Michigan 77, Iowa 71 (OT)

Michigan 77, Iowa 71 (OT)

Submitted by Ace on March 1st, 2018 at 6:16 PM


Moe Wagner "played" M's most critical minutes from the bench. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

"I have no idea how we won the game," John Beilein said to BTN's Mike Hall.

Michigan didn't make a shot outside the paint until under ten minutes remained in the game. Their two best players, Moe Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, fouled out after playing 16 and 22 minutes, respectively. The Wolverines went 18-for-32 from the free-throw line. Players not named Duncan Robinson made zero of their ten three-point attempts while Iowa made four more shots from beyond the arc. Zavier Simpson took a late five-second call with the team clinging to a three-point lead. Jordan Bohannon sunk a dagger to send it to overtime not long thereafter.

With all that going against them, Michigan somehow found a way to pull out a 77-71 win over the pesky Hawkeyes to advance to the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. It was about as un-Beilein a game that the Wolverines have won in recent memory. The vast majority of their offense came from attacking the basket, going 25-for-43 (58.1%) on two-pointers. Michigan's resulting shot chart is unlike any I remember from the Beilein era (via ESPN):


Layups and, uh, more layups.

Meanwhile, the defense bounced back from an uncharacteristically bad first half to shut down Iowa's offense for the duration, highlighted by an overtime session in which the Hawkeyes didn't hit a field goal after their opening possession. That allowed Michigan to ultimately pull away despite an unnerving number of missed free throws in the deciding period.

Part of what made this game so frustrating is that Wagner and MAAR were both excellent when they were on the floor. MAAR stuffed the stat sheet with nine points on nine shot equivalents, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals; Wagner had 11 points, made four of his six two-pointers, and had a gorgeous no-look assist to Charles Matthews. An enragingly tight whistle—the two teams combined for 46 fouls—prevented either player, and Michigan, from getting into a consistent rhythm, however. 


Matthews and Teske both came up big down the stretch. [Campredon]

Coming at just the right time, it was a get-right game for Charles Matthews. He led the team with 16 points, going 5-for-10 from the field and 6-for-10 from the line, and pulled down eight rebounds.

The supporting cast also picked up the slack. Robinson made three critical three-pointers, pulled down five boards, and came up with two steals while playing sturdy post defense. His counterpart at the four, Isaiah Livers, converted a few tough shots around the hoop to tally his most points (nine) since early January. Simpson converted five-of-nine two-pointers, frequently beating Bohannon off the dribble, grabbed a Waltonesque five defensive rebounds, and played his usual suffocating defense—Bohannon finished only 3-for-14 from the field. Jordan Poole had an up-and-down afternoon but did get a crucial steal and dunk in the second half. Like almost all of his teammates, he could finish at the hoop but didn't have his outside shot going.

Jon Teske's contributions were quite difficult to overlook. Iowa had a hard time converting at the rim with him patrolling the paint for 28 minutes; his two blocks and steal undersell his impact on defense. He did a lot more than come up with stops at the basket, including snatching a couple huge rebounds late and tapping another to Robinson while simultaneously sealing off Tyler Cook to effectively seal the game in overtime. While Teske struggled to actually put them back, he also grabbed a team-high four offensive rebounds. With Wagner unable to avoid whistles, Teske came up huge.

Michigan will hopefully get a few more threes to fall tomorrow afternoon in a tougher test against four-seed Nebraska. Even if they don't, though, they've found ways to win games anyway—plus, their two stars are impressively well-rested going into their second game in two days.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Pre-BTT Hoops Mailbag, Part Two: Lineup Combos, Facing Nebraska-Types, Fouling, NBA Futures

Pre-BTT Hoops Mailbag, Part Two: Lineup Combos, Facing Nebraska-Types, Fouling, NBA Futures

Submitted by Ace on February 28th, 2018 at 2:11 PM

If you missed it, here's part one of the pre-BTT mailbag, and today's podcast also featured extensive hoops discussion. Let's get right back to it.

Lineup Combos: Unlocked


Recent adjustments have given Beilein more lineup flexibility. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

It has indeed. When I ran a mailbag in mid-December, those lineup pairings were necessary to keep the team afloat. They aren't anymore.

