At that moment, Iowa's bench decided they'd seen enough. Fran turned to call them back, then thought better of it. Run, my children. Run while you can.
[For the rest of the Iowa game in gifs, hit THE JUMP.]
At that moment, Iowa's bench decided they'd seen enough. Fran turned to call them back, then thought better of it. Run, my children. Run while you can.
[For the rest of the Iowa game in gifs, hit THE JUMP.]
1/6/2012 – Michigan 95, Iowa 67 – 15-0, 2-0 Big Ten
the desolation of the Fran (Bryan Fuller)
Less than a minute into the second half, an Iowa post fumbled what would have been an easy dunk into the stands. The television cut to Fran McCaffery, a rising star when it comes to volcano-coach sideline outbursts. He obliged, roaring out "TWO HANDS TWO HANDS TWO HANDS" as he quiveringly pantomimed catching a basketball with, yep, two hands. Ace is GIFing this as we speak.
Exactly a minute later, Iowa closed out Nik Stauskas hard, so he drove past his defender and threw down a rim-rattling dunk like he was not, in fact, a freshman 6'6" three-point specialist. On the next possession, same thing except nastier: closeout, Stauskas drives past his man except this time he's in good position, lane-covering audacious spin move for a finger roll. Gus Johnson's voice hit a questioning falsetto pitch as he exclaimed "OH?!," because he is in our brains too.
Nik Stauskas did this, and the camera did not cut to Fran McCaffery because directors aren't that eager to put resigned shrugs on camera. What are you going to do? What can you do?
I've got this Burke guy to check, three star my ass, and he's playing with two sons of NBA players, and they're raining in threes, and that Robinson guy is dunking on anyone I send out there, and now this guy with the ears, the one shooting 55% from three and also being the dunking guy. Screw it. The guy with the ears tears it. I will save my rage for another time, when there is the vague semblance of a point. For right now I'm just going to—
—watch their freshman center block Aaron White's face.
It's okay. I didn't really like his face to begin with.
—watch their freshman center start a break with a half-court outlet pass to Burke. I can deal. That doesn't seem any fairer than finding Canadian Larry Bird but whatever.
—watch their freshman center do the same thing after dribbling three times in the open court… aaaaaaah…
They are going to lose. It is going to happen. They are seventh in Kenpom, and Kenpom's pretty good. Everyone loses, even the really good teams, and it's not like the Big Ten is an SEC-like trip through the daisies. It is brutal. Michigan has nine of their ten toughest games left to play.
Have you seen Trevor Mbakwe? That guy. Victor Oladipo. That guy. Michigan will go on the road, and get it from the refs, and boy this conversation with myself is only indicating the deluded heights expectations are reaching.
If this team bows out in the first round to a MAC team, there will be no "good try you guys, thanks for the banner." There will be wailing, and rending of garments. Because this doesn't come along too often unless you're a Duke or North Carolina type team. Illinois had it back in 2005, and they still talk about that team in a reverenced hush despite its narrow demise in the elite eight. They had it back in 1989, and the MGoWife reports from an undergrad tenure spent in Champaign that they still aren't over losing to Michigan in the Final Four. The rest of the time they've wobbled around good, not great. Even the powers don't always have it all come together.
It has come together for Michigan, and every game starts out with the same doubt—what if they're not that good? What if this is all a mirage? What if I wake up and Nik Stauskas is in fact Gavin Groninger?
Those persist for anywhere from one to 15 minutes, whereupon the nature of this year's team causes the opponent coach to smirk wryly as his guys fall behind by lots. So far. One more whipping, and then the acid test.
From Bryan Fuller:
I know the McGary stuff happened before the Stauskas stuff. Artistic license! It's a nicer way to say "lies!"
GUS. Follow us around, Gus Johnson. You and Raftery, follow this team around, going "uh" and saying "onions" and literally just squeaking in the best way possible. National treasure, Gus Johnson is.
Gus Johnson and the fact that when I check out Big 12 conference games half the time I find they're only on ESPN3 make me almost not bitter that the BTN ended up making the Big Ten grab Rutgers and Maryland.
Big Puppy. McGary had a great game, probably his best at Michigan so far. I mentioned the block and the outlet pass hockey assist stuff above, but I think my favorite play of his was a defensive rebound he corralled in the first half where he had little shot at the ball, so he tipped the thing off the backboard to himself. That kind of thing is one of the reasons he's got the ridiculously high rebound rates he does*. He's got a huge rebound radius.
McGary took a relatively big fall from one-and-done territory to pretty good prospect territory late in the rankings cycle, and that was justified. You can see a version of McGary peeking through the lack of polish that could be the #2 high school basketball player in the country. The rebounds, of course, and then the outlet passing, ability to lead a break for a couple dribbles, what looks like a pretty smooth stroke, and just size in general. Give him a couple inches more vertical leap so he doesn't occasionally leave a dunk on the rim and blocks more shots, and… yeah.
Caris arriving. So we got 32 minutes of LeVert against Central with Hardaway out. Here's what his next two games look like squeezed into one:
30 minutes, 15 points, 1/3 twos, 4/5 threes, 1/2 fta, 3 reb, 2:1 A:TO, a steal, 5 fouls
The three point shooting distorts that a bit, but it's pretty nice to have a guy who's 8/17 so far coming off the bench, and he's got a 3:1 A:TO rate. Dumping the redshirt was the move to make. He's starting to do some of the stuff I expect Burke to do with his ability to shake people with his change of direction.
