"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
2013 ncaa tournament
|WHAT||Michigan vs Kansas|
|WHEN||7:37 PM Eastern, Friday|
|LINE||Michigan –1 (Kenpom)|
I'm putting this at the top here because it's good at providing a framework for the whole team. Four factors. Ranks are in parentheses and out of 347.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||53.2 (26)||20.4 (201)||34.1 (94)||40.3 (65)|
|Defense||41.1 (1)||18.5 (253)||29.2 (69)||32.3 (83)|
One game after taking on the #1 turnover-generating team Michigan takes on the #1 eFG% defense team. Kansas is #1 in two-point D and excellent at three-point D, probably because their perimeter defenders are long and do not have to sag as much. Withey solves a lot of problems in the paint, propelling the Jayhawks to #3 in block percentage basically by himself.
Weaknesses include TOs at both ends, though on defense that looks like a conscious decision to funnel people to their shot blocker and not an actual problem-type substance. The TO rate on offense is unambiguously bad, and if my viewings of Kansas games so far this season is representative that's just Kansas chucking balls every which way.
#23 Ben McLemore is projected to be the second pick in the NBA draft by Chad Ford and may go #1 depending on who gets the top pick and what they think about Nerlens Noel and his knee. This is reputed to be an extraordinarily weak year at the top of the draft, but still. When he jumps he seems to glide upwards almost supernaturally.
Really "Hey Man Nice shot," clip assembler guy? Really?
He's Kansas's highest-usage player, but he doesn't reach focal point levels like Burke and his super-high usage kin. He takes a lot of threes—just under half his shots—and knocks them down at a 43% clip. He's also efficient inside the line (56%) and a Stauskas-level free-throw shooter. He doesn't get a ton of FTs and his assist to turnover rate is meh; he's about filling it up. He's a GRIII-level finisher at the rim who doubles as Stauskas from deep. Yipes.
So far he has not done that in the tourney. He had a meh eleven points on nine shot equivalents in the 1-16 matchup; he flung ugly bricks against the scoreboard for the duration of the UNC game, scoring two points on ten shot equivalents, both of those at the free throw line. This guarantees he will go 8/10 from three against Michigan.
Try to get him to take two point jumpers, I guess. Easier said than done. Hardaway will check him. He shut down DJ Byrd, you know.
THIS IS NOT GOING WELL THIS IS BAD I SHOULD GIVE THIS SPORT UP –#3
#5 Jeff Withey is not only a defensive force, he also shoots 58% from two and gets to the line consistently with an acceptable-for-a-big 18.0 TO rate. Hoop Math says he's actually Kansas's best shooter inside the arc (at least amongst folks with an appreciable number of attempts), hitting on 40% of his two point jumpers.
Meanwhile on the other end of the floor:
Dude doesn't just erase shots, he puts them in the hands of his teammates. Michigan probably has a bit of an advantage here—actually more of a mitigated disadvantage—since half of Withey's blocks come on guys he's defending straight up. (Is this normal or boggling? It feels boggling.) That's an avenue Michigan rarely uses.
Still. If you've watched these guys this year you know how difficult layups become when he's on the court. The grim FG% on non-transition shots* at the rim Hoop Math has is evidence enough:
- Post-rebound, at rim (19% of shots): 38%
- Post-score, at rim (42% of shots): 45%.
For comparison, Michigan FG% defense numbers in those situations are 63% and 57%.
The difference is huge. Enormous. Hugenormous. I like John Beilein just fine but whenever he picks up a commitment from a guy who might play the five who isn't a 7'3" dude from Senegal with never-ending arms I'm like "d'awwwww." Withey is the difference between Kansas, one seed, and Kansas, probable first-round losers to Bucknell again.
He picks up 2.7 fouls per 40, too. If Michigan can get him into foul trouble, that is enormous. It is highly unlikely.
*[ie, shots not in the first ten seconds of the shot clock.]
#15 Elijah Johnson is a point-guard-ish player. He's got a top 200 assist rate and a TO Rate just about as high; he doesn't get to the line and shoots 76/43/33. No Kansas player has outlandish usage; he, Withey, and McLemore are the most frequent shooters. Johnson is the guy you want absorbing those attempts. He's barely above 50% at the rim and shoots 33% on two-point jumpers. His three rate is acceptable, though. Run him off the line without giving him an opportunity to set someone up for a dunk and you're probably good.
Small forward Travis Releford is a transition fiend, as detailed by Luke Winn earlier this year:
as of January 30th; doubt much has changed there
A third of his shots are in transition. Whoever ends up checking him will have to abandon the boards entirely and flee downcourt as soon as the ball goes up.
Because of the high proportion of transition buckets it's hard to get a picture of him as a player in the half-court. His efficiency numbers are off the charts: he shoots 78%/66%/41%. Despite doing that he's the Kansas regular with the lowest usage rate—and once you adjust for transition that would be by a mile. Weird player. I mean, in 36 minutes against TCU Releford had one point on two shot equivalents for a—drumroll please— 6% usage rate. It seems like if you can keep Kansas from running on you Releford is going to get very few attempts from inside the line.
