So, uh, recovery hasn't been as smooth as expected—those following me on Twitter have probably picked up on that—and as such I'm pushing out posts when I can. I've been hoping to get to the Moe Wagner retrospective but have held off because I've hit a block there; in the process of preparing that post and working through the block, I did at least get through the Loyola Chicago game in GIFs. (Most of it, at least. This copy cut out all good replays of Wagner crashing into Raftery/Hill, which is an argh experience.) Did I do Florida State yet? Uh, working on it. Time is a construct.
Anyway, remember that time Moe Wagner put up a Final Four stat line matched only by Akeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird?
That was enjoyable.
[The rest of the Loyola game in GIFs, featuring a LOT of Moe, after THE JUMP.]
Isaiah Livers (So): Nominal starter had 13% usage and played like it, almost exclusively taking open shots someone else created for him. Plus OREB guy and defender.
Ignas Brazdeikis (Fr): Scoring machine is already 19 and has already featured in this series at the 2 and 3, for reasons.
Brandon Johns (Fr): More to prove than Brazdeikis but maybe a higher ceiling.
I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS
[pokes Livers with a stick] hey. do something.
Isaiah Livers's 12.9% usage was the smallest number a Michigan rotation player put up since 2011, when sophomore Matt Vogrich Just-A-Shooter'd himself to 12.8%. The only scholarship player in the Kenpom era to do more than barely pip Livers in invisibility was the senior version of Gavin Groninger, who played 12 minutes a game despite shooting 10% from two and 19% from three. (Michigan basketball: more fun than it used to be.) Livers's FT rate of just above 10 is also in the same "might be the lowest in the Kenpom era" range. 90% of his shots at the rim were assisted, etc.
Livers's tendency to hole up in the corner and produce zero shots for himself or anyone else was a bit disappointing for Michigan's first instate Mr. Basketball winner in a minute. In retrospect, it actually wasn't that surprising. Matt D of Endless Motor provided a scouting report and video last year, and even against high school competition Livers was a jump shooter:
His head is often down when he dribbles against pressure defense though, mitigating his ability to create for others because he doesn't see the entire floor. Doesn't have good enough first step acceleration to create separation off the dribble against guards/wings in a straight line. Doesn't display ability to change direction with the basketball when his defender beats him to the spot or helpside defense cuts off his initial straight line. Does not get all the way to the rim off the dribble based on lack of acceleration and change of direction ballhandling.
That was the case as a freshman and will probably be the case for his career, give or take the usual Beilein development. It's asking a lot to up your usage by 50%, especially when your shot creation is a work in progress.
On the other hand, Livers was pretty good at not having the ball. His 7.4 OREB rate was Michigan's best mark from a non-center since GRIII, and he's the only other Beilein-era wing even in the frame. While I'm fairly leery about Synergy's individual defensive numbers—Zavier Simpson 73rd percentile with Eli Brooks and Jaaron Simmons 87 and 88th?!?!—Livers checking in as Michigan's second-best defender (outside of PG absurdities) behind Charles Matthews agrees with the ol' eye test. On/off splits can be noisy, but a couple things jump out as likely to be real in ~700 possessions against top 100 teams:
Livers provided big rebounding advantages over Duncan Robinson and caused both teams to operate inside the arc more. He was also terribly intimidating to opposition free throw shooters.
Normally, a 3-and-D wing who's a great rebounder would be a perfect fit at the four for John Beilein. Next year's team… maybe less so. Shot creation will be at a premium and it would take a huge leap for Livers to provide much. His target usage next year is probably 16, not 20. With Wagner gone that might be a problem.
Livers has a role next year. He'll improve, and in certain lineups his (probable) inability to create won't be as much of a problem. His familiarity with both Beilein's offense and Yaklich's defense will give him able time early in the year to solidify his spot. He's got a shot. But he's got a lot of competition all of a sudden, and it's 50/50 whether he's able to maintain his early lead. Upping the "3" part of 3-and-D is his best bet—34% probably isn't going to cut it. 40% would.
Which freshman is more likely to push him out of the way?
