The preview went up Wednesday, but those are always so opponent focused that I didn't get around to mentioning a couple of things about how Michigan might approach this game. Those are:
Could we see the 1-3-1? [@ right from a post back in 2007 explaining the defense under the assumption Beilein was going to actually run it.]
The setup is tempting. Kansas struggles with turnovers and has no real point guard. Meanwhile the payoff for an open-court turnover is higher than normal with the #1 eFG defense in the country awaiting half-court sets.
Downsides: Kansas is tall so passing over the zone will be easier. Ben McLemore and Travis Releford are 40%+ three-point shooters.
Upsides to the downsides: Releford has just 94 attempts on the year and McLemore has been struggling extensively of late. The other three-point shooters on the team are meh. Plus, if you believe that stuff, dome.
It would be a shock if Michigan didn't try to play it straight up to start. If they're getting torn up, or if McGary gets in foul trouble, I'd be surprised if Beilein didn't see if it discombobulated the Jayhawks. Michigan rescued their game against Pitt earlier in the year with this season's most extensive 1-3-1 deployment. Pitt also featured a high-TO point guard, an offense prone to clunkiness, and a two-post lineup that made life tough on half-court offense. Kansas is a version of Pitt with strengths and weakness that generally argue even more strongly for a high-risk, high-reward defense, save the prospect of getting bombed on corner threes.
Speaking of believing in the dome effect. FWIW, poster stopthewnba took a look at the last five tournaments and found that scoring has dipped at basketball sites during the second week of the tourney and increased at domes. Caveat: analysis is not tempo-free.
Meanwhile, players were asked and seemed to think there was something to it:
"There's so much space behind the basket, and we're not really used to that," said freshman sharpshooter Nik Stauskas, who has never played in a dome. "But that was the whole point of today -- just get some shots up, and get a feel for the arena. We got adjusted to it. I think we'll be all right.
"I felt good by the end of the practice."
That might be something of an anti-placebo effect at this point. More alarmingly, GRIII said the rims were tight.
Whatever happens, we know that 1) if Kansas shoots well, their Georgia Dome game will be credited and if 2) Michigan shoots well their familiarity with raised courts (thanks to Minnesota's Williams Arena) will be credited.
Nik Stauskas: just take what they give you and live with a crappy outing. This is a terrible matchup for Stauskas, who is good behind the line and at the rim and turrible at jumpers inside the line. He's hitting at a 32% clip, better than only Caris Levert. I'm sure he'll get some looks from three, which he should just take. If those go down everyone's happy. If not, oh well.
GRIII versus Kevin Young. Young is tall but skinny, an excellent rebounder on both ends and middling offensive contributor. Meanwhile, GRIII functions well in lob-recipient and putback roles while dabbling in wide open corner threes. I'm concerned Michigan gets little from Robinson against an outstanding defense that won't be sagging much and Young carves up the sometimes indifferent rebounding output GRIII provides.
In that case, hello Jordan Morgan. Morgan has the size to D-up Young, and box him out. I would not be surprised if Michigan went with two posts for large chunks of this game. That seems like a better substitution than inserting Caris Levert (who has been as iffy as Stauskas on jumpers). I wonder if Beilein has the flexibility to run Morgan out there for 20 minutes at the 4, assuming the first five go well.
I also won't complain about not fouling enough in this one. A consistent complaint about Michigan's defense in this space is that they don't push the envelope enough and occasionally pick up fouls doing so. If there's anything this basketball season has taught it's that a defender can do damn near anything they want to a shooter as long as they don't use their arms, whether that's bumping from behind or undercutting or running your chest into the lower body of a jumpshooter. How terrible this makes everything and how this is the basis for Wisconsin's success is a conversation for another post.
This one is on about how Kansas is a very good free throw shooting team and avoiding a few points on the line here and there might make the difference. Only Young is bad, and he's at 60%. Tharpe and McLemore near 90%, Releford and Johnson aren't far off 80%, and Withey is at 71%. Meanwhile, Kansas is pretty bad at a shooting twos. Token contests are the order of the day here. If guys get to the rim you have to contest and live with the results, I guess.
"It's a very, very, very aggressive style of rap -- he yells when he raps, just like if he's on the court screaming after a rebound," Robinson said. "It's kind of like Rick Ross, a little bit. He tries to make his voice really deep, and yells while he does it. Cracks us up every time, because he actually thinks he's good, I think."
Bacari isn't having it, though:
"The only thing Mitch McGary can rap is gifts on Christmas," assistant coach Bacari Alexander quipped. "In his mind, he's a poor man's version of Jay-Z. He thinks he has a little Rick Ross in him.
"At the end of the day, I don't think he's even on the level of even Heavy D."
Please Bacari don't hurt 'em.
The MLive guys valiantly try to reverse the media jinx. Kansas says the prospect of playing Trey Burke makes them wee their pants in fear. Jimmy King has given them a pep talk. Morgan will be needed. Wojo. Wetzel goes and brings up Rumeal Robinson watching from prison.