“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.”
I'll take "Signs You Might Be An Ag School for 1000, Alex."
Michigan draws the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in round one in what at first blush looks like a good draw. SDSU is #102 in Kenpom, a 13-3 Summit League team sporting a 25-9 record highlighted by a road win at three-seed New Mexico and uh… unhighlighted by ugly blowouts against Minnesota and Belmont.
HOWEVA, their jerseys are basically Generic State U from the Allstate Mayhem commercials, so, like, beware mayhem. Also they have a really good player, and that really good player did not participate in the Minnesota blowout. (Sprained ankle if you're curious.)
Though I did not pay much attention to the Jackrabbits earlier this year, I knew Wolters's name sounded familiar.
As the man said: eerie.
The 6'4" Wolters carries a heavier rebounding load and gets to the line a lot more, possibly because the Summit isn't too good at defending really good players, possibly because fouls exist in that league. Here he is putting 53 points on IPFW earlier this year:
Wolters size makes him an interesting defensive matchup. SDSU doesn't put a guy shorter than 6'4" on the floor, and Trey has to check someone. Can Wolters post up a la Chauncey Billups? Will Michigan swap a longer guy on him in an effort to disrupt his game? Would it be smart to give Trey some time against designated Stand In The Corner And Snipe Guy to save his legs?
There's no shortage of those corner snipers. SDSU surrounds Wolters with shooters, shooters, shooters. The tallest guy to get time, post-type substance Jordan Dykstra, shoots 43% from three on 128 attempts. They've got another 43% shooter in 6'6" swingman Chad White, who has the statistical profile of a corner gunner: 173 3PA, 78 2PA, 43 FTA, no assists, no turnovers, no OREB. The fourth option, shooting guard Brayden Carlson, also takes a majority of his shots from behind the line. He hits at a respectable 36% clip, so you can't leave him, either.
Dykstra is an interesting kid with a thick body who can drive and post up Summit-level athletes in addition to his Pittsnogle duties:
Physically it makes more sense for Michigan to have Morgan/McGary/Horford on him and let Robinson check the smaller Tony Fiegen, but in terms of game they might want to reverse that since the bigs are not as prepared to close out as a guy like Robinson. Dykstra is a beast on the defensive boards but doesn't do as much on offense because he spends a lot of time on the perimeter.
In terms of tempo style, White and Carlson are pretty much the same dude. Carlson is vaguely more likely to assist on something and less likely to hit a shot (45/36); White is a top-50 efficiency player (54/43) who mostly knocks down the looks Wolters sets up. At 6'6", he would be Nik Stauskas except he is just a shooter—only 16% of his attempts are at the rim.
The only guy who you do not have to close out is 6'7" post guy Tony Fiegen, who you are going to hate for reasons that have nothing to with Tony Fiegen. He is from Madison and looks like this:
He takes a lot of twos at a 55% clip. Hopping over to hoop-math, Fiegen ends up taking a lot of two-point jumpers (59%) compared to McGary and Morgan, who get about 75% of their looks at the rim. Not a whole lot else stands out statistically. He gets some rebounds, he does not block shots or get steals, he keeps out of foul trouble. He is a low-turnover guy for a post.
SDSU relies heavily on its starters. No backup gets more than 30% of available time, and SDSU is near the bottom of the country in bench minutes. Only three guys are in the 8-12 minute range. The first is Marcus Heemstra, the backup post. He shoots efficiently and is a little bit of a shot blocker; he's their best offensive rebounder as well. The second is Taevaunn "Don't Call Me Tayshaun" Prince, a low-efficiency guard who gets to the line a lot. The third is Jake Bittle, a freshman turnover machine.
SDSU played four major-conference or Belmont teams in their nonconference schedule:
@ Alabama: L 70-67
@ Minnesota: L 88-64 (Wolters did not play)
@ Belmont: L 76-49
@ New Mexico: W 70-65
They also lost at #302 Hofstra and had a couple of late-season nonconference losses against #241 Cal-Bakersfield and #139 Murray State. There's a profusion of close calls lurking once you drill down. SDSU beat Marshall, North Dakota, and Montana by one, the second in double OT.
