Basketbullets: Matthews-Wagner Ballet, Point Guard Roulette, Two Bigs?

Basketbullets: Matthews-Wagner Ballet, Point Guard Roulette, Two Bigs?

Submitted by Ace on November 29th, 2017 at 3:33 PM

If you're looking for the UNC preview, click here or scroll down.

Charles Matthews, Point Guard


No point guard? Just run the offense through the wing. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Charles Matthews was nothing short of spectacular in the Maui Invitational. The only thing that could slow him down was cramps, which hit in the third game in three days after Matthews had posted back-to-back 20+ point, 8+ rebound, 3+ assist games.

If anything, those numbers undersell Matthews's impact. This offense now runs through him, much like the 2014 team's went through Nik Stauskas while the team broke in a freshman point guard. In the loss to LSU, Matthews took on 40% of the team's possessions with remarkable efficiency: 28 points on 22 shot equivalents, six offensive rebounds, three assists, and only two turnovers. While the final result may not have been desirable, Michigan established their offensive identity in this game. Once again, the two-man game with Moe Wagner will be the centerpiece of the offense, this time with Matthews running the show.

Early on, Michigan used a side screen to get Matthews going left-to-right into the paint, where he could either pull up for a short jumper or dump it off to Wagner for a jumper:

Like the Walton-Wagner duo, the two showed an innate ability to read the defense and make the right play off the screen, whether originating at the top of the key or off to the side. Matthews found Wagner with a nifty lob on the roll to set up an and-one; Wagner flipped a high screen to get a wide open jumper; when the roll wasn't open, Wagner cleared out so Matthews could isolate his defender and draw a shooting foul off the drive; when Wagner popped out for a three-point attempt, Matthews crashed the boards and cashed in with a putback.

What's been most impressive, and pleasantly surprising, is Matthews's court vision and passing out of the pick-and-roll. According to Synergy, Michigan ranks in the 88th percentile in pick-and-roll derived offense when Matthews is the ballhander, and he's currently providing more value as a passer (87th percentile) than a finisher (69th). This play jumped out to me the most from last week. Wagner slips the initial screen as VCU aggressively doubles Matthews. When the defender in the corner slides down to prevent a Wagner layup opportunity, Matthews throws a really difficult pass to Duncan Robinson over the double:

If that pass is late or even a bit off-target, VCU can recover to contest Robinson's shot. Instead, it's an easy three points because Matthews puts it right on him.

[Hit THE JUMP for the Matthews-Wagner off-ball two-man game and more.]

Michigan 68, VCU 60

Michigan 68, VCU 60

Submitted by Ace on November 22nd, 2017 at 7:48 PM

John Beilein will express his gratitude for the refs tomorrow.

Moe Wagner may have been on the wrong end of some questionable calls for most of the evening. With the game knotted at 60 and under 90 seconds to play, however, he got away with an obvious foul while stealing the ball from VCU's Jonathan Williams.

Wagner, who'd never been able to get into the rhythm of the game, finished a three-point play at the other end, then coolly knocked one down from beyond the arc to put the nail in the coffin. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's unnecessary—but consequential, given the game's Michigan -7 betting line—layup just before the buzzer gave the Wolverines an 11-0 run to close out a much-needed win.

That final six-point flurry represented half of Wagner's point total. As you might imagine given that stat, Michigan didn't have a stellar offensive performance, especially as Charles Matthews struggled to stay on the floor in the second half with cramps—and struggled to make free throws (1/6 in the half) when he did.

Michigan didn't have the Matthews-Wagner two-man game going like they did in the first two games in Maui and the halfcourt offense suffered mightily for it. The Wolverines shot 5-for-20 from beyond the arc and nine of their ten turnovers came after halftime. They managed to make up for that, at least for tonight, with a 16-0 edge in fast break points.

While it wasn't pretty, Michigan needed this victory badly to get out of Maui with a 1-1 record against D-I teams and not saddle themselves with potential resumé-hurting losses. After a home tune-up against UC Riverside, they'll face their toughest test of the young season next week when they travel to Chapel Hill. Without more consistent production in the halfcourt, that UNC game could get ugly.

