Whiplash

Whiplash

Submitted by Brian on January 28th, 2013 at 11:55 AM

1/27/2013 – Michigan 74, Illinois 60 – 19-1, 6-1 Big Ten

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On January 27th of 2010, Michigan was 10-10, 3-5 in the league, miles away from a tourney bid that might validate their breakthrough the previous year. They'd only lost two walk-ons from that team, and were ranked in the top 15 to start the year.

On January 27th of 2011, Michigan was 1-6 in the Big Ten, barely above .500 overall, and following up Manny Harris's disappointing junior season with what looked like another nothing year. It would be the latest in a long line.

On January 27th of 2012, Michigan was 6-2 in the Big Ten, albeit barely. Their last three conference wins had come by a total of five points, and they'd just dropped a game to SEC mediocrity Arkansas. At 16-5 it was clear they were destined for the tourney, but no one expected to storm through upcoming away games at Ohio State and Michigan State. Michigan didn't, but then again it was their best season since… well, that's complicated.

On January 27th of 2013, Michigan eased past a team that had beaten OSU, Gonzaga, and Butler by double digits to stake its claim as the #1 team in the polls. Their average margin of victory in Big Ten wins: 18.

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In this game, Jordan Morgan sprained an ankle two minutes in. Jon Horford rotated in, and played well. Max Bielfeldt rotated in, and airballed a free throw, and bricked a free throw. He earned a couple more on the next possession and sunk both. Later, though… later he would go up for a rebound surrounded by four Illini. The ball went into a dense nest of hands. Suddenly Illini players were on the ground, dazed. Bielfeldt was going up for a layup.

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Dustin Johnston/UMHoops

This didn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Max Bielfeldt is still a couple years away from being in the rotation, it was two points, Michigan doesn't need its bench to do much of anything.

Symbolically, it was a microcosm of the season. Put anyone you want out there and they will show you something pleasing and surprising. Stauskas coming in as both a deadeye shooter and a six-six layup machine was the biggest win. Then you've got Robinson being a 40% three point shooter, McGary generating obligatory Wes Unseld references, rail-thin Caris LeVert forcing his coaches to burn his redshirt, and Spike Albrecht providing cool on-court leadership in the maelstrom of the Ohio State game. Oh, and Bielfeldt tossing guys to the floor. Everyone is bringing something unexpected to the table. At some point Michigan should throw Blake McLimans in there in case he's turned into Hakeem Olajuwon. This has been a charmed year.

Michigan's fourth-string center contributed to a double-digit road win over a tourney(?) team. At some point in there the color guy mentioned that last year Michigan went to overtime with Northwestern twice last year, and that just sounded strange.

Expectations are changing so quickly that they're almost keeping up with the radical shift in the program itself, so it's good to remind ourselves what we were watching every year before this one. This is advice not from me, but from a man currently on the other side of the fence.

I’m still inside the Hall as I type this. Didn’t go down to the press conference. Don’t really care about the quotes right now, to be honest. I’m just sitting here looking at all these empty gray seats and replaying the tumble that brought us here. My emotions are tracking exactly with my half-Michigan fan roommate in the first year of the Beilein regime.

That night, I remember discussing the 1989 Final Four. With Illinois ranked #1 and undefeated, and Michigan on their seventh consecutive NCAA-less season, all he could hold over me was the 1989 semi-final. He was still a full fledged Michigan fan in 1989, and he would have never believed that the program that won it all back then would then eventually go TEN consecutive seasons without an NCAA tournament appearance (from 1999 to 2009).

I should call him tonight. Tomorrow is Michigan’s official “all the way back” moment – much like our 2004 victory over Wake Forest here – and I’m curious how he’ll feel about it. Actually, I know the answer to that. He’ll say that his heart switched to the Razorbacks in 1994, and he can’t believe that THAT program has fallen as far as it has.

I guess I’m left thinking that I didn’t enjoy the 2000-2006 run enough. I should have learned my lesson when the Flyin’ Illini were grounded by Bruce Pearl, but I didn’t. It can all go away in an instant, and the fight to get back up there can take a long, long time.

Just ask Michigan. And Arkansas. And Illinois.

I don't think many Michigan fans are having trouble enjoying this. When I watch the games with people, there are bursts of laughter and the occasional Gus-like noise. When Robinson blocks a shot or Stauskas shoots a one-touch pass or Hardaway sets up for a three you can feel is going down before it even leaves his hand or Burke… Burke.

Illinois fans are still pissed off about that loss in 1989. At this point it may even be the bedrock of their unrequited rivalry with Michigan. I've long thought that silly, but I know now that if something untoward happens to this team in the tournament I'll hate whatever program does it, without reason, forever. And that'll probably happen. Michigan is #1 by a nose, and winning six straight against good teams is hard. I have to brace for this, and try to accept whatever fate awaits with the good cheer it seems Illinois fans have about their 2005 outfit.

Whatever happens, it'll be the culmination of a story no Michigan fan is likely to see again. To go from dead in the water to #1 in two years to go from scrapping out two-point wins against Northwestern to this… put it all in your head, and turn it around until it's something you can expansively relate to anyone dumb enough to be born after March. Poor bastards.

Highlights

Also our greatest cheesemonger:

Bullets

The Burkite Hersey. Okay, so, don't pile upon me and squeeze until my eyes pop like Tom Izzo's, but wasn't Burke kind of crap in the halfcourt this game?

Let's try to separate out transition. I went through the PBP for this one and found the following transition items:

  • Assist to Stauskas after a Burke steal.
  • Burke layup after Burke steal.
  • Burke layup after GRIII steal.
  • Burke dunk after Burke steal.

While we should mentally adjust for the fact that everyone's numbers look worse when fast breaks are taken out of the equation and that generating eight points off of transition is good, here's Burke's line without those events:

3/11 from 2, 1/5 from 3, 4/7 FT, 4 A, 3 TO.

That is not up to his usual standard.

Subjectively, I was frustrated by Burke's tendency to dribble the air out of the ball when Illinois switched Egwu onto him and then jack up a difficult shot*—especially in the first few minutes when Egwu was carrying a foul and would have been vulnerable to a problematic second if he was trying to check Burke on a drive. Even if Burke didn't feel confident in his ability to get a shot off with Egwu's long arms looming behind him, there's no way that guy could actually stay in front of Burke, and once he's driving and the defense is reacting, things should open up.

Burke did seem to adapt a bit later. He lost a few assists when bigs with a mismatch couldn't finish. I don't think many teams are going to be willing to continue that sort of strategy since it seems like one of the major reasons it was effective was the bizarreness of it.

*[The one at the end of the half was okay since it seems like running the clock down without any chance at a turnover offsets the reduced chance at points. I did wish he'd taken the half-step back to make it a three.]

OTOH, THJ. Hardaway had 12 points on nine shots. His rebounding was not up to his usual par, but he added three steals. He's still above 50% on threes in conference play.

Hello Horford (and Bielfeldt). I bet Michigan fans were far less shocked than the BTN announcers when Michigan found little dropoff after Morgan rolled his ankle. Jon Horford's always given Michigan good minutes when healthy, and he did again in this one. Seven points and four rebounds in 17 minutes is pretty good for a third string center. Some turnovers held his ORTG down. Okay.

