[Marc-Gregor Campredon

Basketbullets: Penn State 2018-19 Part Two Comment Count

Brian February 13th, 2019 at 2:30 PM

2/12/2019 – Michigan 69, Penn State 75 – 22-3, 11-3 Big Ten

I muted the TV and went to go get something to eat at halftime, so I didn't realize what had happened until my eye slid to the chryon at the bottom of the screen some ten minutes later: John Beilein, ejected from the game. The replay followed:

That is how Tom Izzo greets his grandmother. That is how Fran McCaffrey orders coffee. It appears for all the world that the thing that got John Beilein ejected for the first time since he had rad sideburns was putting his fingers up to indicate the number of missed calls that he was incensed about. Maybe he said "dangit" in there somewhere.

And… I guess everyone's got a breaking point, but I thought that was a weird one. If Beilein had blown up after watching Ethan Happ's 63rd foul on Saturday that would have made all the sense in the world. Here an admittedly pretty awful missed moving screen call seemed to punctuate a first half with little in the way of officiating controversy.

I was more concerned with the fact that Michigan was playing like they'd all hit themselves in the head with frying pans before the game. Maybe Beilein was too, and was on his last nerve when Simpson got blasted into next week. Or maybe the cumulative effect of road losses to Iowa and Wisconsin in which Michigan got boned, to use a technical term, had worn down Beilein's tolerance for dumb stuff.

Whatever the reason Beilein got an unprecedented ejection, here's a crossroads: the nicest guy in college basketball just got fed up. We know referees are susceptible to everything they seem to be. They favor home teams, and trailing teams, and especially teams that have committed more fouls than the opponent. There's no way to quantify how much yellin' impacts them, but it probably does.

At the very least we'll get to see how the people complaining about people complaining about refs handle the fact that Beilein's lost his marbles about the whistle he's getting.


"Emotionally drunk," the stat. Penn State won this game largely because Myles Dread went 5/8 on high quality threes. That's a baffling thing to have happen. Michigan is extraordinarily good at sticking to shooters and Dread is Just A Shooter at this juncture of his career—some 80% of his shots come from outside the arc and he has 19 FTAs on the season.

Dread's open looks didn't come after clever screens or Villanova ball movement. They just happened. This wasn't Michigan doubling and not managing to scramble back. It was as if Tommy Amaker had momentarily possessed the mind of whoever was supposed to be in Dread's face.

The rest of PSU went 1/7 from three, and even though the announcers kept talking about how Stevens was "giving it to" Jon Teske he had 20 points on 24 shot equivalents before 10 FTAs in the dying minutes. Michigan inexplicably losing Dread is the only reason PSU crept above a PPP.

1-2-2 is death. I have no idea why everyone doesn't do the half-ass three-quarter-court press against Michigan. It cost Penn State exactly one basket when Simpson was able to break it and get an and-one to Teske. When not doing that it hampered Michigan's offensive flow. Michigan frequently didn't even run an action until there were ten seconds left on the shot clock.

Michigan ended up scoring 1.05 PPP thanks to a 62% shooting night on twos and acceptable numbers from three but it feels like the TOs (12) and lack of OREBs (4) were in part because Michigan was scrambling for shots and either got in trouble or just jacked something up with no penetration to draw OREB-generating help defense.

In which late fouling makes things seem very different. Penn State FTs in the last 2:34: 18. There were four from the techs, and a total of twelve in the other 37 minutes and change.

The silver lining: Chucky Charlie Charles. Matthews put up a 145 ORTG, hit some more midrange stuff I hated until it went down, hit 3/4 threes, and generally looked like good Matthews from last year's postseason instead of the Struggle Bus Matthews we've gotten most of the year.

Poole shot selection. It's bad much of the time, but in this game it didn't really jump out aside from one very bad idea NBA three in the second half. Much of the time it's a goofy Poole shot… or the same thing later.

