“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.”
1/6/2012 – Michigan 95, Iowa 67 – 15-0, 2-0 Big Ten
the desolation of the Fran (Bryan Fuller)
Less than a minute into the second half, an Iowa post fumbled what would have been an easy dunk into the stands. The television cut to Fran McCaffery, a rising star when it comes to volcano-coach sideline outbursts. He obliged, roaring out "TWO HANDS TWO HANDS TWO HANDS" as he quiveringly pantomimed catching a basketball with, yep, two hands. Ace is GIFing this as we speak.
Exactly a minute later, Iowa closed out Nik Stauskas hard, so he drove past his defender and threw down a rim-rattling dunk like he was not, in fact, a freshman 6'6" three-point specialist. On the next possession, same thing except nastier: closeout, Stauskas drives past his man except this time he's in good position, lane-covering audacious spin move for a finger roll. Gus Johnson's voice hit a questioning falsetto pitch as he exclaimed "OH?!," because he is in our brains too.
Nik Stauskas did this, and the camera did not cut to Fran McCaffery because directors aren't that eager to put resigned shrugs on camera. What are you going to do? What can you do?
I've got this Burke guy to check, three star my ass, and he's playing with two sons of NBA players, and they're raining in threes, and that Robinson guy is dunking on anyone I send out there, and now this guy with the ears, the one shooting 55% from three and also being the dunking guy. Screw it. The guy with the ears tears it. I will save my rage for another time, when there is the vague semblance of a point. For right now I'm just going to—
—watch their freshman center block Aaron White's face.
It's okay. I didn't really like his face to begin with.
—watch their freshman center start a break with a half-court outlet pass to Burke. I can deal. That doesn't seem any fairer than finding Canadian Larry Bird but whatever.
—watch their freshman center do the same thing after dribbling three times in the open court… aaaaaaah…
They are going to lose. It is going to happen. They are seventh in Kenpom, and Kenpom's pretty good. Everyone loses, even the really good teams, and it's not like the Big Ten is an SEC-like trip through the daisies. It is brutal. Michigan has nine of their ten toughest games left to play.
Have you seen Trevor Mbakwe? That guy. Victor Oladipo. That guy. Michigan will go on the road, and get it from the refs, and boy this conversation with myself is only indicating the deluded heights expectations are reaching.
If this team bows out in the first round to a MAC team, there will be no "good try you guys, thanks for the banner." There will be wailing, and rending of garments. Because this doesn't come along too often unless you're a Duke or North Carolina type team. Illinois had it back in 2005, and they still talk about that team in a reverenced hush despite its narrow demise in the elite eight. They had it back in 1989, and the MGoWife reports from an undergrad tenure spent in Champaign that they still aren't over losing to Michigan in the Final Four. The rest of the time they've wobbled around good, not great. Even the powers don't always have it all come together.
It has come together for Michigan, and every game starts out with the same doubt—what if they're not that good? What if this is all a mirage? What if I wake up and Nik Stauskas is in fact Gavin Groninger?
Those persist for anywhere from one to 15 minutes, whereupon the nature of this year's team causes the opponent coach to smirk wryly as his guys fall behind by lots. So far. One more whipping, and then the acid test.
From Bryan Fuller:
I know the McGary stuff happened before the Stauskas stuff. Artistic license! It's a nicer way to say "lies!"
GUS. Follow us around, Gus Johnson. You and Raftery, follow this team around, going "uh" and saying "onions" and literally just squeaking in the best way possible. National treasure, Gus Johnson is.
Gus Johnson and the fact that when I check out Big 12 conference games half the time I find they're only on ESPN3 make me almost not bitter that the BTN ended up making the Big Ten grab Rutgers and Maryland.
Big Puppy. McGary had a great game, probably his best at Michigan so far. I mentioned the block and the outlet pass hockey assist stuff above, but I think my favorite play of his was a defensive rebound he corralled in the first half where he had little shot at the ball, so he tipped the thing off the backboard to himself. That kind of thing is one of the reasons he's got the ridiculously high rebound rates he does*. He's got a huge rebound radius.
McGary took a relatively big fall from one-and-done territory to pretty good prospect territory late in the rankings cycle, and that was justified. You can see a version of McGary peeking through the lack of polish that could be the #2 high school basketball player in the country. The rebounds, of course, and then the outlet passing, ability to lead a break for a couple dribbles, what looks like a pretty smooth stroke, and just size in general. Give him a couple inches more vertical leap so he doesn't occasionally leave a dunk on the rim and blocks more shots, and… yeah.
Caris arriving. So we got 32 minutes of LeVert against Central with Hardaway out. Here's what his next two games look like squeezed into one:
The three point shooting distorts that a bit, but it's pretty nice to have a guy who's 8/17 so far coming off the bench, and he's got a 3:1 A:TO rate. Dumping the redshirt was the move to make. He's starting to do some of the stuff I expect Burke to do with his ability to shake people with his change of direction.
