Q: If MSU gets a higher seed than Michigan do they end up in Auburn Hills?
John Beilein Can't Make His Players Older And Other Revelations From The Past Four Games
The past four games have been a rude awakening for a Michigan basketball team once thought to be the best in the country. That same team is now looking up at three teams in the Big Ten standings, not to mention swiftly falling from contention for a one-seed.
The first two losses of this 1-3 stretch were understandable in both outcome and form; losing competitive games at Indiana and Wisconsin—while getting royally screwed by the officials in the latter—is understandable for a team of any caliber. Last night's debacle in the Breslin Center, however, took the cracks exposed in the three prior games and turned them into gaping crevasses.
In an effort to figure out how much to panic, how much to not, and where we go from here, here's a collection of thoughts on this recent stretch.
JOHN BEILEIN CAN'T MAKE HIS PLAYERS OLDER
I shut off my laptop last night after getting multiple tweets asking if John Beilein was at least a big part of the problem. As far as I can tell, Beilein made one critical coaching error last night: removing Trey Burke after his third foul, which sparked a quick 5-0 Spartan run early in the second half. At that point, however, State had already spent the game imposing their will on Michigan, and with the way the game played out it's hard to imagine Burke being in the game for that two-minute stretch would've changed the outcome.
The problem is not John Beilein, who's done a masterful job of putting this team together and coaching them into an offensive juggernaut. The problem is that he can't make his players any older, and now we're seeing why that's an issue. As it turns out, getting experience on the fly in the toughest conference in the country makes for some growing pains; there's no knowing how five freshmen (six if you count Max Bielfeldt) are going to respond when thrown into critical roles in adverse situations.
Ideally, this is a team that would come back intact next year and be an odds-on favorite to make the Final Four—they need the experience, conditioning, and added size. Unfortunately, the odds of that happening are slim to none.
INTERIOR DEFENSE IS A PROBLEM
The hope was that an unstoppable offense would cover for Michigan's defensive shortcomings, but when the offense isn't unstoppable, boy do those shortcomings get exposed. Even in the victory over Ohio State, the Wolverines got abused on the interior defensively, and their two-point defense is now dead last in the conference—B1G opponents connect on 48.9% of their twos against Michigan.
The injury to Jordan Morgan, the team's best on-ball interior defender, has hurt, but the problems go much deeper. Mitch McGary is an active defender with a ton of potential on that end, but he's also prone to freshman mistakes and positional errors, like the one that allowed Jared Berggren to drive for an and-one dunk late in the Wisconsin game. Jon Horford isn't at the same level of on-ball defense as Morgan and he fouls far too much—7.7(!) per 40 minutes in conference play.
Then there's Robinson, who's clearly hit a wall and is struggling mightily to defend larger players. He's not big enough to defend a guy like Derrick Nix or Adreian Payne one-on-one, nor does he have the stamina at this point to attempt to do so and still have an impact on the other end of the floor. He's missing switches and has been late getting out to his man on the perimeter—freshman mistakes, and ones that can't be made in critical moments.
Michigan can spell Robinson with Max Bielfeldt for stretches, but Bielfeldt's offensive limitations make that only a stopgap solution—by my charting, in about a game's worth of offensive possessions in conference play with Bielfeldt on the floor, Michigan is scoring just 0.90 points per possession. The Wolverines are going to need Robinson to find a way out of his funk, plain and simple.
BURKE IS STILL THE LONE CREATOR
When the best point guard in the country leaves the court, there's obviously going to be a bit of a dropoff offensively. Michigan's Burke-free offense is downright stagnant, however, because none of the other players can create a shot at the rim off the dribble.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is still too easy to pickpocket when he puts the ball on the floor inside the arc; last night, you could see him overcompensate by trying to shield the ball with his entire body, which led to some ugly twisting layup attempts in traffic. He's much better when he can drive to the free-throw line and pull up, but opponents have learned to take that part of the court away.
Robinson, for all his athleticism, still hasn't proven himself a threat off the dribble. Nik Stauskas could be that guy, especially with his skill in pick-and-roll situations, but the last four games he's been invisible when his outside shot isn't falling. Caris LeVert isn't strong enough to get all the way to the hoop, forcing him to try an array of pull-up jumpers that aren't falling with any consistency.
