Jack Stack broke Ace’s will to be wakeful. Oregon’s plan was to leave Michigan’s shooters so wide open from three we’d get confused and miss: congratulations you found our weakness. Also turnovers went the other way from normal, and we vastly underestimated Jordan Bell. Are we happy or sad about Oregon depantsing Kansas?
2. Basketball Beyond
starts at 20:02
A run through the roster for 2017-’18 by position, and we do it from 1 to 5 even though it makes way more sense for next year’s team to reverse that. X as Darius Morris, Brooks comes Nova-approved, RAHK all night long, Mathews is a wild card, Robinson is what he is, Ibi is probably another year away, DJ has a DJ-like understudy coming in, and if Moe is Louisville Moe all year he’ll drive us back to the 16. Also: theories on bigs development, and developments in the B1G.
3. Gimmicky Top Five: The Best Player in the NFL (That you can draft out of Michigan next month?)
starts at 53:00
Michigan’s entire starting defense isn’t eligible for the NFL Draft because McCray is still around. But that still leaves plenty of players to choose from, plus Jake Butt, in deciding who will be the best five pros out of—deep breath here—Glasgow, Godin, Wormley, Taco, Gedeon, D.Hill, D.Thomas, Peppers, Stribling, Jourdan, Kalis, Braden, Mags, Butt, Darboh, Chesson, and Deveon Smith. Did I forget anyone?
4. Ace’s Aceless Hockey Podcast
starts at 1:08:10
We welcome special guests Anthony Ciatti (@Ciatti) and our hockey beatwriter/otherjobdoer David Nasternak (@NastyIsland) to discuss how this was, by Corsi, the worst Michigan hockey team ever and ungh it was so unbelievably bad yuck blech argh. Oh right and options to replace Red, which don’t include any Red Wings but do include the two best hockey coaches in the country, AND Mel.
“Koroleva Ne Pomerla”—The Ukrainians
(cover of “The Queen is Dead” by The Smiths)
3/23/2017 – Michigan 68, Oregon 69 – 26-12, season over
There are few things more haunting in sports than coming up on the short end of a bonafide one-point basketball game. There are so many points and so many opportunities to get two more or prevent two more that it is impossible not to inventory all the slight tweaks in the universe that could have gotten you one step closer to the promised land, or at least destruction at the hands of Kansas.
The wide open DJ Wilson layup and two Duncan Robinson threes that were halfway down stand out in this regard. So too does the late Oregon free throw miss that Wilson couldn't box out on. And then there is the blizzard of threes that did not go halfway down, for reasons.
Oregon's approach seemed to be "leave Michigan blitheringly wide open from three and see what happens." Michigan took more threes than twos, and if any of them seemed unreasonable it was only in aggregate. There will be some complaints about Michigan launching early in the shot clock, but the vast majority of Michigan's 31 attempts from behind the arc were preceded by my inner monologue—and sometimes the external one, too—yelling "shoot that." A couple of ugly ones should have been rhythm catch and shoot opportunities that Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Mo Wagner, collectively 0-8 in this game, passed up on to dribble themselves into worse shots.
This is certainly a way to play against a John Beilein team. Usually it's a way to get your face melted off. The shattered corpse of Oklahoma State basketball would like a word at this point. That word is "aaaargh."
Michigan hit a respectable 11 of 31—36 percent. This was not enough. It was not enough even though they won the style contest on defense. Oregon only got up 10 transition shots, which they did poorly on. A third of their shots were the two point jumpers Michigan strives to force and Oregon is very bad at. They hit 25%.
If you'd told me all the peripheral numbers from this game beforehand I'd have taken it in a hot second. I would not have believed you if you'd told me that despite those numbers Michigan's offense would look like a hamster searching for a wheel for big chunks of the game.
Dana Altman's combination of the half-ass press a bunch of teams run now that the shot clock is down to 30 and 40% matchup zone got Michigan off balance. A plan to punish the incessant switching by replicating the second half against Louisville ended up with some poor Wagner shots and turnovers; Wagner spent the last ten minutes on the bench in favor of Duncan Robinson, who seemingly couldn't guard anyone on the floor.
The game was just... off. With virtually every ticket in the sweaty palms of Kansas fans the arena was near-empty at tipoff and dead throughout. That gave a tense, taught game an unfortunate NBA D-League or NCAA hockey regional vibe, and while I don't think that caused the ugly game it certainly reinforced it. It was weirdly muted for one of the most important games of the college basketball season.
