Michigan 66, Minnesota 56

Michigan 66, Minnesota 56

Submitted by Ace on March 1st, 2014 at 9:05 PM


GRIII: Pretty, pretty good at the whole "jumping" thing. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]

I'm at a loss for words.

Michigan just secured their second Big Ten title in three years with two games remaining on the schedule. The year the Wolverines didn't win, they made the national championship game. At least four plays tonight were more spectacular than anything I witnessed Michigan do in the entire Ellerbe/Amaker era—good lord, Glenn Robinson—and this wasn't a good offensive effort by this team's standards.

The novelty of Michigan basketball being a legitimate national powerhouse hasn't worn off in the slightest. I still can't help but blurt out "oh my god" on press row when Nik Stauskas throws a lob to GRIII and he throws it down on two people without regard for gravity or human life. Ditto when the backup point guard with one scholarship offer sparks another highlight-reel alley-oop with an Unseldian outlet pass, then follows it up with a leaping high-wire act to tap keep a critical possession alive. Or when Caris LeVert, one-time Ohio commit, continues to develop into an all-B1G player before our very eyes.

I'm still trying to comprehend last year. Now this? Without Trey Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr. or Mitch McGary? My brain is a 404 error. The page you are looking for does not exist. Please return to the front page and continue staring at the banners above you until you're 100% sure this is reality.

Adding to my confusion is the manner by which Michigan won tonight. Their shots weren't falling in the early going; unlike the last handful of games, however, the Wolverines weathered an early opposition run with quality defense. Minnesota led 15-9 at the ten-minute mark of the first half. At halftime, Michigan led 31-20, even providing a signature defensive moment during their 22-5 run, a spectacular Robinson block of an Andre Hollins fast break layup.

The offense eventually found its rhythm thanks to the exploits of Michigan's three stars. Stauskas knocked down 5/8 three-pointers en route to a game-high 21 points. Though LeVert (13 points) struggled outside the arc (1/5), he hit 4/8 two-pointers, dished out five assists, and used his three defensive rebounds to ignite transition opportunities. Robinson added 12 points, half of which came on alley-oops, seemingly touched the rafters to pull down a critical late offensive rebound before finishing the job himself, and knocked home one of his signature 18-footers.

Jordan Morgan scored five points on three shots, but that only scratches the surface on his contributions tonight. He drew a huge charge call in the second half, played his usual excellent defense, and pulled in ten rebounds. Morgan's final board, on a Stauskas miss with 1:45 remaining, led to Spike Albrecht sinking a dagger to put Michigan up ten, capping a high-impact outing for Michigan's backup point guard. Derrick Walton only played 18 minutes; in that time, he scored eight points on five shots.

Michigan will raise their third banner is as many years when the 2014-15 season begins. Several of tonight's key figures won't be in uniform—Morgan, definitely, and who knows what will happen with the pro prospect sophomores? It'll be a familiar feel to start a Michigan season, and that alone is astounding to this child of the late '90s and early aughts.

Better yet, this season isn't over, and once again the Wolverines are rounding into form as the calendar flips to March. I think this Beilein fellow just might work out.

Six Foot Six And Rising

Six Foot Six And Rising

Submitted by Brian on February 27th, 2014 at 1:52 PM

2/26/2014 – Michigan 77, Purdue 76 (OT) – 20-7, 12-3 Big Ten

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Dustin Johnston/UMHoops 

If you're wondering where I was last night on twitter, I was studiously avoiding it because I was in Auburn Hills watching Lydia Loveless refuse to stop playing music when the rest of you were watching Michigan play Purdue. Lydia Loveless is a machine built to play country music some people are now describing as "cowpunk."

There was no encore, just the increasing irritation of her band as the set went on and on and on. She gave them a break to play a couple songs by herself, and then eventually it became clear the show was over about three songs after she had clarified they had time for just one more. Then after the end of the set she asked the guy behind the bar if being out of time meant they had to stop. To his immense credit, the guy made a combo shrug/thumbs-up motion. Lydia Loveless donned a jacket and drafted her pedal steel guitar bandmate to cover

These were all transformatively great. It was insane, worrying—I asked the MGoWife if someone would have to tackle Lydia Loveless off the stage for the show to end—and ultimately awesome.

So I watched the Purdue game despite not watching the Purdue game, and then I watched it again. The second time only moved the swearing from the entertainment to the viewer, and concluded more strangely.

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

It did not start strangely. It started like it always starts, with Michigan falling in a well. They have something like a 98% chance to hang a banner at the end of the year and they have ended up in double-digit first half holes in five games running. This has to be some sort of record. Someone sic a sports bureau on the combination of conference championships and consecutive games with double-digit deficits.

I'll be over here deciding not to throw a glass of whiskey either at the cat, or the TV, or going outside and throwing it as far as I can manage in the hopes it will turn into a CERTIFICATE OF MENTAL TOUGHNESS that will self-replicate 12 times and flit away into the hands of the Michigan basketball team. Perhaps then, assured that their grit and determination in the face of adversity has been demonstrated to the point of official, gilt recognition, they will f---ing stop it.

I don't know about you, but when the basketball team you are hoping wins gets down that much, the ensuing trudge back (if there is one) is an exercise in irrational hatred of everything. The OSU and MSU games were fine, as ten-point hole was ephemeral. Michigan quickly achieved near-parity and went from there. This one was an extended exercise in rolling around with a straight jacket on. I don't need them to play better or win more. I just need the points to be more evenly distributed across the 40 minutes of play. (I need them to play better and win more. More, always more.)