As a bonus, Bielfeldt ripped down the hands-down most mansome rebound of the year and rebounded from a humiliating trip to the line his first time out to sink two in a row. There's no comparison between post depth last year and this. Obviously.

Sam McLaurin Michigan v Illinois ZsadabMsVKFl[1]

Ranked. At long last, ranked. Mitch McGary has cracked 40% of Michigan's minutes and now takes his place on Kenpom leaderboards. He's on quite a few:

  • 8th in OREB
  • 55th in DREB
  • 193rd in blocks
  • 336th in steals
  • 217th in ORating

All of those numbers save ORating (obviously) and block rate (Horford pips him in 13% of M minutes) are tops on the team. Ace mentioned that I might be selling McGary short as a shot blocker last week, and he was right.

Caveat: after the game Beilein and Burke both talked about how Morgan was the centerpiece of the defense, so block numbers aren't everything. McGary is still impressive statistically, and in all the ways a team with four legit scorers wants him to be.

Nik Stauskas is the Tim Hardaway being the Nik Stauskas in the Big Ten of twos. That makes perfect sense, shut up.

The point is: after a shaky start from inside the arc, Nik Stauskas has taken off in Big Ten play. He's hit 15 of 23, 65%. Michigan's started using him on backdoor cuts and shooting him off those curl screens that "Goin' To Work"-era Pistons force-fed Richard Hamilton to great effect. He was 5/6 on twos against the Illini, and IIRC the miss turned into a Kobe assist.

Stauskas has been greatly aided by a shift in his two-point shots. Early, they were actually shots—I remember a couple of badly whiffed floaters early on. Now any shot Stauskas takes inside the line is at the rim. Almost literally. Stauskas has just 12% of his shots come on two-point jumpers, and recently that number is probably zero.

Thus…

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blouses. (Dustin Johnston/UMHoops)

NOT JUST A SHOOTER. Drink. Color commentators who are just sayin' and assure us that they have white friends are contractually obligated to say that Nik Stauskas is "not just a shooter" whenever he does anything like throw down a GAME… BLOUSES dunk or drop a touch-pass dime. I think the guy doing the Illinois game said it five times. Stauskas will be 58, in his 27th year in the NBA, and the color commentator will say he is more than just a shooter.

That touch pass was totally badass though. Stauskas has been charged with some turnovers this year when he's done things like that only for bigs who do not believe he is more than a shooter to fumble the ball out of bounds. They get it.

Boards check. It seemed like Michigan was getting killed. They didn't. They did end up losing the OREB war, but it was close. Michigan grabbed 38%; Illinois 41%. That is not so good given Illinois's performances to date.

Possible downside to losing Morgan? Hard to believe given McGary's numbers.

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Caris: the future. Boxscores and whatnot and peripheral business and whatever. I understand that this exuberance may be irrational. Don't care.

There's a reason they pulled that redshirt from LeVert, and at some point he's going to be a big part of the team. He can get places with the dribble, he's a quality long-range shooter, and at some point in the distant future he may be three-dimensional.

Morgan status. He turned his ankle nastily and the report afterwards was not surprising:

Michigan junior forward Jordan Morgan suffered a right ankle sprain two minutes into the second-ranked Wolverines' 74-60 win at Illinois on Sunday, and never returned to action.

Moving forward, his status remains unclear.

"I don't know," Michigan coach John Beilein said after the game. "I know that he has a sprained ankle, that's all I know so far.

"I know it was (bad enough that) he could not put weight on it."

I've had one of those sprained ankles and if I had to guess I'd say Morgan will be out a couple weeks at least. It seems reasonable to leave him on the bench if Horford and company can fill in adequately.

Brah-est student section: Illinois? MSU is strong competition, sure. Obligatory:

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how's that working out for you, brahs?

But Illinois's student section seems to be comprised exclusively of dudes whose life goal is to be the brah in those Five Hour Energy commercials.

Elsewhere

Eamonn Brennan considers Kansas vs Michigan.

Gasaway tweets!

The statistical similarities between this Michigan offense and Illinois in 2005 are striking.

Champaign Room recaps!

Two minutes to go in the first half and you've cut the lead to 28-25? Hey, that's not bad considering how poorly you're shooting and how well Michigan is playing and OH DAMN IT Michigan just went on a 7-2 run to close the half and head to the locker room up eight.

Cut Michigan's lead down to four points before the first timeout of the second half? All right, the crowd's back in it and we've got some momen...son of a bitch Michigan just went on an 11-2 run to put you down 52-39 before the next television timeout.

Over and over again the Illini would give a hint of climbing back into this game and over and over again Michigan would kick them right back down.

Photos from UMHoops. Recap. Checking in with MGoEeyore.

Basketbullets: Purdue

Basketbullets: Purdue

Submitted by Brian on January 25th, 2013 at 11:37 AM

wit1/24/2013 – Michigan 68, Purdue 53 – 17-1, 5-1 Big Ten

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Eric Upchurch

Probably not many more of these for games not against Penn State, but I don't have any narrative for this one so let's just talk about stuff that happened.

Photos. Via Eric Upchurch:

It catches up in the end. The story of the first half was the normally deficient Boiler three-point shooting checking in at 54%, which was good enough to stake them to a one-point lead. In the second half they went 0-9 to finish almost exactly on their season average of 31.6%, and honestly it should have been worse what with DJ Byrd hitting one from 35 feet and banking in another. (As always, Death To Backboards.)

By the end of the game everything had averaged out to… averages and Michigan just about hit the Vegas line and Kenpom's prediction of a 17-point margin. If Ronnie Johnson hitting a three is the difference I'll live with it.

MY MAN RONNIE. That one make on three attempts pushed him to 14% on the year.

Purdue is kind of fun to watch. So you've got Ronnie Johnson's three-point futility plus his tendency to crash full-bore into opponents for charges that are so obvious the refs don't even get excited about them. Then you've got DJ Byrd hucking it up from anywhere, making a few and hilariously missing more. All other Purdue perimeter players are more or less versions of those two guys. The Johnsonbot named Terone adds a dash of circus shot to the stew.

The end result is balls flying all over the place. More than once last night I thought GO HOME PURDUE, YOU ARE DRUNK. This makes them significantly more entertaining than, say, Penn State or Nebraska. Nebraska does have Andre Almedia, I guess.

Does Michigan need to foul more? I think they might. There was a possession relatively late on which Burke extended pressure and harassed one of the many Boiler Johnsons into a near-turnover twice, and then Mitch McGary overplayed a passing lane to finally turn Purdue over. I'd like that to be a more frequent occurrence even if it comes at the cost of some additional fouls.

I can immediately think of some good counter-arguments:

  • Michigan plays its starters a ton and there is a serious dropoff to the bench so foul trouble is to be avoided at all costs.
  • Playing defense like that tires you out, bench thing again.
  • Michigan likes games of HORSE.
Team %TRANS PPTP
Minnesota 15.30% 1.35
Michigan 17.20% 1.31
Ohio State 18.20% 1.3
Indiana 20.40% 1.19
Wisconsin 7.00% 1.16
Purdue 11.30% 1.15
Illinois 13.00% 1.01
Michigan State 20.20% 0.98
Iowa 16.60% 0.96
Penn State 13.10% 0.94
Nebraska 8.10% 0.94
Northwestern 8.80% 0.82

But but but boy do I want this team to get out in transition and getting aggressive on defense seems to have some potentially large payoffs. Their transition numbers are nuts, in the 96th percentile nationally as of a few games ago according to Synergy and UMHoops. Anything they can do to push the pace is going to benefit them.

