Brightest Youth

Brightest Youth

Submitted by Ace on April 7th, 2013 at 3:35 PM


Image via UMHoops

"Bright youth passes swiftly as a thought." — Theognis

Mitch McGary scored in double figures twice in his first 21 games for Michigan. Before last night, he had 18 assists... all season.

Nik Stauskas had made just two of his previous 16 three-point attempts when he took the floor against Florida.

Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Glenn Robinson III's season high in offensive rebounds was four.

Caris LeVert, expected to take a redshirt year, didn't play in Michigan's first six games. He'd scored a grand total of zero NCAA Tournament points heading into Saturday night.

Going into the last two games, Spike Albrecht had scored 54 points this season, 627 fewer than the man he backed up, Trey Burke.

Before the season began, I wrote about the lofty expectations for this team, and how much they had to rely on a talented but enigmatic group of incoming freshmen:

While the hype may be slightly overblown, anything less than the program's first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1994 would be considered a disappointment.

How the team reaches that point is still very much in question. Hardaway, plagued by a balky jumper, ceded the role of lead dog to Burke as the season wore on in 2011-12; if he regains his stroke, he could emerge as the top scoring option. The presence of Jordan Morgan, McGary, and a healthy Jon Horford up front gives Beilein new-found depth and versatility with his lineup—Beilein spoke at media day of an offseason spent studying NBA film to see how the pros utilize two post players, a luxury he hasn't been afforded during his time in Ann Arbor. For their part, McGary and Robinson must live up to sky-high recruiting hype if this team hopes to deliver on their potential.

The extent to which the Wolverines miss Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz depends largely on another freshman, Nik Stauskas, and his ability to connect from the outside. Yet another freshman, Spike Albrecht, will be called upon to replace "timeout" as Burke's backup. One more first-year guard, Caris LeVert, has earned rave reviews in practice and could provide scoring punch off the bench.

When the season began, Stauskas and Robinson managed to make an immediate impact. McGary, however, was simultaneously playing his way into shape and learning how to play his game without bashing into everyone and everything (including, very nearly, the Governor). Albrecht was largely a non-factor all the way through Big Ten season, called upon to keep the ship afloat—and no more than that—when the National Player of the Year needed a quick breather. LeVert appeared at least a year away from being a major contributor, showing flashes of sky-high potential but shooting under 30% on the season.

Heading into the tournament, Michigan was regarded, well, maybe not as a one-man show, but to keep it in-state let's say they were the White Stripes and Trey Burke was Jack White—take him away and you're left with a bunch of unmelodious noise that often strays off-beat. When Burke scored six points on 2/12 shooting in the opening game against South Dakota State, it was a clear case of fortunate timing, the only remaining game in which he could perform below his standard and see the Wolverines advance. That opinion did not change when Burke posted 18 and 7 against the vaunted VCU press, and was cemented during the final minutes of the Kansas game—despite his scoreless first half, and McGary's inspired play keeping the Wolverines within striking distance.

Then came the Florida game. McGary continued his transformation into Evolutionary Tim Duncan, posting 11 points, nine rebounds, and five(!) steals in just 21 minutes. Robinson, who'd struggled all season defensively, held Patric Young to eight points and a lone offensive board. Albrecht scored seven off the bench, broke a press with an absurd baseball pass to Jon Horford, and his three steals included this playground special. And Stauskas, of course, bombed the Gators out of the building with a perfect six-for-six performance from beyond the arc. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined to shoot 8-for-29. The Wolverines won by 20.

Last night, it was McGary—not Burke—facilitating Michigan's most effective offensive possessions, dishing out six assists (including a no-looker to GRIII) and devastating Syracuse's 2-3 zone from the high post. For the second time in the tournament, Robinson recorded five offensive rebounds. Albrecht only played four minutes, but hit two huge threes—including a Burke-esque 30-footer—and helped handle the rock late when Syracuse turned up the pressure. With a migraine-limited Stauskas unable to score, LeVert stepped onto the big stage and immediately connected on a pair of game-changing triples—he played his usual solid defense and recorded four rebounds for good measure. Burke scored seven points, just one more than Albrecht*. Hardaway was 4/16 from the field. Despite a late Syracuse push, Michigan won with relative comfort.

