Scotch Tape And Soda

Scotch Tape And Soda

Submitted by Brian on January 28th, 2015 at 12:20 PM

1/27/2015 – Michigan 58, Nebraska 44 – 13-8, 6-3 Big Ten

large[1]

[Bryan Fuller]

I'm not sure whether MAAR is the gum wrapper or the battery, whether Dawkins is the shoe or the lamp, whether Bielfeldt is the broom or the package of pantyhose. I do know that Zak Irvin is pulling the contraption taut. Spike Albrecht is lighting the package on fire. John Beilein is glancing up from his maniac's blueprint, waiting for the moment when Tim Miles's friendly head is dead in the crosshairs.

"Subs away," he says.

A hit, a palpable hit. Michigan goes to 6-3 in the Big Ten playing a lot of weird guys.

All the weird guys, really. I guess DJ Wilson would be slightly weird at this point, but not nearly so weird as Dan Dakich criticizing his son for not stopping the ball in transition. The weirdness is out there, man. It is starting and not coming off the floor.

Michigan got 37 minutes from a guy in Pennsylvania who Penn State didn't bother to offer and this was fine. Good, even. MAAR/Rahk put up nine points on eight shots, had a few rebounds and a steal, and played good defense. Fellow weird guy Aubrey Dawkins was headed to Dayton before Michigan stepped in; he put up 13 on seven shots, had a killer block, and generally looked like the top 50 recruit Michigan was supposed to have in this class.

And Bielfeldt. I must confess that whenever he ends up on the floor I wonder what on Earth Michigan could have seen in a player who can only be a 6'7" center. I guess they think he can beat up Walter Pitchford. Which he can, somehow.

large[1]

[Fuller]

My theory is that Beilein was working with the medical center on a top-secret growth project that fell through. A 6'10" Max Bielfeldt is really something.

In any case, we're here now, having a season. It's not a good season. But it is a season that's worth watching.

It's quite a trick to have a massively disappointing year—one that was headed that way even before the injury avalanche—and still give off the aura of gritty grit and development that Michigan is. They're not good. They're not bad, though, when they obviously should be.

This collection of guys gets a little less weird every time Dawkins has a line-drive three nestle into the net and hang there for a beat longer than you'd expect, every time MAAR gets to the rim and finishes tough. With LeVert on the shelf, this is next year's team assembling itself one game at a time. Add Duncan Robinson and DJ Wilson and, like, a toe for Walton and you could have something there.

Either way, this assemblage of dudes is flipping through configurations every time the opponent gets a handle on them. They morph into the most effective possible shape given their personal shortcomings and prevent a meh year from becoming a nightmare one. Let's see where it goes.

D8D6020819B9F3691036B57B1C6BBA4E[1]

I'm thinking it goes to the NIT, but I'm okay with that. I'll take a few more games of Beilein pulling out every last banana peel he has for the opposition.

BULLETS

How about those late pickups? Michigan fans were confused when Beilein pulled in both Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman very late in the last recruiting cycle. One seemed necessary given the roster; two was a flier on a random guy. Those pickups are now paying off.

The stats are still lagging, with both guys at the bottom of the list in terms of usage and with MAAR's early struggles holding his shooting numbers down; their play has improved greatly. Dawkins is the most efficient shooter Michigan has right now, at 57/42, albeit with a very small sample size. Both turn it over too much and aren't getting the assists Michigan will need them to acquire down the road, but at the very least both guys look like solid four-year college players.

That "four year" bit seems important these days. Michigan could use a dose of roster continuity in here.

This was a fortunate matchup. Nebraska's okay; Michigan matches up against them well this year. Michigan has a huge weakness on the defensive boards that the Cornhuskers generally do not even attempt to exploit. Pitchford's OREB rate is 3.7. The one guy who does get an appreciable number of OREBs, David Rivers, was out.

Meanwhile Michigan's zones give up a lot of corner threes against a team with no three point shooting. Petteway is at 34%; tiny pest Benny Parker is at 38% but is loathe to pull the trigger with just 29 attempts on the year. (Parker proved this by passing up multiple open looks in the second half.) The other guys pulling the trigger range from bad to abject.

Once Petteway turned out to be in bad Kobe mode it was just about whether Michigan could pull together enough offense to make it comfortable. They eventually could.

Bid? It's still highly unlikely. We could have been talking about it if they pulled out that Wisconsin game, which would not only have been a non-loss but also a big win. Without it there's not a whole lot of traction to be had in the remainder of the schedule. The Big Ten is having an off year and Rutgers is occupying two slots in the schedule that could have been any other Big Ten team.

Even if Michigan goes 12-6 in conference you're looking at a resume that is like so:

  • 19-11 record pending Big Ten tourney
  • Best nonconference win over Syracuse, which is likely to be a bubble team
  • Maybe three wins over tourney teams in conference (6-3 finish likely assumes wins against NW and Rutgers and @ Illinois)
  • Horrendous losses to NJIT and EMU

That's a bubble team, and one that could very easily get passed over. Michigan's RPI is currently 64th, they're 0-5 against top 50 teams, etc. It's a resume that could go either way depending on how Michigan's RPI shapes up.

But what if? Michigan's hit the meat of their schedule with six of their next seven games against Kenpom top 50 teams (and the lone exception is no cakewalk: @ Illinois). Go 4-3 in that stretch and then we might start tracking Bracket Matrix and the like.

