Hoops Mailbag: What To Expect From Jordan Poole

Hoops Mailbag: What To Expect From Jordan Poole Comment Count

Ace April 9th, 2018 at 4:06 PM


On the rise, but where's the ceiling? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

I was going to do a longer mailbag on next year's team today. You'll be shocked to see which question I decided had to broken off into its own post instead:

Poole is clearly going to be the focus of the offense and hinted at his talent this year.  But how much can we really expect from him considering how little he played this season?

Everyone wants to compare him to Stauskas, but Nik was playing starters minutes as a freshman and was very efficient.  Poole played limited bench minutes and saw his efficiency fluctuate a lot and struggled on defense.  Would sophomore Levert or Irvin be better comparisons?

Adam
Chicago, IL
AC1997

Ask me to talk about Jordan Poole, you say? Let me warm up for a sec.

Alright. Let's go.

I am, as you probably expect, a Jordan Poole optimist. This isn't without reason, however, and said reason goes well beyond his personality. Setting the expectation at sophomore Nik Stauskas, when Stauskas won Big Ten Player of the Year, may be a bit lofty—I still lean closer to that than sophomore Caris LeVert, who played a very promising but less effective second banana to Stauskas for that 2013-14 season.

I've used Bart Torvik's invaluable site to pull the statistics of Poole and his comparables against top-50 (venue-adjusted) competition. When you ignore minutes and usage for a moment—two factors with clear explanations I'll get to momentarily—there's a clear match for Poole: Stauskas.

  G %Min ORtg USG eFG% AST% TO% FTM-FTA (%) 2PM-2PA (%) 3PM-3PA (%)
Burke '12 17 91.2 95.9 27.8 48.8 27.7 21.6 33-55 (60.0%) 62-126 (49.2%) 26.-81 (32.1%)
Stauskas '13 21 72.9 118.0 15.0 54.5 6.6 11.4 38-44 (86.4%) 31-58 (53.4%) 32-87 (36.8%)
LeVert '13 18 21.1 87.9 16.8 41.5 7.8 14.5 5-10 (50.0%) 9-25 (36.0%) 7-22 (31.8%)
Irvin '14 21 37.4 119.3 18.2 61.1 2.1 8.9 8-10 (80.0%) 11-28 (39.3%) 35-76 (46.1%)
Poole '18 18 29.9 118.8 22.4 56.2 7.7 9.0 27-34 (79.4%) 17-32 (53.1%) 16-41 (39.0%)

Trey Burke, mostly thrown in as an extra data point, had far different usage as a pure point guard. The rest are wings and therefore more comparable. The numbers that give me optimism regarding Poole are his two-pointers—taken with relative frequency, finished with efficiency—and his combination of high usage, extant assist rate, and low turnover rate.

The former is what separates Poole from LeVert, whose finishing took a long time to come along. Poole is already an impressive finisher at the rim for a guard; according to hoop-math, he made 25-of-36 (69.4%) shots at the basket with only eight assisted makes. That's almost exactly on pace, albeit on lower volume, with freshman Stauskas—38-of-55 (69.1%), 13 assisted—and way ahead of LeVert, who needed assists on four of his five makes at the rim as a freshman. Poole has already produced as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, and while he's not quite on Stauskas's level there yet, he was better as an isolation scorer—and Poole usually drew more of the defense's attention when he was out there than Stauskas did when surrounded by Burke, Hardaway, GRIII, et al.


Expect more of this next season. [Campredon]

The latter is what separates Poole from Irvin, who jacked threes and did little else as a freshman. Poole not only took two-pointers with much greater regularity, he actually passed the ball and displayed some tantalizing potential in that department. Irvin got exposed in his sophomore year when LeVert when down and he took on a lead role before he was ready; Poole looks ready (and certainly eager) to have the ball in his hands as much as possible.