The pieces all fit together when Burke is on the floor. When he's not, this team is disjointed and surprisingly easy to defend—take away Hardaway's drive to the middle, don't sag off of Stauskas, and let them miss tough shots.
THE SILVER LINING
Even the most optimistic of Wolverine partisans would've been at least grudgingly accepting of a 2-2 record over the last four games, especially with Morgan hobbled. Despite all of the above, Michigan came within a half-court shot of just that. The last four games also don't discount what happened in the first 21; let there be no mistake, this is still a team that can get hot at the right time and win a six-game single-elimination tournament (yes, that one). Is that likely? Well, probably not. Is it within reason? Sure, if the matchups fall their way.
In fact, this team can still grab a share of the Big Ten title. In a conference that is cannibalizing itself, the Wolverines have one of the easier closing slates—including playing Penn State twice in the next three games—before the season finale against Indiana. If Michigan beats the teams they should beat, they may find themselves in control of their own destiny at the very end after all.
Also, this team still has Trey Burke, who still very much deserves his status as a national player of the year contender. He is still a joy to watch, and this is almost certainly the last time he'll be in a Michigan uniform. I, for one, am going to do everything in my power to sit back and enjoy the privilege of seeing him play.
Both MSU and Michigan will likely end up in Auburn Hills. Since they went to a pod system in the first two rounds, you can have highly seeded teams in different regionals playing in the same first site.
seems reasonable. I'm dissappointed in all of the jackasses that see 21-4 and 1-3 in the last 4 as UNACCEPTABLE.
I think those guys should twat a tweet to THJ apologising to him.
Is rather good.
If I fault Beilein for anything, it's not trusting his bench enough, or, to flip it around, putting too much faith in his starters. Coach has stated on repeated occasions: Horford deserves more minutes, Bielfeldt deserves more minutes, got to find some situations to use LeVert, yet in game after game GRIII is racking up 35-40 minutes a game, despite many of these games being relatively easy wins. Sometimes a fresh energetic body can produce better results than a worn down more talented player, i e Stauskas and GRIII.
As far as yesterdays game, I'm going to chalk it up to the vagaries of college basketball. Not going to give it anymore weight than the beatdown of Minnesota in Williams Arena.
Robinson needs to get his head in the game. Stauskas is making freshman mistakes, but I see the effort. GR3 just doesn't seem to be into it.
There was a great shot in ESPN's One Day One Game photo series of GRIII after the Indiana game getting a talking-to by Bacari Alexander. He looked incredibly despondent. He could be one of those athletes who doesn't bounce back from losses, who takes it too hard and can't shake it off. I hope not, but who knows?
vs PSU - W
vs Illinois - W
@ PSU - W
vs MSU - ?
@ Purdue - W
vs Indiana - ?
I'd love for us to win out but after last night's blowout it is hard to predict a W over MSU on March 2nd. Same for Indiana. We need Morgan healthy to have a chance against both those teams.
What do you think is the likelihood of our top 6 returning next year? My thoughts:
- Burke - No way
- THJ - Toss up
- GRIII - Fair chance he returns
- Stauskas - Probable that he returns
- Morgan - Highly likely that he returns
- McGary - Highly likely that he returns
Burke is gone. Fair chance Tim leaves for NBA. The rest are back.
Tim is not NBA-ready. Of course i'm biased as a Michigan fan, but that does not mean I'm wrong.
I don't see anyone else as NBA ready. That doesn't always stop people, I realize, but I think THJ and GRIII will be smart about it given that their NBA dads can advise them, and I see them as the most likely to leave...If Burke would come back, man...but that's just not the way it works anymore.
I'm sure it has been pointed out, but given that Tim Hardaway Senior is an NBA scout we can at least count on Junior making a well informed decision.
Can't blame these issues on youth. That's just a cop-out in today's CBB landscape. EVERYONE plays freshmen every year now. Everyone!
Hardaway, Morgan, Horford, and Burke have all been around for some time now. And the four freshmen to get regular playing time, I'd say about half the main contributors are first year players.
If Calipari can bring convincing efforts out of freshmen, get them to play humbly and cohesively (in all seasons except this one) I dont see why we can't, at the least, get people to work harder on rebounding and hustle back on defense. When they get prima donnas like John Wall diving for loose balls, what is our excuse?
