Unverified Voracity Swiftly Reverses Dumb Decision

Unverified Voracity Swiftly Reverses Dumb Decision Comment Count

Brian November 1st, 2018 at 2:11 PM

Reminder. Tom VH will hold you at Literati tomorrow at 7. He'll also be on MGoRadio. Pat pat, there there. I'll be there, too, but I didn't write a book

So that happened, and then un-happened. Maryland retained DJ Durkin, and then fired DJ Durkin, because people are just in charge of things for no reason. Like Michigan State, the people in charge of things in this case are the regents. Reports that president Wallace Loh wanted to axe everyone were likely true, and after everyone from the student government to both candidate for governor publicly complained Maryland admitted what every adult American other than their board members already knew: DJ Durkin's career is toast.

Anyway, now's a good time to reflect on the colossal failure Big Ten expansion has been:

Let’s start with rutger. I don’t know if I need to say anything more about these guys that hasn’t been said in the past four years. They’re terrible at the major sports. They’ve embarrassingly brought down the strength of the Big Ten schedule. A few months after their Big Ten membership became official, the basketball coach was caught on video throwing basketballs and yelling homophobic slurs at players. Ex-AD Julie Hermann was routinely making shocking statements to the media and embroiled in controversy at her former schools. Ex-football coach Kyle Flood once threatened a professor if he wouldn’t change a player’s grade. The list goes on. rutger remains an easy target. We’ve already covered them extensively on this blog. Oh yeah, this [a Rutgers player being kicked off the team for a failed double-homicide] happened yesterday as well. Not great, Piscataway!

Moving onto Maryland. Until recently, the frustration with the Terps was a little more subtle than their New Jersey counterparts. The football team employed Randy Edsall. The basketball team hasn’t reached the heights it did under Gary Williams, attendance is down after a post-B1G boost, and an FBI investigation looms over the program. At least men’s lacrosse and women’s hoops have been reliable, though.

But then there is the situation with head football coach DJ Durkin, which after months of investigations regarding McNair’s death, was seemingly resolved yesterday. The Maryland Board of Regents overruled outgoing university president Wallace Loh, who seemingly wanted Durkin fired, and reinstated Durkin as the coach, despite the release of a 200-page report that illustrated the abusive behavior of the coaching staff under his watch. After all of this, one startling fact remains: a 19 year-old student-athlete died, and the head coach has been allowed to keep his job. Unsurprisingly, Jordan McNair’s family was angry about this decision, and at least 3 players walked out of a team meeting with Durkin yesterday. Now, the university administration has received tons of criticism, and is facing backlash from Maryland lawmakers as well as UMD students, who plan to hold a rally Thursday.

Great job, Jim Delany. Hope the brief surge in television revenue was worth it.

Urban's head. Meyer's strange behavior on the sideline has a cause:

Since kneeling down on the sideline in a game against Indiana on Oct. 6 because of severe headaches, Meyer has been peppered with questions about his health and future in coaching. He said the cause of the discomfort links back to a congenital arachnoid cyst in his brain, which has led to severe headaches at times in his career.

“The past four years, we’ve been working closely with coach Meyer to monitor and manage the symptoms that have risen from his enlarged congenital arachnoid cyst,” said Dr. Andrew Thomas, Meyer’s personal physician and the chief clinical officer at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “This includes aggressive headaches, which have particularly flared up the past two years.”

That sucks for him and does not excuse his conduct with Zach Smith. Verdict: still a bad dude. Not the kind that saves the president. An expired coupon kind of guy.

[After THE JUMP: secret scrimmages, ooooooh]

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Open Practice Impressions

Open Practice Impressions Comment Count

Brian October 30th, 2018 at 12:19 PM

Michigan's annual basketball open practice was yesterday. Takes! You need takes!

Pick and roll focus. After a quick warmup the drills portion of the practice was largely pick and roll, with various managers simulating the various ways teams defend P&R and Michigan executing plays based on the opposition's reaction. There was also a fast break drill that started 3 v 2 or 3 v 1 with the defense getting extra players up to parity after an initial disadvantage.

