needs moar usage
If you wanted to concoct the most painful possible basketball game to watch, at least when it comes to mid-January non-conference road games, Saturday's 66-64 heartbreaker at Arkansas was about as bad as it gets from a fan perspective. We saw:
- The end of the Kentucky game go long, causing most fans—including myself—to miss at least the first few minutes of the game.
- Arkansas hit their first 11 shots from the field en route to opening up a 20-point lead.
- Michigan turn the ball over five times in the first ten minutes as they looked entirely unprepared to handle the Razorbacks's "40 Minutes of Hell" full-court press.
- The Wolverines embark on a lengthy comeback run, only Arkansas kept Michigan at arms-length until Zack Novak cut the deficit to two points with just 3:48 left.
- A four-minute stretch during that span in which neither team scored a point.
- Zack Novak almost kill a guy.
- Trey Burke's final shot go halfway down then cruelly bounce out as the buzzer sounded.
That was not fun. At all. The most joy I got from that game was watching Novak stick it to the Arkansas crowd by sinking clutch three after clutch three, only I felt guilty doing so because I'm pretty sure Novak should've been ejected. Yes, he made an effort to block the shot, but nailing an airborne player in the head with your forearm while running at full speed is pretty damn dangerous.
That's besides the point, though. The point is that Michigan could never quite put it all together, dropping a very winnable game and leaving the Wolverines still lacking a true road win this season. If M lands on the bubble come tournament time, this is going to be the "what if?" game that could come back to haunt them.
The key was that press, spearheaded by a deep Arkansas rotation that kept fresh legs on the floor while Michigan's fairly-thin core group of players tried to keep pace. The Wolverines looked blindsided by the press early on, and instead of slowing the game down and playing at their tempo, they sped up. I don't have video of the opening minutes, but the sequence that led to Novak's flagrant foul is pretty indicative:
I'm pretty sure that play violated Rush the Court's first three rules for breaking the Arkansas press. Even when Michigan was able to get through, settling down into their half-court offense was another issue entirely.
Other than Jordan Morgan, who scored 16 points on 7-11 shooting and had eight straight to key Michigan's second-half surge, no Wolverine had an all-around solid game statistically. Trey Burke dished out six assists to just two turnovers and grabbed seven (!) rebounds, but his 13 points came on 6-19 shooting and he was just 1-6 from deep. Novak led the team with 17 points and connected on 5-7 three-pointers, but he turned the ball over four times and struggled to keep pace defensively. Nobody else cracked double-digits in the scoring column, and it took the still-slumping Tim Hardaway Jr. eight shots to score nine points.
Michigan will look to move on from this game quickly, but the remaining stretch is brutal. The Wolverines head to Purdue tomorrow night (KenPom: 35% win probability), then play at Ohio State (5%), at home vs. Indiana (43%), and at Michigan State (13%) over the next two weeks. In fact, going by KenPom, the Wolverines are projected to win just four of their remaining 11 games. While that would give the team a 20-11 record (10-8 B1G), almost assuredly locking up a spot in the tournament, the team could be looking at another uphill battle to even reach the second day, let alone the Sweet Sixteen.
While that would still satisfy expectations, we all know from experience that life on the bubble is a stressful existence. With Hardaway struggling, Smotrycz disappearing, and the team leaning heavily on a freshman point guard, something is going to have to change—and soon—if Michigan wants to avoid a late-season swoon. I trust John Beilein to make the necessary adjustments, but once again, the burden will be placed on a group of mostly-inexperienced players to pull through.
And yet, Michigan remains tied atop the Big Ten standings. Please don't ask me to explain what's going on this year. It's probably best to strap yourself in, because it's going to be one hell of a ride from this point forward.
Ahhhhh. Thank you,
Matt Austin Thornton, for your steadfast belief in running the play even if it means passing up a wide-open three to give it to your heavily-guarded big man:
"I was extremely wide open," Thornton said of the final sequence. "We wanted to get the ball inside. I think everyone was surprised by how open it actually was. Play it over again, I'd probably do the exact same thing. Get the ball to our star and hopefully he goes up and gets fouled or makes a shot."
Also, thank you, Jordan Morgan, for stepping up beautifully to block Keith Appling's shot, forcing State to scramble for that final, desperation look by Green. My body is still in the process of uncurling from the fetal position, but I swear I'll jump up and down in celebration as soon as that is physically possible.
You know what happened. I know what happened. It's Friday afternoon. Let's just jump right into the big chart:
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan|
|State gets the ball to Adreian Payne in the post, and while he's established great position on Jordan Morgan (-0.5), Zack Novak (+1) is right on time with a double, forcing Payne to kick it out to Brandon Dawson. Dawson is briefly unguarded, as Tim Hardaway was forced to rotate down to Draymond Green in the post, but Dawson drives and tries to shoot a floater. Hardaway (+2) steps up and gets a hand on the shot, and the ball falls harmlessly into Morgan's hands (2-pt, heavy contest, miss).|
|MSU pushes the pace after Novak sinks a three, and as they're setting up Morgan (-1, I guess) trips and falls in the post. Appling immediately passes to Payne, Hardaway (+0.5) rotates to force the pass, but Payne makes the right play in passing to Dawson, left alone by THJ, who drives and hits a layup (dunk/layup, late contest, make).|
|Payne gets a pass on the wing, about 15 feet from the hoop, and decides to attempt a quick shot. Morgan doesn't respect Payne's jumper, nor should he, and the shot bricks off the far side of the rim (2-pt, no contest, miss). Novak chases down the rebound.|
|Appling gets a pick from Green, but Burke (+0.5) stays right with him and Novak (+0.5) takes away any drive with a good hedge. Appling gives it off to Wood, who tries an entry pass to Payne in the post, but Morgan (+1) bats it away, unfortunately right to Dawson. Dawson tries to drive on Hardaway, but Douglass (+2) sags off of Wood and strips the ball away, coming up with the steal.|
|Appling gets both an off-ball screen and the a high side pick early in the play, but Burke (+1) is right with him through both. He eventually gets the ball back up top and takes another pick, and Burke has no help as Novak and Hardaway are in the middle of a switch. Appling sees this and crosses over, running Burke into Payne, but Novak (+1.5) slides over to stop the drive, and Appling travels.|
|Green comes out and sets a very high screen for Appling on the edge of the Block 'M', and Burke (-1) goes under the pick. This gives Appling just enough space to utilize his speed and get to the basket, and he hits a driving floater over Burke (2-pt, late contest, make). Burke recovered decently on this play, but he can't let Appling get a running start like that.|
|Wood gets a pick up top from Nix that stalls Douglass, but Morgan (+0.5) steps out and Wood picks up his dribble and makes a jump-pass back up top to Green as Novak (+0.5) rotates nicely. Green swings it to Thornton in the corner, but Hardaway (+1) closes well and gets a hand right in his face - the shot misses (3-pt, heavy contest, miss). Burke (+1) jumps over Appling and Nix to grab the rebound.|
|Appling rushes the ball upcourt after an ill-advised Hardaway three was off the mark. State doesn't have numbers, but Nix goes barrelling down the middle in front of Appling and Burke (-0.5) gets caught behind him. Appling pulls up just inside the arc and shoots, but can't knock it down (2-pt, no contest, miss). This was almost a moving screen by Nix, but Burke still has to do a better job of getting out to Appling.|
