3/5/2017 – Michigan 93, Nebraska 57 – 20-11, 10-8
This is not a game column.
God DAMN, Derrick Walton. There was a point last night where Derrick Walton took a terrible shot with verve and élan and it went in and I was neither mad at the shot nor surprised at the outcome. The rest of his night was on that level: 18 points, 16 assists (a program record), 5 steals, and... sigh... one rebound. Walton missing a triple-double because of insufficient rebounds is a killer.
Also killer: Derrick Walton. He is now taking those Chauncey Billups transition pull-up threes and I love them even when they do not go down. He is efficient inside the arc for the first time since he was a freshman, and he's doing Trey Burke things, and he's making himself a verb. If I say a senior has "gone Walton" you know what I mean. Not that anyone is likely to have such a transformation again.
I have gotten in the occasional twitter fight with Minnesota fans who are arguing that Nate Mason should be first-team All Big Ten, and I would just like to state for the record that any such assertions are insane homerism. The only thing Mason has on Walton is volume, and that volume is underwhelming: he's shot 268 twos at a 38% clip this year.
Well then. Michigan's 36-point road annihilation of Nebraska ends their regular season and confirms Michigan as one of the weirdest teams in the country. It also conjures a hypothetical: would you rather be a nine seed that plays like a six or a six seed that plays like a nine? The former team wins a lot of blowouts and drops close games; the latter wins a disproportionate share of close games.
Being a six seed that isn't quite as good would feel better. Michigan is the nine because of their record in games decided by five or less: 3-6. Last year's team was 6-1 and still slid into Dayton. Also last year's team finished the year losing six of their last nine. Michigan's inverted that, albeit in a much worse Big Ten.
So either nearly the same crew of players went from super clutch to not clutch or this is a much better team that doesn't look like one record-wise because their point distribution across games was suboptimal.
An illustration. Nobody really doubts Michigan's sea change on defense anymore. Nonetheless, Nebraska provided an easy before-and-after photo for Beilein: the game at Crisler in January was in the immediate aftermath of the Maverick Morgan White Collar Incident; Michigan won a barn-burner 91-85. Nebraska shot 59% from two and 50% from 3, with Tai Webster torching Michigan for 37.
Yesterday, Webster was held to 8 points; Nebraska shot 53% from 3 and was just 2/15 from three. Ace and Alex have mentioned this before and it bears re-emphasizing after a game where Michigan gave up just 15 attempts from behind the arc: a big part of three point defense is keeping them from being launched in the first place, and Michigan is suddenly very good at that.
A selection of team D stats from last year to this year, with major shifts bolded:
Michigan's now slightly better than they were a year ago because they've offset big declines in rebounding and three-point percentage allowed with more turnovers forced, better free throw D (high five!), and a severe restriction on opponent threes. Even last year's team, which was dead last in the league in 2PT% D and right on the NCAA average for 3PT% D, gave up more points per three attempted than per two.
Obviously this is not a complete picture of the value of two-pointers since you're much more likely to draw free throws inside the line, but in case you've missed the last 20 years of basketball it remains the case that three is more than two even in extreme environments. Michigan's closeout competency surge is the biggest effect of hiring Billy Donlon: Michigan has never (never!) been in the top 100 in that stat under Beilein, and now they're in elite company.
Why Michigan's rebounding has declined is a bit of a mystery. It's mostly the same crew playing with the exceptions of DJ Wilson and Mo Wagner. Those two guys are replacing either wing types or Michigan's 2016 centers, who were Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle. Both of those guys had DREB rates barely over 10%. IE: they were not good rebounders. I maintained last year that Doyle was good at boxing out while letting others grab the ball; Ace theorized that Michigan's stronger closeout game has taken guys away from the basket.
Dunno. Area for improvement next year.
The volume of shift. Ace didn't want to round this and I don't either. Michigan's defense post-Nebraska-torching: 0.998 points per possession. That's a 12 game sample against much better competition* than the bad old days and would have been fourth in the league.
Perspective: Michigan's D improved just as much as Derrick Walton did after Maverick Morgan.