It was ugly to the point where a final score close to 70 for both teams is unexpected. Michigan perpetually felt eight points behind and suddenly they were in the lead with two minutes left, sort of like the Oklahoma State and Louisville games. And then.
In the aftermath you're left grasping at opportunities spurned, at whatever air eddies pushed this ball a micron away from a good-enough trajectory, at this breakdown or that breakdown that would go almost entirely unremarked upon if not for the fact that Oregon had N and Michigan had N –1.
An inch; a point; it's been a year of almosts for Michigan athletics.
Rather satisfying all the same. Losing a one-point Sweet Sixteen game is no shame. It's a hard thing to do, winning basketball games against good teams. Michigan picked up a banner, got a measure of Louisville revenge, and was amongst the best teams in the country for a full half season. Over the full span they finished 20th on Kenpom.
This wasn't a return to the Burke/Stauskas years but it was a solid top 25 season.
The Walton; the Irvin. I pulled the "Zak Irvin is happening" tag out of mothballs for this game because he was happening, man. His late surge as he re-found his excellent-third-banana level was such that everybody had to stop complaining about him. This is a monumental internet accomplishment. He held Michigan in this game, hit tough late-clock shots, and was clearly on another level from Duncan Robinson as he checked Oregon's perimeter guys.
Building on that? Obviously much hinges on the return of Wilson and Wagner. I'd guess with their tough final games and the super deep draft—DX has Caleb Swanigan 30th!—both will return for another year of that sweet Beilein development. Both guys are potential lottery picks if they continue to improve at a decent clip. Right now there are sufficient questions that they'd be borderline first rounders.
If Michigan does not have any unexpected departures you're looking at something like:
Xavier Simpson/Eli Brooks
Charles Matthews/Duncan Robinson
DJ Wilson/Isaiah Livers
Mo Wagner/Jon Teske/Austin Davis
Michigan does have an open scholarship they could use on either Mo Bamba—uh not likely—or one of the late risers they've done so well with; there are also a number of intriguing transfer options. Since Brooks and Poole may not be impact freshmen, an immediately eligible backcourt scorer would be real nice. You've probably heard about faintly ludicrous Chippewa Marcus Keene and his 37% usage. Keene shot 82/51/37 on incredible volume and had an excellent assist rate on a bad MAC team that was nonetheless 56th in offensive efficiency.
There's also New Mexico guard Elijah Brown, another 30%+ usage player with decent efficiency. His three point shooting fell off this year but he was near 40% a year ago (on 226 attempts); he gets to the line and his excellent FT shooting implies that his rough two point percentages are more about his situation than his talent.
Or Michigan could go the Matthews route again and attempt to acquire the services of blue-blood transfer Chase Jeter, who's leaving Duke after two injury-plagued years. Jeter is a 6'10" post and would have to sit out, so he's not an ideal fit for the roster. I'd still poke around there because the rate of big washout is so high. You can't count on both Teske and Davis being around in two years. See: all of college basketball.
Tourney coverage complaint. There are way too many fouls that don't get replays to check on them. DJ Wilson's second was a potentially dubious call on which a second look would have been very helpful; instead nothing.
Also in complaints: I have no idea how anyone can listen to Reggie Miller and think "I should pay this person to do this thing."
Michigan hadn't played their best game—far from it—but Derrick Walton nevertheless had a clean look to send the Wolverines to the Elite Eight and keep this magical run going. With time about to expire, Walton cleared out space, rose, and fired. His shot caught iron. Walton clutched his head, likely feeling the same combination of surprise and dismay as the rest of us.
"I had a good look at the basket and it just didn't drop for me," Walton said.
This is not a movie script.
In a disjointed game, Michigan's seniors fought valiantly to the finish. Walton shook off a hard fall on his elbow in the first half to finish with a game-high 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting, five rebounds, and eight assists. Zak Irvin poured in 19, going 8-of-14 from the field, pulled down eight rebounds, and played lockdown defense on Oregon star Dillon Brooks, who needed 13 shots to score 12 points. In the last five minutes, the two combined for three go-ahead shots, and Walton added a nasty fadeaway jumper to give the Wolverines a three-point lead with 2:02 left.
They could not get a fourth. Instead, Oregon's two best players on the night made the plays in winning time. Jordan Bell, a force in the paint all evening, put back a missed free throw to get the Ducks within one after Walton's jumper. After Walton couldn't get a tough layup to fall, Tyler Dorsey got a step on Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and finished at the rim for what were ultimately the final points of the game.