|Green starts with the ball up top and drives hard to his right against Novak, then spins into the lane, getting by Novak (-1) and forcing Morgan to slide over. Morgan (-0.5) is a split-second late to take the charge, and he hits the deck as Green slips a pass to Nix, who has an open lane for a layup (dunk/layup, no contest, make). Hardaway (-1) is also culpable, as he doesn't recognize the need to rotate onto Nix and is far too late getting over.|
|13:46||15-6||HC||Man||Hardaway||2-pt Miss/OR/Layup Make|
|Wood curl-cuts at the baseline, getting a screen in the process, but Douglass (+0.5) stays right with him. Wood gets a pass on the wing and dumps it to Nix in the post. Morgan (+0.5) is right on him and Novak (+0.5) comes over to help. Nix has an opportunity to hit Green wide open in the post as Hardaway (-1) doesn't rotate, but he instead dribbles into the lane, puts up a heavily-contested shot that misses (2-pt, heavy contest, miss), and is fortunate to have the ball bounce right back to him for a tip-in (dunk/layup, heavy contest, make).|
|Appling again rushes upcourt after a missed three, giving to Wood on the wing, where he's guarded by Douglass. Wood fakes and is able to get past Douglass (-1) on the baseline, but Novak (+2) is in perfect position just outside the charge circle. Wood is forced to double-clutch as he avoids barreling over Novak, and his layup attempt misses (dunk/layup, heavy contest, miss). Great job by Novak to get to the right spot, put his hands straight up, and avoid committing a foul.|
|12:15||15-8||FB||FB||Douglass||3-pt Miss/OR/Layup Make|
|Again, Appling breaks out after a missed Michigan shot. He flips a short pass to Wood, who jacks up a deep three and misses (3-pt, late contest, miss). Draymond Green is late coming up the court and Douglass (-2), who's responsible for the weak side, doesn't pick him up and box out. Green gets to the basket unimpeded and tips in the missed shot (dunk/layup, no contest, make).|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Vogrich, Novak, McLimans|
|Appling gets a pick from Green up top that Douglass goes under. Novak steps out and switches to prevent Appling from driving. Payne then sets another pick for Appling coming back the other way, and this time Novak (-0.5) has to go under while McLimans hedges. Douglass (-1.5) fails to switch onto Payne even though Burke has sunk down, ready to take Green, and by the time McLimans gets back on Payne he has great post position. Appling gives to Green, who has a better angle to pass into the post. He does, and Payne takes a couple dribbles and sinks a baby hook over McLimans (2-pt, heavy contest, make). McLimans actually gets a +1 for defending this as well as he could, but he didn't have much of a chance to make a play.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Vogrich, Smotrycz, McLimans|
|Wood gets a high-side screen from Green, takes it, and immediately gives to Green as he pops out to the corner. McLimans (-1) looks very confused in the post and is way late getting over after Smotrycz (+0.5) correctly hedged, and Green has space for an open three, but misses (3-pt, no contest, miss).|
|Price sprints up the court after a miss, but Burke stays with him and Smotrycz (+0.5) comes over to stop the drive on the baseline. Price gives to Wood and gets it right back, and Burke (+2) turns up the heat, pinning Price against the sideline and forcing him to take a timeout.|
|Lineup: Burke, Vogrich, Hardaway, Smotrycz, Morgan|
|Price gets the sideline inbounds and tries to drive right against Vogrich (+0.5), but can't find room, so he tries an ill-advised jump pass to Wood on the opposite wing. The pass nearly goes out of bounds, but Wood chases it down just as Hardaway gets there. Wood takes a bump from Hardaway and stumbles backwards, drawing a dubiously-late foul call. If the ref calls this when contact is made, fine, but he blows his whistle only after Wood travels. Refs -1. On the subsequent inbounds, M shows a 1-3-1, then moves into man. Wood gets it on the wing and Hardaway (-1) overplays the drive to his right, allowing Wood space to shoot a three, which he misses (3-pt, late contest, miss).|
|I think this is a 2-3, though the video doesn't show the initial setup and it could be a rotated 1-3-1 (picture here). Appling drives sideline around Hardaway and passes in the corner to Green, who shoots over Burke. Burke (+0.5) gets up and provides a great contest, but Green has enough size to still get a good look and knock down the shot (3-pt, heavy contest, make).|
|Appling gets the ball after an MSU steal and charges down the court on the right as Green accompanies him on the left. Burke and Hardaway both attend to Appling while Vogrich (+0.5) gets back on Green. Appling is able to cross over inside of Burke, and Hardaway, who didn't hustle into postion, can't contest and ducks away from contact as Appling hits a layup (-3 Hardaway, dunk/layup, no contest, make).|
|Lineup: Douglass, Novak, Hardaway, Smotrycz, Morgan|
|Appling drives to the left against Douglass and passes to Green, now guarded by Smotrycz, in the post. Morgan (+1) jumps over for a quick double, and Green throws up what appears to be an alley-oop attempt to Nix that ricochets off the rim and into Novak's hands.|
|Broken record alert: Appling leads a fast break after a missed shot. He charges unimpeded up the middle of the court, and Hardaway is there to stop him at the 3-pt line, except Hardaway (-3) continues backpedaling and tries to steal instead of taking a charge or steering Appling away from the basket. Appling goes right by him and tries a Gervin-style finger roll, but it luckily rims out (dunk/layup, no contest, miss). Hardaway's lack of effort on the defensive end is troubling, to say the least. Mike Tirico and Dan Dakich both rip into him for not stopping the ball, and they're justified in doing so.|
|After Smotrycz misses a layup, Appling—yes—pushes the pace. He gets to the top of the key and sees Trice all alone on the wing as Novak (-1) is late getting out there. Trice gets the pass and sinks a three despite a strong effort from Novak to recover and contest (3-pt, late contest, make).|
|Yeesh, Hardaway. He starts the possession by picking up Nix after State rushes the ball upcourt, but drifts to the perimeter, forcing Novak (+0.5) and Smotrycz (+0.5) to sink into the post to pick him up. Green drives into the lane and passes to Wood in the corner, and Hardaway (-2) is late getting there, but the shot rims out (3-pt, late contest, miss). You could pin some of the blame on either Novak or Smotrycz, but I think both were right there in scrambling to defend the unguarded player in the lane, especially since it doesn't look like Hardaway communicated at all that he was switching men on the play.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan|
|Nix gets the ball on the baseline against Morgan and Novak slides off of Green to provide help. Nix passes out top to Wood, who drives into Hardaway and Novak (+1), but Burke (-1) is late rotating onto Green and Wood slips him a pass under the basket. Hardaway (+2) makes a fantastic recovery and cleanly blocks Green's shot (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Thanks for playing defense, THJ.|
|ESPN doesn't show the play, but Burke (+2) steals Green's inbounds pass after a made basket and immediately drives for a layup. I think this kid is going to be good, you guys.|
|5:23||30-20||HC||Man||Morgan||Foul/3-pt Miss/OR/2-pt Miss/OR/2-pt Make|
|Novak is called for a foul after executing a nice switch with Douglass—he didn't quite move his feet fast enough to avoid tripping up Appling. ESPN doesn't show the subsequent inbounds, but Nix gets it in the corner and hands off to Green while effectively screening off Novak. Morgan (-1) doesn't jump out and Novak gets a late contest as Green misses (3-pt, late contest, miss), but Hardaway (-1) bats the ball into the air instead of grabbing it and Brandon Kearney gets an offensive rebound. Kearney gives to Trice, who immediately passes to Nix in the post. Nix's first shot is off the mark (2-pt, heavy contest, miss), but he's able to bat the ball off the backboard, grab it, and go up again, this time finishing (2-pt, late contest, make).|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Vogrich, Novak, Morgan|
