It was a hot mess.
GRIII got Kaminsky'd, transition D was bad again, 3-pointers are raining on us...what was the most terrifying part about thing that was'ed at Crisler on Sunday?
Secondary question (optional): diaper bags. Is it true you need to buy a bag specifically for diapers? Is it important that it have a cooler? Why not a backpack? Why not my Jansport backpack from college? What's so damn important about Diaper bags that you need to shell out $150 at Buy Buy Baby for a satchel with lots of compartments?
Mathlete: I have so many answers for you about diaper bags and so few as to what happened at Crisler Sunday.
We've run the gamut. Started with a giant piece of luggage. Ditched that for a second piece of luggage and since have gradually gone smaller and smaller. We finally settled on the smallest possible container that can hold about 3 diapers, a package of wipes and a thing or two of baby food/snacks/apple sauce. I don't know if you could go straight to this, you have to go through The Process of using a big bag to truly appreciate how little you need.
|The Skip Hop Versa transition bag clings to your stroller and prevents the little one from escaping when your back is turned.
As to basketball, this is a young finesse team. A game like Sunday was bound to happen. They can't consistently lock down on defense enough to stop the big runs. They are 89th in kenpom defense, the worst of the top 25. Only Duke and Creighton are above 45 and both of those teams are head and shoulders the best two offensive teams in the country. When you get in a hole and don't have a high likelihood of getting consistent stops in the future, that puts a lot of pressure on a team without a Trey Burke. Last year Burke was the singular talent who could impose his will regardless of setting. Michigan doesn't have that this year. Stauskas had his run but has been brought down to earth (nothing another year or two in college won't help!).
With all that said, this team hasn't rolled over. They cut the lead on Sunday to 3, won at Breslin in a game that never felt like theirs until the very end. The team is definitely incomplete and the Iowa and the Wisconsin games were as bad as they've looked in Big Ten play. With that said, better to have the vulnerabilities identified now as opposed to a month from now. With the make-up of this team, anything will be possible come March. Their offensive prowess and the Beilein touch could push them into another Final Four or their youth and lax defense could be a formula for an early exit. As frustrating as the recent losses have been, the Big Ten title can be all but clinched a week from today.
[a Wisconsin player is now standing beneath you.]
Ace: I just bought a couple pairs of remarkably comfortable fleece-lined sweatpants, a zip-up hoodie, and the autobiography of Dr. J because I could do so and had nothing more imperative/useful to spend my disposable income on. It cost less than your poop satchels. Nobody got mad at me. Just wanted to remind y'all that being 26 with no kids is pretty great.
ANYWAY, the part that concerned me most about Sunday's game is that it exposed another weakness in Michigan's defense: specifically, defending bigs that can stretch the floor. (I'll refrain from reposting the Kaminsky video.) The list of things this team doesn't do well defensively continues to grow:
|Scouts love the potential of the Jeep Perfect Pockets Back Pack, but it's never going to be big enough.
- Rebound (9th in B1G)
- Steal the ball (11th)
- Block shots (12th)
- Defend two-pointers (12th)
- Get back in transition
- Identify assignments and execute switches/rotations on time
- Play zone (the 2-3 is a desperation ploy that usually fails, the 1-3-1 rarely used and quite unreliable)
This team is fourth in the conference in three-point defense (both by 3PA/FGA and 3P%), yet they're still prone to giving up wide open looks and occasionally getting torched—while Yogi Ferrell and Roy Devyn Marble both shot far better than their averages suggest they should've, Michigan's perimeter defense had a hand (or, well, didn't) in that.
It all adds up to a defense that's markedly worse than last year's—over five points worse per 100 possessions in B1G play, per KenPom—and it's not like the 2012-13 squad was stellar on that end. It'd be one thing if the team had one glaring issue in need of correction; instead, every time they adjust for one deficiency, or face a team with a markedly different style from the previous opponent, another appears.
This team can still get by on their offensive firepower, but only for so long. I went through the KenPom archives yesterday and looked at the success of every NCAA Tournament team with a defensive efficiency ranked 75th or worse. (Michigan is currently 89th.) Of the 250 teams to fit that criteria since 2003, only 20 advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, with no more than three making it that far in any given year. Seven of those made it to the Elite Eight, three to the national semifinals, and none to the title game.
While the vast majority of the sample were low-seeded mid-majors, 18 of the teams had a top-four seed. Ten of the 18 failed to make it to the second weekend of the tourney, including four that suffered huge upsets in the round of 64 (2003 Dayton, 2008 Vanderbilt, 2012 Duke, 2012 Mizzou). Michigan has a great shot at securing a Big Ten title; at the same time, they're ripe for an early exit come tournament time.
