Basketbullets: Walton, Irvin Ink Pro Deals

Basketbullets: Walton, Irvin Ink Pro Deals

Submitted by Ace on July 25th, 2017 at 11:48 AM

Walton Signs Two-Way Deal With Miami

A strong summer league performance and the NBA's new contract structure got Derrick Walton a gig with the Miami Heat, which signed him to a two-way deal yesterday. That means Walton will play for Miami's G-League (formerly D-League) affiliate, the Sioux Falls (SD) Skyforce, and could spend up to 45 days with the NBA squad if he earns a callup.

Walton landing a contract wasn't a surprise given his summer league performance, which had plenty of Orlando fans hoping the Magic would hold onto him.

Walton has a place in a pick-and-roll league, and it's great to see him get a shot straight out of college, even if he'll have to work his way from South Dakota to Miami.

Zak Irvin had a tougher go in summer league. While he didn't land an NBA deal, he'll still play professional basketball. VL Pesaro of Italy's Serie A (the top Italian league) signed him yesterday. He'll play with a few other Americans, including former BYU standout Eric Mika.

[Hit THE JUMP for Wagner at the FIBA Euro Championships, some 'crootin happy trails, and more.]

Unverified Voracity Converts Speed To Power

Unverified Voracity Converts Speed To Power

Submitted by Brian on July 13th, 2017 at 1:32 PM

image

Sponsor note! If you're headed down to Dallas for the Florida game, the alumni association has packages that may be of interest. The star: an air-conditioned, open bar tailgate with adjacent parking. They've got various packages available, including a ticket + tailgate combo ($300 for adults) and a travel package with two nights at the Omni Forth Worth, transportation, tickets, and the tailgate for $799. The deadline for that is the end of the month. 

Hit up the Alumni Association website for more details.

Bill Connelly preview time. That defensive radar though:

MichiganDefRadar

That's from Connelly's comprehensive preview of this year's edition of Michigan. It's good, read it. S&P+ projects Michigan 10th nationally but has them just on the wrong side of 10-2 versus 9-3.

I have but one semi-quibble: as he runs down the many departures from last year's team he notes that three all-conference OL are gone. This is somehow true—both Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden made the second team—but that's an artifact of the All Big Ten coach's selections being the SID's selections and their long tenure as senior starters on a good team. A more accurate measure of the departed players' prowess is that none of them got drafted, or even invited to the combine. I think most Michigan fans are expecting a step forward on the OL despite the departures. (As long as right tackle isn't a disaster.)

Speaking of that offensive line. This is a bit of a frustrating thing to hear in re: last year.

"This year has been a lot more serious," Kugler said. "We've been getting out there and putting in the work. We'll hit the sleds occasionally but that's more for fall camp. It's about getting the technique down properly and just running through blitz cards and stuff like that, getting ready to for what we'll see against Florida."

The level of seriousness is not dependent on Jim Harbaugh, that's for sure. In the offseason it's up to the players to do it themselves, and apparently this is another level from the guys who were more Hoke holdovers than not.

Here's an excellent definition of "speed to power." From Jon Runyan Jr:

"Rashan's going to be one of the best players in the country, going up against him in practice every day is only going to help everyone -- he's the measuring stick for everyone here," offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr. says. "He'll do this thing off the edge, they call it speed-to-power. You think he's just speed rushing you and then he comes through with a bull rush and he blows you back five yards."

Also, Rashan Gary is good.

Still a good decision. DJ Wilson is impressing in the NBA summer league:

Through three NBA Summer League games in Las Vegas, Wilson is averaging 14.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.0 blocks in 27.7 minutes per game. Draining 5 of 13 3-pointers, throwing down dunks and guarding multiple positions, the 6-foot-10 forward has made a strong first impression with his new franchise.

"He's a specimen," said Milwaukee guard and 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year winner Malcolm Brogdon. "He's big, he's athletic. Very skilled. I really like him, I think he's going to be really, really good for us."

He also signed a contract worth six million dollars, so he's got that going for him.

In other Michigan-to-the-NBA news, Derrick Walton might stick with the Orlando Magic. The Magic just waived their backup PG before his contract became guaranteed. The current roster situation:

C.J. Watson is a candidate to be cut soon (his contract becomes guaranteed on July 10) and the Magic are likely shopping D.J. Augustin’s contract, so it is possible there will be an opportunity for Walton, although the recent acquisition of point guard Shelvin Mack complicates the logistics.

If the Magic indeed move Watson and Augustin, Walton would conceivably have a chance at a job as the third point guard on the Magic behind Shelvin Mack and starter Elfrid Payton (although Kalin Lucas of the Erie Bayhawks, the Magic’s G-League affiliate, might have something to say about that).

Walton isn't an NBA athlete unless he's going for a defensive rebound, but efficient pull-up three maestros can find a spot in the league despite other deficiencies. Hopefully he sticks. If not he can be a star in Europe.

More on Josh Norris. NHL gent scouting Josh Norris after his participation at the San Jose Sharks summer camp:

"One of those guys when they're first skating around, the first five minutes, you go, 'He can move,' " Sommer said. "And a lot of guys are like that, and then you put a puck on their stick and they slow down, but he skates the same way with a puck that he does without a puck. You can just tell he's like kind of above everyone else with his skill level."

