“I’m way more comfortable,” Gardner said. “Last year was my first year starting, and it was rough, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity. A lot of adversity I fought through, and I feel like I did a really good job of never giving up, never giving up on myself and my teammates. I feel my teammates recognized that, and my coaches recognized that, and I feel like that will help me.”
Hello. I went away, and did not tell anyone because I thought to myself "I'll have plenty of time to put some posts together in the evenings," which was not true. I should just admit to myself that sometimes I am actually on vacation. Anyway, on with talking about things.
2/24/2013 – Michigan 71, Illinois 58 – 23-4, 10-4 Big Ten
I did not have the privilege of taking in the Dan Dakich Trollganza, since I had no audio. I may have missed some things. Thing I didn't miss: Dakich's Trollrankings having Illinois in front of Michigan despite Michigan having beat them by 74 at Assembly earlier this year.
That's just cheap heat; I bet Doris turned him down and now he's taking out his anger at any available target. Doris, why?
Photos. From Eric Upchurch.
Trey Burke is kind of good, and in this one he was kind of Deshaun Thomas. On the one hand, Burke had a game that will rank with his statistical best no matter when he leaves: 26 points on 15 shot equivalents, eight assists, and the obligatory solitary turnover. Commence the waving of flags and blasting of trumpets.
On the other hand, where did everyone else go? Robinson and Hardaway edged into double digits, Stauskas was 0-fer, and the supporting scoring was a step back. I guess this is mostly Stauskas's off night, as if he gets off his requisite ten this is not even a conversation; as it was, Michigan still managed 1.15 PPP. To me that largely seemed like…
Illinois did not prevent Michigan from getting into transition. Doing that was always going to be difficult since Illinois relies on jumpers so much, and the Illini exacerbated their usual slate of ready-made breakaways off of long rebounds with a ton of open-court turnovers. Though turnovers were nearly equal—Illinois 13, Michigan 10—Michigan tripled Illinois's steals with 9, and it seemed like every one of those
came at a junction where Illinois was pressing to extend their lead to an unmanageable distance or fight their way back into the game, and
led to an uncontested layup.
Thus a 61% shooting night from two and Robinson's customary 5/6 line on which most of his makes required no dribbles. Burke, too, had two or three freebie layups. Those transition opportunities provided most of the distance between Michigan's twos and Illinois's twos, so provided most of the final margin in a game statistically even otherwise.
It's back: post-half run. Hypothesis about beating people with half-time adjustments took some hits over the ugly four-game run earlier, but it was golden in this one as Michigan went from down 31-28 to up 43-34 over the course of the first five minutes of the second half.
This did not compare to Michigan's blitz a few minutes later. Illinois hit a three to bring it to within four and then suffered a four-minute barrage spurred by those open-court turnovers. When it was over they were down 17 and it was all over but the pointless timeouts.
Morgan's defense: ninja impact. McGary started and after Michigan gave up 11 quick points Horford got a crack; those two alternated until Michigan found itself down eight with eight minutes left, whereupon Morgan came in. Morgan would play 17 of the remaining 28 minutes; Michigan would outscore the Illini by 21 in that time. Morgan's first stretch of PT from around 8 minutes to around 4 was a big chunk of that, as Michigan went on a 13-3 run on which the Illinois points were a Tyler Griffey free throw off of a GRIII foul and an unassisted Nnanna Egwu jumper. I know that's Morgan's man but like okay.
Morgan suffered the banked end-of-half three, and then came in a minute into the second half when McGary picked up a third foul. This was of course the second-half run; by the time Morgan left Michigan had made up a two-point deficit and led by seven. Morgan gave up a foul to get Tracy Abrams a couple FTAs; the only other make in that sequence was a DJ Richardson jumper.
So… yeah, if you want to point to Morgan as the guy who subtly swung the game from extreme danger to comfort you go right ahead. At this point it's clear his ankle is still bothering him but Michigan needs him; hopefully that's a good sign for Michigan's chances down the stretch as he gets healthier. He is clearly a better option than anyone else when McGary isn't acting as a possession fountain. In this game, McGary wasn't, with just one OREB and a steal. In that case the hedge-and-respond game Morgan has going is something the other two guys can't match.