As a refresher, here's how this group of players fared as sophomores against top-50 venue-adjusted competition: 

  G %Min ORtg USG eFG% AST% TO% FTM-FTA (%) 2PM-2PA (%) 3PM-3PA (%)
Burke '13 21 89.9 113.1 30.3 49.1 37.3 13.9 82-104 (78.8%) 91-204 (44.6%) 43-113 (38.1%)
Stauskas '14 21 90.9 120.8 23.5 56.8 18.6 13.6 89-108 (82.4%) 52-111 (46.8%) 55-126 (43.7%)
LeVert '14 21 87.7 101.2 22.9 48.2 17.0 17.5 52-71 (73.2%) 59-139 (42.4%) 33-86 (38.4%)
Irvin '15 15 88.9 95.2 24.6 48.5 10.2 12.5 19-33 (57.6%) 45-98 (45.9%) 33-97 (34.0%)

The Stauskas leap remains spectacular. He significantly upped his usage, improved his efficiency while taking on a much greater role as a distributor, and even improved significantly as a three-point shooter despite taking way more of his shots off the bounce.

I still think Poole can do something quite similar. He may not have played the early minutes Stauskas did, but he played a lot of important minutes and took on a bigger role when he saw the floor. Meanwhile, a lot of what he did on the court looked downright Stauskas-esque. Both are known for their unabashed three-point gunning, but what really separates the two is their ability to score from all three levels (rim, midrange, three).

Stauskas was a solid midrange shooter, especially when he could step into one off a screen. Poole was downright great from midrange in a small sample, going 12-for-24 on jumpers inside the arc, per Synergy. If you give him space, he's going to rise and fire.

Stauskas and Poole both learned early that the threat of a pull-up three combined with a quick first step poses serious problems to defenders. Stauskas had a ton of success on baseline drives—like his first Game, Blouses dunk—because defenses had to worry so much about keeping him out of the middle of the floor, where he was most likely to pull up for a jumper. Poole provides that same threat with, I'd argue, a quicker first step.

While Poole won't put up Burke-like assist numbers—and won't need to with Zavier Simpson likely manning the point—he could approach a Stauskas-level rate. He's shown the ability to find the open man off the drive, he keeps the ball moving in the offense despite his gunner reputation, and he's got some flashy dimes in his arsenal.

As for defense, I'm actually quite optimistic about Poole's ability on that end of the floor. While his freshman mistakes were numerous, they were notable in part because they were such an exception compared to the rest of the defense; they were also almost entirely mental. Poole, much more than Stauskas, has the lateral athleticism and defensive instincts to be an impact player on that end. He's already displayed potential as a ball-hawk, posting a 2.5% steal rate that wasn't far behind Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske for best on the squad. He'll challenge shots. He needs to focus more on that end of the court; an added year of experience and more consistent minutes should help.

I'm not saying Poole is going to be the Big Ten's best player next year. Not necessarily, at least. But I believe, barring a Wagner return, he's going to be the centerpiece of the offense, and I fully expect him to contend for first-team all-conference honors if that's the case. Poole after a summer of Camp Sanderson, immersing himself in Beilein's offense, and practicing pull-up threes off the high screen is going to be a boatload of fun.

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Basketbullets: Walton, Irvin Ink Pro Deals

Basketbullets: Walton, Irvin Ink Pro Deals Comment Count

Ace July 25th, 2017 at 11:48 AM

Walton Signs Two-Way Deal With Miami

A strong summer league performance and the NBA's new contract structure got Derrick Walton a gig with the Miami Heat, which signed him to a two-way deal yesterday. That means Walton will play for Miami's G-League (formerly D-League) affiliate, the Sioux Falls (SD) Skyforce, and could spend up to 45 days with the NBA squad if he earns a callup.

Walton landing a contract wasn't a surprise given his summer league performance, which had plenty of Orlando fans hoping the Magic would hold onto him.

Walton has a place in a pick-and-roll league, and it's great to see him get a shot straight out of college, even if he'll have to work his way from South Dakota to Miami.

Zak Irvin had a tougher go in summer league. While he didn't land an NBA deal, he'll still play professional basketball. VL Pesaro of Italy's Serie A (the top Italian league) signed him yesterday. He'll play with a few other Americans, including former BYU standout Eric Mika.

[Hit THE JUMP for Wagner at the FIBA Euro Championships, some 'crootin happy trails, and more.]