But hey, they won. On the backs of Glenn Robinson, Jordan Morgan, and Spike Albrecht, just like everyone expected.

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

Robinson in particular played a complete game the likes of which he has not put together in a long time: 17 points on 13 shot equivalents, eight rebounds, three assists, and one turnover. He generated a good number of his shots himself, against a defense that was amped up and aggressive on the perimeter.

I've made no secret of my frustration at Robinson's game this year. He hasn't seemed to add anything; meanwhile LeVert and Stauskas are entirely different players. His rebound rates are pedestrian at best. (He's currently tied with Derrick Walton in DREB rate.) I am still suspicious of his awareness on defense—his dude, Rapheal Davis, had five offensive rebounds one game after multiple MSU baskets were directly attributable to Robinson not getting back in transition.

And then sometimes, Lottery GRIII appears. Sometimes he elevates for a jumper that cannot be contested because getting your hand in his face would require cutting it off and throwing it at him. Sometimes there's a lob in the direction of the basket and he continues ascending after he makes the catch. Sometimes, though. Just sometimes.

At Michigan's time of need they knew Purdue would overplay Stauskas and that they should try to hit something over the top, because they needed one measly point and they had 2.9 seconds to get it. They drew up a lob pass with Spike screening GRIII's guy, and executed—barely.

The pass was a rainbow that managed to get over an outstretched hand but took its target a step too far outside, a step too far towards the baseline. Robinson took a power dribble as he landed from the catch to reset his feet; he did not gain the requisite distance as Spike's defender came in to harass him. It looked grim.

But there are people who can make a One Direction song sound poignant, and there are people who can catch alley-oops and hang there, untethered. Some people can leap from behind the backboard outside the paint and still be in the air five feet later, just where they need to be as the clock strikes zero.

image

Dustin Johnston/UMHoops

Bullets

Gotta shore up that free throw defense. If you screamed "MISS ONE FOR CHRIST'S SAKE" sometime in the second half with a Boiler at the line, you are not alone. The worst FT shooting team in the Big Ten hit 17 straight to open before the final, fateful miss; Michigan was a couple of shots behind their season average at 17/25. When all was said and done that was the difference between an extremely annoying but eventually comfortable win and TERROR IN CENTRAL INDIANA.

That business is just luck, pure and simple. At one point Stephen Bardo chalked it up to Purdue's "focus." Stephen Bardo could show up at a casino and praise the little old lady at the slots for her mental toughness when she hits a jackpot.

The hand of fate. A lot of these early holes seem like a series of completely random misses and makes. Michigan fell down against MSU early because Denzel Valentine hit a 30-footer and a running transition 3 while Michigan's generally excellent three point shooting put up a bunch of bricks; here Purdue gave up a half-dozen quality looks from three early and Michigan started 1/7 behind the line.

Meanwhile, Terone "Ann Arbor's All-American" Johnson hits his first four. Purdue isn't quite the crew of bricklayers they were last year but they're still 9th in conference at making threes and 11th at taking them, and at one point Michigan was 1/7 from three while Purdue was 5/10. Things returned to normal for the Boilers by the end; Michigan, not so much.

A very distributed night. If it was hard to pick out anything in particular anyone was doing right, that's because Michigan spread everything out. Six players grabbed offensive rebounds; five had at least three assists; six guys had at least eight points. Robinson and Morgan were your best players in terms of efficiency, but everyone was setting up everyone for shots so it was a team effort to get to 1.12 PPP despite shooting 6/23 from three.

Call it, for pant's sake. Heard today from someone who talked to a MAC assistant. Refereeing came up and he said that refs have a really tough job because they do all kinds of games for all kinds of conferences and they're told to call games differently based on what conference they're in. It will not surprise you that the Big Ten tells people to let things go way more than others.

This is cold comfort to Nik Stauskas today, I'm assuming. By the end of the game he was plunging into the lane and missing layups badly because he wasn't getting hammered on them. The standard of refereeing shifted dramatically from Sunday, when Bill Raftery deployed "nickel-dimer" a half dozen times in the first half, to Wednesday, when you had to ride over a guy's foot with a lawnmower to get a call. Unless it's Jordan Morgan, who will be told to stop bleeding all over the court and get up.

Just one of those nights. I had almost no problem with the shot selection aside from a couple of possessions where LeVert dribbled around for 15 seconds and hoisted one; Robinson also had a couple of nononoYES long twos. The 23 attempts from behind the arc were almost entirely great looks, because Purdue gives up great looks from three quite a bit. They're dead last in conference by some distance at permitting three point looks. 

The crappy shooting got in Michigan's head. There was one transition opportunity on which Caris passed up an open corner three from the run-away-I-know-it's-good spot, whereupon Michigan turned the ball over. I exclaimed "SHOOT THE BALL"; the TV informed me that John Beilein had just exclaimed "SHOOT THE BALL" and I felt better.

image

Dustin Johnston/UMHoops

Spike! Kept Walton stapled to the bench despite the terrifying prospect of a Spike-vs-pick-a-Johnson defensive matchup, and it paid off. He grabbed a rare two-point bucket, stole the ball twice, set up Morgan for two of his OT flushes, and had one bad ass alley-oop to Robinson.