Power forward #40 Kevin Young is the fifth option. He plays about half of Kansas minutes, hits 57% of his twos and rebounds both ends well. He's a garbage man. 70% of his shots are at the rim, many of which are generated by his 13.3 OREB rate, and he hits just 30% on his two point jumpers. Keeping him off the boards is tough; doing so will reduce his offensive contribution to a few attempts, no more. FWIW, he's a 60% FT shooter so if he's got an easy two lined up Michigan shouldn't hesitate to put him on the line.
Kansas's bench is almost precisely as short as Michigan's. The two teams are 325th and 326th in bench minutes, with Michigan very slightly more generous. The Jayhawks have one perimeter backup of any significance, #1 Naadir Tharpe. He's a 5'11" point-guard-type player with a decent assist rate but a TO rate over 20. His shots are split about evenly between threes he hits at a 34% clip and twos he hits at 36% with extremely rare three throws. A Tharpe jumper from inside the arc is a good thing for Michigan. Note that unlike anyone else on Kansas, Tharpe will jack up contested threes.
Kansas has a couple of 6'8" freshmen backing up their two post spots. #34 Perry Ellis is the better of the two, a good rebounder with an extremely low TO rate who doesn't shoot effectively (47%) but does get to the line frequently and hits his free throws. #31 Jamari Traylor is a guy who puts up very few shots at a 42% clip and turns it over a lot. It's 4 on 5 when Traylor's in on offense.
Kansas lost to Michigan State in their second game of the year in a game that, insanely, was in a dome in Atlanta. They recovered to blitz eventual four-seed St Louis by 14, eventual ten-seed Colorado by 46, and eventual 11-seed Belmont by 29. The epic nonconference hammering stopped there but they also added wins against Ohio State (by eight) and Temple (by seven) before Big 12 play.
In the league they went 14-4, winning it, and took the tournament crown without breaking a sweat. Big 12 play was weird. You of course know about the stunning TCU upset—imagine losing to a version of Penn State that is 129(!) spots worse on Kenpom. That game was sandwiched by losses to both Oklahoma teams, and in their last regular season game Baylor blew them out by 23. (Baylor shot 60% from two and 50% from three, which… WTF.) Add in three OT wins and Kansas's Big 12 season was probably their shakiest in a long time.
Then they trailed at halftime to Western Kentucky and North Carolina, beating the former by only seven. Their lights-out second half against the Tar Heels turned a nine-point deficit into a 12-point win.
It's worth noting that Kansas's struggles in the first couple rounds came on what was a de facto home court. The Jayhawks played three nonconference games and the Big 12 tournament at the Phone Company Center in Kansas City. By the time they finally blew past North Carolina they were into the second half of game eight at the same dang place, one far more partisan than the blue/green divide in Auburn Hills.
I, Brian Cook, promise to not complain about a single Trey Burke stepback jumper in this game. Doesn't matter where it's from, how much time is on the clock, or how nasty it is.
Foot on the three point line, fine. I cede all of the things to Trey taking jumpers in this one, because Jeff Withey can only watch when that happens and Trey is dang good at hitting them.
Also as of January 30th; Luke Winn's power ratings that week were an inadvertent Michigan-Kansas preview.
The relative efficacy of those shots goes up immensely when Withey is waiting inside. Withey blocks don't just erase shots, they erase possessions 75% of the time and fuel Kansas's lethal transition game. If Trey wants to pull up on the pick and roll and take a pretty good shot that has a pretty good chance of seeing Mitch McGary flush it even if it misses, okay. If he wants to run to the baseline and pull up for his leaner, okay. If he wants to step back and rise up, okay. Okay Trey, okay. Her life is in your hands.
MAKE YOUR DANG THREES. 30% isn't going to cut it, and the quality of the looks is going to be worse. But Stauskas, Hardaway, and Burke have proven they can hit some dang threes even if they're ideas that seem not so great until the ball goes through. Unless Kansas goes through one of their phases where they can't get out of their own way—not out of the question—Michigan is going to have to have a nice day from the outside to move on.
No transition. This goes part and parcel with the above: Kansas's offense is hugely efficient in transition and can struggle in the half-court. Michigan's turnover avoidance sets them up nicely to avoid conventional sources of fast-break buckets against (see also: 4 VCU fast break points).
Kansas gets bonus fast break opportunities from Withey crushing shots. Some of that is inevitable; keeping that down to four points provided instead of ten could be the difference in what projects to be a tight game.
Keep out of foul trouble, Mitch. Withey draws 5.1 fouls/40; as a team, Kansas is 65th in getting to the line. McGary is operating on a level beyond the other two posts at the moment; Michigan needs him on the court. Is he going to play 34 minutes again? Probably not. If he's stuck at 15, Michigan's in trouble. 28 they can probably live with.
