I have a copy of the Kentucky game. I went so far as to open it in the program I use to make GIFs, because despite the outcome I thought Caris LeVert's block/tie-up of Julius Randle was worth GIFing for future reference. Naturally, CBS showed one useless replay angle and cut off the second, useful angle halfway through the play.
There will be no Kentucky GIFs today.
Anyway, the Tennessee game worked out much better and also provided several great moments, none more important than the charge Jordan Morgan drew on Jarnell Stokes:
I know this is an utterly pointless exercise, but this call has been much-discussed—was it really a charge, or did Morgan just hit the deck at the first sign of contact?
Unless you want to argue that Morgan committed a blocking foul—dubious, in my opinion—then the answer is irrelevant. Watch Caris LeVert poke the ball away as the contact occurs; watch how the ball voodoo-spins and somehow stays inbounds, and LeVert making the heads up play to go after it until the whistle blows. If this had been a no-call, it would've been a steal, and the song remains the same.
Since Stokes lowered his shoulder like he was Marshawn Lynch in the open field against a safety, this whole aside was probably unnecessary.
[Hit THE JUMP for the bench mob ending the season in style, Nik Stauskas going Harlem Globetrotter, DEATH FROM ABOVE, and more.]
After the charge. [Dustin Johnston/UMHoops]
As it turned out, the Sweet Sixteen matchup between Michigan and Tennessee was determined by mismatches up front.
Jeronne Maymon couldn't handle Glenn Robinson III without fouling—or stay in front of any of Michigan's perimeter players—while Jordan Morgan outscored and outrebounded Jarnell Stokes, then all but sealed the victory by taking a charge when Tennessee called Stokes's number with a chance to win the game.
It started with Robinson, who opened the game with an easy blow-by against Maymon for a layup, stymied his post-up opportunity on the other end, and then drew the Tennessee big man's first foul. That set the early tone—Tennessee couldn't hang with Michigan's offense while playing two bigs, but their lack of depth meant going without one also hurt them dearly.
When Maymon checked back in, he quickly picked up his second foul on a Morgan and-one. After another stint on the bench, he allowed Caris LeVert to swoop by him for an easy two and found himself on the pine once again. Maymon would finish with two points, three rebounds—just one offensive—and four fouls in 17 minutes. Robinson scored 13 on nine shots, pulled down five boards (two off.), and held his own in the post for 39 minutes.
With Maymon neutralized, it appeared Michigan would win with ease. Tennessee's defense opened up, and the Wolverines took advantage, hitting 7-of-9 three-pointers in the first half; their 45 first-half points were the most ceded by the Volunteers all season. Uncharacteristically, the only significant category Michigan didn't win in the first half was turnovers; that'd turn out to be an omen, and not a good one.
I'll assume you watched the game, and therefore spare you the gory details of Tennessee's second-half run that, based on my Twitter feed, drove everyone not obligated to write a game recap to drink heavily. (Don't worry, I'll join you degenerates soon.) The turnovers kept coming. Nik Stauskas, who'd score 14 points on 13 shots, went cold from the outside. Jordan McRae, who finished with a game-high 24 points, kept finding his way to the basket.
A blown out of bounds call that somehow held upon review, a turnover after Robinson couldn't handle a lob to halfcourt, and another inbounds turnover when LeVert caught the ball with a foot on the line; that sequence set up the Vols, once down 15 in the second half, with the ball down just one point with nine seconds on the clock.
That's when Morgan, who led Michigan with 15 points and seven rebounds, made a play reminiscent of last year's Syracuse game. Tennessee's plan was simple: post up Stokes. That plan backfired when Morgan anticipated Stokes's drive, beat him to the spot, and planted his feet as Stokes lowered his shoulder into Morgan's chest. In the most Jordan Morgan play of them all, Michigan's lone senior drew a charge, refusing to allow his career to end on this night.
