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

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[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.

Hoops Mailbag: Loyola Matchups, Small Ball Possibility, Z Robbed Again

Hoops Mailbag: Loyola Matchups, Small Ball Possibility, Z Robbed Again

Submitted by Ace on March 28th, 2018 at 3:35 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. It's time for yet another two three-part mailbag. Yesterday's covered Moe Wagner's impact on opponent strategy, the John Beilein inbounding myth, and an interesting hypothetical about Beilein as an NBA coach. If you haven't submitted a question yet, I may have room for one or two more: you can tag them with #mgomailbag on twitter or email me.

To Small Ball Or Not To Small Ball


Could Isaiah Livers hold up at center? [Patrick Barron]

Let's start with some background here. Loyola starts a traditional center—6'9", 260-pound Cameron Krutwig—who plays about half of their minutes; when Krutwig leaves the court, they don't field a player taller than 6'6". Meanwhile, FSU went small for much of the second half against Michigan, and an attempted response by John Beilein with Isaiah Livers at center didn't go well. Livers looked lost and M got outscored 8-3 by FSU in that stretch despite getting an extra possession, failing to make a shot from the field.

There's a chance Duncan Robinson could function much better at center. He's well-versed in the system on both ends to the point that he probably knows the center's assignments better than Livers, he's defended well in the post, and he's been utilized in the offense as a screener with some frequency of late. The worry is a small-ball team would expose his sub-par perimeter defense. I think Robinson could match up well with 6'5", 230-pound forward Aundre Jackson, and in that case Michigan may very well want to go small along with Loyola—a Michigan Lineup of Death with Robinson at center is certainly intriguing in the right circumstances.

That said, Beilein may also choose to flip that mismatch the other way. Loyola's offense hasn't been effective without Krutwig, plummeting from 1.21 points per possession when he's on the court to 0.96 PPP when he's off during the NCAA Tournament, according to Hoop Lens. Their defense has also suffered, allowing 1.08 PPP when he's off versus 0.93 PPP when he's on because they can no longer stop anyone inside the arc—their 2-point percentage allowed balloons from 45.6% to 56.5%.

I have serious questions about Krutwig's ability to handle Michigan's five-out offense; he's not nearly the caliber of athlete as FSU's big men nor is he close to their level as a shot-blocker. Either way, Loyola is going to go small at times. I believe it may be in Michigan's best interest to keep playing their normal rotation unless they discover a true Lineup of Death during practice this week.

[Hit THE JUMP for Teske's potential role and Z getting robbed again.]

Hoops Mailbag: The Wagner Effect, The Inbounding Myth, A Beilein Hypothetical

Hoops Mailbag: The Wagner Effect, The Inbounding Myth, A Beilein Hypothetical

Submitted by Ace on March 27th, 2018 at 2:42 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.

It's time for yet another two-part mailbag. If you haven't submitted a question yet, I'm still taking them: you can tag them with #mgomailbag on twitter or email me.

Moe Impact


even on a bad day, Moe Wagner helps you win. [Patrick Barron]

Is my memory right that Hamilton played small ball for most of the 2nd half? maybe the last 10 minutes, except for the short period when we saw the Livers-Giant matchup, FSU played w/o a center, didn’t they? What a huge change and what a huge credit to Beilein’s scheme and fearlessness that Wagner - even cold as ice - scared the s[not] out of Hamilton in the 2nd half.

John Beilein allows Moe Wagner to shoot his way out of cold stretches for very good reason: he completely changes the way opponents have to approach defense. This is FSU coach Leonard Hamilton after a game in which Wagner went 0-for-7 on threes:

Sure, we did a pretty good job defending him, but I also think the effort that we spent on him, we opened up some opportunities for some other guys, and I think that's one reason why they were probably a little bit more effective. In order to get to him, being the type of three-point shooter that he is -- I think he shoots over 40% from the floor -- when you're trying to get to him and he's a seven-footer, he's their center, well, obviously, he opens up the lane.

