somehow we're only 124th
Michigan (4-0) vs.
Brooklyn, New York
|WHEN||10 pm Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Villanova -2 (KenPom)|
PBP: Bob Wischusin
Analyst: Dan Dakich
The Legends Classic championship. More importantly, Michigan could record a signature non-conference win against a strong, experienced team that should be among the nation's best at the end of the season.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. %Min and %Poss figure are from this season now—yes, there will be a fair amount of noise in these numbers for a while. 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.
|G||15||Ryan Arcidiacono*||Jr.||6'3, 195||75||21||Sort of|
|Disciplined distributor, solid steal rate, gets to FT line, struggling with shot so far.|
|G||31||Dylan Ennis||Jr.||6'2, 192||69||21||No|
|Good outside shooter, skilled passer, productive rebounder for guard.|
|G||4||Darrun Hilliard*||Sr.||6'6, 215||70||23||No|
|41% 3-pt shooter last year just 4/21 this season; can create off dribble.|
|F||22||JayVaughn Pinkston*||Sr.||6'7, 235||60||24||Yes|
|Excellent rebounder, blocks shots, foul magnet, okay—not great—finisher.|
|F||23||Daniel Ochefu*||Jr.||6'11, 245||63||16||Very|
|Great rebounder and rim protector, high-percentage finisher at the rim.|
|G||3||Josh Hart||So.||6'5, 202||64||14||Sort of|
|Not a great shooter but gets to rim frequently, finishes well; decent rebounder.|
|F||2||Kris Jenkins||So.||6'6, 255||46||21||No|
|Bizarre profile; wide-bodied stretch F, decent 3-pt shooter, few 2PA but draws fouls.|
|G||5||Phil Booth||Fr.||6'3, 185||29||14||No|
|Good and bad in limited mins; shooting very well, but turnover and foul troubles.|
Michigan gets another step up in competition against a talented and experienced Villanova squad that returns all but one significant contributor from a 2013-14 team that won 29 games and earned a two-seed in the tourney before bowing out to eventual champion UConn. After a surprisingly close win over Bucknell last week, the Wildcats bounced back by dismantling VCU last night, outscoring them 45-23 in the second half after a tight opening 20 minutes.
Nova is a tough team to handle in large part because of their balance; seven players average over 18 minutes per game, four average double-digit points, and three more average at least seven. They're equally good on each end of the floor, as well, currently ranking seventh in offensive and 15th in defensive efficiency.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Doug, one more game this season. The offense…was it what you expected? Are you disappointed? Can you talk about the progress of the offense and what your expectations were at the beginning of the season and now heading into Ohio State, where you guys are 13th of 14 in total offense?
“Obviously our expectations are a lot higher than where we’re at right now. As I’ve touched on throughout the season you talk about individual improvement [and it] hasn’t necessarily led to total group improvement. Do feel good about the things that we’re progressing in. You talk about the ability to run the football. I believe in the last three we’re averaging like 207 yards a game or something like that rushing in the last three games. Really feel like that line’s starting to gel together. You talk about protection and the fact that we gave up two this week; one was an assignment error and we gave up one true sack on a zero blitz. We got caught by surprise. We’ve got to have a better plan down there as far as getting the ball out of our hands, and then a week ago we didn’t give up any sacks. The week before we had one coverage sack, so you talk about protection [and] I believe we’re substantially better there in the things that we’re doing.
“Talk about individual accomplishments and the development of Amara Darboh. I think [he’s] a guy that you look at what he’s done over the course of the season. A true left tackle, Mason Cole [and] his individual growth. We lose Derrick Green and see DeVeon step up and Drake step and what they’ve been able to [do]. Jake Butt coming off the injury has been limited a little bit in what he can and can’t do, but you go across the board you see a lot of individual accomplishments. Guys that are getting better, groups that are getting better. We still need to bring it all together and get to a complete game. We haven’t had that yet.”
What about point production, because it’s been a couple weeks since Devin’s had a touchdown pass?
“Well, I wouldn’t look at you’ve got to have a touchdown pass to say you’re successful. That, to me, is not defining success. Obviously throwing touchdown passes is a part of the game but if we’re going to run it we’re going to run it. You look at- like you said, we’d like to score more points. We need to score more points.”