Walton didn't do much other than shoot some threes against the persnickety perimeter defense of the Johnsons; Spike was better able to find shots for his teammates. "Luxury" doesn't begin to cover Albrecht's status on the roster.

Chances. Per Kenpom odds, Michigan has an 83% shot at an outright title and is 98%(!) for a share.

Video & Analysis: Frank Kaminsky vs. Michigan

Video & Analysis: Frank Kaminsky vs. Michigan

Submitted by Ace on February 18th, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Happy Fun Times Day at MGoBlog continues unabated. Before you get mad at me for putting this video together, please keep in mind that I've already punished myself by... putting this video together. Here are Frank Kaminsky's significant touches against Michigan, sorted by primary defender. It's just as brutal as you'd expect.

Kaminsky scored 25 points on 10/14 2-pt and 1/2 3-pt shooting with four offensive rebounds. He dominated regardless of the defender. That doesn't mean the defender didn't matter, however, at least when it came to forcing more difficult shots. While this video mostly speaks for itself, a little analysis of Michigan's post defenders in this game is warranted.

Jordan Morgan

Morgan started out well, forcing Kaminsky to pass out the post on his first touch despite having pretty solid position. It went downhill in a hurry. Kaminsky's quickness proved especially troublesome for Morgan; three times Kaminsky blew right past him after getting the ball on the perimeter and he committed a foul to prevent a fourth. The threat of Kaminsky's three-point shot exacerbated this issue, as his most successful drives came when Morgan overplayed the outside shot* or got caught flat-footed.

While Morgan forced tough shots on post touches, his size disadvantage and lack of explosive athleticism allowed Kaminsky to get clean looks at the hoop anyway. Morgan's strength is an asset in the post—Kaminsky had a tough time backing him down—but Kaminsky overcame it with his length, mobility, and skill.

The uncalled push-off on the final three-pointer is noted; it's also canceled out by the inexplicable brick when Morgan couldn't fight through traffic and gave up a wide open three-point look.

*[Often because he was late getting out to contest a potential three.]

Glenn Robinson III

This matchup choice confounded me, as John Beilein chose to put Robinson on Kaminsky when Nigel Hayes also took the floor for Wisconsin. My best justification for this is Beilein wanting to ensure Robinson, a better rebounder and defender at this stage than Zak Irvin, didn't get into foul trouble defending Hayes, who draws an astronomical 7.7 fouls per 40 minutes. I still don't get it, though, since Michigan wasn't doubling in the post and Kaminsky overpowered Robinson with ease.

Wisconsin immediately went after the mismatch in the post when Robinson manned up Kaminsky. Both post-ups resulted in baskets on great looks. On the boards, Kaminsky outreached Robinson for the ball when GRIII even bothered to box him out; twice GRIII didn't even manage to do that.

Jon Horford

I thought Horford acquitted himself well defensively, making Kaminsky work for good shots when he wasn't the victim of poor defense by his teammates. Or the officials. The first foul call (above), well...

Brian: I noticed that Horford got called for the wisconsin chest bump live

That's a tough call considering (1) Wisconsin does this all the time and (2) the officials let a lot of touchy fouls go in this game.

Horford then got victimized for a basket in which Kaminsky got a half-step advantage on him, then exploited that half-step with an uncalled off-arm hook that kept Horford from recovering. Horford, naturally, got called for a foul.

Conclusions?

I'm not sure what to take from this other than knowing Michigan's interior defense isn't very good, especially against big men who can also stretch the floor. With Adreian Payne rounding his way into form, that doesn't bode well for Sunday. Will we see the Wolverines double down in the post more? Quite possibly, as John Beilein said this during his weekly radio show:

That isn't a failsafe solution, of course. Doubling in the post puts more pressure on Michigan's perimeter defenders, and they've been prone to blowing switches and assignments as-is. Wisconsin having Ben Brust and Josh Gasser on the floor—not to mention Sam Dekker on a hot shooting day—made it tough for U-M to commit any more defenders to Kaminsky. With MSU giving plenty of minutes to a lineup featuring Gary Harris, Kenny Kaminski, and Travis Trice—all 40% or better 3-point shooters—surrounding Payne, they face similar issues this weekend even if Keith Appling sits out.

It Is Bad To Be Down A Lot Early

It Is Bad To Be Down A Lot Early

Submitted by Brian on February 17th, 2014 at 12:58 PM

OR: LESSONS FROM A LIFE HARD LIVED

2/16/2014 – Michigan 62, Wisconsin 75 – 18-7, 10-3 Big Ten

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[Bryan Fuller]

Michigan was one bounce away from a Big Ten title last year and went to the Final Four. This year they're tied at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State. And still there are multiple games per year that I am immediately sick about because Michigan gets down by one billion immediately.

Maybe they cut the deficit to a million and then eventually lose. Point stands. I don't think they've actually won a one billion point deficit game; the closest they've come is the most recent outing against Ohio State that reached a maximum deficit of ten. The four in the last two years:

  • Michigan goes down 29-8 in the first half at Ohio State, eventually ties game, loses 56-53.
  • Michigan goes down 31-15 in first half at MSU, rest of game proceeds like that.
  • Iowa leads 27-11 at Iowa, rest of game proceeds like that.
  • I dunno, pick a first-half point against Wisconsin: 14-4, 26-11, 34-16. Michigan narrows it to five before Wisconsin ends the game on a sealing run.