The twice-aforementioned Ignas Brazdeikis. Brazdeikis is older and spent his last couple years on one of those elite Canadian prep teams, where he put up 33 points per game against a collection of Success Academies; last week he drove to the basket on Bol Bol and actually scored. (Probably because he poked Bol in the eye, but rubbin's racin'.) For those and other reasons covered earlier in this series, Brazdeikis should be Michigan's sixth man immediately, and if he's able to survive on defense his ability to get to the rack will be vital.
But let's not forget Brandon Johns. Johns didn't take the hotshot prep route and saw his stock fall as a result. He spent large amounts of his time dunking on the best future accountants and deeply incompetent prosecutors that Ingham County could provide. The results were entertaining, at least.
Despite the bigger adjustment Johns faces, he is an even cleaner fit at the spot than Brazdeikis if he comes in hot. Johns is going to be the second-best athlete on the team as soon as he enrolls, and he might give Matthews a run for his money. This is a lot of above the rim for one game:
In contrast to Livers, Johns is extremely aggressive and spends most of his time getting to the basket. As per usual with high school prospects, denominators are few and far between… but apparently he shot 72% from 2 during his final high school season. This says something about his competition level, yes. It also suggests that he's allergic to the midrange. Probably? In 16 EYBL games Johns shot 52/44 with about three times more twos than threes; he shot 68% from the line on 40 attempts. AAU, sample size, grain of salt, etc.
This seems like a bit of a logjam. Can they spread this out some?
A bit. Brazdeikis has drawn mention at two other spots for a reason, and should draw most or all of the backup minutes behind Matthews since the 3 and 4 are very similar in Beilein's offense. It's not hard to get him up to 20-25 minutes even if Livers also gets that many.
In addition, Michigan hinted at some smallball lineups featuring Livers at the 5 late in the year. He looked pretty clueless about what to do on offense at the time, but if Michigan has designs on a position-less Villanova mode, he's going to be the guy they run that with. Johns may be more physically capable of holding it down at the 5 but will be in his pupation year and will look as baffled as Livers was this year. If Michigan gets weird it'll be with Livers.
This spot is the most unsettled on the team, in a good way. Michigan has three different four-stars who bring Beilein-style skills and excellent size to the 4, in three different flavors: 3-and-D (Livers), conscience-free bucket acquisition machine(Brazdeikis), and ferocious leaping dunk monster (Johns). Chances are one of those die rolls comes up real nice.
Take this prediction about who emerges with a grain of salt, but I think you'll see Livers start and maintain that role through the year. Early, the freshmen will make a bunch of mistakes on defense that will get them sternly talked to. Late, Livers might give back some playing time as Michigan turns to (potentially) higher-usage guys for a bulk of the minutes. It'll be like this years' Livers-Robinson platoon, except this version of Robinson is really really Not Just A Shooter. Minutes probably get split close to down the middle once you hand Iggy 10 from the 3: Livers gets 20, Iggy gets 20 at two spots, and Johns gets 10.
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...
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.
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. It's time for yet another two three-part mailbag. Yesterday's covered Moe Wagner's impact on opponent strategy, the John Beilein inbounding myth, and an interesting hypothetical about Beilein as an NBA coach. If you haven't submitted a question yet, I may have room for one or two more: you can tag them with #mgomailbag on twitter or email me.
To Small Ball Or Not To Small Ball
Could Isaiah Livers hold up at center? [Patrick Barron]
Given how lost Livers looked at the 5 on Saturday, who is the best option to play there if Michigan is forced to go small vs. Loyola? #mgomailbag
Let's start with some background here. Loyola starts a traditional center—6'9", 260-pound Cameron Krutwig—who plays about half of their minutes; when Krutwig leaves the court, they don't field a player taller than 6'6". Meanwhile, FSU went small for much of the second half against Michigan, and an attempted response by John Beilein with Isaiah Livers at center didn't go well. Livers looked lost and M got outscored 8-3 by FSU in that stretch despite getting an extra possession, failing to make a shot from the field.