What are the toughest venues in which you’ve ever taken a team to run an offense, because most would say Ohio State sees Michigan coming in and that’s going to be one of them?
“Well, obviously to go to the Horseshow to play in this football game is something special. Any time you play on the road and in situations where it’s going to be loud, where you know it’s going to be a hostile environment you’ve got to be prepared very well and you’ve got to be focused in and you’ve got to execute, and everybody’s got to be on the same page. There’s no margin for error.”
After the game Brady Hoke mentioned it was the first time Devin’s been healthy in more than a month. At this point is he still getting healthier, or in what ways can you use him differently now that you can run?
“You get to this point in the season and I don’t know that anybody gets healthier at this point in the season, and that’s one of the hardest things about playing this sport is that when you play at this level and type of conference we have here in the Big Ten and week in and week out have to go out and do it every week against the physical style of play we see it’s challenging mentally. And then like coach said Devin from the standpoint of his physical health had some ailments there, and we’ve gotten him relatively healthy. Obviously I don’t think anybody’s as fresh as they are week 1 of the season.”
[More after THE JUMP]
11/24/2014 – Michigan 70, Oregon 63 – 4-0
Tight all the way. Announcers will proclaim basketball A Game Of Runs. This was a game of ambles, or strolls, or little rabbit hops. The entire game was played in a narrow window between tied and Michigan +8, causing maximum tension throughout. Michigan would push out to five or six or that lovely 8 that one time and then Oregon would hit a three or get a rebound putback and the tension would ratchet up again.
This was a nice reminder that it is possible to have feelings about sports.
I'm soaked in joy [Joseph Dressler]
Hello Ricky Doyle. The obvious story of the game: after a paltry two minutes against Detroit, Doyle came off the bench to register 24 of the game-winning variety.
His defense was worlds better than anyone else available at center. He was capable of hedging hard, Morgan-style, and recovering. He brought a shot-altering presence. There were a number of opportunities to compare him directly to Donnal as Oregon attempted to post both guys up as likely weaknesses. Doyle gave up a series of difficult attempts that ended in misses and took multiple charges; Donnal gave up buckets and gave fouls. There was a particularly revealing sequence midway through the second half when Michigan tried to steal a few minutes with Donnal and had to lift him after Oregon went right at him on back-to-back possessions.
Doyle also displayed a knack for finishing around the rim, going 4/5 on the night. He went up strong when provided the opportunity to, and as described in the game recap his savvy on the sealing putback was beyond his years. I was like KICK IT OUT, he was like KICK IT OUT, Oregon was like HE'S GOING TO KICK IT OUT WE HAVE TO STOP THIS, and Doyle was able to recognize a lack of options in that department and deliver a mansome finish against three guys.
And about two minutes into the game he was leaving a trail of sweat behind him, hair plastered to his head. That shot on the right makes him look like the world's largest Rascal. I can't find this to credit it but someone suggested we call him "Ice Bucket" because he perpetually looks like he just took the Ice Bucket Challenge. Big, big night.
Eclipse of the Beilein. I would be surprised to find another game in Beilein's tenure at Michigan—or anywhere—with as few three-point attempts as that one. Michigan launched just 13, hitting 5, compared to 33 two-point attempts. Oregon refused to sag and their zero-center lineup featuring a lot of quick guys provided few opportunities to get them out of alignment.
The cost for Oregon was allowing a ton of driving lanes. That is normally not a huge problem for a Michigan opponent, but LeVert was able to get to the basket and draw a whopping 13 FTAs; as a team Michigan had 29, with only a few due to late-game fouling.
The contrast in LeVert's game between long shots—3 of 13 on the night from the field—and drives was stark. LeVert had a number of Long Contested Isolation Jumpers that banged off the back rim and set up Oregon's transition game. The drives got Michigan vital points and set Oregon against a half-court defense. This was no doubt the message Beilein was sending with an unusually fiery rant during a late timeout.
YOUTH IS WASTED ON THE YOUNG [Bryan Fuller]
Chatman starts strong, then wobbles. We saw Kam Chatman's best burst of play as a Wolverine in the first few minutes of the game. He set up Mark Donnal for an easy dunk and had a sinuous finish of his own. Then things got rough, on both ends. Michigan eventually yanked him after some defensive breakdowns; before that he'd bricked another three and missed two of his four FTAs wildly.
