Hoops Preview 2014-15: The Mailbag, Part One

Hoops Preview 2014-15: The Mailbag, Part One Comment Count

Ace November 11th, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story)Preview PodcastPreseason All-Big Ten TeamsPoint GuardsWings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player InterviewsBig Ten NewcomersBig Ten Outlook Part 1, Big Ten Outlook Part 2


Improvement from the rest of the squad should help M's young centers get acclimated. [Fuller]

Michigan had their first and only exhibition of the 2014-15 season last night, and on Saturday the games start counting for real. Even by John Beilein Michigan squad standards, this is a young group facing a lot of pressing questions, and the answers will determine if the Wolverines continue the remarkable success of recent seasons or fall back to the pack a bit.

There are so many, in fact, that the preseason mailbag will be a two-parter. Today, Alex and I address your questions about the young group of centers, the possibility of more zone defense this season, and proper expectations for Zak Irvin's sophomore season.

The latest mailbag said you're looking for basketball questions, so here's my biggest wonder heading into the season: What should my expectations be for the production from the center position, a position that seems to be a weakness on an otherwise strong team? 

Beilein said he wants Mark [Donnal] or Ricky [Doyle] to eventually emerge as The Guy, but if we consider them to be a platoon (can we call it Donnoyle?), what output should we be happy with and what should concern us? Will Mark Donnal be the perfect fit everyone's been talking about (I won't make the age-old comparison), or will he be overpowered by mean scary Big Ten centers? Will Ricky Doyle be a calming presence on the defense or will we see that classic freshman deer-in-the-headlights look too often?

This message got a lot longer than I planned, but it's just something that I've been discussing at length with the basketball beat writers, and I think it's something that a lot of the fan base is wondering. Let me know what you think!

Thanks,
David

Ace: Let's start with a point of reference. Last season in Big Ten play—which removes Mitch McGary's scattered nonconference minutes from the equation—the combination of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford averaged 11.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.4 turnovers, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 70.7% from the field.

A few of those numbers are unlikely to be replicated by a trio of freshman centers—while he'll see plenty of time at the four and maybe even the three, DJ Wilson will get a lot of run at the five—and Max Bielfeldt. Morgan and Horford were both very efficient finishers who didn't take jumpers; that's not the case for any of M's current centers—even Doyle is comfortable shooting from mid-range—and just by virtue of them taking more jumpers, that shooting percentage is going to dip. Replacing seniors with freshmen usually means rebounding will go down and turnovers up, too.

All three main center options have scoring potential, though. Donnal missed his only three-point attempt last night and wasn't a major factor on offense, but if he can consistently stretch the defense he should stick as the starter. Ricky Doyle could easily surpass him, however, and even provide the type of scoring that Morgan/Horford did. Doyle is the bigger guy and looks to have more potential as a rebounder—he had an impressive putback last night—and his tape from high school and the Italy trip shows he's adept at finishing near the basket with either hand. Wilson, when he's at the five, will really spread the floor, and he's easily the best passer and ballhandler of these three; he may also be the best outside shooter.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of this excessively long answer and much more.]

Comments

I Get Stops

I Get Stops Comment Count

Brian April 7th, 2013 at 1:43 PM

4/6/2013 – Michigan 61, Syracuse 56 – 31-7, championship game

pick.MichiganvsCuse2nd936[1]

Adam Glanzman/Daily

he doesn't actually have to do anything the game is ova the queensbury thing to do is to slow up and I don't know take a foul or something or probably just wait around until the buzzer goes off

wat

srsly are you insane

DUNK

THAT

AAAIIIEEEEE

--Brian Cook's brain, 4/6/2013

That happened pretty quickly there as the brain assembled Syracuse's pregame dismissiveness of Michigan with who had the ball: Jordan Morgan. Morgan, who had just rescued Michigan's bacon by taking a charge on trash-talking Brandon Triche. Morgan, who went from a three-year starter to afterthought as Mitch McGary blew up. One technical for hanging on the rim is requested. Oh god no actually nevermind.

Morgan may not have had a bone sticking out of him a week ago but his emotional state has to be even more roiled than Kevin Ware. Ware just has to watch everything pensively and not pick his nose during the 15 minutes of gametime he is on screen. Morgan has to go out there and do things. When these things start with Morgan fumbling a sure layup out of bounds, he knows the exact tenor of the moans in the crowd, how even if only 5% of them are actually saying something nasty the rest are thinking it.