And I think that's one of the reasons why they were able to get into the interior of our defense and get some easy ups, some high-percentage baskets because we had to put forth so much effort to close out on him because he's such an outstanding shooter.

Wagner may have been ice cold but I don't exactly blame Hamilton for getting deeply uncomfortable with the quality of looks, especially early in the second half. Michigan was successfully going five-out, getting penetration in the paint (mostly by Zavier Simpson), and kicking out to Wagner for achingly open shots. Hamilton would be hard-pressed to bet on Wagner continuing to miss literally all of those shots.

So, to answer the question, your eyes did not deceive you: after combining to play every minute of the first half, FSU's center trio of Christ Koumadje, Mfiondu Kabengele, and Ike Obiagu played nine combined minutes in the second. Obiagu, who'd emphatically swatted three shots in the opening stanza, didn't see the floor at all.

Going small, while a viable strategy against Michigan, isn't really FSU's game. Using HoopLens data and removing body-bag games, the Noles played over 1400 possessions with at least one center on the floor and under 270 with no center. While their offense improved a bit without a big man hurting their spacing, they went from allowing 46% on two-pointers with a center on the floor to 53% without—the gap between very good and very bad.

Michigan went 10-for-16 on two-pointers in the second half. After recording seven blocks in the first half, FSU had only two in the second. Even when he's broke from the perimeter, Wagner changes games.

[Hit THE JUMP to dispel the inbounding myth and explore a Beilein/NBA hypothetical.]

Do More, Say More

Do More, Say More

Submitted by Ace on March 24th, 2018 at 12:05 PM


our student manager turned walk-on is better than yours and knows it

The nature of the tournament means you may not get much of a chance to savor a great victory before much of its luster is worn off. Thursday night was, without question, a great victory, and I'm going to make a conscious effort to give it the savoring it so richly deserves.

Upon approximately my hundredth rewatching of the video containing all 14 (FOURTEEN!) of Michigan's three-pointers against Texas A&M, I came to a startling realization. I was genuinely, unironically glad that Reggie Miller, whose commentary I normally find obnoxious at best*, was calling the game for TBS. For one night, he was the perfect person to call a basketball game.

[*I'm pretty sure this video was made in jest. I hope, at least.]

Reggie Miller made a Hall of Fame career from hitting threes—often audacious, sometimes outrageous threes, seemingly always in critical circumstances—and talking a spectacular amount of shit. His game was loud, his personality louder still.

As Miller watched the Wolverines rip the Aggies limb-from-limb, his usual schtick disappeared and genuine joy broke through. He called shots and reacted with glee as they unfolded before his eyes. He found a kindred spirit in Moe Wagner. At one point he uttered "ooh, my goodness" while so taken aback it's almost lost beneath Kevin Harlan's exhilaration.

Michigan did not just rain in a torrent of threes. They matched them with Miller-like theatrics that escalated with each strike.

The show turned to a full-blown three-ring circus, Oakland-style, by late in the first half. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, the silent killer of the squad, lined up a long-range shot in transition. By the time the ball actually went through the net, 60% of the team was back on defense.


Robinson's arm went up the moment the shot did

Not a whole lot changed after halftime other than Michigan's willingness to cede Texas A&M post-up buckets, which lack both efficiency and swagger. Reggie wasn't here for that. Reggie's here for this.

Michigan's team shirts say "DO MORE, SAY LESS" this postseason. It's in the spirit of a John Beilein team, to be sure, but not this one, not anymore. This team is embodied by Moe Wagner removing his mouthguard to talk trash, Charles Matthews laughing in Nick Ward's face, Zavier Simpson's biggest mood, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman coldly staring down his shot while the rest of the team merrily turns the other way, and student-manager-turned-walk-on CJ Baird flashing three fingers after drilling a 25-footer. Effervescent ailurophile-slash-tournament hero Jordan Poole, perhaps the most brash of the bunch, inspires art such as this Smoothitron masterpiece:

This has turned into a team that'll take your lunch money and throw your empty wallet into the woods. Every once in a while, as they did on Thursday, they'll use that money to buy your mom a nice meal. Maybe they'll take her out again tonight. 

