Low Earth Orbit

Low Earth Orbit

Submitted by Brian on April 1st, 2013 at 1:10 PM

3/31/2013 – Michigan 79, Florida 59 – 30-7, Final Four

nik-stauskas-michigan-wolverines-behind-the-back-pass-570x401

There was a point—probably the 360 GRIII dunk against Minnesota that capped a fist-pumping, game-sealing run on the home floor of what then seemed like a top-ten opponent—when this Michigan team's ceiling seemed limitless. If Michigan needed points, Trey Burke snapped his fingers and it was so. Nik Stauskas was flirting with all-time three-point shooting records; Tim Hardaway Jr seemed to have played himself into the first round, no questions. Defense was a minor issue, surely.

I spent chunks of words around this point talking about how everyone should grab this team and hold on tight, because joys like this don't come around very often. I think I wrote like three columns exhorting anyone who happened across this here blog to set aside cynicism or reserve and prise open their chest, the better to let your heart pound loose and free in the exhilaration of the moment.

Coming down from that was terribly sad. The shellshock of the first OSU game was okay, because they were young and still fought back like champions. That happened before the GR360 anyway. Losing at Indiana was expected, and relatively competitive and the Kohl Center debacle was a fluke. It was really the next two events that punched me right in the heart. When Michigan flat-out did not show up at Michigan State, I watched the second half on mute with a glass of whiskey in my hand. I don't even know what I did during the Penn State game, but I knew how it felt. It felt like Michigan basketball. Shit.

I was in orbit, man, and had not considered the possibility of forced reentry or what I'd turned the ol' heart into: a blast shield.

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

There are few things better in basketball than a three point shooter going nuts. For all the things Kevin Durant his done, he may be best loved for blowing up Rucker Park with four consecutive threes. I mean:

image

Dr. J got his nickname on that court, and he can't make Google autosuggest. Localized abatements in the law of probability have pull. Stauskas's early-season emergence was Rucker Park every night.

The fade was inevitable, but every time an announcer mentions Nik Stauskas's still-blazing three-point shooting people who have been watching Michigan play basketball all year only hear that shooting percentage is a couple points lower than it was a couple games ago. Part of the magic that made Michigan seem like an unstoppable train was Stauskas's three point shooting lines. Here are twelve consecutive games: 3/4, 3/4, 1/4, 2/3, 4/7, 4/5, 3/4, 2/5, 4/8, 2/7, 5/8, 5/8.

If he let it go, you expected it to go down. Not in the sense that you were momentarily allowing hope to overwhelm your reason. In the sense that the ball in the air was literally better than 50/50 to go in the hoop despite being launched from a great distance. Stauskas's shooting was a microcosm of the team; it was impossible to do anything other than stare at it, slack-jawed. Stupid grins optional, but recommended.

The wake-up call came at Ohio State. Stauskas didn't score in 23 minutes; he only got off three terrible looks from three. Guy probably hadn't gone a game without scoring since he was six. Towards the end his brain foundered. As the Big Ten season progressed, his fate followed the team's: 1/5 from three in the Indiana loss as Jordan Hull showed him what efficiency was; the same line at the Trohl center; 5 turnovers in the Penn State debacle; 1/8 from the field in the second Wisconsin loss. His decline was a microcosm of the team's.

The slump reached epic proportions in the most important games of the season. Entering the Florida game he was 2/16 from deep in his last four games. Michigan papered over that with liberal helpings of Trey Burke and Mitch McGary, but against Kansas they'd escaped, more plucky underdog surviving one more day than team gunning for a title. I'd burst from my seat to shout something about sending it in when Stauskas rose up in overtime against Kansas, and then sheepishly sat down when it clanged off the rim.

Sunday, Florida left him. I don't know if this was a decision to pick the 2/16 poison instead of Burke and McGary or simply a screwup. Whatever the reason, they left him. Stauskas knocked it down. High fives all around. Stauskas knocked another one down. Eyebrows cocked. What if…

The NBA Jam "on fire" three was next, and then another, and suddenly Stauskas was delivering on everything he'd promised in videos of his dad feeding him over and over again in his backyard, those stories about him breaking Beilein three-point drill records, that highlight package of Stauskas torching Baylor as a high school senior, every splashed three pointer against Eastern and Central. They poured it in from all over, but mostly from Stauskas, who we'd all literally seen dream about this in his backyard. A basketball metronome. Automatic. Open corner three, forget about it.

That was one thing. That was all Michigan needed to separate itself, to finish the course reversal that started in the second half against South Dakota State. The other thing: the last one, the one pictured above, was not wide open. Stauskas evaded a hard closeout, dribbled a step to his left, and launched from behind the backboard. Didn't matter. Stauskas was no longer bound by gravity.

*["Nik Stauskas's dad" is a candidate for the most boring job of the last 18 years]

Highlights

Seth Greenberg breaks it down:

And official NCAA highlights:

Official site video includes Bacari cheese speech, locker room stuff:

Return to Ann Arbor:

Bullets ahhhhhh!

It started with a whisper defense? Um… yeah. Michigan started this game lighting it up from the field, finishing the first half at a scorching 1.3 points per possession. But the difference between this game and, say, VCU, was the opponent's ability to score. VCU got a lot of points out of the gate; Florida got none.

As Doug Gottlieb mentioned at halftime, this was a gameplan thing. Michigan did indeed put GRIII on Erik Murphy. With visions of various Kansas 4s going 11/14 from the floor, Florida set to attacking him on the block. To say this did not work is an understatement on par with "Sunday was fun." Murphy couldn't get deep in the post and ended up throwing up tough shots while taking contact. His line for the game: 0/11, with nine of those inside the line.

