HOEGLAW. Richard Hoeg has many interests. None of them include criminal law or horses, which I have been asked to make explicitly clear for SEO purposes. One of them is talkin' about stuff, including video games and Star Wars; he's put together a Youtube channel for his various and sundry podcast appearances.
Let's all sit quietly and think about the near future. SOUNDS GOOD GUYS NOBODY'S EXPLODING KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK
A HYPE VIDEO
SEVERAL OF YOU HAVE NOW EXPLODED MY BAD SPONGEBOB MEME?
"you can attack their bigs" [Patrick Barron]
A much better anon coach quote article. Yahoo's was extremely silly, but ESPN's version is on point. On Michigan:
"They've got three really good on-ball defenders," one coach said. "Most teams don't have two, or even one. They have three. [Zavier] Simpson, [Muhammad-Ali] Abdur-Rahkman, [Charles] Matthews can really guard the ball. You don't have a matchup on the perimeter you can attack. They're handsy, they're physical in all the right ways. How handsy and chippy they are, in itself is very anti-Michigan-like. They're well-schooled. They're so good at putting their hands on or getting an armbar into you and then taking it off, then beating you to the spot." …
"If you're a traditional defensive team, you've got no chance of guarding them," one opposing coach said. "The teams that have slowed them down the most are teams that are nontraditional, that can switch a lot. You've got no chance of defending them if you don't switch ball screens."
Dollar says the latter quote there is from Matt Painter.
"Everybody on their team is an above-average passer and can shoot it, so they have spacing," another head coach in the league said. "They don't take bad shots. They really work together as a team to get great shots every possession. They have an inside presence, but most of their offensive attack is transition or through spacing. Offensively, that's what makes them really good." …
"They ice ball screens and try to keep Krutwig in the paint defensively," he said. "So they've got some real tough decisions to make. You can't keep Krutwig in the paint against Wagner, so how they guard those actions, the pick-and-rolls in the middle of the floor. They can bring [Aundre] Jackson off the bench, but they need Krutwig on the floor. That's a real interesting thing for me."
Much more that's interesting at the link.
Yak's got this. Of all the reasons hiring Luke Yaklich might have benefited Michigan, "he'll have lots of experience against the MVC team Michigan sees in the Final Four" is the least likely. And yet:
Prior to joining the Wolverines, the defensive maestro went 7-1 against the Ramblers in his four seasons spent at Illinois State as an assistant coach and is familiar, at least fundamentally, with coach Porter Moser’s style of play.
“Coach Moser is an unbelievable coach ... you have to be locked in on both ends of the floor,” Yaklich said. “It’s gonna be a dog fight. His teams reflect his personality. They’re prepared, they get better, tough and they have a bunch of really great kids that have been through the Missouri Valley and non-conference wars.
“Loyola is obviously gonna have our full attention all week, and we’re thrilled with the opportunity to play in the Final Four against a really good and well-coached team.”
If Michigan wins on Saturday, before the final they need to hire an assistant from a team they can beat easily. How about Dane Fife?
One and done done? Syracuse recruit Darius Bazley has decided to blow off college hoops in favor of a year in the G league, because he's a serious dude.
“I’m self-motivated because I know this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is how I want to make a living. This is how I want to provide for my family, and provide for my love of basketball. I’m not playing any games with this. I’m attacking this straight forward. I’m not maneuvering around this, take any side steps. I’m taking this head on. This is the decision that I made, and I know it will work. I know what I’m capable of doing, and I’m going to do just that.”
Fair enough. Is this THE END for the current regime in college basketball? Maybe, maybe not. Bazley's salary in his sole G League year is apparently going to be a comically low 26k, and while he can sign with an agent and get some shoe money he'd probably be better off in the long run with the fame an NCAA tournament run could generate. And it's not like the shoe people can't just give his family money already.
On the other hand:
I think trying the G-League out instead of college makes sense for a whole host of reasons, but using it to avoid playing for Syracuse might be the most important thing for Darius Bazley's development as a prospect
— Nainan-ch Nails (@thom_not_tom) March 29, 2018
Bazley won't be wasting his time perfecting a defense that's illegal in the NBA and driving wildly into the lane hoping that this heavily contested shot miraculously falls. Why Bazley—or anyone cough cough Tyus Battle—with a potential NBA future would sign up for that remains a complete mystery. How a team stacked with NBA lottery picks could lose to that team is an even greater one.
