Duncan Robinson Signs Two-Way Contract With Miami Heat

Duncan Robinson Signs Two-Way Contract With Miami Heat

Submitted by Ace on July 10th, 2018 at 2:46 PM

Couple of rookies. [Photo: Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Remember that post from earlier this week in which a Miami beat writer opined that the Heat could potentially lose Duncan Robinson if they didn't lock him up to a contract? Miami, evidently, did not want to take that chance heading into today's final day of round robin play in Summer League. John Beilein and staff, you are wizards.

A two-way deal is the same type of contract Derrick Walton signed with the Heat last year. Each team has two spots for two-way players, who mostly play in the G League (formerly D League) and can spend up to 45 days in a season with the big club. (The Heat seem intent on bringing back Walton, too.)

Robinson is averaging over 12 points a game for the Heat's Summer League team and shooting nearly 60% from the field. His best performance thus far was a 19-point outburst against Moe Wagner's Los Angeles Lakers:

Robinson's journey from unrecruited kid from Exeter Academy to D-III All-American to Michigan Wolverine to Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year has been well documented. This adds another remarkable chapter to the story. As Scotto mentioned, Robinson could become the first former D-III player to make the NBA since Devean George, the former Augsburg University standout who played in the league from 1999-2010 and contributed to three title-winning Lakers squads.

Death From Wherever

Death From Wherever

Submitted by Ace on March 30th, 2018 at 2:43 PM

SPONSOR NOTE. HomeSure Lending is once again sponsoring our NCAA Tournament coverage this year, and once again that is going rather well. I'm not saying Michigan's second run to the FINAL FOUR is due to this great partnership of sports blog and home-financing expert; I'm not saying it isn't, either. I certainly don't want to test this theory. If you're looking at buying a house this spring/summer you should talk to him soon.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


The core. [Barron]

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

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


Rolling with it. [Barron]

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

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


Hello, Big Nasty. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

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

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

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

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

CBSSports Names John Beilein National Coach of the Year

CBSSports Names John Beilein National Coach of the Year

Submitted by Ace on March 29th, 2018 at 12:02 PM


Beilein at yesterday's Final Four sendoff. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

In what is hopefully the first of many such honors, CBSSports has bestowed John Beilein with their national coach of the year award:

Michigan's last loss was Feb. 6, two days after the Super Bowl. The Wolverines have won 13 in a row, and Beilein is going to his first Final Four since his team lost to Louisville in the 2013 title game. And they're doing it on defense -- despite Beilein's longstanding reputation as an offensive guru, this team is building its reputation on one of the nation's best defenses. That's the reason why the 65-year-old Beilein, one of the most respected coaches in the game, is CBSSports.com's Coach of the Year.

There's one more thing that makes it special that Beilein is our national coach of the year. This season of college basketball has been shadowed by the FBI scandal that broke in September. Yet here is Beilein at the end of the season, still winning despite his reputation -- among peers -- as the cleanest high-major coach in the country. To be sure, Beilein won this award because his team vastly exceeded its expectations in making a Final Four run. But it's pretty sweet, during a dark college basketball season like this one, to be able to award a coach who is respected for things other than winning. -- Reid Forgrave

Same, Reid Forgrave. Same.

Beilein, quite notably, not only accomplished this without anyone on the first- or second-team All-American list, he did it while facing two such players: OSU's Keita Bates-Diop and (grins) MSU's Miles Bridges.

Michigan 58, Florida State 54, West Region Champions

Michigan 58, Florida State 54, West Region Champions

Submitted by Ace on March 25th, 2018 at 12:52 AM


Champions of the West. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]

Say it again, Dana Jacobson. Say it again and again, everyone.

Michigan is going to the Final Four. John Beilein, the true king of Ann Arbor, is one victory—against, of all teams, 11-seed Loyola—away from his second championship game in six years and an opportunity for the program's first national title since 1989.

The Wolverines got there in a most un-Beilein way. This was not Thursday, when they rained fire on Texas A&M. This is what many fans feared Thursday would look like, as a very large, athletic Florida State squad held Michigan well under a point per possession. Michigan, meanwhile, couldn't hit a three-pointer, going an appalling 4-for-22 from beyond the arc. Any past Beilein team would've lost this game.