[Hit THE JUMP for more notes and the box score.]

Michigan 102, Chaminade 64

Michigan 102, Chaminade 64

Submitted by Ace on November 21st, 2017 at 10:18 PM

Glorified scrimmage
Would be the game they get hot
Hot damn, Charles Matthews

Fine, some bullets:

But for real, of all the games for three-point luck to even out. Michigan went a scorching 15-for-28 from beyond the arc. Chaminade canned a couple fluky ones and still only made 5-of-22.

Anyway, Charles Matthews! Even against D-II competition, this is a quite a stat line for a guy who also had a huge game last night: 22 points on perfect 8-for-8 shooting, ten rebounds, four assists, two turnovers, three blocks, and two steals in 29 minutes. Matthews played with every bit of effort and skill that stat line suggests.

Duncan Robinson found his shot. 14 points, 4-for-9 from beyond the arc, unfair in transition. A nice bounceback after a rough go against LSU.

Eli Brooks got his first start. Brooks had a nice start with a catch-and-shoot three and a slick pick-and-roll assist, but his effectiveness didn't last; he went 1-for-4 with one assist and a turnover the rest of the way. Jaaron Simmons, the next point guard to get in, nearly put up an 11-minute trillion. Zavier Simpson was the best PG tonight but didn't exactly stand out.

Jordan Poole got a longer look. Poole looked good in his first extended action, doing what he's supposed to do: get buckets. He needed only nine minutes to score ten points, drilling two of his three shots from downtown. While he's got a long way to go on defense, he should cut into Ibi Watson's minutes if he keeps hitting jumpers.

Rahk, sharing. For the fourth straight game, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored double-digit points with at least four assists. He's turned the ball over just once in that four-game span, an especially remarkable feat considering how often he drives into traffic. That's a big development with the point guards struggling to produce.

Rebounding: not great. Outside of Matthews, the team didn't rebound well. Michigan had only three offensive boards (Jon Teske grabbed the third) before Austin Davis had three on his lonesome in the late going. Chaminade, meanwhile, pulled down 16 of their 39 missed shots (41%). After doing well on the boards early on, this didn't look like nearly as good an effort from Moe Wagner on first viewing.

Tomorrow's game. Michigan faces VCU, 83-69 winners over Cal, at 5 pm EST on ESPN 2. KenPom has the good guys as five-point favorites.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

LSU 77, Michigan 75

LSU 77, Michigan 75

Submitted by Ace on November 21st, 2017 at 2:35 AM


via Alejandro Zuniga

I'm starting this a little before 2 am, so this won't be a standard recap. Some scattered thoughts following a loss that may have a big impact on this season in several directions.

The schedule impact is rough. Michigan's tourney fortunes may end up tied closely to the fate of this LSU team if the Wolverines end up on the bubble. While LSU has looked good early on, they were terrible last year—this could wind up being a bad loss on the resume, though I suspect Tremont Waters is going to get the Tigers respectable soon. The bigger deal is having an opportunity to play Notre Dame replaced by a date with D-II Chaminade, a no-win game for Michigan. Instead of getting three quality opponents out of this week, they only get two.

The point guard situation is the team's biggest problem. Let's get the bad out of the way. While there were some flashes of talent from Eli Brooks, who canned a pull-up three and had a nifty drop-off assist to Moe Wagner, the point guard position is still in major flux. John Beilein put his trust in Brooks down the stretch; Brooks missed a couple crucial shots, got pickpocketed by Waters, and had a difficult time staying in front of Waters down the stretch.

Those are growing pains you expect from a freshman point guard. The problem is that Brooks is being relied upon in the first place. Zavier Simpson almost wasn't playable because of his passivity on offense—he didn't attempt a shot in ten minutes—and he had his troubles with Waters as well, picking up four fouls. Jaaron Simmons went 0/1 with an assist and a turnover in 15 minutes. Even if this team is going to run through the wings, which it sure looks like will be the case, they need way more production from this spot.