PREPARE THE NELSON MEME. Oh and also this:
Jim Boeheim to @PeteThamel on the prospect of college vs. the G-League just a couple weeks back. Interesting in the wake of the Darius Bazley decision https://t.co/BKeGJYOQ7i pic.twitter.com/OVTHMqWpDW
— Brent Axe (@BrentAxeMedia) March 30, 2018
Or possibly the Sideshow Bob Steps On Rakes meme.
Would the end of one and done be bad for Michigan? Or good? I lean towards good. While the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world would start picking off guys outside the top 25 and might land on a guy that Michigan would otherwise get, the relative gap between those dudes and the dozen-or-so genetic lottery winners available annually is bigger than the 25-50 cohort and the next tier down.
Meanwhile the shoe money that funnels kids towards that restrictive list of bluebloods would now just be signing the top guys outright. The guys at the next level down would be choosing lower levels of bag if they eschew being developed by Beilein. I don't think it would upset the apple cart in college basketball that much; it would kill accidental superteams like "Anthony Davis and four other guys." Since Michigan was never going to get that guy, good.
PFF on Mo Hurst. They like him.
Why the @PFF crew thinks Maurice Hurst—not Bradley Chubb, Minkah Fitzpatrick or Roquan Smith—is the best defensive prospect in this year's draft class https://t.co/EIVWRLpjrS pic.twitter.com/JkawbNaVQr
— The MMQB (@theMMQB) March 30, 2018
They like him almost as much as I do.
Mid-majors: yes. 8-10 P5 teams: no. Rodger Sherman on the dwindling role of the underdog mid-major:
Twenty years ago, in 1998, the committee gave out at-large bids to Western Michigan (from the Mid-American Conference) and Illinois-Chicago and Detroit-Mercy (from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, now called the Horizon League). When George Mason stunned the world by reaching the Final Four as a no. 11 seed in 2006, it did so thanks to an at-large bid, having failed to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. Same goes for 11th-seeded VCU in 2011, also an also-ran from the CAA. Between 1995 and 2005, UNC Charlotte made the tournament eight times despite winning the Conference USA tournament only twice. UNC Charlotte got six at-large bids in a span of 10 years!
If you’ll allow me to temporarily use a clumsy definition of “mid-major” for the purposes of this piece, let’s say the “mid-major” label applies any school that isn’t in one of the five football power conferences, their predecessors, or either the defunct or current versions of the Big East. In the 20 NCAA tournaments from 1995 to 2014, the selection committee extended at-large bids to an average of 8.9 schools fitting that definition, the high being 12 in 1995, 1998, and 2004. In half of those years at least 10 such teams landed at-large invitations. Since 2015, the committee has invited no more than seven such teams in a given year, bottoming out with last year’s four. You’d think this trend would be reversed, considering over that time frame the number of at-large bids has increased from 32 to 36 as the size of the tournament field has grown from 64 to 68. But no: With more available spots, the committee has rewarded fewer teams from mid-major leagues.
The NCAA should mandate no at large bids for a team that couldn't even win half its conference games. Only one good thing has ever happened because an 8-10 ACC team got in.
Lame. Michigan cancels the 2020-21 VT series, paying 400k to get out of it. In VT's place in 2020: Arkansas State. Something something it's smart because playoff, you say. And I say something something it's dumb because playoff, and we both have exactly the same amount of evidence.
Poole on JJJ. Jordan Poole and Jaren Jackson Jr played together at La Lumiere last year, and Poole thinks he knows that Jackson's out the door:
"I'm pretty sure I already know what his decision is," said Poole.
So, will the 19-year-old Jackson turn pro?
"For sure, I definitely think so, only because it’s an opportunity that not a lot of people are able to pass up. Being able to be in a situation like this, especially being in the lottery as a freshman and getting paid to play basketball, (which) is a dream, that’s definitely an opportunity that you have to take advantage of," Poole said.
You'd think this obvious since he's a top five pick who played fewer minutes in an NCAA tournament elimination than Ben Carter, but MSU people are putting it out there that Jackson is leaning towards returning. Izzo getting a lottery pick to return for more rebounding drills in football pads is almost as baffling as "anyone plays for Syracuse."
Illinois State to the Final Four [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Talkin' 'bout Yak. Sam Webb interviews Illinois State head coach Dan Muller, who actively tried to get his assistants the jobs at Michigan they in fact got:
“I was talking to him about the next step in his career and what he wanted to do, what his aspirations were as a coach, and how I could help,” Muller recalled. “He said, ‘hey, what do you think about Michigan?’ And I said, ‘I think that would be a great place for you. Have you ever met Coach Beilein? (He said), ‘no.’ I said, ‘okay look, in this business I am going to tell you the odds are you won't get the job because you've never met him. A lot of times coaches hire guys that they know or have met at least.’ I said, ‘if you want, I'll call him and just see.’"
