One Frame At A Time: Houston and Texas A&M

One Frame At A Time: Houston and Texas A&M

Submitted by Ace on May 1st, 2018 at 4:07 PM

I think I've waited long enough that I can post this now.

It's taken me a while to get around to tournament GIFs for a number of reasons, some NCAA-related and some not, but I finally made it through the Houston and Texas A&M games. (As per blog policy, there was no Montana game. It's just a figment of your imagination.) It'll take me a bit longer to get around to Florida State and Loyola Chicago, but I'll get to those too.

One thing I apparently won't get to: a supercut of three-pointers against Texas A&M, as this is what happened when I attempted to put that together with my normally unfailing GIF software:

In the words of the Texas twitter account: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

[Hit THE JUMP for every conceivable angle of the Poole Party, CJ Baird Tha Gawd, and much more.]

Unverified Voracity Is The Only Dolphin In Upstate New York

Unverified Voracity Is The Only Dolphin In Upstate New York

Submitted by Brian on March 20th, 2018 at 1:02 PM

Sponsor note. Well now you've gone and done it. You hugged a police horse after Jordan Poole's shot. The police horse enjoyed it. And now you have to extricate yourself from an uncomfortably long hug while a fairly upset policeman glares down upon you. We have all been there. (We have not. Just you, the guy who gets in situations with police horses.) On the bright side, now you have an idea for a company that sells a watch that periodically reminds you that you have been barred from approaching within 50 feet of any police horse in the state.

Well, have I got a lawyer for you.

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Richard Hoeg will help you incorporate, and get your contracts right, and get that small business up and running. He will also allow you to write ad copy that becomes a long-running saga of a man who just can't quit police horses. This latter probably won't come up if you engage him, but if it does you are going to be super happy that you picked Richard.

First weekend slice of life. The university has an extensive photo gallery with a lot of behind the scenes stuff from the first week of the tourney. They've apparently decided the David Turnley model is a good one to extend. Jaaron Simmons eats a potato!

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Moe Wagner temporarily grows to extraordinary size!

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And so forth and so on.

Spring game. It's at 7 PM again on April 14th. The time is unfortunate since there's a 50/50 chance that takes the weather from fine to Not Great, but at least its not on April 1st like a couple of Hoke spring games. Also it will be an actual competition, insofar as that is possible, and not a punting exhibition. It'll still draw a ton of people if Shea Patterson is declared eligible in the next few weeks here.

Various videos. While it's unfortunate that the replay feature is gone from MMOD, there is a small compensation from the NCAA's youtube page, which has various items of note, like oh I don't know, the last 90 seconds of the Houston game.

We'd be talking about that tip-in miss and MAAR going up with his right hand for a while if not for Poole's shot. There's also an every-make video from the Houston game…

…but not MSU-Syracuse, because that would require someone to make a basket. Also some Montana stuff if you've completely forgotten that game.

Some A&M scouting from the same source. If you'd like to get an idea of what a couple of A&M's prominent players are like, here's PF/C Tyler Davis:

And PG TJ Starks:

They left out eight turnovers between the two, because it's a highlight video. I've watched a couple of A&M games from earlier in the year and they are heavily dependent on Starks to create shots, thus explaining his usage and sky-high TO rate.

Beat all the A&Ms. LeMoyne, coached by one Patrick Beilein, takes on Mini A&M today in the D-II Elite Eight:

Almost cruel to nickname a college in upstate New York the "Dolphins."

Syracuse.com has a long profile on Patrick, who is likely to move up to D-1 after the season even if he's being a bit wishy-washy about it at the moment. He evidently takes after dad:

"For me, it was really simple," said Bassett, the athletic director at Le Moyne. "When you get into the process and you have to get into some details about salary range and things like that, Pat was interested in talking about other things. His comment at that point was he knew Le Moyne would be fair with what they could do, and he wasn't overly concerned with that.

"You never hear an answer like that."

If he succeeds at his (presumed) next stop he'll be in the conversation when Beilein decides to hang it up.

Slow vs fast. In the wake of That Upset, a lot of folks are wondering about whether slow teams like Virginia—and Michigan—are more vulnerable to upsets.

Torvik then suggests that Virginia's glacial place is a way to conserve energy so they can go all out on defense. That's perfectly reasonable, and maybe that does help Virginia compete against better athletes.