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The All-Beilein Teams: All-Senior

The All-Beilein Teams: All-Senior Comment Count

Ace May 11th, 2017 at 3:18 PM


This was a good year for seniors. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Previously: All-BenchBench Mob, All-Freshman

John Beilein has spent ten seasons in Ann Arbor. As of the most recent, he's the winningest coach in program history with 215. He snapped Michigan's post-sanction tournament drought in 2009, the first of seven NCAA appearances with the Wolverines, three of which have extended at least into the second weekend.

In recognition of the above, as well as the need for offseason #content, I've put together a series of All-Beilein teams, inspired by this twitter post and the ensuing conversation. My guidelines:

  1. I'm attempting to put together the best possible lineups, which isn't necessarily the same as picking the best individual players at each spot.
  2. I'm choosing individual player vintages (i.e. 2013 Trey Burke). A player can only be chosen once for each category, but different player years (i.e. freshman bench gunner 2014 Zak Irvin and well-rounded senior 2017 Zak Irvin) can be eligible for separate categories.
  3. The same player/year can be chosen for multiple categories—for instance, 2013 Mitch McGary making the All-Bench team doesn't exclude him from making the final All-Beilein team.

Eligibility for certain categories may be slightly fudged because of the limited pool of players.
I'm not putting too many constraints on myself for this exercise since the point is to let our imaginations run wild. Today's list is the logical counterpart to the previous All-Freshman squad: here are the best senior seasons from Beilein's players. Could I fill out a full second team? Well, no. No I couldn't.

POINT GUARD: 2016-17 DERRICK WALTON


It all came together for Walton in his final season. [Bryan Fuller]

Might I recommend the 5000-word version of this blurb? For those who don't have time, a relevant sampling:

Walton had spent his time at Michigan as the consummate teammate, always looking to get his talented teammates going before seeking his own shot. At the same time he called upon his team to step up and make plays, he embraced calling his own number.

"He’s really become the guard that he always wanted to be and we always wanted him to be. It’s not that he’s been bad in between. It’s just that he’s such a great, unselfish player who’s always about the team. I think he convinced himself that if it’s really about the team, then I need to do more." — John Beilein

The swaggering star of Chandler Park Academy and the blacktops of Detroit was reborn in maize and blue. This Walton fought through contact for and-one buckets. He made inch-perfect assists, whether hitting a slipping big man in stride, two-handing a 35-foot bounce pass, or launching an 80-foot outlet over the top. He hit pull-up threes over rubber-kneed defenders and let them hear all about it on the way back down the court.

After a promising freshman season was followed by an injury-plagued sophomore year and underwhelming junior campaign, Walton transformed as a senior into the best Michigan point guard to play for Beilein, Trey Burke excepted—and Walton was so good down the stretch that you could almost (almost) eliminate that caveat. I could watch this all day:

The early NBA departures of Burke and Darius Morris didn't leave much in the way of competition for this spot. That doesn't make Walton's senior year any less spectacular.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the lineup.]

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The All-Beilein Teams: All-Freshman

The All-Beilein Teams: All-Freshman Comment Count

Ace May 5th, 2017 at 11:56 AM


Spoiler alert. [Bryan Fuller]

Previously: All-Bench, Bench Mob

John Beilein has spent ten seasons in Ann Arbor. As of the most recent, he's the winningest coach in program history with 215. He snapped Michigan's post-sanction tournament drought in 2009, the first of seven NCAA appearances with the Wolverines, three of which have extended at least into the second weekend.

In recognition of the above, as well as the need for offseason #content, I've put together a series of All-Beilein teams, inspired by this twitter post and the ensuing conversation. My guidelines:

  1. I'm attempting to put together the best possible lineups, which isn't necessarily the same as picking the best individual players at each spot.
  2. I'm choosing individual player vintages (i.e. 2013 Trey Burke). A player can only be chosen once for each category, but different player years (i.e. freshman bench gunner 2014 Zak Irvin and well-rounded senior 2017 Zak Irvin) can be eligible for separate categories.
  3. The same player/year can be chosen for multiple categories—for instance, 2013 Mitch McGary making the All-Bench team doesn't exclude him from making the final All-Beilein team.