Michigan 99, Texas A&M 72

Michigan 99, Texas A&M 72

Submitted by Ace on March 22nd, 2018 at 11:19 PM


when the walk-on hits [photo courtesy Sam Mousigian/Michigan Daily]

We've seen this game before. A freshman Nik Stauskas shooting Florida out of the gym from the same spot; Texas becoming so overwhelmed the Longhorn Network tweeted a shruggie. Enter this into the canon:

THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement?

BILLY KENNEDY: Felt like we ran into a buzz saw.

Michigan played a near-perfect first half before settling into remarkably productive cruise control in the second. They scored 99 points, the most Texas A&M has allowed this season, on an astonishing 1.38 points per possession. They shot 64% on twos, 58% on threes, and 88% from the line. Eight different players made a three-pointer. One of them was CJ Baird, who started the season as a student manager.

"It was kind of hard to see," said A&M's Admon Gilder. "Because I was just wondering when they were going to miss."

After both underperformed last weekend, Moe Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the way. Wagner was the star of the first half, pouring in 14 of his 21 while seemingly gaining confidence with every shot, the most spectacular a running left-handed bank after his patented behind-the-back dribble. Abdur-Rahkman scored 16 of his 24 in the second half, teaming with Charles Matthews (18 points, 13 in the second half) to drop the hammer on an A&M squad trying to cover a 20-point deficit with post-ups. Two more Wolverines, Zavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, finished in double figures.

"We knew that we could pick and choose our spots on offense," said Abdur-Rahkman. "And we didn't shoot too well in Wichita, but we knew that we were confident coming into the game that we could hit get our shots off. We just picked and chose our shots, and we took them."


Abdur-Rahkman led the team with 24 points and 7 assists. [Mousigian]

Meanwhile, Simpson made life miserable for self-proclaimed "unstoppable" Aggies point guard TJ Starks, who made the freshman mistake of giving Michigan's best defender extra motivation. Starks, who'd averaged 19.6 points in his last three games, finished with five on 2-for-11 shooting, a lone assist, and five turnovers. Simpson equaled his mark's point total with a career-high five steals in the first half and added one more in the second for good measure. The Aggies mustered only 28 points on 32 first-half field-goal attempts; Michigan had little issue letting them work post mismatches in the second on the three-is-greater-than-two principle.

Last weekend's Wolverines were just good enough to get through last weekend. Tonight's Wolverines were great enough to beat any team on any day. It didn't take long for them to get into a groove and ooze confidence; Wagner talking trash after an in-your-eye three, Matthews flashing a rare smile after a tough bucket, Simpson eyeing his man with pure disdain after a particularly obvious flop, the whole team running back on defense as Abdur-Rahkman let loose a three-pointer. (Yes, it went in.)

It reached the absurd in the late going. Abdur-Rahkman went behind the back on a fast break pass to Wagner for an emphatic dunk. Austin Davis threw down an alley-oop. Baird sent the bench into hysterics with his three-pointer.

The swagger is carrying over.

"I think we're a very confident team, and I think that's all that matters," said Wagner. "We've been playing within ourselves all year and not looking at the opponent too much. Looking at the game plan, trying to execute that, and I think we've been believing all year we can beat anyone if we play our best basketball. So, Yep."

Michigan will face the winner of tonight's Florida State-Gonzaga matchup on Saturday. No matter which team advances, the Wolverines will enter the game knowing they can—and should—win. Given how they've played over the last month or so, they're not wrong.