Kevin Ware's just a fan for the moment. For long stretches of this last month I've wondered if sometimes Morgan wished he could be. And the living envied the dead.

------------------------------------

This was a zombie apocalypse of a game. Most of it was spent with Michigan players peering between the trees, trying to figure out anything approximating a path to the basket. They were not forthcoming. Almost half of Michigan's attempts were from three, many of those the sort of desperation heaves that Syracuse thrives on inducing. Michigan's main accomplishment on many possessions was to not turn the ball over.

Basically every number in the box score that isn't McGary and Robinson throwing down putbacks is ugly. Stauskas: 0-5. Hardaway: 1/6 from two, 3/10 from three. Burke: 1/8. Michigan put together a strong first half on the back of some shots from outside the dome and then collapsed, scoring a miserable 0.74 PPP in the second half. And won.

Syracuse meanwhile shot 21% from 3 and only approached 50% from two because CJ Fair was knocking down sixteen-footer after sixteen-footer. Michigan's approach on offense was Lloydball not just for the harrowing final few minutes but the whole game, shutting down Syracuse's transition offense (just two fast break points) at the expense of even bothering to use Trey Burke, for the most part. There were a couple of possessions in which Burke dribbled himself to a profitable spot, and it seemed strange and frustrating on all those other possessions where he just passed it around the perimeter.

Michigan-61-Syracuse-56-30-400x600[1]It was Big Ten grind. Thoughts turned to similar games this year when fortune and malice conspired to screw Michigan. Kansas? Don't talk to me about Kansas when Spike Albrecht misses the front end of a one-and-one. I can only think about Indiana, about that time when refs decide they Will Not Decide The Game—clean block at right via Dustin Johnston—and missed front ends and the moment Morgan fell off a cliff like the basketball he left on the rim for weeks until it decided to go the wrong way.

---------------

Morgan went away then. The next game was a 2/6 struggle against Penn State in which Morgan was quickly shuffled to the bench after a bobbling start; Mitch McGary came on, racked up a double-double, and that was pretty much that. The nail in the coffin was the next night. Morgan started against Wisconsin, racking up 3 TOs and no shots in 8 minutes. He evaporated straight off the court, opacity dropping to zero percent in front of thousands.

McGary then turned into Wes Unseld—if you haven't heard, ask Jeff Withey. It was Wally Pipping so fierce they might rename the thing, or at least provide a corollary. To get Jordan Morganed is to have your brain damaged by an on-court experience and then watch your backup eat your job in two seconds.

Unless McGary adds 40% three-point shooting to his ever-expanding repertoire—actually, I give that 50/50 at this point—Jordan Morgan's probably never going to start at Michigan again. That's rough for a player who's had confidence issues forever. Probably the first thing Michigan fans heard about the guy was MSU fans making fun of Michigan recruiting someone who infamously broke down in tears at some camp or something. Derrick Nix may have been involved. I don't remember the exact details. I do remember the implication.

Soft. Jordan Morgan was supposed to be soft. May actually be "soft," whatever that means. It's impossible to watch the ups and downs of his career and not think that he lacks the icy veins of a Trey Burke, that he probably experiences sports as oceans of terror punctuated by islands of relief. I know that feel, bro. It's an entirely different kind of courage there. To barely outrun fear is different than simply not having it.

He has done it. After the madness of the last week's Kansas ending and yesterday, Morgan's shattered quote in the aftermath of the South Dakota State game has an entirely different meaning:

"I think I was in for like two possessions, and got two stops… I mean, that's what I do."

Jordan Morgan may fumble balls out of bounds, but in the most harrowing moments of… well, probably his life, his brain worked. He knew Elijah Johnson was going too fast, too far away from the basket to get a shot. He knew he could get to the spot against Brandon Triche. He got stops. Michigan continues on.

Highlights

Game

I was torn, so deputized! By all rights Mitch McGary deserves one of these things and I haven't actually written one. The secret weapon is Ace, who I badgered into typing something up about Enormous Doom Puppy. I felt this was a bench game, though, so I wanted to focus on a bench player. Also that charge made me carefully extract one of the carefully hoarded swear words from the vault and deploy it. So… yeah.

Speaking of the bench…

This is why you burn Caris LeVert's redshirt. This is why you bring in Spike Albrecht. When they did the former I muttered a number of things about how if you think Caris can give you a few possessions of anything in a tournament game, you have to play him because this is a year in which all of the eggs go in the basket. Meanwhile, everyone in the world cocked an eyebrow at bringing in this little post-grad point guard.

