3/20/2014 – Michigan 57 – Wofford 40 – 26-8, reach round of 32
It's nice to be a two seed. Michigan played an ugly game by its standards. They turned the ball over on almost 20% of their possessions, got to the line just nine times, and allowed a SoCon team to hit half their twos. But since that SoCon team put up an epic brickfest from three, they ran away with a near 20 point victory in a short 56-possession game.
The privilege of being way high up in the seeding is you can have a crappy first game and still not sweat it much. (Usually.) Contrast that with tourney darling Louisville, which found itself down two to Manhattan with two minutes left. There's a big difference between a 15 and a 13 even for a team that is arguably underseeded. Hooray playing well enough in the regular season to draw Kenpom's #184 team.
Yes, that is going up. There was a point in the first half when Zak Irvin had the ball and a relatively open three and did not take it. I fainted at the shock and when I came to apes had taken over the planet. If Irvin gets a look, any kind of look, the ball is being shot. In this one he missed his opportunities; he's still 41% on the year.
Must get it together. That turnover rate is like Amaker's turnover rates before he got to Harvard and became our secret agent. It is against the principles of HORSE basketball and must be fixed up before tomorrow, when a much tougher opponent comes calling. It was probably just one of those things. There seems to be no particular reason that Michigan turned it over a bunch. They were just sloppy, which can be attributed to a lack of focus or randomness depending on your druthers.
The Walton alley-oop that should have had Bob Uecker on the call at right (via Dustin Johnston) was emblematic. Michigan was just kinda off. It happened at an opportune time. Here's hoping it doesn't happen at an opportune one.
Wither the back door? More alarming is that Michigan struggled to get to the rim. Their offense just got over a point per possession—awful by their standards—and it wasn't particularly surprising when I checked the box score. Michigan's offense seemed less purposeful than it usually does.
It shows up in the hoop-math box score. Michigan struggled to create shots, period. Thirteen of their attempts came in the last five seconds of the clock; they got just six shots at the rim in their half court offense, two of those putbacks by GRIII. Because they are Michigan they can waddle through by hitting 57%(!) of their two point jumpers in the halfcourt and put up an eFG% of 81%(!!!) on must-jack shots late. This is always their safety valve.
That they always have a safety valve is lovely, but the offense didn't seem particularly flowing. Wofford pressured the perimeter and Michigan did not have much of a way to punish them for doing so. The general lack of backdoor action (PHRASING) has been a frustration. It was nice that one time against Michigan State when it got them a series of easy buckets early, and then it went away. With Duke and their perimeter overplay potentially looming in the Sweet 16, the ability to get some offense off the backdoor is critical. It really seems like you shouldn't be able to chase a team as skilled as Michigan well past the three point line without suffering something in return.
Wither the dumpoff? I know that Morgan and Horford combined for their usual 6/9 from the floor, but it does seem like these days Michigan's pick and roll game is struggling to get those gentlemen the parade of flushes they've been accustomed to. Opponents are rolling wing defenders underneath, making things more difficult and threatening block/charge decisions that can go in any direction against Michigan's already foul-prone bigs. Hopefully we'll see Michigan look for that kind of defensive action and kick to the corner for threes.
Part of that lack of rim attack. Stauskas picked up two highly debatable charge calls that looked like they could easily have gone the other way or not drawn a whistle. In general it felt like the refereeing swung back to last year's block/charge standards, which is probably good for Michigan if that is at all consistent. It obviously will not be because obviously.
Hey, how about that. Karl Cochran picked up his second personal foul with 11:41 left in the first half. Terriers coach Mike Young sat him for a few minutes, as required to by the coaching Illuminati manual, and then brought him back in. Cochran immediately made some aggressive defensive plays that could have brought a third whistle but didn't and ended up playing 34 minutes. He got just one foul the rest of the way, landing almost precisely on his season average of 2.9 fouls per 40.
A salute to Mike Young. Yeah, he may have been forced into his decision because Cochran is his offense. Hopefully the object lesson there keeps one of Michigan's stars in the game at a point in the future.
Peak bench McGary. Via Dustin Johnston, McGary pew pew pew:
At a later juncture, McGary and Dakich had an albatross-off.
For those of you who don't have twitter. Or for those of you who do and still giggle a little even when it comes up for the 30th time in your timeline. (I have the same relationship to this newspaper cover as I do the tiny kangaroo saying "I love work" in that commercial.)
