Let's Start Again: Center

Let's Start Again: Center

Submitted by Brian on April 18th, 2018 at 11:53 AM

An irregular series about next year's basketball team. Previously: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power-ish forward.

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[JD Scott]

ROSTER

Jon Teske (Jr): 12 MPG last year, top-30 OREB rate, rim protector, 118 ORTG(!) thanks to scanty TOs and huge FT rate. 60% from line.

Austin Davis (So*): Played well in scattered minutes here and there. Projects as traditional big.

Colin Castleton (Fr): Stretch five is Wagner except with crazy gumby arms?

I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS

Wither five-out, and how crippling the loss?

I mean… it'll be fine? Probably?

Midway through the season it became clear that Jon Teske had shed his freshman awkwardness and emerged into the kind of rim protector and possession generator that this site has craved for years. Once Moe Wagner became a borderline-NBA-level stretch five we stopped talking about it so much. The burning fire never left, though, for the ultimate Beilein C that doesn't need the ball to do a bunch of stuff.

Teske promises to do a bunch of stuff sans ball like nobody since Mitch McGary. Game columns around here more often than not had some note about how everything was going to be fine even if Moe left, usually citing Teske's excellent OREB rate—which would have been tied for 30th if he qualified for Kenpom leaderboards and got significantly better against better teams—and absurd-for-a-big steal rate. Here's a graph from Bart Torvik of 6'10"+ high major players who played at least 10 MPG:

image

Ray Spalding of Louisville and Javin DeLaurier of Duke are the only dots in the vicinity. Teske's combination of possession generation and sheer size is otherwise unheard of. That goes a long way toward replacing Wagner's diverse offensive skillset. (If you're curious, Wagner is the yellow dot just under the 2.25% steal rate line. Ethan Happ is the red dot at the very top in the middle.)

Meanwhile Teske's meh 5.4 block rate doesn't do his rim protection justice. This site after the game at Maryland:

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.

In about 500 possessions against top 100 teams Teske's presence depressed opponents' 2P% by a whopping six points, at the cost of a slight uptick in threes attempted:

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 2.21.17 AM

Michigan also forced more turnovers, got more rebounds, and gave up fewer free throws with Teske on the floor.

He even managed to survive against Villanova's pick and roll. Very few Wildcat points could be tied back to Teske's relative immobility. And that's the only question left about his defensive prowess: what happens if he plays Haas against an opponent's Wagner? So far, so good—and a brief survey of the league next year turns up only a couple plausible stretch 5s, give or take annual development. Issa Thiam of Rutgers(!) is the only returning player over 6'8" to put up 100 3s last year, and he's a super-sized Just A Shooter SF. Luka Garza, Isaiah Roby, and Juwan Morgan all tried around 50 with acceptable-ish hit rates and might blow up.

Teske is likely to be a defensive difference maker and shot volume asset.

[After the JUMP: Teske O click, Moe 2.0?]

The 2017-18 Basketball Season In Photos

The 2017-18 Basketball Season In Photos

Submitted by Ace on April 10th, 2018 at 11:26 AM

Ed-Ace: Our primary basketball photographer and #1 MGoFrenchman Marc-Gregor Campredon put together this look back at the season in photos. I've made some minor edits but left it in MG's voice—he has a way with words that I don't want to disrupt. Without further ado...

Part 1

Et voila: The first month of 2018 seasons in photos with some dull opponent (I did not say boring) and some very good ones!

Oh, I took the liberty to illustrate the away game with others games images because I will never pass on the op’ to showcase our work.

If not precise with another’s name photographs are by Marc-Gregor Campredon! Quotes are from the game recap mostly by Ace but also by many other talented guys.

Exhibition vs Grand Valley State victory 82-50

Teske’d !

vs North Florida victory 86-66

Robinson is elated while dunking.

vs Central Michigan victory 72-65

“It's me again, the guy who tells you not to pay too close attention to the final score”.

Charles Matthews is already a solid starter for Michigan.

vs Southern Mississippi victory 61-47

“Michigan's coaches and players started calling sophomore Jon Teske "Big Nasty." They hoped that would replace "Big Sleep".”

Teske’d again – It will never gets old.

The tourney in Hawaii

vs LSU defeat 75-77

“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.”