*[That ugly five game stretch to start the conference season is even uglier when you consider that it came against five opponents who were #3, #8, #11, #12, and #13 in offensive efficiency.]
Don't look at it. Use your peripheral vision. Zak Irvin's miserable stretch ended after the Indiana game. Since then he's been middling, hitting 53%/35% from the field on third-banana usage and helping Michigan's team-wide defensive renaissance. With Walton emerging as the team's alpha dog and Wagner either running things inside or throwing entire defensive systems into disarray ("Let's switch bigs on to Walton" –Tim Miles), third-banana, doesn't-dribble-out-half-a-shot-clock, zero-hero-ball Zak Irvin has re-emerged into an asset. Even if there's like one or two hero-balls in there.
Also in post-Maverick surges. MAAR is quietly the sixth-most efficient player in conference play. There was a point midseason where everyone seemed pretty mad at him, including Beilein. That seems like a long time ago, what with MAAR shooting 56/49 in Big Ten play, with many of those two-pointers difficult late-clock takes to the bucket when Michigan can't get anything else going.
One of the key questions on next year's offense is "how does MAAR maintain his efficiency at much higher usage?" He's at 17% now and will probably tack on 5% next year—that's a big leap. Pretty well if he just up that assist rate, I think. MAAR's done something pretty difficult for a guard: his career shooting percentage inside the arc is higher in conference play than it is over the course of the season, for three straight years. The kind of shots he gets are good ones.
Graham Couch time! It's been a minute since we checked in with the only beat writer on the planet who thinks Martin Luther King Day is for lazy people. It takes time to regather yourself after such a take and find the next thing you're going to be spectacularly, inanely wrong about. Couch rises to the occasion:
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – If Michigan State is left out of the NCAA tournament this month, MSU’s non-conference schedule next season should be a who’s who of the SWAC and MEAC, with a couple mid-level MAC and Missouri Valley Conference teams sprinkled in to give the illusion that competition matters.
MSU is in line for a bid mostly because they successfully gamed the RPI by losing to good teams. That's how they're one spot behind Michigan in that metric despite a 25-spot gap in Kenpom, two fewer wins, and the same conference record. MSU beat one nonconference team of consequence, Wichita State; Michigan beat Marquette and SMU. MSU also lost to Northeastern. The only reason to project those teams at or near the same seedline is because the NCAA is still relying on the archaic RPI, and the RPI has rewarded MSU for losing to good teams.
What would the SWAC-and-MEAC schedule do to Michigan State's RPI? Annihilate it. The worst thing you can do as a college basketball team looking to game the system is play teams ranked 300+. Graham Couch's argument is "if the NCAA puts MSU in the NIT, MSU should throw a fit... and put themselves in it." I can't let this zinger languish on Slack:
By and for juggaloes.
Michigan already knew their Big Ten Tournament fate heading into their game at Nebraska. The game still had stakes, however.
One more victory and the Wolverines could feel secure about their NCAA Tournament standing. They wrapped that up early in the second half, then turned their focus to history.
Derrick Walton got his name in the Michigan record book with 16 assists, breaking Gary Grant's mark of 14 through masterful orchestration of John Beilein's offense. Walton also led the team with 18 points and five steals. He turned the ball over only twice.
With his 209th win, Beilein tied with Johnny Orr atop the all-time wins list among Michigan coaches. The final buzzer also required an update to my favorite running stat of the season:
Each of these team's biggest losses this year was to Michigan
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) March 6, 2017
Heading into tonight, Nebraska's worst loss of the season was by 17 points—at Kansas. Michigan doubled that margin and added a bucket for good measure.
They did so in much the same fashion by which they defeated the Huskers at Crisler. Walton played the role of distributor in the first half, working the pick-and-pop with Moe Wagner, who sunk all three of his three-point attempts in the opening stanza. Zak Irvin and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, the other primary beneficiaries of Walton's largesse, joined Wagner as double-digit scorers in the first half.
Unlike the game in Ann Arbor, Nebraska couldn't come close to keeping pace. Tai Webster and Glynn Watson combined for 50 points on 21-for-35 shooting in the first matchup; they had 13 points tonight, going 5-for-17 from the field. The invigorated, pesky Michigan defense forced 16 turnovers and locked down the perimeter, limiting the Huskers to a 2-for-15 performance from beyond the arc.