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

Unverified Voracity Is The Only Dolphin In Upstate New York

Unverified Voracity Is The Only Dolphin In Upstate New York

Submitted by Brian on March 20th, 2018 at 1:02 PM

Sponsor note. Well now you've gone and done it. You hugged a police horse after Jordan Poole's shot. The police horse enjoyed it. And now you have to extricate yourself from an uncomfortably long hug while a fairly upset policeman glares down upon you. We have all been there. (We have not. Just you, the guy who gets in situations with police horses.) On the bright side, now you have an idea for a company that sells a watch that periodically reminds you that you have been barred from approaching within 50 feet of any police horse in the state.

Well, have I got a lawyer for you.

hoeglaw_thumb[1]

Richard Hoeg will help you incorporate, and get your contracts right, and get that small business up and running. He will also allow you to write ad copy that becomes a long-running saga of a man who just can't quit police horses. This latter probably won't come up if you engage him, but if it does you are going to be super happy that you picked Richard.

First weekend slice of life. The university has an extensive photo gallery with a lot of behind the scenes stuff from the first week of the tourney. They've apparently decided the David Turnley model is a good one to extend. Jaaron Simmons eats a potato!

image

Moe Wagner temporarily grows to extraordinary size!

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And so forth and so on.

Spring game. It's at 7 PM again on April 14th. The time is unfortunate since there's a 50/50 chance that takes the weather from fine to Not Great, but at least its not on April 1st like a couple of Hoke spring games. Also it will be an actual competition, insofar as that is possible, and not a punting exhibition. It'll still draw a ton of people if Shea Patterson is declared eligible in the next few weeks here.

Various videos. While it's unfortunate that the replay feature is gone from MMOD, there is a small compensation from the NCAA's youtube page, which has various items of note, like oh I don't know, the last 90 seconds of the Houston game.

We'd be talking about that tip-in miss and MAAR going up with his right hand for a while if not for Poole's shot. There's also an every-make video from the Houston game…

…but not MSU-Syracuse, because that would require someone to make a basket. Also some Montana stuff if you've completely forgotten that game.

Some A&M scouting from the same source. If you'd like to get an idea of what a couple of A&M's prominent players are like, here's PF/C Tyler Davis:

And PG TJ Starks:

They left out eight turnovers between the two, because it's a highlight video. I've watched a couple of A&M games from earlier in the year and they are heavily dependent on Starks to create shots, thus explaining his usage and sky-high TO rate.

Beat all the A&Ms. LeMoyne, coached by one Patrick Beilein, takes on Mini A&M today in the D-II Elite Eight:

Almost cruel to nickname a college in upstate New York the "Dolphins."

Syracuse.com has a long profile on Patrick, who is likely to move up to D-1 after the season even if he's being a bit wishy-washy about it at the moment. He evidently takes after dad:

"For me, it was really simple," said Bassett, the athletic director at Le Moyne. "When you get into the process and you have to get into some details about salary range and things like that, Pat was interested in talking about other things. His comment at that point was he knew Le Moyne would be fair with what they could do, and he wasn't overly concerned with that.

"You never hear an answer like that."

If he succeeds at his (presumed) next stop he'll be in the conversation when Beilein decides to hang it up.

Slow vs fast. In the wake of That Upset, a lot of folks are wondering about whether slow teams like Virginia—and Michigan—are more vulnerable to upsets.

Torvik then suggests that Virginia's glacial place is a way to conserve energy so they can go all out on defense. That's perfectly reasonable, and maybe that does help Virginia compete against better athletes.

Personally, though, I think the tempo thing is pretty overblown. The difference between Michigan's tempo and that of FSU, the fastest team left in the tournament, is 65 possessions versus 72. A ten percent increase in possessions doesn't seem like it's going to swing more games to the hypothetically better team. And Michigan fans are no doubt aware of what slow tempo implies: open shots and scanty turnovers on offense and a lack of transition on defense. 

Virginia might be enough of an outlier that they are more vulnerable to upsets because of their tempo. They are dead last in the country at 60 possessions per game, three fewer than the next-slowest team. The difference between #330 Michigan and Virginia is the same as the difference between #121 Morehead State and M.

