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!]
WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE BATTLE OF "VARMA" YOU CLOD [Patrick Barron]
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!