Generate extra possessions. Kansas's games against WKU and North Carolina were competitive despite opponents shooting 39/15 and 31/29, respectively, because the Jayhawks were intent on giving their opponents every opportunity to stay in contact. Against the Hilltoppers Kansas had 17 turnovers to WKU's 10 and got crushed on the boards. How that happens against a 20-15 Sunbelt team I do not know.
KU turnovers shot up to a whopping 22 against UNC and while Kansas plowed the undersized Tarheels on the offensive boards they gave up an OREB rate of 31% themselves.
Run. KU eFG% defense dips dramatically when shots are taken in the first ten seconds of the shot clock, because Withey is chugging down the court behind the action. Is it a good idea to take this shot in transition? Yes, even if it's not.
Maybe watch Kansas inexplicably self destruct? Can't rule that out. Let's go, having the game handed to you by collection of sixth graders who superficially resemble Kansas.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by one!
There was a bit of trivia going around basketball circles last week that teams named after birds all won their first round games. That's true, but including Kansas makes that a bit of a factoid: a Jayhawk ain't no kind a' bird!
The veracity of this internet knowledge is unverified, but the term comes from just before the Civil War and one of many incredibly stupid compromises they tried to come up with over the great uncompromisable thing. When they couldn't decide whether Kansas would be entered as a free state or a slave state, Congress decided to leave that answer up to whoever could get more settlers in there (caveat: settlers must be alive enough to vote). In the most violent fan poll until the invention of the internet, people from both sides, but mostly northern anti-slavery folk (cause there was more of us) poured into Kansas.
The pro-slavery people, rather than graciously accept defeat, formed up bandit brigades along the Missouri border, hence the term "Border Ruffians," and tried to harass, rob, and murder their way to an electoral victory. In response, the new homesteaders formed up their own guerrilla groups. Possibly naming themselves after popular Revolutionary John Jay, these makeshift counter-terrorism bands became known as Jay-hawkers. They were celebrated across the freedom conference footprint, but quickly became just bandits for the other team instead of protectors.
Just as "Wolverines" became popularly associated with the hardy, stubborn, fierce Michigander regiments who took that as their mascot in the Civil War, the Kansas Union regulars popularized "Jayhawks" but real jayhawkers continued guerrilla attacks on rebel camps and Confederate homesteaders. The opposite were the "Bushwhackers," former border ruffians who robbed, burned and murdered under the rebel cause. And if you were an indiscriminate band of lawlessness in Kansas, you were a "Red Leg."
So what I'm saying is if there is some sort of ornithological protection spell over the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Kansas isn't under it.
How it works:
- I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of the designated game, and put it in the comments, preferably in the format of [M's Score]-[Opponent's Score]. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you guess either game correctly, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
- Seriously, you don't have to actually guess a basketball score to get this shirt. You can buy it.
About Last Time:
How is it there's no footage on the internet of a Wolverine devouring a rabbit? Get on this David Attenborough. The Glove guessed 74-55, which is as close as anyone got to the 71-56 final score of the SDSU (NTSDSU nor TSDSU) game.
This Week's Game:
#4 seed Michigan versus #1 seed Kansas for a trip to the Elite 8.
And the Prize:
Stick around. We may learn something.
Fine print: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (make it easy on me and write your score in digits with a hyphen between them. Deadline for entries is sometime within 24 hours before the start of the game—whenever I can get online in that time and lock the thread. MGoEmployees and Moderators exempt from winning because you can change scores. We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm is not just a shooter. The algorithm always fouls Cody Zeller. The algorithm can’t explain why Big Ten officials think it’s their duty to help Bo Ryan. The algorithm spent 10 years as the Indiana of basketball, if that makes sense. This is not the algorithm. This is close.
Appreciate + Reciprocate. The student organization that puts on the Appreciate + Reciprocate dinner has snagged Desmond Howard this year. Nice.
They're raising money for the LSA Emergency Student Aid Fund, which supports students facing unexpected financial crises at home.
Get yer tickets. Details:
Date: Friday, April 12, 2012
Location: Great Lakes Room, Palmer Commons
Speakers: Desmond Howard and others to be announced!
Time: Appetizers at 6:30, dinner served at 7:15, event conclusion at 9:30
Tickets (partially tax-deductible): $100 for individuals, $50 for recent graduates, $200 to sit with a speaker
Silent auction offerings will include items signed by Coach Hoke and Desmond Howard, a tour of the new Player Development Center with Assistant Coach Bacari Alexander, a skating lesson with US Olympian Emily Samuelson, and more.
Women play tonight. The women's basketball team has made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in a while; they take on one-seed Stanford at 9:50 tonight on ESPN2. They're obviously the underdog; Swish Appeal has keys to the upset. It would be Michigan's first ever Sweet 16 on the women's side.
Yes, this is the same time as USA-Mexico. I get complaints whenever I mention soccer, so you guys who complain about soccer should watch the basketball.
