Mailbag: Big Man Rotation, Dealing With Withey, NBA Departure Odds, Big Puppy's Breed, Unhappy Visitors

Mailbag: Big Man Rotation, Dealing With Withey, NBA Departure Odds, Big Puppy's Breed, Unhappy Visitors

Submitted by Ace on March 27th, 2013 at 4:51 PM

I received a recruiting mailbag question via email and, in the process of requesting more questions on Twitter, this mostly turned into a basketball mailbag. So, here's a hoops mailbag with a couple of bonus football recruiting questions, I guess.


Starter of the future, also starter of the present (Photo: Bryan Fuller)

Do you think that Morgan getting rest against VCU could help him have a serviceable/good game against Kansas? — @carlseikoll

This is the first of two questions about the big men, so let's focus on Jordan Morgan's situation for now. He got a lot of rest against VCU—the whole game, in fact—on the heels of playing just one minute against South Dakota State and 18 combined minutes in the Big Ten Tournament.

It'd be nice to pin the blame for Morgan's reduced role on his midseason ankle injury, but I think we're beyond that point—he played over 22 minutes in each of the four games leading up to the BTT. It's entirely possible that coming back from the injury too soon sapped his confidence, especially in his ability to get lift off the floor and go up strong when finishing with the basketball. Or a bad stretch of games and subsequent benching may just be getting in his head.

Whatever the reason, it seems unlikely that John Beilein would keep Morgan nailed to the bench in the VCU blowout—not giving him the chance to regain some confidence in a low-risk situation—only to have a big role in store for him against one of the nation's best teams (and best big men). Which leads to the next question...

What is the hierarchy of McGary, Horford, Morgan, and what they can do to stop Withey? — @stephenjnesbitt

Mitch McGary is the starter at this point, a point I doubt anyone will dispute. He's emerged as both the team's most consistent and productive center, and as long as he stays out of foul trouble he should play the majority of the team's minutes from here on out.

Given the above, Jon Horford is the next man on the floor, and Morgan should be used either sparingly or only in case of emergency. While this rotation worked out great in the first two tournament games, however, there's reason to worry heading into the Kansas game.

The reason, of course, is Jeff Withey—a real, functional, productive big man, something Michigan didn't really see in the first two NCAA games. I don't think there's a huge gap between Michigan's three big men offensively, aside from McGary's stellar offensive rebounding; all three aren't players Beilein is going to post up often, especially against one of the country's best shot blockers. Against Kansas, whoever's playing center won't do much more than set picks and fight for putback opportunities.

The difference will come at the defensive end. Morgan has certainly struggled in the last couple weeks, to the point that I don't think Michigan can confidently throw him into the fray on Friday; that's a problem, because he's still by far their best on-ball post defender, and Withey is a skilled post player with a high usage. McGary, meanwhile, has done everything well recently except defend on the ball—overlooked in his performance against VCU was the Rams' lone big man, Juvonte Reddic, scoring 16 points on 7/11 shooting in 24 minutes, with only one of those baskets coming off an offensive rebound. McGary is also foul-prone, though not as much as Horford, who commits a sky-high 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes.

I still don't think Morgan will play much, if at all. If he does, it will be because Withey is terrorizing the defense in the post. The best thing Michigan can do against Withey on Friday is to try to lure him away from the basket as a shot-blocker—expect a lot of pick-and-roll action—and look to deny him post touches defensively. This is one of the worst games for the Wolverines to be without a full-strength (mentally and physically) Jordan Morgan, but that's the way the ball bounces.

[Hit THE JUMP for the odds of Michigan's underclassmen jumping to the NBA, searching for Big Puppy's breed, and a couple of recruiting questions.]

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.]

Basketbullets: South Dakota State

Basketbullets: South Dakota State

Submitted by Brian on March 22nd, 2013 at 4:44 PM

3/21/2012 – Michigan 71, South Dakota State 56 – 27-7, entry to second round of tourney

8578156633_d0dc17c605_z[1]8579229462_be9057ccde_z[1]

Bryan Fuller

This game turned into a Mexican standoff of "if you told me before the game" stats: Trey Burke has six points versus Nate Wolters has ten points versus Tim Hardaway is 5/7 from three. That's two for Michigan, one for South Dakota State, and even if the way everyone got there was a little weird the end result was basically as expected.

What does the "how" suggest about the remainder of Michigan's tourney run? Well.

Michigan can shut down a star dude and simultaneously reduce quality looks from three. Wolters had few quality opportunities and Michigan still managed to hold SDSU to 4/19 from three. The number is dead on SDSU's season average, but few of those looks were top quality. Pair that with holding Wolters to ten points and that's a nice tradeoff.

