One Frame At A Time: Houston and Texas A&M

One Frame At A Time: Houston and Texas A&M

Submitted by Ace on May 1st, 2018 at 4:07 PM

I think I've waited long enough that I can post this now.

It's taken me a while to get around to tournament GIFs for a number of reasons, some NCAA-related and some not, but I finally made it through the Houston and Texas A&M games. (As per blog policy, there was no Montana game. It's just a figment of your imagination.) It'll take me a bit longer to get around to Florida State and Loyola Chicago, but I'll get to those too.

One thing I apparently won't get to: a supercut of three-pointers against Texas A&M, as this is what happened when I attempted to put that together with my normally unfailing GIF software:

In the words of the Texas twitter account: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

[Hit THE JUMP for every conceivable angle of the Poole Party, CJ Baird Tha Gawd, and much more.]

Let's Start Again: Shooting Guard

Let's Start Again: Shooting Guard

Submitted by Brian on April 11th, 2018 at 5:01 PM

An irregular series about next year's basketball team. Previously: Point guard.

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bench mob no more [JD Scott]

ROSTER

Jordan Poole (So): [cartoonish SUPER VILLAIN] Oh no! An OVERDOSE of SWAG. [/dies]

(108 ORTG on high-ish usage, 52/36 shooting, 82% from line, needs work on defense, breakout candidate)

Adrien Nunez (Fr): Just a shooter?

Ibi Watson (Jr): played about 3 MPG, shot 46/32, other numbers useless due to sample size.

Mystery Man (???): He's either pirated from other spots on the roster or a mid-major who thought they really had something.

I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS

Didn't Ace already write this post?

Sort of! Kind of! Mostly, yeah.

Questions one through five at this spot are "what happens to Jordan Poole?!," and Ace just posted one of those one-Q mailbags about Poole and his recent Michigan comparables:

I've used Bart Torvik's invaluable site to pull the statistics of Poole and his comparables against top-50 (venue-adjusted) competition. When you ignore minutes and usage for a moment—two factors with clear explanations I'll get to momentarily—there's a clear match for Poole: Stauskas.

image

Trey Burke, mostly thrown in as an extra data point, had far different usage as a pure point guard. The rest are wings and therefore more comparable. The numbers that give me optimism regarding Poole are his two-pointers—taken with relative frequency, finished with efficiency—and his combination of high usage, extant assist rate, and low turnover rate.

Stylistically, Poole is absolutely more Stauskas than any other Beilein-era SG/SF. Both are archetypically Not Just A Shooter. The freshman versions of both attacked closeouts relatively well, hit free throws, sniped from the outside, rarely turned it over, and had a healthy-for-a-freshman-NJAS assist rate. Their FT rates are nearly identical; their 3PA/FGA rates are nearly identical.

There's obviously a big gap in minutes, but roster composition explains all of that. The only vaguely guard-shaped objects on the bench in 2012-13 roster were fellow freshmen Spike Albrecht (short) and Caris Levert (willowy). Poole was on the same roster as the senior version of Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Charles Matthews, The Kentucky Transfer.

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[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

If we overlook minutes, the main differences between the two are efficiency and usage. Stauskas hit 44% of his threes as a freshman versus Poole's 36%. Stauskas was a fourth banana with 17% usage; Poole got more shots up per 40 than anyone on the team not named Moritz Wagner. Stauskas was surrounded by Trey Burke, Naismith Edition, and a junior Tim Hardaway Jr. Poole was surrounded by Zavier Simpson and Charles Matthews—good players but nowhere near that level.

This is part problem and part promise. Problem: Poole was a walking heat check as a freshman, which depressed his efficiency and upped his usage. Hopefully he'll play a little bit more within himself once he's on the floor for most of the game. Promise: Michigan needs someone to create shots. They need someone with some lip curl on offense. They need a guy who unbalances defenses. Poole can be that guy.

Ace suggests that a Stauskas leap is optimistic but achievable…

The Stauskas leap remains spectacular. He significantly upped his usage, improved his efficiency while taking on a much greater role as a distributor, and even improved significantly as a three-point shooter despite taking way more of his shots off the bounce.

I still think Poole can do something quite similar. He may not have played the early minutes Stauskas did, but he played a lot of important minutes and took on a bigger role when he saw the floor. Meanwhile, a lot of what he did on the court looked downright Stauskas-esque. Both are known for their unabashed three-point gunning, but what really separates the two is their ability to score from all three levels (rim, midrange, three).