Positional intrigue. Brooks played the two next to Simpson in the scrimmage; Beilein explicitly noted that a number of players were playing multiple positions. That's par for the course; the interesting bit was that Livers and Johns are both options at center. Michigan ran a little of Livers at C last year, where he looked lost on the offensive end. Johns looked pretty similar during the scrimmage. Despite that I'd expect to see him mostly at the 5. Beilein talked about his "four bigs" at one point and generally referenced Johns as a 5.

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[Campredon]

Scrimmage! Teams:

  • Maize was Simpson/Brooks/Nunez/Livers/Teske, with Castleton subbing in at the 5. CJ Baird also got a little run.
  • Blue was DeJulius/Poole/Matthews/Brazdeikis/Davis, with Johns subbing in at the 5.

Maize won by approximately 8 points (there was no scoreboard but Beilein had it in his head and kept exhorting blue to get some stops), largely on the strength of Simpson and Teske. Beilein was mic'd up and kept relaying items to the crowd—this was delightful—and one of them was a mention that Simpson and Teske had great chemistry in the pick and roll. This was borne out, as Simpson found Teske repeatedly with a series of slick pocket passes that set the Maize team up for easy buckets. Many of these drew "oooohs" from the assembled crowd.

Simpson didn't just find Teske; he was able to set up all manner of his teammates. His shot's still pretty broke; even so he looked like a guy who'd taken another largish leap forward. It felt like he'd be able to get to the lane with more consistency and pay that off more. Simpson's sophomore year already featured a 25% assist rate*, which was around 200th nationally. That was comparable to Derrick Walton's final two years. Trey Burke's Naismith year saw him rack up a 37% assist rate. Simpson could get to 30-32%, maybe? The kind of passes he was making felt like they'd work against a whole hell of a lot of folks.

*[IE, a quarter of Michigan's baskets when Simpson was on the floor were assisted by him.]

[After THE JUMP: a freshman who doesn't feel like one]

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The 2017-18 Basketball Season In Photos

The 2017-18 Basketball Season In Photos Comment Count

Ace April 10th, 2018 at 11:26 AM

Ed-Ace: Our primary basketball photographer and #1 MGoFrenchman Marc-Gregor Campredon put together this look back at the season in photos. I've made some minor edits but left it in MG's voice—he has a way with words that I don't want to disrupt. Without further ado...

Part 1

Et voila: The first month of 2018 seasons in photos with some dull opponent (I did not say boring) and some very good ones!

Oh, I took the liberty to illustrate the away game with others games images because I will never pass on the op’ to showcase our work.

If not precise with another’s name photographs are by Marc-Gregor Campredon! Quotes are from the game recap mostly by Ace but also by many other talented guys.

Exhibition vs Grand Valley State victory 82-50

Teske’d !

vs North Florida victory 86-66

Robinson is elated while dunking.

vs Central Michigan victory 72-65

“It's me again, the guy who tells you not to pay too close attention to the final score”.

Charles Matthews is already a solid starter for Michigan.

vs Southern Mississippi victory 61-47

“Michigan's coaches and players started calling sophomore Jon Teske "Big Nasty." They hoped that would replace "Big Sleep".”

Teske’d again – It will never gets old.

The tourney in Hawaii

vs LSU defeat 75-77

“It took the team most of the first half to find this offense, however, and they strayed from it at times in the second; I'm excited about the future of a team that makes this their identity.”

Already, a lot’s of John Beilein is emerging in Yaklich.

vs Chaminade victory 102-64

“Poole looked good in his first extended action, doing what he's supposed to do: get buckets (…) He should cut into Ibi Watson's minutes if he keeps hitting jumpers.”

Toat's m'goats

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the season in photos.]