All bow to John Beilein. Albrecht and Levert were collectively the only things saving Michigan from a disastrous three-point shooting night and tourney exit, going 4/5 as the rest of the team was 4/19. Levert added a couple of assists and fine defense in 21 minutes, which is a career high in games when Michigan has full complement of players*. I believe he was mostly checking James Southerland. Since Southerland is not named CJ Fair he had a crappy night.

Meanwhile I must have had a lot of company when my brain started going SPIKE WHERE IS SPIKE when Syracuse deployed their press at the end. That's quite a move, when people are moaning in all caps to themselves about your absence.

*[He had more in the CMU game, which Hardaway missed, and the MSU game at Crisler when Nik Stauskas got his face exploded by Branden Dawson's elbow.]

Also, Mitch. It says something that McGary is still making my jaw drop five games into this run. Six assists increased his career total by a third and tripled his game high, plus he shot okay (4/8) in a game where shooting "okay" is fantastic and ripped down 12 boards. What can you say? There is no comparable. If someone does this in the future, or even looks like doing this over a couple games, they will namecheck him. Because there is no one else.

The free throws, yeah. Louisville might try to exploit that with backup big Stephen Van Treese, who was instantly attacked whenever he hit the floor by Wichita. Might cost Michigan some points.

McGary part 2: boards. Michigan won the board war 36%-29%, and while that Michigan OREB number isn't too surprising against a zone, Syracuse was a crushing OREB machine all year and Michigan held them below the D-I average. Remember earlier in the year when Michigan's outstanding rebounding was the shaky tent pole propping up their entire defense? And how when that went away late in Big Ten play, it collapsed? Opponent OREB numbers in the tourney:

SDSU: 28%
VCU: 19%
Kansas: 23%
Florida: 26%
Syracuse: 29%

32% is average. The top major-conference team, Arizona, held opponents to 27%. One of Louisville's main assets is their OREB.

Wha happen? How did Syracuse almost halve Michigan's PPP in the second half? This is a thing that I'd need to watch the film closely to figure out but I have some outlines in my head: two possessions into the second half I thought Michigan should call timeout because 'Cuse had changed what they were doing in the zone and Michigan seemed confused.

One, they extended it. Two, they brought up the wing player on the left up, presenting something that looked closer to a 3-2 zone—which as far as I know does not exist—when the ball was at the top of the key. It felt like pushing out this far should have left gaps for GRIII running the baseline for lobs and whatnot but Michigan never found that play. The zone adaptation made Michigan's three-pointers seem even less like good ideas, and hampered the McGary high post game that was so effective in the first half. Michigan never really adjusted.

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Ace

Trey at least took MCW with him. Burke had a pretty terrible night. It was nowhere near as terrible a the one he induced Michael Carter-Williams into. Syracuse came out trying to post MCW on Burke, which lasted one possession without an entry pass. They probably should have gone back to it, since for the rest of the game Carter-Williams got nothing. He was 1/6 from the floor, didn't get to the line, had just two assists to his five turnovers, and fouled out. ORTG: 28. Burke was a 90 despite the crappy shooting because of his 4:1 A:TO ratio.

Okay guy. Syracuse was in a lot of trouble at the end what with both of the starting guards having fouled out, but that Cooney guy tried to go to the basket down three with under ten seconds left. And then took a tough, contested shot. From two. Okay guy.

Random

I know that feel Rapture guy. Yup, same guy from the GIF: BHQuv4ZCAAIxORS[1]

I'm just glad I wasn't wearing an awesome hat that caused people to take pictures of me at whatever this juncture was.

Watching basketball in a dome. We were in the 200 level in a corner, and this was surprisingly fine. It was a bit far away but I saw the Morgan charge and immediately thought "charge"; ie, I felt I had a good idea of what was going on almost all of the time.

I thought the novelty of a Final Four would be a one-time thing and I would not return if Michigan were to make one in the future. After last night I've flipped on that. If you can stay out of the upper deck it's worth it.

So… this happened. I'm not sure whether to spank or kiss these children.

large[1]

Dustin Johnston

Is the addition of he Webber pictures gratuitous or necessary shock therapy? Were these moppets close enough to the sideline that Michigan's players could see them? Did everyone in the arena immediately think about this when Michigan burned its last TO with over two minutes left? Don't know, better have been, yes.