“I called Coach Beilein that day and left him a message. He called me back a couple days later and said thank you very much, but I've got a couple of guys I think I'm going to hire. I actually recommended DeAndre Haynes, also, who was on my staff. I said, ‘coach that's fine. If anything changes give me a call. I think both of these guys would be terrific for you.’
That is incredible on many levels. Beilein listened to a cold call about a couple of guys he didn't know, did the requisite research to bridge that gap, and hired both of the Illinois State guys on offer. And the guy who'd hired them in the first place and saw them build a team that absolutely should have gotten an at-large NCAA bid in the MVC was selfless enough to kick that process off.
Additional YAK. Yahoo's Jeff Eisenberg has another long feature on Michigan's defensive coordinator:
The first priority Yaklich drilled into his team before Saturday’s game was to take away Florida State’s vaunted transition attack. The Wolverines responded by not surrendering a single fast-break point to a Seminoles team that scored 14 two nights earlier against Gonzaga.
The second point of emphasis from Yaklich was keeping Florida State from generating second-chance points. Michigan held the Seminoles below their season average in offensive rebounding percentage despite playing four guards for most of the game.
Yaklich’s final objective was to successfully foil Florida State’s pick-and-roll game and force the Seminoles to win the game shooting contested jumpers. The Wolverines fought over screens, made crisp rotations and recovered to shooters quickly, contributing to the Seminoles scoring almost nothing easy at the rim from start to finish.
“You have to take away the roll man against Florida State,” Yaklich said. “They’re so big and long. You watch them on video, and they’re throwing dunks in from five or six feet away. We just had to stop their momentum to the basket and then it’s the effort we always talk about on defense of getting back to the shooters.
“We have a phrase that we yell every day in practice every time a ball screen is set, and that’s “Do your job.” That means you’ve got to sprint to where you’re supposed to be right away. Those practice habits helped.”
Uh… what? Yahoo collects a bunch of coach quotes about the Final Four teams, and the guy talking about Michigan is a little cheesed off at the end:
Prediction: Loyola can beat their asses. Everyone saying this is a mismatch is wrong. Loyola has a bunch of like pieces, which screws up Michigan’s offense. It’s going to be a defensive-type game, which means that anyone can win. Look at the teams Michigan feasted on: Texas A&M, Purdue, Michigan State and Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament. If you play big like those teams, they are going to annihilate you. If you switch and junk it up and play almost guerrilla-warfare coverage on defense, they’ll struggle to score. If you can switch, which Loyola does 1 through 4, this game will be close.
I have a lot of problems with these assertions. One: Nebraska switches one through five better than anyone else in the Big Ten because Isaiah Roby is an elite defender. Two: Loyola's center is a plodder who's extremely ill-suited to switching. Three: who cares about switching 1-4? How many PG-SF pick and rolls do we think Michigan is running?
Also this was a bit of an odd assertion:
One thing we noticed was that they’re unbelievably handsy and grabby. I was almost taken aback at how physical they are. You don’t expect it. It’s going to be a physical game, you have to be ready to fight in the streets.
Can't say I've noticed a FIGHT IN THE STREETS kind of defense except for that one game against MSU, but I guess that's the word on the street. Mostly they just contest stuff. That doesn't make them WVU.
Best friends forever. Tim Hardaway Jr drew up a play for Trey Burke during Burke's 40-point double-double:
Hornacek let Hardaway Jr. draw this play up ... AND IT WORKED PERFECTLY. pic.twitter.com/m3VHfg2q0P
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 27, 2018
Of course it was a long two off the dribble.
Speaking of. Burke as Allen Iverson is happening:
The Knicks gave up 137 points to lose… but hey, Trey Burke! Pay no attention to his reliance on midrange jumpers.
Doubling down. Myron Medcalf managed to write a 3,000 word story about the rise of the three pointer in college basketball without a single one of them being "Beilein." Michigan is in the Final Four! Beilein's had one team in the last 15 years that wasn't in the 90th percentile in 3P%! Pittsnogle! Pittsnogle.
Instead, Medcalf's 3,000 word story includes quotes from Jaren Jackson, Miles Bridges, and Tom Izzo. I'm not even mad. I'm impressed.
Minnesota makes a hire. The Gophers' new hockey coach is St Cloud State's Bob Motzko. Motzko was SCSU's head coach for 13 years, during which the Huskies made 8 tourney appearances, including five of the last six years. Motzko never paid off his regular season success in the tourney as he reached just one Frozen Four and didn't get to the title game, but worst tourney in sports, etc. He's now got access to the biggest talent base in college hockey—seems like a pretty good hire.
