One Frame At A Time: Loyola Chicago

One Frame At A Time: Loyola Chicago

Submitted by Ace on June 13th, 2018 at 6:00 AM
what's german for 'galoot'? [Bryan Fuller]

So, uh, recovery hasn't been as smooth as expected—those following me on Twitter have probably picked up on that—and as such I'm pushing out posts when I can. I've been hoping to get to the Moe Wagner retrospective but have held off because I've hit a block there; in the process of preparing that post and working through the block, I did at least get through the Loyola Chicago game in GIFs. (Most of it, at least. This copy cut out all good replays of Wagner crashing into Raftery/Hill, which is an argh experience.) Did I do Florida State yet? Uh, working on it. Time is a construct.

Anyway, remember that time Moe Wagner put up a Final Four stat line matched only by Akeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird?

That was enjoyable.

[The rest of the Loyola game in GIFs, featuring a LOT of Moe, after THE JUMP.]

This Week’s Obsession: One Shining Moe-Ment

This Week’s Obsession: One Shining Moe-Ment

Submitted by Seth on May 22nd, 2018 at 2:08 PM

image

[Bryan Fuller]

THIS ARTICLE HAS A SPONSOR: It’s Nick Hopwood, our MGoFinancial Planner from Peak Wealth Management. Nick is also a Podcaster—if you haven’t listened to it before, his podcast Finding True Wealth, with recent episodes covering the mortgage industry, social security disability, and what number is enough for retirement.

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

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

The Question:

When you close your eyes and think of Moe Wagner what moments come to mind? Can have multiple answers.

Ace: Trying to narrow it to one…

But if we had to, it would start here:

Seth: Other than Gary...

Ace: But that moment also shows why this starts to get really hard. That was the final blow in a two-year-long battle with Nick Ward that was an absolute joy to watch. Wagner had a few of those. The Painter-Beilein Wars spring to mind.

slackbot: image

Ace: One of the first things that comes to mind for me when I think of Moe Wagner is a Matt Painter postgame press conference.

I still have the quotes saved from when he asks the assembled media if they really want to hear this (I’m nodding furiously) and then goes full scheme-geek on how Wagner absolutely blows up everything you want to do on defense.

Seth: The one for me—other than "ankle breaker"—is late in the Final Four, drenched in more sweat than the guy whose job he usurped, dribbles into the lane then right back out to the corner like he just suddenly had an idea to shoot from out there instead, and swoosh.

Brian: Wagner was so sweaty against Loyola

BiSB: Carrying a team for 30 minutes is sweaty work.

Brian: The sweat a culmination of all the work he put in to become an outstanding defensive rebounder. The brow of the working man. The common 6'11" three point shooting man. The man who could no longer be called soft.

Ace: Seriously, though, those NBA Combine numbers!

Brian: He played 30 MPG at center for a top 5 defense.

Ace: Fair point. I was still surprised.

[After THE JUMP: see what we remembered before you comment what we forgot]

Unverified Voracity Needs Mulch Answers

Unverified Voracity Needs Mulch Answers

Submitted by Brian on May 21st, 2018 at 12:58 PM

mulch-Charlottesville-VA

MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUULCH

I HAVE QUESTIONS. When did Beilein think up "Mulch Madness" and how excited was he to send that tweet? Why does John Beilein need 15 cubic yards of mulch? I need 15 cubic yards of mulch because my entire yard is mulched. Does John Beilein also have a no-grass yard? Did he clear this with compliance? (A: Yes, obviously.) Did that mean the players couldn't have snacks?

Where did he get his mulch? How much did it cost? Is it cheaper than the mulch I buy? What's with the pitchforks, doesn't the mulch fall through? Is it stupid to use a snow-shovel instead of these pitchfork things? That's what I do. Will I force Ace to ask all these questions at a press conference? (A: Yes, obviously.)

No. Uh, Sir. It's 2010 all over again:

He said Saturday he feels the game hasn’t been emphasized enough by Michigan.

“To be quite honest I really feel like over the years, in recent years, there hasn’t been the emphasis that I’m used to being put on that game,” Woodson said.

“Every game has been out on the same level of that game and that’s not the way we were brought up, that’s not the way we were raised around here. And we had no shame in saying it.”