Michigan would get two more shots to win. DJ Wilson's three-pointer with 46 seconds remaining was well off the mark. After Dylan Ennis missed another free throw with 15 seconds to play, Oregon surprisingly chose to give only one of their three remaining fouls to give, allowing Walton to get that final look. It fell short.
"I've seen him make that shot thousands of times, so I had confidence in him knocking it down," said Irvin. "It looked good from my angle. No one else on this team that we wanted taking that shot. He's been on a run and he's such a great player. I'm proud of him."
Jordan Bell made play after play in the paint. [Dressler]
From the start, this didn't feel like Michigan's night. The Wolverines went just 11-for-28 in the first half, and while they only trailed by two at the break, it could've easily been worse. Wilson sat for much of the half with foul trouble. Oregon's guards repeatedly blew by Michigan defenders. Dorsey sunk three of his four first-half three-point attempts. Walton grinded out 11 points and seven assists by halftime, keeping his team within striking distance. With Wilson set to get back on the court, the hope was Michigan could find their groove.
It never quite clicked. Moe Wagner barely played in the second half and finished the night with only seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. Abdur-Rahkman all but disappeared, tallying more turnovers (3) than points (2). Duncan Robinson's eight points weren't enough to offset his defensive shortcomings. While Wilson hit four three-pointers, he didn't get a bucket inside the arc as Bell dominated the paint; his missed second-half layup will stay with him for a while.
While tonight wasn't their night, this team can hold their heads high. Walton and Irvin battled to the bitter end, and this season will ultimately be remembered far more for the remarkable highs of the last month than tonight's low. When it mattered the most, this team galvanized around its leaders, and the most difficult part of tonight is knowing we won't get to see them all play together again.
"It's the tightest bunch I've been around in all my years of playing basketball," said Walton. "Just a very selfless group. I had the joy of being a part of it and being one of the leaders. Like I said, I wish we could have more games to play together because I think a couple minutes throughout the game we didn't show the type of team we were becoming and overall just thank them for allowing me to be part of such a great team."
"We're very close-knit, playing our best basketball and didn't want the season to end," said Irvin. "This team had a lot of great memories. We battled through adversity and just a team that I will always remember."
Our Tourney Sponsor: Buying a home or refinancing in Michigan, Ohio, or Florida? Talk to HomeSure Lending. Matt’s story is he went to work for that big loan mill we have in this state and learned all of the tricks they use to keep their assembly line running and customers convinced that’s the only way to get a loan. Then Matt started HomeSure Lending to not do all of those thing, and blow the competition away on price and customer service. He keeps overhead down with a small shop, and with all the MGoBlog readers he’s served now if he wasn’t doing an excellent job you’d have heard about it.
New features this week: A few style updates. Better scrolling, chat and twitter logs shouldn’t jump around so much. The Pin section only fits one item now. Also the Twitter embeds have added a pick-and-pop game, plus a killer pump fake and drive move. Beilein, man.
The yellow/ orange bar is your mana. Sending messages costs mana. Messages cost more, the more active chat is. The red dudes on the side bar are lives remaining.
If you break the Board Rules, you lose a life. Lose three lives and you have to insert a quarter into your monitor. No no keep trying it, it’ll go in. As always, the Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post is The Law.
PBP: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Reggie Miller & Dan Bonner
Right: I can't possibly hate on Puddles, even if Oregon won't acknowledge that's his real name.
Our Tourney Sponsor: It's not just basketball season; it's buying/refinancing season. We will keep telling you to use HomeSure Lending (NMLS 1161358) for all the reasons you read this site. As we and so many readers have attested, Matt will make the process easy, knows all the tricks, and keeps a small shop that deals with multiple lenders, so he can charge way less than the loan mills and get you approved faster. He can do Michigan, Florida, or Ohio now, and recently opened an office in Ann Arbor.
John Beilein gave a very John Beilein quote yesterday:
Q. This came up in Indiana and it seems to with you a lot this time of year. For casual fans outside the midwest you're not as appreciated as the brand name coaches, Krzyzewski, Williams, Calipari, Pitino and Boeheim. Do you care?
JOHN BEILEIN: I don't care. Our program is about Michigan and it's about those kids. I don't care about that. I came up a lot different than everybody else and I am blessed to be in these situations. I don't want to be measured by those. I would love to be measured by, what are those kids like on the court and how they represent our university and what are they like many years later and not about the trophies. The trophies will come.
I just wanted to teach social studies and be a high school coach, and somehow it morphed to this. But I really want it to be about those teams and the University of Michigan.
