After his team held Michigan to their lowest point total of the season, Nebraska coach Tim Miles revealed his bold defensive strategy: the power of statistics.
"We thought, hey, they've been shooting the three great. They've got to return to the mean."
Did they ever. Michigan connected on just 3-of-17 three-pointers, and the Huskers succeeded in taking away their transition game, holding the Wolverines to a single fast break bucket. The Crisler Center crowd expected a blowout; instead, they got a slow-paced affair that was closer than the final score would indicate.
While the Wolverines didn't trail after the opening seven minutes, their lead didn't reach double digits until just 4:39 remained. Up to the final stretch, Miles's plan worked to perfection, with Michigan missing an uncharacteristic number of open looks from deep and failing to get out on the run.
That changed with just under eight minutes to go, when Glenn Robinson III picked Dylan Talley's pocket near the scorer's table, then took flight from not far inside the free throw line for a highlight-reel dunk. After Nebraska responded with a three, Robinson came out of nowhere to tip-slam a missed three by Caris LeVert, snapping the crowd out of a game-long funk and opening a 15-5 Michigan run to close the contest.
Robinson was the only Wolverine to shoot better than 50% on the night, scoring 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting while adding six rebounds. Hardaway, Trey Burke, and Nik Stauskas scored 46 of the team's 48 remaining points, but they also shot a combined 15-for-39 from the field. The Wolverines could not find a rhythm in their half-court sets, tallying just six assists on 21 made shots.
Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan scored just two points between them, but their work on the boards kept Michigan in front—Morgan finished with 11 rebounds (eight defensive), McGary six (three defensive), with the latter repeatedly hitting the deck for loose balls. With just over six minutes left and Michigan holding on to a nine-point lead, McGary threw himself into a pile of three Nebraska Cornhuskers and one orange sphere, coming away with a held ball—possession arrow, Michigan.
As he walked to the other end of the count, McGary threw his hands in the air, summoning perhaps the loudest roar of the night. Moments later, Stauskas found McGary under the hoop, and he banked home a right-handed layup. The Wolverines finally had their double-digit lead, sparked not by Burke and Hardaway, but a pair of freshmen.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, chants of "Beat Ohio" rang out from the Maize and Blue faithful. Michigan survived their first bout with regression, pulling away from a conference cellar-dweller.
If the trend continues on Sunday, they won't be so fortunate.
1/6/2012 – Michigan 95, Iowa 67 – 15-0, 2-0 Big Ten
the desolation of the Fran (Bryan Fuller)
Less than a minute into the second half, an Iowa post fumbled what would have been an easy dunk into the stands. The television cut to Fran McCaffery, a rising star when it comes to volcano-coach sideline outbursts. He obliged, roaring out "TWO HANDS TWO HANDS TWO HANDS" as he quiveringly pantomimed catching a basketball with, yep, two hands. Ace is GIFing this as we speak.
Exactly a minute later, Iowa closed out Nik Stauskas hard, so he drove past his defender and threw down a rim-rattling dunk like he was not, in fact, a freshman 6'6" three-point specialist. On the next possession, same thing except nastier: closeout, Stauskas drives past his man except this time he's in good position, lane-covering audacious spin move for a finger roll. Gus Johnson's voice hit a questioning falsetto pitch as he exclaimed "OH?!," because he is in our brains too.
Nik Stauskas did this, and the camera did not cut to Fran McCaffery because directors aren't that eager to put resigned shrugs on camera. What are you going to do? What can you do?
I've got this Burke guy to check, three star my ass, and he's playing with two sons of NBA players, and they're raining in threes, and that Robinson guy is dunking on anyone I send out there, and now this guy with the ears, the one shooting 55% from three and also being the dunking guy. Screw it. The guy with the ears tears it. I will save my rage for another time, when there is the vague semblance of a point. For right now I'm just going to—
—watch their freshman center block Aaron White's face.
It's okay. I didn't really like his face to begin with.
—watch their freshman center start a break with a half-court outlet pass to Burke. I can deal. That doesn't seem any fairer than finding Canadian Larry Bird but whatever.