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: 


via HoopLens

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.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the mailbag.]

Remember That Time I Set That Guy On Fire Man Good Times Good Times Dude Was Totally On Fire

Remember That Time I Set That Guy On Fire Man Good Times Good Times Dude Was Totally On Fire

Submitted by Brian on February 26th, 2018 at 12:20 PM

2/24/2018 – Michigan 85, Maryland 61 – 24-7, 13-5 Big Ten, end of regular season

NOW THAT I AM LIMBER MY OPPONENT GOES TIMBER

Michigan used to set people on fire with some frequency. Burke or Stauskas would get off to one of those starts, and it would rain death from above on opponents. Three specific examples jump out: a game at Illinois in 2014 where Michigan scored ten points in two minutes and finished the first half with 52, the official-twitter-shruggie Texas game—specifically the 31-6 run that induced said shruggie, and the Elite Eight game against Florida where the Gators let Stauskas shoot six open threes from the same spot on the floor.

This hasn't happened much since the Godmode guys headed to the NBA—last year's MSU game at Crisler is the pleasant exception—and hadn't really happened this year at all unless you count the ludicrous speed Purdue game. Since the above paragraph focuses on the opponent being on fire, not everything touched or looked upon by either player on either team, we'll exclude it. This was Michigan's first incineration of the season. Don't take it from me, take it from this guy in the background who beheld MAAR's half-closing three and decided that the last place he wanted to be was the Homesure Lending Center.

What a good time to incinerate a decent team on the road, the last game of the regular season. Brings a feeling of zesty confidence headed into the post-season. Dreams of Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman doing that to a one-seed in the Sweet 16, sort of thing.

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[Paul Sherman]

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

And of course there is the annual self-abasement for the thoughts that you could not dismiss during the early bit when a 15 point hole against UCLA looked like an NIT bid on the horizon. As per usual we've been poking around Bart Torvik's site to catch the wave, but Torvik made it easy this year:

Two clunkers. One probably due to the compressed schedule, the other that ugly road game against Northwestern's zone. One sketchy game against Minnesota. Otherwise, a lot of pew pew pew and opponents hitting the dirt. Also: Michigan yelling at Purdue that they've been shot and are dead and Purdue going "nuh-uh, I have a forcefield."

This is the way of things. Michigan comes out of the gate slowly because they're trying to get a handle on John Beilein's kaleidoscope offense. You think about the recruits that Michigan missed on and how they would certainly be better than the goons currently in front of your face. Some SEC team with a five star on their roster despite no history of doing anything at all stabs Michigan in the neck. Michigan Basketball Twitter starts discussing successors. Two months later every word from that dark period is memory-holed and we all gather around the fire to talk about subs and super soakers and sing kumbaya.

Sometimes there's a returning core able to avoid that grim early period; sometimes your best player gets injured for the year. Otherwise the script is so familiar by now that JJ Abrams could direct it. The bit at the end where Michigan wins a large number of basketball games in a short period of time is nice.

It's even nicer this year, what with the feds on the case in college basketball. Whatever your opinions about whether the FBI should be looking into this or what college basketball should look like going forward, it is absolutely fantastic to not have your heart skip a beat when Pat Forde tweets.

AGENT IMPLICATES MOST OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL is like, whatever, you know? We're just over here playing five-out and never turning the ball over, like we do. Hope that all works out for you and the FBI.

BULLETS

Stats are kind of eh. Michigan got up so much that the second half was for Chris Farley evaluations and Beilein's patented prevent offense. Things got sloppy, and there was a lot of late clock stuff, and so I'm not sure how seriously to take anything in the box score. Except one thing.

Muhammad takes the wheel! I can't promise you that 41% usage is a career record for MAAR but it sure as hell is. 28 points on 22 shot equivalents, seven assists, two turnovers, and two OREBs as a bonus—never before and probably never again. Unless it's the glasses. But MAAR is the one guy on the team who can both shoot and drive with efficiency and is thus Michigan's best hope for a ball-dominant postseason star.