Is there an entire article about timeouts? You betcha.

The best thing about Denard Robinson. He was there, in much better seats than I had, and there was chatter about this in my section. With three minutes left they put him on the video board and he looked exactly how I felt. In my experience this never happens* because athletes are understandably cool about the whole cheering for athletes thing. Denard Robinson looked sick with three minutes left and I was I KNOW THAT FEEL BRO and and some point during our eons-long departure from the Georgia Dome we realized he was walking 50 feet behind us and wondered if we could just, like, give him money now that his eligibility had expired. We chickened out; I think to do that at that moment would have been somehow insulting.

But anyway, I get annoyed at everything and they put Denard on the board at the Final Four and he looked like he'd eaten a sea urchin and I felt better. Denard!

*[Though I wish that Jordan Kovacs was famous enough for the world's Nantzes to put him on the video board. He was also there, wearing his hard hat and Cronin's Cronies T and getting crap about the hard hat. Kovacs, always Kovacs.]

'Cusefreude. I really like the SU blog presence—Troy Nunes is in fact an absolute magician—but they do have a terrible, RCMB-glory-days board at Syracusefans.com if you want to wallow. MGoUser "Captain" headed over to TNIAAM and recovered choice bits:

If McGary and Aaron Craft had a baby I would punch it right in the face

hat triche charge made me throw my hat at tv and it cracked LCD.... cant even watch now...

srsly cuse baseball cap thrown hard enough will crack an LCD... i learned the hard way

Jordan Morgan made someone throw their hat so hard it broke their TV. Yeah, that gets you a game column.

Elsewhere

Five Key Plays. I know you just want this one first.

Presser transcript. UMHoops recap. Terry Mills! Ann Arbor is happy. Bill Tennant, did you really say "frickin'?" I doubt it. Bacari Alexander pregame involves anything other than orange juice lol jk orange juice:

While the Wolverines are keeping themselves humbled and hungry, Alexander has to think of a motivational tool for when Michigan faces Syracuse in one of Saturday’s national semifinal games.

The choice seems obvious to him — orange juice.

“You know that did happen two years ago when we played Syracuse, (a 53-50 loss), out in Atlantic City, and Evan Smotrycz, who was on our roster at the time, was quite upset that I soiled his jersey,” Alexander said. “I hope Evan forgives me. Evan, if you’re out there watching, I’m sorry.”

Support our… screw it, you're a jerko. UMHoops photos. Jeff Goodman on Beilein:

ATLANTA -- Zack Novak sat in the stands, after being granted a few days off from his professional team in the Netherlands, watching his former coach and teammates advance to the national championship game.

"We wish you were still playing," one Michigan fan said to Novak, who graduated a year ago.

"No, you don't," he replied. "Because now you're seeing what happens when that man has talent."

Daily's Everett Cook on Morgan. Baumgardner on Morgan:

"We just told him, if we win this whole thing, you're going to have a moment," Michigan senior captain Josh Bartelstein said of Morgan. "And that's going to be the reason we win.

"And sure enough, his moment came tonight. I'm just so happy for him."

Niyo on reserves:

"I think it says we're a team — a true team" assistant coach LaVall Jordan said. "Everybody always says Trey Burke and the Wolverines. But we're a true team."

True to their word, they proved it again Saturday, as a couple freshman role players off the bench provided the early spark and a marginalized upperclassmen sealed the deal.

Boeheim's take. Good luck with this Tony Paul:

Hey, Spartans: Just this once, it's OK to cheer for Wolverines

Hope you enjoy dead cats in the mail. Baumgardner brings out the D word. Meinke on LeVert. Get thee to Crisler if you're not in Atlanta. Stauskas is okay with getting benched. MGOEEYORE IS NOT SAD

QUICK LOUISVILLE SOMEONE TALK TRASH

Comments

Zoneo Must Die

Zoneo Must Die Comment Count

Brian April 5th, 2013 at 11:13 AM

Everyone and their uncle has a post about Syracuse's 2-3 zone and how to beat it, focusing on a lot of things but usually the usual: get the ball to the free throw line and make the right decision once there.

You have your pick:

Michigan versus Syracuse, 2011. The Shredder went back and looked at that weird early-season tournament game that was on HDNet, finding examples of Darius Morris doin' stuff:

cuse1[1]

Michigan shot 25% on 32 threes and lost 53-50 in a game well under a PPP on both sides. Morgan, Horford, and Hardaway were on that team; everyone else has been replaced. Hardaway was 1/8 from three. This was not a win for zone-busting. FWIW, Michigan and 'Cuse both went down in the second round of the tourney that year but the Orange were a considerably better team overall. That was a matchup between the #16 defense and #31 offense.