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Let's Start Again: Point Guard

Let's Start Again: Point Guard Comment Count

Brian April 4th, 2018 at 1:12 PM

an irregular series about next year's basketball team

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[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

ROSTER

Zavier Simpson (Jr): Defensive maestro was head of the spear for #3 defense in the country. 105 ORTG isn't bad considering FT/3P issues, but 56% from two feels like a ceiling for a guy his size.

Eli Brooks (So): Started 12 games early in the year before receding. First season not real promising: 15% usage, A:TO ratio of 1:1, 41/25 shooting.

David DeJulius (Fr): Smallish sniper has mad Steph-alike game. Badly underrated by scouting services. Probably, anyway.

I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS

Can Simpson learn to shoot some?

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[Campredon]

Simpson's tour of destruction over the last third of the season culminated in a hamblasting of Naismith winner Jalen Brunson (9 points on 13 shot attempts, 2 A, 2 TO, 80 ORTG). He is a plus player and will be a starter for the rest of his career unless something crazy happens. That's good—see the TO-riddled bodies he left strewn in his wake—and bad—imagine a free throw.

Michigan's offensive ceiling is capped unless Simpson can ratchet up his shooting from the line and from three. There is precedent for this sort of thing under John Beilein. Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman hit 29% of his 41 threes as a freshman; the next year he hit 36% and stuck there for the duration of his career. However, the quantity of those shots kept increasing. MAAR went from 41 to 83 to 111 to 191 threes over the course of his career.

Simpson's already taken step one by going from a nonexistent three point shooter to an extant one, but the trend here isn't super encouraging. Simpson started the year hitting nearly half his shots; he finished it at 29%. His well-documented free throw struggles imply that his true shooting talent is real bad. The glimmer of hope here is that Simpson's new form at the end of the year saw him finish 24/42—57%—after starting 23/49—47%. That's pretty thin.

Does Eli Brooks take a sophomore Beilein point guard leap?

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[JD Scott]

Few things are as consistent as a second-year Beilein point guard taking a quantum leap forward. Darius Morris, Trey Burke, and Zavier Simpson all improved radically as sophomores; the only reason Derrick Walton did not is that foot injury that first hampered him and then knocked him out midseason.

All those guys had a clear path to playing time, though. Brooks does not. He got only about 8 minutes a game last year, with the majority of those early in the season when the PG spot was still unsettled. Brooks could emerge into a solid rotation option… or flounder and get passed.

Jay Wright did confirm, apropos of nothing, that Villanova was after him hard and thought he was in the boat. So he's got that going for him. But if it doesn't happen now it's late early, because of the next guy.

How well, and how quickly, does David DeJulius translate?

Before Zavier Simpson's tour of destruction kicked off, most of the mutterings about Michigan's future at point guard were about DeJulius. This was because of Simpson's clear limitations and the crazy string of single-game highlight videos that DeJulius was pumping out:

DeJulius is a different kind of cat than Simpson. He evidently took the vast majority of his threes off the bounce as a senior, and while nobody covering high school basketball ever gives you a denominator, he is at least a large upgrade on Simpson from the free throw line.

I'm not saying he's Trey Burke, but… uh, the pattern here is pretty similar. Burke got dumped in the three star bin because of AAU struggles on a poor team and then torched Ohio as a senior. Nobody noticed and his ranking diverged from his talent. DDJ shot poorly for a version of The Family that was pretty short on talent before torching the state of Michigan. Nobody with a ranking wand has noticed. The main difference thus far is that Michigan voters are willing to overlook DDJ's head to head torching of Foster Loyer while Ohio takes its Mr. Basketball award seriously.

DeJulius isn't going to push Simpson out of a starting spot unless he actually is Trey Burke. It still seems likely that he's got a role to play. Maybe that's ten minutes, maybe that's 20.

OUTLOOK

Michigan's worst case scenario here is a static version of Simpson playing 35 minutes a game because his backups can't hack it. That's still pretty good—obligatory mention of Michigan's ranking on Torvik after he emerged as the starter—but if Wagner ends up entering the draft Michigan faces the prospect of starting three tenuous shooters in Simpson, Matthews, and Teske. That could make Michigan's offense tough to watch.

