This Week’s Obsession: One Shining Moe-Ment

This Week’s Obsession: One Shining Moe-Ment Comment Count

Seth June 15th, 2018 at 2:08 PM

[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.

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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.

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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]

Seth: Geoff Schwartz, an NFL lineman who tweets about drawing weakside ISOs on his daughter's magnetic doodle board, was in awe of Wagner's effort that day. Schwartz has never complimented anybody within 50 pounds of Moe.

Ace: Here’s a glorious sweat putback:

Brian: The moment towards the tail end of the first half against Loyola where he looked like Ricky Doyle in a sauna was a moment for these reasons.

But even though I wrote a whole dang column about Nick Ward's ankles…

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…I think my absolute favorite Moe moment was the year before:

Brian: Michigan entered that game a seven seed against two-seed Louisville and their criminal sex vampire coach; Louisville had four different seven-footers and Wagner ate all of their lunches. That upfake that gets a center to commit outside the three point line and guard-like drive to the hoop is Wagner's career in five seconds to me.

Ace: Wagner’s crowd theater stands out to me as much as almost any specific in-game moment. I have so many gifs of him that could be captioned “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?”

Brian: Yes, the laughing on the bench gif

He was a walking meme.

Ace: Every foul call.

Brian: I LOOKED EXACTLY THE SAME TBH

Ace:

He was often justified!

Seth: So there's another one that wasn't his great basketball but it's embedded in my head under its gfycat name: Enchanted Lame Antelope Ground Squirrel. After Poole makes his shot he starts running and then realizes he's being chased by a 7-foot mad German and you can see the moment when his brain clicks off "I WON THE GAME" and goes to full fight or flight.

Ace: Yes, thank you. I couldn’t have been happier that the player nearest to Poole ended up being Moe.

Brian: It feels off brand for the blog to mention that Wagner stopped and consoled one of Houston's many Davii immediately after that GIF.

Like Peter King should say it instead of us.

But that was nice!

Seth: Sportsmanship!

Brian: We here at MGoBlog treasure sportsmanship.

Seth: Firm handshakes for everybody.

Brian: That means we're kicking them off the team.

(After they graduated!)

Seth: This is what comes of making light of #sportsmanship for a decade, sir.

Ace: And at the same time I absolutely understand why players (and opposing fans) hated him.

Brian: Oh god yes! The tongue alone.

Ace: Just imagine spending 30 minutes being dragged by a German dude who hits threes, doesn’t play defense, and calls you “bitch” every other possession.

…Nick Ward doesn’t need to imagine except for the 30 minutes bit.

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Ace: STILL GOT IT.

Seth: It's one thing to get trash talked all recess. It's another when it's the foreign exchange student. Also you guys: lips.

Ace: While we’re tied up in Wagner’s emotions, the interplay between him and Beilein also made for amazing theatre.

Brian: I wonder if Moe actually hooked Beilein up with his German hip-hop

Ace: This picture is unfairly taken out of context but it absolutely kills me every time:

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[Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Also did NOT have to scroll far for one of these:

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[Marc-Grégor Campredon]

But in the end:

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[Bryan Fuller]

That’s another one for me: John Beilein talking about Moe Wagner while trying to keep a straight face.

Brian: They would have been perfect in a buddy cop movie. Also I have many ideas about good buddy cop movies involving Michigan persons, 98% of which star Don Brown as the curmudgeon about to retire.

Seth: "Pitch a Don Brown Buddy Cop Movie" is a future TWO.

So my first memory of Moe is his first game (not counting the scrimmage I didn’t go to) against Elon. It sticks because Marc-Gregor was so excited he got the shot and because Demorest and I are two of the fuzzy things behind it:

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[Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Ace: Moe really grew an insane amount in two years. Seeing Baby Moe bleed is kinda jarring.

Brian: That's a wing.

Ace: Two years later, he dropped 24-15 in a national semifinal.

Brian: Another excellent on-court thing was that one specific game vs Purdue at Crisler where Matt Painter kicked off his desperation switching defense. As Ace mentioned, Wagner and Purdue made for really fun basketball games.

Ace: Also: learned English.

Seth:

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Just in time.

Ace: I’ll show my NBA habit and make a comparison for Moe that’ll seem odd initially: Steph Curry. There’s been a lot of talk this week based on this bit of brutal and 100% correct insight:

Nobody since Stauskas had Crisler under their spell like Moe when he had it rolling and man that Purdue game was one of those times.

Ace: This post would’ve been incomplete without the German three signal.

Seth: Oh what about that Wisconsin game last year (Feb 2017).

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Find the spot where Moe goes off.

Ace: A lot of it runs together for me. There are absolutely peaks that stand out but it’s more faces and threes and murder offense and foul trouble and touching Player’s Tribune articles.

Which is another thing: it was genuinely remarkable to watch a kid from Berlin grow to love and understand Michigan in ways that he expressed quite beautifully by the end of his career.

Seth: Also: mad dunks.

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[Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Ace: Yes, MAAR’s face. Also: the future of Wisconsin basketball.