Above all else, this has been the revelation of the NCAA Tournament. It's impossible to understate the importance of Trey Burke, and how his masterpiece of a season got Michigan here. The contributions of Hardaway, Jon Horford, and the Jordan Morgan Redemption Tour have been invaluable all year, including the postseason. The emergence of the Fresh Five—all of them—however, is the biggest reason the Wolverines are playing for a national title on Monday.

John Beilein deserves much of the credit here, of course—not just for an exquisite eye for recruiting talent (usually before anyone else), but for masterfully managing their roles, minutes, and psyche. Before the tournament, there was no doubt that Michigan could pull themselves together and contend for a title if they played up to their potential. At this point, though, they're not just in position for this year—they're set up to reach the same heights on a regular basis. This is from the same article I wrote before the season:

Despite the inexperience and uncertainty, this team represents Beilein's surest bet to take this program to the next level, and could very well be his best shot for a long time. That may sound rash, but the Wolverines have been close to the leap before, only to fall back: the Amaker tenure crumbled despite early promise, the 2009-10 squad faltered despite making the tournament with the same nucleus the year before, and even last year's team tripped up against 13-seed Ohio in the Big Dance. Trey Burke probably isn't walking through that door next year. There's no guarantee Tim Hardaway Jr. will, either. For that matter, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III have one-and-done potential if all goes well (too well, perhaps).

On Monday, we'll watch this team play together for the last time. We know this. They know this. Despite a rotation lacking a single senior, a large part of the team's core won't be back next year, and for damn good reason.

That no longer concerns me. John Beilein will find a way, replacing his bright youth with brighter youth, just as he has during his entire Michigan tenure.

-------------
*Though, for anyone who thinks Burke had an awful game, please refer to Michael Carter-Williams' final stat line.

Mailbag: Big Man Rotation, Dealing With Withey, NBA Departure Odds, Big Puppy's Breed, Unhappy Visitors

Mailbag: Big Man Rotation, Dealing With Withey, NBA Departure Odds, Big Puppy's Breed, Unhappy Visitors

Submitted by Ace on March 27th, 2013 at 4:51 PM

I received a recruiting mailbag question via email and, in the process of requesting more questions on Twitter, this mostly turned into a basketball mailbag. So, here's a hoops mailbag with a couple of bonus football recruiting questions, I guess.


Starter of the future, also starter of the present (Photo: Bryan Fuller)

Do you think that Morgan getting rest against VCU could help him have a serviceable/good game against Kansas? — @carlseikoll

This is the first of two questions about the big men, so let's focus on Jordan Morgan's situation for now. He got a lot of rest against VCU—the whole game, in fact—on the heels of playing just one minute against South Dakota State and 18 combined minutes in the Big Ten Tournament.

It'd be nice to pin the blame for Morgan's reduced role on his midseason ankle injury, but I think we're beyond that point—he played over 22 minutes in each of the four games leading up to the BTT. It's entirely possible that coming back from the injury too soon sapped his confidence, especially in his ability to get lift off the floor and go up strong when finishing with the basketball. Or a bad stretch of games and subsequent benching may just be getting in his head.

Whatever the reason, it seems unlikely that John Beilein would keep Morgan nailed to the bench in the VCU blowout—not giving him the chance to regain some confidence in a low-risk situation—only to have a big role in store for him against one of the nation's best teams (and best big men). Which leads to the next question...

What is the hierarchy of McGary, Horford, Morgan, and what they can do to stop Withey? — @stephenjnesbitt

Mitch McGary is the starter at this point, a point I doubt anyone will dispute. He's emerged as both the team's most consistent and productive center, and as long as he stays out of foul trouble he should play the majority of the team's minutes from here on out.

Given the above, Jon Horford is the next man on the floor, and Morgan should be used either sparingly or only in case of emergency. While this rotation worked out great in the first two tournament games, however, there's reason to worry heading into the Kansas game.