Projected spring practice content levels drop 85%. What am I supposed to write about now that Brennen Beyer has been moved back to SAM? I can't write about someone moving to SAM… or can I?
Brennen Beyer could move to SAM.
This isn't working at all. Dammit. Wait a minute…
Mattison said the move is not permanent, and that Beyer likely will shuffle back to the line once Ryan returns.
BRENNEN BEYER COULD MOVE TO WDE BOOM
I thought you guys were short newshole. How many words do you think an article about John Beilein's relationship with his former equipment manager at LeMoyne would be? Where in the country would this article originate? When would this article be published?
Bafflingly, the answers to these questions are "one butt ton," "Syracuse, New York," and "not 1980; in fact, right now." What a country.
Merph. I have a powerful desire to stick my fingers in my ears and go LA LA LA LA whenever the topic of the NBA draft comes up and understand entirely if you do this while reading this section. Let's not dwell on the pointlessness of this operation.
Anyway, Trey Burke is destined for the top ten and everyone expects him to be gone. The news on Glenn Robinson III is the thing that keeps varying. He's gone from off the radar to hyped to less hyped and now the hype is returning:
"Robinson may have helped his draft stock more than anyone on our Big Board this week," Ford wrote. "He's still raw offensively and depends on (Trey) Burke to set him up, but he has all the physical tools of a NBA small forward and is showing increased confidence at the right time.
"Someone will roll the dice on him in the 10-to-20 range if he decides to declare."
I don't know man. I'd think NBA teams would want to see him develop into a guy who can create his own offense and defend NBA threes. Robinson is noncommital about returning.
Ford also talks up McGary as a potential second-round pick, which doesn't seem like much of a threat.
Hockey departure update. Red:
Berenson on Trouba: "We'll have to wait and see how that works out with Winnipeg. He's done as much as he can do for a freshman."
Berenson says he doesn't expect anybody else besides Merrill or Trouba to consider leaving, but that he's been surprised before.
That qualifies as good news, I think. Hopefully at least one of the two defensmen won't want to leave Michigan after that season.
Inside South Dakota State. Grantland was embedded with the Jackrabbits and their offensive desire to get Michigan instead of Michigan State:
Moments later, Michigan State is announced as the third seed, and a chorus of gasps echoes through the room. "Oh no," I hear a player say. "Oh no oh no oh no." Like the Baylor team that eliminated SDSU last year, the Spartans' strength is their frontcourt, and the Jackrabbits don't match up well against big, athletic front lines. Yet they are spared from the bruising that MSU's Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix would lay on them, and instead Valparaiso will face the Spartans.
When Gumbel reaches the South bracket, he announces that the 4-seed is Michigan. "I'll play Michigan," says Jordan Dykstra, a sweet-shooting big man and the Jacks' second-leading scorer. "Let's play Michigan." Gumbel announces the 13-seed. It's South Dakota State.
They'll play Michigan.
This would be better if it was VCU. The whole thing is worth a read in any case.
Swing, pendulum, swing. Michigan's VCU blowout has earned them a ton of cred with the talking heads that were generally dismissive just one week ago. All four of CBS's basketball writers go with Michigan in the KU-M matchup. Andy Staples picks Michigan to win the regional. Myron Medcalf of ESPN picks Michigan just behind Louisville in a re-seed of the teams. Goodman say Michigan was the most impressive team of the opening weekend, and Kenpom's computer says Michigan has a… uh. Oh. A 3.2 percent chance to win the whole thing. That's up from 1.9 percent, though. Sweet.
The problem there is being in the same region as a Florida team taking on FGCU in the other matchup, so if you think the computers are vastly overrating the Gators you can up your optimism accordingly.
Anyway, I'm more on the Kenpom side of things. Whereas before the tournament people were extrapolating that the OHIO upset would always happen forever now they're assuming the VCU dismantling will always happen forever. As a guy who thought Michigan had a great draw the first weekend I'm looking at the Kansas game as a coinflip at best.
I guess. It's looking like Northwestern will hire Duke assistant Chris Collins. He's from the Chicago area and has experience in the kind of circles that might send a kid to Northwestern but it seems like hiring an assistant when you have 200-some mid-major coaches to choose from is risky.
DANTONIO UPDATE: STILL DANTONIO. Someone probably asked him if he'd watched the VCU game.
Dantonio abruptly ends scheduled media interview after five minutes, 30 seconds. Questions were harmless. Bizarre.
Etc.: Scouting Kansas. Pat Forde complains about coaches' complaints when coaches get fired. I'm with him, though I do like seeing Tom Izzo collapse into the fetal position when asked about it. Michigan needs Russell Bellomy to be viable if they're going to redshirt Morris.
