The All-Beilein Teams: Bench Mob

The All-Beilein Teams: Bench Mob

Submitted by Ace on April 19th, 2017 at 1:39 PM

In fine form. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Previously: All-Bench

John Beilein has spent ten seasons in Ann Arbor. As of the most recent, he's the winningest coach in program history with 215. He snapped Michigan's post-sanction tournament drought in 2009, the first of seven NCAA appearances with the Wolverines, three of which have extended at least into the second weekend.

In recognition of the above, as well as the need for offseason #content, I've put together a series of All-Beilein teams, inspired by this twitter post and the ensuing conversation. My guidelines:

  1. I'm attempting to put together the best possible lineups, which isn't necessarily the same as picking the best individual players at each spot.
  2. I'm choosing individual player vintages (i.e. 2013 Trey Burke). A player can only be chosen once for each category, but different player years (i.e. freshman bench gunner 2014 Zak Irvin and well-rounded senior 2017 Zak Irvin) can be eligible for separate categories. The same player/year can be chosen for multiple categories—for instance, 2013 Mitch McGary making the All-Bench team doesn't exclude him from making the final All-Beilein team.
  3. Eligibility for certain categories may be slightly fudged because of the limited pool of players.

I'm not putting too many constraints on myself for this exercise since the point is to let our imaginations run wild. Speaking of running wild, this team is a little different than the others: today's group is comprised of the best contributors to the Bench Mob.

RINGLEADER: 2013-14 ANDREW DAKICH

The only member of the Bench Mob to merit his own highlight video. Dakich peaked in this role in 2013-14, when he could be the exuberant youngster instead of an assistant coach in the making. He's the ideal captain of a Bench Mob: he'll dance in the pregame huddle, be the first off the bench to greet players after a timeout, make a scene after a big shot, and coach up the point guards on the best way to approach the high ball screen. It won't be easy to fill (and leap out of) his seat.

Honorable Mention: 2012-13 Josh Bartelstein. Another walk-on who became a team leader, Bartelstein isn't your traditional hyper-excited bench fixture. Anyone with ESP, however, deserves serious consideration for the first team.

If we were ranking legendary Bench Mob moments, this would be at the top.

[Hit THE JUMP.]

Basketbullets: Purdue Part 2

Basketbullets: Purdue Part 2

Submitted by Brian on March 7th, 2013 at 1:14 PM

3/6/2013 – Michigan 80, Purdue 75 – 25-5, 12-5 Big Ten

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You'd be forgiven if you hurled your cookies at the trough of Michigan's lurching roller-coaster of an evening last night. To go from 12 up to 12 down is a painful 20 minutes of basketball, and after the Penn State debacle the prospect of yet another gross loss way out of proportion to how difficult it is to play on the road loomed.

I went into "if you can't say anything nice…" mode on twitter; judging from the tenor on WTKA today many people who did not probably should have. Our reactions to the swings in basketball games are interesting: everyone is happy if Michigan had fallen behind by 12, gone up 12 in the second half, and saw their lead whittled down to five by the end. It seems like people judge these things like Kenpom's wingraphs do:

image

That black time when Purdue built their peak is the thing that seems to be lingering on in people's minds today, because Purdue isn't very good this year. I'm among the grumbly crowd today even though I think I should rationally say that the order of points isn't important just so long as you pile up the expected number before the end of the game, which Michigan just about did. While Purdue's not great, the line here was 6 according to both computers and Vegas, and Michigan was a free throw from hitting it.

And yet. It seems like Michigan's playing with fire and calling in Trey Burke to put it out once you accidentally get it on the cat and he spreads it through the house. Trey got that glint in his eye because Terone Johnson made at least one bad decision amongst his impressive barrage of lane runners:

Burke said he was spurred by some good-natured trash talk by the Boilers' Terone Johnson and his younger brother, Ronnie.

"Both of them. The Johnson brothers and a couple others," Burke said. "We knew it was going to be that type of game. Purdue is coming off a win at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin."

Burke said it was the run-of-the-mill trash talk, such as, "You can't guard me" after made baskets.

"I think it got me going — that shouldn't be something that gets me going but I was passive a lot in the first half," said Burke, who added seven assists and five rebounds in 37 minutes.

I cannot imagine what would possess oneself to poke something as spiky as Trey Burke. I guess 32 points on a bunch of tough shots. In any case, Burke activated alpha dog mode down the stretch and clawed Michigan back into the game, as he is wont to do and Michigan plays for a second consecutive Big Ten title on Sunday.

That's a lot of weight on one man's shoulders, even the player of the year. Kemba Walker teaches that it is possible for some dude to drag teams to glory; it's a lot easier when he's got significant backup. Michigan got it in this game… on offense. Right now anyone disqualifying Michigan from serious things because of a lagging defense is hard to argue with.

Photos

From Bryan Fuller:

Bullets

Trey usual. Burke had a couple of free trips to the line late but otherwise earned all of his 26. He earned most of those down the stretch. Those came on 24 shot equivalents. That's not a great ratio out of context. In context you're sucking up almost 40% of Michigan's possessions and carrying Michigan back from a huge deficit, so scraping above a PPP is pretty dang good. I'm not even sure the passivity Burke bemoaned is that big of a deal. The story of Michigan's first half offense was missing point-blank shots.

Meanwhile it was the usual in A:TO: 7-1, and he added the three or so steals that's becoming customary*. He had a number of those one handed-floaters where he puts the ball up and yoinks his hand back like it is a hot potato:

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These go in more than it seems they should. (Fuller)

When Michigan was climbing up their second-half hill, Trey alternated between being an alpha dog at people and seeming super pissed off when other folks—usually Stauskas—were not getting him the ball. Stauskas was getting to the line consistently. This is the only thing that saved him from the wrath of Burke.

Speaking of…

*[Q: Trey gets credit when he pokes a ball out from behind and it goes to another player, right? Or is it the guy who secures the ball? If it's the latter Trey probably got shortchanged since his teammates corralled some balls that were set free by his on-ball D.]

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Ouch. (Fuller)

Hello Mr. Stauskas, nice to see you again. Michigan's shiner-sporting Canadian got a sly "not just a shooter"-type compliment early in the game when he drove into the lane. Everybody drink. By the end of it Stauskas had attacked the basket so consistently that the announcers did not even bother to mention he could do things other than shoot when he drew his third shooting foul of the half. IIRC, one of his trips to the line was a freebie when he got hit away from the basket with Michigan in the bonus; even so his ratio of attempts inside the line to attempts outside was 8:4.

He also locked down DJ Byrd, who had three points on seven shots and couldn't find an uncontested three all night. It was his best game in a long time.

You'd like him to hit more of those swooping layups, I guess, but at least he's now getting the block/charge calls he wasn't earlier in the year. He suffered some truly horrendous decisions on those early in the year. Refs probably assumed he was just a shooter. No more! For now.

Rough night for Mitch. 3/4 shooting but only 13 minutes, 3 fouls, two TOs, and zero rebounds. Michigan got beat up on the boards 24%/38% and the bigs take the brunt of the blame there. McGary, Horford, Bielfeldt, and Morgan played 42 minutes and acquired five rebounds between them, with only two of those on the defensive end. Yech.

It seems like Tim Hardaway is not shooting well even when he is sometimes. Tim was partially responsible for the missed bunny parade; he still finished 3/7 from both inside and outside the arc. That is… pretty good, actually. Yeah, a couple of those buckets came in transition but when one is a thunderous and-one that came because you made a move to get past a guy trying to take a charge that's still a point earned.

And yet it seems like Hardaway scuffled. I don't know man.

Hi I'm Matt Vogrich. Hi Matt.

I'm leaving now. I'm Matt Vogrich. Bye Matt. Thanks for hitting a three this time.

