Nebraska Bullets

Nebraska Bullets

Submitted by Brian on February 6th, 2014 at 2:21 PM

2/5/2014 – Michigan 79, Nebraska 50 – 17-5, 9-1 Big Ten

A demolition that was into Kenpom time as fast as any game I've ever seen, so straight to various things about various things. Highlights:

So that's what it's like when the other team is like "take my threes, please." Generally, basketball teams playing Michigan make it a huge priority to limit open three point attempts. This is because Michigan shoots a lot of them (almost 40% of their FGAs) and is quite good at knocking them down—25th nationally. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't, but everyone really tries to limit Michigan from long range.

For whatever reason, Increasingly Dangerous (At Least At Home) Nebraska™ decided against that. Michigan launched a whopping 31 threes—60% of their shots—and until things got sloppy late just about every one was a great look. Some of this was transition hurting Nebraska's ability to contest, and some of it was what looked like an ill-advised reaction to Michigan's pick and roll game where Nebraska bigs would hedge super-aggressively, forcing wing defenders to dip their toes into the paint to compensate. The ensuing passes beat Nebraska's rotation on almost every possession, and the threes rained in. Serendipitously, Luke Winn's latest power rankings address the adjustment Nebraska made to neutralize Stauskas at the expense of a billion wide open threes:

Thus assists. Michigan assisted on 21 of their 26 makes.

And thus Irvin. This was an Irvin game what with all the open looks, and Irvin took advantage with three consecutive threes in the first half, including a heat check that got a friendly roll off the front iron. He even took a couple dribbles(!) and made a couple of twos.

He is very much Just A Shooter right now, as he didn't add anything other than buckets to his stat line until after halftime and even then the only things tacked on were three rebounds and a foul. He is an endpoint for possessions only. His statistical profile is instantly familiar to anyone who's previewed a bunch of basketball teams using Kenpom as a crutch: miniscule assist, TO, and FT rates of 5.6, and 9.8 and 6.2, respectively, bunch of threes, few twos: corner gunner, corner gunner, corner gunner.

And he might stay this way. By this time last year we'd applied "Game, blouses" to Stauskas. He was getting to the bucket with some regularity. Just look at the FTAs: Stauskas had 87 last year; Irvin currently has 8. Even if his role is to be that gunner, previous editions of guys in that role have shown more diversity than Irvin is right now.

This is completely fine. If Irvin just turns into Bruce Bowen, that's a nice thing to have on  your team, and Walton and LeVert can drive play even in the worst case NBA pillage scenario.



Michigan is considerably more diverse from three than other teams with noted bombers. Via Luke Winn.

Not just a shoot—wait is he even shooting? Nine points on just three shots for Stauskas looks like a bit of a crisis even if that's really six shot equivalents with Stauskas going 6/6 from the line, but in this one Stauskas effectively found shots for other guys (eight assists) much like Trey Burke did in the first half of the Kansas game last March.

Four TOs is a bit steep, especially since he had another four in Michigan's previous home game against Purdue. Seems like teams are more cognizant of Stauskas's playmaking ability and are trying to jam passing lanes when he drives.They're trying to play him like Wisconsin plays everyone: two point jumpers for you.

LeVert had a similar issue or two on drives where the shot looked like the right move but his assumption was that someone was coming over; he got away with a couple deflections on passes that should have been shots.

With the way they're calling charges now, once either guy turns the corner they should be more aggressive, especially since picking up an offensive foul hardly sentences either to foul trouble 99% of the time.

Almost there. Michigan needs Caris LeVert to hit like 2/3 in Michigan's next game and have their other five guys hold serve, and then they will have six(!) guys hitting 40% from three. Robinson, at 29%, is the only guy on the roster who takes threes that are not obviously a great idea.