There hasn't been much to indicate that anyone else is ready to take those minutes, so Michigan is going to have to keep rolling with him and hope he can be more like that guy early instead of that guy late.
Irvin: not just a shooter. Zak Irvin joined the parade of guys heading to the bucket, drawing a couple fouls and finishing some swooping drives smoothly. Early yet, but so far he seems to have a good feel for when he can attack closeouts and looks much more comfortable doing so than GRIII or THJ ever did. I've been wary about the idea Irvin is going to become a complete offensive player because of those two antecedents; so far, so good.
Beilein autobench ack. Walton was limited to six points in 24 minutes as the Beilein autobench saw him out for most of the first half and for five or so minutes in the second. I love John Beilein but… Walton averaged 2.5 fouls per 40 last year. Michigan voluntarily fouled him out of this game.
Silver lining is that he'll be relatively fresh for tonight's game. Michigan had its usual early-season-tourney spate of weird lineups in the first half, but with the game on the line and no bench players other than Doyle distinguishing themselves, Michigan had to go with a heavy, heavy dose of LeVert (39 minutes) and Irvin (38 minutes). Hell, Spike got 35 himself. If Michigan's going to win against 'Nova, Walton's going to have to have a huge game.
Rebounding issues. Oregon came in averaging big piles of OREBs, as you might expect from a team with a lot of bouncy 6'6" guys who crash the boards. You'd want Michigan to do better than they did, though. Oregon rebounded almost half their misses.
The fives were overwhelmed not by length but by numbers. Neither Donnal nor Doyle pulled in a DREB—Doyle did have three on the other end—but with 11 OREBs between the three main Duck forwards it's hard to put the blame on them exclusively.
One issue: another rough night for Chatman forced Michigan to use a Spike lineup featuring Irvin at the 4 for most of the second half.
The damage. Via hoop-math, 10 of the 18 Oregon OREBs were immediately put back up, with seven buckets resulting. That's the only reason this game was close. Can Michigan do anything about it is the question.
Physics is a dead end, Shon. How is the wreckage of the Indiana program going, Tom Crean?
The way we were
Drew Hallett has a series on MNB called "Film Focus" that's a lot like the stuff Space Coyote used to diary here, i.e. screenshots with the play drawn on them. A few weeks ago Drew called for Michigan to add a packaged bubble screen to the zone read running game that briefly resurfaced in the 1st quarter on Saturday. Then he called this a "pop pass" and referred to the QB OH NOES play from 2010.
I started a long reply to make it clear that those are really two different things from two different offensive play groups, though both are predicated on the same spread concept of using the QB to add another player to the running game. Then I made drawings. Then I had video. Then I had a Hokepoints to save for OSU week.
Interesting things people do on offense are so far from topical right now at Michigan, but between interesting offense and Michigan's offense, which do you really want to read about this moment? Exactly.
Spread offense has been around several decades now, and has therefore had time to branch out and expand. A truly great offense will be great at all aspects: zone read running, WR screens, option routes, pre-snap reads, and packaged post-snap reads. But you don't really get that much time in college football to practice them all, so spread offenses become specialized.
Zone Read and Bubble
Drew showed that the bubble screen could be incorporated as a packaged play with the zone read, and yes teams do this. In fact it's so common now that last adapter in the world Al Borges deployed a packaged run-bubble last year.
The zone read/bubble was the base of Rodriguez's offense at West Virginia, and the genesis of the Rodriguezian slot smurf who could best take advantage of that space, but there's a key difference between RR's West Virginia offense and the "packaged play": when that bubble read is made. At WVU it was a pre-snap read, based on the position of that nickel/SAM/Spur/HSP guy. If he tiptoed into the box: bubble. If he stayed spread out like a good boy Rodriguez could continue running his zone read game.
Packaging makes that read after the snap:
The problem is you now have two reads, i.e. a triple option. Asking a QB to read more than one thing on a play takes a big commitment to that offense, and a quarterback who can/will put the time into it. Denard was an amazing player, but Michigan didn't get very far running the zone read offense with him because for reasons of time (he didn't get to redshirt and was a sophomore when he became a starter) and the level of commitment he could put into film, etc., when dude was constantly rehabbing injuries and trying to be a student.