Michigan's early shooting bonanza—helped mightily by the freshman duo of Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin, who combined to hit 5-of-5 triples—allowed them to survive a late storm that they helped create with sloppy play. It wasn't pretty. A lot of it wasn't fun. But they survived.
On the backs of two of the more scrutinized players to come through this program—Morgan, too soft/untalented/unskilled to center a real contender; Robinson, too soft/one-dimensional/reliant on his athleticism to live up to his five-star billing—Michigan made the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season. In the regional final, whether they play Louisville or Kentucky, they'll face a mismatch or two; they might just create a couple themselves, too.
Michigan (27-8, 15-3 B1G) vs.
Tennessee (24-12, 11-7 SEC)
Colts Location Stadium,
|WHEN||7:15 pm Eastern, Friday|
|LINE||Tennessee -1 (KenPom)|
Win or go home.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||2||Antonio Barton||Sr.||6'2, 178||63%||17%||Yes|
|Main redeeming quality is low TO rate. shoots 42/32, low usage.|
|G||1||Josh Richardson||Jr.||6'6, 190||76%||16%||Sort of|
|Efficient shooter until 3, where he's 34%. Good at twos of all varieties.|
|G||52||Jordan McRae||Sr.||6'6, 185||80%||29||No|
|Shoulders massive O burden, shooting meh, TOs low. Athlete.|
|F||5||Jarnell Stokes||Jr.||6'8, 260||81%||26||N/A|
|Board monster has a little range but not much. Box out at all costs.|
|C||34||Jeronne Maymon||Sr.||6'8, 260||71%||20||N/A|
|Cameron Ridley 2.0. Board monster 2.0. Not great except on putbacks.|
|G||4||Armani Moore||So.||6'5, 215||28%||13||Very|
|Offensive nonentity spots starters and tries to play D.|
|G||15||Darius Thompson||Fr.||6'5, 181||40%||15||Very|
|Offensive nonentity spots starters and tries to play D.|
|C||23||Derek Reese||So.||6'8, 215||16||15||Very|
|Generic large man. Massive downgrade from starters.|
Jordan McRae is from the Hardaway/Sullinger school of yellin'.
Tennessee is Texas after a power mushroom. Their bigs are more intimidating on the boards; their guards are literally a Super Mario version of the Texas backcourt.
The offense revolves around senior Jordan McRae, a 6'6" jack of all trades who is in fact listed at 15 pounds lighter than Caris LeVert, if you can believe that. Everything you need to know about McRae is encapsulated in this DraftExpress scouting video:
That is a preaseason video that is a bit pessimistic, as McRae has improved his A:TO a meaningful amount. The rest of his stats are static so it's reasonable to assume it is otherwise on point.
McRae is not much of an isolation creator. He's effective at the rim but doesn't get there much on his own volition and his assist rate is pretty mediocre for a guy who has such a large usage rate. LeVert will draw that matchup; it's a pretty good one for him. McRae is a guy he can stay in front of. Hopefully!
You probably know fellow wing Josh Richardson from an inadvisable statement made to the media about his upcoming defensive assignment against Nik Stauskas:
“It’s just another player,” Richardson said. “I’ve been guarding guys like that for a while now. It’s nothing new.”
Yeah, the SEC is just loaded with guys like Stauskas. Take, say, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. That's the ticket.
Anyway, Richardson is a relatively low-usage jump shooter who is effective on jumpers inside the line (43%) that he gets himself. He's decent behind the line at 34%, where he takes about a third of his shots. He is UT's designated perimeter stopper, as well.
Point guard and Memphis transfer Antonio Barton is the closest thing to a designated shooter Tennessee has, with about 60% of his FGAs coming from beyond the arc. Unfortunately for the Vols he hits those at a 33% clip. Inside the arc he's even less efficient at 42%, because he rarely gets to the rim and is a miserable two point jump shooter. Barton was a 40% guy in a reasonable number of minutes at Memphis, so maybe the best idea is to run him off the line and watch him try to pull up off the bounce. Things don't go well when that happens.