Walton began hunting his own shot in the second half, especially when Wagner had to sit after picking up two quick fouls. He scored 11 points in the half before Beilein called off the dogs. Michigan pushed the lead as high as 38 on an Ibi Watson fast break layup from Xavier Simpson; Sean Lonergan scored his third and fourth points of conference play on the previous possession.
The final numbers are astonishing. Michigan scored 1.43 points per possession while ceding only 0.88 by the Huskers. They went 20-for-27 on twos, 14-for-27 on threes, and 11-for-14 at the line. Of their 34 field goals, 20 were assisted. With the defense taking away any threat of the outside shot, Nebraska had no means to stay close.
Michigan faces Illinois at noon on Thursday in the 8/9 game of the conference tournament, a fitting start to a postseason run with a much brighter outlook since the Maverick Morgan Revenge Tour began in January. The squad that showed up tonight—and the one that administered to five other teams their worst beating of the season—can play with anybody in the country.
#27 Michigan (19-11, 9-8 B1G) at
#94 Nebraska (12-17, 6-11)
Pinnacle Bank Arena
|WHEN||8 pm ET, Sunday|
Michigan -4 (KenPom)
Michigan -5 (Vegas)
PBP: Kevin Kugler
Analyst: Shon Morris
Right: Nobody played much defense in the first matchup. [Marc-Gregor Campredon/MGoBlog]
On the last day of the regular season, there's still plenty to be determined regarding Big Ten Tournament seeding. The other two games to keep an eye on today are Iowa-PSU (1 pm, BTN) and Purdue-Northwestern (4:30 pm, CBS). Michigan may very well be locked into the eight-seed by the time tonight's game tips off, but there's a chance they can move up as high as the six-seed:
8. Michigan (9-8)
Locked into single bye, will play on Thursday no matter what
Clinches #6 seed with win at Nebraska + Northwestern win + Iowa loss
Clinches #7 seed with win + Northwestern loss + Iowa loss
Clinches #8 seed with loss OR Iowa win
As for the NCAA Tournament picture, Michigan is holding onto a nine-seed on most projections, including Jerry Palm's and Joe Lunardi's, and they're an eight-seed on Crashing The Dance. ESPN's Eamonn Brennan is on the verge of moving the Wolverines into lock territory:
We thought about locking in the Spartans and the Wolverines alongside Northwestern, but where the Wildcats have just a home date against Purdue left on their regular-season schedule -- plus a guaranteed 10-8 conference record even if they lose -- Michigan travels to Nebraska for its regular-season closer Sunday. A loss would add another sub-top-50 loss to the Wolverines' resume, as well as set them back to 9-9 in league play. Again: Michigan should be in. It almost certainly will get in. But we're just, you know, being careful.
Win and they're in. Lose and they're probably still in, especially since Illinois is locked into the BTT nine-seed; Bart Torvik's BTT simulator says Michigan would have a 70% chance of winning that 8/9 matchup.