It is almost redundant to talk about Trey Burke. 19 points on ten shots, 12 assists, one TO. Just another day at the office.
He's got to be the best point guard in the country, bar none. People in the Michael Carter-Williams camp have to explain why having the #4 assist (MCW) rate versus the #11 (Burke) makes up for MCW shooting 42%/28% versus Burke's 62%/41%. There is no amount of defense that can make up for that, especially when Burke is turning the ball over at less than half the rate MCW is.
Two things leapt out about a couple of possessions in the second half after Michigan had blown the lead out big. On the first, he cleared everyone out and went at Iowa's Anthony Clemmons. Clemmons did a great job, first cutting him off and forcing Burke to pick up his dribble, then hounding him on a couple of shot fakes; Burke finally went up and under for an easy two, and the color guy was all like "I don't know what you're supposed to do about that if you're Anthony Clemmons." On the second, he loosed himself with a crossover and launched an eighteen-footer, AKA The Shot Brian Hates More Than Any Shot Ever.
On neither of these possessions did I think what was going on was a bad idea—okay maybe there was a moment in the Clemmons one—and I was not mad at either shot. Because it was just going down.
*[If-he-was-averaging-40%-of-minutes checkin: 7th nationally in defensive rebound rate, 4th in offensive.]
Remember when we were worried about Tim Hardaway Jr. sliding back to his sophomore form? A quaint concern at the moment. Hardaway's coming off 19 points on 13 shots against Iowa and 21 on eight(!) against Northwestern. Against the Hawkeyes he added five assists and five rebounds; Morgan has passed him in DREB but only barely.
Hardaway hasn't had fewer than three assists since the Bradley game, BTW.
Fouls: none. All of Michigan's starters are in the top 200 in terms of fouls committed per 40 minutes, with Stauskas's 0.9 sixth nationally. The bigs will get in trouble from time to time, especially McGary, but once Horford's back—which I imagine will be soon since he dressed yesterday—that concern is not, uh, concerning.
That's the other bedrock of Michigan's defense. They give up the second-least free throws of anyone in the country, and they go together. By not challenging a ton of shots they're in position when and if you miss.
It's also a help for the offense. To date, Michigan hasn't had a period of time where they had to sit a starter for more than a few minutes. I hope that in the event a Michigan non-post picks up a couple quick ones that Beilein will consider the situation and be a little more flexible than he usually is with these things. If it's Stauskas I'm not sure he should even change the rotation.
Philosophy. Michigan's defense isn't good, sure, but the philosophy they've taken is: let's make this a shooting contest. We won't get fouled, and you won't get fouled, and we won't let you have any second chance opportunities, and we won't turn the ball over so you can have transition buckets. Let's see who's better at HORSE. Oh it's us yay.
For the first 13 minutes against Iowa, Michigan looked as disjointed and inconsistent on both ends of the floor as they had all season. The Hawkeyes, coming off a four-point loss to Indiana, looked poised to give another top-flight team a serious test, holding a 21-17 edge with seven minutes left in the first half.
Over the course of the next 27 minutes, the Wolverines scored 78 points.
The onslaught actually began on defense, when Mitch McGary electrified the Crisler crowd with a volleyball spike of a block against Iowa's Aaron White—a display of sheer athletic superiority. From that point, Michigan finished the first half on a 27-14 tear featuring three thunderous dunks—one each by Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, and Tim Hardaway Jr., whose one-handed throwdown will assuredly crack the Sportscenter top ten.
In the waning seconds of the half, the Wolverines somehow moved the ball coast-to-coast in under four seconds, capped by a Robinson layup that sent the team running into the tunnel with an 11-point lead.
Iowa had made their upset bid. There would be no upset.
The acrobatics continued in the second half as the Wolverines pulled away; in all, Michigan totaled 11 dunks by five different players. They also connected on 10-of-22 three-pointers. Of their 36 field goals, 24 were assisted. They committed six turnovers.
Robinson, perhaps more representative than any other Wolverine of the new breed, led the charge with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting and ten rebounds. After the game, he revealed one of his nicknames, "Light Rob," for his ability to register so-called quiet points within the framework of the offense. His points weren't so quiet today—five dunks tend to make some noise—but he once again displayed a knack for showing up in the right spot, rarely needing to do so much as dribble to put the ball in the hoop.
Trey Burke did what Trey Burke does: 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, 12 assists, a steal, and a lone turnover. Michigan's other star, Hardaway, also managed 19 points, hitting 3-of-5 threes and stuffing the stat sheet with five rebounds and five assists. Nik Stauskas, working around the margins, scored 13 and threw down a slam of his own, using his lethal three-point shot to set up the drive.
Then there was McGary, doing the grunt work in his best game as a Wolverine. He finished with five points, hitting his only two field goals of the day; more importantly, he hit the glass, bringing in 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes and keying the fast break with quick outlet passes. Continuing to show more explosiveness after starting the year rusty, McGary tallied three blocks and, yes, dunked.
Despite a margin that hung in the neighborhood of 30 points for much of the second half, Crisler didn't begin to empty until the last couple minutes, after the starters had all been (mercifully) pulled. This was a show, the divine intersection of athleticism and skill, and woe be upon the fan who didn't savor every second.
Asked to compare this team to the others he's coached, John Beilein said, "we run a little faster and jump a little higher." In a grand concession given his previous, tongue-in-cheek dodging of such questions, Beilein even went so far as to say "a few" of his past players may even admit this Michigan outfit is superior to his past squads.