Fun fact: he spent seven years in Germany growing up because his dad was playing and then acting as general manager for a German team. He's fluent in German.

There's no way this is what it seems like. I find this hilarious since Detroit City's motto is nigh literally "fuck you", but if you think about it for a half second it's probably not what it seems like:

Gores' Palace Sports files federal trademark for 'Detroit City Soccer Club'

I am not a lawyer but it beggars belief that DCSC would not be found to violate DCFC's trademarks. Same city, same undertaking, same name save one word that is a synonym. If it means anything—and it probably doesn't—it means Gilbert and Gores are covering their bases in case they buy DCFC. Or they're just trolling the supremely trollable DCFC fanbase.

Meanwhile in Detroit's MLS bid. Dan Gilbert has submitted a final proposal to the city for the fail jail swap. Key bits:

  • Gilbert pledges to build a 520 million dollar jail plus a bunch of other related stuff on East Forest avenue. Cost to the city: 380 million, with Rock responsible for any overruns.
  • There is a competing bid to complete the fail jail for 320 million, with no cost overrun assurances. It also appears to be a more modest project that only completes the jail without the various other stuff.
  • Gilbert makes up the 140 million dollar gap by getting the current fail jail site, where he and Gores want to build a billion-dollar stadium and mixed used blah blah blah.
  • Gilbert also gets "credits" for the savings that the city forecasts as a result of combining all the criminal justice things into one campus.

The jail was suspended after a whopping 91 million dollars of overruns on a project supposed to cost 220 million total. Meanwhile the city has been spending over a million dollars a month to maintain the existing construction site.

This is a very weird stadium deal and that makes it difficult to evaluate whether or not this qualifies as a public subsidy. The 520 million number may be largely fictional, in which case the Rock deal is the city paying 60 million + whatever the land is worth. It may be real, in which case it looks fairly even. The pledge to pay for overruns could be worth nothing, or it could be worth a hundred million dollars. These "credits" are loosely defined but appear to be a way for Rock to get back some of the gap between what the county will pay up front and their projected cost for the complex. They're kind of like property tax reductions cities will offer brownfield developments.

Shifting the downside away from the city is an attractive proposition after the previous debacle. And while stadium economic impact studies are without fail overblown hoo-haw, "jail plus nothing" is worse than "jail plus soccer stadium and condos and whatnot."

If Gilbert and Gores do get the deal done, Detroit will become a highly attractive target for MLS. The ownership group consists of billionaires. The market is large and there are many nearby rivals. Detroit has a lot of immigrants to appeal to and is generally an excellent pro sports town—people still go to Lions games! And one by one other cities are finding it difficult to bring together bids without public support that is not forthcoming. Previous heavy favorites St. Louis and San Diego are all but out of the running after votes failed. Ditto Charlotte and Indianapolis. Remaining realistic locations other than Detroit are Sacramento (the one bid that is shovel ready right now), Phoenix, Tampa, Cincinnati, Nashville, and San Antonio.  Four bids will get approved; all bids other than Sacramento have hurdles to clear.

Etc.: MSU hockey loses Mason "Larry" Appleton to the NHL. He had 31 points in 35 games for a struggling MSU team and qualifies as a big loss indeed, even if no one expects much out of Danton Cole in year one. Or year two. Michigan as autonomous driving hub. Shutdown Fullcast on the Big Ten East. Freeze lawsuits. David DeJulius profiled.

The All-Beilein Teams: Small Ball

The All-Beilein Teams: Small Ball

Submitted by Ace on June 21st, 2017 at 11:34 AM


Pick your poison. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Previously: All-BenchBench MobAll-Freshman, All-Senior

John Beilein has spent ten seasons in Ann Arbor. As of the most recent, he's the winningest coach in program history with 215. He snapped Michigan's post-sanction tournament drought in 2009, the first of seven NCAA appearances with the Wolverines, three of which have extended at least into the second weekend.

In recognition of the above, as well as the need for offseason #content, I've put together a series of All-Beilein teams, inspired by this twitter post and the ensuing conversation. My guidelines:

  1. I'm attempting to put together the best possible lineups, which isn't necessarily the same as picking the best individual players at each spot.
  2. I'm choosing individual player vintages (i.e. 2013 Trey Burke). A player can only be chosen once for each category, but different player years (i.e. freshman bench gunner 2014 Zak Irvin and well-rounded senior 2017 Zak Irvin) can be eligible for separate categories.
  3. The same player/year can be chosen for multiple categories—for instance, 2013 Mitch McGary making the All-Bench team doesn't exclude him from making the final All-Beilein team.

Eligibility for certain categories may be slightly fudged because of the limited pool of players.
I'm not putting too many constraints on myself for this exercise since the point is to let our imaginations run wild.

Today's lineup is a fun one. Small ball has taken basketball by storm, and it's a style Beilein teams know quite well. What would the lineup look like if you tried to field a team that could shoot the lights out, switch everything on defense, and provide matchup problems across the board? Here's a squad that would absolutely wreck Purdue.

POINT GUARD: 2012-13 TREY BURKE


Burke vs. Switch. Advantage: Burke. [Bryan Fuller]

Well, yeah, the national player of the year is going to make this team. Burke was a killer off the high screen with his combination of vision, decision-making, passing, finishing, and pull-up shooting. While he didn't have the reputation of a defensive specialist, he graded out well on that end of the floor, and his timely steals would lead to some spectacular transition buckets.