Kenpom has the Summit League #23 of 32 conferences; the only top 100 team in it is North Dakota State. There are only two common opponents on the schedules of SDSU and Michigan: IUPUI and Minnesota. Both teams beat up on IUPUI, Michigan once, the Jackrabbits three times. Michigan beat Minnesota by eight; SDSU lost by 24.
Last year, 14-seed SDSU gave Baylor a game, eventually losing 68-60. SDSU led for much of the first half and it took the Bears 35 minutes to push their lead to double digits. Seven of the eight rotation players return from that team.
THAT NEW MEXICO GAME
Wha happen? Two New Mexico starters sat the first six minutes for being late to the game. This does not qualify as an excuse for them since SDSU arrived in Albuquerque fresh off a 1,200 mile bus trip, but when they returned New Mexico was in a seven-point hole.
Wolters went off, hitting 8/10 twos and going 9/11 from the line. The rest of the team shot okay from three and was decent from two. For its part, New Mexico shot poorly from two. It seems like that's an aberration on New Mexico's part more than anything else. SDSU is not a good defensive team, as we'll see.
Four factors. Ranks are in parentheses and out of 347.
Off. Reb. %
If this looks familiar, it should. Welcome to Poor Man's Version Of Michigan. If you've seen Michigan play, you have an idea of how SDSU games play out: a lot of made shots, not many turnovers or free throws either way. Michigan is better than the Jackrabbits in every department except getting to the line—ref grumble inserted—and defensive rebounding.
When Kenpom kicks in the schedule adjustment, though, things have a disparity to them. Michigan's offense is second and defense 58th; SDSU is 39th and 209th, respectively. That's not good:
Michigan has played just four Division I teams with a worse adjusted defensive efficiency this season; Central Michigan, Binghamton, Cleveland State and IUPUI. The Wolverines scored 323 points on 259 possessions in those four games.
If the Jackrabbits can keep pace with 1.25 PPP that'll be a a surprise. In conference play SDSU's defense was third, it's just that no one plays defense in the Summit.
Save #145 Montana, other 13s show better in Kenpom, ranging from #49 (play-in game participant Boise State) to #80 New Mexico State. Disclaimers about OHIO and Penn State and whatnot apply, but teams around SDSU in Kenpom include Oregon State (14-18 in the Pac-12), Rutgers, Texas, and hammered-by-Nebraska USC.
Switch everything! Switch a lot of things, at least. If it gets Michigan stuck in a bad matchup, okay. Gol dang this team can shoot it from deep. According to hoop-math, almost literally every three not launched by Wolters is assisted. Cutting down on opportunities to launch is key to avoiding the upset.
Close everything. Also, no sag. After watching most of the youtube items featuring Wolters, a pattern emerges in which Wolters gets kind of by his guy for a couple steps and then chucks it to a shooter, who has a step and then shoots. The guy has a step because the man on the perimeter has taken a useless half-step towards Wolters.
Split up the defensive duties on Wolters. Michigan may as well switch off who is the primary defender on Summit Trey Burke to give him different looks, keep guys from getting gassed on defense and having that impact their offense, etc. The guys surrounding Wolters aren't bad, but damn near every three they take is generated by Wolters doing something.
Trey: win matchup. If that occurs Michigan is good. Against a team with this defensive profile, he should. I'd be surprised if Wolters can stay in front of the guy and once Trey gets to the lane there is no shot blocker in there—SDSU is 307th in that department.
Sic 'em, McGary. Like Michigan's defense, excellent defensive rebounding props up some unfavorable numbers elsewhere. Unlike Michigan's defense, SDSU has not gone through the Big Ten ringer and seen their numbers drop through the floor. They got clunked by Minnesota, which everyone does; they did well against New Mexico and Alabama. Not a lot of data to go on there—New Mexico's worst Factor is OREB—and McGary will have a size/roar advantage against a Summit foe.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
finally, someone who has actually looked at all of the stats and has come up with a real preview and prediction, not just a reference to how we lost to ohio last year. i like this matchup as well, and kenpom usually gets it right.
