3/9/2019 – Michigan 63, Michigan State 75 – 26-5, 15-5 Big Ten
On the one hand: it was a five point swing against the team I like to see win basketball games. On the other: it was so ludicrous that it immediately crushed all hope, and that turned out to be the right emotional state. I of course refer to the 15 seconds during which Zavier Simpson missed an uncontested layup and Cassius Winston subsequently banked in a three. These are not the events that need to happen if you're going to win on the road against a top 10 team.
There were many problems. Some with Michigan, some with the way the game was officiated, some with the ensuing lineups after the way the game was officiated. But also aaaargh, randomness.
I repeat: a dude. The #1 reason Michigan's offense bogged down was Michigan State's ability to switch screens. The guy who gave them that ability: Xavier Tillman. Tillman had 5 blocks in this game; his performance was reminiscent of Michigan going up against Isaiah Roby last year.
Both Roby and Tillman were able to mirror and contest Michigan shots on supposed mismatches, sending Michigan into a bog of uncertainty and recriminations as the "be aggressive on switches" option backfired. Via Orion Sang, DeAndre Haynes on Tillman's impact:
“I mean, he was really good," said assistant coach DeAndre Haynes. "He impacted a lot of our shots. Every time we drove to the basket, he was blocking one of our guards’ shots. It was tough.
"We tried to change some things up with him, but he’s really quick off his feet. He uses his body well, and he was able to get his hands on a lot of balls that usually we make in games. Our guards really work on the layups we have. He was a better player today. He was an impact today, couldn’t do nothing with him.”
Michigan was horribly inefficient when they drove that supposed mismatch.
**By my count, Michigan scored 24 points on the 29 possess. (0.83 PPP) Michigan State switched with its '5' man. Xavier Tillman's ability to effectively switch unlocked this gameplan for MSU. His defense was *superb,* stifling Michigan guards all night: pic.twitter.com/9hc1AYGkNE
— Eric Shapiro (@eric_shap) March 11, 2019
Nick Ward going out was the best thing that could have happened for MSU in these two games.
This is the primary subject of a new Solving Basketball podcast that I haven't had the time to listen to yet but I guarantee is very good.
NEW pod! @HalfCourtHoops is back for another game breakdown, this time on Michigan-Michigan State. The x's and o's and coaching adjustments that went into Saturday's game. Plus what the NBA does to attack switches
— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) March 11, 2019
Dumping it down. Michigan again struggled tremendously to take advantage of the other portion of that switch. Teske got the ball once, IIRC, and was called for a dubious travel. Extremely frustrating. Understandable, maybe, as Michigan is a team that absolutely never posts and you can't go from "we never do this" to "we are very good at this" in two weeks. But holy hell, frustrating.
I wonder if this will be an offseason focus for Michigan. It probably should be. Tillman's coming back.
[After THE JUMP: gnome autoviolence]
Are you allowed to contest vertically? At Iowa: no. At Maryland: yes. At Michigan State: lol why even ask. Dan Dakich repeatedly pointed out Izzo wheedling the refs early in the game and that paid off with a large number of Winston drives to the hoop on which Michigan was in good position and vertical only for Winston to get a call because he contacted a Michigan player's chest. That was supposed to be excised from the game, and sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn't.
So, in an event similar to Tyler Cook getting a foul call on Teske halfway through the first half against Iowa, Michigan suffered a foul it couldn't cope with when Brazdeikis took contact from Winston halfway through the first half and got called for his second. I guess it's tough sometimes because the offensive player gets into the defensive player's space and the arms come down as a result of that but the difference in the way this stuff gets called home and away is striking.
People complain when you complain but a 28-7 FT disparity (two FTs were late intentional ones) when Michigan entered the game with one of the lowest FTA rates allowed nationally, with many of those FTs questionable to inexplicable, massively impacts the game. For all the bitching about Michigan's second half offense they finished this game in a point range (0.95 PPP) that they can and have won games with this year.
While I'm on the subject. What?
I think that dethrones the Iggy held-ball-type-substance against Maryland for worst call of the year.
Oblig autobench. There is a valid reason you might autobench a player: if that guy is going to play like crap on defense because he's afraid of a foul. This does happen, you should pull him if his replacement is decent. That is emphatically not the case for this Michigan team without Charles Matthews.
Yes, Brazdeikis did foul out in 22 minutes. But benching him didn't increase that number. It just moved those minutes later in the game.
Michigan did get some good production from Weird Guys: Brooks had a couple of steals and had 5 points on 4 shot equivalents; DDJ had a couple of assists and wasn't overwhelmed on defense. Brandon Johns playing a position he hadn't really played all year, well…
three consecutive MSU buckets, two of them real real bad
…suboptimal. He got 13 minutes. Iggy fouled out; Livers was limited to 27 minutes despite finishing the game with two fouls. This isn't changing. Beilein's going to do it. I'm going to complain about it.
Evolving on switches. If an opponent has a center that can stay in front of Simpson I don't know if the switching situation is going to get any better. Simpson isn't a threat to shoot over Cs so they can sag, taking away both drives and passing lanes. Moving that action to Poole is a potential solution but the team's offense has revolved around Simpson at its best moments this year. Poole's only had the occasional flash as a creator. I'm doubtful that would end up being a major improvement.
Probably have to try it at some point, though. The other possibility might be a weird one: Livers, who must be checked at the three point line and might have the size to get the ball into the post against a 6'8" guy. Or Iggy, I guess, but Iggy is a black hole.
There is probably not a solution. Switches put you in iso situations.
That being said… Michigan really lacks consistent one-on-one playmaking – someone that can just go downhill and get a bucket. @hoopvision68 mentioned it on his pod today, but Michigan is in the 30th percentile in isolation offense, shooting 32.6% (37% eFG) in those situations.
— Eric Shapiro (@eric_shap) March 11, 2019
Teams that have mobile, switchable centers will be a tough matchup for the rest of the year, however long that is.