Already, a lot’s of John Beilein is emerging in Yaklich.

vs Chaminade victory 102-64

“Poole looked good in his first extended action, doing what he's supposed to do: get buckets (…) He should cut into Ibi Watson's minutes if he keeps hitting jumpers.”

Toat's m'goats

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the season in photos.]

Hoops Mailbag: Loyola Matchups, Small Ball Possibility, Z Robbed Again

Hoops Mailbag: Loyola Matchups, Small Ball Possibility, Z Robbed Again

Submitted by Ace on March 28th, 2018 at 3:35 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. It's time for yet another two three-part mailbag. Yesterday's covered Moe Wagner's impact on opponent strategy, the John Beilein inbounding myth, and an interesting hypothetical about Beilein as an NBA coach. If you haven't submitted a question yet, I may have room for one or two more: you can tag them with #mgomailbag on twitter or email me.

To Small Ball Or Not To Small Ball


Could Isaiah Livers hold up at center? [Patrick Barron]

Let's start with some background here. Loyola starts a traditional center—6'9", 260-pound Cameron Krutwig—who plays about half of their minutes; when Krutwig leaves the court, they don't field a player taller than 6'6". Meanwhile, FSU went small for much of the second half against Michigan, and an attempted response by John Beilein with Isaiah Livers at center didn't go well. Livers looked lost and M got outscored 8-3 by FSU in that stretch despite getting an extra possession, failing to make a shot from the field.

There's a chance Duncan Robinson could function much better at center. He's well-versed in the system on both ends to the point that he probably knows the center's assignments better than Livers, he's defended well in the post, and he's been utilized in the offense as a screener with some frequency of late. The worry is a small-ball team would expose his sub-par perimeter defense. I think Robinson could match up well with 6'5", 230-pound forward Aundre Jackson, and in that case Michigan may very well want to go small along with Loyola—a Michigan Lineup of Death with Robinson at center is certainly intriguing in the right circumstances.

That said, Beilein may also choose to flip that mismatch the other way. Loyola's offense hasn't been effective without Krutwig, plummeting from 1.21 points per possession when he's on the court to 0.96 PPP when he's off during the NCAA Tournament, according to Hoop Lens. Their defense has also suffered, allowing 1.08 PPP when he's off versus 0.93 PPP when he's on because they can no longer stop anyone inside the arc—their 2-point percentage allowed balloons from 45.6% to 56.5%.

I have serious questions about Krutwig's ability to handle Michigan's five-out offense; he's not nearly the caliber of athlete as FSU's big men nor is he close to their level as a shot-blocker. Either way, Loyola is going to go small at times. I believe it may be in Michigan's best interest to keep playing their normal rotation unless they discover a true Lineup of Death during practice this week.

[Hit THE JUMP for Teske's potential role and Z getting robbed again.]

Basketbullets: Big Breakout, Matthews Settles, Poole Party, Flaherty's Farewell

Basketbullets: Big Breakout, Matthews Settles, Poole Party, Flaherty's Farewell

Submitted by Ace on March 15th, 2018 at 12:47 PM

SPONSOR NOTE FEATURING FREE BEER. HomeSure Lending is once again sponsoring our NCAA Tournament coverage this year. Matt will be hosting an informal watch party tonight at HOMES Brewery, and buying the first round for any MGoBlog readers who come. If you're looking at buying a house this spring/summer you should talk to him soon.

ICYMI. Part one of the pre-tourney mailbag addressing what constitutes success, the sixth man factor, the possibility of a two-big lineup, and late game free-throw lineups can be found right here. Part two, on M's most important player, Z's lockdown sustainability, splitting defensive credit, and managing the tourney rotation is here.

Brian posted the Montana game preview on Tuesday. We'll bump it back up to the top of the front page later this afternoon.

Teske Awakens


A better feel for the game has unleashed Teske. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

From the moment Jon Teske arrived at Michigan, the seven-footer's potential as a defender was obvious. He's been excellent on that end in his sophomore season and still has room to grow into an elite rim protector. When Teske has been on the court this season, Michigan's defense improves by 0.14 points per possession, per Hoop Lens—about the same gap as that between M's fifth-ranked defense and 195th-ranked High Point.

It wasn't as clear if he'd find his way on offense. He looked ponderous and lost as a freshman, and through the first half of this season there still hadn't been a significant breakthrough—his effectiveness as a backup center came almost entirely from his defense.