The reason, of course, is Jeff Withey—a real, functional, productive big man, something Michigan didn't really see in the first two NCAA games. I don't think there's a huge gap between Michigan's three big men offensively, aside from McGary's stellar offensive rebounding; all three aren't players Beilein is going to post up often, especially against one of the country's best shot blockers. Against Kansas, whoever's playing center won't do much more than set picks and fight for putback opportunities.

The difference will come at the defensive end. Morgan has certainly struggled in the last couple weeks, to the point that I don't think Michigan can confidently throw him into the fray on Friday; that's a problem, because he's still by far their best on-ball post defender, and Withey is a skilled post player with a high usage. McGary, meanwhile, has done everything well recently except defend on the ball—overlooked in his performance against VCU was the Rams' lone big man, Juvonte Reddic, scoring 16 points on 7/11 shooting in 24 minutes, with only one of those baskets coming off an offensive rebound. McGary is also foul-prone, though not as much as Horford, who commits a sky-high 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes.

I still don't think Morgan will play much, if at all. If he does, it will be because Withey is terrorizing the defense in the post. The best thing Michigan can do against Withey on Friday is to try to lure him away from the basket as a shot-blocker—expect a lot of pick-and-roll action—and look to deny him post touches defensively. This is one of the worst games for the Wolverines to be without a full-strength (mentally and physically) Jordan Morgan, but that's the way the ball bounces.

[Hit THE JUMP for the odds of Michigan's underclassmen jumping to the NBA, searching for Big Puppy's breed, and a couple of recruiting questions.]

Unverified Voracity Has Nothing More To Talk About

Unverified Voracity Has Nothing More To Talk About

Submitted by Brian on March 26th, 2013 at 4:10 PM

Appreciate + Reciprocate. The student organization that puts on the Appreciate + Reciprocate dinner has snagged Desmond Howard this year. Nice.

They're raising money for the LSA Emergency Student Aid Fund, which supports students facing unexpected financial crises at home.

Get yer tickets. Details:

Date: Friday, April 12, 2012
Location: Great Lakes Room, Palmer Commons
Speakers: Desmond Howard and others to be announced!
Time: Appetizers at 6:30, dinner served at 7:15, event conclusion at 9:30
Tickets (partially tax-deductible): $100 for individuals, $50 for recent graduates, $200 to sit with a speaker

Silent auction offerings will include items signed by Coach Hoke and Desmond Howard, a tour of the new Player Development Center with Assistant Coach Bacari Alexander, a skating lesson with US Olympian Emily Samuelson, and more.

Women play tonight. The women's basketball team has made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in a while; they take on one-seed Stanford at 9:50 tonight on ESPN2. They're obviously the underdog; Swish Appeal has keys to the upset. It would be Michigan's first ever Sweet 16 on the women's side.

Yes, this is the same time as USA-Mexico. I get complaints whenever I mention soccer, so you guys who complain about soccer should watch the basketball.

Projected spring practice content levels drop 85%. What am I supposed to write about now that Brennen Beyer has been moved back to SAM? I can't write about someone moving to SAM… or can I?

Brennen Beyer could move to SAM.

This isn't working at all. Dammit. Wait a minute…

Mattison said the move is not permanent, and that Beyer likely will shuffle back to the line once Ryan returns.

BRENNEN BEYER COULD MOVE TO WDE BOOM

I thought you guys were short newshole. How many words do you think an article about John Beilein's relationship with his former equipment manager at LeMoyne would be? Where in the country would this article originate? When would this article be published?

Bafflingly, the answers to these questions are "one butt ton," "Syracuse, New York," and "not 1980; in fact, right now." What a country.

Merph. I have a powerful desire to stick my fingers in my ears and go LA LA LA LA whenever the topic of the NBA draft comes up and understand entirely if you do this while reading this section. Let's not dwell on the pointlessness of this operation.

Anyway, Trey Burke is destined for the top ten and everyone expects him to be gone. The news on Glenn Robinson III is the thing that keeps varying. He's gone from off the radar to hyped to less hyped and now the hype is returning:

"Robinson may have helped his draft stock more than anyone on our Big Board this week," Ford wrote. "He's still raw offensively and depends on (Trey) Burke to set him up, but he has all the physical tools of a NBA small forward and is showing increased confidence at the right time.