Perhaps the most John Beilein quote, really.
Anyway, the topic of Michigan's great performances so far in neutral-site games came up in MGoSlack this morning, and I ventured over to Bart Torvik's site to see just how the Wolverines stacked up to the rest of the country in such games:
Limited sample size and all: hot damn. Oregon is 31st with a 7-2 record, 117.0 adjOE, and 93.7 adjDE.
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.
Athletic grad transfer with solid outside shot, higher TO than assist rate.
Takes more threes than twos, decent assist rate that just edges out TO rate.
Not At All
Dangerous catch-and-shoot threat has 20+ points in five straight games.
Not At All
Can and will score from anywhere. Offense runs through him.
Excellent finisher, rebounder, shot-blocker. Skilled passer from high post.
Not At All
Low usage. Turnover prone for a Just A Shooter™ type.
Good rebounder and shot-blocker, but huge downgrade from Bell on offense.
Hasn't played >6 mins since January. Tight rotation with Boucher out.
Miss me? Yeah I haven’t done one of these in a long time as other matters took precedence and reader-generated content came in at a pace slow enough for you to keep up with it on the sidebar. That all changed with the basketball team’s turnaround, so let’s bring back the Best of the Reader Contributed Content feature to highlight that stuff (and get me called out on Reddit for aping Brian’s Unverified Voracity writing style).
It was 10 years ago this week that Michigan fired Tommy Amaker and went searching for a guy who could take this Amakerized program to the next level. It was barely seven weeks ago that the next guy got as close as ever to finally losing the fanbase. Bronxblue picks up the details and the Michigan zeitgeist, which is all about “I’m sorry I doubted you Johnny!”:
It’s why when the anonymous coaching quotes came out about this team a month ago, the money line was “[t]hey get guys eight or 10 points who don’t deserve to score.” It sounds like an insult, but it’s more a compliment to Beilein’s philosophy. It’s how he got WVU to have 3 straight top-25 offenses per Kenpom with mostly cast-offs, or how he’s had exactly 2 teams (2010 and 2015) finish outside the top-40 in offense the past 9 year.
I mean, he’s right. Walton doesn’t have the horizontal wiggle to be an elite defender, so he’s had to get really crafty at steals, and that’s Michigan’s most complete player. The in-season development curve is astonishing this year, but massive development has been a constant under this regime. Glad we got to see it pass Orr for winningest in M hoops history.
Last year at this time, Moritz Wagner was in the middle of a stretch where he played one minute across five games. Michigan lost four of those games. Two weeks later, he scored nine points in a BTT win over Indiana before logging 22 minutes against Tulsa in the NCAAs.
It’s a good start, but I’d love to see this in numbers: how do Beilein players start/finish seasons versus, say, the one-and-dones getting a year of Calipari or Self after high school?
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PLANE
We now know what happened to the plane, via TheDirtyD via Avherald via the NTSB.
The elevators are those flaps on the back of the fin. One side got stuck in the “let’s make this plane go down” position while the other didn’t. That felt wrong so the pilots said “nope,” choosing to skid on the ground while going 199 mph (173 knots) rather than up go.
HOCKEY WAS HAPPENING
We sent David Nasternack to coverhockeygames from the press box this year. Occasionally I went and he’d come down at halftime with a scoresheet showing Michigan badly losing Corsi even though the goalies were standing on their heads. I only read them when we won to be honest.
The not-Mel candidate rumored by Datsyuk’s agent is apparently Red Wings HC Jeff Blashill, who’s a real candidate, says Spath. Spath would be the guy after Red who’d know. Blashill was Western’s HC when they got good and was only plucked from college hockey when Mike Babcock ID’d him. He’s 43. Yeah that’s worth a look.
WHY DIDN’T WE CALL THE GIMMICKY TOP FIVE ‘FAB’?
If you only have time each week to listen to one podcast, it should be The British History Podcast—I’m so sorry people who pay my bills but Jamie is spectacular. If you have time for two, then do that and the MGoPodcast. But if you have the bandwidth for three, and it’s not one of those rare weeks when Dan Carlin put something out or the like, then absolutely check out the Dak and Dunc Show, a podcast by Michigan’s own Andrew Dakich and Duncan Robinson.
That it’s already rankable among general podcasts—no “for a podcast by athletes” provision—should tell you how good it’s gotten over just a handful of recordings. The first episode was done in the middle of the Big Ten Tournament this year and they’ve been doing one per game since, so everything is still recent enough to make every episode worth listening to now.
