I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
From our very own Zack Novak photoshop thread.
This is part two of the hoops season recap; part one, covering the guards, can be found here.
It should not come as a surprise to those who have followed John Beilein's Michigan squads that a post covering the team's "bigs" would feature a photo of 6'4" Zack Novak at the top of the post. Michigan entered the season relatively thin in the frontcourt, and things only got worse when backup center Jon Horford suffered a stress fracture in his right foot in December, an injury that would ultimately sideline him for the remainder of the season. When Evan Smotrycz suffered through a brutal slump to start conference play, Novak found himself starting at power forward, reprising his role from years past instead of playing his natural two-guard position.
While Michigan got solid seasons out of Novak and Jordan Morgan, along with some inspired efforts from Smotrycz, the lack of size up front was the team's greatest weakness. This was exposed each time Michigan played Ohio State or Michigan State, especially away from Crisler, and even when all of the bigs got in foul trouble at Northwestern and Colton Christian played important minutes at center. This shouldn't be as much of an issue next season with the addition of Mitch McGary and the return of Horford, but Smotrycz's departure hurts. Let's look back on each player's individual contributions:
Preseason Expectations: Morgan entered the season as the returning starter after a surprising redshirt freshman season, but he still had to hold off Jon Horford to keep the job. The hope was that he'd develop his post game while continuing to play solid defense, rebound, and hit his fair share of high-percentage shots.
Postseason Reality: Morgan still hasn't displayed much in the way of a back-to-the-basket game, and he missed a maddeningly large amount of layups. The latter point was a source of great frustration, along with his propensity for early foul trouble, but overall Morgan was quite solid in the middle. His defense improved—including a sharp decline in foul rate—his rebounding was solid, and he shot just a hair under 62% from the field. Trey Burke didn't look to Morgan as much as Darius Morris did last year, and there was a clear adjustment period while he got used to playing with a different style of point guard. While there wasn't a big leap forward in Morgan's offensive game, as many had hoped, he did not regress, either. Meanwhile, he was in better shape, running the floor well and consistently posting strong defensive performances. Morgan probably isn't ever going to be an offensive force, nor a intimidating shot-blocker—the touch and explosive athleticism just aren't there—but he's a solid presence who should end up as a four-year starter.
Highlight: The Ohio State win was the most memorable of the season, and it was also the best game of Morgan's career, as he posted his first double-double—11 points (5-8 from the field) and 11 rebounds—while limiting Jared Sullinger to 14 points on 6-14 shooting. Morgan also beat Sullinger down the court for a pair of thunderous dunks in transition.
Lowlight: When Michigan matched up against Ohio State in the conference tournament, things didn't go so well. The Buckeyes dominated the Wolverines inside, and Morgan could only muster three points (1-5 shooting) and four rebounds while turning the ball over three times.
Key Numbers: 61.9 2pt%, 17.8 DR%, 3.9 fouls committed/40 minutes
Next year: Morgan should start at center once again, and it would be nice to see him break out a go-to post move. Mostly, however, Michigan will need him as a rebounder/defender/screen-setter, which falls right into his comfort zone. Also, make layups, please.
Preseason Expectations: Novak was expected to make a grand return to shooting guard, where the hope was that is offensive production would rise now that he no longer had to guard players a half-foot taller while shouldering a large part of the rebounding load.
Postseason Reality: Novak, of course, had to slide back to power forward when Smotrycz was benched early in Big Ten play, and for the fourth straight year his play improved despite not being the focal point of the team. He shot very well from the field—56% on twos, 41% on threes—and posted the team's best ORtg—his 123.3 mark was 39th in the country. Then, of course, you get Novak's trademark grit, as he still marveled with his ability to rebound among the trees while providing solid defense against players who theoretically should be dunking all over him (sometimes they did, but that happens when you're a 6'4" post player). Novak finished his career as the consummate role player, knocking down threes, hitting big shots when called upon, and otherwise doing everything to raise the level of play from his teammates. Michigan fans may not miss having a natural shooting guard at power forward when the 2012 reinforcements arrive, but they'll sure miss Zack Novak.