But not this one. For as good as FSU's defense played, Michigan's was a cut above. The Seminoles had one more field goal (16) than turnovers committed (15). They kept a transition-reliant FSU scoreless on fast breaks; the Wolverines scored 12 in transition because of live-ball turnovers. That, above all, made the difference in a game featuring great halfcourt defense and ugly shooting.

"I've never seen a team work so hard and be so connected on both ends of the floor, even when things do not go right on the offensive end," said Beilein. "They were exceptional on defense. We had that string of plays where Moe was wide open, Charles is wide open, Duncan was wide open, and they didn't go down and sulk at the other end. They ended up just playing better defense so that we could win the game."


Charles Matthews surprised a lot of people tonight. [Barron]

Michigan's heroes weren't the ones you would've expected a month or two ago. Charles Matthews scored M's first points on an and-one dunk, flashed a rare smile, and proceeded to carry the offense through some truly ugly stretches. Using strong drives, sharp pivots, and tough finishes, Matthews finished with a game-high 17 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, a steal, and only one turnover.

"It was special," he said. "Last year all I used to hear in practice was turnover Matthews, turnover Matthews. And go see 212, that's when I have to run up to the top of the bleachers. But I stayed with it. Coach stayed on me. He continued to believe in me, and that continued to help my confidence grow. My teammates believe in me, and I believe in them. So it's just been a special feeling."

Zavier Simpson set the tone early, as well, when he ripped the ball away from FSU's Terance Mann as a parent would take a toy from an unruly child. While the stat line is packed—nine points on 4/8 shooting, three boards, five assists, one turnover, three steals—it doesn't do justice to Simpson's masterful control over the game. On a normal Michigan shooting night, Simpson threatens double-digit assists. Meanwhile, he hit a couple huge shots late and played his usual superlative defense. The two Seminole point guards, Trent Forrest and CJ Walker, combined to go 1-for-9 from the field with five turnovers.

Nobody else, though, could find any consistency on offense. Moe Wagner had an especially brutal outing, failing to hit a field goal in the first half before finishing with 11 points on 15 shot equivalents. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman needed ten shot equivalents to net his nine points. Duncan Robinson didn't make his first three-pointer until 2:25 remained, when his corner triple gave the Wolverines a seemingly insurmountable ten-point lead.

Florida State nearly surmounted it. Free throws, that familiar bugaboo, nearly cost Michigan dearly this time, as Simpson and MAAR went on a 2-for-5 stretch that included missing the front end of two one-and-ones to allow FSU to pull within a single possession twice. After Phil Cofer's putback got the 'Noles cut the margin to two, however, Robinson calmly sunk two free throws. PJ Savoy missed a wild, contested three-pointer with 13 seconds to play, Robinson grabbed the rebound, and for reasons unbeknownst to everyone other than Leonard Hamilton, Robinson was allowed to dribble out the clock.

"We knew they were going to make a run," said Abdur-Rahkman. "We each had to weather the storm and get stops when we needed it. And I think that's what we did."

Michigan is going to the Final Four—say it again—because they got stops. What a team. What a coaching staff. What a world.

[Hit THE JUMP for more photos and the box score.]

Hoops Mailbag: The Beileinbag

Hoops Mailbag: The Beileinbag

Submitted by Ace on March 22nd, 2018 at 4:30 PM

SPONSOR NOTE. HomeSure Lending is once again sponsoring our NCAA Tournament coverage this year, and once again that is going rather well. I'm not saying Michigan's second straight run to the second weekend of the tournament 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. The Poolebag. Chartin' threes. The Texas A&M preview. Pre-game matchup analysis/feelingsball roundtable.

I started digging into this first question and, once we wrapped up the roundtable, realized I wanted to dedicate the entire post to it. Before we hit the Sweet Sixteen game, let's take a look at some of the ways John Beilein's offense confounds defenses.

Reads on Reads on Reads


There's a lot happening up there. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Hey Ace,

This question is inspired by the “Indiana” Play. In football posts, specific plays are often referenced and then how various counters are deployed to react to a team biting on the base play. Do you have an example of a common play M runs and some examples of counters we run off of it?

Brian

It's important to begin this by differentiating between football and basketball offenses, especially since many Michigan fans are much more familiar with the inner workings of the former. Football offenses are more rigid; every play needs to be a set play (obviously) and the execution of the play happens within a few seconds, so even plays with options/reads are limited to quick on-the-fly reads.