Etc.: Miles Bridges declares for draft, hires agent, avoids going 1-5 against Michigan. Saban admits some offers aren't committable, which is fine. ESPN on Wagner. Baumgardner on the building blocks. Top talent now almost entirely avoids college soccer. Regional photo feature. The Great Tennessee Coaching Search Dump. Nick Boka profiled. Franz Wagner highlights.
3/22/2018 – Michigan 99, Texas A&M 72 – 31-7, Elite Eight
3/24/2018 – Michigan 58, Florida State 54 – 32-7, Final Four
Michigan's games this week had little in common with each other. One was a delightful firebombing that was all but over by the second commercial break; the other was a tense defensive chess match. (For a given definition of chess.) Michigan shot a gorillion from three, and then reverted to that bad old Wichita stuff where you might as well hand out blindfolds and cigarettes. Michigan's efficiency stars emerged and then evaporated.
The common thread, such as it was, between both wins: the bricklayers. The guys who have flung free throws at the basket with the smoothness of a man with a basketball lodged in his esophagus attempting to aim a Heimlich maneuver. It was the universal consensus of the Michigan fanbase—both the crazed and somewhat less-than-crazed wings—that the season would end in what-if disappointment when several critical free throws down the stretch hit the underside of the backboard. Zavier Simpson and Charles Matthews would be the likely perpetrators. This was okay-ish in a year that seemed headed for the NIT when Michigan was down 15 to UCLA, but You Just Cannot Win Basketball Games Like That. But we braced for a what-if.
I was amongst these people, and you're lying if you say you weren't, too. When Florida State whittled down a ten point lead into a shot to tie largely thanks to missed front ends, that prophecy loomed almost as large in my mind as "No Scrubs," which has been a permanent resident since we put it on a podcast a week ago. Even Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, the laser-eyed hero of the Maryland game, has seemingly contracted the bug. Many thoughts flit back and forth when a very important basketball game is in the balance, and only in the aftermath can you hope to sort out the rational from the paranoid and insane.
In the repose of a Monday, it seems that a good way to win basketball games is to suck at free throws and be up ten anyway. Or 20. 20 is preferable.
TJ Starks had no idea. Even afterward, he had no idea. You can maybe forgive a brash statement or two after he put up 21 in an A&M blowout of the defending national champion. Can't expect every 18-year-old point guard's browser to autofill the "enpom.com" after typing in a K. "Unguardable," he said, in a press conference, and the papers duly printed these words in big letters, because they were bold and silly.
I like to think that Zavier Simpson found out about this because he has a DAMN FOOL OPENS MOUTH Google Alert, but probably one of the student managers sent it to him. I like to think the student manager has a THIS MIGHT ANGER ZAVIER tab folder or instasnap folio or whatever it is the kids are using. This seems far more likely. I like to think that there's one guy on the team that continually shows Simpson tweets from six months ago, and that after TJ Starks had a press conference he fist-pumped and took a two-hour vacation for the first time in a month.
And I like to think that when the student manager showed Simpson the silly quote that he had no reaction except for a slight nostril flare.
A few days later, Starks is holding his own intestines as he asserts that he still feels unguardable. "Do you still feel unguardable?" is kind of a rude question to ask a guy who is holding his own intestines. But ask they do, and Starks answers in the affirmative, and… okay. You know what, actually? As a Michigan fan, thanks.
That went right in the folder. Even after a 38 ORTG, 2/11, 1 assist, 5 TO night during which Simpson set a personal best with six steals—five of which were during the first half blitz that turned the second half into a rote exercise—it went in the folder. Not acknowledging what happened might help you; it certainly causes nostrils to flare.
A couple days later a presumably-still-furious Simpson did (most of) this to FSU's two point guards:
- CJ Walker: 2 points on 4 shot equivalents, 0 assists, 3 TOs, 35 ORTG
- Trent Forrest: 7 points on 8 shot equivalents, 2 A, 2 TO, 89 ORTG
Simpson finished his weekend by anticipating a desperate FSU three as the clock ran down and getting his hand on yet another ball, forcing a guy who wasn't even his man into a desperation heave that was nowhere close.
Also he missed a couple free throws.
I had no idea. Even afterward: no idea. There were no brash statements about Charles Matthews, really, just assertions that maybe he shouldn't be Michigan's highest-usage player if he's going to turn the ball over buckets—assertions that didn't seem that controversial as Michigan moved usage to Abdur-Rahkman so that he could set New York City alight. But you never know when something's going to click.