I'd tell you that a team that can space the floor and give Burke room to operate would lead to amazing things, but you already know that, because you also watched the 2013 squad.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the post.]

The All-Beilein Teams: All-Senior

The All-Beilein Teams: All-Senior

Submitted by Ace on May 11th, 2017 at 3:18 PM


This was a good year for seniors. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Previously: All-BenchBench Mob, All-Freshman

John Beilein has spent ten seasons in Ann Arbor. As of the most recent, he's the winningest coach in program history with 215. He snapped Michigan's post-sanction tournament drought in 2009, the first of seven NCAA appearances with the Wolverines, three of which have extended at least into the second weekend.

In recognition of the above, as well as the need for offseason #content, I've put together a series of All-Beilein teams, inspired by this twitter post and the ensuing conversation. My guidelines:

  1. I'm attempting to put together the best possible lineups, which isn't necessarily the same as picking the best individual players at each spot.
  2. I'm choosing individual player vintages (i.e. 2013 Trey Burke). A player can only be chosen once for each category, but different player years (i.e. freshman bench gunner 2014 Zak Irvin and well-rounded senior 2017 Zak Irvin) can be eligible for separate categories.
  3. The same player/year can be chosen for multiple categories—for instance, 2013 Mitch McGary making the All-Bench team doesn't exclude him from making the final All-Beilein team.

Eligibility for certain categories may be slightly fudged because of the limited pool of players.
I'm not putting too many constraints on myself for this exercise since the point is to let our imaginations run wild. Today's list is the logical counterpart to the previous All-Freshman squad: here are the best senior seasons from Beilein's players. Could I fill out a full second team? Well, no. No I couldn't.

POINT GUARD: 2016-17 DERRICK WALTON


It all came together for Walton in his final season. [Bryan Fuller]

Might I recommend the 5000-word version of this blurb? For those who don't have time, a relevant sampling:

Walton had spent his time at Michigan as the consummate teammate, always looking to get his talented teammates going before seeking his own shot. At the same time he called upon his team to step up and make plays, he embraced calling his own number.

"He’s really become the guard that he always wanted to be and we always wanted him to be. It’s not that he’s been bad in between. It’s just that he’s such a great, unselfish player who’s always about the team. I think he convinced himself that if it’s really about the team, then I need to do more." — John Beilein

The swaggering star of Chandler Park Academy and the blacktops of Detroit was reborn in maize and blue. This Walton fought through contact for and-one buckets. He made inch-perfect assists, whether hitting a slipping big man in stride, two-handing a 35-foot bounce pass, or launching an 80-foot outlet over the top. He hit pull-up threes over rubber-kneed defenders and let them hear all about it on the way back down the court.

After a promising freshman season was followed by an injury-plagued sophomore year and underwhelming junior campaign, Walton transformed as a senior into the best Michigan point guard to play for Beilein, Trey Burke excepted—and Walton was so good down the stretch that you could almost (almost) eliminate that caveat. I could watch this all day:

The early NBA departures of Burke and Darius Morris didn't leave much in the way of competition for this spot. That doesn't make Walton's senior year any less spectacular.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the lineup.]

The All-Beilein Teams: All-Freshman

The All-Beilein Teams: All-Freshman

Submitted by Ace on May 5th, 2017 at 11:56 AM


Spoiler alert. [Bryan Fuller]

Previously: All-Bench, Bench Mob

John Beilein has spent ten seasons in Ann Arbor. As of the most recent, he's the winningest coach in program history with 215. He snapped Michigan's post-sanction tournament drought in 2009, the first of seven NCAA appearances with the Wolverines, three of which have extended at least into the second weekend.

In recognition of the above, as well as the need for offseason #content, I've put together a series of All-Beilein teams, inspired by this twitter post and the ensuing conversation. My guidelines:

  1. I'm attempting to put together the best possible lineups, which isn't necessarily the same as picking the best individual players at each spot.
  2. I'm choosing individual player vintages (i.e. 2013 Trey Burke). A player can only be chosen once for each category, but different player years (i.e. freshman bench gunner 2014 Zak Irvin and well-rounded senior 2017 Zak Irvin) can be eligible for separate categories.
  3. The same player/year can be chosen for multiple categories—for instance, 2013 Mitch McGary making the All-Bench team doesn't exclude him from making the final All-Beilein team.

Eligibility for certain categories may be slightly fudged because of the limited pool of players.
I'm not putting too many constraints on myself for this exercise since the point is to let our imaginations run wild. Today's list is simple: here are the best freshman seasons from Beilein's players. The starting lineup may be familiar.

POINT GUARD: 2011-12 TREY BURKE


M didn't skip a beat with Trey Burke replacing Darius Morris. [Eric Upchurch]

When Darius Morris, who sometimes butted heads with Beilein, departed for the NBA after his breakout sophomore season, it looked like Michigan would face a prolonged transition period at point guard. With no suitable replacement on the current roster, the new PG would be a freshman. Trey Burke wasn't even the highest-ranked guard in Beilein's 2011 recruiting class; that was Southfield slasher Carlton Brundidge, who finished six spots ahead of Burke in the composite rankings (87th to 93rd).