Of course, Michigan may not be able to do those two things and prevent themselves from getting chewed up on twos. SDSU held themselves in this by hitting 58% inside the line. Concern? Possibly. Michigan's various exertions to reach the Wolters/3P% numbers above left Tony Fiegen open for a series of medium to long range twos, all of which he knocked down. But if that's what your defense gives up, like… okay.

Glenn Robinson may be able to up his production. With SDSU sagging off of Burke, Robinson got three near-identical corner threes in the second half, all of which he took, and all of which he knocked down. Please just do that instead of clutching and driving for an off-the-dribble long two. At least, more often. More than the sheer efficiency of his production I enjoyed the fact that he got 10 shot opportunities, many of which were not simple putbacks that may or may not be there.

Robinson will be critical against VCU as a converter of open-court opportunities. He and Hardaway are Michigan's most effective finishers at the rim (73 and 72 percent, respectively). Those ten to fifteen points of eFG will add up.

8579222960_2cae717c90_z[1]

Mitch McGary is the starter. Rebounding was dead even in this one, and you'd like something a bit better against a smallish Summit team. One game is two small a sample to extrapolate from, though, and we have a season-long statistical record indicating that McGary is a vacuum, particularly on the offensive end. Add that to a steal-and-dunk on a lazy post pass per game and various other harassments and it's hard to get him off the court once he's on it, as Morgan found out. His turnover rate isn't even that bad: 18.7. Usually any big under 20 isn't a problem.

Michigan's probably going to need to haul Morgan out against VCU, though. Whether it's foul trouble or running up and down the court all the time, McGary will have to sit for longer than he did in the last one.

Other Items

Head in game, please Mr. Morgan. The aftermath of Thursday's game seems to have shaken Morgan's always-fragile psyche:

"I think I was in for like two possessions, and got two stops," said Morgan, who was named to the Big Ten's all-defensive team this year. "I guess, I mean, that's what I do."

Will he play more Saturday, when the Wolverines face the winner of No. 5 VCU/No. 12 Akron for a bid to the Sweet 16?

"I'm not sure," he said. "It's not my job."

Michigan will need him. Someone dispatch the sports psychologist.

Michigan could end up going super-small. I wouldn't expect a single two-big lineup tomorrow what with the press and all. Michigan will be able to substitute a little more liberally than usual since this is a game in which Hardaway could plausibly run the 4, especially during the 13 minutes or so per game that VCU sits 6'5" Treveon Graham and brings in a 6'3" guy in his place. That would pave the way for extra Spike/Caris action as Michigan tries to get more ballhandling on the floor and avoid a late-game exhaustion slide.

That would make Michigan's four-out, one-in setup almost impossible to sag on. If Burke turns the corner off of a pick and roll, instead of sagging off GRIII and his relatively infrequent threes (62 this year), it's Hardaway or Stauskas. GRIII is still going to be hugely important, but they can rest him more than they usually do and not get pounded on the boards while still giving VCU a defensive conundrum.

Etc.

Burke says he feels fine. He's fine enough to drop zingers, anyway:

"I'm fine, I'm ready to go for Saturday," Burke said. "I was a little over-dramatic out there, but I got about 30 seconds of rest, so that felt good."

He didn't score much, but that could be good? McGary has energy. Wojo:

Burke was going about 100 mph, a pace your average Jackrabbit doesn't mind. Since gaining so much national acclaim, he has struggled a bit, as if the attention was wearing. Michigan shadowed Wolters and South Dakota State shadowed Burke. So naturally, that launched a one-on-one showdown between Hardaway Jr. and Brayden Carlson. Huh? Hardaway Jr. is not a surprise, but Carlson was the only Jackrabbit starter not averaging double figures, and he had 16 in the first half.

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.

Unverified Voracity Thanks John Wilkins

Unverified Voracity Thanks John Wilkins

Submitted by Brian on March 13th, 2013 at 4:07 PM

03102013_SPT_UM_Indiana_Bball_DJB_1246_fullsize[1]

Say this for the man: he dances when you tell him to dance. (AnnArbor.com)

Thanks for the service. One of the secret joys of being a Michigan fan has been the excellent service provided by John Wilkins and the alumni band when the students aren't available. Wilkins always brought an entertaining flair to the job he created 21 years ago. He has just retired, and he'll be tough to replace:

Deciding to retire from the pep band was not easy for Wilkins. “I will miss the Alumni Pep Band very much,” he said. “The opportunity given to me to conduct a Michigan band at Michigan games, to play this great Michigan music, was a dream that I had since a little boy, a dream come true. Over the years I have developed incredible friendships with the players and will miss working with them on a regular basis. I'm glad that I have been invited to come back every year to conduct the entire Alumni Band at the football game in October on homecoming weekend.”

