and... i like them? I think I like them.
Derrick Walton played perhaps the best game of his career [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Michigan fans worried about a sloppy, letdown performance after the Wolverines emerged unscathed from a brutal three-game stretch had a portion of their worst fears realized. They committed an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers tonight, including gaffes on three straight first-half possessions to give Purdue a brief one-point edge.
That didn't last long, however, as the home team simply couldn't miss against a porous Boilermakers defense. The final numbers: 21/33 from two and 7/13 from three for a remarkable 68.5 eFG%. Purdue managed to win the turnover and rebounding battles but few teams could've kept pace with Michigan's shooting this evening.
"We did just a wonderful job of getting good shots and doing just enough to win," said John Beilein in the postgame radio interview, and he may have been understating matters.
The backcourt essentially called their own shots all night. Nik Stauskas scored 16 points on 5/10 FGs, including an explosive blow-by reverse layup late in the first half and a couple now-signature pull-up jumpers in the second. Caris LeVert recorded his first career double-double with 14 points (5/11 FG), 11 rebounds, two assists, three steals, and two blocks; his highlights included a LeBron-esque jump stop layup plus the foul and a coast-to-coast layup off his own steal.
Then there was Derrick Walton, who built upon his career-high 19 points against Michigan State with a 14-point effort on just seven shots, of which he missed one, while also chipping in three assists and two steals. He looked more confident than ever working the pick and roll, getting to the basket routinely—big man butterfingers robbed him of a couple more assists. After AJ Hammons committed a lane violation on the front end of a one-and-one with three seconds left in the first half, Walton made Purdue pay dearly by covering the length of the court—splitting two defenders in the process—and finishing at the buzzer before Hammons could react to give Michigan a six-point halftime lead.
LeVert [left, Upchurch] and Stauskas [right, Fuller] both got whatever they wanted offensively.
By the second half, it seemed like Michigan's players were trying to one-up each other's plays. Walton dove into the lane and suddenly scooped a pass to a trailing Jordan Morgan, who finished with a layup for two of his 11 points. LeVert followed with his Olympic long jump tryout. Stauskas knocked down a heavily contested jumper from the stripe. Jon Horford worked his way into the paint and hit a turnaround fade away for two of his four points on the night. Zak Irvin responded to a Hammons dunk with a nothing-but-net triple from the wing.
Even though Michigan never played fully within themselves—the split their 16 turnovers evenly between the first and second halves—their ability to create and make good shots* was on full display. They were lucky that their worst turnover performance of the season by both rate and number came against an overmatched opponent; at the same time, it's tough to complain when they still managed to score 1.17 points per possession.
Caris LeVert made up for his four turnovers with some impressive transition defense, including two blocks (though Purdue recovered for a putback after one) and a clean strip that forced the Boilermakers to take the ball out of bounds after a two-on-one break. He used his length exceptionally on both ends in this one, consistently getting his hands on the ball whether it was in an opponent's hands or caroming off the rim.
Glenn Robinson III was a relative non-factor as the only starter to not score in double digits, finishing with eight points on six shots—though he did hit his first three-pointer since January 14th—and three rebounds in 36 minutes. He managed to get to the rim off a nice jab-step in an isolation situation, however, which was a good sign after a couple games in which he created very little in the halfcourt.
Spike Albrecht only played seven minutes due to Walton's superb outing, especially since Walton also played exceptional on-ball defense in this one, holding Terone Johnson to just four points (2/6 FG) and two assists to two turnovers. Spike made the most of his limited time, however, hitting his first layup in Big Ten play and draining a three-pointer on his only attempts.
The defense played well as a unit, forcing Hammons to work hard for his 16 points (7/14 FG), and the combination of Morgan and Horford limited him to just one offensive rebound; the guards contributed some nice help defense on him from the weak side, especially in the first half. (Nik Stauskas had three blocks all on this type of action if memory serves.) The team had issues boxing out, however, as Purdue rebounded 16 of their 37 misses (39%); while that's Purdue's M.O., it was still a weak area in an otherwise strong defensive performance.
*In Stauskas' case, just about any shot is a good shot.