Eligibility for certain categories may be slightly fudged because of the limited pool of players.
I'm not putting too many constraints on myself for this exercise since the point is to let our imaginations run wild. Today's list is simple: here are the best freshman seasons from Beilein's players. The starting lineup may be familiar.

POINT GUARD: 2011-12 TREY BURKE


M didn't skip a beat with Trey Burke replacing Darius Morris. [Eric Upchurch]

When Darius Morris, who sometimes butted heads with Beilein, departed for the NBA after his breakout sophomore season, it looked like Michigan would face a prolonged transition period at point guard. With no suitable replacement on the current roster, the new PG would be a freshman. Trey Burke wasn't even the highest-ranked guard in Beilein's 2011 recruiting class; that was Southfield slasher Carlton Brundidge, who finished six spots ahead of Burke in the composite rankings (87th to 93rd).

From the very start, Burke was a revelation. He led the team in scoring, assists, and steals, fully embracing the role of lead dog despite his youth. He took control of Beilein's notoriously complicated offense in a way no other Michigan point guard has been able to replicate in their first year. One of his best games of the year was one on of the biggest stages when he dropped 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting, drilled a game-tying three from way beyond the arc (foreshadowing, that) down the stretch, assisted on Stu Douglass' eventual game-winner, and played a central role in Michigan's brilliant final defensive possession:

Even when Burke took his game to a new level and won national player of the year honors as a sophomore, his freshman year stood as his most surprising. Needless to say, we've forgiven Beilein for missing on his Brundidge evaluation.

Honorable Mention: 2013-14 Derrick Walton. The cycle continued as Walton stepped into the starting lineup to replace Burke, who'd departed for the NBA long before anyone expected him to when he first got to campus. Walton was in a cushier situation, however, with the Stauskas/LeVert/GRIII troika shouldering much of the offensive load. He played his role well, nailing 41% of his threes, making some impressive transition buckets, and—like Burke—saving one of his best performances for M's biggest rivalry game.

[Hit THE JUMP.]

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The All-Beilein Teams: Off The Bench

The All-Beilein Teams: Off The Bench Comment Count

Ace April 13th, 2017 at 3:23 PM


[Bryan Fuller]

John Beilein has spent ten seasons in Ann Arbor. As of the most recent, he's the winningest coach in program history with 215. He snapped Michigan's post-sanction tournament drought in 2009, the first of seven NCAA appearances with the Wolverines, three of which have extended at least into the second weekend.

In recognition of the above, as well as the need for offseason #content, I've put together a series of All-Beilein teams, inspired by this twitter post and the ensuing conversation. My guidelines:

  1. I'm attempting to put together the best possible lineups, which isn't necessarily the same as picking the best individual players at each spot.
  2. I'm choosing individual player vintages (i.e. 2013 Trey Burke). A player can only be chosen once for each category, but different player years (i.e. freshman bench gunner 2014 Zak Irvin and well-rounded senior 2017 Zak Irvin) can be eligible for separate categories.
  3. Eligibility for certain categories, like today's best bench players, may be slightly fudged because of the limited pool of players.

I'm not putting too many constraints on myself for this exercise since the point is to let our imaginations run wild. Without further ado, here's the first All-Beilein team, which wasn't easy to put together given Beilein's tendency to roll with a tight rotation: the All-Bench squad.

POINT GUARD: 2014-15 SPIKE ALBRECHT


The YMCA Scoop. [Fuller]

We start with the fudged guidelines right away, as Albrecht ended up starting 18 games in this particular season because of Derrick Walton's foot injury. This was the best version of Spike, however, and any of the previous versions would also have earned this spot; between injuries, early draft departures, and the occasional recruiting miss, depth at the point has been hard to come by in the Beilein era.

For the better part of four years, Spike was the exception to that rule. He was an excellent passer. He covered for being undersized by displaying a knack for jumping passing lanes. He did donuts in the lane. He broke out the old-man scoop for critical layups. Most importantly to Beilein's offense, he had defense-extending range and the confidence to hit big shots, after which he just might do the Sam Cassell big balls dance:

Spike was a 41% three-point shooter at Michigan. While he probably would've earned this spot based on one particular half of basketball alone, he did a whole lot more than just light up Louisville.