Keep in mind defenses have seen the zone read for two decades now. They run scrape exchanges, and CB blitzes at it, and deploy dudes like MSU's Marcus Rush (the best I've ever seen at this) who can shut down an entire option game by delaying, delaying, delaying that first read until the rest of the defense arrives to bottle it up. By that point the field corner and safety have beaten those outside blocks, and the harassed QB throwing the bubble is an invitation to a pick six, a slotback blown up in the backfield, or even a backwards pass fumble. The defense has some other schematic things it can throw against it to take advantage of a QB who's too green at reading the package, but the point is they're already trained to blow this up in more ways than walking the HSP down.
[Jump for more fun things that Michigan doesn't do for religious reasons].
Greg, two-parter. First, as a defensive coordinator, preparing for JT Barrett. Secondly, as a defensive coordinator, looking at what Joey Bosa’s able to do and affect offenses.
“Barrett is an outstanding quarterback. He’s very, very talented. He can throw the football. He can run it. He runs that offense very, very well. We’ve played against some great quarterbacks so our guys will be ready and we know what we have to do and we’re looking forward to the challenge of doing it.”
Is he your biggest challenge?
“I always look at the next challenge as being the biggest challenge so this is the next one so yes, it is the biggest challenge. It’s the next one, whoever you’re playing next. That’s the way we look at it and we’re excited about it.
“Joey Bosa, I recruited him. I’ve seen him as a youngster. He’s an outstanding football player. He’s like some of our guys. He’s a good football player. He’s young. He does some really good things, and it’s fun to watch him.”
What’s the single best game that sticks out in your mind in the series that you’ve been involved with, and what do you like about the challenge of going into that stadium and playing?
“I’m very, very fortunate to have been in this rivalry a number of times, and there are a couple of them. Every time we play is great. I was very fortunate the five years prior that I think our record was 3-1-1, and I remember going down there in ‘96, I believe, and they were second in the country and we beat them 13-9 and I remember that very well. I also was part of another school that had a pretty good game against them, too, at one time. I remember that one too and I still felt pretty good about that one too. Going down there’s special. To me it’s the greatest rivalry in college football. There’s nothing better. It’s two great programs and we are very, very excited to be part of it and we are excited to take our guys down there and see if we take the next step, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Brennen Beyer seems to step up a little more each week, and you’ve had him the whole way through. Talk about how you’ve seen him develop and what he’s doing for you this year.
“Brennen Beyer’s a Michigan football player. I mean, Brennen Beyer, I said to him before the game, and I couldn’t- I told him, I said, ‘I will not look at some of you guys because if I look at you I’ll fall apart seeing as how we all came together.’ I remember Brennen Beyer as skinny little guy and we came walking in the office and he was guy that the last staff recruited and I coached him for a number of years, and just to see the man that he’s become. He’s always been a man, but he’s what you hope every young man that goes to college becomes. He’s an outstanding football player. He gives it everything he has. He’s played through injury. He’s played through ups and downs, and he comes out every day and does his best in the classroom, off the field, everything. He’s just why Michigan is Michigan, and he’s just why it’s great to have an opportunity to coach him.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison’s Monologue]
I told you I told you all
Michigan has a new starting center, I think. Ricky Doyle came off the bench to provide ten points, a monster block, and three offensive rebounds. The most critical of those came with under a minute left; Doyle looked for passing options, found none, and then displayed savvy beyond his years by following a single power dribble with an up-fake and a bucket that stretched the Michigan lead to five. Once the ensuing jacked-up three landed safely in Zak Irvin's hands it was time to exhale.
In the aftermath Michigan has a very odd Beilein-era win. Michigan shot just 13 threes against 33 twos and got to the line a whopping 29 times. Oregon's game plan was to shut off Death From Above; they succeeded but Michigan was diverse enough to scrape out the win anyway.
Defensively Michigan was proficient when able to corral Oregon into a half-court game. Star Oregon guard Joseph Young shot just 5-16 and only cracked 20 points with a series of desperate late forays that got him to the line—in one case, questionably. As a team, Oregon shot 26% from three and turned the ball over 14 times.