They only forced 12 turnovers in this one, limiting those opportunities. Their man to man seems a lot more passive than many teams'. This game in particular seemed to invite aggression: the Boilers have a very good eFG% defense and can't shoot free throws.

Specifically, I hope Caris LeVert can beast up over the next couple months. He's not going to foul out and if he gives up a couple of over-aggressive fouls on the perimeter it's not likely to end up hurting Michigan since they so rarely find themselves giving up the bonus. Stauskas, too—that man is still in the top ten nationally at avoiding fouls.

THEORY. It may be that Michigan's second-half surge is partially built on a lack of fouls in the first half? If they go into the locker room with everyone clean maybe they sit down and are like "okay guys now time to get aggressive"? I'll check the numbers on this to see if there's anything to it.

If I had to guess I'd say no. It feels more like Michigan's offense takes off right after halftime. But I'll check.

Throw out the rebounding record books when you play the Purdue Boilermakers. For the record, Michigan still won the battle on the boards against a team that looks damn good at that bit right now—22nd OREB, 64th DREB. They grabbed 12 of 30 opportunities; Purdue got 11 of 34.

And it was hard to be mad about many of Purdue's offensive boards anyway. Their misses were often so wild that attempting to get position was a futile project often ending with a ball heading directly at your head with hockey-puck speed. I hope no one on the team was in 'Nam. If anyone was they're having a seriously bad day today.

I definitely shouldn't mention this. Tim Hardaway was 3/5 from deep today, bringing his three point shooting in league play to a Stauskas-like 15/29.

Trey Burke yawn yawn. Save for an uncharacteristically poor night from three (0 of 4), Trey was himself: 6/10 inside the arc with 4 FTAs, 8 assists, one turnover. Oddity: he blocked two shots.

Burke has surged into the KPOY lead now, passing Russ Smith and Mason Plumlee. Smith may have a case—he's putting up 36% of Louisville shots and has a huge steal percentage—but is hurt by inefficient shooting; Plumlee's presence is largely due to a huge DREB rate that seems to exist because no one else on the Blue Devils even tries.

There's a team adjustment in the kPOY that probably explains much of the movement. Louisville and Duke have had a rough past couple weeks; as their teams fall back to the pack their numbers go down.

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it was a fumbly kind of game for big guys (Upchurch)

Blank-headed center regains third head. With Morgan and McGary having some struggles early, Jon Horford saw eight minutes for his first extended playing time in a while. His impact was not enormous—three rebounds, 1/2 from the floor—but it's nice to have him available.

This Week in This Week In Stop Asking For Post Touches: the beginning of the first half for Michigan, in which Jordan Morgan ended up taking on AJ Hammons directly and went 0-3. Morgan and McGary did have one nice one-on-one bucket apiece against Hammons; overall their efficiency was significantly lower than the rest of the offense.

Another oddity: Michigan's three posts saw a total of 43 minutes and picked up no fouls. This was because…

Holy pants was AJ Hammons awful. I've been talking him up based on watching some Purdue and seeing some nice things in the box score; in this game he was total non-entity. In 24 minutes he had 2 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 turnovers. While I wasn't enamored with Michigan's center play in this one, they have to get some credit for that.

8412099209_96c685ca53_z[1]That over and back call. A couple folks pushed back on twitter when I broke out the traditional "lol big ten refs" for the over-and-back on Stauskas, but I am sure I'm right on this. For over-and-back to be in play the entire ball and the entirety of the player's body have to cross the halfcourt line. By the time Stauskas caught up to the ball Byrd had poked out it had already started crossing the halfcourt stripe. This was obvious on TV but not to the ref, since said ref was well behind the play.

In any case, he clearly did not regain control of the ball until he'd entered the backcourt, in which case the tip indicated by the ref closest to the play was still the determining factor. That call was mystifying.

Yes, I can find things to complain about even when Michigan is the #2 FTA/FGA team in the nation. It's a skill, what can I say?

Second-half adjustment watch. This one was even coming out of the locker room, with both teams picking up five points in the first five minutes. Then Michigan went away with a 14-2 run in the next five. You can add that to the bin or not; your discretion.

On deck: huge swing game. I dislike this Illinois game coming up. Michigan should win, but this is an Illinois team that beat OSU's head in at Assembly (Not That Assembly) and could at any moment heat up on their many, many three-pointers. They'll be desperate for another marquee win that can cover up blemishes like "losers to Purdue and Northwestern" when tourney time comes around; I can see things going very well or very badly.

There's a cap on how well Illinois can do when they can't grab a rebound to save their lives; I am still wary of a team at the bottom of three-point percentage rankings on both offense and defense. That could turn around and bite you. Ask Gonzaga, on the wrong end of an 11/26 night from the Illini.

Kenpom has Michigan by eight and with a 77% chance of winning—feels a little more random than that to me.

Michigan 68, Purdue 53

Michigan 68, Purdue 53

Submitted by Ace on January 24th, 2013 at 10:21 PM


Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

For 25 minutes, it had all the makings of an upset.

Purdue entered Crisler Center as a 16.5-point underdog despite winning their last three games handily, while the home favorites had to shake off the rust from a weeklong layoff. Michigan looked listless offensively and lost defensively as the Boilermakers built a one-point halftime lead on the strength of seven first-half three-pointers.

For the first five minutes of the second half, it was more of the same—Michigan and Purdue trading baskets as the home crowd's consternation grew. Then Glenn Robinson III, playing against his father's alma mater—not to mention a school that couldn't find a scholarship for the in-state high school stardrilled a three from the corner. After baskets by Nik Stauskas and Trey Burke, he bookended a 10-0 Wolverine run with a three from the same spot.

From that point forward, Michigan put it in cruise control, especially after Stauskas exterminated a last-gasp 6-0 Purdue run with a three of his own. The Wolverines, tested mightily on their home court by the team that ruined last season's Senior Day, had managed to survive.

Robinson finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, but unlike previous games those points didn't come quietly. Before sparking the second-half run, Robinson jolted a sleepy crowd to their feet with a huge one-handed slam over DJ Byrd late in the first half after beating two defenders to the baseline. Robinson denied having any extra motivation against Purdue after the game, but his actions said otherwise.

Trey Burke didn't knock down any of his four three-point attempts; otherwise, he was his usual All-American-caliber self, hitting 6-of-10 twos en route to 15 points and a 8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Purdue attempted to pin Burke to the sideline when Michigan ran the pick-and-roll, but Michigan adjusted, often flipping the pick* to free up their point guard.

Stauskas and Tim Hardaway did their part, especially from outside, combining for 25 points and 5-for-9 three-point shooting. However, Stauskas struggled guarding Byrd, who hit some NBA-distance threes in scoring 11 first-half points. In the second half, John Beilein gave Hardaway the task of shutting down the Purdue sharpshooter; Byrd failed to score in the game's final stanza, and the Boilermakers as a team went 0-for-9 from beyond the arc in the second half.

