POOOOOOOOOOOOOLE Muppets!!!!

POOOOOOOOOOOOOLE Muppets!!!!

Submitted by Seth on March 18th, 2018 at 12:26 AM

Nope, don’t remember a thing about that game except MAAR had the ball and got it to Jordan Poole for a liquid three. Mount that manbun quickly—we’re going to the Sweet 16!

And you can't have one without the other…

Yes Ace is alive we checked.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH‬HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

[after THE JUMP: still screaming]

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.]

Unverified Voracity Pissed Off People In Practice

Unverified Voracity Pissed Off People In Practice

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

38814464450_13f2f6e0ed_z

i can see it [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

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

"It was just aggressive," Jordan Poole said last week in Ann Arbor, before the team left for the Big Ten Tournament in New York. "Guys were leaving with cuts, fights (were) breaking out. It was pretty high-intensity games in open gym. I think that's when we knew our identity was going to be tough." …

So what changed? Multiple players mentioned the freshmen as bringing a certain kind of mindset as soon as they arrived on campus.

Hibbitts singled out Poole. "He didn't want to get quote unquote 'bullied' or anything like that," Hibbitts said. "He held his own and wasn't backing down from anybody."

…it might not be wrong.

Figuring out Detroit. I have not been able to figure out how much flexibility the committee has to intervene in a situation like the one burgeoning in the Midwest this year, with Xavier, Purdue, Cincinnati, Michigan, and MSU all in as protected seeds. A ton of brackets have Xavier as the #1 in Detroit and Purdue #2 behind them. Joe Lunardi had a conference call recently in which he asserted that the committee was likely to slot teams in strictly by distance:

"If the Committee goes strictly by mileage, Xavier and then Purdue and/or Cincinnati will end up in Detroit ahead of one or both of (Michigan or Michigan State)," Lunardi said on a conference call Thursday. "And I said earlier, the Committee could wiggle. They could choose to put Xavier or Cincinnati in Pittsburgh, which is about a 20-mile difference to try and open up a Detroit slot. They just have not done that in the past. They go one team at a time, look at mileage — I call it drop and slot — and then move on to the next team on the list."

Lunardi also asserts that Michigan State will be ahead of Michigan on the seed list, which is an extremely frustrating situation to be in if it does in fact come to pass:

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

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

…the breakdown of actual top seeds by geographic region (as generally defined by where the regional finals are held) is as follows:

West – 14%

Midwest – 36%

East – 27%

South – 23%

The East (if we consider the Carolinas as representing the southern edge of the East Region) and the South (if we include the South to go from Georgia and Florida in the East, to Texas and Oklahoma in the West, and Kentucky to the north) are pretty balanced in terms of the teams and hosting sites.

There are too many teams fighting for protected slots and too many regionals in an area with no top-end teams. Lisk runs down the bracketing procedure if you just go by distance, and it boots both MSU and Michigan from Detroit:

#1 Virginia goes to Charlotte

#2 Villanova goes to Pittsburgh

#3 Xavier goes to Detroit (Cincinnati is 263 miles to Detroit, 273 to Nashville and 288 to Pittsburgh)

#4 Kansas goes to Wichita

#5 Duke takes the 2nd Charlotte spot

#6 Purdue takes 2nd Detroit spot

#7 Cincinnati takes Nashville

#8 North Carolina takes 2nd Pittsburgh spot (slightly closer than Nashville but still a 7+ hour drive, so now that option is closed to Michigan and Michigan State

#9 Michigan takes 2nd Nashville spot (ahead of either SEC contender)

#10 Auburn then has to go to Dallas 700 miles away

#11 Michigan State then goes to 2nd Wichita spot 900 miles away

#12 Tennessee takes 2nd Dallas spot 840 miles away, foreclosing Texas Tech and Wichita State from being relatively close enough for fans

This is a worst case scenario for locations and assumes Michigan is the top 3 (which they are on Torvik but aren't on the Bracket Matrix). It vastly preferable to MSU getting an undeserved slot over a Michigan team that beat it by double-digits twice. But it's still pretty doofy.

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

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

Beilein and Simmons made eye contact. Simmons laughed.

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

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

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

Livers should be good. Via the Daily:

And while instant reactions seemed grim, it seems the injury is not as bad as it may have initially seemed. Livers came back to the bench midway through the second half, though he did not play the final 19 minutes of the championship bout.