Seth: MAAR vs the camera lens is undefeated.

BiSB: It's hard to believe he was only 20 when he played his last game. The guy was mature and contemplative beyond his years. But only after he played the game like a 16-year-old hopped up on Pixy Stix and Surge.

Ace: Really personable, too. He found a way to connect with people. This will sound a little fanboy-ish but whatever. I’m not one who asks a lot of questions in pressers. After a game this year I was the last person lingering behind the player scrum for Wagner, who I really doubt knows me from Adam (so to speak, hi Adam), and I slipped in an off-kilter question that I don’t completely remember but am 97% sure was about Jordan Poole. A lot of guys would quite understandably fire off something quick and run back to the locker room. He paused for a moment, said something legitimately funny and insightful, and winked before heading for the exit.

Seth: Also: ran over Tom Crean.

Brian: You're going to be asking a lot of questions about mulch next year

Ace: I’ve already taken notes on pitchforks vs. shovels.

BiSB: Jars three. Runs over Tom Crean. Appears to feel bad about running over Tom Crean. The Moe Wagner Story.

Brian: God if that was Izzo instead of Crean he'd have a statue already

Ace: We can give him partial credit for this:

Brian: I think this is where i say YAAAAAAS QUEEEN?

Ace: Good couple years for angry opposing coach gifs, and again, Wagner is largely responsible. Also some very short opposing coach postgame press conferences, hello Tom Crean.

Brian: Pretty much the direct cause of Twenty Minutes Of Izzo Eating His Liver At Breslin

BiSB: Unlike Izzo, at least Wagner put Nick Ward on the floor once in a while.

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Ace: I feel like I’m taking the lid off my still-only-outlined Moe retrospective post early but, yeah, that man’s legacy is being pure uncaged emotion and sucking everything around him into that vortex. I’ll, uh, work on the metaphor.

Brian:

Ace: Are we missing anything glaringly obvious?

Brian: Probably

But that's what commenters are for.

Ace: One last shoutout to his signature, awkward, devastating behind-the-back move, which in addition to murderating Nick Ward’s ankles also produced the most hilariously evil basket in the Texas A&M game, which was 40 minutes of hilariously evil baskets:

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Comments

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

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

Ace 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.]

Comments

Exit: Moe Wagner

Exit: Moe Wagner Comment Count

Ace 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.

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My Heart Is Full Of Nick Ward's Ankles

My Heart Is Full Of Nick Ward's Ankles Comment Count

Brian January 15th, 2018 at 12:56 PM

1/13/2018 – Michigan 82, Michigan State 72 – 15-4, 4-2 Big Ten

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You may be aware that many college athletes with the option leave early for the pros.

I, too, am aware of this phenomenon because it has impacted me repeatedly. I am at peace with some of these departures. Win a big thing, do a business, and/or scrape the ceiling of your potential and I'm cool with it. Charles Woodson, Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas, Jack Johnson: go on, get out of here.

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Other guys absolutely should not and do not have to listen to my feelingsball about their careers, but their departures sting because they're on the verge of an all-conquering season that we never get to see. They leave Michigan without an indelible moment, or cathartically satisfying victory, or without setting several college towns across the Midwest ablaze with their mind.

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That's mostly fine; I'm not going to tell anyone to not get paid if they can get paid. But their careers at Michigan will perpetually feel a little incomplete. Guys in this bucket: DJ Wilson, Max Pacioretty, Mitch McGary, and yeah probably even Jabrill Peppers. The first thing I think about when any of those guys gets brought up is what could have been and was not. Nobody's fault. Just a thing. If "oh God what if DJ Wilson was on this team" didn't flash across your mind at some point during this week, you're a more serene man that I.

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Anyway, Moe Wagner can go now.

Moe Wagner could announce he's leaving the team this afternoon and I'd be fine with it*. Moe Wagner induced the most beautiful and futile Michigan State floor-slap of all time from Nick Ward's face. My heart is as full of Moe Wagner as it needs to be, for all time.

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*[Note to Moe Wagner: please do not call this bluff.]

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That there is a rest of the season after the events of this week is promising and also somewhat alarming. If Michigan could pull a Costanza here and immediately leave the meeting I would counsel them to do so, but there are games scheduled and so we press on. Suddenly every single one of those games except @ Purdue and maybe home against OSU is a game we're going to be real upset about losing, because the Big Ten is bad and Michigan is... very good?

Yes. Poke a rating system and it will tell you this. Kenpom flung Michigan up to 17th after the MSU game; Bart Torvik's system has them 14th. At some point we're probably going to start futzing with the stuff on Torvik's site that allows you to rank teams over an arbitrary period of time, like we did last year. Last year's post-Maverick team was a top ten outfit, period. This one might get there.

If it does, Michigan's ability to play unprecedented Beilein-era defense while simultaneously running a vicious five-out offense will be the reason. The play of the game wasn't actually Wagner turning Nick Ward's ankles into slurry (yes it was –ed) but rather his first pick-and-pop three just a couple minutes into the game. He canned that, and his next one, and aside from that one terrifying period midway through the first half when Jaren Jackson was Dikembe Mutumbo, Wagner's ability to haul his man out to the three point line created driving lanes.