There's a chance Duncan Robinson could function much better at center. He's well-versed in the system on both ends to the point that he probably knows the center's assignments better than Livers, he's defended well in the post, and he's been utilized in the offense as a screener with some frequency of late. The worry is a small-ball team would expose his sub-par perimeter defense. I think Robinson could match up well with 6'5", 230-pound forward Aundre Jackson, and in that case Michigan may very well want to go small along with Loyola—a Michigan Lineup of Death with Robinson at center is certainly intriguing in the right circumstances.
That said, Beilein may also choose to flip that mismatch the other way. Loyola's offense hasn't been effective without Krutwig, plummeting from 1.21 points per possession when he's on the court to 0.96 PPP when he's off during the NCAA Tournament, according to Hoop Lens. Their defense has also suffered, allowing 1.08 PPP when he's off versus 0.93 PPP when he's on because they can no longer stop anyone inside the arc—their 2-point percentage allowed balloons from 45.6% to 56.5%.
I have serious questions about Krutwig's ability to handle Michigan's five-out offense; he's not nearly the caliber of athlete as FSU's big men nor is he close to their level as a shot-blocker. Either way, Loyola is going to go small at times. I believe it may be in Michigan's best interest to keep playing their normal rotation unless they discover a true Lineup of Death during practice this week.
[Hit THE JUMP for Teske's potential role and Z getting robbed again.]
Yes, it's another multi-part pre-tournament mailbag, as y'all continue to ask a lot of good questions. While I've mostly got part two finished, I'm still open to adding another question or two. If you'd like to do that, email me or tag your question with #mgomailbag on Twitter.
What Is Success?
success: achieved. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
How far would Michigan need to advance in the NCAA tournament for you to consider this season a success? Or, do you already consider this season a success? Just interested in your opinion! #mgomailbag
No matter what transpires the rest of this month, this season has been a rousing success. This was supposed to be a transition year between the experienced 2016-17 squad and the set-to-be-crazy-talented 2018-19 team. John Beilein's most successful teams need a star point guard or Stauskas-like point-wing to run the offense; the players we expected to fill those spots were a MAC grad transfer and a (have you heard this before?) Kentucky transfer with an iffy shot. I figured it'd take a decent bit of Beilein coaching magic—baked into my preseason expectations at this point—to get this team somewhere in the five-seed to eight-seed range in the tourney.
While the season was on that track for a while, it's all come together late for the second straight year—Michigan has a three-seed and will hang at least one more banner in Crisler. We've seen talent development from Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole, Isaiah Livers, and Jon Teske that's taken the expectations for next year to even greater heights. Luke Yaklich not only held up Billy Donlon's miraculous defensive turnaround; he built on it to the point Michigan boasts a top-five defense despite fielding a frontcourt with some very limited players on that end.
It'd be quite nice to avoid a massive upset against Montana; anything beyond that, even though M will be favored, is playing with house money. I will admit some greed, however, and mention that any loss will still hurt for two main reasons:
John Beilein is 65 and it's difficult to predict how coaches will age. While I'm not seeing any signs of a decline—if anything, quite the opposite—there are only so many years left, and even when trying to set aside bias I can't think of a college coach more deserving of a national title.
HOO DANG WOULD IT BE NICE FOR THAT TO HAPPEN IN THE YEAR LOUISVILE VACATED THE BEILEIN/BURKE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AND FIRED RICK PITINO.
Fandom insanity aside, though, this season has already surpassed any reasonable preseason expectations, and the next one should be even better—so long as this team doesn't pull a 2014 Ohio State Football and beat the hotly anticipated future squad to the punch.
Iowa: Shutting Down Bohannon, Evil Beilein Overtime Set
Switching and stealing led to easy points. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
The top priority for any team that plays Iowa is stopping guard Jordan Bohannon, a 30-foot pull-up three-pointer waiting to happen. While one such shot sent this game into overtime, Bohannon otherwise made only 2-of-10 threes, and his lack of volume was just as important as his lack of makes. He went for a 13-minute stretch in the first half without attempting a triple and had another eight-minute long-range drought in the second. Four of his attempts came in the final minute of regulation or the overtime period.
