This has no doubt angered many SEC coaches and Frenchmen. The number of people who have pretended not to speak English as Harbaugh increases his volume level to jet-takeoff levels must be truly prodigious. I would watch a reality show of this. "Football Coach Vacations." This is a million dollar idea.
Skate with Jack Johnson. August 1st at the Cube, for charity. MGoBlog not responsible if Jack Johnson turns you into a pylon or a bird or is just so pretty on skates that you forget how to drive. Jeff Moss will be there, too! You can find out if he is a real person or just a floating sack of anger!
Since he was officially named the Syracuse Orange offensive coordinator for 2015, Tim Lester's been a bit of a sharer. We're fine with that since it's nice to actually get updates from the football staff, especially with the honesty and candor he seems to deliver it all.
The Jayhawks would finish 1-11 in 2012, and with the roster ailing, Weis desired a quick-fix strategy for what he once famously called a “pile of crap.” In early 2013, Weis signed 16 junior-college recruits in a 25-man class. If a majority of the players hit, Weis figured, perhaps Kansas could claw to respectability in a year or two.
The move was a massive failure. By last fall, just eight of those players remained in the program. The volume of junior-college players — many of whom were borderline qualifiers and academic risks — weighed down the program. Six of those junior-college recruits — including highly touted players Marquel Combs, Kevin Short and Chris Martin — never played a down. After senior safety Isaiah Johnson transferred to South Carolina in the spring, and defensive lineman Andrew Bolton left the team this month, not one of those 16 junior-college players remains on the roster.
So here we are, two years later, and just five players remain from Kansas’ 2013 recruiting class.
This fall, Kansas has 60 scholarship players. It's a self-imposed punishment twice as bad as anything that happened to USC or Penn State. Charlie Weis is the king of "people in charge of things are just in charge of them for no reason."
Only the Weather Channel—which is now completely superfluous thanks to the internet—is suffering more. The WSJ attributes Keith Olbermann's departure to simple finances. It is not hard to trace a line from ESPN's current trend and the long-term contracts they have signed with sports leagues and find a point at which it is impossible for them to make money.
ESPN has lost enough subscribers that they have the contractual right to yank their channels from Dish's $20 Sling service. Meanwhile, they are limited in their ability to move to a Netflix/HBO model since if they introduce a stand-alone service cable providers can sell ESPN a la carte—a disaster for a channel that gets six bucks from my grandmother.
Fred Jackson was right! Sort of! Via Austin Roberts, another running back makes good after he departs Michigan:
Another “real bright spot” was running back Thomas Rawls, a 5-foot-l9, 215-pound undrafted rookie free agent out of Central Michigan.
“I love his style of running,” Carroll said. “He’s really a head-knocker. He really goes after guys and when you guys get to see him put the pads on you’ll see how physical of a runner he is. He had play after play in college of just smacking people and running and breaking tackles and all that. He showed very good feet, he caught the ball well, he’s going to be a very-willing blocker.”
All of those came against Purdue or at CMU. Remember when Michigan's running game was so good it got their running backs drafted too early? Those were different times right there. By the end Jackson was stealing money. And various beverages. Holding him over on coaching staff after coaching staff was a major sign of the complacency that overtook the program over the past decade.
Gary Danielson was not right and has never been right. Gary Danielson is pretty good at looking at one specific play and telling you what happened on it. Once you get any more abstract, he turns into a parody of sports commentary. The latest example is Danielson fretting that the SEC is going to lose its way because it might try to score some points.
“The big advantage the SEC had against other conferences was they were the most physical, NFL-like conference there was,” he said. “If they try to morph too much into becoming a fantasy league, they are going to cede their position as the toughest and best conference in college football.”
"Fantasy league." Gary Danielson saying that after Urban Meyer, who was rather successful in the SEC, blew Alabama to bits with his third string QB is a top ten "Is Gary Danielson Having A Stroke?" moment.
Yes, yes, it's actually like round 15 or something, but round two with Beilein at Michigan.