Excellent Scenario 1 is that Simpson inches up his shooting numbers to 60% from the line and 35% from three. Those are relatively modest gains that would make hack-an-X unprofitable and punish switching defenses more effectively.

Excellent Scenario 2 is that one of Brooks or DDJ is able to dent Simpson's minutes by being enough of an offensive upgrade to sustain the defensive downgrade. That would give Michigan options if they're down and need some offense or the opposition point guard isn't much of a threat or X is just having an off game. A Simpson that stays static but only has to play 20-25 minutes because Michigan has a second quality player would be fine.

Your author's guess is that Scenario 2 is the likely outcome, with DeJulius immediately demanding minutes.

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Death From Wherever

Death From Wherever Comment Count

Ace March 30th, 2018 at 2:43 PM

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.

ICYMI. Tuesday's mailbag covered Moe Wagner's impact on opponent strategy, the John Beilein inbounding myth, and an interesting hypothetical about Beilein as an NBA coach. Wednesday's covered Loyola matchups, small ball, Jon Teske, and why Z keeps getting robbed (off the court). Brian posted the Loyola Chicago preview yesterday.


Up, then down, then very up. [Patrick Barron]

I was going to write another mailbag today but I'm past the point of rational thought. I should've seen this coming. This team, all season, has bucked expectation seemingly every time they settled into a pattern.

Heading into the season, this was going to be Moe Wagner's team. Or maybe Jaaron Simmons' if his MAC stardom translated, which we quickly learned did not. Perhaps Charles Matthews would fulfill his obvious potential and run the show, which appeared to be the case in November. Then he reverted to Turnover Matthews, the player we belatedly learned had been present for much of his mandated redshirt year, and we hoped he'd give up on being the centerpiece. He did, until the team needed a hard-driving centerpiece in the NCAA Tournament and he won West Region MVP.

Zavier Simpson started the first four games before coming off the bench in favor of Eli Brooks for the next 12. I wrote this on December 6th when exploring potential season outcomes:

For as good as Darius Morris was a sophomore, he simply wasn't ready for a starter's role as a freshman. Despite major differences in stature, Morris's statistical profile wasn't too different from Zavier Simpson's: very low usage, higher turnover rate than assist rate, awful outside shooting. (I know Simpson has shot okay from three this year but opponents are leaving him all alone out there and it's killing spacing.) Morris needed a full year before he was ready to run an efficient offense; if this year's PGs need a similar timetable, Michigan is probably missing the tournament.

I concluded that Brooks would do enough to help the Wolverines make the tourney as a bubble team. My personal Zavier Simpson mea culpa tour started eight days later.


The core. [Barron]

Duncan Robinson, a senior captain, had his starting job taken by a younger player for the second consecutive season, this time while mired in a shockingly uncharacteristic shooting funk. He continued to be a liability on defense until, suddenly, he no longer was that at all, through some combination of dogged work paying off and Luke Yaklich's tactical wizardry. While he stayed out of the starting lineup, he's one of the best five with commensurate playing time, and the team is evidently unbeatable when he scores six or more points.

The other returning senior, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, looked like the effective role player he'd pretty much always been for much of the year. When Michigan needed someone to grab control as Matthews struggled, however, he took the wheel.


Rolling with it. [Barron]

Talented freshmen Isaiah Livers and Jordan Poole had to deal with the considerable learning curve of John Beilein's system plus a newfound emphasis on defensive fundamentals that'd make it much harder for the average freshman to make a quick impact. Both marinated for a while before the blowout loss at North Carolina provided them with extended minutes against real competition. They settled into roles; those roles changed; they adapted, often by the day. Poole went from playing season-saving microwave against Houston to two statless minutes against Florida State.