“I could (have gone back in),” Livers said. “Duncan (Robinson) was just playing good.”

After the game, Livers vowed to be ready for the NCAA Tournament. Aided by the extra week off, he will, at minimum, have 10 days to regain his health in preparation for the Tournament.

That kind of injury could have been anything from a rolled ankle to a Dread High Ankle Sprain. Looks like it's the former.

Report reports that reports are good. A couple months ago, Illinois announced it would undertake a feasibility study for hockey, sponsored by various agencies that want to promote hockey. The unsurprising conclusion:

Ice hockey would 'flourish' at University of Illinois, study shows

A study on the feasibility of an NCAA men’s ice hockey team at the University of Illinois reached a clear conclusion: Go for it.

The study that launched in June found the interest level and talent in the state would help a hockey program thrive at Illinois.

The university has not decided if it will add a team but is seeking information on funding from campus and community stakeholders. Athletic director Josh Whitman told reporters Thursday that implementing a varsity program would require raising “north of $50 million” and called it “probably one of the more ambitious projects.”

That is the laziest possible takeaway from a shoddy "study" riddled with typos, unjustified assumptions, and self-contradictory assertions. But if you only read the front page, yeah, that's what it says. Not what it shows. Frustrated Illinois fan Steve The Illinois Fan actually read the thing and brings up various issues with the report in a Medium post.

Penn State was the best-case scenario for a startup program: huge fanbase, limited basketball tradition, massive program benefactor. They've created a program that generates 1.7 million in ticket sales annually… and it's still only a break-even proposition when you include the women's hockey boat anchor that Title IX lashed to it.

Illinois has zero of these advantages, and frankly it's hard to see them being anything but a basement dweller if they did start a program.

Iowa and Nebraska remain the Big Ten schools at which hockey makes the most sense. Both schools are smack dab in the middle of the USHL. Both have (or will probably have) private rinks of the appropriate size literally across the street from campus, obviating the need for a massive startup donation. Both have large local fanbases and basketball programs that don't often reach the NCAA tournament.

People In Charge Of Things Are Just In Charge Of Them, Part Lots. Pittsburgh's athletic director let Jamie Dixon return to his alma mater TCU without a fight, hired a search firm headed by his old boss, who also happened to be the old boss of flailing Vandy head coach Kevin Stallings. Stallings had managed one NCAA bit in the previous four years, that an 11 seed at 19-13. Pitt immediately cratered; Stallings was booted after just two years.

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

So Pittsburgh (presumably) paid six figures so the search firm could recommend an old buddy, and the hire has now produced a disaster in two years. Barnes, by the way, moved on to Oregon State in December of 2016, and spent only 18 months as the athletic director in Pittsburgh. It was a costly tenure, and one for which the school now gets to pay the final bill while Barnes is thousands of miles away.

Once you get to a certain level of rich, other people at that level will crony your ass so that no level of incompetence is too high. See Dave Brandon.

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

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.]

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.]

Pre-BTT Hoops Mailbag, Part One: Yaklich Praise, Slump-Bust Odds, Poole Comps

Pre-BTT Hoops Mailbag, Part One: Yaklich Praise, Slump-Bust Odds, Poole Comps

Submitted by Ace on February 27th, 2018 at 3:10 PM


This mailbag, basically. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

No time for an intro, the BTT is coming. This is the first of a two-part all-hoops mailbag.

The Yaklich Effect

Let's start here: I'm never going to be able to bring myself to not say Jordan Poole. I just can't.

With that out of the way, Yaklich has been phenomenal; while Michigan's defensive improvement has been widely noted I still don't think he's getting his due. Despite working with a lineup that has some defensive limitations, he has M up to 11th(!!!) in adjusted defense on KenPom, a significant leap from last year's finish of 69th. No John Beilein team has finished higher than 34th, and that was in his last year at Richmond in 2002.

TrueBlue2003 had a great look last week at one adjustment Yaklich made to better accomodate the team's personnel. That's been indicative of a wider trend. He's introduced multiple variations on the 2-3 zone—you could see him adapt from a wide spread to a tightly packed zone in the PSU game—and they've been remarkably effective as a changeup; per Synergy, Michigan has the best zone defense by points per possession allowed (a paltry 0.692) among high major teams. They've only played 78 zone possessions (a fast-paced game's worth), so the sample is small, but there's much more in the way of numbers that indicate Yaklich is doing a remarkable job.

