Picture Pages: Beating The Rail

Picture Pages: Beating The Rail

Submitted by Brian on February 12th, 2013 at 1:31 PM

After Michigan's first outing against Ohio State Zack Novak gave an interesting interview to UMHoops in which he described how the Buckeyes shut down Michigan's pick and roll game:

Well for the first 10 minutes of the game, it seemed like everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Coach has referred to “locking the rails” in describing what OSU does to guard sideline ball screens, a huge staple of the offense. They do this better than anyone else. Many teams will take away a ball screen by having the defender on the ball play with his butt to the other sideline and bringing a big man in front of the ball handler. They take it to another level. They pretty much play the ball handler not to go to the opposite corner of mid court, essentially taking away any chance for the ball handler to still use the screen. This takes away all uncertainty a big man would have in playing in front of the ball handler.

In other words, big men usually hedge after a ball handler uses a ball screen. Even if the plan is to deny the ball handler from using it, the big still must be ready to hedge in the event the defender does not prevent the screen from being used. This uncertainty can cause big men to be just a fraction late, which in basketball is enough time for a good offensive player to exploit it.

In my eyes, it seemed like their big men were in position every time because they knew there was no chance the guard could use the screen.

Michigan sputtered to an 0.88 PPP outing, one of their worst of the season. In the offense-heavy rematch that moved up to 1.19, thanks in no small part to 58% shooting from three. But Burke also got free on a number of P&R possessions in the first half, with a rolling Mitch McGary the frequent beneficiary. Here's an example from early in the game; this is actually McGary's first offensive possession.

Michigan initiates the offense with a pass from GRIII to Burke and then flashes McGary to the top of the key.

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By the time he gets there, Craft has set up shop such that there's no way for McGary to screen him.

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This is "locking the rail." If Burke goes anywhere, it is right, and the big no longer has any hesitation.

McGary backs off, taking Williams with him, and then Burke attacks the basket, getting Craft outside of him with a crossover.

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If Michigan acts quickly now, they can get the screen. McGary is waiting for this and Michigan successfully breaks the rail and gets the P&R.

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Williams hedges hard as McGary rolls; Burke finds him.

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Lenzelle Smith comes over in an attempt to pick up a charge. He may or may not get there in time, but we don't end up finding out because McGary's agility allows him to pull up short and avoid the contact as the arena is bathed in a mysterious rush of light.

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A quick two for McGary enroute to 5/8 from the floor in the first half.

Video

Things And Stuff

Burke shakes free. Burke needs help, but even if that drive doesn't get past Craft it necessarily puts him out of position when McGary re-establishes the pick and roll. It takes a little more work to set it up, is all. Burke was also able to shake Craft from the rail at times, like this late-clock move that puts Craft out of the picture and gets Ravenel on his heels, opening up the three:

With everyone on the floor staring down Burke this would be an opportune time for someone to dive to the rim, but oh well.

Planning ahead. Michigan executes a similar set with Hardaway on the next possession, but actually runs it too fast. Hardaway ends up trapped as Williams is much closer to the ball*, but the idea is the same. Next possession: same. Hardaway makes a token drive to the right and then comes back to a McGary screen; McGary gets a roll pass and misjudges how much room he has to attack, throwing up an awkward elbow jumper. After getting very little from the pick and roll in the first game, Michigan adapted, with moderate success inside the arc and Great Success outside.

*[Hardaway gets it to GRIII, who makes an excellent shot for himself against Thomas; Williams throws it back, whereupon Stauskas does his stepback swag in the corner that gets him gif'd.]

McGary skill level. Ohio State gets a defender over in position to take a charge; McGary pulls up short of him and puts up a lane floater that sneaks over the front of the rim. McGary has a high skill level for a 6'10" guy.

Almost inevitable offensive rebound. McGary also pounds Smith under the basket after the shot goes up; Amir Williams is hanging out with Burke well outside your picture, and GRIII has gotten good position on Thomas here. Note also that by the time Burke's three goes down, Craft is trying to box out Horford. That's one vs four, but a relatively high chance of an OREB anyway.

One of the problems against Wisconsin was a relative paucity of shots where offensive rebounds are on the table in the event of a miss.

One Frame At A Time: Ohio State, Part Two

One Frame At A Time: Ohio State, Part Two

Submitted by Ace on February 8th, 2013 at 3:01 PM

If you missed it, Part One is essential reading/viewing before going any further. The "Frames Of The Game" and top ten gifs have been awarded, so this is the best of the rest, starting with the best still frame:

This probably won't be the last you hear of Rapture Guy.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the gifs from the Ohio State game, including basically the opposite of Rapture Guy.]

One Frame At A Time: Ohio State, Part One

One Frame At A Time: Ohio State, Part One

Submitted by Ace on February 8th, 2013 at 1:28 PM

So, Tuesday's classic Ohio State game produced 28 gifs. Those who watched the game should not be surprised by this fact. They'll be split up into two posts today, and starting today there's going to be a new feature: gif rankings. The gifs from each game will be ranked in a completely arbitrary order of greatness by my choosing. There will also be a reader poll pitting the winner against the winner of the previous game's post to determine the reigning gif champ. Without further ado, here's this week's number one, and oh my goodness it is amazing:

FRAMES OF THE GAME

RAPTURE.