Positives: The hosts have great chemistry and presence. It’s also more insight into the team than we’ve had since Josh Bartelstein was blogging. The interviews (which they’re getting better at) are so far with current teammates plus Caris, and they push their guests to give non-press conference answers, so sometimes they can get really candid about things like how close DJ Wilson was to transferring or Wagner’s defense in the first part of the second half of the Minnesota game. You’ll learn a few Beileinisms such as what “wearing a tuxedo” means. Dakich tries to be the clown; Robinson the straightman is very good at reining Andrew in when necessary.
Areas for Improvement: Reining Andrew in is often necessary, and you have to get over Dakich sounding so much like his dad. And so far about half of each show is non-basketball stuff that might only interest other current students. There’s a lot of talk about head size. Also pro tip: if you’re in college, you really don’t want to know what your future wives are doing right now.
Anyway, start listening then head over to MGoBoard to discuss each ep. Latest thread is here.
NOW WITH MORE WALTON
Ace linked these earlier but Maize.Blue Wagner went through the old Hello posts for the current team to see what we thought of each. Later MBW tweeted at us and I pulled up our HTTV hockey-hoops point guards preview article, so if you already read it go add that.
THERE IS NO RESPONSE
Longtime contributor and MGoBlog community member Cali Wolverine lost his wife to cancer.
The absent man. Oregon post Chris Boucher is a major, major loss for the Ducks. Boucher played 20 minutes a game with excellent shooting (63/35) on high-ish usage; he has a top-ten block rate nationally; he is an excellent rebounder. In the three games since he went out, Oregon's given up
1.19 PPP against Arizona, the #17 Kenpom offense,
1.10 PPP against Iona, the #69 Kenpom offense, and
1.13 PPP against Rhode Island, the #59 Kenpom offense.
That looks like a major step back for a team with an adjusted D efficiency of 0.95 PPP.
In the aftermath, smallball. Oregon was already an up-and-down team playing one big, and now they are more so. 6'9" Jordan Bell is a terrific athlete who replicates most of what Boucher brings to the table except three-point shooting. With Boucher out, 6'11" Kavell Bigby-Williams is getting about 15 minutes a game as Bell's backup. Those are all the players taller than 6'7" with more than spot playing time.
This is kind of what they were doing before and now they're all-in on it. If that sounds like a recipe for more transition, you are correct. A quarter of Oregon shots come in the first ten seconds of the shot clock, which is a near-Oklahoma-State level of pushing the ball. Meanwhile their eFG% is a deadly 64%—exactly the same as Michigan. Their points are split about evenly between rim runs and three-pointers.
Stop me if you've heard this before: stopping transition is Michigan's #1 job in this game. Oregon goes from lethal from behind the arc (44%) to meh (36%) if you can just get them into the latter two thirds of the shot clock. Their eFG% plunges 11 points to 53%.
For what it's worth, Michigan could not prevent Oklahoma State from getting up a ton of transition looks—22 of their 64 shots—but held them to 48% eFG. Oklahoma State was vastly more effective in the halfcourt, ironically.
Shot parity watch. Michigan can expect to win most games during which they take the same number of shots as their opponent does, and Oregon is no exception. Michigan's got a good chance to do so—better than they had in the first two games. Even with Boucher Oregon struggled to rebound in Pac-12 play, finishing 9th on the defensive boards and 7th on offense. Over the course of the season they finished 64th nationally on the offensive glass, which is good but a far cry from the two teams Michigan just beat.
It remains to be seen how much Michigan can take advantage of Oregon's middling-to-poor defensive rebounding. On the one hand, Iona(!) rebounded almost 40% of their misses and Rhode Island got 31% of theirs. On the other, Michigan will not be inclined to send extra guys to the boards given Oregon's deadly transition game. If Michigan can draw help defense they'll have an excellent shot to grab an offensive board since anyone rotating down is going to be either a bit shorter or a ton shorter than Wilson and Wagner.
Turnovers should be advantage Michigan. Oregon is good but not great at both ends. Michigan is Oregon's equal at forcing turnovers and is once again elite at preventing them.
DJ meets (hopefully) future DJ, on one end of the floor. Jordan Bell is a putback and roll-man on offense, almost exclusively. On the other end of the floor he is the same kind of versatile defender DJ Wilson is, except better. DX's scouting report on him dubs him an "enforcer," and that's about right:
If Oregon decides to switch everything it is in Michigan's best interest to go after Not Jordan Bell, who's the rare 6'9" guy who can significantly contest a Walton stepback three. Also, if Bell gets switched onto the perimeter Oregon's rim protection evaporates.