Michigan versus mini-Syracuse, earlier this year. UMHoops looked at this game in some detail.

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Bryan Fuller

Michigan has an advantage here: they've already played this zone. Former Syracuse assistant Rob Murphy now runs the Eastern Michigan program. Michigan played them earlier this year. They even feature a former Syracuse recruit in seven-foot center Da'Shonte Riley. Remember this?

A rote domination. For comparison's sake, Syracuse took Eastern Michigan to a similar—but not quite as impressive—woodshed, winning 84-48. Therefore we are better than Syracuse. #math

Michigan took a little time to get going before getting a fusion reaction going in the second half.

In the first few minutes, Michigan continued to struggle, but the nice thing about Beilein teams is you know they'll adjust, which Michigan did in three steps:

  1. adding ball screens to disrupt the zone's balance and get the guy in the high post open
  2. getting that high post guy to dump it down to the big once Riley showed to contest
  3. teaching the bigs to finish against a shotblocker.

McGary and Morgan were 1-6 in the first half with swats accounting for half the misses. In the second half they were 7-7. Riley got in foul trouble, which helped, but more efficient ball movement got McGary some uncontested dunks and Morgan opened the second half with a couple of finishes against Riley.

The ball screen still works by focusing two defenders on a single guy. The zone has the advantage of making guy #2 a guard—in this case a very big guard—instead of a lumbering post who has to recover to the paint at some point. Two guys on one guy means some guy is open, though.

image_thumb19[1]image_thumb20[1]

looks familiar

It's still just basketball. You are in a situation, you evaluate it, you make a decision. The Syracuse zone gets beaten when three guys make correct decisions in a row.

Eastern is of course not Syracuse. They're 122nd in defensive efficiency on Kenpom; Syracuse is 5th. Even if you don't like Kenpom's SOS adjustments, the Eagles only finished third in MAC play. Oh and they lost to the Orange 84-48.

Despite the Not Syracuse thing they're not the worst comparison you could find. Against Michigan they started Riley, two guys in the 6'8" range, and 6'6" shooting guard Daylen Harrison. In terms of size, the only thing separating Eastern from Syracuse was 30 minutes of 5'11" Jalen Ross.

Michigan shredded these folks for 1.33 PPP, shooting 51% on twos and 50% on threes—Stauskas poured in 5 of 8—while rebounding almost half their misses. Eastern Is Not Syracuse but they are in a couple key respects: block percentage (4th nationally), TOs generated (38th), three pointers ceded (346th, ie they give up a zillion billion), 3P% defense (just under 30%, 16th nationally). Syracuse was much better at 2PT defense and played a much tougher schedule; otherwise the underlying numbers aren't that different.

Syracuse vs Louisville, Big East Championship Game. UL's second-half clinic in the Big East Championship game is examined by UMHoops as well. (Caveat: UL's first two games against 'Cuse were a 70-68 loss and a 58-53 win.) That was a lot of triple-threat at the free-throw line featuring Louisville's jump-shooting 6'10" center Gorgui Dieng. 

image_thumb1[1]

Can McGary handle that role? Cody Zeller failed spectacularly. I'm saying there's a chance. McGary's displayed a soft shooting touch at the elbow in the tournament; his 2P jumper percentage is just a point off Dieng's. He has also displayed the capability to put the ball on the floor for a dribble or two to get to the rack. The issue is passing Dieng is a regular participant in UL shot creation. McGary has not done that much for Michigan. While his heads-up play indicates he might be able to, the Final Four seems like a less than ideal place to try it out.

The other primary candidate is Tim Hardaway, Jr. Hardaway has a quality jumper, the height to see and pass around the trees, a low TO rate, and does assist on a number of buckets. Unfortunately he's coming off a weekend in which he was 7/24 from the floor. If he's not on, Michigan may have to sink or swim with McGary in the high post—or just screen screen screen Burke into similar situations.

Syracuse vs Indiana, Sweet 16. Inside The Hall's focus is helpful because it's not about what worked, but about the many many ways in which Indiana failed to handle the 2-3 effectively. Zeller's refusal to take the elbow jumper was a problem:

charge31[1]

That turnover aside, similar shoulder-dropping moves put Zeller underneath the bouncy Syracuse centers and led to an astounding six of his eleven shots being returned to center.

