Iowa 86, Michigan 83 (OT)

Iowa 86, Michigan 83 (OT)

Submitted by Ace on January 1st, 2017 at 4:56 PM

Look past the final result and you can see this year's Michigan squad taking shape. Derrick Walton is more off-guard than point guard. Zak Irvin, filling the void, is a point-forward. Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson are the team's two best players. Duncan Robinson's offense has moved him past Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman in everything but the starting lineup.

Wilson starred for much of this game, the best of his career thus far. In 44 minutes, he scored 28 points, made 7/10 twos and 4/8 threes, grabbed 14 rebounds (six offensive), dished out six assists to only one turnover, and added a block for good measure. Wagner also looked excellent, scoring 12 points on ten shots while playing disruptive defense that resulted in a block and three steals. This was a glimpse into a pretty exciting future:

Those two will eventually be the go-to players on this team. This afternoon, however, their relative inexperience in those roles showed in overtime. Wagner missed a corner three on Michigan's first overtime possession when it appeared he had an open lane to roll to the basket instead of popping out the perimeter. Wilson badly missed his two three-point attempts in the extra session, including a rushed shot with plenty of time left on M's final possession that bonked off the backboard; while M corralled the rebound, Zak Irvin lost the ball on his game-tying attempt and Wagner's desperate volley from two-point range had no effect on the outcome.

While Michigan had the advantage up front, Iowa's backcourt, especially Peter Jok, held a similar edge. Jok poured in 25 points. Freshman point guard Jordan Bohannon outplayed Walton, posting 17 points and six assists with no turnovers and a couple huge shots late in the game. Irvin distributed the ball well in the first half when his shot wasn't falling, then committed a few costly turnovers in the second half and overtime when he finally regained his scoring touch. With Robinson only going 3/9 from beyond the arc and MAAR disappearing entirely, Michigan needed more efficiency from their senior guards.

They didn't quite get enough. Michigan starts 0-1 in Big Ten play, and while they have four very winnable games ahead of them on the schedule, they missed a great chance to tally a rare conference road win this afternoon.

Hoops Mailbag: More Weezy, Late Clock Offense, Best Five

Hoops Mailbag: More Weezy, Late Clock Offense, Best Five

Submitted by Ace on December 30th, 2016 at 4:36 PM

What's German for "you should play me more"? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Michigan begins Big Ten play on Sunday at Iowa. As the team's long holiday break comes to a close, it's a good time to take some mailbag questions. I got enough good questions this time around that I'll probably do another one of these next week; a couple of these required deeper dives than I expected.

I'll begin with this: I'm less concerned about the team making the tournament than most Michigan fans, or at least that's the sense I get. They're 10-3 with no resume-crushing losses and a couple neutral-site blowout wins over top-40 teams. While it's early yet to keep tabs on this, the Wolverines are a nine-seed in the Bracket Matrix with eight at-large teams below them. A handful of the teams ahead of them have the look of paper tigers. I'm not ready to believe Minnesota and Northwestern are tournament squads; both are currently ahead of Michigan in the matrix. This team is in better shape both statistically and resume-wise after the nonconference schedule than last year's team, which had Caris LeVert through the Big Ten opener. Unless there's an injury to a major contributor, which we obviously can't rule out, then this will be a tournament team.

With that out of the way, the key to season is Moe Wagner earning John Beilein's trust enough to become the focal point of this team. This is both on Wagner and Beilein. Wagner, for his part, needs to cut down on the oft-inexplicable mental errors that he makes on defense; those have been Beilein's focus when he explains why Wagner got pulled from a particular game or doesn't have a bigger role in general. Beilein, for his part, needs to realize that Michigan is usually better off with Wagner in the game even when he's made a couple mistakes. While I understand the need for teaching moments, they don't always need to come during games, especially when they may be at the expense of the team's chances to win.