…and yeah, it is. Ace didn't mention the other really encouraging thing about Poole: his age. He won't turn 19 for a couple more months, which makes him more Caris Levert (who turned 19 the August after his freshman year) than Stauskas (who turned 19 a month into his). Levert made an even bigger jump than Stauskas in year two, going from the overwhelmed guy in the table above to a 112 ORTG, 21% usage guy playing 34 MPG.

Poole will blow up. The question is "how much?"

[After THE JUMP: D though? Backups though?]

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: What To Expect From Jordan Poole

Hoops Mailbag: What To Expect From Jordan Poole

Submitted by Ace on April 9th, 2018 at 4:06 PM


On the rise, but where's the ceiling? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

I was going to do a longer mailbag on next year's team today. You'll be shocked to see which question I decided had to broken off into its own post instead:

Poole is clearly going to be the focus of the offense and hinted at his talent this year.  But how much can we really expect from him considering how little he played this season?

Everyone wants to compare him to Stauskas, but Nik was playing starters minutes as a freshman and was very efficient.  Poole played limited bench minutes and saw his efficiency fluctuate a lot and struggled on defense.  Would sophomore Levert or Irvin be better comparisons?

Adam
Chicago, IL
AC1997

Ask me to talk about Jordan Poole, you say? Let me warm up for a sec.

Alright. Let's go.

I am, as you probably expect, a Jordan Poole optimist. This isn't without reason, however, and said reason goes well beyond his personality. Setting the expectation at sophomore Nik Stauskas, when Stauskas won Big Ten Player of the Year, may be a bit lofty—I still lean closer to that than sophomore Caris LeVert, who played a very promising but less effective second banana to Stauskas for that 2013-14 season.

I've used Bart Torvik's invaluable site to pull the statistics of Poole and his comparables against top-50 (venue-adjusted) competition. When you ignore minutes and usage for a moment—two factors with clear explanations I'll get to momentarily—there's a clear match for Poole: Stauskas.

  G %Min ORtg USG eFG% AST% TO% FTM-FTA (%) 2PM-2PA (%) 3PM-3PA (%)
Burke '12 17 91.2 95.9 27.8 48.8 27.7 21.6 33-55 (60.0%) 62-126 (49.2%) 26.-81 (32.1%)
Stauskas '13 21 72.9 118.0 15.0 54.5 6.6 11.4 38-44 (86.4%) 31-58 (53.4%) 32-87 (36.8%)
LeVert '13 18 21.1 87.9 16.8 41.5 7.8 14.5 5-10 (50.0%) 9-25 (36.0%) 7-22 (31.8%)
Irvin '14 21 37.4 119.3 18.2 61.1 2.1 8.9 8-10 (80.0%) 11-28 (39.3%) 35-76 (46.1%)
Poole '18 18 29.9 118.8 22.4 56.2 7.7 9.0 27-34 (79.4%) 17-32 (53.1%) 16-41 (39.0%)

Trey Burke, mostly thrown in as an extra data point, had far different usage as a pure point guard. The rest are wings and therefore more comparable. The numbers that give me optimism regarding Poole are his two-pointers—taken with relative frequency, finished with efficiency—and his combination of high usage, extant assist rate, and low turnover rate.

The former is what separates Poole from LeVert, whose finishing took a long time to come along. Poole is already an impressive finisher at the rim for a guard; according to hoop-math, he made 25-of-36 (69.4%) shots at the basket with only eight assisted makes. That's almost exactly on pace, albeit on lower volume, with freshman Stauskas—38-of-55 (69.1%), 13 assisted—and way ahead of LeVert, who needed assists on four of his five makes at the rim as a freshman. Poole has already produced as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, and while he's not quite on Stauskas's level there yet, he was better as an isolation scorer—and Poole usually drew more of the defense's attention when he was out there than Stauskas did when surrounded by Burke, Hardaway, GRIII, et al.


Expect more of this next season. [Campredon]

The latter is what separates Poole from Irvin, who jacked threes and did little else as a freshman. Poole not only took two-pointers with much greater regularity, he actually passed the ball and displayed some tantalizing potential in that department. Irvin got exposed in his sophomore year when LeVert when down and he took on a lead role before he was ready; Poole looks ready (and certainly eager) to have the ball in his hands as much as possible.