—watch their freshman center do the same thing after dribbling three times in the open court… aaaaaaah…
They are going to lose. It is going to happen. They are seventh in Kenpom, and Kenpom's pretty good. Everyone loses, even the really good teams, and it's not like the Big Ten is an SEC-like trip through the daisies. It is brutal. Michigan has nine of their ten toughest games left to play.
Have you seen Trevor Mbakwe? That guy. Victor Oladipo. That guy. Michigan will go on the road, and get it from the refs, and boy this conversation with myself is only indicating the deluded heights expectations are reaching.
If this team bows out in the first round to a MAC team, there will be no "good try you guys, thanks for the banner." There will be wailing, and rending of garments. Because this doesn't come along too often unless you're a Duke or North Carolina type team. Illinois had it back in 2005, and they still talk about that team in a reverenced hush despite its narrow demise in the elite eight. They had it back in 1989, and the MGoWife reports from an undergrad tenure spent in Champaign that they still aren't over losing to Michigan in the Final Four. The rest of the time they've wobbled around good, not great. Even the powers don't always have it all come together.
It has come together for Michigan, and every game starts out with the same doubt—what if they're not that good? What if this is all a mirage? What if I wake up and Nik Stauskas is in fact Gavin Groninger?
Those persist for anywhere from one to 15 minutes, whereupon the nature of this year's team causes the opponent coach to smirk wryly as his guys fall behind by lots. So far. One more whipping, and then the acid test.
From Bryan Fuller:
I know the McGary stuff happened before the Stauskas stuff. Artistic license! It's a nicer way to say "lies!"
GUS. Follow us around, Gus Johnson. You and Raftery, follow this team around, going "uh" and saying "onions" and literally just squeaking in the best way possible. National treasure, Gus Johnson is.
Gus Johnson and the fact that when I check out Big 12 conference games half the time I find they're only on ESPN3 make me almost not bitter that the BTN ended up making the Big Ten grab Rutgers and Maryland.
Big Puppy. McGary had a great game, probably his best at Michigan so far. I mentioned the block and the outlet pass hockey assist stuff above, but I think my favorite play of his was a defensive rebound he corralled in the first half where he had little shot at the ball, so he tipped the thing off the backboard to himself. That kind of thing is one of the reasons he's got the ridiculously high rebound rates he does*. He's got a huge rebound radius.
McGary took a relatively big fall from one-and-done territory to pretty good prospect territory late in the rankings cycle, and that was justified. You can see a version of McGary peeking through the lack of polish that could be the #2 high school basketball player in the country. The rebounds, of course, and then the outlet passing, ability to lead a break for a couple dribbles, what looks like a pretty smooth stroke, and just size in general. Give him a couple inches more vertical leap so he doesn't occasionally leave a dunk on the rim and blocks more shots, and… yeah.
Caris arriving. So we got 32 minutes of LeVert against Central with Hardaway out. Here's what his next two games look like squeezed into one:
The three point shooting distorts that a bit, but it's pretty nice to have a guy who's 8/17 so far coming off the bench, and he's got a 3:1 A:TO rate. Dumping the redshirt was the move to make. He's starting to do some of the stuff I expect Burke to do with his ability to shake people with his change of direction.
It is almost redundant to talk about Trey Burke. 19 points on ten shots, 12 assists, one TO. Just another day at the office.
He's got to be the best point guard in the country, bar none. People in the Michael Carter-Williams camp have to explain why having the #4 assist (MCW) rate versus the #11 (Burke) makes up for MCW shooting 42%/28% versus Burke's 62%/41%. There is no amount of defense that can make up for that, especially when Burke is turning the ball over at less than half the rate MCW is.
Two things leapt out about a couple of possessions in the second half after Michigan had blown the lead out big. On the first, he cleared everyone out and went at Iowa's Anthony Clemmons. Clemmons did a great job, first cutting him off and forcing Burke to pick up his dribble, then hounding him on a couple of shot fakes; Burke finally went up and under for an easy two, and the color guy was all like "I don't know what you're supposed to do about that if you're Anthony Clemmons." On the second, he loosed himself with a crossover and launched an eighteen-footer, AKA The Shot Brian Hates More Than Any Shot Ever.