ELON DUNKS!!! Thanks to Nick Malish for reminding me of the most important ongoing story in college basketball: the Elon Fightin' Musks Quest For Just One Dunk. The quest has come to a satisfactory conclusion:


I hope the basket melted like the One Ring in Mount Doom when Steven Santa Ana thundered home Elon's first dunk of the year in a 72-60 OT loss to Northeastern.



February 13th, 2019 at 2:44 PM ^

On the one hand, every successful Beilein team has a loss or two like this. 

On the other, losing stinks. So does looking bad on offense, which Michigan has for most of the B1G schedule.

The 2 point % is an interesting stat, because Michigan really did shoot pretty well inside the arc. And yet they were down significant points for most of the game and never could put things together enough to crawl back. 

Offense will still be the question, of course. The bad D was bad but it seems like a fluke; Michigan seems to struggle on offense on the road no matter how bad the defense is that they're playing.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that there aren't many guys who can pass, and even the "shooters" are only ok. With Poole's slump, there's nobody on the team that makes opponents tremble when he hoists a 3. 


February 13th, 2019 at 2:59 PM ^

Except for turnovers, they didn't really struggle on offense.  They got 0.9 ppp in the first half and 1.1 ppp in the second half prior to desperation time (29 points on the first 26 second-half possessions, and then 13 on the final 9).  That's not great offense, but it would have been good enough to win most games this year.

The majority of the struggles were on defense.  The PSU three-point percentage is a little deceiving, because they also drew two fouls on threes (and made 2 of 3 free throws each time).  If you think those were bad calls and count them as misses, then PSU was 35% on threes.  If you think they were good calls, then they were effectively 47%.

In many respects, this was just one of those games.  PSU got multiple OREBs from catching airballs.  Sometimes it's just not your night.

I think people are obsessed with PSU's Big Ten record and think that they're this awful team.  They're really not.  They're not a great team, but they're a good team -- per KenPom, they'd be an above-.500 team in Big East play, AAC, or Pac 12 play.  They're better than their record indicated, they got some calls and some lucky bounces.  Michigan needs to put this one in the rearview mirror and hope things go better Saturday.


February 13th, 2019 at 4:06 PM ^

Michigan got out hustled the first 30 minutes plain and simple. The ref show didn't help matters and there were several egregious calls/no calls that prevented UM from coming all the way back. This team now has to hold serve at home and find a way to win two out of the last 3 on the road otherwise it's bye bye B1G title.


February 13th, 2019 at 4:45 PM ^

Nobody is suggesting that "all" of PSU's offensive rebounds were flukes, but this does seem to be a convenient narrative to feel better about justifying a loss to an inferior team.

There is no rule in basketball that the defense is somehow more entitled to rebound an airball than the team that hoisted it.  It just feels that way to fans of the team whose defense forced a bad shot.  In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the offense tends to rebound more of those shots because the offensive players are crashing toward the hoop while defenders are generally trying to put themselves in good rebounding position.

PSU is generally a poor shooting team.  They are going to put up more airballs than other teams.  They will get some of those misses.  That's just a fact of life that Michigan needs to deal with.


February 13th, 2019 at 6:31 PM ^

As it relates to rebounding airballs, the reason that can be a bit fluky is that defenses do have a significant rebounding advantage in general.  This is why like 100% of defenses get more rebounds than they give up and the overall number is like 70/30.  This is because defenses are in position to block out.

But when a guy airballs, i.e. misses so badly, it levels the playing field.  The defender who had position waiting for the ball to carom off the rim may no longer be in the best position.  What's unlucky is that the guy missed so badly that it gave his teammates a better chance to get the rebound.  That sucks.

It did look like PSU played with a lot more energy.  Not surprising at home against a top 6 team.  Also Teske is probably playing too many minutes.

The weird thing about this game is that PSU went mostly small.  Watkins only played 15 minutes and Wheeler unexpectedly played 30+. That would have normally played into Michigan's best solution for backup center: Livers.  But since Iggy was in foul trouble, Michigan was limited in going small with Iggy and Livers as the bigs.