Starting to notice. Tom Izzo's brand of on-court football isn't helping anyone's draft prospects. ESPN's draft experts on Miles Bridges:

Bridges certainly hasn't made the jump scouts would have hoped when he elected to return for his sophomore season. …hasn't done much this season to convince teams that he belongs firmly ahead of positional peers Mikal Bridges and Kevin Knox.

And Jaren Jackson:

Plenty of questions have been raised about the decisions Izzo made down the stretch, as this is the third straight season in which the Hall of Famer has been unable to advance out of the first weekend of the tournament. From an NBA standpoint, most of those questions revolve around the outdated lineup configurations and overall style of basketball the Spartans played all season. Izzo's insistence on having six different centers on the roster and playing all of them (two at a time) in virtually every contest -- despite the obvious toll that took on the team's spacing, ball movement, shooting and aesthetic appeal -- makes it difficult to draw too many conclusions on Jackson's NBA outlook.

At 6-11 and 240 pounds, with a 7-5 wingspan, it is unlikely that Jackson will see much time at the power forward spot in the NBA like he did all season, certainly not next to a non-shooting center who lacks relative athleticism. How much better would Jackson have looked playing in a more up-tempo system at his natural position when surrounded by more skilled teammates? NBA decision-makers will have to decipher that on their own.

Looking forward: It is important to remember that Jackson is the youngest prospect in this class and was clearly not being utilized to his full potential.

Bridges dropped from a guy projected 6th last year to one projected 12th in ESPN's most recent mock draft. Ain't enough bag in the world to justify that.

FWIW, A&M C Robert Williams is also in the lottery:

Williams reminded everyone why he was such a highly touted prospect entering the season with a tremendous opening weekend in the NCAA tournament, helping Texas A&M reach the Sweet 16.

Despite playing out of position all season, he has shown that his game is tailor-made for the NBA as a rim-running, pick-and-roll-finishing, shot-blocker/offensive rebounder in the Clint Capela mold. With DeAndre Jordan in the final year of his contract, the Clippers could certainly look to Williams as a potential successor.

Wagner checks in at 49th, FWIW.

ENDORSE. 40 of these 42 ways to fix the NHL—and hockey in general—are excellent suggestions. I was standing and applauding by the end of this bravura section:

5) Leaving your feet to block a shot is a penalty. I hate when sports reward no-talent try-hards, and hockey rewards them more than any other sport. It boggles my mind when people get pumped about a fourth-line penalty killer sliding to block an Alex Ovechkin bomb from the face-off circle. Seriously? You don't want to see where that slapper was headed?

This would increase goals and reduce injuries. You can dive to take away the puck if you're in chase mode, but no more squaring up a shooter and sliding in front of the shot. Remember when John Tortorella took over the Canucks and people were excited about the Sedins blocking shots? The Sedins! Get out of here with this nonsense.

6) Bigger nets. Let's go three inches vertically and horizontally and see what happens. I've heard the argument against this idea because goalies would eat more blasts in the mask but whenever that happens, it's always by accident and it's always with the goalie on his knees well below the crossbar. If anything, creating more room around the goalie's skull would reduce those instances but really, shots to the mask are always accidental and wouldn't go anywhere either way. More goals, though. Let's get more goals.

7) Puck off the netting is in play. If there's one general thing I'd change about the NHL, I'd reduce the number of whistles during games. Hockey sells itself on flow and speed, but man can there be a lot of whistles. I don't understand why shots that hit the protective netting above the glass can't be played when they bounce back onto the ice. Everyone has had time to adjust to the netting over the years and everyone knows when a puck leaves a stick if it's headed toward the netting. When it bounces behind the goal line, go get it. Keep playing.

For the sake of fairness, anything off the netting and into the net off the goalie doesn't count.

8) No more offside. This also means no more offside reviews. Everyone is happy. Why do we even have offside? If I could go back in time, I'm killing Hitler and kidnapping the guy in 1898 or whenever who was so passionate about an offside line. It's not like the offside line makes the game safer; it's there to give the defense an advantage against oncoming opponents. Why?