On neither of these possessions did I think what was going on was a bad idea—okay maybe there was a moment in the Clemmons one—and I was not mad at either shot. Because it was just going down.
*[If-he-was-averaging-40%-of-minutes checkin: 7th nationally in defensive rebound rate, 4th in offensive.]
Remember when we were worried about Tim Hardaway Jr. sliding back to his sophomore form? A quaint concern at the moment. Hardaway's coming off 19 points on 13 shots against Iowa and 21 on eight(!) against Northwestern. Against the Hawkeyes he added five assists and five rebounds; Morgan has passed him in DREB but only barely.
Hardaway hasn't had fewer than three assists since the Bradley game, BTW.
Fouls: none. All of Michigan's starters are in the top 200 in terms of fouls committed per 40 minutes, with Stauskas's 0.9 sixth nationally. The bigs will get in trouble from time to time, especially McGary, but once Horford's back—which I imagine will be soon since he dressed yesterday—that concern is not, uh, concerning.
That's the other bedrock of Michigan's defense. They give up the second-least free throws of anyone in the country, and they go together. By not challenging a ton of shots they're in position when and if you miss.
It's also a help for the offense. To date, Michigan hasn't had a period of time where they had to sit a starter for more than a few minutes. I hope that in the event a Michigan non-post picks up a couple quick ones that Beilein will consider the situation and be a little more flexible than he usually is with these things. If it's Stauskas I'm not sure he should even change the rotation.
Philosophy. Michigan's defense isn't good, sure, but the philosophy they've taken is: let's make this a shooting contest. We won't get fouled, and you won't get fouled, and we won't let you have any second chance opportunities, and we won't turn the ball over so you can have transition buckets. Let's see who's better at HORSE. Oh it's us yay.
For the first 13 minutes against Iowa, Michigan looked as disjointed and inconsistent on both ends of the floor as they had all season. The Hawkeyes, coming off a four-point loss to Indiana, looked poised to give another top-flight team a serious test, holding a 21-17 edge with seven minutes left in the first half.
Over the course of the next 27 minutes, the Wolverines scored 78 points.
The onslaught actually began on defense, when Mitch McGary electrified the Crisler crowd with a volleyball spike of a block against Iowa's Aaron White—a display of sheer athletic superiority. From that point, Michigan finished the first half on a 27-14 tear featuring three thunderous dunks—one each by Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, and Tim Hardaway Jr., whose one-handed throwdown will assuredly crack the Sportscenter top ten.
In the waning seconds of the half, the Wolverines somehow moved the ball coast-to-coast in under four seconds, capped by a Robinson layup that sent the team running into the tunnel with an 11-point lead.
Iowa had made their upset bid. There would be no upset.
The acrobatics continued in the second half as the Wolverines pulled away; in all, Michigan totaled 11 dunks by five different players. They also connected on 10-of-22 three-pointers. Of their 36 field goals, 24 were assisted. They committed six turnovers.
Robinson, perhaps more representative than any other Wolverine of the new breed, led the charge with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting and ten rebounds. After the game, he revealed one of his nicknames, "Light Rob," for his ability to register so-called quiet points within the framework of the offense. His points weren't so quiet today—five dunks tend to make some noise—but he once again displayed a knack for showing up in the right spot, rarely needing to do so much as dribble to put the ball in the hoop.
Trey Burke did what Trey Burke does: 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, 12 assists, a steal, and a lone turnover. Michigan's other star, Hardaway, also managed 19 points, hitting 3-of-5 threes and stuffing the stat sheet with five rebounds and five assists. Nik Stauskas, working around the margins, scored 13 and threw down a slam of his own, using his lethal three-point shot to set up the drive.
Then there was McGary, doing the grunt work in his best game as a Wolverine. He finished with five points, hitting his only two field goals of the day; more importantly, he hit the glass, bringing in 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes and keying the fast break with quick outlet passes. Continuing to show more explosiveness after starting the year rusty, McGary tallied three blocks and, yes, dunked.
