John Beilein says "forks up" to his NCAA tourney bid
Pensive Dave Ablauf is not so sure
Trends. Tennessee is coming at this 8-9 game from a totally different place than Michigan: once entrenched in the top ten in the polls, Tennessee's season started off a cliff after a home loss to Oakland and never really recovered. Where Michigan has won 9 of 13 and was only beaten solidly by national #1 seed Ohio State during that stretch, Tennessee enters the tournament having lost 7 of 11 with two of those wins against terrible South Carolina. (To be fair, two of the losses were by one point, one against two seed Florida.)
That win against Pitt seems like a decade ago.
Defenses. Dylan points out that national commentators still hung up on the idea that Beilein is primarily running a 1-3-1—something that hasn't been true for two years—could have backed their way into some correct analysis.
What's the thing Michigan is guaranteed to give up when they switch to the 1-3-1? An open corner three. What's a shot you're comfortable with Tennessee taking? An open corner three not from Scotty Hopson. No Vol other than Hopson is shooting better than 32%. They've got a guy (Cameron Tatum) with 119 attempts who's shooting 28%—imagine what your reaction would be if half of Darius Morris's shots were threes.
So okay fine. Then add in the main benefit of the 1-3-1: turnovers generated. Tennessee has a tough defense and brutally effective offensive rebounders. Getting turnovers helps mitigate both advantages, and if they're settling for threes long rebounds are at least less likely to result in immediate putbacks.
OTOH, Tennessee's much bigger than Michigan and the 1-3-1 really prefers long guys who can make skip passes arc enough for the defense to recover so they don't give up open corner threes. Also the primary weakness of the defense is allowing (drumroll) tons of offensive rebounds. There's a chance it could backfire spectacularly.
I bet Beilein gives it a whirl at some point just in case it turns UT into a gibbering mess. Judging from the internet, Vols fans aren't impressed with their team's basketball IQ. And if you're not judging from the internet, you're on the wrong internet.
Sign those scrubs up. I'm not sure if this is real or just motivational but I'm hoping it's the former:
In Monday's practice, the Vols' scout team enjoyed eye-popping success against the starters while running Beilein's offense. Reserves Jordan McRae and Renaldo Woolridge buried numerous open 3-pointers off passes from guards Tyler Summitt and Michael Hubert.
"Just putting it in today on our scout team, those guys were successful running that offense against us,'' UT senior center Brian Williams said. "That offense is tough to check.''
I checked the comments and sure enough there's a wag suggesting that if either of the scrubs can hit threes they should replace Tatum.
If this is a real thing Tennessee has trouble with in the game, it will be up to Novak to take advantage. Woolridge was playing the perimeter four and "messed [them] up good." I'm a little concerned about this since Novak's also got the toughest defensive assignment as he attempts to check 6'8" Tobias Harris. Novak's shooting slump earlier coincided with a lot of tough defensive work against guys bigger than him. I'll take open threes, though.
Tobias. The aforementioned matchup is high on Tennessee's radar:
“We’re ready for Tobias to have a big night in there, ya feel me?” junior guard Scotty Hopson said. “Obviously we want to expose that, because Tobias is obviously one of the best players on our team. We’re looking forward to getting the ball inside more and taking advantage of (Michigan’s) lack of posts.”
Harris is a freshman with approximately Hardaway-level usage shooting 49% from two and 31% from 3. He's got a Morris-like distribution between the two. (IE: he takes a ton of twos and the occasional three.) Zack Novak is short. On the other hand, Michigan can double off anyone not named Hopson and what's Tennessee going to do, have Tatum shoot a three?
Michigan's gotten a lot of experience dealing with a post guy matched up with one shooter—three games against OSU's Sullinger-Diebler combo—and has frequently doubled from the baseline to force long skip passes. That burned Michigan against OSU's better-than-competent non-Diebler shooters (Lighty, Buford, and Craft are all around 40(!) percent from three). Maybe not so much against the Vols.
Etc.: Beilein gettin' forky with it comes from his personal site's "behind the scenes" post on Selection Sunday. Dylan and I used a bunch of the same links but he's got some extra at UMHoops. Tennessee fans say Michigan reminds them of a Pearl team, which… um… thanks? Oriental Andrew collects links too. The Fab Five's '93 matchup against GW.