Over the last month, however, the light came on. Teske played only 18 combined minutes across three games culminating in the February 11th trip to Wisconsin. To that point, facing top-75 competition (venue-adjusted), Teske made only 13-of-28 two-point attempts in 13 games—nobody that big and skilled should be sub-50% inside the arc. He's 8-for-13 on twos in the six top-75 games since, culminating in the 14-point outburst at Purdue, while averaging over 15 minutes in that span. He's finishing with an authority he hadn't shown previously, as Isaac Haas can tell you.

Teske's also settling into the offense in ways that don't show up in his personal stat line. Using data from Hoop Lens, here are Michigan's offensive stats with Teske on the floor before and after the trip to Madison (top-100 non-conf. games and Big Ten only):

  Offense w/Teske Thru Feb. 11 Offense w/ Teske Since Feb. 11
Possessions 328 185
Points Per Poss. 0.99 1.15
eFG% 47.6 56.8
TO% 14.3 10.8
OR% 26.8 26.9
FTA/FGA 0.242 0.317
2P% 49.2 55.1
3P% 30.0 39.7
FT% 64.8 56.9
3PA/FGA 0.375 0.391

There's noise in here, to be sure—the nearly ten-point gap in three-point shooting should be attributed more to luck than anything Teske is doing. A six-point difference in two-point percentage is less fluky and remarkably impactful, however, and there's reason to believe it's sustainable based on the film.

Beilein's offense requires quick reads based on how the defense reacts to certain actions; Teske suddenly looks way more comfortable and adept at being in the right place. The posterization of Haas is one example: Teske sees that Zavier Simpson drew two defenders, trails the play, gives Z a target, and goes to the rim with bad intentions. We didn't see that level of decisiveness from him often before.

Where he's really standing out is in the pick-and-roll, an area he previously struggled. According to Synergy, he only used 27 possessions as the roll man in 31 regular season games; in the BTT, he had eight in four games. Seemingly all of his teammates have a greater chemistry with him, which means he's making the correct reads. Here he perfectly times a slip with Duncan Robinson handling the ball and adjusts his roll to get an open short jumper instead of a contested look from Dutch windmill Matt Haarms:

On this P&R with Simpson, Teske extends the pick—he's done a good job of ensuring he makes contact with his hip without picking up fouls—which causes a switch; he trails Z to the hoop, gets his hands up for an easy target, establishes great position against Haas, and follows his own miss. He got an easier, rim-rattling finish when he timed his roll with Haas leaving his feet while putting pressure on MAAR.

While Teske's scoring made headlines in the Purdue game, it's been his ability to open up lanes for others that's made the most consistent impact. Charles Matthews going left off the dribble surely caught the MSU defense off guard, but Teske ensured it ended in a dunk by flipping his screen and effectively cutting off the path of both Miles Bridges and Xavier Tillman:

He helped Simpson get a bucket on Tum Tum Nairn by once again flipping the pick, then boxing out Tillman after slipping to the basket and gaining inside position.

This one may be my favorite. Teske sets two screens for Z, getting great contact on the first and drawing an extra defender when he slips the second. This would've opened up a spot-up three for most M players but the help defender is leaving Matthews, who gets the ball and drives hard into traffic. Teske, who'd been looking for an entry pass, recognizes this and gets into position to pick off a defender, giving Matthews the space to rise and fire:

Here's one more just to show not everything has to go to the rim when Teske's out there: a three-pointer by MAAR after he doubles back off the initial screen and executes a quick give-and-go.

In addition to all that, Teske has started turning more of his stops at the rim into outright blocks and steals. He's going to be an excellent player next year. Meanwhile, he should get plenty of chances to shine in this tournament, and his ability to provide a different look from Wagner with minimal drop in team production could very well swing a game or two.

[Hit THE JUMP for much more.]

Pre-Tourney Mailbag, Part One: Judging Success, Sixth Man Effect, Two Bigs, Closers

Pre-Tourney Mailbag, Part One: Judging Success, Sixth Man Effect, Two Bigs, Closers

Submitted by Ace on March 13th, 2018 at 11:47 AM

Yes, it's another multi-part pre-tournament mailbag, as y'all continue to ask a lot of good questions. While I've mostly got part two finished, I'm still open to adding another question or two. If you'd like to do that, email me or tag your question with #mgomailbag on Twitter.