Your random ACC opponent for this year's challenge: Syracuse and their 2-3 zone and long people everywhere. Michigan gets 'em at home. 'Cuse was undefeated for a big chunk of this year until their good fortune ran out and they started dropping close games against teams both good and bad; they were busted out of the tournament in the second round by Dayton, finishing 28-6.
While Michigan has been more battered by graduation and attrition, Syracuse also took some major hits. Leading scorer CJ Fair graduates; phenom point guard Tyler Ennis and SF Jerami Grant both entered the NBA draft.
Those guys represent a lot of Syracuse's offense; guys left over include three-point specialist Trevor Cooney and post Rakeem Christmas, plus DaJuan Coleman if Coleman can ever get healthy. Syracuse fans seem to think they're in for a "serious rebuilding year," FWIW.
The Orange do bring in a couple of touted recruits. Composite five star PF Chris McCullough is already 19 and should be ready to bang anyone Michigan can muster on the interior, and PG Kaleb Joseph will try to fill the gap left by Ennis. Even so, this is a much more manageable task than travelling to Cameron last year.
The captain of Michigan's 2012-13 basketball team, Josh Bartelstein, has written an e-book on the team's remarkable Final Four run featuring a forward from Zack Novak and excerpts from Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Stu Douglass. "We On: Behind The Scenes Of Michigan's Final Four Run" is available now for the very reasonable price of $7.99 at Blog Into Bookand will also be on Amazon and iTunes later this week. The following is an excerpt from the book detailing Final Four Saturday—the victory over Syracuse—and the day preceding the national title time.
Final Four Saturday! We got to sleep in a little bit because we played the late game of the night. There was an incredible buzz in the hotel with Michigan fans everywhere decked out in Maize and Blue. We couldn’t really walk down into the lobby without being swarmed, so the players stayed in a secure area, but it was hard not to check it out. Gameday consisted of three or four different meetings: Offense, Defense, Special Situations, and then final thoughts. The plan was done, everyone knew how we were to beat Syracuse, now we just had to do it. We watched a ton of film, but it was really hard not to lose focus and start thinking about a night we had all dreamed of so many times. It didn’t help getting hundreds of texts from family and friends, some giving advice on how to beat the zone and others on how hard they partied the night before.
We had about a 40-minute shoot-around at the Georgia Dome. Very, very light, almost just getting shots up, but we needed to leave the hotel and get some fresh air. Sitting around all day until 7pm when our bus left would be torture. The mood was very relaxed, guys were joking around like it was the first day of practice.
The key was somehow finding a way to take a nap. You can’t watch any TV stations because everyone is just breaking down the games and at this point I couldn’t listen to it anymore. Around 6pm our uniforms got dropped off with the official Final Four sticker on them. There was no turning back now. The bus left around 6:30pm, but the town was incredibly dead outside. Everyone was inside the stadium watching the first game or at a bar. The streets were empty as we took the 20-minute ride in.
I don’t think I need to go into much detail as to what took place during that 40-minute game. But in case you forgot. Mitch was Magic Johnson picking apart that zone, Caris and Spike hit huge threes, Jordan Morgan took an iconic charge, and Michigan fans took over downtown Atlanta for the night. Our game plan to let a 6’11 freshman who just began starting games a month ago break down the best zone in the country in the biggest game of his life worked. Were you surprised? Honestly, I said it before, but you can’t give our coaching staff a week to prepare for a team. It isn’t fair; they had this scheme down to a T.
We didn’t get back to our hotel until around 2:30am. Between another media session, guys getting cold tubs and figuring out some logistical issues, it was a long night, but we were all wide awake. The competition after the game was to see who had the most text messages on their phone. Don’t quote me on this, but I think Mitch had around 210. I got a message from the Mayor of Chicago, so I was feeling good. The other thing that hit us was that we were playing for the National Championship literally in one day. You spend all season thinking about championship Monday and the Michigan Wolverines were there!