While Bohannon was nearly the hero, he finished with only 11 points on 15 shot equivalents. The defense allowed Michigan to avoid an upset despite a brutal 3-for-19 performance from beyond the arc on the other end.
How did Michigan accomplish this? While Zavier Simpson has deservedly received a lot of credit, it also extends to the entire squad. Luke Yaklich deployed a switch-heavy scheme to prevent Bohannon from getting open looks and the team executed it with precision. Michigan not only slowed Iowa's most dangerous scorer but came up with eight steals in the process, which led to some easy buckets.
Here's my favorite defensive possession of the game. The whole team plays it perfectly, and Simpson's ability to cover, and hold, a lot of ground stands out. He's circled in blue in these screencaps; the clock is circled to emphasize the speed at which all this occurs. Michigan's defense was flying.
Simpson picks up Bohannon at halfcourt but takes a hard pick, something Teske or Livers likely should've called out. While he gets over it, he ends up switching onto the screener, Tyler Cook—Iowa's 6'9", 255-pound post threat.
Iowa goes at this size mismatch right away, posting Cook on Simpson and clearing the near side of the court for him to go to work.
Cook only gets a couple dribbles—and nowhere near the hoop—before Jon Teske comes over for a well-timed double-team. As doubles go it's very low-risk; by clearing out for Cook, Iowa has no spacing on the weak side, so three Wolverines effectively cover four Hawkeyes. Cook doesn't have much of a choice but to kick it back out.
The ball quickly swings to Bohannon, and Luke Garza comes over to set a quick high screen. Simpson takes a brief pause to make sure Garza doesn't slip to the basket...
...then gets over to trap Bohannon in a flash, closing any window for a shot. Bohannon has to swing it back to Garza; Livers gets back on him before he can do anything.
Bohannon and Garza reset and try another quick screen. Simpson fights over the top, passes Bohannon off to Livers, and swings back around on Garza, closing off the pop for a three while Livers prevents a pull-up or drive from Bohannon.
Garza cuts hard to the hoop and Simpson hangs with him, anchoring in the post and holding surprisingly decent position. It doesn't matter, as Bohannon tries an aimless crossover, goes to pick up his dribble, and gets stripped by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who's close enough to take a calculated gamble.
Bohannon got only six three-pointers off in halfcourt sets and made two—one when Livers blew the switch, the other on a 25-foot pull-up. The final score may have been close, but Michigan held the nation's #19 offense (yes, the Hawkeye defense is very bad) to 0.95 points per possession, a huge drop from the 1.09 PPP they posted in Big Ten play.
[Hit THE JUMP to see how Beilein freed up Robinson in OT, his adjustments to Nebraska's defense, and more.]
"It was just aggressive," Jordan Poole said last week in Ann Arbor, before the team left for the Big Ten Tournament in New York. "Guys were leaving with cuts, fights (were) breaking out. It was pretty high-intensity games in open gym. I think that's when we knew our identity was going to be tough." …
So what changed? Multiple players mentioned the freshmen as bringing a certain kind of mindset as soon as they arrived on campus.
Hibbitts singled out Poole. "He didn't want to get quote unquote 'bullied' or anything like that," Hibbitts said. "He held his own and wasn't backing down from anybody."
…it might not be wrong.
Figuring out Detroit. I have not been able to figure out how much flexibility the committee has to intervene in a situation like the one burgeoning in the Midwest this year, with Xavier, Purdue, Cincinnati, Michigan, and MSU all in as protected seeds. A ton of brackets have Xavier as the #1 in Detroit and Purdue #2 behind them. Joe Lunardi had a conference call recently in which he asserted that the committee was likely to slot teams in strictly by distance:
"If the Committee goes strictly by mileage, Xavier and then Purdue and/or Cincinnati will end up in Detroit ahead of one or both of (Michigan or Michigan State)," Lunardi said on a conference call Thursday. "And I said earlier, the Committee could wiggle. They could choose to put Xavier or Cincinnati in Pittsburgh, which is about a 20-mile difference to try and open up a Detroit slot. They just have not done that in the past. They go one team at a time, look at mileage — I call it drop and slot — and then move on to the next team on the list."