Obviously, the guy who thanks the heavens is the star attraction, but this isn't a one-man show. There's the guy just above Rapture Guy getting nearly as emotional. There's overalls girl unleashing a primal wolf-howl. There's the girl in front wearing a "Even LeBron Hates Ohio" shirt—though, unfortunately, not the MGoApproved version.

But really, it's all about Rapture Guy. Nik Stauskas has just hit a go-ahead three late in regulation, and this makes him happier than I've ever been in my entire life. That is not a sad statement, because he has reached the pinnacle of happiness. You can actually witness the exact moment when every bad feeling he's ever had in his entire life is expelled towards the heavens, leaving only pure joy and a deep, deep love for Michigan basketball. I envy this man, and I salute him.

[After THE JUMP, the rest of the game's top ten gifs, and your chance to vote on a winner so obvious that this better be unanimous.]

Art Of War

Art Of War

Submitted by Brian on February 6th, 2013 at 12:22 PM

2/6/2013 – Michigan 76, Ohio State 74 (OT) – 21-2, 8-2 Big Ten

8451023676_7f14347c2e_z[1]8448840785_3a2f850a18_z[1]

Eric Upchurch

I guarantee Tim Hardaway Jr has never heard of obscure indie band Rilo Kiley or heard "A Better Son/Daughter" or even seen The Wizard, in which then-preteen future obscure indie band singer Jenny Lewis debuted along with Super Mario 3. (It was a heady time.) But I also guarantee that for most of the second half he heard that song he had never heard, the bit about sometimes when you're on.

Mitch McGary sings "La Cucaracha" to himself most of the time, but especially during basketball games.

INNER LIFE OF MITCH MCGARY

/INNER LIFE OF MITCH MCGARY

Nik Stauskas… obvious.

One day Nik Stauskas will find out that not everybody in the whole world has BALL SO HARD going through their head 24 hours a day, and a lot of previously inexplicable things will magically explain themselves. That one time he cut off an old lady at the supermarket and spiked her baguette to the floor. The aftermaths of various domino-spiking incidents. That thing about racing a horse. &c.

Obligatory.

Michigan-76-Ohio-State-74-OT-24_thumb[1]

mean muggin' (Dustin Johnston/UMHoops)

Glenn Robinson III hears nothing but jet engine takeoff, and knows nothing about the world of music. He knows the roar of escape velocity only. He can talk to birds. Birds are in fact sick of talking to Glenn Robinson III. Excuse birds, they have to go regurgitate some food now.

Trey Burke… Trey Burke is a tough one.

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

Narrative whatnots ranging from your own to trash-talking Ohio State fans on twitter to Mike Tirico and Dick Vitale tell you that Craft versus Burke was once again a victory for Craft and his infuriating brand of that's-80%-of-a-foul-argh defense. Then you go look at a box score that tells you Burke put up 16 points on 12 shots and had eight assists against two turnovers, and your brain has an ellipses as it tries to fit that into the thing you thought might have happened.

Then you remember that Michigan's grand strategy at the end of the game and OT was "Burke, go do something" and the resulting tough stepback threes were more on Beilein walking Burke into a trap with no time on the clock than any fault of his, and you revise that shot count down to ten and… well. First of all, it's impressive that Burke only took ten shots from the structure of the offense. He is an alpha dog. His natural inclination when things get heated is to take everything on his shoulders, and this game wasn't heated so much as it was generating enough energy to thaw most of the state should a Crisler door blow open at an opportune time. Burke still kept himself even-keeled.

Previous Ohio State games have featured plenty of frustrating moments when the pick and roll has been more of an invitation to get trapped towards the sidelines than a way to generate offense, and while there was a bit of that here, it was less prominent. Multiple times Burke turned a tough drive into a kickout three instead of a low-percentage two, and I felt surprise. This is a guy who wants to put it on his shoulders, sometimes to Michigan's detriment. Here he dialed it back a bit—22% usage versus 32% in Columbus—and found plenty of payoff in the form of Hardaway and Stauskas raining in threes.

Those stepbacks at the end of the game were an alternate scenario largely avoided. Burke had to absorb some Buddhism in this one, and win the game without winning it.

Except, of course, for the part where he won it. The part where he almost seemed to let Craft by him on purpose because he knew a pullup in the lane was coming, and thwacked the ball to Glenn Robinson to preserve the slimmest of all leads—to preserve their claim to being elite. It's the bit of the box score you hardly look at because Trey Burke is generously listed at six feet tall.