It wasn't the prettiest win for Michigan, but John Beilein—who was just 3-7 against Matt Painter's Purdue teams entering the game—was happy nonetheless with the effort. At halftime, he challenged his team to show more mental toughness.

"They responded really well. Really well," Beilein said, with a hint of a smile creeping across his face.

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*having the screener set up on one side, then "flip" over to the other side of the defender

Hoop Math: Transition Off Defensive Boards, Updating Kobe Assists

Hoop Math: Transition Off Defensive Boards, Updating Kobe Assists

Submitted by Ace on January 23rd, 2013 at 1:57 PM

John Beilein likes to say that the best defensive rebound is one by his point guard. Why? That's the best way to get out in transition. I decided to investigate Beilein's claim—at least as it applies to Michigan—by going through this season's play-by-plays and charting each defensive rebound.

In the (chart?) chart below, I've tracked each defensive rebound as well as any resulting fast break field goal attempts or drawn shooting fouls—a fast break, in this case, being defined as any shot coming within 10 seconds of the defensive rebound, so long as the ball remained in play the whole time. Also in the chart is how often each player gets a fast break assist or made basket off their own defensive rebound. "% Opp" is the percentage of individual defensive rebounds that result in fast break field goal attempts or drawn shooting fouls, and "% Conv" is the percentage of made fast break FGA and shooting fouls drawn.

SPOILER ALERT: Beilein's theory is correct.

PLAYER Def. Reb. FB FGA FB FGM Assist Self Make FT % Opp % Conv
Hardaway 76 33 16 7 7 3 47.4 25.0
Morgan 56 20 14 0 2 1 37.5 26.8
Robinson 56 18 12 3 0 0 32.1 21.4
McGary 54 25 14 3 0 1 48.1 27.8
Stauskas 49 25 16 1 1 1 53.1 34.7
Burke 42 23 11 3 7 2 59.5 28.6
Vogrich 13 5 5 0 1 0 46.2 46.2
Horford 13 2 1 0 0 0 15.4 7.7
Bielfeldt 12 6 2 0 0 0 50.0 16.7
Albrecht 10 3 0 0 0 0 30.0 0
LeVert 7 3 0 0 0 0 42.9 0
Akunne 6 2 1 1 0 0 33.3 16.7
McLimans 5 1 0 0 0 0 20.0 0
Person 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 400 166 92 18 18 8 43.5 25.0

Some takeaways:

GOOD PLAYERS ARE GOOD

Trey Burke is far and away the best on the team at turning defensive rebounds into transition opportunties, and the reasons are two-fold. For one, it's Trey Burke—you know, the guy you want running the fast break. Second, as you can see in the video at the top of the post, as a diminutive point guard many of Burke's rebounds come on shots that carom far away from the basket, providing a better chance to turn and run than a rebound in the charge circle.

Burke is also the best at converting his own rebound at the other end, with—surprise!—Tim Hardaway Jr. second in that regard; both have seven made baskets off their own rebounds while Hardaway has one more free throw opportunity... off 34 more defensive boards. Though Burke converts at a higher rate, Hardaway has the highest defensive rebound rate on the team by a non-center, and you can see just how valuable his newfound dedication to that area is to the team.

MCGARY'S OUTLET PASSING

Jordan Morgan (and, in small sample size territory, Jon Horford) has a rate well below the team average when it comes to turning defensive rebounds into transition opportunities, which is understandable: as a center, he's not turning and leading the break, and most of his boards come from right under the basket, where it's hardest to spark a transition opportunity.

That makes McGary's ability to turn 48.1% of his defensive rebounds into fast break chances—a better rate than Hardaway—all the more impressive. The difference, as far as I can tell, is in McGary's outlet passing; he's got surprisingly good court vision, which allows him to turn quickly off a rebound and find his point guard. This is one area where McGary has a decided edge on Morgan, especially since his defensive rebound rate is also higher.

GAP BETWEEN FRESHMEN: NOT THE ONE YOU'D EXPECT

What surprised me most when putting this together was the gap between Nik Stauskas (53.1% Opp) and Glenn Robinson III (32.1%). While Robinson matches up against bigger players, ending up closer to the hoop for rebound opportunities, he's also the more athletic of the two. It's Stauskas, however, who's the only player besides Burke to crack 50% in major minutes—this despite rarely being involved in the play at the other end of the floor.

Perhaps there's a lot of noise in these numbers given the sample size (I'd say yes—I'm mostly ignoring the "% Conv" figure because of this) but that doesn't entirely explain that large a gap. Like with the big men, I believe this has to do with the difference in court vision and passing ability; so far this season, Stauskas has proven himself the more adept passer. Meanwhile, Robinson still seems to be adjusting to the college game; in a year, I'd bet his transition rate will be better than Jordan Morgan's.

[Hit THE JUMP for an update on the Kobe Assist and Adjusted Points Per Shot numbers from last month.]

One Frame At A Time: Minnesota

One Frame At A Time: Minnesota

Submitted by Ace on January 20th, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Glenn Robinson III, quite casually, threw down a 360 dunk against Minnesota. I have no memory of a Michigan player ever doing the same, let alone with such ease. So, yeah, the full gif treatment is in order. Above is a little photoshop job, because something about that play didn't quite feel real. Below, every damn replay angle imaginable [click each thumbnail for the gif]:


Salute.

[For the rest of the Minnesota gifs, featuring several more dunks and John Beilein's strange facial tic, hit THE JUMP.]

A Serious Man

A Serious Man

Submitted by Brian on January 18th, 2013 at 12:28 PM

1/17/2013 – Michigan 83, Minnesota 75 – 17-1, 4-1 Big Ten

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Trey Burke came to Michigan fully-formed, a stone-hearted superman with a wicked handle and cool demeanor. His only vulnerability is Craftonite. In year two he's improved, of course; he remains essentially Trey Burke, just smoother.

If he does indeed take off for the NBA after this year his impact on Michigan fans will be almost that of spectacular a one-and-done player. An Anthony Davis, a Carmelo Anthony. I beheld this, and it was the unchanging visage of glory! Yea, and it spoke unto me thusly: I ARRIVED AND I WAS. I LEFT AND I AM.

Tim Hardaway came to Michigan as a tall Stu Douglass. He was a streaky gunner who accumulated box score things largely because balls bounce unpredictably and eventually some of them come to you. The tempo-free lines of Douglass and Hardaway from that year are different only in that Hardaway took a bunch more shots and never turned the ball over*. Last year those numbers didn't move much except that the threes didn't go in, and people despaired.

Tim Hardaway is no longer that guy. Even on a night where he hit seven of eight shots he made the rest of the box score relevant: five rebounds, three assists, six(!) turnovers, two blocks, three steals. This is a sanity check for what you are seeing.

You are seeing this: Minnesota is on its horse trying to catch up with Michigan, and they are in the midst of one of those putback-rebound-putback-rebound sequences that inevitably end with a ball going in the basket or free throws. Andre Hollins has the ball surrounded by three Michigan players, and goes up with it and suddenly he does not have it. A jam-packed Williams Arena howls. Dick Vitale exclaims something along the lines of "NO FOUL HOW CAN THAT BE"—and you're kind of like yeah I mean seriously—as Tim Hardaway Jr. flies upcourt with the ball, a seven point lead, and 35 of the 100 seconds left in the game on the shot clock.