Also I have that tie.

It's kind of like the Heisman I guess. Denard will be on the cover of EA's most recent slight rehash of NCAA Football 2003. Smile incoming:

NCAA_CoverVote_Winner_Blog_Robinson_656x369[1]

He joins Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson. The game will pay tribute by having linebackers jump impossibly high to snag interceptions off everybody.

There were vote shenanigans that threatened to propel Texas A&M's Ryan Swope over the top, but EA promised they would eliminate fake votes, and by "eliminate fake votes" they meant "put Denard on the cover even if he finished last because this is EA, and EA gets dollars son even if it means turning a single player game into an always-online fiasco because we are mad at pirates."

He probably doesn't realize he's twisting the knife. After three straight weekends in Ann Arbor, Drake Harris finally gave the "it's not you… it's me" speech to Michigan State, decommiting. Except he said it was actually you, Michigan State:

"Since I'm just playing football now,” Harris told reporters after his regional basketball game Monday in Grand Rapids, “I want to play at a bigger school, win a national championship."

Analysts are saying don't count your 6'4" elite wide receivers before they hatch, but it looks like the field is catching up to Michigan now. They'll have an opportunity:

“I don’t have a frontrunner, I don’t even have a top list right now. I’m supposed to go down to Florida on March 22, and then Ohio State sometime in April and Notre Dame sometime in April. I’m not sure what I’m going to do in the summer. I’ll probably go out and visit some schools out West.”

Harris says he'll enroll early and plans to commit in October. Long way to go.

[Ace, you can just C&P this section into Friday Recruitin'. Sorry.]

Well, yeah. Trey Burke is a first-team All American to the Sporting News and the Big Ten's player of the year, the first time in 24 years a Michigan player has brought that award in. The last guy was Glen Rice, which also yeah. Burke said "I feel honored" in response to being honored. Tautological point guard is tautological.

It really came down to Oladipo versus Burke, and while I love Burke with a Denard-crush intensity you really can make a case for Oladipo, who shot 66% from two(!), was the #5 guy in true shooting percentage, has a near-top-100 OREB rate—something Michigan felt the lash of on Sunday—and is a defensive superstar. It's that versus Burke's huge usage and incredible assist rate and turnover avoidance. It's Woodson versus Manning for the Heisman, except Indiana fans probably won't be bringing it up 20 years later.

Well… uh. Tim Hardaway also made first-team All Big Ten on one of the two ballots. This I am not so sure about. Aaron Craft got the nod on the media ballots—a weird situation where the better defensive player gets the hype and the coaches go for offense—and to me that's a lot more justifiable than going strictly by scoring average. That's how you pick Hardaway over, say, Gary Harris, who shot 74/52/42 on FT/2s/3s versus Hardaway's 69/50/38 on virtually identical usage. Hardaway did rebound a lot better, but what rebounds exactly was Gary Harris supposed to acquire as a the two-guard in a lineup with Payne, Nix, and Dawson?

I haven't watched Harris that closely but I doubt Hardaway brings much defensive value he doesn't. Eh. Awards are pointless, see…

The CCHA's continuing inability to do anything right. This is far less egregious than the various Hunwick-related snubs last year (Hunwick was a top-three Hobey finalist and not the CCHA goalie of the year), but Boo Nieves was honorable mention All Rookie this year despite having the second-most points of any freshman in league play. Alaska's Tyler Morley's 8-7-15 was better than Nieves's 8-14-22.

In other news, highlights of Michigan's 3-2 win over Northern on Friday contain one Michigan goal and two by NMU.

#gongshow

Where was this all year? Hockey resoundingly swept Northern Michigan over the weekend in two games I did not see because I assumed Michigan would not have a home series last week, because when has Michigan ever finished between 6th and 8th in the CCHA? LOL that idea.

In any case, Michigan's Saturday demolition of Northern was so comprehensive it makes you a little mad. Michigan outshot Northern 23-6 in the first period and 16-3 in the second, whereupon it was 4-1 and all over but the shouting. If you can do that now…

Anyway, Saturday's game was a weird one with two penalty shots:

Copp converted the second once the goalie went for a poke and missed it, leaving his five-hole exposed. He also scored a grinder earlier.

