3/3/2013 – Michigan 58, Michigan State 57 – 24-5, 11-5 Big Ten
left via @detnewsRodBeard / right Eric Upchurch
Sports are hard, and even great players usually succumb to their hardness. When the hockey team had TJ Hensick, when they were tied or trailing late I spent all moments with Hensick on the bench pining for his next shift, and mostly was disappointed when nothing happened. I mean… Denard Robinson. That guy was so great that he ran through two Ohio State defenders and teleported to the endzone, and yet that first sentence is a large chunk of his Michigan career epitaph.
There's a reason Wikipedia describes Casey at the Bat like so:
For a relatively short poem apparently dashed off quickly (and denied by its author for years), "Casey at the Bat" had a profound effect on American popular culture. It has been recited, re-enacted, adapted, dissected, parodied and subjected to just about every other treatment one could imagine.
Probability is an implacable thing. When we turn our lonely eyes to hero du jour in our time of need, the odds are stacked against us. If you're great you move that needle only slightly. Your brain is all like
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that -
They'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.
Your brain is kind of dumb, and Casey at the Bat is great at telling you that. Your brain listens but does not hear.
My dumb brain was contemplating a blown ten-point lead against Michigan State on the heels of a blown 15-point lead to Penn State and had decided basketball was a pudding and the universe a fake. Michigan State had the ball, the game was tied, and the shot clock was no longer relevant. Earlier in the year Michigan had lost when a no-hoper went in, and my dumb brain was assuming that would always happen forever.
Burke did this.
The thing about this is that Burke developed that move midway through the season and now deploys it a few times a game. He really ramped it up after his first game against Aaron Craft, seemingly because Craft just pissed him off. A few times a game Burke will muster his energy, hike up his shorts, and go looking for trouble on defense. That's part of his ever-expanding game.
That breakway layup off the from-behind steal is a thing I can see him gearing up for now, and I saw it then, and because my brain is dumb it'll burn that into my memory and not the other times when Casey struck out.
It'll go there next to Braylonfest and Mario Manningham and Ernest Shazor killing that guy and Phil Brabbs and that one time I turned on a basketball game with Michigan down 15 to Wisconsin with six minutes left and saw Daniel Horton eat that deficit into nothingness. It'll probably be the first thing anyone involved with this rivalry thinks about when Trey Burke is brought up. It was the kind of thing that's the first thing on the highlight reel when they put your number in the rafters.
That he followed it up by robbing Michigan State of a chance to respond is icing on the cake. After Ben Brust, any shot in the air with a chance to beat Michigan is going to be two seconds of awful anticipation no matter how likely it is to go in. Trey Burke is both awesome at basketball and extremely protective of my emotions. He curls his lip and tilts his head and probably says "damn" and takes basketballs away from people who should not have them after 38 minutes of carrying twelve teammates and 12-thousand-some people in Crisler on his back.
Dawgs. This program has had a couple of nasty dudes at point guard the past few years. I hope Derrick Walton can inherit that.
Your excuses are lame. Both Izzo and Appling claimed that there was some sort of confusion about timeouts before Burke picked Appling's pocket, which is a pretty weak explanation since Appling has clearly decided no TO is coming when he spins and moves to the center of the court. Y'all got robbed straight up.
Life is strange. Michigan loses to Penn State, then beats Michigan State despite going 0/12 from three. I quiver at the thought of playing Purdue. Everyone will turn into crows and play crowhockey, or something.
Obligatory video review complaint. Nik Stauskas got busted open by a wild Branden Dawson elbow, required 12 stitches and was not able to return—probably because he was concussed—and no foul was assessed after an interminable break. It looked like this:
If that's the way you're going to call it, fine. It was inadvertent. But then stop with the interminable reviews. Apparently nothing is a flagrant foul, so stop looking for them.
It's strange how different sports legislate themselves. If hockey was reffed under basketball rules, every post-whistle scrum would come with two ejections, but in basketball you can crush a guy's face and as long as you weren't looking at him it's cool. That's some sort of penalty in the other two sports where elbows get involved, hockey and soccer, and probably a red card/major. In basketball, nope… but only one sport stops the game incessantly to look at these sorts of incidents. I don't get it man.