Halftime run: all right OH WHAT THE… Michigan came out of the locker room seemingly poised for Beilein Patented Halftime Adjustment run, getting the first two baskets out of the break. Then they scored two to Purdue's 11 over the next five minutes. Oy.

The sixth-most irritating thing about college basketball refereeing. Guy puts two hands on midsection of opponent and gets away with it. Happens 92.3% of the time. Should be a clear-cut call: bring both hands down to check opponent, make even vague contact, call.

Sliding. Kenpom's reflecting the eye test when it comes to Michigan's defense, which was floating in the high 30s midway through the conference season but has now slipped to 60th—coincidentally the exact place they finished 2012. If they stay there, some team is going to raid them and there's nothing Burke or anyone will be able to do about it.

It's disappointing. You'd think that they'd move the other direction since they're so young and hypothetically getting better faster than older teams who are closer to a full grasp of what their coach wants them to do.

Stupid half court heave and stupid Penn State game. Without those, Michigan has locked up a share and Indiana is playing for one.

Random thing about hypothetical tourney matchup that will almost certainly be irrelevant. Whenever someone posts a bracket and says they like or do not like the matchups therein there is always the guy who says they will boil themselves alive if VCU is a potential second-round matchup. I say bring the Rams on:

John Gasaway@JohnGasaway

VCU 100% dependent on (huge) TO margin. A-10 opponents actually shooting better than Rams.

I'll take that strength versus VCU's many other weaknesses in the matchup game.

Now everyone will kill me if we lose to VCU in the second round. I should have said nothing.

Alpha Dog

Alpha Dog

Submitted by Brian on December 10th, 2012 at 12:09 PM

12/8/2012 – Michigan 80, Arkansas 67 – 9-0

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mgouser Blazefire wins a cookie for being inside my brain / Dustin Johnston/UMHoops

A guy named Kikko Haydar popped off the bench, and John Beilein wondered who he was. So did the rest of Crisler. It turned out we already knew him: Haydar is from the Merritt/Lee school of useful walk-on that Michigan fans know so well. He hit a three, and then another, and then another, and when Michigan lost him again in the second half Kikko Haydar got a Nik Stauskas Memorial Road Crowd Groan. It was warranted. He hit it.

This is a problem. Some walk-on jumping off the bench to pick up 12 points on 5 shots throws a wrench in many of your victory plans, especially when this is part of a team-wide 60% effort from behind the line. For most teams, it is a problem that affects your win-loss record and makes everybody sad. For Michigan, it affects their Kenpom ranking in a displeasing way and just makes super-nerd subscribers to Kenpom slightly annoyed that Pitt has jumped Michigan and I mean seriously Ken let's get some margin of victory capping up in here. I may or may not be in the latter group.

Anyway. When an overeager Haydar picked up the blocking foul in the shot above, he laid on the floor theatrically for a moment, and then Tim Hardaway Jr. helped him up. Haydar smacked his hands together and smiled. Dollars to donuts he thought something like we are going to lose but at least I've got a story to tell about the time I rained on future NBA players. His parents are both professors, I mean.

Arkansas did lose. By a lot, while shooting 60% on 17 threes.

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

Arkansas made a push in the second half thanks to a bunch of Michigan turnovers and their unconscious three-point shooting, and I had an experience I only recognized as strange afterwards: I was annoyed. Not frightened or despairing or waiting for the inevitable thing that always happens to happen, like any sports fan who's watched a frustrating outfit has. Annoyed.

Like when Penn State scored on a screen to bring the Pit Bull game to within a touchdown. You know, this game:

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Annoyed because the scoreboard isn't going to reflect what happened here today.

I thought back to watching Beilein's first team against Boston College, 3-3 on their way to 10-22. The BC game was the first one against a real opponent in Crisler, and I remember thinking the second-half run the Eagles used to put the game away was something bound to happen to this collection of young guys without much direction. A few players who saw the floor for at least 25% of Michigan's minutes: Zack Gibson, Jevohn Shepherd, Anthony Wright, Ron Coleman. Lee and Merritt were still a year away from maximum playing time. At some point you're going to have a collection of players out there that loses the plot, and then that's that.

Saturday I had the exact opposite experience. This team is too good and too deep and just too damn efficient to let a middling team keep it close even when they execute their impression of Beilein's first team.

So: here we are. It took nine games of watching these guys to go from thinking they're overrated to comparing them to the 2006 football team's defense. The capital-e Expectations have arrived, and are settling in for a long stay. This is going to be a different thing for all of us.

I spent large chunks of last year talking about how lovely it was to be able to appreciate a Michigan team with Novak and Douglass for exactly what they were, and be content with how they ended up as soon as they got that banner in Crisler. The loss to OHIO in the tournament sucked but it didn't suck in that way I know so well from hockey fandom:

The guys leaving brought Michigan from a program that hadn't been to the tournament since my dad was wearing his preposterous multicolor neon ski jacket to one that had been there three of four years, from a program that hadn't won the league since Joe Paterno was only kind of old to a sleeping giant with the alarm blaring in its ear. Their story is not Brandon Graham's. Their story isn't even Mike Martin's or Ryan Van Bergen's. It's better…

The loss doesn't erase the previous 34 games, or the previous hundred and change that saw Douglass set a record for the most games played in a career and Novak near it. The story of the outgoing guys is one of construction and triumph in the face of doubt. DJ Cooper going ham doesn't change that. Novak and Douglass have the luxury of exceeding all expectations, still and always.

These gentlemen do not have that luxury. They are too too good at basketball to lose to a short guy nailing a bunch of threes, as OHIO did last year. They are too too good to get flustered by a full-court press, or even see much of one.

This is no longer a scrappy program. This is a program that will step on your throat. It took nine games.

They are the hunted now.

Media

Shots from Bryan Fuller:

Bullets

Forty minutes of mildly annoying warmth with mosquitoes. Arkansas's vaunted press was rarely applied in this game, in part because Arkansas rarely got an opportunity to set it up because they weren't making many baskets—they stayed in it by making most of their makes worth three. When Arkansas did get a make and set up, Michigan broke the press with a couple passes and that was it. I don't recall a single turnover forced by the press.

That's another example of the growth on the team after they got flustered and behind 17-4 last year. This time out they were calm and prepared; they've now got four guys on the floor who are above-average handlers for their position most of the time, and a plan. Once Michigan got it to Burke it was over, and Arkansas knew it. Nice to prove that.

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BOX OUT! …is something Mike Anderson must scream in his sleep. Michigan—which I remind you is Michigan, a historically rebound-allergic team—outrebounded Arkansas. On Michigan misses. Yes. Michigan had 16 offensive rebounds to 15 Arkansas defensive rebounds. On the other side of the ball, it was 5 to 23.

This is something you could have predicted as Arkansas is horrendous at defensive rebounding and meh on offense; it's still something to marvel over. It's hard to remember that Mike Anderson took three Missouri teams to the tournament before moving to Arkansas, because the team Michigan just went up against looked Amakerian in its inability to do anything right. Just year two for him, I guess.

[@ right: Fuller]

Ruthlessly hacked to the bench. Matt Vogrich, we'll always have the 2011 Tennessee blowout in which you went 5-5 from the floor for 11 points in 16 minutes and got a gritty offensive rebound and a gritty steal and generally contributed to a huge fun tourney blowout that eventually produced this picture:

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He'll probably show up in a game or two this year when injury or foul trouble forces him to but it really looks like short of that he's joined the McLimans brigade. Which is something, because though he'd had a dismal start to this year Vogrich had some bonafides coming in and now he's seemingly done save for extenuating circumstances.

I can't say that's wrong—Vogrich was really not playing well. I'm just pointing it out as another example of Beilein changing his mind in ways some other coaches would not.

Now. Now. Now. That Caris LeVert hasn't done a whole lot in Vogrich's stead is actually evidence that the coaches are planning for this to be the year. LeVert has a lot more upside, and if he doesn't get there this year you can always try Vogrich again in February and make a decision as far as march goes. But Beilein went into this year thinking about LeVert's redshirt senior season; now he's thinking about ten to fifteen possessions in a game this march. That's the right call, I think.

