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.

4O6A56134O6A5640

Moe goes up, Moe goes down (Campredon)

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

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

4O6A5710

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

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

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

4O6A5138

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.]

Michigan 58, Northwestern 47

Michigan 58, Northwestern 47

Submitted by Ace on January 29th, 2018 at 9:48 PM


After a slow start, Michigan eventually ran away from Northwestern. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

In a game that will be memorable only for being forgettable, Michigan slowly pulled away from Northwestern after a close, repulsive first half.

The Wildcats inched their way out to an early nine-point lead by hitting the occasional shot while the Wolverines were completely befuddled by Northwestern's matchup zone, choosing mostly to shoot over it to no avail. Michigan scored only five points in the game's first ten minutes. They went 3-for-15 on three-pointers in the opening stanza with two of those makes coming in a late 10-0 run to close the half.

Northwestern couldn't capitalize, however, because Michigan's defense was every bit as stingy. After a quick start, they scored five points over the final 13 minutes of the half, including a seven-minute scoreless stretch to end it.

Given halftime to adjust, John Beilein's squad figured out the zone, scoring 1.19 point per possession in the second half. Charles Matthews repeatedly cut to wide open space on the baseline, finishing with a team-high 14 points on 11 shots with seven rebounds and three steals. Great ball movement led to 4-for-10 three-point shooting on a series of wide-open looks.


While Michigan warmed up, Northwestern struggled to get good looks. [Campredon]

Unlike their foe, Michigan held up on defense, keeping Northwestern well below a point per possession with turnovers on over a quarter of them for the second straight half. Over the whole game, they held the Wildcats to their third-worst offensive performance of the season.

Michigan won comfortably with a balanced attack. Five players finished with at least eight points, including the increasingly used backcourt duo of Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman and Jordan Poole; both also dished out three assists apiece with no turnovers, and Poole whipped around some really impressive passes that didn't immediately lead to buckets. (Related: we'll see that backcourt more in certain late-game situations.) Moe Wagner scored all eight of points in the second half and did strong work on the boards all evening; Jon Teske, meanwhile, grabbed five rebounds in just 11 minutes.

After the initial zone adjustment period, there were only two major downsides. While Duncan Robinson managed to sneak into the gaps for eight points, he missed all six of his threes despite some really good looks. Then, in the game's final moments, Zavier Simpson took a hard shot to the back when Isaiah Livers failed to alert him to Dererk Pardon's oncoming screen. Simpson spent a possession down at midcourt before eventually walking off; he was in obvious pain on the bench, but hopefully it's not something that lingers.

At 7-4 in the Big Ten, Michigan moves into a tie for fourth place with Nebraska. They get the rest of the week to prepare for a plummeting Minnesota squad to come to Crisler on Saturday afternoon.

[Hit THE JUMP for a few more of MG's photos and the box score.]

Arby's Ouroboros

Arby's Ouroboros

Submitted by Brian on January 16th, 2018 at 1:21 PM

1/15/2018 – Michigan 68, Maryland 67 – 16-4, 5-2 Big Ten

24847010967_7d1912b1d5_z

[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Michigan won the game you lose because it's almost too weird to call basketball. At several different points in last night's game I cried "what is going ON?!" to the world at large, usually because a Michigan player had missed a point blank shot or dribbled it off his own face. Crisler's halftime highlight montage had literally every single first-half Michigan bucket in it. It was that kind of game.

This happens from time to time, especially when you're on short rest and the opponent isn't. A virtual lid descends on the basket; things look more or less fine except in the period between the shot going up and the shot entering the basket, because it never actually enters the basket. It was miserable.

Naturally, Michigan followed this up with a period in the second half where you could have blindfolded Jordan Poole and friends and it wouldn't have mattered. By the time Maryland called its second befuddled timeout of the half, Michigan was 8/11 from three. This slightly contrasted with their first half shooting performance, which qualified the entire roster to join COBRA or enlist as a stormtrooper.

A gob-smacked Mark Turgeon afterwards:

Michigan scored barely over a point per possession in this game, and also sent the opposing coach into a tailspin of recriminations and purges. Basketball!

