Basketbullets: Bubble Viewing Guide, Defending Happ, Transition Off Rebounds Comment Count

Ace February 15th, 2017 at 3:28 PM

Bracket Watch: Safely In For Now

Get pumped up for a tourney run? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

While they still have work to do to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament, Michigan made their way back into the vast majority of projected fields after their back-to-back wins over Michigan State and Indiana. The Wolverines are on 92 of the 110 brackets comprising the current Bracket Matrix (updated yesterday evening), putting them as an 11-seed and, critically, avoiding the First Four for now.

The projection for the remainder of the season has also improved. Following the Indiana win and Wisconsin's home loss to Northwestern (yes, that's a thing that really happened), KenPom's algorithm bumped Michigan from a slight underdog to a slight favorite in tomorrow night's game against the Badgers. With games at Rutgers and Nebraska still on the schedule, Michigan is the outright favorite in three of their last six games, and I'm still not sold on Minnesota being as tough an opponent as the numbers suggest.

Friendly neighborhood bracketologist CrislerSpidey ran the win probability numbers for the rest of the season a couple days ago. At that point, Michigan was more likely to finish with a winning conference record than a losing one, and the projections have become slightly more favorable since then:

Tomorrow night's game is, of course, a huge one for M's tourney chances. Wisconsin's offense has been in a statistical nosedive for the last five games, almost exactly coinciding with Michigan's (relative) defensive renaissance. They're vulnerable; Michigan played them close at the Kohl Center; it'd be a much-needed quality win.

[Hit THE JUMP for the bubble rooting guide, how to slow Ethan Happ, and more.]

Bubble Watch Rooting Guide

It's time to start this up. This has you covered through the weekend. Your rooting interest is in bold; the other team is the bubble team.


Arkansas at South Carolina (6:30, SEC Network)
Iowa State at Kansas State (7, ESPN2)*
Wichita State at Southern Illinois (7, ESPN3)
Georgia Tech at Miami (8, WatchESPN)**
Creighton at Seton Hall (8, CBSSports)
Indiana at Minnesota (9, BTN)
Oklahoma State at TCU (9, ESPNU)
Illinois State at Missouri State (9, ESPN3)
Nevada at Air Force (9, ESPN3)


Utah at Oregon (9, ESPN)
Middle Tennessee at Western Kentucky (9, CBSSports)


Kent State at Akron (7, ESPNU)
Cal at Stanford (10, FS1)


Clemson at Miami (noon, WatchESPN)^
Northern Iowa at Wichita State (noon, ESPN)
Missouri at Tennessee (1, SEC Network)
Wake Forest at Duke (1, WatchESPN)
Virginia Tech at Louisville (1, WatchESPN)
Kansas State at Texas (2, Longhorn Network)
Texas Tech at West Virginia (2, ESPN2)
Michigan State at Purdue (4, ESPN)
Florida State at Pitt (4, ESPN2)
Ole Miss at Arkansas (6, SEC Network)
TCU at Iowa State (6, ESPNNews) — uh, flip a coin?
Middle Tennessee at Marshall (6, no TV)
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (8, ESPNU)
Xavier at Marquette (8, CBSSports)
USC at UCLA (10, Pac-12 Network)


Georgetown at Creighton (3:30, FS1)
Loyola-Chicago at Illinois State (4, ESPNU)
Syracuse at Georgia Tech (6:30, ESPNU)#
Utah at Oregon State (8:30, ESPNU)

*This one could really go either way. ISU is just above KSU on the matrix; the loser of this one will be the team to root against down the stretch.
**Another game with two bubble teams, but Miami is closer to solidifying a spot in the field than GT is of working their way in.
^Yes, another game involving Miami that could go either way. A split seems ideal since Clemson has a lot of work to do, more so than GT.
#Dammit, ACC, why are you making this so difficult?

Post Defense Options: Go DJ?

M fared better than expected in the post against UW at Kohl. [Patrick Barron]

Guarding leading Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Ethan Happ in the post will be one of Michigan's biggest keys to defeating Wisconsin. The Wolverines managed to hang close at the Kohl Center a month ago in large part because they got away with mostly single-teaming Happ and still limiting his efficiency; despite grabbing four offensive boards, Happ went 5-for-13 from the field, 1-for-2 from the line, and had three turnovers offset his three assists.

It'll be very interesting to see if Michigan takes the same approach—letting the big men fare for themselves—this time around. Against Indiana bigs Thomas Bryant and De'Ron Davis on Sunday, the Wolverines double-teamed more frequently with mixed results. Bryant and Davis combined to go 7-for-9 on two-pointers and 7-for-8 from the line; they also committed four turnovers and only dished out two assists. Those assists, both from Bryant, came when a double-team failed to close off passing lanes into the paint. When the doubles were well-timed and well-placed, however, they wreaked havoc. For example:

Of note: two of Happ's turnovers in the first game came when he attempted skip passes out of (rare at the time) Michigan double-teams, which they deployed in the unsettled moments after Happ pulled down offensive boards. When Happ went to work on post-ups, though, M stuck with one-on-one defense, and while Happ wasn't as effective as usual, he missed a couple makeable bunnies after establishing strong position.