Personally, though, I think the tempo thing is pretty overblown. The difference between Michigan's tempo and that of FSU, the fastest team left in the tournament, is 65 possessions versus 72. A ten percent increase in possessions doesn't seem like it's going to swing more games to the hypothetically better team. And Michigan fans are no doubt aware of what slow tempo implies: open shots and scanty turnovers on offense and a lack of transition on defense. 

Virginia might be enough of an outlier that they are more vulnerable to upsets because of their tempo. They are dead last in the country at 60 possessions per game, three fewer than the next-slowest team. The difference between #330 Michigan and Virginia is the same as the difference between #121 Morehead State and M.

Starting to notice. Tom Izzo's brand of on-court football isn't helping anyone's draft prospects. ESPN's draft experts on Miles Bridges:

Bridges certainly hasn't made the jump scouts would have hoped when he elected to return for his sophomore season. …hasn't done much this season to convince teams that he belongs firmly ahead of positional peers Mikal Bridges and Kevin Knox.

And Jaren Jackson:

Plenty of questions have been raised about the decisions Izzo made down the stretch, as this is the third straight season in which the Hall of Famer has been unable to advance out of the first weekend of the tournament. From an NBA standpoint, most of those questions revolve around the outdated lineup configurations and overall style of basketball the Spartans played all season. Izzo's insistence on having six different centers on the roster and playing all of them (two at a time) in virtually every contest -- despite the obvious toll that took on the team's spacing, ball movement, shooting and aesthetic appeal -- makes it difficult to draw too many conclusions on Jackson's NBA outlook.

At 6-11 and 240 pounds, with a 7-5 wingspan, it is unlikely that Jackson will see much time at the power forward spot in the NBA like he did all season, certainly not next to a non-shooting center who lacks relative athleticism. How much better would Jackson have looked playing in a more up-tempo system at his natural position when surrounded by more skilled teammates? NBA decision-makers will have to decipher that on their own.

Looking forward: It is important to remember that Jackson is the youngest prospect in this class and was clearly not being utilized to his full potential.

Bridges dropped from a guy projected 6th last year to one projected 12th in ESPN's most recent mock draft. Ain't enough bag in the world to justify that.

FWIW, A&M C Robert Williams is also in the lottery:

Williams reminded everyone why he was such a highly touted prospect entering the season with a tremendous opening weekend in the NCAA tournament, helping Texas A&M reach the Sweet 16.

Despite playing out of position all season, he has shown that his game is tailor-made for the NBA as a rim-running, pick-and-roll-finishing, shot-blocker/offensive rebounder in the Clint Capela mold. With DeAndre Jordan in the final year of his contract, the Clippers could certainly look to Williams as a potential successor.

Wagner checks in at 49th, FWIW.

ENDORSE. 40 of these 42 ways to fix the NHL—and hockey in general—are excellent suggestions. I was standing and applauding by the end of this bravura section:

5) Leaving your feet to block a shot is a penalty. I hate when sports reward no-talent try-hards, and hockey rewards them more than any other sport. It boggles my mind when people get pumped about a fourth-line penalty killer sliding to block an Alex Ovechkin bomb from the face-off circle. Seriously? You don't want to see where that slapper was headed?

This would increase goals and reduce injuries. You can dive to take away the puck if you're in chase mode, but no more squaring up a shooter and sliding in front of the shot. Remember when John Tortorella took over the Canucks and people were excited about the Sedins blocking shots? The Sedins! Get out of here with this nonsense.

6) Bigger nets. Let's go three inches vertically and horizontally and see what happens. I've heard the argument against this idea because goalies would eat more blasts in the mask but whenever that happens, it's always by accident and it's always with the goalie on his knees well below the crossbar. If anything, creating more room around the goalie's skull would reduce those instances but really, shots to the mask are always accidental and wouldn't go anywhere either way. More goals, though. Let's get more goals.

7) Puck off the netting is in play. If there's one general thing I'd change about the NHL, I'd reduce the number of whistles during games. Hockey sells itself on flow and speed, but man can there be a lot of whistles. I don't understand why shots that hit the protective netting above the glass can't be played when they bounce back onto the ice. Everyone has had time to adjust to the netting over the years and everyone knows when a puck leaves a stick if it's headed toward the netting. When it bounces behind the goal line, go get it. Keep playing.

For the sake of fairness, anything off the netting and into the net off the goalie doesn't count.