"Someone will roll the dice on him in the 10-to-20 range if he decides to declare."

I don't know man. I'd think NBA teams would want to see him develop into a guy who can create his own offense and defend NBA threes. Robinson is noncommital about returning.

Ford also talks up McGary as a potential second-round pick, which doesn't seem like much of a threat.

Hockey departure update. Red:

Berenson on Trouba: "We'll have to wait and see how that works out with Winnipeg. He's done as much as he can do for a freshman."

Berenson says he doesn't expect anybody else besides Merrill or Trouba to consider leaving, but that he's been surprised before.

That qualifies as good news, I think. Hopefully at least one of the two defensmen won't want to leave Michigan after that season.

Hockey schedule update. The initial returns on Michigan's nonconference scheduling are good. Michigan will go to UNO and New Hampshire next year and get a visit from Boston U.

Inside South Dakota State. Grantland was embedded with the Jackrabbits and their offensive desire to get Michigan instead of Michigan State:

Moments later, Michigan State is announced as the third seed, and a chorus of gasps echoes through the room. "Oh no," I hear a player say. "Oh no oh no oh no." Like the Baylor team that eliminated SDSU last year, the Spartans' strength is their frontcourt, and the Jackrabbits don't match up well against big, athletic front lines. Yet they are spared from the bruising that MSU's Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix would lay on them, and instead Valparaiso will face the Spartans.

When Gumbel reaches the South bracket, he announces that the 4-seed is Michigan. "I'll play Michigan," says Jordan Dykstra, a sweet-shooting big man and the Jacks' second-leading scorer. "Let's play Michigan." Gumbel announces the 13-seed. It's South Dakota State.

They'll play Michigan.

This would be better if it was VCU. The whole thing is worth a read in any case.

Swing, pendulum, swing. Michigan's VCU blowout has earned them a ton of cred with the talking heads that were generally dismissive just one week ago. All four of CBS's basketball writers go with Michigan in the KU-M matchup. Andy Staples picks Michigan to win the regional. Myron Medcalf of ESPN picks Michigan just behind Louisville in a re-seed of the teams. Goodman say Michigan was the most impressive team of the opening weekend, and Kenpom's computer says Michigan has a… uh. Oh. A 3.2 percent chance to win the whole thing. That's up from 1.9 percent, though. Sweet.

The problem there is being in the same region as a Florida team taking on FGCU in the other matchup, so if you think the computers are vastly overrating the Gators you can up your optimism accordingly.

Anyway, I'm more on the Kenpom side of things. Whereas before the tournament people were extrapolating that the OHIO upset would always happen forever now they're assuming the VCU dismantling will always happen forever. As a guy who thought Michigan had a great draw the first weekend I'm looking at the Kansas game as a coinflip at best.

I guess. It's looking like Northwestern will hire Duke assistant Chris Collins. He's from the Chicago area and has experience in the kind of circles that might send a kid to Northwestern but it seems like hiring an assistant when you have 200-some mid-major coaches to choose from is risky.

DANTONIO UPDATE: STILL DANTONIO. Someone probably asked him if he'd watched the VCU game.

Dantonio abruptly ends scheduled media interview after five minutes, 30 seconds. Questions were harmless. Bizarre.

Etc.: Scouting Kansas. Pat Forde complains about coaches' complaints when coaches get fired. I'm with him, though I do like seeing Tom Izzo collapse into the fetal position when asked about it. Michigan needs Russell Bellomy to be viable if they're going to redshirt Morris.

Denard signed the Shredder's photoshops. For the first time since 1979, no Michigan team will play in the NCAA hockey tourney. The Daily on Hunwick's rise and the end of the streak. Will Leitch is more understanding of referees than I am.

This year's student shirt is pretty good. Zoltan doing charity work. Tampa bids for national title game. lol.