So a couple possessions after Charles Matthews got a drive swatted into the crowd by one of A&M's twin towers, he went in again. Up fake, large man jumps into crowd himself, easy finish. From there Matthews took the lead role as Michigan blunted every one of A&M's attempts to get back in the game—or even get it under 20. He drove by the third 6'10" guy, stopped in the lane, and took one of those jumpers where he's eye-to-eye with the rim. He drove through traffic, and put up eight twos that he mostly generated himself, and finished the game with just one turnover.
The resurgence of November Charles Matthews was a B plot in a blowout. It took two days and two minutes for it to pay off. Everyone has a plan until a seven-foot Nigerian comes from the three-point line to block your layup. In the aftermath you might look at the basket like it was suddenly a dangerous thing. Michigan certainly did. Their offense bogged down almost immediately as the shock of Florida State's length settled in. It's one thing to talk about it and practice for it and entirely another when you encounter it for the first time.
Here we should probably use Matthews's full name. Charles Matthews The Kentucky Transfer was the only player Michigan had who was not shocked by Florida State's athleticism. He'd spent a year getting roasted by five stars in Lexington, and knew what it was to go up against five guys with ten guys worth of arms. He kept Michigan afloat in the first half. Hell, he hit his first four free throws to aid the cause. When Leonard Hamilton wondered how his team was down one at the break, answer #1 was "you turned it over 40% of the time"; #2 was Charles Matthews.
After the year in Lexington, Matthews spent a year getting roasted by John Beilein. In the postgame press conference he told a story of how his name during his redshirt year was "Turnover Matthews"; he recalled being told to "touch 212"—ie, run the stairs at Crisler—every practice. Nobody who'd watched him drive with a wince midseason was surprised by that.
Here: two games, 17 two-point attempts, two turnovers total. Seventeen game-saving points in a first-to-55-wins game. No idea. But there it is.
All year we've been talking about next year, hoping that will be the fusion of Michigan's newfound defensive prowess with the traditional death from above Beilein offense would… uh… get them to the Final Four. As Michigan blitzed through the Big Ten tournament, it became clear this collection of slightly misfit toys was able to outdistance their flaws.
This weekend drove the point home. Michigan's least Beilein players drove Michigan's least Beilein team to San Antonio. They've met halfway. Simpson has a semi-functional three pointer. Matthews has deferred more; has become more responsible with the ball. It was tough to see, for a while, when you've been trained to prize a rain of threes over all else, but it turns out you can use bricks to build something.
[After the jump: the most bonkers stat]
SPONSOR NOTE. HomeSure Lending is once again sponsoring our NCAA Tournament coverage this year. Matt will be hosting an informal watch party tomorrow night 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 consitutes success, the sixth man factor, the possibility of a two-big lineup, and late game free-throw lineups can be found right here.
MAARch Madness, Moe Buckets, or The Z Factor?
Z's huge leap needs to hold. [Campredon]
Given the path and teams in our way, whose level of play is most critical in making a Final Four run between Mo, MAAR, and Z? #mgomailbag
— Juice (@notJustinHanson) March 12, 2018
This is a tough one. The cop-out (but still true!) answer is Michigan will need all three to play at a consistently high level to make a deep run. As Matt Painter will readily tell you, Moe Wagner is the player who makes the team so dangerous by allowing Beilein to run a true five-out offense. The team's late season surge coincided with Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman taking on a bigger role and thriving.
I have to go with Simpson, though. He's the catalyst for this team on both ends of the floor. On offense, he's the guy running the pick-and-roll, and he's being leaned on more than ever as a finisher in addition to a distributor. On defense, he's tasked with shutting down the opponent's best perimeter threat.
Simpson is also the only one of the three who doesn't have a reliable backup. Wagner has Teske, who's a downgrade on offense but an upgrade on defense. MAAR has Poole, who's liable to score double-digit points in a handful of shots at any given moment. Simpson has Jaaron Simmons or Eli Brooks; while Simmons has looked steadier down the stretch, neither has exactly grabbed hold of a role—Simmons didn't score in the BTT and has multiple assists in a game just once since January. Both are huge defensive downgrades from Simpson, too.
The team's defensive renaissance has allowed them to absorb some bad outings from one of their usual go-to guys without taking losses. That could conceivably happen in the tourney with a down game from Wagner or MAAR; I don't see it happening if Simpson doesn't maintain his current run of form. It's not just about what the player brings; it's about what the player behind them brings.
[Hit THE JUMP for more on Z's impact, who gets the defensive credit, the rotation going forward, and more.]