Center Ice has recaps of Friday and Saturday. They've recovered from that January funk and go to Western this weekend. CI:

A few guys are really standing out on a weekly basis, Copp, Racine, Nieves, Merrill, Guptill, they just are playing on a level that no one else is coming close too. I vividly remember our series against Western earlier in the year because every stoppage of play a Bronco went to a Wolverine, chirped at him and gave him a shove. No one did anything about it. Today I thoroughly enjoyed seeing any Wildcat who went near Racine get a push and shove, most of the the time it was Andrew Copp doing it. Little things that make a big difference.

The Guptill-Copp-Deblois line sees Guptill on a seven-game point streak; Nieves was sick last weekend but played through it.

Vincent Smith AMA. #2 popped up on Reddit yesterday to do an AMA promoting his Pahokee kickstarter, and the first question is… not about Clowney. It's about what kind of sub he ate. Well done, zparts. The second question mentions Clowney, but also finger guns. There was also the inevitable MGoBlog question that got the inevitable "I don't really read it" answer.

There is another. Derrick Walton senior highlights:

He won't be Trey, but if Hardaway and Robinson are back he won't have to be. If he can be a better version of Yogi Ferrell (18% usage, 26 Arate, 43%/32%) Michigan shouldn't have too much of a dropoff on offense what with everyone else back.

Etc.: Denard pro day interview. Who wants to dwell on the Indiana game? Special teams… not bad? Jordan Morgan : Space Jam :: Brian : Big Lebowski. Hockey's had a lot of breakaways of late.

Hoops Picture Pages: Defensive Rebounding Woes

Hoops Picture Pages: Defensive Rebounding Woes

Submitted by Ace on March 13th, 2013 at 2:13 PM

The main reason Michigan lost a heartbreaker to Indiana on Sunday—yes, even more than their late-game free throw misses—was their inability to keep the Hoosiers off the offensive glass. Indiana rebounded 24 of their 40 missed shots; once second in the country in defensive rebounding, the Wolverines are now eighth in their own conference.

What's odd about this at first glance is that Michigan boasts a trio of centers who are all proficient rebounders. Jordan Morgan (#9) and Mitch McGary (#5) both rank among the top Big Ten players in defensive rebounding percentage, and Jon Horford would rank just ahead of Morgan if he played enough minutes to qualify.

After looking at the film, it's apparent that Michigan's bigs lack the support they need to defend the boards; the team's overall inexperience and poor perimeter defense are most apparent in this area. One play in particular from the Indiana game bears this out:

Let's look at this frame-by-frame, starting with the defensive lapse that begins the sequence—Tim Hardaway Jr. falling asleep in the corner and allowing Victor Oladipo to beat him on a backdoor cut:

Zeller has no problem getting the ball to Oladipo in great position for a shot. With Zeller and Jeremy Hollowell (#33, on the other side of the FT line from Zeller) at the top of the key—drawing Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III way from the basket—Hardaway must fend for himself:

Here's where Michigan's rebounding issues begin in earnest. This is the point where Oladipo releases his shot. Note that Zeller, Morgan's man, has stayed on the perimeter, while Hollowell is crashing the paint behind Robinson. Hardaway is accounting for Oladipo and Robinson should be responsible for Hollowell; both are in decent position right here, while Nik Stauskas has been beaten to a good rebounding spot by Will Sheehy:

At the moment before Oladipo secures his own rebound, however, it's clear that Michigan's perimeter players haven't done their job. Hardaway first goes for the block and then reaches for the ball instead of putting a body on Oladipo, who will easily step by him and get the board. Robinson has watched the ball the entire time and allowed Hollowell a free pass to the basket. Stauskas is lucky not to give up a putback after letting Sheehy get right under the basket. Morgan is in solid position but the ball doesn't bounce his way. This is not good:

Oladipo kicks the ball out to Jordan Hulls, who gets a wide-open look from three after Trey Burke drifted away from the play. At the moment Hulls releases his shot, most of Michigan's players have at least partially recovered—Burke is attempting to close out, Morgan is on Zeller, and Hardaway and Stauskas have found their men. Robinson, however, is still watching the ball, unaware that Hollowell is on the complete opposite side of the lane:

As the shot comes off the rim, you can see three Wolverines—including Robinson—trying to box out two Hoosiers on the left side of the lane, while Morgan is left with the unenviable task of being one guy having to guard two guys:

This, predictably, does not go well. Zeller taps the rebound to Hollowell, who's able to gather the ball and go up for a layup despite Morgan's best efforts to be two Jordan Morgans.