As a refresher, here's how this group of players fared as sophomores against top-50 venue-adjusted competition: 

  G %Min ORtg USG eFG% AST% TO% FTM-FTA (%) 2PM-2PA (%) 3PM-3PA (%)
Burke '13 21 89.9 113.1 30.3 49.1 37.3 13.9 82-104 (78.8%) 91-204 (44.6%) 43-113 (38.1%)
Stauskas '14 21 90.9 120.8 23.5 56.8 18.6 13.6 89-108 (82.4%) 52-111 (46.8%) 55-126 (43.7%)
LeVert '14 21 87.7 101.2 22.9 48.2 17.0 17.5 52-71 (73.2%) 59-139 (42.4%) 33-86 (38.4%)
Irvin '15 15 88.9 95.2 24.6 48.5 10.2 12.5 19-33 (57.6%) 45-98 (45.9%) 33-97 (34.0%)

The Stauskas leap remains spectacular. He significantly upped his usage, improved his efficiency while taking on a much greater role as a distributor, and even improved significantly as a three-point shooter despite taking way more of his shots off the bounce.

I still think Poole can do something quite similar. He may not have played the early minutes Stauskas did, but he played a lot of important minutes and took on a bigger role when he saw the floor. Meanwhile, a lot of what he did on the court looked downright Stauskas-esque. Both are known for their unabashed three-point gunning, but what really separates the two is their ability to score from all three levels (rim, midrange, three).

Stauskas was a solid midrange shooter, especially when he could step into one off a screen. Poole was downright great from midrange in a small sample, going 12-for-24 on jumpers inside the arc, per Synergy. If you give him space, he's going to rise and fire.

Stauskas and Poole both learned early that the threat of a pull-up three combined with a quick first step poses serious problems to defenders. Stauskas had a ton of success on baseline drives—like his first Game, Blouses dunk—because defenses had to worry so much about keeping him out of the middle of the floor, where he was most likely to pull up for a jumper. Poole provides that same threat with, I'd argue, a quicker first step.

While Poole won't put up Burke-like assist numbers—and won't need to with Zavier Simpson likely manning the point—he could approach a Stauskas-level rate. He's shown the ability to find the open man off the drive, he keeps the ball moving in the offense despite his gunner reputation, and he's got some flashy dimes in his arsenal.

As for defense, I'm actually quite optimistic about Poole's ability on that end of the floor. While his freshman mistakes were numerous, they were notable in part because they were such an exception compared to the rest of the defense; they were also almost entirely mental. Poole, much more than Stauskas, has the lateral athleticism and defensive instincts to be an impact player on that end. He's already displayed potential as a ball-hawk, posting a 2.5% steal rate that wasn't far behind Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske for best on the squad. He'll challenge shots. He needs to focus more on that end of the court; an added year of experience and more consistent minutes should help.

I'm not saying Poole is going to be the Big Ten's best player next year. Not necessarily, at least. But I believe, barring a Wagner return, he's going to be the centerpiece of the offense, and I fully expect him to contend for first-team all-conference honors if that's the case. Poole after a summer of Camp Sanderson, immersing himself in Beilein's offense, and practicing pull-up threes off the high screen is going to be a boatload of fun.

Michigan 69, Loyola Chicago 57, One More Game

Michigan 69, Loyola Chicago 57, One More Game

Submitted by Ace on March 31st, 2018 at 9:56 PM


Moe Wagner made history with his performance tonight. [Bryan Fuller]

We just had to believe.

Believe in the Moe Wagner First Three-Pointer Corollary. Believe in Luke Yaklich's defense. Believe that Zavier Simpson wouldn't have the worst game of his life for every last minute. Believe that these damn shots would eventually fall. Believe in the Ironclad Law of Duncan Robinson's Six. Believe in John Beilein.

Our beliefs were tested. Michigan shot out of the gate, gaining an early 12-4 edge, before a well-coached Loyola squad started outplaying them. The switching Ramblers defense kept the Wolverines from getting into their usual sets. On the other end, Loyola combined dizzying off-ball motion with strong post-ups from center Cameron Krutwig. While Wagner was a force, tallying 11 points and 11 boards at halftime, he received almost no help. Charles Matthews churned out eight points on 3-for-8 shooting. Backup center Jon Teske made his lone attempt. Nobody else on the team had a bucket.