Honorable Mention: 2008-09 CJ Lee. Another player whose selection is borderline cheating since Lee finished the season as the starter, but he came off the bench in twice as many games as he started as Beilein searched for the right guy between football-player-turned-scholarship-point Kelvin Grady and two walk-ons, Lee and David Merritt. Lee eventually won out by being the most reliable offensive player and best defender.

[Hit THE JUMP.]

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The Enigma

The Enigma Comment Count

Ace April 5th, 2017 at 12:01 PM


Unorthodox. [Eric Upchurch, Marc-Gregor Campredon, Joseph Dressler]

Zak Irvin made six hundred field goals at Michigan. Each one seemed like a minor miracle.

I say this out of admiration. Pick up a basketball, head to the park, and try to replicate Irvin's shot. To do this, stand pigeon-toed while holding the basketball low and in front of you like a hot casserole just out of the oven; with your hands on the sides of the ball, swing it above your head on a path that passes by your left front pocket; as the ball rises in front of your face, rotate your hands so your shooting hand is under the ball; lock your elbows at a 90-degree angle; flick your wrist to release at the apex of your jump; hold your follow-through at a 45-degree angle. It'll look something like this:

You won't make it. Certainly not the first time, and probably not on the hundredth, either.

Perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise that Irvin's career was for a long time defined by its inconsistency.

After Irvin's freshman year, it was difficult to keep expectations in check. On a 2013-14 team loaded with NBA talent, he excelled in the role of unabashed gunner off the bench. He hoisted 146 three-pointers and made 43% of them, seamlessly replacing Nik Stauskas, who'd become the team's star, as the instant offense freshman who promised a whole lot more in the future. 

Irvin's game, however, was extremely limited. He recorded all of 13 assists in 37 games. His defensive rebound rate was lower than Spike Albrecht's. Nearly 75% of his shots came from beyond the arc; according to hoop-math, all ten of his makes at the rim were assisted.

[Hit THE JUMP.]

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You Say It Is A Toenail; I Say It Is In Your Heart Nonetheless

You Say It Is A Toenail; I Say It Is In Your Heart Nonetheless Comment Count

Brian March 24th, 2017 at 12:18 PM

3/23/2017 – Michigan 68, Oregon 69 – 26-12, season over

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[Joseph Dressler]

There are few things more haunting in sports than coming up on the short end of a bonafide one-point basketball game. There are so many points and so many opportunities to get two more or prevent two more that it is impossible not to inventory all the slight tweaks in the universe that could have gotten you one step closer to the promised land, or at least destruction at the hands of Kansas.

The wide open DJ Wilson layup and two Duncan Robinson threes that were halfway down stand out in this regard. So too does the late Oregon free throw miss that Wilson couldn't box out on. And then there is the blizzard of threes that did not go halfway down, for reasons.

Oregon's approach seemed to be "leave Michigan blitheringly wide open from three and see what happens." Michigan took more threes than twos, and if any of them seemed unreasonable it was only in aggregate. There will be some complaints about Michigan launching early in the shot clock, but the vast majority of Michigan's 31 attempts from behind the arc were preceded by my inner monologue—and sometimes the external one, too—yelling "shoot that." A couple of ugly ones should have been rhythm catch and shoot opportunities that Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Mo Wagner, collectively 0-8 in this game, passed up on to dribble themselves into worse shots.

This is certainly a way to play against a John Beilein team. Usually it's a way to get your face melted off. The shattered corpse of Oklahoma State basketball would like a word at this point. That word is "aaaargh."

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

And yet.

Michigan hit a respectable 11 of 31—36 percent. This was not enough. It was not enough even though they won the style contest on defense. Oregon only got up 10 transition shots, which they did poorly on. A third of their shots were the two point jumpers Michigan strives to force and Oregon is very bad at. They hit 25%.