Despite a margin that hung in the neighborhood of 30 points for much of the second half, Crisler didn't begin to empty until the last couple minutes, after the starters had all been (mercifully) pulled. This was a show, the divine intersection of athleticism and skill, and woe be upon the fan who didn't savor every second.
Asked to compare this team to the others he's coached, John Beilein said, "we run a little faster and jump a little higher." In a grand concession given his previous, tongue-in-cheek dodging of such questions, Beilein even went so far as to say "a few" of his past players may even admit this Michigan outfit is superior to his past squads.
There were four of them, concerned—and perhaps a bit captivated—by Trey Burke's presence. Before the ball even reached his hands they converged, four Northwestern players ignoring the basic tenets of basketball defense in a desperate ploy to stop this whirling dervish.
Like a wide receiver coming out of his break, Burke planted, hard, exploding off his left foot. There was a man there harboring vague hopes of impediment, hopes that were dashed as Burke deftly whipped the ball behind his back. Screeching to a halt with one last dribble, he rose above the three remaining Wildcats and hit Nik Stauskas with a pass so pinpoint it seemed to initiate the Canadian's shooting motion.
Stauskas, naturally, drilled the corner three—a disturbing reminder to the Northwestern Four that, my god, Trey Burke has accomplices.
At this point, Burke had already scored 13 points on 5-6 shooting—his only miss a Kobe Assist—and recorded two steals. He'd just committed two turnovers so uncharacteristic that ESPN's cameras later caught Burke in the huddle looking less angry than befuddled. Retribution was swift, and Michigan now led 25-9.
The rest of the proceedings were purely academic.
Burke's final stat line—23 points, four rebounds, five assists, four steals—somehow belies his dominance. If he so desired, he could've scored 40; just ask Dave Sobolewski, victimized by so manyBurkecrossovers I'd no less blame him for quitting the game than Vincent Smith after the Clowney hit.
Instead, all five Michigan starters finished in double figures while shooting a combined 64.5%, a number that would've been even higher had Stauskas not surprisingly missed a few wide-open looks. Burke had done what he needed to secure victory with his opening foray; for the rest of the game he played the role of setup man, interspersing attacks to remind Northwestern whom they had to focus their attention upon.
2012-13 was supposed to be the Year of Prodigious Talent, the convergence of a pair of future NBA players with Michigan's best freshman class since the Fab Five. It still is, of course. But more than that, it's the Year of Trey Burke, Virtuoso. Come for the potential Final Four team, stay for the once-in-a-generation point guard.
Burke, quite literally, brought Northwestern to their knees. Ever the merciful killer, it took him a matter of minutes to put the Wildcats out of their misery. Surrounded by a fearsome gang—The Mississauga Sniper, Spawn of Killer Crossover, Spawn of Big Dog, The Big Puppy—he prepares to rampage through the Big Ten.
Sometimes games just happen, and then we just write the bullets because it's hard to wax lyrical about rote blowouts against minor teams.
NEFARIOUS INTENT via Fuller
Photos. Via Bryan Fuller.
Hello Caris. With Hardaway nursing an injury Trey Burke called a "bone bruise" after the game, Caris LeVert inherited the large majority of minutes at the two. End result: 9 points on meh shooting (3/7 inside arc, 1/4 outside), a couple rebounds, and a 5-1 A:TO ratio.
A couple of LeVert's successful shots were tough two-pointers on which he dribbled to approximately the elbow and rose in the face of a defender, which is a mixed blessing. It's nice that he has that capability, but those are bad shots even if they go down; you'd like to see more of LeVert's game get to the rim, especially against a team that doesn't have any shotblocking.
That said, it's clear why Michigan took the redshirt off of him. he's got far more ballhandling/assist/shot creation skills than Vogrich, and if that's worth a couple points in an NCAA tournament game that's well worth it this year. You can see the potential there: tighten up the handle a bit, understand the offense, and LeVert can be a quality second or third banana on a good team—especially if his defense is as good as the coaches have talked it up to be.