Rebounding was the only thing keeping them in it. Oregon grabbed almost half their misses. That's an issue that will have to be addressed. With Oregon's multiple bouncy 6'6" guys crashing the boards the centers were overwhelmed—neither Donnal or Doyle got a single defensive rebound.
But that's a win over a Pac-12 team that looks a bit better than its preseason predictions; Villanova is tomorrow after the Wildcats dismantled VCU by taking care of the ball and punishing the press—stop me if you've heard that one before. Doyle will again be key as 'Nova brings more size than any opponent to date.
News bullets and other items:
Derrick Green won’t be far enough along in his recovery from a broken collarbone to play against Ohio State
Hoke said that he has no idea whether a win over OSU would help him keep his job
He said he doesn’t worry about his job, because that would be a distraction and would detract from what he’s trying to do for his players
Someone asked Hoke how he would make the case to Jim Hackett that he should keep his job and he declined to make said case, saying that a press conference wasn’t the venue for that
The Game, mutual respect, rivalry, atmosphere, preparation, etc.
"Thanks for coming. This is one of those weeks where there's a lot of excitement and obviously with this rivalry, which I believe is the greatest one in sport and that obviously would make it the greatest one in college football, and so it's fun and it's fun to prepare. It's a game where the intensity level between both teams is always at its highest. I think we all want to play our best, and that's the goal, to play your best game that last Saturday in November. Very balanced team we're going to play when you look at what they do from [an] offense, defense, special-teams standpoint. There's a great deal of pride when you play in this game and coaching this game that's special, and you talk to the guys who've played in it and they can tell you how special it is.
"We've got to improve. We've got to improve every week, and that's one of the goals we've always had. At times we're making strides and at times we're not as good executing as we'd like to be, but this is a game that is like no other and we're excited about it."
So many people thought that Ohio State was going to be in big trouble when Braxton Miller went down. Can you talk about what their quarterback is done just filling in?
"Yeah, I think JT [Barrett], I think you look at the progression from the first start to going through the season and I think he's done a great job in how they manage and what he wants and has to do offensively. He's athletic obviously. I think the way he's thrown the ball, the precision on that – I know last week was one of those games where the way it started wasn't as good. I think he's overcome a lot when those things have happened and I think he's been a guy who's done a great job for them."
Given the nature of this rivalry, given the perceived disparity between these two teams, in what ways do you prepare differently for this weekend differently than past weeks if at all?
"I think it's always a little bit different preparation, number one, because of the game itself and being The Game that you both on both sides have a lot of passion for and those kind of things. In rivalry games I think the preparation that you put in, how hard you're going to play is a big part in what happens in it."
From your perspective having lived in Ohio, having coached in Ohio, even having coached across the nation what makes the Michigan – Ohio State rivalry unique compared to other national rivalries?
"Yeah, I think the intensity and the masses themselves. Buckeye graduates and Michigan graduates, I think that's huge is how they feel. The size of the stadiums they both have, the atmosphere in the stadiums, and the passion in the stadiums."
There's obviously some speculation about your own future. How do you handle that personally and professionally, especially this week when there seems to be more speculation?
"Well, you know, they can speculate and do all that. I honestly – if we get distracted, if I get distracted with what we're doing then that's not fair to those 115 kids, so from that piece alone, and I think I've said it, I've never been worried about a job. I worry about the job we do for those kids."
[After THE JUMP: Basically “can you explain why everything is so terrible?”]
Michigan (3-0) vs.
Brooklyn, New York
|WHEN||9:30 pm Eastern, Monday|
|LINE||Michigan -2 (KenPom)|
PBP: Doug Sherman
Analyst: Kara Lawson
We've reached the actual tournament portion of the Legends Classic; while last week's games against Bucknell and Detroit were referred to as regionals, they had no bearing on which teams ended up in Brooklyn.*
This is really a four-team tourney. The Michigan/Oregon winner will take on the winner of tonight's matchup between Villanova and VCU, which tips off at 7 pm on ESPN2, tomorrow night at 10 pm. There is a third-place game at 7:30 pm tomorrow, as well, so no matter what the Wolverines will face a quality opponent tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Michigan's game tonight is an ESPN3 stream only, while ESPNU is featuring Pitt-Chaminade in the same time slot. And, again, tomorrow's consolation game gets the far more palatable time slot than the actual title game.