Walton has been crazy efficient in Big Ten play. [Fuller]

Quantifying Walton's improvement. At Michigan's 6-4 trough I noted that Michigan wasn't getting much out of either freshman and that turning that around was a major season key. Remember the brief period where people were wondering if Spike should be starting? It was around then.

Since, Irvin has established himself a shooter you have to reckon with; meanwhile, Derrick Walton has become a consistent double-digit scorer. He's doing this with much better efficiency. He went from bad 99 ORTG to 108 in the course of 12 games. While he is still the lowest-rated guy on the team in that stat, that's because Michigan's offense is bonkers. On a lot of teams—good teams, even—that's your #2 or #3 guy.

In Big Ten play, Walton's 18/31 from two and 12/23 from 3, a 66% eFG% that would place him third(!) nationally if that was his whole season. As it is he's now around 200th in both that stat and True Shooting %, which folds in free throws. Only Stauskas and the posts flushing excellent passes are above him in that department. The main thing holding him back is a TO rate that's a bit high for what you'd want, but a high TO rate for in a young guard is generally regarded a good sign as long as the rest of his game is solid.

Walton made a midseason leap; while he's still a complementary piece he's doing things that bode well for the immediate and long-term future.


Petteway could not get to the bucket like he did in the first game [Fuller]

Hey: defense. Michigan finally had a legit good all-around defensive game, holding Nebraska to 0.79 points a possession and 0.63 in the competitive section of the game. Terran Petteway entered the game the leading scorer in the Big Ten, scoring at least 15 in every conference outing and barely removed from a 35-point demolition of Minnesota. He ended up 2/10 from the floor and acquired five points, with four turnovers and one assist. That is locking a guy up.

Oddly, Nebraska did not do much of the pick and roll action that Petteway thrived on in the first matchup. Michigan was highly unlikely to provide the soft hedge they did in that game, but even so you'd think they'd poke around with the same thing that gave Michigan fits a month ago. Nope.

Our walk-ons need to get it together. In a game with some rich trillion possibilities, no one came through. Sean Lonergan and Andrew Dakich both turned the ball over; Brad Anlauf had a third TO and a couple of fouls. Cumong, men.

FWIW, Michigan's 13 TOs seems high for them but three of them came from the walk-on crew in the final four minutes, so ten over 36 isn't bad.

How did Walter Pitchford escape? The Nebraska big man seems like a great fit for Michigan what with his three point shooting (37%) and all-around offensive skill. He is also from Grand Rapids. He was a DePaul commit who opened it up when the coach there got fired and ended up signing with Florida after committing in April. Meanwhile, Michigan was in the process of adding a late signee in 6'6" PF/C Max Bielfeldt, who seemed like a bit of a weird fit then and is getting scant minutes now. A rare recruiting goof from this staff.

Spike Albrecht turnover watch. Albrecht's lone Big Ten turnover remains the held ball against Michigan State where he tried to call timeout for about ten seconds without actually getting one. In conference play his assist to turnover ratio is… 22.

Michigan 79, Nebraska 50

Michigan 79, Nebraska 50

Submitted by Ace on February 5th, 2014 at 9:02 PM

Shooter [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

After consecutive makes from beyond the arc, everyone in the building save one man within earshot of the press area knew Zak Irvin was putting up another one. "Shoot it!" implored the fan, who must not have caught a Michigan basketball game until today.

Irvin needed no such encouragement, firing away and getting a friendly bounce off the front of the rim for his third triple in as many possessions to give the Wolverines a 28-point lead over Nebraska—with 3:35 still remaining in the first half. Irvin had already scored all 16 of his points by that juncture, hitting four of his seven first-half 3PA (he missed two in the second).

It'd be one thing if Irvin's outburst stood out as particularly unusual; it's another matter entirely when the whole team plays at that level. Glenn Robinson III led the team with 23 points (5/7 2-pt, 3/7 3-pt) while adding five rebounds and two steals. Caris LeVert finished with 16 points (2/3 2-pt, 3/4 3-pt) after opening the game with an alley-oop pass to Robinson followed by consecutive three-pointers. Nik Stauskas only attempted three shots; he still finished with nine points, eight assists, and five rebounds.