With Boucher out Bell has hamblasted the offensive boards. He had 7 against Iona and 6 against Rhode Island as Oregon rebounded about half their misses in both games. After watching Louisville bigs anticipate shots much better than Michigan's counterparts just a few days ago, it seems inevitable that Bell will get 6-10 points on putbacks. C'est la vie.
Bell's offensive game remains rudimentary. As of a month ago, when that DX video went up, he had attempted just 10 two-point jumpers all season. DX's summary of his post game consisted of a couple of tough fadeaways hit over larger personnel. This isn't a bad defensive matchup for Wagner, but Wilson has been occasionally rough when he tries to defend P&R from the five spot, and Bell is not a guy who's easy to recover on if you find yourself out of position.
DJ meets kinda-DJ on the other. Oregon 4 Dylan Brooks is a 6'7" dude with a smooth three-point stroke and the straight line drives that result from guys biting on pull-up three fakes.
That video shows a lot of Brooks exploiting traditional posts or guards who get matched up on him; he's a good player but one who seems like he might be susceptible to the things Wilson is good at right now. Wilson's length gives him the ability to bother pull-up threes without opening up lanes to the basket.
Brooks is also the kind of guy who Zak Irvin has been giving fits for about half the season. (See: Edwards, Vincent and Bridges, Miles.) Brooks will get his; if he does so by taking 20 shots to get 15 points Michigan is in good shape.
Guards! Guards! Sam Vimes veritably infests the roster. The rest of Oregon's rotation ranges from 6'2" to 6'4". Wilson no doubt remembers PG Dylan Ennis:
Wilson went to the bench with an injury after that game and ended up taking a redshirt. Since then circumstances have changed radically for both players. For one, you'll note that Ennis is playing for Villanova in that clip.
At Oregon he's nondescript statistically, with decent outside shooting (37%) propping up an otherwise meh profile. He gets to the rim a lot, where he's bad—52%—but there's a bunch of Jordan Bell Kobe assist potential lurking in those shots.
Tyler Dorsey is Oregon's second best scorer behind Brooks, a 41% three point shooter on excellent volume, who's reasonably effective at the rim. Payton Prichard and Casey Benson, the only reserve, are basically the same player: low usage Just A Shooters who occasionally decide to attack closeouts with middling-at-best results. Both guys assist at a reasonable rate but have TO rates uncomfortably high for gentlemen of their persuasion. Neither is particularly effective inside the arc.
Oregon is a catch and shoot team. Nobody has an appreciable number of unassisted threes other than Dillon, who's hit 15. The rest of the roster collectively has 25—8 fewer than Derrick Walton. This should mean that closeout-mad Michigan can restrict their deep attempts. When Oregon runs pick and roll they are not looking to rise up from any range (only Brooks is 40%+ on two point Js) so Michigan can hedge soft and recover.
Difficult to resist force versus not very moveable object. When Oregon is on offense this is a matchup between the team that takes the fewest two-point jumpers amongst major conference schools and the team that forces the second most*. 19% of Oregon's shots are two point jumpers, because everyone except Brooks is very bad at them. 45% of Michigan's ceded shots are two point jumpers.
Any time an Oregon guy gets run off the three point line and has to pull up that's a win.
*[Baylor passed Michigan this week. /shakes fist.]
Moe Wagner considers how to shred his defender to bits. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
John Beilein's acumen at player development is, by now, unimpeachable. He has turned Michigan into one of the top producers of NBA talent in the country without the steady stream of high school All-Americans who end up at the likes of Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky. After last weekend, Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson—a late import to the 2015 class and an oft-injured three-star wing*—are firmly on the NBA radar after two and three years on campus, respectively. Following the Louisville game, Beilein reminded us just how far those two have come in only a year's time:
Moritz, he averaged two points a game last year. He’s 19 years old. You got to watch this guy. D.J. averaged the same. There’s a process that people go through to develop their teams, and [the Big Ten] had a lot of good seniors last year who graduated and a lot of guys waiting in the wings. It may have not showed in November, December. It’s showing in March.