Oh now you've gone and done it, OSU. Just try any Ohio Bobcat cracks and you will get snapped back at with THE University of Dayton. Trolling has to be limited to… oh, right. That. WELL OTHER THAN THAT YOU'VE GOT NOTHING. NOOOOOOOOOTHING.
Exit Aaron Craft. I'm actually going to miss the bastard. There was nothing quite like the "oh shit Aaron Craft" thing he could do to the unprepared, and nothing quite like Michigan's stars getting pwned by Craft in their first matchup and then coming back to pwn in return. I thought he was a fun player for all the reasons announcers fell all over themselves about him, but turned down about 90%. He was also a terrific nemesis. That he was vanquished at the last is the narrative of the John Beilein era in a one on one matchup.
I won't miss people talking about Aaron Craft, of course. I love Raftery and Lundquist but their eulogy for Craft was the perfect ending to a four-year love affair: kind of gross and way over the top. Will Leitch has a great article about Craft and the backlash and oh by the way Lenzelle Smith might be a nice guy too but who really cares if Lenzelle Smith stopped existing.
jonvalk's Wallpaperpalooza (1/4)
Things in the Past. There were some great diaries that would have been required reading if this was yesterday. Paps previewed Wofford (this you saw on the front page), Erik_in_Dayton tackled the history of 15 seeds upsetting two seeds; it's happened seven times since 1991. That may be more fun to visit now that the danger is passed, if only to relive 2012 Duke.
The game was played only 55 miles from Duke’s campus, but it was also the site of the first round game for UNC. Tar Heel fans gladly joined in rooting for the Mountain Hawks.
Oh man, Duke. That was two years ago. Is it still acceptable to laugh about it?
It is considered acceptable to still laugh about this game.
Speaking of way-back, remember the Big Ten Tournament? LSA has stats on that.
Meanwhile MGoBlueline put a ton of effort into reintroducing the hockey team for the Big Ten Tourney and then who-knows in the plinko playoff system. But those guys lost to Penn State in double-OT (finishing 2-3 on the year against the hockey equivalent of our lacrosse team) and will need to be lucky to earn a tourney bid. There were plenty of things to go wrong, including really bad turnovers and the now-requisite game-winner that almost went in but didn't.
The hockey guys (Brian, Center Ice and Blueline) will cover the most unsurprising upset ever in more detail, but there was one thing that infuriated me all game, and that was Penn State's defensemen were pinching despite being rather bad backwards skaters, and only a few times did Michigan challenge this by speeding through the neutral zone. When they did move up-ice with any kind of urgency in the 3rd period, DeBlois and Nieves split defenders and got off great scoring opportunities.
Since we're now left watching tourneys and hoping the unworthy don't steal autobids, here's a handy graphic of the tournaments.
Things in the Future or Never. Interesting, quickly consumed diary by saveferris looks at the history of 1-4 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Survey says:
I just stole his lede here, so I'll tell you that there's a Burke gif at the top if you take the link. My guess is the closer seeds are to each other the more this will look like 50-50, i.e. the reason two-seeds won just 4 of 12 Finals games since 1985 is only 12 two-seeds have made the Finals.
|The other Sierra (soph. OF Sierra Lawrence) has a .462 OBP going into Big Ten play.|
And Softball. I could probably say this about the softball team most years, but I really really mean it this year: pay attention because they're on a new level of awesome fun awesome. They've carried a 19-6 record so far through an epic brutal schedule. South Bend Wolverine provided the update as the team is (finally) going into Big Ten play.
Thing to Know 1: Pitching is huge in softball; one great one will put a team in the Top 25. Michigan has three(!) such towers. I'll stop comparing junior Haylie Wagner to Verlander because her 0.93 ERA/13-0 record is more like Walter Johnson. Freshman sensation Megan Betsa has 63 strikeouts in 49 innings. Something's been off with junior Sara Driesenga, who was All-Big Ten both previous seasons, and picked up the slack last year when Wagner was out. If Sara returns to form the pitching is just going to be unfair.
Thing to Know 2: Star shortstop Sierra Romero's looks like Miguel Cabrera at the bat and in the field; in the comments Hail to the Blue points out her glove is fine but her arm's been erratic.