Swish. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
In the last three games, Michigan earned their status as the team to beat in the Big Ten by sandwiching road wins at Wisconsin and Michigan State around a home victory over Iowa; all three teams ranked in the AP top ten when they played the Wolverines and sit at #6 (Iowa), #8 (MSU), and #14 (Wisconsin) in the latest KenPom rankings. Michigan ranks #7 on KemPom themselves after entering the Kohl Center at #19.
This brilliant three-game stretch also vaulted Nik Stauskas up the NBA Draft boards (from unranked to #14 in Chad Ford's latest rankings[$]), gave him the inside track for Big Ten MVP, and landed him the #8 spot in the KenPom POY standings. Before I get to the video breakdown, here are Stauskas' numbers from the last three games:
- 68 total points (22.7/game) on 10/19 2-pt, 12/24 3-pt, 12/13 FT shooting
- 13 assists to five turnovers, 11 rebounds (one off.), three blocks, three steals
- 28 points generated by assists (includes FTM)
- 96 points generated on 74 possessions used* for a mark of 1.30 points per possession
- Let me state that again: 1.30 POINTS PER POSSESSION
Keep in mind that, while Wisconsin is struggling defensively (#10 in B1G defensive efficiency), Michigan State and Iowa rank first and third in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency. Those numbers are patently ridiculous; just as impressive is the variety of ways Stauskas generated those points. I compiled a video of every point Stauskas produced in the last three games, broken down by how the shot originated. It is highly recommended viewing:
Apologies for the slight audio issues in the Iowa clips.
Stauskas scored in just about every fashion imaginable, regardless of how opponents tried to defend him, and created most of his points himself—only six of his points and two of his assists came off non-transition spot-up opportunities. The "Not Just A Shooter™" meme is a tired one at this point; that doesn't mean it's not fitting.
For further examination of how Stauskas is this outrageously productive, hit the jump.
[JUMP, AS IS TRADITION.]
John Beilein, with 4:01 left, more enraged than he's been since Costco raised the price of tube socks:
John Beilein, 1:33 of game time later:
John Beilein is Walter White if Walter White is also Benjamin Button and boy did this sentence get convoluted in a hurry.
Also, note Michigan's 8-0 run over that span. Coaches, if you have the self-control to not lose your mind at every opportunity, the moments when you completely lose your mind have a much greater impact. This is the Law of Beilein, and I'm totally not basing it on one piece of circumstantial evidence. Nope.
[Hit THE JUMP for Nik Stauskas, more Nik Stauskas, various reactions to Nik Stauskas, and a whole lot more from the last two games.]
Pretty much. Midnight Maize returns with MS Paint sidearm:
I do not know why Petway is riding a dolphin.
Brackets. Surveying the panoply of brackets at the Bracket Matrix gives the impression that to most Michigan is currently a three seed. Michigan's currently the last one overall, but the Matrix generally lags as brackets are up to a week old. They're on the cusp of a 2, especially with Oklahoma State losing last night.
That's where Jerry Palm has them, in a rather unpleasant region with potential rematches against Stanford (the 11), Iowa State(the 2) and Arizona(the 1) plus winged-helmet-on-winged-helmet crime in the opener against Delaware. There is exactly no reason to get exercised about team placement in a random January bracket, I know. I just am not feeling positive about that business.
More on Aneurysm Two. Beilein has not and apparently will not disclose what set him off, but when MLive is getting screenshots from youtube of the LeVert layup attempt that was (officially) blocked by Appling, it seems that everyone agrees. Beilein, for his part, on Stauskas getting him away from the spittle exchange:
“Yeah, that was a good assist by him,” Beilein said of Stauskas in the postgame press conference. “He was a little rough with me, too. I was in control, though, believe it or not.”
I do not entirely believe it, and if it was anyone other than John Beilein I would be snorting in derision. Also:
"(Stauskas) made a great move there because I was an innocent bystander at the time," Beilein said. "At any rate, we got through that. That would have been a shame if I would have gotten a technical at that time."
The implication there is that Beilein started barking at this Wymer guy and it was Wymer who got in his face. Imagine that happening to, say, Tom Izzo. It does not compute. No wonder he blew up.
Coach Mitch. Presented without context.
“I’m Coach Mitch,” McGary said to reporters after the game Saturday.