Denard signed the Shredder's photoshops. For the first time since 1979, no Michigan team will play in the NCAA hockey tourney. The Daily on Hunwick's rise and the end of the streak. Will Leitch is more understanding of referees than I am.
mah depth perception noooo
One of the reasons I'm not too happy to get Kansas in the Sweet 16 is where the games will be played—Jerryworld—combined with Kansas's #1 strength—Jeff Withey going grrr aargh and depositing your shot in the eighth row. Domes have a reputation for being poor environments to shoot in. Meanwhile, the alternative to shooting is challenging this guy.
But just because something is supposed to be true does not mean it is so. Reasons are applied to random chance all the time. Does being in a dome really kill shooters? I wish I had an answer for you without painstakingly combing through every dome game in the NCAA tournament since forever. The data is thin, contradictory and oft-polluted by what can only be termed a journalist's approach to statistics. After googling every which way for any take on the subject, I've come out the other end possibly less informed than I started.
The best I've got: the WSJ published an article in 2011 that appears to be the most comprehensive tackling of the issue. It showed that from 1997-2011, Final Four teams hit 32% of their threes and 42% overall, both four-point drops from—ugh—the four FFs held before the dome came into vogue. Or we could take thousands of games of data instead of 12, WSJ. And maybe account for the fact that the three-point line moved back in 2008-09. Guh.
/shakes fist at journalism school
For what it's worth, Statsheet shows that three-point shooting held steady at around 34.8% from 2003 to 2008 and around 34.2% after the line moved back. I'd imagine tourney teams are on average slightly better than that, so 32% over 15 years represents a small but probably real negative effect that may or may not be caused by domes instead of various other factors that apply to Final Fours like your hand shaking nervously for an hour before the game. "Other factors" didn't impact 12 games almost 20 years ago, FWIW.
KSRCollege put together a chart covering the "open dome"—ie, court on the 50, not in one endzone—era the NCAA instituted in 2009. (It appears Jerryworld is configured with the court on the 50.) It found three point shooting averages dropped from 36% (for the season) to 32%, free throws from 73% to 67%, and eFG from 51% to 44%.
Caveats are rife. For one, the KSR post has a nine-game sample and the WSJ article is rage-inducingly sloppy. For two, some of these effects may be due to the level of competition. For three:
At first glance if you compare the season percentages to the in-game percentages you’d think that all teams are shooting poorer than their season percentages, but this is not the case. There are three severe outliers taking down the entire sample; 2011 UConn (twice) and 2009 Villanova. But, when you see their season percentages you’ll see Villanova was an average three point shooting team and UConn was a terrible three point shooting team, so it’s not hard to believe these two teams would have bad shooting nights. All other Final Four participants in the “Open Dome” era have shot right around their season percentage, so this leads me to believe that distorted sightlines have less to do with the low point totals than I originally thought.
While I'm not sure I agree with the idea that a poor shooting team will be more affected by the depth issues presented, at least this passage underscores the scanty amount of data we're working with.
Other poorly-assembled nine-game samples show no dome effect.
In 2009 and 2010, the NCAA used all three different setups to contest the eight regionals: regular basketball/hockey arenas; traditional domes, with the court set up in the corner of the football field, and the stadium configuration, with the court built on a platform at the center of the football field.
Here is how the shooting stats broke down in those games:
— Arenas (nine games): 42.8 percent, 455-of-1,064.
— Traditional domes (nine games): 43.1 percent, 444-of-1,030
— Stadium setup (six games): 42.4 percent, 290-of-684.
Essentially, there was no distinct statistical variation among the various types of courts.
This study is also tiny and doesn't even bother to separate out threes and free throws, instead hurling everything in one statpile ranging from dunks to prayer heaves. So it's far from definitive itself. Despite that, Mike DeCourcy appears to run it every year without bothering to update it and reference it whenever the topic comes up. No wonder he gets in fights with Kenpom.
Last year, teams didn't seem to have much problem. OSU, Louisville, and Kansas hit exactly 36% of their threes; Kentucky was at 38%. This is probably why there was a flurry of articles about shooting in a dome before that Final Four, but not after.
So. We have a pile of shifty data. Overall I'd suggest it suggests there is a small dome effect that hurts shooting based on the WSJ numbers, which are the closest thing to a real sample we've got. This is advantage Kansas, which takes relatively few threes and forces a lot thanks to Jeff Withey. Probably, anyway. The effect isn't big enough or solid enough to be fate.
Ugh. This post. Just like a younk man who thinks Standard Deviation is a Christian goth metal band coming in for a low-sample size study. I am zo unzatisfyed.
3/23/2013 – Michigan 78, VCU 53 – 28-7, Sweet 16
It doesn't take long for people to forget who you are. One loss to a MAC team on the big stage seems to do it, even if that MAC team was an overtime away from the Elite Eight. The next year you might find yourself on a bit of a skid to end the year, facing down another mid-major star and instantly targeted by the talking heads as upset city, baby*. Rule one of sports opinion: the last thing that happened will always keep happening.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, I'll be surprised since that means you've been a head coach for a zillion years. You'll also be feeling like John Beilein has been the past week. Drinking decaf tea. Thinking about covalent bonds. Enjoying your grandchildren. Pissed off.