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Fuller

Let's hear it for Horford. Another game without a shot attempt in which Jon Horford comes out seeming like a potentially key piece in some game down the stretch when Michigan is struggling with a post player. UMHoops highlighted this defensive possession that is an I be like dang moment:

Three blocks, four rebounds, and a steal in ten minutes on the floor is exactly what Michigan needs from Horford when the starting lineup is pouring in at least twelve per person. McGary and Horford are producing a lot of extra possessions, and the offense doesn't need that many more to be lethally efficient.

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Fuller

Little Big Dog is also a highly efficient peripheral scorer. He lead Michigan with 17 in this one and did it in two ways, mostly: on wide open shots from behind the line and on layups/dunks other people set up. Robinson has the athleticism to make those assisted interior buckets extremely high percentage and is beginning to finish through contact effectively, but Michigan doesn't really run anything from or through him. He's there to finish, clean up, and shoot when you sag off him, and he's doing all of those exceptionally well: he's got a top 100 ORtg, a low TO rate, and a top 250 OReb rate.

Part of the reason this team is playing so well is it has guys who are extremely effective without the ball, and Robinson is probably the best example of that.

BONUS DAWSON COMPARISON CHECK-IN: Creepy, in fact.

  • Rebounding rate (O/D): Robinson 11.6/14.3, Dawson 11.2/13.2
  • Twos: Robinson 32/53, 60%. Dawson 47/77, 61%
  • FTs (FT rate/FT%): Robinson 39/76%, Dawson 28/45% (he was 60% last year FWIW)
  • A/TO rate (A/TO): Robinson 7.3/13.8, Dawson 13/25.6

Dawson has a higher usage rate by a few points and seems to be in a situation where he's being asked to generate some offense of his own. The big differences are in shooting (big edge to GRIII, who's hitting 38% from three and is a non-liability on the line) and defense (statistically a big edge to Dawson, who is blocking a ton of shots and getting a ton of steals; in this case I think those statistics bear out a real difference since GRIII is not an impact defender by any stretch of the imagination).

Hardaway complete player watch. Michigan's an extraordinarily good defensive rebounding team this year, currently fourth behind some small schools. They'll come back to earth some in the Big Ten like they did last year. I don't expect that will be nearly as harsh that decline to ninth in the league, though, as you've got Robinson replacing Novak, McGary and Horford replacing Smotrycz, and Tim Hardaway's massive improvement in this category pushing things over the top. Hardaway is mere decimal points away from passing Jordan Morgan in DR%.

Spike! Albrecht isn't giving Burke much more of a rest than he had last year—Burke minutes have dropped only 5%—but he is proving a nice player to have around. In this game he hit a key three and pushed a partial break off the press to set up GRIII for one of his layups. On both plays he showed a confidence that belied his class status if not his years—he's actually a few months older than Burke.

He's probably never going to be a starter aside from a few games at the beginning of next year before the Derrick Walton era gets under way, but he's an excellent guy to have around steadying the ship for the next few years. Burke and Beilein on Spike:

"There was a time around the seven- or eight-minute mark (of the second half) where it was just up and down for about six or seven possessions," Burke said after Michigan's 80-67 win over Arkansas. "I don't know if I had gotten a foul or what, but there was a dead ball and I was pretty tired because it was just non-stop.

"But Spike did a great job. And coach Beilein did a great job of getting guys in and out."

And, sure enough, moments after entering the game with under eight minutes to go Saturday, Albrecht made a difference. The freshman backup point guard nailed a 3-pointer to push Michigan's lead up to seven.

The next trip down the court, he found Glenn Robinson III for a layup. When he left the game two minutes later, the Wolverines were up nine and things were basically in hand.

"Spike was terrific, wasn't he?" Beilein remarked afterward. "I don't think he had a turnover, his numbers were terrific and they continue to be. He really helps us."

John Beilein is good at talent evaluation. E-fact.

Morgan silly foul re-evaluation watch. Repeating myself here but when Morgan shot out to the perimeter to get a silly foul on a screen hedge late in the first half, my reaction would have been…

vader[1]

http://nooooooooooooooo.com/

…last year and has now become…

meh[1]

…and this was a game that Morgan was dominating. I was just like "okay McGary or Horford will maintain approximately this level of play" and that was basically right. I like depth! It's fun.

Three headed-center totals in this one normalized to 40 minutes (they got 49): 15 points on 53% shooting, 16 rebounds, 8 of them offensive, 3 blocks, 3 TO, 2 steals. That center spot may be the least glamorous on the team but it is producing as well as any of the other starters.

Elsewhere

UMHoops recap plus five key plays. Also more photos from Dustin Johnston. He got a goodun of the hanging on the rim tech:

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I was not surprised when they called that, FWIW, and don't care if it was slightly unsportsmanlike. (Neither does anyone else.) Look how much joy he is bringing Mitch McGary. Mitch McGary only feels that much joy six to eight times an hour. Would you rob him of that?

Wojo:

There's a new ceiling for Michigan basketball these days, and it figuratively extends from the top of the polished Crisler Center straight to the shiny floor. You could argue the structure, from the arena to the team, looks as good as it ever has — and expectations are higher than they've ever been.

The Wolverines aren't some quick-shooting oddity anymore. They're deep, talented and feisty, and here's the notion that should warm Michigan fans — they're getting tough in the trenches, with the size and gumption to rebound.

John Beilein is not impress. Dave Telep hypes up Derrick Walton. Recruiting roundup. Hardaway's not shooting well but other things he's doing mean no one's noticed. Nesbitt column.

Hoops Preview 2012-13: The Rotation, Part I

Hoops Preview 2012-13: The Rotation, Part I

Submitted by Ace on October 12th, 2012 at 3:15 PM

Previously: Early Outlook

It may be the middle of football season, but it's already time to gear up for basketball; Michigan tips off the 2012-13 season against Northern Michigan on November 1st, a scant three weeks from yesterday. Leading up to the opener I'll be doing a comprehensive preview, starting with a look at the rotation—guards/wings today, bigs next week—and then moving on to the schedule, a look at the Big Ten competition, and important questions facing the team this season.

Let's take a look at the guards/wings, shall we?

Returners: PG Trey Burke, SG/SF Tim Hardaway Jr., PG Eso Akunne, SG/SF Matt Vogrich, SG Josh Bartlestein, SG Corey Person
Departures: SG Stu Douglass
Newcomers: PG Spike Albrecht, SG Nik Stauskas, SG Caris Levert

Note: Freshman Glenn Robinson III could easily—and probably should be—included in this post with the wings, but since he's expected to see time at the four and there are more guards/wings than bigs on the roster, he'll be featured in next week's post.

POINT GUARDS

#3 TREY BURKE (Soph.)

Ht./Wt.: 6'0", 190 lbs.
2011-12 Key Stats: 34 GP (33 GS), 14.8 points/game, 4.6 assists/game, 49.0 2P%, 34.8 3P%, 28.7% assist rate, 1.7 FC/40

Michigan received a huge scare over the offseason when it appeared that Burke would declare for the NBA Draft, but he's returned for at least one more season in the Maize and Blue after earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors from the media in 2011-12. Despite the presence of Tim Hardaway Jr., it was Burke who became the team's go-to guy down the stretch as the season wore on, notably hitting an improbable floater over Jared Sullinger to seal a win over Ohio State and exploding for 30 points against Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament.

Despite being much smaller than his point guard predecessor, Darius Morris, Burke showed the ability last season to score in a variety of ways, including getting to the basket off the pick-and-roll. While his outside shooting stroke lacked consistency, he still managed to hit nearly 35% of his threes, and Slam Magazine declared that area of his game "improved" after June's Nike Skills Camp. Given his adept passing, if Burke is able to become a ~40% three-point shooter he'll be as lethal a point guard as there is in the country.