From the very start, Burke was a revelation. He led the team in scoring, assists, and steals, fully embracing the role of lead dog despite his youth. He took control of Beilein's notoriously complicated offense in a way no other Michigan point guard has been able to replicate in their first year. One of his best games of the year was one on of the biggest stages when he dropped 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting, drilled a game-tying three from way beyond the arc (foreshadowing, that) down the stretch, assisted on Stu Douglass' eventual game-winner, and played a central role in Michigan's brilliant final defensive possession:

Even when Burke took his game to a new level and won national player of the year honors as a sophomore, his freshman year stood as his most surprising. Needless to say, we've forgiven Beilein for missing on his Brundidge evaluation.

Honorable Mention: 2013-14 Derrick Walton. The cycle continued as Walton stepped into the starting lineup to replace Burke, who'd departed for the NBA long before anyone expected him to when he first got to campus. Walton was in a cushier situation, however, with the Stauskas/LeVert/GRIII troika shouldering much of the offensive load. He played his role well, nailing 41% of his threes, making some impressive transition buckets, and—like Burke—saving one of his best performances for M's biggest rivalry game.

[Hit THE JUMP.]

The End

The End

Submitted by Ace on March 31st, 2017 at 5:14 PM


[Paul Sherman]

"The end crowns all. And that old common arbitrator, Time, will one day end it."

In Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, the Trojan hero Hector gives an existential twist to the Latin phrase finis coronat opus: the end crowns the work. The original is a more forgiving statement; when a task is completed, the finished product justifies the effort. Hector, preparing for a fatal battle with Achilles, adds that cruelest of elements: time. Only so much of his fate rests in his own hands, for there are forces present no person can control.

--------------------


[left: Patrick Barron; right and center: Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Michigan lost at Illinois on January 11th, falling to 11-6 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten. Their November dismantlings of Marquette and SMU had gone from promising augurs to cruel teases. The offense was merely good, the defense abominable. When the Illini's Maverick Morgan described Michigan as a "white collar" program, it rankled because it rang true.

Derrick Walton didn't spend his summer in the gym for this. He called a team meeting. When asked about the timing, the senior captain answered with his usual calm, but his words communicated a sense of urgency.

"It’s only so many games left.

"We’re hitting the mid stretch and the back stretch is coming soon. It’s time to make some noise. I feel like we are a ton better team than we’ve showed and our record doesn’t show it. I think we’re a lot better than we’re playing and guys are ready to show that."

In only so many games, Walton redefined his legacy from program guy to program legend, led a storybook turnaround, and shifted the perception of the coach whose offense he helped reshape.

[Hit THE JUMP.]

Oregon 69, Michigan 68

Oregon 69, Michigan 68

Submitted by Ace on March 23rd, 2017 at 10:16 PM


The final shots. [Joseph Dressler]

In the movie script, that shot goes in.

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."

He's not alone.

The Fire And The Flutter

The Fire And The Flutter

Submitted by Brian on March 20th, 2017 at 12:51 PM

3/17/2017 – Michigan 92, Oklahoma State 91 – 25-11, NCAA second round
3/19/2017 – Michigan 73, Louisville 69 – 26-11, Sweet 16

Michigan's NCAA tournament weekend was a lot like what I imagine it's like to enter Earth orbit.

Stage One

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[Bryan Fuller]

You are strapped to a rocket. In the English language, "rocket" is shorthand for "tube that barely contains fuel." When lit, that fuel explodes; the rocket shunts the exploding bits out its rear to create the kind of incredible, bowel-threatening acceleration that allows one to escape the surly bonds of earth.

I'll be damned if there's a better metaphor for playing Jawun Evans and Oklahoma State. To watch this Oklahoma State team is to be continually surprised that Evans does not literally have flames coming out of his ass, propelling him inevitably towards death or glory at the rim.

At first, there was a lot of noise but not much action. This is also in keeping with rockets, which have various moments early in the enterprise when it is unclear whether the thing will go up or tip over, explosively.

After ten minutes when the game threatened to teeter over into a dud, the acceleration took, and did not stop until all observers were weak kneed and gripped with pallor, as if the blood had been forced from their heads.

Rockets do not have men in grimy outfits and train engineer hats frantically heaping fuel into a furnace to keep the thing from sputtering out and allowing gravity to reclaim what is rightfully hers. Our metaphorical rocket does. The men in hats are flinging three pointers, desperately attempting to stay ahead of gravity's brutal math. Evans and company are providing a constant drag of 1.58 points a possession. Walton and Irvin and Robinson must pump at least that much into the ever-hungry, blazing heart of the engine.

Amazingly, they do so. At first it seems easy. Walton drifts to one corner and then the other to work screens and grab passes for wide open looks. Robinson comes off a screen and rises up from a comfortable spot. A couple of transition opportunities find guys open in the corners. Things are going well—very well—but so far you can chalk it up to a bunch of open looks and good fortune against the nation's #133 defense.