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Aaron Craft is Ohio State's primary assist generator. He had one in this game, a game in which his team put up 55% from two. None of that was generated by Craft, who turned the ball over as much as Burke and found out that putting the game on your shoulders is a grand burden indeed. On the last three possessions Burke stripped him, blocked him, and rode him into the doom of Tim Hardaway. The last play was pure Craft: riding your man down the court on the edge of a foul, forcing his attention onto you on his shoulder until it is too late.

That's not in the box score. The tree of victory sometimes grows from silent soil. Or something like that. I'm not much better at being Buddhist than Trey Burke.

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

I'm not sure what Trey Burke's life soundtrack is. Could be Vivaldi or Bombs Over Baghdad. It's probably all things smashed together; Burke puts one headphone to an ear and mashes things together until the thing that comes out doesn't seem like it could have been constructed from the parts that went in.

Photos

From Eric Upchurch:

Also UMHoops shots.

Highlights

Via MGoVideo:

Bullets

Rucker park. I couldn't have been the only one who thought about that Kevin Durant video when THJ was going NBA Jam:

There was a nonzero chance of that fourth one resulting in the same court rush.

Begone, heroball. Brief digression on why the fadeaway three from Burke in the previous Ohio State game was okay and this one drove me nuts:

  • DOWN TWO ON ROAD: If you get a two you have an approximately 50% chance to win. If you get a three you win. If the two is twice as likely to go down (or get you free throws that you make) as the three, it's even. Since you're on the road your chance of winning is slightly lower, so… even if you think that Burke three was only 30% to go in, the drive would have to be around 65-70% to be a clearly better option. (A potential OSU response is irrelevant since any bucket they get means you lose.)
  • TIED AT HOME: Go get a damn point. If the drive is at all likelier to get you a damn point it is a better idea. It is likelier to get you a damn point. So go get it.

Michigan is an exceedingly low-turnover outfit with multiple excellent scoring options. Putting Burke in a one-on-one situation against the best perimeter defender in college basketball is not your best option, and the potential downside is not just a turnover but a turnover that comes early enough for the opponent to get a meaningful possession. Yeah, it's not impossible, but the reward outweighs the risk.

The 1-4 set late is the equivalent of run-run-pass-punt when you're up late in football. Easy to justify, statistically poor.

8449730734_987962dd47_z[1]I may have to dump the Big Puppy nickname if McGary is going to play like this, not that I have a huge problem with it. (Upchurch @ right.)

Impact. Mitch McGary has it.

He kept Michigan in contact in the first half with dives to the bucket and putbacks, going 5/8. He'd finish 7 of 13, the only Wolverine to hit more than half his twos—the only one to make more than two. The rebounding numbers aren't astounding—3 offensive, 3 defensive—but four steals against one foul is. He is coming over entry passes and busting them up at a rate I haven't seen before from a Michigan player.

In addition to the box score stuff, he was all over the court doing his usual McGary things. Whenever I look at the Kenpom boxes it seems like Michigan has more "team" rebounds on both offense and defense than the opponent. This feels like a McGary halo effect from the guy battering all manner of balls about. For example, late in the game he harassed Lenzelle Smith into the sideline as he attempted to rebound a Michigan miss. Michigan got the ball and a "team" offensive rebound. In the highlights above he hedges Craft into the sideline; Craft attempts to save the possession by hurling the ball off of McGary; the ball deflects to Robinson, who gets credit for a steal* and Michigan fast-breaks the other way. He's a massive possession generator statistically and there's an excellent case to be made that he is being shortchanged by those stats.

McGary's not a slug on offense, either. He can put the ball on the deck for a couple dribbles against other fives; in this one Amir Williams had an excellent block on one of those drives, but the other ended in a layup. His skill level is relatively high for a big. And he does all that other business.

At this point he's swung back from overrated to underrated. I mean, is there much difference between what he's giving M and what Nerlens Noel is giving Kentucky? Noel blocks a butt-ton of shots; McGary is an incredible rebounder on both ends of the floor. They're about even in offensive efficiency. So… who would you rather have? It's at least up for debate if McGary continues pulling down the minutes he has the last couple games.

*[I'm pretty sure that's the letter of the law, right?]

8449938071_9ff2fe557f_z[1] Alright. Defense is something of an issue. Michigan overplayed Deshaun Thomas to decent effect—or Ohio State just forgot to go to him late—and held him to 17 points on 15 shots. Given OSU's struggles to find secondary scoring you would take that as an easy Michigan win when paired with shooting nearly 60% from three.

That was not the case thanks in large part to LaQuinton Ross, who went nuts. He hit seven of ten shots and probably didn't have more than one empty possession since he rebounded a lot of his misses.

Add in Sam Thompson, Amir Williams, and Lenzelle Smith hitting eight of ten twos—Smith had a poor day from three—and that's how Ohio State kept pace with Hardaway's beast mode second half. Everyone other than Craft and Deshaun Thomas was throwing down easy stuff. Michigan said "someone other than Thomas will beat us" and Ohio State was like "okay."