Indeed, Coach. Indeed.
Well, last night certainly produced the most gif-able game of the season. Trey Burke crossovers alone were enough for a post—this one, in particular, just ain't right:
[The Trey Burke Crossover Series continues, plus much more, after THE JUMP.]
Michigan made it apparent in their 39-point thrashing of Eastern Michigan that they were the more talented team. It was more than just talent, though, that made the difference between the two teams separated by a six-mile stretch of Washtenaw Avenue.
Mitch McGary, 2012 Scout four-star center, played with his usual manic energy, tallying his first career double-double (10 pts., 11 reb.) in only 18 minutes of action. His counterpart, Eastern seven-footer Da'Shonte Riley—a 2009 Scout four-star—didn't attempt a field goal and had six rebounds (all defensive) to go with three blocks, four fouls, and two turnovers in 30 minutes.
After a first-half turnover near midcourt, Riley slowly turned and jogged towards Eastern's end, never making it past the block 'M' by the time Michigan tallied an uncontested bucket. In the second half, he halfheartedly swatted at Glenn Robinson III—much like one would shoo a fly without lethal intent—picking up a foul as the Wolverine freshman connected on a layup.
The contrast between Riley and McGary was stark, and McGary's teammates brought the same level of effort. It would be easy for Michigan to coast against EMU, especially after going on a 20-0 run after falling behind 6-2 in the early going. But the foot never came off the gas—Michigan managed a larger margin in the second half than the first despite emptying the bench.
The Wolverines picked apart Eastern's 2-3 zone with ease; Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. notched 8 and 7 assists, respectively, as they both found Nik Stauskas (16 pts., 5-8 3pt.) repeatedly open on the perimeter. Hardaway led the scoring charge with 17 points despite shooting 5-13 from the field, including a highlight-reel dunk on the fast break—he continues to be most effective when Michigan runs.
Robinson had another sneakily efficient night, scoring 13 points on just seven shots, knowing just the right place to be to find open layups against EMU's zone. Fellow freshman Caris LeVert had the best game of his budding collegiate career, netting eight points on 3-5 shooting, including 2-2 from three-point range.
It was an easy night for the Wolverines, which heads into an eight-day layoff at 12-0. They made it easy on themselves, the mark of a well-coached team that knows—regardless of the competition—that there's no excuse for an off night—they've now got plenty of time for those over the holiday break.
Ace stole my joke so I guess I have to write something longer. /shakes fist at ace
@mgoblog Beilein is friends with Binghamton's coach -- not sure if that makes it OK, but there it is.
"Yeah, Binghamton Guy?"
"Could you do me a favor?"
"Anything, Binghamton Guy."
"I need you to punch me in the face really hard."
"Love to, Binghamton Guy."
I guess Binghamton gets a check for the one-off game. In all other ways that's a weird way to do a guy a favor.
Seriously though. I'd rather Michigan played a string of Bradley-type games where they play decent competition in home-and-home situations and just inflated the ticket price the dollar or whatever that they'd have to to compensate.
For one, it's more fun for everyone. For two, you get an RPI bonus for playing on the road, a relatively big one:
A home win now counts as 0.6 win, while a road win counts as 1.4 wins. Inversely, a home loss equals 1.4 losses, while a road loss counts as 0.6 loss. A neutral game counts as 1 win or 1 loss. This change was based on statistical data that consistently showed home teams in Division I basketball winning about two-thirds of the time. Note that this location adjustment applies only to the WP factor and not the OWP and OOWP factors.
You can futz with the system to give yourself an edge by playing a team that you should beat on the road like Bradley, and in doing so you prep yourself for playing in hostile environments a bit. I'd like Michigan to have a couple mid-major road tests a year.
Unfortunately the Bradley home-and-home is also a Beilein's buddy sort of thing—probably not a coincidence that this series was scheduled after Bradley hired Beilein's son. It's not a thing we can expect to continue. Michigan decided to stop playing Oakland because they were too good, which like… mmph.
That's unfortunate since that game in Peoria was a lot more interesting than this one. It's a lot better to see your team beat an opponent in front of a packed house of upset-demanding Peorians than a deservedly half-full Crisler. It will also be a relative asset come tourney time. I'd like it if Michigan made a habit of going on the road to MVC and A-10 schools. I mean, what if Michigan made a habit of playing at Calihan Hall? That's some branding activity right there.
Ah, that's not going to happen. I know I know incremental revenue is more important than anything that does not provide incremental revenue. As far as the actual game…
Idle Kenpom thoughts. It seems like the way to solve a problem like Wisconsin is to discount games between heavily mismatched opponents. You could feel Michigan just shrug in the second half as they launched uncontested three after uncontested three, and does it really matter that they weren't as good at annihilating a team that plays like that as Wisconsin is?
The problem with this theory is that I bet Kenpom tried it and it didn't work. When he makes changes to his formulas he checks them against previous seasons to see if the changes make them better or worse at predicting things, and I'm sure he's tried something obvious like lessening the importance of mismatches.
It is worth noting that Kenpom took a lot of heat for having Wisconsin second as of January ninth last year, when the Badgers were 1-3 in the Big Ten and had nothing positive on their record save wins over UNLV and BYU. Wisconsin won 11 of their final 14 regular season games and came within a point of upsetting Syracuse in the Sweet 16. Were they overrated? Yeah. Did Kenpom probably have Wisconsin rated better than people complaining about them? Yeah.