Michigan, being Michigan, isn't going to have many games where its top usage guy is over 30, let alone 40. It doesn't have to. It does need someone who can be efficient up to 24 or 28. Hopefully this Rahk renaissance lasts through the next month.

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[Paul Sherman]

Matthews scored some points. Okay, maybe two things. The second thing is that Charles Matthews saw the ball go through the basket in the second half. That made for his first non-miserable outing since Wisconsin and only his 5th in the last 16. Perhaps more encouragingly than that was his usage, which dipped to 21% as MAAR took the wheel. Matthews provides excellent defense and solid OREBs so if his tendency to suck up a bunch of possessions without scoring can be minimized he's still a plus player. For that to happen other guys have to take more shots, and etc etc. I've said it before.

Teske alters the shots. Jon Teske didn't score but that might have been his best game of the season? I might be serious about that. His ten minutes saw him contest maybe a dozen shots, several of which looked like easy finishes until he got involved. Teske was able to fall off his defender despite the opposition starting their drive as Teske, back to the basketball, recovered on a pick and roll; he was only hit with one foul; he at one point intimidated Huerter into a bizarre miss.

I've said it before, but if Mo does go Teske is going to be a different but potentially just as effective post presence.

Don't look at it head on yet. 12/16 from the line. Lack of Matthews/Simpson FTAs (just four) a major factor there. Increased time for Poole very helpful; he's up to 82% on the year.

Wee bit fortunate. Michigan gave up too many good looks from the outside for Maryland to only hit three of them. Their two Just A Shooter guys are hitting 40% on the year and combined to go 1/10. Mostly this happened after the game was decided and closeouts came with less urgency.

Bracket glance. Michigan is now appearing on a fair number of five lines at the Bracket Matrix. Large Media Conglomerate Bracketing still has them as a six, but Michigan is now the top six at BM by some distance. I'd guess they stick there even if they go 1-1 at the Big Ten Tournament. Moving up would probably mean making the final with a win over MSU unless the teams directly in front of them (Kentucky, Rhode Island, Gonzaga, OSU) take a tumble. 

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.

This Week’s Obsession: Hoop Futures

This Week’s Obsession: Hoop Futures

Submitted by Seth on January 11th, 2018 at 2:00 PM

image

[Marc-Grégor Campredon]

THIS ARTICLE HAS A SPONSOR: You’re a responsible adult who looks long-term instead of getting distracted by every which thing, so talk to Nick Hopwood, our MGoFinancial Planner from Peak Wealth Management.

Our deal is Nick is the guy I go to for financial strategies, and he gets to ask us Michigan questions on your behalf. Anytime it’s a Nick question, we’ll let you know. Anytime you’ve got a financial question, let Nick know. And when you’re ready to figure out how you’re going to plan your retirement and pay for your kids’ college when you just got done paying for your own, don’t wait to do something about that.

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

Legal disclosure in tiny font: Calling Nick our official financial planner is not intended as financial advice; Nick is an advertiser who financially supports MGoBlog. MGoBlog is not responsible for any advice or other communication provided to an investor by any financial advisor, and makes no representations or warranties as to the suitability of any particular financial advisor and/or investment for a specific investor.

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

Nick’s Question:

[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?

Nick: Sure.

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.

[Hit THE JUMP for very exciting gifs and stuff]

Gentleman's Agreement

Gentleman's Agreement

Submitted by Brian on January 10th, 2018 at 12:33 PM

1/9/2018 – Michigan 69, Purdue 70 – 14-4, 3-2 Big Ten

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[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

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

image

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.

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.]

BULLETS

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...

39607334181_36c871a57a_zA 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:

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*.

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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.

Michigan 75, Iowa 68

Michigan 75, Iowa 68

Submitted by Ace on January 2nd, 2018 at 9:30 PM

The first six minutes of the conference re-opener against Iowa were an ugly slog. Eli Brooks committed a turnover on the team's first possession trying to fit an entry pass to Charles Matthews. Moe Wagner coughed up two turnovers and committed a foul, hitting the bench early. Wagner and Duncan Robinson had a tough time containing Iowa forward Tyler Cook, who opened the game with a Wagner-like behind-the-back dribble and dunk.