Basketball has a lot more improvisation, even within the more regimented offenses. There are 30 seconds to get a good shot. Part of what makes Beilein's offense so difficult to pick up is that Michigan's "plays" involve constant reads based on how the defense reaction to the initial action. Add in that a player could break the play off entirely if there's a defensive breakdown and it's often tough to pin down what they ran—the same offensive set can produce very different-looking actions and results depending on a cascading series of decisions made through the course of the possession.

For example, here's a nine-minute long video showing the various things Beilein's offense does to set up, run, and play off of one action, a pindown screen on the wide side of the court:

You can watch the whole thing; you can also get the general idea within a few clips. Depending upon how the defense plays the screen, the player running off the ball can pop out for a long jumper, curl off the pick for a midrange shot or drive, or turn down the screen and cut to the basket—and that's just the initial part of a play that has a half-dozen other options to come if the defense manages to account for all of those.

Those aren't different set plays; it's Michigan's players internalizing the offense to the point they can all make those reads as a team. That Beilein develops his players so they can not only execute his offense but do so while being one of the most turnover-averse teams in the country is nothing short of remarkable.

[Hit THE JUMP for some more examples.]

Moving Picture Pages: Iowa and Nebraska

Moving Picture Pages: Iowa and Nebraska

Submitted by Ace on March 9th, 2018 at 3:06 PM

Now that the bounty of Big Ten Tournament GIFs has been posted, I wanted to revisit the weekend's tactical battles like I did with Monday's post on the Purdue game. Today's post will cover the Iowa and Nebraska games. I'll have another one on the MSU game and probably a bit more on Purdue, too.

To the pictures, moving and otherwise.

Iowa: Shutting Down Bohannon, Evil Beilein Overtime Set

Switching and stealing led to easy points. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

BREAKING BOHANNON

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.

In motion:

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.]

The Grandmaster: How Beilein Beat Painter

The Grandmaster: How Beilein Beat Painter

Submitted by Ace on March 6th, 2018 at 4:41 PM


The net may as well be the heads of his enemies. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

On its face, it's an odd decision. After Michigan made only three three-pointers in the first half of the Big Ten championship game, Purdue coach Matt Painter totally altered the way his team played defense. The Wolverines proceeded to run away with the game. Painter bungled the game, right?

A closer look tells a different story. Painter knew that John Beilein was one step ahead of him even though M's shots hadn't fallen early. Presented with a no-win situation, he chose to try to take them out of their normal offense, and to that end he largely succeeded. It didn't matter because Beilein, Moe Wagner, and M's backcourt stayed one step ahead.

The key to Michigan-Purdue games the last two years has been how each team handles the other's big man on defense. In Painter's case, that means finding a way to combat the high ball screen with, at times, five viable three-point shooters spacing the floor. Here's how he tried, and how Beilein countered.

The First Half: Hard Hedges, Layups, and Frustrating Missed Threes

Purdue spent the opening half defending high ball screens much the way Michigan used to: by overplaying the ballhandler. It's a different tactic than the switch-heavy defenses M has seen for the most part since the Nebraska debacle and, in addition to being something a lesser coach may not have expected to see, it better fits Purdue's personnel than switching every screen, especially when Isaac Haas is on the floor.

But Beilein was ready, even if his preparation didn't produce the desired results. For the most part, Michigan fans were treated to this: Wagner (or Duncan Robinson) slipping the screen, getting a wide open look, and missing.

That's not even the most open look Wagner missed, but it's representative.

"You can't allow them to do what they want to do," said Painter in the postgame presser. "And if you do, now it's just hitting or missing, especially when they put skill—[Beilein's] ideal thing is having a five that can shoot. That's why Teske's picking pops, going into the short roll into [the] elbow, Wagner being able to make the threes and drive the ball. He makes them special."

Even as M's shooters struggled to make shots they'd normally put down, the offense kept up an impressive average of 1.23 points per possession. The team didn't turn it over once despite Purdue's high-pressure approach. The scrambling Boilermakers defense opened up the lane for drives once the ballhandler broke pressure. Beilein busted out a 1-4 high screen with Robinson setting the pick and while the primary intention was to free up Robinson beyond the arc, Purdue's overplaying of Simpson also allowed him to attack the basket:

Beilein also made some adjustments. He got Wagner an easy layup by calling for a double ball screen out of a late-half timeout with Charles Matthews as the ballhandler, Isaiah Livers popping to the three-point line, and Wagner rolling to the hoop.

