Basketbullets: Illinois 2019

Basketbullets: Illinois 2019 Comment Count

Brian January 11th, 2019 at 3:19 PM

1/10/2019 – Michigan 79, Illinois 69 – 16-0, 5-0 Big Ten

Rotate. Michigan won this game on the strength of Jon Teske and Zavier Simpson, if you had to pick two people. Against Indiana it was Poole and Matthews. Penn State: Simpson and Matthews.  Northwestern: Brazdeikis and Poole. Purdue: Brazdeikis and Poole.

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Let's Have Some Fun With Bart Torvik Dot Com

Let's Have Some Fun With Bart Torvik Dot Com Comment Count

Brian January 9th, 2019 at 12:12 PM

Bart Torvik's site allows you to slice data into whatever chunk you want; I've been slicing.

One rank to rule them all. Michigan is the #1 team in the country if you consider just games against top 50*, top 100, top 150, and top 200 opponents. It's only when the dregs get added in that Michigan slips back to third.

The reason for this is pretty obvious: zones. Torvik's algorithm thinks more highly of Michigan's offense than Kenpom and the teams that get added back in when you consider every game are Norfolk State, George Washington, Chattanooga, Air Force, and Binghamton. That selection of opponents contain the large majority of Michigan possessions against zones.

Michigan's offensive issue-type substances almost entirely go away when you consider just top 100 opponents; they're 9th per Torvik. The defense is third. That's a seven-game sample, so it's relatively robust.

*[venue-adjusted]

[After the JUMP: charts!]

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Unverified Voracity Wonders What You Checked

Unverified Voracity Wonders What You Checked Comment Count

Brian November 13th, 2018 at 2:10 PM

The Mark Dantonio background check. Michigan State "vetted" Auston Robertson after this incident:

Michigan State officials have said the university was aware of two criminal charges in Robertson's past. One was sexual in nature, and the other was not. He was charged in January 2016 with misdemeanor battery related to an incident during school in which he "rubbed and grabbed" a female classmate's groin area against her will in the fall of his senior year.

Robertson had "several other police reports documenting alleged sexual violence and misconduct" just waiting to be asked after. Two were for attempted rape. The victim in the misdemeanor described above told police of two earlier incidents. There were no fewer than five incidents of sexual assault during Robertson's high school career, described in police reports. MSU didn't bother looking for them.

No one from Michigan State requested information about Robertson's criminal history in Fort Wayne through formal records requests during the school's vetting process, according to the city's records department. …

Allen County (Indiana) Prosecutor Karen Richards said no one from Michigan State contacted her or her office for records or discussion about Robertson during the time that Michigan State was vetting him

What is the first thing you'd do if you were serious about vetting someone? That. Instead, Michigan State went through a sham process that put Robertson on campus. Predictably, he sexually assaulted someone within the first year. He's now facing three years in prison.

Mark Dantonio put the MSU student body at risk because he didn't care one iota whether or not Robertson was a threat. If you don't think the Larry Nassar attitude extends to football and basketball, you are wrong.

In related news, Curtis Blackwell is suing various MSU people after being made the fall guy for the three guys who got expelled for a sexual assault that got pled down to "seduction" and a former employee is suing after MSU was unresponsive to harassment allegations against a union head.

This seems good. The Solid Verbal compiles points per drive stats in conference play:

Michigan near the top of both lists; OSU near the bottom. Maryland vastly improved! Every other weekend.

Press conferences have gotten weird. Mostly talkin' snakes these days:

Junior running back Tru Wilson, who finished with eight carries for a career-high 58 yards on Saturday, faced the media. Wilson didn’t receive any questions about his previous game.

But he got plenty about his pet snake, Mako.

“He’s just getting done shedding, so I haven’t been able to play with him for the last week or so,” Wilson said. “I guess he’s blind when he sheds, so I guess it’s kinda dangerous — not dangerous, he’s not gonna kill me. The ball pythons are a very defensive creature.”

Doesn't Higdon have a snake, too? How many Michigan running backs have snakes?