These were less lanes and more caverns against Cassius Winston. Zavier Simpson missed three fast-break bunnies in the first minute, possibly because Jackson was swinging his crazy Gumby arms at them. After that he had 12 points on seven shot equivalents from inside the arc, five assists, and no turnovers. Simpson is coming into his own here, but if you took bets about who was going to be Michigan's most efficient scorer against a team of Ents that's blocking 20% of opponent shot attempts... well, Simpson's odds would have looked a lot like the Vikings'.

Meanwhile on the other end, Winston hit a couple shots but turned it over four times and finished with a game ORTG of 90. Simpson took that dude to the cleaners to the point where Izzo called his point guard out in the post-game press conference. (Izzo would like to make it clear that it's all his fault and he's taking 100% responsibility and also his point guard sucks and he hates him.)

Anyone who tells you they saw that coming short of Zavier Simpson's mom is lying... probably. Maybe there is a cadre of the aggressively reasonable out there, folks who can squint through whatever struggles that freshman or sophomore is having in John Beilein's offense and can see through to the finished product. If there are Michigan versions of these people they are sages indeed. Hypothetical MSU versions just have to look at the court, because whatever Miles Bridges is today he'll be until he escapes Tom Izzo's sweaty, increasingly unhinged paws.

Moe Wagner is one of the country's 40 best defensive rebounders, incidentally. He's a human vacuum now, which is convenient. We have to get the exploded remnants of Nick Ward's lower body off the court before resuming. That's tough, but I've got just the guy for the job.

BULLETS

Obligatory ref rogering section. Michigan State was in the bonus with five minutes gone in each half. This happens every time Michigan plays at Breslin despite Michigan's annual status as one of the nation's most foul-averse teams. (They're less so this year, 93rd instead of top ten, FWIW.)

The only surprising thing was that it took three minutes for TV Teddy to put a garbage foul on Mo Wagner, who watched Nick Ward fall over—inner ear issues for that dude—of his own volition and got hit with a potentially critical foul that took Michigan's leading scorer out of the lineup. His second foul was similarly phantom. It continued much in that vein:

Michigan had 16 free throws during Tom Izzo Eats His Liver Time; before that they had 19 to MSU's 33. This was not an effect of three point shooting. Michigan had just 15 threes; MSU had 12. Michigan had 14 bonus possessions (+3 OREB and -11 turnovers) and continued attacking inside. Michigan got called for nonsense, and MSU didn't.

This annually makes me furious. It's never going to get any better. But after Michigan was good enough to pull away and force TIEHLT with two minutes left, it's all the more reason to savor the performance. It would have been very, very easy to lose composure. Equivalent performances on a neutral court and Michigan blows the doors off by 20.

How about those free throws, though. Michigan was 18/19 from the line before those four terrifying Simpson misses. If they hit their season average... it does not bear thinking about. One dollar to whoever came up with the inbounds play where Simpson and MAAR swapped roles after the whistle blew. That got a 91% shooter to the line instead of a 52% shooter.

Simpson's performance at the line is increasingly inexplicable with every three he cans. He's verging on having a better 3PT% (47%) than FT% (52%). He was at 71% last year on 31 attempts, and he's a much better shooter this year. I don't get it. Hopefully it's salvageable. Having two non-big 50% FT shooters on the floor is rough.

D up. I caught a couple more Jordan-Poole-gets-caught backcuts on the replay; those stood out as almost the only easy buckets MSU got all game. Remember MSU running off of makes for 6-10 points for the last five years? Yeah, that's gone. MSU had almost literally zero transition offense.

This is a trend. Ace mentioned this on the podcast: Michigan's transition D is absurd.

Now that the rest of the D is actually pretty good that's paying off more and more.

Duncan was okay, and this is a big W. Michigan largely got away with Duncan Robinson versus Jaren Jackson. Jackson got a couple buckets on him, but Robinson was able to push Jackson out almost to the three point line repeatedly. MSU was trying to force the ball down Robinson's throat to the detriment of their offensive flow, and several possessions featured MSU wasting half the shot clock trying to exploit that matchup.

With Livers in foul trouble for a chunk of the game Michigan's ability to cope with Duncan Robinson on a top 5 NBA draft pick was a huge factor in the W.

Rebounding: real. I'm calling it: Michigan is a legitimately excellent defensive rebounding team. They just played the two burliest teams in the league and outrebounded both. They've also played Iowa, which is the top OREB team in league play, and fought them to a standstill.

I enjoy Jon Teske. Teske had 3 OREBs in just 8 minutes here and put up 4 points on 3 shot equivalents; he committed three fouls, but see above about the impossibility of a Michigan shot-challenger staying on the court at Breslin.

As a bonus Austin Davis didn't look overwhelmed during his two minutes, grabbing a board and playing a couple of defensive possessions well. Never write off a big.

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