More ominous is a version of the Stauskas three from the EMU game embedded above in which Indiana gets an "open look" that gets blocked.

Even if Michigan is smart enough to avoid that thunderous closeout, Michigan's shooting efficiency plummets once they move from catch-and-shoot to off the dribble. Michigan's corner gunners do have a couple inches on Abell and six on Jordan Hulls, but that closeout from a 6'8" dude is tough no matter how tall you are.

KEYS

Take open looks. If it's there, just put it up, and go get it. This includes lining up a foot or two behind the arc. A spot-up NBA three is a better shot than the horrible one-dribble-inside-the-line thing fierce Syracuse closeouts threaten to induce.

Get Burke to the free throw line (not that free throw line). This will have to be a lot of ball screening, possibly versions of the double high screen Michigan used to free Burke at the end of the Kansas game (sort of, anyway). Michigan will also have wing threats that will make it hard for Fair and Southerland to close out two players on the perimeter.

Burke is better equipped than anyone on the team to make the right decision once he's past the first layer of defense, and if McGary isn't triggering from the high post he'll be in a better rebounding position.

Hardaway? They'll try it. They'll have to make a quick decision on his effectiveness. If he's off, he's off.

Screen the wings. Michigan can prevent things like that Abel block above by using McGary to impede closeouts. If they can get off a bunch of quality corner threes, they likely win.

Comments

It's Not Unverified Voracity's Fault, I Swear To God

It's Not Unverified Voracity's Fault, I Swear To God Comment Count

Brian April 2nd, 2013 at 12:23 PM

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facebook

Also! Of course Mitch McGary is photobombing John Beilein, triumphant.

mcgary-beilein-photobomb-final-four

McGary is Facetiming Zack Novak with part of the net on his head, because of course he is. SUBMITTED: "Big Puppy" is still an appropriate nickname for Mitch McGary even if he is putting in 25 and 14 on Jeff Withey.

Been there. A TWIS-worthy moment from a sideways Kansas fan watching the Burke three:

Prediction of the tournament. Mark Titus, come on down:

5. Bill Self will become so enraged with Elijah Johnson that his toupee will fall off

Self and Johnson have an interesting relationship, and by “interesting,” I mean that before every game, I’m pretty sure Self pulls Johnson aside and gives him the following speech:

“…God as my witness, if the other team’s point guard outplays you tonight, I will end you. Your corpse will spend eternity in the crawl space of my summer home, and when guests ask, ‘What’s that smell?” I’ll tell them it’s the scent of mediocrity."

He also predicted that Tim Hardaway wouldn't wear his hat. No matter: that is creepy. In lots of ways.

Yeah. No. Charles Pierce has an article on Syracuse's 2-3 zone that strikes on a key point:

"Everybody's talking about the 2-3 zone," Thompson said. "That's not a 2-3 zone. The 2-3 zone has been with us since the dawn of time. It's the way it slides and moves out there, like a damn amoeba.

"The only time it's a 2-3 zone is when they're waiting for you to bring the ball to it. Then, it becomes something else."

Watching the IU-Cuse game I was struck by how the conventional wisdom about where you need to attack the 2-3—flashing to the free throw line—didn't seem to apply. Cody Zeller seems built to crush a 2-3 by getting the ball there and passing, shooting, or driving as the defense provides a wrong answer to the threat he provides no matter what they do.

Syracuse just checked him and folded in their "wings" a bit. Those guys are 6'8", so Watford wasn't much threat and they were more than capable of extending out to contest three pointers from the corner. More than that, they just knew what to do to react to Indiana's attempts to beat the zone. By playing this amorphous zone they play on a sort of home court against everyone. They know exactly what they're doing; a lot of opponents don't.

This'll be a test of the Beilein Is A Genius meme. Boeheim is undefeated against him, albeit in talent matchups nowhere near as even as this one.

Not exactly a rock of journalistic credibility. Seriously, New York Times?

Washington-20130401-00046

Stop listening to NPR! It's just stories about how you shouldn't abuse elderly people!

[Via Reader Brent McIntosh.]

Correct. Reader Stephen Suarez provides a visual representation of Nik Stauskas's decline, fall, and mutation into unstoppable phase beast:

image

At least they got your/you're right. Michael Ferns instagrammed this Handwritten, Lovingly Crafted Recruiting Letter from Mississippi State:

image

"Baller" is underlined, FWIW.

