I did not make this headline up
Aaron Craft lay on the floor, hands behind his head, defeated.
For 45 minutes, Craft and his Buckeyes put up a hell of a fight, trading blows with Trey Burke's Michigan squad in front of an electric Crisler Center crowd. Both point guards had their moments of triumph—Burke tallying 16 points and eight assists with just two turnovers, Craft pocketing three steals and scoring 11 points of his own.
In overtime, though, Burke came out on top, redeeming his missed three at the end of regulation with an improbable pull-up triple on Michigan's first overtime possession—a shot that would ultimately provide the winning points. Craft had a jumper from the elbow to give Ohio State the win with the shot clock turned off, but it was Burke's turn to win with his defensive exploits, swatting the shot to Glenn Robinson III. Craft was forced to foul—hard enough to get a review, as it turned out—and Robinson gave the Wolverines a two-point lead with his first free throw. The second was off the mark, however, and the ball found its way to Craft, who quickly drove the length of the court for a game-tying layup, only to be blocked again by Tim Hardaway Jr., and left to stare at the rafters waiting for a whistle that never came.
It was a classic finish to a classic game, in front of a Crisler crowd that was louder than any since the days of the Fab Five (or so I'm told—it was certainly the loudest I've heard dating back to the Ellerbe era). Michigan landed the first haymaker, racing out to an 18-8 lead, but the Buckeyes crawled their way back into it—a jumper from unexpected star LaQuinton Ross gave the visitors a 31-30 halftime edge.
Ohio State pushed their lead to as much as eight in the second half, but they couldn't find an answer for Hardaway, who hit all five of his second-half three-point attempts—including triples on three straight Wolverine possessions—en route to a game-high 23 points. Still, the Wolverines struggled to close the gap completely, failing to guard the interior time and again. It wasn't until a Nik Stauskas three with 3:23 to play that Michigan finally retook the lead, one that lasted all of 24 seconds before an Amir Williams free throw tied it up. After trading buckets, Burke's last-second triple caught only iron to bring on overtime.
While Jordan Morgan was limited to four ineffective minutes with a lingering ankle injury, Mitch McGary (at left, Upchurch) shined in 29 productive minutes—his 14 points proved huge, but even bigger were his four steals and stellar outlet passing, sparking the offense without putting the ball in the hoop himself. When Morgan is back at 100%, he'll still have his starting spot—Jon Horford again got the start tonight—but McGary has made his play for a bigger chunk of the minutes. Fellow freshman Stauskas knocked down 3-of-5 triples to do his part, while Robinson again struggled offensively, needing eight shots to notch ten points.
For the Buckeyes, Deshaun Thomas led the way as usual with 17 points, but Robinson's improved defensive effort forced him to take 15 shots to get there. Instead, it was Ross who repeatedly came up with big shots, pouring in 16 while shooting 7-for-10 from the field.
When the final buzzer sounded, however, it was Michigan coming away with the narrowest of victories. A missed call here, a lucky shot there, any small moment could have made the difference; this time it's the Buckeyes who will stare at the ceiling and wonder.
2/2/2013 – Michigan 73, Indiana 81 – 20-2, 7-2 Big Ten
Midway through the second half, Michigan popped into a 1-3-1 zone for a possession. I did not like this. I immediately thought "you can't run this defense with Jordan Hulls on the floor," and Indiana duly tossed the ball around the perimeter until Hulls was presented with an open three-pointer. He knocked it down. The 1-3-1 did not reappear.
Hulls didn't do much other than that. Unfortunately for Michigan, two of the other things he did were bury two more open threes; he missed only once. This is what you expect from Jordan Hulls, and it's why he's out there trying to check dudes a half-foot taller than him on defense.
To beat a team with a guy who shoots like that playing next to a sticky-fingered nightmare of a defender, the man Hulls is checking has to at least keep pace with the guy. Nik Stauskas didn't. He, too, is the sort of player that sends you to your toes when he's left wide open in transition, the sort of shooter that can create a buzz in an arena before the ball has even left his hand. He, too, had four good looks from three before the game had been decided. He missed all of them. (Hulls fouled him on a fifth.) The fourth miss was incredible, deflating, infuriating. This is not what is expected.
In a game where just about everything else did go as expected, that seems like the difference between a rock-'em-sock-'em affair ending at the buzzer and the marginally exciting contest that instead unfolded: Michigan's best shooter did not hit when presented with excellent looks.