What Is Success?


success: achieved. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

No matter what transpires the rest of this month, this season has been a rousing success. This was supposed to be a transition year between the experienced 2016-17 squad and the set-to-be-crazy-talented 2018-19 team. John Beilein's most successful teams need a star point guard or Stauskas-like point-wing to run the offense; the players we expected to fill those spots were a MAC grad transfer and a (have you heard this before?) Kentucky transfer with an iffy shot. I figured it'd take a decent bit of Beilein coaching magic—baked into my preseason expectations at this point—to get this team somewhere in the five-seed to eight-seed range in the tourney.

While the season was on that track for a while, it's all come together late for the second straight year—Michigan has a three-seed and will hang at least one more banner in Crisler. We've seen talent development from Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole, Isaiah Livers, and Jon Teske that's taken the expectations for next year to even greater heights. Luke Yaklich not only held up Billy Donlon's miraculous defensive turnaround; he built on it to the point Michigan boasts a top-five defense despite fielding a frontcourt with some very limited players on that end.

It'd be quite nice to avoid a massive upset against Montana; anything beyond that, even though M will be favored, is playing with house money. I will admit some greed, however, and mention that any loss will still hurt for two main reasons:

  1. John Beilein is 65 and it's difficult to predict how coaches will age. While I'm not seeing any signs of a decline—if anything, quite the opposite—there are only so many years left, and even when trying to set aside bias I can't think of a college coach more deserving of a national title.
  2. HOO DANG WOULD IT BE NICE FOR THAT TO HAPPEN IN THE YEAR LOUISVILE VACATED THE BEILEIN/BURKE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AND FIRED RICK PITINO.

Fandom insanity aside, though, this season has already surpassed any reasonable preseason expectations, and the next one should be even better—so long as this team doesn't pull a 2014 Ohio State Football and beat the hotly anticipated future squad to the punch.

[Hit THE JUMP for much, much more.]

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.]

One Frame At A Time: Big Ten Tournament

One Frame At A Time: Big Ten Tournament

Submitted by Ace on March 8th, 2018 at 10:59 AM

There are a ridiculous number of GIFs from the Big Ten title run. Instead of attempting to rank all of them or cram everything into one post, I've changed the format up a bit, breaking up the GIFs by game or, in coach- or Poole-related cases, theme. You can find all of them and many, many more at the MGoBlog Gfycat page.

On with the show.

IOWA

Full album.

5. Poole Pocket Pass

4. Split and Assist

3. Corner Dagger

2. Wagner Spin, Dunk, Mug

FRAMES OF THE GAME: TEARDROP FROM HEAVEN

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the tournament in GIFs.]

Snips, Fingernails, And Spartan Dawg Trails

Snips, Fingernails, And Spartan Dawg Trails

Submitted by Brian on March 5th, 2018 at 12:55 PM

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[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

I still don't believe in Zavier Simpson.

I do not believe that Simpson explored the theoretical upper reaches of the backboard as he flipped up a Layup In Name Only over Dutch windmill Matt Haarms. I don't believe that ball survived re-entry and went through the basket. I don't believe that he just got Carsen Edwards so mad he wanted to fight Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman's chest, one day after he outplayed Cassius Winston for the second time, in his fourth game in four days. I don't believe that a guy who attempted six twos in his first nine games is ripping down the lane so frequently that he turns John Teske into a dunk machine and then legitimately earns… this. This big-ass mood.

Try doing that in any situation you may encounter. Actually, don't. You will die. Zavier Simpson walks the earth still except he doesn't because none of this happened and he does not exist.

I know I have seen all of this with my lying eyes. I have seen four-foot-two Zavier Simpson make 57% of his twos, and not believed a damn one of them. Zavier Simpson does not care about this. He is busy eating keratin.

I'll tell you what I believe. I believe Zavier Simpson's dad literally fed his son big heaping bowls of fingernails he'd cadged from local beauty schools, homeless shelters, morgues, Greek restaurants, and hospitals. I believe he did not distinguish between finger- and toenails, and sometime mixed in cat claws, which are also keratin. I believe this explains Simpson's lack of stature and general approach.