THE LAST TIME
In the first game after the Illinois debacle and subsequent players-only meeting, Michigan didn't exactly fix their defense, but they came out on top anyway in a 91-85 shootout at Crisler. Moe Wagner, Derrick Walton, and Zak Irvin all scored 20+ for Michigan, while Tai Webster (28) and Glynn Watson (22) shouldered the load for the Huskers. Notably, Nebraska was missing forward Ed Morrow due to a foot injury; he's been back in the lineup for the last six games.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||5||Glynn Watson||So.||6'0, 175||78||21||110||Not At All|
|Excellent three-point and free-throw shooter, not a great finisher.|
|G||0||Tai Webster||Sr.||6'4, 195||87||28||102||Not really|
|Big, aggressive point guard shoots 47/30/75 with high FT rate.|
|G||11||Evan Taylor||Jr.||6'5, 206||60||13||91||Very|
|Inefficient, low-usage scorer with high turnover rate. Defensive specialist.|
|F||12||Michael Jacobson||So.||6'9, 230||62||16||101||Very|
|Good offensive rebounder, poor finisher, disruptive defender.|
|C||32||Jordy Tshimanga||Fr.||6'11, 275||30||27||86||Very|
|Big impact on boards, has a ways to go on offense. Frequently in foul trouble.|
|F||10||Jack McVeigh||So.||6'8, 215||55||15||108||No|
|Stretch four type shooting 38% on threes in B1G play.|
|F||30||Ed Morrow||So.||6'7, 234||44||23||101||Very|
|Good rebounder and shot-blocker. Inconsistent finisher since injury.|
|F||15||Isaiah Roby||Fr.||6'8, 214||35||17||82||Very|
|Good shot-blocker, really struggling on offense.|
|F||2||Jeriah Horne||Fr.||6'7, 222||26||19||98||Not really|
|Just A Shooter™ type is making 33% of threes, 47% of twos.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
With one game left in the regular season, the Big Ten Tournament picture is becoming clearer – there are still a wide variety of potential outcomes, but most teams have a pretty good idea of where they’ll end up. With Michigan’s recent heartbreaking loss to Northwestern, and Iowa’s impressive road win over Wisconsin, it’s likely that Michigan will find itself playing in the 8/9 game on Thursday afternoon against none other than Illinois, the team that may have sparked the Michigan turnaround with a blowout win and Maverick Morgan’s harsh-but-mostly-true “white collar” comment. Derrick Walton in particular has been playing blue-collar ball as of late, and I’m sure he’d relish another shot at the Illini even though Michigan won the rematch.
This excellent post by Dan Baker at The Only Colors outlines the potential outcomes of this weekend of action across the Big Ten (and it’s definitely worth a click to read through in-depth) – right now, this is what the bracket would look like if there’s chalk in the remaining seven games:
The favorites in the remaining games (according to Kenpom) are in bold:
- Indiana at Ohio State
- Illinois at Rutgers
- Michigan State at Maryland
- Penn State at Iowa
- Purdue at Northwestern
- Minnesota at Wisconsin
- Michigan at Nebraska
A look at some possible seed outcomes after the JUMP.
my favorite part of this conversation is people looking at Brad Hawkins and Brad Hawkins in consecutive recruiting classes and identifying them as separate people
Michigan's large recruiting classes the last couple years occasionally see grenades lobbed at Harbaugh and accusations that Michigan has "sold its soul" leveled. These accusations are dumb, whether they come from 'Bama hilljacks in my twitter mentions or Stewart Mandel.
The problem with oversigning is not that any year in particular has a lot of kids in one recruiting class but that certain schools used to go well over 85 on Signing Day and had to cut 8-10 kids by fall. (This was usually just Alabama.) The hue and cry about the practice was at least partially successful in reining it in, as Power 5 conferences initiated restrictions on the practice. The Big Ten allows it, but it allows just three and supposedly you have to explain where the scholarship is coming from. Michigan operates in that environment.
And in any case, the amount of attrition needed for Michigan to get under 85 despite back-to-back large classes is well within the bounds of normal. Michigan's roster is comprised of their last five recruiting classes:
2013. 27 recruits, with those remaining all redshirt seniors. There are 5: Patrick Kugler, Henry Poggi, Mike McCray, Maurice Hurst, and Khalid Hill. They have two fifth-year senior transfers, John O'Korn and Ty Isaac. Michigan also expects to bring back sixth year senior Drake Johnson.
2014. 17 recruits. One, Blake O'Neill, was a grad transfer with one year of eligibility. A second, Jabrill Peppers, was three-and-out to the NFL draft. That leaves 15 kids who could be on this year's team. 12 are.
2015. 14 recruits. All could be on this year's team. 12 are.
2016. 27 recruits who actually signed and/or enrolled. Dytarious Johnson and Brad Hawkins ended up going to prep school, with Hawkins joining the 2017 class. Ahmir Mitchell and Devin Asiasi transferred. The other 25 are on the roster.
2017. 30 recruits. Possible one or two might end up in the same boat as Hawkins.