It is almost redundant to talk about Trey Burke. 19 points on ten shots, 12 assists, one TO. Just another day at the office.
He's got to be the best point guard in the country, bar none. People in the Michael Carter-Williams camp have to explain why having the #4 assist (MCW) rate versus the #11 (Burke) makes up for MCW shooting 42%/28% versus Burke's 62%/41%. There is no amount of defense that can make up for that, especially when Burke is turning the ball over at less than half the rate MCW is.
Two things leapt out about a couple of possessions in the second half after Michigan had blown the lead out big. On the first, he cleared everyone out and went at Iowa's Anthony Clemmons. Clemmons did a great job, first cutting him off and forcing Burke to pick up his dribble, then hounding him on a couple of shot fakes; Burke finally went up and under for an easy two, and the color guy was all like "I don't know what you're supposed to do about that if you're Anthony Clemmons." On the second, he loosed himself with a crossover and launched an eighteen-footer, AKA The Shot Brian Hates More Than Any Shot Ever.
On neither of these possessions did I think what was going on was a bad idea—okay maybe there was a moment in the Clemmons one—and I was not mad at either shot. Because it was just going down.
*[If-he-was-averaging-40%-of-minutes checkin: 7th nationally in defensive rebound rate, 4th in offensive.]
Remember when we were worried about Tim Hardaway Jr. sliding back to his sophomore form? A quaint concern at the moment. Hardaway's coming off 19 points on 13 shots against Iowa and 21 on eight(!) against Northwestern. Against the Hawkeyes he added five assists and five rebounds; Morgan has passed him in DREB but only barely.
Hardaway hasn't had fewer than three assists since the Bradley game, BTW.
Fouls: none. All of Michigan's starters are in the top 200 in terms of fouls committed per 40 minutes, with Stauskas's 0.9 sixth nationally. The bigs will get in trouble from time to time, especially McGary, but once Horford's back—which I imagine will be soon since he dressed yesterday—that concern is not, uh, concerning.
That's the other bedrock of Michigan's defense. They give up the second-least free throws of anyone in the country, and they go together. By not challenging a ton of shots they're in position when and if you miss.
It's also a help for the offense. To date, Michigan hasn't had a period of time where they had to sit a starter for more than a few minutes. I hope that in the event a Michigan non-post picks up a couple quick ones that Beilein will consider the situation and be a little more flexible than he usually is with these things. If it's Stauskas I'm not sure he should even change the rotation.
Philosophy. Michigan's defense isn't good, sure, but the philosophy they've taken is: let's make this a shooting contest. We won't get fouled, and you won't get fouled, and we won't let you have any second chance opportunities, and we won't turn the ball over so you can have transition buckets. Let's see who's better at HORSE. Oh it's us yay.
It's so unusual to have a legitimate title contender to root for in any Michigan sport besides hockey (2006 football being the last I can remember and I just started following Michigan hockey three or four years ago), that this version of Beileinsanity (can I copyright that?) makes me break out in hives and shivers, but the good kind, you know. From Canadian Bacon to Trey to Little Dog to Mitch McGary (Novak) to Timmay, everyone on this team seems to be on the same wavelength which is when basketball is beautiful.
Also, just a slight correction, that Illinois team was undefeated until some Ohio State white guy drained a 3 in the Big 10 finale and they ended up NOT losing that game to Arizona in the Elite 8 (the Deron Williams game), but fell to a stacked UNC team in the final (McCants, Felton, Sean May, Marvin and Jawad Williams). It won't please me, but if this team goes 38-2 with a loss in the title game, I'd say that's a fine season.
Yep, they made the final in '05 and lost to a more talented UNC squad. In '01 they lost to Arizona in the elite 8 when they fouled out two entire front lines (small forwards, power forwards and centers, x2) and Arizona shot 56(!!!) free throws and Illinois still only lost by 6. 2005 was the epic comeback in the elite 8 against Arizona.
That was the Illini's greatest team ever and they were clearly the best team in the country in '89. IIRC the only games they lost that season were when Kendall Gill ( I think) was injured. This was a Big Ten Conference that was every bit as formidable as this season's, if not more so.
The Illini scored over 100 points 8 times that season
They played eventual champ Michigan twice during the regular season; Winning both contests by 12 and 16 points respectively.
The 16 point drubbing on the last game of the regular season was Bill Frieder's last game as M Basketball Coach. I was at that game, full expecting a M revenge win for the earlier beat down, and left Crisler stunned.
I remember a discussion thread last year (may have been another board) about which point guard you would rather have on your team... Craft (Ohio) or Burke? I remember reading every one's various points with interest.
