Remember That Time I Set That Guy On Fire Man Good Times Good Times Dude Was Totally On Fire

Remember That Time I Set That Guy On Fire Man Good Times Good Times Dude Was Totally On Fire Comment Count

Brian February 26th, 2018 at 12:20 PM

2/24/2018 – Michigan 85, Maryland 61 – 24-7, 13-5 Big Ten, end of regular season

NOW THAT I AM LIMBER MY OPPONENT GOES TIMBER

Michigan used to set people on fire with some frequency. Burke or Stauskas would get off to one of those starts, and it would rain death from above on opponents. Three specific examples jump out: a game at Illinois in 2014 where Michigan scored ten points in two minutes and finished the first half with 52, the official-twitter-shruggie Texas game—specifically the 31-6 run that induced said shruggie, and the Elite Eight game against Florida where the Gators let Stauskas shoot six open threes from the same spot on the floor.

This hasn't happened much since the Godmode guys headed to the NBA—last year's MSU game at Crisler is the pleasant exception—and hadn't really happened this year at all unless you count the ludicrous speed Purdue game. Since the above paragraph focuses on the opponent being on fire, not everything touched or looked upon by either player on either team, we'll exclude it. This was Michigan's first incineration of the season. Don't take it from me, take it from this guy in the background who beheld MAAR's half-closing three and decided that the last place he wanted to be was the Homesure Lending Center.

What a good time to incinerate a decent team on the road, the last game of the regular season. Brings a feeling of zesty confidence headed into the post-season. Dreams of Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman doing that to a one-seed in the Sweet 16, sort of thing.

38655608820_c14303c9cd_z

[Paul Sherman]

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

And of course there is the annual self-abasement for the thoughts that you could not dismiss during the early bit when a 15 point hole against UCLA looked like an NIT bid on the horizon. As per usual we've been poking around Bart Torvik's site to catch the wave, but Torvik made it easy this year:

Two clunkers. One probably due to the compressed schedule, the other that ugly road game against Northwestern's zone. One sketchy game against Minnesota. Otherwise, a lot of pew pew pew and opponents hitting the dirt. Also: Michigan yelling at Purdue that they've been shot and are dead and Purdue going "nuh-uh, I have a forcefield."

This is the way of things. Michigan comes out of the gate slowly because they're trying to get a handle on John Beilein's kaleidoscope offense. You think about the recruits that Michigan missed on and how they would certainly be better than the goons currently in front of your face. Some SEC team with a five star on their roster despite no history of doing anything at all stabs Michigan in the neck. Michigan Basketball Twitter starts discussing successors. Two months later every word from that dark period is memory-holed and we all gather around the fire to talk about subs and super soakers and sing kumbaya.

Sometimes there's a returning core able to avoid that grim early period; sometimes your best player gets injured for the year. Otherwise the script is so familiar by now that JJ Abrams could direct it. The bit at the end where Michigan wins a large number of basketball games in a short period of time is nice.

It's even nicer this year, what with the feds on the case in college basketball. Whatever your opinions about whether the FBI should be looking into this or what college basketball should look like going forward, it is absolutely fantastic to not have your heart skip a beat when Pat Forde tweets.

AGENT IMPLICATES MOST OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL is like, whatever, you know? We're just over here playing five-out and never turning the ball over, like we do. Hope that all works out for you and the FBI.

BULLETS

Stats are kind of eh. Michigan got up so much that the second half was for Chris Farley evaluations and Beilein's patented prevent offense. Things got sloppy, and there was a lot of late clock stuff, and so I'm not sure how seriously to take anything in the box score. Except one thing.

Muhammad takes the wheel! I can't promise you that 41% usage is a career record for MAAR but it sure as hell is. 28 points on 22 shot equivalents, seven assists, two turnovers, and two OREBs as a bonus—never before and probably never again. Unless it's the glasses. But MAAR is the one guy on the team who can both shoot and drive with efficiency and is thus Michigan's best hope for a ball-dominant postseason star.

Michigan, being Michigan, isn't going to have many games where its top usage guy is over 30, let alone 40. It doesn't have to. It does need someone who can be efficient up to 24 or 28. Hopefully this Rahk renaissance lasts through the next month.