|Michigan appears to start the possession in man, but when Appling gets the ball on the wing, Burke (+0.5) and Vogrich (+0.5) execute a nice trap, forcing him back well beyond the arc, and M falls back into a 2-3 zone. Trice calls for two separate screens from Payne, and both times Douglass (+1) hands with him; on the second pick Trice drives and Stu forces him to attempt a running jumper that doesn't fall as Morgan (+0.5) gets a hand up to contest (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Interesting defensive look here from Beilein.|
|Appling once again charges up the court after a miss, and he's able to blow by Burke (-2), get to the right side of the lane, and hit a driving layup as Morgan is picked off by Payne near the basket (dunk/layup, no contest, make). Burke has to do a better job of stopping the ball in transition on this play.|
|Michigan turns it over, so Appling leads the break again. This time, Michigan is prepared, as Vogrich (+0.5) and Novak (+0.5) stop Appling's drive in the lane and Douglass (+1) tips Appling's pass out of bounds as he tried to hit Trice in the corner. Timeout.|
|Green gets the ball in the post and quickly whips it to Kearney in the opposite corner. Kearney swings it to Appling on the high side and gets it right back, then feeds Payne in the post. Morgan (-2) tried fronting Payne but gave up the pass along the baseline, allowing Payne to turn into the lane, back down Vogrich, who has no hope of defending the much-larger player, and hit a short jumper (2-pt, late contest, make).|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan|
|Michigan switches mid-play from man to 2-3, and the timing is very poor, as the switch is made right as Wood gets the ball in the corner and beats Hardaway (-1) along the baseline. Morgan steps up to stop the drive, but Novak is stuck on Green in the post and nobody is guarding Kearney in the far corner. Wood jumps and passes to Kearney, who drains the open three (3-pt, no contest, make). Hardaway can't give up the baseline that easily, but this also seems like a bad choice to change defenses mid-play. It doesn't look like the call came from the bench, but I'm not sure who made it on the floor; I think it was Douglass, but I'm not positive.|
|Appling gets the ball on the wing with 12 seconds on the shot clock and tries to get into the lane, but Douglass (+1) sticks with him while Morgan steps up to force a pass. Burke (+0.5) gets out quickly onto Trice, who drives baseline, and Morgan (+1.5) again steps up to force a pass. This time, the pass zips by Payne and Hardaway is there to steal and head the other way.|
|Trice runs the clock down to 10 seconds, then drives left and gives to Thornton, who has lost Hardaway (-2) on a screen. Morgan steps out to take Thornton, but Hardaway doesn't switch, instead playing just a couple feet behind Morgan. Payne and Green set a double screen for Wood on the weak side, and Green pops out to the arc, where he's unguarded as Novak and Douglass must choose to take two of the three players on their side of the floor. Thornton passes to Green, who misses a wide open look (3-pt, no contest, miss). Terrible first half on both ends for Hardaway.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan|
|Draymond Green gets the ball as State comes upcourt and dribbles to the left elbow, where Morgan (+1) steps up, stops the drive, and nearly knocks the ball away. Hardaway (-2) gets distracted as he stands next to Green but doesn't fully commit to a double-team, allowing Wood to get open in the corner. Douglass (+0.5) rotates out to get a decent contest, and Wood's shot hits the side of the backboard (3-pt, late contest, miss). Hardaway either has to double hard on Green or stay with his man. He did neither.|
|Dawson gets the ball on the baseline to the right of the hoop, and Hardaway (+1) pressures him well while Douglass (+0.5) nearly steals the ball on a good double. Dawson kicks it out top to Appling, who gives to Nix on the block. Nix backs down Morgan (+0.5), pivots, hesitates, and then rattles in a short hook (2-pt, heavy contest, make). Decent defense from Morgan here, and Nix nearly picked up a three-second call.|
|Appling gets a good screen from Nix and gets a step on Burke (-1), but Morgan (+1) hedges and does a solid job of staying step-for-step with Appling. Still, Appling is quick enough to get to the left side of the hoop, but he runs right over Hardaway (+2), who establishes position just outside the circle and draws the charge.|
|Wood catches a long rebound on the run and is one-on-one with a backpedaling Burke. Burke (-1) can't get set to take a charge or block the shot, but he doesn't get out of the way and picks up a ticky-tack foul as Wood misses the lay-in (dunk/layup, no contest, foul). Questionable call, but if Burke doesn't have a play, he either needs to foul hard to prevent the layup or clear out—he's lucky Wood doesn't have an and-one opportunity.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Smotrycz|
|Nix gets the ball a few feet outside the lane against Smotrycz, and Hardaway (+0.5) comes over to cut off the baseline. Nix tries to drive into the middle of the lane, but Smotrycz (+2) easily takes the ball away as Nix turns right into him.|
|16:32||40-32||FB/HC||FB/Man||Smotrycz||Layup Miss/OR/Layup Make|
|Smotrycz turns the ball over at halfcourt and Wood charges back the other way as State has a four-on-one. Somehow, Douglass (+2) is able to position himself under the basket and force a miss when Wood gives to Dawson for a layup (dunk/layup, heavy contest, miss), but Wood is able to bring in the rebound and bring it out top to reset. Wood passes to Dawson on the high side and gets it right back as Nix sets a downscreen for Dawson, who cuts to the basket as Smotrycz (-2) misses a switch, and Wood throws a lob that Dawson lays in for two despite a great effort from Novak (+1) to recover (dunk/layup, late contest, make).|
|State with a nice play in the corner to set up a bucket. Green sets an off-ball screen for Dawson, who pops out to the corner and gets the ball as Douglass (-1) is late getting out and overcommits, allowing Dawson to get a step, drive to the lane, and kick out to Green for a 12-footer (2-pt, late contest, make) as the defense collapses on Dawson. Douglass actually gets a hand in Green's face late, but that's a pretty short shot for a good shooter.|
|Wood comes off a screen and dumps it in to Green in the post when Douglass (+0.5) sticks right with him. Novak holds his ground and Green passes to Nix just outside the charge circle, but Smotrycz (+2) comes over after taking a step towards Green, gets his hands up, takes a bump, and then strips the ball away as Nix starts to bring it up for a shot. Nice play.|
|After a missed three, State runs the break, but Wood trips over himself and travels as he starts to drive. Derp.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan|
|Novak (+0.5) and Douglass (+0.5) make a timely switch as Green runs a pick-and-pop with Appling. Appling gives off to Green, who lobs it towards Payne in the post. Morgan (-1) was fronting and grabs Payne to prevent him from catching the pass, which would've led to a layup, and he's called for a foul. On the inbounds, Green gets it in the corner and goes baseline against Novak, but Hardaway (+2) steps up and takes a charge. Credit to Hardaway for doing that a couple times this half, as I'm sure he got chewed out at the break.|
|Green tries to lob a pass to Payne in the post, but Morgan (+2) is fronting Payne and this time easily steals the pass.|
|Appling pushes the pace after a Michigan miss and Green—who runs upcourt and notices Morgan (-2) is heading back to the post instead of guarding him, as Novak has taken Payne—turns around and sets a crushing pick on Burke, who had no chance on this play. Somebody needs to call that out, as well as pick up Appling on a switch, and I think it's Morgan. Appling gets a wide-open look from a couple feet inside the arc, but misses|
|Appling gets a high side screen from Payne and gets a step on Douglass (-0.5), who has to go under the pick, and Morgan (-1) doesn't slide over to stop the ball. Hardaway (+1) is forced to abandon the weak side and does a good job of setting his feet, but Appling passes to Thornton, who's now all alone in the corner. Thornton sinks the three (3-pt, no contest, make).|
