I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
glenn robinson iii
The past four games have been a rude awakening for a Michigan basketball team once thought to be the best in the country. That same team is now looking up at three teams in the Big Ten standings, not to mention swiftly falling from contention for a one-seed.
The first two losses of this 1-3 stretch were understandable in both outcome and form; losing competitive games at Indiana and Wisconsin—while getting royally screwed by the officials in the latter—is understandable for a team of any caliber. Last night's debacle in the Breslin Center, however, took the cracks exposed in the three prior games and turned them into gaping crevasses.
In an effort to figure out how much to panic, how much to not, and where we go from here, here's a collection of thoughts on this recent stretch.
JOHN BEILEIN CAN'T MAKE HIS PLAYERS OLDER
I shut off my laptop last night after getting multiple tweets asking if John Beilein was at least a big part of the problem. As far as I can tell, Beilein made one critical coaching error last night: removing Trey Burke after his third foul, which sparked a quick 5-0 Spartan run early in the second half. At that point, however, State had already spent the game imposing their will on Michigan, and with the way the game played out it's hard to imagine Burke being in the game for that two-minute stretch would've changed the outcome.
The problem is not John Beilein, who's done a masterful job of putting this team together and coaching them into an offensive juggernaut. The problem is that he can't make his players any older, and now we're seeing why that's an issue. As it turns out, getting experience on the fly in the toughest conference in the country makes for some growing pains; there's no knowing how five freshmen (six if you count Max Bielfeldt) are going to respond when thrown into critical roles in adverse situations.
Ideally, this is a team that would come back intact next year and be an odds-on favorite to make the Final Four—they need the experience, conditioning, and added size. Unfortunately, the odds of that happening are slim to none.
INTERIOR DEFENSE IS A PROBLEM
The hope was that an unstoppable offense would cover for Michigan's defensive shortcomings, but when the offense isn't unstoppable, boy do those shortcomings get exposed. Even in the victory over Ohio State, the Wolverines got abused on the interior defensively, and their two-point defense is now dead last in the conference—B1G opponents connect on 48.9% of their twos against Michigan.
The injury to Jordan Morgan, the team's best on-ball interior defender, has hurt, but the problems go much deeper. Mitch McGary is an active defender with a ton of potential on that end, but he's also prone to freshman mistakes and positional errors, like the one that allowed Jared Berggren to drive for an and-one dunk late in the Wisconsin game. Jon Horford isn't at the same level of on-ball defense as Morgan and he fouls far too much—7.7(!) per 40 minutes in conference play.
Then there's Robinson, who's clearly hit a wall and is struggling mightily to defend larger players. He's not big enough to defend a guy like Derrick Nix or Adreian Payne one-on-one, nor does he have the stamina at this point to attempt to do so and still have an impact on the other end of the floor. He's missing switches and has been late getting out to his man on the perimeter—freshman mistakes, and ones that can't be made in critical moments.
Michigan can spell Robinson with Max Bielfeldt for stretches, but Bielfeldt's offensive limitations make that only a stopgap solution—by my charting, in about a game's worth of offensive possessions in conference play with Bielfeldt on the floor, Michigan is scoring just 0.90 points per possession. The Wolverines are going to need Robinson to find a way out of his funk, plain and simple.
BURKE IS STILL THE LONE CREATOR
When the best point guard in the country leaves the court, there's obviously going to be a bit of a dropoff offensively. Michigan's Burke-free offense is downright stagnant, however, because none of the other players can create a shot at the rim off the dribble.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is still too easy to pickpocket when he puts the ball on the floor inside the arc; last night, you could see him overcompensate by trying to shield the ball with his entire body, which led to some ugly twisting layup attempts in traffic. He's much better when he can drive to the free-throw line and pull up, but opponents have learned to take that part of the court away.
Robinson, for all his athleticism, still hasn't proven himself a threat off the dribble. Nik Stauskas could be that guy, especially with his skill in pick-and-roll situations, but the last four games he's been invisible when his outside shot isn't falling. Caris LeVert isn't strong enough to get all the way to the hoop, forcing him to try an array of pull-up jumpers that aren't falling with any consistency.
The pieces all fit together when Burke is on the floor. When he's not, this team is disjointed and surprisingly easy to defend—take away Hardaway's drive to the middle, don't sag off of Stauskas, and let them miss tough shots.
THE SILVER LINING
Even the most optimistic of Wolverine partisans would've been at least grudgingly accepting of a 2-2 record over the last four games, especially with Morgan hobbled. Despite all of the above, Michigan came within a half-court shot of just that. The last four games also don't discount what happened in the first 21; let there be no mistake, this is still a team that can get hot at the right time and win a six-game single-elimination tournament (yes, that one). Is that likely? Well, probably not. Is it within reason? Sure, if the matchups fall their way.