8 + 15 + 14 + 27 + 30 is 94, meaning that Michigan had to lose nine players naturally over the course of the last four recruiting classes to avoid oversigning. Michigan's lost seven. You can be the judge of how natural they are:
- Brady Pallante took a medical hardship scholarship.
- Michael Ferns transferred to WVU after one year under Brady Hoke.
- Freddy Canteen had injury issues and recently announced a grad transfer to Notre Dame.
- Andrew David transferred to TCU to play baseball.
- Brian Cole ran afoul of team rules, ended up at a JUCO, and will play at Mississippi State this fall.
- Ahmir Mitchell transferred to Rutgers after one semester.
- Devin Asiasi, depressingly, transferred after a highly promising freshman year.
That is far from an unreasonable amount of natural attrition for an 85-man football roster, especially because the latter three were highly ranked guys who lasted at most one year. Highly touted guys don't get run off that quickly.
That leaves two spots left, one of which is known and should be announced in the near future. I'm not sure of the second, but the worst case scenario is that Michigan does not bring back a fifth year senior who has a degree in hand and can use his final year of eligibility elsewhere. More likely is someone lighting out for greener pastures voluntarily.
If that's "selling your soul," we're going to have to invent some new lingo for Baylor. Michigan is only oversigning if you consider the practice of offering redshirted seniors a firm handshake instead of a fifth year to be oversigning. That's something literally every school in the country does annually, and is bad-faith pearl-clutching by anyone who would attempt to use that as a slam against Harbaugh.
It’s a long season [Joseph Dressler]
Bruce Madej and Ira Weintraub are on hand as Sam is out.
- Has any announcer ever had a worse half than Stephen Bardo?
- End-of-game second-guessing.
- Bruce weighs in on soccer, Happy Gilmore, musicals
- Things happen—do they happen more often to Michigan?
- Did Julia Louis-Dreyfus rushing the court?
- Is Michigan still bubble-proof?
- Two of the best bigs in the Big Ten this year are _____.
- Next year: Alpha dog? X? What to do with the 13th spot
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
THE USUAL LINKS
Five days ago. [Bryan Fuller]
That wasn't a fun way to lose. I'll cede that point. The reaction to a one-point road loss, however painful it may have been, has still been borderline hysterical. Heading into last night, Michigan had won five of six—with the one loss a ref screw-job in Minneapolis—while moving off the NCAA tournament bubble. They have the best offense in the Big Ten by a wide margin and a defense that's steadily improving. They lost last night on a prayer of a play that was inches away from backfiring spectacularly; if Nathan Taphorn's pass flies another six inches or so, Michigan is inbounding under Northwestern's basket with a chance to win in regulation.
With a night to sleep on it, here's where things really stand: Michigan is still comfortably in the NCAA tournament field. Jerry Palm's latest bracket denotes 15 bubble teams, including Michigan State. Michigan, projected as a nine-seed, isn't one of them. Joe Lunardi dropped the Wolverines one seed line—to a nine-seed. Michigan is still an eight-seed on the Bracket Matrix, though they'll slide back to a nine as more projections are updates; that's still not on the bubble.
Illinois, a team that Penn State swept this season, has moved into the field on several projections, including Palm's. This year's bubble is really soft. If Michigan loses out, they're in danger of a nerve-wracking Selection Sunday. They have two very winnable games left: at Nebraska, a team that's never beaten Michigan since joining the Big Ten, and a neutral-site game in the BTT against a team that won't be seeded higher than ninth. KenPom gives Michigan a 63% chance to beat Nebraska. The most likely BTT scenario, a 7/10 matchup with Ohio State, gives M a 68% chance of picking up another win, per Bart Torvik's tourney simulator. That works out to a 12% chance of losing both games.
The rending of garments is premature.
[Hit THE JUMP for the final play and more.]
We could do this in the middle of Texas or at home. It's not hard to figure out how neutral site games are viable when home and homes sometimes aren't:
For a regular season game... pic.twitter.com/KVQA4c8JYm
— LG (@LGhail) February 27, 2017
Ticket prices for the Bama game were similar. Throw in a corporate sponsorship and voila: both teams can get close to home game money. We're in a weird place when schools find it necessary to outsource these kind of things. If I was AD I'd ask season ticket holders how much of a surcharge they'd be okay with to get a game like Florida at the Big House. I'm guessing it would cover a lot of the costs of a real game relative to a bodybag game, if not all of them. Michigan doesn't need to cut in a middleman*.