|Nix sets another high side screen for Appling with 11 seconds on the shot clock, but this time Morgan cuts off the drive and forces a pass into the corner as Douglass (+1) trails. Morgan (+2) then sinks back onto Nix, who had posted up Burke, cutting off any chance of a pass and forcing Thornton to make a skip pass to Wood. Wood tries to drive on Burke (+1), who recovered well and cuts off the lane and Novak(+1) tips Wood's desperation jump-pass. Douglass is there to intercept before the shot clock expires.|
|Appling gets another high ball screen, but Morgan (+1) hedges well again. Appling loops around and can't get by Morgan, but he throws up a teardrop from outside the lane that somehow falls through (2-pt, heavy contest, make). Ridiculous shot is ridiculous.|
|Burke has a three-pointer partially blocked and Appling runs again. Michigan does a good job getting back and Novak (+1) gets right out onto Wood as Appling feeds him in the corner, but Wood sinks a three anyway (3-pt, heavy contest, make). C'est la vie.|
|Lineup: Burke, Vogrich, Hardaway, Novak, Smotrycz|
|Vogrich stops an entry pass into the post with his foot, so State inbounds the ball with 15 seconds on the shot clock. Appling gets it up top and drives quickly, before Nix can get over to set a pick, and Burke (+2) plays him tight, times his jump perfectly, and blocks a pullup J right into Vogrich's hands (2-pt, heavy contest, miss).|
|Lineup: Douglass, Vogrich, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan|
|7:54||49-44||HC||Man||Douglass||2-pt Miss/Foul/Layup Make + Foul|
|Appling gets a pick up top from Nix, Douglass (+1) goes over and hangs with him, and when Appling doubles back over another Nix pick Morgan (+1) is there to hedge, forcing Appling nearly out to the edge of the midcourt circle. State quickly swings the ball down to Nix in the post, but Novak (+1) holds his own as Nix bricks a hook from outside the lane (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Morgan (-1) is caught shoving Green under the basket on the rebound, an unnecessary foul given where the ball was headed. On the ensuing inbounds, State whips the ball around the perimeter as Novak, Douglass, and Vogrich (+0.5) all do a fantastic job of rotating and switching, but great ball movement gets it into the post for Nix against Douglass, and Nix hits a lefty layup and gets the foul (dunk/layup, heavy contest, make + foul). Great defense, better offense.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Vogrich, Hardaway, Morgan|
|Appling pushes the pace after Vogrich bricks a three, and while Burke (+0.5) and Morgan (+0.5) pick up Appling and Nix, Douglass (-2) stays near the lane instead of getting out to Kearney in the far corner. Appling makes a quick pass to Kearney, who drains a three over a late-arriving Douglass (3-pt, late contest, make).|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan|
|Burke (-1) doesn't anticipate a pick by Nix, but Morgan hedges nicely on Appling to force him towards the sideline, and Appling gives the ball up. He gets it up top again with 8 seconds on the clock, again gets a screen that picks off Burke, and while Novak (-0.5) picks him up, he's able to turn the corner and get up a shot before Morgan can rotate over. The floater falls (2-pt, late contest, make). Morgan comes out even after the nice hedge but a late rotation.|
|Green gets the ball on the block against Novak and Morgan comes out to double. Green is able to throw a skip pass to Kearney in the opposite corner, and Morgan (-2) never gets back onto Nix, instead staying with Green along with Novak. Kearney gives to Nix, who has to be picked up by Hardaway, and Thornton, Hardaway's man, runs out to the corner. Nobody's there to pick Thornton up, and he hits a three over Hardaway (+1), who made a great effort to guard two players but didn't have much of a chance (3-pt, late contest, make).|
|Green takes a pass from Appling at the top of the key and gets a pick from Nix. Morgan (-1) is late with the double, and Green is able to lob a pass to Nix in the post. Hardaway (+0.5) is there on the rotation, but there's little he can do as Nix goes right over him to lay it in (dunk/layup, heavy contest, make). Morgan has to get there earlier so Green can't get space to make the entry pass or he's got to stay on Nix.|
|MSU can't find an opening as Michigan throws out the 1-3-1, and Appling eventually drives wildly into the paint, charging over Morgan (+2) as he tries to pass and picking up, well, a charge.|
|3:24||56-57||HC||Man||Burke||Foul/2-pt Miss/Foul (2/2)|
|Douglass (+0.5) stays right with Wood as he comes around a double screen off the ball and gets it on the wing. Wood dumps it in to Green, who spins baseline against Novak (-1) and passes to Payne before Morgan (-1) rotates. Hardaway (+1) does a good job just to foul Payne on the floor before he can dunk. Trice gets the ball on the wing, calls for a pick from Green, and drives to the right, but Novak (+0.5) picks him up and when Trice pulls up for a jumper, Burke (+1.5) blocks it (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). The ball goes right to Thornton, however, and he's able to pick up a shooting foul as he slashes into the paint. Unlucky break, that.|
|Green gets the ball up top and holds until 10 seconds remains on the shot clock, then calls a timeout. Thornton inbounds it to Appling a couple feet inside the half-court line, and Burke (+2) hounds him, forcing Appling to dribble off his foot. The ball goes over half-court, and Appling gets a backcourt violation as Izzo screams in protest about... good defense? [Ed-S: +1 Izzo for gif-friendly chewing of playbook)|
|1:36||58-59||HC||Man||Burke||3-pt Miss/OR/2-pt Miss|
|Appling drives and gets caught in the air due to great defense again from Burke, just chucking the ball near the perimeter, where he's fortunate that Wood gets to the ball first. Appling gets the ball again in the corner, takes a couple dribbles towards the top of the key, and pulls up from beyond the arc, but Burke (+3) nearly blocks the shot and it's off the mark (3-pt, heavy contest, miss). Douglass (-2) can't locate the ball even as it bounces off the floor three feet away, and Wood grabs the rebound. State resets. Appling gets a screen from Green and drives, but Morgan (+1) steps up nicely and Appling can't sink a floater as Hardaway (+1) helps out with the contest (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Hardaway taps the rebound out to Burke.|
|0:36||60-59||HC||Man||Morgan||2-pt Miss/OR/2-pt Miss/OR/2-pt Miss/VICTORY|
|Thornton gets a pick under the basket from Green and pops out wide open to the three-point line, where he gets the ball from Appling. Novak doesn't run out when Hardaway is caught on the screen, but Thornton immediately passes to Green a couple feet outside the lane. Normally I'd ding Novak for this, but it's clear his instructions were to not leave Green—State's #1 option—at all. Green is forced to pass out top by Novak (+0.5) and Hardaway (+0.5), Nix gets it on the block and passes out to Appling, who drives wildly and has his pullup J blocked by Morgan (+2, 2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Wood gets the ball, nearly loses it, and fights a pass through to Green, who drives to the lane and misses a runner over Burke, who smartly decides not to put his hands up and risk a foul (2-pt, no contest, miss). Green's tip-in attempt, at least according to the play-by-play, comes after the final horn. Exhale.|
Want to talk about it?
Sure. Michigan got brutalized on the boards, still had problems properly defending the fast break, and had a couple major breakdowns in communication. Despite all that, they held MSU to just under 50% shooting from the field, allowed just five (!) free-throw attempts, and forced turnovers on 24.6% of Spartan possessions. I really don't know what to make of this game, except that I'm giddily happy that Michigan pulled out a victory.
Did I really see a 2-3, or was that a hallucination?
Fear not, self, for you aren't trippin'. Check out this little trick:
Michigan starts out in man-to-man, but after an early trap they fall back into a 2-3 zone. This curveball appeared to catch State off guard, as they tried a pair of fruitless pick-and-rolls that resulted in a tough shot from within the teeth of the defense. I don't remember Michigan doing this before and I like the wrinkle so long as they know when to break it out. Michigan was later burned on a mid-play switch to the 2-3 that was poorly timed, so this must be handled with caution.