Obligatory good gravy Trey Burke comment. Good gravy, Trey Burke: 5/5 from 2, 4/7 from three, 11 assistss, 1 turnover. Central was a terrible terrible defensive team, as they amply demonstrated by leaving Trey Burke wide open for three pointers multiple times in the first five minutes. Even so, boggleboggleboggleboggle.
Burke's one-game ORtg was 185. He's shooting 62% from two. He is a high-usage PG who never turns the ball over. He's kind of good.
It should be a shock to watch a guy hit five straight threes. Not even that surprised as Stauskas does it tonight.
Ah yup. Eight more attempts go in the sample size bucket, five of them are makes, and I'm getting curious about all time records. I have found them. Stauskas is 39/69 in 13 games for a 56.5% hit rate. Conservatively assuming Michigan plays the same number of games this year that they did last year, he's on pace to launch 180 on the season and hit 102. The NCAA rulebook has the following items he can go for:
SEASON (50 made): A kid from Holy Cross was at 63.4%. This is probably out of reach. I imagine that guy must have gotten injured, because who takes only 82 attempts when they are hitting nearly two-thirds of them?
SEASON (100 made): Steve Kerr (yes that Steve Kerr) hit 57.3% in 1988. It would only take a slight uptick to hit that number, albeit against tougher competition than Stauskas has seen so far. Stauskas is also operating behind a longer line.
CAREER(200 made): Tony Bennett (yes that Tony Bennett, no not that one) hit 49.7% during his career at UW-Green Bay.
CAREER(300 made): Stephen Sir, who transferred from SDSU to Northern Arizona, hit 46.9%.
School records are well within reach. Glen Rice hit 48% for his career, 51.6% in 88-89. I'm not going to track this or anything after jinxing Devin Funchess, but those are the numbers to reach for.
In other record news, Trey Burke is on pace to break Michigan's all-time season record in assists per game. At 7.4 he's ahead of Gary Grant by 0.5—Darius Morris is actually #3.
GRIII: a part of the assist machine. Every one of Robinson's nine makes was assisted, and seven of those were from Trey Burke. On the one hand, that means he's not generating a whole lot of shots himself—on the other, eight of ten from the field.
The subjective thing that jumps out is that GRIII's missed bunny rate is a lot lower than Jordan Morgan's. Generally I think Morgan gets excessive criticism for not hitting shots. He's hitting 63% this year, hit 62% last year, hit 63% as a freshman. There are plenty of big men with worse usage rates looking up at him. Morgan is an excellent fifth scorer.
But… yeah, some of those misses are frustrating. Robinson avoids many of them because he can just jump up and dunk from directly underneath the basket. He's pushed himself into the 2PT% lead after the Central game despite taking significantly more jumpers than McGary or Morgan. His TO rate is also significantly lower than either of the bigs despite taking on more ballhandling responsibilities. He's Michigan's most effective guy-to-throw-the-ball-to-in-search-of-assist-guy.
Outrebounded, finally. Stauskas was actually Michigan's leading rebounder on the night with seven defensive boards; on night Michigan actually lost the board war, rebounding a quarter of their misses while allowing the Chips to grab 36% of theirs. I'm pretty sure that's the first time all year Michigan has been outrebounded.
I file that under "fluke" since Michigan has held its own or better against burlymen like Pitt and KState; Michigan clearly got a little lazy and sloppy in this one after running out to a 20 point lead. They turned off about when GRIII took those two Manny Harris-ish rise-and-fire threes late in the first half. Until it happens in a Big Ten game I won't fret about it.
I do think that's a spot where Michigan missed Hardaway quite a bit. Hardaway's DREB rate is second only to McGary; LeVert is lower than Trey Burke (in an admittedly small sample size) and had only one defensive rebound in 32 minutes. That's an area for improvement for him.