But maybe it's just time to throw your hands up at the Badgers and say computers can't rank them well. Last year:
For instance, one of the most respected ratings systems in the nerd world is the LRMC ratings. They had Wisconsin fifth before yesterday’s games. Last year, heading into the tournament, they had Belmont fourth, and their system outperforms mine! The Sagarin predictor, also deservedly respected, had Wisconsin second heading into yesterday’s games.
As always, this is the right attitude to take:
Q: Your work is flawed. (Not really a Q, either, I guess, but I get this all the time.)
A: Ugh, I hate it when people say this. Of course it’s flawed. The thing is, your knowledge is flawed, too. If you are ignoring potentially useful tools because of a single issue, then your judgment is flawed as well. And I’m guessing you’ve never tracked the quality of your knowledge so you don’t even know how flawed it is. If you’re like most people, you think you’re knowledge is great because you remember the predictions you made that worked out and you forget about the ones that didn’t. It’s human nature. …
I would say there’s still enough value in the work here to provide a useful reality check on your own knowledge. Used together, your flawed knowledge and my flawed tools can be more powerful than used separately.
Just mentally account for the fact teams that annihilate low-majors can get overrated and that Wisconsin is currently benefiting from some amount of preseason expectation that is keeping them loftier than they otherwise would be.
No seriously this time I'll talk about the actual game…
Hardaway shooting alarm going off. Baumgardner wrote an article before this one mentioning that Hardaway's shooting had been falling off and that this was okay because he was doing other stuff. I'm on board, but at some point the shooting woes become problematic. In this one he was 2/9 from three, 1/4 from two, and the vast majority of those were wide open looks he just missed. His three point percentage has dipped to 33% and the number of threes he's taking is accelerating rapidly.
He started the year off going to the basket over and over again; he should resume that activity. I'd rather have the guy commit a charge per game than camp out at the three point line. We've got a guy for that now.
The inevitable decline continues. Stauskas was 4-8 from three and was saved a ninth miss on his record because he had a toe on the line—must have, anyway. He got hacked on a couple of short attempts, and this was ignored as the refs must have had DVRed a House marathon and couldn't wait to get back to watch it.
I am still in favor of Stauskas shooting all of the threes. Surprise.
Albrecht still pretty good. Perhaps less impressive against this outfit than Arkansas but in ten minutes he canned a three and had a 2-0 A:TO ratio. He keeps things moving when Burke's out.
Also Horford. Horford is Michigan's most active and impactful defender. McGary keeps sucking in huge rebound numbers (10 in 17 minutes in this one with four offensive rebounds) and will probably keep his place in line. I'm not sure I can detect any dropoff from center #1 to center #3. All of them bring different things to the table.
I'll be interested to see what happens when Cody Zeller comes to town. Eyeballing it, it seems like Horford is the best matchup against him. Will he get extended minutes or will Michigan roll with their current lineup?
The 1-3-1: too aggressive? I may be remembering this wrong but it seems like the 1-3-1 is now extending itself all the way to half-court, which seems like a problem. I recall Horford getting all the way out to the three-point line on one of the 1-3-1 possessions when a driver tried to take it between the trappers, and I recall that happening a couple feet closer to the hoop when I watched WVU.
The thing has not been particularly effective against teams other than Pitt and I wonder if they're just giving up too much space by extending it all the way out. I know a conservative 1-3-1 is a bizarre concept, but… yeah.
Opponent watch update! West Virginia lost to Duquesne for the first time since 2003 despite going up 25-10; they closed the game 9 of 32. Michigan should not have much trouble in Brooklyn.
All missed shots are not created equal.
That's the premise of this article by Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry, who examines the work of the NBA's foremost volume shooter, Kobe Bryant, and comes up with a very interesting new statistic. The background [emphasis mine]:
[J]ust like shot outcomes, rebounding outcomes also depend on who is shooting, where they are shooting from, the stratagems of each team, the rebounding abilities of each player, and the precise spatial configuration of the 10 players on the court; as a result, there is a less apparent tenet of basketball: All missed shots are not created equal, and their DNA is inherently dependent upon their ancestral events — some missed shots are good for the defensive team, and some benefit the offense, as many misses actually extend offensive possessions with the proverbial "fresh 24."
Goldsberry coins the name "Kobe Pass" for any shot that is rebounded by the offense—an individual statistic for the shooter, as offensive rebounds is obviously a stat that exists. This leads to the "Kobe Assist":
In fact, league-wide, 34 percent of the time Kobe passes results in points right away because the recipient of the Kobe Pass, a.k.a. the offensive rebounder, frequently scores immediately after acquiring the basketball. In such cases, I define the Kobe Assist as an achievement credited to a player or a team missing a basket that in a way leads directly to the kind of field goal generally referred to as a put-back, tip-in, or follow.
In case you haven't caught on, Kobe Bryant is the master of the Kobe Assist, putting up the best numbers even before the Lakers brought in rebounding force Dwight Howard (having Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum helped, of course).
While Kobe Assists depend in no small part on a player's supporting cast—the guys going up for the rebound, especially—there is still an art to their creation. Much of this has to do with where on the floor a player takes his shot; as a general rule, the closer to the basket a shot originates, the more likely an offensive rebound will occur:
There is one notable exception: three-pointers are rebounded at a lightly higher clip than long twos. This is an NBA chart, so the stats for college may be slightly different, but the point remains that long twos are the worst shots in basketball—often a waste of possession not only because of their low-percentage nature and lack of the upside of a potential extra point, but also because they're usually the last shot of a possession.