You're getting a little ahead of yourself. How about a...
|Defensive Shot Prevention|
|Burke||18||7.5||10.5||Tasked with staying with Keith Appling, who was the focal point of both State's half-court offense and their fast break, and he did an admirable job. Burke is getting better at playing defense with his feet instead of reaching for the ball, and for the most part he kept Appling in front of him despite being run through myriad screens. Forcing the late halfcourt violation was the cherry on top of a strong defensive performance. Also: two blocks!|
|Hardaway||16||17||-1||It was a tale of two halves for Hardaway. In the first, he looked generally disinterested in playing defense, loafing back on a couple fast breaks and getting caught out of position several times. THJ refocused in the second half and took a couple charges while doing a much better job of staying in position. Still, much of what he did in the first half was inexcusable from an effort standpoint.|
|Novak||13.5||4||9.5||Not sure what Chris Mackinder saw to grade Novak so poorly, as I thought he did a great job shutting down Draymond Green (7 points, 3-8 shooting, 2 offensive rebounds). While Novak didn't have a direct hand in many turnovers, he played great help defense and was rarely in the wrong spot. All that was missing were a couple of Novakian drawn charges.|
|Smotrycz||5.5||2||3.5||Only played 10 minutes. Missed a switch that led to a basket. Had a couple of nice steals. Generally solid in limited playing time.|
|Morgan||19||14||5||Had one of the tougher jobs of the night, as he spent much of his time on defense trying to run with Keith Appling after hedging on screens. He was inconsistent with his positional play, missing a couple switches, and pulled in only two rebounds. That block in the waning seconds was huge, though, and he defended the pick-and-roll quite well.|
|Douglass||12||10||2||Not one of Stu's better games as he uncharacteristically got caught drifting away from his assignment on a few plays and gave up some open looks. Still, Douglass came through with a nice steal, disrupted a few passes, and did a solid job on Appling when Burke needed a breather. Needs to do a better job of boxing out.|
|Vogrich||2.5||0||2.5||Picked up some half-points for rotating well. He really is a mini-Novak, hustling all over the court and even pulling down a pair of rebounds.|
|McLimans||1||1||0||Two minutes, one good play, one bad play.|
|TOTAL||87.5||55.5||32||Not bad. Not as good as the 2:1 +/- ratio from the Wisconsin game, but overall a pretty solid effort.|
So, um, Hardaway.
Yeah. This is pretty unacceptable defense:
Hardaway doesn't hustle into position and Appling gets an easy two points as a result. This happened twice in the first half to go along with a few instances where he either didn't make a switch or failed to communicate that he was abandoning his man. That's not so good. On the other hand, he had a much better second half and took those two charges. He needs to make that level of effort throughout the game, though, and not after Beilein is forced to pull him multiple times in order to chew him out.
Pretty, pretty good. Hardaway was the only player to finish in the negative, Morgan worked his tail off, Burke hung with Appling, and Novak shut down Green. Douglass had his ups and downs but was still decent on the perimeter. I think the strength of Michigan's overall team performance is reflected in the...
Yes. Shot chart.
|Man||1/1||2/2||3/3 (1F)||0/2||5/5 (1F)||3/12||1/3||1/5||0/2||2/6||8/12 (1F)||6/17 (1F)||16/35 (2F)|
|Fast Break||3/4 (1F)||-||0/2||0/2||-||-||-||2/3||1/1||3/6 (1F)||2/3||1/3||6/12 (1F)|
|TOTAL||4/5 (1F)||2/2||3/5 (1F)||0/4||5/5 (1F)||3/13||2/4||3/8||2/4||6/13 (1F)||10/15 (1F)||8/22 (1F)||24/50 (2F)|
State certainly helped Michigan out by missing four uncontested two-pointers (including Green's last shot, as Burke decided—smartly, in my opinion—not to put his hands up and risk a foul), but they couldn't generate many open looks down low out of their half-court offense and were forced to settle for a whole lot of contested mid-range shots.
That's nice. How did Michigan force so many turnovers?
Tight defense and timely swipes at the ball, for the most part. Here's some of Douglass's finer work, as he recognizes that Brandon Dawson is going to drive to the middle, sags off his man—who's hanging out harmlessly beyond the arc—and comes away with a steal:
Smotrycz also came away with a pair of strips just from playing solid man defense and waiting for his man to bring the ball down and in front of him. He's shown a propensity for doing that and he's beginning to cut down on the reach-in fouls that usually accompany such plays.
Even when State did get a bucket, they usually had to work for it. Watch how well Novak, Douglass, and Vogrich rotate and switch on this play, despite in ending in a Spartan and-one after some fantastic passing:
Just like in football, good offense beats good defense (hence all the scoring). There's not much more you can do on the above play, especially along the perimeter.
Once again, Burke stood out to me as the team's best defender—watch your back, Stu. Novak deserves major credit for the job he did against Green, and I thought Morgan did well in every area save rebounding.
First-half Hardaway. Let's hope we don't see that again.
(via Lost Lettermen)
That is all.
In lieu of the time-consuming and largely superfluous offensive UFRs, I'm going to start reviewing the offensive output of Michigan's basketball games by examining the available advanced metrics while also utilizing the UFR shot chart and picture pages. Think of it as an offensive UFR without all the unnecessary charting.
It's impossible to discuss the win over State and not start with Trey Burke's performance. I mean, goodness, Burke inspired this piece from Grantland's Shane Ryan...
I'm coming out with the big guns today: Trey Burke is the most exciting player in college basketball.
You want caveats? OK. Trey Burke is the most electric, dynamic, breathtaking human being wearing a Division I uniform, and Tuesday night he etched his name into Michigan lore with a 20-point virtuoso turn in a 60-59 home win over rival Michigan State. Also, he's the coolest customer on the court at any given time, and he's only a freshman.
...as well as this incredible video from mgodisney:
We'll get into why Burke was so successful later, but first, his numbers. By traditional stats, he was ruthlessly efficient with his shot, scoring 20 points while going 8-11 from the field (3-6 from three), and he also managed to hand out three assists, though those came along with three turnovers. Burke was lethal on the pick and roll, a welcome change from the last couple games, and his only major negatives came when he got caught in the air on the baseline, which happened a couple times and led to turnovers. His offensive rating was a stellar 135.5, well above his season average of 109.1 and by far the best mark he's put up against high-quality competition.
As far as rest of the team goes, things weren't quite so easy. Stu Douglass recorded the team's lone offensive rebound of the night, and if you take away Burke's numbers, the Wolverines shot just 15-34 from the field and hit only 3-15 from beyond the arc. Most of the squad actually shot the ball at least decently well, but Tim Hardaway Jr. forced up several long shots (3-9 FG, 0-4 3-pt), and Evan Smotrycz also had a quick trigger finger after hitting a couple layups early (2-6 FG, 0-2 3-pt). Now that I've given away large portions of it, I might as well go ahead and post the shooting chart.
|Burke||1/1||1/1 (1F)||1/1 (1F)||2/2||-||-||1/2||1/2||1/2||4/5||2/3 (1F)||2/3 (1F)||8/11 (2F)|
|Hardaway||(1F)||2/2||0/2||-||1/2||0/1 (1F)||-||0/2||0/3||(1F)||3/6||0/6 (1F)||3/9 (2F)|
|Smotrycz||-||2/3 (1F)||-||-||-||0/1||-||0/1||0/1||-||2/4 (1F)||0/2||2/6 (1F)|
|Morgan||1/1||1/1 (1F)||-||-||-||0/1||-||-||-||1/1||1/1 (1F)||0/1||2/3 (1F)|
|Douglass||2/2||(1F)||-||-||-||0/1||-||1/1 (1F)||0/2||2/2||1/1 (2F)||0/3||3/6 (2F)|
|TOTAL||4/4 (1F)||6/7 (4F)||2/4 (1F)||2/2||2/3||1/6 (1F)||1/4||4/9 (1F)||1/9||7/10 (1F)||12/19 (5F)||4/19 (2F)||23/45 (8F)|
You have no idea how happy I am that those numbers matched the box score. Anyhow, you can see the root of Hardaway's struggles in the chart—he took twice as many heavily-contested shots as anyone else on the team, including three from long distance. Michigan as a whole didn't get many good looks against a strong Spartan defense, but when they did, those shots usually came from very close to the basket. You can also see how much Michigan emphasizes hollowing out the defense—creating open shots either at the basket or beyond the arc—when you look at the two-point shots. Burke had the team's only two uncontested attempts in that category, and when the team put up a contested two-pointer, it was usually because the play they ran didn't work effectively.