In fact, this team can still grab a share of the Big Ten title. In a conference that is cannibalizing itself, the Wolverines have one of the easier closing slates—including playing Penn State twice in the next three games—before the season finale against Indiana. If Michigan beats the teams they should beat, they may find themselves in control of their own destiny at the very end after all.
Also, this team still has Trey Burke, who still very much deserves his status as a national player of the year contender. He is still a joy to watch, and this is almost certainly the last time he'll be in a Michigan uniform. I, for one, am going to do everything in my power to sit back and enjoy the privilege of seeing him play.
So, Tuesday's classic Ohio State game produced 28 gifs. Those who watched the game should not be surprised by this fact. They'll be split up into two posts today, and starting today there's going to be a new feature: gif rankings. The gifs from each game will be ranked in a completely arbitrary order of greatness by my choosing. There will also be a reader poll pitting the winner against the winner of the previous game's post to determine the reigning gif champ. Without further ado, here's this week's number one, and oh my goodness it is amazing:
FRAMES OF THE GAME
Obviously, the guy who thanks the heavens is the star attraction, but this isn't a one-man show. There's the guy just above Rapture Guy getting nearly as emotional. There's overalls girl unleashing a primal wolf-howl. There's the girl in front wearing a "Even LeBron Hates Ohio" shirt—though, unfortunately, not the MGoApproved version.
But really, it's all about Rapture Guy. Nik Stauskas has just hit a go-ahead three late in regulation, and this makes him happier than I've ever been in my entire life. That is not a sad statement, because he has reached the pinnacle of happiness. You can actually witness the exact moment when every bad feeling he's ever had in his entire life is expelled towards the heavens, leaving only pure joy and a deep, deep love for Michigan basketball. I envy this man, and I salute him.
[After THE JUMP, the rest of the game's top ten gifs, and your chance to vote on a winner so obvious that this better be unanimous.]
Michigan did many, many great things against Northwestern, and they will be given their proper due in a moment. But first, let's marvel at the worst inbounds attempt in the history of basketball:
What the heck happened here? Let's go to the diagram, which may or may not be taken straight from Bill Carmody's clipboard:
You know, if there weren't boundaries around the court or rules against using random rich dudes as a sixth player, this just might have worked. Worth a shot, anyway.
[For the rest of the Northwestern gifs, including Nik Stauskas declaring
sexy himself back and Trey Burke And1-ing Alex Marcotullio, hit THE JUMP.]
Before I get any more behind on these, here's a double dose of gifs from the Purdue and Illinois games, plus a couple extras from recent Michigan appearances on BTN's The Journey. As always, click the still thumbnails to open the gifs in a lightbox, and hit 'escape' to stop animation on any browser but Chrome.
Kids are weird, man.
[For the rest of the gifs, including Trollface Ted Valentine, hit THE JUMP.]
HHHHYARRRR! A reminder from BHGP why you should generally root for Iowa basketball:
Avast! Mizzen the wizzenhench and agglomerate the septicules! NAVAL SPEAK MEANS GET OUT OF MY BANNNNNNNNK
Our good feelings are not helping them reach the tournament, unfortunately.
I dare you to release that Big Ten Network poll, then. In other Big Ten Expansionfiasco news, athletic directors claim that everyone likes having to figure out which division they're in via mnemonic:
"When the Leaders and Legends were first announced, people were like, 'What the heck does that mean?'" said Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner. "I think people are starting to learn it, though. … I don't hear much from fans writing in and saying, 'You've got to change the names now,' or anything like that."
Some ADs, like Barta and Purdue's Morgan Burke, say they actually like the Leaders and Legends monikers.
We have a "faintest praise imaginable" winner. Men responsible for deciding to call something something admit—in public and everything!—that they like what they did. I bet 90% of the people who responded to the BTN's survey Strongly Agreed that "Leaders" and "Legends" were as good an idea as bringing Jim Bollman back to the Big Ten, but Morgan Burke probably likes that too.
Slight pessimism from Evanston. Rodger Sherman is not feeling the Wildcats' chances tonight. Reasons:
Even though Northwestern doesn't help heavily, Northwestern has a tendency of losing shooters: Hey, it's Nik Stauskas! Announcers like to mention that he's "not just a shooter!", because he sometimes does other stuff effectively, but that's like saying Rambo isn't "just an unkillable death machine" because he has lines of dialogue.
Northwestern's best defensive weapon is running the 1-3-1 to throw teams off: MICHIGAN RUNS THE 1-3-1 AND WILL DESTROY IT LIKE THE TASMANIAN DEVIL RUNNING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE BIGASS HAMS WITH THE BONE STICKING OUT OF IT. Even if they didn't run the 1-3-1 and know exactly what to do against it, they're one of the best teams in the nation at not turning the ball over and have a lot of guys who can shoot, so this would be an awful idea.