[Hit THE JUMP to see the best Wolverines at producing Kobe Assists as well as a new advanced metric, adj. points per shot]
12/8/2012 – Michigan 80, Arkansas 67 – 9-0
mgouser Blazefire wins a cookie for being inside my brain / Dustin Johnston/UMHoops
A guy named Kikko Haydar popped off the bench, and John Beilein wondered who he was. So did the rest of Crisler. It turned out we already knew him: Haydar is from the Merritt/Lee school of useful walk-on that Michigan fans know so well. He hit a three, and then another, and then another, and when Michigan lost him again in the second half Kikko Haydar got a Nik Stauskas Memorial Road Crowd Groan. It was warranted. He hit it.
This is a problem. Some walk-on jumping off the bench to pick up 12 points on 5 shots throws a wrench in many of your victory plans, especially when this is part of a team-wide 60% effort from behind the line. For most teams, it is a problem that affects your win-loss record and makes everybody sad. For Michigan, it affects their Kenpom ranking in a displeasing way and just makes super-nerd subscribers to Kenpom slightly annoyed that Pitt has jumped Michigan and I mean seriously Ken let's get some margin of victory capping up in here. I may or may not be in the latter group.
Anyway. When an overeager Haydar picked up the blocking foul in the shot above, he laid on the floor theatrically for a moment, and then Tim Hardaway Jr. helped him up. Haydar smacked his hands together and smiled. Dollars to donuts he thought something like we are going to lose but at least I've got a story to tell about the time I rained on future NBA players. His parents are both professors, I mean.
Arkansas did lose. By a lot, while shooting 60% on 17 threes.
Arkansas made a push in the second half thanks to a bunch of Michigan turnovers and their unconscious three-point shooting, and I had an experience I only recognized as strange afterwards: I was annoyed. Not frightened or despairing or waiting for the inevitable thing that always happens to happen, like any sports fan who's watched a frustrating outfit has. Annoyed.
Like when Penn State scored on a screen to bring the Pit Bull game to within a touchdown. You know, this game:
Annoyed because the scoreboard isn't going to reflect what happened here today.
I thought back to watching Beilein's first team against Boston College, 3-3 on their way to 10-22. The BC game was the first one against a real opponent in Crisler, and I remember thinking the second-half run the Eagles used to put the game away was something bound to happen to this collection of young guys without much direction. A few players who saw the floor for at least 25% of Michigan's minutes: Zack Gibson, Jevohn Shepherd, Anthony Wright, Ron Coleman. Lee and Merritt were still a year away from maximum playing time. At some point you're going to have a collection of players out there that loses the plot, and then that's that.
Saturday I had the exact opposite experience. This team is too good and too deep and just too damn efficient to let a middling team keep it close even when they execute their impression of Beilein's first team.
So: here we are. It took nine games of watching these guys to go from thinking they're overrated to comparing them to the 2006 football team's defense. The capital-e Expectations have arrived, and are settling in for a long stay. This is going to be a different thing for all of us.
I spent large chunks of last year talking about how lovely it was to be able to appreciate a Michigan team with Novak and Douglass for exactly what they were, and be content with how they ended up as soon as they got that banner in Crisler. The loss to OHIO in the tournament sucked but it didn't suck in that way I know so well from hockey fandom:
The guys leaving brought Michigan from a program that hadn't been to the tournament since my dad was wearing his preposterous multicolor neon ski jacket to one that had been there three of four years, from a program that hadn't won the league since Joe Paterno was only kind of old to a sleeping giant with the alarm blaring in its ear. Their story is not Brandon Graham's. Their story isn't even Mike Martin's or Ryan Van Bergen's. It's better…
The loss doesn't erase the previous 34 games, or the previous hundred and change that saw Douglass set a record for the most games played in a career and Novak near it. The story of the outgoing guys is one of construction and triumph in the face of doubt. DJ Cooper going ham doesn't change that. Novak and Douglass have the luxury of exceeding all expectations, still and always.
These gentlemen do not have that luxury. They are too too good at basketball to lose to a short guy nailing a bunch of threes, as OHIO did last year. They are too too good to get flustered by a full-court press, or even see much of one.
This is no longer a scrappy program. This is a program that will step on your throat. It took nine games.
They are the hunted now.
Shots from Bryan Fuller:
Forty minutes of mildly annoying warmth with mosquitoes. Arkansas's vaunted press was rarely applied in this game, in part because Arkansas rarely got an opportunity to set it up because they weren't making many baskets—they stayed in it by making most of their makes worth three. When Arkansas did get a make and set up, Michigan broke the press with a couple passes and that was it. I don't recall a single turnover forced by the press.
That's another example of the growth on the team after they got flustered and behind 17-4 last year. This time out they were calm and prepared; they've now got four guys on the floor who are above-average handlers for their position most of the time, and a plan. Once Michigan got it to Burke it was over, and Arkansas knew it. Nice to prove that.
BOX OUT! …is something Mike Anderson must scream in his sleep. Michigan—which I remind you is Michigan, a historically rebound-allergic team—outrebounded Arkansas. On Michigan misses. Yes. Michigan had 16 offensive rebounds to 15 Arkansas defensive rebounds. On the other side of the ball, it was 5 to 23.
This is something you could have predicted as Arkansas is horrendous at defensive rebounding and meh on offense; it's still something to marvel over. It's hard to remember that Mike Anderson took three Missouri teams to the tournament before moving to Arkansas, because the team Michigan just went up against looked Amakerian in its inability to do anything right. Just year two for him, I guess.