[Hit THE JUMP for J-Bart's account of the hectic, exciting day leading up to the national championship game.]
When you're at a game and then spend an hour and a half walking around aimlessly afterwards because the closest bar to the Georgia Dome is in Alabama and exiting that place is like finding your way through an MC Escher painting, and then you laugh incessantly until they tell you there is no more beer to be had and you go to bed at like 4 AM and spend the next day writing stuff and watching Otto the Orange die over and over again, you can miss some developments in the narrative of said game.
Does that paragraph count as a one-sentence paragraph? I mean technically, sure. But come on. This paragraph is important philosophically because we are talking about block/charge calls. Some things are technically blocks, but come on.
Anyway. After that I caught up on what the rest of the world was saying. I was surprised to find out the play above generated a ton of muttering while I was wandering around Atlanta wondering if the Georgia Dome was in fact part of the city or connected to it by a wormhole I could no longer access. You gotta talk about something, I guess. A block/charge call is as good as anything because nobody in the world knows what a block or charge is anymore, even the refs hopping on one leg 40 times before pointing. Personally, the brain went CHARGE and wasn't even worried about which way the call would go. The ref making the call did not bother with the Cirque De Soleil routine. His body language read "bro you just charged" so matter-of-factly that I fell in love with whoever that guy was and wished we had ejected Ed Hightower into a hyperbolic orbit around the sun.
My favorite view is in fact the Otto-slaying GIF, which is in real time and repeats incessantly. At that speed you can only see Triche's "chest"—in this case a euphemism—plow head on into Morgan's. Even complaints about "sliding under" seem ridiculous since Triche is still on the way up when contact is made.
THE FINGER OF DEATH
But I've seen enough basketball to know that completely random things are decided to be charges and other completely random things are decided to be blocks.
I don't know man. I feel that you don't have much of a complaint when you plow a guy in the dead center of his chest. Feet trembling or not, someone square to you outside the circle is going to get that call almost every time. He got there first, and it's not like he was invisible before you jumped. The only situations in which the jumping complaint seems legit to me are those like that dubious charge McGary took against VCU, where the defender eats contact just as the shooter lands. Any "charge" where they also award the basket should be a block.
Suggestions for making this less of an unsolvable debate:
Charges can only be committed by a shooter who still has the ball. If it's gone, any contact he receives before landing is a block. This may not be entirely fair but it is relatively easy. (Those rare charges that come after a guy has passed the ball still have to be called, I think.)
The main point of determination is how the contact occurs. Forget the feet. Is the defender getting nailed directly in the chest? If yes, charge. If it's glancing, block.
Whether the defender is moving should only be relevant if it changes the impact from head on to glancing. At the moment of contact, is the defender square and getting plowed in the chest? If yes, charge, if no, no charge. Determining motionlessness is basically impossible. If the combined vector of motion is the offensive player's plus or minus 10%, it's a charge.
Outside the circle, obviously.
Right now the charge is some combination of technicality and feel that results in all charge/block calls being debatable because lawyers. It would be nice to move to a world where you could show someone this picture:
has ball, "chest" going into chest of squared up, vertical defender, no debate
And they would have to be like "right, well I'm obviously a twit, carry on." We don't live in that world. We live in one where every charge call gets put under a microscope that anyone can see however they'd like to.
In any case, live that was CHARGE to everyone and it was only once each frame got the Zapruder treatment that anyone other than 'Cuse fans thought otherwise. Therefore Jordan Morgan is cool. The end.
he doesn't actually have to do anything the game is ova the queensbury thing to do is to slow up and I don't know take a foul or something or probably just wait around until the buzzer goes off
srsly are you insane
--Brian Cook's brain, 4/6/2013
That happened pretty quickly there as the brain assembled Syracuse's pregame dismissiveness of Michigan with who had the ball: Jordan Morgan. Morgan, who had just rescued Michigan's bacon by taking a charge on trash-talking Brandon Triche. Morgan, who went from a three-year starter to afterthought as Mitch McGary blew up. One technical for hanging on the rim is requested. Oh god no actually nevermind.