Lunardi also asserts that Michigan State will be ahead of Michigan on the seed list, which is an extremely frustrating situation to be in if it does in fact come to pass:
Despite Michigan having a better resume in every way.
Better RPI. Better SOS. More top 25 wins. Beat them head to head by double digits twice. Won the conference tourney. Michigan has 6 top 50 wins. MSU has 2.
…the breakdown of actual top seeds by geographic region (as generally defined by where the regional finals are held) is as follows:
West – 14%
Midwest – 36%
East – 27%
South – 23%
The East (if we consider the Carolinas as representing the southern edge of the East Region) and the South (if we include the South to go from Georgia and Florida in the East, to Texas and Oklahoma in the West, and Kentucky to the north) are pretty balanced in terms of the teams and hosting sites.
There are too many teams fighting for protected slots and too many regionals in an area with no top-end teams. Lisk runs down the bracketing procedure if you just go by distance, and it boots both MSU and Michigan from Detroit:
#1 Virginia goes to Charlotte
#2 Villanova goes to Pittsburgh
#3 Xavier goes to Detroit (Cincinnati is 263 miles to Detroit, 273 to Nashville and 288 to Pittsburgh)
#4 Kansas goes to Wichita
#5 Duke takes the 2nd Charlotte spot
#6 Purdue takes 2nd Detroit spot
#7 Cincinnati takes Nashville
#8 North Carolina takes 2nd Pittsburgh spot (slightly closer than Nashville but still a 7+ hour drive, so now that option is closed to Michigan and Michigan State
#9 Michigan takes 2nd Nashville spot (ahead of either SEC contender)
#10 Auburn then has to go to Dallas 700 miles away
#11 Michigan State then goes to 2nd Wichita spot 900 miles away
#12 Tennessee takes 2nd Dallas spot 840 miles away, foreclosing Texas Tech and Wichita State from being relatively close enough for fans
This is a worst case scenario for locations and assumes Michigan is the top 3 (which they are on Torvik but aren't on the Bracket Matrix). It vastly preferable to MSU getting an undeserved slot over a Michigan team that beat it by double-digits twice. But it's still pretty doofy.
And while instant reactions seemed grim, it seems the injury is not as bad as it may have initially seemed. Livers came back to the bench midway through the second half, though he did not play the final 19 minutes of the championship bout.
“I could (have gone back in),” Livers said. “Duncan (Robinson) was just playing good.”
After the game, Livers vowed to be ready for the NCAA Tournament. Aided by the extra week off, he will, at minimum, have 10 days to regain his health in preparation for the Tournament.
That kind of injury could have been anything from a rolled ankle to a Dread High Ankle Sprain. Looks like it's the former.
Report reports that reports are good. A couple months ago, Illinois announced it would undertake a feasibility study for hockey, sponsored by various agencies that want to promote hockey. The unsurprising conclusion:
Ice hockey would 'flourish' at University of Illinois, study shows
A study on the feasibility of an NCAA men’s ice hockey team at the University of Illinois reached a clear conclusion: Go for it.
The study that launched in June found the interest level and talent in the state would help a hockey program thrive at Illinois.
The university has not decided if it will add a team but is seeking information on funding from campus and community stakeholders. Athletic director Josh Whitman told reporters Thursday that implementing a varsity program would require raising “north of $50 million” and called it “probably one of the more ambitious projects.”
That is the laziest possible takeaway from a shoddy "study" riddled with typos, unjustified assumptions, and self-contradictory assertions. But if you only read the front page, yeah, that's what it says. Not what it shows. Frustrated Illinois fan Steve The Illinois Fan actually read the thing and brings up various issues with the report in a Medium post.
Penn State was the best-case scenario for a startup program: huge fanbase, limited basketball tradition, massive program benefactor. They've created a program that generates 1.7 million in ticket sales annually… and it's still only a break-even proposition when you include the women's hockey boat anchor that Title IX lashed to it.
Illinois has zero of these advantages, and frankly it's hard to see them being anything but a basement dweller if they did start a program.