The main source of Michigan's defensive prowess comes from their ability to keep opponents out of high-efficiency scoring situations, especially transition. We've discussed M's ability to both prevent and shut down opponent fast break opportunities before and the numbers just keep getting better.

The Wolverines are in a league of their own among high major teams at combining those two skills. They rank second among high majors in transition PPP, allowing 0.845 PPP—rather incredibly, an ever-so-slightly better mark than they allow in halfcourt defense (0.858).* They rank first among high majors (and fifth in all of D-I) at preventing transition chances in the first place; they comprise only 11.0% of opponent possessions. Only three other high majors allow less than 0.90 PPP on transition opportunities; they rank 182nd (Louisville), 271st (Cincinnati), and 345th (West Virginia) at preventing those transition chances. That is, in a word, bonkers.

Michigan's analytics-minded approach to defense extends well beyond keeping opponents from running. I put together Synergy stats last night comparing the play types Michigan's offense runs and their efficiency versus the same numbers from opposing offenses against M's defense. This table could be a lot prettier but it shows how well the Wolverines have forced opponents into shots that generally aren't very efficient (while the offense is, as usual, doing the opposite):


click to embiggen

Michigan generally forces pick-and-roll ballhanders to finish themselves, allowing Zavier Simpson to harass guards into tough shots while the rest of the defense stays home and prevents more effective scoring chances: passes to the roll man and kickouts to open shooters. Opponents funnel a ton of their possessions through the post, and even though M is downright bad at post defense, it's still not very efficient offense. They're really good at contesting the rare putback opportunities they allow.

This is a Moneyball defense and I can't wait to see what Yaklich does when next year's team gets an infusion of athleticism while the majority of this group comes back. He's entered the conversation, at least in my mind, as a potential Beilein successor; combining Beilein's offensive principles with Yaklich's defense could produce remarkable results. Of late, is already is.

*A note on these numbers: Synergy counts putbacks as their own possession for PPP so they can properly separate out each scouting category, which is why these numbers are lower than Michigan's actual PPP allowed.

[Hit THE JUMP for discussion of Simpson's and Matthews' respective Achilles heels, Jordan Poole's comparable players, and a reader-submitted photoshop.]

Who Wants To Glitch Mutombo?

Who Wants To Glitch Mutombo?

Submitted by Brian on February 22nd, 2018 at 1:17 PM

2/21/2018 – Michigan 72, Penn State 63 – 23-7, 12-5 Big Ten

40228719792_c031f7817c_z

temporary demon [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Everyone just stood around, afterward, wondering what to do. The gobsmacked victim fell over and laid on the ground. A ball newly loosed into the world at large bounced, and bounced. By the time someone decided to acquire it and maybe continue on with the basketball game and the universe writ large, one of the refs had regained his senses sufficiently to bring a halt to proceedings.

For processing. For reflection. For meditation, and a resolve to continue.

The universe is a simulation and one of our minders spilled coffee on the very strange, very red, very unnecessary switch on subpanel 3F-B that reads DUNCAN ROBINSON on one end and DIKEMBE MUTOMBO on the other. Nobody in that universe knew what it did or who those people are. They refused to touch it, for good reason. Once they saw the nonsense that resulted from flipping it they swiftly restored things back to a known good state.

Such was the time in 2018 where Duncan Robinson blocked the soul out of one of his opponents. These were the events, and the proffered explanation. The explanation was clearly insane but since all other attempts were equally insane—if not more so—people let it slide.

We will not mention the part where Robinson calmly glides inside the line and knocks down three critical shots, because that glitch might be sufficiently non-obvious to get away with. It's like Stauskas! That's the ticket! Please leave Duncan Robinson in this known good state instead of some other known not-so-good states. He has always been like this, we promise. That is his line, and it works.

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

There was a point in the second half when Penn State tried to post Robinson up, again, and my reaction was relief. In part this is because Penn State's players post up with the elegance of a capsized hippopotamus, sure. But also Duncan Robinson is an average-ish post defender and post offense that doesn't demand a double team usually sucks.

Having these background facts coalesce into an honest-to-God feeling was the season's weirdest revelatory moment. Duncan Robinson is defending, and I feel fine. Duncan Robinson is lining up for a transition three dagger, and I feel better.

The thunderous matrix glitch later was only fitting. Michigan weathered one of their unfortunate-but-now-trademark scoring droughts because their defense gave it to Penn State all game, holding the hottest team in the country to under a point per possession.