[Jump for Best of the Board]
Thank you, Dustin Johnston, for lobbing this softball over the heart of the plate. It's remarkable, not to mention hilarious and captivating, that Jon Horford coexists peacefully on a team with these two hooligans:
Note John Beilein's futile effort to wave Andrew Dakich and Mitch McGary back to the bench. You cannot stop their enthusiasm. You can only hope to contain-- no, that seems impossible, too.
[Hit THE JUMP for Aaron Craft's greatest contribution to the Aaron Craft debate, Nik Stauskas making absurd layups, various moments of Illinois failure, the bench mob takeover, and more.]
Somewhere there should be
for all the world to see
a statue of a fool made of stone.
An image of a man
who let love slip through his hands
and left him to stand here all alone.
I found your statue, Mr. Ruffin.
It depicts Dan Dakich watching Aaron Craft attempt this shot.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the GIFs, including lots of Derrick Walton, "Plastic Man," John Beilein giving dap in the run of play, sad Ohio fans, and more.]
I pose the questions for these things on Monday nights or Tuesday mornings, so I was taking a guess that Ohio State would sic Craft on Michigan's alpha dog. He was surprisingly efficient but the question remains relevant:
We are now alarmed. What are teams doing to shut down Stauskas, and what can Michigan do to counter it?
BiSB: Like Seth, I was assuming Craft would be able to lock up Stauskas. Boy, are my cheeks red.
The Stauskas shackles are complicated but revolve around the same principle: put a little guy in his face who can shadow him. Stauskas isn't extraordinarily quick, so if you get a Ferrell/Craft type who can get over every screen and stick with him through curls and such, you can deny him good looks. Moreover, if they do that, bigs can sag off a bit, and as a result the pick-and-roll game has sputtered.
There are a number of theoretical options to Liberate the Stauskas, but I'm not the Xs and Os expert. Ideally you'd see more back-cuts to take advantage of the overplays, but for one reason or another those haven't been there. They can also try to find ways to take advantage of the size mismatch, but Stauskas hasn't really demonstrated much of a post game.
|This nearly got the cat called for a moving pick.|
So that leaves stuff like off-the-ball down-screens that see Stauskas take a Family Circus-like route to a catch-and-shoot. Stauskas can also generate his own pull-up 3s on occasion, which are both fun and profitable. Basically, we might need to add a "Nik Stauskas is probably Rip Hamilton" tag to the site. That might breathe new life into the Not Just A Shooter debate, but even if he is Just A Shooter sometimes, that's okay because he's still a really really good shooter. Also, Ferrell notwithstanding, chasing Nik in circles all game will take a toll on a guy on the offensive end; Craft had to rotate off of Stauskas a couple of times, and by the end of the game he wasn't even strong enough to shoot a basketball all the way to the hoop from 22 feet.
via user harryddunn
[After the jump, the spheroid of truth]
2/11/2014 – Michigan 70, OSU 60 – 18-6, 10-2 Big Ten
I'ma fall in this basket if that's what it takes
Early, it was a layup line for Ohio State. A combination of transition off turnovers and long misses and plain old WHAT ARE YOU DOING defense led to a stretch where OSU made seven consecutive shots, because all of those shots came within a foot of the rim. For its part, Michigan was stuck outside, with the now-standard point-guard-on Stauskas gambit making it difficult for Michigan to initiate offense through their best player.
Aside from the inexplicable avalanche of offensive rebounds, a sense of déjà vu prevailed. This was the same game Trey Burke's Michigan team had at OSU, the same feeling of being overwhelmed by a road game they had just experienced at Indiana and Iowa. Craft or a Craft-like substance was stuck to Michigan's engine, gumming up the works.
Dan Dakich rhapsodized; ESPN kept showing one particular defensive sequence where Stauskas got Walton a wide open corner three that GRIII rebounded and missed a putback on. What would ESPN have shown had either of those really good shots gone in? The same thing. The Aaron Craft narrative does not bow to things like reality. He is a winner, and if Ohio State does not win, they still win, because anything else is impossible.
And then Michigan was down four at halftime. Four is a lot less than 20. Four is doable.
In the second half, Craft stayed stuck to Stauskas. Michigan came unstuck from Craft. Stauskas managed to find snatches of space in which to rise up or attack the basket on his way to 15 efficient points but was largely removed from generating shots for his teammates. Walton became a free-range annoyance to anyone who happened to have the ball.
