Basketbullets: Western Michigan Comment Count

Brian December 5th, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Some games are just games. When there are just games we just write the bullets. Don't forget Ace's instant recap.

12/4/2012 – Michigan 73, Western Michigan 41 – 8-0

So Michigan gets 7 and 9 points from Robinson and Hardaway as both shoot 3 of 10 from the floor and they win by 32. The new normal: better than the old normal. That was offset by a monster night from Trey Burke: 20 points on 11 shots, 7 assists, no turnovers, three steals. And onward.

Pick your sloppy point. Michigan is still working through long sections during which they look pretty sloppy, which probably shouldn't be a surprise with two or three freshmen on the court at all times. In this game it was early; in the previous two the rough patch was down the stretch. The net effect was about the same adjusted for level of competition.

To some extent that is basketball, but if they can just smooth out a couple of the rough patches by March…

/picks up paper bag

Tempo still slow, slow, slow. Michigan is 324th in tempo. I don't get it. It seems like Michigan is pushing the ball as much as makes sense for them to do. The Daily has an article headlined "Transition becomes Michigan's best option on offense" and I thought that was reasonable. A couple times in this game I thought Hardaway was going into two or three players when pulling it out and setting up the half-court offense was a better idea. And yet Michigan's tempo has barely budged. They're up under a possession a game from last year.

All I've got is this: Michigan takes care of the ball so well (13th in TO%) and doesn't force a whole lot of turnovers, leading to fewer short possessions that tend to lead to yet more short possessions when an open-court turnover turns into a fast break.

Supporting evidence: Beilein's teams at West Virginia forced a ton of turnovers and were a bit faster, ranked in the 270s and 280s instead of the 320s as Michigan's last four teams have been. Beilein's fastest team since 2003 was his first one at Michigan; that outfit had a lot of TOs, at least relative to Beilein averages.

It should be noted that the differences here are not huge: Michigan is about four and a half possessions away from the national average.



Big shooting: more spread out but more of it. A game like the WMU game stands out because Michigan's bigs were collectively 9/11 from the floor and took zero jumpshots to get there. Most of their efforts were throwing it down off the pick and roll, with a coast-to-coast Morgan steal and layup thrown in for good measure.

Anyway: though the bigs' collective usage is never going to approach the 2010-11 version of Morgan, Morgan only played 60% of Michigan's minutes that year. He got up 225 shots, which he made at a 63% clip. This year Morgan and McGary are collectively getting 87% of Michigan's minutes and are collectively 43/66.

Since there are two of them the lower usage is made up for by more efficient minutes. Michigan played 35 games two years ago. If they get the same number this year those two bigs shooting 64% will have gotten up 289 attempts. Michigan keeps sucking bad attempts out of the offense.

Given that, what is the weak spot on Michigan's offense? Is it GRIII? I think it is. GRIII would have been the best or second-best player on almost every Michigan team since the Fab Five exited, and he's the perimeter-ish guy on the floor who has low usage and isn't Stauskas. His ORtg is 126, which is near the top 100. In this game I got a little annoyed at him because of context.

/breathes into paper bag

Speaking of context. Trey Burke, who has been only okay shooting so far this year, was 8 of 11 and scored 20. I wrote that sentence and then looked it up to check. Burke twos are going in at an excellent 57% clip, which places him… fifth on the team.

/paper bag no longer works

Stauskas crazy stats watch. After missing two of four free throws he's down to an almost-human 89%, but going 3/4 from behind the line pushes his 3PT% on the year to 64%(!!!) and keeps that efficiency off the charts: 2nd in true shooting, 3rd in eFG, 3rd in ORtg. He picked up four assists in this one, too, including a couple of those pick and roll jams.

Western largely got the message about Stauskas and was able to limit his attempts to six—eight if you count the free-throw generating events, but one of those was off an offensive rebound. The beneficiaries of that were the bigs.

I'd like to see a little more of the offense run through Stauskas putting it on the floor. A couple of buckets in this game came when he drove, passed it out to the perimeter, and then Hardaway or Burke drove again, passing to a post for an easy layup or and-one. Both are in that highlight reel above. Reason this seems to work so well: you have to close Stauskas out so hard that help defense has to come over really early—on the and-one Stauskas only takes a couple steps—and then when the second guy gets the ball he gets an extra rotation and by that point if you're still effectively covering a post player well that's pretty dang impressive.

Stauskas also had a couple moments on the pick and roll, one a quick-release three, the other a Burke-like bounce pass for a McGary dunk. What I am trying to say is that Stauskas is really good. He could play some spot minutes at the point even.

Defense? It's hard to complain too much when the opposition shoots under 30% but Jim Jackson kept pointing out that Michigan's hard hedging put them in bad positions when opposition players were allowed to make easy passes for a series of layup-type-substances in the first half, and I was like "yeah" and grumbly.