BiSB: I'm not sure if Kaminsky exposed a new weakness so much as he exploited a weakness most people would presume Michigan had. For all of Jordan Morgan's progress, and for as good as he can be as a hedge-and-get-back defender, he is still very much a duck in tapioca pudding when it comes to on-ball defense outside of about 10 feet. Michigan isn't great against traditional bigs, but they at least demonstrated an ability to mitigate those types of players. Fortunately, the Frank Kaminskys of the world are rare.
|For twice the price, the Diaper Dude Convertible Messenger/Backpack can hang back or come up to the rim.
Most of the remainder of Michigan's regular season schedule is filled with the AJ Hammons/Noah Vonleh/Generic Black Minnesota Center/Generic White Minnesota Center-type players. Nnanaa Egwu is technically a "stretch big", but Nnanna won't make anyone say "uhhh." Now, about that Adreian Payne fella...
I'm more concerned about the continuing trouble with transition defense and defensive rotation. Part of it is probably youth, but these kids aren't going to get much older between now and April. Ace is right that this team has some remarkably bad defensive numbers, and at this point they are who they are. If they aren't going to shoot well from outside, they aren't going anywhere exciting. Granted. these were the same concerns Michigan fans were writhing about last year about this time (DAMN YOU AGAIN BEN BRUST), and that worked out okay. But without a unifying Burkian force stabilizing the offense, I'm not as confident.
Seth: There's still one defensive metric where Michigan's elite: they're 4th in the country in giving up free throw attempts. The three ahead are UNLV, Wisconsin, and Presbyterian. Texas Southern, Ohio State, Clemson, and Iowa State trail not far behind.
Let's examine those. Presbyterian and Texas So are tiny and just awful; they don't bother to contest anything because that might be construed as attempting to play basketball. UNLV, Clemson and Wisconsin are similar in that they focus on forcing bad shots. UNLV is 5th in D-eFG%, Clemson is 4th. Wisconsin is 69th--they're not as lengthy as they used to be in the backcourt--but make up for it by preventing offensive boards.
Ohio State is a freak of defensive efficiency and you know why, but it's well to notice that every other of those schools mentioned except OSU are terrible at creating defensive turnovers. Like they're in the 300s. Wisconsin is 309th. UNLV is 305th. Iowa State is 282nd. Clemson is 202nd. Michigan: 263rd. I scatter the last 4 years:
(click for bigger)
Weak correlation in general but it's an inverse correlation: if some teams were just plain good at defense and others not this line should trend the other way. This has been a hallmark of Beilein teams for so long we now take it for granted: Michigan plays their defense on the floor.
|The Sam Dekker Doodie Bag comes with all you see here, including long straps that can hang on your shoulders without attracting notice. Order now and we'll send you another defender to undercut your shot!
To do this and be successful means getting enough steals here and there to stay on the trend line, and they're a couple of steals a game short in that department. The Burke difference is real, as is the McGary difference.
Wisconsin did what most teams probably can't: put two bigs out there who can score. Kaminsky minus Dekker minus insane Wisconsin officiating can be handled by Michigan's bigs, but add Dekker to the mix and you see the downside of having your 4 be a winger-type like Robinson. Adreian Payne can stretch the floor like Kaminsky and complement him with Costello and their own Kaminski (no relation), another big you can't ignore. Both of those guys went off against Nebraska but that was hidden by State's terrible 3-point day.
Typically if that's happening to you, you defeat it with two bigs of your own, and Michigan was planning on doing that this year with a McGary/Morgan lineup. Now do you put McGary and Horford out there together for a long stretch? Considering how Robinson's been lately that may be a solution. The other solution is if the refs are allowing a lot of physical play, get more physical. They've got plenty of fouls to give.
Brian: While you guys are all concerned about the defense, and rightfully, the other scary thing is that Nik Stauskas is officially in a funk. Opponents have adjusted to the things he was doing during his period being a ridiculously efficient shooter and basically the best point guard in the Big Ten. Stauskas has not figured anything out individually; aside from Derrick Walton going off against Ohio State and Amir Williams trying to block everything, the team has not figured much of anything out. Michigan's solution appears to be having Stauskas take bad shots in the name of aggression, which bleah.
|The good news is some of the remaining opponents are quite charitable.
The results have not been exactly terrible. Michigan's only dropped under 1 PPP against Indiana, and that was barely. But with the defensive problems mentioned that kind of output, if consistent, is not going to get Michigan very far in March.
Maybe having a seven-day stretch between games here will allow Michigan to adapt to the league's adaptation, but it kind of feels like if they could fix it and go back to nuts efficiency they already would have. Point guards might just be Stauskas kryptonite, and then you're just an okay team instead of one looking pretty damn good. I know Michigan doesn't post anyone, but it might be worth trying. Also, I'd consider running ball screens amongst the wing players just to see if the opposition will switch 'em. But Beilein's a bit smarter about this stuff than I am and a solution has not presented itself, so those are stabs in the dark.