I winced mentally when they took the court and they have endless bruisers in the paint..Nix. Payne. Valentine. Dawson. All that frontcourt brawn. THAT's how izzo drags otherwise average teams to final four berths.
A schoolyard fight. Their kids are bigger and stronger than ours. And when we go cold from beyond the arc, which has a 50-50 chance of happening outside of Ann Arbor, then what?
Who do we have in the interior? Jordan Morgan and lint. McGary is still a year away from being consistent. We need more big players for the Big10.
Losing close games happens, and will always happen now and then. We're 21-4. That's not what gets me upset. Watching Ohio State and Michigan State outrebound us about 80 - 15 does.
izzo drags otherwise average teams to final four berths.
Calipari can bring convincing efforts out of freshmen
WTF is wrong with you? Do you have emotional and or cognitive disabilities? We don't have FR talent that UK has. We won't see 4 players taken in the 1st round of the draft, with 3 in the lottery. and Izzo has finished in the top 3 of the league for like 15 straight years. Both of those teams have 5* talent up and down the roster.
We just got thru the most brutal 4 game stretch any top 15 team has seen all year, 3 on the road. we were a 45 foot off banance 3 (just to get the game to OT) from 2-2 in that stretch, which was the reasonable expectation. we were litterally a hair away from the expected outcome there.
it's posts like these that really speak to the success Beilein has had the last 4 years in A2. all of a sudden we're expected to 15-3 MINIMUM in the toughtest conf. the sport has seen in 10 years.
Who said anything about the talent? Do you need talent to box out and attempt rebounds, dive for loose balls and figure out how to get a game going that doesn't consist 95% of pullup jumpers? Aside from coaching, who to blame that on?
Izzo has dragged teams with middling records to final fours (or on tourney runs) because they had the ability to get hot at just the right time. But their physicality in the frontcourt definitely helps
or maybe Izzo's dragged FF teams down to middling reg season records against what is always one of the strongest non-conf schedules in the nation.
everyone knows the strengths and weakness of this team and of MSU & OSU. it's not shocking that they get beat on the boards pretty well against teams like this on the road. especially with morgan on the mend. OSU, MSU and even IU have the most talented (and/or experienced) front lines in the nation.
You're right that we don't have the freshman talent Kentucky had. Most don't have those expectations (although some do, it appears). My issue is effort: GRIII has not put a body on someone in 3 or 4 games. I don't believe he grabbed a single defensive rebound last night, which is hard to believe for a guy 6'7 with elite jumping ability. Fatigue is a weak excuse because he didn't box anybody out against Indiana either, which was the start of the gauntlet, rather than its merciful finish. Youth is a weak excuse too... did you see fellow Indiana five-star Gary Harris' peformance (or his performance in a hostile environment at Indiana)?
Forget execution, effort was the disappointing part. When there's a lack of effort (or "into-the-gamenesss" might be a better, less pejorative word than effort), I look at the coach.
One of those guys was trying to rebound against nix and payne, the other against levert, beifelt, and GRIII.
and don't play the effort card. it belittles the months of 14-18 hour days that these kids go thru fromOctober to april.
MSU and OSU and IU came out with more energy against the #1-3 team in the nation. it's easier done at home than on the road.
Man, I'm not sure why GR is in a funk, be he just seems pedestrian out there the last 3-4 games. He' s an outstanding player, but really needs to get it together. I've seen more than one occassion where he will miss a shot or make a turnover, then not hustle his tail back.
Michigan won a share of the Big Ten title just last year. The program isn't that far off of the mark even at this low moment.
with Jimbob....this team does have talent but also has glaring (usually fatal) problems: JV level defensive fundamentals,weak on the boards,don't get to the FT line and wildly inconsistant shooting.The "we're young","it's tough to win on the road","the refs screw us" ,and "if Wis doesn't make the hail mary shot"excuses ring hollow with me.It took 15 threes,an amazing shooting performance by Timmy and a 50/50 no call to beat OSU at home. Fortunately we have an 11 day period with only 1 game (home vs PSU) which gives us a chance to rest and retool for the really important part of the season.
If Calipari can bring convincing efforts out of freshmen, get them to play humbly and cohesively (in all seasons except this one) I dont see why we can't, at the least, get people to work harder on rebounding and hustle back on defense.