8) No more offside. This also means no more offside reviews. Everyone is happy. Why do we even have offside? If I could go back in time, I'm killing Hitler and kidnapping the guy in 1898 or whenever who was so passionate about an offside line. It's not like the offside line makes the game safer; it's there to give the defense an advantage against oncoming opponents. Why?

Removing offside is another way to get some whistles out of the game and help with flow.

Yes. All of that. Beyonce picture dot gif.

Etc.: EMU drops four sports. Sean McDonough back! Lecturer salaries at Michigan currently 1) embarrassing, 2) being negotiated. Radio call of the buzzer-beater.

Basketbullets: Montana

Basketbullets: Montana

Submitted by Ace on March 16th, 2018 at 2:27 PM

That Was A Weird One


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan 61, Montana 47

Michigan 61, Montana 47

Submitted by Ace on March 16th, 2018 at 1:34 AM


(Left) Charles Matthews' dunks were a (the?) bright spot.
(Right) That game, the feeling. [Photos: J.D. Scott/MGoBlog]

Queme los game film.

Make sure the audio track burns, too.

In the Before Time, when I could still hear pitches above a high B-flat, Montana jumped out to a 10-0 lead over a Michigan squad that very much looked like it'd had an extended layoff. The Wolverines adjusted to the aggressive trapping Grizzlies defense and held a three-point lead at halftime. A woman screamed as if she, also, was trapped by grizzlies.


Hopeless. [Scott]

The second half barely got started before the scorer's table lost power, causing a long delay. Just after the clocks returned to working order, TBS went to a media timeout. The screaming continued. Someone help her, please.

Montana went 34 minutes of real time—and ten minutes of game time—without a basket. In the interim, we all moved one day closer to death.

While Michigan didn't look a whole lot better on offense, they were at least capable of occasionally putting the ball in the basket. Charles Matthews mostly dunked his way to 20 points to lead all scorers. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman chipped in 11 as the only other Wolverine in double figures. Others contributed. The screaming grew louder as the arena emptied. Both teams, haunted by visions of murder, failed to crack a point per possession.

The Wolverines face Houston, winners over San Diego State, at approximately 9:50 pm on Saturday. May the wailing of cursed souls cease by then.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Unverified Voracity Pissed Off People In Practice

Unverified Voracity Pissed Off People In Practice

Submitted by Brian on March 9th, 2018 at 1:39 PM

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i can see it [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Jordan Poole annoyed everyone into being mean. That's Ace's take on the season, no doubt, and uh…

"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:

If they're on the same seed line you'd think that would be a situation where head to head would break a tie for Detroit placement. But I'd brace yourselves for Not Detroit.

One reason there's such a logjam. Jason Lisk took a look at protected seeds over the past decade:

…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.

NIT is a four letter word. Jaaron Simmons was taken aback recently.

"We've got to keep winning games so we keep playing in the postseason," Beilein told his team. "NIT, NCAA."

Beilein and Simmons made eye contact. Simmons laughed.

"What are you laughing at?" Beilein asked, a smile creeping on his face.

"Coach," Simmons said, "I ain't come here to play in the NIT."

Also of note: Simmons is still calling Zavier Simpson "X." Can we still call him X? Amongst all the letters X is the coolest.

Livers should be good. Via the Daily:

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.

Miraculously, that AD had already gotten out ahead of the posse:

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.

Etc.: Football hires Ron Prince as an analyst. New York doesn't care about you. Steve Kerr also thinks amateurism is stupid.

Michigan 74, Ohio State 62

Michigan 74, Ohio State 62

Submitted by BiSB on February 18th, 2018 at 4:38 PM

December was a long time ago.

When Michigan played Ohio State on December 4, everyone expected Ohio State to be a mediocre-at-best Big Ten team. The Buckeyes’ were coming off a 17-15 season and a disastrous offseason, and hadn’t shown anything particularly noteworthy in the early non-conference season. So when Michigan built, and subsequently blew, a 20-point in Columbus, it looked to be a terrible loss and the sign of a team that might struggle to make the NCAA tournament.  Now, ten weeks later, a home win over that same team being (rightly) seen as a massive résumé win.

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Moe goes up, Moe goes down (Campredon)

Ohio State’s turnaround has been keyed by Big Ten Player-of-the-Year frontrunner Keita Bates-Diop, and Michigan’s resurgence has been led by its defense. On this day, the defense won the battle. Bates-Diop finished with 17 points, but he required 17 shots to get there, and turned the ball over 4 times in the process. Overall, the Wolverines forced 14 turnovers, largely the result of excellent perimeter defense that resulted in numerous transition opportunities. Ohio State’s offensive success was largely predicated on offensive rebounding, as the Buckeyes grabbed 15 offensive boards.