While Michigan's poor outside shooting wasn't anything new this tournament, the same couldn't be said for the seven-point halftime deficit, nor the simultaneous disappearing acts of Robinson, Simpson, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. The Wolverines had been able to grind out wins without one or two of those players in top form; getting nothing out of all three would be tough to overcome.


The exclamation point. [Fuller]

Ever so slowly, Wagner and friends worked their way back in the second half. Ever so slowly. The margin remained at seven at the first media timeout and climbed to eight on a pair of Clayton Custer free throws out of the second. With the outside shots still clanging iron and Simpson looking entirely out of sorts, Beilein turned to his bench, subbing in Teske and Jordan Poole. With ten seconds of entering the game, Poole drove baseline for a layup. Shortly thereafter, Poole grabbed a defensive rebound in traffic, pushed the pace, and the ball worked around to Robinson for a three-pointer—quite notably, his second, reaching the magic six-point mark while cutting the deficit to three.

Poole, fully at home taking center stage in the Final Four, kept seeking out buckets. After another board, he went coast-to-coast for a tough layup. Wagner knotted the game a minute later by backing out of a double-team and launching a three-pointer right over it. Poole took his the next turn, giving Michigan its first lead of the second half at the line with 6:20 to play.

"The Drip Boys are full of swag, that's what they call themselves," said Matthews. "They bring instant energy, especially this kid here [Poole]. This is my roommate, so I've got my hands tied with him the whole trip long."

In closing time, Beilein went with his go-to guys. Simpson came back in for Simmons, rediscovered his defense, and kept the ball moving without those unsightly turnovers. Matthews hit a gorgeous reverse layup off a sharp pass from Wagner after taking a quick breather. Abdur-Rahkman got Michigan's lead up to double digits with a tough runner, only his second basket of the game, that all but ended the game with 2:13 to play. Sister Jean got a head start up the tunnel right around the time Matthews hammered home the final nail.


How many more, Jordan? [Fuller]

This was, above all, a career-defining performance by Wagner, who finished with 24 points on 17 shot equivalents, 15 rebounds (six offensive), an assist, and three steals. That stat line put him among Hall of Fame company: Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon are the only other players to record 20 points and 15 rebounds in a national semifinal.

"Wow," said Wagner upon hearing that fact. "If you put it like that, it's probably cool. But to be honest, I kept looking possession by possession, we had trouble scoring the first half. We scored 22 points and that was kind of the only way we found our way to the basket, grab offensive rebounds and get second-shot opportunities. And I honestly just tried to do my job. The shots were falling the second half. It's a lot more fun when the ball goes through the net."

Wagner also played one of his best defensive games; while Krutwig went 7-for-11 from the field, he also coughed up six turnovers, and Wagner committed only one foul—of paramount importance in a game the Wolverines needed all 36 of his brilliant minutes.

Michigan's now-usual stifling defense handled the rest until the offense finally clicked late. Just don't tell the Wolverines they just knocked off Cinderella.

"We never looked at the team as a Cinderella team," said Matthews. "It's like 300-something Division I teams, and they're one of the last four standing. That's no Cinderella story. We respected them and we knew we had to come out and execute against them."

It took a lot of patience and faith in the system, but it ultimately paid off in Michigan's second trip to the NCAA championship game in six years. The winner of Villanova-Kansas awaits on Monday night.

"Everybody is really happy," said Beilein. "And we're ready to move on to the next game, whoever it is."

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

Death From Wherever

Death From Wherever

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


The core. [Barron]

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

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


Rolling with it. [Barron]

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

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


Hello, Big Nasty. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

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

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

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

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

Do More, Say More

Do More, Say More

Submitted by Ace on March 24th, 2018 at 12:05 PM


our student manager turned walk-on is better than yours and knows it

The nature of the tournament means you may not get much of a chance to savor a great victory before much of its luster is worn off. Thursday night was, without question, a great victory, and I'm going to make a conscious effort to give it the savoring it so richly deserves.

Upon approximately my hundredth rewatching of the video containing all 14 (FOURTEEN!) of Michigan's three-pointers against Texas A&M, I came to a startling realization. I was genuinely, unironically glad that Reggie Miller, whose commentary I normally find obnoxious at best*, was calling the game for TBS. For one night, he was the perfect person to call a basketball game.