By the time he did launch one of the threes he hits at a 46% clip, there were ten minutes left in the second half. He shot on consecutive possessions; the first was heavily contested and off balance. The second wasn't quite as terrible of a look but GRIII did get a hand in his face. Obviously both missed.

For the game, Florida took all of ten(!) threes. That's 18% of their shots from a team that usually puts up 40%. As someone who tracked the scary-low number of three pointers Wisconsin gave up all year let me tell you: that is downright Wisconsonian. As Bo Ryan watched this game through a film of tears, cutting box at the ready, he had a nagging feeling of familiarity as a team that bombs away went 2/10 from three. "That could have been us," he sniffled, forgetting entirely about Ryan Evans trying to shoot a free throw.

Is this post going to descend into Bo Ryan masochism fiction?

Well, is it?

Hmm. It appears the answer is no. Shame.

More on defense. Michigan's D held Florida to 0.9 points a possession in the first half… and improved(!) in the second half. All but eliminating threes did not come with an excessive cost on the interior, where Florida shot 46%. A lot of those were Boynton or Rosario runners a lot like the shots VCU was clanging; those are clearly things Michigan has just decided to give up. McGary went from challenging them fruitlessly and opening up opportunities for second chance shots to sticking to his man.

Extra possession watch. Rebounding numbers were essentially identical—both teams had 9 OREBs, Florida had one extra DREB. Michigan won turnovers by 4. So I'm a bit baffled as to where Michigan's seven extra shots came from. Both teams had 46 2PA; Michigan had 9 extra 3PA to Florida's 4 extra FTA. More of Florida's free throws could have come in and-one situations, but that doesn't make up for what looks like a seven-shot difference, does it?

trey-burke-stealThe Burke. Burke's trademark steal came off at the end of the first half, giving Michigan two points that seemed worth a lot more as Florida made their push towards a single-digit deficit. I'm not sure about you, but I almost expected that. Burke has a pirate's instinct for the moment, and with Michigan nowhere near the bonus it was a free shot at two. With Florida holding for the last shot, a missed steal that Florida presses gives Michigan an extra possession.

I don't really get to talk much game theory about basketball, but that's a situation in which Burke's skill combines with his intelligence to make that a majorly +EV move.

Mitch: cooled off, sort of. McGary's been on the kind of streak where you can announce some statline of his to a room and get gales of laughter back. I read a tweet that ended up in my timeline stating that McGary had eight points and six rebounds at the under 12 timeout in the first half, and the room went LOL.

McGary didn't continue that torrid pace and fell short of his third consecutive double-double. Still: 11 points on 9 shot equivalents, 9 rebounds, just one turnover, two blocks, and five(!) steals. I don't think I've ever seen a big who's better at coming from behind a post feed for a steal. He doesn't just knock it away and home, he knocks it away, goes and gets it, and then sometimes chucks an audacious over-the-head outlet pass that demands a Wes Unseld reference.

Everyone's searching for their McGary comparable, so here's mine: Brian Cardinal. Cardinal was a quality three point shooter (god, imagine that skill added to McGary's repertoire), but in terms of being a super-active big who generates possessions and has a floor-burn collection, I like it.

Morgan and Horford. Those guys got 14 minutes as McGary got in a bit of foul trouble, and produced. Horford was 3/3 from the floor; combined they acquired nine rebounds, three on offense, and had a 1:1 A:TO ratio. Once Murphy proved he couldn't exploit Robinson on the interior, Michigan didn't need to go two-post (though they did run it out for a minute or two in the first half); those guys got production in when they were called on.

Good to see Morgan getting enough time to contribute. It would be beyond brutal for him if he'd been limited to the minute he got in the first two games of the tournament.

Spike. Albrecht is on a minutes streak: 15 against VCU, 11 against Kansas, 14 here. This was his best outing, obviously. It struck me as Florida tried to pressure him just how impossible it is to get the ball off of the guy. Even Burke will occasionally get his pocket picked by Craft and the like; Albrecht is so low to the ground and capable of that instant spin, so pressing him is futile. With Florida desperate and pressing Spike came in to take the ball up, easily beat the press, and then handed off to Burke. That conserved Burke's energy for the final stretch.

Three steals, two of which led to layups, and a three he knocked down are bonuses. He's doesn't seem enough of a threat inside the line to hold off Walton next year but who cares about that? Right now he's Michigan's main guy off the bench. He's now 44% from three on the year, BTW (albeit on just 25 attempts).

I still don't get deploying him against Kansas, which wasn't pressing and was destroying Michigan at the four.

Hardaway. An awful shooting night, but the difference between Hardaway this year and last: he put up five assists.

Beilein talent eye x2. So Albrecht, obviously. His other offer, singular, was Appalachian State. Then there's Casey Prather, who is often cited as an exception to the rule that if Beilein tries to get you, you are good at basketball. After seeing him play are you telling me you wouldn't want to have the guy off the bench in the LeVert role? 6'6" sticky defenders aren't too common. He's got great rebounding numbers for a wing. He can't shoot, but there'd be a role for him on a Final Four team.

The number one thing to fix about college refereeing. The Wisconsin Chest is a foul, but is never called. The Chest occurs when a guy goes up for a shot and his defender scoots his chest up into the lower body of the defender. Guy takes a bump, shot difficulty goes up a lot, principle of verticality is violated. Never gets a call. I've noticed that Michigan is getting better at the Chest in the the last couple games, because I'm now thinking "that's a foul ARGH" when Michigan's on defense. Which, yay for right now and all that, but also I feel dirty.

Gottliebtake. I'm of two minds about Gottlieb. He's obviously annoying. Earlier this year I tweeted something to the effect of "that guy should wear a lucha libre mask and call himself Strongtake." He has one strength of opinion: extra.