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

So it wasn't a surprise when Michigan decided 59 points was sufficient to win and reverted to pew pew laser shooting. It wasn't a surprise when Maryland trundled back into the game despite having 80% free throw shooters brick front ends. It wasn't a surprise that Michigan's attempt to get it inbounds after Maryland cut it to two travelled from Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, a 91% free throw shooter, to Zavier Simpson, a 50% free throw shooter.

Simpson clanging both shots was a little weird. Because it's kind of what I expected. Also weird: Michigan choosing three seconds left in the game to give up the first wide open three Kevin Huerter had seen all night despite Huerter's evident willingness to shoot from half court.

Then there are three seconds left, and the play you run with three seconds left—which never ever works for a dozen reasons—works so spectacularly well you end up with Abdur-Rahkman, who has damned and redeemed and damned himself already in this game, charging at the basket for a potential layup when a flat-topped moose thunks him from the side. Tweet tweet. Foul. Two shots.

This is what Abdur-Rahkman looks like as he shoots the ensuing free throws:

image

These men are nihilists, dude. MAAR looks like a Michigan football fan during the fourth quarter of the bowl game. He sinks both free throws and Michigan wins.

And I want you to know this, reader: Crisler literally has a promotion where a ticket stub from a Michigan win during which they score 70 points nets you a free slider at Arby's. Yes. Nihilist Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman sends Michigan to victory with 68 points. Eat At Arby's. Don't Eat At Arby's. If ever a basketball game deserved to end on a Nihilist Arby's infinite regression paradox loop, it was this one.

BULLETS

WOOF? Uh... analysis almost seems beside the point. Michigan's offense bogged down a little bit early and had far too much of the late-clock stuff they haven't been good at, but probably a majority of their misses were at the rim. Maryland did a decent job challenging shots; they did not do enough to hold Michigan to 0.7 PPP while forcing one (ONE!) turnover.

Bad luck? Something goofy because they'd played on Saturday? I don't know. I think it's just one of those things. Michigan's insane three point shooting gallery in the second half was probably the same thing in the other direction: abnormal luck.

Anthony Cowan is the Steph Curry generation. Dude is a dude, and every time Maryland got in a late clock situation I thought about his Hoop Math page and its 50% unassisted 3 column. He was 4/6 from deep and maybe all of those were jacks? Two were heavily-contested buzzer-beaters off the dribble in the first half that were really, really painful given what was going on at the other end.

Anyway: Cowan's ability to rise up over anyone at any time is where basketball is going. I compared David DeJulius to Derrick Walton the last time a highlight video of his hit this here site, but immediately after this game I think Cowan is a closer fit.

This is a nice thing to think about your fourth-most-hyped incoming recruit.

Jordan Poole! Poole was a major catalyst for Michigan's second half comeback, and revealed afterwards that he named his NBA 2k character The Microwave in honor of Vinnie Johnson. My dude. He had his typical defensive issues and one over-eager turnover, but in a game where Michigan seemed afraid to take a shot his second half minutes were a breath of fresh air. All the potential in the world.

Wagner: back. Second straight game he leads Michigan in points, and 11 rebounds give him a rare-for-Mo double-double. Turgeon's right: Wagner adds an aspect to Michigan's offense that could take it from okay to excellent. We saw it against MSU, and in this game his 4/6 from deep was critical.

Michigan 68, Maryland 67

Michigan 68, Maryland 67

Submitted by Seth on January 15th, 2018 at 9:50 PM

image

sure.

It was your typical trap game. Playing 51 hours after a season-defining road win in East Lansing, Beilein’s clearly exhausted Michigan squad barely scraped together 20 points in the first half. Then, as trap games go, they erased the 10-point deficit right out of the break, pushed it to a 10-point lead thanks to a little-used freshman sparkplug, lost the 10-point lead, went down by 1 point with 3.5 seconds, and won on two MAAR free throws, just another couple of points in a career that’s seen a thousand of them.

Michigan certainly came out like they’d just played the biggest game of their season two days ago, missing layups, dunks and open threes as the Terps opened a 30-20 deficit at the half. In the frame the Wolverines shot just 31% from the field without getting to the line. MAAR in particular was scuffling,

Maryland, on five days rest, was able to collect a few early buckets in transition and capitalize on more than a few bounces. Michigan played strong defense, forcing the Terps to use the entire shot clock and take five desperation heaves—their eight points off of those low-percentage attempts were most of the 10-point difference in the half.