39570151995_9a0e996f98_z
[Paul Sherman]

Matthews scored some points. Okay, maybe two things. The second thing is that Charles Matthews saw the ball go through the basket in the second half. That made for his first non-miserable outing since Wisconsin and only his 5th in the last 16. Perhaps more encouragingly than that was his usage, which dipped to 21% as MAAR took the wheel. Matthews provides excellent defense and solid OREBs so if his tendency to suck up a bunch of possessions without scoring can be minimized he's still a plus player. For that to happen other guys have to take more shots, and etc etc. I've said it before.

Teske alters the shots. Jon Teske didn't score but that might have been his best game of the season? I might be serious about that. His ten minutes saw him contest maybe a dozen shots, several of which looked like easy finishes until he got involved. Teske was able to fall off his defender despite the opposition starting their drive as Teske, back to the basketball, recovered on a pick and roll; he was only hit with one foul; he at one point intimidated Huerter into a bizarre miss.

I've said it before, but if Mo does go Teske is going to be a different but potentially just as effective post presence.

Don't look at it head on yet. 12/16 from the line. Lack of Matthews/Simpson FTAs (just four) a major factor there. Increased time for Poole very helpful; he's up to 82% on the year.

Wee bit fortunate. Michigan gave up too many good looks from the outside for Maryland to only hit three of them. Their two Just A Shooter guys are hitting 40% on the year and combined to go 1/10. Mostly this happened after the game was decided and closeouts came with less urgency.

Bracket glance. Michigan is now appearing on a fair number of five lines at the Bracket Matrix. Large Media Conglomerate Bracketing still has them as a six, but Michigan is now the top six at BM by some distance. I'd guess they stick there even if they go 1-1 at the Big Ten Tournament. Moving up would probably mean making the final with a win over MSU unless the teams directly in front of them (Kentucky, Rhode Island, Gonzaga, OSU) take a tumble. 

Comments

Muhammad Take The Wheel

Muhammad Take The Wheel Comment Count

Brian February 19th, 2018 at 1:10 PM

2/18/2018 – Michigan 74, Ohio State 62 – 22-7, 11-5 Big Ten

40345465681_1fc1eb11e0_z

[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

It happens about three times a game: Michigan's offense will stall out to not much, someone will fling the ball to Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and he'll plunge through a thicket of defenders to the rim. The result, far more frequently than it seems like it should be, is two points when none recently beckoned.

There is a universal undercurrent to all of Abdur-Rahkman's sweeping, acrobatic, contested layups: "why not that, but all the time?"

His uncanny ability to get to the basket in bad situations has been a bedrock of Michigan's late clock offense for years, and remains so. If you can get to the rim and hit 69% with five seconds left on the clock, perhaps we should explore doing that more often.

And yet. MAAR has carved out an incredibly specific size of role no matter how he was operating in that role. His usage went from 16.5 as a freshman to 16.3 as a sophomore, to 16.3 again, and if you'd poked at Kenpom a month ago you would have seen that same 16 staring out at you. This despite a skyrocketing ORTG and a Michigan offense that verges on wonky. It would be unwise but understandable to grab MAAR by the shoulders and shake him, yelling "ahhhhh do more stuff."

Or perhaps this maneuver has already been executed.

image

As his career rounds the last bend, Abdur-Rahkman finally emerges from the shadow of the role player. He's not an all-conquering, all-usage Trae Young, but going from 16% usage to 20 over the last 7 games has corresponded to a 5-2 stretch where the only thing preventing 6-1 with a win at Purdue was Purdue shooting 80% on halfcourt shots—170 ORTG was not sufficient to win game MVP or, like, the game. Michigan's two worst offensive performances in that stretch by some distance where the two low-usage MAAR games against Northwestern's zone.

It doesn't seem right to say that as MAAR goes, so does Michigan, but it does seem like he provides a baseline of efficiency that the rest of the team can build on. Dude has had 16 turnovers all season, and this recent surge hasn't seen that rate increase: he's got two in those seven games.

Maybe he's already taking all the shots he can be efficient on because he has a spooky ability to identify when he's got a lane. But it kind of feels like if Michigan is going to do something surprising in the tournament, it's because MAAR decides he's going to dominate the ball, just once, in case it's awesome.

BULLETS

39634122974_1d0daaa5ce_z

[Campredon]

Making yo coffee hot. Jordan Poole entered this game with Michigan locked in a tight contest largely because of their moribund three-point shooting. Poole was 2 for his last 15, and naturally hit 4 of 5 because he has no memory. The rest of the team was 3 of 15, which is a recipe for certain doom sans Poole.

It is completely irrational but it feels like Mo Wagner's first attempt from three dictates whether Michigan's going to burn up the nets or imprison them in a wall of bricks for imagined insults. It was the latter here until Poole rescued them.

