Iowa 71, Michigan 61

Iowa 71, Michigan 61

Submitted by Ace on March 5th, 2016 at 10:18 PM


That about sums it up. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

As Spike Albrecht thanked the fans in a pre-recorded video, many of them were already headed for the exits.

No seniors played on Senior Night; Albrecht and Caris LeVert, dressed in suits, took their familiar places on the bench after an understated pregame ceremony. The Crisler Center crowd then watched the same old team play the same old game.

Jarrod Uthoff obliterated Michigan's defense to the tune of 29 points, finding his range with ease against the smaller Zak Irvin. The Wolverines struggled to stay in front of their marks, stuggled to hit shots, struggled to do so much as put the ball in play—at one point, a wayward Irvin inbounds pass turned into a perfect outlet for a Mike Gesell breakway dunk. Mike Gesell plays for Iowa.

To be frank, deconstructing this game feels like a waste of time. We've seen this before, against Wisconsin and Ohio State and Michigan State and Indiana and Iowa again. Any one of those games could've given Michigan the final quality win they so desperately needed to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament before the end of the regular season. Instead, the Wolverines fell well short in all of them, and in all likelihood they'll not only need a victory in the 8/9 game of the Big Ten Tournament—against either Northwestern or Penn State—but an upset over top-seeded Indiana to make the field.

If you feel good about that scenario, you're far more optimistic than me, not to mention the steady stream of fans who high-tailed it to the parking lot with a few minutes left on the clock. They'd already seen this before. No need to prolong the inevitable.

Preview: Iowa

Preview: Iowa

Submitted by Ace on March 4th, 2016 at 2:38 PM

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan (20-10, 10-7 B1G) vs
Iowa (20-9, 11-6)
WHERE Crisler Center
Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 8 pm ET, Saturday
LINE Iowa -1 (KenPom)
TV BTN
PBP: Joe Davis
Analyst: John Crispin

Right: Sadly fitting that our best picture of Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht together doesn't feature them in uniform. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]

THE US

Tomorrow is Senior Day, an even more bittersweet experience than usual this year because both seniors, Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht, have season-ending injuries. For those attending the game, you're encouraged to show up early; the pregame ceremony starts at 7:45.

While LeVert is going to prepare for the NBA when he's healthy again, Albrecht could conceivably get a medical redshirt and play another year if there's a scholarship available. That's on the table, though it doesn't sound too likely:

On a conversation with Coach Beilein about a potential return: “I haven’t really had a conversation with him about it, just because I know like you guys know with the scholarship situation and things like that, but I know at this time that I’m not feeling good and I’m not ready to play. I always told him that I’m not going to use up a scholarship if I don’t think I can play and help. I won’t be making that decision until after the season, I don’t want to distract him more than anyone else.

: /

THE STAKES

Michigan is clinging to one of the final at-large bids in most NCAA Tournament projections. A victory over Iowa—even this patented late-season collapse version—should secure a place in the field. A loss and it'll be a nerve-wracking conference tournament; speaking of which, M is locked into the BTT eight-seed.

THE LAST TIME

Back when the Hawkeyes looked like a candidate for a one-seed, they beat Michigan by 11 in Iowa City, led by Jarrod Uthoff (23 points) and Peter Jok (16). While the Wolverines put up a strong 1.13 points per possesion, they allowed 1.30 to Iowa—the Hawkeyes lit it up from the field and only committed four turnovers.

THE LINEUP CARD

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 10 Mike Gesell Sr. 6'2, 190 74 19 No
#30 assist rate nationally, low-volume but effective shooter, high FT rate.
G 5 Anthony Clemmons Sr. 6'2, 200 74 18 Kinda
Solid passer, decent finisher, outside shot is iffy (31% 3P).
G 14 Peter Jok Jr. 6'6, 205 65 25 No
Good athlete with solid jumper, getting to line more. 2nd in B1G in steal rate.
F 20 Jarrod Uthoff Sr. 6'9, 221 77 26 No
8th in KPOY standings. 47/39/81 shooting splits, excellent shot-blocker.
C 34 Adam Woodbury Sr. 7'1, 250 62 17 Very
Plus rebounder, skilled around the basket, might poke you in the eye.
F 25 Dom Uhl So. 6'9, 215 44 19 No
Backup big hits 47% of threes, hits offensive boards. Not a good finisher.
F 51 Nicholas Baer R-Fr. 6'7, 200 36 14 No
Efficient gunner (61% 2P, 43% 3P) also a decent shot-blocker.
F 0 Ahmad Wagner Fr. 6'7, 225 24 14 Very
Shoots 69% on twos, good rebounder and shot-blocker.

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

Michigan's Myriad Defensive Issues

Michigan's Myriad Defensive Issues

Submitted by Ace on January 20th, 2016 at 10:19 AM


Not ideal.

It's no secret Michigan's defense hasn't been good this season even by the generally mediocre standard set by previous John Beilein teams. The Wolverines rank 134th nationally in defensive efficiency on KenPom; if that stands, it would be the lowest mark in Beilein's tenure by a healthy margin.

When I first watched the Iowa game, I hoped to find one or two issues I could isolate as the main cause of Michigan's defensive problems. On the first viewing, I identified a couple: Michigan's guards gave up the baseline too often, straining their already sub-par weakside defense. This example came to mind:

This was even worse:

There are two big problems on that play. Walton does a poor job defending the high side screen, allowing his man to turn down the pick and get the baseline. This forces Duncan Robinson to rotate over, which he does—he's improved a lot in that regard—but communication is lacking on the weak side and MAAR isn't in position to contest the corner three.

