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