They are not equatable situations. Calipari's last two teams did make the final four, sure. But both had far, far more talent than this year's Michigan squad. You do realize that UK had six players drafted last year... SIX! Including the top TWO overall picks! Let's not compare that young team with our young team.
Additionally, who's to say we won't get to the final four? We are still looking at a #2 seed with the possibility of moving up if we can win out. Winning out isn't extremely likely, but it isn't extremely unlikely either.
Want to know why Kentucky's freshmen were better at rebounding and defense? Kentucky's effective height last year was #12 in the country, per KenPom. Michigan's is almost exactly average at #150.
Also, Kentucky had an Anthony Davis. Michigan does not have an Anthony Davis, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with effort.
Both got more rebounds than any Mich player last nite.Ace's points re comparing Mich youth to UK youth are apt but I believe we can/must rebound better regardless of size or youth.A rebound is just a loose ball and we aren't getting our share.Rebounding CAN be taught.
Do you think they might have benefited from all the attention we spent trying to keep their big man teammates off the glass? You don't gameplan to keep Appling off the glass. You do for Nix/Payne.
Basketball is new to you, huh?
The last three games I've specificaly been watching the defensive boards and we have been getting killed. Guys are not putting bodies on offensive players, plain and simple. Sometimes it's because help side D has to swing over, but geez, come on.
Do you think it's just a coincidence that Nix and Payne, who happen to be upperclassmen, trampled all over the younger guys across from them? Those guys had lost 3 of 4 to Michigan the previous two years. Maybe their experience helped them out this time?
The only accurate point you seemed to have in that post is saying McGary is still a year away from being consistent. Just like Nix and Payne when they were freshmen. I'm pretty sure Izzo is a good coach, and even he couldn't plug them in right away and have them play at a high level. Kentucky last year is the exception, not the rule.
Nix and Payne have also developed into big physical dudes. Nix was a truck out there. He steamrolled over whoever we put on him. We fianlly started doubling him in the post, but that left other guys open.
That matchup is a killer for us. It's not a matter of effort or even inexperience. We will be in trouble with any team we face like that.
The average college freshman basketball player does not runt he gauntlet of away games at Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan State in a short span of time while playing on a top-ranked team. Of course this has something to do with freshman. I was watching our guys last night and saying to myself how amazing the transition is in a year for these guys. I wish they handled it better, but it certainly is something to handle the first time you go through it.
this is february for christ sake. I get youth and all that but come on...
And more importantly this is the fifth huge big ten road game they have encountered (I include minny too) and four of them have been epic failures with the most recent the most resounding. Where is the adaptation? Where is the maturity?
I don't think this is as dooms day as it seems but for the first time since Belien got here I feel like he isn't bill walton reincarnated. lets see what happens march 2nd and go from there...
..is losing a game in overtime that you were favored to win by two an "epic failure"? Or losing by 8 when the line had you losing by 6? I don't remember the line at Ohio but I don't think that was more than a few points off either.
(Ed.: looked it up. Ohio was favored by 2, won by 3. Epic. I think if there's one thing to be taken from all this, it's that Vegas has a much better grip on a team's strength than the team's own fans do.)
have you ever watched epic fails?
While you are nitpicking I was just reflecting on how epicly awful these games have been. As per Wisconsin the epic portion was our inability to foul a guy and put him on the line with 2.5 seconds remaining in the game... As for OSU, Indy, and MSU all three share epic first 1/2 collapses while OSU and Indy share a failure to do anything once the games were tied in the second halves...
Protip: You are devaluing the word "epic." Data sugests there is virtually no advantage to fouling in that situation (as discussed ad nauseum earlier). Hardly epic. Falling behind big in the first half to talented teams on their court? Happens all the time, even to good teams. Not epic. Making a huge comeback only to lose steam after finally pulling even (Indiana, OSU)? Also not uncommon. And not epic.
A few observations that tend to bring the discussion back to middle ground:
1. UK is struggling this year with frosh that are less talented than last year. Calipari needs supreme talent to win with youngsters like last year.
2. Our frosh are more talented than pure physical specimens. In B1G alley fights, strength and bulk are important and MSU has a few older brutes. A year of S&C will make a big difference.
3. Our frosh are not as great as everyone proclaimed weeks ago. They are very good and the whole class is outstanding, but they each have glaring weaknesses that get exposed over time. Teams have watched us enough to now exploit those weaknesses.