Q: where was the zone? Ohio State struggled against the 2-3 zone in the previous game. Michigan pulled it out briefly and it seemed to be going fairly well. For whatever reason, the coaches didn't like the way it looked and went back to what turned out to be a highly porous man to man.

Revisiting the Morgan thing. I don't know if that's really the issue. I mean, how bad does McGary have to be positionally to wipe out four steals and assorted other turnover generation? Overhelping accusations go back to that discussion about whether that's on the big or the guy who gave up the drive the big felt he had to respond to. There's nothing in the way of stats that suggests Morgan is integral to the defense, so we're left with fuzzy business about rotations. I don't know. My eyes say that 1) McGary is playing really well and 2) Michigan is playing badly on defense. I can't reconcile those.

On the other hand. Hi I just watched the MGoBlue highlights embedded above and they happen to have a good deal of OSU's secondary scoring included. Sam Thompson's 3/3 night consisted of a transition tip dunk and two tough shots, one a baseline runner (not included), the other a baseline 18-footer with a decent contest from Stauskas. Lenzelle Smith's game-tier is a scramble off an offensive rebound that still sees Stauskas chase him off the three-point line with a closeout and forces him to re-set and fire from just inside the arc. That's a pretty good outcome off that OREB.

Maybe OSU just had a good game? There's a lot of randomness in here.

Rebounding check. This looked basically even in the ESPN box score but as per usual, once the whirlwind effect of McGary bouncing balls off all of the faces is taken into account, Michigan comes out looking better. With five team rebounds to OSU's two that pushes them up to 38% to 32%, which is a moderate edge.

More than halfway through the conference season their rebounding is holding up much better than it was last year: they're third on D, fourth on O. Last year they finished 9th and 10th in those categories, respectively. The rest of the schedule is four easy games and four hard ones, so that doesn't seem to be a schedule effect.

Uniformz. I was trying to ignore them as best I could. Unfortunately twitter was nonstop trash-talk about them until the game became so good Michigan could have come out in garbage bags elaborately festooned with penises bearing Dave Brandon's face and no one would have noticed. Twitter, I am trying to grit the ol' teeth here, and you are not helping.

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artist's impression

I don't care anymore. This is the scene in Planet of the Apes after Charlton Heston screams "YOU MANIACS YOU BLEW IT UP" in which Charlton turns to his companion and says "I'm hungry, do you guys still have Jimmy John's?" It is what it is. It'll slowly erode my will to live, but whatever. I've said my bit.

The one thing I'd like to mention: Michigan handed out honest-to-god Maize shirts for the Maizeout. I didn't know they actually made those anymore, and can we pick a yellow? No, we cannot pick a yellow.

"But the kids like them." The first album I ever bought was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles soundtrack. I memorized it. Kids are stupid.

Oblig. ref bit. Spent entire second half grinding my teeth about the Craft post-buzzer (except there was no buzzer) three. Why was there no buzzer? I'm pretty sure the refs can't look at the player and the shot clock at the same time, so they have to rely on the noise. No noise, no shot clock violation. That may be on Crisler instead of the refs. Nik Stauskas put up a prayer after the buzzer went off later, but there was no buzzer so it didn't go off and there was no call.

The phantom foul on Burke was probably the right result since Hardaway did get Thomas's arm on the shot. The ref missed it and had to make up some bullcrap on Burke once it was clear Thomas had airballed it implausibly, but it was a foul. Just not on the dude who got it.

The offensive goaltending non-call… oy.

The sequence at the end was classic late-game ref ostriching: it was a flagrant on Craft and probably a foul on Hardaway. Sometimes they let you get away with some extra contact when you get your hand literally on top of the ball, as Hardaway did. I can see not calling that because by the time the arm contact starts in earnest Hardaway has already destroyed any chance of a shot. Still seemed foul-y to me.

Don't get me started on the "let them decide it on the floor" meme. They are deciding it on the floor as long as you call the game the way you should.

Michigan 76, Ohio State 74

Michigan 76, Ohio State 74

Submitted by Ace on February 6th, 2013 at 12:45 AM


Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

Aaron Craft lay on the floor, hands behind his head, defeated.

For 45 minutes, Craft and his Buckeyes put up a hell of a fight, trading blows with Trey Burke's Michigan squad in front of an electric Crisler Center crowd. Both point guards had their moments of triumph—Burke tallying 16 points and eight assists with just two turnovers, Craft pocketing three steals and scoring 11 points of his own.

In overtime, though, Burke came out on top, redeeming his missed three at the end of regulation with an improbable pull-up triple on Michigan's first overtime possession—a shot that would ultimately provide the winning points. Craft had a jumper from the elbow to give Ohio State the win with the shot clock turned off, but it was Burke's turn to win with his defensive exploits, swatting the shot to Glenn Robinson III. Craft was forced to foul—hard enough to get a review, as it turned out—and Robinson gave the Wolverines a two-point lead with his first free throw. The second was off the mark, however, and the ball found its way to Craft, who quickly drove the length of the court for a game-tying layup, only to be blocked again by Tim Hardaway Jr., and left to stare at the rafters waiting for a whistle that never came.