Highlight: Novak absolutely tore up UCLA back in November, scoring 22 points on eight shots from the field and chipping in three rebounds.
Lowlight: The final game in Novak's Wolverine career was sadly forgettable, as he could only muster a season-low two points on 1-5 shooting and didn't record a defensive rebound in Michigan's tourney loss to Ohio.
Next Year: Novak will take his grit to Europe. Godspeed, captain.
Preseason Expectations: Smotrycz was pinned as the X-factor for Michigan, a player who could put the team over the top as a sharp-shooting starter at power forward. After a solid but inconsistent showing as a freshman, he looked due for a breakout season.
Postseason Reality: It was a rollercoaster season for Smotrycz, who struggled early, caught fire at the end of nonconference play, then went into a prolonged slump that saw him lose his starting job for the rest of the season. The surprising post-season transfer fits that narrative all too well. The overall numbers are solid: Smotrycz averaged 7.7 points per game with a 58.9 eFG%, and he was also the team's most effective defensive rebounder, bringing in 21.4% of opponent misses when he was on the floor. However, Smotrycz never quite found his game again after losing his shooting stroke in Big Ten play, and his overall defense left much to be desired; he finished with a sky-high 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes as he played defense with his hands instead of his feet far too often. Smotrycz on average was an effective offensive weapon, but the inconsistency and defensive shortcomings proved too great to justify giving him starter's minutes.
Highlight: Prospects looked good when Smotrycz scored 20 points on eight shots (4-5 from three) and grabbed nine rebounds against Oakland. It's also worth noting that Smotrycz's 15 points on 6-7 shooting was really the only thing keeping Michigan close against Ohio in the last game of the season.
Lowlight: Smotrycz's final start was the debacle at Iowa, and he failed to score in 22 minutes of play while also committing two turnovers. That was the final straw, as Beilein inserted Stu Douglass into the starting lineup against State.
Key Numbers: 58.9 eFG%, 21.4 DR%, 5.8 FC/40
Next Year: Smotrycz won't be here, which really sucks. Best of luck to him.
Preseason Expectations: Fight for the starting center job with Morgan, provide at least 15 quality minutes per game.
Postseason Reality: Horford's balky foot robbed Michigan of any depth at center and prematurely ended what was at times a promising sophomore campaign. He showed up much bigger than he was as a freshman, looking the part of a Big Ten center, and he was very active on the glass and as a shot-blocker. Horford doesn't have a polished offensive game, but he brings a lot of energy and is a more athletic option than Morgan, at least when it comes to quick-twitch explosiveness. Much is still unknown, however, as Horford only appeared in nine games.
Highlight: Horford hit all five of his shots from the field, grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked three shots against UCLA, by far the best performance of his young career.
Lowlight: The stress fracture that erased the season's last 25 games.
Next Year: Horford probably won't surpass Morgan at this point, but he should be a valuable backup who won't be much of a dropoff defensively or on the glass. I really like Horford's athleticism and potential, and we'll see how he develops once he gets through rehab and can go full-steam again.
Preseason Expectations: McLimans came to the team with the reputation of being the type of sharpshooting big man that Beilein loves, but he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn as a freshman. Expectations were rather low, with the hope being that he wouldn't really need to see the court behind a big man rotation of Morgan, Horford, and Smotrycz.
Postseason Reality: McLimans still isn't much of an inside presence, especially defensively, but he did manage to knock down a decent portion of his jumpers, going 5-12 from beyond the arc and 10-21 overall this season. McLimans only played more than eight minutes in a game once during conference play—the aforementioned Northwestern game—and only was used when both Morgan and Smotrycz got into early foul trouble.
Next Year: McLimans may see his role further decrease when Horford returns and Mitch McGary hits campus. He could see some time as a situational shooter, but he's going to need to really improve on defense if he wants to carve out a larger role.
Preseason Expectations: Provide the occasional boost of energy off the bench.
Postseason Reality: Christian played a total of 51 minutes on the year, grabbing six rebounds and hitting a few very unexpected shots. Still didn't display much of an offensive game, and was mostly content to hit the class and save his energy for defense.
