If bball has hit GERG-level of defense, where do they find their Mattison?

Submitted by iawolve on March 16th, 2013 at 11:31 AM
For whatever reason, as soon as we have been blessed with explosive offenses, we have to get cursed with baffling defensive play. I was having this discussion with a group of Mich fans how watching basketball feels like watching GERG coordinate a defense. Average QBs (shooters) look like Tom Brady (Michael Jordan) as TE (forwards) run free down the field (lane) for easy scores. It is to the point that you don't trust any defensive stop to happen and hope the offense will simply convert more. While I think effort is there, technique is terrible and defies logic as to why we are not better. I am half expecting Dr Vorax to get rubbed on Morgan's head at some point. All of this leads to one question- where does the defensive turnaround happen? Is it a different assistant coach? A roster change? If the current staff could have solved it, you assume that we would have seen more improvement after 33 games. There obviously is not a single defensive coordinator on the basketball staff, would be interested in some thoughts.



March 16th, 2013 at 12:32 PM ^

that Beilein has never coached a defense in the top 30 in the country.  I'm ok with where the program is at the current time, but it will be very difficult to compete for a NC without playing above average defense.

Blue and Joe

March 16th, 2013 at 12:34 PM ^

I honestly just think that Stauskas and Robinson haven't really had to play defense much in their careers. Just look at how Nik is always showboating in front of the other teams bench. Does that look like someone who is used to hustling back on defense? And Robinson is just atrocious at boxing out. This is something that I learned in little middle school basketball. They've been able to outscore everyone in their life, and for the first half of this season they did it too. They need to learn how to win with defense.

One Armed Bandit

March 16th, 2013 at 12:47 PM ^

In his career had to have taught defense at some point. However, for some reason, defense has not been a priority for this team. You would hope that over the offseason (because at this point, the light isn't going to be turrned on now), those who are defensive culprits will take the time to learn how to defend their positions more effectively.

But most importantly, they have to want to play defense. Maybe because they were scoring stars in high school, they didn't need to play defense because it was high school competition and they could get by with just scoring. But one year into their B10 career, hopefully it will hit them that defense is just as crucial. I can't contemplate why they don't think that now and at least put forth a modicum of effort.

But maybe they need defensive anuerysms. Stauskas and Robinson won't turn into Novak and Stu overnight. But at some point, the light better come on or we'll be stagnant.


March 16th, 2013 at 12:53 PM ^

Good Lord, give it a rest! 

Tell me what you've read about any of the kids who've come into the program the past year.  "Great ballhandler", "phenominal shooter", any other offensive term. 

Ever remember hearing we signed a "lock down defender"?  There's a reason for it.  Kid's are recruited on their size/ability on offense (usually WITH the ball) or inside presence. They LEARN defense, in a system, it takes time.

This year we're lucky to be where we are defensively.  We've hit the wall physically (as freshmen do if they play a lot early) at this point, because the length of season and physical demands are mor ethan they've EVER encountered before.

Morgan's injury hasn't let him return to form (like McGary's earlier).  Stauskas and Robinson's recent struggles are due to the wear down that occurs by this point.  The "freshest" guys out there are Levert and McGary b/c they've played tons less.

We will be fine next year, just on experience and conditioning alone.  The ONLY "fix" that could help right now is moving GRIII to the 3, which requires not only 2 of our bigs to take the 4 and 5, but finding a suitable swap for THJ and Stauskas at the 2.  It's not something Belien's seemed to want to do.  Maybe next year with healthy bigs and Donnal adding to the mix... 

Relax and enjoy the ride... if anything, losing gave us time to rest and heal (Morgan/THJ).


March 16th, 2013 at 12:57 PM ^

This Michigan team is still remarkably young. The public accollades issued to them for draining the bucket with threes and "jamming it down", even on this blog, gets way more love and adoration than steals, blocked shots and forcing turnovers. 

Michigan is just not very good defensively this year.  It will get better next IMO.

I'm confident in Beileins approach.


March 16th, 2013 at 1:36 PM ^

I don't think many people thought defense was a problem last year with a senior-laden group. It was that we were unathletic and couldn't score enough. Now we have the athletes and it's taking them time to adjust defensively. I think we'll get there in time. Unfortunately, not this year.