[*I'm pretty sure this video was made in jest. I hope, at least.]

Reggie Miller made a Hall of Fame career from hitting threes—often audacious, sometimes outrageous threes, seemingly always in critical circumstances—and talking a spectacular amount of shit. His game was loud, his personality louder still.

As Miller watched the Wolverines rip the Aggies limb-from-limb, his usual schtick disappeared and genuine joy broke through. He called shots and reacted with glee as they unfolded before his eyes. He found a kindred spirit in Moe Wagner. At one point he uttered "ooh, my goodness" while so taken aback it's almost lost beneath Kevin Harlan's exhilaration.

Michigan did not just rain in a torrent of threes. They matched them with Miller-like theatrics that escalated with each strike.

The show turned to a full-blown three-ring circus, Oakland-style, by late in the first half. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, the silent killer of the squad, lined up a long-range shot in transition. By the time the ball actually went through the net, 60% of the team was back on defense.


Robinson's arm went up the moment the shot did

Not a whole lot changed after halftime other than Michigan's willingness to cede Texas A&M post-up buckets, which lack both efficiency and swagger. Reggie wasn't here for that. Reggie's here for this.

Michigan's team shirts say "DO MORE, SAY LESS" this postseason. It's in the spirit of a John Beilein team, to be sure, but not this one, not anymore. This team is embodied by Moe Wagner removing his mouthguard to talk trash, Charles Matthews laughing in Nick Ward's face, Zavier Simpson's biggest mood, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman coldly staring down his shot while the rest of the team merrily turns the other way, and student-manager-turned-walk-on CJ Baird flashing three fingers after drilling a 25-footer. Effervescent ailurophile-slash-tournament hero Jordan Poole, perhaps the most brash of the bunch, inspires art such as this Smoothitron masterpiece:

This has turned into a team that'll take your lunch money and throw your empty wallet into the woods. Every once in a while, as they did on Thursday, they'll use that money to buy your mom a nice meal. Maybe they'll take her out again tonight. 

Hoops Mailbag: The Poolebag

Hoops Mailbag: The Poolebag

Submitted by Ace on March 21st, 2018 at 8:04 AM


Yes, this still somehow went in. [JD Scott]

Another tournament week, another multi-part mailbag. This one contains the questions about/inspired by Jordan Poole's buzzer-beater. Yes, I'm as shocked as you are that I sorted them this way. Jump in!

A Free Pass

Hey Ace - Are there any statistics showing whether teams should guard the inbounder in late game situations like against Houston? On the surface, it seems like a huge mistake to let Livers inbound the ball to halfcourt so easily.

-Pat

While I don't remember seeing such a study and can't find stats on it, I agree that Kelvin Sampson erred in allowing Isaiah Livers to get a clean look on the final play. An opposing staff can only scout so many games, but I'm guessing Houston's coaches didn't get to the Maryland tape.

Even though the outcome of the plays were wildly different, Michigan's game-winners against the Terps and Cougars came on nearly identical setups: Livers hitting Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman with a baseball pass from his own baseline out of a timeout. Neither opponent elected to guard the inbounder even though Livers wasn't allowed to run the baseline.

Maryland's Mark Turgeon explicitly tried to set up his defense to prevent anyone from catching a pass while running towards the Terps basket. Here's how that went:


If you forgot, MAAR nearly got all the way to the hoop, drew a foul, and drained both free throws with the ruthless calm of a serial killer.

Here was Houston's setup:

While the Cougars were more successful in preventing a long pass to a guy on a dead run, they still allowed MAAR to catch the ball a fair distance up the court without any immediate pressure, which let him get upcourt in a hurry even though they had two defenders waiting.

Houston forced a tough shot, but it was still a catch-and-shoot look from a not-entirely-unreasonable distance by a shooter who had the time and space to square up to the basket. That's not a prayer, at least if you're Jordan Poole; ideally, the defense is forcing teams into prayers in that situation.