Michigan's ability to space, shoot, and drive makes this play almost impossible to defend given Purdue's approach. They switch the defender on Matthews but he's still able to turn the corner and keep his man behind his hip because of a solid screen by Wagner(!). Matthews' initial defender is forced to stay home on Livers or give up a wide-open three-point attempt. The center has to continue playing Matthews or give up a dunk. The weakside help defender is faced with a choice: rotate hard into the paint in a probably fruitless attempt to stop Wagner or stay home to keep Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman, a deadly spot-up shooter, from putting three points on the board.

"Our weak side and our guys in ball-screen defense, sometimes when the ball got deep, had to stay home," said Painter. "And you gotta force them to throw the ball out and they didn't do that."

One wraparound pass from Matthews is all it takes for the easiest bucket of Wagner's afternoon. Painter couldn't bank on M's shooters continuing to miss great looks and his team was getting ripped apart in the paint anyway—while they weren't quite as aggressive in their P&R defense against Jon Teske, they needed to alter how they defended him, too.

Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, Beilein also got a halftime.

[After THE JUMP: Painter makes his move and Beilein counters.]

MGoPodcast 9.20: The Rational Take on Beilein

MGoPodcast 9.20: The Rational Take on Beilein

Submitted by Seth on March 5th, 2018 at 8:00 AM

1 hour and 10 minutes

2018-03-05 mgopodcast 9.20

We are at the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, which is down to EIGHT conference rooms after that tourney, so book now before there are no rooms left!

We Couldn’t Have One Without the Other

We can do this because people support us. You should support them too so they’ll want to do it again next year! The show is presented by UGP & The Bo Store, and if it wasn’t for Rishi and Ryan there would be VERY long hiatuses between podcasts.

Our other sponsors are also key to all of this: HomeSure Lending, Peak Wealth Management, Ann Arbor Elder Law, the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, the University of Michigan Alumni Association, Michigan Law Grad,Human Element, Lantana Hummus and new this week introducing Ecotelligent Homes

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

1. The Big Ten Championship Game

starts at 1:00

Ace and Brian opened a bottle of champagne. Kenpom time was not friendly, the score doesn’t show how much Michigan dominated the game. Despite Michigan going 3/11 on threes Painter switched up his approach because they were wide open. Z and MAAR did an incredible job on Carsen Edwards. The free throws. Who’s the MVP of this game? Does any other Big Ten team have a better claim to “best team in the conference?” State played nobody on the road and lost by double-digits twice to Michigan at home and at a neutral court. Purdue? Michigan went 30 minutes without a turnover.

2. The Rest of the Big Ten Tournament, and Seeding

starts at 17:58

Michigan versus Iowa was frustrating largely because the threes wouldn’t go, and the atrocious refereeing. Nebraska: Poole’s defense on Palmer was clearly below that of Matthews. Stop going at Roby—that guy is incredible. MSU: Why is Jaren Jackson playing for this program that won’t put him on the court in a crucial game? State was desperate: been owned by Michigan lately and the FBI is about to crater the program. McPoyle tweet rules! Change the end of basketball games: run off whatever’s left on the shot clock?

3. Bracketology

starts at 38:27

Michigan should get the Detroit seed over Michigan State. What scares us is how dumb the committee can be. Michigan had the harder Quadrant 1 schedule—hopefully that and, like, everything puts Michigan ahead of Michigan State and their four losses. Resume-wise Michigan goes above MSU. H2H Michigan goes above MSU. KPI hates the Big Ten in general. Feels like there’s one or two more teams than spots in Detroit. Xavier is 15th in Kenpom, is the 1-seed you want in your bracket. Z is the engine of this team right now, on both sides of the floor.

Next year: keep it rolling. Teske and Poole as fulltime players, some deadeye shooters coming in a super class. The Zavier Simpson murders the world year is going to put a smile on our faces no matter what happens in the tournament.