When they put the replay on, it's Hardaway airborne. He has jumped in a way that makes it seem like he has already made the decision to foul this guy and not permit a layup, that way-too-early jump that gets you on top of the guy so you can sit on his head and prevent him from getting a three point play. Hollins shows the ball, and Hardaway just, like, takes it. The meme generator in the head goes "yoink." Vitale's says "that looks like ball" and you're kind of like yeah. I mean, seriously.

Hardaway gets ranked on Kenpom's defensive rebounding leaderboard now, as a wing. That is has a very real impact on Michigan's bottom line—they've gone from #99 to the #3 in that stat. He is no longer the frequent target of CUMONG TIM brain rages on defensive possessions. His fouls are down; his steals and blocks are up. The little man in your head with the gavel who sits in judgment of all shots is screaming "TAKE THAT" on 80-90% of Hardaway's attempts, and fist-pumping as Hardaway knocks down nearly 40% of his threes.

When Burke was still shaking off the effects of Sunday's encounter with Craft and Minnesota was blazing the nets from three, hitting their first five attempts, Hardaway had the answer. He kept Michigan level until his bros showed up. When Burke was rattled, Hardaway stepped up. Last year this is a guy who specialized in the long two with a ton of time on the clock. If Tim Hardaway is still that guy, Michigan ends up in the deep end again, wondering if the first 16 games were all a mirage.

Tim Hardaway is not that guy. Tim Hardaway is serious these days.

*[Okay, Douglass had a miraculously weird thing going on with free throws: he took 13 on the season and hit 3; both of those numbers are spectacularly low. Jon Horford attempted 18 free throws that year. He played 14% of Michigan's minutes.]

Bullets

Welcome back, Yawn At Another Trey Burke Boxscore Bullet. Missed you xoxo. He was inefficient from two but 9 assists to 1 turnover is where it's at. He took some bad shots early in what looked like a carry-over from the Ohio State game, where he was pressing for points. Once Michigan got past that section of the game even thanks to Hardaway going off, Burke ran the break perfectly.

Also, was it just me or was Burke more of a defensive pest for chunks of the game? I wonder if one of the coaches took him aside and was like "if you want to be great-great you have to add some of that Craft stuff to your game." He hounded Minnesota's PG into a steal in the first half, and he had a couple against Craft late in the last game.

Mbakwe. Good gravy. Jordan Morgan had his first two shots blocked by Mbakwe, who had a double-double featuring five offensive rebounds and five blocked shots. It's a tribute to John Beilein that Michigan came out of the locker room with a play that got Morgan a bucket, and that Michigan managed to get him up to nine points in the second half. Speaking of…

BEWARE THE BEILEIN HALFTIME ADJUSTMENT. Michigan won this game in the first six minutes of the second half when they went on a 20-7 run. This is a season-long trend. They did it against Iowa (opened second half with 12-4 run), West Virginia (11-4 run), Bradley(11-4), NC State(13-8), KState(14-2), Ohio State(7-2) and Pitt(8-4). The only game that was close at halftime in which Michigan did not significantly help itself coming out of the locker room for the second half was Arkansas (3-6).

Beilein figures out what you're doing on defense and assassinates you. That makes you feel real real good about Michigan's coaching acumen, and the apex of that is Beilein knowing a way to get Jordan Morgan a couple of easy buckets against Trevor Mbakwe.

Schedule now looking manageable. Illinois is looking more like the team that eked it out against Gardner-Webb than the one that took it to Gonzaga because opponents are hitting 43% of their threes in conference play and the Illini are hitting 23%. They're last in the league in both stats.

While that's probably more luck than anything, the Illini are also eleventh on the defensive boards and at giving up three throws; they're mediocre on both sides of the ball on shots coming from within the line.

They've gotten hammered their last three games, the latest an embarrassing 14-point loss at home to Northwestern, and have slid an impressive 30 spots in Kenpom's rankings. All of this makes next Sunday's game at Assembly Hall (not that Assembly Hall) quite a bit less intimidating than it did at the beginning of conference play. With that game sandwiched by home games against Purdue and Northwestern, Michigan is now entering one of two relative breather sections on the schedule. In February it gets real again with the Indiana-OSU-Wisconsin-MSU gauntlet.

It finally cracked. It took a game against the #1 offensive rebounding team in the country to do it, but Michigan finally got beat up on the boards. Minnesota entered the game rebounding 48% of their misses and got 46% in this one, with five coming from Trevor Mbakwe alone.

It was going to happen sometime. Given the gap between Minnesota and the next most prolific set of offensive rebounders in the league (Indiana) is almost ten percentage points, we can hopefully chalk that up to Mbakwe and move on against mortals. M remains the best at defending their own boards in conference play, albeit by a slimmer margin now.

Vogrich == Toussaint. In that I constantly think "Poor Damn Vogrich" whenever he appears in my life. Poor Damn Matt Vogrich had a 0-minute trillion in this one* as he hopped on the floor for about four seconds, seemed to cause a Hardaway turnover as his man left him to attack THJ from behind. Hardaway chewed him out—serious—and Beilein yanked him so he could chew him out. PDV, man.

In this instance you can't blame the blocking; I still feel bad for the guy.

*[The box score has his minutes as "0+"]

Stauskas: let it come man. Opponents are fully aware of the guy now and stick to him desperately because if they let that guy get open their coach will open the bowels of hell upon them. So his shots are down, and his three-point percentage is falling as he offers up a couple of unwise ones out of frustration a game. He's so out of sorts he's missing multiple free throws a game. Freshmen, eh?

At least we saw the first Stauskas backdoor play run successfully. If Vogrich can't even stay on the court for a full minute he can at least tutor Stauskas in the tao of backdoor.

Couple of iffy threes aside, Stauskas did pretty much let it come: he threw down a GAME… BLOUSES dunk, picked up a couple of assists, and collected 11 points on six shots. Hardaway got some great looks in this one, probably because the opponent was so focused on Stauskas.

This Week In Post Touches Suck. McGary got one and nearly flung a turnover. Morgan had one and Mbakwe blocked it without thinking twice. For the game the two centers were 8/11 and I don't think they had a miss that Mbakwe didn't block spectacularly—I think we're okay without using post touches to generate shots.

Hoops Picture Pages: Spacing Issues

Hoops Picture Pages: Spacing Issues

Submitted by Ace on January 15th, 2013 at 3:12 PM

For the first time this season, Michigan's offense looked stagnant for prolonged stretches against Ohio State, largely due to the Buckeyes shutting down the pick and roll game. Going back over the film, it was clear much of this had to do with the on-ball defense of Aaron Craft, who hounded Trey Burke into a 4-for-13 shooting performance.

Interestingly, Craft was able to get away with going under the screen for most of the game despite Burke hitting a three-pointer when he did so in the game's opening minutes. With Burke not shooting over the top, Craft was able to take away his ability to get to the basket, and with that the easy buckets that Burke usually creates for himself and his teammates.