If there's one area to improve upon offensively, it's Burke's ability to handle the hard hedge on the pick-and-roll; he struggled with turnovers when teams doubled hard with a big off the screen. That's an area that will improve with experience, though Burke's lack of size means that will still be the way to most effectively limit him.

Defensively, Burke impressed for a freshman; he very rarely fouls (just 1.7 committed per 40 minutes) and is quick enough to stay in front of just about anyone. He hounded Wisconsin standout Jordan Taylor into a 12-point outing on just 5-15 shooting in a victory last January, impressively shutting down the bigger Taylor on multiple post-up attempts; his size belies his strength, and he'll only get stronger after adding ten pounds in the offseason.

Burke is in line to compete for first-team All-America honors this season; he's the proverbial straw that stirs the drink in Beilein's pick-and-roll-heavy offense, and he's no slouch defensively, either.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the guards and wings, including Tim Hardaway Jr. and a trio of talented freshmen.]

Basketball Season Review: Guards

Basketball Season Review: Guards

Submitted by Ace on March 29th, 2012 at 10:41 AM


Photo by Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

Now that the disappointment stemming from an early NCAA tournament exit has largely melted away—replaced instead by a crippling fear that Trey Burke will go pro in similarly too-soon fashion—it's time to take a look back on the 2011-12 basketball season. Heading into the season, expectations weren't particularly high after the early departure of Darius Morris, and the burden was largely placed on Burke to get Michigan back to the tournament. From my season preview:

This year's team appears poised for a potential top-25 season and another tournament run, but much of those expectations rely on a smooth transition from a star in Morris to a true freshman in Burke while other players—most notably Hardaway and Smotrycz—pick up the scoring slack and keep the offense running smoothly. With a difficult non-conference slate that includes a brutal draw in the Maui Invitational, plus playing in a Big Ten conference ranked by KenPom as the nation's toughest, this looks to me like a team that will spend much of the season squarely on the tournament bubble.

Exceeding those expectations means that we either see vast improvement from key role players, a huge breakout from Tim Hardaway, or a fantastic freshman year out of Burke—none of those are out of the question, but none are certainties, either. If Michigan suddenly finds that they can't create inside scoring chances without Morris's penetration, or Hardaway spends the season trying to carry the offense by chucking up less-than-ideal shots, Michigan could fall short of their goals as the fanbase begins to look ahead to the arrival of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas in 2012-13.

Michigan spent most of the season not on the tournament bubble, but firmly in the top 25, thanks to a fantastic freshman campaign from Burke. A late-season push, coupled with a little help from Ohio State, brought the team a share of its first Big Ten title in my lifetime. The team stumbled in the postseason, getting demolished by the Buckeyes in the conference tourney before bowing out to OHIO in the NCAAs, but there's no arguing that the season was a rousing success.

Today's review covers the guards—before you ask, Zack Novak gets lumped in with the forwards—and looks at their highlights, lowlights, and expectations for next year:

Trey Burke

Preseason Expectations: Burke headed into the season as the big question mark on the team. We knew the freshman was talented, likely beyond what his recruiting profile would suggest, but would he pick up the offense quickly enough to carry the burden of being the team's lone true point guard?

Postseason Reality: Burke not only grasped John Beilein's complicated offense quickly, but proved to be a dymanic scorer with an on-court maturity well beyond that of the average freshman. He scored in double figures in all but four games and played 30+ minutes in every game after the season opener, including three 45-minute efforts. Burke's quickness and finishing ability made him tough to handle on the pick-and-roll, which became the staple of Michigan's offense, and he was also adept leading the fast break. He also held up well defensively, posting the lowest foul rate on the team despite playing in a conference chock-full of talented point guards. Burke had his freshman moments, struggling a bit against larger guards and aggressive hedging, but he was the clear-cut best player on the team. The only question now is if Burke was a little too good, at least when it comes to the prospects of next year's squad.

Highlight: For a single play, Burke's improbable floater off the high glass to seal the Ohio State victory stands out above the rest, doubly so because he made the shot over childhood friend and future lottery pick Jared Sullinger. For a game, however, I'm going with his 30-point outburst against Minnesota in the first round of the BTT, as the freshman carried the offense in what was otherwise an ugly slog—Burke shot 11-14 from the field, the rest of his teammates a combined 13-35. Burke played every minute of the game, and Michigan needed all of his production in a three-point overtime victory.

Lowlight: The next day wasn't as kind, as Burke—gassed from playing 45 minutes the night before and matched up against B1G DPOY Aaron Craft—was just 1-11 from the field with eight turnovers in a 22-point loss to Ohio State. The larger Buckeyes exploited Michigan's lack of size across the board, giving Burke little room to operate, and the game got out of hand in a hurry.

Key Numbers: 28.7% assist rate, 49.0 2pt%, 34.8 3pt%, 1.7 fouls committed/40 minutes.

Next Year: PLEASE COME BACK. If Burke returns, he'll once again carry the load at the point, as Michigan is hoping to land either a grad-year transfer or true freshman to provide some backup help. Most of Burke's improvement should come from a full year in a college strength program and a greater understanding of Beilein's offense—remember the second-year leap of Morris—which should help him learn how to deal with big, aggressive defenses. There are little things, like leaving his feet on the baseline without knowing where he's going with the ball, that Burke needs to work on. That's picking nits, however, and if he returns he should contend for All-America honors.

Stu Douglass

Preseason Expectations: Knock down some threes, play the usual solid perimeter defense, spell Burke at the point on occasion, and provide critical senior leadership.

Postseason Reality: The numbers don't jump off the page, but that was never the expectation from a willing role player. Douglass not only was the team's top perimeter defender and an outside shooting threat—he developed into a reliable second ball-handler and had a knack for getting to the rim, an aspect of his game that was entirely nonexistent until this season. Douglass knew how to avoid mistakes on both ends of the floor, posting a very solid 14.4% turnover rate and committing just 2.2 fouls per 40 minutes. Though he never developed into a lights-out shooter, Douglass helped the team in so many ways—especially on defense—that the numbers probably don't do his contribution justice. He stepped into the starting lineup when Evan Smotrycz struggled in Big Ten play, gave Burke the space to run the team, and matched up against the opposing team's best scorer on most nights—nobody will ever accuse Stu of not being a team player.

Highlight: Douglass's best game came on the road at Northwestern, as he helped push the team to an overtime victory with 12 points (4-7 from three) and five assists while shutting down a red-hot Drew Crawford in the second half and OT.

Lowlight: Douglass struggled down the stretch, shooting a combined 6-18 and dishing out just four assists over the team's last three games.

Key Numbers: 15.0% assist rate, 14.4% TO rate, 83.9 FT%

Next Year: Farewell, Stu. Douglass has graduated and will likely pursue a pro career overseas.

Tim Hardaway Jr.

Preseason Expectations: After an outstanding freshman season, Hardaway was expected—perhaps unfairly, given his greater first-year production—to make a Morris-like leap to superstardom as a sophomore. Leading the team in scoring was a given, even if it meant a slight dropoff in efficiency, as was contention for postseason honors.

Postseason Reality: While Hardaway's per-game numbers weren't bad at all—14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists—his long-range shooting was inconsistent at best. THJ finished the season shooting 53.5% from two on 235 attempts, a solid improvement over his first season, but just 28.3% from three on 187 attempts, a big dropoff. Tasked with creating his own shot more often, Hardaway struggled with his shot selection, often launching unnecessary long twos or contested threes early in the shot clock. Though he showed flashes of All-American potential, getting hot from the outside or finally using his superior athleticism to get to the basket, he never appeared fully comfortable with his shot, even battling a late-season swoon at the free-throw line. Issues with ballhandling—despite posting a low 14.4% turnover rate—and defensive effort also appeared at times during the season. It wasn't all bad—Hardaway finished the season strong and had several great games throughout—it just wasn't the year everyone, including Hardaway, was expecting.

