Basketbullets: Northwestern Part 2

Submitted by Brian on January 31st, 2013 at 10:50 AM

1/30/2013 – Michigan 68, Northwestern 46 – 20-1, 7-1 Big Ten


Bryan Fuller

There was no look-ahead from either Indiana or Michigan last night, or maybe both these teams are too good to let a Purdue or Northwestern hang around even if they're spending most of the night playing mind Tetris. The casualness of both wins left an impression: these teams are that good.

Michigan dissected the Wildcats in a way the final stats don't quite show because that was the slowest game they'd played all year, 53 possessions. They didn't have a turnover until the game was almost three-quarters done and finished with two. Meanwhile, Indiana put up 1.45 points per possession against Purdue, hitting 50% from 2, 48% from three, and 19% from the line, rebounding more than half their misses, and suffering just eight turnovers.

All right then. Let's git it awn.


Photos. Via Bryan Fuller:

A perfect half of a half. I tweeted at halftime that it felt weird that Michigan was only up 15 after blazing the nets the entire time and not committing a turnover, and then I saw UMHoops issue its traditional halftime PPP with Michigan at 1.5(!!!). One division later and the reason the game was vaguely close was obvious: the first half featured an extremely low 24 possessions. If they'd played that well over a normal possession count they would have been more than 20 points clear.

I'm not sure that's possible, because I mean gol' dang. When Stauskas knocked down his third three I got an odd look from the wife because I was waving my hands around and giggling insanely. In retrospect the second-half dropoff was inevitable.

Okay, maybe not inevitable—see Indiana PPP above—but pretty dang close to such. Things that pretty don't last. Northwestern defense, I salute you!


good. good. good. (Fuller)

Trey! Burke had a day more in line with outsized player-of-the-year expectations than his previous outing: 18 points on 11 shots, 8 assists, 1 TO, 2 steals, and even a few rebounds. In this one the long stepback shots were excellent backup plans executed late in the shot-clock (with one exception, IIRC) and he facilitated the rest of the offense beautifully. Northwestern's accommodating defense disclaimers apply; you can't ask for much more from a point guard no matter who they're playing.

8430645497_854c268530_z[1]Morgan absence check-in. (Fuller @ right)

Since McGary is getting his McGary minutes and doing his McGary things this section will restrict itself to comparing Horford and Morgan. So let's do that.

I'm of two minds. The downside: Michigan got beat on the boards by a not-very-good Illinois outfit when Morgan went down and in this one they allowed Northwestern to exceed their OREB season average by a couple points.

You'd expect them to be under their average if they're going up against the #12 DREB team nationally, so that indicates something of a swing. Also, in Michigan's first game against the Wildcats Morgan had 13 rebounds, five of them offensive, and M held Northwestern to 25% OREB. That's far, far short of anything definitive; it's all we have to go on statistically and suggests… well, mostly noise. But what is not noise suggests there is some rebounding dropoff.

On the other hand, I'm inclined to exonerate the centers for any OREB issues in this one. Wildcat center Alex Olah had one. A couple went to Northwestern PF-type substance Jared Swopshire, and the rest were from guards.

It didn't seem like Horford was deficient on the boards. The rest of it was unambiguously good: he put up ten points on five shots, hitting 4/5 from the line and blocking three shots. Northwestern shot 47% from two—meh, a bit better than their season average—and only acquired 8 FTs. They're surprisingly good at getting to the line for a team with their athletic limitations, so that's a positive. One of Horford's fouls was a late hedge, which in the context of this team (tons of depth at the five, rarely gets up to seven fouls in a half) is meaningless. He had a couple of nice finishes on the pick and roll.

Eyeballing it, there's not much difference between Horford and Morgan.

BONUS. It was pretty cool to see Morgan in Horford's ear coaching him up at virtually every commercial break. This team, man.

Welp. Let's zoom in on that Wildcat observing Horford's pending layup:


maybe if I point my finger… (Fuller)


McGary minutes, McGary things. It would be McGary who broke a 28-minute streak without a turnover. It would also be McGary who ripped down a third of Michigan's rebounds in just 15 minutes of playing time. It would also also be McGary who flung himself to the floor and backhanded a ball back into play that eventually turned into a Michigan three-pointer.

His main weakness is picking up pug-like…

I spent far too long finding this video. People of the internet: please have higher standards for what qualifies as "insane" or "psycho" behavior from pugs.

