fair amount of luck appears to be bolstering their numbers; Purdue is last in the league in 3PA/FGA (39.3%) and first in 3P% against (28.8%). This is mostly due to Northwestern's woeful 4/24 3P performance in their matchup; Minnesota went 11/24 from beyond the arc against Purdue, so this team is susceptible to getting lit up from the outside, and their two-point defense is well below average despite Hammons' inside presence. The one thing they're consistently good at on both ends is rebounding.
Attack Hammons early. Hammons is Purdue's only real rim protector. He's also relatively foul-prone. If Michigan can find a way to get him in early foul trouble—whether by driving right at him, forcing him away from the basket with high screens, or taking charges on the other end—then the interior will be theirs for the taking.
Box out. Purdue can't really shoot, but they can rebound, and rely largely on putbacks to generate points. Hammons and Simpson are obviously the biggest worries here, though Smotherman and Peck are also excellent offensive rebounders; the bigs must stay disciplined on the boards and the guards might have to help out—a repeat of Caris LeVert's eight-rebound performance (all defensive) against MSU would be quite welcome.
Look to run. The Boilermakers' tendency to chuck off-target jumpers and crash the boards should lead to plenty of transition opportunities if Michigan wants to take advantage. The last few games have featured great outlet passing from not just Morford, but also perimeter players like LeVert and Stauskas. Expect to see some fast break fireworks and a nice bounce-back game for GRIII as a result.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 17
The all-Johnson backcourt is a point of contention because Purdue rises and falls with them. When they are good, Purdue looks great. When they are off, Purdue looks pretty terrible and things like the Northwestern game happen. I feel like we rely on them too much to the point where other guys defer to them even when they struggle.
As for [Terone Johnson] on Stauskas, I don't trust Purdue defensively at all. We're a long way away from being able to play lockdown defense on anyone. There is just no edge with this team. There is no pride in playing Purdue-style basketball that we have been known for since Gene Keady started.
The dripping sound you just heard was Nik Stauskas drooling uncontrollably.
Hammer and Rails attempts to figure out what happened to Matt Painter's program. Brian linked this earlier but seriously look at Caris LeVert's numbers compared to Tim Hardaway's last season. Congratulations, Michigan State, on receiving the fugliest of Nike's new lineup of alternate jerseys. The Michigan-MSU game at Crisler has been set for a noon tipoff on February 23rd.