If you'd told me all the peripheral numbers from this game beforehand I'd have taken it in a hot second. I would not have believed you if you'd told me that despite those numbers Michigan's offense would look like a hamster searching for a wheel for big chunks of the game.

Dana Altman's combination of the half-ass press a bunch of teams run now that the shot clock is down to 30 and 40% matchup zone got Michigan off balance. A plan to punish the incessant switching by replicating the second half against Louisville ended up with some poor Wagner shots and turnovers; Wagner spent the last ten minutes on the bench in favor of Duncan Robinson, who seemingly couldn't guard anyone on the floor.

The game was just... off. With virtually every ticket in the sweaty palms of Kansas fans the arena was near-empty at tipoff and dead throughout. That gave a tense, taught game an unfortunate NBA D-League or NCAA hockey regional vibe, and while I don't think that caused the ugly game it certainly reinforced it. It was weirdly muted for one of the most important games of the college basketball season.

It was ugly to the point where a final score close to 70 for both teams is unexpected. Michigan perpetually felt eight points behind and suddenly they were in the lead with two minutes left, sort of like the Oklahoma State and Louisville games. And then.

In the aftermath you're left grasping at opportunities spurned, at whatever air eddies pushed this ball a micron away from a good-enough trajectory, at this breakdown or that breakdown that would go almost entirely unremarked upon if not for the fact that Oregon had N and Michigan had N –1.

An inch; a point; it's been a year of almosts for Michigan athletics.

Bullets

Rather satisfying all the same. Losing a one-point Sweet Sixteen game is no shame. It's a hard thing to do, winning basketball games against good teams. Michigan picked up a banner, got a measure of Louisville revenge, and was amongst the best teams in the country for a full half season. Over the full span they finished 20th on Kenpom.

This wasn't a return to the Burke/Stauskas years but it was a solid top 25 season.

The Walton; the Irvin. I pulled the "Zak Irvin is happening" tag out of mothballs for this game because he was happening, man. His late surge as he re-found his excellent-third-banana level was such that everybody had to stop complaining about him. This is a monumental internet accomplishment. He held Michigan in this game, hit tough late-clock shots, and was clearly on another level from Duncan Robinson as he checked Oregon's perimeter guys.

Building on that? Obviously much hinges on the return of Wilson and Wagner. I'd guess with their tough final games and the super deep draft—DX has Caleb Swanigan 30th!—both will return for another year of that sweet Beilein development. Both guys are potential lottery picks if they continue to improve at a decent clip. Right now there are sufficient questions that they'd be borderline first rounders.

If Michigan does not have any unexpected departures you're looking at something like:

  1. Xavier Simpson/Eli Brooks
  2. MAAR/Jordan Poole
  3. Charles Matthews/Duncan Robinson
  4. DJ Wilson/Isaiah Livers
  5. Mo Wagner/Jon Teske/Austin Davis

Michigan does have an open scholarship they could use on either Mo Bamba—uh not likely—or one of the late risers they've done so well with; there are also a number of intriguing transfer options. Since Brooks and Poole may not be impact freshmen, an immediately eligible backcourt scorer would be real nice. You've probably heard about faintly ludicrous Chippewa Marcus Keene and his 37% usage. Keene shot 82/51/37 on incredible volume and had an excellent assist rate on a bad MAC team that was nonetheless 56th in offensive efficiency.

There's also New Mexico guard Elijah Brown, another 30%+ usage player with decent efficiency. His three point shooting fell off this year but he was near 40% a year ago (on 226 attempts); he gets to the line and his excellent FT shooting implies that his rough two point percentages are more about his situation than his talent.

Or Michigan could go the Matthews route again and attempt to acquire the services of blue-blood transfer Chase Jeter, who's leaving Duke after two injury-plagued years. Jeter is a 6'10" post and would have to sit out, so he's not an ideal fit for the roster. I'd still poke around there because the rate of big washout is so high. You can't count on both Teske and Davis being around in two years. See: all of college basketball.

Tourney coverage complaint. There are way too many fouls that don't get replays to check on them. DJ Wilson's second was a potentially dubious call on which a second look would have been very helpful; instead nothing.

Also in complaints: I have no idea how anyone can listen to Reggie Miller and think "I should pay this person to do this thing."