As Mr. Bridges noted after Saturday’s game, Michigan doesn’t really focus on toughness. Yet for the second time in three days these non-toughness-focusing players erased a halftime deficit out of the break. Zavier Simpson sparked the comeback with a few brilliant series, one a defensive set in which he cut off an Anthony Cowan drive, fought through a screen, knocked the ball out of bounds, assisted on a bad shot, and collected the rebound. Down three Z drove the length of the court, released a floater from the top of the paint, and sank the and-one to tie it 30-30.

Then in came Jordan Poole.

4O6A3762

“Poole’s B1G eFG%: 70.6” —Ace  [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

If the Purdue game was a taste, this was a coming out party for Michigan’s (arguably) most talented freshman. Poole immediately showed his characteristic awareness for the arc. In one sequence he sank a transition three, blocked a Maryland attempt at the same, and got back down to deliver Z’s drive and kick. In minutes Michigan had a 45-41 lead. Later he’d hint at his ceiling as a creator with a beautiful bounce-pass that set up a Teske and-one and pushed Michigan’s lead to 8.

With Z’s backups struggling and Poole hot, Beilein experimented with a MAAR-Poole-Matthews lineup. This didn’t look bad—it got Wagner an open top of the key 3PA (he missed). It also opened up transition lanes for Maryland. A pair of Wagner free throw misses and a small Maryland run on two crazy buckets forced a timeout with the lead cut to four, setting up the ho hum finish.

Under two minutes, MAAR missed a layup and Wagner picked up a foul on a rebound as Maryland cut Michigan’s lead to 2 with 1:19 remaining. On the ensuing possession Matthews fought his way out of a trap, and Michigan passed it around the horn to get MAAR an open three and Michigan a two-point lead. The teams then traded layups, then with 20 seconds left Cowan sank an improbable line drive three, Z missed a pair of free throws, and Kevin Heurter sank one of his signature ladder triples to put Maryland ahead a point with 3.5 seconds left.

In typical trap game fashion, Isaiah Livers hit MAAR on a perfect deep flag route. Abdur-Rahkman, at 998 career points, tripped over a Terp and picked up the foul. The rest was academic.

Michigan escapes their murderous stretch at 2-1 (that shoulda been 3-0) with a tournament resume, and now has a few days to rest before their Thursday tilt in Lincoln, followed by Rutgers at home.

[After the jump: a box score, more photos by MG, some favorite tweets, and at some point you might want to breathe]

This Week’s Obsession: Hoop Futures

This Week’s Obsession: Hoop Futures

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

image

[Marc-Grégor Campredon]

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

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

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

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

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

Nick’s Question:

[long gushing thread about Poole’s ceiling]

Nick: And Livers and Teske are still so young. And then the incoming class…

Seth: Yeah in two years this could be Beilein’s best team ever.

Nick: I don’t even know which of these guys to be the most excited about!

Seth: Is that your TWO question?

Nick: Sure.

Seth: Good because we’ve been talking about the same thing in slack all this time.

Ace: Just one? Top three? Top five? I have a hard time containing my enthusiasm with this bunch and the 2018 class.

Seth: Should we try to come up with a consensus rank?

Brian: Top three. Ordered by projected alpha dog on the 2019-2020 team.

Ace: I’m gonna drop this in from the discussion that led to this topic:

Alex: I mean the roster in two years could look like:

PG - Z, Brooks/DeJulius
SG - Poole, Nunez
SF - Iggy, Johns
PF - Livers, Johns
C - Teske, Castleton

I don't want to get too far ahead of myself but that's a group that could do some big things, especially if Z continues to improve

This, of all things, is going to kill me.

Brian: First and second year players on this team and the incoming croots are eligible.

Seth: So Iggy has one spot.

Ace: Does he, though?

Brian: Alpha dog is defense and rebounding inclusive. Everyone has their own list.

Ace: I thought the same thing and then I looked over everything again and this is really damn hard. There’s a legitimate argument for everyone on Alex’s two-deep outside of Brooks and probably Nunez, and those guys aren’t exactly dead weight.

[Hit THE JUMP for very exciting gifs and stuff]

Purdue 70, Michigan 69

Purdue 70, Michigan 69

Submitted by Ace on January 9th, 2018 at 11:47 PM


[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Thirty-nine minutes and fifty-four seconds of exquisite basketball ruined by replay.