And they were excellent. I'm not sure if Michigan came out with a concerted plan to emphasize the Hulls-Stauskas matchup or if Stauskas improvising based on his belief that Hulls couldn't check him; either way Michigan came out of the gate attacking that guy, and for naught. Stauskas drove for marginally-contested layups, and missed. He was found for marginally- or un-contested threes and missed. Michigan launched itself into desperation mode with two minutes left down nine, down exactly the same number of points Hulls had tossed in from behind the arc and Stauskas hadn't.
This is not to pile on Stauskas, who played about as well as he could up until the moment he let a shot go. This was not the Ohio State game, when he could not move towards the basket and found himself hacked out of the offense, reduced to jacking up deep, contested threes out of frustration.
When Stauskas made contact with Hulls he was largely quieted—along with the zone three two of his other looks came in transition. Stauskas didn't turn the ball over and had a couple assists. I can't recall any frustration shots launched. Afterwards, Beilein revealed Stauskas had missed practice the day before with the flu. Independent random trials can be a bitch even when you're healthy.
But there it is. While Glenn Robinson sputtered to two points and contributed little else in 40 minutes, his presence in the game always feels light. He largely cleans up other people's misses or throws down their assists. His absence or presence is something felt less viscerally than thinking TAKE THAT at maximum brain volume and seeing something betray Nik Stauskas's swag.
So it goes. Sometimes the damn thing won't go in the basket. The only thing to do is keep shooting.
Protip: stop falling behind by lots in tough road games. Against OSU, Michigan's offense came out discombobulated and staked the opponent to a 21-point lead. In this one, Michigan's defense couldn't make a rotation or stop the ball in the first ten minutes and staked the opponent to a 15-point lead.
Protip: once you have fallen behind by lots in a tough road game and come storming back, DO NOT TIE THE GAME. When this happened in Columbus Michigan started jacking up bad shots and was on the wrong end of a decisive 6-0 run. In Bloomington they managed to tie the game just a few minutes into the second half, and then suffered an 11-0 run.
Clearly a mandate must go out indicating that it's threes only if you have fallen behind by lots only to claw back and find yourself down two in a tough road game. No more ties. No more.
Protip: just predict what Kenpom predicts. Twice this year arrogant predictor guys at this very website have arrogantly deviated from the Great Book Of Kenpom and predicted road victories, first myself for the OSU game and then Ace for Saturday. Kenpom was off by a total of three points in these games. Yea, and it was wroth.
Halftime adjustments check: no. Michigan clawed back to even after five minutes, but then suffered the aforementioned run.
The Morgan question. Was his absence a major problem? The two minutes on a gimpy ankle he got seems to indicate the answer is yes, as does Indiana shooting 59% from 2. McGary's box score says no: 5/7 from the floor, 3 OREB, 4 DREB, an assist, 0 TO, two blocks, two steals, and a Wes Unseld hockey assist not recorded. Horford added a couple buckets, blocks and turnovers in ten minutes.
In the aftermath I've seen various folk complain about McGary overhelping and thus setting up Cody Zeller's three tip dunks, but if Oladipo is screaming at the basket that seems McGary has a bad choice either way. By helping McGary forced tougher shots and misses on those, at least. If he's not there and Oladipo throws down a rim-rattling dunk, um… well, that's not good either. It seems like the problem there is on the initial drive and McGary is picking the lesser of two evils.
Because this is an attempt to quantify the defensive prowess of an individual player, we of course have wildly differing metrics here. Some low-sample-size Synergy data from UMHoops suggests that Morgan is by far the better defender. That is in direct conflict with some low-sample-size data Ace assembled that suggests Michigan is a crap-ton better with McGary on the floor.
I don't know, man. Keep "road game at Indiana" in perspective here: despite giving up 1.17 PPP, Michigan's defensive ranking on Kenpom actually moved up slightly after the game. If Indiana shot too well from two they also got up far fewer shots than Michigan thanks in large part to McGary, and without the intentional fouls at the end of the game that PPP rate drops to 1.10. It's complicated.
One spot at which Morgan may have helped: the four. Michigan hasn't taken Glenn Robinson off the floor since Morgan got hurt, and in this game he wasn't doing anything to justify 40 minutes. Morgan would have brought extra rebounding and been better able to hold up against Christian Watford on the block; Robinson would probably have been more effective if he knew he was going to get some rest here and there.
Speaking of the overhelping bit. I think we can put the Tim Hardaway Jr lockdown defender meme to rest. Oladipo roared into the paint with frequency against him, hitting 5/9 from two and IIRC having two of those misses thundered back into the basket by Zeller since he'd drawn two guys.