Offensively, Michigan was sluggish out of the gate, trailing 14-10 midway through the first half. That was when Jordan Poole did Jordan Poole things. Michigan went on a 12-4 run, nine of which were Poole’s, including a four-point play. Michigan never relinquished the lead. Poole finished with 15 points on 5-8 shooting, including 4-5 from deep. He was the only Wolverine who shot well from outside (the rest of the team was 3-15 from three), and equally importantly, he provided a notable boost of energy.

4O6A5710

Sir, is your microwave running? Well then you’d better try to catch it (Campredon)

The other palpable source of energy was Moritz Wagner. Wagner scored an efficient 12 points, but also spent a large portion of the afternoon scrambling for loose balls and generally being an hyperactive pest. He also benefited from a (generally) laissez-faire approach from the officials, which allowed him to stay on the court despite being involved in some very physical encounters.

In other positive performances, Jaaron Simmons played extended minutes for the third consecutive game, including a solid stretch along side Jordan Poole during Poole’s first half explosion. The highlight of his first half was a pretty feed to Wagner in the post for an easy. It seems pretty clear at this point that he has supplanted Eli Brooks. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zavier Simpson combined for 20 points in the second half.  On the downside, Charles Matthews continued to struggle. He was abused by JaeSean Tate (though Michigan struggled to defend him down low all game), and he was held to six points on six shots while turning the ball over four times. However, he did have a couple of nice takes to the bucket in the second half, and he generally stayed within the flow of the offense.

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Adieu, gentlemen (Campredon)

This was Senior Day, and Michigan said farewell to three active players; Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson, and Jaaron Simmons all played significant minutes in this one, and generally played well. But the star of the festivities was Austin Hatch.  Hatch, who wasn’t allowed to play because of NCAA rules (he took a medical redshirt a couple of years ago) was announced as a starter, and warmed up with the team. Crisler’s greeting was reminiscent of that Brock Mealer when the Michigan football team opened the season against UConn in 2010.

For the second year in a row, a former Michigan grad transfer played Michigan's Senior Night an a different color jersey. But unlike Spike Albrecht, who received a relatively warm reception, Andrew Dakich was booed every time he touched the ball. Such is the nature of rivalry. Dakich finished with 0 points, 0 assists, and a turnover in 22 minutes.

This win removes what little doubt remained about Michigan’s tournament status. They still have a chance to play their way out of a second-round matchup with a 1- or 2-seed, though Michigan has recently been projected anywhere from a 3-seed to a “launched-by-trebuchet-into-the-sun,” so your guess is as good as mine. For the moment, we will have to be satisfied with a hearty round of “NOT LIKE FOOTBALL <clap> <clap> <clap clap clap>.”

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Shooters Get To Shoot

Shooters Get To Shoot

Submitted by Brian on February 15th, 2018 at 1:22 PM

2/14/2018 – Michigan 74, Iowa 59 – 21-7, 10-5 Big Ten

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[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

There are many reasons your correspondent does not coach basketball. One of them is that I would not look at Michigan's defensive issues from their first game against Iowa and solve them by putting Duncan Robinson on Tyler Cook. Cook eviscerated anyone Michigan sent at him en route to 28 points at Carver-Hawkeye; yesterday my humorous tweet about how things were going for Robinson was not quite hyperbolic enough:

Cook actually had four points at that juncture. He'd finish with ten, on 18% usage, and Iowa does not win a game where Cook ends up being a role player. Without Luka Garza going NBA Jam from 15 feet, Iowa's offense would have collapsed in a wet puddle; even with that net-burning activity the Hawkeyes were held to 0.88 points per possession, their third-worst outing of the year.

Also Robinson singlehandedly shot Iowa out of their zone, and the game, by hitting 6/8 threes—many of them from a couple feet behind the line. This naturally leads to a lot of sentences that start with "if" and end with ellipses, like "if Duncan Robinson can just do that six straight times..." or "if Duncan Robinson is possessed by the soul of Glen Rice..." or "if Duncan Robinson made a pact with the Devil..."

Then, yeah, man. Yeah. Sometimes a Mitch McGary comes from out of nowhere. It's not likely with Robinson, who's been a contributor for long enough that he's established a baseline of performance. We probably just saw Robinson's best game at Michigan.