Looking at the four factors, which you'll likely recognize from UMHoops's game recaps, the key to Michigan staving off the Spartans was a decidedly-low turnover rate coupled with an uncharacteristic propensity for getting to the free-throw line:
The lack of offensive rebounds is disconcerting even when taking into account MSU's size, rebounding acumen, and the fact that Michigan went small for most of the game. It's going to be difficult to continue winning without hitting the offensive glass, as it essentially forces the team to play mistake-free (or, at least, mistake-very-limited) basketball while connecting on a solid percentage of their shots. The Wolverines got away with it here, but I don't foresee them winning many more games during this tough stretch of the schedule if they're hauling in just one offensive rebound.
They key to the game was Michigan's ability to run the pick and roll, something they struggled with mightily when Iowa consistently brought a hard hedge against Burke. The Wolverines found success against the hard hedge early against MSU by having Jordan Morgan slip to the basket early, and this really set everything up for the offense, as State had to respect the roll and couldn't pressure Burke so heavily.
Here's the first instance of Morgan slipping the pick—he comes out to Burke, immediately dives to the hoop, gets the pass with space, and makes a great pass himself to Novak for a corner three:
That's a fantastic play by Morgan to recognize see the open man so soon after getting the ball—a lot of big men would commit a charge on that play, but he gets the pass off quickly.
I have two more videos that were supposed to go here that play off the above. Unfortunately, YouTube won't let me access my uploaded videos (which are unlisted, so I can't get to them from my user page) and keeps giving me an error message. As soon as I can access them, I'll either update this post or do a picture pages post. Sorry about that. In short, Michigan made great strides in running the pick and roll, and it led to baskets. Informative, I am.
Of course a half-hour later it works again. Moving on, this play shows Morgan once again rolling hard to the basket, and while Nix initially hedges, he scrambles back quickly to Morgan. This opens up the drive for Burke, who crosses over and gets to the hoop for a layup:
That play was created thanks to Morgan's first early slip, causing MSU to adjust their defense and play less aggressively. Against Burke, that's a green light to drive into the paint, and he took advantage.
Finally, here you see another way to counter the hedge, as Burke identifies to double-team early, crosses over away from the pick, and gives it to Smotrycz in the corner. With the Spartan defense focused on the perimeter, the quick reversal creates space for Smotrycz to drive, and he catches a bit of a break when he misses the lay-in but State snatches the ball off the cylinder:
It's a simple adjustment, but one Michigan hadn't made prior to this game. As Burke is able to absorb Beilein's complicated offense and continue to learn how to properly read a defense, the hard hedge should become less and less effective against him. It certainly helps to have a great offensive mind in John Beilein as the head coach.
Note: Offensive Ratings are for the game, courtesy of Statsheet. ORtg is measured by points produced/possessions used—the formula is quite complicated and comes from Dean Oliver's Basketball On Paper, but think of it as the number of points produced per 100 possessions.
Trey Burke (ORtg: 135.0): Has been covered extensively above. He's pretty good.
Stu Douglass (ORtg: 128.7): Douglass obviously had the game-winning points, which is always nice, and he also chipped in two assists while only turning the ball over once. Burke mostly ran the show, but Douglass was very capable running plays on occasion, and his four-point play in the first half was huge. He did force up a couple of long bombs, but for the most part Stu played within the offense and took advantage of his opportunities.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (ORtg: 108.2): Hardaway looked plain out of it for much of the game on both ends of the floor, but he did pick it up late in the game, creating an open two-point jumper for himself and then getting a critical layup when he drove baseline. He didn't turn the ball over, which helped out his offensive rating, but I'd be fine with a turnover or two per game if they were the result of more aggressive play. Hardaway is a very inconsistent spot-up shooter, and he needs to take the ball to the basket more often, as it not only creates more good shots for him, but for his teammates.
Zack Novak (ORtg: 106.0): Novak was relatively efficient from the floor, hitting half his shots, but he didn't attack the basket like we've seen him do with great effectiveness this season. Not only that, but he was blanked on the offensive glass, a rarity for Mr. GRIT. The offense mostly ran through Burke or Hardaway, for better or worse, relegating Novak mostly to taking shots at the tail end of the shot clock—that's when he hit his best shot of the game, a pull-up at the free-throw line over Draymond Green that barely touched net on its way down.
Jordan Morgan (ORtg: 81.2): Morgan's ORtg is awfully low due to a pair of turnovers despite very few touches—very small sample size applies here (as it does for all individual games, but low usage really exacerbates things). Morgan mostly functioned as the designated screener, and in that role he performed well, as you saw above. He does turn the ball over far more than what is ideal—Morgan has a 27.5% turnover rate this season, which is not good at all—and missing a pair of free throws hurts too, but Morgan isn't asked to do much in this offense and he did his job in freeing up Burke to create.
Evan Smotrycz (ORtg: 75.3): Oof. It looked early on like Smotrycz might be returning to form as he got a pair of baskets driving to the hoop, including a startling and-one after a glacial—but effective—crossover, but he began forcing perimeter shots and finished just 2-6 from the field in 10 minutes of play. Smotrycz shot the ball on 53.3% of his touches, a rate more than double any other Wolverine, and if you're going to be a black hole offensively, you'd better be an efficient black hole. Smotrycz wasn't, and therefore rode pine for most of the game.
Matt Vogrich (ORtg: 173.2): Hello, small sample size. Vogrich did have a pretty up-and-under layup that came out of nowhere, but his only other shot was a missed three on a relatively open look. Other than two defensive rebounds, he had no other impact on the box score. Nice drive, though.
Blake McLimans (ORtg: 0.0): Played five minutes. I'm not entirely sure he even touched the ball.
Yesterday, I highlighted one of the main issues with Michigan's offense in recent games: their struggles with the hard hedge against the pick and roll. When the Wolverines—especially Trey Burke—run a high screen, opponents have found success by having the man guarding the screener provide a strong double-team on the ballhandler, limiting his ability to drive to the basket and making passes into the post difficult.
There are several ways to counter the hard hedge, as discussed yesterday in both the post and the comments (thanks to all of you who added your thoughts—I'm not a basketball coach, so any additional knowledge about the game is very valuable). One such counter, brought up yesterday by MGoUser Kilgore Trout, is to get the opponent to commit to the hedge and then immediately cross back over, which should create an opening for a pass to the near-side corner.
Though he didn't execute it perfectly, and the play didn't result in a basket, Tim Hardaway Jr. provides a decent example of how to do this, and you'll be able to see the possibilities it opens. With teams over-committing to the screen, something inevitably must open up, and in this case several holes emerge in the defense. Here's the setup, as Hardaway has just received a pass from Trey Burke:
As you can see, Hardaway has the ball on the left wing, and Jordan Morgan is setting an off-ball screen for Douglass in the middle of the court—Stu will head to the near-side corner and Burke will clear out to the high side on the opposite side of the court so the team maintains proper spacing. Now that the team is properly spread out, Hardaway calls for a screen, and Morgan makes his way over:
Hardaway starts to dribble towards Morgan, but as soon as Melsahn Basabe (#1, guarding Morgan) jumps out to hedge, Hardaway makes a quick crossover dribble back to the near side—this is exactly how you want to counter Basabe's aggressiveness in this instance, especially with Hardaway's man already attempting to fight over the pick:
This opens up several possibilities. If Morgan was ready for the crossover, he could crash hard to the basket, forcing the defender guarding Douglass to slide down and vacate the corner or give up an open dunk (or the defender guarding Novak could do this—either way, a open corner three should be there). Morgan doesn't roll hard, likely because he hadn't fully set the screen when Hardaway made his move, and also because Hardaway will drive to the lane himself. Hardaway's drive accomplishes what Morgan's roll would do—force the near-side defender to commit, leaving Douglass alone in the corner:
Unfortunately, what you see above is where this particular play doesn't work as well as it should. Hardaway picks up his dribble before he gets into the lane, so when he passes to Douglass, the sliding defender still has time to get back out and force Stu to drive. I think if Hardaway takes another dribble, it would create enough separation for Douglass to get an open three, a much-preferable option in Michigan's offense (and especially with Stu, who's much more comfortable as a stand-still shooter than a slasher). As it is, the defender is able to get out on Douglass, and Stu drives and misses a pull-up jumper in the paint. Full video of the play:
As was pointed out yesterday, the biggest problem here isn't the play, but the execution. If Morgan dives hard to the basket, or Hardaway penetrates further into the paint, this play likely results in a bucket. Instead, Douglass is forced to settle for a contested fallaway in the lane when he doesn't have the space to get off an open three. If Michigan can execute this adjustment with a little more precision, however, it should help keep opponents from over-committing to the hedge defensively and allow the Wolverines to run the pick-and-roll more effectively.