At first this was largely Zavier Simpson putting his face in Tony Carr's chest, all but removing him from a half of basketball. Once it became clear that Penn State had made the requisite adjustments to get Carr some shots, Michigan moved to a 2-3 zone that started off goofy but morphed into a contested-jumper machine that protected the Robinson/Poole combination that Michigan needed to score any points. Carr only managed to scrape into the green very late when he banged in a couple of raise-up threes during the semi-competitive free throw shooting section of the contest.

That's a gameplan win, especially since Penn State's bizarre solution to the problem Michigan's defense poses was to have first Mike Watkins—who is a good player but gets 80% of his buckets at the rim thanks to someone tossing him an assist—and then his backups—who are jabronis—repeatedly post up. The only buckets that came off this action were a couple of heavily contested jumpers that looked about as likely to go in as a Zavier Simpson skyhook; like the skyhook they did go in. But not very frequently.

Michigan has a defense that causes pretty decent teams to go off script in odd ways in an attempt to deal with it, and no galactic six-eyed goggle beast appears to be on the verge of flipping Michigan back to their old reality. That gives them a shot against anyone.

BULLETS

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if this was in the first five minutes it's worth ten points [Campredon]

First Wagner three theory: confirmed. Michigan's first possession was a Wagner corner three swish, which led to a 10 for 21 performance from deep. For his part Wagner was 4/5. I am not sure if I'm serious about this or not now.

A bit later people got frustrated because Wagner was turning open-ish threes into drives that didn't end well; I sort of shared that frustration but also thought that Penn State had some exceptional help defense blocks on drives that were otherwise easy buckets. They probably took 8 points off the board by coming out of nowhere to swat stuff that was about to be At Rim.

Free throws, our good and true friends. You and everyone else thought "here we go again" when MAAR, Michigan's best FT shooter who ever goes to the line, missed both on Michigan's first trip. Michigan was 16/17 the rest of the way. Matthews and Simpson combining for two FTAs was helpful there.

Michigan's all the way up to... uh... 329th in FT%. Movin' on up!

Shot volume... deficit? Yes. Michigan had 12 TOs to PSU's 10 and lost OREBS by 3. (Largely because PSU had 5 "team" OREBs that are almost always luck; also one of those looked like a horrendous call.) I think that's why the game felt like such a failure slog. At this point in my Michigan basketball observation career anything approximating a TO-heavy game feels like the end of the world.

Charles Matthews is broken. I don't know what else to say. You have to keep playing him because you need him to break out of his funk if at all possible. At this point he should probably get a quick hook if he starts off like he did in this game. When he is in he's got to slow it down. There's no way he should have 28, 25, 28, 24, 25, 27, and 27 usage numbers in his last seven games. It's one thing to have a struggling guy on the floor. It's another when he's your highest usage player. Downshift to sophomore GRIII and try to build back up from there.

In which I risk the wrath of Ace. Jordan Poole had another good game, and a desperately needed one what with the previous bullet point.

But, if I may lodge a slight protest: he's too much of a heat check dude right now. He gambled for a steal in the second half, missing it and opening up Michigan's defense for an easy Carr three; a bit later he and Duncan Robinson had a two on one break where Poole challenged a defender unsuccessfully instead of setting up his teammate for a layup. His decision making seems stuck on THIS WOULD BE AWESOME. This leads in equal parts to awesome things and freshman things.

In which I try to patch things up with Ace. ON THE OTHER HAND

I'd rather have a guy with too much swag trying to dial it back a little than a guy you have to swag up. Enswaggen. Fortify with Vitamin Swag. You get the idea.

Another reason to root for Penn State. Michigan gets the four seed and a double bye if they beat Maryland and Penn State wins in Lincoln. That is a good reason to root for Penn State.

Another one: I have been sloppy in my assumption that a top 25 Kenpom team is top 75 in RPI. Penn State is not. They were 76th before yesterday. They currently sit 85th, because RPI is mostly a SOS metric and Penn State's SOS is an abomination. This makes them a quadrant 2 team. A win over Nebraska and maybe a couple in the BTT would likely make them Q1, at least on the road. Nobody else on Michigan's schedule is particularly near the Q1 cliff, FWIW.