Chatman. Oof. Not to pile on but man that guy is just completely out of it. He's not even close on his shots, he's repeatedly losing people on defense, he's turning the ball over a ton… you have to keep rolling him out there some since he's a guy who could turn it around and become a nice player down the road, but the regression from a place that wasn't that far off the ground to begin with is dismaying.

Irvin. With Derrick Walton out someone… needed to pick up the rebounding? Yes, yes, apparently. That was Irvin, who notched a double double. Hopefully this can get him more into games where he's not getting a ton of  shots, or not hitting many of them.

Michigan 58, Nebraska 44

Michigan 58, Nebraska 44

Submitted by Ace on January 27th, 2015 at 9:19 PM


Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog

Derrick Walton came out for warmups, limped around on his injured toe, and exited early to the locker room. He'd emerge in sweats, out for a critical game against Nebraska and their stout defense.

You'd have been excused for assuming the worst at that point. Michigan not only found a way to win, though, they did so comfortably, relying on defense and contributions from players who weren't even expected to see significant minutes when the season started.

The Wolverines stifled the Huskers while switching up defensive schemes regularly; star Terran Petteway was totally off his game, going 1/11 from the field to finish with just seven points. Nebraska started cold and couldn't snap out of it, missing contested shot after contested shot. High scorer Shavon Shields even required 16 shot equivalents to tally his 14 points.

With Walton sidelined, Michigan needed a big performance from Zak Irvin, and he came through not only with his scoring—a team-high 14—but also with career highs in rebounds (12) and assists (3). Irvin's effort on the boards covered for Walton's usual contributions in that regard.

The play of a pair of freshmen was just as encouraging. Aubrey Dawkins had an efficient 13 points on seven shots, hitting three triples and two midrange jumpers off curl cuts that were eerily reminiscent of GRIII's pet shot.  Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman added nine, helping Michigan pull away in the second half with a pair of impressive transition finishes and a tough and-one. His burst to the basket stood out in a season when Michigan has struggled to get to the rim.

Max Bielfeldt continued his recent solid play with a 12-point, nine-rebound performance; four of those boards came on offense as he simply outworked Nebraska's bigs. His performance proved critical as Ricky Doyle had a quiet 14 minutes and Mark Donnal missed the game due to illness.

Michigan's taken lump after lump and yet have somehow pushed through to 6-3 in the Big Ten. Given the circumstances, this may have been the most impressive win so far. With a collection of walk-ons and freshmen supporting Irvin, the Wolverines blew out a Nebraska squad that entered with the second-stingiest defense in the conference.

While expectations have lowered significantly with Caris LeVert out for the year and Walton hobbled, this team has become... fun? Yeah, let's go with fun.

Preview: Nebraska

Preview: Nebraska

Submitted by Ace on January 27th, 2015 at 1:54 PM

THE ESSENTIALS

tim-miles-toilet

WHAT Michigan (12-8, 5-3 B1G) vs
Nebraska (12-7, 4-3)
WHERE Crisler Center,
Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 7 pm ET, Tuesday
LINE Michigan -3 (KenPom)
TV ESPN
PBP: Mike Tirico
Analyst: Dan Dakich

THE US

John Beilein hinted during his Monday presser that we could see a shakeup of the starting lineup:

Playing its second game without LeVert, Michigan used the same starting lineup of Walton, Albrecht, Irvin, Doyle and Aubrey Dawkins that it fielded against Rutgers last week.

That could change against the Huskers. Asked Monday if his shadowy comment about being "pretty banged up right now" could equate to a change in the starting lineup, Beilein responded, "There could be, yes."

Given how little Spike Albrecht played down the stretch against Wisconsin—and how well Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman performed in his stead—it wouldn't be surprising for MAAR to get his second career start.

THE STAKES

This is essentially a must-win if Michigan wants to keep their already thin tournament hopes alive. They need to hold serve in their five remaining home games and steal at least one on the road to have a realistic shot of playing their way in during the conference tournament.

THE LINEUP CARD

Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations; I've switched over to conference-only stats for %Min and %Poss now. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss SIBMIHHAT
G 3 Benny Parker Jr. 5'9, 172 75 10 No
Almost nonexistent usage. Solid shooter, knack for getting to line.
G 5 Terran Pettaway Jr. 6'6, 215 87 34 No
Extreme high volume shooter, decent passer, makes his share of tough shots.
F 31 Shavon Shields Jr. 6'7, 221 89 29 Yes
Also takes a ton of shots. Advanced midrange game, struggling from beyond arc.
F 35 Walter Pitchford Jr. 6'10, 237 68 13 Kinda
Stretch four type only shooting 31% from three. Solid defensive rebounder.
F 21 Leslee Smith Sr. 6'8, 255 23 16 Very
Working way back from ACL injury. Good rebounder, active defender.
G 11 Tarin Smith Fr. 6'2, 175 47 17 Yes
Wing who's much better attacking basket than shooting from outside.
G 0 Tai Webster So. 6'4, 199 25 16 Yes
Turnover-prone tall PG. Decent finisher, poor shooter.
F 12 Moses Abraham Sr. 6'9, 252 18 16 Very
Good rebounder, decent finisher, quite foul-prone. All-Biblical Name First-Team.

THE RESUME

Nebraksa has a couple quality home wins this year, a double-overtime triumph over #33 Cincinnati and Tuesday's two-point victory over Michigan State—the latter had added difficulty due to Walter Pitchford's early ejection for elbowing Matt Costello in the face. Their only road win on the season, however, came at #134 Florida State; while they took #60 Rhode Island to overtime they were handled easily by Iowa, Wisconsin, and even #155 Hawaii.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]