One thing these three gentlemen have going for them is a collective turnover rate that is super low. Tennessee's happy to pull up for a two pointer that's not the world's best look because of…
Stokes and Maymon are the best pair of rebounders in the country.
The Volunteer posts both crush the boards at both ends and get to the line. "Fridge on wheels" Jarnell Stokes is in the Kenpom POY top ten thanks to a 15% OREB rate—huge for an individual—and a McGary-like 23% DREB rate. He gets half his shots at the rim thanks in large part to that offensive rebounding. He's a decent shooter from the post, as well. DraftExpress projects him as a second-rounder in the upcoming draft if he decides to enter, and praises his inside game:
He catches everything thrown his way, and has very good touch around the basket, which, along with his length, helps compensate for the fact that he's not a naturally explosive leaper and doesn't possess the most diverse post-arsenal at this stage of his development. … some ball-handling ability from the mid-post, and a decent looking mid-range jumper. … always been a phenomenal rebounder—and that held true in Colorado Springs. He has suction cups for hands and a terrific knack for pursuing loose balls out of his area, particularly on the offensive glass, where he was dominant at times.
Michigan has to figure out whether they're going to stick Morgan on this dude or Jeronne Maymon. Maymon is the more center-like of the posts in disposition—Stokes is about 50/50 between shots at the rim and two point jumpers, while Maymon is 75/25 and terrible at the jumpers—but Stokes is probably taller since he sometimes gets listed at 6'9" while Maymon sometimes gets listed at 6'7". Normally I'd say Morgan gets Maymon, but I guess I prefer the less brutal rebounding mismatch. If Maymon tries to post GRIII so be it.
FWIW, Tennessee folk are universally assuming Robinson gets matched with Maymon and Morgan takes Stokes.
And then the bottom drops out. Here is one dollar that says Tennessee has the worst bench of any team that made the tournament. All show up in the "limited roles" section of Kenpom and get slender minutes with which they do very little. All can be ignored on the perimeter, as they collectively shoot about 22% from three.
Derek Reese is the backup big; he hasn't taken a shot since March 8th. He hasn't made one in a game that was competitive since… uh… January 15th? He rebounds well enough on defense and that's about his only contribution. He gets about ten minutes a game giving the starters a breather.
Armani Moore and Darius Thompson are the backup guards. Thompson has the highest assist rate on the team… and a TO rate even higher. He's seeing about 16 minutes a game in the last couple months, and he takes about two shots on a average in that time. He does get a lot of steals; he'll be used as a defensive pest on Stauskas. Moore's role is similar; he gets in the game and plays D and passes it around the perimeter to someone who won't get shot by the coach if he tries to create a shot.
Tennessee had a weird nonconference split with Xavier, losing in Cinci to open their season and getting their revenge in their neutral-court tournament. They also lost to UTEP by eight on a neutral court, Wichita State by nine at Wichita, and at home to NC State. In opposition to this what-the-hell-are-they-doing-in-the-tournament nonconference schedule they place a 35-point blowout of Virginia. As we said, man, Tennessee is weird.
In conference Tennessee was no less weird, blowing out all manner of opposition and somehow dropping games to Texas A&M (twice), Vanderbilt, and Missouri to go along with more understandable losses to Florida (twice) and Kentucky. Tennessee has a tendency to absolutely pound face when they win a game. It's just that they've lost twelve of them already despite playing a not particularly challenging nonconference schedule and against a not particularly challenging conference. Go figure.
In the post season, Tennessee blew out South Carolina before losing for a third time to Florida in the SEC tournament. Then they won an OT game against Iowa before hammering Massachusetts and Mercer. It should be noted that Tennesse's only games against the Kenpom top 50 are the following:
- Wichita State: L 70-61
- Virginia: W 87-52
- Kentucky: L 74-66
- Three losses to Florida
- Iowa: W 78-65 (OT)
They're… just so weird.
Tennessee is a beast on the boards, rebounding almost 40% of their misses. They get to the line decently and are efficient once there—something they have over Texas—and take care of the ball. The main issue with their offense is a lack of three point shooting.