It was a classic finish to a classic game, in front of a Crisler crowd that was louder than any since the days of the Fab Five (or so I'm told—it was certainly the loudest I've heard dating back to the Ellerbe era). Michigan landed the first haymaker, racing out to an 18-8 lead, but the Buckeyes crawled their way back into it—a jumper from unexpected star LaQuinton Ross gave the visitors a 31-30 halftime edge.

Ohio State pushed their lead to as much as eight in the second half, but they couldn't find an answer for Hardaway, who hit all five of his second-half three-point attempts—including triples on three straight Wolverine possessions—en route to a game-high 23 points. Still, the Wolverines struggled to close the gap completely, failing to guard the interior time and again. It wasn't until a Nik Stauskas three with 3:23 to play that Michigan finally retook the lead, one that lasted all of 24 seconds before an Amir Williams free throw tied it up. After trading buckets, Burke's last-second triple caught only iron to bring on overtime.

While Jordan Morgan was limited to four ineffective minutes with a lingering ankle injury, Mitch McGary (at left, Upchurch) shined in 29 productive minutes—his 14 points proved huge, but even bigger were his four steals and stellar outlet passing, sparking the offense without putting the ball in the hoop himself. When Morgan is back at 100%, he'll still have his starting spot—Jon Horford again got the start tonight—but McGary has made his play for a bigger chunk of the minutes. Fellow freshman Stauskas knocked down 3-of-5 triples to do his part, while Robinson again struggled offensively, needing eight shots to notch ten points.

For the Buckeyes, Deshaun Thomas led the way as usual with 17 points, but Robinson's improved defensive effort forced him to take 15 shots to get there. Instead, it was Ross who repeatedly came up with big shots, pouring in 16 while shooting 7-for-10 from the field.

When the final buzzer sounded, however, it was Michigan coming away with the narrowest of victories. A missed call here, a lucky shot there, any small moment could have made the difference; this time it's the Buckeyes who will stare at the ceiling and wonder.

One Frame At A Time: Indiana

One Frame At A Time: Indiana

Submitted by Ace on February 5th, 2013 at 2:17 PM

A short, bittersweet version of OFAAT today, as I was wholly uninterested in capturing a bunch of gifs from a loss that still stings a bit.

As it turns out, however, things could've been much worse. I have looked into an alternate universe in which Victor Oladipo makes that impossible alley-oop, and that alternate universe, well...

...may it rest in peace.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Indiana gifs, which once again include Ted Valentine being Ted Valentine, attention whore of the highest order.]

Marginally Contested

Marginally Contested

Submitted by Brian on February 4th, 2013 at 12:08 PM

2/2/2013 – Michigan 73, Indiana 81 – 20-2, 7-2 Big Ten

Jordan Hulls Michigan v Indiana at7WYoLFN2Xl[1]hi-res-158576668_display_image[1]

Midway through the second half, Michigan popped into a 1-3-1 zone for a possession. I did not like this. I immediately thought "you can't run this defense with Jordan Hulls on the floor," and Indiana duly tossed the ball around the perimeter until Hulls was presented with an open three-pointer. He knocked it down. The 1-3-1 did not reappear.

Hulls didn't do much other than that. Unfortunately for Michigan, two of the other things he did were bury two more open threes; he missed only once. This is what you expect from Jordan Hulls, and it's why he's out there trying to check dudes a half-foot taller than him on defense.

To beat a team with a guy who shoots like that playing next to a sticky-fingered nightmare of a defender, the man Hulls is checking has to at least keep pace with the guy. Nik Stauskas didn't. He, too, is the sort of player that sends you to your toes when he's left wide open in transition, the sort of shooter that can create a buzz in an arena before the ball has even left his hand. He, too, had four good looks from three before the game had been decided. He missed all of them. (Hulls fouled him on a fifth.) The fourth miss was incredible, deflating, infuriating. This is not what is expected.

In a game where just about everything else did go as expected, that seems like the difference between a rock-'em-sock-'em affair ending at the buzzer and the marginally exciting contest that instead unfolded: Michigan's best shooter did not hit when presented with excellent looks.

And they were excellent. I'm not sure if Michigan came out with a concerted plan to emphasize the Hulls-Stauskas matchup or if Stauskas improvising based on his belief that Hulls couldn't check him; either way Michigan came out of the gate attacking that guy, and for naught. Stauskas drove for marginally-contested layups, and missed. He was found for marginally- or un-contested threes and missed. Michigan launched itself into desperation mode with two minutes left down nine, down exactly the same number of points Hulls had tossed in from behind the arc and Stauskas hadn't.

This is not to pile on Stauskas, who played about as well as he could up until the moment he let a shot go. This was not the Ohio State game, when he could not move towards the basket and found himself hacked out of the offense, reduced to jacking up deep, contested threes out of frustration.