Highlight: Michigan traveled to Illinois for a critical late-season contest in the midst of Hardaway's funk, and he snapped out of it to the tune of 25 points on 6-7 shooting (9-10 from the line) and 11 rebounds. THJ also scored 20 on 8-13 shooting and dished out four assists in the win over UCLA and poured in a season-high 26 against Penn State.

Lowlight: The dream of sweeping Michigan State twice in as many years met a rude reality in the Breslin Center, as Hardaway managed a season-low 4 points while connecting on just 1-10 shots from the field.

Key Numbers: 4.7 fouls drawn/40 minutes, 53.5 2pt%, 28.3 3pt%

Next Year: It's all but assured that Hardaway will return next season, and with Michigan losing Evan Smotrycz, Stu Douglass, and Zack Novak, he'll have to improve his shot selection from beyond the arc and bring that 3pt% at least close to where it was his freshman year (37%). Whether Burke stays or goes, Hardaway should also work on his handle, as too many times he simply lost the ball while driving into the paint. Mainly, however, Hardaway's 2012-'13 outlook depends on his mental approach; if he's willing to take the ball to the basket more often and play within the offense, his numbers will improve and so should the team. If that happens, we'll see the Hardaway many were afraid would be making the leap to the NBA by now.

Matt Vogrich

Preseason Expectations: A few quality minutes off the bench while displaying the shooting prowess that made him one of the country's top long-range gunners in high school.

Postseason Reality: Vogrich didn't get a lot of burn, playing 26.5% of available minutes, in large part because his 30.2 3pt% mark fell short of expectations. However, Vogrich showed improvement on defense as well as a Novakian ability to come away with a surprising number of offensive rebounds. He also finished better at the rim this season, hitting 13 of his 23 two-point attempts. The long-range shooting, however, is what he's here for, and the significant dropoff from his freshman and sophomore years was worrisome.

Highlight: As Michigan once again needed overtime to put away Northwestern in Evanston, Vogrich hit 3-6 from deep and even chipped in two assists and a block. His nine points were a season high outside of his 11 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Lowlight: A 4-16 slump over a 10-game span in December and January really hampered Vogrich's overall numbers, and unfortunately also coincided with shooting woes from Hardaway and Smotrycz.

Key Numbers: 3.6 OR%, 56.5 2pt%, 30.2 3pt%

Next Year: Vogrich will have a role, but how large of one will depend on his shot with two-guard Nik Stauskas coming to campus as a highly-regarded shooter. If Vogrich can continue to hit the boards, he should get minutes in a thin backcourt, but in the end it all comes down to whether or not he connects from three. I'm guessing he bounces back, as he shot much better in his first two seasons than he did this year.

Eso Akunne

Preseason Expectations: Provide emergency minutes if Trey Burke needs oxygen.

Postseason Reality: Akunne played just 48 minutes all year, and only 10 in Big Ten play, mostly at the point. He did hit 4-5 of his three-point attempts, but also had four turnovers to a lone assist while looking a bit uncomfortable as a primary ballhandler when faced with pressure.

Highlight: Played 12 minutes against Iowa State and was 2-2 from the field (1-1 from three) for a career-high 5 points.

Lowlight: Coughed the ball up twice in two minutes against Oakland.

Next Year: With so little depth at the point, Akunne might be called upon to play a few minutes. Making sure he's comfortable taking the ball upcourt against a press or trap would be helpful.

Carlton Brundidge

Preseason Expectations: Brundidge, despite the four-star recruiting profile, wasn't expected to have the impact of Burke. The big question was how the 6'1" slasher's game would translate to the college level.

Postseason Reality: Brundidge played four fewer minutes than Akunne and shot a combined 1-8 from the field. He never played more than four minutes in a conference game, had a scary midseason bout with asthma, and never looked like he'd settled into Beilein's offense or the pace of the college game in general.

Highlight: The freshman's lone made field goal came against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, when he played a season-high 12 minutes.

Lowlight: His post-season transfer.

Next Year: Brundidge was one of three players to transfer after the season, so here's hoping he lands on his feet and carves out a role for himself at another program.

Basketball Will Love Me Again

Basketball Will Love Me Again

Submitted by Brian on February 13th, 2012 at 12:02 PM

2/12/2012 – Michigan 70, Illinois 61 – 19-7, 9-4 Big Ten

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miss from the elbow; make from three
Detnews/AnnArbor.com

Sports have their own distinctive rhythms, sounds and moments and rituals that worm themselves into the observer's subconscious after repeated exposure. Basketball is rife with them. The seismic thud of the ball hitting the floor is shockingly tactile from time to time, especially during your first game of a new season. Back-to-back TV timeouts are agony and boredom. And the interval between a three-pointer's departure and arrival, when three fingers are raised in slow motion and a long heavy intake of breath fills the lungs, is the sort of intermittent reinforcement that ends with people saying "but she loves me… she's just misunderstood."

When those rhythms conspire against you in a cosmically unfair (and usually deeply random) fashion, building-wide manias develop. Rattling post after post in hockey, an avalanche of seeing-eye singles in baseball, the clang of iron on open look after open look—these things turn crowds into scalded, nervous things. When the shot goes up, the reaction is something it would take Steve Buscemi to adequately convey.

Oh no, here we go again
Maybe this time basketball will love me
Maybe this time basketball will care
Basketball is just misunderstood
No officer I would not like to press charges against basketball
Maybe next time
Probably next time
Definitely next time
Basketball is just misunderstood

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

When Tim Hardaway Jr. got an open-ish look from three early, he passed it up. He faked, got past the closeout, and took an open look from the elbow. He missed. He got another midrange jumper a minute later, which he missed. A minute after that he got an open look from three, and the building kind of moaned.

It was a complex moan. It acknowledged the fact that this was a very good shot and that if you are Tim Hardaway Jr. and you're not going to take this shot you probably shouldn't be on the floor at all and while there may be some basketball teams who could afford to bench Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan is emphatically not one of them. It also loathed everything about the preceding sentence because none of it meant Hardaway was at all likely to make it. It was a richly subtextual moan. Given enough time and processing power, Ken Pomeroy could calculate Hardaway's shooting percentage from it. He would find it is not high at all.

Hardaway made it anyway. The building thought maybe basketball would bring it flowers.

It was the other one, though, that really got hearts open again, really open and ready for a surprising reversal that is in no way surprising. It wasn't a good shot, really, but when you're 6'5" and can jump really high there are few truly contested threes. This has been a foundational component of Hardaway's game and seemed brilliant when he was hitting 42% of them. When you're hitting 27%, not so much. Hardaway was hitting 27% as he made a token move to the basket and stepped back for a semi-contested three.

He'd hit one earlier and maybe the wincing wasn't quite as overt as he rose up. This one was perfect. It hit nothing whatsoever on its way through the hoop.

Hardaway didn't push it. There was no heat check, because sometimes a thing like making more than half of your shots in a game is a delicate one that must be shepherded through dangers.

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

Hardaway wasn't the only struggler to prop up fading hopes of effectiveness. Matt Vogrich had eight points on three shots, all makes, and Novaked himself a game-changing play* when his super-quick rotation on Meyers Leonard condemned Leonard to the bench for most of the first half. Evan Smotrycz hit a couple threes and managed 13 points; though he turned the ball over twice he was also credited with four steals. Michigan did not get blown off the court in the long stretches where a foul-limited Morgan wasn't on it thanks in large part to Smotrycz.

Both Vogrich and Smotrycz followed Hardaway's example and didn't push it. Between the three of them they took eight threes and hit six. As a team Michigan attempted just 35% from beyond the arc. It was a strange mirror of the first half against Nebraska, when Michigan took two thirds of its shots from three against the worst interior defense in the league. Here they took most of their shots from two against one a team much better on the interior than the perimeter.