It looks as if Michigan got the most favorable matchups it could hope for for the first two rounds, and with the games at the Palace I would hope Michigan can shake off the B1G season and get back to domination.
SD St. beat Washington 92-73 last year at Washington, breaking the Huskies' 32-game non-conference home winning streak...I ask my fellow Mgobloggers, for the sake of our collective mental health, not to take this team for granted. They will no doubt come in fired up but feeling no pressure, like most tournament underdogs, and they have reason to be confident in their abilities.
"All of the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes."
My point is just that SD St. has guys who know that they can beat a major conference team in a hostile environment. That has to give them confidence...Dykstra, Fiegan, Wolters, White, and Carlson all played in that game.
I'm pretty optimistic, we did go 16-0 against non-Big Ten teams. I think that not having to go against such grinding defenses will bode very well for the round of 64 and round of 32. With Kansas being questionable as a one-seed, our chances at the Elite Eight are probably nearly the best we could've hoped for.
I went to SDSU for undergrad and Michigan for grad school and have watched a lot of both teams. Michigan should win easily IMO but they could get in trouble if SDSU gets hot from 3 (probably can say that about most teams, but SDSU has the tools to do it). I see the biggest challenge for Michigan being guarding the 3 off of pick and rolls. Michigan likes the hard hedge and that has a tendency to leave bigs open for 3, which SDSU enjoys, and Wolters loves assisting on. Also, Fiegen, though not a 3 point shooter, has a good 15 foot jump shot which he often gets open for in the same situation.
Wolters will be called on to score a lot and obviously can. He hits shots which look ridiculous like running floaters on top of being a great spot up shooter. He isn't all that quick but at 6' 4" can get those shots off over most anyone. He also protects the ball well and I don't see Burke getting his typical steals on him.
I see Burke and Wolters both scoring a lot but Michigan just out-athleticizing (athleticing? athleting? San Diegoans?) them. But I would not be surprised if SDSU hangs around with them. I was picking SDSU for an upset before they got Michigan and now I have to cheer for both teams, or no team, which is just turrible. Luckily for Michigan this is in Auburn Hills, because Jackrabbit fans travel well and could have turned many sites outside Michigan into a road game for Michigan.
To me it looks like he barely gets off the ground on his shots and his release is very low almost at the chest which leads me to believe if we stay in his face he will have trouble getting off his shot. It looks like he can get to the basket but I don't think our guards will have much trouble staying in front of him.
I would use Stauskas or LeVert - someone with length on him.
way too quick in changing direction for Stauskas. It's not that he's fast, per se, but that he has such a good handle that he can change direction very quickly and under control so that he is able to create enough space to drive to the hole...
... at which point he either shoots odd half floaters/jumpers with great accuracy, goes all the way and creates contact/foul, or passes for an assisted 3 pointer.
Stauskas can not *NOT* cover this kid. Caris might be a good option. I predict that:
When LeVert is in, he'll cover Wolters
he'll play more than he as recently - maybe 15 minutes assuming he is somewhat successful defensively on him.
If we are able to push the pace against this defense, LeVert might have some success in space/transition which will give him a little offensive plus allowing to use him longer for defensive purposes.
Stauskas will be open for 3 a lot, and if he is on, he will be scoring a ton of points.
Therefore, depending on who is playing best in that role, that is the person who will be getting the bulk of the minutes
I also think Trey will guard him some, although I bet they want to keep his legs fresh for offensive purposes.
Streaming UM games early Sunday morning from Korea, since 2007
I don't think they are anything like Wisconsin in their style of play. They like to play uptempo. As for Wolters' shot, his jump shot does come off a little low, but it hasn't seemed to be an issue, probably because of his quick release, and when he drives his floaters are very difficult to block, even for big men.