Next Year: He won't be here, having also put in his name for a transfer. It's highly unlikely he would have seen the floor.
2/21/2012 – Michigan 67, Northwestern 55 (OT) – 21-7, 11-4 Big Ten
LEFT: A fateful moment in which our brave comrade fouled the opponent's forearm in the eyes of corrupt capitalist lackeys. RIGHT: The imperialists were forced into illegal measures in their failed attempts to deal with Comrade Morgan.
Let the reign of Beilein be long and glorious. He is our sun and star and moons. He has brought basketball back to Ann Arbor long after we had ceded our land to the imperialists of East Lansing and set about hoping we would not be Northwestern forever. The bubble is banished and all loyal Wolverines are required to have Mao-style paintings of not one but two Dear Leaders. This is right and just.
But we have to talk about something, Oh Great Back Cut of Heaven. That thing is what to do when Michigan's glorious but thin frontcourt, sabotaged by foreigners who broke Comrade Horford's foot—we have executed the traitors or at least given people who probably know the traitors harsh looks—is brought low by the machinations of imperialist pig-dogs with whistles.
Oh Thousand Shining Arcs From Behind The Line, your response in the Northwestern game was to bench Comrades Morgan and Smotrycz in favor of Comrades McLimans and Christian. They are a good loyalists who contribute all they can to the cause. Unfortunately for the Glorious Revolution, that is zero shot attempts and zero rebounds in fourteen minutes. "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need" suggests that Comrades McLimans and Christian are most needed in the towel-waving collectives of Ukraine, where they can fan our team to greatness.
When they are placed on the court, starvation ensues. Michigan led 11-3 when McLimans entered the game; Northwestern led 31-24 by halftime, when Comrades Morgan and Smotrycz returned to the floor. In that span of time, Northwestern had six offensive rebounds in eight opportunities*. In the other 31 minutes they had five in 24. Northwestern scored more points in the fourteen minutes without Morgan and Smotrycz (28) than they did in the other thirty-one(27).
Upon their return Morgan and Smotrycz promptly led a glorious charge into a lead foreordained by your divinity, Great Leveler. Unfortunately, rebel conspiracy sabotaged the bridge between Tim Hardaway Jr. and free throw makes, forcing the revolution into overtime. The people rose up and slew their purple oppressors with a thousand swords, as you decreed would always be the case.
Some of our less faithful comrades may have momentarily lost confidence, however. While the will of the people can never be defeated, it should be pointed out that basketball teams can and putting in comrades who are not very good at basketball could lead to a (temporary, meaningless) setback in Michigan's five-year plan.
When comrades Morgan and Smotrycz returned it took 12 minutes for one of them to pick up a third foul. If they were allowed to continue playing in the first half it is true they would be in danger of fouling out early. But what would the consequences be in that situation? In the worst vaguely plausible scenario, both Morgan and Smotrycz foul out five or six minutes into the second half, forcing the Striped Orange Sun to… play McLimans and Christian for 14 minutes. The wisdom of the Shining Beacon of Halftime Adjustments is unquestioned, but in this one situation it seems like it is not infinite.
Earlier in the year, a similar substitution pattern saw Comrade Burke confined to the bench for a long stretch against Iowa. Burke left with Michigan down four and returned with them down twelve. Nefarious play by oppressors made Michigan play poorly throughout, so this did not make an impact on the outcome, but it didn't help matters much.
I submit that with Burke averaging 1.8 fouls per 40 minutes at the time of his transgression and six additional calls available to a two-headed center playing a team without any size, it would benefit Michigan greatly to roll the dice on players in foul trouble instead of willingly accepting the worst-case scenario of doing so. Oh sun and moon and stars.
*[It was actually 7 of 9 but one was a OREB credited to Northwestern's team after McLimans blocked a shot out of bounds. I don't think that shows up on the box score I'm using.]
Highlights from BTN and mgovideo:
Bullets that get dust on them
Defense! Zounds. UMHoops says Michigan had Morgan and/or Smotrycz for 40 possessions. On those possessions Northwestern scored 27 points, or 0.68 points per possession. That's outstanding. Northwestern has the country's 15th-best offense and the league's fourth-best; when Michigan wasn't going to the deep bench because of the aforementioned rigidity they annihilated the Wildcats.