The defense is a bit of a concern. While CMU is basically an inverted EMU—300 club defense, middling offense—Central nearly hit 1.1 points per possession and not all of that can be attributed to the rebounding. Michigan struggled with Central's quick transitions and allowed too many guys to get into the lane. Correctable? Some of it. Other bits are just going to linger. Michigan doesn't have shotblocking sans Horford and doesn't have an elite perimeter defender. They are a bit like last year's Indiana team: an all-world offense opposite a meh-at-best defense.
To date Michigan has been better than the Hoosiers, and they were better than IU in conference last year by a significant margin, so they should expect to fare better than that team, which went 11-7 in the league and got a four seed.
LET 'ER RIP
Well. Here we are. Preliminaries down, the Big Ten enters conference play in four tiers:
MAKE IT STOP: Purdue, Nebraska, Penn State, and Northwestern have essentially no shot at the NCAA tournament and are going to get roughed up by the rest of the league. This tier went from a couple teams to four once Tim Frazier and Drew Crawford went out for the year; instead of a gradation from Iowa/Wisconsin to Northwestern and friends there is now a cliff. Yeah, Northwestern hung in against Stanford post Crawford. Yeah, they remain the most dangerous team down here. No, they aren't going to brush against the bubble.
For teams at the top, a loss to anyone in this crew will be a fatal blow towards title aspirations. For teams attempting to scratch out a seventh or eighth bid for the league, games against these folk are must-wins to get to that 9-9 mark that will guarantee entry. For teams in this category, 2013 will be an opportunity to build character, war-movie-POW style.
I AM PEOPLE TOO: Iowa and Wisconsin aren't dreaming of conference championships after nonconference schedules of some difficulty; both are aiming for tourney bids. In Wisconsin's case, they'd like to extend their streak in an off year. In Iowa's, they're looking to break a growing drought. Each is dangerous to any team in the league at home; neither can reasonably expect to pop its head much above .500.
Also thrown in this pot despite a stellar record to date is Illinois. The Illini bomb threes and run up and down the court and can beat Gonzaga on the road and Butler in Hawaii but also
go to OT with Hawaii
beat Gardner-Webb by 1
struggle with Western Carolina, Norfolk State, and EKU
beat Auburn by 2
They've done enough already to make it in with an 8-10 conference record—maybe even 7-11—and they will be thankful for that margin with a month to go in the season. They could determine the conference championship indirectly by bombing one of the contenders and going cold against another. They will blow too hot and cold to mount a serious title challenge.
IN WITH A CHANCE: Michigan State and Ohio State seem a half-step behind the elite in the conference. With OSU it's hard to tell because their schedule is bereft of Kenpom top 100 teams save Kansas and Duke, who are 4 and 5. With no middle ground to prove themselves on we just know they tend to fold up their offense against great teams and beat up on bad ones.
State has had the opportunity to establish what they are a bit more, and that's a team that will turn the ball over against anybody and play defense against anybody. Results include beating Kansas and struggling with Louisiana Lafayette and Bowling Green. They're going to be a tough out for anyone; they're probably going to end up 2-3 games back of the conference champ.
COME AND GET US:Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota are favorites for the title. Yes, I'm including the Gophers, who are still rounding Trevor Mbakwe into form after a tumultuous offseason. If they can get him up to starters minutes, look out: his rebounding is as crushing as it used to be and his block rate is excellent. He is an impact guy still forcing his way into the lineup and then you've got the Hollinses and Rodney Williams. The Gophers are legit.
You know about Michigan. Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Tim Hardaway Jr. are a deadly set of complimentary offensive players that has weaned Michigan away from an over-dependence on the three-point lottery—and that lottery doesn't seem as much like a lottery with Stauskas around, anyway. They have defensive weaknesses, but their offense may be able to outdistance anyone who comes at them.
Indiana is like Indiana last year except excellent defensively. Which… well, that doesn't sound very good for opponents. Victor Oladipo has taken The Leap and now threatens Burke and Zeller for the title of best player in the conference: elite defense, 75% from two, tons of offensive rebounds, etc. Indiana remains deadly from three as well, hitting 42%. Oladipo and Jordan Hulls are 1-2 in eFG%. Despite the defeat to Butler, they have to be considered the favorite in the league, as they have a couple things Michigan doesn't quite.