*[Except maybe in this particular case. This game is happening because of the ND cancellation that left Brandon scrambling. This is probably the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. I'll leave it to the reader to decide how much of the situation Michigan found itself in was Brandon.]
Color me unconcerned. Crain's engages some concern-trolling about Michigan's debt load:
The University of Michigan athletic department sits atop $240 million in debt at a time when several major college athletics programs are grappling with enormous and potentially crippling debt loads.
Michigan is not. They make 160 million annually, so their debt load is manageable. Someone making 80k with a 120k mortgage is in fine shape, and unlike a mortgage Michigan's debt load largely exists because Bill Martin built the boxes to increase revenues. A mortgage does not throw off income.
The article itself admits this by way of the bond market:
Unlike some of its cash-strapped peers, Michigan has a packed Big House on fall Saturdays, deep-pocket donors, an elite credit rating, and it expects its share of TV money to keep increasing — a mix the university expects to give it the financial maneuverability to readily pay what it owes and to keep borrowing to build or refurbish its facilities.
This seems to defeat the purpose of this article, which goes on to discuss the slow decline of ESPN and fracturing of the cable unit—none of which has slowed the explosive revenue growth Michigan and the Big Ten has not only seen recently but locked in for the next six years. It also invokes Cal as a potential disaster situation. Cal was 22 million dollars in the red last year and has almost twice Michigan's debt. The situations are not at all similar.
Dave Brandon was a lot of things, but he wasn't Tom Goss.
Interesting twitter exchange. PFF likes Channing Stribling's coverage a lot. His run D, not so much.
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) February 27, 2017
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Stribling noticed this and tweeted about it, leading to a brief, interesting conversation between Stribling and James Ross:
@jross_iii bro i had to fit the C gap...thats harder than settin edge bro
— Channing Stribling (@C_Strib8) February 28, 2017
@jross_iii lol ima get in there but there aint much i can do wit that...thats alllll you lol
— Channing Stribling (@C_Strib8) February 28, 2017
I'm with PFF after some boggling missed tackles but he can fix that, and his coverage was just as good as Lewis's.
This won't be a surprise to Chat Sports aficionados. James Yoder, "CEO" of Chat Sports, tried to buy the Cauldron, another website, for about two million dollars. This naturally resulted in a fraudulent term sheet, a ton of finger-pointing, and ham-handed cover-up attempts. Yoder comes off as completely unhinged in the story:
Yoder says that Jamie O’Grady is a “master of creating fake emails.”
As a demonstration, Yoder sent me, at my work email address, a fake email that made it look like I had emailed Yoder asking for help finding clean urine. Yoder stressed that he faked an email from me strictly to show me what O’Grady does.
After I privately forwarded the email to my editors, Yoder emailed me again asking why his email had been opened multiple times; he had tracked the email. “We track every email we send,” he says. “We use an email tracking service.”
This is because he is totally unhinged. "Spoofing and phishing tactic mastered by the other party." Cumong, man. Even OJ Simpson didn't go around giving stabbing demos.
The article briefly mentions the aspect of Chat Sports most infamous around here, but doesn't quite get it right:
In its early days, Chat Sports posted original content from many different writers—some of those bylines, like Rick Steele or Tipp Smith, have Twitter accounts that have tweeted only one time. Were they fake? Yoder says yes. “Absolutely we had fake writers,” he says. “That’s because we’re a scrappy company. What do you have when you start a company? You have zero traffic, you have zero name brand… So we had a writer program for college-aged kids… and sometimes they had information about things that they didn’t really feel comfortable writing in their own names. Some people think that’s such a terrible thing—‘journalistic integrity!’—that’s called growth hacking.”