Whether that was just what Illinois does—they're second in the league at preventing three point attempts—or Michigan treating their newfound deep shooting touch like a Faberge egg, the end result was a building that did not moan. Primed to believe long shots could actually go through the net, when Vogrich rose in the second half there was just anticipation.

Long may it last. It won't last. It might last. Basketball has been more into flowers lately.

*[Except of course if Novak had tried to do the same thing they would have called a block on him because referees hate Novak even more than opposing fans do.]

Bullets Will Drive Us Apart

As always, rely on MGoBlog for your super accurate predictions. In the preview I openly quailed at the prospect of Meyers Leonard going up against Michigan's undersized front line. At halftime I felt like the six-point lead was a missed opportunity that would bite Michigan in the ass after Leonard returned from the game-changing charge Matt Vogrich took on him for his second foul. Leonard's 7'1" frame sauntered onto the court and… scored one point in the second half. He had all of three FGAs, all of which IIRC were putback attempts (he had four offensive rebounds).

That's the game right there. I'm not sure how much of that was Michigan's doing and how much was Illinois drifting away from the early game plan (in short: "ALL OF THE LEONARDS") in favor of whatever it was they decided to do instead.  It felt like Illinois didn't even bother looking inside much in the second half. When they did, doubles convinced Leonard to kick it out and active hands from Morgan and Smotrycz forced a number of turnovers. It's a tribute to someone on the coaching staff—maybe various someones—that this motely crew of iffy athletes and short guys finds itself an above-average Big Ten defense.

At least I was on point with the increased use of zone—plenty when Leonard was on the court—and the total uselessness of the backup center (zero points, two attempts both on offensive putbacks against McLimans in 14 minutes). Didn't see Tyler Griffey as the guy who would light up Michigan's sagging perimeter defense.

Player items. Hardaway, Vogrich, and Smotrycz are essentially covered above. All had efficient shooting days for a change; as a unit that put Michigan over the hump despite a 5 of 15 day from Trey Burke. It certainly didn't feel like a 5 of 15 day from Burke, but there it is.

Not much stands out from the boxscore except another game in which Michigan had the crap kicked out of it on the boards. Illinois rebounded 40% of its misses. Michigan is now significantly below average in both offensive (10th) and defensive (8th) rebounding. This is an obvious consequence of moving Douglass into the starting lineup after they cruised through the nonconference schedule seeming like a good to very good DREB team. Not that doing that was a bad idea.

The upside of that. Michigan got a ton of fast break and secondary transition points; in the second half when Illinois was crashing the boards hard anything that didn't end up getting rebounded by the trees fell to a shorter faster Michigan player and the resulting transition opportunity was often an odd-man break. I'd be interested to see a breakdown of Illinios points off of offensive rebounds versus points in transition when Michigan actually got the board. I'd guess it would be a small advantage to Illinois, but not one that outweighs the benefits of going small to Michigan's halfcourt offense.

Small sample size. Vogrich is 5/5 from three in his past two games. Result:

Prior to the Nebraska win, Vogrich was shooting 20.5 percent on the season. Now, after one solid week, he's up to 30.8 percent from downtown.

Big Ten… um… title? It is vaguely possible. Via UMHoops, the four contenders (I've taken the liberty of bolding games versus the top four):

MICHIGAN ST. (9-3) OHIO ST. (9-3) MICHIGAN (9-4) WISCONSIN (8-4)
  vs. Wisconsin (8-4) at Minnesota (5-7) vs. OSU (9-3) at MSU (9-3)
  at Purdue (6-6) at Michigan (9-4) at N’Western (5-7) vs. PSU (3-10)
  at Minnesota (5-7) vs. Illinois (5-7) vs. Purdue (6-6) at Iowa (5-7)
  vs. Nebraska (3-10) vs. Wisconsin (8-4) at Illinois (5-7) at OSU (9-3)
  at Indiana (7-6) at N’Western (5-7) at PSU (3-10) vs. Minnesota (5-7)
  vs. OSU (9-3) at MSU (9-3)   vs. Illinois (5-7)
KenPom 41.8 30.5 52.2 54
Home 3 2 2 3
Away 3 4 3 3

You'll note that Michigan is one of them and that their last game against the cream of the crop is their next one.

It will take either a huge closing run or a specific combination of results to get Michigan a banner; I'd say we can forget about it if Michigan loses against OSU. Unless OSU loses at Minnesota that would mean Michigan was two back with four games left.

If they managed the upset, though…

Thompson%27s_gazelles,_Masai_Mara,_Kenya[1]

Illinois team practice. In games they headbutt each other and are eaten.

Weber watch. The vibe I get from the various Illini fans whose blogs I read or who I follow on twitter is extreme frustration with Bruce Weber. That makes sense after concentrating on Illinois's play. The Illini are like a pack of gazelles: breathtaking to watch run around but utterly incapable of passing the ball. Gazelles have hooves, and this fact explains things. Only two or three of the Illini have hooves. The rest of that is on Weber.

I mean, Brandon Paul should be an All-American. Instead he has a lower ORtg than literally every Michigan player with enough playing time for Kenpom to register save Vogrich. If they miss the tourney dollars to donuts Weber is having his hissy fits at home next year*. Because he won't have a job. I'm saying they'll fire him.

*[Seriously. Weber's fits might be worse than those of Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo. At least Ryan and Izzo seem to have a tangible effect on their teams. The only way Weber's message is getting through is if he's screaming "DRIBBLE AIMLESSLY AND THEN TURN THE BALL OVER." I mean:

20120212163510_2012-0212-rb-UM-illinois032[1]

Detnews

Three of 22 pictures from the Detroit News gallery above feature Weber having a fit.]

Trillion watch. McLimans had a rare first-half trillion in four minutes.

Sold out? The game was technically sold out. Emphasis on "technically": large chunks of the upper-bowl endzones were empty the whole game. Who is buying those tickets and then ignoring them? I know they're not season tickets up there, so someone must be purchasing and then not using large chunks of the endzone upper decks. Strange.

Incredulous block/charge of the week. Brandon Paul's late first half clobberation of Trey Burke. Burke was set well outside the charge circle and Paul blew him up; this was an and-one instead of Paul's second. I haven't seen a replay but live it was a crazy call.

The only thing I can think might even vaguely justify the call is that Paul didn't hit Burke in the dead center of his chest. For some reason refs have a tendency to call blocks when a stationary defender takes an off-center or glancing blow from the offensive player. Why I don't know. In a situation like the Burke/Paul confrontation it seems like there are only two possible outcomes: a charge or a no-call. Referees disagree.

Elsewhere

UMHoops recap. They went inside the play with some Jordan Morgan bunnies. The Crimson Quarry breaks down Indiana's deployment of the 2-3 zone. Michigan ran a lot of 2-3 in the second half yesterday and may resort to it at times down the stretch when they're at a significant size disadvantage (most of the time). Just Cover on the argument about 8-10 Big Ten teams making the tournament.

Holdin' The Rope:

People are talking about seeding. A four, a five? There are distinct loci on the map of college basketball that Michigan now firmly occupies instead of the Purgatorial listlessness that once loomed over the program for over a decade. People are talking about Michigan's chances to win the conference title, regular season and tournament. That's not to say that Michigan will win either (the former hinges upon whether or not Michigan can beat the Buckeyes at home on Saturday), but people are talking about it. Think about how insane that is, as a concept and as a potential reality. A little over four years ago, Michigan was busy losing to an Amaker-coached Harvard squad, a moment in history that typifies the Universe's mischievous sense of humor.

It's worth noting that with Michigan's ninth win of the conference season they have permanently taken themselves off the bubble. For the first time since [REDACTED] Michigan's not going into Selection Sunday on pins an needles, even if they lose out. That was a preseason goal Michigan has met with authority.