Also, another photo in the Horford/McGary odd couple bin:
Photographers, you have been notified that side by side shots of McGary and Horford are of bottomless joy and utility.
Nevermind! Biggs was a unique combination of high volume and absolutely miserable efficiency: his usage rate was 35th nationally and his ORTG 92nd. I'm only thinking this is a major loss because Biggs had 14 points against Michigan. Now I am worried abut Michigan's defense. More worried.
Just another Alabama offseason. Alabama fans believe they will take 27 kids in this recruiting class, which means they'll have to eject eight guys from the program. Unless it's actually eleven, ie, the different between Michigan signing the 16 or 17 they expect to this year and a near-NCAA maximum class. At least Bama fans are no longer able to deny what's happening with sleight of hand, and have to admit they don't care:
Scholarship limits are designed to limit student-athlete opportunities in the name of competitive balance. Those who laud scholarship limits while suggesting that oversigning is harmful to student-athletes are hypocrites.
I knew I shouldn't have worn my I LAUD SCHOLARSHIP LIMITS t-shirt today. The only thing more endangered by Alabama than backup offensive linemen are strawmen.
Injuries issues for Wisconsin hockey. Badger defenseman Tyler Barnes will be out for this weekend's series at Yost. Nick Kerdiles, a first round pick, is questionable after missing the Michigan series in Madison. Even if they get a weakened version of the Badgers, Michigan is going to have to significantly step up their game to compete with the #5 scoring offense in the country.
Wow, Yost. Remember that? It's January 28th and this is the first game at Yost since December 11th. Scheduling. I am not impressed with it. If they're going to have all these bye weeks because the conference tournament is one weekend instead of three, they should endeavor to fill breaks like last week with nonconference series. I very much want to go to hockey in January, because it's a star attraction. In the heart of football season it's not.
Well now. There's been a kind-of-bonkers rumor floating around the past few years that when Red retires, one of the primary candidates to replace him will be Mike Babcock. Here is the first circumstantial evidence this is not something a twelve year old posted on a message board:
“He always mentions that -- (coaching college hockey) at some point -- when we talk,” Berenson said. “When he's done (in the NHL), he could see himself doing that. He's a student of the game and understands academics and sports and life after hockey."
IIRC, Red's tentative plan is to serve out the next two years of his contract and then hang it up. If Babcock wants the job I think we might let him have it.
Etc.: Obituary of the year. Venric Mark will return for Northwestern. Hockey moves up its recruiting calendar by six months so coaches can talk to guys before the CHL drafts. Nebraska's new ice rink will not support D-I hockey. Oh man I forgot to put the fact that MSU was favored by five by Vegas in the 30 for 30 pitch.
The ineffable lightness of McGary. Via UMHoops, Mitch McGary and Jon Horford have different opinions about things.
Did they play an Adam Sandler movie on the court at some point? Because this is how that would work out.
One in, one out. Injury news for this weekend's state game is a rollercoaster. First, Adriean Payne tells Facebook that he's been cleared to play Saturday. Then:
BREAKING: Branden Dawson breaks his hand, will be out four to five week. Heading to surgery soon.
— State News Sports (@thesnews_sports) January 23, 2014
How did he acquire this injury?
Dawson says he was watching TV clips this morning with the team and got frustrated, slammed hand against table, suffering injury.
— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) January 23, 2014
Dude. Just lie. Say you got it caught in a thresher or something. This is not the time for honesty.
Dawson is a beast on the offensive glass and an efficient finisher off putbacks and dumpoffs but not a lot of State's offense ran through him. If Payne is full go and mobile by Saturday I'd guess they play him at the four, which he did plenty of last year with Nix around, and go with Costello and Gauna at the five.
State's other option is to play a lot of Kenny Kaminski. Kaminski is a redshirt freshman stretch four who is Just A Shooter™, with 31 3PAs vs 8 twos attempted on the year. He is hitting 55% of his threes, so, yeah, check him hand in the face etc. Kaminski doesn't have enough playing time to definitely say much about him but from appearances he's not in Dawson's class as a defender or rebounder.
Either way, MSU gets more shooting and less defense on the floor without Dawson.
Meanwhile for Michigan. If you're concerned about the prospect of Appling going up against Spike, it sounds like Walton will be just fine by Saturday:
Beilein said that Walton had a high temperature and flu-like symptoms, so there was uncertainty about how much he could play and contribute.