Jon Teske earned the nickname "Big Sleep" as a freshman in large part due to how completely out-to-lunch he looked on the court. Some offseason chatter had him losing ground to a different big, Austin "Big Country" Davis, who'd redshirted behind Teske last year. Teske held off Davis and had a strong start to the season, using his size to overwhelm lesser opponents, before his production faded when conference play began in earnest. Sometime around Valentine's Day, "Big Nasty" awoke, and this big guy screams at Isaac Haas after dunking in his grill.


Hello, Big Nasty. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The last time Michigan made it here, the circumstances could hardly have been more different. While the 2012-13 team had lost Stu Douglass and Zack Novak from the starting lineup, every other contributor returned save Evan Smotrycz. The team had a clear leader in Trey Burke, a clear second option in Tim Hardaway Jr., an experienced big man in Jordan Morgan, and a group of prodigious freshmen that quickly settled into well-defined roles. The only significant change in how the team functioned throughout the season was Mitch McGary's postseason breakout, which wasn't too difficult to see coming.

This team isn't like that, not one bit. They play great defense no matter who is on the floor and squeeze enough offense out of their collection of misfit toys to grind out wins. Occasionally it all comes together and they blow a team to bits; more often, it's a matter of waiting to see how the game will dictate which player ultimately takes the lead. Not many teams make it this far in such fashion. For your college-to-pro comparison, you don't need to look far: hello, 2003-04 Detroit Pistons.

Will it end the same way? We'll see. Which player will take the lead? Who knows. Will it matter? I have no idea.

Neither does John Beilein, I'm guessing, but he has a much better plan of how to handle that. If you need me, I'll be curled up in a ball of anticipation.

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Basketbullets: Montana

Basketbullets: Montana Comment Count

Ace March 16th, 2018 at 2:27 PM

That Was A Weird One


MAAR's deeply skeptical face. [JD Scott/MGoBlog]

Let's get this out of the way: that was a funky one. Michigan barely crept above 0.90 points per possession in a game they won comfortably (eventually). Montana's aggressive trapping on ball screens broke the offense's rhythm, as did an early flurry of whistles. After the game's very first media timeout, Beilein fielded a lineup of Jaaron Simmons, Jordan Poole, Charles Matthews, Duncan Robinson, and Jon Teske—essentially 1.5 starters with Robinson in there. If you went to bed early and only saw the box score today, you're probably quite confused.

The unusual circumstances make this game hard to judge, even before accounting for the lengthy second-half delay just as Michigan was getting rolling. I thought the offense was on the verge of taking apart the Montana trap when Zavier Simpson had to exit. While Jaaron Simmons and Eli Brooks both had strong shifts—more on that later—there was a longer adjustment period than necessary.

Montana coach Travis DeCurie credited Beilein after the game for both timely strategic adjustments and how well-coached the Wolverines are in general. The latter part kept them in good position while they figured out the former [via NCAA transcript, emphasis mine]:

To me, when I say someone is well coached, they don't beat themselves. You'll make mistakes. There's human error. But I can't recall one possession where they took a bad shot. There will be defensive breakdowns because the offense can manipulate things, but on the offensive end for them, I just can't remember someone taking a questionable shot and allowing us to get some momentum or maybe a low rebound or whatnot.

When they shot the ball, guys knew they were going to shoot it. And to me those are teams that don't beat themselves. And so I don't know how many teams are like that in this field. A lot of teams, they play, they fly around, they're aggressive. They give on maybe a questionable shot here and there, an error on aggression. I think this team plays very smart basketball. And when they play that way, it's just very difficult to manipulate things and make things happen in your favor.

Michigan's turnover avoidance, refusal to give opponents easy transition opportunities off bad shots, and elite (ELITE!) defense allow them to weather storms many other teams could not. Last night's first half went about as poorly as it could for the Wolverines, yet they still held a three-point halftime lead and pulled away for a comfortable win. That, more than anything else, is my takeaway from last night.