I'm going to assume the guy left out the caveat. The over/under on NCAA tournament games that are later vacated is 10, as the agent the FBI nailed was taking notes. Very much notes:

“There are spreadsheets detailing who got paid, how much they got paid and how much more they were planning to pay,” said a source familiar with the investigation. “The feds got everything they wanted and much more. Don’t think it will only be players who ended up signing with ASM that got paid. Those spreadsheets cast a wide net throughout college basketball. If your school produced a first-round pick in the past three years, be worried.”

I'm assuming "and your coach isn't John Beilein" was too obvious to mention.

Michigan 72, Penn State 63

Michigan 72, Penn State 63

Submitted by Alex Cook on February 21st, 2018 at 10:51 PM

Penn State really needed a big win to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume, and Michigan’s trip to Happy Valley on Senior Day gave them a great opportunity to ease their way up the bubble. Michigan played excellent defense in the first half and built a sizable lead, which was quickly erased by Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens early in the second half. The Wolverines responded, mixed in some different 2-3 defenses that threw Penn State off balance, and a couple Moe Wagner threes helped Michigan pull out to a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Solid free throw shooting down the stretch (9-10 on intentional fouls) staved off a Nittany Lion comeback and Michigan escaped with one of its best wins of the season against a desperate team that was on a hot streak.

Despite a few indifferent late-game possessions. Carr and Stevens - arguably the best guard in the conference and a very capable sidekick - scored 40 points combined, but it took them 39 shot equivalents to do it. Carr was held in check in the first half with solid defense from Zavier Simpson and timely double-teams; he knocked down a few threes of varying difficulty and got to the rim in the second half - finishing with a 21 point, 5 rebound, 6 assist line. Stevens was often guarded by Duncan Robinson when Michigan played man-to-man, and Robinson made him work for many of his points; the Wolverines initially allowed him too much room in the middle of the zone, but adjusted to harass him into a couple key mistakes.

No other Nittany Lion scored in double figures. Their best center, Mike Watkins, was injured while contesting a Charles Matthews layup, and only played five minutes on the night. That loss came early in the game, as both teams struggled to score: Michigan had five quick turnovers, and Penn State futilely tried post-ups on most possessions. Jon Teske had some impactful minutes on the defensive end in the first half after Wagner picked up his first foul. Even after Wagner returned, Penn State labored for good looks until a late burst by Stevens.

The Wolverines were able to build their initial lead with scoring off the bench from Robinson and Jordan Poole, who combined for 20 of Michigan’s 34 first half points. Robinson hit his first three-point attempt after screening and popping out of Michigan’s side curl action, had a nice cut for a layup, got Stevens to bite on a pump fake and knocked down a two-point jumper, blew by him for a layup, and hit another three. Poole made a corner three off an extra pass, had an absolutely ridiculous dunk over Julian Moore for an and-one, and got an easy transition layup. The freshman had a few rough moments, but his scoring was an upgrade over Matthews, who had his worst game of the season.

Michigan led by 13 at one point, but Penn State was much better out of the halftime break, scoring on their first four possessions: Carr got Simpson on his hip and took him to the rim for two, Michigan helped too far off Stevens for a three and gave Carr another one on a bad scramble situation, and Josh Reaves blew by Poole for a layup. Penn State took the lead before the first TV timeout, and it looked as if Michigan might get run out of the gym. John Beilein eventually turned to the zone, which was effective. The initial zone was spread too thin, but Michigan adjusted to sink into the high post when the ball was entered into Stevens.

Wagner made some big plays after that. He had made a few early threes (including one on the first possession of the game), but too often would pump-fake and drive into traffic for worse looks in the paint. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman made a play late in the shot clock to find Wagner for a corner three to break a Penn State run; shortly after, Matthews found him on the wing for another on a pick-and-pop - and instead of driving it on Stevens (a stretch-four who was guarding Wagner in a small-ball lineup), he hit a three over him. Penn State and Michigan traded buckets and stops for a while, until Wagner hit a tough layup on a drive against Moore and Poole nailed another corner three to trigger a Penn State timeout and give Michigan a 54-48 lead with seven minutes left.

Out of the timeout, Nazeer Bostick threw it right to Abdur-Rahkman in the zone, and Simpson scored an absurd swooping sky-hook over Carr on the next possession. Michigan had a few empty possessions from there, but stops on the defensive end - including Wagner drawing a charge on Stevens, Robinson emphatically rejecting a Stevens dunk, and Carr missing a couple threes - helped Michigan hold onto the lead. The Wolverines were up four with under three minutes left when Abdur-Rahkman hit a very tough layup over Reaves (maybe the best perimeter defender in the Big Ten, who helped force Abdur-Rahkman into an uncharacteristic four turnovers), Bostick missed a wild layup attempt, and Robinson hit a transition three for the dagger.