Removing offside is another way to get some whistles out of the game and help with flow.

Yes. All of that. Beyonce picture dot gif.

Etc.: EMU drops four sports. Sean McDonough back! Lecturer salaries at Michigan currently 1) embarrassing, 2) being negotiated. Radio call of the buzzer-beater.

This Week’s Obsession: Beilein-Shakalaka

This Week’s Obsession: Beilein-Shakalaka

Submitted by Seth on March 14th, 2018 at 12:46 PM

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THIS ARTICLE HAS A SPONSOR: It’s Nick Hopwood, our MGoFinancial Planner from Peak Wealth Management. We’re going to act like kids in this article but first some seriousness: I had a big health scare recently and I’m talking to Nick now because we were not ready for things to go pear-shaped, and also I have two kids and if everything goes just fine I really wasn’t preparing correctly for their futures.

Anytime you’ve got a financial question, let Nick know. And when you’re ready to figure out how you’re going to plan your retirement and pay for your kids’ college when you just got done paying for your own, don’t wait to do something about that.

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:

An exercise shameless stolen from someone who shamelessly stole it from someone else:

You get to pick three Beilein-era players for your NBA Jam team (two starters, one sub). As a bonus, you get to pick an unlockable player from the pre-Beilein era. For those unfamiliar with NBA Jam, this video should give you an idea of what we’re looking for here—there’s a strong emphasis on athleticism, dunking, outside shooting, blocking, and shoving other players to steal the ball.

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Seth: My favorite part about this topic is that there is a non-zero chance one of our readers can actually reprogram an NBA Jam rom for us.

Alex: There are eight stat categories: speed, 3pt, dunk, pass, power, steal, block, clutch.

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Ace: I’m taking Caris/Stauskas/McGary/Rice, fwiw.

slackbot: Canada on Apple iOS 11.2Fire on Apple iOS 11.2

[ED: We’ve been programming secret auto-replies into our group IM system. If we trip a keyword, slackbot will interject itself. –seth]

David: Wait...is this a thing? I was at lunch.

BiSB: /WAITING FOR PLAYER DAVE. HIT 'A' TO START.

David: Let me plug in my Game Genie first.

Brian: This should be a draft.

Seth: Our readers do love it when we draft fantasy teams.

Ace: …he said, after I got halfway through my writeup.

Brian: Ok never mind.

Alex: I think a draft would be sensible as well.

Sorry, sorry I'm tryi--

Brian: Ace can go first because he's upset.

David: How many ppl are involved?

Ace: I’m always the bad guy.

/giphy diva

ty giphy

David: OH MAN

Seth: I'm sure that has nothing to do with how you sit in your lair and giggle all the time.

Ace: I actually am working in the basement right now.

Alex: I don't really know where I would put this in the post, but would like to mention it: Stella's in Grand Rapids—a whiskey bar with probably the best burgers in the city—has an arcade section with the OG NBA Jam game. It's as great as it sounds. Shout-out to Stella's.

@adam Catch me at Stella's sometime to get that work from the Stockton-Malone Jazz.

Seth: Our house rule was you couldn't take the Jazz.

Alex: That was just the first team that came to mind - I was going to be courteous and let him use the Pistons. I guess I'll go with the Hardaway-Mullin Warriors. I DON'T PLAY WITH THE STACKED TEAMS IN 2K I SWEAR!

Seth: Draft order:

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Seth: I really didn't want to go first damn my eyes.

RULES: It's a snake draft, 3 rounds of Beilein players only, and a fourth round for a secret unlockable character.

BiSB: Then the 4 unlockable players are all in the 4th round Deal?

Seth: YES

Ace: cool

David: fair

BiSB: Seth, Venric Mark is waiting...

[After THE JUMP: HE’S ON FIIIIIIRRRE!]

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