I've always wondered what the hell anyone could put in the incessant communication teams have with recruits, and now I know. I am dumber for this knowledge.

I ran out of fouls! I—I had guards with shoulder injuries! We recruited guys who ended up at Iowa State! There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Blue Devils! IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!!! Tom Izzo post-NCAA-exit always sounds like John Belushi trying to prevent Carrie Fisher from flamethrowing him. With Michigan in the Final Four, he's turned it up to 11, to mix 70s movie metaphors.

Tom Izzo doesn't blame the referees.

"It just seemed like that whistle was blowing all the time, and we never got in the flow of the game in that second half,'' Izzo said. "I'm sure they (officials) thought they did a helluva job, or I thought that I did a helluva job.

"I bit everything I could bite a couple of times.''

I wonder why that might be, that Michigan State might get called for a bunch of fouls. I am racking my brain for a potential reason a proud purveyor of "physical defense" might end up flaming out in the NCAA tournament thanks to fouls. I am… nope. Still thinking.

In any case, the free throw disparity was vast.

Duke made 24 of 26 free throws while MSU was 18 of 24 from the free-throw line.

"They killed us on the free-throw line,'' Harris said.

Before the last 1:20—when State started fouling intentionally—FTAs were 24-16 in favor of Michigan State.

Tom Izzo doesn't blame his players, he blames himself for his players.

"I think it got in all of our heads, and that's why I did a poor job, I can't let that happen,'' Izzo said. "We're not gonna win that battle, and I let some of that get to me.''

Have we mentioned that injuries devastated Michigan State to the tune of two games missed by a starter? Duke's Seth Curry hasn't practiced all year; Trey Burke was sick and still shaking off that nasty fall he took against South Dakota State. Izzo takes full responsibility for that, too. Those guys had no right to play that well.

"Make sure you give Bo Ryan his nappy." That's the Big Ten equivalent of the brewing officiating scandal in the Pac-12, in which the director of officials offered bounties for technical fouls on Sean Miller. Joking or not, dude is fired.

Etc.: Five key plays from Florida. Beilein and Boeheim kind of go way back. Surprise: Trey Burke is an All-American to everybody. Final Four refs include a few guys who have done Big Ten games this season, but no one you know. Recommended: this Matt Norlander article at CBS on Michigan's regional triumph. Gregg Doyel writes something nice!

LOL UCLA hired Steve Alford.

Comments

Basketbullets: Eastern Michigan

Basketbullets: Eastern Michigan Comment Count

Brian December 21st, 2012 at 12:34 PM

12/20/2012 – Michigan 93, Eastern Michigan 54 – 12-0

Sometimes games just happen, and then we skip right to the bullets. Actually, here is some video

And here is Bryan Fuller's photoset:

The set features this guy calmly departing for his home planet:

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your efficient three point shooting has finally recharged my ionic crystals and I can return to my home planet thank you hooman. thank you hooman.

McGary, not so calm.

A rote domination. For comparison's sake, Syracuse took Eastern Michigan to a similar—but not quite as impressive—woodshed, winning 84-48. Therefore we are better than Syracuse. #math

No fly, zone. Eastern is a horrible offensive team, but defensively they present some challenges with their zone and Da'Shonte Riley's shotblocking, so this was a game in two phases

  1. hurry up already and get this defensive possession that tells us nothing over
  2. alright let's see if Michigan can figure out a zone with major conference size

The Kenpom numbers are stark: EMU is one of the worst offensive teams in the country (#322) and an average defensive team (#161) overall. They'd still be 12th in the Big Ten if Delany were to snap them up tomorrow (time's running out, Jim!), in front of only Penn State, but Michigan had struggled against zone so far this year. Having a 40-minute class on how to deal with it effectively against a decent D was useful.

In the first few minutes, Michigan continued to struggle, but the nice thing about Beilein teams is you know they'll adjust, which Michigan did in three steps:

  1. adding ball screens to disrupt the zone's balance and get the guy in the high post open
  2. getting that high post guy to dump it down to the big once Riley showed to contest
  3. teaching the bigs to finish against a shotblocker.

McGary and Morgan were 1-6 in the first half with swats accounting for half the misses. In the second half they were 7-7. Riley got in foul trouble, which helped, but more efficient ball movement got McGary some uncontested dunks and Morgan opened the second half with a couple of finishes against Riley.