While Craft played a stellar defensive game, however, it wasn't his play alone that mitigated Michigan's go-to offensive play; the Wolverines simply didn't execute well on offense. Here's one such example—Michigan has just reset after an offensive rebound, and Mitch McGary comes out to set a screen for Burke:

Note that there's plenty of space in the middle of the Buckeye defense above. In the next frame, you'll see Craft has gone over McGary's screen and is now stuck behind Burke, so OSU center Evan Ravenel steps up to cut off the drive while McGary starts his roll to the basket:

At this juncture, Michigan should be able to create a good look. Burke is past Craft and therefore occupying Ravenel. McGary is heading to the basket, which should force Deshaun Thomas (defending in the paint) to abandon guarding Tim Hardaway Jr. entirely—which, of course, leaves one Buckeye to guard both Hardaway and Nik Stauskas. If Sam Thompson—at the top of the screen—comes down to help, Glenn Robinson III should be open in the corner for a... wait, Glenn, where are you going?

Unfortunately for Michigan, Robinson cut to the basket at precisely the wrong time—he heads right into the space that McGary is cutting towards. When coaches talk about the importance of spacing, this is what they're talking about. The spacing issues Robinson's cut creates are really apparent in the next frame:

Even though Burke still has a step on Craft, OSU has every Michigan option covered. Ravenel is both taking away the drive and any passing lane to McGary, while Thompson is doing the same on Robinson. Thomas is able to step out on Hardaway. Stauskas is occupied in the corner. Now Burke is forced to try to make something out of nothing:

That something turns out to be a contested layup over Ravenel that doesn't even catch iron. Note that a small blanket could cover both Robinson and McGary.

Video:

While Craft recovered nicely, this is a play that should've resulted in a Michigan basket, but it was thwarted by inexperience; a simple mistimed cut from Robinson is enough to throw off the entire play.

As Michigan romped through non-conference play, it was easy to forgot that they're still a very young team. Some freshman mistakes are more obvious than others, like when Caris LeVert threw a pass to no one after leaving his feet, giving Ohio State an easy fast break layup. Plays like the one above—after a reset, when a player needs to know on the fly where the offense calls for him to be on the floor—are more subtle, but also show off mistakes born from inexperience.

Those plays should be fewer and farther between as the season goes along; at the same time, this team is going to rely all year on five freshmen. Trey Burke is a great example of a player making a big leap after getting familiar with John Beilein's system—that leap, of course, came between his freshman and sophomore seasons. It's doubtful Michigan is going to eliminate these types of errors by March.

That's not to say Michigan can't make the Final Four by sheer force of talent combined with Beilein's coaching; if they do, though, they'll have to overcome their youth.

Aging In A Loop

Aging In A Loop

Submitted by Brian on January 14th, 2013 at 11:59 AM

1/13/2013 – Michigan 53, OSU 56 – 16-1, 3-1 Big Ten

image

Michigan lost its mind to start this game, finding themselves down a grim amount—24 points at the maximum—as their offense abandoned them and an excess of switching on the defensive end confused them more than their opponent. It was a brutal flashback to the time when 20 turnovers was not an uncommon thing to go over, and faith-shaking.

I thought back to the Amaker/Ellerbe days when I was allowed to go watch something else once Michigan was down 20, and other than that 34-2 start at Cameron I couldn't think of anything else that had gotten so out of hand so quickly. I considered turning it off at one especially grim bit.

Then a thing happened: Michigan stepped up on defense and started chipping away, chipping away, chipping away. By halftime it was twelve. They cut it to eight, saw the lead push out again, and cut it back to eight again, this time following up. Six. Four. One; back to three. Finally, tied. Michigan had clawed all the way back from a 21-point deficit against a ranked team on the road.

Championship stuff. Gritty grit Eckstein stuff. Sportswriter hearts swelled, encomiums at the ready. It is in these fires that the heart of a champion is forged. The will to win surpasses. They just wanted it more. The trend was clear, and the final six minutes would be distance Michigan continued to put between themselves and OSU after their disoriented start.

Michigan then lost its mind again. The next six shots were all misses, and only two were even close to good looks, both missed threes from Robinson and Hardaway. The other four shots were nuts: an incredibly tough long two from Burke and jack-it-up contested threes from Burke, Hardaway, and Stauskas. If that's what you've got at the end of the shot clock, okay I guess. Those four shots were launched with 16, 17, 25, and 26 seconds on the clock*, and the box score credits Evan Ravenel with a block on the Burke three. That shot: not a good idea.

image

THESE ARE THE WAGES OF NUTS

They did not attempt to run their offense, and after all that. After imploding and then crawling their way back into it. After figuring out how to do things, they did not do them.

By the time this was over they were down six points with under two minutes left; while they got a shot to steal the game late thanks to a couple of steals that led to fast-break baskets—one of which even counted—the loss is right there.

I don't get it. I get being flustered in your first road game against elite competition, and falling behind extensively. I get scraping and clawing your way back into the game gradually when you're a good team. I don't get doing that and immediately going back to flustered. Turnovers or an inability to find a shot and just jacking it up, okay. That… that is confusing, like if that Benjamin Button movie was about a guy who yo-yoed between 22 and 6.

They are young, it turns out. If you think about it hard you can realize this yourself despite what it looks like on the court. Squint and maybe rub your temples and you'll be like "ohhhhh right, they have five freshmen who play." For the first time, it looked like it.

At the beginning, and at the end, anyway. In the middle, they had a near-elite team choosing to initiate their offense with 15 seconds left because they didn't want any part of a long game with the Wolverines. Work on the bit where you're six, I think.

*[I bet that is actually a couple seconds shorter than the actual shot clock; I'm just taking the difference between the previous recorded event and the shot, and there's often a second or three that runs off the clock before the shot clock resets as the team takes it out of bounds or goes for the rebound.]

Bullets

How young? The most shocking stat on a page that proclaims Michigan the second-best team in the country at defensive rebounding: Michigan is 338th of 347 teams in average experience. (FWIW: Kentucky is a lot below them, and Texas is dead last.)

It's not a mystery. In re: why it's so hard to win on the road in this league. In this game, Michigan got the short end of three not very close block/charge calls worth a total of eight points, saw an obvious goaltend on a ball that went off the backboard not get called, and saw Trey Burke grabbed from behind on a breakaway for a foul on the floor instead of the only two possibly legit calls: and-one or an intentional foul. Oh and there was that unbelievable Hardaway-no-call on a possession Michigan ended up hitting a three. Also Evan Ravenel hit an 18-footer, which cannot be legal.

Yeah, Michigan didn't get called for many fouls themselves, because they never do. They're currently #1 in defensive free throw rate.

I'm just like… okay. That sucks, and is predictable. At least it's relevant!

Corollary. Kenpom keeps bringing this up: the narrow winner of a home game is very likely to lose the return match due to things like the above.

When the home team was the winner of the first game, they were a collective 309-326 in the rematch. That’s right, a home winner is more likely to lose a rematch than win it. It gets better, though. A home team winning the first game by single-digits went a collective 96-195, winning 33.0% of the time. Considering that overall, road teams win conference games about 38% of the time, close home winners are really not proving their superiority at all.

Wait, there’s more. Home teams that won by one or two points were 16-52 in the rematches, winning just 23.5% of the time.

This game was a point off his prediction, FWIW, which means I should not ever poke Kenpom.

