Michigan 79, Illinois 69

Michigan 79, Illinois 69

Submitted by Seth on January 6th, 2018 at 3:04 PM

4O6A1240

[Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Kenpom said Michigan would win by 10, and lo and behold Michigan won by 10. Matthews hit all of his shots (except the free throws) and Wagner scored in double digits for the first time since his ankle injury, driving the lane against an overmatched opponent.

I’m telling you that up front in case you watched the first 12 minutes and decided to go build that dresser for your mother in law or something.

I can’t blame you if you did, since the first quarter of this game was some of the ugliest basketball all year. Michigan came out looking not at all ready for the constant pressure a Brad Underwood team puts on opponents, turning the ball over 12 times—one third of their first half possessions. Even more lost than Michigan’s backcourt were the referees, who were calling everything and nothing, including eight rather tacky offensive fouls (six on Michigan). Charles Matthews picked up two such early whistles and spent most of the half on the bench. Illinois quickly went on a 9-2 run to take a 17-9 lead, helped by two big corner threes by freshman Mark Smith.

Beilein countered with a Poole-Livers lineup, wherein Isaiah Livers starting dunking everything in sight. Michigan finally retook the lead on a quick upcourt pass from Zavier Simpson to Jordan Poole set up outside the arc. The poor lone Illinois defender can be forgiven for thinking this would be an immediate shot—I mean, it’s Poole—but nah:

via Ace

Jaaron Simmons took over point after an Illinois timeout and the Illini climbed back to a 34-31 halftime lead that felt as flimsy as a mail order dresser held together by three cam screws in a quarter inch of particle board.

As play resumed, that lead disappeared in seconds as Michigan settled into the team they’d been since mid-December. The Illini couldn’t prevent Matthews from burning their perimeter defenders, and once Charles sat with a third foul, Poole offered a pair of threes to put the Wolverines up by double digits, with MAAR and Wagner closing it out as they do.

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as he do. [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Zavier Simpson started and played 32 minutes, including all 20 minutes of the second half. Despite the early turnovers—he’d finish with five—he continued to demonstrate the #1 job is his, setting up Michigan’s best offensive possessions with some superb outlet passes—the resulting 10 points off fast breaks made up the Kenpom-predicted difference between these two teams. Brooks and Simmons finished with three turnovers and two assists in 8 minutes. Even Z’s missed open corner three was a rim-out that felt good off the release. Given how bad the start of this game was, it’s good to walk away with that confidence still intact.

This Illinois team could be dangerous in a year or two. Like his Oklahoma State team remembered from last year’s tournament, Underwood’s offense is good at making your centers look the wrong way before a lethal backdoor cut. When the fakes and motion didn’t work, Michigan was able to win a battle of athleticism with just about every lineup.

Whatever you went into this game believing you can probably find something from it to support that claim. I mostly believe what Ace tells me, so my eyes tell me Charles Matthews is still Michigan’s best player, Teske is a major improvement from last year as a backup to Mo, Wagner is slowly coming back to form, Livers and Poole are starting to become bigger contributors, MAAR is who he is, Simpson is fine, and this Michigan team is rounding into the kind that no #1 or #2 seed wants to face but has to thanks to bad RPI gaming.

Oh, and cam screws are awful and furniture that relies on them should be shot into the sun.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score and an amazing photo series by MG of the dunk.]

Hoops Preview: Illinois

Hoops Preview: Illinois

Submitted by Ace on January 5th, 2018 at 4:01 PM

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT #32 Michigan (13-3, 2-1 B1G)
vs #89 Illinois (10-6, 0-3)
WHERE Crisler Center
Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN Noon ET, Saturday
LINE Michigan -10 (KenPom)
M -9.4 (Torvik)
M -9.5 (Vegas)
TV BTN
PBP: Brandon Gaudin
Analyst: Jon Crispin

Right: The last time. [Paul Sherman]

THE US

Michigan continues to be in a plum spot to make a run at the #3 seed in the conference. They're at #32 on KenPom, #27 on Torvik, and #40 in the RPI (up from 42 last week); Torvik's tourneycast has the Wolverines as a nine-seed after they were out of the field not long ago.

The rotation is getting close to set now that we're into the new year, but how the pieces are configured is still in question. Zavier Simpson looks like he should wrest the starting job away from Eli Brooks; he opened the second half against Iowa and has been a much more impactful player. Isaiah Livers, meanwhile, had a breakout game against the Hawkeyes; you're probably sick of me saying he should be in the starting lineup over Duncan Robinson, who's better served as a bench shooter paired with a strong defensive center (namely, Jon Teske). Those changes could happen soon.

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 ORtg SIBMIHHAT
G 1 Trent Frazier Fr. 6'1, 170 52 23 104 Kinda
After slow start, averaging 16 PPG over last six games.
G 20 Da'Monte Williams Fr. 6'3, 190 48 15 95 Yes
Decent slasher, only 5/25 on threes, turnover prone.
G 13 Mark Smith Fr. 6'4, 225 52 21 97 Probably
Only shooting well at FT line right now, but has scoring potential.
F 12 Leron Black Jr. 6'7, 230 61 24 113 No
Plays big. Strong post scorer and rebounder, has extended his range.
C 43 Michael Finke Jr. 6'10, 235 67 16 120 Kinda
Plays like a stretch four but has been much more efficient on twos.
G 24 Mark Alstork Sr. 6'5, 190 58 18 100 Yeah
Wright State transfer off to rough start, probable benching.
F 23 Aaron Jordan Jr. 6'5, 210 52 18 130 Not At All
Hitting 52% of threes, decent inside arc too. Should probably play more?
G 3 Te'Jon Lucas So. 6'1, 180 49 19 93 Very
Turnover-prone PG with no range quickly losing role to Frazier.

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