Michigan and Purdue played an absolute classic tonight. Twice the fifth-ranked Boilermakers stretched their lead to double digits; twice Michigan clawed their way back, finally taking their first lead of the game with under five minutes remaining.

Moe Wagner went toe-to-toe with Isaac Haas in the post. Zavier Simpson hit multiple floaters over seven-footers, including one to beat the first-half buzzer. Charles Matthews hit a couple cold-blooded jab-step threes. Jordan Poole scored eight points in seven minutes. Isaiah Livers was everywhere. Regardless of outcome, it was a game that showed Michigan's present and (especially) future are both bright.

But about that outcome. With under ten seconds on the clock in a 69-69 tie, Matthews came off a Wagner screen, got a step on Dakota Mathias, and drove hard to the basket. Mathias reached through Matthews and poked the ball out from behind, no foul, Michigan ball—as with countless plays before it, the gentleman's agreement to give that play to the offense applied.

Then the refs went to the scorer's table and spent five minutes Zaprudering the play, killing much of the considerable excitement from the wild back-and-forth affair before eventually determining the ball lingered on Matthews's hand for a frame or two after the Mathias poke. Purdue got the ball, Wagner committed a (legitimate) foul on Haas, who made the first of two free throws. A buzzer-beating heave by Matthews took a painful journey around the rim and out.

It's hard not to feel robbed. While it's also hard not to be excited about this team, that rings hollow when a call that's never made in the first 38 minutes of a game costs them a much-needed signature win. The future is bright. The present, for the moment, is stupid.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Michigan 79, Illinois 69

Michigan 79, Illinois 69

Submitted by Seth on January 6th, 2018 at 3:04 PM

4O6A1240

[Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Kenpom said Michigan would win by 10, and lo and behold Michigan won by 10. Matthews hit all of his shots (except the free throws) and Wagner scored in double digits for the first time since his ankle injury, driving the lane against an overmatched opponent.

I’m telling you that up front in case you watched the first 12 minutes and decided to go build that dresser for your mother in law or something.

I can’t blame you if you did, since the first quarter of this game was some of the ugliest basketball all year. Michigan came out looking not at all ready for the constant pressure a Brad Underwood team puts on opponents, turning the ball over 12 times—one third of their first half possessions. Even more lost than Michigan’s backcourt were the referees, who were calling everything and nothing, including eight rather tacky offensive fouls (six on Michigan). Charles Matthews picked up two such early whistles and spent most of the half on the bench. Illinois quickly went on a 9-2 run to take a 17-9 lead, helped by two big corner threes by freshman Mark Smith.

Beilein countered with a Poole-Livers lineup, wherein Isaiah Livers starting dunking everything in sight. Michigan finally retook the lead on a quick upcourt pass from Zavier Simpson to Jordan Poole set up outside the arc. The poor lone Illinois defender can be forgiven for thinking this would be an immediate shot—I mean, it’s Poole—but nah:

via Ace

Jaaron Simmons took over point after an Illinois timeout and the Illini climbed back to a 34-31 halftime lead that felt as flimsy as a mail order dresser held together by three cam screws in a quarter inch of particle board.

As play resumed, that lead disappeared in seconds as Michigan settled into the team they’d been since mid-December. The Illini couldn’t prevent Matthews from burning their perimeter defenders, and once Charles sat with a third foul, Poole offered a pair of threes to put the Wolverines up by double digits, with MAAR and Wagner closing it out as they do.

4O6A1402

as he do. [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Zavier Simpson started and played 32 minutes, including all 20 minutes of the second half. Despite the early turnovers—he’d finish with five—he continued to demonstrate the #1 job is his, setting up Michigan’s best offensive possessions with some superb outlet passes—the resulting 10 points off fast breaks made up the Kenpom-predicted difference between these two teams. Brooks and Simmons finished with three turnovers and two assists in 8 minutes. Even Z’s missed open corner three was a rim-out that felt good off the release. Given how bad the start of this game was, it’s good to walk away with that confidence still intact.

This Illinois team could be dangerous in a year or two. Like his Oklahoma State team remembered from last year’s tournament, Underwood’s offense is good at making your centers look the wrong way before a lethal backdoor cut. When the fakes and motion didn’t work, Michigan was able to win a battle of athleticism with just about every lineup.