“He got to see the doctor and kept him away from everybody all day, so he didn’t even go to practice or see the game plan,” Beilein said. “The fever broke and he felt good today, enough to at least give us a minute or two. Spike was fine and I’m really pleased with the way he played.”
Again, if Walton is still a bit shaky Michigan can get away with Spike on Travis Trice whenever he's out there, which could keep Walton's minutes down to about 20 if necessary.
Grantland breaks us down. Shane Ryan on the unnoticeable slowness of Michigan's offense:
… unlike other plodding offenses, it never really looks like Beilein’s teams are taking their time. The reason for that is the Wolverines are astoundingly efficient, year after year, to the point that every possession takes on a rhythm and purpose of its own. And the results are so continually positive that there’s drama and anticipation in the lead-up; while teams like Wisconsin (no. 300 in Division I tempo) and Virginia (333) can suck the life out of a game with their effective control of pace, and others like Clemson (348) and Miami (dead last at 351) are clearly taking their time because they have no other option, Beilein’s offenses are so fluid and effective that they retain their sense of drama. Michigan is slow, but never boring.
Also, Stauskas highlights:
And with Michigan's resurgence comes the candy that is Luke Winn saying something interesting about you in his power rankings:
The Wolverines' Nik Stauskas-led offense has an adjusted efficiency of 120.1 points per 100 possessions, which ranks third nationally ... and is pretty much just as efficient as it was last season, when it scored 120.3 points/100 possessions.
They check in ninth, up from 31st(!) last week. It has been a good week.
Chad Ford don't fail me now. Chad Ford's latest mock draft($) for ESPN has zero Wolverines in the first round. Yes, NBA GMs. You are getting very sleepy. You are agreeing with Chad Ford in every way. You have completed your scouting for the season.
FWIW, Stauskas downplayed his dad's quote from the SI article:
“I apologize for my father’s comments,” he said Wednesday. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I haven’t really thought anything about that yet. We’ll just address it after the season.”
I know he's got to say what he's got to say; the dad comment seems like a moment of unguarded honesty. We'll see where he's projected; if it's the first round I imagine he's out.
Mixed reports on Schofield. Mike Schofield's at the Senior Bowl this week trying to establish his draft bonafides. After a couple days moving back to guard didn't seem to go well, they've put him back at his natural position, where he has impressed:
"Not a highly acclaimed kid; a late add [to the roster]," Mayock said. "I thought he stoned everybody in the [1-on-1] drill. Now, he's a right tackle only, in my opinion. They tried him at guard. Right tackle only is not a good thing to be in the NFL unless you're a starter. I think he has the potential to be a starting right tackle."
You can look at this as affirmation that Darrell Funk can develop offensive linemen or further condemnation of Michigan's OL last year as you so desire.
But where is the part where he rescues a bus full of kittens? MLive profiles Andrew Copp:
Copp’s 3.2 G.P.A. wasn’t quite good enough for admission into the business school, so he worries about what lies in store in the future, even if it does include a stop in the NHL. He also said he at times feels at a disadvantage in the classroom.
“I study a lot, but when we have games and practice, some of these kids are still studying the whole time,” Copp says with a palpable stress in his voice. “When there’s a lot of readings in particular, other students don’t have a five or six hour block and weekends taken up by games where they have the opportunity to study.”
That's confidence in a kid: letting a reporter follow him around for a day.
Etc.: Dave Brandon sent around empty planes during the most recent coaching search. I think that means we win. Tom Izzo being histrionic? Never. Sports are supposed to be fun, and Richard Sherman is that. Sacks are lies.
1/22/2014 – Michigan 75, Iowa 67 – 14-4, 6-0 Big Ten
If this was a miss, it was his only one. [Bryan Fuller]
Jordan Morgan is old. Not human old. He is ZZ Top Beard old. He's columns about Richard Sherman old. He's archeology old. He's Seven Nation Army old. He has shale and fossilized invertebrates and a layer of iridium in him.
You think I am exaggerating for effect. I am not. Jordan Morgan committed to Michigan on December 18th, 2007. This is what Jordan Morgan and Miley Cyrus looked like then.