The year-to-year progression is remarkable; so is the seemingly game-to-game progression. Here's Beilein after the Purdue victory at Crisler less than a month ago:
[Wagner] is learning that fine line between shooting a three and driving it. I can’t wait to work with him more on selling his shot fake before he does, sometimes he just rips and goes. He’s almost like a forward or a guard in how he plays. But he had a really good post move inside. He and DJ have to bottle this thing up, that they can shoot from the outside, but to help teams win, they’re going to play professionally if they have a post-up game. They’re not going to just be these 6’10” shooters. They’re going to need to grow in that physical part of it. He’s got a good mix of that. If we can put that third part in, that he can shoot, he can drive, and he can effectively post up and hold position, he could become very special.
We saw a whole lot more than a pair of 6'10" shooters last weekend. That shot fake Beilein wanted to see Wagner utilize? He busted it out on arguably the biggest possession of the year:
Wagner also obliterated Louisville from the high post. His career-high 26-point output against the Cardinals couldn't have looked more different from his previous best, the 24-point performance in that aforementioned Purdue game. The latter featured Wagner raining in threes off pick-and-pops with a couple post buckets standing out as notable exceptions. The former saw him working with his back to the basket against smaller defenders and using that three-point threat to take bigs off the dribble; he only attempted (and made) one three-pointer.
It turns out to be a wildly successful marketing stunt for a company that will send you image or message-emblazoned potatoes. This company is inexplicably not based in Ohio. The best thing to come out of this is the Wall Street Journal giving the headshot treatment to Dirk's tuber:
Twitter did not find this nearly as amazing as I did, but rest assured this is incredibly entertaining.
Oregon: good matchup? The WaPo's Neil Greenberg seems to think so. He's using extremely small sample sizes, but given Chris Boucher's absence that's less unfortunate than it usually is. Transition is a major Oregon focus and Michigan's stepped up their stinginess:
In transition, Michigan has allowed opponents to score 39.1 percent of the time in the tournament, an improvement over their regular-season performance (46.3 percent) and a potential stumbling block for Oregon, who has scored almost two-thirds of the time in transition (63.6 percent) against their first two opponents. No other remaining tournament team has had better results on the break. Take that element away from Oregon, and it’s a big blow.
This item won't surprise you but will shock your January self:
The Ducks also won’t get as many open looks as they have through the first two rounds. Oregon has taken 24 of 32 (75 percent) catch-and-shoot opportunities unguarded, per Synergy Sports, scoring 1.08 points per shot. Michigan, however, has allowed just six of 22 (27 percent) catch-and-shoot attempts without a defender close by.
Oregon is was already a bit three-heavy with Boucher in the lineup and figure to be more so without him even if that hasn't shown up in the three games since his departure, and Michigan is very good at preventing threes from being launched.
They're 5'9" with big hair and one of them doesn't have a work visa. Welp, they've been found. Both DJ Wilson and Mo Wagner are major risers on Chad Ford's NBA draft board:
No one did more to help his draft stock over the weekend than Wagner. His career-best performance against Louisville -- 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting -- showed why he was been quickly moving up our Top 100 over the past month. Wagner is a fluid athlete at 6-foot-11 who can score off the bounce and on the block. He also has 3-point range.
When he's engaged and not in foul trouble, he can take over a game. The fact that he did it against a bunch of NBA-caliber athletes on Louisville impressed scouts. He sat at No. 40 on our Top 100 before the tournament and moves up to No. 21 in our latest rankings. That's a huge leap for any player, but if you watched his draft stock all month, it isn't just based on one game. It's just scouts getting more and more comfortable with the idea that he has all the skills he needs to be a good NBA player someday.
Wilson showed off all the strengths of his game against both Oklahoma State and Louisville. He's a terrific and versatile athlete who can stretch the floor, finish at the rim and block shots. He can even handle the ball and bring it up the floor.
However, his lack of toughness continues to bother some scouts who want to see him initiate and handle contact better. He grabbed only two boards against Louisville and at times seemed bothered by the physicality. Still, athletic 6-foot-10 guys who can shoot 3s and protect the rim don't come along every day and Wilson has made a strong case to be a first-round pick after hovering in the 30s in our Top 100 all season.
FWIW, I was talking to Sam Webb a month or two ago and at the time his impression was that the NBA was interested in both guys but that they were both likely a year away. Let's hope that's still the case, because I'm guessing Teske and Davis are going to need another year of grooming before they're ready. Also I really want to see weaponized versions of Wilson and Wagner.
If one or both does end up going this will be another situation where Beilein's astounding player development—despite almost no access to one-and-done types Michigan was 12th in NBA players produced entering the season—outpaces his recruiting. Nobody was expecting Trey Burke or Nik Stauskas to be two-and-out, and I don't think anyone thought Wilson or Wagner would have any chance of going to the league this year after the pair averaged two points a game in 2015-16.