[@ right: Fuller]
Ruthlessly hacked to the bench. Matt Vogrich, we'll always have the 2011 Tennessee blowout in which you went 5-5 from the floor for 11 points in 16 minutes and got a gritty offensive rebound and a gritty steal and generally contributed to a huge fun tourney blowout that eventually produced this picture:
He'll probably show up in a game or two this year when injury or foul trouble forces him to but it really looks like short of that he's joined the McLimans brigade. Which is something, because though he'd had a dismal start to this year Vogrich had some bonafides coming in and now he's seemingly done save for extenuating circumstances.
I can't say that's wrong—Vogrich was really not playing well. I'm just pointing it out as another example of Beilein changing his mind in ways some other coaches would not.
Now. Now. Now. That Caris LeVert hasn't done a whole lot in Vogrich's stead is actually evidence that the coaches are planning for this to be the year. LeVert has a lot more upside, and if he doesn't get there this year you can always try Vogrich again in February and make a decision as far as march goes. But Beilein went into this year thinking about LeVert's redshirt senior season; now he's thinking about ten to fifteen possessions in a game this march. That's the right call, I think.
Let's hear it for Horford. Another game without a shot attempt in which Jon Horford comes out seeming like a potentially key piece in some game down the stretch when Michigan is struggling with a post player. UMHoops highlighted this defensive possession that is an I be like dang moment:
Three blocks, four rebounds, and a steal in ten minutes on the floor is exactly what Michigan needs from Horford when the starting lineup is pouring in at least twelve per person. McGary and Horford are producing a lot of extra possessions, and the offense doesn't need that many more to be lethally efficient.
Little Big Dog is also a highly efficient peripheral scorer. He lead Michigan with 17 in this one and did it in two ways, mostly: on wide open shots from behind the line and on layups/dunks other people set up. Robinson has the athleticism to make those assisted interior buckets extremely high percentage and is beginning to finish through contact effectively, but Michigan doesn't really run anything from or through him. He's there to finish, clean up, and shoot when you sag off him, and he's doing all of those exceptionally well: he's got a top 100 ORtg, a low TO rate, and a top 250 OReb rate.
Part of the reason this team is playing so well is it has guys who are extremely effective without the ball, and Robinson is probably the best example of that.
BONUS DAWSON COMPARISON CHECK-IN: Creepy, in fact.
Dawson has a higher usage rate by a few points and seems to be in a situation where he's being asked to generate some offense of his own. The big differences are in shooting (big edge to GRIII, who's hitting 38% from three and is a non-liability on the line) and defense (statistically a big edge to Dawson, who is blocking a ton of shots and getting a ton of steals; in this case I think those statistics bear out a real difference since GRIII is not an impact defender by any stretch of the imagination).
Hardaway complete player watch. Michigan's an extraordinarily good defensive rebounding team this year, currently fourth behind some small schools. They'll come back to earth some in the Big Ten like they did last year. I don't expect that will be nearly as harsh that decline to ninth in the league, though, as you've got Robinson replacing Novak, McGary and Horford replacing Smotrycz, and Tim Hardaway's massive improvement in this category pushing things over the top. Hardaway is mere decimal points away from passing Jordan Morgan in DR%.
Spike! Albrecht isn't giving Burke much more of a rest than he had last year—Burke minutes have dropped only 5%—but he is proving a nice player to have around. In this game he hit a key three and pushed a partial break off the press to set up GRIII for one of his layups. On both plays he showed a confidence that belied his class status if not his years—he's actually a few months older than Burke.
He's probably never going to be a starter aside from a few games at the beginning of next year before the Derrick Walton era gets under way, but he's an excellent guy to have around steadying the ship for the next few years. Burke and Beilein on Spike:
"There was a time around the seven- or eight-minute mark (of the second half) where it was just up and down for about six or seven possessions," Burke said after Michigan's 80-67 win over Arkansas. "I don't know if I had gotten a foul or what, but there was a dead ball and I was pretty tired because it was just non-stop.
"But Spike did a great job. And coach Beilein did a great job of getting guys in and out."
And, sure enough, moments after entering the game with under eight minutes to go Saturday, Albrecht made a difference. The freshman backup point guard nailed a 3-pointer to push Michigan's lead up to seven.
The next trip down the court, he found Glenn Robinson III for a layup. When he left the game two minutes later, the Wolverines were up nine and things were basically in hand.
"Spike was terrific, wasn't he?" Beilein remarked afterward. "I don't think he had a turnover, his numbers were terrific and they continue to be. He really helps us."
John Beilein is good at talent evaluation. E-fact.
Morgan silly foul re-evaluation watch. Repeating myself here but when Morgan shot out to the perimeter to get a silly foul on a screen hedge late in the first half, my reaction would have been…
…last year and has now become…
…and this was a game that Morgan was dominating. I was just like "okay McGary or Horford will maintain approximately this level of play" and that was basically right. I like depth! It's fun.
Three headed-center totals in this one normalized to 40 minutes (they got 49): 15 points on 53% shooting, 16 rebounds, 8 of them offensive, 3 blocks, 3 TO, 2 steals. That center spot may be the least glamorous on the team but it is producing as well as any of the other starters.
I was not surprised when they called that, FWIW, and don't care if it was slightly unsportsmanlike. (Neither does anyone else.) Look how much joy he is bringing Mitch McGary. Mitch McGary only feels that much joy six to eight times an hour. Would you rob him of that?