When Stauskas made contact with Hulls he was largely quieted—along with the zone three two of his other looks came in transition. Stauskas didn't turn the ball over and had a couple assists. I can't recall any frustration shots launched. Afterwards, Beilein revealed Stauskas had missed practice the day before with the flu. Independent random trials can be a bitch even when you're healthy.

But there it is. While Glenn Robinson sputtered to two points and contributed little else in 40 minutes, his presence in the game always feels light. He largely cleans up other people's misses or throws down their assists. His absence or presence is something felt less viscerally than thinking TAKE THAT at maximum brain volume and seeing something betray Nik Stauskas's swag.

So it goes. Sometimes the damn thing won't go in the basket. The only thing to do is keep shooting.

Bullets

Protip: stop falling behind by lots in tough road games. Against OSU, Michigan's offense came out discombobulated and staked the opponent to a 21-point lead. In this one, Michigan's defense couldn't make a rotation or stop the ball in the first ten minutes and staked the opponent to a 15-point lead.

Protip: once you have fallen behind by lots in a tough road game and come storming back, DO NOT TIE THE GAME. When this happened in Columbus Michigan started jacking up bad shots and was on the wrong end of a decisive 6-0 run. In Bloomington they managed to tie the game just a few minutes into the second half, and then suffered an 11-0 run.

Clearly a mandate must go out indicating that it's threes only if you have fallen behind by lots only to claw back and find yourself down two in a tough road game. No more ties. No more.

Protip: just predict what Kenpom predicts. Twice this year arrogant predictor guys at this very website have arrogantly deviated from the Great Book Of Kenpom and predicted road victories, first myself for the OSU game and then Ace for Saturday. Kenpom was off by a total of three points in these games. Yea, and it was wroth.

Halftime adjustments check: no. Michigan clawed back to even after five minutes, but then suffered the aforementioned run.

628x471[1]The Morgan question. Was his absence a major problem? The two minutes on a gimpy ankle he got seems to indicate the answer is yes, as does Indiana shooting 59% from 2. McGary's box score says no: 5/7 from the floor, 3 OREB, 4 DREB, an assist, 0 TO, two blocks, two steals, and a Wes Unseld hockey assist not recorded. Horford added a couple buckets, blocks and turnovers in ten minutes.

In the aftermath I've seen various folk complain about McGary overhelping and thus setting up Cody Zeller's three tip dunks, but if Oladipo is screaming at the basket that seems McGary has a bad choice either way. By helping McGary forced tougher shots and misses on those, at least. If he's not there and Oladipo throws down a rim-rattling dunk, um… well, that's not good either. It seems like the problem there is on the initial drive and McGary is picking the lesser of two evils.

Because this is an attempt to quantify the defensive prowess of an individual player, we of course have wildly differing metrics here. Some low-sample-size Synergy data from UMHoops suggests that Morgan is by far the better defender. That is in direct conflict with some low-sample-size data Ace assembled that suggests Michigan is a crap-ton better with McGary on the floor.

I don't know, man. Keep "road game at Indiana" in perspective here: despite giving up 1.17 PPP, Michigan's defensive ranking on Kenpom actually moved up slightly after the game. If Indiana shot too well from two they also got up far fewer shots than Michigan thanks in large part to McGary, and without the intentional fouls at the end of the game that PPP rate drops to 1.10. It's complicated.

One spot at which Morgan may have helped: the four. Michigan hasn't taken Glenn Robinson off the floor since Morgan got hurt, and in this game he wasn't doing anything to justify 40 minutes. Morgan would have brought extra rebounding and been better able to hold up against Christian Watford on the block; Robinson would probably have been more effective if he knew he was going to get some rest here and there.

Speaking of the overhelping bit. I think we can put the Tim Hardaway Jr lockdown defender meme to rest. Oladipo roared into the paint with frequency against him, hitting 5/9 from two and IIRC having two of those misses thundered back into the basket by Zeller since he'd drawn two guys.

Hardaway's better than last year; in no way, shape, or form does he approach the level of an impact perimeter defender like, say, that Oladipo guy.

Hardaway was an effective shooter in this one, largely when Oladipo switched off onto Burke.

Oblig. Burke check. Hoo boy he put up a lot of shots: 24 in total. We should remove the rushed heaves at the end of the game to get a better picture of what he did when quality was more important than quantity. This slices out four 3PA, one of which went down, and two generous assists on similarly rushed heaves by Hardaway and Stauskas.

Those excised, Burke:

  • 5/12 from 2
  • 3/8 from 3
  • 3/4 from the line
  • 6 A, 3 TO, 2 steals, 2 OREB(!)
  • 22 points on 20 shots

Burke was tasked with a good number of Oh God Oh Jesus Oh God late-clock possessions as Indiana's defense came to play; he had difficulty with Oladipo, as you might expect. His numbers would have been less extreme and likely less inefficient if Stauskas had been healthy and accurate. As it was more and more of the offense devolved onto him.

He carried Michigan when they had to be carried. To exceed a point per shot against a top-tier defense while sucking up 40% of Michigan's possessions is remarkable.