Except Craft. Walton played free safety against Craft. If provided a mildly psychoactive taco, Craft would have seen Walton as a giant middle finger extended in the general direction of his offensive competence. A very small, very distant middle finger. And he still would have passed the ball to someone on the perimeter.
On the other end, Walton did a thing that was pretty good, and then a thing that reminded you of you-know-who, and then another couple things and then you had to say it even if you were afraid to do so.
The word "Burke" was uttered, in comparison instead of deficit, when Walton took a mishandled dribble and exploded to the basket for an and-one against a seven foot shotblocker. He extended his body past applicable limits and crashed to the floor after. It had to be mentioned. It was like seeing a ghost.
This is not even that shot.
This is an entirely different shot that is the same shot that is Burke's shot.
Walton's stats were incomprehensible in relation to his play. When he scored near the end of the first half and up flashed his line—two points, four rebounds—it felt wrong. The narrative of his play was at odds with the blunt numbers, and even afterwards he still has an impossible-seeming 2/8 in the two-point column. The other stats, however, back him up: 13 on 13 shot equivalents, ten(!) rebounds, six(!) assists, one turnover. OSU has the fourth-best defense in the country; Derrick Walton drove the bus against them in the second half as Michigan put up 70 in a 59 possession game.
For his part, Craft finally launched his uncontested three, which was an airball. A gritty winner of an airball, but an airball. Dakich started looking for another mancrush—literally, on air, this is a thing that literally happened on air.
As Michigan surged, you remembered the other bit of that Ohio State game last year: a 20-minute trudge to tie the game before a final slump finally condemned them. This trudge was from ten back, but it was no less of a grind against pretty much the same team that ground Michigan's offense into paste a year ago.
This Michigan team doesn't have a Burke, but when there's one Aaron Craft maybe it's better to have three mini-Burkes thrusting their rapiers wherever the armor is weakest.
Hello. Michigan has now won at OSU, MSU, and Wisconsin. In the same year and everything. They also have a road win over (probably) tourney-bound Minnesota, and are very likely to end the conference season at least 6-3 away from Crisler. 7-2 is a distinct possibility. Yowza.
This probably missed. Michigan now knows the feeling. [Fuller]
Parade of missed bunnies. Here's a sentence I never thought I'd say: that game reminded me of the Michigan-Arizona game, with Michigan in the role of offensive rebound machine that can't convert any of the resulting layups. Michigan had 14(!), most of them in the first half, and after that frustrating 20 minutes they only led OSU 7-4 in second chance points.
This feels like a team-wide problem but it was mostly a Robinson thing. (Morgan did miss a first-half putback but that was his only miss of the night.) On the one hand, Robinson flashed to the bucket without a box-out on several possessions and created extra shots. On the other, those extra shots did not go in the basket. They kept flashing huge disparities in FG% in the first half and wondering how Michigan was in the game; those disparities would have been significantly less huge if Michigan was just getting one look at the basket.
Haunted. Now add in the three point play caused when Caris momentarily lost his mind and 'saved' a ball going out off of OSU. This is why large sections of the first half were agonizing about a score that should have been near even.
But welcome back, super-efficient two-headed center. As mentioned, Morgan missed one shot. Horford also missed one, a 15-foot jumper on which he was left open. Both guys used clever moves to get short-range buckets on route to a 7/9 night on which Michigan dominated the boards.
Box score change request. Spike Albrecht only got four minutes, picking up another turnover and missing one shot. HOWEVA, that missed shot should be credited as an assist, as he drove into the lane and put it so high off the window that there was little chance of a bucket. He did this because Amir Williams tries to block everything. Amir Williams tried to block it; the ball went directly to Morgan on the weakside; Morgan actually made the layup.
Amir Williams. There's no nice way to say this. He is not all there. OSU has yanked him from long stretches of games for defensive incompetence; in this one Michigan's two centers picked up seven OREBs despite being much smaller and less athletic. He also committed one of history's worst fouls when he ran over Walton with the shot clock expiring on a critical possession down the stretch.
I remember Williams getting yanked from the M-OSU game at Crisler two years ago after some comically bad defensive possessions, and while he has improved somewhat from that point he remains a massively frustrating guy prone to fits of ain't-care. I know this because I was rooting for OSU in their game against MSU and built up large reserves of loathing for his game.