I went back through both the first Wisconsin game and Sunday's Indiana game to see how each Michigan big man fared against Happ and Bryant/Davis.

Michigan defenders vs. Ethan Happ

Moe Wagner: 2/6 FG, 1 assist, 2 turnovers
Mark Donnal: 1/1 FG (an and-one), 1 assist, 1 turnover
DJ Wilson: 1/5 FG, 1 assist
Jon Teske: 1/1 FG

A couple notes: one of the FGs against Wagner was a blown rotation by a wing off a high screen and the assist on DJ Wilson came when M was full-court pressing late.

Michigan defenders vs. Thomas Bryant/De'Ron Davis

Moe Wagner: 4/4 FG (1 and-one, 2 additional shooting fouls), 4 turnovers
Mark Donnal: 3/3 FG (one and-one)
DJ Wilson: 0/2 FG
Jon Teske: N/A (his near-block came as a help defender against Juwan Morgan)

These are small sample sizes, of course. Wagner has been very boom-or-bust as a post defender; he gives up buckets because he's not yet strong enough to keep bigger centers from establishing position but he often makes up for that by being disruptive. Donnal is a walking target; both UW and IU went right at him when he entered the game and profited greatly.

The intruiging alternative to putting Donnal on Happ is giving that assignment to DJ Wilson, even if Donnal is on the floor. Nigel Hayes is only shooting 46% on twos in Big Ten play (Happ is at 53%); while it's not an ideal matchup since Hayes is more athletic, M might be able to get away with putting Donnal on him for short stretches. Meanwhile, Wilson has been the team's most effective post defender; he's the only one who consistently challenges and alters/blocks shots.

More Derrick Walton Love

Derrick Walton's senior-year breakthrough is getting noticed league-wide; he's now getting first-team All-B1G consideration. A big part of that has been his ability to create his own looks from beyond the arc. Per hoop-math, 18 of his 61 made threes have been unassisted; the next-most on the team is Zak Irvin's six, and I probably don't need to tell you those have been far less efficient shots. The play above, from Sunday, is reminiscent of sophomore-year Nik Stauskas, who just happens to be Walton's closest comparable from Alex's post earlier today.

To build on the transition threes section from last week's Basketbullets, Walton's rebounding is contributing to Michigan's lethal fast break. The Wolverines are up to 13th in transition eFG%. Those transition opportunities can be further broken up into categories: after defensive rebounds, after steals, and after opponent made baskets. Michigan is 22nd in eFG% in transition following a steal, 341st (in a very small sample) after an opponent make, and tied for 11th after a defensive rebound.

A big part of that is Walton's ability to make plays like this:

That doesn't happen if one of the bigs is pulling down the rebound. Walton's being able to crash the glass and make an immediate outlet gets the fast break going.



February 15th, 2017 at 3:49 PM ^

do have an interest there but that would be more a concern if we were talking about seeding and not just getting in.  When you are on the bubble, other bubble teams getting knocked off of it is more important than a bubble team becomming a quality win type substance.  Ideally, Marquette would win out while other bubble teams fell on their face.


February 15th, 2017 at 4:02 PM ^

was my reasoning. A victory over a fellow bubble team doesn't do nearly as much for tourney hopes as other bubble teams falling by the wayside. Marquette and VT being on just the right side of the bubble instead of just the wrong side won't have a significant impact on M's tourney resume, especially since M will pick up another quality win or two down the stretch if they're going to have the resume needed to make the field in the first place.

EQ RC Blue

February 15th, 2017 at 4:21 PM ^

This logic may apply to VTech, but probably not Marquette, who is at 85 in the RPI and was an out of conference neutral court victory.  The chances of Marquette being the one team to knock us out of the tourney/into the first four/down a seed line are pretty low, especially with our head to head victory.  On the flipside, we'd really like them not to fall out of the top 100 RPI and the committee often talks about wins against teams in the field.  With games left @Xavier, @Providence, and vs Creighton, we probably want Marquette to win this one.

EQ RC Blue

February 15th, 2017 at 4:45 PM ^

Yup, we probably want IU to beat Minny.  We have two wins against IU, including a road win, by a combined 42 points.  We definitely don't want them falling out of the top 100.  And it's not like Minny is so far from the bubble.  In fact, if they lose to IU and us and we also beat Wiscy, we're ahead of them.  And I'd rather face them after a loss, though that could go either way. 


February 15th, 2017 at 5:53 PM ^

and for SOS purposes we'd prefer all teams that we played twice (IU, Wisky, Neb, ILL, and I would say MSU except F them) to beat teams that we only played once, because that's a net gain.  None of those teams are at risk of winning a head-to-head decision against us for the last spot in the tourney unless Illinois somehow wins out, which ain't happening.