Now that the bounty of Big Ten Tournament GIFs has been posted, I wanted to revisit the weekend's tactical battles like I did with Monday's post on the Purdue game. Today's post will cover the Iowa and Nebraska games. I'll have another one on the MSU game and probably a bit more on Purdue, too.
To the pictures, moving and otherwise.
Iowa: Shutting Down Bohannon, Evil Beilein Overtime Set
Switching and stealing led to easy points. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
The top priority for any team that plays Iowa is stopping guard Jordan Bohannon, a 30-foot pull-up three-pointer waiting to happen. While one such shot sent this game into overtime, Bohannon otherwise made only 2-of-10 threes, and his lack of volume was just as important as his lack of makes. He went for a 13-minute stretch in the first half without attempting a triple and had another eight-minute long-range drought in the second. Four of his attempts came in the final minute of regulation or the overtime period.
While Bohannon was nearly the hero, he finished with only 11 points on 15 shot equivalents. The defense allowed Michigan to avoid an upset despite a brutal 3-for-19 performance from beyond the arc on the other end.
How did Michigan accomplish this? While Zavier Simpson has deservedly received a lot of credit, it also extends to the entire squad. Luke Yaklich deployed a switch-heavy scheme to prevent Bohannon from getting open looks and the team executed it with precision. Michigan not only slowed Iowa's most dangerous scorer but came up with eight steals in the process, which led to some easy buckets.
Here's my favorite defensive possession of the game. The whole team plays it perfectly, and Simpson's ability to cover, and hold, a lot of ground stands out. He's circled in blue in these screencaps; the clock is circled to emphasize the speed at which all this occurs. Michigan's defense was flying.
Simpson picks up Bohannon at halfcourt but takes a hard pick, something Teske or Livers likely should've called out. While he gets over it, he ends up switching onto the screener, Tyler Cook—Iowa's 6'9", 255-pound post threat.
Iowa goes at this size mismatch right away, posting Cook on Simpson and clearing the near side of the court for him to go to work.
Cook only gets a couple dribbles—and nowhere near the hoop—before Jon Teske comes over for a well-timed double-team. As doubles go it's very low-risk; by clearing out for Cook, Iowa has no spacing on the weak side, so three Wolverines effectively cover four Hawkeyes. Cook doesn't have much of a choice but to kick it back out.
The ball quickly swings to Bohannon, and Luke Garza comes over to set a quick high screen. Simpson takes a brief pause to make sure Garza doesn't slip to the basket...
...then gets over to trap Bohannon in a flash, closing any window for a shot. Bohannon has to swing it back to Garza; Livers gets back on him before he can do anything.
Bohannon and Garza reset and try another quick screen. Simpson fights over the top, passes Bohannon off to Livers, and swings back around on Garza, closing off the pop for a three while Livers prevents a pull-up or drive from Bohannon.
Garza cuts hard to the hoop and Simpson hangs with him, anchoring in the post and holding surprisingly decent position. It doesn't matter, as Bohannon tries an aimless crossover, goes to pick up his dribble, and gets stripped by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who's close enough to take a calculated gamble.
Bohannon got only six three-pointers off in halfcourt sets and made two—one when Livers blew the switch, the other on a 25-foot pull-up. The final score may have been close, but Michigan held the nation's #19 offense (yes, the Hawkeye defense is very bad) to 0.95 points per possession, a huge drop from the 1.09 PPP they posted in Big Ten play.
[Hit THE JUMP to see how Beilein freed up Robinson in OT, his adjustments to Nebraska's defense, and more.]
If it keeps going like this I'll learn to spell "renaissance" correctly on the first try. Rob Dauster on Michigan's elite... defense? That is what the card says. Defense.
As surprising as that decision was, the dots connected. Yaklich, like Beilein, spent his life as a teacher and a high school coach before breaking into the college ranks. Unlike Beilein, however, Yaklich has prided himself in his ability to get the most out of a team on the defensive end of the floor.
“As a high school coach, I focused entirely on defense,” Yaklich said. At the high school level, coaching offense is more about skill development, about making your players better shooters, better ball-handlers, better scorers. Figure out a handful of things that you can have success with and trust your players to make plays. “My high school coaches instilled that in me. When I went to Illinois State, I naturally grew into that role. We didn’t have a defensive coordinator, but my voice, that’s what I took pride in.”
At Michigan, that is, quite literally, Yaklich’s role. He was hired to coach Michigan’s defense, to be their defensive coordinator, and the success that the Wolverines have had on that end cannot be overlooked. Prior to this season, Beilein never had a team finish higher than 37th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. In the last four seasons, the Wolverines never finished higher than 69th.