Michigan lost by a literal inch in 2016 and last year had a brilliant gameplan undone by a third string quarterback playing like an eighth string one. Also they went and grabbed a defensive coordinator who runs a 4-2-5 as a base and has a 3-3-5 changeup in an attempt to tackle OSU's spread offense. There have been cracks in the Harbaugh façade—cough cough Drevno—but "doesn't prepare enough for Ohio State" is not one of them.

Purdue could be real interesting real soon. Former five star and now former Clemson Tiger Hunter Johnson is transferring after one year. He's from Indianapolis—a couple years back he played Brandon Peters in a game Ace broke down—and has a couple of Big Ten locations high on his list:

Sources told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that Northwestern and Purdue are two possible destinations for Johnson. His brother Cole played in few games as a reserve for Northwestern a few years ago.

This is against the natural way of things where failed Purdue quarterbacks inexplicably go start for major programs in the south, but I suspect Boiler fans will accept this violation of tradition if in fact they do land Johnson. If the Boilers can hold onto Jeff Brohm, who was a candidate during Tennessee's crazy search, they could be in for some Tiller-era seasons. Large ifs, but with Nebraska finally hiring someone who is a good idea the West could be substantially less sad in the near future.

Or Johnson could be so definitively behind Trevor Lawrence he transfers after one spring session because he's not actually that good. Peters's team blew his out, after all.

Camp Sanderson now has data behind it. Moe Wagner came back to Michigan in part because he wasn't an NBA-ready athlete. The bits of this that can be fixed seem to have been fixed, emphatically:

Wagner still doesn't have pterodactyl arms, but hopefully his increased physical prowess and the big leap in his rebounding that made possible allow him to slip into the tail end of the first round.

Hoops croot quotes. The Detroit News runs down Michigan's incoming basketball class, with quotes from both Rivals and 24/7 scouts. Some of them are silly, like this assertion from Brian Snow…

What (Brazdeikis) does is he just scores the ball. He's more of a mid-range shooter right now, which I don't love because it's the most inefficient shot in basketball, but he does it at a high level.

…that is flatly incorrect per UMHoops:

image

But other assertions are more interesting and less directly contradicted by data. Both guys think Colin Castleton has a chance to be elite:

Bossi’s take: “Castleton is a guy that we gave a pretty big bump to after his senior year because he has always been able to move really well for a kid his size … but what really stood out to me is how quickly his skills emerged. He's become reliable as a 10- to 12-foot jump shooter. He's got a little jump hook, and the production on offense that wasn't really there last spring and summer has started to come on during the high school year. I think he's got confidence now.”

Snow’s take: “Colin is a kid who can really run the court, has good hands and good shooting touch. He's physically not strong yet but he does compete. I think he has a chance to really improve as the years go along. He's going to have to get stronger and spend a lot of time in the weight room, but he's a good athlete, he can block shots, he can score inside, from the mid-range and even step out to 3. He might not be ready for big minutes right away, but I think this is a kid who down the line has a chance to be a special player.”

Brandon Johns is also proposed as a potential 4/5 combo, which would be another way for Michigan to get some stretch 5 minutes even after Wagner's departure.

But at least he made logical hires! So this guy still had a job?

The guy who hired Charlie Weis after Notre Dame survived longer than Weis.

Etc.: NHL GMs are just in charge of things. ChadTough Cancer Center is now a thing. Ethan Sears on Trey Burke's NBA revival. DJ Carton moves to five-star status at 24/7. Jalen Wilson is just outside at #29. Stephen Spanellis is a thinker. Jim Harbaugh doesn't understand roasts and that's probably for the best.

Unverified Voracity Bangs Nonexistent Pads

Unverified Voracity Bangs Nonexistent Pads

Submitted by Brian on May 16th, 2018 at 3:57 PM

I'd probably ask for this at my wedding, too. It just makes sense.

FIRED UP NOW LET'S HAVE A 45 MINUTE SPEECH FROM THE FATHER OF THE BRIDE

You might have to watch the Nets? Jonathan Givony's post-lottery mock draft includes one Moe Wagner at #29:

The Nets don't have much in the way of shooting in the frontcourt and aren't really committed to any 4s or 5s long term besides promising rookie Jarrett Allen and the dead-weight contract of Timofey Mozgov.

Wagner brings floor spacing and a high-energy style of play. He was one of the breakout players of March, leading Michigan to a Big Ten title and a surprise run to the NCAA championship game.

The Raptors have traded that pick to the Nets, so that would mean Caris Levert, Nik Stauskas, and Wagner were all… uh… Nets. Since mock drafts are deadly accurate, NY-based Michigan grads should buy their season tickets now.