One Frame At A Time: SDSU & VCU

One Frame At A Time: SDSU & VCU

Submitted by Ace on March 25th, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Mitch McGary was unquestionably the star of Michigan's tournament weekend. He will appear several times in later on in this post. But my gawd, Spike Albrecht, you just made the pass of the year on a team with Trey Burke. Take a bow.

Four other reasons this gif wins the weekend:

  1. You can see VCU's defender rip open Glenn Robinson III's jersey as he runs down the court. This did not appear to affect GRIII very much.
  2. The bench goes nuts... before GRIII even dunks.
  3. Both Tim Hardaway Jr. (bottom left corner) and Trey Burke (in front of the bench) hop in identical fashion at the exact same time, like it's a Pavlovian response to Robinson's dunk.
  4. Spike rounds off his run at the three-point line. Walk it out like crutches, Spike.

All these things are great, and all pale in comparison to the pass itself. Thread, meet needle.

[Hit THE JUMP to see (and vote for) the best gifs from Michigan's opening weekend, also known as Mitchapalooza.]

Basketbullets: South Dakota State

Basketbullets: South Dakota State

Submitted by Brian on March 22nd, 2013 at 4:44 PM

3/21/2012 – Michigan 71, South Dakota State 56 – 27-7, entry to second round of tourney

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Bryan Fuller

This game turned into a Mexican standoff of "if you told me before the game" stats: Trey Burke has six points versus Nate Wolters has ten points versus Tim Hardaway is 5/7 from three. That's two for Michigan, one for South Dakota State, and even if the way everyone got there was a little weird the end result was basically as expected.

What does the "how" suggest about the remainder of Michigan's tourney run? Well.

Michigan can shut down a star dude and simultaneously reduce quality looks from three. Wolters had few quality opportunities and Michigan still managed to hold SDSU to 4/19 from three. The number is dead on SDSU's season average, but few of those looks were top quality. Pair that with holding Wolters to ten points and that's a nice tradeoff.

Of course, Michigan may not be able to do those two things and prevent themselves from getting chewed up on twos. SDSU held themselves in this by hitting 58% inside the line. Concern? Possibly. Michigan's various exertions to reach the Wolters/3P% numbers above left Tony Fiegen open for a series of medium to long range twos, all of which he knocked down. But if that's what your defense gives up, like… okay.

Glenn Robinson may be able to up his production. With SDSU sagging off of Burke, Robinson got three near-identical corner threes in the second half, all of which he took, and all of which he knocked down. Please just do that instead of clutching and driving for an off-the-dribble long two. At least, more often. More than the sheer efficiency of his production I enjoyed the fact that he got 10 shot opportunities, many of which were not simple putbacks that may or may not be there.

Robinson will be critical against VCU as a converter of open-court opportunities. He and Hardaway are Michigan's most effective finishers at the rim (73 and 72 percent, respectively). Those ten to fifteen points of eFG will add up.

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Mitch McGary is the starter. Rebounding was dead even in this one, and you'd like something a bit better against a smallish Summit team. One game is two small a sample to extrapolate from, though, and we have a season-long statistical record indicating that McGary is a vacuum, particularly on the offensive end. Add that to a steal-and-dunk on a lazy post pass per game and various other harassments and it's hard to get him off the court once he's on it, as Morgan found out. His turnover rate isn't even that bad: 18.7. Usually any big under 20 isn't a problem.

Michigan's probably going to need to haul Morgan out against VCU, though. Whether it's foul trouble or running up and down the court all the time, McGary will have to sit for longer than he did in the last one.

Other Items

Head in game, please Mr. Morgan. The aftermath of Thursday's game seems to have shaken Morgan's always-fragile psyche:

"I think I was in for like two possessions, and got two stops," said Morgan, who was named to the Big Ten's all-defensive team this year. "I guess, I mean, that's what I do."

Will he play more Saturday, when the Wolverines face the winner of No. 5 VCU/No. 12 Akron for a bid to the Sweet 16?

"I'm not sure," he said. "It's not my job."

Michigan will need him. Someone dispatch the sports psychologist.