Minutes: an issue? Burke went his customary 39; Robinson and Hardaway had 36 each. Against Penn State(!) Burke went 39, Stauskas 34, Robinson 33. The debacle at MSU obscures what the numbers might have been in a game where Michigan was within 20 for big chunks of the second half; Burke went 40 in the OT game at Wisconsin with Stauskas at 39, Hardaway at 37, Robinson 33.
You get the idea. Michigan plays all starters except their five big minutes. Burke's minutes have been especially big. Is this going to catch up with Michigan come tourney time as Burke turns into a walking corpse?
As best as I can figure, it's not an issue. A lot of good teams ride their starters hard. Last year's final four featured Kansas (314th in bench minutes), Kentucky (323rd), Louisville (340th), and Ohio State (308th). Michigan's currently 328th in that stat, which is either "a troubling lack of depth" or "a ticket to the Final Four" depending on your half-empty/half-full status.
At 35 minutes a game Burke is 88th nationally and on another level from the other guys, who range from about 200th to about 400th in minutes averaged. He's not that far in front of the various point guards from last year's FF, though. UK's Marquis Teague and KU's Tyshawn Taylor averaged 33; Craft was at 32. Only Peyton Siva was a significant step back.
Last year's FF strongly suggests that the best teams in college basketball are heavily dependent on their starters and that PGs can handle minutes in the mid-30s without much problem. If Michigan goes out and Burke has an aberrantly bad game, his heavy minutes over the home stretch of the season will get a lot of blame. But he'll probably just have had a bad game.
First episode Walter White, part infinity. Beilein yo:
would you like to hear about covalent bonds they're super exciting (Upchurch)
Free throws! Michigan had some of them, and had most of them before a brief period of end-game fouling on which Burke was 3/4. (The previous possession ended with a Burke shooting foul but one after 35 seconds had expired—definitely not on purpose.) 17 is not a huge number, but after the last month or so where trips to the line have been beyond rare it's nice that Michigan can put together some FTAs even if they're against two of the hackiest teams in the league.
Rebounding lockdown. After a frustrating start in which Illinois picked up 6 offensive rebounds as they built a 21-13 lead, Michigan locked it down. After the first 12 minutes Michigan allowed two more OREBs and finished the game in a dead heat with the Illini on the boards. Still not great against one of the poorer rebounding teams in the league; we'll live with it.
There was a point at which I thought Nnanna Egwu had read the blog and was super mad about its season-long obsession with the fact that he can't grab a ball to save his life; this faded somewhat as the game progressed. We can add another 22 minutes without a defensive rebound to Sam McLaurin's ledger; the man is a miracle.
I think Dakich is suffering from an attempt to create a name for himself as a "personality." Last year, he was great (at least for bball junkies) because he would take time to explain what was going on on the court, what different sets were trying to accomplish. He still does this a bit (I remember an explanation of how M's sets were attempting to overload the strong side and open the lane for Burke on the ball screen) but too often, he moves into full on troll mode (see Illinois #3). It's apparently far worse on his radio show and twitter feed, but the "personality" threatens to destroy the insightful analyst.
Emphasizing "personality" is probably the way to get ahead at ESPN, though, unfortunately.
Dakich's power rankings are literally "who has been playing the best in the past week," which is why he frequently has screwy things like Illinois over Michigan. Obviously, that's dumb for entirely different reasons, but would explain why he doesn't care that Illinois got crushed by Michigan at home earlier in the year.
There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.
I was struggling to describe Dakich's on-air persona, and you absolutely nailed it. ESPN becomes more and more sensationalized by the day, with your Skip's and Stephen A's and Top 10 lists about anything and everything.
Maybe he is alienating a fan base...but we know who he is, now (unfortunately).
I thought he played his best game as a Wolverine and was Michigan's best perimeter defender yesterday. His eight points put him only two behind Paul, Richardson, and Abrams, who led Illinois in scoring with ten points each.
"All of the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes."
without looking it up to be sure, it seemed like he played his most minutes in that game as well. I also like the short time of double point guards (Burke AND Albrecht) that was out there.