I can accept one "if", though: if Robinson can be the 40%+ three point shooter he was his first two years, that could take Michigan's offense up to "threatening to high seed" levels. Knockdown three point shooting makes it very difficult for a Michigan opponent to not get caught in possession-based quicksand.

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

I keep poking it in case it wakes up and trundles off into the sea, leaving me to wonder if it was ever real. It does not wake up. It does not even seem vaguely fluky. Michigan's defense is legitimate. Crashing the boards on this team leads to more transition opportunities the other way than second chances. Iowa is the top OREB team in the Big Ten and Michigan obliterated them. Iowa got 18% of their misses; Michigan got 28% of theirs.

That's a six shot advantage. Turnover margin provided another ten. Even if Michigan is a wonky shooting team, and they usually are this year, there's almost no way to stay in contact with a team that gets 16 more opportunities to score than you do. When only 10 of your attempts are from three, forget about it.

Michigan now combines elite turnover avoidance, elite defensive rebounding, and elite three-point shot prevention. If they were anywhere near their usual level of sharpshooting this team would be really something. They aren't, so they're just a B outfit headed for a middling seed.

But I think there's something in this new paradigm. Michigan will remain an elite turnover avoidance team as long as Beilein is here. Their worst performance in the past six years was 17th. Preventing threes also seems sustainable. They were 218th two years ago when Beilein turned his staff over and hired a defensive coordinator; under Billy Donlon they were 9th; under Luke Yaklich they are 10th. There's no reason that can't continue.

Rebounding is an open question. This is Beilein's best DREB team by almost four full percentage points, and Wagner is (somehow) now the kind of elite DREB vacuum that might move the needle. You'd think Teske would be at least in the vicinity, though.

If Michigan can go from a team that gets a lot of shots to a team that has a huge shot margin because the opposition isn't getting second chances, and that eFG D is helped out by that 3PA prevention, and they can do this with a Typical Beilein level of shooting... well, yeah, that seems like it would be good.

I eagerly anticipate marrying the era where there's a defensive coordinator with the one where Michigan assassinates archdukes with called bank shots. For now, let's hope Maverick Morgan sent Robinson a shitty DM last week.

BULLETS

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oblig mad fran [Campredon]

Damn me to hell. Yesterday in our Slack chat I wondered why Fran McCaffrey, a guy with one regular under 6'5", didn't play zone. So of course for the first time in McCaffrey's dang career he sends his team out in a 2-3 zone from the drop. Michigan spent their requisite 5-10 minutes staring uncomprehendingly at it, staking Iowa to an early lead, and limped to a 1.1 PPP performance against a defense that was previously horrible.

Michigan—Robinson—eventually shot Iowa out of it, but honestly they should have stuck with it. The zone completely neutralized the Bohannon-Simpson matchup that was a major problem for the Hawkeyes earlier this year. Simpson had one shot attempt, four assists, and three TOs. Charles Matthews also struggled mightily against it, and the Robinson threes weren't always open or anywhere near the three point line.

Michigan's going to continue facing these zones because they don't have many rise-up threats against it. Matthews and Simpson aren't; Robinson evidently can be but if he's having an off game your other options are... MAAR, I guess, and he loathes being a high usage guy. Hopefully next year's vanguard will make zone a very bad idea—DeJulius, Nunez, and Brazdeikis are all guys who can punish the half-closeouts zones generally provide outside shooters.

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[Campredon]

Every day I'm scuffling. Charles Matthews continues to implode down the stretch. We should mention that one of his misses was a Kobe assist that led directly to a Teske dunk. Still: 10 points on 17 shot attempts is grim even if he grabbed four OREBs. A couple of his makes were transition gimmes, too. It's nice that he's able to run the floor and dunk explosively; in our imaginary grading system that's less of a positive than breaking down a set defense.

Michigan just has to live with it, I think. MAAR will turn into a gremlin if he ever gets up to 24% usage in a game, Simpson's total lack of a jump shot limits him, Wagner's already carrying a heavy load, Livers is a role player at this point in his career, and Robinson is 85% Just A Shooter. And it's tough to shove minutes over to Poole when he's 0/4 in a game, as he was here.

Matthews still has a lot of upside to explore but I don't think we're going to see a 180 down the stretch here.

