Man Versus Nature, Mostly Space Bears

Man Versus Nature, Mostly Space Bears

Submitted by Brian on December 11th, 2015 at 11:20 AM

[Editor's Note: This ran as the game column after last year's win over Ohio State. When I started thinking about writing a Spike career obit it occurred to me that I was just going to rewrite this.]

2/22/2015 – Michigan 64, Ohio State 57 – 14-13, 7-8 Big Ten


[Bryan Fuller]

Basketball from the perspective of an Andre Drummond or a Shaq is a simple thing. You come into possession of the ball. You hold it between two fingers, bellow something designed to induce a flight or fight response, survey the various and sundry "flight" responses, and dunk explosively on anyone who chose… poorly. If someone tries to do the same when you are on defense, you fling him into the nearest body of water.

Later, you have a snack.

Basketball from the perspective of Spike Albrecht is a multi-dimensional differential equation in which almost all answers are emphatically wrong ones. To avoid being postmarked to Lake Michigan, Albrecht has to swoop through the lane several times to induce dizziness in the opposition and then find the one local minima that will result in a shot instead of an Ent-shaped man flexing.

He does this regularly.

When he's really dialed in the result has a Globetrotter feel. A few games ago there was a brief referee discussion after Albrecht was fouled and the refs tried to determine whether it was on the floor or not. The thing is: they were probably right it was a pass. It looked like a pass. It felt like a pass.

It felt like a pass that was off by a little bit so instead of just hitting the backboard it grazed the rim. It felt like this for two diametrically opposed reasons. One, whatever it was that Albrecht was doing did not in any was resemble a shot, at least as far as shooting has been understood since World War II. Two, when Albrecht flings balls at the basket like that they're usually a lot closer to going in.


I found out Kenpom's added an "MVP" feature in their box scores because Albrecht locked it down against Ohio State. And, well, yeah: Albrecht out-dueled future top five pick D'Angelo Russell:

  • Albrecht: 16 points on 12 shot equivalents, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 0 TO
  • Russell: 16 points on 17 shot equivalents, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 5 TO

Choosing your favorite Spiketrotters play from this game is difficult: the swooping layup past Amir Williams? The assist he wrapped around after faking the swooping layup so convincingly he momentarily fooled himself? The pinpoint, Brady-worthy fade pass to Bielfeldt off the pick and roll? Slipping in for one of his trademarked Very Sneaky Steals to seal the game?

I dunno man, I like 'em both, and I also like both the others. Watching that kind of performance from Albrecht is like a virtuoso slot receiver performance or a hat trick from one of the 5'8" puck wizards Michigan used to collect like pogs back in the day. It's disproportionately fun.

Movies pack their sportsbits with various people overcoming handicaps for a reason. People watch sports instead of those movies for a reason: it's so much better when a script is nowhere near the proceedings. Not that you could script items like we saw yesterday.

P: "So the little guy, he does what?"
W: "He swoops by a seven-foot dude and flings it up underhand from the baseline! And he makes it! A lot!"
P: "The littlest guy on the court. Shooting one-handed grandma free throws on the run against guys a foot taller than him."
W: "Yep!"
P: "I can't decide whether to fire you or shoot you."

We're all pretty eh on this season, willing to give a guy with eight NCAA tourney wins in two seasons a mulligan when his best two players end up on the shelf after a massive pile of unexpected NBA attrition, but not particularly eager to watch Michigan lose a bunch of games. There's no storming the barricades like football, just a desire to fast-forward to next year.

Albrecht paused that thinking a few minutes in yesterday, giving us something to grab on to now, instead of next year. That thing is man versus space bear, with man improbably winning.

[After THE JUMP: a few bullets from the original post that are no longer relevant.]

MGoPodcast 6.18: Autobitchin'

MGoPodcast 6.18: Autobitchin'


play this man in all kinds of weather [Bryan Fuller]


Autobench bitchin'. 1-3-1 after halftime not a great move. Would still give Beilein all my food. In praise of Spike. Center position down the road. Dawkins offer lack confusion part sixteen. Chatman! Life!


Back in it. Margin of error very slim now. Werenski a terror on both ends, no matter who's defending. Goalie business.


TOP FIVES! Our top five most secure and least secure projected starters. You'll never guess what our least secure spot is. (You have never seen football and are naming positions in cricket.)


"Across 110th Street"
"King of the Road," (spectacularly drunk) REM
"Wabash Cannonball," Townes Van Zandt
"Hercules," Aaron Neville


Getting There

Getting There

Submitted by Ace on February 24th, 2015 at 1:04 PM

[Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

For weeks now, I've had half-baked column-type things on Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins saved on my laptop, begging for an easy narrative the subjects couldn't provide. This is MAAR's offense now? Well, he just went 1/7 with four turnovers at Indiana. Dawkins provides a steady shooting presence? It's too bad he just shot 1/8.

This shouldn't be a surprise. Michigan's two late recruiting pickups for 2014 weren't supposed to have significant, let alone starting, roles on this team. As recently as December, when Michigan hosted Syracuse, both registered DNP-CDs. That all changed with the injuries to Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, of course. Instead of easing them into the college game, John Beilein had little choice but to throw them in headfirst and hope they could tread water.

MAAR and Dawkins combined for just seven points on 3/12 shooting against Ohio State; Sunday's game nevertheless displayed their progress.

Abdur-Rahkman drew the unenviable assignment of guarding future top-five pick D'Angelo Russell for much of the game, and he did better than anyone could expect of a freshman defending one of the top scorers in the country. Russell had a hard time freeing himself as Michigan jumped out to a big first-half lead, going just 1/4 in the first stanza; he'd finish with 16 points, but needed 17 shot equivalents to get there, and he turned it over five times.