Michigan could end up going super-small. I wouldn't expect a single two-big lineup tomorrow what with the press and all. Michigan will be able to substitute a little more liberally than usual since this is a game in which Hardaway could plausibly run the 4, especially during the 13 minutes or so per game that VCU sits 6'5" Treveon Graham and brings in a 6'3" guy in his place. That would pave the way for extra Spike/Caris action as Michigan tries to get more ballhandling on the floor and avoid a late-game exhaustion slide.

That would make Michigan's four-out, one-in setup almost impossible to sag on. If Burke turns the corner off of a pick and roll, instead of sagging off GRIII and his relatively infrequent threes (62 this year), it's Hardaway or Stauskas. GRIII is still going to be hugely important, but they can rest him more than they usually do and not get pounded on the boards while still giving VCU a defensive conundrum.

Etc.

Burke says he feels fine. He's fine enough to drop zingers, anyway:

"I'm fine, I'm ready to go for Saturday," Burke said. "I was a little over-dramatic out there, but I got about 30 seconds of rest, so that felt good."

He didn't score much, but that could be good? McGary has energy. Wojo:

Burke was going about 100 mph, a pace your average Jackrabbit doesn't mind. Since gaining so much national acclaim, he has struggled a bit, as if the attention was wearing. Michigan shadowed Wolters and South Dakota State shadowed Burke. So naturally, that launched a one-on-one showdown between Hardaway Jr. and Brayden Carlson. Huh? Hardaway Jr. is not a surprise, but Carlson was the only Jackrabbit starter not averaging double figures, and he had 16 in the first half.

Wisconsin AARRRGGGHHH, Michigan FFFFUUUUUUU

Wisconsin AARRRGGGHHH, Michigan FFFFUUUUUUU

Submitted by Ace on March 15th, 2013 at 5:14 PM


Halftime stats on the left, final stats on the right, via scacchoops.com

If you're expecting a reasoned, informative recap of the game, I highly recommend stopping right now and looking elsewhere.

Still here? If so, you are either in search of schadenfreude or have a remarkably strong will to make your life miserable.

Michigan lost to Wisconsin 68-59 in a complete abomination of a "basketball" game. The halftime box score resembles something from a middle school junior varsity game in which all the players are blackout drunk. The Wolverines held a three-point lead at the break, courtesy of Wisconsin's inability to hit anything (5/29 from the field). The Badgers made it appear, momentarily, like Michigan had discovered how to play defense.

Then the second half began, and the Wolverines remained stagnant on offense while entirely forgetting how to guard the perimeter. After hitting 2/13 shots from beyond the arc in the first half, Wisconsin connected on 6/9 three-pointers in the second—most of their looks came without so much as a hand in the shooter's general vicinity, let alone a legitimate contest.

Trey Burke did his best to stop the bleeding, scoring 15 of his 19 points in the second half, and Tim Hardaway Jr. (14 points, 5/9 FGs) admirably returned from a sprained ankle to knock down a couple big shots. Nobody else cracked double digits, however, and any semblance of an offense rapidly devolved into the "Trey, go do something" strategy. Burke was forced to jack up 15 shots in the final 20 minutes; no other Wolverine attempted more than four.

Major culprits included, well, pretty much everyone. Ryan Evans scored nine of his 13 in the second half, abusing Glenn Robinson III and Hardaway down low—Robinson struggled so much that Spike Albrecht took his spot in the lineup down the stretch. Jordan Morgan started but played just eight horrible minutes, turning the ball over three times, completely unable to hold onto the basketball. Nik Stauskas went 1/8 from the field. Burke had an uncharacteristic four turnovers, though given the circumstances it's difficult to lay much blame on him.

A guy who shoots free-throw jump shots, a redheaded Art Garfunkel, and Ben "#@*#[email protected]" Brust combined for 28 second-half points, going 4/8 from two and a perfect 5/5 from three. If there's a College Hoops Fan Hell, it is watching that game on a continuous loop while Bo Ryan waves the last bottle of whiskey in existence in your face, refusing to let you drown your sorrows.