Michigan should have given Davis some minutes while Watkins was in there to keep Teske more fresh.


February 13th, 2019 at 10:13 PM ^

I don't want to default to a meme, but a team can be good/bad at something AND randomness can work for/against them and those can both be true.  PSU is fine at offensive rebounding (they're 6th in the conference at it) AND they were fortunate to get some airballs/terrible shots bounce right to them.  Michigan played that first half poorly and PSU took advantage of it, but good lord does this place try to over-analyze every flaw of this team when they lose.  


February 13th, 2019 at 6:40 PM ^

I think you're right about a lot of the fluky stuff but there are two things concerning going forward in my mind:

1) The press has now rattled Simpson against Iowa and PSU.  Michigan used to be a team that murdered presses with Burke and Walton.  I'm surprised Simpson has such a hard time with it, given that ball-handling is undoubtedly a strength of his.  Maybe it's just two fluky games in which the press has gotten the better of him rather than the other way around, but it's becoming a concern.

2) Jordan Poole's shot selection remains ungodly bad, IMO.  Also, I suspect he was the one that was supposed to be guarding Dread.  I would have to go back and confirm, but he has an early DJ Wilson-like tendency to lose focus on the defensive end. It does not seem like coaching is reaching him.  He is not improving as quickly as the staff is usually able to develop such high-end talent.


February 13th, 2019 at 6:40 PM ^

I think you're right about a lot of the fluky stuff but there are two things concerning going forward in my mind:

1) The press has now rattled Simpson against Iowa and PSU.  Michigan used to be a team that murdered presses with Burke and Walton.  I'm surprised Simpson has such a hard time with it, given that ball-handling is undoubtedly a strength of his.  Maybe it's just two fluky games in which the press has gotten the better of him rather than the other way around, but it's becoming a concern.

2) Jordan Poole's shot selection remains ungodly bad, IMO.  Also, I suspect he was the one that was supposed to be guarding Dread.  I would have to go back and confirm, but he has an early DJ Wilson-like tendency to lose focus on the defensive end.  He is not improving as quickly as the staff is usually able to develop such high-end talent.  That is unfortunate to me.  I expected a break-out that hasn't come.


February 13th, 2019 at 8:33 PM ^

Agree 100%.

1) I was yelling at the TV for us to attack their 3/4 court press and the ONE time we did, Teske gets an And-1.  

2) Also, Poole should be auto benched for every two bad shots or unforced turnovers he makes. I wouldn't mind him playing with two fouls and losing him late in the game on offense if he's encouraged to be more careful with the ball and had fewer defensive lapses.


February 14th, 2019 at 12:01 PM ^

Agree 100% on your first point about pressing the advantage after we break the press

But if you're autobenching Poole, who are you giving his minutes to?  Our rotation is already on 6-7 deep so unless you want to see a lot more Brooks the bad shots are something we'll need to live with.


February 14th, 2019 at 12:05 AM ^

You could see fukn daylight between Iggy and the shooter one the one three. Ridiculous.  There was also one where he made soft contact after the shooter came down. 

There was also a key sequence where Zavier picked up a lose ball scramble and was tackled for no call.  They then scored going the other way. 


February 13th, 2019 at 3:59 PM ^

The wording of my post was a (perhaps excessively) circuitous way of saying that while the flukily bad defensive performance was the major factor in the loss, the offense is the thing that is consistently mediocre and thus what will draw conversation. Not unlike the aftermath of a certain football game from last November. 

And while the offense's results were ok, they weren't great. They weren't great against an atrocious defense in Iowa City, either. And they were outright bad against a good defense in Madison.

When the defense doesn't lock down the opponent, the offense struggles to keep up. And the offense is what we expect would keep Michigan from achieving the highest goals in the postseason this year, and it looks like it's a team that has the potential to reach them. So we'll fret about it, especially in a loss. 