Oblig. ref check. Fouls were even before Michigan went into game extension mode. There was a 15 to 7 FTA disparity for Indiana that seems mostly attributable to random chance. Two goofy calls stood out: the Oladipo continuation bucket and a blocking foul assigned to Hardaway that was a textbook charge—one, in fact, that Hardaway repeated moments later, getting the call.

Rebounding check. Michigan lost the battle on the boards thanks in no small part to those Zeller slams. It was close—29% to 34%—though, far less of a factor than IU doubling up Michigan when it came to turnovers.

The bright side! This may put a damper on GRIII to NBA worries?

"Cumong man" of the game. Indiana hit 88% of their free throws and didn't miss once in their last 14 tries. This is not conducive to exciting finish, Indiana. I am dissapoint.

The oddity of having a really good basketball team. You get punished by having Dick Vitale assigned to your games. I've always experienced him as an annoying presence on Duke broadcasts I'm not going to watch more than a few minutes of; this year I've finally been exposed to 40 minutes of the guy repeatedly.

I am not enjoying this experience. Take it away, Wikipedia:

He is known for catchphrases such as "baby"

The worst part is that when Vitale finally retires—he's 73—the ESPN executives who have not ordered him to do middle school games at 3 AM on ESPN3 will slide a howler monkey into his place and hope no one notices.

I wonder how Duke fans must feel about the guy. Sure, he's basically an extension of your university but even when he's yelling inanities in favor of your team, they are still inanities detracting from the important thing you are trying to pay attention to. And he is omnipresent. I don't think I could deal, man. We should have asked Jamiemac—who admitted no rooting interest in Saturday's game!—about that when we were quizzing him about the Yankees' chances this year in the podcast.

Anyway, in most other sports ascending to the big time level is a reward. Gary Thorne does the NCAA hockey tournament, and Sean McDonough will do your college football games. People bag on Musberger but I like him, and there's no comparison between Vitale and Herbstreit. Big NBA games get you Marv Albert.

I guess Tim McCarver and Jim Nantz do loom, but what this is all about is WHERE'S GUS JOHNSON, STRING?

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HUH? WHERE IS GUS? STRING!

It's strange to me that I love Raftery and Gus Johnson so much and find Vitale so detestable. All three bring buckets of enthusiasm and get criticized for it by haters. I am only in that group for the last guy. Maybe it's because "baby" is not a catch phrase, it is a useless appendage, where as "onions" is delightful and Gus Johnson makes lip-curling noises.

Does anyone like Vitale? Stand and be heard. I want to know if he appeals to anyone. We should do announcer approval ratings.

One Frame At A Time: Northwestern

One Frame At A Time: Northwestern

Submitted by Ace on February 1st, 2013 at 2:49 PM

Michigan did many, many great things against Northwestern, and they will be given their proper due in a moment. But first, let's marvel at the worst inbounds attempt in the history of basketball:

What the heck happened here? Let's go to the diagram, which may or may not be taken straight from Bill Carmody's clipboard:

You know, if there weren't boundaries around the court or rules against using random rich dudes as a sixth player, this just might have worked. Worth a shot, anyway.

[For the rest of the Northwestern gifs, including Nik Stauskas declaring sexy himself back and Trey Burke And1-ing Alex Marcotullio, hit THE JUMP.]

One Frame At A Time: Purdue & Illinois

One Frame At A Time: Purdue & Illinois

Submitted by Ace on January 30th, 2013 at 4:40 PM

Before I get any more behind on these, here's a double dose of gifs from the Purdue and Illinois games, plus a couple extras from recent Michigan appearances on BTN's The Journey. As always, click the still thumbnails to open the gifs in a lightbox, and hit 'escape' to stop animation on any browser but Chrome.


Optional soundtrack.

Kids are weird, man.

[For the rest of the gifs, including Trollface Ted Valentine, hit THE JUMP.]

Unverified Voracity Mizzen Fizzen Wizzen Arr

Unverified Voracity Mizzen Fizzen Wizzen Arr

Submitted by Brian on January 30th, 2013 at 3:24 PM

HHHHYARRRR! A reminder from BHGP why you should generally root for Iowa basketball:

Jan 27, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery during the 2nd half against the Purdue Boilermakers atMackey Arena.   Mandatory Credit: Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Avast! Mizzen the wizzenhench and agglomerate the septicules! NAVAL SPEAK MEANS GET OUT OF MY BANNNNNNNNK

Our good feelings are not helping them reach the tournament, unfortunately.

I dare you to release that Big Ten Network poll, then. In other Big Ten Expansionfiasco news, athletic directors claim that everyone likes having to figure out which division they're in via mnemonic:

"When the Leaders and Legends were first announced, people were like, 'What the heck does that mean?'" said Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner. "I think people are starting to learn it, though. … I don't hear much from fans writing in and saying, 'You've got to change the names now,' or anything like that."

Some ADs, like Barta and Purdue's Morgan Burke, say they actually like the Leaders and Legends monikers.

