this was from the women's game but YOLO are we still saying YOLO [Dianna Oatridge]

Basketbullets: Illinois 2019 Comment Count

Brian January 11th, 2019 at 3:19 PM

1/10/2019 – Michigan 79, Illinois 69 – 16-0, 5-0 Big Ten

Rotate. Michigan won this game on the strength of Jon Teske and Zavier Simpson, if you had to pick two people. Against Indiana it was Poole and Matthews. Penn State: Simpson and Matthews.  Northwestern: Brazdeikis and Poole. Purdue: Brazdeikis and Poole.

If you asked me which of Michigan's starters was most critical to its success I'd probably say "don't forget about Livers." Michigan has four efficient offensive players with 16+ usage; the two guys who aren't that efficient may be the best defenders at their position in the country.

As we've seen when other teams have their best players butt up against Michigan's defense, having four legitimate scoring options—I'm counting Teske/Simpson two-man games as one option—on any particular play is an incredible luxury. Jordan Poole had his worst game since the ugly openers and it didn't matter too much because Teske put up a 162 ORTG and four blocks while Simpson had eight assists and hit a couple threes.


shoot the j [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Here's a goofy comparison. Zavier Simpson is at least a half-foot shorter but in this game he felt like Darius Morris. Morris's specialty in the pick-and-roll was using his 6'5" frame and long arms to find passing angles that had very-below-the-rim C Jordan Morgan shooting 63% from the floor. This mitigated his inability to shoot and made Michigan's offense go when the guys surrounding the PNR gents were Novak, Douglass, and a freshman Tim Hardaway Jr.

Simpson had a few different wrap-around passes to similar effect, most impressively the moment when he was trapped in the short corner and was able to keep his calm and pop the ball out to Teske for an and-one. There were several more zippy passes Simpson threw from weird angles that resulted in buckets.

It is clear that Simpson put in a ton of work in all aspects of his game this offseason. He hit an off the dribble three (sort of!). QED. More sustainably, he's developing into a legitimate old-school point guard. You know, from the days when if you were a usage guy they'd call you a "scoring point guard" like that was a weird thing. Simpson's developing the ability to unbalance a defense without having to be a threat to pull up.

Now just check your rear-view mirror a bit more in transition.

[After THE JUMP: roadrunner, pants clamping, weird MEAC team of the week!]



The Michigan locker room in an anecdote. Remember "burn the boats"? Yeah, that stuck in Yaklich's craw.

As a means to inspire, John Beilein told his Michigan team the slightly embellished historical account of a Spanish conquistador burning his fleet of ships so that his soldiers had no choice but to fight instead of flee as they descended upon Veracruz, Mexico, in the early 16th century.

The former social studies teacher was later corrected by a member of his staff: Luke Yaklich, another former history teacher.

“He got me today because I had the wrong name of a Spanish explorer,” Beilein said. “I said it was (Francisco) Vazquez. He said it was (Hernan) Cortes.”

They can't put "Jeopardy!" on the team charter because knife fights break out.

Meep meep. I mentioned in the preview that Ayo Dosunmu tends to go fast because he's great in transition but his half-court game is pretty mediocre, and boy howdy that was a thing. Dosunmu had 19 first-half points, a majority of them in open-court situations in which he was able to attack a defense that was not set and finish tough-ish drives to the basket.

Michigan shut off that avenue of attack in the second half, when Dosunmu had just four points. Michigan flipped Matthews onto him and that worked out much better than Poole.

Speaking of. Woof. Ace's pants remained thoroughly enclamped during this game as Poole scuffled to 10 points on 13 shot equivalents and was a major source of Dosunmu's first half points. One particular ole was a weak attempt at a steal that seemed particularly galling to Yaklich.

That'll happen for a guy who still qualifies as mercurial, and the silver lining is that Poole clunkers in wins help stave off the threat of the NBA draft. That's the ticket.

Both Poole and Brazdeikis seemed thrown off by Illinois's style of defense, which was extremely aggressive about digging on drivers and shutting off the lanes those guys have used to good effect during much of the year.

Attack the basket plz. A post on Wednesday discussed the least efficient bit of Michigan's offense, relative to the nation:

Michigan's offensive issues (such as they are) are approximately 100% having too many Other Twos that they're not good at making:

  • Michigan's 17th in the country at converting at the rim and 58th from three.
  • They're 293rd at converting Other Twos at 30.8%. Even removing the Binghamton game (6/27) only gets them up to 32%, which is still deep into the 200s.

…Charles Matthews is the main culprit here, hitting under 30% on the other twos that are a plurality of his shots. Maybe fewer stepback jumpers and more attempting to yam it on people's faces.

I thought about that bit as Matthews went 5/5 on dunks and layups and 0/5 on those fallaway jumpers. The dunks and layups were off missed Illinois rotations and offensive rebounds (of which he got three, which is a point in his favor). The shots he created himself were all other twos he's hitting at a 27% clip. I mean:


More other twos than shots at the rim. Hitting 80% at rim and 30% on other twos. That is a bonkers distribution. Matthews shouldn't be allowed to take a two-point jumper until he's committed two charges. These are not good shots right now even if they look pretty.

