Great stuff, Ace. Nice to see Beilein's Heisenberg side.
The face of a ruthless killer after a successful hunt. [Paul Sherman]
John Beilein can be evil. Just ask Ethan Happ.
Michigan's first two offensive sets against Wisconsin put Happ in no-win situations and set the tone for the rest of the game. Here's the first, which features Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman making an elaborate off-ball cut after a dribble handoff:
MAAR's cut is gorgeous on its own: it looks like he'll run along the baseline to the opposite corner, a common maneuver in Beilein's offense, but instead doubles back and curls around a Moe Wagner screen that gets MAAR two steps ahead of his defender, Vitto Brown.
The real beauty of this play, however, comes right about the moment Derrick Walton releases the pass. Against almost any other team in the country, Happ wouldn't hesitate to slide into the paint and prevent the layup. Michigan has Wagner, however, and three points are greater than two. After MAAR curls around the screen, Wagner pops out to the perimeter. Even though the ball is already headed MAAR's way, Happ is preoccupied enough with Wagner to take a false step towards the three-point line:
That moment of hesitation provides MAAR with the space he needs for a layup.
That play was pretty mean. The real evil comes on the next possession.
[Hit THE JUMP.]
With their very first play, Michigan has forced Happ to think about how much he can commit to helping in the paint versus sticking to a dangerous outside shooter. You can probably guess what Beilein schemed up for play two:
Wagner sets a perfunctory screen for MAAR, who immediately dishes it to Walton while Wagner continues along the perimeter to set an off-ball screen for Zak Irvin. Irvin, like MAAR on the first play, is curling around an off-ball cut and threatening the paint. Happ responds accordingly, sinking to the middle.
That, of course, is far too much space to give Wagner at the three-point line. Happ does a decent job of recovering; it's still too late.
For the rest of the game, Happ was neutralized on both ends of the floor. The threat of Wagner shooting threes was enough to open up the paint, even though he didn't hit another triple the rest of the way. One of the most disruptive interior defenders in the country didn't tally a single block or steal; Michigan outscored Wisconsin 30-28 in the paint.
We'll see how much the five-out attack throws off Oklahoma State (and, basketball gods willing, Louisville). Brian says Cowboys center Mitchell Solomon is about as mobile as Happ; that should give Michigan openings to exploit.
The adjustment that neutralized Happ on the other end of the floor occurred at halftime:
Beilein says at halftime, DJ Wilson wanted to guard Happ by himself, no double team
— Minh Doan (@_minhdoan) March 12, 2017
We've seen DJ Wilson cameo at the five for brief stints down the stretch; the second half against Wisconsin was his most extended action there, IIRC. Happ was 4-for-8 with two offensive boards, two assists, and two turnovers in the first half as Michigan went with Moe Wagner, Mark Donnal, and frequent double-teams to defend him. In the second half, with Wilson mostly playing him straight-up, Happ went 2-for-8 with four offensive rebounds (three on one volleyball-like possession), one assist, and one turnover.
What stands out from the second half is how little Happ was involved. He had the four-shot possession to pad the numbers; otherwise, he only used six possessions, producing five points—he assisted on a Brown three when Irvin sunk into the paint without committing to a double-team—and turning it over once. When Happ was able to get involved, Wilson's length gave him trouble:
Wilson's ability to guard true fives or defend on the wing opens up a lot of possibilities for Beilein. If Moe Wagner picks up an early foul or has some trouble guarding a particular post player, Beilein can potentially swap Wagner's and Wilson's defensive assignments if the opponent's power forward isn't too quick for Wagner.
In the Wisconsin game, Beilein was able to keep an ineffective Wagner on the bench and play smaller lineups with Duncan Robinson or Xavier Simpson (or both) on the floor, with Irvin usually picking up the four on defense. This also took Mark Donnal almost entirely out of the equation. Donnal played four first-half minutes; in that stretch, the Badgers scored ten points on six possessions. He played one second-half possession, fouling Nigel Hayes after biting on a midrange pump-fake and immediately heading back to the bench.
Wilson's offensive outbursts against Purdue and Wisconsin got much of the post-BTT attention, but it's his defense that could be the key to a long tourney run.
Great stuff, Ace. Nice to see Beilein's Heisenberg side.
Nothing stops this train.
You're Damn Right!
It's small articles like this that make MGoBlog an internet treasure. Thanks Ace!
+1: User Name and Avatar
As a casual basketball watcher, I'd watch the exact same plays and just be like, nice, MAAR got a layup. Nice, Wagner for 3. Man, there's so much I don't know about the game.