This is not a layup-focused point guard. IA PG DJ Carton's latest highlight video is mostly nasty contested dunks.

Michigan hasn't had a PG who dunked regularly since… Darius Morris? Except he couldn't really get to the rim?

Who needs long twos? Bart Torvik tracks a remarkable drop in non-rim twos over just a few years:

I preferred our previous ignorance about Crisler's scorer, because back in those innocent days I could point out that Michigan's defensive renassaince was in no small part because they were elite at forcing non-rim twos. Now I can only suspect that. Now I know that some part of that is a home scorer who thinks only uncontested dunks or layups are "at the rim."

Well, yeah. A slice of life from All Or Nothing:

One of the more telling sequences from Amazon’s behind-the-scenes look at Michigan’s 2017 season came during the Wolverines’ 42–13 loss at Penn State. After another failed drive, Michigan quarterback John O’Korn came to the sideline. “No blocking,” O’Korn told Harbaugh. “There’s no blocking.”

Andy Staples inserts that into a piece about Shea Patterson's attempt to save Michigan's offense. I do have an issue with Staples citing raw yards per carry numbers from Michigan's less successful outings on the ground:

Last season, they averaged 2.6 yards a carry against Michigan State, 2.5 yards a carry against Penn State, 1.5 yards a carry against Wisconsin, 2.8 yards a carry against Ohio State and 2.2 yards a carry against South Carolina. That places even more pressure on the quarterback, figuratively (because he’s expected to do it all) and literally (because blocking poorly leads to large humans in the quarterback’s face and the lack of a run game means defenses can dedicate more bodies to covering potential targets).

Once you move sacks to the correct bin, Michigan averaged 3.9, 4.3, 2.2, 4.6, and 2.9 YPC in those games, which is not good but is a considerably more accurate evaluation than sack-included numbers for the #117 pass pro team in the country.

And Staples gets the causation backwards in his final hypothetical. To pick one example from many, here's this site's take after Penn State:

Another thing to note on this one is the safety who eventually tackled Evans: he is rotated back by the motion and spends a second or two reading the play out before barreling downfield. That makes for a good gain instead of good blocks and three yards. The difference between that nine yard gain and this three yard one is evident:

PSU safety to top of screen

PSU also got a DT out there on a stunt, but that's just a thing that happened. It's not a trend. The trend is the safeties firing at Michigan's ground game with impunity. PSU's safety froze on the first one because he didn't know what he was looking at. Once he saw the play once he was able to fire because nobody cares about Michigan's passing game. That's a version of what happened to early Rodriguez offenses where the new stuff would work for a bit and then when the defense had seen it they curled up and died, because they could only do one thing.

Michigan's lack of a passing game stifled their run game, not vice versa. Patterson's worst case scenario is a thousand times better than what Michigan got from the spot a year ago. It'll all go to hell if Michigan can't pass protect better, but Patterson really does solve a swath of Michigan's issues just by being a proven P5 quarteback.

Speaking of. If you can stomach it, James Light highlighted a couple of Michigan's many, many missed opportnities against Ohio State:

Patterson certainly would have won that game, for one.

Can anyone catch up? A Jalen Wilson post-visit interview($) is mostly unrevealing, but he does omit UCLA as a contender and say he's going to commit before his school year starts.  Wilson's visit generated a big Michigan run on the crystal ball, with both Steve Lorenz and Josh Henschke joining various others.

Wilson has as-of-yet unscheduled visits he wants to take to Baylor, Marquette, Oklahoma State, and Kansas. Hopefully those remain vague.

Pitino flips! In the media! The Washington Post has an extensive story on new IU recruit Romeo Langford's college decision featuring one Rick Pitino:

In January 2017, Pitino said, two Adidas officials met with him to discuss their efforts to keep Nike and Under Armour from landing Langford, whom Pitino was recruiting. Pitino’s account was supported by text messages he shared with The Washington Post for a previous story.

“The way they phrased it, it was [whichever shoe company] was going to pay the dad’s AAU program the most money, gets it,” Pitino said in a recent phone interview. A few days later, Adidas’s league added a new team: Twenty Two Vision, featuring Romeo Langford on the court and Tim Langford as team director. Shoe company sponsorships can reach $100,000 to $150,000, and team directors who limit expenses can pay themselves salaries from those amounts.

“That’s the way that world works,” Pitino said. “Which is completely legal, by the way.”