I don't think having the extra defender back is worth whatever added coverage it provides. Again, Livers can't run the baseline in either of these cases, and he's being asked to throw accurate passes far downcourt. Stick a big man on him and that becomes a great deal more difficult to execute. A tougher pass for Livers means either MAAR has to run farther back to the ball—losing precious time and momentum—or risk never completing the pass at all on a deeper attempt. Beilein's now gushed twice this season about Livers being able to throw pinpoint baseball passes; that's a lot harder to do with a basketball when you're not getting the same amount of space as an actual baseball pitcher.

Recency and confirmation biases may be playing a factor, but I rarely find the fifth defender that stays back even comes into play that often. For the offense, the downside of having the entire court to cover can also be an upside—your players can sprint full-out, which never happens for more than a couple steps in a halfcourt situation. Even with the extra man back, it's hard to keep a team from hitting the player they want—usually after running him through a couple screens—and that can lead, as in Maryland's case, to getting a bunch of players uselessly stuck behind the play while a fast man runs past them.

Houston more productively spent their extra player on MAAR and he still had an easy pass to make because of the amount of space he had on the catch. They did a much better job on the back end than Maryland by preventing MAAR from either driving or pulling up. They still got burned. I thought everyone learned this lesson in 1992: guard the dang inbounder

Or don't, actually. Coaches not doing that is working out pretty nicely for my life.

[Hit THE JUMP for my top-five last-shot-makers of the Beilein era, an evil question that was also the most popular, and MAAR's overlooked move.]

HUG PROTOCOL

HUG PROTOCOL

Submitted by Brian on March 19th, 2018 at 12:30 PM

3/15/2018 – Michigan 61, Montana 47 – 29-7, Round of 32
3/17/2018 – Michigan 64, Houston 63 – 30-7, Sweet 16

It's a list I don't even have to keep, because it is so narrow. A list gets written down. When you can count the number of persons given TOP SECRET access to the HUG PROTOCOL on your hands—and you could probably have had a finger lopped off in a bag accident and still gotten by—it's not really a list. It's an iron-clad fact of life. The hug protocol is buried deep behind passcodes and false leads and a butler who keeps the secret in a tattoo behind his ear.

So here are the persons that I have engaged in uncompuncted, mutually enthusiastic, joyous hug activities with before this weekend:

  • my parents
  • my brother
  • my wife
  • my son
  • a guy who I can confidently state was from the Indian subcontinent and think was probably Pakistani in the King's Head, a bar in Galway, Ireland, when Robbie Keane scores against Germany during the 2002 World Cup; our hug occurs largely because everyone else in the bar was Irish and we were the dudes left over
  • Everyone within 10 feet of me when Landon Donovan scored against Algeria 

I spent the 1998 Rose Bowl amongst very wrong people. When Trey Burke hit The Shot 1.0 there was still a lot of work to do; fist-pumping and guttural Viking cries were the order of the day. Jumping up and down in a pile, not so much. That shot just swung Michigan from certain defeat to potential defeat. Burke, of course, made damn sure his moment wasn't wasted. That still took some time.

It's a different thing, being rescued half-way.

Jordan Poole (and Isaiah Livers and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman) rescued Michigan all the way, draining the very last tenth of a second off the clock in doing so. And, man, 100% is an entirely different feeling than 95%. Ask a Houston fan today, or yourself a few months ago during the Maryland game when Isaiah Livers dropped a dime on MAAR in an eerily similar situation. MAAR got to the line, swinging Michigan's win probability from LOL NOPE to PRETTY DANG LIKELY. And the main thing to feel was a restricted, conditional hope; after the android version of MAAR nailed both free throws the new feeling was relief.

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Things that would make a win probability chart fold in on itself. My first reaction when I saw the thing the NIT's quarters did…

winprob

…to the Louisville-Northern Kentucky game on Kenpom was "this is the most accurate chart." If your sports life doesn't feel like that I don't know you. 95, 96, 97… these are not 100. 100 is 100, and only 100 is 100.

4 to 100 in 3.6 seconds is when the hug protocol is broken out and the room becomes a single hopping organism for a solid 20 seconds. At the same time, Poole is displaying his lateral agility by temporarily escaping the on-court pile. The walk-ons track him down, because walk-ons are crafty by necessity, and then you get the sports picture.

Afterwards, twitter is checked and re-checked. Poole talks to the media, and then John Beilein says Poole has an "overdose of swag."

26007287727_3c90877dd7_z (1)

[JD Scott]

Folks congratulate a man who just won an Oscar for finally doing something with his life. John Beilein ups his water-fight ante with poncho and goggles.