Michigan adjusted shortly thereafter and then Western was close to helpless. I still think there's something just not there with the defense yet. I can't quite put a finger on it. Overall they're probably better because they've got the athleticism to rebound a lot more consistently, so it's got to be a lack of a guy who seems like a really good perimeter defender to harass the opposition's best player.



Horford helps out. No shots from Michigan's third big in ten minutes but five rebounds, one on offense, plus a couple other plays that didn't make it into the box score: he deflected an interior pass that led to a fast break, got a tap-out that led to an offensive rebound that I think gets credited to someone else and D-ed up on a couple of other possessions.

A good night for SOS. NC State came out on top of a nip-and-tuck battle against UConn; Northwestern went to Waco and beat Baylor. The rest of the Big Ten held serve against low-level competition, though Illinois had a scare against 3-6 Western Carolina. Their chances of beating Gonzaga: not great.

Albrecht > McDonalds AA (Detnews)

Speaking of NC State. I watched the second half of that game and still can't get over Tyler Lewis, their hobbit backup PG, being a McDonald's guy. When he came in Ryan Boatright's eyes got wide and he got to the lane for a couple easy buckets before Gottfried yanked Lewis. He's 5'11" and is truly indistinguishable from Albrecht; his one contribution to the offense was missing a tough jumper from around the free throw line after failing to get past Boatright.

Sanity checking the eye test with season stats: a third of NC State minutes, 17% usage, huge TO rate, 5 of 13 on the year from two and 0 of 3 from three. Albrecht is in fact a much better player statistically.

How anyone could look at Lewis versus Stauskas and rank the guy seven inches shorter way above the 6'6" assassin is inexplicable. The hobbit was at Oak Hill and Stauskas is Canadian. End of plausible explanations. I even find that dubious since Stauskas was all over the AAU circuit.

I can't wait for Lewis to be an okay player as an upperclassman and for this section to be used in an article on how he has Overcome The Critics.

Photos. From Bryan Fuller:


This happened:

ANN ARBOR -- Midway through the first half Tuesday, Michigan fans got a first-hand glimpse at the eccentric personality of freshman big man Mitch McGary.

During a media timeout, McGary was featured during a pre-recorded, university-produced question and answer spot on the arena's large video screen.

But in the process of answering questions like "what's your favorite movie" and "who is your favorite singer," the 6-foot-10, 260-pound power forward broke out into song.

But not just any song, a Justin Bieber song.

Recaps from Holdin' The Rope, the News, and UMHoops. Baumgardner on Burke. Interviews with McGary and Burke. Bielfeldt sprained his ankle in practice, wore a boot on the sideline last night, and will miss a week or two.



December 5th, 2012 at 12:15 PM ^

Well now it's moot -- posting your vids on the front page without analysis is a thing that can get us in trouble so we're switching to the sponsored player.

Edit: now it looks even fuzzier. Arggh. Working out the kinks still; at least it's just Western.


December 5th, 2012 at 12:16 PM ^

Could it also be that teams are intentionally slowing down their play against us to limit possessions, keep games close, and increase variance? Not that it's really worked for anyone, but that is a common formula for a team trying to pull an upset - which descibes nearly every team we'll play this year. (!)

/buys another paper bag


December 5th, 2012 at 11:08 AM ^

The weakside help were quicker to cover the big man's guy because WMU got tons of easy look down low because they were late to help out at 1st half.

Michigan is a very young team with Vogrich as the only SR contributing(now is on the bench) and is pretty much led by a SOPH/JR with freshmen getting significant minutes.  There will be growing pains but they will get better as the season goes on.

Unlike any Michigan teams under JB, they have 4 players who can go off on their own(Burke, THJ, Nik and GRIII) which makes it that much harder for defense to defend as opposed to trying to shut down 1 of the two primary scoring options.  I'm not including Jordan Morgan because he's very limited offensively but does a good job of scoring off rebounds, pick and roll and fast break.


December 5th, 2012 at 1:06 PM ^

that a great many big men can perform. As it happens we've got two of them on the team. Morgan still has a year and a half to grow, and he does have a little baby hook. He has surprised us in so many positive ways over two years plus--I'm not counting anything out with that guy. 


December 5th, 2012 at 11:22 AM ^

Technical complaint.. Why does MgoBlue ALWAYS post their interlaced video feed which makes it look TURRIBUL whenever there is any action on the screen (which is pretty much by definition what sports highlights contain). Why can't they use the progressive video for upload?


December 5th, 2012 at 11:28 AM ^

I don't it's really fair to call GRIII the weak link, given that he is being asked to play the 4 (which he had never even done in high school). It will take some time for him to adjust. He is still rebounding very well and I think has a unique niche role on the team, as someone who can generate offense without being high usage - everyone can't be a high usage type player.


December 5th, 2012 at 11:40 AM ^

I made the same comment that we are selling out on the hard hedge and were paying for it early on in the game.  What I also remember thinking was in the second half when we had both McGary and Morgan on the floor, we weren't giving up as much with the hedge because one big would hedge, and the other would defend around the basket.  Whether that was an adjustment or just more Beilein experimenting is beyond me.