Hardaway's better than last year; in no way, shape, or form does he approach the level of an impact perimeter defender like, say, that Oladipo guy.
Hardaway was an effective shooter in this one, largely when Oladipo switched off onto Burke.
Oblig. Burke check. Hoo boy he put up a lot of shots: 24 in total. We should remove the rushed heaves at the end of the game to get a better picture of what he did when quality was more important than quantity. This slices out four 3PA, one of which went down, and two generous assists on similarly rushed heaves by Hardaway and Stauskas.
Those excised, Burke:
- 5/12 from 2
- 3/8 from 3
- 3/4 from the line
- 6 A, 3 TO, 2 steals, 2 OREB(!)
- 22 points on 20 shots
Burke was tasked with a good number of Oh God Oh Jesus Oh God late-clock possessions as Indiana's defense came to play; he had difficulty with Oladipo, as you might expect. His numbers would have been less extreme and likely less inefficient if Stauskas had been healthy and accurate. As it was more and more of the offense devolved onto him.
He carried Michigan when they had to be carried. To exceed a point per shot against a top-tier defense while sucking up 40% of Michigan's possessions is remarkable.
Oblig. ref check. Fouls were even before Michigan went into game extension mode. There was a 15 to 7 FTA disparity for Indiana that seems mostly attributable to random chance. Two goofy calls stood out: the Oladipo continuation bucket and a blocking foul assigned to Hardaway that was a textbook charge—one, in fact, that Hardaway repeated moments later, getting the call.
Rebounding check. Michigan lost the battle on the boards thanks in no small part to those Zeller slams. It was close—29% to 34%—though, far less of a factor than IU doubling up Michigan when it came to turnovers.
The bright side! This may put a damper on GRIII to NBA worries?
"Cumong man" of the game. Indiana hit 88% of their free throws and didn't miss once in their last 14 tries. This is not conducive to exciting finish, Indiana. I am dissapoint.
The oddity of having a really good basketball team. You get punished by having Dick Vitale assigned to your games. I've always experienced him as an annoying presence on Duke broadcasts I'm not going to watch more than a few minutes of; this year I've finally been exposed to 40 minutes of the guy repeatedly.
I am not enjoying this experience. Take it away, Wikipedia:
He is known for catchphrases such as "baby"
The worst part is that when Vitale finally retires—he's 73—the ESPN executives who have not ordered him to do middle school games at 3 AM on ESPN3 will slide a howler monkey into his place and hope no one notices.
I wonder how Duke fans must feel about the guy. Sure, he's basically an extension of your university but even when he's yelling inanities in favor of your team, they are still inanities detracting from the important thing you are trying to pay attention to. And he is omnipresent. I don't think I could deal, man. We should have asked Jamiemac—who admitted no rooting interest in Saturday's game!—about that when we were quizzing him about the Yankees' chances this year in the podcast.
Anyway, in most other sports ascending to the big time level is a reward. Gary Thorne does the NCAA hockey tournament, and Sean McDonough will do your college football games. People bag on Musberger but I like him, and there's no comparison between Vitale and Herbstreit. Big NBA games get you Marv Albert.
I guess Tim McCarver and Jim Nantz do loom, but what this is all about is WHERE'S GUS JOHNSON, STRING?
HUH? WHERE IS GUS? STRING!
It's strange to me that I love Raftery and Gus Johnson so much and find Vitale so detestable. All three bring buckets of enthusiasm and get criticized for it by haters. I am only in that group for the last guy. Maybe it's because "baby" is not a catch phrase, it is a useless appendage, where as "onions" is delightful and Gus Johnson makes lip-curling noises.
Does anyone like Vitale? Stand and be heard. I want to know if he appeals to anyone. We should do announcer approval ratings.
Michigan did many, many great things against Northwestern, and they will be given their proper due in a moment. But first, let's marvel at the worst inbounds attempt in the history of basketball:
What the heck happened here? Let's go to the diagram, which may or may not be taken straight from Bill Carmody's clipboard:
You know, if there weren't boundaries around the court or rules against using random rich dudes as a sixth player, this just might have worked. Worth a shot, anyway.
[For the rest of the Northwestern gifs, including Nik Stauskas declaring
sexy himself back and Trey Burke And1-ing Alex Marcotullio, hit THE JUMP.]
Basketball highlights ho.