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Oregon 69, Michigan 68

Oregon 69, Michigan 68 Comment Count

Ace March 23rd, 2017 at 10:16 PM


The final shots. [Joseph Dressler]

In the movie script, that shot goes in.

Michigan hadn't played their best game—far from it—but Derrick Walton nevertheless had a clean look to send the Wolverines to the Elite Eight and keep this magical run going. With time about to expire, Walton cleared out space, rose, and fired. His shot caught iron. Walton clutched his head, likely feeling the same combination of surprise and dismay as the rest of us.

"I had a good look at the basket and it just didn't drop for me," Walton said.

This is not a movie script.

In a disjointed game, Michigan's seniors fought valiantly to the finish. Walton shook off a hard fall on his elbow in the first half to finish with a game-high 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting, five rebounds, and eight assists. Zak Irvin poured in 19, going 8-of-14 from the field, pulled down eight rebounds, and played lockdown defense on Oregon star Dillon Brooks, who needed 13 shots to score 12 points. In the last five minutes, the two combined for three go-ahead shots, and Walton added a nasty fadeaway jumper to give the Wolverines a three-point lead with 2:02 left.

They could not get a fourth. Instead, Oregon's two best players on the night made the plays in winning time. Jordan Bell, a force in the paint all evening, put back a missed free throw to get the Ducks within one after Walton's jumper. After Walton couldn't get a tough layup to fall, Tyler Dorsey got a step on Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and finished at the rim for what were ultimately the final points of the game.

Michigan would get two more shots to win. DJ Wilson's three-pointer with 46 seconds remaining was well off the mark. After Dylan Ennis missed another free throw with 15 seconds to play, Oregon surprisingly chose to give only one of their three remaining fouls to give, allowing Walton to get that final look. It fell short.

"I've seen him make that shot thousands of times, so I had confidence in him knocking it down," said Irvin. "It looked good from my angle. No one else on this team that we wanted taking that shot. He's been on a run and he's such a great player. I'm proud of him."


Jordan Bell made play after play in the paint. [Dressler]

From the start, this didn't feel like Michigan's night. The Wolverines went just 11-for-28 in the first half, and while they only trailed by two at the break, it could've easily been worse. Wilson sat for much of the half with foul trouble. Oregon's guards repeatedly blew by Michigan defenders. Dorsey sunk three of his four first-half three-point attempts. Walton grinded out 11 points and seven assists by halftime, keeping his team within striking distance. With Wilson set to get back on the court, the hope was Michigan could find their groove.

It never quite clicked. Moe Wagner barely played in the second half and finished the night with only seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. Abdur-Rahkman all but disappeared, tallying more turnovers (3) than points (2). Duncan Robinson's eight points weren't enough to offset his defensive shortcomings. While Wilson hit four three-pointers, he didn't get a bucket inside the arc as Bell dominated the paint; his missed second-half layup will stay with him for a while.

While tonight wasn't their night, this team can hold their heads high. Walton and Irvin battled to the bitter end, and this season will ultimately be remembered far more for the remarkable highs of the last month than tonight's low. When it mattered the most, this team galvanized around its leaders, and the most difficult part of tonight is knowing we won't get to see them all play together again.

"It's the tightest bunch I've been around in all my years of playing basketball," said Walton. "Just a very selfless group. I had the joy of being a part of it and being one of the leaders. Like I said, I wish we could have more games to play together because I think a couple minutes throughout the game we didn't show the type of team we were becoming and overall just thank them for allowing me to be part of such a great team."

"We're very close-knit, playing our best basketball and didn't want the season to end," said Irvin. "This team had a lot of great memories. We battled through adversity and just a team that I will always remember."

He's not alone.

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Michigan 92, Oklahoma State 91

Michigan 92, Oklahoma State 91 Comment Count

Ace March 17th, 2017 at 3:56 PM


Derrick Walton's range extended to the midcourt logo today. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Three is worth more than two.

In one of the most unbelievable offensive showcases these eyes have seen at any level, that core tenet of John Beilein's offense proved the difference.