To sum up, on this play we've got:

  • Hardaway falling asleep on a backdoor cut
  • Stauskas getting beat along the baseline
  • Hardaway not boxing out Oladipo
  • Robinson not boxing out Hollowell
  • Robinson not boxing out Hollowell again, nor even being in the same general area

Watch Robinson throughout the play, here in handy gif form:

He never leaves an area covering about 15 square feet until it's far too late. You know how coaches say the key to a freshman succeeding is having the game slow down for him? On defense, at least, the game is going about 200 mph for Robinson, who's trying to defend with his eyes instead of his feet—while he's watching the ball, he's losing his man.

One play doesn't make a trend, of course, but there were several other instances of Michigan's non-centers being the culprit for an offensive rebound.

[For more rebounding pain and suffering, hit THE JUMP.]

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

8535781985_db3e6976d1_z[1]

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:

8534883875_8bb3c42ef5_z[1]

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.]

8536849024_3120baa004_z[1]

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.]

Michigan 58, Michigan State 57

Michigan 58, Michigan State 57

Submitted by Ace on March 3rd, 2013 at 7:54 PM


Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

Trey Burke's legs were failing him. He'd just missed a jumper, and on the ensuing Michigan State fast break he couldn't get back to close out on Gary Harris—while Harris missed the open three, Michigan's discombobulated defense couldn't keep Derrick Nix from hitting the putback.

The basket cut the Wolverine lead to four with just over six minutes to play, and the only Wolverine to consistently produce offensively appeared to be running on fumes.

On the very next possession, Burke found a way past MSU's Keith Appling for another layup. He'd score six more points to close out the game, and of course came up with two steals to seal a classic nailbiter against Michigan's chief basketball rival. The only Wolverine with more than four made field goals, Burke ground his way to 21 points on 8/17 shooting with eight assists, two turnovers, and five(!) steals. As if that wasn't enough, he held Appling to nine points on nine shots.

The lasting images of this game will be Burke's pickpocketing of Appling at midcourt, subsequent breakaway dunk, his jubilant—and yes, just a bit mocking—slapping of the floor (left, Upchurch), and his final swipe of Gary Harris to end the game. For me, though, it will be him trying, and failing, to get back on Harris, only to dig into the deepest recesses of his soul and find the energy to pull out the win.

Michigan's chances to win took a huge blow just four minutes into the game, when an errant elbow from Branden Dawson caught Nik Stauskas flush above the eye, opening up a nasty cut that required 12 stitches and left the Wolverines without their best outside shooter. Not coincidentally, Michigan missed all 12 of their three-point attempts in the game. Miraculously, this didn't spell their demise.

That had much to do with Michigan's much-maligned big men. Jordan Morgan, who barely played in the first contest between these two, hounded Spartan forward Derrick Nix into six turnovers with stellar on-ball defense and several drawn charges. Mitch McGary scored 11 points off the bench (4/6 from the field) with three offensive rebounds, bringing the team much-needed energy and even hitting a couple clutch free throws down the stretch (yes, he also missed the front end of a one-and-one and had a critical late turnover, though it appeared the latter was a botched call, by no means the only one in this game).

With Stauskas absent, Caris LeVert was forced to take on a big role and came through as well as one could ask of a rail-thin freshman in a tight, physical contest. While he missed all three of his shots from downtown, he hit 4/8 two-pointers—including a pretty up-and-under at the first half buzzer to cut Michigan's halftime deficit to three—and played solid perimeter defense. Fellow freshman Glenn Robinson III chipped in eight points (4/6 field goals), and unlike the first game the Spartans couldn't take advantage of his interior defense, in large part because John Beilein did his best to play two bigs when Nix and Adreian Payne were both on the floor.

There were struggles, of course. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored just six points on 3/12 shooting and had three turnovers, looking like the scuffling Hardaway of last year. In the first half, the Spartans rebounded ten of their 20 missed shots, and the Wolverines' inability to keep them off the glass opened up the perimeter—State took advantage by hitting 5/11 first-half threes. A late five-point possession for MSU featured an and-one and two offensive rebounds, cutting a ten-point lead in half when it appeared the Wolverines could cruise to victory.

In the end, though, it was Burke's day. Even with the gas tank perilously close to empty, Burke staked his claim as the best player in the country. In doing so, he not only kept the Wolverines from going into a tailspin, but propelled them to second place in the Big Ten, with an outside—but very real—chance that next Sunday's game against Indiana will be for a share of the conference crown.

The final stat line may not be as gaudy as some of his others, but this was Trey Burke's entry into Michigan basketball lore. Slap the floor—the Wolverines aren't done defending their Big Ten title.