11/14/2018 – Michigan 73, Villanova 46 – 3-0
During the consumption-of-entrails portion of the game someone tweeted a question at me.
@mgoblog are we in death from above territory?
— Tres (@tresf333) November 15, 2018
Sort of but also no. "Death from above" is a particular genre of Beilein win where Nik Stauskas sticks contested threes in your face and no amount of scoring you manage is ever enough to climb up the Sisyphean treadmill that Michigan's offense presents you. Halfway through the first half your official twitter account issues a shruggie. The danger comes from the high-arcing artillery shells Michigan fires with unerring accuracy, and then a Lithuanian-Canadian dude dunks on your face.
That's Death From Above. This was different, except for the Lithuanian-Canadian dude. This was a shiv in the dark.
Michigan was most dangerous in the low places, where Zavier Simpson's fingers are stickiest and Ignas Brazdeikis's defense most implausible. The closest thing to a consistent perimeter threat Michigan presented came from Charles Matthews jumpers that started just outside the restricted circle and ended just inside the three-point line. The very, very burly Eric Paschall is going to hit 65% from two in conference play; he was just 3 of 13 against against a true freshman wing giving up 40 pounds.
At the same time Michigan was turning an All Big East C into a pumpkin they limited Villanova (VILLANOVA!) to 3 of 15 from behind the arc, on shots that were about 95% contested. Six different guys had steals. Zavier Simpson had five himself. Villanova had three turnovers for every assist.
At some point Gus Johnson said that Michigan was known for ferocious defense and a near-total lack of turnovers. I thought about tweeting out something in the "lol that's half-right" genre, and then stopped. Stopped like a wildebeest trying to drive the lane against Michigan. Maybe it's true. Or, at least, it's is going to be true.
And like, I don't know, fine? Let's go? I don't have the fingers to deal with this.
Never in the history of humanity has a program undergone such a dramatic 180 in how they get things done without losing its fundamental personality. And make no mistake: Zavier Simpson is as good of a Beilein-at-Michigan avatar as anyone despite the fact he'll hit 30% of his threes this year if he's lucky. He is not without precedent. He is the continuation of a theme. Seven years ago Darius Morris told Michigan State to "get the fuck off my court." Nik Stauskas terrified Kentucky fans despite Kentucky having 16 seven-foot jumping jacks. Charles Matthews?
Charles Matthews spent the entire first half doing this to various Villanova Wildcats. Everyone wanted to punch him and someone almost did.
These guys have always been assassins. Just not this kind. They've been guys who line your head up in a targeting reticle from two miles away. Now they knock on the front door and ask if anyone wants to play with all these knives they brought. You can say no all you want. The question is rhetorical.
Yes. Michigan is going to stab you until a palpably depressed Gus Johnson can no longer inject any life into the game. And then they're going to stab you one last time, because maybe you deserved it.
[After THE JUMP: some bullets and react from elsewhere]