Does this happen to other very good basketball teams? I assume it must. There are two types of people: those who are suspicious of their own brains and those who assume they have no biases. I'm in the former group and therefore assume that other teams headed for Sweet 16 seeds regularly get their ass handed them in appalling fashion.

Let's just head over to Kenpom and…

Hmm.

I've got Kansas's game against Texas, wherein the Jayhawks ended up down 17 near the end of the first half and never really closed that deficit. Villanova will run screaming from the room if you so much as use a word that begins with C after their two outings against Creighton. And… and that's about it. I didn't check every single loss in the KP top 25, but I did do a lot of them and it does appear that getting smacked upside the head with a giant ham in the first 15 minutes is a notable rarity amongst teams that purport to be as good as Michigan does.

This is no fun. I can deal with losing to Arizona or even grumbling through that Indiana game much better than I can the series of increasingly agitated expletives followed by dismal silence that has resulted from these… things. Games they are not. Games are competitive contests of sporting intent. These are flayings, followed by an excruciating period of bleeding out.

The Ohio State one was okay, I guess. That was the first hamblast game and Michigan recovered from it to acquire a moral victory. (Tedious person about to let me know that he doesn't believe in moral victories: you're a fan, you certainly do, please stop parroting press conferences, both teams played hard.) The three since have been solid platforms of misery.

You can't turn them off because you remember that Ohio State game—it was a trap!—and you can't watch them without removing all emotion from your life, gazing dumbly ahead like a cow on a conveyor belt, bleating in directionless anguish every once in a while. The comeback trail is only satisfying in retrospect if the comeback is completed. Teasing contact and then letting go is just the cherry on top of the cow-conveyor-belt sundae.

I may have tortured that metaphor until it died. I have no regrets. It knew the risks, coming into this column after that game. It'll get an MGoState funeral; its wife, a jaunty comparison between Zak Irvin and a modern piece of kitchen technology, gets full benefits.

For my part, I'm spending the next week assembling a couch fort in the living room and testing out colanders for protective potential. I plan to peer out my viewport, Super Soaker in hand, until it feels safe to come out. If it feels safe to come out. I'm bringing a lot of soup.

Bullets

Thanks, Increasingly Dangerous Nebraska™! Really did us a solid there, winning at the Breslin. Michigan retains its virtual one-game lead over the Spartans based largely on the fact that Michigan's next game is at home.

Is Nebraska headed for the bubble? Yeah, but probably the wrong side. They've got zero good nonconference wins and a bad loss versus UAB. I don't wins over OSU, Miinnesota, and @ MSU get you in with, say, an 18-12 record and 10-8 in conference. They'd have to either go 5-1 down the stretch (doable, but not probable: PSU, Purdue, @ Illinois, NW, @ Indiana, Wisconsin) or notch another big scalp in the BTT to get in.

But hey, that's quite a turnaround from last year, when Nebraska was dismal and senior-heavy. The Cornhuskers get everyone except Ray Gallegos back next year and will be projected to grab a bid.

Sound all available alarms. The Stauskas crisis is reaching peak levels. 11 points on 13 shot attempts, 2 assists, and 3 TOs lead to a single-game ORTG of 78 and, worse, is reflective of his past five or six games. Asking Stauskas to be more aggressive has just caused him to take a lot of bad shots. Sometimes they go in because Stauskas, but bad shots are bad shots no matter who takes them. Michigan really has to figure out something to combat the point guard gambit here. This is trouble.

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At least this one was a tough runner from an angle. GRIII possessions not so much. [Bryan Fuller]

Why was the 6'6" guy on the 7-foot guy again? Michigan inexplicably singled GRIII up against Kaminsky so often that it became clear this was on purpose when Hayes was in the game. This was nuts. Kaminsky abused the much shorter Robinson for a series of easy buckets and four OREBs; Hayes just stood in front of Morgan/Horford and launched 15-footers. If switching those matchups ends up with Hayes posting GRIII, okay. That's going to work out better than Kaminsky. Even if you thought Kaminsky couldn't post up—no idea why that would be the case—after his first extremely easy bucket over GRIII it was time to put the biggest dude available on him.

Not like GRIII was much better against Dekker. Pro: he somehow acquired 5/8 from two in this game—seriously, look at the box score and you'll be like "wha?"

So, so passive. Michigan's disruption stats in this game were pathetic: 0 blocks, 0 steals, 2 Wisconsin turnovers. TWO. Yeah, yeah, HORSE, but that's so far out of bounds that you can't keep up. Wisconsin had 8 more FGAs and 3 more FTAs. The shooting wasn't that different; it was largely on shot advantage.

Michigan's defense has now farted down to 89th on Kenpom, which is 50 spots below last year. McGary only played 20 minutes a game; is that really the entire difference? I mean, I don't remember either Burke or Hardaway as the kind of players who made you think that they would be missed on the defensive end, Burkesteal excepted.

Irvin: nope. The Irvin giveth and the Irvin taketh away: 1/7 in this game. None were exceptional looks, but most looked plausible as he shot them. I guess in this game he was The Dutch Oven, because it took him a long time to get warmed up. Are you quitting this blog yet? Because of the Irvin stuff? I don't really blame you.

Also nope: Walton, 0/6 from the floor.

Caris! Caris jacked up some horrible-idea threes, which went in. Then he got some good looks, that went in. He was only 2/7 from two but with 6/6 FTAs on drives he was really 5/10 from there. He still dribbles around too much for my tastes but when Stauskas is in a funk he's picked Michigan up multiple times.