Scheduling. You're doing it wrong.
*Though, as anticipated, all four teams in Brooklyn swept their respective regionals.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. %Min and %Poss figure are from this season now—yes, there will be a fair amount of noise in these numbers for a while. 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.
|G||14||Ahmaad Roorie||Fr.||6'1, 175||60||17||Sort of|
|Low-usage FR PG struggling from field, but getting to FT line and converting|
|G||3||Joseph Young*||Sr.||6'2, 180||82||30||No|
|Excellent shooter, finishes at rim, good shot selection, basically the point guard too.|
|F||24||Dillon Brooks||Fr.||6'6, 225||71||23||No|
|Versatile top-100 freshman hitting outside shots, struggling at rim.|
|F||23||Elgin Cook||Jr.||6'6, 205||61||22||Yes|
|Good rebounder, very good finisher at rim, draws lot of fouls, also commits a lot.|
|F||0||Dwayne Benjamin||Jr.||6'7, 210||57||19||Sort of|
|Good rebounding numbers, has three-point range, woeful FT%, blocking shots.|
|F||1||Jordan Bell||Fr.||6'9, 215||62||12||Yes|
|Very athletic, lanky four-star freshman. Excellent rebounder, raw offensive game.|
|G||15||Jalil Abdul-Bassit||Sr.||6'4, 197||45||20||No|
|Three-point gunner emerging after very small role last year.|
|G||2||Casey Benson||Fr.||6'3, 185||53||13||No|
|8 of 12 FGA this season were 3-pointers; had ugly 0-point, 4-TO game vs. DET|
While still talented, this is not the Oregon squad that won 24 games last year and gave Wisconsin a major scare in the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks return just three scholarship players from that team, and only two—star guard Joseph Young and forward Elgin Cook—were remotely significant contributors. The eight-man rotation now features four true freshmen, a JuCo transfer, and a senior who played just 7.7% of the team's minutes last season.
Dana Altman's squad has made it work so far, with comfortable wins against #328 Coppin State, #139 Detroit, and #112 Toledo, though both the Titans and Rockets hung close for a half before the Ducks pulled away.
They've done so in large part due to the exploits of Young, who's not only maintained very efficient shooting numbers while shouldering a huge portion of the offense, but has done an admirable job taking over as the team's primary distributor. His season averages pop off the page: 26 points, a shade over four boards, and an even five assists per game thus far. He's a lethal catch-and-shoot threat from the outside, boasts a decent midrange game, and is quite effective getting to the basket and either finishing or drawing a foul—and he's 18/18 at the line this year (not a fluke, as he's a career 88% FT shooter). Slowing down Young is Michigan's #1 priority, and several subsequent priorities, as well.
Young is joined in the backcourt by the freshman Ahmaad Roorie, who's mostly staying out of the way save for some forays to the hoop that tend to end in either a miss or a drawn foul and a handful of spot-up threes (3/10 on the year). Another freshman guard, Casey Benson, sees about an equal amount of time off the bench; he's either been an effective spot-up shooter (Coppin State, Toledo) or a turnover-prone non-factor (Detroit).
Top-100 freshman Dillon Brooks has displayed a nice jumper both inside and outside the arc, but while he's been able to get to the hoop (46% of his shots, per hoop-math), he's only finishing 38% of those shots and isn't drawing many fouls, either. It looks like he takes some gambles defensively; his three blocks and three steals are somewhat offset by his ten fouls through three games.
Cook is capable of playing both the four and the five despite standing at just 6'6, 205; he did so effectively last season off the bench, and while he now starts at the four he'll play both. While he doesn't have a jump shot to speak of, he finished very well at the basket last year—often off putbacks, as he posted a top-100 offensive rebound rate—and he's also a foul magnet. Cook's biggest issue is staying on the court; he averaged 6.2 fouls/40 minutes last season and has at least three in each game this season.
Nominal center Dwayne Benjamin is undersized at 6'7", 210, but he's posted very impressive rebounding rates on both ends of the floor while being quite disruptive (5 blocks, 3 steals) on defense. A former four-star recruit and very productive JuCo player, Benjamin has yet to find his offense this year, connecting on just 6/18 twos, 2/7 threes, and 4/11 free throws this season.