Michigan will still play in the NCAA tournament, of course, and there's even a chance that I'm willing to watch basketball by then. They won't play Wisconsin, mercifully.

F*** Wisconsin.

Basketbullets: Penn State Part 3

Basketbullets: Penn State Part 3

Submitted by Brian on March 15th, 2013 at 11:17 AM

3/14/2013 – Michigan 83, Penn State 66 – 26-6, entry to second round of BTT

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Dustin Johnston/UMHoops

Bleary-eyed and maybe a little puffy after having a good cry about the last two minutes of the Indiana game, Michigan staggered into the United Center wondering why everything was so bright and loud and wondering if a hot dog would make them feel better or worse. A few minutes later, they were down 14-3 and every Michigan fan had a personal reckoning with their panic tolerance.

Did you run around screaming "everything is over?" Did you stuff 35 multivitamins down your esophagus in a cry for help? No, don't tell us. Down 11 a few minutes into a tournament game against Penn State a man finds himself in a place he never thought he'd be. What happens down there is something we should hit with a shovel and bury deep. If you were more animal than man at 2:45 PM yesterday, well… so be it. Character is about recovering from your impulse.

The team did this. Michigan spent the first couple of breaks smacking themselves and screaming "SNAP OUT OF IT," and thanks to the utterly unflappable Trey Burke and Mitch McGary—a man who seems to be productively deficient in human emotions like doubt or restraint—they did. In these moments I like to go check out the Kenpom prediction (which is almost always the Vegas line, give or take a point) and think about how points are worth the same whether you score them early or late. It was 16 in this one; Michigan beat it by a point.

It's strange how frustrating it is to pull away late or recover like Michigan did against Purdue. Or, rather, it's not strange at all. You have to try as hard as you can to say the order in which the points came is not a reason to run around, ripping chunks of hair from your head and shouting "my basketball team ate this."

No rest for the weary; on to demon Wisconsin. Death to backboards, half court, and everywhere in-between.

Bullets

Zone? Hi. If you follow me on twitter you may have noticed me, um, ranting about Michigan's refusal to even try out a zone defense despite a team that shoots 30% from three gutting the interior of Michigan's defense to the tune of 11/17 shooting from two by Sasa "Pretty Much Shaq" Borovnjak and DJ Newbill in the first half. In the second half we then suffered through five to eight minutes of Penn State keeping pace with Michigan's blistering offensive pace.

For the game, Penn State put up 1.1 PPP. Defense remains a huge issue. At least there's some sort of upper bound on how bad it can be, right? That's the ticket.

Grrr aarrgh. Jordan Morgan came out with the weight of a barely-missed Big Ten championship not so much weighing on his shoulders as burying him neck-deep in misery. Trey Burke's abnormally low assist output—three—was almost entirely on Morgan's four missed bunnies. Morgan was also out of sync defensively as Michigan's pick and roll D was gutted by Sasa "Basically Pau Gasol" Borovnjak. Morgan was the guy who Borovnjak drove from almost the three-point line on.

Enter Mitch McGary, in full on Big Puppy mode. He ripped down boards, he went 5/6 from the floor, he had a steal, block, two assists, and escaped the wrath of the scorer on a turnover that was obviously his fault but seemed to escape the box score entirely. After one hardman board, he let out a simian bellow—an entirely justified one.

When Morgan struggled at the start of the first half, he got a quick hook and his minutes were given to Jon Horford. A strange phenomenon ensued: Gus Johnson started talking about how incredibly impressive Horford had been in the first half, an opinion with no basis in reality. Horford then demonstrated that Gus Johnson is aging backwards through time or something. Horford chucked in 11 points in 10 minutes, blocked a couple shots, grabbed various rebounds, and went 3/3 from the line(!).

Headlines in the aftermath:

John Beilein won't say if he'll leave struggling Jordan Morgan in Michigan's starting lineup

Yow. That says volumes. Also this:

"It's up in the air if I decide it's up in the air," Beilein said. "Right now it's too soon to make that (decision).

"I'll watch some film, we'll talk, we'll look at matchups and decide what we're going to do."