Expand flagrants. Iowa had two hard fouls on Michigan fast breaks that were not declared flagrants. They probably weren't under the current rules. But they should be. On both, the Iowa player had no realistic play on the ball and undercut a Michigan guy in a full sprint. Instead of cool dunk action, we got free throws, and both Michigan players hit the court hard. Those fouls are intentional and are not legitimate defensive plays; they should be two shots and the ball. If you are behind a guy on a fast break you should not be able to grab them without that outcome being worse than no foul at all.

It'll be different without Mo, but maybe not worse. I assume Mo Wagner is headed for the exit after this year even if he's not ranked particularly high on draft boards, because he's done what he can to make himself more attractive to the next level—become an excellent rebounder—and his defensive deficiencies are baked in. I'd love to have him back, but I'm not banking on it.

I am relatively sanguine about this possibility because of Jon Teske, who had 8 rebounds, three offensive, and three steals in 16 minutes. Teske doesn't quite qualify for Kenpom leaderboards—he's about 4 MPG short—but if he did he would be in the top 20 nationally as an offensive rebounder. And his OREB rate goes up as the competition gets stiffer. That's probably a sample size issue, but it does go to show that it's not an artifact of beating up on the Alabama A&Ms of the world. He's also got an absurd-for-a-big steal rate:

He is the blue dot all the way to the right, and would be top 100 in steal rate for all players if he qualified. While Teske isn't an elite shot blocker his post defense is already solid or better, and he's showing flashes of being an efficient scorer with decent usage. He's not far from being this site's Dream Beilein Post, non-Pittsnogle division: an elite possession generator and rim protector. Just has to get that block rate up some and he's going to be a major positive. McGary-esque, perhaps.

FWIW, I was poking around Beilein's history on Kenpom and the one year Michigan's OREB rate wasn't in the red was the Final Four team, which had 20 MPG of McGary, an elite OREB guy (16%), 15 MPG of Jordan Morgan, a very good one (14%), and 5 minutes of Jon Horford, an okay one (10%) along with Glenn Robinson's solid 8% OREB rate. Livers is at 8, Matthews is at 6, and Wagner is at 7. 30 MPG of Teske and his 15% OREB rate has the potential to bring Michigan's OREBs from around 250th to 130th.

That would take Michigan's possession advantage from very good to great.

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[Campredon]

Simmons lives! Jaaron Simmons has 20 minutes in the last couple games; he canned a pull-up three in front of the zone and had a clever steal to set himself up for a dunk. With four assists to one turnover he had a productive outing. He's not in Simpson's class as a defender but he is the man who got absolutely zero help from his Ohio teammates a year ago; if there's a team daring Michigan to shoot over a zone he might be a decent option. Certainly more of a threat than Simpson to do so.

BTN gives, BTN takes. On the one hand, Robbie Hummel is already very good early in his broadcast career. He offers intelligent studio analysis and his color is mostly unnoticeable—a major positive—until he says something insightful. On the other, I find it impossible to listen to Jon Crispin for two hours without thinking about the sweet release of death.

Basketbullets: Can This Team Be Good?

Basketbullets: Can This Team Be Good?

Submitted by Ace on December 6th, 2017 at 2:48 PM


[James Coller]

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

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


Waltoning, The Graph

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

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

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

LSU 77, Michigan 75

LSU 77, Michigan 75

Submitted by Ace on November 21st, 2017 at 2:35 AM


via Alejandro Zuniga

I'm starting this a little before 2 am, so this won't be a standard recap. Some scattered thoughts following a loss that may have a big impact on this season in several directions.

The schedule impact is rough. Michigan's tourney fortunes may end up tied closely to the fate of this LSU team if the Wolverines end up on the bubble. While LSU has looked good early on, they were terrible last year—this could wind up being a bad loss on the resume, though I suspect Tremont Waters is going to get the Tigers respectable soon. The bigger deal is having an opportunity to play Notre Dame replaced by a date with D-II Chaminade, a no-win game for Michigan. Instead of getting three quality opponents out of this week, they only get two.

The point guard situation is the team's biggest problem. Let's get the bad out of the way. While there were some flashes of talent from Eli Brooks, who canned a pull-up three and had a nifty drop-off assist to Moe Wagner, the point guard position is still in major flux. John Beilein put his trust in Brooks down the stretch; Brooks missed a couple crucial shots, got pickpocketed by Waters, and had a difficult time staying in front of Waters down the stretch.