[Hit THE JUMP for Matthews unleashed, the backup point guards, and fun with split stats.]

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Michigan 78, UCLA 69 (OT)

Michigan 78, UCLA 69 (OT) Comment Count

Ace December 9th, 2017 at 4:08 PM


Today's unlikely heroes. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

"I've coached more college games than any of you," John Beilein said to the assembled media. "I've never seen anything like this."

Rarely has a game, and quite possibly a season, turned so dramatically in so little time.

Facing UCLA in a matchup of paramount importance to their NCAA tournament resumé, Michigan allowed the same problems that have plagued this team all year to appear at seemingly the worst time. Despite open looks, they couldn't buy a three, opening the game 4-for-19 from beyond the arc. UCLA's Aaron Holiday got whatever he wanted against Michigan's point guards; ditto Thomas Welsh going to work inside against M's centers.

The Bruins took a three-point lead into halftime, and the lead easily could've been larger if not for some sloppy play on their part. That luck didn't last. UCLA's margin ballooned to 15 when Holiday drilled a three right out of the first media timeout of the second half. Then Charles Matthews, who'd had a quiet first half and opened the second with a traveling violation, started cooking. Every possession went through him, and for good reason; by the next media timeout, Matthews had ten more points and a Kobe assist, almost singlehandedly cutting the defecit to seven.


Charles Matthews went off in the game's final 20 minutes. [Campredon]

Matthews would've been even more productive in that stretch, and throughout the game, if not for major struggled at the free-throw line that extended to the rest of the team. Michigan would finish 8-for-22 from the charity stripe; Matthews posted a brutal 2-for-10 mark. As such, he couldn't bring the team back on his own. A pair of unlikely players picked him up.

"Eli [Brooks] saved the game for us," said Matthews. "I was so glad he made those free throws. I was going to hear about that for weeks to come. They're tough, especially that little dude over there [Zavier Simpson], he's a bull. He just brings toughness that a lot of point guards can't match."

Simpson did more than bring toughness, though he did plenty of that, recording four steals and helping hound Holiday into five second-half turnovers. He also had his best offensive game in a Michigan uniform, scoring 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting with a pair of threes and a couple huge late layups, including an improbable scoop past Welsh to beat the shot clock.

"I call that the three o'clock," said Simpson. "Coach Beilein calls that the time layups, where he wants us to shoot 12 o'clock scoops, three o'clock, six o'clock, nine o'clock. Now I didn't know it was going glass, but I knew it was going in when I released it. It felt good."


Simpson scored 15 points and went 2-for-2 from downtown. [Campredon]

Seemingly all his shots were timely. After Moe Wagner shook off a slow start to add some critical buckets down the stretch, Simpson's "three o'clock" shot got the Wolverines within two, and with only 18 seconds left he pickpocketed Holiday and took it the other way for a layup, bringing M within a single point. G.G. Goloman split a pair of free throws, giving Michigan a chance to tie. When Eli Brooks got fouled on a strong baseline drive, the game came down to the last place Michigan wanted it to be: the free-throw line, where Brooks had gone 3-for-6 to start his freshman year.

"I don't think he's made two in a row all year long," said Beilein.

Brooks calmly sunk both free throws, the first he'd attempted all game. Beilein went back to Simpson for UCLA's final possession. That paid off in spades when he poked the ball away from Holiday, forcing an ugly final attempt by Prince Ali that was well off the mark.

Once Michigan had forced overtime, momentum carried them the rest of the way. Simpson opened the extra period with a three-pointer and Matthews took over from there, responding to a late-game challenge from Beilein, who didn't mince words late in the second half when missed free throws looked likely to cost the team the game.

"You've been the MVP for UCLA so far," Beilein told Matthews. "You've gotta be the MVP for us."

Matthews rose to the occasion, adding four more points in the final period to finish with 20, just behind Moe Wagner (23) for the team high on the afternoon. He also had one of Michigan's three steals in the extra session to ensure the team wouldn't have to sweat out the final seconds at the line.