Excluding the first four minutes of the game, Michigan peaked at 1.51 points per possession a couple minutes into the second half; they'd finish at an impressive 1.26 despite scoring four points in the final ten minutes. Their eFG% reached as high as 85.7 late in the first half before finishing at a mere 62.5. They led by 41 (41!) at two different points in the second half before slowly phasing out the starters.

On the other end, Michigan stymied Nebraska's offense, limiting them to 0.81 points per trip with a 39.8 eFG%. Until the extended wind-down period, the Wolverines were on pace for their best efficiency margin in conference play in the KenPom era. By halftime, this one was over, and attention could be turned to more important matters, like certain former players in attendance:

L to R: Denard Robinson, Devin Gardner, Will Campbell [Fuller]

It was a laugher, to be sure, and a great way to bounce back from the team's first conference defeat.


Derrick Walton continues to round out his game impressively. His eight points (1/2 2-pt, 2/5 3-pt) and three assists don't leap off the stat sheet, but Michigan didn't need him to do a whole lot tonight. In addition to hitting a couple spot-up shots from beyond the arc, he had a very aggressive fast break finish early in the first half—his improvement running the fast break is apparent and continues to pay dividends.

Glenn Robinson III had as close to a "quiet" 23 points as one is going to get; this is largely because he scored 12 in the second half when the game was no longer competitive. He got his outside shooting game going, hit his favorite free-throw pull-up jumper, and finished with authority on the break for the game's first basket. He also did impressive work defensively, helping hold Nebraska's leading scorer, Terran Petteway, to just five points on 2/10 shooting and matching Petteway's three defensive rebounds with three offensive boards.

Spike Albrecht didn't score, though he still made an impact with four assists, including an alley-oop toss to Jon Horford (7 points, 3/5 FG, 2 REBs) which marked the precise moment this game should no longer have been played. Jordan Morgan played 20 minutes without recording a point, hauling in four rebounds (all defensive) while helping limit the Huskers to a 22.5 OReb%.

Preview: Nebraska

Preview: Nebraska

Submitted by Ace on February 5th, 2014 at 3:46 PM


WHAT Michigan vs Nebraska
WHERE Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 6:30 pm Eastern, Wednesday
LINE Michigan -12 (KenPom)
TV BTN (PBP: Eric Collins; Analyst: Stephen Bardo)

Right: Terran Petteway led Nebraska with 16 points in their one-point home loss to Michigan this season (via)


Nebraska gave Michigan their closest conference game prior to the loss at Indiana, losing to the Wolverines 71-70 at home after a last-second putback attempt by Leslee Smith didn't find the mark. Full game column is here. First game preview is here.


These will be shorter now that Michigan is facing teams for the second time. Nebraska has one major personnel change since the first matchup: they kicked Deverell Biggs, a high-usage, low-efficiency guard, off the team for an unspecified violation of team rules. Given his stat line, this may be addition by subtraction.

6'6" wing Terran Petteway remains the team's leading scorer and continues to take his game to new heights in Big Ten play, including a career high 35 point effort on 10/15 FG and 11/14 FT in last week's win over Minnesota. He dropped 16 on Michigan earlier this season, finding a good deal of success off pick-and-roll situations, though he also committed an uncharacteristic six turnovers.

Nebraska plays relatively small with 6'7" forward Shavon Shields manning the four spot. He's a decent finisher around the rim but has been plagued by a balky jumper that's dragged his eFG% all the way down to 43.8. 6'10" center Walter Pitchford is a much better finisher at the basket and he can also knock down outside shots (39% 3-pt). While his defensive rebounding his solid, he doesn't protect the rim well or pull down many offensive boards. Tim Miles makes up for this by playing 6'8", 255-pound Leslee Smith—ranked 50th in OReb% and 104th in DReb% with respectable block and steal rates—around half the team's available minutes.