When UV bullets keep expanding you must post them as posts.
I hit up Crisler for the first time this season to take in Michigan's 76-66 win over Iowa State; it wasn't that close. Michigan led by 20 for a good chunk of the second half before getting sloppy and letting ISU whittle the lead down to 8 or so; I got frustrated. KenPom is always watching.
Anyway, items. First, Eric Upchurch's photoset. (Thanks to the Ann Arbor Observer.)
Photos are Creative Commons licensed.
If you want it large, there is a link that takes you there.
THJ Face Pantheon addition. This is an all-timer.
McLimans is pretty good, too.
Speaking of the Bird. McLimans and Akunne put up ten points in the midst of a game-opening run that took Michigan from down two to a comfortable lead and we were all like "WTF." Via UMHoop's five key plays:
McLimans came in with a rep as a big who could shoot threes but has struggled to do so; with no other discernible skills that means bench. Akunne spells Burke at "point guard," though when he's in the offense doesn't run through him. Doesn't really run through anyone. They're making shots, though, especially Akunne.
The downside of Akunne's time is that it means someone else is struggling. That would be Vogrich, who's started the year off one of ten from three. When shooters can't shoot they can't play.
Novak's addition. Novak's added a pump fake and step-in midrange jumper to his arsenal this year that he's knocking down with excellent consistency. He has some awesome shooting numbers thus far: 12 of 19 from two, 13 of 28 from three.
Not to be outdone. Jordan Morgan is 20 of 25 on the season. Hit up the Five Key Plays to see his 12 points in the second half and note that only one bucket was the undefended throwdowns that seemed to be most of his points last year. He hit a jumper from the elbow, had a couple of baby hooks in the lane, and seems like a guy who can maybe generate some of his own offense from the post.
We'll have to see if he can continue this against quality competition. I mentioned this before but he seems to be tracking like DeShawn Sims, where he can blow up crappy defensive teams (with a lot of help from the pick and roll) but doesn't have the height or athleticism to deal with guys like those at UVA. This is maybe not good news against MSU later this year—Adreian Payne is approaching the top 100 in block rate. OTOH, he did have an efficient 12 against Duke's diverse Plumlees.
Burke and Morris. Holdin' The Rope on the divergent point guards:
I miss Morris's ability to get into the lane at will using his size but Burke's outside shooting and distribution is getting to be just as fun to watch. He will surely hit a rough patch or two at some point this season, but he seems to have the perfect demeanor to weather those storms. While Morris thrived on a sort of expletive-based verve, Burke is a cool customer. Both work, but the latter is particularly surprising for a freshman. The minutes he has been logging thus far is somewhat worrisome, however. I guess I'd have to go back and see what kinds of minutes Morris was getting last year (I'd imagine they were similar if not higher), but you'd imagine that Morris's body would be more capable of handling a long season, including a TOUGH Big Ten schedule. I actually didn't realize this until looking at the box score just now but apparently he went 3/11 from three, which: a) is not good and b) only in a Beilein offense can you shoot 11 threes and be okay.
Burke was 3 of 4 at one point before finishing on an 0-for-7 skid, which does lend some credence to the idea that he might be losing his legs. Nick Baumgardner:
Entering Saturday's home game against Iowa State (noon, BTN), Burke is averaging 31.6 minutes per game, third-most on the team. However, in Michigan's last six games, its freshman point guard is averaging nearly 34 minutes.
The problem Beilein is faced with is simple: Outside of Burke, who is averaging 11 points and 4.1 assists this season, the Wolverines have no other true viable point guard option. …
"If we had a true other point guard, we wouldn't be concerned," Beilein said. "When he's on the floor, he's one of our best guys to just run our offense. But he does need to get two to three minutes of rest every half. At least that's our plan."
Or it might mean nothing. We're early enough in the season that sample sizes are laughable. Burke went from a 42% three point shooter to 31% in those seven shots. Ask again later.
Q: where does the backup point come from? Next year's recruiting class is a post and a couple of 6'6" guys. Akunne is never going to get penetration; Michigan really needs Carlton Brundidge to develop into a viable option over the next year or so.
The truly important thing. Our long local annoyance is over: no longer does Crisler have "souvenir" and "large" options for soft drinks in which "large" is the smaller size. "Large" is now "regular" and I don't have to tell the teenager behind the counter that when I say large I want the large one, not the small one, who's on first. VICTORY
Half of the new Crisler. It is a massive improvement and I'm happy to report that rumors the seats were reminiscent of flying coach turns out not to be true. Room was sufficient. The place looks a lot better, which is step one. Step two is not being able to look around and think "the empty seats do look a lot better."
This week in terrible fan-spurning ideas. Crisler is going to be re-seated next year based on priority points. Are you really going to tell the guy in the third row who's been buying tickets for a decade that because he hasn't coughed up enough dough he gets booted to crappier seats?
This is man who has endured. He deserves our respect and admiration. Instead Dave Brandon puts his hand out. His drive to undermine fan loyalty is relentless.
Why always the terrible teams? I'm looking at the schedule. Michigan's small conference opponents by Kenpom rank: #117 Oakland, #217 Bradley, #289 WIU, #316 Arkansas Pine Bluff, #327 Alabama A&M, #331 Towson.
I know they're going to fill their schedule with some creampuffs but I wonder what the impact of having so many awful opponents has on the RPI. Towson is 0-7 and projected to go 3-27. Alabama A&M just lost to South Alabama but 23; they're in the SWAC and should go 9-9 in conference because the best team in the league is ranked #292. I'd rather see more Bradleys and Oaklands on the schedule, for both entertainment and RPI-jiggering purposes.
L to R: Greatest photo evar(!), Trey Burke, Evan Smotrycz
Brian has decided to activate the "ninja" half of my job description and deploy me as MGoBlog's go-to basketball guy this season, a role which will only increase as football season comes to a close. Michigan's basketball season officially
kicks tips off tonight against D-II opponent Ferris State in a game that would be far more interesting if it took place at Yost instead of Crisler, but that's non-conference basketball scheduling for you. That means I should probably post a season preview.
Last year saw an extremely youthful Michigan squad overcome the losses of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims and a six-game midseason losing streak to make a shocking run to the NCAA tournament—highlighted by a season sweep of Michigan State—where they bombarded Tennessee in the first round before falling just short against top-seeded Duke. The Wolverines were poised to bring back every major (and minor, really) contributor from the 2010-11 squad until Darius Morris—the team's leading scorer and only true point guard—decided to leave for the NBA, turning Michigan from a potential Big Ten dark horse into, well, a darker horse, if that makes any sense whatsoever.
Still, the Wolverines return everybody except Morris, add a pair of high-profile freshmen in point guard Trey Burke and combo guard Carlton Brundidge (as well as forward Max Bielfeldt), and have an obvious go-to guy in place in sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr., who is poised to take over the reigns from Morris as the focal point of the offense. This is enough to earn them a preseason #22 rating from Ken Pomeroy, good for fourth in the B1G behind Ohio State (#2), Wisconsin (#10), and Purdue (#19), and just ahead of the Spartans (#24). How will the team fare? Let's start by breaking it down by somewhat-vague position groups:
Yes, point guard gets a section to itself, and this will be the most scrutinized spot on the floor for the Wolverines. As expected, John Beilein has named freshman Trey Burke, a four-star recruit and last year's Mr. Basketball in Ohio, as the starter, and he's under an extraordinary amount of pressure to come in and adequately replace Darius Morris. Their styles couldn't be much more different—Morris is a 6'4", physical creator who used his size to create interior shots (both for himself and others) but struggled with his outside shot, while the 5'11" Burke relies on his quickness and shooting ability to create his own offense. Burke actually fits better into Beilein's offense, but the looming question is whether or not Burke will be able to set up his teammates like Morris (6.7 assists per game last year) while not making too many freshman mistakes with the basketball.