The problem with the fake writers was not that they were operating under pseudonyms but that the stories they "reported" were made up. Chat Sports has the same business plan that Macedonian teenagers did during the election: say anything at all shocking or controversial that dullards on the internet propagate because they can't tell the difference between Chat Sports and something with a smidgen of credibility. Buzzfeed has an article about a similar company that spews out near-identical posts for political dullards on both left and right. The parallels go all the way down to the obvious stock photos used for author bios.
The only truly surprising thing in the story is that Yoder was able to find a dupe despite coming off like Borat The Investor. Remember Borat? NOT! Good times.
Anyway, don't post Chat Sports stories here.
Austin Davis: good? Michigan's center situation this year is bogglingly shallow, which naturally makes one wonder how good Austin Davis can possibly be if he's redshirting. Beilein says he's all right, though:
"He's really good, that's all I'm going to tell you," Beilein said today. "I wish, I knew what I know now." ...
"In the middle of January, it all started slowing down," Beilein said. "Guys just throw him the ball and he puts it in. There's no drama, there's no Kardashians. The ball is in. The ball goes in."
I'm not sure how to react to that. If Davis was in fact very good and was doing that well in January, keeping the redshirt on him is an odd decision. OTOH, he might not play even if he is very good. The only thing Beilein hates more than playing a freshman point guard is playing a freshman post. Not even Mitch McGary got much run until really late in the year. (Jordan Morgan took a redshirt before emerging into a starter.) Wagner barely got off the bench last year despite Michigan's center situation being Mark Donnal and a guy with literal narcolepsy.
I do think Davis is going to be a breath of fresh, rebound-y air next year. He's a burly dude, something Michigan hasn't had since McGary.
I very much want to see a Michigan lineup that goes Teske/Davis-Wagner-Wilson-Matthews-Simpson. That will look like the Monstars with Webster at point guard.
Etc.: Spencer's take on Ole Miss is kinder than mind and good. More croot profiles: Andrew Stueber. Goodbye, eggs. Peppers draft stuff. HSR on Wagner. Get The Picture with more Ole Miss fallout. Jim Harbaugh is not sticking to sports. Lewis draft stuff. Harbaugh thinks Grant Newsome will be back this year.
If you’re looking for Ace’s Northwestern Preview, it’s here.
With Michigan’s weekend win over Purdue, the Wolverines probably sealed an NCAA Tournament bid – but more importantly, they continued their excellent month of basketball: they’ve won five out of their last six with the only loss coming on the road in overtime to perhaps the hottest team in the conference (Minnesota). Michigan struggled early in conference play against an easy schedule because of their atrocious defense, but significant improvements on that end helped rack up some key wins during the relatively difficult stretch of Big Ten opponents.
As I pointed out last week, Michigan’s offense has been remarkably consistent. It ranks in the top ten nationally in Kenpom’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. Even though there isn’t a surefire NBA player on the roster (by any means), a balanced six-man core has produced one of Beilein’s best offenses in Ann Arbor. Four of the six main rotation players (Walton, Wagner, Wilson, and Robinson) are extremely efficient and five of the six (those four and Abdur-Rahkman) are shooting 38% or above from three. Derrick Walton has played especially well as of late, but Michigan’s offense has been good all season (with the notable exceptions of the South Carolina and Texas games). If Zak Irvin can play well in a complementary role, it can be a lethal – though quite slow-paced – attack. As we saw against Purdue, sometimes Michigan doesn’t even need him to be able to run a good team out of the gym.
Offense at the top of college basketball has improved in recent years. Each team in the top ten of Adjusted Offensive Efficiency has a mark greater than 120 – back in 2013, Michigan’s Final Four season, the Wolverines were the only team in the country over 120. As recently as 2010, the best offense in the country was national champion Duke’s 117.0. That number would rank 30th in the country in 2017. Recent rule changes are surely a big reason for the general improvement offensively, and the increased pace of play has helped make college hoops more appealing.
With an adequate defense – one that has been much better since opponent threes haven’t gone in at an absurd outlier rate – Michigan and its offense can think about improving its seeding or making a run in the Big Ten tournament instead of worrying about their position on the bubble. The Wolverines’ offensive firepower is the obvious strength of the team so I compared the 2017 Michigan offense against elite offenses from the last five years.
[Takeaways after the JUMP]