It was mostly a free throw exhibition from there: Robinson made both, Wagner made both, Simpson made one of two, Livers made both, and Poole made both. A few uncontested Penn State buckets were interspersed in there, but a comeback wasn’t possible. Michigan overcame an unusually high level of turnovers and a negative shot differential, mostly because they made 10-21 three-pointers (all but one came from Wagner, Robinson, and Poole). Robinson had a great game - in addition to his team-high 19 points, he had three blocks and a steal. Wagner put up 18 and 8 rebounds. Poole chipped in with 13 and played 26 minutes to Matthews’s 17. Simpson and Abdur-Rahkman each had their struggles against a tough defense, but each scored nine points.

Michigan’s record improved to 23-7 (12-5 in the Big Ten) and is moving its way up the seed line. They still have a chance at a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament if they beat Maryland and Penn State beats Nebraska this weekend. Even though Matthews was held scoreless, the Wolverines dribbled out the clock on the road against what was a Kenpom Top 25 team. Robinson and Abdur-Rahkman are rounding into form as their careers wind to an end, Poole has played two really good games in a row, and Moe Wagner is consistently punishing teams with the mismatches he creates. This win against Penn State was very impressive, and Michigan looks like they’ll be a very tough out in March.

Box Score after the JUMP

Muhammad Take The Wheel

Muhammad Take The Wheel

Submitted by Brian on February 19th, 2018 at 1:10 PM

2/18/2018 – Michigan 74, Ohio State 62 – 22-7, 11-5 Big Ten

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[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

It happens about three times a game: Michigan's offense will stall out to not much, someone will fling the ball to Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and he'll plunge through a thicket of defenders to the rim. The result, far more frequently than it seems like it should be, is two points when none recently beckoned.

There is a universal undercurrent to all of Abdur-Rahkman's sweeping, acrobatic, contested layups: "why not that, but all the time?"

His uncanny ability to get to the basket in bad situations has been a bedrock of Michigan's late clock offense for years, and remains so. If you can get to the rim and hit 69% with five seconds left on the clock, perhaps we should explore doing that more often.

And yet. MAAR has carved out an incredibly specific size of role no matter how he was operating in that role. His usage went from 16.5 as a freshman to 16.3 as a sophomore, to 16.3 again, and if you'd poked at Kenpom a month ago you would have seen that same 16 staring out at you. This despite a skyrocketing ORTG and a Michigan offense that verges on wonky. It would be unwise but understandable to grab MAAR by the shoulders and shake him, yelling "ahhhhh do more stuff."

Or perhaps this maneuver has already been executed.

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As his career rounds the last bend, Abdur-Rahkman finally emerges from the shadow of the role player. He's not an all-conquering, all-usage Trae Young, but going from 16% usage to 20 over the last 7 games has corresponded to a 5-2 stretch where the only thing preventing 6-1 with a win at Purdue was Purdue shooting 80% on halfcourt shots—170 ORTG was not sufficient to win game MVP or, like, the game. Michigan's two worst offensive performances in that stretch by some distance where the two low-usage MAAR games against Northwestern's zone.

It doesn't seem right to say that as MAAR goes, so does Michigan, but it does seem like he provides a baseline of efficiency that the rest of the team can build on. Dude has had 16 turnovers all season, and this recent surge hasn't seen that rate increase: he's got two in those seven games.

Maybe he's already taking all the shots he can be efficient on because he has a spooky ability to identify when he's got a lane. But it kind of feels like if Michigan is going to do something surprising in the tournament, it's because MAAR decides he's going to dominate the ball, just once, in case it's awesome.

BULLETS

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[Campredon]

Making yo coffee hot. Jordan Poole entered this game with Michigan locked in a tight contest largely because of their moribund three-point shooting. Poole was 2 for his last 15, and naturally hit 4 of 5 because he has no memory. The rest of the team was 3 of 15, which is a recipe for certain doom sans Poole.

It is completely irrational but it feels like Mo Wagner's first attempt from three dictates whether Michigan's going to burn up the nets or imprison them in a wall of bricks for imagined insults. It was the latter here until Poole rescued them.