I'd guess Morgan still starts, but Beilein will have a quick trigger a la the second half. Michigan won't be able to crawl out of 14-3 holes with as much ease the rest of the year.

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blouses (Dustin Johnston/UMHoops)

Not just a shooter. Stauskas had 15 points on nine shot equivalents plus two assists and zero TOs. Sometimes I think Michigan would be better off moving some of Hardaway's usage to Stauskas. He's got a better handle and seems to create shots a bit better. This may not be the best time to argue that when Hardaway had five assists.

Stauskas also did a much better job on Jermaine Marshall this time around. He torched Michigan behind the line in the last game; in this one he scored 8 points on 14 shot attempts—basically the only PSU player to have a bad day.

Trey statistical weirdness day. Burke assists: 3. Burke blocked shots: 3. Boggle.

Hardaway check. After the Wisconsin game on February 9th, Tim Hardaway was shooting 54% from three in 11 Big Ten games. Since he is 9 of 45, 20%. Michigan's offense has survived admirably in that absence; it would be nice if he was to start hitting some dang shots. I am not sure what to say about this other than "make your threes," but I can say it very loudly if that is required.

A thing that leaps off Hardaway's season box score at Kenpom: his FTAs have evaporated. Up until the Minnesota game Hardaway had gone to the line in every game and had at least six FTAs in 8 games. Since he has been shut out entirely 7 times. Three games in which he was not were against the hackmasters in Happy Valley; other than those games the only times he's been to the line: 3/5 against OSU, 4/5 against Illinois, 1/1 against Purdue, 0/2 against Indiana.

I will repeat my grand desire to see Hardaway commit between one to three charges every game.

GRIII check. If Morgan wasn't struggling so badly I bet we would have seen some dual post action; as it was I was surprised that Bielfeldt didn't get some run early when Penn State was grabbing a bunch of offensive rebounds and Ross Travis found himself having a nice day offensively. Travis shoots 39% from the floor. He was 5/9 in this one.

I'm not sure where Big Ten Geeks grabbed this stat, but I retweeted it since it was in line with my eye test:

McGary has grabbed 11 of the 14 chances he's had for a rebound. GR3 is 2 of 10.

McGary went through a stretch in which he couldn't grab a rebound to save his life, like the rest of the team. Robinson has been pretty weak on the boards since the start of Big Ten play. Against the top four teams in the league, Robinson's rebounding has looked like this:

  • @ OSU: 38 minutes, 0 OREB, 1 DREB
  • @ Indiana, 40 minutes, 2 OREB, 2 DREB
  • OSU: 41 minutes, 33 minutes, 3 OREB, 1 DREB
  • @ Wisconsin: 1 OREB, 2 DREB
  • @ MSU: 21 minutes, 2 OREB, 0 DREB
  • MSU: 31 minutes, 2 OREB, 1 DREB
  • Indiana: 37 minutes, 1 OREB, 4 DREB

In one(!) of those seven games GRIII has acquired more than two defensive rebounds despite playing huge minutes at the four in all of them. He's done a bit better against the rest of the league; when the going gets tough he's been found wanting. Ace looked at in detail and found that Robinson was frequently a culprit. I'm getting progressively more frustrated with him as Michigan's defensive rebounding continues its glide path down to last year's numbers. In this one Michigan won the board war but still allowed Penn State to grab 34% of their misses, with Ross Travis grabbing 4 OREBs. Borovnjak was 0 (OREB) and 2 (DREB) going up against the fives.

The bad thing about the way that went down. Michigan is facing down four games in four days if they are fortunate enough to get that far. Because of the slow start starters not named Morgan played 34, 35, 35, and 33 minutes. I generally downplay the idea that a few minutes extra is going to kill an 18-20 year old who spends his entire existence in a gym, but once the games come rapid-fire—and you're going up against teams who had today off—that's a situation in which wilting legs seems like a real issue.

I guess the good bit is Michigan is playing Wisconsin's tortoiseball today. If there's a team less well-positioned to take advantage of their opponent's heavy legs, I don't want to perceive their existence. I don't want to perceive Wisconsin's, man.