My subjective impression of this game was that Beilein had the expected lineup in the beginning, but then began to put in players who must have showed something during the practices since PSU. Stauskas was particularly absent during the first half where Michigan came back to even the score. I think Stauskas has it tought because he's been targeted as an offensive threat and a defensive weakness in the opposing teams game planning. LeVert adds another hoop driving threat,
I don't pay much attention to Dakich but I did note when he said that Glenn Robinson II was the best Big Ten player he had seen except for Steve Alford or Calbert Cheaney. Which...granted he only played two years but for those of us old enough to remember Big Dog averaging 30 PPG and like 10 boards/game during his second year I found that to be pretty funny. I'm not old enough to remember Magic or guys before that but I'm certain that Robinson was better than Cheaney who was better than Alford.
As far as the minutes, I think the issue is not wearing down over the course of the season but wearing down in tourneys. In the B1G we'll have to play 2 in 2 for the semis and 3 in 3 if we play in the final. Beilein will have to play the bench more and play some lineups that we haven't seen as much. Think we'll see more 2 big lineups, and more Levert. Might still have just as many minutes for Burke as we are so dependent on him. Ideally, we get Illinois or Iowa as a #2 versus #7 matchup and win comfortably in the first game.
Not as bad in the NCAAs but you are still doing 2 in 3 days so it is different than the Wed/Sat flow of the regular season where it is 2 in 4 days or 2 in 5 most of the time.
You're definitely right about Robinson being better than Cheaney who was better than Alford. Alford could hit open jump shots and not much more. The whole offense was built around him running through pick after pick after pick then shooting an open jump shot.
Big Dog was as dominant a player as I can remember, but I'm not sure that I'm ready to claim he was a better college player than Cheaney, who is the Big 10's all time leading scorer.
Cheaney was the key player of several very Indiana good teams. He was a 3 time all-american and consensus Big Ten and national player of the year in his senior year. Robinson might have had more talent and Cheaney a better college career?
Cheaney was really good, no doubt, but I've got to give the edge to Robinson. To average 30 a game in college is astonishing. He scored over 1,000 points in one season! He also averaged 10 boards a game that year and also racked up solid defensive stats (1.6 steals per game, 0.9 blocks). That was one of the greatest seasons ever by a college player.
The problem is those were the ones he said were the best
In the Big Ten, EVER. Dakich came in right after Isiah Thomas at Indiana, who in his two years won back to back Big Ten titles and and was Tournament MVP of an NCAA Champion team. The problem was those aren't even the best Indiana players he's seen, no more Big Ten players. (Magic just a few years earlier than Dakich played too. And the list of players greater than Alford since 1980 could fill two hands).
Was Egwu the Illinois guy that guarded the inbounder on several plays under the basket? If so, he looked like a lunatic out there, jumping around like his shoes were on fire. Might be great inbound defense but it made me chuckle. Good times.
I never understood the whole RS LeVert idea. He must have been absolutely destroying Eso Akunne and Matt Vogrich in practice.
When LeVert is in the game, M often runs the offense him, which moves Burke into more of a shooting guard role. Numerous times during the Illini game, Burke would bring the ball up, hand it to LeVert between the rings, and LeVert would initiate the offense. The offense running through LeVert is something we can expect to see with regularity in the coming years.
Going forward to next season and beyond, when LeVert adds some strength, he will be a very difficult assignment for the opposition, allowing Beilein to experiment with some big lineups and possibly more zone on defense. LeVert has the look of a legit big point guard. He looks every bit of 6'5'' to me.
LeVert played quite well, he even looked like he has gotten bigger and more mature. I found myself for the first time wondering how long it'll be before he starts over Stauskas (probably next year unless Stauskas also makes some major improvements). But then again it wasn't long ago i was thinking the same thing about McGary vs Morgan before Morgan got hurt and proved his worth.
As for Dakich, he wasn't that bad this time. Yeah he said a couple incredibly stupid things but he spent most of the game gushing about Morgan and Burke.
I hope not. Stauskas seems like a guy who could see his confidence hurt if he's not starting, even if he's getting the same minutes. I general, I don't see the need to mess with the starting lineup. Didn't see it early in the year when people were calling on Morgan to be benched. Don't see it now when Stauskas is struggling.
If he's struggling defensively and not hitting shots, sit him during the game, but taking him out of the starting lineup seems an unnecessary public rebuke.