There's a new ceiling for Michigan basketball these days, and it figuratively extends from the top of the polished Crisler Center straight to the shiny floor. You could argue the structure, from the arena to the team, looks as good as it ever has — and expectations are higher than they've ever been.
The Wolverines aren't some quick-shooting oddity anymore. They're deep, talented and feisty, and here's the notion that should warm Michigan fans — they're getting tough in the trenches, with the size and gumption to rebound.
Some games are just games. When there are just games we just write the bullets. Don't forget Ace's instant recap.
12/4/2012 – Michigan 73, Western Michigan 41 – 8-0
So Michigan gets 7 and 9 points from Robinson and Hardaway as both shoot 3 of 10 from the floor and they win by 32. The new normal: better than the old normal. That was offset by a monster night from Trey Burke: 20 points on 11 shots, 7 assists, no turnovers, three steals. And onward.
Pick your sloppy point. Michigan is still working through long sections during which they look pretty sloppy, which probably shouldn't be a surprise with two or three freshmen on the court at all times. In this game it was early; in the previous two the rough patch was down the stretch. The net effect was about the same adjusted for level of competition.
To some extent that is basketball, but if they can just smooth out a couple of the rough patches by March…
/picks up paper bag
Tempo still slow, slow, slow. Michigan is 324th in tempo. I don't get it. It seems like Michigan is pushing the ball as much as makes sense for them to do. The Daily has an article headlined "Transition becomes Michigan's best option on offense" and I thought that was reasonable. A couple times in this game I thought Hardaway was going into two or three players when pulling it out and setting up the half-court offense was a better idea. And yet Michigan's tempo has barely budged. They're up under a possession a game from last year.
All I've got is this: Michigan takes care of the ball so well (13th in TO%) and doesn't force a whole lot of turnovers, leading to fewer short possessions that tend to lead to yet more short possessions when an open-court turnover turns into a fast break.
Supporting evidence: Beilein's teams at West Virginia forced a ton of turnovers and were a bit faster, ranked in the 270s and 280s instead of the 320s as Michigan's last four teams have been. Beilein's fastest team since 2003 was his first one at Michigan; that outfit had a lot of TOs, at least relative to Beilein averages.
It should be noted that the differences here are not huge: Michigan is about four and a half possessions away from the national average.
Big shooting: more spread out but more of it. A game like the WMU game stands out because Michigan's bigs were collectively 9/11 from the floor and took zero jumpshots to get there. Most of their efforts were throwing it down off the pick and roll, with a coast-to-coast Morgan steal and layup thrown in for good measure.
Anyway: though the bigs' collective usage is never going to approach the 2010-11 version of Morgan, Morgan only played 60% of Michigan's minutes that year. He got up 225 shots, which he made at a 63% clip. This year Morgan and McGary are collectively getting 87% of Michigan's minutes and are collectively 43/66.
Since there are two of them the lower usage is made up for by more efficient minutes. Michigan played 35 games two years ago. If they get the same number this year those two bigs shooting 64% will have gotten up 289 attempts. Michigan keeps sucking bad attempts out of the offense.
Given that, what is the weak spot on Michigan's offense? Is it GRIII? I think it is. GRIII would have been the best or second-best player on almost every Michigan team since the Fab Five exited, and he's the perimeter-ish guy on the floor who has low usage and isn't Stauskas. His ORtg is 126, which is near the top 100. In this game I got a little annoyed at him because of context.
/breathes into paper bag
Speaking of context. Trey Burke, who has been only okay shooting so far this year, was 8 of 11 and scored 20. I wrote that sentence and then looked it up to check. Burke twos are going in at an excellent 57% clip, which places him… fifth on the team.
/paper bag no longer works
Stauskas crazy stats watch. After missing two of four free throws he's down to an almost-human 89%, but going 3/4 from behind the line pushes his 3PT% on the year to 64%(!!!) and keeps that efficiency off the charts: 2nd in true shooting, 3rd in eFG, 3rd in ORtg. He picked up four assists in this one, too, including a couple of those pick and roll jams.
Western largely got the message about Stauskas and was able to limit his attempts to six—eight if you count the free-throw generating events, but one of those was off an offensive rebound. The beneficiaries of that were the bigs.
I'd like to see a little more of the offense run through Stauskas putting it on the floor. A couple of buckets in this game came when he drove, passed it out to the perimeter, and then Hardaway or Burke drove again, passing to a post for an easy layup or and-one. Both are in that highlight reel above. Reason this seems to work so well: you have to close Stauskas out so hard that help defense has to come over really early—on the and-one Stauskas only takes a couple steps—and then when the second guy gets the ball he gets an extra rotation and by that point if you're still effectively covering a post player well that's pretty dang impressive.
Stauskas also had a couple moments on the pick and roll, one a quick-release three, the other a Burke-like bounce pass for a McGary dunk. What I am trying to say is that Stauskas is really good. He could play some spot minutes at the point even.
Defense? It's hard to complain too much when the opposition shoots under 30% but Jim Jackson kept pointing out that Michigan's hard hedging put them in bad positions when opposition players were allowed to make easy passes for a series of layup-type-substances in the first half, and I was like "yeah" and grumbly.
Michigan adjusted shortly thereafter and then Western was close to helpless. I still think there's something just not there with the defense yet. I can't quite put a finger on it. Overall they're probably better because they've got the athleticism to rebound a lot more consistently, so it's got to be a lack of a guy who seems like a really good perimeter defender to harass the opposition's best player.