Iowa and Nebraska remain the Big Ten schools at which hockey makes the most sense. Both schools are smack dab in the middle of the USHL. Both have (or will probably have) private rinks of the appropriate size literally across the street from campus, obviating the need for a massive startup donation. Both have large local fanbases and basketball programs that don't often reach the NCAA tournament.
People In Charge Of Things Are Just In Charge Of Them, Part Lots. Pittsburgh's athletic director let Jamie Dixon return to his alma mater TCU without a fight, hired a search firm headed by his old boss, who also happened to be the old boss of flailing Vandy head coach Kevin Stallings. Stallings had managed one NCAA bit in the previous four years, that an 11 seed at 19-13. Pitt immediately cratered; Stallings was booted after just two years.
So Pittsburgh (presumably) paid six figures so the search firm could recommend an old buddy, and the hire has now produced a disaster in two years. Barnes, by the way, moved on to Oregon State in December of 2016, and spent only 18 months as the athletic director in Pittsburgh. It was a costly tenure, and one for which the school now gets to pay the final bill while Barnes is thousands of miles away.
Once you get to a certain level of rich, other people at that level will crony your ass so that no level of incompetence is too high. See Dave Brandon.
While Isaiah Livers still holds the starting job, his minutes have faded significantly. Per KenPom, Duncan Robinson has played 71% of the minutes at the four over the last five games, and it's because he can be on the floor with Wagner again. Since conference play resumed, Michigan scores 1.13 points per possession and allows only 1.02 when the Robinson/Wagner combo is on the floor. The numbers get even starker when you look at the nine-game stretch since the second Purdue game, which I believe is around the time Luke Yaklich made his defensive tweak to keep Robinson mostly in the post:
The defensive numbers are impacted by some three-point luck (good for Robinson/Wagner, bad for other lineups) but there are still some significant takeaways. First, the offense is lethal when Wagner and Robinson are both hitting their threes—no surprise there. The other stat that stands out to me is their ability to dominate the defensive boards. Wagner has really stepped up his game as a rebounder; Robinson doesn't go get them often, but he's done a great job of sealing off his man—usually an offensive rebounding threat—to allow Wagner and the guards/wings to swoop in and grab the ball.
So long as the impact of these defensive adjustments remain, we should continue to see Robinson play around 30 minutes per game, even if Livers continues to start. Robinson is much more impactful on offense and his hidden impact on rebounding (plus his solid post defense) has made him a more valuable defender of late than Livers. (I can't believe I just typed that.)
Luke Yaklich unlocked Michigan's best lineups. With Robinson playable on defense again, John Beilein can be comfortable putting out groups like Simpson-MAAR-Poole-Robinson-Wagner that are capable of ridiculous shooting stretches like the 51-points-in-15-minutes torching of Maryland. That's been missing from the M offense this season; it's back now.
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[long gushing thread about Poole’s ceiling]
Nick: And Livers and Teske are still so young. And then the incoming class…
Seth: Yeah in two years this could be Beilein’s best team ever.
Nick: I don’t even know which of these guys to be the most excited about!
Seth: Is that your TWO question?
Seth: Good because we’ve been talking about the same thing in slack all this time.
Ace: Just one? Top three? Top five? I have a hard time containing my enthusiasm with this bunch and the 2018 class.
Seth: Should we try to come up with a consensus rank?
Brian: Top three. Ordered by projected alpha dog on the 2019-2020 team.
Ace: I’m gonna drop this in from the discussion that led to this topic:
Alex: I mean the roster in two years could look like:
PG - Z, Brooks/DeJulius
SG - Poole, Nunez
SF - Iggy, Johns
PF - Livers, Johns
C - Teske, Castleton
I don't want to get too far ahead of myself but that's a group that could do some big things, especially if Z continues to improve
This, of all things, is going to kill me.
Brian: First and second year players on this team and the incoming croots are eligible.
Seth: So Iggy has one spot.
Ace: Does he, though?
Brian: Alpha dog is defense and rebounding inclusive. Everyone has their own list.
Ace: I thought the same thing and then I looked over everything again and this is really damn hard. There’s a legitimate argument for everyone on Alex’s two-deep outside of Brooks and probably Nunez, and those guys aren’t exactly dead weight.