I mean… John Beilein, projected first-round upset victim. I don't know if you know this, head-talker,—I think you should since you will never stop referring to Michigan's 1-3-1 zone—but John Beilein has been around the block. He's made verbs. Have you made a verb? Does it mean "higher seed has just been blitzed out of tournament by three-raining center"? No. It means "seemingly has not watched college basketball since he played it, and probably not even then." Except your verb doesn't exist. "Pittsnogled" exists.
Even if your theory is that Beilein's March blitzes ended at the Big Ten's edge, you've got more evidence against you than in favor of you. In 2009, a ramshackle Michigan ten-seed took out #7 Clemson. At one point that game was a blowout before Michigan went into clock-kill mode. They held themselves in against Oklahoma despite deploying Zack Novak against Blake Griffin and having to rely on Anthony Wright as their primary scorer with Manny Harris stapled to the bench, in foul trouble. Two years later Michigan ran Tennessee out of the gym in an 8-9 game and was inches away from taking #1 Duke to OT.
Basketball's weird, randomness is random, bad things happen to chemistry teachers, yeah yeah. Going out of your way to project John Beilein doing poorly in the tourney is like pressing Trey Burke: once in a while you get lucky. Over the long run you're going to end up holding your intestines, thinking about a foolish life ill-lived.
Don't even get the tiny slice of John Beilein's brain given over to his id (he keeps it between gluten-free pancake recipes and lamp instructions in a disused, dusty corner) started about what happens after you show Summit Trey Burke his intestines. If the tiny disused id could draw Beilein's attention for a fraction of a second, boy, would he be slightly peevish about VCU this, havoc that. About new hotness Shaka Smart and his defense with a name and everything and a two-year-old play-in-to-Final-Four run.
The definition of whippersnapper (Bryan Fuller)
The gap between expectations of serious men—Vegas installed Michigan a slight favorite—and the chatter of VCU havoc-ing Kansas and whoever might come next was large.
"All we've been hearing was the VCU 'Havoc,' we didn't hear anything about us, and we wanted to prove we're no team to mess with right now," Michigan freshman Nik Stauskas said. "All you heard is 'how are they going to stop Nate Wolters?' Stuff like that."
The thing is: Shaka Smart is a great tourney coach. Entering Saturday's game against Michigan he was 7-1 against the spread during March Madness. He did that whole first-four-to-Final-Four thing. He is appallingly young to have done this. I have to tell you that when VCU's band was putting Akron's to shame on Thursday and their dancers were just kind of, I don't know, moving, you know, in a certain way and VCU came out and blitzed Akron it was intimidating. This was before I knew they had a guy with a Tim the Enchanter hat even.
Smart has created an aura. VCU's presence at an NCAA tourney site brings an electricity with it. This havoc thing will be a verb sooner or later. Shaka Smart is 35.
It's just that John Beilein's been doing this since Shaka Smart was playing with Legos. No, since Smart was gurgling out his first words. Dude was one year old when Beilein started his coaching career at an age even more appallingly young than Smart did. On March 19th, Beilein was 10-2 against the spread in the tourney since '05. He's since added two more ATS wins to his docket, the last one a deconstruction of Havoc™ so comprehensive that Michigan put up 1.2 points per possession despite hitting just 30% of their infinite wide-open threes.
Anyone predicting VCU to do things forgot that this was a John Beilein team piloted by Trey Burke. I am almost certain the handshake in the aftermath did not feature Beilein telling Smart he was strapped with gats when Smart was cuddling a cabbage patch. But not completely. Kansas awaits; John Beilein sips tea with eviscerating intent.
*["Upset city, baby" patently unfair here since Dick Vitale in fact put Michigan in his Final Four. I enjoy being patently unfair to Dick Vitale. If you consider this a character flaw in me, I consider it a character flaw in you. So there.]
McGary, of course. (Fuller photo, Ace photoshop, board suggestion at right.)
It will not be news if I tell you that Mitch McGary had himself a day: 21 points on 10 of 11 shooting, 14 rebounds, and even a made free throw. He earned Obligatory Wes Unseld references from the announce team and The Sporting News.
Oh, and he just might be the best outlet passer we’ve seen since Wes Unseld. Matter of fact, he’s built a lot like Unseld, too, with a hard-edged game like the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer.
He dove on the floor with Michigan up 20, because that is what a St. Bernard would do.
To cap it all off, he gave Kammron Taylor a flashback seizure so bad that Chris Rock (That Chris Rock) had a twinge:
He and GRIII were the engines behind a blowout on the boards: 19% OREB for VCU, 41% for Michigan. He played 34 minutes with a single foul. It was a day. If he can go head to head with Jeff Withey… dot dot dot.