This was also a good compare and contrast between Poole and Robinson. OSU focused on limiting Robinson and held him two two attempts; Poole's ability to threaten a drive and pull up got him a couple of unassisted opportunities he canned.

Inverse free throw juju. Hopefully whatever witchdoctor flipped the teams' free throw shooting abilities can hold that spell until March. OSU shot 9 of 19 versus Michigan's 17 of 24, thus preventing a heartstopping finish. A large part of this from Michigan's perspective was getting the right guys to the line: Wagner, MAAR, Robinson, and Poole had 14 attempts. Simpson and Matthews had 7.

Simpson also debuted a new Rip Hamilton free throw homage that got him to 4/6, although the last two rattled around before going down. Whatever helps.

At long last, board obliterated. Dunno what OSU's done to Jae'Sean Tate this year but that looked like the old Tate to me. He was the spearhead for an OSU OREB vanguard that clobbered Michigan for what was the first time probably all year. Michigan got out-OREB'd 15-4, but did make up for it with a +7  TO margin, preventing a serious FGA gap.

We're filing this under Just A Thing for now.

Board obliteration obscures defense. Hoop Math's numbers for yesterdays game are bonkers. They have 8% of OSU's shots at the rim, and 72% two point jumpers. Those seem to exclude putbacks, of which OSU had nine attempts and five makes. Minus those, OSU was 14 of 38 from two—37%. OSU is 32nd nationally in 2PT%.

A large part of this was Keita Bates-Diop going 2 for 11, with that work split about equally between Livers and Robinson. Neither guy did much on offense, but they more than earned their keep by sending a kPOY candidate to one of his worst games of the season. Ace reports that Synergy has Robinson a dang near average defender this year, up from 23rd percentile a year ago. This is largely because teams are trying to post him up a lot more than they did last year. Robinson's proven fairly adept at fending off fours like KBD and Jaren Jackson on the block.

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[Campredon]

Zounds! Zavier Simpson's offensive line is decent, but not astounding. What he did to CJ Jackson, though: three points on 5 shot equivalents, zero assists, three turnovers. Simpson committed zero fouls doing this. Jackson hadn't been held without an assist all season. Let's check in on opposing point guards over the last few games:

  • Jordan Bohannon, Iowa: 9% usage, 7 points. 5 A: 0 TO though.
  • Brad Davison, Wisconsin: 10 points on 11 shot equivalents, 1 A, 1 TO, 88 ORTG.
  • Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern: 24 points on 14 shot equivalents, 5 A, 1 TO, 162 ORTG
  • Nate Mason, Minnesota: 22 points on 19 shot equivalents, 2 A, 0 TO, 122 ORTG.

So not a consistent murder-like substance. It should be noted that approximately all of Mason's twos were pull ups just inside the line that he's been miserable at this season.

What a strange team. OSU, that is. I'm slightly worried that Chris Holtmann has managed to put together a team that will get a solid NCAA seed with this pu-pu platter of available options. Andrew Dakich may be shooting well this year but he's still more or less the walk-on he was at Michigan, except now he's getting 20 minutes a game. His line in 22 minutes yesterday: 0/3, one TO, one steal, one foul. OSU has four pretty good players and then zero.

Holtmann's decision to sit Micah Potter, who is a solid offensive option, for nonentity freshman Kyle Young only exacerbated that gap. Young had Dakich-like usage in 22 minutes, and that puts an enormous burden on your good players to survive in the usage 30s.

Bracket updates. About what you'd expect on the two major-network experts to update after OSU. Lunardi moved Michigan from a 6 to a 5; Palm moved Michigan from an 8 to a 7. OSU is a 5 on Palm's bracket. I'm struggling to see a two-seed gap between these resumes with an identical number of wins and losses. I'm leaving out the H2H and Maryland home wins:

  • OSU Ws: MSU, @ Purdue. Bad Ls: none.
  • M Ws: @ MSU, UCLA, @ Texas. Bad Ls: @ Northwestern.

OSU has the #13 SOR per ESPN; Michigan is #15. If it's not tight it's because RPI and quadrants are mis-evaluating Michigan's season.

Michigan has two more Q1 opportunities to finish the season, so they have some upward mobility left.

Michigan 74, Ohio State 62

Michigan 74, Ohio State 62

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

December was a long time ago.

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

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Moe goes up, Moe goes down (Campredon)

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

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

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

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

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

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Adieu, gentlemen (Campredon)

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

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

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

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]