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[Fuller]

Two things happen nearly back-to-back that take it into the realm of the spooky. Zak Irvin comes off a screen, takes a dribble, and fires an objectively bad shot, a heavily contested jack that draws the NO NO NO YES reaction not just from all Michigan fans but also the announcers. Almost immediately after this, Walton passes to Robinson, who's two or three feet from the line and getting more than a token contest. Walton yells at Robinson to shoot. He probably shouldn't shoot. Robinson shoots. It goes down, because of course it does. A bit later, Walton ignores DJ Wilson posting up a 5'11" guy to take this:

32652205414_f56e56d8e3_z

[Fuller]

This goes down. Because of course it does.

As all this is happening, Evans is taking his rocket ass into the lane to claw two points back, like gravity does. Gravity draws you back at a constant 9.8 m/s^2, and you either beat it or you don't. Michigan beat it, in the way movies portray the first stage of rocket liftoff. There is a tremendous amount of noise. The camera shakes impressively. One of the cast members says "ohhhhhhhhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiit." There is a moment of unbearable tension as the G forces ramp up to the maximum humans can tolerate.

Then everything stops. There's a clunk as the first stage departs. You have won! You are alive. You are very high in the air on a fatal trajectory.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Interplanetary_Superhighway

Stage Two

You've dropped your first-stage booster and watched it burn up in the atmosphere. (Underwood's stunning, immediate departure for Illinois will do nicely in our analogy.) Now you are up up up very far and have entered the realm of orbital mechanics. I've read just enough science fiction to not understand orbital mechanics at all.

The gist seems to be that certain things are all but impossible despite seeming easy, while other things are damn near free because of... reasons. The image above is something called the "interplanetary transport network," which allows you to visit any point of interest in the solar system—eventually, very eventually—by hopscotching through Lagrange points where all the competing gravities of the system average out to zero. This is virtually free in terms of energy.

These are tiny pinholes in a vast expanse of quicksand. Reaction mass is limited and space is very big.

33536026525_a1c509a813_z (1)33494863766_729fcbf6ed_z

[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Louisville basketball has four centers and plays two of them at a time, and if you want to get a shot up it's time to hunt for Lagrange points.

----------------------------------------------------------

Mo Wagner changed the way most teams defend Michigan with his white-hot first half against Purdue. After halftime the desperate Boilermakers decided they were going to switch every screen no matter what kind of ludicrous matchups resulted. Michigan was initially confused, and then Wagner was forced to the bench with foul trouble for nine minutes of the second half. By the time he returned there were only a few possessions before Michigan's Lloydball clock-drain offense made the switching moot. Painter's move exited the game more or less untested.

That did not prevent it from quickly being replicated, to middling-at-best effect. The constant switching did dull the effectiveness of Michigan's pick and roll. It dared Michigan to post up, which they simply do not do. It's pretty easy to holler about exploiting a post mismatch when you are a fan looking at a 5'11" guy on DJ Wilson. It's evidently much tougher when you are part of a Beilein basketball organism that forcibly expelled post-ups from its DNA back when it was using flagella to florp around in its Canisius days.

So the switching mostly resulted in a lot of isolation with Walton or whoever against a big. It took Michigan's silky, flowing offense and battered it down to the heroball stuff you see at Kansas or Kentucky, except without the infinite alley oops. Since Walton stepback threes are Very Good Offense, somehow, the switching didn't really slow Michigan down much. All it did was cause me to goggle at Michigan bigs guarded by oompa-loompas and be like all "AARGH THROW IT TO THAT GUY."

There was that particularly brutal possession pictured above on which DJ Wilson was trying to post up a 5'11" dude and Walton decided to jack up a 35-foot three pointer. This went in because of course it did; whether or not Michigan could do anything with this tactic in the event that Walton jacks stopped being Very Good Offense remained an open question. No longer.

In the aftermath of Sunday it is possible to interpret Michigan's somewhat frustrating inability to take advantage of said oompa-loompas as a devastating long con.  Louisville entered the game with a plan: no threes. They would switch everything to remove the rotation, because Michigan will get you eventually if you rotate. They would refuse to help in the post, because that results in rotation. They would make Michigan execute a thing they simply do not do. In an advantageous situation, sure. But they wanted to make the fish ride the bicycle.

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[Campredon]

The fish rode the bicycle.

image

min/ortg/usage/pts/2pt/3pt/FT

It popped wheelies.

Louisville's tactic backfired spectacularly in the second half. The tiny windows their giant posts leave drivers became caverns as 6'7" Adel Deng was repeatedly tasked with checking a guy much taller and more skilled than him. The posts stuck to their shooters, and Michigan lived and died by the two for a change.

Pitino did not relent. If he was going to lose this game it was two points at a time. Thus Michigan calmly and gradually reeled Louisville back in after the disastrous last minute of the first half. Screen and screen until you get your matchup, dump it down, score. Repeat. Regular, controlled thrust, easing Michigan through.

"It was some scheme things," Beilein said of his halftime talk, "but it was more: 'Alright, hit singles. Do not come out of here trying to win in the first four minutes. Let's just win the first four minutes. Let's just win the first four minutes. Win it by two points. Win every segment and you'll win the game.'"

Too bad that doesn't fit on a whiteboard.

--------------

So here we are. Orbit. It's nice. Very pretty. Can see Phoenix from here. Or Glendale. Whatever. Just two more harrowing white-knuckle terrordomes to go.