March 16th, 2013 at 2:56 PM ^

Numbers don't account for overachieving or underachieving based on skill, size, and roster depth. None of which Michigan really had on defense.

Given they were so small and had no elite defenders, I would say they overachieved. The stats you keep referring to fail to tell that story.

Also, you might want to drink a glass of optimism when the MGoBoard gets overhauled and negbangs are reinstated.


March 16th, 2013 at 12:59 PM ^

assuming the players decide that they want to be better. Experience brings improvement.
We just might be a better offensive team by the end of next year also, as we shift to more balance and less Burke dependent.


March 16th, 2013 at 1:06 PM ^

Michigan doesn't have a skilled big. Sadly, we're relying on players that no one else wanted (Horford, Morgan) or a true freshman.  Michigan is generally doomed once the ball goes into Zeller, Payne, Berggren etc; They can either help out and leave Hulls, Harris or Brust open for three, or sit back and watch those big dudes repeatedly make bunnies.  Needless to say, when M throws the ball in to Morgan, Horford or McGary, Stauskas won't be left open for the kick out.

Obviously, there are other problems, but this one seems like the most glaring. 


Magnum P.I.

March 16th, 2013 at 1:26 PM ^

I agree that we don't have any really skilled bigs (although McGary has showed flashes), but an unskilled big post player is better than an unskilled skinny post player, which is what Robinson is when he plays PF. 

Playing Morgan/Horford and McGary together may not help with the Zellers of the world, but we would have more size and athleticism in the front court than almost any other Big Ten team. And on offense, Robinson is giving nothing at PF. May as well give McGary a shot to grow as a viable post presence. 


March 16th, 2013 at 2:01 PM ^

My sense is that McGary will probably be a turnover/foul/airball machine if he roams too far from the basket.  Also, without Stauskas on the floor, it's going to be brick city from three.  But yeah, Robinson just seems lost out there at PF.  Beilein needs to try something, I guess. Maybe it's time for "Burke and Hardaway shoot, everyone else just rebound" and hope for the best.

Magnum P.I.

March 16th, 2013 at 1:21 PM ^

Honest question:

Why don't we start (C) Morgan/Horford, (PF) McGary, (SF) Robinson, (SG) Hardaway, and (PG) Burke, with Stauskas as the 6th man? Before the season, almost everybody who made basketball projections assumed that would be the starting lineup. McGary got off to a slow start because of injury, so that lineup became moot. I always thought Robinson was just a stop-gap at PF until McGary and Horford were in game shape. Everyone's healthy now, so why not put people in their natural positions? It's not like we're so desperately lacking big bodies that Robinson has to play out of position.

That bigger lineup would help with our biggest problems: rebounding and defense. . Some people think Robinson's not athletic enough to defend quicker SFs? Give me a break--the guy is an NBA SF who I'm sure can keep up the Mike Bruesewitzes of the Big Ten. Christ, Burke is an NBA PG, Hardaway will be an NBA SG, Robinson will be an NBA SF, McGary will be an NBA PF, Morgan and Horford are natual centers. Throw that lineup out there and make the other team adjust. How often do you get a lineup like that, with near-certain NBA players spanned across four of the five position groups? Stop being cute, and just put guys at their natural positions. We're all going to look back and cry at the lost possibilities when Burke, Hardaway, Robinson, and McGary are serviceable-to-good NBA players at the positions they should have been playing this year at Michigan.


March 16th, 2013 at 2:17 PM ^

I think the main issue is on offense.  We'd need one of them to be out on the perimeter and then we'd basically be playing four on five.   Also, when GRIII is playing the four, it's easy for him to beat his man downcourt for transition baskets.  We'd give that up if he were playing the 3.




March 16th, 2013 at 2:46 PM ^

When Robinson isn't hitting from outside, which he isn't, it doesn't matter if he plays the four or if McGary does. Plus, McGary could better post up his man and he gives us better rebounding and match-ups on defense. Think about Mitch and Jordan grabbing defensive boards and out letting to Burke, Hardaway and Robinson on the break.