(It is only a matter of time before he invades the locker room in a firefighting mech.) Over the next 36 hours, Michigan's entire half of the bracket commits seppuku. It's all in front of them, and they didn't even play particularly well.

Take a breath. Enjoy it for what it is, right now. Down big to UCLA this looked like an NIT outfit, and now they're here. Sun yourself. Bask, until you have reached your swag limit, and then bask just a little more. Weekends like this stand on their own.

26007288307_be842c39ec_z

[JD Scott]

BULLETS

The other side. Devin Davis feels horrible today despite exceeding his season average on free throws, because the makes and misses came in the worst possible order. Wagner gave him a thought…

…and it didn't help much.

Maybe we can get together later and talk about the funniest Tom Crean transfers who made the tournament while Indiana did not. If that doesn't cheer you up, nothing will.

THE DOOR OPENS. You may be aware of this already, but: Michigan is the highest seed remaining on their half of the bracket after the ignominious demises of Xavier, North Carolina, Virginia, Cincinnati, and Tennessee.

This doesn't mean you should be disappointed if Michigan isn't in the national title game. Everyone is good at this point, and there are no home games unless you're Kansas. A&M over UNC was most welcome but Kenpom gives M a 62% chance against the Aggies—it is anything but a slam dunk to get to the Final Four.

Still… coulda, coulda been worse. #7 Gonzaga and #16 Kentucky are the top teams Michigan can face on the way to the title game. All those teams above are gonzo, and there's a decent chance Michigan beats A&M and gets a team (Florida State) that's currently one slot behind Penn State in Kenpom.

Going to have to do better, though. Michigan is going to run into a team that can score adequately on them despite their excellent defense, and at that point they're going to have to get back to Big Ten Tournament-level offense or they're going to crash out. Michigan's weekend was ugly, ugly stuff. More analysis later. I tried to start writing analysis and, nope, let's hold off on that for a second here.

An excellently timed and cromulent article. The New York Times on Michigan's short shorts:

“The long shorts are out of date,” the sophomore Ibi Watson said. “If they can touch your knees, they’re way too long.”

It is said that fashion is cyclical. The irony is that the same program that bucked the trend by concealing its legs in the 1990s is helping bring skin back in now.

In fact, players on Michigan, seeded third in the West region and set to play Montana in the first round of the N.C.A.A. tournament on Thursday night, lamented that they can’t get find shorts that are quite revealing enough.

So they roll their shorts at the waistband. Once. Twice.

“Three rolls is the max,” Watson said. “If you go four, it’s too much.”

He added, “I think they should just start making shorter shorts.”

Jalen Rose's furious letter to the editor has not yet been published.

I watched them all, and this is the best one. All songs have been put over the buzzer-beater, and I like this one best.

YMMV.

Another angle. Via Alejandro Zuniga and reddit:

Michigan 64, Houston 63, Jordan Poole Forever

Michigan 64, Houston 63, Jordan Poole Forever

Submitted by Ace on March 18th, 2018 at 1:17 AM


HOW [JD Scott/MGoBlog]

Jordan Poole, overdosed on swag from birth, lives for this moment.

It didn't matter that he'd made only two of his 13 three-point attempts in the month of March. It didn't matter that Michigan had gone 7-for-29 from beyond the arc in the game. It didn't matter that the game had been a brutal slog of a refshow. It didn't matter that Michigan had to inbound the ball from under their own basket. It didn't matter that Poole's view of the basket was so obscured he didn't see if the shot fell. It didn't matter that he's just a freshman.

Poole was born for this. With time about to expire, he took a sharp pass from MAAR, squared up, and fired. With a defender in his face, he struck the Jordan pose as he released the shot, then fell to the ground. Our hero arose and... ran for his life:

"After the shot went in I didn't know it went in," said Poole. "I looked at the bench. I was always thinking if I hit a shot like that I didn't want to get tackled. So I was kind of trying to avoid everybody, but I gave up and they tackled me and it was an amazing experience."

Instead of a heartbreaking early tournament exit to end the Michigan careers of MAAR, Duncan Robinson, and possibly Moe Wagner, the Wolverines move on to their second straight Sweet Sixteen in the most unimaginable way.

To everyone but Poole, that is. The young man had even planned his exit strategy.


[Scott]

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