Do Or Die

Submitted by Brian on March 6th, 2009 at 1:19 PM


Right: you may have the ball, Gopher, but Manny Harris is about to have your teeth.

The Essentials

WHAT Michigan @ Minnesota
WHERE Williams Arena, Minneapolis MN
WHEN Noon, March 7th 2009
THE LINE Ask Jamiemac
KENPOM Minnesota 66, M 61 (28% chance)

So: I usually leave the basketball previews to UMHoops and Varsity Blue but hell, this is a big game and they won't mind if I horn in some.

Sims is in tough. By this point we know a few things about DeShawn Sims, and one of them is that he gets swallowed up by actual big and tough shot-blocky types. Ideally he'd be playing with an actual center next to him who would occupy that player, but he's not so hypothetical center isn't.

Minnesota has a number of big and tough shot-blocky types, and though they're young they're ridiculously blocky: Minnesota is #1 nationwide in block percentage, sending back an astounding 19.2% of opponents' shots. That seems like a preposterous typo, but it's not. (The national average is 8.8%.)

So it's not a huge surprise that Sims was not a huge factor in the first game. He had twelve points, but was just 3 of 11 inside the arc. I don't think we're going to get much inside.

Threes should be open, though. Michigan won handily against the Gophers by chucking it from deep, going 13-28 on threes. Grady was 3 of 3, Novak 6 of 10, Sims 2 of 5, Douglass 2 of 6. Lee and Harris both took two and missed both.

This was not totally anomalous. Though Minnesota opponents only make a slightly above-average number of threes, the Gophers do yield almost 37% of their FGs from long range, 284th nationally. Given all the shotblocking inside, there is a huge gap between the average return of a three (1.04 points) and a two (.86). This matches up well with Michigan's shoot-first-cross-halfcourt-later style,

Defensively, we are going to have to force turnovers. Minnesota coughs up a ton of them and though they don't shoot particularly well, be it from two or three, they crash the boards like a mother—63rd in offensive rebounding—even against teams not featuring 6'5" 'power forward' and a point guard rotation of Doc, Dopey, and Grumpy.

Michigan doesn't force a ton of turnovers yet—they're still too small for that zone to be really bothersome—but they get their share. Minnesota is 311th in steals allowed; each one of those allows Michigan to run the floor and avoid the aforementioned blocky guys. In a game that figures to be tight, the difference  between two steal+layups and four is likely the difference between victory and defeat.

Uh… Kelvin Grady maybe? Grady's ability to push the ball upcourt lightning-quick could help here, right? I've seen so many threes launched over a helpless David Merritt that I can't think Grady's actually worse defensively.

Bizarre outlier! Minnesota, despite being huge and blocky and so forth and so on, is a below average defensive rebounding team. Ah, check that: I remember Brent Petway. These things are probably related. When four guys are skying to swat a ball anything that gets past their outstretched limbs is probably landing in the opponent's hands.

This disadvantage does not play particularly well into our hands, since we hardly ever crash the boards. It'll be interesting to see if Beilein changes his usual strategy here in search of an easy putback or two. Same with the Grady thing.

And, of course, the eternal question: How badly will Manny Harris's entire family be sodomized at courtside in front of everyone by every Gopher, roving bands of Minnesota students, Jim Delany, the ghost of Hubert H. Humphery, and the fabric of the land itself before one of the refs calling the game notices and calls a theatric technical on a Michigan assistant coach?

Eh, survey says probably pretty bad. Harris had an ugly game against Minnesota last time, going 2 of 8 and getting to the line just twice. Minnesota's slightly above average in FTA/FGA this year.

And I suppose I have to venture a prediction. I don't think we win. Relying on deep chucks on the road is a recipe for trouble, and that seems to go double for weird arenas like Williams, where the elevated floor puts weird juju into shooters or something. Michigan usually goes as Sims and Harris go—the last Minnesota game was a rare exception afforded by the scorching three-point shooting—and this doesn't look like a good situation for either.

But basketball is weird and all that. And there will be no liveblog. In fact, I'm going to go around town and find people with "cover it live" in their browser histories and give them wedgies, starting with me. So we can't lose.


His Dudeness

March 6th, 2009 at 1:38 PM ^

"In fact, I'm going to go around town and find people with "cover it live" in their browser histories and give them wedgies, starting with me. So we can't lose."

Well that was fantastic.

I see us losing too. They are in the same do or die position as we are. It is a road game which means they are basically spotted ten points due to "home town calls." I just don't think it is happening this year.


March 6th, 2009 at 2:49 PM ^

I agree. The only explanation for Bilas' sudden love for Michigan is someone higher up telling him to cool it on hating us. It makes no sense. Beat Minny and one game in the BTT and we are in. No other way around it.