Morgan may not have had a bone sticking out of him a week ago but his emotional state has to be even more roiled than Kevin Ware. Ware just has to watch everything pensively and not pick his nose during the 15 minutes of gametime he is on screen. Morgan has to go out there and do things. When these things start with Morgan fumbling a sure layup out of bounds, he knows the exact tenor of the moans in the crowd, how even if only 5% of them are actually saying something nasty the rest are thinking it.
Kevin Ware's just a fan for the moment. For long stretches of this last month I've wondered if sometimes Morgan wished he could be. And the living envied the dead.
This was a zombie apocalypse of a game. Most of it was spent with Michigan players peering between the trees, trying to figure out anything approximating a path to the basket. They were not forthcoming. Almost half of Michigan's attempts were from three, many of those the sort of desperation heaves that Syracuse thrives on inducing. Michigan's main accomplishment on many possessions was to not turn the ball over.
Basically every number in the box score that isn't McGary and Robinson throwing down putbacks is ugly. Stauskas: 0-5. Hardaway: 1/6 from two, 3/10 from three. Burke: 1/8. Michigan put together a strong first half on the back of some shots from outside the dome and then collapsed, scoring a miserable 0.74 PPP in the second half. And won.
Syracuse meanwhile shot 21% from 3 and only approached 50% from two because CJ Fair was knocking down sixteen-footer after sixteen-footer. Michigan's approach on offense was Lloydball not just for the harrowing final few minutes but the whole game, shutting down Syracuse's transition offense (just two fast break points) at the expense of even bothering to use Trey Burke, for the most part. There were a couple of possessions in which Burke dribbled himself to a profitable spot, and it seemed strange and frustrating on all those other possessions where he just passed it around the perimeter.
It was Big Ten grind. Thoughts turned to similar games this year when fortune and malice conspired to screw Michigan. Kansas? Don't talk to me about Kansas when Spike Albrecht misses the front end of a one-and-one. I can only think about Indiana, about that time when refs decide they Will Not Decide The Game—clean block at right via Dustin Johnston—and missed front ends and the moment Morgan fell off a cliff like the basketball he left on the rim for weeks until it decided to go the wrong way.
Morgan went away then. The next game was a 2/6 struggle against Penn State in which Morgan was quickly shuffled to the bench after a bobbling start; Mitch McGary came on, racked up a double-double, and that was pretty much that. The nail in the coffin was the next night. Morgan started against Wisconsin, racking up 3 TOs and no shots in 8 minutes. He evaporated straight off the court, opacity dropping to zero percent in front of thousands.
McGary then turned into Wes Unseld—if you haven't heard, ask Jeff Withey. It was Wally Pipping so fierce they might rename the thing, or at least provide a corollary. To get Jordan Morganed is to have your brain damaged by an on-court experience and then watch your backup eat your job in two seconds.
Unless McGary adds 40% three-point shooting to his ever-expanding repertoire—actually, I give that 50/50 at this point—Jordan Morgan's probably never going to start at Michigan again. That's rough for a player who's had confidence issues forever. Probably the first thing Michigan fans heard about the guy was MSU fans making fun of Michigan recruiting someone who infamously broke down in tears at some camp or something. Derrick Nix may have been involved. I don't remember the exact details. I do remember the implication.
Soft. Jordan Morgan was supposed to be soft. May actually be "soft," whatever that means. It's impossible to watch the ups and downs of his career and not think that he lacks the icy veins of a Trey Burke, that he probably experiences sports as oceans of terror punctuated by islands of relief. I know that feel, bro. It's an entirely different kind of courage there. To barely outrun fear is different than simply not having it.
"I think I was in for like two possessions, and got two stops… I mean, that's what I do."
Jordan Morgan may fumble balls out of bounds, but in the most harrowing moments of… well, probably his life, his brain worked. He knew Elijah Johnson was going too fast, too far away from the basket to get a shot. He knew he could get to the spot against Brandon Triche. He got stops. Michigan continues on.