On defense, they look a lot like a version of Michigan that could keep guys away from the basket: few TOs forced, good rebounding, few fouls committed. But unlike Michigan they do a good job of defending shots—40th nationally. And as mentioned, the scariest thing about their statistical profile is what appears to be a sustained and effective emphasis on preventing opponents from getting threes off.
Tennessee is not a team that uses a lot of tempo. They get about 18% of their shots in transition and their shooting in those situations is barely better than the rest of their offense; a full 10% of their shots come with five or less on the shot clock. They don't have a dynamic guy to push the ball up the floor, they aren't a team to fear a transition three from much, and they're thin. They'll want to keep it slow.
Draw fouls, all the fouls. Ace talked about this in his post earlier this week: when Tennessee gets in foul trouble they collapse.
Maymon's had 4+ fouls in eight games this season. Tennessee has lost six of them.
Both wins were against Auburn. Tennessee has a veteran, intimidating starting five and zero depth behind it. Precisely zero depth.
Tennessee can sustain a hit to Richardson or Barton, who don't command large roles in the offense. If McRae, Stokes, or Maymon is saddled with foul trouble, Tennessee's chance to win goes through the floor.
Go to the rack. A corollary to the first bullet. Tennessee's depth and style of play means the balance of power between shooting hilariously accurate long range shots and going to the bucket shifts. Go to the rack.
If Stauskas or LeVert gets hit with a charge, that is 1) not likely to mean anything in terms of their playing time and 2) even if it does it paves the way for Zak Irvin to rain on people. If Stauskas or LeVert draws a foul on one of Tennessee's big three, orange collars start getting tight.
Michigan should make a concerted effort to go at the basket, especially given the fact that Tennessee is committed to preventing threes and doesn't block shots.
[@ right: Bryan Fuller]
Cope on the boards as best you can. Part of the overwhelming Texas surge in the second half was Longhorn desperation. In a more normal first half, Texas was content to send their two bigs to the board and see what happened. They got about 30% of their misses. In the second, they inserted a third 6'8" guy and sent everyone who wasn't the shooter to the board because they felt they weren't stopping Michigan anyway and needed every bucket. They got 70% of their misses
Michigan needs to get out of dodge with a 30% Tennessee OREB rate, not 70% or 52%. Unless Michigan has just rained it on the Vols to the point where they're as desperate as Texas. Failing that, Maymon versus GRIII on the boards is a big chunk of the game. Morgan will probably get beat by Stokes, but not so badly Michigan can't weather it.
Push tempo. They are thin. Maymon may be listed at 260 but let's be real people. Play like MSU in this one, with their irritating go go go go even after makes. If you don't have it, fine. You've discombobulated them a bit.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Tennessee by one.
…which team has had the most success in the last five minutes of a game, regardless of whether it was leading or trailing?
One way to do this would be to use win probabilities. If a team had a 99 percent chance to win with five minutes left and ultimately won, its play in the last five minutes would be worth .01 wins. This method rewards the teams that make big comebacks or win games that were effectively tossups with five minutes remaining over the ones that coast in with big leads, which any team could do given the chance.
Here’s that list, using my win probability model, and wins gained over the past five seasons as the ranked statistic.1 Massachusetts +11.8 2 Colorado +10.9 3 New Mexico +10.2 4 Robert Morris +9.8 5 Western Kentucky +9.2 6 Louisiana Tech +8.9 7 Loyola MD +8.9 8 San Diego St. +8.8 9 Mississippi +8.6 10 Michigan +8.6
Michigan finishes a respectable 30th in the last minute, and then ninth in wins added in the second half. It doesn't matter what frame of reference you want to look at. Michigan performs better as the game goes along and is outstanding at closing games out. Why? Well, they hit a lot of free throws and don't turn the ball over and when they're down late they can get back in a hurry with a three.
Both of these teams swept Tennessee. One is good. One is not.