Duncan Robinson's defense is one, too. LSU mimicked Oregon's game plan from last year's tournament, isolating Robinson when they got the opportunity and attacking him off the dribble. To little surprise, this worked.

Far more concerning was Robinson's offense, which was all but nonexistent. He was unable to shake lanky 6'5" wing Brandon Sampson, scoring his only points on a transition three and getting nothing in the halfcourt. Michigan will be in trouble against bigger, more athletic teams if they're unable to find ways to free up Robinson for shots.

Charles Matthews looks like a star. There was still plenty of good in this game, none better than the performance of Matthews: a game-high 28 points (9/15 2-pt, 1/2 3-pt, 7/10 FT) with six offensive rebounds and two assists while playing his usual strong defense.

Michigan's offense was at its best when it ran through Matthews, especially when he paired with Moe Wagner (24 points, 6/7 2-pt, 3/7 3-pt) as a screener. The most effective play was the side pick-and-pop, which opened driving lanes for Matthews to sky for short jumpers and easy midrange opportunities for Wagner. It took the team most of the first half to find this offense, however, and they strayed from it at times in the second; I'm excited about the future of a team that makes this their identity.

Other quick notes:

  • While Jon Teske didn't make a huge splash tonight, he still looked good out there. He batted another offensive rebound back out for a reset, engulfed a shot off a drive, and dished out a pretty assist. His post passing looks like it could be special—it's already quite good.
  • This was a rough game for Ibi Watson, who chucked four shots, making only one, in eight minutes and giving up some easy blow-bys on defense. He's going to lose his minutes to Brooks and perhaps Jordan Poole, who got in for a minute tonight, if things don't get better fast. He may be a good player in practice but it's not translating to games.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had an uneven performance. He couldn't find the mark from the outside, missing all five of his threes. He was great at getting to the basket, however, and made 4-of-8 twos, including some tough baskets to keep it close down the stretch. MAAR was often the only Wolverine willing to assert himself, especially when Wagner and/or Matthews weren't on the floor.
  • Isaiah Livers had a putback and a steal in 12 minutes. I noticed some trouble on defense and on the boards, though, and that type of stuff is going to hold him back from getting more minutes unless Robinson goes into an extended slump.
  • Tomorrow's game against Chaminade tips off at 8 pm EST on ESPN 2.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

2017 Maui Invitational Preview

2017 Maui Invitational Preview

Submitted by Alex Cook on November 20th, 2017 at 4:02 PM

2017 maui bracket

This year’s Maui Invitational begins today, with Michigan playing tonight (the listed game time is 11:30 EST, but the tip-off time is contingent on when the Notre Dame – Chaminade game ends, so it could be a little later). Once considered the standard for college basketball’s holiday tournaments, the Maui Invitational seems to have been surpassed in recent years.

The 2017 field is headlined by Wichita State; the Shockers have spent the last six seasons in the Kenpom Top 20, are a national title contender this year, and they’ll be playing in a new conference – the “American” – for the first time. Notre Dame is probably the second-best team, as the Irish retained their two most important players (both seniors) from a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament, one of whom is an All-American. Michigan made it to the Sweet 16 last, but is still adjusting to the aftermath of significant attrition.

Beyond those three, there are mostly mediocre teams: Marquette and VCU each reached the NCAA Tournament last March, though neither fall inside the Kenpom Top 50 for this season; LSU, VCU, and Cal are each breaking in new coaching staffs (and LSU actually hired head coach Will Wade away from VCU). Of course, D-II Chaminade will be a part of the field, as is tradition.

Michigan opens the tournament against LSU, and will face either Notre Dame (if the Wolverines win) or Chaminade (if the Wolverines lose) tomorrow, unless an unfathomable Chaminade-over-Notre Dame upset happens.

[After the JUMP, a look at the field, plus tonight's game info]