The primary way they did this was by switching everything. IIRC there was a single breakdown for an open layup in the first half, then nothing the rest of the game. Everything else was contested. John Shurna was 2 of 5 from three and 4 of 11 from two with a couple of those twos ridiculous circus things; after the game Bill Carmody kind of called out his leading scorer for passivity:
"It just seemed the whole game that he was reluctant to do anything," Carmody said. "He had some pretty good looks and he passed them up to go to the next thing. It was a game he had to take over."
Northwestern never tried to punish Michigan for switching players as small as Trey Burke onto Shurna. That's either blind luck or great scouting.
Threes? Michigan hit 37% on 38 threes for 1.1 points per attempt. Are we happy with that? I have no idea. On the one hand, a lot of those were wide open when opponents sagged off Burke or left a corner three open in the 1-3-1. On the other hand, 38 threes. I'm guessing we would have had a much different opinion than confusion if Burke and Hardaway didn't put down back-to-back triples after Michigan found itself down four late. Those makes opened the door for the rat-tat-tat at the beginning of overtime. Before that the numbers were ugly.
1.1 points is not great. It sounds good as a shooting percentage but you have to take into account that way more twos than threes end up getting erased in favor of free throws. On the other hand, being willing to launch from deep really cut down on Michigan's turnovers (six to an uncharacteristic 14 for Northwestern) and would have led to some additional possessions via Morgan offensive rebounds if the refs hadn't gone from suck to blow in the second half. In the end, it worked. Worked authoritatively when Morgan/Smotrycz were in.
1-3-1 response. When Michigan's 1-3-1 was getting shredded early in the disappointing Harris/Sims post-tourney year it seemed like opponents were attacking it diagonally and getting to the basket. Michigan was hesitant to put the ball on the floor at all and ended up shooting over it on a large majority of possessions. When they did dump it in low, Morgan had a couple opportunities but didn't go up strong, as they say, and we got the obligatory missed bunny or two*. I wonder if Northwestern just runs the 1-3-1 a lot better than Michigan ever has in the Beilein era.
*[This should be less of a problem with McGary. When people are asking Morgan to go up strong they believe he can dunk a ball from a standing start under the basket, which I don't think he can. This should be no problem for McGary as long as he can catch cleanly—always an issue with big men.]
Hardaway. Yerg. Back to the salt mines: 2 of 9 from three, 4 of 10 from the line. Two of three from two… against a team that has no shot blocking. I don't think those distributions are going to get fixed this year; we can only hope the shots go down when Michigan really needs them to.
Rodger Sherman is not dead:
How. in the HELL. do we lose two games to the same ranked team in overtime? HOW? Why does this happen? THIS IS JUST THE WORST.
Northwestern has now played about 8000 close games this season and lost all of them. Here are my questions, and I am furious about each and every one.
You get the ball witha bout 50 seconds and a full shot clock. Instead of opting to go two-for-one and take the last shot, which ANYBODY WITH ANY SORT OF BASKETBALL SENSE IN THE WORLD would have done, Northwestern held for 35 seconds and had a possession end with a JerShon Cobb three, a shot which is about as efficient as repeatedly stabbing yourself in the face. YOU DON'T WANT TO PLAY ANOTHER FIVE MINUTES AGAINST A RANKED TEAM WITH ALL THE MOMENTUM. YOU WANT TO END THE GAME IN REGULATION. YOU HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF BEATING A BETTER TEAM IN THREE POSSESSIONS (TWO OF WHICH ARE YOURS) THAN FIVE MORE MINUTES. This is inexplicable.
We will root for Northwestern from here on out. We have hurt them more than they deserve. AnnArbor.com on Vogrich:
"He's been a big part of this little surge we're having right now," Michigan coach John Beilein said of Vogrich. "You've seen all year long that we've struggled with our bench play.
"And we need that. He's done a good job."
During Michigan's current four-game winning streak, Vogrich has gone 9-for-13 from 3-point range, providing a spark off the bench that hasn't been there for most of the season.