“The smartest thing is I stopped coaching it so much,” Beilein said of his team’s defensive improvement. “I let other people become the voice of it. I wanted one guy, that’s all he thinks about all day long.”
I'm not taking credit for suggesting that Beilein needs a defensive coordinator. But I'm not not taking credit. I will be ambiguously pleased.
Similar resumes. I should have posted this a couple days ago when it was slightly different, with the Stauskas Elite Eight team at the top of the list. But anyway here's Bart Torvik's list of resumes most similar to Michigan's in recent committee history:
Nik and company are still #3. These are all at least three seeds and 40% of them are twos. I haven't seen anything else suggesting Michigan can get to a two, but hopefully that indicates Jerry Palm's (and 30% of the matrix's) 4-seed is off.
There is exactly one bracket that puts Michigan on the five line, but it's KPI. For some reason KPI is on the teamsheets, so hooray for that.
One of many maximum Beilein moments. A man who recognizes his own limitations.
— max (@maxaiden) March 5, 2018
Unbalanced schedule FTL. This year was an excellent example of how the Big Ten's schedule cheapens the regular season title. A gent calling himself "Wicked_UMD"—must be a St. Cloud State fan—analyzed how the schedule rotation affected expected wins in league play:
|Team||Exp Win Delta|
That half-win edge over Purdue had a fairly good shot at costing the Boilers a share of the title, and Michigan is almost two wins back of MSU—flip that first Purdue game and that is also a title-altering schedule gap.
The net result is a cheapening of the regular season title. Adding two conference games will help somewhat, but only somewhat: each team still misses almost half the conference for a second game annually. There is a way to create a maximally meaningful and fair conference race with just one extra game:
Alternative: 19 game conference schedule.
PHASE 1: round robin.
PHASE 2: line is drawn between 7th and 8th teams in the league. Mini-leagues subsequently play round-robin. Rutgers is relegated to the Big East every year.
PROS: Absolutely fair. Winner is undisputed. Makes Big Ten title a huge important deal. Final six games for teams that make upper half would be knock-down drag out brutal free-for-all for league title. Would give top teams impregnable schedule strength. You could televise the schedule draw with Ronaldo and Messi in suits.
CONS: May cost league NCAA bids if the best team in the bottom half can't get any marquee wins in the last six games or the worst team in the top half just gets blitzed. Bottom half is just kind of sadly playing out the string. Uncertainty about final three home games may impact ticket sales negatively. Extremely distant possibility that the 8th best team 13 games in can climb all the way to the top.
This will never happen because the folks in charge are more interested in milking as much money out of college basketball than making a drastic and potentially awesome change. But seriously you guys.
Mo draft stock. The Draft Express gents on Michigan's center:
Despite his limitations, and the diminishing market for players his size, there's still a role in today's NBA for a highly skilled big man who can space the floor and plays with a competitive spirit. Wagner is young for a junior, not turning 21 until the end of April, so he has time to continue to improve considering he was already a late bloomer to begin with. He'd likely get picked somewhere in the second round if he decided to keep his name in the draft but also could benefit from coming back for his senior year and continuing to work on his weaknesses, namely his defense, passing and overall feel for the game.
They rank him 55th, so not even towards the top of the second round. SI has an extensive Big Ten Tournament scouting article that comes to a similar conclusion:
Draft Projection: Second Round
After testing and staying in school last year, Wagner has definitely improved, although he’s still a bit of an acquired taste among scouts. It depends on what you value in your bigs, and his considerable offensive skills will be worth the risk to some teams despite his lackluster defense and physical limitations in that area. Wagner excels as a screener and post-up option and has a good feel for finding pockets in the defense. He’s heavy-footed and looks a bit clumsy at times, but his skill level facing up, attacking closeouts and keeping defenders honest gets the job done in college. He gets some credit for helping lift Michigan to the title (and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player) but the Wolverines won more by playing great team basketball than relying on Wagner to carry them.
It'll be up to Wagner's whim. He's not in the range where he's going to get a guaranteed contract and may end up in the G-League. The money there isn't great so he might decide he'd rather play under the bright lights of the NCAA than for the Fort Wayne Mad Antz even if he delays his earnings a year. If the consensus is that he'll stick on a roster that's a totally different matter.
FWIW, SI on Matthews:
Draft Projection: 2019
The former Kentucky transfer has been plagued by consistency issues throughout his career but has an outside chance at the league depending on how much he can improve over the course of the next year. “I can’t put my finger on what he does well,” says one scout, the sentiment being that Matthews is best suited as a 3-and-D wing given the heavy demand for such players. He has the right type of body to fit in the league, but struggles to create his own offense and has to simplify his approach. He did hit a pair of threes against Michigan State, but must improve his shot selection and become a consistently impactful defender to succeed in the NBA.