AnnArbor.com on slumps ending(?). Daily on the limited Leonard opportunities and Michigan's remarkable performance given the Hardaway/Smotrycz slumps.

The Novelty Of A Dull Road Blowout

The Novelty Of A Dull Road Blowout

Submitted by Brian on February 9th, 2012 at 12:16 PM

2/8/2012 – Michigan 64, Nebraska 46 – 18-7, 8-4 Big Ten

429-WJo4E.AuSt.55[1]Michigan_Nebraska_Basketball.sff-b86f0cbb-bee8-440d-a559-e028a7003bd6[1]

First half, second half

I cannot pretend that last night's game inspired soaring emotions in me. It was (eventually) a routine blowout of a very bad basketball team and the most interesting bit was the three minutes at the beginning of the second half when Michigan pushed the lead out to an insurmountable margin.

While it's nice to be irritated about a seven-point halftime lead and despondent at what the late flurry did to Michigan's Kenpom rankings, let's just hit the bullets/analysis section posthaste.

Posthaste bullets

Always Hardaway first. Hardaway was 0/7 in the first half with five of those from three; in the second half he was 3/4 with the miss also from three and added three assists. He's still not rebounding much, though a single-game sample there is not reliable. Bad shots were significantly reduced. Most of his missed threes were good looks, and if there was a frustrating long two there was only one.

Progress or just playing Nebraska? We'll call the second half progress if only because the preceding 60 minutes were such poo. The nice thing about that half was the way Hardaway was used in the offense: catching off screens and diving to the basket without having to rely on his handle to beat a defender.

That should be a primary component of the offense going forward. Hardaway finished at the rim on a couple of those and hit Morgan for easy buckets on a couple others; the catch off the screen limits the time opponents have to sag off three point shooters and rake at Hardaway's dribble. Defenses will of course adjust to this, and then Michigan will have to move to something else in the cat and mouse game, but they'll be able to.

As for the shooting, I don't know. On WTKA this morning Craig Ross was advocating hypnosis, Ira was saying he needs to hook up with the hockey team's sports psychologist, and I declared Hardaway needed to commit a spine-shattering charge before being allowed to take a three. Then we decided all three should be implemented.

Beilein's offense is constructed such that Hardaway is going to have to take his share of threes, and as long as they're within the context of the offense that's fine. Eventually, one will go down.

Measuring the difference between Morris and Burke. Theory: Jordan Morgan usage is highly correlated with shot generation in general and especially by the point guard. Morgan's shooting percentage is unnaturally high because the vast bulk of his attempts are GRAAAA thunderdunks generated by the point guard (and Morgan's movement) or Morgan's ability to run the floor.

I was thinking about this during the game because the correlation between Morgan shot attempts and the efficiency of Michigan's offense was glaring. First half: one Morgan shot attempt (missed). Second half: four (all makes). Morgan usage is not only a sign of GRAAAA thunderdunks but an offense that is generating shots off of movement and penetration; it seems like it is correlated with increased eFG% from the rest of the team.

Anyway, Morgan-Morris-Burke survey says:

  • Morgan w/ Darius Morris: 20% of shots @ 63%, 10.7 OREB rate, 19.2 TORate.
  • Morgan w/ Trey Burke: 16.4% of shots @ 65%, 11.9 OREB rate, 25.7 TORate.

[OREB rate and TORate included because it seems like he should get more putbacks this year and that Morris apparently got him touches less likely to end up as turnovers.]

Burke has a ways to go before he's as Morris-level freakish shot-generating machine. He may never get there, which is okay since he's a much better shooter. This section primarily designed to wonder at what a meteor of a college player Morris was, and to shake a fist at his early departure.

Burke, though. Efficient day with 12 points on 7 shots and a 5-2 assist to TO ratio. If he improves as much as Morris did from freshman to sophomore year he will be a twenty-foot tall robot who shoots 130% from three.

Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, the usual. Between them: 5/9 from three, 5/7 from two, 5 assists, five steals, 0 turnovers, three fouls, and a partridge in a pear tree. The senior leadership here is damned tangible.

Anyone still talking crap about Douglass is an inveterate complainer. He has been okay to good on the offensive end of the floor and a great perimeter defender on the other end. Bo Spencer went 4 of 12, 1 of 6 from three.

As for Novak, he's hitting 43% from three and in the top 50 of various Kenpom stats; he's also providing the usual torrent of grit. Quality players who will be missed.

Michigan-at-Nebraska-5-597x420[1]

Patrick Radigan

Vogrich. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes. Let it ride. Please, please, please let that be a sign that Vogrich can be a useful role player down the stretch. Going six deep is asking for it.

Paging Smotrycz to aisle things that exist. The only things separating Smotrycz from a 13-minute trillion were:

  • A defensive rebound.
  • Two fouls.
  • A turnover.

Not so good, there. Remember when we were complaining about Smotrycz's tendency towards silly fouls because Michigan was crippled without him on the court? Yeah… long time ago. Just as long as "oh God, the hockey tourney streak is dead."

Playing at the five is clearly uncomfortable but Michigan has few other options with Horford sidelined. I actually think they should roll with McLimans a bit more in situations where opposing bigs can't shoot free throws, if only for the defensive rebounding. Smotrycz was ripping them down as a 4 and things have fallen off considerably now that most of his minutes are backing up Morgan.

Even that's not much of a solution. Michigan's just going to have to suck it up and pray that Morgan doesn't get inappropriately handsy in the wrong game. He's been doing a much better job of staying on the floor of late, FWIW. His fouls per 40 is down to 4.0.

This should get a lot better next year with no departures and McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt all suddenly available for post minutes. It's actually going to be hard to find minutes for everyone next year. And they'll be tall. It's going to be weird.

Trillion watch. Colton Christian picked up a two trillion; Bartelstein and Person were missed FGAs away from the same.

Etc.

UMHoops photo gallery. AnnArbor.com version. Baumgardner article.

Michigan Basketball Season Preview

Michigan Basketball Season Preview

Submitted by Ace on November 11th, 2011 at 3:05 PM

L to R: Greatest photo evar(!), Trey Burke, Evan Smotrycz

Brian has decided to activate the "ninja" half of my job description and deploy me as MGoBlog's go-to basketball guy this season, a role which will only increase as football season comes to a close. Michigan's basketball season officially kicks tips off tonight against D-II opponent Ferris State in a game that would be far more interesting if it took place at Yost instead of Crisler, but that's non-conference basketball scheduling for you. That means I should probably post a season preview.

Last year saw an extremely youthful Michigan squad overcome the losses of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims and a six-game midseason losing streak to make a shocking run to the NCAA tournament—highlighted by a season sweep of Michigan State—where they bombarded Tennessee in the first round before falling just short against top-seeded Duke. The Wolverines were poised to bring back every major (and minor, really) contributor from the 2010-11 squad until Darius Morris—the team's leading scorer and only true point guard—decided to leave for the NBA, turning Michigan from a potential Big Ten dark horse into, well, a darker horse, if that makes any sense whatsoever.

Still, the Wolverines return everybody except Morris, add a pair of high-profile freshmen in point guard Trey Burke and combo guard Carlton Brundidge (as well as forward Max Bielfeldt), and have an obvious go-to guy in place in sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr., who is poised to take over the reigns from Morris as the focal point of the offense. This is enough to earn them a preseason #22 rating from Ken Pomeroy, good for fourth in the B1G behind Ohio State (#2), Wisconsin (#10), and Purdue (#19), and just ahead of the Spartans (#24). How will the team fare? Let's start by breaking it down by somewhat-vague position groups:

The Rotation

Point Guard

Yes, point guard gets a section to itself, and this will be the most scrutinized spot on the floor for the Wolverines. As expected, John Beilein has named freshman Trey Burke, a four-star recruit and last year's Mr. Basketball in Ohio, as the starter, and he's under an extraordinary amount of pressure to come in and adequately replace Darius Morris. Their styles couldn't be much more different—Morris is a 6'4", physical creator who used his size to create interior shots (both for himself and others) but struggled with his outside shot, while the 5'11" Burke relies on his quickness and shooting ability to create his own offense. Burke actually fits better into Beilein's offense, but the looming question is whether or not Burke will be able to set up his teammates like Morris (6.7 assists per game last year) while not making too many freshman mistakes with the basketball.