Horford helps out. No shots from Michigan's third big in ten minutes but five rebounds, one on offense, plus a couple other plays that didn't make it into the box score: he deflected an interior pass that led to a fast break, got a tap-out that led to an offensive rebound that I think gets credited to someone else and D-ed up on a couple of other possessions.
A good night for SOS. NC State came out on top of a nip-and-tuck battle against UConn; Northwestern went to Waco and beat Baylor. The rest of the Big Ten held serve against low-level competition, though Illinois had a scare against 3-6 Western Carolina. Their chances of beating Gonzaga: not great.
Albrecht > McDonalds AA (Detnews)
Speaking of NC State. I watched the second half of that game and still can't get over Tyler Lewis, their hobbit backup PG, being a McDonald's guy. When he came in Ryan Boatright's eyes got wide and he got to the lane for a couple easy buckets before Gottfried yanked Lewis. He's 5'11" and is truly indistinguishable from Albrecht; his one contribution to the offense was missing a tough jumper from around the free throw line after failing to get past Boatright.
Sanity checking the eye test with season stats: a third of NC State minutes, 17% usage, huge TO rate, 5 of 13 on the year from two and 0 of 3 from three. Albrecht is in fact a much better player statistically.
How anyone could look at Lewis versus Stauskas and rank the guy seven inches shorter way above the 6'6" assassin is inexplicable. The hobbit was at Oak Hill and Stauskas is Canadian. End of plausible explanations. I even find that dubious since Stauskas was all over the AAU circuit.
I can't wait for Lewis to be an okay player as an upperclassman and for this section to be used in an article on how he has Overcome The Critics.
Photos. From Bryan Fuller:
ANN ARBOR -- Midway through the first half Tuesday, Michigan fans got a first-hand glimpse at the eccentric personality of freshman big man Mitch McGary.
During a media timeout, McGary was featured during a pre-recorded, university-produced question and answer spot on the arena's large video screen.
But in the process of answering questions like "what's your favorite movie" and "who is your favorite singer," the 6-foot-10, 260-pound power forward broke out into song.
But not just any song, a Justin Bieber song.
Recaps from Holdin' The Rope, the News, and UMHoops. Baumgardner on Burke. Interviews with McGary and Burke. Bielfeldt sprained his ankle in practice, wore a boot on the sideline last night, and will miss a week or two.
A smile crept across John Beilein's face as he pantomimed Trey Burke turning and flipping the ball underhand with "just the right spin" to Tim Hardaway Jr., who buried one of his five three-pointers (that part, unfortunately, not pantomimed by Beilein).
Michigan hit the century mark for the first time since 2007 in a 100-62 beatdown of Slippery Rock in the season opener, and it was Beilein's stars who led the way. Hardaway played one of his most complete games as a Wolverine, scoring 25 points on 8-10 shooting (5-5 from three) and adding ten rebounds, three assists, and a steal. Burke overcame a shaky first half to pour in 21 points of his own (9-17 FGs) and dish out eight assists; after turning the ball over four times in the first half, he had just one in the second stanza and finished on a 6-7 shooting tear.
Burke wasn't the only Wolverine to struggle out of the gate, as Michigan trailed 15-14 just over six minutes into the game before back-to-back threes by Burke and Hardaway—naturally—began to break the game open. They wouldn't completely pull away until a 10-0 run in the opening minutes of the second half, which featured eight points from Hardaway, including an emphatic one-handed dunk off a feed from Glenn Robinson III and back-to-back threes sandwiched around a missed free throw.
While the freshmen weren't filling the tin like they did in exhibition play—combining for 28 points, 11 of those coming in the game's final four minutes—they found ways to contribute. Robinson scored ten points on 5-7 shooting and picked up his rebounding efforts, pulling in eight total (six defensive) in 32 minutes. Mitch McGary pulled down nine rebounds—five offensive, though three came on one possession when he couldn't lay the ball in—in just 12 minutes while chipping in nine points; he also had three fouls, the big reason why he didn't play more. Nik Stauskas only attempted two field goals, hitting one, but got to the line to shoot a pair twice with some aggressive drives to the basket. Spike Albrecht was just 1-5 from the field, but he handed out two assists and didn't turn the ball over.
After missing the exhibition season with a knee injury, Jon Horford played better than the stats would indicate in eight key minutes after McGary and Jordan Morgan both found themselves in early foul trouble. On his first possession of the game, he rebounded a Morgan miss, hit the putback, and drew a foul, then drew a charge on the very next play. Later in the first half, he deftly slipped a pass to a cutting Robinson for an easy layup. While Horford was still limited—not by injury, but by his gas tank after missing the last two weeks—he appeared to have all of his pre-injury athleticism.
The depth is there for this team in a way that it hasn't been under John Beilein. Last year, there was no Horford to step in for Morgan, and certainly no McGary to add a second big man to the lineup. When Burke was off, like he was in the first half, there wasn't an Albrecht there to give him a chance to sit down and regroup, like he did nine minutes into tonight's game. And to have Robinson as a third scoring option, well, let's just call that an upgrade, and that's no slight to Zack Novak or Stu Douglass.
But tonight, the story was Hardaway and Burke. The two had a synergy tonight, Burke knowing just where to give it to Hardaway, Hardaway knowing just where and when to attack, that could take this team from good to great. And yes, at least tonight, there was even just the right spin on the ball.