This space is in full heighten the contradictions mode about college basketball and welcomes any and all revelations about how ineffectual the NCAA's attempts to prevent money from flowing to folks with marketable skills are. A pissed-off Rick Pitino napalming everyone he can in the Washington Post is a boon for everyone.

Etc.: A Villanova rematch looms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exit: Moe Wagner

Exit: Moe Wagner

Submitted by Ace on April 14th, 2018 at 11:29 AM


An all-timer. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Moe Wagner has made his decision. In an article he penned for The Players' Tribune, Wagner announced he'll enter the NBA Draft and sign with an agent, foregoing his senior season at Michigan. Wagner's lengthy, heartfelt farewell (titled "Thank You, Michigan") makes it clear this wasn't an easy choice, but he has some familiar footsteps to follow:

Alle träume klingen verrückt. Bis sie wahr werden.

This is what it says on the poster that I have on my wall. I’m looking at it now, in my apartment in Ann Arbor, as I’m telling you this story. It’s German, which you probably guessed, and it means: All dreams are crazy. Until they come true. (Good saying, right?) And then beside these words is a picture of Dirk Nowitzki — who is basically my idol.

Wagner is projected as a late first- or early second-round pick, an improvement over his stock last year, when his rebounding and defensive limitations had him projected closer to the bottom of the draft. Wagner improved both this year, especially rebounding, and while his defense is still a big question mark, his offensive skill set at his size will get him a contract and a roster spot.

This is the end of Wagner's remarkable collegiate journey. He came to Ann Arbor from Germany as a lanky wing, outgrew the position almost immediately, spent his freshman year struggling to earn playing time behind Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal, and then became the key piece of John Beilein's five-out offense as a sophomore and junior. That doesn't mean we won't be seeing him around town, however.

Ann Arbor will always be the first American city that I ever really knew. In my opinion, it’s the perfect place to live — not too big, not too small. You get all four seasons, great sports, and some of the nicest and most genuine people I have met. I’ll miss Ann Arbor a ton and come back as much as I can.

Wagner's exit has significant ramifications for next year's team, of course, and we'll dig into those in greater detail this week. Jon Teske is now your surefire starting center next year, which will make Michigan a more defensive-focused team (with a greater defensive ceiling) but he'll be an offensive downgrade barring a breakout on that end—while he improved greatly at the pick-and-roll, he doesn't provide the same pick-and-pop, spead-the-defense threat. Austin Davis is most likely to settle into the backup role while talented freshman Colin Castleton—a Wagner-like player with plus rim protection—gets used to the system and adds some needed bulk.

Danke, Moe.

The 2017-18 Basketball Season In Photos

The 2017-18 Basketball Season In Photos

Submitted by Ace on April 10th, 2018 at 11:26 AM

Ed-Ace: Our primary basketball photographer and #1 MGoFrenchman Marc-Gregor Campredon put together this look back at the season in photos. I've made some minor edits but left it in MG's voice—he has a way with words that I don't want to disrupt. Without further ado...

Part 1

Et voila: The first month of 2018 seasons in photos with some dull opponent (I did not say boring) and some very good ones!

Oh, I took the liberty to illustrate the away game with others games images because I will never pass on the op’ to showcase our work.

If not precise with another’s name photographs are by Marc-Gregor Campredon! Quotes are from the game recap mostly by Ace but also by many other talented guys.

Exhibition vs Grand Valley State victory 82-50

Teske’d !

vs North Florida victory 86-66

Robinson is elated while dunking.

vs Central Michigan victory 72-65

“It's me again, the guy who tells you not to pay too close attention to the final score”.

Charles Matthews is already a solid starter for Michigan.

vs Southern Mississippi victory 61-47

“Michigan's coaches and players started calling sophomore Jon Teske "Big Nasty." They hoped that would replace "Big Sleep".”

Teske’d again – It will never gets old.

The tourney in Hawaii

vs LSU defeat 75-77

“It took the team most of the first half to find this offense, however, and they strayed from it at times in the second; I'm excited about the future of a team that makes this their identity.”

Already, a lot’s of John Beilein is emerging in Yaklich.

vs Chaminade victory 102-64

“Poole looked good in his first extended action, doing what he's supposed to do: get buckets (…) He should cut into Ibi Watson's minutes if he keeps hitting jumpers.”

Toat's m'goats

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the season in photos.]