Once I have believed this—once I have envisioned the great heaping piles of milk-soaked nails that do not even soften like Grape Nuts™ eventually do—I can begin to cope. I envision the great piles going into Zavier Simpson's belly, and then I can start to interpret recent events as reality. It even makes a certain amount of sense: the great bezoar lurking in his gut, simultaneously restricting and driving him. The gradual assimilation of the collected protein into his self. The assembled wisdom of various people who'd had their fingernails shorn from them flowing into him, subliminally. The spooky ability to jet into the lane and to the basket and to flip up some crazy bullshit that goes in anyway, derived from the memories of every guy in rec specs at the YMCA.

Does it make sense? No. Does it make more sense if Zavier Simpson is sort of a man and sort of a toenail golem? God no. BUT ALSO YES.

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

The John Beilein era at Michigan is nothing if not a continual stream of people exclaiming "who is that guy?!" And "why is he so good?!" Simpson is its latest and least likely focus. Beilein turning a 6'6" sniper into a lottery pick is, in retrospect, so obvious as to be boring. Of course Nik Stauskas. Of course Tim Hardaway Jr. Of course Caris Levert. 

But I must confess to you, reader, that several times over the past two years I have expressed frustration in our MGoSlack by wondering why Beilein recruited a radically undersized point guard who can't shoot, like, at all.

This critique still stands! Simpson has not hit an off the dribble jumper all season. He's one of the most implausibly listed-at-six-foot players in the country. He's a 50% FT shooter. His three-pointer looks like it was dragged from a James Naismith instructional manual. And he is the alpha dog on a top ten team.

Beilein achieved this in the usual way: by admitting something isn't working and changing it. When he arrived at Michigan, he barely used ball screens and ran a 1-3-1. He evolved, and got to a Final Four. When his defenses fell apart in the aftermath of changes to the charge rule, he admitted he would never be an elite defensive coach and brought in a specialist; when that specialist left he brought in another one.

Possibly by accident he also brought in an elite defensive player for the first time in his career. I don't know if Beilein was making a stylistic choice or simply acknowledging that MSU had won Cassius Winston's recruitment when he suddenly abandoned his pursuit of Winston and scooped up Simpson in a whirlwind weekend. I don't know why Simpson was singled out as the backup plan when he is in many ways the platonic opposite of a Beilein kind of player. But he was, and collectively they made it work. Michigan can give up some shooting from the one when Simpson inflicts this kind of pain on the point guards of four of the Big Ten's best offenses:

  • Jordan Bohannon, Iowa: 11 points on 16 shot equivalents, 3 TOs, 82 ORTG
  • Glynn Watson, Nebraska: 10 points on 12 shot equivalents, 2 TOs, 85 ORTG
  • Cassius Winston, MSU: 11 points on 12 shot equivalents, 1 TO, 102 ORTG
  • Carsen Edwards, Purdue: 12 points on 18 shot equivalents, 2 TO, 77 ORTG

The rest of the team of course has a major hand in this. MAAR in particular was often tasked with running around after Edwards and tracking Winston. But that latter was because Michigan matched Simpson up on Miles Bridges for about ten minutes. Bridges could do nothing except jack up contested 18-footers against a man nearly a foot shorter than him.

Defense is this team's backbone. Nebraska went 1/20 for a stretch in the first half and it didn't feel like a fluke. Zavier Simpson is the first line of defense, and his mood is contagious.

25730438977_c82ce8a9ac_z

[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Nobody's talking about who's tough anymore. Because everyone knows. Soak Michigan in milk all you want, they're still nails.

BULLETS

Brackets. Lunardi has M as a 3 in Wichita against Bucknell and then TCU or a play-in winner. I wouldn't take much more than the seed from that—Lunardi again put together an impossible matchup since one of the play-in teams is UCLA. He also puts protected seed Wichita State in… Boise, while Michigan plays in Literal Wichita. Jerry Palm has been dogging Michigan all year and still has them as a four, in San Diego. He seems to rely heavily on the NCSOS number the committee head publicly crapped on, so hopefully he's out of touch and not accurately reflecting an out of touch committee.