March 16th, 2013 at 3:15 PM ^

Even a slumping GRIII still warrants having a defender on him.  You can't completely ignore him like you could Morgan or McGary if they're 20 feet from the basket.  Defenses also have to be mindful of him as a cutter.  Our offensive scheme thrives on proper spacing.  If you put a guy with zero perimeter shooting touch on the arc, it will screw things up.  The defense can play a box-and-one on Burke then.  

And again, when GRIII is at the four, he can easily beat his man downcourt for transition baskets.  This advantage is lessened against Wisconsin because they rarely ever turn it over (part of what makes them a tough matchup for us), but against most teams it's significant.

This is where losing Evan Smotrycz hurts.  He was a true 4 on both ends (although we often had to play him at the 5 because Horford was hurt).



March 16th, 2013 at 3:37 PM ^

I agree with your post.The answer to your question is 2 bigs means 1 of them has to play on the wing.Coach B is an offensive minded coach (recruits off 1st,subs based primarily on off.,an doesn't seem to make in-game def adjustments) No adjustment against Zeller last Sunday was infruriating.


March 16th, 2013 at 1:50 PM ^

Just remember there was a time not long ago where basketball would almost have to be labeled OT on this board and basketball would NEVER have a post on the front page. I don't agree when people criticize the players, but am totally fine if people get after the coaches. Some idiots will call for firings and smarter people will analyze the games and point out stats and adjustments. Big time, elite programs get this kind of attention, and negative or positive, if people are talking I think it's good. John Beilein has had one elite recruiting class, and the talent level of the roster is rising. Three of those players are Big Ten starting players on ANY team. Wait till he has a couple of those classes a few years into their development, and then judge or claim he has peaked or reached his ceiling.


March 16th, 2013 at 2:38 PM ^

he got to ann arbor with only 28 scholarship athletes on his side of the ball and rich rod demanding that he run that idiotic 3-3-5.   even when rich rod got his old defensive coordinator back this past year in arizona, the arizona d stunk too.  as for michigan's hoops defense, they can't block out under the basket to save their lives.  i think they'd benefit from some time with the wrestling coach to start to understand leverage with hips.   or maybe the O-line coach.  either way they are terrible working the glass. 


March 16th, 2013 at 3:23 PM ^

A better football analogy for this year's defense would be 2000, when the defense was young and breaking in 8 new starters IIRC, and understandably was inconsistent and generally not that good. What we're seeing now isn't the equivalent of the RR era when he was jerking his coordinators around and there was no coherent philosophy.


March 16th, 2013 at 3:43 PM ^

I don't question our teams heart,I think it's more a matter of us being a finesse,smallish team in a physical league.Also most of the guys seem to be more laid back with the exception of McGary.                                                                                                                                       Our defensive short comings are obvious.The 'teams just get hot against us' meme is crazy and statistically improbable.


March 16th, 2013 at 3:58 PM ^

you dont just simply put your best offensive players out there ,game in and game out.u  need a few guys who are simply defenders,rebounders,junk yard dogs.that is what this team is missing.horford needs to play alot more minutes.


March 16th, 2013 at 4:05 PM ^

I'll try one last time.  Here are the average national rankings of Beilein's teams since 1997:

Defensive Efficiency:  150th (only been in the top 100 twice)

Opponent Effective FG %:  158th (only been in the top 100 twice)

Opponent Floor %: 117th

Opponent Offensive Rebounding %:  228th

Steals: 195th

Blocks: 147th

Turnovers Forced: 202nd

1st half points allowed: 78th.  2nd half points allowed: 101st (suggesting that his defenses get comparitively worse after halftime).

I don't know how people can look at a near 20-year history of Beilein putting out poor defenses and somehow conclude that this year is just an anomaly or that youth is to blame. John Beilein is just not a good defensive coach.  

I'm not saying he's a bad coach overall or that he should be fired or anything like that, but anyone expecting the defense to get much better over the coming years is in for a major disappointment.  





March 16th, 2013 at 5:33 PM ^

You might as well give it up ghost. Logic and facts have non place in an argument fueled by passion and emotions. Beilein is a great defensive coach because people WANT that to be true-analytical analysis be damned.