Credit to the bug man. Wisconsin nailed it down after getting blown up by Michigan the last time out. M did scrape over the 1 PPP mark at 1.03 mostly thanks to blazing FT shooting, 89%. But the whole tenor of the game was different. The wide open twos Wisconsin gave up in the first game were way less open. Michigan did get some, but more often those twos were at least semi-contested.

Meanwhile, Michigan didn't even attempt a three until they were down by a bunch. Getting up to 16 was kind of desperation.

Wisconsin 75, Michigan 62

Wisconsin 75, Michigan 62

Submitted by Ace on February 16th, 2014 at 4:05 PM


Caris LeVert's 25 points ultimately weren't enough [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

Oh, it should've been, could've been worse than you would ever know.
Well, you told me about nowhere well it sounds like someplace I'd like to go.

You know it's not going well when the arena staff decides Modest Mouse's "Dashboard" is an appropriate song to play during halftime. With Michigan down 34-19 to Wisconsin at the break, however, the choice proved prescient.

If not for Caris LeVert's 17 second-half points, this game never would've been close, and even the final 13-point margin doesn't capture Wisconsin's dominance. The Badgers raced out to a 14-4 lead as Michigan's familiar defensive woes reared their ugly head, dominated the boards, and pushed the gap as wide as 18 points when U-M went 5:05 without hitting a field goal.

The deficit proved too much to overcome despite LeVert's best efforts. After the sophomore connected on a pair of three throws to cut Wisconsin's lead to three points with 6:16 remaining, Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky answered with a post-up finish. Kaminsky proceeded to take over, hitting his next three shots—including an and-one and a stepback three—to give the Badgers an insurmountable 65-52 edge with just over two minutes left.

Michigan couldn't find an answer all afternoon for Kaminsky, who finished with 25 points (10/14 2-pt, 1/2 3-pt) and 11 rebounds (four offensive). He attacked Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford in the post, caught them flat-footed when he got the ball on the perimeter, and capped it off with that late triple.

While the Wolverines—namely LeVert—found their shot in the second half after going just 7/22 from the field in the first, Wisconsin's major edge in rebounding and turnovers proved to be the difference.

The Badgers coughed the ball up just twice; Michigan had seven turnovers in the first half alone. In a 59-possession slog, those mistakes proved quite costly, especially with Wisconsin generating lots of second-chance opportunities. The rebounding numbers would look much worse if Bo Ryan didn't play it conservative and start sending all five players back with a comfortable lead in the second half.

Wisconsin also prevented Michigan from getting the shots they wanted, especially in the first half. U-M only attempted 16 three-pointers, couldn't get to the rim, and had to settle for a series of long two-pointers. This showed up in the numbers. Nik Stauskas scored 11 points on 13 shot equivalents, going 0/2 from beyond the arc. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin were a combined 1/13 from the field, the only make a meaningless late three from Irvin.

While Glenn Robinson finished with ten points on ten shots and the Morgan/Horford pairing hit 3/4 FGs, the open inside looks that Michigan generated in the first matchup just weren't there. Just five of Michigan's 20 made field goals were assisted; none of those came in the first half.

Dropping a winnable game at home is a big blow to Michigan's chances of winning the Big Ten title outright, but it's far too early to count them out, especially if Michigan State trips up in one of their games (Nebraska, @Purdue) between now and Sunday's in-state battle at Crisler.

Make no mistake, though: this was a blown opportunity, and the state of the defense isn't pretty. After ceding 1.28 points per trip to Wisconsin, Michigan ranks 10th in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency, 11th in eFG% against, and 9th in both turnovers forced and defensive rebounding. If there isn't improvement between now and the postseason, there won't be much madness in March for Michigan.

One Frame At A Time: Ohio State

One Frame At A Time: Ohio State

Submitted by Ace on February 13th, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Somewhere there should be 
for all the world to see 
a statue of a fool made of stone.

An image of a man
who let love slip through his hands
and left him to stand here all alone.

— David Ruffin, "Statue Of A Fool"

I found your statue, Mr. Ruffin.

It depicts Dan Dakich watching Aaron Craft attempt this shot.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the GIFs, including lots of Derrick Walton, "Plastic Man," John Beilein giving dap in the run of play, sad Ohio fans, and more.]

Tale Of Two Points

Tale Of Two Points

Submitted by Brian on February 12th, 2014 at 12:41 PM

2/11/2014 – Michigan 70, OSU 60 – 18-6, 10-2 Big Ten

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I'ma fall in this basket if that's what it takes

Early, it was a layup line for Ohio State. A combination of transition off turnovers and long misses and plain old WHAT ARE YOU DOING defense led to a stretch where OSU made seven consecutive shots, because all of those shots came within a foot of the rim. For its part, Michigan was stuck outside, with the now-standard point-guard-on Stauskas gambit making it difficult for Michigan to initiate offense through their best player.

Aside from the inexplicable avalanche of offensive rebounds, a sense of déjà vu prevailed. This was the same game Trey Burke's Michigan team had at OSU, the same feeling of being overwhelmed by a road game they had just experienced at Indiana and Iowa. Craft or a Craft-like substance was stuck to Michigan's engine, gumming up the works.