It's likely that Stu Douglass will reprise his role as sixth man and primary backup at both guard positions. Douglass isn't an ideal creator at point guard—last year, he had a higher turnover rate (17.0%) than assist rate (10.9%)—but he's a streak shooter who can occasionally catch fire from deep and as a senior he's well-versed in the offense. Now that he's got a year of experience at point guard—a position he had never played until last season—under his belt, he should be an adequate backup for Burke. Douglass is the team's best perimeter defender, as well, but he must develop more consistency in his shot (48.9% from two, 35.8% from three LY) to become a real threat on offense.

Wing

Michigan's only other scholarship senior is the King of the Gritty White Guy Platitudes himself, Zack Novak, a 6'4" shooter/rebounder/unlikely-dunk-contest-winner/sideline-freakout-artist who has spent much of his Wolverine career playing wildly out of position at power forward. Now that Michigan finally has some depth up front, Novak can play the two or the three, and this should help open up his offense—other than seldom-used Matt Vogrich, Novak had the best three-point percentage on the team last year at 38.5%, but he often seemed to get gassed and disappear offensively due to having to guard players half-a-foot taller than him. Unfortunately, he's not a threat inside the arc, posting a paltry 38.0% shooting mark on two-pointers, but his remarkable ability to get rebounds amidst the trees makes him a valuable player on both ends of the floor. I expect Novak will average double-digits in scoring while grabbing 5-7 rebounds per game and providing valuable defense.

Your other starter on the wing is Tim Hardaway Jr., who greatly exceeded expectations as a freshman—averaging nearly 14 points and four rebounds per game—and will now become the team's go-to scorer. Hardaway spent much of last season as a spot-up shooter, and connected on a decent 36.7% of his threes, but this year he'll be asked to do much more creating with the ball in his hands. This was an area he improved upon as the season wore on last year, but he'll still have to get much better now that Morris isn't there to take away a lot of the defensive pressure. Still, Hardaway is the clear best player on the team—he's on both the Naismith and Wooden award preseason watch lists—and he should average at least 15 points a game. The big question here will be his shot selection, as he displayed a propensity for "what was that?"-type jumpers at times last year and could feel more pressure to jack up ill-advised shots as the team's main scorer.

Douglass, again, should be the primary backup at guard, but don't be surprised if 6'4" junior Matt Vogrich sees a greatly increased role this season. Vogrich was a dead-eye shooter from distance last season, hitting 38.7% of his threes, and was much-improved defensively after looking lost as a freshman two years ago. He's still limited in terms of his skill set, but in Beilein's system his sharp shooting will be a big asset off the bench.

The wild card here is four-star freshman Carlton Brundidge, who stands at only 6'1" but is a strong slasher who is at his best when attacking the basket, something you can't say about anyone else on the roster. Brundidge barely played in Michigan's exhibition game against Wayne State last week, but I think his role will increase as the season moves forward—he's one of the more talented players on the roster and could see a lot of time next to Douglass when the senior shifts over to the point, as their respective size and skill-sets make for a solid backcourt pairing.

Bigs

(I'm throwing the nominal power forwards in here too, just in case there's some confusion when I call, say, the 6'6" Colton Christian a backup big.)

The starter at the four is 6'9" sophomore Evan Smotrycz, a very solid outside shooter (38.1% from three) who many have tabbed as the X-factor for this year's team. Smotrycz reportedly gained 30 much-needed pounds in the offseason, which should help his post defense greatly, but there are still major questions about his athleticism and ability to create shots on offense. Smotrycz doesn't have much in the way of a post game and hasn't displayed the quickness to face up and drive past a player with regularity, and we'll have to see if he's improved in those areas over the offseason. While I still don't think he'll be a major threat in the post, his size and shooting ability are very intriguing, and I think Smotrycz could emerge as the team's second option on offense. Defensively, he should be fine as long as he's not asked to take on quick small forwards or hulking centers, and Beilein now has enough flexibility with his lineups where that shouldn't be a huge issue.

At center, it's a battle between redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan and true sophomore Jon Horford (brother of Al) for the starting spot. Morgan was the man there last year, and was extremely efficient shooting the basketball (62.7%), but most of his opportunities were either created by the now-departed Morris or the result of offensive rebounds. While he was decent in his on-ball defense, Morgan was extremely foul-prone and did not provide much of a shot-blocking threat. If tabbed as the eventual starter, Morgan should be solid, but he's got his limitations and could really feel the absence of Morris more than anyone else on the roster.

Though it came as a bit of a surprise, it was Horford who started against Wayne State, and he'll take the opening tip once again against Ferris State tonight. An extremely raw prospect out of high school, Horford showed occasional flashes of rebounding and shot-blocking brilliance last year, but often looked awkward with the ball in his hands and frequently settled for outside shots, which he rarely made. Like Morgan, he was very foul-prone, so we'll likely see both big men get major minutes this season, but Horford seems to have the higher upside—he's more athletic than Morgan and has a better shooting touch while providing a much-needed shot-blocking presence on the interior of the defense.

There are two bench players who should see occasional minutes this year: 6'6" sophomore power forward Colton Christian and 6'10" center Blake McLimans. Christian doesn't provide any real threat offensively, but he's a capable rebounder and defender who could turn into an interesting role player if he shows the ability—and willingness—to hit any sort of shot. McLimans is big, which is always nice, but he was supposed to possess a good outside shot and ended up going 1-for-19 for three last year. Since he only shot the ball 41 times total (making 13), this is a bit of an issue, and defensively he's not as strong as either Morgan or Horford. We'll see if Beilein trusts him enough to put him in the rotation, or if he decides to go small and occasionally move Smotrycz to the five, something we saw a fair amount last year.

Outlook

I hate to kind of punt on this one, but man, who knows? The 2008-09 team was supposed to be mediocre at best, then made a surprise run to the tournament and even knocked off Clemson once they got there. The 2009-10 team brought back pretty much everyone, had a lot of preseason hype, and fell flat to the tune of a 15-17 record. With Harris and Sims gone last season and pretty much the entire team either freshman or sophomores, the 2010-11 squad looked to be terrible, so of course they reeled off 21 wins and once again advanced to the second round of the NCAAs.

This year's team appears poised for a potential top-25 season and another tournament run, but much of those expectations rely on a smooth transition from a star in Morris to a true freshman in Burke while other players—most notably Hardaway and Smotrycz—pick up the scoring slack and keep the offense running smoothly. With a difficult non-conference slate that includes a brutal draw in the Maui Invitational, plus playing in a Big Ten conference ranked by KenPom as the nation's toughest, this looks to me like a team that will spend much of the season squarely on the tournament bubble.

Exceeding those expectations means that we either see vast improvement from key role players, a huge breakout from Tim Hardaway, or a fantastic freshman year out of Burke—none of those are out of the question, but none are certainties, either. If Michigan suddenly finds that they can't create inside scoring chances without Morris's penetration, or Hardaway spends the season trying to carry the offense by chucking up less-than-ideal shots, Michigan could fall short of their goals as the fanbase begins to look ahead to the arrival of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas in 2012-13.

All I can say for certain is this will be an interesting year, and lucky for us, this is a group that is extremely likable and fun to support. The future is very bright, almost regardless of what happens this year, but we'll just have to see if the Wolverines continue to make a push towards the top of the Big Ten or stay in a holding pattern until blue-chip reinforcements arrive.