"It's really a great testimony to our kids," Beilein said. "We did everything we could to play some inefficient basketball. When we really needed to suck it up and get some work done at the end, we got it done. I'm hoping it's a huge benchmark for our team as we go forward."

At the very least, it got Michigan a much-needed quality non-conference win, and they'll get a shot at another on Monday night at Texas. We may very well look back today's game—and the brutal Ohio State loss that preceded it—as a turning point akin to last year's Illinois debacle and its aftermath.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

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Basketbullets: Can This Team Be Good?

Basketbullets: Can This Team Be Good? Comment Count

Ace December 6th, 2017 at 2:48 PM


[James Coller]

After the collapse at Ohio State on Monday, there's been quite a bit of consternation among Michigan fans about the course of the season. The Wolverines sit at 7-3, and they're only 2-3 against viable competition, with their best win coming against the #82-ranked team on KenPom. If they don't at least come away with a split in their upcoming games against UCLA and Texas, there's good reason to worry about how this team is going to compile a worthy tournament resumé.

To get an idea of how the season could play out, I wanted to take a look at how John Beilein's Michigan teams have improved (or not) over the course of the season. I'm an idiot, however, so thankfully our very own Alex Cook had the same thought and could actually put it into action. Alex used the game score metric from Bart Torvik*—a 0-100 score for each game based on adjusted efficiency margin—to map out the in-season progression of Beilein's teams. This, for example, is last season's graph. The blue line tracks the individual game scores; the black line is a five-game running average; the gray line is the overall season trend. As you certainly guessed, the 2016-17 graph shows a great deal of late-season improvement:


Waltoning, The Graph

The first question that I had: was last year more the exception or the rule? Alex went through each season to get the answer. Positive numbers show in-season improvement, negative the opposite:

I'm about to get into much more detail, but the initial takeaway is we can't assume that Beilein is going to turn things around this season without a couple things breaking the right way. Using the above as a guide, it's time to take a look at the potential ways this season plays out.

[Hit THE JUMP for season scenarios with past precedent.]

Comments

Michigan 69, Indiana 55

Michigan 69, Indiana 55 Comment Count

Ace December 2nd, 2017 at 3:42 PM


Jordan Poole saw an opportunity and seized it. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Fifteen seconds into today's game, Michigan star wing Charles Matthews picked up a foul on a rebound attempt. John Beilein sent him to the bench. It was an inauspicious start to Big Ten play against an Indiana squad coming off a tough battle with top-ranked Duke.

Jordan Poole, who'd barely played significant minutes, entered for Matthews. Despite playing untested freshman in place of the team's leading scorer and best defender, Michigan didn't miss a beat, jumping out to a 14-2 lead with four three-pointers. Poole drained two of those triples and didn't stop there; he'd make three more on his way to a team-high 19 points, looking like a major difference-maker for a team that could use an outside shooting boost.

"Today I was getting a lot of open looks," said Poole. "[The coaches] constantly stress 'shoot the open shots,' and not hesitate and try to make a play. If I'm open, shoot it. You don't need to tell me twice."

With Poole leading the charge, Michigan controlled the game from start to finish. The team moved the ball beautifully, tallying 16 assists on 26 field goals and creating open look after open look with crisp passing. A disjointed IU offense couldn't keep up. Only Juwan Morgan (24 points, 9/14 FG) scored in double figures, the Hoosiers had more turnovers (11) than assists (7), and they only got off seven three-point attempts.

"DeAndre Haynes did a great job with the scouting report and our kids lived that scouting report," said John Beilien. "They did a great job."


Eli Brooks did a great job moving the ball around. [Campredon]

While the expected titanic post matchup between Moe Wagner and De'Ron Davis didn't quite come to fruition, Wagner fared better among the centers, scoring 13 points and adding seven rebounds, three assits, three blocks, and a steal. Davis, limited by fouls, scored only four, but Morgan proved a much harder guard for Wagner in the post.