But this does allow him to say interesting things and ask interesting questions. There should be someone badgering the committee rep about why Oregon was 12 seed and that guy should be rolling his eyes when the committee rep tells him "well, they were really an 11" as if anyone gets incensed about teams that are one line off of expectations. There should be someone doing college basketball games who won't shut up about how terrible the monitor review process is—there should be dozens, actually. There should be someone willing to bomb Billy Donovan's first half gameplan when it results in Florida going 1/5 from three. He seems to have a mild form of Tourette's—the white guy analyst comment. I'm in favor of weird guys, I guess.

Elsewhere

[12:39 PM] Ace: http://www.wdfn.com/pages/shep.html?article=11133369
[12:39 PM] Ace: BEILEIN DANCING ALERT

Every net-cutting video you could want. UMHoops recap. Slideshow from Melanie Maxwell. WE HAD SUBS

12506696-standard

will it surprise you that Beilein says he's "trying to have more fun"?

IT WAS CRAZY

UMHoops photos.

OU's Greg Kampe on the Syracuse matchup and some other things. What do Michigan fans think? They are generally in favor! Wojo. Daily's Daniel Wasserman. Everett Cook. Meinke on Stauskas. Beard on Albrecht.

Congratulations! Go back to class. Michigan is a two point favorite. MVictors. They facetimed Novak from courtside after.

Lore

Lore

Submitted by Brian on March 30th, 2013 at 12:51 PM

3/29/2013 – Michigan 87, Kansas 85 (OT) – 29-7, Elite Eight

Trey-Ballin[1]

Every year.

Every year from now until the country collapses into warring fiefdoms because of peak oil or some other nonsense, Trey Burke rising up from 30 feet over a 6'8" guy will make an appearance on someone's reel of insane NCAA tournament moments. Even after the collapse, if things go badly for you and you are captured anywhere from Topeka to Kansas City you can escape by just uttering the words "Trey Burke" and watching your captors seize helplessly. Collect their weapons and go. Once recovered they will be in a foul mood.

It's going to go in every time. You won't have that sickening lurch in your stomach as the bottom drops out of your hopes and then slowly tick-tick-ticks up the rollercoaster as the improbable trajectory seems true. Josh Bartlestein is way ahead of you on this, and you'll see Bartlestein start celebrating two beats before anyone else in the arena can figure out if they're going to live or die. This time, it'll go down. This time, every time.

Michigan wouldn't have been in this position if the rim had been kind at Ohio State, or at Wisconsin, or at home against Indiana. They'd have popped up a seed or two and avoided a team like the Jayhawks, maybe even gotten the gilded path the Buckeyes got and are determined to make look like the Bataan Death March. Thanks to a delirious two and a half minutes no one has been able to figure out yet, and probably never will, Michigan erased a ten-point deficit, and then that happened, and then Trey Burke did that twice more in overtime and Michigan's where they thought they might be when they walked into Assembly Hall the #1 team in the nation: playing a three seed for the right to go to the Final Four.

At this point I'm not sure that even matters that much. I mean, yeah, obviously it matters. But that shot is going in, over and over, for everyone, forever. It is written on cuneiform tablets found in ancient Sumeria, and a tatoo on Charles Barkley's forehead.

BGkzJq2CAAI3RgX[1]

via @ggoodness56

I'll Probably Embed This On The Next Four Posts

Also a little more of the end of the game:

And Burke talking to Sager:

Because Twitter Will Kill Me If We Don't

There is a "WE HAD SUBS IT WAS CRAZY" shirt.

5665_94[1]

Mystify your friends.

Bullets

imageIma let you block five shots Jeff Withey, but Mitch McGary is the greatest post of all time in this game. Wait, first Withey: the guy blocked a Trey Burke floater on a pick and roll, despite being a good five feet from the shooter. Boggle. Trey agrees:

He kind of surprised me the first half, once I got to the free throw line and shot.  He had a piece of it.  I think he was deep in the paint and he still got a piece of it.

Michigan shot 56% from two against him, boggle.

Okay, Mitch. First, inhale.

HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA.

12/17 from the floor against Jeff Withey with 5 offensive rebounds and 9 defensive rebounds. Three steals. An assist. One turnover. One blocked shot and a second that was so clean in this world of "you can do anything as long as your arms aren't fouling a dude" that the sound of the whistle made me leap from my seat and cry "noooooo," Vader-style.

McGary spearheaded another blowout on the boards against Kansas, with Michigan doubling up the Jayhawks in offensive rebounds and winning the tempo-free battle 33% to 23%. He put up 25 points on 19 shot equivalents and generated at least eight extra possessions for M. He didn't pick up a foul until deep into the second half. I think we've just seen the best game of his career.

McGary has definitively arrived now. It's one thing to beat up on Juvonte Reddic and the four dwarves, entirely another to leave scattered bits of Jayhawk in your wake. The finer points of defense still elude him; that's the difference between McGary being pretty dang good next year or All American. That and free throws.

Now that we're used to the hugeness and the energy, the striking thing about McGary is how skilled he is. He hit an elbow jumper in this one and followed that up with a late turnaround from the short corner that was some Duncan business. His bunnies go down at a huge rate because he can slam them down when appropriate but also has excellent body control and the ability to shoot with both hands. Most of McGary's makes don't even touch the rim.

['shop via Ace.]

Relatedly. At halftime I made a comment about how I missed the version of Kansas that shot itself in the foot until it ran out of feet and just kept shooting, and more than one person said something about how they missed Burke. I was a little confused by this, and then the TV put up some chyron stating that he had zero points. Oh.

I didn't really feel that. Michigan had over a point per possession at halftime largely thanks to Burke getting the offense set up, and if he missed shots they often drew so much attention that GRIII or Mitch McGary was able to get a putback. Faced with the prospect of taking on Withey, he mostly got his teammates involved. Five assists is a lot of assists in a half.