Remember when Bernard Robinson sticking at the end of a roster for a year or two was notable to Michigan basketball fans? Slightly different situation these days.
Part of that development. Congrats to friend-of-blog Andrew Kahn for landing a WSJ byline. It's a look into some player development tools Michigan (and others) are using. Wagner has a bad day against Ohio State and Beilein set to work on his shot:
...Beilein set out to fix Wagner’s problems using one of basketball’s hottest new diagnostic tools: a machine that measures the arc of a shot as it reaches the hoop. ... [tool vendor] Noah’s data says the ideal shot comes in at about 45 degrees.
Wagner’s practice session showed that he was shooting the ball far too high, coming in at around 53 degrees. Beilein knew they had no chance of going in and pressed Wagner to adjust by flattening his shot.
“By the time we were done, he was draining threes all over the place at 45 (degrees), 46, 47,” Beilein said. Wagner, a 41 percent three-point shooter for the season, shook his slump and nailed 8 of 17 (47%) from deep the next four games.
Beilein is still adapting and taking advantage of new tools being created even though he's "no spring chicken," which not every coaching in his 60s does. You can safely assume that Michigan is on the cutting edge with this stuff. The results are proof enough.
Two points. The Big Ten did pretty well in the first weekend of the tournament, sending three teams to the Sweet 16 and Shutting Up All The Haters, except not really. Mark Titus:
As soon as the buzzer sounded on no. 7 seed Michigan’s 73–69 victory over no. 2 seed Louisville on Sunday afternoon, the talk of the internet became whether the Big Ten, which was complete trash from November through early March, had been underrated all season. ... [The Big Ten got three S16 teams and the ACC was bad.] ... Clearly this had to mean something, right?
Of course not. You know what Michigan beating Louisville and Wisconsin beating Villanova proved? That Michigan outplayed Louisville and that Wisconsin outplayed Villanova. How come everyone who gets so wrapped up in conference-pride bullshit always seems to move the goalposts with these arguments?
Neither side of any conference superiority argument generally marshals anything resembling a coherent argument. It is talk-radio fodder.
While a few tournament games don't establish that the Big Ten was at the level it was a few years ago, neither was it "trash." They entered the NCAA tourney fifth out of six power conferences on Kenpom, all of two points behind the second-place ACC. That's roughly the difference between #20 Michigan and #24 Butler, or #37 Northwestern and #44 Illinois State—ie, barely any difference at all. The first two rounds should at least be sufficient to demonstrate that the Big Ten is in the same range as any other power conference (with the possible exception of the Big 12).
This weekend did matter in the computer rankings, sliding the Big Ten up to fourth, and it should influence our perception of the league this year. The real answer, though, is that the Big Ten was just slightly down. Titus seems to be projecting his feelings about Ohio State, which was so trash that many Michigan fans gave up on their season after losing to the Buckeyes*, to the wider league.
Nice. 2017 PF Isaiah Livers won Mr. Basketball. He's a 6'8" stretch four with game and hair fairly reminiscent of DJ Wilson.
Wilson has a couple of inches of both height and hair on Livers, but hopefully he's able to step into the rotation next year.
Star-crossed Ricky Doyle. Remember how he was ill or injured seemingly perpetually? This has not abated, at all.
Ricky Doyle, a Bishop Verot Catholic High School alum, was forced to sit out this season after transferring from the University of Michigan due to NCAA rules, as well as a tumor.
“I just kept having these stomach pains for a long time and I just kind of pushed them off,” he said. “One day, I just had to go to the hospital and it turns out that my appendix has been burst for two months…they found a tumor about the size of a softball and they had to cut 6 inches of my colon out.”
The tumor was non cancerous, Doyle said, and his body formed it naturally around the burst appendix to prevent poison from seeping out and killing him.
Doctors believe the medicine Doyle is on for his sleep apnea dulled the pain to the point where he didn’t realize how severe the tumor was.
Writing on the wall. There's a ton of football stuff that we'll get to in a week or two as part of a spring preview, but one roster note: Sam Webb replies to people asking about a lack of Shelton Johnson coverage that "he is not a part of [Scout's] defensive line preview." I would not expect him on the roster this spring.
Etc.: A lot of people say the tournament saps the importance of the college season. I don't buy that, because I like Big Ten championship banners. For an example of a season that truly doesn't matter, I give you the NBA.