This was also a good compare and contrast between Poole and Robinson. OSU focused on limiting Robinson and held him two two attempts; Poole's ability to threaten a drive and pull up got him a couple of unassisted opportunities he canned.

Inverse free throw juju. Hopefully whatever witchdoctor flipped the teams' free throw shooting abilities can hold that spell until March. OSU shot 9 of 19 versus Michigan's 17 of 24, thus preventing a heartstopping finish. A large part of this from Michigan's perspective was getting the right guys to the line: Wagner, MAAR, Robinson, and Poole had 14 attempts. Simpson and Matthews had 7.

Simpson also debuted a new Rip Hamilton free throw homage that got him to 4/6, although the last two rattled around before going down. Whatever helps.

At long last, board obliterated. Dunno what OSU's done to Jae'Sean Tate this year but that looked like the old Tate to me. He was the spearhead for an OSU OREB vanguard that clobbered Michigan for what was the first time probably all year. Michigan got out-OREB'd 15-4, but did make up for it with a +7  TO margin, preventing a serious FGA gap.

We're filing this under Just A Thing for now.

Board obliteration obscures defense. Hoop Math's numbers for yesterdays game are bonkers. They have 8% of OSU's shots at the rim, and 72% two point jumpers. Those seem to exclude putbacks, of which OSU had nine attempts and five makes. Minus those, OSU was 14 of 38 from two—37%. OSU is 32nd nationally in 2PT%.

A large part of this was Keita Bates-Diop going 2 for 11, with that work split about equally between Livers and Robinson. Neither guy did much on offense, but they more than earned their keep by sending a kPOY candidate to one of his worst games of the season. Ace reports that Synergy has Robinson a dang near average defender this year, up from 23rd percentile a year ago. This is largely because teams are trying to post him up a lot more than they did last year. Robinson's proven fairly adept at fending off fours like KBD and Jaren Jackson on the block.

39634125984_1bb7102c97_z

[Campredon]

Zounds! Zavier Simpson's offensive line is decent, but not astounding. What he did to CJ Jackson, though: three points on 5 shot equivalents, zero assists, three turnovers. Simpson committed zero fouls doing this. Jackson hadn't been held without an assist all season. Let's check in on opposing point guards over the last few games:

  • Jordan Bohannon, Iowa: 9% usage, 7 points. 5 A: 0 TO though.
  • Brad Davison, Wisconsin: 10 points on 11 shot equivalents, 1 A, 1 TO, 88 ORTG.
  • Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern: 24 points on 14 shot equivalents, 5 A, 1 TO, 162 ORTG
  • Nate Mason, Minnesota: 22 points on 19 shot equivalents, 2 A, 0 TO, 122 ORTG.

So not a consistent murder-like substance. It should be noted that approximately all of Mason's twos were pull ups just inside the line that he's been miserable at this season.

What a strange team. OSU, that is. I'm slightly worried that Chris Holtmann has managed to put together a team that will get a solid NCAA seed with this pu-pu platter of available options. Andrew Dakich may be shooting well this year but he's still more or less the walk-on he was at Michigan, except now he's getting 20 minutes a game. His line in 22 minutes yesterday: 0/3, one TO, one steal, one foul. OSU has four pretty good players and then zero.

Holtmann's decision to sit Micah Potter, who is a solid offensive option, for nonentity freshman Kyle Young only exacerbated that gap. Young had Dakich-like usage in 22 minutes, and that puts an enormous burden on your good players to survive in the usage 30s.

Bracket updates. About what you'd expect on the two major-network experts to update after OSU. Lunardi moved Michigan from a 6 to a 5; Palm moved Michigan from an 8 to a 7. OSU is a 5 on Palm's bracket. I'm struggling to see a two-seed gap between these resumes with an identical number of wins and losses. I'm leaving out the H2H and Maryland home wins:

  • OSU Ws: MSU, @ Purdue. Bad Ls: none.
  • M Ws: @ MSU, UCLA, @ Texas. Bad Ls: @ Northwestern.

OSU has the #13 SOR per ESPN; Michigan is #15. If it's not tight it's because RPI and quadrants are mis-evaluating Michigan's season.

Michigan has two more Q1 opportunities to finish the season, so they have some upward mobility left.