Four-star freshman Jordan Bell has been quite productive as the team's sixth man. He's 10/14 from the field on the season with 27 rebounds, 7 assists, and 7 blocks in just three games. A very good athlete, Bell's made all of his baskets at the rim; he's not creating much offense, but he's good at finishing what others have started.
The final rotation piece is senior guard Jalil Adbul-Bassit, who barely played last season but is fourth on the team in scoring despite playing just 18 minutes per game. After being a relatively ineffective Just-A-Shooter last year, he's knocking down his outside shots and doing a much better job of getting to the hoop and converting, though we'll see if that holds against better competition.
Sample size caveat very much applies.
The first thing to know about Oregon is they're going to turn up the tempo; they've been well within the top 100 nationally in adjusted pace the last three years under Altman and rank 55th this season. With a small, athletic team, they're looking to run, and for good reason—they're posting a 61.7 eFG% in transition as opposed to just 51.8% in halfcourt, with nearly a third of their shots going up within the first ten seconds of the shot clock.
Oregon's defense has been very good so far this year, but their numbers appear untenable. The Ducks are eighth nationally in two-point defense (31.7%), but have played just one opponent that's shooting above 40% inside the arc this year: Toledo, which isn't exactly impressing with a 45.9% mark (200th nationally). Meanwhile, they're getting absolutely bombed from the outside, with opponents shooting 40.5% from three on a high number of attempts.
The Ducks are blocking a remarkable 21% of opponent shots at the rim, which is unlikely to last, and their opponents are only finishing 51% of their shots at the basket that aren't blocked; they're also allowing just a 22% mark on two-point jumpers. That seems... fluky.
On the other end of the floor, something has to give on the glass. Michigan's strategy of sealing off the bigs and letting the guards do much of the defensive rebounding is working incredibly well so far; in fact, M is first in the country in defensive rebounding rate at 90%(!!!). That number isn't going to last, of course, but a very undersized Oregon squad hauling in 42% of their misses probably isn't, either.
You want to run? Okay! Derrick Walton has been stellar leading the fast break this season, and in general M has been great in transition, either creating gimme shots at the rim (they've yet to miss there in transition) or open three-pointers of which they're making nearly half. Meanwhile, the team's transition defense has been quite solid—M's opponents have had a very hard time getting to the rim on the break. As long as the Wolverines take care of the ball, which they've done extremely well, then they should be fine in an up-tempo game; it may even play right into their hands.
Seal and grab. Oregon's impressive offensive rebounding production is mostly coming from three guys: Benjamin, Bell, and Brooks. For the most part, only two of those players will be on the court at the same time, so M just needs their inside guys to continue boxing out as well as they have been and let LeVert and Walton go to work—both have top-150 defensive rebounding rates. If the Wolverines can limit putbacks, they should be able to outshoot Oregon unless they let Young go off.
Go with what works. While there's certainly long-term concern that Michigan's best lineup at this point in the season features Max Bielfeldt at center, that shouldn't be a huge problem tonight; Oregon's only playing one rotation player taller than him, a lanky 6'9" freshman. If the freshmen are ineffective again, expect Beilein to have a quick hook handy.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 2.
1 hour 15 minutes
BATS [Eric Upchurch]
The usual pratfall.
Big three, yes please. Spike taking a leap forward. Need more production at the 4 and 5.
TALKING BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
This diverges into a discussion about the ticket bubble and Big Ten expansion and how it feels like the breaking point has finally been reached. The appearance of bush league. The Bits Of Broken Chair trophy is amazing.
"Across 110th Street"
"What Becomes Of The Broken-Hearted?," Jimmy Ruffin
"When Disaster Strikes," Busta Ryhmes
THE USUAL LINKS
College basketball starts in earnest this week with a series of early-season holiday tournaments, where some Big Ten teams will face their staunchest tests so far this season. The destinations – Maui, NYC, Cancun, the Bahamas, Vegas – add an element of quirkiness that is singular to college basketball; fanbases from various corners of the country get to watch their teams play a few games in a unique environment over the span of a few days. It serves multiple purposes: teams get to go on vacation, often add quality opponents to their non-conference schedule, and practice quick turnarounds that they’ll later see in conference tournaments (and possibly the NCAA Tournament).