As the screencap at the top of the post indicates, communication was the other deficiency I noticed right away. When Michigan doubled in the post or switched on a screen, they often ended up with two players guarding one guy off the ball while the other was left alone for a layup. Screencaps are sufficient here; both these plays ended in a layup:

Jarrod Uthoff got a crucial late bucket when Iowa ran a pair of baseline screens and Aubrey Dawkins had no idea who to guard:

Those two issues—dribble penetration opening up weakside threes and blowing rotations off the ball—caught my attention on the first viewing.

Unfortunately, a second pass through the game revealed more problems. A couple Iowa three-pointers I initially believed were caused by the weakside defender were instead the product of poor pick-and-roll defense. Michigan eschewed their normal hard hedge against high screens in favor of a softer, more conservative approach for much of the game, and they didn't execute it well.

On this play, Dawkins gets hung up on the screen too long, which causes a domino effect—Mark Donnal has to wait an extra beat before sinking back into the paint, which forces MAAR to stay on the rolling big instead of getting back to his man in the corner:

On this pick-and-roll, Iowa gets a layup when Walton and Donnal play soft, Mike Gesell has an open passing lane, and the help from Robinson is late and wouldn't have prevented an Adam Woodbury bucket regardless:

One more P&R failure for good measure: when Michigan went back to a hard hedge, Walton doubled Uthoff in the paint instead of guarding Woodbury, who was all alone next to the basket.

Finally, Michigan also had trouble identifying shooters in transition, something Beilein discussed in the postgame presser. On this play, Iowa pushes the pace off a defensive rebound, and the Wolverines initially stymie the attempt to get an easy bucket. Again, a lack of communication comes to the forefront, as Dawkins switches men while Iowa swings the ball around the perimeter, which is news to Donnal:

This is pretty basic stuff that Michigan still can't get right. A couple takeaways from the above:

There's no single fix. There's plenty of stuff that's gone wrong here that doesn't even touch on the lack of a true post presence, which I still believe is the biggest problem with Beilein's defenses. There isn't one defender at the heart of these issues—though Dawkins stands out in a bad way, this goes far beyond him. Getting this defense up to simply mediocre will require fixing multiple areas of deficiency.

But if I had to pick one, it's communication. A lot of these easy baskets result from players not talking to each other. Those screencaps are frustrating and telling.

Long story short, it's tough to see Michigan improving to the point where the defense isn't a liability. We're beyond the midway point and there are myriad problem areas. Players like Robinson and Donnal have progressed during the season from starting points that were frankly bad, but they may have maxed out their defensive potential for this season. Hopefully getting Caris LeVert back—whenever that may be—solves some of the communication problems, but those are also widespread enough that I doubt one man clears them up.

The good news is the offense has plenty of firepower. Michigan is going to have to lean on that for the duration unless they have a team-wide defensive improvement we haven't seen out of a Beilein team during the course of a single season.

Preview: Iowa

Preview: Iowa

Submitted by Ace on January 16th, 2016 at 1:50 PM

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan (13-4, 3-1 B1G) at
Iowa (13-3, 4-0)
WHERE Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Iowa City, Iowa
WHEN 4:30 pm ET, Sunday
LINE Iowa -11 (KenPom)
TV BTN
PBP: Jeff Levering
Analyst: John Crispin

Right: Obligatory Franpic. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

THE US

I hoped waiting until today to write the preview would provide clarity on Caris LeVert's situation, but as of this writing his availability is unknown:

Michigan coach John Beilein provided little update on the Wolverines' injured senior star on Friday, other than to say that LeVert's injury, which the program has only described as a lower-left leg injury, would be tested on Friday.

"Caris will go through a series of tests today, again, to see where he is," Beilein said during an afternoon press conference previewing the Wolverines' weekend trip to Iowa (13-3, 4-0 Big Ten). "If he tests with no pain, he'll begin the process of practicing. If he tests with pain, then he'll just be doing some things that will help his healing."

No word yet on how those tests went; I'm guessing we won't know if he's a go until warmups.

THE LINEUP CARD

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 10 Mike Gesell Sr. 6'2, 190 72 21 No
#11 assist rate nationally, low-volume but effective shooter.
G 5 Anthony Clemmons Sr. 6'2, 200 69 17 Not Really
Unremarkable SG has improved finishing but outside shot is iffy (32% 3P).
G 14 Peter Jok Jr. 6'6, 205 57 26 No
Good athlete with solid jumper. 4th in B1G in steal rate.
F 20 Jarrod Uthoff Sr. 6'9, 221 73 26 No
2nd in KPOY standings. 50/45/81 shooting splits, 17th nationally in block rate.
C 34 Adam Woodbury Sr. 7'1, 250 59 18 Very
Plus rebounder, skilled around the basket, might poke you in the eye.
F 25 Dom Uhl So. 6'9, 215 45 18 No
Backup big hits 52% of threes, hits offensive boards, has decent block rate.
F 51 Nicholas Baer R-Fr. 6'7, 200 39 15 No
Efficient gunner (58% 2P, 49% 3P) also posts solid rebounding numbers.
G 24 Brady Ellington R-Fr. 6'4, 190 29 14 Kinda
Just A Shooter™? 10/33 on threes... and 14/14 on twos.

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