There are already encouraging signs on this front. Wagner has played 25+ minutes in three of the last six games; the exceptions were UCLA, when he got in foul trouble, and the blowouts over Central Arkansas and Maryland Eastern Shore, when Beilein had a chance to give Jon Teske some extended playing time.

Meanwhile, Wagner's relatively low minute total—he's still playing a shade less than half of the available minutes—partially obscures the reality: when Wagner is on the floor, he's the lead offensive player. His 24.0% usage rate is the highest on the team, as is his 26.2% share of shot attempts when he's on the floor. His seven assists already outnumber last season's total by three. He's cut his turnover rate nearly in half, an especially difficult feat given the major uptick in usage. He's drawing more fouls. Most importantly, he's obscenely efficient as a scorer, shooting 71% on twos and 50% on threes. While those numbers will fall back to earth as Wagner can no longer feast on the Kennesaw States of the basketball world, it's clear that Wagner has the highest ceiling as a scorer of any of Michigan's rotation players, and it may not be close.

Wagner has done an excellent job of cutting down his foul rate, which has dropped from 7.3 fouls per 40 minutes last season to 3.9 this season. As long as that continues, it's time for Wagner to play closer to 30 minutes per game than his current mark of 19.2.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the mailbag.]

Michigan 68, Furman 62

Michigan 68, Furman 62

Submitted by Ace on December 22nd, 2016 at 9:09 PM

Derrick Walton's game-sealing three came after Michigan had missed their previous 12 attempts from beyond the arc. Michigan's narrow win over Furman was a 60-possession slog that was hard to watch outside of the two highlights above.

Moe Wagner (18 points on 16 FGA, five offensive boards) and Zak Irvin (16 points on 14 FGA, seven assists) were just effective enough on offense for this game to remain tight throughout even though the Wolverines couldn't buy a long-range jumper. It'd be easy to pin a game this ugly on the dead winter-break atmosphere and players looking ahead to the holidays; this was more Michigan missing a bunch of open looks in a painfully slow-paced game.

The Wolverines now get a significant break before their Big Ten season tips off at Iowa on January 1st. After tonight's game, we could all use some time off from basketball.

Michigan 98, Maryland Eastern Shore 49

Michigan 98, Maryland Eastern Shore 49

Submitted by Ace on December 17th, 2016 at 5:11 PM

Dear God. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog] (giphy'd)

For the second straight game, Michigan obliterated a completely overmatched foe. The Wolverines jumped out to a 19-2 lead against Maryland Eastern Shore and didn't let up from there. They led 49-22 at the half with as many three-pointers (8) as the Hawks had field goals. They finished with 28 assists on 32 baskets, led by a career-high ten dishes from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who entered the game within 90 seconds of tipoff after being replaced in the starting lineup by Duncan Robinson. (Update: Beilein said a clerical error caused Robinson's unexpected start.)

Derrick Walton had a near-flawless performance, scoring 21 points on ten shot equivalents with six rebounds, five assists, a steal, and no turnovers. UMES had no answer for DJ Wilson and Moe Wagner, who combined to go 10-for-11 from the field. Xavier Simpson had four assists and three steals. Ibi Watson had two dunks, one off an assist from Sean Lonergan. Former student manager Fred Wright-Jones made a three to send the bench into hysterics.

Michigan has one more non-conference game on Thursday against Furman before Big Ten play begins on New Year's Day at Iowa. While the last two games have been fun, its arrival will be welcome.

WTKA Roundtable 12/15/2016: The Third Turkey

WTKA Roundtable 12/15/2016: The Third Turkey

48 minutes


Our new shirt (still making subtle changes)

Things discussed:

  • Jive turkeys: who are they, what do they want, and why are they trying to influence our Harbaugh?
  • Who’s the third turkey, since Dantonio may not be eligible.
  • DPJ’s recruitment.
  • Hoops: UCLA was kind of fun until it wasn’t. The frontcourt of the future is going to be totally different than past Beilein teams but PG spot is hindering the pick & roll. Mo Wagner can solve a lot of Michigan’s problems, but don’t underrate what McGary was in his short time here with comparisons. This isn’t a scary Big Ten.
  • Forward down the field: Craig Ross was a Browns fan until they drafted Manziel.
  • Michigan hockey is bad. Protecting Red’s legacy.