December 5th, 2012 at 11:53 AM ^

I laugh everytime someone else does it, finding the 'white guy' comparison to Stauskas.  Yet in trying to project forward to a lights out shooter at a major program, I kept coming up with 'white guy' comparisons.  In recent memory, there are only 2 players that come to mind that had Stauskas' lights out shooting and utter lack of conscience: JJ Redick and Adam Morrison.  

Both were POY level players.  I think Nik could be better than either because unlike JJ he actually has the size to be a shooting guard, but also has enough of a handle to play the point in a pinch.  And unlike Morrison, he is a good athlete and seems willing and able to pass.

Pretty nice to have that guy as your third/fourth best player in the rotation.


December 5th, 2012 at 12:52 PM ^

I agree, horford seems to have a knack for tapping the balls out to the guards when he can't get the board himself.

I think we have settled nicely into this rotation.

pg: Burke, Spike
sg: Thjr, LeVert
sf: Stuaskas, Vogrich
pf: GRIII, McGary, Bielfeldt
c: Morgan, McGary, Horford, Bielfeldt

I was encouraged yesterday from our 2 bigs lineup and think it's something that Coach B should continue to develop as a change of pace from the GRIII at the 4 lineup.

Also, regarding the tempo considerations, I don't really think it's that big of a deal. We will face the #12 tempo team arkansas this weekend and I guess then we can see how we deal with a team that plays that style but, to me, it's mostly a product of our style of defense that moreso forces teams to grind out their possesions (low risk-low reward perhaps), which slows down the game a little bit. Also, as long as our offense is churning out well over a point per possesion (on average) then it puts a lot of pressure on the other team to value their possesions too. We may have a good transition D too, which may discourage teams from running although I'm not really sure about that...but we usually send guards back instead of letting them crash the boards.


December 5th, 2012 at 12:48 PM ^

These kids are downright marketable.


Also nice to see Hardaway's dunk made Sportscenter's top 10(from 3 different angles).
One of these (non-Arkansas) games Beilein needs to start the 5 freshmen and turn the hype-meter up to 11.


December 5th, 2012 at 1:31 PM ^

If you're not just chucking up shots the first time you can see the rim and instead run offense, your tempo is going to be lower than the average team that chucks up its share.  How many shots did you see last night that you shook your head at?  Even in the first 10 minutes when a lot weren't going in, none of them struck me as bad shots.


December 5th, 2012 at 2:53 PM ^

I understand Stauskas has been playing well offensively, but is it really enough to warrant all of this? It seems too early to be so high on a guy who has only played one or two games against real competition.


December 5th, 2012 at 3:06 PM ^

Out of curiousity, who do you regard as "real competition"? Against the 3 top 30 kenpom teams we have played (which if we hold the big10 to the same standard is indiana, osu, msu, minnesota, and wiscosin)... he is averaging 15ppg, shooting 50% from 3, 12/12 from the ft line, with an avg. of 29min a game. Obviously people are extrapulating...but you provide no reason except for blind skepticism to suggest that people should not be excited and impressed with his performances.


December 6th, 2012 at 5:00 PM ^

There's no doubt he has a nice stroke. I'm more worried about his contributions defensively and his ability to improve. While he has played better than the likes of McGary and GriII to this point, they've both been making typical freshmen mistakes that they can improve on. Stauskas seems to simply get beat due to lack of relative athleticism/endurance. Don't get me wrong I hope he turns out to be a superstar, I just don't understand the hype and bold assumptions after 8 very early games.

Blue boy johnson

December 6th, 2012 at 5:09 PM ^

As Dan Dakisch like to say. "Glen Robinson has an NBA body", whereas Nik Stauskas doesn't. Getting bigger and stronger is the area Stauskas has yet to tap into. Give Nik a couple of years if S&C  and then see what he is capable of.

Look what a college S&C program has done for Jordan Morgan, John Horford, Tim Hardaway, even Trey Burke.


December 5th, 2012 at 4:27 PM ^

Brian, you aren't the only one with reservations about the defense.  To me it's a style thing.  In high school the main defense we played was pressure man to man and we tried to stay in the passing lanes (denial defense).  Michigan's defense plays more of a zone style man to man.  The objective for Michigan's defense seems to be to switch all screens and picks or to trap pick and rolls, but it seems the main goal is to stay between the ball and the basket as opposed to the goal of denial defense which is to cause a turnover.

The Michigan defense under Belein wants to force bad shot attempts more than to get out of position and cause a turnover.  It remains to be seen if Michigan's offense is so good that this style will pay off since this team has the athleticism to deny passing lanes more.  Belein pressures with the 1-3-1 obviously.


December 5th, 2012 at 11:45 PM ^

Michigan has not had many (any?) games where the trailing team has"intentionally" fouled at the end of the game.  Those fouling situations can result in several 2 or 3 second possessions in a game.