STOP THE ELBOW REVIEWS. Stop it. The elbow reviews. Stop it. If there is a truly flagrant elbow delivered to a player, have the league suspend the guy after the game. Since that almost literally never happens there will not be a major impact, so we can cease halting games for five minutes of staring at a man staring at a monitor for no reason whatsoever. It's like instant replay in football that never changes anything.

Also just take the good threes okay. A thing that drives me nuts: guys passing up good looks at three so they can take a dribble and shoot a long two, which Burke and Levert both did during Michigan's extended time in the wilderness early. Just take the open shot you have an equal chance of hitting that is worth 50% more, please.

Well… Craft. In the preview I said this had to be at least a draw, and it wasn't. Burke was 2/8 from 2, 2/5 from three before and hit five free throws. 15 points on 13 shots is not particularly efficient, and then 4 assists to 4 turnovers is a fail. You may want to mentally deduct the last three as well since it was a meaningless, banked heave with a second left. Craft wasn't that efficient himself—9 points, 9 shots—but his role is to turn Burke into not the best player on the floor, and he did that. There is a reason he's one of the few non-Michigan players to have a tag on this blog.

That's the thing that Michigan lacks, by the way, an elite defender. Ohio State seems to have too many of them and nobody who can actually hit a shot, which is why they had to squeeze this win out despite Michigan putting up 38% from the floor—but it would be nice if Michigan had a guy they could go to to harass the opponent into a bad day.

The main non-Craft problem: terrible screens? In this game the screens didn't seem to actually slow anyone down. That's not always the screener's problem since he doesn't control how close to him the ballhandler goes. It didn't seem like the answer here was very close at all, and frequently what resulted was an instant trap on the ballhandler.

Stauskas: shut off. Three shots, all threes, all misses. Two of those were very bad shots clearly arising from a frustration at not being involved, the second one of the Fatal Four discussed above. I wonder if would have been more effective if he had gotten the obvious-obvious-obvious block call on that first drive. After that he didn't really try to do anything once he got his hands on the ball. In situations like this where the guy is in Stauskas's shorts, where are the back cuts? Vogrich was usually good for one of those a game despite being not six-six. I'm puzzled why Stauskas isn't getting at least a couple backdoor opportunities a game.

Rebounding: sufficient on defense, meh on offense. At this point I think you should put aside any remaining skepticism about Michigan's defensive rebounding. They're due for some regression, but OSU could only grab six offensive rebounds—21%. If it wasn't pretty good they would have had one of those nights by now, either against Pitt or KState or this outfit. Michigan just improved its season average against Ohio State. It is legit.

Meanwhile, once you add in a few "team" offensive rebounds, Michigan actually outperformed OSU in this one, but barely. 23% is nothing to write home about. But, hey, I'll take winning rebounding matchups against OSU.

McGary check-in. I really wanted him on the floor more than Morgan in this one. In 18 minutes he put up 3/3 shooting, got two offensive rebounds, and blocked two shots, both rather impressively.

Depth. Er. Hardaway: 40 minutes. Robinson: 38. Burke: 37. Stauskas got some sucked away because of the abovementioned items, so Albrecht and Levert both got around 10 minutes… hopefully one or the other develops into someone who can take some of the heat off those guys. Albrecht in particular was impressive.

Hoops Picture Pages: Soft Hedge

Hoops Picture Pages: Soft Hedge

Submitted by Ace on January 11th, 2013 at 3:52 PM

Trey Burke had—by his standards—a sub-par performance against Nebraska, needing 16 shots to score 18 points and only dishing out three assists. In the post-game presser, I asked John Beilein if Nebraska did anything defensively that he hadn't seen so far this year; without going into details, he mentioned that the Huskers had a different way of defending the pick and roll—Burke's bread-and-butter play.

After taking a look at the film, I think I've found what he was talking about. Last year, opponents utilized a hard hedge—doubling Burke off the screen with their big—as a way to dial up the pressure against the diminutive point guard. On Wednesday, Nebraska came with a variation, which this uneducated blogger will call a 'soft hedge'. To the screencaps!

After Michigan reset up top, McGary comes over to set a screen for Burke. The key player for Nebraska will be McGary's man, Brandon Ubel (#13), who in this frame is fighting through a screen by Tim Hardaway Jr.

As McGary sets the (not great) pick, Burke's man fights hard over the top; his responsibility is to make sure Burke can't pull up for three. Instead of hedging hard, Ubel positions himself a few feet inside the arc; his primary objective is to take away the drive.

Burke's man has successfully gone over the screen and recovered position, with Ubel in position to stymie any attempt to attack the basket off the dribble. Meanwhile, Hardaway's man (#24 Dylan Talley, standing right below the 'B' in the paint) has sunk back to defend a pass to McGary on the roll.

With Burke contained, Ubel slides back onto McGary while Talley heads out towards Hardaway.

Video:

I should probably have kept the next part in the video: Talley is late getting back out to Hardaway, who drives to the free-throw line and knocks down a jumper. Still, that was a tougher shot than what Michigan usually produces off the pick and roll (a layup or an open three), and I don't think Talley needed to sink so far into the lane with Ubel falling back.

What does the soft hedge accomplish? A few things.

No open threes. With the guard going hard over the top, Burke doesn't get a good opportunity to pull up for three, especially with Ubel in position to step out and contest.

No dribble drive. With the way the defense is aligned, if Burke wants to drive he can only go to his left—straight into Ubel. That's not much of an option.

No easy slip. One of the ways Michigan counters the hard hedge is to have the screener "slip" the pick—roll to the basket before fully setting the pick, ideally to receive an early pass before the double can get to Burke. With the big hanging back in this case, that option isn't there either.

Of course, there's no perfect way to defend the pick and roll, or John Stockton and Karl Malone wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. I see two counters to the soft hedge. One is what Michigan did above: kick it back out to the wing (in this case, Hardaway), who should have an open look from deep or the opportunity to drive if his defender is late to recover or closes out too hard.

The other actually occurred a few minutes earlier in the game and should've resulted in an easy two points. On this play, Nebraska defends the initial pick in the same fashion; instead of rolling to the basket, however, McGary doubles back and sets another screen going the opposite way. The Huskers are forced to double Burke, and McGary slips the pick; Burke's feed is on the mark, but McGary's dunk attempt ricochets off the back iron:

Surprisingly, Michigan didn't really go back to this tactic despite the fact that it should've resulted in a (successful) dunk.

While Nebraska's defense did a solid job of limiting Michigan's points off the pick and roll, I don't think this is the magic bullet to stop that aspect of the Wolverine offense. The picture-paged example shows some sloppy play from Michigan; McGary's pick is too shallow, allowing Burke's man an easy path over the top, and the offensive spacing on the perimeter isn't ideal. Then, when Michigan countered, they did everything right except convert an open dunk.

The soft hedge is another way to slow down Burke, however, and does a good job of forcing him to give up the basketball—any defense that takes the ball away from Michigan's best player is one we'll likely see a fair amount moving forward.

Dion Harris On The Other Foot

Dion Harris On The Other Foot

Submitted by Brian on January 10th, 2013 at 1:08 PM

1/9/2013 – Michigan 62, Nebraska 47 – 16-0, 3-0 Big Ten

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on mah grind (Bryan Fuller)
also note all five Nebraska players are in this shot looking at Burke

Yesterday's game was an ugly slow-it-down slugfest that brought one particular game to mind: Michigan's matchup with that 2005 Illinois team everyone brings up when they attempt to put this year's offense in historical context. The Illini were 23 games undefeated, Michigan was 3-6 in the league and so injury-wracked that walk-ons Sherrod Harrell, Ashtyn Bell, and John Andrews got 51 minutes between them. Collectively they attempted three shots.