Sometimes games just happen, and then we skip right to the bullets. Actually, here is some video
And here is Bryan Fuller's photoset:
The set features this guy calmly departing for his home planet:
your efficient three point shooting has finally recharged my ionic crystals and I can return to my home planet thank you hooman. thank you hooman.
McGary, not so calm.
A rote domination. For comparison's sake, Syracuse took Eastern Michigan to a similar—but not quite as impressive—woodshed, winning 84-48. Therefore we are better than Syracuse. #math
No fly, zone. Eastern is a horrible offensive team, but defensively they present some challenges with their zone and Da'Shonte Riley's shotblocking, so this was a game in two phases
hurry up already and get this defensive possession that tells us nothing over
alright let's see if Michigan can figure out a zone with major conference size
The Kenpom numbers are stark: EMU is one of the worst offensive teams in the country (#322) and an average defensive team (#161) overall. They'd still be 12th in the Big Ten if Delany were to snap them up tomorrow (time's running out, Jim!), in front of only Penn State, but Michigan had struggled against zone so far this year. Having a 40-minute class on how to deal with it effectively against a decent D was useful.
In the first few minutes, Michigan continued to struggle, but the nice thing about Beilein teams is you know they'll adjust, which Michigan did in three steps:
adding ball screens to disrupt the zone's balance and get the guy in the high post open
getting that high post guy to dump it down to the big once Riley showed to contest
teaching the bigs to finish against a shotblocker.
McGary and Morgan were 1-6 in the first half with swats accounting for half the misses. In the second half they were 7-7. Riley got in foul trouble, which helped, but more efficient ball movement got McGary some uncontested dunks and Morgan opened the second half with a couple of finishes against Riley.
This kind of thing happens regularly with Beilein; you can see the kids get something down in the middle of a game. I give that a thumbs up.
Wisconsonian. With just one game to go before conference play starts, Michigan's defense is looking like vintage Bo Ryan. Wisconsin teams rebound and try to get their chest into you when you rise for a shot but virtually never go for the ball. The result is a lot of contested jumpers at a poor percentage, no free throws, no offensive rebounds, no turnovers, no blocks, and no steals.
The rebounding was a little weak and the blocks a little stronger than usual. Other than that, there is the platonic ideal of a Wisconsin defense. It has been effective despite the Badgers consistently lacking the sort of athletes that alter shots—they were third on D in a tough Big Ten last year.
89th (of 347) in eFG% D and about there from both 2 and 3.
228nd in TO%, and that number will drop as teams like Eastern sag off the schedule
7th in defensive rebounding
1st(!) at not putting opponents on the line
252nd and 273rd at blocks and steals, respectively.
The big thing Wisconsin does that Michigan has not been able to match so far is keeping guys from shooting threes: the Badgers were second nationally in fewest threes allowed last year, a stat that Kenpom has been hammering as more important than the actual percentage you allow from deep for a bit now. Michigan is below-average there, though they are giving up a low percentage… so far. If that trend continues into Big Ten play I don't think opponents are going to keep hitting 31%.
Another consistent aspect of Wisconsin's defense is not giving up assists—we are talking not huge margins here but the Badgers have not been lower than about 20th in a long time in that department. In general, assisted shots are high quality ones, so A/FGM is a decent proxy for shot quality. There too, Michigan cannot quite match Ryan's team. They are slightly above average; they're not elite.
The upshot: this is a model for defense that works in the Big Ten; Michigan is good at it but not as good as the Badgers, and they'll probably hold steady at around 4th or 5th on D in conference play.
Big Puppy. Michigan needs to get Mitch McGary's minutes up to 16+ a game so he'll rank on Kenpom leaderboards, because his rebound rates remain outlandish. If he'd played a couple minutes more per game he'd hit the 40% threshold and rank second in OREB and 31st in DREB; in this game he had a double-double in 18 minutes.
McGary still looks a little heavy on the floor, so he's not blocking many shots and picks up too many fouls, etc., but he's a major asset. If he can undergo the same transformation Morgan did over the offseason, look out.