Go to the basket! You're 6'5" and can jump over cars! You're even shooting free throws decently!

Speaking of. Michigan went 18/22 from the line, which was the difference between Michigan's comfortable will-we-beat-Kenpom second half and a white knuckle affair. Matthews and Simpson were 6/8 between them. Probably just some good fortune but hey I'll take.

Austin Davis as a gif.


Davis has a foul rate of 20 per 40 in Big Ten play.

Bracket item. Jerry Palm has Michigan his #1 overall seed, with the caveat that he's not doing any projecting of final records.

Oh, and NET is basically fine now and vastly better to all available eye-and-stats tests than RPI. Eamonn Brennan:

Even in retirement, the RPI hasn’t slowed down one bit. Dude. Temple? At No. 15?! Even after Wednesday’s tight home win over Houston, the Owls barely crack the KenPom top 70. They’re 44th in NET. Here, they’re two spots above Gonzaga. Gonzaga! Oh, RPI. Shine on, you crazy diamond.

You laugh, but this was how it used to be. Every year, the RPI would spit up at least a few truly strange aberrations. Sometimes teams would game their schedules perfectly; sometimes whole leagues were in on the act; sometimes things were just funky. No matter. If the committee took it seriously, the rest of the college hoops ecosystem had to follow suit.

Thus an alternate reality would be created. In the real world, Temple is a decent team that deserves to be on the bubble right now. In the RPI’s beautiful dream, Temple would get serious at-large consideration almost by default. Even if the selection committee didn’t absorb the Owls’ raw RPI number as gospel, the RPI would still be the organizational backbone of every team sheet its members examined, and so every team that beat the Owls (including VCU, another outlier at No. 25) would indirectly bask in the resume glory of a bonus Quadrant 1 win. It was madness.

The NET could be far more of a mess and still be less exasperating than its predecessor. Turns out, it’s not much of a mess at all.

It's not perfect but it doesn't have to be perfect since the teamsheets still exist and the committee will seed like they did before, only now with a far less crazy metric lumping teams into bins.

One quibble with an otherwise good article: as part of Eamonn's sanity check he compares NET to Kenpom and notes a couple outliers, an approach that continues to irk because NET should be answering a different question than Kenpom and other predictive rankings. You play to win the game. Kenpom plays to predict the game, and it uses a bunch of things at its disposal that should at least be de-emphasized by a selection and seeding metric. If some team wins all its games by one point and some other team wins all the same games by ten points but loses a couple by one, team A should be ahead of team B.

So until-recently undefeated Houston is #32 in Kenpom and #9 in NET, but NET might not be wrong. It might just be answering a different question. Wins Above Bubble, another what-have-you-accomplished metric, has Houston #15. ESPN's Strength of Record has them #16.

Anyway, NET is fine and some of its outliers are because it has different goals than power rankings.

Weird MEAC team of the week! Speaking of ESPN's various metrics, wyd after losing 8 scholarship players, Illinois:


I'm all for scheduling tough games but that seems foolhardy.

Speaking of foolhardy: That Texas Southern team may be 7-8 but they've got wins at Baylor, at Oregon, and at Texas A&M. They've played zero D-I home games this year. Get 'em off the 16 line, people! Ignore the losses at Tulane and Lamar! 



January 11th, 2019 at 3:40 PM ^

This basketball season feels like last season just never ended.  I felt so heartbroken at the time of the Villanova game last year but somehow I look back on that game and feel..... good?  Like it was just a small hiccup in a longer journey.   I could not ask for more than Michigan basketball.


January 11th, 2019 at 4:26 PM ^

Anyone else remember Beilien's second or third year, when the team was in laz-y-boys at Crisler and everyone waited with baited breath wondering whether we'd get a bid?  Then we got a 10 seed and it was the last bracket to be announced and everyone went crazy?  Now we're talking about a potential 1 seed, a year after going to Beilien's SECOND Final?!?!?

Small hiccup in a longer journey is an understatement.


January 12th, 2019 at 3:46 PM ^

Getting blown out in the NCAA final is NOT a "hiccup" - that game literally defines which team of the 68 invitees (and hundreds of non-invitees) achieved its ultimate goal for the season. 

Making Final Fours is program defining; winning titles is Legacy defining! 

All that said, if it was part of the building block to finishing this season at the top, then getting to the game had merits notwithstanding the result.


January 11th, 2019 at 3:46 PM ^

Matthews shouldn't be allowed to take a two-point jumper until he's committed two charges.

I thought that watching the game. Illinois was gumming up the lane under the basket, but why not drive one in there anyway and see how / if they are calling charges? 

You don't ever know ahead of time.  You could just as easily score and get an and-one.



January 11th, 2019 at 4:14 PM ^

I think we had one charge called on us and it was an egregiously bad call.  The Illini player was not only moving to the side but I think also jumped and was in the air when he was contacted.  That being said, let the refs make the call.  Can't be any worse being he's been off on his shot recently.