Michigan's strategy consisted of taking the air out of the ball, giving it to Dion Harris with the shot clock winding down, and vaguely hoping. It darn near worked. Michigan kept contact the whole night, leading at points, and eventually went down to a narrow six-point defeat. It was an extreme underdog kind of strategy willing to trade possession-to-possession efficiency for increased variance, because over time Michigan was just going to die.

Better to up the randomness: no turnovers, no transition buckets, all half-court jump shots which can do things like rim out. If basketball had innings, you'd lose by more, on average. It doesn't.

So Nebraska came out determined to make this basketball game an exercise in half-court blithering. Michigan obliged, clanking a series of threes and free throws. They were never really threatened and pulled away for a comfortable win at the end—more comfortable than those amazing Illini, by some distance. By the end they'd fallen a few points short of Kenpom/Vegas, understandable in a game with a mere 57 possessions. By comparison, Michigan's only other game in the 50s this year was Binghamton. Give them the extra ten opportunities at the basket they had against Iowa or Northwestern, and change the tempo of the game to get them, and… well, yeah.

This is what it's like to be the overdog against a team that knows they're nowhere near your level. The opponent tries to whittle down the time and opportunities you have to display your superiority, and when your keep coming up craps on your shots things get a little sticky. This game serves as a reminder that the great hand of fate is waiting to crush you, but shouldn't impact expectations going forward much, if at all.

Anyway, bullets:

Redundant Bullets Header Section

Photos. From Bryan Fuller:

Concerns: do we have them should we have them what? Yeah, a couple. One: Michigan had only six assists on 21 makes. At times it seemed like too much of the offense was guys going one on one. Maybe that was just Nebraska's defensive philosophy? I don't recall much help defense or switching. Six is a really low number, though, and I don't think that was all on shots that usually go down not doing so.

Two: Nebraska was able to keep their turnovers way down (just six). Turnover avoidance is the only bright spot on their offense, so again this may be part of their extreme underdog philosophy. It would be nice to have a defense that could pick up steals to spur Michigan's excellent transition offense; at this point that does not seem to be in the cards.

Pounding the glass. Michigan's offense actually reached a respectable 1.1 PPP by the game's end despite subpar shooting everywhere because they had their usual lack of turnovers and they pounded the offensive boards. Michigan grabbed 41% of their misses, with three to each of the frontcourt guys (McGary, Morgan, Robinson) and a whopping five "team" offensive rebounds that IIRC were mostly Mitch McGary being a possession-generating animal. Like that one where he was roaring out of bounds and flung it off a Nebraska player. That's probably a "team" rebound.

Because of that, McGary's impact on the box score was considerably lower than I expected it would be after watching the game: 1/4 shooting, three OREB, three DREB, a block, a steal, 18 minutes. That looks like not much, but my eyes are all like "he is rounding into form as a monster possession-generator." Back to back with the Iowa game it's exciting to see him round into a guy who makes an impact whenever he hits the floor, which he will do literally at times. Frequently, even. I bet he dives at squirrels on the Diag if they're orange enough.

8365486645_c119789620_b[1]UHN. Tweet of the night:

Chantel Jennings@ChantelJennings

Remember when Zack Novak won the Michigan dunk contest?

Tweet of the night #2:

@Bry_Mac

I feel like I just watched a Michigan State football game

Tweet of the night #3, in response to #2:

@ChadKieft

@Bry_Mac Let's make T Shirts!! #WhataGame

[ed: reference to this]

Tweet of the night #4, in re: Minnesota:

@KurtASees

Please write your own term papers, please write your own term papers, please write your own term papers... #gophers

And Tweet of the night #5, in re lol:

BAOMYQpCAAIZcoE[1]

via Kyle Lenderman

Periodic Hardaway complete player alert. Just one assist in this game, which is not a huge surprise with six total, but made up with an 11-DREB double-double. Nebraska got just 18% of their misses, which is fantastic. Also it is perhaps further evidence of extreme underdog strategy: the Cornpack was so focused on getting back to prevent transition opportunities that there was almost never anyone on the glass.

KNITTING LADIES OF CRISLER, WE SALUTE YOU. A Michigan woman comes prepared for commercial breaks.

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yeah you know I made this scarf myself

This is becoming a thing.

Periodic bitching about long twos. Gonna do it: in this game there were several instances in which it seemed a player—Burke and Hardaway generally—passed up a good look at a three for a two just inside the line that was at least as difficult a shot. Burke in particular can get that eighteen footer whenever he wants, so unless the shot clock's under ten keep working.

Also in complaints: it seemed like Nebraska went under screens all night and Burke too frequently allowed them to do this instead of pulling up for the three. No hedge and guy goes under screen means that screen is not disrupting the balance of the defense, and the driving lane isn't great since the guy isn't trying to fight through over the top. I'll take an open three from Burke any time.

Stauskas. I'm watching Stauskas get to the basket and dish impressive assists and wonder a bit about next year. If Burke and Hardaway are gone, isn't he going to be the primary creator on offense? I guess it'll depend on how good Derrick Walton is and how much GRIII develops his handle. Smooth out some of Stauskas's rough edges with an offseason, though, and he's a credible shot creator.

Gauntlet: now. The next month of Michigan's season:

  • @ OSU
  • @ Minnesota
  • Purdue
  • @ Illinois
  • Northwestern
  • @ Indiana
  • OSU
  • @ Wisconsin
  • @ Michigan State

Here it is. Purdue and Northwestern should be slam dunks, and I'm not too worried about Wisconsin no matter where it is this year. Then you've got a couple should-wins (OSU at home, @ Illinois) and the four road games that will decide damn near everything. Win all the should-wins and go 2-2 there and you've got to be feeling good about winning the league. In all likelihood there are three losses in this stretch, though, and it'll come down to holding down home court against Illinois, State, and Indiana to finish out the year.

Ah yup. I've seen this in my twitter feed a half-dozen times but if you don't have it, here's Chris Paul apropos of nothing:

@Trey_Burke3 I see that move u hit em with 2nite #niiiice

Honestly, if Burke went in the top ten would you blink? I would be like "yep."

I regret I only have but one life to give for excessively elaborate charge calls. Ed Hightower is fine after an incident in which, well:

Michigan-62-Nebraska-47-9-597x398[1]

Dustin Johnston/UMHoops 

If there's a purple heart for referees, there shouldn't be one. Also Hightower has it.

Point schedule. Hey, Pitt engrobulated Georgetown 73-45. Fraudmeter: descending. And West Virginia beat Texas.

Last night West Virginia shot 15% on their 3s and 38% on their 2s on the road. And won.

Texas is horrible. Meanwhile, Illinois is all like OH NO NOT AGAIN:

Since Maui, #Illini are shooting just under 32% from 3. Over 1.0 PPP in 4 of 10 games#zerodimensionaloffense

Illinois just crested 1.0 in that OSU game, BTW. They kind of are thrash.