Known as a 3-point specialist, Vogrich entered the Nebraska game on Feb. 8 shooting just 21.2 percent from behind the arc. But thanks to his recent hot streak, he's jumped up to a more respectable 33.3 percent on the year.
2/19/2012 – Michigan 56, Ohio State 51 – 20-7, 10-4 Big Ten
There will never be a "Trey Burke photo spectacularrr" tag on this blog, and that's the way Michigan likes it. There are under ten seconds on the shot clock against the top defense in the country, and Trey Burke is wearing an expression of nonchalant determination.
If he smiles at points they are normal-person smiles, not the arm-flailing, mouthpiece-threatening HRRAAAAAAHHHHs of Tim Hardaway Jr or Jared Sullinger. If you're not exactly calm, the sight of Burke bringing the ball up at least dampens your anxiety—whether you're fan, coach or teammate. He is the fastest and slowest player on the court.
As a group, basketball players cluster on the hysteric end of a continuum of public displays of emotion. Burke is a rare data point on the stoic side of things. He'll never have an Aneurysm of Leadership. He may clap his hands a bit, if he's feeling strongly. At some point someone will make one of those images showing the hilariously unchanging moods of an impassive individual featuring Trey Burke.
Trey Burke eating ice cream: nonchalant determination. Trey Burke taking a calculus exam: nonchalant determination. Trey Burke roaring at the basket with a three-point lead in the final minute of a game against the #1 defense in the country with a foot-taller-than-you opponent who knows your darkest childhood secrets leaping at you…
…nonchalant determination with a touch of premature aging.
Not shown on the jpeg will be the sweet kiss off the high glass and the ball arcing in for the game-sealing bucket, or the previous possession's not-quite-but-pretty-much-sealing blow-by and layup. They will only be implied.
Burke is of course one of many Michigan players who should be in over their heads. Jordan Morgan, Zack Novak, and Stu Douglass are the kind of guys who end up at Penn State and valiantly try to make an NIT. Even Hardaway did not have the recruiting profile you'd think—one and only one recruiting service (ESPN) stashed him at the end of their top 100. Burke himself was once a Penn State commit; after he reopened his recruitment his other finalist was Cincinnati.
Michigan is not valiantly trying to make an NIT. As of February 18th, 2012, Michigan is contending for a Big Ten title. Douglass and Novak are busting out their Kobe impersonations on step-back jumpers it's unbelievable they're even attempting, let alone making. Morgan is outplaying Jared Sullinger, if only for one game.
As I've sampled Big Ten message boards and blog comment sections over the course of the season, one theme continually re-emerges: I don't know how they're winning with these players. We're closer observers and can piece together a story about grit and surprising defense and making up for bad rebounding with transition points, but even that comes to a stuttering, unconvincing conclusion when the subject of Hardaway's three-point shooting comes up. And how is this lineup the fourth-best defense in the league anyway? Michigan has one post player!
Not even we can explain it. It just is.
If you're in the mood for some advice, here's mine: savor this. If this is Michigan's year of re-establishing itself—Michigan's This Is Michigan year—the things that come afterwards will feature a lot of wins and exciting times and fun. They'll also be burdened with expectations that aren't currently encumbering Michigan's motley crew of players rescued from the mid-major humane shelters of America. You know what it's like to have expectations. You're a Michigan football fan.
Here there is a rare opportunity to play with house money for big stakes. It will be the farthest thing from a disappointment if Michigan doesn't quite break their drought this year; if they do, that banner we know we can't give to Novak (and Douglass) despite wanting to will read "Big Ten Champions 2011-2012."
I'll be twitching uncontrollably as Michigan attempts this over the next two weeks. Trey Burke will eat ice cream and fly by in slow motion.
Our own Eric Upchurch's gallery:
And then I was like…
I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL DUDE
Titlewatch(!). The chance Michigan ends its 25 year Big Ten title drought is still slim but after Saturday it is extant. Unfortunately, Purdue blew a five point halftime lead against MSU by coming out for the second half and throwing up thirteen straight bricks, so MSU has a one-game edge on OSU and M for the conference lead. Wisconsin is another game back.