Net, we have to make some adjustments to handle bullies like MSU. Last night exposed a tired, young team that doesn't respond well to alley fights. Time will tell if we adjust.
Can't blame these issues on youth. That's just a cop-out in today's CBB landscape. EVERYONE plays freshmen every year now. Everyone!
Not as many as we do. We're 338th out of 347 teams in terms of experience.
If youth, and with it lack of composure, are part of the problem, you would think Beilein would find a way to get Vogrich on the floor. He's a veteran, he's not spastic, and he's capable of doing things like he did against Tennessee.
I never saw it as a problem of youth but a problem of size. If we had a healthy Jordan Morgan we could have gone with a bigger lineup to neutralize Nix and Payne. Playing 6'6" wings in the 2-4 slots against a legit front court is a problem.
Lot's of the problems last night were due to size, but I think the turnovers were the best example of youth and not responding well to a hostile environment.
I would play Vogrich over LeVert on the road. I don't think he is the more talented player, but being 'freaked out' as a team seems to be the problem right now. Vogrich would be a calming presence, and could still get hot from downtown.
When Burke goes out, don't play Spike and LeVert at the same time. They had a line-up out there in the first half that would never score. Play Spike plus 4 starters for the 5 or so minutes Burke sits a game.
This team will still be better off in the tourney setting. Neutral court and games called much tighter will play to their strengths. They will improve from this game and will be much better in a month. Coach B has shown his teams improve a lot thoughout the year, and I'm sure everyone will be listening.
holy shit, Matt f'ing vogrich is not the solution here, people.
In a thread yesterday. And all people kept saying was Kentucky, Kentucky, Kentucky.
I have to be that guy and tell all those people they don't obviously know a damn thing about basketball and are sounding very ignorant right now in their sporting knowledge in general. This isn't a video game and we are not recruiting on Kentuckys level. Nobody in the history of college basketball has.
What Kentucky did last year is unprecedented. And IMO it was also in a down year for top tier college basketball teams.
Not to mention they had a 7 foot defensive freak of nature an anchoring their D. Davis was also surrounded by a class actually rated higher than the Fab 5. A class that followed another top class where a few players stayed from the previous year.
Look at Kentucky this year? Why aren't they dominating? Why didn't they win it all 3 years ago?
Michigan didnt bring in the fab 5, and the upperclassmen in the rotation (Morgan/Horford) besides Burke and THJ are guys that are not world beaters and never will be. What happened last night was an avalanche and 3 freshman who play major minutes responded like it. Get used to it. Very few freshman are going to be on Webber or Juwans or Jalens level. And they won 0 titles.
Michigan is still in a state of transition to becoming elite and having mostly elite prospects on the roster.
I've read multiple times that people think are chances for a 1 seed are gone now. Would a 5 loss team* from the best conference in the country not get consideration for a 1 seed?
*Assuming we win all games we should and split MSU and Indiana
I think the B1G gets at most two 1 seeds. Likely the two teams that play in the B1G tourney Championship game out of IU, MSU, UM.
We're definitely still in the running for a 1 seed. We probably do need to run the table from here though, and maybe make the final of the Big Ten tournament (which would likely mean beating one of IU, MSU, OSU or Wisconsin in the semis. One thing to look for is that we get at least one of the top 3 seeds in the Big 10 tournament and thereby avoid the 4-5 game wich will match two of those teams just to get to the semis.
Coach can't make them older but he can make them hustle. They've been out-worked in a few games, last night especially. I love the coach and I love the team but sometimes I think they try and win on talent alone.
michigan's offense, as dynamic as it can be, is too inconsistent and struggles to get an easy basket to slow down inevitable runs. dumping the ball to an isolated, stationary guy down low can lead to a shot pretty easily while having a ball handler dribble into the lane, get collapsed on by all defenders has a lot more trouble getting a shot or clear pass. i was hoping morgan might at least get a few touches like this, just for honest-keeping.
Why are those the only alternatives? What ever happened to passing and cutting and setting screens off the ball? A well-spaced, fluid offense with not much dribble and an open lane has been a Beilein trademark since before any of us knew who he was.
We've really gone away from that. I know that it does not necessarily play to Burke's strengths, but I'm suprised we don't see it more when Burke is being shut down and we need change of pace.