Silver lining from his collapse midseason is that Michigan doesn't have to worry about his departure after just one year.
The hopes are dangerously up. George Sipple of the Free Press checks in with Quinn and Jack Hughes, who's currently the projected #1 pick in the 2019 draft. In addition to various items about how he is a generational hockey player is this tantalizing possibility:
Two Hughes at U-M in 2019?
There’s a chance Jack could join his older brother at Michigan next season. The middle Hughes has not committed anywhere, and Ellen and Jim acknowledge U-M is one possibility.
Michigan has had players accelerate to play college hockey early. Jack is currently in his junior year of high school, but, through online courses, he could go on an accelerated academic track, and graduate early to be able to play collegiality next year.
Jack sought exceptional status to play in the Ontario Hockey League as a 15-year-old, but was denied. Among the short list of players who have been granted that status to play a year early are John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid, who are now in the NHL. …
“It could be a perfect scenario,” Jim said of Jack going to U-M. “But they’re not there yet. The beauty is Jack is in a really great spot right now. He values the development he’s getting with Seth and Wrobo.”
For perspective, Hughes is playing up with the U18s as a U17:
Two more points tonight for 2019 top prospect Jack Hughes. His next point will tie him with Clayton Keller and Phil Kessel for most points by an NTDP player in his U17 season. Kessel 82 in 62 GP (1.32 pts/gp), Keller 82 in 61 GP (1.34), Hughes 81 in 44 GP (1.84).
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) March 3, 2018
Adding Hughes—and presumably keeping Quinn—would radically change next year's outlook.
Brandon Johns highlights. He is up for Mr. Basketball and looks like a perfect fit as a Beilein 4:
His main competition is David DeJulius, it appears.
One and done done? The NBA's one and done rule was always more about the NBA than college basketball, and now that they've got Lebron and a former president criticizing it publicly it may not be long for this world. The proposal is wrought with frippery that attempts to make it seem like one-and-done wasn't a selfish act from the drop:
Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver and several of his top advisers have been engaged in listening tours and information-gathering missions with an array of stakeholders for months. That has included formal meetings with the National Basketball Players Association about adjusting the so-called "one-and-done" age-limit rule. But Silver's aim is much more comprehensive than simply re-opening the door for 18-year-olds to play in the NBA, sources said.
A plan is expected to include the NBA starting relationships with elite teenagers while they are in high school, providing skills to help them develop both on and off the court. It would ultimately open an alternate path to the NBA besides playing in college and a way 18-year-olds could earn a meaningful salary either from NBA teams or as part of an enhanced option in the developmental G League, sources said.
The NCAA is either going to work with the NBA to keep a healthy number of future stars in college basketball or lose them all because of their archaic rules. Survey says it'll be the former because the people in charge care about money.
Lineup Combos: Unlocked
Recent adjustments have given Beilein more lineup flexibility. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Earlier in the year a Wagner/Livers and Teske/Robinson rotation was greatly desired. Has Robinson's defensive renaissance negated the need for those substitution needs? #mgomailbag
— Austin (@Lofter4) February 27, 2018
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:
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.]
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
Is Luke Yaklich actually the best member of the 2017 class?
— CT in TC (@CT_In_TC) February 27, 2018
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):
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.]
The Michigan Insider's Josh Henschke has confirmed a possibility that The Athletic's Brendan Quinn suggested earlier this week: Michigan is double-dipping on Illinois State assistant coaches, hiring Luke Yaklich to join DeAndre Haynes and complete the staff.
— Josh Henschke (@JoshHenschke) July 29, 2017
Unlike Haynes, who joined ISU this offseason after coaching at Toledo last season, Yaklich was on staff for last year's team that went 28-7, finished 49th on KenPom, and narrowly (unjustly?) missed an NCAA bid. The Redbirds boasted the 19th-ranked adjusted defensive efficiency in the country and the fifth-ranked eFG% defense; despite being an average-sized team with no major contributor taller than 6'9", their defense dominated the paint. This sounds like your Billy Donlon replacement.
Yaklich, an Illinois State alum, joined the ISU staff before the 2013-14 season after spending 14 years as a teacher and coach. He should have strong Illinois recruiting ties; he coached Joliet Academy (a Chicago-area school that produced M running back Ty Isaac) for six years and also served as the coach of two Illinois AAU squads. He also taught U.S. History, which has to earn him some Beilein points.
With Yaklich on board, Michigan now has a full staff at their disposal. He'll join Haynes and Saddi Washington on the recruiting trail soon, presumably.