Tennessee is such a strange team—capable of beating Virginia by 35 or getting swept by Texas A&M—that a look at a game or two of film seemed like a potentially huge waste of time. Instead, I went through the box scores and available highlights of each of the Volunteers's 12 losses in an effort to find some common threads. Without further ado, here's the breakdown of each game, with a Michigan-centric overview at the end of the post.
All rankings reflect the current KenPom standings, which have Tennessee at #6.
#59 XAVIER 67, TENNESSEE 63 (Nov. 12, Away)
Key Tennessee stats: 16/38 2-pt, 8/19 3-pt, 7/19 FT, 35% OR, 17% TO
Key Xavier stats: 24/46 2-pt, 2/8 3-pt, 13/24 FT, 41% OR, 25% TO
Breakdown: Xavier led wire-to-wire in Tennessee's season opener despite missing two starters. They were helped by terrible shooting inside the arc by the Vols, as well as significant foul trouble for Tennessee's two bigs—Jarnell Stokes fouled out in 20 minutes and Jeronne Maymon had four fouls in 27. Xavier exploited this by generating a ton of shots inside the arc and rebounding far better than Tennessee's opponents normally do. The Volunteer bench, meanwhile, scored just six points in 57 minutes of playing time. Score one for "get the bigs in foul trouble" as a huge key to beating UT.
#96 UTEP 78, TENNESSEE 70 (Nov. 28, Neutral Site)
Key Tennessee stats: 19/42 2-pt, 3/21 3-pt, 23/39 FT, 54% OR, 21% TO
Key UTEP stats: 26/40 2-pt, 3/10 3-pt, 17/26 FT, 23% OR, 19% TO
Breakdown: Once again, shooting struggles got Tennessee into an early hole. Once again, foul trouble didn't help, as Maymon fouled out of this one in 22 minutes — he'd been bad anyway, going 1/6 from the field. I don't know if there's much to analyze from this, especially from Michigan's perspective. The Vols shot poorly enough that rebounding over half their misses didn't help much, and UTEP is one of the tallest teams in the country—they played five players standing at least 6'8" for 10+ minutes in this game.
[Hit THE JUMP for ten more losses and my takeaways from a Michigan perspective.]
BECAUSE IT'S ILLEGAL TO ENTER AN EMPLOYEE
Somewhere a Tennessee blog is posting a picture of Cato June chasing Jason Witten
So about that Kenpom rank. The good news for Michigan is that they've drawn an 11-seed in the Sweet 16. The bad news for Michigan is that they've drawn the incredibly rare team to have a Kenpom ranking well above their seed line—after their three-game run they are all the way up to sixth(!) in that rating system.
We talk a lot about Kenpom around these parts, but one of the things that's always seemed a little off about his rankings is how lopsided games have a disproportionate impact. Tennessee has had a lot of those. They've also lost 7 SEC games. They are 23-12. Is Tennessee really the sixth-best team in the country, or 11th as they were at the beginning of the tournament? Probably not. Ask Kenpom himself:
I'm not foolish enough to believe the Vols are the 11th-best team in the land (the Sagarin and Massey predictive systems both have Tennessee ranked in the mid-20s). But it's clear Tennessee, coached by Cuonzo Martin, is better than the typical No. 11 seed. It's also obvious the Vols are very difficult to evaluate based on the limited information available to us.
Tennessee is a weird team. It takes a weird team to blow out Virginia and outscore the SEC by 0.14 points a possession—Michigan, 15-3 Big Ten champ, only managed 0.09—and end up one of the last teams in the field because it went 11-7 in a conference that was fifth-best nationally and only had one team seeded above an 8.
When computers run up against weird teams, weird things get spit out. Kenpom's got an algorithm and he only changes it when he can find something that makes it more accurate over the ten seasons of data he's got, as he did when he tried out reducing the influence of blowouts in mismatches. (IE, he mitigated The Wisconsin Problem.) But there's not much you can do with a team that has a set of results as bizarre as the Vols.
