SPONSOR NOTE. HomeSure Lending is once again sponsoring our NCAA Tournament coverage this year, and once again that is going rather well. I'm not saying Michigan's second run to the FINAL FOUR is due to this great partnership of sports blog and home-financing expert; I'm not saying it isn't, either. I certainly don't want to test this theory. If you're looking at buying a house this spring/summer you should talk to him soon.
It's time for yet another two-part mailbag. If you haven't submitted a question yet, I'm still taking them: you can tag them with #mgomailbag on twitter or email me.
even on a bad day, Moe Wagner helps you win. [Patrick Barron]
Is my memory right that Hamilton played small ball for most of the 2nd half? maybe the last 10 minutes, except for the short period when we saw the Livers-Giant matchup, FSU played w/o a center, didn’t they? What a huge change and what a huge credit to Beilein’s scheme and fearlessness that Wagner - even cold as ice - scared the s[not] out of Hamilton in the 2nd half.
John Beilein allows Moe Wagner to shoot his way out of cold stretches for very good reason: he completely changes the way opponents have to approach defense. This is FSU coach Leonard Hamilton after a game in which Wagner went 0-for-7 on threes:
Sure, we did a pretty good job defending him, but I also think the effort that we spent on him, we opened up some opportunities for some other guys, and I think that's one reason why they were probably a little bit more effective. In order to get to him, being the type of three-point shooter that he is -- I think he shoots over 40% from the floor -- when you're trying to get to him and he's a seven-footer, he's their center, well, obviously, he opens up the lane.
And I think that's one of the reasons why they were able to get into the interior of our defense and get some easy ups, some high-percentage baskets because we had to put forth so much effort to close out on him because he's such an outstanding shooter.
Wagner may have been ice cold but I don't exactly blame Hamilton for getting deeply uncomfortable with the quality of looks, especially early in the second half. Michigan was successfully going five-out, getting penetration in the paint (mostly by Zavier Simpson), and kicking out to Wagner for achingly open shots. Hamilton would be hard-pressed to bet on Wagner continuing to miss literally all of those shots.
So, to answer the question, your eyes did not deceive you: after combining to play every minute of the first half, FSU's center trio of Christ Koumadje, Mfiondu Kabengele, and Ike Obiagu played nine combined minutes in the second. Obiagu, who'd emphatically swatted three shots in the opening stanza, didn't see the floor at all.
Going small, while a viable strategy against Michigan, isn't really FSU's game. Using HoopLens data and removing body-bag games, the Noles played over 1400 possessions with at least one center on the floor and under 270 with no center. While their offense improved a bit without a big man hurting their spacing, they went from allowing 46% on two-pointers with a center on the floor to 53% without—the gap between very good and very bad.
Michigan went 10-for-16 on two-pointers in the second half. After recording seven blocks in the first half, FSU had only two in the second. Even when he's broke from the perimeter, Wagner changes games.
[Hit THE JUMP to dispel the inbounding myth and explore a Beilein/NBA hypothetical.]