Time and again, MAAR fought his way over and around screens to stay in Russell's hip pocket, forcing a series of difficult shots. He knew where to be—no small feat for a freshman on defense—and he seemed acutely aware that he'd have to expend most of his energy on that end of the floor. Then, at the end of a rough day on offense, he came through with one of the biggest assists of the game, finding Zak Irvin on a drive-and-kick for a corner three that gave M a six-point lead with six to play. It was the type of play we'd hoped to see from MAAR for weeks.

Dawkins, too, came through late after struggling for much of the day. Shortly after MAAR's critical assist, Dawkins got past Marc Loving and tried a short pull-up from just outside the paint. Although the initial shot went off the mark, Dawkins corralled the rebound after a tip, then pivoted past Jay'Sean Tate to scoop in the putback (above, Fuller). I don't think it's a play he makes in December, when Michigan's freshmen had to think their way through all 40 minutes.

They're still developing, of course. Dawkins made an ill-advised foray to the basket early in the shot clock with Michigan clinging to that late six-point lead; while the Buckeyes blocked the shot, Max Bielfeldt bailed out his teammate with a tough rebound. MAAR got himself trapped next to the Buckeye bench and had to sweat through a lengthy replay in the final minute. Overthinking (or underthinking) is still an issue.

Especially when one notes Kam Chatman's unexpected six-point run in the first half, though, it's hard not to be encouraged by the progress of Michigan's freshmen after Sunday regardless of what showed up on the box score. MAAR is hitting 55% of his twos in Big Ten play while developing an outside shot and building confidence on defense. Dawkins has that tantalizing athleticism and truly impressive shooting numbers—he's fourth in the conference in true shooting percentage.

Michigan doesn't have a superstar like Russell in the freshman class, but it's becoming easier and easier to see what John Beilein envisioned when he recruited these guys. It's still hard to come up with a smooth game-to-game narrative to attach to them. That's kind of the point, though—freshmen are unpredictable. Instead of waiting for them to string together enough similar performances to declare they're here, sometimes it's best to note the highs and the lows and realize they're getting there, and that's just fine.

Might As Well Muppets?

Might As Well Muppets?

Submitted by Brian on February 22nd, 2015 at 3:12 PM

Probably not a whole lot of opportunity to deploy these guys for a while now, so let's shake the rust off, and they did beat Hated Rival OSU with a collection of misfit toys.

..and you can't have one without the other…

…NBA interested in Spike yo?

Preview: Ohio State

Preview: Ohio State

Submitted by Ace on February 20th, 2015 at 2:35 PM



WHAT Michigan (13-13, 6-8 B1G) vs
Ohio State (19-7, 8-5)
WHERE Crisler Center,
Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 1 pm ET, Sunday
LINE Ohio State -6 (KenPom)
PBP: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Bill Raftery


Before diving into the preview, let's take a look at next year's Big Ten schedule breakdown, which was released by the conference today:

Michigan Men's Basketball 2016 Big Ten Opponents

Home/Away: Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Home: Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Rutgers

Away: Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin

On the plus side, it's a relatively favorable schedule. Michigan's toughest home-and-home is, uh, Iowa? Maryland? While the road-only slate is rough, that's a schedule set up for making a run.

From a fan's perspective, however, it sucks that we won't see Ohio State or Nebraska in Crisler next year; ditto trips to the Breslin Center or Assembly Hall.


At this point, it's NIT bubble watch time. DRatings dropped Michigan from a two-seed to a four-seed in their latest update. The Bracket Matrix had the Wolverines as a six-seed before the loss to MSU. A loss to the Buckeyes won't bump Michigan from NIT contention, but a victory would make the stretch run a lot less daunting.


Ohio State wallopped Michigan, 71-52, in Columbus. The Wolverines couldn't slow down freshman phenom D'Angelo Russell, who tallied 21 points and six assists, and they only managed 0.83 PPP even with LeVert and Walton in the lineup.


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

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss SIBMIHHAT
G 3 Shannon Scott Sr. 6'1, 185 79 20 Yes
Great defender, facilitates offense well, still not much of a shooter.
G 0 D'Angelo Russell Fr. 6'5, 180 90 29 No
Volume scorer. Great outside shooter, even off dribble. Solid passer, too.
F 12 Sam Thompson Sr. 6'7, 200 88 18 Yes
Ridiculous hops. Very good finisher. Not a good shooter.
F 1 Jae'Sean Tate Fr. 6'4, 190 59 21 Yes
Excellent on the boards, good finisher, active defender. Turnover-prone.
C 23 Amir Williams Sr. 6'11, 250 43 15 Very
Effective finisher, good rebounder, blocks lots of shots. Turnover-prone.
F 2 Marc Loving So. 6'7, 215 51 19 No
Losing role/PT to Tate, but still shooting above 50% from three.
G 15 Kam Williams Fr. 6'2, 175 32 13 No
Efficient scorer sticks mostly to spot-up threes.
C 55 Trey McDonald Sr. 6'8, 240 23 15 Very
Very good rebounder, especially on offense. Decent rim protector.


While the Buckeyes have only won twice on the road—against Northwestern and Rutgers—since they last faced Michigan, they haven't been an easy out away from home; losses at Purdue and MSU came by a combined five points. They've easily handled all challengers at home since their Big Ten opener against Iowa. At 8-5, they're at the back of the group pushing for second place behind Wisconsin.

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