They do have Reggie Hearn tonight, and unlike last time the Michigan starter who's supposed to be out (Hardaway then, Morgan now) is actually going to be out. Even so, it's an extreme uphill battle that awaits them.
Power rankings. Luke Winn's latest power rankings have Michigan #1, leaping a Jayhawks team that had a close call against West Virginia, and focus on Trey Burke's jumpers off the dribble. Turns out he's good at basketball:
If Michigan wasn't the killer offensive team it is, the step-back twos that rubbed me the wrong way against Illinois might not be bad shots. 124 > 111, so they remain a little frustrating. Especially since there are threes going in at approximately the same rate as the twos mixed into the above chart that prop up the overall PPP.
If you've already run your offense and that's what you've got with five seconds on the clock, it's a great backup option. If you've got other avenues to try, like Nik Stauskas pick and rolls dumping in 1.6 PPP, you should try them.
When I rewatched the Illinois game it did seem that Burke adjusted more quickly than it felt live. He was robbed of a few assists by fouls, fumbles, and Jordan Morgan going down in a heap. Winn includes the step-back at the end of the first half as a GIF, which was both pretty and strategically a better idea than certain other shots since Michigan was holding for the last shot.
Other bits from Winn's power rankings:
- Tim Hardaway is the nation's second-most-efficient scorer in transition.
- Burke is ninth when it comes to transition possessions used per 40 minutes, which is pretty impressive given the pace Michigan plays at. I expect to see Arkansas's BJ Young at the top of that ranking; not so much the point guard for a team hovering in the mid-200s of pace rankings.
- Duke's defense has collapsed without Ryan Kelly.
- Somewhat indirectly: Winn mentioned a stat put together by TeamRankings that averages offensive and defensive rebounding together to get you an overall rebounding stat. Michigan is outside of the top ten, but only just, at 12th.
- #HotCaochTakes. Jeff Goodman assembles the always-entertaining anonymous opposing coach evaluation article on the Wolverines. Ace points out we have a Not Just A Shooter™ reference:
"Burke, but don't sleep on (Nik) Stauskas. He's not just a shooter. He much more than that. But Burke is the guy for them. You can't shut him down, but you need to find a way to slow him down."
The article is filled with lots of praise and some wishful thinking:
“They're not a very deep team. And if you take away their wide-open shots, and make them execute, that's when they'll struggle.”
“Try to get them in foul trouble. They don't want to have to think about picking up an early foul or two.”
The equivalent of telling someone you're going to stop the run when that run comes from Alabama: easier said than done. There's also a lot of stuff about how they are either tough enough or not as tough as last year. Winning ugly and that.
It is a concern, IME. Take that Nebraska game and make the opponent a Michigan State or a Wisconsin and I can see things going down to the wire.
Er. Nyet. GRIII is up to 18th on Chad Ford's NBA draft board. That's a rise from 25th and starting to get into that guaranteed-first-round area that gets scary. Ford still acknowledges he could benefit from another year:
Robinson is still scratching the surface as a basketball player. But his elite athletic ability (YouTube his 360 dunk versus Minnesota last week), rebounding ability and improved shooting touch all have scouts drooling. If teams are looking for a player who could be a home run down the road, Robinson could easily end up in the lottery. He's not ready yet, but all the pieces are there.
Hardaway doesn't show up in Ford's first round or his "next five in," FWIW.
Etc.: Top tailbacks seem to have two outcomes: great and headcase. I'll take those chances when the average NFL draft slot is a second-rounder. Kenpom continues crusade to have three-point defense recognized as pretty dang random. Michigan State is not their usual selves this year.
Hockey : (
A ho-hum home win versus Purdue doesn't quite register on the official Muppet meter, even if the No. 1 team lost on Wednesday and we're the No. 2. And we can't all be celebratin' an ultimately meaningless ranking that hasn't been posted yet. So I propose a compromise:
Finding a marquee road win on its dwindling schedule was imperative for Purdue's fading tournament hopes, and for much of last night you could tell the Boilermakers were stiffing it. Then Glenn dropped the family stone…
Soundtrack | Ace
Two epic gif dunks in two weeks and we've got ourselves a new Robinson to love. A top ranking may be academic from here with Duke falling to Miami, but just in case you don't trust the coaches to do right, Mmmm Hmmm has tracked the poll movement among B1G title contenders this season. He did the same with football earlier this week, and giving him the Diarist of the Week honors for it so he doesn't have to ask the mods to bump things anymore.