You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.

Segment two is here. Segment three is here.


Basketbullets: Rim Protection, Donlon's Veto, MAAR, And More

Basketbullets: Rim Protection, Donlon's Veto, MAAR, And More

Submitted by Ace on December 9th, 2016 at 3:03 PM

Moe Wagner is earning John Beilein's trust on defense. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The Block Is Hot

I wasn't planning to do another Basketbullets before the UCLA game until I sat through John Beilein's presser after Tuesday night's win over Texas. Beilein is coming around to the idea that Moe Wagner is, in fact, his best all-around big man, and a big reason for that showed itself on the game's deciding play:

We got done what we had to get done. Moe’s block at the end was big. Moe’s blocking shots really for the first time in his life. His first blocked shots last year I think were in the Tulsa game. He’s learning when he should leave his feet, when he shouldn’t, to be a bigger presence at the rim. Really pleased with his development, as with DJ.

Beilein's memory is pretty good: Wagner had two blocks in last season's late-November win over Charlotte, then didn't record another before his four-block breakout against Tulsa in the NCAA tournament. Wagner has always possessed the requisite length and athleticism to be a good rim protector; now he's developing the necessary timing to challenge and alter shots without picking up fouls. That was on full display with Wagner's game-sealing block, which came after he and DJ Wilson seamlessly executed a switch. Wagner stayed vertical and waited until the last moment before swatting the ball away:

After recording blocks in two of his 29 appearances last year, Wagner has six in nine games. DJ Wilson has 14. Those two almost entirely account for Michigan's team block rate rising from 6.1% (308th nationally) last season to 8.4% (189th) this year, the team's highest mark since Beilein's first season, when Ekpe Udoh had 92 of the team's 160 blocks. Incidentally, that's the last time Michigan started two bigs. While there's still plenty of room to improve, those two have added a new dimension to the defense.

[Hit THE JUMP for Billy Donlon's clutch veto, a look at the game-winning bucket, and more.]

Michigan 53, Texas 50

Michigan 53, Texas 50

Submitted by Ace on December 6th, 2016 at 11:56 PM

[Marc-Gregor Campredon/MGoBlog]

"So you haven't seen us win many like that," said John Beilein to open his postgame presser. Truer statements have rarely been spoken.

Let's set aside, for a moment, the hideous nature of this game, and instead appreciate the future of Michigan basketball. That future is the big man pairing of Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson, which came up huge on both ends of the floor to pry a victory out of the jaws of defeat.

With 1:56 to play, Kerwin Roach gave Texas a 50-48 lead, and Michigan looked to be in a very tight spot when Zak Irvin's entry pass bounced out of bounds off Wagner's hands on the following possession. The Wolverines played suffocating defense to force an airball, and Wagner halved the margin with a free throw, then gave Michigan a 51-50 lead with a putback off a missed Irvin layup with 14 seconds to play.

With the game on the line, Texas first tried to run a play through Tevin Mack, who scored a game-high 18 points. Wilson stonewalled Mack as he tried to drive, then batted away a kickout pass to force the Longhorns to reset on an inbounds play. That play went to Eric Davis, who Wilson stuck with as he dribbled across the paint before seamlessly passing him off to Wagner, who emphatically blocked the potential game-winner. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman corralled the loose ball and put Michigan up three at the line; the ensuing midcourt prayer went unanswered.

A stylish finish (left) and the game-winning putback (right). [Campredon]

"I thought [Wagner] was the best player on the floor tonight," said Texas coach Shaka Smart.