I was torn, so deputized! By all rights Mitch McGary deserves one of these things and I haven't actually written one. The secret weapon is Ace, who I badgered into typing something up about Enormous Doom Puppy. I felt this was a bench game, though, so I wanted to focus on a bench player. Also that charge made me carefully extract one of the carefully hoarded swear words from the vault and deploy it. So… yeah.
Speaking of the bench…
This is why you burn Caris LeVert's redshirt. This is why you bring in Spike Albrecht. When they did the former I muttered a number of things about how if you think Caris can give you a few possessions of anything in a tournament game, you have to play him because this is a year in which all of the eggs go in the basket. Meanwhile, everyone in the world cocked an eyebrow at bringing in this little post-grad point guard.
All bow to John Beilein. Albrecht and Levert were collectively the only things saving Michigan from a disastrous three-point shooting night and tourney exit, going 4/5 as the rest of the team was 4/19. Levert added a couple of assists and fine defense in 21 minutes, which is a career high in games when Michigan has full complement of players*. I believe he was mostly checking James Southerland. Since Southerland is not named CJ Fair he had a crappy night.
Meanwhile I must have had a lot of company when my brain started going SPIKE WHERE IS SPIKE when Syracuse deployed their press at the end. That's quite a move, when people are moaning in all caps to themselves about your absence.
*[He had more in the CMU game, which Hardaway missed, and the MSU game at Crisler when Nik Stauskas got his face exploded by Branden Dawson's elbow.]
Also, Mitch. It says something that McGary is still making my jaw drop five games into this run. Six assists increased his career total by a third and tripled his game high, plus he shot okay (4/8) in a game where shooting "okay" is fantastic and ripped down 12 boards. What can you say? There is no comparable. If someone does this in the future, or even looks like doing this over a couple games, they will namecheck him. Because there is no one else.
The free throws, yeah. Louisville might try to exploit that with backup big Stephen Van Treese, who was instantly attacked whenever he hit the floor by Wichita. Might cost Michigan some points.
McGary part 2: boards. Michigan won the board war 36%-29%, and while that Michigan OREB number isn't too surprising against a zone, Syracuse was a crushing OREB machine all year and Michigan held them below the D-I average. Remember earlier in the year when Michigan's outstanding rebounding was the shaky tent pole propping up their entire defense? And how when that went away late in Big Ten play, it collapsed? Opponent OREB numbers in the tourney:
32% is average. The top major-conference team, Arizona, held opponents to 27%. One of Louisville's main assets is their OREB.
Wha happen? How did Syracuse almost halve Michigan's PPP in the second half? This is a thing that I'd need to watch the film closely to figure out but I have some outlines in my head: two possessions into the second half I thought Michigan should call timeout because 'Cuse had changed what they were doing in the zone and Michigan seemed confused.
One, they extended it. Two, they brought up the wing player on the left up, presenting something that looked closer to a 3-2 zone—which as far as I know does not exist—when the ball was at the top of the key. It felt like pushing out this far should have left gaps for GRIII running the baseline for lobs and whatnot but Michigan never found that play. The zone adaptation made Michigan's three-pointers seem even less like good ideas, and hampered the McGary high post game that was so effective in the first half. Michigan never really adjusted.
Trey at least took MCW with him. Burke had a pretty terrible night. It was nowhere near as terrible a the one he induced Michael Carter-Williams into. Syracuse came out trying to post MCW on Burke, which lasted one possession without an entry pass. They probably should have gone back to it, since for the rest of the game Carter-Williams got nothing. He was 1/6 from the floor, didn't get to the line, had just two assists to his five turnovers, and fouled out. ORTG: 28. Burke was a 90 despite the crappy shooting because of his 4:1 A:TO ratio.