Whatever you went into this game believing you can probably find something from it to support that claim. I mostly believe what Ace tells me, so my eyes tell me Charles Matthews is still Michigan’s best player, Teske is a major improvement from last year as a backup to Mo, Wagner is slowly coming back to form, Livers and Poole are starting to become bigger contributors, MAAR is who he is, Simpson is fine, and this Michigan team is rounding into the kind that no #1 or #2 seed wants to face but has to thanks to bad RPI gaming.

Oh, and cam screws are awful and furniture that relies on them should be shot into the sun.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score and an amazing photo series by MG of the dunk.]

Michigan 90, Detroit 58

Michigan 90, Detroit 58

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


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

Mercy.

Fine, some notes:

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

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

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

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

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

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Basketbullets: Can This Team Be Good?

Basketbullets: Can This Team Be Good?

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


[James Coller]

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

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


Waltoning, The Graph

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

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

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

Michigan 69, Indiana 55

Michigan 69, Indiana 55

Submitted by Ace on December 2nd, 2017 at 3:42 PM


Jordan Poole saw an opportunity and seized it. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Fifteen seconds into today's game, Michigan star wing Charles Matthews picked up a foul on a rebound attempt. John Beilein sent him to the bench. It was an inauspicious start to Big Ten play against an Indiana squad coming off a tough battle with top-ranked Duke.

Jordan Poole, who'd barely played significant minutes, entered for Matthews. Despite playing untested freshman in place of the team's leading scorer and best defender, Michigan didn't miss a beat, jumping out to a 14-2 lead with four three-pointers. Poole drained two of those triples and didn't stop there; he'd make three more on his way to a team-high 19 points, looking like a major difference-maker for a team that could use an outside shooting boost.

"Today I was getting a lot of open looks," said Poole. "[The coaches] constantly stress 'shoot the open shots,' and not hesitate and try to make a play. If I'm open, shoot it. You don't need to tell me twice."

With Poole leading the charge, Michigan controlled the game from start to finish. The team moved the ball beautifully, tallying 16 assists on 26 field goals and creating open look after open look with crisp passing. A disjointed IU offense couldn't keep up. Only Juwan Morgan (24 points, 9/14 FG) scored in double figures, the Hoosiers had more turnovers (11) than assists (7), and they only got off seven three-point attempts.

"DeAndre Haynes did a great job with the scouting report and our kids lived that scouting report," said John Beilien. "They did a great job."


Eli Brooks did a great job moving the ball around. [Campredon]

While the expected titanic post matchup between Moe Wagner and De'Ron Davis didn't quite come to fruition, Wagner fared better among the centers, scoring 13 points and adding seven rebounds, three assits, three blocks, and a steal. Davis, limited by fouls, scored only four, but Morgan proved a much harder guard for Wagner in the post.

Morgan couldn't keep IU in it on his own, however, while Michigan gave Poole and Wagner plenty of support. Eli Brooks played 22 strong minutes, dishing out six assists to no turnovers, going 2-for-4 from the field, and swiping a couple steals. While John Beilein wouldn't go so far in the postgame press conference, Brooks looks to have taken control of the point guard job with Zavier Simpson as his primary backup; Jaaron Simmons didn't see the floor this afternoon.

Another freshman, Isaiah Livers, contributed four points in ten minutes with Duncan Robinson in foul trouble. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had eight points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Jon Teske had six points, three boards, and a steal. Only Robinson, who went 2-for-10 from the field, seriously struggled among the rotation players, and his were uncharacteristic misses on good looks.

After going with a disjointed 11-man rotation in the loss to North Carolina, tightening things up a bit—and featuring Poole as the primary backup wing—paid serious dividends today. There's still plenty of work to do; as Beilein noted, Michigan's had only one practice in the last couple weeks that wasn't entirely geared towards preparing for the next game.

There will be more lineup combinations (yes, he mentioned playing two bigs); Simmons will still get a shot to crack the rotation. Today still gave a good idea of what this team will look like in a couple months, and the freshman class of Poole, Brooks, and Livers is going to be a big part of it.

"I love these three freshmen," Beilein said. "I love them."

"They still make me angry every day," he added with a laugh.

He's still John Beilein, after all.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]