I was frustrated by a thirty-foot bomb that came early in the shot clock and set up a break the other way. It felt selfish. Even that turned out to be necessary range-finding as Trey unleashed his inner Jimmer in the second half.

Win graph. Per reader request, the win graph from Kenpom:

image

Michigan's win probability dipped to 0.6 with 2:33 left, down ten. That was one in a hundred—one in two hundred. Trey's shot took Michigan from 10% to just over 30%.

Jordan Morgan, scrapping. Morgan only got five minutes, about which more later. This bullet is a feel-good bullet about Morgan dusting himself off and turning in two huge plays:

  • scrapping to the ground after Hardaway's missed three pointer and eventually getting the ball to GRIII for his acrobatic layup.
  • forcing Nutpunch Johnson to orbit so far around the corner that by the time he realized Hardaway wasn't leaving McLemore, anything he threw up was going off he side of the backboard.

His boxscore contributions were thin (though I guess three rebounds in five minutes is pretty good), but Michigan did need him and he did come through. Beilein lifted McGary for him on that final possession; it's hard to see McGary pushing Johnson as far outside as Morgan ended up doing. Also, Morgan eventually decided to do nothing:

"I was going to go up with (Johnson) and I saw he was looking to pass. I backed off a little bit but the angle he had wasn't necessarily the best," Morgan said. "He didn't have a good angle to put it off the backboard, so he got caught too far under and if it had been a floater, that would have been tougher than putting it off the glass."

That zen decision is not something McGary specializes in.

Karma is going to punch you in the nuts. Speaking of ol' Nutpunch Johnson, he picked up an obvious charge shortly after being assessed the flagrant one, sat, came back, picked up a cheap one on an out of bounds play, and sat yet more time. He ended up getting 20 or so minutes in the last 25; he hit some shots… and had 0 assists to 5 turnovers, not even counting the mess he made of the last play. Oh and that McGary statline. Oh and missing the front end right before Burke blew everyone's brains up.

My only regret is that Johnson is a senior—otherwise we would have a delightful couple years of competing nicknames for the guy in the blogosphere.

Spike. I don't get it. Michigan gave Albrecht 11 minutes, and I was confused by about 10 of those—Burke sat for one. In this game it seemed like Michigan badly needed post defense, especially at the four. Kevin Young, Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis combined to go 11/14, give or take an Ellis attempt against McGary when Withey was on the bench.

At 5'11", Albrecht is not noted for his post defense. While he was perfect for the up-and-down VCU outing, having him out there for a big chunk of time right after halftime was odd. He barely touched the ball on offense, and Michigan's defense with him out there was pretty porous.

Morgan at the four seemed like the move. Robinson had a decent night on offense and added three steals of his own, but, man, 11/14. Am I crazy here?

Stauskas took it easy, man. I predicted a tough night for Stauskas. He did okay. His attempts were relatively limited, which was fine. He took only good shots, hitting all three inside the arc and 1/4 from three—the OT miss was a killer. 11 points on 9 shot equivalents is decent output; he also had three assists.

But like man, if I can scream "make a free throw" in anguish at anyone, it's Stauskas. That missed front end would have paired with the foul on McGary's block in a Jacob Marley tapdance duet if Michigan hadn't pulled their asses out of the fire.

They really need an advantage call or something. If your foul does not prevent a fast break from fast breaking, the refs should just stick their arms out wildly to indicate a foul is coming but they have chosen to let the play go because the offense is in a fast break state.

If only my predictions weren't literally taking whatever Kenpom says and repeating it because I think predicting sporting events is an incredibly foolish pastime, as last night's game amply demonstrates. By which I mean, suck it local media!

Local writers
Nick Baumgardner, MLive: Kansas (66-61)
Kyle Meinke, MLive: Kansas (67-61)
Mark Snyder, Detroit Free Press: Kansas (67-63)
Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press: Kansas (70-61)
Jeff Seidel, Detroit Free Press: Kansas (72-68)
Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press: Kansas (71-65)
Rod Beard, Detroit News: Kansas (72-65)
Matt Charboneau, Detroit News: Kansas (74-68)
John Niyo, Detroit News: Kansas (67-63)
Bob Wojnowski, Detroit News: Kansas (72-68)
Brian Cook, MGoBlog: Michigan (by one)

(I also expected Kansas to win in my heart of hearts.)

Elsewhere

Burke postgame from GBW:

It finally went down:

Trey Burke has taken the last shot for Michigan before but come up short several times.

Burke has seen his share of misses at the buzzer: Last season at Arkansas and this season at Ohio State, at Wisconsin and at home against Indiana.

One out of five is… fantastic right this instant.

MAY?

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Trey Burke may now officially be a folk hero, and Michigan's season is still alive.

Sample size. Woo.

Before the game, Michigan coach John Beilein wasn't ready to call that a slump or get a good feeling about McLemore's struggles.

"He's played how many games in postseason? Two?" Beilein said. "I wouldn't say that's a good sample size."

Presser transcript. Michigan has freshmen. Wojo. You did what to who?

Kansas center Jeff Withey was asked before his team faced Michigan whether he could dominate Mitch McGary.

"Yeah, definitely," Withey said. "He's not very tall. ... We'll definitely have to try taking advantage of my height."

That got telephoned into this:

"(McGary) looked at me last night, right before we went to bed, and he said, 'Did you hear what he said about me?" said Glenn Robinson III, McGary's roommate. "'He said, 'I’m not excited about his height. I don’t think anything about his height. And I expect to dominate him.'

"I looked at him and was like, ‘Oh. We’ll show him.’"

If Withey had said his bit a couple days earlier by the time it got to McGary it would have described him as a midget toad, so Kansas actually got off easy there. Seniors hugging and such. Rapping and ancient Chinese texts. Horford is a trip yo:

there was forward Jon Horford, off in a far corner ... reading a book.