4. Ace’s Hockey Podcast wsg David Nasternak

starts at 56:36

Ace was kicked out for excessive I told ya so’s. Michigan punches their ticket despite a pretty bad Wisconsin Friday they pulled out with power play goals. Mel didn't surgarcoat: if we don't play better we aren't going far in this tournament. Prettiest goal of the year on a 4-on-1 started by Quinn Hughes. The Niko Porikos goal was kiss fingers. Complaint again about the stupid college hockey tourney: nice that Big Ten went away from that. Big Ten is a good hockey conference now because the bad teams got good--only MSU lags behind and that program made a good hire.

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

MUSIC:

  • “Empire State of Mind”—JayZ
  • “The World is Yours”—Nas
  • “Survival of the Fittest”—Mobb Deep
  • “Across 110th Street”

THE USUAL LINKS

And next year, when they lose in some stupid out of conference tourney in Atlantis, we’re not going to do this again. We’re not gonna freak out, Michigan basketball twitter. We’re just gonna be like, ‘Well that is unfortunate but I look forward to the improvement that is undoubtedly coming next year.’ That’s what we’re gonna do. We’re not gonna get in anyone’s mentions. We’re just gonna be like that was unfortunate, I hope it doesn’t happen again, and it probably will not. Amen.

Michigan 75, Purdue 66, Big Ten Tournament Champs

Michigan 75, Purdue 66, Big Ten Tournament Champs

Submitted by Ace on March 4th, 2018 at 7:44 PM

BIG NASTY. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Four wins. Four days. A trophy.

Old hat.

For the second straight year, Michigan pulled off the improbable and ran through the best the Big Ten had to offer for a conference tournament championship. They sealed it this evening by running away from Purdue, which never held a lead after the game's opening three minutes. The big, bad Boilermakers could only stay at arm's length, then the Wolverines laid the hammer down in an incredible second half only marred by some late free-throw trouble that never put the outcome in serious doubt.

Just about everything John Beilein touched turned to gold; he outdueled Purdue's Matt Painter in what's been the Big Ten's most intricately fascinating coaching matchup the last two years. Painter chose to hedge hard against the ballhandler on high screens in the first half; while Michigan went 3-for-11 on mostly wide-open threes, they drew Purdue's towering big men far from the hoop—the Wolverines went 13-for-19 inside the arc and didn't have a shot blocked or commit a turnover.

Much of that was due to the stellar play of Jon Teske, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the first-half minutes after Beilein gave Wagner the usual break following his first foul. Teske was a force on both ends and Beilein let him ride for 12 first-half minutes. Teske rewarded his coach's faith with dunks off the pick-and-roll, increasingly lengthy midrange shots off the pick-and-pop, a thunderous block, and a stellar late defensive posseession on an otherwise dominant Isaac Haas, who picked up a cheap frustration foul in response.

"I really have no words to explain," said Teske.


Big lights. Little dude. Huge buckets. [Campredon]

Zavier Simpson was masterful on both ends as well. His chemistry with Teske created multiple open baskets. He got the hoop with regularity and finished. When Purdue overplayed him on screens, he generated wide open looks for Michigan's shooters. He played lockdown defense on Purdue's best perimeter player, Carsen Edwards, who went only 3-for-9 in the first half.

"He's a pit bull," said Beilein. "We have a picture of a big, mean pit bull in our locker room for every game. And he is that guy. He's one that loves to play defense."

"Muhammad and I just wanted to come out and set the tone," said Simpson. "We wanted to play great defense from the start so our energy could be contagious. And as you've seen, others followed."

While the Wovlerines went into the break up 38-33, however, it felt like they'd missed a golden opportunity to blow the game open. The announcers, and most everyone else, felt a tight finish coming.

That did not happen. Painter chose not to continue playing with fire on screens, switching them to prevent open looks instead of sticking with the aggressive hedging approach. After a few forced shots over Haas, Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman ruthlessly attacked the basket, combining for 15 second-half points and five assists.

"It takes a long time to sort of build up the substance to your team that can persevere and just won't give in," said Beilein. "They won't give in to fatigue. They won't give in to momentum changes. They just stick in there."

"You always learn something when you play them," said Painter. "And you fix something. As a coach you think you've got them figured out, you don't have them figured out."


Wagner was all smiles in the second half. [Campredon]

Moe Wagner, with his mother watching from the stands, removed any doubt of the outcome. His 4-for-5 second-half performance featured a Dirk-like turnaround fallaway three as the shot clock expired, a blow-by layup, and another triple right in the grill of Matt Haarms. He did more than just score; he led the break after a steal then hit a trailing MAAR for a big three, and he battled hard on the boards, helping M limit Purdue to three offensive rebounds after they'd pulled down seven in the first half.