Very edifying post, Ace. Thanks.
from some of the fellow MGoBloggers on JB's offense that they just run around aimlessly and pass around and shoot 3's is silly. There is a purpose in every movement and every movements forces the defense to make a quick decision. There is a reason why JB's offense this season is top 5 in the country. He has 5 players who can shoot and score from anywhere and it put a stress on the defense. You can't hide your weak defender on one player because that player is capable of scoring on them.
In terms of the offense itself, I think you are right in that criticisms are unwarranted. my problem is when there is fatigue and there doesn't seem to be a go to motion offense that they can run without anything being called. When we get into our hero ball situations where literally no one moves but just stands around the key with walton dribbling at the top, that is where my criticisms come in. Granted, it's a small one and I am far from the anti-beilein crowd, but this is one frustration I have.
It could be the fault of the players themselves, but sometimes all it takes is a simple downscreen from the bigs on the wing to the guards in the corner to start some motion and get rid of the stagnant offense that just leads to hucking up a bad shot at the end of the clock.
on the head: great offensive players that can hurt you in multiple ways at every position. The offense itself isn't rocket science (although we do make teams prepare for a lot of stuff). A curl off a down screen with the screener popping for a shot is nothing groundbreaking. It's just so effective because there is nothing you can ignore. You can't cheat on any of the action because our players are good enough to make you pay for it.
Wisconsin could have played this better too. In the second clip, Irvin actually didn't go shoulder-to-shoulder off the screen, and Hayes was able to squeeze between it, which meant that he should have called Happ out of the paint. Eitehr he didn't communicate or Happ couldn't avoid his instinct to defend his "territory" instead of guarding his man on the perimeter. We really put pressure on teams that way. Put them in uncomfortable spots because our guys can do so many things. Every single starter can shoot the three and put it on the deck. That is crazy.
It's a real pleasure to watch Beilein's system.
Being old enough to have watched Michigan's teams since Johnny Orr, it's easy recognize the quality and sophistication of JB's offense.
For years, we rolled out some great athletes who aimlessly tossed the ball around the perimeter until someone decided to hoist up a shot or drive to the hole. Any pick-and-roll plays were of the most basic variety.
No plan, no utilizing plays that set up the following possession (well done, Ace) - though I should acknowledge that the uber-athletic teams of the 80's and 90's were devastating on the break.
This year is particularly fun, because all five starters (and Robinson) are inside/outside players who are capable of nailing threes and cutting off screens for easy layups or short jumpers. While we don't have guys with the quicks and handle to easily beat guys off the dribble, JB's offense creates openings and passing lanes. Those back-doors against Minnesota were beautiful to watch.
look like bad defenders. Ace's analysis above shows how it's not an offense that attacks a weak player. It's an offense that makes good players make a no win decision. He forced Painter to sit one of his best players.
I here about the set plays and all that, but this is the first time I've actually seen a set play and then a variation run off that set play. Turns out Bielien and Harbaugh have very similar offensive styles with players who are expected to be able to do multiple things well.
Ace's basketball analysis has come a long way. Good stuff. That clip shows how much DJ still has to do to improve his post D though - and also shows how good it can be eventually.
+1 for correct use of "edifying."
There's a reason why his fellow coaches voted Beilein as the best offensive coach in the game.
How can Wilson possibly guard an opposing center? He's only 5' 9". I know that for a fact because I read it here!
As Xavier Simpson will tell you, it's not that hard for a guy that size to guard the post.
but you didn't take into account his hair.
I don't know if I've ever seen a coach's perception swing so wildly in the view of The Average Fan. One month Beilein is regarded as a tactical genius, the next month he's stale, can't recruit, can't anything, and then the next month he's a tactical genius.
I suspect the truth is that if Beilein was willing to get his hands dirty in recruiting like most DI coaches do, he'd be universally perceived as a top 5ish coach in college
He was always a tactical genius with an iffy recruiting record and bad defense. The swing on how people view Beilein hasn't happened because the offense got better, its because Billy Donlon teaching defense kicked in and Derrick Walton decided to have the freshman to sophmore leap that got 6 players drated to the nba in the second half of his senior season. If Donlon sticks around this team could be really good next year if Xavier Simpson keeps progressing.
because he doesn't often land the players that the average fan thinks he should be getting. Instead, he gets the guys with the skill sets to run his system and be good teammates and UM citizens. Next thing you know, we are hanging banners.
Maybe we should all just set back and enjoy the ride.
Your post implies that JB only targets the lower rated guys who fit his scheme. JB has also targeted a BUNCH of top 100 kids that would also fit his scheme, but he just hasn't been very successful in landing them since the 2012 class which has forced him to take more of the plan B, C and D types. Some times those work out, but they do so less often than the plan A types do.