February 15th, 2017 at 8:36 PM ^

about Marquette and the fact that our head-to-head keeps us head of them in any scenario in which the committee is debating on us or them being the last at-large in the field.  Vtech probably has the same argument against us: if it's between us and them, they're making it based on their win in AA. After beating UVA last weekend and winning at Pitt, I don't see them falling behind us far enough to not be a threat.  It'd help us more for them to keep winning to improve our resume.  They're RPI 31st right now.  They could get into the top 25 which would help our numbers and our cosmetics.

Yinka Double Dare

February 15th, 2017 at 3:41 PM ^

At this point I'd rather have Xavier Simpson guarding Happ than Donnal. Dude is just getting abused by whoever he's guarding, every team seems to go after him the moment he comes in the game. 


February 15th, 2017 at 3:43 PM ^

I love the piece and the data you're using.  I even like the proposal of giving DJ some minutes on Happ, as much for the reasons you mention as well as the fact that Happ isn't going to blow past DJ from the perimeter like everyone else does.  


However, your Indiana stats are very misleading.  Michigan double-teamed Bryant every time he had the ball and he went 3-8.  They did *NOT* double team Davis until his last possession, which happened to be the one on which he committed a turnover.  I remember multiple times when Davis was scoring at will in the post that the announcers suggested Michigan should copy their defensive approach from Bryant to limit Davis.....and then they did with good results.  


The difference with using a double with Wisconsin is that I think they are overall more dangerous from the outside across the board.  But Northwestern often mixed in double teams on Happ as well and clearly it worked for the most part.  


The real key to the game is keeping Wilson/Wagner out of the dumb fouls most Big Ten refs calll at times - including when we lost by 4 in the Troll Center.


February 15th, 2017 at 3:48 PM ^

I went through every post touch by Bryant last night. Double-teams were frequent but not constant, which I mentioned, and you posted a particularly misleading stat: while he was 3-for-8 from the field, he was 0-for-4 on three-pointers, which have nothing to do with the subject at hand (especially as it relates to Happ).

Davis did score almost at will. Incidentally, he got a number of touches against Donnal, and a couple of his buckets came when he was on the floor at the same time as Bryant.


February 15th, 2017 at 3:59 PM ^

Teske get a 3 or 4 minute stretch of P.T. just to see what happened.  Yes, he has looked pretty bad when he's been used, but i don't think I've seen him on the floor for longer than a minute at a time.  Next to impossible to show any signs of life with an opportunity that limited

Bertello NC

February 16th, 2017 at 10:13 AM ^

Agree. It's hard to gain comfortability with the game and game speed with such short windows of playing time. I wish in the stae and IU games Beilein would have used Teske more when we had 20 point leads. He's a little unsure of himself on the offensive end I get it, but he rebounds well and usually plays pretty good defense. Couple that with the fact that we'll need him next year and it makes me want to see a little more PT for him.


February 15th, 2017 at 4:30 PM ^

is an interesting case for rooting interests.  They are barely in the rpi Top 100 (88th right now).  That's two Top 100 wins UM is in danger of losing as well as what is right now, their lone road win possibly being devalued.

Lil boy blue

February 15th, 2017 at 9:18 PM ^

Check tape his last 2 games. 8 and 9 points against Nebraska and NW against his 14 pt season avg. Badgers go as he goes and he can't handle the ball with solid doubles. Makes bad decisions and 2 of his 300+ FGM are outside the paint. He is 2/5 outside the painted box in his career!!!!!

Bronson is not himself, Nigel doesn't want to post up even though he should and their bench is young and as weak as ours.

Very very vulnerable team


February 15th, 2017 at 10:34 PM ^


Clemson at Miami (noon, WatchESPN)^
Northern Iowa at Wichita State (noon, ESPN)
Missouri at Tennessee (1, SEC Network)
Wake Forest at Duke (1, WatchESPN)
Virginia Tech at Louisville (1, WatchESPN)
Kansas State at Texas (2, Longhorn Network)


Wake Forest at Duke (1, WatchESPN)

No sir I will not root for Duke

Year of Revenge II

February 15th, 2017 at 10:47 PM ^

Watching Duke at Virginia on ESPN, and I must say, that Jay Bilas is the most biased announcer I have ever heard. Absolutely takes a lot of the enjoyment out of watching the game. He is just a total tool and Duke sappy.


February 16th, 2017 at 2:10 AM ^

team right now is:

1. Swanigan (lock)

2. Happ (lock)

3. Trimble (eh)

4. Haas (wtf?)

5. Hayes (no)

It's clear his formula heavily weights team success which is probably somewhat accurate with how the voters vote, but Issac Haas plays less than helf his team's minutes so his formula also seems to weight usage (Haas has very high usage) too much relative to minutes played.

Anyway, DWJ should asbolutely be the first PG to make the team (although Trimble did have a huge game tonight).  If Trimble makes it over DWJ, it would be a team award and a travesty, IMO.  My team right now would be Swanigan, Happ, DWJ, Jok and Trimble in that order.