Okay guy. Syracuse was in a lot of trouble at the end what with both of the starting guards having fouled out, but that Cooney guy tried to go to the basket down three with under ten seconds left. And then took a tough, contested shot. From two. Okay guy.
I'm just glad I wasn't wearing an awesome hat that caused people to take pictures of me at whatever this juncture was.
Watching basketball in a dome. We were in the 200 level in a corner, and this was surprisingly fine. It was a bit far away but I saw the Morgan charge and immediately thought "charge"; ie, I felt I had a good idea of what was going on almost all of the time.
I thought the novelty of a Final Four would be a one-time thing and I would not return if Michigan were to make one in the future. After last night I've flipped on that. If you can stay out of the upper deck it's worth it.
So… this happened. I'm not sure whether to spank or kiss these children.
Is the addition of he Webber pictures gratuitous or necessary shock therapy? Were these moppets close enough to the sideline that Michigan's players could see them? Did everyone in the arena immediately think about this when Michigan burned its last TO with over two minutes left? Don't know, better have been, yes.
Is there an entire article about timeouts? You betcha.
The best thing about Denard Robinson. He was there, in much better seats than I had, and there was chatter about this in my section. With three minutes left they put him on the video board and he looked exactly how I felt. In my experience this never happens* because athletes are understandably cool about the whole cheering for athletes thing. Denard Robinson looked sick with three minutes left and I was I KNOW THAT FEEL BRO and and some point during our eons-long departure from the Georgia Dome we realized he was walking 50 feet behind us and wondered if we could just, like, give him money now that his eligibility had expired. We chickened out; I think to do that at that moment would have been somehow insulting.
But anyway, I get annoyed at everything and they put Denard on the board at the Final Four and he looked like he'd eaten a sea urchin and I felt better. Denard!
While the Wolverines are keeping themselves humbled and hungry, Alexander has to think of a motivational tool for when Michigan faces Syracuse in one of Saturday’s national semifinal games.
The choice seems obvious to him — orange juice.
“You know that did happen two years ago when we played Syracuse, (a 53-50 loss), out in Atlantic City, and Evan Smotrycz, who was on our roster at the time, was quite upset that I soiled his jersey,” Alexander said. “I hope Evan forgives me. Evan, if you’re out there watching, I’m sorry.”
ATLANTA -- Zack Novak sat in the stands, after being granted a few days off from his professional team in the Netherlands, watching his former coach and teammates advance to the national championship game.
"We wish you were still playing," one Michigan fan said to Novak, who graduated a year ago.
"No, you don't," he replied. "Because now you're seeing what happens when that man has talent."
Step 6: Be down by a ton of points in the second half. Trust me.
I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but this is all about the element of surprise. PSU was down 66-51 with around ten minutes to go and came back to win by six. This is probably the only way to beat Michigan, and since your team is a heck of a lot better than Penn State, you could probably get away with a 30-35 point deficit late in the game. At worst, your team loses all hope, doesn't make a comeback and is super motivated for next year. A win/win, really.
So good luck, coach. Just know that should you fail to heed my advice and fall to Michigan, we'll have transitive bragging rights over you for quite some time.
Beilein wanted to thank the fans for their support, for waiting in the cold, for acknowledging again that Michigan wasn't just a football school.
He also wanted to acknowledge the team, though, rattling off the players' names, class by class. And when he got to his fabulous freshmen, he started with the one name he knew would get the biggest cheer.
"How about this?" Beilein yelled, as his face broke into a big grin. "The most eligible bachelor on campus right now: Spike Albrecht!"
Yes, John Beilein did the "Harlem Shake," sort of. This is Michigan's first Final Four dance in 20 years and Beilein's first, and to appreciate how the Wolverines ended up here, you have to appreciate how the mild-mannered 60-year-old coach connected with one of the youngest teams in the country.
This is a tale that only happens in college, where players are talented enough to pull off great things, but raw enough to recognize the need for guidance. Beilein is meticulous, nearly to a fault, he admits. But this season, and especially during this NCAA Tournament run, the strangest thing happened. Just when the Wolverines could have tightened up, their coach loosened up, and this is how they ride.