Michigan had not been to the NCAA tournament since Robert Traylor was around.
Jordan Morgan is older than the sea. It is not out of the question that Jordan Morgan impacting the earth was the genesis of life itself.
Morgan was in fact the first guy John Beilein recruited to Michigan who wasn't a late scramble pickup.
Ben Cronin and Stu Douglass preceded him chronologically but were in the 2008 transitional class that, like most transitional classes, gave off the aura of "random tall passerby, here is a scholarship." Douglass was pirated from Harvard, Cronin from… hey, a Beilein offer at West Virginia. When those guys signed on Beilein was looking for bodies he could mold.
Morgan was not one of those guys. Morgan was recruited way early, on purpose. He committed three months before Zack Novak did. Remember Zack Novak? Guy with the bulging forehead comprised entirely of veins and leadership who had a pathological inability to not try his hardest at everything he'd ever considered doing? Guy who is now two years gone from the program? Yeah. That guy. Morgan beat him to the punch by three months.
Jordan Morgan is a million years old. This is how old Jordan Morgan is: Michigan sucked at basketball when he signed up.
This is no longer the case. (Someone tell the official site.) Last night, Michigan went toe to toe with a top ten opponent and came out on top… again. Since Novak's Aneurysm of Leadership, Michigan is 39-14 in the Big Ten. Morgan played 24 minutes in that game, because he is 1,000 years old.
And yes, Michigan's stormed through the last three years of Big Ten basketball on the shoulders of NBA first-rounders past and future. This latest victory was largely thanks to Nik Stauskas playing like a guy Joe Dumars will gleefully pass over in the upcoming NBA draft. (If he even gets an opportunity to do so.) But underneath Stauskas's very obvious boggling efficiency there are other boggling efficiencies to consider.
Historically, the Jordan Morgan prediction matrix has been a simple one. If he is playing against a guy approximately his size, he will have a good game. If he is playing against a seven-footer or guy who plays like one by jumping real high, he will be invisible save for good positional defense. That matrix has been taking efficient shot after efficient shot in this Big Ten season; yesterday it finally toppled over.
Here is Morgan's stat line from Michigan's game against the biggest team in the conference: 5/6 from 12, 2/3 from the line, 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 offensive rebounds by guys he is checking. He kept Horford stapled to the bench, and it wasn't anything Horford (eight minutes, 3 rebounds, 0 FGA, 0 TO) was doing. He was just the best option. The matrix is collapsed in a heap like a security guard around a Michigan State quarterback recruit.
At some point it doesn't matter if Morgan's shots are largely provided on platters by Stauskas, LeVert, and company. Bunnies get missed. Sometimes dunks fly right back out of the basket. Large gentlemen deposit your shot into the stands. I think that point has been reached, because I was checking out Aaron White's numbers and found something familiar in them. If you've been around this site for a while you know that Aaron White is an MGoBlog fave-rave, because he is maniacally, spectacularly efficient. Well…
- WHITE TRUE SHOOTING PERCENTAGE: 71.5, #2 nationally
- MORGAN TS%: 71.3, would be #3 if Morgan was at 40% of Michigan's minutes.
White's usage numbers are higher, but not by that much. The only guy who's putting up more points per shot attempt is one Ethan Wragge, who you may remember from such games as…
Ethan Wragge at the half: 24 points, 0 dribbles
— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) January 21, 2014
Creighton: avoid at all costs.
It would be something if Morgan had his numbers as a jumping jack who can fling things in the basket from above it, like Glenn Robinson III. Since he is not, it is something else. You'd say it's impossible for a below-the-rim guy like Morgan to be so ruthless except for the numbers staring you in the face.
71%. It's there, on paper, looking back at you just as confused as you are. I am not supposed to be this large, it whispers. Tell me there is a theoretical maximum. Please. Yes, Jordan Morgan shooting percentage, yes. You will not grow and grow until you engulf the state and then the nation. It is axiomatically impossible. This is good for both you and the Big Ten, because without that there's no telling what the combination of Stauskas, Beilein, and Morgan might end up at. It might be a number so big it could describe Morgan's metaphorical age.