One more time: Jon Horford, 15 minutes after advancing to the Elite Eight in one his school's most exciting tournament games ever, was reading a book.

Reporter: Jon. Jon. Jon.

HEY, JON.

Still no answer.

Finally, after a shout from point guard Spike Albrecht, Horford looks up from his ruffled pages.

"Hey man, what's up?" he said, apparently ignorant to or indifferent of the fact reading a book at this time is not customary. And he wasn't exactly thumbing the pages of Sports Illustrated, either.

Horford was reading the "Tao Te Ching," an ancient Chinese text believed to have been penned between the sixth century and fourth century BC.

A first look at Florida.

One Frame At A Time: SDSU & VCU

One Frame At A Time: SDSU & VCU

Submitted by Ace on March 25th, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Mitch McGary was unquestionably the star of Michigan's tournament weekend. He will appear several times in later on in this post. But my gawd, Spike Albrecht, you just made the pass of the year on a team with Trey Burke. Take a bow.

Four other reasons this gif wins the weekend:

  1. You can see VCU's defender rip open Glenn Robinson III's jersey as he runs down the court. This did not appear to affect GRIII very much.
  2. The bench goes nuts... before GRIII even dunks.
  3. Both Tim Hardaway Jr. (bottom left corner) and Trey Burke (in front of the bench) hop in identical fashion at the exact same time, like it's a Pavlovian response to Robinson's dunk.
  4. Spike rounds off his run at the three-point line. Walk it out like crutches, Spike.

All these things are great, and all pale in comparison to the pass itself. Thread, meet needle.

[Hit THE JUMP to see (and vote for) the best gifs from Michigan's opening weekend, also known as Mitchapalooza.]

Wisconsin AARRRGGGHHH, Michigan FFFFUUUUUUU

Wisconsin AARRRGGGHHH, Michigan FFFFUUUUUUU

Submitted by Ace on March 15th, 2013 at 5:14 PM


Halftime stats on the left, final stats on the right, via scacchoops.com

If you're expecting a reasoned, informative recap of the game, I highly recommend stopping right now and looking elsewhere.

Still here? If so, you are either in search of schadenfreude or have a remarkably strong will to make your life miserable.

Michigan lost to Wisconsin 68-59 in a complete abomination of a "basketball" game. The halftime box score resembles something from a middle school junior varsity game in which all the players are blackout drunk. The Wolverines held a three-point lead at the break, courtesy of Wisconsin's inability to hit anything (5/29 from the field). The Badgers made it appear, momentarily, like Michigan had discovered how to play defense.

Then the second half began, and the Wolverines remained stagnant on offense while entirely forgetting how to guard the perimeter. After hitting 2/13 shots from beyond the arc in the first half, Wisconsin connected on 6/9 three-pointers in the second—most of their looks came without so much as a hand in the shooter's general vicinity, let alone a legitimate contest.

Trey Burke did his best to stop the bleeding, scoring 15 of his 19 points in the second half, and Tim Hardaway Jr. (14 points, 5/9 FGs) admirably returned from a sprained ankle to knock down a couple big shots. Nobody else cracked double digits, however, and any semblance of an offense rapidly devolved into the "Trey, go do something" strategy. Burke was forced to jack up 15 shots in the final 20 minutes; no other Wolverine attempted more than four.

Major culprits included, well, pretty much everyone. Ryan Evans scored nine of his 13 in the second half, abusing Glenn Robinson III and Hardaway down low—Robinson struggled so much that Spike Albrecht took his spot in the lineup down the stretch. Jordan Morgan started but played just eight horrible minutes, turning the ball over three times, completely unable to hold onto the basketball. Nik Stauskas went 1/8 from the field. Burke had an uncharacteristic four turnovers, though given the circumstances it's difficult to lay much blame on him.

A guy who shoots free-throw jump shots, a redheaded Art Garfunkel, and Ben "#@*#[email protected]" Brust combined for 28 second-half points, going 4/8 from two and a perfect 5/5 from three. If there's a College Hoops Fan Hell, it is watching that game on a continuous loop while Bo Ryan waves the last bottle of whiskey in existence in your face, refusing to let you drown your sorrows.

Michigan will still play in the NCAA tournament, of course, and there's even a chance that I'm willing to watch basketball by then. They won't play Wisconsin, mercifully.

F*** Wisconsin.

Basketbullets: Penn State Part 3

Basketbullets: Penn State Part 3

Submitted by Brian on March 15th, 2013 at 11:17 AM

3/14/2013 – Michigan 83, Penn State 66 – 26-6, entry to second round of BTT

Michigan-83-Penn-State-66-61-597x397[1]

Dustin Johnston/UMHoops

Bleary-eyed and maybe a little puffy after having a good cry about the last two minutes of the Indiana game, Michigan staggered into the United Center wondering why everything was so bright and loud and wondering if a hot dog would make them feel better or worse. A few minutes later, they were down 14-3 and every Michigan fan had a personal reckoning with their panic tolerance.

Did you run around screaming "everything is over?" Did you stuff 35 multivitamins down your esophagus in a cry for help? No, don't tell us. Down 11 a few minutes into a tournament game against Penn State a man finds himself in a place he never thought he'd be. What happens down there is something we should hit with a shovel and bury deep. If you were more animal than man at 2:45 PM yesterday, well… so be it. Character is about recovering from your impulse.

The team did this. Michigan spent the first couple of breaks smacking themselves and screaming "SNAP OUT OF IT," and thanks to the utterly unflappable Trey Burke and Mitch McGary—a man who seems to be productively deficient in human emotions like doubt or restraint—they did. In these moments I like to go check out the Kenpom prediction (which is almost always the Vegas line, give or take a point) and think about how points are worth the same whether you score them early or late. It was 16 in this one; Michigan beat it by a point.