We have a "faintest praise imaginable" winner. Men responsible for deciding to call something something admit—in public and everything!—that they like what they did. I bet 90% of the people who responded to the BTN's survey Strongly Agreed that "Leaders" and "Legends" were as good an idea as bringing Jim Bollman back to the Big Ten, but Morgan Burke probably likes that too.

Slight pessimism from Evanston. Rodger Sherman is not feeling the Wildcats' chances tonight. Reasons:

Even though Northwestern doesn't help heavily, Northwestern has a tendency of losing shooters: Hey, it's Nik Stauskas! Announcers like to mention that he's "not just a shooter!", because he sometimes does other stuff effectively, but that's like saying Rambo isn't "just an unkillable death machine" because he has lines of dialogue.

Northwestern's best defensive weapon is running the 1-3-1 to throw teams off: MICHIGAN RUNS THE 1-3-1 AND WILL DESTROY IT LIKE THE TASMANIAN DEVIL RUNNING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE BIGASS HAMS WITH THE BONE STICKING OUT OF IT. Even if they didn't run the 1-3-1 and know exactly what to do against it, they're one of the best teams in the nation at not turning the ball over and have a lot of guys who can shoot, so this would be an awful idea.

They do have Reggie Hearn tonight, and unlike last time the Michigan starter who's supposed to be out (Hardaway then, Morgan now) is actually going to be out. Even so, it's an extreme uphill battle that awaits them.

Power rankings. Luke Winn's latest power rankings have Michigan #1, leaping a Jayhawks team that had a close call against West Virginia, and focus on Trey Burke's jumpers off the dribble. Turns out he's good at basketball:

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If Michigan wasn't the killer offensive team it is, the step-back twos that rubbed me the wrong way against Illinois might not be bad shots. 124 > 111, so they remain a little frustrating. Especially since there are threes going in at approximately the same rate as the twos mixed into the above chart that prop up the overall PPP.

If you've already run your offense and that's what you've got with five seconds on the clock, it's a great backup option. If you've got other avenues to try, like Nik Stauskas pick and rolls dumping in 1.6 PPP, you should try them.

When I rewatched the Illinois game it did seem that Burke adjusted more quickly than it felt live. He was robbed of a few assists by fouls, fumbles, and Jordan Morgan going down in a heap. Winn includes the step-back at the end of the first half as a GIF, which was both pretty and strategically a better idea than certain other shots since Michigan was holding for the last shot.

Other bits from Winn's power rankings:

  • Tim Hardaway is the nation's second-most-efficient scorer in transition.
  • Burke is ninth when it comes to transition possessions used per 40 minutes, which is pretty impressive given the pace Michigan plays at. I expect to see Arkansas's BJ Young at the top of that ranking; not so much the point guard for a team hovering in the mid-200s of pace rankings.
  • Duke's defense has collapsed without Ryan Kelly.
  • Somewhat indirectly: Winn mentioned a stat put together by TeamRankings that averages offensive and defensive rebounding together to get you an overall rebounding stat. Michigan is outside of the top ten, but only just, at 12th.
    #HotCaochTakes. Jeff Goodman assembles the always-entertaining anonymous opposing coach evaluation article on the Wolverines. Ace points out we have a Not Just A Shooter™ reference:

"Burke, but don't sleep on (Nik) Stauskas. He's not just a shooter. He much more than that. But Burke is the guy for them. You can't shut him down, but you need to find a way to slow him down."

The article is filled with lots of praise and some wishful thinking:

“They're not a very deep team. And if you take away their wide-open shots, and make them execute, that's when they'll struggle.”

“Try to get them in foul trouble. They don't want to have to think about picking up an early foul or two.”

The equivalent of telling someone you're going to stop the run when that run comes from Alabama: easier said than done. There's also a lot of stuff about how they are either tough enough or not as tough as last year. Winning ugly and that.

It is a concern, IME. Take that Nebraska game and make the opponent a Michigan State or a Wisconsin and I can see things going down to the wire.

Er. Nyet. GRIII is up to 18th on Chad Ford's NBA draft board. That's a rise from 25th and starting to get into that guaranteed-first-round area that gets scary. Ford still acknowledges he could benefit from another year:

Robinson is still scratching the surface as a basketball player. But his elite athletic ability (YouTube his 360 dunk versus Minnesota last week), rebounding ability and improved shooting touch all have scouts drooling. If teams are looking for a player who could be a home run down the road, Robinson could easily end up in the lottery. He's not ready yet, but all the pieces are there.

Hardaway doesn't show up in Ford's first round or his "next five in," FWIW.

Etc.: Top tailbacks seem to have two outcomes: great and headcase. I'll take those chances when the average NFL draft slot is a second-rounder. Kenpom continues crusade to have three-point defense recognized as pretty dang random. Michigan State is not their usual selves this year.

Ten Year War II hype? Ten Year War II hype. Also, more Ten Year War II hype, indirectly.

Hockey : (