While I don't think that's super-likely, guys do have coming-out parties that suddenly announce they have reached the proverbial Next Level. Beasting on an undersized VCU team with their one quality post stuck on the bench for a big chunk of the game* might count. Going head-to-head with Jeff Withey and coming out even is indisputable. I'm saying there's as chance.
*[Reddic had 16 points on 13 shot equivalents in 24 minutes. His backups saw a total of 21 minutes, in which they attempted zero shots.]
Stat of the game. Michigan gave up all of four fast-break points to VCU and scored 15 of their own. That is the recipe for blowing Shaka Smart off the court.
Stat of the game, part II. Michigan had 12 turnovers, VCU 11. This number is of course under the 15 magic number, or 23 magic percent. VCU also managed just two more steals than Michigan.
Slash and burn. I got a lot of grief about this assertion when Michigan ended up in the same pod as the rams:
Whenever someone posts a bracket and says they like or do not like the matchups therein there is always the guy who says they will boil themselves alive if VCU is a potential second-round matchup. I say bring the Rams on:
VCU 100% dependent on (huge) TO margin. A-10 opponents actually shooting better than Rams.
I'll take that strength versus VCU's many other weaknesses in the matchup game.
Now everyone will kill me if we lose to VCU in the second round. I should have said nothing.
I'm not usually a point-to-my-awesome-prediction guy, because predictions are stupid. (Remember "NC State is the #8 seed no #1 wants to see?") In this case, though, WOOOOOOOO.
Michigan's three and a half ballhandlers defeated virtually all attempts to run that 1-2-1 diamond trap. Except for a brief period right after halftime when Burke got run into a few traps—a couple times by his teammates—trying to heat him up was more loss than win for VCU. The 15 fast break points don't seem to include a number of possessions where the broken VCU press led to crushing GRIII/McGary dunks.
Those two were 17 of 19 combined on twos, and GRIII's miss was a chaotic attempt with guys falling all over the place that McGary immediately rebounded and put back. All but three of those attempts were at the rim. The press mostly set up dunks or layups or Kobe assists, not turnovers.
How did this happen? Why didn't the quick turnaround hamper Michigan's preparation? The program is based on ball control.
"Preparation for a game like this does not happen in one day," Beilein said. "If you came to our early drills in October, in the summer, we're catching on two feet, we're pivoting, we're passing the ball to the outside hand. We're valuing each possession. You play a team like VCU, if you don't value each possession and take care of the basketball, they're going to run points on you like crazy. (They're) averaging 75 points a game, 20 of those are off defensive transition off turnovers. We work on it daily.
"The prep was really minor (on Friday), as far as 90 minutes of walking around, doing things."
This was a draw of doom for VCU, playing a team that basically spends every practice defeating your system.
Spike. Hello. Spike Albrecht's 14 minutes came with a made three, a missed two that really should have been a Kobe assist (he drew Reddic and threw one off the backboard to Horford; Horford managed to biff the putback), and a couple of assists. The second blew the roof off the Palace:
nooooooooooooooo! ohhhhhhhhhhhh! lolllllllllllllllllll
(Watch the bench, BTW.) This is the bit where you started cackling madly because this was officially a replay of Tennessee 2011, and bitterly wished Gus Johnson was doing this game—oh my God Gus Johnson doing this game.
Anyway, Spike has a nasty habit of dribbling 25 seconds off the shot clock but eventually teams get irritated that this little white kid is running around the court on them and foul him. I do not think this is a sustainable strategy, but there are worse backup point guards to have.
One thing he's got in common with all Michigan point guards since Darius Morris emerged: kid is unflappable. He showed that today and during a stabilizing cameo after Michigan had gotten run early at Ohio State. Contrast his play with a clearly rattled Caris LeVert, who cost Michigan a few points in four minutes in the first half and then ceded the rest of his time to Albrecht.
A HUMBLEBRAG CHAMPION IS YOU. Hardaway on his reverse two handed slam:
"Coach (John) Beilein always said if you're going to do something flashy, it better work," Hardaway said after the game. "I just tried to do the easiest dunk that I knew how to do.
"It ended up being that."
Supporting cast turnovers. VCU got to Burke a bit, forcing seven turnovers out of him. A couple of those weren't his fault—in particular I remember one ill-fated backcourt trap that Nik Stauskas led Burke right into—but that's a high number. It's offset by the 5 the rest of the team picked up. Hardaway and Stauskas operated as press relief and auxiliary ballhandling, finishing the day with a 4 to 1 A:TO ratio. Add in Spike's one TO in 15 minutes and that's an impressive job of TO avoidance.
It's an expected job of TO avoidance, mostly. The exception: Hardaway taking the ball up the floor for big chunks of the game without incident was a bonus. It helped that VCU couldn't put one of their flypaper PGs on him with Burke out there and Theus in foul trouble.
A series of missed lane floaters. VCU was hurt early by a series of possessions that ended with their guards—I guess they're all basically guards—getting into the lane, whereupon McGary would help but not really challenge. The resulting short floaters went clang clang clang.