…psycho fouls, but since most of those are loose ball/on the floor things they have about the same impact as Horford's hedge foul: none.

Tough day for Tim, or maybe not. Hardaway was 2/8 from inside the arc—not his best day. There were a couple of shots interspersed in those eight that were clearly frustration shots.

I'm okay with that. He only had a couple, and those sorts of "I NEED TO GET IN THE GAME" attempts are inevitable whenever you're a high-usage alpha-dog sort like Michigan wants Hardaway to be. He stepped back after missing those and let the offense run. He picked up three assists and a steal and his burgeoning shut-down defender rep was burnished by holding Reggie Hearn to 7 points on 8 shots with a 0:2 A:TO ratio. I still question that—the announcers brought up the DJ Byrd thing again and I was all like "more than half of DJ Byrd's points against Stauskas were from Indiana". I think he's obviously improved a great deal.

It's a broken record at this point: this year Hardaway contributes in columns other than total points, consistently. When he's crushing people's heads like he did at Minnesota he's an All-American; when he's not he's still a major asset.

He should be prepared to be shut off by Oladipo, though. His improved handle is still not enough to do much against that guy.


now I'll make a dog on the overhead projector (Fuller)

"Not Just A Shooter" Watch. I counted five—we are including slight variants of the sentiment—throughout the course of the evening: one pregame, two in-game, and two in BTN postgame coverage. I think we might make a shirt.

Other Stauskas news. The usual. A game… blouses dunk, a couple of sweet assists, 3/5 from three. The unusual: twice in this game he was singled up one-on-one with a pretty good scorer and dominated the guy. On defense!

Those two possessions were the first I can remember where Stauskas made an impact on the defensive end of the floor, and with Northwestern going 4/19 from three you can't dog the closeouts too much. Stauskas went under some screens against Alex Marcotullio early and paid for it, but the guy puts up 70% of his shots from three and hits 29%—I wouldn't be surprised if that was the gameplan against the guy. Keep your defense balanced and if he hits he hits.

I tell you what: he's not just a shooter. thatsracist.gif.

Light Rob. It has come to my attention that I rarely even bother to talk about GRIII, whether it's here or in the podcast, and this is kind of an incredible thing. I know I cannot contain myself about how exciting Stauskas is as a player, and why not: he's 8th nationally in ORTG as a freshman.

Robinson is sixth. At the end of every game he has somewhere between 12 and 20 points and Michigan has run no plays for him and he's taken about three dribbles to acquire those points and you're just like "oh, right… that incredibly efficient guy." In this one, 13 points on 7 shots. Another day at the office. GRIII's office is at the top of a beanstalk.

Ace reports that the players on the team have nicknamed him "Light Rob" because of that effect when you look at the box score: "oh right, GRIII had a light 20 points." He is shooting 67% from the field and 40% from three. Kind of good.

Unfortunately for GRIII, this in no way translates to skills the NBA finds attractive. Being able to do this is a detriment because sometimes you get stuck in the rafters and have to be fished out at great expense:



Oh well, three more years at Michigan.

Spike doing things. Just four minutes for Albrecht but the thing about the guy is that he'll get those four, five, six minutes and do something with them. In this one he missed an open three—good shot from a good shooter so still counts to the good—and had a lovely push up the floor that turned a situation that did not necessarily look like a developing transition opportunity into an easy bucket.

Like LeVert, Albrecht is not likely to have a huge impact on the big games Michigan is about to embark on. Also like LeVert, he is capable of giving you a play or two that may make the difference. Both were late pickups from nowhere, and if Michigan finishes this year 5 to 1 against there will be at least one play featuring those guys that we'll point to as crucial.

This is John Beilein's Dumars moment. I'm not saying he's going to go out and recruit college versions of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva at ruinous expense right after this. I am saying that there was a point in time during which Joe Dumars seemed like the smartest GM in the history of the NBA, and that this inevitably faded as his luck regressed to the mean, and that Michigan has just metaphorically traded Chucky Atkins for Rasheed Wallace.

John Beilein is a great, great basketball coach, and possibly an even better identifier of talent. But no amount of skill can guarantee this kind of team. Look at Calipari, sporting another shot-blocking monstrosity at center who will go in the top three picks in the draft. This year he's cruising towards the bubble, not the championship. This is the point at which Beilein seems impossible. Long may it last, but here's your biweekly unnecessary reminder to savor this.