There's plenty of evidence to back that up beyond the final sequence. Wagner paced the Wolverines with 15 points, made seven of his ten two-point attempts, pulled down five reounds, and added two assists, two steals, and a block. Beilein acknowledged that Wagner's defense has improved; he said, in fact, that he wanted to replace Wagner with Mark Donnal late in the game as a defensive substitution, but assistant Billy Donlon advised him not to do so—thankfully, he heeded Donlon's advice.

If Wagner wasn't Michigan's best player on the floor, it was Wilson. He required only seven shot equivalents to score his 13 points, led the team with six rebounds, and added two assists, two steals, and two blocks. He played great on-ball defense without getting into foul trouble.

The two bigs were Michigan's only effective offensive players this evening. Duncan Robinson was the only other Wolverine to finish in double figures, and he required 11 shots to score 12 points. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin were a combined 4-for-17 from the field with ten points, seven assists, and eight turnovers. Other than the huge final rebound and subsequent free throws, MAAR was invisible, scoring all three of his points from the line.

Michigan will need much more offense to hang with UCLA on Saturday. The defense, built around the two bigs, allowed only 0.82 points per possession and forced 14 turnovers tonight; that is more than welcome to stay, even if it takes some time to get used to it.

Basketbullets: An Unstoppable Set, Post Defense Follow-Up, Kennesaw Notes

Basketbullets: An Unstoppable Set, Post Defense Follow-Up, Kennesaw Notes

Submitted by Ace on December 5th, 2016 at 4:21 PM

Beilein has drawn up some easy layups for Wagner. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

I'm gonna try something new here with our hoops coverage. The Basketbullets posts have mostly been game column type things; I'm repurposing the name for what I plan to be a weekly or sometimes semi-weekly post with a couple regular staples—picture page play breakdowns and the KenPom Stat of the Week—and any other items of note. This is a work-in-progress; suggestions for regular features to include are more than welcome in the comments.

Kennesaw State Not-A-Recap

I took a rare weekend off, so I wasn't at the 82-55 Kennesaw State blowout on Saturday, and the time I set aside to go over the game today ended up dedicated to the next section instead. Dylan's recap and Five Key Plays should have you covered.

While rote destructions of teams ranked in the 300s on KenPom are to be expected, this one contained some encouraging signs. Moe Wagner scored a career-high 20 points, making all four his his twos and 3-of-4 three-pointers in 25 minutes; he had no turnovers and one foul. DJ Wilson avoided the foul trouble that plagued him against Virginia Tech and posted an efficient 15-11 double-double. Every Michigan player to see ten minutes of action posted an ORating of at least 106 except Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who continued a troubling stretch of poor games with an 0-for-5 performance. HighlightsFull box score.

[Hit THE JUMP for a seemingly unstoppable set, the KenPom Stat of the Week, and more.]

Michigan's Post Defense: A Thorough, Ugly Examination

Michigan's Post Defense: A Thorough, Ugly Examination

Submitted by Ace on December 2nd, 2016 at 2:30 PM

M's best post defender? It's, uh, in the eye of the beholder. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

After Wednesday night's Virginia Tech game, I sat in on John Beilein's postgame presser, attempting to fill out my game recap by transcribing quotes as Beilein talked. I stopped dead, however, at this quote, because I had just watched the same game and came away with a very different take:

“Scoring points wasn’t as big as trying to stop them. Right now, Mark [Donnal]’s a better defender. In defense of Moe [Wagner], Moe’s been sick all day, didn’t feel good. He was doing alright taking the ball to the basket."

What follows is a more thorough examination of Michigan's post defense against Virginia Tech than is necessary or easily digestible, but I spent an entire day compiling these numbers and video clips, so you will read this and like it*, dammit.

*you will probably not like it, sorry.