I looked at our performance vs Kenpom over the last 11 games, and our MOV is -7.5 vs Kenpom, on average, over those 11 games. There are a few big ones that are accounting for a lot of that skew, but that's still a pretty disturbing trend that says that either:
A. This team has gotten worse as the season has gone along
B. Michigan doesn't scale well to tougher competition, and KenPom doesn't take that into account.
I think that it's A.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT MICHIGAN TO UNDERPERFORM KENPOM IN A MATTER EQUAL TO THE AVERAGE FEBRUARY AND MARCH
They've been worn down like the rest of the B1G. I bet every B1G team besides OSU and Wiscy are trending down right now. And I would also bet that the B1G does better than any conference in the country this year.
The only thing that worries me is losing last year in the First Round. The Tournament history is filled with teams that get upset in back to back years. I have been paranoid about this now for a full year, so go MICH, put my paranoia in place
Dont pull a Missouri. Or a Vanderbilt. Or a South Carolina. Or a Syracuse. Or, wait, I'll just stop now
I watched SDSU play against IPFW in their conference tourney. SDSU could not stop Gaines in the first half. He had 20 points or so in that half. Gaines is IPFW's best player and a gaurd that can get to the basket or hit the three. Burke could probably score 50 against SDSU if he wanted to.
"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill
This is the kind of game where Beilein has to have a gameplan to get a guy like Morgan or GRIII going early so they can build confidence going forward in the tourney. Trey and Hardaway will get theirs and can get it in the flow of the game. I believe Morgan, GRIII and Staukas will be key for how this team performs in the tourney.
I wonder how much of the KenPom prediction of Michigan's margin of victory is due to the essentially home court advantage Michigan will have? To my eye the answer is quite a bit - maybe as much as half.
Either way it's huge to be at Auburn Hills because the home crowd can help dampen any Cinderella nonsense SDSU might get started if they get hot from 3 pt land. I really hope Michigan curb stomps them to showcase how good they (and the rest of the Big10) are, but my heart tells me nothing is going to be easy...
I'd like to see them take risks on defense. If that means playing tight man to man on the perimeter and risking having a guy get by or get fouled, occasionally pressing, fronting the big man or whatever I'd rather have them give up a easy basket once in awhile while generally disrupting SDSU's rythym on offense. I think that this team is at it's worst when it sits back on D, and let's the opposing offenses take the initiative. I'd also like to see us use of bench stragetically so we can give fouls and stay fresh -- Levert, Horford, Albrecht, Bielfeldt, Vogrich and even McLimans may not be talented enough to see action on this team in the Big Ten but they are talented enough to see 3-5 minutes apiece (more for Levert obviously) against a team from a smaller conference.
I wouldn't be too nervous. They're similar to us, but worse in nearly every aspect (if that makes sense). Their defense will be some of the lowest ranked defense we've played all season, and our team flourishes against a weak defense. That said, don't expect a 20 point game (or at least I wouldn't). I'm thinking more along the lines of a 8-12 point win.
Out here in Santa Fe, just up the road from the Lobos in Albuquerque, I recall the shock when the Lobos lost to SDSU. My recollection is that the UNM suspensions included Kendall Williams, the Mountain West player of the year. He is not the highest scorer on the team, but he is the glue. Also, it was very apparent to everyone here that the Lobos were looking ahead. At that time, Cincinnati was ranked about 10 in the country, and the Lobos travelled to Cincinnati and won about 5 days after losing to SDSU. They followed that great win with a 14 point loss at St. Louis. The Lobos need to be focused to play their best, and they never had any focus that day against SDSU. Having said that, it is probably true that SDSU had to play well to win at the Pit.
People are just stressing because of how the year ended. Sure, weird shit happens occasionally and if a team gets hot from 3 then it could be close. But still, South Dakota State is bad at defense. Like...worse than Northwestern or PSU or Nebraska at defense. Worst defense we've seen since West Virginia. We are gonna score some points on them and Wolters will get his but we should win. Even after considering our play of late.
Now VCU on the other hand is a legit team and that will be an interesting game to see if they can force Burke to give it up or if he can break the press himself frequently.