Unverified Voracity Is Clearing Tabs, Killing Time

Unverified Voracity Is Clearing Tabs, Killing Time

Submitted by Brian on April 2nd, 2018 at 3:11 PM

41146937351_de8d11025e_z

[Bryan Fuller]

Nice face. The Ringer's Paolo Uggetti on Michigan's expressive star:

“I’m shook. I’m a very nervous person before games,” Wagner says. “I’m a wreck, and I don’t allow myself to relax. On the court, it’s gone, but before, I can’t stand it.”

The court is Wagner’s comfort zone, and with good reason. Once the headphones and warm-ups come off and the clock begins to run, Wagner is a different person. On this particular night, he puts together his best game of the Dance, tallying 21 points and draining all three of his shots from deep in 30 minutes. Michigan beats Texas A&M by 27 to advance to the Elite Eight—it’s the type of game Wagner loves most: a blowout. “It’s better for the nerves.”

Very same. Maybe there's actually something to the First Wagner Three theory?

Don't try this at home, if you have a lamp post in your home. The South U scene post-game:

Hangin' with Sister Jean. Jordan Poole on his post-game interaction with the most famous nun in America:

"She got those guys," Poole told reporters afterward. "She had their back the entire time and everybody talks about them being a Cinderella story and she was getting a lot of attention.

"But being able to build a fan base how she did, and being able to have Loyola have so many fans out here and travel well, and I just thought the entire concept and everything that she brought to the table, and being able to have such a a big impact on the team, being in a situation like this, I thought it was amazing."

Charles Matthews probably still doesn't know who she is.

Various videos. All makes in the semi:

Individual reels for Wagner…

…and Charles Matthews are also available.

Contest all the shots. This is extraordinary after Michigan contested all but three of FSU's attempts in the Elite Eight:

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Michigan contested 24 of Loyola's 27 shot attempts from the field in the second half, including the first 16 Ramblers shots. Loyola didn't record an "open" shot until 4:43 remained in the game, by which time the Wolverines held a five-point lead.

Do that against Villanova and you've got a real shot.

Building X. [Editor's note: dad calls him X, I'm calling him X. X is the coolest letter.] Andrew Kahn dives into what makes Zavier Simpson such an effective defender:

"If we trained him like we do Moe (Wagner), he'd look like a fullback on the football team," Sanderson said.

But Simpson was a bit of a "waddler" with tight hips. Sanderson worked to increase his joint flexibility, allowing for further range of motion and better defensive technique. That, along with not fouling nearly as much as last year, has turned Simpson into an elite defender.

"He not only takes in what our coaching staff will tell him about a player, but he has his own little tricks," Michigan's Rico Ozuna-Harrison said. Like Wilson, Ozuna-Harrison is a freshman walk-on who often plays on the scout team that faces the starters. "He knows what hand to guard when you're doing a move. He knows where to place his feet. How to bump you and where. Small stuff that really makes a difference."

Paintball oral history? Okay, sure:

Kapustka: (Beilein) was the first guy taken out. Got hit right in the head.

Abdur-Rahkman: Bounced off his head. Paint all over his face.

Kapustka: It came from the ground. Someone just fired a perfect shot. It was pretty crazy.

Ibi Watson, freshman forward: It was (Eli) Brooks who got him.

Eli Brooks, freshman point guard: /makes exaggerated hand gun motion

Don't miss a titanic Charles Matthews-Jon Sanderson showdown.

A mind-bending counterfactual. Jay Wright, Rutgers coach:

There’s one more minor connection that neither coach may even know about. When Villanova went after Hofstra’s coach, Wright was the school’s sole target. Former athletic director Vince Nicastro used the word “exclusively” in describing whom they were going after.

However, just in case Wright decided the big Rutgers offer was the one he would take, Villanova needed a backup plan. Everyone has to have a list. The name on top of that list, John Beilein.

Not that any sane person is taking the Rutgers job over… literally any other high major school? I think that's true.

Etc.: Two fairly silly reasons Nova will win. Andrew Kahn on Wagner's performance. Andy Staples on the game. Max Marcovitch on Jordan Poole's halftime talk.

Michigan 69, Loyola Chicago 57, One More Game

Michigan 69, Loyola Chicago 57, One More Game

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


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

We just had to believe.

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

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

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


The exclamation point. [Fuller]

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

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

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

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


How many more, Jordan? [Fuller]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death From Wherever

Death From Wherever

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


The core. [Barron]

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

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


Rolling with it. [Barron]

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

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


Hello, Big Nasty. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

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

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

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

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