Morgan defense watch. After Dan Dakich pointed out that Nix always-always goes over his right shoulder when making post moves it's been something that's stood out to me as I watch MSU play, and in this one it was obvious. In that tendency you could see where Morgan is a superior on-ball defender to McGary.
Against Morgan, Nix put up a bunch of contested shots on which Morgan positioned himself such that Nix would take a bump as he tried to go up. In scattered matchups against McGary it was clear McGary had not absorbed the scouting report; Nix got him for a bucket by threatening to go to the middle of the lane and then spinning over his right shoulder like he always does. Morgan, on the floor at the same time, was visibly irritated at McGary—he probably said something along the lines of "he ALWAYS turns over his right shoulder" or "RTFSR*."
Despite that make the difference in Nix's efficacy was dramatic. Morgan played nine minutes in the first game; Nix went 6 of 9 from the floor and had 3 assists to no turnovers. Morgan had 24 in this one; Nix went 2 of 9 with 2 assists and six turnovers, with one of those makes the aforementioned bucket against McGary. Morgan's absence in the first game was definitely a contributing factor to the ugliness therein.
*["Read the frondling scouting report."]
Mocking floor slap for the win. State did the team floor slap thing in the previous game, and did it in this one, and Big Tough Mr. Men got an alley-oop on their face this time, whereupon Michigan responded with sports sarcasm:
Sports sarcasm is the best. You can tell it is mocking because 1) everyone knows MSU's about to call a TO, and Trey does it twice. I enjoyed that.
McGary FTs. Having Mitch McGary receive the inbounds pass at the end was clearly not the best idea, but Michigan put themselves in a situation where that was possible by using up all their timeouts early. When MSU tripled Burke it was a scramble off the make and the other options were Horford and a covered LeVert.
1) Dump basketball timeouts. End game situations are more chaotic and fun without them.
2) Don't call all of them, especially when you're just setting up a play instead of preserving a possession.
McGary other game. A mixed bag. Like the rest of the bigs he shares in the issues rebounding. One DREB in 21 minutes is Nnanna Egwu level output. He was efficient offensively, going 4/6 from the floor and hitting 3/5 FTs, and he generated a few of those shots himself with two-bounce drives and a nice short corner turnaround. He's showing things that should lead to an increased offensive role as he develops.
Paging Caris Levert. (Upchurch @ right) With Stauskas knocked out four minutes in, Caris LeVert got starters minutes. He did okay with them, scoring eight points on 4/8 shooting from two, missing three attempts from deep, and getting a couple steals. He was mostly guarding Gary Harris; Harris had an eh day with 16 points on 16 shot equivalents.
As long as Stauskas isn't suffering ill effects from the concussion I don't think he'll see his playing time cut much if at all… as long as he's not doing the things that caused Beilein to explode at him in the Penn State game. Competition for that spot will improve it, and if Caris is reliable enough to get him 16 minutes instead of eight Michigan can rest Tim Hardaway a bit more.
Statistical extremes. Take your pick as to which was more of an anomaly: Michigan going 0-fer from three or MSU coughing up 18 turnovers to Michigan's 7. I'll take the former since Michigan is a notoriously low-turnover team and MSU has had their share of issues. Also in the anomaly bucket: MSU rebounded half their misses. While not entirely unexpected, that is extreme.
Speaking of the rebounding. Hammered. Michigan went with the dual-big lineup for nine minutes; it didn't help much. As mentioned, McGary just had 1 DREB. Morgan had four, Horford none in four minutes. If the ball wasn't bouncing to a guard chances are Michigan did not get it.
Michigan's rebounding is reverting after another nonconference season in which they found themselves top-ten. After entering Big Ten play #2 in DREB they're down to 45th. They're fifth in Big Ten play, still a major step up from last year's ninth but not an earth-shaking paradigm change.
Burke fall down make fast break. Michigan State exploited a couple of things to get some early fast break opportunities off of makes: 1) Burke falls down a lot after he tries layups and 2) he never gets a call on this even if someone has bashed him to the ground. You'd like to see him keep his feet, but it's hard to see how in a lot of these situations.