Comments

They've Gone To Plaid

They've Gone To Plaid Comment Count

Brian January 26th, 2018 at 12:56 PM

1/25/2018 – Purdue 92, Michigan 88 – 17-6, 6-4 Big Ten

39578080302_2e6dfdfec7_z

77%, 7'2", cumong man [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The most absurd thing about last night's basketball game, which was a nonstop avalanche of absurd things, was that I had a reference point for it. That is, of course, last year's delirious first-round NCAA tournament game against Oklahoma State, which finished 92-91. Last night, which is officially That Michigan-Purdue Game, was 92-88 in an identical number of possessions. (Give Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman the free throws he inexplicably bricked on a night he could have tossed up a blindfolded halfcourt shot and called bank and the similarities get downright eerie.)

That number: 65, so if we do some division... carry the 8... yep, it comes out to plaid. Because I have another exact reference point for this:

I can probably stop typing now, because the above clip sums it up: some introductory exchanges, a jump past anything that could be considered a reasonable or safe velocity, a sudden stop, and then... I'm fine with it. Also my head has been crushed. I would like to fall over now.

Sometimes they get to have Nik Stauskas in evil kiss-blowing ninja mode. Sometimes they get to have Trey Burke.

The thing about Purdue is that they're sort of all Stauskas? Not Haas. Haas is not Stauskas. But he did remind me of that year Jared Sullinger and John Diebler were on the same Ohio State team. Sullinger spent his days posting up with absurd efficiency and kicking it out to Diebler, who hit 50% of his 227(!) threes. OSU was 34-3 and the #1 team on Kenpom that year. It's a good pattern, having an ogre who can hit free throws surrounded by a bonanza of shooters.

That OSU team hit 42% of its threes as a team. 2018 Purdue is at 44%. Meanwhile, designated ogre Haas is now a high-usage 7'2" guy who could throw Brock Lesnar through a brick wall; if he had sufficient minutes to rank on Kenpom leaderboards he'd be in the top 20 in FT rate. He hits those free throws at a 77% clip. He does not get sufficient minutes to rank because Purdue also has a 7'3" Dutchman who's half windmill.

So I don't know what the hell you're supposed to do if you don't have someone capable of checking Haas, and nobody really does. I don't know what you're supposed to do against Haas when that team has five different guys hitting 40+% from three. Even when you do get a good defensive possession in, I don't know what you're supposed to do to prevent Carsen Edwards from getting off bad-idea shots that go down anyway. I don't know how to score on the windmill, although Xavier Simpson evidently does.

I mean, I do know what you're supposed to do: you're supposed to have Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman leave his damn body, shoot 63% from two and 57% from three as a team, and have a +3 shot volume advantage. EXCEPT THAT DOESN'T WORK.

So, okay. I accept that this is the year Purdue has Stauskas and Burke and THJ and GRIII all on the same team. Matt Painter ain't never done nothing to me except leave my corpse gently cooling in the dusty street, so I hope Purdue wins the whole damn thing in March. Still super pissed off about that review from the Crisler game, though.

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

Meanwhile for Michigan, it seems clear that this is not The Year, like it is for Purdue and their four seniors. So we can take equal parts frustration, amazement, and hope from this plaid-ass game.

Michigan's thudding offense from the previous three games was gone. Whether that was an opportunity to rest or practice the ways in which opponents were dealing with the Michigan offense I don't know, but a Beilein offense was never going to stay 20-points-in-a-half broken. Zavier Simpson, as mentioned, was able to get several shots up and in against the human windmill, and a couple of misses were Kobe assists. When not playing Purdue the defense is very good, and there's a bunch of talent coming in next year.

Also I am going to spend the next two months squinting at John Teske and hoping. It could happen!

Comments

This Week’s Obsession: Wave a Maverick Wand

This Week’s Obsession: Wave a Maverick Wand Comment Count

Seth January 24th, 2018 at 3:58 PM

image

One of us was just called a sports blogger by an Illinois player. [Bryan Fuller]

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

THIS ARTICLE HAS A SPONSOR: You should stop waiting. I know it’s been on your to-do list for awhile. It’s time to talk to Nick Hopwood, our MGoFinancial Planner from Peak Wealth Management and get your future squared away instead of thinking about it all the time.

Our deal is Nick is the guy I go to for financial strategies, and he gets to ask us Michigan questions on your behalf. Anytime it’s a Nick question, we’ll let you know. 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.

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

Nick’s Question:

If you could wave a magic Maverick Morgan wand over one M baller right now?