Morgan couldn't keep IU in it on his own, however, while Michigan gave Poole and Wagner plenty of support. Eli Brooks played 22 strong minutes, dishing out six assists to no turnovers, going 2-for-4 from the field, and swiping a couple steals. While John Beilein wouldn't go so far in the postgame press conference, Brooks looks to have taken control of the point guard job with Zavier Simpson as his primary backup; Jaaron Simmons didn't see the floor this afternoon.

Another freshman, Isaiah Livers, contributed four points in ten minutes with Duncan Robinson in foul trouble. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had eight points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Jon Teske had six points, three boards, and a steal. Only Robinson, who went 2-for-10 from the field, seriously struggled among the rotation players, and his were uncharacteristic misses on good looks.

After going with a disjointed 11-man rotation in the loss to North Carolina, tightening things up a bit—and featuring Poole as the primary backup wing—paid serious dividends today. There's still plenty of work to do; as Beilein noted, Michigan's had only one practice in the last couple weeks that wasn't entirely geared towards preparing for the next game.

There will be more lineup combinations (yes, he mentioned playing two bigs); Simmons will still get a shot to crack the rotation. Today still gave a good idea of what this team will look like in a couple months, and the freshman class of Poole, Brooks, and Livers is going to be a big part of it.

"I love these three freshmen," Beilein said. "I love them."

"They still make me angry every day," he added with a laugh.

He's still John Beilein, after all.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Comments

Basketbullets: Matthews-Wagner Ballet, Point Guard Roulette, Two Bigs?

Basketbullets: Matthews-Wagner Ballet, Point Guard Roulette, Two Bigs? Comment Count

Ace November 29th, 2017 at 3:33 PM

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Charles Matthews, Point Guard


No point guard? Just run the offense through the wing. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Charles Matthews was nothing short of spectacular in the Maui Invitational. The only thing that could slow him down was cramps, which hit in the third game in three days after Matthews had posted back-to-back 20+ point, 8+ rebound, 3+ assist games.

If anything, those numbers undersell Matthews's impact. This offense now runs through him, much like the 2014 team's went through Nik Stauskas while the team broke in a freshman point guard. In the loss to LSU, Matthews took on 40% of the team's possessions with remarkable efficiency: 28 points on 22 shot equivalents, six offensive rebounds, three assists, and only two turnovers. While the final result may not have been desirable, Michigan established their offensive identity in this game. Once again, the two-man game with Moe Wagner will be the centerpiece of the offense, this time with Matthews running the show.

Early on, Michigan used a side screen to get Matthews going left-to-right into the paint, where he could either pull up for a short jumper or dump it off to Wagner for a jumper:

Like the Walton-Wagner duo, the two showed an innate ability to read the defense and make the right play off the screen, whether originating at the top of the key or off to the side. Matthews found Wagner with a nifty lob on the roll to set up an and-one; Wagner flipped a high screen to get a wide open jumper; when the roll wasn't open, Wagner cleared out so Matthews could isolate his defender and draw a shooting foul off the drive; when Wagner popped out for a three-point attempt, Matthews crashed the boards and cashed in with a putback.

What's been most impressive, and pleasantly surprising, is Matthews's court vision and passing out of the pick-and-roll. According to Synergy, Michigan ranks in the 88th percentile in pick-and-roll derived offense when Matthews is the ballhander, and he's currently providing more value as a passer (87th percentile) than a finisher (69th). This play jumped out to me the most from last week. Wagner slips the initial screen as VCU aggressively doubles Matthews. When the defender in the corner slides down to prevent a Wagner layup opportunity, Matthews throws a really difficult pass to Duncan Robinson over the double:

If that pass is late or even a bit off-target, VCU can recover to contest Robinson's shot. Instead, it's an easy three points because Matthews puts it right on him.

[Hit THE JUMP for the Matthews-Wagner off-ball two-man game and more.]

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