Dan Dakich rhapsodized; ESPN kept showing one particular defensive sequence where Stauskas got Walton a wide open corner three that GRIII rebounded and missed a putback on. What would ESPN have shown had either of those really good shots gone in? The same thing. The Aaron Craft narrative does not bow to things like reality. He is a winner, and if Ohio State does not win, they still win, because anything else is impossible.

And then Michigan was down four at halftime. Four is a lot less than 20. Four is doable.

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

In the second half, Craft stayed stuck to Stauskas. Michigan came unstuck from Craft. Stauskas managed to find snatches of space in which to rise up or attack the basket on his way to 15 efficient points but was largely removed from generating shots for his teammates. Walton became a free-range annoyance to anyone who happened to have the ball.

Except Craft. Walton played free safety against Craft. If provided a mildly psychoactive taco, Craft would have seen Walton as a giant middle finger extended in the general direction of his offensive competence. A very small, very distant middle finger. And he still would have passed the ball to someone on the perimeter.

On the other end, Walton did a thing that was pretty good, and then a thing that reminded you of you-know-who, and then another couple things and then you had to say it even if you were afraid to do so.

The word "Burke" was uttered, in comparison instead of deficit, when Walton took a mishandled dribble and exploded to the basket for an and-one against a seven foot shotblocker. He extended his body past applicable limits and crashed to the floor after. It had to be mentioned. It was like seeing a ghost.

This is not even that shot.

imageimageimage

This is an entirely different shot that is the same shot that is Burke's shot.

Walton's stats were incomprehensible in relation to his play. When he scored near the end of the first half and up flashed his line—two points, four rebounds—it felt wrong. The narrative of his play was at odds with the blunt numbers, and even afterwards he still has an impossible-seeming 2/8 in the two-point column. The other stats, however, back him up: 13 on 13 shot equivalents, ten(!) rebounds, six(!) assists, one turnover. OSU has the fourth-best defense in the country; Derrick Walton drove the bus against them in the second half as Michigan put up 70 in a 59 possession game.

For his part, Craft finally launched his uncontested three, which was an airball. A gritty winner of an airball, but an airball. Dakich started looking for another mancrush—literally, on air, this is a thing that literally happened on air.

As Michigan surged, you remembered the other bit of that Ohio State game last year: a 20-minute trudge to tie the game before a final slump finally condemned them. This trudge was from ten back, but it was no less of a grind against pretty much the same team that ground Michigan's offense into paste a year ago.

This Michigan team doesn't have a Burke, but when there's one Aaron Craft maybe it's better to have three mini-Burkes thrusting their rapiers wherever the armor is weakest.

Bullets

Hello. Michigan has now won at OSU, MSU, and Wisconsin. In the same year and everything. They also have a road win over (probably) tourney-bound Minnesota, and are very likely to end the conference season at least 6-3 away from Crisler. 7-2 is a distinct possibility. Yowza.

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This probably missed. Michigan now knows the feeling. [Fuller]

Parade of missed bunnies. Here's a sentence I never thought I'd say: that game reminded me of the Michigan-Arizona game, with Michigan in the role of offensive rebound machine that can't convert any of the resulting layups. Michigan had 14(!), most of them in the first half, and after that frustrating 20 minutes they only led OSU 7-4 in second chance points.

This feels like a team-wide problem but it was mostly a Robinson thing. (Morgan did miss a first-half putback but that was his only miss of the night.) On the one hand, Robinson flashed to the bucket without a box-out on several possessions and created extra shots. On the other, those extra shots did not go in the basket. They kept flashing huge disparities in FG% in the first half and wondering how Michigan was in the game; those disparities would have been significantly less huge if Michigan was just getting one look at the basket.

Haunted. Now add in the three point play caused when Caris momentarily lost his mind and 'saved' a ball going out off of OSU. This is why large sections of the first half were agonizing about a score that should have been near even.

But welcome back, super-efficient two-headed center. As mentioned, Morgan missed one shot. Horford also missed one, a 15-foot jumper on which he was left open. Both guys used clever moves to get short-range buckets on route to a 7/9 night on which Michigan dominated the boards.

Box score change request. Spike Albrecht only got four minutes, picking up another turnover and missing one shot. HOWEVA, that missed shot should be credited as an assist, as he drove into the lane and put it so high off the window that there was little chance of a bucket. He did this because Amir Williams tries to block everything. Amir Williams tried to block it; the ball went directly to Morgan on the weakside; Morgan actually made the layup.

Amir Williams. There's no nice way to say this. He is not all there. OSU has yanked him from long stretches of games for defensive incompetence; in this one Michigan's two centers picked up seven OREBs despite being much smaller and less athletic. He also committed one of history's worst fouls when he ran over Walton with the shot clock expiring on a critical possession down the stretch.

I remember Williams getting yanked from the M-OSU game at Crisler two years ago after some comically bad defensive possessions, and while he has improved somewhat from that point he remains a massively frustrating guy prone to fits of ain't-care. I know this because I was rooting for OSU in their game against MSU and built up large reserves of loathing for his game.

Irvin up and down. Irvin extended OSU the same favor Williams did at the end of the first half by fouling LaQuinton Ross on a three. It wasn't nearly as bad. He's a freshman, not a junior, and that was a quality look from the corner instead of a desperation jack from about five feet behind the line. It was still bad. Irvin also added in a trio of errors on possessions down the stretch:

  • fouling Ross as he initiated a desperation drive to the basket with three seconds on the shot clock
  • turning the ball over on a sloppy perimeter pass
  • getting burned by Ross on the next offensive possession for a layup and an OREB that turned into a three point paly

The refs credited the first foul to Horford, somehow, but it was Irvin who made the contact, and Stauskas is listed as the guy with the TO in the box score. I don't think I'm remembering it wrong, because at the time everyone in the room was moaning at Irvin.