If you’re not up on the meme, we mean a player on this team who suddenly explodes like Derrick Walton did last year after Illinois player Maverick Morgan suggested Walton/Michigan was soft. So that this isn’t just a highest ceiling discussion, we’re instituting a Poole Rule: the player can only become the best plausible version of himself this year, e.g. Poole can become freshman Stauskas but not Sauce Castillo.

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

The Responses:

David: I will take Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Granted, he probably does not have a Walton Leap in him, but if can develop a bit more consistency, perhaps with the ability to finish in the lane/at the rim, that would add another dimension to this offense.

image
Could one of you…? [MG Campredon]

I'm not sure how high his ceiling would be in this regard, but it is most likely the part of the offense that could use the largest increase. Michigan has some shooters—even Z has been able to contribute when left open—and they have a few guys who can exploit some mismatches in Matthews and Wagner, but a consistent lane finisher at the end of the shot clock is a piece that would steady a fluctuating offense. If it could be Rahk in those situations, Michigan would not have to burden other players who have generally performed well in their suited roles.

Ace: (someone should answer Z should I can give my Wagner take without the obvious answer being missed)

Brian: I was going to say Wagner though.

Ace: Okay I’ll take Z

Brian: I mean, you can take Wagner.

Seth: Zagner.

Brian: I just think the Magic Wand version of Z is still a player with 16% usage and always will be.

Ace: Disagree, so you should take Wagner.

Alex: I would take a 50% better Jon Teske if his path to more playing time wasn't blocked by Wagner. Fun fact: he's 5th in steal rate among B1G players who have played at least 20% of available minutes.

[After THE JUMP is it Moe or Mo?]

Comments

Arby's Ouroboros

Arby's Ouroboros Comment Count

Brian January 16th, 2018 at 1:21 PM

1/15/2018 – Michigan 68, Maryland 67 – 16-4, 5-2 Big Ten

24847010967_7d1912b1d5_z

[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Michigan won the game you lose because it's almost too weird to call basketball. At several different points in last night's game I cried "what is going ON?!" to the world at large, usually because a Michigan player had missed a point blank shot or dribbled it off his own face. Crisler's halftime highlight montage had literally every single first-half Michigan bucket in it. It was that kind of game.

This happens from time to time, especially when you're on short rest and the opponent isn't. A virtual lid descends on the basket; things look more or less fine except in the period between the shot going up and the shot entering the basket, because it never actually enters the basket. It was miserable.

Naturally, Michigan followed this up with a period in the second half where you could have blindfolded Jordan Poole and friends and it wouldn't have mattered. By the time Maryland called its second befuddled timeout of the half, Michigan was 8/11 from three. This slightly contrasted with their first half shooting performance, which qualified the entire roster to join COBRA or enlist as a stormtrooper.

A gob-smacked Mark Turgeon afterwards:

Michigan scored barely over a point per possession in this game, and also sent the opposing coach into a tailspin of recriminations and purges. Basketball!

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

So it wasn't a surprise when Michigan decided 59 points was sufficient to win and reverted to pew pew laser shooting. It wasn't a surprise when Maryland trundled back into the game despite having 80% free throw shooters brick front ends. It wasn't a surprise that Michigan's attempt to get it inbounds after Maryland cut it to two travelled from Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, a 91% free throw shooter, to Zavier Simpson, a 50% free throw shooter.

Simpson clanging both shots was a little weird. Because it's kind of what I expected. Also weird: Michigan choosing three seconds left in the game to give up the first wide open three Kevin Huerter had seen all night despite Huerter's evident willingness to shoot from half court.

Then there are three seconds left, and the play you run with three seconds left—which never ever works for a dozen reasons—works so spectacularly well you end up with Abdur-Rahkman, who has damned and redeemed and damned himself already in this game, charging at the basket for a potential layup when a flat-topped moose thunks him from the side. Tweet tweet. Foul. Two shots.

This is what Abdur-Rahkman looks like as he shoots the ensuing free throws:

image

These men are nihilists, dude. MAAR looks like a Michigan football fan during the fourth quarter of the bowl game. He sinks both free throws and Michigan wins.

And I want you to know this, reader: Crisler literally has a promotion where a ticket stub from a Michigan win during which they score 70 points nets you a free slider at Arby's. Yes. Nihilist Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman sends Michigan to victory with 68 points. Eat At Arby's. Don't Eat At Arby's. If ever a basketball game deserved to end on a Nihilist Arby's infinite regression paradox loop, it was this one.