Beilein's recruiting record is iffy from the standpoint of recruiting rankings. It's not like he can't actually put together a talented team. He regularly lands guys that the services overlook and develops them into good players.
He also whiffs quite often. (takes a look at the roster changes in the past 3 years since the Elite Eight...)
Every coach does. That's OK because you only play about 8 guys in your rotation anyway.
That said, I do think guys like Dawkins and Chatman could have developed if they'd stuck around.
because he takes some really low ranked guys. With the exception of MAAR all the guys that see the floor for this team are solid recruits:
Irvin: 4 star, 28th ranked player in country
Walton: 4 star, 44
Donnal: 4 star, 86
Wilson: 4 star, 122
MAAR: 2 star, 382
Wagner: 4 star, 118
Simpson: 4 star, 67
I haven't really broken it down but it seems like Beilein has a really good hit rate with low-rated guys, going back to Novak in his first class.
or the last 4 recruiting classes MAAR is the only one that has really been a hit so far. It's too early to tell how the '16 recruits will pan out.
In 2013 there weren't any lower rated recruits. Donnal, Walton and Irvin were the class.
In 2014 Doyle (3 star, 201) and Dawkins (3 star, 325) were also part of the class. Both have transferred. He did get production from both Doyle and Dawkins.
In 2015, Wagner and Hibbits were the only recruits. Hibbits wasn't even ranked.
In 2016, you have Davis (3 star, 176) and Watson (3 star, 241). Teske was a 3 star and ranked 145 so not sure whether to consider him a lower ranked recruit.
There aren't any recruits still on the roster from 2012 but both Spike and Caris were lower rated rectuits. Both were 3 stars with Spike ranked 232 and Caris 242.
Let's be fair, in the dark days this year there were a lot of guys that were hitting the offense pretty hard. Not just calling it soft, either--some actually called it too simple.
Which just shows that people can comment about things they know nothing about.
I think Beilein's personnel policies can be questioned. Things are turning up this season, obviously, and there have been injuries, but we are also missing on recruits and seeing some guys not develop. Chatman and Dawkins were guys that had a lot of potential and later developed so poorly that they transfered (Dawkins was at least understandable, but he regressed before he left). Ricky Doyle never developed, either. That is part of the reason that Michigan is so thin now.
Perhaps it was just Beilein getting the right guys, but he's gone through an unusual share of the wrong guys in the last few years to get here. We'll see what happens next year; he has earned the chance to coach next year without a hot seat.
are idiots. I've had the pleasure of going over gamefilms of Michigan offense with D1 coaching staff. They marveled at how complex the offense really is and how the same sets yield different type of movements. They mentioned that JB specifically look for skilled players who can shoot and that's a difficult offense to defend because it's hard for one defender to help out in the middle or they risk getting a 3 pt shot on them.
Also know a former Michigan basketball player and he said the offense is extremely difficult to pick up because you have to make reads every single time and go according to what the defense is giving them. It took him half of the season to start getting the concept but for others, it might be quicker or it might take the entire year for them to understand it.
true. Beilein also believes, on the college level, that basketball IQ can close the athletic gap. The shot clock change has caused him to modify a bit but I think he still believes that. These and other things all figure in to the types of players he recruits. I don't worry that Scout, Rivals and others use a less dynamic rating system.
He also gets criticized when the offense doesn't produce. But what many fans don't seem to see/understand is the losses usually happen for one of two reasons:
1. The players are young and don't grasp the complex system yet.
2. The players are executing but the jump shots just aren't falling. This offense works by floor spacing which only works when the perimeter shots fall. Some nights we will just have an "off" night.
People will say this blame can be pinned on coaching, I don't buy it. It's a complex offense that works once the guys know how to execute.
All the things that get said about him are true for the most part, it's just that the people that dwell on the bad only come out when things are bad, whereas the Beilien appreciation threads for the fan boys only get posted when things are going well.
The fact is that he's a decent, not great recruiter. Tradeoff is that he gets high character guys. He runs a beautiful offense and he recruits for offense above all else so we often are amongst the best in the coutnry at offense. His defenses are traditionally mediocre to bad because he doesn't recruit for good defense, and isn't a great defensive coach. All of those things have been true for the last 8-9 years. Another underrated thing about him is that he has done a good job with assistant coach hires as you mention. Although I wouldn't give Donlon all the credit here. We're actually playing some really good, experienced defensive players this year in DJ, Irvin and mostly MAAR. Just the shift in minutes from Duncan last year to DJ this year makes the defense a lot better - regardless of coaching. Even Dwalt has focused a lot more on that end of the floor during this run. The players are as much responsible for the much improved defense as anyone.