Irvin up and down. Irvin extended OSU the same favor Williams did at the end of the first half by fouling LaQuinton Ross on a three. It wasn't nearly as bad. He's a freshman, not a junior, and that was a quality look from the corner instead of a desperation jack from about five feet behind the line. It was still bad. Irvin also added in a trio of errors on possessions down the stretch:
- fouling Ross as he initiated a desperation drive to the basket with three seconds on the shot clock
- turning the ball over on a sloppy perimeter pass
- getting burned by Ross on the next offensive possession for a layup and an OREB that turned into a three point paly
The refs credited the first foul to Horford, somehow, but it was Irvin who made the contact, and Stauskas is listed as the guy with the TO in the box score. I don't think I'm remembering it wrong, because at the time everyone in the room was moaning at Irvin.
[UPDATE: I remembered this wrong. The bail out foul was in the first half, as was the ensuing TO, and then the third error was the foul on the three. Irvin did get a TO from Ross in between these issues.]
So there's that. But Irvin also had ten points on five shot equivalents. This is a much shorter section than all the things that went wrong but it's equally as important. That is two points per Irvin-initiated shot. That is good, Adam Jacobi. His threes were needed shots in the arm when Michigan was getting wobbly; he's nearing Stauskas for team three point champion. Achievement unlocked: Modern-Day Microwave.
Wait. Should we call him "The Induction Burner"? Or is that stupid?
Yeah, okay, it's stupid.
This three was slightly lower pressure. [Fuller]
Glenn is so broken don't take that oh OKAY. Another miserable game for Robinson, but this one was capped off by a critical corner three in crunch time that pushed Michigan out to 7 and was the beginning of the end. He was 2/9 on his other shots, many of them point-blank. At points it was like his God-given athleticism was just an elaborate way to troll Michigan fans.
But at least it seems like the message has been received. Michigan posted him up for one of his buckets. Robinson eschewed dribbles for the most part (0 A, 0 TO) and went hard on the offensive glass. Even if it didn't pay off in this particular game, more 4 OREB performances from Robinson will get him into that "quiet 14 points" range he was so effective in last year.
His defense was also notably better on Ross than alternatives. Irvin was inserted for a run in the second half right after a couple of plays around the rim on which Robinson did not convert, and there were a couple of possessions on which it was clear that Ross could just back Irvin down inside the paint whenever he wanted. GRIII is much more sturdy.
Hurdle cleared. Kenpom had Michigan with a 33% chance to pull that game off. The algorithm has been giving OSU a bit of the Wisconsin treatment this year after the Buckeyes stormed through an undefeated nonconference schedule with no good teams on it. Despite being .500 in the league they're still in the top 20. Even if they're overrated by computers, that was a road game against a 19-5 team, Michigan's last against anything resembling a tourney outfit.
Their only trips remaining are to Purdue and Illinois, collectively 7-15 in the league. Michigan is now better than 70% to win every game left on the schedule save MSU, a 65% proposition, and is projected to finish a boggling 15-3 in the league.
Craftbow. I don't hate Aaron Craft and would take him on this Michigan outfit no question even if he is allergic to shots. But man, I hate Aaron Craft. This has nothing to do with anything other than the Tebow effect wherein announcers praise a player so much that you're just so damned sick of hearing about it.
Dakich is normally my favorite color guy other than Jay Bilas, but hearing him call an OSU game is pure torture. His normally reasonable comments about effort go from getting your hands up on shooters and boxing out to ludicrous flights of fancy wherein he literally says things like "the ball knows" that you have reversed the floor and then goes in. In this game he started the first ten minutes bitching about how Michigan was barely trying, and then had to stare at Michigan ending the game on a dominant run.
Effort is so fetishized by commentators that they'll ignore randomness, confusion, youth, and uncertainty to rail on it. Craft exacerbates that 1000%. It got so bad that Dakich started going on and on about Horford's huge effort level… on an uncontested dunk. I'm delighted I never have to hear about Craft again. No offense to the man himself.
Creepy balance. To the point about many mini-Burkes instead of one Burke: Michigan played seven guys an appreciable amount of time in this game. Usage: 22, 22, 21, 19, 18, 18, 16. Walton and GRIII are at the top; LeVert is at the bottom.