BULLETS

WOOF? Uh... analysis almost seems beside the point. Michigan's offense bogged down a little bit early and had far too much of the late-clock stuff they haven't been good at, but probably a majority of their misses were at the rim. Maryland did a decent job challenging shots; they did not do enough to hold Michigan to 0.7 PPP while forcing one (ONE!) turnover.

Bad luck? Something goofy because they'd played on Saturday? I don't know. I think it's just one of those things. Michigan's insane three point shooting gallery in the second half was probably the same thing in the other direction: abnormal luck.

Anthony Cowan is the Steph Curry generation. Dude is a dude, and every time Maryland got in a late clock situation I thought about his Hoop Math page and its 50% unassisted 3 column. He was 4/6 from deep and maybe all of those were jacks? Two were heavily-contested buzzer-beaters off the dribble in the first half that were really, really painful given what was going on at the other end.

Anyway: Cowan's ability to rise up over anyone at any time is where basketball is going. I compared David DeJulius to Derrick Walton the last time a highlight video of his hit this here site, but immediately after this game I think Cowan is a closer fit.

This is a nice thing to think about your fourth-most-hyped incoming recruit.

Jordan Poole! Poole was a major catalyst for Michigan's second half comeback, and revealed afterwards that he named his NBA 2k character The Microwave in honor of Vinnie Johnson. My dude. He had his typical defensive issues and one over-eager turnover, but in a game where Michigan seemed afraid to take a shot his second half minutes were a breath of fresh air. All the potential in the world.

Wagner: back. Second straight game he leads Michigan in points, and 11 rebounds give him a rare-for-Mo double-double. Turgeon's right: Wagner adds an aspect to Michigan's offense that could take it from okay to excellent. We saw it against MSU, and in this game his 4/6 from deep was critical.

Comments

Michigan 68, Maryland 67

Michigan 68, Maryland 67 Comment Count

Seth January 15th, 2018 at 9:50 PM

image

sure.

It was your typical trap game. Playing 51 hours after a season-defining road win in East Lansing, Beilein’s clearly exhausted Michigan squad barely scraped together 20 points in the first half. Then, as trap games go, they erased the 10-point deficit right out of the break, pushed it to a 10-point lead thanks to a little-used freshman sparkplug, lost the 10-point lead, went down by 1 point with 3.5 seconds, and won on two MAAR free throws, just another couple of points in a career that’s seen a thousand of them.

Michigan certainly came out like they’d just played the biggest game of their season two days ago, missing layups, dunks and open threes as the Terps opened a 30-20 deficit at the half. In the frame the Wolverines shot just 31% from the field without getting to the line. MAAR in particular was scuffling,

Maryland, on five days rest, was able to collect a few early buckets in transition and capitalize on more than a few bounces. Michigan played strong defense, forcing the Terps to use the entire shot clock and take five desperation heaves—their eight points off of those low-percentage attempts were most of the 10-point difference in the half.

As Mr. Bridges noted after Saturday’s game, Michigan doesn’t really focus on toughness. Yet for the second time in three days these non-toughness-focusing players erased a halftime deficit out of the break. Zavier Simpson sparked the comeback with a few brilliant series, one a defensive set in which he cut off an Anthony Cowan drive, fought through a screen, knocked the ball out of bounds, assisted on a bad shot, and collected the rebound. Down three Z drove the length of the court, released a floater from the top of the paint, and sank the and-one to tie it 30-30.

Then in came Jordan Poole.

4O6A3762

“Poole’s B1G eFG%: 70.6” —Ace  [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

If the Purdue game was a taste, this was a coming out party for Michigan’s (arguably) most talented freshman. Poole immediately showed his characteristic awareness for the arc. In one sequence he sank a transition three, blocked a Maryland attempt at the same, and got back down to deliver Z’s drive and kick. In minutes Michigan had a 45-41 lead. Later he’d hint at his ceiling as a creator with a beautiful bounce-pass that set up a Teske and-one and pushed Michigan’s lead to 8.

With Z’s backups struggling and Poole hot, Beilein experimented with a MAAR-Poole-Matthews lineup. This didn’t look bad—it got Wagner an open top of the key 3PA (he missed). It also opened up transition lanes for Maryland. A pair of Wagner free throw misses and a small Maryland run on two crazy buckets forced a timeout with the lead cut to four, setting up the ho hum finish.