And I too did not slam any players or do something as ridicoulus as asking him to be fired. I asked us to play zone a bit more....as did Brian FWIW.

snarling wolverine

March 16th, 2013 at 6:20 PM ^

Your problem wasn't that you wanted us to play zone, it's that you were all histrionic about it.


The problem we have, IMO, is that our HC fancies himself a defensive expert (father of 1-3-1 popularization) so I dont think HE thinks he needs a defensive expert.

For reasons I simply cannot fathom Beilein REFUSES to even try a zone defense no matter how badly the man to man is working.

There isn't a soul watching M play over the past month that cant see that we're struggling mightily on D and yet we cling to the man to man like it's the Holy Grail.

When you're verging in psychoanalysis of the coach because he does something you
disagree with, it probably won't be well-received. And for the record, we do play some zone in every game. I don't think we've ever gone 100% man in any one game. From what I've seen, the zone has been at best a mixed bag.


March 16th, 2013 at 6:35 PM ^

You consider that "histriionic?"  My first point I qualified with an IMO and was in response to the OP's question about where will we find our Mattison for basketball.  My second point might have been a bit dramatic but lets face facts - we run zone for maybe one or two possessions a game tops.  And that's it.  So he doesnt refuse to run it he certainly refuses to run it for more than two or three minutes of a 40 minute game.  And my third point I'll stand by.  Do you argue that our defense has not struggled over the past month?  And one way to get different results is to run different defensive sets.

It is my opinion we should run more zone.  It is also our Brian Cook's opinion we should run more zone.  I have no idea if it would produce better, worse or the same results - nor does anyone else - but I would like to see us try it for more than a small portion of the game.

Ghost hit the nail on the head though.  He is presenting nothing but facts and is getting downvoted significantly too.  I guess facts and histrionics arent very "well-received" either around here these days.


March 16th, 2013 at 7:23 PM ^

This is the humor. Defense in basketball is pretty cut and dry and down to the players. I guess if Beilein isn't giving enough time in practice to it he could be blamed. Bottom line is on defense you stay in front of your guy. Problem with Nik and GR3 is the fact the were the stars of their team in HS and probably not asked to play defense and thus are learning to commit themselves on that end.


March 16th, 2013 at 4:07 PM ^

I was at work and only able to listen to the game on the radio... when I looked at the final box score I was baffled by the distribution of playing time. McG barely played half the game. Morgan had 8 minutes? I heard he played like shit first half, but only 8 minutes played total? Can anybody explain this to me? What did I miss that would clearly justify this?


March 16th, 2013 at 10:50 PM ^

So here is the experience for Wisc starting 5.  Senior, Senior, Senior, Junior, Sophmore, verse our starting 5 a Junior, Junior, Sophmore, Freshmen, Freshmen.  There is your answer.  Defense is something you learn after getting your butt kicked a few times.  This may be a misprint but according to ESPN GRIII and Evans are the same height and weight.  Yet one owned the other in the post.  Watching GRIII's response to Evan's moves it was not that he was muscled down but clueless on how to play defense.  We forget he was a late bloomer, not this finished basketball product.

There was suggestion that 2 bigs would work better.  In college, runnning with two post players without one being a perimeter threat is really tough.  Recall Izzo's difficulties getting Payne and Nix on the floor at the same time.  It only really clicked when Payne became a perimeter threat.  If we still had Smotrycz I think you have something to work with.  But our bigs are currently not talented enough for that to work.  What is ironic is that Nix hit is career high today.  All that work for a Big10 career high of 17 points.

Now there is critisim that Beilein cannot coach defense.  I would say that is by design.  Unless you can recruit superior atheletes ala Kentucky you have to pick & choose the character of your team.  It is sort of like critisizing Bo Ryan for Wisconsin never having a great offense.  You pick what you want to be strong at and hope that is good enough.  I think if Beilein was given last year roster for UK he would have done just as well as anyone else.  If Beilein can recruit good players including a few who will stay around for a few years, I think he can coach up the defense to be more then adequate.  Indiana improved significantly with a year of experience.