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Fuller

This kind of thing happens regularly with Beilein; you can see the kids get something down in the middle of a game. I give that a thumbs up.

Wisconsonian. With just one game to go before conference play starts, Michigan's defense is looking like vintage Bo Ryan. Wisconsin teams rebound and try to get their chest into you when you rise for a shot but virtually never go for the ball. The result is a lot of contested jumpers at a poor percentage, no free throws, no offensive rebounds, no turnovers, no blocks, and no steals.

For example, last year the Badgers did this in conference (offense on the left, defense on the right):

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Kenpom

The rebounding was a little weak and the blocks a little stronger than usual. Other than that, there is the platonic ideal of a Wisconsin defense. It has been effective despite the Badgers consistently lacking the sort of athletes that alter shots—they were third on D in a tough Big Ten last year.

Michigan is…

  • 89th (of 347) in eFG% D and about there from both 2 and 3.
  • 228nd in TO%, and that number will drop as teams like Eastern sag off the schedule
  • 7th in defensive rebounding
  • 1st(!) at not putting opponents on the line
  • 252nd and 273rd at blocks and steals, respectively.

The big thing Wisconsin does that Michigan has not been able to match so far is keeping guys from shooting threes: the Badgers were second nationally in fewest threes allowed last year, a stat that Kenpom has been hammering as more important than the actual percentage you allow from deep for a bit now. Michigan is below-average there, though they are giving up a low percentage… so far. If that trend continues into Big Ten play I don't think opponents are going to keep hitting 31%.

Another consistent aspect of Wisconsin's defense is not giving up assists—we are talking not huge margins here but the Badgers have not been lower than about 20th in a long time in that department. In general, assisted shots are high quality ones, so A/FGM is a decent proxy for shot quality. There too, Michigan cannot quite match Ryan's team. They are slightly above average; they're not elite.

The upshot: this is a model for defense that works in the Big Ten; Michigan is good at it but not as good as the Badgers, and they'll probably hold steady at around 4th or 5th on D in conference play.

Big Puppy. Michigan needs to get Mitch McGary's minutes up to 16+ a game so he'll rank on Kenpom leaderboards, because his rebound rates remain outlandish. If he'd played a couple minutes more per game he'd hit the 40% threshold and rank second in OREB and 31st in DREB; in this game he had a double-double in 18 minutes. 

McGary still looks a little heavy on the floor, so he's not blocking many shots and picks up too many fouls, etc., but he's a major asset. If he can undergo the same transformation Morgan did over the offseason, look out.

Bonus McGary thing: two assists to one turnover in this one including the announcer-must-reference-Wes-Unseld soccer-throw-in outlet pass to Hardaway for a slam dunk.

STAUSKAS SWAG ALERT. I don't care that the behind the back pass didn't work. SWAG.

(okay maybe he should calm down a little)

Also on Stauskas. Does anybody else have this sense of panic whenever Stauskas misses from deep, like he's going to suddenly revert to Disappointing Shooter Of Christmas Past and this nonconference napalming is going to be a faint, low-sample-size memory? I do. The airball from the corner was death despite it being a late-clock, heavy-contest instachuck.

So then the guy goes 5-7 the rest of the way with another couple of instachucks going in… and exhale. Our sample size in which Stausaks is a 56% three point shooter has risen to 61, praise everything. As a team, Michigan's long distance shooting dropped a half-point in Big Ten play last year, so the tougher defenses shouldn't actually impact that number much. As the attempts go up, so does our confidence.

What separates Stauskas from the rest of the universe is that instachuck shot. If he's got time to set up and fire, he's deadly; he also has a mode where he gets his shot off so quickly that he can make a heavily contested three not that contested. That is a skill that will see him linger in the NBA until you're like "Nik Stauskas is still in the league? I knew Nik Stauskas Jr and Nik Stauskas III were, but the original is still playing for the Triton Methane Atmospheres?"

Trey Burke turnover == shock. Eight assists to one TO in this game, which I think brings his total over the last seven games to seven, for a guy who plays 36+ minutes in most games and dominates the ball. The TOs are so rare that you can remember the most recent one: Burke tried to chuck an an OOB restart between two guys, who deflected it and eventually recovered, and you were like "dang" and then you were like "oh right if I get mad at that I do not understand math or life or anything."

Applicants to Hardaway face pantheon.

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Fuller

I feel like these should be called "the discovery of fire" or something.

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