I began by looking at the points per possession numbers on both ends of the court with each center on the floor. The results:


OFFENSE TOTAL: 28 poss, 30 pts (1.07 PPP)
DEFENSE TOTAL: 27 poss, 29 pts (1.07 PPP)


OFFENSE TOTAL: 28 poss, 33 pts (1.18 PPP)
DEFENSE TOTAL: 27 poss, 36 pts (1.33 PPP)


OFFENSE TOTAL: 7 poss, 7 pts (1.00 PPP)
DEFENSE TOTAL: 7 poss, 6 pts (0.86 PPP)

DJ Wilson had two defensive possessions at center: a post stop and two free throws allowed after one of his fouls going for an offensive rebound.

While small sample size caveats abound, this matched the eye test both from this game and this season. The defensive numbers stood up to further scrutiny; the offensive numbers, which surprised me, did not. Non-Donnal Wolverines shot 6-for-13 on three-pointers when he was on the floor; Donnal added a three-point miss himself and didn't assist any of the six makes. Michigan made only 3-of-10 threes when Wagner was out there, and he assisted one of the makes. There wasn't a difference in the quality of the attempts; if M had shot 30% from three with Donnal on the floor like they did with Wagner, Donnal's offensive PPP in this game would've been 0.96.

[Hit THE JUMP for video and analysis, if you dare.]

Virginia Tech 73, Michigan 70

Virginia Tech 73, Michigan 70

Submitted by Ace on November 30th, 2016 at 10:10 PM

A thousand words. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

This one is going to sting.

Michigan had every opportunity to put Virginia Tech away and get a quality home win only to squander it with poor defense, strange substitutions by John Beilein, and a hideous heroball play by Zak Irvin on the potential game-winning shot.

The first half went about as well as one could ask. The Wolverines jumped out to a quick lead and were up by double digits for most of the opening stanza, exploiting VT's matchup zone—something they'd seen already this season against Howard—for a series of open threes and layups. Irvin was especially hot, pouring in 15 of his game-high 23 in the first half, and solid offensive contributions from Duncan Robinson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Moe Wagner combined with sloppy play from VT to give the Wolverines a nine-point halftime edge.

It was a different story in the second half. The Hokies stopped coughing up the ball, allowing them to attack Robinson and MAAR on the perimeter for blow-by layups and take advantage of Mark Donnal's interior defense seemingly every possession he was on the floor.

"[We were] just doing some strange things on defense, and it really cost us," said John Beilein.

"Sometimes we just lose that edge when you've got to get a stop, we lose that edge to get a stop. We've got to be a better defensive team than that."

Wagner had an efficient outing that left many wanting more. [Campredon]

Even though Wagner clearly outplayed Donnal throughout the game, they each logged 17 minutes, and the difference between the two was stark on both ends. VT's Zach LeDay got most of his 18 points when matched up with Donnal; he found the going tougher against Wagner and, for one possession before he fouled out, DJ Wilson. The Hokies couldn't stop Wagner, who hit 5-of-6 shots—most of them driving layups—for 11 points. Donnal did not score.

Michigan's ball movement petered out in the second half, too, and with it went their hot shooting; they shot only 12-for-30 and 3-for-13 from beyond the arc. Irvin embodied Michigan's struggles. After going 6-for-8 in the first half, making his shots within the confines of the offense, he hit only 4-of-12 in the second, forcing more of his looks. None were worse than his heroball chuck on Michigan's penultimate possession, which badly missed the mark with Michigan down one.

"We were trying to isolate him and they took him away a little bit. We know what to do when they take him away and we didn't do it," Beilein said. "It's that simple. So now we got isolated and we got all gunked up there, we couldn't call timeout, and we got a bad shot."

"I wish we had a timeout to really put something together. They blew it up and we didn't counter well."

After two VT free throws and a deflected inbounds pass, Michigan had one last chance on a sideline inbounds play with 3.7 seconds left. Wagner saved a long toss to Robinson, who got a half-decent look to tie it, but his shot rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.

"It's a great learning curve game for us, and we'll grow from it," Beilein said. "We didn't deserve the win the game the way we played those last ten minutes."