This week’s ten:
- First-round opponents
- Projecting second- and third-round opponents
- Five possible games I’d love to see
- James Blackmon, Jr. to the rescue
- Indiana wins a battle of extremes against SMU
- Tough opponents and expected losses
- Somebody rushes the court against Nebraska
- Penn State (barely) goes 2-1 in Charleston
- Chucker Watch
- Saluting Shannon Scott
* * *
1. First-round opponents
In an (admittedly arbitrary) order from most- to least-intriguing games. Rankings are via kenpom.com from late Sunday night.
- 17. Michigan vs. 30. Oregon (11-24, 9:30, ESPN3)
- 26. Maryland vs. 68. Arizona St. (11-24, 7:00, ESPNU)
- 38. Purdue vs. 55. Kansas St. (11-24, 2:30, ESPN2)
- 34. Minnesota vs. 47. St. John’s (11-26, 7:00, ESPNU)
- 40. Illinois vs. 144. Indiana St. (11-28, 5:00, FS1)
- 128. Rutgers vs. 86 Vanderbilt (11-28, 7:00, NBCSN)
- 101. Northwestern vs. 248 Miami (OH) (11-25, 9:30, CBSSN)
- 4. Wisconsin vs. 203. UAB (11-26, 7:00, AXS.tv)
- 14. Michigan St. vs. 198. Rider (11-28, 6:30, ESPN2)
Monday features some of the best early matchups, as Michigan, Maryland, and Purdue each face their first real tests of the season. The Boilermakers face former Illinois coach, Bruce Weber, and Kansas State to kick off the Maui invitational: the Wildcats are coming off of an upset loss at Long Beach State. Maryland draws Arizona St.; neither team has been seriously tested by weak schedules thus far and both teams are featuring plenty of new faces all over the court. Michigan plays the late game against Oregon – a team that’s replacing nearly everyone from last season.
2. Projecting second- and third-round opponents
By using Ken Pomeroy’s Pythagorean value for each of the teams in a log5 simulation, I found the probability that a given team would face a certain opponent in the second and third rounds of their tournaments.
3. Five possible games I’d love to see
- Michigan St. vs. Kansas – Even though this matchup would likely require both teams to win their first two games, there’s still a very good chance due to the overall weakness of the rest of the field (outside of perhaps Tennessee). Both teams lost in the Champions Classic this past week – MSU fell to Duke and Kansas was obliterated by Kentucky – and could use an early-season win over a blue-blood as a morale boost.
- Wisconsin vs. Florida – Wisconsin will almost certainly beat UAB, so a favored Florida team needs to beat Georgetown. This would be the third meeting in the past three years between the Badgers and the Gators: in the 2012 season, Florida ran Wisconsin out of the gym in Gainesville and Wisconsin replied with the boa-constrictor treatment on the return trip. This would be Wisconsin’s first big challenge of the young season.
- Michigan vs. Villanova – Regardless of the first-round outcomes in the Legends Classic, Michigan will find itself facing a formidable opponent the night after a contest with Oregon. Villanova gets the slight nod as a preferable opponent here because Michigan recently faced VCU (and the superb 2012 team dominated) and because Villanova lost just four games last year – two of which came in the form of blowouts at the hands of Creighton, a three-point happy team like Michigan.
- Illinois vs. Baylor – I’m high on the Illini and a matchup between backcourt transfers Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby against Baylor’s diminutive guard tandem would be fun. Illinois would need to prove that its presumably resurgent three-point shooting can hold up against Baylor’s bizarre sort of matchup zone that only makes sense to Scott Drew. Illinois would get open looks, and we’d see if they can hit them. Plus we get a rematch of this game.
- Purdue vs. Arizona – If nothing else, this would be an excellent measuring stick for A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas; Purdue’s big men – particularly the frustrating and inconsistent Hammons – could have a great chance to prove themselves against one of the nastiest frontcourts in college basketball. A loss here would be expected (and not at all harmful), while a win would be the type of resume-builder that could propel the Boilermakers into the tournament come March.
[AFTER THE JUMP: running down the week that was in the Big Ten]