- MSU: @ Minnesota, Nebraska, @ Indiana, OSU
- OSU: Illinois, Wisconsin, @ NU, @ MSU
- M: @ NU, Purdue, @ Illinois, @ Penn State
- UW: @ Iowa, @ OSU, Minnesota, Illinois
Despite the home-road split, Michigan has a considerably easier road than anyone else. They'll probably get at least a share if they win out, which Kenpom thinks has a 15% chance of happening. Winning 13(!) is the most likely scenario, though, and that would require MSU dropping two and OSU one of their last four to get a three-way tie. That's a tall order.
"The pride of Columbus, Ohio." I've never been a fan of the Crisler PA guy ("WHO WANTS FREE PIZZZAAAAA") but I have to give it up: dubbing Trey Burke the Pride of Columbus was A+ trash talk. Sixty-five points awarded.
Matta WTF. I've had to shut up about my theory that Matta is as dumb as a rock as his team has annihilated everyone on defense, but Saturday provided a great flashback to the days when OSU was only pretty good and Matta seemed like a major impediment to them being better.
The situation: Michigan is up three with 42 seconds left on the clock as they inbound the ball. Matta doesn't foul, betting on a stop and OSU hitting a three after getting the ball back with seven seconds left. WTF?
You got Morg-owned. Jordan Morgan outplayed Jared Sullinger head to head. Full stop. This is a big component of how:
AnnArbor.com; Dustin Johnston/UMHoops
On two tightly-spaced second half possessions he ran the floor well ahead of Sullinger and threw down explosive dunks as Sullinger looked on in disgust.
Morgan may not be very tall or an explosive leaper but he has no equal in the league when it comes to running the floor as a center. He may have missed his true calling as a tight end.
[INTERMISSION: let's take this opportunity to Homer-drool over the prospect of a 6'8" tight end who can run like Morgan.]
Anyway, Morgan: 11 points on 5/8 shooting, 11 rebounds (2 offensive), 0 TOs. Sullinger: 14 points on 6 of 14 shooting, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 TOs. Michigan has to react to Sullinger a lot more than vice versa, granted, but Morgan was efficient offensively and stellar defensively. Sullinger cannot say the same.
Also, damn that's a pass right there. Also also, if Morgan keeps missing absolute bunnies one of these days I'm going to pass out. He and Douglass had groaners in the first half I dwelled on.
Please, please please let Hardaway get what he wants this time. 13 points on 5 shots, 2 of 2 from three. Four turnovers and zeros most everywhere else on the stat sheet are less appealing but I'll take that efficiency.
Step-back step-ups. I wasn't quite right that Michigan needed to shoot significantly better from three than Ohio State to win—Michigan had a narrow edge with three makes on 13 shots; OSU needed 16 attempts to match—but that's because most of Michigan's long-range makes came from just within the three-point line. Hardaway had a couple of "no no no… YES" long twos with a bunch of time on the shot clock early; late Michigan got critical buckets from Douglass and Novak on NBA-style step-backs.
It's been said before but it's worth repeating: Lavall Jordan has worked miracles with both Novak and Douglass. Those guys now have the ability to get their own shot off the bounce when they have to or they sense an opportunity. Neither produced shot one last year. The development of the two seniors is akin to Michigan's defensive coaches turning Will Heininger into a pretty good player over the course of a single year—evidence that Michigan's player development is top notch. Combine that with the waves of talent in both major sports and you're cooking.
Offensive board obliteration measuration. Not incredibly horrible: OSU rebounded a third of their misses. That's only slightly above the national average of 32.2%. Also it seemed like a lot of them came on a couple of possessions where OSU got three or four putback attempts; patterns like that bother me less because I'd rather have the opponent have one possession with a very, very high rate of success than four with a less-but-still-very-good rate. Also at some point there are just a ton of dudes around the basket and they're all taller than you.
Obligatory reffing section. After trolling OSU message boards for some schadenfreude and discovering the reaction of the Michigan internet to Jay Bilas, I'll abort my planned ref-railin'. Not necessarily because I'm wrong but because I'm obviously so partisan that I can't be trusted in these matters.