I vote all of these. A student organization at Illinois is holding a contest to pick a new symbol for the Illini. Whichever one wins will be ignored by the athletic department and consigned to the dustbin of history, and this is a tragedy. A dozen of the entrants would instantly be the best mascot in the universe.
Do you choose Colonel Kernel?
Or Rabid the Squirrel?
Rabid the Squirrel is a possibility for the mascot, but the overall concept is to represent the squirrel, a hardy survivalist being, bravely bears the cold winters, bike and street traffic, and is incredibly quick and graceful. For proof, walk anywhere on campus.
Or The Corn Guy?
The tagline for Corn Guy could be: A corn could be a cute and enthusiastic corn,
who opens his arms and welcomes smart students all over the world. Or a corn could
be a fighting corn, who, in orange skin and blue armor, revealing his muscle, with
fierce look, shows his vigor and is ready for an exciting game. This, is the Corn Guy.
You want something fierce? You want something amazing? You got it all right here. Super strong, super vicious, super I-will-wreck-everything- you-love. Ain't no one wanna mess with this. What, you expecting something cute and fuzzy like a squirrel or a PIECE OF CORN? HELL NO.
THAT'S WHAT'S GOING ON HERE.
It matters not. You cannot go wrong. I vote for them all.
It is the state of Illinois with an Abe Lincoln hat with boxing gloves. Tough, Historic and blatantly Illinois. Hope you like it
I vote for them all.
K-State might be Michigan's best nonconference foe. NC State beat Duke and UNC, sure. Since they've lost to Wake Forest, Maryland, and Virginia. UVA is at least a bubble team; the other two aren't sniffing the tourney. Kansas State on the other hand just did this to Texas:
I got home, made some dinner, and kicked back to relax and watch the Texas game. It was not relaxing. I would have been better off waking up this morning, smashing a few glass bottles on my kitchen floor, opening a can of paint stripper, pouring it on the broken glass, rolling around in the mix of shards and methylene chloride, taking a shower, and calling it a day.
While Texas is real bad this year, Kenpom has them significantly above Wake Forest and the Wildcats beat the Longhorns raw—final was 83-57. They kept it close in their two league losses and are probably going to have 24, 25 wins by Selection Sunday.
I wish I had thought about this. The Hoover Street Rag introduces the Borges-O-Meter, which ranks Al on a Jorge Luis-based scale ranging from Tlön, Uqbar, Orbus Tertius to The Gospel According to Mark. As you can see, Al is currently hanging out at The Lottery Of Bablyon, level six. I would actually swap level six (dubbed "fortunate") with level 5 (On Exactitude in Science, categorized as "precise"). In all other ways this is wonderful.
Yeah, I suppose Cal or Stanford fans probably would have done this, but whatever, they didn't because of a historical quirk that directed Borges (Al Edition) to Michigan instead of their schools.
Viva this fanbase.
[update: now with link!]
Viva this team. Mitch McGary on starting:
Late Tuesday night, an undecided Beilein asked McGary, "What do you feel about tomorrow? I don't know what to do yet. You both practiced well."
McGary responded, "Coach, I've been coming off the bench for two years. I'm cool with coming off the bench."
I'm not sure there's anything we thought McGary would do when he was the #2 recruit in the country that he's not doing despite a massive nose-dive in expectations late.
This is appropriate. Hockey picked up a big, late-blooming defenseman currently plying his trade in the BCHL named Kevin Lohan. As Yost Built mentions, yes, that Lohan: he's a cousin of Lindsay, who may be the spirit totem for this year's outfit. It is possible the third jersey does not display a badly-drawn weasel but is in fact a representation of Linsday Lohan on a bender.
Right now Lohan is insurance against potential departures from Bennett, Trouba, and/or Merrill and may or may not come in next year.
Yost Built also mentions that Mike Spath is reporting that Michigan will use the scholarship money freed by Daniel Milne's departure to go hunting for a goalie, apparently overseas.
Etc.: The Northwestern view of last night. Also found here. First comment: "Trey Burke is good. Holy shit." Burke is about to pass Darius Morris on Michigan's all-time assist list and has Morris's season record for assists squarely in sight. Men's gymnast Syque Caesar sets an NCAA record on the parallel bars. Nieves profiled by the Daily. 7-on-7 leagues examined. Five key plays from NW.
Before I get any more behind on these, here's a double dose of gifs from the Purdue and Illinois games, plus a couple extras from recent Michigan appearances on BTN's The Journey. As always, click the still thumbnails to open the gifs in a lightbox, and hit 'escape' to stop animation on any browser but Chrome.