Drinkin' your milkshake part 2. Drake Harris visited last weekend. This weekend…
Devin Gardner changes his twitter handle like every two weeks.
I hear tell he's supposed to be back next weekend, too? Dios mio, man.
In game one Nix went from 6 of 9 with 3 assists and zero TOs. He was the most efficient player and along with Harris, MSU's most productive. I don't think anyone can't dispute that he had an outstanding offensive game.
In game two he goes 2 for 9 with 6 TOs and 2 assists. That's worse than going 2 for 15 without the TOs. By any measure it's horribly inefficient and dramatically worse than the first game. While Harris was also more productive in the first game, neither the difference nor the effect on MSU's overall offense was nearly the same. I'm not sure what the claim about Harris being so much better than Nix is supposed to mean. Nix was good enough that we didn't have anyone who could stop him in the first game.
"Burke is both awesome at basketball and extremely protective of my emotions." One of the best sentences yet written on this blog.
who the older gentleman is that Coach B hugs at the end of the game? He is always sitting in the seat right next to players and coaches.
I believe it's the guy that owns Alro Steel. Al Glick? He's a huge donor.
Al Glick I think, major donor to the university. You may know the name from the Al Glick fieldhouse (indoor football practice facility) that was erected in 2009.
Beilein's game plan really exposed Derrick Nix's weaknesses on both ends of the court. Offensively Nix is very uncomfortable going to his right, and he is so slow afoot, it is easy to overplay Nix's left hand. Jorgan Morgan was practically begging Nix to go right and Nix still tried to go left, and when Nix did go right, it was almost painful to watch. It is a very easy strategy to implement. Morgan simply moved far enough to his right (Nix left), to make going left impossible for Nix. The only time in the game Nix was able to turn back to his left was when McGary was on Nix. C'mon Mitch, pay attention to the game plan.
On the MSU defensive end, Beilein exposed Nix for the Weeping Willow that he is, and the MSU guards for meh on ball defensive players they are. Once the Michigan perimeter players got past the MSU defender, it was clear sailing to the basket. I lost track of the amount of times M beat the defender off the dribble and sauntered by Nix for an easy lay up. Brilliant strategy by the coaches and very good execution by the players on that phase of the game plan
Everyone knows that Nix can't go right. So that's been every teams gameplan. But Morgan did a very good job.
On the other end, OSU really exposed Nix in the middle. Craft went off for around 20 against MSU because he was going right around Nix who sucks at helping off picks. This is part of the reason that Michigan attacked the paint so much, they knew that Nix isn't that great at clogging the middle because his footwork is so slow. Maybe if he lost another 30 lbs he might be able to play some defense.
All that said, the game plan was good. The part of the gameplan that was most evident was that Michigan wanted to push the ball up the court and play a transition game. The fact that Michigan only shot 12 threes and scored so ofter around the basket really shows that this team was well prepared, and was able to win even when not completely on their game.
Good point on Craft repeatedly getting to the rim against MSU. This is not an weakness Izzo can fix. If MSU's guards get beat, Nix is helpless, but you can't put Nix on the perimeter and have Payne in the lane either, because that would leave Nix out on GRIII, and it would take GRIII a millisecond to get around Nix. It will be interesting if the teams meet again in the BIG Tourney, if Izzo has to go small to adjust to Nix lack of agility.
After his comments, it was great watching Nix killing his team on both ends. TY, coach B, for that game plan.
Here are some responses to other comments:
... but the ref was right in front of him and had his eyes in the right place. He certainly had a much better look than any camera angle I saw. FWIW, the players body language didn't scream "WTF?!" after the call either, so if the ref missed the call it wasn't completely obvious.
But the problem is, a lot of these refs are old and who knows how sharp they are? Hightower and Valentine have been around the entire time I've followed college basketball (late '80s) . . . they've got to be pretty old by now.
who is it that Beilein hugs...
Edited because answered above. So, how about this: Al Glick earns citizen of the year award:
edited because double post. So how about this:
Brian - the referees got it right. The new rule is a pile of dung, but hoops is a game where you're going to get some cuts. I had a broken nose, a set of loosened teeth, and four separate sets of stiches before I was 20 playing hoops. It happens.