As Charles Matthews split a pair of free throws to cut Iowa's lead to 10-8 with 13:43 to go in the first half, John Beilein sent in Zavier Simpson and Isaiah Livers to replace Brooks and Robinson. It paid off immediately. Jon Teske, in for Wagner, rebounded the second free throw; the ball found its way to Livers, who dropped it off to Teske for an open midrange jumper.

Livers or Simpson were involved in Michigan's next four baskets to give the Wolverines a comfortable lead, and the two maintained a high level of play for the duration. Simpson was a bona-fide scoring threat, leading the team with 15 points on ten shot equivalents as he kept Iowa off-balance with aggressive forays to the basket and smooth spot-up threes. He also ran the offense beautifully, dishing out seven assists with no turnovers, and came up with two steals while playing his usual intense defense.

Livers, meanwhile, had the best game of his young career. While he scored 13 points, made all three of his three-point attempts, and added two rebounds, three assists, and two steals, his impact went beyond his stat line. While Michigan never slowed down Cook, who scored a game-high 28 points on 10-for-15 shooting, the presence of Livers greatly improved the overall defense. With Livers also shooting better than Robinson, Beilein went with the freshman for most of the game, playing him 27 minutes. While one-game plus-minus stats can be misleading, it's impossible to ignore that Livers finished a game-high +23 while Robinson was -18. There was a similarly sizeable split (+14 to -7) between Simpson and Brooks.

With those two leading the way, Michigan pushed the lead as high as 15 points in the first half and 17 in the the second. They took their foot off the gas early, allowing the Hawkeyes to get within single digits in the very late going, but they were never in danger of losing.

There is some danger in taking too much away from this game; Iowa is now 0-3 in the conference and, beyond Cook, looked to be at a significant talent deficit. That said, Simpson wasn't doing this kind of stuff against anyone last year, and Livers finally getting his outside shots to fall could be the key to getting Robinson back to the sixth man role to which he's best suited.

The team's ball movement tonight was as good as it's been all season; they had 18 assists on 28 field goals and ripped apart Iowa's zone when they attempted a defensive changeup. They won on the road in a conference game despite getting almost nothing (4 points, 2/6 FG, 2 TO) from Wagner. The reliable playmaking of Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman (15 points, six assists) and Charles Matthews (14 points) went a long way towards covering for that lack of production.

Those are significant developments, even against a team that doesn't look like it'll get any sort of postseason action. A John Beilein team with a true score-pass threat at the point is a dangerous thing indeed; ditto one that can field a lineup with the athleticism and defensive potential of, say, Simpson-MAAR-Matthews-Livers-Teske without seeing a significant drop in shooting ability. This team is taking shape, and they're looking dangerous.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Michigan 90, Detroit 58

Michigan 90, Detroit 58

Submitted by Ace on December 16th, 2017 at 2:49 PM


Detroit couldn't break through the Wall of Teske. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Mercy.

Fine, some notes:

Detroit was awful. I need to get this out of the way before discussing anything else from this game. Detroit came out looking like a team that had quit on Bacari Alexander, going 5-for-23 from the field in the first half with as many turnovers (15) as rebounds while allowing a parade of open threes for Michigan. Things didn't improve much in the second half. Unfortunately, Alexander may not be long for that job—there's only so much to take away from this game on the Michigan side because of how poorly Detroit played.

While Moe Wagner sat, Jon Teske balled out. As expected, Wagner's minor ankle sprain kept him out. Michigan didn't miss a beat with Teske in the middle, as Detroit simply couldn't handle his size on either end of the floor. In 28 minutes, he scored 15 points on 14 shot equivalents, pulled down six of his ten rebounds on the offensive end, came up with two steals, and somehow didn't record a block while impacting a number of shots. Teske's stamina got tested a bit as Austin Davis fouled out in seven minutes (Davis did provide four points before his exit) and he held up well.

Charles Matthews had a great second half. Matthews didn't even arrive at the arena until 45 minutes before tipoff. Per The Athletic's Brendan Quinn, Matthews's grandmother passed away last week, and Charles went with assistant coach DeAndre Haynes to the funeral yesterday before flying back to Detroit this morning. After a slow start, Matthews was brilliant in the second half, scoring 17 of his 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting while getting to the rim at will.