Despite the above, Detroit should be within reach now for Michigan. You can't do a blind resume comparison between M and MSU because it's immediately apparent who is who, but it seems fairly clear that Michigan now has the better collection of wins. Tourney teams and bubble-ish ones:

  • MSU: UNC(N), Notre Dame, Nebraska, Maryland, @ Maryland, Penn State, Purdue
  • Michigan: UCLA, @ Texas, @ MSU, OSU, Maryland, @ Maryland, @ Penn State, Nebraska (N), MSU (N), Purdue(N).

Seven losses vs four is MSU's main argument, and that's fairly hollow since the only road games they played against a tourney-or-bubble Big Ten opponent were an OSU loss and a Maryland W that M matched. MSU did not play at Purdue, Michigan, Nebraska, or Penn State. Michigan has a better Q1 record at 6-5 than MSU's 3-4. Hopefully that's judged more important than Michigan having one loss in Q2 (LSU) and one in Q3 (Northwestern). RPI thinks it is; Michigan passed MSU in it after the Purdue W.

Also hopefully some RPI jitter slides PSU into the top 75 again—they're 76th. Root for South Carolina, Utah Valley, and Stanford to lose ASAP in conference tourneys.

FWIW, both Xavier and Cincinnati are approximately equidistant from Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Detroit, so the committee has three protected seeds in the Midwest that don't really care where they're placed (those teams and Purdue) and two that really do (MSU and M). It seems to make the most sense to put both M and MSU in Detroit and figure it out with the other teams.

 38771577980_a013bb1a25_z

[Campredon]

BY GRUNDLAR'S HAMMER. Who is Jon Teske and why is he so good?

Teske had a breakout game in the final, finishing with authority and playing his usual brand of excellent defense. He also hit a couple of jumpers. We suspect those are good-ish shots already; additional confirmation is nice. 14 points on 10 shot equivalents and a couple assists was good for a 123 ORTG… on 30% usage.

Simpson set up a number of his points but he finished with authority when given the opportunity—see above. He's not Mo, but he provides other things.

I've said it before but I think the C spot will be just fine even if Wagner departs. Austin Davis got a few minutes in the first half and D-ed up on Haas pretty well, forcing him into a tough hook. (That he hit, naturally.) There is a lot of speculation that roster attrition might include Davis, but I think that's really really wrong. Never give up on an underclass big.

Tired legs and open shots. Michigan didn't look particularly fatigued at any point during the tournament—their defense remained top notch for the duration. There was a hint of the four-games-in-four-days during the first half of the Purdue game when good shooters got a series of wide open looks and missed seemingly all of them. Purdue elected not to switch screens and demonstrated why they'd been switching in the first place; Michigan failed to take advantage.

The hard hedge. Fortunately, Purdue was not murderous death Purdue. Michigan had a lot to do with that, preventing even a look from three on most possessions by hedging harder than they have all year. Many, many complaints from the past five years of Michigan basketball have been about the hard hedge getting guys in foul trouble and forcing rotations that Michigan wasn't very good at. This year the hard hedge has been an erratic way to apply pressure at the end of shot clocks; teams that aren't seeing it frequently are much worse at exploiting it. It's a nice changeup. In this game it was the game plan because Michigan was desperate to prevent the rain of threes, and it worked.

What are you doing, Tom. Jaren Jackson Jr played two more minutes than Gavin Schilling and Kenny "Kevin" Goins. He was off the floor for 40% of the game. What are you doing, Tom? Are you panicking and throwing in weird guys in case it works? It kind of seems like it, Tom.

Speaking of Izzo, is there anything more perfectly Izzo than opening up his presser with complaints about Simpson and Matthews hitting threes and the late friendly roll for MAAR? Michigan hit 36% from deep against MSU. Their season average is… 36%. Izzo did not note that Robinson and Wagner combined to go 2/10 on mostly excellent looks. He did not note that Bridges hit a 35-foot prayer at the end of the shot clock.

Close. Michigan's first turnover against Purdue came with about 12 minutes left in the game. They had a total of five.

Retroactive NYC defense. There has been a lot of pushback from access-merchant types in the media about putting the tournament in New York. These are largely based on the fact that Michigan has a ton of alumni in NYC and packed MSG. I'm obviously in favor of that. Accelerating the schedule remains a bad decision, one Delany copped to in public. If the Big Ten can play in NYC at the usual time they should do so semi-regularly. It's not worth the hassle otherwise. A 20 point loss at Nebraska says hi.