"Those guards are good but not everybody has a guy like Wagner that can stick 3s, drive the ball, and play with passion," said Painter.

Then Duncan Robinson got a thunderblock on Carsen Edwards and Zavier Simpson slipped a beautiful pass to Teske for a posterizing dunk on Haas, and the party was on. Michigan stretched the lead as far as 18 before a too-little, too-late Purdue run got them as close as seven while the Wolverines scuffled at the charity stripe. That's a concern for later.

For now, Michigan is once again on a tear heading into the NCAA Tournament, and today's championship may well have locked up a three-seed. John Beilein is a wizard.


Back-to-back champs. [Campredon]

[Hit THE JUMP for more photos and the box score.]

Michigan 75, Michigan State 64

Michigan 75, Michigan State 64

Submitted by Ace on March 3rd, 2018 at 6:03 PM


MOOD. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Everything's coming up Michigan.

After an ugly first half, the Wolverines took it to Michigan State to secure a season sweep and a shot at their second consecutive Big Ten Tournament title. In addition to being a delectable and important victory over a chief rival, Michigan once again showed how far they've come this season.

Today's hero lost his starting job after four games this season and didn't regain it until January. Zavier Simpson, Bench Player, feels like forever go. He played a brilliant game on both ends, scoring 15 points on 4/8 shooting, pulling down seven boards, handing out two assists, making life tough on Cassius Winston, and even bolstering M's post defense when switched onto MSU's big men. He routinely broke down the Spartan defense with blow-bys of Winston (and even defensive ace Tum Tum Nairn). Then he iced the game at the line while showing no signs of his season-long free-throw struggles.

"It was a sweet sight to see Zavier's shots just go right through the middle," said John Beilein. "Of his foul shots the last couple of days, maybe 8-for-10 or 10-for-12, shooting it right down the middle".

Critically, Simpson did a lot of his best work in the first half as the rest of the team scuffled on offense. Moe Wagner went scoreless on seven shots in 12 first-half minutes and M was a woeful 4-for-18 from beyond the arc; Simpson was the only Wolverine to hit more than two shots in the opening stanza. Michigan stayed close with defense, holding the Spartans to 11-for-31 shooting themselves, but Wagner's wonky shot and MSU's strong offensive rebounding portended bad things. State held a three-point lead heading into the tunnel.


Not even Tum Tum could check Z. [Campredon]

Then it all clicked. Beilein ran much of the offense through Wagner to open the second half, and he responded with five points in five minutes. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman got going with an early three. Charles Matthews shocked the Spartan defense (and others) by taking Miles Bridges left off the dribble for an uncontested dunk. MAAR, Duncan Robinson, and Wagner drilled three straight triples, and suddenly Michigan was up six.

"I told him, this is my great motivation at halftime, hey, Moe, are you going to make a shot? Because right now you're stinking the place up," said Beilein. "Just make one shot. We played with each other like that. He just smiled: Yes, Coach, I can do that."

Michigan State could only inch closer; they didn't get the margin lower than five points in the game's final seven minutes. According to KenPom, Michigan delivered the third-best defensive performance against MSU this season. Though offensive rebounds ruined some of Michigan's better defensive possessions in the first half, they still managed to hold State below a point per possession in each half. The Wolverines now rank sixth(!!!) nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. I'll give you a moment to reassemble your jaw.

They did this by, as usual, forcing tough shots in the paint while running shooters off the line. MSU made only 7 of 25 threes, and several attempts were desperation chucks in the final minutes. Bullying towards the basket and pulling up from midrange wasn't much more effective; the Spartans made 44.7% of their twos, ten percentage points below their season average.


No easy buckets. [Campredon]

Now, for the second straight year, Michigan has a chance to win their fourth game in four days to hang another banner. They've probably locked up a four-seed in the NCAA Tournament and another win would give them an outside shot at a three-seed. It's been a little less dramatic this year; it was no easier to see coming a couple months ago. A swaggering band of Wolverines will face the winner of PSU/Purdue tomorrow afternoon. I wouldn't want to be the team to try to stop this run.

Just ask Michigan State. They're 0-2 against Michigan and 29-2 against everyone else.

[Hit THE JUMP for more photos and the box score.]