Also, I was waiting for the whistle on this late Craft layup attempt and one never came:
Whether or not this event was actually quality D, it's one on which whistles are all but certain. I do question a bunch of calls but whatever.
Okay, it's just a conceit above. It's a pretty good conceit but this AnnArbor.com photo exposes its limitations:
ALL CAN BE FORGIVEN. I'll never say a bad word about Dave Brandon again if
1) Michigan wins at least a share of the Big Ten title and
2) the resulting banner bleeds like this:
Just the trickle down the side.
(Also, that's an excellent demonstration of the differences between Maize and our current yellow.)
"He played like a beast," Tim Hardaway, Jr. said. "He played like a man against the best big man in the country. And he took that to heart all week. All he heard was, 'Jared Sullinger, Jared Sullinger, Jared Sullinger,' and he wanted to come out here and show he could compete. He did a great job of that and took care of business."
Baumgardner on Morgan and other matters.
This morning, the state of Michigan must be rubbing its collective eyes, because look at the Big Ten standings now. Michigan State, which hammered Ohio State on the road earlier, is at the top with a 10-3 mark (21-5 overall) and could create space with a win at Purdue on Sunday, or create a three-way tie with a loss. Michigan (20-7, 10-4) and Ohio State (22-5, 10-4) are just behind, and who would have dreamed up this scenario?
With two weeks left, Michigan and Michigan State are grappling for a title, and go back to the preseason and try to envision that. While you're at it, go back five years when John Beilein arrived and imagine the Wolverines being here.
"To walk into that arena (before the game) was a bit moving," Beilein said. "I felt it wasn't just a rivalry game. It was a team playing for contention for a Big Ten championship, and I thought it was special. When you're rebuilding a program, there's a lot of little moments, a lot of small victories. This was one of them."
Meinke on Burke. Daily on Morgan. Beard on the hyped-up atmosphere at Crisler. Daily on Novak. Daily on GREATEST FEBRUARY 18TH EVER. Does The White Tiger have a giant head of himself? He's in the right area. Holdin' The Rope not at Holdin' the Rope.
2/1/2012 – Michigan 68, Indiana 56 – 17-6, 7-3 Big Ten
At the beginning of Michigan's most epic brutal stretch of the season, they made a radical change by consigning Evan Smotrycz to the bench in favor of Stu Douglass. Zack Novak wearily took up the mantle of power forward again and Michigan soldiered through. Five of six games into the MEBS they're now 3-2 and guaranteed to come out at least .500, eyeing a Sweet Sixteen seed if they can win the games they should down the road.
Small sample size and all, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the impact that shift has had on Michigan's defense. When Beilein made the shift he said it was his best defensive lineup, after all. Chart? Chart.
Michigan without Stu in the starting lineup:
[note that there are more home games than road; I attempted to adjust for that by subtracting 3.5 points from the opponent's efficiency. A home-road swing is worth 7 points and let's blindly assign half of that to the offense]
|Opponent||Score||Possessions||B10 Off Eff||Expected Score||Delta|
Michigan with Stu in the starting lineup:
|Opponent||Score||Possessions||B10 Off Eff||Expected Score||Delta|
So, there you go. Exceedingly weak statistical evidence in a small sample size* that shifting Douglass into the starting lineup has been worth one and a half points per game. Since Michigan won two of the games he started by 1 and 2 points, this seems relevant to our interests. Let's not make too much of it—Michigan State could blow this away in one shooting streak. But our Bayesian estimate of Douglass improving the M defense should shift over 50%.
This is only part of what Douglass has brought to the table. Now I'm going to delve in to wishy feely stuff; I wanted to get some numbers on the internet to make me feel better about what's about to come.
But… close your eyes and envision the two most improved players on the team this year. Did you get Novak and Douglass? I'm guessing you did, what with images of Douglass driving into the lane and something bad not happening or Novak pulling up for a midrange jumper that gets only net.
this could be going well! (Upchurch)
That's weird. Freshmen get better faster than seniors, especially when the seniors are guards and the freshmen are largely posts. This year's most prominent freshman-to-sophomore transitions have not gone real well. Tim Hardaway Jr. is a fair bit less efficient than he was as a freshman. So is Jordan Morgan. Smotrycz is a lot better but has been marginalized during this important stretch; his incredible shooting in the nonconference season has evaporated in the Big Ten.