Poole: argh. Maaaaaan was that a rough four days for Jordan Poole. His decision making was mostly fine, it was just that whenever he took a shot it hit the underneath of the backboard. I choose to believe that the aura of MSG overwhelmed him, and since Michigan's not going to be in the NIT it doesn't matter. Yeah.

The greatest tweet in history. Not knowing this has been killing me for years.

The second greatest tweet in history.

Twitter: good sometimes.

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 77, Nebraska 58

Michigan 77, Nebraska 58

Submitted by Ace on March 2nd, 2018 at 5:51 PM


Hits first three, M goes off. The hypothesis holds. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

That was pleasantly different.

Michigan played a game entirely unlike both their first matchup with Nebraska and yesterday's overtime win over Iowa, using scorching shooting and suffocating defense to post a 77-58 blowout of the Huskers in the Big Ten quarterfinals.

When these teams last met, Moe Wagner scored only two points in 32 minutes, effectively taken out of the game by Nebraska's all-switch approach on defense. This time around, Wagner and the Wolverines were ready. He surpassed his first-game scoring total within the first two minutes on his way to a monster stat line: 20 points on 18 shot equivalents, a game-high 13 rebounds (three offensive), an assist, two blocks, and a steal in 33 minutes. In case the Huskers weren't fully aware that Wagner had solved their defense, he let them know about it after seemingly every bucket, often removing his mouthguard to let loose the trash talk.

"For him to get 13 rebounds today is exceptional," said John Beilein. "And that's been -- that's one of the things that I think if he's going to play in the pros one day, that was one of the things -- he's a stretch four at that level. Stretch fours have to, they certainly have to rebound. And he's really shown some great growth there."

When Michigan played yesterday, it took them 30 minutes to hit a shot outside the paint. Wagner's triple with 18:18 left in the first half eliminated the possibility of a repeat early and the Wolverines went on to torch the nets. Michigan went 11-for-23 from beyond the arc with Wagner (2-for-4), Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (a perfect 5-or-5), and Duncan Robinson (4-for-7) accounting for all the makes.


Z repeatedly worked his way to the bucket and converted. [Campredon]

Those three combined for 57 points. Zavier Simpson, showing an impressive array of finishes off the bounce, chipped in 12 points, making 4-of-8 field goals and all four(!) of his free throws while adding a game-high six assists. No other Wolverine hit a shot from the field until a meaningless Jordan Poole putback in the final minute.

Outside of a rough game from Poole (1-for-9 from the field), that was more indicative of the main guys carrying the load than a poor performance from anyone else. Nebraska tried ditching their previously effective all-switch man defense in favor of an extended 1-3-1 zone before the first half even ended. That didn't hold up for long; any attempts to go zone in the second stanza were bombarded.

"I think we've just seen it a lot more," Adbur-Rahkman. "As of late, teams have been trying to switch out their defenses against us. And I think we were just more comfortable with it today and we just picked our poison within our offense and found open shots in slots."

Meanwhile, one holdover from yesterday was Michigan's salty defense, which held the Huskers to .866 points per possession. After Nebraska made four of their first five out of the game, the defense went on full lockdown, forcing misses on 19 of their ensuing 20 shots. The Huskers barely scraped above 30% shooting for the game and had to resort to flinging themselves at the hoop in the hopes of drawing fouls; while that worked to an extent—they went 22-for-27 from the line—it couldn't keep their offense afloat.


Nope. [Campredon]

Wagner, Jon Teske, and Charles Matthews blocked two shots apiece. Simpson harrassed point guard Glynn Watson in a 4-for-12 shooting day with two turnovers canceling out two assists. James Palmer Jr. and Isaiah Roby each managed to score 16 points but combined to go 7-for-18 from the field. There were few easy looks, whether at the basket or beyond the arc.

Heck, the game went so well that Michigan even got an excellent six-minute stint out of Ibi Watson in the first half. Coming off seven straight wins and nine of their last ten, the Wolverines will face Michigan State in tomorrow's 2 pm ET semifinal. There's little need to pump up that game, especially with the Spartans looking to avenge a loss on their home floor in this season's only meeting so far.

"It's going to be a challenge again tomorrow," said Beilein. "But we're better defensively than we were back then. But they're probably better offensively. So who knows what's going to happen."

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