Bonus McGary thing: two assists to one turnover in this one including the announcer-must-reference-Wes-Unseld soccer-throw-in outlet pass to Hardaway for a slam dunk.
STAUSKAS SWAG ALERT. I don't care that the behind the back pass didn't work. SWAG.
(okay maybe he should calm down a little)
Also on Stauskas. Does anybody else have this sense of panic whenever Stauskas misses from deep, like he's going to suddenly revert to Disappointing Shooter Of Christmas Past and this nonconference napalming is going to be a faint, low-sample-size memory? I do. The airball from the corner was death despite it being a late-clock, heavy-contest instachuck.
So then the guy goes 5-7 the rest of the way with another couple of instachucks going in… and exhale. Our sample size in which Stausaks is a 56% three point shooter has risen to 61, praise everything. As a team, Michigan's long distance shooting dropped a half-point in Big Ten play last year, so the tougher defenses shouldn't actually impact that number much. As the attempts go up, so does our confidence.
What separates Stauskas from the rest of the universe is that instachuck shot. If he's got time to set up and fire, he's deadly; he also has a mode where he gets his shot off so quickly that he can make a heavily contested three not that contested. That is a skill that will see him linger in the NBA until you're like "Nik Stauskas is still in the league? I knew Nik Stauskas Jr and Nik Stauskas III were, but the original is still playing for the Triton Methane Atmospheres?"
Trey Burke turnover == shock. Eight assists to one TO in this game, which I think brings his total over the last seven games to seven, for a guy who plays 36+ minutes in most games and dominates the ball. The TOs are so rare that you can remember the most recent one: Burke tried to chuck an an OOB restart between two guys, who deflected it and eventually recovered, and you were like "dang" and then you were like "oh right if I get mad at that I do not understand math or life or anything."
Applicants to Hardaway face pantheon.
I feel like these should be called "the discovery of fire" or something.
Michigan made it apparent in their 39-point thrashing of Eastern Michigan that they were the more talented team. It was more than just talent, though, that made the difference between the two teams separated by a six-mile stretch of Washtenaw Avenue.
Mitch McGary, 2012 Scout four-star center, played with his usual manic energy, tallying his first career double-double (10 pts., 11 reb.) in only 18 minutes of action. His counterpart, Eastern seven-footer Da'Shonte Riley—a 2009 Scout four-star—didn't attempt a field goal and had six rebounds (all defensive) to go with three blocks, four fouls, and two turnovers in 30 minutes.
After a first-half turnover near midcourt, Riley slowly turned and jogged towards Eastern's end, never making it past the block 'M' by the time Michigan tallied an uncontested bucket. In the second half, he halfheartedly swatted at Glenn Robinson III—much like one would shoo a fly without lethal intent—picking up a foul as the Wolverine freshman connected on a layup.
The contrast between Riley and McGary was stark, and McGary's teammates brought the same level of effort. It would be easy for Michigan to coast against EMU, especially after going on a 20-0 run after falling behind 6-2 in the early going. But the foot never came off the gas—Michigan managed a larger margin in the second half than the first despite emptying the bench.
The Wolverines picked apart Eastern's 2-3 zone with ease; Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. notched 8 and 7 assists, respectively, as they both found Nik Stauskas (16 pts., 5-8 3pt.) repeatedly open on the perimeter. Hardaway led the scoring charge with 17 points despite shooting 5-13 from the field, including a highlight-reel dunk on the fast break—he continues to be most effective when Michigan runs.
Robinson had another sneakily efficient night, scoring 13 points on just seven shots, knowing just the right place to be to find open layups against EMU's zone. Fellow freshman Caris LeVert had the best game of his budding collegiate career, netting eight points on 3-5 shooting, including 2-2 from three-point range.
It was an easy night for the Wolverines, which heads into an eight-day layoff at 12-0. They made it easy on themselves, the mark of a well-coached team that knows—regardless of the competition—that there's no excuse for an off night—they've now got plenty of time for those over the holiday break.