Looking at the box score, might this have been the gameplan? Rob Brandenberg, Melvin Johnson, Briante Weber, and Troy Daniels were a combined 9 of 24 from two, and if you look at those dudes' season averages and squint away a fast break adjustment, that's not far off what you'd expect from that collection of mediocre midrange shooters.
In compensation, VCU suffered a 3/16 night from three, with designated sniper Tony Daniels going 1/9, and got to the line just 6 times, all of those attempts from large-ish folk Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic. Graham, VCU's highest-usage player, was limited to eight shot equivalents in 35 minutes. As a team, VCU picked up six assists on 23 made baskets. Michigan had 17 on 31.
The problem with Michigan's D is that they kind of have to give something up. If those are lane runners without a Kobe Assist waiting, that doesn't seem too bad.
Behold the power of a withering tourney blowout on Kenpom. VCU rocketed from 22nd to 14th thanks to their Akron annihilation; Michigan providing the Rams the greatest two-game swing in tournament history bounced them up four spots. They are now ahead of Kansas(!) even after the Jayhawks' crunching second half against North Carolina.
All of this is poisoned by Akron playing their game against VCU short four players and the three-standard-dev matchup advantage Michigan had against the Rams, but you guys we're totally beating Kansas! You guys.
I don't think we're going to beat Kansas you guys. They've struggled for 60 of their 80 minutes in the tourney so far, sure. That doesn't change their season-long performance and the looming terror that is Jeff Withey. It seems like their shot is dependent on whether Kansas is a funhouse mirror version of some fourth graders like they were for about 22 minutes against North Carolina or a lethal death machine like they were the final 18 more than anything Michigan does.
I say that in part because turnovers are a persistent Kansas problem. They don't really have a point guard per se; facsimile Elijah Johnson's assist rate is barely above his TO rate. But Michigan does not force turnovers much. Unforced errors from Kansas seem to be make or break for them in this one.
But there's a reason Kenpom has this even. Just as soon as I figure it out I'll let you know about it.
Second small downer thing. Michigan couldn't have put Jordan Morgan out there for like five minutes? I'm worried that his mental state is haywire right now and Kansas looks like a team that will demand more post rotation from M. They play a two-post system with 6'8" senior Kevin Young (season 3PA: 6; season 3PM: 0). Young is a top-100 OREB guy and almost-top-200 DREB guy who shoots 56% from two. Meanwhile, Withey draws 5.2 fouls/40.
With the prospect of McGary foul trouble looming and the possibility Michigan will want to run two posts out there in the event Young is beating up GRIII on the boards, you'd expect Morgan to get 15 minutes or more in this one except for the fact he disappeared almost entirely last weekend.
Rothstein on McGary:
McGary almost shrugged discussing the hit, with a sly smile yet insisting it was unintentional. That is part of what makes McGary a question mark for how good this Michigan team could be in the final two weeks of the season.
“Mitch, his confidence was incredible today, easy drop-offs and offensive boards that he got and he just kept going,” said Michigan redshirt freshman forward Max Bielfeldt. “He can go on a run, and he’s just very talented. When he gets his game going, he’s really, really tough to stop.
“He’s a guy, when he gets going, he’s going to keep going, and his enthusiasm keeps his game at a high level.”
Gary Parrish on… McGary.
"We're an even-keeled group," Stauskas said. "Except for Mitch."
The Daily's Everett Cook on… McGary.
“He came in weighing in the 250s, ballooned up a little bit, you know, enjoying the cafeteria a bit too much,” Alexander said. “Then he got back, recalibrated with his discipline.”
John Niyo on… McGary. (And other stuff.)
McGary had 20 pounds on VCU forward Juvonte Reddic, and probably 40 pounds on just about everybody else the Rams could throw at him. Funny what escaping from the rough-and-tumble Big Ten can do for a guy, isn't it?
"I mean, I guess it was easy to grab rebounds," he said.
Easy for him to say. But hard to do justice to his energy level — "He went down and chased all the loose balls," Smart said — that never waned despite his playing a season-high 34 minutes.
"That's Mitch McGary," Burke said. "That's what he does. He's the guy that gives us the spark and makes our engine run."
Baumgardner on McGary!
"Mitch was at the LeBron James Skills Academy the summer before he (committed to Michigan), and he was out of the game and he was getting cups of water for his teammates," Alexander recalled earlier this week. "That, in essence, gave us an idea of the type of person he is.
"A selfless spirit that allows our culture to grow."
Burke broke Darius Morris's single-season assist record in the game. Talking head recap. Beilein says things. Clownfrauds no more, doubters silenced, welcome to the jungle amirite. Trey would be relieved if he could feel hoo-man squishy emotions, but clearly he cannot so this is probably a misquote.
Five Key Plays. Mitch, destroy.
VCU plays with Havoc, but Mitch McGary is Chaos. First Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1994 means, yes, muppets:
and you can't have one without the other...
Survive and advance, baby.