[UPDATE: I remembered this wrong. The bail out foul was in the first half, as was the ensuing TO, and then the third error was the foul on the three. Irvin did get a TO from Ross in between these issues.]

So there's that. But Irvin also had ten points on five shot equivalents. This is a much shorter section than all the things that went wrong but it's equally as important. That is two points per Irvin-initiated shot. That is good, Adam Jacobi. His threes were needed shots in the arm when Michigan was getting wobbly; he's nearing Stauskas for team three point champion. Achievement unlocked: Modern-Day Microwave.

Wait.

Wait. Should we call him "The Induction Burner"? Or is that stupid?

Yeah, okay, it's stupid.

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This three was slightly lower pressure. [Fuller]

Glenn is so broken don't take that oh OKAY. Another miserable game for Robinson, but this one was capped off by a critical corner three in crunch time that pushed Michigan out to 7 and was the beginning of the end. He was 2/9 on his other shots, many of them point-blank. At points it was like his God-given athleticism was just an elaborate way to troll Michigan fans.

But at least it seems like the message has been received. Michigan posted him up for one of his buckets. Robinson eschewed dribbles for the most part (0 A, 0 TO) and went hard on the offensive glass. Even if it didn't pay off in this particular game, more 4 OREB performances from Robinson will get him into that "quiet 14 points" range he was so effective in last year.

His defense was also notably better on Ross than alternatives. Irvin was inserted for a run in the second half right after a couple of plays around the rim on which Robinson did not convert, and there were a couple of possessions on which it was clear that Ross could just back Irvin down inside the paint whenever he wanted. GRIII is much more sturdy.

Hurdle cleared. Kenpom had Michigan with a 33% chance to pull that game off. The algorithm has been giving OSU a bit of the Wisconsin treatment this year after the Buckeyes stormed through an undefeated nonconference schedule with no good teams on it. Despite being .500 in the league they're still in the top 20. Even if they're overrated by computers, that was a road game against a 19-5 team, Michigan's last against anything resembling a tourney outfit.

Their only trips remaining are to Purdue and Illinois, collectively 7-15 in the league. Michigan is now better than 70% to win every game left on the schedule save MSU, a 65% proposition, and is projected to finish a boggling 15-3 in the league.

Craftbow. I don't hate Aaron Craft and would take him on this Michigan outfit no question even if he is allergic to shots. But man, I hate Aaron Craft. This has nothing to do with anything other than the Tebow effect wherein announcers praise a player so much that you're just so damned sick of hearing about it.

Dakich is normally my favorite color guy other than Jay Bilas, but hearing him call an OSU game is pure torture. His normally reasonable comments about effort go from getting your hands up on shooters and boxing out to ludicrous flights of fancy wherein he literally says things like "the ball knows" that you have reversed the floor and then goes in. In this game he started the first ten minutes bitching about how Michigan was barely trying, and then had to stare at Michigan ending the game on a dominant run.

Effort is so fetishized by commentators that they'll ignore randomness, confusion, youth, and uncertainty to rail on it. Craft exacerbates that 1000%. It  got so bad that Dakich started going on and on about Horford's huge effort level… on an uncontested dunk. I'm delighted I never have to hear about Craft again. No offense to the man himself.

Creepy balance. To the point about many mini-Burkes instead of one Burke: Michigan played seven guys an appreciable amount of time in this game. Usage: 22, 22, 21, 19, 18, 18, 16. Walton and GRIII are at the top; LeVert is at the bottom.

This Isn't Titled "Welp" But Might As Well Be

This Isn't Titled "Welp" But Might As Well Be

Submitted by Brian on February 10th, 2014 at 12:12 PM

2/8/2014 – Michigan 67, Iowa 85 – 17-6, 9-2 Big Ten

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Did you know it took like three hundred years for people to agree that they should not spell a lower-case F like they spell a lower case S?

I know it seems obvious enough that some under-typeface apprentice would eventually get into a life-threatening slap-fight with the over-apprentice about this issue, but the only people they could relate this life or death issue to were their immediate family. Since everyone got wiped out every five years by the epidemic du jour, the end result was a bunch of corpses and no progress towards anything resembling sense in written language. Which of course brings me to "welp."

"Welp" is unique amongst internet utterances, and that makes me love it. "Welp" is an expression of fatalism in the face of disaster. It maintains no sense of irony, mitigation, or aloofness. To say it is to say "this hurt me, and it is unfair and stupid, and now I am moving on."

Compare that to any other sentiment expressed by an internet meme in an effort to find a better one, like, morally. Go on. Go ahead. I submit that you have not found anything even in that category, let alone competing with it.

And this, of course, brings me to opponent three point shooting.

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Michigan's defense is sinking like a stone in Big Ten and national rankings, and deservedly. When Roy Devyn Marble pulled up for an open transition three after a Michigan make, fuming was an appropriate response. (Silent fuming, or at least just twitter fuming.) Caris LeVert was standing next to Glenn Robinson in the paint; there was no reason whatsoever for a clearly-dangerous Marble to not be a priority.