Normally that would spell doom. If I materialized in your bathtub in October and said "ooooOOOOOOoooooohhhhhh, TIM HARDAWAY JR WILL AVERAGE 27% FROM THREE POINT RANGE, oooooOOOOOOoooooohhhh" you would be more terrified for Michigan's basketball prospects than the fact you'd just had a time-travelling blogger ghost appear in a place you thought was safe from that sort of nonsense. And that's saying something.
But even though Hardaway and Morgan are less efficient and Trey Burke isn't quite at the level Darius Morris was last year, here they are aiming for a Sweet 16 seed. You can say this is Trey Burke's team, and you'd be right, and you can say Tim Hardaway Jr. is Michigan's most important player, and you'd be right. The two seniors are the guys duct-taping up all the leaks the team has sprung as it moves forward without Morris and Tim Hardaway's 44% conference three-point shooting.
Michigan may get better after they leave on sheer talent, but Douglass and Novak are two remarkable overachievers. Michigan needed two guys like that to change the culture around here after a decade-long tourney-free streak. No one thought they'd be guys snatched from Valpo (if they were even interested!) and Harvard. Even if their numbers shouldn't get raised to the rafters, those who come after them will stand on their shoulders. It may be Trey Burke's team but it's Douglass's and Novak's program.
*[FWIW, Arkansas put up about four more points than you'd expect if M was equal to an average SEC defense. I think that's more about Michigan being unprepared for the press—giving those points up on offense.]
Bullets That Always Go In If Shot By Jordan Hulls
GOOD LORD JORDAN HULLS. Dude was shooting 48% from three before yesterday's 4 of 5 performance. And a lot of those were tough.
God, what does it take to get a three point sniper who's actually lethal in college, too? Vogrich was reputed to be the best shooter in the country and is struggling to get above 25%. Come on, Stauskas.
Christian Watford guarding Trey Burke. It worked for a while as Burke seemed confused by the very idea; then Burke started crossing the dude over and screaming towards the basket. Weird, weird idea. Glad that Burke played through it. It was looking a little hopeless on offense for a while there.
Watford, by the way, annihilated Michigan in the game in Bloomington and is shooting 47% from three—actually much better than he is from 2 (42%). Weird player.
Jordan Morgan guarding Cody Zeller. Great, great job. Zeller is shooting 66% and has a top ten eFG%; Michigan held him to 4 of 9 shooting and IIRC two of his baskets were offensive rebound putbacks. This was almost all Morgan with a little Smotrycz in there, and Zeller could hardly get a shot opportunity.
Morgan's main advantage over most big men is his agility, activity, and endurance. He fronts everyone and rarely gives up good post position; Michigan cheats down behind him to cut off lob passes and leaves that backdoor three open. It's been effective overall.
You can see the good and bad of it in Michigan's conference Kenpom stats. They're #2 in the league at forcing turnovers; over 20% of opponent possessions end without a shot. They never put anyone on the line. Their 2PT% D is acceptable despite being short—their block percentage is last in the league. The main downside is giving up a lot of quality threes. 38% is good for only tenth in the league at 3PT defense. Given the composition of the roster, I'll take it. Michigan has to endure a lot of open threes to give themselves a chance inside. Considering the available athletes they're doing a good job.
Tim Hardaway jack watch. There were three or four, including another long two with lots of time on the shot clock. I don't mind him taking a three in the context of the offense. The ones where he just rises and fires are not good.
Michigan should start running him off Rip Hamilton-esque curl screens with the intent of getting him moving towards the basket with his man already to one side. That seems like it will result in profit. And possibly charges, but who cares about charges?
Watford and Zeller combined for 43 points in Bloomington; they only managed 19 between them last night. Hulls had 18 but he made some pretty tough shots to get there. You can live with that.
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.