It's strange how frustrating it is to pull away late or recover like Michigan did against Purdue. Or, rather, it's not strange at all. You have to try as hard as you can to say the order in which the points came is not a reason to run around, ripping chunks of hair from your head and shouting "my basketball team ate this."

No rest for the weary; on to demon Wisconsin. Death to backboards, half court, and everywhere in-between.

Bullets

Zone? Hi. If you follow me on twitter you may have noticed me, um, ranting about Michigan's refusal to even try out a zone defense despite a team that shoots 30% from three gutting the interior of Michigan's defense to the tune of 11/17 shooting from two by Sasa "Pretty Much Shaq" Borovnjak and DJ Newbill in the first half. In the second half we then suffered through five to eight minutes of Penn State keeping pace with Michigan's blistering offensive pace.

For the game, Penn State put up 1.1 PPP. Defense remains a huge issue. At least there's some sort of upper bound on how bad it can be, right? That's the ticket.

Grrr aarrgh. Jordan Morgan came out with the weight of a barely-missed Big Ten championship not so much weighing on his shoulders as burying him neck-deep in misery. Trey Burke's abnormally low assist output—three—was almost entirely on Morgan's four missed bunnies. Morgan was also out of sync defensively as Michigan's pick and roll D was gutted by Sasa "Basically Pau Gasol" Borovnjak. Morgan was the guy who Borovnjak drove from almost the three-point line on.

Enter Mitch McGary, in full on Big Puppy mode. He ripped down boards, he went 5/6 from the floor, he had a steal, block, two assists, and escaped the wrath of the scorer on a turnover that was obviously his fault but seemed to escape the box score entirely. After one hardman board, he let out a simian bellow—an entirely justified one.

When Morgan struggled at the start of the first half, he got a quick hook and his minutes were given to Jon Horford. A strange phenomenon ensued: Gus Johnson started talking about how incredibly impressive Horford had been in the first half, an opinion with no basis in reality. Horford then demonstrated that Gus Johnson is aging backwards through time or something. Horford chucked in 11 points in 10 minutes, blocked a couple shots, grabbed various rebounds, and went 3/3 from the line(!).

Headlines in the aftermath:

John Beilein won't say if he'll leave struggling Jordan Morgan in Michigan's starting lineup

Yow. That says volumes. Also this:

"It's up in the air if I decide it's up in the air," Beilein said. "Right now it's too soon to make that (decision).

"I'll watch some film, we'll talk, we'll look at matchups and decide what we're going to do."

I'd guess Morgan still starts, but Beilein will have a quick trigger a la the second half. Michigan won't be able to crawl out of 14-3 holes with as much ease the rest of the year.

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blouses (Dustin Johnston/UMHoops)

Not just a shooter. Stauskas had 15 points on nine shot equivalents plus two assists and zero TOs. Sometimes I think Michigan would be better off moving some of Hardaway's usage to Stauskas. He's got a better handle and seems to create shots a bit better. This may not be the best time to argue that when Hardaway had five assists.

Stauskas also did a much better job on Jermaine Marshall this time around. He torched Michigan behind the line in the last game; in this one he scored 8 points on 14 shot attempts—basically the only PSU player to have a bad day.

Trey statistical weirdness day. Burke assists: 3. Burke blocked shots: 3. Boggle.

Hardaway check. After the Wisconsin game on February 9th, Tim Hardaway was shooting 54% from three in 11 Big Ten games. Since he is 9 of 45, 20%. Michigan's offense has survived admirably in that absence; it would be nice if he was to start hitting some dang shots. I am not sure what to say about this other than "make your threes," but I can say it very loudly if that is required.

A thing that leaps off Hardaway's season box score at Kenpom: his FTAs have evaporated. Up until the Minnesota game Hardaway had gone to the line in every game and had at least six FTAs in 8 games. Since he has been shut out entirely 7 times. Three games in which he was not were against the hackmasters in Happy Valley; other than those games the only times he's been to the line: 3/5 against OSU, 4/5 against Illinois, 1/1 against Purdue, 0/2 against Indiana.

I will repeat my grand desire to see Hardaway commit between one to three charges every game.

GRIII check. If Morgan wasn't struggling so badly I bet we would have seen some dual post action; as it was I was surprised that Bielfeldt didn't get some run early when Penn State was grabbing a bunch of offensive rebounds and Ross Travis found himself having a nice day offensively. Travis shoots 39% from the floor. He was 5/9 in this one.

I'm not sure where Big Ten Geeks grabbed this stat, but I retweeted it since it was in line with my eye test:

McGary has grabbed 11 of the 14 chances he's had for a rebound. GR3 is 2 of 10.

McGary went through a stretch in which he couldn't grab a rebound to save his life, like the rest of the team. Robinson has been pretty weak on the boards since the start of Big Ten play. Against the top four teams in the league, Robinson's rebounding has looked like this:

  • @ OSU: 38 minutes, 0 OREB, 1 DREB
  • @ Indiana, 40 minutes, 2 OREB, 2 DREB
  • OSU: 41 minutes, 33 minutes, 3 OREB, 1 DREB
  • @ Wisconsin: 1 OREB, 2 DREB
  • @ MSU: 21 minutes, 2 OREB, 0 DREB
  • MSU: 31 minutes, 2 OREB, 1 DREB
  • Indiana: 37 minutes, 1 OREB, 4 DREB

In one(!) of those seven games GRIII has acquired more than two defensive rebounds despite playing huge minutes at the four in all of them. He's done a bit better against the rest of the league; when the going gets tough he's been found wanting. Ace looked at in detail and found that Robinson was frequently a culprit. I'm getting progressively more frustrated with him as Michigan's defensive rebounding continues its glide path down to last year's numbers. In this one Michigan won the board war but still allowed Penn State to grab 34% of their misses, with Ross Travis grabbing 4 OREBs. Borovnjak was 0 (OREB) and 2 (DREB) going up against the fives.