But even so, come on man. A week after Yogi Ferrell was 8/9 from three, Marble was 6/10 and started 6/7; as a team, Iowa shot 59%. They started out 9/12. One game earlier, Iowa went 3 of 20 against Ohio State. They're dead last in threes attempted in the league for a reason.

In between these two games, Michigan bombed the Cornhuskers back to the stone age. I'm ready for basketball to resume being a game instead of an exercise in flipping a coin to see who gets a face-eating bear dropped on them. To some extent, you just have to say this hurt me and is stupid and let's move on.

To some extent. Michigan's latest struggle has further exposed Michigan's defense as a problem that is not going away. Michigan typically sticks Caris LeVert on the opposition's most dangerous perimeter player, and this has not gone at all well the past month. Michigan turned off Terran Petteway in their laugher, and Purdue does not have a dangerous perimeter player. The other three most dangerous players went off:

  • Gary Harris: 27 points, 5/9 from 2, 4/6 from three.
  • Yogi Ferrell: 27 points, 7/8 from 3.
  • Roy Devyn Marble: 26 points, 6/10 from three.
This isn't all on LeVert, but it is an indication that Michigan does not have a best option when it comes to perimeter defense. There's playing HORSE and there's barely contesting shots. As I mentioned extensively last year, at some point there is such a thing as not being foul-prone enough, and Michigan is currently the fourth most-passive team in the country as measured by FTA/FGA.
 
Meanwhile, Michigan's most dangerous option has struggled to even touch the ball when a guy six inches shorter than him gets the defensive assignment. "Alarming" doesn't quite cover it when Iowa can follow the blueprint laid down by Yogi Ferrell, who's basically Dennis Norfleet on a basketball court, with Mike Gesell, who's basically an Iowa safety trying to tackle a Michigan quarterback.
 
While Michigan coped better than they did at Assembly Hall—1.05 points per possession isn't terrible on the road against a top-40 D—the time to sound the Stauskas alarm is now. He can defer all he wants as long as the way he's doing it is by making good passes. Stauskas putting up ten points just can't be accompanied by a 0-4 A:TO ratio.

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

The thing that made Trey Burke Trey Burke is his general refusal to be removed from the gameplan. It happened, mostly against Aaron Craft. When it happened Burke would fume with hatred until he could stab his nemesis in the face. Sometimes that took a few weeks, as when Burke had 16 points, eight assists, and gave Aaron Craft in last year's OSU rematch. Sometimes it happened on the other side of halftime—ask Kansas.

So here it is for Stauskas. Is it going to be "welp, I guess somebody does put baby in the corner," or is it going to be a rain of hellfire upon all those who presume to check Nik The Great And Powerful? And here it is for LeVert: is it going to be "welp, that three went in" or is opponent going to get off a good three over your dead body?

It is crunch time. Let's see some lip curl.

Bullets

WELP. Welp.

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IMPENDING DOOOOOOM

GET YOUR HANDS UP. It was one thing for LeVert to play frustratingly far off the lightning-quick Ferrell, because Ferrell does just go by guys in a flash. Marble is good, but not that good, and open look after open look just got handed to him by miscommunication and other things. Caris has a bad habit of being in position with his hands down that practically invites guys to raise up over him.

Time to acknowledge reality. Devolving offensive responsibility from Stauskas is painful partially because it turns Glenn Robinson into a guy who's trying to create off the bounce. This doesn't work well very often. Against Iowa it was a complete disaster, as he had 4 TOs against one assist and was 1/7 from the floor. A couple of those were open looks generated by his teammates; the rest were heavily contested jacks.

There was one particularly illuminating possession on which Robinson gingerly prodded at whichever 6'9" guy was checking him and then dumped it off to Walton with the shot clock ticking down. One lightning-quick Walton crossover later he was in the lane getting fouled. Robinson had just tried a similar move; in comparison his looked like he was executing it in a tar pit.

Robinson can do good work coming off curl screens and on cuts, but the only time he should dribble in an effort to score the basket is off a post-up. This is completely fine as long as the team acknowledges GRIII's strengths and weaknesses and plays to them accordingly.

At least Irvin's heating up. 19 points for Irvin in 22 minutes, 4/5 from three, and he was able to take the ball to the hole in transition a couple times. He's slowly diversifying his game, and he does shoot a lot. He's putting up 27% of Michigan's shots when he's on the floor, and his eFG% is near 60%.

Emphasis on "slowly," though. Irvin still does almost nothing other than shoot in a box score. This is the third straight game he's recorded neither a TO or assist; he's got one assist in Big Ten play.

Crushed in McGary stats. Iowa blew Michigan out on the boards with 15 offensive rebounds. That's not a huge surprise against the fee-fi-fo-fum Hawkeyes. Worse is Michigan forcing only 7 TOs and losing steals 9-3. That is an 11 shot advantage handed the Hawkeyes; that's how you give up 1.33 PPP.

This was a game in which Michigan did really miss Mitch. Morgan only got 15 minutes and had zero defensive rebounds; Horford was better but still eh.

Caris steps up, again. As frustrating as LeVert's game was defensively, he was really, really good on offense, with 22 points on 17 shot equivalents. He's not in Stauskas's class as a distributor and he's not as efficient of a shooter, but he is a fine second option. It's just the "second" bit that needs work.

This guy. I knew we were in trouble as soon as this guy.

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That guy is a mobile home court advantage. I wish to hire him to do his thing whenever I post something.