LSAClassof2000 has his own metric for comparing the top teams in the conference based whether you're above or below average on 18 stats he can pull from box scores. When he's done it looks thus (click embiggemates):
The things we're below average in are the usual things; the lack of an elite defender has Michigan last in the conference in blocks with only Penn State, Nebraska, and--oh okay--Indiana in the neighborhood. For what it's worth THE_KNOWLEDGE says we'll play Ohio State in the Big Ten tourney.
A Michigan Man will coach the 49'ers. Brian on Wednesday bumped the diary by stephenrjking pleading for people to forgive Harbaugh his academic comments in '07 because, like, we're blood. I'm whatever; the thing I don't like is when people say they're mad at Harbaugh because he was "disloyal." If there's something that makes Michigan different it's not that we stand by each other, in fact I can't think of any other family among major college programs that's as ready to criticize itself (we're still biased). We're not the school with a "Sacred Brotherhood" that you violate by complying with NCAA investigators and tell the truth.
Jim's crimes were the same as Snyder/Rosenberg's—being mostly inaccurate in his criticism, and being motivated by spite and personal gain—although to a far smaller degree. Harbaugh doesn't care about your grudge anymore than he cares that he currently employs four (Boone, Whitner, Grant and Ginn) Buckeyes who could be exempli gratias for how little our rivals care about educating players to do something besides football or work at a car dealership. He said the thing because he was competing for the same kids attracted by Michigan's academic/athletic combo pitch while being hamstrung by Northwestern-level requirements we don't meet.
If there's an exceptionalism to Michigan—the school and the sports—it's a focus on being exceptional over whether we appear to be so. That's what distinguished Bo from Paterno, it's what distinguished Carr from Tressel, and it's what made Hoke a great choice for Michigan's head coach in 2011.
Rutgers and Maryland Explained? Using a database published by USA Today, woomba found valuations for the pieces the Big Ten recently plucked in the current media environment by manually adding "Rights/Licensing" to "Other". Maryland ($22 million) was still just No. 6 among Big East and ACC teams in this metric, and Rutgers ($14.5 million) was 12th. For reference, Nebraska was at $35.8 million the year before they joined the Big Ten.
Things of interest not related to killing the conference to gamble on an outdated TV model: Michigan leads the nation in licensing but our "Other" is a relatively pedestrian $6 million (Ohio State's was a ludicrous $20.6 million last year but other schools at the top were all around $10 to $11 million). I'm almost sure this difference is in-stadium advertising but don't tell Brandon (I'm sure he already knows and that this grates him endlessly). The football ticket shakedown and replacing the coach raised contributions from $12 million in 2010 to almost $28 million last year. Ohio State's contributions dropped by almost $10 million after Tatgate.
Best of the Board
WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE?
A 2012 highlights/2013 hype video by MGomaha. All of the highlights and none of the "crap" Brady. If all of these are so good it'll be a pleasant offseason. Still nowhere close to a Better Son or Daughter or the Weapon of Choice/Dilithium spring reels.
STARS DON'T MEAN YOU'LL PLAY IN THE SUPERBOWL…
They just wink very suggestively. Discussion on Hinton's Superbowl starters by recruiting stars article linked. One thing I noticed was that most of the guys he listed as "N/A" because they were before the Rivals database were major, major recruits. Frank Gore, Randy Moss, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anguan Boldin, Terrell Suggs and Bryant McKinnie were all among the top 10 high school players in their years (Moss and Boldin of all time). Carlos Rogers and Justin Smith were Superprep All-Americans, which is the equivalent of being a Top-50 player. Jonathan Goodwin you could call a 3- or 4-star; he had all the offers but went to a MAC school so he could play right away.
If you call the other "N/A" guys unranked you end up with a Superbowl roster made up of roughly a quarter each of five-stars, four-stars, three-stars, and lower. Some readers saw that and came away with "See it doesn't matter what you're ranked out of high school because half of the guys in the Superbowl weren't blue chips." This is because these readers don't know how math works.
Rivals this year lists 34 players who are 5 stars, and had 250 players get 4 stars or higher, and gave at least 3 stars to 1,650. That's out of 8,171 high school players profiled. So let's compare percents shall we?
|Rating||2013 Recruits||SB Starters|
|2 or less||76.33%||22.6%|
If stars didn't matter these two columns ought to be apportioned the same. Yes it's too small a sample size to scream correlation, but that's a very suggestive wink.
Your Moment of Zen:
Via mgovideo - Apparently he and I share an internal playlist.
EDIT: The title of this article was changed after posting because apparently it was causing Creed-related seizures. Please note that the title to the Sly & The Family Stone song where they say "Boom Shakalaka" is "I Want to Take You Higher." There is no reason to have any other song come to your head when you hear those words.