The imposition of style. Over the past few years there have been teams that try to speed Michigan up or turn them over or press them and they've all failed. Add Iowa to that list. Here's quite a stat in an eight-point Michigan win: Michigan had 12 fast break points to Iowa's 4.
Meanwhile. 66 possessions is a little faster than Michigan generally goes… and way, way off Iowa's normal tempo. That is a comprehensive win.
And they didn't sacrifice offensive rebounds. It seemed like the boards were going to be a major sore spot both pregame and in the first eight minutes as Melsahn Basabe went nuts, but by the end of the game Iowa had been battled to a standstill. Both teams had 10 OREBs; Michigan had one additional opportunity to grab one. Shutting off transition and still grabbing 30% of available offensive boards is quite a trick.
Spike! Dang, man. 35 minutes with Walton sidelined with the flu, and the results are seven points, three boards, seven assists, four steals, and zero turnovers. The second-half steals were all quickly converted into fast-break points and two of them broke up attempted Iowa fast breaks themselves; in particular, the clean swipe that led to an Irvin transition three to push Michigan's lead back to seven was a play that should come with an exclamation point in the box score. That was a five point swing and about 3.5 of those were Spike's, with the remainder going to Irvin.
Michigan was fortunate that Walton was sidelined for a game against a point guard Spike could check. Mike Gesell is just not a volume shooter. Even so, Michigan probably came out better than the expected in that matchup: Gesell was just two of four from the floor with two assists and a turnover.
I don't think anyone has any illusions that Spike is going to be able to guard Appling without fire raining from the sky, so it'll be important to get Walton back for Saturday. Travis Trice does play 18 minutes a game, though, and Albrecht can deal with him.
Yet another of Stauskas's 34 bricks on the night [Fuller]
Stauskas. Crushingly disappointing performance from a player who will never live up to his potential and SHOULD DEFINITELY BE IGNORED BY THE NBA FOR AT LEAST ONE MORE YEAR.
are they gone, the scouts?
So… yeah… wow. That ball-on-a-string assist where he crossed White over twice and then plunged through two help defenders before feeding Morgan was a bittersweet symphony right there. Hooray: that guy plays for Michigan. Oh no: he's not going to be around much longer.
Might as well ride him as long as you can. At this point it's barely worth mentioning that he was ludicrously efficient except when left wide open from his favorite spot in the world. 26 points on 17 shot attempts, five assists, and I'll-take-it defense against Aaron White. Nik Stauskas.
It is going to be really disappointing when Michigan finally finds itself without an alpha dog who can drive them through tough moments, but what a run: Morris, Burke, Stauskas. The series of defiant lip curlers who have passed through Ann Arbor of late is amazing.
What do we think of Iowa's three point defense now? On the one hand, Michigan was only 8 of 27. On the other, did it really seem like Iowa had much of anything to do with that? They got some hands in faces but no more or less than any other team and it seemed like Michigan was mostly hitting the hard ones and missing the easy ones, Stauskas in particular.
Aside from late-clock chucks, most three pointers are the same catch and shoot quality, and I don't think Iowa has anything special to them that prevents opponents from hitting from deep.
Warming up. Zak Irvin returned from deep freeze to provide a much-needed shooting spark in the second half, hitting 3 of 7 from three and even venturing inside the line for a transition bucket. We have photographic evidence.
A palpable two pointer [Fuller]
His usefulness was much more obvious against a team like Iowa that gives up a bunch of threes; previously he was forced to sit in the corner with a guy on him against Wisconsin, et al.
At least he's there, forcing people to check him. Have you seen an Indiana game this year? It's ugly. The only guy who can shoot at all is Yogi Ferrell, and he's their main creator. The result is a lot of possessions where opponents pack the paint with impunity and the second-worst offense in the league.
I don't know what it is with both Indiana teams, but they've apparently decided to stop recruiting shooters. You're in Indiana! You can't throw a basketball without knocking over a 5'11" white dude who does nothing but hit 45% from deep for four years. You should take advantage of this opportunity instead of recruiting gentlemen who give themselves a self-high-five when they hit the backboard.
Late subs. I was confused late when Beilein kept swapping Morgan for Horford on made second free throws, and then it became apparent: by switching the centers, Michigan gave themselves plenty of time to get set defensively so Iowa could not get the whisper of a transition chance afterwards.