The bad thing about the way that went down. Michigan is facing down four games in four days if they are fortunate enough to get that far. Because of the slow start starters not named Morgan played 34, 35, 35, and 33 minutes. I generally downplay the idea that a few minutes extra is going to kill an 18-20 year old who spends his entire existence in a gym, but once the games come rapid-fire—and you're going up against teams who had today off—that's a situation in which wilting legs seems like a real issue.

I guess the good bit is Michigan is playing Wisconsin's tortoiseball today. If there's a team less well-positioned to take advantage of their opponent's heavy legs, I don't want to perceive their existence. I don't want to perceive Wisconsin's, man.

Michigan 83, Penn State 66

Michigan 83, Penn State 66

Submitted by Ace on March 14th, 2013 at 5:13 PM


Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Mitch McGary snatched the rebound out of the air, turned towards the Michigan bench, and let out a guttural yell that could be heard from across the court.

Michigan had looked listless—yes, again—to begin the game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 14-3 lead after Jordan Morgan couldn't finish three layup attempts and the Wolverines as a whole couldn't slow down Penn State's pick and roll. Enter McGary, who ended PSU's run with a layup, then overcame a missed breakaway dunk to record a first-half double-double.

The McGary Growl came with the score tied at 16, and his histrionics immediately lifted the spirits of the players on the bench—and on the court. On the next possession, Nik Stauskas sunk a three, and the Wolverines wouldn't trail for the remainder of the game, pulling away late for a comfortable 17-point win. When called upon to infuse energy to a team that couldn't shake their previous struggles against Penn State, the freshman big man did that and more, finishing the game with ten points on 5/6 shooting (all in the first half) and 11 rebounds, five of them offensive.

After McGary kept the team afloat in the first half, the rest of the team stepped up in the second. Trey Burke led all scorers with 21 points, pouring in 13 in the second half on 4/6 shooting. Stauskas contributed nine of his 15 points in the latter stanza, including a "Game ... Blouses"-style dunk and nifty and-one layup. Jon Horford tallied all 11 of his points in the final 20 minutes, going 4/4 from the field in that span.

Gradually, over the course of the second half, Michigan's lead grew—after PSU's Jermaine Marshall tied the game at 39 with 17:25 left, the Wolverines outscored the Nittany Lions 44-27. Some added defensive intensity certainly helped; after Michigan ceded 14/26 two-point shooting in the first half, Penn State hit 12/26 from inside the arc in the second half. That may be just a two-shot difference, but the makes were more difficult to come by, at least.

Michigan moves on to play Wisconsin in the second game of the day tomorrow (~2:30 EST), and this game brought up some concerns for the rest of the tournament. Interior baskets were far too easy to come by for PSU, especially Sasa Borovnjak, who scored 15 points on 7/10 FG despite no offensive rebounds. The Wolverines looked lost defending the pick and roll, and offensively they biffed more than their fair share of layups.

They finally beat Penn State handily, however, outdoing KenPom's prediction by a point. Blemishes or no, that's taking care of business, and the team's first double-digit win since February 24th was a welcome sight.

Mitch McGary may not play pretty, but his contributions were also a delight—both to the fans and his teammates, apparently.

Basketbullets: Purdue Part 2

Basketbullets: Purdue Part 2

Submitted by Brian on March 7th, 2013 at 1:14 PM

3/6/2013 – Michigan 80, Purdue 75 – 25-5, 12-5 Big Ten

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You'd be forgiven if you hurled your cookies at the trough of Michigan's lurching roller-coaster of an evening last night. To go from 12 up to 12 down is a painful 20 minutes of basketball, and after the Penn State debacle the prospect of yet another gross loss way out of proportion to how difficult it is to play on the road loomed.

I went into "if you can't say anything nice…" mode on twitter; judging from the tenor on WTKA today many people who did not probably should have. Our reactions to the swings in basketball games are interesting: everyone is happy if Michigan had fallen behind by 12, gone up 12 in the second half, and saw their lead whittled down to five by the end. It seems like people judge these things like Kenpom's wingraphs do:

image

That black time when Purdue built their peak is the thing that seems to be lingering on in people's minds today, because Purdue isn't very good this year. I'm among the grumbly crowd today even though I think I should rationally say that the order of points isn't important just so long as you pile up the expected number before the end of the game, which Michigan just about did. While Purdue's not great, the line here was 6 according to both computers and Vegas, and Michigan was a free throw from hitting it.

And yet. It seems like Michigan's playing with fire and calling in Trey Burke to put it out once you accidentally get it on the cat and he spreads it through the house. Trey got that glint in his eye because Terone Johnson made at least one bad decision amongst his impressive barrage of lane runners:

Burke said he was spurred by some good-natured trash talk by the Boilers' Terone Johnson and his younger brother, Ronnie.

"Both of them. The Johnson brothers and a couple others," Burke said. "We knew it was going to be that type of game. Purdue is coming off a win at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin."

Burke said it was the run-of-the-mill trash talk, such as, "You can't guard me" after made baskets.

"I think it got me going — that shouldn't be something that gets me going but I was passive a lot in the first half," said Burke, who added seven assists and five rebounds in 37 minutes.

I cannot imagine what would possess oneself to poke something as spiky as Trey Burke. I guess 32 points on a bunch of tough shots. In any case, Burke activated alpha dog mode down the stretch and clawed Michigan back into the game, as he is wont to do and Michigan plays for a second consecutive Big Ten title on Sunday.