33407319211_15e0e1df12_z

[Campredon]

The most explosive team in the country is in the rear view. So too is a nation of angry ents. Confidence is through the roof, relative to your average white-knuckle terrordome experience. Let's go.

Bullets

image

SAY 'WHAT' AGAIN, uh, SIR (via @the_mikeyb1246)

"Since Maverick" update. Michigan is up to #6 nationally in adjusted efficiency margin:

eff

Amongst teams still in the tournament they're #3 behind Gonzaga and Florida. You'll note they're a nose ahead of Kansas.

First-round victim Oklahoma State shows up at #12. (They have a lot of losses, yes. In this time period they were all against tourney teams: two against Kansas, two against ISU, one to Baylor, one to KSU, one to Michigan. Most of those were 3-5 point games.) When I tweeted this out after the game I meant it:

That felt like a #2 going up against a #3. This is not a seeding complaint, or at least it's not much of one. Oklahoma State, like Michigan, was a team that got a ton better about halfway through January and was 1) more or less fairly seeded while 2) being a terrible draw for whoever got them. Michigan did, and barely survived despite scorching the nets.

Finally, the road doesn't get any easier in the Sweet 16 as Michigan draws #10 Oregon. That hurdle is significantly lower with Duck post Chris Boucher out for the season. Oregon's given up significantly more than 1 PPP in the three games since Boucher's injury, against offenses ranging from "somewhat worse" to a "a lot worse" than Michigan.

DJ Wilson, sometimes center, is a thing. Wagner finished the Okie State game on the bench just like he finished the B10 championship game, and this was fine because DJ Wilson was functional at center. The opposition didn't have the ability to blow him away with guys who are both very burly and very athletic. Ethan Happ is burly but not that athletic and Wilson's length bothered him. Mitchell Solomon is pretty much the same minus the post-up skills.

Michigan's ability to go small against a light-speed team and then run Wagner and Wilson at the same time against Louisville provided them the flexibility to get past two crazy outlier teams with just one day of prep. That's a major asset.

Expect more of that going forward: Oregon is minus a 6'10" center they played 20 minutes a game and is now a small-ball outfit that runs out one player taller than 6'7" at a time*. Kansas is along the same lines, with wing Josh Jackson playing the 4 for them most of the time. DJ can play center against both, and likely will.

*[To be specific, 6'9" Jordan Bell is their 5 and they'll give 6'11" Kavell Bigby-Williams 10-15 minutes a game spelling him. Dillon Brooks is the only other Oregon player seeing meaningful minutes who's taller than 6'4".]

Donnal survived against Louisville. Credit to the most maligned current Wolverine: Mark Donnal hit a three and blocked a shot in nine minutes, which went a good way towards offsetting the facemashing he's naturally going to receive when he finds himself trying to check UL's infinite conveyor belt of giant dudes.

I wasn't even irritated at Donnal's foul, which was an enthusiastic boxout of lanky 7-footer Anas Mahmoud. He got whistled for a foul that seemed impossible, because I've spent all season watching Michigan bigs take the same contact and get blasted off their spot. Donnal flipped the script and got a foul for his troubles. Better that than weak post D.

Walton didn't score much against Louisville, but... naturally he led the team in rebounds with seven and had six assists to zero turnovers. Also he was instrumental in harassing Quinn Snider into an 0/9 shooting performance. Also:

Shot parity: close enough! Against UL Michigan lost the offensive rebound battle by six; they won turnovers by five. That'll do when you're the most efficient shooting team around. Against Oklahoma State it was dodgier, with Michigan –10 in OREBs while only ending up +6 in turnovers. Still, if you told me Michigan was going into a game with a top ten OREB offense and came out only –4 in shot margin I'd take that.

There is an alternate universe of Wagner foul bitchin'. One man's comically inept refereeing is another man's comically inept refereeing multiplied by –1, and I have to relate to you, dear reader, that it is the opinion of many Louisville fans that Mo Wagner commits offensive fouls every time he touches the ball.

This is not the most convincing ref incompetence highlight reel I've seen.

I imagine this stems from one of the first times Michigan went after the Deng Adel-Wagner mismatch in the first half. Adel flopped at the same time Wagner appeared to go for the ol' chicken wing on his path to the basket. The refs did not bite on the flop and the wing met air; Wagner went for an easy bucket. After that everything Wagner did seemed to set off cascades of complaints on UL game threads.

Big Ten seeding complaints on point. After the bracket came out there was consternation about the ordering of various Big Ten teams, and it was proven correct. 5 seed Minnesota was a Vegas dog against 12 MTSU and duly lost. Maryland was hammered by 11 seed Xavier. Meanwhile Wisconsin beat Villanova and Michigan beat Louisville to reach the Sweet 16.

The sample sizes are necessarily tiny here, but since there was plenty of evidence before the games were even played they serve to reinforce the fact that the tourney was badly mis-seeded.

Also worth noting that MSU was the only 8-9 not to give its opponent a competitive game. Wisconsin won, Northwestern battled valiantly before losing by 6 thanks in part to that missed goaltend, Arkansas led in the last four minutes. Hell, you can rope in the two seeds here as well: Michigan and South Carolina won while St Mary's and Wichita State battled valiantly to the final whistle. Only Michigan State was blown out, as you would expect them to be.