January 11th, 2019 at 4:17 PM ^

Matthews has two types of jumpers, there are the ones at the free throw line that come off good movement and cuts and he is good at those. Then there are the ones that come after a drive has been cut off and is a last resort and that is where he should just be kicking it out instead of forcing it up.

I do think some of it is that for a while this season Matthews and Iggy are the only ones willing and able to create their own offense of the dribble. Poole has turned it around and made that less true but a lot of late shot clock playmaking gets put on him.

Maize N' Ute

January 11th, 2019 at 3:47 PM ^

Austin Davis is what he is, but why exactly was he recruited?  I'm trying to stay away from bashing the guy, but he's not a Div 1 player.  I laughed pretty hard at that foul rate in B1G action.


January 11th, 2019 at 3:56 PM ^

Matthews' fade away jumpers have looked off for a while now. He hangs so long the air it seems like his release point is slightly off...maybe he's releasing the ball too late? 

I'm no shot doctor, but it just looks like his timing is off or something. Anyone else noticed this?


January 11th, 2019 at 4:08 PM ^

Yes.  I have noticed two things, both are resulting in misses short.  As you noted, he is holding the ball too long before he releases and the ball is not properly arched.  Secondly, Michael Jordan forever doomed us to the mid-range jumper always becoming somewhat of a fade-away.  MJ (and later Kobe) did it by design to create space where none existed, but players are forever emulating that midrange pull-up as a fade-away even when there is reason to do so.  Matthews was going straight up on that shot earlier in the year and it was falling but now he is fading on it and not putting additional arch on the ball to compensate.

He should shelf it and come back to it later in the season.  He has that shot but is having some issues with it right now.


January 11th, 2019 at 4:33 PM ^

This. I remember thinking on at least of couple of his that the fade was unnecessary - he had room to get the shot off going straight up.

Plus, he's always had an odd release that will make it difficult to be consistent if he isn't releasing in rhythm like he's been doing this year on his wing/corner threes. Too much wrist.


January 11th, 2019 at 4:19 PM ^

You can stat yourself to death about this team and where its shortcomings mostly reside, and it is in the shooting game, because there will be games where the opposition makes you pay when you aren't at your best shooting from where you are most comfortable.

It's obviously harder to score against set defenses than in transition where you find an open shooter or a cutter going to the tin for a dunk or a layup. I agree we need to get Matthews and Livers going to the basket more often whenever possible.

I don't know if they are trending better at the line or not, but at least when they shoot from there, Matthews, and Simpson especially,  looks more comfortable.  He sank his free throws very smoothly last night.

Teske had his third double-double of his career last night, to go with four blocks. He is now getting more ref respect for his offense even two-and-ones last night to go along with greater frequency of beyond the arc launches. If Teske and Simpson start hitting those consistently, we won't have to worry about Kenpom numbers.

We can only hope this is a thing that is gradually improving like his hook shot. Speaking of getting to the rim, Michigan had several fast-break opportunities last night that were foiled because Simpson tried to take them home instead of hitting a trailing teammate  with more leverage and size to throw it down or make an easier layup when he is trying to beat more than one defender. He usually demonstrates good judgment in these situations, but he has had several shots vigorously rejected against Indy and the Ilini.

Talk about nit-piking an undefeated team's 10-point win on the road that led Brendan Gleeson to toss his coat in admiration after a Simpson possession dribble was restarted by too-tight Illini defense. That was a good no-call and a bridge too far for Underwood under the circumstances. Michigan killed Illinois at the free throw line because they were otherwise outshot by the Fighting Illni. So, sometimes shooting percentages and scoring efficiencies are misleading.

Michigan is playing by the McGary phillosophy --Just win the game.


Naked Bootlegger

January 11th, 2019 at 6:01 PM ^

I was also imploring Simpson (from my couch) to perform a two foot jump stop on those blocked layups.   A two foot jump stop followed by a hard pump fake would result in Dosunmu jumping out of his shoes.   You can then draw a foul or pivot with either foot and dump off to the trailer.   Works like a charm every time against jumping jack defenders.  

But I'm nitpicking.  Simpson had a fantastic game save for those two missed opportunity blocked shots on fast breaks. 


January 11th, 2019 at 5:28 PM ^

Texas Southern's coach for the last 6 years was Mike Davis, Bob Knight's successor at IU. He left for Detroit Mercy this season. I don't know how much he had to do with TSU's current schedule, but at Detroit he scheduled a bunch of road games to start the season - kinda what you have to do in order to get any games at a small school. The buy games are basically athletic department fundraisers.

El Jeffe

January 11th, 2019 at 5:55 PM ^

Here's a weird question because there isn't much more to say about this team right now and I feel like saying something:

Is it possible that M is coached not to pass the ball when they have a clear angle to the basket? I feel like the two chasedown blocks of Z/X should never have happened because he had clear trailers to drop the ball off to. He also made another heavily contested layup, and Iggy had one where there were obvious trailers. Is this a thing? Or just guys not having Rondo-esque court vision?

I'll hang up and listen.