Those are growing pains you expect from a freshman point guard. The problem is that Brooks is being relied upon in the first place. Zavier Simpson almost wasn't playable because of his passivity on offense—he didn't attempt a shot in ten minutes—and he had his troubles with Waters as well, picking up four fouls. Jaaron Simmons went 0/1 with an assist and a turnover in 15 minutes. Even if this team is going to run through the wings, which it sure looks like will be the case, they need way more production from this spot.

Duncan Robinson's defense is one, too. LSU mimicked Oregon's game plan from last year's tournament, isolating Robinson when they got the opportunity and attacking him off the dribble. To little surprise, this worked.

Far more concerning was Robinson's offense, which was all but nonexistent. He was unable to shake lanky 6'5" wing Brandon Sampson, scoring his only points on a transition three and getting nothing in the halfcourt. Michigan will be in trouble against bigger, more athletic teams if they're unable to find ways to free up Robinson for shots.

Charles Matthews looks like a star. There was still plenty of good in this game, none better than the performance of Matthews: a game-high 28 points (9/15 2-pt, 1/2 3-pt, 7/10 FT) with six offensive rebounds and two assists while playing his usual strong defense.

Michigan's offense was at its best when it ran through Matthews, especially when he paired with Moe Wagner (24 points, 6/7 2-pt, 3/7 3-pt) as a screener. The most effective play was the side pick-and-pop, which opened driving lanes for Matthews to sky for short jumpers and easy midrange opportunities for Wagner. It took the team most of the first half to find this offense, however, and they strayed from it at times in the second; I'm excited about the future of a team that makes this their identity.

Other quick notes:

  • While Jon Teske didn't make a huge splash tonight, he still looked good out there. He batted another offensive rebound back out for a reset, engulfed a shot off a drive, and dished out a pretty assist. His post passing looks like it could be special—it's already quite good.
  • This was a rough game for Ibi Watson, who chucked four shots, making only one, in eight minutes and giving up some easy blow-bys on defense. He's going to lose his minutes to Brooks and perhaps Jordan Poole, who got in for a minute tonight, if things don't get better fast. He may be a good player in practice but it's not translating to games.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had an uneven performance. He couldn't find the mark from the outside, missing all five of his threes. He was great at getting to the basket, however, and made 4-of-8 twos, including some tough baskets to keep it close down the stretch. MAAR was often the only Wolverine willing to assert himself, especially when Wagner and/or Matthews weren't on the floor.
  • Isaiah Livers had a putback and a steal in 12 minutes. I noticed some trouble on defense and on the boards, though, and that type of stuff is going to hold him back from getting more minutes unless Robinson goes into an extended slump.
  • Tomorrow's game against Chaminade tips off at 8 pm EST on ESPN 2.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Basketbullets: Big Nasty Edition

Basketbullets: Big Nasty Edition

Submitted by Ace on November 20th, 2017 at 2:37 PM

It's Teske Time


[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Michigan heads into this week's Maui Invitational with a 3-0 record in body-bag games. There's a good chance you haven't seen too much of this team yet; two of those games were on the dreaded subscription-only BTN-Plus stream.

As expected, this young team still has a lot to figure out. Neither Zavier Simpson nor Jaaron Simmons have taken control of the point guard position. Charles Matthews's scoring, and seemingly his confidence in his jumper, has waxed and waned. The offense, as it often does early in the season under John Beilein, looks disjointed, and the team is connecting on only 32.9% of their three-pointers.

We do, however, have a definitive answer to one looming preseason question. Jon Teske removed all doubt about his standing on the depth chart with a ten-point, 11-rebound outburst against Southern Miss, going a perfect 5-for-5 from the field in 15 KenPom MVP-worthy minutes. Competition caveats abound, of course—bold prediction: Teske doesn't shoot 100% in most games—but USM at least fielded a 6'11", 260-pound center. Here's Teske eating that center alive:

Before getting into the serious analysis, some Small Sample Size Theater with Teske's early-season stats:

  • He's shooting 100% from the field and 80% from the line with an 83.3 free throw rate.
  • He's posting a 19.3 offensive rebound % and 37.9 defensive rebound %.
  • His 7.7% block rate would be Michigan's best over a full season since Ekpe Udoh in 2009-10.
  • According to Synergy, Teske has used nine possessions, including assists. Michigan is averaging 2.11 points on those possessions.

Pretty, pretty good. 

[Hit THE JUMP for a bunch more Teske GIFs, Z's lockdown defense, and more.]