[After THE JUMP: PFF stats, maybe they make waffles, sketchy Zach Smith stuff]

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The Evolution of Michigan's Three-Point Defense

The Evolution of Michigan's Three-Point Defense Comment Count

Matt Way June 27th, 2018 at 2:07 PM

[Ed-Ace: It's my pleasure to welcome Matt Way as a basketball contributor. Matt also contributes to bballbreakdown.com and his work has shown up in several corners of the basketball internets. As you'd expect, he'll be bringing an analytical bent with film breakdowns to match. We're very excited to have him on board, and you can follow him on Twitter @waymatth.]

Nine seasons into the John Beilein era, Michigan basketball still lacked a defensive identity. Beilein’s defenses had never finished in the top 35 nationally and they routinely failed spectacularly against good offenses. Opponents replicated the success that Michigan’s offense did in creating open looks from behind the arc.

Enter Billy Donlon.

As the primary defensive assistant, Donlon transformed a system focused primarily on not fouling into a more aggressive scheme which became among the best in the country at limiting three point attempts. His replacement, Luke Yaklich, improved on the foundation Donlon laid, resulting in Michigan fielding the third-best defense in the nation by year’s end.

Michigan Basketball Three-Point Defense Rankings    
Season Opp. 3PAr Opp. 3PT%
2014-15 217 178
2015-16 210 178
2016-17 8 314
2017-18 7 58
Per Sports-Reference.com    

Under Donlon and Yaklich, Michigan’s defense has become a top ten unit in terms of suppressing attempts from behind the arc. 

Research suggests that three-point defense at both the college and NBA levels is largely about preventing attempts. Certainly teams can control the quality of shots by closely contesting them, but once the ball is released, a defense has no impact over whether it ultimately goes in. Contesting shooters is most impactful in its deterrence of the shot itself.

The variance in three-point defense is evident in Michigan’s opponents’ recent shooting percentages. Despite suppressing attempts in 2016-17, they were at the bottom of the barrel in terms of shooting percentage. Ranking similarly this past year while running a similar scheme, opponents shot significantly worse. Some of this likely relates to the quality of contests, but a lot of it is due to bad luck.

Yaklich’s iteration was better than its predecessors in one important area: defending screens. Where teams in the past took more casual routes chasing off-the-ball, last year’s team was aggressive in both fighting through picks and switching them.

[Hit THE JUMP for a deep dive into stats and video.]

Comments

Unverified Voracity Departs, Notably

Unverified Voracity Departs, Notably Comment Count

Brian June 1st, 2018 at 12:41 PM

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.

hoeglaw_thumb[1]

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Unverified Voracity Does Not Mention Any Nuns

Unverified Voracity Does Not Mention Any Nuns Comment Count

Brian March 30th, 2018 at 12:49 PM

Let's all sit quietly and think about the near future. SOUNDS GOOD GUYS NOBODY'S EXPLODING KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

OH NO

A HYPE VIDEO

SEVERAL OF YOU HAVE NOW EXPLODED MY BAD SPONGEBOB MEME?

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"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.

On Loyola:

"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:

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:

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.

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."

Etc.: How Villanova became VILLANOVA. KRACH tourney odds. Beilein, post-crash. Amateurism and Loyola. Title IX is no barrier to ending amateurism.

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Unverified Voracity FIGHTS IN THE STREETS

Unverified Voracity FIGHTS IN THE STREETS Comment Count

Brian March 28th, 2018 at 12:25 PM


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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:

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.

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Bricklayers

Bricklayers Comment Count

Brian March 26th, 2018 at 2:01 PM

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

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[Patrick Barron]

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.

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[Barron]

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.

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

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[Barron]

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.

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[After the jump: the most bonkers stat]

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Pre-Tourney Mailbag, Part Two: The Z Factor, Defensive Credit, Tightening The Rotation

Pre-Tourney Mailbag, Part Two: The Z Factor, Defensive Credit, Tightening The Rotation Comment Count

Ace March 14th, 2018 at 10:19 AM

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.

