Things other than aigh Will Campbell that happened over the break.
Basketball failed to implode spectacularly.
…probably. They've got winless North Carolina Central (Kenpom rank: #344 of 344) tonight. Kenpom predicts a final score of 96-49 and gives NCC a 0% chance of victory. It does not appear to be the height of hubris to predict a win.
The opponents since the watershed Duke game:
EMU and Oakland. These games were very similar to each other: Michigan plays a significant amount of uninspired basketball but is bailed out by smoking hot three-point shooting. It was 16 of 33 against Eastern and 13 of 29 against Oakland. Neither opponent could keep up with Michigan once the threes started falling (and, in Oakland's case, theirs stopped falling).
Of note in both these games: Michigan went to the 1-3-1 for brief periods in the first half, got torn apart, and spent the rest of the game in man-to-man. In the Oakland game the 1-3-1 was a very brief cameo indeed, as it was present for all of one possession—an Oakland layup—and was quickly shelved. Theory: there's some adjustment that prevents the layup line the 1-3-1 became against EMU but Beilein's vertigo-induced absence prevented that from being applied and Michigan just went to a standard defense against generally overmatched foes.
Oakland center Keith Benson used the man-to-man to go crazy, hitting nine of eleven shots and having a career game. It wasn't necessarily that the defense was bad, either; often times Benson was well defended only to hit a tough shot.
Reed Baker and the Rainmakers. Due to holiday travel I missed this one and it sounds like I should be glad I did. Michigan shot very poorly, but forced a zillion FGCU turnovers and limped to an ugly victory over a bad team.
And notes for the future:
Minutes what? Laval Lucas-Perry becomes eligible, looks a lot like Bernie Mac, and hits a lot of threes. He's played 36 minutes in two games. Where are these minutes coming from? One obvious location: Anthony Wright has gotten two DNP-CDs since LLP shed his suit. But the other obvious location—walk-ons—not so much. Merritt and Lee have combined to average 25 minutes per game.
Wha? Well, Michigan is using Perry at the 2 and 3 and giving all point guard minutes to either Merritt or Grady. The two have combined for 79 minutes in the last two games: one or the other is always on the floor. Everyone was selling LLP as a combo guard or a scoring point; Michigan isn't even giving him a chance to be the best point guard since Magic Johnson.
The two possibilities here are
- LLP isn't actually any sort of point and Michigan will never play him there.
- Michigan's trying to work LLP in slowly and will start giving him point guard minutes as he gets more comfortable actually being on the floor.
I really hope it's #2; no offense to Merritt but he's a walk-on for a reason.
Minutes what part two. Okay, so LLP isn't taking Merritt's minutes. Fine. Question: why isn't Kelvin Grady? There is nothing Grady isn't statistically superior to Merritt in except a couple of things with extremely low sample sizes:
Merritt's superior two point FG percentage is based on ten shots, and that usage rate is insanely low—way lower than even CJ Lee—so those should be almost entirely easy shots.
Unless Merritt's just way, way better on defense, which I concede may be true, there's no reasonable case he should be playing anything more than 5-10 minutes a game when Grady needs a breather.
Side note: how about that 43% on three pointers from Grady? We're still subject to a small sample size disclaimer, but dang, man. That's a seven-point jump from last year's meh 36%, and it makes him someone you have to get out on, which is dangerous because he's ninja-quick. If only he could make a layup.
Manny! I'm going to be the last person on earth to note how freakin' good Manny Harris is, but this, I think, is the key number: 33.2. Oh, and 31.6. And 17.3. These items are:
- 33.2. Harris's assist rate, which is insane for a small forward, 13 points higher than last year's, by far the best on the team, and 62nd nationally. Also helping out: Harris' TO rate has dropped from 22.0 to 18.6.
- 31.6. Harris's usage rate, which is insane for anyone—26th nationally—and actually higher than his very high usage from a year ago.
- 17.3. Harris' defensive rebound rate, which is easily second-best on the team and a major reason the rebounding numbers are not worse than they are.
Before the season I sounded a note of caution on expectations for Harris as his freshman year had the distinct whiff of Bracey Wright to it. (I've done this twice, actually.) That whiff is gone. Harris has been maniacally efficient despite sporting an enormous usage rate. This was my hope before the season:
I hope in March we're here looking at scoring average going down a little bit but those field goal numbers going up a lot; we'll see.
Harris said "how about more usage and more efficiency" and I said "I wish to clone you every four years if that is okay with you sir." That is stardom, and it's a quantum leap forward from his freshman year.