1/15/2018 – Michigan 68, Maryland 67 – 16-4, 5-2 Big Ten
Michigan won the game you lose because it's almost too weird to call basketball. At several different points in last night's game I cried "what is going ON?!" to the world at large, usually because a Michigan player had missed a point blank shot or dribbled it off his own face. Crisler's halftime highlight montage had literally every single first-half Michigan bucket in it. It was that kind of game.
This happens from time to time, especially when you're on short rest and the opponent isn't. A virtual lid descends on the basket; things look more or less fine except in the period between the shot going up and the shot entering the basket, because it never actually enters the basket. It was miserable.
Naturally, Michigan followed this up with a period in the second half where you could have blindfolded Jordan Poole and friends and it wouldn't have mattered. By the time Maryland called its second befuddled timeout of the half, Michigan was 8/11 from three. This slightly contrasted with their first half shooting performance, which qualified the entire roster to join COBRA or enlist as a stormtrooper.
A gob-smacked Mark Turgeon afterwards:
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon on Michigan when Wagner's hot: "They're impossible to guard. I'll say it again, they're impossible to guard."
— Zach Shaw (@_ZachShaw) January 16, 2018
Michigan scored barely over a point per possession in this game, and also sent the opposing coach into a tailspin of recriminations and purges. Basketball!
So it wasn't a surprise when Michigan decided 59 points was sufficient to win and reverted to pew pew laser shooting. It wasn't a surprise when Maryland trundled back into the game despite having 80% free throw shooters brick front ends. It wasn't a surprise that Michigan's attempt to get it inbounds after Maryland cut it to two travelled from Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, a 91% free throw shooter, to Zavier Simpson, a 50% free throw shooter.
Simpson clanging both shots was a little weird. Because it's kind of what I expected. Also weird: Michigan choosing three seconds left in the game to give up the first wide open three Kevin Huerter had seen all night despite Huerter's evident willingness to shoot from half court.
Then there are three seconds left, and the play you run with three seconds left—which never ever works for a dozen reasons—works so spectacularly well you end up with Abdur-Rahkman, who has damned and redeemed and damned himself already in this game, charging at the basket for a potential layup when a flat-topped moose thunks him from the side. Tweet tweet. Foul. Two shots.
This is what Abdur-Rahkman looks like as he shoots the ensuing free throws:
These men are nihilists, dude. MAAR looks like a Michigan football fan during the fourth quarter of the bowl game. He sinks both free throws and Michigan wins.
And I want you to know this, reader: Crisler literally has a promotion where a ticket stub from a Michigan win during which they score 70 points nets you a free slider at Arby's. Yes. Nihilist Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman sends Michigan to victory with 68 points. Eat At Arby's. Don't Eat At Arby's. If ever a basketball game deserved to end on a Nihilist Arby's infinite regression paradox loop, it was this one.
WOOF? Uh... analysis almost seems beside the point. Michigan's offense bogged down a little bit early and had far too much of the late-clock stuff they haven't been good at, but probably a majority of their misses were at the rim. Maryland did a decent job challenging shots; they did not do enough to hold Michigan to 0.7 PPP while forcing one (ONE!) turnover.
Bad luck? Something goofy because they'd played on Saturday? I don't know. I think it's just one of those things. Michigan's insane three point shooting gallery in the second half was probably the same thing in the other direction: abnormal luck.
Anthony Cowan is the Steph Curry generation. Dude is a dude, and every time Maryland got in a late clock situation I thought about his Hoop Math page and its 50% unassisted 3 column. He was 4/6 from deep and maybe all of those were jacks? Two were heavily-contested buzzer-beaters off the dribble in the first half that were really, really painful given what was going on at the other end.
Anyway: Cowan's ability to rise up over anyone at any time is where basketball is going. I compared David DeJulius to Derrick Walton the last time a highlight video of his hit this here site, but immediately after this game I think Cowan is a closer fit.
This is a nice thing to think about your fourth-most-hyped incoming recruit.
Jordan Poole! Poole was a major catalyst for Michigan's second half comeback, and revealed afterwards that he named his NBA 2k character The Microwave in honor of Vinnie Johnson. My dude. He had his typical defensive issues and one over-eager turnover, but in a game where Michigan seemed afraid to take a shot his second half minutes were a breath of fresh air. All the potential in the world.
Wagner: back. Second straight game he leads Michigan in points, and 11 rebounds give him a rare-for-Mo double-double. Turgeon's right: Wagner adds an aspect to Michigan's offense that could take it from okay to excellent. We saw it against MSU, and in this game his 4/6 from deep was critical.