1/9/2018 – Michigan 69, Purdue 70 – 14-4, 3-2 Big Ten
This is all Illinois's fault. Or Miami's. Or whichever jabroni awarded this ball to the Hurricanes late in a 2013 NCAA tournament game:
Oh no I read the comments
Oh no, college basketball listened to Youtube commenters. In the aftermath of that game the outrage was sufficient for the NCAA to institute video review on late-game out-of-bounds plays. Thus last night, when a Michigan win-or-OT situation turned into a loss thanks to a replay that literally took seven minutes as two referees pored over every frame of a Dakota Mathias rake on Charles Matthews and eventually awarded the ball to Purdue.
This was insane for many reasons.
One: I spent 39:54 watching a great basketball game between two good teams exchanging haymakers, and then I spent the rest of my life watching the back of a ref.
Two: any replay that takes that long surely falls in the realm of the disputed and should not be flipped.
Three: that call would never be made at any point during the first 39:54 because it does not matter if an offensive player who has been stripped of the ball going to the basket has his finger on the ball a nanosecond after the defender. The basketball rule book functionally reads "if a player is stripped going to the basket it's his team's ball unless it hits his leg or foot. "
Applying a different standard to a late game possession isn't correcting a call, it's getting it wrong in the name of pedantry. This happens a half dozen times in any basketball game...
...and 100% of the time the ball is awarded to the offense. That's the rule even if it's not the rule.
Four: Matt Painter essentially used a coach's challenge, which does not exist in basketball.
Matt Painter says Purdue had to ask for a replay on the Matthews play. Officials weren’t going to check it. ‘I had no idea. I was just guessing.’
Surely the response there could have been "no" or "hard pass" or "Matt you seem nice and you've constructed a fascinating basketball team but please go to hell." It was not. So it goes.
I'm obviously pretty cheesed off that Michigan lost one of their vanishingly few opportunities for a win that could move them up a seed line, but I'm even more vexed that the basketball game I was watching went from wonderful tense fun to a conference call. This is bad. It is bad for the game, and not just people walking bow-legged to work this morning.
If we're going to have replay—and, yes, we probably should, Illinois fans—we must protect the game from idiot pedants. And refs are all idiot pedants. That's the job: memorize this rule book and show up in front of thousands of people who hate you to enforce the rules of a meaningless game. Occasionally Kentucky fans dox you, and you kind of deserve it. This only appeals to the kind of person who loves correcting other people's mistakes more than he enjoys not having his life threatened. Only an idiot pedant signs up. TV Teddy is their king for a reason.
So. You get 30 seconds and then the screen turns off. Because if it's not obvious with three replays it's not worth correcting. Especially in a game like basketball where a gentleman's agreement not to foul someone out on some bullshit (unless their name is Mo Wagner) exists. Especially in a game like basketball that is lovely when it's flowing up and down the court and grimly dismal during its fouls-and-timeouts-and-more-timeouts-and-now-replays closing act.
Because if you didn't care about this game to start, and then got into it because it was terrific, you finished the game watching NCIS. Either figuratively, because it turned into a forensic exercise, or literally, because you changed the channel to one of the 17 different stations constantly playing NCIS.
Basketball should not have timeouts*, and it should take steps to assure replays are barely long enough to get one glue commercial in. Let's march to the grave properly distracted, people.
*[As previously discussed I am willing to accept a system where coaches can call timeout if they snip off one of their digits with garden shears and hand it to the ref.]
I will be very Brad Stevens. Stevens famously started walking towards the handshake line in some Butler game that came down to a buzzer-beater before that buzzer-beater went in or not, because one basket wasn't going to sway his opinion of his basketball team much. That's some cold-blooded Vulcan behavior and we'd do well to implement that in the aftermath here.
Michigan went toe to toe with a very very good team that was playing superbly, and the fact they lost is less important than they way they played. If you believe that opponent 3PT% is largely out of your control this game looks pretty dang good. And about that...