"This has been crazy," Burke's father, Benji described. "People tweeting, Facebooking and talking about him -- Jalen Rose, Charles Barkley, Bob Knight, Kenny Smith, Greg Anthony.
Wait, what? Lil Wayne?
"It's been like 'wow,' " Benji added with a laugh. "He's known all over."
Scouting Michigan. Eamonn Brennan talks to an OSU assistant about how to deal with Michigan's offense. This is what I am saying about horrible one-dribble-inside-the-line jumpers:
[Hardaway] is excellent on catch-and-shoots (1.227 PPP), but his efficiency drops precipitously once he is forced to put the ball on the floor. Once Hardaway takes a dribble, his points per trip drop to just 0.711. Fly by on closeouts if that's what it takes, but make Hardaway do more than stand with his finger in the wind on the perimeter -- especially in the open floor.
(You guys who use Synergy numbers need to learn about significant digits man. 1.2 and 0.7.) Boals goes on to talk threes and Michigan's defense and the like; highly recommended even if he thinks it's "weird" Michigan emphasizes limiting opponent transition opportunities, which I think the entire universe does.
The Orange weren't exactly the fastest team in the country this season -- they ranked No. 244 in Pomeroy's adjusted tempo -- but you really do not want to see them on the break. According to Synergy scouting data, Syracuse averaged 1.12 points per trip in transition this season, disproportionately more than in the half court.
I like the idea of transition-dependent offenses against Michigan.
So here it came, just as Alexander was wrapping up. A can of Pringles? Morgan guessed it immediately — "I knew exactly what he was doing," he said — but most of his teammates were stumped. Alexander said he'd put on the glove "just for effect." ("You know, 'What is he about to do? Is he about to smack somebody?' " he joked.) As for the chips, he'd spotted one of the team managers eating them earlier in the day, "and I just had an 'A-ha!' moment."
Ask Alexander about Mitch McGary's breakfast habits and he'll tell you he "has benefited from his enthusiasm and his consistency and really his unwavering pursuit of excellence."
Everyone and their uncle has a post about Syracuse's 2-3 zone and how to beat it, focusing on a lot of things but usually the usual: get the ball to the free throw line and make the right decision once there.
Michigan shot 25% on 32 threes and lost 53-50 in a game well under a PPP on both sides. Morgan, Horford, and Hardaway were on that team; everyone else has been replaced. Hardaway was 1/8 from three. This was not a win for zone-busting. FWIW, Michigan and 'Cuse both went down in the second round of the tourney that year but the Orange were a considerably better team overall. That was a matchup between the #16 defense and #31 offense.
Michigan versus mini-Syracuse, earlier this year. UMHoops looked at this game in some detail.
Michigan has an advantage here: they've already played this zone. Former Syracuse assistant Rob Murphy now runs the Eastern Michigan program. Michigan played them earlier this year. They even feature a former Syracuse recruit in seven-foot center Da'Shonte Riley. Remember this?
A rote domination. For comparison's sake, Syracuse took Eastern Michigan to a similar—but not quite as impressive—woodshed, winning 84-48. Therefore we are better than Syracuse. #math
Michigan took a little time to get going before getting a fusion reaction going in the second half.
In the first few minutes, Michigan continued to struggle, but the nice thing about Beilein teams is you know they'll adjust, which Michigan did in three steps:
adding ball screens to disrupt the zone's balance and get the guy in the high post open
getting that high post guy to dump it down to the big once Riley showed to contest
teaching the bigs to finish against a shotblocker.
McGary and Morgan were 1-6 in the first half with swats accounting for half the misses. In the second half they were 7-7. Riley got in foul trouble, which helped, but more efficient ball movement got McGary some uncontested dunks and Morgan opened the second half with a couple of finishes against Riley.