February 13th, 2019 at 4:57 PM ^

I agree. Not necessarily for this game but so many times I see Iggy drive to the basket to take a contested layup while ignoring a wide open man in Corner. Also I know John gives his shooters the green light but I fell like half of pooles threes attempted over the last ten games would be bad shots even for Kobe Bryant. The shots he took last night are a prime example.


February 13th, 2019 at 11:47 PM ^

A green light is for open shots.  Like Teske when he's open: green light.  Shoot it.  Even Simpson, when he's open, shoot it.  Having a green light doesn't mean you are free to jack it up indiscriminately.

And every guy has a "green light" to take varying degrees of shots. But Poole takes a lot of excessively bad shots.  I doubt the coaches want him taking those when they're early in the shot clock.


February 14th, 2019 at 10:45 AM ^

Poole did take a few bad shots, but he was also forced into a lot of desperate heaves as the shot clock expired because the offense was either stagnant or couldn't get into sets early enough or there was not better option.  Very few seemed to be good, open looks.  In fact, there weren't many good open looks from 3 all game.  Just an ugly, bad game all around.


February 13th, 2019 at 2:46 PM ^

If you asked me 24 hours ago, I would have predicted that Xtramelanin would earn a trip to MgoBolivia before John Beilein was ejected from a basketball game.

Hell has indeed frozen over.

matty blue

February 13th, 2019 at 2:54 PM ^

i did much the same thing at halftime, although in my case i muted the tv (my GOD i hate talking heads) and listened to the "img radio network" feed via the tunein radio app.

walking through the living room, i saw the same "beilein ejected" chyron and thought i'd misread it.  why did i think this?  because the radio broadcast HADN'T MENTIONED IT DURING THEIR HALFTIME SHOW.  i'm not kidding - i hadn't heard a single word.  instead, i heard the "blah blah blah incorporated halftime highlights" ("the score was tied 2-2 when charles matthews went to work..." was considered a highlight) and "around the big ten, presented by go screw yourself insurance company" and the "halftime injury report, presented by blue cross blue shield" (admittedly, this last one may be entirely imaginary). 

neither terry mills or his play-by-play guy (whoever he is) appeared.  on the bright side, neither terry mills or his play-by-play partner appeared.

the point being - there's literally not one single thing you should be talking about at halftime other than the fact that the coach of the team got run out of the building.

i take back "the point being" - there's no point to this except to say that u-m radio coverage suuuuuuucks.


February 13th, 2019 at 2:57 PM ^

We played terribly in the first half, and that is why we lost; but the reffing in this game was astounding at times:

Beilein ejected for being pissed about a presumed missed call... ya know, normal basketball coach things. Several times Simpson or Matthews got straight run over going for loose balls and refs let it go. But mostly, the double dribble that only the refs missed - peewee refs don't miss things that blatant. I don't know how anyone can take the refs seriously after they missed that. 


February 13th, 2019 at 3:19 PM ^

It wasn't a double dribble.  


It was a travel, a double dribble, and a shot clock violation.  And this was just part of a brief sequence that included the scramble where Z turned the ball over because he was fouled repeatedly, Teske was fouled on an offensive rebound (I am ok with the no-call on the ensuing blocked shot), and a phantom shooting foul on Michigan.  That's unbelievable incompetence. 



February 13th, 2019 at 3:33 PM ^

One thing to keep in mind: true, unbiased referee incompetence almost always favors the lesser-skilled team.  The team with more skill generally just needs the referees to get out of the way.

Since Michigan is more skilled than the vast majority of teams in the country, any incompetence is likely to favor their opponents, all else being equal.

The referees don't have to be biased to hurt Michigan.  They just need to be bad.