I definitely remember a thread on that topic on the 11warriors forum, and I'm pretty sure everyone there thought it was no contest Craft over Burke. A real dick move would be to bump that thread back to the front page.
I could see McGary being an All-American next year. He has some pretty impressive skills right now and will be more of a focal point next year. I remember the leap Morgan made and now Horford appears much improved as well and think McGary is going to blow up.
I think we are going to have to use a primarily 2 post offense next year. We don't lose anyone in our front court except maybe GRIII and we lose our starting back court. We get a point guard, a wing and another post player. That mean we have to find minutes for Morgan, McGary, Horford, Bielfeldt and now Donnal. Unless they are planning on redshirting Donnal, I expect a lot of Stauskas at the 2 and 2 posts with GRIII or Irvin at the 3.
That was one of my favorite things. He just spiked it back down so that we could grab the ball and transition easily to offense. I hope we see that more and more as McGary gets more college experience.
“What the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve and those who stay will be champions.” - Bo
I take issue with saying Michigan's defense isn't good. They're ranked 39th on KenPom. They're not "great" or "suffocating", but they are definitely good.
In fact, I think in many ways their defense is an expression of Beilein's offensive philisophy, just on the other end of the floor. They're not going to be really aggressive and try to disrupt the other team's flow, but take what the offense gives them with opportunistic blocks and steals and just constantly getting their hands in your face to contest your shot. But there are 347 Division I teams, if you're ranked 39th I would say you have a good defense.
I also think it will get better as LeVert, McGary get more time and gain more confidence as I think they both help a lot defensively. Also, horford is great defensively and when he gets back in the rotation he will give some solid minutes too.
Agree. I think a lot of the time, when people talk about the weaknesses of an elite team, those weaknesses are erroneously compared to that team's strengths so that they can be called weaknesses. In other words, Michigan's defense isn't as good as its offense. But then, the offense is absoshittinglutely incredible, and since the defense isn't equally insane, people fall into the trap of calling it a weakness. Michigan defends just fine. And as KenPom has it they are absolutely elite in two areas: 4th best defensive rebounding percentage in the country and 2nd best in the country at not fouling. (The value of the second stat can be debated, but it does mean people don't go to the free throw line against us, and the first stat is ironclad.)
Indiana and potentially Minnesota on the road are our biggest road blocks. I just don't think MSU has a good enough team, even if you give them home court advantage. If Ohio beats us, I think it'll be because someone "else" has an All-B1G type game - which has happened before.
With that said, if we play like we can...we can beat anyone and that's all you can ask for.
“True loyalty is that quality of service that grows under adversity and expands in defeat. Any street urchin can shout applause in victory, but it takes character to stand fast in defeat. One is noise — the other, loyalty.”
"Less than a minute into the second half, an Iowa post fumbled what would have been an easy dunk into the stands. The television cut to Fran McCaffery, a rising star when it comes to volcano-coach sideline outbursts. He obliged, roaring out "TWO HANDS TWO HANDS TWO HANDS" as he quiveringly pantomimed catching a basketball with, yep, two hands."
I couldn't have said it better myself. To be fair though you did add in the third "Two Hands" and the word "quiveringly". Great minds think (and write) alike it seems.
Remember that season a couple years back with Harris, Sims and Darius? The one where Michigan preseason was ranked #15 but won a total of 15 games all year long and didn't make the post season? The one where Evan Turner made a 40-ft 3-point buzzer beater to end the season?
Well said, as always, Brian. After that Stauskas dunk/finger roll sequence I laughed, and then tweeted something like "this is unfair." Which it is, when your designated three-point shooter is doing stuff like that.
I also love watching Beilein sit there and marvel at the talent he finds himself with.
Last year M would have the Bigs block out on the defensive boards and the guards crash down going for the rebound. It was how M coped with their lack of rebounding prowess, but it inhibited their ability to run the break. Now with McGary on the court and GRIII acting like a kangaroo, Burke can leak out for the outlet pass, and M's offense is lethal in the transition game.
McGary is a very smart basketball player and has outstanding awareness of what is going on around him on the court. Probably not Chris Webber level awareness, but pretty damn impressive what ever the level. In fact, McGary mentioned after the game that, "I've told my teammates just run and I'll get you the ball".... "I'm happy Trey's starting to run a little bit more so I can hit him with the outlet pass". This new and lethal transition game is coming from the ability and the urging of Mitch McGary. You can't really quantify his effect along these lines, but it is a beautiful thing to watch
That last bit about the games Michigan plays with an opponent being a game of HORSE, well, that's a pretty damn interesting outlook on the matter. I'm lauging as I type this after reading the "Oh it's us yay". I think the team is actually decent on defense. Maybe it's the DReb I see that helps my brain think that way, but I guess I don't see them as being not good. (Some are better than others on the team, yes.) Right now, though, Michigan is playing HORSE or around-the-world and they're killing it.