Just the shift in minutes from Duncan last year to DJ this year makes the defense a lot better - regardless of coaching.
OTOH, we were a sieve defensively in early January, despite Wilson playing big minutes. It didn't help that our opponents were all going NBA Jam on us from downtown but we were getting destroyed pretty much everywhere.
the opponent NBA Jam 3 point shooting, you're correct. Also, this gets downplayed but MAAR was in the doghouse/not playing well for some reason and he played only 8 minutes against Iowa with only one foul. Duncan played 36!! Not an insignificant reason they scored 1.21 ppp on us. MAAR only played about 20 minutes per game for a stretch there. That hurts if he's not playing at all or not playing well.
Donnal was also playing very badly during that time. Our team in general wasn't playing with much fire ane Walton stepped it up and they all followed the lead. And as bad as Duncan was last year and the first half of this year, he's been very serviceable defensively the past dozen or so games.
There was absolutely a some coaching effect though. I'm not saying there was no coaching effect. Donlon has us playing much more aggressively on the perimeter, and better in general. That was a great hire.
but football has and always will be king with me. Normally, make my winter move just as the bb season is getting under way and get a serious interest around mid Feb. My first game I noticed Wilson and asked my son about him. He didn't know him, just by my description. But as I watched more and more of him, I said, this guy is a baller. He pushes it like about 100% all the time. I was hoping he was young. I recall even thinking if he is young, he'll be all BIG by his jr. year. Tonight I looked at the roster and saw F. I was elated.
In terms of his recruiting, he obviously has big misses, but I think a big part of it is that he truly needs specific skill sets to make things work. If his big guys cannot shoot, that causes problems for his offense, and when it comes to high school big men, that isn't uncommon. Many of the elite 4s and 5s coming into college have never had the need to shoot it, and any one that can, likely isn't flying under the radar.
I think he does need some specific skill sets, but I disagree a bit about a big man's shooting ability. His greatest teams were built around Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary, neither of whom were dangerous from the arc. McGary was active and mobile, but not an outside shooter. I think it's more accurate to suggest that his centers need to be able to move in the pick and roll offense, and that he doesn't have much use for guys that primarily post up.
I will allow that things aren't always perfect. But I definitely prefer that Beilein avoids the gray areas as much as possible. I don't want a coach who is basically looking for ways to buy players or their families. I also don't want someone like Fisher or Jim Tressel or anyone in the SEC, who close their eyes to what is going on. You can't completely remove that kind of stuff. But you can minimize it.
Personally, this year makes a huge, huge difference. I think that with Charles Matthews and Austin Davis, along with the 3 incoming freshman, we are going to be very good in 2017 - 2018. And the current success, along with next year, allow Beilein to focus on recruits for 2018 and 2019, and to attract some guys that might not have considered Michigan previously.
I keep on mulling about Bamba. Everyone says he is one and done, and ticketed for Kentucky or Duke. I'd love to see him come to Michigan, but ideally for two years. One year to learn, and one year to shine. If Bamba comes, he could push 2018 to a higher level, and if he stayed til 2019, he would be the man.
Fisher repeatedly stopped Ed Martin from paying players and had players give him things back he just couldn't prevent it all. Giving him free tickets to all the games probably didn't help though, heh.
He even forged Perry Watson's initials on some of those ticket requests. He was kind of bipolar about the whole thing.
Why Wisconsin had such problems with us.
JB is not only evil, he is a wizard!!
where MAAR curling off the screen and getting the ball, while Happ is confused for most coaches Hayes is the one who should be providing the help. MAAR catches the ball on the block on the opposite side of the floor from Wagner (Happ's man). Hayes is tecnhically two passes away (Irvin sets up on 3 pt line between Walton and Wilson, Hayes man). Hayes should be providing the help defense on that side of the floor. As MAAR is curling into the lane Hayes takes a step in that direction to help but for whatever reason he stops.
He stopped for the same reason Happ stutter stepped, it would have meant leaving a good three point shooter with a wide open corner three
can't leave a 3 pt shooter open. Another reason why Michigan is shooting the ball well inside the arc this season. Spacing is very important but spacing doesn't matter if a player can't shoot.
True offensive genius. Class Act. Full team buying into the system. Peaking at the right time. See you in KC
Am I going crazy or is the other leg of the ladder cropped out in that first pic?
The leg is at a funky angle, and it disappears under JB's armpit
Its a Werner podium ladder my dude. Used by the Michigan Marching Band, and official ladder of the NCAA tournament.
That isn't just any ladder. That's a WERNER - the official ladder of NCAA Men's Basketball - complete with net cutting platform.