February 13th, 2019 at 5:14 PM ^

This hit the nail on the head. Refs really don’t care who wins. They don’t actively try to suck. That’s why the block/charge rule is killing college ball. People like Brad  Davis can’t guard people like Romeo Langford. In a perfect basketball world guys like Langford should blow past Davis 75 Percent of the time and either get to the hoop or draw a foul. But because of the way the game is called he can just bump and flop his way around and call it good D. Langford is not putting  up batshit crazy numbers but is still gonna be a top 5 pick while Davis will play for some shitty euro team  because pro teams know the game will be called different in the Nba. 

Denard In Space

February 13th, 2019 at 8:27 PM ^

this is a very good point that i agree with.  and yet i still can't fathom the insane doubletraveldribble no-call at which a referee was looking directly. they were forcing piggy-back rides on teske. i didn't even watch the first half! i've never seen anything like that kind of officiating since i started watching college basketball.  


February 13th, 2019 at 11:02 PM ^

No, of course "just bad" isn't good enough.  I want good officials, both for philosophical and pragmatic reasons -- it's the right thing to do, and it would also benefit Michigan.

The bias argument might make sense if the guy who worked all of Michigan's losses was the guy who called the Ts.  He wasn't.  So now, either you have a bunch of biased guys -- two of whom hadn't been able to cause a Michigan loss yet this year -- or they get together before the game and agree to favor a certain team.  Remember, basketball referees don't work as crews; while they presumably knew each other from the referee community, they might never have worked together before.  Certainly, while each of these officials has worked several Michigan games this year -- four each, in fact -- this was the first time that even two of them had done a Michigan game together this year.

Kilgore Trout

February 13th, 2019 at 3:05 PM ^

I don't know where you could find the exact breakdown, but I don't really disagree with the statement that Stephens was giving Teske a lot of trouble. Stephens finished with 26 points. He had 15 in the first half mostly on Teske and 5 free throws during intentional time. Livers was the primary defender for most of the second half, even when Teske was in the game, and seemed to really slow Stephens down. 

Agree that the difference in the game was Dread, but Stephens did some good work. 


February 13th, 2019 at 3:48 PM ^

And I wonder if durr... math iz hard... people like you ever actually understand what you're watching or if your vocabulary is limited to "he wanted it more," "give it to the hot hand," and "live by the three, die by the three."

The purpose of advanced stats is to gain a better understanding of the game. The more I understand a sport, the more enjoyment I get out of watching it.  Despite what you may think, the point is not to create statistics for their own sake -- they tell a story that may not be obvious.

Reggie Dunlop

February 13th, 2019 at 4:00 PM ^

J., I like you but I agree with him here. You had the same reply to me in the other game thread.

Stevens shot 39%. His efficiency and usage and whatever else is what it is. You're not wrong. But you're also not compartmentalizing any of this.

When Stevens was singled up with Teske in the first half, he murdered him. Teske was in foul-avoidance mode and Stevens made every piece of crap he threw up there and he did in fact dominate Jon Teske.

When Stevens had to take a jump shot, late in the clock or via heat check or whatever, he missed a lot.

When Stevens had the quicker Livers on him he wasn't nearly effective.

These are all generally true. He's right. So are you. But you being right doesn't negate what he's saying. Stevens was good singled up on Teske. You can't throw out shot equivalents and pretend that means Stevens wasn't dominant in the first half. Anybody with eyes can see that Stevens was hot and hitting everything and he carried PSU to their early lead. Denying that behind full game box score numbers is kind of ridiculous.


February 13th, 2019 at 4:29 PM ^

I don't have access to splits based on player assignments, or on/off floor data.  I saw the same thing you did, but I know better than to trust my own judgment, because the eyes can deceive.  If I did have that access, I would love it, because it would help me to understand things better.

That said, if "Stevens made every piece of crap he threw up there and he did in fact dominate Jon Teske" is true, then we're going to have to agree to disagree.  Making poor shots isn't dominance; it's a side-effect of good defense.  Sometimes the shot goes in anyway, but it's unlikely to continue to happen.  Eventually, if you take enough bad shots, you will likely end up with a bad stat line.