March 6th, 2009 at 1:44 PM ^

And this is why this is the best blog out there. Thanks Brian.

What are the odds that LLP puts up 15 or so tonight....err...nevermind. I'm just sayin', isn't it about time someone comes out of nowhere and steps up? And by out of nowhere, I mean from the starting 5 or bench minus Manny and DS.


March 6th, 2009 at 1:46 PM ^

Williams arena is a terrible place for a road team to hit from outside. Something about the raised floor and sightlines seems to disorient visitors.

However, I do think UM can win if they are patient on offense and work their asses off on defense.

I'm OK with it coming down to this. If I had been told at the beginning of the season that going to the NCAA would probably come down to one game against Minny, I would have been extremely happy.

Hoppefully, we'll all be extremely happy after the game.


March 6th, 2009 at 2:01 PM ^

Steve Conboy comes out of nowhere, whacks him across the shins with his stick, and that's that. And the referee will whistle Manny for elbowing.


March 6th, 2009 at 2:16 PM ^

Right: you may have the ball, Gopher, by Manny Harris is about to have your teeth.

You meant but, did you not? Grammar Navi, thy name is me.


March 7th, 2009 at 4:03 PM ^

First, the past participle of "smite" is smitten. Smote is the preterite form.

Second, you were not using a past tense at all. "I have been..." is a form of the present perfect. For that, the correct form of the word is smitten.


March 6th, 2009 at 2:30 PM ^

We still owe Minnesota a couple beat downs for ousting us from the bubble a couple of years in a row. Karma will be on our side, though it may be the only thing. I like our chances with the whole week off and our backs against the wall.

"In the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre, 'Au revoir, gopher'."

MC Hammer

March 6th, 2009 at 2:49 PM ^

small, but we'll definitely have a case.

2+ conference wins and we're in with or without this game, IMO as at least one will be against a team of Minny's caliber or better.


March 6th, 2009 at 2:57 PM ^

UM should not lose. Coach is all about the prep time. They have to be up by 8 with 2 min left to be safe and to avoid another Iowa type unfinish. Add Grady during last 2 min. The refs are not calling fouls during last 2 min unless it favors a home team that happens to be behind, look to Psu vs. Ill game.


March 6th, 2009 at 3:42 PM ^

A win (assuming that Indiana doesn't pull off a shocker in Madison) gets you a first-round game against Iowa or Indiana (depending on the OSU-NW outcome). Survive that and you're in (with a chance to improve your seed against Penn State, Purdue, or Illinois). Lose, and you get the OSU-NW loser followed by MSU, probably needing both in order to make it.

There's a real chance the Big Ten gets eight teams in thanks to the recent carnage in the SEC, ACC, and Big East, maybe even a very slim shot at nine if everything breaks right. (The only way that can happen is if Michigan and Northwestern both win, setting up an OSU-Minn 8-9 game. If Minnesota wins that game, I could see OSU getting in anyway, though they'd probably be right at the cut line. On top of that, Northwestern would need to beat the #2 seed in the second round - and they'd get more mileage out of that if it's Purdue or Illinois instead of Penn State, which would require either a Purdue win at MSU or a Penn State loss to Iowa, the latter of which would mean PSU would probably have to beat Wisconsin in the 4-5 game themselves to get in.)


March 6th, 2009 at 3:48 PM ^

And there will be no liveblog. In fact, I'm going to go around town and find people with "cover it live" in their browser histories and give them wedgies, starting with me. So we can't lose.

This will be the blog's finest hour.


March 6th, 2009 at 6:18 PM ^

Based on the tendencies of officials in the Big Ten and the street football-like nature of the games, wouldn't it better if Beilein runs the football team, or at least the wrestling team, out there instead of the basketball team?

I think a superhuman effort by Manny will be necessary to have a chance. Just my uneducated epinion.


March 6th, 2009 at 7:13 PM ^

But, I just found an early, overnight line.

Minny -4.5.

To compare, UM was -3 at Crisler when these teams played each other 2 weeks ago.


March 6th, 2009 at 8:18 PM ^

I just don't know about our 3pt percentage on the road. However, if Douglass & Novak, and maybe even Grady, get it going early with accuracy, this opens things up a lot for Manny & even Sims, in the paint. OTOH, if we stink from 3 pt land, MN bigs park in the paint and we'll never make it.


March 7th, 2009 at 2:18 AM ^

Obviously they can't do it the entire game, but it wouldn't kill Beilein to play both Gibson and Sims at the same time against bigger teams. Sub in Wright or Shepard at PF here and there to give Gibson or Sims a breather.