A Thousand Papercuts
3/10/2013 – Michigan 71, Indiana 72 – 25-6, 12-6 Big Ten
One of my earliest memories of basketball was brooding over a narrow loss. I have no memory of who may have been playing but since at this point in my life I lived in Denver and regarded the Alex English-era Nuggets as a curiosity, it must have been some Michigan game that my dad put on.
What struck me is the infinite variety of moments I had to brood on. This free throw here, this missed layup there, that egregious foul call: 40 to 48 minutes of opportunities to not lose by a point. Basketball is weird in that way. Most sports come with thunderclaps from God. If you're caught on the wrong end of a scoreline you brood over, oh, I don't know, a friggin' Honduran defender with one goal to his name at any level being momentarily possessed by the spirit of Pele. Something titanic. A keystone kops attempt to tackle in the secondary, eight blown tackles on one play, somehow giving up a 5 on 3 shorthanded breakaway, etc. That goal. That massive refactoring of the world from something in which pleasure beckoned into one containing only sand and dust. THAT.
On Sunday, mere hours after Michigan had choked away a second consecutive Big Ten title, we were treated to the NBA equivalent of the bicycle kick linked above when DeAndre Jordan caused twitter to explode into a panoply of jokes about the murder and death of one Brandon Knight.
Like you 1) haven't seen it and 2) won't watch it again:
The Clippers were awarded two points! That is a lot of points to get on one basketball possession! The Clippers acquired a third thanks to a free throw! That made the Clippers lead by 22 points instead of 19, so it was super helpful in their efforts to victory.
Basketball is weird in this way. It's the highlight thing. Baseball highlights are hugely important near-replicas of every other baseball highlight you've ever seen (man swings bat, ball goes far). Basketball highlights are unique snowflakes with almost no impact on the outcome. Except, of course, in those odd situations when the things are balanced on a knife edge right at the end, and everything that goes wrong is one of the thousand papercuts that did you in.
My most recent basketball memory is brooding over a narrow loss. Also there are a couple additional narrow-loss broodings in there ranging from 10th to 4th most recent. I don't know, man. Michigan probably wouldn't have grabbed that share of the Big Ten title if the conference season was 1800 games long. If Morgan's tip goes down their collective margin of victory over the teams they hypothetically would have shared with would have been 4; their collective margin of loss was 34. They were 3-3 in conference games decided by five or fewer points. They lost to Penn State. In the end, they got a fair result.
That does not stop a man from running his fingers through his hair and thinking of a half-court shot at Wisconsin and Jordan Morgan's putback hanging on the rim, hanging on the rim, hanging on the rim. Change a brush of the finger on those, and Michigan is the team raising a banner all by themselves. There are many things to brood on, things that make no sense and can be blamed on no one except bloody fate.
This is why I basically shrugged when Michigan went out in the first round last year—they'd come from a much more fortunate place than they did this year and still got that banner up. They don't give banners for falling valiantly in the Sweet Sixteen. I'm not sure we should be talking about salvage after Michigan's best season that counted in a long, long time, but after Sunday a lot more rides on the single elimination portion of the schedule. If the season was a game, it's one against a very good opponent coming down to the wire.
Make a macro free throw maybe?
REBOUND. Ugh, ugh, ugh. A cripplingly bad defensive rebounding performance is finally what doomed Michigan. Indiana recovered 57%(!!!) percent of their misses, with Oladipo snagging seven OREBs by himself. It's kind of hard to figure how Indiana didn't score more with that sort of second-chance rate. The end result of that bombing was to drop Michigan's defensive rebounding to 80th—they entered Big Ten play second in the country—and 8th in conference. They're actually worse this year in Big Ten play.
Much of this has happened just lately. This space was talking about how Michigan was in the upper echelon halfway through the conference season and holding their own as recently as a couple weeks ago. As mentioned after the Purdue game, the fives are a big issue: Morgan had six offensive rebounds but only two on defense; Michigan rolled out five different guys at that spot and got three defensive rebounds. Also, when Oladipo is going off like that someone isn't boxing him out: Tim Hardaway, who had two rebounds.
Generic mutterings about getting that fixed before the tourney go here.
Make your free throws, etc. I think it would have been good if Michigan had made the front ends of one and ones late. #strongtake
Good thing you didn't change the outcome of the game you guys. If a guy is gone for a dunk and someone prevents that from behind, is there a rule against that or not? A: yes, lol jk no. Even Clark Kellogg, last seen accusing his grandmother of fouling Cody Zeller, thought the obvious intentional foul was obvious. Michigan got neither the dunk or intentional call and ended up losing by a point. But at least they looked at it on the monitor!
The other ref bitches are the usual except for the blatant goaltend on a Burke shot that hit the backboard before being rejected. Missing that call should be grounds for termination. It is black and white, and of course cannot be reviewed.
Death to timeouts, Part MCMVII. The last ten seconds were a terrifying whirlwind because Michigan had no timeouts. Michigan couldn't go to the sideline, decide their play would be "Trey, do something" and then see if Trey could do something. Instead Trey just got on with the doing of things. A neutral observer probably enjoyed that quite a bit. It amplified my terror, to be sure.
This is what all basketball games could be like if timeouts were drastically slashed. In these situations there would not be ten-minute stretches of financial service commercials occasionally interspersed by basketball midway through the second half.
Zeller. Despite putting four fouls on Mitch McGary in eight minutes of play plus five more on other Michigan centers, Zeller's ORtg was just an ok 108 because of six turnovers. And some of those came against McLimans and Biefeldt, both inexplicably inserted late in the first half despite Horford not having any fouls. It's a small thing, but all small things are important in a one point game.
Tom Crean: pretty much. I can't believe this guy is this guy:
At least he lets you know by looking like Dwight Schrute, and by saying "whoops, Ron Patterson, you are vaguely ineligible because we don't have a scholarship.*" Apparently Meyer's work in the state of Indiana is a source of conflict:
There have been unfriendly recruitments between Indiana and Michigan in last year. Major source of issues between staffs. Will leave it at that.
Beilein is getting his punches in between the lines:
“Michigan’s always going to win with class, and it’s going to lose with class,” Beilein said. “I’m proud of the way Jeff [Meyer] showed great poise.”
YEAH KILL 'EM PILOT WALTER WHITE
*[He was so ineligible he ended up at Syracuse.]