6'4" freshman Tai Webster and 6'2" senior Ray Gallegos form the starting backcourt. Webster has a downright bad 82.0 offensive rating, as he's shooting very poorly from the field while committing too many turnovers. Gallegos has transformed this season from an inefficient chucker as the team's first option into a solid spot-up shooter and 3rd/4th option, hitting 38% of his threes while otherwise using very few possessions.

Two more backups see about 25% of the team's minutes. 5'9" point guard Benny Parker is, on paper, a much shorter version of Webster (Parker's ORtg: 83.4), which explains why he doesn't have much of a role. 6'7" forward David Rivers can play spot minutes at the four and the five, though he adds little offensively and he rebounding numbers are terrible. The starters (plus Smith) really carry the load now that Biggs isn't on the team.


The good news, for Nebraska, is they still haven't lost at home aside from the Michigan game; the bad news is they're now 0-6 in true road games. While losses at #3 Creighton, #21 Cincinnati, #11 Iowa, and #16 Ohio State are quite understandable, falling by six points at Purdue and four points at Penn State isn't a great look. The Huskers' only KP100 wins have been at home against OSU, #38 Minnesota, and #55 Indiana.


Now that we're partway into conference play, I'll start posting four factors charts for all the games and Big Ten games only, with sample size issues obviously coming into play on the latter for a while.

Four factors, all games (national ranks in parentheses):

  eFG% Turnover % Off. Reb. % FTA/FGA
Offense 48.9 (197) 17.2 (91) 27.9 (286) 43.0 (115)
Defense 49.5 (169) 19.5 (105) 28.9 (67) 46.2 (279)

Conference-only (eight games, Big Ten ranks in parentheses):

  eFG% Turnover % Off. Reb. % FTA/FGA
Offense 47.9 (7) 19.8 (11) 26.9 (8) 35.0 (9)
Defense 52.7 (12) 17.5 (8) 24.5 (1) 44.7 (10)

While Nebraska scored 1.19 ppp against Michigan in the first outing, that's stood as one of their best Big Ten offensive outputs—they're tenth in the league with a 97.1 offensive efficiency. They're solid (34.9%) at three-point shooting and otherwise below-average in pretty much every offensive category.

Aside from rebounding, the defense has been well below average despite getting a little lucky—teams ranking dead last in eFG% that foul a lot and don't force many turnovers tend to give up tons of points, but the Huskers are first in FT% against, a stat they have zero control over. Michigan should be able to get back into a rhythm against these guys.


Change up the pick-and-roll D. Petteway and Co. had a big offensive performance against Michigan thanks largely to their work off screens, which consistently led to good looks as the Wolverines played a soft hedge that proved very ineffective. Michigan hasn't shown that look since, sticking with the hard hedge from the big men, and that's been much better on the whole. Keeping Petteway away from the basket is the biggest key to stopping Nebraska.

Attack the rim. Nebraska doesn't boast a pure shot-blocker, aren't very deep up front, and they foul at a high rate. They also don't have a perimeter defender who can replicate what Yogi Ferrell did to Nik Stauskas in guarding him off the ball and preventing touches. Get Stauskas, LeVert, and GRIII going towards the rim and the points should follow.

Get the bigs going. Jordan Morgan had one of his best offensive outputs in the first game, scoring 15 on 7/9 shooting, with much of that coming off the pick-and-roll. Nebraska's interior defense has been poor, Michigan's already taken advantage of this once, and Morgan is due for an efficient, productive game after Indiana kept him quiet.


Michigan by 12


UMHoops preview. Maize n Brew preview. DraftExpress video breakdown of Stauskas. UMHoops and Inside The Hall each look at Indiana's method of denying Stauskas. I look at Ferrell's three-point attempts in the name of masochism (and analysis, I guess).