Wooooof. There was a plague of refereeing blunders this weekend that should but almost certainly won't be the cause for some soul-searching at the NCAA. The most egregious miss—Northwestern's comeback-stalling missed goaltend—saw the NCAA's head of officials show up on one of the studio shows to lamely defend the refs working the game because he, a 70-year-old man watching on TV, didn't catch it. I expect slightly more from a man literally standing under the basket.

Anyway, there were some doozies in Michigan's game, none worse than the two calls late in the first half against Louisville. The first was a phantom call on Walton that turned a turnover into two free throws for UL; the second was the Wagner open-court steal that again turned into two free throws. With Michigan likely to get a fast-break bucket if the second call isn't made that was a six-point swing just after Michigan had finally managed to claw its way back into a tie.

At that moment I could only think of the Trey Burke block and a couple other calls in the title game that prevented that one from truly going down to the wire, as it deserved to, and I resolved to never watch basketball again. I resolve this several times a season, and sometimes multiple times in one game.

And the worst bit about all this. Yahoo has an accurate summation of the worst five calls of the weekend:

  1. Gonzaga goaltend
  2. North Carolina's travel/charge/travel/charge
  3. Arizona's Lauri Markannen blasting a St Mary's player out of bounds, for which the St Mary's player got call
  4. The Plessy v Ferguson flagrant in Seton Hall vs Arkansas
  5. A horrendous charge call EC Mathews picked up in Oregon-Rhode Island.

Every single one of these made a tight game less tight, and every one of them favored the higher seed. (Seton Hall-Arkansas was an 8-9; the rest were serious upset bits.) A lot of the drama of March Madness was sapped by referee errors.

Other Stuff

Best And Worst:

John Beilein’s defining characteristics (at least publicly) are being incredibly nice/genuine and being a bit, how do you say, hokey.  In 2013, he celebrated going to the Sweet 16 with crazy subs, and this year has taken to ambushing players with water guns after big wins.  It’s notable when he freaks out on the sidelines about the officiating because (a) it almost always means he’s getting a technical, and (b) he’s almost always right, and has held his tongue for untold transgressions up to that point.  Maverick Morgan called Michigan “white collar” this year as a pejorative about their toughness, and more than a few fans felt the Wolverines reflected Beilein’s temperament.  Both Louisville and Okie St. outrebounded Michigan this weekend, and a common refrain was that the team didn’t play tough enough on the glass.

But behind that gentile veneer is the heart of a killer.  Okay, maybe not “killer”, but as Ace noted, quite evil.  He knows what his offense can do to other teams.  Matt Painter was exasperated trying to explain the difficulties defending Michigan, the harsh realization that your center has to defend a guy who shoots over 40% from three and can also shake-and-bake you behind his back on the way to the hoop.  That even when the outside shot isn’t falling, Beilein will tax your team the entire time they are in the half-court offense, probing for breakdowns.  And when they are firing from outside at a good clip, ooohhh.  Oklahoma State scored 91 points and didn’t hold a lead after the 10-minute mark of the second half because Michigan shot 11-15 from 3 in the second half, a performance so scarring that OSU’s head coachg Brad Underwood left the Cowboys…for Illinois.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Matt Norlander on the narrative. John Beilein on ESPN:

Brendan Quinn:

D.J. Wilson, another of the day's stars, sank four free throws in the final 17 seconds.

That pragmatism? It was on full display. Wilson, a sophomore, made each free throw like he was in the driveway. Asked about the pressure of the moment later, Wilson sat stone-faced and said: "I don't feel any really."

Five key plays from Oklahoma State.

Etc. Rodger Sherman on Wagner. Pat Forde thinks Beilein is famously serious. Must not know about subs. Michigan is a one point favorite over Oregon. Hang on to your butts. Hoo boy does the Underwood departure suck for Okie State. Illinois fans are happy, as they should be. Oklahoma State fans shouldn't be.

Michigan 73, Louisville 69

Michigan 73, Louisville 69

Submitted by Ace on March 19th, 2017 at 3:57 PM


A sweet victory, indeed. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

As John Beilein delivered his opening statement of the postgame presser, Derrick Walton looked up to the ceiling and mouthed "oh my god."

Michigan won their second instant classic in as many games. Perhaps most remarkable is they went about it in an entirely different way. After making 16 three-pointers against Oklahoma State, the Wolverines were forced by Louisville's aggressive, switching defense to play through their big men. With Derrick Walton struggling to hit his shots, Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson stole the show.

Wagner scored a game-high 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting. In arguably the best performance of his young career, the big man used a dizzying array of post moves to punish mismatches. His biggest bucket of the game came on a move Beilein has wanted to see from him for a long time; off a pick-and-pop, Wagner got his defender to bite on a pump fake at the three-point line, then drove for a layup to give Michigan a six-point lead with 1:18 to go.

"We feed off of him," Walton said. "Because he's not afraid of anything."

Wilson's all-around impact nearly matched that of his German roommate. The last of his 17 points came in the final 20 seconds at the free-throw line, where his perfect four-for-four shooting kept the Cardinals at bay. His third block of the game ended the contest, as Walton plucked Donovan Mitchell's tipped shot out of the air and triumphantly raced into the frontcourt as the clock expired.