Under two minutes, MAAR missed a layup and Wagner picked up a foul on a rebound as Maryland cut Michigan’s lead to 2 with 1:19 remaining. On the ensuing possession Matthews fought his way out of a trap, and Michigan passed it around the horn to get MAAR an open three and Michigan a two-point lead. The teams then traded layups, then with 20 seconds left Cowan sank an improbable line drive three, Z missed a pair of free throws, and Kevin Heurter sank one of his signature ladder triples to put Maryland ahead a point with 3.5 seconds left.

In typical trap game fashion, Isaiah Livers hit MAAR on a perfect deep flag route. Abdur-Rahkman, at 998 career points, tripped over a Terp and picked up the foul. The rest was academic.

Michigan escapes their murderous stretch at 2-1 (that shoulda been 3-0) with a tournament resume, and now has a few days to rest before their Thursday tilt in Lincoln, followed by Rutgers at home.

[After the jump: a box score, more photos by MG, some favorite tweets, and at some point you might want to breathe]

Comments

Michigan 59, Texas 52

Michigan 59, Texas 52 Comment Count

Ace December 12th, 2017 at 11:56 PM

It may have been ugly. Texas may have been shorthanded. For Michigan, though, tonight's 59-52 road victory over the Longhorns capped a huge week for their tournament chances.

While a defensive slugfest wasn't the unlikeliest scenario, I don't think anybody expected this game to play out the way it did. Both teams struggled to hit from beyond the arc, but Michigan scored more efficiently than a tall Texas squad on two-pointers, especially as they built a 12-point halftime lead. The Longhorns led 2-0 at the under-16 timeout; they wouldn't lead again. Facing five-star skyscraper Mo Bamba, Michigan won the battle of the boards.

After the achingly slow start, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman got the team rolling with a corner three and never looked back. The Wolverines, especially MAAR, got more confident attacking the basket even with Bamba protecting the rim, and they were able to hit a surprising number of tough shots. Of Michigan's 14 first-half field goals, 12 were two-pointers.

The lead didn't remain comfortable for long as Texas made multiple second-half surges. Duncan Robinson and Isaiah Livers both had trouble slowing down Dylan Osetkowski, who led the way for Texas with 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting. He was the only Texas player who could maintain any sort of effeciency on offense, however; the rest of the team went 10-for-25 on twos and 3-for-16 from downtown.

After Osetkowski went on an early second-half tear, Michigan answered with an 11-0 run spearheaded by Charles Matthews and Moe Wagner. Shortly after the run ended, however, Wagner rolled his right ankle over Bamba's foot, and he was quickly ruled out of the game. Seemingly given new life, Texas went on a 7-0 run of their own to close the gap to seven.

As he had all night, MAAR came up big, though perhaps a tad lucky; his banked-in three-pointer ended the run and all but ended the game with 4:53 remaining. He'd add one more tough bucket and a free throw to keep UT at bay, finishing with team-highs of 17 points and ten rebounds.

After beating UCLA and Texas in back-to-back games, Michigan gets a few tune-up contests before conference play starts in January, beginning with a matchup against Detroit on Saturday. While the schedule would allow Michigan to avoid rushing Moe Wagner back, his injury thankfully doesn't sound too serious anyway:

Jon Teske played 18 minutes because of Wagner's injury and early foul; he was a defensive presence, blocking two shots and adding a steal. While he failed to make an offensive impact, he covered much of the gap with his defense, continuing an encouraging run of play for him. Zavier Simpson had another solid performance, getting into the lane for a couple tough buckets, dishing out four assists, and once again earning John Beilein's trust to handle crunch-time minutes. Jordan Poole only played eight minutes but made both of his shots, a tough transition bucket and a step-in jumper off a nifty move at the arc.

So long as Wagner's injury doesn't have a significant impact, this was a huge night for the boys in blue. The victory has already moved Michigan up five spots on KenPom, and for now they should be on the right side of the bubble in early tourney projections. Even if Texas collapses without leading scorer Andrew Jones, which looks like a distinct possibility, the Wolverines just came through a tough five-game stretch with a 3-2 record, strengthened their resumé, and got a better idea of the rotation going forward. Now Beilein gets a few games to tinker before Big Ten play resumes.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Comments

Basketbullets: Can This Team Be Good?

Basketbullets: Can This Team Be Good? Comment Count

Ace December 6th, 2017 at 2:48 PM


[James Coller]

After the collapse at Ohio State on Monday, there's been quite a bit of consternation among Michigan fans about the course of the season. The Wolverines sit at 7-3, and they're only 2-3 against viable competition, with their best win coming against the #82-ranked team on KenPom. If they don't at least come away with a split in their upcoming games against UCLA and Texas, there's good reason to worry about how this team is going to compile a worthy tournament resumé.