The ball screen still works by focusing two defenders on a single guy. The zone has the advantage of making guy #2 a guard—in this case a very big guard—instead of a lumbering post who has to recover to the paint at some point. Two guys on one guy means some guy is open, though.
It's still just basketball. You are in a situation, you evaluate it, you make a decision. The Syracuse zone gets beaten when three guys make correct decisions in a row.
Eastern is of course not Syracuse. They're 122nd in defensive efficiency on Kenpom; Syracuse is 5th. Even if you don't like Kenpom's SOS adjustments, the Eagles only finished third in MAC play. Oh and they lost to the Orange 84-48.
Despite the Not Syracuse thing they're not the worst comparison you could find. Against Michigan they started Riley, two guys in the 6'8" range, and 6'6" shooting guard Daylen Harrison. In terms of size, the only thing separating Eastern from Syracuse was 30 minutes of 5'11" Jalen Ross.
Michigan shredded these folks for 1.33 PPP, shooting 51% on twos and 50% on threes—Stauskas poured in 5 of 8—while rebounding almost half their misses. Eastern Is Not Syracuse but they are in a couple key respects: block percentage (4th nationally), TOs generated (38th), three pointers ceded (346th, ie they give up a zillion billion), 3P% defense (just under 30%, 16th nationally). Syracuse was much better at 2PT defense and played a much tougher schedule; otherwise the underlying numbers aren't that different.
Syracuse vs Louisville, Big East Championship Game. UL's second-half clinic in the Big East Championship game is examined by UMHoops as well. (Caveat: UL's first two games against 'Cuse were a 70-68 loss and a 58-53 win.) That was a lot of triple-threat at the free-throw line featuring Louisville's jump-shooting 6'10" center Gorgui Dieng.
Can McGary handle that role? Cody Zeller failed spectacularly. I'm saying there's a chance. McGary's displayed a soft shooting touch at the elbow in the tournament; his 2P jumper percentage is just a point off Dieng's. He has also displayed the capability to put the ball on the floor for a dribble or two to get to the rack. The issue is passing Dieng is a regular participant in UL shot creation. McGary has not done that much for Michigan. While his heads-up play indicates he might be able to, the Final Four seems like a less than ideal place to try it out.
The other primary candidate is Tim Hardaway, Jr. Hardaway has a quality jumper, the height to see and pass around the trees, a low TO rate, and does assist on a number of buckets. Unfortunately he's coming off a weekend in which he was 7/24 from the floor. If he's not on, Michigan may have to sink or swim with McGary in the high post—or just screen screen screen Burke into similar situations.
That turnover aside, similar shoulder-dropping moves put Zeller underneath the bouncy Syracuse centers and led to an astounding six of his eleven shots being returned to center.
More ominous is a version of the Stauskas three from the EMU game embedded above in which Indiana gets an "open look" that gets blocked.
Even if Michigan is smart enough to avoid that thunderous closeout, Michigan's shooting efficiency plummets once they move from catch-and-shoot to off the dribble. Michigan's corner gunners do have a couple inches on Abell and six on Jordan Hulls, but that closeout from a 6'8" dude is tough no matter how tall you are.
Take open looks. If it's there, just put it up, and go get it. This includes lining up a foot or two behind the arc. A spot-up NBA three is a better shot than the horrible one-dribble-inside-the-line thing fierce Syracuse closeouts threaten to induce.
Get Burke to the free throw line (not that free throw line). This will have to be a lot of ball screening, possibly versions of the double high screen Michigan used to free Burke at the end of the Kansas game (sort of, anyway). Michigan will also have wing threats that will make it hard for Fair and Southerland to close out two players on the perimeter.
Burke is better equipped than anyone on the team to make the right decision once he's past the first layer of defense, and if McGary isn't triggering from the high post he'll be in a better rebounding position.
Hardaway? They'll try it. They'll have to make a quick decision on his effectiveness. If he's off, he's off.
Screen the wings. Michigan can prevent things like that Abel block above by using McGary to impede closeouts. If they can get off a bunch of quality corner threes, they likely win.