That's a lot of weight on one man's shoulders, even the player of the year. Kemba Walker teaches that it is possible for some dude to drag teams to glory; it's a lot easier when he's got significant backup. Michigan got it in this game… on offense. Right now anyone disqualifying Michigan from serious things because of a lagging defense is hard to argue with.

Photos

From Bryan Fuller:

Bullets

Trey usual. Burke had a couple of free trips to the line late but otherwise earned all of his 26. He earned most of those down the stretch. Those came on 24 shot equivalents. That's not a great ratio out of context. In context you're sucking up almost 40% of Michigan's possessions and carrying Michigan back from a huge deficit, so scraping above a PPP is pretty dang good. I'm not even sure the passivity Burke bemoaned is that big of a deal. The story of Michigan's first half offense was missing point-blank shots.

Meanwhile it was the usual in A:TO: 7-1, and he added the three or so steals that's becoming customary*. He had a number of those one handed-floaters where he puts the ball up and yoinks his hand back like it is a hot potato:

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These go in more than it seems they should. (Fuller)

When Michigan was climbing up their second-half hill, Trey alternated between being an alpha dog at people and seeming super pissed off when other folks—usually Stauskas—were not getting him the ball. Stauskas was getting to the line consistently. This is the only thing that saved him from the wrath of Burke.

Speaking of…

*[Q: Trey gets credit when he pokes a ball out from behind and it goes to another player, right? Or is it the guy who secures the ball? If it's the latter Trey probably got shortchanged since his teammates corralled some balls that were set free by his on-ball D.]

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Ouch. (Fuller)

Hello Mr. Stauskas, nice to see you again. Michigan's shiner-sporting Canadian got a sly "not just a shooter"-type compliment early in the game when he drove into the lane. Everybody drink. By the end of it Stauskas had attacked the basket so consistently that the announcers did not even bother to mention he could do things other than shoot when he drew his third shooting foul of the half. IIRC, one of his trips to the line was a freebie when he got hit away from the basket with Michigan in the bonus; even so his ratio of attempts inside the line to attempts outside was 8:4.

He also locked down DJ Byrd, who had three points on seven shots and couldn't find an uncontested three all night. It was his best game in a long time.

You'd like him to hit more of those swooping layups, I guess, but at least he's now getting the block/charge calls he wasn't earlier in the year. He suffered some truly horrendous decisions on those early in the year. Refs probably assumed he was just a shooter. No more! For now.

Rough night for Mitch. 3/4 shooting but only 13 minutes, 3 fouls, two TOs, and zero rebounds. Michigan got beat up on the boards 24%/38% and the bigs take the brunt of the blame there. McGary, Horford, Bielfeldt, and Morgan played 42 minutes and acquired five rebounds between them, with only two of those on the defensive end. Yech.

It seems like Tim Hardaway is not shooting well even when he is sometimes. Tim was partially responsible for the missed bunny parade; he still finished 3/7 from both inside and outside the arc. That is… pretty good, actually. Yeah, a couple of those buckets came in transition but when one is a thunderous and-one that came because you made a move to get past a guy trying to take a charge that's still a point earned.

And yet it seems like Hardaway scuffled. I don't know man.

Hi I'm Matt Vogrich. Hi Matt.

I'm leaving now. I'm Matt Vogrich. Bye Matt. Thanks for hitting a three this time.

Halftime run: all right OH WHAT THE… Michigan came out of the locker room seemingly poised for Beilein Patented Halftime Adjustment run, getting the first two baskets out of the break. Then they scored two to Purdue's 11 over the next five minutes. Oy.

The sixth-most irritating thing about college basketball refereeing. Guy puts two hands on midsection of opponent and gets away with it. Happens 92.3% of the time. Should be a clear-cut call: bring both hands down to check opponent, make even vague contact, call.

Sliding. Kenpom's reflecting the eye test when it comes to Michigan's defense, which was floating in the high 30s midway through the conference season but has now slipped to 60th—coincidentally the exact place they finished 2012. If they stay there, some team is going to raid them and there's nothing Burke or anyone will be able to do about it.

It's disappointing. You'd think that they'd move the other direction since they're so young and hypothetically getting better faster than older teams who are closer to a full grasp of what their coach wants them to do.

Stupid half court heave and stupid Penn State game. Without those, Michigan has locked up a share and Indiana is playing for one.

Random thing about hypothetical tourney matchup that will almost certainly be irrelevant. Whenever someone posts a bracket and says they like or do not like the matchups therein there is always the guy who says they will boil themselves alive if VCU is a potential second-round matchup. I say bring the Rams on:

John Gasaway@JohnGasaway

VCU 100% dependent on (huge) TO margin. A-10 opponents actually shooting better than Rams.

I'll take that strength versus VCU's many other weaknesses in the matchup game.

Now everyone will kill me if we lose to VCU in the second round. I should have said nothing.

One Frame At A Time: Michigan State

One Frame At A Time: Michigan State

Submitted by Ace on March 6th, 2013 at 2:06 PM

After plum forgetting to rank the gifs the last time out, that feature is back just in time to attempt to pick a top moment from Sunday's triumph against Michigan State. I'm sure that won't be hard at all. It's clearly that Burke steal that other Burke steal the floor slapping the other floor slapping Hardaway trolling Izzo McGary's magnificent pump fake oh god help me.

This is not the number one gif of the game—you'll have to hit the jump to find that out—but this totally unaltered look at the interaction between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Tom Izzo is, again, totally unaltered and completely true to life in every way:

Good to see that when Hardaway's shot isn't falling, he's finding other ways to help the team win. Or, at the very least, trolling Izzo on national TV.

[Hit THE JUMP for the top ten gifs from the game, plus several honorable mentions because I'm terrible at making difficult decisions.]