Kids are weird, man.
[For the rest of the gifs, including Trollface Ted Valentine, hit THE JUMP.]
Michigan dodged a bullet today when X-rays revealed no broken bones in Jordan Morgan's ankle, but the Wolverines likely will have to make do without their starting center for the next couple games, at least. How much will his absence hurt Michigan?
If the numbers from conference play are any indication, not nearly as much as you'd think.
I spent yesterday compiling the statistics for each five-man unit John Beilein has deployed in Big Ten play (garbage time excluded) to see if I could spot any trends. The entire spreadsheet of all 40(!) different lineup combinations is available for your perusal as a Google Doc. Here are the five most common lineups the Wolverines have used, divided up by offensive statistics...
The raw numbers are tough to compare, so this is where tempo-based stats come in handy. I've calculated each unit's number of possessions using KenPom's standard formula (2PA+3PA+(0.475*FTA)+TO-OR). From there, it's easy to calculate points per possession, which I've multiplied by 100 to give the standard offensive and defensive efficiency numbers. Also included is plus/minus, for those curious.
|Off Poss||Off Eff||Def Poss||Def Eff||+/-|
Well, then. Only the top two lineups have enough data to really rely upon (Michigan averages around 65 possessions per game, so even those have less than two full games of data)—the Horford lineup's numbers come almost entirely from the Illinois game.
Caveats aside, there's little doubt that Michigan's starters play are playing far, far better—on both ends of the court—with Mitch McGary at center than Jordan Morgan. The offensive efficiency with that lineup is off the charts*, and that defensive efficiency number would put Michigan just behind Ohio State, one of the best defensive teams in the country, at third in the Big Ten.
To see if this trend bore itself out regardless of the surrounding lineup, I calculated the offensive and defensive efficiency numbers for any lineup featuring Morgan/McGary/Horford...
|Off Poss||Off Eff||Def Poss||Def Eff|
|ALL Morgan Lineups||180.6||109.1||179.2||102.1|
|ALL McGary Lineups||199.1||126.1||202.6||90.3|
|ALL Horford Lineups||43.3||124.7||43.8||89.0|
...and the team's four factors statistics when each of the three centers is on the court:
Here is where you can really see the difference between Morgan and McGary. When McGary is on the floor, Michigan rebounds over 10% more of the available misses on offense, and while they get to the line far less frequently, they shoot better from the floor. This could be chalked up as an anomaly, since the two-point shooting numbers are virtually equal for Morgan lineups and McGary lineups, while Michigan shoots 46.6% from three with McGary compared to 34.0% with Morgan.
There's a possible explanation for that, however, in the defensive numbers. The Wolverines force more turnovers with McGary on the court (19.2% to 15.6%), and of late many of Michigan's best looks from three have come off their transition game. That probably doesn't account for a 12-percent difference, but even if that's normalized there's still a gap in offensive production between the two; I consider McGary the better passer, a factor that may also contribute.
The difference between the two defensively is easier to figure out. McGary's activity defensively helps the team force more turnovers, while his excellence on the glass leads to a better rebounding rage. While McGary fouls more often than Morgan, the team fouls so rarely as a whole that the foul rate isn't affected greatly.
As for Horford, the sample size issues make it tough to take away anything concrete, but thus far the team hasn't missed a beat when he's on the floor—in fact, they're doing unsustainably well on both ends, with an eFG% of 64.5 on offense and 40.0 on defense. He's an interesting case defensively; like McGary, he's disruptive on defense, leading to more turnovers, but opponents are rebounding better with him on the floor than either Morgan or McGary.
I've said this before, but I'll make it clear in this post: John Beilein has stated repeatedly that he's very happy with the rotation as it is, and it could take some fantastic play from McGary paired with sub-par performances from Morgan for him to consider making any changes. When Morgan returns, I fully expect him to slide back into the starting lineup, and that's fine—given the physical demand of the position, regardless of who's starting McGary and Morgan are going to split minutes relatively down the middle anyway.
What this shows, however, is that Michigan has something special in Mitch McGary. Not only that, but Horford's solid work in limited time means the Wolverines shouldn't be in trouble if Morgan misses more than a couple games.
I'll have more notes from this five-man lineup data tomorrow, including insight on Caris LeVert's impact and how Michigan fares when they go to the bench.
*Michigan's overall conference-only offensive efficiency is 118.9, which is over ten points clear of Indiana for the Big Ten lead.