Even if the algorithm is irrationally exuberant about the Vols it has to be given some credit for calling UT's outright domination of a higher-seeded UMass in the first round, and they would have given Duke all they would handle. Vegas, too, believes this is not a typical 11-versus-2 matchup, as they opened the line up at –1.5. Kenpom has the Vols by one. It's not a huge analytical difference. It's about which side of the coinflip you shade to. Tennessee may be an 11, but they're much better than their seed. Better than Michigan? Eh… we'll see.
And about that Texas comparison. It remains close. Similarities:
- Frontcourt size. Both Texas and Tennessee deploy two 6'8"+ guys at all times. The center is a widebody type, with a more athletic 4 man. Texas has way more post depth; Tennessee's starters are even better rebounders. PF Jarnell Stokes in particular is a McGary-level beast on the boards, 13th in OREB and 65th in DREB nationally.
- Board murderin'. Team OREB rates are near identical, with both teams acquiring almost 40% of their misses.
- Shooting issues. Tennessee is even worse from three than Texas is, but they shoot more. Go-to guy Jordan McRae is decent, as is Josh Richardson. Everyone else is bad. Tennessee's backups have combined to go 33/135 on the year; PG Antonio Barton is at 33%. Collectively the Vols are 282nd from deep.
- Passive defense. Texas and Tennessee both force few turnovers. Tennessee has a defensive profile a lot like a better Michigan: few FTAs, good rebounding, bad at forcing turnovers, Tennessee is a lot better at FG D.
- Backcourt size: Texas had no one who could reasonably contest jumpers from LeVert and Stauskas, with no one taller than 6'2" other than their posts. Tennessee goes 6'6", 6'6", 6'2" down the roster. They'll be a match for Michigan's size.
- Experience. Tennessee starts three seniors and two juniors. Texas starts three sophomores, a junior, and a freshman.
- Shot blocking. Tennessee doesn't do much of it, preferring to lock down the defensive boards and avoid fouls.
- Transition. Tennessee is a slow team, one that has fewer transition opportunities than Michigan and finishes them at a mediocre 55%. Texas tries to speed things up to help their bad half court offense.
- Depth. Texas has two solid bench players in Lammert and Martez Walker. Tennessee has a bunch of no-usage guys who don't do much more than eat minutes without bringing the world to a screeching halt.
- Preventing threes. Perhaps the most worrying issue for Michigan in comparison to Texas is that Tennessee doesn't give up many threes. That's not a schedule thing, either, as they were second in the league in that department. Texas gives up buckets of threes. This is not a fluke. Tennessee gave up buckets of threes in Bruce Pearl's tenure (best ranking in last three years of Pearl: 289th). When Cuonzo Martin arrived that number immediately plummeted and stayed there (worst ranking: 33rd).
So, yes, a version of Texas that is bigger and a lot better at playing fundamentally solid, unspectacular defense that prevents Michigan from deploying their #1 weapon as easily as the Longhorns did. Do not expect a laugher.
Maybe don't let Jordan McRae run at the rim. Unless the ref is going to give him a ridiculous tech.
McRae and Stokes can get up. Seems likely that LeVert will get McRae as Stauskas matches up with Josh Richardson. If I was Michigan I would be tempted to sag off Barton, the PG, to give other guys some help. Keeping Tennessee away from the rim is a top priority. Easier said than done with this defense.
Zone? Michigan tried a 1-3-1 against Texas to little effect and then dumped it. Tennessee also fits the profile of a team that might be vulnerable to zoning, what with their dodgy three point shooting. Michigan's problem in the 1-3-1 is that it hasn't forced threes in the last few games, it's forced Spike Albrecht to guard 285 pound guys. It kind of feels like the 1-3-1 extends itself too far, or allows too many passes that don't loop over the defense. Its rebounding issues are exacerbated when it's generating short rebounds, too.
A 2-3 might be effective, but Michigan hasn't spent much time on it or played it at all. Seems like this will be a man to man affair unless Michigan gets itself in desperation mode.