A legion of Rip Hamiltons. Dan Dakich made an excellent point when he noted the sheer speed at which Purdue's gunners were running through their cuts and getting to their spots. Maybe half of Purdue's threes weren't drive-and-kick or extra-pass-to-exploit-rotation. They were lightning cuts off screens that Michigan didn't have much shot at defending. As I mentioned on twitter:
Purdue is an ogre surrounded by four Rip Hamiltons
The difference is that Hamilton wasn't canning threes. Purdue is, at a Peak Beilein Team rate of 41%.
In this game Purdue hit 57% on a relatively high rate of threes (their 3PA/FGA of 37% is about the NCAA median), and I think that was more Purdue than Michigan. M has more or less maintained their ability to prevent launches from deep—currently 14th in the country—despite Billy Donlon's departure. They just ran into a buzzsaw.
[@ right: Campredon]
Hello, sir. Lovely of Isaiah Livers to provide sustenance to Ace in his time of need, what with his 249 ORTG. Ten points on four shots will do that. Especially when two of them are on this:
Remember last year when DJ Wilson would turn into the best basketball player in history for three minutes a game? Yeah. If Livers can add that kind of take to his suddenly-surging three point shooting... you know what? Never mind. I'm not trying to get him drafted.
Isaiah Livers is terrible. This is the end of the post, NBA scouts. Promise.
Anyway: since Big Ten play resumed Livers is 7/9 on twos and 7/8 on threes. He's also a clear upgrade from Duncan Robinson in all non-scoring ways. I think MGoBlog says this every 30 seconds, but it's past time to start him and let Robinson return to the microwave role he's excellent in.
This seems to be happening functionally: Livers as played 27 minutes against Purdue and Iowa. Now if Robinson could get his minutes when the opposition has 7th and 8th guys on the floor that would be *kisses fingers*.
7'3" guy on 2 guard [Campredon]
Panic on the streets of Lafayette. I don't know if Matt Painter's constant absurd switching was brilliant or idiotic. It was both? At the same time? Probably? Yes. It oscillated wildly between those two states on possession to possession basis.
On some possessions Michigan would stare blankly into the middle distance for 25 seconds before Charles Matthews thundered at a 7'2" or 7'3" guy with little success. On others Zavier Simpson would check to make sure he had the laces right on the basketball—another good Dakich catch—before lifting up in front of a helpless Isaac Haas. Michigan seemed to figure it out in the second half when they made their push to tie, and then it evaporated late on two or three horrendous offensive possessions, any one of which could have produced a game-winning basket.
I don't know. It's weird and desperate and I feel like if Michigan saw that kind of thing on a regular basis they'd destroy it. Since they don't you get a lot of isolation plays from a team that doesn't have a lot of good iso players, and the offense can turn into a confused slog. The rematch should be fascinating.
Teske is a dude. Michigan got a fast break bucket in the second half largely because Jon Teske was the tallest tree around; he emerged to get a DREB that looked more like an OREB because he was swarmed with dudes. That was a four-point swing. His extended PT in the second half saw Michigan get a point closer to Purdue, and while he didn't score his two OREBs and generally excellent defense were critical.
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say Michigan loses by ten if you replace Teske with Mark Donnal.
DREBs closer to real. In a similar vein: Michigan won the rebounding battle against Purdue with a 34% OREB rate vs Purdue's 24%. This isn't quite as much of an upset as it might seem like. Despite having the two biggest guys in the conference, Purdue's pretty meh on the boards.
They're not bad enough that Michigan will turn up its nose at a W in that category. You might want to sit down for this: Michigan is currently the best DREB team in Big Ten play. Please tell me you're not reading this while driving oh no you hit a tree.
A brief scheduling note. Michigan played Jacksonville during their annual Very Bad Team Invitational in December. This is going to be a boat anchor all year as the Dolphins trundle towards an 11-20 record, per Kenpom.
Purdue, on the other hand, scheduled Lipscomb. Lipscomb is also an Atlantic Sun team, but they're projected to win the conference. They've played four major-conference teams and lost by 22, 23, 10, and 22, but if and when they're 22-7 at the end of the year against a schedule virtually identical to Jacksonville they're going to be much less of an RPI disaster.
Michigan should be scheduling the Lipscombs of the world.