To get an idea of how the season could play out, I wanted to take a look at how John Beilein's Michigan teams have improved (or not) over the course of the season. I'm an idiot, however, so thankfully our very own Alex Cook had the same thought and could actually put it into action. Alex used the game score metric from Bart Torvik*—a 0-100 score for each game based on adjusted efficiency margin—to map out the in-season progression of Beilein's teams. This, for example, is last season's graph. The blue line tracks the individual game scores; the black line is a five-game running average; the gray line is the overall season trend. As you certainly guessed, the 2016-17 graph shows a great deal of late-season improvement:


Waltoning, The Graph

The first question that I had: was last year more the exception or the rule? Alex went through each season to get the answer. Positive numbers show in-season improvement, negative the opposite:

I'm about to get into much more detail, but the initial takeaway is we can't assume that Beilein is going to turn things around this season without a couple things breaking the right way. Using the above as a guide, it's time to take a look at the potential ways this season plays out.

[Hit THE JUMP for season scenarios with past precedent.]

Comments

Michigan 87, UC Riverside 42

Michigan 87, UC Riverside 42 Comment Count

Ace November 26th, 2017 at 6:18 PM


Moe Wagner reacts to Jordan Poole's block/three sequence. [James Coller/MGoBlog]

Things you need to know from this game:

Wilton Speight announced he'll grad-transfer during the second half.

Four Wolverines scored in double figures, led by Moe Wagner with 21.

Eli Brooks finally got some production out of the point guard position, scoring eight on 3-for-6 shooting (2-for-4 3P) and handing out a couple assists in 18 minutes.

Charles Matthews dished out 12 assists. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, meanwhile, had his sixth straight game with at least four assists (five) and recorded only his second turnover of the season.

There was a 7:30 stretch in the first half during which UC Riverside went 0-for-9 from the field with seven turnovers.

Jordan Poole did this:

That's worth another look:

Oh, twist my arm, here's another reaction shot:


[Coller]

Further takeaways from this game will come in a more comprehensive Basketbullets on Tuesday.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Comments

Michigan 102, Chaminade 64

Michigan 102, Chaminade 64 Comment Count

Ace November 21st, 2017 at 10:18 PM

Glorified scrimmage
Would be the game they get hot
Hot damn, Charles Matthews

Fine, some bullets:

But for real, of all the games for three-point luck to even out. Michigan went a scorching 15-for-28 from beyond the arc. Chaminade canned a couple fluky ones and still only made 5-of-22.

Anyway, Charles Matthews! Even against D-II competition, this is a quite a stat line for a guy who also had a huge game last night: 22 points on perfect 8-for-8 shooting, ten rebounds, four assists, two turnovers, three blocks, and two steals in 29 minutes. Matthews played with every bit of effort and skill that stat line suggests.

Duncan Robinson found his shot. 14 points, 4-for-9 from beyond the arc, unfair in transition. A nice bounceback after a rough go against LSU.

Eli Brooks got his first start. Brooks had a nice start with a catch-and-shoot three and a slick pick-and-roll assist, but his effectiveness didn't last; he went 1-for-4 with one assist and a turnover the rest of the way. Jaaron Simmons, the next point guard to get in, nearly put up an 11-minute trillion. Zavier Simpson was the best PG tonight but didn't exactly stand out.

Jordan Poole got a longer look. Poole looked good in his first extended action, doing what he's supposed to do: get buckets. He needed only nine minutes to score ten points, drilling two of his three shots from downtown. While he's got a long way to go on defense, he should cut into Ibi Watson's minutes if he keeps hitting jumpers.

Rahk, sharing. For the fourth straight game, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored double-digit points with at least four assists. He's turned the ball over just once in that four-game span, an especially remarkable feat considering how often he drives into traffic. That's a big development with the point guards struggling to produce.

Rebounding: not great. Outside of Matthews, the team didn't rebound well. Michigan had only three offensive boards (Jon Teske grabbed the third) before Austin Davis had three on his lonesome in the late going. Chaminade, meanwhile, pulled down 16 of their 39 missed shots (41%). After doing well on the boards early on, this didn't look like nearly as good an effort from Moe Wagner on first viewing.

Tomorrow's game. Michigan faces VCU, 83-69 winners over Cal, at 5 pm EST on ESPN 2. KenPom has the good guys as five-point favorites.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

Comments