SPONSOR NOTE FEATURING FREE BEER. HomeSure Lending is once again sponsoring our NCAA Tournament coverage this year. Matt will be hosting an informal watch party tonight at HOMES Brewery, and buying the first round for any MGoBlog readers who come. If you're looking at buying a house this spring/summer you should talk to him soon.
ICYMI. Part one of the pre-tourney mailbag addressing what constitutes success, the sixth man factor, the possibility of a two-big lineup, and late game free-throw lineups can be found right here. Part two, on M's most important player, Z's lockdown sustainability, splitting defensive credit, and managing the tourney rotation is here.
Brian posted the Montana game preview on Tuesday. We'll bump it back up to the top of the front page later this afternoon.
A better feel for the game has unleashed Teske. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
From the moment Jon Teske arrived at Michigan, the seven-footer's potential as a defender was obvious. He's been excellent on that end in his sophomore season and still has room to grow into an elite rim protector. When Teske has been on the court this season, Michigan's defense improves by 0.14 points per possession, per Hoop Lens—about the same gap as that between M's fifth-ranked defense and 195th-ranked High Point.
It wasn't as clear if he'd find his way on offense. He looked ponderous and lost as a freshman, and through the first half of this season there still hadn't been a significant breakthrough—his effectiveness as a backup center came almost entirely from his defense.
Over the last month, however, the light came on. Teske played only 18 combined minutes across three games culminating in the February 11th trip to Wisconsin. To that point, facing top-75 competition (venue-adjusted), Teske made only 13-of-28 two-point attempts in 13 games—nobody that big and skilled should be sub-50% inside the arc. He's 8-for-13 on twos in the six top-75 games since, culminating in the 14-point outburst at Purdue, while averaging over 15 minutes in that span. He's finishing with an authority he hadn't shown previously, as Isaac Haas can tell you.
Teske's also settling into the offense in ways that don't show up in his personal stat line. Using data from Hoop Lens, here are Michigan's offensive stats with Teske on the floor before and after the trip to Madison (top-100 non-conf. games and Big Ten only):
|Offense w/Teske Thru Feb. 11||Offense w/ Teske Since Feb. 11|
|Points Per Poss.||0.99||1.15|
There's noise in here, to be sure—the nearly ten-point gap in three-point shooting should be attributed more to luck than anything Teske is doing. A six-point difference in two-point percentage is less fluky and remarkably impactful, however, and there's reason to believe it's sustainable based on the film.
Beilein's offense requires quick reads based on how the defense reacts to certain actions; Teske suddenly looks way more comfortable and adept at being in the right place. The posterization of Haas is one example: Teske sees that Zavier Simpson drew two defenders, trails the play, gives Z a target, and goes to the rim with bad intentions. We didn't see that level of decisiveness from him often before.
Where he's really standing out is in the pick-and-roll, an area he previously struggled. According to Synergy, he only used 27 possessions as the roll man in 31 regular season games; in the BTT, he had eight in four games. Seemingly all of his teammates have a greater chemistry with him, which means he's making the correct reads. Here he perfectly times a slip with Duncan Robinson handling the ball and adjusts his roll to get an open short jumper instead of a contested look from Dutch windmill Matt Haarms:
On this P&R with Simpson, Teske extends the pick—he's done a good job of ensuring he makes contact with his hip without picking up fouls—which causes a switch; he trails Z to the hoop, gets his hands up for an easy target, establishes great position against Haas, and follows his own miss. He got an easier, rim-rattling finish when he timed his roll with Haas leaving his feet while putting pressure on MAAR.
While Teske's scoring made headlines in the Purdue game, it's been his ability to open up lanes for others that's made the most consistent impact. Charles Matthews going left off the dribble surely caught the MSU defense off guard, but Teske ensured it ended in a dunk by flipping his screen and effectively cutting off the path of both Miles Bridges and Xavier Tillman:
He helped Simpson get a bucket on Tum Tum Nairn by once again flipping the pick, then boxing out Tillman after slipping to the basket and gaining inside position.
This one may be my favorite. Teske sets two screens for Z, getting great contact on the first and drawing an extra defender when he slips the second. This would've opened up a spot-up three for most M players but the help defender is leaving Matthews, who gets the ball and drives hard into traffic. Teske, who'd been looking for an entry pass, recognizes this and gets into position to pick off a defender, giving Matthews the space to rise and fire:
Here's one more just to show not everything has to go to the rim when Teske's out there: a three-pointer by MAAR after he doubles back off the initial screen and executes a quick give-and-go.
In addition to all that, Teske has started turning more of his stops at the rim into outright blocks and steals. He's going to be an excellent player next year. Meanwhile, he should get plenty of chances to shine in this tournament, and his ability to provide a different look from Wagner with minimal drop in team production could very well swing a game or two.
[Hit THE JUMP for much more.]