Brian also posted the Montana preview yesterday evening if you missed it, and those of you still filling out brackets are strongly encouraged to utilize Seth's bracket assist tool.

MAARch Madness, Moe Buckets, or The Z Factor?


Z's huge leap needs to hold. [Campredon]

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.]

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Moving Picture Pages: Iowa and Nebraska

Moving Picture Pages: Iowa and Nebraska Comment Count

Ace March 9th, 2018 at 3:06 PM

Now that the bounty of Big Ten Tournament GIFs has been posted, I wanted to revisit the weekend's tactical battles like I did with Monday's post on the Purdue game. Today's post will cover the Iowa and Nebraska games. I'll have another one on the MSU game and probably a bit more on Purdue, too.

To the pictures, moving and otherwise.

Iowa: Shutting Down Bohannon, Evil Beilein Overtime Set

Switching and stealing led to easy points. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

BREAKING BOHANNON

The top priority for any team that plays Iowa is stopping guard Jordan Bohannon, a 30-foot pull-up three-pointer waiting to happen. While one such shot sent this game into overtime, Bohannon otherwise made only 2-of-10 threes, and his lack of volume was just as important as his lack of makes. He went for a 13-minute stretch in the first half without attempting a triple and had another eight-minute long-range drought in the second. Four of his attempts came in the final minute of regulation or the overtime period.

While Bohannon was nearly the hero, he finished with only 11 points on 15 shot equivalents. The defense allowed Michigan to avoid an upset despite a brutal 3-for-19 performance from beyond the arc on the other end.

How did Michigan accomplish this? While Zavier Simpson has deservedly received a lot of credit, it also extends to the entire squad. Luke Yaklich deployed a switch-heavy scheme to prevent Bohannon from getting open looks and the team executed it with precision. Michigan not only slowed Iowa's most dangerous scorer but came up with eight steals in the process, which led to some easy buckets

Here's my favorite defensive possession of the game. The whole team plays it perfectly, and Simpson's ability to cover, and hold, a lot of ground stands out. He's circled in blue in these screencaps; the clock is circled to emphasize the speed at which all this occurs. Michigan's defense was flying.

Simpson picks up Bohannon at halfcourt but takes a hard pick, something Teske or Livers likely should've called out. While he gets over it, he ends up switching onto the screener, Tyler Cook—Iowa's 6'9", 255-pound post threat.

Iowa goes at this size mismatch right away, posting Cook on Simpson and clearing the near side of the court for him to go to work.

Cook only gets a couple dribbles—and nowhere near the hoop—before Jon Teske comes over for a well-timed double-team. As doubles go it's very low-risk; by clearing out for Cook, Iowa has no spacing on the weak side, so three Wolverines effectively cover four Hawkeyes. Cook doesn't have much of a choice but to kick it back out.

The ball quickly swings to Bohannon, and Luke Garza comes over to set a quick high screen. Simpson takes a brief pause to make sure Garza doesn't slip to the basket...

...then gets over to trap Bohannon in a flash, closing any window for a shot. Bohannon has to swing it back to Garza; Livers gets back on him before he can do anything.

Bohannon and Garza reset and try another quick screen. Simpson fights over the top, passes Bohannon off to Livers, and swings back around on Garza, closing off the pop for a three while Livers prevents a pull-up or drive from Bohannon.

Garza cuts hard to the hoop and Simpson hangs with him, anchoring in the post and holding surprisingly decent position. It doesn't matter, as Bohannon tries an aimless crossover, goes to pick up his dribble, and gets stripped by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who's close enough to take a calculated gamble.

In motion:

Bohannon got only six three-pointers off in halfcourt sets and made two—one when Livers blew the switch, the other on a 25-foot pull-up. The final score may have been close, but Michigan held the nation's #19 offense (yes, the Hawkeye defense is very bad) to 0.95 points per possession, a huge drop from the 1.09 PPP they posted in Big Ten play.

[Hit THE JUMP to see how Beilein freed up Robinson in OT, his adjustments to Nebraska's defense, and more.]

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