(Almost) everyone shot well. Duncan Robinson broke out of his funk with a 3-for-4 performance from downtown; Zavier Simpson hit both his triples and 3-of-5 twos; Jordan Poole scored 12 points on ten shots in just 15 minutes; even Ibi Watson got into the act, making 2-of-3 threes. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Eli Brooks were the main exceptions, going a combined 2-for-10.

Isaiah Livers is getting close. He played with great energy, recording five offensive rebounds and two blocks. He showed off his passing skill with three assists, including couple really nice post feeds. He's on the verge of a breakout, but after missing his only three-point attempt, he's 2-for-15 from beyond the arc this season. His form looks fine; if/when those shots start falling, he's going to push for a bigger role and quite possibly Robinson's starting spot.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Michigan 59, Texas 52

Michigan 59, Texas 52

Submitted by Ace on December 12th, 2017 at 11:56 PM

It may have been ugly. Texas may have been shorthanded. For Michigan, though, tonight's 59-52 road victory over the Longhorns capped a huge week for their tournament chances.

While a defensive slugfest wasn't the unlikeliest scenario, I don't think anybody expected this game to play out the way it did. Both teams struggled to hit from beyond the arc, but Michigan scored more efficiently than a tall Texas squad on two-pointers, especially as they built a 12-point halftime lead. The Longhorns led 2-0 at the under-16 timeout; they wouldn't lead again. Facing five-star skyscraper Mo Bamba, Michigan won the battle of the boards.

After the achingly slow start, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman got the team rolling with a corner three and never looked back. The Wolverines, especially MAAR, got more confident attacking the basket even with Bamba protecting the rim, and they were able to hit a surprising number of tough shots. Of Michigan's 14 first-half field goals, 12 were two-pointers.

The lead didn't remain comfortable for long as Texas made multiple second-half surges. Duncan Robinson and Isaiah Livers both had trouble slowing down Dylan Osetkowski, who led the way for Texas with 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting. He was the only Texas player who could maintain any sort of effeciency on offense, however; the rest of the team went 10-for-25 on twos and 3-for-16 from downtown.

After Osetkowski went on an early second-half tear, Michigan answered with an 11-0 run spearheaded by Charles Matthews and Moe Wagner. Shortly after the run ended, however, Wagner rolled his right ankle over Bamba's foot, and he was quickly ruled out of the game. Seemingly given new life, Texas went on a 7-0 run of their own to close the gap to seven.

As he had all night, MAAR came up big, though perhaps a tad lucky; his banked-in three-pointer ended the run and all but ended the game with 4:53 remaining. He'd add one more tough bucket and a free throw to keep UT at bay, finishing with team-highs of 17 points and ten rebounds.

After beating UCLA and Texas in back-to-back games, Michigan gets a few tune-up contests before conference play starts in January, beginning with a matchup against Detroit on Saturday. While the schedule would allow Michigan to avoid rushing Moe Wagner back, his injury thankfully doesn't sound too serious anyway:

Jon Teske played 18 minutes because of Wagner's injury and early foul; he was a defensive presence, blocking two shots and adding a steal. While he failed to make an offensive impact, he covered much of the gap with his defense, continuing an encouraging run of play for him. Zavier Simpson had another solid performance, getting into the lane for a couple tough buckets, dishing out four assists, and once again earning John Beilein's trust to handle crunch-time minutes. Jordan Poole only played eight minutes but made both of his shots, a tough transition bucket and a step-in jumper off a nifty move at the arc.

So long as Wagner's injury doesn't have a significant impact, this was a huge night for the boys in blue. The victory has already moved Michigan up five spots on KenPom, and for now they should be on the right side of the bubble in early tourney projections. Even if Texas collapses without leading scorer Andrew Jones, which looks like a distinct possibility, the Wolverines just came through a tough five-game stretch with a 3-2 record, strengthened their resumé, and got a better idea of the rotation going forward. Now Beilein gets a few games to tinker before Big Ten play resumes.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

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.]