"Our play is kinda contagious on the floor," said Wilson. "I feed off his energy and he feeds off mine. Down the stretch when we pulled out the victory, I was as happy as I could possibly be."


Moe Wagner's best game couldn't have come at a better time. [Campredon]

Louisville led for nearly the entire first half. While neither team shot the ball well, ten UL offensive rebounds kept them out in front, and some creative officiating helped them go on an 8-0 run to close the half after Michigan had finally managed to tie it up. At the break, the outlook was bleak.

"The end of the first half I thought was a defining moment for our team," said Beilein. "A team that's not as experienced or doesn't have the poise that we had, they come back and try to win it all right away, but we won every four-minute period until we got ahead in the game."

That meant weathering a tough stretch at the beginning of the second half. Louisville center Mangok Mathiang matched Wagner bucket-for-bucket, and his putback off a missed three-pointer extended the lead to nine with 14:46 left. Then Michigan's offense really got rolling. Three straight baskets by Zak Irvin cut the deficit to three, and a short time later Wilson nailed a pick-and-pop three to get the Wolverines within one.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman knotted the game at 51 with 8:54 to play, hitting two free-throws after taking a hard foul at the rim. While the teams would trade blows, Michigan never trailed again. Wilson worked his way into the paint to give them the lead. The perimeter finally opened up a bit; Wagner knocked down a triple out of a timeout, then Walton followed suit with a signature stepback, looking as if he had no recollection of going 1-for-11 up to that point.


Derrick Walton came up huge when his team needed it most. [Campredon]

Wagner's pump-fake layup looked like it would ice the game, especially when Jaylon Johnson committed an offensive foul on the following possession, but Louisville wasn't done. Irvin coughed up back-to-back turnovers on inbounds as UL turned up the pressure, and a layup by Mitchell, who led the Cardinals with 19 points, cut the deficit to two as hearts jumped into throats and stomachs churned.

That was Walton's cue. Michigan's unflappable leader hadn't made a shot at the rim all afternoon, but when he got a step on his defender, he didn't hesitate to go up strong over Deng Adel for a layup.

Mitchell would get two more layups, but each one was answered by Wilson free throws. Wilson and Wagner embraced after the game-sealing block to send Michigan to the Sweet Sixteen.

"We're very close," said Wagner. "It's beautiful seeing each other be successful."

It sure is.

Michigan 75, Illinois 55

Michigan 75, Illinois 55

Submitted by Ace on March 9th, 2017 at 3:21 PM


Zak Irvin, in practice gear, had one of his best all-around games. [Paul Sherman]

While the harrowing details of yesterday's plane accident were still being released, Michigan played Illinois wearing their practice jerseys. Their normal gear sat in the cargo hold of a crashed plane in Willow Run. Tipoff was delayed by under a half-hour to accommodate the Wolverines arriving at the Verizon Center at 10:40 am for what was originally set to be a noon game.

Once the game started, however, the unusual uniforms were the only sign the Wolverines were less than 24 hours removed from skidding off a runway. Fresh off an early morning flight, Michigan jumped out to a 15-4 lead against Illinois and spent much of the duration ahead by double digits, ending the Illini's NCAA tournament hopes (and quite possibly John Groce's employment hopes) while earning a quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Purdue. John Beilein also broke Johnny Orr's school record with his 210th victory at Michigan.

Zak Irvin had his shot going early, netting 12 of his 18 points in the first half. That inital run held strong as Michigan made 5-of-11 threes in the half and forced nine Illinois turnovers on the other end. The defense was every bit as impressive as the offense. Timely weak-side double-teams from the baseline caught the Illini off-guard time and again, and the Wolverines used that element of surprise to convert turnovers into easy points.


Michigan didn't look ready to play a game. Looks can be deceiving. [Sherman]

Tracy Abrams was almost singlehandedly responsible for keeping Illinois within striking distance at halftime due to a personal ten-point run late in the first, and he kept his offense going in the second, finishing with a game-high 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting. But Michigan shut down everyone else; no other Illini scored in double figures. Irvin locked down second-team all-conference forward Malcolm Hill, who mustered only four points while going 1-for-8 from the field.

That strong defensive effort gave Michigan the breathing room it needed when their outside shooting suddenly went cold. The Wolverines went only 4-for-14 from beyond the arc in the second half, missing nine in a row at one point. Lethal finishing helped, too; M finished the game a stellar 21-for-31 on two-pointers.

Much of that was driven, as usual, by Derrick Walton. The first-team All-B1G snub played at the remarkable level he has for the last couple months, scoring 19 points, dishing out five assists, and pulling down four rebounds while continually pushing the tempo to catch the Illini defense out of position. Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman looked ready to replicate last year's Big Ten Tournament breakout with 17 points, three assists, and three steals. DJ Wilson had a quiet yet efficient 11 points. Illinois was content to focus on limiting Moe Wagner, who only scored six points but had a huge impact on the other end, coming away with five steals and committing just three fouls.

Maverick Morgan finished with four points, three rebounds, and five turnovers while his "white collar" quote hung above Michigan's lockers.

This team is anything but that now. After a frightening, hectic, and ultimately triumphant 24 hours, they finally have a little time to regroup before facing Purdue at noon tomorrow. The Wolverines are the last team the Boilermakers want to face right now.