In a tight contest from start to finish, Michigan couldn't keep Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans from getting into the paint. Evans poured in 23 points and handed out 12 assists, and many of his 16 misses led to second-chance points for the Cowboys. OSU pulled down 16 offensive boards to Michigan's six; they outscored the Wolverines 50-20 in the paint.

Michigan, on the other hand, had a difficult time working their way inside. After clinging to a one-point halftime lead because they took care of the basketball, they laid waste to OSU's defense from the perimeter, sinking 11 of their 15 second-half three-point attempts.

Derrick Walton, to nobody's surprise, led the second-half charge. After a 1-for-6 first half, Walton didn't hesitate to rise and fire from as far out as the edge of the midcourt logo, and for good reason: he scored 19 in the final stanza, hitting 5-of-6 threes.

"It's a lot of fun, first and foremost, to know you have that rock that you can always count on," Duncan Robinson said of Walton. "He's been so good and we go as he goes, so hopefully he's got a little bit more left in the tank."

"I just tapped into the fact that I know I've worked really hard," said Walton. "Just the mindset and the trust these guys have in me, that makes me go out and just play much more free knowing they have a lot of confidence in me."


Zak Irvin's 16 points included some huge second-half jumpers. [Bryan Fuller]

Robinson and Zak Irvin also hit huge shots down the stretch from beyond the arc. DJ Wilson came up with big plays on both ends of the floor, including the game-sealing free-throws to put Michigan up four before Evans drilled an inconsequential—unless you're a gambler—triple at the buzzer.

That capped one of the most entertaining, exhilarating, and stressful games of this college basketball season. So much happened in the second half that it's hard to remember that the game got off to a sluggish start; the two teams were knotted up at 11 at the under-12 timeout. OSU pushed ahead with a swift 9-0 run, then Michigan hit back when John Beilein threw caution to the wind and re-inserted Moe Wagner despite his two early fouls. Both squads settled into a groove, giving a taste of what was to come after the break.

The Cowboys again jumped out to a lead after halftime, and that was only a small part of Michigan's concern, as Walton briefly exited the game with an apparent ankle issue. He returned with the Wolverines down six points; that gap closed to two on M's next three possessions, in which Walton hit a three and dished out two assists. A pair of Wagner free throws deadlocked the game at 59 with 13 minutes to play; from there, Michigan's deadeye shooting made the difference.


Walton sizes up Jawun Evans before drilling a corner three. [Campredon]

While the Wolverines couldn't string together stops, neither could the Cowboys, and Michigan's shots were coming from beyond the arc. With that, the Wolverines needed one decent defensive stretch, and they got that with two stops at the rim—including a huge block by DJ Wilson that led to Walton's midcourt bomb—and a charge drawn on OSU center Mitchell Solomon. Subsequent triples by Wilson and Walton sandwiched around a Phil Forte two-pointer got the lead to eight with 6:47 left.

That held steady until a late OSU comeback push that appeared to be stymied by long jumpers from Irvin and Walton. Robinson missed the front end of two late one-and-ones, however, which added some serious drama to the final moments until Wilson's pair of free throws sealed it.

Michigan took this game despite a quiet performance from Wagner, who scored six points in only 14 minutes as Beilein went with Wilson at the five for much of the second half. Wilson finished with 19 points, while Irvin and Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman each added 16. That proved just enough to overcome Evans and a very efficient 19-point outing from Jeffrey Carroll.

Hopefully, we can catch our collective breath in time for Sunday's game, which will almost certainly be against two-seed Louisville.

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One Frame At A Time: BTT, Part One

One Frame At A Time: BTT, Part One Comment Count

Ace March 13th, 2017 at 4:59 PM

There's too much from this tournament run to cram into one GIFs post, so I'm splitting it into two parts; today's covers the Illinois and Purdue games. The glut of quality GIFs is due in no small part to Fred Wright-Jones, who emerged over the tournament as the heir apparent to Andrew Dakich's role as King of the Bench Mob. You can see him above mirroring Zak Irvin's dunk from the end of the bench. There's much more where that came from.

[Hit THE JUMP for the best moments from the Illinois and Purdue wins.]

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