January 31st, 2013 at 12:29 PM ^

It appeared that we was pressing with the jump hook in a string of 4 straight shots from him so I wonder if he was honestly trying to work on that shot against a weaker opponent. One was an airball, a miss, a block and then a miss. He has multiple moves, but it just seemed odd that we was going to the basket that way. I could be wrong. 


January 31st, 2013 at 12:56 PM ^

of former assistant/front office guy John Hammond to Milwaukee in 2008 or 2009, and that Joe was worse for Hammond's absence. However, Milwaukee has just been marginally better than Detroit since Hammond went there, so it's hard to make the case that he's the difference between good Joe and bad Joe.


January 31st, 2013 at 2:21 PM ^

What trade has Dumars made in the past few years that didn't have "more cap space" as its sole virtue?  And then the extra cap space is used on guys like the aforementioned Gordon and Villanueva.  Using the dollars to bring in high quality players has never been a strong point for Dumars.


January 31st, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

Perhaps more weight needs to be placed on the system that Beilein runs.  If he is known for getting more out of less, then isn't it reasonable to expect that the dropoff won't be as great with a downgrade in talent?  Basketball is a superstar dominated sport, but coaching a system cannot be overlooked.  

We may have Dumars chemistry, but having a system coach makes me feel better about not losing it.


January 31st, 2013 at 1:53 PM ^

He's not a system coach, though, unless you count "system" as "spacing the floor." There's very little similarity about the ways his good teams at WVU played and his good teams at Michigan play. To choose two examples: 1-3-1 vs. man and ball screen offense vs. post/drive and kick.


January 31st, 2013 at 1:36 PM ^

Now we can start talking about Indiana, right?

Keys for Michigan...

1. Play at our pace. If the winning score in this game is below 80, I think we win. Above 80, IU has the advantage. We can run, but it's what Indiana does best. Zeller's leading centers in transition PPG by a ridiculous margin, and their shooters are best stepping into 3s off the break, particularly Hulls. This might be a game where McGary and Horford need to sacrifice offensive rebounds to get back, and when they do run, defenders need to find Oladipo and Hulls. We'll miss Morgan's mobility and defensive discipline in this game.

2. We need to take advantage of the mismatch in the backcourt. IU's starting lineup (Hulls, Ferrell, Oladipo) has issues against Michigan. Oladipo's obviously a great defender, but the other two guys are short and Hulls is short and slow. Crean has to hope that Ferrell can stay in front of Burke, allowing Oladipo to guard THJ and Hulls to guard Stauskas. If Burke can break down Ferrell, they pretty much have to move Oladipo to Burke, and remove either Hulls or Ferrell for Will Sheehy (their version of McGary, but 6'5) to guard THJ. That still leaves either Ferrell or Hulls on Stauskas who should be able to shoot over them. How well he does so might be the key part of the game.

3. Hope Watford doesn't go off. This will be GRIII's toughest defensive matchup, but Watford can disappear if he misses shots. Oladipo and Zeller will probably get theirs. If Michigan can limit Watford and Hulls to subpar games, they probably win.

4. Make Zeller work. If you take away his transition baskets, he's not nearly the same player. At times IU can forget about him.



January 31st, 2013 at 1:44 PM ^

I agree with most of your points, but I'm not sure we necessarily need to slow the game down all that much.  I'll take Burke/Hardaway/Robinson in a track meet against anybody in the country. Also GRIII already had what is going to be his most difficult assignment in C,J Leslie. There is not a better scorer at the 4(with maybe the exception of Deshaun Thomas) left on the schedule. I definitely think your 4th point is the most important. If you limit Zeller, IU goes from top 3 team in the country to merely very good. 


January 31st, 2013 at 1:53 PM ^

I don't think we need to play Wisconsin slow or anything like that, but we're significantly better than them offensively in the half court and they may be slightly better (b/c of Zeller) than us in transition. They really thrive when they can push the pace and find either Zeller running down the middle of the court or Hulls/Oladipo stepping into a transition 3. Probably the most important thing is to take care of the ball. If we keep our turnover margin where it's been, we'll probably be fine.


January 31st, 2013 at 3:34 PM ^

"When he's crushing people's heads like he did at Minnesota he's an All-American; when he's not he's still a major asset."

And that's because when he's not crushing heads he is pinching faces.