It's likely that Stu Douglass will reprise his role as sixth man and primary backup at both guard positions. Douglass isn't an ideal creator at point guard—last year, he had a higher turnover rate (17.0%) than assist rate (10.9%)—but he's a streak shooter who can occasionally catch fire from deep and as a senior he's well-versed in the offense. Now that he's got a year of experience at point guard—a position he had never played until last season—under his belt, he should be an adequate backup for Burke. Douglass is the team's best perimeter defender, as well, but he must develop more consistency in his shot (48.9% from two, 35.8% from three LY) to become a real threat on offense.
Michigan's only other scholarship senior is the King of the Gritty White Guy Platitudes himself, Zack Novak, a 6'4" shooter/rebounder/unlikely-dunk-contest-winner/sideline-freakout-artist who has spent much of his Wolverine career playing wildly out of position at power forward. Now that Michigan finally has some depth up front, Novak can play the two or the three, and this should help open up his offense—other than seldom-used Matt Vogrich, Novak had the best three-point percentage on the team last year at 38.5%, but he often seemed to get gassed and disappear offensively due to having to guard players half-a-foot taller than him. Unfortunately, he's not a threat inside the arc, posting a paltry 38.0% shooting mark on two-pointers, but his remarkable ability to get rebounds amidst the trees makes him a valuable player on both ends of the floor. I expect Novak will average double-digits in scoring while grabbing 5-7 rebounds per game and providing valuable defense.
Your other starter on the wing is Tim Hardaway Jr., who greatly exceeded expectations as a freshman—averaging nearly 14 points and four rebounds per game—and will now become the team's go-to scorer. Hardaway spent much of last season as a spot-up shooter, and connected on a decent 36.7% of his threes, but this year he'll be asked to do much more creating with the ball in his hands. This was an area he improved upon as the season wore on last year, but he'll still have to get much better now that Morris isn't there to take away a lot of the defensive pressure. Still, Hardaway is the clear best player on the team—he's on both the Naismith and Wooden award preseason watch lists—and he should average at least 15 points a game. The big question here will be his shot selection, as he displayed a propensity for "what was that?"-type jumpers at times last year and could feel more pressure to jack up ill-advised shots as the team's main scorer.
Douglass, again, should be the primary backup at guard, but don't be surprised if 6'4" junior Matt Vogrich sees a greatly increased role this season. Vogrich was a dead-eye shooter from distance last season, hitting 38.7% of his threes, and was much-improved defensively after looking lost as a freshman two years ago. He's still limited in terms of his skill set, but in Beilein's system his sharp shooting will be a big asset off the bench.
The wild card here is four-star freshman Carlton Brundidge, who stands at only 6'1" but is a strong slasher who is at his best when attacking the basket, something you can't say about anyone else on the roster. Brundidge barely played in Michigan's exhibition game against Wayne State last week, but I think his role will increase as the season moves forward—he's one of the more talented players on the roster and could see a lot of time next to Douglass when the senior shifts over to the point, as their respective size and skill-sets make for a solid backcourt pairing.
(I'm throwing the nominal power forwards in here too, just in case there's some confusion when I call, say, the 6'6" Colton Christian a backup big.)
The starter at the four is 6'9" sophomore Evan Smotrycz, a very solid outside shooter (38.1% from three) who many have tabbed as the X-factor for this year's team. Smotrycz reportedly gained 30 much-needed pounds in the offseason, which should help his post defense greatly, but there are still major questions about his athleticism and ability to create shots on offense. Smotrycz doesn't have much in the way of a post game and hasn't displayed the quickness to face up and drive past a player with regularity, and we'll have to see if he's improved in those areas over the offseason. While I still don't think he'll be a major threat in the post, his size and shooting ability are very intriguing, and I think Smotrycz could emerge as the team's second option on offense. Defensively, he should be fine as long as he's not asked to take on quick small forwards or hulking centers, and Beilein now has enough flexibility with his lineups where that shouldn't be a huge issue.
At center, it's a battle between redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan and true sophomore Jon Horford (brother of Al) for the starting spot. Morgan was the man there last year, and was extremely efficient shooting the basketball (62.7%), but most of his opportunities were either created by the now-departed Morris or the result of offensive rebounds. While he was decent in his on-ball defense, Morgan was extremely foul-prone and did not provide much of a shot-blocking threat. If tabbed as the eventual starter, Morgan should be solid, but he's got his limitations and could really feel the absence of Morris more than anyone else on the roster.
Though it came as a bit of a surprise, it was Horford who started against Wayne State, and he'll take the opening tip once again against Ferris State tonight. An extremely raw prospect out of high school, Horford showed occasional flashes of rebounding and shot-blocking brilliance last year, but often looked awkward with the ball in his hands and frequently settled for outside shots, which he rarely made. Like Morgan, he was very foul-prone, so we'll likely see both big men get major minutes this season, but Horford seems to have the higher upside—he's more athletic than Morgan and has a better shooting touch while providing a much-needed shot-blocking presence on the interior of the defense.
There are two bench players who should see occasional minutes this year: 6'6" sophomore power forward Colton Christian and 6'10" center Blake McLimans. Christian doesn't provide any real threat offensively, but he's a capable rebounder and defender who could turn into an interesting role player if he shows the ability—and willingness—to hit any sort of shot. McLimans is big, which is always nice, but he was supposed to possess a good outside shot and ended up going 1-for-19 for three last year. Since he only shot the ball 41 times total (making 13), this is a bit of an issue, and defensively he's not as strong as either Morgan or Horford. We'll see if Beilein trusts him enough to put him in the rotation, or if he decides to go small and occasionally move Smotrycz to the five, something we saw a fair amount last year.
I hate to kind of punt on this one, but man, who knows? The 2008-09 team was supposed to be mediocre at best, then made a surprise run to the tournament and even knocked off Clemson once they got there. The 2009-10 team brought back pretty much everyone, had a lot of preseason hype, and fell flat to the tune of a 15-17 record. With Harris and Sims gone last season and pretty much the entire team either freshman or sophomores, the 2010-11 squad looked to be terrible, so of course they reeled off 21 wins and once again advanced to the second round of the NCAAs.
This year's team appears poised for a potential top-25 season and another tournament run, but much of those expectations rely on a smooth transition from a star in Morris to a true freshman in Burke while other players—most notably Hardaway and Smotrycz—pick up the scoring slack and keep the offense running smoothly. With a difficult non-conference slate that includes a brutal draw in the Maui Invitational, plus playing in a Big Ten conference ranked by KenPom as the nation's toughest, this looks to me like a team that will spend much of the season squarely on the tournament bubble.
Exceeding those expectations means that we either see vast improvement from key role players, a huge breakout from Tim Hardaway, or a fantastic freshman year out of Burke—none of those are out of the question, but none are certainties, either. If Michigan suddenly finds that they can't create inside scoring chances without Morris's penetration, or Hardaway spends the season trying to carry the offense by chucking up less-than-ideal shots, Michigan could fall short of their goals as the fanbase begins to look ahead to the arrival of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas in 2012-13.
All I can say for certain is this will be an interesting year, and lucky for us, this is a group that is extremely likable and fun to support. The future is very bright, almost regardless of what happens this year, but we'll just have to see if the Wolverines continue to make a push towards the top of the Big Ten or stay in a holding pattern until blue-chip reinforcements arrive.